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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cuban State Enterprises - Compete Or Die

Cuban State Enterprises: Compete Or Die / 14ymedio
Posted on September 2, 2015

Cuban state enterprises, the cornerstone of the country's centralized
economy, could be about to suffer a major setback with a new review
process. The inspection that concludes this coming November will
evaluate those entities that present losses and could determine to do
away with many of them, according to a report this Monday in
Trabajadores (Workers).

Among the measures to be adopted against the enterprises that do not
demonstrate profitability will also be the redefinition of their
organizational structures and the salaries of their workers. The
analysis should conclude before the next session of the parliament, this
year's last, to be held in December

The general secretary of the Workers' Central Union of Cuba (CTC),
Ulises Guillarte De Nacimiento – who is also a member of the Council of
State – alerted the official press that the country is heading towards
"an economic context in which monopolies will in no way prevail." He
made a call to "promote creative thinking about the enterprise system to
generate competitiveness."

Among the measures to be adopted against the enterprises that do not
show profitability, will also be the redefinition of their
organizational structures and salaries of their workers.

In remarks punctuated with the words "profit," "results" and
"efficiency," the official addressed the issue of granting new powers to
state sector enterprises seeking greater autonomy and flexibility. While
acknowledging that by their specific nature some enterprises may operate
at a loss, he affirmed that keeping them would require "approval from
(…) the Council of Ministers".

The mission of unions during this process, according Guillarte De
Nacimiento, will be to oversee a "continued raising of the rigor of the
evaluation of these enterprises and to mobilize the workers' collectives
to bring to the fore potential reserves of efficiency."

The union leader did not mention, however, that the workers could reject
or discuss the definition of "not profitable" assigned to their company,
nor that they could demand compensation or indemnification in cases of
loss of employment. The CTC will place itself, in this situation, on the
side of the management of the entities reviewed and the directives that
come from the State.

However, Guillarte De Nacimiento acknowledged that "in the end it is the
workers who pay the consequences, because their incomes are effected
when an enterprise does not achieved the planned results."

Source: Cuban State Enterprises: Compete Or Die / 14ymedio | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-state-enterprises-compete-or-die-14ymedio/

Holguin Starts the School Year in the Midst of a Complex Epidemiological Situation

Holguin Starts the School Year in the Midst of a Complex Epidemiological
Situation / 14ymedio, Donate Fernando Ochoa
Posted on September 1, 2015

14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, Holguin, 1 September 2015 — The
beginning of the school year in Holguin has been complicated this early
September by the complex epidemiological context facing the region
because of the outbreaks of dengue fever and cholera. The city is
experiencing a declared health emergency, but authorities say they have
taken all sanitary measures in order to prevent the spread of diseases
in schools.

In junior high schools the school snack has temporarily been suspended,
an offering that consisted of yogurt and bread with mortadella passed
out free in the schools.

For this reason, the class schedule at this level now runs from 8:00 to
10:00 in the morning, with an afternoon session from 2:00 to 5:00,
according to Claribel Casamayor, an English teacher at the Panchito
Gomez Toro school.

Students at Celia Sanchez University are also beginning the year
atypically. The vice rector, Liuska Bao Pavon, in a special program of
the Radio Angulo station, informed those students that the dormitories
are not available because they are being used as a field hospital for
patients suffering from dengue fever. For now, the students are
attending classes on adjusted hours at other universities in the
provincial capital city.

The situation becomes more complicated at the primary level, according
to Ricardo Ramirez, municipal deputy director of Education for Holguin.
His students, between 6 and 11 years of age, are studying at centers
that are severely deteriorated due to the age of the buildings and the
lack of repairs. Ramirez told the local station Telecristal that of the
252 schools in the city, 130 began classes with seriously damaged
plumbing and he did not rule out that some schools would remain
permanently closed for lack of optimal sanitary conditions. In those
cases, the students would be relocated to other schools.

These statements have contributed to keeping people in a state of fear.
Maritza Avila, mother of a seven-year-old boy, Pedro Enrique Tamayo, who
started first grade at the Julio Grave de Peralta primary school,
confessed that she feared for the health of her son as the school is in
an advanced state of deterioration in both its construction and plumbing.

Yaser Quintana, a math teacher at Rafael Freyre elementary school, notes
that the school year has also been affected by the fact that many
children and teenagers have been admitted to hospitals for cholera and
dengue fever.

The health problems are compounded by a shortage of 1,205 teachers, 444
of them in the provincial capital city. Among the measures announced by
the authorities to solve this problem is the reinstatement of retired
teachers, contracting with students at Oscar Lucero Moya University and
with graduates of the basic course at José de la Luz y Caballero
Teaching University as well as with recent graduates of the University
of Information Sciences.

Source: Holguin Starts the School Year in the Midst of a Complex
Epidemiological Situation / 14ymedio, Donate Fernando Ochoa |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/holguin-starts-the-school-year/

Less Milk and Less Beef

Less Milk and Less Beef / 14ymedio, Jose Quintana de la Cruz
Posted on September 1, 2015

14ymedio, Jose Quintana de la Cruz, Pinar del Rio, 31 August 2015 –
Cattle ranching in Cuba touched bottom in 1999, but it had started its
decline in 1970. That year's effort to produce 10 million tons of sugar
was the focus of attention and resources for the entire nation. Such a
disproportion was detrimental to the the motto of centralized planning:
wielding economic harmony and proportionality.

The setback in the care and breeding of cattle came after a remarkable
success in the cattle industry until 1968. In the sixties, mass
vaccination increased the heads of cattle from just over 5 million on
the island in 1958 to 7.5 million. The increase was the result of
importing breeding stock from Canada, the massive use of artificial
insemination and good animal husbandry and veterinary management. This
improved the quantity and quality of the herds.

However, in 1968 a decline in the number of cattle began that is not yet
over. Alarms sounded in 1999 when Cuba had 3 million fewer head of
cattle than in 1968. Of the numbers lost, at least 1.9 million were
heifers, which considerably affected the base of reproduction, the
guarantee of future herds.

Many analysts attribute the livestock crash to the Special Period,
officially decreed in 1990, that came with the collapse of the European
socialist bloc. These analysts argue that the sectors loss of supplies
was the main reason for its collapse. Obviously this was an influence,
but the evils that became chronic in the nineties had originated almost
three decades earlier.

In 1985 the warning signs were already clear: the country had 2.2
million fewer heads of cattle than in 1968. At a time when the Soviet
supplies were still being received with both hands. What had happened
was that the resources needed for livestock were being reassigned to
other destinations by the Cuban government. Basically to the sugar
industry, which, in the end, also collapsed.

On the other hand, poor reproductive cycles have affected the
replacement of slaughtered animals. A cow should be ready to reproduce
at two years of age and give birth to a calf every 13 months until
she has achieved 4 or 5 births during her reproductive life. But in Cuba
many of these adult heifers only give birth to between 2 or 3 calves
during their lifetimes.

The difference compared to the sixty years ago is staggering. In 1954
Cuba had 0.9 heads of beef per capita, an indicator where it was only
surpassed in the region by Uruguay with 3.01, Brazil with 2.39, and
Argentina with 1.01. Today, however, the Pearl of the Antilles has only
0.4 starving heads per capita.

Milk production has also failed to take off despite the government call
to prioritize it. Between 2013 and 2014 it declined slightly this year
could decline still more. In the Camaguey region, known for its cattle
tradition, is trying right now to mitigate the effects of the severe
drought to ease the lack of milk production. Other provinces are worse.

Hunger, the deficient planting of pastures, disease, legal and
occasionally illegal slaughter caused by poor management, and the lack
of economic incentives, stand as the chronic internal causes of the
livestock disaster in Cuba. At the end of 2014, the number of cattle in
the entire country reached 4.1 million. This year the lack of rainfall
has forced massive slaughter of cattle that will surely adversely affect
that figure.

Cubans should prepare for even less milk and less beef on their tables.

Source: Less Milk and Less Beef / 14ymedio, Jose Quintana de la Cruz |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/less-milk-and-less-beef-14ymedio-jose-a-quintana-de-la-cruz/

Sales Of Building Materials Under Scrutiny

Sales Of Building Materials Under Scrutiny / 14ymedio
Posted on September 1, 2015

14ymedio, Havana, 1 September 2015 – When there is sand, there are no
bricks," protests a lady this week outside the market in Havana's La
Timna neighborhood. People's dissatisfaction with regards to quality,
quantity and variety of construction materials continues unresolved
despite having been addressed at the accountability meetings of the
People's Power throughout the country and in the national press.

The situation shows no signs of improvement despite the annual
application of the Program for Local Production and Sales of
Construction Materials, which began this Tuesday for the seventh
consecutive year, starting in Guantanamo province and concluding on
October 15 in Isla de la Juventud, according to the schedule published
in the official press.

The aspects to be evaluated are the level of management the strategy for
assuring that the 2015 plan targets will be met in each entity, and
specifics regarding the 2016 program. In previous years the agenda has
included other issues such as quality, innovation and environmental
protection.

However, the fact that they have already published the dates and times
for each local inspection distorts the picture, because it allows the
offenders to be prepared and to eliminate, at least for this one day,
the irregularities that affect their services.

Customers' worst criticisms are not only about the supplies, but also
about the mechanisms of sales, to which they attribute the appearance of
resellers who manage to divert state transports haul the materials –
aggregates, cement, steel, granite tiles and plumbing fixtures – to send
their cargoes directly to the black market with the presumed complicity
of the administrative employees.

