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… ;Shark Tank" investor Mark Cuban and Spanx founder Sara Blakely … ever earn anywhere else," Cuban said. He's right … pay off dividends," said Cuban, who became a millionaire at … your net worth," said Cuban, who reached his first $1 … Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 14 August 2017 — A week in Punta Cana, Cancun, or some paradisiacal beach in the Bahamas. And if the family is well heeled, two weeks on a luxury cruise. The excursion to an all-inclusive hotel in the Caribbean, in addition to the quinceañeara and her parents, can include the girl’s best friend … Continue reading "Quinceaneras in Cuba: A Vanity Catwalk / Iván García" Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 8 August 2017 — When night falls on Havana’s Malecon, an optical illusion gave the impression that on the horizon the sun was devouring the sea. This is the hour when Daniel, a retiree of 66, sat himself down on a wooden bench and, along with several neighbors, and drinks the worst quality … Continue reading "The Day Havanans Shouted "Down With Fidel!" / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 4 August 2017 – “It doesn’t matter when, all we get are feathers,” complains the father of a family, disgusted on finding no kind of meat other than chicken in the Hard Currency Collection Stores (TRD), the state chain that sells only in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). Since the beginning of … Continue reading "Cuba Has No Plan B To Make Up For The Loss Of Venezuela" Continue reading
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 4 August 2017 – Each ruler leaves his imprint. More than a decade ago Fidel Castro relinquished power and his brother promised continuity; but he dismantled the boarding high schools in the countryside, the army of social workers and the open anti-imperialist rallies. This coming February, Miguel Diaz-Canel could assume the presidency … Continue reading "Miguel Diaz-Canel, A Future Lenin Moreno?" Continue reading

Mario J. Pentón

El popular dúo de reguetoneros cubanos Yomil y el Dany, que recientemente arribó a Estados Unidos procedente de la Isla, se ha visto sometido a una ola de críticas, memes y comentarios por el precio de las entradas del concierto que realizará el próximo 12 de agosto en el Watsco Center de la Universidad de Miami.

“La verdad [es que] no lo he comprado [el ticket], es que estoy pensando si ir a su concierto o pagar la renta de mi apartamento”, dice Raciel A. Frías Motola, uno de los usuarios de la red social Facebook indignado por los precios de los boletos que oscilan entre los 89 y los 900 dólares.

A pesar del precio, la encargada de relaciones públicas del grupo en Miami, Yani Gil, confirmó a 14ymedio que las entradas más caras ya han sido vendidas.

“Los boletos se venden de dos maneras: la principal es Ticketmaster que tiene boletos que comienzan en 89 dólares y el más caro 270 dólares. Tuvimos entradas privadas que oscilaban entre 500 y 900 dólares, pero ya esas están totalmente vendidas”, explicó.

Según Gil, el grupo ha roto el récord de ventas en lo que respecta al historial de agrupaciones que vienen de la Isla. Los autores de Como te descargo y Pa’ trá ofrecerán un concierto único y estarán por un mes en Miami, la ciudad con mayor número de cubanos fuera de la Isla.“Todo el mundo diciendo hay sillas de 89 dólares también. Sí pero en esas sillas estás a dos kilómetros de Yomil y el Dany y no vas a saber si están cantando ellos o es música grabada”, reaccionó otro usuario de Facebook bajo el nombre de Osmany Delgado. Roberto Hidalgo Puentes (Yomil), mecánico de profesión y Daniel Muñoz Borrego, estudiante de medicina (El Dany), seleccionados por 14ymedio entre los rostros que marcaron el año 2016, formaron parte de proyectos como Los 4 y Jacob Forever, respectivamente. En agosto de este año acumulaban más de 17.525 seguidores y tenían una audiencia mensual de 76.113 personas en la popular aplicación para música online Spotify.

La popularidad del dúo ha ido en aumento, impulsados por la fusión de ritmos electrónicos entre los que asoma el hip hop y las cadencias más tradicionales. La agrupación utiliza las redes alternativas para la difusión de su música y el Paquete Semanal ha servido como plataforma para la viralización de sus temas en una Isla con muy pobres niveles de conexión a internet.El usuario de Facebook, Ariel FernanDiaz, asegura que “se quita el sombrero” con lo que ha logrado el reguetón en Cuba. “Los prohibieron en la radio. Les metieron tanta presión y trabas que los primeros líderes del movimiento hasta tuvieron que emigrar. Así y todo crearon su propia industria underground, mecanismos de promoción alternos en un país donde todos los medios de prensa, radio y televisión es (sic) controlado por el gobierno”, explica en una publicación en la red social.

En la misma entrada Ariel FernanDiaz dice que asistirá al concierto de Yomil y el Dany “con una silla modesta”.

“No necesito el VIP. Sigan gastando sus energías criticándolos. Ellos están felices viviendo sus vidas y haciendo money. Dejen el Mareo!”, agrega.Yumilka Rojas, usuaria de Instagram escribió: “Pensaba ir a verlos, pero el precio es abusivo. Con ustedes se acabó el abuso y llegó el atropello, cuestan más que ir a ver a Messi”.

La producción del concierto está a cargo de P.M.M., una empresa privada radicada en la Isla. Yomil y el Dany viajaron a Miami para promocionar su más reciente disco, Ambidiestros y el sencillo Lola , que se encuentra entre las canciones más escuchadas de reguetón en la emisora del sur de Florida, Cubatón y Más 95.7.  

Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 31 July 2017 — Although they speak bad Spanish, with sentences chopped-up and sometimes incoherent, Sarah and Liudmila, in theory, are not illiterate. Their academic certificates show they passed the twelfth grade. After finishing pre-university with their high school diplomas, they opted for the quickest way to make some money — working as … Continue reading "Cuba: Killing the Language and Making Beauty Ugly / Iván García" Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 2 August 2017 — Not even the threat of rain accompanied by a slight coastal breeze dampens the terrible heat that of this summer in Havana. People on the street are in a bad mood. The sun burns, public services are inefficient as always, and empty dinner plates mobilize thousands of capital residents to rummage … Continue reading "Cubans on the Island Don’t Like Maduro / Iván García" Continue reading
… won temporary control of Cuba, argued that Cuba should not have to … Continue reading
… won temporary control of Cuba, argued that Cuba should not have to … Continue reading
… won temporary control of Cuba, argued that Cuba should not have to … Continue reading
… won temporary control of Cuba, argued that Cuba should not have to … Continue reading
… established star from Japan or Cuba. When Otani leaves Japan for … Continue reading
Cuba Primera Digital, Eduardo Martinez, Rodriguez, El Cerro, Havana, 25 July 2017 –The Cuban people wish for, desire and silently demand changes that can lift us out of this sticky inertia wherein poverty resembles some plasticine or treacly substance that endlessly congeals in our hands. The demand is silent because we lack access to communication … Continue reading "Real Power / Eduardo Martínez Rodríguez" Continue reading
… describes all the things my Cuban immigrant parents taught me. If … Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 17 July 2017 — Hunched and wearing an oversized military uniform, helped by his grandson-cum-personal-bodyguard, Raul Castro rose from the beige leather armchair at the presidential desk and with the air of an exhausted old man, and went to the dais to give the closing speech of the conclave. He placed a folder … Continue reading "Raul Castro Now a Retiree-in-Waiting / Iván García" Continue reading
… owned a seaside home in Havana — despite requests by U.S … Trinidad to Cuba. Caribbean Transfers provided clean cash — amassed from Cuban exiles … the names of newly arrived Cuban immigrants. Perez’s role was … the fugitives are Cuban-born immigrants who fled to Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican … Continue reading
… ; for the main role. OMAR HAVANA/GETTY IMAGES Angelina Jolie … Continue reading
… years including branches of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and the Nicaragua … Continue reading
By Julianne Cuba Brooklyn Daily Subscribe Get our … city records. Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or … Continue reading
By Julianne Cuba Brooklyn Daily Subscribe Get our … city records. Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or … Continue reading
… ’s most prominent and wealthy Cuban American families — his late father … private scholarship fund for meritorious Cuban-American students of limited financial resources … Continue reading
… or wherever you want. Omar Havana/Getty Images InstaGC gives … Continue reading
… Hogan of his trips to Cuba, Italy and Iceland as well … Continue reading
14ymedio, Jose Azel, Miami, 18 July 2017 — In an earlier article I argued that migration is an individual right; an expression of the desire for freedom to improve one’s quality of life. At that time, I wanted to emphasize the libertarian defense of open immigration, taking care to clarify that open immigration is not the equivalent … Continue reading "Ethical Defense Of Migration" Continue reading
Iván García, 10 June 2017 — The heat is terrible. Not even a light breeze in the wide entry to Carmen Street, by Plaza Roja de la Vibora, thirty minutes from Havana centre. Reinaldo, an old chap, depressed, seated on a wall facing the water tank of the building where he lives, waits for the water … Continue reading "Without Water in Havana / Ivan Garcia / Iván García" Continue reading
… and taxes to sign 19-year-old Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. The amounts … Continue reading
… New Zealand Katie Holmes and Cuba Gooding Jr. star in an … Continue reading
14ymedio Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 18 July 2017 — “Everything smells like rotten mango,” says Pascual Rojas, who lives on the outskirts of Manuel Tames, a Guantanamo municipality where part of the mango harvest has been lost, leaving a total of 2,600 metric tons of rotten fruit in recent weeks. “The rains of May and June … Continue reading "The Year Of The Lost Mangos" Continue reading
… also went to Mexico and Cuba. Rudy was good with money … Continue reading
… . The Sharks are billionaire Mark Cuban, owner and chairman of AXS … Continue reading
… Reds signed Iglesias out of Cuba, and in his first year … Continue reading
… for an evening reminiscent of Havana in its heyday. Bright colors … time to try something new.” Havana Nights brought in enough money … Steven Buckley, served on the Havana Nights planning committee with David … plantains; The Capital Grille supplied Cubano sandwiches and pineapple martinis. Missy … Continue reading
The Mistakes of Raúl Castro

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 July 2017 – In his most recent
public speech before Parliament, General-President Raul Castro offered a
self-criticism about "political deviations" under which the private
sector and cooperatives are governed. "Mistakes are mistakes, and they
are mistakes… they are my mistakes in the first place, because I am a
part of this decision," he emphasized.

In the list of mistakes he didn't mention, he should have put in first
place the absence of a wholesale market to serve these forms of economic
management. It that option existed, honest entrepreneurs wouldn't have
to turn to the diversion of state resources to get raw materials and
equipment to allow them to produce goods and services in a profitable way.

The greatest advance in this direction has been opening shopping centers
were goods are sold "wholesale," meaning in large volume sacks or boxes,
but with the retail price per unit unchanged.

If, in addition, self-employed workers were allowed to legally import
and export commercially, with the required customs facilities, then
these forms of management would be on an equal footing with the state
companies, and be able to perform efficiently.

