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… announced a new engagement with Cuba. Similarly, while in the Dominican … president, easing travel restrictions for Cuban Americans and money remittances; limits … Cuban exile suspected in the 1997 bombings on tourist sites in Havana … , without the much-maligned Chavez, the Cuban government may not have survived … Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 15 May 2017 — The plastic drawers holding garments for men and women give off the usual scent of things that have have been in storage for a long time. We are in a government-run store that sells used clothing on the Calzada de Monte, a busy thoroughfare lined with state-owned retail establishments, privately … Continue reading "Getting Dressed in Cuba / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 18 May 2017 — In an effort to persuade Cubans and the international left that “Cuba is building socialism,” while seeking to convince the world that Castroism is abandoning State Totalitarianism and also trying to counteract the relative independence achieved by the so-called boteros, or boatmen, as independent taxi drivers are … Continue reading "Cuba’s Fake Transport Co-ops" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 17 May 2017 — In the midst of the morning hustle and bustle, residents of Havana are trying to reach their destinations on time, a challenge because of the inefficient public transport and the sky high prices charged by the private operators of fixed-route shared-ride taxi services. On Monday a new service, “Rutero taxis,” … Continue reading "A Taxi Cooperative Proposes To Lower Private Transport Prices" Continue reading
Cuba: Forbidden Fruit / Iván García

Iván García, 11 May 2017 — Scarcely a block away from the majestic Grand
Hotel Manzana Kempinski, whose inauguration is expected next June 2nd,
next to the Payret cinema, a state-owned cafeteria sells an acidic and
insipid hamburger with bread for the equivalent of 50 centavos. Workers
in the neighbourhood and beggars who survive on asking foreigners for
change, form a small queue to buy the inedible hamburger.

The hotel, built by Kempinski, a company started in Berlin in 1897,
stands in the place of the old Manzana de Gómez, the first shopping mall
on the island, at Neptuno, San Rafael, Zulueta and Monserrate streets,
in the heart of Havana. Opened in 1910, throughout its history, the
Manzana de Gómez housed everything from offices, lawyers' chambers and
commercial consultants to businesses, cafes and restaurants and other
enterprises.

Very near to Manzana Kempinski, the first five star hotel there, will be
the Cuban parliament, still a work in progress, which will have as its
headquarters the old National Capitol, a smaller scale replica of the
Congress in Washington.

The splendid hotel, owned by Gaviota, a Cuban military corporation, and
managed by the Kepinski organisation, can boast of having the old Centro
Asturiano, now the home of the Fine Arts Museum's private collections,
the Havana Gran Teatro and the Inglaterra, Telégrafo, Plaza and Parque
Central hotels as neighbours.

Apart from the recently-built Parque Central Hotel, the other three
hotels are situated in 19th century or Republican era buildings, and are
among the most beautiful in the city. In the centre of these
architectural jewels we find Havana Park, presided over by the statue of
the national hero, José Martí.

In those four hotels, you will find shops selling exclusively in
convertible pesos (CUC), a strong currency created by Fidel Castro for
the purpose of buying high quality capitalist goods.

Incidentally, they pay their employees in the Cuban Pesos (CUP), or
national currency. In the tourism, telecoms and civil aviation sectors,
their employees only earn 10-35 CUC as commission.

The chavito, as the Cubans term the CUC, is a revolving door which
controls the territory between the socialist botch-ups, shortages and
third rate services and the good or excellent products invoiced by the
"class enemies", as the Marxist theory has it, which supports the olive
green bunch which has been governing the island since 1959.

21st century Cuba is an absurd puzzle. Those in charge talk about
defending the poor, go on about social justice and prosperous
sustainable socialism, but the working class and retired people are
worse off.

The regime is incapable of starting up stocked markets, putting up good
quality apartment blocks, reasonably priced hotels where a workman could
stay or even maintaining houses, streets and sidewalks in and around the
neighborhoods of the capital. But it invests a good part of the gross
domestic product in attracting foreign currency.

José, a private taxi driver, thinks that it's good to have millions of
tourists pouring millions of dollars into the state's cash register.
"But, the cash should then be reinvested in improving the country. From
the '80's on, the government has bet on tourism. And how much money has
come over all those years? And in which productive sectors has it been
invested?" asks the driver of a clapped-out Soviet-era Moskovitch.

Government officials should tell us. But they don't. In Cuba, supposedly
public money is managed in the utmost secrecy. Nobody knows where the
foreign currency earned by the state actually ends up and the officials
look uncomfortable when you ask them to explain about offshore
Panamanian or Swiss bank accounts.

In this social experiment, which brings together the worst of socialism
imported from the USSR with the most repugnant aspects of African style
capitalist monopoly, in the ruined streets of Havana, they allow Rapid
and Furious to be filmed, they tidy up the Paseo del Prado for a Chanel
parade or open a Qatar style hotel like the Manzana Kampinski, in an
area surrounded by filth, where there is no water and families have only
one meal a day to eat.

In a car dealer in Primelles on the corner of Via Blanca, in El Cerro,
they sell cars at insulting prices. The hoods of the cars are covered in
dust and a used car costs between $15-40,000. A Peugeot 508, at $300k,
is dearer than a Lamborghini.

For the authorities, the excessive prices are a "revolutionary tax", and
with this money they have said they will defray the cost of buying city
buses. It's a joke: they have hardly sold more than about forty
second-hand cars in three years and public transport goes from bad to worse.

For Danay, a secondary school teacher, it isn't the government opening
hotels and luxury shops that annoys her, "What pisses me off is that
everything is unreal. How can they sell stuff that no-one could afford
even if they worked for 500 years? Is it some kind of macabre joke, and
an insult to all Cuban workers?" Danay asks herself, while she hangs
around the shopping centre in the Hotel Kempinski.

In the wide reinforced concrete passageways, what you normally see there
is amazing. With his girl friend embracing him, Ronald, a university
student, smiles sarcastically as he looks in a jewelry shop window at
some emeralds going for more than 24k convertible pesos. "In another
shop, a Canon camera costs 7,500 CUC. It's mad." And he adds:

"In other countries they sell expensive items, but they also have items
for more affordable prices. Who the hell could buy that in Cuba, my
friend? Apart from those people (in the government), the Cuban major
league baseball players who get paid millions of dollars, and the people
who have emigrated and earn lots of money in the United States. I don't
think tourists are going to buy things they can get more cheaply in
their own countries. If at any time I had any doubts about the essential
truth about this government, I can see it here: we are living in a
divided society. Capitalism for the people up there, and socialism and
poverty for us lot down here".

Security guards dressed in grey uniforms, with earphones in their ears
and surly-looking faces, have a go at anyone taking photos or connecting
to the internet via wifi. People complain "If they don't let you take
photos or connect to the internet, then they are not letting Cubans come
in", says an irritated woman.

In the middle of the ground floor of what is now the Hotel Kempinski,
which used to be the Manzana de Gómez mall, in 1965 a bronze effigy of
Julio Antonio Mella, the student leaders and founder of the first
Communist party in 1925, was unveiled. The sculpture has disappeared
from there.

"In the middle of all this luxurious capitalism, there is no place for
Mella's statue", comments a man looking at the window displays with his
granddaughter. Or probably the government felt embarrassed by it.

Iván García

Note: About the Mella bust, in an article entitled Not forgotten or
dead, published 6th May in the Juventud Rebelde magazine, the journalist
Ciro Bianchi Ross wrote: "I have often asked myself what was the point
of the Mella bust which they put in the middle of the Manzana de Gómez
mall and then removed seven years ago, before the old building started
to be transformed into a luxury hotel, and which seems to bother people
now. Mella had nothing in common with that building. The Manzana de
Gómez had no connection with his life or his political journey. Apart
from the fact that from an artistic point of view it didn't look like
anything".

Translated by GH

Source: Cuba: Forbidden Fruit / Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-forbidden-fruit-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Iván García, 11 May 2017 — Scarcely a block away from the majestic Grand Hotel Manzana Kempinski, whose inauguration is expected next June 2nd, next to the Payret cinema, a state-owned cafeteria sells an acidic and insipid hamburger with bread for the equivalent of 50 centavos. Workers in the neighbourhood and beggars who survive on asking … Continue reading "Cuba: Forbidden Fruit / Iván García" Continue reading
On May 17th, James Leitner set off on his 3200+ mile Walk Across America to raise awareness and money for the global water crisis. PRINCETON, NJ, UNITED STATES, May 19, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- On Wednesday, May 17, 2017, James Leitner from … Continue reading
Cuban Professionals Are Afraid In Venezuela

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 18 May 2017 — Seen from the Venezuelan
opposition as an army of occupation and from the Venezuelan government
as soldiers of socialism, tens of thousands of Cuban professionals live
a situation that is complicated day after day in convulsive
Venezuela. The Cuban government has asked them to stay "until the last
moment," but misery, fear and violence are overwhelming athletes,
doctors and engineers.

"We are not soldiers and we did not come to Venezuela to put a rifle on
our shoulders," says a Cuban doctor from the state of Anzoátegui who
asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals.

According to the physician, who has been working for two years in the
country, Havana has asked them to remain "with honor until the last
moment," in a clear allusion to the possible fall of the Venezuelan
government.

"We are working under a lot of pressure because the Medical Mission is
adept at continuing to insist that services not be closed and that we
maintain our position here in spite of everything," he adds.

In Venezuela there are about 28,000 health workers and thousands of
others who are sports instructors, engineers, agricultural technicians
and even electricians. The model of paying for Cuban professional
services through the export of oil to Cuba has never been clearly
exposed by the Venezuelan government.

According to Nicolás Maduro, since Chavez came to power, more than
250 billion dollars have been invested in the so-called "missions." The
former Minister of Economy of the Island, José Luis Rodríguez, published
last April that Cuba received 11.5 billion dollars a year in payment for
professional services rendered abroad, most of which comes from
Venezuela. Other sources consider, however, that this is a very inflated
number, although Havana's profits are undoubtedly very high.

"We are afraid every day about what could happens to us. Sometimes they
throw stones at us at the CDI [Centro de Diagnóstico Integral, doctor's
offices] or they yell all kinds of insults at us. Every day there are
demonstrations in front of the medical unit and nobody protects us,"
explains the doctor.

"So far they only attack us with words. They shout at us to get out of
here, that they do not want to see themselves like us and other
atrocities," he adds.

The doctor, however, assures that those who work in the missions also do
not want to be in that situation, but they are forced by the Cuban
Government, that exerts pressure through diverse mechanisms.

"If we leave, we lose the frozen accounts maintained for us in Cuba.
Also, if you leave the mission you are frowned upon in the health system
and you have no possibility of being promoted," he explains.

The Cuban government deposits $200 a month in a frozen account that at
the end of the three years the mission lasts in Venezuela, totals
$7,200. If the professional maintained "proper conduct and did their
duty," they can withdraw that money upon their return to the island. If
they return before the established period or their participation in the
mission is revoked (among other reasons for attempting to escape) they
lose all that money.

In Cuba 250 dollars a month are deposited that can be withdrawn when the
professional on the mission visits the Island once a year. Meanwhile, in
Venezuela, they receive 27,000 bolivars, less than 10 dollars a month.

In the case of health technicians, Cuba pays them 180 dollars in a
current account and another 180 dollars a month in an account frozen
until the end of the mission.

A Cuban radiologist who is in the Venezuelan state of Zulia explains
that for months they have no "Mercal," a bag of food delivered by the
Government of Venezuela.

"We live in overcrowded conditions with several colleagues and we do not
even have potable water," he adds.

"Thanks to some patients we can eat, but they are having a very bad
time. We are repeating something like the Special Period that we
experienced in Cuba," he says.

