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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
Mississippi Ports Eye Cuba, Sign Agreements in Havana

The Mississippi ports of Pascagoula and Gulfport signed agreements in
Cuba on Monday with an eye to future business and with a Republican U.S.
senator from the state looking on, despite concerns President Donald
Trump might backtrack on improved relations.

Senator Thad Cochran is the only Republican among five U.S. senators and
a U.S. representative on a three-day visit to the Communist-run
Caribbean island to discuss relations and explore business opportunities.

The agreements were signed during a business forum to explore future
trade attended by Cochran.

"There is great potential for business between these ports and Cuba due
to the geographical proximity and the excellent fluvial and maritime
ways Mississippi has," state-run media quoted Maria de la Luz B'Hamel,
director of commercial policy with the United States at the Cuban
Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, as saying.

The congressional delegation arrived on Sunday and is being led by
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who was instrumental in
efforts to normalize relations under former Democratic President Barack
Obama.

Cuba watchers are looking closely for signs of how the fragile U.S.
detente with Cuba will fare under the new Trump administration.

The Republican president has threatened to scrap moves to normalize
relations, one of Obama's signature foreign policy initiatives, if he
does not get "a better deal."

Port authorities along the U.S. southern coast are strong proponents of
increased trade and travel with Cuba, and some have expressed interest
in using Mariel, located on the northwest coast of Cuba, as a
transshipment hub.

Similar agreements were signed last month with Virginia, Louisiana and
Alabama.

The Florida ports of Everglades and Palm Beach had also been planning to
sign deals, but balked after Republican state Governor Rick Scott
threatened to cancel their funding if they did business with the "Cuban
dictatorship."

Source: Mississippi Ports Eye Cuba, Sign Agreements in Havana - NBC News
-
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/mississippi-ports-eye-cuba-sign-agreements-havana-n723626 Continue reading
OAS chief denied visa to visit Cuba
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 | 10:38 AM

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — Cuban authorities have denied a visa
to the head of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, to
travel to the communist-ruled island to receive a prize from a dissident
organisation, he said Wednesday.

Almagro had been invited to receive a prize named for dissident Oswaldo
Paya, who died in 2012 in a car crash under mysterious circumstances.

"My request for a visa for the official OAS passport was denied by the
Cuban consulate in Washington," Almagro said in a letter to Paya's
daughter Rosa Maria, who organised the ceremony to confer the prize.

Almagro said he was informed by Cuban consular authorities that he would
be denied a visa even if he travelled on his Uruguayan diplomatic passport.

The Cubans conveyed to a representative of Almagro that they regarded
the motive of his visit an "unacceptable provocation," and expressed
"astonishment" at the OAS's involvement in what they deemed anti-Cuban
activities, he said.

Almagro said he asked that the decision be reversed, arguing that his
trip to Cuba was no different from events he had participated in other
countries of the region.

Two other political figures who wanted to travel to Cuba for the award
ceremony — Mexico's former president Felipe Calderon and former Chilean
education minister Mariana Aylwin — said they also had been denied visas.

Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962 at the height of the Cold War,
and has declined to return despite having been readmitted in 2009.

Since Cuba's suspension, the only OAS secretary general to visit the
island was Jose Miguel Insulza, a Chilean who attended a Latin American
summit in Havana in 2014.

Source: OAS chief denied visa to visit Cuba - News - JamaicaObserver.com
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/OAS-chief-denied-visa-to-visit-Cuba Continue reading
Cuba blocks Chilean, Mexican former officials from entry

Cuba stoked tensions across Latin America on Tuesday by blocking a
former Chilean minister and one of Mexico's ex-presidents from traveling
to the island to attend an award ceremony hosted by political dissidents.

Chile said it was recalling its ambassador to Cuba for consultation and
asking the Cuban government why Mariana Aylwin, a former education
minister and daughter of an ex-president, was blocked from entering Cuba
on Monday night.

Aylwin was traveling to the island to receive a prize on behalf of her
father. The event, planned for Wednesday, was organized by the Latin
American Network of Youth for Democracy, a group opposed to the
Communist government.

Cuba opposes anything that legitimizes dissidents, which it claims are
funded by U.S. interests. The government is bracing for a tougher U.S.
approach to the island under President Donald Trump.

"Exercising the right (to travel between nations) should not be
interfered with, especially given that Chile has recognized the feats of
various figures in Cuban history and politics," Chile's Foreign
Relations Ministry said in a statement.

Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon tweeted on Tuesday that Cuban
immigration prevented him from boarding a flight from Mexico City to
Havana to attend the same meeting.

Aylwin was prevented from checking in to her flight in Chile's capital,
Santiago, apparently at the request of the Cuban authorities, she told
journalists on Tuesday.

Calderon, from Mexico's conservative National Action Party, ruled Mexico
from 2006 to 2012 and improved relations with Cuba, which had been
severely tested by his predecessor.

Mexico's foreign ministry said on its Twitter account that it
"regretted" Cuba's decision to block Calderon's entry.

The group, known as JuventudLAC, has also invited Luis Almagro, the head
of the Organization of American States, which suspended Cuba in 1962 for
being Communist. It agreed in 2009 to lift the ruling, but Cuba declined
to rejoin the Washington-based group, which it deems an instrument of
its former Cold War foe the United States.

"The behavior of the Cuban government is deeply gross, vulgar and rude,"
Rosa Maria Paya, the group's leader and daughter of dissident Oswaldo
Paya, who died in 2012, told Chilean media.

"We have all received information that (invited guests) are receiving
pressure from the Cuban government."

Mariana Aylwin is seen as an ideological leader of the most conservative
segment of Chile's center-left ruling coalition. Her father was Chile's
first democratically elected president after the 1973 to 1990
dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

(Reporting by Gram Slattery in Santiago; Additional reporting by Sarah
Marsh in Havana; Editing by James Dalgleish and Richard Chang)

Source: Cuba blocks Chilean, Mexican former officials from entry |
Reuters - http://www.reuters.com/article/us-chile-cuba-idUSKBN1602IB Continue reading
Countdown begins for Raúl Castro's retirement next year
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD AND NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

A year from now — on February 24 — something is expected to occur in
Cuba that hasn't happened in more than 40 years: a non-Castro will
occupy the presidency.

The coming year will be one of definitions in Cuba. But right now there
is only uncertainty — not only about how the transition will proceed but
also about the future of Cuba's relationship with the United States with
President Donald Trump at the helm.

In 2013, Raúl Castro told Cuba's National Assembly of People's Power,
the parliament, that he planned to retire from the presidency of the
Council of State and the Council of Ministers on Feb. 24, 2018. His heir
apparent became Miguel Díaz-Canel, a party stalwart who at the time was
promoted to first vice president of both councils.

When Castro retires as president, the Cuban Constitution also calls for
him to relinquish his post of commander in chief of Cuba's armed forces.
A Cuba without a khaki-clad Castro commanding the Revolutionary Armed
Forces is something many younger Cubans have never experienced.

Díaz-Canel's ascension next Feb. 24 — a date that has long had resonance
in Cuba history — is not assured, but most observers believe that a new
National Assembly that will be seated then will rubber stamp him as
Cuba's next president and he will replace the 85-year-old Castro.

Even with a successor, Castro is still expected to retain consider
clout. He has said nothing about stepping down as chief of Cuba's
powerful Communist Party and Cuba's military leaders are solid Raúlistas.

The power-behind-the-throne is not an unknown formula in Cuba. From 1959
to 1976, Osvaldo Dorticós formally served as president of the republic,
even though the true power was wielded by the late Fidel Castro, who was
then prime minister. From 1976, the posts associated with the presidency
have been occupied first by Fidel and then by Raúl Castro, who took over
on a provisional basis in 2006 when Fidel fell ill and then officially
in 2008.

Díaz-Canel represents a break from the revolutionary old guard and the
passing of the torch to a new generation of leaders. At age 56, he
wasn't even born when the revolution triumphed.