The underreporting of income to evade taxes is a problem that exists in
most countries where citizens must pay tribute to the state treasury. As
a rule, evasion of these payments is seen as a dishonest act where taxes
are fair, and as an act of self-defense where the state tries to suck
the blood out of entrepreneurs.

When governments have the vocation to grow the private sector, they
reduce taxes, whose only role is to redistribute wealth and increase the
financial capacity for social spending, but not to act as a drag to
reduce individuals' ability to grow and prosper.

Raúl Castro's most profound mistake, when he decided to expand
self-employment and the experiment of non-agricultural cooperatives, has
been to do so with the purpose of depriving the state of "non-strategic
activities, to generate jobs, deploy initiatives and contribute to the
efficiency of the national economy in the interest of the development of
our socialism."

This opportunistic vision, of using an element alien to the economic
model as the fuel to advance it, generates insurmountable
contradictions. An entrepreneur who starts a business is interested in
increasing his profits (according to Karl Marx) and growth. He does not
care that hiring workers will reduce unemployment and that their
particular efficiency will have repercussions on the country's
economy. Much less, that his good performance contributes to perfecting
a system that takes advantage of his success in a circumstantial way.

The entrepreneur dreams that in his country there are laws that protect
his freedom to do business, that his money is safe in the banks, and
that he has the right to import and export, to receive investments, to
open branches, to patent innovations without fear of unappealable
seizures or sudden changes in the rules of the game. Without fearing a
report will arrive on the president's desk detailing how many times he
has traveled abroad.

The entrepreneur would also like to be able to choose as a member of
parliament someone proposing such laws and defending the interests of
the private sector, which he does not see as a necessary evil, but as
the main engine to advance the country. Not understanding this is Raul
Castro's principal mistake.

Source: The Mistakes of Raúl Castro – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-mistakes-of-raul-castro/ Continue reading
Average Wages Rise but Nobody in Cuba Lives on Their Salary

14ymedio, Mario Penton and Luz Escobar, Miami and Havana, 14 July 2017 —
Ileana Sánchez is anxiously rummaging through her tattered wallet,
looking for some bills to buy a toy slate for her seven-year-old
granddaughter who dreams of becoming a teacher. She has had to save for
months to get the 20 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos, roughly $20 US) that
the gift costs, since her monthly salary as a state inspector is only
315 CUP (Cuban pesos), about 12 dollars.

At the end of June, the National Bureau of Statistics and Information
(ONEI) reported that the average salary at national level reached 740
CUP per month, slightly more than 29 CUC. However, the increase in the
average salary does not represent a real improvement in the living
conditions of the worker, who continues to be able to access many goods
and services only through remittances sent from family abroad, savings
and withdrawals.

"I do not know who makes that much money, nor what they base these
figures on, because not even with the wages my husband earns working in
food service for 240 CUP a month, along with my wages, do we get that
much," says Sanchez.

The ONEI explains that the average monthly salary is "the average amount
of direct wages earned by a worker in a month." The calculation excludes
earning in CUC. However, the average salary is inflated by the increases
in "strategic" sectors, such as has happened in healthcare, where the
pay has been more than doubled, while in other areas of the economy
wages have remained practically unchanged for over a decade.

"If you buy food you can not buy clothes, if you buy clothes you can not
eat, we live every day thinking about how to come up with ways survive,"
she says in anguish.

Most Cubans do not support themselves on what they earn in jobs working
for the state, which employs 80% of the country's workforce.

President Raúl Castro himself acknowledged that wages "do not satisfy
all the needs of the worker and his family" and, in one of his most
critical speeches about the national reality in 2013, he said that "a
part of society" had become accustomed to stealing from the state.

Sanchez, on the other hand, justifies the thefts and believes that the
"those who live better" are those who have access to dollars or those
who receive remittances. "Anyone who doesn't have a family member abroad
or is a leader, is out of luck," she says.

According to the economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago, when speaking of an
increase in the average wage, a distinction must be made between the
nominal wage, that is, the amount of money people receive, and the real
wage, adjusted for inflation.

A recent study published by the academic shows that although the nominal
wage has grown steadily in recent years, the real wage of a Cuban is 63%
lower than it was in 1989, when Cuba was subsidized by the Soviet Union
and the government had various social protection programs. At present,
the entire month's salary of a worker is only enough to buy 10.3 whole
chickens or 7.6 tanks of liquefied gas.

Among retirees and pensioners, the situation is worse. The elderly can
barely buy 16% of what a pension benefit would buy before the most
difficult years of the so-called Special Period – the years of economic
crisis after the fall of the Soviet Union – according to Mesa-Lago.

Or by another measure, spending an entire month's salary a worker can
only afford 19 hours of internet connection in the Wi-Fi zones enabled
by the state telecommunications monopoly, Etecsa, or 84.5 minutes of
local calls through cell phones.

To buy a two-room apartment in a building built in 1936 in the central
and coveted Havana neighborhood of Vedado a worker would need to save
their entire salary for 98 years, while a Soviet-made Lada car from the
time of Brezhnev would cost the equivalent of 52 years of work.

However, the island's real estate market has grown in recent years at
the hands of private sector workers who accumulate hard currency, or by
investments made by the Cuban diaspora. In remittances alone, more than
three billion dollars arrives in Cuba every year.

According to Ileana Sánchez, before this panorama many people look for
work in the areas related to state food services or administration where
they can steal from the state, or jobs that provide contact with
international tourists such as in the hotels.