The head of the National Group for Local Production and Sales of
Construction Materials, Manuel Tomas Vazquez, announced that in the
previous evaluation process only five provinces were certified "good":
Matanzas, Villa Clara, Ciego de Avila, Las Tunas and Santiago de Cuba.

Five were rated "regular" – Pinar del Rio, Artemisa, Sancti Spiritus,
Holguin and Granma – while in the "bad" category were Havana, Mayabeque,
the Isla de la Juventud Special Municipality, Cienfuegos, Camagüey and
Guantánamo.

In the last session of the National Assembly, Vice President Ramiro
Valdes Menendez criticized the irregularities and illegalities that
threaten the production, transportation and sale of building materials.

Source: Sales Of Building Materials Under Scrutiny / 14ymedio |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/sales-of-building-materials-under-scrutiny-14ymedio/

Free or Slaves?

Free or Slaves? / 14ymedio, Lynn Cruz
Posted on September 1, 2015

14ymedio, Lynn Cruz, Havana, 30 August 2015 — The play The
Emigrants (1975), by the Polish playwright Slawomir Mrozek has been
staged by Sahily Moreado and his company Teatro del Cuartel at Sala
Teatro El Sotano in Havana. This story of tearing apart, uprooting and
exile will present the final shows of its revival over the weekend.

One of the characters fled for political reasons, while the other to
escape misery. The first believes in the value of being able to think
and speak freely, while the latter wants to make money to return to his
family. Two visions of the world coexist in a basement, but what isn't
specified is in which country or city.

Driven by survival, each character shows his most primitive side and at
the moments when the atmosphere becomes more sordid than dreary, the
theater piece evokes the work Two Lost in the Filthy Night (1966) by the
Brazilian Linio Marcos.

Because The Emigrants is presented in a Cuban scenario, for the audience
the association is immediate: Two Cuban immigrants in a first world
country. Thus, the two realities end up merged, and even more so due to
the historic similarities that unite us with Poland.

The absence of scene design, however, weakens the vision. For example,
the use of Caribbean objects and furniture found in any Cuban house or
kitchen. Another notable aspect were the sudden and almost mechanical
lighting transitions, which at many points are divorced from the rhythm
of the staging.

However, the minimalism, as well as the use of space and each of the
elements, display no lack of rigor. Moreda, in addition to being
characterized by his exhaustive selection of texts, fends intelligently
for himself, countering the material deficiencies with the quality of
his performers, who achieve particularly emotional moments.

It is not difficult for the spectators to enter in the atmosphere of the
basement where the story narrated by the play takes place. A match
between the real space and the theatrical space, with the odor of
dampness and the dust in the room, this time, favors the fiction.

The characters are from different backgrounds and had they remained in
their birth countries it is probable that their paths never would have
crossed. This is one of the conflicts of the play, which also addresses
the psychological processes an immigrant passes through, ranging from
the more casual relationship between them, to the most extreme
circumstances.

The intellectual proclaims that he lives in post-socialism, now that he
can say and express what he feels. He experiences freedom, but he has
lost conflict as a driving force for creativity and his truths must be
spoken in the place where they were engendered. On the other hand, the
construction worker, his roommate, is his object of analysis and he
needs him to cope with the displacement.

The subject and the object become one. The intellectual calls him slave,
and challenges him to say what he thinks, without fear. He confronts the
worker with his truth: The loss of the sense of the journey. With this
he goes into a deeper truth that leads him to question even his own
existence.

The truthfulness in his characters, the precision of movement as well as
the careful diction, often absent in today's Cuba, characterize the
excellent performance of Daniel Robles. The young actor excels in an
way, along with the more experienced Walfrido Serrano, who has returned
memorable performances in Teatro El Publico. The latter, however, is
excessively theatrical in his delivery at times and should check his
laughter which, on occasion, tarnishes his naturalness.

The Emigrants arrives on the Cuban scene and, beyond history versus the
individual, Mrozek digs into the human aspect. It brings us to accept
out truth without distorting it, makes us live truly in the present and
positively influences our future. It leaves us with an individual
question: Are we free or are we slaves?

Source: Free or Slaves? / 14ymedio, Lynn Cruz | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/free-or-slaves-14ymedio-lynn-cruz/

Iowa legislators prep for trade mission to Cuba

Iowa legislators prep for trade mission to Cuba
About 30 people going with lawmakers to help open up trade with Iowa
Updated: Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015 11:22 a.m. CDT
By Jason W. Brooks Newton Daily News

When two state legislators and a couple of dozen Iowa business people
board a plane at the start of October, they'll be headed for an island
nation.

However, they won't be headed toward Tahiti or The Philippines or New
Zealand, or even Madagascar. From Oct. 1 to Oct. 8, they're scheduled to
meet with government leaders in Cuba. While technically 90 miles from
Florida it was a million miles away in terms of economics and regular
trade until President Barack Obama's late-2014 announcement about
normalization of relations with the U.S.

State Sen. Steven Sodders (D-State Center) and Rep. Mark Smith
(D-Marshalltown) don't have constituents in Jasper County, but their
planned economic-development trip to Cuba could impact the county, along
with many other parts of Iowa. Sodders and Smith will be joined by
Carlos Portes, a former ambassador for Latin America, along with
representatives of Iowa businesses and trade organizations, making a
pitch to Cuban government leaders to encourage more trade — specifically
in Iowa.

"This could really be the beginning of Iowa becoming a major trade
center for Cuba," Sodders said. "And it could help tie Iowa to a center
for both receiving and distribution. This is not a theory discussion;
this is strictly an economic mission. We're looking to actually tend
some deals on this trip."

Portes came to the U.S. at the age of 9 — just before the Cuban missile
Crisis — and was raised by a Marshalltown family. As an adult, he was
appointed Special Ambassador for Latin American affairs by President
Jimmy Carter, and he has spent much of his adult life working to improve
U.S.-Latin America relations.

Portes was the 1997 Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipient, and he was in
attendance when the Washington, D.C. Cuban Embassy reopened July 20. Not
only is Portes fluent in both English and Spanish, but he's also the
lynch pin that has brought this mission together.

State Sen. Chaz Allen (D-Newton) said he is in favor of Senate
Resolution 6, which supports the mission to Cuba and was passed by voice
vote in March. He calls Portes the "secret weapon" in trade negotiations.

"That relationship could really help open some doors," Allen said.

Smith said the same ingenuity that has helped Cubans keep 1950s American
automobiles preserved and running is the same resolve that's kept old
farm equipment going. The country has been able to export tobacco — most
of us know at least something about Cuban cigars — but not as much as it
will in the future, and it needs modern farm equipment and implements.

More importantly, Smith said, normalization will allow Cuba to borrow
money from banks, allowing Cubans to construct better facilities.

Regarding Jasper County connections to the mission, Roger Zylstra, of
Lynnville, is the president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, which
Smith says will be represented by at least one person traveling to Cuba.
While, Jasper County businesses are not looking to see any direct impact
from the October mission, Allen said there could be benefits for his
district a short time later.

"I've talked to some producers who would liked to have gone, but the
scheduling didn't work out," Allen said. "We'll be following this
closely, and we're excited to see what sorts of possibilities this opens
up."

The trip was originally scheduled for Aug. 21-27, but too many Cuban
leaders were scheduled to be on vacation at that time, Smith said, so it
was moved back to October. He said many government leaders took
vacations in order to be back on duty for Pope Francis's
much-anticipated Sept. 19-22 visit to Cuba.

The change in date made it easier for some to travel to Cuba, while
others — especially farmers who are in the middle of harvest season —
won't be able to get away the first week of October.

Smith said one of Cuba's biggest needs is food, and its meat of choice
seems to be pork. That's where Iowa comes in, but it has competition in
terms of other states and their offerings.

"New York, and of course, Florida, are trying to become trade centers as
well," Smith said. "It's important for us to get over there fairly
early, and make a case for Iowa."

Some of the Iowa companies who have expressed at least some interest in
the trip are food producers; Hawkeye Hotels, with Cuban travel to the
U.S. in mind; and the Meskwaki Settlement, which has an economic
development branch that could help facilitate the sale of Cuban products
such as cigars, rum and plantain in the Midwest.

Even though Cubans might not immediately have a lot of cash to spend in
Iowa, improvements to their bank and credit situation should help grow
industry and commerce, Sodders said. That will give both Cubans and
Iowans not only more revenue, but an interest in each other's homelands.

There are other assets of Cuba that haven't gained widespread notoriety
in the U.S. Sodders said Cuban doctors have developed a vaccine that
helps prevent the types of diabetic ulcers that lead to amputations, but
embargoes and very limited legal travel between the countries has kept
the vaccine from becoming widely available in the U.S.

Smith acknowledged there might be some red-tape and policy hurdles to
conquer, but optimism involving Cuba is certainly high enough to get
trade talks going, Smith said.

"Cubans are tough, proud people," Smith said. "They learned how to
survive for generations, despite an embargo. We are going over there
knowing they will be open-minded but cautious."

Contact Jason W. Brooks at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or
jbrooks@newtondailynews.com

Source: Iowa legislators prep for trade mission to Cuba | Newton Daily
News -
http://www.newtondailynews.com/2015/08/29/iowa-legislators-prep-for-trade-mission-to-cuba/avcbqqr/

Teacher shortage eases in Cuba

Teacher shortage eases in Cuba
Published September 01, 2015 EFE

Cuba begins Tuesday its 2015-2016 school year with 95.2 percent of the
desired number of teachers, up from 93 percent last year, to staff a
system of more than 10,300 schools and roughly 2 million students.

The increased teaching staff is due to the incorporation of some 6,000
graduates from teaching institutes, together with 3,000 retired teachers
and young professionals in training who will give classes at
universities, official media said.

