February 2017
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Raul Castro

… .S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in a … to Cuba" at the entrance of a restaurant in downtown Havana … eyeing the potential of the Cuban market. Last March, the U … Starwood Hotels acquired Hotel Inglaterra, Havana’s oldest, making it the … Continue reading
Castro II está en silencio. Al parecer se ha retirado virtualmente del frente del gobierno antes de 2018 Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 25 February 2017 — Many of those who experienced the first moments of the Revolution when they were between the ages of 14 and 20, became literacy teachers, young rebels, militiamen, cederistas (supporters of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) and federadas ( ‘federated’, i.e. supporters and activists of … Continue reading "‘Little Old Communists’ / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar" Continue reading
The Countdown Begins For Raul Castro's Departure From Power / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 24 February 2017 — On February 24 of next year Raul
Castro must leave the presidency of Cuba if he is to fulfill the
promise he has made several times. His announced departure from power is
looked on with suspicion by some and seen as an inescapable fact by
others, but hardly anyone argues that his departure will put an end to
six decades of the so-called historical generation.

For the first time, the political process begun in January 1959 will
have a leader who did not participate in the struggle against the
dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Nevertheless, Raul Castro can
maintain the control of the Communist Party until 2021, a position with
powers higher than the executive's and enshrined in the Constitution of
the Republic.

In the 365 days that remain in his position as president of the Councils
of State and of Ministers, the 85-year-old ruler is expected to push
several measures forward. Among them is the Electoral Law, which he
announced two years ago and that will determine the political landscape
he leaves behind after his retirement.

In the coming months the relations between Havana and Washington will be
defined in the context of the new presidency of Donald Trump and, in
internal terms, by the economy. Low wages, the dual currency system,
housing shortages and shortages of products are some of the most
pressing problems for which Cubans expects solutions.

Raul Castro formally assumed the presidency in February of 2008,
although in mid-2006 he took over Fidel Castro's responsibilities on a
provisional basis due to a health crisis affecting his older brother
that forced him from public life. And now, given the proximity of the
date he set for himself to leave the presidency, the leader is obliged
to accelerate the progress of his decisions and define the succession.

In 2013 Castro was confirmed as president for a second term. At that
time he limited the political positions to a maximum of ten years and
emphasized the need to give space to younger figures. One of those faces
was Miguel Díaz-Canel, a 56-year-old politician who climbed through the
party structure and now holds the vice presidency.

In the second tier of power in the Party is Jose Ramon Machado Ventura,
an octogenarian with a reputation as an orthodox who in recent months
has featured prominently in the national media. A division of power
between Díaz-Canel and Machado Ventura (one as president of the Councils
of State and of Ministers and the other as secretary general of the
Party) would be an unprecedented situation for millions of Cubans who
only know the authority being concentrated in a single man.

However, many suspect that behind the faces that hold public office, the
family clan will continue to manipulate through pulling the strings
of Alejandro Castro Espín. But the president's son, promoted to national
security adviser, is not yet a member of the Party Central Committee,
the Council of State or even a Member of Parliament.

For Dagoberto Valdés, director of the Center for Coexistence Studies,
Raúl Castro leaves without doing his work. "There were many promises,
many pauses and little haste," he summarizes. He said that many hoped
that the "much-announced reforms would move from the superficial to the
depth of the model, the only way to update the Cuban economy, politics
and society."

Raul Castro should "at least, push until the National Assembly passes an
Electoral Law" that allows "plural participation of citizens," says
Valdés. He also believes that he should give "legal status to private
companies" and "also give legal status to other organizations of civil

The American academic Ted Henken does not believe that the current
president will leave his position at the head of the Party. For Henken,a
professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Baruch College in
New York, Castro's management has been successful in "maintaining the
power of historic [generation] of the Revolution under the authoritarian
and vertical model installed more than half a century ago" and "having
established a potentially more beneficial new relationship with the US
and embarking on some significant economic reforms. "

However, Henken sees as "a great irony that the government has been more
willing to sit down and talk with the supposed enemy than with its own
people" and points out "the lack of fundamental political rights and
basic civil liberties" as "a black stain on the legacy of the Castro

Blogger Regina Coyula, who worked from 1972 to 1989 for the
Counterintelligence Directorate of the Interior Ministry, predicts that
Raul Castro will be remembered as someone "who could and did not
dare." At first she saw him as "a man more sensible than the brother and
much more pragmatic" but over time "by not doing what he had to do,
nothing turned out as it should have turned out."

Perhaps "he came with certain ideas and when it came to reality he
realized that introducing certain changes would inevitably bring a
transformation of the country's political system," says Coyula. That is
something he "is not willing to assume. He does not want to be the one
who goes down in history with that note in his biography."

Independent journalist Miriam Celaya recalls that "the glass of milk he
promised is still pending" and also "all the impetus he wanted to give
to the self-employment sector." She says that in the last year there has
been "a step back, a retreat, an excess of control" for the private sector.

With the death of Fidel Castro, his brother "has his hands untied to be
to total reformist that some believed he was going to be," Celaya
reflects. "In this last year he should release a little what the
Marxists call the productive forces," although she is "convinced… he
won't do it."

As for a successor, Celaya believes that the Cuban system is "very
cryptic and everything arrives in a sign language, we must be focusing
on every important public act to see who is who and who is not."

"The worst thing in the whole panorama is the uncertainty, the worst
legacy that Raul Castro leaves us is the magnification of the
uncertainty," she points out. "There is no direction, there is no
horizon, there is nothing." He will be remembered as "the man who lost
the opportunity to amend the course of the Revolution."

"He will not be seen as the man who knew, in the midst of turbulence,
how to redirect the nation," laments Manuel Cuesta Morua. Cuesta Morua,
a regime opponent, who belongs to the Democratic Action Roundtable
(MUAD) and to the citizen platform #Otro18 (Another 2018), reproaches
Raúl Castro for not having made the "political reforms that the country
needs to advance economically: he neither opens or closes [the country]
to capital and is unable to articulate another response to the autonomy
of society other than flight or repression."

Iliana Hernández, director of the independent Cuban Lens,
acknowledges that in recent years Raúl Castro has returned to Cubans
"some rights" such as "buying and selling houses, cars, increasing
private business and the right to travel." The activist believes that
this year the president should "call a free election, legalize
[multiple] parties and stop repressing the population."

As for the opposition, Hernandez believes that he is "doing things that
were not done before and were unthinkable to do."

Dissident Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello is very critical of Raul Castro's
management and says she did not even fulfill his promise of ending the
dual currency system. "He spoke of a new Constitution, a new economic
system, which aren't even mentioned in the Party Guidelines," he says.

"To try to make up for the bad they've done, in the first place he
should release all those who are imprisoned simply for thinking
differently under different types of sanctions," reflects Roque
Cabello. She also suggests that he sit down and talk to the opposition
so that it can tell him "how to run the country's economy, which is

Although she sees differences between Fidel's and Raul Castro's styles
of government, "he is as dictator like his brother," she said. The
dissident, convicted during the Black Spring of 2003, does not consider
Diaz-Canel as the successor. "He is a person who has been used, I do not
think he's the relief," and points to Alejandro Castro Espín or Raul
Castro's former son-in-law, Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, as
possible substitutes.

