Human Rights Cuba Info about Human Rights in Cuba Mon, 17 Jul 2017 15:30:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Mistakes of Raúl Castro Mon, 17 Jul 2017 15:08:36 +0000 The Mistakes of Raúl Castro

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 July 2017 – In his most recent
public speech before Parliament, General-President Raul Castro offered a
self-criticism about “political deviations” under which the private
sector and cooperatives are governed. “Mistakes are mistakes, and they
are mistakes… they are my mistakes in the first place, because I am a
part of this decision,” he emphasized.

In the list of mistakes he didn’t mention, he should have put in first
place the absence of a wholesale market to serve these forms of economic
management. It that option existed, honest entrepreneurs wouldn’t have
to turn to the diversion of state resources to get raw materials and
equipment to allow them to produce goods and services in a profitable way.

The greatest advance in this direction has been opening shopping centers
were goods are sold “wholesale,” meaning in large volume sacks or boxes,
but with the retail price per unit unchanged.

If, in addition, self-employed workers were allowed to legally import
and export commercially, with the required customs facilities, then
these forms of management would be on an equal footing with the state
companies, and be able to perform efficiently.

The underreporting of income to evade taxes is a problem that exists in
most countries where citizens must pay tribute to the state treasury. As
a rule, evasion of these payments is seen as a dishonest act where taxes
are fair, and as an act of self-defense where the state tries to suck
the blood out of entrepreneurs.

When governments have the vocation to grow the private sector, they
reduce taxes, whose only role is to redistribute wealth and increase the
financial capacity for social spending, but not to act as a drag to
reduce individuals’ ability to grow and prosper.

Raúl Castro’s most profound mistake, when he decided to expand
self-employment and the experiment of non-agricultural cooperatives, has
been to do so with the purpose of depriving the state of “non-strategic
activities, to generate jobs, deploy initiatives and contribute to the
efficiency of the national economy in the interest of the development of
our socialism.”

This opportunistic vision, of using an element alien to the economic
model as the fuel to advance it, generates insurmountable
contradictions. An entrepreneur who starts a business is interested in
increasing his profits (according to Karl Marx) and growth. He does not
care that hiring workers will reduce unemployment and that their
particular efficiency will have repercussions on the country’s
economy. Much less, that his good performance contributes to perfecting
a system that takes advantage of his success in a circumstantial way.

The entrepreneur dreams that in his country there are laws that protect
his freedom to do business, that his money is safe in the banks, and
that he has the right to import and export, to receive investments, to
open branches, to patent innovations without fear of unappealable
seizures or sudden changes in the rules of the game. Without fearing a
report will arrive on the president’s desk detailing how many times he
has traveled abroad.

The entrepreneur would also like to be able to choose as a member of
parliament someone proposing such laws and defending the interests of
the private sector, which he does not see as a necessary evil, but as
the main engine to advance the country. Not understanding this is Raul
Castro’s principal mistake.

Source: The Mistakes of Raúl Castro – Translating Cuba –

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Average Wages Rise but Nobody in Cuba Lives on Their Salary Mon, 17 Jul 2017 15:07:34 +0000 Average Wages Rise but Nobody in Cuba Lives on Their Salary

14ymedio, Mario Penton and Luz Escobar, Miami and Havana, 14 July 2017 —
Ileana Sánchez is anxiously rummaging through her tattered wallet,
looking for some bills to buy a toy slate for her seven-year-old
granddaughter who dreams of becoming a teacher. She has had to save for
months to get the 20 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos, roughly $20 US) that
the gift costs, since her monthly salary as a state inspector is only
315 CUP (Cuban pesos), about 12 dollars.

At the end of June, the National Bureau of Statistics and Information
(ONEI) reported that the average salary at national level reached 740
CUP per month, slightly more than 29 CUC. However, the increase in the
average salary does not represent a real improvement in the living
conditions of the worker, who continues to be able to access many goods
and services only through remittances sent from family abroad, savings
and withdrawals.

“I do not know who makes that much money, nor what they base these
figures on, because not even with the wages my husband earns working in
food service for 240 CUP a month, along with my wages, do we get that
much,” says Sanchez.

The ONEI explains that the average monthly salary is “the average amount
of direct wages earned by a worker in a month.” The calculation excludes
earning in CUC. However, the average salary is inflated by the increases
in “strategic” sectors, such as has happened in healthcare, where the
pay has been more than doubled, while in other areas of the economy
wages have remained practically unchanged for over a decade.

“If you buy food you can not buy clothes, if you buy clothes you can not
eat, we live every day thinking about how to come up with ways survive,”
she says in anguish.

Most Cubans do not support themselves on what they earn in jobs working
for the state, which employs 80% of the country’s workforce.

President Raúl Castro himself acknowledged that wages “do not satisfy
all the needs of the worker and his family” and, in one of his most
critical speeches about the national reality in 2013, he said that “a
part of society” had become accustomed to stealing from the state.

Sanchez, on the other hand, justifies the thefts and believes that the
“those who live better” are those who have access to dollars or those
who receive remittances. “Anyone who doesn’t have a family member abroad
or is a leader, is out of luck,” she says.

According to the economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago, when speaking of an
increase in the average wage, a distinction must be made between the
nominal wage, that is, the amount of money people receive, and the real
wage, adjusted for inflation.

A recent study published by the academic shows that although the nominal
wage has grown steadily in recent years, the real wage of a Cuban is 63%
lower than it was in 1989, when Cuba was subsidized by the Soviet Union
and the government had various social protection programs. At present,
the entire month’s salary of a worker is only enough to buy 10.3 whole
chickens or 7.6 tanks of liquefied gas.

Among retirees and pensioners, the situation is worse. The elderly can
barely buy 16% of what a pension benefit would buy before the most
difficult years of the so-called Special Period – the years of economic
crisis after the fall of the Soviet Union – according to Mesa-Lago.

Or by another measure, spending an entire month’s salary a worker can
only afford 19 hours of internet connection in the Wi-Fi zones enabled
by the state telecommunications monopoly, Etecsa, or 84.5 minutes of
local calls through cell phones.

To buy a two-room apartment in a building built in 1936 in the central
and coveted Havana neighborhood of Vedado a worker would need to save
their entire salary for 98 years, while a Soviet-made Lada car from the
time of Brezhnev would cost the equivalent of 52 years of work.

However, the island’s real estate market has grown in recent years at
the hands of private sector workers who accumulate hard currency, or by
investments made by the Cuban diaspora. In remittances alone, more than
three billion dollars arrives in Cuba every year.

According to Ileana Sánchez, before this panorama many people look for
work in the areas related to state food services or administration where
they can steal from the state, or jobs that provide contact with
international tourists such as in the hotels.

Other coveted jobs in the private sphere are the paladares – private
restaurants – and renting rooms and homes to tourists where you can get
tips. The “search” (as the theft is called) has become a more powerful
incentive to accept a job than the salary itself.

Although, according to the document published by the ONEI, workers in
the tourism and defense sector earn 556 and 510 pesos on average, many
of them receive as a bonus a certain amount of CUC monthly that is not
reflected in the statistics, and they also have access to more expensive
food and electrical appliances than does the rest of the population.

Among the best paid jobs in CUP, in order of income, are those in the
sugar industry, with 1,246 CUP on a monthly basis, and in agriculture
with 1,218. Among the worst paid jobs according to the ONEI are those
working in education, with 533 CUP, and in culture with 511.

For Miguel Roque, 48, a native of Guantánamo, low wages in the eastern
part of the country are driving migration to other provinces. He has
lived for 12 years in the Nuclear City, just a few kilometers from
Juraguá, in the province of Cienfuegos, where the Soviet Union began to
build a nuclear plant that was never finished.

“The East is another world. If you work here, imagine yourself there. A
place stopped in time,” he explains. Roque works as a bricklayer in
Cienfuegos although he aspires to emigrate to Havana in the coming
months, where “work abounds and more things can be achieved.”

The provinces where average wages are highest, according to the ONEI,
are Ciego de Avila (816 CUP), Villa Clara (808 CUP) and Matanzas (806
CUP), while the lowest paid are Guantanamo (633 CUP) and Isla de la
Juventud (655 CUP).

“Salary increases in the east of the country are not enough to fill the
gaps with the eastern and central provinces,” explains Cuban sociologist
Elaine Acosta, who believes that cuts in the social services budgets are
aggravating the inequalities that result from the wage differences.

“It is no coincidence that the eastern provinces have the lowest figures
on the Human Development Index,” he asserts.

Source: Average Wages Rise but Nobody in Cuba Lives on Their Salary –
Translating Cuba –

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Un ‘Google cubano’ que responde a intereses del Gobierno Mon, 17 Jul 2017 14:13:44 +0000 Un ‘Google cubano’ que responde a intereses del Gobierno
El buscador C.U.B.A. sigue sin ganar popularidad
Lunes, julio 17, 2017 | Eliseo Matos

LA HABANA, Cuba.- El buscador de contenidos C.U.B.A , una especie de
Google nacional para acceder a las publicaciones de la intranet en la
Isla, es manipulado por las autoridades cubanas de acuerdo a sus
intereses políticos.

C.U.B.A (Contenidos Unificados para Búsqueda Avanzada) surgió en julio
del 2015 con el objetivo de que quienes no tienen acceso a Internet
pudieran consultar las publicaciones y digitales bajo el dominio *.cu.

Sin embargo, pese a que los desarrolladores del sitio aseguran que “el
usuario puede tener una visión más amplia acerca de un mismo tema al
contar con varias fuentes de información y diferentes materiales de
consulta”, la realidad muestra una versión parcializada de toda historia.

Al ingresar en el buscador, y poner términos como Fidel Castro,
socialismo, o revolución, todos los resultados llevan a enlaces de
páginas en las que se defiende ciegamente al régimen castrista.

En cambio, al colocar los términos Estados Unidos, cubanoamericanos y
otros semejantes, el buscador lleva al usuario a enlaces en los que se
habla peyorativamente de entidades norteamericanas y de opositores cubanos.

¿Está C.U.B.A a la altura de ser un Google cubano?

Según Lázaro Marimón, quien a menudo se conecta en un Joven Club de
Computación para navegar en Internet, “este buscador está muy limitado
pues siempre lleva a los mismos sitios nacionales, mientras que con
Google, Yahoo o Bing las posibilidades de encontrar mayor y mejor
información son más amplias”.

La poca divulgación, aceptación o uso por parte de los usuarios de este
y otros proyectos se debe a que los mismos constituyen malas copias de
plataformas internacionales ya existentes.

Un ingeniero y profesor de la Universidad de Ciencias Informáticas
(UCI), cuya identidad solicitó dejásemos en el anonimato, explicó a este
medio que “es sumamente difícil adaptar a las personas al uso de
plataformas como estas pues ya conocen otras más eficientes y atractivas
en la Internet”.

Agrega que la ventaja de C.U.B.A está en el heho de que agrupa todos los
contenidos nacionales, pero que sigue siendo una copia bastante poco
atractiva. El informático de 28 años agrega que las copias forzadas no
perduran y que así como La Tendedera es una imitación de Facebook,
Reflejos es una copia de WordPress y La Mochila una semejanza del
paquete, este buscador nacional viene a ser un intento fracasado de
Google que pasará sin luces ni sombras”.

Concluye argumentando que dichas imitaciones son un intento desesperado
del gobierno cubano por justificar la falta de acceso de Internet en la
Isla con “supuestas alternativas”, así como para controlar más la
información a la que los usuarios acceden.

Source: Un ‘Google cubano’ que responde a intereses del Gobierno
CubanetCubanet –

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Discriminatory prices: how much do things cost? Mon, 17 Jul 2017 13:42:16 +0000 Discriminatory prices: how much do things cost?
FERNANDO DÁMASO | La Habana | 17 de Julio de 2017 – 12:05 CEST.

The establishment of Cuba’s two different currencies (CUC and CUP), and
their different applications (1×24, 1×10, 1×2 and 1×1), according to the
Government’s convenience, besides sowing economic chaos, also features
an immoral component for those affected by it.

Setting aside the unfair and all too well known problem of being paid
wages in CUP and having to make purchases in CUC, as well as the
exorbitant prices of products, there are other no less arbitrary
manifestations, such as the 12.5% ??(10 in taxes and 2.5 for the
procedure) subtracted from every dollar when exchanged for CUC.

A Cuban citizen residing abroad must pay for his passport at a price
four to five times greater than that paid by a resident on the island,
which is 100 CUC, and must renew it every two years at the price of 20
CUC. That is, a passport, which is valid for only six years, actually
costs him 140 CUC.

The resident abroad, after adding up the initial price and the costs of
renewals, must pay much more. Moreover, those visiting the country must
pay for everything in CUC starting right at the airport – perhaps as a
subtle form of punishment for residing outside it, and as an indirect
recognition that those living abroad can afford it, as they enjoy better
economic conditions than in Cuba.

Visiting a museum has one price, in CUP, for Cubans, and the same
figure, but in CUC, for foreigners and Cubans living abroad. The Museum
of the Revolution, for example, costs Cubans 8 CUP, but 8 CUC (192 CUP)
for foreigners and Cubans living abroad; attending the 9:00 PM cannon
ceremony at the fortress of La Cabaña costs the same as the entrance to
the aforecited museum; entrance to the National Aquarium costs 10 CUP
and 10 CUC (240 CUP), in each case, while access to the Havana Zoo costs
2 CUP and 2 CUC (48 CUP), for the two respective groups.

These discriminatory prices also apply at many other cultural, musical,
and athletic facilities, and more. Foreigners are provided medical care
at clinics and hospitals that charge them in CUC. The most extreme
example of this occurs when, at a low-price, run-down, state-run
gastronomic establishment, the foreigner or Cuban resident living abroad
is asked to pay 2 CUC (48 CUP) for a simple glass of cola, which is sold
to a Cuban resident for 2 CUP.

Even at the Cementerio de Colón (Columbus Cemetery), access to which was
previously free for visitors, foreigners are now charged 5 CUC, even if
they do not form part of a group led by a tour guide. To ensure this
they are only allowed to enter through the main door on the Calle
Zapata, and they are barred access through any of the other three doors.

Foreigners, in addition to this monetary discrimination, face both
institutional and private tourist harassment, in the form of roaming
musicians, flower sellers, costumed characters; illegal vendors of
cigarettes, medicines and rum; managers of rooms, restaurants and
paladares; and even female and male prostitutes, who descend on them
like a swarm of flies.

There is certainly nothing wrong with charging for entrance to certain
sites of interest, in order to cover the costs of their maintenance, as
the gratuity policy, erroneously applied for years, proved a failure.
But equal prices must be applied, as is done in countries all over the
world, and not through this form of monetary apartheid.

This evil, like an epidemic, has spread to taxi drivers, whether state
or private, who charge everyone, for a trip to or from the airport (17
km), 25 CUCs during the day and 30 CUCs early in the morning, 15 o 20
CUC from Nuevo Vedado to Old Havana or vice versa, and the same if they
cross the 23rd Street bridge or any of the tunnels towards Municipio
Playa, or they travel to the eastern beaches (25 km). An individual taxi
trip to Varadero (140 km) costs 100 CUC and, if a group, 20 CUC per
person. In this last modality: Trinidad (335 km) costs 30 CUC, Viñales
(189 km) is 20 CUC and Cienfuegos (254) is 25 CUC.

This monetary chaos, established and encouraged by the authorities,
seems to be just one more of the many originalities of “prosperous and
efficient socialism”, now also described as “sovereign, independent and
democratic”, according to the latest official statements, despite the
discrimination between Cuban nationals living on the island, those
living off it, and foreign nationals.

This reality seriously calls into question the Cubans’ proverbial
hospitality, much touted in the State’s tourist propaganda.

Source: Discriminatory prices: how much do things cost? | Diario de Cuba

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Prosperous Cuban Entrepreneur Arrested Sun, 16 Jul 2017 21:15:05 +0000 Prosperous Cuban Entrepreneur Arrested / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 16 June 2017 — Alejandro Marcel Mendivil, successful
entrepreneur, owner of El Litoral, a restaurant located at Malecon #161,
between L & K, and the restaurant Lungo Mare, located in 1ra Esquina C,
in the Vedado district, was arrested in Havana on June 8.

The reasons are not clear. Some claim that Marcel Mendivil is accused of
money laundering and ties to drug trafficking; and others claim that if
you are “noticed” in Cuba, it has a price.

“Alejandro is a young man hungry for challenges and pleasure. He has
money, social recognition, he helps all his neighbors, has ties to
diplomats as important as the ones in the American Embassy. He also has
dealings with high ranking Cuban military and maintains very important
access to the government elite. His ambitions go beyond those of common
entrepreneurs, and to that add that the fact that he has charisma. Isn’t
that a lethal combination? Alejandro is no drug trafficker or money
launderer; he only tested power and ended up making it angry,” says one
of the neighbors of his restaurant El Litoral, a retiree from the
Ministry of the Interior.

“It was early in the morning, says an employee, the sea was flat as a
plate when the operative began. Not even the Interior Ministry (MININT),
nor the state officials gave any explanations in order to close the
restaurant. They (the police) only told the employees that were present
that we had to leave the place and look for another job in another
restaurant because this closure was going to last. We were closed once,
when an issue with the alcohol, but Alejandro solved it”.

“They got in and identified themselves as members of the State
Security’s Technical Department of Investigations (DTI). They checked
the accounting, the kitchen, lifted some tiles from the floor and they
even took nails from the walls. An official with a mustache, who
wouldn’t stop talking with someone on his BLU cellphone, was saying that
they would find evidence to justify the charge of drug trafficking.”

“That looked like a theater, but with misleading script. It was not the
DTI. In fact, Alejandro was not jailed at 100 and Aldabo, but rather
held incommunicado in Villa Marista (a State Security prison). The whole
thing was a State Security operation to put a stop Alejandro, who was
earning money working and was becoming an attractive figure; in a
country such as this one, where leaders, all of them, are very weak.”

The incident is timely to a discussion held during the extraordinary
session of the National Assembly of People’s Power, which took place
last May 30, where the Cuban vice-president Marino Murillo asserted that
the new model of the socialist island “will not allow the concentration
of property or wealth even when we are promoting the existence of the
private sector.”

According to sources consulted in the Prosecutor General of the Republic
of Cuba, there are plans for measures similar to those taken against
Marcel Mendivil for these wealthy and influential owners of a paladar
(private restaurant) located in Apartment 1, Malecon 157, between K&L,
Vedado. And also against another one in Egido 504 Alton, between Montes
& Dragones, Old Havana, in addition to two in Camaguey that were not

Translated by: LYD

Source: Prosperous Cuban Entrepreneur Arrested / Juan Juan Almeida –
Translating Cuba –

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Cuba courted in diplomatic push on Venezuela crisis Sun, 16 Jul 2017 20:27:54 +0000 Cuba courted in diplomatic push on Venezuela crisis
Colombian president flies to Havana to seek support for regional
John Paul Rathbone in Miami

Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s president, was set to fly to Cuba on
Sunday on a mission to convince Havana to support a regional diplomatic
push to staunch Venezuela’s growing crisis, which has left 90 dead after
three months of protests.

The initiative, which Argentina and Mexico are understood to support, is
controversial but potentially effective as socialist Cuba is Venezuela’s
strongest ally and its intelligence services are understood to work as
close advisers to Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s embattled president.

“Santos is one of the few people, perhaps the only one, who knows the
three key players well,” said one person with an understanding of the
situation. “He knows Maduro and Venezuela, he knows Raúl Castro, and he
knows Donald Trump and the US state department.”

The diplomatic initiative comes at a critical time for Venezuela, as Mr
Maduro moves to rewrite the Opec country’s constitution to cement the
ruling Socialist party’s control by installing Soviet-style communes. An
early gauge of the regional diplomacy’s success will be if Mr Maduro
cancels the July 30 constitutional convention to create a legislative

Venezuela’s opposition on Sunday mounted a symbolic referendum against
the convention, which polls show three-quarters of Venezuelans oppose.
The convention is widely seen as a point of no return for Venezuela.

Early indications suggested the referendum was passing peacefully.
Opposition activists posted photographs on social media of long lines of
people outside impromptu polling stations, not only in Venezuela but in
towns and cities worldwide, from Australia to Malaysia to Saudi Arabia
and Italy, where Venezuelans living abroad were invited to vote.

Julio Borges, the head of the National Assembly, or parliament, told a
news conference in Caracas on Sunday he hoped the exercise would serve
as “a great earthquake, that shakes the conscience of those in power”.

The government has played down the popular vote, which is non-binding.
It says the real election will come on July 30, although some analysts
have suggested there is still time for Mr Maduro to change his mind.

“To the extent that the [opposition referendum] prompts even
more?.?.?.?pushback?.?.?.[it] could prompt [Maduro] to back down,” Risa
Grais-Targow, analyst at Eurasia, the risk consultancy, wrote on Friday.
But “if Maduro does hold the vote on 30 July, it will represent a new
apex in the country’s ongoing political crisis. It will also test the
loyalty of the security apparatus, as the opposition will likely
mobilise significant protests across the country”.

Mr Santos has worked closely with Havana, Washington and Caracas over
the past six years as part of Colombia’s peace process between the
government and the Farc guerrilla group. But his Cuba visit, part of a
long-schedule commercial mission to Havana, is also a sign of mounting
international exasperation over Venezuela.

At the recent G20 meeting in Hamburg, Mauricio Macri, the Argentine
president, backed by Mariano Rajoy, Spanish prime minister, implored
other heads of state to “take note of the situation in Venezuela, where
they do not support human rights”.

The crisis in Venezuela has drained the country’s foreign reserves with
figures released on Friday showing the central bank’s coffers had
dropped below $10bn for the first time in 15 years.

The fall in reserves is likely to rekindle fears that Caracas might
default on its debt obligations this year. The state and its oil
company PDVSA are due to make capital and interest repayments of $3.7bn
in the fourth quarter.

Despite widespread concern over Venezeula’s plight, there has been
little concrete action from other countries besides the US and Brazil.
Washington has placed targeted financial sanctions on some Venezuelan
officials while Brazil suspended sales of tear gas to the Venezuelan

Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, last month said the US was
building a “robust list” of other individuals to sanction. A more
extreme US policy option that has also been discussed in Washington is
to ban sales of Venezuelan oil into the US market.

US refiners have lobbied the White House against including crude imports
in any broader potential sanctions package as Venezuela is the US’s
second-biggest foreign supplier to the gulf coast. A ban could also have
an impact on domestic fuel prices.

Cuba would make an unusual ally in an internationally-mediated attempt
to broker peace in Venezuela as it receives subsidised oil from Caracas
in return for medical services. Relations with Washington have also
cooled after Mr Trump partially rolled back the US rapprochement in
June, courting support from conservative Cuban-American legislators in

But Havana could usefully offer safe haven exile for Mr Maduro’s senior
officials who, with a bolt hole to flee to, would no longer need to
fight to the last.

Additional reporting Gideon Long in Bogotá

Source: Cuba courted in diplomatic push on Venezuela crisis –

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Cuba Awaits New Trump Proposals Sat, 15 Jul 2017 14:07:04 +0000 Cuba Awaits New Trump Proposals / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 14 June 2017 — What you lose last is hope. And those who
have plans to immigrate to the United States maintain bulletproof optimism.

Close to a small park in Calzada street, next to Rivero’s funeral home,
dozens of restless people await their appointment for the consular
interview at the American Embassy located at the Havana’s Vedado district.

Ronald, a mixed-race man of almost six feet, requested a tourist visa to
visit his mother in Miami. Before going to the embassy he bathed with
white flowers and sounded a maraca gourd before the altar of the Virgen
de la Caridad, Cuba’s Patron Saint, wishing that they would approve his

Outside the diplomatic site, dozens of people await restlessly. Each one
of them has a story to tell. Many have had their visas denied up to five
times while some are there for the first time with the intent to get an
American visa; they rely on astrology or some other witchcraft.

Daniela is one of those people. “Guys, the astral letter says that Trump
instructed the embassy people to give the biggest possible number of
visas,” she says to others also waiting.

Rumors grow along the line of those who read in social media — never in
the serious news — that Trump, in his next speech in Miami, will reverse
the reversal of the “wet foot-dry foot” policy.

In a park on Linea Street with Wi-Fi internet service, next to the
Camilo Cienfuegos clinic, two blocks from the United States Embassy,
Yaibel comments with a group of internet users that a friend who lives
in Florida told him that Trump was going to issue open visa to all Cubans.

The most ridiculous theories circulate around the city among those who
dream to migrate. The facts or promises made by Trump to close the
faucet of immigration mean nothing to them.

Guys like Josue holds on to anything that makes him think that his luck
will change. “That’s the gossip going on. Crazy Trump will open all
doors to Cubans… Dude we are the only country in Latin America that
lives under a dictatorship. If they give us carte blanch three or four
million people will emigrate. The Mariel Boatlift will be small in
comparison. That’s the best way to end this regime. These people — the
government — will be left alone here”… opines the young man.

In a perfect domino effect, some people echo the huge fantasy. “Someone
told me that they were going to offer five million working visas to
Cubans. The immigrants would be located in those states where they need
laborers. The people would need to come back in around a year, since the
Cuban Adjustment Act will be eliminated,” says Daniela, who doesn’t
remember where she heard such a delirious version.

Now, let’s talk seriously. If something Donald Trump has showed, aside
from being superficial and erratic, it is being a president profoundly
anti-immigrant. But more than a few ordinary Cubans want to assert the

The ones who wish to immigrate are the only segment that awaits with
optimism good news from Trump. The spectrum of opinion of the rest of
the Cubans ranges from indifference to concern.

In the local dissidence sector, the ones who believed that Trump was
going to open his wallet or go back to Obama’s strategy towards dissent,
became more pessimistic after the White House announced a decrease of
$20 million dollars for civil society programs.

“Those groups that obtained money thanks to the Department of State are
pulling their hair out. But the ones that receive financing from the
Cuban exiles are not that unprotected,” indicates a dissident who
prefers to remain anonymous.

The Palace of the Revolution in Havana is probably the place where
Trump’s pronouncements are awaited with the greatest impatience. The
autocracy, dressed in olive green, has tried to be prudent with the
magnate from New York.

Contrary to Fidel Castro’s strategy, which at the first sign of change
would prepare a national show and lengthy anti-imperialist speeches,
Raul’s regime has toned that down as much as possible.

In certain moments they have criticized him. However, without
offensiveness and keeping the olive branch since the government is
betting on continuing the dialogue with the United Estates, to lift the
embargo, to receive millions of gringo tourists and to begin business
with American companies.

Official analysts are waiting for Trump to act from his entrepreneur
side. The autocracy is offering business on a silver plate, as long as
it is with state companies.

According to a source that works with Department of Foreign trade, “The
ideal would be to continue the roadmap laid out by Obama. With the
situation in Venezuela and the internal economic crisis, the official
wish is that relations with the United States deepen and millions in
investments begins. The government will give in, as long as it doesn’t
feel pressured with talk about Human Rights.

“I hope that Trump is pragmatic. If he opens fire and returns to the
scenario of the past, those here will climb back into the trenches.
Confrontation didn’t yield anything in 55 years. However, in only two
years of Obama’s policy, aside from the panic of many internal leaders,
there was a large popular acceptance,” declares the source.

In Havana’s streets Trump is not appreciated. “That guy is insane. Dense
and a cretin and that’s all. If he sets things back, to me it’s all the
same. The majority of ordinary Cubans don’t benefit from the agreements
made on December 17. Of course, I think it was the government’s fault,”
says Rey Angel, worker.

And the reestablishment of the diplomatic relations and the extension of
Obama’s policy to get closer to the the island’s private workforce,
caused more notice in the press than concrete changes.

The people consulted do not believe that Trump will reduce the amount of
money sent in remittances by Cubans overseas, or the number of trips
home by Cubans living in the United States. “If he does, it will affect
many people who live off the little money and things that family living
in the North (United States) can send”, says a lady waiting in line at
Western Union.

The rupture of the Obama strategy will decidedly affect the military
regime. And it looks like the White House will fire its rockets against
the flotation line. But anything can happen. Trump is just Trump.

Translated by: LYD

Source: Cuba Awaits New Trump Proposals / Iván García – Translating Cuba

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Parliamentary Karaoke Sat, 15 Jul 2017 14:06:04 +0000 Parliamentary Karaoke

14ymedio, Generation y, Yoani Sanchez, 14 July 2017 — Wednesday
night. The neighborhood of Nuevo Vedado is sliding into the
darkness. Catchy music resonates in the Hotel Tulipán where
parliamentarians are staying during the current regular session. They
dance, drink under the sparkling lights of the disco ball and sing
karaoke. They add their voices to a programmed score, the exercise they
know how to do best.

With only two sessions a year, the Cuban legislative body gathers to
stuff the population full of dates, figures, promises to keep, and
critiques of the mismanagement of bureaucrats and administrators. A
monotonous clamor, where every speaker tries to show themselves more
“revolutionary” than the last, launching proposals with an exhausting
generality or a frightening lack of vision.

Those assembled for this eighth legislature, like their colleagues
before them, have as little ability to make decisions as does any
ordinary Cuban waiting at the bus stop. They can raise their voice and
“talk until they’re blue in the face,” and enumerate the inefficiencies
that limit development in their respective districts, but from there to
concrete solutions is a long stretch.

On this occasion, the National Assembly has turned its back on pressures
that, from different sectors, demand new legislation regarding the
electoral system, audiovisual productions, management of the press, same
sex marriage and religious freedoms, among others. With so many urgent
issues, the deputies have only managed to draft the “Terrestrial Waters

Does this mean that they need to meet more often to fix the country’s
enormous problems? The question is not only one of the frequency or
intensity in the exercise of their functions, but also one of freedom
and power. A parliament is not a park bench where you go to find
catharsis, nor a showcase to demonstrate ideological fidelity. It should
represent the diversity of a society, propose solutions and turn them
into laws. Without this, it is just a boring social chinwag.

The parliamentarians will arrive on Friday, the final day of their
regular session, in front of the microphones in the Palace of
Conventions with the same meekness that they approached the karaoke
party to repeat previously scripted choruses. They are going to sing to
music chosen by others, move their lips to that voice of real power that
emerges from their throats.

Source: Parliamentary Karaoke – Translating Cuba –

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Familia de violinista que tocó para Trump niega acusación de Cuba de que su padre mató a Frank País Sat, 15 Jul 2017 13:38:07 +0000 Familia de violinista que tocó para Trump niega acusación de Cuba de que
su padre mató a Frank País
Especial/el Nuevo Herald

Durante la visita del presidente Donald Trump a Miami el 16 de junio, el
violinista cubano Luis Haza interpretó el himno de Estados Unidos en el
emblemático teatro Manuel Artime de La Pequeña Habana. Este hecho hizo
que el Presidente mencionara la masacre de la Loma de San Juan en
Santiago de Cuba, el 12 de enero de 1959, en la que fueron fusiladas 71
personas, apenas 12 días después del triunfo de la llamada revolución

Entre los fusilados estuvo Bonifacio Haza Grasso, comandante de la
Policía Nacional en Santiago de Cuba en los días finales del gobierno de
Fulgencio Batista y padre del violinista invitado al encuentro con Trump.

Como respuesta, el gobierno cubano a través del sitio Cubadebate,
plataforma de propaganda, reaccionó airado minimizando el virtuosismo
del violinista y señalando que Trump no mencionó en su discurso que “el
padre de Luis, Bonifacio Haza Grasso, fue uno de los asesinos del joven
líder revolucionario Frank País”. Este 30 de julio se cumplen 60 años de
la muerte de País, líder del Movimiento 26 de Julio –y su jefe de acción
y sabotaje en todo el país–, en las calles santiagueras, a los 22 años.

Cubadebate basa su afirmación en un texto aparecido en ese mismo portal
en agosto del 2014, firmado por el contralmirante retirado José Luis
Cuza Téllez, a quien mencionan como compañero de Frank País. En el
artículo se apunta claramente que el teniente coronel José María Salas
Cañizares, supervisor de la Policía Nacional, ejecutó personalmente a
Frank País y a su compañero, Raúl Pujol.

“Golpearon brutalmente a Pujol, que cayó inconsciente […] a adonde fue
Salas y le ametralló toda la espalda con una ráfaga larga. Se viró para
donde estaba Frank y le tiró los últimos proyectiles que le quedaban”,
escribe el Contraalmirante. De manera que la acusación de Cubadebate
queda desmentida en sus propias palabras. Sólo se afirma en el trabajo
que Bonifacio Haza Grasso estaba en el lugar.

El líder del Movimiento 26 de Julio Frank País.
Sin embargo, otro de los hijos del comandante Haza Grasso, Bonifacio L.
Haza, afirma que su padre amaneció enfermo el día de la muerte de Pujol
y País. “Mi padre amaneció enfermo con un ataque a la vesícula […] lo sé
porque yo estaba allí, y mi madre nos decía que guardáramos silencio
para que mi padre pudiera dormir hasta que se le pasara el dolor […].
Ese día nos llegó la noticia que Frank País había sido muerto”, dijo.