Although he fears for his life because of the situation in the country,
he says he is determined not to return to the island. "We have to endure
until the end. It is not fair to lose everything after so much
sacrifice," he says.

Following the outbreak of the protests in Venezuela, Cuban aid workers
have been directed not to leave their homes and have experienced reduced
communications with their families in Cuba.

"The internet is very bad, you can not even communicate. We have been
forbidden to go out after six o'clock in the afternoon, as if we were
slave labor, and on television they broadcast news that has nothing to
do with what we are living through," he explains.

Julio César Alfonso, president of Solidarity Without Borders, a
Miami-based nonprofit organization that helps Cuban health personnel
integrate into the US system, says the exodus of professionals has
increased in recent weeks.

"Even without the US Medical Professional Parole Program, which allowed
doctors to obtain refuge in the United States, they continue to escape
because of the situation in Venezuela," said the physician.

Alfonso added that his organization is lobbying to re-establish the
Parole Program, eliminated by former President Barack Obama in January,
and allowing more than 8,000 Cuban professionals to enter the United States.

Eddy Gómez is an critical care doctor who worked in the state of Cojedes
in western Venezuela. He decided to escape because he was afraid of the
difficult conditions in which he was forced to work.

"We had to work in dirty places, without air conditioning, exposed to
the fact that even the patients insulted us because we nothing to treat
them with," recalls the doctor who now lives in Bogota and acts as
spokesperson for dozens of other professionals who escaped medical missions.

"After the end of Medical Parole program people have continued to escape
and come to Colombia. There are more than 50 professionals who left
Venezuela after President Obama's decision to eliminate it. We hope that
Trump will admit doctors again," says Gómez.

To escape Venezuela, the Cubans have to pay the coyotes about $650 to
take them to Colombia. The path, full of dangers, includes a bribe to
Venezuela's Bolivarian National Guard that protects the borders, and to
whom they must be careful not to show their official passports issued to
them by the Cuban government because they would immediately be deported
to the Island.

"There are many Cubans who have died violently in Venezuela, but the
Cuban government does not tell the truth to their families, nor does it
pay them compensation," explains the doctor.

"We left Cuba looking for a better life, but in Venezuela we discovered
a real hell."

Source: Cuban Professionals Are Afraid In Venezuela – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-professionals-are-afraid-in-venezuela/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 18 May 2017 — Seen from the Venezuelan opposition as an army of occupation and from the Venezuelan government as soldiers of socialism, tens of thousands of Cuban professionals live a situation that is complicated day after day in convulsive Venezuela. The Cuban government has asked them to stay “until the last … Continue reading "Cuban Professionals Are Afraid In Venezuela" Continue reading
Reparto Eléctrico: causeways, mounds of garbage, spillage, and zero
cultural life
JORGE ENRIQUE RODRÍGUEZ | La Habana | 18 de Mayo de 2017 - 12:38 CEST.

The Consejo Popular Eléctrico, in the Havana municipality of Arroyo
Naranjo, is another example of a "marginalized neighborhood" stemming
from the Government's erroneous practices with regards to socio-cultural
and economic issues, complain residents.

"It is hard to say that Reparto Eléctrico is a community when the first
idea that comes to mind, if you pay attention, is its absolute
desolation, in every way," says Luis Alcides, while waiting in a long
line to withdraw money from the only ATM in the area.

"In Reparto we don't have even a CADECA (currency exchange center.). The
closest one is in Mantilla, five bus stops away," says Lazara Mena,
standing in the same line.

"There is a small branch of the Banco Metropolitano, where transactions
are limited, and a little stand to pay phone bills, or for retirees to
collect their pensions. But they close around 3:00 in the afternoon.
After that time you have to go to La Víbora," she adds.

Other inhabitants complain about the deterioration and neglect the
neighborhood suffers from, which has worsened in the last 15 years.

With a current population of approximately 19,515, distributed in six
different sections, Reparto Eléctrico - formerly known as Finca
Parcelación Blanquita - was completed on 26 August, 1952, on a lot of
5.2 caballerías (some 495 acres), thanks to a contribution of 48,000 USD
from the Electrical Company Retirement Fund.

After rising to power in 1959, Fidel Castro's Government nationalized
the electric company, and also distribution.

According to Isabel Díaz, a Metrology and Quality technician, what
really characterizes the area today are "causeways instead of streets,
mounds of garbage, wastewater leaks, limited lighting and public
telephone services, and no cultural life."

"A cityscape that truly illustrates marginalization, where you have the
feeling that the bushes are going to swallow the buildings. And there is
never any answer about who is in charge of the distribution and
implementation of state public utilities, because here, except for the
general hospital and the schools, nothing works or exists."

Manuel Triana, a retired cartographer, says that she is proud of the
fact that Popular Power delegates and territorial leaders don't like her.

"My questions irk them. They never show up when a problem is pressing.
They appear for patriotic celebrations, when the main street is all
decked out, the day after the garbage is collected. I always tell them:
'You come one day, and I live with the disaster the other 29 days of the
month.'"

Without cultural life or entertainment

In addition to the shortage of State establishments (which affects the
entire country), the dearth of public services, and the deterioration of
all the Consejo Popular Eléctrico's infrastructure, there is also a
cultural void.

"Except on those occasions when artistic activities are organized by
order of the Municipal Cultural Board, there is no cultural life here,
even though we have the Casa de Cultura 13 de Agosto," grumbles Natacha
Gutiérrez, age 24.

"At 9:00 everything stops, and the only services are those offered by
the self-employed. But it can´t all be eating and drinking," says
Ernesto Rosa.

"The Casa de Cultura has a program, but it does not address the
entertainment interests of this community, and I don't mean just the
teenagers, but also the children and the adults. The Casa de Cultura is
like a church, it's so quiet there."

Madelyn Reygada, the mother of a 15-year-old son, says that she was
recently summoned by a police unit in Zapata, in Vedado, because her son
was caught with two friends taking selfies on the statue of Eloy Alfaro,
on G Street.

"The officers behaved decently. But they asked me an incredible
question: why my son went from here all the way to Vedado to have fun. I
didn't even bother responding."

Local residents do not view their socio-cultural impoverishment as a
unique, unusual or isolated case, but rather part of a phenomenon of
marginalization that, Luis Alcides observed, extends through Havana's
humblest neighborhoods, whether "central or on the outskirts."

An official with the municipal council in Arroyo Naranjo, who requested
anonymity, stated that the "private sector could help to enrich the
social, cultural and economic life of these neighborhoods."

"But there are many limitations and regulations imposed by the State on
self-employment. As long as there is no public participation in the
design of the country's cultural policy, we will witness the
marginalization of an entire city."

Source: Reparto Eléctrico: causeways, mounds of garbage, spillage, and
zero cultural life | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1495103927_31206.html Continue reading
Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván García

Iván García, 3 May 2017 — Let's step back in time. One morning in 1985,
Yndamiro Restano Díaz, a thirty-seven-year-old journalist with Radio
Rebelde, took out an old Underwood and wrote a clandestine broadsheet
entitled "Nueva Cuba." After distributing the single-page, handmade
newspaper up and down the street, one copy ended up pinned to a wall in
the Coppelia ice cream parlor in the heart of Havana's Vedado district.

His intention was not to criticize the autocratic regime of Fidel
Castro. No, it was simply an act of rebellion by a reporter who believed
that information was a public right. In his writing, Yndamiro tried to
point out the dire consequences that institutional contradictions were
having on the country's economy.

He was arrested and questioned at Villa Marista, a jail run by the
political police in southern Havana. Later that year he was arrested
again, this time for having given an interview to the New York Times.
That is when his troubles began. He was fired from Radio Rebelde and
branded with a scarlet letter by Special Services. Without realizing it,
Yndamiro Restano had laid the foundations for today's independent
journalism in Cuba.

Cuba was emerging from overwhelmingly bleak five-year period in which
censorship was having an almost sickening effect. The winds of glasnost
and perestroika were blowing from Gorbachev's USSR. Some intellectuals
and academicians such as the late Felix Bonne Carcasses decided the time
was right for more democratic openness in society and the media. Havana
was a hotbed of liberal thought.

Journalist Tania Díaz Castro along with young activists Rita Fleitas,
Omar López Montenegro, Estela Jiménez and former political prisoner
Reinaldo Bragado established the group Pro Arte Libre. According to the
writer Rogelio Fabio Hurtado, Cuba's independent press was born out of
the first dissident organization, the Cuban Committee for Human Rights,
led by Ricardo Boffill Pagés and the organization's vice-president
Rolando Cartaya, a former journalist at Juventud Rebelde. In a 2011
article published in Martí Noticias, Cartaya recalled, "When we arrived
at dawn at his house in Guanabacoa's Mañana district, Bofill had already
produced half a dozen original essays and eight carbon copies of each
for distribution to foreign press agencies and embassies."

No longer able to work as a journalist, by 1987 Yndamiro Restano was
making a living cleaning windows at a Havana hospital. He would later be
fired from that job after giving an interview to the BBC. Frustrated by
not being able to freely express himself in a society mired in duplicity
and fear, he joined the unauthorized Cuban Commission on Human Rights
and National Reconciliation created by Elizardo Sánchez.

Along with other journalists fired from newspapers, magazines, radio
stations and television news programs who were eager to publish their
own articles without censorship, Restano decided in 2011 to form an
organization that would allow reporters condemned to silence to work
together. Thus was born the Cuban Association of Independent
Journalists, the first union of freelance correspondents.

In 1991 — a date which coincided with the beginning of the Special
Period, an economic crisis lasting twenty-six years — the Havana poet
Maria Elena Cruz Varela founded Criterio Alternativo which, among
causes, championed freedom of expression. In an effort to crack open the
government's iron-fisted control of the nation, Maria Elena herself,
along with Roberto Luque Escalona, Raúl Rivero Castaneda, Bernardo
Marqués Ravelo, Manuel Diaz Martinez, Jose Lorenzo Fuentes, Manolo
Granados and Jorge A. Pomar Montalvo and others signed the Charter of
Ten, which demanded changes to Castro's status quo.

On September 23, 1995, Raúl Rivero — probably Cuba's most important
living poet — founded Cuba Press in the living room of his home in La
Victoria, a neighborhood in central Havana. The agency was an attempt to
practice a different kind of professional journalism, one which reported
on issues ignored by state-run media.

Now living in exile in Miami, Rivero notes, "I believe in the validity
and strength of truly independent journalism, which made its name by
reporting on economic crises, repression, lack of freedom and by looking
for ways to revive the best aspects of the republican-era press." He
adds, "There was never an attempt to write anti-government propaganda
like that of the regime. They were pieces whose aim was to paint a
coherent portrait of reality. The articles with bylines were never
written so some boss could enjoy a good breakfast. They were written to
provide an honest opinion and a starting point for debate on important
issues. That is why, as I found out, Cuba Press was formed at the end of
the last century."

Cuba Press brought together half a dozen official journalists who had
been fired from their jobs. Tania Quintero, now a political refugee who
has lived in Switzerland since 2003, was one of them.* Once a week,
Quintero boarded a crowded bus to deliver two or three articles to Raul
Rivero, whose third-floor apartment was a kind of impromptu editing
room, with no shortage of dissertations on every topic. An old Remington
typewriter stood vigil as the poet's wife, Blanca Reyes, served coffee.

The budding independent journalism movement had more ambitions than
resources. Reporters wrote out articles in longhand or relied on
obsolete typewriters using whatever sheets of paper they could find.
Stories were filed by reading them aloud over phone lines; the internet
was still the stuff of science fiction. The political police often
confiscated tape recorders and cameras, the tools then in use, and well
as any money they found on detainees. They earned little money but
enjoyed the solidarity of their colleagues, who made loans to each other
that they knew would never be repaid.

