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14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havna, 28 March 2017 — A pirouette and life is turned upside down. Another and the wheels crash against the pavement leaving a mark in their path.  Cuban women skaters defy gravity and machismo, two forces trying to make them fall. Their dreams are told in the documentary Sisters on Wheels by director Amberly Alene Ellis, … Continue reading "Young Cuban Women Skaterboarders Defy Gravity And Machismo" Continue reading
Construction is in Overdrive on Pool, New Phase CENTRAL ISLIP, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES, March 28, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- The Foxgate at Islip team is busy taking the next steps in the development of the 184-unit private residential community. … Continue reading
Billionaire Mark Cuban said in a recent interview … 's failure in Congress, Cuban told Business Insider that everyone … in the United States?" Cuban said. The businessman continued: … should be a right." Cuban, who has teased in recent … Continue reading
Mark Cuban. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images Billionaire Mark Cuban said in … 's failure in Congress, Cuban told Business Insider that everyone … in the United States?" Cuban said. The businessman continued: … should be a right." Cuban, who has teased in recent … Continue reading
The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-cuban-regime-survives-by-fear-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Iván García, 21 March 2017 — In the slum of Lawton, south of Havana, the need for housing has converted an old collective residence with narrow passageways into a bunkhouse. With dividers made from cardboard or bricks recovered from demolished buildings, “apartments” have appeared where a dozen families reside, living on the razor’s edge. Among … Continue reading "The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 25 March 2017 – Maria, 59, has a daughter in Miami she hasn’t seen for six years. Her visa applications have been denied three times and she promised herself that she would never “step foot in” the US consulate in Havana again. Cuba is the country with the most denials … Continue reading "Cuba Holds World Record For Visa Applications Rejected By The United States" Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba, Mar 27 (acn) Cuba and the United States will … in 1987. According to several Cuban media outlets, this time the … amounts 12. Since its reopening, Cuba hosted the event in 2012 … and a year later the Cubans took revenge. Continue reading
Mantak Chia, Roger Jahnke, Junfeng Li, Lonny Jarrett, Lianjie Zheng, Rengang Wang, Terry Dunn, Solala Towler, Jampa Stewart, Daisy Lee, Paul Hannah, Sifu Mathew LENOX, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES, March 27, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- 17 … Continue reading
… the federal government to have Cuba return a woman convicted in … 1979 and eventually traveled to Cuba. Fidel Castro granted her asylum … after the United States and Cuba restored full diplomatic relations. … any dealings they have with Cuba," Christie said. Published 23 … Continue reading
"What I Want Most Is To Get Back To Volleyball" / Cubanet

I was a volleyball player in the last golden era of the sport in Cuba. I
played alongside the best in the world: Marshal, Dennis, Pimienta,
Diago, Iosvany Hernández. I played on the national team in the 1999
Tournament of the Americas in the United States, and in 2000 I almost
went to Sydney, but right after that, during the best moment of my
career, the team changed coaches and volleyball practically finished for
me. They never called me again for the team and I decided to retire from
the sport (…)

Since then, I've tried a thousand times to get back in. I started
training young boys, and I was even on a sports mission to Portugal, but
I couldn't maintain myself financially with that, and I had no choice
but to start working as a security guard in various nightclubs, like so
many others. (…)

What I want most is to get back to volleyball, at least to train and
prepare the youth, but the way things are now, I believe I'm just going
to have to keep maintaining law and order in the Havana nights.

Translated by Jorge Vásquez, Aliaksandra Rabtsava, Vanessa Parra Henao

Source: "What I Want Most Is To Get Back To Volleyball" / Cubanet –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/what-i-want-most-is-to-get-back-to-volleyball-cubanet/ Continue reading
Cuba's secret negotiator with US was president's son: cardinal
AFP March 24, 2017

Havana (AFP) - Cuban President Raul Castro's son, Alejandro, was the
communist island's envoy for secret negotiations with the United States
that led to the countries' historic rapprochement, a cardinal close to
the talks said.

Speculation had long swirled that Alejandro Castro Espin, the
president's 51-year-old son, headed up the secret talks.

But the confirmation from Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the former archbishop
of Havana, is the most official namedrop to date -- and further boosts
the profile of Castro Espin, who is touted as a possible future
president of Cuba.

Castro Espin was "at the head of the Cuban delegation," Ortega said in a
speech to a conference in the United States that was published in the
latest issue of Cuban Catholic magazine Secular Space (Espacio Laical).

Ortega, who recently stepped down as head of the Cuban Church,
represented the Vatican at the talks, which Pope Francis played a key
part in brokering.

The US delegation was led by Ricardo Zuniga, a top adviser to then US
president Barack Obama.

The negotiations led to the announcement of a rapprochement in December
2014 after more than half a century of Cold War hostility.

Castro Espin, an army colonel, is an international relations expert.

The president's only son, he kept a low profile for years. But he was
present when his father and Obama held their first-ever talks in Panama
in April 2015.

Many observers now tip him to be a major player in the power transition
due next February, when Castro is due to step down.

Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 56, is seen as Castro's heir apparent.
But Castro Espin is increasingly viewed as a president-in-waiting.

Ortega also unveiled another mystery of the US-Cuba talks, saying the
date of the rapprochement announcement -- December 17 -- was chosen
because it is Pope Francis's birthday.

Source: Cuba's secret negotiator with US was president's son: cardinal -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/cubas-secret-negotiator-us-presidents-son-cardinal-212705806.html Continue reading
Change is coming to Cuba, but how quickly and for whom?
By Neal Simpson
The Patriot Ledger

HAVANA - At a small beach town on the Bay of Pigs, 27-year-old Kenny
Bring Mendoza approached to see if we needed a taxi.

We didn't, but Kenny was happy to show off his proficiency in English
and even willing to answer a few of my questions about recent economic
policy changes in Cuba, things as basic as buying cars or renting out
rooms. But Kenny wanted me to know that one of the biggest changes was
that we were talking at all.


"A couple of years ago, I couldn't be sitting here, speaking with you,"
he told me.

The fact that citizens and tourists now mingle more or less freely in
Cuba, an ostensibly socialist country 90 miles off the U.S. coast, is
just one sign that this island nation is increasingly opening itself up
to the world and, in particular, to the U.S., its longtime archenemy.

U.S. airlines now fly direct from New York to Hanava, cruise ships tower
over the city's aging piers and Americans are increasingly easy to find
among the Canadian and European tourists who have been visiting the
island for decades. Travel agents on the South Shore say they're
fielding a growing number of calls from people who want to know how they
can get to Cuba before the rest of the tourists arrive.

"It's still the unknown for people," said Susan Peavey, whose agency has
offices in Marshfield and Harwich Port. "Everybody is really interested."

I was one of those tourists last month, exploring the island nation in
the tradition of a Ledger photojournalist and editor who had visited
every decade or so to try to understand life in a place that was largely
off-limits to Americans.

What I found was a Cuba that looked much the same as it would have in
decades past despite profound economic changes that are lifting the
fortunes of some Cubans while leaving many behind. Cuba's socialist
government, under pressure to spur growth in a stagnant economy still
recovering from the collapse of the Soviet Union more than 25 years ago,
has begun to tear down many of the barriers that have separated Cubans
from the outside world. Residents can now rent out rooms to tourists,
open a limited number of privately owned restaurants, access the
internet and stay at resorts that were previously reserved for
foreigners. From Havana to Playa Girón, there's ample evidence of
President Raul Castro's effort to grow the economy's private sector,
which largely takes the form of self employment, not companies.

But some Cubans I talked with told me that thawing U.S.-Cuba relations,
and the growing number of American tourists visiting the island in the
last two years, has meant more for their personal livelihood than the
loosening of laws on personal property. They told me they'd welcome more
Americans and seemed to harbor no resentment over the Cold War-era
embargo that the U.S. continues to enforce against its Caribbean
neighbor after more than half a century.


"For me," Junior Fuentes Garcia, a 42-year-old Cuban selling books and
watches in Habana Vieja's Plaza De Armas, told me in Spanish, "the
economy is more important."

Cuba opens its doors

Arriving in old Havana at night, the city can look to American eyes like
the set of a post-apocalyptic movie set on a Caribbean island some 50
years after catastrophe cut it off from the rest of civilization. The
streets of Habana Vieja are dimly lit, narrow and filled with people who
are quick to get out of the way whenever a big 1950s Chevy or Ford comes
around a corner. The architecture, hauntingly beautiful but often gutted
and abandoned, recalls a time when Havana was the playground of wealthy
American gangsters and known as the Paris of the Caribbean despite the
extreme poverty and illiteracy most Cubans lived with before the revolution.

Havana by day is a different place, and much more difficult to
understand. Tower cranes rise over government-funded construction
projects along the Paseo de MartÍ while in the adjacent borough of
Habana Centro men labor with 5-gallon buckets and rope to keep up
dilapidated buildings that pre-date the revolution. A fellow traveler
and I walked around a gleaming white hotel that had risen on the site of
a former school building, then toured the nearby Museum of the
Revolution, where the paint was peeling off the terra cotta tiles of
what was once a presidential palace.

