Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hidden Agenda Behind the Attack on Cuba’s Private Restaurants

Hidden Agenda Behind the Attack on Cuba's Private Restaurants / Juan
Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 24 October 2015 — Some news outlets echoed the words
of the Vice President in charge of the Council of Provincial
Administration for Havana, Isabel Hamze, when she exposed the Havana
Government's reasons for temporarily suspending the issue of new
licenses for paladares — private restaurants — and revising those that
already exist. Look, this campaign isn't a matter — like so many have
repeated — of a war against the self-employed, the Cuban private
initiative, the restaurants or the late-night bars. It's much more: a
field battle, subtle and personal, against some private entrepreneurs
who brushed up against power.

It's true. The municipal governments of Havana affirmed that they had
several meetings with 135 owners of Havana paladares and conversed with
them, implying a threat, about particular negative tendencies that have
appeared in some private restaurants. But yes, according to official
figures, in Havana there are more than 500 paladares and 3,000 cafes. So
why didn't they all attend these meetings?

At the beginning of this month, Cuban authorities ordered some private
nightclubs to close, citing allegations of violations of the closing
hour (3:00 am), not having parking, hiring artists without going through
agencies, permitting the consumption and trafficking of drugs, accepting
the practices of prostitution and pimping in the establishments, not
respecting Customs regulations in the importation of goods for
commercial use, acquiring and smuggling goods, money laundering and
investing capital of doubtful origin, not abiding by contractual
relationships as established in Law 116 or the Work Code, violating city
regulations and evading taxes.

Doing so would be understandable. But they didn't close Bolahabana or
the Ashé Bar, the Shangri Lá and others, where incidents had been
reported with some members of the Castro elite. Thus, the measure is
simply a demonstration of power.

You remember that in August of last year, Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez
Castro, the bodyguard-in-chief (and Raul Castro's grandson), now with a
higher rank, because of a "skirt" problem, insisted on expelling from
Cuba, with an indefinite sanction against entering the national
territory, the Spanish businessman, Esteban Navarro Carvajal Hernández,
owner of the Shangri Lá bar and the Up&Down bar-restaurant.

These particular restaurants are the most visible part of the economic
reforms promoted by General Raúl Castro. No one in his right mind can
believe that a "Vice President in accordance with a Council of
Provincial Administration," a Cuban official of the fourth category,
sweaty, poorly coiffed and with an excellent aptitude for being a police
officer, is the person in charge of informing the media that the Cuban
Government is deciding to take a step backwards from such a trumpeted
opening of the new economic model.

So, why did they do it this way?

The present socio-political situation and the historic advertising
caused a considerable increase in the number of travelers that come to
the island today. The images of the destruction caused by Hurricane
Matthew, although at a too-high price, helped the government monopolize
the friendly view of the international community.

The moment is favorable for General Raúl Castro, but politically it's
not sensible to go back to landlord methods.

The day after tomorrow, in the next session of the General Assembly of
the United Nations, the presentation of the Cuba Report entitled,
"Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade
imposed by the United States on Cuba," will resume the robbery of owners.

The Cuban government hopes that the majority of the countries'
representatives present will disagree with maintaining a law that they
consider a violation of international rights. This is the same
government that today hinders, harasses and blockades, without the least
respect and in its own backyard, not useful enemies, but a group of
entrepreneurs who have bet on private initiative and social improvement.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Hidden Agenda Behind the Attack on Cuba's Private Restaurants /
Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -

Internet laggard Cuba plans to bring web to Havana homes by year-end

Internet laggard Cuba plans to bring web to Havana homes by year-end
Reuters October 25, 2016

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba, a few decades late to the internet era, plans
to bring the web into some households in Havana by the end of the year,
the Cuban News Agency (ACN) reported on Tuesday.

Communist-ruled Cuba has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in
the world. While the government blames cost for lack of investment in
infrastructure, critics suggest the real impediment is fear of losing
control of the media.

So far, only 5 percent of the Cuban population is estimated to enjoy
home-based internet, which requires special government permission.
Usually this is granted mainly to academics, doctors and intellectuals.

The rest of Cuba's 11.2 million inhabitants must rely on Wi-Fi hotspots
around the island and state internet parlours, although these are
sparsely used because of high rates. The $2 hourly Wi-Fi tariff
represents nearly 10 percent of the average state monthly salary.

A pilot project will bring the web at first into homes of 2,000
residents in Old Havana, ACN reported, citing a senior official at
telecommunications monopoly ETECSA.

The necessary infrastructure has already been installed by Chinese
company Huawei, although rates have not yet been decided, ACN reported
ETECSA official Eudes Monier as saying.

ETECSA is also working on offering internet on mobile phones from 2017,
ACN wrote.

Cuba currently has around 200 Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide and in September
announced it would install Wi-Fi along Havana's picturesque seafront
boulevard, the Malecon.

The United States has set connectivity as a priority in its new
relationship with Cuba. Telecommunications equipment, technology and
services were among the first exemptions to the embargo after Washington
and Havana announced on Dec. 17 they would restore diplomatic relations.

Cuba has meanwhile repeatedly charged that the United States wants to
use telecommunications to subvert its government.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by David Gregorio)

Source: Internet laggard Cuba plans to bring web to Havana homes by
year-end -

United States / Cuba Air Service - Is It Too Much, Too Soon?

United States/Cuba Air Service: Is It Too Much, Too Soon?
I've been covering the airline industry since 1989.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

As U.S. airlines gear up to serve Cuba, the CEO of Spirit Airlines is
warning that the flights aren't going to offer much in the way of profits.

"There's going to be a lot of capacity coming very, very quickly,"
Spirit CEO Bob Fornaro said Tuesday on the carrier's third quarter
earnings call. "Generally, that's not a positive for those markets.

"It's a leisure destination," Fornaro said. "You have to put it in the
perspective of how big that opportunity can really be.

"There's not much infrastructure there," he added. "It's going to
something that will develop over a long period of time. Initially, it
might take away a little bit from other Caribbean operations."

Eight major U.S. carriers have or will add Cuba service in the next few
months as President Obama has moved to normalize relations between the
two countries. Fornaro's comments reflect what American Airlines
executives said last week on the carrier's third quarter earnings call.

"I think everyone is struggling a little bit in terms of selling in
Cuba," said Don Casey, senior vice president of revenue management, on
the American call. "There are a lot of restrictions that are still in
place that made it difficult to sell."

American flies 56 weekly flights to Cienfuegos, Holguin, Santa Clara,
Camaguey and Varadero. American "has been flying to five Cuban cities
for just over a month but so far its regularly scheduled flights to the
island are often less than half full," The Miami Herald reported Oct. 14.

Recommended by Forbes

Source: United States/Cuba Air Service: Is It Too Much, Too Soon? -

Trump praises Cuban dissident group the Ladies in White

Trump praises Cuban dissident group the Ladies in White
Published October 26, 2016 EFE

MIAMI – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Tuesday at a
Miami meeting with anti-Castro Cuban-Americans praised the Ladies in
White dissident group and accused Democratic rival Hillary Clinton of
"closing her eyes" to human rights violations on the communist island.

He acknowledged the Cuban resistance and the Ladies in White, whom he
said were mothers, daughters and wives who are subjected to physical and
verbal abuse by Cuban government mobs on his visit to Brigade 2506 in
Little Havana.

The magnate met at the museum and library of the Veterans Association
for the Bay of Pigs invasion - known as Brigade 2506 - with anti-Castro
exiles who participated in the failed 1961 attempt to wrest Cuba from
the communists.

The survivors of that CIA-planned operation recently endorsed Trump, the
first time in 55 years that Brigade 2506 has expressed its support for a
U.S. presidential candidate.

At the gathering, attended by about 80 people, the mogul called the
Cuban brigade members "heroes" who were committed to the defense of the
values of "law and justice."

Trump fired a broadside at Clinton for "closing her eyes" to human
rights violations on the island and sharply criticized President Barack
Obama for restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba, although he has not
provided the details of any plan of his own for dealing with Havana.

Brigade 2506 president Humberto Diaz-Argüelles told EFE that his backing
for Trump is based on the lack of attention paid to his organization by

"In my 50 years ... in the United States, the presidential candidates
have always come to see us to know our opinions (on the Cuban issue),"
adding that "Obama has never showed up" in Miami and "established
relations with Cuba in exchange for nothing."

Jorge Garcia Rubio, former vice president of the organization, told EFE
that the brigade's support for Trump is based on his "conservative
(profile), of a businessman who has triumphed and is going to eliminate
corruption and political maneuvering."

Trump is on a three-day marathon campaign run through Florida, with its
29 electoral votes, a key state in any candidate's calculations for how
to win the presidency.

An average of recent voter polls, however, shows Clinton with a
3.8-percentage-point lead over the billionaire in Florida, according to

Source: Trump praises Cuban dissident group the Ladies in White | Fox
News Latino -

Cuba to launch home Internet service pilot program

Cuba to launch home Internet service pilot program
Source: Xinhua Published: 2016/10/26 10:31:42

Cuba's state-run telecommunications company ETECSA on Tuesday announced
it will provide a household Internet service pilot program by the end of
the year.

The program will connect about 2,000 users in Havana's Old Quarter,
where the company has already installed fiber optic equipment acquired
from China's telecommunications giant Huawei, local media reported.

