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Cuba and the United States Return to the Trenches / Iván García

Iván García, 19 June 2017 — For both countries it amounts to a remake of
the Cold War, this time in version 2.0. It will take time to determine
the scope of the contest or if the new diplomatic battle will involve
only bluffs, idle threats and blank bullets.

With an unpredictable buffoon like Donald Trump and a conspiratorial
autocrat like Raul Castro, anything could happen.

The dispute between Cuba and the United States is like an old love
story, one peppered with resentments, disagreements and open admiration
for the latter's opportunities and consumerist lifestyle.

Beginning in January 1959, the dispute between Havana and Washington
took on an ideological tone when a bearded Fidel Castro opted for
communism right under Uncle Sam's nose. The country allied itself with
the former Soviet Union and had the political audacity to confiscate the
properties of U.S. companies and to aim nuclear weapons at Miami and New
York.

Successive American administrations, from Eisenhower to George Bush Jr.,
responded with an embargo, international isolation and subversion in an
attempt to overthrow the Castro dictatorship.

Times changed but objectives remained the same. Castro's Cuba, ruled by
a totalitarian regime which does not respect human rights and represses
those who think differently, is not the kind of partner with which the
White House likes to do business.

But the art of politics allows for double standards. For various
reasons, Persian Gulf monarchies and Asian countries such as China and
Vietnam — countries which have leap-frogged over democracy like Olympic
athletes and are also heavy-handed in their use of power — are allies of
the United States or have been granted most favored nation status by the
U.S. Congress.

To the United States, Cuba — a capricious and arrogant dictatorship
inflicting harm on universally held values — is different. Washington is
correct in theory but not in its solution.

Fifty-five years of diplomatic, economic and financial warfare combined
with a more or less subtle form of subversion, support for dissidents,
the free flow of information, private businesses and an internet free of
censorship have not produced results.

The communist regime is still in place. What to do? Remain politically
blind and declare war on an impoverished neighbor or to try to coexist
peacefully?

Washington's biggest problem is that there is no effective mechanism for
overturning dictatorial or hostile governments by remote control. The
White House repeatedly shoots itself in the foot.

The embargo is more effective as a publicity tool for the Castro regime
than it is for the United States. This is because the military junta,
which controls 90% of the island's economy, can still trade with the
rest of the world.

The very global nature of modern economies limits the effectiveness of a
total embargo. In the case of Cuba, the embargo has more holes in it
than a block of Swiss cheese. Hard currency stores on the island sell
"Made in the USA" household appliances, American cigarettes and the
ubiquitous Coca Cola.

There are those who have advocated taking a hard line when it comes to
the Cuban regime. In practice, their theories have not proved effective,
though they would argue that Obama's approach has not worked either.

They have a point. The nature of a dictatorship is such that it is not
going to collapse when faced with a Trojan Horse. But as its leaders
start to panic, doubts begin to set in among party officials as support
grows among a large segment of the population. And what is most
important for American interests is to win further approval from the
international community for its geopolitical management.

Obama's speech in Havana, in which he spoke of democratic values while
directly addressing a group of wrinkled Caribbean strongmen, was more
effective than a neutron bomb.

There are many Cubans who recognize that the root of their problems —
from a disastrous economy to socialized poverty, daily shortages and a
future without hope — lies in the Palace of the Revolution.

Hitting the dictatorship in its pocketbook has not worked. In Cuba, as
Trump knows all too well, every business and corporation which deals in
hard currency belongs to the government.

And all the money that comes into the country in the form of remittances
ends up, in one form or another, in the state treasury. Sanctions only
affect the people. I am convinced that, if Cuba's autocrats lack for
anything, it is more digits in their secret bank accounts.

Like other politicians and some members of Congress, Donald Trump is
only looking at the Cuban landscape superficially.

The United States can spend millions to support Cuban dissidents (though
96% of the money goes to anti-Castro organizations based in Florida),
launch international campaigns and impose million-dollar fines on
various foreign banks to punish them for doing business with the
Caribbean dictatorship, but they overlook one thing: the regime's
opponents — local figures who would presumably be leaders of any
prolonged, peaceful battle for democracy on the island — are failing.

The reasons vary. They range from intense repression to the opposition's
proverbial inability to turn out even five-hundred people for a rally in
a public square.

I understand the frustration of my compatriots in the diaspora. I too
have suffered. I have
not seen my mother, my sister or my niece in the fourteen years since
the Black Spring in 2003 forced them to leave for Switzerland.

Various strategies have been tried yet the island's autocrats still have
not given up. They are not going to change of their own free will. They
will retreat to the trenches, their natural habitat, where they can
maneuver more easily. And they will have the perfect pretext for
portraying themselves as victims.

As is already well known, the real blockade is the one the government
imposes on its citizens through laws and regulations that hinder them
from accumulating capital, accessing foreign sources of credit and
importing goods legally.

The regime has created anachronistic obstacles to the free importation
of goods from abroad by imposing absurd tariffs and restrictions.

But Cubans want a real democracy, not a caricature. We have to
understand that we must find the solutions to our problems ourselves.

Cuba is a matter for Cubans, wherever they happen to reside. All that's
lacking is for we ourselves to believe it.

Source: Cuba and the United States Return to the Trenches / Iván García
– Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-and-the-united-states-return-to-the-trenches-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Commentary: The real reason Trump wanted Cuba restrictions
OPINION By Jonathan C. Brown - Special to the American-Statesman
LYNNE SLADKY
Posted: 4:00 p.m. Saturday, June 24, 2017

President Donald Trump's reversal of his predecessor's Cuban policies
proves once again that all politics are local. The White House says that
the regime of Raúl Castro should reform its own political structure,
become more democratic and release political prisoners. However, the
U.S. does not impose these broad internal reforms on other nations such
as Russia and Saudi Arabia. Why treat Cuba differently?
Only one American serviceman has died confronting Havana. He was an Air
Force pilot shot down in Cuban airspace during the 1962 missile crisis.
On the other hand, Washington has renewed political and trade relations
with the autocratic regimes in China and Vietnam despite their armed
forces having killed thousands of American soldiers in the Korean and
Vietnamese wars.

Washington continues to punish Cuba because of U.S. domestic politics.
Nearly a million refugees fled from Cuba since 1959, and most settled in
South Florida. Those who came for political reasons formed a powerful
lobby that has been instrumental in the making of every Republican
president from Richard Nixon to, yes, Trump. Republican Party debts
remain more important in the U.S. relationship with Cuba than the
island's actual behavior on the international scene.

Here is where domestic politics enters the equation. Punishing Cuba
satisfies only one dwindling constituency in this nation — Cuban
refugees mainly from the first two decades of the revolution. U.S. Rep.
Mario Díaz-Balart — who stood prominently at Trump's side as he signed
the renewed restrictions — serves as a case in point.

In the 1950s, the congressman's father, Rafael Díaz-Balart, served as
Fulgencio Batista's deputy minister of the interior, the ministry
responsible for internal security and running the prisons. Rafael
Díaz-Balart and other officers of Batista's dictatorship fled from Cuba
during the first weeks of the Cuban Revolution in January 1959.

What is more, the elder Díaz-Balart's sons have family ties to the
Castros. Mario and his brother Lincoln, the ex-U.S. congressman from
South Florida, are cousins of Fidel Castro's first-born son, Fidelito,
who remains loyal to the revolution. They owe this family link to their
aunt, Mirta Díaz-Balart, who married Fidel before he began his rebellion
against the Batista regime. The couple divorced in 1954 while Fidel was
spending time in brother-in-law Rafael's prisons.

This first wave of pro-Batista refugees established several anti-Castro
movements in the Miami and New York areas as early as 1959. Soon
thereafter, they were joined in exile by a massive wave of politicos who
had opposed Batista along with Fidel but found themselves pushed aside
as Castro's guerrilla revolutionaries seized control of most
governmental institutions. Among the refugees were Catholic activists
and middle-class youths from the universities whose departure from Cuba
by the thousands was financed by the CIA and other U.S. agencies. For
more than a half century they have been taking their revenge on those
countrymen who remained with Fidel.

By 1981, the most politicized of these two groups — the Batistianos and
the exiled moderate revolutionists — joined together in the Cuban
American National Foundation (CANF).

Modeled on pro-Israeli Jewish groups, the CANF dedicated itself to
lobbying the U.S. government to tighten restrictions on American travel
and trade with Cuba. The foundation raised money for political
candidates mainly but not exclusively from the Republican Party who
promised no quarter for Castro's communist dictatorship. Their effective
anti-communist campaign lasted well beyond the fall of Fidel's chief
benefactor, the Soviet Union.

Yet, Fidel did not fall. Fidel was able to rule for 47 years, retire
peacefully and leave power to his brother.

Trump's directive will achieve two out of three of its intentions. 1) It
will reduce U.S. investments and tourism in Cuba. 2) It will satisfy the
resentments of the first generation Cuban-Americans for the loss of
their homeland to the revolutionaries; in gratitude, they will support
the president's re-election in 2020.

But the new Cuba policy will not promote democracy on the island but
reinforce autocracy at the expense of the average Cuban's well-being.
This has been the legacy of the U.S. economic blockade of the past 60 years.

Brown is a professor of history at the University of Texas.

Source: Commentary: The real reason Trump wanted Cuba restrictions -
http://www.mystatesman.com/news/opinion/commentary-the-real-reason-trump-wanted-cuba-restrictions/hAIPJBqNcqdk9fw7G7o28K/ Continue reading
Iván García, 19 June 2017 — For both countries it amounts to a remake of the Cold War, this time in version 2.0. It will take time to determine the scope of the contest or if the new diplomatic battle will involve only bluffs, idle threats and blank bullets. With an unpredictable buffoon like Donald … Continue reading "Cuba and the United States Return to the Trenches / Iván García" Continue reading
Sweating Is Not For Cuba's New Rich

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 20 June 2017 — The passenger complains
of the heat while frantically moving the fan. "In a few days I will
install an air conditioning," justifies the taxi driver and adds that he
will charge "higher fares." In summer everyone dreams of
air-conditioning their rooms or vehicles, but whether or not one suffers
the heat depends on the pocketbook.

In 2013, after eight years of prohibition, the government authorized
travelers to import air conditioners, electric stoves, refrigerators and
microwave ovens. It was the starting shot for an avalanche that invades
the airports, the port terminals and the shipping agencies to Cuba.

"Six 'splits' (air conditioners) came on that flight," said an employee
of Terminal 3 at José Martí International Airport in Havana. The plane
from Cancun, a route greatly appreciated by the mules, also brought a
dozen flat-screen TVs, eight minibars and two desktop computers.

Among the boxes that are piled around the luggage belt are the units
that will be placed inside rooms and others that will be placed on a
roof or an outer wall, a cruel irony, because in the main airport of the
country travelers complain about the heat and drip fat beads of sweat
while waiting for their suitcases.

"It is difficult to know the number of AC units entering each day," says
the employee. "It is rare that a flight arrives from Panama, Mexico or
any other nearby country that comes without at least two devices." In
the lines to pay for overweight luggage and the import of domestic
appliances one sees the new arrivals loaded with bundles.

Permanent residents in Cuba, national or foreign, can import two air
conditioners of up to one-ton capacity on each trip. On the first
occasion only – over the space of a year — they pay tariffs in Cuban
pesos at a price ranging from 150 to 200 CUP (roughly $6 to $8 US). For
additional imports they pay that amount in convertible pesos (CUC –
roughly $150 to $200 US).

The business is booming. Even paying in CUC the traveler can resell a
one-ton air conditioner on the black market for about 650 CUC, for a
device that originally cost less than 350 dollars. The brands that enter
most frequently are Midea, LG, Carrier, Royal, Daewoo and
Prestiger. Prices have fallen by up to 30% since the imports were
authorized and given the volume of supply that trend will continue.

State stores try to compete with the "under the counter" sales but have
higher prices, fewer models and shortages that make the supply unstable.

The air conditioners have slowly been incorporated into the landscape of
cities and towns. If before the economic relaxations they were installed
discreetly, now with a more open economy the tendency is to exhibit them.

