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Thursday, May 28, 2015

State Inefficiency, Convenient Business

State Inefficiency, Convenient Business / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang
Posted on May 27, 2015

Cubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 22 May 2015 — Attestations
about poor or non-existent attention in Cuban state businesses are so
abundant that few pay attention to them. In order to offer a response to
the indignant, the island's official press searches for causes of such
abuse not in the inefficiency of the state enterprise but in other
absurd factors like poor education or lack of professionalism, which do
not reveal the corrupt essence of a system that, in spite of the proof
of its uselessness, will be kept in place by government will, as is
expressed in the Guidelines of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party.

Why do we receive better treatment in a private restaurant or cafeteria?
Why do customer demands bother the clerk and managers of a state eatery
and why do they not improve the quality of their offerings? Why do they
hide behind any justification in order to remain closed or to reduce
their public service hours to the minimum?

According to Vladimir Rodriguez, owner of a busy little restaurant in
downtown Vedado, the problem is in the objectives of each:

"As the owner of my business I seek to attract more customers, to offer
more variety. I listen to the opinions of the people, the suggestions, I
serve them like they were kings because it winds up as earnings. In a
state restaurant the earnings do not come from the clients' consumption
and satisfaction but in that quite miserable thing that happens in the
warehouse, in the sale to the black market of everything that arrives to
be produced and sold to the customers, who turn into a nuisance. What
little gets to the table is only to justify the work in case an
inspector comes, but the clerks as well as the manager live on the black
market.

"That is something everyone knows. (…) I worked for years in restaurants
in Havana, even in luxury hotels in Varadero, and what I saw in the
kitchens is nasty. (…) Rice that customers leave on their plates went
back in the casseroles, a bit of meat, salads, the olives, everything
that people leave on the plates is served again. That is way of dealing
with leftovers. That's why I left and opened my own business. I would
not be caught dead in a State restaurant; God only knows what they are
serving you."

For Iraida, a clerk in a private cafeteria in Arroyo Naranjo, the matter
is more complicated: "It is a secret to no one that in the stores as
well as in all the state enterprises the people do not work, they are
going, as they say, to struggle, that is to say, to steal. And the worst
is that the government knows it and "plays the silly goat" [pretends not
to know]. (…) Why? Because it is convenient for them. If they attack the
black market the people will rebel because everyone lives off that, even
them. There, yes, the revolution is over. They promised to create a
wholesale market for the self-employed and even now we continue in the
same way, buying on the black market because there is nothing in the
stores or if there is, it is hidden in the warehouses, so that you have
to buy from a warehouseman, who has a fix with the manager, and so forth
and so on. There you realize that the government is involved in that
mess (…) if it does not benefit with money, at least it does by leaving
it to the people 'to struggle' so that they see the 'blessings of
socialism.' In troubled waters, fishermen gain."

Marta Li, owner of a café in Vedado, illustrates for us with her own
examples what she considers the superiority of private enterprise. "In a
State café no one worries about serving the customer well because it
does not end up as earnings. They sell or not, the salary is the same
for the manager as well as for the sales clerk. They care about what is
left from a liter of oil and the chicken, to resell the cheese and the
spaghetti; they are not sold because no one would buy them. I, on the
other hand, have to constantly create sales strategies; my objective is
that nothing is left, not in the pots or in the freezers, to sell
everything because what I have paid is quite a lot. (…) Since I am close
to the university, I make offers to the students who present their
student ID, I discount the price. Sometimes for someone who buys more
than one pizza or for a repeat customer I give them a free drink. People
come because they know that they will receive good attention. It is not
about lowering prices but giving good service."

A former civil servant of a business enterprise in Havana, who wishes to
remain anonymous because she is currently the owner of a restaurant,
tells us of her experiences in a state business:

"Satisfying the customer is the last of the priorities [of a state
enterprise]. Whatever it may be. They all work in order to steal
everything that can be stolen and in the least time possible. One enters
with good intentions and ends up coming to terms with the corruption
because there is no other path. (…) The socialist economy has neither
feet nor head. When I studied [economics] at the university the
professors themselves said that there is no way to explain the Cuban
economy. And when you try to apply any model you realize that they all
fail. (…) It is not that you propose to steal, it's that you have to do
it because everyone is out for himself. It didn't matter to me or to any
of the workers in all the stores where I worked, which were more than
twenty; it didn't matter if the wages were low or not, not even the
bonus, the salary was a formality, the true earnings are not even on the
counter as many think. Where the money comes from (…) is not the
counter. And be careful with making yourself the conscious one [honest]
because you wind up blaming yourself for everything."

Will they be able someday to prove the efficiency of the socialist state
enterprise, as Cuban leaders claim, based on a couple of suspicious
exceptions? According to the recent statements by Miguel Diaz-Canel,
this "demonstrative work" is one of the main undertakings of "the
country's leadership with the Cuban people." As if half a century of
failures that we Cubans currently suffer did not matter, the government
pushes to prolong an economic experiment behind which is hidden a vast
fabric of corruption.

Against that piece of nonsense, for years it has been very common to
hear on the street a phrase that sums up the inefficiency of state
enterprises: "The government pretends to pay us, and we pretend to work."

Satisfying the customer is the objective of private business. There are
more menu items than in State companies. This snack bar gives students
5% off (photo by author)


About the Author
Ernest Perez Chang (El Cerro, Havana, 15 June 1971). Writer, graduate in
philology from the University of Havana. He studied Galician Language
and Culture in the University of Santiago de Compostela. He has
published the novels: Your Eyes Are in front of Nothing (2006) and
Alicia under Her Own Shadow (2012). At the end of 2014, the publisher
Silueta, in Miami, will publish his most recent novel: Food. He is also
the author of books of stories: Last Photos of Mama Nude (2000); Sade's
Ghosts (2002); Stories of Silk (2003); Variations for the Preliterate
(2007), The Art of Dying Alone (2011) and One Hundred Deadly Stories
(2014). His narrative work has been recognized with prizes: David de
Cuento of the Cuban Gazette twice, 1998 and 2008; Julio Cortazar Latin
American Story prize on its first call in 2002; National Critics Prize
in 2007; Alejo Carpentier Story Prize in 2011, among others. He has
worked as editor for numerous Cuban cultural institutions like the House
of the Americas (1997-2008), Art and Literature Publisher, the Center
for Research and Development of Cuban Music. He was Chief Editor for the
magazine Union (2008-11).

Translated by MLK

Source: State Inefficiency, Convenient Business / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez
Chang | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/state-inefficiency-convenient-business-cubanet-ernesto-perez-chang/

Reporters Without Borders to Hollande: “Mr. President, France should…”

Reporters Without Borders to Hollande: "Mr. President, France should…"
Posted on May 27, 2015

Reporters Without Borders to Hollande: "Mr. President, France should
seek the immediate and unconditional release of Yoennis de Jesus Guerra
Garcia, Juan Antonio Torres, and Angell Santiesteban-Prats."

Note: This post was written by the editor of Angel's blog.

Once again, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) demonstrates its commitment
to the serious situation in Cuba and writes an open letter to French
President Francois Hollande.

On the occasion of the upcoming visit of Hollande to Cuba, they asked
him to live up to the pledge he made in 2003 in a column in Le Nouvel
Observateur, "Tell the Truth", and asked him:

"Mr. President, France should seek the immediate and unconditional
release of Yoennis de Jesús Guerra García, Juan Antonio Torres, and
Ángel Santiesteban-Prats. France can do no less than urge the Cuban
authorities to stop the repression and censorship of purveyors of
independent information."

Thank you from here on behalf of Angel Santiesteban-Prats for the
relentless support provided by RSF for all those in Cuba who suffer the
consequences of exercising the right to freedom of expression and
information inside a dictatorship.

Eternal gratitude,

The Editor of Angel's blog

Cuba: "The silence of the friends of Cuba would be a form of
complicity." (Francois Hollande, 2003)

Published Thursday, May 7, 2015

On Monday, May 11, 2015, French President Francois Hollande will be the
first French head of state to visit Cuba since 1959, and the first
Western leader to do so since the announcement of the resumption of
diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, announced last December
17. A historic visit, and a historic responsibility: to "tell the
truth," as in the title of the column about Cuba written by François
Hollande (attached here) published in Le Nouvel Observateur in 2003.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) sent an open letter to the President
requesting him to urge his counterpart Raul Castro to improve the
situation—which is dire—of the freedom of information on the island.

François Hollande
President of the Republic
Elysée Palace
55 Rue du Faubourg Saint‐Honoré
75008 París

May 7, 2015

Mr. President,

Before you make your trip to Cuba, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), an
organization that defends freedom of information, would like to call
your attention to the situation—which remains very critical—of
professional and amateur journalists in Cuba. This country, which every
year ranks last in the Americas in the 2015 Worldwide Classification of
Freedom of the Press by Reporters Without Borders, ranked 169th out of
180 countries. This position reflects the apparent lack of pluralism and
the difficult and dangerous situation in which journalists and
independent bloggers operate in order to evade censorship and to publish
independent information.

With a historic visit comes a historic responsibility: in the column you
wrote and which was published in Le Nouvel Observateur on February 27,
2003, entitled "Telling the Truth," you stated bluntly: "Silence by the
friends of Cuba would be a form of complicity facing a system that we
condemn elsewhere," and you urged "supporting the Cuban people to the
end and telling the truth about the inhumanity, both of the embargo and
of the Cuban regime. Both are unjustifiable."

You had no doubt about the role of France: "We demand the release of all
political prisoners and the abolition of censorship." In the name of
these principles, France cannot remain silent.