Those who headed other alternative news agencies also had to deal with
harassment, arrest and material deprivation. That was the case of Jorge
Olivera Castillo, a former video editor at the Cuban Institute of Radio
and Television who wound up being one of the founders of Havana Press.

Twenty-two years later, Olivera recalls, "Havana Press began life on May
1, 1995. A small group led by the journalist Rafael Solano, who had
worked at Radio Rebelde, was given the task of starting this initiative
under difficult conditions. After working for four years as a reporter,
I took over as the agency's director in 1999 and worked in that position
until March 2003, when I was arrested and sentenced to eighteen years in
prison during the Black Spring."

Faced with adversity, the former directors of Havana Press — Rafael
Solano, Julio Martinez and Joaquín Torres — were forced to go into
exile. "More than two decades after this movement began, it is worth
noting its importance to the pro-democracy struggle and its ability to
survive in spite of obstacles. Those initial efforts paved the way for
the gradual evolution of initiatives with similar aims," observes Olivera.

For the former prisoner of conscience, "independent journalism remains
one of the fundamental pillars in the struggle for a transition to
democracy. It has held this position since the 1990s, when it emerged
and gained strength due to the work of dozens of people, some of whom
had worked for official media outlets and others who learned to practice
the trade with remarkable skill." This is because independent journalism
began with people who had worked in technical fields or in universities
but had no journalistic experience or training. They are self-taught or
took self-improvement courses either in Cuba or abroad, carved a path
for themselves and are now authorities their field. They include the
likes of Luis Cino, Juan González Febles and Miriam Celaya.

Radio Martí was and still is the sounding board for the independent
press and opposition activists. The broadcaster reports on the regime's
ongoing violations of freedom of expression, its intrigues, its delaying
tactics and its attempts to feign democracy with propaganda that rivals
that of North Korea.

In a 2014 article for Diario de Cuba, José Rivero García — a former
journalist for Trabajadores (Workers) and one of the founders of Cuba
Press — wrote, "It is worth remembering that this seed sprouted long
before cell phones, Twitter, Facebook or basic computers. The number of
independent journalists has multiplied thanks to technology and
communication initiatives over which the Castro regime has no control."

Necessity is the mother of invention. Even without the benefit of proper
tools, a handful of men and women have managed in recent years to create
independent publications such as Primavera Digital, Convivencia or 14ymedio.

Currently, there are some two-hundred colleagues working outside the
confines of the state-run media in Havana and other provinces, writing,
photographing, creating videos and making audio recordings. But they
still face risks and are subject to threats. At any given moment they
could be detained or have their equipment confiscated by State Security.
Their articles, exposés, chronicles, interviews and opinion pieces can
be found on Cubanet, Diario de Cuba, Martí Noticias, Cubaencuentro and
other digital publications, including blogs and webpages.

In almost lockstep with the openly confrontational anti-Castro press
there is an alternative world of bloggers and former state-employed
journalists. They practice their profession as freelancers and hold
differing positions and points of view. Among the best known are Elaine
Díaz from Periodismo de Barrio, Fernando Rasvberg from Carta de Cuba and
Harold Cárdenas from La Joven Cuba, all of whom are subject to
harassment and the tyranny of the authorities.

Reports issued by organizations that defend press freedom in countries
throughout the world rank Cuba among the lowest. The regime claims that
there have been no extrajudicial executions on the island and that no
journalists have been killed. There is no need. It has been killing off
the free press in other ways since January 1959.

Since its beginnings more than two decades ago, Cuba's independent press
has sought to revive freedom of the press and freedom of expression. And
slowly it has been succeeding. In spite of harassment and repression.

*Translator's note: Tania Quintero is the author's mother.

Source: Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/independent-journalism-seeks-to-revive-press-freedom-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
… fat, hogs get slaughtered," Cuban said at the time. … the other way." Now Cuban is back for more criticism … very viable scenario here where Cuban is correct. And it doesn … , look no further than Mark Cuban for someone who predicted it … Continue reading
Iván García, 3 May 2017 — Let’s step back in time. One morning in 1985, Yndamiro Restano Díaz, a thirty-seven-year-old journalist with Radio Rebelde, took out an old Underwood and wrote a clandestine broadsheet entitled “Nueva Cuba.” After distributing the single-page, handmade newspaper up and down the street, one copy ended up pinned to a wall … Continue reading "Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 14 May 2017 – This Sunday Cuban State Security prevented Yoandy Izquierdo, a member of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC), from boarding a flight to Sweden to participate in the Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF). The car in which the activist was traveling to José Martí International Airport was intercepted by the police, according to … Continue reading "State Security Prevents Yoandy Izquierdo From Boarding A Flight For Sweden" Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escober, Havana, 15 May 2017 — On 11 May a new law went into effect in Cuba that imposes a determined price on the buying and selling of housing. The simple announcement, a month earlier, set off a frenzy in the notary offices to complete the paperwork for pending sales before the new … Continue reading "Cuba Raises Taxes on Real Estate Transactions" Continue reading
14medio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 13 May 2017 – Three employees circulate among the tables, so similar that they seem cast from the same mold. “I want to give a good image to the place,” says the owner of a flourishing cafe on 26th Street in Havana. Like him, many private businesses are imposing a standard on female … Continue reading "Cuba’s Private Sector Demands “Young, White and Childless”" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 8 May 2017 – The number of political prisoners has doubled this year, according to the most recent report from the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which counts 140 people charged for these reasons in April, compared to 70 for the same months in 2016. The organization’s monthly accounting … Continue reading "Number of Political Prisoners Doubles In Last Year, According To Human Rights Group" Continue reading
Cuba's crazy used-car market
Why it behaves like the prime-property market
The Americas
May 11th 2017 | HAVANA

MULTIMARCAS, a car dealership on the outskirts of Havana, is not a
conventional showroom. On a recent visit it contained one salesman and,
despite the promise of variety in its name, just one car: a 2014-model
Kia Picanto with no miles on its odometer. The price would cause the
most spendthrift American or European to blanch: 68,000 Cuban
convertible pesos (or CUC, each of which is worth a dollar). That is
seven times what a Kia Rio, a similar car, of that age would cost in the
United States, though you would be hard-pressed to find one that had not
been driven.

It is not just virgin vehicles that are startlingly expensive. A Chinese
Geely, listed in Revolico, a Cuban version of Craigslist, with "only
93,000km" (58,000 miles) on the clock, goes for 43,000 CUC. A used 2012
Hyundai Accent costs 67,000 CUC.

Cuba is famous for classic Cadillacs and Chevys that whisk tourists
around, but Cubans would rather drive such banal automobiles as Korean
Kias and French Peugeots, which are more comfortable and burn less fuel.
Cuba may be the only country where the value of ordinary cars rises over
time, even though they age quickly on the potholed roads. That is
because demand is soaring while the supply is not.

Cuba's communists have a complicated history with personal transport.
After the revolution in 1959 they banned almost all purchases of cars
(but let existing owners keep theirs). The government gave cars to
artists, athletes and star workers. High-ranking employees could use the
official fleet and buy vehicles upon retirement at a discount. Petrol
was almost free.

Cuba's hesitant opening of its economy allowed the car market a bit more
freedom. Since 2013 individuals have been able to buy and sell used cars
without official permission. New cars can only be sold in
government-owned dealerships like Multimarcas. The island's spotty
internet access makes it hard for buyers to compare prices. Many find
vehicles by word of mouth and through Revolico, used by individual
sellers and wildcat dealers. Cubans download it via the paquete, a
portable hard drive delivered by courier weekly to their houses.
The rate of car ownership, 20 per 1,000 people, is one of the world's
lowest. The government keeps a lid on imports. It has allowed in 2,000
cars a year for the past five years. But its cautious economic
liberalisation has stoked demand. A new class of entrepreneurs, called
cuentapropistas, is eager to buy, as are Cubans with cash from relatives
abroad. So in the market cars behave more like prime property, whose
supply is restricted, than depreciating machines. One dealer says he has
bought and sold two cars in the past year for a profit of 20,000 CUC,
far more than his 25 CUC-a-month salary from the state. He prefers not
to know much about the buyers: they probably do not declare their money.
A cuentapropista couple in Havana bought a 2011-model European saloon
for 30,000 CUC four years ago and sold it for 45,000 CUC; they traded up
to a used SUV for 100,000 CUC. "We could have got many BMWs for the same
price in the United States," says the wife. Another habanero sold a
house to buy a 25-year-old VW Golf for 10,000 CUC. In ten years its
value has doubled. "I could sell it for a couple of thousand more if it
had air conditioning," he says. A retired engineer bought a 1980s-model
Russian Lada from his state company in 2000 for 160 CUC, and sold it
last year for nearly 100 times the price.
Cubans realise how crazy the market is. Prices are so high, jokes
Pánfilo, a comedian, on government-controlled television, that the
Peugeot lion "covers its face with its paws".

This article appeared in the The Americas section of the print edition
under the headline "Cash for clunkers"

Source: Cash for clunkers: Cuba's crazy used-car market | The Economist
-
http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21721969-why-it-behaves-prime-property-market-cubas-crazy-used-car-market Continue reading
… , a high-end complex in historic Havana, attracting locals and tourists to … HAVANA—The saleswomen in L’Occitane en Provence’s new Havana store … with Cuban stores selling lesser-known but still pricey products aimed at Cuba … with Cuban stores selling lesser-known but still pricey products aimed at CubaContinue reading
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 8 May 2017 — The worst thing that can happen to Agustín is to have his battery go dead in the street. It is even more terrible than the failure of a headlamp or the lack of parking for his made-in-China electric motorcycle. The broken headlamp and the lack of a safe place … Continue reading "A Sip Of Electricity To Keep Driving" Continue reading
Eating Steak and Fries is a Luxury in Cuba / Iván García

Iván García, 2 May 2017 — On an afternoon like any other, an underground
seller of beef, living in the southeast of Havana, bought flank steaks
wholesale from a slaughterer, to then sell them to private restaurants
and neighbours who could afford them.

He filleted the chops and started to offer them for the equivalent of
three dollars a pound. "They flew off the shelf. By night time I didn't
have an ounce of it left. If any red meat comes my way, I can sell it
immediately. The thing is, Cubans like to eat a good piece of steak with
fries, washed down with a glass of orange juice. But, my friend, that
dish has become an extravagant luxury in Cuba," says the vendor, who
knows a thing or two about the ins and outs of the Havana black market.

Even though a pound of beef costs three days' of a professional's
salary, you don't always find it in the profitable black market.

In the island there is a network of butchers, slaughterers and sellers
which makes sufficient money selling beef. "Everything starts when
someone spots a bullock or a cow not properly protected in some odd
corner in the Cuban countryside. That's when they start to plan how get
it to end up as stew (kill it) and transport it to Havana, which is
where they can sell it for the best price. They can get between 1,300
and 1,600 chavitos (CUCs) for a 1,000 pound bull, and the slaughterer,
the transporter and the sellers get a few kilos of meat free", according
to a cattle slaughterer, a native of the central region of the country.

And he explains that they will just as happily kill a calf, a grown up
cow, or a horse, "whatever has four legs and moves, gets what's coming
to it. Of course, a slaughterer who knows what he's doing takes care not
to kill a cow which is sick or has brucellosis, because if the police
catch you, along with the twenty years the District Attorney goes for on
account of killing a cow, he adds another five or six on top for
endangering public health.

In 2013, the Granma newspaper reported that more than 18,400 cattle were
dying of hunger or disease in the province of Villa de Clara. In April
2014, the Communist party organ highlighted that something over 3,300
cows died in the first three months of that year in the province of
Holguin, and another 69,000 were found to be under-nourished. The
authorities blamed the drought and, according to Granma, 35 thousand
head of cattle were receiving water from water tank trucks in order to
alleviate the effects of the months without rain.

