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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Authorities Seize a Shipment of Seafood Hidden in an Ambulance

Authorities Seize a Shipment of Seafood Hidden in an Ambulance / 14ymedio
Posted on August 22, 2014

14YMEDIO, Havana, 20 August 2014 – Cuban authorities recently seized a
shipment of 270 pounds of shrimp and 110 pounds of lobster being
transported hidden in an ambulance, the official newspaper Granma
reported in its edition of Tuesday 19 August.

The official organ of the Communist Party refers to unlicensed fishermen
as "internal enemies against whom we must intensify the struggle." The
author of the text, Ortelio González Martínez, analyzes the situation of
illegal fishing in the province of Ciego de Avila where, he says, "There
are still black holes into which seafood escapes."

The journalist said that so far 18 contracts have been cancelled "for
repeated breaches of catch plans, boats out of commission for a long
period of time, and sales out of the province," and he emphasizes the
growing danger posed by the illegal seafood sales networks.

Despite being unavailable in the official markets, seafood is widely
available in the informal trade networks on the Island. Harvesting
shellfish is illegal for most fisherman—with or without a license—and is
the exclusive domain of State or private cooperatives. The State has
sole responsibility for managing seafood, which can be destined for
export, or consumed at tourist resorts on the Island.

Source: Authorities Seize a Shipment of Seafood Hidden in an Ambulance /
14ymedio | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/authorities-seize-a-shipment-of-seafood-hidden-in-an-ambulance-14ymedio/

Female Caricature

Female Caricature / Yoani Sanchez
Posted on August 23, 2014

14yMEDIO, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 August 2014 – A woman on national
television said that her husband "helps" her with some household chores.
To many, the phrase may sound like the highest aspiration of every
woman. Another lady asserts that her husband behaves like a "Federated
man," an allusion to the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), which today is
celebrating its 54th anniversary. As for me, on this side of the screen,
I feel sorry for them in the face of such meekness. Instead of the
urgent demands they should mention, all I hear is this appreciation
directed to a power as manly as it is deaf.

It's not about "helping" to wash a plate or watch the kids, nor tiny
illusory gender quotas that hide so much discrimination like a slap. The
problem is that economic and political power remains mainly in masculine
hands. What percentage of car owners are women? How many acres of land
are owned or leased by women. How many Cuban ambassadors on missions
abroad wear skirts? Can anyone recite the number of men who request
paternity leave to take care of their newborns? How many young men are
stopped by the police each day to warn them they can't walk with a
tourist? Who mostly attends the parent meetings at the schools?

Please, don't try to "put us to sleep" with figures in the style of,
"65% of our cadres and 50% of our grassroots leaders are women." The
only thing this statistic means is that more responsibility falls on our
shoulders, which means neither a high decision-making level nor greater
rights. At least such a triumphalist phrase clarifies that there are
"grassroots leaders," because we know that decisions at the highest
level are made by men who grew up under the precepts that we women are
beautiful ornaments to have at hand…always and as long as we keep our
mouths shut.

I feel sorry for the docile and timid feminist movement that exists in
my country. Ashamed for those ladies with their ridiculous necklaces and
abundant makeup who appear in the official media to tell us that "the
Cuban woman has been the greatest ally of the Revolution." Words spoken
at the same moment when a company director is sexually harassing his
secretary, when a beaten woman can't get a restraining order against her
abusive husband, when a policeman tells the victim of a sexual assault,
"Well, with that skirt you're wearing…" and the government recruits
shock troops for an act of repudiation against the Ladies in White.

Women are the sector of the population that has the most reason to shout
their displeasure. Because half a century after the founding of the
caricature of an organization that is the Federation of Cuban Women, we
are neither more free, nor more powerful, nor even more independent.

Source: Female Caricature / Yoani Sanchez | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/female-caricature-yoani-sanchez/

Nazdarovie - New retro-Soviet restaurant a nod to nostalgia for ties between Havana and Moscow

Nazdarovie: New retro-Soviet restaurant a nod to nostalgia for ties
between Havana and Moscow
Published August 23, 2014 Associated Press

In this Aug 20, 2014, photo, Matryoshka dolls and bottles of vodka sit
on display at the Nazdarovie restaurant during its pre-launch in Havana,
Cuba. Occupying the third story of a historic building on the seafront
Malecon boulevard, Nazdarovie is an homage to the old country. (AP
Photo/Ramon Espinosa) (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

In this Aug 20, 2014, photo, a guest walks past near a reproduction of a
Soviet propaganda poster at the entrance to the Nazdarovie restaurant
during its pre-launch dress rehearsal in Havana, Cuba. Nazdarovie, named
for the popular Russian toast, serves Slavic fare like bowls of
blood-red borscht and stuffed Ukrainian varenyky dumplings, hand-rolled
in the back by "babushkas" who were born in the former Soviet Union but
have long called Cuba home. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Next SlidePrevious Slide
HAVANA – There's no rice, beans or fried plantains at Havana's newest
private restaurant. You can order a minty mojito, but it'll come mixed
with vodka instead of the traditional white rum.

The waiters speak Russian, and patrons are expected to order in that
language if they want to get served. But don't worry, the menus at this
retro-Soviet restaurant come with translations and pronunciation guides
for the non-initiated.

Nazdarovie, which is named for the popular Russian toast and opened
Friday, is all about Slavic fare like bowls of blood-red borscht and
stuffed Ukrainian varenyky dumplings, hand-rolled in the back by
"babushkas" who were born in the former Soviet Union but have long
called Cuba home.

It's a nod to nostalgia for the island's Soviet ties during the Cold
War, a time when Moscow was Havana's main source of trade and aid and
hundreds of thousands of Cubans traveled to the Soviet bloc as
diplomats, artists and students.

"For most of them it was the first time they ever left this island. They
have nostalgia about their time there, about the flavors they
experienced for the first time," said Gregory Biniowsky, a 45-year-old
Canadian of Ukrainian descent who dreamed up Nazdarovie and launched it
with three Cuban partners.

"The idea with Nazdarovie is really to celebrate a unique social and
cultural link that existed and to a certain degree still exists today
between Cuba of 2014 and what was once the Soviet Union," said
Biniowsky, a lawyer and consultant who has lived in Havana for two decades.

The collapse of the Soviet bloc largely ended the Havana-Moscow
connection and sent Cuba into an economic tailspin. However, Russian
President Vladimir Putin has talked recently of renewing the
relationship. He made a state visit last month, Russian navy ships
periodically dock in Havana's harbor and Cuba has backed Russia in its
dispute over Ukraine.

Occupying the third story of a historic building on the seafront Malecon
boulevard, Nazdarovie is an homage to the old country.

Behind the bar, Russian nesting dolls and a bust of Lenin perch next to
bottles of high-end vodka. Reproductions of Soviet propaganda posters
line one wall in an attempt to spark conversation among customers
sitting at a long communal table. About the only sign of the tropics is
the million-dollar terrace view of Havana's skyline and the Straits of
Florida.

At a pre-launch dress rehearsal this week, smartly dressed young waiters
set steaming bowls of solyanka, a meaty Russian soup, before about 20
invited guests.

The evening's menu also included pelmeni, dumplings filled with meat,
sour cream and dill; golubtsy, stuffed cabbage rolls slow-cooked in a
tomato sauce; pork Stroganoff (beef is often scarce in Cuba); and for
dessert, savory-sweet blintzes, called "blinchiki" in Russian.

Biniowsky said most of the ingredients can be found on the island, with
some exceptions such as flour for black bread, and caviar, for which
they'll rely on tins imported in the personal luggage of friends and
family. It will go for about $15 an ounce, with fancier and pricier
varieties available for special occasions.

In the air-conditioned kitchen, Irina Butorina stirred gobs of
mayonnaise with potatoes, eggs, ham and peas to create an olivier salad,
a popular dish in former Soviet states that, according to legend, was
invented by a Belgian- or French-Russian chef named Lucien Olivier.

Butorina, 56, fell in love with a Cuban student she met at university in
her native Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic, now Kyrgyzstan, and moved
here in 1984. She said the taste of her mother's recipes faded as she
adapted to Cuba.

"At first I used to cook a lot of Russian food here, but then a lot of
things disappeared from the market — cabbage, for example. ... so then I
make Cuban food," she said. "But these people here have started this
restaurant. It was their dream ... and our dream as well."

Experts say Butorina's story is typical of the Soviet diaspora here: Of
the estimated 3,000-4,000 islanders who were born in the Soviet Union or
descended from them, most are cases of Soviet women who married Cuban
university students and moved to the Caribbean nation.

Some were divorced or widowed but remain in Cuba decades later with
little or no tie to their homelands.

"I think for many it was a truly traumatic experience because there are
many of our women who have not traveled, who have not returned to visit
their countries after the Soviet Union disintegrated," said Dmitri
Prieto-Samsonov, an anthropologist who studies the Soviet diaspora in Cuba.

At Nazdarovie, one poster in particular stands out amid the current
crisis between Moscow and Kiev. Created under Nikita Khrushchev to
commemorate the 300th anniversary of the reunification of Russia and
Ukraine, it shows two runners representing the Soviet republics
simultaneously breaking the tape at a finish line. "To the
indestructible friendship and to new successes in sports," the slogan reads.

"That poster could seem like a joke, almost black humor," said
Prieto-Samsonov, who was born to a Russian mother and a Cuban father and
spent his first 13 years in Russia.

"I wish (the conflict) weren't happening between our countries," he
added. "We have great desires for peace."

Biniowsky said Nazdarovie seeks to transcend politics and build
community: People of Russian and Ukrainian descent and others working,
cooking and eating side by side, united by the shared memory of a
vanished nation-state rather than divided by current animosities.

"Not in the kind of naive utopian sense, but sometimes breaking bread
and getting drunk on vodka is key to peace."