Mr. President, despite the desire for openness that the Cuban government
now displays in the diplomatic arena, it retains an almost complete
monopoly on information and does not tolerate the existence of any
independent media on the island. The traditional press and online media
remain censored; the internet remains under close surveillance.

An exception to this lead cloak: the website of the independent news
agency Hablemos Press. Since 2011 Hablemos Press was inaccessible on the
island, but last March 12th, as part of an anti-cybercensorship
operation, Reporters Without Borders unlocked its website. The Cuban
government did nothing, an exception that should be the rule. Mr.
President, France cannot forget that an opening can only be real and
beneficial to the population if the island is also open to plural and
independent information.

Independent journalists and bloggers continue to exercise their
profession in the midst of a difficult and dangerous situation: their
computers are confiscated and their mobile phones are disconnected; they
are cited by the State Security Department and ordered to change their
editorial slant. Also, they continue to suffer intimidation, smear
campaigns, death threats, assaults, arrests and arbitrary detentions.

Even the World Day of Press Freedom on May 3rd served as a pretext for
repression. Three independent journalists covering the march of the
Ladies in White were arrested in Havana. They had distributed the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mr. President, France cannot
continue to be silent about the arbitrary imprisonment of journalists.

Cuban authorities seem to increasingly prefer arbitrary detentions of
short duration to prevent purveyors of information from doing their jobs
and to keep them quiet. Yoeni de Jesús Guerra García (a blogger from
Yayabo Press sentenced to seven years in prison in 2014), Jose Antonio
Torres (a journalist from the official newspaper Granma, who was
sentenced in July 2012 to 14 years in prison) and the blogger Ángel
Santiesteban-Prats (author of the informative blog The Children Nobody
Wanted, sentenced to five years in prison in 2013), are all currently
serving long prison sentences.

Their crimes? Having spread information considered "anti-revolutionary"
or "slanderous." Ángel Santiesteban-Prats was sentenced to five years in
prison for "domestic violence with injuries;" he was charged with a
common criminal offense to reduce the political impact of his
imprisonment. Since entering prison he has suffered ill-treatment and
torture. A lack of legal clarity clouds his situation. Mr. President,
France should seek the immediate and unconditional release of Yoennis de
Jesús Guerra García, Juan Antonio Torres, and Ángel Santiesteban-Prats.

France can do no less than urge the Cuban authorities to stop the
repression and censorship of purveyors of independent information.
France should also intervene with the Cuban authorities and ask them to
allow access to Cuba by international organizations defending human
rights and freedom of expression and information, such as Reporters
Without Borders. This, keeping in mind your desired objective: "to tell
the truth."

Thanking you for your attention to this request, Mr. President, I send
my warmest greetings.

Sincerely,

Christophe Deloire

Secretary General

See:
https://hijosnadieeng.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/cuba_dire_la_verite_francois_hollande-2-15fd3.jpg?w=768&h=1050

Source: Reporters Without Borders to Hollande: "Mr. President, France
should…" | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/reporters-without-borders-to-hollande-mr-president-france-should/

The Cuban Market Mirage

The Cuban Market Mirage
BY JOSÉ R. CÁRDENASMAY 27, 2015 - 1:18 PM

It's a safe bet that neither Cy Tokmakjian or Stephen Purvis will be
attending a Brookings Institution event next week on doing business in
Cuba. Canadian and British businessmen, respectively, they each suffered
through Kafkaesque ordeals in Cuba after they did just that, somehow
running afoul of some regulation in Cuba's opaque and arbitrary judicial
system. After being imprisoned for months and robbed of their assets by
the Castro government, they were finally released only after heavy
diplomatic pressure by their governments.

Indeed, of all the justifications for President Obama's about-face on
Cuba policy — that it will serve to moderate the Castro regime's
behavior, improve human rights, or that it will transform U.S.-Latin
America relations — perhaps the biggest whopper in defense of the new
policy is that Cuba's bankrupt economy represents a gold mine for U.S.
producers and investors.

Thus, we are currently being treated to a succession of trade
delegations, assorted junkets, and conferences — encouraged by the Obama
administration — selling the American public on the notion that a U.S.
economic windfall lies right around the corner.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who told the Miami Herald that she
will lead a trade delegation as soon as relations are normalized and
embassies are open, was quoted as saying, "Companies are already going.
Google led a delegation. You're seeing people going to visit. That's
because, as I said, there's enormous excitement — excitement from the
entrepreneurial community in Cuba and excitement here in the United
States about that. I think they deserve our support."

However, if you look hard enough, not all U.S. officials are so
sanguine. Pritzker's own undersecretary for international trade, Stefan
Selig, told the Washington Post, "We are embarking on a process that is
complicated. We should remember Cuba is a small country, and a poor
country. I don't think we should be overly excited about the near-term
economic prospects." U.S. Department of Agriculture under secretary
Michael Scuse recently cautioned an eager Senate panel that it was
important not to "minimize the obstacles" in Cuba, such as the country's
limited purchasing power and its widespread market underdevelopment.

How could it be any other way? The reality of Cuba is that five decades
of centralized political and economic control have impoverished the
island both materially and spiritually. And the prospects are hardly
uplifting. The dead hand of the regime still controls nearly 100 percent
of economic activity and, to the extent there is any semblance of
reform, it exists only at the margins.

For anyone eyeing Cuba from abroad, the Castro government lacks hard
currency and infrastructure, has an abysmal credit rating, and restricts
internet use. As one experienced foreigner points out, "Your state
partner is also the supplier, the employer of your staff, the buyer, the
regulating authority and the entity that taxes you. So it's a complex
place to enter into a normal business transaction."

Pedro Freyre, a partner at the law firm Akerman who knows Cuba told
Politico that, "While I think that the business community recognizes
Cuba's potential, there's also the reality that Cuba is bankrupt. Cuba
is grossly in need of investment … but they don't have a philosophy,
don't have the legal infrastructure to support any kind of mid-level to
even higher-level industry." According to John Kavulich, president of
the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, "This is not Dubai just 90
miles south of the U.S., saying, 'Please sell us your products.'"

To say trading with Cuba involves personal and financial risk is a gross
understatement, as the ordeals of Tokmakjian and Purvis attest. Don't
look for or expect transparency, legal guarantees, and predictability —
none of which the Cuban government is capable of providing. And don't
look for a local economy that rewards innovation, risk taking, or hard
work. That's the Cuban economic reality and no amount of irrational
exuberance and ideological cheerleading changes those facts.

It is clear by now that Obama's reversal of five decades of isolating
the Castro regime rests on little else than hope; hope that just doing
something different could translate into something good developing
organically sometime in the future. But hope is a pretty thin reed on
which to base a policy under such scrutiny, and that means sexing up its
about-face on Cuba by convincing people that there really are immediate
and tangible benefits to it — and that means selling the notion that
bankrupt Cuba is like an overripe mango waiting to plucked by American
business.

Source: The Cuban Market Mirage | Foreign Policy -
https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/05/27/the-cuban-market-mirage/

En Santa Clara escasea hasta la sangre

En Santa Clara escasea hasta la sangre
Ante el agotamiento de las reservas del Banco de Sangre provincial, las
cirugías están paralizadas casi en su totalidad. Solo se efectúan por
urgencias, tales como amputaciones y otras complicaciones
miércoles, mayo 27, 2015 | Villaclara Press

SANTA CLARA, Cuba. – Funcionarios del Banco de Sangre provincial en
Santa Clara, alarmados por el agotamiento de las reservas de este vital
tejido líquido, hacen un llamado a la población e instituciones para que
colaboren con donaciones, según informó a este reportero Idalia Mena,
trabajadora de Salud Pública en la provincia.

Expresó Idalia que las cirugías están paralizadas casi en su totalidad,
solo se efectúan por urgencias, casos comprometidos que no pueden
esperar, tales como amputaciones y otras complicaciones.

Agregó que también se afectan por la falta de sangre los servicios a
pacientes con tratamientos sitostáticos, en Oncología y también el
sector de la Dermatología, además se afecta la producción del plasma,
muy necesario para pacientes inmunodeprimidos.

La Dr. Idalmis Fernández Jure, Directora del Banco de Sangre provincial,
comentó a la radio oficialista que, en efecto, las reservas están muy
bajas, principalmente en los grupos O negativa, B negativa y A negativa.
La asistencia de donantes voluntarios es pobre y la mayoría de las
personas que hoy asisten a donar lo hacen con la intención de
interrumpir un embarazo no deseado, acotó.

Robeisy Zapata, trabajador de los Ferrocarriles de Cuba y periodista
independiente, apuntó que él tiene que donar su sangre con relativa
frecuencia por problemas de salud, pero que últimamente las autoridades
no esperan a que se presente, sino que casi siempre va la enfermera con
un médico a hablarle para que acuda. "Lo más lindo del caso es que uno
llega al banco de sangre y no encuentra alguien que lo atienda. Da la
impresión de que no están trabajando".

(Guillermo del Sol)

Source: En Santa Clara escasea hasta la sangre | Cubanet -
http://www.cubanet.org/mas-noticias/en-santa-clara-escasea-hasta-la-sangre/

Guyana awaits Cuban experts to help revive sugar sector

Guyana awaits Cuban experts to help revive sugar sector

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — Guyana's prime minister says Cuba has pledged
to help revive the South American country's sluggish sugar industry.

Moses Nagamootoo says Cuba will send a group of experts to advise the
government on how to rebuild its sugar sector. He made the announcement
after meeting Tuesday with Cuba's vice president in Guyana.

No further details were provided.

Guyana is the largest sugar-producing country in the Caribbean Community
trade bloc, but it has seen a steady drop in production. The government
also says it has run out of money to pay the salaries of workers at the
state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation.

Cuba has struggled to revive its own sugar industry, though output has
recovered somewhat since 2010's 1.1 million tons, the lowest in a
century. It once regularly produced 6 million tons.

