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Political prisoners

The Spirit Of The Executions Still Haunts La Cabaña / Cubanet, Tania
Diaz Castro

Cubanet, Tania Diaz castro, 14 February 2017 — Nelson Rodríguez Leiva,
26, was shot in La Fortaleza de la Cabaña in 1971, along with his
dearest friend, Angelito de Jesús Rabí, 17.

Also in the same place, but a century earlier, the poet Juan Clemente
Zenea was shot.

It did not help Nelson that, in 1960 he had been a teacher in the
Literacy Campaign in the mountains of Oriente, or that in 1964 he
already had an excellent book of stories published by Virgilio Piñera,
in Ediciones R, or that his mother Ada Leiva wrote a letter to Fidel
Castro asking for clemency for her son, or that another book of Nelson's
poems was pending publication.

Just a few days ago El Nuevo Herald in Miami published an extensive
report about the exposition of the writer Juan Abreu, with one hundred
portraits of those executed by the Castro regime, painted by him, and
presented at the headquarters of the European Parliament in Brussels,
Belgium.

Perhaps Nelson's face was there.

Abreu received the respect and admiration of former political prisoners
such as Pedro Corso, director of the Cuban Institute of Historical
Memory Against Totalitarianism, and the poet Angel Cuadra, who said that
Abreu's Exposition "… is like making history talk through the faces, to
rescue them and give them new life." He would have also received the
support of the writer Reinaldo Arenas, a dear friend, who lamentably
died in New York and who always remembered his friend Nelson.

It's about, said Abreu, "… not conventional portraits, but an approach
to the faces, so often blurred, conserved in old photos."

Abreu's project is a history of the Cuban regime, today in the hands of
Raul Castro, who wants to erase, above all, those days when this place
was used for executions after summary trials, to make examples or simply
for revenge or fear of a fierce opposition that arose among all the
political opponents condemned to death. Bringing it to the European
Parliament must be considered a victory.

The number of five thousand individuals shot dead hangs like a Sword of
Damocles over Cuba. The spirit of all these who faced the firing squad
hangs over La Cabana Fortress, no matter how many parties are held
there, no matter who much fun and excitement and hullabaloo there is, no
matter how many books are sold at the book fair that the executioner
government hold every year, for a people who are so busy just trying to
survive that they don't have time to read.

In this fortress, with a history as dark as the dictatorship itself, the
Book Fair is celebrated, strategic project of Fidel Castro to clean the
blood off their graves, cells, bars and walls, as if history could be
made to disappear.

The two young writers, Nelson and Angelito, were tied up there, their
eyes closed, so as not to see the rifles of the night, close together,
as they asked to die.

Not long ago, someone who knew them, told me that Nelson was very
romantic, that he wept with the melodies of The Beatles, and even
resembled a bit James Dean, the American actor of the fifties and that
Angelito, converted Into his noble page, had the face of a child.

Through the sad streets of La Cabaña Fortress, where Nelson and his
friend walked towards death, today walk the "grateful" who ignore this
story. They are looking for a book to read. Not precisely Nelson's book
of stories, The Gift, or those pages smeared with tears that someone
picked up from an empty dungeon.

Source: The Spirit Of The Executions Still Haunts La Cabaña / Cubanet,
Tania Diaz Castro – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-spirit-of-the-executions-still-haunts-la-cabana-cubanet-tania-diaz-castro/ Continue reading
The Spirit Of The Executions Still Haunts La Cabaña / Cubanet, Tania
Diaz Castro

Cubanet, Tania Diaz castro, 14 February 2017 — Nelson Rodríguez Leiva,
26, was shot in La Fortaleza de la Cabaña in 1971, along with his
dearest friend, Angelito de Jesús Rabí, 17.

Also in the same place, but a century earlier, the poet Juan Clemente
Zenea was shot.

It did not help Nelson that, in 1960 he had been a teacher in the
Literacy Campaign in the mountains of Oriente, or that in 1964 he
already had an excellent book of stories published by Virgilio Piñera,
in Ediciones R, or that his mother Ada Leiva wrote a letter to Fidel
Castro asking for clemency for her son, or that another book of Nelson's
poems was pending publication.

Just a few days ago El Nuevo Herald in Miami published an extensive
report about the exposition of the writer Juan Abreu, with one hundred
portraits of those executed by the Castro regime, painted by him, and
presented at the headquarters of the European Parliament in Brussels,
Belgium.

Perhaps Nelson's face was there.

Abreu received the respect and admiration of former political prisoners
such as Pedro Corso, director of the Cuban Institute of Historical
Memory Against Totalitarianism, and the poet Angel Cuadra, who said that
Abreu's Exposition "… is like making history talk through the faces, to
rescue them and give them new life." He would have also received the
support of the writer Reinaldo Arenas, a dear friend, who lamentably
died in New York and who always remembered his friend Nelson.

It's about, said Abreu, "… not conventional portraits, but an approach
to the faces, so often blurred, conserved in old photos."

Abreu's project is a history of the Cuban regime, today in the hands of
Raul Castro, who wants to erase, above all, those days when this place
was used for executions after summary trials, to make examples or simply
for revenge or fear of a fierce opposition that arose among all the
political opponents condemned to death. Bringing it to the European
Parliament must be considered a victory.

The number of five thousand individuals shot dead hangs like a Sword of
Damocles over Cuba. The spirit of all these who faced the firing squad
hangs over La Cabana Fortress, no matter how many parties are held
there, no matter who much fun and excitement and hullabaloo there is, no
matter how many books are sold at the book fair that the executioner
government hold every year, for a people who are so busy just trying to
survive that they don't have time to read.

In this fortress, with a history as dark as the dictatorship itself, the
Book Fair is celebrated, strategic project of Fidel Castro to clean the
blood off their graves, cells, bars and walls, as if history could be
made to disappear.

The two young writers, Nelson and Angelito, were tied up there, their
eyes closed, so as not to see the rifles of the night, close together,
as they asked to die.

Not long ago, someone who knew them, told me that Nelson was very
romantic, that he wept with the melodies of The Beatles, and even
resembled a bit James Dean, the American actor of the fifties and that
Angelito, converted Into his noble page, had the face of a child.

Through the sad streets of La Cabaña Fortress, where Nelson and his
friend walked towards death, today walk the "grateful" who ignore this
story. They are looking for a book to read. Not precisely Nelson's book
of stories, The Gift, or those pages smeared with tears that someone
picked up from an empty dungeon.

Source: The Spirit Of The Executions Still Haunts La Cabaña / Cubanet,
Tania Diaz Castro – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-spirit-of-the-executions-still-haunts-la-cabana-cubanet-tania-diaz-castro/ Continue reading
Cubanet, Tania Diaz castro, 14 February 2017 — Nelson Rodríguez Leiva, 26, was shot in La Fortaleza de la Cabaña in 1971, along with his dearest friend, Angelito de Jesús Rabí, 17. Also in the same place, but a century earlier, the poet Juan Clemente Zenea was shot. It did not help Nelson that, in … Continue reading "The Spirit Of The Executions Still Haunts La Cabaña / Cubanet, Tania Diaz Castro" Continue reading
14ymedio, Miami, 16 February 2017 — US President Donald Trump referred to the Cuban-American community during a press conference on Thursday, stating “Cuba was very good to me” and said that he was referring to the role in the US elections of the “Cuban-American people.” Trump won the Florida vote in last November’s election and … Continue reading "Donald Trump: “Cuba Was Very Good To Me” / 14ymedio" Continue reading
The video of Maldenado’s remarks is here. His prepared remarks begin at 01:18:00, and can be read here in English. He then answers questions at 2:18:31. 14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 16 February 2017 — Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, a well-known Cuban graffiti artist and human rights activist, appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, … Continue reading "‘El Sexto’ Appears Before US Senate to Speak of Human Rights / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
More Than 50% Of Cuba's Political Prisoners Belong To UNPACU, According
To Human Rights Group / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 6 February 2017 – A report released this Monday by the
National Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation
(CCDHRN) counts 478 arbitrary arrests against dissidents throughout the
island during the month of January. The text states that during the past
month, there were 20 arrests more than in December 2016.

The independent body documents "12 cases of physical aggression and 11
cases of harassment" of opponents, a situation that is part of the
"policy of intimidating repression" that "has prevailed in Cuba for
nearly six decades."

The CCDHRN affirms that the Ladies in White movement continues to be a
priority target of political repression, although the Patriotic Union of
Cuba (UNPACU) also is a particular target of "the arbitrary arrests and
destructive raids against its members."

UNPACU, an opposition organization with a strong presence in the east of
the country, has been the victim of "plundering of their means of work
(laptops , cameras, mobile phones, etc.)." These police acts have been
carried out "with a great deal of political hatred," the Commission
points out.

The report conveys the concern of the CCDHRN on "the situation in prison
of Dr. Eduardo Cardet, general coordinator of the Christian Liberation
Movement, who has just been adopted as a prisoner of conscience by
Amnesty International."

For ordinary prisoners, "material conditions and abuse continue to
worsen" in the nearly two hundred prisons and prison camps on the island

The concern extends to the "arbitrary detention for several days, of
Karina Galvez," a member of the editorial board of the
magazine Coexistence, accused of the crime of tax evasion and now
awaiting trial. The economist was released on bail on January 17 after
six days of detention.

The Commission states that "the number of politically motivated
prisoners in Cuba is still over 100, of which 55 are active members of
the Patriotic Union of Cuba." For ordinary prisoners, "material
conditions and abuse continue to worsen" in the nearly two hundred
prisons and prison camps on the island.

The text states that the Government "continues to use prisoners as
semi-skilled labor in various jobs for commercial purposes," including
"the production of charcoal for export, mainly to Europe and the United
States of America," referring to the recent shipment of charcoal made
from the invasive marabou week to the United States.

Last year the CCDHRN documented a total of 9,940 arbitrary arrests, a
figure that "places the Government of Cuba in the first place in all
of Latin America" with regards to arrests of this type, according to a
report by the independent organization.

Source: More Than 50% Of Cuba's Political Prisoners Belong To UNPACU,
According To Human Rights Group / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/more-than-50-of-cubas-political-prisoners-belong-to-unpacu-according-to-human-rights-group-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 6 February 2017 – A report released this Monday by the National Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) counts 478 arbitrary arrests against dissidents throughout the island during the month of January. The text states that during the past month, there were 20 arrests more than in December 2016. The independent body … Continue reading "More Than 50% Of Cuba’s Political Prisoners Belong To UNPACU, According To Human Rights Group / 14ymedio" Continue reading
"I come from the street, but I did not want to stay there," says 'El
Sexto' / 14ymedio, Mario Penton


Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto) after his release from prison. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 3 February 2017 — The uniform haircut
imposed upon entering the Combinado del Este prison contrasts with the
stains of fresh paint on the shoes of the super tall man, who stands
nearly 6'5″. Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as 'El Sexto' (The Sixth),
a graffiti artist and human rights activist in Cuba, embodies the
antithesis of the New Man forged by the Revolution.

After being imprisoned for 55 days for painting graffiti on a wall of
the Habana Libre hotel, Maldonado was released on 21 January. He is
currently visiting Miami to promote his art and to thank the Cuban
community there for their support.

His life has not been easy. He was born in 1983 and grew up in the years
of the Special Period when the Soviet subsidies ended and the island was
plunged into misery. Originally from Camaguey, he had to share a roof in
Havana with another family and take on the weight of a home without a
father.

His art is street art. He never went to an academy. As a child he tried
but was rejected for being "very small"

"In those years I was selling milk caramels in the neighborhood to help
my mother get by," he recalls.

"Sometimes we did not even have fifty cents to buy milk. The rebellion
against poverty and oppression began at that time."

His art is street art. He never went to an academy. As a child he tried
but was rejected for being "very small." Leonel, a teacher in the House
of Culture in his neighborhood, took him under his wing and showed him
the first strokes.

"From there I wanted to get out what I had inside, but I did not know
how," he says.

The first time that Maldonado went to prison was due to a robbery at a
warehouse on a Cuban Army tank base. At that time he was serving his
compulsory military service. He was sentenced to six years in
prison. The prison experience changed him "forever."

"Prison is a place where you find many types of people, with different
cultures and points of view. Learning to live among them, to live
together, is one of the great lessons that experience left me with," he
says.

His artistic name, El Sexto (The Sixth) occurred to him in the midst of
the Cuban government's campaign to bring back "The Cuban Five" – spies
imprisoned in the U.S.

In prison he also learned that respect is not gained through violence
but "with principles and with acting in the right way of."

Maldonado does not hide that he had a troubled past.

"I have been involved in many things in my life that have made me what I
am. I do not come from a monastery. I come from the street but that is
not where I wanted to stay," he answers when asked about the campaign
against him pushed by bloggers working for the Cuban government who
accuse him of being addicted to drugs.

"People change, they have the right to do it. I do not like even the
smell of drinking," adds the artist.

His artistic name, El Sexto (the Sixth), came in the midst of the
campaign by the Cuban government to bring back the five Wasp Network
spies imprisoned in the United States, who were known in Cuba as "The
Five Heroes."