Other coveted jobs in the private sphere are the paladares – private
restaurants – and renting rooms and homes to tourists where you can get
tips. The "search" (as the theft is called) has become a more powerful
incentive to accept a job than the salary itself.

Although, according to the document published by the ONEI, workers in
the tourism and defense sector earn 556 and 510 pesos on average, many
of them receive as a bonus a certain amount of CUC monthly that is not
reflected in the statistics, and they also have access to more expensive
food and electrical appliances than does the rest of the population.

Among the best paid jobs in CUP, in order of income, are those in the
sugar industry, with 1,246 CUP on a monthly basis, and in agriculture
with 1,218. Among the worst paid jobs according to the ONEI are those
working in education, with 533 CUP, and in culture with 511.

For Miguel Roque, 48, a native of Guantánamo, low wages in the eastern
part of the country are driving migration to other provinces. He has
lived for 12 years in the Nuclear City, just a few kilometers from
Juraguá, in the province of Cienfuegos, where the Soviet Union began to
build a nuclear plant that was never finished.

"The East is another world. If you work here, imagine yourself there. A
place stopped in time," he explains. Roque works as a bricklayer in
Cienfuegos although he aspires to emigrate to Havana in the coming
months, where "work abounds and more things can be achieved."

The provinces where average wages are highest, according to the ONEI,
are Ciego de Avila (816 CUP), Villa Clara (808 CUP) and Matanzas (806
CUP), while the lowest paid are Guantanamo (633 CUP) and Isla de la
Juventud (655 CUP).

"Salary increases in the east of the country are not enough to fill the
gaps with the eastern and central provinces," explains Cuban sociologist
Elaine Acosta, who believes that cuts in the social services budgets are
aggravating the inequalities that result from the wage differences.

"It is no coincidence that the eastern provinces have the lowest figures
on the Human Development Index," he asserts.

Source: Average Wages Rise but Nobody in Cuba Lives on Their Salary –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/average-wages-rise-but-nobody-in-cuba-lives-on-their-salary/ Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 15 July 2017 — Even the street dogs, ragged and hungry, take cover under the roofs in Havana when the clock marks 1 PM. The sun burns and humidity gives you sweat marks on your clothes. After noon the Havana’s street look like the Saharan desert. People take cover in their houses and those … Continue reading "Salaries in Cuba are a Joke / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 July 2017 – In his most recent public speech before Parliament, General-President Raul Castro offered a self-criticism about “political deviations” under which the private sector and cooperatives are governed. “Mistakes are mistakes, and they are mistakes… they are my mistakes in the first place, because I am a part of … Continue reading "The Mistakes of Raúl Castro" Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton and Luz Escobar, Miami and Havana, 14 July 2017 — Ileana Sánchez is anxiously rummaging through her tattered wallet, looking for some bills to buy a toy slate for her seven-year-old granddaughter who dreams of becoming a teacher. She has had to save for months to get the 20 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos, … Continue reading "Average Wages Rise but Nobody in Cuba Lives on Their Salary" Continue reading
Prosperous Cuban Entrepreneur Arrested / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 16 June 2017 — Alejandro Marcel Mendivil, successful
entrepreneur, owner of El Litoral, a restaurant located at Malecon #161,
between L & K, and the restaurant Lungo Mare, located in 1ra Esquina C,
in the Vedado district, was arrested in Havana on June 8.

The reasons are not clear. Some claim that Marcel Mendivil is accused of
money laundering and ties to drug trafficking; and others claim that if
you are "noticed" in Cuba, it has a price.

"Alejandro is a young man hungry for challenges and pleasure. He has
money, social recognition, he helps all his neighbors, has ties to
diplomats as important as the ones in the American Embassy. He also has
dealings with high ranking Cuban military and maintains very important
access to the government elite. His ambitions go beyond those of common
entrepreneurs, and to that add that the fact that he has charisma. Isn't
that a lethal combination? Alejandro is no drug trafficker or money
launderer; he only tested power and ended up making it angry," says one
of the neighbors of his restaurant El Litoral, a retiree from the
Ministry of the Interior.

"It was early in the morning, says an employee, the sea was flat as a
plate when the operative began. Not even the Interior Ministry (MININT),
nor the state officials gave any explanations in order to close the
restaurant. They (the police) only told the employees that were present
that we had to leave the place and look for another job in another
restaurant because this closure was going to last. We were closed once,
when an issue with the alcohol, but Alejandro solved it".

"They got in and identified themselves as members of the State
Security's Technical Department of Investigations (DTI). They checked
the accounting, the kitchen, lifted some tiles from the floor and they
even took nails from the walls. An official with a mustache, who
wouldn't stop talking with someone on his BLU cellphone, was saying that
they would find evidence to justify the charge of drug trafficking."

"That looked like a theater, but with misleading script. It was not the
DTI. In fact, Alejandro was not jailed at 100 and Aldabo, but rather
held incommunicado in Villa Marista (a State Security prison). The whole
thing was a State Security operation to put a stop Alejandro, who was
earning money working and was becoming an attractive figure; in a
country such as this one, where leaders, all of them, are very weak."

The incident is timely to a discussion held during the extraordinary
session of the National Assembly of People's Power, which took place
last May 30, where the Cuban vice-president Marino Murillo asserted that
the new model of the socialist island "will not allow the concentration
of property or wealth even when we are promoting the existence of the
private sector."

According to sources consulted in the Prosecutor General of the Republic
of Cuba, there are plans for measures similar to those taken against
Marcel Mendivil for these wealthy and influential owners of a paladar
(private restaurant) located in Apartment 1, Malecon 157, between K&L,
Vedado. And also against another one in Egido 504 Alton, between Montes
& Dragones, Old Havana, in addition to two in Camaguey that were not
identified.