"The people living there have cash," says Igor, a pedicab driver who
waits for his clients in the vicinity of the Plaza de Carlos III. While
pedaling and showing some parts of the city, the cyclist glances at
these signs of families with money. "Wherever there is an air
conditioner they are affluent," he muses. Not only does acquiring one of
these devices mark membership in a social group, the most difficult
thing is to pay for its operation.

Much of the electricity supply remains subsidized. "The average monthly
consumption in the residential sector in 2013 was approximately 180 KWh
per customer," said Marino Murillo. For that amount a consumer pays
36.60 CUP, "while the cost to the state is 220 CUP," said Cuba's vice
president.

Keeping a one-ton air conditioner on all night can trigger electricity
consumption above 400 CUP monthly, the entire salary of a
professional. However, many families decide to do so, overwhelmed by the
heat or because they want to rent rooms to foreigners.

"Air conditioning and hot water cannot be lacking in this business,"
says Rocío, who operates a colonial hostel in Trinidad with his
mother. With three rooms for rent, each with AC, minibar and television,
the entrepreneurs pay a four-digit electricity bill. They consider that,
even so, it "brings in business" in an area with a high occupation rate
throughout the year.

In November 2010, a new progressive electricity rate began to be
imposed, which imposes a penalty of up to 300% on households that
consume more than 300 KWh per month, a situation that has triggered
electricity fraud.

An engineer from the Electricity Company in Havana told 14ymedio about
the new ways in which citizens seek to steal electricity. Before there
were "visible" cables that were easy to detect or they tampered with the
meters in a way that technicians noticed right away, but now they
conspire with the workers who repair the streets and get the cables
installed underground.


In 2013 the Cuban government authorized travelers to import air
conditioners, electric stoves, refrigerators and microwaves. (J. Cáceres)
The specialist says that there are "people whose homes abut state
entities and they steal electricity from a company, a warehouse, a
carpentry workshop or even a polyclinic." He says that almost always "it
is a cases of people who have some highly customer-based business, like
an electric oven to make pizzas, a body shop, a private restaurant or a
lot of air conditioners."

The engineer recalls a family in which "even the youngest children had
AC in their room and left it on all day." A neighbor reported the
situation when he learned that they paid a very low electricity
rate. The complaint brought the inspectors and they discovered that the
meter was tampered with. In addition to the fine "they had to pay
retroactively all that they owed."

To counter fraud, analog meters were replaced by digital ones and in
some areas of the country they are being changed again for new ones with
infrared technology. But the tricks are inexhaustible.

"The upstairs neighbor lives alone and is retired, and he passes the
cable with electricity to me and in return I also pay for his
consumption," says a prosperous entrepreneur who runs a coffee shop on
Zanja Street. "So I share the consumption and it's not as expensive"
because it prevents all the kilowatts going on a single account with the
consequent progressive surcharge.

The customer has three air conditioners installed throughout the
house. "Without this you can not live here, because this house hardly
has windows to the outside and the kitchen of the business generates a
lot of heat," he explains. He bought the devices in the informal market
and is waiting for them "to lower prices a little" to buy a room.

"It is not the same to be Cuban with a fan as it is to be a Cuban with
AC," he reflects. "The first one is irritated but the second is less
stressed because he has air conditioning."

Source: Sweating Is Not For Cuba's New Rich – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/sweating-is-not-for-cubas-new-rich/ Continue reading
Cuba From The Inside With Alternative Tour Guides

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 21 June 2017 — Economic hardships
turn many Cuban engineers to work as bartenders, doctors become taxi
drivers and innumerable professionals become alternative guides for
tourists. Among the latter, there are the experienced or the
just-getting-started, but all of them earn more money than they would
working in the state sector.

"When they change a picture I know instantly," says Natacha, a Havana
city guide who says she has visited "the Museum of Fine Arts more than
300 times" with her clients. She graduated from the Teaching Institute
but she left the classrooms after five years of teaching in junior high.

"I had to think about what to do with my life and I realized that I
spoke Spanish very clearly, I knew the history of Cuba and I was good at
dealing with people." A friend advised her to start offering tours to
foreigners who came to the country.

At first, Natacha stood in a corner of Old Havana and whispered her
services to travelers. Now, after the relaxations regarding
self-employment, she has been able to legalize part of her activities
and form a team. "We have a network that includes rental houses, dance
teachers, masseuses and chauffeurs," she says.

With the increase in tourism, which last year exceeded 4 million
visitors, the guide has "a surplus of work," but now fears that after
the announcements of US President Donald Trump that "the business will
decline."

Natacha accompanies her clients "to places where a state guide will
never take them…The program is flexible according to their tastes: from
exclusive areas to poor neighborhoods, trips in collective taxis, a
train ride and a santería party."

She speaks English and French fluently and recently began studying
Italian and Japanese. "Japanese tourism is still small but they pay very
well and are very respectful people," says Natacha. Most of her clients
end up recommending her services to a friend who wants to travel to
Cuba. "This is a chain of trust that has allowed me to have up to 200
customers a year."

The prices of a walk with the former teacher vary. "They can go from 20
to 100 CUC (roughly $20 to $100 US) depending on the place, the time and
the complexity of the subject." For years she included visits outside of
Havana but now she has left these to her younger colleagues because her
mother is very old and she doesn't want to leave the city.

"This work is hard because it takes a lot of personal involvement,
learning something new every day and answering many questions," she
explains. "I spend hours walking, most of the time under the sun, but I
would not give up my independence by going back to teaching." She says
that being a tourist guide has allowed her to "put a plate of food on
the table every day… a good plate of food."

A growing alternative is digital sites that advertise independent guides
and offer a wide variety of services or entertainment packages. Recently
a team of 30-something Cuban residents in Miami launched Tour Republic,
a website to sell recreational activities on the Island.

The site connects the traveler with urban guides with a marketplace –
similar to Airbnb – but instead of offering lodging it markets tours of
varied intensity and duration, from a ride in a classic car through
Havana, to an escape through the unique natural landscape of the valley
of Viñales.

Máximo, a 30-year-old Italian newcomer to Havana, was hesitant Tuesday
about whether to buy a three-day package worth $58 including visits to
the Ernest Hemingway Museum, the University of Havana, the old colonial
fortresses of the capital, and even an encounter with the sculpture of
John Lennon located in a Vedado park.

With Tour Republic the customer pays the online service and must be at
the site where the itinerary begins at the agreed-upon time. In the case
of the tour that interests Maximo, the guide is at the bottom of the
steps of the Capitol and departs every morning at ten.

The tourist says he prefers an independent guide because "the program is
more flexible and can be adjusted more" to what he wants. In a small
notebook he has noted some interesting places that escape the typical
tourist route: the town of San Antonio, the Superior Art Institute and
the Alamar neighborhood.

"In this arena there are people very prepared and with excellent
training," says Carlos, an alternative guide who leaves the statue of
José Martí in Central Park every morning for a tour he has
baptized Habana Real. "I take them through the streets where tourists do
not normally pass, I have them try a drink of rum in a bar where the
Cubans really go," he says.

The young man, with a degree in geography, has been "wearing out shoe
leather in the city for seven years." At first "I did not know much
about history, architecture or famous people, but little by little I
have become an itinerant encyclopedia of Cuba," he says.

The GuruWalk platform has also risen to the crest of the wave of tourist
interest in Cuba. The Spanish company runs an international website
for free walking tours and has chosen Havana as their preferred site to
begin operations.

Communications director, Pablo Perez-Manglano, told 14ymedio that "the
platform is completely democratic, anyone can join and create a
tour." Site administrators check the offers one by one, but the reviews
are left to users after each visit.

"We are an open and free platform, we do not charge the guide or the
visitor anything, and therefore, we hope that each person understands
and takes responsibility to comply, or not, with the legality in their
respective cities of the world," he clarifies.

The site already has seven free tours in Havana, one in Santiago and
another in Santa Clara. "In addition, we had about 200 registered users
in the last month, which is a lot for such a new platform," says
Pérez-Manglano.

Unlike Tour Republic there is nothing to pay online and the money is
delivered directly to the guide.

The perspectives that the web offers for entrepreneurs like Natacha
sound promising. GuruWalk does not deny "entry to someone for not having
an official guide qualification." Rather, it seeks "people who are
passionate about culture and history, who also enjoy teaching and
transmitting that knowledge."

One of the strategies of the company is to make itself known among "the
owners of private houses" because it is to them that more often the
foreigners ask: "What should we see in the city?"

Pérez-Manglano underlines that the cornerstone of GuruWalk is the
"collaborative economy." Instead of "certificates, rules, rules, or
permits," they are interested in trust, which "is built little by little."

Source: Cuba From The Inside With Alternative Tour Guides – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-from-the-inside-with-alternative-tour-guides/ Continue reading
The Cuban Republic: Buried by Official Decree / Iván García

Iván García, 24 May 2017 — May 20 of this year with mark the 115th
anniversary of the birth of the Republic of Cuba. In the Throne Room of
the Palace of the Captains General, a building which now serves as the
City Museum, Tomás Estrada Palma — born in Bayamo in 1835, died in
Santiago de Cuba in 1908 — would go down in history as the first
popularly elected president of the republic.

With heat bouncing on the asphalt so intensely that even stray dogs seek
shelter under covered walkways, I go out to inquire about the May 20
anniversary.

Four pre-university students in their blue uniforms have skipped class
to go to Córdoba Park, a free wifi zone in the 10 de Octubre district.
They want to check out their Facebook wall, chat with relatives in Miami
and read the latest soccer blog from the Spanish newspaper Marca.

Though the heat is stifling, the young men do not even notice it. They
are eating ice cream cones, joking, gesturing and shouting at each
other. Striking up a conversation with them is easy. They are
seventeen-years-old and all four of them say that they hope to go to
college when they finish high school. When I ask them if they know on
what date the Republic of Cuba was founded, they hesitate and look at
each other, trying to come up with a correct answer.

"January 1, right?" two of them respond simultaneously.

"You guys are so dumb," says another, mocking his cohorts. "Independence
day is 10 October, when Carlos Manuel de Céspedes freed his slaves."

Another justifies his ignorance with the excuse that he does not like
history. "That subject is a drag. You mechanically learn to answer exam
questions like that, but the next day no one remembers the dates or what
they commemorate."

A man selling popcorn, who has been eavesdropping on the conversation,
sums it up by saying, "There are a lot of opinions on this topic.
Whether it was January 1 or October 10. But I think it was 1492, when
Christopher Columbus discovered the island."

It seems only academicians, professors, students of history and
well-informed citizens can explain the significance of May 20, 1902 in
the context of national history. Most Cubans are unaware of it. Keep in
mind that around 70% of the current population was born after 1959.

For people over the age of sixty-five like Giraldo — from his wheelchair
he asks people walking along the side streets of the nursing home where
he lives for cigarettes and money — the date brings back fond memories.

"It was the most important day of the year," he says. "The tradition was
to debut a new pair of shoes and a change of clothes. Cuban flags were
hung from balconies. I would go with my parents and brothers to Puerto
Avenue. In Central Park there were public concerts by the municipal
band. The atmosphere was festive. But this government erased it all from
popular memory. Now the dates that are celebrated are those that suit them."

While Cubans living in Miami enthusiastically celebrate May 20, in Cuba
it is a day like any other. That is how the military regime wants it.

Dictatorships have a habit of manipulating events. Just as the official
narrative would have us believe that José Martí was an admirer of
Marxist theories, so too does a military confrontation take on aspects
of science fiction. This is what happened in 1983 in Granada. According
to the Castros' version of events, during the invasion of the country by
U.S. forces, a group of Cuban workers sacrificed themselves while
clutching the Grenadian flag.

For Cuba's ruling military junta, the past is something to be erased.
Economic, urban infrastructure and productivity gains achieved in the
more than half century that the republic existed do not matter.

