March 2017
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The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García

Iván García, 21 March 2017 — In the slum of Lawton, south of Havana, the
need for housing has converted an old collective residence with narrow
passageways into a bunkhouse. With dividers made from cardboard or
bricks recovered from demolished buildings, "apartments" have appeared
where a dozen families reside, living on the razor's edge.

Among the blasting Reggaeton music and illegal businesses, cane alcohol,
stolen the night before from a state distillery, is sold and later used
in the preparation of home-made rum; or clothing with pirated labels,
bought in bulk from stalls in Colón, a stone's throw from the Panama
Canal. A while back, when cattle were slaughtered in the Lawton or
Virgen del Camino slaughterhouses, you could get beef at the wholesale

These overpopulated townships in the capital are cradles of
prostitution, drugs and illegal gambling. Lawton, like no other
neighborhood in Havana, is the "model" for marginalization and crime.
People live from robbing state institutions, selling junk or whatever
falls from a truck.

But don't talk to them about political reforms, ask them to endorse a
dissident party or protest about the brutal beatings that the political
police give a few blocks away to the Ladies in White, who every Sunday
speak about political prisoners and democracy in Cuba.

Let's call him Miguel, a guy who earns money selling marijuana,
psychotropic substances or cambolo, a lethal mix of cocaine with a small
dose of bicarbonate. He's been in prison almost a third of his life. He
had plans to emigrate to the United States but interrupted them after
Obama's repeal of the "wet foot-dry foot" policy.

Miguel has few topics of conversation. Women, sports, under-the-table
businesses. His life is a fixed portrait: alcohol, sex and "flying,"
with reddened eyes from smoking marijuana.

When you ask his opinion about the dissident movement and the continued
repression against the Ladies in White, he coughs slightly, scratches
his chin, and says: "Man, get off that channel. Those women are crazy.
This government of sons of bitches that we have, you aren't going to
bring it down with marches or speeches. If they don't grab a gun, the
security forces will always kick them down. They're brave, but it's not
going to change this shitty country."

Most of the neighbors in the converted bunkhouse think the same way.
They're capable of jumping the fence of a State factory to rob two
gallons of alcohol, but don't talk to them about politics, human rights
or freedom of expression.

"Mi amor, who wants to get into trouble? The police have gone nuts with
the businesses and prostitution. But when you go down the path of human
rights, you're in trouble for life," comments Denia, a matron.

She prefers to speak about her business. From a black bag she brings out
her Huawei telephone and shows several photos of half-nude girls while
chanting out the price. "Look how much money. Over there, whoever wants
can beat them up," says Denia, referring to the Ladies in White.

Generally, with a few exceptions, the citizens of the Republic of Cuba
have become immune or prefer to opt for amnesia when the subjects of
dissidence, freedom and democracy are brought up.

"There are several reasons. Pathological fear, which certainly infuses
authoritarian societies like the Cuban one. You must add to that the
fact that the Government media has known very well how to sell the story
of an opposition that is minimal, divided and corrupt, interested only
in American dollars," affirms Carlos, a sociologist.

Also, the dissidence is operating on an uneven playing field. It doesn't
have hours of radio or television coverage to spread its political
programs. The repression has obligated hundreds of political opponents
to leave the country. And State Security has infiltrated moles in almost
all the dissident groups.

"The special services efficiently short-circuit the relation of the
neighbors of the barrio and the people who support the dissidence. How
do you overcome that abyss? By expanding bridges to the interior of the
Island. I believe the opposition is more focused on political crusades
toward the exterior. The other is to amplify what the majority of Cubans
want to hear: There isn't food; to buy a change of clothing costs a
three months' salary; the terrible transport service; the water
shortage….There is a long list of subjects the dissidents can exploit,"
says Enrique.

I perceive that around 80 percent of the population has important common
ground with the local opposition. The timid economic openings and
repeals of absurd regulations were always claimed by the dissidence,
from greater autonomy for private work, foreign travel or being tourists
in their own country.

According to some dissidents, many neighbors approach them to say hello
and delve into the motives for their detentions after a brutal verbal
lynching or a beating. But there aren't enough.

Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, the leader of the Alianza Democrática
Oriental (Eastern Democratic Alliance) and director of Palenque Visión
(Palenque Vision), felt frustrated when street protests demanding rights
for everybody were taking place, and people were only watching from the
curb of a sidewalk.

"One night I was in the hospital's emergency room, since my son had a
high fever, and I initiated a protest because of the poor medical
attention. Several patients were in the same situation. But no one
raised their voice when the patrols arrived and the political police
detained me by force. That night I realized that I had to change my
method to reach ordinary Cubans. Perhaps the independent press is a more
effective way," Lobaina told me several months ago in Guantánamo.

Although independent journalists reflect that other Cuba that the
autocracy pretends to ignore, their notes, reports or complaints have a
limited reach because of the lack of Internet service and the
precariousness of their daily lives.

For the majority of citizens, democracy, human rights and freedom of
expression are not synonymous with a plate of food, but with repression.
How to awaken a Cuban from indifference is a good question for a debate.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García – Translating
Cuba - Continue reading
Never belonging: Random reflections on my last visit to Cuba

Returning to the land which witnessed my birth is always a gut-wrenching
experience. Separation from my island has now been five times longer
than Odysseus' was from his. But unlike Odysseus, who was returning to a
place he was familiar with, I am attempting to piece together some type
of rootedness upon the shifting sands of my parents' false memories (sí,
porque los bichos no picaban, y los mangos eran más dulce; yes, because
the bugs were not biting, and mangoes were sweeter).

Every Cuban over a certain age lives with a particular trauma caused by
the hardships of being a refugee. Homesickness for a place that was
never home, mixed with nostalgia, romanticization and an
unnaturally-taught hatred towards various actors blamed for our
Babylonian captivity contributes to the trauma of not having a place, of
not ever being able to visit one's grandmother's garden to eat mangos
from its trees, nor enjoy the gentle sea breezes.

By the rivers of Miami we sat and wept at the memory of La Habana. There
on the palm trees we hung our conga drums. For there, those who stole
our independence with gunboat diplomacy, asked us for songs. Those who
forced on us the Platt Amendment demanded songs of joy. "Sing us one of
the mambo songs from Cuba." But how can we sing our rumba in a pagan
land? If I forget you, mi Habana, may my right hand wither. May my
tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do
not consider la Habana mi mayor alegría. Remember, Yahweh, what the
oppressors did. A blessing on him who seizes their infants and dashes
them against the rock!

As I stroll down el malecón, as I amble along calle Obispo, as I have a
daiquiri en el Floridita, I observe. I randomly gaze at my surroundings,
reflecting upon what I see, attempting to understand what occurs beneath
the surface. In no specific order, here are some of my musings:
- I notice many yuma lechers — old white men with young beautiful
mulatas on their arms, planning to do to them what the embargo has done
to the island.
- I notice yumas rushing to see Cuba before it changes, before it is
spoiled, fetishizing the misery and poverty of others, ignoring how much
the people want change because they hunger.
- I notice la buena presente, where the faces of tourism's
representatives have a light complexion, thus denying their darker
compatriots lucrative tourists' tips.
- I notice how liberals, from the safety of first-world middle-class
privilege, paint Cuba as some socialist paradise, ignoring how sexism
and racism continues to thrive, along with a very sophisticated and
not-so-well hidden classism connected to political power.
- I notice how conservatives, with an air of superiority, paint Cuba
with brushes which impose hues of oppression to color a portrait of
repression ignorant of the survival mentality of a people fluent in
doublespeak and sharp tongues of criticism.
- I notice tourists who can't salsa dancing in well-preserved streets
while a block away from the merriment are inhabited buildings on the
verge of collapsing.
- I notice Trumpites insisting on removing the human rights violation
splinter out of Cuba's eye while ignoring the log of Border Patrol
abuses against the undocumented, the log of black lives not mattering,
the log of grabbing women by their ——-, paying them lower wages than men
for the same job, the log of unthreading a safety net which keeps people
alive, and all the other human rights violation logs firmly lodged in
the USA's eye.
- I notice liberal yumas apotheosis of el Ché and Fidel, dismissing as
gusanos the critiques of those and the surviving families who have suffered.
- I notice the swagger of conservative yumas quick to dictate the
conditions under which they will recognize someone else's sovereignty,
holding on to the self-conceived hegemonic birthright of empire.
- I notice the false dichotomy created by bar stool pundits between
ending the genocidal U.S. embargo and the need for greater political
participation from the people. This is not an either/or issue; it's a

The most painful thing I notice is how I am not fully accepted aquí o
allá — here or there. I am held in contempt and suspicion on both sides
of the Florida Straits. Here, I'm too Cuban to ever be American, and
there, I'm too American to ever be a Cuban. The trauma of which I speak
is never belonging.

As you contemplate these reflections, note I have again returned to la
isla de dolor. Like Odysseus I am struggling against the gods who decree
separation from the fantasy island I claim to love, an irrational love
toward a place where I am neither welcomed nor truly belong. I close
these reflections with that of another refugee, who also spent his life
wandering the earth where there was no place he could call home or where
he could rest his head. According to José Martí, "Let those who do not
[secure a homeland] live under the whip and in exile, watched over like
wild animals, cast from one country to another, concealing the death of
their souls with a beggar's smile from the scorn of free persons."

Source: Never belonging: Random reflections on my last visit to Cuba –
Baptist News Global - Continue reading
Iván García, 21 March 2017 — In the slum of Lawton, south of Havana, the need for housing has converted an old collective residence with narrow passageways into a bunkhouse. With dividers made from cardboard or bricks recovered from demolished buildings, “apartments” have appeared where a dozen families reside, living on the razor’s edge. Among … Continue reading "The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García" Continue reading
Cuba: more reliant on the US than ever
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 27 de Marzo de 2017 - 16:38 CEST.

The best way to appreciate how that Cuba's economy today depends on the
US more than ever before in its history is to engage in a very simple
mental exercise: imagine that Washington banned travel, remittances and
packages to the island, except for medicines and special visits by
Cubans to see very sick relatives.

What would happen? Can anyone even make a coherent assessment of a
scenario like this? Many shudder at even the notion. This is not going
to happen, but the mere thought places many's hair on end – especially
that of the Castroist political and military elite. Political science
also encompasses possible situations and potential scenarios.

For 60 years the regime's propaganda has been vociferously claiming that
before 1959 Cuba was a pseudo-colony of the US. Of course, media and
academic centers on the island have been prohibited from researching or
publishing anything about how, in fact, "revolutionary" Cuba was much
more dependent on the USSR than "bourgeois" Cuba ever was on the US.
And, what's worse, now it depends more than ever on American cash,
especially in the wake of the devastating economic crisis in Venezuela.

Hypocrisy in the regime's realpolitik and its two-faced policies are
evident. On the one hand, it waves the flag and stirs up enmity against
the "Empire" and the "criminal blockade", while simultaneously
supplicating, wheeling and dealing, and spreading its tentacles behind
the scenes, both in political circles on the left, and within the US
business community, to encourage travel and commercial flights to Cuba,
and for Congress to lift the embargo so that they can obtain access to
international loans and foreign investment.

The latter, getting loans, cash and investments, is vital to the
dictator and his military junta. The plans of the Government and elite
of the Communist Party (PCC) to pass power to a new generation of
leaders, military and civilians, starting in 2018, call for stabilizing
financial support that they currently lack.

More American money than ever

Between remittances, packages and trips to Cuba from the US, in 2016
Cuba brought in more than 7 billion dollars. According to experts that
figure has already surpassed the amount from Venezuelan subsidies. It is
triple the revenue from the Cuban tourist industry, almost double the
value of Cuban exports in 2016, which did not reach 4 billion, and 15
times the value of sugar exports. Incidentally, this last harvest in
2016 yielded only one third of the sugar produced back in 1925 (5.1
million tons).

From 1902 to 1958, although nearly 80% of Cuban sugar was exported to
the US (at rates higher than those on the world market) and the rest of
the Island's trade was largely with its northern neighbor, there were
two big differences to the situation today:

There were not, as there are today, almost 2,000,000 Cubans in the US,
furnishing the country with more money than all of Cuba's exports,
including sugar, nickel, tobacco, rum and pharmaceutical products,
combined. The funds obtained from goods exported from the island in 2016
came to half of total monies received from the US.
There were private enterprises in Cuba that generated the bulk of its
Gross Domestic Product (GDP), for a per capita GDP higher than Spain's
and almost equal to that of Italy.
Genetic parasitism

The problem is that, unlike a market economy, Cuba's is parasitic, due
to the congenital defect of its Marxist-Leninist statism, which is
contrary to human nature, such that it can only work if it is subsidized
from abroad; first by Moscow, and then by Caracas. Now, with the crisis
in Venezuela, the Cuban economy is sustained by "counterrevolutionaries"
in Miami. The profound irony is that the cash that meets most of Cuba's
needs today is "imperialist" in origin.

