Monday, July 25, 2016

‘Yumas’ In Cuba, “As If They Had Never Left”

'Yumas' In Cuba, "As If They Had Never Left" / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata – He didn't know that in Cuba he would be
rebaptized yuma, but, within a few days of arriving he's become
accustomed to the word and his condition as a "hidden" tourist. Daniel,
born in Oklahoma, is one of the thousands of travelers from the United
States who have officially visited the island under one of the 12
categories authorized by Barack Obama's administration.

They are everywhere and are distinguished by their accents, their
generous tips and a fascination with everything they see.

"I came with a group of Protestant pastors, but in total we've only had
one day of religious programming, the rest of the time we've visited
bars, museums and come to know the country better," he tells 14ymedio at
an outdoor café at the Hotel Inglaterra in Havana.

Daniel arrived two weeks ago with a group organized by the Martin Luther
King Cultural Center, founded by Raul Suarez, a religious man who enjoys
official favor.

Under the terms of the relaxations, Americans are obliged to justify
their trips to the island in great detail, and are at risk of the United
States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposing a heavy fine if
they don't comply with the requirements of their visit.

However, since the opening of the island to tourism in the nineties,
many of them have come to Cuba through third countries. The basic change
in the last year and a half bas been the ability to set aside
circumspection, and jet-set American have turned Havana's streets into
their latest fashion show.

In the first quarter of this year about 100,000 Americans arrived in
Cuba, a figure that is double last year's number.

"I went to Viñales, Maria La Gorda beach, and tomorrow I'm going to
Holguin and Santiago de Cuba," Daniel details. "Part of the agenda was
prepared from there," he added. His program was put together thanks to
the increasing number of alternative agencies and private accommodations
that offer ever expanded services.

"I'm staying in a private home near Neptune Street and the family has
connected me with another to accommodate me in the East," says Daniel.
He prefers spending time "with the people, to get to know the country
better," but doesn't rule out "enjoying the Hotel Nacional or the
Riviera for the last two nights," two of the great architectural
obsessions of yumas who tour Havana.

"They come looking for anything that reminds them of the US presence in
Cuba: Hemingway's house, old cars, hotels that were erected with money
from the mafia and, of course, they want to try a famous Cuba Libre,"
explains Yamilé, a Havanan who runs a dance academy near the Prado and
also offers city tours and "escapes to all sorts of places."

"The yumas are now the preferred tourists, because they have money,
they're willing to pay for high quality, and they try to be nice,"
explains one of the guides working with Yamilé. "We have people who rent
rooms who will only accept Americans."

Ivón rents two rooms on Compostela Street, in the historic center of the
capital. "A few years ago having an American or an Israeli was a real
pain," he said. "We had to inform [the police] every time the tourist
left the room, talked to someone, or if they had a really big suitcase,"
but now "there are so many yumas" that the controls have eased up somewhat.

At Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, the immigration
officials' practice of stamping the visa on a separate piece of paper,
rather than on one of the pages of the US passport, remains in place.
This way the passport doesn't record the trip to Cuba.

In legal respects, for the United States they are not tourists, but
citizens who come to expand the "people to people" diplomacy pushed by
Obama. But Cuban ingenuity has also adapted to this furtive way of
entertainment and has created offerings that meet the requirements.

"We have a visit to the town of Regla to see the museum, which has very
good explanations of Santeria in Cuba, and then the program includes a
fiesta we they can dance and eat," explains Yamilé. "When the activities
are done, they are free to do whatever they want and go wherever they want."

Yoga classes, visits to ecologically interesting places, visits to small
industries, and even programs focused on helping Havana's abandoned
dogs, make up a part of the kaleidoscope of activities that have been
developed since the easing of travel for yumas.

"They just need a justification and we give it to them, we adapt to what
they need because we have people who know everything," boasts Yamilé.

In a bar in Old Havana, dozens of Cuba Libres are waiting for thirsty
yumas. "I see them and it's like they never left, as if they had always
been here," says the waiter, while mixing Cuban and American flavors.

Source: 'Yumas' In Cuba, "As If They Had Never Left" / 14ymedio, Zunilda
Mata – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/yumas-in-cuba-as-if-they-had-never-left-14ymedio-zunilda-mata/

The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba

The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 21 July 2016 — With blood-stained
clothes and wounds and bruises on her arms, Ana Margarito Perdigon Brito
returned to Miami from Havana's Jose Marti Airport this past June. No
one knew how to rationalize that the Cuban government prohibited her, a
citizen of that country whose paperwork was in order, from entering the
land of her birth.

"It is a form of revenge by the Cuban government towards emigrants. It
is a type of blackmail by which, if you behave as they desire – which is
to say, without being rebellious – you can enter your country; but if
you dare to criticize the regime you may lose that right," says the
activist who left Cuba in 2012 in order to live in the US.

The Cuban exile, who lives in Homestead in south Florida, tried to enter
Cuba for a second time in order to visit her sick mother in the Sancti
Spiritus province. "The first time they turned me away at the Miami
airport when I tried to fly to Santa Clara. On this second occasion,
they let me arrive in Havana, but once I was there, they told me I could
not enter the country because, according to the system, I was prohibited
entry into Cuba," she says.

Her passport is up-to-date and valid with the corresponding renewals
plus the authorization, an entrance permit for which Cubans living
abroad pay and that supposedly has "lifelong" validity, although it can
be nullified by Cuban officials.

She tried in vain to convince the immigration agents to let her speak
with a supervisor or to explain to her by what rationale they impeded
her access to a universal right. The answer was always the same: "The
system indicates that you are prohibited entry. You must go back," while
they insisted that if she wanted to enter the country, she would have to
seek a humanitarian visa.

The practice is not new; from Arturo Sandoval to Celia Cruz, a
considerable number of Cubans have had to deal with the all-powerful
Bureau of Immigration and Nationality in the last six decades in order
to enter the Island. In many cases unsuccessfully as has happened to
several people who could not even attend funerals for their parents.
Many experts thought that with the new immigration law enacted in 2012,
the situation would change, but it has not.

Perdigon believes that this is another sign of the Cuban government's
unscrupulousness as regards the diaspora. "They do not forgive me for
the activism that I carried out within Cuba," she explains.

Receiving no answer about her case, she tried to escape from the room
where the immigration officials had taken her, and she was hit and
wounded in a struggle. "I tried not to beg for my right but to win it
[because] no one is obliged to obey unjust laws," as Marti said.

Originally from the Sancti Spiritus province, she and her family
belonged to several independent movements, joining political parties and
initiatives favoring the promotion of human rights.

The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)
"On many occasions we were repressed, and we suffered acts of
repudiation. One afternoon, my little daughter came running in a fright
to warn me that many screaming people were coming. It was an act of
repudiation that they had prepared for me in the neighborhood. On
another occasion, they gave us a tremendous beating in a town called
Tuinucu and jailed us," she remembers.

Her case is not unique. According to independent statistics compiled by
media, dozens of similar stories have happened in recent years.
Nevertheless, there are no official data about the number of Cubans who
have been denied entry into the country.

"People do not demand their rights publicly, and they don't denounce
these arbitrary situations," comments Laritza Diversent Cambara, manager
of the Cubalex Legal Information Center, via telephone from Cuba. "When
we go to review statistics, countries like Canada have more complaints
about human rights violations than Cuba, and we all know that is because
of ignorance or lack of information about demanding their rights,
because if there is anything abundant in this country, it is human
rights violations," she contends.

According to the lawyer, denial of entry by nationals is not
contemplated in Cuban legislation. "It is a discretionary decision by
State Security or the Bureau of Immigration and Nationality, but there
exist no laws that regulate it, so people are exposed to the whims and
abuses of officials," opines the jurist.

"They cannot give the reasons for which they deny entry into the
country. They do not argue that he is a terrorist threat or that the
person lacks some document or formality. It is simply an arbitrary
decision," she adds.

The practice is not limited only to dissidents, activists and opponents.
Diversent says that her office handled the case of a rafter who left the
Island in 2011 and who continued traveling regularly, until in 2015 the
Cuban authorities told him that he could not enter the country again.

14ymedio has known of similar cases of journalists, members of religious
orders and doctors who took refuge in the Cuban Medical Professional
Parole (CMPP) offered by the United States.

"One time I made some statements to a local newspaper in Spain about the
hardship suffered by the Cuban people, and on return to the Island
several officers confronted me in the airport, telling that if I did
something like that again, they would revoke my temporary religious
residency," said a Spanish missionary who prefers for safety reasons not
to be named.

The methods for preventing entry are as varied as the steps to take for
immigration procedures in Cuba. There are people who have been denied
passport authorization, as was the case of the well-known visual artist
Aldo Menendez. On other occasions, Cubans are turned back at the last
minute from the airport from which they tried to fly to the Island, as
occurred to activist Ana Lupe Busto Machado, or they wait until they
land in Havana after having spent 450 dollars on passport preparation,
20 dollars on the entrance permit or 180 dollars on the renewals, plus
the price of passage from Miami which approaches 500 dollars, to tell
them that they cannot ever enter their country again.

14ymedio tried to communicate with the Cuban Office of Immigration and
Nationality, but authorities refused to respond to our questions.