En el 2012, Bonifacio L. Haza, que reside en Vero Beach, en el centro de
la Florida, publicó el libro de memorias Escritos sobre la arena, donde
detalla muchos de los episodios en la vida de su padre, y en particular
sobre la ejecución en la Loma de San Juan. Allí, sentencia: “Algunos
fueron ejecutados por el solo hecho de haber pertenecido o colaborado
con el Ejército y la Policía Nacional”.

Como líder del movimiento 26 de Julio, Frank País tenía la misión de
articular las acciones de sabotaje, por lo que usaba una pistola STAR
calibre 38 para sus acciones. Estos datos corresponden al artículo del
contralmirante Cuza Téllez, lo que hacía a País un hombre peligroso y
buscado por las autoridades.

En el libro se destaca que el comandante Haza Grasso estuvo al frente de
la Policía Nacional en Santiago de Cuba mientras el ejército combatía a
los guerrilleros en la Sierra Maestra. “Su trabajo era mantener el orden
público, no pelear contra los alzados”, señala su hijo, quien describe a
su padre como un hombre que “no fue extremista y no estuvo de acuerdo
con el golpe del 10 de marzo de 1952”. Luego añade que su padre ejerció
como intermediario para propiciar las conversaciones entre el Ejército
Nacional y el Ejército Rebelde. Algunas fotos de la época muestran a
Fidel y Raúl Castro, conversando con Haza Grasso, el 1ro. de enero de
1959 en El Caney “para ultimar la entrada de los rebeldes que habían
proclamado la victoria”, tras la huida de Batista hacia República

Para Bonifacio L. Haza, “la masacre de los 71 no fue un hecho fortuito.
La evidencia sugiere que esto fue un acto premeditado, planeado, y
preparado con anterioridad”; añadiendo: “la trinchera de unos 40 metros
de largo, donde caían los cuerpos de los ejecutados, fue cavada antes de
que fueran condenados a muerte”. Así lo resalta en su libro.

El sacerdote Jorge Bez Chabebe que asistió en sus horas finales a
algunos de los fusilados en la Loma de San Juan, y autor del libro Dios
me hizo cura, le expresó al periodista Pedro Corzo, en una entrevista,
que al llegar al sitio de las ejecuciones se encontró que habían abierto
“un hueco largo y profundo”, y que el capitán Fernando Vecino Alegret,
que luego ejerció como ministro de Educación Superior, estaba al frente
de las ejecuciones. En su testimonio menciona que intentó intervenir
para evitar la masacre, pero fue inútil. El propio Vecino le dijo que si
no los ejecutaba, lo iban a fusilar a él.

El periodista Luis González Lalondry apunta que Haza Grasso como jefe de
la policía de Santiago de Cuba “era muy blando con los rebeldes y no
seguía las órdenes que recibía de La Habana”, por eso enviaron a
comandar la zona a Salas Cañizares. Lalondry añade: “Bonifacio era una
persona muy decente, una bella persona, pero eso lo hacía bastante débil”.

Quién ametralló a Frank País
Lalondry afirma que ni Haza Grasso, ni Salas Cañizares ejecutaron a
Frank País. Señala directamente al sargento Manuel “El Gallego” Fabelo,
que era el ametrallador de Salas Cañizares. “Eso me lo confesó el propio
Fabelo aquí en Miami durante un encuentro en 1961”, sentencia Lalondry,
para luego añadir: “Frank País y su gente ponían bombas, petardos,
mataban a policías y guardias rurales para quitarles las armas. Eran
gentes muy violentas, por eso cuando supieron dónde estaban escondidos
los cercaron. En medio de todo aquel operativo, Fabelo lo vio y le
disparó varias veces”. Lalondry añade que durante el testimonio del
ametrallador de Salas Cañizares, éste le dijo que no supo a quién había
matado hasta que la noticia corrió. Fabelo murió hace algún tiempo en
Los Ángeles, California.

Lalondry describe a Frank País como “un asesino completo, un hombre que
era maestro, pero que Fidel Castro lo convirtió en un monstruo”. Durante
la convulsa época previa al triunfo de la revolución castrista, el
periodista se desempeñaba como comentarista del programa de radio La
juventud con Batista, en Santiago de Cuba, por lo que personalmente
Frank dio la orden de eliminarlo.

“Frank País quería matarme porque, decía que yo le estaba haciendo mucho
daño y había que parar ese programa de radio”, dijo Lalondry, detallando
varios intentos de asesinato. “En una ocasión me siguieron varias
cuadras. Yo apuré el paso y ellos hicieron lo mismo. Logré subir a una
guagua y vi a uno de ellos haciendo un gesto con la mano llevándosela al
cuello, indicándome que me matarían. Eso lo denuncié en mi programa de

El Movimiento 26 de Julio tanto en la Sierra Maestra, donde estaban los
rebeldes, como en el clandestinaje, que encabezaba País, motivaron actos
violentos, que al salir Batista de Cuba le abrió las puertas a Fidel
Castro para una serie de juicios sumarísimos y ejecuciones, en muchos
casos, arbitrarias.

Un fusilamiento injusto
Uno de las ejecuciones injustas parece ser la de Bonifacio Haza Grasso.
“Él fue Jefe de la Policía, pero al triunfar la revolución “se paseó por
las calles de Santiago con un brazalete del Movimiento 26 de Julio en su
brazo”, apunta Lalondry. Aun así, hubo un giro inesperado y Haza Grasso
es uno de los fusilados en la Loma de San Juan. “Haza Grasso fue el
último que fusilaron, cerca de las 9 de la mañana”, expresa Lalondry
citando al padre Chabebe, presente en las ejecuciones.

Bonifacio hijo confirma que su padre recibió el brazalete del 26 de
Julio. “Yo no recuerdo cuándo exactamente se lo dieron, pero sí lo tenía
atado al brazo”, recuerda, para añadir que Raúl Castro “ascendió a mi
padre a Ayudante del Jefe del Ejército, cargo que desempeñó por 8 días,
vistiendo el uniforme azul de policía, pero con el brazalete del 26 de

Entonces, qué motivó el giro para deshacerse de Haza Grasso, si de
alguna manera había asumido el lado de los triunfantes rebeldes. Su hijo
afirma: “Mi padre fue usado por Fidel y Raúl como puente para proyectar
una imagen inicial democrática. Cuando ya no lo necesitaron, decidieron
hacerle un número 8, acusarlo y fusilarlo. Sencillamente a mi padre lo
fusilaron porque no lo necesitaban más. Lo engañaron y él cayó en la

Tanto Bonifacio L. Haza como el padre Chabebe y Lalondry, señalan
directamente a Raúl Castro como la persona que dio la orden de
fusilarlo. “Hubo un juicio donde el chofer de un carro fúnebre acusó a
Haza Grasso de la muerte de cuatro jóvenes rebeldes”, manifiesta
Lalondry, algo que corrobora Haza. “Tras ese juicio, Raúl llama a Haza
Grasso al Moncada, donde lo humilla públicamente y le arranca el
brazalete del 26 de Julio del brazo”, concluye Lalondry.

Bonifacio L. Haza está convencido que el Che, Fidel y Raúl tenían un
plan secreto para llevar a Cuba al comunismo, por lo que mientras les
convino, utilizaron a ciertas personas, entre ellas a su padre, para
mantener engañado al pueblo, mientras consolidaban su propósito.

Ante la pregunta de por qué desempolvar todo esto seis décadas después,
Haza piensa que como una respuesta desesperada a las palabras del
Presidente en Miami: “el discurso del presidente Trump, llamando la
atención sobre la masacre de los 71 en la Loma de San Juan, puso al
régimen en la disyuntiva de ignorar lo que dijo Trump, o arremeter
contra la memoria de nuestro padre por la presencia en el acto de mi
hermano Luis. Optó por la segunda, con todo tipo de calumnias, para
desviar la atención de los crímenes de Raúl Castro”, concluye.

Source: Familia de violinista que tocó para Trump niega acusación de
Cuba de que su padre mató a Frank País | El Nuevo Herald –

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Trump administration again suspends a part of Cuba embargo Sat, 15 Jul 2017 13:20:12 +0000 Trump administration again suspends a part of Cuba embargo
By JOSH LEDERMAN Published July 14, 2017 Markets Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is suspending for another six
months a provision of the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

The State Department says it has told Congress that it will keep
suspending a provision of the Helms-Burton Act that deals with property
seized from Americans. The provision lets Americans use U.S. courts to
sue non-American companies that operate and deal with property
confiscated after Fidel Castro’s revolution.

It’s the latest sign that President Donald Trump is not fully reversing
President Barack Obama’s opening of relations with Cuba. Last month
Trump announced he was rolling back some changes, but he left others in

The law has been in place since 1996. Recent U.S. presidents have
repeatedly suspended the lawsuit provision for six months at a time.

Source: Trump administration again suspends a part of Cuba embargo | Fox
Business –

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Cuba’s Raul Castro dismisses harsher US tone under Trump Sat, 15 Jul 2017 13:16:54 +0000 Cuba’s Raul Castro dismisses harsher US tone under Trump
– Castro’s comments to Cuba’s National Assembly were his first on
Trump’s June announcement of a partial rollback of the Cuba-U.S. detente
– He also rejected any “lessons” on human rights from the U.S., saying
his country “has a lot to be proud about” on the issue
The Associated Press

Cuban President Raul Castro denounced President Donald Trump’s tougher
line on relations with Havana on Friday, calling it a setback but
promising to continue working to normalize ties between the former Cold
War rivals.

Castro’s comments to Cuba’s National Assembly were his first on Trump’s
June announcement of a partial rollback of the Cuba-U.S. detente
achieved by then-President Barack Obama. They contained echoes of the
harsh rhetoric of the past.

“Any strategy that seeks to destroy the revolution either through
coercion or pressure or through more subtle methods will fail,” Cuba’s
president told legislators.

He also rejected any “lessons” on human rights from the U.S., saying his
country “has a lot to be proud about” on the issue.

Surrounded by Cuban-American exiles and Cuban dissidents in Miami, Trump
announced last month that the U.S. would impose new limits on U.S.
travelers to the island and ban any payments to the military-linked
conglomerate that controls much of the island’s tourism industry. He
said the U.S. would consider lifting those and other restrictions only
after Cuba returned fugitives and made a series of other internal
changes including freeing political prisoners, allowing freedom of
assembly and holding free elections.

Trump’s policy retained elements of Obama’s reforms but tightened
restrictions on travel and employed harsh rhetoric on human rights.

On Friday in Washington, the Trump administration said it was suspending
for another six months a provision of the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

The State Department said it told Congress that it will keep suspending
a provision of the Helms-Burton Act that deals with property seized from
Americans. The provision lets Americans use U.S. courts to sue
non-American companies that operate and deal with property confiscated
after Fidel Castro’s revolution.

Speaking to the National Assembly, Castro called the Trump
administration’s policies a “setback,” though he reiterated his
government’s position that it would work to normalize relations with

Earlier in the legislative session, Economy Minister Ricardo Cabrisas
announced that Cuba’s economy is growing again after a dip last year.

Cabrisas said the economy grew around 1 percent in the first half of
2017. That puts GDP growth on track to hit 2 percent for the year.

The government said the economy shrank last year by 1 percent amid
falling support from troubled Venezuela. That was the first decrease
reported in two decades. Cabrisas said that instability in the supply of
Venezuelan oil weighs on the country but tourism, construction,
transportation and communications were growing.

Foreign media did not have access to the National Assembly session.

Source: Cuba’s Raul Castro dismisses harsher US tone under Trump –

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Cuba says GDP recovers, up about 1 percent so far in 2017 Sat, 15 Jul 2017 13:14:40 +0000 Cuba says GDP recovers, up about 1 percent so far in 2017
HAVANA — Jul 14, 2017, 5:59 PM ET

The Cuban government said Friday that the economy is growing again
following a decline last year that was the first drop reported in two

Economy Minister Ricardo Cabrisas said at the opening session of the
National Assembly that Cuba’s GDP grew just over 1 percent in the first
six months of 2017 and is on track to hit an estimated 2 percent for the
full year.

The rebound came despite the economic crisis in Venezuela, which
provides oil and other support to the island. The government said Cuba’s
economy shrank last year by 1 percent amid falling help from Venezuela,
which is struggling with triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages
of food and other basic goods. The decrease was the first reported by
Cuba in years.

Cuban media quoted Cabrisas as telling the assembly that instability in
the supply of Venezuelan oil weighs on the country’s economy but
tourism, construction, transportation and communications are all growing.

Foreign media were not allowed to attend the session, which was presided
over by President Raul Castro.

Some growth in tourism is due to the normalization of relations with the
U.S. that was started by President Barack Obama and is now threatened
under President Donald Trump.

Source: Cuba says GDP recovers, up about 1 percent so far in 2017 – ABC
News –

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Higher Taxes Fri, 14 Jul 2017 16:49:06 +0000 Higher Taxes / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 6 July 2017 — It is no secret among Cubans that their
government is inept and inefficient. Fifty-eight years of failure attest
to this.

With the emergence of self-employment, however, officials have found a
way to fill the state’s coffers without having to devote resources or
effort to it. It’s called taxes.

They have devised (and continue to devise) taxes of all kinds to drain
citizens who have decided to work for themselves rather than depend on
the state.

The recent tax increase on the sale of homes is one example and there is
talk of increases in other areas as well. A contract was recently
announced in which homeowners would provide rooms to Public Health
clients in order to care for those who are ill or need medical attention.

As logic would have it, it would be at the homeowner’s expense even
though every medical tourist’s insurance pays for it. Never in Cuban
history, even during the colonial era, has there been a government that
exploited its citizens more than this one.

No one disputes the need for taxes as a contribution to the maintenance
of the state and its social services. But the assumption is that the
state will create wealth and not use taxes as its main source of income.
There is also no entity or authority that exercises control on citizens’
behalf over the expenses of the state. The so-called Comptroller General
of the Republic exercises this role only over her own ministry, not over
the president or vice-presidents.

According to the legislation passed last month at a special session of
the National Assemby, “the accumulation of property and weath by
citizens is not and will not be permitted.”

Fortunately for the citizens, the laws are made by men, and when they
disappear most of the time the laws disappear as well. Nothing is
eternal. To believe otherwise shows a lack of intelligence.

Source: Higher Taxes / Fernando Dámaso – Translating Cuba –

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How Cubans See the Crisis in Venezuela Fri, 14 Jul 2017 16:47:01 +0000 How Cubans See the Crisis in Venezuela / Iván García

Iván García, 11 July 2017 — After painting the facades of several
buildings along 10 de Octobre street, the workers of the brigade shelter
from the terrifying heat in doorways, eating lunch, having a smoke or
simply chatting.

These days, in Havana’s La Vibora neighborhood, in the area between Red
Square and the old Bus Terminal, there is a hive of workers dedicated to
converting the one-time terminal into a cooperative taxi base.

The work includes asphalting the surrounding streets and a quick splash
of cheap paint on the buildings along the street.

“They say that Raul Castro or Miguel Diaz-Canel is going to come to
visit the Luis de La Puente Uceda Limited Access Surgical Hospital and
to inaugurate the taxi base,” says a worker sweating buckets.

When they finish talking about the poor performance of the national
baseball team against an independent league in Canada, a group of
workers comment on the street protest that have been going on for more
than a month, led by the opposition in Venezuela, and how much the
economy and energy picture of Cuba could be affected.

Yander, in dark blue overalls, shrugs his shoulders and responds, “I
don’t follow politics much. But I hear on the news is that place
(Venezuela) is on fire. According to what I understood, the Venezuela
right is burning everything in their path. They’re as likely to burn a
market as they are some guy for being a chavista [supporter of Maduro’s
government]. If Maduro falls off his horse, things are going to get ugly
in Cuba. The oil comes from there

Opinions among the workers, students, food workers consulted about
Venezuela, demonstrates a profound disinterest in political information
among a wide sector of the citizenry.

Younger people are active in social networks. But they pass on political
content. Like Susana, a high school student, who with her smartphone is
taking a selfie which eating chicken breasts in a recently opened
private care, to post later on Instagram. When asked about the Venezuela
challenge, she answers at length.

“You can’t fight with a political grindstone. What are you going to
resolve with that. You’re not going to change the world and you can make
problems for yourself. I heard about Venezuela on [the government TV
channel] Telesur, but I don’t know why they started the protests. Nor do
I know why there have been so many deaths. The only thing I know is that
Cuba is strongly tied to Venezuela by oil. And if the government
changes, if those who come, if they are capitalists, they will stop
sending us oil. So I want Maduro to remain in power,” explains Susana.

Not many on the island analyze the crisis in Venezuela in a wider
context. The South American nation is trapped between the worst
government management, a socialist model that doesn’t work, and the
hijacking of democratic institutions.

Ordinary Cubans don’t know to what point the Castro regime is involved
in the design of the the local and continentals strategies of Chavismo.
Opinion in Cuba is fueled by a myopic official press and Telesur, a
propagandistic television channel created with the petrodollars of Hugo
Chavez and Rafael Correa.

Except for specialists and people who look for information in other
sources, most of the Cuban population believes that the violence
originates with the opposition, classified as terrorists and fascists by
the official media.

They know nothing of the fracture within chavismo itself, as in the case
of Attorney General Luisa Ortega or the former Interior Minister Miguel
Torres. Nor that at least 23 of the 81 who have died in more than ninety
days of protests, was due the excessive use of violence by the
Bolivarian National Guard.

Alexis, a private taxi driver, believes that the state press sweeps
under the carpet any news that shows the brutality of the chavista
regime. His concern is that “if they’re fucked, we’re fucked too. Man,
then the blackouts will start, the factory closures, and eating twice a
day will be a luxury. There’s no certainty about the origins of what is
happening in Venezuela. I suppose the Venezuelans would like to free
themselves from a system like ours. If they manage to do it then Cuba
isn’t going to know what to do with itself.”

A wide segment of Cubans think that if the street protests in Venezuela
end up deposing Maduro, given the domino effect, hard times will return
to the Cuban economy.

“These people (the regime) have never done things well. That is why they
are always passing the hat to survive or live off favors from others. We
have not been able to made the earth produce. Everything we have we
export. We are a leech. Thanks to the Venezuelan oil and the dollars
that come from relatives in Miami, the country has not sunk into
absolute misery,” points our Geraldo, an elderly retiree.

Geraldo clarifies, “It’s not out of selfishness, political blindness or
love of Maduro that many Cubans are betting on the continuity of
chavismo. It’s pure survival instinct.”

And the fact is that the economy has not yet hit bottom. Statistics and
predictions forecast new adjustments and an economic setback if there is
a change of government in Miraflores Palace.

Cuba is still not at the level of Haiti, the poorest country in Latin
American, but it is headed that way. As the former USSR was, Venezuela
is our lifeline.

Source: How Cubans See the Crisis in Venezuela / Iván García –
Translating Cuba –

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The Death of a Cuban Doctor in Ciudad Tiuna, Caracas Fri, 14 Jul 2017 16:45:40 +0000 The Death of a Cuban Doctor in Ciudad Tiuna, Caracas / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 19 June 2017 — Teresa Sulien Castillo Sotto, a
27-year-old Cuban doctor born in Bayamo, died due to multiple fractures
and traumatic brain injury on the night of Tuesday 13 June, at 10:20 PM,
after jumping off the 8th floor of the C-05 building of Ciudad Tiuna in
Tiuna Fort.

“It’s a delicate issue that they are treating with great tact and major
caution,” comments a member of the National Coordinating Department
(COOR), which, along with the National Directorate of the Cuban Medical
Mission in Venezuela (MMCVEN), located in the Crillon Hotel. “We are
talking about the death of a cooperating doctor within a military
community where the only ones who enter are Cubans who are linked to
some military person, people with overwhelming confidence, cases that
call for control, or some of the collaborators who are related to Cuban

Tiuna Fort is an enormous military installation, the most important in
Caracas, and also in Venezuela which, among other things, is the
headquarters of the Ministry of People’s Power, the General Command of
the Army, the official residence of the vice president, and sports,
cultural and financial facilities. It was in this urban complex where,
in apartment 10-F, the young Cuban doctor lived.

Several officials from the Homicide Division of the Scientific, Penal
and Criminal Investigations Corps (CICPC) came to the scene of the
tragedy. The prevailing narrative is that Teresa made the tragic
decision to kill herself because she found, on the cellphone of her
husband, also a Cuban doctor, compromising text messages involving
another woman. However, on her personal profile on Facebook, the
deceased young woman appears as single.

That night, troops from the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service
(SEBIN) and Cuban officials who have not been identified, put Teresa’s
body in a van, took it to the morgue and did not allow members of the
CICPC to preserve the scene of the tragedy nor to collect expert evidence.

The next day, Wednesday, three Cuban citizens came to the morgue in cars
with official plates with the intention to accelerate the paperwork to
collect the cadaver of the Cuban doctor. They accomplished this the same
day and at four in the afternoon, after establishing contact with high
level officials of the Bolivarian government and the representatives
from the Cuban embassy.

“Normally what happens,” my interlocutor continued to explain, “they
close the box in the morgue and send it to Maiquetia [the International
Airport]. There, they finish the paperwork, and with the first flight
they head to Cuban, accompanied by two officials dispatching the coffin
and then the family members. In extreme or strange situations, the
deceased is simply buried and they don’t even allow them to hold a funeral.”

“What they don’t want to reveal,” my informer breathes deeply and adds,
in a tone appropriate to the shocking confession, “is that Teresa
maintained a close relationship with a military man, an official with
the National Guard who was captured by SEBIN for being involved with the
right and the opposition marches against chavismo. They used the girl as
an informer, she couldn’t refuse, because it would mean cancelling her
mission, expulsion, threats and a ton of other things. She felt cornered
with no alternative. She couldn’t do anything other than betray her
friend and, in an act of honor, with a certain touch of ethics, she
committed suicide, or she was pushed to suicide.”

The body is already in Cuba, having left on Thursday the 15th in an A320
airplane of Cuban Aviation on the Caracas-Havana route.

Source: The Death of a Cuban Doctor in Ciudad Tiuna, Caracas / Juan Juan
Almeida – Translating Cuba –

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magictr | July 14, 2017 | News
Stéphane Bouchard
Friday, 14 July 2017 00:00

JONQUIÈRE | Two players from the cuban national team junior tour against
the teams of major League baseball junior élite du Québec, missing since

These two players have left of their own accord, in the night of Monday
to Tuesday. On the morning of 11 July, the two players were no more in
their room.

According to what we have learned, does anyone know where are the
baseball players, who have been missing after a game against Buffalo,
Saint-Eustache. It is suspected that both players have left their team
to not return to live in Cuba.

“No detail “

The junior national team of Cuba was yesterday at the Stade
Richard-Desmeules, where she faced the Travelers from Jonquière, in the
ninth match of this series of 15.

Met on the premises, the secretary of the road for the tour of cuban and
communications director for the major League baseball junior élite du
Québec (LBJEQ), Antoine Desrosiers, did not want to comment on this
situation, claiming to have “no detail” on this story.

The president of the league, Rodger Brulotte, preferred him not to
comment on the departure of two cuban players. “Our role at the LBJEQ is
to promote the sport of baseball. We do not interfere in political
issues “,-he said. Mr. Brulotte was in the hands of the leader of the
team of Cuba to explain the desertion of the two players.

Security measures

Maxim Lamarche, director general of Baseball Quebec, has not returned
our calls yesterday evening.

The leaders of the team cuban, however, had already anticipated the
possibility that a player might want to go without leaving traces, by
putting in place special measures of surveillance and security.

For example, it was forbidden to go to the locker room alone. The
players were accompanied at all times and must abide by clear guidelines
as to their comings and goings.

Student residences

During their stay, the players were accommodated in the student
residences of the college Ahuntsic.

The tour of the cuban national team has the goal of promoting the sport
of baseball throughout the province, and to “continue to weave links
between Cuba and Canada,” says Antoine Desrosiers. He didn’t want to
dwell on the impact of these desertions on the links between the two

This tour is also a way to prepare for the junior team cuba at the world

Source: Two cuban players deserting the team junior | The Sherbrooke
Times –

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UM names interim director for the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies Fri, 14 Jul 2017 12:42:10 +0000 UM names interim director for the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American

The University of Miami has appointed founder and former senior fellow
Andy Gómez as interim director of the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-
American Studies.

Gómez, who retired from UM in 2012 with a Presidential Medal, replaces
Jaime Suchlicki, who will leave ICCAS on Aug. 15, according to a UM

He said he was “honored” to be asked to return.

“First, we need to honor Jaime Suchlicki for his work and dedication to
the university,” Gómez said. “My intention here is to preserve some of
the legacy that Suchlicki created … part of the good work that has
been done … and to begin to move forward in some of the programming
aspects of ICCAS, but more importantly to begin a search for a permanent
director. That is going to take some time.”

Gómez was assistant provost of UM between 2005 and 2012, and dean of the
School of International Studies between 2001 and 2004. More recently, he
traveled to Cuba for Pope Francis’ 2015 visit to the island. He and his
family also support two programs at the Church of Our Lady of Mercy in

Following UM’s recent announcement of his departure, Suchlicki publicly
refuted insinuations that he was retiring stating that he was
“resigning” due to differences with President Julio Frenk on the
university’s mission for Cuban studies. He further stated that he had
received notice that the ICCAS would close in August and that he had
plans to move the institute to another location.

An official at the University of Miami disputed Suchlicki’s version of
what transpired. Jacqueline R. Menendez, UM’s vice president for
communications, said there are no plans to close the center.

The controversy has raised some concern among members of the
Cuban-American community.

The National Association of Cuban Educators (NACAE) sent a letter to
Frenk requesting that ICCAS not be closed because it could be
interpreted as a “lack of support for the Cuban community.” The Mother’s
Against Repression group asked Frenk to hold off on a decision so that
members of the Cuban-American community, lawmakers and donors could
weigh in.

Gómez’s appointment puts an end to speculation about an immediate
closure of the institute.

Founded in 1999, ICCAS for years received several million dollars from
the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to
finance the Cuba Transition Project. But the administration of former
President Barack Obama cut those funds significantly and ICCAS cut some
of its staff. Its digital site is has become outdated and several of its
databases are no longer available.

Gómez said his priorities include looking at ways to provide more
“meaningful information” on the website, raise funds for the institute
and attract a younger audience to events at Casa Bacardí.

ICCAS’ academic rigor has been questioned some some in the field of
Cuban studies. Many other U.S. universities have already developed
institutional relationships with their Cuban counterparts and
established study abroad programs.

Events at Casa Bacardí, by contrast, often feature speakers from the
island’s dissident movement and members of anti-Castro organizations in

“ICCAS has suffered a little bit by being, at times, too political to
one side,” said Gómez. “I think institutes have to find a balance and
stay in the middle.

“I strongly believe in academic freedom,” he said. “…ICCAS should be a
center for everybody to feel comfortable to come and share different
points of view. I know that is always a bit challenging in our community
but we have come a long way.”

Follow Nora Gámez Torres en Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: UM names interim director at ICCAS | Miami Herald –

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Raul Castro Apparently Decided to Change His Personal Image Thu, 13 Jul 2017 21:31:38 +0000 Raul Castro Apparently Decided to Change His Personal Image / Juan Juan

Juan Juan Almeida, 11 July 2017 — The President of the Councils of State
and of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba recently underwent cosmetic
surgery to improve his chin. The chief of Cuban communists wants to be
rejuvenated so that young people won’t feel they are being governed by
an old man of 86.

The absurdity is that a process so normal and ordinary acquires, on the
island, the unusual dimension of a “State Secret.” The problem that
arises from such a “mystery” is that as a recognized public figure he is
under the magnifying glass of the public observer who, from now on, will
compare his current appearance with old photographs of him.

Apparently, and this could not be confirmed, patient Raul Castro refused
general anesthesia for fear of bad intentions. The truth is that the
operation on the president was performed by a Cuban eminence of cosmetic
surgery, a celebrity of the guild, of whom I will only say that he is an
assistant professor and first class specialist in plastic surgery,
because I want to protect his identity from future attacks or implacable
witch hunts. Some time ago he had problems at CIMEQ hospital, and later
started to work in one of the most well-known teaching hospitals in Havana.

General Raul Castro is a man of particular appetites that grew over
time, the influence of alcohol and a real frivolity. It is normal with
this surgery to try to correct the traces of a person’s excesses,
without exaggerating or abandoning his disagreeable natural aspects.
However, he is not the first president, nor will he be the last, who
tries to improve his image using surgical techniques.

Plastic surgery (“plastic” derives from the Green “plastikos” which
means to mold or give shape) is the medical specialty that deals with
the correction or restoration of the form and functions of the body
through medical and surgical techniques.

In 1994, while Libya was faced with an international embargo, a group of
Brazilian doctors traveled to Tripoli via Tunisia, to perform a hair
implant and neck surgery on the now deceased Muammar Ghaddafi.

In 2011, the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi underwent a
long cosmetic surgical procedure on his jaw which, according to reports
from his personal doctor, lasted more than four hours.

Argentina’s former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner also
succumbed to vanity and was remodeled with the help of the scalpel.

And although the Kremlin spokespeople insist on the contrary, one only
has to look at old photos and images of President Vladimir Putin and
compare them to recent ones. The change is obvious.

It is normal that the Cold War raised the conflict between ideologies
and the leaders of that time needed to focus on strategy and wisdom.
Then, with the coming of globalization, nationalist discourses lost
political strength. Now, in today’s world, several leaders, some fierce,
some bullies, prostitute their political ends paying special attention
to self-promotion on the internet and on social networks.

Raul Castro cannot escape the desire to look like a modern old man and
subjects himself to discrete adjustments with the truculent intention of
showing himself to be less despicable.

Source: Raul Castro Apparently Decided to Change His Personal Image /
Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba –

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Work Accident Takes The Lives Of Two Cuban Builders In Caibarién Thu, 13 Jul 2017 21:30:38 +0000 Work Accident Takes The Lives Of Two Cuban Builders In Caibarién

14ymedio, Havana, 11 July 2017 — The collapse of a wall during the
reconstruction of the Hotel Commercio in Caibarién, in the province
of Villa Clara, cost two workers their lives on Tuesday and left eight
others injured. The crew was working on rehabilitating the property, as
confirmed to 14ymedio by a resident who lives nearby.

The work accident occurred when a wall collapsed which caused a part of
the second floor of the build to collapse, the local press reported.

The deceased are Dorian Toledo Pascual, 40, and Felix Morales Dominguez,
28, both residents of Caibarién. According to statements by the
authorities, both were buried under the hotel debris. The builder
Richard López Pérez is in critical condition and Andrés Estévez Báez, is
in serious condition.

The less serious injured are at Caibarién Hospital, where all the
injured received first aid, 14ymedio confirmed by telephone.

After the accident, several fire rescue crews deployed to search through
the debris, where they found the workers trapped in the rubble, but two
of them were found dead.

For years, the Hotel Comercio has experienced a long process of
deterioration. The current rehabilitation work is intended to allow it
to to reopen its doors at the end of 2018.

Source: Work Accident Takes The Lives Of Two Cuban Builders In Caibarién
– Translating Cuba –

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Trafficking in Goods, a Strategy to Survive in Cuba Thu, 13 Jul 2017 21:29:51 +0000 Trafficking in Goods, a Strategy to Survive in Cuba / Iván García

Iván García, 28 June 2017 — On Havana there are illegal stores for all
tastes. Pirated jeans at 20 CUC, copies of Nike shoes at 40 CUC and
imitation Swiss watches at 50 CUC. People with higher purchasing power
mark the difference. By catalog, they buy fashions, smartphones, LED
lights, Scotch whiskey, Spanish wines.

And although the General Customs of the Republic of Cuba applies
retrograde and severe laws on the importing of merchandise, rampant
corruption always opens a gateway to singular private commerce. Although
there are no exact figures, it is calculated that it moves twice as much
money on the island as does foreign investment.

Let me present Rolando, the fictitious name of a guy who has been a
‘mule’ for three years. “My grandparents live in Miami and to supplement
their pension, they became ‘mules’. They took the orders to customers’
homes, whether it was clothing, medicine, household goods or
dollars. When travel abroad became flexible in 2013, I obtained a
multiple-entry visa for the United States. Every year I travel seven or
eight times and I bring stuff either for family use or to resell. All
for a value of four to five thousand dollars.”

The complicated Customs regulations only allow Cubans to import certain
goods once a year and to pay the customs fees in Cuban pesos — rather
than convertible pesos, each of which is worth 25 times as much — but by
means of bribes under the table the provisions of the law can be evaded.