According to Damián, an ex-employee of a sugar mill, who now survives
selling home-made cheese on the Autopista Nacional, "what has happened
to the cattle here is irresponsible and those officials should be behind
bars. But they carry on like that, carrying their Party card and talking
annoying rubbish".

Mario, a private farmer, says, jokingly, that "Cuba is an unusual
mixture of Marxism and Hinduism. Seems like a religious prohibition on
eating beef, which is what Cubans like to eat. Although the leaders
carry on eating it — just look at their faces and stomachs; they look as
if they are going to explode. If you gave them a blood test, their
haemoglobin would be around a thousand".

During the time of the autocrat Fidel Castro, when people wore Jiqui
jeans, Yumuri check shirts and very poor quality shoes, all made
locally, the old ration book which, in March 2017, had been in use for
55 years, authorised half a pound of beef every nine days for people
born in the country.

"Then the cycle was lengthened to once a fortnight, then once a month,
until it was quietly disappearing from the Cuban menu. Along with many
other things like milk, fresh fish, prawns, oranges and mandarines",
recalls a butcher, who made plenty of money selling beef "on the side"
for four pesos a pound in the '80's. In the 21st century he survives
making money from selling soup thickened with soya.

In the last week of February, some "good news" was announced. Because of
poor agricultural output, the state started to sell potatoes through
ration books again.

"It's one step forward, one step back. Five years ago potatoes were
rationed. Until one fine day, the bright sparks in the government
decided that, along with beans, they should be sold by the pound. So
that, everyone was fucked, with potatoes becoming a sumptuary good. If
you wanted to eat potato puree or fries, you had to wait in a queue for
four hours and put up with fights and swearing just to buy a bag of ten
potatoes for 25 pesos. And now that it is rationed once more, the news
channel tells you that they will sell you 14 pounds a head, two in the
first month, and six after that. But in my farmers' market they don't
give you a pound any more. Five miserable spuds and you have to take it
or leave it", says Gisela, a housewife.

If you fancy a natural orange juice, get your wallet ready. "Green
oranges with hardly any juice cost three pesos, if you can actually find
any. A bag of oranges costs between 140 and 200 pesos, half the monthly
minimum wage. I keep asking myself why it is that in countries with a
Marxist government, or a socialist one, as invented by Chavez in
Venezuela, getting food has to be such torture", says Alberto, a
construction worker.

In Cuba, you can't eat what you want, only what turns up.

Before 1959, in many Cuban households, eating fried steak for lunch or
dinner, with white rice and fries was not a luxury. In the fast fried
food places anybody could buy a steak sandwich with onion rings and
Julienne potatoes. Taken by Casavana Cuban Cuisine.

Translated by GH

Source: Eating Steak and Fries is a Luxury in Cuba / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/eating-steak-and-fries-is-a-luxury-in-cuba-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Iván García, 2 May 2017 — On an afternoon like any other, an underground seller of beef, living in the southeast of Havana, bought flank steaks wholesale from a slaughterer, to then sell them to private restaurants and neighbours who could afford them. He filleted the chops and started to offer them for the equivalent of three dollars a pound. … Continue reading "Eating Steak and Fries is a Luxury in Cuba / Iván García" Continue reading
… Emergency Shelter is putting on Cuba themed night. 5News Anchor Charlie … learn more about Havana Nights. To learn more about Havana Nights or … Continue reading
Cuba a mix of corruption, impressive beauty, people
By Amelia Rayno / Minneapolis Star Tribune

The uniformed woman's eyes narrowed as she looked me up and down, assessing.

Seconds earlier, she had told me that the currency exchange was one
floor up at the Havana airport. Now, after processing my poor Spanish,
blond hair and unaccompanied state, her tune quickly changed.

"He will take you," she offered, in the tone of a command.

Who? What? My questions hung in the air, unanswered.

A uniformed man had me by the arm, leading me not upstairs to the
exchange but into a room barely bigger than a cubicle. In it was a small
desk and two men sitting with arms folded, staring at me.

Click. The door shut.

This was not the Cuban experience I'd seen advertised by tour companies.
I'd shunned those.

Instead, looking for a more affordable and authentic experience, I'd
planned my own solo people-to-people exchange, taking advantage of the
eased sanctions that opened doors to a world on the precipice of change.

Free of tour guides and defined schedules, I encountered a different
angle on the postcard view. Beyond the white-sand beaches, colorful old
cars and pastel houses was an unscripted beauty on dusty streets, where
hope for progress edges up against reality.

In the small airport room, the sweat glands on my forehead leapt into
action, but I saw no way out.

I handed over my cash. The officials took 13 percent, skimming 3 percent
on top of the 10 percent fee I later learned the exchange center charged
upstairs.

Forty-five minutes into my journey to Cuba, I felt robbed.

Soon, the country would steal my heart.

How to be Cuban

Luy looked at me, lifted his espresso and raised an eyebrow.

"If you're going to hang with me," he said, "you have to learn how to be
Cuban."

It was my second day in Cuba. After getting swindled for a $200 taxi
ride from the Havana airport to Santa Clara (my new acquaintances later
said it should have cost $70, tops), I'd awakened to thick ribbons of
tobacco smoke rising from the courtyards below my casa particular, a
private room I was renting.

I'd met Luy, a Cuban American, while wandering around the historic
city's modest center on Day 1, trying to get my bearings amid a pastel
row of buildings. At first glance, they all looked like houses — until I
discovered that behind the grated metal doors, barber shears buzzed and
people congregated in hidden cafeterias for coffee and plates of rice
and beans.

Few of the businesses announced themselves with signs — but many had
another message broadcast on their facades: "Gracias Fidel" in hastily
constructed lettering, a complicated ode to the former dictator. With
Fidel Castro's death only a couple of weeks previous, drinking had been
banned for 10 days. Dancing, meanwhile, was banned for a year.

Luy had pegged my sorry state then. "You look lost," he said, as I
walked. Suddenly, I was adopted.

Now at the cafe, he eyed my short, chewed, natural nails and mulled how
un-Cuban I was.

"We'll have to start with those," he said.

Inside the small salon where he took me, about a dozen people clustered
around five beauticians at work, hair dryers whirring. At a small table
by the door, a woman painted my nails bright blue as she swatted away
the flies.

"OK, you're 15 percent Cuban," Luy said as we walked out.

Next on our mission was the museum across the street, a coffee
shop/historical treasure duo dubbed the Revolucion and housed in a space
even smaller than the salon. The tour guide showed me original
photographs, documents and uniforms from the Cuban revolution that hung
above the cafe tables, sweeping her arms dramatically as Luy
interpreted. None of it was under glass. She touched the clothing as she
spoke.

At the end, she offered me one of a handful of war medals for $5.

'I'm not sad'

On another night at El Mejunje, Santa Clara's popular club set in the
bare bones of a brick building, branches spilled through the windows and
kept climbing. At the top, they joined to form a canopy where a roof
might have been and, with stars piercing through the leaves, they swayed
with the warm breeze.

That night had begun as most nights do in Santa Clara: at the beautiful,
grass-covered central square.

Boasting the city's only Wi-Fi and regular cultural events, Parque Vidal
draws young and old who come to meet friends, check their phones and
listen to the municipal orchestra while sipping rum from juice boxlike
containers.

But the night was ending, as do most nights in Santa Clara, at El
Mejunje, a vibrant, open-air venue where the edgy vibe serves as a
notice to the government's censorship police.

Once a year, it hosts a beauty pageant for transvestites. On the
weekends, El Mejunje transforms into a gay club — Cuba's only, and a
tangible point of pride for many, whatever their sexual orientation.

Luy, who works as a server there, had earlier pulled a tube of mascara
from his bag when explaining what his job entailed on Saturdays.

"Guys will come and ffffpt," he said, grinning and mimicking someone
patting his bum. He winked. "I just smile and carry the drinks."

The programming on this night was tame — singer-songwriters, armed with
guitars, crooning on the stage as Spanish harmonies filled the indoor
courtyard.

Young people, intently listening, gathered on thin metal bleachers. I
sat with Yuniel, another new friend, among the trees on a stone balcony.

Later, Cuba Libre cocktails in hand, my adopted crew and I spilled over
into the art gallery, which doubles as a tattoo shop, on El Mejunje's
upper level. With Yuniel acting as salsa instructor, we danced, against
government wishes, our sandals shuffling to the soft guitar beats below.

"We're supposed to be sad," Yuniel had said earlier, nodding at one of
the Fidel signs. He grinned. "But I'm not sad."

'It has to change'

In the taxi, that first day, I had to repeat myself.

"Yes, Santa Clara," I said.

The driver muttered.

"Not many tourists there," he said.

That's why I was going — far away from the Havana airport and its money
changers.

"There are two Cubas," Luy's friend KK had told me. "The government, and
the people.

"It's best to avoid the people in suits."

Smack in the country's middle, Santa Clara has no beaches, no cerulean
waters. Unlike other cities on Cuba's handsome coasts, it boasts no
ritzy resorts or travel guide lore. Tourists tend to go elsewhere.

But the tide is shifting.

With the political padlock removed, the gate is cracked open. Starting
last winter, airlines began adding direct flights from the U.S.,
including to cities beyond Havana such as Santa Clara. Cuba sits just
100 miles from Miami Beach. The dollar, even when exploited, goes far.
There is no doubt: The surge of tourists is coming.

Will Santa Clara change? Will Cuba change?

Luy mulled the questions as we sat on the steps of La Marquesina,
drinking mojitos.

He knows the untouched beauty, the stunning culture, the warmth.

But he knows the challenges, too.

Though widely and impressively educated, the Cuban people's wages are
low. The shelves at the stores in Santa Clara, much like the rest of the
country, are often lacking — one day, they'll be out of milk, another
day, eggs — and the black market is used as a necessity, supplying
everything from razor blades to good shampoo.

"It will change," Luy said. "It has to change."

Source: Cuba a mix of corruption, impressive beauty, people -
http://www.dispatch.com/entertainmentlife/20170507/cuba-mix-of-corruption-impressive-beauty-people Continue reading
… entrepreneur Mark Cuban on "Shark Tank" Friday night. Cuban will … nothing about their money. After Cuban made the firm offer, Robert … impactful beyond your product," Cuban told the Rumi Spice team … ;Striking a deal with Mark Cuban is a game-changer for the … Continue reading
If Venezuela Goes to Hell, Will Things Look Bad for Cuba? / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 28 April 2017 — Soot covers the unpainted facades of
buildings on Tenth of October Boulevard. Old American cars from the
1950s, rebuilt with modern diesel engines and now privately operated as
taxis, transit across asphalt, leaving behind a trail of black smoke and
the unpleasant odor of gasoline.

The noonday sun glimmers in the opaque windows of old clothing stores,
which have been converted into low-quality jewelry and handicraft shops.

Tenth of October is one of Havana's main arteries. Formerly known as
Jesus of the Mountain, the boulevard immortalized by the poet Eliseo
Diego is now a walkway of pedestrians carrying plastic bags past
makeshift booths set up in the covered entryways of people's houses.
Vendors sell old books, photos of Fidel and Kim Il Sung, and knickknacks
that are not longer fashionable.

Seated at a stool outside his butcher shop, Rey Angel reads a headline
in the newspaper Granma. He has not worked in days. "There have been no
deliveries of chicken or ground soy," he says. He kills time reading
boring articles by the nation's press and watching women walk by.

Right now, news from Venezuela is a high priority for the average Cuban.
"It's like seeing yourself in the mirror. You don't like to read stories
about shortages and misfortunes similar to your own, although ours don't
come with street protests or repression and killings by the police,"
says the butcher.