He called himself "The Sixth Hero," who represented the voice of the
Cuban people, "the hostage" of the dictatorship, according to Maldonado.

Maldonado has been arrested three times for political reasons

"They (the Government) put them on television, like they are part of
your family. I want people to know the message of freedom and to open
their eyes. So I understood I had to come to them with a message that
was sarcastic and that everyone could understand," he says.

"You cross out my things, I cross out yours," he wrote, about the stupid
black spots that officialdom uses to try to hide graffit in the capital.
In addition, he distributed leaflets with subservise phrases and invited
the whole world to be free and happy.

"I am doing my work: being free. I would like others to see that it is
possible to be free and to break with the government," he says when
asked about his role in Cuban culture.

Maldonado has been arrested three times for political reasons. In 2014
he attempted to stage a street performance titled Animal Farm. He
proposed to release two pigs in Havana's Central Park. On the backs of
piglets, which were painted green, the names of the Cuban rulers were
also painted: Fidel on one piglet and Raúl on the other.

The idea was that whoever captured the piglets could keep them as a
prize. It was easy to imagine what the winners would do with them. The
daring act, which never came to fruition, cost him ten months'
imprisonment in the Valle Grande prison.

El Sexto has been imprisoned for joining the Ladies in White in their
Sunday protest marches to demand the release of political prisoners

The conditions in the Cuban prisons, the dirt, the bad food and the
degrading treatment to the inmates were documented by him in a diary. In
addition, the artist was able to take photographs that he clandestinely
sneaked out of Valle Grande to support his complaints.

Art and his activism go hand in hand. Sometimes both activities are
scandalous.

"There are people who accuse me of calling the flag a 'rag' or reproach
me for a work of art made with the bust of José Martí. For me what is
truly sacred is human life, above any other symbol created by society. I
believe in life and in respect for it," says Maldonado.

El Sexto has been imprisoned for joining the Ladies in White in their
Sunday protest marches to demand the release of political prisoners, and
has been part of the 'We All March' campaign.

Laura Pollán, the deceased leader of the Ladies in White and Oswaldo
Payá, the deceased leader of the Christian Liberation Movement,
are tattooed on his skin, along with a petition for the release of
Leopoldo López, a Venezuelan politician currently a political prisoner
in that country.

In 2015, Danilo Maldonado received the Vaclav Havel Prize, for "creative
dissent, the display of courage and creativity to challenge injustice
and live in truth"

"I am worried about the situation of political prisoners in Cuba,
Eduardo Cardet and many others," he says. He is also trying to sensitize
the international community to the drama of thousands of Cubans who were
stranded in Latin America following Barack Obama's repeal of the wet
foot/dry foot policy, shortly before he left office.

"These are our brothers, we should unite to help them. As long as we
Cubans do not join together, we will not change the situation of our
country," he laments.

In 2015, Danilo Maldonado received the Vaclav Havel Prize, awarded to
people "who participate in creative dissent, display courage and
creativity to challenge injustice and live in truth."

Currently, El Sexto is preparing an art exhibition in the United
States. He also plans to travel to Geneva to talk about human rights in
Cuba and plans to attend the Oslo Freedom Forum.

_______________________________

This article is part of an agreement between 14ymedio and the Nuevo Herald.

Source: "I come from the street, but I did not want to stay there," says
'El Sexto' / 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/i-come-from-the-street-but-i-did-not-want-to-stay-there-says-el-sexto-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 3 February 2017 — The uniform haircut imposed upon entering the Combinado del Este prison contrasts with the stains of fresh paint on the shoes of the super tall man, who stands nearly 6’5″. Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), a graffiti artist and human rights activist in Cuba, embodies … Continue reading "“I come from the street, but I did not want to stay there,” says ‘El Sexto’ / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
The Struggle for Freedom Continues in Cuba
by MARIO T. DE LA PENA February 5, 2017 4:00 AM

Fidel Castro is dead, but Castroism still needs to be defeated

Fidel Castro died on November 25, but Castroism — the one-party,
neo-Stalinist system that has tyrannized Cuba for more than half a
century — still needs to be defeated.

Fidel's brother, Raúl, "president" of the island nation for most of the
last decade, has shown no signs of ending the political oppression and
human-rights violations that define the regime. To be sure, Raúl has
made a few minor reforms out of necessity, to open up the economy. But
those changes have not been accompanied by political reforms.

The Obama administration restored diplomatic relations with the Cuban
government and made it easier for Americans to travel and do business
there. On January 12 of this year, the administration announced that it
was ending the longstanding "wet foot, dry foot" policy that grants
permanent-resident status to any Cuban who makes it to the U.S. shore.
And back in October, the Obama administration announced the
implementation of Presidential Policy Directive 43, which directs the
Department of Defense to expand its relationship with Havana.

Other changes include permitting Americans to bring back as much Cuban
rum and cigars as they like from Cuba. "Already we are seeing what the
United States and Cuba can accomplish when we put aside the past and
work to build a brighter future," U.S. National Security Adviser Susan
Rice said at the time. "You can now celebrate with Cuban rum and Cuban
cigars!"

But Cubans aren't celebrating. Under Castroism, Cuba's main
accomplishments have been the highest per-capita rates of suicide,
abortion, and refugees in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba has the oldest
population in Latin America. Cuba ages and withers away, strangled by
Castro's tyranny.

The problem with Obama's overtures is that they have not been
reciprocated by the Cuban regime. There is still no respect for human
rights or political freedom. As Amnesty International put it recently:

Despite increasingly open diplomatic relations, severe restrictions on
freedoms of expression, association and movement continued. Thousands of
cases of harassment of government critics and arbitrary arrests and
detentions were reported.

But the situation is not hopeless. Cubans of different generations and
backgrounds are committed like never before to working for a free Cuba.

There are many things Cubans, Cuban Americans, and other people of
goodwill can do. They can support the resistance by encouraging those
who are involved in direct civic action on the island. For instance, the
Ladies in White, a group of wives, mothers, and sisters of jailed
dissidents, continue to suffer beatings, harassment, and jailing at the
hands of the government for their silent, non-violent marches. Such
protests are an indispensable means through which Cubans' rights will be
regained.

What must happen for Cuba to be free? The regime must give general
amnesty for all political prisoners. That means full rights to free
expression, access to information, assembly, association, peaceful
protest, profession, and worship.

Other essential rights include the right to collective bargaining, the
rule of law, checks and balances, and the balance of power, including an
independent judiciary.

A free Cuba will be realized only when multi-party elections are held
and the right to vote and the privacy of the ballot are respected. For
that to happen, a constitutional process must take place that includes a
constitutional convention and a referendum on a new constitution.

Many Cuban Americans hope that President Trump will be a stronger
advocate for human rights than Barack Obama was. During the campaign,
Trump promised to "stand with the Cuban people in their fight against
Communist oppression" and criticized the "concessions" that Barack Obama
made to the Castros. He promised to secure a "better deal" between the
two countries than the one Obama negotiated.

Trump should make it clear that he will sever diplomatic relations with
the Cuban government unless it makes progress to end political
repression, opens its markets, protects freedom of religion, and
releases all political prisoners.

The public may believe that, now that Fidel and Obama are gone, Cuba is
well on its way to being free. But Castroism didn't die with Fidel. The
repression and violence against the Cuban people continues. Economic
changes alone will not bring about democracy. They are important, but
only respect for human rights and political liberty will truly make Cuba
free.

— Mario T. de la Peña is an advocate for a free and democratic Cuba who
has lived in the United States since 1962.

Source: Cuba Post-Castro: Repression Continues | National Review -
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/444622/cuba-post-castro-repression-continues Continue reading
… ' POLICY FOR CUBAN REFUGEES Every day the Cubans gather there, just … ; (people traffickers) along the way. CUBAN-AMERICANS BOTH CELEBRATE, DEPLORE END OF … Lester Diaz, who lived in Havana. "It's unfair … deportation, Sara Ramos said "Cuba supposedly has no political prisoners … Continue reading
Jose Marti's Birthday Is Marked By House Arrests / 14ymedio

14ymedio, 28 January 2017 – On the 164th anniversary of the birth of
José Martí, the day was marked by house arrests of several activists and
the arrest of the regime opponent Manuel Cuesta Morúa. The most intense
operation has been against those involved in a global action to demand
the release of political prisoners and demand access to the internet.

The initiative is promoted with the slogan "Occupy Your WiFi Point,"
urging Cubans to use the wireless internet connection areas as spaces to
claim greater freedoms. One of the main promoters of the campaign,
scientist Oscar Casanella, was warned by the police early in the day
that they would not let him leave his house.

Opposition leader Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a member of the Democratic Action
Roundtable (MUAD), was arrested on Saturday afternoon outside the home
of an activist from the organization at Neptuno and San Francisco, in
Central Havana, as reported to this newspaper by Ileana Hernandez
program director Lens Cubano .

Hernandez said that the arrest occurred around 4:30 in the afternoon
when Cuesta Morúa interceded for her before two men in civilian clothes
who were preventing her from accessing the house of dissident Aída
Valdés Santana, a member of MUAD.

"They threw him on the ground and called a police patrol to take him
away," Hernandez says.

"It was not political at all what was going to happen here, we were just
going to eat," says the activist.

A witness later spotted Cuesta Morúa when he was transferred to the
police car on San Lázaro Avenue. This newspaper called the official
telephone number where Cubans can inquire about people arrested, but was
told that Cuesta Morua is not registered.

The leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement, Eliécer Ávila,
denounced that fact that as of Saturday morning three members of State
Security had warned him that they would not allow him to leave his
house. "They have been been in the hallway to the outside to prevent us
from going to the street," the activist said.

"They told me that although they had no confirmation that there was
going to be a public event, they were here for safety," Ávila
explains. Officers told him that this January 28 was "a very important
day for the Revolution" and they would not allow "provocations."

A similar situation was experienced by Luis Alberto Mariño, known as
Tito, a member of the initiative Cuba Decides and one of the most
visible faces of the call for civic action this January 28.

"Yesterday an officer came to warn me that I could not go out, and he is
now out there and says if I go out he will arrest me," he told 14ymedio.

Activist Lia Villares also reported that "two state security agents on a
motorcycle" visited her to threaten her and they remained "on guard" to
prevent her from leaving her home in Vedado.

From Matanzas the ex-prisioner of the Black Spring, Iván Hernández
Carrillo, reported the arrest of regime opponents Sayli Navarro, Félix
Navarro and Francisco Rangel, who also participated in the campaign.

In Palmarito del Cauto the coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba
(Unpacu), Jorge Cervantes García, was arrested according to a report in
the Twitter account of the dissident Carlos Amel Oliva.

Last year, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation (CCDHRN) documented a total of 9,940 arbitrary arrests
throughout the country. A figure that "puts the Government of Cuba in
first place in all of Latin America," said the report of the independent
organization.

Source: Jose Marti's Birthday Is Marked By House Arrests / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/jose-martis-birthday-is-marked-by-house-arrests-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, 28 January 2017 – On the 164th anniversary of the birth of José Martí, the day was marked by house arrests of several activists and the arrest of the regime opponent Manuel Cuesta Morúa. The most intense operation has been against those involved in a global action to demand the release of political prisoners and … Continue reading "Jose Marti’s Birthday Is Marked By House Arrests / 14ymedio" Continue reading
21 km for Cuban Political Prisoners / Luis Felipe Rojas

Luis Felipe Rojas, 21 January 2017 — This 29th of January I will be
running the Miami Half Marathon. It will be 21 kilometers of puffing and
panting while I think about the people who are in jail in Cuba because
of their opinions.

My legs and ankles will get unscrewed, my liver will tell me to stop
throughout the entire 13.1 miles of the run, which I will try to
survive. I come from an island where you are not allowed to criticise
whichever dictator happens to be there. Isn't 58 years a dreadfully long
time to dictate peoples' lives?

I am going to run for those who held up an anti-government
sign, those who uttered a slogan which clashed with the chorus of sheep
who say yes and think no. Also, for those who once took arms against the
oldest dictatorship in the west: the two Castro brothers.

I have spent exactly a year puffing away along the road for more than
two hours, in the stifling humidity of the Miami swamps, and the sun
which doesn't understand which season is which. Weights, treadmills,
long runs, speed runs, and running barefoot. I want to run through the
21 kilometers of this beautiful city and the endless alleys where you
can breathe the humidity of the Cuban jails.

I want to get to the 8 mile point, which will totally wear me out, like
somebody who gets put in the Guantánamo Penal Institution, "Combinado",
as it is known, the dismal jail in Boniato, Santiago de Cuba, or the
monstrous model prison at Km 8 in Camagüey.

I can do more, I know, but it's a gesture which will do for now. I only
want to invite you to watch the 15th Miami Marathon and Half Marathon. I
will run slowly, to savour and suffer every mile, every pace within the
pack of runners. This Sunday, more than a hundred Cuban political
prisoners will hear the shout Count! and some will be beaten.

The country that is Cuba which will be subdued by each kick, each
beating. A lock will be fastened. Someone will run along the road in
Miami to open it.

