Human Rights in Cuba

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Daily Archives: April 10, 2013

Urgent: Angel Santiesteban Prats Was Transferred And His Whereabouts are
Unknown / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on April 9, 2013

Today the Human Rights Commission was scheduled to visit La Lima
Penitentiary. Because of this they planned to take Angel Santiesteban to
the Salvador Allende Military Hospital so that he would not have access
to this Commission. At his blunt refusal to enter the hospital they were
going to give him a pass for a few hours to go home. He woke up
expecting to be taken there. But instead he found himself handcuffed and
taken no one knows where. Since this morning we have been waiting in
vain for news. We hope there wasn't an incident when he was transferred
but we don't know any more.

We pray that you spread this news as widely as possible.

9 April 2013 Continue reading
Posted on Monday, 04.08.13

Miami-Cuba seaborne shipping stops after big start
Associated Press

MIAMI -- It was two weeks before Christmas, and Robinson Perez had
bundles of gifts ready for his family in Cuba: A giant plastic Barbie
doll and stuffed animals for his two daughters. For his pregnant sister,
a wooden crib and baby clothes.

Perez could not go to Cuba for the holidays, so he chose the next best
thing: Maritime shipping from Miami to Havana.

The freight service was launched in July by International Port Corp. to
significant fanfare. It was the first direct maritime shipment of
humanitarian goods between Miami and Havana since the U.S. economic
embargo began against Fidel Castro's communist government five decades ago.

Thousands of customers began sending goods like medicine, toiletries and
food at lower cost than by airplane. Others began sending big items that
had been difficult to ship by air: washing machines, refrigerators and
housing construction supplies.

Less than a year later, however, the service has ground to a halt, The
Associated Press has learned. The ship had mechanical problems, the
International Port Corp. was sued for allegedly not paying its bills and
the Cuban government's package delivery company provided slow service.
Customers like Perez were left frustrated as their packages took much
longer than expected to arrive at their Cuban relatives' homes.

Candy canes and cookies that families shipped in December for Christmas
and New Year's Day arrived closer to Valentine's Day.

"They said it would take much less time," Perez said. "But well, they
had to wait."

The roots of the operation developed in in 2009 when President Barack
Obama issued the first of several executive orders expanding travel and
the flow of humanitarian goods between the U.S. and Cuba. Restrictions
on how many times Cuban-Americans could travel to the island were
lifted. The amount of money they could send in remittances was raised.

Larry Nussbaum, president of the International Port Corp., said he saw
it as an opportunity to tap into a growing market.

"It was going to be a tremendous amount of volume, and the current
providers were not organized properly," Nussbaum said.

The time appeared right. People who have arrived recently in the U.S.
from Cuba tend to have strong family ties to the island, are more likely
to send remittances and visit. And while Miami-based companies that sent
packages to Cuba once were threatened or even bombed by anti-Castro
groups, that violence has largely ended.

Cuban-Americans had already been sending parcels to their relatives on
the island, but primarily through often illegal third-country routes and
"mules" - people who travel to the island with packages they then
deliver for a fee.

Nussbaum said he coordinated with the Coast Guard and Cuban authorities
to charter a ship both sides could approve. They chose the Ana Cecilia,
a medium-sized cargo ship painted red, white and blue - the colors of
the U.S. and Cuban flags - owned by Miami Epic Shipping.

International Port Corp. also set up a contract with CubaPACK, Cuba's
government-owned delivery service, to deliver packages in Havana within
a week to 10 days, and to the rest of the island within 15 to 20.

On the ship's inaugural voyage in July, the sailing was not smooth. When
the Ana Cecilia approached Havana's port, it wasn't initially allowed to
dock because some paperwork hadn't been approved, International Port
Corp. spokesman Leonardo Sanchez said. It docked the next morning.

At first, the deliveries arrived within the time CubaPACK had promised.
But then it started to take longer. The weekly departures International
Port had advertised from Miami to Havana were also scaled back to
monthly trips.

Sanchez and Nussbaum said the delays are an infrastructure problem: More
goods have been sent than Cuban authorities are able to quickly process.
The Cubans use paper rather than computers to track and deliver the items.

"We've been frustrated ourselves with the service," Nussbaum said.

