Loading...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I Live Happy Because I Live Without Fear

"I Live Happy Because I Live Without Fear"
El Sexto tells of his incarceration in the Valle Grande prison
14YMEDIO, La Habana | Enero 28, 2015

Danilo Maldonado, the graffiti artist known as El Sexto, finished a
month in prison this January 25. He was arrested while riding in a taxi
whose trunk was carrying two live pigs. The animals were painted green
and each bore a name written on his side. On one could be read Fidel and
on the other, Raul.

The artist's intention was to release them in Central Park in order to
recreate a rural tradition in which one tries to catch pigs with the
added difficulty that their bodies are smeared with grease. His
frustrated performance art was entitled Animal Farm, in Memoriam.

The light blue Lada that was transporting him was intercepted by three
Revolutionary National Police patrol cars. The agents took away the
identity cards of Danilo and the vehicle's driver and took them to the
Infanta and Manglar Station. Two days later, they transferred the artist
to the Zapata and C unit where a prosecutor told him that he would be
taken to trial. He stayed in those dungeons seven days until he was
transferred to the central police station of Vivac de Calabazar, where
he spent another seven days.

It happened that Vivac was the destination for dozens of arrestees
accused of trying to participate in the performance announced by
performance artist Tania Bruguera in the Plaza of the Revolution last
December 30, which was interpreted by authorities as a
counter-revolutionary provocation. Some of those arrested, who learned
of his presence at the place, shouted, among other slogans, "Freedom for
El Sexto."

From the Valle Grande prison, where he is now, Danilo has sent us some
jail anecdotes and a couple of drawings.

The Tank

When I arrived at Valle Grande they took blood samples for the lab,
shaved my head and beard. They also photographed me. During my stay in
Vivac, they had diagnosed me with pneumonia, for which reason I was
carrying antibiotics with me, but they took them from me and have not
seen fit to return them to me so far, nor has a doctor listened to my
chest to find out if I am the same, better or worse than when I arrived
here. To make matters worse, I am surrounded by smokers who do not care
at all that I am sick and asthmatic.

I am in Company Four. They call this place "the tank," and there are all
kinds of people. I met four dissidents from Alturas de la Lisa. Yorlay
Perez, Yusel Perez, Santiago Perez and Hanoy.

Fidelito

One day a boy came into the tank who said he knew me from the park and
that he followed my work on the streets. This swarthy young man of small
stature surprised me when he took off his pullover revealing on his back
a tattoo of the face of Fidel Castro. I explained to him that I am an
opponent of the Castro regime and that the gentleman he wore engraved on
his skin was the one responsible for me being a prisoner.

He responded that he had no family and that he was a "son of the
fatherland," for which reason Fidel had given him a home, and that was
not happening anywhere else in the world. I told him that was true, that
if he had been born in another country no one would have given him a
home, but maybe he could have sought it for himself and that really he
owed nothing to Fidel. I told him of the case of Amaury Pacheco, who
with a family of six children was harassed into an eviction from an
abandoned house in the Alamar suburb, where they had gone so far as to
refuse him water and electric service.

Later I found out through another boy, whom I met in Vedado, that it was
said that he was with State Security and that he always had a pistol
under his shirt. His acquaintances nicknamed him the Hoarse One, but I
called him Fidelito.

This son of the fatherland was prisoner for falsification of documents,
something he had done in order to leave the country. In a single night
he tried to hang himself twice.

Yusel, the Opponent

In one of the constant inspections that they carry out here, a major and
a second lieutenant thought that the fingernails of one prisoner were
too long and that he had to cut them. He explained that he had no nail
clippers, much less scissors. The major took a knife from his belt and
threatened to cut his nails by force. The boy resisted and then the
major told him that he had to bite them off.

When they passed by the place where the opponent Yusel was, they noticed
that he wore a white bracelet with the word Change on one of his wrists.
As he did not obey the order to take it off, they forcibly snatched it
from him. Then Yusel started yelling, "Down with the Castros, down with
the dictatorship." The second lieutenant cornered him against a bed to
beat him but the rest of the prisoners got in the middle and prevented
it. Things got hot but did not go further because the major started
screaming that they were not going to beat him. Only then did the
prisoners relax. Yusel was in a punishment cell for four days, but they
did not beat him.

'The Cigar' that urinates

The Cigar arrived without a noise. Strong, tall, he must be between 60
and 70 years old, and he does not sleep. He said that he was a prisoner
because he had threatened with a screwdriver some teens who were
throwing a ball against the wall of his house. No one got close to him
because he did not bathe. One day he urinated in the middle of the
hallway, which was understood as "blackmail" for the other prisoners who
would have to clean his filth. When they demanded that he wipe up that
puddle, he said that he would do it with his clothes but they did not
let him because that would mean enduring an even greater stench from
him. We understood that he was going crazy the day that they read out
loud the cards where our names and crimes appear. Then we learned his
case: child sexual abuse.

To my Facebook friends and blog readers

I want to tell you that I really miss finding out about your trips and
other events that are reflected in your accounts. I would also like to
thank everyone who supported my cause and confess that none of my crazy
things would have been possible if I had not known that I was not alone
and that I count on the support of many of you. It is possible to fill
hearts with hope. Evil will never overpower good. Retrograde minds will
never overcome free minds. Violence will never overcome art and reason.
Death will never overcome life and love.

I am going through an ordeal that has only been the legitimization of a
good work and the confirmation of an iron dictatorship, which must be
combatted with wit and cunning.

Believe me, sometimes I laugh alone in this dark place of 18 by 100 feet
with 37 triple bunks, that is to say between 118 and 190 people plus
those who sleep on the floor. I laugh even though the toilets are stuck
next to each other without any privacy. I live happy because I live
without fear and, although they persecute and harass my family, they
will never manage to make a dent in my creativity. This time I believe
they have been ridiculed like never before by anyone. Although they kept
the pigs from getting to Central Park, all of us who have an imagination
can see them running with their names engraved and people behind them
like a true Animal Farm.

Ha, ha, ha. Hugs to all, and I wait to be able to read you.

Danilo Maldonado Machado

Translated by MLK

Source: "I Live Happy Because I Live Without Fear" -
http://www.14ymedio.com/englishedition/live-happy-without-fear_0_1715228478.html

Lawmakers seek to end restrictions on travel to Cuba

Lawmakers seek to end restrictions on travel to Cuba
BY PATRICIA ZENGERLE
WASHINGTON Thu Jan 29, 2015 8:45am EST

(Reuters) - Eight Republican and Democratic senators will introduce
legislation on Thursday to end restrictions on U.S. citizens' travel to
Cuba, the first effort in Congress toward ending the U.S. embargo since
President Barack Obama moved to normalize relations last month.

The bill would end legal restrictions on travel to the island by U.S.
citizens and legal residents, according to a statement about the
senators' plans.

It would also end restrictions on banking transactions related to that
travel.

The Obama administration announced some loosening of restrictions on
travel last month, but Congress must vote to end the laws that put them
in place.

The senators backing the bill include Republicans Jeff Flake, Jerry
Moran, Michael Enzi and John Boozman, as well as Democrats Patrick
Leahy, Richard Durbin, Tom Udall and Sheldon Whitehouse.

A companion bill will be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives
next week by Republican Representative Mark Sanford and Democratic
Representative Jim McGovern.

Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Dec. 17 they would
work toward normalizing relations between their two countries, more than
half a century after Castro's brother Fidel took power and began
implementing communist rule in the island nation.

There has been vocal opposition toward the plan in the U.S. Congress,
led by staunchly anti-Castro Cuban-American lawmakers including
Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.

Opponents of Obama's plans have so far not announced any legislation
seeking to stop them. There will be hearings on Cuba next week in both
the Senate and House.

Castro set a tough tone on relations with the United States in a speech
on Wednesday, warning that any U.S. interference in Cuba's internal
affairs would make rapprochement between the two countries meaningless.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Susan Heavey, Doina Chiacu)

Source: Lawmakers seek to end restrictions on travel to Cuba | Reuters -
http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/29/us-cuba-usa-idUSKBN0L21HQ20150129

Fidel Castro in good health, Brazilian visitor says

Fidel Castro in good health, Brazilian visitor says
HAVANA Wed Jan 28, 2015 6:44pm EST

(Reuters) - Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro is in good health,
appearing skinny but lucid, a Brazilian theologian who met with him told
official Cuban media on Wednesday.

Castro, 88, who stepped down from power in 2008, has not been seen in
public in a year and his photograph has not appeared in Cuban media
since August, giving rise to speculation about his health.

"The commander (Castro) enjoys very good health is in very good
spirits," the writer and activist Carlos Alberto Libanio Christo, better
known as Friar Betto, told Cuban state television on Wednesday after
meeting Castro in Havana on Tuesday.

The Cuban news agency Prensa Latina quoted Betto as saying Castro looked
thin and took copious notes during their conversation. Castro was lucid
and well-informed on national and international affairs, he said.

Though Castro periodically writes a column, he went silent for several
weeks after his younger brother and current president, Raul Castro, and
U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Dec. 17 they would restore
diplomatic ties.

On Jan. 12, Castro sent a letter to friend and retired Argentine soccer
star Diego Maradona to squelch rumors that he had died. On Monday he
finally commented on U.S. relations, offering lukewarm support for the
agreement his brother reached with Obama.