This had never happened before. According to official figures, in the
50s the US acquired 57% of Cuba's total exports. That is, the Island
sold almost half of its exportable goods to the rest of the world,
including cattle, coffee, pineapple and other products that the country
was later unable to export when the Castros rose to power. In that
pre-Castro decade Cuba produced 60,000 tons of coffee annually. In 2016
it produced a grand total of 5,687 tons. Incredible, but true.

With regards to dependence on the USSR, renowned Cuban economist
Professor Carmelo Mesa-Lago offers some impressive figures. In 1989,
Cuba received from the Soviet Union (and, to a far lesser degree, other
allied countries) 98% of its oil, 80% of its machinery, 57% of its
chemicals, and 53% of its food. 78.6% of all imports also came from
those Communist nations.

According to the few official figures available in this regard, since
Cuba joined the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) in 1972,
between 75 and 80% of its total trade (exports and imports) was with the
USSR and other Communist countries. The highpoint occurred between 1984
and 1991, during the zenith of Soviet subsidies, when Moscow paid Castro
45 cents for a pound of sugar – while the price on the world market was
at 4 or 5.

What few people know around the world is that Cuba got the lion's share
of these supplies for free, as it never paid its huge trade deficits. In
fact, it racked up a debt of 35 billion dollars with Moscow. 90% was
pardoned in 2014 by Vladimir Putin, aware that they would never collect.
He did try to force Castro to pay at least 3.5 billion, however. But
he's not going to get a penny.

I still have a yellowing paper teletype, an AFP report from back in
1995, indicating that between 1984 and 1991 Cuba had accumulated a trade
deficit of more than 16.08 billion dollars during those 8 years, an
average of over 2 billion per year, with a spike to 2.74 billion in
1989. And almost all that unbalanced trade was with the USSR.

Total subordination

Furthermore, the island received billions of dollars in weapons of every
type: planes, tanks, artillery, ships, rockets, vehicles, guns, and
equipment, allowing it to wield the largest and most powerful army in
Latin America after Brazil. Cuba even received 42 nuclear missiles (able
to reach Washington and New York), which put the world on the brink of
nuclear war in 1962.

But what takes the cake is that in the 80s (until 1986), then Economy
Minister Humberto Perez told me, off the record, that Moscow was selling
to capitalist countries almost three million tons of crude oil that Cuba
did not use, from its annual quota allocated by the CMEA, and then
sending the money to Havana, these funds exceeding the amount generated
by all its sugar mills.

We can clearly see that Cuba was not a pseudocolony of the USSR, but an
outright one, as we can add that the largest apparatus for intelligence
and repression in Latin America, the Castros', was organized and trained
by the KGB, with the help of East Germany's neo-Nazi Stasi. All for free.

Despite its trade dependence on the US before 1959, Cuba was never as
subordinate to its northern neighbor as it was later on the USSR, 19,000
km away, beyond the Mediterranean.

Given the parasitism endemic to Castroist socialism, Cuba today depends
on the US so profoundly that if the scenario described at the outset of
this article were to come to pass, the nation would come to an utter
standstill. It would be another Cambodia, with people eating out of
communal pots. Without "Yankee" money, Castroism would be unsustainable.

*In an earlier version of this text the caption stated that the image
was from Havana. The picture was, in fact, taken in Washington, DC.

Source: Cuba: more reliant on the US than ever | Diario de Cuba - Continue reading
Mother and son of 2015 machete attack victim receive death threat from
Castro regime agent
"I am obliged to once again denounce the dictatorial regime of the
Castros, this time as a mother and human rights defender." - Sirley
Avila Leon, March 20, 2017

Las Tunas, Cuba: Yoerlis Peña Ávila on March 15, 2017 received a death
threat against him and his grandmother, Sirley Leon Aguilera, for being
family (son and mother respectively) of Sirley Avila Leon, who was the
victim of a May 24, 2015 machete attack carried out by a regime
collaborator that left her permanently disabled. The threat is in
response to her legal demand presented to recover 126,000 Cuban pesos
($4754) in damages resulting from the attack.

On March 15, 2017 he was able to send an e-mail to his mother that
described what had happened that same day: "I was working and a man that
I do not know told me that it was better that the legal demand not be
continued because you did not know the risk in which you were exposing
me and my grandmother that for you to suffer they could attack us."

Four days earlier on March 11, 2017 Sirley Avila Leon had contacted her
son, and again on March 13th on both occasions they discussed the legal
action being pursued, but then found it increasingly difficult to
communicate. It appears that the Castro regime does not want this legal
action to be pursued and is using intimidation to try to shut it down.

There is good reason to be concerned with this pattern of threats and
harassment. Over a three year period (2012 - 2015) regime agents made a
series of threats and took actions that culminated in the attempted
murder of Sirley Avila Leon on May 24, 2015. Another round of threats
and harassment when she returned to Cuba on September 7, 2016 following
medical treatment in Miami led to her decision to leave Cuba on October
28, 2016 and request asylum in the United States when death threats
against her person escalated and her attacker, Osmany Carriòn, was free
and bragging that he would finish the job he started.

Sirley Avila Leon is asking democratic representatives, human rights
organizations, and members of international organizations and all people
of goodwill to urge the Cuban government to investigate the threat made
against her son and mother.

Background information

Sirley Ávila León was a delegate to the Municipal Assembly of People's
Power in Cuba from June 2005, for the rural area of Limones until 2012
when the regime gerrymandered her district out of existence. The Castro
regime removed her from her position because she had fought to reopen a
school in her district, but been ignored by official channels and had
reached out to international media. Her son, Yoerlis Peña Ávila, who had
an 18 year distinguished career in the Cuban military was forced out
when he refused to declare his mother insane and have her committed to a
psychiatric facility.

Sirley joined the ranks of the democratic opposition and repression
against her increased dramatically. On May 24, 2015 she was the victim
of a brutal machete attack carried out by Osmany Carriòn, with the
complicit assistance of his wife, that led to the loss of her left hand,
right upper arm nearly severed, and knees slashed into leaving her
crippled. Following the attack she did not receive adequate medical care
and was told quietly by medical doctors in Cuba that if she wanted to
get better that she would need to leave the country.

On March 8, 2016 she arrived in Miami and began a course of treatments
over the next six months during which she was able to walk once again
although still limited due to her injuries. She returned to Cuba on
September 7, 2016 only to find her home occupied by strangers and her
attacker free and bragging that he would finish the job. She moved in
with her mother and within a short time a camera and microphone were set
up across from her mother's home on a post.

Threats against Sirley's life intensified leading her to flee Cuba to
the United States and request political asylum on October 28, 2016.
Below is a video in Spanish explaining the circumstances that led her to
leave Cuba.


Source: Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter: Mother and son of 2015
machete attack victim receive death threat from Castro regime agent - Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 23 March 2017 – This Wednesday the gates have begun to close around independent journalist Sol Garcia Basulto, who has been charged with the crime of “usurpation of legal capacity.” (In other words, “practicing journalism without a license.”) The correspondent for this newspaper in Camaguey is facing a sentence of between three months and … Continue reading "Legal Process Opens Against ‘14ymedio’ Reporter in Camagüey" Continue reading
Censored at the Camaguey Festival, Rapper 'Rapshela' Denounces "Fear of
Liberty" / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto

14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto, Camaguey, 22 March 2017 – Hip Hop has
become that redoubt of rebellion that other musical genres, like rock
and roll, used to embody. The Trakean2 Fesitval, which ended Monday in
Camaguey, gave voice to performers who sing as if they were shooting
truths at the public, but censorship against Cuban rapper Rashel
Cervantes – known as Rapshela – who lives in Spain, overshadowed the event.

Also missing were rappers who sing their lyrics in marginal
neighborhoods where the genre enjoys the greatest vitality. But that is
what was decided by the Brothers Saiz Association, who organized the
ninth edition of the event with 40 participating rappers, including MCs
(Masters of Ceremony), breakdancers and graffiti artists. Cockfights,
the improvised verbal confrontations between musicians, were the moments
most appreciated by the public.

Rapshela could not appear before the public in spite of having travelled
to the Island for the occasion. Problems with her cultural visa and
reproof by the organizers prevented it.

After spending her own money for the plane ticket from Barcelona, where
she lives, Rapshela ran into the cancellation of the presumed
institutional promise to pay for her travel from Havana to Camaguey. She
managed to arrive nevertheless, but the obstacles had not ended: as a
resident abroad she did not receive authorization to appear in time.

"As soon as I arrived I went to the AHS, and the organizer [Eliecer
Velazquez] told me that I could not sing because I was living abroad,"
she tells this daily. Nor was the artist included in the lodging and
food options that other guests enjoyed. A situation that she regrets
"after four months of speaking" with the event promoters.

In a gesture of solidarity, Los Compinches, a group from Pinar del Rio,
invited Rapshela to accompany them to the stage. But when the artist
began to sing, the Festival organizers ordered the microphone sound
lowered. A little later the spectacle came to an end.

The event generated an intense debate when other musicians and the
public clamored for her to be permitted to sing, but the organizers
proved inflexible. Although they declined to give their version of what
happened, Eliecer Velazquez justified himself to the artist, arguing
that it was the first time that he had organized a festival, and he did
not know "that there was so much paperwork to do." The promoter
explained to the singer that she sought the cultural visa too late and
that is why they did not grant it.

Among the attendees, many considered it absurd that a Cuban had to wait
for a cultural visa to appear in the city where she was born, so they
saw what happened as censorship masked in bureaucratic delays.

The organization also had disagreements with some lyrics by the group
Los Compinches, in which marijuana consumption is promoted and Cuba's
economic situation is criticized.

Before the microphones went mute, the spectators had shown great
enthusiasm and repeated choruses like Don't step on the herb, smoke it.
A second song increased nervousness of the authorities when the singer
explained that the video clip that accompanied the lyrics had been censored.

Joaquin Corbillon Perez, member of the group, does not explain what they
did wrong although he argues that the Brothers Saiz Association is not
responsible for the situation. "The guilty ones are much higher and are
the ones who prohibit it," he said.

The AHS director from Pinar del Rio, Denis Perez Acanda, also a member
of Los Compinches, defended the lyrics of his song and characterized as
an "act of repression" the fact that the organizers did not let Rapshela

For Rapshela the problems that she suffered transcend the music scene.
"The Cuban people are censored," she says. In her opinion "rap is a
weapon for expression" and "a window to liberty, but here they are
scared of liberty."

The organizer of the Havana female rap festival and manager of the Somos
Mucho Más (We Are Much More) project, Yamay Mejias Hernandez, known as
La Fina (The Fine One), showed her solidarity with Rapshela because "she
is Cuban, Camagueyan, and has never performed in her land. What she
wanted was to introduce herself and for her people to hear her."

Mejias Hernandez, also a feminist activist, told 14ymedio about the
festival's other problems. "It needs a little more organization, maybe
more coordination in the places where they hold the concerts at night."
She thinks that Cristo Park, a site intended to offer concerts, did not
meet the requirements for nighttime performances.

"There have to be more theoretical events like discussions, meetings,
book readings," adds Mejias Hernandez. "They need more female presence
because at this event only two female rappers appeared." The singer
asserts that throughout the Island there are many females who are
connected to the genre.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Source: Censored at the Camaguey Festival, Rapper 'Rapshela' Denounces
"Fear of Liberty" / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto, Camaguey, 22 March 2017 – Hip Hop has become that redoubt of rebellion that other musical genres, like rock and roll, used to embody. The Trakean2 Fesitval, which ended Monday in Camaguey, gave voice to performers who sing as if they were shooting truths at the public, but censorship against Cuban … Continue reading "Censored at the Camaguey Festival, Rapper ‘Rapshela’ Denounces “Fear of Liberty” / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto" Continue reading
Raul Castro Squandered His Last Chance / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 March 2017 — A year
ago Cuba had a once in a lifetime opportunity. US President Barack Obama
came to the island willing to turn the page on political
confrontation. The gesture transcended the diplomatic situation, but
Raul Castro – fearful of losing control – responded by putting the
brakes on economic reforms and raising the levels of ideological
discourse and repression.

Nations are not presented with opportunities every year, nor even every
century. The decision to entrench itself and not to undertake political
flexibilizations has been the Plaza of the Revolution's most egotistical
measure of recent times. Failure to know how to take advantage of the
end of public belligerence with our neighbor to the north will bring
this country lasting and unpredictable consequences.

These effects will not be suffered by the so-called "historic
generation" – those at the forefront of the 1950s Revolution – now
diminished by the rigors of biology and desertions. Rather than the
generals in olive-green, the ones who will pay the price will be those
who are still sleeping in their cradles or spinning their tops in the
streets of the island. They don't know it, but in the last twelve months
a short-sighted octogenarian tricked them out of a share of their future.

The greatest waste has been not exploiting the international moment, the
excitement about foreign investments, and the expectations everywhere in
Cuba of taking the first steps towards democratic change without
violence or chaos. It was not the job of the White House to encourage or
provoke such transformations, but its good mood was a propitious setting
for them to be less traumatic.

