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Elliott Abrams: Has Trump Made the Right Move in Cuba?
Elliott Abrams, Newsweek • June 22,
This article first appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations site.

Congratulations to President Trump for a serious (though not total)
reversal of the terrible Obama policy toward Cuba.

Why? Because the Obama policy was values-free, granting all sorts of
advantages to the Castro regime in exchange for nothing.

That was no bargained-for exchange, winning more freedom for the Cuban
people. Instead it was a prime example of Obama's ideological politics,
abandoning decades of American policy that he thought right-wing or
old-fashioned and wrong and in the process strengthening the vicious
Castro regime and paying little attention to the people of the island.

In the years since Obama acted, human rights in Cuba have gotten worse.
If Obama's approach was an experiment, it has failed. Human Rights
Watch's World Report 2016 said this of Cuba:

The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and discourage public
criticism. It now relies less on long-term prison sentences to punish
its critics, but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders,
independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in
recent years.

The Miami Herald's lead analyst on Latin America, Andres Oppenheimer,
wrote this in July 2016:

One year after Cuba reopened its embassy in Washington on July 20, 2015,
Cuba's human rights situation is much worse. It's time for Latin America
and the U.S. to stop clapping, and demand that Cuba's dictatorship start
allowing fundamental freedoms
On the first anniversary since Cuba reopened its embassy in Washington,
D.C., one thing is clear: The reestablishment of U.S.-Cuban diplomatic
ties — which I have cautiously supported in this column — has not helped
improve by one iota Cuba's human rights situation. On the contrary,
human rights abuses have worsened.

That's a fair epitaph for the Obama policy: it made human rights in Cuba
worse. And that is why it was politically sensible and morally right to
end it.

Trump is maintaining diplomatic relations and allowing flights and
cruise ships to Cuba, but trying to end the phony individual beach
gambols that masquerade as something more serious. And he is ending the
bonanza for the Cuban military, which owns most of Cuba's tourist industry.

The overall effect of Trump's moves is logically to push Americans
toward group visits that have a serious purpose beyond tourism, and
toward individual Cuban economic efforts like Air BnB accommodations,
rooms in private homes, and small private restaurants—all of which help
the Cuban people.

And if the regime is caught between the people's desire for economic
progress and the end of Obama's foolish policy, perhaps this will push
Castro to allowing even more private economic activity.

Hats off to Senator Marco Rubio, a key architect of the new policy whose
pressure on the Trump administration has now put human rights in Cuba
right back at the heart of U.S. policy. And to the President, who made
the right decision just a few months into his administration.

Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the
Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, DC. He served as
deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor
in the administration of President George W. Bush, where he supervised
U.S. policy in the Middle East for the White House.

Source: Elliott Abrams: Has Trump Made the Right Move in Cuba? -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/elliott-abrams-trump-made-move-145325141.html Continue reading
The true face of GAESA in Havana's Historic Quarter
ROLANDO MARTÍNEZ | La Habana | 22 de Junio de 2017 - 11:27 CEST.

"What has the change from Habaguanex to GAESA been like?"

"Disastrous."

"Why?"

"Because the military management is inept. They demand too much and want
to intimidate us. Imagine: if you refuse to work with them, or ask for
leave, they threaten to seize your passport for a year."

So says Roberto, 41, a founded clerk at Habaguanex S.A. He says that
they worked very hard in the Historic Center. "We built something that
we can touch with our hands. We don't need repressors, but better salaries."

Almost a year after a commercial conglomerate of the Havana Historian's
Office was absorbed by the military consortium GAESA, many workers at
the 20 hotels, 56 bars and cafes, 39 restaurants and more than 200 shops
- among them boutiques, perfumeries, florists, pharmacies, opticians,
jewelers, liquor stores and food establishments - feel uncomfortable
with their new bosses, and some are even considering leaving the entity.

"They are so bungling," says Osmani, a 38-year-old worker, "that the new
management of the Santa Isabel hostel in the Plaza de Armas closed the
service entrance, so maintenance and other employees now have to pass
through the lobby on their way to their jobs."

"Eusebio [Leal] made arrangements with families so that they could
manage some hostels and businesses, an experiment that yielded excellent
results," says Mikhail, a 43-year-old custodian. "But at the Hostal
Valencia, for example, Gaviota already fired them."

"Now there are more shortages than before," says Yoslaine, 32, a cashier
at a grocery store. "There is also apathy, a lack of staff, and fewer
searches. There are long lines to pay, and the bosses couldn't care less
if the customers complain."

Even at the Puerto Carenas building, an entity that was not transferred
to GAESA, but is headed up by a brigade general, those in charge of the
restoration complain about a lack of materials and their bosses'
ignorance: "Instead of importing the required materials, we are ordered
to use common sand and cement, or any old pigment to restore frescos
that are more than 300 years old," says worker Carlos, age 48.

The vast majority of those consulted believe that "the lesser evil"
would be for civilians to run the commercial conglomerate again, and for
the General Controller of the Republic to do its work, tackling
corruption. "The disaster of the paramilitary economy was demonstrated
in the change from Habaguanex to GAESA," said one of them.

Cement, brick and corruption: the background of the military "occupation"

At the beginning of the 'rescue' of the Historic Quarter —Carlos
recalled— three construction companies were created: Puerto Carenas,
Restauradora del Malecón and Restauradora de Monumentos. The latter was
overseen by the architect Perla Rosales Aguirreurreta, Eusebio Leal's
second-in-command today.

Years later the three companies were merged under the name Puerto
Carenas, headed by Rogelio Milián Lária, a former member of the Unión de
Empresas Constructoras Caribe (UNECA), which in mid-2012 was embroiled
in a major corruption scandal. Among other shady dealings, Milián
charged commissions for the purchase of construction materials from a
Spanish supplier (his son-in-law).

Milián was replaced by Brigadier General Conrado Echeverría, former head
of the General Staff of the Matanzas military region, who later headed
up a housing program for FAR (Armed Forces) officers attached to GAESA's
Unión de Construcciones Militares (UCM).

The militarization of Puerto Carenas did not prevent corruption.
Instead, it prompted the exodus of a number of skilled workers to
non-agricultural cooperatives, where they reportedly receive "better
incentives."

Jorge, a 58-year-old freelance civil engineer, says that in the Historic
Center tenders are awarded to "construction cooperatives." The
professionals who run them operate as figureheads for some bigwigs who
benefit from the profits from these contracts. "Perla Rosales —daughter
of General Ulises Rosales del Toro— is part of that 'gallery'," he says.

Once upon a time in Habaguanex

The festival of corruption at the Office of the Historian reached its
peak "when Meici Weiss rose from the administrator of the Hotel Ambos
Mundos to the general manager of Habaguanex S.A.," says a 62-year-old
former worker at the conglomerate, who requested anonymity and said she
had been a "victim of said administration."

Weiss set up a bureaucratic model that functioned as a criminal
organization and "crushed" employees who refused to get involved in the
"shenanigans." The manager surrounded himself with subordinates that
many called "the untouchables." The bosses enjoyed impunity as they sold
their influence for personal gain, and obtained Schengen visas.

According to previous investigations, in mid-2012 Yoagniel Pérez Ramos,
then manager of the Cervecería Factoría, located in the Plaza Vieja of
the Historic Centre, was arrested right out on the street on suspicion
of "illicit enrichment", among other crimes, unleashing a wave of
arrests that rolled through other divisions of Habaguanex.

Weiss and his entourage were dismissed and subjected to investigations
by the General Controller of the Republic and the Criminal
Investigations Division (DIC). "But shit was found at levels so high
that the process had to be swept under the rug," according to an auditor
who asked not to be identified.

An old case was immediately dusted off against Yoagniel Pérez, for
embezzlement, after the carrying out of an audit - four years earlier -
at the facilities of Habaguanex S.A. (the former military headquarters
of San Ambrosio), where he was second in command.

According to Ruling number 47 of 2014, issued by the People's Provincial
Court of Havana, in case 214/2013, Yoagniel was prosecuted for the crime
of bribery, for paying to obtain a dismissal of the case based on a
"lack of evidence" in case 635/2008.

The lawyers bribed with payments of between 2.000 and 200 CUC, other
favors, and gifts at Factoría, were Osvaldo Fernández Guerra, deputy
director of the Dirección de Bufetes Colectivos (Directorate of
Collective Law Firms) in the capital; Lucía Pérez Fernández, provincial
coordinator of the Centro de Desarrollo de Bufetes Colectivos (Center
for the Development of Collective Law Firms); Mildreda Planas Durruthy,
chief prosecutor of Old Havana; and Marisol García Castillo, prosecutor
of the Old Havana municipal prosecutor's office.

Along with Yoagniel, those involved were sentenced to between 5 and 15
years in prison, property seizures, suspension of their professional
activity, and the retention of their passports until their sanctions
expire. Today Yoagniel is the only one who remains behind bars.

"If Yoagniel, a simple culinary manager, was able to bribe a group of
justice system officials, then what could have been achieved by others
with better positions? People like Meici Weiss, also the mother of Meici
Bolaños Weiss, Deputy Minister of Finance and Prices?" asks Ricardo, 54,
a former clerk at Habaguanex.