"I don't trust the policy of the United States, nor have I had an
exchange with them, but this does not mean ... a rejection of a peaceful
solution to conflicts or the dangers of war," Fidel Castro said in a
statement published on Monday on the website of Cuba's Communist Party
newspaper Granma.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Alan Crosby)

Source: Fidel Castro in good health, Brazilian visitor says | Reuters -
http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/28/us-cuba-castro-idUSKBN0L12SA20150128

Raul Castro demands U.S. pay back Cubans for 'damages,' return Guantanamo

Raul Castro demands U.S. pay back Cubans for 'damages,' return Guantanamo
Published January 28, 2015 Fox News Latino

Cuban President Raul Castro demanded on Wednesday that the United States
return the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, lift the half-century trade
embargo on Cuba and compensate his country for damages before the two
nations re-establish normal relations.

Castro told a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean
States that Cuba and the U.S. are working toward full diplomatic
relations but "if these problems aren't resolved, this diplomatic
rapprochement wouldn't make any sense."

Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Dec. 17 that they
would move toward renewing full diplomatic relations by reopening
embassies in each other's countries. The two governments held
negotiations in Havana last week to discuss both the reopening of
embassies and the broader agenda of re-establishing normal relations.

Obama has loosened the trade embargo with a range of measures designed
to increase economic ties with Cuba and increase the number of Cubans
who don't depend on the communist state for their livelihoods.

The Obama administration says removing barriers to U.S. travel,
remittances and exports to Cuba is a tactical change that supports the
United States' unaltered goal of reforming Cuba's single-party political
system and centrally planned economy.

Many Cuban exiles and U.S. lawmakers have stressed that the Castro
regime owes $6 billion for the assets seized from thousands of U.S.
citizens and businesses after the Cuban revolution in 1959, Fox News
recently reported. With the United States pressing forward on
normalizing relations with the communist country, some say the talks
must resolve these claims.

"The administration has not provided details about how it will hold the
Castro regime to account for the more than $6 billion in outstanding
claims by American citizens and businesses for properties confiscated by
the Castros," Sen. Robert Menendez, D-Fla., top Democrat on the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, wrote in a letter to Secretary of State
John Kerry ahead of historic talks in Havana this month.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R-Fla.) who is chair of the Middle East
and North Africa Subcommittee, assailed the Castro regime's Guantanamo
demands.

"According to the legally binding agreement between the U.S. and Cuba
regarding Guantanamo: 'so long as the United States of America shall not
abandon the said naval station of Guantanamo or the two Governments
shall not agree to a modification of its present limits, the station
shall continue to have the territorial area that it now has,'" the
Cuban-American lawmaker said in a statement to the press.

"Naval Station Guantanamo Bay is strategically important for U.S.
national security...The President must not allow this strategic asset to
be extorted from the U.S. by the Castro brothers at any cost."

Ros-Lehtinen said the Castro regime needs to acknowledge the
compensation it owes to Cubans and Americans whose properties and assets
it confiscated.

"Noticeably absent from the regime's demands, not surprisingly, is any
offer to compensate the Cubans and Americans who had their land and
property seized by the Castro regime, any change in its oppressive
nature and abysmal human rights practices, and to halt its support for
terrorism."

Cuba has said it welcomes the measures but has no intention of changing
its system. Without establishing specific conditions, Castro's
government has increasingly linked the negotiations with the U.S. to a
set of longstanding demands that include an end to U.S. support for
Cuban dissidents and Cuba's removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors
of terrorism.

On Wednesday, Castro emphasized an even broader list of Cuban demands,
saying that while diplomatic ties may be re-established, normal
relations with the U.S. depend on a series of concessions that appear
highly unlikely in the near future.

"The reestablishment of diplomatic relations is the start of a process
of normalizing bilateral relations, but this will not be possible while
the blockade still exists, while they don't give back the territory
illegally occupied by the Guanatanamo naval base," Castro said.

He demanded that the U.S. end the transmission of anti-Castro radio and
television broadcasts and deliver "just compensation to our people for
the human and economic damage that they're suffered."

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for
comment on Castro's remarks.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: Raul Castro demands U.S. pay back Cubans for 'damages,' return
Guantanamo | Fox News Latino -
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2015/01/28/raul-castro-demands-us-pay-back-cubans-for-damages-return-guantanamo/

Marco Rubio schedules Senate hearing on U.S.-Cuba policy

Marco Rubio schedules Senate hearing on U.S.-Cuba policy
@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio took the helm Wednesday of a
subcommittee -- and promptly scheduled a hearing on on President Obama's
new Cuba policy.

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Western
Hemisphere subcommittee, Rubio called for a hearing at 10 a.m. next
Tuesday to "examine President Obama's changes to Cuba policy, and its
implications for human rights in the island," according to a news release.

"Being from Florida, I've seen how events in the Western Hemisphere not
only impact our state but our entire nation. For too long, Congress and
the Administration have failed to prioritize our relations in this
hemisphere." Rubio said in the statement.

"As chairman of the subcommittee, I will promote bold measures that
improve U.S. economic and security interests by addressing the region's
growing calls for transparent institutions, access to quality education,
private sector competitiveness, and respect for political and economic
freedom for all."

Rubio, who has been taking steps toward a potential presidential
campaign, is also a member of three other Foreign Relations subcommittees.

RUBIO NAMED CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE'S WESTERN
HEMISPHERE SUBCOMMITTEE

Panel will hold its first hearing next Tuesday regarding Cuba policy

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) was officially named
today as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's
Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian
Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women's Issues. He will
also be a member of the Subcommittee on East Asia, The Pacific, and
International Cybersecurity Policy; the Subcommittee on Near East, South
Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism; and the Subcommittee on Africa
and Global Health Policy.

Rubio also announced the first hearing to be held in the Western
Hemisphere subcommittee will be next Tuesday, February 3 at 10:00 a.m.
EST. It will examine President Obama's changes to Cuba policy, and its
implications for human rights in the island.

In assuming this chairmanship, Rubio issued the following statement:

"Being from Florida, I've seen how events in the Western Hemisphere not
only impact our state but our entire nation. For too long, Congress and
the Administration have failed to prioritize our relations in this
hemisphere. This lack of attention has kept us from seizing the
opportunities of a rising middle class, emboldened tyrants and non-state
actors to erode democratic values, allowed global competitors to deepen
their influence in the continent, and diminished our ability to respond
to the proliferation of transnational organized crime and the violence
and instability associated with it.

"As chairman of the subcommittee, I will promote bold measures that
improve U.S. economic and security interests by addressing the region's
growing calls for transparent institutions, access to quality education,
private sector competitiveness, and respect for political and economic
freedom for all.

"I look forward to advocating for closer ties with Canada, Mexico, and
other regional partners such as Colombia as well as greater energy
cooperation and trade. The subcommittee will be a platform for bringing
light and solutions to rising problems in the hemisphere, such as
growing inhospitality for individual freedoms, deteriorating security
environments, lagging competitiveness, ineffective regional
organizations, the need for political stability and economic prosperity
in Haiti, and the promotion and support of democracy in places where
individual freedoms are all but a dream, such as Cuba and Venezuela.

"I hope to also continue my work on the U.S. government's efforts to
promote democracy and advance human rights around the world, to support
the fair and equitable treatment of women around the globe, and increase
religious freedom. This is another set of issues that has far too often
been neglected by this administration. I plan to continue to be a voice
for the oppressed, whether they be in our own hemisphere or on the other
side of the globe. I look forward to working to ensure that U.S.
programs aimed at advancing these freedoms are effective and achieving
results that are consistent with our values as a nation.

"I also intend to remain active on the East Asia and Pacific
subcommittee by supporting our strong alliances in Asia and working to
address the challenges confronting that vitally important region which
will play a significant role in shaping the 21st century. It's clear
that American leadership has achieved a great deal in this region in
recent decades, and now it's important that we take none of our gains
for granted and continue working with our allies to advance our
security, economic and human rights agenda."

Posted by Patricia Mazzei at 1:57 PM on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in
Cuba, Marco Rubio, Miami-Dade Politics | Permalink

Source: Marco Rubio schedules Senate hearing on U.S.-Cuba policy | Naked
Politics -
http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2015/01/marco-rubio-schedules-senate-hearing-on-us-cuba-policy.html

Five ways Obama could make Castro pay Cuba's $6 billion debt to Americans

Five ways Obama could make Castro pay Cuba's $6 billion debt to Americans
By Gregg JarrettPublished January 28, 2015 FoxNews.com

In his half century reign of terror, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro
committed manifold atrocities. Documented evidence reveals him to be a
ruthless tyrant who endlessly abused the most basic of human rights –a
man who played a pivotal role in bringing the world to the precipice of
nuclear annihilation for 13 harrowing days in October of 1962.

Beyond his crimes against humanity and the callous suffering he
inflicted on the people of Cuba, he ruined the lives and livelihoods of
thousands of Americans. He stole their land, homes, bank accounts,
possessions and businesses. He absconded with their property under the
guise of "nationalization." But he is, in truth, a thief.

Will his victims now be fairly compensated or otherwise see the return
of their confiscated property in the wake of America's first steps
toward rapprochement with Cuba? The answer is both legal and political.
Will his victims now be fairly compensated or otherwise see the return
of their confiscated property in the wake of America's first steps
toward rapprochement with Cuba? The answer is both legal and political.
President Obama holds the key. So, don't get your hopes up.