Translated by GH

Source: 21 km for Cuban Political Prisoners / Luis Felipe Rojas –
Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/21-km-for-cuban-political-prisoners-luis-felipe-rojas/ Continue reading
Luis Felipe Rojas, 21 January 2017 — This 29th of January I will be running the Miami Half Marathon. It will be 21 kilometers of puffing and panting while I think about the people who are in jail in Cuba because of their opinions. My legs and ankles will get unscrewed, my liver will tell me to … Continue reading "21 km for Cuban Political Prisoners / Luis Felipe Rojas" Continue reading
PolitiFact: Were there five times the number of political arrests in
Cuba in 2015 as there were in 2010?

PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter rates a claim about political arrests in
Cuba, and whether or not there have been five times as many in 2015 as
there were in 2010.
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 24, 2017, 10:57 AM EST

POLITIFACT RULING

Were there five times as many political arrests in Cuba in 2015 than
there were in 2010?
The recent death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro has raised questions
about the future direction of the country, and whether or not the seeds
of democracy will be planted by the influx of American visitors and
American dollars.

In the view of Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R), it's a "not-so-fast"
situation, because, as Cruz puts it, Cuba is still a dangerous country,
especially when it comes to people who publicly don't agree with the
government. Cruz made this statement about political prisoners in Cuba:

"In 2015, roughly 10,000 political arrests occurred in Cuba. That is
five times as many as occurred in 2010, when there were only about 2,000."

Our partners at PolitiFact Florida took a look at this claim to see if
it was accurate. PolitiFact reporter Allison Graves says that Cruz's
claim rates MOSTLY TRUE on the Truth-O-Meter. Graves says that Cruz,
for the most part, gets the numbers and the gist of the claim correct.

"Sen. Cruz's numbers are mainly accurate, but he would have been more
accurate to cite numbers from 2016, which show more than 10,000
arrests," said Graves. "The data comes from the Cuban Commission for
Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which is a widely respected
organization based in Havana."

Despite being widely respected, Graves says that there are some caveats
with the data. "One of the issues we had with the data is defining the
length of time the government detains you to type you as a political
prisoner," said Graves. "Cuba has a sort of revolving door system, where
they can hold people for months, days, or even hours, and they could
still be considered political prisoners. It raises the question as to
how many of the arrests led to significant time being held as a
political prisoner."

Graves notes, though, that in the broader scheme of things, political
arrests have risen since 2010, and it's not a stretch to make that
claim. PolitiFact rates Cruz's claim MOSTLY TRUE on the Truth-O-Meter.

Source: PolitiFact: Cuban political arrests on the rise? -
http://www.mynews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2017/1/23/politifact_cuba_pris.html Continue reading
An end to wet foot, dry foot
The outgoing American president makes it harder for Donald Trump to undo
the rapprochement with Cuba
Jan 21st 2017 | HAVANA AND MEXICO CITY

Floating to Florida is now futile
AMONG a group of young men gathered in a tin-roofed telephone-repair
shop in Havana, the topic of conversation is how to leave Cuba. The
easiest way, they now reckon, is to marry a European. That is because on
January 12th, in one of his final acts as president, Barack Obama ended
the 22-year-old "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which allowed Cubans who
land on American soil to stay in the country; those caught at sea were
sent home. That shuts off the main escape route for Cubans in search of
a better life.

Mr Obama's decision looks like an attempt to protect one of his few
foreign-policy successes: his agreement with Cuba's president, Raúl
Castro, in December 2014 to restore diplomatic relations and loosen an
economic embargo imposed on the island by the United States in 1960.
Donald Trump, who will become the American president on January 20th,
has said contradictory things about the rapprochement with Cuba, but his
more recent comments have been negative. Some members of his transition
team are fierce opponents of the normalisation policy.

Mr Trump's administration may thus try to undo the rapprochement with
Cuba, which includes freer travel and better telecoms links with the
island. The wet foot, dry foot decision makes that harder. Mr Trump does
not like immigration; he will find it awkward to reverse a decision that
makes it more difficult. It will also be tricky to justify reopening
automatic asylum for Cubans but not for citizens of countries that are
even more repressive.

Fearing that the United States would shut its Cubans-only entrance, many
Cubans rushed to its borders. In fiscal year 2016, which ended in
September, 56,000 arrived, more than double the number of two years
before. Many paid thousands of dollars for tickets and in bribes and
fees to people-smugglers to reach the United States' southern border.
One popular route started with a flight to Ecuador, followed by a
perilous land journey through Central America. Some Cubans still venture
into leaky boats to cross the Florida Strait.

Mr Obama's abrupt decision to end the wet foot, dry foot policy leaves
some—no one is sure how many—stranded en route to the United States.
More than 500 are in southern Mexico, waiting for documentation from the
Mexican government that would allow them to journey to the American
border. They will now be treated just like others clamouring for
admission, though the United States says it will try to give them
humanitarian assistance.

Nearly half a million people were caught trying to enter the United
States illegally in fiscal 2015 (down from 1.8m in 2000). They face
detention until they are sent back. About a third were from Central
America's "northern triangle", where governments are less repressive
than in Cuba but violence is far worse. Cubans who face political
persecution will still have a right to asylum. Others can apply for the
20,000 migrant visas available to the country's citizens each year.

American conservatives have slammed Mr Obama's wet foot, dry foot
reversal, and his simultaneous decision to stop giving Cuban doctors who
defect from a third country fast-track entry to the United States, as
his final betrayal of the Cuban people. The regime has become more
repressive since he unfroze relations, they maintain. Arrests of
dissidents, for example, have increased.

Defenders of Mr Obama's thaw point out that the government now uses
short-term detention rather than long jail sentences to discourage its
opponents. The number of political prisoners has fallen sharply.
Although Mr Trump has complained that the United States gets "nothing"
from its new relationship with Cuba, it has led to co-operation in such
areas as drug-trafficking and cyber-crime.

In Havana, the reaction to Mr Obama's gambit is mixed. Cuba's
government, which saw the wet foot, dry foot policy as an insult and a
cause of a damaging brain drain, is pleased. Some ordinary folk think
the change is justified. Wet foot, dry foot was just "another way to
implement the blockade", said a well-dressed woman who would not give
her name. Barbara Izquierdo, a housewife whose brother went to the
United States 15 years ago, admits that most Cubans leave for financial
reasons, not political ones.

But many Cubans, living on monthly incomes of $50-200, are crestfallen.
"We don't live, we survive," says a young man who works in property. He
had hoped to leave and then to return to "build something for myself".
He must now wait for the government to allow greater economic and
political freedom. The death last November of Fidel Castro, the leader
of the Cuban revolution, and Raúl Castro's plan to step down as
president next year, may help bring change. Ambitious Cubans, denied the
prospect of escaping to the United States, may now push harder for that.

Source: An end to wet foot, dry foot | The Economist -
http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21714600-outgoing-american-president-makes-it-harder-donald-trump-undo-rapprochement?fsrc=rss%7Came Continue reading
Artist jailed in Cuba since November for anti-Fidel Castro graffiti may
be released Jan. 28
By Elizabeth Llorente Published January 18, 2017 FoxNews.com

A prominent graffiti artist in Cuba who was jailed the day after Fidel
Castro died for actions that appeared to celebrate the late Cuban
leader's passing, reportedly will be released on Jan. 28, his girlfriend
told FoxNews.com

Danilo Maldonado, known as "El Sexto," has been transported to various
jails since his arrest on Nov. 26. The 33-year-old dissident has not
been charged with any crimes, those close to him say. He is being held
in a maximum-security jail on the outskirts of Havana, according to
Amnesty International, which has been monitoring Maldonado's
imprisonment and on Tuesday demanded his release.

His girlfriend, Alexandra Martinez, who lives in Miami, said she is
hopeful but leery about news that Maldonado will be released. Martinez
said Maldonado told her in a telephone call on Tuesday night that Cuban
authorities told him they were freeing him on Jan. 28.

"We don't know if this is just more psychological torture," she said.
"Last week, he called me screaming that they told him they were going to
execute him. So it was shocking to hear yesterday that they are
releasing him."

Cuban authorities have accused Maldonado of damaging state property,
though no formal charges have been pressed, according to those close to
him as well as Cuban exile groups and international human rights
organizations that have been tracking his situation.

Cuba-based news media reported that Maldonado had created graffiti on a
wall in Havana that read: "He's gone," which was seen as a disrespectful
act by Cuban authorities.

"He is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and
unconditionally," said Amnesty International in its Tuesday statement.

Amnesty International noted that it has been denied access to Cuban
jails since 1988. It describes the jail that is housing Maldonado as a
place "where convicted murderers and political prisoners being punished
for their political views are traditionally held."

Meanwhile, Martinez said she is looking toward Jan. 28.

"I fully expect and demand that they follow through" with the promise of
release, she said.

Source: Artist jailed in Cuba since November for anti-Fidel Castro
graffiti may be released Jan. 28 | Fox News -
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/01/18/artist-jailed-in-cuba-since-november-for-anti-fidel-castro-graffiti-may-be-released-jan-28.html Continue reading
Belkis Cantillo Launches A New Fight From Santiago De Cuba / 14ymedio,
Luz Escobar

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 17 January 2017 — Talking with Belkis
Cantillo these days can be an impossible mission. With her home
raided on several occasions, a daughter about to give her her first
granddaughter and the foundation of the new Dignity Movement, the life
of this woman is a whirlwind. A resident of Palmarito del Cauto,
Santiago de Cuba, the activist is looking forward to better days for
Cuba, but she is not ready to fold her arms to wait for them.

With her voice breaking up, Cantillo speaks through the telephone line
about her projects and the new organization she has created to support
the prisoners who populate the prisons of the Island. She clarifies, to
anyone who asks about the origins of the new group, that many of the
women who comprise it were part of the Ladies in White. "We were also
the group Citizens for Democracy (CXD) and most of us have a great deal
of knowledge about this struggle."

For Cantillo, life is a perennial battle. Last Friday at dawn she
crossed the mountain to avoid the police siege and shorten the distance
that separates her house from the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Charity
of Cobre, patroness of Cuba, whom Cubans affectionately call
Cachita. Although she considers herself a devotee of Cachita, this time
it was not only her faith that moved her. Some 16 women gathered there
to announce the birth of the Dignity Movement.

"The repression was so great that only some of us made it here," she
tells 14ymedio. The fright from what she experienced has not yet passed,
but Cantillo is a "battle-hardened" woman. Under her leadership are now
grouped around 60 companions of the struggle, three-quarters with a
history of activism and experience in opposition from eastern Cuba, the
area of ​​the country most tightly controlled by State Security.

"We entered, 14 of us, and later, at ten at night, two more," Cantillo
explains. The surveillance agents also arrived and they threatened them,
telling them to withdraw without waiting for Sunday Mass. The women
insisted in remaining in a nearby shelter, managed by the church, but in
the end they had to return to their homes.

"They didn't let us eat, nor even drink water. They'd never seen
anything like that there, they even called the police to get us out,"
she remembered. But the people who were pressuring them didn't know they
had given birth to a new group.

The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, has words of
encouragement for the movement that has just been born. "I see as good
every person who fights against the regime," she emphasizes. "Any
movement that is willing to fight the regime, for me, is valid and
effective in this fight," she says. However, she disagrees with what
happened on Saturday: "We have to respect the churches, that's their
discipline."

Cantillo is now focused on the future. Her effort and that of the rest
of her colleagues is focused on the common prisoners, a sector that few
speak about and whom many avoid representing. "We chose these prisoners
to help them and their families with the social and legal attention they
need and do not have," the woman said. At the center of her critique is
the crime of "pre-criminal dangerousness" – a "crime" for which it is
possible to imprison a citizen on the mere suspicion that they may
commit a crime in the future.

In the middle of last year, the United Nations Development Program
estimated that Cuba had 510 people in prison for every 100,000
inhabitants, a figure that places it at the head of the region. In 1959
the island had 14 prisons, the figure now exceeds 200, according to
estimates by Elizardo Sánchez, president of the Cuban Commission on
Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN).

For its part, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has
denounced that, after El Salvador, Cuba is the country in Central
America and the Caribbean with the highest rate of overcrowding in
prisons. Between common and political prisoners, the prisons are
estimated to house more than 80,000 Cubans, 80% of them black or mixed-race.

The activists are seeking to extend their actions to all provinces but,
for the moment, feel comforted to have been able to get this far. "We
have succeeded, now we will continue," says Cantillo, with that direct
and brief way of speaking of women accustomed to the rigors of rural life.

"All those who initiated the movement have been threatened by the
political police, house by house," she reports. However, "my family has
always been very supportive of me and has had to be strong not to become
divided."

The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), her husband, knows
Cantillo's determination well. José Daniel Ferrer looks positively on
the formation of the new entity of the civil society. "It seems to us
positive that women and men, in this case women, are concerned about the
problems that most affect our nation, our society."

"The only thing we had not recommended was to change the name, they
already existed as Citizens for Democracy and had been known for two
years," he reflects.