Instead, the white rose Obama extended to Castro in his historic speech
in Havana's Gran Teatro has faded, beset by hesitations and fears. Now,
it is our job to explain to these Cubans of tomorrow why we were at a
turning point in our history and we threw it away.

Source: Raul Castro Squandered His Last Chance / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
– Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Obama's Unquestionable Imprint / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 20 March 2017 — Putting aside the
passions of supporters and detractors of the policies drawn up by
President Barack Obama for Cuba, there is no doubt that, for better or
worse, it set indelible before and after benchmarks in the lives of the
Cuban people.

The first benchmark was the reestablishment of relations after half a
century of confrontation, which – although it did not even come close to
the high expectations of Cubans – did manage to expose the Cuban
dictatorship to the scrutiny of international public opinion, thus
demonstrating that the regime is the true obstacle to the wellbeing and
happiness of Cubans.

Consequently, although Cubans are no freer, after two years of
rapprochement with the former "imperialist enemy," the Castro regime has
run out of arguments to justify the absence of economic, political and
social rights, and thus has lost credibility in the International forums
and in political circles, where it is being openly questioned.

Just a few days before leaving the White House, Obama took another
decisive step by repealing the "wet foot/dry foot" policy, giving up
immigration privileges for Cubans in the US, and thereby crushing the
hopes of an large number of Cubans who aspired to enjoy the rights and
prosperity in that destination, that they can only dream about now, and
are unable to demand in their own country.

Thus, in two years, these two Cuban exceptions which seemed eternal,
suddenly disappeared: an old dictatorship, long tolerated by the
international community when it was considered the "small, heroic and
defenseless victim resisting the onslaught of the strongest of world
powers," and the people – equally victimized, persecuted, helpless and
subjugated by the dictatorship enthroned in power – who were forced to
emigrate, deserving the consubstantial privilege, above that of any
other immigrants, to live quietly in the territory of the United States,
no longer setting foot in Cuba.

Thus, in the future, the Castro regime can be considered as what it
really is: a prosaic dictatorship without heroic attire, while those
Cubans who flee it without making the slightest effort to face it, will
not be described as "politically persecuted," but as any other run of
the mill immigrants, such as those throughout the world who aspire to
enjoy the wellbeing and opportunities that residing in the most
developed country on the planet offers. No more, no less.

That is to say, though Barack Obama did not improve or worsen the Cuban
crisis, we, nevertheless, must thank him for putting things in their
right perspective, whether we like it or not. But it may be that some,
or perhaps too many, find it much more comfortable to steer the direct
burden of the current state of affairs in Cuba – including increases in
repression – while others (more astute) here and there toss their hair
and tear their patriotic garments against the "betrayal" of the former
leader, generally with the untenable intention of making a political
career or of continuing to thrive in the Cuban calamity.

These are the "hard hand" theorists who will attempt to use it as a
trump card to overthrow the Castro dictatorship, this time with the
hypothetical support of the new US President, as if that strategy had
not proved ineffective during the previous 50 years.

The sad paradox is that, judging from the present reality, the Castro
way of government – like other known dictatorships – will not "fall,"
defeated by the indignant people, fed up with poverty and oppression.
Neither will it be crushed by the tenacious struggle of the opposition
or the pressures of some foreign government. Most likely, instead of
falling, the Castro regime will gently slide down of its own accord into
another advantageous form of existence in a different socioeconomic setting.

For, while not a few Cuban groups from both shores wear themselves out
and gloat over mutual reproaches and useless lamentations, the olive
green mafia continues behind the scenes, distributing the pie, quietly
accommodating itself in the best positions and palming its cards under
our clueless noses, to continue to enjoy the benefits and the privileges
of power when the last remnants of the shabby backdrop of "socialism,
Castro style," which is all that barely remains of the glorious
revolutionary project, will finally fall.

To the surprise of the army of disinherited survivors of the communist
experiment, the progeny of the historical generation and their
accompanying generals could emerge, transmuted into tycoons and
entrepreneurs, thus consummating the cycle of the swindle that begun in
1959. This is, so far, the most likely scenario.

Perhaps by then 60 years of totalitarianism would have elapsed, and
eleven presidents will have passed through the White House, but until
today, only one of them, Barack Obama, will have influenced, in such a
defining way, in the political future of Cuba.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Obama's Unquestionable Imprint / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 March 2017 — A year ago Cuba had a once in a lifetime opportunity. US President Barack Obama came to the island willing to turn the page on political confrontation. The gesture transcended the diplomatic situation, but Raul Castro – fearful of losing control – responded by putting the brakes … Continue reading "Raul Castro Squandered His Last Chance / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez" Continue reading
Cuban dissident leader to Trump: 'Treat Cuba like a dictatorship'

Frustrated by what they see as "indolence" from the previous
administration, some Cuban government opponents are urging President
Donald Trump to backtrack current Cuba policy and speak out about
increased government repression on the island.

Antonio G. Rodiles and his partner Ailer González — both members of the
Forum for Rights and Freedoms — are calling on the new administration to
reset U.S.-Cuba relations and "recognize that they are dealing with a

"The main thing would be for those of us who are legitimate actors on
the Cuban scene — inside and outside the island — to be part of the
policy design and part of that political process toward the island"
unlike what former President Barack Obama did, Rodiles said during a
recent meeting with el Nuevo Herald.

The couple also denounced an increase in repression since Obama
announced his policy of engagement and the restoration of diplomatic
ties with Cuba in December 2014. The situation, they said, has become
worse since the death of former leader Cuban Fidel Castro in November
with a "millimetric monitoring" of opponents' actions and harassment of
their families.

"It is important for the new administration to start taking action on
the issue and make some statement, because silence is being very well
used by the regime to try to crush the opposition," Rodiles said.

The Cuban government opponent criticized the "indolence" of the Obama
administration toward the human rights situation on the island.

"We have direct experience, including talking to President Obama, and
the direct experience was that there was a lot of indolence in what
happened with Cuba ... There was a moment when we understood that the
administration was not an ally [in the struggle for] for democratic
changes in Cuba, that they had a vision that Cuba was going to change in
the long term and that we would have to accept neo-Castroism," he said.

Although he was careful not to mention what measures taken by the
previous administration should be eliminated — such as sending
remittances or authorizing U.S. airline travel to the island, which are
popular in Cuba and within a large portion of the Cuban American
community — Rodiles said he supports returning to the previous longtime
policy of applying economic pressure against the Raúl Castro government,
a practice Obama has referred to as a "failed policy."

"If the regime is taking advantage of some of these measures, I'd cut
that economic income," Rodiles said. "Everything that is giving benefits
to the regime and not to the people must be reversed."

The frustration expressed by the activist couple has become increasingly
evident. A video published by the Forum for Rights and Liberties and in
which González exclaims, "Obama, you are finally leaving!" unleashed a
whirlwind of controversy within social media networks.

According to Rodiles, Obama asked dissidents and activists during a
meeting in Havana on March 22, 2016, to have patience with his policy of

"I told him that you can't be patient when they are kicking citizens and
women with impunity," Rodiles said. The couple was among several
activists arrested during a widely reported act of repudiation against
dissidents on the same Sunday that Obama arrived in Havana for an
historic visit.

Rodiles and González dismissed criticism by those who question their
support for President Trump and claim their agenda is dictated by groups
within the Cuban exile community. They said their interest is in
readdressing Cuba issues not taking a position on U.S. domestic issues.

"Those same people who say that we are being radical and
confrontational, are extremely unsupportive. They do not report any
violation of human rights. These are hypocritical positions," González said.

As for other strategies being carried out by other opposition groups on
the island in an effort to incite change, the couple acknowledged that
there are many different ideologies and approaches, which they said was
a healthy element in the struggle for democracy.

"The most important thing," Rodiles said, "is that the regime has to
understand that 60 years is more than enough, and that it's over."

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: Cuban dissident Antonio Rodiles calls on Trump to get tough on
Cuba | Miami Herald - Continue reading
El senador estadounidense reiteró que EEUU debe exigir su libertad Continue reading
… social media of Americanos cruising Havana in antique convertibles and puffing … hop on a plane to Havana for the weekend as if … with the paranoid and repressive Cuban state, which fails to modernize … of helping fellow Cubans -- to travel to Cuba frequently. Those flights … Continue reading
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 20 March 2017 — Putting aside the passions of supporters and detractors of the policies drawn up by President Barack Obama for Cuba, there is no doubt that, for better or worse, it set indelible before and after benchmarks in the lives of the Cuban people. The first benchmark was the … Continue reading "Obama’s Unquestionable Imprint / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya" Continue reading
… supports the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba, described by festival organizers as … institution and nonprofit organization in Havana, founded in 1995.” American Friends … to Cuban cultural riches while generating significant personal connections.” The Havana Film … the Cuban censors. It is incredible that the arm of Havana reaches … Continue reading
Cuban filmmaker Carlos Lechuga has pulled an acclaimed film, based on repression against homosexual writers in the early years of the Revolution, from an upcoming presentaion in New York after … Click to Continue » Continue reading
As further US airlines exit Cuba, what does the future hold for US-Cuba
Karen Gilchrist | @_karengilchrist
Thursday, 16 Mar 2017 | 9:02 AM ET

U.S. airlines Silver Airways and Frontier Airlines have become the
latest to bow out of Cuba due to weakened demand, posing new questions
about the U.S's future relationship with its former Cold War foe.

For a brief period under President Barack Obama, longstanding tensions
appeared to be easing. But now, as the White House conducts a "full
review" of U.S.-Cuba policies, diplomatic relations between the two
neighbors look as uncertain as ever.

Indications so far suggest that President Donald Trump would be loath to
continue the détente initiated by his predecessor, which sought to
loosen travel restrictions and barriers to trade implemented more than
50 years earlier. During campaigning, the now President tweeted his
condemnation of human rights abuses conducted by Cuba's totalitarian
government. Then, last week, Cuba's President Raúl Castro made his first
public retort, describing President Trump's policies as "egotistical"
and "irrational".

However, President Trump also has a pro-business agenda to ally. A
number of U.S. companies took advantage of Obama's executive order and
efforts to restrict business freedoms will not come easily. Indeed, it
would not go unnoticed that Trump built his fortune on the tourism
industry and his organization reportedly once sought to pursue possible
business interests on the island.

So where does President Trump go from here - and how should business

What are companies currently doing?

Airline carriers Delta, jetBlue and American Airlines were some of the
first to capitalise on Obama's policies. In the first year after
restrictions were lifted, travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens grew 77
percent. However, a recent surplus of carriers and weakening demand have
caused some national airlines to reduce services, while regional
carriers Frontier Airlines and Silver Airways are to suspend their Cuba
services entirely.

"Lack of demand coupled with overcapacity by the larger airlines has
made the Cuban routes unprofitable for all carriers. As a result, Silver
has made the difficult but necessary decision to suspend its Cuba
service effective April 22, 2017. It is not in the best interest of
Silver and its team members to behave in the same irrational manner as
other airlines," Silver Airways said in a press note.

Trade association Airlines for America told CNBC it is currently
"working with government" to secure an adequate framework between the
two destinations.

Meanwhile, delivery services company FedEx announced this month that it
is delaying the implementation of its regularly scheduled cargo service
to Cuba by six months to address "operational challenges in the Cuban

These challenges are also acutely felt by entrepreneurial start-ups on
the island. Chad Olin, president of U.S. Tour operator Cuba Candela, set
up his business to facilitate U.S. tourists under President Obama's
normalisation programme. He now faces an uncertain wait under the White
House's policy review.

"Although the new U.S. administration has introduced some uncertainty to
the continued improvement of U.S.-Cuba relations, we are cautiously
optimistic that relaxed travel rules will not be repealed," Olin told CNBC.

John Kavulich, president of the U.S-Cuba Trade and Economic Council,
regularly deals with businesses and policy makers with interests in the
U.S. and Cuba and indicated that more still are in a state of limbo.

"U.S. companies are hesitant to re-engage or engage due to the
uncertainty about what the Trump administration will or will not do with
respect to Cuba," he explained, adding indications that the White House
may intend to rescind certain freedoms.

Potential hurdles

If it is the case, however, that the new administration wishes to repeal
President Obama's executive order, it won't be without litigation issues
from current business license holders, noted Kavulich. A more likely
scenario, at least in the short term, would be a partial freeze on
issuance while the U.S. confirms its position, he said, noting
conversations heard within government and the business community.

"There is not a desire to issue further (business) licenses, but also an
acknowledgement that some license applications are and will be
legitimate," he said.

Christopher Sabatini, lecturer of international relations and policy at
Columbia University, agreed that full reinstatement of the trade embargo
would be unpopular, particularly in Florida, a crucial swing state which
helped secure President Trump's election.

"Some of the entrepreneurial concession will be hard to roll back
because people's lives rely on them," Sabatini told CNBC, referring to
Florida businesses which export to Cuba. Such moves would make the
President very unpopular, he said: "You would see protests on the
streets if they were removed."