In an article published in Cubanet, independent journalist Gladys
Linares recalls that in 1902, as a result of the war for independence,
"agriculture, livestock and manufacturing were in a disastrous state. In
a gesture of great sensitivity, Estrada Palma's first action was to pay
members of the Liberation Army and to pay off the war bonds issued by
the Republic in Arms. To do this, he secured a loan from an American
lender, Speyer Bank, for $35 million at 5% interest, which had already
been repaid by 1943."

For its part, EcuRed, the Cuban government's version of wikipedia,
states that "Estrada Palma was noted for being extremely thrifty during
his presidency (1902-1906). In 1905 the Cuban treasury held the
astonishing sum of 24,817,148 pesos and 96 centavos, of which the loan
accounted for only 3.5 million pesos. The accumulation of so much money
compelled Estrada Palma to invest in public works. The government
allotted 300,000 pesos to be used in every province for the construction
of roads and highways as well as more than 400,000 for their upkeep and
repair.

The state-run press labels this period with the derogatory term
"pseudo-republic" or "hamstrung republic."

"They have done everything imaginable to obviate or destroy it. From
producing television programs such as "San Nicolás del Peladero," which
ridiculed the venal politicians of the time, to minimizing the advances
in material well-being achieved by various sectors of society. But when
you review economic statistics from the period 1902 to 1958, you realize
that, despite imperfections, there was more growth," says a retired
historian.

He adds, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. The Republic
of Cuba was founded on May 20, 1902. In the future, setting ideology
aside, May 20 should be included in the schedule of national holidays
and should be celebrated once again. Everything began on that day."

That remains to be seen. For the moment, new (and not so new)
generations are unaware of the significance of May 20.

This ignorance, a willful act of forgetting, is part of the late Fidel
Castro's strategy of building a nation from the ground up, burying its
customs and values, rewriting history to suit his aims. And he succeeded.

Source: The Cuban Republic: Buried by Official Decree / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-cuban-republic-buried-by-official-decree-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Uncertainty whittles away hope for Cuban migrants stranded in Panama
BY MARIO J. PENTÓN
mpenton@elnuevoherald.com

GUALACA, PANAMA
The color green seems to fill everything in Chiriqui, the western
province of Panama where the government is holding 124 undocumented
Cuban migrants. The morning's quiet amid huge pine trees is broken only
by the hum of insects that torture at dawn and dusk.

"This place is beautiful, but everything gets tiresome. Being in limbo
is tiresome," said Yosvani López, 30, who arrived in the Gualaca camp
after spending three months at a shelter for Cuban migrants in Panama
City run by the Catholic Church's Caritas agency.

"Sometimes we start to talk about what we would do if we can get out of
here and go to another country. Some relatives tell us that a shelter in
Canada is being prepared to take us in. Others tell us that they have
everything ready to deport us," López said. "That's how we live, between
dreams and fears."

The complex where the Cubans are being held was built by Swiss workers
in the 1970s who built the nearby La Fortuna dam. The 103-acre complex
is mostly forest, with a stream running through it. Located one hour
from the nearest city, the humidity here is so high that mushrooms and
other plants grow even on the fiberglass roof tiles.

The wood structures, worn with the passage of time, remain next to old
satellite antennas and electric heaters. The migrants say foreign coins
are sometimes found buried in the dirt.

López was born in Caibarién, on Cuba's northern coast. He said he had
the chance to leave the island on a fast boat for Florida, but preferred
to try to reach the United States through Central America to sidestep
the Cuban regulation that migrants who leave illegally cannot return for
seven years.

"I wanted to be able to return before the seven years," he said. "I have
my mother and my sisters in Cuba."

In his homeland, he worked as a chef at a Meliá hotel in the keys north
of Villa Clara, earning about $25 per month. With the money from the
sale of his mother's house, he traveled to Guyana and from there to
Panama, where he was stranded when President Barack Obama ended the
so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy.

"We spend our time here chatting with our relatives in Cuba and the
United States, and looking for hints in news reports that will tell us
what's going to happen to us," López said.

The Cubans in the Gualaca camp not only are banned from working but
cannot leave the shelter except for one day a week to go to a nearby
Western Union office, accompanied by officers that run the camp. Some
are making a little extra money by selling coffee or cutting hair. Local
residents also run a store that sells food and personal hygiene
products, paid for with money sent by relatives in the United States.

Authorities initially set a 90-day deadline for deciding what will
happen to the 124 Cubans who agreed to wait in Gualaca. But two months
later, their patience is running out. At least six have fled the shelter
since it opened. Most recently, four Cubans fled. Two returned and the
other two managed to cross the northern border into Costa Rica.

Alejandro Larrinaga, 13, and his parents have been waiting for weeks for
news of their fate. There is only one other child he can play with,
Christian Estrada, 11. They have not been to school since they left
Havana 18 months ago.

Alejandro said he spent more than 50 days in the jungle before he got to
Panama. He became dehydrated several times and suffered from
convulsions. "That was quite a trip. It's not easy to tell the story.
One thing is to live it, and another is to tell it," he said, the
seriousness in his voice making him sound like an adult.

"We had to see dead people, a lot of skulls. I was afraid of losing my
mother and father," he recalled. His mother, Addis Torres, cried as the
recounted the tale, but he said that he feels safe in Gualaca and spends
his days playing chess.

"I want to be a chess master," he said. "Some day I'll get there."

The family does not want to return to Cuba, because they sold everything
they owned there in order to pay for the trek to join the boy's
grandfather in the United States. Although they applied for family
reunification visas at the U.S. embassy in Havana, the family doesn't
want to even think about the possibility of returning to Cuba.

They get three meals a day at the shelter, but Torres said "that's no
way to live."

"Detained, with no future, afraid of returning to Cuba," she said "We
need someone to take pity on us, even if we have to stay here."

Liuber Pérez Expósito is a farmer from the town of Velasco in the
eastern province of Holguin, where he grew garlic and corn. After Cuban
ruler Raúl Castro opened the doors to more private economic enterprises,
he started to buy and sell products and eventually decided to head to
the United States to "improve" his life.

Pérez said he feels "desperate" to leave Gualaca and return to his farm,
but has put his hopes on a proposal recently offered by Panamanian
authorities that would allow them to return voluntarily to the island,
become self-employed entrepreneurs known as cuentapropistas and, in
exchange, obtain multiple entry visas and even start-up capital — still
to be determined — for investment purposes.

"I am here against the wishes of my family. I have my wife, a 9-year-old
son and my parents in Cuba. They want me to return, and they are pushing
me to do that," he said. "But I am waiting for the opportunity to
recover at least part of the $5,000 I spent" getting to Panama.

His mother-in-law, and ophthalmologist who worked in Venezuela, loaned
him part of the money he needed for the trip. In debt, without money or
hope, he now spends his days thinking about when he might be able to
return home.

"During the day, we have nothing to do. Sometimes we play dominoes for a
while or we take a walk or we go to the stream, but we have 24 hours to
think about this difficult situation and the failure we're facing," he
added.

Pérez chats with his relatives in Cuba on Imo, a video chat app popular
on the island. "A little while ago they installed wifi in Velasco and
they call me as much as they can," he said.

"I hope this nightmare that we are living ends soon," he said. "That
whatever has to happen happens, but that it ends now."

FOLLOW MARIO J. PENTÓN EN TWITTER: @MARIOJOSE_CUBA

Source: Cuban migrants stranded in Panama are losing hope | Miami Herald
-
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article157719674.html Continue reading
Could 1 million more Cubans be deemed ineligible for remittances?
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

William LeoGrande, an American University professor who specializes in
U.S.-Cuba relations, says it appears there might be a "poison pill" in
President Donald Trump's new Cuba policy that potentially could cut off
remittances to more than 1 million Cubans.

The memorandum on strengthening Cuba policy that Trump signed last week
in Miami specifically states that regulatory changes shall not prohibit
"sending, processing or receiving authorized remittances" — the money
that's sent to family members and friends in Cuba.

Currently remittances can be sent to almost anyone on the island — with
the exception of members of the Council of Ministers, which includes the
president, first vice president, seven first vice presidents, ministers
and a few other top officials, and high-ranking military officials.

But the Trump memo greatly expands the definition of so-called
prohibited officials.

It includes not only ministers, vice ministers and members of the
Council of State and Council of Ministers but also members and employees
of the National Assembly of People's Power — Cuba's parliament;
provincial assembly members; local heads of Committees for the Defense
of the Revolution; directors general, sub-directors and higher officers
of all Cuban ministries and state agencies; employees of the Ministry of
the Interior and the Ministry of Defense; and members and employees of
Cuba's Supreme Court.

The memo also lists secretaries and first secretaries of the
Confederation of Labor of Cuba and top editors of all state-run media
outlets as prohibited officials.

Such a sweeping category could potentially include a quarter of Cuba's
labor force, LeoGrande said. "It's literally a million people if you
count everyone who works for the military and GAESA that could have
their remittances cut off," he said.

GAESA (Grupo de Administración Empresarial) is a Cuban military
conglomerate that controls a broad swath of the Cuban economy, including
the Gaviota Tourism Group. One of the cornerstones of Trump's new Cuba
policy is channeling U.S. money and businesses away from GAESA and
instead encouraging Americans and U.S. companies to develop economic
ties with small private business people in Cuba.

But widening the prohibition on who can receive remittances could
potentially hurt many Cuban families — those Trump has said he wants to
support with his new policy, LeoGrande said. Many Cubans are dependent
on money sent from friends and relatives abroad because state salaries
are so low. An estimated $3 billion in remittances is sent to the island
annually.

Among the questions, which may by clarified when regulations on the new
Cuba policy are written, is how literally to take the definition of all
employees of the Ministry of Defense.

All Cuban males must complete compulsory military service. "Does this
mean an active duty private is an employee of the Ministry of Defense,
and therefore a prohibited person?" asked Robert Muse, a Washington
lawyer. "There still has to be more definition of what this means."

Also in question is whether a person who is a clerk or low-level
employee at an enterprise run by GAESA would be considered an employee
of the Ministry of Defense.

Trying to sort out such definitions about who is eligible to receive
remittances could potentially become a real headache for money transfer
companies, Muse said.

In response to a query, Western Union, which has provided money transfer
services to Cuba from the United States since 1999 and more recently
began to handle remittances from other parts of the world to Cuba, said:
"Western Union does not believe the changes are intended to impact the
sending of authorized remittances to Cuba."

Said LeoGrande: "There are a number of things that need to be clarified.
The [memorandum] is so ambiguous in places."

Cuba watchers also point to a section of Trump's memorandum that
instructs the State Department to identify "entities or sub-entities"
under the control or acting on behalf of the Cuban "military,
intelligence or security services or personnel" and publish a list of
those with which "direct financial transactions" would
disproportionately benefit them "at the expense of the Cuban people or
private enterprise in Cuba."

Some analysts have zeroed in on the word direct in the memorandum.
Previous OFAC directives usually refer to direct and indirect financial
transactions.

"Does this mean you can't go and book at a Gaviota hotel, but you can
give a Spanish tour company money and they can get you a room at the
Saratoga?" Muse asked. (The Hotel Saratoga is operated under the
umbrella of Habaguanex, which was recently transferred to the military.)

FOLLOW MIMI WHITEFIELD ON TWITTER: @HERALDMIMI

Source: American University professor says remittances to Cuba may be in
jeopardy | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article157721249.html Continue reading
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 20 June 2017 — The passenger complains of the heat while frantically moving the fan. “In a few days I will install an air conditioning,” justifies the taxi driver and adds that he will charge “higher fares.” In summer everyone dreams of air-conditioning their rooms or vehicles, but whether or not one … Continue reading "Sweating Is Not For Cuba’s New Rich" Continue reading
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 21 June 2017 — Economic hardships turn many Cuban engineers to work as bartenders, doctors become taxi drivers and innumerable professionals become alternative guides for tourists. Among the latter, there are the experienced or the just-getting-started, but all of them earn more money than they would working in the state sector. “When … Continue reading "Cuba From The Inside With Alternative Tour Guides" Continue reading
Iván García, 24 May 2017 — May 20 of this year with mark the 115th anniversary of the birth of the Republic of Cuba. In the Throne Room of the Palace of the Captains General, a building which now serves as the City Museum, Tomás Estrada Palma — born in Bayamo in 1835, died in … Continue reading "The Cuban Republic: Buried by Official Decree / Iván García" Continue reading
Will New Cuba Travel Policy Hurt U.S. Airlines?
Zacks Equity Research

On Jun 16, President Trump announced some changes to current U.S. policy
on Cuba, which were put into action by his predecessor Barack Obama. The
new policy is in line with Trump's promise during the campaigning phase.
In fact, Trump had reportedly tweeted in November last year that he
might terminate the deal, inked by Obama, in the event of Cuba not doing
enough for its people.