Cantillo also leaves a space for premonition when she says in a firm
tone of voice: "Soon my first granddaughter will come into the world and
she will be very strong because she has experienced the repression since
she was in the womb of her mother."

Source: Belkis Cantillo Launches A New Fight From Santiago De Cuba /
14ymedio, Luz Escobar – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/belkis-cantillo-launches-a-new-fight-from-santiago-de-cuba-14ymedio-luz-escobar/ Continue reading
Cuba 2016: The Visit of Barack Obama and Death of Fidel Castro / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 2 January 2017 — A spring rainstorm with light gusts of
wind fell over metropolitan Havana on Sunday, March 20th, when at 4:30
PM Air Force One landed at the first terminal of the José Martí
International Airport carrying President Barack Obama to one of the
final redoubts of communism in the world.

While a Secret Service agent opened Obama's umbrella at the foot of the
airplane stairs as he greeted Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez,
two hours earlier in Miramar, west of Havana, State security agents had
fiercely repressed a group of forty women and two dozen men who were
demanding democracy and freedom for political prisoners.

The dissident movement Ladies in White was instrumental in the
olive-green autocracy's calculated political reforms before the
international gallery.

Raúl Castro, hand-picked for the presidency in the summer of 2006 by his
brother Fidel, took the brunt of the escalating violence, and in three
way negotiations with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos
and the National Catholic Church in 2010, he freed 75 dissidents and
sent the majority into exile.

Castro II changed the rules of the game. The repressive modus operandi
of the regime began using brief detentions and returned, in a worrisome
way, to beatings, death threats, and verbal attacks on its opposition.

The afternoon that The Beast rolled into Old Havana, where Obama ate
dinner with his family in a private restaurant, the regime sent a
message back to Washington: the reforms — if they can be called reforms
— would be made at the convenience of the Palace of the Revolution, not
the White House.

On December 17, 2014, Raúl Castro and Barack Obama decided to
reestablish diplomatic relations and to turn around the anachronistic
policies of the Cold War.

The strategy of Obama proved indecipherable to the Taliban of Castroism.
He did not threaten to deploy gunboats nor subvert the state of affairs.

In his memorable speech at the Grand Theater of Havana on the 22nd of
March, he simply offered things that the majority of Cubans desire, and
of course did not renounce the doctrines that sustain American
democracy, of supporting private businesses and political rights.

Obama said what he thought looking into the eyes of Raúl Castro,
squatted in an armchair on the second balcony of the theater and
surrounded by the military junta that has administered Cuba for almost
60 years.

The 48 hours of his visit shook Havana. Neither the strong security
measures nor the Communist Party's strategy for minimizing the impact of
Obama's speech prevented the spontaneous reception of the people of
Havana that greeted the president wherever Cadillac One passed.

But official reactions to the visit were not long in coming. Fidel
Castro, retired from power, sick and waiting for death in his
residential complex of Punto Cero, opined that Obama's outstretched hand
was poisoned candy.

The propaganda machinery of the regime began to corrode, and some signs
of economic backlash against intermediaries and private sellers of
agriculture products, which began in early January, were reinforced in
the following months.

Obama's visit entrenched the hard-core of the island's totalitarianism.
The gang closed ranks, they returned to the spent Soviet language, and
began to render to Castro I a cult of personality modeled on a North
Korean manual.

It was assumed that the arrival of the president to Havana would be the
event of 2016 in Cuba, but at 10 PM on the night of November 25th,
according to the government, Fidel Castro died.

His death was no surprise. With 90 years and various ailments, the death
of the ex-guerilla was imminent. For better or for worse, he placed Cuba
on the world political map, confronting it with strategies of subversion
against the United States.

His revolution was more political than economic. He could never erect a
robust economy, and the architecture and textile factories during his
extensive rule, only produced things of shoddy and bad taste. Any
reasonable person should analyze the benefits and prejudices of the
regime of Fidel Castro. Sovereignty powered by cheap nationalism.
Division of families. Polarization of society. Relentless with its
enemies and local opposition.

Agriculture declined, he buried the sugar industry and it is difficult
to find any economic, sports or social sector that has not gone
downhill. There was no political honesty in recognizing his failures. On
the contrary, the regime entrenched itself in what it knows best: odes,
panegyrics and trying to enshrine its absurdities in gothic lettering.

And then, 2016 was the year of Raul Castro's diplomatic apparatus, the
most outstanding in his decade as president of the republic. In the last
five years he has reaped success. The secret negotiations for the
reestablishment of relations between the United States and Cuba. The
intermediation of peace in Colombia, with the Roman Catholic Church and
the Russian Orthodox Church. The cancellation of financial debts and
negotiation of a new deal with the Paris Club. And he even managed to
blow up the Common Position of the European Union. Unobjectionable
triumphs of Castro's advisers in international relations.

But those same advisers misjudged their strategy against the United
States. Like the American media and pollsters, they failed to discern
the Donald Trump phenomenon. They may now regret that they have not made
enough progress during Obama's term.

Trump is unpredictable. He repeals the agreements reached with the
United States saying he will make a better one. But something is clear
to the regime. To negotiate benefits you have to make concessions. No
more gifts.

In 2016 there was much more. Mick Jagger unfolded his unusual physical
energy in a mega-concert, scenes of the movie Fast and Furious were
filmed in Cuba, and almost every day a celebrity landed in Havana.

In May, Chanel offered a haute couture show in the Paseo del Prado in a
country where the majority of inhabitants earn $25 a month and not
everyone can see Chanel models in fashion magazines.

Cruises began arriving from Miami as did regular flights from the United
States. There were more than 1,200 cultural and academic exchanges, and
the visits by weighty figures of both governments have been numerous.

The meetings and negotiations have been constant; as constant as the
repression. According to the National Commission of Human Rights and
Reconciliation, in the month of November there were 359 arbitrary
detentions of dissidents, activists, and independent journalists.

The détente is not about to land on the Cuban table. Markets continue to
be out of stock, two meals a day is still a luxury, and one hour of
surfing the internet is equivalent to the wages of a day and a half of
work by a professional.

The year 2017 will be a key year. Barack Obama, the conciliator, will
not be in the White House, and in Cuba the old leader Fidel Castro will
not be there either.

Source: Cuba 2016: The Visit of Barack Obama and Death of Fidel Castro /
Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-2016-the-visit-of-barack-obama-and-death-of-fidel-castro-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 17 January 2017 — Talking with Belkis Cantillo these days can be an impossible mission. With her home raided on several occasions, a daughter about to give her her first granddaughter and the foundation of the new Dignity Movement, the life of this woman is a whirlwind. A resident of Palmarito del Cauto, Santiago … Continue reading "Belkis Cantillo Launches A New Fight From Santiago De Cuba / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar" Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 2 January 2017 — A spring rainstorm with light gusts of wind fell over metropolitan Havana on Sunday, March 20th, when at 4:30 PM Air Force One landed at the first terminal of the José Martí International Airport carrying President Barack Obama to one of the final redoubts of communism in the world. … Continue reading "Cuba 2016: The Visit of Barack Obama and Death of Fidel Castro / Iván García" Continue reading
Opponents of U.S.-Cuba normalization have taken full advantage of the fact-free character of recent political debate in the United States to spread a variety of myths. Cuba expert William LeoGrande dispels them Continue reading
Fidel Castro: The Tyrant Exits but the Damage Remains / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 29 November 2016 — The dictator Fidel Castro died
last Friday at the age of 90. The extensive news coverage was to be
expected. After all, he was both the object of the most romantic,
idealized love and the most scathing, caustic hatred. Gone was the man
who, over the last six decades, had left his imprint on Cuban history, a
man who was unquestionably one of the most controversial figures of the
twentieth century.

There is little to say that has not already been said about this tyrant,
so there is little point in now rehashing extensive accounts of his
life. It seems more prudent to ask a basic question that might summarize
what imprint this man had on Cuban society.

What did Fidel Castro leave behind? What did Cubans inherit from his
more than half-century legacy? The answer is not always a simple one
because almost nothing is simple in Cuba, where the reality itself is
often tinged with varying shades of light and shadow.

From Fidel Castro's point of view, he leaves behind a country with
virtually no illiteracy and an educational system accessible to everyone
everywhere within the country's borders. It seems idyllic, especially in
light of the repeated positive assessments by UNICEF. But let's not
forget an essential point: Not everything here is so rosy.

There is only one centralized, compulsory system of education, imposed
on everyone, which provides no alternative. Parents cannot choose what
kind of schooling their children will receive. Every day children must
swear an oath: "Pioneers for Communism; we will be like Che!" They are
taught by educators suffering from enormous personal frustration. In
exchange for their enormous efforts, teachers receive paltry salaries,
working under the most inadequate of conditions in schools that are in
near ruin. Additionally, every child is subjected to political
indoctrination, which is responsible in large part for the unfortunate
loss of civic culture paralyzing Cuban society today.

And what is there to say about public health? The country which boasts
of its achievements in biotechnology, universal childhood vaccination
and state-of-the-art clinics catering to foreigners — comparable only to
those reserved for exclusive use by elite government officials — is the
same country whose neighborhood medical clinics stand empty and whose
pharmacies suffer from a constant shortage of medications.

Its excellent doctors are paid poverty-level wages, must deal with
unimaginable scarcities and work under deplorable conditions in
hospitals which are structurally unsound and which, in many instances,
should be demolished.

The government of Fidel Castro has always relied on its medical missions
to more than sixty countries — "in search of the world's poor" — as its
trump card. Under the heel of Raul Castro, those same missions greedily
skim 70% off the salaries of its overseas medical personnel.

This slave trade generates between 8 to 10 billion dollars a year.
Meanwhile, the government shamelessly rails, with characteristic
cynicism, against worldwide capitalist exploitation.

The very serious crisis in Cuban sport is so obvious that it is scarcely
worth discussing. The defections of more than two-hundred top-flight
baseball players to the "brutal north" in search of better opportunities
in recent years are a slap in the face of the deceased, who used sport
as a weapon of propaganda. But the humiliating and mediocre performances
of a wide range of athletes in international arenas suggest that things
could hardly get much worse.

And what has the "invincible" comandante left behind on the field of
economics? Anything one might say on such a potent and cruel topic risks
sounding redundant. The profound economic damage resulting from the
endless trail of Fidel Castro's erratic policies continues to have
ongoing repercussions. So absurd and systemic was the damage that it has
become insoluble, at least under the current rules of the game imposed
by the military dictatorship, which subordinates everything to its
perverse predilection for control.

In spite of having enjoyed the world's most generous subsidies —
courtesy of the former Soviet Union —for its first three decades, Cuba
has never experienced a period of real economic independence or credible
growth during the entire Castro era. It later suckled on the nipple
provided by Hugo Chavez, who always had to cradle the drooling mouth of
the silly child because it never learned to support itself.

It is an undeniable fact that the comandante's government, like that of
its successor, never managed to overcome its prodigious parasitic
habits. Its survival always depended on an outside supplier. In short,
the dictator leaves behind a desolated country, perpetually in the red
and without a a credible development plan in sight.

Did the comandante opt for persuasion, for convincing argument, in order
to govern? Did he exercise his power through normal, healthy and
necessary confrontation — free of judgment — with a dissenting
legislature in which opposition was a daily reality, as in all free
societies? Certainly not. From the very beginning, he penalized
difference of opinion and buried the press under a blanket of hermetic
censorship.

He monopolized national editorial policy and all mass media, maintaining
an iron-fisted stranglehold which he never eased. Under his totalitarian
dictatorship there was never anything that might be called a parliament.
Instead, a circus of marionettes met once a year to give consent —
always by unanimous vote — to orders previously approved by the Central
Committee of his Communist Party.

The shocking human rights situation has been a constant for the entirety
of the Castro regime. It represents a very long saga of systematic
abuse, a logical consequence of having no separation of powers. The
noteworthy indices of political repression have been the immutable
backdrop of Cuban society for more than five decades, though they have
become something of a scandal since the thaw in relations with the
United States was announced. The dearly departed leaves behind, as
testament to his despotism, about a hundred political prisoners in jail
cells, to say nothing of the thousands who preceded them.

The comandante also bequeathed to Cuban history four great waves of
emigration, confirming his scandalous failure as a ruler. Young people
fled in terror from their enslavement, an eloquent expression of an
entire people's discontent. Well organized exoduses were augmented by an
endless string of drownings from sunken rafts in the Florida Straits, a
deeply painful saga for the Cuban people caused, once again, by Fidel
Castro's absolutism.

But let's try to shed light on at least one small aspect of the genius
which frontmen and toadies attribute to him. Let's look at the tactical
"solutions" the tyrant imposed as well as their practical and permanent
long-term consequences. For example, no sooner had revolutionaries won
than they found themselves with a housing problem. Did the comandante
promote a coherent national program of building new housing to meet the
demand? No. It was easier to steal long-held properties from their
rightful owners through to the Urban Reform Law. The consequences? Even
today, half a century later, housing remains one of the country's most
serious problems and perhaps the hardest one to solve.