And of course, there were the big, beautiful mid-century American cars
that have become inextricably associated with modern-day Cuba even
though they share the country's roads with at least as many newer
Volkswagens, Kias and a variety of makes I had never seen. They are
truly everywhere, though many have been pressed into service as taxis
for tourists.

It's easy to understand why Cubans fortunate enough to have a car would
be tempted to spend their days driving tourists around. Under the Cuban
government's confounding dual-currency system, tourists use one kind of
peso pegged to the American dollar while Cuban citizens mostly use
another kind of peso that's worth closer to 4 cents each. The system,
which is meant to give the government control over American dollars
coming into the country, means that taxi drivers can charge foreigners
rates not far below what they'd pay in the U.S. and make far more than
the average Cuban wage of less than $200 a month, according to a survey
conducted last year by Moscow-based firm Rose Marketing Limited.

I talked with one taxi driver who spoke gleefully about the flood of
Americans he had seen over the last two years and the many more he hoped
were on their way. His mother and sister had moved to the U.S. in recent
years, but he said life in Cuba was too good for him to follow.


Tourism 'brain drain'

Grant Burrier, an assistant professor at Curry College in Milton who has
been visiting Cuba regularly since 2005, told me that the money-making
potential in tourism is actually becoming a problem for the Cuban
government, which has announced but not followed through with plans to
consolidate its two currencies. Burrier said the lure of the tourist
economy has created an internal "brain drain" in Cuba, tempting
engineers and other high-skill workers to leave their government jobs to
seek work in the tourism sector.

In that sense, he said the tourist trade has fueled "severe inequality"
between Cubans who have access to the tourist currency and those who do not.

"Those kinds of issues will be really problematic for the long-term
future of the Cuban economy," he said.

The socialistic ideal of economic equality is clearly far from achieved
in Cuba, but there were no signs of extreme poverty during my brief time
there. Despite its stagnant economy, the Cuban government continues to
provide its citizens with free health care and education as well as
subsidies for food. The country's infant mortality rate is lower than
that of the U.S., and its literacy rate is 99.8 percent, according to
the CIA World Factbook.

But even with all that, it's not clear whether the Cuban government can
maintain the ideals of the revolution as a younger generation comes into
power and gains a better understanding – thanks in part to the internet
– of the lifestyles and consumer goods available outside the confines of
socialism. The median age in Cuba is now 41, according to the CIA World
Factbook, meaning most Cubans were born more than a decade after the
Cuban Revolution and the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion two years
later. The median-aged Cuban was a teenager when the Soviet Union
collapsed and Cuba was left in the lurch.

"That's going to be the key struggle for the revolution going on," said
Burrier, who visited Cuba with 17 Curry students earlier this year.
"Most people you talk to in Cuba, they just want opportunity. They want
economic opportunity, they want economic stability."


American business

Many people in the United States are betting on economic opportunity in
Cuba as well. Last month, a delegation that included U.S. Reps. Jim
McGovern and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts visited Cuba and met with
representatives from Northeastern University and the Massachusetts
Biotechnology Council to discuss opportunities in the agriculture and
health sectors. Former U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, a Quincy Democrat and
longtime advocate for a more open Cuba, is adamant that the island will
soon open its doors wide to American business.

"They obviously have tremendous needs and those need are going to be met
by American capitalism," said Delahunt, whose next trip to Cuba in May
will be aboard a cruise ship. "That's just what's going to happen."

But Delahunt and most Cuba watchers don't expect change to come quickly
to one of the world's last remaining Marxist-Leninist countries. The
country's leaders only need to look to their former ally, Russia, to see
what happens when a country pulls out of a communist economy too quickly.

"I wouldn't be surprised if every year we hear about one or two little
changes," said Javier Corrales, a son of Cuban exiles who teaches
political science at Amherst College, "but they're not interested in
going fast."

Neal Simpson may be reached at nesimpson@ledger.com or follow him on
Twitter @NSimpson_Ledger.

Source: Change is coming to Cuba, but how quickly and for whom? -
http://www.patriotledger.com/news/20170324/change-is-coming-to-cuba-but-how-quickly-and-for-whom Continue reading
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 23 March 2017 — The mobile telephone market is changing at a speed that leaves little time to get used to new models. In Cuba, this dynamism is mostly seen in the informal networks, where the Chinese brand dominates because of its low prices and the preference it receives from the … Continue reading "Chinese Company Huawei Dominates Cuban Cellphone Market" Continue reading
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 17 March 2017 — A year ago the headlines left no doubt: Cuba was Americans’ new destination and that country’s airlines fought for their piece of pie of flights to the island. After the initial enthusiasm, several of these companies have cut back on the frequency of their trips and others … Continue reading "Bubble Bursts for Flights Between Cuba and the United States" Continue reading
I was a volleyball player in the last golden era of the sport in Cuba. I played alongside the best in the world: Marshal, Dennis, Pimienta, Diago, Iosvany Hernández. I played on the national team in the 1999 Tournament of the Americas in the United States, and in 2000 I almost went to Sydney, but … Continue reading "“What I Want Most Is To Get Back To Volleyball” / Cubanet" Continue reading
FIGHTING CUBA'S BOXING BAN
By Emily Rhyne March 23, 2017

In 2016, thirty-six female boxers competed at the Summer Olympics, in
Rio. It was only the second time that women had competed in the sport in
the Olympic Games, but already twenty-five countries, including boxing
powerhouses such as the United States and Russia, were represented. One
country known for its boxing program was absent: Cuba. Though the small
island nation won six medals in boxing during the 2016 Games, the
government bans women from competing in the sport.

So it is heartening to see Luis Pérez, a state-employed boxing coach in
Havana, take on a thirteen-year-old girl named Hatzumy Carmenate as his
student. Carmenate's father was her first coach, but when he moved to
the United States Pérez stepped in to help. "In Cuba, the coaches are
like fathers to the kids," Pérez said. Carmenate hopes one day to
reunite with her father in the United States and continue her training
there.
"Fighting Cuba's Boxing Ban" captures the relationship between a coach
and his unlikely boxer. The film also trains its camera on Havana at a
moment when relations between the United States and Cuba are slowly
improving. For now, Carmenate is the only girl in her boxing school.
But, as Cuba opens up more to outside influence, Pérez hopes that the
ban on female boxing will be lifted.

Source: Fighting Cuba's Boxing Ban - The New Yorker -
http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/fighting-cubas-boxing-ban Continue reading
Mother and son of 2015 machete attack victim receive death threat from
Castro regime agent
"I am obliged to once again denounce the dictatorial regime of the
Castros, this time as a mother and human rights defender." - Sirley
Avila Leon, March 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Background information

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

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

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

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

Video:
https://youtu.be/RP9wl3gEvUk?list=PLrD9-3c-lTSXbdBn4Dck89fuk9HjOBTZk

Source: Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter: Mother and son of 2015
machete attack victim receive death threat from Castro regime agent -
http://cubanexilequarter.blogspot.be/2017/03/mother-and-son-of-2015-machete-attack.html Continue reading
"U.S. human machine interface market is driven by the presence of large number of solution providers and increasing high-end production activities." OCEAN VIEW, DELAWARE, UNITED STATES, March 23, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- Human Machine … Continue reading
Obama's Unquestionable Imprint / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Obama's Unquestionable Imprint / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya –
Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/obamas-unquestionable-imprint-cubanet-miriam-celaya/ Continue reading
The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 21 March 2017 – This Tuesday, the Cuban government
prevented Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White movement, from
traveling outside the country because of an unpaid fine for for an
alleged infraction "against public adornment." Meanwhile, the
authorities accuse her of having thrown "papers in the street," which
the regime opponent clarified to 14ymedio were "leaflets."

Soler took advantage of the action to denounce the disappearance, this
Tuesday, of her husband, the activist Angel Moya. "We consider that he
is 'disappeared' because when he left the house he was being followed,"
she detailed. "Today I am calling him and his phone is shut off or
outside the coverage area."

"This morning I was supposed to travel to the United States, first to
Miami and then to California," said Soler. However, after passing
through the immigration booth and security controls at Jose Marti
International Airport in Havana, she was intercepted by an immigration
official who asked her to accompany him to an office.

The official told Soler that they would not let her board the plane
because she had not paid a fine for "throwing papers into the street."
According to Decree 272, whoever "throws into the public street waste
such as papers, wrappings, food waste, packaging and the like," will
have a fine of 50 pesos and must "pick them up immediately."

"Here, the person who owes the Cuban people freedom is Raul Castro,"
Soler replied to the accusation. She claims that it was sheets with
political slogans. "The fine is from last September, after that I went
to Panama and the United States, so I don't understand this now," the
dissident complains.

Last year, when the Aguilera Police Station informed Soler about the
fine, she signed a document informing her of the contravention with an
ironic "Down you-know-who," and threw it in the agents' faces, telling
them: "I do not accept any inappropriate fines."

Subsequently, Soler was informed that the unpaid fine could be doubled,
and it was suggested that the police could exchange each Cuba peso
(approximately 4 cents US) of the fine for one day in jail or instead
not let her travel on Tuesday.

The activist was planning to meet in California with David Kaye, United
Nations rapporteur for freedom of expression. Instead of Soler, Lady in
White Leticia Ramos will attend the meeting.

