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Repression

Editorial: Trump Gets It Right
DDC | Madrid | 22 de Junio de 2017 - 11:23 CEST.

In his speech in Miami, US President Donald Trump rightly divided Cuban
society into two groups: the military and the people. And his criticism
of the regime did not center on its ideology, on the single party, or
even on Raúl Castro. Rather, he pointed directly at the military junta,
and therein lies the greatest difference with Obama's policy.

As he acknowledged, the aim of his new policy is to benefit the people
of Cuba by depriving the military of opportunities, an approach that
recognizes the corruption in Cuba's army and Cuban intelligence and
security services, capable of dominating all the economic exchange
between Cuba and the US in its effort to establish a monopoly.

Referring to the need for Venezuela to democratize, the US president
conveyed another message to the Island's military by referring not only
to its economic corruption, but also its responsibility for the
political repression in the South American country.

Donald Trump declared his respect for Cuba's sovereignty, made clear
that his Administration has cards in its hands, that the US embassy
remains open, and that it is willing to sit down at the negotiating table.

Source: Editorial: Trump Gets It Right | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1498123431_32038.html Continue reading
Consensus and Dissent in the Face of Trump's Cuba Policy

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 June 2017 – Over the weekend the
official media have repeated ad nauseam the declaration of the
government in response to Donald Trump's speech about his policy toward
Cuba. The declaration's rhetoric recalls the years before the diplomatic
thaw, when political propaganda revolved around confrontation with our
neighbor to the north.

Beyond these words, many on the island are breathing a sigh of relief
because the main steps taken by Barack Obama will not be reversed. The
remittances on which so many families depend will not be cut, nor will
the American Embassy in Havana be closed.

On the streets of Cuba, life continues its slow march, far from what was
said at the Artime Theater in Miami and published by the Plaza of the
Revolution.

Julia Borroto put a bottle of water in the freezer on Saturday to be
ready for the line he expects to find waiting for him Monday outside the
United States Embassy. This 73-year-old from Camagüey, who arrived in
the capital just after Trump's speech, remembers that Trump had said "he
was going to put an end to the visas and travel, but I see that it isn't
so."

The retiree also had another concern: the reactivation of the wet
foot/dry foot policy eliminated by Obama last January. "I have two
children who were plotting to go to sea. I just sent them a message to
forget about it."

The hopes of many frustrated rafters were counting on the magnate to
restore the migratory privileges that Cubans enjoyed for more than two
decades, but Trump defrauded them. Hundreds of migrants from the island
who have been trapped in Central America on their way to the US were
also waiting for that gesture that did not arrive.

Among the self-employed, concern is palpable. Homeowners who rent to
tourists and private restaurant owners regret that the new policy will
lead to a decline in American tourists on the island. The so-called
yumas are highly desired in the private sector, especially for their
generous tips.

Mary, who runs a lodging business in Old Havana, is worried. "Since the
Americans began to come, I hardly have a day with empty rooms." She had
made plans on the basis of greater flexibilities and hoped "to open up
more to tourism."

On national television there is a flood of "indignant responses from the
people" including no shortage of allusions to sovereignty, dignity and
"the unwavering will to continue on the path despite difficulties." The
Castro regime is seizing the opportunity to reactivate the dormant
propaganda machinery that had been missing its main protagonist: the enemy.

However, away from the official microphones people are indifferent or
discontented with what happened. A pedicab driver swears not to know
what they are talking about when he is asked about Friday's
announcements, and a retiree limits himself to commenting, "Those people
who applaud Trump in Miami no longer remember when they were here
standing in line for bread."

Of the thirteen activists who met with Barack Obama during his trip to
Havana, at least five expressed opinions to this newspaper about the
importance of the new policy towards Cuba.

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), was
at that table in March 2016 and was also mentioned on this occasion by
Donald Trump during his speech. The activist had planned to be in Miami
for the occasion, but at the airport in Holguin was denied exit and was
subsequently arrested.

"It is the speech that had to be given and the person who could have
avoided it is Raul Castro," the former political prisoner asserts
categorically. Ferrer believes that Obama did the right thing whenhe
began a new era in relations between the two countries but "the Castro
regime's response was to bite the hand that was extended to it."

In the opinion of the opposition leader, in the last 20 months
repression has multiplied and "it was obvious that a different medicine
had to be administered" because "a dictatorship like this should not be
rewarded, it should be punished and more so when it was given the
opportunity to improve its behavior and did not do so."

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, was also prevented from
flying to Miami to attend the event. For her, the words of the American
president were clear and "if the Cuban regime accepts the conditions
that Donald Trump has imposed on it, Cuba will begin to change."

Soler believes that the Cuban government's response is aimed at
confusing the people, who "do not know exactly what is going on." She
says that Trump wants to maintain business with Cuba "but not with the
military, but directly with the people," something that the official
press has not explained.

Opponent Manuel Cuesta Morúa, who manages the platform #Otro18 (Another
2018), is blunt and points out that "returning to failed policies is the
best way to guarantee failure." The measures announced by Trump, in his
opinion, do not help the changes, and they once again give the Cuban
government "the excuse to show its repressive nature."

The dissident believes that the new policy tries to return the debate on
democracy on the island to the scenario of conflict between Cuba and the
United States, "just when it was beginning to refocus the national
scenario on communication between the Cuban State and its citizens,
which is where it needs to be."

The director of the magazine Convivencia, Dagoberto Valdés, believes
that there is a remarkable difference between the discourse itself
"which seems a return to the past with the use of a language of
confrontation, and the so-called concrete measures that have been taken."

For Valdés there is no major reversal of Obama's policy. "The trips of
the Cuban Americans, the embassy, ​​the remittances are maintained… and
the possibility of a negotiating table remains open when the Cuban
Government makes reforms related to human rights."

Journalist Miriam Celaya predicted that the speech would not be "what
the most radical in Miami and the so-called hard line of the Cuban
opposition expected. What is coming is a process and it does not mean
that from tomorrow no more Americans will come to the Island and that
negotiations of all kinds are finished," she says.

In her usual poignant style, she adds that "regardless of all the
fanfare and the bells and whistles, regardless of how abundant the
smiles, and no matter how much people laughed at Trump's jokes, it
doesn't seem that the changes are going to be as promising as those who
are proclaiming that it's all over for the government."

Celaya sheds light on the fact that the official statement of the Cuban
government "manifests its intention to maintain dialogue and relations
within the framework of respect." This is a great difference with other
times when a speech like that "would have provoked a 'march of the
fighting people' and a military mobilization."

Instead, officialdom has opted for declarations and revolutionary
slogans in the national media. But in the streets, that rhetoric is just
silent. "People are tired of all this history," says a fisherman on the
Havana Malecon. "There is no one who can fix it, but no one who can sink
it."

Source: Consensus and Dissent in the Face of Trump's Cuba Policy –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/consensus-and-dissent-in-the-face-of-trumps-cuba-policy/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 June 2017 – Over the weekend the official media have repeated ad nauseam the declaration of the government in response to Donald Trump’s speech about his policy toward Cuba. The declaration’s rhetoric recalls the years before the diplomatic thaw, when political propaganda revolved around confrontation with our neighbor to the … Continue reading "Consensus and Dissent in the Face of Trump’s Cuba Policy" Continue reading
The good, bad, and ugly of Trump's new Cuba policy
By Ilya Somin June 18 at 3:18 PM

Late last week, President Trump announced a change in US policy towards
the communist dictatorship in Cuba. Although Trump claimed he was
"canceling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with
Cuba," his new approach actually leaves most of Obama's policies in
place. It does not end normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba,
nor would it bar most US trade and investment there.