In 1959 the newly triumphant comandante also found himself facing the
problem of land distribution. But once the Agrarian Reform Law was
adopted, did it create the conditions necessary for small-scale farmers
to flourish? Did it vigorously stimulate agricultural and livestock
production throughout the country? No. Instead it imposed one absurd
regulation after another in order to impede, by any means necessary,
agricultural producers' financial success. It created multiple
mechanisms to limit their profits and unleashed the Attorney General's
watchdogs on any misguided soul who had acquired wealth by dint of his
own legitimate efforts.

The consequences? Even today, meager harvests rot in the fields thanks
to the well-documented irresponsibility of the Empresa Nacional de
Acopio (National Harvest Company) — an ineffective monopoly and the sole
entity in charge agricultural harvesting. Even today, as an indefensibly
large proportion of the country's arable land remains plagued by maribu
weed, Cuba imports millions of dollars worth of food, including — of all
things — sugar. Fields lie untended due to, as always, the whims and
stubbornness of the country's rulers. Meanwhile, shortages of basic
staples set new records week after week.

An uninterrupted mass exodus began in early 1959, most notably of
professionals, when a segment of the population felt disappointed by the
first populist measures. What did the newly-inaugurated prime minister,
Fidel Castro, do to halt or discourage it? Did he improve working
conditions or offer better salaries to those professionals? No. He
chose, as usual, to restrict the the right of all Cubans to travel
freely for decades and prohibited any overseas travel that did not have
official authorization. The consequences? The island literally became
one vast prison, serving as Fidel Castro's private gulag for more than
fifty years. During that time the despot deprived us of the universal
right to freely come and go from our own country.

It is also worth remembering one fateful moment: When faced with the
challenge of a democratic election in 1960, did he fulfill the promise
he made in the Sierra Maestra to hold elections after eighteen months in
power? Never! Instead he coined that celebrated slogan "Elections for
what?" The unfortunate consequences of that failure translate into an
absence of political freedom today. The consequences? Since then, there
has been a complete disregard by Cuba's military/political elite for our
natural right to free thought and for many of the most basic human
rights, an offensive contempt resulting from, above all, the twisted
personality of Fidel Castro.

Faced with the persistence of tens of thousands of private businesses
and family micro-enterprises throughout the country, did the comandante
develop a parallel national system of consumer services that would
compete on an equal footing with those of the extensive private sector?
Was their promise finally fulfilled, providing better services to the
people? Absolutely not. Instead, he launched the notorious Revolutionary
Offensive in March 1968, which in a few months swept away the legacy of
millions of entrepreneurs who had amassed their fortunes as a result of
generations of honest work.

This wave of brazen confiscation, followed by widespread institutional
laziness, led to a dramatic and irreversible decline in the food service
industry and every possible consumer service from Cabo San Antonio to
Punta Maisí. The consequences? Even today, this sector remains one of
the most eloquent testimonials to the inefficiency and corruption of a
system as centralized as that of Cuba.

In other words, this bearded reprobate always opted for the easiest,
most mediocre, most simplistic solution — coincidentally, usually the
one he had come up with — that in the long run would lead to the worst
consequences.

Where is the supposed genius in leading the country into absurdist
economic ruin, trampling on people's human rights, putting power in the
hands of an arrogant oligarchy with bourgeois tastes, creating a
disturbed, dysfunctional society and turning it into a quagmire of moral
ruin? What fanciful argument could purport that a life so aberrant and
demonstrably harmful to the Cuban people was virtuous?

Other than stores in several countries being closed, there was nothing
memorable about last Friday, November 25, except for the day's top
story. Nothing of consequence will happen in Cuba after this date
because it marked an outcome for which the dictatorship has had
sufficient time to prepare. The military will, for now, keep everything
under control and business will continue as its usual.

The tyrant died but he left behind an intact dictatorship, with an
organized army of henchmen and repressors well-trained in all manner of
coercion, intimidation and blackmail. It acts like an eager, arrogant
hitman who has his finger on the trigger, always at the ready. In his
profound alienation, he would not hesitate to calmly pull it as soon as
the order was received.

The dictatorship's capacity for repression remains intact; the people
remain totally defenselessness against the divine designs of the
dictator on duty. We carry with us the execrable consequences of massive
social indoctrination, which will require the passing of more than a
generation to overcome its imprint of immorality once freedom finally
arrives. Society still lacks the vital independent mechanisms to
seriously address the true aspirations of the Cuban people.

All this notwithstanding, there have been many messages of condolence
from a wide range of political and religious figures including Vladimir
Putin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Xi Jinping, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Frei
Betto and Pope Francis. Other diverse figures include soccer star Diego
Maradona, every leftist president from Latin America and King Felipe of
Spain.

There will undoubtedly also be hundreds of condolences from all over the
globe, from people of varied ancestries who nevertheless all have one
thing in common: none have personally suffered the consequences of the
Stalinist madness of the deceased.

None of these grieving mourners were the father of a young man who was
shot. None were humiliated for a being believer or a homosexual and
sentenced to hard labor in the Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP).
In fact, not one of them will even know what the UMAP was. None of them
were forced to support their families on twenty dollars a month or
experience the hell of a ration book.

None of these very disturbed friends of the dictator had family on the
'13 de Marzo' tugboat; none was sentenced to more than 20 years in
prison during the Black Spring; none has seen their mother, their wife
or their daughter dragged by the fascists hordes during a march of the
Ladies in White; none is a dissident besieged or beaten with impunity by
the Cuban political police; none has been imprisoned for weeks or months
without even knowing what charges are imputed to them, and then released
without trial or further explanation; none has been expelled from their
job due to political differences nor had a child expelled from their
university career for the same reason.

None suffered a raid on their home without having engaged in punishable
offenses; none has witnessed the degrading repudiation rallies organized
by the political police and the Communist Party of its
Commander-in-Chief against peaceful opponents. In short, none of them is
surnamed Zapata, Payá, Boitel, Soto García, or Pollán.

But the inevitable finally occurred and dust returned to dust. Fidel
Castro exerted absolute power using brutal methods for half a
century. His achievement, such as it is, was that he always appealed on
the most mean-spirited, despicable and lowly aspects of human nature.
Camouflaged by his extraordinary capacity for simulation and guided by a
highly refined ability to discern a person's basest instincts, he
manipulated people for his personal advantage in order to satisfy the
pathological impulses of his deeply narcissistic personality, his
insatiable egotism and an uncontrollable need for recognition of his
boundless megalomania.
The despot has left to face God's judgement but leaves behind a painful
legacy. The monster has died but the damage he caused remains. In spite
of all this, Cuba will one day find the true pathway toward democracy.
While we will try to never again hate, we are obliged not to forget. The
dictator leaves this world, as many of his kind often do, without
summary judgment, without having faced earthly justice. But the tyrant
will never escape to the moral judgment of a people who have, at least
so far, not definitively absolved him. History, however, has already
firmly condemned him.

Source: Fidel Castro: The Tyrant Exits but the Damage Remains / Jeovany
Jimenez Vega – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/fidel-castro-the-tyrant-exits-but-the-damage-remains-jeovany-jimenez-vega/ Continue reading
Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 29 November 2016 — The dictator Fidel Castro died last Friday at the age of 90. The extensive news coverage was to be expected. After all, he was both the object of the most romantic, idealized love and the most scathing, caustic hatred. Gone was the man who, over the last six decades, … Continue reading "Fidel Castro: The Tyrant Exits but the Damage Remains / Jeovany Jimenez Vega" Continue reading
EFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 5 January 2017 — The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), a dissident group, denounced today that it had documented at least 9,940 arbitrary arrests for “political reasons” in 2016, the highest figure of the last six years. With a monthly average of 827 arrests, the opposition organization said … Continue reading "Dissident Group Denounces At Least 9,940 Arbitrary Arrests In Cuba In 2016 / EFE,14ymedio" Continue reading
Cuban opposition activists said Thursday that … highest count since 2010, the Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation … denies holding any political prisoners. Cuba's longtime revolutionary leader … group Amnesty International has listed Cuban graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado as … Continue reading
Opposition Leader José Daniel Ferrer Released / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 22 December 2016 — José Daniel Ferrer, general
coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), was arrested on
Thursday around one in the afternoon when he left the organization's
headquarters in the city of Santiago de Cuba, and released about 40
minutes later, as reported in a phone call to 14ymedio from Omar Fayut,
a member of the opposition organization. Ferrer was taken in a bus,
handcuffed, to the third police station in the city of Santiago de Cuba
and then released, without further explanation.

The activist denounced that since the death of former President Fidel
Castro "many members of the movement have been harassed" by the
political police who maintain a cordon around Unpacu's headquarters.

Last Sunday, some hundred members of the UNPACU were arrested when
they tried to march to the shrine of El Cobre to demand the release of
political prisoners. Most of the detainees were released after a few
hours, but nine remain imprisoned.

Minutes before his arrest, Ferrer had denounced on Twitter that
activists Ovidio Martín, Samuel Leblan, Juan Salgado, Yasmani Magaña,
Belkis Cantillo and Moraima Díaz, among others, continued to be detained.


Carlos Amel Oliva, a member of Unpacu, maintains that "the threat is
constant" and that since Monday the headquarters remains besieged with
police officers "stationed on the corners." The young man explains that
the soldiers "put up fences to prohibit the access of any type of vehicles."

The arrests and police cordons are in addition to the searches of at
least 13 houses of Unpacu activists.

The last report of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation (CCDHRN) said that during last November there were at
least 359 arbitrary arrests of peaceful dissidents on the island. That
is roughly one hundred fewer than in October but the independent
organization warns of possible repression after the death of former
President Fidel Castro on November 25.

Source: Opposition Leader José Daniel Ferrer Released / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/opposition-leader-jose-daniel-ferrer-released-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 22 December 2016 — José Daniel Ferrer, general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), was arrested on Thursday around one in the afternoon when he left the organization’s headquarters in the city of Santiago de Cuba, and released about 40 minutes later, as reported in a phone call to 14ymedio from … Continue reading "Opposition Leader José Daniel Ferrer Released / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Gov. Scott to Raul Castro: Bring Freedom and Democracy to Cuba
By: FOX 13 News staff
POSTED:DEC 21 2016 11:09AM EST
UPDATED:DEC 21 2016 11:09AM EST

TALAHASSEE (FOX 13) - Governor Rick Scott sent a strongly-worded letter
Tuesday to Raul Castro urging him to bring absolute freedom and
democracy to Cuba.

In the correspondence, Governor Scott tells Cuba's new leader, "You have
a tremendous and historic opportunity right in front of you. You can
take Cuba in one of two directions."

Scott called Castro out for continuing his brother's tyranny, bringing
up specific examples of people the younger Castro imprisoned in the wake
of his brother's death.

The Florida governor appealed to religion, recalling that after Pope
Francis' visit, Castro suggested he might return to church and begin to
pray again.

Governor Scott ended the letter with a moment of self-reflection and
hope, stating, "People will mock this letter and call it naïve. But,
for the sake of the Cuban people, I pray change will come."


Read the letter in its entirety, in English, below:

Dear Mr. Castro:

As you know, following the death of your brother Fidel, the streets of
Miami were packed with people celebrating. The celebration represented
the hope for an end to the decades of torture, repression, incarceration
and death that you and your brother have caused the people of Cuba.

While many are hopeful for the future of Cuba, it is thus far clear that
nothing has changed. Let me be specific with a few examples: You
recently imprisoned the artist El Sexto for expressing his views
following the announcement of your brother's death. It is reported
that he is in isolation without food or clothing. Dr. Eduardo Cardet,
the National Coordinator for the "Movimiento Cristiano Liberación" (MCL)
was imprisoned. And, just a few days ago Berta Soler, the leader of the
Ladies in White, was detained.

Like your brother, you are known for firing squads and imprisonment of
those who oppose you. You have said that you plan on retiring in 2018,
but the leadership that you have picked to come after you is designed to
keep your oppression intact, and to keep your people trapped.

After Pope Francis' trip to Cuba, you suggested that you may return to
the church and pray again.

My prayer for you and the Cuban people is that you listen to Pope
Francis and focus on bringing absolute freedom and democracy to Cuba. I
pray that you open Cuba to freedom of the press and religion; release
all political prisoners; provide unfettered access to the internet;
allow ownership of land; provide reparations to those whose property was
confiscated; bring all Cuban military home and allow for free and fair
elections with international supervision.

You have a tremendous and historic opportunity right in front of you.
You can take Cuba in one of two directions.

You can allow a new era of freedom and opportunity for Cuba. This path
will almost overnight provide all Cubans with a dramatic improvement in
their quality of life at every level. The people of Florida and of the
entire United States are ready to help make your country an overnight
success with unprecedented levels of trade and capital investment.
Every human heart longs for freedom, and your people long for freedom.

Or, you can continue on the other path. This path is best characterized
by oppression, tyranny, wrongful imprisonment, torture, and murder.
This is the path that hates freedom, the path that does not trust every
man and woman to make their own decisions, the path that opposes all
those who honor and worship God.