Translated by: LYD

Source: Prosperous Cuban Entrepreneur Arrested / Juan Juan Almeida –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/prosperous-cuban-entrepreneur-arrested-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
Juan Juan Almeida, 16 June 2017 — Alejandro Marcel Mendivil, successful entrepreneur, owner of El Litoral, a restaurant located at Malecon #161, between L & K, and the restaurant Lungo Mare, located in 1ra Esquina C, in the Vedado district, was arrested in Havana on June 8. The reasons are not clear. Some claim that … Continue reading "Prosperous Cuban Entrepreneur Arrested / Juan Juan Almeida" Continue reading
Cuba Awaits New Trump Proposals / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 14 June 2017 — What you lose last is hope. And those who
have plans to immigrate to the United States maintain bulletproof optimism.

Close to a small park in Calzada street, next to Rivero's funeral home,
dozens of restless people await their appointment for the consular
interview at the American Embassy located at the Havana's Vedado district.

Ronald, a mixed-race man of almost six feet, requested a tourist visa to
visit his mother in Miami. Before going to the embassy he bathed with
white flowers and sounded a maraca gourd before the altar of the Virgen
de la Caridad, Cuba's Patron Saint, wishing that they would approve his
trip.

Outside the diplomatic site, dozens of people await restlessly. Each one
of them has a story to tell. Many have had their visas denied up to five
times while some are there for the first time with the intent to get an
American visa; they rely on astrology or some other witchcraft.

Daniela is one of those people. "Guys, the astral letter says that Trump
instructed the embassy people to give the biggest possible number of
visas," she says to others also waiting.

Rumors grow along the line of those who read in social media — never in
the serious news — that Trump, in his next speech in Miami, will reverse
the reversal of the "wet foot-dry foot" policy.

In a park on Linea Street with Wi-Fi internet service, next to the
Camilo Cienfuegos clinic, two blocks from the United States Embassy,
Yaibel comments with a group of internet users that a friend who lives
in Florida told him that Trump was going to issue open visa to all Cubans.

The most ridiculous theories circulate around the city among those who
dream to migrate. The facts or promises made by Trump to close the
faucet of immigration mean nothing to them.

Guys like Josue holds on to anything that makes him think that his luck
will change. "That's the gossip going on. Crazy Trump will open all
doors to Cubans… Dude we are the only country in Latin America that
lives under a dictatorship. If they give us carte blanch three or four
million people will emigrate. The Mariel Boatlift will be small in
comparison. That's the best way to end this regime. These people — the
government — will be left alone here"… opines the young man.

In a perfect domino effect, some people echo the huge fantasy. "Someone
told me that they were going to offer five million working visas to
Cubans. The immigrants would be located in those states where they need
laborers. The people would need to come back in around a year, since the
Cuban Adjustment Act will be eliminated," says Daniela, who doesn't
remember where she heard such a delirious version.

Now, let's talk seriously. If something Donald Trump has showed, aside
from being superficial and erratic, it is being a president profoundly
anti-immigrant. But more than a few ordinary Cubans want to assert the
contrary.

The ones who wish to immigrate are the only segment that awaits with
optimism good news from Trump. The spectrum of opinion of the rest of
the Cubans ranges from indifference to concern.

In the local dissidence sector, the ones who believed that Trump was
going to open his wallet or go back to Obama's strategy towards dissent,
became more pessimistic after the White House announced a decrease of
$20 million dollars for civil society programs.

"Those groups that obtained money thanks to the Department of State are
pulling their hair out. But the ones that receive financing from the
Cuban exiles are not that unprotected," indicates a dissident who
prefers to remain anonymous.

The Palace of the Revolution in Havana is probably the place where
Trump's pronouncements are awaited with the greatest impatience. The
autocracy, dressed in olive green, has tried to be prudent with the
magnate from New York.

Contrary to Fidel Castro's strategy, which at the first sign of change
would prepare a national show and lengthy anti-imperialist speeches,
Raul's regime has toned that down as much as possible.

In certain moments they have criticized him. However, without
offensiveness and keeping the olive branch since the government is
betting on continuing the dialogue with the United Estates, to lift the
embargo, to receive millions of gringo tourists and to begin business
with American companies.

Official analysts are waiting for Trump to act from his entrepreneur
side. The autocracy is offering business on a silver plate, as long as
it is with state companies.

According to a source that works with Department of Foreign trade, "The
ideal would be to continue the roadmap laid out by Obama. With the
situation in Venezuela and the internal economic crisis, the official
wish is that relations with the United States deepen and millions in
investments begins. The government will give in, as long as it doesn't
feel pressured with talk about Human Rights.

"I hope that Trump is pragmatic. If he opens fire and returns to the
scenario of the past, those here will climb back into the trenches.
Confrontation didn't yield anything in 55 years. However, in only two
years of Obama's policy, aside from the panic of many internal leaders,
there was a large popular acceptance," declares the source.

In Havana's streets Trump is not appreciated. "That guy is insane. Dense
and a cretin and that's all. If he sets things back, to me it's all the
same. The majority of ordinary Cubans don't benefit from the agreements
made on December 17. Of course, I think it was the government's fault,"
says Rey Angel, worker.

And the reestablishment of the diplomatic relations and the extension of
Obama's policy to get closer to the the island's private workforce,
caused more notice in the press than concrete changes.