___

Peter Orsi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Peter_Orsi

Source: Nazdarovie: New retro-Soviet restaurant a nod to nostalgia for
ties between Havana and Moscow | Fox Business -
http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2014/08/23/nazdarovie-new-retro-soviet-restaurant-nod-to-nostalgia-for-ties-between-havana/

Cuban fishermen discover ancient artifacts

Cuban fishermen discover ancient artifacts
By Indo Asian News Service | IANS

Havana, Aug 23 (IANS) Fishermen in Cuba's Pinar del Rio province have
discovered artifacts believed to be from a 17th or 18th century shipwreck.
The "important marine archaeological find" was recently discovered off
the coast of Puerto Esperanza, a town in Pinar del Rio, Xinhua reported.
The find comprises some 60 artifacts, including firearms, cannon balls,
swords and machetes.
"While it's important to point out that this is an interesting
discovery, it's crucial to insist that such finds of historical value
must remain and be preserved in their own setting," a researcher and
member of Cuba's Naval Maritime Historical Group, Enrique Giniebra said.
The coasts around the province are littered with shipwrecks dating from
the age of pirates on the high seas, Giniebra added.
This particular find is considered as the most important till date in
the province.

Source: Cuban fishermen discover ancient artifacts - Yahoo Maktoob News
-
https://en-maktoob.news.yahoo.com/cuban-fishermen-discover-ancient-artifacts-044048920.html

Cuba struggles to attract investors despite reforms

Cuba struggles to attract investors despite reforms
BY MARC FRANK
HAVANA Thu Aug 21, 2014 1:29pm EDT

(Reuters) - Cuba has yet to attract new foreign investors despite
launching two major initiatives in the past year, a sign of the
lingering caution over doing business with the communist government and
its own hesitancy to follow through on free-market-style reforms.

Cuba last November opened a China-style special development zone,
including a new container terminal at Mariel Bay. It also passed a new
foreign investment law in March, saying it needed more than $2 billion a
year in foreign direct investment to spur growth.

But despite cutting taxes and lowering customs barriers in line with
other investment regimes in the Caribbean, Cuba has yet to overcome the
disadvantages associated with the U.S. economic embargo as well as its
Soviet-style economy.

"Cuba has a ways to go in learning how to react with agility to business
opportunities," said Pedro Freyre, who heads the international practice
at the Miami-based law firm Akerman LLP, which closely follows the
reforms under way on the island.

The new foreign investment law, which took effect at the end of June,
cut the tax on profits in half, eliminated a labor tax and granted new
investors an eight-year exemption on a profits tax.

Though potential investors welcome the tax cuts, some remain wary over
Cuba's legal regime, especially after the recent jailing of a handful of
foreign executives and the seizing of their businesses over corruption
allegations.

Investment proposals under negotiation, which still must be approved at
the highest level of the Cuban government, include projects in light
manufacturing, packaging, alternative energy, pharmaceuticals and
warehouse shipping logistics, according to officials.

Consumer goods giant Unilever (UNc.AS) (ULVR.L), which left Cuba in a
dispute over who would have the controlling stake in a joint venture
with the government, is said to be negotiating a return to Mariel.

Two other companies considering operations in Mariel, according to
diplomats, are in joint ventures with the Cuban government: French
beverages company Pernod Ricard (PERP.PA) and cigarette maker BrasCuba,
part of the Brazilian subsidiary of British American Tobacco (BATS.L).

HIGH HOPES

Cuba's economy is stagnating despite a raft of market-oriented reforms
initiated by President Raul Castro in 2008. Cuba reported growth of just
0.6 percent in the first half of this year and revised downward its
full-year growth forecast to 1.4 percent from 2.2 percent.

Castro has proposed moving 40 percent of the state labor force to a new
non-state sector made up of farms, small businesses, cooperatives and
joint ventures, and state-run companies have been granted more autonomy.

Bringing in more investment is seen as crucial to the economy. Castro
recently told the National Assembly that Cuba needs to attract a minimum
$2.5 billion per year to reach annual growth targets above 5 percent.

But eying such a quick pace of growth might be overly ambitious.

Omar Everleny, an economist who specializes in foreign investment,
estimated in a recent paper that just $5 billion had been invested in
Cuba over the last 20 years.

The government had hoped foreign companies would build factories or new
import-export installations at Mariel, some 28 miles (45 km) west of
Havana. The special economic zone, covering 180 square miles (466 square
km), drew some interest from potential investors, most of whom had
existing business ties with Cuba.

But they discovered a paucity of infrastructure in and around the port.
Land and utility prices had not even been established. No wage policy
was set. Lacking such basic information, companies delayed negotiations
and the feasibility studies needed for approval.

Likewise with the new foreign investment law, the promised lists of
investment opportunities by government ministries, from agriculture and
industry to food processing and pharmaceuticals, have yet to be drawn up.

"Cuba's foreign investment law and its Mariel development zone are
emblematic of most of the recent reforms on the island. Many of the
changes are in the right direction, but not happening fast enough," said
Peter Schechter, director of the Latin American program at the
Washington-based Atlantic Council.

Still, one Western diplomat predicts a number of ventures will be signed
by the end of the year.

"They have absolutely no choice but to change," the diplomat said. "They
need investment in all sectors to survive."

(Reporting by Marc Frank; editing by Daniel Trotta, G Crosse and Kieran
Murray)

Source: Cuba struggles to attract investors despite reforms | Reuters -
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/21/us-cuba-investment-idUSKBN0GL1RZ20140821

In Cuba, Economic Contradictions Amid Change

Voices: In Cuba, Economic Contradictions Amid Change
BY JOSÉ GABILONDO

MIAMI, FL -- In Havana last week, I thought about how much its economy
had changed since my first visit in college. At that time, Cuba got
Soviet subsidies. After they ended, the island entered its periodo
especial en tiempos de paz - its special period in times of peace - a
campaign of self-imposed austerity, akin to what the International
Monetary Fund imposes on some debtor countries.

An island colleague jokes that Cuba is not a socialist country but a
surrealist one. She's right. It's not just the juxtaposition of a
donkey-driven cart next to the Benetton store in Plaza Vieja. Here
contradiction is the rule of economic life.
JOSE GABILONDO

Take money and prices. The island has two currencies: the national peso
and the convertible peso ('CUC'), which is a 'hard' currency pegged
roughly to the dollar and worth 24 national pesos. Government wages are
in pesos, but people get CUCs from foreign employers, private
enterprise, and remittances from abroad. This results in two economies -
a peso economy and a CUC one. The state sets some prices for both, while
others float based on market factors.

Some pricing is relational: for the same good or service, nationals pay
in pesos, but foreigners will pay a higher CUC price. It's no permanent
solution to inequality, but I like it because Cuba is in a unique
situation and tourists here are almost always wealthier than nationals.
So even though average monthly wages are estimated at 500 pesos (roughly
$20 U.S.), this figure probably does not reflect the real income of
those who work in the private sector or who get money from abroad.

JOSE GABILONDO
Cuba has two currencies: the national peso and the convertible peso
('CUC') pegged roughly to the dollar and worth 24 national pesos.
Government wages are in pesos, but people get CUCs from foreign
employers, private enterprise, and remittances from abroad. 1 Euro is
around 26 CUCs or dollars, which equals 620 Cuban pesos.
That said, pent-up demand is a fact of life. A stand-up comedian that I
saw joked, 'If we're an island, surrounded by ocean, where's my fish?'
Until recently, state rations included fish, but now more chicken has
taken its place.

Visiting Cuba can serve as mental floss against hyper-consumerism
because - like the prospect of being hanged - scarcity focuses the mind.
Without a foreign credit card or a trip to the Western Union in
Guantanamo, U.S. citizens and residents can spend only what they bring.
A currency tax makes dollars dear, so I took Euros.

For a tourist, staying within the Treasury's spending guidelines is not
hard. Many good things cost only 10 pesos, or about 50 cents in U.S.
dollars: a hot dog, bizcocho (crispy pound cake), or a ride in a
pre-Revolutionary collective taxis known as almendrones from the Spanish
word for the almonds that they resemble. Going to the movie theatre
costs 2 pesos and the Cuban law books I use in class sell for 15-25 pesos.

What of Raul Castro's reforms? Pay attention because – though
incremental - they matter. Cubans can now apply for a passport, though
for some it's a difficult and uncertain process. They can swap, buy, and
sell real property more easily. A local version of Craig's List charges
1 CUC a day for advertising real estate. Arguably, a real estate bubble
is underway in Havana insofar as property values are out of synch with
what people earn. My landlady had been offered 300,000 CUCs for her 3
bedroom flat near the Hotel Nacional. She's holding out for more.

JOSE GABILONDO

Layoffs of government workers are routine. Independently, more people
work for themselves. . As I bit into one of those 10 peso hotdogs,
Eduardo – sitting next to me – explained that he nets 600 pesos a day
selling pastries on the street and saves $20 a day, more than many of my
friends in the U.S.

Drivers of the diesel-guzzling collective taxis (30 liters a day) can
take home 500 pesos a day after paying a hefty 800 pesos for their daily
leases. These may not rise to the level of small businesses, but they
are micro-capitalism.

Economics aside, for sexual minorities things are noticeably better.
Last Saturday night I rode in a '55 Buick to a gay disco located –
surrealism again – in the Plaza de la Revolución, site of Fidel Castro's
famous speeches.In a country that sent gay men to work camps for
're-education' as late as 1968 and that later quarantined those with
HIV, this openness is important.

Once seen as a form of 'bourgeois deviation,' sexual diversity is slowly
being mainstreamed, more so in Havana than in rural areas. Much of the
credit for this goes to Mariela Castro – the President's daughter – for
her advocacy on behalf of transsexuals and other sexual minorities.
Cuba's legislative branch has considered legalizing gay marriage, but
that remains a distant victory.

Expect more changes. Almost certainly the government will suppress the
CUC and align the economy behind the peso. There's talk of further cuts
to la libreta, the ration book that provides Cubans with subsidized
access to eggs, rice, sugar, beans, chicken, and other staples.