The official press refrained from informing the public about the
fissures in the justice system and the corruption at Habaguanex. Ten
months later, Eusebio Leal Spengler, incredibly untouched by the
scandal, ceded control of the commercial conglomerate to the Council of
Ministers, via Decree/Law 325/2014.

Two years after the handover, the real estate company Fenix ​​S.A. -
under the command of the military - took charge of the administration of
the San José Cultural Center, where, according to complaints by the
self-employed artisans there, there were irregularities in the sale of
stands, with prices ranging from 8,000 to 120.000 CUC.

Lázaro, age 42, a former worker at the store at Neptuno and Águila,
cites another example of the corruption at the commercial conglomerate,
where Communist Party higher-ups looked the other way and let the
mischief continue, at the same time taking on roles as "sales agents,"
demanding from management the purchase of a bust of José Martí for 240
CUC, to erect a corner honoring the historic figure in each unit (more
than 315), for a total investment of 76.000 CUC. The purchase was to be
made at the store of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of
Cuba, located at Belascoaín and Desagüe, in the center of Havana.

"There are no surprises," Lázaro says. "When GAESA applies coercive
measures against those who serve drinks at bars, make up the rooms at
hostels, charge customers at markets, and shovel concrete at building
sites, it is because that is the nature of the system: taking advantage
of the weakest and then turning a blind eye to the worst offenders, who
are daddy's boys, crooks dressed up fancy, and card-carrying members of
the Party."

Source: The true face of GAESA in Havana's Historic Quarter | Diario de
Cuba - http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1498122564_32035.html Continue reading
How to get off the eaten track in Santiago de Cuba
A trip to Santiago de Cuba should start with dinner at a paladar
(family-run restaurant) and end with drinks on the roof of the Hotel
Casa Granda.
By JENNIFER BAIN Travel Editor
Wed., June 21, 2017

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, CUBA-Ramon Guilarte welcomes us to his home and
restaurant with a cocktail full of vitamin R. Will it be a Cuba Libre,
rum and cola, or Estacazo, rum and lemonade? Rum is ridiculously cheap here.

Esta Caso seems more fun, thanks to our host's animated explanation
(some of it lost in translation) about how drinking this is like getting
whacked with a stick. As we dig into platters of mango, papaya and
pineapple, Guilarte opens a bottle of rum and pours a little on the
ground as an offering to the saints for good luck, and then asks us each
how big a "stick" we want in our drinks.

"Don't expect a common restaurant," he warns with a theatrical flourish.
"Everybody that comes to the restaurant is a friend. I think it's
important that you feel like home — and these are not empty words."

La Fondita de Compay Ramon is a paladar, a family-run restaurant that
boosts the economy and gives tourists and locals the chance to connect.
At this farm-themed paladar we sit in cowhide "taburete" chairs found in
typical farms and our host is dressed like a traditional farmer.

In between a stunning red kidney bean soup and unpretentious platters
full of rice, pork, cabbage, shrimp, chicken and plantains, we learn
that Guilarte is a painter and empty nester with two daughters and two
grandchildren.

"Painting, and the life of a painter, is very lonely. Painting is
totally opposite to this business." He opened Compay Ramon in 2012 in
the Ferrerido neighbourhood of Cuba's second largest city. His
neighbours don't mind the nightly commotion, maybe because they often
get to share the leftovers.

"Best food in Cuba," according to "the Intrepid Group" in one of the
many accolades scrawled artfully on the wall and dated Dec. 16, just
weeks after Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro died and weeks before my
first visit to Canada's favourite Caribbean island.

You'll find plenty of online accolades for our enthusiastic host. "Ramon
is a character," allows our Cubatur guide and translator Ricardo
Zaldivar Rodriguez, "but this is not a show."

I duck down the hall into the tiny kitchen to meet Guilarte's smiling
wife Mayra Gayoso Romaguera and her helper, who is washing dishes by
hand. I peek at a modest bedroom.

My first night in Cuba ends with a stewed green papaya dessert and
Guilarte showing how to roast coffee beans and brew coffee the
traditional way and then sharing a cigar.

Santiago de Cuba, with half a million people, is often described as "the
hottest city in Cuba" because of its temperature and charm.

We cram a lot into a whirlwind day — historic sites like the Santa
Ifgenia cemetery, where Castro's ashes are marked by a large rock from
the Sierra Maestra mountains, and where national hero/poet Jose Marti
has an elaborate mausoleum. People bring them red and white roses
respectively.

We hit Antonio Maceo Revolution Square, a former fort/prison called
Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, and a Catholic church with a sacred
Virgin of Charity statue called El Cobre near a copper mine. I buy a
bundle of copper-tinged rocks from a guy in the parking lot.

Cubans make the most of what they are given. There is virtually no waste
here — public garbage cans are nearly always empty.

I'm more curious about the present than the past and so relish the
chance to wander down Calle Enramada, a pedestrian street where I don't
have time to join the lineup for hot churros.

"If you don't mention this street name," says Rodriguez, "it might be
said that you have never been to Santiago de Cuba."

At La Barrita Ron Caney, a bar by a rum factory, I sample seven-year-old
rum, smelling it with closed eyes, tilting the glass to see the body and
holding a sip in my throat while the house band plays traditional Cuban
music.

There is music everywhere, in Plaza de Dolores, in Casa de la Trova Pepe
Sanchez, and at Tropicana, an outpost of Havana's famed cabaret.

"When we hear music, we start dancing," says Rodriguez, who sings and
dances throughout our week together.

At Restaurante Matamoros, the chef pops out of the kitchen to join the
band while we enjoy a soupy meat and vegetable stew called ajiaco. After
dinner we have coffee nearby at Café Constantin, where my Bembito Bomban
is a cheeky reference to Afro-Cuban women and combines coffee, cacao
liqueur and cinnamon.

Cuba is changing, so you will mix and match old and new.

Melia Santiago de Cuba is new, glitzy and a short drive from the
historic centre, with decent Wi-Fi (a very big deal), a pool, and a
breakfast buffet, where I wrapped thin slices of cheese around chunks of
guava paste.

In the heart of downtown, Hotel Casa Granda oozes colonial charm, with a
breezy rooftop restaurant and sweeping city views. For my last meal, I
had a Cuban sandwich (an American invention) and a local spin on
pepperoni pizza (forgive me).

It was no Fondita de Compay Ramon, but it was still equally, magically
Cuban.

Jennifer Bain was hosted by the Cuba Tourist Board, which didn't review
or approve this story.

When you go

Get there: I flew Cubana de Aviacion airlines (www.cubana.cu ) direct to
Santiago de Cuba and flew home with a stop in Camaguey. WestJet, Air
Canada, Air Transat and Sunwing all fly to various spots in Cuba.

Get around: It's easy to take taxis around Santiago de Cuba, but if you
have a driver and guide (like I did with Cubatur), you'll have the bonus
of a translator/fixer.

Stay: I stayed at the modern Melia Santiago de Cuba (melia.com).

Eat: Find La Fondita de Compay Ramon on Facebook.

Know: You can only buy Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) in Cuba and can't
exchange them at the end of your trip. Get them at the airport and
foreign exchange shops. Wi-Fi is limited to public squares and some
hotel lobbies. Buy a 60-minute Wi-Fi card for 2 CUC (about $2.75
Canadian) at the airport or your hotel. North American plugs don't work
so bring an adaptor for the European 220-volt system.

Source: How to get off the eaten track in Santiago de Cuba | Toronto
Star -
https://www.thestar.com/life/travel/2017/06/21/how-to-get-off-the-eaten-track-in-santiago-de-cuba.html Continue reading
Trump's Fault?
ARMANDO CHAGUACEDA | Ciudad de México | 21 de Junio de 2017 - 10:47 CEST.

Donald Trump's announcement of an alteration of his country's policies
towards Cuba caused a great stir. Despite its limited scope - in terms
of affecting Obama's legacy and the foreseeable impact of the measures -
adversaries and officials in Havana were quick to applaud or condemn
Trump's move. For some it represents a firm stance in the face of the
enduring communist dictatorship, while for others it constitutes an
imperialist aggression against national sovereignty.

However, it would be worth taking a good look at the Cuban government's
recent decisions and actions in order to more fairly assess Washington's
degree of responsibility for internal dynamics on the Island. Despite
the scant confidence in Cuba's national sovereignty that this perception
denotes, an impression shared by both pro-government figures and members
of the opposition alike, the truth is that the facts speak for themselves.

Let us look at the socio-economic sphere. Is the Treasury Department
responsible for failing to achieve the promised monetary unification and
appreciation of the peso, the cause of the famous economic recession of
2016? Is the Federal Reserve to blame for the credit and tax policies
stifling the potential of Cuban entrepreneurs? Is the US National Park
Service responsible for Cuba's ineffective measures and their failure to
reverse environmental degradation? Are Betsy DeVos and Tom Price to be
held directly responsible for the deficient coverage and low quality of
the island's education and health systems?