"In the report we list all those fines that they assign to us
inappropriately," reflects Soler. "They are illegal and violate the
Republic's penal code," a situation that is complemented by "the
harassment, the threat and violence that is unleashed against our
families, against our children and our husbands to try to get us to stop
our activism."

This month marks a year since the Lady in White was prevented from
attending mass at Santa Rita parish, and also blocked from attending the
Sunday marches on 5th Avenue, a traditional route that goes back to the
origins of the movement after the repressive wave of 2003, known as the
Black Spring.

Source: The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/the-government-prohibits-berta-soler-from-leaving-cuba-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba / 14ymedio,
Zunilda Mata

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 21 March 2017 — Cubans know a lot about
adulterations. For decades they have grappled with the "diversion of
resources" [i.e. stealing] from state stores and the practice of state
employees acquiring products elsewhere at low prices, bringing them into
the stores and selling them at high prices and keeping the profit for
themselves. Hence the scandal of the altered meat that involves two
Brazilian companies has hardly surprised anyone on the Island.

This Monday Brazilian meat products continued to be sold in Cuba's
retail network, where the frozen chicken of the brands Frangosul and
Perdix, from the companies JBS and BRF respectively, continue to be on
sale. According to an investigation by the Federal Police of Brazil,
both these companies adulterated these products.

In the case of chicken, the authorities have warned that it is more of
an economic fraud, consisting of adding water to the product to increase
the weight, without any risks to health.

The results of what was called "Carne Fraca" ("weak meat" in
Portuguese), confirmed the suspicions of those who warned that something
"doesn't smell right" in the world's largest exporter of these products.
Each year Brazil exports beef worth roughly 5.5 billion dollars and
chicken worth roughly 6.5 billion. This business represents 7.2% of
Brazil's Gross Domestic Product.

So far, no Cuban store or market has withdrawn the Brazilian frozen food
products. On the digital sites that offer a wide range of foods that
emigrants abroad can order for their families on the island, Brazilian
beef and chicken remain on sale.

The official media spread the news of the scandal, focusing on the
possible repercussions for President Michel Temer's government. The
Ministry of Public Health did not discuss the issue when asked by 14ymedio.

Cuba imports more than 80% of the food it consumes. For 2017, the bill
for these purchases is expected to exceed $1.75 billion, $82 million
more than the estimate for the previous year.

Each year, more than 120,000 tonnes of chicken meat are bought in the
international market, most of it hindquarters, also called "dark
parts." Alberto Ramírez, president of the Cuban Society of Poultry
Producers (SOCPA), recently confirmed to the official press that
"[domestic] meat production is practically zero."

In 2014, several representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture visited
Brazil to inspect the facilities of the dairy and beef plant managed by
JBS in Mato Grosso do Sul, with a view to importing its products to the
Island. Another 25 facilities approved for trade with Cuba are located
in the states of Tocantins, Rondonia, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul,
Goiás, Mato Grosso and Sao Paulo

The United States and Brazil are the countries supplying the greatest
amount of frozen products to the Cuban market. Faced with the lack of
supply and the lack of variety, chicken has become one of the most
common foods at the table of Cubans. Only the wealthy can afford beef.

"I came to buy a piece of top round steak," said a retired woman at the
butcher's in Plaza de Carlos III on Monday. She said, "it is a luxury
that I can only allow myself from time to time." The meat on offer in
that market comes from Brazil, according to an employee who preferred
anonymity, but who, so far, had received "no order to stop selling it."

On display in the meat case are several packages with prime ground beef,
stew meat, top round and tip steak. No merchandise specifies where it
comes from, but local workers confirm that it has been bought from
Brazil. The customers look longingly at the display; meat remains a
forbidden delicacy for many, even if it is wrapped up in
investigations and fraud.

"Here we work with Brazilian meat," explains one of the waiters at the
restaurant next to the Riviera cinema, formerly El Carmelo, on 23rd
Street. In their menu they offer sirloin, fillet mignon, fried beef
tender and ropa vieja (shredded beef in sauce), this last a very
traditional dish that is in high demand among tourists.

The select El Palco market, whose main customers are diplomats and
foreigners living in Havana, is also "especially stocked with Brazilian
meat," points out one of the local cashiers.

Some 27 people have been arrested in Brazil, and Federal Police
Commissioner Mauricio Moscardi warned of a corruption network inside the
government that allowed adulterated meat to be legalized. That chain of
infractions involved officials of the Brazilian Democratic Movement
Party, to which President Temer belongs.

The main Brazilian meat producers added chemicals to meats that were
"rotten" or unfit for human consumption. An extensive network of bribe
payments purchased approval from the Ministry of Agriculture.

"They used acids and other chemicals, in some cases carcinogenic, to
disguise the physical characteristics of the rotten product and its
smell," Moscardi explained. They treated the meat with vitamin C to give
it a more "appetizing" color, along with levels of preservatives well
above those allowed by health authorities.

Representatives of both companies have denied allegations by police
authorities, but the alarm has spread in the international market and
the companies' stock prices have tumbled sharply.

"BFR ensures the high quality and safety of its products and guarantees
that there is no risk for its consumers," said one of the largest food
companies in the world with more than 30 brands in its portfolio, Sadia,
Perdigão, Qualy, Paty, Dánica, Bocatti or Confidence.

The Chilean Ministry of Agriculture announced, a few hours ago, that it
would accept no more imports from the Brazilian beef market. Minister
Carlos Furche explained that the measure is temporary "until the
Brazilian authorities know exactly what facilities are being
investigated, and of those facilities which have exported to the world
and Chile," he said.

The Chinese authorities have responded unceremoniously. The Government
banned all such imports and prevented meat already shipped from being
unloaded in its ports. Last year the Asian country imported 1.6 billion
dollars from Brazilian meatpackers.

Europe has slowed shipments from JBS and BRF. This week the European
Commissioner for Health Affairs, Vytenis Andriukaitis, will travel to
Brasilia and the agenda revolves around the food scandal.

Cuban customers who are learning about the news coming from Brazil are
beginning to connect the dots. "The chicken no longer came with the
quality of before and had a lot of ice," complains Luisa Cordoves, a
housewife in Central Havana who says that "right now it's better to buy
the chicken boxes that come from United States, because the product
tastes better. "

She believes that the scandal will not dissuade domestic consumers from
acquiring these products. "People have many needs and there is no
choice: you take it or leave it."

Source: Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba /
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata – Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/doubtful-meat-from-brazil-continues-to-be-sold-in-cuba-14ymedio-zunilda-mata/ Continue reading
'When I'm 64': Beatlemania blooms belatedly in Cuba
Carlos BATISTA
AFP March 22, 2017

More
Havana (AFP) - While their American and European peers twisted and
shouted to The Beatles in the 1960s, in Cuba childhood sweethearts
Gisela and Hector kept their Beatlemania a naughty secret.

Now, still Beatles-crazy after all these years, but with the communist
island's Cold War-era censorship of rock music a thing of the past, they
are making up for lost time.

"We are very happy that Cuba is becoming reconciled to the Beatles,"
says Gisela, 64.

She and Hector, 65, have decorated their home with pictures, posters and
souvenirs dedicated to the British band.

Whenever they can, they join crowds of fellow Cubans in their 60s and
70s, singing and dancing at the Yellow Submarine bar -- El Submarino
Amarillo -- in downtown Havana.

"This is not nostalgia," says the artistic director of the club,
journalist Guillermo Vilar, 65.

"This is about them claiming their right to experience what they could
not experience before because of all the contradictions of the time."

- You Can't Do That -

Fidel Castro's revolutionary regime banned songs in English, the
language of its enemy the United States, for fear such music would spawn
ideological deviance.

Gisela Moreno and Hector Ruiz would listen to The Beatles on US radio
stations they captured on short-wave radios.

Records lent by the occasional returning traveler were copied in state
recording studios, with the complicity of staff, onto low-quality metal
discs.

"You put it on the record players we had back then and you just heard
noise with the music in the background," Ruiz recalls.

"It was terrible, but hey, at least it was The Beatles."

At their high school, skinny-leg trousers, miniskirts and long hair were
also banned.

But times have changed. The Yellow Submarine, opened in 2011, is one of
at least six Beatles tribute bars across the island -- all of them run
by the culture ministry.

One of them, in the eastern city of Holguin, is said to be an initiative
of ruling party leader Miguel Diaz-Canel -- widely touted as the
country's possible next president.

- I Should Have Known Better -

On a bench near the Yellow Submarine sits a bronze statue of late Beatle
John Lennon.

Fidel Castro himself inaugurated the statue in 2000. In footage of the
ceremony, the late leader can be heard bewailing the former censorship
of Beatles songs.

"I greatly regret not having met you sooner," Castro told the statue.

The censorship was not his idea, Castro went on: he delegated cultural
policy to underlings while he was busy leading Cuba through the Cold War.

Fidel Castro's death last November marked the end of an era in Cuba. His
brother Raul, in charge now for more than a decade, has been gradually
opening up the economy and foreign relations.

The bronze Lennon has become an attraction for locals and the growing
number of foreign tourists visiting the island.

The statue's spectacles have been stolen several times and a guard has
been appointed to take care of them, getting them out for passers-by
when they want to take photos.