The Associated Press followed the Christmas packages Perez sent from
Miami to their arrival and delivery in Havana.

The problems began early, not long after customers began arriving at a
white terminal building to drop off their packages. Four days before the
ship's scheduled departure on Dec. 12, Ramon Mesa, co-owner of Miami
Epic Shipping, emailed Nussbaum demanding $250,679 in back payment for
the chartering of the Ana Cecilia. He gave International Port three days
to pay. If not, he would remove the boat from the dock.

Epic wasn't the only creditor demanding payment. The owner of the dock
and warehouse facility, Marine Shaw Terminal, said the company owed him
$30,000 in rent and has filed a lawsuit as well.

"The owner needed to come up with funds or the vessel wouldn't go," said
Cliff Kornfield, an attorney for Mesa.

International Port officials gave a different explanation for the
delayed departure. They said the Coast Guard had discovered a leak and
the ship couldn't sail. Coast Guard documents show inspectors found
seawater entering the ship in late November.

Mesa confirmed there had been a leak, but said he repaired it within a day.

"I had remedied it," Mesa said. "And if my boat couldn't go I could get
another boat for them to take, if they had paid me in time."

Instead, the International Port opted to send the packages on two cargo
planes. Sanchez said they departed the same day the ship was scheduled
to go out. On the cargo planes, they were able to send large items as well.

In Cuba, Robinson's 20-year-old sister, Maipu Marin Lopez, was first
told the items would arrive by Dec. 29. But that day came and went.

In mid-January, the first of the packages Robinson sent arrived. The
others came in bit by bit. The final item, the frame of a baby crib, did
not arrive until the first week of February - more than a month late,
though still in time for the baby.

"The most important thing is the crib for the baby, and I was upset it
had not arrived," she said.

Back in Miami, the dock where the Ana Cecilia once departed for Havana
is now empty. The building where Robinson sent his packages from is
closed. A sign advertising shipments to Cuba is gone.

Sanchez says they are no longer collecting packages at the terminal
because they have set up new sites around the city.

In fact, court documents show the International Port was served an
eviction complaint in January. Neil Ruben, an attorney for Shaw Marine
Terminal, said International Port voluntarily vacated the property. A
lawsuit claiming the company still owes rent dating back to October is
winding through the courts. So is another filed by Epic Shipping.

Sanchez and Nussbaum said International Port dispute the claims in both
lawsuits, though neither would go into detail.

"I assure you that everything is in order and this will all come out in
the litigation," Nussbaum said.

Families are still sending packages by plane, but the dream of maritime
shipping from Miami to Havana has, at least for the moment, sailed into
thin air.


Associated Press writer Andrea Rodriguez in Havana contributed to this


Follow Christine Armario on Twitter at:

Follow Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter at: Continue reading
Getting Ready for Post-Castro Cuba
Arturo López-Levy
April 10, 2013

In Cuba, a post-Castro era is looming on the horizon. The Obama
administration should muster the political will to prepare the United
States for February 2018, when neither Fidel nor Raúl Castro will remain
at the helm of the Caribbean island.

In 1960, the year Cuba's new first vice president was born, Fidel Castro
had already been ruling Cuba for a year. Neither the Beatles nor the
Rolling Stones had conquered rock-n-roll. Dwight D. Eisenhower led the
United States, becoming the first of eleven U.S. presidents (including
Obama) to apply the failed embargo policy against the Castros and the
political project they represent.

But against the calendar, there are no victories. In 2006, Fidel
Castro's illness forced the first transition in the Cuban leadership
since 1959. Raúl, then age 76, replaced Fidel, who was almost 80.
Despite the fact that it was a succession between brothers of the same
generation, the presidency of Raúl Castro has had important
consequences. Faced with the loss of Fidel's charismatic leadership, the
Cuban Communist Party (PCC) began economic reform and political
liberalization. It was an effort to rebuild their capacity to govern
under the new conditions.

In the last five years, the Cuban government has created an important
institutional foundation for a parallel transition to a mixed economy
(symbolized by the encouragement of non-state-sector firms) and a
post-totalitarian relationship between the state and civil society
(symbolized by relaxed travel restrictions).