"Big ticket" items, such as large corporates, would be easier to remove,
Sabatini suggested.

Political contention

As well as on the streets, Florida is likely to have an influential role
in policy at a Congressional level, too.

Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator for Florida, is one of six hard-line Cuban
American members of Congress who believe President Castro's government
is deeply untrustworthy and are likely to push for a retightening of policy.

"This (Cuban sanctions) is a concession President Trump can make to a
very powerful constituency in Congress," said Sabatini, who remarked
that the President may be keen to maintain his perceived favourability
among Floridians. Last month, President Trump met with Senator Rubio and
told a press conference of their "very similar views on Cuba."

Such a concession may also be necessary given the complexity of the
issue, notes Sebastian Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research
Institute at Florida International University.

"President Trump will delegate his Cuba policy to others he trusts and
he assumes understand the issue better."

"That means people like Senator Rubio or Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart
will be quite influential in defining the new policy.

"We don't know yet what such policy will look like, but based on the few
signals from the Trump administration, it will be less congenial than Mr
Obama's," Arcos noted.

A new era for Cuba?

Such hard-line members of Congress clearly criticize the reform agenda
for further embedding repression, which has dogged the island for
decades. They claim that new businesses and tourist dollars only serve
to further fund the Castro regime and aggravate segregation on the island.

Trump's adviser Helen Aguirre Ferre said last week that the
administration has not seen Cuba make any "concessions" despite "all the
things it has been given."

However, Cuba has clearly been changing. Citizens are now more globally
connected than ever before, benefiting from improved telecommunication
services and internet connectivity, and certain legacies of Obama's
reform agenda will not be undone

With citizens now more exposed to the freedoms enjoyed by democratic
societies, including more private industry and gradually increasing -
albeit still limited - access to a free press, President Trump now
stands at a crucial juncture for U.S.-Cuba relations: continue pursuing
reforms or return to isolation tactics.

President Castro has stated his intentions to step down in 2018 which
could provide President Trump with greater leverage in his aims to
create a "better deal for the Cuban people." Tactical diplomatic
negotiations could secure greater democratic freedoms for Cuban citizens
if the President is willing to engage with his political opponent – an
enviably legacy for any President.

However, it remains a big if.

When contacted by CNBC, the White House and the Trump Organization were
not available for comment.

Source: As further US airlines exit Cuba, what does the future hold for
US-Cuba relations? - Continue reading
Tourists, private enterprise give Cuba much needed boost
Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 11:30 am
By David Bordewyk

Running an Italian restaurant plus a small bed and breakfast keeps owner
Yucimy on her feet from sunrise to well past sunset. It's 7 a.m., and
she is already preparing omelets for her five B&B guests. Her cheerful
greeting helps everyone shake off a night's sleep.
Meanwhile, Yucimy's employees are busy moving tables and chairs to the
sidewalk outside the restaurant, which fronts the town's main avenue,
and are inviting passerbys to stop in for breakfast.
Late afternoon will have Yucimy and staff, some of whom are family, busy
pouring drinks and planning dinner menus for the B&B guests. At night's
end, Yucimy can be found with her feet up in the small living room just
off the restaurant's kitchen, catching a few minutes of TV.
All in a day's work for this privately owned business. Welcome to
Vinales, Cuba.
In Havana, Rosana Vargas welcomes visitors to her jewelry store, where
she shares her small business story. She started making fine silver
jewelry five years ago in her small apartment. Today she has more than
40 people employed in her stylish, privately owned shop along a busy
capital city street.
How much does she pay in taxes to the government for her small business
success, she is asked.
Too much," Rosana says, sounding ever like a well-seasoned capitalist.
Except this isn't Wall Street or Main Street. This is Cuba.
Along with 28 other Americans from the Midwest, I traveled to Cuba for
seven days last week on a people to people tour, a kind of
educational/tourism tour of the island nation that has the approval of
both countries. An employee of a tourism company run by the Cuban
government was our guide.
The trip gave a view of a country with compelling contrasts and
day-to-day economic struggles for many Cubans that dropped our jaws. It
also introduced us to some wonderful, inspiring Cuban people.
To be sure, Cuba remains very much a country ruled by leaders who belong
to the Communist Party. Repression of speech, assembly, and the press
remain very much in play in Cuba today. The government pulls and pushes
the levers that control much of Cuba's way of life. It's been that way
since soon after Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista regime in 1959.
Yet, doors are opening. Capitalism, entrepreneurship, and self-reliance
are no longer negatives in Cuba. They are happening today in Havana and
other parts of the country.
It will be difficult for the government to put the brakes on this
growing capitalistic wave. President Raul Castro or the next leader may
decide to encourage even more of this kind of growth. Who knows?
This is a country where the average official salary of a state
government worker is the equivalent of about $25 per month. By the way,
most Cubans work for the government or government-owned enterprises.
Teachers, lawyers, and other professionals can make more money tending
bar or waiting tables in a restaurant than they can in the jobs they
were trained and educated to do.
There is a saying in Cuba that "if you pretend to pay me, I will pretend
to work."
Pretending to work for pretend pay is nothing new in Cuba. That's been
going on for many years.
What's new is the rapidly burgeoning capitalism.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Cuban economy went into a
free fall. Within a few years, the Cubans realized that growing tourism
was necessary to help stave off collapse.
Tourism in Cuba has indeed accelerated the past 20 years. Canadians,
Germans, British, Chinese, among others, travel to Cuba. They come for
the rum, cigars, salsa music, and the sun. The number of foreign
tourists coming to Cuba has risen from about 750,000 in 1995 to 3.5
million two years ago.
And now the Americans are coming. The warming of relations between the
two countries put in motion by the Obama administration means more and
more American tourists are wanting to go to Cuba. We bumped into fellow
Americans most everywhere we went during our week-long trip.
Cubans on the street we met cheer what Obama did. They express anxiety
about President Trump.
Which takes us back to the small town of Vinales, in the heart of Cuba's
tobacco-growing region. The town has been a tourist destination for many
years with bed-and-breakfasts throughout. Today, you see construction in
much of the town. Residents are adding a room or two where they can to
their small homes to accommodate the growing tourist tide.
Will growth in tourism pull Cuba out of its many economic problems?
Probably not. Economic stability likely will take much more, given the
scope of challenges.
A personal observation that overrides the nuts and bolts of Cuba's
wobbly GDP is this: My travel experience was that Cubans are genuine,
friendly, and welcoming. They smile wide and extend a hand when you tell
them where you are from. They are willing to chat, even if language is a
barrier. (Although almost no one seemed to know where South Dakota was
located in America. The closest point of reference that rang a bell with
Cubans was the Minnesota Twins. Cubans love baseball.)
More than once I heard Cubans on the street tell me they are eager for
the day when the embargo imposed on their country by the United States
will end. They believe such a move would make lives better for average
In the meantime, they keep building B&Bs (casa particulares), opening
privately-owned restaurants (paladares), and welcoming more American
David Bordewyk is executive director of the South Dakota Newspaper
Association, Brookings. He participated in a people to people tour of
Cuba along with journalists and others from the Midwest March 5-12.

Source: Tourists, private enterprise give Cuba much needed boost - Black
Hills Pioneer: Opinion - Continue reading
A Year After Obama's Visit, Cubans Feel Disillusioned With His Legacy /
14ymedio, Luz Escobar

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 19 March 2017 – It rained when the presidential
plane touched down on the tarmac at Havana's Airport. On 20 March 2016,
Barack Obama began a historic visit to the island that awakened hopes
and sparked questions. One year after that visit, Cubans are taking
stock of what happened and, in particular, what did not happen.

The tenant of the White House evoked waves of enthusiasm during his tour
of Havana's streets. His official agenda included talking with young
entrepreneurs, he appeared on a comedy TV show, he visited a private
restaurant, and he met with representatives from civil society. They
were intense days during which popular illusions reached historic records.

However, Obama's decision to eliminate the wet foot/dry foot policy
before the end of his term in January, caused that sympathy to plummet.
Now, inquiring about his legacy on Cuban streets leads to answers mostly
filled with criticism, resentment or a sense of betrayal.

"I lost my life," Luis Pedroso, a soundman by profession, tells
14ymedio, He sold all his property to pay for an illegal trip to the
United States. He left Cuba for the Dominican Republic, and then crossed
Mexico and arrived at the border in Nuevo Laredo, on 12 January when the
immigration policy that benefitted Cubans was no longer in force.

Cubans crowded the streets hoping to see Obama and his family. (EFE)
"What did he do that for?" asks Pedroso, about the act of the
Democrat. "We Cubans gave him our hearts and he betrayed us," he
says. The man sleeps on the couch of his sister's house waiting to "make
money again to leave." He thinks "Trump is less sympathetic," but
perhaps, "will get more loyal."

The months following the presidential visit, the emigration of Cubans to
the United States continued its growing trend. More than 50,000 Cubans
entered US territory during fiscal year 2016, according to the Office of
Field Operations of the Customs and Border Protection Service.

Norma works as a saleswoman in a private coffee shop in Havana's
Chinatown. She recalls that in the days when Obama was on the island,
"people were going crazy all over to try to see him." She was among the
hundreds of people who crowded along the Paseo del Prado when word
spread that The Beast (Obama's armored car) would pass by with the
presidential family.

The woman was especially hopeful about the economic benefits that could
come from the trip. "It seemed that everything would be fixed and that
we self-employed workers would be able to import and bring products from
over there," she reflects. But, "everything is stuck," is continues.

The entrepreneur would like to bring an "ice cream machine" from the
United States, and "ask for a loan or find an investor who wants to put
money into a small business." However, the customs restrictions imposed
on the Cuban side make commercial imports difficult, and there is no
easy way to send supplies to the island from the United States.

Nor have expectations in the countryside been met. Luis Garcia, a farmer
dedicated to planting rice outside Cienfuegos believes that "everything
has been greatly delayed." The flexibilities implemented by Obama from
the beginning of the diplomatic thaw were mainly directed toward the
private and agricultural sectors, but "the benefits haven't appeared,"
said the farmer.

The Cienfueguero continues to plow the land with an old yoke of oxen and
recalls that "there was much talk about the arrival of "resources,
tractors and seeds, but everything remains the same." Nevertheless he
believes that "Obama has been the best president of the United States
with regards to us, a man of integrity," he says.

The activists, who talked with Obama on that occasion and behind closed
doors, are also taking stock after twelve months.

For Dagoberto Valdés, director of the independent magazine Convivencia
(Coexistence), the main result of the trip was "to show that 'the enemy'
used as a weapon in the Cuban government's narrative was willing to
offer a white rose," as Obama demonstrated in his speech at Havana's
Gran Teatro.

The speech, broadcast live, is considered by many as "the best part of
the visit," says Valdez, who recognizes that "a year later,
unfortunately, the situation in Cuba is worsening." He cites an increase
in repression, the attacks on the United States in the official
discourse, which continues to be one of "trenches and confrontation."

The opponent Manuel Cuesta Morúa was also at that table at the US
Embassy in Havana. He points out that after the arrival of the Democrat
there was an emphasis on "an awareness that our problems are our
problems, not problems caused by the United States." Obama helped to
defuse the "historic tension" between "democracy and nationalism."

On the other hand, the regime opponent Martha Beatriz who was traveling
during the historic visit, sums up the impact of Obama's trip as "none."
While "he left everyone filled with hopes," on the contrary, "what he
did was to put a final end to the wet foot/dry foot policy."

The former prisoner of the Black Spring believes that the visit "is not
something that is remembered gratefully right now." When it happened,
"everyone was very happy and filled with hopes, but a year later it's
completely different," she emphasized.

The columnist Miriam Celaya believes that beyond "being in favor or
against" Obama's actions toward the island "there is one thing that is
undeniable, and that is that he marked the Cuban policy of the last
fifty years like no other American president."

Celaya believes that the Democrat "ended the exceptionality" of the
Cuban issue "by taking away the government's foreign enemy." A situation
that has the Plaza of the Revolution "forced to render accounts. Ending
the wet foot/dry foot policy," also contributed to ending "the
emigration preference for Cubans in the United States."

"Any policy towards Cuba framed by US politicians, as long as this
system lasts, will have as an obligatory reference this parting of the
waters achieved by Obama," the independent journalist says.

Celaya believes that the population developed "tremendous expectations
that are now completely deflated. Many see Obama as the beloved and the
hated," an attitude that puts "the solutions in the United States, as if
they have to come from outside," she says.

The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer,
believes that Obama "did everything possible to help the people out of
the deep crisis in which Castroism has plunged us," but "the regime
closed all the doors".