- From Me To You -

Fans trace the rise of Beatlemania in Cuba to 1990, when Vilar organized
a tribute concert to mark the 10th anniversary of Lennon's murder.

For many Cubans, that marked the belated birth of rock on the island --
for the old generation and the new.

At the Yellow Submarine, gentlemen's bellies bulge under black Beatles
t-shirts and grey ponytails, while the ladies show off their miniskirts
and long boots.

On stage, Cuba's top Beatles tribute singer Eddy Escobar, 46, plays the
band's hits for scores of ageing revelers.

This ponytailed rocker was not yet born when The Beatles lit up the
counter-culture movement before they broke up in 1970.

But he discovered the music, like younger Cubans are doing now.

"Good music will always last as long there is someone who somehow
appreciates it, right?" says Escobar.

"The Beatles are here to stay," he says. "I give the bug to anyone I can."

Source: 'When I'm 64': Beatlemania blooms belatedly in Cuba -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/im-64-beatlemania-blooms-belatedly-cuba-155002022.html Continue reading
Rare poll finds Cuban citizens favor better U.S. relations
UPDATED: TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2017, 9:28 P.M.
By Emily Swanson and Michael Weissenstein
Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A rare poll of Cuban public opinion has found that most of
the island's citizens approve of normal relations with the United States
and large majorities want more tourists to visit and the expansion of
private business ownership.

In a poll of 840 people taken in Cuba late last year by the independent
research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, 55 percent said
normal relations with the U.S. would be mostly good for the country.

"I'd love for the two peoples to be even closer," Rebecca Tamayo, an
80-year-old retired museum worker, said Monday in Havana. "If there were
better relations, more products would be entering the country. There'd
be more opportunity to buy things."

Among Cubans ages 18-29, approval of closer relations with the U.S. rose
to 70 percent. An overwhelming 8 of 10 respondents said they believed
tourism to Cuba should be expanded.

President Donald Trump has pledged to reverse former President Barack
Obama's 2 1/2-year-old opening with Cuba, which restored full diplomatic
relations and allowed a dramatic expansion of U.S. travel to the island.
Trump has said little about the matter since taking office, but his
administration says it is conducting a full review of Cuba policy with
an eye toward possible changes.

Critics of Obama's policy hope Trump will reinstate regulations limiting
the ability of Americans to travel to the island. U.S. travel to Cuba
has roughly doubled every year since the declaration of detente in
December 2014. Critics of closer relations argue the added revenue has
funded a repressive single-party system without helping ordinary Cubans.

The reality is more complex. New tourism revenue is being captured by
government-run tourism businesses, often controlled by the military. At
the same time, thousands of new private enterprises, primarily
bed-and-breakfasts and restaurants, are allowing many Cubans to forge
livelihoods independent of the state. Meanwhile, a drop in aid from
Cuba's main patron, Venezuela, helped push the country last year into
its first recession since 1993, after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The poll reflects this complex reality, with Cubans expressing pessimism
about the government's management of the economy while supporting better
ties with the U.S. and hoping for increased privatization.

"Tourism is improving the country's economy, but it's still not enough,
because people aren't seeing a better quality of life," Jorge Beltran, a
66-year-old retired accountant said Monday in Havana.

Forty-six percent of Cubans say the island's economic performance is
poor or very poor, and most said the country's economic fortunes haven't
changed significantly over the past three years. Still, Cubans are
nearly unanimous in saying more tourism would be good for the economy,
and nearly 9 in 10 say it would result in more jobs for local workers.

Sixty-five percent of Cubans said there should be more private business
ownership and 56 percent said they wanted to start their own business
over the next five years.

"It's been demonstrated that the market economy is more efficient than a
centralized economy," Beltran said. "People who've started private
businesses, you can see that they're happier, they have more access to a
lot of things. It's a tremendous benefit for them."

The NORC survery was conducted via in-person interviews of adults across
Cuba in October and November of last year. The survey has a margin of
sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

Seventy-six percent said they had to be careful about expressing
themselves freely. Over half of Cubans said they would move away from
the country if given the chance. Of those, 70 percent said they would
head to the United States, where many respondents said they had relatives.

Nearly half of respondents said they received remittances from family or
friends overseas.

Seventy-seven percent had a positive view of the U.S.

UPDATED: MARCH 21, 2017, 9:28 P.M.

Source: Rare poll finds Cuban citizens favor better U.S. relations | |
The Spokesman-Review -
http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/mar/21/rare-poll-finds-cuban-citizens-favor-better-us-rel/ Continue reading
How the Black Market Keeps Cuba's Private Restaurants in Business
The challenge of running a restaurant "a la izquierda"
by Suzanne Cope Mar 21, 2017, 2:02pm EDT

On a recent January evening, tourists and a few Habaneros sat under a
palm frond canopy sipping rum cocktails, listening to a live band
playing Cuban folk songs — and eating notoriously difficult-to-procure
lobster, a special of the day.

California Cafe, a paladar, or newly legal, privately owned restaurant
in a country where the state has controlled almost all businesses for
the past half century, is owned by a couple who met in San Francisco.
Paver Core Broche is Cuban, Shona Baum is American, and they decided to
return to Havana to open a restaurant in February 2015, not long after
the regulations for private businesses started loosening.

"In some ways it was really easy," Baum says about the process of
opening a paladar in Havana. "You can't even open a coffee cart in San
Francisco without a million permits and tons of money, and here… we
bought the space, and applied for a license, and it didn't take that long."

But in Cuba, most businesses can't simply call up a bulk vendor or
wholesaler purveyor to place a produce order, since most means of
production are controlled by the government. The country uses two
currencies, Cuban convertible pesos (CUCs) and Cuban pesos (CUPs), the
former tied to the U.S. dollar and known as the "tourist currency," the
latter, valued at 1/25th of the CUC, used by the government to pay its
oversized labor force. (Paladares and private businesses might charge in
either.) Running a restaurant can be complicated in the best of
situations, but it's especially challenging in a country where most
aspects of daily life are tightly regulated — and where much of the
economy operates a la izquierda, or "on the left."

As California Cafe grew, both Baum (who works the front of the house)
and Broche (who cooks) had to learn to navigate the labyrinth of
sourcing food and supplies in a place where the state-run corner bodega
might have 100 imported fruit cakes on the shelf but no toilet paper.
Baum says the reality in Cuba is that product availability is sporadic.
"When they have mayonnaise, they have three million [jars of]
mayonnaise, and then it's gone and they have three million of something
else," she says.

To find many necessary items — from condiments to serving plates — one
has to travel around the city visiting various markets. That process can
quickly become time-consuming, and Broche and Baum hired a full-time
person to help with sourcing. They also rent a storeroom to stockpile
enough nonperishables to last a few weeks of service, and they plan
their menu around ingredients that are usually available. The result is
a style they call "Californian-Cuban fusion," with vegetable-heavy
dishes like pork and vegetable "California" skewers.

But the inconsistent availability of products is only one aspect of
sourcing that makes operating a paladar a complicated endeavor in
Havana. The other is the persistence of a la izquierda — the Cuban black
market. There are many ingredients and products needed by restaurants
that are either illegal to buy or else often expensive or scarce, such
as lobster or non-processed cheese. And staples like toilet paper,
vinegar, and beer can also suddenly become hard to find, or "esta
perdido," (literally "it's lost"), Baum says. Numerous restaurant owners
note that if they want to stay in business, they have to buy certain
things a la izquierda.

Alexi, a paladar owner near Cuba's second-largest city, Santiago de
Cuba, worked for many years in the state-owned hotel industry before
opening his own open-air restaurant with tented tables right on the
Caribbean. "You must be enterprising to get all of the things you need
for your restaurant," he says. "Today we have something, but tomorrow it
will be quite difficult to get that same thing … and it is illegal to
buy some things. For example, the government has made all kinds of
seafood illegal to buy. So sometimes I have to buy products other ways."

The Cuban black market works in many ways to circumvent the government's
control of goods. One is the common — and complicated — practice of
state-owned-store employees holding back certain goods to sell a la
izquierda, while accepting pay-offs for other goods — procured illegally
by individuals — to be sold in their shop instead. The government has
strict regulations on the sale of almost every food sourced, from
seafood to coffee to tomatoes, setting the harvest goals and prices for
each farmer or fisherman and prohibiting the sale of excess through
private channels. To make extra money, almost any person within the
supply chain might reserve products to be sold at a price he or she
dictates.

Buying products a la izquierda is so integrated into daily Cuban life
that it often does not look much different than most other transactions
to the average non-Cuban — these sales aren't all happening in dark
alleys with secret handshakes. Rather, there is a complex system of
bribery and separate record-keeping that many employees of both state-
and private-run businesses take part in.

Both Alexi and a former military cook, Marcus, who lives in Santiago de
Cuba, attribute this in part to the government prioritizing state-run
restaurants and hotels when they distribute the best-quality food. "If I
have a good paladar, then that means people are going to eat at my
paladar and they are not going to be a good customer for the
government," Marcus says. "That's [the government's] loss, and they
don't want that." Marcus is currently attending a military cooking
school, but hopes to soon work in a tourist hotel and eventually own his
own restaurant, a dream that wouldn't have been possible just a few
years ago.