"This kind of procedure should not surprise anyone," says attorney
Wilfredo Vallin, founder of the Cuban Law Association. "The government
has a long history of actions that do not abide by its own law. Until
recently wasn't there in effect an express and unconstitutional
prohibition against nationals entering hotels? What about human mobility
within the Island? Isn't that regulated, too?"

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Source: The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio,
Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-emigrant-must-earn-brownie-points-to-enter-cuba-14ymedio-mario-penton/

A Lighter Version of Cuba’s Special Period

A Lighter Version of Cuba's Special Period / Iván García

Iván García, 23 July 2016 — It was announced on Friday, July 8 that Cuba
had experienced an economic recession in the first half of this year and
that there would be cutbacks in fuel consumption. If the country had a
stock exchange or a convertible national currency, their fall would have
been dramatic.

It was a black Friday in Cuba, where there is not even a semblance of
Wall Street and the local currency is nothing more than paper.
Businesses and direct investments that increase GDP are scarce.
Prominent businesspeople and well-known multinationals survey the scene
like birds of prey yet do not dare to swoop down on their targets.

Cuba is a veritable marketing operation. While there is an abundance of
optimistic headlines, the public perceives no real impact from an
improved economy. More than a few Cubans feel cheated.

Just ask Dario, a man who takes care of cars and motorcycles in a
parking lot in eastern Havana, his opinion about the looming austerity
and you will notice the anger in his terse reply.

"Man, don't these guys (in the regime) realize they are playing with
fire? How long will people tolerate this 'prosperous and sustainable'
socialism? I don't believe any citizen of any country in the world would
put up with what we Cubans put up with. I don't know what we have done
to deserve such a shameless and dishonest government," he stresses as he
shelters from the blazing sun under the covered entryway of a grocery store.

The first round of cutbacks, which have occurred amid hot weather and
shortages, have already caused widespread discontent.

"I spent three hours waiting for the P5. A bus inspector told me it used
to come every fifteen or twenty minutes at peak hours. Now the wait is
forty minutes or longer. With this new Special Period, you can't venture
outside anymore," says a woman who has just attended a theater
performance with her granddaughter.

Air conditioners at stores, markets and business offices are turned off
from eight in the morning until one in the afternoon. "But my company
doesn't turn it on until after three in the afternoon," says an employee
of the telecommunications monopoly ETECSA.

"You can't go into the stores. The heat is unbearable; it feel like a
microwave. Then there are the scowls of the employees. The best thing we
can do is to escape by boat and for anyone who can to leave this shit
country," says Gustavo, a retiree who spends two hours scouring the
shops in the old part of the city looking for a six-pack of malt sodas
and two containers of fruit-flavored yogurt.

People are feeling the impact of cutbacks in fuel consumption and
services. However, the government has said that, for the moment, there
are no plans to cut electricity.

"The ones forced to spend huge amounts of time at bus stops or having to
do their banking and shopping without air conditioning are the people.
There aren't any electricity cuts in hotels and resorts, the air
conditioning there isn't turned off and food isn't scarce. If by chance
blackouts do return, I think people will explode. We can't take it
anymore," muses Manuel, a construction worker.

The new belt tightening is affecting salaries in some segments of the
workforce and could cause the prices of certain goods and services to
skyrocket.

"Because of changes in bus schedules, I now fumigate houses for a
living," says a laid-off bus driver. "I was making eleven to twelve
hundred pesos a month, which they were ripping me off in taxes. Now I
only make six hundred pesos as a fumigator. I would be better off
staying home and seeing what else I could do."

Several taxi cooperatives have already raised fares and cut back on the
number of rides. "It's impossible to get a taxi from Vedado to La Palma.
Now the taxi drivers divide the trip into thirds and you have to spend
thirty pesos to get to La Palma. If you're going to one of the beaches
in the east, the trip will cost at least three or four convertible pesos
(75 to 100 non-convertible pesos)," notes Diana, a hairdresser.

Rigoberto, an independent taxi driver, says, "On Sunday and Monday I
went around to some gas stations but they didn't have fuel. Some people
were selling petroleum for twelve pesos and gasoline for twenty. If
prices go up a lot, I'll raise the fare to twenty pesos a ride."

Orlando, a produce warehouse manager, hopes fuel cuts do not affect
agriculture. "If Acopio* was not transporting the crops on time before
and harvests were being lost, things could get complicated if there are
fuel shortages. And if food supplies becomes scarce, 'the cane (the
situation) will get sliced in three' and you can expect outbreaks of
mass violence. There have already been two cases in Havana," he says.

In a country mired in a continuing economic crisis that has lasted for
twenty-seven years, it seems too much to ask for new sacrifices from
citizens and for more austerity in their daily lives.

In an ultra-sensitive but politically apathetic society, the disastrous
combination of poverty and the inability to emigrate is like adding
phosphorous to gasoline. Remember August 1994.

*Translator's note: The state-run procurement and distribution agency.

Source: A Lighter Version of Cuba's Special Period / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/a-lighter-version-of-cubas-special-period-ivn-garca/

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Frankley OAP denied 'last goodbye' with dead wife in £20k Cuba medical bill row

Frankley OAP denied 'last goodbye' with dead wife in £20k Cuba medical
bill row
13:38, 24 JUL 2016 UPDATED 13:38, 24 JUL 2016
BY ANNETTE BELCHER

Widower talks for first time of 'hell' at losing Sheila Dumbleton during
dream holiday on paradise isle

A grief-stricken pensioner said his wife was "left to die" in a Cuban
hospital - because they could not pay a £20,000 medical bill.

Ray Dumbleton said he was even banned from saying a last goodbye to his
beloved Sheila, his soulmate of 34 years, as her body lay alone .

The 67-year-old, from Frankley , said his ordeal was like "hell on Earth".

He said: "If you think of a World War Two scene, then that might just
start to come close."

Sheila died in hospital in Holguin, Cuba, after falling ill on the sixth
day of what had been planned as the couple's 'dream holiday'.

Despite taking out 'gold cover' travel insurance, she was unable to
claim for her medical treatment and was left with a £20,000 medical bill.

The 57-year-old, who suffered a stroke, a bleed on the brain and other
complications, died while she was receiving treatment in hospital.

Now, her distraught family have been ordered to settle her medical bill
to pay and must also find an extra £7,000 to bring Sheila's body home.

"It felt that, as soon as the hospital knew we couldn't pay, they left
her to deteriorate," Ray said.

Sheila's daughter, Erica McCleary, and her stepbrother Lance Dumbleton
"All the doctors kept saying to us was 'payment, payment' but we didn't
have the money to give them.

"The conditions in that hospital were horrendous – something I find hard
to put into words.

"There were dead bodies left uncovered.

"It was as if they didn't care about people's dignity.

"They wouldn't even allow me to see my wife's body and pay my last
respects to her.

"They just kept saying it was Cuban law.

"I will never get that chance again. They have broken my heart,

"I kept saying: 'Forget Cuban law, I want to see my wife'.

"But they would not allow me that last moment with her.

"I felt powerless over there.

"At one point they even threatened to put me into prison if I carried on
demanding to see her.

"As soon as Sheila died, it felt like they couldn't get me out of the
country quickly enough.

"It was like nothing I had ever seen before – I was treated like a VIP,
ushered straight through customs and there were no security checks.

"Now, I am glad to be back home but I will cannot rest until Sheila is
back here with her family.

"The only saving grace was that I did meet some lovely people out there
and without them, I probably would not have got through this ordeal."

A spokesman for White Horse Insurance Ireland, with whom the couple had
travel insurance, said: "We were very sorry to hear of Mrs Dumbleton's
circumstances.

"Regrettably, as Mrs Dumbleton's medical history was not disclosed, her
claim was not covered by her insurance policy."

Relatives launched a fundraising drive when they discovered Sheila had
fallen ill and would be unable to claim on her insurance.

A GoFund me campaign was launched to pay the medical bill and bring her
home alive – but she died before the target could be reached.

"We have raised more than £4,000 already, so if it's just the £7,000
then we could probably do it," said daughter Erica McCleary.

"But we still don't know if they will allow us to bring Mum home without
paying the medical bill.

"I cannot begin to say how generous and kind people have been after
reading about our story.

"We have had complete strangers offering us large amounts of money. One
person even offered us their life savings just so that we can get Mum's
body home.

"We just want Mum home with us so we are able to grieve properly, as a
family.

"It's good to finally have Ray home with us after him being stuck out
there for a month but we need to be allowed to grieve properly.

"This whole process has been a nightmare and it's still not over.

"We managed to go out and see Mum when she first fell ill but we were
not allowed much time with her. and we didn't really feel like she was
being cared for properly."

Sheila became a great-grandmother while she was in Cuba but never got to
meet her first great grandchild.

Source: Frankley OAP denied 'last goodbye' with dead wife in £20k Cuba
medical bill row - Birmingham Mail -
http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/frankley-oap-denied-last-goodbye-11653231

When we achieve justice we can build a new society

"When we achieve justice we can build a new society" / 14ymedio, Ofelia
Acevedo, Mario Penton, Luz Escobar

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Luz Escobar, Miami, 22 July 2016 – His name is
tattooed on the skin of a Cuban graffiti artist (Danilo Maldonado, known
as El Sexto) or is suggested by the letter L, standing for Liberty,
formed by the angle between the index finger and the thumb, increasingly
displayed by those asking for democracy. The legacy of Oswaldo Payá
Sardiñas (1952-2012) and Harold Cepero (1980-2012) lives on in the
nation for which they worked their hearts out and ultimately sacrificed
their lives. Four years after the tragic crash that claimed their lives,
and that their families and international organizations have classified
as a settling of accounts by the repressive Cuban apparatus, 14ymedio
speaks with Ofelia Acevedo, widow of Payá, former president of the
Christian Liberation Movement (MCL).