Raul Castro has announced that he will leave the presidency in 2018. I
say he means it.

A friend once described the tenure track for academics as 'bit by bit,
then all of a sudden,' in that little steps add up - until seemingly all
at once - the big goal materializes. That's how I see these reforms in Cuba.

I wish I could say the same about U.S. policy towards Cuba. Sadly, I
think that the current U.S. embargo and its policies are as outdated as
that '55 Buick.

Of course, I have a dog in this race. Visiting this surreal country – my
country too - helps me to appreciate what Cuba meant to my family (we
left in '67) and to understand my own complex feelings about negotiating
between the two worlds of Cuba and the U.S. Small wonder that each time
I leave José Martí International Airport for Miami, a part of me stays
behind, waiting till I return.

First published August 21st 2014, 1:31 pm

Source: Voices: In Cuba, Economic Contradictions Amid Change - NBC
News.com -
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/voices-cuba-economic-contradictions-amid-change-n181616

Can Tampa ever reconnect with Havana?

Can Tampa ever reconnect with Havana?
Posted: Aug 21, 2014 10:09 PM RDT
Updated: Aug 22, 2014 3:24 AM RDT
By: Lloyd Sowers, FOX 13 News - bio

If your ancestors emigrated from Europe, you might trace your roots to
Ellis Island in the early 1900's. If you're a Cuban American from Tampa,
your Ellis Island is likely Ybor City around the same time.

Many Cuban Americans' ancestors likely arrived in Tampa on a steamer
from Havana to work in the cigar industry. They arrived long before
Castro's communist revolution in 1959.

Tampa native and Cuban American Mario Nunez wants to find the birthplace
of his grandfather, born in Cuba in 1892.

"Somebody who has Irish ancestry, Chinese ancestry, they can go to their
mother country and find the land from where their grandparents came. I'm
restricted from doing that," lamented Nunez.

THE LONG EMBARGO

He's restricted by the U.S.A.'s embargo on Cuba imposed in 1962. Many
Cubans who left the Island around the time Castro took power in 1959
continue to support the embargo, but many Cuban Americans in Tampa, some
of them third- or fourth-generation Americans, have a different view.

"We've tried [the embargo] for 53 years," said Victor Rudy DiMaio, whose
Cuban grandmother came to Tampa in the early 1900's.

He supports lifting the embargo and restoring the historic connection
between Tampa and Havana. Port Tampa Bay is the closest deep water port
to Havana.

"And I don't mean just an opportunity to make money," says DiMaio. "I
see an opportunity to reconnect."

TAMPA-HAVANA RECONNECTION?

Nunez says he doesn't expect the embargo to be lifted overnight, but he
believes individuals should be able to get licenses from the U.S. State
Department to independently visit Cuba.

Currently, to visit and spend money in Cuba legally, Americans must
usually go through licensed agents or charter services who are
authorized to put together groups for humanitarian, cultural, or
educational purposes.

Nunez says it can be expensive and time consuming to join some of those
groups. Both he and DiMaio recently traveled to Cuba and they believe
more from Tampa will follow.

"They're some of the most resourceful people on the planet," offered
Nunez. "They've taken making lemons into lemonade to a whole, new level."

Nunez wasn't able to find cousins still living in Cuba, but plans to
return to renew the search for his Cuban roots.

Source: Can Tampa ever reconnect with Havana? - FOX 13 News -
http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/story/26340158/can-tampa-ever-reconnect-with-havana

Guilty plea entered in Cuban ballplayer smuggling

Posted on Friday, 08.22.14

Guilty plea entered in Cuban ballplayer smuggling
BY CURT ANDERSON
AP LEGAL AFFAIRS WRITER

MIAMI -- A man accused of masterminding a human trafficking ring pleaded
guilty Friday to U.S. extortion charges involving the smuggling of more
than 1,000 Cubans, including baseball players such as Texas Rangers
outfielder Leonys Martin.

Eliezer Lazo, 41, entered the plea Friday in Miami federal court. Lazo
is already serving a five-year prison sentence for money laundering in a
Medicare fraud case and now faces up to 20 additional years behind bars.
Lazo agreed to cooperate with investigators, which could reduce his
prison time when he is sentenced later this year.

Prosecutors say Lazo led an organization that smuggled Cubans by boat
into Mexico, where they were held until ransom payments were made. The
cost was typically about $10,000 for each person, although it could be
much higher in the case of Cuban baseball stars such as Martin.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Davidson said the migrants who were not
sports stars were often crowded together in rooms of 20 or more under
armed guard, in prison-like conditions. If the smugglers weren't
immediately paid, Davidson said, "the Cuban migrants in Mexico were
restrained and beaten while relatives could hear the screams on the phone."

Court documents show that the valuable Cuban baseball stars were treated
far better than others involved with the smuggling ring, even though
they were watched over by armed guards.

If the money was paid up front, prosecutors say the Cubans were brought
directly to the U.S. without incident. Under the U.S. "wet foot, dry
foot" policy, Cubans who reach shore generally are allowed to stay in
the U.S. while those intercepted at sea are returned to the communist
island.

All told, Davison said Lazo's smuggling venture netted up to $1.5
million for the group.

Authorities are seeking forfeiture of properties, cars and bank accounts
controlled by Lazo, including one traced to a purported Mexican baseball
academy used to showcase players for Major League Baseball scouts. The
documents in the Lazo case require forfeiture of the smuggling group's
interests of a number of other contracts involving Cuban baseball
players, but they are identified only by their initials.

Martin signed a five-year, $15.5 million contract with the Rangers in 2011.

Details of Martin's journey through Mexico to the big leagues came to
light in a lawsuit filed against him by the Estrellas baseball academy,
which claimed that he had agreed to pay up to 35 percent of his MLB
contract to it operators, including Lazo. Martin paid about $1.2 million
to the group but refused to fork over any more.

Martin's civil attorney, Paul Minoff, said the speedy outfielder is
happy the criminal case is nearing a conclusion and that the lawsuit
against him will likely disappear. The U.S. attorney's office is seeking
forfeiture of any money Lazo obtained through Martin's big-league
contract, but it's unclear if funds are available for seizure.

"We've asked for a return for the money paid. In reality, the chance of
that is fairly slim," Minoff said. "It's still better than paying out an
additional $4 or $5 million."

Other Cuban baseball players, notably Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel
Puig, have been smuggled out of Cuba to Mexico, where they are free to
negotiate with any U.S. big-league team rather than be subjected to the
MLB draft if they came directly to the U.S. In practice, that means a
much bigger contract for the best players. Puig was not involved with
Lazo's smuggling operation.

Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt

Source: MIAMI: Guilty plea entered in Cuban ballplayer smuggling -
People Wires - MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/08/22/4302689/guilty-plea-set-in-cuban-ballplayer.html

Costa Rica to investigate US anti-Cuba program

Posted on Friday, 08.22.14

Costa Rica to investigate US anti-Cuba program
BY JAVIER CORDOBA
ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- The Costa Rican government will investigate
undercover U.S. programs operated from the Central American country and
using its citizens in a ploy to destabilize the government in Cuba, the
director of intelligence and security said Friday.

Mariano Figueres told The Associated Press that the new administration,
which took office May 8, has found no records or information from their
predecessors about the U.S. Agency for International Development
project, which starting in 2009 sent young Venezuelans, Costa Ricans and
Peruvians to Cuba in hopes of stirring opposition to the island's
communist government.

Figueres said Costa Rica's only information came from an Aug. 4
Associated Press article, which said USAID and a contractor, Creative
Associates International, used the cover of health and civic programs,
some operating out of Costa Rica, in hopes of provoking political change
in Cuba. The AP found the program continued even as U.S. officials
privately told contractors to consider suspending travel to Cuba after
the arrest there of contractor Alan Gross, who remains imprisoned after
smuggling in sensitive technology.

"If we can confirm all this, of course we're not going to agree that our
national territory be used to attack a friendly government, regardless
of what ideological side you're on," Figueres said. "It's a matter of
sovereignty and respect ... and we're very alarmed that they used Costa
Rican citizens and put them at risk."

He said that Costa Rica has yet to ask the U.S. about the program and
that any findings would be relayed through the Foreign Ministry.

The travelers worked undercover, often posing as tourists, and traveled
around Cuba scouting for people they could turn into political activists.

In one case, the workers formed an HIV-prevention workshop that memos
called "the perfect excuse" for the program's political goals — a gambit
that could undermine the United States' push to improve health globally.

But the efforts in Cuba were fraught with incompetence and risk, the AP
investigation found. Cuban authorities questioned who was bankrolling
the travelers. The young workers nearly blew their mission to "identify
potential social-change actors." One said he got a paltry, 30-minute
seminar on how to evade Cuban intelligence, and there appeared to be no
safety net for the inexperienced participants if they were caught.

In all, nearly a dozen Latin Americans served in the program in Cuba,
for pay as low as $5.41 an hour.

The Obama administration has defended its use of an HIV-prevention
workshop for its Cuban democracy-promotion efforts, but disputed that
the project was a front for political purposes.

The White House is still facing questions about a once-secret "Cuban
Twitter" project, known as ZunZuneo. That program, launched by USAID in
2009 and uncovered by the AP in April, established a primitive social
media network under the noses of Cuban officials. USAID's inspector
general is investigating it.

ZunZuneo also was also devised inside Costa Rica, whose government
raised concerns and asked the U.S. for an explanation of that case as well.

Costa Rica's Frente Amplio leftist party has been the only opposition so
far to respond to the latest news of the travelers' project. It called
on the government of Costa Rica to take a stronger stand against the U.S.

"Given the fact that Costa Rica has declared itself a neutral state,
doing this work with Costa Ricans in Cuba undermines that," Congressman
Gerard Vargas said.