But there is also a school of thought that if Cuba's relationship with
the Trump administration goes badly, or if Trump yanks back most or all
of the changes under the Obama administration, it will provide a reason
for Castro to extend his tenure as president or at least to hang on to
his post as head of Cuba's Communist Party indefinitely.

"A lot of people in Havana are saying that if Mr. Trump and company
return to confrontational policies, backtracking on everything that was
done by Obama or most of it, the situation in Cuba would be to say,
'Let's circle the wagons,'" said Domingo Amuchastegui, a former Cuban
intelligence analyst who now lives in Miami.

"In the middle and older generations there was the feeling that Raúl
should not step down until the new administration comes to terms with
the normalization process or that if he steps down, he should stay as
first secretary of the party," said Amuchastegui, who spent the month of
December in Cuba. "What I found every day I was there were conversations
about what the new president [Trump] is going to do, will he be moving
back or going forward on normalization."

Cuba's Communist Party generally convenes a Congress every five years,
meaning it could be 2021 before a new party chieftain is named —
although a change could occur at any time if Castro decides to retire
from his party post.

At last year's party congress, Díaz-Canel wasn't promoted to second
secretary as some had anticipated. Instead, Castro's second in command
remained octogenarian, José Ramón Machado Ventura. If he succeeds Castro
as party chieftain, it wouldn't do much to promote the idea that space
is opening for new Cuban leaders or that, in Castro's words, a
"rejuvenation" is taking place. The 86-year-old Machado Ventura. joined
the revolutionary movement in 1952 when he was still a medical student
and fought alongside the Castros in the Sierra Maestra.

"If Cubans believe that [Castro] and his aging cohort of 1960s
revolutionaries remain the real power behind the throne, that would
suffocate and delegitimize the emerging, younger generation of leaders,"
said Richard Feinberg, a professor of international political economy at
the University of California, San Diego.

But Antonio Rodiles, a member of the opposition movement, fears that is
exactly what will happen.

"Power is going to continue as it is now in the hands of the military
and the heir clearly is Alejandro Castro Espín (son of Raúl Castro, a
colonel in the Interior Ministry, and a national security adviser),"
Rodiles said, "No doubt about it, Díaz-Canel would fulfill a function
similar to that carried out by Osvaldo Dorticós."

Feinberg said that managing U.S.-Cuba relations, once the White House
sets its course, will be less important in the next year "than managing
the historic transition to a post-Castro era on the island."

Rodiles, on the other hand, thinks the Trump presidency could
significantly alter succession plans on the island, especially if the
intention is to have Castro Espín as "the person behind the scenes who
is at the controls."

At this point, Díaz-Canel is still in the shadow of Raúl Castro.

"Cuba is a country that has been governed by a strong-man system," said
Arturo López-Levy, a lecturer at the University of Texas Rio Grande
Valley, former analyst with Cuban intelligence and cousin of a Castro
son-in-law in charge of military-owned companies on the island. "At
least I would have expected Raúl to give him more authority by now."

A review of Díaz-Canel's recent appearances on the front page of Granma,
the official newspaper of Cuba's Communist Party, shows him taking part
in local education, literacy and journalism events while Castro has
received a delegation from Iran and the president of Ireland. And it was
Machado Ventura who recently welcomed a communist leader from Vietnam.

Still, López-Levy said Díaz-Canel appears to be "the right candidate for
the job. He's well-traveled, experienced in leadership in the party, has
been a provincial leader, has good connections with the military. He
sounds good on paper, but at this point he looks too weak to be taking
on such an important role."

It is still Castro who makes the major pronouncements, including
recently extending an olive branch to the Trump administration, saying
he wants to pursue a "respectful dialogue."

The official media also is treading lightly when it comes to Trump. "You
have to notice how cautious and how much discretion the Cuban media is
taking when dealing with the new administration," said Amuchastegui.

Key to watch in the coming year is whether Díaz-Canel begins to play
more of a role in the relationship with Cuba's benefactor Venezuela and
in U.S.-Cuba relations once Trump policy toward the island is defined.

Some observers say in his last year in the presidency, they expect
Castro to concentrate on two things: taking further steps to unify
Cuba's unwieldy dual currency system and managing the relationship with
the U.S. The other pending reforms he will leave to Díaz-Canel.

"Raúl will have to concentrate on managing an economic recession at a
delicate moment of rising expectations, and most importantly, preparing
the terrain for the post-Castro era and a new generation of younger
leaders," said Feinberg. He "will struggle to maintain some degree of
systemic unity within the increasingly fractious ruling Communist Party
while allowing the new leadership sufficient room for maneuver, to set a
clearer vision for Cuba's future — a new more defined economic model, a
new social contract that preserves" revolutionary gains but allows "new,
more decentralized political arrangements."

There are several important economic challenges beyond uniting the
currency: trying to raise salaries, stimulating growth, managing the
relationship with Venezuela, which is in a financial free fall, and
trying to boost foreign investment.

Most are inter-related and may be difficult for Castro to take on over
the next year because of the complexity of Cuba's current economic
problems, said Carmelo Mesa-Lago, professor emeritus of economics at the
University of Pittsburgh.

While Castro has more political clout to undertake tough economic
reforms than a successor, "the timing is not good," he said.

"This is a very complicated moment in Cuba," said Enrique López Oliva, a
retired University of Havana professor. "People are disoriented. They
aren't sure what they should do. There's lack of clarity on what the
transition will bring as well as what the ongoing relationship with the
United States will be.

"If Trump tries to bring change in Cuba by pressure or by forcing it,"
said López Oliva, "all it does is reinforce the intransigent sectors
that don't want change."

Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @HeraldMimi

CUBA PRESIDENTS SINCE 1955
2008-present: Raúl Castro (acting president 2006-2008)

1976-2008: Fidel Castro

1959-1976: Osvaldo Dorticós

1959-1959: Manuel Urrutia

1955-1959: Fulgencio Batista

FEBRUARY 24 IN CUBAN HISTORY
▪ Feb. 24, 2013: Cuba's National Assembly elected Raúl Castro to his
second term as president of Cuba.

▪ Feb. 24, 2008: Fidel Castro officially retired as president, although
illness prompted him to cede power to his brother Raúl in 2006.

▪ Feb. 24, 1996: Two U.S. civilian aircraft were shot down by aircraft
operated by the Cuban armed forces. Four South Florida men were killed.

▪ Feb. 24, 1976: The Republic of Cuba adopted its constitution.

▪ Feb. 24, 1895: The beginning of Cuba's War of Independence.

SOURCE: U.S.-CUBA TRADE AND ECONOMIC COUNCIL

Source: Countdown begins a year out from Raúl Castro's retirement |
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article134121954.html Continue reading
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata and Daniel Delisau, Havana/Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 20 February 2017 — The players arrange their dominoes on the table. Outside, the sun still floods the wide entryway on Monserrate Street in Old Havana and time seems to have stopped. The scene occurs at the Canary Island Association of Cuba, a community that languishes between … Continue reading "Canary Islanders in Cuba, Islanders Two Ways / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mara and Daniel Delisau" Continue reading
Mississippi ports eye Cuba, sign agreements in Havana

The Mississippi ports of Pascagoula and Gulfport signed agreements in
Cuba on Monday with an eye to future business and with a Republican U.S.
senator from the state looking on, despite concerns President Donald
Trump might backtrack on improved relations.

Senator Thad Cochran is the only Republican among five U.S. senators and
a U.S. representative on a three-day visit to the Communist-run
Caribbean island to discuss relations and explore business opportunities.

The agreements were signed during a business forum to explore future
trade attended by Cochran.

"There is great potential for business between these ports and Cuba due
to the geographical proximity and the excellent fluvial and maritime
ways Mississippi has," state-run media quoted Maria de la Luz B'Hamel,
director of commercial policy with the United States at the Cuban
Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, as saying.