The people consulted do not believe that Trump will reduce the amount of
money sent in remittances by Cubans overseas, or the number of trips
home by Cubans living in the United States. "If he does, it will affect
many people who live off the little money and things that family living
in the North (United States) can send", says a lady waiting in line at
Western Union.

The rupture of the Obama strategy will decidedly affect the military
regime. And it looks like the White House will fire its rockets against
the flotation line. But anything can happen. Trump is just Trump.

Translated by: LYD

Source: Cuba Awaits New Trump Proposals / Iván García – Translating Cuba
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Ivan Garcia, 14 June 2017 — What you lose last is hope. And those who have plans to immigrate to the United States maintain bulletproof optimism. Close to a small park in Calzada street, next to Rivero’s funeral home, dozens of restless people await their appointment for the consular interview at the American Embassy located … Continue reading "Cuba Awaits New Trump Proposals / Iván García" Continue reading
Trafficking in Goods, a Strategy to Survive in Cuba / Iván García

Iván García, 28 June 2017 — On Havana there are illegal stores for all
tastes. Pirated jeans at 20 CUC, copies of Nike shoes at 40 CUC and
imitation Swiss watches at 50 CUC. People with higher purchasing power
mark the difference. By catalog, they buy fashions, smartphones, LED
lights, Scotch whiskey, Spanish wines.

And although the General Customs of the Republic of Cuba applies
retrograde and severe laws on the importing of merchandise, rampant
corruption always opens a gateway to singular private commerce. Although
there are no exact figures, it is calculated that it moves twice as much
money on the island as does foreign investment.

Let me present Rolando, the fictitious name of a guy who has been a
'mule' for three years. "My grandparents live in Miami and to supplement
their pension, they became 'mules'. They took the orders to customers'
homes, whether it was clothing, medicine, household goods or
dollars. When travel abroad became flexible in 2013, I obtained a
multiple-entry visa for the United States. Every year I travel seven or
eight times and I bring stuff either for family use or to resell. All
for a value of four to five thousand dollars."

The complicated Customs regulations only allow Cubans to import certain
goods once a year and to pay the customs fees in Cuban pesos — rather
than convertible pesos, each of which is worth 25 times as much — but by
means of bribes under the table the provisions of the law can be evaded.

Yolanda, an assumed name, is dedicated to bringing garments and hair
products. "In Cuba, the stake fucks anyone who follows the letter of the
law. This is the case for Cubans living in other countries when they
send things by mail: they can only send three kilograms and if the
package exceeds that weight, every additional kilogram is taxed at 20
Cuban convertible pesos (CUC). A real abuse.

"What do those of us who dedicate ourselves to this business do? We have
good contacts in Customs and so we can take all the stuff through. You
pay the people according to what you bring. If you bring in goods valued
at $10,000, for example, you have to give them $200 and a "present"
which can be a flat screen TV, a home appliance, or some clothing."

According to Yolanda, "Palmolive, Colgate, Gillette or Dove toiletries
sell like hot cakes in Cuba. If you buy in the free zone of Colon,
Panama, you earn a little more. In Miami, it depends on the place: in
small stores and wholesale markets you get more for you money. Gillette
deodorants purchased wholesale will come out at $1.50 and in Havana they
will be sold at 5 CUC (roughly $5 US).

"An appliance or television is not profitable if you buy it at Best Buy,
you have to buy it in Chinese stores or have a contact that sells it
wholesale. The problem of the electrical appliances is that they weigh a
lot, that's why they are shipped by boat.

"With the exception of certain items that my regular customers order
from me, the rest I buy to sell in quantity to the resellers. On a trip,
apart from recovering expenses, I can earn up to 800 CUC. And I am a new
'mule' in this market, the ones that spend more time, they earn three
times more, because they bring more expensive items such as car parts
and air conditioning equipment."

Several 'mules' consulted believe that the best places to buy
merchandise are Panama, Miami, Peru, Ecuador and Mexico. "Moscow is
expensive for the cost of the plane ticket. But if you have the way to
bring into the country large quantities of parts and components for cars
and motorcycles, you earn a lot of money. Any trip leaves a percentage
of profits that ranges from 30 to 100 percent," says Rolando.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a report on the traffic of
automobile parts between Moscow and Havana: "They travel 13 hours, sleep
crowded in emigre apartments and ask for borrowed coats and boots to
rummage and bargain in a cold weather looking for used parts of the
Russian capital. But do the accounts: a Lada car of the Soviet era in
good conditions sells on the Island for 14 thousand dollars."

The current collection of Soviet-era vintage cars has made the supply of
parts and components for these cars into a highly profitable
business. "In Russia there are few Moskoviches, Ladas and Volgas
manufactured in last century still running. With the help of Cubans
residing in Moscow, full cars are bought for the equivalent of 300 or
500 dollars and scrapping them for pieces increases the values
tremendously. There are also small businesses where you can packaged new
parts," explains Osiel, dedicated to the selling of car parts bought in
Russia.

It may seem like an unimportant business, but a Soviet-era car, with an
American chassis and parts from up to ten different nations, costs
$10,000 to $20,000 in Cuba.

In the Island you find 'mules' specializing in the most diverse
branches. "I only buy smart phones, tablets, PCs and laptops. After
paying the respective bribe, in a single trip I bring in up to ten
phones, five or six tablets, two PCs and four laptops. The profits can
exceed 3,000 CUC. Smartphones are a gold mine. Companies buy them, then
through payment they activate to unlock them and there are those who
know how to 'crack' them. In Havana, the iPhone 7 or Samsung 8 is
cheaper than in Miami," says Sergio.