This newspaper tried to contact people close to the ruling party to
obtain their opinion about Raúl Castro's legacy, his succession and the
challenges he faces for the future, but all refused to respond. Rafael
Hernández, director of the magazine Temas, told the Diario de las
Américas in an interview: "There must be a renewal that includes all
those who have spent time like that [10 years]." However, not all
members of the Council of State have been there 10 years, not even all
the ministers have been there 10 years."

This is the most that the supporters of the Government dare to say.

Source: The Countdown Begins For Raul Castro's Departure From Power /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Potatoes Return to the Rationed Market / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 23 February 2017 – The unrationed
distribution of potatoes, a symbol of Raul Castro's government, has
suffered a big setback. During the quarter of February, March and April,
the distribution of potatoes was returned to the ration market
throughout the country, with a limit of 14 pounds per person and
requiring the presentation of a ration book, according to announcements
made by the authorities in local media.

The measure has been taken to "ensure the population greater access to
the purchase of potatoes," says the official statement.

The purchase will be "recorded in the ration book and maintains the
value of one peso"

The user will receive "14 pounds per capita (two in the first month and
six in each of the two remaining months) at ​​state agricultural markets
(MAE) and bodegas." The purchase will be "recorded in the ration book
and maintains the value of one peso."

The areas that do not receive potatoes this month will be able to
acquire the pounds corresponding to February along with the six pounds
for March.

The potato was distributed exclusively in the controlled way until 2009
at a price of 0.45 Cuban pesos per pound, less than 2 cents US. After
that, sales were uncontrolled at a price of 1 Cuban peso ($0.04 US), an
amount the state described as subsidized.

Between the years 2014 and 2015, the potato harvest experienced
important growth, going from a little more than 53,000 tonnes, to
123,000 tonnes. But domestic consumption also grew with the greater
number of tourists coming to the country and the expansion of the
private sector, especially those dedicated to food services.

The distribution of the nationally grown potato, with a lower yield than
the imported, started this year in the municipalities of Artemisa, San
Antonio, Guira de Melena and Alquizar, where the potatoes are grown. In
the coming days potatoes will also arrive in the capital, where
consumers are anxiously awaiting them.

"Something had to be done because when the potatoes came, the only ones
who could buy them were the resellers and the hoarders," complains
Samuel, a retired resident of nearby Estancia Street, outside the Youth
Labor Army on Tulipan Street.

For the man, "the measure favors the poorest people," although he still
thinks that "the price is very high" for those who are living on a
pension. "I only get 180 Cuba pesos a month (roughly $7.20 US) and it's
not enough," he says.

"That was a decision from above, and it surprised a lot of people here,"
an official told 14ymedio

However, María Victoria, a worker at a foreign exchange store, believes
that "this is a step back, because at this point the ration book doesn't
have them." The state employee is surprised by the return of the potato
to the ration market. "Instead of going forward, I think we're going
backwards," she said.

In the Ministry of Agriculture, all the workers who enter the imposing
building and the drivers who wait outside for some official are talking
about potatoes. "That was a decision from above, and it surprised a lot
of people here," one of them tells 14ymedio, preferring to remain anonymous.

Last April, the Communist Party Congress ratified the Guidelines for
Economic and Social Policy, among which it was agreed "to continue the
orderly and gradual elimination of products on the ration
book." However, the decision has not been implemented so far.

Source: Potatoes Return to the Rationed Market / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata
– Translating Cuba - Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 24 February 2017 — On February 24 of next year Raul Castro must leave the presidency of Cuba if he is to fulfill the promise he has made several times. His announced departure from power is looked on with suspicion by some and seen as an inescapable fact by others, but hardly anyone argues that … Continue reading "The Countdown Begins For Raul Castro’s Departure From Power / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Havana, February 24 (RHC-PL)-- Cuba and Japan have signed a … that this conference held in Havana follows the visit in September … with President Raul Castro. The Cuban minister of Construction praised the … Continue reading

Tras más de medio siglo gobernada por los hermanos Castro, Cuba prepara un relevo institucionalizado y "suave" para 2018, cuando Raúl Castro deje el poder, una herencia plagada de incertidumbres que previsiblemente recaerá en el vicepresidente Miguel Díaz-Canel.

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If all goes as expected, in exactly one year President Raul Castro will hand responsibility for Cuba's faltering economy and ageing, disaffected population to a little-known, 57-year-old Communist Party official. It will be the first... Continue reading
El 24 de febrero de 2018 el pequeño de los Castro dejará la presidencia del Consejo de Estado Continue reading

Si tiene intenciones de cumplir su promesa, Raúl Castro entra hoy en su último año de presidencia.

Muchas son las interrogantes que se abren, hemos puesto a continuación algunas, e invitamos a nuestros lectores a dejar sus hipótesis.

1) ¿Hará cambios que, aunque muy arriesgados, beneficien a la población y traigan mayores libertades económicas, de asociación, de expresión, una amnistía para presos políticos, así como una reforma electoral?

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14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 23 February 2017 – The unrationed distribution of potatoes, a symbol of Raul Castro’s government, has suffered a big setback. During the quarter of February, March and April, the distribution of potatoes was returned to the ration market throughout the country, with a limit of 14 pounds per person and requiring … Continue reading "Potatoes Return to the Rationed Market / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata" Continue reading
U.S. senators say Cuba's Castro keen to continue detente
By Sarah Marsh | HAVANA

Cuban President Raul Castro made it clear to a visiting U.S.
congressional delegation that his country was intent on pursuing market
reform and detente with the United States, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy
told a news conference on Wednesday.

Leahy, a Democrat who has been key in efforts to normalize relations,
was leading a bipartisan group of five U.S. senators and a
representative on a three-day visit to the Communist-run island to
discuss ties and explore business opportunities.

Cuba watchers are looking closely for signs of how the fragile U.S.
detente with Cuba will fare under Republican President Donald Trump, who
has threatened to backtrack on it if he does not get "a better deal."

Analysts say Cuba has played its cards well so far by not responding
shrilly to such provocation and demonstrating its continued willingness
to engage under the new president.

Castro "wants reform to continue, he wants the movement forwards to
continue," said Leahy at the news conference in the U.S. embassy, after
meeting with the Cuban president on Tuesday. "The number of people he
had from his administration talk to us made it very clear they want us
to continue."

The delegation met with Cuba's foreign, trade and agriculture ministers
as well as with Castro.

The group included Republican Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi who on
Monday oversaw the signing of agreements between Cuba and two
Mississippi ports.

"Increasingly this issue of normalizing relations with Cuba is
bipartisan, this isn't just Democrats, there are a lot of Republicans
that believe we ought to do this as well," said Representative James
McGovern, a Democrat.

Support for the detente was also growing among the business and academic
communities, said McGovern, who was traveling with a group of U.S.
biotech experts keen to explore the sector in Cuba.

"The movement is more significant in the U.S.A. today than at any time
in my career in the Senate," said Leahy. "And I am the dean of the
Senate, I have been there the longest," added Leahy, who was first
elected to the Senate in 1974.

The White House said earlier this month that the Trump administration
was in the midst of "a full review of all U.S. policies towards Cuba."
The visit came as a diplomatic incident highlighted continuing concerns
about restrictions on human rights on the island.