Source: SAN JOSE, Costa Rica: Costa Rica to investigate US anti-Cuba
program - Americas Wires - MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/08/22/4304025/costa-rica-to-investigate-us-anti.html

Friday, August 22, 2014

Reseller, That Dirty Word

Reseller, That Dirty Word / 14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez
Posted on August 22, 2014

14YMEDIO, Havana, Victor Ariel Gonzalez, 21 August 2014 – "I have
mattresses, games room, air conditioning …" an individual stationed at
the entrance to a popular store says softly. A few yards further on,
another vendor has filters for drinking water, and so it continues, on
both sides of the commercial center, an illicit network that caters to
more than a few dissatisfied customers with poor State offerings.

If you look in the stores without success, you shouldn't worry, because
outside it's possible to find everything you need from the "resellers"
for a few pesos more. Those traders who swarm streets like Carlos III,
Monte, or 10 de octubre, operating with nothing more than the law of
supply and demand. The solution that occurs to the government, far from
focusing on filling up the half-empty shelves, has been to eradicate
what they describe as "social indiscipline."

What they haven't considered, however, is granting licenses to the
traders. In fact, the word "trader" is banished from the official
jargon. Those who exercise one of the oldest crafts known to humanity
are called "resellers" and that, in the eyes of the authorities, is not
a good thing. The government accuses them of hoarding and speculation.

So far this year there have been almost 17,000 fines and hundreds of
seizures. However, the punitive measures taken so far are not enough.
"We don't have an inspector on every corner. We need help from the
public," declare some State inspectors on the TV news. The phenomenon
has gotten out of control. This not only contributes to the lack of
productivity and bad distribution on the part of the State monopoly, but
the problem also includes more than a few corrupt officials.

Source: Reseller, That Dirty Word / 14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/reseller-that-dirty-word-14ymedio-victor-ariel-gonzalez/

Chimeras and Frustrations

Chimeras and Frustrations / 14ymedio, Luzbely Escobar
Posted on August 22, 2014

14YMEDIO, Havana, Luzbely Escobar, 21 August 2014 – It is a little more
than a week before the start of school and the youngest at home are
already taking stock of what they've done on their vacation. They go to
sleep thinking about what they'll tell their friends in September and in
their little heads they remember each outing with their families.
Although parents have few options to entertain their children in the
summer, they always make an effort.

The options range from five pesos to buy an ice cream cone at the corner
snack bar, to the complicated and greatly desired trip to the beach.
I've made many promises to my little ones to take them for a dip, but I
still haven't been able to keep my promise. A trip to Santa Maria or
Guanabo is like the children's Road to El Dorado during the summer season.

A trip to the beach is a chimera. The main difficultly rests in the long
lines for the bus, with its riots of boys who push in front of everyone
because they don't like to wait that long. Coming home, as if it weren't
hard enough to catch the route 400, we add the drunkenness and fights
that break out in front of the innocent eyes of the children. Not to
mention the abundant stream of bad words and atrocities shouted with a
natural mastery from one end of the bus to the other.

As an alternative to the beach, the other day we inflated a plastic pool
in the basement and poured in a few buckets of water. They had a good
time, after the frustration of the breakdown of the transport that would
take us to Marazul—coming and going guaranteed—but in the end it left us
with swimsuits packed and snacks prepared.

To go to the beach there are other variants such as the
almendrones—classic American cars—that cost one convertible peso* (CUC)
each but don't guarantee the return. At one time we could take advantage
of the buses that run on the tourist routes, at least for a visit,
because they cost 3 CUC each coming and going and the children didn't
have to pay. However, now they've gone up to 5 CUC, which is too
expensive for ordinary mortals.

Other options, which we have done, are going to the movies, the theater,
the usual family visits and games in the park below. But that quickly
bores them and they want more. They are tireless in their requests for
the Aquarium, the beach, the pool, the zoo, and the Maestranza Fun Park
in Old Havana. We decided we weren't going to the last one any more.
It's too much suffering under the sun and closes at the best time, when
it starts to get dark.

If we went to the Zoo twice it's because it's close, although it already
has a super-well-known terrible reputation. We can go to the Aquarium at
night, but sadly, that's when transport in that area of Havana is more
complicated than in the daytime, and so we haven't had an opportunity to
go. In short, if we add up the possible choices, there are few real
possibilities of entertaining children.

There are still about ten days of vacation but I don't think we'll do
much more. Now we're focused on uniforms, backpacks, shoes, snacks,
notebooks, pencils and everything that makes up the school package.
Luckily they've already forgotten the chimerical holiday and have
replaced it with school. We still have the task of making sure there's
no lack of teacher for the classroom, as happened in the last semester
of the previous school year. That would be too much frustration.

*Translator's note: The average monthly wage in Cuba is around 20 CUC.
One CUC is about 24 Cuban pesos (about one dollar US).

Source: Chimeras and Frustrations / 14ymedio, Luzbely Escobar |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/chimeras-and-frustrations-14ymedio-luzbely-escobar/

Letter to Pope Francis from the Christian Liberation Movement Youth

Letter to Pope Francis from the Christian Liberation Movement Youth
Posted on August 21, 2014

"But Cubans are tired, Cubans want changes. More than ten years ago more
than 25,000 Cubans supported a legal reform project. Called the Varela
Project, it called for a plebiscite to ask the people, yes or no, did
they want free elections. The Cuban Constitution establishes that if
more than 10,000 people support a legal proposal than the government is
constitutionally required to respond." Rosa Maria Paya. Poster by
Rolando Pulido.

Havana, May 5th 2014

"Fear is ridiculous and it provides ammunition to the enemies of
liberty."- The Venerable Father Felix Varela

Your Holiness, Pope Francis:

We would like to thank you with utmost respect and kindness for taking
time to read this letter.

We are Cuban Catholic youth who everyday are intent to fortify ourselves
to the clamors that burst forth and splatter our conscience from the
brutal reality of our beloved Cuba. From the dawn of our youth we have
occupied the rows of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), a
pacifist-civic movement which, inspired by Christian humanism and the
principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church, has yearned for the
freedom that Cuba has wanted and needed for more than 25 years.

We love the church, and we have grown under her auspices with the
influence of her Ignatian spirituality. Because of this, we turn to you
to voice our pain and concern with several Cuban Bishops who, surrounded
by pro-government Cuban laity and other figures of privilege, pronounce
and act in the name of the Church before the unfolding drama that we
Cubans have lived in for more than half a century.

Increasingly, ecclesial offices are shunted into a caricature of the
masses, to be only the bottom substrate in the background and a common
denominator legitimizing the government, asking for more votes of
confidence for the politico-military junta who govern as dictators and
awaiting a new "leader" to succeed the dynasty of the Castro Brothers
and amend the "justified errors" of 55 years of governmental
mismanagement that devastated a country whilst omitting the daily
violations of human rights and the repressive despotic and unpunished
actions of State Security personnel against nonviolent opposition and
begging for weak reforms which lack transparency and in so doing be able
to navigate comfortably in all waters through the use of ambiguous and
confusing language that decorate and embellish the harsh realities,
foregoing calling them by name, and thus presenting themselves as
authentic rhetoricians and builders of bridges.

Perhaps we should remind our pastors how both dialogue and mediation
necessitate a clear sense of identity and an indispensable autonomy to
be able to express it, without circumlocution, in the collegial search
for truth amongst peers and the commencement and recognition of all the
parts, with an adequate dose of moderation, but while maintaining
transparency, rigor, and respect for the truth. And this, in a cystic
dictatorship with more than five decades of authoritarianism, carries a
price and only those who have overcome, from a detachment of having
nothing to protect and nothing to aspire,the fears that have impeded
their inner liberty strive for progress.

Those of us who know from within the realities of the Church of Cuba
understand that the courts of Havana's Apostolic Palace is an interplay
of political factors and that the exclusionary practices of the Church,
whose byzantine politics are without morals and constancy, stretching
and pulling, consisting of ambiguities and flatteries, and, in the worst
form of diplomacy, sacrificing the integrity of the simple and naked
truth expressed with the sole presupposition of due respect to
substitute it in favor of strained praise, finally allowing itself a
shallow criticism and in doing so maintaining the status quo, has the
seal of the illustrious cardinal that occupies its halls. This shackle
to the same apprehensions, pressures, blackmail, compromises,
limitations, protection of self-interest and tacit or explicit
agreements, that mark it's actual relation to the State, and who for
decades has been its helmsman, is Cardinal Ortega.

Subjugated to the fluctuations of this complex relationship, the
precarious autonomy of Catholic publications and centers for the
formation of laity and the devoted, has exceeded the bounds and
good-willed intentions of its founders and has shifted into the
propaganda of, no longer the Archbishop, but whomever holds the upper
hand in said relationships; those who allow them to continue to exist
and in circulation so long as they don't overstep the threshold of
tolerance or who ultimately fail to serve their vile purposes. The
choice is clear: either they alienate themselves from reality marking
socio-political themes as taboo, in a country where nothing is
apolitical, on the contrary everything is profoundly politicized and
ideologized, or claim the input of a fraud-exchange thrusted by the
government.

What do they try to convince us of now? It was Raul Castro himself who
speaks of his own reforms claiming that they are for more Socialism; we
Cubans know all too well what that means. Regardless, has someone asked
us, like citizens, if what we want in today's age is more Socialism? And
what Socialism? How do they want to convince us, the Cubans who live
both here and abroad suffering exclusions and disadvantages,that they
are advancing towards the implementation of laws that will permit us to
reencounter ourselves with how we wish to be? That this framework of
oppression, without rights or transparency, is the path of transition?
What does this transition consist of?

Graduality only makes sense if there is a transparent perspective for
our liberties and rights. Don't continue to speak on our behalf; we
would have our own voice raised and heard. It's not enough for Cuba to
open herself to the world and the world unto Cuba: first Cuba must open
herself to Cubans. To come to accords with our own officials, like
several democratic governments and institutions have done without caring
that they don't represent the Cuban people, is to perpetuate oppression.