The Theft

In the first half of the 20th century, Americans and U.S. businesses
dominated Cuba. They accumulated vast holdings of property and operated
many of the most lucrative businesses. All of that ended with the Cuban
Revolution in 1959. Castro "nationalized" U.S.-owned industries and
seized much of the island's private property from Americans. There was
no restitution. One legal scholar called it the largest uncompensated
expropriation by a foreign government in history.

The U.S. retaliated with an embargo, prohibiting all trade. But the
Americans who were expelled from Cuba were left holding titles and deeds
to homes and businesses to which they had no access. Their property
rights were dissolved, and any legal judgments obtained were
unenforceable against an isolated nation that refused to recognize any
authority other than its own.

Thousands pursued legal recourse and sought reparations under
indemnification programs established by Congress. Others filed lawsuits
and secured judgments. But Castro didn't care. He repudiated the
legitimacy of the restitution programs, the valuation of losses and the
legal authority of the courts. This, even though Cuba admits their
renegade nationalization was, and is, compensable.

So what, then, does Castro consider fair compensation? Judging from his
payouts to other aggrieved nations, it is mere pennies on the dollar.

How do you value dirt?

In 1961, the U.S. Commerce Department valued American property seized by
the Cuban government at roughly $ 1 to 1.8 billion. Nearly 6-thousand
claims were legally certified. Other published reports placed the theft
as high as $ 9 billion. But the truth is, it's impossible to know
–especially inasmuch as the value of everything plummeted the moment
Castro took control of the island.

What would the same confiscated properties be worth in today's dollars?
$50 billion? $100 billion? How about nothing at all? Given how the
Castro brothers have driven their economy into the ground, making Cuba
one of the poorest nations in the world, valuation could be closer to
dirt than dollars.

Which invites another question: assuming a monetary value could somehow
be devised, how would Cuba pay for it? With the collapse of the Soviet
Union, the Castros lost their financial benefactor. The island is
blighted and broke. Even if it offered government bonds as compensation,
are they worth the paper upon which they are written? How could they be
secured?

Reclaim the property?

Theoretically, it is possible for the confiscated property to be
reclaimed someday by the original owners. But that would require a
dramatic Cuban transformation from socialism to democracy where private
property ownership is permitted. In a recent speech, Cuban President
Raul Castro insisted Cuba would not renounces its core socialist ideals
as part of the deal he negotiated with President Obama to renew
diplomatic relations.

Even if some semblance of democracy were to be restored to Cuba in the
distant future, what remains of the stolen property? No one knows how
many of the private residences that were seized have been divided or
fallen into decay. Some may no longer exist. And what of the current
occupants? Would they allow themselves to be kicked out?

The same may be true of the many farms, industries and commercial
businesses that were confiscated and have been put to other uses in the
last 5 decades. Yes, they have development potential in an open, free
market society. But, again, the future of Cuba is nebulous. How
realistic is the return of these vast holdings under a continuing Castro
regime?

What Obama should do

As a first condition to normalizing relations, President Obama should
demand that all American victims of stolen property be compensated
equitably. He is already obligated by law to do this under the
Helms-Burton Act. But Obama has a propensity to ignore or overrule with
impunity those laws he regards as misguided or inconvenient. This is one
law he should follow.

A second condition should be the establishment of a commission of judges
with legally binding authority to render compensation decisions. Several
reparation models can be studied and replicated, notably the tribunal
that dispensed claims in post-unification Germany.

Third, cash payments need not be derived exclusively from destitute
Cuban coffers. A system of "user fees" on U.S. money going into Cuba
could help fund the claims. Moreover, license and development rights in
Cuba could be conferred in lieu of cash. It would help stimulate the
moribund Cuban economy while compensating simultaneously the many
American victims of theft.

Fourth, Obama should order that frozen Cuban assets be used for
compensation. In 2012 alone, the U.S. Treasury Department seized $ 253
million in Cuban funds, slightly more than the previous year. It is
unknown precisely how much frozen cash is available, but it could be
enough to pay some of the claims fairly.

Fifth, and importantly, thousands of Cuban exiles living in America who
were also victimized by Castro's prodigious theft should be included in
any negotiated settlement.

President Obama has the power and leverage to force the Castro regime to
capitulate if Cuba wants to end the sanctions and restore economic
relations. But so far, he has uttered not a word about a desire to do so.

And when it comes to negotiations with adversaries, Obama tends to give
away the store.

Gregg Jarrett is a Fox News Anchor and former defense attorney.

Source: Five ways Obama could make Castro pay Cuba's $6 billion debt to
Americans | Fox News -
http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/01/28/five-ways-obama-could-make-castro-pay-cuba-6-billion-debt-to-americans/

In Havana's outskirts, a less sunny view of U.S.-Cuba ties

In Havana's outskirts, a less sunny view of U.S.-Cuba ties
Rick Jervis, USA TODAY 7:16 p.m. EST January 28, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO DE PAULA, Cuba — Just an hour's drive from downtown
Havana, people in the rural outskirts tend to be more concerned with
crops, church and scraping together their next meal than politics. Yet
many intently followed last week's historic talks in the capital between
U.S. and Cuba to gauge how the diplomatic détente was progressing.

"This should have happened a long time ago," said Felix Pablo, a
musician in this rural neighborhood 10 miles southeast of central
Havana. "Politicians will always be politicians. But the people need to
connect."

President Obama has repeatedly stressed that a main objective of the
renewed diplomatic efforts with Cuba is to empower and better the lives
of average Cubans. In central Havana, residents are overwhelmingly in
favor of the new ties. Many rely on tourism dollars and see an influx of
American visitors as a direct path to improved lives.

But in the city's outer stretches, which tend to be poorer and less
reliant on tourism, the reaction was less predictable.

In Santa Fe, 12 miles east of downtown Havana, market stalls recently
sold clumps of cabbage, sweet potato and freshly-butchered hog —
including the head. A woman in one stall sold small cups of guarapo,
fresh sugar-cane juice, for a nickel a glass.

Evangelio Rodriguez, 48, a retired civil worker sipping on guarapo, said
the U.S. embargo against Cuba needs to be removed before Cubans see real
change.

"I'm confident in the direction my government is headed," Rodriguez
said. "But I'd like to wait to see real results, palpable results,
before drawing any conclusions."

In nearby Cotorro, known for its large tire factory, Jordan Ferrer
Conde, 37, had far less trust in his government. He said the situation
in Cuba is so dire that he tried to leave on a makeshift raft six times.
All six times, his raft sprung a leak, and he was forced to return to
the island. He's saving for his seventh attempt.

The average Cuban makes $20 a month, yet a pair of good shoes cost
around $80 and a pound of meat $40, he said. He said he believed the
talks wouldn't lead to much change. He and his friends are most worried
that U.S. officials will change the Cuban Adjustment Act, which offers
immigration benefits to Cubans who set foot on U.S. soil.

"Tell Obama not to change that," he said. "At least not until I get there."

His friend, Yusiel Verdecia, 24, also said he didn't believe increased
ties with the U.S. will do much for the average Cuban. He's left the
island on rafts three times — returned each time by a U.S. Coast Guard
cutter. Cuba fined him the equivalent of $250 for trying to leave, or
about two years' salary.

"This is just going from bad to worse here," Verdecia said.

In Cotorro's main square, Javier Gonzalo Hernandez, 29, said he approved
of the talks and hoped the two countries could someday enjoy more
interaction. But changes to Cuba shouldn't be an objective, he said.

"Our problems are an internal issue," said Hernandez, a computer
programmer. "We'll resolve them ourselves."

A nearby group of men, all friends sitting on a bench, nearly all oppose
the new ties. One man, who gave his name only as Carlos, for fear of
repercussion for speaking out against the government, said the state has
failed to deliver to the Cuban people, regardless of its partners. He
said Obama is making a mistake because the Cuban people will gain nothing.

Precise musical timbres, not politics, was the topic for Grupo Ágape, a
seven-piece traditional Cuban son band, as they practiced in the living
room of a small house in San Francisco de Paula. The house was down the
road from Finca Vigía, the former home of Ernest Hemingway.

Bass guitarist Marcel Fernandez said renewed ties with the U.S. could
have an especially positive impact on Cuban musicians such as himself.
His bandmates would love to play in the U.S. but haven't yet because no
one's invited them. Maybe that'll change now, he said.

"Less restraints, more opportunity," Fernandez said. "Hopefully, this
benefits everyone."

Ocelia Perez, 45, spent a recent afternoon buying knickknacks — colored
plastic garlic cloves, tube socks, plastic buckets — at a market in San
Miguel del Padrón to resell them for a profit from her home in downtown
Havana. She said the diplomatic posturing is a good start, but Americans
need to remove the embargo to truly improve Cuban lives and allow more
Americans on the island.

"This is the most beautiful country in the world," Perez said. "Let the
people come and see it."

But the government recently confiscated $5,000 in clothes that she had
imported from Peru and planned to sell. It was the last straw in a
series of run-ins with the state regarding her legal resale business,
she said. Last month, she turned in her visa application and hopes to
soon migrate to the U.S.