Cuban authorities prevented the head of the Organization of American
States (OAS), a former Chilean minister and an ex-president of Mexico
from traveling to Cuba to attend an award ceremony on Wednesday hosted
by dissidents.

Cuba opposes anything that legitimizes dissidents, who it claims are
mercenaries funded by foreign interests. It also views the OAS as an
imperialist instrument of the United States.

OAS chief Luis Almagro reported that Cuban authorities said they were
"astonished" at his involvement in "anti-Cuban activities" which were
"an unacceptable provocation."

A U.S. embassy official attended the ceremony, organized by the Latin
American Network of Youth for Democracy, a group opposed to the
Communist government. Almagro's seat was left empty in symbolic protest.

"It may not be the smoothest of paths but it will continue," Leahy said
of the U.S.-Cuban detente. "I would not be here today on one more trip
if I didn't think that continuation of that progress is inevitable."

(Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta in Havana and Lesley Wroughton in
Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Source: U.S. senators say Cuba's Castro keen to continue detente |
Reuters - Continue reading
Que acaben de abrir los ojos quienes creyeron que el diálogo y las concesiones cambiarían la esencia despótica del castrismo Continue reading
… and diplomats, crowded into the Havana home of the dissident… Venezuela's leftist government, Cuba's closest ally. play … Maria Paya, daughter of late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, who organized … , offers a press conference in Havana on February 22, 2017 (AFP … Continue reading

Una delegación de congresistas de Estados Unidos, liderada por el senador demócrata Patrick Leahy, aseguró hoy en La Habana que el progreso en la normalización de los nexos con La Habana es "inevitable" y destacó la disposición de Raúl Castro de seguir el diálogo con el nuevo Gobierno estadounidense, reportó EFE.

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HAVANA - Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday … proponents of normalizing relations with Cuba, while Cochran from the southern … at expanding agricultural exports to Cuba. The legislation would lift the … by US farmers to the Cuban market. The congressional trip took … Continue reading
… two parties, governments and people Cuba President Raul Castro shakes hands … of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, yesterday afternoon February … Standing Committee, who was visiting Cuba on the invitation of the … Trung Thanh. Participating on the Cuban side were Foreign Minister Bruno … Continue reading
Havana (AFP) - More than 680 Cubans have been deported back to Cuba … reported Saturday. According to official Cuban reports, 683 people have been … 2015 along with Cuban President Raul Castro. Now, overland Cuban migrants are … illegal migration and human trafficking. Cuban media reported Saturday that the … Continue reading
The Spirit Of The Executions Still Haunts La Cabaña / Cubanet, Tania
Diaz Castro

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

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

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

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

Perhaps Nelson's face was there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Spirit Of The Executions Still Haunts La Cabaña / Cubanet,
Tania Diaz Castro – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
The Crisis Of The 'Boteros': The First Bean To Burst Into The Pot /
14ymedio, Pedro Campos

14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 17 February 2017 – The ending of the
United States' Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy – that allowed Cubans who
touched American soil to stay – crushed the hopes of many Cubans of
being able to achieve the American dream, that is equality of
opportunities and the freedom to allow all citizens to achieve their
goals in life through their own effort and determination. More than
something unique to the United States, it seems a dream for anyone.

When the policy was cancelled, many warned that closing one of the
valves of pressure cooker that state-socialism has made of Cuban
society, is a total contradiction.

Today with the crisis affecting Havana's private taxi-drivers – known as
"boteros" or "boatmen" – the first bean in the pot is about to burst,
under the stimulus of a senseless and traditional state policy of
resolving socio-economic problems with repression and extra-economic
constraints, a la Robin Hood, taking from those who have to give to
those who have less.

All Cubans know that with the unreliable schedules of state
transportation, some of us need to get places more quickly than we could
by waiting for the bus, and we are forced at times to take an
"almendron" – or an "almond", named after the shape of the classic
American cars often used in this shared fixed-route taxi service – where
we talk about everything for 20 minutes, with the advantage that no one
knows each other.

A couple of young drivers that I talked to before the ending of the
Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy, confessed to me that the cars they drove were
not theirs and that they were working as "boteros" to try to get the
money needed to leave the country. One of them had already tried, by
sea, with other friends, and after spending all they had to build a raft
with an engine, they were caught by the US Coastguard and returned to
Cuba. The next time would be by land and that is what he was working for.

I never learned if these young men were among those who managed to reach
the US before the crisis caused by the closing of the Nicaragua border,
which was resolved in favor of the Cuban emigrants crossing through the

It is likely that these boys, in their late thirties, were not the only
ones who were driving for that reason.

The cancellation of the Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy may be one of the
factors of the current crisis, in addition to the problem of the capped
prices that the Government had already tried, as there is now one less
incentive to encourage the drivers to comply with the absurd state

Such causality can also manifest itself among other self-employed
workers who do not undertake a line of work as a way of life, but as a
means to make enough money to leave the country.

I imagine that there were also many of the young truckers, new
retailers, who were making fast and abundant money due to the absurd
state policies of imposing prices on farmers and truckers and preventing
them from selling directly in the city.

When emigration is the reason a person is working, they may be willing
to ensure fines, mistreatment and the stupid fees as long as it doesn't
endanger their final goal. As soon as they take off, all the reasons
they had to put up with it end.

They say that "revolutionaries" who are trying to control the markets
for transport, farm products and housing construction through price
controls, are contributing greatly to the pressure in the pot. Mainly
due to voluntarism and ignorance of the economy and the dialectic.

This is the natural result of the contradictions of the statist,
directed and centralized economy and policies, imposed in Cuba in the
name of socialism.

When Obama, a few days before the end of his term, decided to end the
Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy, he left a poisoned gift to Raul Castro, who
was not able to respond to everything the former US president did to
improve relations with Cuba.

Apparently, the closing of that escape valve, along with the stupidities
of the bureaucracy of the Cuban government, already caused the first
bean to explode. The leaders of the island do not have the capacity to
reverse the US presidential order, but they could stop further
imposition of absurd regulations.

Will the Cuban repressive bureaucracy have the ability to lower the heat
under the pot? Or will it continue to keep the gas on high? For me, in
truth, I only see the right hand continuing to turn the gas all the way up.