14ymedio: A few days ago the one year anniversary of the reopening of
the embassies between the United States and Cuba was celebrated. Could
we be closer to justice in the case of Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá?

Acevedo: The restoration of diplomatic relations has been good. It is
clear that it is the Cuban government that does not continue the normal
process that this rapprochement should take. On the other hand, justice
is the most important step to achieve real change in the Cuban nation.
To look forward in our country we need justice. The Christian tradition
makes it very clear: if there is a recognition of the truth, there will
be justice and forgiveness.

Once we have achieved justice we can talk about reconciliation between
Cubans. We Cubans must seek it, starting by reclaiming our rights. This
is a key step for the future. The greatest injustice is to deprive the
Cuban people of our rights, because of this there has been so much
misery and we have not progressed. Human rights are natural and inherent
in the person. When we achieve justice we can build a new society, and
for this it is important that this crime does not go unpunished.

14ymedio: How has the family faced the loss of your husband?

Acevedo: We are a very close family. We love each other very much and
miss him so much. We live in our faith that sustains us. Our faith makes
us believe that truth, justice and democracy are possible for our
people. All of Oswaldo's work is imbued with a great deal of hope, of
Christian hope. That is what helps us go on in the midst of the adverse
environment in which we sometimes live. Oswaldo believed greatly in the
betterment of humanity and in the individual, as José Martí said. He
looked for ways to give Cubans the tools to decide their future. He
understood that change begins with the ability to decide. He affirmed
that dialog is the only way to change Cuba, an unconditional dialog, one
without exclusions and among all Cubans.

14ymedio: How do you perceive the Cuban opposition four years after the
death of its most prestigious leader?

Acevedo: In Cuba there are probably more opponents than there were in
Central Europe in 1989. The Cuban opposition has done a great job. We
know that the government and intelligence services create moles,
"construct" figures, infiltrate groups, defame and blackmail their
opponents. This has existed and does exist, they are intransigents with
those who don't think like they do and who have the courage to raise
their voice to express it. We Cubans who want changes have to think for
ourselves and think about others, think about the Cuban people. We have
to forget about egos and go where the people are to explain what are the
steps for them to begin to demand their own rights, because they are the
ones who should decide. We have to be with the people in this.

14ymedio: What happened to the Christian Liberation Movement after the
death of Oswaldo Payá?

Acevedo: The movement received a very strong blow with the death of
Oswaldo and Harold. Even before, the persecutions against them were very
strong. It was the movement that had the most political prisoners and
they were all exiled to Spain without the option to stay. At this time,
within Cuba, the MCL is decimated, is my impression. The repression
against them is very strong.

14ymedio: How was the experience of exile for your family? Will you
return to Cuba?

Acevedo: My family never thought of going into exile. After Oswaldo's
murder I made the decision to go into exile for my children, because
State Security was focused on my oldest son. They prevented my daughter
Rosa María from starting work at a research center where she already had
a place. I panicked and decided to leave because of "them" (State
Security). Friends, neighbors, everyone was terrorized, because the
whole world knew what had happened and that they enjoy total impunity.

I am working as a teacher and wondering when I can return to my country.
I want to return to Cuba, but I hope that things improve because it
costs me a lot to have to face them. My rejection of them is huge. I
know I have to deal with them but it's very difficult, because of what
they are doing, what they did, how they have made my family and our
people suffer.

Acevedo: The only meeting I had with them was a week after Oswaldo's
funeral. They called me in to ask if I was going to ask from
compensation from Angel Carromero [the leader of the youth organization
New Generations of the Popular Party of Madrid, who was driving the car
in which Payá died and who was convicted of manslaughter). I told them I
would not accept their version and I wanted to talk with the survivors.
They never granted me that. The Cuban penal code does not give the
victims a chance. My children were not allowed to attend the trial,
which the regime had announced would be public. There was an immense
repression in Bayamo [where the trial was held]. We could not carry out
any legal action because a lawyer friend of the family said there was no
chance to demand anything because of the criminal code.

I asked the government and the hospital for the autopsy report. They
have never given it to me. I spoke to State Security, with Legal
Medicine. Everyone told me that the hospital had to give me the report.
The hospital administration, at six in the evening, after I did whatever
paperwork was possible, told me to send it to them by mail and gave me a
telephone number. The number didn't work and we are still waiting on the
autopsy. I wrote to the minister of Public Health. Rosa María tried to
deliver a letter to the Cuban embassy, but they wouldn't even let her
enter the diplomatic site. Then we sent the letter in Cuba and we we had
a receipt for it, but they have never answered.

14ymedio: What did Aron Modig (former leader of the Swedish Christian
Democrat Party youth organization who was also in the car at the time of
the crash) say about the day he Payá and Harold died?

Acevedo: Modig maintains his position. He doesn't remember anything
until reaching the hospital. It is a selective loss of memory. To me
there are things that bother me sometimes in the media, because they
talk about an accident, when we all know that it was a murder. A report
by the international organization The Human Rights Foundation and
another by physics professors at Florida International University
demonstrated that it is impossible for [the crash] to have happened in
the way the Cuban State says it did.

14ymedio: What legacy have Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá left?

Acevedo: The blood of freedom fighters is the seed of free men. This
applies to Harold, Oswaldo, to all who have given their lives for human
rights. The blood of innocent people, those who give their lives for
others, is not spilled in vain. They crashed Oswaldo's cars* when he was
in the street. We keep fighting to give the Cuban people the possibility
of deciding, which was Oswaldo's fight as well. The Cuban government, in
exchange, fights to destroy Cubans' hopes.

*Translator's note: There was a similar incident with another vehicle
Oswaldo Payá was traveling in prior to the fatal crash.

Source: "When we achieve justice we can build a new society" / 14ymedio,
Ofelia Acevedo, Mario Penton, Luz Escobar – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/when-we-achieve-justice-we-can-build-a-new-society-14ymedio-ofelia-acevedo-mario-penton-luz-escobar/

Oscar Arias Asks Fariñas To Suspend His Hunger Strike

Oscar Arias Asks Fariñas To Suspend His Hunger Strike / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 23 July 2016 — In a letter published Saturday by the
former president of Costa Rica and 1987 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize,
Oscar Arias Sanchez asks his "friend" Guillermo Fariñas to "lift his
hunger and thirst strike."

Arias Sanchez explains that the hunger strike will not succeed as a
recourse to persuade the government of the island "that you cannot
pursue noble ends with ignoble means." He also says that Cuba "is not a
different democracy" but rather is "a dictatorship." The former Costa
Rican president (1986-1990 and 2006-2010) recalled the case of regime
opponent Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after an 86-day hunger strike.
He did not manage "to convince the Cuban regime that it was necessary to
preserve the life of this person, regardless of any ideological
differences" and nor did he move "the compassion of the Cuban dictatorship."

The missive, published on Arias Sanchez's Facebook account, says that
"nothing we could do could save Orlando Zapata." He emphasized that his
voice will not be silent as long as "they continue to violate human
rights in Cuba" and that he has lived long enough "to know that there is
nothing worse than being afraid to tell the 'truth'."

Guillermo Fariñas, 2010 recipient of the European Parliament's Sakharov
Prize for Freedom of Thought, declared himself on a hunger and thirst
strike in the early hours of Wednesday, July 20 to demand that the
beatings of non-violent opposition members in Cuba be stopped and that a
dialogue be opened with government.

Friday, Fariñas added a third demand which requires the regime to "cease
the arbitrary confiscations from the self-employed, small businesses and
entrepreneurs and all Cubans who are being violently attacked" by the
"military."

Fariñas expressed solidarity with Carlos Amel Oliva, youth leader of the
Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), who began a hunger strike on July 13
"to protest the arbitrary confiscations" and said he would continue the
strike until the belongings that were confiscated from him are returned.
On Friday, one of the 75 dissidents imprisoned during the Black Spring
of 2003, Eduardo Diaz Fleitas, joined the hunger strike.

Source: Oscar Arias Asks Fariñas To Suspend His Hunger Strike / 14ymedio
– Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/oscar-arias-asks-farinas-to-suspend-his-hunger-strike-14ymedio/

America’s Conflicted Cuba Policy

America's Conflicted Cuba Policy
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD JULY 23, 2016

One year after the United States and Cuba formally re-established
diplomatic relations, the two governments have made considerable, if
halting, progress toward rebuilding what has been the most poisonous
relationship in the hemisphere.

Washington and Havana have agreed to cooperate on health care
challenges, maritime issues, agriculture, climate change and
environmental initiatives. Commercial flights between the two countries
are expected to start this fall. American telecommunications and hotel
companies have signed a handful of deals to do business in Cuba, marking
the first commercial forays into a market that has been off limits for
decades.