Let us look at the political arena. Are Homeland Security agents
responsible for the regime's repressive strategy that has imposed severe
prison stays (and not just brief detentions, as some Cubans claim) on
more than 150 opposition activists, including a large number of poor,
black peasant women? Was it the FBI that recently expelled faculty and
students from Cuban universities (including several socialists) because
they were critical of the government? Is the US Attorney General
providing counsel, in silence and without taking into account citizens'
demands and proposals, for the elite's clandestine revision of the Cuban
Constitution and Electoral Law? Is the CIA, in a display of its
expertise in subversion and coups, supporting Nicolás Maduro's current
assault upon the Bolivarian Constitution and democracy? Is it the
Pentagon and the NSA that are strengthening ties between the FAR and the
North Korean army (including the sale of UN-prohibited weapons) and
between the MININT and Russian intelligence services?

The above are just some of the actions and results of the Cuban
government in recent years in response to Obama's less restrictive
policies. They indicate that Trump's measures are not responsible for
the course chosen by Havana. The regime's tightening of control,
vis-a-vis the opening up is, as a sociologist would say, an independent
variable. The recent crackdown has more to do with the fundamental
makeup of the Cuban regime than a set of sanctions that can be
summarized with a popular saying: much ado about nothing.

This article originally appeared in the Mexican newspaper La Razón. It
is published here with the author's permission.

Source: Trump's Fault? | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1498034856_32010.html Continue reading
National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of
the United States Toward Cuba

MEMORANDUM FOR THE VICE PRESIDENT
THE SECRETARY OF STATE
THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR
THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE
THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE
THE SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
THE SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION
THE SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY
THE DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
THE DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
THE CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF
THE ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF OF STAFF
THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT
AND BUDGET
THE ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR
NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS
THE ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR
HOMELAND SECURITY AND COUNTERTERRORISM
THE COUNSEL TO THE PRESIDENT
THE ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT
FOR ECONOMIC AFFAIRS
THE UNITED STATES TRADE REPRESENTATIVE
THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF SCIENCE
AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY
THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNITED STATES
TO THE UNITED NATIONS
THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE SMALL BUSINESS
ADMINISTRATION
THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE UNITED STATES AGENCY
FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF PERSONNEL
MANAGEMENT

Section 1. Purpose.

The United States recognizes the need for more freedom and democracy,
improved respect for human rights, and increased free enterprise in
Cuba. The Cuban people have long suffered under a Communist regime that
suppresses their legitimate aspirations for freedom and prosperity and
fails to respect their essential human dignity.

My Administration's policy will be guided by the national security and
foreign policy interests of the United States, as well as solidarity
with the Cuban people. I will seek to promote a stable, prosperous, and
free country for the Cuban people. To that end, we must channel funds
toward the Cuban people and away from a regime that has failed to meet
the most basic requirements of a free and just society.

In Cuba, dissidents and peaceful protesters are arbitrarily detained and
held in terrible prison conditions. Violence and intimidation against
dissidents occurs with impunity. Families of political prisoners are
not allowed to assemble or peacefully protest the improper confinement
of their loved ones. Worshippers are harassed, and free association by
civil society organizations is blocked. The right to speak freely,
including through access to the internet, is denied, and there is no
free press. The United States condemns these abuses.

The initial actions set forth in this memorandum, including restricting
certain financial transactions and travel, encourage the Cuban
government to address these abuses. My Administration will continue to
evaluate its policies so as to improve human rights, encourage the rule
of law, foster free markets and free enterprise, and promote democracy
in Cuba.

Sec. 2. Policy.

It shall be the policy of the executive branch to:

(a) End economic practices that disproportionately benefit the
Cuban government or its military, intelligence, or security agencies or
personnel at the expense of the Cuban people.

(b) Ensure adherence to the statutory ban on tourism to Cuba.

(c) Support the economic embargo of Cuba described in section
4(7) of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of
1996 (the embargo), including by opposing measures that call for an end
to the embargo at the United Nations and other international forums and
through regular reporting on whether the conditions of a transition
government exist in Cuba.

(d) Amplify efforts to support the Cuban people through the
expansion of internet services, free press, free enterprise, free
association, and lawful travel.

(e) Not reinstate the "Wet Foot, Dry Foot" policy, which
encouraged untold thousands of Cuban nationals to risk their lives to
travel unlawfully to the United States.

(f) Ensure that engagement between the United States and Cuba
advances the interests of the United States and the Cuban people. These
interests include: advancing Cuban human rights; encouraging the growth
of a Cuban private sector independent of government control; enforcing
final orders of removal against Cuban nationals in the United States;
protecting the national security and public health and safety of the
United States, including through proper engagement on criminal cases and
working to ensure the return of fugitives from American justice living
in Cuba or being harbored by the Cuban government; supporting United
States agriculture and protecting plant and animal health; advancing the
understanding of the United States regarding scientific and
environmental challenges; and facilitating safe civil aviation.

Sec. 3. Implementation.

The heads of departments and agencies shall begin to implement the
policy set forth in section 2 of this memorandum as follows:

(a) Within 30 days of the date of this memorandum, the Secretary
of the Treasury and the Secretary of Commerce, as appropriate and in
coordination with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of
Transportation, shall initiate a process to adjust current regulations
regarding transactions with Cuba.

(i) As part of the regulatory changes described in this
subsection, the Secretary of State shall identify the entities or
subentities, as appropriate, that are under the control of, or act for
or on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services
or personnel (such as Grupo de Administracion Empresarial S.A. (GAESA),
its affiliates, subsidiaries, and successors), and publish a list of
those identified entities and subentities with which direct financial
transactions would disproportionately benefit such services or personnel
at the expense of the Cuban people or private enterprise in Cuba.

(ii) Except as provided in subsection (a)(iii) of this
section, the regulatory changes described in this subsection shall
prohibit direct financial transactions with those entities or
subentities on the list published pursuant to subsection (a)(i) of this
section.

(iii) The regulatory changes shall not prohibit
transactions that the Secretary of the Treasury or the Secretary of
Commerce, in coordination with the Secretary of State, determines are
consistent with the policy set forth in section 2 of this memorandum and:

(A) concern Federal Government operations, including
Naval Station Guantanamo Bay and the United States mission in Havana;

(B) support programs to build democracy in Cuba;

(C) concern air and sea operations that support
permissible travel, cargo, or trade;

(D) support the acquisition of visas for permissible
travel;

(E) support the expansion of direct
telecommunications and internet access for the Cuban people;

(F) support the sale of agricultural commodities,
medicines, and medical devices sold to Cuba consistent with the Trade
Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C. 7201 et
seq.) and the Cuban Democracy Act of 2002 (22 U.S.C. 6001 et seq.);

(G) relate to sending, processing, or receiving
authorized remittances;

(H) otherwise further the national security or
foreign policy interests of the United States; or

(I) are required by law.

(b) Within 30 days of the date of this memorandum, the Secretary
of the Treasury, in coordination with the Secretary of State, shall
initiate a process to adjust current regulations to ensure adherence to
the statutory ban on tourism to Cuba.

(i) The amended regulations shall require that
educational travel be for legitimate educational purposes. Except for
educational travel that was permitted by regulation in effect on January
27, 2011, all educational travel shall be under the auspices of an
organization subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and all
such travelers must be accompanied by a representative of the sponsoring
organization.

(ii) The regulations shall further require that those
traveling for the permissible purposes of non academic education or to
provide support for the Cuban people:

(A) engage in a full-time schedule of activities that
enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or
promote the Cuban people's independence from Cuban authorities; and

(B) meaningfully interact with individuals in Cuba.

(iii) The regulations shall continue to provide that every
person engaging in travel to Cuba shall keep full and accurate records
of all transactions related to authorized travel, regardless of whether
they were effected pursuant to license or otherwise, and such records
shall be available for examination by the Department of the Treasury for
at least 5 years after the date they occur.
(iv) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of the
Treasury, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Secretary of Transportation
shall review their agency's enforcement of all categories of permissible
travel within 90 days of the date the regulations described in this
subsection are finalized to ensure such enforcement accords with the
policies outlined in section 2 of this memorandum.

(c) The Secretary of the Treasury shall regularly audit travel
to Cuba to ensure that travelers are complying with relevant statutes
and regulations. The Secretary of the Treasury shall request that the
Inspector General of the Department of the Treasury inspect the
activities taken by the Department of the Treasury to implement this
audit requirement. The Inspector General of the Department of the
Treasury shall provide a report to the President, through the Secretary
of the Treasury, summarizing the results of that inspection within 180
days of the adjustment of current regulations described in subsection
(b) of this section and annually thereafter.

(d) The Secretary of the Treasury shall adjust the Department of
the Treasury's current regulation defining the term "prohibited
officials of the Government of Cuba" so that, for purposes of title 31,
part 515 of the Code of Federal Regulations, it includes Ministers and
Vice-Ministers, members of the Council of State and the Council of
Ministers; members and employees of the National Assembly of People's
Power; members of any provincial assembly; local sector chiefs of the
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; Director Generals and
sub–Director Generals and higher of all Cuban ministries and state
agencies; employees of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT); employees
of the Ministry of Defense (MINFAR); secretaries and first secretaries
of the Confederation of Labor of Cuba (CTC) and its component unions;
chief editors, editors, and deputy editors of Cuban state-run media
organizations and programs, including newspapers, television, and radio;
and members and employees of the Supreme Court (Tribuno Supremo Nacional).

(e) The Secretary of State and the Representative of the United
States to the United Nations shall oppose efforts at the United Nations
or (with respect to the Secretary of State) any other international
forum to lift the embargo until a transition government in Cuba, as
described in section 205 of the LIBERTAD Act, exists.