The outgoing president urged Raúl Castro "to open up to his people, to
allow the people to recover the spaces" but instead, the authorities
remain "in their old position of controlling everything and doing
nothing that endangers the total control they have over society. "

"What's up, Cuba?" Obama tweeted when his plane was about to land in
Cuba. Today, listening to that question generates more concerns than

Source: A Year After Obama's Visit, Cubans Feel Disillusioned With His
Legacy / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 19 March 2017 – It rained when the presidential plane touched down on the tarmac at Havana’s Airport. On 20 March 2016, Barack Obama began a historic visit to the island that awakened hopes and sparked questions. One year after that visit, Cubans are taking stock of what happened and, in particular, … Continue reading "A Year After Obama’s Visit, Cubans Feel Disillusioned With His Legacy / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar" Continue reading
A Cuban film based on repression against homosexual writers in the early years of the Revolution, which was recently shown at the Miami Film Festival, has been banned from an … Click to Continue » Continue reading
… social media of americanos cruising Havana in antique convertibles and puffing … hop on a plane to Havana for the weekend as if … Cubans thrive. Repression isn't good for business. In addition, Cuba … sake of helping fellow Cubans — to travel to Cuba frequently. Those flights … Continue reading
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 11 March 2017 — An aging prostitute is like a book with tattered pages depicting the life of a nation. A survival manual to approach the vagaries of reality, to learn about its most carnal and, at times, most sordid parts. Many of the courtesans of Utopia in Cuba are already octogenarians. … Continue reading "Utopia’s Courtesans / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez" Continue reading
An Illegal Business Operating Under Protection of the Castro Name / Juan
Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 9 February 2017 — In Cuba being a member of the
Castro family is like having a modern-day license to commit piracy.
This inalienable right comes in handy for the dynasty's descendants,
especially those born with the compound surnames Castro Soto del Valle
and Castro Espín.* The most recent example of the prerogatives that come
from sharing a pedigree with the royal family of Cuba is a private
business in Havana's exclusive Miramar district run by Sandro Castro

In addition to being a well-known DJ, the young man is the son of Alexis
Castro Soto del Valle and grandson of the late Cuban leader Fidel
Castro. In the midst of a campaign against drugs, prostitution and
fraud, the capital's municipal government "temporarily" suspended the
issuance of licenses for new privately owned restaurants on September
16, 2016. Yet in that same month it ignored directives from Isabel
Hamze, acting vice-president of the Provincial Administrative Council,
and issued a permit for a new bar and restaurant to be operated by Sandro.

Located at the intersection of 7th Avenue and 70th Street in Miramar,
the former Italian restaurant is now a fashionable discotheque, a place
where an elite young crowd enjoys Havana's nightlife with no concern for
the hour of day, the day of the month, or how much alcohol or other
substances are consumed. The establishment, which reserves the right to
admit whomever it chooses, has a maximum legal occupancy of ninety
people, far beyond the limit set by law for seats in private restaurants.

The restaurant sector grew out of a governmental self-employment
initiative known as cuentapropismo, which was an intended as a
palliative solution to families' economic problems. As a result, there
are now more than 1,700 private restaurants throughout the island. These
small businesses have benefitted from Raul Castro's modest reforms, the
noticeable boom in tourism and the rapprochement with the United States.

"If you like what's cool, what's exclusive, and you like rubbing elbows
with celebrities, Fantasy has what you're looking for. It offers
different environments, good music and a demanding clientele. The
interiors aren't anything great but it's the perfect place to organize
an event. Once inside, you are protected while at the same time you are
beyond the law. It's heaven for party-goers," says a young regular. "In
a country where everything is controlled, it's uncontrolled," he adds.

Another Cuban youth, who lives in Miami but was recently visiting the
island, says he has been to the discotheque a couple of times and claims
that the requirement for getting in is "looking like you have enough
dollars to pay. If not, you are not well received."

"You have to make a reservation beforehand but, if someone gets there
and offers them more money, you run the risk of losing your table.
Individual drinks cost an average three or four dollars and a bottle can
go for as much as eighty-five dollars," adds the young visitor from Miami.

Faced with such blatant chicanery, Havana started reissuing licenses for
new private restaurants on October 24, although it continues to warn
owners that they must comply with regulations on noise and closing times
(3:00 AM) as well as prohibitions against hiring artists, on the
consumption and sale of drugs, and on prostitution and pimping.

It also announced that there would be routine quarterly inspections of
new and established businesses in which "different factors" — a
euphemism for the regime's various agencies of repression — would
oversee compliance with regulations. It also set up groups in every
region to monitor this new form on non-governmental management.

But Fantasy manages to evade any oversight. It defies easy
categorization. By day it is a pizzeria and by night a nightclub. This
combination leads to a certain "ambiguity" in terms of its actual use
and purpose.

"Where the captain rules, the soldiers have no say. No one can go
against the son of Alexis Castro Soto del Valle. It's a scandal; it's
unbearable. They play music at full volume. Boys come and get into fist
fights. Trucks make deliveries at all hours of the day and night. The
police are here but they don't do anything. Miramar is a residential
area. We have sent a ton of letters complaining to authorities but they
don't dare take any action. Sandro is one of Fidel's grandsons and
that's all that matters," says a neighbor who, like others, prefers to
remain anonymous.

*Translator's note: A reference to the children of Fidel and Raul
Castro respectively.

Source: An Illegal Business Operating Under Protection of the Castro
Name / Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Juan Juan Almeida, 9 February 2017  — In Cuba being a member of the Castro family is like having a modern-day license to commit  piracy. This inalienable right comes in handy for the dynasty’s descendants, especially those born with the compound surnames Castro Soto del Valle and Castro Espín.* The most recent example of the … Continue reading "An Illegal Business Operating Under Protection of the Castro Name / Juan Juan Almeida" Continue reading
José Daniel Ferrer: "This Type Of Assault Does Not Discourage Us" / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 9 March 2017 — The leader of the Patriotic Union of
Cuba, José Daniel Ferrer, was released Thursday after being detained for
more than 24 hours. The opponent denounced an "increase in
the repression" against the activists of his movement, in a phone call
to 14ymedio a few minutes after his release.

"The search of the homes began at six in the morning," explains Ferrer,
who was taken out of his home at eight o'clock in the morning this
Wednesday and taken to the First Police Unit of Santiago de Cuba, known
as Micro 9.

The former prisoner of the Black Spring explains that the police raided
six properties of UNPACU members. They seized "food, a hard disc,
several USB memories, two laptops, five cellphones, seven wireless
devices, a stereo, a large refrigerator, an electric typewriter and a

"I spent more than six hours in an office with a guard," Ferrer recalls.
"Then they put me in a cell where you could have filmed a horror movie
for the amount of blood on the walls of someone who had been cut."

The dissident was interrogated by an official who identified himself as
Captain Quiñones, who threatened to send him to prison for "incitement
to violence," in a recent video posted on Twitter. Ferrer flatly denies
the accusation.

During the operation they also confiscated medications such as aspirin,
duralgine, acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

"Most of our activists are in high spirits," says Ferrer. "This type of
assault does not discourage us," he adds. He says that "from November
2015 to date, there have been more than 140" raids of houses of members
of the organization.

On 18 December, at least nine houses of members of the opposition
movement were searched and numerous personal belongings seized by
members of the Ministry of Interior.

Among those who still have not been released are the activists Jorge
Cervantes, coordinator of UNPACU in Las Tunas, and Juan Salgado, both of
whom are being held in the third police unit in that eastern city. The
whereabouts of opponent Esquizander Benítez remain unknown. In addition,
about 50 of UNPACU's militants are being held in several prisons in the
country, which makes the it the opposition organization with the most
political prisoners in the country.

Source: José Daniel Ferrer: "This Type Of Assault Does Not Discourage
Us" / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 9 March 2017 — The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, José Daniel Ferrer, was released Thursday after being detained for more than 24 hours. The opponent denounced an “increase in the repression” against the activists of his movement, in a phone call to 14ymedio a few minutes after his release. “The search of … Continue reading "José Daniel Ferrer: “This Type Of Assault Does Not Discourage Us” / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Repression in Cuba Comes in Many Forms
March 7, 2017
By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

HAVANA TIMES — Every Sunday, there is the "Los Chinos" agro-market fair
in the city of Holguin in eastern Cuba. Trucks loaded with produce come
from all over the country, mainly from its central provinces. As there
is competition and since the sellers can bulk buy on the farms, there
are lower prices than normal, which doesn't exactly mean that it's cheap.

Of course, the trucks have been rented out, the real owners of this
produce are the merchants known as "intermediaries". These trade
operators play an essential role in the development of agriculture
because they stimulate production by creating confidence in
commercialization. They logically make nice profits, maybe more than
what would be fair; but the problem here doesn't lie in their existence
as such, but in the many knots in the Cuban system which make balanced
regulation almost impossible.

In the 1980s, the government experimented with the so-called Farmers'
Free Markets (MLC) and then it was shut down by Fidel himself, who
couldn't stand the idea that some Cubans were "getting rich". In order
to cure his headache, he destroyed the emerging semi-free market.

In the '90s, a Party leader from Pinar del Rio spoke about reviving the
MLC in a televised Congress session (perhaps the IV Plenary session of
the Cuban Communist Party in 1991), where the idea alone unleashed
Fidel's rage on the spot and on live TV (I watched this) and then rumors
went round from Pinar that the person who dared share his opinion had
been dismissed of his responsibilities.

When hunger took its hold of Cuba, he sent brother Raul Castro to
announce "the same dog but with a different collar": the Agro-Market. I
remember that this was announced in an interview granted to Luis Baez
and was published in Granma and then repeated across the media. The
government journalist began his article by saying that he had been
looking for that interview with Raul for some time and that Raul had
finally taken some time out for him: it was pure theater! Both of them
knew what the objective was. Fidel never spoke about the subject.

Today, criminalizing the private sector because of its high prices
continues to be a subject of debate in Parliament, especially against
the famous Intermediaries; who are restricted or prohibited at times and
have their merchandise seized resulting in great losses. However, the
truth is that they don't dare to ban them because without them
completely because there wouldn't be commerce or stable farming production.

However, these are the larger merchants, who, even though they pay for
the same license as smaller ones, have completely different functions.
Small traders who sell at a higher price are the ones who mainly
purchase their products from the larger Intermediaries. Here in the
Holguin province, hundreds of small traders (push cart or bike sellers)
travel on Sundays to the capital city and they buy their produce from
the trucks at the Los Chinos market.

Every one of them with two or three sacks also provide work for horse
drawn cart drivers and bici-taxis operators who transport them to bus
and train stations paying for every sack. A lot of people benefit from
this trade, especially the government which charges them for the
license, taking 10% of gross sales, social security payments and fines
for any silly mistakes. All of this translates into the product's final
price, which reaches customers in urban neighborhoods where it often
costs double or triple the initial price.

However, the private sector in Cuba isn't only sentenced to having these
restrictions on growth which our laws impose on them; they are also
treated like a necessary evil, harassed by whimsical regulations. They
don't have a transparent and secure supply chain, nor do they have the
legal freedom to seek it out. They do this but they take risks.

On Sunday February 5th, at the Los Chinos market, dozens of
self-employed resellers had their sacks filled with produce bought from
equally legal intermediaries. A group of inspectors approached them and
they wanted to confiscate their purchases for having violated the
"anti-hoarding law". It seems outrageous but it's true. A great
discussion broke out and the police in charge of keeping order at the
market, intervened. In the face of the resistance that had been created
by those accused and others who were doubtful in helping the inspectors,
the police called for the Head of the Unit, a Major, who turned up on
the scene.

There were several people from my town of Mayari among the traders who
had their purchases taken away. One of them, Jose Ramon, usually sells
on my street and he told me the whole story. Then I confirmed what he
told me with another seller, not without first asking several others,
among the many who pass by here every day offering their garlic,
peppers, onions or bijol under the scorching sun.

The story goes that the Major arrived arrogantly and ordered those who
wouldn't stop protesting to shut up. He was met with: "You like getting
your hands on ham a lot. Ham is what the inspectors get, who make a
living by fining us for no reason; we work really hard to earn our
pesos," one of the boldest protestors said.

After a lot of wasted time (held for over three hours under the risk of
having their things confiscated and bad times), the police finally
guided the inspectors in their conversation with them to release the
purchases. Common sense won out, but this was just one more example of
government resistance to how the private sector runs in Cuba, even at
these incipient times.

Tradesmen didn't have so few rights even in medieval hamlets!" They had
unions and brotherhoods which united and protected them, Cuban
self-employed merchants don't.

There are many forms of repression, not just political repression. This
budding private sector, which has appeared with the self-employed, is
the seed to opening up our economy more, which is fundamental so that we
can reach economic and social progress. Repressing them and prohibiting
their development with laws and individual actions is just another way
to delay this essential path: it's another form of repression in Cuba.

Source: Repression in Cuba Comes in Many Forms - Havana - Continue reading
Cuba: 50 Ladies in White Arrested After Communist Mob Stones HQ
Kyodo via AP Images
by FRANCES MARTEL 6 Mar 2017

The Cuban anti-Communist group Ladies in White reports at least 50 of
its members were arrested this weekend following a mob attack on their
headquarters in Havana, in which the dissidents were forced to hide as
the mob hurled large stones into the building.
"They called us mercenaries, paid for by the Empire [the United States],
told us to get on a raft and go," Ladies in White member María Cristina
Labrada told the Spain-based publication Diario de Cuba.