With the election of a new Council of State in February, the last phase
of the transition to the post-Castro era began. Raúl Castro was
reelected to the presidency, and for the first time a leader born after
1959, Miguel Díaz-Canel, became his second in command. Although this
gradual transition is unfolding with the same party and president in
power, one can begin to discern a new leadership and changing priorities.

Looking at the Communist Party as a corporation (an analogy that should
not be abused), Díaz-Canel is a manager who has served at various levels
of the production chain. He worked at its foundation, as a university
teacher and youth leader. Later, in the strategic provinces of Villa
Clara and Holguin, he administered the implementation of economic
reforms and directed the opening of the economy to foreign investment
and tourism—all while maintaining party control over both processes.

Díaz-Canel is part of the network of provincial party czars who are
important in the implementation of the proposed changes, particularly
decentralization. Having worked in central and eastern Cuba, the new
first vice president has cordial ties with regional commanders of the
armed forces—the other pillar, along with the Communist Party, of the
current Cuban system. He is a civilian, the first in the line of
succession to have little military experience. But he is steeped in the
networks of power and well versed in carefully managing reform.

Challenges for Cuban Leaders

If Cuba implements the type of mixed economy proposed by the last
Congress of the Communist Party—a new, more vital relationship with its
diaspora and the world—it may also experience a political
transformation. As the economy and society change, the political status
quo cannot hold. The rise of market mechanisms and an autonomous
non-state sector will reinforce the newly open flows of information,
investment and technology. These new sectors will seek representation in
the political arena. Citizens will have greater access to the Internet,
and will be able to associate more horizontally.

For at least the next five years, this does not imply a transition to
multiparty democracy. But economic liberalization will force an
expansion of the current system. Economic and migration opportunities
will channel some of the energy in the direction of new businesses and
travel, but it will not be enough. The party system will be reformed in
order to remain at the helm of social and economic life. Political
liberalization will probably start in the lower rungs of government,
allowing citizens to vent their frustrations at that level. Raúl
Castro's decision to limit leadership positions to two terms, at a time
when the older generation is leaving power by attrition, will result in
a more institutionalized leadership that promotes younger leaders in an
orderly fashion.

Time for Presidential Action

In this new context, the United States should open a path for those
regime voices who have an interest in backing more serious reforms.
Washington should weaken the naysayers within the Cuban elites by
showing what Cuba can gain through opening up. This requires a U.S.
willingness to test Havana with real incentives in ways it has not done
since the Ford and Carter Administrations.

Washington's current strategy—ignoring Raúl Castro's promarket moves and
using USAID regime-change programs to meddle in Cuba's domestic
politics—is yielding diminishing returns. The United States would gain
more by allowing its own business community to trade and invest in the
emerging Cuban non-state sector and beginning a limited engagement with
the new leaders in Havana. A dynamic Cuban market would whet corporate
appetites and put the U.S. embargo against the island in jeopardy. This
vision lines up with the criticism of Cold War-era U.S. Cuba policy
expressed in the past by President Obama and his new secretaries of
state and defense, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel.

The opportunity to redesign U.S. policy towards Cuba will not last
forever. A failure to respond to Raúl Castro's overtures for negotiation
with Washington would be a strategic mistake. Unfortunately, the 1996
Helms-Burton law codified the embargo as a legislative act, limiting
presidential authority to terminate sanctions in response to changing
conditions. But President Obama still can make a significant difference
in bilateral relations if he decided to lead on the issue by using his
prerogative as a diplomat-in-chief.

The president can begin by taking Cuba off the State Department list of
state sponsors of terrorism. It would be a positive gesture towards
Havana and a signal to the world that he meant what he said when he
advertised a new diplomatic approach towards U.S. adversaries. It will
not be a concession to Cuba, since Havana has not been connected to any
terrorist actions for at least the last twenty years. The misuse of the
list to serve the agenda of the pro-embargo lobby undermines its
credibility against real terrorist threats.

Taking Cuba off the State Department terror-sponsor list also will
provide a framework to negotiate the Alan Gross affair. Gross, a USAID
subcontractor, is serving a fifteen-year prison sentence in Havana. He
was arrested by Cuban authorities because of his covert mission
providing satellite access to internet to several Cuban civil-society
groups, circumventing government controls. The Cuban government admits
that Gross was not a spy but found that his actions could make Cuba
vulnerable to cyber warfare by the United States. Gross's activities are
provided for under section 109 of the Helms-Burton law, a program
designed to promote regime change on the island.