Trump's new policy has some good elements, some bad ones, and one truly
awful perpetuation of the worst of Obama's policy. On the plus side, the
new policy bars US trade and investment in enterprises owned by the
Cuban military and secret police. Even if you believe that trade and
investment are beneficial and likely to stimulate liberalization in
Cuba, that is surely not true of commerce that directly enriches the
very entities that perpetuate repression in one of the world's last
largely unreformed communist despotisms.

Also potentially beneficial is the plan to convene a State Department
task force on increasing internet access for Cubans. This could make it
easier for dissidents to organize, and other Cubans to utilize
information sources not controlled by the state. Obviously, whether this
initiative actually achieves anything remains to be seen.

Much more dubious is Trump's policy of tightening restrictions on travel
to Cuba by Americans. I can understand the point that such travel often
enriches the regime. On the other hand, travel restrictions are a
significant infringement on freedom, and it is far from clear that they
actually do much to undermine the government's grip on power. Americans
are not restricted from traveling to other nations with oppressive
governments, including some that are as bad or almost as bad as Cuba's.
At the very least, we should not restrict Americans' freedom to travel
unless there is strong evidence that doing so really will have a
substantial beneficial effect on human rights in Cuba.

Contrary to the expectations of its defenders, Barack Obama's
normalization policy has not resulted in any improvement in Cuban human
rights. Its onset actually coincided with an upsurge in repression, and
the liberal Human Rights Watch group reports that, in some ways, the
government has actually increased its harassment and persecution of
dissidents in recent years. Whether Trump's policy brings better results
remains to be seen. They could hardly be much worse.

One one key point, however, Trump has perpetuated the very worst of
Obama's approach. He has decided to maintain Obama's cruel policy
reversal on Cuban refugees, which effectively bars the vast majority of
them from staying in the United States, ending decades of bipartisan
policy welcoming at least those who manage to make it to US soil.

Some defend Obama's shift by arguing that the previous approach unduly
favored to Cuban refugees over those fleeing other repressive regimes.
But any such inequality should be cured by treating other refugees
better, not consigning Cubans to oppression. It is better that at least
some refugees be saved than that all be condemned to further abuse in
the name of equality.

In a speech in Miami announcing his new Cuba policy, Trump denounced
Cuba's repressive policies, including its "abuse of dissidents" and
"jailing [of] innocent people." But his crocodile tears about the plight
of Cuban victims of communist oppression ring hollow, so long as he bars
virtually all of them from finding refuge in the US, and instead
perpetuates Obama's new policy of consigning them to the tender mercy of
their oppressors.

Sadly, Trump is not the only hypocrite here. To their credit, liberal
Democrats have rightly condemned Trump's travel ban executive order, and
attempt to bar Syrian refugees. But most Democrats have either ignored
or actively supported the cruel new policy on Cuban refugees – perhaps
because that policy was initiated by a Democratic president (though now
also continued by Trump).

Here, as elsewhere, we should try to set aside partisan bias. The
barring of refugees fleeing brutal oppressors is unjust regardless of
whether it was done by a Democratic president or a Republican one, and
regardless of whether the rulers oppressing them are communists,
right-wing despots, or radical Islamists. In most cases, the US is not
responsible for the misdeeds of oppressive governments abroad. But we
are morally responsible for using government coercion to prevent them
from finding safety, and returning them to the control of the very
forces they are fleeing.

Source: The good, bad, and ugly of Trump's new Cuba policy - The
Washington Post -
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/06/18/the-good-bad-and-ugly-of-trumps-new-cuba-policy/?utm_term=.e732a7d1f7ee Continue reading
Better ties between the U.S. and Cuba? Miami's Cubans are divided
Les Neuhaus

When President Trump scaled back President Obama's pact that broadened
relations with Cuba, he said he was "completely canceling" a "terrible
and misguided deal."

There was a time in Florida when the Cuban American community would have
reacted to such an announcement with almost uniform approval.

But a paradigm shift has occurred over the last 20 years. Younger
generations of Cuban Americans have been looking for opportunities to
capitalize on trade and business with Cuba. According to a 2016 poll by
Florida International University's Cuban Research Institute, a majority
of Cuban Americans oppose the U.S. embargo on the island and want better
relations.

Not surprisingly, Trump's announcement, made in Miami's Little Havana,
left some cheering but many in the business community disappointed.

Vicente Amor, vice president of ASC International USA, a Florida-based
commercial travel agency specializing in executive-service trips to
Cuba, said that aside from the drop in business expected from the Trump
doctrine on Cuba, the president's action signaled another issue.

"The problem is not only the impact of the changes," he said. When the
Obama administration forged the pact to improve U.S.-Cuban relations,
the work was done without input from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida
and what Amor called "the Miami extremists." This time, he said, they
were "at the center of the deal," along with the Treasury Department's
Office of Foreign Assets Control. For Amor, that's a bad development.


Contrary to Trump's sweeping statements, he did not completely gut the
Obama administration agreement. However, it will affect a large
community of entrepreneurs — both in the U.S. and in Cuba — that had
been at the forefront of establishing economic ties between the two
nations, according to the Washington, D.C.-based group, Engage Cuba, a
coalition of pro-Cuban business companies that includes P&G, Viacom,
Honeywell and Choice Hotels.

"We are encouraged that the Trump administration wants to help Cuba's
private sector, but unfortunately, the people who will be most
negatively impacted by this directive are Cuban entrepreneurs,"
Madeleine Russak, spokeswoman for Engage Cuba, said Saturday.

"The confusion that will surround this policy will undoubtedly stifle
U.S. demand to travel to the island," she said. "Additionally, by
requiring Americans to travel in tour groups, the administration is not
only making it more expensive for everyday Americans to travel to the
island, but it pushes them away from staying in private homes, which are
unable to accommodate large tour groups, and into state run hotels."

Albert Fox, a Cuban American from Tampa, which has a generations-old
Cuban community descended from the war for independence at the turn of
the last century, said that although commercial flights might continue
under the new policy, Trump's decision will hurt American and foreign
businesses.

"Overnight he's eliminating hundreds and hundreds of people that were
going there on a daily basis," said Fox, who serves as president of the
Tampa-based Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation. "Do you
think Southwest could cancel flights eventually for a lack of passengers?"

On Saturday, Southwest Airlines responded to that very question.

"Southwest is now reviewing the president's statements made in South
Florida and is assessing [the] impact any proposed changes could have on
our current scheduled service to Cuba," airline spokesman Dan Landson
said by email Saturday.

Amor, the travel industry executive, said the trade embargo is patronizing.

"I don't like President Trump's policy," he said. "It treats Cuba like a
colony and fails to recognize Cuba as a sovereign nation."

Trump had pledged during the presidential campaign to roll back Obama's
Cuban initiative, and Rubio had lobbied Trump intensely to keep that
promise. Among other things, the new rules prohibit Americans from
spending money on businesses controlled by the military.