"They shouted obscenities at us, called us whores, lesbians, told us to
come out so they could beat us." Labrada added that the group, which she
estimated to be about 200 people, ran to the other side of the building
in which they typically congregate on Sundays to avoid coming "under
fire with stones… they threw large rocks, we had to cover up the TV and
get away."

Ultimately, the women needed to leave the building. Labrada says the mob
beat those who left, ensuring to cover up any cell phone cameras that
could capture the attack.

The government reportedly organized the mob at a nearby park under the
guise of an International Women's Day celebration. "I think the goal was
to organize people at that activity and bring them here," Labrada said
from the Ladies in White headquarters.

Miami's Martí Noticias cited a different Lady in White, Denia Fernández,
who confirmed the event as an attempt to keep the Ladies from attending
Catholic Mass on Sundays. The group, founded during the Black Spring of
2003, began as a support group for the wives, daughters, sisters, and
mothers of political prisoners. The Ladies in White attend Catholic Mass
every Sunday carrying the portraits of their relatives who remain
imprisoned for opposing Communism. The government often intervenes to
prevent them from attending Mass, even during holiday seasons like Lent.

Violence against the Ladies in White is common in Cuba. In an incident
in December, for example, Lady in White Ivonne Lemus lost consciousness
after a Cuban state police officer repeatedly slammed her head on the
pavement while arresting her. During high-profile visits like those of
Pope Francis and former U.S. President Barack Obama, police beat and
temporarily detained Ladies in White members to prevent them from
attending welcome event for the prominent individuals. The women would
be beaten and driven hours away from their homes, abandoned with no way
of returning to their families.

During Pope Francis's visit in 2015, Ladies in White leader Berta Soler
recalled: "They grabbed me by the hair, by the neck, and shoved my
violently into a car."

That same year, a Communist mob attacked Lady in White Digna Rodríguez
Ibañez and doused her in tar as a form of humiliation.

While President Obama claimed that opening the United States up for
further interaction with the dictatorship of Raúl Castro would help the
Cuban people, extreme repression of dissidents has continued, and
worsened, since his "normalization" announcement in December 2014. The
Cuban Observatory for Human Rights documented 484
arbitrary/politically-motivated arrests in February 2017 alone. Largely
driven by Ladies in White activity, 77 percent of those arrested were women.

The 2016 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report on Cuba found
multiple incidents of police torture of dissidents, including an
incident in March 2016 in which "police officers allegedly beat two
members of the Damas de Blanco with cables" and multiple reports of
"head injuries, bites, bruises, and other injuries during
government-sponsored counter protests and detentions."

Source: Cuba: 50 Ladies in White Arrested After Communist Mob Stoning - Continue reading
How Cubans' gift for improvization sustained the politics and pleasures
of Havana
By Michael Mewshaw March 3

Michael Mewshaw is writing a memoir about his friendship with Pat Conroy.

A happy hybrid, "Havana: A Subtropical Delirium" invokes the Cuban
capital as an occasion to discuss the country's history, politics, food,
architecture, music, religion and passion for baseball. No author is as
well equipped to take on this task as Mark Kurlansky, who has previously
published half a dozen books on international cuisine, two on baseball
and one — "A Continent of Islands" — that surveys the Caribbean
situation. The danger is that such a polymathic author has no fixed
identity and might fall between categories and be dismissed in this case
as a mere travel writer. That would be a great shame, given the manifold
pleasures of his brief, breezy new book.

Kurlansky approaches Havana like an Impressionist painter, building the
image of this metropolis of 2 million inhabitants with subtle
brushstrokes. He quotes the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, who
wrote that "Havana has the yellow of Cadiz, the pink of Seville turning
carmine and the green of Granada, with the slight phosphorescence of
fish." Visible from almost everywhere, the sea provides a blue surround,
one that is ironically empty of boats. As Kurlansky explains, Cubans are
wary of the ocean, the source of many murderous invasions — the Bay of
Pigs was one of many — and killer hurricanes. Then too, after Fidel
Castro took power and the United States cut off contact, authorities
from both countries have patrolled the Straits of Florida, capturing all
but the luckiest immigrants trying to reach the American mainland in
rickety improvised crafts.

While Cuban exiles might complain that Kurlansky doesn't sufficiently
catalogue the cruelty and repression of the Castro regime, he does note
that "Che Guevara — a man with the looks of a cinema hero — held his
tribunals and executed so many people by firing squad that Castro
removed him from his post." Che then moved on to South America, trading
his role as the Robespierre of the Cuban revolution for his lasting
iconic image as a martyr for socialism.

With estimable even-handedness, Kurlansky remarks that Cuba's previous
dictator, Fulgencio Batista, richly deserved to be toppled. He ran "a
murderous kleptocracy in close partnership with American organized
crime. . . . Foreigners remember the Havana of that time as a kind of
romantic brothel." Kurlansky points out that prostitution continued to
flourish under Castro, and he offers fascinating insight into how the
history of commercialized sex on the island was an outgrowth of slavery,
which wasn't abolished in Cuba until 1872. Under Spanish rule, slaves
had advantages over their counterparts in the United States; they could
legally sell things on the street, "including their bodies." If they
managed to earn enough, they could buy their freedom, and any children
they had by white men were "automatically considered free."

Transplanted African culture pervades society at every level and in
every sphere, and Kurlansky describes at length its influence on Cuban
food, music, dance and religion. Indeed, he spices his chronicle of the
city with recipes for favorite Cuban dishes and drinks such as picadillo
and ajiaco, and the rum-based beverages the daiquiri and the mojito. A
meticulous and tireless researcher, he discusses the restaurants and
bars where this fare originated and notes that in the 19th century, ice
was imported from New England directly to Havana, then crushed for
thirsty American soldiers — remember the Maine and the Rough Riders? —
who favored Coca-Cola liberally spiked with rum. Well hydrated, the
United States controlled the island for decades and of course still
clings to Guantanamo.

Cubans liked Coke, too, and this presented a problem during the U.S.
embargo — but not one that couldn't be surmounted. With a typical flair
for improvisation, they produced Tropi-Cola, which ultimately became so
popular that it was exported to other countries. This talent for
adaptation, Kurlansky points out, served Cuba not just when the United
States isolated it, but when the Soviet Union collapsed and could no
longer subsidize the Castro regime with billion-dollar infusions of food
and fuel. Schools and hospitals continued to function at high levels,
and if the national diet was diminished, at least this resulted in a
drop in cases of diabetes and heart disease.

Kurlansky is hardly an apologist for the Castro regime or a Pollyanna
about conditions in Havana. The sight of '57 Chevys and Ford Edsels
rolling through the cobblestone streets may give the town the
sepia-toned allure of an old photograph, and the vast architectural
disrepair can provoke in some the same sublime response as Goethe
experienced when viewing the Roman Forum. But the reality is laid out by
the author in numbers — "20 percent of the population lives in housing
that has been deemed 'precarious' " — and in powerful descriptive
passages. "With structures sagging on their sturdy columns, sunken
roofs, stained gargoyles, and cracked and blackened stone ornaments,
Havana looks like the remnants of an ancient civilization in need of
teams of archeologists to sift through the rubble."

Kurlansky doffs his cap to indigenous writers ranging from José Martí to
contemporary poets and novelists. He also pays deference to foreign
authors associated with Havana. Ernest Hemingway comes in for
much-deserved discussion, although he seldom wrote about the place where
he lived for three decades. Graham Greene, whose novel "Our Man in
Havana" was made into a movie in the city with Castro's permission, is
quoted as enjoying the capital's "louche atmosphere" and "the brothel
life" — which makes him sound like a lounge lizard. For once Kurlansky's
thoroughness goes missing; he fails to mention that Greene ran supplies
to Castro's men in the mountains — or at least claimed he did, most
recently in Gore Vidal's memoir "Point to Point Navigation" (2006).

"Havana" ends without a dramatic crescendo or sweeping conclusion. This
is no criticism. It could hardly be otherwise now that President Barak
Obama's opening to Cuba is being reassessed by the Trump administration.
But readers interested in the debate couldn't do better than inform
themselves with Kurlansky's book.

A Subtropical Delirium
By Mark Kurlansky
Bloomsbury. 259 pp. $26

Source: How Cubans' gift for improvization sustained the politics and
pleasures of Havana - The Washington Post - Continue reading
Ten Years of Raulism: From "Reformism" to the Abyss / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 27 February 2017 — As the second month
of 2017 comes to a close, the Cuban panorama continues to be bleak.
Material difficulties and the absence of a realistic economic recovery
program – the ineffectiveness of the chimerical Party Guidelines has
been demonstrated in overcoming the general crisis of the "model" – in
addition to the new regional scenario, the socio-political and economic
crisis in Venezuela, the leftist "allies" defeated at the polls, the
repealing of the "wet foot/dry foot" policy of the United States and,
with it, the closing of Cubans' most important escape route, Donald J.
Trump's assumption of the US presidency, and his having already
announced a revision and conditioning of the easing of measures of the
Embargo dictated by his predecessor, Barack Obama, are increasing the
fears for an eventual return to the conditions of the 1990s, after the
collapse of the USSR and the end of the so-called "real socialism."

At the social level, one of the clearest indicators of the deterioration
and inability to respond on the part of the government is, on the one
hand, the increased repression towards the opposition, and, on the other
hand, the increase of controls on the private sector (the self-employed)
while the economy and services in the state sector continue to collapse.
The most recent example is in the area of passenger transportation, one
of the most active and efficient in the non-state sector; the State's
response to this efficiency has been to impose a cap on fares, which now
cannot exceed 5 Cuban pesos for each leg of the trip.

Weeks after this measure was implemented, transportation in the Cuban
capital has plunged into a lamentable crisis, demonstrating the great
importance of the private sector for this service. The measure has
resulted in not only a noticeable decrease in the numbers of cabs for
hire – the "almendrones" as they are called, in reference to the
'almond' shape of the classic American cars most often used in this
service – in the usual or fixed routes formerly covering the city; but
also in their refusal to pick up passengers in mid-points along their
routes, which could be interpreted as a silent strike of this active
sector in response to the arbitrariness of the government's measure.

As a corollary, there has been increasing overcrowding in the limited
and inefficient state-operated buses, and the resulting discomfort for
the population, which now must add another difficulty of doubtful
solution to the long list of their pressing daily problems.

Far from presenting any program to improve its monopoly on passenger bus
service, the official response has been the threatening announcement
that it will launch its hordes of inspectors to punish with fines and
appropriations those private sector drivers who intend to conspire to
evade the dispositions of the Power Lords.

For the olive-green lords of the hacienda, the "cabbies" are not even
independent workers who are part of a sector to which the State does not
provide any resources nor assign preferential prices for the purchase of
fuel or spare parts, but simply driving slaves: they and their two-wheel
open carriages are at the service of the master's orders.

The infinite capacity of the Cuban authorities to try to overcome a
problem by making existing ones worse and more numerous is the paroxysm
of the absurd. For, assuming that in the days to come a true avalanche
of inspectors is unleashed on the hunt for private carriers who don't
comply with the established prices, the outcome of such a crusade cannot
be less than counterproductive, since, as is well-known, the inspectors
constitute a formidable army of corrupt people who, far from guarding
the funds of the public coffers, the fulfillment of the service of each
activity and the health of the tax system, find the possibility of
lining their own pockets in every punitive action of the State against
every "violation," through the extortion of the violators.

For its part, the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) which serves as
"support" to the inspectors, is another leech also dedicated to bleeding
the private workers dry, who are, in fact, the only useful and
productive elements in this chain. So, every governmental offensive
against "the private ones" means a juicy harvest for the pairing of
inspectors-PNR, who usually feed like parasites on the most prosperous
entrepreneurs and, invariably, the final harvest results in the
deterioration of services and an increase in their prices – because
whatever the private workers lose in compensation paid as bribes must be
made up for by an increase in prices – and the "normalization" of the
corruption in the whole society, generally accepted as a mechanism of
survival in all spheres of life.

The cycle is closed when, in turn, the passenger, that is, any common
Cuban, is forced to perfect his mechanisms of resistance that will allow
him to equate the increase in the cost of living, and seek additional
income sources, probably illegal, related to contraband, thievery, or
"diversion of resources" (a fancy term for stealing) from state-owned
enterprises and other related offenses. Anything goes when it comes to

And, while the economy shrinks and the shortages increase, the
General-President remains alien and distant, as if he had no
responsibility for what happens under his feet. Cuba drifts in the
storm, with no one in command and no one at the helm, approaching, ever
so close, to the much talked about "precipice," which Raúl's reforms
were going to save us from.

Paradoxically, given the weakness of civil society and the lack of
support for it by most of the democratic governments of the world, busy
with their own internal problems, the salvaging of Cubans depends
fundamentally on the political will of the dictatorship in power.