Source: In Havana's outskirts, a less sunny view of U.S.-Cuba ties -
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/01/28/cuba-talks-havana-obama-rural/22348739/

U.S. Must Return Guantanamo for Normal Relations With Cuba, Raúl Castro Says

U.S. Must Return Guantanamo for Normal Relations With Cuba, Raúl Castro Says
Demands Come as Two Nations Move Toward Renewing Full Diplomatic Relations
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jan. 28, 2015 8:23 p.m. ET

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica—Cuban President Raúl Castro demanded Wednesday that
the U.S. return the base at Guantanamo Bay, lift the half-century trade
embargo on Cuba and compensate his country for damages before the two
nations re-establish normal relations.

Mr. Castro told a summit of the Community of Latin American and
Caribbean States that Cuba and the U.S. are working toward full
diplomatic relations but "if these problems aren't resolved, this
diplomatic rapprochement wouldn't make any sense."

Mr. Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Dec. 17 that
they would move toward renewing full diplomatic relations by reopening
embassies in each other's countries. The two governments held
negotiations in Havana last week to discuss both the reopening of
embassies and the broader agenda of re-establishing normal relations.

Mr. Obama has loosened the trade embargo with a range of measures
designed to increase economic ties with Cuba and increase the number of
Cubans who don't depend on the communist state for their livelihoods.

The Obama administration says removing barriers to U.S. travel,
remittances and exports to Cuba is a tactical change that supports the
U.S.' unaltered goal of reforming Cuba's single-party political system
and centrally planned economy.

Cuba has said it welcomes the measures but has no intention of changing
its system. Without establishing specific conditions, Mr. Castro's
government has increasingly linked the negotiations with the U.S. to a
set of long-standing demands that include an end to U.S. support for
Cuban dissidents and Cuba's removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors
of terrorism.

On Wednesday, Mr. Castro emphasized an even broader list of Cuban
demands, saying that while diplomatic ties may be re-established, normal
relations with the U.S. depend on a series of concessions that appear
highly unlikely in the near future.

The U.S. established the military base in 1903, and the current Cuban
government has been demanding the land's return since the 1959
revolution that brought it to power. Cuba also wants the U.S. to pay
hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for losses caused by the embargo.

"The re-establishment of diplomatic relations is the start of a process
of normalizing bilateral relations, but this will not be possible while
the blockade still exists, while they don't give back the territory
illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base," Mr. Castro said.

He demanded that the U.S. end the transmission of anti-Castro radio and
television broadcasts and deliver "just compensation to our people for
the human and economic damage that they're suffered."

The U.S. State Department didn't immediately respond to a request for
comment on Mr. Castro's remarks.

John Caulfield, who led the U.S. Interests Section in Havana until last
year, said the tone of Cuba's recent remarks didn't mean it would be
harder than expected to reach a deal on short-term goals, such as
reopening full embassies in Havana and Washington.

In fact, he said, the comments by Mr. Castro and high-ranking diplomats
may indicate the pressure Cuba's government is feeling to strike a deal
as Cubans' hopes for better living conditions rise in the wake of
Obama's outreach.

"There is this huge expectation of change and this expectation has been
set off by the president's announcement," Mr. Caulfield said.

Source: U.S. Must Return Guantanamo for Normal Relations With Cuba, Raúl
Castro Says - WSJ -
http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-must-return-guantanamo-for-normal-relations-with-cuba-raul-castro-says-1422494617

Raul Castro warns U.S. against meddling in Cuba's affairs

Raul Castro warns U.S. against meddling in Cuba's affairs
Wed Jan 28, 2015 6:42pm EST
By Enrique Pretel

Jan 28 (Reuters) - Cuba will not accept any interference from the United
States in its internal affairs, President Raul Castro said on Wednesday,
warning that meddling would make rapprochement between the two countries
"meaningless".

His comments came after U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta
Jacobson, the highest-ranking U.S. government official to visit the
island in 35 years, held talks with Cuban officials on restoring
diplomatic relations. Jacobson also met Cuban dissidents, annoying Cuban
officials.

"Everything appears to indicate that the aim is to foment an artificial
political opposition via economic, political and communicational means,"
Castro told a summit in Costa Rica.

"If these problems are not resolved, this diplomatic rapprochement
between Cuba and the United States would be meaningless," he said.

Castro made it clear, however, that he was committed to the talks
despite his concern that Washington might try to stir up internal
opposition within Cuba through greater telecommunications access and the
Internet.

Castro said during the visit with American diplomats that Cuba had
proposed that it be removed from a blacklist of state sponsors of
terrorism, and the return of the U.S. Guantanamo naval base.

The Cuban leader also urged U.S. President Barack Obama to use executive
powers to ease a decades-long embargo against Cuba, saying Washington
could extend measures like those announced for telecoms to other areas
of the economy.

While Obama can gut much of the embargo, only Congress can lift it
completely. Obama has asked Congress to do so, and has started by easing
restrictions on telecommunications companies in Cuba, among other measures.

Any U.S. companies would have to reach an agreement with Cuban
authorities before doing business on the island.

Castro reiterated that he has no plans to budge from Cuba's single party
political system, although observers have said that does not rule out
the possibility that independent politicians might be given space to run
for local elections in the future.

Castro said Obama's decision to hold a debate in Congress about
eliminating the embargo was "significant", adding that he was aware that
ending it "will be a long and hard road".

The historic high-level talks between United States and Cuba in Havana
are expected to lead to re-establishment of diplomatic ties that were
severed by Washington in 1961. (Additional reporting by David Adams in
Miami and Daniel Trotta in Havana; Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by
Gunna Dickson, Kieran Murray, Christian Plumb, Toni Reinhold)

Source: UPDATE 3-Raul Castro warns U.S. against meddling in Cuba's
affairs | Reuters -
http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/28/cuba-usa-idUSL1N0V726F20150128

Cuba trade backers in Senate take small steps first

Cuba trade backers in Senate take small steps first
BY LINDSAY WISE AND LESLEY CLARK MCCLATCHY WASHINGTON BUREAU
01/28/2015 7:01 PM 01/29/2015 12:01 AM

WASHINGTON
A bill to end all travel restrictions for Americans who want to visit
Cuba will be introduced Thursday on Capitol Hill, marking the opening
salvo in a fight that's brewing over whether Congress should further
open Cuba to travel and trade now that President Barack Obama has
decided to normalize relations with the communist-run Caribbean island.

Led by Republican lawmakers from farming and ranching states, a group of
senators is planning a press conference to outline details of the bill.

"Americans ought to be able to travel wherever they want," said the
bill's sponsor, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., adding that increased contact
with Americans could open Cuba to democratic reforms.

The effort has bipartisan support and the backing of the business
community, which is eager to ramp up U.S. exports to Cuba. The ultimate
goal is a full repeal of the economic embargo on Cuba, which was imposed
by Congress more than 50 years ago. Only Congress can lift it.

But that isn't likely to happen anytime soon.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who stands 5-foot-7, joked that the odds of
Congress lifting the trade embargo on Cuba are about the same as his own
chances of playing professional basketball in the NBA.

"Anything's possible," the senator said with a laugh. "But I don't think
it's very likely."

There is longstanding congressional support, particularly among
Republicans, for maintaining a tough stance against Cuba.

And the new Republican leadership is less than enthusiastic. Senate
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he disagreed with
Obama's decision to open relations with Cuba.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a recent interview with "60
Minutes" that he expects the embargo to stay in place, calling Obama's
move to normalize relations a "bad decision."

With the odds stacked against them, GOP advocates of trade with Cuba
decided to start with the less controversial travel bill, which will be
filed Thursday by Flake. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas is a co-sponsor,
along with fellow Republicans Mike Enzi of Wyoming and John Boozman of
Arkansas, and Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois, Patrick Leahy of
Vermont and Tom Udall of New Mexico.

It's also simpler to change the laws in relation to travel than it is to
lift the embargo, because the embargo was created by several overlapping
laws, Moran said.

"While there's no desire for a delay, there's also a desire to do this
right and do it in a way that allows us to have the broadest support
from members of Congress," he said.

Additional legislation to lift the embargo will follow the travel bill,
Flake and Moran said in interviews. Both senators have long championed
an end to the embargo. Flake flew to Havana for the recent release of
contractor Alan Gross from a Cuban jail, a critical element in Obama's
decision to restore ties with the country.

Their bill would eliminate the restrictions on travel to Cuba that
remain after the Obama administration expanded the leeway for travelers
earlier this month. For now, general tourism still isn't allowed.

Under new rules that took effect Jan. 16, U.S. travelers must fall into
12 categories of authorized travel, but they now can buy their tickets
and make travel arrangements through any travel agency or airline that
provides service to Cuba. Previously such providers needed to get a
license from Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The reasons for traveling include professional research, religious
activities, athletic competitions and humanitarian projects.

Flake said he expects his colleagues' support for making it easier for
Americans to travel to Cuba.

"The thought has been that there are just a couple of Republicans in
favor. There are more than that," Flake said of his travel bill's
chances of passing the Senate. "I feel good about that. … The country's
there."

But the senator admits that lifting the embargo on trade will be "a
tougher sell."

In some ways, Obama's unilateral move to restore ties with Cuba has
complicated efforts to lift the embargo, given longstanding Republican
criticism of his foreign policy.