"But we have to follow the news from Venezuela," he adds. "If it all
goes to hell there, things won't look good for us. There will be another
'Special Period." The government is trying not to alarm people but
according to the official press, the country produces only 50% of the
crude it needs. The question then is: Where the hell are we going to get
the money for the other 50% Venezuela gives us."

The longstanding economic, social and political crisis in Venezuela also
impacts Cuba, a republic that has been unable to control its own
destiny. Hungry for power, Fidel Castro hijacked the country, making
political commitments in exchange for a blank check from the Kremlin and
later oil and credit guarantees from Hugo Chavez.

Like a baby, Cuba is still crawling. It won't stand up and walk on its
own two feet. "Whom should we blame for these disastrous policies?" asks
a university professor before answering his own question.

"If we are honest, the answer is Fidel Castro," he says. "Cuba a total
disaster, except supposedly in the realm of sovereignty and
independence. But these days we are more dependent than ever. In order
to survive, we must depend on tourism, on the export of doctors who work
under slave-like conditions and on remittances sent home by Cubans from
overseas."

Although Cuba's government-run press and Telesur — a media company
founded with petrodollars from Hugo Chavez — is trying to cover up the
causes of the situation in Venezuela, to ignore other points of view and
to manipulate the narrative of the Venezuelan opposition, people on the
island can now compare their reporting with other sources of information.

"Whether it's through the internet, an illegal antenna or family members
returning from medical missions in Venezuela, people know that not
everything reported in the national media is true. It's not just the
middle class that supports the opposition, as the state press would have
us believe. If that were the case, the Venezuelan bourgeoisie would
number in the millions. Maduro's days are numbered. When another
political party occupies the presidential palace, when the oil agreement
and the exchange of doctors are over, the Cuban economy will experience
a crisis , a period of recession the likes of which it has not seen for
twenty-eight years. And even worse, all the turmoil in Venezuela
coincides with Raul Castro's stepping down from power" notes an academic.

Among the late Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro's longterm goals was the
eventual unification of their two countries," says a former diplomat.
"ALBA* was just a first step. They hoped to later create a common
currency: the sucre. In the halls of power it was jokingly referred to
as 'Cubazuela'. In their minds Castro and Chavez thought they would rule
forever. They didn't foresee themselves dying or anticipate the current
catastrophe. In spite of all Maduro's authoritarianism, there are still
democratic institutions which could reverse the situation. But in Cuba?
When Venezuela crashes, we'll be up the creek without a paddle. We can
perhaps count on rhetorical support from Bolivia and Ecuador but no one
is going to write us a blank check or extend us credit. We will then
will have to figure out where we are going and how to get there. If some
future politicians manage to figure out a path forward, we'll have to
erect a monument to them."

Hyperinflation, polarization and the socio-political crisis in Venezuela
are all impacting the Cuban economy. In the summer of 2016 Raul Castro
announced fuel cuts for the public sector, causing numerous government
programs which do not generate hard currency to grind to a halt.

As people die and mass protest marches take place in Venezuela,
officials and presidential advisers at the Palace of the Revolution in
Havana are devising contingency plans to deal with the eventual collapse
of the Chavez movement. It could take months, maybe a year or two, but
it will happen.

*Translator's note: Acronym for Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of
Our America, an organization founded by Cuba and Venezuela and currently
made up of eleven socialist and social democratic member states.

Source: If Venezuela Goes to Hell, Will Things Look Bad for Cuba? / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/if-venezuela-goes-to-hell-will-things-look-bad-for-cuba-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 28 April 2017 — Soot covers the unpainted facades of buildings on Tenth of October Boulevard. Old American cars from the 1950s, rebuilt with modern diesel engines and now privately operated as taxis, transit across asphalt, leaving behind a trail of black smoke and the unpleasant odor of gasoline. The noonday sun glimmers in … Continue reading "If Venezuela Goes to Hell, Will Things Look Bad for Cuba? / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 3 May 2017 — The guard looks at him and dismisses him as an undercover cop. “Are you coming to change dollars? I’ll pay you at 90 cents,” he tells the customer while turning his back on the security camera at the Currency Exchange (Cadeca). At the window, that same dollar is exchanged … Continue reading "Neither CUPs nor CUCs, It’s Bucks That Reign in Cuba" Continue reading
14ymedio, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 2 May 2017 — Three Cubans resident in Gran Canaria (Canary Islands) have been charged by the Prosecutor’s Office of Las Palmas with an attempted felony offense, and another of falsification of a commercial document, for having passed themselves off as members of the technical service teams of the … Continue reading "Three Cubans Accused Of Fraud In The Canary Islands For Fraudulent Repairs To Home Appliances" Continue reading
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 25 April 2017 — The colorful vehicle takes off when the traffic light turns green, leaving the smell of freshly baked pizza in its wake. It is one of the visible signs that private businesses are succeeding in a country where ordering food from home was a chimera until recently. In the … Continue reading "Home Delivery Services, A Business That Captivates Cubans" Continue reading
Trade with Cuba remains a priority for potato, wheat officials
A team from Potatoes USA recently returned from an "informational
exchange mission" in Cuba.
John O'ConnellCapital Press
Published on May 1, 2017 10:06AM
Last changed on May 1, 2017 2:51PM

A team from Potatoes USA tours a potato field in Cuba. Cuba plans to
evaluate seed from the U.S. in trials this fall, though market
restrictions still make trade difficult.

DENVER — Though efforts to normalize trade relations with Cuba have been
in limbo under President Donald Trump, some potato and wheat industry
leaders have continued making inroads in the market.

A team of 16 board members, seed potato growers and agronomists,
representing Potatoes USA, recently returned from a five-day
"informational exchange mission" to Cuba. Kansas Wheat officials say
they've also been active in laying the groundwork for future trade
opportunities with Cuba.

The U.S. has had an embargo against Cuba for decades. Exceptions under a
2000 law allow for exporting U.S. food products and commodities into
Cuba — which have totaled more than $5.3 billion since Dec. 2001,
according to John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and
Economic Council Inc.

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. entered discussions with Cuba
aimed at addressing trade barriers. Kaviluch explained the U.S. requires
Cuban buyers to pay cash rather than extending them credit, prohibits
Cuban businesses from having bank accounts in the U.S. and places
restrictions on the use of the U.S. dollar in transactions with Cuba.

Questions still linger about more than $1.8 billion still owed to U.S.
businesses who had assets taken after the Cuban Revolution. Food product
and agricultural commodities exported to Cuba are processed through the
Bureau of Industry and Security, under the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Kaviluch said another trade obstacle is that "Cuba is consistently late
in paying those who they owe money to."

Kaviluch said Obama left office before the major questions were
resolved. Trump has voiced concerns about Obama's Cuban policy, sending
a Twitter message in late November 2016: "If Cuba is unwilling to make a
better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban-American people and the U.S.
as a whole, I will terminate the deal."

Laura Johnson, marketing bureau chief with the Idaho State Department of
Agriculture, said ISDA has added Cuba to the list of potential
destinations when it seeks industry input on state-sponsored trade
missions, though the industry chose Taiwan and Vietnam for the next
mission, scheduled for November.

Daniel Heady, director of governmental affairs with Kansas Wheat,
believes Trump will keep an open mind toward "finding the best deal
possible" with Cuba, which could represent a 50-million-bushel wheat
market. Kansas Wheat officials gave a Cuban team a tour of their state's
wheat production last October and made their own trip to Cuba a month later.

"At this point, I think we're probably in a holding pattern," Heady
said. "That doesn't mean doing outreach and still doing trade missions
and talking with people is a waste of time."

Kansas Wheat supports a bill by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., to normalize
trade with Cuba, and also participates in coalitions advocating for the
cause — Engage Cuba and Agriculture Coalition for Cuba.

The Potatoes USA team visited Cuba on March 27-31, meeting with the
nation's Ministry of Foreign Commercial Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture
and potato growers in the countryside. According to a press release, the
Cuban government hopes to revive its domestic potato industry, which has
declined significantly during the past two decades, and will need to
import high-quality seed. Potatoes are one of eight foods controlled by
the Cuban government for distribution and price.

The Cuban government hopes to conduct trials beginning this fall to
assess how U.S. seed varieties perform in their tropical climate,
according to the press release.

"Based on successes in the Dominican Republic and Central America,
Potatoes USA and the U.S. seed potato growers are confident U.S.
suppliers can provide potato seed to help improve yields in Cuba,"
Potatoes USA Chief Marketing Officer John Toaspern said in the press
release.

Source: Trade with Cuba remains a priority for potato, wheat officials -
- Capital Press -
http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20170501/trade-with-cuba-remains-a-priority-for-potato-wheat-officials Continue reading
… military plane has crashed in Cuba, killing eight people. All eight … aircraft were members of the Cuban military. They died when the … money online like real parents Cuban News Agency reported: ‘The eight … AP that Aerogaviota had informed Cuban officials of the crash, but … Continue reading
Happiness / Somos+

Somos+, Roberto Camba, 21 March 2017 — The United Nations has just
launched the 2017 World Happiness Report, coinciding with the World
Happiness Day on March 20th. From its first publication in 2012, the
world has come to understand more and more that happiness has to be used
as the correct measure with regards to social progress and the objective
of public policies.

The report is based on statistics collected from the happiness index or
subjective well-being, Gross Domestic Product, social support, life
expectancy from birth, freedom to make decisions, generosity, perception
of corruption (within the government or in businesses), positive or
negative feelings, confidence in the national government and in society,
the level of democracy and the level of income per household.

Much of the data is taken from the average of the results of Gallup's
global survey. For example, the "life's staircase" question: "imagine a
staircase, with steps numbered from 0 (at the base) to 10 (at the top).
The top of the stairs represents the best life possible for you and the
base the worst life possible. Which step do you feel like you are
currently at right now?"

"Social support" means having someone that you can rely on during times
of difficulty. Generosity equates to having donated money to a
charitable organisation over the past month. Whereas, positive or
negative feeling relates to questions about whether for the most part of
the previous day the individual experienced happiness, laughter or
pleasure; or rather did they experience negative feelings such as worry,
sadness or anger. The report references its sources and explains the
other indexes which negatively influence the perception of happiness
such as: unemployment or social inequality.

The 2017 Happiness Report places Norway at the top of its list, followed
by: Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New
Zealand, Australia, and Sweden as the top ten.

The US was listed at number 14 and Spain at 34. The best placed Latin
American nations were Chile (20), Brazil (22), Argentina (24), Mexico
(25), Uruguay (28), Guatemala (29) and Panama (30). The list included
155 countries. Those that have improved the most with regards to their
position between 2005-2007 are Nicaragua, Lithuania and Sierra Leone,
whilst Venezuela is the country that has slipped down the rankings the most.

And Cuba? It does not appear on the list. The Network of Solutions for
Sustainable Development that prepared the report only possesses data on
Cuba from 2006. During that time, the average response to the "staircase
of life" was 5.4 (which placed it at 69th out of 156 nations), just
behind Kosovo. Possibly today many Cubans would answer "where is the
staircase to even begin to climb it?"

According to the 2006 data, Cuba appeared to be high in its ranking of
social support and life expectancy from birth, but it was the third
worst in freedom to make decisions. It was ranked as low for level of
democracy, despite the fact that its per capita GDP surpassed China,
Mexico, Brazil and South Africa to name some of the prosperous economies
in the world*. In the net index of feelings (the average of positive
feelings subtracted by the average of negative feelings) Cuba occupied
the 112th place, making it the lowest ranked country in Latin America,
with only Haiti having worse figures.

This index is the most direct measurement of fulfillment or of personal
frustration that influences values and behaviour.