Negotiation on the Gross case is held up because of the false premise
that he is a hostage of a terror-sponsoring nation. But the situation
might become manageable if the two countries negotiate an agreement that
could be face-saving for both governments. Such an agreement could be
the first step in a course of engagement and people-to-people contact.
If the United States is to have some influence during the transition to
a post-Castro Cuba, it must start this process today.

Arturo López-Levy is a PhD candidate at the Josef Korbel School of
International Studies at the University of Denver. He is coauthor of the
book Raúl Castro and the New Cuba. Twitter: @turylevy. Continue reading
Oswaldo Payá's fight for a democratic Cuba lives on
By Editorial Board, Wednesday, April 10, 1:45 AM

ACAR WRECK on a road outside of Bayamo, Cuba, last July 22 tragically
took the life of dissident Oswaldo Payá and youth activist Harold
Cepero. The circumstances of their deaths are suspicious and need
investigation. But whoever attempted to kill Mr. Payá could not
extinguish his message. On Tuesday, a forceful exponent of that message,
Mr. Payá's daughter Rosa Maria, brought it to Washington.

The message is that genuine democratic change of the kind Mr. Payá
sought has not yet come to Cuba. Cosmetic "reforms" have been launched,
intended to impress the outside world while preserving the Castro
regime's grip on power. Ms. Payá cautioned that these "false images"
must not be confused with political and economic freedom, which Cubans
do not yet enjoy.

"It would be nice," Ms. Payá declared at a forum of the National
Endowment for Democracy, if people in Cuba could speak freely, travel
without restriction, carry out business with whomever they like and live
free of the fear of arbitrary arrest or violence. But none of these
rights exists. "I'm sorry, but things are not nice right now in my
country," she said, "although a lot of Cubans are working for real
change and this is definitely the nice part."

Indeed, Ms. Payá suggests that Cuba is at an inflection point. Her
father worked hard to prepare the groundwork for a transition to
democracy. Now, with Fidel and Raul Castro in their sunset years, such a
transition is no longer a distant dream. For a decade, Mr. Payá had been
working on a petition demanding political freedoms in Cuba. When he
presented the petition to the National Assembly in 2002, he had 11,020
signatures; now there are more than 25,000. "My father knew he was close
to the moment," she told us during a visit to The Post Tuesday afternoon.

The transition must make democracy "legal, specific and real," she
declared, and not give way to another thinly veiled brand of
authoritarianism. "We don't need another Russia or China," she said.
"Today, my father's voice reminds us that all dictatorships have no
political color — not right or left, they are only dictatorships."

For many Cubans who worked with Mr. Payá, these are dangerous times, as
the government continues to repress alternative voices and harass those
who demand basic rights. There are signs that some people are shedding
their fears, Ms. Payá observed, but it is not because the state has
loosened its grip. Ms. Payá and her family have been targets of death
threats. "We need the international community to pay attention," she
said, not avert its gaze.

For the last few weeks, permitted to travel abroad, Ms. Payá has spoken
out courageously in support of her father's dream of a participatory
democracy in Cuba. She has echoed his oft-expressed wish for
forgiveness, but Cuba's future cannot be built on a falsified past or an
obliterated truth. The first step is to fully and completely investigate
the death of Oswaldo Payá and then to see Cuba toward the new horizon of
freedom Mr. Payá envisioned and his daughter so eloquently describes. Continue reading
Strange Institutions / Fernando Damaso
Posted on April 9, 2013

All professional associations in Cuba – those that claim to represent
attorneys, architects, economists, artists, journalists and
craftspeople, among others, as well as those made up of women, students,
farm workers, laborers and others – which purport to the world to be
NGOs, are in reality governmental organizations. They are organized,
directed, financed and controlled by the state. Rather than defending
the interests of their members, they really serve as straightjackets,
forcing them to behave within established political and ideological
boundaries. Anyone who dares to go beyond or to ignore them in the
belief that he has some degree of independence is immediately called to
account. If this does not achieve the desired result, the person can be
dishonorably expelled from the association, which then makes him into a
social pariah and, if he is a professional, leaves him without the right
to legally practice his profession.