For the rest of the students, "different alternatives" will be applied,
including "contingents of teachers from other provinces" and the
collaboration of university students with other degrees, the daily
Juventud Rebelde said.

For the 2015-2016 school year, enrollment in grades 1-12 in Cuba tops
1.7 million students, while some 1,700 take up their higher education
this Tuesday at the 23 universities around the country.

Education Minister Ena Elsa Velazquez has said in several interviews
that this school year will see "greater organization" and "better
optimization" of the resources allotted by the government.

Velazquez also said that 78 million pesos ($3.12 million) were allocated
for improving the physical plant of 1,800 schools and daycare centers,
while in the universities some 20 million pesos ($800,000) have been
invested in repairs and maintenance.

Bringing technology into the schools is another priority of the Cuban
government, which for the 2015-2016 school year has imported 3,900 new
computers for general education and 1,700 for higher education.

Connections to the Internet and the Cuban Intranet will also be
increased this year in schools with the installation of connections by
optic fiber and Wi-Fi, Education Ministry officials said.

As is traditional in Cuba, the beginning of the school year is a festive
occasion with celebrations being held at many educational institutes.

Universal free education is one of the banner achievements of the Cuban
Revolution, though for several years the shortage of teachers and the
low quality of classes have been causes for concern on the island. EFE

Source: Teacher shortage eases in Cuba | Fox News Latino -
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/lifestyle/2015/09/01/teacher-shortage-eases-in-cuba/

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Transparency, Honesty and Free Information - Exotic Ideals in Cuba

Transparency, Honesty and Free Information: Exotic Ideals in Cuba / Ivan
Garcia
Posted on August 31, 2015

Ivan Garcia, 21 June 2015 — When Berta Soler, leader of one of three
splinter groups of the Ladies in White, convened a referendum on her
continued command of the organization following a scandal in Fall 2014
regarding alleged verbal abuse of a member, it marked a milestone in
dissident circles – more so for being strange than for being novel.

No culture or custom exists in Cuban society for democratic standards or
referendums to balance out the longstanding human tradition of wielding
power at will.

Fifty-six years of the country being run like a neighborhood grocery
store, in a vertical manner and without any braking mechanisms in place
to impede the creation of mini-tyrants, is the main cause of disrespect
towards laws, of scant democratic habits, and of a tendency among our
people to administer a factory or a dissident group after the style of a
mafia cartel.

I will begin my dissection with the local opposition. Unfortunately,
just like with the rest of Cuban society that has been under the
autocratic boot since 1959, the majority of the dissident leaders carry
within them a Fidel Castro dressed in civilian garb.

In my practice of free journalism, it has been my fate to deal with
characters straight out of legend: egotistical, arrogant, and little
given to responding to questions about the management of finances, or
whether their charters include democratic clauses to govern their projects.

More often than not, my questions are answered with silence – which is
silly, given that official United States web pages list the monies
provided by American organizations to Cuban government opponents,
because such data is public information.

They use discretion as an excuse. They say that if this information were
known by the Department of State Security, it could be used as a lethal
weapon – another trick.

The government's special services have more moles inside the dissidence
than there is dandruff on an unwashed scalp. The repressors do not want
for Internet access, and just by Googling for a few minutes they can
obtain these and other facts.

What is hiding behind so much secretiveness is a veil of silence with
regard to managing funds, influence and resources, as dictators of the
purse – which is what has been occurring in practice.

Groups are packed with relatives and friends, after the manner of the
sinecures (nepotism) during the Republican era; the first thing a
dissident leader does is surround himself with lackeys. Those who ask
too many questions, or question their procedures, are considered "highly
suspicious." They get rid of them, or keep them at arm's length.

Except for Antonio Rodiles, no dissident group invites me to their press
conferences or debates. I am still waiting for the Cuban Civil Society
Open Forum to make room for me on their agenda.

For two months now I have tried to participate in one of their
activities, to write an article. Perhaps they do not invite me because I
am not the typical journalist who will later knock off a simple
informational item or puff piece. They do not like this.

It remains inherent to the imagination of the opposition that somebody
who publishes a halfway critical article is a staunch enemy. That this
is not the case is obvious – but in Cuban society, a culture of
democracy and debate is a rare bird.

I will tell you a story. I have nothing personal against those men who
have spent a long time behind bars, nor against the crusade for their
freedom waged by the opposition. But in investigating their cases, I
observed that the majority of them are not prisoners of conscience.

In 1992, Elías Pérez Boucourt attempted to hijack a boat at gunpoint to
go to the United States. Ernesto Borges Pérez, an ex-counterintelligence
agent, could be a saint, but he was sentenced for having revealed
classified information to the enemy. His father, Raúl Borges, is a good
person.

A few weeks ago, during a conference at the home of Rodiles, I remarked
that it was a grave error to try to label as political prisoners those
types of inmates, even if they are against the regime.

If we were to use in such a superficial manner the definition of
political prisoner or prisoner of conscience, in that list we would have
to include all those sentenced for dangerousness, a legal term of
fascist jurisprudence that has condemned to jail hundreds of Cubans,
mostly young, who have not even committed a crime.

But such differences of opinion provoke a definitive enmity in some
dissidents, who at minimum will write you off as a stinker. Of course
the opponents didn't come from another planet.

They are part of a sick society of ideological rhetoric and political
manipulation bordering on delirium. They are not held accountable by
anyone (a "normal" thing in a country where nobody, starting with the
Brothers from Birán, is held accountable). They carry out their
adversarial projects as small private islands, after the manner of the
Communist Party chieftains.

Transparency is a non-existent word in Cuba. Citizens do not have access
to offices that will protect them as consumers, nor where they may
obtain facts and statistics – nor a venue where they may lodge
complaints and be heard.

Almost everything is a secret. To try to find out the amount of the
investment fund set aside to purchase urban buses following the
government's authorization to sell vehicles is a "mission impossible" –
not even James Bond could unearth it.

Neither do the people have a way to find out how the revenues are used
that the State raises through abusive taxation on privately-employed
workers, or from the 240% surtax on goods purchased in the hard-currency
stores.*

Regarding that dough, nobody says a word – even less so about salaries.
People would like to know what Luis Alberto López-Callejas, Raúl
Castro's son-in-law who heads the Mariel Special Development Zone, makes.

Unlike in democratic countries, in Cuba there is no advance notice of
presidential trips. Everything is hidden behind a curtain of smoke. So
deeply has the submissive mindset taken hold that many citizens consider
it unimportant to know how the government manages our money.

To fill the city with Starbucks, McDonald's or Burger King outlets will
not be too difficult. To form modern women and men who have a
sophisticated knowledge of their legal rights and responsibilities, and
who can hold their government officials accountable for their offenses,
will be a task of a few years – more than we would like.

Photo: Political activism workshop organized by the Forum for Rights and
Liberties, 11 June 2015, home of Antonio G. Rodiles. Photo taken by
Ernesto García Díaz, Cubanet.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

*Translator's Note: "Hard Currency Collection Stores" collect, via the
sale of highly overpriced goods, cash from the remittances sent to
Cubans by family and friends abroad.

Source: Transparency, Honesty and Free Information: Exotic Ideals in
Cuba / Ivan Garcia | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/transparency-honesty-ivan-garcia/

Machado Ventura - Neither Young Nor Female

Machado Ventura: Neither Young Nor Female / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on September 1, 2015

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 31 August 2015 — If anyone embodies
the most antiquated orthodoxy of the Cuban political system, it is
undoubtedly Jose Ramon Machado Ventura. With his frail gait and infinite
power, the vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers
represents the most reactionary and ultra-conservative wing of the
island's government. Thus, the excessive role he has gained in the media
in recent weeks worries many.

Machadito, as his elders call him, has starred this summer in activities
ranging from visits to sugar mills and a meeting with cattle ranchers,
to the speech at the closing ceremony of the Federation of Cuban Women
Congress, a day at the 10th Congress of the Young Communist League, and
the closing words this Saturday at the National Council of the
University Students Federation. All this, although he is neither a
farmer, nor a woman and much less young.

So many photos and statements have been published in the official press
about the second secretary of the Party Central Committee are giving
shape to a question on the mind of many Cubans. Will the most intense
hardliners end up imposing themselves on the reformers who will
potentially be part of power in Cuba? The frequent appearances of
Machado Ventura on the public scene leave no room for hope.

The little tree man some call this functionary, loyal to the core and
grey in every mitochondria of his cells. To him is attributed a circular
that prohibited the display of Christmas trees in hotels and public
places in 1995. Years later, life imposed its own designs and now Santa
Claus and colored lights are seen everywhere from the first days of
December, in a defiant gesture that must in no way please this man who
is a doctor by profession who has long since forgotten the last time he
treated a patient.

This octogenarian, who acts as if he knows everything, represents what
should end once and for all in Cuba. He incarnates this old-fashioned
power that only approaches those below only to demand from them greater
efficiency and more sacrifices. In his person is the sum of despotism,
arrogance, the superiority of someone who hasn't boarded a bus in
decades, nor counted out the centavos to buy a a couple of pounds of
chicken, and much less felt the cold emptiness of a refrigerator
maintained on the average monthly salary.

Fortunately for the future, Machado Ventura will be one of those faces
that are lost in history. Like in one of those jokes so popular in
Eastern Europe that later jumped to the island, when someone looks for
their name in some encyclopedia and finds barely a succinct note.
Perhaps it will say he was a "cadre of the Cuban Communist Party who
lived during the era when Cubans resumed the practice of decorating with
trees and garlands at Christmas."