Residents in the area have been hooked up to the recently installed
telephone and Internet network, ETECSA's head of marketing and
communications, Eudes Monier, told the Cuban News Agency.

Monier said service rates and connection speeds have yet to be set.

After being approved by the government, only Cuban doctors, journalists
and other key professionals now have Internet service at home.

Cuba says this reflects the island's limited infrastructure as a result
of US-led sanctions.

The United States and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations in July 2015,
ending more than five decades of enmity. But the United States still
maintains its embargo against Cuba.

"By 2017, ETECSA also plans to offer Internet connection on mobile
devices, a common demand of the Cuban population that is not yet
available," Monier said.

Cuba currently has just over 1,000 hotspots for Internet access in
parks, recreational areas and sporting venues around the country.

Cubans pay about two US dollars an hour for web access. The amount is
too high for many as the average salary for a state employee is around
24 dollars a month.

Source: Cuba to launch home Internet service pilot program - Global
Times -

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Cuban Institute For Freedom Of Expression And The Press Denounces Harassment Of Its Members

Cuban Institute For Freedom Of Expression And The Press Denounces
Harassment Of Its Members / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 24 October 2016 – A Cuban State Security operation has
been directed, so far in October, against different independent
journalists who cooperate with the Cuban Institute for Freedom of
Expression and the Press (ICLEP), according to Monday's press release
from that organization.

These operations have resulted in the arrests of nine journalists, raids
of their homes, and confiscation of the tools of their trade. Victims
say they have used physical violence and verbal threats.

The journalist Dianelys Rodriguez, director of the media Panorama
Pinareño, denounced that last Friday, 21 October, his house was searched
without a warrant. The official in charge, identified as Lt. Col. Jesús
Ramón Morel, head of the Department of Confrontation of Pinar del Rio
Counter-Intelligence, with the help of two other officers, forcefully
dragged Rodriguez and covered her mouth so she could not protest,
according to the journalist. Finally, she was taken to the police
station where she was held for five hours. They prepared a warning
letter and threatened her with incarceration if she continued her work.

Four other journalists' were also victims of raids on their homes and
confiscation of the tools of their trade. The preliminary balance sheet,
according to the ICLEP members affected, was the confiscation of five
printers, two laptops, a video-camera with a tripod, six cameras, three
cellphones and other auxiliary devices.

Last Friday, Ricardo Fernandez, Panorama Pinareño's editor, was summoned
to the Pinar del Rio Technical Office, where he was threatened with
going to prison and "assured that ICLEP would disappear." Previously,
the political police had raided his home, confiscating a laptop and

Raul Velaquez, ICLEP executive director, was arrested while
investigating what happened to these journalists. On this occasion, they
took Raul Velaquez's cellphone, gave him an official warning and
threatened that he would be prosecuted if he returned to visit the province.

ICLEP's legal director, Raul L. Risco Perez and journalist Claudia
Cristina Ortega were summoned and threatened with jail. In the east of
the country, Leovanis Correa Moroso, director of Santiaguera Voz, was
"arrested, handcuffed and beaten in the face" and then remained "under
arrest for three days" and also was threatened with prison if he
"continued working as a citizen journalist."

In the municipality of Jatibonico in the province of Sancti Spiritus,
Osmany Borroto Rodriguez, director of the Espirituano, was accused of
distributing the newsletter in the streets. Shortly before, Ada Maria
Lopez had been arrested in the capital's Fellowship Park and taken to a
police station because he was distributing the Habanero Amanecer (Havana
Dawn) newsletter.

Another case of arbitrary detention against ICLEP journalists occurred
on 14 October against a Majadero de Artemis worker, Yosdanys Blanco
Hernandez. The journalist was detained in a market by agents of the
National Revolutionary Police and taken to the Artemis National Police
station, where he was held under arrest for 24 hours. The agents
explained to him that he was arrested because there was a complaint
against him.

ICLEP's denunciation is part of the growing wave of repression by the
authorities towards independent media, which in recent months has led to
the arrest of many journalists.

Source: Cuban Institute For Freedom Of Expression And The Press
Denounces Harassment Of Its Members / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -

Lashing Out Again Against Private Restaurants

Lashing Out Again Against Private Restaurants / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 24 October 2016 — The Peoples' Powers and the Ministry of
Internal Trade are mobilizing again against successful paladares —
privately owned restaurants — using the excuse of corruption and drug sales.

To clarify, it is true that some of these establishments, sadly, are
bars and discos and these crimes have occurred. Above all, because there
are no licenses for these kinds of businesses, so they get licensed as
paladares, and as a "cover" offer some culinary specialities.

Among the things that really annoy the Cuban state, is that these
private establishments have proved very successful, exposing the
ineptitude and inability of the administration of the regime to face
competition. One of the main reasons for this state failure are the low
wages and high political demands they make on their employees.

One of the regime's pretexts to attack these restaurants is prostitution
and drugs, but this has nothing to do with them, but rather with the
bars and discos, which can only survive under a restaurant license. And
it is here that inspectors and corrupt police "get fat."

What is not said publicly, it is that many of these trouble spots belong
to children of senior leaders of the country, while the attacks,
unfortunately, are lodged against the most politically vulnerable.

However, the regime has a hard time officially acknowledging that the
main dens of prostitution and drugs, have been and are those belonging
to the state, the sites of the the biggest scandals of this kind, as
happened a few years ago in the Old Havana Brewery and in the Commodore
and Copacabana nightclubs, just to mention a few examples.

Source: Lashing Out Again Against Private Restaurants / Rebeca Monzo –
Translating Cuba -

Furry’s Offspring Set Up Camp in the US

Furry's Offspring Set Up Camp in the US / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 20 OCtober 2016 — Yet another son of Army Corps
General and former Interior Minister Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, alias
"Furry," arrived in southern Florida and decided to say. Nothing unusual
in that, if we think back.

Nineteen-year-old Antonio Colomé Hidalgo, son of Furry and Iraida, left
Cuba on a flight from Santa Clara province and landed at Miami
International Airport at about noon on Friday, October 14.

Antonio was not travelling alone. His final destination was Georgetown,
a city in Scott County, Kentucky, where he planned to attend the annual
Festival of the Horse, which was being held from October 21 to 23. But
upon his arrival in Miami, the purpose of his visit took an unexpected
turn: Tony decided to stay and then moved in with some relatives living
in Naples, Florida.

The response from the family has been silence. But the "sudden" decision
to settle in the United States does appear not to have been spontaneous.
Quite the contrary. It was planned down to the smallest detail.

Citing health problems, General Colomé, resigned as member of the
Council of Ministers and from his post as Minister of the Interior on
October 21, 2015. His resignation was accepted and, "in recognition of
his long revolutionary service, the Council of State agreed to bestow on
him the Order for Service to the Fatherland in the First Degree."

The impression left by an article on the website Cubadebate, the same
publication known for ignoring and covering up, is that General Colomé
was forced to resign because — along with his successor, Carlos
Fernandez Gondín, and other high-ranking officials — he was deeply
involved in systemic corruption, diversion of state resources, money
laundering and leaking information. A widespread rumor is that, although
efforts were made to conceal it, he quickly went from being the accuser
to being the accused.

Antonio's arrival now brings to three the number of Furry's children who
have moved to the United States. I am also told that one of his
daughters, Gabriela, is — as the song by Cuban singer and and musician
Wilfredo "Willy" Chirino goes — on route and will be arriving soon. It's
only to be expected, given all that has happened.

Source: Furry's Offspring Set Up Camp in the US / Juan Juan Almeida –
Translating Cuba -

State firms look to cash in on Cuban trade rules

State firms look to cash in on Cuban trade rules
Illinois News Network

While the lifting of a $100 cap on Cuban cigars and their famous rum has
gotten headlines, it's the lifting of other trade restrictions with the
island country that has Illinois companies in a position to profit.

President Barack Obama's latest decree allows for tractors and certain
agricultural products like pesticides and fertilizers to be sold on credit.

Before, Cuban business had to be done with cash-in-hand and often pushed
the island's business elsewhere.

Illinois Cuba Working Group Executive Director Paul Johnson said this
change will directly result in business for Illinois.

"The clarification that tractors and pesticides are not commodities and
can be exported to Cuba on credit is an advantage for a lot of Illinois
companies," he said.

Johnson said Illinois' corn and soybeans would play a big role in the
Cuban economy should trade be further expanded, saying "those are two
commodities that Cuba will never be able to grow locally. They're going
to be big drivers of the local economy."

Agriculture experts say Illinois could account for 15 percent of the
isolated Caribbean country's total corn and soybean imports if the 1960
embargo were lifted.

Fully open trade with the socialist country still looks unlikely, as
Obama said in a statement that the two countries were still far apart on
democracy and human rights issues.

Source: Journal Courier | State firms look to cash in on Cuban trade
rules -

Improved U.S.-Cuba Relations Are Creating A Surge Of Cuban Migrants

Improved U.S.-Cuba Relations Are Creating A Surge Of Cuban Migrants
October 24, 20169:23 AM ET

You might assume that with the thawing of relations between Cuba and the
U.S., Cubans would see positive change at home, and less reason to
attempt the perilous water crossing to Florida. You'd assume wrong.