(f) The Secretary of State, in coordination with the Attorney
General, shall provide a report to the President assessing whether and
to what degree the Cuban government has satisfied the requirements of a
transition government as described in section 205(a) of the LIBERTAD
Act, taking into account the additional factors listed in section 205(b)
of that Act. This report shall include a review of human rights abuses
committed against the Cuban people, such as unlawful detentions,
arbitrary arrests, and inhumane treatment.

(g) The Attorney General shall, within 90 days of the date of
this memorandum, issue a report to the President on issues related to
fugitives from American justice living in Cuba or being harbored by the
Cuban government.

(h) The Secretary of State and the Administrator of the United
States Agency for International Development shall review all democracy
development programs of the Federal Government in Cuba to ensure that
they align with the criteria set forth in section 109(a) of the LIBERTAD
Act.

(i) The Secretary of State shall convene a task force, composed
of relevant departments and agencies, including the Office of Cuba
Broadcasting, and appropriate non-governmental organizations and
private-sector entities, to examine the technological challenges and
opportunities for expanding internet access in Cuba, including through
Federal Government support of programs and activities that encourage
freedom of expression through independent media and internet freedom so
that the Cuban people can enjoy the free and unregulated flow of
information.

(j) The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland
Security shall continue to discourage dangerous, unlawful migration that
puts Cuban and American lives at risk. The Secretary of Defense shall
continue to provide support, as necessary, to the Department of State
and the Department of Homeland Security in carrying out the duties
regarding interdiction of migrants.

(k) The Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary
of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the
Secretary of Commerce, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall
annually report to the President regarding the engagement of the United
States with Cuba to ensure that engagement is advancing the interests of
the United States.

(l) All activities conducted pursuant to subsections (a) through
(k) of this section shall be carried out in a manner that furthers the
interests of the United States, including by appropriately protecting
sensitive sources, methods, and operations of the Federal Government.


Sec. 4. Earlier Presidential Actions.

(a) This memorandum supersedes and replaces both National
Security Presidential Directive-52 of June 28, 2007, U.S. Policy toward
Cuba, and Presidential Policy Directive-43 of October 14, 2016, United
States-Cuba Normalization.

(b) This memorandum does not affect either Executive Order 12807
of May 24, 1992, Interdiction of Illegal Aliens, or Executive Order
13276 of November 15, 2002, Delegation of Responsibilities Concerning
Undocumented Aliens Interdicted or Intercepted in the Caribbean Region.

Sec. 5. General Provisions.

(a) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or
otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive
department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of
Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or
legislative proposals.

(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with
applicable laws and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any
right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in
equity by any party against the United States, its departments,
agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other
person.
(d) The Secretary of State is hereby authorized and directed to
publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

DONALD J. TRUMP

Source: National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the
Policy of the United States Toward Cuba | whitehouse.gov -
https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/06/16/national-security-presidential-memorandum-strengthening-policy-united Continue reading
… detention and possible removal to Cuba. “I am certain that immigration … of deporting thousands of convicted Cuban felons back to the island … among the large number of Cuban felons now facing deportation are … grew up in Miami’s Cuban-American community, used their ocean-racing speedboats … Continue reading
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 6 June 2017 — The leader speaks for hours on the platform, his index finger pointing to an invisible enemy. A human tide applauds when the intonation of a phrase demands it and stares enraptured at the bearded speaker. For decades these public acts were repeated in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution, shaping the … Continue reading "Populism Cuban Style: Conquests, Threats and Leadership" Continue reading
How to survive military service as a homosexual
CARLOS TRUJILLO HERRERA | La Habana | 12 de Junio de 2017 - 10:37 CEST.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: How to survive military service as a homosexual | Diario de Cuba
- http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1497256623_31816.html Continue reading
The heinous FALN bomb attack on Fraunces Tavern on Jan. 24, 1975, first brought terror home to modern-day New York City. Let’s not forget this on Sunday, June 10, when remorse-free FALN mastermind Oscar López Rivera — turned loose by former President Barack Obama after serving half of his 70-year prison sentence — marches in... Continue reading
Cuba continues to support terrorism
BY FRANK CALZON
frank.calzon@cubacenter.org

President Donald Trump's strong opposition to terrorism, during his
successful campaign, his recent speech to Arab leaders in Riyadh, and
comments following the Manchester bombing, are welcome. Now, media
reports indicate the administration is reevaluating U.S.-Cuba policy. It
can be hoped that as Trump will look south to Cuba, he factor in that
the island nation has long supported terrorism and terrorists.

Gen. Raúl Castro, succeeded his late brother Fidel, who for many years
sent agents to sow terrorism in Latin American and Europe. Today, Cuba
continues to harbor a convicted American terrorist: Joanne Chesimard.
She is a fugitive on the FBI's Most Wanted list. Indeed, the FBI is
offering $1 million for information leading to her capture and arrest.
In 1977, Chesimard was convicted of the cold-blooded murder of a New
Jersey state trooper, sentenced to life in prison, but fled to Cuba
where Fidel Castro granted her "asylum."

As we know, President Obama acquiesced to Raúl Castro's request to
remove Cuba from the State Department's list of countries supporting
terrorists in a deal to restore diplomatic relations. Chesimard has not
been returned to United States to face American justice. Instead, she
speaks to American college students visiting Havana. She, of course,
speaks glowingly about the Castros' dynasty.

She's not the only terrorist to be welcomed in Cuba. Oscar Lopez Rivera
is a Puerto Rican terrorist whose sentence was commuted by Obama. Raúl
Castro sent his congratulations and invited him to visit the "socialist
island nation." Lopez Rivera spent more than 35 years in U.S.
penitentiaries for his role in a series of deadly bombings in New York
City and Chicago. He is one of the militants of the infamous FALN (Armed
Forces for National Liberation) that in 1975 blew up Fraunces Tavern in
Manhattan. Four died, scores were injured.

Chesimard claims to be an American "exile." Lopez Rivera says he was "a
political prisoner."

This is not all. A summary of Havana's support for terrorism should
include the heist of $7 million from Wells Fargo in West Hartford,
Connecticut, in 1983. The money was taken to the Cuban Embassy in Mexico
and turned over to the regime. Castro's Cuba has also been associated
with the infamous terrorist Carlos, who in 1975 kidnapped 70 hostages in
Vienna (three people were killed) at a meeting of oil ministers from
OPEC. "Carlos" who committed several murders in France was, according to
The Guardian, provided by Cuba "with passports, money and five
apartments in Paris." As a result, the Quai d'Orsay expelled several
Cuban diplomats.

In 2014 Obama pardoned a convicted Cuban spy, who was serving two life
sentences in the United States, for his role in planning with Cuba's
military the 1996 shoot-down of two small single-engine planes in
international airspace over the Florida Straits. Four men — three
American citizens and a legal resident born in Cuba — died. Raúl Castro,
then minister of the armed forces, pinned medals on the MIG pilots who
murdered them. Upon his release and return to Cuba, the spy was given a
hero's welcome and continues, to this day, to be part of Havana's
anti-American disinformation campaign.

Then there was Fidel Castro's 1976 speech, in which he denied Cuba
engaged in terrorism while issuing a threat to the world, and to the
United States in particular: "If the Cuban state were to carry out
terrorist acts and respond with terrorism to terrorists, we believe we
would be efficient terrorists. Let no one think otherwise. …The mere
fact that the Cuban Revolution has never implemented terrorism does not
mean we renounce it. We would like to issue this warning" —which became
reality.

President Trump and his administration should take heed. Raúl Castro
exerts total control over Cuba, but has never renounced or contradicted
his late brother. The regime continues to support and protect
terrorists. A tough global counter-terror policy must drop Obama's
exemption for Cuba.

FRANK CALZON IS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR A FREE CUBA, BASED
IN WASHINGTON, D. C.

Source: President Trump should take into account that Cuba continues to
support terrorism | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article154513419.html Continue reading
The Cuban Government, Complicit in Corruption and Peddling Favours /
Iván García

Iván García, 26 MAY 2017 — Ideology is no longer the most important
consideration if you want to get an administrative position in Cuba's
chaotic business and commercial network. They only ask you to do two
things: fake support for the autocracy and show loyalty to government
business.

If you have both these qualities, they will remove any common offences
from your work record. Nor is it a problem if you frequently beat your
wife or drink more rum than you should.

Human qualities are no longer a priority if you want to have a job in a
company management team or join the ranks of the Communist Party.

Let's call him Armando. He has always worked in internal trade. "It's
all been run down. Starting with the beginning of the Revolution. In the
food and internal trade sector, the biggest wastes of space have
occupied key positions. The employment culture is asphyxiating, like
being in a prison. Money, extortion, nepotism and witchcraft are more
important that professional qualifications and personal qualities".

After letting his life go down the drain, what with getting into
trouble, involving knives, robberies, public disorder, Armando decided
to get himself back on track when his son was born. "I spent most of my
youth and adolescence in the clink. With a family to support, I have to
look at things differently. I have no family in the States who could get
me out of here. I had to learn how to play the system. With the help of
a friend, after paying him 300 chavitos (CUC), I got a bodega [ration
store] for my wife and managed to include myself in the staff as an
assistant to the storekeeper".