"Economic practices that benefit the Cuban military at the expense of
the Cuban people will soon be coming to an end #BetterDealforCuba,"
Rubio tweeted.

But in the Cuban community, the pact drew diverse opinions from
Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. On Saturday
he tweeted, "Whatever the intent, new Cuba regs help Cuban Govt and hurt
Cuban entrepreneurs."

A day earlier, he suggested on Twitter that the Senate weigh in on
U.S.-Cuba ties: "There is overwhelming support in the US Senate to allow
all Americans the freedom to travel to Cuba. Let's vote!"

Despite the generation shift, many in Florida's Cuban American community
resist any engagement with the Cuban communist government.

"The Obama administration's policy towards Cuba consisted of a slew of
unconditional and unilateral concessions that placed business interests
over human rights and democracy," said Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat,
co-founder and spokesman for the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a
Miami-based "resistance" group to the Castro government. "These
unilateral concessions to the Castro regime actually emboldened them to
increase their repression against the Cuban people. ... Only [the] rule
of law in Cuba would guarantee American investment and protect the Cuban
people."

Source: Better ties between the U.S. and Cuba? Miami's Cubans are
divided - LA Times -
http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-miami-cuba-20170618-story.html Continue reading
Trump And Cuba, Or How To Bet On The Wrong Winner

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 13 June 2017 – In less than 72 hours
President Donald Trump will declare in Miami the new basis for the
United States government's policies towards Cuba. At that time the
decisions of his predecessor Barack Obama, during the process of
normalization of diplomatic relations with the island, could be paused
or reversed.

The magnate will make the announcement into a spectacle like so many he
has starred in since he has been at the head of the greatest power on
earth. He will gesticulate, commit himself to human rights and elicit
enthusiastic applause, but then he will return to the White House and
the Island will fall off his agenda.

Why entrust the fate of this country to a man who has failed to keep a
single one of the election promises he made to his own people? Is the
policy toward Cuba the only thing that will turn out well from someone
who has behaved like a political bull in a china shop?

Trump will try to please the voices asking him to tighten the screws on
Havana. Sanctions, cutting back and revoking the measures taken during
the thaw are among the demands of those who bet on confrontation, a
strategy that has had half a century to demonstrate its ineffectiveness.

The president will especially address himself to those who insist on
"turning off the tap," cutting off communication and shutting down
supplies to the longest dictatorship in the West, as if such measures
will cut off the electricity, water supply or internet access to the
homes of the Community Party elite.

It is symptomatic that demands for economic strangulation rarely spring
from those who wait long hours for a bus, depend daily on the bread that
is distributed in the rationed market and have to stretch a monthly
salary that is barely enough to survive on for a week.

On the other hand, blaming Obama's "soft hand" for the wreck of
normalization leads one to forget that those in charge in Cuba did not
seize the opportunity for fear of losing control. They were more
frightened by Obama's speech at the Gran Teatro de La Habana than by any
threat of military intervention.

Those who have aspired for decades to unconditional surrender, to
revengeful justice, and to "all or nothing" with Castroism, did not lose
any time in putting roadblocks in the way of the process started on 17
December 2014. Starting this Friday they will be forced to accept
everything that happens after Trump's decisions, or to recognize this is
not the way to emerge from a dictatorship.

The figures for arbitrary arrests compiled by the Cuban Human Rights
Commission are unlikely to decline significantly, the Ladies in White
will still be unable to march down Fifth Avenue in the west of Havana,
and opposition groups will remain illegal and persecuted by the police.

What will be the foreseeable consequences on the Island of a return to
the politics of the cudgel? An increase in repression and a better
positioning of the more conservative sectors. The Plaza of the
Revolution, the tyranny of the Castros, the regime… or whatever you
prefer to call it, will not be alone in facing the tightening of the
screws from Washington.

Russia, China, Angola, Nicolas Maduro and comrades from North Korea,
Congo, Zimbabwe and Iran will rush to take sides with Raul Castro.
Meanwhile, in the streets of the Island the population will mark Trump's
measures with renewed "marches of the fighting people," shouting
anti-imperialist slogans and accepting the postponement of the old
promises of the Revolution.

Faced with "the new onslaught from the empire" the government will
reinforce its aptitude for entrenchment. In the upper echelons of power
there will be no cracks or disagreements. Persecutors will strengthen
their power and enjoy the impunity to crush any resistance.

Trump will not achieve, with his new measures, a new march by university
students with a "Down with the Dictatorship" poster, nor will the unions
call for a general strike against the government, nor will the farmers
march to the cities demanding land.

It is not even clear whether the president will serve out four years in
office, cornered as he is by political scandals, alleged Kremlin
intervention in the elections that brought him to power and his
unfortunate way of managing politics through incendiary treatises or
threats.

His decisions will not provoke another Maleconazo on the island like the
one of August of 1994. That popular protest was spurred by the desire to
escape the country, not change it. Those dramatic events were not
sparked by the opposition, nor did they generate political changes, just
the Rafter Crisis.

Such an outbreak would be a nightmare for a leader with a marked
nationalism and an evident anti-immigrant phobia.

This Friday the American president will have his moment in front of the
Cuban exile. The applause for him will be short-lived. The placebo
effect of his announcements will dissipate to give way to the stubborn
reality that no decision of a foreign government will change Cuba,
regardless of whether Barack Obama or Donald Trump is at the head of it.

Source: Trump And Cuba, Or How To Bet On The Wrong Winner – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/trump-and-cuba-or-how-to-bet-on-the-wrong-winner-2/ Continue reading
Cibercuba.com, Ernesto Morales, Miami, 16 June 2017 – When the lights and cameras went out, the choreographers of the event breathed a sigh of relief. Mario and Marco, both of Cuban descent, merged in a hug. No child appeared to utter the alarm: “The king is naked!” This time the one humiliated would have been the President … Continue reading "The (Naked) King of Little Havana / Ernesto Morales" Continue reading
HAVANA — President Donald Trump’s announcement of a tougher line toward Cuba … . The president’s speech to Cuban exiles in Miami has also … for repression. Trump and the Cuban-American Congress members who helped design … Havana and letting U.S. cruise and airlines continue service to CubaContinue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 13 June 2017 – In less than 72 hours President Donald Trump will declare in Miami the new basis for the United States government’s policies towards Cuba. At that time the decisions of his predecessor Barack Obama, during the process of normalization of diplomatic relations with the island, could be paused … Continue reading "Trump And Cuba, Or How To Bet On The Wrong Winner" Continue reading
… redraw U.S. policy toward Cuba on Friday, tightening travel restrictions … Washington and Havana, will remain. Travel and money sent by Cuban Americans … policy directive Friday, surrounded by Cuban-American supporters at Miami's … repression has increased. "The Cuban people have long suffered under … Continue reading
¿Quiénes están detrás de la campaña de desinformación sobre Cuba? El presupuesto presentado al Congreso propone eliminar la ayuda a la disidencia cubana, demostrando lo “preocupado” que está Trump por los derechos humanos de los cubanos Manuel Castro Rodríguez, Miami | 15/06/2017 10:20 am El escritor británico Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), que usó el seudónimo […] 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
Cuba: From Worse to Impossible (and We Haven't Hit Bottom Yet) / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 3 June 2017 — In coming days when the administration of the
unpredictable Donald Trump, following four months of review, announces
its Cuba policy, it could be that Obama's guidelines are retained save
for touch-ups of a few items such as doing business with military
enterprises that directly benefit the dictatorship.