Obama's role virtually guarantees that legislation relating to Cuba will
be controversial and divisive, said Richard Sawaya, vice president of
USA Engage, a group that opposes unilateral sanctions over the use of
diplomacy, whether with Cuba, Russia or Iran.

"What the president is doing is giving people standing to have a food
fight … and that's what I expect," said Sawaya.

"Most members of the (Republican) conference that I've spoken to
consider Cuba in the context of the White House's broader foreign policy
agenda – an attempt at peace through weakness and appeasement," said
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla. "I don't see a lot of traction for these
efforts. There aren't enough votes."

Cuba policy splits both the Republican and Democratic caucuses.

In the Senate, Republicans Flake and Moran, along with party colleagues
Pat Roberts of Kansas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, have said they're eager
to see the embargo go away. In the House, Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel
of New York has led the charge with his Free Trade with Cuba Act, a bill
to repeal the embargo, which he first introduced in 1993.

Leaders of the opposition include Cuban-American Sens. Marco Rubio of
Florida, a Republican, and Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey, as well
as Cuban-American Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart of
Florida, both Republicans.

Many members from both parties privately support lifting the embargo but
aren't willing to go against their colleagues for personal or emotional
reasons, or because they're worried about the political fallout at home,
said Jake Colvin, vice president of global trade for the National
Foreign Trade Council, a lobby for multinational companies.

"The issue is emotional for some members, and some members are so vested
in it that it will be difficult to move anything," he said.

Source: Cuba trade backers in Senate take small steps first | The Miami
Herald The Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article8537477.html

Raul Castro - US must return Guantanamo for normal relations

Raul Castro: US must return Guantanamo for normal relations
BY JAVIER CORDOBA AND MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/29/2015 3:58 AM 01/29/2015 3:58 AM

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA
Cuban President Raul Castro demanded on Wednesday that the United States
return the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, lift the half-century trade
embargo on Cuba and compensate his country for damages before the two
nations re-establish normal relations.

Castro told a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean
States that Cuba and the U.S. are working toward full diplomatic
relations but "if these problems aren't resolved, this diplomatic
rapprochement wouldn't make any sense."

Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Dec. 17 that they
would move toward renewing full diplomatic relations by reopening
embassies in each other's countries. The two governments held
negotiations in Havana last week to discuss both the reopening of
embassies and the broader agenda of re-establishing normal relations.

Obama has loosened the trade embargo with a range of measures designed
to increase economic ties with Cuba and increase the number of Cubans
who don't depend on the communist state for their livelihoods.

The Obama administration says removing barriers to U.S. travel,
remittances and exports to Cuba is a tactical change that supports the
United States' unaltered goal of reforming Cuba's single-party political
system and centrally planned economy.

Cuba has said it welcomes the measures but has no intention of changing
its system. Without establishing specific conditions, Castro's
government has increasingly linked the negotiations with the U.S. to a
set of longstanding demands that include an end to U.S. support for
Cuban dissidents and Cuba's removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors
of terrorism.

On Wednesday, Castro emphasized an even broader list of Cuban demands,
saying that while diplomatic ties may be re-established, normal
relations with the U.S. depend on a series of concessions that appear
highly unlikely in the near future.

The U.S. established the military base in 1903, and the current Cuban
government has been demanding the land's return since the 1959
revolution that brought it to power. Cuba also wants the U.S. to pay
hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for losses caused by the embargo.

"The re-establishment of diplomatic relations is the start of a process
of normalizing bilateral relations, but this will not be possible while
the blockade still exists, while they don't give back the territory
illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base," Castro said.

He demanded that the U.S. end the transmission of anti-Castro radio and
television broadcasts and deliver "just compensation to our people for
the human and economic damage that they're suffered."

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for
comment on Castro's remarks.

Castro's call for an end to the U.S. embargo drew support at the summit
from the presidents of Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua and
Venezuela.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff also praised the effort by the
leaders of Cuba and the U.S. to improve relations. "The two heads of
state deserve our recognition for the decision they made — beneficial
for Cubans and Americans, but, most of all, for the entire continent,"
she said.

John Caulfield, who led the U.S. Interests Section in Havana until last
year, said that the tone of Cuba's recent remarks didn't mean it would
be harder than expected to reach a deal on short-term goals like
reopening full embassies in Havana and Washington.

In fact, he said, the comments by Castro and high-ranking diplomats may
indicate the pressure Cuba's government is feeling to strike a deal as
Cubans' hopes for better living conditions rise in the wake of Obama's
outreach.

"There is this huge expectation of change and this expectation has been
set off by the president's announcement," Caulfield said. The Cuban
government feels "the constant need to tell their people nothing's going
to change ... the more the Cubans feel obligated to defend the status
quo and to say that's nothing going to change, the more pressure it
indicates to me is on them to make these changes, partly on the economic
side but I would also say on the political side."

---

Associated Press writer Javier Cordoba reported this story in San Jose
and Michael Weissenstein reported from Havana. AP writer Andrea
Rodriguez in Havana contributed to this report.

Source: Raul Castro: US must return Guantanamo for normal relations |
The Miami Herald The Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article8520107.html

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Photographer's 'Unseen Cuba' gives unique view of island nation

Photographer's 'Unseen Cuba' gives unique view of island nation
BY CONNIE OGLE MIAMI HERALD
01/28/2015 10:36 AM 01/28/2015 10:36 AM

Even with restrictions lifting on U.S. travel to Cuba, few of us will
ever see the island from the vantage point of Lithuanian photographer
Marius Jovaisa.

But we can look at his pictures - and marvel.

The first and only artist to receive permission from the Cuban
government to fly over the country and photograph it, Jovaisa is eager
to talk about "Unseen Cuba" (Unseen Pictures, $99.95).

"I put a lot of my heart into this project," says the photographer of
four other large-format books: "Unseen Lithuania," "Magic Cancun &
Riviera Maya," "Heavenly Yucatan" and "Heavenly Belize." "I hope to
evoke the feeling I did in my home country. People just don't have an
opportunity to see things from this angle."

Shot from an ultralight craft, with stunning aerial views of the island
from Cabo de San Antonio on the western tip to Baracoa in the east,
"Unseen Cuba" is the culmination of almost five grueling years of
Jovaisa's life. He came up with the idea after the success of "Unseen
Lithuania," which sold 70,000 copies in a country of less than 3 million
people.

Having grown up under Soviet rule in Lithuania, Jovaisa expected to face
a certain amount of red tape getting permits for the project. But he had
no idea he'd spend 2 1/2 years wrestling with bureaucrats before he ever
got off the ground.

"At least three times I was seriously considering calling it quits and
going home," he admits. "It was just impossible."

He learned Spanish to communicate with officials. He traveled to Cuba
for meetings armed with his books and plans and promises to pay for
everything. He agreed to hire a Cuban pilot and not import one from
Lithuania, Australia or - God forbid - the United States. And he still
came away empty-handed.

"There would be 15 people sitting around a table with serious faces
making notes and producing minutes," he says. "In the Soviet Union there
was this phrase, 'imitation of activity,' that Soviet style approach
where you imitate that you're serious, but you know in your heart you're
not going to do anything once the meeting is over. They'd say after
every meeting, 'We're going to send you updates,' and I'd wait and wait
and then have to come back to the table."

With support from various cultural organizations and probably more than
a little luck, Jovaisa eventually got the OK, with stipulations. No
Cuban pilot was trained on the sort of ultralight he had shipped over
from Australia, but a Lithuanian pilot was allowed into the country to
help assemble it and to provide training. The government also provided a
map dictating where he was allowed to fly. At first, all major cities
were out of bounds.

Jovaisa, who admits he adapted a bit of a "ask for forgiveness, not
permission" attitude, decided to start shooting, show the officials his
work and apply for the permits again. The strategy worked: After a year,
he tried again and received permission to shoot all the cities except
Havana, which he was eventually allowed to photograph in April.

Jovaisa says his favorite sights were mostly around Baracoa and its
surrounding areas.

"When the sun is low, and you see those endless little islands going
toward the horizon with all the reflections, it's so mystical for me,"
he says, adding that he sought out the juxtaposition of manmade
structures against natural beauty and that "I am a huge fan of morning
mists."

Seeing the world from above is always exhilarating for the
self-professed adrenaline junkie, who is a triathlete and skydiver.
(He's also fond of bungee jumping and ran his first ultra marathon of 33
miles in Cuba.) But his experience on the ground in Cuba may have proved
the most thought-provoking.

"I was a kid growing up under Soviet rule," he muses. "I still have
those memories. I would go to Cuba and feel a little deja vu. You get
transported into another world, back 50 or 60 years. ... The Cuban
people are very, very friendly. A couple of times I brought my kids with
me, and it was amazing how resourceful the Cubans were, playing with my
family. It was great, absolutely incomparable."

Source: Photographer's 'Unseen Cuba' gives unique view of island nation
| The Miami Herald The Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/books/article8446563.html

Obama and Castro Are Playing in Different Leagues

Obama and Castro Are Playing in Different Leagues / Ivan Garcia
Posted on January 28, 2015

Events are moving quickly. At least that is what Nivaldo, a private taxi
driver who owns an outdated Moskovich car from the Soviet era, thinks.
"Don't slam the door or it will come loose," he tells the passengers he
drives from Playa to Brotherhood Park in the heart of Havana.