The longstanding trade embargo, however, remains firmly in place, and
efforts in Congress to begin dismantling it have made little headway.
While the White House promotes engagement as the most promising approach
to enable positive change, a stubborn coalition of lawmakers insists
that the United States remains morally obligated to keep sanctions in
place until — in the words of the Republican Party platform — the
island's "corrupt rulers are forced from power and brought to account
for their crimes against humanity." The result is a conflicted, indeed
incoherent, policy that prevents the two countries from making the most
of their shared agenda.

Some positive things have happened on the Cuban side since December
2014, when Washington and Havana announced their intention to normalize
relations. Cubans have grown bolder in pressing for reforms to Cuba's
centrally planned economy, as well as for broader access to the
internet. The government has taken modest steps on both fronts,
establishing dozens of Wi-Fi areas where ordinary Cubans can connect
online and signaling its willingness to create a regulatory framework
for small and midsize private enterprises.

Dissident groups, meanwhile, report that their ranks have grown
steadily, as more Cubans are sold on their vision of representative
democracy with strong safeguards for civil liberties. Opposition groups
are preparing to field candidates next year for the lowest rung of
Cuba's election system — the only one the Communist Party does not fully
control — hoping to transform the system gradually from the bottom up.

Economic changes are moving very slowly, but this could change if the
embargo were lifted. Popular pressure for more sweeping reforms would
grow, and the government would find it harder to justify its crackdowns
on dissidents by claiming they are agents of a foreign conspiracy.

Cuba's worsening economy, brought about in part by political and
economic turmoil in Venezuela, long Cuba's benefactor, could also be a
catalyst for reform. Earlier this month, President Raúl Castro warned in
strikingly blunt terms that Cubans should brace for a period of austerity.

Some congressional proponents of continuing the embargo might see Cuba's
difficulties as an opportunity to squeeze the octogenarian Castro
brothers during their last years in power. That would be a mistake.
Cuba's shoddy infrastructure would continue to deteriorate, foreign
investors would recoil, already marginal communities would become even
poorer and the exodus of desperate Cubans to the United States would
accelerate. It seems highly unlikely that this scenario would usher in
an era of greater freedoms. But it certainly would sow misery.

Source: America's Conflicted Cuba Policy - The New York Times -
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/24/opinion/sunday/americas-conflicted-cuba-policy.html?_r=0

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Future of Cuba, According to the Regime

The Future of Cuba, According to the Regime / Iván García

Iván García, 24 June 2016 — "Twenty minutes. Neither more nor less,"
says Emilio, a civil engineer. This was the time he took at work to
"analyze" a document replete with jargon, approved by the Seventh
Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, celebrated this past April in
Havana.

"Imagine: The boss had authorized us to carry out a 'motivation' for
Father's Day. We took up a collection and bought three bottles of rum
and two cartons of beer. But at noon, a guy from the union showed up for
a meeting with 'the agents of the municipality,' to discuss the economic
model and the future of Cuba," comments the engineer.

With this mechanical way of functioning that the much-extolled
participative democracy trumpeted by the olive-green Regime has, two
Party functionaries from the municipality of Cerro, together with the
secretary of the union from the business, quickly read the introduction
of the new Castro evangelism. "Then it was put to a vote," says Emilio.

As usual, all the workers of the business voted unanimously in favor of
everything in the tome, without knowing or analyzing its contents. Then
the party continued, listening to Reggaeton at full blast and drinking
alcohol like pirates.

On June 14, in the editorial, "A debate for the future," published that
day in the newspaper, Granma, the organ of the Communist Party of Cuba,
the process of consultation for the "construction of a prosperous and
sustainable socialism" was kick-started. The debate will extend up to
September 20.

It deals with — and here the jargon starts — the "Conceptualization of
the Cuban Economic and Social Model of Socialist Development" and the
"National Plan of Economic and Social Development up to 2030: Proposal
of the nation's vision, ideas and strategic sectors."

In the editorial it's argued that the texts, of "transcendental
importance (…) are not the fruit of improvisation but are the result of
a collective elaboration, under the direction of the Party, in which
university professors, academics, researchers from the economic and
social sciences and officials of the Government and the Party
participated." And it underscores that "they [the texts] were debated in
meetings of the Political Bureau, in two plenary sessions of the Central
Committee, submitted for consult to all the deputies of the National
Assembly of People Power, to several thousand more people, and then
exhaustively examined in the Congress."

According to Granma, after the Communist conference "approves in
principle both documents," it will "order the Central Committee to carry
out a consultation process, with the clearly defined proposal to enrich
and perfect them." And it stresses that "they are comprehensive
documents of great complexity that will mark the course of the Cuban
revolutionary process, the Party and society," looking to the future.

The main Cuban State medium clarifies that "680,000 copies of a 32-page
tabloid were printed," destined for "the organizations of base and the
collectives where they will be debated." Another 200,000 copies were
sold to the population and also are available on the Party's digital
sites, in the newspaper, Granma, and the portal, Cubadebate, so they can
be "studied in a society that is more and more computerized."

As if that weren't enough, the first Vice President of the Council of
State and Ministers, Miguel Díaz-Canel, announced a "novel application
created by professors and students of the faculty of Mathematics,
Physics and Computation, belonging to the Marta Abreu Central University
of Las Villas." The application was qualified as an "instrument of
extraordinary value," since it would facilitate discussions about the
documents in question.

In its editorial of June 14, Granma predicts that "these steps will
contribute to making the discussions fully democratic, rich in content,
concrete in ideas and projections." It explains why the Seventh Congress
"won't be able to finish the elaboration of the National Plan of
Development up to 2030, owing to its great technical complexity," an
objective that "it should attain next year."

And it reminds us that "as Congress ordered, this version will be
submitted to the Central Committee for its definitive approval and sent
for analysis to the National Assembly of People Power, the legislative
body that will make it legal."

The Communist Party of Cuba, through its official organ, "invites the
active participation of millions of Cubans, militants or not, convened
for this consultation, essential for consolidating consensus about the
future of Cuba."

Before the beginning of what it defines as "ample national discussion,"
the editorial already predicts the intervention of "enemies, skeptics,
doubters, those who echo the campaigns of detractors from the Exterior
against the Party and the Revolution, and those who dream of returning
to a society subject to Yankee desires and pretensions."

I don't think any larger amount of delusions can be condensed into a
newspaper article. Although it supposes that the future of Cuba might
interest Cubans, such verbal alienation frightens even its followers.

In Sueño de pais [Dream of a Country], the journalist, Giselle Morales,
in the newspaper, Escambray, from Sancti Spiritus, writes: "You don't
have to give it so many twists: the tabloid that is being submitted to
popular consultation this June 15 and up to September 20, with two texts
coming from the Seventh Party Congress, is a dense document. Dense and
difficult to understand for a citizen who isn't seasoned in abstractions
and strategies."

Probably, for their mental health, a wide segment of compatriots aren't
reading the State press, or they turn down the sound of the national
news about "science fiction politics" when its presenter, Rafael
Serrano, starts to spout nonsense.

Believe me. I tried to converse with friends and neighbors to get their
opinions about the Party document that designed the future of the
nation. But no one wanted to give an opinion. Or they didn't read the
tabloid; or it simply didn't interest them to comment about what they
consider an absurdity.

I ran into Ramona, retired, in a tobacco shop in the slum of la Víbora
buying several copies. "No, man, no. I'm not going to read this crap. I
use it to wrap garbage or as toilet paper."

Ricardo, a driver of a collective taxi from La Palma to the Parque
Fraternidad, commiserates with me: "Brother, it's really hard to be a
journalist in Cuba. People don't want to give an opinion because they
know that all this is a joke. We've had almost 60 years of the same
devil. Write something else," he counsels me.

Among those who are reading and analyzing the new official Bible are
dissidents, alternative journalists and political analysts of diverse
tendencies. "It's still too soon to give an opinion," an independent
press colleague told me.

I would like to be objective. But to pick apart, point by point, the
incongruencies and the colossal absurdity that Raúl Castro's government
is selling us as a future promise requires time and patience.

"The document doesn't even have validity as a bad joke," affirms
Ricardo, the taxi driver. For that reason, a majority of Cubans on the
street aren't bothering to read it.

Martí Noticias, June 22, 2016

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: The Future of Cuba, According to the Regime / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-future-of-cuba-according-to-the-regime-ivn-garca/

One Hundred Workers From India Rush To Complete Hotel In Havana

One Hundred Workers From India Rush To Complete Hotel In Havana / 14ymedio

14ymedio, 21 July 2106 – Over 100 workers from India are working on the
construction of the Manzana de Gomez hotel in Havana, being
reconstructed by the French construction group Bouygues, according to
Reuters. This is the first time there has been a massive contracting of
foreign labor on the island.

The company resorted to the exception introduced by the Cuban government
in the Foreign Investment Law, that authorizes "special regulations"
with regards to foreign workers in "special circumstances."

Apparently the delays experienced in the construction of the hotel,
whose opening was scheduled for October 2016, in a context of high
tourist demand, are the extraordinary reason, which has led to the
contracting for these workers.

Although the government has not responded to questions fro Reuters, the
workers interviewed by the agency and information confirmed by sources
from the company, this appears to be the first time a company has passed
over state workers on the island to hire their own from elsewhere.