Good news for the regime would be that the White House were to maintain
the status quo.

To appease the internal dissident movement and a segment of the historic
exile community that supported his election bid, Trump will demand
respect for human rights, economic liberty and freedom of expression,
and blah, blah, blah.

But the Castroite autocracy will counterattack with plausible and
powerful arguments.

And it will point a finger at the Trump administration, which accuses
his own country's press of being his worst enemy and which makes
multi-million-dollar deals with the Saudi monarchy, a government that
violates innumerable human rights and reduces women to mere objects. All
of which makes it not the best moral paragon to speak of freedoms.

During the Obama era–my god, how the regime misses him–Castroism did not
allow small private businesses to access credit nor import products from
the US.

The Cuban government's strategy is simple. They want to do business with
the powerful Norte, all comers, but with state–or military–run concerns
as the sole partners.

If Trump maintains the scenario unfolded by Obama, i.e., academic,
cultural, business and political exchanges between both nations, Raúl
Castro will probably make his move and grant greater autonomy to small
private businesses on the Island so as to placate the New York real
estate mogul.

Not a few small private entrepreneurs, perhaps the most successful ones,
are children or relatives of the olive-green caste, and they head up
successful enterprises such as the Star Bien paladar (private
restaurant), or the Fantasy discotheque.

If the panorama does not change, the regime will continue its diplomatic
and academic offensive, utilizing its agents of influence in the US to
continue efforts to bring down the embargo, or at least weaken it until
it becomes a useless shell.

For the olive green autocracy, the plan to counteract that "damn
obsession of US elites with democracy and liberties" involves conducting
sterile negotiations that only buy time.

The Palace of the Revolution wants to change, but only in the style of
China or Vietnam. It does not understand how those two communist
countries can partner with the US while Cuba cannot. Castroite strategy
is headed in that direction.

There are two subliminal messages coming from the military junta that
governs the Island.

First: With an authoritarian government of social control in place,
political stability is assured and there is no risk of a migratory
avalanche or of the Island becoming a base of operations for Mexican
drug cartels.

Second: Were there to be a change that provoked the people to take to
the streets, the Island could become a failed state.

Trump, who is not known for his democratic qualities and has the
discernment of an adolescent, could take the bait and do an about-face.
"After all," he might think, "if we're partners with the monarchies in
the Gulf, we continue to buy oil from the detestable Maduro government,
and I want to make a deal with Putin, what difference if I play a little
tongue hockey with Raúl Castro or his successor?"

But Trump is an uncontrollable reptile. And Cuba is not a center of
world power, and it has a small market and laughable consumer power.
Thus it could be that Trump will play the moralist and make demands that
not even he himself lives up to, just to satisfy the Cuban-American
political bloc in Miami.

Whatever happens, Trump has begun shooting tracer bullets. His
announcement of a drastic $20 million cut in funding for dissident
projects favors the Havana regime.

It is likely that this was not Trump's intention. But remember that he
is not a Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He is a man in his third age with
the mind of a primary school student.

With all that the Island autocracy is going through–reductions in
petroleum from Venezuela and a crisis that could annihilate Venezuelan
President Nicolás Maduro, leaving Cuba bereft of an important economic
support; Russia supplied a shipment of fuel but is asking where will the
money come from next time; and a Raúl Castro who is supposedly destined
to surrender power–for the military mandarins the scene that is coming
into view at the moment is the worst possible.

Don't worry about the repression. Hard-core dissidents will never want
for punches and slaps. But in a country at its breaking point, any spark
can give rise to a conflagration of incalculable proportions.

Right now, the average salary in Cuba is 27 dollars per month, but to
live decently requires 15 times that amount. And Havana, the capital of
the Republic, has gone for a week without water.

Food prices are through the roof. Public transit has gone from bad to
worse. And, as if we were living in Zurich, Samsung has opened on the
west side of the city a store (more like a museum) where a 4K Smart TV
goes for $4,000, and a Samsung 7 Edge costs $1,300, double its price in
New York.

Havanans, mouths agape, go to gaze and take selfies with their cheap
mobiles. This is the snapshot of Cuba. A mirage. And all during a
stagnant economic crisis dating back 27 years which few venture to guess
when it will end.

While we thought we were in bad shape, the reality is that we could be
worse off. And nobody knows when we will hit bottom.

Iván García

Photo: In the entryway of the Plaza Hotel, in the heart of the capital,
a beggar uses a nylon bag containing her belongings as a "pillow." To
the side is an empty cigar box collecting coins from passersby. This
image is part of The Black Beggars of Havana, a photo essay by Juan
Antonio Madrazo published in Cubanet.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Cuba: From Worse to Impossible (and We Haven't Hit Bottom Yet) /
Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-from-worse-to-impossible-and-we-havent-hit-bottom-yet-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 3 June 2017 — In coming days when the administration of the unpredictable Donald Trump, following four months of review, announces its Cuba policy, it could be that Obama’s guidelines are retained save for touch-ups of a few items such as doing business with military enterprises that directly benefit the dictatorship. Good news … Continue reading "Cuba: From Worse to Impossible (and We Haven’t Hit Bottom Yet) / Iván García" Continue reading
Bogota, June 6 (RHC)-- In news from Colombia, Amnesty International is condemning the Colombian government for its repression and excessive use of force in the port city of Buenaventura, where Afro-Colombian residents are on their 22nd day of a general … Continue reading
Cuba then and now: LGBT progress is real
As the country opens its doors even farther, U.S. fundamentalists are
looking for influence and to proselytize — not a good omen for LGBT Cubans.
Mark Segal, Philadelphia Gay News Jun 5, 2017

It was 20 years ago when I first reported on the state of LGBT life in
Cuba, and the differences between then and now could not be more apparent.

Start with the procedure to arrange my travel to the island nation. In
1997, as an out LGBT journalist, I received no assistance from the U.S.
government — except the warning that I could have trouble re-entering
the United States, since the U.S. government might not recognize LGBT
reporters as legitimate journalists.

As for Cuba, its embassy refused to return calls.

As with most Cuba-bound Americans, I had to travel via Mexico and
arrange hotel and other necessities through third- and fourth-party
connections. At times, it was almost cloak-and-dagger.

Today, travel protocols made my arrangements vastly easier than 20 years
ago. The Cuban Embassy not only sped up my visa, it arranged for me to
have official Cuban press credentials, which it also did for other U.S.
LGBT media on the same trip.

That ease of entry symbolizes Cuba's attempt to open its society — and
go after the lucrative LGBT tourism market.

My trip could not have been timed better, since Cuba was about to
commemorate the 10th annual International Day Against Homophobia and
Transphobia, spearheaded in the country by the Cuban National Center for
Sex Education. CENESEX is headed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of the
current president of Cuba and niece to its former president, Fidel Castro.

Understanding religion's role
My first evening's dinner was spent with an old friend and U.S. gay
pioneer, the Rev. Troy Perry of the LGBT-inclusive Metropolitan
Community Church, who was scheduled to receive an award from CENESEX.

We dined with members of his Cuban church, whose pastor is Elaine
Saralegui, an out lesbian from Matanzas, Cuba. Their work holds a mirror
up to the religious complexity of the Cuban people.