Source: Guyana awaits Cuban experts to help revive sugar sector - Yahoo
News -
http://news.yahoo.com/guyana-awaits-cuban-experts-help-revive-sugar-sector-150318628.html;_ylt=AwrC0CPd5mZVKjcAtTzQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByZnU4cmNpBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM5BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--

Byrne Goes To Cuba

Byrne Goes To Cuba
Updated: May 27, 2015 8:35 PM
By Bill RialesCONNECT

Alabama Congressman Bradley Byrne says he is headed to Cuba to see first
hand what the U.S. is up against with negotiations aimed at normal trade
relations with the communist country.

Those negotiations have been ongoing. Attempts at a more normal
relationship with the island nation were a hot topic a few months ago,
but have since grown cold as the Cuban leadership demanded reparations
and more incentives after years of a U.S. embargo.

We caught up with Byrne one day before he will leave to visit Cuba. He
was touring a Baldwin County company, Bay Wood Products. It is one of
many that could benefit from a thaw in our relationship with Cuba.

But Byrne has urged caution when it comes to normalizing trade, even
while realizing what could be a huge economic benefit for the Port of
Mobile, Mobile and Baldwin Counties and the State of Alabama.

He has concerns over the Cubans relationship with Russia, Russian
vessels allowed in the Port of Havana, and the countries sketchy record
of human rights.

The trip will conclude on Sunday. Byrne will travel with a handful of
other Republican and Democratic Congressmen, and a non-profit group that
includes experts on Cuba.

Source: Byrne Goes To Cuba -
http://www.wkrg.com/story/29170249/byrne-goes-to-cuba

Cuba detains Tania Bruguera with Havana Biennial in full swing. How will the art world react?

Cuba detains Tania Bruguera with Havana Biennial in full swing. How will
the art world react?
Carolina A. Miranda
LOS ANGELES TIMES
carolina.miranda​@latimes.com

Performance artist Tania Bruguera was detained and released by
authorities in Cuba on Sunday — as the 12th Havana Biennial opened its
doors to the world. She is seen here reading a text by Hannah Arendt as
part of a performance over the weekend. (Pablo León de la Barra /
#YoTambienExijo)

A Cuban dissident artist detained as the 12 Havana Biennial parties on
'Don't do anything. This is nonviolent.' Cuban performance artist Tania
Bruguera on her recent detention
Watch video of the moment Tania Bruguera is detained in Cuba
The latest edition of the Havana Biennial kicked off Friday, but the
Cuban artist everyone is talking about does not have a piece in the show.

Tania Bruguera was once again detained by the authorities on Sunday
afternoon after staging a performance at her Havana home, in which she
and others read passages from Hannah Arendt's "The Origins of
Totalitarianism." A video by the civil rights group Patriotic Union of
Cuba, embedded in this post, records the moment in which state security
agents approach her on the street.

Bruguera was released that same afternoon. But the detention comes at an
uncomfortable moment for the Cuban government — just as the art world
has descended on the 12th Havana Biennial, an event that has drawn a
jet-setting group of international curators, artists and collectors to
the Cuban capital for exhibitions, parties and private studio tours.

All of it raises questions about Bruguera's continuing legal limbo. The
artist is a Cuban national, but as an internationally recognized artist,
she spends much of her time teaching and staging her work abroad. She
returned to Cuba in December and was first detained just before New
Year's Eve for attempting to stage a performance about freedom of
expression in Havana's iconic Revolution Square.

The Cuban government hasn't formally filed any charges against her, but
Bruguera had her passport confiscated, and it has yet to be returned.
For the time being, she is unable to leave Cuba.

Within the art world, there had been some online talk of a boycott in
advance of the biennial — but that effort didn't garner much steam. For
the most part, the exhibition has proceeded as planned.

But artist Paul Ramirez Jonas says it's not too late for the curators
and artists who are in Havana to do something. In a Facebook status
update he called on the international art community members present in
Cuba to take action: "If you are in Havana please don't act like it is
business as usual — because it isn't. Ask every government official,
curator, and (why not) the artists, as well, about Tania."

"Many of us who chose not to participate in the Biennial or related
shows have done what we could from the outside," he adds. "If you are in
Cuba now is your chance to do something."

Tania Bruguera on her art, her detentions and what happens next
Bruguera couldn't be reached for comment. But in a taped interview with
the a reporter from the Cuban news website Martí shortly after she was
released, she sounds firm in her mission to make art that touches a
nerve — whether it's in Cuba or anywhere else.

"When they were going to take me, I turned around to everyone who was
there and said, 'Don't shout,'" she says. "Nothing. Don't do anything.
This is nonviolent."

Find me on Twitter @cmonstah.

Source: Cuba detains Tania Bruguera with Havana Biennial in full swing.
How will the art world react? - LA Times -
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/miranda/la-et-cam-tania-bruguera-detention-cuba-havana-biennial-20150526-column.html

Cuba-US Expect to Announce Embassy Openings Next Week

Cuba-US Expect to Announce Embassy Openings Next Week
May 27, 2015, 4:12 PM ET
By SERENA MARSHALL and JIM AVILA

Cuba and the United States are expected to formally announce the
re-opening of embassies in Havana and D.C. next week, ABC News has been
told by two sources close to negotiations.

The announcement is expected to come from their respective capitals,
following Friday's anticipated announcement of Cuba's removal from the
list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Cuba is expected to be formally removed from the list 45 days after
President Obama announced his intention to remove them, which came in
mid-April, and just days after he returned from Panama and the first
high level meeting between the two countries since the diplomatic freeze.

Why Washington Is Arguing Over Cuba's Airbnb Proliferation
Cuban Reporters Asks Question at White House Briefing in Historic First
Sailboat Race is Latest Sign of Better US-Cuban Relations
The listing, which included them on a list alongside nations such as
Syria, Sudan and Iran, has been a sticking point in the negotiations.

Last week, Cuban diplomats met in D.C. with U.S. diplomats in the latest
round of talks since the U.S. and Cuba began negotiating normalization
in December.

Both sides expressed optimism and called the talks "very productive,"
foreseeing an agreement soon, but sticking points remain.

The major sticking point for Americans has been the freedom for staff to
move throughout the country; for the Cubans, it was courses provided to
Cuban journalists by the U.S. government at the interests section in
Havana, which they say fall outside normal diplomatic activities.

The two countries have only operated lower level Interest Sections since
the late 1970s in buildings run by the Swiss.

Diplomatic relations were cut off in 1961, with Fidel Castro calling the
U.S. embassy a "nest of spies."

Today, renovations are underway in Havana and D.C. as the two buildings
are prepared for full embassies staffed with full level ambassadors.

The date of the re-opening has not been confirmed, but that too may be
announced next week.

Source: Cuba-US Expect to Announce Embassy Openings Next Week - ABC News
-
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/cuba-us-expect-announce-embassy-openings-week/story?id=31345385

US senator in Cuba says normal relations 'weeks away'

US senator in Cuba says normal relations 'weeks away'
BY BEN FOX
Associated Press

HAVANA
The historic process of restoring long-severed diplomatic relationship
between the U.S. and Cuba that began Dec. 17 will likely come to a
successful end in a matter of weeks, a U.S. senator said during a visit
to the island Wednesday.

A 45-day period for Congress to challenge a decision by President Barack
Obama to remove Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a key
obstacle to improved relations, will expire Friday and the remaining
issues will then get quickly resolved, Sen. Tom Udall told reporters in
Havana.

"We are just two days away. There has not been a vote in the Congress so
that's going to stand," Udall said. "I think it will be a matter of
weeks when we have restored diplomatic relations."

U.S. and Cuban officials have said the two sides are close to resolving
the final issues that would allow both countries to re-open embassies
and exchange ambassadors for the first time since the U.S. severed
diplomatic relations in January 1961.

Udall, a New Mexico Democrat who led a four-member Democratic
congressional delegation to Cuba, said there appears to be growing
momentum to removing at least elements of the U.S. trade embargo first
imposed in 1960.

There is bipartisan support for separate pieces of legislation that
would permanently end a ban on travel, allow trade in agricultural goods
and enable U.S. telecommunications and Internet companies to provide
services and devices in Cuba, the senator said.

The delegation, which included Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, Rep. Raul
Grijalva of Arizona and Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, spoke to
reporters after meeting with Cuban officials and small business owners.
All four members of the delegation support lifting the trade embargo,
which the Cubans say has badly damaged their economy over the past five
decades.

Obama softened aspects of the embargo and called on Congress to end it
during his State of the Union address in January.

Franken said there is strong support among the U.S. public for normal
relations.

"I think there is a very small minority, really, in the Senate and the
Congress who have strong objections to this and I think that a majority
of the American people and a majority of the Congress would be for
lifting the embargo," he said. "But there is work to be done."

Some of that work emerged as the members of Congress spoke to reporters.
Franken was asked about the presence of the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba, which Castro said must be returned to Cuba. Franken dodged
the question, saying, "I don't believe that that is a salient issue at
this time." He then added that he doesn't have a "strong opinion" on the
base, though he supports closing the detention center there for
terrorism suspects.

Udall was asked about the presence of criminals suspected of crimes in
the United States who have found refuge in Cuba. The senator raised the
example of Charlie Hill, who fled to the island after killing a police
officer in New Mexico in 1971, and said he should be extradited.

"I assume with the normalization of relations we are going to have a lot
more discussions about things like that," Udall said.

Source: US senator in Cuba says normal relations 'weeks away' | Miami
Herald Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/article22471851.html

Airbnb capitalizes on Cuban traditions to grow

Airbnb capitalizes on Cuban traditions to grow
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@MiamiHerald.com

Airbnb has grown rapidly in Cuba because it took advantage of two
well-established patterns: the tradition of renting out rooms to
travelers to earn extra money and the kindness of friends and neighbors
with Internet connections.