The event was closed to foreign journalists.

The congressional delegation arrived on Sunday and is being led by
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who was instrumental in
efforts to normalize relations under former Democratic President Barack
Obama.

Cuba watchers are looking closely for signs of how the fragile U.S.
detente with Cuba will fare under the new Trump administration.

The Republican president has threatened to scrap moves to normalize
relations, one of Obama's signature foreign policy initiatives, if he
does not get "a better deal."

Port authorities along the U.S. southern coast are strong proponents of
increased trade and travel with Cuba, and some have expressed interest
in using Mariel, located on the northwest coast of Cuba, as a
transshipment hub.

Similar agreements were signed last month with Virginia, Louisiana and
Alabama.

The Florida ports of Everglades and Palm Beach had also been planning to
sign deals, but balked after Republican state Governor Rick Scott
threatened to cancel their funding if they did business with the "Cuban
dictatorship."

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Source: Mississippi ports eye Cuba, sign agreements in Havana | Reuters
- http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-usa-idUSKBN160060 Continue reading
ACC GLOBAL NEWS features Paula Cellar founder of Heartworks' Compassion Heals on Positive Change, Empowerment & Healing OHAMA, NEBRASKA, UNITED STATES, February 21, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- ACC NEWS Interview with Paula Cellar, Founder of … Continue reading
HAVANA The Mississippi ports of Pascagoula and Gulfport signed agreements in Cuba … the United States at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade and … former Democratic President Barack Obama. Cuba watchers are looking closely for … did business with the "Cuban dictatorship." (Reporting by Marc … Continue reading
Mexican Police Rescue Two Cubans Kidnapped in Mexico / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 19 February 2017 — Two Cubans have been rescued from
the hands of their kidnappers on Isla Mujeres, as the result of a joint
effort between the Federal Investigation Police and agents of the
Ministerial Police of the state of Quintana Roo. In the operation
carried out on Friday, one of those implicated in the kidnapping was
captured, according to the local press.

The Special Prosecutor's Office for Investigation of the Kidnapping
began "a thorough investigation to find and pinpoint the two victims"
from Cuba who had been held by the same people who helped them "to enter
Mexican territory and then demanded 20,000 dollars from their families
for their rescue," said the report.

The investigation took ten days, and on 17 February "achieved the
release of the people safe and sound," although the identity of the
victims was withheld. At the time of the rescue they were in a reserve
"in a mangrove area located on Avenida Rueda Medina at Pelícano Street,
in the municipality of Isla Mujeres."

Police authorities say the family of the hostages had not deposited the
money for the ransom. An individual "with the initials L.J.C.P, who was
the leader of the group and who demanded the ransom from their relatives
in the United States, in order to obtain their release to continue on
their journey," was arrested in the operation.

In another police action the same afternoon, six people of Cuban origin
including one woman were arrested, "who could not prove their legal
status in the State The migrants were turned over to the Public Ministry
to be taken to the National Immigration" authorities.

It is estimated that hundreds of Cubans have been stranded in Mexico
after the end of the United States Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy last
January, which had previously allowed undocumented Cubans to remain in
the United States if they managed to reach US soil. For many of these
stranded Cubans, the American dream has become a nightmare of extortion
and disappearances.

Source: Mexican Police Rescue Two Cubans Kidnapped in Mexico / 14ymedio
– Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/mexican-police-rescue-two-cubans-kidnapped-in-mexico-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Washington, February 20 (RHC)-- Cases of human trafficking have been skyrocketing in the United States according to numbers from the National Human Trafficking Hotline.  The year 2016 saw an increase of more than 5,000 cases from the previous year, with … Continue reading
Stockholm, February 20 (RHC)-- The government of Sweden is calling on the United States to offer “clarity” in the wake of new remarks by President Donald Trump about a terror attack in the Scandinavian country.  The comments triggered a reaction by the … Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 19 February 2017 — Two Cubans have been rescued from the hands of their kidnappers on Isla Mujeres, as the result of a joint effort between the Federal Investigation Police and agents of the Ministerial Police of the state of Quintana Roo. In the operation carried out on Friday, one of those implicated in … Continue reading "Mexican Police Rescue Two Cubans Kidnapped in Mexico / 14ymedio" Continue reading
The secrets of Santería lie deep in these Cuban families
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

PALMIRA, CUBA
José Entenza Montalvo, a babalawo, or priest, shows the faded
handwritten books, some more than a century old, where special knowledge
of medicinal herbs and plants and the names of those initiated as
babalawos are recorded.

For Entenza, the book has a direct link to his own family history. He is
the great-great-grandson of the former slave who first began the
veneration of Santa Bárbara in Palmira, a town in the central province
of Cienfuegos.

It is only one of the many treasures at the Sociedad Santa Bárbara, a
religious association founded by his ancestor, that serves as a living
museum, a repository of history and current spiritual belief where the
rites of the Lukumí religion, popularly known as Santería, are practiced
much as they were during the times of slavery in Cuba.

Few things appear to have been thrown out at the religious complex.
Instead, they are passed from generation to generation.

Entenza leafs through the neatly written entries in decades-old ledgers
that detail the cost of ceremonies performed and the items used — one
chicken of various colors, rum — and the names of those who came for
consultations.

When West Africans were forced into slavery on Cuban sugar plantations
between the 16th and 19th centuries, their overseers tried to force them
into Catholicism, too. They responded by secretly maintaining their own
religious traditions and associating or syncretizing their gods with
Catholic saints to avoid persecution. Santa Bárbara, for example, is
linked to Changó, the Yoruba deity of war, lightning, thunder and fire.

When slavery was abolished in Cuba in 1886, many of the former slaves
settled in Palmira and brought their African religious traditions with them.

The religion was passed from Lutgarda Fernández, a former slave, to her
daughter — the famous Ma'Fea Fernández who followed her mother as
director of the Santa Bárbara religious association, and, finally, to
Entenza.

Next to the temple where a life-size statue of Santa Bárbara with long
black hair and a flowing red gown sits on an altar surrounded by
offerings of red flowers and red plastic apples are the remnants of the
original thatched-roof home where Entenza's ancestors lived. Here,
ceremonial drums stretched with goat skin and extra goat hides hang from
the ceiling, and there is a small statue of Santa Bárbara, the first one
brought to Palmira, he said.

As the story goes, Lutgarda was ailing after a difficult birth when
Santa Bárbara (Changó) appeared in her room, instructing her to burn her
statue and use the ashes mixed with oil to make compresses. Lutgarda was
cured, but the saint told her she had an obligation to establish a
religious site.

About a decade after the abolition of slavery, Lutgarda began holding
religious ceremonies at the location where Sociedad Santa Bárbara now
stands.

The society was officially founded on Dec. 4, 1914, and Lutgarda was the
first director. But a decade earlier, processions honoring the beloved
deity began, and they continue to this day. On the Dec. 4 feast day of
Santa Bárbara, believers dress in red, the color of Changó, and the
statue of Santa Bárbara is taken down from the altar and paraded through
the streets of Palmira on a platform hoisted aloft on men's shoulders.

Palmira is about 7.5 miles north of the city of Cienfuegos but it seems
more distant. Its isolation from the rest of Cuba helped preserve
African traditions in this municipality of about 33,000 residents in a
surprisingly undistilled form.

Some babalawos in Havana have been accused of commercializing the
religion, charging exorbitant fees to tourists for cleansings and
consultations. Necklaces and bracelets in the color identified with
various orishas, or deities, also are sold as tourist trinkets. But in
Palmira it's all about the religion.

With three religious societies, Palmira is known as a center of African
religion in Cuba.

But now Santería adherents include people of all races and from all
walks of life, and in a nod to the 21st century, the Sociedad Santa
Bárbara now has a Facebook page.