The Roman Catholic Church estimates that 60–70 percent of Cubans
identify as Catholic, with Protestants — like MCC members — making up
only about 5 percent. Many from both denominations also embrace
practices of the African-Caribbean Santería faith.

As the country opens its doors even farther, U.S. fundamentalists are
looking for influence and to proselytize — not a good omen for LGBT Cubans.

But Perry's church has a distinction: It is the first official
non-government LGBT organization in Cuba. Perry takes pride in stating
that Cuba now becomes the 34th nation with MCC churches.

The distinctions and progress don't end there. Perry says that while the
Catholic Church in Cuba imports its priests from other Latin countries,
all MCC churches will have Cuban-born ministers.

The first is Saralegui, making her the first out lesbian activist in
Cuba. She says, with a grin, that she identifies as an LGBT Christian
activist.

Saralegui was inspired by Perry's work two years ago and asked her
bishop about creating a church for LGBT people. A few disagreements
later, MCC Matanzas — a city that considers itself Cuba's art capital —
became Cuba's first out church.

When she's not tending the church, Saralegui travels the country
performing liturgies for LGBT Cubans and anyone else who wants to hear
her message of inclusion.

"I want our community to be proud," she says with a smile through a
translator.

When I ask her if she's had any issues from members of the LGBT
community about her activism, she smiles broadly and states, "Some don't
believe you can be Christian and gay."

Overcoming Cuba's dark past
Cuba's past often clashes with its present — and the government's
relative embrace of the LGBT community today belies its shameful past.

Meet Luis. Now 74, he survived one of Cuba's labor camps for gay men in
the 1960s. At 16, Luis was taken to a camp, which was apparently
unsurprising since, he smiles and says, "Everyone in my neighborhood
said I was that way." He soon discovered what his time in detention
would comprise: "The second day they yelled and yelled at me, 'Be a man,
be a man.' All day.

"They never hit those of us in the camps; they only spoke at us."

On most days, the men had to sit through what today we'd call
re-programming. "They had signs everywhere: 'The revolution needs men.'
And they kept telling us we had to be men and gay people were not men."
They also heard frequently from the psychologist camp officials brought
in from Havana.

In another attempt at reeducation, the men were put to work.

According to Luis, there were many camps and each held about 120 men.
The hard physical labor was supposed to make one a hard (read: straight)
man.

As to numbers, Luis tells me several thousand gay inmates were housed in
a section of Cuba far from Havana.

Luis is not clear about how he left the camp, but he knows what he did
afterward.

"My old life was no more and I couldn't go home or get work so I went to
the capital," he recalled. "I told them I lost my papers and was given
new papers; they never knew about my past life."

He studied and became a technical draftsman. He found love, and settled
into life.

The government used to deny it had such camps, but before his death,
Fidel Castro admitted it and apologized. Luis, a short, jovial man,
wanted a personal apology and he eventually received it from another
Castro — CENESEX's Mariela.

When I ask what he thinks the future holds for Cuba's LGBT community, he
shrugs and says he's "hopeful." He wants people not to forget their
history, but he doesn't want that connection to the past to impede progress.

It's a hard line he walks, but he does it with a joyous style.

A couple of days later I watched him dancing at the CENESEX rally, doing
a rhumba with his friends. Luis was enjoying life and its new freedoms,
but never letting go of those memories of a different time.

Nascent LGBT tourism industry
The reality is that you can't judge Cuba on its treatment of LGBT people
in the past. Louis wants to live for today, and in today's Cuba, at
least for the LGBT community, things have changed.

My tour guide, Leandro Velazco, says of LGBT tourism: "We have bars,
nightly 'inclusion' parties, a couple of good restaurants, a state-run
LGBT organization, occasional festivals and even Grindr." When I look
quizzically at him, he tells me about something called Planet Romeo,
which he said was the first LGBT social-networking site to hit Cuba
several years ago. His business, GaytoursHavana.com, like many in Cuba,
is adjusting to the internet, hoping that the promise of LGBT tourism in
Cuba becomes a reality.

I thought of that as I marched in the International Day Against
Homophobia and Transphobia rally, along with almost 1,000 Cubans. They
shouted socialist slogans peppered with "End Homophobia and Transphobia
Now." There were no corporate sponsors, and it looked more like a gay
Pride celebration than a march of defiance. At the rally, there were a
few speeches and then a dance and festival. CENESEX used the event for
HIV education, condom distribution and testing.

There's no question Cuba wants to get into the gay tourism game. There
are at least four LGBT tour-guide sites on the web and numerous
individuals and travel groups in the United States who specialize in
LGBT Cuban tourism.

Cuba is home to great weather, beaches, mountains, incredible colonial
architecture and some of the most hospitable people you'll ever meet. It
also sometimes seems the country is in a time capsule.

That can be a curse or a charm.

The old Buicks and Chevys are an example. They're charming, but their
prevalence reminds visitors that new cars are out of reach for many
Cubans — although that has begun to change, as has the hospitality
industry, which languished for years. On the way to the airport, you
notice parking lots full of new taxis and tour buses waiting for the
explosion of tourists.

Cubans call their country "The Pearl of the Caribbean," but that pearl
is still trapped by the U.S. embargo. It's a touchy subject here — some
claim the embargo is keeping this country in economic turmoil, while
others say it is the government's political repression that stifles Cuba.

Either way, it wreaks havoc on tourism. There is not one place in all of
Cuba that you can use an American credit card. Therefore, cash is a
requirement. How many Americans want to travel with a wad of cash in
their pockets?

Still, Cubans themselves say they want change — and no longer to feel
like pawns of two governments.

This article originally appeared in Phildelphia Gay News.

Source: Cuba then and now: LGBT progress is real | Lifestyle |
wisconsingazette.com -
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Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 31 May 2017 — A brief note published by the official Cuban press reports the meeting held by “General of the Army Raúl Castro Ruz” with “the Chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army, Timoleón Jiménez” (FARC-EP), where the former “ratified the willingness of the Cuban government to continue … Continue reading "War Vocation in the “Peace Zone”" Continue reading
Editorial: An Appeal to the White House
DDC | Madrid | 30 de Mayo de 2017 - 14:42 CEST.

Castroism's plans for 2018 are clear: to officially sanction the
transfer of power to the family's heirs and double down on the kind of
state capitalism that the Castros and the military elite already
administrate.

This road map involves two farcical elections beginning in November 2017
– municipal and parliamentary ones. In the municipal elections several
dozen independent candidates will try to run, for the first time, and
after the second ones Raúl Castro might step down from the presidency of
the country, which would mean that, for the first time in decades, and
at least nominally, a Castro will no longer head up Cuba.

Both events will give rise to an unprecedented scenario and generate
dynamics that are difficult to predict, even for the regime itself. The
current spike in repression against any form of ​​independence on the
Island is linked to the authorities' uncertainty, as they are made even
more nervous by the volatile situation facing their Venezuelan ally
Nicolás Maduro.

In this context, the White House has proposed withdrawing funds
supporting democracy in Cuba. The issue is still to be debated in
Congress, but its ultimate approval would have serious consequences for
the Cuban democratic cause.