Even though, he did not scrap the entire deal, the President announced
certain changes in inline with his "America First" principle. Moving
ahead, the new administration aims to restrict the flow of US money
flowing into the oppressive Cuban military regime. Also, the new policy
is dedicated to betterment of the Cuban people by pressurizing the
island's government to broaden the private sector and reduce the
military's interference in every profitable unit of the country.

In fact, to keep the Cuban military at bay, the President's policy aims
to do away with travel directed toward benefitting the military,
intelligence or security services of the island nation. Under the new
restrictions, travel to Cuba on an individual basis would not be
allowed. Even though individual travel has been banned, group travel is
allowed.

A Brief Flashback

In 2014, President Obama had called for the restoration of diplomatic
ties with Cuba after more than 50 years. As part of that process, travel
restrictions were eased. Subsequently, many U.S. airlines started
operating commercial scheduled flights to Cuba.

In Jun 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation authorized six
U.S.-based carriers to operate scheduled flights to nine second-tier
Cuban cities. The first scheduled commercial flight to Cuba from the
U.S. was operated by JetBlue Airways JBLU.

JetBlue Airways carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete
list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Notably, the approval to fly to Havana came two months later in August.
The Havana routes were highly in demand among the US carriers as they
collectively applied for the approval to operate nearly 60 flights to
Havana on a daily basis. The erstwhile agreement with Obama allowed for
only 20 daily roundtrip flights between the nations.

Would Individual Travel Ban Hurt Airlines?

Currently, the likes of American Airlines Group AAL, United Continental
Holdings UAL, Delta Air Lines DAL, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines
LUV and Alaska Air Group ALK operate scheduled commercial flights to
Cuba. But following the revised order on Cuba, the carriers have adopted
a wait and watch policy regarding their operations to the nation.

Airline heavyweights like Delta Air Lines and American Airlines have
reportedly said that while their existing operations to the nation would
continue, they would abide by any changes that might take place
following the announcement of the new policy.

We note that the travel demand to Cuba had fallen short of expectations.
Consequently, the likes of American Airlines trimmed their services to
the nation. Lower-than-expected demand also caused the likes of Spirit
Airlines SAVE and Frontier Airlines to terminate flights to the nation.
Despite this factor, the new policy to ban individual travel is likely
to hurt the top line of the US carriers operating in the country to some
extent.

In fact, a recent Reuters report had suggested that cruise operators and
airlines in the US could lose approximately $712 million in revenues on
an annual basis, if Obama's policy was entirely reversed. While the
entire policy has not been consigned to flames by the new US government,
the prohibition on individual travel to the country might still shrink
the revenues of carriers (through lower travel demand) operating in
Cuba, a popular tourist destination.

However, only time will tell the extent to which revenues are actually
hurt. Consequently, we expect investor focus to remain on the issue,
going forward

Source: Will New Cuba Travel Policy Hurt U.S. Airlines? -
http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/topstocks/will-new-cuba-travel-policy-hurt-us-airlines/ar-BBCU9p2 Continue reading
Vancouver skateboarder helps spread sport in Cuba
Norma Ibarra is on her 2nd trip to Cuba to donate boards from Vancouver
CBC News Posted: Jun 20, 2017 7:55 AM PT Last Updated: Jun 20, 2017 7:55
AM PT

For a country with no skate shops, Cuba's skateboarding scene is
incredibly vibrant.

That's what Vancouver skateboarder and photographer Norma Ibarra says.
She is in Havana to photograph the people who are part of that scene and
to donate 10 skateboards.

Contest brings world's top skateboarders to Vancouver
"Skateboarding is still considered something rebellious. The kids get in
trouble if they skate in certain areas, so it's sort of illegal," she
told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.

"The kids have to wait for people from all over the world to bring stuff
so they can skate. The kids who want to get into it have to wait until
someone decides to give them a skateboard. So it's tricky."

Port Alberni skateboarder raising money for new park
She says Cubans also have no way of replacing lost or damaged gear,
which means even when skateboards are donated, they sometimes don't last
long.

Few skate parks as well

Ibarra's donated skateboards are from Vancouver's skate community and
she plans to donate them mainly to girls in Cuba.

Skateboarding helped her in her own life, and she wants to pass that on
to girls in Cuba.

"The challenges, and the rewards that you get when you know that you're
progressing, it's really good," she said.

Ibarra says she's not the only one working to spread the sport in Cuba.
Some work on building do-it-yourself skateparks which are tricky to
develop in the one-party state.

Victoria skateboarding ban lifted
"There's a couple of street spots, but they have to skate at certain
times when the police aren't around," she said. "You always find a way."

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

Source: Vancouver skateboarder helps spread sport in Cuba - British
Columbia - CBC News -
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-skateboarding-cuba-1.4168635 Continue reading
Being Rich Is Banned in Cuba / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 8 June 2017 — The die is cast. At the special session of
the National Assembly of People's Power held on May 31 and June 1 at the
Palace of Conventions, delegates have, as expected, approved the
economic plan for 2016 to 2021 and a national plan for economic and
social development for 2030.

Were it not so serious, it would seem like a sketch from the late night
American comedy show "Saturday Night Live," especially since the
parliamentary debates were more farcical than rational.

Numerous "discussions" were televised. Not even Pánfilo — an elderly
character created by the famous Cuban comedian Luis Silva and a man
obsessed with his ration book — generates as many contradictions and
absurdities.

Committees made up of so-called peoples' representatives held debates,
attempted to change one word in a paragraph, tweaked a concept and
championed trivialities in order to justify two days of meetings in an
air-conditioned facility where attendees were provided with breakfast,
lunch and dinner along with breaks for coffee and mineral water.

Mercenaries of a different kind. No parliamentarian asked the recently
reappointed economics and planning minister, Marino Murillo, to specify
just how much capital one would be allowed to accumulate in Cuba. In
other words, how rich could one be?

A few official reports offer some clues. The regime is already preparing
a series of measures aimed at limiting or restricting the prosperity of
citizens and small business owners.

Lucio, an economist, believes that, "in addition to legal restrictions,
they will issue repressive rulings and adopt tax provisions to curtail
wealth. Those who accumulate certain sums of money that the government
considers excessive will be subject to a severe fiscal knife. In the
worst cases, they will face forfeiture or criminal sanctions. I see no
other way to curtail the accumulation of capital."

There is a dreadful incongruity to the new legislative stew. While the
island's ruling military junta grants approval and legal status to
private businesses, it also uses a range of prohibitions to limit their
growth and to prevent them from prospering or making money.

The island's chieftains are paralyzed by fear that the state will lose
its control over society.

They are worried that, as successful mid-size businesses grow, they will
move large sums of money that could exceed a million dollars and create
supply chains that will benefit society.

Or that the owner of a restaurant will open two or three branches,
expanding within the same city or into other provinces, and acquire a
million dollars or more in funding through bank loans or other sources.

Of course, if a private businessman plays his cards right, he will do
well, even earning annual profits in the six figures. That is the basis
of national economic growth. As long as they respect the law and pay
their taxes, bring on successful private business ventures!

But the government has a specific strategy. The only companies that may
accumulate millions of dollars and enter into joint-ventures with
foreign firms are state-owned enterprises. In other words, GAESA-style
military-run conglomerates or others of the same ilk. It is the state
playing with capitalism.

I did not hear any voices in the boring, monotone Cuban parliament
asking for explanations or details about how Gaviota and Rafin's
multi-million dollar earnings would ultimately be used.*

By 2020 Gaviota will operate 50,000 hotel rooms as well as marinas, golf
courses and stores. Within the next ten years the military-run
conglomerate will become the largest hotel group in the Americas yet the
whereabouts of its revenues are unknown.

Rafin, which according to sources is an acronym for Raúl and Fidel
Investments, is an opaque corporation in a country with a planned
economy that has never stated publicly what its sources of capital are.

This mysterious company bought Telecom Italia's stake in a joint venture
with the Cuban government that was intended to modernize the state-owned
telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. Rafin is now the sole owner of ETECSA.

What is it doing with its multi-million dollar profits? Are
parliamentary deputies not concerned that ETECSA has not created a
social fund to benefit primary, secondary and pre-university schools,
whose makeshift computer labs lack internet access?

Furthermore, they did not complain about the high prices ETECSA charges
for its mobile phone, wifi and internet services, a subject much
discussed in online discussions sponsored by official media outlets and
about which readers have expressed their frustration. Or about the
alarming prices for goods sold at hard currency retail stores. Or, even
more scandalous, the prices of cars on display in large, well-lit showrooms.

Nor did any parliamentarians demand that state-run companies lower the
prices of household appliances, televisions and smartphones at places
like the Samsung store on 3rd Avenue and 70th Street in Miramar in
western Havana, where a Galaxy S7 edge costs the equivalent of $1,300
and a seventy-inch 4K television goes for around $5,000.

The fact that the state is planning the lives of its citizens through
2030 seems like science fiction when no one knows how we will make it
even to year's end. The average Cuban pays no attention to parliamentary
debates or to party politics.

People often look the other way. Apathy, dissimulation and indifference
to national affairs pave the way for regime's excesses.

Workers attend labor union meetings where, without giving them any
thought, they approve economic proposals they do not want and do not
understand. And in their neighborhoods and districts, they vote
mechanically for candidates to the National Assembly who solve nothing.
Cuba has become a nation of domesticated zombies.

Everyone complains quietly at home to his or her family members,
neighbors and friends. But in workplaces and schools, they feign loyalty
to the government, especially when it comes time to have a document
approved or to vote in sterile elections. We have gotten what we deserve.

Deng Xiaoping, a diehard communist and father of China's economic
reforms, understood that making money was neither shameful nor a crime.
"It doesn't matter if the cat is black or white. What matters is if
catches mice," he said in 1960. In Cuba's dictatorship, the cat wears
olive green battle fatigues.

*Translator's note: Gaviota operates a chain of tourist hotels
throughout the island and offers other tourism related services.
According to Bloomberg, Rafin SA "operates as a diversified financial
services company." In 2011 it bought Telecom Italia's 27% stake in the
Cuban state telecommunications monopoly ETECSA for $706 million.

Source: Being Rich Is Banned in Cuba / Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/being-rich-is-banned-in-cuba-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 8 June 2017 — The die is cast. At the special session of the National Assembly of People’s Power held on May 31 and June 1 at the Palace of Conventions, delegates have, as expected, approved the economic plan for 2016 to 2021 and a national plan for economic and social development for … Continue reading "Being Rich Is Banned in Cuba / Iván García" Continue reading
Trump Rolls Back 'Completely One-Sided' Cuba Policy
By TERESA FRONTADO & NANCY KLINGENER & ADRIANNE GONZALEZ & HOLLY PRETSKY
& ISABELLA CUETO • JUN 16, 2017

President Donald Trump Friday announced new restrictions on travel and
business with Cuba, reversing some of the relaxed new relations
instituted two years ago by President Barack Obama.

"Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration's
completely one-sided deal with Cuba," Trump said.

"It's hard to think of a policy that makes less sense than the prior
administration's terrible deal with the Castro regime," he said "They
made a deal with a government that spreads violence and instability in
the region."

"Our policy will seek a much better deal for the Cuban people and the
United States of America," he said. "Our new policy begins with strictly
enforcing U.S. law."

He also called for the release of political prisoners and the scheduling
of free elections.

"We will enforce the ban on tourism. We will enforce the embargo," he said.