Source: Machado Ventura: Neither Young Nor Female / 14ymedio, Yoani
Sanchez | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/machado-ventura-neither-young-nor-female-14ymedio-yoani-sanchez/

Unknown Cuban ballplayer sleeps outside of Dodger Stadium, hoping for a tryout

Unknown Cuban ballplayer sleeps outside of Dodger Stadium, hoping for a
tryout
Craig Calcaterra Aug 31, 2015, 12:28 PM EDT

This is not something you see every day. Cuban ballplayer Loah Linares
has been sleeping outside of Dodger Stadium, hoping to get a chance to
try out for the Dodgers. From ABC 7 in Los Angeles:

It's a lesson in sheer determination. A baseball player from Cuba has
been sleeping on the sidewalk outside Dodger Stadium for 17 days,
waiting and dreaming about one thing: baseball . . . He's determined to
stay outside Dodger Stadium for as long as it takes, and has been
working out as much as he can on the streets, hoping the owners will
give him a shot on the field.

There's a bit at the end there in which stadium security has said that
Linares has tried to get inside the stadium but has not been successful.
Given that he's still there and hasn't been arrested for trespassing,
one can assume it wasn't a serious or threatening attempt.

I can find no reference to him apart from the story of his camping
outside of Dodger Stadium so it seems as though he's not exactly a
prospect, even if he is a baseball player. If he was, you'd think he'd
be in someone's organization right now, not camping outside of a major
league ballpark.

Still, very odd story. The sort of thing that could either be a Disney
story or a story of delusion and determination, depending on which kind
of narrative-crafting you prefer.

Source: Unknown Cuban ballplayer sleeps outside of Dodger Stadium,
hoping for a tryout | HardballTalk -
http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2015/08/31/unknown-cuban-ballplayer-sleeps-outside-of-dodger-stadium-hoping-for-a-tryout/

Cuba's Communist Computer Club for Kids

Cuba's Communist Computer Club for Kids
WRITTEN BY JASON KOEBLER
August 28, 2015 // 08:30 AM EST

I can't really believe the files I'm seeing.

Entire folders full of videos with names like "The best of girls
falling," "Handcuff Fail!" and "Sexiest Wheel of Fortune Ever." Full
Mumford and Sons and Jason Derulo albums. A very bad-looking movie
called Jurassic City. Episodes of 2 Broke Girls and Modern Family and
CSI and Criminal Minds.

I am sitting in a communist computer club for children in downtown
Havana, and I am being pushed pirated material from around the world by
the Cuban government.

To my left, a preteen is playing a pirated version of Halo. To the
right, another is playing World of Warcraft on what seems to be, but is
not, the internet. In the other room, there's a guy checking his profile
on a Cuba-only Facebook knockoff.

There are exactly 603 other "Joven Clubs" just like this one scattered
throughout Cuba's cities and small towns, with an additional handful of
mobile "Ciberexpresos" fashioned out of old train cars and pulled by
semi-trucks.

Every Joven Club ("Kid's Club") building is painted an inviting bright
blue. The insides, however, are more reminiscent of old elementary
school buildings, with sterile fluorescent lights and rows of computers
cobbled together. It's rare to see one that still has all of its
original parts, and the government itself estimates that at least 25
percent of all equipment at the clubs is totally broken.

It's in these clubs that the communist regime is, perhaps, trying to lay
the groundwork for a future cyber battalion. Or maybe it's trying to
indoctrinate the country's youth so that they become pro-revolutionary
and good communists. Or maybe it's just trying to teach kids how to use
computers. It really depends on who you ask.

"They're trying to train a level of tech savvy revolutionary Cubans so
that they can use them as programmers for the military or for a cyber
police unit," Jose Luis Martinez, communications director at the
Miami-based Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba told me. "It's not just
'How can we do this, but how can we use this to our advantage and to
push our agenda?'"

This purpose is actually outlined, more or less, in an article published
in an early issue of Tino, a bimonthly magazine published by the Joven
Club, an official government publication. According to the article, the
purpose of the Joven Club is to "direct young people's capacity to learn
and understand information technology and electronics, with students
getting training in current political, cultural, and social affairs."

"The result of this work will be reflected in … the seasoned army of men
who Fidel [Castro] will trust to perform great works with valor and
grace," the article continues.

To this end, the Joven Clubs have classes on using Microsoft Word and
Excel and basic computer programming and literacy. In addition to
various propaganda contained in Tino, there are quite informative
articles about complex topics, such as how to repair broken circuits and
how to root your Android phone or how to set up a server on your
computer. While I was at the Joven Club, I saw no such training taking
place. Instead, I saw people gaming.

Most agree, then, that one of the main purposes of the Joven Clubs,
outside of vocational training, is to convince young Cubans that they do
not need to use the real internet; that the nationwide Cuban intranet is
good enough.

In their everyday lives, enterprising Cubans have found ways to access
western media not typically available in Cuba, using lots of different
methods. People trade USB drives filled with pirated games, movies, and,
news that are smuggled in from Miami every week in a product called the
paquete. Teens have used illegally imported routers to create local mesh
networks that allow them to play video games and trade files.

As a result, Western media once totally restricted by the government has
become so commonplace and so demanded that, rather than trying to arrest
those who have the paquete or ban video games, the government has had no
choice but to attempt to compete with these capitalist, free market,
open information movements.

And the 604 Joven Clubs appear to be the front lines of this battle:
Last year, the Cuban government introduced the "Mochila," a direct
competitor to the paquete replete with pirated—but government
approved—content from around the world in an attempt to kill the
popularity of the paquete. The Mochila consists of roughly 350 Gb of
data, is available only at Joven Clubs, and is a collaboration between
several different government agencies, including the Ministry of Culture
and the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television.

"In this location you can copy 'the backpack.' With a USB drive you can
copy TV series, music, magazines, and other digital materials both
foreign and domestic." Image: SoyCuba (Cuban state media)
"With these clubs, they're saying to the population, 'OK, you want the
internet, well, play video games, we don't care, look at local Cuban
Wikipedia and government-sponsored websites and use our social networks.
Download the media we want you to see,'" Martinez said. "They're
creating the illusion that these people are connected to something and
are hoping this will be good enough."

And that's why the Joven Clubs appear to be so, well, fun. It's why
Joven Clubs have their own World of Warcraft ladder tournaments and it's
why the Cuban government is actively pirating and disseminating American
movies, television shows, and music, as long as they're approved and
innocuous. (Is it a bummer for Mumford and Sons or Jason Derulo, I
wonder, to be among the few Western musical acts considered by the
communist government to be unthreatening to their regime?) It's why
there is essentially an entire section of videos on the Mochila that
mimic those that tend to go viral on the regular internet, and it's why
you can get pirated versions of "foreign magazines," as long as they're
about baseball or soccer or weightlifting.

In an interview with state media last year, Raul Vantroi Navarro
Martinez, the director of Cuba's Joven Clubs, said that the mochila "is
a cultural concept for a package that does not reward vulgarity or
banality, but provides knowledge, and has a very essential appeal."

Employees at the club are trained to be helpful and welcoming. The
government is not trying to hide the fact that these clubs exist, and
the staff welcomed me when I walked in. One employee was thrilled that I
wanted to pirate the content on the Mochila, in fact.

Over the course of about 15 minutes, a woman in the foyer took my
passport and created a login and password for me as I anxiously wondered
whether she would actually let me use the computers. Finally, she gave
me my username (jkoebler) and password (jkoebler). This would allow me
to access the Cuban intranet, which consists of government-run websites
and video game servers. I paid about a quarter for two hours worth of
browsing time. Another employee led me to the back, where he showed me
exactly how to download the Mochila, or backpack, the couple-hundred
gigs worth of pirated material available to anyone.

"If it's downloading slowly, once that guy is done, you should switch to
the other computer," he told me, gesturing to what was clearly a newer
machine. "That's the best for the Mochila. Take whatever you want."

Though the employees were welcoming to me, they did not allow my
photographer to hang around or talk to me and made him leave the
building altogether because he hadn't registered. Anytime I approached
someone using a computer in an attempt to talk to them, the employee
approached me and helpfully but firmly had me return to the computer I
was assigned to. Surveillance cameras watched my every move, and I can
only assume that the computers themselves had monitoring software, as well.

After I logged in, I was surprised to see copies of Halo, World of
Warcraft, DOTA, Warcraft III, Call of Duty, and dozens of other games
sitting on the desktop. I opened up a web browser and tried to navigate
to Google and a few other websites, which of course did not work,
because I was only connected to the Cuban intranet. I opened a new tab,
and realized that the Joven Club homepage for the day was for the club's
official World of Warcraft server, which has several thousand players
within Cuba. It's surprisingly sophisticated, with an auction house in
which players can sell items for in-game currency, a ladder that ranks
the highest-level players, and apparently, a whole thriving WoW community.

The Joven Club server even has its own official WoW rules: "Don't use
hacks—this is the most basic rule and doesn't need more explanation;"
"Don't bother or mistreat others;" "No profanity," "Don't abuse
exploits;" and this being a communist country, "Above all, do not sell
your account—if you are found trying to sell your account, you will lose
access forever."

I didn't have the time or patience to start playing WoW, so I opened up
the Mochila and started screenshotting material—in addition to the
content I've already mentioned, there were thousands of books, many of
which were revolutionary (the complete works of Leon Trotsky, the
complete works of Cuban national hero Jose Marti, who led the fight for
independence from Spain in the late 1800s, works by Fidel Castro and Che
Guevara). As far as foreign news, there were copies of the Fitness USA
magazine and AS and Sport, both soccer magazines published in Spain.
There were also copies of every issue of Tino. I snagged many of the
would-be viral videos, most of which seem to come from a Canadian show
called Just for Laughs: Gags, and logged off after my USB drive filled up.