Enough of deciding and thinking on my behalf and imposing an ideology of
the State that doesn't represent me. Enough of obligating me to
collaborate in a political farce that overshadows my principles and the
conditions of a free man, under the threat of losing it all: education,
job, sometimes family and friends, liberty also and even life itself.
That is why fear is the guiding principle of this society, fear and
lies, sustaining a society of masks and simulations during decades of
weak men, evasive, possessing only half-truths, incapable of facing and
naming that evil which corrodes us within. That is how we Cubans live.

We wish that the Church, a pilgrim in Cuba, would dare to throw out the
merchants from the temple, those who in the virtue of secret pacts do
away with the worth of a human before the importance of abstract
numbers. We yearn for a church who would not accept as privilege that
which is her rightly due in exchange for her silence.

A church, with whose prophetic voice and testimony of life in truth in a
society rotting with fear and lies, can share the cross of the
ineffable, solitude, humility, deprivation, calumny and persecution that
we suffer, we who have broken with the vice of self-deception that has
become our collective dementia.

A church that does not please itself with having its pew saturated with
comfortable mediocrity, dragging the multitudes behind images that don't
save and only awaken shallow devotions while the most precious component
of her identity is diluted and watered down in a pseudo-religion of the
masses, recovering spaces and buildings for the mission, and then
relying heavily on human means to, with God and the splendor of His
message being considered too subversive against the established order,
advertise a private pseudo-gospel of moral and social content more
"enlightening" for our people.

A church that stirs those consciences paralyzed by fear and custom
before the face of irrationality, disfunctionality, and the absurd
demands of a long-lived absolute and arbitrary regime by inviting each
man and woman to contemplate themselves in the reflection of the life
and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. A church, who once again noting the
worth of the poor, the few, the small, the gradual, the weak, the
anonymous, offers in her small but Christian and arduous communities
something incredibly different and powerfully captivating, and no longer
the swarms of vitiated environments.

That church, incarnated and undivided, has been present for years in the
figures of brave and exceptional bishops, innumerable priest, religious
and missionaries many of whom we have seen depart in pain: banished,
dismissed by bishops and superiors, or voluntarily resigning before
submitting to perverted or perverting regulations.

It is that diminishing church constantly in danger of becoming extinct,
that has produced genuine miracles thanks to the those youth and
families who everyday make the conscious decision to remain, assuming
upon themselves the dangers and hardships, every day resisting the
temptation to join the mass exodus of a people who stampedes fleeing to
whichever place where they can construct a more dignified life, hold an
honorable job, know the taste of liberty, fight for their dreams, aspire
to prosperity and happiness.

That church revealed with her very life and not only through discourse,
the profound realities of our faith: the Incarnation, Calvary, Easter,
the Resurrection. In her, we cautiously aimed to really be priests,
prophets and kings. Because it is in that church that we learned to
search and wish for the will of God as our most precious treasure, today
we still dare to swim upstream, muting the warnings of close friends
occasionally whispered in the temples and sacristy from those who speak
in the name of God, and even the anguished cries of our mothers who
implore us to renounce, run, escape and forever occupy ourselves with
our own well-being and our families with thousands of unanswerable
arguments from plain pragmatism of calculated deeds and force or
consisting of acrobatic tricks with alleged reasons of faith that end
fading away at the feet of the Crucified.

Because that church has taught us to believe against all the evidence
and to hope against all hope, our lives today continue to be an answer
to the questions and call of God: Where are those responsible?
Strengthening us to continue being a voice in the desert, a light in the
darkness and an omen of hope in the midst of the apparent sterility in
spite of the burdens and fatigue. Because Cubans need the help of Jesus
on the Cross to be able to look with love upon these last 50 years that
has oppressed physically and psychologically and to dare to shout NO MORE!

We Cubans need a church that will aid us in overcoming fear. Fear is the
origin of lethargy and hopelessness that overwhelms youths and society
as a whole. We need a church that will help us in these first steps
toward Liberation, the first steps that always start with an individual
and en as a roaring shout, stronger than oneself and that must be shared.

An advocate church must be a place of liberty, where reconciliation does
not convert itself to historic amnesia disguised as the goodness of the
righteous. It has to be a place of freedom of expression, not in
attempts politicizing the temple, but instead to create the language
which will be able to articulate our story from the bottom up, omitting
the "victorious" figures who attempt to reconstruct history. We need a
Mother Church, who works for the truth without ambiguities, who doesn't
confuse love for one's neighbor with political opportunism. A church
that will help us name this unnameable pain so that we may offer it up
and act, without our voice being silenced.

Count on us Holy Father! God bless you and keep you!

A big hug from the Caribbean,

Erick Alvarez Gil, age 28, Telecommunications and Electrical Engineer,
San Francisco de Paula Parish.

Anabel Alpizar Ravelo, age 29, Bachelor's in Social Communication,
dismissed from her job, Chapel Jesus Maria

Luis Alberto Mariño Fernández, age 27, Bachelor's in Music Composition,
Salvador del Mundo Parish.

Maria de Lourdes Mariño Fernández, age 29, Bachelor's in Art History,
Salvador del Mundo Parish.

Manuel Robles Villamarin, age 24, Information Tech, expelled from
University, Siervas de Maria Parish.

Translated by: Joel Olguin

3 August 2014

Source: Letter to Pope Francis from the Christian Liberation Movement
Youth | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/letter-to-pope-francis-from-the-christian-liberation-movement-youth/

Chrome Becomes “Legal” in Cuba

Chrome Becomes "Legal" in Cuba / Yoani Sanchez
Posted on August 21, 2014

Yesterday, the giant Google authorized the download of their well-known
browser Chrome by Cuban internauts. The announcement came just two
months after several of the American company's executives visited Havana
and saw for themselves the problems we suffer accessing the vast World
Wide Web.

Among the topics of conversation between several members of 14ymedio and
Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, were precisely these restrictions. Hence,
our satisfaction on knowing that the opinions of citizens interested in
the free flow of information and technology influenced the elimination
of this prohibition. An obstacle that, while it was in effect, affected
the Cuban population more than a Government that is among the greatest
Internet predators in the world.

During their trip to Cuba the four Google directors not only suffered
the inconvenience of the digital sites censored by the Cuban
authorities, and the high prices to connect from public places, but also
experienced the restrictions imposed by their own company on Cuban
Internet users. If must have been a particularly bitter pill to swallow
to try to download Google Chrome and see the screen appear saying, "This
service is not available in your country."

We Cuban user, fortunately, had not expected the American company to be
allowed to access the program from a national Internet Provider. Google
Chrome, along with Mozilla Firefox and the controversial Internet
Explorer, have been the most used browsers in our country. It simply
required someone to bring an installer, after downloading it for free on
a trip abroad, for it to pass from hand to hand—or flash memory stick to
flash memory stick— and to be installed on hundreds (thousands?) of
computers.

What has happened now is that we have gone from being illegal users to
joining the brotherhood of more than 750 million people around the world
using this program in an authorized manner. Services such as Google
Analytics, Google Earth and the Android App Store are now awaiting a
similar thaw. Hopefully we will not have to wait from another visit to
Cuba by directors of Google for these limitations to be eliminated!

21 August 2014

Source: Chrome Becomes "Legal" in Cuba / Yoani Sanchez | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/chrome-becomes-legal-in-cuba-yoani-sanchez/

Team notes changes in Cuba in six years of mission trips

Team notes changes in Cuba in six years of mission trips
Friday, August 22, 2014
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Villa Heights Baptist Church has sent a mission team to Cuba off and on
for about six years, according to the church's pastor, the Rev. Keith
Spangenberg, who said he has seen some changes there during that time.
Teams went annually from about 2005-07 and 2012-14; the latest trip was
July 14-22.
"Changes that we have noticed in last three years, (they are) trying to
draw a lot more European tourists in, doing a lot of refurbishing of
Havana hotels, restaurants along the beach," Spangenberg said. "...
There also are newer cars. You still see a lot of 1956 and '57 cars they
jerry-rigged to keep going. If you see a newer car likely it's driven by
a government official."
Janet Copenhaver, who works for the Henry County Schools and went on the
trip for a fifth year, agreed: "Most Cubans have a very old car unless
you work for the government. Lots of people walk or take public
transportation instead of owning cars. Buses are very crowded and people
have to get to a bus stop very early to go anywhere. Most of the people
indicated that the bus ride to the church we visited was at least an
hour coming and going back home."
According to "The World Factbook" on the U.S. Central Intelligence
Agency website, the Cuban government in 2011 held the first Cuban
Communist Party Congress in almost 13 years. A plan for wide-ranging
economic changes was approved at that session.
"Since then, the Cuban government has slowly and incrementally
implemented limited economic reforms, including allowing Cubans to buy
electronic appliances and cell phones, stay in hotels and buy and sell
used cars," according to the website. "The Cuban government also opened
up some retail services to 'self-employment.' ... Recent moves include
permitting the private ownership and sale of real estate and new
vehicles, allowing private farmers to sell agricultural goods directly
to hotels, and expanding categories of self-employment."
It added that despite these reforms, the average Cuban's standard of
living is worse than before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the
resulting downturn of the 1990s.
"Cubans have very little money to spend," Copenhaver said. "One of the
ladies that worked with us as a translator just retired and her
retirement check from the government is 20 pesos a month (about $20 U.S.
dollars). She also received vouchers of things she could purchase at the
store. Of course stores did not have lots of stock on the shelves so she
may not be able to purchase things during that month even if she had a
voucher."
"It seems that in some areas, time stood still; when you visit houses,
they are very small, with concrete flooring. If houses have a
refrigerator, it is the rounded one like the '50s and '60s," she added.
Cuba has one of the world's least free economies, according to the 2014
Index of Economic Freedom, a joint publication of The Heritage
Foundation and The Wall Street Journal.
"A one-party Communist state, Cuba depends on external assistance
(chiefly oil provided by Venezuela ... and remittances from Cuban
émigrés) and a captive labor force to survive. Property rights are
severely restricted. Fidel Castro's 81-year-old younger brother Raul
continues to guide both the government and the Cuban Communist Party.
Cuba's socialist command economy is in perennial crisis," the index states.
"The average worker earns less than $25 a month, agriculture is in
shambles, mining is depressed and tourism revenue has proven volatile,"
the index states.
Spangenberg said that from what he saw, homes for most Cubans are
simple. He said the three daughters (ages 8, 12 and 17) of a minister he
worked with in Guanabo shared a bedroom, which was barely large enough
for the girls' three beds.
In Cuba, he also saw laundry hanging on balconies, and cisterns on the
tops of homes to catch rainwater for bathing, he said. Mission team
members drank and brushed their teeth with bottled water. They used
local water only to take showers.
Toilet seats are rare, Spangenberg said. They break easily and are hard
to replace.
"Roads that are heavily traveled by tourists and state roads between
cities get the most attention," he said. In the country he saw dirt
roads, horse-drawn carts, carriages and wagons.
Spangenberg also saw "a prevalence of police out on street corners and
around. We were told at one time groups of more than three are not
allowed. If more, they are asked to disperse. You don't see a lot of
people gathered together, talking on street corners."
According to a U.S. Department of State report, "The security
environment in Cuba is relatively stable and characterized by a strong
military and police presence throughout the country."
Janet Copenhaver is the director of technology and innovation for Henry
County Public Schools. Her husband, James, who also went on the mission
trip, was stationed in Guantanamo Bay during the Cuban Missile Crisis in
1962.