"We now hold the cards. The previous administration's easing of
restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people. They
only enrich the Cuban regime," he said. "The profits from investment and
tourism flowed directly to the military."

The new moves primarily affect anyone doing business with the Cuban
military, which controls some of the major tourism infrastructure in the
country, as well as individual travelers who were able to visit the
country more freely under "people-to-people" exchanges.

Trump announced the changes in front of a supportive crowd at the Manuel
Artime Theater in the heart of Little Havana. The theater is named in
honor of a leader of Brigade 2506, who participated in the Bay of Pigs
invasion of Cuba in April 1961.

"We will work for the day when a new generation of leaders brings this
long reign of suffering to an end," Trump said. "And I do believe that
end is in the very near future."

He challenged Cuba to "come to the table" for a new agreement that was
in the best interest "of their people and our people and also
Cuban-Americans."

"Stop jailing innocent people. Open yourselves to political and economic
freedoms," he said. "Return the fugitives of American justice."

"When Cuba is ready to take concrete steps to these ends, we will be
ready willing and able to come to the table to negotiate that much
better deal for Cubans and Americans," he said. "Our embassy remains
open in the hope that our countries can forge a much stronger and better
path."

Praise from Florida politicians

Sen. Marco Rubio praised his onetime rival for the Republican
Presidential nomination.

"You will no longer have to endure the spectacle of an American
president doing the wave with a ruthless dictator in a baseball game,"
Rubio said, referring to Obama's historic visit to Cuba last year.

"This sends a strong message," Rubio said. "We will work with the people
of Cuba but we will not empower their oppressors."

Florida Gov. Rick Scott also praised Trump's changed position.

"Today we have a president that understands America must stand for
freedom," Scott said. He said Obama's deal with Cuba was "a capitulation."

Trump's new directive leaves many of the Obama-era policies unchanged.
The new embassies in Cuba and Washington, D.C. will remain open and the
wet-foot dry-foot policy will not be reinstated. Cuban-Americans will
continue to be able to travel to the island and send remittances to
their families still in Cuba.

The crowd at the theater in Little Havana were appreciative of Trump.
Fermin Vazquez was born in Cuba and has been a U.S. citizen for 40
years. He arrived at 6:45 a.m. to be first in line. "I would follow
Trump everywhere," he said.

At Versailles, the restaurant on Calle Ocho that has become a
traditional gathering point when Cuba is in the national news, some
exiles passionately debated the U.S. policy toward the island:

Oswaldo Inguanzo, 80, a veteran from Brigade 2506, was part of the group
that met with candidate Trump last year to discuss Cuba and America's
approach to the island.

"The Brigade had never supported a presidential candidate before," he
said. "But we sent two letters, one to the then-President Obama, who
didn't even acknowledge us, and the other to Trump, who immediately
accepted."

"He didn't disappoint me," Inguanzo said after Trump's speech. "I felt
he was sincere, so I came here today to see that he fulfills his promise."

Outside near the theater, people began gathering hours before Trump
arrived. Some waited out the rain under awnings and overhangs. Others
allowed themselves to be soaked.

'The Cuban people are the ones that are going to be harmed'

Marla Recio said she has a business in Cuba called Havana Reverie. It
organizes weddings, birthday parties and corporate events for visiting
Americans in Cuba.

"If he decreases travel and cuts that out completely, that means the end
of my business. I'll have to do something else in another different
industry. Right now, most of Cuban entrepreneurs are relying a lot on
American visitors," she said. "The Cuban people are the ones that are
going to be harmed, the ones that are going to suffer. And all of the
families that depend on those businesses."

Ernesto Medina is with the People's Progressive Caucus of Miami-Dade.

"I think what President Trump is doing, rolling back the policy that
President Obama implemented, it's going to hurt business in Cuba," he
said. "A lot of jobs have been created in the private sector to serve
the people traveling to Cuba. That increases the prosperity of the Cuban
people, which is what we all should want to the Cubans."

Medina said he also objects to what he called the "hypocrisy" of
Republicans who tout the benefits of small government.

"Now they're going to be scrutinizing every single American citizen that
travels to Cuba, to see which category they fall under to go there," he
said. "This is an infringement of personal freedoms. We should be able
to travel anywhere we want."

'More of a politician that what we expected'

Some of those gathered outside the theater supported Trump. But Laura
Vianello, a Cuban exile who has lived in Miami since 1960, said she
wished he was doing more.

"I noticed that Trump has become more of a politician than what we
expected from him — to be himself," she said. "We really liked the man
because he has a mind of his own, but we expected more."

Across the street, an anti-Trump protester disagreed.

Bernardo Guitierrez, 70, was also born in Cuba. He said Obama's policies
had helped Cubans.

"I visit Cuba because I still have family there, and I know they're
doing much better," he said. "Little by little, but better."

Cuban exiles also gathered at some of the restaurants on Calle Ocho that
have become synonymous with Little Havana. Jorge Naranja was at
Versailles. He said he voted for Trump in November — but he doesn't
think the policy changes announced on Friday will lead to meaningful
change in Cuba.

He came from Cuba in 1994 and he hasn't been back since, because he
thinks any kind of travel there will just "inject money into the
system," he said.

He said he'd like to see the U.S. either close the door completely to
Cuba, or open up 100 percent if it gets a good offer from the Cuban
government — but he doesn't expect that to happen.

Source: Trump Rolls Back 'Completely One-Sided' Cuba Policy | WLRN -
http://wlrn.org/post/trump-rolls-back-completely-one-sided-cuba-policy?nopop=1 Continue reading
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 16 June 2017 – The closure of three private restaurants in Havana last week has sparked doubts among owners of food service businesses. The fact that the three paladares – private restaurants – were rated “excellent” on Trip Advisor, one of the most important travel sites on the web, has fueled … Continue reading "Three “Paladares” Closed Were Among The Best Restaurants In Havana" Continue reading
Better ties between the U.S. and Cuba? Miami's Cubans are divided
Les Neuhaus

When President Trump scaled back President Obama's pact that broadened
relations with Cuba, he said he was "completely canceling" a "terrible
and misguided deal."

There was a time in Florida when the Cuban American community would have
reacted to such an announcement with almost uniform approval.

But a paradigm shift has occurred over the last 20 years. Younger
generations of Cuban Americans have been looking for opportunities to
capitalize on trade and business with Cuba. According to a 2016 poll by
Florida International University's Cuban Research Institute, a majority
of Cuban Americans oppose the U.S. embargo on the island and want better
relations.

Not surprisingly, Trump's announcement, made in Miami's Little Havana,
left some cheering but many in the business community disappointed.

Vicente Amor, vice president of ASC International USA, a Florida-based
commercial travel agency specializing in executive-service trips to
Cuba, said that aside from the drop in business expected from the Trump
doctrine on Cuba, the president's action signaled another issue.

"The problem is not only the impact of the changes," he said. When the
Obama administration forged the pact to improve U.S.-Cuban relations,
the work was done without input from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida
and what Amor called "the Miami extremists." This time, he said, they
were "at the center of the deal," along with the Treasury Department's
Office of Foreign Assets Control. For Amor, that's a bad development.


Contrary to Trump's sweeping statements, he did not completely gut the
Obama administration agreement. However, it will affect a large
community of entrepreneurs — both in the U.S. and in Cuba — that had
been at the forefront of establishing economic ties between the two
nations, according to the Washington, D.C.-based group, Engage Cuba, a
coalition of pro-Cuban business companies that includes P&G, Viacom,
Honeywell and Choice Hotels.

"We are encouraged that the Trump administration wants to help Cuba's
private sector, but unfortunately, the people who will be most
negatively impacted by this directive are Cuban entrepreneurs,"
Madeleine Russak, spokeswoman for Engage Cuba, said Saturday.

"The confusion that will surround this policy will undoubtedly stifle
U.S. demand to travel to the island," she said. "Additionally, by
requiring Americans to travel in tour groups, the administration is not
only making it more expensive for everyday Americans to travel to the
island, but it pushes them away from staying in private homes, which are
unable to accommodate large tour groups, and into state run hotels."

Albert Fox, a Cuban American from Tampa, which has a generations-old
Cuban community descended from the war for independence at the turn of
the last century, said that although commercial flights might continue
under the new policy, Trump's decision will hurt American and foreign
businesses.

"Overnight he's eliminating hundreds and hundreds of people that were
going there on a daily basis," said Fox, who serves as president of the
Tampa-based Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation. "Do you
think Southwest could cancel flights eventually for a lack of passengers?"

On Saturday, Southwest Airlines responded to that very question.

"Southwest is now reviewing the president's statements made in South
Florida and is assessing [the] impact any proposed changes could have on
our current scheduled service to Cuba," airline spokesman Dan Landson
said by email Saturday.

Amor, the travel industry executive, said the trade embargo is patronizing.

"I don't like President Trump's policy," he said. "It treats Cuba like a
colony and fails to recognize Cuba as a sovereign nation."

Trump had pledged during the presidential campaign to roll back Obama's
Cuban initiative, and Rubio had lobbied Trump intensely to keep that
promise. Among other things, the new rules prohibit Americans from
spending money on businesses controlled by the military.

"Economic practices that benefit the Cuban military at the expense of
the Cuban people will soon be coming to an end #BetterDealforCuba,"
Rubio tweeted.

But in the Cuban community, the pact drew diverse opinions from
Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. On Saturday
he tweeted, "Whatever the intent, new Cuba regs help Cuban Govt and hurt
Cuban entrepreneurs."

A day earlier, he suggested on Twitter that the Senate weigh in on
U.S.-Cuba ties: "There is overwhelming support in the US Senate to allow
all Americans the freedom to travel to Cuba. Let's vote!"

Despite the generation shift, many in Florida's Cuban American community
resist any engagement with the Cuban communist government.

"The Obama administration's policy towards Cuba consisted of a slew of
unconditional and unilateral concessions that placed business interests
over human rights and democracy," said Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat,
co-founder and spokesman for the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a
Miami-based "resistance" group to the Castro government. "These
unilateral concessions to the Castro regime actually emboldened them to
increase their repression against the Cuban people. ... Only [the] rule
of law in Cuba would guarantee American investment and protect the Cuban
people."

Source: Better ties between the U.S. and Cuba? Miami's Cubans are
divided - LA Times -
http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-miami-cuba-20170618-story.html Continue reading
How Trump's Cuba policy impacts US travelers
BY MELANIE ZANONA - 06/18/17 08:00 AM EDT 72

Americans may need to rethink their travel plans to Cuba in the wake of
President Trump's effort to crack down on the communist regime.

The White House announced a slew of new restrictions on Friday aimed at
tightening travel and commercial ties between the U.S. and Cuba, which
comes after a nearly five-month policy review of former President
Obama's historic opening with the island nation.

Trump didn't fully reverse the rapprochement with Cuba. But the
significant policy shift will curtail Americans' ability to travel
freely to Cuba, even as numerous U.S. airlines, hotels and travel sites
like AirBnb have begun offering services there.

Here's how Trump's new Cuba policy impacts U.S. visitors.

Legal types of travel

One of the biggest changes is what constitutes a legal form of travel to
Cuba.

Under Trump's new restrictions, Americans will only be able to visit
Cuba as part of a tour group if they want to go to the island for
educational purposes.

Obama allowed U.S. visitors to travel to the country under 12 different
license categories, including for educational purposes, religious
reasons, journalistic activities and family visits. There was also a
general license. Tourism was still prohibited, however.
Trump is eliminating the so-called people-to-people trips, a
sub-category of education that enables Americans to design their own
trips and go to Cuba on their own. That method has been one of the more
popular ways that U.S. travelers have been seeing the island since Obama
announced his changes.

White House officials also said it's the category most ripe for abuse,
with Americans using it to skirt the tourism ban.

Visitors will still be able to self-certify under a general license that
they are traveling to Cuba for one of the remaining legitimate
reasons. And Cuban-Americans will be able to continue to visit their
family in Cuba and send them remittances, according to a fact sheet.

But those going for educational purposes will now need to apply with the
Treasury Department and go with a licensed tour group – a process than
can be far more lengthy and expensive, according to anti-embargo advocates.