Of course beyond scientific rigour, no statistic or survey is 100%
reliable. Subjective happiness or individual perception of happiness is
very variable. Replying to these questions implies making a mental
comparison. We compare ourselves to our neighbour, to those abroad, to
our past or to our previous situation.

who receive manipulated information will not be able to effectively
compare themselves. Furthermore, people think as they live: having
access to running water could be the ultimate happiness for someone
living in Sub-Saharan Africa, but a European or North American considers
that they must have that and would take offense if they did not have it.

Cubans do not need a global report to know that there is a low happiness
index among the people. The problems seem insoluble, the shortages are
growing, personal ambitions have had to be postponed for decades,
emigration becomes the only hope. The government quashes individual
initiatives and working towards the happiness of its people — or
allowing others to do it — does not seem to be in its projections.
At Somos Más (We Are More) we believe that a responsible government must
have this as its main objective and we will continue to fight to achieve it.

Translator's note: If the GDP used for this analysis was that provided
by the Cuban government, it would likely have been inaccurate.

Source: Happiness / Somos+ – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/happiness-somos/ Continue reading
Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellanos, 18 November 2016 — The evil of corruption–the act of
corruption and its effects–has accompanied the human species since its
emergence. It has been present in all societies and in all ages. Its
diverse causes range from personal conduct to the political-economic
system of each country. In Cuba it appeared in the colonial era, it
remained in the Republic, and became generalized until becoming the
predominant behavior in society.

To understand the regression suffered we must return to the formation of
our morality, essentially during the mixing of Hispanic and African
cultures and the turning towards totalitarianism after 1959, as can be
seen in the following lines.

The conversion of the island into the world's first sugar and coffee
power created many contradictions between slaves and slave owners,
blacks and whites, producers and merchants, Spanish-born and Creole, and
between them and the metropolis. From these contradictions came three
moral aspects: the utilitarian, the civic and that of survival.

Utilitarian morality

The father of utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), said that
utility is measured by the consequences that actions tend to produce,
and came to the conclusion that all action is socially good when it
tries to procure the greatest possible degree of happiness for the
greatest number of people, and that each person has the right to be
taken into account in the exercise of power.

That thesis of Bentham became a popular slogan synthesized in the
phrase: "The greatest happiness for the greatest number." Such a concept
crystallized in Cuba as a creole variant of a utilitarianism that took
shape in exploitation, smuggling, corruption, banditry, and criminality,
which turned into the violation of everything predisposed as an accepted
norm of conduct in society.

The gift of a plant by the sugar planters to the governor Don Luis de
las Casas; the diversion of funds for the construction of Fortaleza de
la Real Fuerza de la Cabaña, which made it the most expensive fortress
in the world; the gambling house and the cockfighting ring that the
governor Francisco Dionisio Vives had for his recreation in the Castillo
de la Real Fuerza, whose government was known for "the three d's":
dancing, decks of cards, and drinking, for which reason, at the end of
his rule, there appeared a lampoon that said: "If you live (vives) like
Vives, you will live!"; the mangrove groves; bandits like Caniquí, the
black man of Trinidad and Juan Fernandez, the blond of Port-au-Prince …
are some examples.

Utilitarianism reappeared on the republican scene as a discourse of a
political, economic, and military elite lacking in democratic culture,
swollen with personalismo, caudillismo, corruption, violence and
ignorance of anything different. A masterful portrait of this morality
was drawn by Carlos Loveira in his novel Generales y doctores, a side
that resurfaced in the second half of the twentieth century.

Thus emerged the Republic, built on the symbiosis of planters and
politicians linked to foreign interests, with a weak civil society and
with unresolved, deep-rooted problems, as they were the concentration of
agrarian property and the exclusion of black people. The coexistence of
different moral behaviors in the same social environment led to the
symbiosis of their features. Utilitarianism crisscrossed with virtues
and altruisms, concerns and activities on matters more transcendent than
boxes of sugar and sacks of coffee.

Throughout the twentieth century, these and other factors were present
in the Protest of the 13, in the Revolution of the 30, in the repeal of
the Platt Amendment, in the Constituent Assembly of 1939, and in the
Constitution of 1940. Also in the corruption which prevailed during the
authentic governments and in the improvement accomplished by the
Orthodox Dissent and the Society of Friends of the Republic. Likewise,
in the 1952 coup d'etat and in the Moncada attempted counter-coup, in
the civic and armed struggle that triumphed in 1959 and in those who
since then and until now struggle for the restoration of human rights.

Civic morality

Civic morality, the cradle of ethical values, was a manifestation of
minorities, shaped by figures ranging from Bishop Espada, through Jose
Agustín Caballero to the teachings of Father Felix Varela and the
republic "With all and for the good of all" of José Martí. This civic
aspect became the foundation of the nation and source of Cuban identity.
It included concern for the destinies of the local land, the country,
and the nation. It was forged in institutions such as the Seminary of
San Carlos, El Salvador College, in Our Lady of the Desamparados, and
contributed to the promotion of the independence proclamations of the
second half of the nineteenth century, as well as the projects of nation
and republic.

Father Félix Varela understood that civic formation was a premise for
achieving independence and, consequently, chose education as a path to
liberation. In 1821, when he inaugurated the Constitutional Chair at the
Seminary of San Carlos, he described it as "a chair of freedom, of human
rights, of national guarantees … a source of civic virtues, the basis of
the great edifice of our happiness, the one that has for the first time
reconciled for us the law with philosophy."

José de la Luz y Caballero came to the conclusion that "before the
revolution and independence, there was education." Men, rather than
academics, he said, is the necessity of the age. And Jose Marti began
with a critical study of the errors of the War of 1868 that revealed
negative factors such as immediacy, caudillismo, and selfishness,
closely related to weak civic formation.

This work was continued by several generations of Cuban educators and
thinkers until the first half of the twentieth century. Despite these
efforts, a general civic behavior was not achieved. We can find proof of
this affirmation in texts like the Journal of the soldier, by Fermín
Valdés Domínguez, and the Public Life of Martín Morúa Delgado, by Rufino
Perez Landa.

During the Republic, the civic aspect was taken up by minorities.
However, in the second half of the twentieth century their supposed
heirs, once in power, slipped into totalitarianism, reducing the Western
base of our institutions to the minimum expression, and with it the
discourse and practice of respect for human rights.

Survival morality

Survival morality emerged from continued frustrations, exclusions, and
the high price paid for freedom, opportunities, and participation. In
the Colony it had its manifestations in the running away and
insurrections of slaves and poor peasants. During the second half of the
twentieth century it took shape in the lack of interest in work, one of
whose expressions is the popular phrase: "Here there is nothing to die for."

It manifested itself in the simulation of tasks that were not actually
performed, as well as in the search for alternative ways to survive.
Today's Cuban, reduced to survival, does not respond with heroism but
with concrete and immediate actions to survive. And this is manifested
throughout the national territory, in management positions, and in all
productive activities or services.

It is present in the clandestine sale of medicines, in the loss of
packages sent by mail, in the passing of students in exchange for money,
in falsification of documents, in neglect of the sick (as happened with
mental patients who died in the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana of
hypothermia in January 2010, where 26 people died according to official
data), in establishments where merchandise is sold, in the workshops
that provide services to the population, in the sale of fuel "on the
left" and in the diversion of resources destined for any objective.

The main source of supply of the materials used is diversion, theft, and
robbery, while the verbs "escape", "fight" and "solve" designate actions
aimed at acquiring what is necessary to survive. Seeing little value in
work, the survivor responded with alternative activities. Seeing the
impossibility of owning businesses, with the estaticular way (activities
carried out by workers for their own benefit in State centers and with
State-owned materials). Seeing the absence of civil society, with the
underground life. Seeing shortages, with the robbery of the State.
Seeing the closing of all possibilities, with escape to any other part
of the world.

Immersed in this situation, the changes that are being implemented in
Cuba, under the label of Guidelines of Economic and Social Policy of the
PCC, run into the worst situation regarding moral behavior. In this,
unlike in previous times, everyone from high leaders to simple workers
participates. A phenomenon of such a dimension that, despite its
secrecy, has had to be tackled by the official press itself, as can be
seen in the following examples of a whole decade:

The newspaper Juventud Rebelde on May 22, 2001 published an article
titled "Solutions against deception", where it is said that Eduardo, one
of the thousands of inspectors, states that when he puts a crime in
evidence, the offenders come to tell him: "You have to live, you have to
fight." According to Eduardo, neither can explain "the twist of those
who bother when they are going to claim their rights and instead defend
their own perpetrator." It results in the perpetrator declaring that he
is fighting and the victims defending him. The selfless inspector,
thinking that when he proves the violation he has won "the battle," is
wrong. Repressive actions, without attacking the causes, are doomed to
failure.
- The same newspaper published "The big old fraud", reporting that of
222,656 inspections carried out between January and August 2005, price
violations and alterations in product standards were detected in 52% of
the centers examined and in the case of agricultural markets in 68%.
- For its part, the newspaper Granma on November 28, 2003, in "Price
Violations and the Never Ending Battle" reported that in the first eight
months of the year, irregularities were found in 36% of the
establishments inspected; that in markets, fairs, squares, and
agricultural points of sale the index was above 47%, and in gastronomy 50%.
- On February 16, 2007, under the title "Cannibals in the Towers", the
official organ of the Communist Party addressed the theft of angles
supporting high-voltage electricity transmission networks, and it was
recognized that "technical, administrative and legal practices applied
so far have not stopped the banditry. "
- Also, on October 26, 2010, in "The Price of Indolence", reported that
in the municipality of Corralillo, Villa Clara, more than 300 homes were
built with stolen materials and resources, for which 25 kilometers of
railway lines were dismantled and 59 angles of the above-mentioned high
voltage towers were used.

If the official newspapers Granma and Juventud Rebelde had addressed the
close relationship between corruption and almost absolute state
ownership, with which no one can live off the salary, with which
citizens are prevented from being entrepreneurs, and with the lack of
the most elementary civic rights, then they would have understood that
repression alone is useless, that the vigilantes, policemen, and
inspectors are Cubans with the same needs as the rest of the population.

In order to change the course of events, it is necessary to extend the
changes in the economy to the rest of the social spheres, which implies
looking back at citizens' lost liberties, without which the formation
and predominance of civic behavior that the present and future of Cuba
require will be impossible.

Ethics, politics, and freedoms

In Cuba, the state of ethics – a system composed of principles,
precepts, behavior patterns, values and ideals that characterize a human
collective – is depressing; While politics – a vehicle for moving from
the desired to the possible and the possible to the real – is
monopolized by the state. The depressing situation of one and the
monopoly of the other, are closely related to the issue of corruption.
Therefore, its solution will be impossible without undertaking deep
structural transformations.

The great challenge of today's and tomorrow's Cuba lies in transforming
Cubans into citizens, into political actors. A transformation that has
its starting point in freedoms, beginning with the implementation of
civil and political rights. As the most immediate cause of corruption –
not the only one – is in the dismantling of civil society and in the
nationalization of property that took place in Cuba in the early years
of revolutionary power, it is necessary to act on this cause from
different directions.

The wave of expropriations that began with foreign companies, continued
with the national companies, and did not stop until the last fried-food
stand became "property of the whole people", combined with the
dismantling of civil society and the monopolization of politics, brought
as a consequence a lack of interest in the results of work, low
productivity, and the sharp deterioration suffered with the decrease of
wages and pensions. Added to these facts were others such as the
replacement of tens of thousands of owners by managers and
administrators without knowledge of the ABCs of administration or of the
laws that govern economic processes.

The result could not be otherwise: work ceased to be the main source of
income for Cubans. To transform this deplorable situation requires a
cultural action, which, in the words of Paulo Freire, is always a
systematic and deliberate form of action that affects the social
structure, in the sense of maintaining it as it is, to test small
changes in it or transform it.