But Castro II is silent. Apparently, he has virtually retired from his
position as head of government well before his announced retirement date
of 2018, and after the final death (as opposed to the many announced but
not real deaths) of his brother and mentor, has only loomed from his
lofty niche from time to time, not to offer his infamous directions to
the misguided "ruled" of the plantation in ruins, but to serve as host
at the welcoming ceremonies for distinguished foreign visitors. At the
end of the day, he is another native of these lands, where almost nobody
cares about the fate of one another… Isn't it true that, for many
Cubans, the world begins beyond the coral reefs?

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Ten Years of Raulism: From "Reformism" to the Abyss / Cubanet,
Miriam Celaya – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 27 February 2017 — As the second month of 2017 comes to a close, the Cuban panorama continues to be bleak. Material difficulties and the absence of a realistic economic recovery program – the ineffectiveness of the chimerical Party Guidelines has been demonstrated in overcoming the general crisis of the “model” … Continue reading "Ten Years of Raulism: From “Reformism” to the Abyss / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya" Continue reading
Weakness, Fear And Inability Erode The Cuban Government / 14ymedio,
Pedro Campos

14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 23 February 2017 — The recent
"diplomatic" action by the Cuban Government to try to prevent the
presence of foreign personalities in a private event in Havana to
receive a symbolic prize bearing the name of the late regime opponent
Oswaldo Payá, denotes the weakness, fear and incapacity that
characterize its actions since the visit of Barack Obama to Cuba and the
subsequent death of Fidel Castro.

According to the declaration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX)
in the newspaper Granma, the plan was to mount an open and serious
provocation against the Cuban government in Havana, generate internal
instability, damage the international image of the country and, at the
same time, affect the good progress of Cuba's diplomatic relations with
other states.

According to MINREX, Almagro himself and some other right-wing
individuals had the connivance and support of other organizations with
thick anti-Cuban credentials, such as the Democracy and Community
Center, the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America
(CADAL), the Inter-American Institute for Democracy, and a person they
call a CIA terrorist and agent, Carlos Alberto Montaner.

In addition, says MINREX, since 2015 there has been a link between these
groups and the National Foundation for Democracy in the United States
(NED), which receives funding from the US government to implement its
subversive programs against Cuba.

The dictatorship of the proletariat, which prevailed in Cuba 57 years
ago, has thus invented an "anti-Cuban" (against Cuba or against
themselves?), "imperialist", "counterrevolutionary" and "CIA" hoax
behind what could have been a small and simple limited ceremony; in
short, if they had been allowed to hold it without the presence of
foreign guests it would have served the Government to improve its image
with respect to the rights of Cubans as citizens and shown some tolerance.

Their response to this assessment is given by the MINREX note: "Perhaps
some misjudged and thought that Cuba would sacrifice its essence to
appearances," as if appearances are not an example of essence. It is the
ignorance of the dialectic relationship between form and content.

But in short, not one step back. According to MINREX the military state
is in danger from this provocation, without arms, without masses,
without leaders who enjoy wide support among Cubans on the island. We
cannot give ground to the "counterrevolution," — they say — as if it
were not precisely the defenders of the indefensible regime themselves
who prevented the revolutionary changes that would lead us to
prosperous, democratic Cuba, free of authoritarian hegemonies, with all
and for the good of all.

It is weakness, fear and incapacity that led the government to put its
repressive character on full display and to miss the opportunity to have
been hospitable to the Secretary General of the Organization of American
States and to have discussed with him the conditions for possible ties
to that Inter-American body.

If they were a little bit capable they could have "stolen the show," but
we already know that in Cuba 'counterintelligence' dominates in its
broadest sense.

The organizations and individuals who prepared the event have a vision
different from the government's on the ways in which politics and the
economy should be conducted in Cuba and, of course, it was an opportune
moment to promote the positions of change previously promoted by the
Leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Payá, who died in
circumstances demanding further explanation.

But if something like this can destabilize the regime, it should do the

The government's actions provoked exactly what it was trying to avoid,
creating more interest among Cubans and international opinion in the
Varela Project and in how Oswaldo Paya died, a man who might not have
been to the liking of the government and other cities, but who lived on
the island, worked there and from from within promoted a peaceful and
democratic change of the system, with all his rights as a Cuban citizen.
Something to respect.

The Cuban government's action, vitiated by extremism, Manichaeism,
intolerance and repression, favored what the organizers of the event
ultimately wanted to demonstrate: the absence of space in Cuba for
different thinking, the existence of a tyrannical regime that impedes
freedom of expression and association, and that it intends to continue
to govern based on jails, police and repressive security agents.

The repression of the opposition, socialist dissent and different
thinking, pressures against the self-employed, the stagnation of the
reforms proposed by the Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba itself,
the voluntary efforts to try to control the widespread corruption
generated by statist wage system, in short, everything that is being
done by the senior bureaucratic hierarchy is generating chaos that
undermines and will burst the system from within from ignorance of the
laws of economic-social development.

They don't know where they stand! Don't try to put the blame on others

This service against a "socialism" that has never existed will perhaps
be the best historical legacy left to us by these 60 years of
voluntarism, populism and authoritarianism of Fidel Castro communism,
such that the most retrograde forces of international reaction will
eternally thank the "Cuban leadership."

Source: Weakness, Fear And Inability Erode The Cuban Government /
14ymedio, Pedro Campos – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 23 February 2017 — The recent “diplomatic” action by the Cuban Government to try to prevent the presence of foreign personalities in a private event in Havana to receive a symbolic prize bearing the name of the late regime opponent Oswaldo Payá, denotes the weakness, fear and incapacity that characterize its … Continue reading "Weakness, Fear And Inability Erode The Cuban Government / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos" Continue reading
The Countdown Begins For Raul Castro's Departure From Power / 14ymedio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Countdown Begins For Raul Castro's Departure From Power /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Appeasement Never Works
by GEORGE WEIGEL February 25, 2017 4:00 AM

And it's making matters worse in Cuba.
At first blush, Luis Almagro would seem an unlikely candidate for the
disfavor of the current Cuban regime. A man of the political Left, he
took office as the tenth secretary general of the Organization of
American States in 2015, vowing to use his term of office to reduce
inequality throughout the hemisphere. Yet Secretary General Almagro was
recently denied a visa to enter Cuba. Why? Because he had been invited
to accept an award named in honor of Cuban democracy activist Oswaldo
Payá, who died in 2012 in an "automobile accident" that virtually
everyone not on the payroll of the Castro regime's security services
regards to this day as an act of state-sanctioned murder. Payá's "crime"
was to organize the Varela Project, a public campaign for basic civil
liberties and free elections on the island prison, and he paid for it
with his life.

The regime's refusal of a visa for the head of the OAS caused a brief
flurry of comment in those shrinking parts of the commentariat that
still pay attention to Cuba, now that Cuban relations with the United
States have been more or less "normalized." But there was another facet
of this nasty little episode that deserves further attention: While
Almagro's entry into Cuba was being blocked, a U.S. congressional
delegation was on the island and, insofar as is known, did nothing to
protest the Cuban government's punitive action against the secretary
general of the OAS.

According to a release from the office of Representative Jim McGovern
(D., Mass.), the CoDel, which also included Senators Patrick Leahy (D.,
Vt.), Thad Cochran (R., Miss.), Michael Bennet (D., Colo.), and Tom
Udall (D.,N.M.), and Representative Seth Moulton (D.,Mass.), intended to
"continue the progress begun by President Obama to bring U.S.–Cuba
relations into the 21st Century and explore new opportunities to promote
U.S. economic development with Cuba," including "economic opportunities
for American companies in the agriculture and health sectors." I've no
idea whether those economic goals were advanced by this junket. What was
certainly not advanced by the CoDel's public silence on the Almagro
Affair while they were in the country was the cause of a free Cuba.

There were and continue to be legitimate arguments on both sides of the
question of whether the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba should be lifted.
And those pushing for a full recission of the embargo are not simply
conscience-lite men and women with dollar signs in their eyes. They
include pro-democracy people who sincerely believe that flooding the
zone in Cuba with American products, American technology, and American
culture will so undermine the Castro regime that a process of
self-liberation will necessarily follow. That this seems not to have
been the case with China is a powerful counterargument. Meanwhile, my
own decidedly minority view — that the embargo should have been
gradually rolled back over the past decade and a half in exchange for
specific, concrete, and irreversible improvements in human rights and
the rule of law, leading to real political pluralization in Cuba — seems
to have fallen completely through the floorboards of the debate.

But as pressures to "normalize" U.S.–Cuba relations across the board
increase, there ought to be broad, bipartisan agreement that Cuban
repression, which has in fact intensified since the Obama initiative two
years ago, should have its costs. If, as Congressman McGovern averred,
he and others want to move Cuba–America relations into the 21st century,
then let him and others who share that goal agree that Cuba should be
treated like any other country: meaning that when it does bad things, it
gets hammered by criticism and pressures are brought to bear to induce
or compel better behavior in the future.

"Opening up" without pressure has never worked with Communist regimes.
It didn't work when the Vatican tried it in east-central Europe in the
1970s; the Ostpolitik of Pope Paul VI made matters worse for the
Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia and Hungary. It didn't work vis-à-vis
the Soviet Union in the years of détente, which coincided with some of
the worst Soviet assaults on human-rights activists. It hasn't worked
with China, where, as in Cuba, repression has increased in recent years.

To will the end — a 21st-century Cuba where the government behaves in a
civilized fashion and economic opportunity is available to all Cubans,
not just those favored by the regime — necessarily involves, at least
for morally and politically serious people, willing the means: which
must include holding the current Cuban regime to account when "opening
up" does not extend to basic civil liberties for the Cuban people, and
when "opening up" does not include a decent respect for the hemispheric
proprieties, such that the head of the OAS is summarily refused entry
into Cuba.

That the Almagro Affair had to do with an award named for Oswaldo Payá,
a true martyr in the cause of freedom who was inspired by Christian
Democratic convictions, suggests that the Castro regime and those who
wish to inherit its power are nervous. Authoritarians confident of their
position would not have reacted so stupidly to an award being given to a
left-leaning, Spanish-speaking, Latin American politician — unless, that
is, they were afraid that the memory of Oswaldo Payá would be rekindled
in the ceremony in which Almagro received the Payá Award. All the more
reason, then, for congressional delegations and others to end the
Neville Chamberlain routine, stop appeasing the Castro regime, and start
taking steps to ensure that what Congressman McGovern called "the
progress begun by President Obama" is, in fact, progress in Cuba — and
not just economic progress, but progress in human rights and the rule of

— George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics
and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in
Catholic Studies.

Source: Luis Almagro -- Cuba Blocks Visa for Oswaldo Paya Award |
National Review - Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 24 February 2017 — On February 24 of next year Raul Castro must leave the presidency of Cuba if he is to fulfill the promise he has made several times. His announced departure from power is looked on with suspicion by some and seen as an inescapable fact by others, but hardly anyone argues that … Continue reading "The Countdown Begins For Raul Castro’s Departure From Power / 14ymedio" Continue reading
… . Both were on display in Havana over the past week. At … forthright condemnation of repression in Cuba’s authoritarian ally Venezuela. Ms … political damage. How revealing of Havana’s true nature, and true … spokesman for democracy promotion, in Cuba or anywhere else. All the … Continue reading
Oswaldo Payá Award Ceremony Is Absent The Winners / 14ymedio, EFE

14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 22 February 2017 — The presentation of the Oswaldo
Payá "Freedom and Life" Prize has led to a diplomatic conflict, after
the Cuban government vetoed the entry into the country of three of the
guests: OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, Former Mexican President
Felipe Calderón, and Mariana Aylwin.

Almagro, Calderón and Chilean delegate Mariana Aylwin were unable to
travel to the Caribbean country on Tuesday to participate in the event
called by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, chaired by
Rosa Maria Payá, daughter of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá,
which the Cuban government Cuban has labeled a "provocation."

Around Payá's house, in the Havana municipality of Cerro, a police
operation deployed in the early hours of the day prevented activists
from reaching the home. From Manila Park, near the house, State Security
agents dressed in civilian clothes demanded documentation from any
dissident or independent journalists who approached.

Payá told this newspaper that her phone had been "out of service" in the
afternoon although "in the morning it worked." The ceremony was attended
by seven activists who had spent the night in the house "plus another 20
people who where able to reach it," said the dissident. Among them was
the head of the political-economic section of the US Embassy in Cuba,
Dana Brown, as well as diplomatic representatives from Sweden and the
Czech Republic.

Payá said that the award ceremony had been surrounded by a lot of
repression on the part of the regime, Cuban State Security and the
Foreign Ministry." She condemned the reprisals "suffered by civil
society members who wanted to participate in the ceremony, resulting in
many of them being arrested and others prevented from leaving their homes."

All of the leaders of the opposition groups on the island "were
invited," Payá told this newspaper. "There are some with whom we have
lost communication over the last few days because of everything that is
happening, and others who are not in the country and others who couldn't
get here."