Source: Team notes changes in Cuba in six years of mission trips -
Martinsville Bulletin -
http://www.martinsvillebulletin.com/article.cfm?ID=43091

Cuba’s “Sandwich Generation” - Looking after the Sick and Elderly

Cuba's "Sandwich Generation": Looking after the Sick and Elderly
August 21, 2014
Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — For six years, I lived with two elderly women (my
grandmother and her sister). It was the saddest time in my life that I
can recall.

The Special Period crisis had hit us hard and we didn't have the
conditions needed to care for them at home. I remembered that time some
days ago when I heard about Elvira, an accountant who quit her job as an
accountant at a State company a year ago. Why did she quit her job? She
lives with her elderly parents and a brother who's ill. Her situation is
all the more complex because Elvira has a teenage son, now in high school.

Elvira's situation is far from unique. It is in fact quite common.
Several months ago, her father fractured his right hip and had a
dangerous accident. To be with him during the surgery and part of the
recovery process, she asked to be given a 3-month, unpaid leave at work.

After that time, she returned to work. Her kid (as tends to happen) has
been ill several times. Such "trivial" things have forced her to stay at
home more than once. Elvira's brother has been battling with lung cancer
for a long time. When he started to experience severe pain, she, already
working miracles to put in her time at work and care for her family, had
no choice but to tender her resignation at work (there was no other
option after having been away for three months).

When she found herself without a job, she thought she'd go mad. Luckily,
she had some training in "roughing it." What was once a way of making a
little extra money every month has now become the family's sole income.
In the little free time she has, she does laundry work and tutors small
kids in the neighborhood.

Elvira is a member of what some call the "sandwich generation": she is
responsible for the physical and emotional care of people of different
ages and supports her family financially.

The phrase was coined in the 1980s. It refers to those caught in the
middle, having to care for small children and elderly or sick relatives.
Its range of meanings has broadened over time and it is now also used to
refer to parents whose children have become adults but not moved away
from home.

The term isn't heard much today in Cuba, perhaps because, in our
country, it is nearly impossible to live any other way, and this because
of the unending housing problem, which forces several generations to
live under the same roof. The country's measly salaries make it next to
impossible for people to rent out a place for themselves or to pay
someone to look after the relatives in need.

Another important factor is the overprotectiveness that characterizes
Cuban mothers. Even though some men are in this situation, the group of
people who care for others is made up chiefly of women.

Who in Cuba does not know someone in Elvira's situation? Most of the
time, the male in these families only concerns himself with the
household finances. Social pressure generally compels women to look
after the ill, children and elderly people on both sides of the family.
This is ingrained in women to such an extent that many have taken on
this role as though it were their natural lot in life. They have been
educated in this fashion and they take on the commitment without anyone
asking them to do so.

Since teenagers don't work, they have to be supported by their parents
while at school – the State stipend some of them receive isn't even
enough for a snack. Things are slightly more flexible now and some can
earn a bit of money helping out a self-employed worker or at
privately-run establishments. If teenagers have kids of their own,
parents also have to look after these new additions to the family.

The age of "sandwiches" oscillates between 30 and 55. They shoulder a
double or triple burden which, consisting of familiar, daily chores, is
ignored by the majority. Given Cuba's characteristics, it matters little
whether someone has to look out for one or more persons – the ups and
downs one faces in any such situation, be it looking after two small
children or an elderly woman, is already a lot to shoulder. In addition
to meeting their responsibilities at work, those who care for others
must work miracles to fulfill their roles as parents, children and
partners. It is an immense daily challenge that causes great emotional
stress and gradually takes its toll on them.

One of the important issues addressed by gender studies is the huge work
load women have, the combination of the work they do in their jobs and
the unpaid work they do around the house. The law guarantees a maternity
leave during pregnancy and for a year after giving birth. Fathers can
also request a paternity leave to look after a newborn, but the number
of men who do this is infinitesimal.

When one's child is ill, one can think only about their recovery.
Mothers know they will not lose their jobs while looking after their
sick child, but they will not be paid the days they are absent from work.

A child's illness, save in special cases, is normally temporary. The
care of elderly people, however, spreads out over much more time.

We have been hearing about population aging and its consequences in Cuba
for decades. Life expectancy is now at 78, and the generation that has
to care for the elderly sees its professional life hanging by a thread.
How can we lighten these people's burden, from the legal, social and
family points of view?

As placing the elderly in homes is foreign to Cuban culture, whenever
someone mentions that a parent is in home, the accusatory comments come
immediately. Things could of course change – it is just a question of
getting used to new things. But, how can we even suggest this, when most
old people's homes in Cuba are in a deplorable state? The food is bad,
the rooms are dirty, the nurses are lousy, not to mention how difficult
it is to actually find one of these places.

Cuba's welfare program helps elderly men and women who live alone. The
State pays someone a monthly salary for feeding, cleaning after and
keeping the elderly company. However, those who live with at least one
relative are not entitled to this.

At this point, when more than 18% of the population is over 60, and we
find no legislation designed specifically to assist the "sandwich
generation" or any caregiver. No one is entitled to request a leave from
work to look after their elderly parents. The option now is a short,
unpaid leave (the new Labor Law that recently came into effect envisages
leaves as long as a year, depending on the employer), and then quitting
one's job.

People's salaries aren't enough to live on and, without enough time to
secure a steady income, it is next to impossible to support a family. Is
this or this not a serious problem? One has to work in order to support
oneself, but one can't turn one's back on the elderly: there are not
enough care centers to look after them, public transportation makes
getting to work and arriving home on time to prepare meals and
administer medications extremely difficult.

To say nothing of the high prices of disposable diapers for adults and
food products in general, or the fact it is impossible to purchase
wheelchairs, Fowler beds, bedpans, anti-bedsore mattresses and other
necessary items, not only because the State does not sell these, but
also because, when someone who's selling these turns up, the prices are
simply harrowing.

In Cuba, caught in a permanent economic crisis, there are more and more
"sandwiches" and caregivers. Faced with this situation, many people ask:
how are we to pay so many people who are unable to hold a job? The
matter must be poured over, acknowledged, and studied from different
perspectives, in order to look for alternatives. To date, however, not a
single Round Table program on Cuban television has devoted any time to it.

Source: Cuba's "Sandwich Generation": Looking after the Sick and Elderly
- Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=105657

The Causes & Consequences of Cuba’s Black Market

The Causes & Consequences of Cuba's Black Market
August 21, 2014
Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban press is out to get re-sellers, as though their
existence were news to anyone, as though they just now realized there is
a black market that's on every street corner in the country, selling
just about everything one can sell.

In a news report aired on TV, they went as far as insinuating that some
employees at State stores are accomplices of those who hoard and re-sell
products. They are now "discovering" that the black market stocks up, in
great measure, thanks to the complicity of store clerks.

The reporting remains on the surface, addressing the effects but not
daring to go to the root of a problem that has burdened the country for
decades as a result of the chronic shortage of products – from screws to
floor mops.

During the early years of the revolution, these shortages could be
chalked up to the US embargo. Today, however, Cuba maintains trade
relations with the entire world and can purchase the products people
need in other markets.

It doesn't even seem to be a financial problem, because the products
become available and disappear intermittently. Shaving foam can
disappear for a couple of months and reappear at all stores overnight.

These ups and downs are what allow a group of clever folks to hoard up
on and later re-sell these products at higher prices. A lack of
foresight and planning when importing is what creates these temporary
shortages that make the work of hoarders easier.

There is no doubt Cuba has a planned economy. The question is whether it
is actually well planned. The truth is that, for decades, the country's
domestic trade system has functioned in a chaotic manner and no one has
been able to organize it minimally.

A foreign journalist I know recently noted that, when toilet paper
disappeared from all State shops, a supermarket in Havana had a full
stock of pickled partridge that no one buys.

Who would decide to buy such a luxury canned product at a time when most
store shelves are practically empty? The story brings to mind that
anecdote involving a government official who imported a snow-sweeper to
Cuba.

The Market and Consumption

Cuba's domestic trade system doesn't require "reforms", it demands
radical change, a new model. Such a change should begin with Cuba's
importers, bureaucratic companies that are ignorant of the interests and
needs of consumers and buy products without rhyme or reason.

Many of their employees receive [under the table] commissions from
suppliers and therefore prioritize, not the country's interests, but
their own pockets. They are the same people who received money from the
corrupt foreign businessmen recently tried and convicted in Cuba.

To plan the country's economy, the government should start by conducting
market studies and getting to know the needs of consumers, in order to
decide what to purchase on that basis. It Is a question of buying the
products people need and in quantities proportional to the demand.