Nivaldo and a large segment of the Cuban population are trying to follow
the latest news on emigration and the negotiations taking place in
Havana's main convention center.

"This (the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the
United States) has been tremendous," he says. "Before December 17 the
United States was the evil empire and the cause of every malady
afflicting the country. The first thing to change was the tone of news
coverage. It's a healthy development that two women are leading the
negotiations. Political machismo has caused a lot of harm in Cuba.
People are tired of all the testosterone and the testicle-driven rhetoric."

Nivaldo continues talking as he stops to pick up a passenger. "I don't
know if this new situation will bring immediate improvements in the
lives of average Cubans or not. I hope so. I work twelve to fourteen
hours a day to support my family and save money to celebrate my
daughter's fifteenth birthday. If things change, maybe I can get rid of
this jalopy and buy a new Ford. The question that many on the street are
asking is how and in what way will the government implement a series of
measures that benefit people," he says as he raises the radio volume to
hear the evening news.

Average Cubans are following events with excessive expectations while
some express a die-hard optimism.

Rogelio, an umbrella repairman, is eating a hamburger at a McDonald's
with long lines. "When the embargo is lifted," he says, "stores will be
well-stocked with quality merchandise. I hope the government allows
direct imports by the self-employed and the banking system offers more
generous credit terms. Stores will allow customers to pay in
installments like in any modern society."

Others are more cautious. "Yes, it's all well and good to be able to buy
rice, chicken and smart phones from the United States, but by necessity
the Cuban system must change. There is too much centralization and
control, which stifles the economic independence of small private
businesses. Then there are the issues of low salaries and the dual
currency. How much will the average citizen be able to pay for a home
internet connection or an American-made computer?" asks Rosario, an
automated systems engineer.

A large segment of the Cuban dissident community considers the strategy
adopted by President Obama to be misguided.

At a 2:00 PM press conference announcement on January 23, the prominent
opposition figure Antonio Rodiles and a sizable group of dissidents
express disapproval of the White House's recent moves. "I would like to
know where they are getting their information," he says. "I am afraid
they have become disoriented. They are betting on a continuation of the
Castro regime and are concerned with national security.

"They have undertaken these negotiations without input from the island's
opposition. I don't see why a regime with a history of political rights
violations should change. Obama has given up a lot and gotten very
little in return. If the international community does not insist that
Cuba ratify United Nation Human Rights Conventions, there will be no
change in the status quo. This will translate into the arrests of
activists and some opposition figures could end up back in prison."

There are notable differences in outlook between dissidents and ordinary
Cubans. The average person on the street thinks it was time to bring an
end to the ongoing political chess game between the two countries.

Cuban citizens believe the new direction in U.S. foreign policy makes
perfect sense and pokes through the tired pretexts used by the country's
military overlords to justify the economic catastrophe and ideological
madhouse they created fifty-six years ago.

But there is one thing that "black coffee" Cubans and some members of
the opposition have in common: each is looking out for its own
interests. And the regime knows this. It hopes to perpetuate the system
by changing its methods.

President Barack Obama and General Raul Castro are clearly playing in
different leagues.

Ivan Garcia

24 January 2015

Source: Obama and Castro Are Playing in Different Leagues / Ivan Garcia
| Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/obama-and-castro-are-playing-in-different-leagues-ivan-garcia/

The spy who never wanted to be one

The spy who never wanted to be one / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on January 28, 2015

The unusual story of 'Granma' journalist sentenced to 14 years in prison
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Santiago de Cuba, 27 January 2015 — Just
outside the building, a ditch carries sewage down the street. Several
children jump from side to side of the stinking canal which later runs
through Micro 7, a neighborhood in the José Martí district of Santiago
de Cuba. For a few years now the neighbors have pointed to number 9 on
one rough block and said, "That's where the Granma newspaper journalist
lives." Today the family bears the stigma of a journalist who is in
prison, where he is serving a sentence for espionage.

The steps are rough and uneven. At the top improvised bars cover the
door to the house. I knocked for long minutes, but no one answered.
Mayda Mercedes, José Antonio "Tony" Torres's wife, only received me
another day, with a certain tremor in her voice while looking up and
down the street. There I managed, for the first time, to see the court
ruling that twisted the fate of this man, as a bolero says, "like a weak
tin rod."

The official government reporter never imagined that on his 45th
birthday he would be behind bars. After graduating as a journalist in
1990, he'd known nothing but success in his career. He served as deputy
director for Tele Turquino, correspondent for the National Information
Agency, for the National News, and later for the newspaper Granma. He
was a sports commentator, secretary general of the Communist Party's
Santiago de Cuba Correspondents unit, and his work was even praised by
Raul Castro. Everything pointed to rising to professional heights closer
to power and to better remuneration.

All this ended, however, on 8 February 2011, when they arrested him and
– after three months in State Security's Villa Marista prison and
transfers to other prisons and exhausting interrogations – a court
sentenced him to 14 years in prison for the crime of espionage. In the
file of Case No. 2 of 2011, it says he is accused of having written a
letter to Michael Parmly, who was then the head of the United States
Interests Section in Havana (USIS). The document also states that the
accused wanted "to get a personal interview with this person to provide
him (…) sensitive information (…) that could endanger national security."

Tony says that the idea of writing this letter was the child of spite.
His wife had been a victim of injustice at work and, according to the
journalist, he decided to get revenge on the authorities. A revenge that
consisted of pretending to have secret data that would destabilize the
Cuban government. His defense attorney said later that there was "no
real danger to State Security," and Torres confessed that he "made
everything up."

A scaffolding of lies that ended up falling on him, because the crime of
espionage in the Cuban penal code includes "anticipated completion." The
mere suggestion to a foreign state of sensitive information carries a
sentence.

From late 2005 until January 2007, he wrote a long text on a neighbor's
computer in which he claimed to have sensitive information about "the
Elián González case (…), classified materials of a military character
(…), information about government corruption (…), scandals in the ranks
of the Communist Party (…), original documents from the five spies (…),
defaults on economic contracts with China" and much more. An explosive
list of topics, to which he added his own resume as a journalist to give
the matter greater credibility.

With a meticulousness unusual in these parts, he also devised a
complicated code of passwords and keys that included "half of a moneda
nacional one peso note," that Michael Parmly could only complete when
the two of them were face-to-face. A postcard of the Casa de la Musica
in Miramar, also cut in half, would reaffirm the identity of each party.
On the brightly lit scrolling ticker across the top of the US Interests
Section building in Havana where headlines and news were displayed,
after the receipt of the document the US was to display the code
"Michael 2003" if the official accepted Torres's full proposal, and
"Michael 6062" is there was only interest one a part of it.

Reading, today, about this methodical system of alert and verification,
it's hard not to smile at this apprentice James Bond, who ended up a
victim of his own cleverness. But Tony didn't seem to calculate the
seriousness and danger of his actions. So in early 2007 he asked his
brother to travel to Havana and put an envelope containing two diskettes
with copies of the letter along with the halves of the peso and the
postcard, in the Interests Section's mailbox. The countdown that would
end in his disgrace had started to run, but he wouldn't know it until
four years later.

In a cell in Boniato Prison, one of the Cuban prisons with the worst
reputation, Torres has nurtured for years now the illusion that some
journalist to whom he could tell his story would visit him. He has
refused to despair because someone will shed light on his situation. In
the middle of last year he added my name to the list of those who could
visit him in prison, to personally narrate for me his version of a story
that at times seems taken from The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad, and at
others from The Joke by Milan Kundera.

So far the meeting hasn't happened. The political police monitored the
calls and "accidentally" lost the list with my name on it to visit him
this weekend. So, after a long journey, I found myself in Santiago with
no opportunities other than to reconstruct the "Torres case" through
court documents, the testimonies of those who knew him and the letters
that he regularly sends me from prison. A jigsaw puzzle, which at times
seems more literary than credible.

Tony is punctilious when he tells his story over the telephone, his job
as a reporter shows in every detail. He has tight handwriting that fills
pages and pages that he dispatches here, there and everywhere. He soon
turned me into a recipient for his desperate writings. Phone calls
crossing the Island's geography ring in my fourteenth floor. "Sometimes
I have to buy access to the phone with cigarettes," he tells me.

The former official spokesperson is now clinging to independent
journalism and the opposition like the shipwrecked to a precarious life.
He has left behind the opinions expressed in an allegation that he never
read before the trial court and in which he claimed that he had
requested money for information that he would supply the United States
to make them believe he was an agent in the service of a foreign
government because "no counterrevolutionary is respected if he doesn't
look for or use the path of that conduit of dollars."

The rigors of prison later lead him to seek the support of the Patriotic
Union of Cuba and its leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer. His disappointment in
the system of which he was a part has also been felt in his writings. In
the middle of last year, in one of his letters, he described the Cuban
people as "wounded by the disappointment, with their patience exhausted,
sick and tired of scarcities, badly fed, with a ton of postponed
demands, crammed into the eternal limbo of unkept promises.

Last week, his despair led him to write a letter to Barack Obama and
another to Pope Francis, asking them for help

Last week, his despair led him to write a letter to Barack Obama and
another to Pope Francis, asking them for help. The letters have already
begun their journeys to their destinations, but this time they do not
carry keys nor currency cut in half. The prisoner hopes, at least, to
see his name on the list of political prisoners of conscience, which
several groups among the Cuban dissidence have drawn up. However, his
case "is difficult to defend," say several human rights activists, while
others reproach him for his long official past.