Source: The Crisis Of The 'Boteros': The First Bean To Burst Into The
Pot / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cubanet, Tania Diaz castro, 14 February 2017 — Nelson Rodríguez Leiva, 26, was shot in La Fortaleza de la Cabaña in 1971, along with his dearest friend, Angelito de Jesús Rabí, 17. Also in the same place, but a century earlier, the poet Juan Clemente Zenea was shot. It did not help Nelson that, in … Continue reading "The Spirit Of The Executions Still Haunts La Cabaña / Cubanet, Tania Diaz Castro" Continue reading
14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 17 February 2017 – The ending of the United States’ Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy – that allowed Cubans who touched American soil to stay – crushed the hopes of many Cubans of being able to achieve the American dream, that is equality of opportunities and the freedom to allow all citizens to achieve … Continue reading "The Crisis Of The ‘Boteros’: The First Bean To Burst Into The Pot / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos" Continue reading
¿Qué hace el jefe de Seguridad Personal cuando no está cuidando las espaldas de su abuelo? Continue reading
14ymedio, Miami, 16 February 2017 — US President Donald Trump referred to the Cuban-American community during a press conference on Thursday, stating “Cuba was very good to me” and said that he was referring to the role in the US elections of the “Cuban-American people.” Trump won the Florida vote in last November’s election and … Continue reading "Donald Trump: “Cuba Was Very Good To Me” / 14ymedio" Continue reading
The video of Maldenado’s remarks is here. His prepared remarks begin at 01:18:00, and can be read here in English. He then answers questions at 2:18:31. 14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 16 February 2017 — Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, a well-known Cuban graffiti artist and human rights activist, appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, … Continue reading "‘El Sexto’ Appears Before US Senate to Speak of Human Rights / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
The Two Marielas / Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Havana, 14 February 2017 – The
story I want to relate has two parts, one is true and the other is
fiction. The real one is an event I was involved in at the Carlos III
market while in line to buy yogurt, one of the products in shortest
supply in this country – despite the fact that it is sold in hard
currency – and in this case with a price of 0.70 Cuban convertible pesos
(CUC), although there are other yogurts sold in different containers for
as much as 5 CUC (1 CUC is roughly equal to $1 US).

In front of me, while we were waiting, was a young woman of around 30
something, but I could see she'd had a pretty rough life. She had the
money in her hand, some of it in 5 and 10 centavo coins in CUC and a
note for 5 Cuban pesos (CUP) – because, as you know, now the stores have
to accept both currencies. All of a sudden she dropped a 10 centavo coin
and to her great misfortune it rolled under one of the display cases and
although the woman made a great effort to retrieve it, she could not.

She turned to leave the line and I asked, "Are you leaving?" and she
said, "Yes, I had the exact amount of money and I dropped 10 centavos
under that case." Without thinking twice I said, "No, don't leave, take
the ten centavos."

She accepted with the happiest look on her face and told me, "You have
no idea how grateful I am, because my older daughter is sick and she
doesn't want to eat anything."

From that moment, with the facility a Cuban has to establish
communication with another person, even if they don't know them, we
spent the next thirty minutes while we continued to wait in line talking
to each other.

She explained that she worked as a teaching assistant at an elementary
school, but often had to be the teacher because there aren't enough
educators. She is divorced and the monthly support she receives from the
children's father is 50 Cuban pesos (roughly $2 US). That plus her own
salary is not enough to live on and she has to "invent" and go begging
to her mother. She told me, literally, "You have no idea what I have to
do to be able to feed my kids."

Like any good Cuban, she lives in a building considered uninhabitable,
but she won't accept going to a shelter because she knows other people
who live in those conditions and it is dangerous for the girls, now that
they are becoming young ladies. Because her apartment is on the second
floor and nothing works, she has no running water and every other day
has to carry up 10 or 12 buckets of water to meet highest priority
needs, although she says she is grateful to her mother who washes and
irons the girls school uniforms.

"Imagine. My mother was a member of the Party (Communist) and worked in
the Federation of Cuban Women and as for my my father, may he rest in
peace, his surname was Castro, so it occurred to her to name me Mariela
[after Raul Castro's daughter]. Now she regrets it."

Then she said that she did not listen to her mother and married a man
who drank a lot, and when he came home he beat her. It took a lot of
work to get out of that torture and now she regrets not having listened
to her mother's advice.

He left them that disastrous apartment where they live in Centro Habana,
and now she is stuck because her sister is married and has two children
and also lives in the divided living room, which doubles as a room for
both her and her sister's families in the home of their parents.

She confessed to me that she had been so distressed that she takes her
daughters and walks along the Malecon. And she said the girls understand
the whole situation and do not ask for anything. But they're growing up
and they have to have shoes and school uniforms and something to eat for
a snack at school, which is almost always a piece of bread, because at
breakfast they eat half of her daily quota (on the ration book).

I think she had a great need for someone to listen to all her problems
and saw the opportunity to vent.

With a little imagination, while I was on my way to my house, I began to
think about how the other Mariela might live, the one her mother named
her after.

At the entrance, everyone can see that other Mariela's super residence
in the Miramar neighborhood even has a pool, always filled with water.
There are several cars and they and the house are all beautifully
maintained. This is something that you don't have to imagine, and it is
not fiction.

But surely that Mariela Castro does not line up to buy yogurt at 70
cents CUC and much less would she be sad if she dropped a coin, as all
her food problems are taken care of without her even having to leave the

When she gets up for breakfast she does not "donate" her bread to the
children. A maid prepares the food, certainly with ham, milk, bread,
juices, etc. She is assured of coffee every day, very likely imported,
she probably gets the most desirable brands brought in from Miami.

She doesn't have to worry about what time the bus will come to take her
to work; in the first place because she doesn't have to mark a timecard
and in the second because she has a modern car to take her to work
without having to get all sweaty and push her way onto the bus with all
the other people.

I could continue imagining things that we all know are part of the
standard of living of the high government hierarchy, but I leave it to
the reader so we can all share in this fictional (?) part of the story.

Source: The Two Marielas / Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
¿Le preguntó alguien al presidente Obama si Raúl Castro era un asesino? Continue reading

Raúl Castro recibió este miércoles, por separado, al presidente de Irlanda, Michael D. Higgins, y al ministro iraní de Salud y Educación Médica, Seyed Hasán Ghazizadeh Hashemi.

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Es la primera vez que el mandatario europeo viaja a Cuba Continue reading
Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Havana, 14 February 2017 – The story I want to relate has two parts, one is true and the other is fiction. The real one is an event I was involved in at the Carlos III market while in line to buy yogurt, one of the products in shortest supply in … Continue reading "The Two Marielas / Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello" Continue reading
Trump, Rodiles and the Cuban Opposition / Juan Orlando Perez

Juan Orlando Pérez, 1 February 2017, (re-published in Ivan Garcia's blog
on 7 February 2017) — Antonio Rodiles, one of the Cuban government's
most tireless enemies, or at least one of its most eloquent, has said
that the arrival of Donald Trump at the White House is "good news for Cuba."

It is difficult to criticize Rodiles, who every day faces the danger of
State Security agents, or his own neighbors, breaking his nose — they
have already done this once with exquisite precision — or of being
accused of some monstrosity such as contempt of court, assault,
incitement to violence or failure to attend Fidel Castro's funeral,
resulting in him being cast into a windowless dungeon without light or

Every Sunday, Rodiles leaves his house Havana to protest against a
government that he considers illegitimate. While not comparable to the
battles of Peralejo or Las Guásimas, much less the crossing of the
Trocha de Mariel to Majana, this action is one that does require more
political and personal courage than all the deputies of the National
Assembly together could muster to change a single comma in a decree from
Raul Castro's government, should they even notice a comma misplaced.

Unlike other leaders of the Cuban opposition and most deputies of the
National Assembly, Rodiles knows how to speak correctly, in proper
Spanish. Perhaps that is why foreign journalists prefer to talk to him
rather than to others whom they can barely understand. But what he told
the Spanish newspaper El País is dangerous nonsense.

In no way can Trump be "good news" for Cuba when he is so bad for all
the other countries of the world, including those whose leaders —
Vladimir Putin, Theresa May, Benjamin Netanyahu — selfishly hope to
benefit from the ascent of a thug to the presidency of the United
States. At least Rodiles does not contend Trump is not a thug.