U.S. law enforcement authorities are confronting a surge of Cuban
migrants trying to make the journey by boat across the Florida Straits;
it's the highest numbers they've seen in two decades.

"It's gotten busier and busier," says U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jeff
Janszen, commander of sector Key West, Fla.

Over the past fiscal year, the Coast Guard intercepted 5,396 Cuban
migrants who were attempting the crossing. That's nearly twice the
number from the previous year. About 1,000 Cubans managed to evade
detection and make it to U.S. shores.

The recent arrivals include Yojany Pacheco, 33, from Ciego de Avila, Cuba.

He and some friends pooled their money — the equivalent of several
hundred dollars apiece — and built a boat in secret, in the Cuban
forest. They got boards for the frame and a car engine from an old
Peugeot that they mounted in the middle of the vessel.

After a week of labor, the boat was ready to sail.

Pacheco pulls out his smartphone and proudly shows us videos he shot on
their voyage north.

We see 14 Cubans packed into a small wooden boat — 13 men and one woman.
They're wearing ball caps, grinning big and giving optimistic thumbs up
as they chug away from their homeland. The sun is rising behind them.

Pacheco opens Google maps and points to the route they followed: The
path goes from a red dot along the Cuban coast near Laguna de Leche to a
gold star outside Marathon, Fla., midway up the Keys.

The trip was about 200 nautical miles, and it took them three days.

Success on the sixth try

Pacheco, who has a degree in math, physics and IT, says he was driven to
leave Cuba because he couldn't make a living. Also, since he had tried
to leave five times before, he was suspected of being a smuggler and was
harassed by Cuban authorities.

On his fifth attempt, this past April, Pacheco made it almost all the
way to Florida, sailing tantalizingly close to Key Largo.

"We could see the beach, the yachts, the boats and cars, everything," he
recalls. But his boat was intercepted by the Coast Guard, and he and his
fellow rafters were sent back home.

"So," he says, "I built another boat. And here I am!"

When they finally landed in Florida on Sept. 9, Pacheco says, "my eyes
filled with tears. I looked around and everybody was crying. We hugged
each other. Our dream came true."

Under U.S. immigration policy known as "wet foot/dry foot," Cubans who
are caught at sea ("wet feet") are sent back home. But those who manage
to reach American soil ("dry feet") can stay legally in the U.S., get
benefits, and are put on a fast track toward citizenship.

Cuba is the only country that has that special status, which dates back
to the Cold War. It's designed to protect Cubans fleeing political
persecution under the communist Castro regime.

But now, most Cubans who are leaving are economic migrants seeking
better opportunity in the U.S., not political refugees.

Will the policy change?

Critics of "wet foot/dry foot" say the policy no longer makes sense as
the U.S. and Cuba normalize relations.

They note that many Cubans travel back and forth to Cuba once they
become permanent legal U.S. residents, clearly not fearing persecution.

Amid fears that the policy will change and their unique immigration
status will end, the migrants are becoming more desperate to reach U.S.

"It's amazing to me what they'll do," says Janszen, the Coast Guard
captain. "We saw one last year where they actually held an infant child
over the side of the boat to get us to back off, and we did. Thank God
they didn't drop the child overboard."

Coast Guard crews have seen others intentionally wound themselves in
hopes they'll be sent to the U.S. for medical care and allowed to stay.

"They've cut themselves. They've shot themselves," Capt. Janszen
recounts. "We've seen them drink bleach. We've seen them drink gasoline.
You just can't make this stuff up."

Many Cubans figure this might be their last, best chance to get into the
U.S. before immigration becomes much more difficult.

So, it's a cat-and-mouse game. The Cubans try to sneak through, and it's
up to the Coast Guard and Border Patrol to keep them out.

A hot spot for landings

To get a view from the water, we ride out from Key West on a fast boat
with John Apollony, a marine interdiction agent with U.S. Customs and
Border Protection.

We cruise through gorgeous turquoise waters and stop by an uninhabited
island covered with mangrove trees about 20 minutes from Key West.

It's part of the Marquesas Keys, a hot spot for Cuban migrant landings.
The islands are remote enough that Cubans figure they have a better
chance of avoiding interdiction.

Apollony scans the beach through binoculars and counts nine abandoned
Cuban migrant vessels, known as "chugs," along just one small stretch of

Border Patrol agents are confronting migrants who are more emboldened
than ever, Apollony says.

"They don't want us coming near them, and they're gonna do everything to
get their vessel to shore," he says. "Sometimes they'll have homemade
weapons on board — machetes, jagged oars — and they will swing 'em at
you or threaten you to try to keep you away from them."

U.S. administration officials have been tight-lipped about any potential
changes to U.S. migration policy with Cuba.

But according to Coast Guard Capt. Janszen, if "wet foot/dry foot" were
to end, there is a plan to handle an eventual Cuban exodus.

"We'd have to not just have additional Coast Guard assets," he explains.
"We'd probably need Department of Defense assets. Navy assets. We'd
probably open up camps in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which we had to do
actually in the '90s. So there is a plan in place to deal with a mass
migration, if it comes to that."

In 1994, Fidel Castro opened the doors to anyone who wanted to leave the
island after a series of anti-government demonstrations. He blamed U.S.
policy for the rioting in Havana and threatened to unleash a mass exodus
to South Florida. More than 35,000 Cubans took to sea before President
Clinton declared an immigration emergency, ordering the Coast Guard to
intercept the rafters. Many ended up in camps in Guantanamo and Panama
before being allowed to migrate to the U.S.

A constant flow

Meanwhile, the Cuban flow shows no sign of abating, despite the
well-known dangers of the crossing.

Just days before we visited, a crowded Cuban boat capsized off the
Florida Keys.

Three of the migrants on board made it to shore.

Four others were found dead. Sixteen more were missing and presumed drowned.

The Cubans who complete the crossing are processed by the Border Patrol
and then turned over to two church groups in Miami.

The migrants are fed, given new clothes and put up in motels. They're
granted work permits.

If they don't have family in Florida, they're sent on to live in cities
around the country with programs in place to help them find work.

Yojany Pacheco has a job lined up in a restaurant in Albuquerque, N.M.
Another recent arrival, Arnalbis Rogel, 45, from Havana, says he'll take
any work he can get. When we met, he was about to be sent from Miami to

Leaving family behind

Rogel left his wife and three children back in Cuba. The youngest is
just 14 months old. He pulls out photos of his kids from his wallet,
smiles wistfully and taps his heart.

"I know that I have to be strong, because this is the only way I'll give
them a better life," he says.

Rogel worked as a baker and candy-maker in Havana. He was unemployed for
five months until finally he decided to leave.

He spent 25 nervous hours at sea.

"The sea has an ugly face," Rogel recalls, and he vows that no one else
in his family will make the same journey.

His group of rafters called themselves the Vikings. When their boat
landed in Key Biscayne on Sept. 7, "we jumped up and down and rubbed our
bodies with sand!" Rogel says, laughing and jumping and gesturing with
his hands to demonstrate.

The boat's navigator was Modesto Morales, 58, a truck driver from
Havana. Describing the journey, he says: "You're tense from the moment
you start until you land. You're looking around. If someone says,
'There's a light!' – 'Where?' We had to slow down, so we would pull in
at night to avoid the Coast Guard."

With his boat mate, Arnalbis Rogel, Morales was heading for a new life
in Houston. "It doesn't matter where I go," he says, "because anywhere,
anywhere will be better than Cuba."

Morales says that even with the thawing of relations between the two
countries and President Obama's trip to Cuba earlier this year, for
regular people, it means nothing.

"Nothing has changed," he says. "For us, it's all the same. No
transportation, no jobs, very low salaries. Lots of talk, but no change."

Morales adds: "In Cuba, there is no freedom of speech. Everything you
say is a crime."

Morales and Rogel both say they decided to get out of Cuba now while
they still had the chance. They're among those who fear that the days
are numbered for Cubans' preferential treatment under immigration law.

"If wet foot/dry foot ends," Morales warns, "we Cubans, we're lost!"

Arnalbis Rogel adds a political footnote.

"I told the guys, 'We have to build the boat in record time because
elections are coming! We don't know who's going to become president of
the U.S., and we don't know what changes will come.'"

These recent arrivals face an uncertain future in an unfamiliar land,
but they seem to have no regrets.

"We're like newborn children," Arnalbis Rogel says. "You start out
crawling. Then, baby steps. Then, you walk. And then, maybe, you run."

Source: Improved U.S.-Cuba Relations Are Creating A Surge Of Cuban
Migrants : Parallels : NPR -

Venture Inside Cuba's Secret Societies

Venture Inside Cuba's Secret Societies
From Masons to Santería priests, photographer Nicola Lo Calzo offers a
glimpse into the island's many subcultures
By Victoria Pope; Photographs by Nicola Lo Calzo
OCTOBER 24, 2016 3:47PM

Why is a man dancing barefoot in the street, a cone-shaped hood covering
his head? And what to make of strange yellow chalk markings or the blood
sacrifice of roosters and doves? These are rituals of a mystical
subculture in Cuba, formed during its years as a Spanish colony and
plantation economy, when West African slaves melded their pantheistic
worship of spirits with features of Catholicism. This blending of
cultures and beliefs gave birth to the country's unique religious
practices: Santería, as well as other mysterious associations and
smaller groupings.