After a year and a half, his wife started the process of joining the
party. "She knows nothing about politics, but in Cuba having a red card
opens doors for you. My next goal is to 'buy' a bodega just for me."

According to Armando, for 400 CUC you can get a bodega with lots of
customers. "The more people buy things in your store, the more options
you have to make money. In six months or a year, depending on your
contacts with truck drivers and people running warehouses, you can
recoup your investment".

Although the neighbourhood bodegas have seen a reduction in the
distribution of goods being issued through the ration books, various
storekeepers have said that, in spite of that, they are still making money.

"It's not like thirty years ago, when we had 25 different products
delivered to the bodegas. You don't get rich, but you can support your
family. You can do two things: cheat on weighing, and buy foreign made
things and sell them on to owners of private businesses or direct to
customers", admits a storekeeper with forty years' experience.

If there is a robbery in a state-owned food centre or bodega, the boss
or storekeeper has to meet the loss. "A little while ago, they stole
several boxes of cigars and bags of coffee. I didn't even report it. I
paid about 4 thousand pesos for the loss and coughed up nearly another
200 CUC have new bars fitted and improvements to the security of the
premises", said a storekeeper

An official dealing with these things emphasises that, "When a robbery
occurs, the first suspect is the storekeeper. It's an unwritten law of
business. If you get robbed, you should pay up and shut up, because
police investigations usually uncover more serious problems".

Naturally, in high-turnover food stores and markets you pay weekly
bribes to the municipal managers. The manager of a state pizzeria
explains: "The amounts vary with sales level. The more you sell, the
more you have to send upstairs. At weekends I send an envelope with
1,500 Cuban pesos and 40 CUC to the municipal director, as I sell in
both currencies".

This hidden support network, of mafia-like construction, at the same
time as it offers excellent profit on the back of State merchandise,
also generates a de facto commitment to the government.

"It's what happens in any important government activity. Whether it's
tourism, commerce, or import-export. The money comes from embezzlement,
irregular financial dealings and corrupt practices. One way or another,
the present system feeds us. It all comes together, as a kind of
marriage of convenience. I let you do your thing, as long as you let me
do mine", is a sociologist's opinion.

Raúl Castro has tried to sort things out, and designated Gladys Bejerano
as Controller General of the Republic. "Successes have been partial.
They get rid of one focus of corruption but leave others or change the
way they work. If you were to arrange a thorough clean up of the network
of government-run businesses, the system would break down. Because, like
the bloodsuckers, they feed off other peoples' blood", explains an
ex-director of food services.

Essentially, what is left of socialism in Cuba is a pact. In its attempt
to survive, Castroism violates Marxist principles and, in place of
loyalty, accepts that Catholics, Santeria priests and masons can enter
the Communist Party.

In the business sector there is a different idea. Embezzlement in return
for applause. In that way, not much is being stolen – kind of.

Translated by GH

Source: The Cuban Government, Complicit in Corruption and Peddling
Favours / Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-cuban-government-complicit-in-corruption-and-peddling-favours-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Iván García, 26 MAY 2017 — Ideology is no longer the most important consideration if you want to get an administrative position in Cuba’s chaotic business and commercial network. They only ask you to do two things: fake support for the autocracy and show loyalty to government business. If you have both these qualities, they will remove … Continue reading "The Cuban Government, Complicit in Corruption and Peddling Favours / Iván García" Continue reading
Local Surfers Are Rallying to Legalize Surfing in Cuba
TUESDAY JUNE 6, 2017
Corey McLean
Filmmaker, Photographer

In Cuba, there is a small, tight-knit community of diehard local surfers
who are determined to represent their country in the 2020 Olympics,
despite a laundry list of obstacles working against them. The most
significant of these obstacles? Surfing is technically illegal in their
country.

History
Surfing has been unintentionally controversial with the Cuban government
since it's inception. When the Cold War came to an end in the early 90s,
all economic support for Cuba from the Soviet Union evaporated. Still,
on the dark side of the US embargo, this left the population starving
and fearing for their future. A mass exodus began via all forms of
watercraft – ranging from car tires to leaky tin rafts – prompting the
Cuban government to effectively ban people from the coastline.
In this same time frame, several guys began developing their own strain
of surfing while testing out homemade board designs. When the government
saw young men paddling out into the water on foam boards, they assumed
they were making a break for Florida. In a country that maintained a
longstanding ban on rock n' roll and dished out year-long prison
sentences for eating beef, legalizing surfing was never a consideration.
So, the constant threat of being detained or surfers having their
coveted boards confiscated came to define the sport until the past
couple of years.

Few know Cuba even has waves, including many Cubans themselves. The 100
or so Cubans who do surf, though, want to share the stoke by coercing
their government to recognize a sport that's technically been illegal
for so long.

Today
As the US/Cuba relationship has slowly thawed out politically, tensions
have eased between surfers and law enforcement. Things are vastly
improved compared to how they were 10 years ago, but the government's
failure to recognize surfing as a legitimate sport still presents a huge
barrier for the sport's evolution on the island.
For years, Cuban surfers have sought to organize an official club and
association to collectively further the sport. They want to hold
competitions at home as well as travel to competitions abroad if
invited. They want to have the legal ability to advocate for ocean
protection around their island and build a national team to develop
future surfers. Until surfing is recognized as a sport, none of this can
happen in Cuba.

Why Now?
With the acceptance of surfing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics comes a huge
opportunity for Cuban surfers to make a legitimate case to their
government. "Even if we don't win, even if we don't pass the first
round," says Frank Gonzalez, one of the pioneers of the Cuban surf
scene, "if we're there, I could breathe in peace, and say that we
accomplished our goal."
For Yaya Guerrero, one of the only female surfers in the country,
legitimizing surf has become her primary focus. She's made it a mission
to assemble the full story of Cuban surf, along with evidence of the
sport's growth, into a presentation for the government.
The week following New Years 2016, myself and a small group of
filmmakers packed our bags with ten weeks worth of clothing and headed
to Cuba to work with Frank and Yaya on a film. As the country started to
change more and more rapidly, legitimizing the sport seemed more and
more in reach, and our conversations shifted toward how we could
collaborate to make it succeed.
A year and a half later, Yaya and her group have asked for global
support in the endeavor. They feel confident that, in light of all of
the recent changes, if they can demonstrate that the world of surfing is
behind them they will finally reach their goal.
If you think that it's time for Cubans to be able to surf at home and
with the rest of the world, please add your name to this petition and
share with your friends – it could make a huge difference for their
future in the sport! Let Cuba #surflibre.
To learn more about the effort to legalize surfing in Cuba, visit
surflibre.org, or follow @surflibre on Instagram.

Source: Local Surfers Hope to Legalize Cuban Surfing | The Inertia -
http://www.theinertia.com/surf/local-surfers-are-rallying-to-legalize-surfing-in-cuba/ Continue reading
Cubans Want More Severe Laws for Criminals / Iván García

Iván García, 6 May 2017 — Some people in Cuba, not just a minority, want
blood. And more severe laws for criminals.

While the Catholic Church and different international institutions are
advocating a crusade to eliminate the death penalty on the Island, there
are people who, for many reasons, think firing squads should be reactivated.

If you ask Gisela about the subject, her eyes fill hopelessly with
tears. At one time this woman, who is pushing 50, was a brilliant nurse.
She formed a model family together with her spouse, an ex-official of a
foreign business. They lived in a well-cared-for apartment in Reparto
Sevillano, in the south of Havana.

But the night of December 14, 2010, their marriage took a dramatic turn.
"They killed our only son. He was only 15. He was with some friends in
El Vedado. A gang assaulted him to take his clothes. Before running
away, they stabbed him twice in a lung. After his death, our life
changed and got worse. I always wonder, if God exists, where he was that
night," says Gisela.

After the loss of their son, the marriage dissolved. She became a
habitual alcoholic. They sold their car and later exchanged their
apartment for a smaller one. The money was spent on rum and psychotropics.

Gisela divorced the father of her deceased son, and they put him in a
psychiatric hospital. When you ask her opinion about the death penalty
or more severe laws for certain crimes, she answers without subtlety:
"Whoever kills a person ought to be executed. Look at my case. The
criminal who killed my son got 20 years in prison, and for good conduct
he served only six and is now back on the street. It's not fair."

Those who have lost a family member or friends of violent crime victims
are more susceptible and hope for the return of executioners and a State
that decrees death.

In Cuba, the crime rate is notably low. Although official statistics are
unknown, the Island is a safe place. But gangs of juvenile delinquents
and home robberies have increased.

Since 2005, the Cuban Government has had a moratorium on the death
penalty. The last convict executed was called "Crazy Victor" in the
world of the marginal underground, and he was a sinewy mestizo almost
6'6″ tall, with an assassin's soul.

At the end of the '90s, he killed an old woman inside her house in the
neighborhood of La Vibora. The day of his arrest he had a shoot-out with
police in the style of an American action film.

In the spring of 2004, the Council of State ratified the death penalty
for Victor, which was carried out in the adjacent courtyard at the
Combinado del Este, a maximum security prison on the outskirts of the
capital.