Yolanda, an assumed name, is dedicated to bringing garments and hair
products. “In Cuba, the stake fucks anyone who follows the letter of the
law. This is the case for Cubans living in other countries when they
send things by mail: they can only send three kilograms and if the
package exceeds that weight, every additional kilogram is taxed at 20
Cuban convertible pesos (CUC). A real abuse.

“What do those of us who dedicate ourselves to this business do? We have
good contacts in Customs and so we can take all the stuff through. You
pay the people according to what you bring. If you bring in goods valued
at $10,000, for example, you have to give them $200 and a “present”
which can be a flat screen TV, a home appliance, or some clothing.”

According to Yolanda, “Palmolive, Colgate, Gillette or Dove toiletries
sell like hot cakes in Cuba. If you buy in the free zone of Colon,
Panama, you earn a little more. In Miami, it depends on the place: in
small stores and wholesale markets you get more for you money. Gillette
deodorants purchased wholesale will come out at $1.50 and in Havana they
will be sold at 5 CUC (roughly $5 US).

“An appliance or television is not profitable if you buy it at Best Buy,
you have to buy it in Chinese stores or have a contact that sells it
wholesale. The problem of the electrical appliances is that they weigh a
lot, that’s why they are shipped by boat.

“With the exception of certain items that my regular customers order
from me, the rest I buy to sell in quantity to the resellers. On a trip,
apart from recovering expenses, I can earn up to 800 CUC. And I am a new
’mule’ in this market, the ones that spend more time, they earn three
times more, because they bring more expensive items such as car parts
and air conditioning equipment.”

Several ‘mules’ consulted believe that the best places to buy
merchandise are Panama, Miami, Peru, Ecuador and Mexico. “Moscow is
expensive for the cost of the plane ticket. But if you have the way to
bring into the country large quantities of parts and components for cars
and motorcycles, you earn a lot of money. Any trip leaves a percentage
of profits that ranges from 30 to 100 percent,” says Rolando.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a report on the traffic of
automobile parts between Moscow and Havana: “They travel 13 hours, sleep
crowded in emigre apartments and ask for borrowed coats and boots to
rummage and bargain in a cold weather looking for used parts of the
Russian capital. But do the accounts: a Lada car of the Soviet era in
good conditions sells on the Island for 14 thousand dollars.”

The current collection of Soviet-era vintage cars has made the supply of
parts and components for these cars into a highly profitable
business. “In Russia there are few Moskoviches, Ladas and Volgas
manufactured in last century still running. With the help of Cubans
residing in Moscow, full cars are bought for the equivalent of 300 or
500 dollars and scrapping them for pieces increases the values
tremendously. There are also small businesses where you can packaged new
parts,” explains Osiel, dedicated to the selling of car parts bought in

It may seem like an unimportant business, but a Soviet-era car, with an
American chassis and parts from up to ten different nations, costs
$10,000 to $20,000 in Cuba.

In the Island you find ‘mules’ specializing in the most diverse
branches. “I only buy smart phones, tablets, PCs and laptops. After
paying the respective bribe, in a single trip I bring in up to ten
phones, five or six tablets, two PCs and four laptops. The profits can
exceed 3,000 CUC. Smartphones are a gold mine. Companies buy them, then
through payment they activate to unlock them and there are those who
know how to ’crack’ them. In Havana, the iPhone 7 or Samsung 8 is
cheaper than in Miami,” says Sergio.

At the beginning, the ‘mules’ started as a business managed by Cubans
living in the United States and they moved any amount of money and
stuff. The parcels are delivered personally to people in their homes.

After the olive-green state did away with the so-called White Card — the
travel permit you use to have to have — that blocked Cubans from
traveling freely, thousands of compatriots on the island decided to
become ’mules’ and started to traffic in goods.

According to Rolando, “It has many points in its favor: you do not work
for the government and do not depend their shitty wages. On each trip,
you earn a ticket that makes your life more comfortable, you disconnect,
meet people and travel to clean cities and well-stocked stores. And the
government has not opened fire on the ‘mules’ as much as they have on
the self-employed.”

In addition, they don’t pay taxes to the state for their underground

Source: Trafficking in Goods, a Strategy to Survive in Cuba / Iván
García – Translating Cuba –

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Cavities and Abscesses in the Oral Health System Thu, 13 Jul 2017 21:28:45 +0000 Cuba: Cavities and Abscesses in the Oral Health System / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 23 June 2017 — Located in the stately building with
its exquisite art-deco style, at the Havana intersection of Salvador
Allende Avenue (formerly Carlos III) and G Street, is the Cuban symbol
of the oral health system. Officially known as the Raúl González
Sánchez Dental Medicine Faculty, it is also on the point of collapse.

“The budget is tighter than the screws on a submarine. Most of the time
the autoclaves used for sterilization don’t work, nor is there aseptic
paper to wrap the dental instruments in; but the human material is
there. Prices fluctuate between 15 and 300 CUC, according to the
treatment or the urgency,” says a person who travelled from Miami to be
treated in the “signature” Havana institution.

“There is no air conditioning in the treatment room, the windows are
open and they have to position the chairs to avoid facing the sun. So
you either bring a fan, or spend an extra 50 CUC to be treated in an
operating room where there is only hygienic equipment, green clothing
and adequate air conditioning. Being treated in Cuba, besides being
cheap is folkloric,” my interlocutor continues, in tone so celebratory
it provokes indignation. The saliva extractors are broken and so you
have to bring a bottle of water and towel. And when the slime
accumulates the dentist says, “spit it out.”

According to the constitution currently in force on the island, the
Cuban state guarantees free medical attention to the population as one
of the fundamental social paradigms; but the Healthcare system is
suffering the restrictive effects of lack of resources because of the
economic crisis, neglect, corruption and negligence, which among other
things is a consequence of political mistakes.

“The politics of the country stipulate that the attention of every
dental clinic should be free from payment; but then there is what we
experience,” explains a professor of the fames institutions, who prefers
to remain incognito, because to survive he has, at home, an old dental
chair, a light and a pedal machine.

“Unless it’s an emergency, getting a regular appointment is very
complicated and the receptionists charge for facilitating it. We have to
live,” he breathes deeply and recites his price list. “For a mouth exam,
prophylaxis, a light filling and a clinic diagnosis — 15 CUC. We visit
many patients, the majority with chewing problems, gingivitis,
periodontal disease. These conditions require long treatments, and this
case they cost 2 to 10 CUC per visit. There are more expensive ones that
require complex operations that in some other country would cost around
$10,000 or more. Of course, the difficulties of the country force us to
tell patients that to avoid problems they should bring their own
anesthesia and the braces should they need orthodontic treatment.”

“Our prices,” concludes the professional, “vary depending on the
patient. If it’s a Cuban living in Cuba, a Cuban living abroad, or a

Source: Cuba: Cavities and Abscesses in the Oral Health System / Juan
Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba –

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Bread In Cuba’s Rationed Market Is An Unsolved Problem Thu, 13 Jul 2017 21:27:30 +0000 Bread In Cuba’s Rationed Market Is An Unsolved Problem

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 9 July 2017 — With a sharp knife and the
skill of a surgeon, Luis Garmendia, 68, slices the bread from the
rationed market into six small slices. Like so many Cubans, this retiree
cannot afford to buy from the liberated (unsubsidized) bakeries and
considers that, every day, the quality of the basic product is “worse.”

In the Havana neighborhood of Cerro, where Garmendia lives, the ration
bread ‘starred’ in the last assembly of accountability with the local
People’s Power delegate. “Since I started going to those meetings, the
same problem arises, but it is not solved,” he protests.

The capital has 367 establishments dedicated to producing “ration
bread.” Most have serious technical difficulties, according to a recent
report on national television. In the last three years at least 150 of
them have been renovated but customer dissatisfaction continues to grow.

The taste, size and texture of the popular food are at the center of
customer criticisms. Hard, rubbery, and weighing less than the required
80 grams (2.8 ounces), are the characteristics most commonly used to
describe “ration bread.” Its poor quality has become a staple in the
repertoire of comedians.

The product’s bad reputation leads families that are more financially
comfortable to avoid consuming it. “Now we Cubans are divided between
those who can eat flavorful bread and those of us who have to make do
with this, subsidized and flavorless,” says Garmendia while displaying a
bread roll this Friday.

According to María Victoria Rabelo, director general of the Cuban
Milling Company, “It is sad and frustrating to hear the opinions of the
population,” regarding the rationed product. Her entity is in charge of
producing and commercializing the wheat flour used throughout the
country for the manufacture of bread, confectionery and its derivatives.

In the informal market flour is highly valued especially by private
business owners who make pizzas, sweets and breads. The diversion of
resources from state-owned establishments has become the main source of
supply to the retail sector and affects the quality of the regulated

“I have to take care of each sack of flour as if it were gold,” says the
manager of a bakery in Marianao’s neighborhood, who preferred
anonymity. “They also steal other ingredients involved in the process,
such as the improver, fats and yeast,” he details.

“I am the third administrator to have this establishment in five years,
the others exploited it to steal,” says the state employee. For years
the business of state bakeries “has been robust, because there is a lack
of controls and demand has grown as there are more cafes and
restaurants,” he says.

The profession of baker has been a gold mine. In spite of the low
salaries in the sector, which doesn’t exceed 30 CUC a month, there is a
high demand to work in these establishments. “I know people have become
millionaires with the resale of ingredients or of the product,” says the

“There are places where employees at the counter pocketed at least 400
CUP per day just selling the bread that is destined for the basic basket
under the table.” Inside, near the ovens, “workers can get away every
day with up to 800 Cuban pesos [Ed. note: more than the average monthly
wage],” he confirms.

Each ingredient has its own market. “The baked bread is much sought
after by paladares (private restaurants), coffee shops and people who
organize parties,” he adds. While “the yeast and improver end up in the
business of selling pizza and the fats have a wider clientele.”

The administrator of the bakery on Calle 19 and 30 in Playa, Reina
Angurica, believes that in order to avoid embezzlement, she must “talk
to the workers, communicate with them and not allow illegal
productions.” In their place they meet weekly “to talk about the
short-term problems of the bakery and to eradicate them,” she told the
national media.

The Cuban Milling Company imports 800,000 tons of wheat each year which
is processed in five mills throughout the country, three of which are in
Havana. “Strong wheat or corrector” is mixed with “weak” wheat to
produce the flour sold to the food industry.

The ration market bread is made with a “weak or medium strength flour”
ideal for achieving soft texture. However, the wheat blend has been
affected by import irregularities and the state bakers are only
receiving strong flour, more suitable for a sturdier bread.

With more than 7,500 workers in the capital and a daily consumption of
200 tons of flour, the Provincial Food Industry Company is directly
responsible for the ration bread. But the entity is floundering
everywhere because of the lack of control, hygiene problems and the poor
quality of its products.

In some 1,359 inspections carried out in the last months in the
facilities of this state company, there were 712 disciplinary measures
imposed for irregularities in the preparation of the product. The
problems detected ranged from indisciplines and diversion of resources
to lack of cleanliness.

For María Victoria Rabelo, from the Cuban Milling Company, the
technological difficulties or the problems with the raw material are not
the keys to understanding the current situation: one must “dignify the
profession and, without speaking with demagoguery, bring love to what we
do,” she says with determination.

But in Cerro, where Garmendia is waiting every day for a miracle to
improve the rationed bread, the words of the official sound like
Utopia. “I do not want anything fancy, I just want it to be tasty and
softer, nothing more,” says the retiree.

Source: Bread In Cuba’s Rationed Market Is An Unsolved Problem –
Translating Cuba –

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Taxi Driver Arrested In Havana After Being Accused Of Racism Thu, 13 Jul 2017 21:25:49 +0000 Taxi Driver Arrested In Havana After Being Accused Of Racism

14ymedio, Havana, 10 July 2017 – The driver of a private taxi was
arrested after being accused of racial discrimination by Yanay Aguirre
Calderín, according to a report Monday in the weekly paper Trabajadores
(Workers). The event has generated numerous articles in the official
press which is making an example of the case.

On 2 July, the same weekly published an article by Calderín, a law
student who is black, where she related how she engaged the taxi and was
treated aggressively by the drive due to the color of her skin.

According to prosecutor Rafael Ángel Soler López, head of the Office of
Attention to the Citizenry of the Attorney General’s Office, “We cannot
yet anticipate what the end of the process will be,” since they are now
“investigating to be able to prove the criminal act before the courts.”

The Cuban Penal Code establishes a penalty of between six months and two
years of deprivation of liberty, or a fine of between 200 and 500 CUP,
to anyone who denies “on the grounds of sex, race, color or national
origin the exercise or enjoyment of the rights of equality established
in the Constitution.”

Aguirre Calderín, who does not specify the exact date of the events,
took the private car on Avenida 41, in the Marianao municipality, but
when she wanted to change her destination, the driver reacted “very
upset” and “very violently.” The young woman explains that at that
moment the driver shouted that “every time there is a black person in
his car it’s the same” and that for that reason “he could not stand them.”

Calderín then rebuked the driver, whom she accused of offending her, to
which the taxi driver responded by asking the passenger to get out of
the car before arriving at the place initially designated by her. At
that moment the complainant took a photograph of the car with her cell
phone and noted the number of the license plate, which facilitated the
arrest of the driver by the police.

Source: Taxi Driver Arrested In Havana After Being Accused Of Racism –
Translating Cuba –

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Cuban Government Fires Off One Lie After Another Thu, 13 Jul 2017 21:24:50 +0000 Cuban Government Fires Off One Lie After Another / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 3 July 2017 — The fan stopped turning around 3:30 in the
morning, when in the middle of a heat wave, a black out forced Ricardo,
his wife and their two children to sleep on a mat on the balcony of
their apartment in the Lawton neighborhood, a thirty minute drive from
central Havana.

Several areas were left dark and lit only by candles and lanterns,
dozens of neighbors complained with rude words and sharp criticisms of
of the poor performance of state electricity and water companies.

The blackout lasted for seven hours. “I couldn’t iron my children’s
school uniforms and they are in the midst of final exams. I sent them to
school in street clothes. Nor could my husband and I go to work. When I
the light came on, after ten in the morning, we lay in bed for a while.
The situation is already so bad no one can stand it. It’s one problem
after another. The water crisis, which is still affecting us, public
transportation is the worst, food prices don’t stop rising and now this
black out in the middle of this terrible heat,” says Zoraida, Ricardo’s

Almost a month after a break in one of the main pipes that brings
potable water to Havana, and then an intense information campaign on the
part of the office press, filled with justifications and an exaggerated
optimism, where radio, TV and newspapers report the hours there will be
water in each neighborhood, after the repairs, completed two weeks ago,
and with the promise that service would gradually return to normal in
the different zones of the capital, they are still suffering the affects
and the media doesn’t offer any explanations.

“Some 200,000 people are still affected and are receiving water every
three days. By Thursday, June 22, it was expected to regularize the
service, but some problems have arisen,” said an official of Aguas de La
Habana in the municipality Diez de Octubre, the most populated of the
capital’s districts.

The affected Havanans don’t stop complaining. “In my house, the tank
that we have on the roof does not have the capacity for the water to
last three days. Although we try to save it, in the bathroom, kitchen
and laundry, the water that we are able to collect is spent in two
days. The government comes up with one lie after another. First it was
reported that the break was a matter of a week, at most two. And we’re
going on for a month now. Instead of responding with so much noise to
Trump’s measures, they should focus on improving the living conditions
of Cubans,” complains Mario, a resident of Luyanó, a working-class
neighborhood in the south of the city.

Rumors about the resurgence of the perennial economic crisis that Cubans
are experiencing, spread throughout the city. “I have it on good
authority, from a friend of my brother who is in the party, I know that
by summer the government is going to make new cuts in companies’ fuel
consumption, and they will close unproductive factories and industries
until further notice. The scarcity is noticeable. The state farm
markets are empty and the shortages in the hard currency stores are
obvious. It is said that in the upcoming session of the National
Assembly of People’s Power, on July 14, they are going to announce new
measures of cuts. Thing looks ugly,” says Miriam, housewife, at the
entrance to a bodega in Cerro municipality.

Diario Las Américas could not verify those comments and rumors.

A banking official who prefers anonymity believes that the country’s
financial situation is “quite delicate.” He says, “There is not enough
currency liquidity. Even payments of the various debts contracted with
foreign companies are not being made. Tourism, which contributes about
$3 billion in revenue, devours almost 60 percent of that revenue in the
purchase of inputs. Remittances are the lifeline, but with shortages in
foreign exchange stores and high prices, many people are spending their
convertible pesos on the black market or in the parallel trade of the
’mules’ that bring products from abroad. A large part of that money is
not being returned to the state coffers, as people involved in these
activities either save it or use it as an investment in their business.”

To minimize reality, the olive-green autocracy uses anti-imperialist
discourse and condemnations of Donald Trump’s new policy of restrictions
as a smokescreen.

“That narrative has always worked. But people on the street know that
this discourse is exhausted. They can’t justify all the national
wreckage and the poor performance of the public services with the
economic blockade of the United States nor with the recent aggressive
policy of Trump. Cubans are at their limit with everything. It is not
advisable to think that Cubans will always be silent. Situations such as
blackouts and cuts in the water supply make people angry and their
reactions could be unpredictable,” warns a sociologist.

With finances in the red, an economic recession that threatens to turn
into a crisis of incalculable consequences, and grandiose development
plans that sound like science fiction to ordinary Cubans, the
authorities are facing a dangerous precipice.

Six decades of selling illusions and with unfulfilled promises are
already coming to an end. And it could be less than happy.

Source: Cuban Government Fires Off One Lie After Another / Iván García –
Translating Cuba –

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If Trump Ends Our Remittances? Thu, 13 Jul 2017 21:23:51 +0000 If Trump Ends Our Remittances? / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 8 July 2017 — Without too much caution, the CUPET tanker
truck painted green and white begins to deposit fuel in the underground
basement of a gas station located at the intersection of Calle San
Miguel and Mayía Rodríguez, just in front of Villa Marista, headquarters
of State Security, in the quiet Sevillano neighborhood, south of Havana.

The gas station, with four pumps, belongs to the Ministry of the
Interior and all its workers, even civilians, are part of the military
staff. “To start working in a military center or company, be it FAR
(Revolutionary Armed Forces) or MININT (Ministry of the Interior),
besides investigating you in your neighborhood and demanding certain
qualities, you have to be a member of the Party or the UJC (Union of
Young Communists),” says one employee, who adds:

“But things have relaxed and not all those working in military companies
are 100 percent revolutionary. And like most jobs in Cuba, there are
those who make money stealing fuel, have family in the United States and
only support the government in appearances.”

Let’s call him Miguel. He is a heavy drinker of beer and a devotee of

“I worked at the gas station six years ago. It is true that they ask for
loyalty to the system and you have to participate in the May Day marches
so as not to stand out. But it is not as rigorous as three decades ago,
according to the older ones, when you could not have religious beliefs
or family in yuma (the USA). I do not care about politics, I’m a
vacilator. I have two sons in Miami, and although I look for my
shillings here, if Trump cuts off the remittances to those of us who
work in military companies, Shangó will tell me what to do,” he says and

If there is something that worries many Cubans it is the issue of family
remittances. When the Berlin Wall collapsed and the blank check of the
former USSR was canceled, Fidel Castro’s Cuba entered a spiraling
economic crisis that 28 years later it still has not been able to overcome.

Inflation roughly hits the workers and retirees with a worthless and
devalued currency, barely enough to buy a few roots and fruits and to
pay the bills for the telephone, water and electricity.

Although the tropical autocracy does not reveal statistics on the amount
of remittances received in Cuba, experts say that the figures fluctuate
between 2.5 and 3 billion dollars annually. Probably more.

Foreign exchange transactions of relatives and friends living abroad,
particularly in the United States, are the fundamental support of
thousands of Cuban families. It is the second national industry and
there is a strong interest in managing that hard currency.

“Since the late 1970s, Fidel Castro understood the usefulness of
controlling the shipments of dollars from the so-called gusanos
(’worms,’ as those who left were called) to their families. When he
allowed the trips of the Cuban Community to the Island, the Ministry of
the Interior (MININT) had already mounted an entire industry to capture
those dollars.

“Look, you can not be naive. In Cuba, whenever foreign exchange comes
in, the companies that manage it are military, or the Council of State,
like Palco. That money is the oxygen of the regime. And they use it to
buy equipment, motorcycles and cars for the G-2 officials who repress
the opponents and to construct hotels, rather than to acquire medicines
for children with cancer. And since there is no transparency, they can
open a two or three million dollar account in a tax haven,” says an

The dissection of the problem carried out by the openly anti-Castro
exile and different administrations of the White House is correct. The
problem is to find a formula for its application so that the stream of
dollars does not reach the coffers of the regime.

“The only way for the government not to collect dollars circulating in
Cuba, would be Trump completely prohibiting transfers of money. It’s the
only way to fuck them. I do not think there is another. But using money
as a weapon of blackmail to make people demand their rights, I find
deplorable. I also have the rope around my neck. I want democratic
changes, better salaries, and I have no relatives in Miami. But I do not
have the balls to go out in the street and demand them,” says an
engineer who works at a military construction company.

Twenty years ago, on June 27, 1997, the Internal Dissident Working Group
launched La Patria es de Todos (The Nation Belongs to Everyone), a
document that raised rumors within the opposition itself. Economist
Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, along with the late Félix Antonio Bonne
Carcassés, Vladimiro Roca Antúnez and lawyer René Gómez Manzano, tried
to get those Cubans who received dollars to commit to not participate in
government activities or vote in the elections, all of them voluntary.

It is true that the double standards of a large segment of Cubans upset
the human rights activists. With total indifference, in the morning they
can participate in an act of repudiation against the Ladies in White and
in the afternoon they connect to the internet so that a family member
expedites the paperwork for them to emigrant or recharges their mobile
phone account.

This hypocrisy is repulsive. But these people are not repressive. Like
millions of citizens on the island, they are victims of a
dictatorship. In totalitarian societies, even the family estate is

In Stalin’s USSR a ’young pioneer’ was considered a here for denouncing
the counterrevolutionary attitude of his parents. There was a stage in
Cuba where a convinced Fidelista could not befriend a ’worm’, or have
anything to do with a relative who had left the country or receive money
from abroad.

I understand journalists like Omar Montenegro, of Radio Martí, who in a
radio debate on the subject, said that measures such as these can at
least serve to raise awareness of people who have turned faking it into
a lifestyle. But beyond whether regulation could be effective in the
moral order, in practice it would be a chaos for any federal agency of
the United States.

And, as much frustration as those of us who aspire to a democratic Cuba
may have, we can not be like them. It has rained a lot since then. The
ideals of those who defend Fidel Castro’s revolution have been
prostituted. Today, relatives of senior military and government
officials have left for the United States. And the elite of the olive
green bourgeoisie that lives on the island likes to play golf, drink
Jack Daniel’s and wear name-brand clothes.

If Donald Trump applies the control of remittances to people working in
GAESA or other military enterprises, it would affect more than one
million workers engaged in these capitalist business of the regime,
people who are as much victims of the dictatorship as the rest of the

The colonels and generals who changed their hot uniforms for white
guayaberas and the ministers and high officials, do not need to receive
remittances. Without financial controls or public audits, they manage
the state coffers at will. One day we will know how much they have
stolen in the almost sixty years they have been governing.

Source: If Trump Ends Our Remittances? / Iván García – Translating Cuba

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Cuban Government Extends Land Lease Period to 20 Years Thu, 13 Jul 2017 21:22:55 +0000 Cuban Government Extends Land Lease Period to 20 Years

14ymedio, Havana, 30 June 2017 — The latest Council of Ministers,
chaired by Raul Castro, has extended the term of the country’s land
leases under the usufruct system to 20 years, but the leases can be
cancelled if the beneficiaries use illicit funds, according to an
announcement today in the official press.

The meeting analyzed the economic performance of the first half of 2017
and included the announcement of new measures “to improve
self-employment” and the decision to consolidate the experiment of
non-agricultural cooperatives.

According to Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, Minister of Economy and Planning,
the national economy behaved as planned. For the second semester, higher
levels of execution are expected with “the arrival of imported supplies
and the completion of contracts.”

Marino Murillo Jorge, head of the Permanent Commission for
Implementation and Development, announced that it will no longer be for
10 years, but rather for 20, that a ‘natural person’ will be able to
enjoy the use of the land in usufruct, although he pointed out that
these lands remain “nontransferable property of the State and must be
kept in operation.”

If the authorities detect that the person leasing the land has used
illicit financing, it may cancel the usufruct agreement, a move that
could be an answer to the recent announcements of Donald Trump’s
administration to support local entrepreneurs to the detriment of state-
or military-owned and operated businesses.

During the Council of Ministers it was also announced that to receive
land, “natural persons have to work and manage it in a personal and
direct manner.”

As of September 2016, 4.7 million acres of land had been delivered in
usufruct, representing 31% of the country’s agricultural area. Starting
now, the taxes provided in the Tax Law concerning the use, possession
and idleness of the land, will gradually begin to be applied.

The lack of growth in the delivery of land is due, as Murillo explained,
to the fact that the number of requests have declined, since the
currently available land extensions “are less productive, with high
infestation from the invasive marabou weed, are far from the population
settlements and basic services, or have difficulty accessing water sources.”

The measures to “improve self-employment,” which were not explained to
the press, will be aimed at increasing control over entrepreneurs.

There was no report of any decisions made about the longed-for wholesale
market, the ability to import, or an increase in authorized occupations.

However, concerns were expressed about “the use of raw materials,
materials and equipment of illicit origin” in the private sector, in
addition to “breaches of tax obligations and underreporting of income,”
among other irregularities.

The authorities acknowledged that the presence of more than half a
million people in self-employment activities “confirms its validity as a
source of employment, while increasing the supply of goods and services,
with acceptable levels of quality.”

The update of the policy of non-agricultural cooperatives was limited to
“concentrating efforts on consolidating the 429 already constituted.”

The government reproaches these types of entities for “deviations from
the original idea for which they were created,” their tendency to
increase prices, and the use of bank loans for “purposes other than the
concepts for which they were granted.”

However, the Government recognized that this type of management
structure, authorized three years ago, “constitutes an alternative that
frees the State from the administration of economic activities,
production and services that are not considered primary,” which will
continue to be treated as “an experiment” going forward.

Source: Cuban Government Extends Land Lease Period to 20 Years –
Translating Cuba –

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Cuban Couple Prefers to Face the Jungle Rather Than the Law in Cuba Thu, 13 Jul 2017 21:22:05 +0000 Cuban Couple Prefers to Face the Jungle Rather Than the Law in Cuba

14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Panama City, 2 July 2017 – They managed to
escape Cuba to leave behind traces of corruption and negligence that,
according to Yudenny Sao Labrado and her husband Yoendry Batista,
reflect the prevailing system on the island. From a neighborhood on the
outskirts of Panama City, the couple relates the story of their journey,
a long trek that they hope will end with their arrival in the United States.

Yudenny Sao (born in Puerto Padre in 1979) was born just three years
after the promulgation of Cuba’s Socialist Constitution. Born under the
Revolution, she trained as a teacher and graduated from the University
of Mathematics and Physics. She left the classroom to administer one of
the thousands of bodegas spread across the island, in which the state
subsidizes some of the products of the basic market basket through the
ration book.

“I liked teaching, but the Ministry of Education pays very little,” she
explains. In the bodega she had more opportunities to do business “under
the table.”

“I made the decision to leave Cuba when they discovered a corruption
plot in Puerto Padre’s retail network,” said Sao. In 2016, a series of
audits revealed that several of the bodegas in Puerto Padre, where she
worked, had irregularities in their accounts. Although there were
invoices covering the sales, the money was never deposited in the bank.
The directors of the institution are serving sentences of up to eight
years for misappropriating state funds.

“I had nothing to do with that,” said the woman from Las Tunas province,
defending herself. According to her, her business was to sell rice,
sugar, and contraband cigarettes she bought on the black market, instead
of the products sent by the state for “free” – that is unregulated –
sales, which covered articles outside the rationing system.

Although basically she did not alter the prices of the products, she
committed a crime because the rigid centralized economic system did not
allow her to market articles that were not sent through the channels
authorized by the authorities.

“I gathered my people and I told them about the situation, because the
big fish always eats the little one,” she says. Sao’s family includes
her husband, Yoendry Batista, a welder by profession, her three children
ages 19, 10 and 7 years, and her parents. They made the decision that
she should leave Cuba and asked relatives in Florida for $10,000.

“With that money I went to Havana. I wanted to go by boat to the United
States, but instead of paying a ticket on the speedboats that traffic
people to Miami, I learned that there were people who sold parts to
build a boat, and after a phone call my husband came to Havana and we
began to build the boat,” she says.

In the heart of Havana, a few blocks from the Sanctuary of the Virgin of
Charity, they began the construction of the boat that would take them to
the United States. The materials cost $7,500 and each of those
interested in emigrating did their bit. All under strict secrecy, as the
construction of boats to leave the country is punishable by law.

“We made the boat with polyethylene and sheets of platinum [an alloy
so-called in popular slang] and iron. That’s illegal, it could cost us
up to 15 years in jail,” says Yoendry Batista, Yudenny’s husband, who
had never built a boat in his life. After weeks of working under the
summer sun in a Havana courtyard the boat was ready.

“To take it to the coast we had to pretend we were moving. At three
o’clock in the morning we started to assemble furniture and parts of the
disassembled boat in a closed truck that carried supplies to the foreign
exchange stores,” recalls Sao.

They headed towards the north coast, to the mouth of Arroyo
Caimito. There they spent eight days together with another 17 people
eating the bare minimum to conserve food for the trip. After weeks of
preparation they were finally about to leave for the United States.

“When we heard the sound of the engine we were happy, we shouted ‘Adios,
comandante [Fidel]’ and we embraced,” recalls Sao. However, the
happiness was short-lived. The engine barely lasted 1 hour and 15
minutes. The swell flooded the electrical system and they were
adrift. They had to get rid of the engine that cost them $2,000 and the
gas drums they had for the trip. If the Coast Guard found them with that
equipment they could be in serious legal trouble.

“The Cuban Coast Guard appeared around noon. My wife had fainted from
lack of food and dehydration. They had us handcuffed and in the sun
picking up other rafters for hours. That August 12 they collected 32
rafters whose boats had broken down,” explains Batista.

Dehydrated and hungry they were exposed to the sun all afternoon on the
deck of the boat and were taken to the port of Mariel. After being fined
3,000 pesos, they were released. “What saved you is that we are making
preparations for the Commander-in-Chief’s birthday celebration,” the
head of the military unit told them. August 13, 2016 was the culmination
of a program of celebrations to commemorate the 90 years of the old
ex-president Fidel Castro, who died three months later.

Without money, they returned to Havana to try to build a new boat. “We
spent sleepless nights thinking what to do with a debt of $10,000
without even having left the country. In Puerto Padre the investigations
began and Yudenny’s time was running out. It occurred to them to bribe a
policeman to “throw them through the system.” Because they had no
criminal records they could apply for a passport and travel legally to

“We paid $100 to the police and because we had no priors we got our
passports (which cost $100 per person). That’s how we traveled to Guyana
and from there we embarked on the journey to the United States,”
explains Sao.

From Guyana they went to Brazil, where she was employed domestically
for some months. Her husband worked as a builder, not without being
cheated by those who saw undocumented migrants as cheap labor with no

“He worked in malls. On one occasion they promised 100 reals a week and
in the end they paid him 40,” says Sao. Her husband, on the other hand,
has good memories of the towns where he spent the time. “You get another
image of these countries because it is not what they tell you in
Cuba. In these countries there are many people with good hearts and they
help the migrant,” he says.

After collecting some money they left with another 60 Cubans via the
Amazon river and after more than 20 days of travel crossed Peru, Ecuador
and Colombia. The Darien jungle was the most difficult for Sao, diabetic
and hypertensive.

“I did not want to continue, but my family sent us 200 dollars from
Cuba. That, together with what we had earned, allowed us to pay the
guides who guided us through the jungle,” explains Cao.

In Panama they took refuge with the Catholic charity Caritas, where they
received the news of the end of the wet foot/dry foot policy. They
stayed with Caritas until they were forced to leave for the eventual
transfer to the holding camp at Gualaca. “I don’t care where, it can be
Haiti, but I cannot go back to Cuba,” she says with regret.

The house where Sao and her husband took refuge in Panama City, after
escaping from Gualaca, belonged to some Panamanians they met through
Cáritas. During the weeks they stayed in it they refurbished, cleaned up
the gardens and planted bananas.

“We are not going to pick the crop. Of that you can be sure,” says Batista.

A week after telling their story to this newspaper they left for Costa
Rica, where the authorities seized their passports. They continued their
journey and are now in Mexico, waiting for a humanitarian visa to
continue their way to the United States and seek political refuge.