And this is also the path of poverty, the path where the tyrants live
like kings while the people live like peasants. But, right in front of
you is the opportunity to embrace freedom and bring in a new era of
unprecedented prosperity for your people. I have no doubt that the
people of Florida stand ready to flood Cuba with prosperity.

No one thinks you will choose the way of freedom, the way of democracy,
the way of peace. People will mock this letter and call it naïve. But,
for the sake of the Cuban people, I pray change will come.

Sincerely,

Rick Scott

Governor

Source: Gov. Scott to Raul Castro: Bring Freedom and Democracy to Cuba |
FOX 13 Tampa Bay - http://www.fox13news.com/news/local-news/224868604-story Continue reading
Berta Soler Released, But UNPACU Activists Still Detained / 14ymedio, Mario Penton 14ymedio, Miami, 19 December 2016 — The leader of the Ladies in White movement was released on Monday after being detained for 24 hours. Berta Soler was arrested the previous day in one of the largest raids against the opposition in recent months. […] Continue reading
14ymedio, Miami, 19 December 2016 — The leader of the Ladies in White movement was released on Monday after being detained for 24 hours. Berta Soler was arrested the previous day in one of the largest raids against the opposition in recent months. Meanwhile, approximately ten activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) remain imprisoned, … Continue reading "Berta Soler Released, But UNPACU Activists Still Detained / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
Harsh Police Operation Against the Patriotic Union of Cuba / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 18 December 2016 – Beginning at 6:00 AM on Sunday
morning, Cuban State Security forces attacked nine homes of members of
the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU); six in Santiago de Cuba, two in
Palma Soriano, and one in Palmarito de Cauto. More details are expected
in the coming hours; currently most of the activists' telephones have
been cut off.

Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the organizations, explained to 14ymedio
that the "justification" for the harsh repressive operation was a call
made by UNPACU for people to come into the streets in protest, in Havana
and Santiago de Cuba. The objective of the opposition organization was
"to demand the release of the political prisoners and the end to
increasingly severe repression against independent civil society
groups," Ferrer said.

The homes simultaneously attacked were those of Leonardo Pérez Franco,
Ovidio Martín Castellanos and Damaris Rodríguez. At the home of Iriades
Hernández, who is currently abroad, the police entered and took two
laptops. The police also broke into UNPACU's working headquarters and
the home of Jose Daniel Ferrer.

In Palma Soriano the homes of Yenisei Jiménez, wife of political
prisoner Geordanis Muñoz, and that of Yeroslandi Calderín, coordinator
of the March 18 Cell and a replacement for Víctor Campa who is currently
a political prisoner. In Palmarito de Cauto, so far it has only been
possible to report an attack on the home of Yasmani Diaz, but it is
presumed that there may be other cases.


Assaults, thefts, detentions against member of #UNPACU, Today
families won't eat because their sustenance was stolen.
Among the possessions seized were printed material, discs, audiovisual
materials, hard drives, four laptops and several cellphones. In the home
of Jose Daniel Ferrer they seized 370 dollars intended to feed a
pregnant woman and to buy supplies for her unborn child. As a part of
the operation, more than 50 activists in the province of Santiago de
Cuba and 10 in Havana had been detained by 1:30 this afternoon.

Some ten of those arrested have been released, among them Jose Daniel
Ferrer, who reported the following: "A lieutenant colonel who refused to
give me his name showed me a warning notice where it said that our call
gave rise to the crimes of public disorder, contempt, attack and
espionage. They also warned me that they had been disturbed by my
statements about the late Fidel Castro on our website and my modest
interpretation or translation of his concept of Revolution."

Source: Harsh Police Operation Against the Patriotic Union of Cuba /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/harsh-police-operation-against-the-patriotic-union-of-cuba-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Doing Business in a Post-Fidel Cuba
Pablo González AlonsoAlec Lee
DECEMBER 19, 2016

President Obama's historic visit to Cuba in March 2016 drove excitement
for businesses considering the market that the island could become. The
move made it possible to imagine an end to the U.S. embargo of Cuba
(which remains firmly in place) and a consequently sharp improvement in
Cuba's economic conditions.

However, in the subsequent months, Cuba has failed to advance on
economic liberalization, encountered a fiscal crisis, watched the U.S.
elect a potentially hostile president, and lost its revolutionary
leader. It's no longer clear whether Cuba will see either domestic
reforms or greater engagement from the U.S.

Understanding the policies that leaders in the U.S. and Cuba could
implement over the next two years will be critical for helping business
executives determine the level of urgency around developing their Cuba
operation.

A limited business opportunity
First, it is important to remember why Cuba still presents only a
limited opportunity for doing business. Cuba faces three overarching
challenges: The first is a lack of capital investment, which, in all
likelihood, is unsolvable without greater capital inflows to Cuba from
the United States, meaning the embargo needs to end. With a limited
financial system, Cuba lacks the domestic savings to raise fixed capital
investment above the current level of 10% of GDP (half the average of
Latin America).

Second, Cuba confronts the difficult task of unburdening its largely
stalled state-led economy. With many state-run enterprises dependent on
public subsidies, Cuba has attempted to shift workers to the much more
agile private sector, but progress continues to be slow.

Finally, Cuba confronts significant difficulties caused by its dual
currency system. In order to facilitate transferring subsidies to its
public-sector entities, Cuba utilizes two currencies: the convertible
Peso (CUC) valued on par with the dollar and fully tradable, and the
Cuban Peso (CUP) valued at a rate of 24:1 with the dollar. While useful
for exerting economic control, this mechanism serves to undermine the
competitiveness of Cuban exports and severely limits the purchasing
power of Cuban wage earners.

Without meaningful advancements on these three fronts, new business
developments in Cuba will simply not progress. While limited
opportunities will exist for companies in select sectors (such as
hospitality and telecoms), underlying economic performance will remain
flat, much as it has for the last several decades.

An economic crossroads
In April 2016, Cuba held its Seventh Communist Party Congress. At the
last Congress, in 2011, Raul Castro had announced plans to introduce new
market reforms and attract foreign investment. As such, many Cuba
watchers anticipated similar announcements in 2016, potentially
including instructions regarding the eventual elimination of the
country's dual currency regime. Instead, only limited new reform
measures were announced, and Fidel himself appeared to push back
somewhat against the general movement toward greater economic
liberalization.

Perhaps more important for an analysis of near-term Cuba policy, this
non-event took place in the context of an expanding fiscal crisis for
the Cuban government. Having long relied on subsidized oil imports from
Venezuela to provide cheap energy and the bulk of its foreign exchange
income, Cuba has seen its subsidized oil inflows dwindle as its
benefactor has entered into economic collapse. The result has been
periodic shutdowns of key public sector companies in Cuba, and blackouts
in Cuban neighborhoods.

In this setting, two distinct options are available to Cuban leadership,
depending on whether Trump will continue to advance economic and
diplomatic engagement with Cuba, or whether he will back away from the
country. In the case of the former, Cuba could continue down the path of
slow but steady liberalization, and in the case of the latter, it would
likely be pushed to retrench while seeking alternate sources of finance.
The first scenario would allow for continued development of already
existing business ventures and provide greater space for the U.S. to
remove the embargo; the second would likely result in limited new
opportunities within Cuba and continued economic stagnation.

An unpredictable U.S. President-elect
During the presidential campaign, President-elect Trump said that he
would revoke "the deal" with Cuba if he could not get more concessions,
such as the release of political prisoners or expanding the scope of
approved private sector business activities. Within a month after his
election, Trump had already hired two professed "Cuba hardliners" as
part of his transition team (Mauricio Clover Corone and Yleem Poblete,
who both support maintaining the Cuba embargo), possibly signaling that
he intends to hold hard and fast to his campaign rhetoric.

Despite these signs, due to expanding U.S. economic interest on the
island, which the Obama administration has worked hard to strengthen
before the transition of power in January, it would be difficult for
Trump to cancel all of Obama's policy changes toward Cuba. Rather, it
would be easier politically for Trump to seek some symbolic victory over
the medium-term (such as securing a win in Cuba for an American business
like Google), while largely maintaining Obama's policy changes. The
worst case for businesses interested in Cuba would be if Trump chooses
(or is forced) to retrench on Obama's key economic policy measures,
specifically the easing of travel restrictions and the licensing of
companies in the telecoms and financial services spaces.

How to know where the economy is heading
With these factors in play, the short-term outlook for Cuba is highly
uncertain. In that respect, companies can follow these key events to
better track the development of policy both on the island and in the
United States.

Does Trump pull the trigger on Article III of the Libertad Act of 1996
during the first 100 days of his presidency? The Act, passed in 1996 to
strengthen the U.S. embargo of Cuba, includes a provision, which, if
triggered, makes it possible to set off tens of thousands of lawsuits
against the Cuban government for property confiscated following the 1959
revolution. This would make trade with Cuba nearly impossible and likely
push back accelerated growth in Cuba by years, if not longer.
Does Cuba get a new economic benefactor? With Venezuela in free
collapse, Cuba is in a position to accept help from a new economic
benefactor. Potential support from either Russia or China could stave
off near-term economic contraction, while also potentially incentivizing
the Trump administration to end to the embargo in order to further
engage Cuba and avoid losing influence.
Do the Democrats add Senate seats in the U.S. mid-term elections in
November 2018? While there is a significant number of Republicans
who support ending the embargo, the Senate would likely require greater
Democratic representation to gain sufficient support for ending the embargo.
Does the new Cuban leader, who takes over in February 2018, accelerate
economic reforms? The new government will likely be the first not led by
a participant in the 1959 revolution, and it will need to draw a greater
portion of its legitimacy by driving economic growth and improving the
lives of Cubans. This would potentially push it to accept a greater
liberalization of the economy, including permitting greater private
activity and eliminating the dual currency system.
Pablo González Alonso is Director of Latin America Research at Frontier
Strategy Group (FSG), the leading information and advisory services
partner to senior executives in emerging markets. Access his latest
report, "Sizing the Cuban Opportunity."
Alec Lee is a research analyst at Frontier Strategy Group (FSG), the
leading information and advisory services partner to senior executives
in emerging markets. Access his latest report, "Sizing the Cuban
Opportunity."

Source: Doing Business in a Post-Fidel Cuba -
https://hbr.org/2016/12/doing-business-in-a-post-fidel-cuba Continue reading
Note: The video was taken surreptitiously and thus is of poor quality. 14ymedio, Havana, 18 December 2016 – Beginning at 6:00 AM on Sunday morning, Cuban State Security forces attacked nine homes of members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU); six in Santiago de Cuba, two in Palma Soriano, and one in Palmarito de … Continue reading "Harsh Police Operation Against the Patriotic Union of Cuba / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Havana, December 17 (RHC) – A retired top Cuban lawmaker and diplomat has … January 20th. Speaking to Radio Havana Cuba, former National Assembly President and … Continue reading
What Castro's death and Trump's election mean for Cuba's economic awakening
Brian Gendreau, University of Florida Published 5:21 am, Wednesday,
December 14, 2016