Fidel and Raúl Castro have not held back from pulling the trigger. From
the very beginning of January 1, 1959, they used the death penalty to
eliminate their recalcitrant enemies and even peaceful dissidents. A
lawyer, now retired, relates:

"When an objective academic study is done, without political passion,
the exact number of Cubans that the government of Fidel Castro has
executed will be known. On principle, they eliminated criminals from
Batista's police and army. Several of these trials were real Roman
circuses, televised to the whole country, without the proper judicial
guarantees. They took advantage of the situation to deliver justice in
order to liquidate the enemies of the revolution.

"In one step, the laws sanctioned the death penalty for betrayal of the
country by soldiers, as in the case of General Arnaldo Ochoa. Or the
execution of 19 people in an air base in Holguín in 1963, most of them
war pilots. Fidel, Raúl and Che signed quite a few death penalties. The
figures vary, according to the sources. Some say that 500 were executed;
others, 3,000 or more.

"Dissident jurists consider these to be crimes of the State, because
they were established offenses that didn't necessarily call for capital
punishment. But the Government claimed it was being persecuted by Yankee
imperialism."

In 2003, after a summary trial, three young black men, residents of
Centro Havana, were executed for trying to hijack a boat to leave the
country, which they weren't able to achieve. "It was a counterproductive
political error. It was an an act of Fidel Castro's meant to set an
example that cost him the condemnation of world public opinion," said
the ex-lawyer.

In the spring of that same year, among the 75 peaceful dissidents
punished with long years in prison by Fidel Castro, who used only words
as a weapon, the Prosecutor of the Republic requested seven death
penalties. "It was something appalling. Luckily the Government didn't
carry it out. It would have been a crime in all meanings of the word,"
said the old lawyer.

As in any revolutionary movement, whether in France, Russia or Cuba,
violence begins with force. The death penalty always was a weapon of
combat for intimidating the enemy. However, several people consulted
considered that while political adversaries were sanctioned excessively
or executed in a pit in the fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña, Cuban
justice was too permissive with some blood crimes.

"Right now someone who kills a cow gets more years in prison that
someone who kills a human being. I know cases where they got only four
or five years in prison in spite of having killed someone. Those who
slaughter beef cattle are condemned to 20 or more years of privation of
liberty," says an ex-prisoner.

There are quite a few ordinary Cubans who think that crimes like robbery
in occupied homes, sexual violations and other mean-spirited acts should
be considered by the State as crimes, and the killers should be executed.

"Although my religion is against the death penalty, I'm in favor of
executing those who commit horrendous crimes," confesses Mayda, who
defines herself as a practicing evangelical.

Saúl, who works for himself. considers that in addition to "executing
serial killers or psychopaths, they ought to punish other infractions
with more years. As in the United States, where they give them life
imprisonment for these same crimes. The thugs would think twice before
breaking the law."

But in the opinion of another lawyer, in the case of major crimes or by
resuming the death penalty, "the State could be tempted to condition
these laws and carry out a purge of the opposition. The subject of the
death penalty, whether to abolish it or keep it, should be debated
nationally and the citizens should decide by vote." But Cuba isn't
Switzerland.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Cubans Want More Severe Laws for Criminals / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubans-want-more-severe-laws-for-criminals-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Geingob calls for removal of U.S. trade embargo on Cuba
June 6, 2017
Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-President Hage Geingob says there is much ground to cover to
ensure the complete lifting of the United States of America's long
running economic and trade blockade against Cuba.

Geingob made the remarks yesterday during the commencement of the 5th
Continental African Conference in Solidarity with Cuba, where about 174
delegates, including several Cuban nationals, were gathered.

He said Africa would continue to support the people of Cuba until the
world sees the total elimination of existing economic and commercial
barriers, noting that some progress had been made, particularly
following the release of the Cuban Five (who were held in the U.S. on
dubious espionage charges), but said it was necessary that the U.S. lift
its economic and trade embargo of Cuba.

"We applaud the positive developments in this respect and commend the
governments of Cuba and the U.S. for their efforts… We salute the people
of Cuba for the fortitude that they have maintained throughout the
years, never compromising on their principles while facing economic
injustice," he stated.

The conference aims to strengthen bonds of friendship between the people
of Cuba and progressive peoples of the world by recognising the
important work done by them in solidarity and support of Cuba.

The three-day conference further aims to galvanise international
solidarity organisations to demand the lifting of the economic,
financial and trade blockade against Cuba, and the restoration of the
territory illegally occupied by the U.S. as a naval base at Guantanamo
Bay where the infamous Guantanamo Prison is based, as two of the main
obstacles to the island's development.

Andima Toivo Ya Toivo, patron of the Namibia-Cuba Friendship
Association, said he looked forward to discussions on how the two
countries can jointly help bring an end to the economic blockade and the
return of Guantanamo Bay to the people of Cuba.

The conference also aims to strategise collectively and to strengthen
solidarity movements with Cuba, as well as Cuban solidarity with Africa,
in light of the importance of utilising social and alternative media to
spread news of the reality of Cuban social, political and economic life.

It also aims to highlight and promote the legacy of late Commandant
Fidel Castro, who from Havana spearheaded the Cuban forces in the famous
and decisive Battle of Cuito Cuanevale in Angola in the late 1980s – the
largest battle on African soil since the Seoncd World War – which led to
the military defeat of the South African regime, opening up the
prospects for Namibian independence and the end of apartheid rule in
South Africa.

Geingob said the continent of Africa and Cuba continue to enjoy
fraternal relations. This, he added, needs to translate into strong
meaningful commercial and trade relations.

Further, he said Africans still face major challenges related to
economic development, external debt, the global economic downturn,
rampant poverty, as well as the HIV/Aids pandemic.

"We all agree that our aim should be to achieve sufficient levels of
sustainable economic development in order to eradicate poverty in our
societies. We must take bold and concrete actions aimed at promoting
South-South cooperation at all levels in areas, such as investment,
trade, technology exchange for agricultural production and
manufacturing, as well as human resources development," he argued.

In this way, he said, Africans would improve their productive capacities
for economic growth and competiveness in the global market.

Fernando Gonzalez, the president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship
with the Peoples (ICAP) and one of the Cuban Five, highlighted the
friendship between the two countries that dates back to the days when
Cuba assisted Namibia during its liberation struggle.

Gonzalez condemned acts of terror being committed against African and
Middle East nations and thanked Namibian leaders, particularly President
Geingob and the two former presidents Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye
Pohamba, for their sympathy and support following Castro's death on
November 29, 2016.

A moment of silence was observed by the conference attendants in honour
of the late Cuban leader.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah
said Africa is not foreign to Cubans, noting that many Cubans are today
providing essential services in various countries in Africa, including
Namibia.

Source: Geingob calls for removal of U.S. trade embargo on Cuba | New
Era Newspaper Namibia -
https://www.newera.com.na/2017/06/06/geingob-calls-for-removal-of-u-s-trade-embargo-on-cuba/ Continue reading
Iván García, 6 May 2017 — Some people in Cuba, not just a minority, want blood. And more severe laws for criminals. While the Catholic Church and different international institutions are advocating a crusade to eliminate the death penalty on the Island, there are people who, for many reasons, think firing squads should be reactivated. If … Continue reading "Cubans Want More Severe Laws for Criminals / Iván García" Continue reading
… that he would escape to Cuba to avoid prison. Alford said … Continue reading
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 23 May 2017 — Her grey hair and blue eyes suggest a picture of a grandmother out of a children’s story, but Marta Cortizas is actually a native of Havana who, after emigrating to the United States, found a way to be useful to her countrymen. From her apartment in Kendall … Continue reading "Marta’s List" Continue reading
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 25 May 2017 — Finding a little bottle filled with coins that her father hid in the patio was something that happened to Eneida when she was young; now she’s a retired and says that financially she’s “escachada, without a single peso in the bank.” Her family inherited an old mansion … Continue reading "In The Bank or Under the Mattress? Where Do Cubans Keep Their Money?" Continue reading
14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 22 May 2017 — The saleswoman described her merchandise in a murmur: loggerhead turtle steaks, beef and shrimp. The man salivated, but replied that he could not buy any of those products, the most persecuted in the informal market. Every opponent knows that the authorities would want to try him for an … Continue reading "Economic Crime, the Pitfall in the Path" Continue reading
Activists on both sides still await President Trump's reset with Cuba
Ledyard King and Alan Gomez, USA TODAY Published 5:41 p.m. ET May 18, 2017

WASHINGTON — Four months after he was sworn in, President Trump has yet
to make good on his vow to undo his predecessor's Cuba policies.

There were reports the president would unveil his plan on Saturday to
coincide with the 115th anniversary of Cuba's independence. But those
who oppose Barack Obama's thawing of diplomatic relations with the
communist country 90 miles south of Key West will have to wait until
next month.

Trump initially applauded Obama's decision to ease sanctions. But he
shifted during the last few months of last year's presidential campaign.
In media interviews, campaign speeches and tart tweets last fall, Trump
condemned Obama's Cuba policy saying it gave away too much without
requiring human rights guarantees from the Castro regime.


Then on Nov. 28, three weeks after he won the election and two days
following the death of Cuban President Fidel Castro, Trump tweeted an
ultimatum:

"If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the
Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal."

Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio expects he'll follow through.