The island's appetite for secret societies can seem boundless. Among
the early settlers were Freemasons, who established a robust membership
among the island's white elite. After the 1959 revolution, the Masons
faced pressure to become part of larger state-controlled associations;
indeed, there were calls by some of their communist members to dissolve.
But their lodges were never closed down, as they were in many communist
countries. Today there are an estimated 30,000 members in 316 lodges.

During the last couple of years, Italian photographer Nicola Lo Calzo
has photographed these mysterious byways, focusing his work in the
cities of Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad, and Havana. His subjects include
Santería priests, members of the Abakuá fraternal order, Masons, and
rappers at odds with the authorities for refusing to join the state-run
music industry. All this is part of a larger project, started by Lo
Calzo in 2010, to chronicle the global history of the African diaspora.
In Cuba, his thematic focus is Regla, a reference to Regla de Ochá, the
formal name for Santería as well as the part of Havana where the first
Abakuá lodge was formed in 1836. In its most fluid sense, Regla, which
literally means "rule," also evokes a set of communal values that
sustains a group. Certainly for Cuba's slaves, brought to the country to
labor on sugar plantations, secret societies provided a sense of control
and power that allowed them an escape from the misery of bondage. And up
to the present day, Lo Calzo asserts, these subcultures are sanctuaries
of self-expression. "They open an otherwise firmly closed door to
individuality," he says. "Young Cubans live a unique kind of freedom
that is both personal and shared, far from the prying eyes of the state."

Source: Venture Inside Cuba's Secret Societies | Travel | Smithsonian -

Time for Cuba to Implement Economic Reforms

Time for Cuba to Implement Economic Reforms
Match the Openings Made by the U.S.

- The island's well-educated workforce is one of Cuba's strengths.
- Cuba's top-heavy, multi-layered bureaucracy drowns itself in endless
clearances and red tape.
- Foreign investors and developers swarming Havana will soon learn the
approval process can be maddeningly tedious.

"We don't need gifts from the Empire," growled Fidel Castro, in a
calculated rebuff to Barack Obama following his historic March visit to
Havana. But the ailing Castro only underscored the widening gap between
an aging, out-of-touch Communist Party and the Cuban people who had
embraced the U.S. president with open arms.

Tens of thousands of restless Cubans are fleeing the island each year,
having grown tired of dusty Communist propaganda and the debilitating
hardships of miserable wages, disruptive consumer shortages, and
programmed power outages. But over 11 million remain, betting that Cuba
could, once again, become an economic engine in the Caribbean.

Cuba is at a tipping point. Fidelista ideologues and bureaucratic
inertia could stall reform—driving many more millennials to exit.
Powerful state-owned enterprises could fight to preserve their
comfortable monopolies and repress private initiative.

More optimistically, Cuba could gradually evolve toward a balanced,
hybrid economy where more efficient state firms share markets with
home-grown private businesses and responsible foreign investors from
around the world.

Over five decades ago, Cuba imported a Soviet system of highly
centralized five-year plans that shut down private enterprise, choked
off innovation, and obscured property rights. But since 2008, under the
more pragmatic leadership of Fidel's younger brother, Raúl, the
government has published detailed remediation plans which, if
progressively implemented—and that's a big if—would gradually navigate
Cuba to a more mixed economy with space for individual initiative and
more openness to foreign influences and markets.

In my many travels crisscrossing the island in recent years, I've been
repeatedly impressed by Cuba's abundant promise. With wiser policies,
Cuba could unleash economic expansion across multiple growth poles:
sustainable tropical agriculture, diversified sources of energy,
globalized healthcare and affordable wellness services, high-performance
creative industries including music and the visual arts, steady streams
of biotech innovations and computer applications, and tourism for all
tastes and ages.

At the core of this sunny scenario stands the island's well-educated
workforce—the building block of a modern, service-oriented economy. To
its credit, the revolution invested heavily in public schools, and
universities are free to all who pass the competitive entrance exams.

But no one wants to work in agriculture, despite ample arable land. A
mere 100 miles from Florida's mechanized agriculture, Cuban farmers
still labor behind horse-and-plow. Why? Because the bureaucracy refuses
to give up on state-run agriculture that treats farmers like low-wage
employees. If and when the Cuban state empowers those who till the soil
to make decisions on investment, production, and prices, rural Cuba
could blossom with tropical fruits, citrus groves, and organic produce.

Similarly, Cuba has the natural resources to be self-sufficient in
energy, balancing hydro-carbons, bio-mass, wind, and solar. The
government's own documents outline smart energy projects—distressingly,
most remain on paper. The top-heavy, multi-layered bureaucracy drowns
itself in endless clearances and red tape. And bureaucrats hesitate to
approve foreign investments in the "sensitive" energy sector, fearing
the wrath of the hardline nationalists and allegations by state
prosecutors of taking bribes from unscrupulous foreigners.

Today, Havana is swarming with foreign investors and developers. But
they soon learn that the complex approval process can be maddeningly
tedious—a major roadblock to growth that Cuba must exorcise.

Furthermore, Cuba's renowned healthcare and bio-technology industries
could become major earners of foreign exchange. With universal access to
holistic, preventive care, Cuban citizens enjoy life expectancies equal
to those in developed nations. In sharp contrast to the pandemic
plaguing nearby Puerto Rico, Cuba's integrated public health system has,
so far, kept the Zika virus at bay.

Instead of having to send 40,000 medical professionals to work abroad,
the government could pour resources into medical tourism. Already,
fee-based medical services—for cancers, diabetes, and alcohol
addiction—are available for wealthy or politically connected foreigners.
But to take these income-generating practices to scale, Cuba must forge
international partnerships with accredited foreign hospitals and insurers.

And if Cuba's bio-technology industries are to break into global
markets, Cuban firms must be willing to overcome their fears of being
exploited by global pharmaceutical giants, and instead forge mutually
beneficial partnerships with them.

Cuban universities graduate many well-educated technologists—who find
work in places like Florida and Mexico. In its determination to control
information flows and interactions among its citizens, the Cuban
government has blocked internet penetration—driving young IT experts to
emigrate. The presumptive heir to Raúl Castro, Miguel Diáz-Canel has
recognized that his nation must embrace the IT revolution—but when will
the government telecommunications monopoly open the island to
international competitors?

Already, successful Cuban artists exhibit in galleries from New York to
Barcelona, and dazzling salsa dancers offer intensive instruction in
Vancouver and Zurich. World-class artistic and athletic talent has been
nurtured over decades in highly selective national sports and arts
institutes including the fabled Cuban Advanced Institute of Art. But for
the creative industries to flourish on the island, the government must
lift the many obstacles to financial transactions, commercial contracts,
and intellectual property protection that frustrate local talent.

Today, the Cuban tourism industry earns a hefty $3 billion in annual
revenues from 3.5 million visitors. This May in Havana, the minister of
tourism laid out plans for tripling the number of hotel rooms over 15
years, building capacity for up to 10 million tourists and annual
revenues of over $9 billion.

Meanwhile, visitors who cannot find rooms in hotels are flowing into
newly renovated private bed and breakfasts. In colonial Trinidad, the
number of private rentals outpaces formal hospitality beds by six to
one. This emerging private tourism cluster also includes booming
businesses in home remodeling, furniture manufacturing, transportation
services and private dining and clubbing options.

But for Cuba to hit its 10-million tourism target, it will have to allow
international investors to participate in prime hotel and resort
locations—and overcome the resistance of state-owned hotel chains who
prefer to keep the juiciest investments for themselves. The government
will also have to fully accept that the private B&Bs are welcome
partners to the state-owned hotels in national tourism development.

Most importantly, a healthy national private sector is emerging: the
government has authorized some 500,000 Cubans to own their own
small-scale private businesses. I've had the good fortune to meet many
of these impressive millennials, across a wide variety of professions.

A visual designer, hard-working Yondainer Gutiérrez holds two jobs: as
an independent contractor for international clients, and as co-founder
and CEO of the Cuban online restaurant directory AlaMesa (to the table).

In 2012, Yamina Vicente transitioned from university teaching to
launching Decorazón (from the Spanish for decoration and corazón, or
heart), an event planning business. Her business now encompasses a
network of some 18 private subcontractors.

Many more well-educated Cubans could exercise their entrepreneurial
talents—when the government finally relaxes restrictions that force
lawyers, engineers, architects, and other white-collar professionals to
work exclusively in government offices.

In each of these promising economic sectors—agriculture, energy,
healthcare, IT, the creative arts, tourism, and private enterprise—many
Cubans know what needs to be done. But the politics is more challenging
than the technical economics. Can Cuban reformers persuade the old guard
to loosen its grip and risk change?

With smart, agile leadership and a little luck, Cuba could keep its best
and brightest and ensure sustainable prosperity for those who bet on
their beloved homeland.

Richard E. Feinberg, is a nonresident senior fellow in foreign policy at
the Latin America Initiative of the Brookings Institution.

Source: Time for Cuba to Implement Economic Reforms | Global Trade
Magazine -

Is the U.S. trade embargo risking lives in Cuba?

Is the U.S. trade embargo risking lives in Cuba?