On the morning when they began the release of the activists derived from
the secret talks between Washington and Havana, my phone rang early. "Do
you know about the releases," inquired the pompous voice of a television
announcer. I took a deep breath, and provoked him, "They are going to
release a spy who served the United States for years, but it's not you…
it will be Rolando Sarraff Trujillo." His scathing laugh barely let me
finish the sentence.

Ironically, when José Antonio Torres demands to be considered innocent
and not to be classified as an American intelligence agent, he is also
distancing himself from the possibility of being included in a spy swap.
His main argument in defending himself, and with which he demands
justice, could also be the greatest challenge to achieving his release
in the near term.

While I was knocking and waiting for Mayda Mercedes to open the door, a
neighbor climbed the stairs carrying a bucket of water. She walked
carefully and slowly, as if she was carrying a newborn in her hands. In
July 2010, Torres had written an extensive report for the newspaper
Granma where he denounced the irregularities, the "negligence" and the
"bad job" being done on the repair work of Santiago de Cuba's aqueduct.
The city was full of holes and broken streets, but the delivery of water
still hadn't stabilized after months of work.

A tagline from Raul Castro was published along with the painstaking
report, in which the general affirmed that he "disagreed with some of
the focus," but did "recognize the Santiaguan journalist for his
persistence in following the work." In government journalism circles it
is still rumored that it was that article, and not Torres's masquerade
as a spy, that marked the severity of the subsequent conviction against him.

While the world read the article as if it were a signal of information
glasnost in Cuba, State Security already had surveillance on the
journalist's house from four different angles. By then, Torres was
repenting of his absurd action and believed he would never be
discovered. Everything indicates that it was in that moment that the act
of revenge conceived by the writer of that missive in the past ran smack
into the vengeance of others. The journalist would have no chance to
walk out with an acquittal.

A couple of years later, from prison, Torres would analyze the official
press with the self-criticism that has been part of an artifice for a
long time. "In this country (…) the press doesn't know, nor do its duty.
The gagging is so strict that we have converted a force of pressure into
innocuous prisoners of repetition and compromise," he wrote in a letter
that managed to make it out of Boniato, when his hopes for release were
at their lowest.

The arrest occurred on a February morning. His youngest daughter was
crying while they conducted a thorough search of the house. They took
video cassettes, notepads filled with his precise handwriting, eight
sheets detailing the work on the Santiago de Cuba aqueduct, a work
notebook on the balance of the public health sector, weather reports,
documents with ideas delivered to the military sectors during Bastion
2004, photocopies of letters from the spy Antonio Guerrero to his son,
two letters from Torres to Raul Castro, among other materials.

His belongings didn't exceed what any journalist would have in his
files. None of the data collected by the court points to his possessing
"State secrets." According to what was shown, he didn't even have the
letter where he offered his services as an informant. It's not clear how
the letter "appeared" in a garbage can outside USIS and not in the
mailbox where Torres's brother had supposedly placed it. A prosecution
witness, an agent from the Specialized System of Protection S.A.
(SEPSA), said that he found the envelope there with the diskettes.

Torres tried to base his defense on the inviolability of diplomatic
correspondence, but the court focused the accusation on the "sensitive
information of interest to the enemy." Even today, the journalist
appeals that his act was only an attempt that would never have
transpired if the USIS mailbox was not "under observation by the Cuban
intelligence services." His self-defense does not claim innocence, but
poor procedures in obtaining evidence. But the appeal to reassess the
sentence was declared "without merit" in late 2012. A bucket of cold
water fell on his hopes of seeing a reduced sentence.

In Section 4 of the Boniato prison they call him "The Thermometer." The
prisoners have given him this nickname because he "is always hot"
because of the fights between the inmates and the violence that prevails
in the place. In the midst of this, a man who talks like a TV anchorman
now spends his days. Once, long ago, he narrated the socialist paradise
– and the stains that should be eradicated to perfect it – with his
voice and his writings.

At night, when the guards turn off the light and call for silence, he
places under his mattress the sheets filled with tight handwriting that
will later be put in improvised envelopes. On this passion for writing
letters from prison, he now hangs all his hopes of being set free.

Source: The spy who never wanted to be one / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-spy-who-never-wanted-to-be-one-14ymedio-yoani-sanchez/

And the Conceptualization…?

And the Conceptualization…? / Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on January 27, 2015

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 27 January 2014 – It's been three years since
the Communist Party of Cuba's First National Conference. As can be
expected, few are the people, including a great part of that
organization's own militants, who remember what was agreed to at that
meeting and, to an even lesser extent, which of the adopted accords
remain unimplemented. But, who cares?

The "Work Objectives" approved by the Conference, point 62 of Chapter
II, titled "Ideological and Political Work," outlines the need to "work
especially on the conceptualization of the theoretical fundamentals of
the Cuban economic model." Eight months prior to that Conference, the
Communist Party of Cuba's Sixth Congress had revealed the Guidelines
(Lineamientos) that would govern the country's economic and social
policies. All pointed to the fact that, since conceptualization could
not be the source of inspiration for the Guidelines, it could at least
be its after-the-fact theoretical justification.

However, the task of theorizing seems to be more complex than the
practical application or, to say it in official jargon, "the
implementation" of the Guidelines, which have a structure led by Mr.
Marino Murillo, Minister of the Economy. Who is responsible for the
conceptualization? What entity is committed to undertake it? No one knows.

The term "update" has been chosen to define what, in less official
settings, is referred to as "reforms" to the Cuban economic model. The
genesis of said model was designed based on those economic theses which,
in 1975, during the First Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, put
in practice the so-called Economic Direction and Planning System. But,
that framework collapsed when in 1986 the comandante unleashed the
Process of Rectification of Errors and Negative Tendencies. All that has
come since then has been a chain of improvisations filled with patches
intended to find momentary solutions — to keep "resolving." Today, when
speaking of "updating," no one explains clearly what has aged or where
the novelties have come from. That would be the task of conceptualization!

Today, when speaking of "updating", no one explains clearly what has
aged or where the novelties have come from

The first condition needed to achieve this mission impossible of
conceptualizing what has been outlined by the Guidelines would be that
the formulations bear some coherence to the principles of the
Marxist-Leninist doctrine or, at the very least, with one of the vague
statements made by the historic leader. Not even Cantinflas would be
able to do it. Unless, of course, some enlightened graduate of the Ñico
López National School of the Party has found the keys to the new
revelation. But the evolution of our reality demands another kind of
theoretical orchestration. To appeal to the conceptual tools that lie at
the origin of our problems cannot result in the emergence of solutions.
That would be like trying to uphold geocentric principles using string
theory or explaining Cuban "Bufo" Theater with the Stanislavski System.

We're a little over a year away from the Communist Party of Cuba's
Seventh Congress. If only as an elemental formality, the
conceptualization should be presentable before that event, so that it
may be discussed and approved. But, who cares?

Translated by Fernando Fornaris

Source: And the Conceptualization…? / Reinaldo Escobar | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/and-the-conceptualization-reinaldo-escobar/

Congressional travel to Cuba surged last year

Congressional travel to Cuba surged last year
BY SUSAN CRABTREE | JANUARY 28, 2015 | 5:00 AM

Travel by members of Congress to Cuba shot up last year ahead of
President Obama's December executive action normalizing relations with
the island nation.

Thirteen Democratic House members traveled to Havana in 2014 on at least
three separate trips sponsored by nonprofit outside groups, according to
travel reports members are required to file with the House Ethics Committee.

One of the trips, in which at least seven lawmakers participated, ended
just one day before Obama's Dec. 17 announcement of a détente with the
Castro regime.

The visits coincide with a furious behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign
from longtime advocates for normalizing relations with Cuba and pressing
Obama last year that the time was right to make a bold move and ease
sanctions and lift travel restrictions.

The surge in members' Cuban travel in 2014 is striking when compared to
just one member making the trip in 2012, and just five staffers and no
members who paid a visit in 2013. House members' participation
fluctuated from five visiting Cuba in 2011 to two in 2010, although
several staffers visited those years.

It is unclear how many senators also made the short flight from Miami or
Tampa to the island nation. Senate rules, unlike the House, don't
require reports to be as detailed.

In the years leading up to Obama's December announcement reversing 50
years of U.S. policy in Cuba, the State Department didn't sponsor any
trips to the island, so outside groups supporting re-engagement with
Cuba filled the void and sponsored the travel.

The Center for Democracy in the Americas, a nonprofit that advocates for
opening diplomatic relations with both Cuba and Venezuela, and closer
bonds with several countries in Latin America, has sponsored the most
travel since 2007, according to the latest records posted online.

"We really do believe that engagement is the answer — how you get a
conversation going and open up," said Sara Stephens, the center's
executive director, who has led dozens of congressional trips to Cuba
over the last 15 years.

"Do we believe it's going to change Cuba's policies tomorrow? No. But we
hope it exposes them to new ideas and vice versa."

While she said the number of visits the group sponsors each year
fluctuates depending on Washington's Cuba policies at the time, she said
2014 was a very big year in response to a renewed push to open relations.

Stephens also reports an explosion in congressional interest in the
trips over the last month after Obama's decision to re-engage and ease
Cuba sanctions.