Totalitarian laws remain in place on the Island. In addition to
repressing them, the regime condemns to social exclusion all those who
oppose it. Attempts to legalize independent initiatives are continually
rejected. Activists cannot work in the State sector, and are harassed if
they try to undertake economic activity on their own. They are the
victims of beatings, torture, abductions and arbitrary arrests,
prevented from traveling, expelled from the universities, and their
children are harassed at school. Retracting support would mean leaving
them completely at the mercy of their repressors.

At a time when the Tourism and Agriculture sectors are seeking ways to
access the Island's market, abandoning support for those fighting for
democracy in Cuba would be a boon for the elite that has ruined the
country and denies the vast majority of its citizens any chance for
freedom and prosperity. It is not only with investment in the economy
that the Cuban issue may be resolved, but also in human rights and
democratization.

US President Donald Trump stated on May 20: "The Cuban people deserve a
government that peacefully defends democratic values, economic freedoms,
religious freedoms and human rights. And my Administration is committed
to achieving that vision." In pursuit of these aims, the White House
should reconsider its proposal to cancel aid for those who are now
fighting for a democratic and diverse Cuba; a country that, among other
things, would not constitute a source of conflict in the region.

Source: Editorial: An Appeal to the White House | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/derechos-humanos/1496135288_31501.html Continue reading
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez Caracas, May 26 (RHC)-- Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez has attacked the Organization of American States, the OAS, for failing to address the situation in Brazil, while calling for intervention in … Continue reading
Cuba's Proxy War in Venezuela
Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal

The commitment to Maduro among soldiers and police is breaking down

Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro is responding to mass demonstrations
by selectively killing civilians. If, as a result, some branch of the
military breaks with the regime, the country will descend into civil
war. But until then it's a one-sided slaughter.

It's also a Cuban proxy war. More than a dozen high-ranking Cuban
officers are said to be in Venezuela, along with thousands of Cuban
intelligence agents. Their job is to keep Venezuelan army officers under
constant surveillance to prevent the feared military uprising to restore
democracy. If the international community wants to head off disaster, a
good place to start would be in Havana.

On Thursday Miami's El Nuevo Herald reported it has a recording of
Venezuelan generals—at a meeting in Barquisimeto three weeks ago—"giving
orders to use snipers to control demonstrators." According to the Herald
they did so "with the argument that they find themselves on the
threshold of a civil war."

Maybe the generals know something not yet acknowledged publicly—that the
commitment to Mr. Maduro among the nation's soldiers and police is
breaking down.

It happened once before, in April 2002, when snipers backing the regime
picked off protesters during a demonstration in Caracas. When some
members of the army refused to help then-President Hugo Chávez crack
down on the crowd, he was forced to step aside, albeit temporarily.

Once back in power, Chávez accelerated the recruitment and arming of
paramilitaries. Thousands now show up at antigovernment protests, firing
weapons into crowds and using their motorcycles to run down
demonstrators. If the Cubans remain the power behind the throne, there
will be no one to stop these trained killers from slitting the throats
of the opposition.

The possibility of a break inside the armed forces seems to be on the
rise. As the Journal's Anatoly Kurmanaev reported on Wednesday, National
Guard riot police are worn down from taking on thousands of street
protesters almost daily since the beginning of April. Rank-and-file
soldiers also are not immune to the hardship and hunger caused by Mr.
Maduro's senseless economic policies. They say they too are underpaid
and underfed.

The dictatorship is clearly worried about this and recognizes it will
lose a war of attrition. One source in Caracas who marched in the
streets Thursday observed a noted increase in regime repression.

In recent weeks government enforcers also have launched attacks on lower
middle-class neighborhoods where Maduro critics live. They break down
gates and doors, rampage through apartment complexes, fire tear-gas
canisters through windows and loot homes.

On May 7 the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional reported that between
April 4 and May 5 the National Guard, together with National Bolivarian
Police and chavista militia, invaded 11 different residential areas in
Caracas. One family of four in the El Paraíso district, requesting
anonymity, told of how they cowered together in a bathroom for eight
hours to keep from being asphyxiated by the tear gas that had inundated
the rest of their apartment.

It wasn't the first blitz on the building complex known as Terrazas del
Paraíso. On April 19 pro-government thugs smashed an iron grille to get
in and rob one of the neighbors. On April 26 civilian-clothed militia
entered the complex and fired rubber bullets, injuring some residents.
"But it was to frighten us, because they didn't steal anything," one of
the victims told the newspaper.

On May 11 El Nacional reported that since this most recent wave of
protests began, state security forces and paramilitary have engaged in
similar violence and theft against 13 condominiums in six cities
including Maracay, Valencia, Barquisimeto and Merida. Forty-seven people
have been killed in the violence perpetrated by the antiriot squads and
paramilitary madmen since early April.

This is state terrorism. But it may not have its intended effect. Most
of the country is solidly against the government, and this includes
low-income Venezuelans, once the base for chavismo. Paradoxically the
repression seems to be strengthening opposition resolve. Perhaps
Venezuelans have reached a tipping point. They will get new elections
and freedom for political prisoners, or are ready to die trying.

The brutality also may be eroding the confidence of the men and women in
uniform. Many seem not to have the stomach for the cruelty their Cuban
handlers expect from their South American protégés. On May 5 opposition
leader Henrique Capriles said 85 members of the armed forces, including
some young captains and sergeants, had been detained by the regime for
criticizing the repression. On May 19 a member of the National Guard was
arrested in Táchira for having crossed over to defend protesters.

The international community has the power, through sanctions, to rein in
Cuba. If it fails to do so, the Venezuelan opposition will be massacred.

Source: Cuba's proxy war in Venezuela | Babalú Blog -
https://www.babalublog.com/2017/05/22/cubas-proxy-war-in-venezuela/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 16 May 2017 — In the midst of a wave of pressure from the authorities, members of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC) have issued a declaration of commitment to their work on the island. “We are not leaving Cuba, we are not leaving the Church and we will continue working for the … Continue reading "“We Are Not Leaving Cuba”, Say Members Of The Center For Coexistence Studies" 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
14ymedio, Havana, 16 May 2017 — The digital site of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement has now joined the list of pages censored on the servers of the Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA) which supply public WiFi. The leader of the organization, Eliecer Avila, links this measure to “the growing influence” of the site among … Continue reading "Cuban Government Extends Censorship To The Digital Site Somos+" 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
Editorial: Vilma Espín, Homophobe
DDC | Madrid | 16 de Mayo de 2017 - 12:46 CEST.

When the first police raids of homosexuals were carried out in
revolutionary Cuba, Vilma Espín was already the wife of the head of the
armed forces, the sister-in-law of the regime's top leader, the woman
with the highest political position among the elite, and president of
the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), the only gender-based organization
allowed in the new society.

When they imprisoned homosexuals and "other degenerates" in UMAP forced
labor camps, when they persecuted homosexuals and expelled them from
classrooms, theater companies and any setting in which they enjoyed
visibility, Vilma Espín occupied the same position and had the same
relatives.

When during the Mariel Boatlift homosexuals and lesbians were officially
placed on a par with criminals and delinquents, and it seemed expedient
to get rid of them, Vilma Espín's position remained as privileged as before.

As president of the FMC, during all those decades she should have
defended Cuban homosexuals and their families. But she did not, instead
fully supporting the policies that her brother-in-law and her husband
had devised.

When in 2010, in an interview with the Mexican newspaper La Jornada
Fidel Castro recognized some responsibility for the existence of the
UMAP, Mariela Castro Espín, the daughter of Vilma Espín and Raúl Castro,
hastened to contradict her uncle in an effort to exculpate her father,
by then the ruler of the country.