Despite the improved ties between the United States and Cuba, the United
Nations is expected to again condemn the American trade embargo against
the communist island.

For the 25th year in a row, Cuba has called for the United Nations to
issue a resolution against the U.S. "blockade," as the Cubans refer to
the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

"We hope again – we cannot anticipate the vote, we will see on Oct. 26 –
that the international community will be on Cuba's side and call for an
end to the blockade," Josefina Vidal, who heads the U.S. Department at
Cuba's Foreign Ministry, told students last week during a conference at
Havana University.

In what is expected to be a telling display of the international
perspective on the United States' continued application of the embargo,
the U.N. General Assembly is expected to overwhelmingly pass a
resolution Wednesday calling for end to the U.S. policy that restricts
trade between the countries.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls the embargo the "most unjust,
severe and long-lived system" of sanctions ever applied against a
country. The U.S. government has sought to end the embarrassing ritual
against the United States, but the Cuban government has declined to stop
or even tone down its scathing account of how the island has been affected.

The Cuban government estimates the U.S. embargo has cost the island more
than $125 billion over the half-century that it's been in place. Cuban
leaders document the impacts in great detail, from the somewhat trivial
to life-threatening, in a blistering 42-page report. They raise
questions as to whether the U.S. government has put Cuban lives at risk
because of sanctions that restrict access to diagnostic equipment for
leukemia patients and devices crucial for pediatric heart surgery.

It's not a new report. The language has long been harsh. But what's
significant is how little has changed despite the warming relations
between the nations, as well as the U.S. administration's reported
requests to soften Cuba's anecdotes.

"I think the Cuban view is this is an important point of political
pressure on the United States to move faster to lift the embargo," said
professor William LeoGrande, a specialist in Cuban politics and U.S.
foreign policy toward Latin America at American University School of
Public Affairs in Washington. "And they don't want to do anything to
relieve that pressure."

Since Dec. 17, 2014, when President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl
Castro announced that they would take steps to normalize relations, the
United States has issued six rounds of regulatory changes to ease trade,
travel and financial restriction with Cuba. But the Cuban government
said the administration needed to go further.

Cuban officials say the administration can do more to create
opportunities for Cuban companies to open up financial accounts in U.S.
banks, to direct exports of U.S. products to Cuban companies and to
direct U.S. companies to invest in Cuba.

"President Obama recently reiterated in the presidential directive
signed last Friday that the blockade should be lifted, but the reality
is that he has not exhausted all his executive powers to contribute
decisively to the removal and dismantling of the blockade," Vidal said.

State Department officials said they were looking into questions
regarding the U.N. vote.

The list of items Cubans want and can't get from the United States is
long. The government says the impacts are far-reaching and go beyond the
obvious. The Cuban government can't buy Louisville Slugger baseball bats
or Wilson baseballs. Because Cuban schools couldn't buy $79 beginner
violins from the United States. they had to pay nearly three times the
cost for violins from a third country.

Ban applauded Obama's calls to end the trade embargo. But he said the
administration's efforts were insufficient considering the ongoing
"financial persecution" of Cuba. In his own 175-page report, he
documented how the island government still cannot freely export and
import goods and services from the United States or have direct banking.

"The embargo against Cuba must stop," Ban said. "It is the most unjust,
severe and long-lived system of unilateral sanctions ever applied to a

Email:; Twitter: @francoordonez.

Source: Is U.S. trade embargo risking lives in Cuba? | In Cuba Today -

What Are the Challenges for Cuban Journalists?

A judge, then an independent lawyer, and currently in prison, Julio Ferrer Tamayo talks about the corruption of the Cuban judicial system

A judge, then an independent lawyer, and currently in prison, Julio
Ferrer Tamayo talks about the corruption of the Cuban judicial system
WALDO FERNÁNDEZ CUENCA | La Habana | 25 de Octubre de 2016 - 08:00 CEST.

Before becoming an independent lawyer, Julio Ferrer Tamayo had a long
career as a judge and attorney within the Cuban judicial system. During
those years (1988-2004) Ferrer witnessed the lack of adherence to the
law, and repeatedly corrupt practices affecting the administration of
justice in the country.

Thus began Tamayo Ferrer's disenchantment with the Castro regime, until
in 2005 he was expelled from Bufetes Colectivos, the only entity from
which citizens are allowed to contract legal services.

Ever since Tamayo Ferrer has been constantly butting heads with the
authorities over their irregularities. The lawyer agreed to share his
experiences and opinions about corruption in Cuban society, especially
its judicial system, a scourge that prevents fair and impartial access
to justice, and that in the future will hamper the Island's transition
towards a State governed by the rule of law.

Over the course of your career as a lawyer, how many instances of
corruption have you faced, and of what types?

The most common form I have faced has been institutionalized corruption,
coming from the top down. While working in the Court System the
authorities repeatedly pressured subordinates to violate the law,
invoking all manner of justifications, like "the good of the Revolution"
or "the good of society," invariably in the interest of some supposed
social benefit, when the real beneficiary was a certain individual, who
could be the son of a senior leader, or a certain civil servant they
wanted to protect.

Any manifestation of corruption does damage. What, in your opinion, is
the worst or the most widespread in Cuba?

I think the worst thing is, as I said before, institutionalized
corruption. There is another kind: when an official working at an
institution commits a corrupt act for certain personal reasons, or in
the pursuit of profit, whether to benefit himself or someone else.This
is easier to combat and eliminate. Institutionalized corruption, on the
other hand, is especially harmful, because in these cases the highest
authorities of a body are the ones issuing instructions to violate the
law or to protect someone illicitly.

Can you cite any specific examples?

A good example is straight from my own life. I have suffered it,
personally. The first time I was accused of a crime I did not commit,
and for which I was imprisoned for 8 months, from 2005 to 2006, was a
result of instructions from the highest levels of the Justice
administration; Arnel Proenza Rizo, of the Western Regional Military
Tribunal, acknowledged in private (and I was able to find out) that the
president of the Supreme Court had issued orders to sanction me, at all

I filed a complaint at that time with the National Assembly, and have
yet to receive any response.

My case is not an isolated one. This is common practice in Cuba's
justice administration. Legal proceedings are subject to instructions
issued by high-ranking officials, and judges' decisions depend on those
orders, not on legislation.

What is your assessment of the current state of corruption in the country?

I believe that corruption in the country has been on the rise, and
become an everyday phenomenon in Cubans' lives.

And my assertion is supported by what the authorities themselves
responsible for detecting and combating the scourge have reported; in
June of this year both the Minister of Finance and Prices, Lina Pedraza,
and the Comptroller General, Gladys Bejerano, at a Council of Ministers
meeting, recognized the tax evasion perpetrated during the first half of
the year, this being divulged to the regime's official press. Figures of
102 million Cuban pesos were cited, and thousands in convertible currency.

The Comptroller noted the difficulties they encountered in their work
with the authorities and administrative staff, who often obstruct audit
and internal control work precisely because they are corrupt themselves.

What do you think are the main causes of judicial corruption in Cuba?

Many people believe that one of the main causes of corruption in the
country is economic hardship, but I think that, more than economic
hardship (an element that it is impossible to ignore and omit) this
phenomenon is widespread due to the indolence of officials in terms of
solving the problems raised by citizens.

The other cause is the impunity enjoyed by the authorities, and state
officials' frequent lack of respect for socialist legality.

How do you think corruption could be fought and penalized, in its
broadest sense?

The current Criminal Code sets down several crimes whose prosecution
would combat the phenomenon of corruption, including bribery, illicit
enrichment and embezzlement, among others. In 2009 the Office of the
Comptroller General of the Republic was created with the aim of
combating this phenomenon through Law 107, which supports the creation
of this body and provides a definition of administrative corruption,
widespread in the state sector.

But this law has a fundamental loophole: it exempts the highest
officials of the Central State Administration – like the Attorney
General of the Republic, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State and
Ministers – from criminal responsibility.

By excluding these officials from its purview, a severe state of
impunity is generated, and corruption commences at the highest levels.

How do you evaluate the damage done by corruption to the Cuban judicial

It is extremely pernicious and devastating to the survival of the system
at a critical time like this. Fidel Castro himself recognized it in
2005, when he recognized that "corruption could destroy the Revolution,"
while Raúl Castro has likened it to a "counterrevolution."

Corruption is toxic, and undermines institutions, even the strongest ones.

Judicial corruption merits special consideration, and I don´t say that
just because I'm lawyer, but because I believe that a country in which
there is no respect for the law cannot advance in any way. If the first
ones to violate the Constitution and laws in Cuba are the judicial
authorities themselves, it is very difficult for other citizens to
respect and comply with legislation.

I believe that the most difficult thing for Cubans to receive is
effective and law-based justice. If a society does not uphold respect
for the law by all, it cannot flourish, and this creates an ideal
breeding ground for corruption.

Source: A judge, then an independent lawyer, and currently in prison,
Julio Ferrer Tamayo talks about the corruption of the Cuban judicial
system | Diario de Cuba -

Monday, October 24, 2016


Goodwill / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 20 October 2016 — It is said that the choice of the word
"embargo" or "blockade" to define the US policy toward Cuba, clarifies
the position of the speaker-writer. Those who speak of the "blockade"
are not better Cubans than those who call it the "embargo" (although
they believe themselves to be). It is a policy that doesn't depend on
Cubans; not even the international community can eliminate it.