There is a group of people, a majority, who belong to these
associations. As one might expect, they strictly comply with all the
"commandments" in order to be able to work, study, travel, enjoy some
advantages and receive official recognition. Another, less numerous
group attempts to operate on the inside with some degree of independence
by adopting contrary positions - the official one sometimes; more
liberal ones less often – trying "to be on good terms with both God and
the devil." There is also a group of rebels who do not belong to either
of these two. These individuals lack legal support and must act
independently and at their own risk, without the possibility of access
to the governmental platforms.

These organizations do not engage in controversial actions. They are
really peaceful backwaters with the normal rivalries and hindrances
characteristic of each sector. However, when someone – be it either an
individual or a group – dares to act independently and with a certain
degree of bravery by calling something into question, these
organizations – headed by its most orthodox members – become courts of
inquisition, drafting and publishing accords, communiques, declarations
and letters with many "voluntary" signatures. The violator of the
sacrosanct commandments is then incinerated in a bonfire of the most
extreme intolerance. Examples of this practice abound and are quite
well-known in every organization.

In these cases the outrage, which is political, ideological and directed
from above, has nothing to do with the actual feelings of his or her
colleagues. Unfortunately, these attitudes are widespread and the
institutions as such are incapable of defending the interests of their
members. Instead, they serve as prosecutors responding to "the boss's
orders." The consequences are disqualifications, personal insults, acts
of repudiation and other unpleasantries directed from on high at the
allegedly guilty parties, chosen as the propitious victims of the moment
based on the interests of the authorities, who are the ones really in

6 April 2013 Continue reading
Licentiousness of the Press / Miriam Celaya
Posted on April 9, 2013

Preliminary Note to readers: For reasons way beyond my control, I did
not have the chance to update the blog for many days. The
page was hacked twice, and Yoani Sánchez and other friends are still
trying to get it fixed. I am posting a new article, and I hope complete
service will be established soon. Thanks and hugs to all friends.

It's true that in Cuba there is no freedom of the press. In its place,
press licentiousness, as prolific and thorny as the invasive marabou
weed, has developed. It is a peculiar way to "report", and, as crazy as
the results are, (or perhaps because of it), it's very consistent with
the system.

The press is one of the indicators that most markedly evidences signs of
change, a constant that has an influence even in societies such as ours,
where secrecy rules. Some of the readers with sharper memories will
remember that, during the period of Castro I, we experienced an
absolutely triumphant press: all the milestones of the three first
decades of the revolution were positive, crop and livestock production
grew each year, indicators of health, education, sports and culture
marked an unstoppable upward course, the harvests were huge, and so were
all the line-entries that heralded an economic splendor always knocking
at our doors, without ever entering our lives.

Not even the 1990's crisis was able to destroy the vibrant spirit of a
kind of completely alienated optimism. So the press repeated each
inspired and inflamed phrase of the Great Orate, and we didn't have
food, clothing, shoes or fuel… but we did have "dignity". We also had
the celebrated battle for Elián, one of the most resonant Pyrrhic
victories in Cuban history, in which substantial resources were spent
while people went hungry, and a while later we had "Five Heroes"… who,
some day, will "return". Then came the open tribunals each Saturday in
different municipalities throughout Cuba, squandering what we didn't
have, and the absurd Round Tables were instituted. The press had the
mission to inflate the balloons that substantiated the indestructible
success and the indisputable superiority of the tropical socialist
system, despite the collapse of the USSR and the abrupt disappearance of

But it has been under the period of Castro II that licentiousness of the
press has reached its climax, especially in the heat of the "opening"
marked by the so-called government reforms, where the economic
parameters sealed the full apogee of an original way to "report" under
which things are not what they seem, but something completely different.

This explains why, for example, official figures reported a modest GDP
growth at the end of 2012, and, paradoxically, at the barely ending
first trimester in 2013, an expanded meeting of the Council of Ministers
acknowledged hereto unspeakable evils in the Cuban economy: lack of
productivity, inefficiency, defaults, lack of organization and lack of
discipline, among others, that prevented the fulfillment of the plans.
Nobody bothered to explain this strange way of "growing" by being

Indicators of the progress of the harvest and sugar production were
recently published, with very poor results, and, compared with the same
period last year, a decrease in foreign tourist arrivals has been
reported for the month of February, 2013 (full peak of tourist season).
However, the press ensures that the investment plan will continue for
that "priority sector" and that an increase in revenue is expected on
this line-entry of this important economic sector.