“The Cuban government is responsible for everything we’ve been
through. Everything you have to do to have a decent life depends on
them. To buy a pair of shoes for your children you have go without
eating for five months,” says Sao, adding that she never would have left
her village if it weren’t for the crime imputed to her. “It’s a macabre


This article is part of the series “A New Era in Cuban Migration”
produced by 14ymedio, Nuevo Herald and Radio Ambulante under the
auspices of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Source: Cuban Couple Prefers to Face the Jungle Rather Than the Law in
Cuba – Translating Cuba –

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Drugs Play Increasing Role in the Battle for Cuban Teenagers’ Leisure Time Thu, 13 Jul 2017 21:20:18 +0000 Drugs Play Increasing Role in the Battle for Cuban Teenagers’ Leisure Time

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 7 July 2017 — He dries his sweat
and takes a drink of water from a bottle he carries in his backpack. “In
my time the young people spent the holidays in front of the television,”
says Ignacio, the father of two teenagers. As he moves along crowded
Avenida 10 de Octubre, in Havana, he looks for video games for sale. “So
that they stay at home, because in the streets there are more and more

Ignacio’s concern is shared by thousands of parents all over the Island.
The country where, decades ago, the government controlled how many
cigarettes an individual smoked, has given way to a more complex
reality. Authorities warn of increased drug use among young people and
call on families to be alert.

In recent years the official press has also begun to address the issue,
albeit with some hesitancy and clarifying that this problem is not as
serious as it is in the capitalist countries. However, there is no
neighborhood in the Cuban capital where a wide variety of preparations,
pills and powders for “flying” are not bought and sold.

Hannibal, 17, prefers to change his name to detail his relationship with
narcotics. He began using at age 12 and what, at the beginning, was a
game, later became an obsession. “I stopped going to school, I was only
interested in getting high,” he relates to 14ymedio.

Over the last five years, Hannibal has been using and swearing off
drugs. A week ago he broke his longest stretch without using drugs. “I
was clean more than 80 days, but they invited me to a disco and I fell
back into it,” he confesses.

His family life took a turn when, in mid-2015, his parents decided to
take the route to the United States through Central America and he was
left alone with his grandmother. In a short time, his consumption
doubled. “I had at least two overdoses, but only once did they take me
to the hospital.”

Hannibal’s friends did not want the doctors to report the case to the
police and feared they “would all end up prisoners,” says the young man
who, at 17, weighs no more than 110 pounds and whose hands shake all the
time. “I lost interest in food and went for months almost without taking
a bath.” He sold all the appliances in the house one by one to pay for

“One day I sold the bathroom mirror over the sink because I needed money
and because I could not look at the face of how emaciated I was,” he
says. At that moment he decided to seek help.

The young man went through the Provincial Center for Teen Withdrawal in
Havana, an institution that since 2005 has been serving patients who
have started taking drugs since very young ages. “I met others there
like me and I promised to stop killing myself with all this, but in the
street life is something else,” he says.

On weekends the wall of the Malecon becomes a massive meeting point, an
open air brothel and display point for countless illegal substances. “I
just have to go there and I always find something.” With the increase in
tourism “the supply has diversified and there is a lot of marijuana,”
although he says he prefers “faster and less adulterated” pills.

Synthetic drugs reign among the young and have become the currency with
which foreigners pay for sexual favors, either in tablets or “dust,”
says Hannibal. Although he says he has never sold his body to feed his
addiction, he does know many who have. “Who’s going to pay for all these
bones?” he asks wryly.

A confidential phone line helps those looking for information on the
subject, although mistrust affects its reach. “Hello, you have contacted
103, Confidential Antidrug Line, we will soon help you,” says a
voice. Claudia, 39, prefers to hang on. She has a daughter of 14 who has
become “aggressive, she spends long hours in a stupor and sometimes she
cannot get out of bed.”

Data published by the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Unit
report that last year 14,412 calls were received on the confidential
line, most of them in Havana, Pinar del Rio, Camagüey, Ciego de Ávila
and Las Tunas.

Claudia fears the worst about what her daughter does when she leaves the
house but does not want to “get her in trouble” by contacting a
specialist. She has thought of another kind of solution. “I spoke with a
cousin who lives in Quemado de Güines, in Villa Clara, about my daughter
spending some time there.” The mother believes that “being in the
countryside, outside of Havana and away from her friends” will help her,
although no place in the national territory seems to be safe.

The entry of drugs into the country has been increasing in recent
years. For all of 2016, the General Customs of the Republic (AGR)
confiscated 67 pounds of drugs, however between January and May of this
year the amount seized has already reached 72 pounds, according to data
offered by Moraima Rodríguez Nuviola, AGR deputy director.

Ships are the main route of entry, especially of marijuana. Although the
latter is also sowed on private farms where the owners risk ending up in
jail with their land confiscated.

Drug trafficking is punished in the Cuban penal code with sanctions of
four to ten years, if it is considered small scale, but if it is large
amounts the sentence can reach 20 years. The size of the volume is
determined in practice, it is not fixed in the law. International
trafficking carries up to 30 years in prison and is aggravated if minors
are involved. Consumption is also seriously punished, with fines of up
to 10,000 pesos or deprivation of liberty of between six months and
eight years.

Despite the severity of the national legislation “consumption begins
very early,” according to a psychiatrist who preferred anonymity. “In
Cuba initiation into these types of substances increasingly occurs at
younger ages.” The specialist, who has treated about 100 patients, finds
that “marijuana, psychotropic drugs and some medications used as drugs
are displacing alcohol among adolescents.”

Hannibal is determined to try. “I want to leave this garbage, go back to
study, redo my life and get married,” he says. In the pocket of his
jeans he carries a small envelope with ten pills. “These are the last, I

Source: Drugs Play Increasing Role in the Battle for Cuban Teenagers’
Leisure Time – Translating Cuba –

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The National Council of the Performing Arts under Scrutiny Thu, 13 Jul 2017 21:18:09 +0000 The National Council of the Performing Arts under Scrutiny / Juan Juan

Juan Juan Almeida, 26 June 2017 — Another legal trial is threatening the
invulnerability of the Ministry of Culture. This time the prosecutorial
gaze is focused on officials at the National Council of the Performing
Arts (CNAE) while overlooking the culpability of Cuban leaders who, were
they to fall, would make too big a noise.

The Cuban government maintains a “zero tolerance” policy against any
form of human trafficking or related crimes. Its measures are intended
to enhance prevention, confront offenders and severely punish those
found guilty. But the business is lucrative, involving hundreds of
thousands of dollars. Very conservative estimates indicate that more
than 5,000 Cubans have emigrated legally using fraudulent documents
procured for them by CNAE officials.

“The investigation is snowballing. After interviewing each new witness,
investigators have to expand the probe,” says a source close to the
Office of the Attorney General of the Republic of Cuba.

“According to our documents, there are several ongoing investigations.
On the one hand, those presumed guilty remain silent for fear of
reprisals. On the other hand, the victims being questioned — people
willing to assist in the investigation — allege they consented to
bribery by CNAE officials in order to emigrate safely. Everything points
to the government as the sole culprit because it has not been able to
provide them with the opportunity to have a decent life or a decent job.”

“Passing judgement should not be a political issue and we aren’t even at
that stage yet. The question is: Did the people who committed these
crimes do so in every case with the consent and for the benefit of those
affected? Does it make sense to continue exploring the causes of the
problem when we all know what the solution is? Whom does it harm? The
law will have to wait but I imagine that in the end the case will be

Founded on April 1, 1989, the National Council of the Performing Arts is
a legally recognized, financially independent cultural institution whose
mission is to promote the development of theater, dance, pantomime,
humor and the circus. All these categories were used as a ruse by
non-artists to escape the fiefdom. For the time being, CNEA’s practice
of issuing exit visas is “on hold” and the documents are in the
possession of the state prosecutor after being seized as evidence.

Some members of the council have been temporarily suspended from their
jobs. All of them are under investigation, accused of issuing visas and
emigration documents to people with no formal connection to the
institution who paid 90 to 300 CUC to secure a safe and guaranteed escape.

A former employee of the Ministry of the Interior — someone fired for
political reasons who is now self-employed — notes with no small degree
of irony, “Investigators are doing everything possible to keep news like
this away from people like you because the consequences could be wide

Source: The National Council of the Performing Arts under Scrutiny /
Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba –

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American Cruise Companies Stand To Benefit From U.S. Changes To Cuba Policy Thu, 13 Jul 2017 18:26:00 +0000 American Cruise Companies Stand To Benefit From U.S. Changes To Cuba Policy
July 10, 20174:35 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered

U.S. cruise operators are among those who stand to benefit from
President Trump’s changes to the Obama administration’s Cuba travel
policies. The new rules don’t affect cruises, and may help them.


President Trump announced new restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba last
month, but cruises were allowed to continue. The cruise industry saw a
big opportunity after the Obama administration began allowing Americans
to visit Cuba, and the business is growing. NPR’s Greg Allen sent this
report from Miami.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Nearly every day at the Port of Miami, cruise ships
pull away from the docks, headed to Caribbean destinations, places like
the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and increasingly Cuba. Kim Bird of Dallas
was one of those waiting to board a liner to Havana.

KIM BIRD: Cruised many times. Cuba’s a place I’ve always wanted to just see.

ALLEN: Bird was with her friend Alyssa Bain, a travel agent from Miami.
Bain is booking a lot of trips to Cuba for clients, and she wanted to
check it out for herself. When she heard last month President Trump was
getting ready to announce a new Cuba policy, she was concerned.

ALYSSA BAIN: At first but now no – as far as travel goes, cruises –
definitely no change at all.

ALLEN: What will change is that it largely ends individual travel.
Everyone except Cuban-Americans visiting family now can only go with
groups on humanitarian, cultural or educational trips. That’s a policy
that leaves cruise ships in the clear. Cruisers are advised they need to
fill out an affidavit and take part in an educational or cultural
excursion. Many of those now going to Cuba are experienced travelers
who’re looking for a new destination in the Caribbean but want the
amenities of a cruise ship. That’s one reason Bain says she didn’t
consider flying to Cuba.

BAIN: A lot more expensive, number one. So to just do a week would cost
you probably double. And I think that’s why when the cruise lines have –
now are coming out with the four- and five-night cruises, people can
afford it. And they also have a place to go back to that’s nice and
comfy, cozy in the evening and air conditioned (laughter).

ALLEN: Since Obama reopened travel to Cuba, the cruise business has
changed a lot. For its first sailings to Cuba, Carnival looked for
passengers who wanted to participate in volunteer activities on the
island. But Mike Driscoll, the editor of Cruise Week, a trade
publication, says that model was quickly shelved as Cuba blossomed into
a mainstream cruise destination.

MIKE DRISCOLL: Now it’s going to the bigger players. Norwegian Cruise
Line have ships with 2,000 passengers going approximately. And now so
does Carnival. And now with Holland America going in, you have more
upper-end lines going to Cuba as sort of the next step.

ALLEN: During his campaign, Donald Trump vowed to roll back Obama’s Cuba
policies, so people in the travel industry knew changes were coming.
When the president announced the restrictions in Miami last month, the
cruise lines were pleased but restrained in their reactions. Here’s
Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain interviewed on CNBC.

RICHARD FAIN: Cuba has been good for us, and the changes he made had no
really negative effect. I don’t think I would look for a positive
effect. I’d much rather understand exactly what they’re doing, and that
would help us.

ALLEN: Cruise lines and the entire travel industry are now watching for
new regulations from the Trump administration that will lay out
important details of the president’s Cuba policy. A key issue is a ban
on doing business with the Cuban military, which owns hotels, car rental
agencies and many restaurants and shops in Havana’s old city. Depending
on how it’s interpreted, the ban could leave cruise pastures with
nowhere to go in Old Havana. But John Kavulich with the U.S.-Cuba Trade
and Economic Council says cruise lines and others doing business in Cuba
have been somewhat reassured by recent comments from the Treasury

JOHN KAVULICH: So far they are saying that if a company, a cruise line
has relationships with entities in Cuba that are controlled by the Cuban
military, that those are not going to be disrupted.

ALLEN: For now the main restraint on cruise travel to Cuba is
infrastructure – facilities that can handle the estimated quarter
million people expected to visit the island over the next two years on
cruise ships. Greg Allen, NPR news, Miami.

Source: American Cruise Companies Stand To Benefit From U.S. Changes To
Cuba Policy : NPR –

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Venezuela oil exports to Cuba drop, energy shortages worsen Thu, 13 Jul 2017 18:23:08 +0000 Venezuela oil exports to Cuba drop, energy shortages worsen
Marianna Parraga and Marc Frank

HOUSTON/HAVANA (Reuters) – Venezuela’s crude and fuel deliveries to Cuba
have slid almost 13 percent in the first half this year, according to
documents from state-run oil company PDVSA viewed by Reuters,
threatening to worsen gasoline and power shortages in the communist-run

Cuba’s government since 2016 has reduced fuel allocations 28 percent to
most state-run companies, and has cut electricity consumption. Public
lighting was cut 50 percent, while residential electric use was spared.

Beginning in March, Cubans also have reported minor gasoline and diesel
shortages at service stations.

Cuba’s economy depends heavily on Venezuelan crude shipments under a
series of bilateral agreements started in 2000 by the South American
country’s late President Hugo Chavez. In return, the island nation has
provided Venezuela with Cuban doctors and other services.

Venezuela’s shipments of crude for Cuba’s refineries dropped 21 percent
to 42,310 bpd, the documents showed. Last year, Venezuela made up for a
shortfall in crude shipments by sending Cuba more fuels, but this year’s
data showed refined products sent to Cuba remained almost unchanged at
around 30,040 bpd.

In total, PDVSA sent Cuba an average of 72,350 barrels per day (bpd) of
crude and refined products in the first half of 2017, down almost 13
percent from the same period of last year, according to the data from
internal PDVSA trade reports. (Link to Graphic:

The source who provided the documents to Reuters asked not to be named.

“Cuba needs at least 70,000 bpd from Venezuela to cover its energy
deficit and avoid deeper rationing. A larger or total loss of the
Venezuelan supply would have a high political and financial cost for
Cuba,” which has been gearing up to welcome more tourists, said Jorge
Pinon, a Cuban energy expert at the University of Texas in Austin.

Cuba suffered severe energy rationing in the 1990s after the collapse of
the Soviet Union, an ally that had provided cheap fuel. In 2016, Cuba’s
economy went into recession for the first time since those days,
declining almost 1 percent as shrinking export earnings left it short of
funds to import oil on the open market and replace declining Venezuelan

With Venezuela’s crude production sliding in 2017 for the sixth year in
a row, the OPEC nation has had less oil to send Cuba and other customers
in regions from Asia to North America and the Caribbean.

Cuba, which produces extremely heavy crude used by industry and power
plants, received 103,226 bpd of oil from Venezuela in the first half of
2015, according to the same data.

PDVSA, whose full name is Petroleos de Venezuela SA, did not reply to a
request for comment.

Venezuela’s oil shipments to Cuba have been falling since 2008, when
they peaked at 115,000 bpd mainly due to a decline in crude exports. The
poor shape of Venezuelan refineries cut into fuel exports this year, and
Venezuela has also had to boost fuel imports to meet domestic demand.

Cuba, in addition to rationing fuel, is seeking oil cargoes from other
producers including Russia, something it had not done for more than a

In one of several recent shipments, the Ocean Quest tanker loaded with
fuel oil at Russia’s Tuapse terminal, arrived in Havana on July 9 and is
waiting to discharge, according to Thomson Reuters vessel tracking data.
The Tuapse terminal is operated by state-run Rosneft.

Cuba’s three aged refineries have been operating at reduced rates since
last year due to a shortage of light crude, which also affects
Venezuela’s 1.3-million-bpd refining network.

Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston and Marc Frank in Havana.
Editing by Gary McWilliams and David Gregorio

Source: IEA says OPEC compliance with oil cuts at lowest in six months –

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Eight Things You Need to Know about President Trump’s New Cuba Policy Thu, 13 Jul 2017 18:21:46 +0000 Eight Things You Need to Know about President Trump’s New Cuba Policy
07/13/2017 09:20 am ET
William M. LeoGrande
Professor of Government at American University

President Donald J. Trump signs the National Security Presidential
Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba,
Miami, June 16, 2017

On June 16, 2017, President Donald Trump announced his new Cuba policy
in a speech in Miami, declaring that he was “canceling” President Barack
Obama’s opening to Havana. Here are eight things you need to know about
what Trump did—and didn’t –do.

(1) National Security Presidential Memorandum on Cuba (NSPM)

During President Trump’s appearance in Miami, he signed a new National
Security Presidential Memorandum on Cuba which formalized elements of
his new policy and replaced President Obama’s Presidential Directive on
Cuba signed in October 2016. Obama’s directive laid out the rationale
for a policy of engagement with Cuba and directed executive branch
agencies to work toward its implementation. Rescinding it has no
immediate practical effect, but signals that President Trump is no
longer interested in a policy of normalization—something that was also
clear from the confrontational tone of his Miami speech.

(2) Travel Opportunities

One of the main policy changes President Trump announced was tightening
restricts on travel to Cuba and stepping up enforcement to be sure that
travelers are going for a legally approved purpose. There are 12
categories of legal travel to Cuba, but the most popular one for
non-Cuban Americans is “people-to-people” educational travel, offered by
cruise ships and travel providers like National Geographic and Classic
Journeys. President Obama legalized individual people-to-people trips,
which meant travelers could go on their own and pursue a personalized
itinerary. President Trump canceled that. Now, to go on a
people-to-people trip, you’ll have to go in an organized group led by a
licensed traveler provider, and follow a set itinerary. But you can
still bring back rum and cigars.

(3) Transactions Benefiting the Cuban Military

The other major policy change President Trump announced was a ban on any
direct transactions with entities that would benefit the Cuban military
disproportionately. The terms “direct” and “disproportionate” haven’t
been defined yet. That will happen when the Treasury Department issues
the implementing regulations. This could get complicated, because a lot
of enterprises in the tourism sector, including hotels, restaurants,
tourist taxis, rental cars, and retail stores are controlled by the
Cuban armed forces ministry. The State Department will produce a list of
prohibited enterprises, which should clarify who you can do business
with in Cuba and who you can’t. The good news: ports, airports, and
telecommunications are exempt from the new regulations, so cruise ships,
airlines, and Google are all safe. Existing contracts are exempt, too.

(4) Remittances

At first glance, Trump’s National Security Presidential Memorandum
(NSPM) seems to say that remittances will be unaffected, but another
section of the NSPM expands the definition of “prohibited government
officials” of Cuba from a few dozen people to hundreds of thousands.
That’s important because under existing regulations, Americans cannot
send remittances to any Cuban who is a prohibited person. We’ll just
have to wait and see how the Treasury Department sorts that out when it
writes the regulations.

(5) Diplomatic Relations

Despite a very tough speech in Miami that denounced the Cuban
government, President Trump did not break diplomatic relations with
Havana. The United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations on July
20, 2015. President Obama nominated career foreign service officer
Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who was already serving in Havana as chief of the
U.S. embassy, as ambassador, but he was never confirmed by the Senate.
President Trump has not named an ambassador, but in his Miami speech, he
indicated that he intended to keep the embassy open. So if you’re
traveling to Cuba or doing business there, the embassy will still
provide consular services as needed.

(6) Terrorism List

President Trump has not put Cuba back on the State Department’s list of
countries that support international terrorism. Cuba was on that list
until 2015, when the U.S. intelligence community concluded that it met
the conditions for being removed and President Obama removed it. Since
then, U.S. and Cuban law enforcement officials have been cooperating on
counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, and cyber crime. President Trump’s
NSPM mentions law enforcement as an area where engagement with Cuba
serves U.S. national interest.

(7) Immigration Policy

President Trump is not restoring the wet foot/dry foot immigration
policy that gave Cubans arriving in the United States a fast track to
permanent residence and citizenship that no other immigrants enjoyed.
President Obama ended wet foot/dry foot just before leaving office and
President-elect Trump did not object at the time. Cuban immigrants are
now treated no differently than immigrants from other countries. In his
Miami speech, President Trump specifically said that he would not be
changing that policy.

(8) Bilateral Accords

Between December 17, 2014, When President Obama announced the
normalization of relations with Cuba, and the time he left office two
years later, Cuba and the United States signed almost two dozen
bilateral agreements on issues of mutual interest ranging from
environmental protection to commercial air service. global health, and
law enforcement. President Trump has not abrogated any of those
agreements, and his NSPM lists many of the fields in which agreements
have been signed as fields in which the United States will continue to
engage with Cuba because it is in the national interest.

Source: Eight Things You Need to Know about President Trump’s New Cuba
Policy | HuffPost –

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Cuba’s ‘elections’: asking the man on the street Thu, 13 Jul 2017 17:37:15 +0000 Cuba’s ‘elections’: asking the man on the street
OSMEL RAMÍREZ ÁLVAREZ | Holguín | 13 de Julio de 2017 – 11:51 CEST.

On June 14 the Council of State announced general elections. In this
first stage (September 2017) only partial elections will be held, in
which district delegates are to be elected.

It is obvious that the “elections” are not usually a crucial phenomenon
in Cubans’ lives. People are hardly excited, nor is the monotonous tempo
of life altered in the country by this event, which ought to be momentous.

“Elections? Well yes, I think so. I’ve heard about that. It seems to me
that this year we are to choose the delegates,” says a carriage driver
who covers the Cocal route, in the city of Mayarí.

“I don’t care who it is. In the end no one can do anything for anyone.
It’s always the same old thing, and nothing is solved. The few times I
go to the meetings is when they hook me and I can’t get away,” one
passenger said.

A hospital nurse stated firmly: “You go to the meetings so you don´t
stand out, which is not a good idea, for many reasons. Who thinks it’s
important? Nobody! Even getting any candidates is difficult because
people are proposed, and they almost all refuse, with 20 different
excuses. Even active members of the Party refuse. It’s a pain in neck;
the only thing they can do later is to tell people ‘That can’t be done.’
They don’t even get paid for that tough job, which takes a lot of time,
listening to the people and going to thousands of meetings. I was a
neighbor of a delegate, and it’s a pain in the neck.”

In a small survey of 25 people of different ages and social groups, this
same view predominated, with different nuances. Only two (8%) saw the
Cuban elections as important: 2It is a key moment for us Cubans and for
the Revolution. Even more now, with that crazy new president, Trump, who
insists on returning to aggression against Cuba. We will participate
again, massively, like no other country in the world,” were the words of
one of them.

A significant figure was that 17 respondents (68%) did not even know
that the elections had already been scheduled. Neither were they aware
that they form part of a general election process that will renew even
the national Government.

Only one of them (4%) knew that this time independent candidates would
run in some districts of the country.

“Yes, the opposition wants to change its strategy: instead of not
participating, like before, they will now try to gain ground within the
system. Maybe it will work. I am a whole-hearted opponent of the system,
although I have not been politically active for many years,” he said.

“Here in Mayarí the movement was dismantled, and I was starving. But I
still have a lot of relationships, and I found out about the elections.
I would even like to run because I think the strategy makes sense, but
I’m hesitant to go to the meeting. I haven’t participated in anything
for 20 years!” explained the respondent.

Most, however, responded with expressions of surprise: “First I’ve heard
of it!” “Dissenters as delegates? You think? Is that even possible? They
must be crazy!”

It was interesting that, in general, there were no expressions rejecting
or deriding dissenters – something significant in a country where the
regime has described them as stateless and dismissed them as mercenaries
and terrorists. Nor is there any legal framework to accommodate
plurality, and the State-Party monopolizes all the media. It denies them
access to political opponents and discredits them, sullying their public
image. Hence, their plans and proposals are barely known.

The survey revealed apathy towards the election process. Although the
news and press announced the commencement of this process, people are
not enthusiastic. They just don’t care. Most people do not even remember
hearing about it. There is no electoral atmosphere in the streets.
Everything remains the same. Obviously, there is a lack of a civic
culture or confidence in voting as a mechanism for change and democratic
social mobility.

Nonetheless, although the people are generally unaware of it, this year
the “elections” do have a different connotation, for two reasons: one,
because Raúl Castro is expected to abandon the government, and, for the
first time under this Constitution the president of Cuba may be someone
without the surname “Castro.” Second, because for the first time the
opposition will actively participate and put Cuban electoral laws,
purportedly non-partisan, to the test.

Undoubtedly, a true challenge for Cuba today.

Source: Cuba’s ‘elections’: asking the man on the street | Diario de
Cuba –

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With materials scarce, Cuban designers master recycling chic Wed, 12 Jul 2017 15:35:53 +0000 With materials scarce, Cuban designers master recycling chic
Sarah Marsh

HAVANA (Reuters) – Olaff Alejo’s salt lamps are eerily beautiful and
designed to purify the air.

Yet the Cuban designer must rummage through trash bins and scour the
sidewalks of Havana for scraps of wood and obsolete electrical devices
to manufacture them.

In Communist-run Cuba, designers of clothes and household goods say the
absence of wholesale stores as well as the expense and scarcity of raw
materials have forced them to get creative. Many turn to repurposing and
recycling the materials at hand.

These pioneers of the island’s fledgling private sector say they are
turning a competitive disadvantage into an asset, while yielding unique,
ecologically-friendly designs.

“It’s not easy to get the materials so we have to adapt and improvise a
lot,” said Alejo, 37, whose lamps contain salt crystals. “Some 50-60
percent is recycled material.”

Alejo said he asks carpenters for their leftover scraps and uses the
frames of discarded windows and doors in order to make the wooden bases
for his lamps. He also salvages the switches, plugs and cables from old
electrical devices.

“They are extremely expensive, and there isn’t a regular supply in
stores,” he said, adding his company Luzvi still must import some inputs
– like lightbulbs with a softer glow than Cuba’s starkly white,
energy-saving ones.

The new lamps sell for between $25 and $50, a relatively hefty sum in a
country where the average monthly state salary is around $30. Lower
input costs would enable Alejo to cut prices, he said.

The government has allowed more Cubans to set up their own businesses in
recent years as part of its plan to update its ailing, Soviet-style
economy and cut the bloated state payroll.

The number of Cuba’s self-employed more than tripled in six years to
above 500,000 by the end of 2016, official data shows.

Some entrepreneurs complain, however, that the government has not
followed through on certain reforms. For example, the country’s small,
private businesses still do not have access to the wholesale market.

Raw materials are often in short supply and expensive, although Havana
puts that down to the half-century-old U.S. trade blockade.

Caridad Limonta, whose family firm Procle sells women’s apparel and home
goods, said new textiles were costly so she mostly bought clothes or
hotel curtains and sheets at state-run, second-hand stores and recycled

“I transform trousers for example into bags,” said the 60-year-old
entrepreneur. “The backs of shirts don’t damage as much so I cut them,
stick them together and make patchwork quilts.”

Limonta said Cubans are not in the habit of throwing things away, and
find new uses for them instead. At Procle, shoulder pads become sponges
for the kitchen, while old curtains are reinvented as tablecloths.

While Limonta said she wished it were easier to buy textiles, she also
does not want Cuba to adopt the same kind of “fast fashion” prevalent in
consumerist economies where clothes are cheap but often disposable,
generating trash.

In the business district of Vedado, just around the corner from Procle,
is the Vintage Bazar, a shop that refurbishes old lamps as well as
designs quirky new ones with anything from plumbing pipes to water bottles.

“In other countries you would throw away the lamp and buy a new one,”
said designer Gretel Serrano, 32, who is currently refurbishing a large
batch of lamps for a hotel. “Here people bring them to the shop and we
restore them like new.”

Reporting by Sarah Marsh, editing by G Crosse

Source: Giant iceberg breaks off Antarctica –…

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Will Trump Open A Pandora’s Box Of Litigation Over Cuban Property? Wed, 12 Jul 2017 15:34:42 +0000 Will Trump Open A Pandora’s Box Of Litigation Over Cuban Property?
If the president fails to continue the suspension of Title III, business
relations will be disrupted far more severely and irreparably than they
would be by any regulatory change.
07/10/2017 02:34 pm ET

Long before the Departments of State, Treasury, and Commerce finish
writing the new regulations that President Trump ordered to restrict
trade and travel to Cuba, the president will face another decision on
relations with Havana that could be far more consequential for U.S.
businesses. By July 16, he will have to decide whether to continue
suspending certain provisions of Title III of the Cuban Liberty and
Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 (also known as Helms-Burton, after its

If he allows Title III to go fully into effect, he will open the door to
as many as 200,0000 lawsuits by U.S. nationals whose property was taken
by the Cuban government after 1959.

U.S. courts would be swamped, the ability of U.S. companies to do
business on the island would be crippled, and allies abroad might
retaliate for U.S. suits brought against their companies in Cuba. The
tangle of resulting litigation would take years to unwind.

Title III allows U.S. nationals to file suit in U.S. courts against
anyone “trafficking” in their confiscated property in Cuba—that is,
anyone assuming an equity stake in it or profiting from it. The U.S.
Foreign Claims Settlement Commission has certified 5,913 claims of U.S.
nationals whose property was seized. These are the claims that Cuba and
the United States had begun to discuss during the Obama administration.

But Title III takes the unusual position of allowing naturalized Cuban
Americans who lost property to also file suit against alleged
traffickers. Normally, international law recognizes the sovereign right
of governments to dispose of the property of their own citizens.
According to the Department of State, by including Cuban Americans who
were not U.S. citizens when their property was taken, Title III creates
the potential for an estimated 75,000-200,000 claims worth “tens of
billions of dollars.”

Back in 1996, angry opposition from U.S. allies Canada, Mexico, and
Western Europe, whose companies doing business in Cuba would be the
targets of Title III law suits, led President Bill Clinton to insist on
a presidential waiver provision in Title III when Congress was debating
the law. As a result, the president has the authority to suspend for six
months the right to file Title III law suits, and he can renew that
suspension indefinitely. Every six months since the Cuban Liberty and
Democratic Solidarity Act was passed, successive presidents, Democrat
and Republican alike, have continued the suspension of Title III.

If President Trump does not renew the suspension by July 16, however,
claimants will be free to file Title III law suits by the tens of
thousands. Once the suits have been filed, there will be no way to undo
the resulting legal chaos.

When the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act was passed, U.S.
allies in the Americas and Europe denounced its extraterritorial reach.
Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom passed laws prohibiting
compliance with it. The European Union filed a complaint with the World
Trade Organization, which it dropped after President Clinton suspended
Title III. In fact, the principal justification both President Clinton
and President George W. Bush offered for continuing the suspension was
the need to maintain cooperation with European allies.

If President Trump does not renew the suspension, all these old wounds
with allies will be reopened as U.S. claimants try to haul foreign
companies into U.S. courts for doing business in Cuba. We already have
enough tough issues on our agenda with Mexico, Canada, and Europe
without adding another one.

U.S. businesses would not be exempt from potential liability. A Cuban
American family in Miami claims to have owned the land on which José
Martí International Airport was built, so any U.S. carrier using the air
field could be sued under Title III. Another family that owned the Port
of Santiago could file suit against U.S. cruise ships docking there.

Moreover, it would be almost impossible for a U.S. company to know in
advance whether a proposed business opportunity in Cuba might become the
subject of Title III litigation. “This will effectively end for decades
any attempt to restore trade between the U.S. and Cuba,” attorney Robert
Muse told the Tampa Bay Times.

Explaining the new trade and travel regulations that President Trump
announced on June 16, senior administration officials said they were
designed “to not disrupt existing business” that U.S. companies were
doing in Cuba. If the president fails to continue the suspension of
Title III, business relations will be disrupted far more severely and
irreparably than they would be by any regulatory change.

Source: Will Trump Open A Pandora’s Box Of Litigation Over Cuban
Property? | HuffPost –

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Fewer airplanes but more cruise ships going to Cuba after Norwegian adds second vessel Wed, 12 Jul 2017 15:30:26 +0000 Fewer airplanes but more cruise ships going to Cuba after Norwegian adds
second vessel

Visiting Cuba by sea is turning into the preferred method for American
travelers — at least for now.

On Monday, Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line announced it is adding a
second ship for four-day cruises to Havana, following a barrage of
announcements from airlines about reduced or canceled service to Cuba.

Norwegian, which already sails with the 2,004-passenger Norwegian Sky
from PortMiami, will now also add voyages with the 1,936-passenger
Norwegian Sun, but from Orlando’s Port Canaveral, in the summer of 2018.
The Sun, like the Sky, will also offer all-inclusive sailings, which
means unlimited drinks.

“Our all-inclusive model aboard Norwegian Sky has been very
well-received and as we evaluated the opportunity to expand upon that
concept, we felt that Port Canaveral was the ideal location to offer our
guests a value-rich onboard experience and exciting action-packed
ports-of-call, including an overnight call in Havana, Cuba,” said Andy
Stuart, president and CEO for Norwegian Cruise Line, in a statement.

The Sun’s four-day cruises will also include a stop in Key West. The
ship will also sail three-day cruises to the Bahamas from Orlando. The
trips begin in May 2018.