"The president has committed to addressing U.S. policy towards Cuba in a
way that supports our national security, democracy and human rights,"
said Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and one of Congress' fiercest
anti-Castro voices. "I have no doubt it is a commitment he will keep."

A top State Department official told reporters last week the
administration is conducting a "comprehensive policy review" that will
include an assessment of human rights progress in Cuba.

"I suspect that there will be important differences that will emerge
between how this administration plans to address the situation in Cuba"
and those under Obama, said Francisco Palmieri, acting Assistant
Secretary in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Because most of the steps Obama took to open up relations with Cuba,
such as opening an embassy, loosening the ability of Americans to visit
the island nation, easing trade and financial barriers, were
presidential orders, Trump could reverse them without congressional consent.

But whenever the president decides to announce his policy, anti-Cuba
hardliners might face some disappointment. Cuba experts don't expect
Trump to make the kind of wholesale changes to Cuba policy that he
hinted at during his presidential campaign.

Frank Calzon, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, has been
a long-time advocate of maintaining the economic embargo on the
communist island and opposed Obama's decision to open up relations with
the island.

But even he doesn't expect — or want — Trump to change some of the core
aspects of the opening, such as the reestablishment of diplomatic
relations, the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana, and some
of the new business opportunities available to American companies who
have already invested millions in new ventures.

"You can never go back," Calzon said.

Instead, many believe Trump will tinker around the edges of Obama's
opening. That could include revoking some business opportunities that
are too closely tied to the Cuban government, or making it more
difficult for Americans to visit the island.

Frank Mora, director of the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean
Center at Florida International University in Miami, said Trump has
never been adamant about shutting down Obama's Cuba opening, but feels
he must do something to satisfy Cuban-American voters, and members of
Congress, who supported him in Florida.

"They can't say, 'We were wrong, we're going to continue with Obama's
policy,'" Mora said. "They need to deliver something. They need to be
able to say, 'Promise made, promise delivered.' That way, they can go
home (and) declare victory. End of story."

But that's probably not a victory Cuban-Americans in Congress who remain
critical of the Castro regime are likely to salute.

They point to continued reports from rights groups suggesting very
little has changed since U.S-Cuba relations began thawing in 2014

"The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and punish public
criticism," according to a report from Human Rights Watch, "It now
relies less than in past years on long-term prison sentences to punish
its critics, but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders,
independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in
recent years. Other repressive tactics employed by the government
include beatings, public shaming, and termination of employment."

"Despite all of the propaganda, despite all of the misguided policy over
the past years, the reality is that the regime's repression is only
getting worse," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami-Dade, said on the
House floor Wednesday

"We must be honest about what is really going on in Cuba. We must not be
placated by the regime's lies or by those who repeat them," she said.
"We must fight for the truth and show the Cuban people that they are not
alone, that together we all stand in solidarity with them in the pursuit
of freedom."

Source: Cuba policy: Activists on both sides still await President
Trump's reset -
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/05/18/activists-both-sides-still-await-president-trumps-reset-cuba/101840226/ Continue reading
… of deportation of Cuban nationals. Under a 1984 agreement, Cuba agreed to … Cuba because of that deal. Officials say more than 36,000 Cubans … gave preferential immigration treatment to Cubans, allowing any of them who … Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research Institute, says the end … Continue reading
… and may be deported to Cuba. Rene Lima-Marin, a father, son … but U.S. relations with Cuba allowed him to stay. That … it will be up to Cuba whether or not the country … she would follow him to Cuba if he is deported, she … Continue reading
… and facing possible deportation to Cuba. U.S. Immigration Customs and … the 1980 Mariel boat lift. Cuba generally only accepts deportations on … foot" policy sent back Cubans intercepted at sea but gave … part of normalizing ties between Cuba and the U.S. President … Continue reading
Leavenworth, May 17 (RHC)-- Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who leaked classified documents, was released from a military prison in the U.S. state of Kansas on Wednesday morning after seven years behind bars.  "I appreciate … Continue reading
Puerto Rican Independence Leader Oscar López Rivera San Juan, May 17 (RHC-teleSUR)-- Puerto Rican independence leader Oscar López Rivera was released Wednesday from house arrest in Puerto Rico after former U.S. President Barack Obama commuted his sentence … Continue reading
Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván García

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/independent-journalism-seeks-to-revive-press-freedom-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
El Sexto' Will Stay In The US But Will Continue To Fight Against
Arbitrary Detentions In Cuba

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 15 May 2017 — The artist Danilo
Maldonado, known as 'El Sexto' (The Sixth), announced his desire to
reside in the United States, although he will remain attentive to what
happens in Cuba to be able to denounce the arbitrary detentions.

Maldonado, whose girlfriend, Alexandra Martinez, is a US citizen,
declined to respond to a request from 14ymedio to confirm his decision
to remain in the United States. For her part, Martinez said that the
artist was not going to give statements on the matter.

El Sexto recently concluded the exhibition Angels and Demons in San
Francisco, where he staged a three-day performance in which he was
enclosed in a replica of the punishment cell in Havana's Combinado del
Este prison where he was held.

In 2014 he tried to stage a performance titled "Animal Farm," in which
he intended to release two pigs with the names Fidel and Raul painted on
their sides. Although he never managed to stage the performance, it cost
him 10 months in Valle Grande prison, on the outskirts of Havana.

The artist has been arrested three times for political reasons

In the dark hours of the morning after the announcement of the death of
Fidel Castro, Danilo wrote "He left" on one of the walls of the Habana
Libre Hotel, which cost him another 55 days in prison.

"This can not be a one-day protest, right now this is happening in many
countries, even our neighbors, and we have to report it," Maldonado told
EFE in reference to repressive actions against dissidents and human
rights activists.

During the 36 hours of the performance in San Francisco,
titled Amnesty, El Sexto remained without food in solidarity with the
Cuban political prisoners Eduardo Cardet and Julio Ferrer, among
others. The artist also dedicated his hunger strike to Leopoldo López
and the other Venezuelan political prisoners.

Maldonado took the pseudonym El Sexto (The Sixth), with which he signed
his graffiti on the streets of Havana, as an ironic response to the
Cuban government's campaign for the return of the so-called "Cuban
Five," five spies who were then in prison in the United States.

In 2015, Danilo Maldonado, 34, received the Vaclav Havel Prize for
Creative Dissent, awarded to activists "who engage in creative dissent,
exhibiting courage and creativity to challenge injustice and live in truth."

Source: 'El Sexto' Will Stay In The US But Will Continue To Fight
Against Arbitrary Detentions In Cuba – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/el-sexto-will-stay-in-the-us-but-will-continue-to-fight-against-arbitrary-detentions-in-cuba/ Continue reading
Iván García, 3 May 2017 — Let’s step back in time. One morning in 1985, Yndamiro Restano Díaz, a thirty-seven-year-old journalist with Radio Rebelde, took out an old Underwood and wrote a clandestine broadsheet entitled “Nueva Cuba.” After distributing the single-page, handmade newspaper up and down the street, one copy ended up pinned to a wall … Continue reading "Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 15 May 2017 — The artist Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), announced his desire to reside in the United States, although he will remain attentive to what happens in Cuba to be able to denounce the arbitrary detentions. Maldonado, whose girlfriend, Alexandra Martinez, is a US citizen, declined to respond … Continue reading "‘El Sexto’ Will Stay In The US But Will Continue To Fight Against Arbitrary Detentions In Cuba" Continue reading
Leavenworth, May 11 (RHC)-- Imprisoned U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning will be freed next Wednesday, May 17th.  In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking more than 700,000 classified files and videos to WikiLeaks about the … Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 10 May 2017 –The independent Cuban press has been especially harassed after the passage of Hurricane Matthew in the eastern part of the country. Several reporters were arrested while trying to cover the situation of the victims, reports the Association for Freedom of the Press (APLP) in its latest report. “The population of Baracoa … Continue reading "The Government Unleashed a Crackdown on Journalists After Hurricane Matthew" Continue reading
New York, May 9 (RHC)-- Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman will remain in solitary confinement in a New York City prison, according to a ruling by a U.S. judge, although he will be allowed to send pre-screened messages to his wife for … Continue reading
Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado is in San Francisco, planning for the opening of his art exhibit, “Angels and Demons,” at the Immersive ART LAB, 3255A Third Street, May 11, 6-10pm. His exhibit is sponsored by the Human Rights Foundation as part of its Art in Protest series. This interview took place with the translation help … Continue reading "Interview with El Sexto (Danilo Maldonado) in San Francisco" Continue reading
Cuban man carrying U.S. flag rewrote monotonous script of Havana's
annual celebration
BY MARIO J. PENTÓN
mpenton@elnuevoherald.com

The rehearsals for Havana's annual May Day celebration went on for
weeks. The Plaza of the Revolution was to host hundreds of thousands of
Cubans as they marched past top government leaders in the best Soviet
tradition.

But a man who came out of nowhere rewrote the monotonous script this year.

Self-proclaimed dissident Daniel Llorente waved a large U.S. flag as he
ran down the plaza and demanded freedom at the top of his lungs. His
performance lasted just a few seconds, until security forces tackled and
pummeled him before a shocked audience that included several foreign
journalists.

"He had everything figured out. My father is an educated man. A few days
before he had bought books on the Cold War and the Cuban Missile
Crisis," his son, Eliezer Llorente Perez, 17, recently said by phone
from Havana. "He says that you have to know history to understand what
we're going through."