A spokesman for the French Company, which it currently building three
hotels in Cuba, says that Bouygues has plans to bring more Indian
workers to the island, currently being trained, in the coming months.

Inderjeet Singh Chopra, one of the workers interviewed by Reuters, said
more than a hundred of his compatriots are engaged on the island working
as electricians, plumbers, carpenters and masons.

Similarly, a diplomat quoted by the agency, estimated that they are
paying the Indians around 1,500 euros a month, more than ten times what
a Cuban receives. "The Cuban workers are not well paid, so they have
very little motivation," he said.

Source: One Hundred Workers From India Rush To Complete Hotel In Havana
/ 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/one-hundred-workers-from-india-rush-to-complete-hotel-in-havana-14ymedio/

Travel, Whatever the Cost

Travel, Whatever the Cost / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

The "last minute" terminal in Havana for the purchase of interprovincial
bus and train tickets. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 18 July 2016 – "Give me the
suitcase, I'm off to the countryside," says the chorus of a tune that
gets more popular during the school holidays. Many families visit their
relatives in rural areas, travel to tourist destinations in other
provinces, or spend some days camping far from home. Interprovincial
transport collapses with the high demand in July and August, while
customers' criticisms also intensify.

Under a roof of metal tiles that converts the place into a free sauna,
hundreds of people are waiting this weekend to travel "last minute" or
"on the waiting list" from the terminal on Puerto Avenue in Old Havana.
Some of them no longer remember when they got there, because the hours
have passed one after another, without hearing the good news that their
number in line can board the next bus.

The expansive hall is a place where people spend a lot of time.
Friendships are created there, some play cards and others take advantage
of no one looking to have a sip of alcohol to help them forget the
fatigue. The most impatient end up paying a private car to take them to
their destination at ten times the price of the official ticket.

Iliana has worked there since they opened the new "last minute" terminal
and knows that in these summer months the provinces most in demand are
those in the east of the country. A situation that is repeated "at the
end and beginning of the year, on some special dates such as Mother's
Day, school holiday weeks and summers."

Near Iliana a woman dozes on a suitcase, a little boy cries because he's
hot and a furtive peanut seller manages to sell some of his merchandise.
All are attentive to the monitors that announce the numbers on the
waiting list that can board the next bus, but for several hours no
vehicle "has seats."

A murmur of discontent spreads among the passengers with the first
numbers on the list of routes that are longest, to the east of the
island. "That's because the drivers themselves and the conductors resell
free spaces before they get here," complains a father with three kids.

The man asserts that the buses leave from the central Astro terminal,
near the Plaza of the Revolution, and between there and the waiting list
terminal
"the employees themselves sell the unoccupied seats, arriving at the
terminal with only one or two, to be consistent with the formalities."
No other passengers join in the customer's outraged complaint, some look
at the floor and others fan themselves mechanically, their eyes glazed over.

The most prudent travelers are not at this location. They bought their
tickets three months ago from the state interprovincial bus system, but
such a decision takes a lot of forethought and quite a bit of risk. "I
just had to be sure of getting to Morón after my wife confirmed she'd
have a vacation from work," said Raudel, who is from Ciego de Avila but
has been living in Havana for the last two decades and this weekend is
waiting at the "last minute" station.

Two young men in a corner of the hall decide not to wait any longer.
"I'll buy the ticket outside, because I have to be at my sister's
wedding in Palmarito del Cauto and if I don't leave now I won't get
there in time," one of them tells several customers who are seated
nearby. The young man will add to the 169 peso coast of a Santiago de
Cuba some 15 convertible pesos – for a total of more than three times
the official price – to get there.

"It won't fail me," he says, and he notes a connoisseur of the
"mechanism" that makes things appear even when the blackboard says
they're out. "I pay and I get on the bus a few blocks from here," he
explains. "No one sees me and it's just an agreement between the driver
and me."

Some have listened to the call to be careful. "The inspectors are
everywhere," warns a woman heading to Trinidad. There is a lot of
surveillance, but it doesn't fix the problems with transport, what they
have to do is import more cars and lower the prices of the tickets which
are too high," she says.

In the recently concluded session of the National Assembly, the deputies
criticized the constant violations in the itineraries in urban and
interprovincial transport in the country. Also figuring into the debate
were the corruption in the sale of tickets at some terminals,
irregularities in the vehicle control stations, and the poor maintenance
of the roads.

The deputies also mentioned the lack of comfort in the Yutong buses –
from China – which operate on the interprovincial routes of the state
company Astro, the lack of information for travelers, the disconnect
between ticket prices and service, the overuse of the equipment and the
poor cleaning standards. But this is only a distant echo for travelers
who, lately, suffer firsthand the rigors of getting around the island.

Night begins to fall in the "last minute" terminal and some get
comfortable in a corner planning to sleep on their luggage. "I do this
twice a month, so this place is like my second home," says a young woman
who studies at the Higher Institute of Art. The rain sounds on the metal
tiles and the loudspeaker emits the lucky numbers of those who will take
the next bus.

Source: Travel, Whatever the Cost / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/travel-whatever-the-cost-14ymedio-marcelo-hernandez/

Is This the Second Phase of Cuba’s Special Period?

Is This the Second Phase of Cuba's Special Period? / Iván García

Joel, a fifty-five-year-old engineer, remembers the summer of 1994 when,
after finishing his day job, he came home to roast two or three pounds
of peanuts. After packaging them in paper cones fashioned from the pages
of school textbooks, he went out to sell them on the street and make a
little extra money.

As a result of sudden inflation, his salary lost its purchasing power.
"At first I was embarrassed," he recalls. "I was a skilled professional,
but I had to feed my children. The Special Period was terrifying. The
peso's value evaporated. My wife and I had to look for other options to
survive. I sold peanuts and she became a landlady."

Cubans over twenty-five would like to forget this period of daily
twelve-hour blackouts, one meager hot meal a day and a primitive,
subsistence economy. The Special Period most closely resembled a war
without aerial bombardment.

Oxen replaced tractors and public transportation turned into an ordeal.
Cats, frogs and pigeons became sources of protein in the family diet.
Along with food shortages, Cubans had to get around by taking long walks
or pedaling heavy Chinese bicycles. People lost weight. Others fainted
due to malnutrition and many became ill.

The dollar soared. The exchange rate was one dollar for 150 pesos. An
avocado cost 100 pesos and a pound of rice went for 120. The constant
pressure of Fidel Castro's unbending single-mindedness erupted in the
so-called Maleconazo* on August 5, 1994. This mass uprising in Havana
was sparked because men and women of all ages were desperate to emigrate.

Then came Hugo Chavez. He was like a Caribbean Santa Claus. An
ideological ally of Fidel Castro, he hooked up the island to a petroleum
pipeline.

Officially, the ongoing economic crisis in Cuba has not ended, though
inflation has been reduced. Modest reforms have allowed small private
businesses to open and independent farmers to sell surplus produce at
market-rate prices, which have improved daily life.

But now people suspect that, given the economic, social and political
crisis in Venezuela, we may once again be seeing a period of extensive
blackouts, malnutrition and a 35% contraction in GDP looming on the horizon.

Sources have confirmed to Marti Noticias that, starting on July 1, a
series of cuts to public services will be implemented. Luis Alberto, a
bus driver in Havana's Lawton district, says that "in the coming days
the number of trips along various routes will be reduced in order to
save fuel. Some drivers will be laid off and will have to join work
brigades or fumigate houses in the fight against the Aedes aegypti
mosquito."

Daniela, an employee of the telecommunications monopoly ETECSA, says
that "after a company meeting it was decided to make some adjustments.
The amount of fuel for transport will be reduced. Air-conditioners in
offices will be turned off after 2:00 PM. Some staff will see their
salaries and work schedules cut by half or will be assigned to other
duties. It won't affect all branches of ETECSA, though. Crews working on
the internet pilot plan in Old Havana, for example, will not see cuts."

Nuria, an official at the electric company says, "New measures are
definitely being taken to reduce fuel and electricity consumption but
not to the degree that many people think. For now, there are no
scheduled blackouts planned. The electrical distribution network is
powered by domestically produced diesel and is not dependent on
Venezuelan oil. But if fuel consumption targets in all the provinces are
not met, there could be blackouts."

A worker at CUPET, the state petroleum company, points out, "So far,
there has been no reduction in the number of barrels of oil imported
from Venezuela. But it is true they have taken measures to reduce fuel
consumption, which has shot up, and to have a larger reserve in case
there are negative developments in Venezuela."

"And what if Nicolas Maduro and his party lose power through a recall
vote and the Venezuelan opposition cancels the energy contracts? Is the
Cuban government prepared to deal with the loss of this supply?" I ask him.

"I assume the government is prepared for this eventuality but I don't
have any evidence to support this," he adds.

Conrado, an economist, does not believe this amounts to a second phase
of the Special Period but the Venezuelan crisis and the contraction of
the Cuban economy in 2016 are worrying signs.

"There's no denying that, if the state of affairs in Venezuela were to
change, our economy would suffer," says the economist. "But it wouldn't
be like the years that coincided with the collapse of the USSR and the
Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe. Imports and exports are more diversified
now than they were then. I must add, however, that the country's
purchasing power does not allow it to buy ninety to a hundred barrels of
oil a day on the world market, even with prices at less than thirty
dollars a barrel. In the worst case scenario there could be significant
fuel reductions in some industrial and service sectors, and blackouts
might return, though they would not be as prolonged as they were before."