Whether Cubans are responding to the Joven Club initiatives is up for
debate. Henry Constantin Ferreiro, an activist who lives in a Cuban city
called Camaguey, told me that no one downloads from the Mochila, and
that few people, relatively speaking, actually go to Joven Clubs or play
games there.

"We have our own internal networks, and people know that what they're
getting at the Joven Clubs is not real," he said. "No one wants to use
the Cuban version of Facebook when they know the real one exists. And
there are much better programs and files available in the paquete than
there are in the Mochila. People see it as a transparent attempt to
control what they watch."

Fidel Alejandro Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Havana, told
me that the Mochila and several other Joven Club projects have mostly
been failures, but he doesn't necessarily believe the government has
created them in an attempt to control its people.

"You have to realize the structure of the state isn't that tight, so you
have some institutions that kind of do what they want and run wild. In
this case, they saw the paquete was popular, so they made the Mochila as
an alternative," he said. "In some senses it's a good idea because you
have some classic movies and other things available that you can't find
in the paquete."

"But you have the state competing against a creative thing that only
happened because of its initial restrictions that's inherently a
commercial, capitalist form of distribution," he added.

The Mochila, everyone agrees, is losing.

"Those who make and distribute the paquete are very efficient, because
it is their business, so they don't work as slowly [as the government],"
Isabel Perez, a professor at the University of Havana, wrote in a June
analysis of how files move around Cuba. "The Mochila initiative had
little impact on the public. The socialization and distribution
mechanisms were not effective, and the Mochila proved to be a proposal
with too many internal barriers."

The Joven Clubs, which have existed since 1987, could soon be
experiencing major changes as well, as Cubans are increasingly demanding
expanded access to the real internet. Earlier this year, the country
released a five year broadband plan that calls for much expanded
broadband access to people's homes (current penetration rate: 0
percent). By 2016, the Joven Clubs are supposed to be turned into
internet cafes with broadband access to the global internet (which will
doubtlessly be controlled and monitored, at least at first). In any
case, it's obvious that as western culture trickles slowly into Cuba,
the status quo is no longer cutting it.

"It's always political. The internet opens tiny cracks of information
that flow into the island and then you have this sense of 'the fortress
is under attack,' so the government's first reaction is to defend,
defend, defend, try to control their behavior," Rodriguez said. "But
that's not working so well anymore. People want and need this, so it has
to happen. It will happen."

Source: Cuba's Communist Computer Club for Kids | Motherboard -
http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-communist-computer-club-for-kids

The Tyrannosaurus Rex Generation

Cuba: The Tyrannosaurus Rex Generation
August 31, 2015
By Martin Guevara

HAVANA TIMES — The experience of Syrian refugees – a drama much talked
about around Europe today, which is cause enough for concern in and of
itself – led me to make a rather disheartening observation.

The tragedies these exiles bring with them from their native soil are
made worse when they fall into the hands of Serbian, Bulgarian and
Hungarian criminals, who not hesitate to try and make a profit through
human trafficking.

The worst, however, is to be found at the hands of mafias, governments
and common people in former Soviet satellites, where "solidarity" or any
respect for human rights is practically non-existent. All the while,
Austria is showing an exemplary sensitivity and behavior.

The first half of the 20th century clearly showed us that Austrians are
not intrinsically kind and that Hungarians, Serbs or Bulgarians are not
demons by nature.

This is the result of the perverse experiment that was inaptly called
"communist," for it did not even adhere to the tenets that the ideology
proclaimed at the time, the experiment essayed in the countries behind
the Berlin Wall, where the least capitalist development was to be found.

Today, the largest numbers of young, working-class neo-Nazis are to be
found precisely in Eastern European countries. Within Germany (which has
earned for itself eternal suspicion), the majority of people who feel
nostalgia for the holocaust are clearly concentrated in the area that
was once the GDR.

I would like to be able to say that Cuba will go a different way, but I
fear that the new generations, already composed of an army of young
people who are apolitical to the bone, defenders of a kind of
anti-culture, characterized by the worst imaginable taste and the most
commercial aesthetic possible, will also have an instinct aversion to
any notion of solidarity, that they will carry this aversion in their
genes, molded and forged as these are by the intense and premeditated
fiasco that accompanied that jargon, that terminology they were forced
to adopt – that the present and future generations will not be able to
avoid associating these ideas with the unique scam the Cuban people were
subjected to for more than half a century.

This new phenomenon is expressed through a handful of vulgar words and
auxiliary interjections that are as difficult to understand as they are
insolent and aggressive.

Regrettably, we have to admit that it is far easier to share cultural,
ethical and even political ideas with those Cubans who were deported
during the first years of the Cuban "de-evolution" than it is with the
voracious litter spawned by that utopian project aimed at creating the
"New Man," a project that led to the creation of young people
reminiscent of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Source: Cuba: The Tyrannosaurus Rex Generation - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=113633

5 Downsides of Traveling in Cuba

5 Downsides of Traveling in Cuba

If you've read our recent articles about traveling independently in
Cuba, you'll know that we absolutely loved exploring this unique
Afro-Latin nation. But it wasn't all mojitos, monuments, museums and
Merengue music. Some aspects of traveling Cuba were difficult and
frustrating, but none of them could possibly ruin the extraordinary
experience of our visit. For sure, the pros far outweighed the cons, but
we'd like to share some of the less enjoyable aspects of Cuba so that
you can better prepare yourself for a trip here.

Little Scams
In our experience, we didn't feel like the Cuban people were out to take
us for all of our money, but during our time spent in Havana, it was
obvious that there were a few jinteros (street hustlers) that were
hoping to get a buck or two from tourists.
This can be a bit frustrating because you really want to meet and
connect with people, but in Cuba (particularly Havana), it's better if
you just ignore those who approach you on the street. These hustlers
will lead you to their favorite restaurant, show you an "authentic"
Cohiba cigar, or offer you a guided tour, but more often than not the
products and services offered are far below what they're touted to be
and by the end of the day, you may end up with far less money in your
pocket and a bad taste in your mouth.
It's not just jinteros that will try to take a few extra CUC (Cuban
Convertible Pesos) from you either. When you purchase water or snacks
from the store, you'll likely be charged double the actual price, or
your change will be incorrect. A common scam is being given back change
in CUP instead of CUC. The key to dealing with scams while still
enjoying your trip is to understand that life in Cuba is hard and these
guys aren't picking your pocket — they're working the street and they're
just trying to make an extra buck. Joke with them and have fun with
it... but don't fall for it.

Tourist Pricing
You may think that Cuba's Dual Currency is a method of tourist pricing
in itself, but you'd be incorrect. The Cubans also have to deal with
this frustrating and often confusing reality. Generally, if you pay 5
CUC for a meal in a restaurant, a local citizen would be charged 5 CUC
as well.
But when it comes to government controlled entrance fees, like those
charged at museums, forts and historical monuments, you'll soon find
that tourist pricing in Cuba can really add up. With entrance fees,
tourists are charged the rate in CUC, and locals are charged the same
rate... but in CUP. That means it is 25 times more expensive for foreign
visitors.
While this may be annoying after a day of sightseeing in Havana, just
keep in mind that wages in Cuba top out at around $25 USD a month, so
it's still comparably more affordable for us to see the sights than for
Cubans.
The worst kinds of tourist pricings are the unofficial ones. You'll be
charged more for everything from bottled water to taxi rides, so be
prepared to bargain and again, keep it light and have fun with it! It's
all a part of the experience.

Street Touts
These guys are usually a little different from your average jintero
because they're actually providing a legitimate service, like horse
rides, taxis, walking tours etc. The problem is in some cities
(particularly Trinidad and Havana's old town), they can be relentless.
On every corner you'll hear "taxi, moto, coco-taxi, horse ride, walking
tour, guide?" They'll interrupt you while you're in the middle of a
conversation and they'll invade your dining experience to try to sell
you their tour.
If you want to avoid these guys, consider booking through Infotur or
Cuba Tour offices. Unfortunately these are state-run, but booking
through them will urge the street touts to find a less invasive mode of
marketing.

Poor Service
When you head into a restaurant in Cuba, don't expect speedy service
with a smile. The truth is, after a short period of time traveling here
you may start to feel like the concept of smiling doesn't exist during
Cuban working hours.
Of course, some touristy places have managed to train their staff very
well and you can find some great waiters in Cuba, but in general you'll
receive abrupt and sometimes even rude service. The annoying part is
that a 10 percent service charge is often added to the bill at
restaurants which are frequented by gringos, but the tip is hardly ever
earned. This bad reputation can be found all over the service industry
in Cuba and you'll notice grim welcomes at restaurants, bars, state
hotels, cafes and even at dive shops.
We learned that if you're overly nice to the waiters and bartenders in
Cuba, eventually they give in and show a lovely smile. You just have to
win them over! Don't let the servers in Cuba change your opinion of the
Cuban people either, because they are very friendly, loving and
hospitable... just not while they're at work!

The Dual Currency
Having to deal with two types of currency is frustrating and confusing.
We have no idea how the locals manage to do this on a day-to-day basis,
but if you want to get over this annoyance in Cuba, then you better
start studying the bills and practicing your divisions by 25 before your
trip. There are two currencies here, CUC and CUP. CUC is what you'll
likely use for the duration of your trip and it's pegged equal to the
USD, while one CUP is the equivalent to just 4 cents U.S. Sound
confusing? It is. For more, check out this article.