A goodwill gesture on the part of my leaders would be the elimination of
the internal blockade to which we are subjected, in the name of the
country and the imperialist threat. Clearly, although this policy toward
Cuba has been dismantled little by little, it is there and we will have
to wait for the goodwill of the American government for its total

"The international community has denounced the US embargo because
it violates international law, and also for moral, political and
economic reasons."

This quote is from a report by Amnesty International and reflects the
rejection of the extraterritorial character of the set of laws that
makes up the embargo. The bold text is intended to bring out the
fundamental reason for the widespread rejection of this body of law,
which is its extraterritorial nature. International law prohibits any
national law to be applied beyond the country 's borders. The
Helms-Burton law is extraterritorial and retroactive, as it applies to
events prior to the adoption of the legislation.

The Cuban citizen has become accustomed to hearing only about the damage
the blockade has caused and continues to cause in our economy and
society; this citizen ignores in many cases the origin of these measures
versus those taken in response to it, but above all, it serves as a
smokescreen for domestic disaster resulting from a willful and failed
policy. Neither the US blockade nor the one caused by our government
have affected even for one second the life of our leaders.

Source: Goodwill / Regina Coyula – Translating Cuba -

Panama’s Darien Gap, a Mediterranean Without Boats or Headlines

Panama's Darien Gap, a Mediterranean Without Boats or Headlines /
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Panama, 23 October 2016 — If anything deserves
to be called "tropical" it is the Darien jungle in the south of
Panama. Humidity, mosquitoes and heat makes moving within the dense
vegetation of the area a superhuman task. Through the dense jungle
extends one of the most dangerous migratory routes of the world. A
Mediterranean without boats or headlines, but one where opportunity and
death also converge.

Where Central America joins in a narrow embrace with South America, is
is the deadliest and most feared stretch along the route to the United
States. Crossing from Colombia to this area in Panama are
migrants arriving from nearby or distant countries, such as Cuba, Haiti,
Ivory Coast, Ghana, Somalia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

This piece of land has lodged in many migrants' memories as the most
difficult in the long march toward a dream. However, for migrants from
other continents, coming from Asia and Africa, overcoming it is a major
effort. There are those who cross the Atlantic at the mercy of the human
traffickers, hidden in the cargo holds of ships that often depart a
Europe incapable of confronting its own immigration crisis.

Without speaking a word of Spanish, nor knowing the least cultural
details of this area of the world, the recently arrived collide with a
region where reality oscillates between the marvelous and the sinister.
In most cases, they carry no identity documents and only a few know
words such as "water" and "food."

Those who manage to cross the thicket of vegetation and danger,
celebrate on the other side, now in Panamanian territory, with the joy
of reaching a final destination, but with the crossing of the rest of
Central America and Mexico still ahead of them, some of it semi-desert.
But conquering the Darien comes to be seen as winning a medal in the
most difficult Olympic disciplines… one in which the athletes play at life.

There are no half measures in this strip of rough terrain. A coyote
might be an experienced guide who leads a group of travelers toward the
next frontier, or a criminal who delivers the group into the hands of
extortionists, rapists and thieves.

Through the jungle, the migrants appear in groups, some with children
riding on their shoulders, stumbling through the mud and branches along
makeshift routes. Their stories are barely told in the foreign media,
and international organizations have been parsimonious in highlighting
the humanitarian crisis that is taking place in this narrow waist of
land that enhances the curves of America.

It is also a path marked by simulation. Many Haitians cross the jungle
passing themselves off as Africans. The citizens of the country in this
part of the world hardest hit by natural disasters and poverty are
considered as pariahs, with little appeal even to the human traffickers.

In no other place on the continent, as in the Darien, are the
deficiencies of Latin American diplomacy in coordinating common policy
more apparent. Meanwhile, Nicaragua continues to keep its borders closed
to migrants, Costa Rica seeks to stem the flow of foreigners flooding
it, and the president of Panama warns that those who enter the jungle
area separating his country from Colombia "are going to be given
humanitarian assistance to continue their journey."

The Darian Gap incarnates the fiasco of regional integration, delayed by
the short-sightedness of the politicians and the successive attempts to
create select clubs of countries, united more by ideological
conveniences than by the urgent needs of their citizens. The greatest
failure is the fault of the Central American Social
Integration Secretariat (SISCA), incompetent to implement an effective
contingency plan for the situation.

It has been of little use that James Cavallaro, President of the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), made a call to the
United States of America to act "immediately to open channels that
allows these people to migrate legally and safely." In the government
palaces, everyone seems more focused on lighting their own fires than in
supporting joint efforts.

This diplomatic selfishness didn't escape Cavallaro, who also said that
"the fact that the migrants resort to irregular channels and human
traffickers is explained by the lack of legal and safe channels to
migrate," a situation that increases their vulnerabilities to the abuses
and extortion of criminal organizations, human traffickers and corrupt

The landscape worsens every day with a Europe overwhelmed by the massive
arrival of migrants and a "destination America" appearing as an option
for those fleeing armed conflicts: the poor and the desperate. Like a
river that starts with a thin trickle of water, the flow of those
crossing the Central American isthmus grew and grew, swelled by
thousands of Cubans who fear the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act and
the benefits it offers them in the United States.

The drama takes place beyond the photographers' lenses. The images of
the boats filled with refugees coming from Myanmar and Bangladesh trying
to get to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand filled the newspaper
headlines in the middle of last year, while the Darien hid its most
terrible scenes. It barely appeared in the international press.

To those who boast of living in a hyper-connected world, with every inch
already explored and with the eyes of satellites crossing it
foot-by-foot, they would do well to visit this jungle. One of the last
natural redoubts that terrorizes men, stops the most daring expeditions
and seems to laugh at adventurers in the style of Indiana Jones.

A descent into the abyss of humidity and insect bites could shade the
reading of news about space probes that reach distant planets and
collect images of other galaxies. The region remains as stark as in the
days of the Spanish Conquest.

The Pan American Highway, which runs from Alaska to Argentina, is
interrupted here. A situation that has helped to preserve the natural
diversity of the area but that certainly increases the deadliness of
this stretch for migrants.

In September of this year, a family of three drowned in the Turquesa
River. Fishermen in the area reported the body of a child not yet four
years old floating in the water. Then they also found his parents. All
had "foreign-features," according to the Panamanian border service.

They are just a few of the many victims claimed by the Darien Gap. This
jungle is so thick that not even screams escape it.


Editor's note: This text was published on Sunday 23 October in the
newspaper El País.

Source: Panama's Darien Gap, a Mediterranean Without Boats or Headlines
/ 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez – Translating Cuba -

Mississippi businesses eye opportunities in Cuba

Mississippi businesses eye opportunities in Cuba
Sarah Fowler , The Clarion-Ledger 8:15 p.m. CDT October 23, 2016

Toward that goal, nearly 150 Mississippi business leaders gathered in
downtown Jackson Thursday for a Doing Business in Cuba Summit hosted by
the Mississippi Development Authority.

"As regulations change across the board, they're seeing this as a
potential opportunity to increase their exports," said Jeff Rent,
MDA communications director, "and increased exports means that we're
making our economy stronger, we're selling more goods and we have a
market that is out there and if people in that market want
Mississippi-made products then it's really beneficial for the entire

There's a lot of opportunity because Cuba imports so much, Rent emphasized.

"Mississippi is an agriculture state, we're a manufacturing state.
Health care, technology, communications, agriculture — especially
poultry and rice — are all sectors that are really important to the
people of Cuba, and it's perfect for the business people of Mississippi
to try to establish those relationships."

SEE ALSO: Mississippi Gulf Coast could cash in on trade with Cuba

In February, MDA is taking Mississippians on a business development
mission to Cuba to help "establish those export relationships," Rent said.

"They're going to meet with a lot of companies, they're going to be
seeing all the capabilities that are available in Cuba and really, most
importantly, they're going to be seeing what the Cubans need."

One of Thursday's speakers, Saul R. Newsome, a Louisiana-based attorney
with expertise in international trade, said Cuba has changed
drastically and, as a result, the needs of the Cuban people have changed.

"If you were to walk through some of the streets of Old Havana and see
them 15 years ago compared to where they're at now, you can see that the
country is investing in itself," said Newsome. "It's developing, it's
advancing and it's exciting to see that and it's exciting to be a part
of that and help encourage growth and economic development."

Newsome said many of the regulations in Cuba will naturally require a
learning curve for Mississippi businesses.

"Most of this is new for everyone so spending that time and dedicating
to thinking creatively on how to accomplish your ends in Cuba is going
to be critical," he said. "Experience and relationships are key so
having those relationships in Cuba, traveling there frequently, really
provides an advantage to getting things done."

RELATED: Mississippians reflect on life in Cuba

Newsome said many have the impression that "the embargo has gone away
and Cuba is open for business and you can do whatever you want" but
that's not the case.

"The embargo is still 100 percent fully enforced," he said. "No laws
have changed within the United States to change the embargo. What has
happened is there has been a change in the supporting regulation and
there has been a change in interpretation of that regulation."

Rose Boxx, director of MDA's International Trade Division, agreed that
information and understanding of the trade regulations are key to
successful business relationships in Cuba.