The center already plans another Cuba visit for senators in February led
by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

Last year, she said several Senate chiefs of staff traveled with her to
Cuba, including those from the offices of GOP Sens. Jerry Moran of
Kansas, Dan Coats of Indiana and Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Stephens is currently reaching out to more Republican members to
encourage them to join in this year to talk to Cubans in person and gain
first-hand experience of the U.S. policy shifts.

"We're really especially focused on inviting Republicans and newer,
younger members to Cuba now in this new context and new policies to see
what they think about it," she said.

Other members of Congress who vigorously oppose Obama's decision to ease
relations with Cuba have long argued against lawmakers' travel to Cuba
for trips orchestrated by the Castro regime.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a Cuban-American, has slammed Americans who
visit Cuba, including some of his House and Senate colleagues, arguing
that they are helping perpetuate Castro's false claims and bolster his
government.

"Cuba is not a zoo where you pay an admission ticket and you go in and
you get to watch people living in cages to see how they are suffering,"
Rubio reportedly told a pro-Cuba political action committee in 2013.
"Cuba is not a field trip. I don't take that stuff lightly."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., a Cuban-American who has spent more
than two decades fighting the Castro regime in Congress, is equally
adamant about what she views as the fallacy of lawmakers' "fact-finding"
trips to Havana.

"The Castro regime puts on a Potemkin village sham tour for visiting
dignitaries," she told the Washington Examiner. "Visitors are allowed to
arrange a few meetings on their own, but the communist regime knows of
such meetings and usually has spies 'helping' the delegation who report
back to Castro."

She urged U.S. dignitaries and others to remember that Castro represents
a "murderous regime that denies human rights to 11 million people and
jails those who try to express their right to free speech."

She also pointed out that human rights activists, such as Rep. Chris
Smith, R-N.J., and former Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., have been routinely
denied entry to Cuba because "they would have highlighted the abuses
perpetrated by the regime."

The Center for Democracy in the Americas is a division of the Center for
International Policy, a research and advocacy think tank founded in 1975
in response to the Vietnam War.

The center's mission, according to its website, is to advocate policies
that "advance international cooperation, demilitarization, respect for
human rights and action to alleviate climate change and stop illicit
financial flows."

It is also affiliated with several other projects, including Win Without
War, a coalition of 40 organizations, including groups opposed to
unilateral U.S. military responses throughout the world such as
Greenpeace and MoveOn.org and the National Organization for Women.

Wayne Smith, a Johns Hopkins University professor who served as
President Jimmy Carter's top U.S. diplomat in Havana from 1979 to 1982,
joined CIP to start its Cuba policy program and remains a senior fellow
at the organization. He is one of Washington's leading critics of the
longstanding U.S. embargo on Cuba.

During a trip the Center for Democracy in the Americas sponsored in May
of last year, lawmakers met with Alan Gross, the former U.S. AID
contractor, at the hospital where he was serving his sentence, according
to an itinerary submitted to the Ethics Committee for approval.

The center noted that it was an "official meeting, organized by the
Cuban Foreign Ministry."

They also had breakfast with European Union ambassadors to Cuba and
other foreign diplomats to discuss their countries' approaches to Cuba,
and lunched with Cuba's top diplomat, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

During one night, the group dined with an owner of a "paladar," or
private restaurant operated out of the owners' home, what the center
described as the largest and fastest-growing parts of Cuba's "booming
private sector."

The three-day tour included a walk through Old Havana, where members
could converse with vendors selling art, music and books, as well as
lunch with Tom Palaia, the U.S.'s current top diplomat in Cuba. They
visited artists and students' homes and spoke about their challenges and
the changing economy and its impact on their businesses.

Another major sponsor of congressional travel to Cuba last year is
Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba, or MEDICC, an Oakland,
Calif.-based group that works "to enhance cooperation among the U.S.,
Cuban and global health communities" and to share medical advancements,
according to its website.

In fact, MEDICC sponsored a trip to Cuba for seven House members that
focused on innovations developed in the island to help diabetics. The
trip ended Dec. 16, just one day before Obama's big Cuba executive action.

A spokeswoman said MEDICC's executive director was out of the office and
unavailable Tuesday. She said the group has contributed to the
diplomatic opening between the two countries by "showing the benefits of
mutual U.S.-Cuba cooperation in the specific field of health and medicine."

All but two of the members traveling to Cuba over the last three years
are Democrats, many of whom vocally support lifting the embargo or
travel and trade restrictions.

Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois is the only Republican to travel there
during that time frame, which he did in 2012, and Rep. Betty McCollum, a
member of Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party who caucuses with
the Democrats, went last summer.

McCollum has pushed to end the trade embargo since coming to Congress in
2001. She also has sponsored a bill that would end U.S. taxpayer funding
for Radio and Television Marti, which has spent hundreds of millions of
dollars broadcasting news in Spanish from Florida to Cuba.

Other frequent Cuba flyers include Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who
visited the island three times last year, and Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill.,
who went twice last year.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., who has repeatedly introduced a series of
bills to end travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba, was in
Havana Dec. 17 when Obama made his announcement, having lingered there
on the MEDICC-sponsored visit.

In applying to the House Ethics Committee to sponsor any travel, an
outside group must certify that the visit will not be financed in whole
or in part by a registered federal lobbyist or an agent of a foreign
government.

Stephens says the money for the center's congressional trips come from
the group's general funding and does not earmark certain donations for
the travel.

She said the center receives roughly two-thirds of its funds from
private foundations, including the Ford Foundation, the Christopher
Reynolds Foundation, the Open Society Foundation and Atlantic
Philanthropies. The other third comes from private donations, she said.

Source: Congressional travel to Cuba surged last year |
WashingtonExaminer.com -
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/congressional-travel-to-cuba-surged-last-year/article/2559384?utm_campaign=Fox%20News&utm_source=foxnews.com&utm_medium=feed

The Other Cuban Succession

The Other Cuban Succession
[28-01-2015 12:00:11]
José Azel
Investigador, Universidad de Miami

(www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- The Cuban succession conjecture pastime
began in earnest in 2006 when an aged and ailing Fidel Castro
transferred power to his younger brother Raul. With General Castro now
83 years old, the speculation continues as to whom, in the younger
generation of Cuban military officers and political apparatchiks, will
succeed him.
In Cuba, the elderly Castros are seeking to perpetuate the power of the
communist regime around a military-party-dynastic succession. It is a
succession my colleague Dr. Pedro Roig has labeled as "a supreme
manifestation of tragic insolence" that seeks to give continuity to the
Marxist catastrophe recycling its offspring. It is a fragile succession
of questionable legitimacy offering only freedomless lives. It is a
succession that presumes that the also aging historical exiles will
simply fade away.

They miscalculate; there is a less noticed Cuban succession taking place
north of Havana that juxtaposes the one on the Island. It is the
Cuban-American succession from first wave anti-Castro exiles to their
American sons and daughters.

My generation - of the aging heroes of the urban resistance of the
1960's, of the Bay of Pigs invasion, of the uprisings in the Escambray
mountains, of the Pedro Pan exodus- is also transferring its 56 years
old quest for a democratic Cuba to the next generation.

It is a generation in prime adulthood of U.S.-raised and educated
professionals exceling in every field of human endeavor. By way of
example, in the Washington political establishment, it is the generation
typified by the new cohort of Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz
(R-TX) and Representatives-elect Alex Mooney (R-WV) and Carlos Curbelo
(R-FL). Alongside Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Representatives Albio
Sires (D-NJ), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
there will be eight Cuban-Americans serving in the 114th Congress.

Cuban-Americans make up less than ½ of 1 percent of the U.S. population,
yet they make up 3 percent of the U.S. Senate and more that 1 percent of
the U.S. House of Representatives. They speak for four states and both
political parties. Even more remarkable is the fact that all
Cuban-American representatives, regardless of party affiliation or state
representation, speak with a single voice regarding Cuba and its future.

My generation may not have succeeded in ridding Cuba of the Castro
regime, but in our unplanned succession we have succeeded admirably in
transmitting love of country -for both the U.S. and Cuba- and democratic
values to our sons and daughters. Ours is a vision of a democratic Cuba
that they will continue to articulate, sometimes in broken Spanish, but
eloquently and passionately.

Those inheriting our struggle, unlike their counterparts in Cuba,
understand freedom as a state of being, and a state of consciousness.
They apprehend the free flow of information, economic freedom, human
rights, political liberty, transparency, freedom of speech, and
empowerment of the individual as a way of life. Their freedom fighting
tactics may differ from ours, but these are values they will not
repudiate by embracing Cuba's tyrannical collectivism.

We are passing the torch to a generation that understands instinctively
that economic well-being is a consequence of freedom, and that to value
freedom is an insightful philosophical and moral achievement. Also, in
dramatic contrast with their counterparts in Cuba, it is a generation
that has acquired the American ethos that public servants are not
enlightened messianic emissaries.

It is a generation that grew up listening to our stories of a lost
country and has learned from us the lessons of Pericles as he sought to
inspire the Athenians during the Peloponnesian War: "Make up your minds
that happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being
courageous." Their love of freedom honors us.

Source: The Other Cuban Succession - Misceláneas de Cuba -
http://www.miscelaneasdecuba.net/web/Article/Index/54c8c13b3a682e1980ed176d#.VMjgkGjF9HE