The Moa nickel plant ceased production, however, the General-President
insists on "the need to work to guarantee the assured external income,
including those derived from the export of nickel and sugar", although
the country is forced to import sugar just to meet domestic demand. In
his words, "we are moving at a great pace despite the obstacles". With
such news, it seems clear where progress is moving, but there is no
doubt that this informative coven lurching between chaos and optimism is
the mirror image of the national condition.

In short, the press turns out to be more licentious the more
representative of the Castro II "transparency" it is. But there is
nothing to wonder at, according to the dictionary of the Spanish
language, some synonyms of the word "licentiousness" are: impudence,
obscenity, indecency, dishonesty, shamelessness, among others. I guess
that, once the terms are known, nobody will deny that licentiousness of
the press in Cuba is enjoying perfect health.

Translated by Norma Whiting

8 April 2013 Continue reading
Cuban Dissident Elizardo Sanchez to UN Human Rights Council
April 9, 2013

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban dissident Elizardo Sanchez will start a European
tour on April 22 that will include a visit to the UN Human Rights
Council, reports Diario de Cuba.

The president of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation, will be in Geneva, along with exiled activists, to
attend the Council's periodic review of the situation in Cuba, to take
place on May 1.

The dissident's provisional agenda also includes a visit to the European
Parliament in Brussels and meetings in institutions in Spain and Britain. Continue reading
The Fiber Optic Cable is No Longer a Secret / Yusnaby Perez
Posted on April 8, 2013

During the last three years, everything about the submarine fiber optic
cable from Venezuela to Cuba was a state secret, or as we like to call
it: secretismo. You already know, to bring the Internet — information —
to a country can be very dangerous when the dominant method of the
ruling government is disinformation.

At present (as always), we Cubans are prohibited from contracting for
internet services in our homes. ETECSA, the monopoly company in Cuba
responsible for all telecommunications services, only provides
connectivity to foreign diplomats residing in Cuba, and even for them it
is expensive and restricted. For example, right now a resident diplomat
only has the option of contracting for dial-up Internet with a limit of
80 hours per month. The dial-up connection is established by a telephone
call between a modem and a server, which, due to the existing
infrastructure, has a very limited bandwidth (up to 48.0 kbit/s) and is
extremely slow.

Some foreign entities such as companies and embassies have the
opportunity (subject to availability) to contract for ADSL service with
a speed limit of 2Mbits/s. This ranges in price from 12,000 to 24,000
CUCs a month (twelve thousand to twenty thousand — which is slightly
more than that in dollars — I haven't added any extra zeros). In theory,
the increased cost of these services is because the final connection is
via satellite, which has a high cost and low transfer speed.

The fiber optic cable from Venezuela known as ALBA-1 will, in theory,
reduce the costs of Internet and telephone service. But, of course,
having a technology with enough capacity to bring service to the entire
country means they would no longer have excuses to prevent and limit
access to Cubans. Because of this, and only this, they've kept the
technical and functional status of the fiber optic cable "secret," since
it arrived from Venezuela three years ago. A very short time ago an
international news agency reported that they had begun to detect signals
of connectivity from Cuba through the ALBA-1 cable. No longer able to
hide the information, Cuba acknowledged, through an official note in the
newspaper Granma, that they had begun preliminary adjustments to begin
Internet service through the "Bolivarian cable."

Since then, all over Havana we can see ETECSA workers drilling in the
streets and burying cable extensions. The activity started first in the
Miramar and Siboney neighborhoods (you know who lives there). Then they
began to bury it in Old Havana, Central Havana and Vedado.

It's no longer a secret, now we Cubans can see that it already exists,
that the cable is already passing close to many of our homes. When will
we have access to the Internet? When will we have free right to
information? What additional justification will they have to limit our
access to the Internet? Who is benefiting now from the fiber optic cable?

We will continue to follow any movement on the issue. Continue reading
A Dreamed of, Possible and Future Cuba, Laboratorio Casa Cuba Proposal /
Catholic Archdiocese of Havana
Posted on April 8, 2013

Site manager's note: This document/proposal, published by the Catholic
Archdiocese of Havana, is generating discussion among the bloggers and
is posted here for the convenience of our readers.