At the beginning, the 'mules' started as a business managed by Cubans
living in the United States and they moved any amount of money and
stuff. The parcels are delivered personally to people in their homes.

After the olive-green state did away with the so-called White Card — the
travel permit you use to have to have — that blocked Cubans from
traveling freely, thousands of compatriots on the island decided to
become 'mules' and started to traffic in goods.

According to Rolando, "It has many points in its favor: you do not work
for the government and do not depend their shitty wages. On each trip,
you earn a ticket that makes your life more comfortable, you disconnect,
meet people and travel to clean cities and well-stocked stores. And the
government has not opened fire on the 'mules' as much as they have on
the self-employed."

In addition, they don't pay taxes to the state for their underground
business.

Source: Trafficking in Goods, a Strategy to Survive in Cuba / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
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Cuban Government Fires Off One Lie After Another / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 3 July 2017 — The fan stopped turning around 3:30 in the
morning, when in the middle of a heat wave, a black out forced Ricardo,
his wife and their two children to sleep on a mat on the balcony of
their apartment in the Lawton neighborhood, a thirty minute drive from
central Havana.

Several areas were left dark and lit only by candles and lanterns,
dozens of neighbors complained with rude words and sharp criticisms of
of the poor performance of state electricity and water companies.

The blackout lasted for seven hours. "I couldn't iron my children's
school uniforms and they are in the midst of final exams. I sent them to
school in street clothes. Nor could my husband and I go to work. When I
the light came on, after ten in the morning, we lay in bed for a while.
The situation is already so bad no one can stand it. It's one problem
after another. The water crisis, which is still affecting us, public
transportation is the worst, food prices don't stop rising and now this
black out in the middle of this terrible heat," says Zoraida, Ricardo's
wife.

Almost a month after a break in one of the main pipes that brings
potable water to Havana, and then an intense information campaign on the
part of the office press, filled with justifications and an exaggerated
optimism, where radio, TV and newspapers report the hours there will be
water in each neighborhood, after the repairs, completed two weeks ago,
and with the promise that service would gradually return to normal in
the different zones of the capital, they are still suffering the affects
and the media doesn't offer any explanations.

"Some 200,000 people are still affected and are receiving water every
three days. By Thursday, June 22, it was expected to regularize the
service, but some problems have arisen," said an official of Aguas de La
Habana in the municipality Diez de Octubre, the most populated of the
capital's districts.

The affected Havanans don't stop complaining. "In my house, the tank
that we have on the roof does not have the capacity for the water to
last three days. Although we try to save it, in the bathroom, kitchen
and laundry, the water that we are able to collect is spent in two
days. The government comes up with one lie after another. First it was
reported that the break was a matter of a week, at most two. And we're
going on for a month now. Instead of responding with so much noise to
Trump's measures, they should focus on improving the living conditions
of Cubans," complains Mario, a resident of Luyanó, a working-class
neighborhood in the south of the city.

Rumors about the resurgence of the perennial economic crisis that Cubans
are experiencing, spread throughout the city. "I have it on good
authority, from a friend of my brother who is in the party, I know that
by summer the government is going to make new cuts in companies' fuel
consumption, and they will close unproductive factories and industries
until further notice. The scarcity is noticeable. The state farm
markets are empty and the shortages in the hard currency stores are
obvious. It is said that in the upcoming session of the National
Assembly of People's Power, on July 14, they are going to announce new
measures of cuts. Thing looks ugly," says Miriam, housewife, at the
entrance to a bodega in Cerro municipality.

Diario Las Américas could not verify those comments and rumors.

A banking official who prefers anonymity believes that the country's
financial situation is "quite delicate." He says, "There is not enough
currency liquidity. Even payments of the various debts contracted with
foreign companies are not being made. Tourism, which contributes about
$3 billion in revenue, devours almost 60 percent of that revenue in the
purchase of inputs. Remittances are the lifeline, but with shortages in
foreign exchange stores and high prices, many people are spending their
convertible pesos on the black market or in the parallel trade of the
'mules' that bring products from abroad. A large part of that money is
not being returned to the state coffers, as people involved in these
activities either save it or use it as an investment in their business."

To minimize reality, the olive-green autocracy uses anti-imperialist
discourse and condemnations of Donald Trump's new policy of restrictions
as a smokescreen.

"That narrative has always worked. But people on the street know that
this discourse is exhausted. They can't justify all the national
wreckage and the poor performance of the public services with the
economic blockade of the United States nor with the recent aggressive
policy of Trump. Cubans are at their limit with everything. It is not
advisable to think that Cubans will always be silent. Situations such as
blackouts and cuts in the water supply make people angry and their
reactions could be unpredictable," warns a sociologist.

With finances in the red, an economic recession that threatens to turn
into a crisis of incalculable consequences, and grandiose development
plans that sound like science fiction to ordinary Cubans, the
authorities are facing a dangerous precipice.

Six decades of selling illusions and with unfulfilled promises are
already coming to an end. And it could be less than happy.

Source: Cuban Government Fires Off One Lie After Another / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
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If Trump Ends Our Remittances? / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 8 July 2017 — Without too much caution, the CUPET tanker
truck painted green and white begins to deposit fuel in the underground
basement of a gas station located at the intersection of Calle San
Miguel and Mayía Rodríguez, just in front of Villa Marista, headquarters
of State Security, in the quiet Sevillano neighborhood, south of Havana.