"We hope that this aggression, this rudeness, will find a response and a
reaction in all the governments belonging to the Organization of
American States (OAS), in all the governments of our region and also in
the European Union," said Rosa María Payá.

Luis Almargo tweeted: Our interest: To facilitate #Cuba's approach to
Interamerican values/principles and to expand the country's achievements
in science, health and education.

The Chilean and Mexican Chancelleries regretted the decision of
Cuba, and Chile announced that it will call its ambassador on the island
for consultations.

Meanwhile, the only official response from Cuba has come from the
Cuban embassy in Chile, which issued a communication referring to the
matter as "a grave international provocation against the Cuban
government," with the aim of "generating internal instability" and
affecting Cuba's diplomatic relations with other countries.

According to this note, the act was created "by an illegal anti-Cuban
group that acts against constitutional order and that arouses the
repudiation of the people, with the collusion and financing of
politicians and foreign institutions."

The ceremony finally took place without the presence of the
international guests. "The chairs will remain empty" until the awardees
"can land in Havana" to pick them up in person, assured Rosa María
Payá. Other Cuban guests were prevented from leaving their homes or
arrested on the road.

Independent journalists Henry Constantin Ferreiro and Sol García Basulto
were detained in the airport of Camagüey at the moment that they tried
to board a flight towards the capital.

Constantín Ferreiro is vice-president of the Inter-American Press
Association for Cuba and remains in custody without his parents being
able to see him or provide him with personal hygiene supplies, according
to his father.

Havana's decision not to authorize the arrival of the head of the OAS
was known after a night of uncertainty in which it was not clear whether
Almagro had traveled to the Cuban capital, where he initially planned to
fly from Paris, where he had participated in institutional activities
yesterday. Rosa María Paya today called on the OAS to support the right
of the Cuban people to decide on their destiny.

"To the point that Cuba is democratizing, all democracies in Latin
America will also gain stability," said the opposition leader, who hoped
that "today is the beginning of an OAS commitment to the cause of rights
and freedom in Cuba."

She pointed out that they do not expect the OAS to "speak out against
anyone," but instead to put itself "on the side of all Cuban citizens in
their right to begin a transition process."

Source: Oswaldo Payá Award Ceremony Is Absent The Winners / 14ymedio,
EFE – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cuba Refuses OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro Entry To The Island /

14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2017 — The Secretary General of the
Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, has published
a letter explaining why he can not attend the Oswaldo Payá "Freedom and
Life" Award ceremony. In the letter, addressed to Rosa Maria Paya,
Almagro states that he will not come after the refusal of the Havana
authorities to grant him an entry visa to Cuba.

The Cuban consulate also denied Almagro entrance to the country using
his Uruguayan passport, with which it would not need entrance visa.

According to the Secretary General of the OAS, an official of the
Organization, Chris Hernández-Roy, was summoned to a meeting last
Thursday by the Consul of Cuba in Washington and the First Secretary of
the Consulate in which he expressed, also, the Cuban authorities'
surprise over the reason for the visit and its astonishment at the
"involvement" of Almagro in anti-Cuban activities.

The award is not recognized by the Cuban State and the activities of
Cuba Decide, an organization led by Rosa Maria Payá, "undermines the
Cuban electoral system," according to what they told the OAS.

For all these reasons, the authorities refused to grant Almagro a visa
and warned him that he would not be admitted to the country if he
attempted to board a flight bound for the island.

"We have responded to these arguments by pointing out that the only
interest on our part has been, is and will be to facilitate Cuba's
rapprochement with the values ​​and principles of the inter-American
system, both as regards the defense of democracy and the promotion and
respect for human rights, while expanding Cuba's achievements in
science, health and education to our region," said Almagro.

Almagro laments in his missive the "analysis as superficial as it is
alarmist," that has led to his visit being interpreted as a problem for
relations with the United States. He considers it "rather ridiculous"
that bilateral relations between the two countries depend simply on the
holding of the award ceremony.

He emphasizes, furthermore, that his presence on the island scheduled
for Tuesday has nothing to do with a desire to evaluate the internal
situation of Cuba or its political or ideological trends, issues on
which he says he does not consider himself competent to give an opinion.

As Almagro writes in the letter, this is not the first time an act of
this kind has been carried out in other countries of the region, and so,
he says, he has made it known to the Cuban authorities. According to the
secretary general of the OAS, these acts in other countries "are carried
out without the government necessarily supporting them, but without
censoring them, because they are part of the tolerance of democratic
systems and values," he argues.

His only concern, he says, is that he hopes that as a result of the
Cuban government's boycott of the Oswaldo Payá Award, there will be no
repression of those who organized the event. "This would be absolutely
unfair and undesirable," he warns.

Almagro argued that his presence and activities are not anti-Cuban "in
any case" and, on the contrary, his interest is that the country
develops at all levels, not forgetting the guarantee of all the rights
of its citizens.

For that reason, the Secretary General of the OAS also rejects the
"criminalization" of Cuba Decides and notes that his intention was to
honor the memory of Oswaldo Payá, so he asked that the authorities
reconsider their decision and allow him to enter the Island. "But that
was not possible," he laments.

Almagro closes his letter by reiterating to Rosa Maria Payá the high
regard he has for her, in addition to his desire to "continue working
within the framework of cooperation established between the Latin
American Network of Youth for Democracy," of which she is the current
president, "and the OAS."

The relationship of the Secretary General of the OAS with the Cuban
Government has gone through distinct phases. In November of 2014 Almagro
visited the Island for fourth time, in his role foreign minister of the
Republic of Uruguay. On that occasion he was interviewed by Cuban
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez. However, on assuming his current
position in the OAS he became a frequent target of criticism in the
official press.

The OAS and the Government of the Island have had tense encounters for
decades, since the country was excluded from the regional organization
in January 1962, after defining its Marxist-Leninist course. In 2009 the
OAS lifted the suspension that weighed on the Island and supported its
eventual rejoining of the organization.

Almagro reiterated the invitation to Havana in early 2016 when he stated
that his heart felt that Cuba "should be back" in the body, although his
brain indicated that the process "will not go that fast."

During a meeting of the Association of Caribbean States held in Havana,
President Raúl Castro reiterated that "the OAS from its foundation was,
is and will be an instrument of imperialist domination and that no
reform could change its nature or its history. Cuba will never return to
the OAS. "

Source: Cuba Refuses OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro Entry To The
Island / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cuban Government Blocks Several Guests From Entering Cuba For The
Oswaldo Payá Award / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 21 February 2017 – The Cuban government has mobilized
in the last hours to prevent several guests from arriving in Havana to
attend to Oswaldo Paya Award ceremony, scheduled for tomorrow,
Wednesday, at 11:00 am. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon has
been the most recent to make public that Cuban immigration authorities
did not allow him to enter the country.

"We are informed by Immigration of Cuba that passenger FCH is not
authorized to enter Cuba and request that he not be documented on flight
AM451", Calderón published in his Twitter account transmitting the
message that the Aeromexico airline gave him.

For the moment, Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confined itself
to regretting the decision of the Cuban government not to allow the
entry into its territory of the ex-president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa,
through the Ministry's official Twitter account.

Calderón is the third case known today, after those of independent
journalists Sol García Basulto and Henry Constantin Ferreiro, who were
prevented from traveling from Camagüey to Havana. In addition Mariana
Aylwin, a former Chilean Minister, was prevented from boarding a plane
in Chile to travel to the Cuban capital on Monday, to collect the
posthumous award for her father, former President Patricio Aylwin.

The entry veto augurs diplomatic consequences, as Bachelet's government
has already announced that it will call Chile's ambassador on the island
to protest the decision. "The Government of Chile deeply regrets the
situation that has affected former minister and former parliamentarian
Mariana Aylwin being prevented from traveling to Cuba," the Foreign
Ministry said in a statement.

"The problem was fundamentally the visit of Almagro. I had my tourist
visa. I had problems checking in and I went to the airport early, where
they told me I was would not be admitted to Cuba," Aylwin told 14ymedio.

The Cuban government notified the Chilean Foreign Ministry that her
visit was not welcome. However, Mariana Aylwin no longer holds positions
in the Chilean Administration. "As I do not represent the Government, I
decided to go as many democrats came to support our struggle during the
dictatorship," she explained.

The former secretary of state explained that she would receive the award
given to her father "for the defense of democratic values."

"It's an arbitrary act, I deeply regret it because my dad opened
diplomatic relations with Cuba and now they do this," she said. Aylwin
described what happened as an "act of a dictatorship and
incomprehensible in the 21st century," and recalled "when, during the
time of Pinochet, there were many Democrats who wanted to come to give
us their solidarity who also could not enter Chile."

"That is the difference of a democracy and a dictatorship. They are
afraid of everything that opposes them in their arbitrary desires, they
own the truth, they impose themselves by force," she said, although she
admits that the country's situation hurts more than her personally. "It
hurts me a lot more that there is repression in Cuba than that I am
prevented from coming. Be of good cheer!!! There are many of us who are
with you," she told this newspaper.

Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late opponent Oswaldo Payá, has
denounced the decision taken by the Cuban Government and has made public
the document delivered to the former Chilean minister at the
airport. The text reads "Do not approve nor send the passenger [Mariana
Aylwin] who is inadmissible in Cuba."

Payá, who leads the initiative Cuba Decides, which calls for holding a
plebiscite on the island to initiate a transition to democracy, lamented
what happened and added that "now more than ever we have to work to
recover our nation hijacked by an elite never chosen by anyone."

In addition to these actions, travel bans have also been imposed on
journalists Henry Constantin Ferreiro and Sol García Basulto. Garcia
Basulto, a correspondent for 14ymedio in Camagüey, was detained until
six o'clock in the morning, while Constantin Ferreiro is still being held.

García Basulto explained that both were arrested inside Ignacio
Agramonte International Airport when they were preparing to take a
flight to Havana that departed at midnight Monday. Police seized her
"cell phone and several documents" that she carried with her, she
explained via telephone.

After the arrest, García Basulto was transferred to the third Police
Station in the Montecarlo District, where she remained until being
released shortly before dawn.

Last November, the Garcia Basulto remained under house arrest for
several days while the caravan with the ashes of former President Fidel
Castro was traveling across the country. On that occasion State Security
agents guarded her door to prevent her from leaving.

Constantin Ferreiro's mother declared at midday that from seven in the
evening on Monday, "the police had set up an operation around the house
but he had already left for the airport."

Constantín, who was named last December as regional vice president for
Cuba for the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), also serves as
director of the magazine La Hora de Cuba and at the time of his
appointment at the IAPA he committed to disseminate " The reality of
journalism "in the island. The organization has issued a press
release condemning Constantin's detention, demanding his immediate
release and calling on the Cuban government to guarantee freedom of the
press and expression.

In addition, Rosa María Payá informed 14ymedio that Cuba Decides
coordinators in Holguin Province, Julio Cesar Alvarez and Felix Fara,
were arrested on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Payá said that
Álvarez was arrested "just after" she called him to invite him to
tomorrow's event.

Thanks to some relatives of the activists, she learned that they are
still being detained as of Monday at the Holguín City Security Unit and
that their wives were warned not to approach the place to find out
anything because they would also be detained.

The first ceremony of the Oswaldo Payá "Liberty and Life" Award is
scheduled for Wednesday, and Luis Almagro, secretary general of the
Organization of American States, and, posthumously Patricio Aylwin
Constantín, will be honored.

The award recognizes "persons or institutions, whose career or concrete
action have highlighted the effective promotion and defense of human
rights, life and democracy." The award is a project of the Latin
American Network of Youth for Democracy, led by Rosa Maria Payá. The
entity brings together members of civil society, political parties and
student organizations in more than twenty countries in the region.

Source: Cuban Government Blocks Several Guests From Entering Cuba For
The Oswaldo Payá Award / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 22 February 2017 — The presentation of the Oswaldo Payá “Freedom and Life” Prize has led to a diplomatic conflict, after the Cuban government vetoed the entry into the country of three of the guests: OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and Mariana Aylwin. Almagro, Calderón and Chilean delegate Mariana … Continue reading "Oswaldo Payá Award Ceremony Is Absent The Winners / 14ymedio, EFE" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2017 — The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, has published a letter explaining why he can not attend the Oswaldo Payá “Freedom and Life” Award ceremony. In the letter, addressed to Rosa Maria Paya, Almagro states that he will not come after the refusal of the Havana authorities to … Continue reading "Cuba Refuses OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro Entry To The Island / 14ymedio" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 21 February 2017 – The Cuban government has mobilized in the last hours to prevent several guests from arriving in Havana to attend to Oswaldo Paya Award ceremony, scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, at 11:00 am. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon has been the most recent to make public that Cuban immigration authorities did … Continue reading "Cuban Government Blocks Several Guests From Entering Cuba For The Oswaldo Payá Award / 14ymedio" Continue reading