Since launching in Cuba on April 2 with 1,000 listings at casas
particulares, private homes that rent rooms or in some cases an entire
house or apartment, San Francisco-based Airbnb has more than doubled its
Cuban listings to around 2,000.

Even Airbnb is surprised by how quickly the concept has taken off in
Cuba. "We were really surprised by the quick uptake, especially since we
hadn't done much promotion in Cuba," said Kay Kuehne, regional director
for Airbnb in Latin America.

"In San Francisco, it took three years to grow to 1,000 listings," he
said. "We've been very happy with the launch both in the Cuban community
and in the American community." Americans still can't visit Cuba as
tourists, but they can travel to Cuba under 12 authorized categories
such as on people-to-people tours or for educational activities and
professional research.

Cuba has become Airbnb's most searched site in Latin America, Kuehne
said. About 40 percent of the listings are in Havana but 30 towns and
cities across Cuba also have listings.

Among the reasons for the rapid growth is that Cubans have decades of
experience renting out extra rooms to travelers. The government first
allowed Cubans to rent out rooms in their homes in 1997 and operate
their casas particulares as businesses, but the concept became popular
as an under-the-table enterprise in the early 1990s during the special
period when the economic crisis prompted Cubans to look for a source of
extra income.

With more recent changes that have allowed Cubans to rent more than two
rooms and hire employees who aren't family members to help with cooking
and housekeeping, the popularity of the casas as a self-employment
option has soared. The government recently said there are 8,000 rooms
for rent in casas particulares across the island.

Building on an existing system greatly benefited the Airbnb launch, said
Kuehne. "Some of our casas have been in business for 10 or 15 years.
They really know what they are doing."

Some of the more sophisticated casas particulares maintain their own
websites and some are listed on European booking sites, but before the
Airbnb launch, it was difficult for Americans to search for and book a
wide range of casas online

Internet penetration in Cuba is low — only about 5 percent have access
to the global Internet although more can communicate with a domestic
Intranet — and that could be a big problem for an online booking site.

But here too Airbnb has built on an existing pattern in Cuba society to
help ameliorate the difficulties: Those who do have Internet often
charge fees to provide access to friends and neighbors.

For casas without Internet, Airbnb has set up a platform of
Internet-connected "hosting partners" who can manage inquiries and
receive bookings for casas without online access, said Kuehne. Such
hosting partners receive around 5 Cuban convertible pesos (around $5)
per reservation on rooms that average 25 to 30 CUCs, he said.

"What Airbnb does is provide the platform and the tools so Cubans can
become successful hosts," said Kuehne.

Airbnb also has extended its host guarantee of up to $1 million to cover
damages caused by guests at Cuban casas, he said.

The listings and prices vary widely depending on location and amenities.
A room at Casa Las Marias, a colonial house in the historic district of
Camaguey, for example, rents for $16 a night. There's no A.C. but the
hosts also offer breakfast, dinner and laundry service if guests want them.

Tamara Castellanos, who recently signed up for Airbnb but has yet to
receive guests from the booking service, does have Internet. "It's quite
difficult, but if it doesn't work at home, you can always go to the
hotels," she said.

She has two Airbnb listings: one in Old Havana for a double room with
private bath, safe deposit and air conditioning that rents for $50 a
night and another two-bedroom apartment ($57 per night) in Havana's
Lawton neighborhood. This one she advertises as a stay in an "authentic
Cuban neighborhood," complete with balcony overlooking Havana Bay.

She'll also rent the entire Old Havana flat, which has a second bedroom,
living room with TV and small kitchen for $90 per night.

"We're so happy to join Airbnb," said Castellanos in a phone interview.
"I'm seeing more Americans in Havana now so I really hope they will
book." She heard about Airbnb from a friend and jumped on the chance to
sign up.

Castellanos, a former hotel bartender, has been in the casa business for
about three years and has two employees who help with cleaning and other
chores.

"I love to receive guests. You work really hard but this is good for my
family," said Castellanos, who is married and has three children.

For casas that need professional photos for their listings, Airbnb will
hook them up with Cuban photographers. "We're generating income for
photographers as well," said Kuehne.

Castellanos said that former guests took some of the pictures that
appear in her listings. "You know people help each other out in Cuba,"
she said.

Source: Airbnb capitalizes on Cuban traditions to grow | Miami Herald
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/article22425324.html

13 Cuban immigrants intercepted off Key Biscayne

13 Cuban immigrants intercepted off Key Biscayne
MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Thirteen Cuban migrants were intercepted just a few hundred yards off
the shore of Key Biscayne on Wednesday night, authorities said.

A Miami-Dade Fire Rescue boat first caught up with the raft, which was
located a few miles south of Elliot Key. Twelve people in the group were
turned over to the Coast Guard, according to agency spokesman Mark Barney.

The group was in good health, save for one, a 24-year-old man who
complained about chest pain and was transported to a Miami hospital.
Since he technically reached dry land, the man will likely be allowed to
stay in the country under U.S.-Cuba immigration policy.

The rest who never made it to soil will be repatriated to the island nation.

Source: 13 Cuban immigrants intercepted off Key Biscayne | Miami Herald
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/key-biscayne/article22467375.html

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

“True Intentions” - Brief Sketch of a Long Relationship

"True Intentions": Brief Sketch of a Long Relationship / 14ymedio,
Miriam Celaya
Posted on May 26, 2015

14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 14 May 2015 — Few sentences of the
Cuban official discourse have been as well-worn as one that refers to
"the true intentions" hiding behind the actions of the US government.

This explains the discomfort that the "Paused General*" feels about the
American Interests Section in Havana teaching courses to independent
journalists or when they hold teleconferences about digital journalism,
among other activities. These "illegal activities" that the US
government promotes through its Havana Section even award certificates
of studies to its graduates. Because "the true intentions" of the
government of that country is for these journalists to undermine the
strength and ideological unity of our people, piercing it with the
intimidating US influence.

Beyond the blatant disregard of those studying under the auspices of the
US government, the "Emerging President*", a graduate of who-knows-where,
does not seem to rely too much on the strength of his media monopoly or
in its capacity to influence the masses despite the proven loyalty of
its hired scribes. For this reason he "is worried" – his own words –
about this exchange of journalism courses and conferences that run
outside the classrooms, so strictly controlled by the government, where
many graduates get more credit for their demonstrations of loyalty to
the regime than for their academic achievements or their talents.

An article appearing on the last page of the newsaper Granma (The
Teachers' Lessons, Ronald Suárez Rivas, Wednesday May 13, 2015) supports
what is already emerging as a new ideological crusade against American
"penetration," so crucial at this time when the government of the Island
strives to make peace with its historic enemy.

The work in question goes back more than 115 years ago when, as part of
the US intervention in Cuba, after the end of the war of independence
from 1895 to 1898, the US government took the initiative to "contribute
to training a group of Cuban teachers, and, as if it had been against
their will, they "were taken" to the United States.

But, of course, collaborating in the field of education was not "the
true intentions" of the northern government, but "one of Washington's
first concrete actions in the ideological field, intended to directly
influence the Cuban people" according to the words of a local historian,
quoted by the Granma scribe.

Obviously, in their wish to rewrite Cuba's history according to the
Castro-ocracy's taste, both the journalist and the official historian
omit some important details recorded by renowned writers and other
personalities of the time, documented in the Cuban National Archives,
showing that the US influence on the Island had already penetrated
deeply, long before the military intervention in the
Spanish-Cuban-American war took place. Documents, that, in addition,
show that the US intervention was not an absolutely negative event.

An event should be mentioned that, at the time, marked the sensibility
of the Cuban people in a special way, and earned the gratitude and
affection of the poorest sectors: the assistance provided by the US
government to the victims of the Reconcentración de Weyler** (1896-1898).

In early January 1898, at the request of the then president William
McKinley, Clara Barton, president of the American Red Cross arrived in
Cuba to organize the relief to the reconcentrados. She and the US consul
in Havana, with the help of Bishop Santander, toured various towns and
cities on the Island and were responsible for the coordination and
distribution of food, clothing and medicine that began arriving by sea
at the port of Havana, thanks to the solidarity bridge established by a
Central Committee on Relief, spontaneously organized by the American people.

The philanthropy demonstrated by the Americans had the additional
benefit of raising the awareness of the wealthy sectors on the Island of
Cuba, which until then had remained indifferent to the scenes of death
and desolation caused by the colonial government and intensified by the
incendiary torch of the mambises***, both of which had ruined the Cuban
countryside, seriously damaging food production.

It was then that some societies and leading Cuban personalities of the
era began organizing fund raisers through dances, opera and theater
events, raffles, bullfights, book sales and other activities in order to
help the reconcentrados and charitable institutions responsible for
helping the poorer sectors, suffering from hunger and epidemics due to
their lack of resources.

It is true that the US naval blockade, which began on April 22,1898 and
ended on August 14th of that year, temporarily worsened the shortages
and general poverty. However, just two months after the war's end, the
tireless Clara Barton was able to restart the bridge of essential help –
interrupted since the beginning of the naval blockade — which this time
would also be enough to provide help to the insurgent mambises, still
camped out in rural villages.

The previous month, a flotilla from the US had already been established,
responsible for at least partially supplying food to the markets. Though
not enough, the aid from the US was the assistance that reached the
Cuban people when they needed it the most.