"By requiring Americans to travel in tour groups, the administration is
not only making it more expensive for everyday Americans to travel to
the island, but pushing them away from staying in private homes – which
are unable to accommodate large tour groups – and into state run
hotels," said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba.

Spending restrictions

Another major crux of Trump's Cuba policy is prohibiting any financial
transactions that benefit the Cuban military's business arm, Grupo de
Administración Empresarial (GAESA), in an effort to restrict the flow of
money to the oppressive elements of Raúl Castro's regime.

That means Americans will be largely restricted in where they can spend
their money, given the Cuban government's control of a large swath of
the travel and tourist economy, including hotels, restaurants and other
entities.

GAESA currently operates the Four Points by Sheraton Havana, one of the
first U.S. hotels to open on the island in decades.

The administration hopes that the ban on financial transactions with
companies linked to the Cuban military will help funnel more money
towards free and private Cuban businesses.

White House officials also noted that Americans can still bring back
Cuban cigars from their trips.

Stronger enforcement

U.S. visitors may face more questioning from authorities when they
return home from Cuba.

Part of Trump's policy focuses on enforcing the existing ban on tourism,
which means travelers can expect to see stepped up enforcement, either
from customs agents at the airport or through audits later on.

"Our policy begins with strictly enforcing U.S. law," Trump said during
his speech in Miami, unveiling the new policy. "We will enforce the ban
on tourism."

All visitors are required to maintain full schedules while in Cuba and
keep detailed logs for five years – something that has been rarely checked.

The White House is now directing the Treasury Department to conduct
regular audits of travelers and calling on the Inspector General to keep
tabs on the agency's effort.

Those who are caught violating Cuban sanctions could face civil or
criminal penalties, with individual civil fines that could reach up to
$65,000 per violation, according to the Treasury Department.

Commercial flights

Commercial flights, which resumed between the U.S. and Cuba for the
first time in over 50 years last summer, will be allowed to continue
uninterrupted under Trump's Cuba policy.

Seven U.S. airlines now fly nonstop to Cuba, following an intense effort
to win a direct flight route to the island last year.

But facing lower than expected travel demand, a number of carriers have
already begun to scale back their Cuba operations.

If demand continues to decline once people-to-people trips are banned,
and with tour groups more likely to book charter flights, travelers may
see higher ticker prices and less commercial flight options.

"There was already a sense that there were way too many flights. I do
think you're likely to see a fewer number of flights and higher fares,"
said Andrew Keller, a partner at Hogan Lovells focusing on international
trade and investment. "You may well see more of the airlines pulling
out, if it's just not worth it."

Timeline

The Treasury and Commerce departments will now have 30 days to start
drafting new rules that fulfill Trump's directive, but "then the process
takes as long as it takes," said one senior official.

That means that travelers who have already scheduled a trip to Cuba can
still move ahead with their plans, as long as the new regulations have
not taken effect yet.

In writing new rules, the Treasury Department is expected to spell out
exactly what will happen to people who book trips before the new rules,
but travel after their release.

Source: How Trump's Cuba policy impacts US travelers | TheHill -
http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/338211-how-trumps-cuba-policy-impacts-us-travelers Continue reading
Trump's Cuba decision gives pause to U.S. companies doing business there
by Julia Horowitz @juliakhorowitz
June 16, 2017: 7:03 PM ET

President Trump said he's "canceling" Obama's deal with Cuba. But that
agreement was good for a lot of American businesses.
Many U.S. firms have welcomed the opening of a new market roughly 100
miles from the U.S. coast.
Now, Trump wants strict enforcement of the tourism ban and will prohibit
commerce with Cuban businesses that are owned by military and
intelligence services.
That could hit travel and construction companies, which have started to
build a presence in Cuba. And many are speaking out.
On Friday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce decried the changes.
"U.S. private sector engagement can be a positive force for the kind of
change we all wish to see in Cuba," Myron Brilliant, the chamber's head
of international affairs, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, today's
moves actually limit the possibility for positive change on the island
and risk ceding growth opportunities to other countries that, frankly,
may not share America's interest in a free and democratic Cuba."
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Cuba's inaction on human rights is
a big reason for the policy shift.
Caterpillar (CAT), which has long called for the U.S. government to end
the trade embargo, also weighed in.
The maker of heavy equipment has been working to reenter the Cuban
market since the Obama administration announced that it would
reestablish diplomatic relations in 2014.
"Caterpillar believes that engagement with Cuba continues to represent a
strong opportunity -- not just for American businesses, but to serve as
a powerful tool for change," the company said in a statement. "We will
continue to work closely with policymakers on the best way to accomplish
these goals."
Related: Google launches servers in Cuba to speed up YouTube and search
Many companies in the hospitality industry have already doubled down on
development projects, leaving them particularly exposed to the decision.
Airbnb said it plans to speak with the Trump administration and with
Congress in the coming weeks. The startup said it has hosted 560,000
guests in Cuba since April 2015.
"Travel from the U.S. to Cuba is an important way to encourage
people-to-people diplomacy," the company said in a statement. "While we
are reviewing what this policy could mean for this type of travel, we
appreciate that the policy appears to allow us to continue to support
Airbnb hosts in Cuba who have welcomed travelers from around the world."
Marriott (MAR) noted that the company has invested significant resources
to shore up its Cuba operation, with one hotel open and another in the
works. It said the effect of Trump's order may depend on "forthcoming
regulations."
"We continue to believe that increased travel between the United States
and Cuba would serve to strengthen an evolving bilateral relationship,
and Marriott remains ready to build on the progress that has been made
in the last two years," the company said.
American Airlines (AAL) said it's urging customers planning trips to
Cuba to closely watch for updates from the U.S. government.
"As a global airline, American is committed to continuing to operate
service to Cuba," the company said. "We are reviewing the executive
order to understand any potential impacts to our customers or our
current service."
The carrier has 10 flights from the U.S. to Cuba every day, according to
data from the Official Airline Guide.
CNNMoney (New York)
First published June 16, 2017: 7:03 PM ET

Source: Trump's Cuba decision gives pause to U.S. companies doing
business there - Jun. 16, 2017 -
http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/16/news/trump-cuba-business-community-reaction/index.html Continue reading
… real estate of Old Havana, the heart of Cuba’s tourism engine … free concert last May in Havana, Cuba. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty … ” in Cuba is now the single-largest contractor of private sector Cubans, buying … strategies of millions of Cubans. Yes, the Cuban government takes money from … Continue reading
Americans will still be able to travel to Cuba, but rules will be stricter
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

The good news for Americans who want to travel to Cuba is they still
can, but a draft of President Donald Trump's presidential policy
directive indicates they shouldn't even think of sneaking away for a day
on a Cuban beach.

And they better keep detailed information on their travels. The draft
emphasizes that travelers must keep a full record of every transaction
they make in Cuba and hold on to it for five years.

The major change from the Obama era in Trump's Cuba policy draft: U.S.
travelers making educational people-to-people trips can no longer go to
the island on their own but must travel with groups accompanied by a
company representative.

A number of travel companies, airlines and cruise lines were reluctant
to comment on the draft details, preferring to wait until Friday when
Trump officially releases his new presidential directive on Cuba in
Miami. There are also no regulations accompanying the presidential
policy directive. Those are expected within 90 days.

But some are concerned that the new policy will dampen enthusiasm for
Cuban travel.

"Additional prohibitions and oversight on travel will only confuse
Americans and dissuade them from visiting Cuba, causing significant
economic hardship to Cuban entrepreneurs and average Cuban families, as
well as Americans working in the hospitality sector," said Collin
Laverty, president of Cuban Educational Travel, which arranges group
travel to the island.

Pedro Freyre, a Miami lawyer for cruise lines and other businesses that
have deals with Cuba, noted that it's hard to determine the scope and
precise nature of Trump's new policy until the regulations are drafted.

"The devil is in the details. It will be critically important to engage
U.S. regulators as they go forward with the drafting of the guidelines
to ensure that these are not overly burdensome to U.S. business," he said.

Because they haven't been able to see a final draft and review the
details of the new regulations, most travel companies declined to comment.

In general, the president is trying to navigate a delicate line between
cracking down on money that goes directly to the Cuban military and not
taking measures that would hurt Cuban citizens who have embraced private
enterprise, opening restaurants, bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels,
and other businesses that cater to the growing number of travelers to
the island.

Visits by Cuban Americans and other U.S. travelers in 2016 reached
614,433, a 34 percent increase over 2015.

On one hand, the draft says the president wants to increase support of
the Cuban people through expansion of internet service, free media, free
enterprise, free association and lawful travel.

But on the other, it prohibits direct financial dealings with GAESA
(Grupo de Administración Empresarial SA), which controls hotel brands
such as Gaviota. Its portfolio in early 2017 included 64 hotels and
villas with more than 27,000 rooms. It even runs discotheques and
hunting preserves.

The Trump policy also allows family travel to Cuba to continue without
restrictions and places no limits on remittances, according to the draft.

That's good news for the Cuban community, said José "Pepe" Hernández,
president of the Cuban American National Foundation. "It wouldn't make
sense to put sanctions on the people," he said.

But he thinks sanctioning the Cuban military is a step in the right
direction. "One of the great problems we're seeing is that most of the
really valuable assets are now the property of the military or under
management by the military," Hernández said.

Under Obama, there were 12 categories of travel permitted, from
humanitarian and religious trips to people-to-people tours and travel
for athletic competitions. Travelers did not have to seek prior approval
from the U.S. government, although tourist travel wasn't permitted.
Those travel categories will remain under the Trump policy directive,
which also bars sun-and-beach vacations.

It's estimated that businesses run by GAESA control more than 40 percent
of the Cuban economy. GAESA's holdings range from the Mariel Special
Economic Development Zone, gas stations, convenience stores,
telecommunications companies, and a commercial airline to the Cuban
Export-Import Corp. (CIMEX), a Cuban enterprise whose holdings include
rental car agency Havanautos, free zones and container ships.

After the regulations are issued, travelers won't be able to book hotel
rooms at Gaviota hotels, which include the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski,
Havana's newest luxury hotel. Some of Cuba's best hotels are managed
under operating contracts with foreign hotel operators.

A full ban on business with military enterprises would have meant cruise
lines would not have been able to pay port fees, essentially cutting off
budding cruise travel to Cuba from the United States. But the draft
indicates that airport and seaport operations necessary for permissible
travel, cargo and trade are exempt from the prohibition on dealing with
military enterprises.

As recently as this week, Miami-based Victory Cruise Lines was approved
to sail to Cuba, making it the 10th U.S. line to get the green light for
Cuba. The luxury, all-inclusive line plans to sail to Havana, Maria la
Gorda, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba on its 202-passenger ships.

Victory President and Chief Executive Bruce Nierenberg said the cruise
line stands to win from the new regulations because all the shore
excursions it offers will follow U.S. guidelines.

"As an all-inclusive product, including all the tours, the tour guides
and arrangements on shore … we are perfectly positioned to be in full
compliance with any regulations covering how our guests use the Cuban
product," Nierenberg said.

"While there has been a significant anxiety about this announcement from
the administration and its potential impact on travel and tourism to
Cuba, the actual adjustments being called for are constructive ways to
get everyone's attention and bring Cuba and the U.S. closer together in
the long term," he said.

MIAMI HERALD STAFF WRITER CHABELI HERRERA CONTRIBUTED TO THIS STORY.