The Facebook page contains several posts from Oba Ernesto Pichardo, the
high priest who heads the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye in Hialeah.
Pichardo and the church, which is not syncretic and practices the Lukumí
form of worship, won a landmark Supreme Court decision that established
Lukumí as a religion. The case began over a Hialeah ordinance that
prohibited animal sacrifices, even for religious purposes.

Palmira has become a popular stop for people making cultural visits or
Americans who are on people-to-people tours of the island. Entenza will
explain religious practice to them and sing in Yoruba and beat a drum to
summon the spirits of the dead so visitors can make requests.

In a secret chamber where a sepia portrait of Lutgarda and other
santeras and babalawos stand guard, Entenza shows the round tray of
cowrie shells that babalawos cast to divine la letra del año, or
prophecy for the year. Various groups of babalawos do their own readings
and come up with their own prophecies.

Last year, the reading in Cienfuegos advised being careful of the sun, a
possible indication of health problems, and urged adherents to nurture
the earth and protect the environment. "Ochún (the goddess of love) said
you must take care of your health," Entenza said.

There were also indications that things would improve slightly on the
island, said Entenza. "The little changes were when Obama came," he
said. Former President Barack Obama visited Cuba in March 2016 — the
first visit by a sitting U.S. president since 1928.

Another small change last year, he said, was the arrival of the first
regularly scheduled commercial flights from the United States that
brought more U.S. visitors to the island, including those — mostly Cuban
Americans, he said — who have found their way to Palmira.

This year, between Dec. 31 and the morning of Jan.1, babalawos once
again came together to come up with this year's letra. Such gatherings
are held not only in various places in Cuba but also in Nigeria, other
Latin American countries and Miami, and the advice and proverbs are
different in each location. This year's letra from Havana warned of the
possible proliferation of corruption and expressed concerns about
pollution and the environment.

In Palmira, the letra drawn by the babalawos at Sociedad el Cristo,
another religious association, offers advice such as taking care with
one's health and avoiding family arguments, especially between brothers,
and advises against making offers one cannot fulfill.

Among the proverbs this year are two — one that could be interpreted as
speaking to the generational shift now underway in Cuban political
leadership: "The person who tries to be both the head and tail will
never rest" and "He who was born to be the head can't remain in the tail."

Video:
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article133588554.html

FOLLOW MIMI WHITEFIELD ON TWITTER: @HERALDMIMI

Source: Palmira, Cuba is a cultural and spiritual center for Santería |
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article132969409.html Continue reading
Washington, February 18 (RHC)-- In the United States, the White House has given press credentials to a reporter with the far-right-wing outlet Gateway Pundit, one of the most fervently pro-Trump blogs.  It’s considered even farther to the right than … Continue reading
The Crisis Of The 'Boteros': The First Bean To Burst Into The Pot /
14ymedio, Pedro Campos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Crisis Of The 'Boteros': The First Bean To Burst Into The
Pot / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-crisis-of-the-boteros-the-first-bean-to-burst-into-the-pot-14ymedio-pedro-campos/ Continue reading
Cuba says United States has deported 117 Cuban migrants since policy shift

Cuba said on Friday the United States had deported 117 migrants back to
the island nation since ending its policy granting automatic residency
to almost every Cuban who reached U.S. soil as part of the normalization
of relations.

Those deported included two people who were returned on Friday on the
first flight chartered specifically for the deportation of Cuban
migrants since the policy shift, Cuba's ruling Communist Party newspaper
Granma wrote. The earlier deportees were taken back on commercial planes
or boat.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama repealed the special immigration
policy for Cubans days before turning the White House over to Donald Trump.

Cuban authorities had long sought its end, arguing that the promise of
U.S. residency was fuelling people-trafficking and encouraging dangerous
journeys.

The move however dashed the hopes of many who had been hoping to fulfill
their American Dream and left hundreds of Cubans seeking a new life
stranded halfway on their journey.

Since the policy shift, more than 680 Cuban "irregular migrants" have
been deported in total from various countries, Granma wrote, including
more than 400 from Mexico, 117 from the Bahamas and 39 from the Cayman
Islands.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta; Editing by Michael Perry)

Source: Cuba says United States has deported 117 Cuban migrants since
policy shift | Reuters -
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-usa-migration-idUSKBN15X058 Continue reading
Cuba said Friday the United States … automatic residency to almost every Cuban who reached U.S. soil … the deportation of Cuban migrants since the policy shift, Cuba’s ruling … Continue reading
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba said on Friday the United … the deportation of Cuban migrants since the policy shift, Cuba's … the special immigration policy for Cubans days before turning the White … policy shift, more than 680 Cuban "irregular migrants" have … Continue reading
14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 17 February 2017 – The ending of the United States’ Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy – that allowed Cubans who touched American soil to stay – crushed the hopes of many Cubans of being able to achieve the American dream, that is equality of opportunities and the freedom to allow all citizens to achieve … Continue reading "The Crisis Of The ‘Boteros’: The First Bean To Burst Into The Pot / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos" Continue reading
Washington, February 17 (RHC)-- In the United States, a new report says that the Pentagon is considering a plan to deploy ground troops to Syria.  According to CNN, the U.S. has already authorized up to 500 special operations forces in Syria, but the … Continue reading
New York, February 17 (RHC)-- The United States experienced a "Day Without Immigrants" as protests spread across the country on Thursday, where immigrants skipped class, work and shopping as a symbolic gesture to show their importance for the … Continue reading
Two Cuban women who were deemed “inadmissible” for entry to the United States were placed on a morning flight to Havana on Friday, becoming the first to be deported since … Click to Continue » Continue reading
Florida ports send $65 million in goods to Cuba even as governor tries
to limit trade expansion
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

Humanitarian shipments, frozen chicken parts, chocolate bars, empty beer
kegs from the U.S. Naval Station at Guantánamo Bay, medicine, even a
traveling Bible exhibit.

These items and more have flowed through the state's ports and airports
headed to or returning from Cuba even though Gov. Rick Scott doesn't
think any Florida port should be doing business with the "Cuban
dictatorship."

The governor's statements recently scuttled plans by two Florida ports
to sign a cooperation agreement, known as a memorandum of understanding,
with the Cuban port administration, and Scott also put wording in his
2017 budget recommendation that would withhold funding for port
improvements from ports that expand trade with Cuba.

In a note to a $176.6 million recommendation for improvements at
Florida's seaports, the governor said no state funds can be "allocated
to infrastructure projects that result in the expansion of trade with
the Cuban dictatorship because of their continued human rights abuses."

Now it's up to Florida legislators to decide whether to leave that
wording in the budget when the session convenes March 7.

McKinley Lewis, the governor's deputy communications director, later
clarified that the governor's proviso language would only apply to the
business a port itself might carry out with Cuba — not to port users. It
was "directed at the ports, not private companies," he said. "Any
private company will have to make their own decisions regarding their
partnership or involvement with the Castro dictatorship."

That means a cruise line that leaves from Port Tampa Bay or PortMiami
with ports of call in Cuba wouldn't jeopardize state funding for those
ports. Neither would a shipment of frozen chickens carried by a Crowley
ship from Port Everglades to Mariel, Cuba. But a port signing an MOU
with Cuba or agreeing to joint marketing studies would be verboten if
Scott's proviso language stays in the budget.

John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Business Council, said the
budget wording is confusing:"The vagueness of the wording was precisely
what Gov. Scott and his staff sought — to create uncertainty and, as a
result, negatively impact the desire of exporters in the United States
to engage in commerce with Cuba."

It's important to note that Florida ports don't actually trade with
Cuba. Their private customers do.

"We don't have any authority to tell port users who they can do business
with," said Ellen Kennedy, a Port Everglades spokeswoman. "We just have
land leases with them. The port is like a shopping mall. We lease the
space to tenants but we don't sell the T-shirts."

The U.S. embargo against Cuba limits trade between the United States and
the island, but an analysis for the Miami Herald by Datamyne, a trade
data company, shows steady traffic between several Florida airports and
seaports and Cuba. It totaled almost $65 million last year.