Rodiles declined to say if Trump's victory was also good news for the
United States. "I don't want to get into that," he said flatly. "It's
not my problem."

Perhaps Rodiles thinks that if personnel at the American Embassy in
Havana or at the State Department in Washington hear him criticizing
Trump's character, skills or intentions, even if the criticism is so
mild it might almost be considered a kind remark, he will no longer be
invited to the embassy or to conferences, congresses and seminars — one
takes place every month in Miami, Madrid or Washington — where the
participants ardently debate the future of Cuba, condemn Castro's
wickedness and lament Barack Obama's faintheartedness.

Rodiles' discretion — his refusal to express an opinion about the
domestic issues of another country — is admirable, especially because it
stands in contrast to foreign politicians who talk about issues in his
own. In late December, Rodiles participated in a panel organized by the
right-wing Heritage Foundation in Washington along with two former
George W. Bush administration officials: the former under-secretaries of
state Roger Noriega and Otto Reich. As reported by Diario de Cuba, he
took the opportunity to explain that "the new Administration has the
opportunity to reorient US policy towards the human rights and freedom
for the Cuban people."

Noriega and Reich are co-authors of the infamous Helms-Burton Act of
1996. More than a law, it is the list of relentless conditions that the
United States would impose on the Cuban government if it were to
capitulate, which one can easily imagine these two former officials
recommending to the Trump Administration provided someone in the White
House still remembers who they are and asks them what to do about Cuba.

Noriega and Reich may express any opinion about Cuba, or about Jupiter,
if they so choose. That is their right. No one in Washington is going to
end up with a nose out of joint if they do so.

But it is not clear why Rodiles should not in turn be able to say with
more or less the same degree of tact what so many other political
leaders around the world have said: that Donald Trump's brand of
vicious, racist and ignorant populism is a very serious threat to
international security, to the rights of other nations, to Americans'
civil liberties and, of course, to Cuba.

Perhaps Rodiles thinks Trump is as innocuous as Tian Tian, the giant
panda at Washington's National Zoo. If so, he might as well say so. For
the moment, Rodiles has refrained from criticizing Trump, though not
from criticizing Obama. He believes, as he told El País, that Obama's
legacy in Cuba can be described in two words: indifference and fantasy.

In a video released by the Forum for Human Rights and Freedoms, Rodiles
appears next to others celebrating Trump's victory on November 8 and
criticizing Obama's Cuban strategy.

"It was very frustrating," explains Rodiles in the video, "to see how
the Obama administration was allowing the regime to gain advantage, to
gain political advantage, to gain economic advantage, while leaving the
Cuban people and their demands on the sidelines."

He added, "Unfortunately, the legacy of President Obama on Cuba is not
positive… His policy has been counterproductive. His policy has led the
regime to feel much more secure and to behave more violently."

It is not clear, however, what exactly Rodiles and his colleagues at the
Forum hope Trump will do. "It seems to me that the new administration
under President Donald Trump will give much more attention to the Cuban
opposition. It will give much more attention to the subject of
fundamental rights and freedoms, and the Cuban people will be able to
express themselves more openly, though the regime will, of course, do
everything possible to prevent that."

It is likely that on May 20 — if the world lasts until then — a
committee of Cuban opposition figures, including perhaps Rodiles
himself, will visit the White House, as always happened before Obama,
after which the president of the United States might write a Twitter
message in jovial Spanglish condemning Raúl Castro and his minions.

But it is unclear how tweets by the lunatic that Americans have chosen
as their commander-in-chief are going to get Cubans out onto the
streets. Nor is it easy to imagine the Cuban government agreeing to sit
down with Rodiles or any other opposition figure just because the
president of the United States demands it, even if he makes it a
condition of maintaining diplomatic relations; or of continuing to allow
Cuban-Americans to send money to their families on the island; or of
allowing them visit their relatives whenever they want.

If the members of the Forum for Human Rights and Freedoms believe that
these are conditions that the Trump Administration should impose, they
should say so clearly and run the risk that Trump or one of his
underlings might hear and pay attention to them. An even greater risk is
that Cubans might hear them.

It is perfectly legitimate for some members of the Cuban opposition to
disapprove of Obama's policy of normalizing relations between the United
States and Cuba, at least to the degree that it is possible to normalize
something that will never be normal. No one should be surprised that
those who would like to see the immediate overthrow of Raúl Castro have
no confidence in a plan that acknowledges the unlikelihood that the
Cuban government will be overthrown in a domestic revolt.

Raúl has been accepted — with indifference or resignation — as the
legitimate president of Cuba by almost all the nations of the world. The
plan addresses the political and intellectual weakness of opposition
groups, counting instead on the slow but inexorable growth of a new
post-Castro civil society that will one day reclaim political and
economic rights that Raúl or his successors will never be willing to grant.

It is true this plan pays no particular importance to the Forum for
Human Rights and Freedoms, or to other groups with equally florid names,
whose members feel they have been abruptly and unceremoniously abandoned
by their old patron. But not all opposition groups have judged Obama's
decisions regarding Cuba as negatively as Rodiles and his cohorts.

With bitter pragmatism, others have warned that it is foolish to oppose
head-on a policy that is viewed favorably on both sides of the Florida
Straits. While it has, of course, benefited the Cuban government, it has
also benefitted millions of plain and simple ordinary men and women. If
nothing else, it means that, after two short years, Raúl can no longer
blame his problems on an enemy ever ready to wipe Cuba off the map in a
single, brutal blow.

There was nothing fanciful about Obama's strategy, though there is in
the illusion that the Cuban government would have agreed to sit down
with Rodiles and other opposition leaders if Obama had insisted on it.
And he will do so if Trump makes that demand with his characteristic
coarseness. After so many years and so many body blows, Rodiles still
has not met Raúl Castro.

Before falling in line with Trump and conspiring with the most
reactionary elements of the new administration — its more conservative
faction, in particular, wants to break off the truce between the United
States and Cuba — the Cuban opposition should take a few weeks to
consider whether it would be wiser to avoid allying itself with those
who have come to power with a program that not only causes a great deal
of alarm within the international community but which should also
disgust any person of integrity, whether one's integrity be of the
right-wing or left-wing kind.

The Cuban opposition would do well to maintain a relative independence
from the United States, a benevolent gift from Obama, and if they are so
inclined, to keep their distance from an administration which, in two
short weeks, has led its country to the brink of a pernicious political
and perhaps constitutional crisis.

That is unless one sees nothing particularly reprehensible in what Trump
says and does, or believe that his vandalism is justified because he got
ten thousand votes more in Michigan and fifteen thousand more votes in
Wisconsin than Hillary Clinton. It would be very bad news if opportunism
led a segment of the Cuban population, even a very small one, to become
pro-Trump out of foolhardiness, ignorance, a misguided sense of
self-preservation or, even worse, by a genuine ideological affinity with
a government that resembles a social democratic Nixon, Reagan or Bush

But even more troubling is the Cuban opposition's hope that the United
States, Barack Obama or Donald Trump and not the island's plain and
simple ordinary men and women might grant them the right to discuss
Cuba's future with Raúl Castro or whatever petty tyrant happens to come
after. Trump will just disappoint them. And should he fall, which is
likely to happen, he will drag with him all those who have not taken
great care or had the decency to maintain a safe distance.