FOLLOW MIMI WHITEFIELD ON TWITTER: @HERALDMIMI

Source: Air, cruise travel to Cuba will continue under new Trump policy
| Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article156441624.html Continue reading
HAVANA (AP) — President Donald Trump' … U.S. Embassy open in Havana and allows U.S. airlines … ships to continue service to Cuba. Cuban-Americans can still send money to … visit Cuba as part of tightly regulated tour groups. The Cuban government … Continue reading
HAVANA (AP) - President Donald Trump’ … Cuba. Trump’s policy keeps a U.S. Embassy open in Havana … ships to continue service to Cuba. Cuban-Americans can still send money to … visit Cuba as part of tightly regulated tour groups. The Cuban government … Continue reading
HAVANA — President Donald Trump’s announcement … Cuba. Trump’s policy keeps a U.S. Embassy open in Havana … ships to continue service to Cuba. Cuban-Americans can still send money to … visit Cuba as part of tightly regulated tour groups. The Cuban government … Continue reading
… parked in Havana, Cuba. A classic car is parked in Havana, Cuba. Photo: Ullstein … district in Havana, Cuba. A common practice to save money, Cuban commuters share … Havana, Cuba. less A classic American car rolls past a mural depicting Cuban … classic car in Havana, Cuba. A classic car in Havana, Cuba. Photo: Marka, UIG … Continue reading
… ’s” Cuba policy, which he calls “one-sided” in favor of Havana. An … ships to continue service to Cuba.      Cuban-Americans can still send money to … selling their crops to the Cuban government.      The policy also allows … are not directly linked with Cuba’s military and state-security services … Continue reading
… much of Obama's Cuba policy HAVANA (AP) — President Donald Trump … U.S. Embassy open in Havana and allows U.S. airlines … ships to continue service to Cuba. Cuban-Americans can still send money to … visit Cuba as part of tightly regulated tour groups. The Cuban government … Continue reading
HAVANA — President Donald Trump has declared … ’s” Cuba policy, which he calls “one-sided” in favor of Havana. An … ships to continue service to Cuba. Cuban-Americans can still send money to … selling their crops to the Cuban government. The policy also allows … Continue reading
… Washington and Havana, will remain. Travel and money sent by Cuban Americans … all Cubans,” said Trump’s directive. Trump's changes in Cuba … Points by Sheraton Havana. GAESA controls big chunks Cuba’s economy and … the Cuban military, including, presumably, the Four Points by Sheraton in HavanaContinue reading
… redraw U.S. policy toward Cuba on Friday, tightening travel restrictions … Washington and Havana, will remain. Travel and money sent by Cuban Americans … policy directive Friday, surrounded by Cuban-American supporters at Miami's … repression has increased. "The Cuban people have long suffered under … Continue reading
… changes in its relationship with Havana on Friday, including restrictions on … Travel and money transfers from Cuban-Americans are not believed to be … York to Havana. Those travels and visitors’ ability to use Cuba’s … to operate in Havana. Americans who go to Cuba, who besides hotels … Continue reading
… got off a plane in Havana, Cuba, where his cousins waited for … . Born and raised in Little Havana to Cuban exile parents, Sopo says … Cuban-Americans in many ways are conditioned to think going to Cuba equals giving money to Castro, equals hurting the Cuban people … Continue reading
Where is Socialism in Cuba? / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 20 May 2107 — A downpour in May hits the corrugated metal
roof hard. Water filters in through several holes into the house of
Mireya, a blind, half-deaf seventy-one-year-old woman. She relies on
pieces of black rubber to cover and protect her most precious
possessions: an obsolete Chinese television with cathode ray tubes and a
foam mattress on her bed.

"Every time it rains, it's the same old story. Water comes in through
every crevice. On a day I least expect it, the roof will collapse and
bury me under it. That's really not what I want," says Mireya.
Frustrated, she no longer remembers how many times she has asked for
Social Security subsidies to pay for construction materials to repair
her ramshackle shed.

"They drag their feet or they turn me down. They say my two sons should
be the ones to do it. They send money but they're not doing well either.
Cuba stopped being a socialist society that gave help to those in need a
long time ago. We old people are the ones who are worse off. The state
does almost nothing to help the poorest people," says the old woman.

A retired schoolteacher, Mireya receives a monthly pension of 225 pesos,
the equivalent of ten dollars. It all goes to pay the light, gas and
water bills and to buy a handful of vegetables at the farmer's market.

To survive, she sells magazines and plastic bags on the street. "If I
walk two blocks, my feet swell. I am being treated for it but sometimes
I don't have the money to buy the medication. And if I do manage to come
up with the money, the pharmacy tells me they're out of it, that there's
a shortage. If it's not one thing, it's another," Mireya says in disgust.

Sergio, a retired metalworker, recalls that "in the early years of the
revolution, if you produced good results at work, you could get a home.
They would give you a week's vacation in a house on the beach. Medical
care was good. And though food was always rationed, you had a balanced
diet. What we have in Cuba today is capitalism in disguise. The old
slogan about socialism or death is only for poor people and fools. Those
with hard currency have access higher quality products. Managers live
just as well as any capitalist business owner."

"In the Nordic countries and Switzerland, workers who earn the minimum
wage and who, by those countries' standards, are living in poverty,
receive government assistance," notes a sociologist who have been
studying social welfare programs for five years. His research is based
on interviews with Cubans living in developed countries. "When a Cuban
retires in the United States, he receives about $740 a month in aid plus
$170 dollars in food stamps, even if he has never worked in the country.
Additionally, he receives free medical and psychiatric care if needed.
And he can still work part-time. If he earns less than two thousand
dollars, he does not have to pay income tax," he observes.

"Cuba ceased being a socialist society long ago. Being a poor
third-world country, the best it can offer is universal health care and
free education, but the quality of those has deteriorated substantially.
Costa Rica and Guyana, nations to which we should compare ourselves,
also offer these free services but they are of better quality," adds the
sociologist.

Adalberto, a Cuban living in Washington, is currently visiting the
island. Due to diabetes and the onset of Alzheimer's he had to retire at
age fifty-six. "I receive various medical benefits and, because I worked
for thirty years, a monthly pension of $2,400. I don't have a life full
of luxury but have I have the essentials and can help my family in
Havana. Let me tell you, real socialism is over there, in the U.S.," he
says.

The quality of life in Cuba has fallen markedly. Salaries are among the
lowest in the world. The costs of food and other basic commodities are
high. Allegedly socialist businesses such as the telecommunications
monopoly ETECSA charge extremely high prices for internet and mobile
phone service. Most Cubans cannot afford to vacation in their own
country due to the high price of hotel rooms. The military controls 80%
of the nation's economy and engages in the worst form state-sponsored
capitalism imaginable, taxing sales of goods by as much as 240%.

Cuban socialism can only be found in speeches by the military
bourgeoisie. The Castro regime has discreetly and without fanfare
abandoned the slogan "a revolution of the humble, by the humble and for
the humble." Instead, it now manages luxury hotels like the Kempinski
Manzana, where a watch can cost four thousand dollars and a week's stay
in Varadero is the equivalent of a year and a half's salary for the
average worker.

What are the humble left with? A ration of seven pounds of rice and five
pounds of sugar, twenty ounces of dried beans, one small bread roll per
day and half a kilogram of chicken per month.

Health care and education are seemingly free (which is possible because
salaries are so low). With any luck, one can hope for a stay at a
campsite during summer vacation season. But little else.

Source: Where is Socialism in Cuba? / Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/where-is-socialism-in-cuba-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
… got off a plane in Havana, Cuba, where his cousins waited for … born and raised in Little Havana to Cuban exile parents, Sopo says … Cuban-Americans in many ways are conditioned to think going to Cuba equals giving money to Castro, equals hurting the Cuban people … Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 20 May 2107 — A downpour in May hits the corrugated metal roof hard. Water filters in through several holes into the house of Mireya, a blind, half-deaf seventy-one-year-old woman. She relies on pieces of black rubber to cover and protect her most precious possessions: an obsolete Chinese television with cathode ray tubes … Continue reading "Where is Socialism in Cuba? / Iván García" Continue reading
… off money flows to the Cuban military, Bloomberg reported Tuesday, citing … Cuban firms partially owned by the military. American citizens heading to Cuba … administration made with Cuba. Obama re-established diplomatic relations with Havana in 2015 … Continue reading
South Florida companies hoping to preserve Cuba gains await new Trump rules
Arlene Satchell
Sun Sentinel

When U.S.-based airlines and cruise lines flew or sailed through former
President Barack Obama's historic opening to Cuba, few expected that the
door might be slammed shut or partially closed by his successor in the
White House.

But that's the prospect those and other American companies are likely to
face this week as President Donald J. Trump prepares to announce
policies that could reimpose curbs on travel and business with the
Communist island.

Citing little progress by the Cuban government to improve human rights,
Florida lawmakers such as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario
Diaz-Balart have urged Trump to restore travel restraints under the
long-standing U.S. trade embargo against Havana.

South Florida could be the epicenter for fallout as the majority of
commercial flights and cruises that launched from the U.S. originate
from Florida airports and seaports.

A recent economic impact study by the advocacy group Engage Cuba
concluded that a complete rollback of the current policy on Cuba could
cost the American economy $6.6 billion and affect 12,295 jobs nationwide
during Trump's first term in office, according to a recent economic
impact study by the advocacy group Engage Cuba. Of that amount, airlines
and cruise lines would lose $3.5 billion with 10,154 jobs impacted. The
Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit is seeking an end to the embargo.

After restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2014, Obama signed a
series of executive orders that gave U.S. businesses a small beach head
for doing business in Cuba.

Their reversal could have a "significant impact" in South Florida since
the region became a "jumping off place to Cuba," said John Thomas, an
associate professor of hospitality law at Florida International
University. Business from visitors in transit to and from Cuba could
also be at risk if flights and cruises sharply declined or disappeared,
Thomas said.

In a blog post Sunday, John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade
and Economic Council in New York, said the Trump administration is
weighing "ending self-directed travel and returning to group-only travel
for educational and people-to-people programs."

A snapshot of locally based services and other commerce with Cuba includes:

Airlines: JetBlue and Southwest offer regular nonstop service to select
Cuban cities including Havana from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood
International Airport. Delta and American fly from Miami International
Airport.

Cruise lines: South Florida-based Carnival Corp., Norwegian Cruise Line
Holdings and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. offer Caribbean itineraries
with one or more Cuba stops from Port Everglades, PortMiami or Tampa.

Pearl Seas Cruises of Connecticut operated a series of 10-night voyages
to Cuba earlier this year from Port Everglades and has plans for more.

Finance: Since 2015, Stonegate Bank of Pompano Beach has maintained a
relationship with Banco Internacional de Comercio to provide money
transfer services for companies operating in Cuba. It also offers a
Cuba-enabled U.S. credit card to travelers visiting the country.

Freight: Since 2001, Crowley Maritime Corp. has provided container
freight service to Cuba from Port Everglades, transporting mostly
poultry and other food products.

Under Obama's liberalized rules, Americans are allowed to visit the
island without a license and need not travel in organized groups
provided the purpose of their trips falls under one of 12 categories.
They include family visits, research, or educational activities for
"people-to-people" exchanges.

Since the diplomatic rapprochement, many companies used the rules as
leeway to set up businesses in Cuba and establish contacts with
government agencies.

"Our new relationship with Cuba has led to tangible results for American
companies, created U.S. jobs, and strengthened Cuba's growing private
sector," said James Williams, Engage Cuba's president. "If President
Trump rolled back our Cuba policy, he would add job-killing government
regulations on U.S. businesses. Reimposing restrictions on traveling to
Cuba would force Americans to jump through even more bureaucratic hoops
to exercise their right to travel freely."

Most local company representatives and South Florida legal advisers were
hesitant to discuss any damage tighter regulations might bring.

"We really don't know what's going to happen at this point," said David
Seleski, CEO of Stonegate Bank. He said the bank does not maintain
physical storefronts in Cuba and has no concerns about getting its money
out. Still, if U.S.-Cuba financial regulations were to change, fewer
money transfers and less spending on those credit cards might be the result

While Cuba represents a small percentage of the cruise operators'
business, trips have resonated well with consumers and represent a
long-term growth potential, cruise executives have said.

But the companies indicated they have the flexibility to stage a retreat.

"Because our assets are mobile, our ships can be rerouted as needed to
alternate destinations if there is ever an issue that arises with any of
our itineraries," said Roger Frizzell, a Carnival Corp. spokesman

For some American interests, the uncertainty has caused them to place
future Cuba business plans on hold, said Hector Chichoni, partner at the
Duane Morris law firm in Miami.