Humanitarian donations, as well as food and agricultural products and
pharmaceuticals and medical supplies can be legally exported to Cuba. So
can products exported to support the services of regularly scheduled
airlines flying to the island. Also included in the totals are products
shipped to and from the Guantánamo Naval base.

For the entire year of 2015, the Datamyne analysis showed that Port
Everglades, PortMiami, Miami International Airport, Jacksonville, Port
Tampa Bay and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport — tallied
$57.2 million worth of exports to Cuba.

But last year, Datamyne found only three Florida seaports — Port
Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville — and MIA sent exports to Cuba, and
the total fell to $46.4 million because frozen chicken shipped from
Jacksonville plummeted from $27.2 million to just $765,606 in 2016.

What did Florida ports send to Cuba in 2016? The biggest category:
frozen chickens and chicken parts. Nearly $28 million worth headed to Cuba.

Among the U.S. companies that exported to Cuba were AJC International,
one of the world's leading poultry marketers; Koch Foods, Intervision
Foods, an Atlanta-based company that ships meat and poultry all over the
world, and Globex International, a New York supplier of poultry and meat
products.

Other products exported to Cuba included $2.2 million worth of charity
and relief donations [although the numbers don't capture products that
Cuban Americans personally transport to friends and family in Cuba],
more than $3 million worth of chocolate bars and cocoa preparations,
$4.1 million worth of cookies, and $1.3 million in medicine in measured
doses.

Florida ports sent more than $1million worth of clothing donations, more
than $730,000 worth of catheters and medical needles, $402,000 in
pharmaceutical donations, and a smattering of other products ranging
from bicycle lights, beer, broths/soups and bread to carpets, hand
tools, blankets, artists' paints, whiskey and books.

The U.S. embargo against Cuba precludes most true imports from the
island. In 2015, those exceptions added up to $61.95 million worth of
goods from Cuba shipped to five Florida ports — Jacksonville, Miami,
Port Everglades, Tampa Bay and Fort Pierce, according to a Datamyne
analysis of bills of lading.

In 2016, imports from Cuba handled by Florida ports fell to $18.5 million.

Import shipments
A rule change last year that allows the import of some products and
agricultural goods produced by Cuba's self-employed sector could boost
imports from Cuba. Last month, two containers of artisan charcoal
produced by a private workers cooperative in Cuba arrived at Port
Everglades. It was the first true import shipment from Cuba in more than
50 years.

What has been counted as imports from Cuba over the past two years are
mostly returned empty containers, furniture and personal belonging being
shipped back from the U.S. Embassy in Havana and from Guantánamo and
personal cars — 2005 Chevy Tahoe, 2012 Toyota Prius, 2007 Ford Mustang —
used to tool around the base that are coming back home with their owners.

But there are more intriguing entries among the imports from Cuba last
year: 13 self-inflating life rafts from Guantánamo, troop gear, stage
equipment used in the Rolling Stones' Havana concert in March, and the
return of a traveling Bible exhibit.

The exhibit from the Museum of the Bible in Oklahoma City went on
display from Feb. 6 to March 13 last year at the Catedral de Nuestra
Señora de la Asunción in Santiago de Cuba. It focused on the Bible's
impact on Cuba's history and featured rare texts and manuscripts,
including the first complete Bible in Spanish.

The museum is chaired by Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, subject
of a landmark Supreme Court case that found corporations controlled by
religious families can't be required to cover contraceptives for female
workers under the Affordable Care Act.

In partnership with the American Bible Society and the Archbishop of
Cuba, the museum also sent 75 artifacts and pieces of art from its
collection to Cuba in 2014 for display at the Havana Cathedral.

Some analysts question why the governor's stance on port business
applies only to Cuba and not to other Florida trading partners such as
China and Venezuela that also have troubling human rights records.

S. Fla airports and seaports
South Florida airports and seaports recorded $6.7 billion in trade with
China last year and it was the region's third most important trading
partner. PortMiami also has sister seaport agreements, which are similar
to MOUs, with the Port of Xiamen and Shanghai International Port.

Some say Scott is being short-sighted in trying to discourage legal
trade with Cuba.

"I don't like to see a state do what's out of step with the federal
government. Whatever federal law says on trade, a port should be able to
do," said Lee Sandler, who specializes in Customs and international
trade law. "I don't think a state should try to limit opportunities."

Sandler said there are "bona fide sensitivities" in the local community
about Cuba, but the bottom line is: "Our ports need to be able to compete."

Scott said he is all for trade — just not with Cuba. "Trade is a
significant opportunity for us," Scott said during a recent speech at a
Coral Gables meeting of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce
in Latin America and the Caribbean. "My job is to figure out how we get
more trade."

Other states that are in the thick of competition for cargo don't seem
to have a problem exploring business opportunities with Cuba. Since the
U.S. rapprochement with Cuba began on Dec. 17, 2014, governors from
eight states — Colorado, New York, Arkansas, Texas, Virginia, Missouri,
Louisiana and West Virginia — have visited the island.

Cuba already has signed MOUs with the Port of Virginia, the Alabama
State Port Authority and the ports of New Orleans and Lake Charles.

"Ports are a highly competitive business," said Kavulich, "and if a
state creates impediments, there are state capitols awaiting
opportunities to audition for additional revenue — and the economic
impact that a thriving port or ports provide to a state, county, city,
and town."

Cuba's port
As Cuba expands its new container port at Mariel and dredges it so it
can handle NeoPanamax vessels, the big ships that now transit the
expanded Panama Canal, it is trying to set itself up for a future as a
trans-shipment port.

As part of that effort, a Cuban business and port delegation recently
concluded a 12-day visit to the United States that took it from Port
Houston to the Port of Virginia in Norfolk with stops at New Orleans,
Port Everglades, the Port of Palm Beach, Washington D.C. and the Port of
Tampa Bay.

The Cuban port delegation's recent visit to New Orleans concluded with a
dinner with Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson and
officials from the five deep-water ports on the Lower Mississippi River.
"We have an unmatched port system here in Louisiana, and the leaders of
those ports continue to prioritize trade with Cuba on many fronts," said
Pierson.

Louisiana is the top U.S. exporting state to Cuba and has cumulatively
sent more than $1.4 billion in legal exports to the island. Like
Florida, it is a big exporter of frozen poultry.

"We want Louisiana to be first in line to any new opportunities with
Cuba, particularly the import, export and foreign direct investment
possibilities that could range into the billions of dollars in the
coming years," Gov. John Bel Edwards said when a business delegation
from his state visited Havana last October.

Follow Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @HeraldMimi

Source: Florida's trade with Cuba adds up to millions of dollars | Miami
Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article133344049.html Continue reading
14ymedio, Miami, 16 February 2017 — US President Donald Trump referred to the Cuban-American community during a press conference on Thursday, stating “Cuba was very good to me” and said that he was referring to the role in the US elections of the “Cuban-American people.” Trump won the Florida vote in last November’s election and … Continue reading "Donald Trump: “Cuba Was Very Good To Me” / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Latest market research report on “Global Lead Mining to 2020” and “Global Chromium Mining to 2020” available with OrbisResearch.com. DALLAS, TEXAS, UNITED STATES, February 17, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- GlobalData’s new report, "Global Lead Mining … Continue reading
The video of Maldenado’s remarks is here. His prepared remarks begin at 01:18:00, and can be read here in English. He then answers questions at 2:18:31. 14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 16 February 2017 — Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, a well-known Cuban graffiti artist and human rights activist, appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, … Continue reading "‘El Sexto’ Appears Before US Senate to Speak of Human Rights / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
Washington, February 16 (RHC)-- Thousands of people rallied across the United States in support of Planned Parenthood, in efforts to counter the planned anti-Planned Parenthood rallies.  Opponents of Planned Parenthood said they organized more than 100 … Continue reading
Washington, February 16 (RHC)-- In the United States, Immigration officials have arrested more than 600 people across the U.S. in the past week.  The arrests in at least 11 states -- including California, New York, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, … Continue reading
Fintech startup Alpaca accelerates its GPU based application development SAN MATEO, CA, UNITED STATES, February 16, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- Alpaca, a San Mateo-based Fintech startup, announced today that they have been accepted as one of the Inception … Continue reading
… Mphoko agreed with the visiting Cuban Vice President Honourable Salvador Valdes … United States sanctions embargo against Cuba and the illegal sanctions against … the first phase of the Cuban revolution,” Ambassador Oliva said. “Once … President Mugabe and the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Ambassador Oliva … Continue reading
Trump, Rodiles and the Cuban Opposition / Juan Orlando Perez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juan Orlando Pérez