"Preparation is the main factor for us," Boxx said. "Preparation and
education is the first step for us to be able to implement any future
trips or implement any kind of trade relations with Cuba from the state
perspective. We've got to educate our communities and make sure we
understand all the regulations and do everything properly."

Contact Sarah Fowler at or 601-961-7303.

Source: Mississippi businesses eye opportunities in Cuba -

Trump On Cuba

The CBS4 Interview: Trump On Cuba
October 23, 2016 10:59 PM By Jim DeFede

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — CBS4's Jim DeFede interviewed Republican nominee
Donald Trump Sunday afternoon at Trump's resort in Doral, Florida.

Part of the interview included a discussion of U.S.-Cuba policy and his
company's possible business dealings with Cuba. The following is the
transcript of that conversation.

DEFEDE: Let's talk Cuba for a second. You've recently come out with a
much harder line, saying that you would repeal some of President Obama's
executive orders. I just want to be specific. Would you break off
diplomatic relations with Cuba?

TRUMP: Look, Cuba has to treat us fairly and it has to treat the people
of Cuba fairly and the people living here that were from Cuba or their
families were from Cuba. The agreement President Obama signed is a very
weak agreement. We get nothing. The people of Cuba get nothing and I
would do whatever is necessary to get a good agreement. An agreement is
fine. It has to be a strong, good agreement that's good for the Cuban

DEFEDE: I just want to press, would you break off diplomatic relations
though on Day One?

TRUMP: I would do whatever you have to do to get a strong agreement. And
people want an agreement, I like the idea of an agreement, but it has to
be a real agreement. So if you call that for negotiation purposes,
whatever you have to do to make a great deal for the people of Cuba. So

DEFEDE: Would you appoint an ambassador to Cuba in the meantime?

TRUMP: I would wait, I would wait until we have the agreement. I would
want to get a very powerful agreement. Look, the people of Cuba have
been waiting for a long time. The people here formerly of Cuba have been
waiting a long time. We can wait a little bit longer and get the kind of
agreement we want.

DEFEDE: Since I last talked to you, there have been two stories that
have come out with regard to Cuba related to your business dealings. One
was in Newsweek and one was in Bloomberg. The Newsweek story suggested
that you had, through a consulting firm, sent emissaries to Cuba about
casino gambling in 1998. And then the Bloomberg story talked about a
number of people in 2012 – 2013 going to Cuba to explore possible golf
operations there. Did you, in fact, send those people?

TRUMP: Well, I can say that Cuba very much wants to see us there, I have
heard, I don't know, I didn't speak to anybody, but I can tell you that,
Cuba, everybody wants us to go, whether it's countries or people
themselves and we will maybe at the right time look at Cuba. But I
wouldn't want to do anything in Cuba until we have a very powerful

DEFEDE: I just want to be clear, because the Bloomberg story said that
Edward Russo, Jason Greenblatt, your chief legal officer Ron Lieberman,
and another executive, Larry Glick, have all travelled to Cuba on your
behalf. Did they, in fact, go?

TRUMP: I don't know exactly where they were. I can tell you that Cuba
wants to, you know, really negotiate with us. They've said, "We want to
negotiate." They want to make some kind of a deal. I've said I don't
want to make any deals unless we know we have a deal with Cuba, I think
it's appropriate.

DEFEDE: But you think they did, in fact, go to Cuba?

TRUMP: Well, I know that Cuba wants us to go there. I'm not interested
in going.

DEFEDE: No, I meant as emissaries. Did those individuals travel there to
have those discussions?

TRUMP: I would have to find out. I know they had some meetings, but I
would have to find out.

Source: The CBS4 Interview: Trump On Cuba « CBS Miami -

Adjusted Cuba Regulations only Helps Some Ag Sectors

Adjusted Cuba Regulations only Helps Some Ag Sectors
By Andy Eubank - Oct 23, 2016

Changes in regulations announced by the Obama administration last week
offer improved access to Cuba for some sectors of U.S. agriculture.
American Farm Bureau Federation trade specialist Dave Salmonsen says the
biggest regulation change lifts travel restrictions on rum and cigars
from Cuba.

"One of the changes that got a lot of attention falls in more of the
travel-related area–though it does involve some agriculturally related
products of course–and that's a long standing restriction of $100 that
was there on the amount of rum and cigars that people can bring back in
their personal luggage from Cuba. That limit's gone now so you can bring
back all the rum and cigars you can carry."

He says the new regulations offer improved trade to Cuba for agriculture
inputs, but that does not extend to commodity and food products.

"There have been some changes for financing for agricultural inputs that
U.S. companies can sell into Cuba. Previously these kinds of financing
were restricted, you couldn't extend credit. Those restrictions have
been lifted. There is no change though to a problem that we face as far
as selling agricultural commodities and food products into Cuba, and
there's a lot of restrictions on financing. That's in the statute, that
will require congressional action."

Also the recent changes eliminated a rule for shipping to Cuba. The rule
blocked U.S. ships traveling directly to Cuba from returning to the U.S.
for 180 days. Eliminating this rule will offer easier access for
agriculture in the future.

"Certainly everybody got around that rule, but it was a restriction. So
that should help the efficiency of establishing freight service directly
from U.S. ports to Cuban ports."

Salmonsen says that should be something that will bode well for the
future of increasing trade in agricultural products between the U.S. and

Source: Adjusted Cuba Regulations only Helps Some Ag Sectors | Hoosier
Ag Today -

Guillermo Fariñas - 'I am hopeful as I bid Europe farewell'

Guillermo Fariñas: 'I am hopeful as I bid Europe farewell'
DDC | Madrid | 24 de Octubre de 2016 - 11:20 CEST.

Guillermo Fariñas, a winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of
Thought, has just completed a tour visiting various European
institutions, accompanied by a delegation that included members of the
Cuban Human Rights Observatory (OCDH), the Ladies in White, and the
Christian Democratic Party of Cuba.

During his visit to the European Parliament Fariñas and the delegation
were received by Ana Gomes, an MEP representing the Portuguese
Socialist Group and a member of the Security and Defence Committee of
Foreign Affairs and Human Rights. They were also received by the ALDE
Group, coordinated by Javier Nart, an MEP for Ciudadanos and a member of
the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Security and Defence Subcommittee.

The delegation met with the Subcommittee on Human Rights in Cuba and
with the Group of Friends for Cuban Freedom, presided over by Gabriel
Mato, a Popular Party MEP. He also met with Antonio López Isturiz,
Secretary General of the European People's Party. Both expressed their
support and commitment to the defense of human rights in Cuba.

At the meeting held with Goge Reimer, President of the Monitoring Group
for Cuba and Central America, special stress was placed on the final use
put to budgeted funds and the labor conditions to which Cubans are

The opposition members also held private meetings with Hans-Olaf Henkel
and Christian Dan Preda, members of the Committees on Foreign Affairs
and Human Rights.

What conclusions do you draw from this trip?

The purpose of my trip was to discuss the Bilateral Agreement between
the EU and Cuba. We believe that the EU must be present in a transition
in Cuba, but through an agreement that includes guidelines governing
when its political prisoners will be released, when crimes of opinion
will be removed from the Penal Code, when there will be an Electoral
Law, when there will be free elections, and when parties and independent
associations will be legalized. And there is none of that. The agreement
respects the Cuban legal framework, and there is not even an evaluation
clause on Human Rights of the type that there was in the deal signed
with Colombia in 2004. This is the result of a media campaign by the
Cuban government, with the complicity of other forces, to make the world
believe that things have changed in Cuba. Fortunately, many MEPs have
realized the actual state of affairs after our visit, and have even
denounced the lack of transparency characterizing the whole process
yielding the agreement.

According to the information transmitted to us, in order for the
Agreement to enter into force it will have to be endorsed by the
parliaments of the member countries, and at least three of them have
told me that under no circumstances will they do so.

Which three parliaments assured you that they will not support the deal?

They asked me not to disclose that, but, as you can imagine: parliaments
of countries that suffered under Communism first-hand.

What was your impression of the meetings at the Council of Europe in

On our visit to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg we were greeted by
Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council
of Europe; Jordi Xuclà, President of the Liberal Group; and Jan Fisher,
President of the Popular Party; along with representatives of the
Socialist Group and Ciudadanos.

The Council agreed to process a motion signed by 25 deputies from eight
member countries, calling for a rapporteur to prepare a report on the
democratic deficit in Cuba that can be sent to the High Commissioner. As
we all know, the Council has a very important guidance and advisory
function vis-a-vis the Commission and the Parliament.

Thus, the battle has begun, but there is still a lot of fighting, many
skirmishes, ahead of us. If we act with patience, certainty,
intelligence, courage and determination I think we will, definitely,
prevent the EU from serving as an accomplice of the Cuban regime.

How knowledgeable are the MEPS with regards to the human rights
situation in Cuba, in your view?

I believe that all the parties know what is going on in Cuba. But,
unfortunately, as occurs with terrorism, there are countries that do
not want to take drastic measures until their own houses are on fire, as
it were. I believe that they, until they see blood flowing in Cuba in a
civil war (which hopefully will not occur) will refuse to take action on
the matter.