Norwegian, as well as other major cruise lines including Carnival Cruise
Line and Royal Caribbean International, have continued to add sailings
to Cuba as other travel sectors have struggled to gauge demand to the
island. Airlines have concentrated most of their flights to Havana,
where demand has remained strong, and eliminated flights to other parts
of the island.

But cruise lines, experts say, have experienced continued growth largely
because they bring their own accommodations and coordinate tours, making
it easier for American travelers to follow the changing restrictions for
travel to the island.

American travelers must fit within one of the 12 categories of
authorized travel to Cuba, including the popular “people-to-people”
cultural visits that include most cruise passengers. President Donald
Trump recently amended some of those restrictions, barring Americans
from taking individual people-to-people trips and doing businesses with
entities that are owned and controlled by Cuba’s military. Exactly how
the policy works will depend on regulations that have yet to be released.

Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH

Source: Norwegian Cruise Line adds second ship to Cuba from Orlando |
Miami Herald –

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The impact of Trump’s Cuba policy revisions will likely be small Wed, 12 Jul 2017 15:27:02 +0000 The impact of Trump’s Cuba policy revisions will likely be small

As U.S. officials prepare to implement President Trump’s Cuba policy,
the rancor over the revised course is masking an emerging bipartisan
consensus over American policy toward the island. Despite declaring he
was “cancelling” President Obama’s deal with Cuba, Trump’s approach
maintains the vast majority of steps the Obama Administration took.

Critics of Obama had protested his efforts to increase American
commercial and cultural interaction with Cuba. Hardliners excoriated him
for facilitating commerce with and travel to Cuba, removing the country
from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, reopening embassies in
Washington and Havana, and ending a migration policy that favored Cuban
immigrants over those from other countries. Yet, when two of Obama’s
most vociferous congressional critics, Senator Marco Rubio and Rep.
Mario Diaz Balart, joined Trump in Miami last month for his Cuba
announcement, the Florida Republicans celebrated a policy that enshrines
all those steps.

Trump’s limited policy changes, which complicate American travel and
limit certain commercial engagement, reflect the growing constituency
for engagement with Cuba. White House officials had initially
anticipated a groundswell of support to reverse Obama’s Cuba moves. But
as debate over proposed changes to the policy ensued, officials
recognized the strong support to continue the bulk of the previous
Administration’s approach and even to go further and lift all trade and
travel restrictions.

Polls showed that most Americans, including Republicans and
Cuban-Americans, favor normalizing relations with Cuba. Fifty-five
Senators supported a bill to eliminate all restrictions on travel to the
island the only country where tourist travel by Americans is illegal.
Republican Members of Congress lobbied the White House not to restrict
trade with Cuba, and the Chamber of Commerce and its member companies
advocated for maintaining commercial opportunities for American firms
rather than handing over that business to companies from such countries
as Russia, China, Spain, or Brazil.

Within the Administration, most policy makers favored a continuation of
some form of engagement and did not want to return to a policy of trying
to isolate and pressure Cuba which had failed for five decades to
produce change on the island. Policy makers valued collaboration with
Cuba in combating drug trafficking, protecting the environment, and
developing vaccines. They also recognized that re-imposing travel limits
to Cuba would hurt the people Trump says he wants to support:
independent Cuban entrepreneurs who run restaurants, bed and breakfasts
and markets frequented by American travelers.

Trump himself was naturally sympathetic to preserving business
opportunities for American companies. Jason Greenblatt, a senior White
House official, explored commercial deals in Cuba in his prior position
as counsel for the Trump Organization and Trump said privately during
the presidential transition that he favored Obama’s commercial opening
to the island. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is skeptical of the
utility of sanctions, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also advocated
for preserving commercial opportunities in Cuba for American companies.

A substantial rollback, therefore, was not politically or practically
feasible. As a Trump administration official conceded, “You can’t put
the genie back in the bottle 100 percent.” Nevertheless, Trump kept his
campaign pledge to modify U.S. policy toward Cuba, though his
announcement featured more harsh rhetoric and political theater than
actual substantive change.

To be sure, the Trump Administration rolled back two significant
elements of Obama’s policy. First, Americans will no longer be allowed
to travel on individualized people-to-people educational itineraries;
they will be required to visit on more costly group tours. Second,
transactions that “disproportionately benefit” the military, which
manages much of the tourist sector, will be prohibited. It’s not
surprising the administration settled on those policies to reverse:
allowing Americans to develop their own travel itineraries and
permitting transactions with military-run entities were initially
controversial ideas in the Obama Administration.

The impact of Trump’s policy revisions, moreover, is likely to be small.
Most Americans travel to Cuba on trips that will not be affected by the
new rules, and most Cuban hotels are not managed by the military.
Further, airlines and cruise ships will continue to carry passengers to

Bureaucratic considerations also may limit the impact of Trump’s policy
changes. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control is
understaffed, and its efforts are better spent administering sanctions
on countries such as North Korea, Russia and Iran than keeping Americans
off Cuban beaches and policing which hotels they can stay in.

Thus far, the government of Cuba has reacted to Trump’s announcement
with relative restraint, understanding that those in the United States
who want to limit engagement represent a minority view, and confident of
the significant momentum for greater ties. Cuba’s direction in any case
will be shaped more by its own transition — Raul Castro will step down
as president in February — than any measures the United States takes.

If economic and political reform advance under a new leader in Cuba,
that would give added impetus to the process of normalizing relations
between the two countries. Years from now, we might look back at Trump’s
announcement in Miami not as a step backward in relations between the
two countries, but as the point when the divisive debate over U.S.
policy toward Cuba finally began to recede.

Mark Feierstein is a senior advisor at the Albright Stonebridge Group,
was special assistant to President Obama and senior director for Western
Hemisphere Affairs on the National Security Council.

The views expressed by contributors are their own ad are not the views
of The Hill.

Source: The impact of Trump’s Cuba policy revisions will likely be small
| TheHill –

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How President Trump can borrow from US Cuba policy to squeeze Beijing on North Korea Wed, 12 Jul 2017 15:20:39 +0000 How President Trump can borrow from US Cuba policy to squeeze Beijing on
North Korea
Asia, Foreign and Defense Policy

The New York Times reports that “President Trump, frustrated by China’s
unwillingness to lean on North Korea, has told the Chinese leader that
the United States is prepared to act on its own in pressuring the
nuclear-armed government in Pyongyang.” Trump, the Times reports, wants
to take measures against China that “would spur Mr. Xi to reconsider his
reluctance to press the North.”

Over at the Wall Street Journal, my old boss Bill McGurn has a great
idea on how Trump can do just that:

If the first Duke of Wellington were alive today, he might advise that
the battle for North Korea will be won or lost on Harvard Yard. Add
Stanford, Yale, Dartmouth, Chicago and other top-tier private American
universities so popular with China’s “red nobility” i.e., the children
and grandchildren of Communist Chinese elites. For if the Trump
administration hopes to enlist an unwilling Beijing to check North
Korea’s nuclear ambitions, visas for the children of China’s ruling
class to attend these universities offer an excellent pressure point….
The advantage of starting with student visas is twofold: The unintended
harm done would be more limited than any military strike, and visas are
likely a more effective lever than sanctions.
Today 328,547 Chinese students attend American universities, according
to the Institute for International Education. The Chinese represent the
largest group of foreign students in America….
The Chinese taste for prestigious American universities goes right to
the top. Although President Xi Jinping rails against the corruption of
Western values, his daughter went to Harvard, which Mr. Xi managed to
swing on an official annual salary of roughly $20,000. A few years back,
the Washington Post noted that of the nine members of the standing
committee of China’s Politburo, at least five had children or
grandchildren studying in the US. There are many, many more.
This is a brilliant idea, and there is legal precedent for it. In 1996,
Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act which tightened economic sanctions
on Cuba, including measures to bar the senior executives of European and
Canadian businesses that trafficked in stolen American property on the
island and their immediate families from entering the United States.
The bill declared these individuals “persona non grata” which meant no
family vacations in Disneyland, no shopping trips on 5th Avenue and
Rodeo Drive for their wives, and no American colleges and universities
for their children.

Of all the sanctions included in the Helms-Burton law — including
allowing Americans to sue the foreign investors for treble damages in US
courts — none stung like the visa restrictions. Just the threat of
preventing family members from entering the US deterred investment, for
one simple reason: The one thing CEOs fear more than angry shareholders
are angry wives and children. The Helms-Burton law turned the wives and
children of these executives into lobbyists for change in investment policy.

Visa restrictions relating to North Korea could have a similar effect
Chinese leaders. Congress should pass legislation authorizing the
president to declare any foreign person and their immediately family
members deemed to be complicit in enabling trade with North Korea to be
persona non-grata in the US.

Mr. Xi and his comrades may be reluctant to take serious action against
Pyongyang. But Madame Xi and her comrades may have other ideas.

Source: How President Trump can borrow from US Cuba policy to squeeze
Beijing on North Korea • AEI | Foreign and Defense Policy Blog » AEIdeas

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Panama’s migration chief says the country is not closing the door to Cubans but to illegal migration Wed, 12 Jul 2017 15:17:29 +0000 Panama’s migration chief says the country is not closing the door to
Cubans but to illegal migration

Javier Carrillo Silvestri, Panama’s head of migration services, is
accustomed to order and hierarchy. So he is matter-of-fact when he says
that his nation has nothing against Cuban migrants, but that those who
enter the country without the legal documents will be returned to the

“The Cuban who wants to come is welcome, but we ask that you do it in an
orderly manner, legally, to avoid dealing with traffickers and the
trafficking of people,” he says.

Panama grants 500 visas per month at its consulate in Havana. In a few
weeks, the number of visas will be doubled to 1,000. That is a much
higher number of legal entry permits issued to Cubans than other
citizens from Caribbean countries.

“These people enter and leave the country without any problem. Panama is
not closing the door to Cubans,” Carrillo said. “Panama is closing the
door to irregular migration, no matter who it is. There is no distinction.”

Carrillo, who has been in charge of migration since 2011, has been
dealing with a huge spike in the number of migrants crossing through
Central America to try reach the United States by crossing the border in
Mexico. The number of Cubans passing through escalated to the thousands.

“The crisis [of Cuban migrants] began in November 2015 when Nicaragua
closed its border. Since then, more than 40,000 undocumented Cubans have
passed through Panama,” said Carrillo, who is known as “the bad cop”
among Cuban migrants because of his strong stance on deportations.

Following two organized airlifts to Mexico in which more than 4,400
Cubans were evacuated from Panama, Carrillo said that his country
fulfilled its obligation in an effort to resolve a brewing crisis.

“We decided to make a humanitarian gesture and that was done in an
orderly fashion, but we saw that in a few days there were more Cubans,”
he said. “After the second airlift it was decided that we could not be
the traveling agent for Cuban migrants, because that is not the role of
a state. We closed the border and began negotiating a deportation
agreement with the Cuban government because at that time we did not have

For months, the Panamanian government provided food and shelter for the
thousands of Cubans who were stranded in the country following border
closures at various Central American nations. It also paid air fare for
almost 300 migrants who did not have the money to pay for the tickets on
planes that flew them took them to the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We have many needs here, we have many humble people who also need
humanitarian aid. We can’t be using our resources solely on this
migratory issue,” Carrillo said.

The deportation agreement was signed on March 1 in Havana, during the IV
Round of Migration Talks between both countries.

“The Cuban government did not ask us for anything,” said Carrillo. “That
deportation agreement was an absolute initiative of the Panamanian
government to alleviate a crisis that we were living through with the
passage of undocumented migrants.”

Since March 2017, 87 Cubans have been expelled or deported from Panama,
while 23 have returned voluntarily to the island, according to official
Panamanian statistics. Cubans are the second highest number of
deportees, surpassed only by Colombian nationals.

Following the deportation agreement with Havana, any Cuban national
discovered in Panama without documents who is recognized by the Cuban
government as its citizen is subject to deportation. Cubans who spend
more than 24 months abroad, are officially deemed as “emigrants” and
lose their rights in Cuba.

“The Cuban authorities explained that they did not retaliate against the
deportees. In fact, when we have sent Cubans, they always go with two
custodians and they are asked if there was any kind of problem, and they
always say that nothing happened,” Carrillo said.

The Panama Embassy in Havana also has not received any allegations of
mistreatment or human rights violations of the deportees: “Many have
returned voluntarily and nothing has happened,” he said.

Following the Jan. 12 termination of the so-called “wet foot, dry foot”
policy, which allowed most Cubans who made it onto U.S. soil to stay,
more than 300 Cubans en route to the U.S.-Mexico border became stranded
in Panama. Some 128 were transferred to a shelter in the province of
Chiriquí and dozens more are living and working as undocumented migrants
in the country.

“Cuban migrants did not come to stay in Panama, but rather to apply
pressure on the government to take them to their final destination,”
Carrillo said. “Panama can’t be doing that on a permanent basis, much
less now that wet foot, dry foot no longer exists.”

Panama’s Deputy Minister of Security, Jonathan del Rosario, recently
made a final offer to the Cuban migrants in Gualaca: $1,650, a one-way
ticket to Havana and a multiple-entry visa to return to Panama as
visitors. The money is intended to help them launch a private enterprise
and become cuentapropistas or self-employed. Almost a dozen have since
left the shelter to continue their journey to the United States. The
others have until July 31 to decide whether to return to Cuba or remain
as undocumented migrants.

For Carrillo, the only viable option is for them to return to their

“Like I said, Panama is fulfilling it’s obligation. We have no issues
with Cubans coming here,” he said. “But they need to do it correctly. We
can’t foment disorder.”



Source: Cubans are welcome if they enter legally, Panama’s migration
chief says | Miami Herald –

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U.S. names interim charge d’affaires at embassy in Havana Wed, 12 Jul 2017 15:14:23 +0000 U.S. names interim charge d’affaires at embassy in Havana

The U.S. Embassy in Cuba has a new interim chief at its seaside building
in Havana: career diplomat Scott Hamilton.

Hamilton, who has served as deputy chief of mission since July 2015,
replaces Jeffrey DeLaurentis as Chargé d’Affaires.

A brief notice posted on the embassy website does not specifically
mention the change of guard or reasons for DeLaurentis’ departure,
although he has publicly stated that the island would likely be his
final post before retiring.

A spokesman for the embassy told el Nuevo Herald on Tuesday that
DeLaurentis completed his three-year cycle as head of the embassy on July 7.

“His departure is part of the normal rotation cycle of career
diplomats,” a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Havana said in an
email.“Deputy Chief of Mission Scott Hamilton will serve as the Chargé
d’Affaires, ad interim, until further notice. The President will decide
when and if we nominate an ambassador to Cuba or any country.”

Regarding Ambassador DeLaurentis’ next assignment, the spokesman said:
“I don’t have an announcement to make on that at this time.”

DeLaurentis, a longtime diplomat, became the first to head a U.S.
Embassy on Cuban soil in more than a half century, after both nations
reestablished diplomatic relations. DeLaurentis, who played a
fundamental role in mending relations with Havana, was nominated by
former President Barack Obama to serve as U.S. ambassador. But the
nomination was blocked in the Senate by Florida Republican Marco Rubio,
who said the post should not be filled until the Cuban government made
strides on the issues of human rights and claims for property
confiscated from the United States.

The State Department has not yet published a formal statement on
DeLaurentis’ departure and he still appears as the person in charge on
the embassy’s website.

A notice published by the island-based Cuba Posible website bidding
DeLaurentis farewell said he returned to the U.S. on July 8.

Hamilton, a senior foreign service officer, will lead the embassy under
President Donald Trump and a revamped Cuba policy, which, while not
relinquishing diplomatic relations with the Cuban government, seeks to
put more pressure on thorny issues such as human rights and the return
of U.S. fugitives living in Cuba.

Prior to his Havana post, Hamilton served as director of the Department
of State’s Office of Central American Affairs between 2013 and 2015.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: U.S. names a new interim charge d’affaires at embassy in Havana
| Miami Herald –

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The Cuban regime and the Venezuelan transition Wed, 12 Jul 2017 14:32:18 +0000 The Cuban regime and the Venezuelan transition
ARMANDO CHAGUACEDA | Ciudad de México | 12 de Julio de 2017 – 11:16

In a recent interview Venezuelan analyst Rocío San Miguel, an expert on
military affairs, masterfully defined the role of Cuba in his country.
In this respect he stated: “The situation room where the most important
strategic decisions are made —political and military, but also economic
and social— is in Havana. Venezuela is a kind of fish bowl, a case
study, subject to permanent oversight by the Cuban leadership, to
maintain Venezuela as its economic lifesaver. Everything we are
witnessing at this time – among other things, the disproportionate use
of force – the accelerated partisanization of the National Armed Forces,
as well as this proposed Constituent Assembly, completely disgraceful
and spurious, is based on a Cuban model.”

This kind of influence constitutes an anomaly. Few times in the history
of the Americas —with the exception of the nexus between monarchic Spain
and its Latin American colonies— has a lesser power exercised such
fierce control over a richer one. Combining the influence of
indoctrination (Maduro was educated by the Cuban Communist Party) police
control (including surveillance of Maduro regime elites) and feverish
diplomatic and propaganda activity (through embassies, intellectual
circles and agents of influence) Havana politically holds Caracas as a
sort of allied hostage. Havana needs Venezuelan oil to prop up the
island’s economy and governability, as the country is poised for a
changing of the guard at the top.

That is to say: the Cuban regime is, at the same time, both an actor
(given its share of regional and international power) and a model (due
to its institutional design, with its Stalinist roots) for the
autocratic survival of its Venezuelan counterparts. Thus, it is a factor
to be reckoned with in any process for the redemocratization of the
South American nation. And no precedent —not even that of Central
America in the 1980s— offers similar lessons.

The question is whether Raúl Castro will agree, surrendering to the
evidence, to abandon his ally, in the same way that a parasite dares to
abandon the dying host whose fate he refuses to share. Because if anyone
has today a firm grasp of the situation in Venezuela today, it is Cuban
intelligence. But if —and only if— popular mobilization, the regime’s
erosion, and international pressure are all sustained, and there are
fruitful political negotiations, perhaps the Cuban and Venezuelan
military will decide that a civil war is not worth it. And that a bad
solution is always better than a good fight.

In Latin America it would be worth learning some lessons from these
events, such as: For our delicate democracies, Cuba may constitute today
a meddling interference as detrimental as the US was during the Cold
War. And the project of a socially progressive state, under the rule of
law, still a pending task in our imbalanced region, is permanently
besieged not only by the impoverishing agenda of the neoliberals, but
also by the influence of the current Cuban model on various
antidemocratic wings of Latin American politics and society.

This article originally appeared in the Mexican newspaper La Razón. It
is published here with the author’s permission.

Source: The Cuban regime and the Venezuelan transition | Diario de Cuba

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Cubazuela, Raúl and Leopoldo Wed, 12 Jul 2017 14:29:14 +0000 Cubazuela, Raúl and Leopoldo
JUAN ANTONIO BLANCO | Miami | 11 de Julio de 2017 – 11:02 CEST.

What does Leopoldo López’s relapse from prison and placement under house
arrest entail in Venezuela’s current political situation?

It is important to keep in mind that his arrest, conviction and
conditions of imprisonment in a military prison were all the result of
orders issued by Raúl Castro, obeyed by the criminal elite who
(mis)govern Venezuela on his behalf. This decision was too. The
question, then, is: why was he released from prison now?

First, this does not represent a surrender of Cubazuela’s totalitarian
aims, or a departure from its decision to use force to impose it.
Rather, it is a diversionary tactic, a retreat that the Cuban-Venezuelan
leadership has been forced to beat in the face of ever more complicated
circumstances. Leopoldo has not been fully released; they now have him
at home, as a hostage, wearing an electronic shackle, until they see how
this new manoeuver works out.

What are their hopes? Internally, to revive old wariness that might
erode the current unity between opposition forces and confuse the public
by issuing misinformation, claiming that López agreed to his release to
appease the citizens.

This equation includes the intention to revive the understandable
animosity of Leopoldo and some opposition groups towards prosecutor
Luisa Ortega, who undoubtedly contributed to the conviction of López and
many others. What better way to tarnish Ortega (now turned rebel) than
to enlist ranks of the opposition, whose constitutional rights the
prosecutor valiantly now seeks to protect, at this dramatic juncture.

Through this misleading leniency shown towards a political prisoner of
López’s fame, they also seek to gain potential supporters of the
constituent assembly campaign.

Externally, the hope is to promote international demobilization by
fomenting the false conclusion that the Government has righted its
course and it is necessary to give it time to see how much more it might
be willing to cede. And, of course, related to this line of
disinformation, there is an attempt to revive the hapless
pseudo-dialogue (blessed by Castro, Maduro and Pope Francisco) featuring
former presidents Zapatero, Fernández, Torrijos and Samper.

To revive the credibility of the most discredited team in the history of
conflict resolution, they have already started to propagate the claim
—even among Leopoldo’s relatives— that they are responsible for the
temporary house arrest of the most famous political prisoner in the
western hemisphere. “Releasing” prisoners as a public relations ploy is
an old Castroist trick now being put into practice in Caracas.

What is not behind Leopoldo López’s house arrest is —for the time being—
Raul Castro’s desire to negotiate a bilateral solution, with the US, to
the Venezuelan crisis. Not because the old myth is true that “Havana
never sacrifices principles, and much less under pressure.” They have
done it before. But Raúl Castro —for now— prefers to heed the old adage
that “a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.” Giving up his
mafia partners in Caracas would place the Castro family and its
associates at greater risk, endangering not just its oil subsidies, but
also the massive revenues it gets from its collaboration in criminal
activities, and expose it to prosecution by the DEA and the Interpol.
And it would not be very glamorous, ideologically, to those on the
international Left that have supported them until today.

Venezuelans will win their freedom by internal struggle, and
international pressure, not because Castro breaks with his friends at
the Cartel of the Suns. And the Castroist regime will not remain loyal
based on any principles. Rather, it just cannot do without those
connections. Meanwhile, Leopoldo’s departure from the Ramo Verde prison
is a ratification of his original assertion: change for Venezuela will
come from the grass roots.

Source: Cubazuela, Raúl and Leopoldo | Diario de Cuba –

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Food scarcity, another Castroist crime Wed, 12 Jul 2017 14:28:21 +0000 Food scarcity, another Castroist crime
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 10 de Julio de 2017 – 10:40 CEST.

If you were told that in a Latin American country almost 60% of the
fertile land available for agriculture is not even cultivated, producing
nothing at all, you would think they were pulling your leg, because in
the 21st century this is impossible.

But, alas, it is. The country in question is Cuba, a beautiful tropical
island covered with lush, fertile lands that astonished Columbus when he
first saw them 525 years ago.

How is this possible in a country that the FAO, in the 1950s, cited as
one of the greatest producers and exporters of food in Latin America in
proportion to its total population?

One of Fidel Castro’s proselytizing pledges during his anti-Batista
movement, after causing the death of dozens of young people in the
disastrous assault on the Moncada barracks, was the promise that when he
came to power he would implement profound agrarian reform, handing over
lands to the peasants who worked them, and eliminating Cuba’s sprawling,
unproductive plantations.

General Batista fled the Island, Castro rose to power, and proceeded to
renege on those promises, seizing 77% of the nation’s agricultural land
for the State. In this way he created his very own unproductive
latifundia, the largest in the country since Spanish colonization.

As a result, in the first two years of the statist “Agrarian Reform” the
production of sugar plummeted from 6.8 million metric tons to 3.8
million in the 1962-1963 harvest. The island ceased to be the leading
producer and exporter of sugar cane in the world, a title it had boasted
since the end of the 18th century. In 2017 Cuba produced 1.7 million
tons of sugar – three times less than the 5.1 million tons produced 92
years ago.

Cuba devolved into one of the weakest of Latin American food producers,
with some of the lowest agricultural yields in the Americas, including
in sugar cane, in which it once was the world leader. If there were no
fatal famines it was because Moscow began to subsidize the dictatorship
to turn the island into a giant Soviet aircraft carrier, poised right
next to the United States, and to expand Communist ideology throughout
the Americas.

Even with the subsidies from the USSR, in March of 1962 the commander
had to implement a food ration card, which is now 55 years old, the
longest-lasting in the history of the Western Hemisphere.

With the “Agrarian Reform” the production of foodstuffs basic to the
Cuban diet tanked: meat, rice, milk, vegetables, fruits and vegetables.
From nearly seven million heads of cattle in 1958 for six million
inhabitants (one cow per inhabitant), today the figure is 3.6 million
undernourished cattle, for 11.3 million inhabitants (three inhabitants
per cow). This is why in 2016 it produced three times less meat and less
milk than in 1958, with twice as many inhabitants.

In the 1950s Cuba was self-sufficient in beef, milk, tropical fruits,
coffee and tobacco. And it was almost self-sufficient in fish and
seafood, pork, chicken, meats, vegetables, and eggs. It was the Latin
American country with the highest fish consumption, and third in
calories, with 2,682 daily. And it ranked seventh in the world in
average agricultural wages, at 3 pesos a day (equivalent to dollars),
according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Before 1959 Cuba imported 29% of the food it consumed. The Communists of
the time (the PSP) complained that figure was too high for such a
fertile country. Today, with the Communists in power, 80% of food is

State property vs. private

The regime refuses to hand over land to those who work or want to work
it, and forbids them from freely cultivating and selling their crops on
the market. It forces them to hand over the crops to the State, at
meager prices.

To make matters even worse, in the state distribution under the
monstrosity dubbed “Acopio,” 57% of the harvested food is lost,
according to the ONEI (National Office of Statistics). The regime itself
admits that 56% of Cuba’s agricultural land is idle, overgrown with
marabou. These last two statistics are more than enough to justify
General Raúl Castro’s resignation tomorrow.

There is a total of 6.2 million hectares of agricultural land, of which
46%, or 2.8 million hectares, are owned by state companies (sovjoses in
the former USSR). 31%, or 1.9 million hectares, are also state-owned,
but delivered in usufruct to individuals under abusive contracts. The
remaining 1.4 million hectares, 23%, correspond to individual farmers,
working on their own or in cooperatives.

To appreciate their production, one stat suffices: according to the
ONEI, in the first half of 2015 state-owned enterprises, including the
state cooperatives dubbed “Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC)
” produced only 10% of the 5.7 million tons of the vegetables, rice,
beans and fruits grown throughout the country. That is, 570,000 tons.
The other 90% (5.1 million tons) was produced by private farmers and
usufruct workers.

Incredible, but true. With about half of the land, the best in the
country, the socialist state produced one tenth of the total national
crop yield, while the other half, cultivated by private workers,
accounted for 90%. This manifests the absurd idiocy and arrogance of the
Castro elite, which refuses to accept the wisdom of the Creole saying:
“the master’s watchful eye fattens his cattle.” And it now spends $2
billion importing food.

Bonfires to burn ration cards

The evidence demonstrating the superiority of private property in the
agricultural sector – and in every other – is overwhelming. The military
regime has the obligation to deliver the Island’s fertile lands to those
who wish to work them, and with their corresponding property deeds. Even
in China and Vietnam, under Communist governments, peasants are free to
harvest and sell what they produce.

Despite the fact that the Venezuelan crisis has exacerbated food
shortages in Cuba, due to the lack of money to import them and acquire
the supplies and equipment to render the land productive, Castroism,
instead of freeing up the island’s productive agricultural forces,
tightens its grip.

At a recent meeting of the Council of Ministers, according to Granma,
“it was confirmed that the lands granted in usufruct are
non-transferable State property.” In other words: let one get their
hopes up, because the land is owned by the State, and is only lent for a
time, which now will be extended to 20 years.

At the meeting, Marino Murillo, czar (somewhat obscure lately) of the
“updating of the Cuban model” revealed that interest in obtaining state
land in usufruct has declined. Of course, peasants and potential farmers
do not want to work on lands that are not even theirs and that they
cannot sell or leave to their children. Neither can they freely produce
and sell crops. And the regime can seize their land at any time, as has
already happened in Holguin.

Cuba is the only western country where agricultural and livestock are
not entirely in private sector hands. If agriculture were privatized and
the rights of citizens to economic freedom, and all the other rights of
modern man, were respected, Cubans would soon make bonfires to burn
their ration cards in the streets, and feed themselves properly, and
Cuba would once again be cited as an example by the FAO.

Source: Food scarcity, another Castroist crime | Diario de Cuba –

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Convicted of Murder, and Now Swept Up in U.S.-Cuba Shift Sun, 09 Jul 2017 14:45:03 +0000 Convicted of Murder, and Now Swept Up in U.S.-Cuba Shift

Ishmael Muslim Ali now lives a quiet life in Cuba, where he remains
wanted by the F.B.I. for aircraft piracy. Credit Cave 7 Productions
For more than 30 years, Ishmael Muslim Ali has lived a relatively full
and unremarkable life in Cuba. He taught English in the nation’s public
schools, worked as a translator and raised a family — a quiet coda for
an international fugitive.

Or at least, that was the case until last month, when President Trump
announced a partial halt to relations with Cuba unless certain
conditions were met. Handing over Mr. Ali, who resides on the F.B.I.’s
most-wanted list for hijacking an American Airlines flight and fleeing
to Cuba to escape multiple life sentences for the murder of eight
people, is one of those conditions.

Mr. Trump’s demands contained the usual requirements for Cuba: free and
fair elections, allowing a political opposition and opening up its
economy. But they also included a call for the extradition of all
American convicts who had fled to the island for asylum. Among them are
Assata Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard, who is wanted for
escaping from prison while serving a life sentence for the murder of a
New Jersey state trooper, and an estimated 70 others who have taken
refuge in the communist nation.

As to the threat of being sent home, Mr. Ali, 69, harbors no concern.
The Cuban government has already made it clear that the extradition of
those granted asylum is off the table — along with the other demands
laid out by the president.

“They want their sovereignty respected,” Mr. Ali said in a telephone
interview from Cuba, among his first public comments in three decades.
“They are not going to let anybody bully them.”

He said he felt reassured that the Cuban authorities would not let him
be sent back. After all, he said, Mr. Trump’s stance is a return to the
old Cold War animosity that further hardened the Cuban government’s

Beyond that, experts say that if the United States requests the
extradition of its wanted criminals, Cuba may do the same. That could
include a request for Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban with ties to the
C.I.A. who lives in the United States but is wanted in Cuba for, among
other things, his possible role in the bombing of a Cuban airliner that
killed 73 people.

Mr. Ali’s case stretches back to a turbulent time in American history,
when political radicalism sometimes crossed into violence and hijackings
were carried out dozens of times by dissidents and those evading the
law. But his case continues to reverberate today, in the racially
charged debate over American justice and the churn of relations between
Cuba and America.

His case, along with that of his co-defendants, is the subject of a new
documentary, “The Skyjacker’s Tale,” that was publicly released in
recent days in New York.

The story began on Sept. 6, 1972, in St. Croix, in the United States
Virgin Islands, when five masked individuals killed eight people at the
Fountain Valley Golf Course. The murders rocked the small island and
summoned a wave of law enforcement authorities from the United States to
conduct the investigation.

The club, owned by the Rockefeller family, was frequented by the wealthy.

Soon after the murders, Mr. Ali, at the time known as Ronald Labeet, and
four others were arrested and charged with the crime. The trial drew
some of the most prominent liberal legal figures of the time, including
William Kunstler, who defended the activists known as the Chicago Seven,
as well as William Estridge, a lawyer for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr.

The trial was over in less than a year, and eventually all of the men
were convicted and given eight consecutive life sentences, plus 90
years, for the crimes. They were shipped to prisons in the continental
United States, where three of them remain today. One of the men, Raphael
Joseph, died in 1998, after being pardoned.

Mr. Ali, who was considered the leader of the group, and the others
convicted maintained their innocence, arguing that their original trial
was unfair. The film raises allegations that the suspects were tortured
while in custody and that the judge presiding over the trial was biased
because he had represented members of the Rockefeller family in his
private practice.

After being convicted, Mr. Ali spit on the floor, and he and his
accomplices struck out at the marshals who took them into custody,
according to news accounts at the time.

“Even at the trial, we were freaked out on an emotional basis,” he said.
“We felt anger and desperation that we had a judge who didn’t care about
the law.”

He added: “I would be different now. I would be with my defense in a
much different way than I was at the time. But you can’t go back. Life
isn’t that way. You have to go forward. The way we tried to get justice,
how we acted in our desperation to seek justice, it don’t justify what
was done to us.”

Mr. Ali’s conviction was upheld on appeal. And despite his proclamations
of innocence, many feel his conviction, and the sentence, were justified.

“Proclaiming his innocence is ridiculous,” said Jeffrey Resnick, the
chief prosecutor in St. Croix in 1972, who said there was overwhelming
forensic evidence — as well as witness identification and confessions —
of Mr. Ali’s guilt. “There is no doubt that they did it.”

Michael Joseph, the brother of Raphael Joseph, also believes Mr. Ali is
guilty and published a book on the massacre in 2015.