Other Than That...
These 5 small annoyances really didn't take away from our amazing
experiences in Cuba, and if you deal with them with some humor and
acceptance, you'll have no problem. Cubans are famous for "making it
work" and while you're there, you should take on the same life motto. It
will ensure that you have a much more relaxing and enjoyable trip.

Source: 5 Downsides of Traveling in Cuba | TravelPulse -
http://www.travelpulse.com/opinions/blog/5-downsides-of-traveling-in-cuba.html

Cuba makes English a priority in schools

Cuba makes English a priority in schools
AFP

Now that Cuba has restored diplomatic ties with the United States,
teaching English in schools will be a priority, the communist party
newspaper Granma reports.

In the 1970s, the study of English in Cuban schools was supplanted by
Russian, after the Soviet Union emerged as the communist island's main
benefactor following Fidel Castro's ascent to power in 1959.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, English returned to Cuba's
academic curriculum. And since Havana and Washington restored ties in
July, interest in English has skyrocketed.

"The language is essential because every day we are going to have more
contact" with the United States and other countries, the communist
party's number two official, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, told university
students over the weekend.

In 2008, two years after yielding power to his brother Raul, Fidel
Castro acknowledged the importance of speaking English.

"The Russians studied English. Everyone studied English, except for us.
We studied Russian," Castro said.

Source: Cuba makes English a priority in schools - 9news.com.au -
http://www.9news.com.au/world/2015/09/01/06/45/cuba-makes-english-a-priority-in-schools

Another Pope, a Different Cuba

Another Pope, a Different Cuba
Why Francis Can Expect a Warm Welcome in Havana
Tom QuigleyAugust 31, 2015 - 12:47pm

It was just a simple announcement. On April 22, Holy See press spokesman
Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, revealed that Pope Francis had "decided to
pay a visit" to Cuba on his way to the United States in late September.
Pay a visit. It almost sounded like an afterthought.

Contrast that with the Sturm und Drang that accompanied Pope John Paul
II's 1998 visit to Cuba. It was a momentous event, arguably as
significant in its time as the Obama-Castro handshake at the Panama
Summit of the Americas last April.

At the time of John Paul's visit, I was advising the U.S. Conference of
Catholic bishops on Latin American issues. My office helped to
coordinate events before and during the trip. Several memories from
those days stand out. Here's one: As John Paul's plane was approaching
José Marti airport that Wednesday, January 21, 1998, ABC News invited me
to provide color commentary. I was seated on a large platform in the
middle of Havana's Parque Central surrounded by a crowd of several
hundred people patiently waiting for something—no one knew quite what—to
happen. I had been fitted with a microphone and an earpiece, and was
listening to TV journalists chattering on the plane about what was
rumored, what was confirmed, and what could be reported. The pope
landed, but I was never called on to speak. When the ABC producer came
to fetch me, I learned that the story of the day was about someone named
Monica Lewinsky. Much of the media headed home.

Prior to John Paul's arrival, no one knew for certain how accommodating
the Cuban government would be. The Cuban Interests Section in Washington
left little doubt that the visit was initially viewed skeptically by the
Cuban government. There were no guarantees about radio and TV coverage,
nor was there certainty about venues for the papal events. That
everything fell into place during the final days, including full
coverage on national TV, ensured that it would be a major moment in
Cuban history. (Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, it's worth noting,
accompanied John Paul on his trip to Cuba.)

Pope Benedict XVI made an equally significant visit to Cuba in April
2012. But, while John Paul's visit was met with near universal acclaim
in the United States, Benedict wasn't so fortunate. Much of the
Cuban-American community, previously dubious of John Paul's meeting with
ese hombre, Fidel Castro, looked forward to the trip. But, given that
John Paul's visit had failed to dislodge the Castro regime, lots of
Americans weren't so sure about Benedict's visit, and it received a fair
amount of intense and uninformed criticism in the United States.

Francis should fare better. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), of course,
deplored Benedict's visit. He and many others on the right are still
angry at Obama's handshake with Raúl Castro in Panama, orchestrated in
part by Francis, so they can be counted on to "regret" the Cuban visit.
But there is every reason to expect Francis will be very well received.
He will be facing a Cuba that has changed considerably since the last
papal visit. Part of the difference comes from the dramatic shift in the
Cuban-U.S. relationship, which Francis himself helped bring about.

Another difference will be that, to the extent that Francis has access
to Cuban radio and TV, he will truly be heard by the Cuban people. John
Paul and Benedict, both elderly and neither an accomplished Spanish
speaker, gave marvelous speeches—all worth reading but, at the time,
barely heard by the people they had come to visit. Papa Bergoglio will
be avidly watched and widely heard.

Another difference between Francis's visit and his predecessors' is the
quality of the papal diplomacy with respect to Cuba. The current prefect
of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Beniamino Stella, was
nuncio to Cuba from 1992 to '99 and was instrumental in planning the
1998 visit. (Stella, incidentally, was first sent to the diplomatic
academy by his bishop at the time, Albino Luciani, who would later
become Pope John Paul I.)

What's more, Cardinal Stella was in Cuba last April to celebrate the
eightieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the Holy
See. The revolution did not sever ties between Cuba and the Holy See. In
fact, the ambassador sent to the Vatican by Castro in 1961, Luis
Amado-Blanco, stayed in office so long that he became dean of the
diplomatic corps. That reportedly irritated the American representative
to the Holy See, who was forced to bring up the rear in formal ceremonies.

The Holy See did downgrade its representation in Havana when the nuncio,
Archbishop Luigi Centoz, had to leave after the Cuban government cracked
down on the church following the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. For the next
dozen years, the Vatican was represented by a chargé d'affaires, Msgr.
Cesare Zacchi. He was finally named nuncio in 1974.

On December 29, 2003, the nuncio to Burundi, Irish-born Archbishop
Michael Courtney, was murdered as he was about to bring to the European
Union damning evidence of crimes committed by the former president of
that country. He had just been assigned nuncio to Cuba but, like another
man assassinated on December 29, Thomas Becket, Michael Aiden Courtney
joined the ranks of murdered archbishops.

The past four nuncios to Cuba, with a single curious exception, are all
viewed widely as outstanding diplomats. Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi,
currently nuncio to Canada, was stationed in Cuba from 2004 until '09.
He was succeeded by Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, currently the number two
in the Vatican's Secretariat of State. Becciu played a major role in the
historic release of prisoners in Cuba, and was brought back to Rome in 2011.

Next came Archbishop Bruno Musaro, the exception, known principally for
violating the first law of diplomacy: The only place you can criticize
the country you're assigned to is in official dispatches. It seems
Musaro was on vacation in his native Italy and preached at an outdoor
Mass in the city of Castro Marina. Whether he was aware his homily was
being taped is unclear, but his criticism of the Cuban government soon
went viral.

The Cuban people, he claimed, were "victims of a socialist dictatorship
that has kept them subjugated for the past fifty-six years.... The only
hope for a better life is to escape the island.... Only liberty can
bring hope to the Cuban people.... I am thankful to the pope for
inviting me to this island, and I hope to leave once the socialist
regime has disappeared indefinitely." Needless to say, his departure
came a bit sooner. Musaro is now nuncio to Egypt.

The present nuncio to Cuba, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, has just come
from his post as nuncio to Iraq and Jordan. Lingua's diplomatic
discretion is so legendary that friends have a saying that "Lingua ["the
tongue"] doesn't talk." It will be Lingua who will be at the pope's side
in Cuba this month.

And then there was the visit that didn't happen. Back in the late 1980s,
the church in Cuba had begun to explore the possibility of a papal visit
set to coincide with the 1992 Quinto Centenario, the fifth centenary of
the beginning of the evangelization of the Americas. In June 1989, the
Cuban bishops issued a pastoral letter that made reference to la próxima
visita of the Holy Father, indicating that the government had agreed to
a visit. But that year was also the year the Berlin Wall fell, soon
followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Cuban government was
well aware of John Paul's role in ending Communism in Poland. They
wanted to keep this Polish troublemaker off their island.

After the Soviet subsidies ended, there were shortages of almost
everything. Few leaders could have been less welcome than John Paul. But
Castro couldn't just withdraw the invitation, so, in a series of "off
the cuff" remarks in Brazil on March 17, 1990, he denounced the Cuban
Catholic Church and its bishops, who, he suggested, would rather be in
Miami. That did the trick.

Today, Cuba is far from a free and democratic society, but, with a good
bit of help from the church it once oppressed, it is getting ever
closer. And that will almost certainly count as one of Pope Francis's
major accomplishments.

Source: Another Pope, a Different Cuba | Commonweal Magazine -
https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/another-pope-different-cuba

Can Obama Unilaterally End the Cuba Embargo?

Can Obama Unilaterally End the Cuba Embargo?
Posted: 08/31/2015 1:34 pm EDT Updated: 08/31/2015 1:59 pm EDT
Jose Gabilondo - Financial Commentator, Professor of Law, Florida
International University

Especially when imposed by a hegemon on a small and vulnerable country,
an embargo is an act of political hatred for that country and its
people. Its goal is to isolate these targets from the support of others,
so an embargo also visits collateral damage on third parties.

President Obama has said that he wants to end the Cuban embargo. Soon he
must make two decisions that will suggest how serious he is.

This month he must decide whether the Trading With the Enemy Act still
authorizes sanctions against the island. TWEA requires an annual
determination by the president that a national emergency exists with
respect to Cuba, one that justifies sanctions. Every U.S. President
since Jimmy Carter (including Obama) has so determined.