Paladares were technically legalized in the 1990s, partially in reaction
to a mass poisoning in an illegal restaurant, when a cook accidentally
added rat poison to the food. However, they were highly regulated, and
it was difficult to obtain their required permits until the 2011
economic reforms under Raúl Castro's leadership. These reforms made
opening paladares much easier — and in 2016, the government announced
plans to ease other private ownership laws as well, paving the way for
individuals to open a variety of private businesses.

These changes, along with the revised laws allowing United States
citizens to more easily travel and send money to the island, have helped
the number of paladares swell. After President Barack Obama restored
diplomatic relations with Cuba in mid-2015, U.S. tourism to the country
hit an all-time high, with 615,000 travelers visiting Cuba from the U.S.
in 2016.

However, the support for this quickly growing class of business has not
been enough to sustain them, particularly as competition increases.
There have been reports of food shortages for locals in part due to the
demand of private restaurants (although some Cubans are equally quick to
blame farmer strikes and government disorganization over the emerging
private sector). Leo, one of the owners of the popular Havana paladar
Havana Blue, has noted the number of paladares that have already come
and gone in his quickly changing city. "There are some that open and
then close," he says. "Not because of lack of demand. It's also bad
management. Many people don't have the foggiest idea because they have
never run a restaurant before."

The government, for its part, has made some effort to support paladares,
at least in gesture. It opened a version of a wholesale market, but
multiple paladar owners question its usefulness. The prices aren't any
cheaper than a retail market, and availability is still often
unpredictable. "People pull up and the beer is gone in two minutes,"
Baum says.

Baum also says that the national bank reached out to small business
owners in the last two years to offer loans. While commonplace in the
United States, this kind of credit is mostly unheard of in Cuba. Yet
when Baum asked about interest rates, the bank associate was vague.
"'Don't worry, we'll give you a good rate!'" was the answer.

Ministry of Agriculture journalist Jose Ignacio Fleitas Adan says the
government is working to do better. "There's an intention, and also
projects and plans, to increase food production and availability," he
says, echoing the official government response. "Es complicado," he adds
with a laugh.

And that seems to be the one truism about food sourcing in Cuba,
particularly when one is running a business. Baum mentions two
restaurants nearby that were shut down recently. "They just
disappeared," she says. "Basically, they were doing illegal things. So
there's a lot of fear around what's going to happen next." She questions
whether more crackdowns are coming for those who buy goods a la izquierda.

What were those shuttered restaurant doing that was more illegal than
what anyone else is doing? Baum pursed her lips. This answer, too, was
complicado. "I spoke with someone who ate there, and they had dried
cranberries on their salad. Which is great, but clearly dried
cranberries aren't available here." She pauses. "What you realize over
time is that there are people who are really well connected, so it's
hard for the regular people like us, and all the other people in our boat."

Still, the opportunities for business owners are lucrative. A Cuban
working in the growing service industry — as a taxi driver or a
restaurant host — can earn exponentially more than the average state
wage of around 20 to 40 CUCs per month. Many educated young Cubans are
thus leaving professions like teaching or medicine to work in the
emerging private sector. When I walked into a new Mediterranean-themed
paladar with Habanero food writer Sisi Colomina, the first question she
asked the host was, "What did you do before?" The answer: psychology.

This wage disparity also makes it easy to understand why so many people
risk buying and selling a la izquierda, or starting their own businesses
in an uncertain market, to supplement their meager income. What
successful paladares demonstrate is that capitalism can work in a
country where almost all aspects of (legal) businesses have being
tightly controlled by the state for more than 50 years.

Yet while many come to the restaurant business for monetary reasons, for
others, opening a paladar is a chance to follow their passion. "It was
always my dream — illegal or legal," Alexi says. "Cooking is an art." He
also called paladars the most popular private businesses in the country
by almost any metric: They're "the most important window for showing the
possibilities to other Cubans."

And while the challenges of food sourcing can make running a private
business in a communist state complicated, Baum does appear to love her
work. We finished our cocktail as she sang along to the band and then
did a sweep of the patio to help her servers deliver food and greet
customers she had met earlier in the week. When she sat back down, she
admitted that the business had a rocky start. But now, she says, she is
"slowly falling in love with Cuba."

Suzanne Cope is the author of Small Batch and an upcoming book on food
and revolution.
Editor: Erin DeJesus

Source: How the Black Market Keeps Cuba's Private Restaurants in
Business - Eater -
http://www.eater.com/2017/3/21/14946146/cuba-paladar-private-restaurant-black-market Continue reading
How Congress Can Send a Strong Message to Cuban Diplomats in DC
Jackson Ventrella / Ana Quintana / @Ana_R_Quintana / March 20, 2017

COMMENTARY BY
Jackson Ventrella
Jackson Ventrella is a member of the Young Leader's Program at The
Heritage Foundation.
Ana Quintana
@Ana_R_Quintana
Ana Quintana is a policy analyst for Latin America and the Western
Hemisphere in The Heritage Foundation's Allison Center for Foreign
Policy Studies.

Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J.,
have reintroduced a bill to rename the street outside the Cuban Embassy
in Washington, D.C., after Oswaldo Payá.

This bill conveys a sense of solidarity with the Cuban people whose
rights have long been abused by their corrupt and evil government.

Human rights violations continue in Cuba, despite what proponents of
President Barack Obama's Cuba policy believe. It has been two years
since the Obama administration attempted to normalize relations with the
Cuban government.

But what has actually changed?

Attempting to normalize relations has only bought tourists a cozy island
getaway and some commodities like cigars and rum to bring back with
them. It has given the Cuban people nothing.

Since 1961, the Cuban government has oppressed and imprisoned dissidents
simply for disagreeing with the regime. Today, this is still the case.
There is no freedom or prosperity in a place like this.

More importantly, there are no protections for even the most basic of
human rights. Any dissent in Cuba is met with imprisonment, violence,
and even death.

Payá was one of those people.

Payá, the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, established
himself as one of the most well-known dissidents in Cuba. Tragically,
his life was cut short before he could see his dream of a freer and
democratic Cuba realized.

In 2012, Payá died in a car accident when his car was run off the road.
His incredible story includes intentionally staying on the island, even
after having the opportunity to leave in 1980 on the Mariel boatlift.

The independent Human Rights Foundation has found the Cuban government
culpable for his death.

Payá committed his life to the promotion of human rights and democracy
in Cuba, and in making that decision, he also made a commitment to stay
in Cuba. Although he will never see the complete fruits of his labor,
the important groundwork that he laid will enable future generations to
secure and protect the human rights of all Cubans.

His daughter, Rosa María Payá, continues his activism efforts in Cuba.
She was recently set to present a human rights award to Luis Almagro,
the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, but the
Cuban government denied entry to him and former heads of state.

The Castro regime simply could not allow an awards ceremony that would
champion and celebrate human rights and democracy to take place.

The Cruz, Rubio, and Menendez bill will serve as a reminder, not only of
Oswaldo Payá's life, but of the purpose of his life and all the things
for which he fought. If the bill passes, Cuban diplomats will be given a
daily reminder of their criminality.

Those who promote human rights and democracy may be persecuted in
Havana, but they are celebrated in the United States. The Castro regime
has a long and consistent history of human rights violations, and even
though other nations, like Venezuela, may imitate it, it will not last.

Payá gave his life to lay a firm and resolute foundation for change. The
base he created will continue to thrive and inspire others to complete
his work.

Source: How Congress Can Send a Strong Message to Cuba -
http://dailysignal.com/2017/03/20/how-congress-can-send-a-strong-message-to-cuban-diplomats-in-dc/ Continue reading
How our experience hosting ETC exchange students changed our hearts and minds PORTLAND, OREGON, UNITED STATES, March 21, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- We are the Marez family - two parents, one dog, and 5 children. We learned about hosting through a friend … Continue reading
… between the United States and Cuba under the Obama administration, researchers … adults and their family members. Cuban officials learned about her work … . During a recent conference in Havana, Aranda and other leading experts … also waiting for clearance from Cuban leaders to conduct trainings and … Continue reading
Nicholas Ginex reaches out to enlighten people with perceptive thoughts on religion, philosophy, God, the universe and politics. FOUNTAIN VALLEY, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES, March 21, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- FOUNTAIN VALLEY, CALIFORNIA, UNITED … Continue reading
“Foil labels market witnessed a significant growth, with increasing demand for attractive packaging.” OCEAN VIEW, DELAWARE, UNITED STATES, March 21, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- Foil labels market witnessed a significant growth, with increasing … Continue reading
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 20 March 2017 — Putting aside the passions of supporters and detractors of the policies drawn up by President Barack Obama for Cuba, there is no doubt that, for better or worse, it set indelible before and after benchmarks in the lives of the Cuban people. The first benchmark was the … Continue reading "Obama’s Unquestionable Imprint / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 21 March 2017 – This Tuesday, the Cuban government prevented Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White movement, from traveling outside the country because of an unpaid fine for for an alleged infraction “against public adornment.” Meanwhile, the authorities accuse her of having thrown “papers in the street,” which the regime opponent … Continue reading "The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba / 14ymedio" Continue reading
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 21 March 2017 — Cubans know a lot about adulterations. For decades they have grappled with the “diversion of resources” [i.e. stealing] from state stores and the practice of state employees acquiring products elsewhere at low prices, bringing them into the stores and selling them at high prices and keeping the profit … Continue reading "Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata" Continue reading
UN Watch testimony at UNHRC interrupted by Cuba, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,
China, Iran, Bangladesh
By UN Watch —— Bio and Archives March 21, 2017

GENEVA— Cuba, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China, Bolivia, UAE, Iran,
Bangladesh, and Venezuela today attempted to silence UN human rights
council testimony by the head of UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights
non-governmental organization, after he criticized or called for the
removal of these countries from the council.