Fidel and Raúl Castro and Vilma Espín are three of the figures most
responsible for repression against homosexuals in Cuba. Mariela Castro
Espín, too young to have actually participated in these events, is
currently in charge of whitewashing her elders' crimes. After
recognizing that the UMAP existed, and after promising an investigation
to clarify this phenomenon, she must also explain why this investigation
has never been carried out, and never will be.

Just as her mother took advantage of the struggle for women's rights,
she exploits the struggle for the rights of the LGBTI community in a
ploy to wield power and suppress dangerous freedoms. In the history of
her family's homophobia, her role has been to hide the horrors of the
past and to misrepresent that history to favor her family's interests.
It is not surprising, then, that the first postcard envelope "dedicated
to the lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) community in Cuba"
actually features a stamp graced by an image of her mother, Vilma Espín.

Other countries dedicate these kinds of postal products to true
activists for LGBTI rights, and artists and works from this community,
or to emblems like the rainbow flag. The circulation of these images
serves to raise the public's awareness of the rights and achievements of
these minorities. In the Cuban case, however, no seal will be circulated
including any mention of or allusion to the LGBTI community. What has
been issued, rather, is an envelope including a mere allusion. And,
unlike postage stamps, these envelopes are not meant to actually be
mailed, but rather to expand the collections of stamp collectors.

A postage stamp has not been issued acknowledging the LGBTI community,
but rather one honoring Vilma Espín, issued in 2008, and a great
opportunity for social activism and awareness raising has been
squandered. The family that has been Cuban homosexuals' worst enemy
dares to exploit this opportunity to burnish its image, at the expense
of those whom they denied and persecuted. Like her elders, Mariela
Castro Espín mocks the wishes and dreams of those she claims to
represent, this time by promising them a postage stamp for their cause,
and then circulating an image of her own mother.

Source: Editorial: Vilma Espín, Homophobe | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1494931609_31150.html Continue reading
Iván García, 3 May 2017 — Let’s step back in time. One morning in 1985, Yndamiro Restano Díaz, a thirty-seven-year-old journalist with Radio Rebelde, took out an old Underwood and wrote a clandestine broadsheet entitled “Nueva Cuba.” After distributing the single-page, handmade newspaper up and down the street, one copy ended up pinned to a wall … Continue reading "Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 14 May 2017 – This Sunday Cuban State Security prevented Yoandy Izquierdo, a member of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC), from boarding a flight to Sweden to participate in the Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF). The car in which the activist was traveling to José Martí International Airport was intercepted by the police, according to … Continue reading "State Security Prevents Yoandy Izquierdo From Boarding A Flight For Sweden" Continue reading
While the new U.S. president's policies on Cuba remain uncertain, the government in Havana appears to be more nervous about its domestic opposition than usual, as the island heads into … Click to Continue » Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 8 May 2017 – The number of political prisoners has doubled this year, according to the most recent report from the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which counts 140 people charged for these reasons in April, compared to 70 for the same months in 2016. The organization’s monthly accounting … Continue reading "Number of Political Prisoners Doubles In Last Year, According To Human Rights Group" Continue reading
Print section Print Rubric:  Latin America wakes up to its biggest headachePrint Headline:  Venezuela is not an islandPrint Fly Title:  Bello UK Only Article:  standard articleIssue:  The policy designed to make America great againFly Title:  BelloMain image:  20170513_AMD001_0.jpgYOU find them driving taxis in Buenos Aires, working as waiters in Panama or selling arepas (corn bread) in Madrid. The number of Venezuelans fleeing hunger, repression and crime in their ruptured country grows by the day. For years, Latin American governments kept quiet as first Hugo Chávez and then his successor, Nicolás Maduro, hollowed out Venezuela’s democracy. Now their economic bungling and Mr Maduro’s increasingly harsh rule are causing a humanitarian crisis that the region can no longer ignore. At last, it is not. Colombia and Brazil bear the brunt of the Venezuelan ... 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
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 9 May 2017 — Cubans have not seen the images of that lady who, armed only with her determination, stopped an armored police tank in the streets of Caracas. The official press also conceals the tears of those who have lost their children because of the repression of the those in uniform and the … Continue reading "Manipulation And Silence, Cuba’s Information Policy On Venezuela" Continue reading
Dozens Of Ladies In White Arrested On The 100th Day Of TodosMarchamos

14ymedio, Havana, 8 May 2017 – At least 38 Ladies in White were arrested
this Sunday in Havana, Matanzas, Guantanamo, Ciego de Avila and Santa
Clara, during the 100th day of the #TodosMarchamos (We All March)
campaign for the release of Cuba's political prisoners.

The leader of the group, Berta Soler, was arrested along with three
other activists outside the group's headquarters in Havana's Lawton
neighborhood. The women carried posters denouncing the harassment
against their movement, dissident Deisy Artiles told 14ymedio.

Soler was leaving the headquarters along with to Yamilet Garro, Aliuska
Gómez and Sodrelis Turruella when they were intercepted and arrested by
the police. Inside the house were Artiles, along with Ladies in White
Zenaida Hidalgo and Cecilia Guerra.

The police also detained, in the vicinity of the headquarters, the
former political prisoner Angel Moya Acosta and the activist Jose Oscar
Sánchez.

"The operation started on Friday morning," Artiles said, adding that "an
act of repudiation was carried out [against Berta Soler] at the time of
her arrest."

Dissident Ada Lopez was also arrested outside her home when she tried to
reach the headquarters of the movement. Her husband reported the arrest
and managed to photograph the moment she was taken to a police car.

In Matanzas, at least a dozen of the movement's women managed to reach
the church to attend Sunday Mass, while 19 were arrested on the way to
the parish.

"We have had an operation since Saturday in front of the houses of the
Ladies in White," said Matanzas activist Leticia Ramos Herrería.

The police "have been embroiled in trying to end our movement," says the
opponent. "The threats they are making against the activists and their
families are serious. Many are being fined for simply evading the police
cordon in front of their homes."

In the town of Palma Soriano, in Santiago de Cuba, a dozen members of
the group were arrested, while in Ciego de Avila the police violently
arrested the dissidents Lucía López Rondón and Mayden Maidique Cruz.

On Thursday, the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) issued a
report in which it stated there were 1,809 arbitrary detentions in the
island during the first four months of 2017.

Throughout the month of April the organization documented 467 arbitrary
arrests, of which 335 were women and 132 were men. 147 of those arrested
were black and ten of them were "beaten brutally," according to the text.

The OCDH emphasizes that a climate of repression prevails "at a time
when the Cuban Government has achieved important international support
such as that from the European Union and the Government of Spain," and
warns that "in the coming months the political climate may be aggravated
because of the government's nervousness over the difficult economic and
social situation that Cuba is facing."

Source: Dozens Of Ladies In White Arrested On The 100th Day Of
#TodosMarchamos – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/dozens-of-ladies-in-white-arrested-on-the-100th-day-of-todosmarchamos/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 8 May 2017 – At least 38 Ladies in White were arrested this Sunday in Havana, Matanzas, Guantanamo, Ciego de Avila and Santa Clara, during the 100th day of the #TodosMarchamos (We All March) campaign for the release of Cuba’s political prisoners. The leader of the group, Berta Soler, was arrested along with … Continue reading "Dozens Of Ladies In White Arrested On The 100th Day Of #TodosMarchamos" 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

Within the framework of the Congress of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), a group of Cuban academics and former officials recently circulated a document protesting the LASA'S position regarding the wave of repression and political crisis in Venezuela.