Paraphrasing the concept of affirmative action, this cultural action is
equivalent to those that are made for the insertion and development of
relegated social sectors. Its concretion includes two simultaneous and
interrelated processes: one, citizen empowerment, which includes the
implementation of rights and freedoms; and two, the changes inside the
person, which unlike the former are unfeasible in the short term, but
without which the rest of the changes would be of little use. The
transformation of Cubans into public citizens, into political actors, is
a challenge as complex as it is inescapable.

Experience, endorsed by the social sciences, teaches that interest is an
irreplaceable engine for achieving goals. In the case of the economy,
ownership over the means of production and the amount of wages
decisively influence the interests of producers. Real wages must be at
least sufficient for the subsistence of workers and their families. The
minimum wage allows subsistence, while incomes below that limit mark the
poverty line. Since 1989, when a Cuban peso was equivalent to almost
nine of today's peso, the wage growth rate began to be lower than the
increase in prices, meaning that purchasing power has decreased to the
point that it is insufficient to survive.

An analysis carried out in two family nuclei composed of two and three
people respectively, in the year 2014, showed that the first one earns
800 pesos monthly and spends 2,391, almost three times more than the
income. The other earns 1,976 pesos and spends 4,198, more than double
what it earns. The first survives because of the remittance he receives
from a son living in the United States; the second declined to say how
he made up the difference.

The concurrence of the failure of the totalitarian model, the aging of
its rulers, the change of attitude that is occurring in Cubans, and the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the US, offers better
conditions than previous decades to face the challenge. The solution is
not in ideological calls, but in the recognition of the incapacity of
the State and in decentralizing the economy, allowing the formation of a
middle class, unlocking everything that slows the increase of production
until a reform that restores the function of wages is possible. That
will be the best antidote against the leviathan of corruption and an
indispensable premise to overcome the stagnation and corruption in which
Cuban society is submerged.

Source: Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/corruption-versus-liberty-a-cuban-dilemma-dimas-castellano/ Continue reading
48 Days: Photographer captures 8,000-mile journey from Cuba to the US
By ALEX SCOTT
Apr 27, 2017, 10:14 AM ET
Lisette Poole

There are currently more than 20 daily flights from the United States to
Cuba. The 330-mile trip from Miami takes a little over an hour and
helped fill the streets of Cuba with a record number of tourists in 2016.

Although the island nation is evolving to accommodate the growing
tourism, the sense of hope is offset by an increasing economic divide.
For two Havana women, Marta and Liset, their lives did not improve as
they hoped, so they decided to leave.

Photographer Lisette Poole departed with them, documenting the entire
8,000 mile journey as they illegally crossed borders, joined other
groups of migrants and navigated the sometimes treacherous world of
smugglers, border control and jungle paths used by narco-traffickers.

Departing from Havana in May 2016, Liset and Marta were among the last
Cuban immigrants to make it across the U.S. border before the end of the
"Wet Foot, Dry Foot" policy that granted automatic asylum to Cuban
immigrants. In the slideshow below, Poole documented intimate moments of
the arduous journey, while experiencing it first-hand.

Poole has a personal interest in the women's journey as a Cuban-American
herself. Her mother left for the United States in 1969, and Poole grew
up in the U.S. with a constant awareness of the immigration issues that
affected her family.

"Living and working in Cuba, I always imagine what kind of life I would
have had if I'd been born here," Poole said. "I imagine what kind of
person I would be, what my goals would be, and I question whether I'd
have the courage to do what Liset and Marta did."

Marta and Liset's journey began in Havana with a plane ticket and the
name of a human smuggler, known as a coyote, scribbled on a piece of
paper. After flying to Guyana, the two navigated through South and
Central America following routes that many immigrants traveled before
them. Poole departed with them, documenting the complete experience as
Marta and Liset joined groups of other immigrants, illegally crossed
borders and were detained by law enforcement.

The women journeyed on planes and buses, but also traveled many miles by
foot. Their route crossed through Brazil and Peru before heading north
through Colombia. The ever-changing immigrant group then traversed
through the Darien Gap, a roadless jungle swamp on the Panama-Colombia
border, and into Central America.

For Poole, the journey was not without incident. In Costa Rica, Marta
and Liset had a falling out over money. Liset had been funding their
trip and was unable to continue paying for herself as well as Marta.
Liset planned to move ahead and send back money for Marta once she could
gather more funds.

"At the prospect of being left behind Marta was enraged. (She) fought
with Liset and told the men running the stash house that I was a
journalist. I'd been keeping quiet there, it was one of the places I
didn't feel safe having the coyotes know who I was," Poole said.

The stash house was a remote shelter where immigrants were housed along
the migration routes. Poole was able to talk her way out of the
situation and continue on with Liset and other migrants. The two parted
ways with Marta, who would end up joining the next group.

Here she walks for several days without food or water. more +
Poole continued on, photographing the resolve and resourcefulness of
migrants attempting the journey. Her reportage gracefully blurs the line
between straight documentation and personal insight through her experience.

"There was one moment in Nicaragua (after the Costa Rica incident) where
we were without food or water or even sleep for a few days," Poole said.
"I was getting delirious and so was Liset. We helped each other during
that time, and we got through it together."

Poole and Liset crossed the U.S. border into Texas, followed by Marta 12
days later. The two women rekindled their friendship and lived near each
other in Miami before moving around to other places in the U.S. Poole
has since returned to Cuba, but is continuing her work with Liset and
Marta and documenting their new lives.

Poole is currently fundraising on Kickstarter to turn the project into a
photo book styled as a classic travel guide. More information can be
found here.

"I hope that by looking at my work and experiencing the journey of Liset
and Marta, readers would relate to them and be able to put themselves in
their shoes as two people who wanted a better life," Poole said. "There
are significant global issues causing migration and it isn't a matter of
personal choice so much as a consequence of greater forces at play."

Source: 48 Days: Photographer captures 8,000-mile journey from Cuba to
the US - ABC News -
http://abcnews.go.com/International/48-days-photographer-captures-8000-mile-journey-cuba/story?id=46918018 Continue reading
Amenazaban a sus víctimas con arrestos e inclusive deportación Continue reading
Somos+, Roberto Camba, 21 March 2017 — The United Nations has just launched the 2017 World Happiness Report, coinciding with the World Happiness Day on March 20th. From its first publication in 2012, the world has come to understand more and more that happiness has to be used as the correct measure with regards to social … Continue reading "Happiness / Somos+" Continue reading
Dimas Castellanos, 18 November 2016 — The evil of corruption–the act of corruption and its effects–has accompanied the human species since its emergence. It has been present in all societies and in all ages. Its diverse causes range from personal conduct to the political-economic system of each country. In Cuba it appeared in the colonial era, … Continue reading "Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano" Continue reading
How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván García

Iván García,9 April 2017 — They did not put a Makarov pistol to his head
or torture him with electric prods. Let's call him Josué. (The names in
his article have been changed). He is a guy who wears American-made
jeans, listens to jazz by Winton Marsalis on his iPhone 7 and is a
diehard fan of LeBron James.

He used to work at a gasoline station. One day earned the equivalent of
fifty dollars, enough to have some beers at a Havana bar with his
buddies. "One of my friends was an opponent of the regime and two were
independent journalists," says Josué. "That wasn't a problem for me. I
had known them for years and they were decent, trustworthy people. We
talked politics but, when we just hanging out, we usually talked about
sports or our daily lives," says Josué.

One morning two officials from the Department of State Security (DSE),
dressed as civilians and riding motorcycles, showed up at his door.
"They wanted to 'have a friendly chat' with me. They asked if I would
collaborate with them, if I would pass on information about my dissident
friends. When I refused, they threatened to charge me with embezzling
state funds."

"'We know you are stealing gasoline,' they said. 'Either you work for us
or we'll press charges.' At first, I went along with it but only passed
along false information or said that my friends didn't tell me anything
about their work activities. Then they suggested I infiltrate the
dissident movement. I refused. In the end I quit my job at the gas
station. So now they hassle me constantly and come up with any excuse to
arrest and detain me at the police station," say Josué.

For Sheila, an engineer, the modus operandi is familiar: "First, they
tried to blackmail me, accusing me of having an extra-marital affair
with a dissident. When I told them, 'Go ahead; do it,' they changed
tactics and said they were going to charge me with harassment of
foreigners and prostitution because I have a European boyfriend."

One of the objectives of Cuban special services is to "short-circuit"
the connections that so many of the regime's opponents, such as
independent journalists, have with official sources. "They are in a
panic over the possibility that dissidents and independent journalists
are building bridges and establishing networks of trust with employees
and officials at important state institutions. That's why they are
trying to poison the relationships dissidents and journalists have with
relatives, friends and neighbors," claims an academic who has received
warnings from the DSE.

According to this academic, "The DSE will use whatever weapon it can to
achieve its goals. These include blackmail, psychological pressure, a
person's commitment to the party and the Revolution, and threats of
imprisonment for criminal activity, which is not uncommon given that
some potential informants work in the financial or service sector and
often make money by defrauding the government. State Security does not
need to torture its informants. A system of duplicity, widespread
corruption and fear of reprisal are enough to accomplish the objective:
to isolate the opponent from his circle of friends."

Yusdel, an unlicensed bodyshop repairman, recalls how one day an
agent from State Security told him, "If you want to keep your business,
you have to inform on your stepfather," a human rights activist.
"They're pigs," says Yusdel. "It doesn't matter to them if you betray
one of your relatives. If you refuse, you are besieged by the police."

For Carlos jail is a second home. "Once, when I was a serving time at
Combinado del Este prison, a guard asked me to intimidate another
inmate, who was a dissident. 'Punch him, do whatever it takes. Nothing
will happen to you.' In exchange for this, they were going to give me
weekend passes. I said I wouldn't do it. But there are common criminals
who are all too willing to do this shit," says Carlos.

The pressure to become a "snitch" is greater when a government opponent
or an alternative journalist is inexperienced. Because the dissident
community is made up of groups of pacifists and because it operates
openly, it is easy for counterintelligence to infiltrate it and
blackmail dissidents, who can easily break down or crack under
psychological pressure.

With eighteen years' experience in the free press, a colleague who has
known fake independent journalists such as the late Nestor Baguer and
Carlos Serpa Maceira says that ultimately they became informants
"because of pressure exerted on them by State Security."

A professor of history who has been subjected to bullying by an agent
believes, "The revolutionary/counterrevolutionary rhetoric was inspiring
in the first few years after Fidel Castro came to power, when those who
supported the revolutionary process were in the majority. Now, those who
collaborate do not do it out of loyalty or ideology. They do it out of
fear. And that makes them vulnerable and unreliable citizens. Not to
mention that the professionalism of the current DSE officers leaves much
to be desired. Some agents seem marginal and very intellectually unstable."

To achieve its objective, Cuban counterintelligence resorts to extortion
of would-be informants. And in the case of the opposition, to physical
violence. If you have any doubts, just ask the Ladies in White.