The gas station, with four pumps, belongs to the Ministry of the
Interior and all its workers, even civilians, are part of the military
staff. "To start working in a military center or company, be it FAR
(Revolutionary Armed Forces) or MININT (Ministry of the Interior),
besides investigating you in your neighborhood and demanding certain
qualities, you have to be a member of the Party or the UJC (Union of
Young Communists)," says one employee, who adds:

"But things have relaxed and not all those working in military companies
are 100 percent revolutionary. And like most jobs in Cuba, there are
those who make money stealing fuel, have family in the United States and
only support the government in appearances."

Let's call him Miguel. He is a heavy drinker of beer and a devotee of
Santeria.

"I worked at the gas station six years ago. It is true that they ask for
loyalty to the system and you have to participate in the May Day marches
so as not to stand out. But it is not as rigorous as three decades ago,
according to the older ones, when you could not have religious beliefs
or family in yuma (the USA). I do not care about politics, I'm a
vacilator. I have two sons in Miami, and although I look for my
shillings here, if Trump cuts off the remittances to those of us who
work in military companies, Shangó will tell me what to do," he says and
laughs.

If there is something that worries many Cubans it is the issue of family
remittances. When the Berlin Wall collapsed and the blank check of the
former USSR was canceled, Fidel Castro's Cuba entered a spiraling
economic crisis that 28 years later it still has not been able to overcome.

Inflation roughly hits the workers and retirees with a worthless and
devalued currency, barely enough to buy a few roots and fruits and to
pay the bills for the telephone, water and electricity.

Although the tropical autocracy does not reveal statistics on the amount
of remittances received in Cuba, experts say that the figures fluctuate
between 2.5 and 3 billion dollars annually. Probably more.

Foreign exchange transactions of relatives and friends living abroad,
particularly in the United States, are the fundamental support of
thousands of Cuban families. It is the second national industry and
there is a strong interest in managing that hard currency.

"Since the late 1970s, Fidel Castro understood the usefulness of
controlling the shipments of dollars from the so-called gusanos
('worms,' as those who left were called) to their families. When he
allowed the trips of the Cuban Community to the Island, the Ministry of
the Interior (MININT) had already mounted an entire industry to capture
those dollars.

"Look, you can not be naive. In Cuba, whenever foreign exchange comes
in, the companies that manage it are military, or the Council of State,
like Palco. That money is the oxygen of the regime. And they use it to
buy equipment, motorcycles and cars for the G-2 officials who repress
the opponents and to construct hotels, rather than to acquire medicines
for children with cancer. And since there is no transparency, they can
open a two or three million dollar account in a tax haven," says an
economist.

The dissection of the problem carried out by the openly anti-Castro
exile and different administrations of the White House is correct. The
problem is to find a formula for its application so that the stream of
dollars does not reach the coffers of the regime.

"The only way for the government not to collect dollars circulating in
Cuba, would be Trump completely prohibiting transfers of money. It's the
only way to fuck them. I do not think there is another. But using money
as a weapon of blackmail to make people demand their rights, I find
deplorable. I also have the rope around my neck. I want democratic
changes, better salaries, and I have no relatives in Miami. But I do not
have the balls to go out in the street and demand them," says an
engineer who works at a military construction company.

Twenty years ago, on June 27, 1997, the Internal Dissident Working Group
launched La Patria es de Todos (The Nation Belongs to Everyone), a
document that raised rumors within the opposition itself. Economist
Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, along with the late Félix Antonio Bonne
Carcassés, Vladimiro Roca Antúnez and lawyer René Gómez Manzano, tried
to get those Cubans who received dollars to commit to not participate in
government activities or vote in the elections, all of them voluntary.

It is true that the double standards of a large segment of Cubans upset
the human rights activists. With total indifference, in the morning they
can participate in an act of repudiation against the Ladies in White and
in the afternoon they connect to the internet so that a family member
expedites the paperwork for them to emigrant or recharges their mobile
phone account.

This hypocrisy is repulsive. But these people are not repressive. Like
millions of citizens on the island, they are victims of a
dictatorship. In totalitarian societies, even the family estate is
perverted.

In Stalin's USSR a 'young pioneer' was considered a here for denouncing
the counterrevolutionary attitude of his parents. There was a stage in
Cuba where a convinced Fidelista could not befriend a 'worm', or have
anything to do with a relative who had left the country or receive money
from abroad.

I understand journalists like Omar Montenegro, of Radio Martí, who in a
radio debate on the subject, said that measures such as these can at
least serve to raise awareness of people who have turned faking it into
a lifestyle. But beyond whether regulation could be effective in the
moral order, in practice it would be a chaos for any federal agency of
the United States.

And, as much frustration as those of us who aspire to a democratic Cuba
may have, we can not be like them. It has rained a lot since then. The
ideals of those who defend Fidel Castro's revolution have been
prostituted. Today, relatives of senior military and government
officials have left for the United States. And the elite of the olive
green bourgeoisie that lives on the island likes to play golf, drink
Jack Daniel's and wear name-brand clothes.

If Donald Trump applies the control of remittances to people working in
GAESA or other military enterprises, it would affect more than one
million workers engaged in these capitalist business of the regime,
people who are as much victims of the dictatorship as the rest of the
citizenship.

The colonels and generals who changed their hot uniforms for white
guayaberas and the ministers and high officials, do not need to receive
remittances. Without financial controls or public audits, they manage
the state coffers at will. One day we will know how much they have
stolen in the almost sixty years they have been governing.

Source: If Trump Ends Our Remittances? / Iván García – Translating Cuba
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