European and American companies seeking profits have created a lobbying
group uninterested in the principles of freedom and democracy that
democratic countries and their institutions must defend. For example, in
the agreement they are not even asking the regime to observe ILO
regulations with regards to hiring. Cuban workers now receive only a
percentage of what is given to the Communist State. I think the foreign
factories in Central America are nothing compared to what is going on in
Cuba. In Cuba, we are talking about slavery in the 21st century. It has
become fashionable to play dumb and look the other way in the face of
what is going on. We came to Europe to appeal to Europeans' sense of
morality and their consciences, and to keep our hope alive that they
will not abandon us to the Castro Government, which rides roughshod over
human rights.

What else is known about the lobbyists working in the EU in favor of the
regime's interests?

The groups are composed of businessmen and lawyers of companies that
hope to obtain profits, and do not care about the human rights issues
involved. I think we should raise international awareness so that people
pressure their elected public officials not to look the other away with
regards to human rights, and to listen. Disregarding human rights will
only lead to a confrontation that, ultimately, could have devastating
consequences for everyone.

Before you were speaking about the peace process in Colombia. Do you
think that this model should be applied in the Cuban case?

Yes. As was done in Colombia, all those involved and concerned must be
present in the negotiations with the Cuban government. But Havana does
not want this. I have personally asked for an appointment with Mr.
Portocarrero in Havana, four times, and he has never received the
winners of the Sakharov Prize. It is a blatant lie to say that the
Department of Foreign Affairs, represented by Ms. Mogherini, has
discussed the terms of the agreement with the opposition. If the Ladies
in White and myself have won the Sakharov Prize, and they have not
spoken with us, then with whom have they spoken?

When do you think a final decision will be made on the deal?

In principle, there has been talk of submitting it for ratification by
the European Parliament before Christmas, and Mrs. Mogherini wanted to
invite Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez to the signing of the Agreement.
After the progress made during this visit, however, I think that the
outlook will be different. The momentum of those who wanted to portray
the agreement as a fait accomplit has been slowed.

Do you think that in this process the Cuban government will give in at
some point?

For now it will continue with its strong opposition. It is not going to
budge. They still hope that they can maintain power in Venezuela, and
they also have part of the historical leadership on which the
"Revolution" is based. But it is a matter of principle, of offering help
if the regime moves towards democracy. If Fidel or Raúl Castro do not
take steps, and neither does their successor, the country is going to
become ungovernable. Whoever is next will have to come and negotiate
with Europe. This is why it is time to stand firm on values, because if
there is no progress on human rights there should be no assistance, no
loans or financing. One cannot negotiate with State terrorists and, as I
said at the European Parliament, this is a government made up of bandits
and villains. When negotiating with them the rules must be clear and the
commitments specified.

The Cuban government is exhibiting what any child psychologist would
recognize as behavior indicative of a spoiled child to whom everything
must given, or it throws a tantrum and storms off. Spoiled children must
be given a punishment (not beaten). But they cannot be given exactly
what they want. To extrapolate from psychology, in the Cuban situation
this means that they have to be given rules. Otherwise, they will do
nothing. You don´t have to be on the Right or Left. You just have to
stand for democracy.

Should the EU agree to sign an agreement while the one-party system
remains in place?

I think that power has to be placed in the hands of the people. If they
want a one-party system there must a referendum, with international
observers and participation by Cubans abroad. I think that this is the
way. I could be right, or I could be wrong, but what is certain is that
it must done via referendum, not by Fidel or Raúl, or the PCC. A
referendum in which people feel safe to express what they think. If the
Government has nothing to hide, if it really has the support of all the
people, or most of the people, as it contends, it has nothing to fear
from a referendum. This is not a question of imposition. The ultimate
wielder of power should be the people, the citizens of Cuba. This is
what the Cuban government does not want to accept. An agreement has been
reached without making its final implementation contingent upon approval
by the people, as was done in Colombia. The Cuban Government must be
called to account and told that is has to give and take, to cede in
order to receive.

Right now, do you think that the regime has lost something?

I don't think it has lost anything. It is returning to its roots. The
government sees a lot of interest by civilized governments around the
world in bolstering the segment of small entrepreneurs in Cuba. Thus,
there has been a massive offensive against small entrepreneurs. Having
independent entrepreneurs is not in their best interest, as they are apt
to become politically independent, in which case they cannot be
controlled. Foreign profits and loans are going to go to those
businesspeople. That is not in their interest. It is time for the
civilized and democratic world to stand up and say that if they want
loans they must allow small entrepreneurs to operate. It is a question
of standing firm. It is our hope that the EU will do so. This time I am
hopeful as I bid Europe farewell that the Europeans will not abandon us.
That is why we are here. This is a battle between power and law,
dictatorship and freedom, backwardness and progress. An agreement, yes,
but not this one.

Source: Guillermo Fariñas: 'I am hopeful as I bid Europe farewell' |
Diario de Cuba -

Sunday, October 23, 2016

It's Hard for the Government to Tolerate the Professionalism of Independent Journalists

"It's Hard for the Government to Tolerate the Professionalism of
Independent Journalists"

14ymedio, Joanna Columbie, Havana, 21 October 2016 – Ignacio Gonzalez is
frequently seen in the streets of Havana with microphone in hand
recording citizens' reactions to a flood, a historic baseball game or
the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the governments of
Cuba and the United States. Independent journalist and editor of the Hot
Free Press (ECPL) agency, the young man aspires to continue excelling
professionally and thinks that non-government media are experiencing a
time of growth.

Recently Gonzalez spent 48 hours under arrest at a police station as a
consequence of his work as a reporter, an arrest that is among the
repressive acts carried out against independent journalism in recent months.

Columbie: How was Hot Free Press born?

Gonzalez: It comes from the idea that people are again gaining
confidence in the independent press, which had lost a little due to
government propaganda that says that it involves unqualified and
mercenary journalists. We interview not only the regime's opponents but
also doctors, engineers, can collectors, mechanics, carpenters… people
like that.

Columbie: You suffered an arrest recently. What happened?

Gonzalez: I was doing a report together with another colleague on a
study of central Havana, and an operation began with a patrol car, five
police officers and two agents from State Security. They took us to the
fourth police unit and interrogated me in one of the offices. They made
me undress and squat forwards and backwards in order to see if I had
hidden any USB drives. I felt denigrated.

Then I was transferred to a police station on Zanja Street and later to
the 10th of October, located on Acosta Avenue. I was detained for 48
hours, which had never happened to me, because they had always detained
me between three and four hours.

Columbie. Were you accused of some crime or are you now subject to some
investigative process?

Gonzalez. They told me that they had a file on me and that I am a
counter-revolutionary. Although they assured me that my detention was
not because of political problems, but because I was committing an
illicit economic activity, since I had an agency where it was known that
I paid workers and that I had no license to practice this activity nor
was I accredited in the country. They also threatened me that my
equipment could be seized. I did not sign nor will I sign any paper.
There is no accusation as such, what I have is threats.

Columbie: Do you feel you are a "counter-revolutionary?"

Gonzalez: I told them that they were the counter-revolutionaries because
they refuse progress and all kinds of democracy to our country. If they
are going to put me in prison, they are going to have to do so also with
thousands of Cubans who bravely and spontaneously make statements for
our reports. Nor am I a mercenary. I work and get a salary for my work
with my press outlet.

What they want with their threats is that I stop being an independent
journalist and dedicate myself to taking photos for birthdays and
quinceañeras [girls' 15th birthday celebrations – a major coming-of-age

Columbie: How do you define yourself?

Gonzalez: I am neither an opponent nor a dissident; I am a person who
practices journalism in favor of the truth. If the government does
something positive, I do an interview or a report about that topic, but
if it does something negative, I also bring it to light. If an opponent
commits an act of corruption, I bring it to light, and if he is making a
move in favor of the people, I do as well. That's how journalism should
be: impartial.

Columbie: Why do you believe that the repression against you has become
more intense now?

Gonzalez: The increasing growth of independent journalism is upsetting
them. We unofficial reporters have had the opportunity to attend
courses, improve ourselves, and the government doesn't tolerate it. This
improvement, this professionalism that journalists are acquiring, even
the audio-visual media which shows the whole world the news as it is, it
is hard for them to tolerate. They are trying to accuse us of
illegalities. It is a zero-tolerance policy towards the independent press.

In the case of Hot Free Press we are making reports almost of the same
quality as Cuban television, but with the difference that we are not
censored. We are reaching people; we have managed to make people feel a
little more confident with the independent press, to give their
statements. We have even found among members of the public that they say
that if it's not for national television, they say whatever they want.
They are more disposed to make statements to independent outlets because
they know that the national press belongs to the government and simply
does not work.

Columbie: Are other non-governmental press agencies going through the
same situation?

Gonzalez: I have not seen the same attitude with the rest of the new
supposedly independent programs, like Bola 8 or Mi Havana TV. These just
have a lot of nonsense. Supposedly they are being financed by the
self-employed, but I work in this industry, and I know that the
self-employed cannot pay for a production like these programs are
showing. There are diverse locations and entry to places to which the
independent press does not have access.

Columbie: How would you define the practice of the press in Cuba outside
of the official sphere?

Gonzalez: Being an independent journalist here is like being a war

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Source: "It's Hard for the Government to Tolerate the Professionalism of
Independent Journalists" – Translating Cuba -