Mr. Joseph, a lawyer in St. Croix, says the events he details in the
book, which specify Mr. Ali’s role in the murders as well as that of his
brother, are based on conversations he had with Raphael after he was

In a presentation he gave on the book in 2015, he described Mr. Ali as a
“wicked man” and claimed that he held a gun to his brother’s head to
make him participate in the robbery-turned-massacre.

Following his conviction, Mr. Ali fought to be returned to St. Croix.
After more than a decade in prison, he was sent back to the island,
though only for proceedings in a civil suit he had filed, asserting that
his rights had been violated when he was placed in solitary confinement
for 90 days. He was awarded $12,000 in damages and placed aboard an
American Airlines passenger plane bound for New York on New Year’s Eve
in 1984.

Mr. Ali went to the bathroom repeatedly during the flight, complaining
of stomach pains. On his final visit, he emerged with a handgun. (He did
not say how he got it.) He then commandeered the plane and forced it to
land in Havana. Upon landing, he was taken into custody.

The Cuban authorities convicted Mr. Ali of hijacking the plane, and
sentenced him to 10 years in jail. He served seven years and got an
early release for good behavior. Afterward, on the petition of Ms.
Shakur, Mr. Ali says he was granted asylum, the beginning of an entirely
new chapter for him.

“I have a quiet life. I’ve been married two times. I have kids and a
family here,” he said. “I can’t complain. I’m really thankful to the
Cuban government and the Cuban people for the way I have been treated.”

In Cuba, he says he has found a peace he never experienced in the United
States, where race was an issue in every facet of life.

“The thing about race here is that it’s not an issue,” he said. “In the
U.S., you are always aware of the race difference. There was always
someone or something you had to be fighting against. Here in Cuba, that
has been wiped out by the revolution for ages now. I just feel like
another citizen here.”

His reasoning for participating in the film, he said, was to raise
awareness about his co-defendants, arguing that they have spent their
lives in prison for a crime they did not commit. It is not quite guilt
that he feels for being the only one to escape, he says, but rather a
consciousness that he is the only one who was able to live a real life.

“It hurts me every day to think about them,” he said. “When I think
about my co-defendants, what they have suffered bothers me.”

A version of this article appears in print on July 9, 2017, on Page A4
of the New York edition with the headline: Convicted of Murder, and
Focus of U.S.-Cuba Shift. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

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Smuggling women from Cuba to Miami for sex gets pimp 30 years Sun, 09 Jul 2017 14:39:29 +0000 Smuggling women from Cuba to Miami for sex gets pimp 30 years

Once Silvio “Jander” Morales smuggled six women from Camaguey, Cuba into
Miami, he shed any niceties like a moulting anaconda losing skin.
Morales constricted the women into prostitution by mushrooming their
debt, threatening their families’ lives and even threatening to feed one
woman to alligators in the Everglades.

Morales virtually imprisoned the women in a Miami apartment complex.
Friday, he learned he’ll be imprisoned 30 years in a federal facility
after pleading guilty to six counts of sex trafficking by force, threats
of force, fraud, and coercion and one count of conspiracy to encourage
and induce aliens to unlawfully come to and enter the United States.

After his sentence, Morales likely will be deported, as he’s not a U.S.

As part of his plea deal, Morales admitted he and his cronies lured five
of the women in Cuba with this deal: He gets them into the United States
via Mexico and, once in their furnished apartment, they work as dancers
to pay him $100 per day until their $20,000 debt is paid. Through an
underling, Morales extended the same offer to a Camaguey woman in Honduras.

This is the first known criminal case involving Cuban women brought to
the United States for sexual exploitation.

All six accepted. None of the six, the statement says, would have done
so if they knew the dancing would involve stripping. Or, that they would
be sold as sexual commodities.

But the first surprise came when Morales unilaterally raised the amount
each owed him from $20,000 to $55,000. To service the debt, they’d
service paying men.

Fear for their families, one of which Morales personally threatened,
moored them to Morales and the apartment complex. Morales’ minions or
Morales himself drove the women to strip clubs around the county.
Morales prohibited any of the women leaving the complex without his

When one woman did so, he made an example of her. Morales drove her to
the edge of the Everglades, punching her on the way. Upon reaching a
bridge near the Everglades, he told her he was going to throw her into
the alligators’ domain. Instead, after making sure she understood not to
defy him again, he tossed her into the trunk and drove back to the complex.

When one woman became pregnant after unprotected sex with a customer,
Morales made her get an abortion.

Two women escaped the paralyzing fear and guarding gang members long
enough to walk into a City of Miami police station on Sept. 6, 2016 and
tell police what was going on. The police arrested Morales that night.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal

Source: Pimp gets 30 years for smuggling Cuban women in for sex | Miami
Herald –

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Family of teen who died on grad trip to Cuba trying to bring her body home Sun, 09 Jul 2017 14:24:52 +0000 Family of teen who died on grad trip to Cuba trying to bring her body home
CBC News Posted: Jul 09, 2017 7:53 AM ET Last Updated: Jul 09, 2017 8:51

Alex Sagriff was a student at St. Theresa Catholic Secondary School in
Belleville. She had been vacationing in Varadero with other graduating
students when she was found dead in her hotel room. (Facebook)

The family of a Belleville, Ont. teen who died during a high school
graduation trip to Cuba says they are trying to bring her body back home.

In a statement released this weekend, the family of Alex Sagriff, 18,
says she was found in her hotel room in Varadero, Cuba on Thursday
night. The family said it has little information about her death.

“Our concern right now is trying to get her home. We don’t know much of
anything,” the statement reads.

Teen dies during high school graduation trip to Cuba organized by
Toronto-based S-Trip tour company

“Alex was an amazing young woman, she had a ton of friends, and has a
ton of family who love her,” it said.

The statement added that right now it is an “awful time” for the family.

Sagriff was on a trip organized by S-Trip, a Toronto-based travel agency
that specializes in young adult vacations, when she died.

The cause of death has not been officially released.

Her family said she had just graduated from St. Theresa Catholic
Secondary School in Belleville and was expected to attend Loyalist
College in Belleville in the fall.

On Facebook, tributes are being posted for Sagriff.

“She was so funny, beautiful inside and out, smart and so loveable,”
Dorothy Davenport wrote.

S-Trip says teen pronounced dead at the scene

S-Trip has refused to comment on the death, but in a letter sent to
parents and guardians of students on the trip, it said staff were
contacted at 9:30 p.m. on July 6 about a medical emergency.

“Emergency medical services arrived on scene and attempted to
resuscitate the individual,” the letter reads.

S-Trip said Sagriff was pronounced dead at the scene. It also said a
doctor on the scene declared that Sagriff died of natural causes, but
that determination has not been independently verified. The family did
not release a cause of death.

The travel agency also said it is working directly with the family of
the young woman but could not share any further details or make
conclusions regarding the circumstances of her death.

Global Affairs Canada has confirmed only that a Canadian had died in
Cuba, and in a statement said consular officials in Havana are in
contact with local authorities to gather information.

Source: Family of teen who died on grad trip to Cuba trying to bring her
body home – Toronto – CBC News –

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Man Gets 30 Years in Prison for Cuban Sex Trafficking Sat, 08 Jul 2017 17:25:25 +0000 Man Gets 30 Years in Prison for Cuban Sex Trafficking
A Florida man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for operating a
sex trafficking ring involving women he lured from Cuba.
July 8, 2017, at 10:38 a.m.

MIAMI (AP) — A Florida man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for
operating a sex trafficking ring involving women he lured from Cuba.

The sentence was imposed by a Miami federal judge Friday on 31-year-old
Silvio Clark Morales. Federal prosecutors said in a news release that
Morales pleaded guilty in April to six counts of sex trafficking and one
count of conspiracy.

Court documents show Morales promised six Cuban women work as dancers.
Instead, they were forced under threats of violence to work in strip
clubs and as prostitutes.

Authorities say Morales drove one victim to an isolated bridge near the
Everglades, beat her, and told her he would throw her into the swamp and
let alligators eat her. She survived after he put her in his car trunk.

Source: Man Gets 30 Years in Prison for Cuban Sex Trafficking | Florida
News | US News –

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Panama makes a final offer to Cuban migrants: $1,650, a plane ticket and permission to return Sat, 08 Jul 2017 17:21:35 +0000 Panama makes a final offer to Cuban migrants: $1,650, a plane ticket and
permission to return

Panama’s deputy minister of public security on Friday made a final offer
to Cuban migrants staying at a temporary shelter in that nation: $1,650,
a plane ticket to Havana and a multiple-entry visa that would give them
legal entry to visit the Central American nation.

The government’s offer — an attempt to resolve the dilemma for
U.S.-bound Cubans who got stranded in Panama following the end of the
so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy in January — is limited to those
staying at an encampment in Gualaca in the western province of Chiriquí.

“The option I am going to present is a voluntary repatriation process.
It is the way to obtain a visa to return to Panama legally and have seed
capital to procure a different future for you and your family,” Jonathan
del Rosario told more than 100 Cubans gathered in the dining room at the
Gualaca shelter. His address was videotaped and shared with el Nuevo Herald.

The financial aid, for those who accept the offer, will be handed over
at the airport, before they board the flight to Havana. It is intended
to help them launch a private enterprise that would allow them to become
self-employed. Those who opt out, may return to the country where they
entered Panamanian territory or continue their path as undocumented

“You have free will,” said Del Rosario. “Panama and Cuba have diplomatic
relations and this option has been done in consultation with
representatives of the consulate and the Cuban Embassy in the country.”

The migrants have until July 31 to accept the proposal.

The Cubans at the shelter are among 128 who were transported there in
April, after the government shut down another facility in Panama City
run by the Catholic Church’s Caritas agency. Nine have since fled the
Gualaca shelter.

Those who agree to return to the island will be offered a
pre-registration visa application, which will allow them to obtain an
interview at the Panamanian Consulate in Havana for a tourist visa. The
tourist visa would give them permission to enter legally multiple times
to make purchases for their businesses, Del Rosario said.

For migrants who have been out of Cuba for more than two years and, as a
result have lost their legal residence status on the island, the
Panamanian government would help facilitate their legal return.

Yelisvarys Pargas, one of the Cuban migrants in Gualaca, told el Nuevo
Herald that although the proposal seems like a good offer, he distrusts
the Cuban authorities.

Center on Crisis Reporting for its support on this project.
“This is the only thing they’ve given us,” he said.

Addis Torres, who is at the shelter with her husband and their
13-year-old son, was devastated by the news.

“I will continue my journey, I can’t return to Cuba at this point,” she
said. “I’ll have to keep going.”

An emotional Nirvia Álvarez, who also has a young son at the shelter,
said Del Rosario’s proposal left her on the verge of a heart attack.

“After six months, desperately waiting and now come out with this s_ _ _
? I have no house in Cuba, I have nothing, because everything I had I
sold,” she said. “Turn back to what? To live under a bridge?

“Some say that they are going to continue to the United States, but I do
not have anyone in the United States who I could ask for even $100 to
continue,” she said. “What am I going to do in Cuba? My God.”

Several Cubans asked about the possibility of emigrating to a third
country but Del Rosario said that was not an option.

“To this day we have no response from any country,” he said.

Also not possible, Del Rosario said, was legalizing the status for
undocumented migrants who entered the country illegally.

“There are other countries that have different immigration policies.
Maybe some of you want to return legally to Ecuador,” Del Rosario told
the migrants. “What we cannot do is send you to a third country if we do
not have the guarantee that the third country will take you in.”

Following the deputy minister’s presentation, many of the migrants
expressed their doubts about the proposal, arguing that Cuba does not
follow the rule of law and that they fled the island’s government.

Del Rosario told the migrant that so far none of the people who have
been returned to the island (more than 90 since the signing of the
deportation agreement between Cuba and Panama) have filed a complaint at
the Panamanian Embassy for violation of their basic rights.


Source: Panama givesstranded Cuban migrants until July 31 to leave |
Miami Herald –

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The “Undead” Market: Long-Dormant U.S.-Cuba Air Travel Market Still Isn’t Alive Sat, 08 Jul 2017 17:13:49 +0000 The “Undead” Market: Long-Dormant U.S.-Cuba Air Travel Market Still
Isn’t Alive
I write about airlines, the travel biz, and related industries
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

When you shoot a zombie, does it count as murder, or at least attempted

That question actually is of some epistemological importance in the
context of President Donald Trump’s decision last month to reverse most
– but not quite all – of his predecessor’s actions opening up travel to
and trade with the Caribbean communist island of Cuba. That policy
change triggered accusations from some quarters that Trump is killing
the U.S.-Cuba travel market.

But can one kill that which was already dead?

U.S. airlines jumped in to the U.S.-Cuba market with great fanfare in
2016. The early projections from the Obama White House and economic team
were that soon there would be 1.8 million passengers a year flying
between this nation of 320 million people who are, by Cuban standards,
nearly all insanely wealthy, and the impoverished island 90 miles south
of Florida.

So, most U.S. carriers rushed to offer service to Cuba. Since no market
existed previously, and since the Cuban economy is so stunted it’s
likely that they did not expect the kind of immediate profitability that
the Obama Administration had implied. So perhaps they rushed to launch
service to Cuba in an effort to stake an early claim in a market that
they might eventually actually be worthwhile to serve, to grab free
service rights that they might be able to sell later at a profit to a
stronger competitor, or to protect their market share positions in U.S.
markets like south Florida where large numbers of Cuban-Americans live
and conceivably might want to visit their familial homeland and
relatives from time to time.

But it never made any economic or marketing sense for U.S. carriers to
pour 10,000 seats a month into the U.S.-Cuba air market, as U.S. carrier
did initially. The per capita income in Cuba is around $5,500 a year, or
roughly one-seventh that of the state of Mississippi, which at just
under $37,000 ranked last in 2014 among the 50 states in per capita
income. But while Mississippi ranks just 31st in population among the
states with just under 3 million residents Cuba’s population of 11.4
million would place it 8th, if it were a state, just behind Ohio and
just ahead of Georgia. That means Cuba has, in relative terms, an
inordinate number of extremely poor people. Developing profitable
traffic demand among such a population likely will take decades, even if
they eventually are allowed to travel at will, a right they still don’t
have today.

Thus, nearly all of the passengers flying between the two nations were –
and continue to be – Americans. Indeed, restrictions still imposed by
the Castro regime block most Cubans from flying north, even if their
American family members pay for the tickets. And most of those Americans
flying to Cuba are, and likely will be for the foreseeable future, Cuban
Americans traveling to visit family and friends who still live on the
island. As leisure, rather than business travelers, they can be expected
to be very price sensitive, a factor that promises to make it even more
difficult for U.S. carriers to earn profits from their Cuban routes.

Meanwhile Americans who did fly to Cuba after the market opened last
year quickly discovered that there’s not much to do there.

Source: The “Undead” Market: Long-Dormant U.S.-Cuba Air Travel Market
Still Isn’t Alive –

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Teen dies during high school graduation trip to Cuba organized by Toronto-based S-Trip tour company Sat, 08 Jul 2017 17:06:12 +0000 Teen dies during high school graduation trip to Cuba organized by
Toronto-based S-Trip tour company
By Alexandra Sienkiewicz, CBC News Posted: Jul 07, 2017 6:17 PM ET Last
Updated: Jul 07, 2017 6:59 PM ET

Alex Sagriff was a student at St. Theresa Catholic Secondary School in
Belleville. She had been vacationing in Varadero with other graduating
students when she was found dead, her uncle confirmed with CBC Toronto.

S-Trip refused to comment when CBC News approached the company at its
Toronto offices, but in a letter sent out to parents and guardians of
students on the trip, it said staff were contacted at 9:30 p.m. on July
6 about a medical emergency.

“Emergency medical services arrived on scene and attempted to
resuscitate the individual. Sadly the death was pronounced shortly
thereafter, and the doctor on scene proclaimed that it was due to
natural causes,” read the email.

S-Trip says it is working directly with the family of the deceased, but
cannot share any further details or make conclusions regarding the
circumstances of the death.

Denise Hepburn, whose daughter was also on the trip, said she received a
text message from her daughter last night saying that “somebody was
found unresponsive, not breathing.”

She contacted her daughter this morning who said she was upset and that
“nobody wants to be here.”

“They had a meeting with them at 11 this morning, and basically they
said that they wanted to let everyone know that Alex had passed and they
were trying to respect the privacy of the family at this time, but they
thought it was of natural causes … and that upset a lot of the
students,” said Hepburn after speaking to her daughter.

Global Affairs confirmed with CBC Toronto that a Canadian had died in
Cuba, and in a statement said consular officials in Havana are in
contact with local authorities to gather information.

Concerns over S-Trip

Hepburn said she was emotional when she heard the news from her daughter.

“I started crying, I was really concerned because of a report that I had
watched and read about on CBC … about the trip — the S-trip — and some
of the concerns and issues that students had had in the past,” she said.

CBC’s Marketplace investigated S-Trip in the episode “Grad trips gone
wild: Investigating S-Trip holidays.” The report uncovered underage
binge drinking and hard partying. The staff — sometimes only a few years
older than the students themselves — didn’t do much to stop the party.

In response to the Marketplace investigation, the company said it
was reviewing its policies, doubling the amount of training required by
staff and doubling the number of staff for its summer 2017 trips.

Hepburn said that her daughter had tried to participate in an activity
that ended up being full and that the staff member told her, “The bar is
over there.”

‘Going to miss your bright spirit’

In a statement, the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School
Board said it and the St. Theresa Catholic school community are “deeply
saddened by the tragic news” of the death. Bereavement and crisis
response workers are being made available to help support students and
staff, the statement said.

Meanwhile, tributes and memories are pouring in on the student’s social
media pages.

One Twitter user who goes by the name of Alex Supryka, wrote, “One of
the nicest girls I have ever met! And I am so sorry @alex_sagriff no
teen nor parent should ever [have] to go through this pain, and I will
forever be sorry that I couldn’t help you in a time of need. Rest in
peace beautiful.”

A recent Instagram post from what appears to be Sagriff’s graduation day
had hundreds of likes and messages saying she’ll be missed.

One user who goes by the name of Jordyn Declair commented, “Going to
miss your bright spirit, love you.”

Hepburn wants to see the circumstances of her death thoroughly investigated.

“This girl just graduated, she just had her prom last week and that’s it
— she’s gone. This isn’t OK.”

Source: Teen dies during high school graduation trip to Cuba organized
by Toronto-based S-Trip tour company – Toronto – CBC News –

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Tourism Boom Chokes Havana’s Airport Fri, 07 Jul 2017 20:03:24 +0000 Tourism Boom Chokes Havana’s Airport

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 4 July 2017 — The passengers leave the
plane and make their way around the buckets catching the leaks from the
roof. They still have a long wait in at baggage claim and have to suffer
under the air conditioning that hardly alleviates the heat. The José
Martí International Airport in Havana is stumbling through
the tourist boom that has brought a volume of passengers its services
and infrastructure find difficult to serve.

The main air terminal in the country received 3.3 million passengers in
the first half of this year, a figure that increased by 27.4% compared
to the same period of the previous year. However, travelers’ experiences
are far from satisfactory.

There are few places to eat and the lack is supplies is a problem. “We
only have these two cafeterias up here,” says one of the
employees. “Today we did not get any beer and there is no water, we are
only selling coffee in addition to bread with ham and cheese,” she told
several customers on Monday.

There is an unfinished wing on the exterior that will be filled with
places to eat. “The financing of this infrastructure was linked to the
construction company Odebrecht and everything was paralyzed by the
corruption scandal in Brazil,” says a source from the Ministry of
Construction who preferred to remain anonymous.

“We hope it will be open before the end of the year as an alternative
for travelers and their friends,” the official said. “But the building
is one thing and the supply of food and beverages is another; the latter
is the responsibility Cuban Airports and Aeronautical Services Company

We can’t do magic. If there is no beer in the country, where are we
going to get it from?” an ECASA employee asks rhetorically, speaking to
this newspaper by phone from the central office. “We have tried to meet
the demand with imported products, but the tourists want to drink a
Cuban beer at the airport,” she says.

Hope arrived for the terminal employees when it was announced last
August that French companies Bouygues and Paris Airports had won a
concession to expand and manage the terminal.

“They haven’t pounded a single nail here,” protests the saleswoman at a
handicrafts stand on the middle floor. Industry sources say that no
feasibility studies have yet been done to start the works. “The French
planners have not even arrived to evaluate the terminal,” says a senior
Transport Ministry official adding that the project is waiting for
support from the new French president.

One floor down crowd those waiting for the travelers who arrive in the
country. “This shows a lack of respect,” says Manuel Delgado, 58, who
complains that “there is no place to sit, the heat is unbearable and the
cafeteria has no water” while waiting for the Air France flight
returning his daughter, who has been living in Paris.

The bathrooms earn the worst of the opinions of those who wait. “They
smell bad and although the service is free, the employees are asking for
money, in a somewhat disguised way, but they ask for it,” says Yesenia,
who came from Matanzas to meet a brother returning from Mexico.

In the women’s restroom a female worker holds the roll of paper for
drying hands. “It’s not mandatory, but they look askance at you if you
do not give them something,” says Yesenia. One of the female employees
asked the customers to exchange for 25 centavo coins in Cuban pesos
(CUP) “for a convertible peso.” Finally, a European-looking tourist agrees.

A few meters from the bathroom, located on the third floor, a young man
tries to catch the wifi signal to surf the internet, a service only
offered in the area after immigration and security controls. For every
hour of navigation one must pay 1.50 in Cuban convertible pesos (CUC)
but there is nowhere in the airport “today where they are selling
recharge cards for the Nauta service,” he says frustrated.

There are also no hotels nearby for passengers in transit to other
provinces. For two years the Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR) has planned to
build five-star accommodation in the immediate vicinity of the airport,
but the project has not yet materialized. The private sector, however,
has taken the lead from the state and more and more private houses are
renting to tourists in the vicinity of the area.

The problems of infrastructure and services do not end after approaching
the exit doors from the flights. “I was traveling in first class and
they gave me an invitation for the VIP area,” says José Mario, a Cuban
who each month takes the Copa Airlines route to Panama working as a “mule.”

Numerous trips allow you to accumulate points that you can take
advantage of, from time to time, to travel in more comfort. But the VIP
area has not met their expectations. “They told me I had to wait for
other customers to finish eating, because there were not enough dishes,”
he remembers with annoyance after his failed attempt serve himself some
nuts and cheese from the available buffet.

Jose Mario admits, at least, that the taxi service has improved. More
than a year ago a fixed rate was established from the airport to
different points of the city. “Before the driver decided the price, but
now I know that I must pay 25 CUC from here to my house, not a peso more.”

The experience on arrival, on the other hand, does not get much
praise. It varies according to the schedule, the flight and the amount
of luggage. “Sometimes I have spent less than an hour waiting for my
bags, but other times I have spent up to four in front of the luggage
belt,” complains the traveler.

Employees agree that the waiting time after the landing fluctuates. “At
night, when large flights arrive from Europe, such as Iberia, Air France
or Aeroflot everything slows down,” says one of the doctors waiting for
the national passengers to fill out an epidemiological form.

The pilots themselves have had to explain to the passengers about
departure delays because of not having “enough vehicles to bring the
luggage to the plane”.

Added to this is the strict customs control over luggage, whose
thoroughness is not only designed to prevent crime but to control the
bringing of technological devices into the country (such as DVDs,
NanoSations, hard disks or laptops) or large quantities of commonly used
products. The most “meticulously” checked flights are those from the US,
Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and other regular
routes for the “mules.”

In the area before passing through immigration, employees are wandering
around with posters bearing the names of some travelers. Some approach
families with children or newcomers who look like Cubans living
abroad. “For 40 dollars I can pass you without problems from customs,”
whispers a worker to a couple with two children.

For a certain fee employees can avoid passing through the search or
paying for excess imported luggage, a relief for many Cubans living
abroad and arriving loaded with gifts. For each kilo of luggage that
exceeds the limit of 50 kilos, there is a fee that must be paid in CUC,
and the fees also depend on the type of objects transported. For
residents on the island is also very advantageous, since they can only
pay in CUP for their first annual importing of goods.

Jose Mario often resorts to this illegal service. “What I am going to
do?” he justifies himself. “I pay to get myself out of this airport as
soon as possible, because it’s unbearable between the heat and the bad

Source: Tourism Boom Chokes Havana’s Airport – Translating Cuba –

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Cuba: More Implicated in the Interior Ministry’s Stolen Documents Case Fri, 07 Jul 2017 20:01:33 +0000 Cuba: More Implicated in the Interior Ministry’s Stolen Documents Case /
Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 5 July 2017 — The case is notable for its strict
secrecy and a degree of coercion. The highly irregular trial and
mystifying plight of those already found guilty and sentenced make “the
top secret theft from the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) of the
Republic of Cuba” perhaps the most surprising example of Cuban justice
in the last twenty years.

Though a verdict has been handed down, the legal process is not yet
over. The most recent defendant is Colonel Rafael, who coincidentally
was the principal interrogator during the initial investigation but is
now himself being investigated for leaking information about the
indictment and the locations of those involved.

These post-trial developments are at odds with normal legal procedures.
Though accused on May 9 of high treason, theft and sale of classified
material to foreign governments, encouraging desertion and disobedience
among senior officials, spreading malicious rumors intended to cause
discontent among senior military commanders, personal enrichment,
bribery and abuse of office, none of the defendants have been sent to
prison. They are being detained in three houses in Havana’s Siboney
neighborhood, where family members have been allowed to visit some of them.

“Look, Colonel Carlos Emilio Monsanto was sentenced to thirty-seven
years in prison. Major Ernesto Villamontes was sentenced to thirty,
Jorge Emilio Pérez to thirty, Román to twenty-two and the rest got
similar sentences. Do you think they are going to serve those sentences
in houses that are now serving as prisons? People like that are
dangerous whether they are free or locked up. I don’t think they are
going to serve those sentences under house arrest and I don’t think they
are going to go to prison. Based on available information, it is logical
to believe they will suffer some accident or come down with a sudden
illness as happened to General Abrantes,” says a relative of one of the
convicted men with resignation. This person requested anonymity, citing
a non-disclosure agreement that family members were forced to sign in
order to be able to visit their relatives.

“The one thing that is clear is that Ernesto (Villamontes) and the other
defendants were sending money out of country and that they had been
authorized to do so by the former directors of MININT and the country’s
top leadership with the goal of investing in businesses and buying
property. The documents were not taken from the ministry’s Building A in
order to sell them; they were to be used as protection. And that is

What keeps them safe?

“Corporations like Financiera Ricamar, Financiera Eurolatina and
Financiera Bescanvi Occidental laundered money. Some of these
corporations belong to Panamanian businessmen, including former
president Martinelli. The Panamanian government is currently
investigating the matter. That’s why they haven’t been sent to prison
yet. On the contrary, the plan is to use them as scapegoats in a
possible prosecution against the former Panamanian president. For better
or worse, this could be significant in a political, media or
international context and would go a long way in covering the tracks of
the Cuban government, just as happened with Cause I and Cause II in 1989.”*

*Translator’s note: Cause I and Cause II refer to two famous trials of
multiple Cuban military officials. In the first, General of the Western
Army Arnaldo Ochoa was tried and executed by firing squad on charges
including drug trafficking and treason. In a second related trial,
former Minister of the Interior General José Abrantes, was sentenced to
twenty years in prison but died in custody, allegedly of a heart attack,
in 1991.

Source: Cuba: More Implicated in the Interior Ministry’s Stolen
Documents Case / Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba –

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School Diplomas Fri, 07 Jul 2017 20:00:37 +0000 School Diplomas

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 5 July 2017 — They arrived,
enthusiastic and happy, to their party for the end of the school
year. One mother brought a macaroni salad with mayonnaise, another
brought from home some disposable plates and a third took on providing
the croquettes. The celebration was ready in no time, while the horns
played an off-color reggaeton song. This Wednesday many elementary
schools ended the school year and opened the vacation season.

The parents gathered what they could, in the midst of one of the most
severe shortages in the last decade, and the calls made by the
authorities to ensure good food hygiene. Summer, with its high
temperatures, has set off a spate of diarrheal diseases and the schools
take extreme measures to prevent their spread.

However, it was not the melodies – that set everyone to dancing – nor
the sanitary precautions that marked the day. The face of the deceased
Fidel Castro took the leading role, being printed on thousands of
graduation diplomas throughout the island.

Fortunately, between running through the corridors and devouring the
cake with meringue, most of the students didn’t even notice that, like
the dinosaur in Augusto Monterroso’s tale, when the party ended, “The
dinosaur was still there.”

Source: School Diplomas – Translating Cuba –

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Whom Do They Serve? Fri, 07 Jul 2017 19:59:42 +0000 Whom Do They Serve? / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 28 June 2017 — Whether at the municipal or provincial
level, the people’s administrative councils are supposed to be looking
out primarily for the interests of their constituents and, in
conjunction with them, carrying out the duties of local governance. But
due to the inaccessible and very undemocratic Cuban electoral system,
that is not the case.

Lacking any real power and without questioning what is meant by “the
people,” these councils have for years simply carried out the orders
handed down to them by higher-ups in government without concern for the
needs of their constituents or responding to them in a compelling way.
In a country where every worker was once an employee of the government,
their inefficiency was just part of the broader inefficiency of the
entire system.

With the advent of self-employment, or private sector work, they have
continued to act in the same way, turning a deaf ear to the complaints
and grievances of the self-employed, imposing bureaucratic measures
under the guise that such taxes benefit the weak and needy. This
demagogic, paternalistic position, far removed from reality, is not
fooling anyone.

For evidence one need only look to the government’s recent “collisions”
with private-sector taxi drivers, with homeowners in Viñales who rent
out rooms to tourists (the government tried, without success, to force
homeowners to permanently cover over swimming pools they had built on
their properties), with construction crews (whose prices officials have
tried unsuccessfully to regulate), with clothing and handicraft vendors
(who continue to sell these items), with truck drivers transporting
passengers in the backs of their vehicles (who were overwhelmed by
endless and repeated demands for documentation) and many other similar

Even without established organizations to represent them, small groups
of people with shared interests began pushing back against arbitrary
demands by authorities, who were trying to exercise the same sort of
tight control they had always exercised over state-sector workers
without understanding that something had changed: a group or collective
spirit had arisen that was at odds with the authorities’ interests. It
is all still very new and appears to be primarily driven by a need for
survival rather than by economic or political demands.

The original sin of the Cuban dissident movement has been that it has
never actually represented any specific segment of society. Instead, it
has been made up of independent agents who have assumed a critical and
combative stance towards the system, gathering around them a few
like-minded individuals. The exception has been the Ladies in White,
which respresents the interests of family members unjustly sentenced to
long prison terms for holding differing opinions.

At the moment, one cannot say that there is a real dissident movement,
one that demands respect and fights for its rights, that represents
specific segments of society, that is united by economic interests. This
is, in truth, what brings about change.

As long as there are no solutions, these segments will grow, develop and
gain strength. And every day the authorities will find it more difficult
to maintain a hegemonic position of force.

*Translator’s note: In 2013 the government announced that independent
clothing vendors would no longer be allowed to sell items imported from
abroad, a major source of their inventory. More recently, private truck
owners have been converting their vehicles to accommodate passengers in
order to transport them from one city to another. In spite of the
dangers this presents, such as the absence of seat belts, the service is
more accessible than that of the state-owned bus company and much
cheaper than buses catering to the tourist market.

Source: Whom Do They Serve? / Fernando Dámaso – Translating Cuba –

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Low wages apparently spurring Manzana Kempinski workers to quit Fri, 07 Jul 2017 17:40:03 +0000 Low wages apparently spurring Manzana Kempinski workers to quit
DDC | La Habana | 7 de Julio de 2017 – 11:28 CEST.

Some workers at the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski, Cuba’s most luxurious
and expensive, earn salaries even lower than the national average, which
seems to be prompting them to leave, according to the Uruguayan
journalist Fernando Ravsberg in his blog Letters from Cuba (Cartas desde

While one night at the hotel can cost $1,300, the cleaning staff earns
233 pesos (national currency) plus a bonus of 10 CUC (which the
government equates to the dollar). An employee consulted by Ravsberg,
without specifying her position, said that in total, she receives less
than $20 a month.

According to the latest data published by the Government, the average
monthly salary in 2016 was 740 Cuban pesos, equivalent to $29.60 USD.

The salary problems at the Kempinski seems to have spurred “several of
the employees to resign, causing instability in terms of the trained
personnel,” said Ravsberg.

“This creates difficulties for the foreign management, which would be
willing to increase wages if the Cuban side allowed it, according to an
employee,” he added.

Last June, just before the Manzana Kempinski was officially inaugurated,
hotel security workers told DIARIO DE CUBA that they were earning around
350 Cuban pesos, plus 10 CUC per month.

An employee at the D’CUBA boutique said that she received 350 pesos and
10 CUC per month, plus 14 pesos per day to cover food costs.