Later on, the work of Clara Barton in Cuba were aimed at creating the
basis for what eventually became the Cuban Red Cross and the first
health system through the Casas de Socorro (Free emergency clinics)
caring for the poor sectors. Also under the hand of the occupying
American army, important sanitation work took place, the engineering
work of planning the new sewer and paving systems were started (its
construction began in 1908 and ended in 1913), sanitary facilities were
established, and the improvement of the aqueduct commenced.

The list of benefits derived from the relationship between Cuba and the
United States, going back to the history of our nation, would be too
long to finish in one article. Suffice it to note that many poor
families in Cuba in recent decades would not be able to survive
shortages or escape extreme poverty if it were not for the remittances
and aid arriving from that country, to which most Cubans looking for a
promising future emigrate.

Beyond "the true intentions" of our powerful Northern neighbor, the
"Paused General's" concern over the danger of the biasing effect of the
United States on Cuba through independent journalism is, at the very
least, untimely. In reality, Cuba and the US never had more mutual
interaction than in the last half a century, and perhaps never before
did Cubans count on, with so much hope the prosperity that has always
arrived from that country, and now, even more than ever, with over two
million Cubans living on its soil. And it can be said, without a doubt,
that this all took place thanks to the Cuban Revolution.

Translator's notes:

*"Without haste, but without pause" has been a catch phrase for Raul
Castro, in speaking of economic reforms in Cuba. "Emerging President" is
a reference to a former program to fill classrooms lacking 'regular'
teachers with "emerging teachers" – teenagers with hardly any training.

**Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, Marquis of Tenerife, Duke of Rubí, Grandee
of Spain was a Spanish general and Governor General of the Philippines
and Cuba whose Weyler Reconcentration policy was responsible for the
deaths of hundreds of thousands of Cubans and for the almost complete
destruction of the countryside.

***Mambises (plural of mambí) refers to Cuban independence and Filipino
guerrillas, who in the nineteenth century took part in the wars for the
independence of Cuba and the Philippines against Spain.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: "True Intentions": Brief Sketch of a Long Relationship /
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/true-intentions-brief-sketch-of-a-long-relationship-14ymedio-miriam-celaya/

They Murdered My Son in the Streets of Camaguey

They Murdered My Son in the Streets of Camaguey / 14ymedio, Pedro
Armando Junco
Posted on May 26, 2015

14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco, Camaguey, 22 May 2015 – Pedro Armando
Junco Torres, alias "Mandy," 28 years of age, was stabbed to death in
Camaguey in the early morning of Saturday, May 16, a day before the
beginning of the rock festival Sounds of the City. Mandy would have
participated in it as guitarist and leader of the band Strike Back. His
father, writer Pedro Junco, Thursday posted on his blog, The Fury of the
Winds, this open letter in which he asks for "true justice."

They Murdered my Son on the Streets of Camaguey

By Pedro Armando Junco

It is very difficult for me to write. All you mothers and fathers who
read these lines, put yourselves in my place. Just for a minute think
that it was your son who was stabbed to death in the street at the hands
of four killers who did not even know him, who did not even do it to
steal from him or to settle accounts. They think that the motivation was
to kill, the pleasure of killing. Put yourself there for only one minute
and then assimilate what you have felt in your hearts. That is what I am
enduring and will endure until the end of my existence.

I write in order to thank so many people who, in and out of the country,
have been at my side recently: the cruelest moments that I have suffered
in my long existence. I also do it for so many friends who have not yet
heard the news.

Saturday May 16, between 2:40 and 3:00 in the morning, my 28-year-old
son: young, beautiful, intelligent, good, was surprised by a foursome of
sadistic killers who, for no other purpose than to stab, riddled him
with blows and knife wounds. The pathologists found 46 contusions on the
body of my beloved Mandy. He was a joyful rocker, always smiling. He had
no enemies. He was adored by the most beautiful young women in the city.
He was returning from a rock festival, in which he was supposed to
participate as a guitarist with his group the following night. Minutes
before his murder he spoke with friends about his projects, about the
successes he had already achieved and hoped to surpass with each new
day, since he was already a professional musician.

I want to put in writing what I feel at this moment. As I said yesterday
to a priest, I am angry with God. And I ask him: Lord Almighty, where
were you then that you permitted such an injustice? Perhaps you were
sleeping so that you did not run to his aid? What debts did we owe you?
I believe in you, God Almighty, because you are evident to me, but I
doubt your kindness and your justice.

To those who govern my country and dictate the laws; to the members of
the courts that say they do justice: how long must one wait before
terrifying events like this one receive exemplary punishments? The
perpetrators of bloody events go to jails like they were on
scholarships, and inside they are trained like graduates, they enjoy
monthly visits with their women, they enjoy regular furloughs, and at
half their sentence, if they have behaved well, they are granted
"conditional" liberty, which many take advantage of to kill with
impunity, because now in Cuba the death penalty is not used.

The city of Camaguey is electrified by this event. My son was the third
victim of the gang which, that morning, carried out the crime spree.
Cases like this emerge almost daily on our streets; but the press,
muzzled, is not empowered to disseminate them. And to hide the truth is
the most sordid way to lie.

The dismay that overwhelms me will not leave me for as long as I exist.
But from now on I will fight with all my strength so that the streets of
our city will be truly safe for our young people, whose parents today,
horrified, corral them at home. Today it is my turn. Tomorrow the victim
might be your child.

Let us demand true justice. Exemplary punishment.

I have been a zealous defender of the right to life. But if the use of
the maximum penalty is necessary to save innocent people, then use it.

Translated by MLK

Source: They Murdered My Son in the Streets of Camaguey / 14ymedio,
Pedro Armando Junco | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/they-murdered-my-son-in-the-streets-of-camaguey-14ymedio-pedro-armando-junco/

LGBT advocate challenges Cuban human rights record

LGBT advocate challenges Cuban human rights record

SAGUA LA GRANDE, Cuba — A gay blogger who is a member of an independent
Cuban LGBT advocacy group told the Washington Blade last week that human
rights factor prominently into his work.
"Definitely for a situation like ours (in Cuba,) human rights are
something that are suppressed," Maykel González Vivero told the Blade on
May 18 as he sat at a table in the small apartment in the city of Sagua
la Grande that he shares with Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez Martínez, his
boyfriend of three years. He discussed the Cuban government's crackdown
on political dissent and disapproval of unauthorized gatherings,
intimidation and other issues.
"As activists we have concluded that it is important that we integrate
all of these issues into our work," said González.
González, who is a reporter for a government-run radio station in Sagua
la Grande, which is roughly 165 miles east of Havana along Cuba's
Atlantic coastline, began his blog Nictálope, a Spanish word that
describes a person or an animal that can see better at night than during
the day, in 2007.
He told the Blade that his blog initially did not have a "clear LGBT
perspective." González noted this position began to change when he
decided to publicly challenge Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of Cuban
President Raúl Castro who has emerged as the public face of Cuba's LGBT
rights movement as director of the National Center for Sexual Education.
"Bit by bit we said that we had discovered the need, the urgency to
offer an alternative image, a distinct option to what CENESEX and
Mariela Castro is offering," said González.
González, 31, spoke with the Blade a day after Mariela Castro led a
march in the city of Las Tunas that commemorated the International Day
Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Members of Proyecto Arcoiris, an
independent LGBT advocacy group of which González has been a member
since last year, organized their own events in Sagua la Grande and in
the nearby city of Santa Clara to mark the annual commemoration and to
highlight their support of marriage rights for same-sex couples in Cuba.
A picture that González posted to his blog on May 18 shows two Cuban
police officers at the Santa Clara march. He said they were "apparently"
there to "provide security."
"In other Cuban cities, as has been recently reported, the police
maintain its aggressive homophobic practices," González told the Blade.

Criticizing Mariela Castro brings 'risks'

González told the Blade that CENESEX, which works with the Cuban
Ministry of Health, did not invite him and other independent advocates
to a 2013 conference in the beach resort of Varadero that drew hundreds
of LGBT rights advocates from across the Americas and the Caribbean.
"The only Cubans who went to the conference were those who were involved
in CENESEX's work or those who CENESEX considered politically
acceptable," he said, noting he supports Cuban Socialism.
González in 2012 publicly objected to the omission of statistics from
the Cuban census that noted the number same-sex couples who live
together in the country. He told the Blade that CENESEX's reaction "was
silence," even though he said he and Rodríguez provided evidence of what
they described as the "homophobic removal" of the information.
"Mariela Castro apparently thought it was important to maintain her
politically correct attitude, rather than coherently stick to her
activism and denounce the homophobia uncovered in the census," González
told the Blade.
Mariela Castro publicly supports marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Clergy from the U.S. and Canada earlier this month blessed the
relationships of 20 gay and lesbian couples in Havana during another
series of events that marked the International Day Against Homophobia
and Transphobia.
The Cuban Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman,
but Mariela Castro and her supporters claim that CENESEX is working to
build support for nuptials for gays and lesbians among the country's
lawmakers. González told the Blade that Mariela Castro has remained
silent about the status of the issue in the Cuban Parliament, even
though she is a member of it.
"She even said a few years ago that we are not yet ready for marriage,"
said González. "And she did this as though she was speaking on behalf of
the LGBTI community. Clearly, as is frequently the case in Cuba, she
speaks on behalf of everyone and does not consult with anyone."
González added he feels CENESEX's influence outside of Havana is
minimal, even though Mariela Castro frequently travels abroad to promote
its work on behalf of LGBT Cubans.
A government-run radio station in the city of Camagüey on May 15
advertised the Las Tunas march and other events in the provincial
capital that commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia and
Transphobia. González told the Blade that Cuban television showed
Mariela Castro paying tribute to Vicente García, a leading figure in the
10 Years' War from 1868-1878 during which Cuba fought for independence
from Spain, in Las Tunas after leading the march through its streets.
"Trans people, gay people, lesbians in Sagua la Grande don't really feel
that CENESEX is working for them," said González.
González told the Blade there are "risks" for criticizing Mariela Castro
or any other government official and organization. He said he has faced
harassment at his job and difficulties accessing the Internet because of
his independent advocacy.
"There is a risk of quickly falling into a sort of social isolation
zone," he said. "People quickly assume that you are a dangerous person
because you are someone who asks questions. As a result you find
yourself in this zone where you are seen as a social pariah…it is very
problematic."
Neither Mariela Castro, nor CENESEX responded to the Blade's request for
comment on González's criticisms. Manuel Vázquez Seijido, a lawyer who
is a senior CENESEX staffer, last month during a speech at a global LGBT
rights conference at Rutgers University School of Law in New Jersey
dismissed independent advocates who criticize his organization and the
Castro government.
"Their goal is to simply criticize institutions like CENESEX and of
course the Cuban government," Vázquez told the Blade.