For Carlos, a sociologist, the million-dollar question is whether people
are prepared for a new period of shortages and blackouts.

"Since 1994, the harshest year of the Special Period, more than 800,000
Cubans have emigrated, either legally or illegally. The country has felt
the impact. The emigres included professionals and, more significantly,
young people. There was no sector of society — whether it be sports,
culture or industry — that has not suffered significant losses due to
the exodus."

He adds, "The aging of the population and the dissatisfaction of most
citizens with what they consider to be a bad government places Cuba in a
different context today than it was in twenty years ago. In spite of
Raul Castro's economic reforms, emigration has increased. And another
Special Period, no matter how mild, would increase social anxiety, which
is already quite high. In a hypothetical situation like this, the
reaction cannot be predicted."

Faced with the silence of the official press, Havana residents often
turn to the internet to communicate with family members and friends
overseas and to search for information on international and independent
Cuban websites. This was the case with Elvira, a sixty-six-year-old
retiree who — after reading the article "Alarm in Cuba" on the
Florida-based Cuban news website Cubanet — decided to look further into
the alarming news.

"A few days later, I read a Reuters article about anticipated
electricity and fuel cuts in Cuba," she says. "For me this confirmed
that things are serious. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. I told my
children that we must be prepared for this Special Period so that we are
not as unprotected as we were the last time."

Misinformation generates rumors. Cuban state media tries to control them
by offering the public clear explanations about the country's 2016-2017
economic and financial situation.

It is the least they can do for those Cubans who who lived through the
era, labelled by Fidel Castro the "Special Period in a Time of Peace,"
as well as for those who are too young to remember it.

Neither Joel the engineer nor Elvira the retiree think there will be a
new Special Period, barring "a time of war." But neither do they believe
the government has a Plan B to deal with the approaching storm.

Marti Noticias, July 4, 2016

*Translator's note: A spontaneous demonstration named for the seaside
promenade and avenue where it began. After Cuban authorities seized four
boats headed to the United States without authorization, demonstrators
attacked police, looted stores and shouted anti-government slogans. It
later spread to other parts of central Havana and over one-hundred
people were arrested before it was put down. It served as a prelude to a
mass exodus from the country which occurred later that year.

Source: Is This the Second Phase of Cuba's Special Period? / Iván García
– Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/is-this-the-second-phase-of-cubas-special-period-ivn-garca/

It Has Sparked Harsh Repression

"It Has Sparked Harsh Repression" / 14ymedio

14ymedio, 21 July 2106 — The harassment against the Patriotic Union of
Cuba (UNPACU) intensifies. Several activists of the opposition
organization have denounced the up to five raids that took place in the
early morning hours this Thursday.

Ovidio Martin Castellanos, a member of UNPACU's Coordination Council in
Santiago de Cuba, confirmed to 14ymedio that antiriot troops entered the
home of Jose Maria Heredia, on 8th Street in the Mariano de la Torre
neighborhood. "They mixed antiriot troops with the political police. At
the front was a Major from counterintelligence who calls himself Bruno.
Once inside the house, they seized and stole his possessions.

Carlos Amel Oliva, on hunger strike since last July 13 "to protest the
arbitrary confiscations" experienced similar interventions to those of
last night, also explained in detail the raid on the house where the
Heredia cell is organized and where the father of the youth leader
Carlose Oliva lives.

"The operation was led by three State Security officers known as
Charles, Bruno and Julio Fonseca. The troops were assault troops,
officers fully clothed in bullet-proof vests with long shotguns. They
entered my house, tearing down the first door, and taking a video camera
and some documents. They also went into the house of some neighbors who
have shown a lot of solidarity with me in previous days and took a
laptop and hard disk from them," he said.

The operation was even extended to a kindergarten managed by UNPACU that
serves 20 children, children of sympathizers of the movement. There they
confiscated a laptop and "frightened the coordinator who cares for the
children," according to the activists, who were relieved that the raid
occurred at dawn and that there were no children in the house.

"It has sparked a harsh repression," says Ovidio Martin, who adds that
at Yasmani Magaña's house, in Palmarito de Cauto, various slogans were
painted on the walls, including "Viva Fidel." According to the opponent,
eleven people were detained in this operation, driven approximately 10
miles away and beaten before being released far from town.

"This wave of repression comes because the regime knows the situation
that is looming. They are preparing the population for a new Special
Period, because people don't want to live through that again. To us, we
are determined to take to the streets and we have attracted their
sympathy, and they have intensified harassment because they are afraid
that people are joining and becoming activists," he says.

Carlos Amel has taken advantage of the new wave of attacks against the
organization he belongs to, to detail the reasons for his hunger strike.
Despite being determined not to eat until they return his belongings, he
clarifies the meaning of his words. "It is not [for] a laptop and a
computer, they are things that are not worth the life of any human
being, but because they arrest us when we go out. Or come into our homes
and take whatever they want. This is a constant violation of our
rights," he denounces.

Oliva has shown his appreciation for the support he has received from
his organization and other opposition groups such as Somos+ (We Are
More) and FANTU (Anti-Totalitarian Forum), and in real solidarity with
Guillermo 'Coco' Fariñas, on hunger strike as of this Wednesday.

"I am a little weak physically, but firm in my position," says Oliva. "I
have received many calls from abroad, from friends, from media… it is
very comforting, for someone on a hunger strike this is the only source
of strength."

Source: "It Has Sparked Harsh Repression" / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba
- http://translatingcuba.com/it-has-sparked-harsh-repression-14ymedio/

Havana Club vs. Havana Club - Inside the rum war between Bacardi and Cuba

Havana Club vs. Havana Club: Inside the rum war between Bacardi and Cuba
By David Montgomery July 22 at 6:07 PM

SAN JOSÉ DE LAS LAJAS, Cuba — In a warehouse stacked with casks and
suffused with aromas of old oak and intoxicating spirits, Asbel Morales
is always thinking years ahead. At 48, he's one of eight maestros
roneros, or master rum-makers, on the island. They maintain the quality
and tradition of Cuban rum — a staple of the economy and national
identity that conjures summer daydreams of Ernest Hemingway knocking
back daiquiris in art deco bars, while somewhere the Buena Vista Social
Club band plays forever.

Morales splashes a clear liquid onto his hands. It's potent aguardiente,
the soul of rum, fermented and distilled from the molasses of Cuban
sugar cane. He rubs his wet hands, assessing its viscosity. He waves
scoopfuls of air toward his face, inhaling yeasty traces of cane,
alcohol and subtler notes.

"If the aguardiente isn't right," he says, "even if you age it 100
years, the rum will never turn out well."

But not just any Cuban rum. In three to seven years — sometimes longer,
depending on the flavor Morales is going for — after filtering, aging
and blending, this rum will be bottled as Havana Club, one of the two
most storied brands in the history of Cuba.

The other is Bacardi, no longer made in Cuba since shortly after Fidel
Castro's revolution of 1959. For years, Bacardi and Havana Club rums
were rival spirits, and their founding families — the Bacardis and the
Arechabalas, respectively — were fierce competitors, until both clans
were forced into exile in 1960.

The revolution didn't end the rivalry. In time, a rum called Havana Club
flowed out of Cuba and was eventually exported the world over — except
to the United States. From a new base in Bermuda, Bacardi, too, went
global, and Bacardi brand rum came to dominate the U.S. market.

Now, in a dramatic twist, another Havana Club is poised to make a big
splash. After two decades of lawsuits, lobbying and congressional
hearings, a Havana Club made by Bacardi is rolling out nationwide this
summer and should be available in Washington by September.

It is not to be confused with the Havana Club made in Cuba by Morales
and his colleagues.

Will the real Havana Club please fix us a daiquiri?

Within this splendidly bitter rum war — Havana Club vs. Havana Club — is
a tale of geopolitical jousting that has more turns than a Cuban mambo.
The drama is reaching a climax just as historic changes are taking place
in the fraught relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.

At its emotional core, the rum war is a proxy for an even more epic
struggle over the brand of Cuba and Cuban identity. The saga of
revolution and exile has left unresolved issues. Are some claims on what
it is to be Cuban more legitimate — more authentic — than others?

Americans embrace all things Cuban
Morales's aguardiente has been ripening just fine for Havana Club
International, a joint venture between Cuba Ron, the state-owned rum
enterprise, and the French liquor giant Pernod Ricard. Sales have grown
tenfold since the partnership began in the early 1990s. Cuban Havana
Club is the No. 3 rum in the world, with sales of 4 million cases a year
in more than 120 countries — and that is without access to the U.S.
market, because of the trade embargo imposed in 1962.

The French and Cuban partners were buoyed by the stunning announcement
nearly two years ago that President Obama and Cuban President Raúl
Castro resolved to normalize relations. Embassies re-opened, travel
became easier. Then, earlier this year, the rum partners scored a
surprise victory at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where the U.S.
government reversed a decade of opposition and allowed Cuba to renew its
disputed trademark for Havana Club.

Still, Congress has not heeded Obama's call to lift the embargo. For
now, Cuban Havana Club reaches U.S. shores primarily in the luggage of
travelers.