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

Source: Trump, Rodiles and the Cuban Opposition / Juan Orlando Perez –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/trump-rodiles-and-the-cuban-opposition-juan-orlando-perez/ Continue reading
Extortions, Kidnappings And Limbo: Daily Life Of Cubans Stranded In
Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 14 February 2017 — Hundreds of Cubans
were stranded in Mexico after the Obama administration ended the
wet-foot/dry-foot policy that favored Cuban's immigration to the United
States, but for the 90 who are detained at the 21st Century Migrant
Station in Tapachula, and for their relatives in the United States, the
American dream has become a nightmare of extortion and disappearances. A
hope against all hope.

"For weeks a person has been calling us to ask for money if we want to
see our families again," says the mother of one of those stranded who
asked not to be identified to protect her son.

The woman, who lives in Miami, recounts how within half an hour of
receiving a call from her son from the Migration Station the phone
started to ring from different numbers in Mexico.

The voice on the other side of the device identified himself as "lawyer
Padilla." She said, "He tried to learn the names of our family members
and told us he could help get them out of there for a sum of money."

To Yuniel, stranded in southern Mexico, those responsible for these
calls are the agents themselves from Mexico's National Institute of
Migration (INM).

"We all know that the migration officials have some way of knowing the
numbers of the people we call in the United States. Somehow, they figure
out the numbers and then take advantage of that to extort the families,"
he says

The telephones set up for international calls at the Migration Station
are public, but at least three relatives of different migrants consulted
by this newspaper affirmed that they had received calls in which people
calling themselves officials asked them for money for the freedom of the
Cubans.

"We are afraid for their fate, they are in the hands of mafiosos. Last
week three Cubans 'disappeared' from the same prison. As of today, we
haven't heard anything from them," says the mother of a Cuban migrant.

An IMF official confirmed to 14ymedio that there are currently 90 Cubans
at the 2st Century Migration Station. Of these, 59 asked for protection
before a judge and 23 asked for refuge from the Mexican authorities. The
remaining eight are awaiting the decision of the Cuban embassy in that
country. If Havana recognizes their citizenship, under migratory
agreements between the two countries they must be deported back to Cuba.

With regards to the absence, since last Wednesday, of three Cubans
(Armando Daniel Tejeda, Daniel Benet Báez and Yosvany Leyva Velázquez)
the official said that it was an escape, which is why they are not
considered missing. So far the relatives of the Cubans do not know the
whereabouts of these migrants.

With regards to the accusations against the INM officials, the
representative of the Mexican government made it clear that "they are
lies." According to her, the immigration agents do not even have guns or
clubs.

"They (the Cubans) are very desperate. We aren't trying to justify
ourselves, but we believe that is the cause. "

"Two of them had sought refuge and one was waiting for the legal
process. Both of them escaped and the corresponding authorities were
given notice."

It was the migrants themselves in the 21st Century center who discovered
that three Cubans were missing and, given the silence of the
authorities, they began a protest that was brutally repressed, according
to those stranded. The police and the Mexican army participated in
putting down the revolt.

"They were beaten, their blankets and mattresses were taken away,
forcing them to sleep in cement bunks. They are being watched and held
as if they were criminals," the migrant's mother told the newspaper.

"My son may disappear, just as those have disappeared," she adds.

Last week a group of eleven Cubans was kidnapped by a criminal gang and
later released under conditions not made clear in Reynosa, northern Mexico.

Corruption prevails in Tapachula, according to the testimony of Yuniel,
one of the stranded, who has been waiting for more than a month for a
safe conduct to continue to the north of Mexico.

"Receiving money from abroad is impossible without mediations," explains
the migrant. If you do not have the corresponding visa, the transfers
made by Western Union carry a charge from locals who are awarded a
commission of 5% for the transaction.

The hope that Trump will reinstate the wet-foot/dry-foot policy or
declare an amnesty for stranded Cubans is increasingly remote, according
to Yuniel, even though that the number of Cubans arriving in Mexico from
Central America "has taken a nosedive."

"All that's left for me is to surrender to the authorities and ask for
political asylum. I have nothing to lose because I have lost
everything," he says.

Some relatives in the United States who have contracted legal services
in Tapachula to avoid the repatriation of the stranded complain of the
slowness of the processes and even of scams.

"The attorney José Roberto Escobar Ross allegedly filed an protection
petition for our relatives not to be repatriated to Cuba, and demanded
the payment of $120. To this day, they are still being detained," says
the girlfriend in Miami of one of those held in Tapachula, Karla Ramírez.

Escobar, via telephone, explained that he has in his hands the 59
protection orders for Cubans and that he is doing his best to get them
released as soon as possible.

"The judge gave Migration three days to solve the case of the Cubans but
until now we see no response, they haven't even been released," he said.

The INM official made clear that there will be no releases until the
legal proceeding has been held and a judge determines the fate of the
Cubans.

"It is not the fault of the INM that they are detained. By law, these
people cannot be released until the trial is held." It costs Mexico to
for these people to be there, to feed them, to care for them and so on."

In the case of Cubans who asked for refuge, the National Commission for
Refugee Assistance is responsible for analyzing their cases.

For Ramírez, the girlfriend of one of the detainees, this is a maneuver:
"They are trying to delay their release as much as possible so that they
have no choice but to return to Cuba or they run out of money. It's a
hell for us Cubans."

Source: Extortions, Kidnappings And Limbo: Daily Life Of Cubans Stranded
In Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/extortions-kidnappings-and-limbo-daily-life-of-cubans-stranded-in-mexico-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
Lack Of Packaging And Containers Reinforces Ingenuity Of Cuba's
Recyclers / EFE, 14ymedio

Plastic bags drying on a clothesline after being washed for reuse. (CC)
EFE (Via 14ymedio), Havana, 9 February 2017 — In Cuba, take-away pizza
is eaten on piece of paper, people go to the market with their own bags,
and rum bottles are reincarnated as sauce containers. It is not that the
country has an admirable environmental awareness, but that there is a
perpetual lack of packaging and containers that sharpens the island
ingenuity.

By necessity, recycling has become a daily habit for Cubans, who never
forget to grab a jaba (bag) when they leave home, and even wash and dry
them to reuse until they are nothing but shreds.

"A Cuban is composed of head, trunk, limbs and jabita," quipped a
comedian in a celebrated monologue that became popular in the Caribbean
country two decades ago.

This pressing demand explains the success of PACGRAF at the
International Fair celebrated this week in Havana "with the aim of
generating new business opportunities and working with the main buyers
and distributors for the production of packaging in Cuba," according to
its organizers.

Nearly 50 companies from eleven countries have attended the event to try
to promote a sector that the Vice Minister of Industries, José Álvarez,
considered during his inauguration as "strategic to guaranteeing
economic development and especially boosting the pharmaceutical,
agro-food and tourism industries."

The lack of packaging and containers is another face of Cuba's daily
shortages, attributable to several factors depending on who is asking:
the official response is the United States trade embargo on the island
is responsible, while ordinary citizens blame the state apparatus for
its lack of foresight.