The following translation is taken from the Havana Times. The document,
in English, can be downloaded here.
A Dreamed of, Possible and Future Cuba

The sovereignty of the country is only the unrestricted exercise of all
the rights of human dignity throughout the territory of our country for
all Cubans.

Cuba is experiencing a new era. This imposes on us the urgency of
ensuring the sovereignty of our country. Concerned about the present and
the future, we wish to make proposals to be studied and debated
publicly, about how a process of economic renovation might develop
alongside a renewal of the Cuban social order.

We in the Laboratorio Casa Cuba*, of dissimilar ideological provenance,
start from a consensus on five pillars that we deem crucial and
indispensable for the present and future of Cuba: Advocate the
realization of human dignity, which is specified by non-violent exercise
of freedom, equality and brotherhood, for the socialization of spiritual
and material wealth to be able to create, for the achievement of full
democracy, for the pursuit of greater stability in this process of
change and solved by the rejection of foreign powers meddling in the
affairs of Cuba.

In proposing (never imposing) a minimal definition of Republic and some
possible tools to achieve it, we don't want to promote private agendas,
but Cubans', with different opinions and beliefs, among all of us to
realize, broaden and deepen these criteria, we aspire to be the basis of
our coexistence in the near future.


A public order with a universe of attitudes, commitments and rules
guaranteed to every human being to enjoy all the capabilities needed to
perform their share of sovereignty. The exercise of citizen sovereignty,
which requires a democratic order must be based on human virtues, as the
principal means mutual support, and the goal of building justice.

Instruments to strengthen the Republic of Cuba today and tomorrow:

I. Ensure the enjoyment of civil, family, political, cultural, social,
labor and economic rights.

II. Implement effective mechanisms through which every citizen can
equally enjoy these rights, and to empower the disadvantaged.

III. To ensure the right to universal information that is free and
diverse, broad and deep, interactive and critical, without censorship or
monopolization. This is especially essential to ensure transparency in
governance and participatory mass access to the Internet.

IV. Ensure the social and political multiplicity of the nation the right
to choose different ways to self-organize in order to promote their
goals, influence opinion and act in society and participate in governance.

V. Allow believers and practitioners of different religions,
spiritualities and worldviews that exist in Cuba to publicly promote
their identities, feel respected, and self-organize into communities
with legal status.

VI. Establish diverse ways to enable citizens to actively monitor
compliance with the Constitution, and the performance of all official

VII. To seek the greatest possible autonomy for local institutions,
understood as community spaces, resources and decision-making
capabilities on these, to exercise the role of solidarity and citizen

VIII. When a problem can be solved at the grassroots level, locally,
community wise or in the workplace, the higher courts should not
intervene in the solution; communities, associations, companies and
groups of workers must be able to freely cooperate with each other to
solve their problems together.

IX. Repeal all rules that establish discrimination between citizens
according to their places of origin or residence, including those that
favor foreigners' over Cubans. Likewise, repeal laws providing the
possibility of criminal sanctions for those who didn't commit criminal
acts (charged with pre-criminal dangerousness: the "dangerousness" and
"pre-criminal security measures").

X. Establish mechanisms of mutual control between the various public
functions. Separate legislative, executive, judicial and electoral
functions and outline the cooperation that should exist between them.

XI. Each taxpayer should be involved in the development and approval of
the use of funds coming into the treasury, and accountability for use in
well-defined social purposes.

XII. Choose any public office representative, through direct elections,
free, secret and periodic and competitive among candidates nominated
directly by citizens.

XIII. Likewise, the above rules should apply to the election of the
highest executive positions of the Republic and of each locality.

XIV. Limit to two periods remaining in the popularly elected executive
positions, and set age limits for such functions as well as determine
the incompatibility of positions to be held by the same person.

XV. Enforce the periodic interactive public accountability of all public

XVI. Ensure the right of the people to revoke all mandates.

XVII. Make full use of the referendum and the plebiscite, in all areas
and dimensions.

XVIII. Effectively ensure the right to work and employment guarantees,
as well as the needed economic freedoms, and make the management of the
economy subject to enforceable social and environmental commitments.