Several of these workers expressed hope that wages would rise once the
hotel opened, which apparently has not happened. All were contracted
through a state employment agency, as required by the Government in its
dealings with foreign companies.

These agencies keep most of the wages paid by foreign companies, and
give workers an amount “in line” with Cuba’s (low) wages.

The Manzana, which forms part of the inventory of the powerful GAESA
military consortium, is run by the luxury Swiss chain Kempinski.

The hotel sparked controversy during its construction due to the meager
wages paid Cuban workers. The Cubans were ultimately replaced by Indian
workers, who earned $1,600 a month, 20 times more than workers on the

To justify this hiring GAESA’s Almest Real Estate Company explained that
the Indian workers were “three or four times more productive”than the
average Cuban.

Source: Low wages apparently spurring Manzana Kempinski workers to quit
| Diario de Cuba –

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Cuban Government Turns To New Forms Of Repression Wed, 05 Jul 2017 20:01:16 +0000 Cuban Government Turns To New Forms Of Repression

14ymedio, Havana, 3 July 2014 — Last June, there were 198 fewer
arbitrary arrests of Cuban activists and opponents compared to the same
month last year, according to a report by the Cuban Commission on Human
Rights and National Reconciliation, which recorded a total of 380
arrests in June 2017.

The number, however, is slightly higher than that recorded in May of
this year, according to the report. “We documented four cases of
physical aggression and 28 acts of harassment, attributable, without any
doubt, to the secret political police and parapolice elements,” the
report added.

The independent entity says that “in recent months there have been very
visible efforts by the Castro regime to avoid the arrests of
opponents.” The government has also avoided, in the Commission’s
opinion, “the imposition of prison sentences to avoid criticism by
international public opinion.”

“There are increasingly frequent cases of citations or threatening
police visits, pressures on innocent relatives and other intimidating
acts,” the report said.

The Commission notes that “at least four peaceful opponents have been on
hunger strike during the past month” and mentions, in particular, the
case of Jorge Cervantes Garcia, an activist with the Patriotic Union of
Cuba (UNPACU) who did not eat for 39 days to protest his imprisonment,
finally abandoning this form of protest last Saturday.

During June, “the highest number of violations of freedom of movement in
many years” was recorded when authorities prevented at least 29
dissidents from traveling abroad. “Some were detained for hours and
others were physically assaulted,” the statement said.

The Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH), based in Madrid, cited
410 arbitrary detentions in Cuba last month, of which 237 were against
women and 173 against men, while “the number of blacks arrested was 138.”

The organization warns that although the arrest figures “are
significantly lower than those for the same period in 2016, they are
still scandalous, and the levels of repressive are the same or greater.”

For the Observatory, the decrease in the number of detentions “is not
due to the existence of any positive change in the political will of the
Cuban Government, but to the already denounced changes in its methods of

The new strategy against opponents is based on “short-term arrests”
reinforced by “direct pressure and attacks on the children and relatives
of activists, the confiscation or theft of personal property or the
tools of work.” The report states that “the fabrication of criminal
offenses is common” as is “impeding [activists] from leaving the
country,” along with other methods.

The OCDH also warned about the fabrication of “false profiles on social
networks,” allegedly set up by dissidents, and the “publishing of
indecent content” on these profiles. These are “campaigns conceived by
intelligence officers and launched in the environment of the University
of Computer Sciences UCI and its subsidiaries,” the report said.

“The Government maintains intact and reinforces its ability to
systematically and selectively violate its citizens’ exercise of
universal rights and especially so in the case of activists and members
of independent civil society,” it concludes.

Source: Cuban Government Turns To New Forms Of Repression – Translating
Cuba –

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Cuban Convertible Peso Can’t Keep Up With The Dollar Wed, 05 Jul 2017 20:00:27 +0000 Cuban Convertible Peso Can’t Keep Up With The Dollar

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 4 July 2017 – Cuba’s dual currency
system has been in existence for such a long time that many young people
never lived under a system with a single national peso. The rumors of
possible unification of the two currencies are no longer listened to and
people appear resigned to continuing to pay for things in both Cuban
convertible pesos (CUC) and Cuban pesos (CUP). The promise to resolve
this financial mess appears to be one more item that Raul Castro will
leave incomplete at the end of his term next year.

There are at least some certainties, however, in this economic
schizophrenia: the alter ego of the Cuban peso is not the Convertible
peso, but rather the dollar. The so-called chavito – a slang term for
the CUC – that emerged in the decade of the ‘90s, is just a substitute
for the “currency of the enemy,” a camouflage to cover over Abraham
Lincoln’s face or Benjamin Franklin’s head. Little by little, the bills
minted by our neighbor to the north have imposed themselves in the
informal market.

The terrain won by the dollar is expressed in many ways. Not only in the
classified ads that specify payment is accepted in USD for the products
on offer, but also in the existence of an exchange system parallel to
that of the official banking system, where the “greenbacks” are quoted
at a price ranging from 0.95 to 0.97 CUC. It is also evidenced in nice
pictures like the one attached to this article, where the chavito is
conspicuous by its absence on the man’s T-shirt. After all, the CUC is
nothing more than an imitation of Uncle Sam’s money.

Source: Cuban Convertible Peso Can’t Keep Up With The Dollar –
Translating Cuba –

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A Lot of Heat and No Fire Wed, 05 Jul 2017 19:59:08 +0000 A Lot of Heat and No Fire / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 18 June 2017 — The policy toward Cuba, announced by
United States President Donald Trump, in an event in Miami that was more
buffoonish than serious, as well as the Declaration of the Revolutionary
Government responding to it, constitute “a lot of heat and no fire.”

First of all, Trump’s speech was full of rhetoric and repetition of set
phrases, with the objective of satisfying the small group of
Cuban-Americans and Cubans who still remain frozen in the years of the
Cold War, dreaming of a triumphal entry into Havana on the shoulders of
Uncle Sam, something that neither Trump nor any other American president
will provide them, rather than concrete measures against the Cuban

If we look behind the curtain, aside from repealing the previous
presidential directive and signing the new one (nothing but a play on
words), the only elements are: eliminating the people-to-people
individual travel and blocking American companies from doing business
with Cuban companies linked to the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the
intelligence and security services. All the rest, established by Obama,
remains in place.

And in the Cuban case, as well, there is an abundance of revolutionary
rhetoric that has been repeated for over half a century and that,
carefully, “reiterates the will to continue respectful dialog and
cooperation on issued of mutual interest, as well as the unfinished
bilateral negotiations with the government of the United States.” All
the rest of the long document can be forgotten about.

It seems as if both presidents have agreed to reassure their supporters,
while “silently” continuing the conversations and exchanges of the Obama
era. Trump is not as crazy as he seems, nor are there, in Cuba, new
conditions of “historic confrontations.”

Let’s let things take their course.

Source: A Lot of Heat and No Fire / Fernando Dámaso – Translating Cuba –

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Perverse Uchronia Wed, 05 Jul 2017 19:58:17 +0000 Perverse Uchronia* / Regina Coyula

Miguel Coyula: So after editing it in Miami [the novel Red Sea, Blue
Sea] I sent it out to Union Publishers and also ICAIC Publishers, but
this is already four years ago.

The universe of this novel, post-apocalyptic, with genetic manipulation,
strongly influenced by the science-fiction anime, later became Red
Cockroaches and right now Blue Heart.

…In Blue Heart, Fidel Castro has undertaken an experiment in genetic
engineering to construct the New Man and to save his life’s work, his
project. These experiments result in failures: they result in
individuals with psychological disorders, but very intelligent, which,
once they are rejected by the regime that created them, they unite to
destroy it. In this alternative future the system is very similar to
that in China, which continues to say it is socialist, but behind the
facade is brutal capitalism.

[I have been filming Blue Heart for] five years. What I don’t have in
money I put in in time: hours in front of the computer to virtually
build the universe that could never be built in physical reality, in
ordinary filming without permits and extras.

Every time I have approached institutions to ask for money they have
rejected me. The people who have become patrons of my films have
approached me on their own. This is important, because when it is you
who knocks on the doors, you have to be willing to accept compromises.

It is very difficult for me to sell a project because the script is
constantly changing. The script is no more than a map, a skeleton
without flesh, and this skeleton could change itself into an unknown
creatures because, being a long process, I end up using mutations of
everything that happens around me to integrate that into the narrative.
It’s about filming with the same freedom as a writer have, having an
idea and writing.

…more and more I choose not to go out into the street: I record the
actors against a green screen

In the street, once you set up a tripod you have ten or fifteen minutes
of impunity before they come to interrogate you. You may have more time,
but you have to have studied the location and rehearsed the actors to be
able to film very quickly. It’s the only want to have any certainty when
you are filming without permission. And if the location is very
complicated you have to resort to digitally unifying the different
scenes and actors. The film crew is just me and my partner, Lynn Cruz.
So because I don’t have the money I have to put in the time.

*From Wikipedia: Uchronia refers to a hypothetical or fictional
time-period of our world, in contrast to altogether fictional lands or
worlds. A concept similar to alternate history but different in the
manner that uchronic times are not easily defined (mainly placed in some
distant or unspecified point before current times), sometimes
reminiscent of a constructed world.

Site Manager’s note: Once all the fragments of this interview are
translated (by different volunteers) we will unite them in order, in a
single post.

Source: Perverse Uchronia* / Regina Coyula – Translating Cuba –

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US-Cuba sea mission finds healthy reefs, invasive lionfish Wed, 05 Jul 2017 18:45:43 +0000 US-Cuba sea mission finds healthy reefs, invasive lionfish
HAVANA — Jul 4, 2017, 6:28 PM ET

A joint U.S.-Cuban expedition to explore the island’s coral reefs
uncovered a surprisingly healthy ecosystem and large schools of mackerel
with significant commercial value, scientists involved in the mission
said Tuesday.

The study also found alarmingly high numbers of invasive lionfish, which
is not native to the Western Hemisphere and has become a growing marine
menace in recent years.

“We found an incredible amount of diversity, especially in algae and
sponges, and the reefs were in incredible health as well,” said Patricia
Gonzalez of the Marine Investigations Center at the University of
Havana. “Some of the most fascinating results have to do with widespread
coral coverage, in some cases up to 70 and 80 percent … and some
species we believe are new.”

The preliminary findings came from an expedition aboard a boat that
sailed more than 1,400 nautical miles around Cuba in May and June.

Scientists said the mission was made possible by the restoration of
diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington two years ago under
then-President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro.

It was a result of an agreement signed in 2015 between the U.S. National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. National Park Service
and Cuba’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.

Florida Atlantic University provided technology aboard the boat that
allowed specialists to observe coral reefs at a depth of over 200 feet
(60 meters), participants said.

Scientists predicted such cooperative ventures will continue despite
current President Donald Trump’s new policy toward the communist-run
country, which would prohibit most new American transactions with Cuban
military-linked businesses and restrict some U.S. travel to the island.

“Environment and science are two issues that everyone can agree on,”
said Dan Whittle of the Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s fairly
apolitical, and if you look into the Trump National Security Directive,
there’s a line in there that identifies science and the environment as
one area of engagement that will continue.”

Source: US-Cuba sea mission finds healthy reefs, invasive lionfish – ABC
News –

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Why will the municipal elections be different this time? Wed, 05 Jul 2017 18:30:30 +0000 Why will the municipal elections be different this time?
DDC | La Habana | 5 de Julio de 2017 – 14:21 CEST.

Cuba is preparing for its new “partial elections,”in which Cubans will
elect those to represent them in the Municipal Assemblies of the
People’s Power. This first stage of the electoral process has already
been convoked by the Council of State, and will be held on October 22 of
this year.

But will we Cubans really choose, or just vote?

Voting is not necessarily choosing, especially when our vote cannot
change anything, nor influence the destiny of our country. We Cubans
usually go to the polls “to do our part,” “not stand out” or “because
it’s just what you should do.”

But the partial elections to determine the delegates to the Municipal
Assemblies are the only instrument through which only Cubans not only
vote, but actually choose. It is only at this stage of the “electoral
process” that we Cubans have the opportunity to directly propose, to the
Candidate Nomination Assemblies, those we want to represent us.

And who can represent us as delegates in the Municipal Assemblies of the
People’s Power?

According to Article 133 of the Constitution: “all Cuban citizens, men
and women, who are in full possession of their political rights” have
the right to be elected. The 1992 Electoral Law states that one must be
over 16 years old, reside in a district of the municipality, and have
been nominated.

When can a citizen be deprived of his political rights? Are these rights
related to the person’s political affiliation?

According to Article 7 of the Electoral Law, a citizen only loses his
political rights when he is deprived of his liberty; that is, if he is
on any kind of penal parole or probation.

The aforementioned article of the Electoral Law also states that those
declared judicially “unfit” may not stand as candidates to the Municipal
Assemblies of the People’s Power.

None of this has (or should have) to do with political affiliation.

Article 131 of the Constitution states that “every citizen with the
corresponding legal capacity has the right to participate in the
administration of the State, directly or through his representatives
elected to make up the bodies of the People’s Power …”.

In fact, one of the features of the “elections” that the island’s rulers
advance as alleged proof of their democratic superiority is that they
are not “partisan.” One does not need to belong to any party to aspire
to be a representative of the people. The Communist Party of Cuba (the
only legal one), is not, technically, involved.

In accordance with the Constitution and the Electoral Law, any citizen,
including one who is not a supporter of the Government, may be nominated
and elected as a delegate to the Municipal Assembly of the People’s Power.

And this is what will be different about the “partials” of October 22:
many citizens who do not identify with the Government, some of them even
open opponents of it, will seek to occupy positions that allow them to
represent their communities, exercising rights recognized by the
Constitution and the Electoral Law of 1992.

This is not the first time that citizens not affiliated with the
Government or the Communist Party will run in our country’s partial
elections. There is the precedent, in 2014, of Hidelbrando Chaviano and
Yunier López. But this is the first time that the presence of citizens
who are not backers of the Government or the Party (pardon the
redundancy) will be massive.

They have the right to seek positions that enable them to represent
their communities. And we Cubans have the right to vote for them.

As voters we have the right to decide what matters most to us, and what
will matter more when electing those who are to tackle the problems our
communities face: ideology and loyalty to a party or, as stated in
Article 171 of the Electoral Law “… their personal traits, their
prestige” and, above all, “their capacity to serve the people.”

Source: Why will the municipal elections be different this time? |
Diario de Cuba –

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Fidel Castro In Humor And Oblivion Tue, 04 Jul 2017 18:48:29 +0000 Fidel Castro In Humor And Oblivion

14ymedio, Generation Y, Havana, 3 July 2017 — For decades Cubans were
bombarded by official propaganda filled with materials about Fidel
Castro’s supposed genius. In these vindications he was not only a
father, but also a strategist, visionary, pedagogue, farmer and cattle
rancher, among other lofty characteristics and pursuits. However, that
prototype of patriarch, scientist and messiah had some “soft spots.”

Over time, many of us came to understand that the Maximum Leader was not
as outstanding as they wanted to make us believe. Counting against him,
he had several capital defects: with a complete lack of any capacity for
self-criticism, he never engaged in debate, and he was not given to
irony or humor, the most difficult and elevated scales of the human

Despite all the ill-advised decisions he made, Castro died without
saying “I’m sorry,” contrary to those who say “to err is human but to
rectify is wisdom.” My generation waited in vain for his apology for the
high schools in the countryside, and other sad educational experiments,
just was we waited for a mea culpa for the victims of the Five Grey
Years, the Military Units in Aid of Production (UMAP) or the Stalinist

Nor was controversy the terrain of the Commander-in-Chief. He shunned
diatribe and prepared himself with selected data and later spewed it out
over unsuspecting foreign journalists and crowds gathered in the Plaza
of the Revolution. He liked them to say: “What a well informed man!”
When in reality he was only a ruler with access to information that was
not allowed to his citizens.

Castro drowned, in long hours of discourse, what could have been sound
political talk and a constructive discussion to improve the nation. We
had to worship him or applaud him, never contradict him. He never ceded
the spotlight, fearing perhaps that we would realize that “the king is
naked” or that the guerrilla had “not the least idea” of what he was
talking about.

All the times the late leader approached controversy he was caught
short. When he exercised that egregious sport that is verbal fencing, he
was beaten in the first act. His way of dealing with these defeats was
to overwhelm the other with long speeches or to get his acolytes to
destroy the reputation of his opponent. He was mediocre as a gladiator
of the word.

Nor were jokes his forte. Although Castro was the target of thousands of
humorous stories, at no time in his life did he demonstrate a gift for
humor. In a country where there is always a parody waiting to break the
surface, that corpulent character – dressed in olive green with his
serious and admonitory phrases – was the constant butt of mockery.

His death has highlighted that lack of charming banter. The man, who in
life was the target of thousands of jokes about this death and his
presumed arrival in hell, has been dead for over half a year without
popular humor deigning to mention him. Not even Pepito, the eternal
child of our stories, has wanted to “portray” the deceased.

Sad is the fate of those who are not remembered in a single joke. Poor
is the man who never said “I was wrong,” who never knew the pleasure of
engaging in arguments with an adversary, and who couldn’t even manage to
taste the grace of humor.

Source: Fidel Castro In Humor And Oblivion – Translating Cuba –

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Some Cubans choose dose of private medicine despite price Tue, 04 Jul 2017 17:42:19 +0000 Some Cubans choose dose of private medicine despite price
Andrea Rodriguez, Associated Press Updated 1:32 am, Tuesday, July 4, 2017

HAVANA (AP) — For a dollar, Cuban podiatrist Serafin Barca will spend a
half hour cutting the corns off a senior citizen’s foot, or nearly an
hour removing a stubborn wart.
The 80-year-old is among the last private medical workers in communist
Cuba, which prides itself on its free, universal state health care and
which has barred the creation of new private medical practices since
1963 — the year Barca graduated in his specialty after four years of study.
Barca is busy from morning until night treating patients frustrated with
the inefficiency of the state system. “The service is of higher
quality,” Barca said. “If you get a patient and you don’t treat them
well … you don’t get them back.”
Some Cubans believe that allowing more private practices would improve
services and help ease the state’s burden, allowing it to concentrate on
more complicated surgeries and treatments that require sophisticated
technology. A growing number of Cubans in recent years have begun to
complain about the quality of free medical services, which many say has
been affected by doctors leaving on international health missions or
moving to countries such as the U.S. in search of higher salaries and a
better quality of life.
Martha Garcia, a 72-year-old retiree, has been visiting Barca for her
foot problems for more than a decade.

Source: Some Cubans choose dose of private medicine despite price – –

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Cuba Wants to Help Its People Have Sex Tue, 04 Jul 2017 17:39:16 +0000 Cuba Wants to Help Its People Have Sex
State-run ‘love motels’ to return to Havana amid lack of privacy driven
by housing crisis
By Arden Dier, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 4, 2017 8:53 AM CDT

(NEWSER) – Cuba wants to help its citizens have sex … in private. As the
BBC reports, it’s “common” to see couples knocking boots in Havana’s
public areas, like parks and beaches, because they don’t have the
privacy to do so at home. Thanks to a housing crisis, several families
are forced to live together in one apartment, reports Reuters, to the
point that divorced couples live under the same roof. While private
facilities do offer rooms for rent by the hour, at a fee of $5 for three
hours, that’s not in the budget for many in a nation with an average
monthly salary that’s less than $30. To make getting busy behind closed
doors more affordable, however, Cuba says it will bring back state-run
“posadas” or “love motels,” which were common some three decades ago.

The BBC reports at least five posadas will be made available to the
public. The state will start by opening a 16-room motel in Havana, named
Hotel Vento, before converting another hotel, a rep for the Provincial
Housing Company of Havana tells trade union weekly Trabajadores. “To
think about how to diversify options for love is not farfetched,” per
Trabajadores. “It is a reality that concerns everyone, and cannot become
a luxury.” Some of the dozens of posadas in use in the city until the
1990s, when hurricanes necessitated that they be converted into housing
for the homeless, will also be restored. Havana’s La Monumental will
reportedly be among them. “We want to revive this service that is in
high demand, has a big social impact and without a doubt is very
profitable,” the housing rep says. Adds a hotel administrator, “The city
needs this.”

Source: Cuba Wants to Help Its People Have Sex –

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Cuba’s state-run love motels make a comeback Tue, 04 Jul 2017 17:38:16 +0000 Cuba’s state-run love motels make a comeback
– Cuba reintroduces state-run ‘love motels’ in a bid to reduce public
indecency and “diversify the options for love”.
– The first motel to open will be a 16-bed property in Havana.
– Love motels were commonplace in the capital until the 1990s, when
Havana suffered an economic downturn.
Karen Gilchrist | @_karengilchrist

Cuban authorities have made a move to reignite citizens’ sex lives by
reintroducing a series of state-run pay-per-hour motels which they hope
will “diversify the options for love”, the country’s official trade
union weekly Trabajadores announced on Monday.

The “posadas”, or “love motels”, which offer couples rooms to rent by
the hour, were common in Cuba’s capital, Havana, up until the 1990s,
when they were converted to homes for hurricane victims.

Though private inns opened in their place, the 5 CUC (Cuban convertible
peso) ($5) price tag for a three-hour hire – roughly a sixth of the
average Cuban’s monthly salary – was unobtainable for many citizens,
leaving them to resort to “parks, dark stairs … Even the boardwalk,” the
paper recalls.

By reintroducing an affordable alternative, the communist state aims to
end the practice of lovemaking in Havana’s public spaces and give
privacy to couples battling against the island’s housing shortage and
multi-generational living.

A young couple kiss on top of the fortifications of El Castillo del
Morro, an old Spanish fort that stands at the mouth of the Port of Havana
The first of the new motels to open will be a two-story building with 16
rooms and bathrooms managed by the Provincial Housing Company of Havana,
which is responsible for a network of 27 state-run properties across Havana.

The new property is situated moments from a once famous posada, Munoz Chang.

Alfonso Munoz Chang, director of the Provincial Housing Company of
Havana, hopes the initial project will allow him to set about restoring
other love motel premises around the city.

“We believe in the real possibility of taking it back and developing
it,” Munoz Chang told Trabajadores.

“Our goal is to recover that demanded service of great social impact
and, undoubtedly, very profitable,” a translation of the interview read.
“The main thing is to show that we can fulfil that purpose at the state
level, and although we have the certainty of winning, we do not want to
create false expectations,” Munoz Chang noted.

Though a largely Roman Catholic country, Cuba’s first love motel emerged
in Havana in the late nineteenth century. In the early 1970s, 60 such
state-run inns existed in the capital, though this number had halved by
the late 1980s. In the 1990’s all remaining love motels were closed due
to “economic deficiencies,” Trabajadores recalls.

Source: Cuba’s state-run love motels make a comeback –

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Cuban entrepreneurs brace for President Trump’s new Cuba policy Tue, 04 Jul 2017 17:35:21 +0000 Cuban entrepreneurs brace for President Trump’s new Cuba policy

Nidialys Acosta handles the booking for a loose association of vintage
car owners who have banded together to offer transportation for visiting
dignitaries and other groups. Clients have included a New York business
delegation led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and one of the founders of Airbnb.

But several groups recently canceled their reservations with
Nostalgicar. The first, a group of 10, canceled on the same day that
President Donald Trump announced his new Cuba policy in Miami, said Acosta.

“The previous administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and
trade does not help the Cuban people — they only enrich the Cuban
regime,” Trump said during his June 16 speech, which was reported by
official press on the island. His policy, said Trump, will “help the
Cuban people form businesses and pursue much better lives.”

“In President Trump’s speech, he said he wanted to help the private
sector but I am wondering in what way?” said Acosta. Some 20 drivers
depend on Nostalgicar bookings for their livelihood, she said, and a
group of mechanics also work at Garaje Nostalgicar, a garage run by her
husband that refurbishes classic cars.

The president’s new policy is aimed at not only exerting pressure for
Cuba to improve its human rights record but also channeling American
expenditures and possible business deals away from the Cuban military
toward Cuba’s nascent private sector.

The president is eliminating one category of travel to the island:
Individual people-to-people trips, or self-styled itineraries that were
supposed to help Cubans and Americans get to know each other better. And
that concerns some Cuban entrepreneurs who welcomed the surge in
American travelers after the Obama administration opened up travel and
trade last year.

Trump believes individual people-to-people travel is ripe for abuse by
Americans who just want to go to Cuba to sun on the beach or engage in
other tourist activities. The United States prohibits tourism to Cuba
but allows “purposeful” travel such as educational group tours, family
visits and humanitarian trips. To stop illegal tourism, it appears there
also will be stepped-up auditing of travelers. People-to-people travel
in organized groups remains intact under the new Trump policy.

Acosta said she didn’t speak directly with the canceling groups because
the reservations came through the state-run San Cristóbal Travel Agency,
which is associated with the Office of the Historian of Havana and
specializes in historic tours. But she has her suspicions about why they

“I think the Americans are afraid if they come here they may have
problems. This worries me a great deal. It could put the brakes on
things,” said Acosta. “I hope Trump changes his ideas or has better
ones, but I am not too optimistic.”

Some analysts say limiting transactions with the military by Americans
and U.S. businesses won’t necessarily translate into help for the
private sector.

“Overall, there is likely to be a decrease in the number of travelers
and transactions, and I think that’s going to hurt the private sector in
Cuba, which has been growing over the last many years largely as a
result of the increase in U.S. travelers,” said Ted Piccone, a senior
fellow at Brookings Institute.

For Julia de la Rosa, who runs a bed and breakfast called La Rosa de
Ortega with her husband Silvio Ortega, the potential for fewer American
visitors is discouraging. For the past two decades, they have gradually
renovated an old mansion that was in ruins when they began, adding guest
rooms and struggling to find parts to get the swimming pool filter
running again.

When Airbnb, the peer-to-peer rental service, launched in Cuba in 2015,
the couple listed La Rosa de Ortega and saw the number of American
visitors climb. Since it entered the Cuban market, Airbnb says its Cuban
hosts have earned nearly $40 million and the booking agency has 22,000
listings in 70 towns and cities across Cuba.

The couple now rents out 10 rooms decorated with vintage furniture and
crisp, white bedding. Seventy-five percent of their guests are Americans.

“That’s completely different from a few years ago, and individual
people-to-people is the category that most of my American guests use to
travel to Cuba,” de la Rosa said.

“This absolutely will have an impact,” she said. “When I read the points
in the [Trump] memorandum and came to the elimination of individual
people-to-people travel, my blood ran cold.”

De la Rosa also said she sees the emphasis on U.S. travelers keeping
receipts and records of their trips to Cuba for five years as a tactic
of intimidation.

“Besides that, I’m afraid that those who listened to Trump’s speech will
start to feel Cuba is an inhospitable place,” she added. “Unfortunately,
I don’t think the majority of people in the United States understand how
the Cuban population can be affected by these measures.”

Because their house is located in La Vibora, a neighborhood on the
outskirts of Havana, and it’s sometimes a bit hard for guests to get
around, she and her husband decided to start a rental car agency. They
bought 11 old cars that are in various stages of being repaired. Now she
says they may scale back their plans.

But de la Rosa said the new travel policy won’t just have an impact on
her and her husband but also on their 17 employees and the private
sub-contractors she uses to do everything from carpentry work to washing
and pressing clothes for guests. “Cuentapropistas (the self-employed)
have created a network,” she said. “We regularly seek out each other’s
services to solve our problems.”

Meanwhile, the long days of summer have been a slow time at Finca Los
Colorados, a restaurant and five-room bed and breakfast that sits above
Rancho Luna Beach outside Cienfuegos. Proprietor José Piñeiro Guardiola
said he recently noticed that 50 people viewed his casa particular (a
private Cuban accommodation) on Airbnb one day, but not one of those
viewings converted into a reservation. “I watched the Celestyal cruise
ship go by recently, and it didn’t seem very full to me,” he added.

Nonetheless, Piñeiro said he supports Trump’s new Cuba policy. “I like
it,” he said in a telephone interview. “He gives instructions, a road
map, on how Cuba can have a better relationship with the United States.
I think Trump is an intelligent man. As a businessman, he knows what he
is doing.”

He said he doesn’t believe his business will be impacted much by the new
policy because the Americans he generally hosts are on small cultural or
educational trips and aren’t individual travelers. Piñeiro said he can
accommodate groups of up to five people.

But Phil Peters, a consultant and president of the Cuba Research Center,
said most casa particulares are small and won’t be able to handle group
travel. “It’s harder if you have 20 people and need to run a scheduled
program. You can’t have a tour bus stop at 10 different locations to
pick up group members. It’s a little impractical,” he said.

The exceptions, he said, are tourist towns like Trinidad or Viñales
where it seems like almost every other house is a casa particular. The
three state-run hotels in Viñales, a small rural town near dramatic rock
formations and caves, have a combined total of 193 rooms, while there
are 1,107 private bed-and-breakfasts, many that have two or three rooms.

Walter Sedovic is a New York architect who has visited Cuba in a group
and also as an individual people-to-people traveler.

“I think the whole thing is disconcerting — for our country to be
shutting doors, especially after opening them after almost 60 years of
isolation. The fear is when they start something like this [the Trump
policy], the first step is not the last step.” He said his own
experience with people-to-people travel is that such “exchanges are
healthy, fruitful and mutually beneficial.”

Sedovic, whose interest is heritage buildings and preservation, said
both times he went to the island he met with Cubans involved in the
stewardship of heritage buildings and sites. On his group trip, Sedovic
said, he was “principally bused around.” But when he visited Cienfuegos
and Trinidad last September as an individual traveler, he stayed at
private homes, and walked, biked and took private cabs.

“I feel bad about this [Trump’s new Cuba policy]. I’ve traveled plenty,
and I’ve seen that politics and people are almost always two different
things,” said Sedovic.

Sandra Levinson, executive director of The Center for Cuba Studies,
which is based in New York and has sponsored educational travel to Cuba
since 1973, said the potential impact of the new policy on private Cuban
restaurants, casas particularles, private cab drivers and other service
businesses will be felt in Miami and other Cuban-American communities, too.

“Millions are being spent by Cuban Americans who are helping their
families in Cuba start their businesses by providing them with the
necessary equipment for their startups — everything from
bought-in-the-U.S. blenders, ice cream makers, coffee pots, dinnerware,
air conditioners, TV sets, leather upholstery for cars, computers, cell
phones, sound systems, bedding, shower curtains and more,” she said.

“The issue shouldn’t be about supporting the private sector; it should
be about helping the Cuban people,” said Andy Gómez, a Cuba scholar who
lives in Coral Gables. “This [new policy] will hurt the Cuban people —
no doubt about it. The bottom line is that for the past 60 years
U.S.-Cuba relations have become a sport and there are two teams, one
that wins and one that loses. But the biggest losers are always the
people in Cuba.”

Follow Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @HeraldMimi

Source: Cuban entrepreneurs question, fear Trump’s new policy for the
island | Miami Herald –

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Cuba’s electoral straitjacket Tue, 04 Jul 2017 17:12:50 +0000 Cuba’s electoral straitjacket
HILDEBRANDO CHAVIANO MONTES | La Habana | 4 de Julio de 2017 – 11:11 CEST.

The National Candidatures Committee (CCN) was just constituted.
According to the Electoral Law, this commission, as well as the
provincial and municipal ones, were created to prepare and present the
proposed candidacies of the delegates to the Provincial Assemblies and
the Deputies to the National Assembly of Popular Power (ANPP), and to
cover the positions that these and the municipal assemblies choose.

Those making up the CCN are members of the Central Union of Cuban
Workers (CTC), the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), the Committees for
the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), the National Association of Small
Farmers (ANAP), the Federation of University Students (FEU) and the
Federation of Secondary School Students (FEEM) – all, of course, members
of the Communist Party (CCP) and the Union of Young Communists (UJC).
These constitute a “civil society” belonging to the party in power; that
is, they are not simply members of these organizations, but also
faithful followers of the orders issued by the Central Committee and its
first secretary.

These commissions guarantee that, even if the people vote for
non-communist candidates in municipal elections, the delegates of the
Provincial Assemblies, the deputies of the National Assembly, the
Council of State and its president can simply be appointed to their

The continuity of the dictatorial system is assured perpetually, even if
the country is a moral and economic disaster. Shamelessly, the
Communists impose their will, and not only by means of their cunningly
calculated laws, which are still not enough. They also cheat and coerce
voters in the constituency elections, the only stage of the electoral
process during which the people could make itself heard, if they dared
to do so.

How distant are those words abouthow “History will absolve me…” with
regards to democracy, the three-part separation of powers,
constitutional rights and general principles of law, like resistance to
dictatorship and the rights of association, assembly and expression.
Instead the Cuban government creates an apparatus that usurps the
sovereignty of the people, establishing itself as a body that decides
for the voters who is going to occupy public offices.