However, Neuer thanked the USA, the UK, Canada, Germany, Netherlands,
and Latvia for successfully defending the right of UN Watch to speak.
Full text of the speech and interruptions below.

UN Human Rights Council, debate under Agenda Item 8, Vienna Declaration
of Human Rights

delivered by Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch
https://youtu.be/CEygFMZdG4Q

Today we ask: Is the world living up to the Vienna Declaration, which
reaffirms basic human rights?

We ask the government of Turkish President Erdogan, if it cares about
human rights, why did they just fire more than one hundred thousand
teachers, university deans, judges, prosecutors, religious figures and
public servants?

We ask Pakistan, when will they release Asia Bibi, the innocent,
Christian mother of five, now on death row on the absurd charge of
blasphemy?

We ask Saudi Arabia, when will you end gender apartheid? When will you
stop oppressing all religious practice that is not Wahhabist Islam? When
will you release Raif Badawi, serving 10 years in prison for the crime
of advocating a free society?

We welcome the Secretary-General's new pledge of UN reform. That is why
today, pursuant to Article 8 of Resolution 60/251, we call for the
complete removal of Saudi Arabia from this Council.

So long as 1.3 billion people are denied their basic freedoms, we call
for the removal of China. So long as human rights are abused by
Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burundi, Congo, Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, and UAE, we
call for their removal.

So long as the Maduro government imprisons democracy leaders like Mayor
Antonio Ledezma of Caracas, and causes its millions of citizens to
scavenge for food, we call for the removal of Venezuela.

So long as the Castro government jails Eduardo Cardet, a prisoner of
conscience, we call for the complete removal of Cuba from this Council.

[Cuba interrupts on a point of order, followed by 8 other countries]

Cuba: We are taking the floor under Article 13 of the UN General
Assembly Rules, Point of Order. We heard the speaker, he has just taken
the floor in this debate and questioned the membership of the Human
Rights Council, particularly our membership but also other countries.
The decision on granting membership is up to the member states of the
United Nations alone, pursuant to which they freely decide and elect who
will be a member. And bear in mind resolution 96/31 of ECOSOC and
resolution 60 of the UNGA, we would ask you to call the speaker to order
and that we should confine our comments to what is on agenda. It's
important that they are called to order, bearing in mind the
prerogatives that NGOs enjoy.

Bangladesh: We also have the same position as Cuba with regard to the
intervention made by the NGO, UN Watch. We note with very high concern
that the language used by this particular organization is not only
unacceptable, it is abhorrent. The basic premise of questioning the
membership of the Human Rights Council with regard to a number of states
is out-hand rejected. We believe that this is a matter of serious
concern, the continued participation of this organization in the
proceedings of this Council is, to our view, not desirable, and we would
ask the Human Rights Council to take a unified view on this matter.

Venezuela: I wanted to support the points of order raised by Cuba and
Bangladesh. My delegation would also like to state in writing its
position. We reject what has been said by this political organization
called UN Watch. They use this session to address political issues which
have nothing to do with promoting human rights. Vice-President, we are
under agenda item 8, the general debate, this is a thematic debate, it
has to do with the Vienna Action Plan. We therefore reject the fact that
this political body violates the spirit of cooperation that needs to
prevail in our work. President, I agree that we need to respect freedom
of expression and freedom to disagree with a country, but at the same
time we demand respect, and we cannot accept offensive terms used
against our country and our government. I would, therefore, president,
ask you to call the speaker to order. Thank you.

Pakistan: We would support the well articulated arguments already given
by Cuba, Bangladesh, Venezuela, and we would also align ourselves with
their viewpoint, that this organization is way out of line, and the
honor and respect of the Council should be always at the top of the
agenda, and to target continuously particular countries by the
organization, which we saw in the last agenda item also, and again in
the last agenda item we had to take the point of order on the same
organization, it is not in line, and we urge the whole Council to take a
unified position on this, and we respectfully request the Vice-President
to take Point of Order on this.

United States: Without addressing the substance of the speaker's
statement, we are of the opinion that what we have heard of the
intervention is indeed addressed to the subject matter at hand before
this council and is within the UN rules and IB package. I believe that
the speaker has already finished speaking as I understood it but if the
speaker has not, we respectfully ask that you rule that the speaker be
allowed to finish his presentation.

China: I support the statement made by Cuba, Bangladesh, Venezuela and
Pakistan. Members of the Human Rights Council were elected by the member
states, and this is an NGO which is making this kind of attack, which is
totally unacceptable, and therefore I would respectfully request the
Vice-President to end the speech that has been made by this NGO. And I
would also call on this NGO to respect the rules of the Council in this
regard.

United Kingdom: NGOs should be allowed to speak openly and freely in
this forum. The NGO should be allowed to conclude their statement,

Netherlands: We highly value that civil society be able to speak. We ask
you to allow the speaker to finish their statement.

Canada: Canada deeply believes that accredited NGOs should be authorized
to take the floor in this council. What we heard from this statement is
relevant to our ongoing discussions.

Saudi Arabia: I won't be long. We support the points of order raised by
Cuba, Bangladesh, and China. Thank you.

Iran: We would like to support the point of order made by our
distinguished Cuban colleagues, followed by Bangladesh and other
distinguished members of the Council. Thank you.

Latvia: It is very important that we allow NGOs to express their views,
even if we may sometimes disagree with what they say. That enriches our
human rights dialogue. It is the better of courtesy to ensure that NGO
statements should not be interrupted. I call on you to allow NGOs to
continue.

Vice-President (Egyptian ambassador Amr Ahmed Ramadan): Actually NGOs
were given the chance to speak, we have been listening to them since
mid-day…

Germany: Like others before us, we would urge upon this council to
listen to the voice of NGOs, even if we do not always agree with what
they say.

Bolivia: Thank you, brother Vice-President. We feel compelled to second
what has been said by Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, etc. We are not
questioning freedom of expression, it is the content of what has been
said which discredits the NGO. We are clear in how this NGO operates.
Thank you.

United Arab Emirates: President, the Emirates would also like to endorse
the point of order raised by Cuba, China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and
others. Thank you.

Vice-President: Distinguished members of this council: we have wasted
more than 10 minutes, we listened to 15 countries whether to allow UN
Watch to continue with this statement. We need all to recognize that we
are short of time in this session. So with that in mind, we need to work
in an efficient manner, to finish the agenda. With that in mind, I will
ask the representative to respect member states, and more importantly to
respect this Council.

UN Watch: Mr. President, we have the right to cite the suspension
provision of this council's own charter. They can silence human rights
defenders at home, but they cannot do so at the United Nations.

UN Watch is a Geneva-based human rights organization founded in 1993 to
monitor UN compliance with the principles of its Charter. It is
accredited as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Special
Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and
as an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).

Source: UN Watch testimony at UNHRC interrupted by Cuba, Pakistan, Saudi
Arabia, China, Iran, Bangladesh -
http://canadafreepress.com/article/un-watch-testimony-at-unhrc-interrupted-by-cuba-pakistan-saudi-arabia-china Continue reading
The future of Cuba is capitalism
By Nicolas Briscoe | 03/20/2017 7:42pm

The greatest blessing of my life has been my Cuban heritage. The warmth,
love and fun that accompany every aspect of Cuban family and culture are
incomparable forces for good in my life. In my hometown of Miami, there
is a neighborhood referred to as "Little Havana," named such because it
was one of the first outposts of Cuban life in the United States
following the Cuban revolution of 1959. Now, however, the neighborhood
serves as much purpose as a little Italy in Rome, or a Chinatown in
Beijing. All of Miami is Little Havana, and we Miamians wouldn't have it
any other way. Miami is a city more alive than any other, as the vibrant
tapestry of Hispanic culture is interwoven in every colada, cortadito,
and café con leche. It is a town that is totally unique and unrivaled.
One might imagine, then, that I have special insight into the suddenly
red-hot issue of Cuban-American diplomacy. Unfortunately, I have little
more insight than any other American watching the news.

What I do possess, however, is a glimpse into pre-revolution Cuban life.
I recently returned from a family reunion back home in Miami (quick tip
from the author: if you are ever extended an invitation to a Cuban
family reunion; GO). The reunion was filled with loud conversation in
Cuban (a separate language from Spanish altogether), laughter, plenty of
flowing alcohol, delicious food and a radiant joy that was likely
unimaginable to much of the family in the throws of the 1959 revolution.
Inevitably, story time began.