This year is different, as I have pointed out. On December 17, 2014, the
leaders of both countries announced the restoration of diplomatic
relations. Given this rapprochement, I don't believe that the president
can invoke TWEA, even if he wanted to. Such emergencies may have existed
during the Cuban missile crisis or the Mariel boatlifts, but budding
diplomatic relations do not an emergency make. Though a handful of
hardliners (in the U.S. and, to a much lesser extent, Cuba) oppose
normalization, it enjoys broad support.

Scrapping TWEA would not mean the end of Cuba sanctions, because they
rest on other legal support. The embargo began as a creature of
executive discretion in 1962 when Kennedy imposed it. His statutory
authority was the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which allowed - but
did not require - him to do so. Added later as separate authority for
the sanctions, TWEA also allowed but did not require an embargo.

In 1992, Cuba hawks in Congress tried to bind the president's hands.
Fearing a dovish executive, they 'codified' the embargo. This meant
enacting as federal statute rules that had formerly depended on the
president's discretion. This legislative strategy intensified four years
later with the Helms-Burton Act, which added new preconditions for the
embargo to be lifted. By sleight of hand, Congress had shifted the locus
of control of the embargo from the president to Congress. Or so it seemed.

A second litmus test of the president's resolve is the annual resolution
of the United Nations against the embargo. Last year, all but five of
the General Assembly´s 193 countries supported it. Predictably, the U.S.
has opposed the resolution for over 20 years.

For the first time in half a century, though, the president and Congress
have parted ways on Cuba. Though confirmed by Congress to represent the
U.S in the United Nations, Ambassador Power represents the president,
who has spoken against the embargo. She should support the resolution or
at least abstain during the vote, recognizing the federal government´s
internal conflicts on the issue. We´ll see.

Can the president end the embargo on his own? According to the
Congressional Research Service, the consensus is 'no' because of
Congress' 1992 and 1996 power grabs. The question of independent
presidential authority never mattered while the president and Congress
were in cahoots because executive authority is unambiguously broad
enough to support the embargo. Occasional inter-branch skirmishes took
place, as when President Carter authorized the Cuban and U.S. interest
sections, but they did not rupture the policy harmony.

Now the question of presidential authority becomes relevant because the
president and Congress hold sharply different views. The Constitution
divides authority for foreign affairs between the president and
Congress, although determining their respective roles can be tricky.
Sometimes Congress must yield to the president, however, the Israeli
passport case being a good recent example. Insofar as the embargo - the
executive embargo - rested on authority vested only in the president -
but not Congress - the 'codifications' fall short of the goal.

So what? Well, in a long-arm assertion of executive power, the president
could retract any discretionary executive authority for the embargo.
Just as TWEA was added as additional authority, a notice in the Federal
Register could state that henceforth the embargo rested neither on TWEA
nor the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 but, instead, only on Congress´
putative codification. That would leave a Congressional embargo on Cuba,
implemented by the president insofar as required to statutorily, but no
further.

Would that embargo be different from the one currently supported by
executive authority? Maybe. It depends on whether Congress had authority
on its own to impose and remove an embargo on Cuba, a legal question yet
to be adjudicated by federal courts.

The president wouldn't have to litigate the issue. By explicitly
revoking all discretionary executive authority for the embargo, he'd be
clearing a path for private actors to challenge the Congressional
embargo in federal courts.

Assume that the president revokes this authority. Imagine a U.S.
business that wants to trade with Cuba but is stymied by the
Congressional embargo. Without executive support, the sanctions become
more vulnerable to legal challenge. If the business could show standing
(no mean feat), a district court might be persuaded to take up the
question now.

Federal courts often - but not always - stay out of disputes between the
president and Congress over who can do what in international affairs, so
I'm not holding my breath. That said, the only players in this drama are
not the Congress, the president, and the Cuban government. As it must,
D17 will create new incentives for private actors to get involved now
that the stakes on the island are higher.

Follow Jose Gabilondo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JMGabilondo

Source: Can Obama Unilaterally End the Cuba Embargo? | Jose Gabilondo -
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jose-gabilondo/can-obama-end-longtime-cuba-embargo_b_8059762.html

Charter flights to Cuba now leaving New Castle Airport

Charter flights to Cuba now leaving New Castle Airport
DELAWARE INC.
Scott Goss, The News Journal 8:26 p.m. EDT August 31, 2015

Delawareans can't catch a direct commercial flight in their home state,
but they now can lease a jet bound directly for Cuba.

JFI Jets, a charter air carrier based in California, announced it has
received federal clearance to fly to Havana from multiple airports
throughout the country – including New Castle Airport.

A JFI Jets employee directed questions about the flights to company
President David J. Rimmer, who was not immediately available for comment
Monday.

"Few private charter carriers have the necessary certifications to fly
to Cuba presently and even fewer have the local knowledge and contacts
on the ground that are key to executing a flawless trip," Rimmer said in
a statement posted on the company's website. "At JFI, we have both."

The company reportedly will offer the flights from New Castle County, as
well as Long Island, New York, and multiple California locations.

Rimmer told Newsday round-trip prices from Long Island to Cuba for a
nine-seat jet will start about $40,000.

About 1,440 Delawareans identified themselves as Cuban-American in the
2010 U.S. Census.

JFI Jets reportedly flew its first charter flight to Cuba last month.

Another is booked for September, but any possible connections through
Delaware were not announced.

Although JFI may have approval to land in Cuba, U.S. citizens still are
bound by federal restrictions on travel to the island.

Those rules technically forbid travel to Cuba for tourism, although
President Barack Obama in January expanded the categories of authorized
travel, making it easier for U.S. citizens to visit.

Americans now legally can travel to Cuba in groups if they can show
their trips are for family visits, research, educational activities,
humanitarian efforts or a handful of other purposes.

But the regulations have become so relaxed that travel companies
reportedly are arranging trips that meet the new requirements.

This summer, JetBlue became the first airline to begin direct flights
from New York to Havana, while American Airlines is expected to start
charter flights from Los Angeles in December.

U.S. cruise lines also are proposing to bring Americans to Cuba for
"educational" tours.

Charter flights to Cuba are not expected to provide a major economic
lift at New Castle Airport at Hares Corner on North Du Pont Highway.

Word of the Cuba flights' availability does provide some positive news
for the Delaware River and Bay Authority-operated facility, which lost
commercial carrier Frontier Airlines in June.

Frontier's departure left Delaware as the only state without direct
commercial airline service.

Source: Charter flights to Cuba now leaving New Castle Airport -
http://www.delawareonline.com/story/money/business/delawareinc/2015/08/31/jfi-jets-offering-charter-flights-cuba-new-castle-airport/71477714/

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ladies in White Denounce Arrests That Began Early Sunday Morning

Ladies in White Denounce Arrests That Began Early Sunday Morning / 14ymedio
Posted on August 30, 2015

14ymedio, 30 August 2015 — The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta
Soler, reported several arrests of opponents and independent journalists
beginning early today. Those detained were prevented from attending Mass
at Santa Rita Church and from participating in the traditional Sunday
march along Fifth Avenue. Despite the strong police operation deployed
around the parish, at least 40 Ladies in White and 15 activists managed
to arrive at the site.

The blogger and activist Agustín López Canino was prevented from leaving
his house by the police car with the number 632 and reporter Juan
Gonzalez Febles was arrested before reaching the location of the march,
according to sources from the dissidence. This newspaper was able verify
the existence of a strong police operation on several streets around the
meeting site of the Ladies in White at Gandhi park starting before ten
o'clock in the morning.

For her part, the dissident Martha Beatriz Roque reported via Twitter
the "troubling proximity between the forces of repression" and the
Ladies in White who were able to reach the park. In particular, a rapid
response brigade gathered at the corner of 3rd avenue and 24th, as
reported by the regime opponent Juan Angel Moya.

As they left the place, the police proceeded to violently arrest the
assembled activists. To date their whereabouts are unknown, but in the
past the women have been transferred to a processing center in Tarara,
east of Havana and men to the place known as Vivac in Calabazar.

Source: Ladies in White Denounce Arrests That Began Early Sunday Morning
/ 14ymedio | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/ladies-in-white-denounce-arrests-that-began-early-sunday-morning-14ymedio/

Wipe the Slate Clean and Start Over, or Form a Truth Commission?

Cuba: Wipe the Slate Clean and Start Over, or Form a Truth Commission?
Posted on August 30, 2015

Ivan Garcia, 11 July 2015 — On a leaden afternoon in 1960 that portended
rain, René, 79 years old, recalls how a half-dozen militia members
encased in wide uniforms and bearing Belgian weapons appeared at his
uncle's house in the peaceful neighborhood of La Víbora to certify the
confiscation of his properties.

"My family owned a milk processing plant that produced white and cream
cheeses. They also owned an apartment house and a country residence. In
two hours they were left with just the house in La Víbora and a car.
Fidel Castro's government confiscated the rest without paying a cent.
Within six months they flew to Miami. Of course, I would view it well if
the Cuban state were to compensate us for that arbitrariness. But I
doubt it. Those people (the regime) have never liked to pay debts,"
says René, who still lives with his children and grandchildren in the
big house that had belonged to his relatives.

The Bearded One's confiscatory hurricane was intense. Residences, works
of art, jewelry, automobiles, industries, stores, businesses and
newspapers were nationalized in the name of Revolutionary Justice.

Later, in 1968, the pyre of expropriations extended to the frita stands,
neighborhood grocery stores, and scissor-sharpening shops. "They'd
arrive with their dog faces and seize everything. Later, the owner of
the little shop would have to sign a form attesting that the surrender
had been voluntary. As far as I know, nobody protested. There was too
much fear," recalls Daniel, formerly the owner of a shoe repair shop.