Juan Orlando Pérez

Published in El Estornudo on February 1, 2017 under the title "Bad News."

Source: Trump, Rodiles and the Cuban Opposition / Juan Orlando Perez –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Juan Orlando Pérez, 1 February 2017, (re-published in Ivan Garcia’s blog on 7 February 2017) — Antonio Rodiles, one of the Cuban government’s most tireless enemies, or at least one of its most eloquent, has said that the arrival of Donald Trump at the White House is “good news for Cuba.” It is difficult to … Continue reading "Trump, Rodiles and the Cuban Opposition / Juan Orlando Perez" Continue reading

When a society manages to liberalize prices – that is, they are determined by the relationship between supply and demand – they constitute an indicator of economic health.

This is so because a freely-set price is a function of consumers' tastes, the state of competition, the necessary levels of production, as well as a proper allocation of resources towards certain sectors of the economy.

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"Those Who Do Not Help the Victims of Castro-ism Are Complicit in the
Oppression," says Rocio Monasterio / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 11 February 2017 – Rocio Monasterio, a
Cuban living in Spain who became popular after starring in a televised
debate at the end of November in which she confronted Castro supporters
about the legacy of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, gave a talk
Friday in Miami about her ideological platform and her aspirations for
Cuba's future.

This 43-year old Cuban with parents from Cienfuegos and a member of the
(conservative) Vox Party in Spain defends the family and liberty as
supreme values. She is a passionate speaker who strongly criticizes the
Cuban government and condemns those politicians disposed to dialogue
with Havana.

"Cuba raised a big wall in 1959. Since then night fell on the country,
the search for liberty was interrupted. Unfortunately, 60 years later,
Cubans are still in the shadows and we don't see a light that
illuminates our homeland. All those who live in Cuba are imprisoned,"
she said before emphasizing, "When we see a brother imprisoned we have
to do everything possible to help him."

An architect by profession, Monasterio decided to go into politics as a
result of the loss of values that, in her judgement, Spanish society has
experienced. She joined Vox as a way of giving voice to hundreds of
Spaniards who do not agree with the relaxation of policies by the
Popular Party, currently in power, an organization to which she
delivered her vote every year but about which she is singularly critical.

"It is extraordinary that a Hispanic Cuban can speak to Cuban Americans
in Miami. We are united by the Hispanic phenomenon," she said.

About those who opt for investment in Cuba in order to foster an
emerging middle class that in the future will be able to demand
political changes, Monasterio asserts that those politicians and
businessmen are "soothing their conscience for collaborating with the

"It is being shown that investment in Cuba is nothing more than
supporting Castro-ism," she adds.

As an alternative to totalitarianism, Monasterio proposes Hispanic values.

"We have inherited from Spain the Christian values that are society's
foundation: equality, defense of freedom, right to life, belief in the
individual and in his individual responsibility, also the family as a
fundamental value of society. All this is this based in freedom," she said.

One point that she emphasized was the relationship between the European
Union, above all Spain, and the Cuban Government. For the Hispanic
Cuban, the credibility of the institutions and the parties that
negotiate with Raul Castro are in jeopardy.

"In the collective imagination of Spain, Cuba is the most beloved. The
relationship of both countries is that of brotherhood," said Monasterio.
Nevertheless, she characterized as "a great betrayal" the normalization
of relations without a single word about human rights violations on the

"Those today who do not help the victims of Castro-ism are accomplices
in the oppression and contribute to the perpetuation of night in Cuba, a
night that has already lasted too many years," she added.

The architect conceives her battle as not only against communism but
against all kinds of totalitarianism, which according to her is being
exported from Cuba to Spain and Latin American countries like Venezuela,
Nicaragua and Ecuador.

"Totalitarianism is not only the lack of freedom, but also the
elimination of the individual. All contrary to our values," she says.

She also admitted that she fights hard against gender politics and is
radically opposed to homosexual marriage:

"I don't meddle in civil unions between people who have another view of
sexuality, but that is not matrimony. Matrimony is between a man and a
woman," she says.

For Monasterio, gender ideology is "another big dictatorship of our
time." She condemns Spanish education in this sense.

"We are subjected, once again, to determined ideologues who come from
big institutions. Gender ideology is contrary to the family and our
values," she said.

To oppose the proposed education in gender ideology values, Monasterio's
party proposed a platform for freedoms that defends the right of parents
to educate their children according to their values.

About her dispute with "the defenders of the indefensible, that is,
Castro-ism, Monasterio reminded that the Castro brothers came to Cuban
government promising equality," but what they have done is to equalize
everyone "in misery and oppression."

"A Castro military elite controls Cubans and makes them ignore freedom."

According to Monasterio, the Cuban diaspora confronts three big
responsibilities: the obligation to denounce what Castro-ism means
before those who truly do not know what it is; to be effective in the
use of a new discourse and new tools for telling and transmitting the
values of our culture; and to create a new iconography. "We have to pass
to the next generations the commitment to fight for the freedom of our

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Source: "Those Who Do Not Help the Victims of Castro-ism Are Complicit
in the Oppression," says Rocio Monasterio / 14ymedio, Mario Penton –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading

La batalla silenciosa que libran el pueblo y los trabajadores cubanos contra el Estado explotador se ha tornado abierta con la crisis del transporte de alquiler privado en La Habana, creada artificialmente por políticas burocráticas y voluntaristas que amenazan con paralizar la capital, con todas sus imprevisibles consecuencias.

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Video not subtitled: Rocio Monasterio talks about her dreams for Cuba in Miami 14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 11 February 2017 – Rocio Monasterio, a Cuban living in Spain who became popular after starring in a televised debate at the end of November in which she confronted Castro supporters about the legacy of former Cuban … Continue reading "“Those Who Do Not Help the Victims of Castro-ism Are Complicit in the Oppression,” says Rocio Monasterio / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
Measuring Hopelessness / Yoani Sanchez

Yoani Sanchez, El Pais, 12 February 2017 — Statistics are
deceiving. They only reflect measurable values, tangible
realities. International agencies cram us with numbers that measure
development, life expectancy or educational attainment, but seldom
succeed in grading dissatisfaction, fear, and discouragement. Frequently
in their reports they describe a Latin America and its inhabitants
encased in a fog of digits.

This year the region will have weak growth of 1.3%, according to
forecasts by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
(ECLAC). A data point that barely manages to transmit the scope of lives
that will be ruined by the region's sluggish progress. Unfinished
projects and a long string of social dramas will be accentuated in many
of these countries in the coming months. The breeding ground from which
populism springs.

However, the major drama remains the lack of horizons formillions of
people on this side of the planet

A Haitian who risks crossing the jungle of Panama's Darien Gap to reach
the United States is driven not only by the miserable conditions of life
in her country, the destruction left by natural phenomena or the
repeated epidemics that cost thousands of lives. The most powerful
engine that moves her is hopelessness, the conviction that in her own
country she will never have new opportunities.

Seeing no end to violence pushes other Central Americans to escape their
countries. In several of these nations gangs have become an enthroned
evil, corruption has corroded the internal scaffolding of institutions
and politicians go from one scandal to the next. Discouragement then
prompts a response quite different from that generated by indignation.
While the latter may push people to rebel, the former pushes them to escape.