Thus, these public positions are not occupied by servants of the people,
paid to shape their destinies. Rather, they become assassins of a
despotic regime as abominable as any other tyranny. The public offices
designated by the Candidature Commissions are illegitimate, usurpers of
the will of the people, which ought to be determined by the polls in
free, direct and secret voting at every level, from the municipality to
the National Assembly and the Presidency of the Republic. These
positions are too important to be left to a group of political eunuchs.

A people without the right to assemble, associate or express their
opinions is not a free people. A people who cannot choose their rulers
are slaves. The Cuban people are prisoners of the PCC, and one day they
will realize this, and their situation of subjection to a regime that
has not fulfilled its promises of wellbeing for the people, and never
will. Rather it has wrested from them their freedom.

The Cuban Constitution and laws are conceived as chains and bars, and
the Candidature Commissions are the locks that complete the confinement.
Remembering a phrase a friend uttered years ago, Cuba is not a country.
She was right. It’s a jail, entirely surrounded by water.

Source: Cuba’s electoral straitjacket | Diario de Cuba –

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A Neighborhood Dressed in Blue Mon, 03 Jul 2017 16:01:26 +0000 A Neighborhood Dressed in Blue / Rebeca Monzo

At the time of the “accident” in 1959, Nuevo Vedado was the latest
Havana neighborhood to be developed. Its residents included
professionals and famous artists from radio and television. It was an
elegant neighborhood, with any number of homes — primarily one or
two-story single-family residences — noted for their striking
architectural designs, many of which had garnered national and
international awards.

Its principal artery, 26th Avenue, was lined with red and yellow acacias
(now almost non-existent) and beds of pink and white oleanders, which
gave the neighborhood an indescribable beauty. The properties there, now
encircled by high fences and imposing ramparts, were demarcated only by
perimeter walls not much higher than a foot and a half or borders of
small shrubs.

These days the neighborhood is festooned in blue, the color of signs
advertising hard currency rental properties. The houses’ current owners,
mostly university professors who cannot live on their poverty-level
wages and retirees, have resorted to renting out rooms in their homes
and apartments.

Nuevo Vedado is home to one of the tourist market’s main transit hubs:
Viazul station, whose buses leave daily for Viñales, Varadero, Trinidad,
Sancti Spiritus and Cienfuegos. Due to limited parking available for
buses in the area, the station cannot meet the high demand, so it is
surrounded by private taxis, which offer the same ride for only 5.00 CUC
more than the buses with the added advantage that tourists can be picked
up at their respective lodgings.

Among the other big tourist attractions are the city’s zoo, Metropolitan
Park (Bosque de la Havana), Civic Plaza (now Revolution Plaza), the
National Theater, the Colón Cemetery and the newly famous Art Factory
(formerly El Cocinero cooking oil factory), the “coolest” place in the
city, where famous figures from the worlds of art and culture can
regularly be seen.

In addition to all these attractions, we are surrounded by wonderful
restaurants, bars and cafes with various options and prices points for
every wallet. The result is a better quality of life for the area’s
residents thanks to the increased and ongoing influx of tourists.

Rebeca Monzo, 31 March 2017

Source: A Neighborhood Dressed in Blue / Rebeca Monzo – Translating Cuba

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Defections to U.S. rob Cuba of superpower baseball status Mon, 03 Jul 2017 15:01:45 +0000 Defections to U.S. rob Cuba of superpower baseball status

Carlos Tabares, known as the Derek Jeter of Cuban baseball, is hanging
it up this year at 42 after 20 years competing in Serie Nacional, the
interprovince league that represents the best of baseball in a proud but
grimly challenged country that still reveres the game.

Representing Havana powerhouse Industriales, Tabares played for five
Serie Nacional champions — one more title than Jeter earned over 20
exemplary seasons with the Yankees. Industriales has retired Tabares’
No. 56, just as the Yankees did their captain’s No. 2 last month in an
extravagant, only-in-New-York type of ceremony that amplified debate
over who replaces Jeter as the “face of baseball.”

A local version of the same question drives the discussion among the
chatty crowd hanging out at “the Hot Corner,” a section of Havana’s
Central Park where old-timers gather for animated exchanges on all
things baseball, about a Jose Abreu home run removed from Cuba’s Capitol

Beyond his success in Serie Nacional, and in forays abroad for Olympic
and World Baseball Classic competition, Tabares became the face of Cuban
baseball because he stayed home, to play for his people and be with his

Scouts who saw him roam center field with Jim Edmonds-like flair or
scorch line drives with Paul Molitor-like ferocity assured him there
would be millions in MLB money available should Tabares choose to
defect. Industriales teammates Rey Ordonez, Kendrys Morales and Yunel
Escobar heard the same message and fled to the U.S., their joy at
becoming big-leaguers tempered by the reality that loved ones would go
missing from their new lives forever, such was the Cuban government’s
contempt for disloyalty.

Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez also fled, but only after government
officials scoffed at his national hero status and banned him from all
levels of Cuban baseball on the mere suspicion that he intended to
follow his half-brother and fellow pitcher Livan to big-league ball in
the U.S.

Tabares stayed, for a salary that is said to have topped out at $125 a
month, plus other perks such as a larger apartment and use of a car.

The White Sox recently signed Luis Robert, a 19-year-old Cuban prospect
long on tools but short on experience, for $25 million.

Like the one-and-done rule that has diluted the talent level of college
basketball in the U.S., defections to the U.S. have robbed Cuba of its
superpower status in baseball.

Team Castro reached the final of the inaugural World Baseball Classic in
2006 but hasn’t been back to the title game in three subsequent
competitions. It has gone without a gold medal in Olympic baseball since
2004, though the sport was dropped from the Olympic program after the
2008 Games. Its gold-medal drought at the Pan American Games extends to
2007, after Cuba won 10 straight and 11 of 12 beginning in 1961, two
years after “the Triumph of the Revolution,” as Castro’s takeover is
officially referred to here.

The defection of such next-generation stars as Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes
and Yasiel Puig is one reason for the falloff. So is a conscious
decision by Cuban sports officials to keep some of the best young
players home from international competition to lessen the chances of
them leaving.

The stories seem to vary with each telling, but Puig and El Duque are
said to have survived life-threatening rides through shark-infested
waters on dilapidated boats to flee Cuba. Abreu’s testimony that he ate
a fake Haitian passport while en route to the U.S. to join the White Sox
helped convict the Miami “facilitators” who helped get him out in
exchange for a nice chunk of the $68 million contract he would sign.

It’s probably a little less harrowing to get out these days, as slightly
more than 1 percent of the players on opening-day MLB rosters were

Cuban baseball announced itself to the world at the 1992 Barcelona
Olympics. As the U.S. basketball Dream Team and the greatest track meet
ever staged were dominating coverage, it was easy to overlook Cuba’s
nine straight wins and 95-16 run differential in a dominant gold-medal

Rafael Avila, Latin America scouting supervisor for the Dodgers, managed
the Dominican Republic Olympic team that was dispatched 8-0 in a
round-robin game. Avila listed left fielder Orestes Kindelan, third
baseman Omar Linares, second baseman Antonio Pacheco and pitcher Osvaldo
Fernandez as big-league-ready prospects, but it was high-voltage center
fielder Victor Mesa who embodied the Cubans’ speed-and-power ethos and
distinctive flair in the way he played and talked.

Then 32, Mesa was probably too old to defect, but he never would
consider it, he told reporters, and neither would his teammates.

“We play for love of country and love of the game,” he insisted, “not
for money.”

They’re playing a different brand of baseball in Cuba these days.

Dan McGrath is a special contributor to the Chicago Tribune.

Source: Defections to U.S. rob Cuba of superpower baseball status –
Chicago Tribune –

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A Cuban Fight Against The Demons Of Machismo Sun, 02 Jul 2017 15:23:37 +0000 A Cuban Fight Against The Demons Of Machismo

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 1 July 2017 — A man looks
over my shoulder because I talk about cables and circuits. He grimaces
in disgust when he sees my clumsy nails cut short and is annoyed because
I reject his “compliments,” which I should accept with pleasure and
gratitude. He does not say it out loud, but to him I’m just a creature
who should look “pretty,” care for his home and bear his children.

It is an exhausting battle. Every day, every hour, every minute, Cuban
women – and so many women in other parts of the world – have to deal
with this accumulation of nonsense. “You can’t, let your husband do it,”
is one of the more pleasant phrases we hear from them, although I have
found others who insist that “women should only talk when hens piss*,” a
coarse way of saying that we should be seen and not heard.

A journalist asks me in front of the camera how I combine being a mother
with the task of running a newspaper. Although I try to lead the
conversation down a professional path, he insists on referring to my
ovaries. A political policeman mocks me because my hair is
tangled. Probably my texts bother him more, but he feels a special
pleasure in “attacking” my femininity. He is wasting his time.

At the end of the day, I have had to evade a thousand and one attempts
to force me into a mold. That box where we must be silent and
endure; smile and bear it; laugh with grace at the machistas** and act
flattered by their repartee. A twisted mechanism that results in society
losing out on our cores and being left only with our shells.

All these stupid prejudices, which have hardly diminished on this
Island, pave the shortest way to deprive ourselves of the talents that
we possess, not only as women, but – mainly – as human beings.

Translator’s notes:
*This expression derives from the fact that chickens do not urinate (as
we know it).
**Male chauvinists.

Source: A Cuban Fight Against The Demons Of Machismo – Translating Cuba

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“American-Philia” Conquers Cuba Sun, 02 Jul 2017 15:22:30 +0000 “American-Philia” Conquers Cuba / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 29 June 2017 — Ten days have passed
since Donald Trump announced his “new” political strategy toward Cuba,
and while the official Cuban press monopoly has wasted gallons of ink on
newspapers and on dozens of reports, interviews and TV programs to show
the world the indignation and rejection of the Cuban people at the gross
interference of US imperialism, which attempts to undermine the
portentous social and economic achievements reached in almost 60 years
of Castro rule, national life continues its boring course at ground
level, far from the rhetorical battles.

If the US president’s speech has had any palpable effect in Cuba, it is
in the possibility of clearly confirming, on a daily basis, the enormous
gap that exists between the olive-green power elite, as an eternalized
political class, and common Cubans. Oblivious to the political and mass
organizations at the service of the gerontocracy, which these days have
shown discipline through the obligatory task of drafting their
declarations of repudiation of the Empire of Evil, the people remain as
alienated from the old “revolutionary” epic, and from its ideological
disputes as is possible. Particularly when the enemy they are fighting
is none other than the endearing monster in whose entrails so many
thousands and thousands of Cubans yearn to live.

A breach that has become all the more visible because the majority of
Cubans today increasingly identify less with the official discourse and
is more irreverent in relation to the State-Party-Government and with
everything it represents.

If anyone were to doubt this, all he would need to do is to walk the
streets of the Cuban capital and check the number of American flags that
proliferate every day, either as articles of clothing worn by numerous
passers-by, such as caps, sandals, head scarves, etc. or decorating the
interior of private transportation. It is like a contest in social
irreverence towards everything that stems from the government and its
colossal propagandistic and repressive apparatus, a phenomenon that was
unthinkable only a few years ago.

Thus, the more the official voice shouts itself hoarse calling for the
union of national sovereignty and the reaffirmation of socialism, not
only does American-philia expand among the population of the island –
with even greater strength, although not exclusively, among the younger
generation – but it also adopts multiple variants of expression. It is
not limited to the open display of the US flag, but also has well-known
trademarks originating in that country, signs of official US
institutions on textiles (including t-shirts labeled: USA, DEA, or FBI,
for example), as well as images and names of famous US cities.

It is like an effect of funny magic, by virtue of which everything
having to do with that country draws me near. Or, to put it another way,
to think intensely about a thing is a superstitious way (like “I hope it
becomes true” while crossing one’s fingers) of preparing the ground for
the pleasure of enjoying it.

But if, in the daily routine of the city, the American symbols continue
to mark the pace, as if mocking that dreaded label of “ideological
diversion,” presumably fallen into disuse, on the beaches the phenomenon
constitutes a quasi-apotheosis. This can easily be seen at the beaches
east of Havana, where coastline areas from El Megano to Guanabo in the
extensive sandy stretches where – despite Trump’s bitter declarations
and the strong patriotic protests of the Cuban government – the stars
and stripes constantly parade in the shape of towels, men’s shorts and
lightweight children’s swimwear, caps, umbrellas and even inflatable
rafts or infant’s lifejackets.

It must be torture for the Castro clan and its claque that no
regulations are in effect, (especially not now, when diplomatic
relations exist between the two countries), that prohibit the use of the
US flag in clothing or in any object created by the human imagination.
Would it be justifiable to quell those who wear a symbol that represents
a friendly people entirely, and not just their political powers?

But this is not about a new phenomenon either. It turns out that this
epidemic of a taste for everything American and its symbols had been
manifesting itself in a more or less contained but constant way for
several years, and was unleashed with marked emphasis at the time of the
reestablishment of relations between the governments of Cuba and the US,
especially during and after President Barack Obama’s visit to a Havana,
until turning into an unstoppable cult to the chagrin of the hierarchy
of the geriatric elite and its ideologic commissaries, who try in vain
to tackle a hare that is like the mythological hydra, spouting seven
heads for each one they cut off.

And while all this intense American mania continues to be sharpened in
Cuba – the historical bastion of the continent’s radical left – the
nationalist affectation of the regime recently chose to prohibit the use
of the Cuban national symbol in a similar way. In fact, Cuban laws
expressly prohibit it.

Consequently, not even the fiercest prospects of their pack of
repudiators or other similarly-minded halberdiers can counteract the
growing “Uncle Sam” effect on Cuban society, since they are barred from
wearing the Cuban national flag as a way to counteract those involuntary
“traitorous” ones, who, without hiding it, continue to publicly display
their admiration for the crème de la crème of evil capitalism, which, it
was taken for granted, had been banished definitively from Cuba since 1959.

Personally, and begging the pardon of the more ardent and sincere
patriots of fetishistic spirit, I am not tempted to worship symbols,
whether from my own country or from others. Even less would I think to
wear a flag, although those who do so – with the vocation of flagpoles –
does not affect me. It is their right. But, strictly speaking, the flag
is nothing more than a rag that many years ago someone designed and
chose to represent us all and that, ultimately, has been used with the
same zeal and passion for the best as for the worst causes, also
supposedly “of everyone.” Ergo, I’m not excited about the flags, but nor
do I feel myself to be any less Cuban than anybody else.

Nevertheless, a flag, as a symbol of something, evidences the feelings
of the individuals who carry it towards that “something.” That, in the
case of the American flag in Cuba, symbolizes exactly the paradigm of
life of the Cubans who exhibit it. An aspiration on a national scale.
So, for those who want to know what Cubans really think about the US, do
not look for the statements published in the official press or the
boring speeches at events: go to the beach. There, relaxing by the sea,
sheltered by a good umbrella and perhaps savoring a cold beer that
protects them from the strong tropical heat, they will see, parading
before their eyes, the mute response of the Cuban people to the Empire
that attacks them.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: “American-Philia” Conquers Cuba / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya –
Translating Cuba –

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In Cuba, Growing Numbers Of Bloggers Manage To Operate In A Vulnerable Gray Area Sun, 02 Jul 2017 15:00:01 +0000 In Cuba, Growing Numbers Of Bloggers Manage To Operate In A Vulnerable
Gray Area
July 2, 20178:26 AM ET

In recent years, a growing number of news and political websites have
popped up in Cuba. Some are taking advantage of what they say has been a
small but vibrant opening afforded them since former President Obama
reestablished U.S. relations with Cuba. But others worry that President
Trump’s harder line toward the Communist Castro government could have a
chilling effect on the independent media movement afoot.

Harold Cardenas Lema runs his blog La Joven Cuba, The Young Cuba, out of
the two-room apartment he shares with his mom and girlfriend in a
dilapidated building just blocks from Havana’s oceanfront esplanade, the

“It’s really just one-and-a-half, actually. This is a very small, a very
small apartment,” he says, laughing. All editorial board meetings take
place in his bedroom, with everyone sitting on his bed.

Despite its mundane office, discussions on Cardenas’ seven-year-old blog
are anything but boring. And they are popular. He says the blog gets
about 2,000 unique visitors a day, nearly 70 percent coming from inside
Cuba. That’s quite a following, given how expensive and difficult it is
to access the Internet on the island.

Exact numbers on Cuba’s Internet access are hard to pin down. Freedom
House, a U.S.-based human rights group, estimates that anywhere between
5 percent and 30 percent of the population has access, one of the lowest
levels of Internet penetration in the world. Most Cubans connect via
spotty public WiFi hotspots, mostly in parks and near tourist hotels,
for about $2 an hour. Many websites, whether they originate on or off
the island, are officially blocked.

In a recent post titled “Papa Estado,” Father State, Cardenas opened a
discussion about whether it was right for the Cuban government to
control all aspects of private life on the island. Among the questions
raised: If Cuban baseball players pay taxes, why can’t they hire their
own agents? And for tax-paying small business owners, why can’t they
import much needed goods?

Surprised by the boldness of the topic, I ask Cardenas how it is that he
can criticize the government so openly on the Internet in Cuba.

He says there’s more freedom of speech in recent years than outsiders
might assume. “There is this [misconception] that you cannot do that in
Cuba — it is pretty much a prejudice of people that don’t know how Cuba
works,” he says.

And he puts President Trump, who recently announced new restrictions for
Americans traveling to the island, at the top of that list. He says in
the past seven years that he’s run the blog, he’s never been told to
remove a post or been detained by security forces — though he does say
he has on occasion been “misunderstood” and called “to task” by
officials about certain articles. He doesn’t elaborate on either of
those circumstances.

In fact, Cardenas says since President Obama improved relations with
Cuba in December 2014, he has had more freedom than ever to criticize
his government. It’s a small but important opening he fears will
inevitably close, given Trump’s harder line toward the island.

“If Donald Trump really wants to end the Cuban government,” he says, “he
is not doing a very good job.”

As the past has shown, Carendas says, when the U.S. clamps down on Cuba,
everyone goes on the defensive and is less open to self reflection —
even those who push for wider debate and criticism about conditions at home.

“We work better and we are a better country to deal with the many things
we have to solve here when we don’t have the pressure of the biggest
country, the most powerful country in the world,” he says.

Cuba’s state apparatus does control news and information on the island,
but some independent writers and reporters are breaking through and even
providing unfiltered international and local news these days.

The best known is 14ymedio, an internationally celebrated site started
nearly a decade ago by Yoani Sanchez. But others are breaking through.
One site, Periodismo del Barrio, run by journalist Elaine Diaz,
chronicles local happenings in some of Cuba’s poorest neighborhoods. And
Cuba Profunda, run by Gisele Morales, a local reporter out of Sancti
Spiritus, gives a glimpse of life outside of Havana and into the provinces.

Recent articles in some of these blogs have tackled local problems —
everything form debilitating water rationing to cheating on state
university entrance exams. And many have successfully lobbied the
government for fixes. According to one blogger, the government changed
the state exam after the cheating scandal was exposed — a rare reversal
for Cuba’s state apparatus.

Ted Piccone of the Brookings Institution says these Cuban new media
journalists are working in a vulnerable gray area. They are tolerated by
the state but not working with official authorization, either — and not
without threat of censorship or shutdown.

“The government has sent agents to shut them down or interfere with
their work,” Piccone says. “Nonetheless, they are smart, well-educated,
well-trained professionals in Cuba. And they are committed to expressing
themselves through this format.”

While the Castro regime may be giving a slight opening to younger Cubans
exploiting new media, it continues to crack down on the island’s older
dissidents, who’ve long protested bans on public gathering and freedom
of expression.

And not all of Cuba’s young media professionals are willing to test the
limits of Cuban openness through politics and opinion. Robin Pedraja
just wanted to write about reggaeton and rock and roll when he launched
his cultural magazine, Vistar, three years ago.

“Everybody told me, hey, you are crazy, the government isn’t going to
allow you to make this,” he says.

But in Cuba these days, you are only held back by your own limitations,
Pedraja says — though he admits to never publishing anything negative
about Cuban culture, a closely controlled state commodity.

“I want more. Vistar the magazine is just the beginning … to build
something very big,” he says.

He says one day, he hopes to gain official press credentials and even
start Cuba’s first Billboard-like music charts and award shows.

Vistar has become profitable as well as popular. While printing a hard
copy of a magazine or newspaper other than the official,
state-sanctioned dailies is prohibited in Cuba, Pedraja and many other
for-profit zines have found another route to readers. He puts a copy
every week in El Paquete, The Package — an offline compilation of
pirated movies, TV shows and other media favorites that is
hand-delivered on USB drives and hard drives around the island for a
small fee.

It’s impossible to know how many read Vistar on El Paquete, since it’s
not a state-sanctioned media venture, but Pedraja says from comments and
emails he receives from Paquete readers, he believes they number in the
tens of thousands.

Not all blogs can take advantage of El Paquete’s distribution, mostly
because there is a fee to be included in the weekly offerings, about $25
a week.

Cardenas of La Joven Cuba isn’t making any money off his blog and
refuses to take donations from sponsors or off-island institutions. So
he can’t afford to include his work in El Paquete.

“They have advertisers, they have a whole economic system, and we don’t
have that,” he says. He’s negotiating with El Paquete’s operators for a
lower price.

For now, that leaves him copying his blog posts to Facebook, sending
them to subscribers on the WhatsApp messaging app — and hoping for the
day when Cuba has a faster and more easily accessible Internet.

Source: In Cuba, Growing Numbers Of Bloggers Manage To Operate In A
Vulnerable Gray Area : Parallels : NPR –

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They fled to avoid prosecution from a web of corruption that is part of daily life in Cuba Sun, 02 Jul 2017 14:52:23 +0000 They fled to avoid prosecution from a web of corruption that is part of
daily life in Cuba

The couple fled Cuba to avoid the web of corruption and negligence that
they say reflects what is normal life on the island.

They got stranded in Panama, but still hope to eventually reach the
United States.

Yudenny Sao Labrada was born in eastern Cuba, three years after the
government approved a socialist constitution in 1976. Trained by the
Castro revolution as a teacher, she holds university degrees in math and
physics but left the classroom to administer one of the state-owned
grocery stores that sell rationed goods at subsidized prices.

“I liked being a teacher, but the salaries in the Education Ministry are
very low,” she said. Running the store in her hometown of Puerto Padre,
she added, she had more opportunities to earn money “on the left,” –
Cuban slang for less-than-legal.

“I decided to leave Cuba when they discovered a corruption scheme in the
retail commerce network in Puerto Padre,” she said. Audits turned up
“irregularities.” Top administrators were sentenced to up to eight years
in prison for embezzlement.

“I had nothing to do with that,” she said.

Her own business scheme consisted of selling rice, sugar and smuggled
cigarettes, which she bought on the black market, instead of selling the
products sent by the state for sale at higher prices outside the
rationing system.

Although she did not change the price of the goods sold at her store,
she was breaking the law because Cuba’s highly centralized economic
regulations did not allow her to sell goods not supplied by the government.

“I called the family together and told them what was happening, because
the big fish always eats the little fish,” she said. Her family includes
husband Yoendry Batista, who is a welder, children who are 19, 10 and 7
years old and Sao’s parents. They decided to leave Cuba, and borrowed
$10,000 for the trip from relatives in Florida.

“I used the money to go to Havana. I wanted to take a fast boat to the
United States,” she said. “But instead of paying a smuggler … I learned
that there were people who could sell you the parts to build a boat. I
phoned my husband, he went to Havana and we started to build the boat.”

The work took place in a neighborhood in the heart of Havana. Materials
cost $7,500 and each person in the group contributed to the labor.
Everything was done in secret, because building boats with the intent to
leave the country is illegal.

“We built the boat with polyethylene and metal sheets. That is illegal.
We could have gone to prison for up to 15 years,” said Batista, who had
never before built a boat. After three weeks of hard work in the patio
of a home, the boat was ready.

“We had to fake a house move to take the boat to the coast. At 3 a.m.,
we started to load the furniture and parts of the boat into a covered
truck” that supplied a chain of state-owned stores in the city, Sao

They headed for the north coast, near the mouth of the Caimito River.
They and 17 others stayed there for eight days, eating little to save
their supplies for the trip. After weeks of preparations, they were
finally ready to leave for the United States.

“When we started up the motor, we were so happy we shouted ‘goodbye
comandante,’” Sao said, referring to late ruler Fidel Castro. But their
happiness ended quickly. The outboard motor barely lasted 75 minutes.
They threw their $2,000 motor and gasoline cans overboard because
possessing them was also illegal.

“The Cuban Coast Guard showed up around noon. My wife had fainted for
lack of food and water,” said Batista. “They handcuffed us and kept us
under the sun for hours while they picked up other rafters. That day,
Aug. 12, 2016, they picked up 32 rafters whose boats had broken down.”

They were taken to the port of Mariel, fined 3,000 Cuban pesos (about
$120) and freed.

“You’re lucky because we’re preparing to mark the birthday of the
commander-in-chief,” they were told by one of the officers. Aug. 13 was
the 90th birthday of Castro, who died three months later.

They returned to Havana, hoping to build another boat. “We spent many
sleepless nights thinking about that debt of $10,000, and still unable
to leave,” said Batista. Police were starting to investigate the
corruption in Puerto Padre and time was running out.

They decided to bribe a policeman who could erase their arrest records,
allowing them to obtain passports and travel legally to Guyana on the
northeastern shoulder of South America.

“We paid $100 to a policeman … and obtained our passports. That’s how we
traveled to Guyana and from there started our trek to the United
States,” said Sao.

They went first by land to Brazil, where Sao worked as a maid for
several months. Her husband worked in construction, but was cheated a
couple of time by bosses who knew that undocumented Cuban migrants could
not complain to the authorities.

“He worked in shopping malls. One time they promised him 100 reales a
week and they paid him 40,” said Sao. Batista has some good memories,
however. “You get a different image of these countries, because it’s not
what you’re told in Cuba. There are a lot of people in those countries
who have a good heart and help migrants,” he said.

After saving up more money, they joined another 60 Cubans traveling on
the Amazon River and over 20 days crossed Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.
The Darién jungle between Colombia and Panama was the worst part for
Sao, who is diabetic and suffers from high blood pressure.

“I didn’t want to go on, but my family sent us $200 from Cuba. Together
with what we had saved, that allowed us to pay for the guides who led us
through the jungle,” Sao said.

They wound up at a shelter in Panama City run by Caritas, the charity
arm of the Catholic Church, where they learned that President Barack
Obama had ended the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that would have allowed
them to stay in the United States. They slipped out when the Panama
government transferred many of the other Cubans to a temporary shelter
in Gualaca, in western Panama, amid fears they would be deported to the

“I don’t care where, even if it’s Haiti, but I can’t go back to Cuba,”
she said.

The house where Sao and her husband stayed was owned by one of the
Panamanians they met in Caritas. They cleaned it up and even planted
some plantains.

“But we won’t be around to harvest them. You can be sure of that,” said

One week later, they left for Costa Rica, where authorities took away
their passports. They continued by land through Central America and are
now in Mexico, waiting for a humanitarian permit that would allow them
to travel to the U.S. border and apply for political asylum.

“The Cuban government is responsible for everything we have suffered. It
forces us to invent all the schemes we have to use to live with dignity.
To buy a pair of shoes for your children you have to spend five months
without eating,” said Sao, who added that she would not have left Cuba
if the corruption investigators had not targeted her.

“It is a macabre system” she said.



Source: Couple flees Cuba to avoid prosecution from a common web of
corruption | Miami Herald –

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According to the report, the average salary in Cuban increased from 408 CUP ($16.30 US) in 2007 to 740 CUP in 2016. Sat, 01 Jul 2017 16:33:55 +0000 Average Monthly Salary in Cuba is $29.60 US

EFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, 30 June 2017 – The average monthly salary in
Cuba in 260 was 740 Cuban pesos (CUP), the equivalent of $29.60 in US
dollars, although the figure is higher in sectors such as the sugar
industry – where the best paid earn 1,246 CUP ($48.80 US), and falls in
public administration, defense and social security, with a figure a 510
(CUP) ($20.40 US).

The figures come from the publication “Figures for Average Salaries in
2016,” released on Thursday by Cuba’s National Office of Statistics and
Information, which includes average monthly salaries by province since
2007, and average monthly salary by economic activity type since 2014.

According to the report, the average salary in Cuban increased from 408
CUP ($16.30 US) in 2007 to 740 CUP in 2016.

By province, the highest salaries are earned in Ciego de Ávila (816 CUP
/ $32.60 US), Villa Clara (808 CUP / $32.30 US) and Matanzas (806 CUP /
$32.20 US), while the lowest wages are paid in Guantánamo (633 CUP /
$25.30 US), Isla de la Juventud (655 CUP / $26.20 US) and Santiago de
Cuba (657 CUP / $26.20 US).

The highest paid sectors on the island are the sugar industry (1,246 CUP
/ $49.80 US), mining and quarrying (1,218 CUP / $48.70 US), financial
services (1,032 CUP / $41.20 US), and agriculture, livestock, forestry
and fisheries (991 CUP / $39.60 US).

On the other hand, economic activities with lower wages are: “Other
communal services, associations and personal activities,” (503 CUP /
$20.10 US); public administration, defense and social security (510 CUP
/ $20.40 US); Culture and sport (511 CUP / $20.40 US); and education
(533 CUP / $21.32 US).

The low wages paid to state employees in Cuba, compared to the high cost
of basic products—Cuba imports 80% of its food—are constantly subject to
criticism by international organizations and also by opposition movements.

Health and education are universal and free in Cuba, and citizens
receive some basic food from the state through the “ration book.”

But the rationing system, which decades ago covered much of the
population’s needs—including underwear, shoes and children’s toys—has
been reducing the quantities and types of subsidized products.

The rationing system, which decades ago covered much of the population’s
needs, has been reducing the quantities and type of subsidized products

Currently, an adult Cuban receives monthly from the ration stores about
7 pounds of rice, 4 pounds of sugar, one pint of soybean oil, one packet
of mixed coffee (that is coffee mixed with fillers such as dried peas),
one packet of pasta, five eggs and small quantities of chicken. Children
also get one quart of milk a day until they turn seven.

In 2011, Cuban President Raul Castro approved the authorization of new
categories of self-employment (the term used in Cuba means “own
account-ism”) as one of the key measures to compensate for the
progressive reduction of 500,000 jobs in the state sector.

Another of the main distortions in the Cuban economy is the simultaneous
circulation of two currencies—the Cuban pesos or “national money” and
the Cuban convertible peso, or “hard currency”—that the Government
recognizes needs to be changed, but for the system remains in force and
there is no firm date to merge the currencies.

Source: Average Monthly Salary in Cuba is $29.60 US – Translating Cuba –

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Nominating Commission That Will Propose Replacement for Raúl Castro is Sworn In Sat, 01 Jul 2017 16:32:23 +0000 Nominating Commission That Will Propose Replacement for Raúl Castro is
Sworn In

14ymedio, Havana, 30 June 2017 — The swearing in, today, of the National
Nominating Commission (CCN) before the National Electoral Commission is
a decisive step that makes it clear that the upcoming elections will be
held under the provisions the electoral law of 1992 and not by the new
legislation promised by Raúl Castro in 2015.

The Commission, composed of six “mass organizations,” is responsible for
preparing the proposals for who will be members of the Provincial
Assemblies, the National Assembly of People’s Power, and the Council of
State, including its president. The existence of this entity has been
one of the most criticized points of the current electoral law because
it is believed that it hijacks the popular will to elect the president
of the nation.

On this occasion the method of prefabricating a list of candidates is
more sensitive because it is expected that at the conclusion of the
February 2018 elections the country will have a new president whose most
peculiar characteristic will be not carrying the surname Castro.

Article 68 of Law 72 states that “The Nominating Commissions are
composed of representatives of the Cuban Workers Center (CTC), the
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), the Federation of
Cuban Women (FMC), the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP), the
Federation of University Students (FEU) and of the Federation of High
School Students (FEEM), designated by the respective national,
provincial and municipal administrations.”

The members of these organizations, presided over by the engineer Gisela
María Duarte, representing the CTC, took office on Friday and made a
solemn oath of loyalty to the Constitution of the Republic.

The ceremony was presided over by the secretary of the State Council,
Homero Acosta, who said that the representatives of these organizations
“protect as a part of civil society the interests of the entire nation,
the interests of the country, thinking of the commitments and the
responsibility of those you will propose at the appropriate moment.”

The electoral process will begin this coming October 22 and 12,515
constituency delegates will be elected. From this group, the Nominations
Commission will choose half of the candidates to the National Assembly
of People’s Power, but this phase of the elections, where the candidates
for the Provincial Assemblies will also be known, does not yet have a
definite date.

Cuba’s current National Assembly is composed of 612 deputies
representing the country’s 168 municipalities and is elected every five

Source: Nominating Commission That Will Propose Replacement for Raúl
Castro is Sworn In – Translating Cuba –

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