The stories of my grandfather always leave me beaming with pride. In his
youth, his story reads like that of Roy Rogers, walking into town with
his spurred boots, guitar and Smith and Wesson six-shooter, ready to
tame the Wild West. Though he passed when I was just six years old, he
remains forever etched in my memory as an amazing man, respected and
adored by all. Using sorcery referred to by some as "Google Maps," we
were able to locate the ranch in Santiago de Cuba where the entire
family lived. Just down the street from the original Bacardí ranch, it
was an enormous piece of land, tended to and cared for by the family. It
was at this moment that the tone began to change. A silence wholly
uncharacteristic of Cubans washed over the room, as those who recognized
the land gazed at the television screen. This was the land they had
lost. This was the land that was taken. The memories come flooding back,
and the jovial mood turns angry as they recall what was, and what should
be still. Inevitably, the suggestion at storming the island with a
single rifle and re-conquering the land is made, an idea that sounds
entirely reasonable with the trusty assistance of enough rum. At once,
however, it is understood that the time to be angry is over, and the
party resumes.

The essence of the Cuban people, wrapped in one rambling anecdote, is
resilience. The resilience to pack up their entire life, get on a plane,
move to a new country, learn a new language, understand a new culture,
live as outcasts and still enjoy life to the absolute fullest. The Cuban
community has since begun to thrive in the United States. Cubans are
influential in business (Roberto Goizuetta, Jorge Perez), entertainment
(Andy Garcia, Pitbull, Gloria Estefan, etc), politics (Marco Rubio, Ted
Cruz, Bob Menendez), diplomacy (Lino Gutierrez, Alabama alumnus), and
the list goes on. The Cuban people thrive no matter where they are, or
in what conditions they find themselves. In Cuba, on an unlivable wage
and with rationing of every human necessity, they display incomparable
resourcefulness and unflappability. They are ready, willing and able to
fight for themselves. They will be ready, willing and able to fight for
their country. They need only a spark.

There is an old story about the Soviet Union involving an ill-fated
advertisement about American poverty. As the story goes, the Soviet
Union was beginning to internally acknowledge that socialism leads to
overwhelming poverty, and decided to rely on their own propaganda rather
than trying to fix the problem. As such, they distributed flyers and ran
advertisements on radio and television of a Great Depression-era family
in a tiny home huddled around a television in the dead of winter,
clearly in the depths of extreme American poverty. The Kremlin was
confident that this would prove that even in the wealthy and
capitalistic glory of the United States, poverty was equally as
prevalent and intolerable. The attempts backfired, however, when the
Soviet citizens began noticing that even in the direst of circumstances,
the Americans could still afford a television, an almost unattainable
luxury in the Soviet Union.

This is what capitalism is capable of. It is capable of lighting a spark
that pushes the people to, for lack of a better phrase, cast off the
chains of tyrannical oppression. Cuba is now nearing a defining moment
in its history. Following the death of Fidel, the last truly visible and
noteworthy revolutionary, there is little to remind younger generations
of his revolution. Raúl Castro never had the popularity or charisma of
his brother, or his associate Che Guevara. As such, his stranglehold and
that of the Castro regime is fraying. He has allowed telephone services
into Cuba. He has allowed limited Internet access. He has greatly
relaxed his grip on all media, even allowing certain publications aside
from the state-censored Granmá. He has even begun to privatize certain
sectors of the economy on a case-by-case basis, namely in the restaurant
and entertainment industry. While he still rules with an iron fist,
imprisoning and very recently murdering dissidents, he is well aware
that a new post-Castro age is coming. His actions are those of a worried
dictator attempting a crash landing rather than a nosedive. In other
words, he is the 21st Century's Gorbachev.

Whether Cuba will fall as the Soviet Union did is difficult to predict.
On one hand, authoritarian socialism is now and will forever be doomed
to fail. On the other, Cuba is a relatively irrelevant state on the
world stage, and lack of international pressure could allow it to
smolder in its current state for decades. The only thing that is
inarguable is that capitalism will pave the way for a new Cuba. Whether
this means lifting the Cuban embargo is up for debate. To lift the
embargo without any form of reparation claims service for those Cubans
exiled for what is now approaching 60 years would be a travesty. But to
condemn the Cuban people to an eternity of socialistic, tyrannical
misery would be a tragedy.

Nicolas Briscoe is a is a senior majoring in history. His column runs
biweekly.

Source: The future of Cuba is capitalism | The Crimson White -
http://www.cw.ua.edu/article/2017/03/the-future-of-cuba-is-capitalism Continue reading
Tourists, private enterprise give Cuba much needed boost
Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 11:30 am
By David Bordewyk

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

Source: Tourists, private enterprise give Cuba much needed boost - Black
Hills Pioneer: Opinion -
http://www.bhpioneer.com/opinion/tourists-private-enterprise-give-cuba-much-needed-boost/article_ffbe4ce2-0d76-11e7-8f17-73c0b08841d7.html Continue reading
Can USC researchers solve an age-old issue in Cuba?
Cubans reach out to a USC expert in social support among low-income
minority populations
BY Eric Lindberg MARCH 21, 2017

Cuba is ahead of the curve in Latin America in terms of its increasingly
aging population. (Photo/Pexels)
A plummeting birthrate and scarcity of resources have left Cuba facing a
demographic dilemma.

Within a few decades, experts predict that more than 40 percent of the
Cuban population will be older than 60, according to a New York Times
story, which noted that young couples are increasingly reluctant to have
children, given the average monthly salary of $20. The resulting strain
on Cuba's health care system, not to mention the growing burden on
families and communities, is daunting.

But thanks to a slight thawing of the icy relationship between the
United States and Cuba under the Obama administration, researchers from
the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work might be able to share
some solutions.

"They are very receptive to our work," said Maria Aranda, an associate
professor who holds a joint appointment with the USC Leonard Davis
School of Gerontology. "They understand the demographic shift and their
need for programs that leverage the health care and social sectors.
Because we have experience working with Spanish-speaking communities and
families, we have the needed expertise to be able to mount these
programs in Cuba."

New models tested
An expert in the interplay among chronic illness, social support and
psychological well-being in low-income minority populations, Aranda has
been testing several new models designed to support older adults and
their family members. Cuban officials learned about her work and reached
out to discuss the potential for collaboration.

During a recent conference in Havana, Aranda and other leading experts
in aging from USC and the University of California, Davis discussed
those evidence-based programs and other models that could be replicated
in Cuba.

"As a result of our participation in this international scientific
meeting, we ignited a tremendous amount of interest in geriatric mental
health and family caregiving," she said. "The Cuban government has asked
about three separate programs I have tested or am testing now."

Those models focus on reducing depression among Spanish-speaking Latinos
with medical conditions, increasing the ability of older Latinos to
manage their health care and chronic diseases and improving the
well-being of family members who provide informal care to a loved one
with an injury, illness or disability.

"They are very interested in the models of intervention we are
developing, especially the more complex self-management care models,"
said Provost Professor William Vega, who also serves as the Cleofas and
Victor Ramirez Professor of Practice, Policy, Research and Advocacy for
the Latino Population and executive director of the USC Edward R. Roybal
Institute on Aging. "On the health side, they are trying to be
progressive and take the best ideas they can get from the developed world."

A unique context
Cuba is ahead of the curve in Latin America in terms of its increasingly
aging population. Many other countries in the region are just starting
to experience the consequences of lower birth rates, whereas these
demographic changes have been accelerating in Cuba for decades now.

Vega attributed the island's unique demographic issues to a lack of
resources linked to both the U.S. embargo and political inflexibility.

"Aging places a greater burden on the health care system and families,"
he said. "In the past, families had to do it all, but they are having a
difficult time because they just don't have the resources and space.
They certainly don't have facilities for aging people."

However, loosening governmental restrictions have led to an influx of
tourists and outside investment, Vega said. If that kind of development
continues, Cuba might have the resources needed to expand social and
health programs in the community.

Two-way street
Cuba is already a leader in Latin America in terms of community-based
medicine, pharmacology and physician training, and the USC team is eager
to point out that any collaboration will be mutually beneficial.

"I'm looking forward to understanding what parts of their social
programs are working well and perhaps that can inform the development
and delivery of social programs for older people here," Aranda said.

"Sharing ideas with us for our low-income communities is critical," Vega
added. "We have no real answers right now. We have a really fragmented
system and nothing coming out of the federal government in terms of
models or financing to deal with this."

To encourage further interaction, Vega and Aranda extended an invitation
to Cuban health officials to attend a conference at USC in September on
aging in the Americas. They are also waiting for clearance from Cuban
leaders to conduct trainings and share materials related to
evidence-based support models for older Latino adults.

Political uncertainty
Looming over these discussions is the unpredictable political atmosphere
in both Cuba and the United States, Vega acknowledged, especially given
the contentious approach of the Trump administration toward Latin
America. However, he expressed hope that the relationship between the
two countries will continue to improve, allowing scientific partnerships
to move forward.

"At this point, it is a question of the stability of the situation and
what kind of aperture we have for continuing to work in Cuba," Vega
said. "This is a pregnant moment right now."

If initial efforts to exchange knowledge are successful, Aranda said she
is also interested in designing a research component to test the
effectiveness of various interventions in Cuba.