Chichoni said he is advising clients to tread carefully and ensure they
follow existing rules. But he said some are "going for it," enticed by
the prospects for profits in telecommunications, healthcare and hospitality.

Peter Quinter, a Miami lawyer at GrayRobinson who also counsels clients
on Cuba, agreed caution is merited.

"I remain concerned about the enforcement of contracts under Cuban law,
but executives and entrepreneurs interested in doing business with the
Cuban government already know that doing so is not for the timid," he said.

Source: South Florida companies hoping to preserve Cuba gains await new
Trump rules - Sun Sentinel -
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-bz-trump-us-cuba-travel-changes-20170609-story.html Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 12 June 2017 –Authorities have taken a firm stand with private transportation in Santiago de Cuba and have begun to demand exhaustive proof of fuel purchases from the state gas stations to verify that they are not from the black market. “Last Friday there was a massive operation, and four drivers were detained … Continue reading "Private Carriers in Santiago de Cuba Complain About Inspections" Continue reading
Cuba: From Worse to Impossible (and We Haven't Hit Bottom Yet) / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 3 June 2017 — In coming days when the administration of the
unpredictable Donald Trump, following four months of review, announces
its Cuba policy, it could be that Obama's guidelines are retained save
for touch-ups of a few items such as doing business with military
enterprises that directly benefit the dictatorship.

Good news for the regime would be that the White House were to maintain
the status quo.

To appease the internal dissident movement and a segment of the historic
exile community that supported his election bid, Trump will demand
respect for human rights, economic liberty and freedom of expression,
and blah, blah, blah.

But the Castroite autocracy will counterattack with plausible and
powerful arguments.

And it will point a finger at the Trump administration, which accuses
his own country's press of being his worst enemy and which makes
multi-million-dollar deals with the Saudi monarchy, a government that
violates innumerable human rights and reduces women to mere objects. All
of which makes it not the best moral paragon to speak of freedoms.

During the Obama era–my god, how the regime misses him–Castroism did not
allow small private businesses to access credit nor import products from
the US.

The Cuban government's strategy is simple. They want to do business with
the powerful Norte, all comers, but with state–or military–run concerns
as the sole partners.

If Trump maintains the scenario unfolded by Obama, i.e., academic,
cultural, business and political exchanges between both nations, Raúl
Castro will probably make his move and grant greater autonomy to small
private businesses on the Island so as to placate the New York real
estate mogul.

Not a few small private entrepreneurs, perhaps the most successful ones,
are children or relatives of the olive-green caste, and they head up
successful enterprises such as the Star Bien paladar (private
restaurant), or the Fantasy discotheque.

If the panorama does not change, the regime will continue its diplomatic
and academic offensive, utilizing its agents of influence in the US to
continue efforts to bring down the embargo, or at least weaken it until
it becomes a useless shell.

For the olive green autocracy, the plan to counteract that "damn
obsession of US elites with democracy and liberties" involves conducting
sterile negotiations that only buy time.

The Palace of the Revolution wants to change, but only in the style of
China or Vietnam. It does not understand how those two communist
countries can partner with the US while Cuba cannot. Castroite strategy
is headed in that direction.

There are two subliminal messages coming from the military junta that
governs the Island.

First: With an authoritarian government of social control in place,
political stability is assured and there is no risk of a migratory
avalanche or of the Island becoming a base of operations for Mexican
drug cartels.

Second: Were there to be a change that provoked the people to take to
the streets, the Island could become a failed state.

Trump, who is not known for his democratic qualities and has the
discernment of an adolescent, could take the bait and do an about-face.
"After all," he might think, "if we're partners with the monarchies in
the Gulf, we continue to buy oil from the detestable Maduro government,
and I want to make a deal with Putin, what difference if I play a little
tongue hockey with Raúl Castro or his successor?"

But Trump is an uncontrollable reptile. And Cuba is not a center of
world power, and it has a small market and laughable consumer power.
Thus it could be that Trump will play the moralist and make demands that
not even he himself lives up to, just to satisfy the Cuban-American
political bloc in Miami.

Whatever happens, Trump has begun shooting tracer bullets. His
announcement of a drastic $20 million cut in funding for dissident
projects favors the Havana regime.

It is likely that this was not Trump's intention. But remember that he
is not a Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He is a man in his third age with
the mind of a primary school student.

With all that the Island autocracy is going through–reductions in
petroleum from Venezuela and a crisis that could annihilate Venezuelan
President Nicolás Maduro, leaving Cuba bereft of an important economic
support; Russia supplied a shipment of fuel but is asking where will the
money come from next time; and a Raúl Castro who is supposedly destined
to surrender power–for the military mandarins the scene that is coming
into view at the moment is the worst possible.

Don't worry about the repression. Hard-core dissidents will never want
for punches and slaps. But in a country at its breaking point, any spark
can give rise to a conflagration of incalculable proportions.

Right now, the average salary in Cuba is 27 dollars per month, but to
live decently requires 15 times that amount. And Havana, the capital of
the Republic, has gone for a week without water.

Food prices are through the roof. Public transit has gone from bad to
worse. And, as if we were living in Zurich, Samsung has opened on the
west side of the city a store (more like a museum) where a 4K Smart TV
goes for $4,000, and a Samsung 7 Edge costs $1,300, double its price in
New York.

Havanans, mouths agape, go to gaze and take selfies with their cheap
mobiles. This is the snapshot of Cuba. A mirage. And all during a
stagnant economic crisis dating back 27 years which few venture to guess
when it will end.

While we thought we were in bad shape, the reality is that we could be
worse off. And nobody knows when we will hit bottom.

Iván García

Photo: In the entryway of the Plaza Hotel, in the heart of the capital,
a beggar uses a nylon bag containing her belongings as a "pillow." To
the side is an empty cigar box collecting coins from passersby. This
image is part of The Black Beggars of Havana, a photo essay by Juan
Antonio Madrazo published in Cubanet.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Cuba: From Worse to Impossible (and We Haven't Hit Bottom Yet) /
Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-from-worse-to-impossible-and-we-havent-hit-bottom-yet-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
How to survive military service as a homosexual
CARLOS TRUJILLO HERRERA | La Habana | 12 de Junio de 2017 - 10:37 CEST.

"My parents don't know that I'm homosexual. And I don't want them to,
for now, so when I was recruited I didn't say anything," says Ariel, one
of the members of the LGTBI community struggling to survive the machismo
that prevails in the Active Military Service.

"I often get tense because, if someone does something wrong, they ask
him if he's a faggot. They also say that the Army is for real men, and I
wonder what I'm doing here," he adds.

Like the vast majority of Recruits, Ariel would like to be somewhere
else, due to how he is mistreated by the officers. In his case, in
addition to being at the end of the chain of command, there is the extra
pressure of being homosexual.

He has been forced to adapt. The first thing he managed when he entered
the training program was to become an assistant to his company's
lieutenant. Because his family was able to provide some favors (food,
money, clothes, medical shifts) he was spared hours of marching.

He says that he was very afraid of his fellow recruits. The first day
they used the common showers, he remembers, one of the young men got an
erection, for which he was beaten up by the rest. They broke a couple of
his teeth, and an arm.

"When the officer in charge heard about the reason for the attack, he
took care of the matter 'between men' and said: 'You don't have to be
putting up with this faggot stuff.' They transferred the soldier out of
the unit, and that was the end of it."

David thinks he was "pretty lucky". His permanent unit is "very relaxed"
and everyone minds their own business. "Apart from having to put up with
being told to f*** off every time I talk, they leave me alone," he says.

He landed a position in the dining hall and found a partner who shares
his sexual orientation. They get together when they can. "To kill time,"
he says. "I don't think it's going anywhere."

Felipe has to sleep at the end of the barracks and use a mosquito net,
because one of his comrades took the fan he had taken from home.

"I'm afraid to report it because everyone in the unit knows I'm gay," he
explains. "If my mom demands the fan, they will tell her. She's a
Christian and wouldn't accept it."

Felipe has had relations with a couple of soldiers in the unit, "but
they're in the closet. They have girlfriends and hit people, like 'real
men' are supposed to."

Carlos is a lieutenant. Everyone knows he's gay, but no one mentions it
directly. However, "I have to put up with a few things, like extra guard
duty every month."

He says that his companions refuse to stand guard with him, because the
shifts are in an office, late at night. "Most of the time they go to
sleep and I have to stand guard alone."

Although the level of homophobia is high, there exists a curious
phenomenon: homosexuals, once identified, suffer discrimination, but
homosexuality is widely joked about.

Young recruits often say that they are in a prison, and every time a new
one arrives, they touch his butt or pretend to rape him. They also often
hold the new recruit, while they suck his nipples, neck, and ears, and
bite his back. Those who do not go along with the "joke" are harassed
more intensely in the future.

"The best thing is to laugh, say that it was disgusting, and tell them
to all go to hell," says one soldier. "Then they leave you alone."

That is, "macho" men can have fun pretending to be gay, while harshly
discriminating against those who actually are.

Source: How to survive military service as a homosexual | Diario de Cuba
- http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1497256623_31816.html Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 3 June 2017 — In coming days when the administration of the unpredictable Donald Trump, following four months of review, announces its Cuba policy, it could be that Obama’s guidelines are retained save for touch-ups of a few items such as doing business with military enterprises that directly benefit the dictatorship. Good news … Continue reading "Cuba: From Worse to Impossible (and We Haven’t Hit Bottom Yet) / Iván García" Continue reading
Production In Cuba Lulls As Hollywood Awaits Signal From Donald Trump
Produced By
by Alex Ben Block
June 10, 2017 3:22pm

AP
For a couple months after Barack Obama moved toward normalizing
relations with Cuba following decades of economic sanctions, a rush of
movie and TV productions made its way to the island, from Universal
Pictures' The Fast and Furious franchise to reality TV's Keeping Up With
The Kardashians.

But as Cuba and Hollywood await a definitive stance from President
Donald Trump, production has hit a lull, said participants on the
Produced By conference panel Saturday called "The Whole World Is
Watching: Producing For A Global Audience."

"We will have to wait and see what happens with the Trump
administration," said Lilianne (Lia) Rodriguez, a producer and lawyer
who lives in Cuba and works with international producers.

Executives from Netflix, Amazon, HBO and China's Wanda Studios joined
Rodriguez and Kathy Petty, senior vp, production finance for Universal
Pictures.

Trump reportedly plans to announce his revised Cuba policy during a
speech in Miami later this month, where politicians including Senator
Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart have pushed the President to make
good on a campaign promise to shut the door on business in Cuba once again.

There is big money at stake. Petty estimated that Universal spent $3
million to take advantage of Cuban hospitality, a plethora of old
American cars and rarely seen locations when it shot there earlier this
year. She said Universal had to bring literally a boatload of production
equipment, props, costumes, and even facilities and supplies for catering.

Petty said Universal made a first of its kind deal with the Cuban
Central Bank for access to money and financial resources on the island.
"They were very, very accommodating," said Petty, "extremely friendly
and helpful."

Still, Petty added, there was a big "learning curve…because no one has
been there before."

Rodriguez said at present she doesn't know of any preparations by the
Cuban government or the institute that works with filmmakers to prepare
for a return to an American economic boycott.

"I don't know if they have a contingency plan for the film industry,"
said Rodriguez. "I hope they have a contingency plan for the country."

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Source: Production In Cuba Hits Lull As Hollywood Awaits Signal From
Trump | Deadline -
http://deadline.com/2017/06/cuba-production-lull-donald-trump-produced-by-1202111069/ Continue reading
Guggenheim Partners Chief Content Officer Dirk Smillie got so interested in the firm’s forefather, Harry Guggenheim, that he quit his job to write a book about him, sources told On the Money. Smillie, a former senior writer with Forbes, has been with the fund for the past six years. The book is believed to be... Continue reading
… money in Havana, Cuba Why Cuba? But, I didn’t go to Cuba for … cheap! A Cuban man fishing on the Malecon in Havana, Cuba A Land of Immense Beauty What I found in Cuba … Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym in Havana, Cuba I danced my ass off … Continue reading