[How to get your Cuban rum and cigars home with you]

The French and Cuban partners say it's only a matter of time before
trade is allowed to resume and their Havana Club can flow freely across
the land.

"We are ready to face this market, no matter what the date," says André
Leymat, director general of the Havana Club distillery.

The potential is huge — and not just because Americans drink about 40
percent of the world's rum. Fascination with all things Cuban is
intensifying with each small step toward a full embrace of the Cold War
adversary. Americans are visiting in record numbers. Charter cruises
have launched; direct commercial flights are coming shortly. American
movies and TV shows — "Fast 8," "Cuban Chrome" — are rushing to be
produced there for the first time in half a century.

The appeal is bigger than any single product or experience. What's for
sale is the cachet of Cuba itself — once forbidden, now trendy. If only
it could be bottled.

"For us, rum is not just merchandise; it's also the expression of a
culture," rum master Morales says. "It's something inherited from
previous generations, passed down Cuban to Cuban for more than 150
years. You must never betray the rum."

Clash of the liquor giants
It's early June in the posh Faena Hotel in Miami Beach, where Bacardi is
celebrating the national launch of a line of rums with the help of
blue-feathered showgirls, salsa dancers and a 10-piece band playing
Cuban classics.

The bash is meant to evoke what Bacardi calls the "golden age" of
cocktails in Havana, in the middle of the last century, when Americans
flocked to their favorite tropical sin city, until the revolution killed
the party.

Waiters in guayaberas carry bottles of the rums — one clear, one amber —
like icons on mirrored trays.

The name of the brand is printed in big letters on the labels:

"Havana Club."

Almost as big is: "Puerto Rican Rum."

Nowhere on the label is Bacardi cited.

The clear Añejo Blanco is a tweaked version of a white Havana Club that
Bacardi has been selling in a handful of markets. The amber Añejo
Clásico is new — or maybe old. Bacardi says both rums are based on a
recipe the Arechabalas used to make Havana Club until 1960.

It's a rival line of Havana Club for sure.

A "falsa Havana Club," in the words of Morales.

But then, Bacardi's lawyers call the Cuban Havana Club an "ersatz Havana
Club."

Which is the real Havana Club?

The question lies at the heart of this titanic showdown between the
world's fourth-largest spirits company (Bacardi) and the second-largest
(Pernod Ricard).

Bacardi is the top rum-seller in the United States (7 million cases a
year) and in the world (17 million cases). It has evolved into a global
powerhouse in other spirits, too, with such brands as Grey Goose vodka
and Bombay Sapphire gin.

Rum is a comparatively smaller part of Pernod Ricard's lineup. Still,
Havana Club is one of the company's top 10 brands, behind the likes of
Absolut Vodka and Jameson Irish Whiskey.

"For many years, Bacardi played the rum game with one brand, the brand
that carried the name of the family, and that is 'Bacardi,' " Fabio Di
Giammarco, global vice president of rums for Bacardi, says. "We know we
have consumers who are more and more interested in brands that deliver a
story. We think this is a brand that has a very rich story."

One of the names on the guest list at Bacardi's Havana Club party in
Miami Beach is part of that story: Arechabala. Some heirs of the
rum-making family attended.

After the revolution, the Arechabalas let their American trademark for
Havana Club lapse, and they drifted into other lines of work. The label
on the Bacardi Havana Club sketches their story, a kind of
counternarrative to the one Morales tells in his Cuban rum warehouse.

"Our family was disheartened after the forced exile from Cuba, and has
always felt the need for justice for what happened to our ancestors,"
José Arechabala, a great-grandson of the founder, says in a statement
released by Bacardi. "We feel their life's work continues to live on
through this rebranding of Havana Club."

'From now on, I am Pepe'
In the beginning was Facundo Bacardi, who launched his company in 1862.
Rum historians credit him with pioneering Cuban-style rum: lighter than
other types, perfect for cocktails, but also aged and blended into fine
sipping rums.

The Arechabala company, founded in 1878, and other Cuban rum-makers
worked in the shadow of Bacardi.

Americans discovered Cuban rum when veterans of the Spanish-American War
returned home. A plaque in the Army and Navy Club in Washington
commemorates the moment in 1909 when, as the story goes, the daiquiri
was introduced in the club's bar after being invented in Daiquirí, Cuba.

American appreciation of Cuban rum deepened during Prohibition, when
partyers made their way to the island to slake their thirst. Later,
Hemingway wrote about El Floridita, the Havana bar where he refueled on
daiquiris.

The Arechabalas introduced Havana Club with Americans in mind in 1934.
The name of the Cuban capital was spelled in English, rather than the
Spanish "Habana." Soon Havana Club was served in places such as the
Stork Club, a high-society night spot in Manhattan.

Bacardi executives initially supported Fidel Castro, according to
journalist Tom Gjelten's 2008 book "Bacardi and the Long Fight for
Cuba." They toasted brother Raúl Castro's 1959 wedding to a
revolutionary fighter who was the daughter of a Bacardi executive.

The Arechabalas, on the other hand, according to Gjelten, sympathized
with dictator Fulgencio Batista, whom Fidel Castro overthrew.

Soldiers showed up at the Havana Club office on New Year's Day 1960. The
late Ramón Arechabala was a sales manager, while one of the top
executives, his uncle José María Arechabala, or "Pepe," was in Spain.

"From now on, I am Pepe, and you people will do as I say," declared a
military commander, as Ramón Arechabala recalled in court testimony in 1999.

"I say, 'Okay, no problem, whatever you say,' " he testified, "because
he was armed with a machine gun."

The Bacardis' Cuban rum operation was seized nine months later. Their
company already had significant rum facilities abroad.

Ramón Arechabala, on the other hand, went on to sell cars in Miami.

In 1973, he realized that the Havana Club trademark was due for renewal.
He asked his uncle whether they should file the paperwork.

His uncle said no. The family did not have enough money to produce rum
in the U.S. and mistakenly believed they couldn't renew the trademark
without making rum.

"He told me we could not do anything right now with it, because, 'Let's
wait because we might be going back to Cuba any moment,' " Arechabala
testified.

In 1976, a state-owned Cuban enterprise secured the American trademark
for Havana Club. It was a cunning yet hopeful investment in the day when
Cuban rum might once again be poured on the other side of the Florida
Straits.

Much depends on a U.S. trademark
The rum war was declared nearly 20 years later, when two things happened.

In 1993, news broke that Pernod Ricard had struck a deal to become equal
partners in Havana Club. (Pernod Ricard declines to specify terms of the
partnership. Fidel Castro has referred to it this way: "Long live the
peasant-worker alliance and the friendship with Pernod Ricard!")

In 1994, Bacardi filed its own application for the U.S. trademark for
Havana Club. Bacardi paid the Arechabala family $1.25 million for any
rights to Havana Club that the family still possessed, plus a portion of
any sales of Havana Club.

Ever since, Bacardi and Pernod Ricard have battled on legal, regulatory,
political and commercial fronts.

The Arechabalas "were free to maintain the trademark if they wanted to;
they only had to pay a $25 fee," says Ian FitzSimons, general counsel
for Pernod Ricard. "The moment they abandoned the trademark in 1973, the
trademark fell into the public domain."

"At the end of the day, [Pernod Ricard] partnered with the Cuban
government for property that is stolen," says Rick Wilson, Bacardi's
senior vice president for external affairs. The law does not recognize
trademark rights connected with confiscated Cuban property, he adds.

The American trademark was not stolen, FitzSimons counters, because "the
Arechabalas were able to keep their trademark registration up until
1973, 13 years after the Cuban revolution. They chose not to take the
necessary steps to keep it after that."

Nor is Cuban Havana Club being made with seized Arechabala property, he
says. The Cubans built a new distillery in the 1970s. Pernod Ricard
added a state-of-the-art distillery in 2007, where Asbel Morales works.

Wilson argues that what matters in the law is intent and that the
Arechabalas never intended to surrender their trademark. Over the years,
they attempted to find partners with capital to make rum in the United
States. Further, Wilson says, trademarks are founded on actual use, not
mere paperwork.

"The only people to have used the Havana Club trademark in the United
States have been Arechabala and Bacardi," Wilson says.

Bacardi appeared to win the rum war in 2006, when the Cubans and Pernod
Ricard were not allowed to renew the trademark. The reason: New rules
required a license from the Treasury Department to write a check for the
renewal fee of several hundred dollars. Treasury, on advice from the
State Department, refused to grant the license.

The case was still pending in the trademark office early this year —
though Bacardi disputes that the matter was truly alive — when the rum
world turned upside down.

"In light of a number of factors, including ... the landmark shift in
U.S. policy toward bilateral relations with Cuba," the State Department
advised the Treasury Department to give the Cubans and Pernod Ricard
permission to write the check to renew the trademark through 2026, a
State Department official testified before a House subcommittee in February.

Now the dispute is back in U.S. District Court in Washington, where both
sides are seeking a ruling on who owns Havana Club. The case could last
well into 2017. Meanwhile, Bacardi's Havana Club will be sold in the U.S.

If Bacardi prevails, the French-Cuban partnership has a backup plan. It
has registered the name "Havanista." Under one name or another, should
the embargo be lifted, they will be the first to sell Americans a rum
that is actually "made in Cuba."

How much that matters is the last and perhaps most important front in
the rum war. Authenticity is like another flavor note.