Cuban people have 'love and hate' relationship with U.S.

González spoke with the Blade days before officials from the U.S. and
Cuban governments met in Washington for the fourth round of negotiations
in the process of normalizing relations between the two countries.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest and State Department
spokesperson Marie Harf both told the Blade on May 22 that the expansion
of rights to LGBT Cubans factors into the process of normalizing
relations between Washington and Havana.
González joked sarcastically that the Cuban people have a "very special"
relationship with the U.S. that can be described as one of "love and
hate," which dates back to the 19th century. He told the Blade he is
"not an optimistic man" when asked about the future of his country and
his thoughts about the normalization of relations between it and the U.S.
"It is an issue that almost nobody talks about," González told the
Blade, referring to the prospect of closer ties between Washington and
Havana. "It is not in people's daily conversation."

Source: LGBT advocate challenges Cuban human rights record -
http://www.washingtonblade.com/2015/05/26/lgbt-advocate-challenges-cuban-human-rights-record/

South Africa - DA, EFF Slam Free State for Employing Cubans

South Africa: DA, EFF Slam Free State for Employing Cubans
By Dirk Lotriet, News24

Opposition parties have reacted in disgust to the Free State
government's decision to employ 38 Cuban engineers.

Both the DA and the EFF have interpreted the announcement at the
provincial headquarters of the ANC as a slap in the face of local engineers.

DA Provincial leader Roy Jankielsohn said Free State Premier Ace
Magashule's administration had a crop of locally qualified professionals
to choose from.

"If Ace Magashule and the ANC were keen on creating jobs for unemployed
South Africans, his government could have employed any of the about 500
qualified, experienced, and unemployed engineers in the country.

"Magashule claims his government had to employ these engineers from Cuba
because South Africans do not possess the requisite skills. This
mentality is the worst sort of insult to South Africans," he said.

Jankielsohn also accused Magashule and the ANC of acting as labour
brokers for Cuba.

EEF provincial chair Kgotso Morapela said his party appreciated the role
and the contribution of Cuba during South Africa's trying times, and
believed that through Cuba the province could learn many lessons in
addressing the triple challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty.

But he added that it was "really dishonest and unappreciative towards
the engineering fraternity in our province".

'Vote of no confidence'

"What we saw and heard yesterday is a vote of no confidence to the
institutions of higher learning in our province and a spit in the face
of many engineers who are without jobs, by the Free State government."

"We know that some of those who are qualified engineers are moving to
other provinces where there are greener pastures and where their skills
are well appreciated, because their own Free State government is not
recognising their engineering skills," Morapela said.

He said if the Free State government was really caring, they should be
working closely with the institutions of higher learning and the private
engineering companies to have service-level agreements, whereby students
could be taken by these companies for training.

"The money to be spent on the Cuban engineers can be channelled to the
programme of experiential training for the students.

"We know that they will never dare to capacitate the students who are
not going to be loyal to them, they rather run to those who know little
about our province and cannot question anything."

Source: allAfrica.com: South Africa: DA, EFF Slam Free State for
Employing Cubans - http://allafrica.com/stories/201505261822.html

OAS chief stresses on Cuba's integration with organisation

OAS chief stresses on Cuba's integration with organisation
By Indo Asian News Service | IANS India Private Limited/Yahoo India News

Washington, May 27 (EFE) Newly-elected secretary general of the
Organisation of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro has prioritised
Cuba's full integration back into the organisation, Spanish news agency
Efe reported on Wednbesday.
"OAS must end the cold war with Cuba's re-incorporation. This will
require an effort from the organisation and also from Cuba," the former
Uruguayan foreign minister told reporters on Tuesday after his appointment.
Almagro specifically addressed the matter in his acceptance speech,
highlighting the "turning point" marked by Havana's participation for
the first time in this year's Summit of the Americas in Panama.
"Cuba's presence, combined with renewed bilateral relations with the
United States... is beneficial for the entire hemisphere," he told the
OAS Permanent Council at its headquarters in Washington.
"We will work to fully integrate Cuba to the OAS, obviously taking into
account the need to respect times and processes," he added.
So far, Cuba has not shown any interest in rejoining the OAS, of which
it was a founding member in 1948.
In 1962, Cuba's membership was suspended after the Fidel Castro-led
revolution took control of the country, as its adherence to
Marxism-Leninism, Communism and the Soviet bloc put it at odds with the
US-led capitalist bloc that controlled the OAS.
That suspension was lifted in 2009.
Almagro, who forged good relations with Raul Castro's government during
his time as Uruguayan foreign minister (2010-2015), is well positioned
to negotiate with Cuba.
However, Cuba is not expected to take up an active membership in the OAS
any time soon, according to diplomatic sources and experts consulted by Efe.
"It is a process that has its own time-frame; we will try to push for
total integration without affecting the interests of the parties
involved," a source from Almagro's transition team told Efe.

Source: OAS chief stresses on Cuba's integration with organisation -
Yahoo News India -
https://in.news.yahoo.com/oas-chief-stresses-cubas-integration-organisation-083614103.html

New luxury hotel in Cuba to offer Wi-Fi in every room

New luxury hotel in Cuba to offer Wi-Fi in every room
By MARY FORGIONE Caribbean Travel

Wi-Fi in Cuba? This hotel promises to be first when it opens in November
Cuba's first hotel to offer Wi-Fi in every room won't be in Havana but
rather at a beach resort in Cayo Coco on the north side of the island
nation.

French company Accor Hotels, which operates international brands
Sofitel, Pullman and Novotel, last week made the Wi-Fi promise in
announcing that it plans to open the luxury Pullman Cayo Coco Hotel in
November.

Americans can now reserve home stays in Cuba on Airbnb
The hotel is to have 518 rooms and face a long stretch of Los Colorados
Beach.

The idea of a luxury resort with Wi-Fi is part of making Cuba more
attractive to visitors. Recently relaxed rules for U.S. travelers have
opened the door to American interest, but just how much do we want to go?

Travel agency company Travel Leaders Group recently asked more than
3,300 Americans whether they would be interested in visiting Cuba if all
U.S. government restrictions were lifted.

Eight percent of U.S. respondents said "I'd go immediately" -- a figure
up slightly from 2014 findings.

Thirty-five percent said they would consider going, an increase of about
3% from 2014. But 39% said they have no interest in going.

The company also asked respondents for their "ultimate dream
international destination." Australia tops the list, followed by Italy,
Ireland, New Zealand and taking a cruise to Europe.

Source: New luxury hotel in Cuba to offer Wi-Fi in every room - LA Times
- http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-trb-cuba-accor-hotel-20150524-story.html

In Search Of Bandwidth, Cuban Entrepreneurs Head To Miami

In Search Of Bandwidth, Cuban Entrepreneurs Head To Miami
MAY 26, 2015 1:56 PM ET
TIM PADGETT

When Cuban bikini maker Victor Rodríguez visited Miami this month, he
was on a pilgrimage — not just for bathing suits but for bandwidth.

The most important stop on Rodríguez's schedule was lunch in Wynwood,
Miami's high-tech district, with Mel Valenzuela, who owns the online
swimwear store Pretty Beachy.

As Valenzuela showed Rodríguez how to do business online, his awestruck
expression seemed to evoke José Arcadio Buendía in One Hundred Years of
Solitude, who when he first touches ice declares it "the great invention
of our time."

"My eyes light up," said Rodríguez, "when I see how greatly the Internet
could expand my horizons as a business owner."

The U.S. and Cuba are closer than ever to restoring diplomatic ties. But
if you ask Cubans what they want most from normalized relations, they'll
likely tell you they just want to get on the Web.

Only 5 percent of Cuba's 11 million people have unrestricted access to
the Internet, and only a quarter of them have any access at all. That's
among the lowest levels in the world.

It's also a human rights issue. Cuba's communist government says it
wants half the population wired by the end of this decade. Yet it's
reluctant to give Cubans such a powerful information tool.

But here's the bottom line: Cuba can't rebuild its ragged economy if it
doesn't build the Internet. And that's one big reason a growing number
of fledgling private entrepreneurs like Rodríguez have been coming to
Miami lately.

They're looking in part for things like small-business advice, wholesale
material, product trends and maybe even some investment and yanqui
partnership. But perhaps most of all they want to touch the great
invention of our time — "el servicio," as Rodríguez calls the Internet.

"Being so limited is crazy," said Valenzuela. "Victor wants to do so
much, and there's so much ambition, there's so much drive. And then at
the same time there's so many things holding him back. So, like, what
could take us a second to figure out, he's had to learn with whatever he
finds."

Rodríguez met Valenzuela through the Cuba Study Group, a Washington
think tank that promotes U.S.-Cuba engagement. Valenzuela herself is a
U.S.-born Cuban American who wants to connect with the birthplace of her
parents — and in the process help Cuban business owners like Rodríguez
learn how to operate online.