Roy Schecher, an American born in Cuba, saw his rural property of
5,666 hectares, and a 17-room, colonial-era house in Havana,
expropriated by the government; it is now the residence of the Chinese
Embassy.

Schechter's daughter, Amy Rosoff, told the publication News.com that
when the authorities told her parents that their properties no longer
belonged to them, they escaped from the Island in a ferry, carrying
their hidden jewelry.

Schecter even paid all his employees before leaving, with the hope that
he would return. He spent the rest of his life working in his
father-in-law's shoe store, and reminding his daughter that the lost
properties would one day be reclaimed.

Cases like these number in the thousands. The United States government
alleges that the military autocracy in Cuba owes $7-billion dollars to
former property owners.

Several law firms in the US and Spain expect to wage a legal battle for
their clients to obtain just compensation. Nicolás Gutiérrez, a Florida
resident (but born in Costa Rica after his parents, Nicolás Gutiérrez
Castaño and Aleida Álvarez, were exiled) defends the idea that some day
the families whose properties were expropriated by the Cuban regime will
be compensated.

And it is because Gutiérrez, a lawyer by profession, characterizes
Decree 890, issued on 13 October 1960, as a "theft act" by which the
recently installed government stripped all American companies operating
on the Island of their properties, as well as the Cuban owners of many
businesses.

So, too, the Gutiérrez family was bereft of their assets, including
several sugar processing plants that were valued then at more than
$45-million dollars.

The Gutiérrez-Castaño family's holdings, which were among the most
affected by the expropriations law, were built on years of work
by Nicolás Castaño Capetillo, a Basque immigrant who arrived in Cuba at
the age of 14 and with barely a third-grade education. When he died in
1926, "he was considered among the wealthiest men in the country,
according to statements by his great-grandson to Iliana Lavastida,
journalist with Diario Las Américas.

While the enterprises of hundreds of families or multinational
corporations such as Coca-Cola or Exxon were confiscated, thousands of
Cubans purged their defiance towards the Castro regime with long prison
sentences.

Still remaining to be documented is the number of compatriots who were
executed as a result of extremely summary trials, for having utilized
the very same methods to which Fidel Castro resorted during his
confrontation with the dictator Fulgencio Batista.

To be a dissident during the first years of the Revolutionary Government
was a grave crime. Thousands of women and men suffered beatings and
mistreatment in the Island's prisons. The history of Cuban political
imprisonment cannot be forgotten.

Now that the final reel of the Castro brother's saga is rolling, the
subject is once again relevant. What to do? Forget the past, or form a
commission to investigate the arbitrary actions committed by the government?

Much can be learned from the experience of Eastern Europe. In the Spring
of 2013, a conference took place in Miami in which Cubans from both
shores participated, along with dissidents from the old communist Germany.

Reconciliation is not easy, warned Dieter Dettke, professor of the BMW
Center of German and European Studies at Georgetown University, as well
as Günter Nooke, dissident of the old German Democratic Republic (GDR),
and later commissioner of human rights in reunified Germany.

A true rapprochement requires forgiveness as much as justice, but not
revenge, Dettke said, pointing out that following the GDR's collapse,
246 of its top-level functionaries were accused of various abuses.
Around half were declared not guilty.

For reconciliation to happen, "there needs to be a sinner who repents,"
said Nooke, who went on to state that the German government had agreed,
following the reunification, to pay reparations to victims of the STASI,
the GDR's notoriously brutal security apparatus.

It is no use to attempt to turn the page as if nothing had happened. In
its defense, the regime maintains that for reasons of the embargo, the
United States should compensate Cuba with $100-billion dollars.

One might then ask if the olive-green autocracy plans to ask forgiveness
for having lied to the Cuban people. Never was our opinion sought as to
implementing is absurd political, economic and social strategies.

When the storm blows over, Cubans, all of us, should determine how we
will negotiate our future without forgetting the past –keeping in mind
that hatred obscures clarity.

Photo by Gilberto Ante, 17 May 1959, La Plata, Sierra Maestra. In the
country hut of peasant Julián Pérez: Fidel Castro; the economist Oscar
Pinos Santos (seated in a corner, wearing glasses and a watch);
and Antonio Núñez Jiménez, president of the National Institute for
Agrarian Reform (at the left, wearing a beret), among other members of
the Revolutionary Government; giving the final touches to the first
Agrarian Reform Law, which would expropriate the large estates, and
would become the first legal measure of a radical nature enforced by the
bearded ones in power. On 4 October 1963, a second Agrarian Reform Law
was approved, which according to some specialists marked the beginning
of the agricultural disaster of Cuba (TQ).

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Cuba: Wipe the Slate Clean and Start Over, or Form a Truth
Commission? | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-wipe-the-slate-clean-and-start-over-or-form-a-truth-commission/

Cuba Buys Successors to Russian Missiles That Downed Brothers to the Rescue Planes

Cuba Buys Successors to Russian Missiles That Downed Brothers to the
Rescue Planes / 14ymedio
Posted on August 30, 2015

14ymedio, 30 August 2015 – In 2015 Cuba will have modern air-to-air
missiles acquired from Russia, according to the state-operated Russian
Agency of International Information. The island's government will
receive a consignment of VYMPEL R-73Es, which will add to the missiles
already imported in recent years, said Yuri Klinshin, president of the
Duks company.

The note added that the missile is highly maneuverable and can reach a
top speed of 1,500 miles/hour, and a maximum height of 18.6 miles. Other
countries that have already bought these arms include Vietnam, Angola,
Venezuela Uruguay and Indonesia, among others.

The Vympel R-73E is the successor to the R-60MK, which the USSR gave to
Cuba and which was used by the Cuban Air Force to shoot down two
civilian Cessnas belonging to Brothers to the Rescue on 24 February
1996. The attack cost the lives of four crew members and provoked a
strong reaction from the Cuban exile community. The scandal led
President Bill Clinton to sign the Helms Burton Act.

Twenty years later, in the midst of a fragile and tortuous process of
normalization of relations between the US and Cuba, this new purchase of
Russian rockets is disclosed.

Source: Cuba Buys Successors to Russian Missiles That Downed Brothers to
the Rescue Planes / 14ymedio | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-buys-successors-to-russian-missiles/

U.S. Government Snubs the Independent Cuban Press

U.S. Government Snubs the Independent Cuban Press / Ivan Garcia
Posted on August 30, 2015

Iván García, Havana, 10 August 2015 — The U.S. Embassy in Havana, the
State Department, and the administration of Barack Obama, have
intentionally mapped out a strategy to prevent independent Cuban
journalists from covering the visit of John Kerry and the official
reopening of the diplomatic headquarters on Friday, August 14.

For the the four-day historic event, no independent journalist,
dissident, or human rights activist has been invited to participate in
the ceremony, or the press conference by Kerry.

Since July 22nd I have made a dozen calls to the U.S. Public Affairs
Office in Havana to request a press pass that would allow me to cover
the event for Diario las Americas, El Periodico de Catalunya, and
Webstringers LCC, a Washington-based media communications company, and I
have not received a response from any official.

According to a diplomatic source, effective July 20th, the process
changed for obtaining a credential to cover events or press conferences
of politicians, business organizations, or Americans visiting the island.

Before that date, when Lynn W. Roche was head of the Public Affairs
Section, I could get credentials in record time. I was able to cover the
visit of Roberta Jacobson, congressmen, senators, businessmen, and
officials from the State Department, among others.

Now, according to this source, accreditation must be obtained at the
International Press Center of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, located
at 23rd and O, in Vedado. A rather crude strategy designed to get rid of
independent journalists.

The worst part is not the disrespect or indifference. The U.S.
government has the sovereign right to invite to its events those people
it deems appropriate.

But out of respect, at least have the courtesy to speak face-to-face
with independent journalists and inform them of the new policy. Don't
beat around the bush.

The U.S. government, which is not stupid, knows that for 54 years Cuba
has been ruled by a military autocracy that prohibits political
opposition and independent journalism.

Leaving press accreditation to the Cuban regime for events that the
United States puts on in Cuba is like putting a child molester in charge
of a Boy Scout camp.

Armed with a letter from Maria Gomez Torres, director of content for
Webstringers, I personally went to the International Press Center. The
official who vetted me, after reading the letter, looked through her
papers and said with mock surprise, "Mr. García, you do not appear as an
accredited journalist in Cuba."

"And how can I be accredited?" I asked her.

"You must have an operating license and a permit from the Center," she
replied.

"Fine. Can you handle that for me?"

"No, because you do not qualify," she replied with a tone of mystery.

"Why don't I qualify, since I've collaborated with newspapers in Spain
and the United States since 2009?" I inquired.

"Our Center reserves the right to give permission to reporters as we see
fit," snapped the bureaucrat.

After the unsuccessful attempt, I again called on the U.S. Embassy to
request an appointment with an official who could tell me why an
independent journalist cannot be accredited to the August 14 event.

But no one would take my call. December 17 marked a new era between Cuba
and the United States. That noon, Barack Obama promised to empower the
Cuban people and to promote respect for human rights on the island.

Pure demagoguery. The government that claims to promote democratic
values, shamelessly tramples the spirit and letter of its Constitution,
where the right to inform is sacred.

The U.S. government is trying not to tarnish its August 14 gala, knowing
that if it accredits independent journalists and invites dissidents,
then officials of the regime will not attend.

The olive-green autocracy has a rule that it will not take part in any
event with Cuban dissidents, whom it considers "mercenaries and
employees of the U.S. government."

This time, the Obama administration is going to pander to them.

Translated by Tomás A.

Source: U.S. Government Snubs the Independent Cuban Press / Ivan Garcia
| Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/u-s-government-snubs-the-independent-cuban-press/