Before his death on Nov. 25 at the age of 90, Fidel Castro had made no
secret about his reservations about the normalization of relations with
the United States and had insisted that the ideals of the Cuban
Revolution would never be abandoned.
So following his death it is natural to wonder if the economic reforms
initiated by his brother, Raúl Castro, will accelerate or what else
might happen.
Since his death, we haven't seen any instability. This is unlikely to
change: Raul has been in charge since 2008 and has no plans to step down
until his term as president is up in 2018. He has remained a supporter
of the reforms despite disagreements with his brother.
But it would be unrealistic to expect a swift transition to a more open
market economy, as I've learned from 25 years spent following Latin
America's economies and politics. Internal opposition to the reforms
persists in Cuba, which helps explain why implementation of the reforms
has been slow, and with the election of Donald Trump, the thaw in
relations with the United States that has encouraged those reforms is,
for the time being, in question.
Since Raúl Castro began a series of reforms after replacing his ailing
brother as president in 2008, market forces have begun to play a larger
role in the Cuban economy.
Cuban citizens are now allowed to operate small businesses such as
restaurants, barber shops and room rentals, and they can buy and sell
homes. Individuals and cooperatives are allowed to cultivate unused
plots of land. Managers have been given more autonomy to allocate resources.
These reforms have been accompanied by fewer restrictions on travel by
Cubans abroad and by the gradual spread of communication technology.
Cellphones are more common in Cuba than they were just a year ago, and
Wi-Fi spots have become popular in Havana, though so far not many exist.
The pace of reform, however, has been uneven and slow. Self-employment
is still limited to specific and usually unskilled activities.
Architects, for example, may drive taxis but still cannot go into
business in their own profession.
The government explicitly prohibits the accumulation of wealth – hardly
an incentive to entrepreneurship – though it is hard to imagine that
this is enforced effectively. And backtracking has occurred in some areas.
In January, for example, the state shut down some street vendors and
asserted control of part of the food distribution system, which had
earlier been opened to private participation.
And not everyone in Cuba is happy with the reforms. The Cuban government
laid off almost 600,000 government workers from 2010 to 2014 in an
effort to improve productivity and free up labor for the private sector.
While there have been no announcements recently of plans for further
layoffs, the three-quarters of Cuba's workers that are still on
government payrolls are apprehensive. Complaints that tourists and
rising incomes in the private sector are raising prices are common in
Havana.
As the government seeks to encourage a more vibrant economy in the face
of resistance to change, the outcome is likely to be a continuation of
the reforms, but at a controlled pace. Raul Castro indicated as much at
the Communist Party Congress in April, when he said Cuba's reforms would
proceed with "neither haste nor pause."
Cuba's economy, meanwhile, is in trouble after growing at a brisk 4.4
percent in 2015 as tourism- and construction-related investment boomed.
Growth is decelerating sharply this year as Cuba struggles to cope with
two external shocks.
First, prices for Cuba's traditional exports of nickel, refined oil and
sugar have fallen with global commodity prices since mid-2014 and remain
low. Second, with its own economy in shambles, Venezuela cut supplies of
oil to Cuba by as much as 40 percent.
Cuba has traditionally swapped medical services for oil with Venezuela
and sold the oil it refines from Venezuela to the rest of the world. As
a result of the cutbacks in oil imports, Cuba has had to ration energy
domestically and delay payments to foreign creditors, while its oil
export earnings plummet.
While rumors of a return to the hardships Cuba suffered in the early
1990s after the loss of subsidized trade with the Soviet Union are
exaggerated – earnings from tourism will help offset the lower oil
imports – Cuba will be lucky to eke out any growth at all in 2017.
Cuba may yet be hit with a third shock: a chilling of relations with the
United States.
Donald Trump has said he will reverse the deal President Barack Obama
reached in 2014 to reopen relations with Cuba and relax restrictions on
trade and travel unless the Castro regime agrees to free political
prisoners and restore political freedoms. Cuba released 53 political
prisoners a few weeks after the Obama administration's 2014 announcement
but has resisted calls to free more political prisoners since then.
The normalization of relations between the two countries has supported
Cuba's reforms by supplying a stream of new visitors to the island and
by increasing Cuba's connectivity with the rest of the world. Although
tourism is still banned under the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, in 2015
140,000 U.S. citizens took advantage of one of the 12 licenses
established in December 2014 under which the United States permits
travel to Cuba – a 54 percent increase over 2014.
U.S. airlines commenced regular air service to Cuba this year, and
several cruise lines now offer trips to the island. Several U.S. mobile
carriers have signed voice, text and data-roaming agreements with
Etecsa, the Cuban telecommunications provider. A Florida-based bank has
issued a credit card intended for use in Cuba, and U.S. credit cards are
accepted for currency transactions at state-owned foreign exchange
facilities in Havana, though they so far do not work elsewhere in Cuba.
Absent details on the president-elect's intentions on Cuba, it is
difficult to see how relations will unfold. Here's my read on the situation:
The new administration will initially take a hard line on Cuba – to do
otherwise would appear to be backing down from campaign promises.
History suggests, however, that Cuba will steadfastly resist demands on
human rights or democratic reforms, even if it means enduring
considerable hardships. This means that a standoff and worsening of
relations is possible, which could involve restrictions on travel and trade.
But there are long-term costs to isolating Cuba.
A chill in relations would mean U.S. businesses would lose out to
foreign competitors. Cuban-Americans could have their ability to see and
support relatives in Cuba hampered. Americans would not be able to enjoy
travel to the island or to buy Cuban cigars and rum.
In fact, a New York Times/CBS poll has found that nearly six in 10
Americans support normalizing relations with Cuba, and a 2016 Florida
International University poll found that a majority – 56 percent – of
Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County "strongly" or "mostly" favors a
reengagement with the island.
Cuba, meanwhile, has an obvious interest in avoiding isolation. Tourism
provides a good example. According to a 30-year development plan by
Cuba's Ministry of Tourism, capacity in Cuba's hotels is to grow from
63,000 rooms today to 85,000 in 2020 and 200,000 in 2030. It is hard to
see how those hotel rooms can be filled with a full U.S. trade and
travel embargo still in place.
The day after Fidel Castro's death, Trump called him a "brutal dictator"
and said "our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban
people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty."
The second phrase suggests that he is leaving the door open to a
rapprochement. Trump sees himself as the "negotiator in chief," so the
temptation to try to get a better deal from Cuba will be strong. Such
negotiations, however, are bound to be to be difficult: Human rights,
claims for expropriated property and Cuba's insistence on compensation
for damages from the embargo – issues on which little or no progress was
achieved in past talks – will all be on the table.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the
original article.

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The Seven Phases of Fidel Castro / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 10 December 2016 — In a country sculpted by slogans,
intolerance and symbols, the departure of Fidel Castro — absolute ruler
and founding father of the Cuban Revolution — changes the rules of the game.

Nothing will ever be the same again. No future autocrat will be able to
summon a million people to a public square, call for enormous sugar
harvests, tell huge lies or launch wars of emancipation far from our shores.

Fidel Castro's death is the signature on the death certificate of his
Revolution. Castro himself perverted it in 1976 when the country
formally adopted a Soviet-style system. The whole process can be divided
into seven different phases.

The first phase was romantic. Fidel and his bearded soldiers were like
the Three Wise Men bearing a simple political message: democracy, free
elections and social justice.

Most people applauded the deception. Fidel deceived the public by
appearing to distance himself from communism and seducing a large swath
of the world's intellectuals.

Then there was his own version of the Storming of the Bastille. Red
tides, confrontations, executions of opponents, a phony civil war in the
Bay of Pigs and seven years of uprisings in the Escambray Mountains.

Large industries were nationalized as an astute Fidel Castro entered
into a strategic geopolitical alliance with the Soviet Union. It was the
most violent phase of his rule, with 50,000 political prisoners. He
governed the country as though it were his private estate and
transformed Havana into the Mecca of anti-colonial guerrilla movements.

One day, when the secret archives of the state sanctum are opened and
their contents are dispassionately examined, we will see how
irresponsible Castro was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Urging Nikita
Khrushchev to launch the first atomic missile strike, thus condemning
his own people to extermination, was no small detail.

The years 1968 to 1976 marked Fidel Castro's most radical phase. He
confiscated small businesses, anesthetized art and culture, and
accumulated total power.

From that date until 1991 he began building Soviet Cuba. The army grew
to a million men, four thousand tanks and two-hundred-fifty MIG fighter
jets.

Espionage became professionalized and social control began to be applied
with scientific precision. Cuban intelligence services ultimately had
agents operating in half the world's countries and about five thousand
in Florida alone.

The arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Kremlin, along with his policies
of perestroika and glasnost, heralded the decline of Castro's personal
empire. Already in the fifth phase, Cuba suddenly found itself face to
face with reality. It was a nation that had been impoverished by
economic delusions and Fidel's wars in Africa and Latin America.

Thus began a painful period of deprivation. People fainted from hunger
in the streets, oxen replaced tractors in the fields and daily blackouts
lasted for twelve hours or more.

In spite of thousands of Cubans fleeing by air, land and sea, as well as
an attempted popular uprising in 1994, Fidel Castro was able to govern
without major disruption due to the efficiency of his propaganda and
security apparatus.

The sixth phase was a gift from Santa Claus. Hugo Chavez — a former
parachutist from the Venezuelan city of Barina, a man of disjointed
speeches with the obsessions of a visionary hero — attempted to revive
socialism by combining a handful of theoretical inanities by Heinz
Dietrich with a bogus religiosity and odes to Simon Bolivar.

In his twilight years Fidel Castro achieved his crowning achievement:
Venezuela. It was perhaps as significant as the victory at Cuito
Cuanavale, a key battle against the South African army, which he had
commanded from ten thousand kilometers away.

The Venezuelan case is worthy of study by political scientists and
instructors in espionage. Castro conquered Caracas without firing a
shot. His recipe? Ideology and backroom consultations.

Fidel remade himself into a kind of Caribbean Rasputin. Never in human
history has a nation with an army of has-beens managed to colonize
another nation with three times the population and four times the GDP.

The symbolism and message it offered were enough. Chavez opened the
doors of his presidential palace to Cuban military advisers and the
South American country got thirty thousand doctors and medical personnel.

Half of this aid was paid for with petroleum, the other half with
dollars. The current Venezuelan crisis, a perfect storm, arose from the
fall in petroleum prices but was aggravated by interference from Cuba.

The seventh and current stage began with the political death of Fidel
Castro on July 31, 2006. His brother and hand-picked successor, Raul, is
trying to dismantle the operation and get the machinery of production
back in order.

In the international arena, Cuba put away the pistols and began the
diplomatic dialogue. Raul Castro, always operating from behind the
scenes, negotiated the release of a handful of political prisoners with
the Catholic church and the Spanish government. Cuba held secret talks
with the United States, which made possible the reestablishment of
diplomatic relations with its old enemy. It helped mediate an end to the
civil war in Colombia. It alleviated burdensome international financial
debts and it allowed Cubans to be tourists in their own country. Believe
me, all this was no small feat.

It did all this while still repressing dissenting voices. The repressive
model of the Raul era is different and probably more efficient.
Opponents can travel overseas and, if they are detained, it is often
only for a few hours in police holding cells except in unusual
circumstances.

By the time Fidel Castro had died — from causes still unknown — on the
night of November 25, a quarter of a million Cubans had emigrated over
the previous four years, the economy had run aground, corruption had
become endemic, the country faced an eminent demographic time bomb,
apathy and discontent were widespread and an amateurish dissident
movement was as disorganized as it was distracted.

With the death of Fidel Castro, things are bound to change in Cuba. One
cannot continue to expect good results from the same old economic,
political and social recipes.

Fidel Castro was the past. When he came to power, there were no such
things as cell phones, the internet or gay marriage. Some nations were
still colonies and electronic commerce was something out of science fiction.

The European Union was but a dream in the head of the French president,
General Charles de Gaulle, and no one foresaw the end of Russian
communism. Raul Castro announced that he will retire in February 2018, a
year and two months from now.

According to Cuba watchers, the possible subsequent scenarios range from
neo-Castroism to state capitalism to a family dynasty. And any of the
three, they predict, could lead to democracy in the not too distant future.

The reason is simple: we have already hit bottom.

Marti Noticias, December 7, 2016

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Ivan Garcia, 10 December 2016 — In a country sculpted by slogans, intolerance and symbols, the departure of Fidel Castro — absolute ruler and founding father of the Cuban Revolution — changes the rules of the game. Nothing will ever be the same again. No future autocrat will be able to summon a million people … Continue reading "The Seven Phases of Fidel Castro / Iván García" Continue reading
… the people of Cuba $750 billion.  In return, the Cuban government would … constitutional protections ()Venezuela). Once the Cuban government frees all political prisoners … ;I have spoken to many Cuban Americans who believe that statehood … the preferred choice of the Cuban people -- especially given Puerto … Continue reading
The Legacy of Fidel Castro and the Future of Cuba / Iván García

Iván García, 6 December 2016 — Some large scale political events, the
ones where people are weeping over the death of a "venerated leader" or
yelling slogans like ventriloquists, are really smoke and mirrors. A
dishonest trick.

On April 7, 1957, a month after the assault on the Presidential Palace
by the March 13 Revolutionary Council, friends of the dictator Fulgencio
Batista organized a demonstration on the esplanade in front of the palace.

It was a rainy day but, according to press accounts at the time, 250,000
citizens turned out. This was a huge number considering that the 1953
census reported that Havana had 785,455 residents. (The entire
population of Cuba in 1953 was 5,829,000.) One year and nine months
later the same residents, probably in even larger numbers, filled the
streets of the capital to pay homage to the new soldier messiahs.

A resident of Santos Suárez, now deceased, told me that on November 8,
1958, Batista's hitmen were involved in a shootout for more than five
hours with four young people from the July 26th Movement, who were holed
up in a building at Goicuría and O'Farrill streets in what is today the
Tenth of October district.

No one from the neighborhood came to the defense of Pedro Gutiérrez,
Rogelio Perea, Angel "Machaco" Ameijeiras and Norma Porras, who was
nineteen-years-old and pregnant by Machaco, the group's leader.
Residents remained indoors, watching the shooting from behind their
blinds. They later recounted seeing the three men taken alive. After
being tortured, they were executed. Porras was captured on a neighboring
roof and taken to a military hospital.

Neither their torture nor their corpses, which were thrown into a ditch
by Batista's repressive security agencies, were enough to convince
Cubans to hold public demonstrations. Similarly, dissident protests
denouncing human rights violations are not enough to summon the large
mass of Cubans who harshly criticize the Castros in private.

According to experts, closed societies govern by resorting to human
fear. In a democracy, any incident or injustice can be an incentive for
strikes or public protests.

But in an autocracy — whether it be communist, fascist or a banana
republic — acquiescence and fear stifle rebellion. It's not as though
Cubans have a genetic predisposition for this condition. Certainly not.

In Italy, Mussolini reined in the Mafia. In Germany, Hitler used the
public squares for his xenophobic, anti-Semitic, and militaristic harangues.