Meanwhile, on this Caribbean island, millions of human beings ruminate
over their own disappointment. For decades Cubans fled because of
political persecution, economic problems and weariness. Until 12 January
2017, that generalized choking sensation had a relief valve called the
wet-foot/dry-foot policy, but President Barack Obama closed it a few
days before finishing his second term.

The most staunch critics of that migratory privilege say that it
encouraged desertions and illegal exits. Some people also criticized its
unjust character in that it benefitted and offered entitlements to
people who were not escaping war, genocide or a natural disaster. They
forget, among these arguments, that discouragement also deserves to be
taken into account and computed in any formula that tries to decipher
the massive flight that affects a nation.

A similar error has been committed by agencies such as the FAO, UNHCR or
ECLAC, all of which specialize in measuring parameters such as the
number of daily calories ingested, the effect of climate change on human
displacements, or the percentage decrease in a nation's GDP. Their
reports and statements never evaluate the energy that accumulates under
frustration, the weight of disappointment or the impotence reflected in
every migration.

When more than three generations of individuals have lived under a
political and economic system that does not evolve or progress, there is
a conviction among them that this situation is eternal and
immutable. They no longer see any horizon and the idea that nothing can
be done to change the status quo becomes rooted in their minds. By
now, many of those born in Cuba after January 1959 have grown up with
the conviction that everything had already been done by others who
preceded them.

That explains why a young man who had recently slept under a roof in
Havana, who had access to a limited but adequate amount of food through
the rationed market and who spent his long free hours on a park bench,
launched himself into the sea on a raft, at the mercy of the winds and
sharks. The lack of prospects is also behind the large number of
migrants from the island, in recent years, who have ended up in the
hands of human traffickers in Colombia, Panama or Mexico.

Washington not only cut an escape path, but the White House's decision
ended up deepening the depression that comes from the chronic absence of
dreams that characterizes our country. The Cuban Adjustment Act, enacted
in 1966, is still in effect for those who can prove they are politically
persecuted, but the most widespread feeling among potential migrants is
that they have lost a last chance to reach a future.

However, this undermining of illusion has little chance of being
transformed into rebellion. The theory of the social pressure cooker and
the idea that Obama closed the escape valve so that the fire of internal
austerity and repression will make it explode is a nice metaphor; but it
misses several key ingredients, among them the resignation that
overcomes individuals subjected to realities that appear unchangeable.

The belief that nothing can be done and nothing will change continues to
be the principle stimulus, in these areas, to lift one's anchor and
depart for any other corner of the planet. The pot will not explode with
a sea of people in the streets bringing down Raul Castro's government
while singing hymns on that dreamed of "D-Day" that so many are tired of
waiting for.

Those who believe that the closing of a one door to emigration will act
like the snap of the fingers to awaken a society whose civic conscience
is hypnotized are mistaken. The cancellation of this policy of benefits
in the United States is not enough to create citizens here at home.

A new bureaucratic barrier is a small thing to those who believe that
they have reached their own glass ceiling and that in their homeland
they have nothing left to do. This quiet conviction will never appear in
tables, bar charts or schemes with which specialists will explain the
causes of exodus and displacement. But ignorance of it means the
specialists will never understand such a prolonged escape.

Far from the reports and statistics that everyone wants to explain,
hopelessness will take Cuban migrants to other places, re-orient their
route to new destinations. In distant latitudes, communities will
flourish that will dine on their usual dish of rice and beans and
continue to say the word "chico" before many of their phrases. They will
be the ones who will let drop small tear when they see on a map that
long and narrow land where they had their roots, but in which they could
never bear fruit.

Source: Measuring Hopelessness / Yoani Sanchez – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Tras un estudio de ventas realizado por el Instituto Cubano del Libro Continue reading
Yoani Sanchez, El Pais, 12 February 2017 — Statistics are deceiving. They only reflect measurable values, tangible realities. International agencies cram us with numbers that measure development, life expectancy or educational attainment, but seldom succeed in grading dissatisfaction, fear, and discouragement. Frequently in their reports they describe a Latin America and its inhabitants encased in a fog of … Continue reading "Measuring Hopelessness / Yoani Sanchez" Continue reading

Cuando una sociedad logra liberalizar los precios, es decir, que se fijen de acuerdo con la relación oferta-demanda, estamos en presencia de una de las señales que muestran la buena salud de esa economía.

Ello es así porque un precio libremente formado se relaciona con el gusto de los consumidores, el estado de la competencia, los niveles de producción necesarios, así como la acertada asignación de recursos hacia determinados sectores de la economía.

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El libro Raúl Castro, un hombre en Revolución, biografía autorizada del general escrita por el ruso Nikolái Leónov, fue "la obra más reclamada" y más vendida de 2016, dice el estatal Instituto Cubano del Libro (ICL), que ha dado al autor el Gran Premio del Lector.

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Invasive Marabou Weed, An Enemy That Became An Ally / 14ymedio, Bertha
Guillen and Ricardo Fernandez

14ymedio, Bertha Guillen and Ricardo Fernandez, Artemisa/Pinar del Rio,
9 February 2017 – When he was a boy, Jorge Luis Ledesma Herrera played
around the charcoal ovens his father had built. Now, approaching 50,
this Pinar del Rio man dedicates his days to a shrub that is both hated
and appreciated: the invasive marabou weed, raw material for the first
product that Cuba has exported to the United States in more than five

Ledesma lives in El Gacho, a few miles from San Juan y Martinez, where
the best tobacco on the island is grown. Also growing in the area is the
spiny plant that has invaded the island since its arrival 150 years ago.
Now, its hard branches provide sustenance to thousands of families
across the island.

Cuba annually exports between 40,000 and 80,000 tonnes of
charcoal produced from marabou, which occupies roughly 2.5 million acres
of land that would otherwise be suitable for agriculture, or almost 17%
of the island's arable land.

Livestock areas have also been affected by this invasive weed that has
conquered 56% of the land used for animal husbandry. The plague of
threatening thorns spreads, thanks to the plant's strong nature, but
also due to the neglect and poor organization that affects the Cuban

The state maintains a good deal of control over land despite the fact
that in recent years the cooperative sector has been expanded and land
has been leased in usufruct to private farmers.

The Basic Units of Cooperative Production manage 25% of the land, the
Agricultural Production Cooperatives 8% and the Credit and Services
Cooperatives 38%, while state farms manage 29%, according to figures
provided in 2015 during the XI Congress of the National Association of
Small Farmers (ANAP).

Popular jokes praise the marabou as if it were the royal palm. They
propose to replace that haughty national emblem on the Republic's coat
of arms and in its place enshrine the tangled anatomy of the invading

A decade ago Raul Castro joked about the repudiation of the bush during
a speech in Camagüey, during the official commemoration of the assault
on the Moncada Barracks. "What was most beautiful, what stood out in my
eyes, was how beautiful the marabou was along the whole road," he said
after traveling from Havana to that central province.

After that harangue, the crusade against the marabou took on ideological
status and became a symbol of Raul's government, right alongside the
promises of eradicating the dual monetary system, curbing corruption and
lowering food prices. Shortly afterwards, enthusiasm for the battle was
lost and it disappeared from the government's list of critical projects.