The Cuban government has invested more than 40 million dollars in
packaging, paper and cardboard, in the last three years, said the
director of Packaging and Containers of the Ministry of Industry, Juana
Iris Herrera, who anticipated a new investment to produce more carbdoard
boxes.

Some packaging and containers are so complicated to get through normal
channels that they have become coveted objects of desire. Among them,
the large cardboard boxes used in international moves, which in Cuba
have the value of a war trophy.

Another example is the square pizza boxes. Some fortunate private
restaurants have found alternative "supply" routes and even have them
customized – and many charge for them at about 50 cents a box – but in
other places the calculations fail and they are suddenly without packaging.

"If there are no boxes, if they want pizza to take away, they have to
bring a plate," explains the waitress of a private pizzeria in the
Havana neighborhood of Miramar.

Cans that drinks come in are cut in half to serve as containers for
flans and other delicacies sold in street stalls, and in the farm
markets rum bottles have a second life as containers for honey or spicy
sauces.

"Cubans are sick of (addicted to) the bags," says Ruben Valladares, a
freelancer who has been working for the last five years at the PACGRAF fair.

The company, which like so many entrepreneurs started as a precarious
and "rustic" home-based business, today supplies several state-owned
companies, numerous private businesses and even has become a peculiar
exponent of the thaw with the US through an alliance with Commonwealth
Packaging Company, a firm from the neighboring country that wanted to
bet on Cuba.

"The first packaging, a new relationship" is the slogan of this joint
venture.

Another company present at the fair is the Spanish Siepla, which sells
machines with technology to make plastic containers such as bottles,
decanters and jars.

"The needs of the country are immense, there is a lot of demand," says
the sales manager of the firm, Josep Puig.

Bottles for soap, deodorant containers or containers for jam and honey
are some of the products that can be made with these machines, a
plethora of containers that will have a long life in Cuba, the country
where nothing is thrown out.

Source: Lack Of Packaging And Containers Reinforces Ingenuity Of Cuba's
Recyclers / EFE, 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/lack-of-packaging-and-containers-reinforces-ingenuity-of-cubas-recyclers-efe-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Agents Seeing an Explosion of Cuba Bookings
HOST AGENCY & CONSORTIA TRAVEL LEADERS GROUP ROBIN AMSTER FEBRUARY
15, 2017

Nearly 22 percent of its leisure-focused travel agents have already
booked clients for Cuba travel in 2017 while more than 59 percent said
clients are interested in going this year, according to a Travel Leaders
Group survey.
Travel Leaders Group noted that its survey results corroborate data from
Cuban officials. Josefina Vidal, Cuba's chief negotiator in talks with
the United States, who said recently that the combined total of visits
by Cuban-Americans and other U.S. travelers last year was 614,433, a 34
percent increase over 2015.
This hike in demand comes despite the continued U.S. government
restrictions limiting approved travel to the island nation via 12
authorized categories, said Travel Leaders Group.
"While there is some uncertainty about the views of the current U.S.
Administration on the future of Cuban relations, the momentum of public
opinion among the American traveling public for unfettered access to
Cuba continues," said Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko.
"Based not only on our survey, but also on anecdotal feedback travelers
are giving to their travel agents, more Americans are taking advantage
of the avenues available to them to legally travel to this once
forbidden island that is less than 100 miles from Key West, Florida," he
said.
"Our travel agent experts are continuing to assist clients who have a
desire to visit Cuba this year by observing the existing law, and they
are preparing travelers for culturally-immersive experiences that these
travelers will remember for a lifetime."
Travel Leaders Group also pointed to statistics from a Pew Research
Center national survey, conducted in December. The survey found that 75
percent of U.S. adults approve of the decision last year to re-establish
U.S. relations with Cuba and nearly as many (73%) favor ending the
long-standing U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.
READ MORE Travel Costs Falling in Cuba
Travel Leaders noted that there is now regularly scheduled air service
to Cuba for the first time in 50 years. Delta Air Lines opened the first
U.S. airline ticket office in Havana last November, American Airlines
will operate 10 daily flights to six Cuban cities this year, and United
Airlines, as well as five other U.S.-based carriers, will have regularly
scheduled flights to Cuba.
Major cruise lines also are sailing to Cuba this year. Royal Caribbean
International and Norwegian Cruise Line have scheduled sailings through
November.
In the Travel Leaders Group survey, 1,097 leisure-focused agents were
asked, "Are clients expressing interest in traveling to Cuba in 2017?"
The responses included:

2017
2016
Yes, we've booked many clients already.
2.1%
3.8%
Yes, we've booked some clients already.
8.7%
8.6%
Yes, we've booked a few clients already.
11.0%
6.5%
Yes, but interest has not yet translated to bookings.
59.2%
57.8%
No
19.0%
23.3%

For clients interested in traveling to Cuba this year, the top five
responses for when they'd want to go were:

1. When they can do it as an independent trip rather than
people-to-people exchange program

2. Right away before Cuba changes dramatically

3. As part of a cruise vacation

4. When the prices decrease

5. When they can enjoy it as a regular beach vacation

The Cuba findings are part of a comprehensive travel trends survey of
nearly 1,700 U.S. based travel agents from Travel Leaders Group's
flagship Travel Leaders brand, All Aboard Travel, Cruise Specialists,
Nexion, Protravel International, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel
Leaders Network, and Tzell Travel Group. It was conducted from Nov. 17
to Dec. 9, 2016.

Source: Agents Seeing an Explosion of Cuba Bookings | TravelPulse -
http://www.travelpulse.com/news/host-agency-and-consortia/agents-seeing-an-explosion-of-cuba-bookings.html Continue reading
Juan Orlando Pérez, 1 February 2017, (re-published in Ivan Garcia’s blog on 7 February 2017) — Antonio Rodiles, one of the Cuban government’s most tireless enemies, or at least one of its most eloquent, has said that the arrival of Donald Trump at the White House is “good news for Cuba.” It is difficult to … Continue reading "Trump, Rodiles and the Cuban Opposition / Juan Orlando Perez" Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 14 February 2017 — Hundreds of Cubans were stranded in Mexico after the Obama administration ended the wet-foot/dry-foot policy that favored Cuban’s immigration to the United States, but for the 90 who are detained at the 21st Century Migrant Station in Tapachula, and for their relatives in the United States, the … Continue reading "Extortions, Kidnappings And Limbo: Daily Life Of Cubans Stranded In Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
Berlin, February 14 (RHC)-- The German tennis association has responded with outrage after the United States Tennis Association made the embarrassing error of playing the Nazi-era version of Germany's national anthem during a Federation Cup tie in … Continue reading
EFE (Via 14ymedio), Havana, 9 February 2017 — In Cuba, take-away pizza is eaten on piece of paper, people go to the market with their own bags, and rum bottles are reincarnated as sauce containers. It is not that the country has an admirable environmental awareness, but that there is a perpetual lack of packaging … Continue reading "Lack Of Packaging And Containers Reinforces Ingenuity Of Cuba’s Recyclers / EFE, 14ymedio" Continue reading
Leading Boston PFS Summit returns with two panel discussions led by experts from Pfizer, Amgen, Nemera, Biogen, and Regeneron. BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES, February 9, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- SMi Group’s 4th Annual PFS East Coast Summit … Continue reading
… cooperation in renewable energy with Cuba as part of its technology … of South Korean companies in Cuba’s energy market, according to … between the United States and Cuba in July the same year … , political, and ideological alliance between Cuba and the North Korean regime … Continue reading
Measuring Hopelessness / Yoani Sanchez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Measuring Hopelessness / Yoani Sanchez – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/measuring-hopelessness-yoani-sanchez/ Continue reading
Informers Approved by the Cuban Government / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 10 February 2017 — Seven years ago, when the roar of the
winds of a hurricane devastated Havana and the water filtered through
the unglazed living room door of Lisvan, a private worker living in an
apartment of blackened walls which urgently needed comprehensive
repairs, his housing conditions did not interest the snitches on the
block where he lives.