Cuba has spent sixty-four years under dictatorships. Seven under a
capitalist dictatorship which respected free press and granted amnesty
to political prisoners. Although it did impose press censorship at
times, it also later lifted it. For fifty-six years the socialist
dictatorship has invoked a false sense of nationalism and co-opted the
heroes of Cuban independence for its own advantage.

Fidel Castro was clearly an important leader, for good and for evil, but
only in the political realm. In 1956 he raised a guerilla army and
launched a war that broke all the rules of conventional warfare,
destroying a professional army that relied on artillery, planes and war
ships.

He was a key figure in Africa's anti-colonial movement. He provided men
and materiel to seventeen African nations. He tried to subvert almost
all of Latin American except for Mexico (although Subcomandante Marcos'
men did train in Cuba) with strategies that combined armed struggle with
terror.

A majority of the continent's seditionists — from Venezuela's Carlos the
Jackal to Colombia's Manuel Marulanda (alias Sure Shot) — passed through
the military camp set up in Guanabo, a seaside area on the outskirts of
Havana. They also included commandos from the Basque terrorist group ETA
as well as the PLO and the IRA.

In terms of economics, Fidel Castro did very little that is worthy of
applause. And a lot at which to jeer. Let's consider what has come of
some of his hair-brained schemes, the lies he told, the promises he
never fulfilled.

In Picadura Valley there are no air-conditioned dairies or robust
livestock setting new records for dairy production. Nor any exotic
fruits in Baconao. And Havana was never able to attain the standard of
living of New York, as he once promised in one of his hundreds of speeches.

Rather the opposite has occurred. The neighborhoods he built are a
master class in architectural folly. His schemes destroyed or
depreciated sugar, citrus and coffee production operations.

His brother Raúl had to resort to urgent economic reforms, timid and
still incomplete, if for no other reason than to paper over the
disasters created by Fidel.

Castro I was a dictator, an enlightened leader. He did not have a 900
million dollar fortune, as Forbes magazine reported. He had much more.
He had something that cannot be appraised in monetary terms. He had a
whole country. A country that he ran like his own personal estate.

Now that he has died, the question that arises is: What will happen to
the more than twenty houses that he owned throughout the country? Or to
his private navy? Or his island in Cayo Piedra south of the Bay of Pigs?

The man whom God has just called home has, to my mind, caused damage on
an anthropological scale to Cuba and to Cubans. He polarized society and
opinions. He sold us on the idea that the Fatherland was synonymous with
revolution and socialism.

Castroism did not end with Fidel Castro's death. The regime still has
some life left in it. But with his death an era ends and the revolution
loses a symbol. International economic forces will require new reforms
if it is to survive. A relapse into ideology and a retreat from economic
reform will spell the beginning of the end for Castroism.

After Fidel Castro's ashes have been set inside an enormous rock,
supposedly brought down from the Sierra Maestra, and the funeral
services have concluded, honest Cubans — those from here and those from
there — must sit down and discuss whether or not we want live in a
democratic nation.

All of us are vital to the future of Cuba. The best way to repair the
terrible sociological and spiritual damage Fidel Castro has caused is
to set aside resentment and engage in dialogue.

To paraphrase the poet Angel Cuadra, the two sides have the same hero,
José Martí. Both always defend their ideas singing the same anthem and
raising the same flag.

The war is over. Let's build a new Cuba together.

Diario Las Americas, December 4, 2016

Source: The Legacy of Fidel Castro and the Future of Cuba / Iván García
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Iván García, 6 December 2016 — Some large scale political events, the ones where people are weeping over the death of a “venerated leader” or yelling slogans like ventriloquists, are really smoke and mirrors. A dishonest trick. On April 7, 1957, a month after the assault on the Presidential Palace by the March 13 Revolutionary Council, … Continue reading "The Legacy of Fidel Castro and the Future of Cuba / Iván García" Continue reading
… the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation. Based in Havana … work with exact numbers in Cuba," said Pedro Alcántara, spokesman … 167 political prisoners by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and … impact," he said. More Cubans feel emboldened to express their … Continue reading
… world lament the loss of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Black Lives … 18 Cubans as political prisoners in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution … in the Communist takeover of Cuba. This Black Lives Matter editorial … of these things to the Cuban people in 1956. Yet implementing … Continue reading
Red ink: The high human cost of the Cuban revolution
BY GLENN GARVIN
ggarvin@miamiherald.com
LINKEDIN

Danilo Maldonado's collision with the Cuban revolution is, in some ways,
a silly asterisk to history. And in others, it practically defines the
country's dilemma of the past 57 years, a state that defines itself as
the people's political vanguard, but more often seems to be their jailer.

On Christmas Day of 2014, Maldonado — a dissident graffiti artist better
known as El Sexto — was riding along Havana's waterfront Malecón when
traffic cops pulled his car over. Hearing odd scrabbling noises from the
trunk, they opened it to find a pair of pigs with names scrawled on
their backs: Fidel and Raúl.

Without another word, the cops arrested the 30-year-old Maldonado. (Not
that his explanation would have helped; he was taking the pigs to
perform in an informal production of George Orwell's withering
anti-communist satire "Animal Farm.")

Charged with "disrespect of the leaders of the revolution" — the police
clearly did not believe it a coincidence that the pigs' names were the
same as those of the Castro brothers who have ruled Cuba since 1959 —
Maldonado languished in jail without a trial for 10 months until Amnesty
International labeled him a "prisoner of conscience" and the government
finally turned him loose.

Those 10 months — 300-some days, 7,000-some hours, all irretrievably
lost — are a tiny part of the human cost of Fidel Castro's revolution.
If Castro strode the stage of world history the past six decades,
preaching socialism and making allies and enemies of nations a hundred
times Cuba's size, the price was paid — in jail time, in exile, in blood
— by his unwilling countrymen. It is a price that defies accounting.

"The price? I couldn't begin to give you the numbers," says Carlos
Ponce, the director of the Latin American and Caribbean division of the
human-rights group Freedom House. "I can tell you that 2 million Cubans
live outside Cuba, I can tell you that in the last 10 years, there have
been nearly 18,000 political detainees.

"How many in jail since 1959? How many executed? How many lost at sea? I
can't even guess."

There are organizations that try to track those numbers. But extracting
information from a secretive totalitarian regime that likely doesn't
even know the answers itself is a nearly impossible task and likely to
remain so, even if there are significant changes in the way the the
Cuban government does business following Fidel Castro's death last month.

"Even after the Soviet Union fell, when some of its archives opened up
for a time, all we really learned was the extent of the cover-up, all
the measures the Soviets took to cover up their crimes," says Marion
Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial
Foundation, which studies the human-rights histories of communist regimes.

"But we never got a precise number of victims, or their names. The
Soviets didn't want to keep precise records — they had learned their
lesson from the Nazis, who did keep precise records, which were used to
indict Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg."

Approaching the problem from the other end — compiling statistics based
on accounts from victims or their friends and families — has its own
difficulties, including the human tendencies to exaggerate or even
deliberately falsify information for propaganda purposes.

In the mid-1990s, one of the most visible reproofs to Cuba's
human-rights record was the "Quilt of Castro's Genocide," a collage of
hand-sewn cloth panels bearing the names of about 10,000 Cubans believed
to have met their deaths at the hands of their own government. But
within a few years, the quilt disappeared after many of the "victims"
proved to be alive or to have died of natural causes.

Yet even with all the obstacles, some groups have at least made a start
in establishing the broad outlines of what Castro's government has cost
its people.

DEATHS
The late and widely respected University of Hawaii historian R. J.
Rummel, who made a career out of studying what he termed "democide," the
killing of people by their own government, reported in 1987 that
credible estimates of the Castro regime's death toll ran from 35,000 to
141,000, with a median of 73,000.

"I think that's a good range," says Smith. "It's compatible with what
we're comfortable using, which is 'tens of thousands.'"

Yet the Cuba Archive, the Coral Gables-based organization generally
regarded as the most scrupulous in documenting human-rights abuses in
Cuba, uses a much lower figure of 7,193 (which, incidentally, includes
21 Americans, several of whom worked with the CIA).

"Those are the ones we've documented, using either information released
by the government or the testimony of eyewitnesses, not hearsay or
guesswork," says Maria Werlau, the group's president. "We know the
numbers are much, much higher, but this is what we can actually document
so far."

Part of the difficulty is figuring out what deaths to include. The 5,000
or so executed in the immediate aftermath of Castro's 1959 takeover —
sometimes after kangaroo-court trials, sometimes without even that — are
included in nearly everybody's figures. (Figurative talk about a balance
sheet for the human costs of the revolution turns quite literal when the
executions are discussed; for a time during the 1960s, the Cuban
government extracted most of the blood from the victims before they were
shot, then sold it to other communist countries for $50 a pint.)

But what about the Cuban soldiers killed during Castro's military
adventures in Africa during the 1970s and 1980s? (The official death
toll: 4,000. But a Cuban Air Force general who defected in 1987 put the
number killed in Angola alone at 10,000.) And the county's suicide rate
has tripled under Castro. Should the 1,500 or so Cubans who kill
themselves each year be included? If not all of them, how about the 10 a
year who commit suicide — or die of medical neglect — in prison?

The largest number of deaths is believed to be those lost at sea trying
to escape Cuba on makeshift rafts. For years, the Cuba Archive used an
estimate worked up by Harvard-trained economist Armando Lago of about
77,000 rafter deaths by 2003.

But that number was always controversial. It was derived not from
eyewitness testimony but a shaky mathematical formula. Lago first
estimated the number of Cuban refugees reaching the United States by
sea, then assumed that they represented just 25 percent of the attempted
crossing. The rest were presumed dead.

"After Armando died in 2008, we quit using that 77,000 number," Werlau
says. "We don't really know how many people arrive by sea — the U.S.
Coast Guard does not cooperate with us, and in any event, they don't
catch everybody who comes by sea. And the 75 percent mortality rate,
that was just an assumption that was not really defensible. It might be
lower. It might be higher."

Instead, the Cuba Archive uses a much lower number — 1,134 missing or
dead — collected from accounts of survivors who saw other rafters go
astray. "We know that number is far too low — far, far too low — but
it's what we can prove," she says.

Whatever the real number of deaths that can be attributed to Fidel
Castro's regime, it's clear he was an underachiever compared to other
communist regimes, where large percentages of the population were
killed. "Our estimate on deaths in the Soviet Union is 50 million, and
in China, 60 million," says Smith. "Castro is small chops compared to that."

POLITICAL PRISONERS
Whether you count in cold economic terms as time diverted from
productive work, or as an unquantifiable sentimental loss of moments
with friends and loved ones, the uncountable thousands of collective
years Cubans have spent in jail for political offenses is certainly part
of the human toll of the revolution. But it's a number that no one is
even willing to guess at.

"There is no one list of political prisoners that can be considered
complete or reliable," says Matt Perez, a spokesman for the New
Jersey-based Union of Cuban Ex-Political Prisoners. "Even court records
and prison records wouldn't tell you.

"For instance right after the [1961] Bay of Pigs invasion, Castro
rounded up everybody who might remotely be considered a suspect in
working against the government, thousands and thousands and thousands of
people. They didn't have enough jails to hold them all, so they took
over schools and then houses and just put people inside, so crowded that
they couldn't even sit down.

"Some of those people were released in days, some in weeks, some in
months, and some went to jail for a long time. Most of them never had
any kind of trial and hearing. But every single one of them was a
political prisoner, at least for a little while.

"Perhaps someday, if we're lucky enough and the regime falls and we can
get into the archives, we can know this. If they don't burn them first."

Even the archives might not be enough. Many criminal offenses in Cuba,
from the illegality of owning a boat to the prohibition on farmers
slaughtering cattle to feed their families, wouldn't be crimes at all in
a democracy where people can come and go as they please and sell the
products of their work to whomever they choose.

"In Cuba, telling the difference between a political crime and a common
crime can be very complicated," says Cuban-American writer Humberto
Fontova, author of several books harshly critical of the Castro regime.
"The prohibition on slaughtering cows, for instance — you might actually
spend more time in jail in Cuba for killing a cow than for killing a
person, because they don't want farmers selling their beef to anybody
but government slaughterhouses."

Freedom House's Ponce, during conversations with Alan Gross, a U.S.
government contractor jailed for five years in Cuba on spying charges,
was astonished to learn that Gross' cellmate was in prison for accepting
an unauthorized tip from a foreign tourist. "Five or six years in jail
for taking a couple of dollars from a tourist!" exclaimed Ponce. "Most
human-rights groups do not include those types of crimes when they are
making lists of political prisoners, but I don't know what else you
could call it."

Nearly everyone who has examined the issue of Cuban political prisoners
agrees that, over the course of Fidel Castro's rule, they numbered in
the hundreds of thousands, serving jail time ranging from a few hours to
a few decades. And there is no sign that his death has changed anything.

Within a few hours of Fidel's exit from the mortal coil, Danilo
Maldonado, barely a year out of jail for his renegade pig humor, was
locked up again, accused of writing anti-Castro graffiti on the wall of
the Hotel Habana Libre, where Castro lived for a time following his
victory in 1959. The words Maldonado scrawled: Se fue. He's gone.

Clearly, he's not.

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