Source: How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
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What happens to the shares of a Cuban joint venture company when the foreign party is taken over by another company or wants to sell its stake to a third party? Continue reading
Former CIA Operative Argues Lee Harvey Oswald's Cuba Connections Went Deep
Olivia B. Waxman
Apr 25, 2017

After Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy shortly after
noon on Nov. 22, 1963, things moved quickly. About an hour later, Oswald
fatally shot Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit. Thirty minutes after
that, police found Oswald and arrested him. Two days later, on Nov. 24,
Jack Ruby shot Oswald. And just a day after the assassination, FBI
Director J. Edgar Hoover had already expressed his preliminary finding
that Oswald had acted alone.
The full Warren Commission report would later back up that finding — but
more than a half-century later, polls have found that most Americans are
not convinced of that fact.
That's why former CIA operative Bob Baer launched an investigation into
the declassified government files on the case. As the above clip shows,
on his six-part series JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald — debuting
Tuesday night on the History channel — Baer (seen in the clip above with
former LAPD police lieutenant Adam Bercovici) attempts to demystify the
link between Oswald and Cuban and Soviet operatives. It's no secret
that, for example, Oswald went to a meeting at the Soviet embassy in
Mexico eight weeks before he assassinated JFK, or that he tried to
defect to the Soviet Union in 1959. But Baer pursues those leads, and
further investigates Oswald's connections to the Cuban dissident group
Alpha 66, which had been infiltrated by Cuban intelligence officials who
were reporting their activities back to Fidel Castro's government. His
conclusion is that, while Oswald acted alone when he fired the bullets
that killed the President, his connections to Cuban and Soviet officials
were deeper than is often assumed.
Ahead of the debut of his series, Baer spoke to TIME about why Oswald
could have wanted to work with the Soviets and Cubans:
TIME: Why did you start looking into declassified government files on
Lee Harvey Oswald?
BAER: I went through CIA files on it when I was working there, and there
was Cuban-related stuff that didn't make a whole lot of sense to me.
When I got into the CIA, George H.W. Bush signed a release [of files] to
me, and the archives came back and said they couldn't find [the files I
requested] anymore. Documents on it that shouldn't have disappeared had
disappeared. So that raised an alarm bell. But what really got me into
it was meeting a defector from Cuba and one of the best agents the CIA
has ever had. He said that on the 22nd of November 1963, four hours
before the assassination, he was at an intelligence site in Havana when
he got a call from Castro's office, saying, "Turn all of your listening
ability to high frequency communications out of Dallas because
something's going to happen there."
What are the biggest revelations in the documentary?
Our hypothesis was that the Cubans knew [about Oswald's plan] in
advance. We have eyewitnesses putting Oswald with Cuban intelligence in
Mexico City. And the last people that Oswald was hanging out with before
the assassination were Alpha 66. I do believe that, after the
assassination, Oswald was heading for a safe house that was owned by
Alpha 66. Now, according to the FBI, CIA and Cuban intelligence sources
we talked to, in November 1963, info about anything that Alpha 66 did in
the U.S. was sent back to Cuba. So if, in fact, Oswald told Alpha 66 he
was going to kill the president — and we do have witnesses saying he
told them this — then Castro knew. And the borders were all shut down at
that point, so our assumption is he was going to this Cuban safe house,
where he had been before. Whether the Cuban dissidents of Alpha 66 knew
he was coming or not, we don't know.

But I do not think that [Castro] furthered the plot. I think the Cuban
dissidents reporting back to Havana informed him that there's this
American, Lee Harvey Oswald, who says he's going to kill the president.
The fact that this stuff has never been looked into I find extraordinary.
Why didn't they?
The Warren Commission did mention it, but they just said that it was a
coincidence that he met with the KGB's head of assassinations for North
America in Mexico City. They didn't look into how peculiar it is for an
American, on a weekend, to meet with three KGB officers during their
time off. The Warren Commission said he only went to the Cuban consulate
in Mexico City and met a local employee. But I believe his Cuban
connections are much deeper than the Warren Commission shows. I think
[the commission] just didn't want to make that public. Johnson told the
FBI that if they can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Russians
and the Cubans were involved in this, then they shouldn't drag their
suspicions into the public eye. But they sort of suspected it.
That reminds me of the discussion of whether the FBI should have shared
its news from its investigations into Hillary Clinton's email use or
possible Russian involvement in the campaign prior to the election last
fall. It's this question of how and whether intelligence officials
should talk about something that's still ongoing.
Yeah it's exactly like that; If you can't prove it, don't drag it out to
the public. Except the [Oswald] evidence is stronger than so far what
we've seen on Russia and its connections to the Trump campaign.

What was going on in Cold War history at this point that caused this
controversy to play out the way that it did?
My assumption at the end is that Castro had every reason in the world to
[want to] kill Kennedy. It's risky if there are actual Cuban agents
shooting the President, that's Armageddon, nuclear war. But if you
simply hear rumors of this, you don't do anything. I've seen that happen
in the CIA, where we heard stuff and didn't pass the details to another
government because it was a hostile government.
What about the Soviet side? Did you find any evidence that they
encouraged Oswald?
There's no evidence that the Russians took that risk, providing him
money weapons or training, and I don't think the Russians encouraged
him. What we think is that they were like three times removed. I think
they simply monitored Oswald as best they could. The Russians probably
thought, "We can't afford to deal with an American crazy person," but
Cuban intelligence deals with a lot of crazy people. The Cubans didn't
give money or guns to agents; they were just looking for fellow believers.
Why did Oswald want to defect to the Soviets in the first place?
I think he was at a dead end. He had a broken childhood, and he joined
the Marines to become somebody. He wanted to become a historical figure,
and he thought he deserved to be one. He needed some sort of anchor to
his life and that thing in 1959 was communism. When he gets there [to
the Soviet Union], they don't want him at first. And when they have to
accept him after he attempts suicide, they send them to Minsk. It's sort
of the end of the earth. He's a factory worker, not what he expected at
all, so he comes back. That's the context of the whole series, what was
going through his mind at each one of these steps.
Are there any unanswered questions you still have or now have after
doing the documentary?
I'd look for further confirmation that Cubans knew about this to confirm
our thesis. We don't know exactly what the Cubans told him in Mexico
City — was it to go back to Louisiana and Dallas and tell us what Cuban
dissidents there were doing? And what did Oswald mean when he said he
was a "patsy" when he was being questioned by the Dallas police? A patsy
for whom?I know the general relationship was that Russians and Cubans
shared everything in those days. So did this get back to Moscow? I don't
know, I don't have the evidence. Do I suspect it did? Yes. It's sort of
like if an American went to Syria, spent a month with the Islamic State,
and came back and assassinates the President. Would anyone call him a
lone wolf? That's what happened with Kennedy.

Source: Lee Harvey Oswald and JFK—Documentary Argues Cuba Connection |
Time.com - http://time.com/4753349/oswald-kennedy-declassified-documentary/ Continue reading


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Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 17 April 2017 — Money is no object. When it comes to
thwarting, harassing and repressing intellectuals or journalists, there
are always enough funds in military's coffers to write a blank check.

Solid numbers are hard to come by but, according to conservative
estimates, Cuba's special services and armed forces account for roughly
35% of the nation's paltry GDP.

There is never a shortage of fuel, guesthouses, vacation homes, medical
clinics or surveillance equipment for monitoring alleged
counterrevolutionaries.

It is mistakenly believed that the top priority of the Special Services
is the fragmented domestic opposition, which can never turn out more
than a few followers for any public gathering. Meanwhile, the brave
fighters at the barricades are kept in line by punches, karate chops and
detention in damp, filthy jail cells.

The real danger for the government, and for counterintelligence as well,
are high-level officials. "They are like laboratory guinea pigs, always
under observation. Their phone calls, internet traffic, contacts with
foreigners, sexual preferences and personal tastes are monitored. They
cannot escape electronic surveillance even in the bathroom," says a
former intelligence officer with experience listening in.

As in the German film The Lives of Others, people with meaningful
positions in government, the armed forces, international trade and the
foreign ministry are under tight scrutiny. The next most heavily
monitored group of individuals — more closely monitored even than
dissidents — are those in the world of arts and letters and the sciences.

"The method for dealing with outspoken opposition figures is to
intimidate them, pressuring them with physical and psychological abuse,
or simply incarcerating them. We know how they think. But individuals
such as writers, musicians, scientists, researchers and
government-employed journalists are like a knife with two edges. Many
are silent dissidents. They often lead double lives. In assemblies,
government offices and newsrooms they appear to be loyal to the system.
At home they are budding counterrevolutionaries," observes the former
intelligence officer.

According to this source, agents are well-trained. "They focus on
managers, officials and employees of important state institutions.
Recent graduates of the Higher Institute of the Ministry of the Interior
are assigned to dissidents and independent journalists. They are more
adept at using physical and verbal violence than intellectual arguments."

In my twenty-years working as an independent journalist, State Security
has summoned me for questioning five or six times. On other occasions
the interviews were more casual. A guy would park his motorcycle outside
my building or near my house, as though he were a friend, and calmly
chat with me or my mother, Tania Quintero, who now lives in Switzerland
as a political refugee and who was also an independent journalist.

He said his name was Jesús Águila. A blond, Caucasian young man, he had
the air of an Eton graduate. When he became annoying, as when he would
call or visit us to discuss our case or would harass my sister at work,
Tania would threaten him with a ceramic mug and he would flee the scene.

One afternoon in the late 1990s I was questioned at a police station by
a high-ranking, rather refined official. Then, on an unbearably hot
morning in 2010, I was questioned at a branch of Special Troops near the
Reloj Club on Boyeros Avenue by officials from Military Counterintelligence.

The site where I was interviewed was an interrogation cubicle located in
a holding area for inmates. I had written a couple of articles for the
Americas edition of the Spanish newspaper El Mundo on meddling by senior
military officers in businesses and corporations. According to my
interrogators, the Cuban armed forces did not like the image these
articles created of military institutions. In a hollow threat, they told
me that I could charged with violating a law — I do not remember which
one — against disrespecting the "glorious and undefeated revolutionary
armed forces."

But ultimately it only amounted to intimidation. For six years they did
not bother me. They denied me access whenever I tried to cover something
at which operatives from State Security were present but they never
detained me. Then, three weeks ago, they questioned a few of my friends
whom they suspected of being sources for my articles.

I wrote one piece in which I said that, if they wanted to know anything
about me, they could call me in for questioning. Apparently, they read
it because on April 4 they summoned me to appear the next day at a
police station in Havana's Lawton district.

There I encountered two pleasant, mixed-race and educated young men. I
cannot say much else about them. I told them that what is needed — once
and for all and by everyone — is open dialogue, to acknowledge the
opposition and to try to find a solution to the national disaster that
is Cuba today by following the path of democracy. While the officers did
not promise tolerance, they did remain silent.

Three days later, one saw the flip side of the coin. As had happened for
ninety-seven Sundays, a mob dressed in civilian clothes was incited by
State Security to stage a verbal lynching of the Ladies in White House
near the police station in Lawton where I had been questioned.

From January to March of 2017 the political police made 1,392 arrests
and in some cases confiscated work materials and money from independent
journalists and human rights activists.

They harass people with little rhyme or reason. A group of reporters
from Periodismo del Barrio (Neighborhood Journalism), an online journal
which focuses on environmental issues and vulnerable communities, or a
neo-Communist blogger like Harold Cardenas are as likely to be targeted
as an overtly anti-Castro figure like Henry Constantin, regional
vice-president of the Inter-American Press Society.

With ten months to go before Raul Castro hangs up his gloves, the
Special Services' game plan is poised to undergo a 180-degree
turnaround. Using its contacts, it could establish a channel of
communication between dissidents and the government, which could serve
as a first step towards the ultimate legal resolution of Cuba's
political problems.

But I fear that democracy is not one of the Cuban regime's top priorities.

Source: Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
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Iván García,9 April 2017 — They did not put a Makarov pistol to his head or torture him with electric prods. Let’s call him Josué. (The names in his article have been changed). He is a guy who wears American-made jeans, listens to jazz by Winton Marsalis on his iPhone 7 and is a diehard … Continue reading "How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 23 April 2017 — In the palace of the Captains General in Havana there is a throne awaiting its king. It was prepared when Cuba was still a Spanish colony and a monarch has never sat in its imposing structure. The visit of Spain’s King Felipe VI visit may end such a long wait, … Continue reading "The King, The President and The Dictator" Continue reading