"When I began to be successful in my business and I could renovate the
apartment, from doing the electrical system, plumbing, new flooring,
painting the rooms to putting grills on the windows and the balcony, the
complaints began. What is, in any other country, a source of pride that
a citizen can leave his poverty behind and improve his quality of life,
is, in Cuba, something that, for more than a few neighbours, arouses
both resentment and envy so that it leads them to make anonymous
denunciations", says Lisvan.

So many years of social control by the regime has transformed some
Cubans into hung-up people with double standards. "And shameless too,"
adds Lisvan. And he tells me that "two years ago, when I was putting in
a new floor, my wife brought me the ceramic tiles in a truck from her
work, authorized by her boss. But a neighbor, now in a wheelchair and
almost blind, called the DTI to denounce me, accusing me of trafficking
in construction materials."

Luckily, Lisvan had the documents for the tiles, bought in convertible
pesos at a state "hard currency collection store" — as such
establishments are formally called. But the complaint led to them taking
away the car his wife was driving. In the last few days, while he was
having railings put across his balcony, to guard against robberies, a
neighbor called Servilio complained to the Housing Office that he was
altering the façade of the building, and to the electric company for
allegedly using the public electricity supply. Lisvan ended by telling
me that "It all backfired on him, because everything was in order, and
the inspectors involved gave me the phone number of the complainant,
who, being a coward, had done it anonymously."

According to Fernando, a police instructor, anonymous complaints are
common in the investigation department where he works. "Thanks to these
allegations we started to embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars in
the United States.

"People report anything — a party that seems lavish, someone who bought
beef on the black market or a person who drinks beer every day and
doesn't work. It's crazy. Snitching in Cuba is sometimes taken to extremes."

When you ask him what is behind the reports, he avoids the question.

"Because of envy or just a habit of denouncing. These people are almost
always resentful and frustrated and tend to be hard up and short of lots
of things. And not infrequently the complainant also commits illegal
acts," admits the police instructor.

Carlos, a sociologist, believes that large scale reporting, as has
happened for decades in Cuba, is a good subject for specialist study.
"But lately, with widespread apathy because of the inefficiency of the
system, the long drawn-out economic crisis and the lack of economic and
political freedoms, as compared to the 60's, 70's and 80's, informing
has decreased."

And he adds. "It's true that in the beginning the Revolution was the
source of law. But it also smashed to pieces deep-rooted traditions and
social norms. Fidel Castro justified launching the practice of informing
on people by reference to Yankee Imperialism, class enemies, and as a
way of protecting the Revolution."

In Cuba, the CDR (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) are the
basis of collective vigilance in the blocks and neighborhoods of 168
municipalities on the island. Those same committees provide information
to the State Security Department about dissidents, that elevates
unfounded gossip and marital infidelities to the category of 'secret
reports'.

"In the 21st century, when inequalities have increased, the most diehard
Fidelistas, who are still to be found in blocks and neighborhoods,
continue with their complaints. It's a mixture of several things, from
base instincts to failure to adapt to new circumstances. It will take
years for this dreadful habit to disappear," concludes the Havana
sociologist.

Diana, an engineer, recalls the time when the State granted a week's
holiday on the beach, a TV, a fan or a coffee. "The ancient squabbles in
the union meetings to decide who should get the prizes were a theatrical
spectacle. It was embarrassing. Yesterday's shit gave us today's smell."

It is likely that in Cuba, if we bet on democracy and are lucky enough
to choose good rulers, we will make progress in economic terms, and the
country will start to develop and progress.

But the damage caused to Cuban society by informants, as approved by the
olive green autocracy, is anthropological. Recovering a basket of
interpersonal values will take time. Perhaps ten years. Or more.

Translated by GH

Source: Informers Approved by the Cuban Government / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/informers-approved-by-the-cuban-government-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Cubans In Ecuador Ask Ecuador's Next President To End The Medical
Missions / 14ymedio, Diana Ramos and Mario Penton

14ymedio, Diana Ramos and Mario Penton, Quito/Miami, 10 February 2017 —
A group of Cubans in Ecuador united in the Movement X Cuba (MXC)
requested in an open letter to the next present of Ecuador, the end of
the medical missions of the Cuban government in the Andean nation.

Doctor and president of the association, Duniel Medina, signed the
letter that expresses "concern" over the opinions of some of the
presidential candidates that the organization considers "xenophobic and
poorly focused," especially with regards to the presence of Cuban
citizens in the country.

"We believe it is important to release this communication due to the
kinds of statements the candidates are making. Many of them believe that
Cubans come here to take Ecuadorian jobs and they think we are all
employees of the Cuban government," says Medina in statements made to
14ymedio.

Movement for Cuba defines itself as a peaceful organization that seeks
change in Cuba. During its short months of existence has created 3
different cells inside of Cuba. It is fundamentally composed of Cubans
who migrated to Ecuador but who maintain a close relationship with their
country of origin.

The group of Cubans also stays updated on the situation of their
undocumented colleagues in Ecuador and has assisted in several ways the
hundreds of migrants who asked for an airlift that would allow them to
travel safely to Mexico to continue their journey to the United States.

"We are making a call for attention so that they can differentiate
between the Cuban doctors and health professionals who live in Ecuador
and share the same fate as the Ecuadorian people," the note adds.

The MXC, representing Cuban doctors and health professionals who
migrated from Cuba to Ecuador, is expressing its desire to put an end to
the medical agreements signed by President Correa and the Cuban
Government "that undermine the employment opportunities of Ecuadorian
and foreign citizens who live in Ecuador."

Some candidates for presidency of the Republic have emphasized the need
to eliminate contracts with Cuba and give priority to Ecuadorian doctors.

Cynthia Viteri, one of the candidates, has called for the "recovery" of
jobs in public health by Ecuadorians, as has Guillermo Lasso, who in an
interview with the newspaper El Universo indicated that the health
sector's priority is "more non-Cuban Ecuadorian doctors."

The agreement of cooperation with Cuba stipulates that the salary of
Cuban professionals is of 2,700 dollars, of which only 800 dollars ends
up in the hands of the professionals themselves while the rest stays
with the Cuban government.

The Movement condemns this practice: "We advocate that Cuban doctors be
free and can decide their future, their country of residence and have
the freedom necessary to exercise such a worthy profession."

Hundreds of Cuban doctors took advantage of the free visa that Ecuador
provided between 2008 and 2015 to emigrate to that country. Through a
relatively easy process, health professionals achieved the accreditation
of their qualifications and were integrated into the national health system.

According to official data, in 2015 almost 800 foreign doctors were in
Ecuador, the great majority of Cuban nationality.

After the migratory crisis triggered by the thousands of Cubans who were
stranded in Central America in 2015, Ecuador reinstated the visa
requirement for citizens of the island. It is estimated that Ecuador
hosts the third or fourth largest group of Cubans abroad, with a
population of over 40,000 Cubans.

Ecuador is immersed in its electoral campaign. On February 19 the
country will elect a new president and decide whether to continue with
the program of the current president Rafael Correa or to distance itself
from the left.

Source: Cubans In Ecuador Ask Ecuador's Next President To End The
Medical Missions / 14ymedio, Diana Ramos and Mario Penton – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubans-in-ecuador-ask-ecuadors-next-president-to-end-the-medical-missions-14ymedio-diana-ramos-and-mario-penton/ Continue reading
Yoani Sanchez, El Pais, 12 February 2017 — Statistics are deceiving. They only reflect measurable values, tangible realities. International agencies cram us with numbers that measure development, life expectancy or educational attainment, but seldom succeed in grading dissatisfaction, fear, and discouragement. Frequently in their reports they describe a Latin America and its inhabitants encased in a fog of … Continue reading "Measuring Hopelessness / Yoani Sanchez" Continue reading