As he ran in front of the marchers, Llorente shouted, "Freedom for the
Cuban people." His words were drowned out by the official song, produced
by members of the Young Communists' Union, to energize young Cubans long
indifferent to government propaganda.

"This is what I am. It's time to open my heart and show life that this
is what I am," says some of the lyrics to the song titled, "Gallo de
Pelea (Fighting Rooster)."

Seven men carried Llorente out of the plaza. He is currently being held
at the 100 y Aldabo detention center in Havana.

Llorente assured his son that he "was not beaten" but was told by police
that he's been charged with public disorder and resisting arrest and
will remain in jail until his trial, his son said. A trial date has not
been scheduled.

Llorente's anti-government protest was not his first, but it was the
most visible. He also waved the U.S. flag when President Barack Obama
visited Havana last year, and when the cruise ship Adonia first sailed
into Havana harbor. His social network posts claim that he also
protested on Aug. 31, 2016, at the airport when direct U.S.-Cuba
commercial flights resumed.

He was arrested at almost every protest.

"This system has not done anything to benefit the people," he told the
Mexican television channel EjeCentralTV during Obama's visit in March 2016.

"The people are afraid," Llorente said at the time. "Although many
Cubans are afraid to do it, here you do have one who's decided to do it
because I trust Obama's plans for the Cuban people."

Llorente was born in 1963, one year after the Cuban Missile Crisis. He
traveled to East Germany in the 1980s to study automotive mechanics,
said his former wife, Yudiza Pérez.

"He's very intelligent and has a big heart. He speaks perfect German
because he learned it when he studied about cars there," said Pérez, 39.

"I was married to him for 10 years and I am the mother of his only
child, who is also the only relative he has in this world because the
rest of his family died," she said.

The government-controlled newspaper Granma, official voice of the Cuban
Communist Party, broke the silence it traditionally maintains on
anti-government protests and accused Llorente, without naming him, of
being a convicted criminal who is padding his "opposition" resume to win
U.S. asylum. It also blasted the foreign media for reporting the event.

According to Granma, Llorente was convicted of robbery and sentenced in
2002 to five years in prison.

"It's true that he was in prison, but it was for a crime he did not
commit. Everything they said in the newspaper is pure lies," said his
former wife.

Pérez, who lives in the San Isidro neighborhood in Havana, said the
conviction and prison changed Llorente's life because "he missed out on
his son's childhood and his marriage" for something "that he did not do."

The son, Eliezer, who has studied to be a car mechanic and aspires to be
an actor or model, described his father's absence from the age of 3 as
traumatic.

"I was distanced from my father because he was in prison. We started to
talk after he came out of prison and today he is my best friend,"
Eliezer said. "He is a good father, and was a good son when his mother
was alive."

Llorente drives a taxi at night and financially supports his son, who
lives with his mother and a younger sibling. After he left prison, he
decided to become a "self-employed" dissident — not tied to any group —
and speak out against the government.

"Why did he protest with a U.S. flag? Because he says that's where there
is a true sense of patriotism and family, things that have been lost in
Cuba, that all human values have been lost in Cuba," Eliezer said.

Still, Llorente does not want to leave Cuba.

"I support my father. His biggest hope is for a change in the governing
system," his son said. "He always tells me that he wants to live in
Cuba, but in a free Cuba, with opportunities for all."

Follow Mario J. Pentón on Twitter: @mariojose_cuba

Source: Self-proclaimed Cuban dissident protests with U.S. flag in
Havana | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article149316914.html Continue reading
Cuba: Another perspective

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall wants to sell Kansas wheat to Cuba
("Congressman reflects on a recent Cuba trip," High Plains Journal,
April 10), and has filled a bill that "allows" American banks and to
finance the Cuban government's purchase. Really? Cuba has one of the
worst credit records in the world. Americans shouldn't be dragooned into
the role of guarantors of credit extended to Cuba.

The real issue isn't selling to Cuba. It's getting Cuba to pay for what
it buys. The Heritage Foundation's 2017 Index of Economic Freedom puts
Cuba's credit rating right in the bottom—178th out of 180 countries,
followed by Venezuela and North Korea.

The problem : The average Cuban's salary is about $25 dollars a
month—there's no great purchasing power there. Havana has defaulted on
loans worth billions.

It's not a new issue. Despite raking in massive Soviet Union subsidies
and boasting Moscow was a better commercial partner than the United
States, Fidel Castro stopped payment in 1986 on the island's $16 billion
debt to the Paris Club, a consortium of foreign banks facilitating trade
with Cuba. By 2015, those banks had "forgiven" $4 billion of Cuba's
debt. Last year, Japan forgave $1.08 billion dollars (120 billion Yen)
owed by Cuba. The Castros dynasty seems to assume it never has to pay
off its loans. Uncle Sam must not become Cuba's next sucker.

American companies have been making sales for years to Cuba on a "cash
and carry" basis. In the year before Barack Obama became president,
American companies exported $711.5 million in foodstuffs to Cuba. By
2010, trade had dropped to $362.8 million and by 2015 to $180.2 million.
The decline was deliberate and intended to put pressure on U.S.
companies to lobby Congress and the U.S. administration to extend credit.

"Much has changed and in a very positive way," Marshall says now. In the
United States, many changes. In Cuba, not much change other than a
dramatic increase in repression. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights
documented 1,005 political arrests in 2008 and 9,940 in 2016.

The "greater mutual security" that the Congressman wants can't be
attained without considering the presence of Russian spy ships in
Havana's harbor and such hostile acts as Gen. Raul Castro's 2013 attempt
to smuggle war planes, hidden under tons of sugar, in a ship to North
Korea—a clear violation of United Nations' trade sanctions. That came as
President Obama prepared to re-establish diplomatic relations by making
numerous concessions to Cuba.

One of those concessions was removing Cuba from the U.S. list of
supporters of terrorism. Yet, Cuba today harbors numerous U.S.
criminals. On the FBI's "Most Wanted List" is a domestic terrorist
convicted of murdering a New Jersey state trooper in cold blood. She was
sentenced to life in prison but escaped and fled to Cuba, where she
enjoys the regime's hospitality. The good people of Kansas may want to
ask President Donald Trump to demand her return and, if Cuba refuses, to
put the island nation back on the infamous list.

Before the Castro Revolution, Cuban teenagers used to sell expired
lottery tickets to naïve American tourists. Now Congressmen take guided
tours to Cuba. As Mark Twain observed: "It is easier to deceive folks,
rather than to convince them, they have been deceived." Extending credit
to "do business with Cuba" would be a deceit—and a very bad deal for
American taxpayers.

—Frank Calzon is executive director of the Washington-based Center for a
Free Cuba.

Source: Cuba: Another perspective | Opinion | hpj.com -
http://www.hpj.com/opinion/cuba-another-perspective/article_2a56e050-31c0-11e7-be16-eb0b120a6fed.html Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 4 May 2017 — Journalists Sol García Basulto and Henry Constantín were summoned Thursday to Camagüey’s Third Police Unit, where they were threatened with having their homes searched and the equipment they use to do their work confiscated if they do not stop “publishing on social networks and in independent magazines.” An official, … Continue reading "Camaguey Police Prohibit Sol Garcia and Henry Constantin From Exercising Journalism" Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami/Havana, 4 May 2017 — The team at the Cubalex Legal Information Center and its director, attorney Laritza Diversent, have obtained political refuge in the United States following the intensification of repression against the nonprofit organization dedicated to legally advising Cubans. Diversent, told 14ymedio, from a stop at Miami International Airport this … Continue reading "Laritza Diversent and Cubalex Begin Their Life In Exile" Continue reading
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14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 3 May 2017 — The guard looks at him and dismisses him as an undercover cop. “Are you coming to change dollars? I’ll pay you at 90 cents,” he tells the customer while turning his back on the security camera at the Currency Exchange (Cadeca). At the window, that same dollar is exchanged … Continue reading "Neither CUPs nor CUCs, It’s Bucks That Reign in Cuba" Continue reading
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14ymedio, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 2 May 2017 — Three Cubans resident in Gran Canaria (Canary Islands) have been charged by the Prosecutor’s Office of Las Palmas with an attempted felony offense, and another of falsification of a commercial document, for having passed themselves off as members of the technical service teams of the … Continue reading "Three Cubans Accused Of Fraud In The Canary Islands For Fraudulent Repairs To Home Appliances" Continue reading
How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván García

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/how-cuban-state-security-intimidates-potential-informants-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 25 April 2017 — On Tuesday morning the Court in Havana’s municipality of Diez de Octubre, confirmed the prosecutor’s request of two years and eight months in jail for Micaela Roll Gibert, 53. The woman, a member of the opposition group Ladies in White, is charged with the crime of attack, alleging that she … Continue reading "Lady In White Sentenced To Almost Three Years In Prison For Alleged Crime Of ‘Attack’" Continue reading
Iván García,9 April 2017 — They did not put a Makarov pistol to his head or torture him with electric prods. Let’s call him Josué. (The names in his article have been changed). He is a guy who wears American-made jeans, listens to jazz by Winton Marsalis on his iPhone 7 and is a diehard … Continue reading "How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván García" Continue reading