Planning means being able to organize import cycles such that there is
regular supply of products, without any dark holes, like the ones that
currently abound in all sectors of Cuba's domestic trade, from dairy
products to wood products.

Sometimes, this chaotic state of affairs has high costs for the
country's economy, such as when buses are put out of circulation because
spare pieces were not bought on time, there isn't enough wood to build
the crates needed to store farm products or a sugar refinery is shut
down because of lack of foresight.

Even the sale of school uniforms at State subsidized prices experiences
these problems owing to a lack of different sizes. This is a problem
seamstresses are always willing to fix, charging the parents a little
extra money.

Cuba's entire distribution system is rotten. Importers are paid
commissions, shopkeepers sell products under the counter, butchers steal
and resell poultry, ration-store keepers mix pebbles in with beans,
agricultural and livestock markets tamper with weighing scales and
bakers take home the flour and oil.

In the midst of this chaos we find the Cuban consumer, who does not even
have an office he or she can turn to and demand their rights (when they
are sold rotten minced meat, and old pair of shoes or a refrigerator
that leaks water, for instance).

Speculation is no doubt a reprehensible activity, but it is not the
cause of the black market. The country may launch a new campaign against
hoarders, but it will be as unsuccessful as all previous one if an
efficient commercial system isn't created.

Source: The Causes & Consequences of Cuba's Black Market - Havana
Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=105653

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dengue Fever and Tall Stories for Children

Dengue Fever and Tall Stories for Children / Yoani Sanchez
Posted on August 20, 2014

Explaining death to a child is always a difficult task. Some parents
reach for a metaphor and others lie. The adults justify someone's death
to children with phrases that range from "he's gone to heave to live on
a cloud," to the tall story that "he's gone on a trip." The worst is
when these inventions transcend the family and become the political
information policy of a State. To falsify to people the actual incidence
of death, is to rob them of their maturity and deny their right to
transparency.

In 1981 an epidemic of dengue hemorrhagic fever broke out in Cuba. I was
barely six, but that situation left me deeply traumatized. The first
thing they told us in school was that the disease had been introduced by
"Yankee imperialism." The Uncle Sam of my childish nightmares no longer
threatened us with a gun, but rather with a huge Aedes aegypti mosquito,
ready to infect us with bonebreak fever. My family panicked when they
began to learn about the dead children. The emergency room at the
Central Havana Pediatric Hospital was a hive of screaming and crying. My
mother asked me once an hour if anything hurt, her hand on my forehead
checking for fever.

There was no information, only whispers and fear, a lot of fear. By not
speaking publicly about the true source of the evil, the population
could barely protect itself. In my primary school we kept running to the
shelter—underneath the Ministry of Basic Industries—in the face of the
"imminent military attack" that was coming from the North. Meanwhile, a
small stealthy enemy ran rampant among people my age. That lie didn't
take long to become obvious. Decades later dengue fever has returned,
although I dare say it never left, and all these years the health
authorities have tried to hide it.

Now there is no one else to blame, as if hygiene hasn't deteriorated in
our country. It is not the Pentagon, but the thousands of miles of
damaged plumbing leaking all over the Island. It is not the CIA, but the
inefficiency of a system that has not even managed to build new drainage
and sewer networks. The responsibility doesn't point overseas, but
directly at us. No laboratory has created this virus to kill Cubans, it
is our own material and sanitary collapse that keeps us from being able
to control it.

At least that story for children, where the evil always came from
abroad, no longer works. The tall story, which presented us as victims
infected by American perfidy, is accepted only by the most naïve. Like
children grow up, we have found that the Government has lied to us about
dengue fever and that those were not paternalistic falsehoods, but
sophisticated lies of the State.

Source: Dengue Fever and Tall Stories for Children / Yoani Sanchez |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/dengue-fever-and-tall-stories-for-children-yoani-sanchez/

Portugal Has Spent $ 12 Million Euros Since 2009 to Recruit Cuban Doctors

Portugal Has Spent $ 12 Million Euros Since 2009 to Recruit Cuban
Doctors / 14ymedio
Posted on August 20, 2014

14YMEDIO, Havana, 19 August 2014 – The Portuguese National Health
Service spent about 12 million euros (about $16 million dollars) in the
last six years to recruit Cuban doctors, the local newspaper Jornal I
reported Tuesday.

In June 2009, the Government of the Socialist José Sócrates signed its
first agreement with Cuba to address the shortage of family doctors. The
first protocols provided for payment of a monthly payment of 5,900 euros
for every Cuban professional, a base salary above the pay of the
Portuguese healthcare provides, although the figure was reduced to 4,230
euros at the end of 2011.

Between August 2009 and 2011, Portugal disbursed 259,600 euros a month
for a team of 44 Cuban doctors. Spending in 2012 and 2013 was 164,970
per month for 39 professionals. Following the changes in the latest
revision of the agreement last April, the monthly cost is currently
219,960 euros, according to information published by Jornal I.

Payments are made every three months to the Cuban Medical Services
Company, which is responsible for paying for healthcare workers,
although each of them receives less than a quarter of the total
disbursed by Portugal for their services. Cuban authorities justify
these deductions to finance training and for the National Public Health
Service.

In addition, Portugal has assumed the cost of travel between the two
countries, including during the holidays, so that doctors can travel
once a year to their country of origin.

The workers on this mission are subject to Cuba's code of ethics and
disciplinary rules. They cannot participate in political activities or
make statements to the press, and must inform the authorities if they
want to marry. The agreement also provides that in case of abandonment
of the mission or violation of the contract, the doctors cannot return
to Cuba for a period of eight years.

Source: Portugal Has Spent $ 12 Million Euros Since 2009 to Recruit
Cuban Doctors / 14ymedio | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/portugal-has-spent-12-million-euros-since-2009-to-recruit-cuban-doctors-14ymedio/

Google Chrome is now surfable in Cuba

Google Chrome is now surfable in Cuba
The web giant makes its Internet browser available for download in one
of the world's most closed-off countries.
by Dara Kerr
@darakerr August 20, 2014 7:17 PM PDT

Google Chrome is now downloadable in Cuba -- a country known for limited
Internet access. The Web giant announced Wednesday that it made the
browser available specifically to Cubans via google.com.cu.

"We're happy to say that Internet users in Cuba can now use Chrome,"
Google wrote in a Google+ post, "and browse the web faster and more
safely than they could before."

While Cubans have been able to access Chrome through other means before
now, they haven't been able to easily and directly download the browser
to computers or mobile devices.

In a blog post, Google hinted that the reason Cubans had to wait so long
to get Chrome was because of US sanctions against the island nation.

"US export controls and sanctions can sometimes limit the products
available in certain countries," Google wrote. "As these trade
restrictions evolve we've been working to figure out how to make more
tools available in sanctioned countries."

In June, a delegation of top Google executives, including Executive
Chairman Eric Schmidt, reportedly visited Cuba to push for greater
Internet access. The team was said to have toured the country to see
first-hand how difficult it is for everyday Cubans to get online.

While the Cuban government has been slowly easing restrictions -- it
even opened 118 public Internet centers last year -- the country is
still extremely closed-off and has one of the lowest Internet
penetration rates in the world. Only 5 percent of Cuban residents have
periodic access to the Internet, according to Freedom House, a US-based
government watchdog and human rights organization.

Besides Cuba, Google also made Chrome downloadable in Syria and Iran
over the past couple of years -- two other countries that have faced US
sanctions.

Source: Google Chrome is now surfable in Cuba - CNET -
http://www.cnet.com/news/google-chrome-is-now-surfable-in-cuba/

State Commissioner's Cuba Trip Was Authorized On False Pretenses, Probe Concludes

State Commissioner's Cuba Trip Was Authorized On False Pretenses, Probe
Concludes
Massachusetts Inspector General Says Connecticut Official Was
'Ineligible' For Trip Led By Ex-Trinity President Dobelle
By JON LENDER, jlender@courant.com
9:34 p.m. EDT, August 20, 2014

State Workers' Compensation Commissioner Stephen B. Delaney and his wife
last year joined a delegation from Westfield State University on a trip
to Cuba in apparent violation of federal travel restrictions related to
U.S. economic sanctions, according to a Massachusetts inspector
general's report.

In March 2013, then-Westfield State President Evan S. Dobelle — who
resigned late last year amid scandal — led an "educational delegation"
that accompanied the school's baseball team to Cuba for exhibition games
against a Cuban squad.

But the "delegation" included family members and friends, such as the
Delaneys, who had "no affiliation to the University" — even though a
"travel affidavit" for each indicated that he or she was "a faculty
member, staff person or student," the July 31 investigative report by
Inspector General Glenn A. Cunha said.

"Dobelle's use of Westfield's name and status as an educational
institution to enable ineligible individuals to travel to Cuba exposed
the school to potential liability for violating federal restrictions,"
the report said, adding: "Individuals and corporations who violate the
economic sanctions regulations are subject to a variety of civil and
criminal penalties."

[Get Your Newspaper Delivered To Your Inbox Every Day with eCourant]

Delaney, 63, of West Hartford — friends with Dobelle since the latter's
presidency of Trinity College in the 1990s — said in a telephone
interview Wednesday that he didn't recall saying anything to anyone in
the U.S. or Cuba, nor signing any document, claiming that he was
affiliated with Westfield State or on official business.

He said that for him and his wife, it was a pleasure trip and "nobody
asked me" at customs checks if he was affiliated with the school or why
he was there. "We were part of the group," he said.

"I wouldn't jeopardize my job as a state official" by making any
misrepresentation, said Delaney, who earns $150,000 as one of the
state's 16 workers' compensation commissioners. He has spent 18 years in
the quasi-judicial role, deciding contested cases involving workers'
claims for injury benefits.

Although Delaney was mentioned in a report that blasted Dobelle on a
wide range of issues, including lavish personal spending from university
accounts, the section on the Cuba trip is focused on false
justifications for the travel.