XIX. Keep as law, universal and free access to health care, through
various forms of social organization as well as fair remuneration
according to professional performance.

XX. Ensuring universal and personalized access to a democratic,
humanistic and diverse education, with fair pay for educators and the
active involvement of teachers, students, families and communities in
the management of the school facilities and the definition of curricula
as well as a free and responsible cultural development.

XXI. Academic and university autonomy, with academic freedom and of
research, and an active participation of all stakeholders.

XXII. Ensure effective ways to ensure a balanced participation of the
Cuban diaspora in the country's life.

XXIII. All social activity must comply with the principles of legality,
justice and constitutional supremacy. Constitutional provisions should
be developed and adopted with the participation of the general population.

With this we add our modest effort to the unforgettable efforts of those
who have fought and worked for the triumph of love in our land, a choir
of plural and diverse voices, which we join in a common redemptive password.

Comments, analysis and proposals can be sent to the following email

(*) The Laboratory Casa Cuba is a newly created team for social and
legal research, recently created by Espacio Laical, a publication of the
Roman Catholic archbishopric of Havana. It includes professors and
researchers of diverse ideologies (Catholics, critical Marxists,
republican-socialists and anarchists), whose critical contribution will
attempt to provide tools that can help to continue the dialogue and
consensus building for a Cuba with dignity, solidarity and citizen
participation. Continue reading
The Aging of Cuba and the Fiscal Deficit / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on April 8, 2013

It is extremely worrying that our island is one of the countries with
the oldest populations on the planet. The particular Cuban phenomenon is
due to reasons too well-known, emigration increased while the birth rate
and population growth decreased.

As what is critical rarely leaves time for what is important, it is not
difficult to understand that irresponsible policies or at least
misguided ones, increased pension costs and led to the unstoppable
increase in the Cuban fiscal deficit.

Many will say that it is desirable to change the social system, but in
my opinion it depends on the popular decision. The fact is that the
population is aging, and with regards to labor issues, in Cuba the
concept of the "third age" disappeared.

For the elderly, retiring is a goal; and it is a fiction that a young
man of 20 — which describes so many of those who are now unemployed —
can find work for the time needed to meet the requirements to retire.
The young would have to work more than their entire lives to collect a
pension. Of course, the orphans and disabled are — full stop — even
worse off.

The aging of the population exhausted the limited financial
sustainability of the pension system; its base is completely
insufficient to cover the age span of a retiree.

Therefore, it is more than necessary, it is imperative to reform this
system, increase revenue, expand coverage and ensure sustainability in
the very near future.

We need to forget the past for a while and look towards a common
horizon, abandoning this ridiculous antagonism brought by the struggle
for power, and help the youth of today, so they don't become the
homeless of tomorrow.

In 2005 the Revolutionary government ordered an increase in payments,
even passing new laws in this regard, but the continued devaluation of
the Cuban peso has proportionally reduced the real value of the amount
of money received by a pensioner. So today, they are receiving more, but
it buys far less.

In the present circumstances, to offer certain status to the working
population, the government would have to increase the contribution paid
by workers and, in turn, increase the retirement age to 200 years.
Egregious nonsense. The measures are still notoriously inadequate and

We know well that the country's leadership began its so-called "update
of the socialist model" to rid itself of a hindrance; eliminating state
jobs and laying off staff without vocations, they had no choice to take
refuge in the nascent private section which lacks any pension system.
Office workers were turned into peasants; and bureaucrats into french
fry sellers. But these workers, like every other Cuban, lack confidence
in banks and continue in a limbo of abandonment.

I do not want to talk about the problem without offering my assessment;
I think that, for the State workers, it would be effective to readjust
the subsidy according to personal efficiency, not according to age; a
kind of sustainable work that contributes, taking advantage of the
individual and reassessing the self-worth of those likely to feel valued.

On the other hand, it's urgent to modify the law governing foreign
investment in a way that can provide attractive incentives such as tax
exemptions for a determined period to foreign businesses that organize
reliable retirement plans for those many workers who receive monthly
income and which, for reasons of semantics, instead of being called
entrepreneurs are called "self-employed."

4 April 2013 Continue reading
Zapata lives
Zapata lives
No place to live
No place to live