With her laptop planted between plates of seafood salad, she offered a
quick tutorial on basics like line sheets — pages that display your
product line — and pricing information. Rodríguez is a former
mathematics professor, and as he listened to Valenzuela you could see
him calculating how to run with all of this.

"Caramba, it would be worth every cent to find a photographer back in
Havana who can take the high-resolution product photos I'd need," he
said, thinking aloud.

Valenzuela, meanwhile, checked out samples of the popular crocheted
bikinis Victor brought from his shop in Cuba. And she began thinking
aloud how well they might sell on Pretty Beachy's site.

"They have what we're looking for, which is product," she said. "With
the right Web designer and all of that, yeah, he could do partnerships
here."

But the big question is how soon — and to what extent — Cuba's red
regime will give the green light.

In recent months, the government has offered Cubans a few hours of free
Internet in places like public plazas.

And the most popular guy on the island right now might just be the Cuban
artist named Kcho. With government approval, Kcho this year began
offering Cubans free Wi-Fi — and unrestricted Internet access — at his
Havana cultural center. They've been flocking to it like moths to a lantern.

But for small-business folks like Caridad Limonta, another Cuban
entrepreneur who joined Rodríguez and Valenzuela, the online
frustrations — the inability to employ the Internet for everything from
sales to supply chain to market research — are big and boiling.

"Look," said Limonta, who owns a garment business called Procle, "to go
online I usually have to travel to a hotel and pay $5 an hour," which is
a quarter of the average Cuban's monthly salary. "I should be spending
that time and money making my product."

As their working lunch drew to a close, Valenzuela walked Rodríguez and
Limonta through an online business transaction using their companies as
examples. When she finished, Rodríguez stood up and enthusiastically
shook her hand.

"I just made my first online deal!" he shouted for all of Wynwood to hear.

And as the man said, his eyes lit up.

Source: In Search Of Bandwidth, Cuban Entrepreneurs Head To Miami :
Parallels : NPR -
http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/05/26/409707915/in-search-of-bandwidth-cuban-entrepreneurs-head-to-miami

Visiting Cuba still prohibited outside of the 12 allowed activities

Visiting Cuba still prohibited outside of the 12 allowed activities
WRITTEN BY SHAMONTIEL VAUGHN POSTED: 05/26/2015, 03:23PM

Travel concerns are surfacing about whether people are legally traveling
to Cuba after President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro
resolved a 50-year dispute between the country and island. Obama also
reportedly plans to remove Cuba from the U.S.'s terrorism list after
being on it for 30 years.

Tampa may extend invitation to Cuba for signing of agreements
While there are still restrictions on travel, Associated Press reports
that even with the 36 percent increase in American visitors to Cuba
after filling out one of the 12 allowed reasons to visit, travelers go
"without much worry that anyone will check on its accuracy."

Robert Muse, an expert on the legal aspects of Cuba travel, told AP that
"there's been almost no active enforcement" of the tourism ban under the
Obama administration.

The 12 allowed reasons from the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR),
according to U.S. Department of Treasury, to visit Cuba include:
- Family visits
- Official government business
- Journalism
- Professional research and meetings
- Educational activities
- Religious activities
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, exhibitions and athletic
competitions
- "Support for the Cuban people"
- Humanitarian projects
- Activities of private foundations or research for educational institutes
- Exporting or importing information or "information materials
- Travel related to some authorized export transactions

In the same Treasury document, Cuban travel outside of these reasons is
still not allowed.

Consistent with the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of
2000 (TSRA),
travel-related transactions involving Cuba are only permitted for the 12
categories of activities
identified in the CACR. Travel-related transactions for other purposes
remain prohibited.

However, there appears to be an exception to even these 12. People who
would like to travel to Cuba who do not meet the requirements of a
general license from those 12 categories just have to apply for a
specific license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Source: Visiting Cuba still prohibited outside of the 12 allowed
activities | Tampa Sun Times -
http://tampa.suntimes.com/tpa-news/7/85/168164/visiting-cuba-still-prohibited-outside-12-allowed-activities/

White House expected to remove Cuba from state sponsor of terrorism list

White House expected to remove Cuba from state sponsor of terrorism list
US and Cuba aiming to restore diplomatic ties after more than three decades
May 25, 2015 10:27PM ET
by Sara Hassan

The White House is expected to remove Cuba from the United States' state
sponsor of terrorism list later this week. Despite progress during the
talks between the two countries, negotiators have failed to reach an
agreement on exchanging ambassadors.

The assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Roberta
Jacobson, said, "We made great progress … but we still have a few things
that need to be ironed out, and we're going to do that as quickly as
possible. I do remain optimistic, but I'm also a realist about 54 years
that we have to overcome."

Cuba was placed on the U.S. sponsor or terrorism list during Ronald
Reagan's administration in 1982. It's one of four other countries on the
list, along with Iran, Sudan and Syria.

Cuba and the U.S. were once close to sparking a global nuclear war.
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro nationalized all businesses in his
country after taking power, prompting the United States to close its
embassy in Havana in 1961 and impose a crippling embargo. Later that
year, the U.S. tried to overthrow Castro in a failed coup known as the
Bay of Pigs incident.

Castro then turned to the Soviet Union for help, setting off decades of
mistrust between Washington and Havana.

It wasn't until 2012, when Raúl Castro took over power from his ailing
brother Fidel Castro, that Cuba suggested normalizing relations with the
United States. U.S. President Barack Obama responded by easing some
restrictions on financial transactions with Cuban parties and
kick-starting talks in January.

Not everyone is on board with the president's strategy, but many are
optimistic about better relations between the two countries.

During Al Jazeera America's Sunday night segment The Week Ahead, Lisa
Fletcher spoke to Christopher Sabatini, the founder and editor-in-chief
of the website Latin America Goes Global, and Paul Bonicelli, a former
assistant administrator at USAID.

Bonicelli said that he does not agree with Obama's approach on the
negotiations. "The president hasn't really required concessions from
this government," he said. "The Castro brothers are running a
dictatorship, and you would think that the president would require at
least some movement on politics, on economics and on our national
security interests before he's willing to give them everything. He could
have gotten a lot of Republican support for that kind of negotiation,
but he hasn't asked for anything in return."

Sabatini said, however, that the Cuban government made changes even
before Obama's announcement in December to begin negotiations. "Right
now Cuba has far fewer political prisoners than it has had in decades,"
he said. "Detentions and harassment continue, but there have also been
economic reforms. There were over 400,000 entrepreneurs that Cuba's
allowing to help grow the economy and help bolster socialism. That's
been really important in creating some space for civic activism."

Bonicelli disagreed, saying "entrepreneurial activity is not up in Cuba.
In fact, the number is down over the years because the Cuban government
has been more talk than action. I think the president missed a great
opportunity to sit down with Congress and get a bipartisan deal."

Sabatini said that there is a better chance for success with diplomatic
negotiations. He said, "Cuba hasn't been engaging in sponsoring
terrorism for decades. In fact, it is sponsoring a peace negotiation
between the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] guerrillas and
the Colombian government, one of our allies."

When asked how opening U.S. trade with Cuba would be different from what
Canada and Europe have been doing with the island for decades, Sabatini
said "neither of them is 90 miles off the coast of Cuba, and neither of
them have close to 2 million Cubans living on their shores." He added
that once the Castro brothers are out of power, "we need to be engaged
in Cuba. We cannot risk having that regime collapse without us having
some sort of stake in its present if we want to have a role in the future."

Source: Cuba to Be Removed From Sponsor of Terrorism List | Al Jazeera
America -
http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/live-news/articles/2015/5/25/us-expected-to-remove-cuba-from-state-sponsors-of-terrorism-list1.html

Artistic freedom takes a holiday in Havana biennial

Artistic freedom takes a holiday in Havana biennial
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO
fsantiago@MiamiHerald.com

If the Havana Biennial is a test of rapprochement, U.S.-Cuba relations
might be cooling on the diplomacy front, but the big chill remains where
it has always been: freedom of expression.

As the art world descends on the city to revel in works like the
artificial ice skating rink set up by an Irish-American performance
artist, and a stretch of the famous Havana seawall turned into a beach
with sand and deck chairs, there is a grimmer reality.

Young graffiti artist Danilo "El Sexto" Maldonado is serving prison time
for the anti-regime content of his art. He named pigs he intended to use
in a performance Fidel and Raúl.

Internationally-acclaimed Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, a previous
biennial favorite until she fell from grace with the apparatus after a
daring open mic performance in 2009 that mocked Fidel Castro, has been
under what she calls "city arrest" since Dec. 30. She's awaiting trial
for attempting a Havana Square version of her Tatlin's Whisper
performance after the historic change of U.S. Cuba policy was announced.

The artist — who obtained years ago U.S. resident status under the
exceptional talent category — had her passport confiscated and is not
allowed to travel outside Havana or leave the country.

And the Cuban government, through its official censors in the Ministry
of Culture, is still the curator in charge of who gets to participate in
this 12th edition of the famous biennial — and who doesn't.

Artists and curators who aren't perceived to "provoke" the Cuban
government with their works — or who at least obfuscate their artist
statements enough to fool the censors — get to participate. Those who
don't abide by the rules — or aren't afraid of the political limelight
and openly criticize Cuba's lack of freedoms — are visa-less in Miami,
Chicago, New York, etc.

So what's different this year?

A herd of giddy American art collectors, Cuban-Americans, and first-time
Cuba visitors feeling empowered by President Barack Obama's relaxed
rules on travel and spending — and the hope that dollars and contact
will bring about change.