In an irony of fate, the enemy plant has gradually become an ally. In
2007 the Spanish company Iberian and Solid Fuels (Ibecosol SL) began to
commercialize charcoal made from marabou in several European
countries. Its ability to burn slowly and the delicate flavor it adds to
food has earned it a good reputation.

Jorge Luis Ledesma Herrera knows these qualities well, because part of
the marabou he processes ends up in his own stove. Every morning he
spends hours cutting the logs that he then transports in an oxcart. His
life is not very different from his grandfather's, but he boasts of
being able to count on "legal electricity" in an environment where low
voltage "clotheslines" – as makeshift electrical wiring is called – abound.

He describes working with marabou as a real hell. The main limitation is
the tools he has to work with. The axes and machetes are of poor
quality, bought on the black market, and must be repaired all the
time. With ingenuity, some have recycled blades from sugar cane
harvesters to aid in cutting.

About two hundred yards from the farmer's house is the flat ground where
the oven is built. The earth is burned and looks fine, like black
powder. The marabou must be heated to temperatures between 750° and
1300° F, with the wood stacked in a cone, covered over with straw and earth.

"Two months ago I took out of the oven an amount I calculated as 20
sacks – about half a tonne – and it started to rain. Although the rain
only lasted a few minutes the hard coals cracked like broken glass," he
said. "I could only save five sacks.

In the nearby Artemisa Joaquín Díaz, 56, has been engaged in the
manufacture of charcoal since he was a child. He has been using marabou
for years to cook, but now, with the news of its export, he processes it
more delicately and takes greater care of the ovens. Like Ledesma, he
only has access to water through a well, takes care of his personal
needs in a latrine outside the house and his house has a light weight roof.

This charcoal producer in the village of Fierro, in the municipality of
San Cristóbal, bears up under the sting of the rebellious shrub; like
other farmers he uses gardening gloves to protect himself. Keeping his
eyes away from thorns is also part of the precautions. When he prepares
an oven he tries not to leave a gap between one stick and another,
because "it doesn't hold in the fire and then it goes out." Care is
essential. "As long as white smoke is coming out, the wood isn't
burned," and it will only ready to dismantle when the smoke turns blue,
which may take a week or more, Diaz explains.

In Pinar del Río, the companies that buy charcoal from the burners are
the state-owned Acopio and the Integral Forest Enterprise. Payment is
made through a temporary contract that allows them to be paid directly
and not through the cooperatives. The charcoal-burners thus avoid the
check cashing fee charged by those entities.

The state pays for charcoal at 1.20 Cuban pesos (CUP – roughly 5 cents
US) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) wholesale, or 30 CUP for a 25 kilogram
sack. For premium charcoal they pay 0.10 CUC (roughly ten cents US) per
kilogram. With luck, the producer will pocket the equivalent of 150
dollars for every tonne of best quality charcoal, which the state
enterprise will sell in the United States for 420 dollars, almost three
times what the charcoal-burner makes.

However, selling to the state comes with many problems of late payments.
In addition, "the rigging of the process of selection and the weighing
of the premium coal, makes it more reliable to sell it to private
individuals," says Ledesma. The private buyer pays 40 CUP per sack, "and
many owners of pizzerias and private restaurants in Pinar del Rio" come
to him to stock up.

Ledesma dreams of being able to sell his marabou charcoal directly,
without going through the state as an intermediary. "If that could be
done, I would buy myself a chain saw to increase production so I could
change the way I live." Of course if that were the case, he reflects,
"even doctors would come here set up charcoal ovens in El Gaucho."

Source: Invasive Marabou Weed, An Enemy That Became An Ally / 14ymedio,
Bertha Guillen and Ricardo Fernandez – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Young Cuban Journalists Look at Their Profession / 14ymedio, Reinaldo

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 February 2017 – Now underway is
the second meeting of young journalists at the Jose Marti International
Journalism Institute in Havana. The main objective of the event,
organized by the Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC), is to discuss
"journalism and citizen participation, and communication in the context
of updating Cuba's social-economic model."

The news reports published in the official press, in addition to
reviewing the 24 proposals from the previous meeting, held in December
2015, reiterate "the urgency of a change in the routines of production
and a transformation of the management model."

It is likely that the young participants of this experience will leave
with the belief that national journalism is on the verge of change, and
that they will have a role in its transformation. This would be the
healthiest mistake of their professional career.

Imbued with this useful error, they will return to their newsrooms
convinced that the sacred verse of "changing everything that should be
changed" will be applied to the mass media so that the press will
finally fulfill its social role of keeping the population informed about
what is really happening in the country.

The vast majority of those in charge of deciding what can be published
and what must be silenced know perfectly well how diffuse are the limits
of their responsibility. They know, for example, that they can berate
the negligence of an administrator at a collection point where the
bananas are rotting on a truck, but they can never criticize the evil
effects of the excessive centralization of public administration.

When it comes time to choose, these leading cadres prefer to censor
rather than declassify, because, as they know, no director of a
newspaper or radio station ever been dismissed for silencing a criticism
or hiding complaints in a drawer.

When these impetuous kids return to their media with a new shot of
adrenaline, their more experienced colleagues will take the time to
explain to them that since the 3rd UPEC Congress, held more than 40
years ago, it seemed that everything would change if they fulfilled the
theme of that event: "For a critical, militant and creative journalism."

Since then, there as been a lot of talk from the podiums about the
culture of secrecy and the essential need to undertake rigorous analysis
of the problems that afflict the population.

A brief inventory of recent information lacunae could justify a certain
pessimism about the future of Cuba's official journalism. The most
notorious example is that no one has reported on the cause of death of
ex-president Fidel, despite the fact that his passing is the news that
has occupied the most space in the media since the end of last year.

No journalist has tried to explain in the official media why Marino
Murilla, in the last session of parliament, did not not offer his
traditional progress report with regards to the implementation of the
Party guidelines, nor what has been the fate of the new electoral law
that Raul Castro announced in February 2015 would be forthcoming, but
about which nothing more has been heard.

Silence reigns over such important topics as the date when the country's
dual currency system will end, or when the United Nations human rights
covenants will be ratified, or the depth of the dredging in Mariel Bay,
just to mention a few topical issues.

If we go back a decade, it comes to mind that there have been no
explanations about how the super-entity called the Battle of Ideas
ended, which was led by Mr. Otto Rivero, of whom nothing more has ever
been said. Nor is there any official report on the ouster of Carlos
Venciaga, a member of the Council of State, nor about that of the army
of social workers who had become omnipresent, but which are now nowhere
to be seen.

Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel spoke with reporters Monday afternoon
and emphasized "the need to perfect" the work of the media. In passing,
he called attention to ways to confront "the platforms of ideological
political subversion," which target young people. Curiously, among these
platforms appear all of Cuba's independent journalism, which finds among
its principal niches all the information that is never talked about in
the official press.

Source: Young Cuban Journalists Look at Their Profession / 14ymedio,
Reinaldo Escobar – Translating Cuba - Continue reading

The anxiety affecting the dictator and military higher-ups in charge of Cuba is palpable, eager to dispel their bad international reputation for non-payment, as they yearn to attract unwary foreign investors and receive loans so that they can line their pockets as soon as possible, as they see time running out on them.

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