"We do understand there should be cultural, linguistic and political
adaptation of these programs," she said. "I'm curious how Cuban culture
can shape and improve these models."

Source: Can USC researchers solve an age-old issue in Cuba? | USC News -
http://news.usc.edu/118273/can-usc-researchers-solve-an-age-old-issue-in-cuba/ Continue reading
Airlines rushed to fly to Cuba. Here's why they've now pulled back.
Mar 20, 2017, 2:02pm EDT
INDUSTRIES & TAGS Travel & Tourism

Multiple commercial airlines in recent days have announced they will
drop their flights to Cuba, a stark reversal from the enthusiasm the
industry displayed when bidding for permission to fly those routes just
last year.

Even airlines that aren't dropping their routes entirely are adjusting
to what they're finding passengers want. Both American Airlines (NASDAQ:
AAL) and JetBlue (NASDAQ: JBLU) have scaled back service from what they
initially offered.

The reductions come as airline executives cite an excess of capacity and
lower sustained demand than expected. So, was the industry wrong to be
so eager to get flights to the island in the first place?

There are multiple theories about how the airline industry ended up in
this spot. One Cuba tour executive suggested to NBC News that it was a
simple matter of lack of data. Tom Popper of Insight Cuba said in that
report, "Not having any historical data for 50-plus years on what
commercial flight capacity and volume would be, everybody wanted to
apply for one of the available routes. Once all the flight routes were
granted they went to market to see what would happen."

Another theory proffered in that report is that even though the number
of Americans visiting Cuba has spiked — a state-run Cuban news source
placed it at 43,200 visitors in January, more than double the count from
a year earlier — that may be in part due to the novelty. There may have
been a good number of people interested in going to Cuba for a first
visit, the theory holds, but not nearly as interested in returning again
and again, NBC News said.

In the end, American tourism to Cuba is in a state of flux, and it's not
just airlines that have to adjust. NBC News pointed out that a relative
lack of hotel rooms on the island for the increased number of visitors
has led to inflated lodging prices. Increased taxi and restaurant prices
have come as well.

There is, however, one segment of the tourism industry that appears well
positioned for continued business with Cuba: cruises. The Miami Herald
reported that about 172,000 people are expected to visit Cuba from the
United States via ship this year.

Unlike airlines and hotels, the Herald reported, cruises are less
exposed to shortcomings with Cuba's infrastructure since their business
is already built around full-service accommodations. To be sure, cruise
lines aren't completely insulated from those concerns, the Herald said,
but for now, they're looking to grow their business to the island.

There is one additional possible complication that could be outside the
airlines' and cruise companies' control. All this tourism to Cuba is
made possible by executive policy changes put in motion by the Obama
administration, and there's no guarantee the Trump administration will
maintain those policies.

As the Herald noted in a separate story, from January, the new
administration has already said it would review the United States' Cuba
policy, and Trump himself has suggested he might end the normalization
process unless the Cuban government gives in to certain demands. That
kind of change would put a major crimp on tourism to Cuba, drastically
affecting business for multiple industries, including airlines and cruises.

David A. Arnott is the National News Desk Editor with The Business Journals.

Source: Airlines rushed to fly to Cuba. Here's why they've now pulled
back. - The Business Journals -
http://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/news/2017/03/20/airlines-rushed-to-fly-to-cuba-heres-why-theyve.html Continue reading
Cuba: Hopes too high, too soon?
PUBLISHED: 03/16/17 05:21 PM EDT. UPDATED: 03/19/17 07:27 AM EDT.

It's been almost a year since President Obama's historic trip to Cuba,
the first American President to visit the Communist island in almost 90
years.

As I look back on the trip I took that week in 2016 to Havana, my hopes
for Cuba turned out to be higher than the reality that followed. After
the splash of publicity that came with the President's visit, a local
Cuba expert told me investment and sales between the United States and
Cuba haven't improved much since the November election. Granted,
President Trump has only been in office three months.

Luis Alcalde, a local attorney who does global business affairs for
Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter said, "A few deals were closed right before
January 20th. Roswell Medical Center in New York signed a deal to bring
a Cuban lung vaccine to U.S. for testing and to do a joint venture in
Cuba for biopharma; Google signed a small deal, but otherwise not much
progress. I believe that there is too much uncertainty as to what the
Trump administration is going to do on Cuba. This uncertainty chills
companies and investors and puts them in a wait and see mode."

The Motley Fool, an on-line Wall Street investment publication says that
six months ago, a group of U.S. airlines were eager to start flights to
Cuba, but that venture is starting to lose its luster. Because of Cuba's
still restricted tourism policies, supply has been bigger than the
demand. So much so that a couple of smaller players, Frontier Airlines
and Silver Airways have decided to pull out of Cuba altogether.

Washington is not much help either. Hard-liners on Capitol Hill and
those who want to end the trade embargo remain in a tug of war over the
future of U.S. relations with the largest island in the Caribbean.
"There are a number of bills that have been introduced in Congress to
end all or parts of the embargo but are not likely to get much traction.
Until that happens, the U.S. airlines continue to take Americans down in
fairly good numbers, but not in the numbers that some had hoped," says
Luis Alcalde.

A trade mission to Cuba is being planned by a group called Engage Cuba.
It's a national coalition of private companies, organizations and local
leaders with a goal of getting the 55-year-old embargo lifted.
The trade mission will focus on agriculture and according to organizers,
there should be a good representation from Ohio agri-business for the
trip planned for July 5-9. Ohio grows in abundance a couple crops that
Cuba can't: Corn and soybeans. Ohio farmers would love nothing more than
to get a foothold in a new market for their products. I'll keep you
posted on its progress.

Source: Cuba: Hopes too high, too soon? | WBNS-10TV Columbus, Ohio |
Columbus News, Weather & Sports -
http://www.10tv.com/article/cuba-hopes-too-high-too-soon Continue reading
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A Year After Obama's Visit, Cubans Feel Disillusioned With His Legacy /
14ymedio, Luz Escobar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: A Year After Obama's Visit, Cubans Feel Disillusioned With His
Legacy / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/a-year-after-obamas-visit-cubans-feel-disillusioned-with-his-legacy-14ymedio-luz-escobar/ Continue reading
Biotech Mission to Cuba
BETC director Kamal Rashid hopes to develop collaborations in
biomanufacturing
March 20, 2017

As the 1950s vintage cars course through city streets seemingly frozen
in time, a vibrant biopharmaceutical sector flourishes in Cuba,
supplying most of the country's essential medicines and exporting
life-saving vaccines to developing countries.

"It was not what I expected to find," says Kamal Rashid, PhD, director
of WPI's Biomanufacturing Education and Training Center, who was part of
a Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) delegation that
traveled to Cuba in February.

The MassBio group, which also included research and business development
leaders from several companies, Harvard University, Massachusetts
College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and Massachusetts Biomedical
Initiatives, joined Bay State congressmen Jim McGovern of Worcester and
Seth Moulton of Salem for the three-day mission.

"With the new openness between the United States and Cuba, we want to
seize the opportunity to explore mutually beneficial collaborations in
both biologics research and biomanufacturing," Rashid says.
"Massachusetts is a world leader in biopharmaceutical development and
manufacturing, so it makes sense for both sides to begin building
relationships. And having the two Congressmen with us was very important
in terms of access and respect from the Cuban leadership. Their presence
elevated our mission."

In addition to his work at WPI, Utah State, and Penn State, Rashid has
led biotechnology research, education, and biomanufacturing workforce
training programs in 15 countries and territories, including multiple
projects in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Based on his
experience, Rashid says Cuba is "the clear biotech leader in Latin America."

"I was quite impressed with the scale of their capabilities and their
research in several programs," he says. "The Cuban government made an
early commitment to investing in biotechnology in the 1980s and they
have followed through, in spite of a very difficult economy and the
impact of the U.S. trade embargo."

BioCubaFarma is the government run umbrella organization for the
industry. It has 31 affiliated entities and 62 production centers. It
has a staff of over 22,000 people and manufactures 525 of the 849 drugs
in Cuba's catalog of essential medicines.

Rashid and the delegation met with BioCubaFarma leaders and visited
research scientists at Cuba's Center for Genetic Engineering and
Biotechnology. That center has developed 21 products, including cancer
immunotherapies, a hepatitis B vaccine, and therapies for macular
degeneration.

Rashid and colleagues also met with scientists and leaders at Cuba's
Institute of Tropical Medicine "Pedro Kouri" (named for its founder),
which has operated continuously since 1937. The institute houses a World
Health Organization (WHO) and Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO)
collaborative center for the study of viral diseases, with a current
focus on dengue fever, Zika, and measles.

Rashid says he saw strengths in vaccines, cancer therapies. and
medicinal plants that U.S.-based companies could help advance to larger
scale clinical trials. What the Cubans need are partnerships and access
to U.S./Western research funding, technology, and investments in
production capabilities, he notes.

"It was a first step and I believe we started some important
conversations," Rashid says. "The next step is for a group of Cuban
scientists and biotech leaders to travel here to Massachusetts. I hope
that will happen within the year."

- By Michael Cohen

Source: Biotech Mission to Cuba | News | WPI -
https://www.wpi.edu/news/biotech-mission-cuba Continue reading
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