"We are the virus and we have now infected — and it's going to change!"
Jeff Gelblum, a Miami collector and member of the Art Basel Miami Beach
host committee, told me on Monday after returning from a long weekend
trip to attend the biennial's opening. "The government is done. It's
finished. It's the conclusion of the Revolution."

What he saw in Havana, he says, is a state of "gorgeous dilapidation,"
and "a very interesting society where artists live in big houses at the
top of the pecking order."

Also at the top of that order: American travelers.

"It's good to be an American because we have invincibility — and we can
act," he said.

In that spirit, he and some friends "tracked down" Bruguera at her house
at 214 Tejadillo (one block from the Museum of Fine Arts), where the
artist bravely held from a lone chair propped in her living room — and
with the door open — a 100-hour reading of Hannah Arendt's The Origins
of Totalitarianism.

"We went there to support her," says Gelblum.

The petty and intolerant Cuban government tried to block her reading by
sending workers to drill the street in front of her house so that people
could not hear her voice. Security agents were posted at her house. On
the Internet, government bloggers worked around the clock to try to
diminish her international track record, which spans continents and
includes shows in top museums such as the Guggenheim in New York and the
Tate in London. She also was denied entry to the National Museum of Fine
Arts, where she had been invited to the opening of an exhibition by
master Cuban artist Tomás Sánchez, who lives in Costa Rica.

Gelblum says he used his little Spanish to engage with Bruguera's
neighbors. "Esto es muy caliente," he told them. Wink, wink. They seemed
supportive of her, but he also got to hear from people such as his
multilingual tour guide — who has never stepped outside of Cuba, was
grateful for his education, and said he was supportive of the regime.

Gelblum, who photographed Bruguera's reading chair and made a video of
her testimony and posted both on social media, is optimistic that
Americans can bring positive change to Cuba.

"We are a good virus, I hope."

To counter the censorship, Cuban-American artist Xavier Cortada
announced his own performance in support of Bruguera, asking everyone
"ABC" (Anywhere but Cuba) to flush their toilets at 3 p.m. last Friday,
the biennial's kick-off, and post it on social media.

I didn't see a lot of flushing.

Cortada attributes it to "Cuba fatigue" and the "eagerness to [engage
in] reconciliation without the basic understanding that there can be no
real reconciliation without truth or justice. … Perhaps attending is a
willful surrender, hoping that things change."

Some American, Cuban and international artists are boycotting the
biennial, which runs through June 22, in support of Bruguera. But for
many Cuban and Cuban-American artists the silence has been, as one put
it, "the price to pay" for being in Havana now — and for the privilege
of shuttling between a house in Havana and an apartment in Miami Beach.

But what's a biennial without the presence of freedom of expression?

A fake — a lot like a skating rink in the tropics and a beach on concrete.

Source: Fabiola Santiago: Artistic freedom takes a holiday in Havana
biennial | Miami Herald Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fabiola-santiago/article22380522.html

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

“If I had someone to sponsor* me…”

"If I had someone to sponsor* me…" / Cubanet, Rafael Alcides
Posted on May 25, 2015

Cubanet, Rafael Alcides, Havana, 19 May 2015 – This morning I woke up
pessimistic. There was no milk in the house, and the kind they sell at
the "shopping" [hard-currency* store] is priced out of reach for anyone
who is not an executive at a firm or who does not have relatives out
there who love him very much and are well-off.** But at the bakery where
I purchase the bread allotted to me via the libreta [ration book], I ran
into somebody who today was more pessimistic than I am. He is a retired
teacher and, without taking into account his age, one of those
characters who pride themselves on being well informed. He said that the
ration book is about to be discontinued, that in fact it would be
eliminated before August.

The teacher understands that this book weighs heavily in the pocket of
the government, but he also thinks that instead of taking it away, the
government should make it selective. Neither the powerful musician, nor
the executive, nor he who receives remittances from abroad, nor any
other characters of the New Bourgeoisie, need the ration book. The
teacher, however, retired on a pension of nine dollars per month (that
is, less than 30 cents a day), and with no one abroad—what would he do
without this small assistance? There are just four little items that the
ration book now subsidizes, but these four little items keep him from
begging in the streets. The teacher spoke to me very badly of the
Revolution, to which he had dedicated his life.

To console him, and because I don't believe that, for now, the
government intends to abolish the ration book—a costly burden, yes, but
an even greater psychological benefit—I advised him to relax. "Don't
believe in rumors," I told him.

"This was the only life I had," he replied.

I let him vent.

Have you considered leaving the country?" I asked him.

He sighed heavily.

"If I had someone to sponsor me*…"

I purchased my three little rolls of 20-something grams each, and
perhaps because an evil shared among many is easier to bear, I returned
home feeling better. On the way back I compared the disenchantment of
this teacher—a fragile but dynamic man who used to dress in his militia
uniform festooned with all his decorations—with the latest hobby of a
certain neighbor. This is a widowed doctor who grew old dreaming of
leaving the country, and who, now that he could do so without major
paperwork and without losing the house he inherited from his elders,
refuses to go. Neither his children nor his nieces and nephews (all of
whom are abroad) are able to persuade him otherwise. Of these, one who
was visiting in January, told me, grinning, "Imagine, with the
remittances we send him, he's living like a king, with a maid, lots of
Viagra, and three, 20-something doctor-girlfriends to keep him busy."

They seemed to be saying—that disenchanted teacher who wouldn't know how
to live without the ration book, and that doctor who has discovered
that, with money, even being widowed and very elderly one can be
happy—that the Cuban exodus would not have been so massive had the
socialist government been able to provide a privation-free life for the
citizen. However, the end of Pinochet, even though he left Chile off the
charts in terms of a First-World standard of living, or of Franco,
despite the vertiginous development achieved by Spain during the
Generalísimo's last two decades, demonstrate that the issue is not just
an economic one. As I read somewhere once, without freedom there is no
lasting splendor. Nor is there ground that can withstand the cathedral
placed upon it.

It has always been thus. Rome, once the ruler of the world, that mighty
Rome of patricians and slaves where, moreover, the Christian was
persecuted, eventually disappeared. A comparable lack of freedom ended
Spanish colonial domination of lands in Our America, as well as the
English, Portuguese and French. Vanished from that former America were
Juan Manuel de Rosas, and Gaspar Rodríguez Francia, and Rufino Barrios
and Porfirio Díaz and Gerardo Machado. In the America of my time, that
America from when I was young, we saw the last of Trujillo with his
braided uniform, and Somoza, and Stroessner, and Pérez Jiménez, and the
Brazilian Joao Goulart, and Cuba's Batista…

In recent times, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world has
continued lightening up. No longer are there even Hussein, Milosevic,
Gaddafi, nor now, finally, that odious fellow in Yemen. With efficiency,
in each of these cases, the lack of liberty—that secret gift of the
oppressed—has done its fatal deed.

I do not surrender, and therefore do not give up the dream that today or
tomorrow—that is, sooner or later (and these things almost always happen
when one least expects them)—I and others like me, who number 11
million, including the glum teacher from this morning, will see
solutions to our problems putting food on the table—as well as the slum
housing, our city falling apart, and everything else that we know too well.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Translator's Notes:
* To obtain a visa to immigrate to the U.S., a Cuban national must have
a sponsor. This page from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana explains.
** Cuba has two currencies: Cuban pesos, also called moneda nacional
(national money), abbreviated CUP; and Cuban convertible pesos,
abbreviated CUC. In theory CUCs are a hard currency, but in fact, it is
illegal to take them out of Cuba and they are not exchangeable in other
countries. Cubans receive their wages and pensions primarily in CUPs,
with wages roughly the equivalent of about $20 US per month, and
pensions considerably less. The CUC is pegged 1-to-1 to the American
dollar, but exchange fees make it more expensive. The CUP trades to the
CUC at about 24-to-1. See here a concise description of Cuba's
dual-currency system and an announced plan to unify it.
*** The average Cuban citizen relies on "remittances"—material help—from
relatives abroad. A Cuban blogger explains it here.

About the Author

Rafael Alcides was born in Barrancas, municipal district of Bayamo
(Cuba) in 1933. A poet and storyteller, he was a master baker in his
teen years. He has worked as a farmhand, cane cutter, logger, wrecking
crew cook, and manager of a sundries store in a cane-cutters' outpost.
In Havana in the 1950s he worked variously as a mason, broad-brush
painter, exterminator, insurance agent, and door-to-door salesman. In
1959 he was the chief information officer for the Department of Latin
American Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Relations, and spokesman of
this agency in a daily television program in which he hosted and
interviewed foreign political personalities. He was chief press officer
and director of Cultural Affairs in the Revolutionary Delegation of the
National Capitol.

Among his most recently-published titles are the poetry
collections, GMT(2009), For an Easter Bush (2011), Travel Log
(2011), Anthologies, in Collaboration with Jaime
Londoño (2013), Conversations with God(2014), the journalistic Memories
of the Future (2011), the multi-part novel, Ciro's Ring (2011), and the
story collection, A Fairy Tale That Ends Badly (2014).

As of 1993, he had been employed by the Cuban Institute of Radio &
Television for more than 30 years as a scriptwriter, announcer, director
and literary commentator when, at that time, he ceased all publishing
and literary work in collaboration with the regime in Cuba. As a
participant in numerous international literary events, Rafael Alcides
has given conferences and lectures in countries in Central and South
America, Europe, and the Middle East. His texts have been translated
into many languages. He was honored with two Premios de la Crítica, and
a third for a novel co-written with another author. In 2011 he received
the Café Bretón & Bodegas Olarra de Prosa Española prize.

Source: "If I had someone to sponsor* me…" / Cubanet, Rafael Alcides |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/if-i-had-someone-to-sponsor-me-cubanet-rafael-alcides/