"It's not just the juice," says spirits writer Wayne Curtis, author of
"And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails"
(2006). "There's a lot of money to be made in selling that Cuban story
to Americans, who want to have that authentic brand."

'If I don't drink Havana Club,
I'm not Cuban'
At sunset on the Malecón, Havana's sea wall, Lazaro Rizo Modochi, 46, a
cook, and his wife, Merlin Fernandez, 42, are strolling and sharing the
remains of a bottle of Havana Club, accompanied by their twin
13-year-old daughters, Yaremi and Yaneisi. It's a Saturday evening
tradition for the family.

"Havana Club of Cuba is richness, it's the sugar cane, it's the African
heritage of the cane-cutters — all that is Havana Club," Rizosays. "If
I'm in Italy or France and I drink Havana Club, I'm in Cuba. If I don't
drink Havana Club, I'm not Cuban."

After Rizo takes his last swig, he kisses the bottle and throws it into
the sea, toward the north.

"A message to Miami," he says.

The logo is ubiquitous in Havana — on bicitaxis, on the tunics of
parking lot attendants ("If you drink, don't drive"), even in the
paintings sold by street artists.

"When there's an opening of the blockade, Havana Club will present to
the United States a symbol of Cuba," says Luis Rodriguez, a barman at
the Bar San Juan in central Havana, where singer Beny Moré is said to
have drunk Cuba libres before the revolution. "It represents traditional
Cuban rum."

Across a plaza from the cathedral, a plaque on what is now the Museum of
Colonial Art notes that the 18th-century mansion used to be the offices
of the Arechabala rum company. Graham Greene, in his novel "Our Man in
Havana," set a fateful checkers match here in the Havana Club bar, where
free drinks were served to tourists in the hope they would buy bottles
to take home.

Several blocks away, the majestic art deco Bacardi Building now contains
travel offices, while its signature bat, wings spread, still presides
atop the tower.

At El Floridita — where a statue of Hemingway occupies a spot at the end
of the bar — the periodic arrival and departure of busloads of tourists
give a tidal rhythm to midday, as a band plays hits from the Buena Vista
Social Club. Veteran bartender Manuel Carbajo Aguiar grabs a bottle of
Havana Club and raises his arm high in a showy pour of a silver stream
into one of four blenders purring simultaneously. In a flash, he fills
two dozen glasses with tangy-sweet and icy daiquiris.

"Havana Club has status," Carbajo says. "If you're relaxing with friends
and on the table is a bottle of Havana Club, it gives the moment more
personality than another rum ... Havana Club is the rum that represents
Cuban-ness."

Two can play the authenticity game.

The labels on Bacardi's Havana Club carry a picture of founder José
Arechabala and the phrase "based on a recipe created in Cuba."

The labels' synopsis of the family's story continues: "Decades later,
this family of rum makers would be forced to flee during the Cuban
Revolution, precious recipe in hand. After years of controversy, this
well-kept treasure has been dusted off once again for crafting this
incomparable rum in Puerto Rico."

Bacardi does not claim to have resurrected the exact Arechabala Havana
Club. The chain of knowledge from rum master to rum master was broken
for too long. Certain ingredients are different. The technology is
modern. A single recipe can yield a variety of flavors.

Still, the result is close, says David Cid, global ambassador of rum for
Bacardi: "We are applying the Arechabalas' techniques and methodologies
along with our yeast with the aim of replicating the aroma and flavor
balance of the original Havana Club."

"What certainly cannot be said is that the other Havana Club has
anything to do with the original," Bacardi's Di Giammarco says.

Indeed, the Cuban Havana Club was created after the revolution, though
the bottles say "Fundada en 1878," the year José Arechabala founded his
rum company.

"The only Havana Club I know comes from Cuba," says Jérôme
Cottin-Bizonne, chief executive of Havana Club International, the Pernod
Ricard-Cuban joint venture. "If the rum is not made in Cuba by a master
of Cuban rum, if it's not made with Cuban sugar cane, you can't make the
same product."

But how does it taste?
The most recent skirmish in the rum war takes place on a Friday
afternoon at Cubano's restaurant in Silver Spring: Four experienced
spirits tasters conduct a blind test at the invitation of The Washington
Post.

It's Havana Club vs. Havana Club: Bacardi's Añejo Blanco and Añejo
Clásico against the Cuban Añejo 3 Años (white) and Añejo 7 Años (dark).
The Bacardi contenders cost about $20 and $22 for a 750-milliliter
bottle, respectively. The Cuban rums sell for about $7 and $18 in Havana.

To confound the tasters, we throw in two more white rums — regular
Bacardi Superior and premium Caña Brava by The 86 Co.

Amid the sounds of slurping and deep inhaling, the four Havana Clubs
quickly distinguish themselves over the other two. Then things get
interesting.

"I love the way that it decays on the palate," says Lukas B. Smith, a
bartender at Dram and Grain who is helping to launch the Cotton & Reed
rum distillery planned for Washington. He's tasting the Bacardi Añejo
Clásico, though he doesn't know it.

"It has this soft heat," says M. Carrie Allan, spirits columnist for The
Post.

"If you still have training wheels on" — if you're not a sophisticated
drinker — "you're not going to like that," says Jarad Slipp, estate
director of RdV Vineyards in Delaplane, Va.

"I love it," says Adolfo Mendez, owner of Cubano's, who left Cuba just
after the revolution when he was 3.

Then they try the Cuban Añejo 7 Años, again without knowing its identity.

"It's definitely a crowd-pleaser," Smith says, calling it "a mouth
bomb." "I think they might have overdone the sugar a little bit."

All the tasters guess that this sweet, brash pleaser is by Bacardi,
while the subtler, "handmade"-tasting rum is from Cuba.

Wrong.

"Wow!" they exclaim.

As for the white Havana Clubs, the tasters are divided. A couple find
that the sweeter Cuban entry is richer and more flavorful than
Bacardi's. To others, the Cuban sweetness is a bid for mass appeal.

"Basically, these are both big fat sweet tourist rums," Smith says of
the Cuban Havana Clubs.

"There's a reason why [the Bacardi Havana Clubs] are in a different
label and not branded under Bacardi proper, which is that people who
typically drink Bacardi wouldn't get it," Slipp says. "Good on [Cuban]
Havana Club, because they're going to be getting a lot more tourists
now, and they're making a tourist-driven product."

"Maybe that's part of the tradition," Allan says. "One of the things
that I thought was interesting here was the idea that 'authenticity' ...
doesn't necessarily mean nuance, subtlety. Something that is authentic
is not necessarily better out of the bottle."

Mendez proposes a compromise. He places the bottle of Bacardi dark
Havana Club and the bottle of Cuban light Havana Club together on the
table — his two favorites.

"These two guys are inseparable," he says. "I support them both."

It's a pleasant vision — perhaps inspired by the warmth of fine spirits
— the idea of a reunited front of great Cuban rums. A Havana Club
all-star team. But for now, in this rum war, you have to choose sides.

Source: Havana Club vs. Havana Club: Inside the rum war between Bacardi
and Cuba - The Washington Post -
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/havana-club-v-havana-club-inside-the-rum-war-between-bacardi-and-cuba/2016/07/22/57c32a06-2cb4-11e6-9b37-42985f6a265c_story.html

Christian Louboutin Is Dressing Cuba’s Olympic Team

Christian Louboutin Is Dressing Cuba's Olympic Team
By Catie L'Heureux

Cuba's Olympic team will be dressed by Christian Louboutin for next
month's biggest runway show: the closing ceremony at the Olympic Games.
And in a rare moment for the fashion industry, the looks were created
with input from the Cuban athletes themselves.

Announced Thursday, the Cuban team will wear formalwear designed by
Louboutin and Henry Tai, a French former professional handball player
who founded the online retailer SportHenri.com. The collection —
tailored Guayabera-inspired jackets with flag patches; calf-leather
kitten-heel sandals, high-tops, and loafers bearing a five-pointed star
— were created in a series of custom fittings with current and former
Cuban Olympic athletes in a Paris atelier.

The collaboration with the Cuban athletes represents a significant move
within the fashion industry. As Fashionista noted, designers have often
tended to "glorify a prerevolutionary, sugar-coated Cuba" rather than
explore the country's modern culture — well before President Barack
Obama re-established diplomatic relations with the country last July.
This was most recently evident in Karl Lagerfeld's 2017 resort
collection for Chanel, in which 700 guests were whisked to Cuba's Paseo
del Prado boulevard in colorful 1950s cars. "This is all about my vision
of Cuba," Lagerfeld told the Cut before the show. "But of course, what
do I know about Cuba? It is very childish, my idea."

While the Cuban Olympic team's collection also spotlights classical
clothing from the '50s, the approach and collaboration with the athletes
sets it apart. "We wanted to dress the Cuban delegation with a genuinely
Cuban idea," Louboutin said in a video launching the collection, later
telling WWD why these clothes were designed with the closing ceremony in
mind: "We designed the celebratory outfit for the moment they turn back
into humans, still in that glory moment, still in their light but
heading back to the real world."

Source: Christian Louboutin Dressing Cuba's Olympic Team -- The Cut -
http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/07/christian-louboutin-dressing-cubas-olympic-team-with-henri-tai.html