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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
If Venezuela Goes to Hell, Will Things Look Bad for Cuba? / Iván García

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: If Venezuela Goes to Hell, Will Things Look Bad for Cuba? / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/if-venezuela-goes-to-hell-will-things-look-bad-for-cuba-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
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
Ivan Garcia, 28 April 2017 — Soot covers the unpainted facades of buildings on Tenth of October Boulevard. Old American cars from the 1950s, rebuilt with modern diesel engines and now privately operated as taxis, transit across asphalt, leaving behind a trail of black smoke and the unpleasant odor of gasoline. The noonday sun glimmers in … Continue reading "If Venezuela Goes to Hell, Will Things Look Bad for Cuba? / Iván García" Continue reading
Outdated laws and limited, expensive internet access slow Cuba's progress
Committee to Protect Journalists 2 May 2017
By Carlos Lauría

Cuba's media landscape has begun opening up in recent years, transformed
by a lively blogosphere, an increasing number of news websites carrying
investigative reporting and news commentary, and an innovative breed of
independent reporters who are critical of, yet still support, socialist
ideas.

The energized press scene contrasts with the island nation's restrictive
legal framework, which curbs freedom of speech under the guise of
protecting the "independence or territorial integrity of the state."
Though the constitution bans private ownership of the press and all
media are supposedly controlled by the one-party Communist state, the
spread of independent reporting is a sign of change.

Reporters, from the most critical - who are known as dissidents - to
journalism school graduates, documentary filmmakers, and
pro-revolutionary bloggers, are opening new spaces for free expression
and entrepreneurial journalism that seemed off limits just a few years ago.

Bloggers said they have embraced the loosening of restrictions. "We are
seeing opportunities that were inconceivable five years ago," said
Alejandro Rodríguez, who quit his job in 2012 at Adelante, a state-run
weekly in the eastern city of Camagüey, to start a blog.

However, many said that more work needs to be done, with the threat of
arbitrary detention, vague and outdated laws, and limitations on
internet access slowing Cuba's press freedom progress.

Internet access in Cuba, which the U.N. rates among the lowest in the
Western Hemisphere, is still inaccessible to most citizens. And though
large-scale systematic state repression has eased significantly, the
most strident opponents in the media say they still face harassment and
intimidation from authorities.

Read the full article on CPJ's site.
https://www.cpj.org/2017/04/connecting-cuba.php

Source: Outdated laws and limited, expensive internet access slow Cuba's
progress - IFEX - https://www.ifex.org/cuba/2017/05/02/leyes-arcaicas-cuba/ Continue reading
State Security Summons for Ivan Garcia / Ivan Garcia

Ivan Garcia, 5 April 2017 — He says his name is Alejandro. A thin, timid
mulatto, dressed in light-blue jeans, a pullover sweater with
Prussian-blue collar, and low-cut black sneakers. In one hand is a dark
briefcase.

He speaks quietly and deliberately. He looks like a recent graduate of
the Cuban counterintelligence school. According to the summons, he is a
first lieutenant.

The interview location is the Aguilera police station in the Lawton
neighborhood, off Porvenir Avenue. By now the procedure is habitual.
State Security routinely summons dissidents and unmuzzled journalists to
police precincts.

Although he didn't tell me the reason for the summons, it probably has
to do with my latest news reports about the upcoming implementation of
the 3G network, and a report on the state of opinion of workers and
residents in Old Havana about the administration of the military company
GAESA in businesses run by Eusebio Leal, the City Historian.

Of course, the citations serve to try to gather information and to
threaten the interviewee. It's nothing new for me. In March 1991 I spent
two weeks in a cell at Villa Marista, headquarters of the Department of
Security (DSE). They accused me of "enemy propaganda," but I wasn't
prosecuted.

Later, during several hours or days, in cells of the 10th Unit, at
Avenida de Acosta and October 10th Street. Then various summonses from
the political police in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In October 2008,
a 12-hour detention at the Zanja and Lealtad Unit, Central Havana. And
in August 2010, a summons from Counterintelligence in a special unit of
the armed forces, in Rancho Boyeros.

The novelty in this case is that before citing me directly, as they have
now done, they cited several friends in the neighborhood to gather
information about me, intimidating them with the accusation that they
provided me information or that they violated certain laws, and
ultimately asked them to collaborate with the special services.

This technique was used by the Soviet KGB and the East German
STASI. According to the procedure, the ideal is that there are two or
more informants in each neighborhood and a counterintelligence officer
for every 50,000 inhabitants.

The main lines of operational work of the Counterintelligence at the
moment are directed by Alejandro Castro Espín, the only son of Raúl, the
president appointed by his brother Fidel.

Since forever, the Castro brothers have designed the strategies to
follow and authorized every step taken by State Security. They don't act
alone.

In the current context, with the crisis in Venezuela that has cut oil
supplies to the island by 40%, the economic recession worsened by the
oil deficit, the arrival in the White House of a guy as unpredictable as
Donald Trump, who has threatened to repeal the agreements made with
Barack Obama since 17 December 2014, and the hypothetical change in
government in February of 2018, has set off alarms among the olive green
executive and the secret services.

The arrests have increased. The physical violence towards the Ladies in
White has not stopped. And the harassment, threats and confiscation of
the equipment of free journalists is multiplied.

In the case of the alternative press, they don't care that they have
different ideological positions. They repress equally an anti-Castro
journalist like Henry Constantin, a neo-communist blogger like Harold
Cardenas, or a foreign journalist with family in Cuba like Fernando
Ravsberg.

For political opponents, the repression has also increased. The most
controversial are beaten and injured. To those who bet on inserting
themselves legally into legal mechanisms, like Candidates for Change and
Otro18 (Another 2018), they are also repressed.

There is no ideological distinction. Liberal thinking wihout
authorization from the military junta is punished. Tomorrow it's my turn
to be 'interviewed' by the counterintelligence officials.

I promise to keep you informed.

Source: State Security Summons for Ivan Garcia / Ivan Garcia –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/state-security-summons-for-ivan-garcia-ivan-garcia/ Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 5 April 2017 — He says his name is Alejandro. A thin, timid mulatto, dressed in light-blue jeans, a pullover sweater with Prussian-blue collar, and low-cut black sneakers. In one hand is a dark briefcase. He speaks quietly and deliberately. He looks like a recent graduate of the Cuban counterintelligence school. According to the … Continue reading "State Security Summons for Ivan Garcia / Ivan Garcia" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 30 April 2017 – After 100 days in the White House, Donald Trump has not uttered a single word about Cuba. His indifference is keeping Havana officialdom on pins and needles, worried about the opposition and disoriented by Cuban society. More than two years after the beginning of the diplomatic thaw between the … Continue reading "Trump: 100 Days in the White House and Not a Single Word About Cuba" Continue reading
Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano

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

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

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

Utilitarian morality

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

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

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

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

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

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

Civic morality

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

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

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

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

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

Survival morality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ethics, politics, and freedoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano –
Translating Cuba -
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