Delaney said that he paid the full expenses for himself and his wife,
including flights and ground travel, food and lodging — about $5,000 in
all. He said that he and his wife flew from Connecticut to Florida on a
Thursday, to Cuba on a Friday, and left the island the following Tuesday.

After Delaney was interviewed, Westfield State released travel affidavit
forms bearing signatures above the hand-printed names of Stephen and
Angela Delaney, and listing 11 authorized categories into which a person
is supposed to fit to travel to Cuba. The categories ranged from
"Government Official" to "Academic Institution" faculty, staff or
student. The first line of the affidavit says the signer should check
which category he or she fits into, but neither Delaney did so.

Stephen Delaney could not be reached later to comment on the affidavits.

The section of Cunha's report that covered the Cuba trip was listed as
one case in which "Dobelle engaged in improper and irresponsible conduct."

The report said that the night before the group flew from Miami to
Havana, Dobelle's executive assistant, Waleska Lugo-DeJesus, sent an
email to the travelers, including the Delaneys and others who had no
affiliation to the school, "instructing them how to answer certain
questions that customs officers in Cuba might ask."

"Specifically, she instructed them to say that they were an 'adjunct
faculty of art and/or philanthropy' and that they were from 'Westfield
State University, live in Massachusetts.'" One of the recipients
"responded indicating he was concerned because all of his paperwork
listed his address in California, not Massachusetts," Cunha's report said.

"Dobelle wrote back, 'Just say you live in California and help us with
our California program which we do have in [San Francisco] every May and
June at sfstate it's not a problem.[sic]," the report said. That email
recipient and his wife, from California, canceled their trip the next
morning.

Stephen Delaney said Wednesday that his understanding was that the
couple canceled because the man's wife had become ill.

Cunha's report named Delaney as one of the recipients of Lugo-DeJesus'
email, but Delaney denied ever seeing such a message. "I would have
remembered that," he said.

Delaney was long active in Democratic politics in Hartford before
Republican Gov. John G. Rowland nominated him and the legislature
approved him in 1996 as a compensation commissioner. He and Dobelle are
still participants, with other politically active figures with Hartford
roots, in a "fantasy baseball" league in which players "draft" major
leaguers and win or lose based on their teams' hitting and pitching
statistics.

It was at the March 2012 preseason draft for that fantasy league, held
at the Elks Hall in downtown Hartford, that the idea of Delaney's going
to Cuba arose. During the two- or three-hour event, in which
participants took turns choosing players to fill their rosters, Dobelle
mentioned that Westfield State would be organizing a trip to Cuba the
following year, Delaney said.

"Man, I'd love to see Cuba," Delaney recalled saying, adding that
friends of his had been to the island.

"Well, I'll see what I can do," he said that Dobelle replied.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed suit earlier this
month against Dobelle, seeking to recover nearly $100,000 that she said
he ran up in unauthorized travel expenses and purchases. The suit says
those expenses included the Cuba trip.

Cunha's report can be found online at:
http://www.mass.gov/ig/publications/reports-and-recommendations/2014/review-of-spending-practices-by-former-westfield-state-university-president-evan-dobelle.pdf

Source: State Commissioner's Cuba Trip Was Authorized On False
Pretenses, Probe Concludes - Courant.com -
http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-commissioner-cuba-travel-questioned-20140820,0,7230838.story

Venezuela's president pays visit to Fidel Castro

Posted on Wednesday, 08.20.14

Venezuela's president pays visit to Fidel Castro
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

HAVANA -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro made a belated birthday
visit to Fidel Castro, the former Cuban leader revealed in one of his
regular columns.

Castro's "Reflections" column posted Wednesday night on the official
website CubaDebate said Venezuela's socialist leader dropped by Tuesday,
fulfilling a promise to make a visit that Maduro made Aug. 13 as Castro
turned 88.

Castro revealed that Maduro had sent him fruit and tracksuit for his
birthday.

Cuba's former president did not comment on Maduro's official agenda for
his Cuban stop, which was not announced in advance. He didn't say
whether the Venezuelan met with Cuban President Raul Castro or other
officials.

Castro retired from government in 2006 after a serious illness and now
uses his "Reflections" column to comment on national or international
matters.

Source: HAVANA: Venezuela's president pays visit to Fidel Castro -
Latest News - MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/08/20/4300542/venezuelas-president-pays-visit.html

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Juanita Castro - Memory is Never Harmless

Juanita Castro: Memory is Never Harmless / 14ymedio, Francis Sanchez
Posted on August 20, 2014

14YMEDIO, Francis Sanchez, Ciego de Avila, 18 August 2014 – The
anecdotes, the identities and the composition of the family of the Cuban
Revolution's Maximum Leaders, after become a taboo subject due to steps
taken by themselves, has become the subject of public interest and a
source of constant speculation. A delicate area, the private and
mythical environment of the Castro Ruz brothers acquires historical
content from rumors, with unnamed girlfriends, faceless wives, children
and many family members rarely seen together even in photos.

And in this "complete photo of the first family," that was never taken
and probably never will be, is the disturbing "presence" of an odd woman
who carries the same last names with pride, defending the family
lineage, but at the same time rejecting the stamps these names have
placed on Cuban history. A strong, secluded, argumentative woman who
appears, because of this, doubly cursed.

Her request for political asylum in Mexico City on 29 June 1964 was a
bombshell. She started the day with a press conference that had a huge
impact: "The person addressing you is Juanita Castro Ruz, sister of the
Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro."

Nearly half a century later, Juanita again comes to the fore with the
publication of the book "Fidel and Raul, My Brothers" (Aguilar 2009),
with the subtitle "The Secret History, Memoirs of Juanita Castro as told
to Maria Antonieta Collins." The testimony was ready back in 1999, after
months of confidential interviews, but ten years passed before the
protagonist would agree to the printing.

Recalling her departure from Cuba, she casts aside the possible label of
traitor, stating that from the beginning she had felt flagrantly
deceived, because from the days of the Moncada attack and the Sierra
Maestra front, when Cubans died confronting the Batista dictatorship in
order to recover the 1940 Constitution, her brother Fidel always said
that he was not a Communist.

Among the new confessions, this time perhaps the most incredible, is
that she came to belong the CIA—although she clarifies that she never
accepted money—in those difficult days in which, in Havana, she took
advantage of the paralyzing influence of her last names, to come to the
aid of many whom she sometimes didn't even know, saving them from a
summary trial or getting them out of the country. Her house came to be,
according to these memoirs, a refuge and an always full transit center.

Anguish and contradictions abound in a woman who conscientiously
confronted a beloved part of her own biological being

But the basic need that has led her to gather together her memoirs, she
says, it to tell the truth about her family's past, her brothers'
childhood, the history of the grandparents, and especially her mother,
Lina Ruz, and her father, Angel Castro, on seeing how they have been
slandered by historians who in attacking Fidel seek explanations in a
supposed dark and cruel family origin, in Biran, a farm ruled over by a
supposedly unscrupulous father, one who prospered based on criminal acts.

"I'm sorry to disappoint the pocket historians and the instant
psychologists," she says. Of her father, she opines, "Angel Castro Argiz
was a man who cared for others. No one who came to him asking for a
favor, asking for help, was refused." And she is nostalgic for the
atmosphere of the little place in the former Oriente province, now
converted into a museum: "Biran—where we were like a big family because
we all knew each other."

Anguish and contradictions abound in a woman who conscientiously
confronted a beloved part of her own biological being, her family and
her country. Someone who has not lost, for example, her affection for
her youngest brother, Raul. "Musito" to his mother. She favors him, and
presents him to us in very human situations, as at the death of their
mother, Lina Ruz, crying and inconsolably talking to the beloved body.
An image that contrasts with the description of another brother in power.

Her memories leave a sense of transparency. However, this doesn't mean
that the reader should accept everything she describes. Memory is never
inoffensive. Even at times when it is just interpretations. And
Juanita's has been a very particular and unique angle on Cuban history,
with advantages and disadvantages, precisely for being so close. The
most natural—to give one example—is that the memories of the taskmaster
Angel's daughter are more emotional and sweet than a subordinate of his
could have, without lying.

She broke with the CIA when they asked her to give a powerful new
statement to the press

She broke with the CIA—this is another hot testimony—when they asked her
to give a powerful new statement to the press, similar to her request
for asylum, but this time with a very different objective: to dispel the
fears about the advance of communism. The United States, then, to avoid
the danger of a nuclear confrontation, had reached an agreement with the
Soviets which demanded the US end its support for anti-communist groups
in Miami.

Perhaps Juanita appears more like typical Cuban of whatever shore, and
of the island of Cuba itself, when she is shown as vulnerable, unjustly
attacked, manipulated and, ultimately, in the midst of the waves and the
storms, alone: "In this fight we are all pawns in a game of chess," she
affirms.

She has a very Cuban gesture of feeling herself the most miserable in
the world. And on this point, it is appropriate to concede to her the
sad merit of being a symbol of the pain and intolerance that divides
Cuban families. "No doubt I have suffered more than the rest of the
exile because on no side of the Florida Straits am I offered a truce,
and few understand the paradox of my life."

Expressed by her, it is no less pathetic and we see the opinion that
"hatred has always prevailed over our reason."

Luckily, toward the end of the book she invokes the future, allowing the
opportunity for love, not prophetically, but with an intimate appeal to
the smallest of the seven siblings, her "Musito," once he has replaced
Fidel in power: "Raul, in your hands could be the democratic transition
for Cuba… To evolve with dignity could be your great opportunity in
history…"

The book of memoirs is written in a pleasant colloquial style, like a
good novel of 51 chapters, narrated in the first person. We "hear" the
voice of a woman who has lived and stands before everything and everyone
with clear and direct style.

Source: Juanita Castro: Memory is Never Harmless / 14ymedio, Francis
Sanchez | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/juanita-castro-memory-is-never-harmless-14ymedio-francis-sanchez/