Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fire, Neglect and Bureaucracy Sink the Moscow Restaurant

Fire, Neglect and Bureaucracy Sink the Moscow Restaurant / 14ymedio, Luz

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 20 January 2017 – A bird has his nest on
a fragment of wall and a creeper peeps over what was once the sumptuous
door of the Moscow Restaurant. Almost three decades after a fire
extinguished the sparkle of the downtown location, its ruins are a
headache for its closest neighbors and city authorities.

"I asked my wife to marry me under that decorated wooden ceiling,"
Waldo, a 67-year-old retiree from the Cuban Radio and Television
Institute, tells this newspaper. Like many of his contemporaries, he
thinks that the Moscow Restaurant "was the pearl in the crown of this
city" until the end of the 1980's.

After Fidel Castro came to power and the nationalizations happened, the
property stopped housing the famous Montmartre casino and cabaret. At
the end of the 1960's, the place was re-named Moscow, a nod to the
Soviet Union. Bolero nights came to their end, and Solyanka soup and
Russian salad took over the place.

"The food was good, and they had workers trained in the old style who
treated customers with friendliness and without today's cheek," says
Jose Ignacio, a nearby neighbor from 25th Street who assures that the
complaints about the problems caused by the building's ruins "have been
repeated each year in the People's Power Accountability Assemblies*."

The place remains closed, with entrances covered and vegetation growing
between its walls. With the years, the situation has become untenable
for the neighbors. "There are a lot of mosquitoes, because when it
rains, the water accumulates," complains Monica, mother of a months-old
baby who must "sleep with mosquito netting in spite of being in the
city's very downtown."

Officials from the Provincial Administration Council commented this week
on television news that "given the damage caused by the fire" and the
years of neglect, the ruined property can only be demolished. "There is
no chance of saving it for restoration, therefore it must be
demolished," they pronounced.

The work of taking down the building necessitates 260 cubic meters of
wood for support, and no fewer than two full-time cranes hired for a
year, specified the two interviewed officials. The total amount for the
operation is calculated at four million Cuban pesos, but it is not a
priority among the investment plans assigned to the city.

In Old Havana other more ruinous properties have been restored and
function as hotels or cultural centers, but the Moscow seems to be
cursed. "In an attack here they killed Antonio Blanco Rico, chief of
Fulgencio Batista's Military Intelligence," says Gustavo, a nearby
neighbor and one who proclaims himself "familiar with every inch of this
city's history."

More than three decades after that event a voracious fire destroyed the
place, and since then it has been closed. "I was born in the middle of
the Special Period in the 1990's, and I only heard stories about the
Moscow Restaurant from my parents," says a young shoe and wallet vendor
at the 23rd Street Fair.

Next to him a lady listens to the conversation and evokes the
restaurant's golden age. "They were times when a worker could pay for a
meal in such a place with his salary," she remembers. "But shortly after
the Moscow burned, the USSR also came down, and all that turned to smoke
and ashes."

*Translator's note: Regular meetings held by deputies at different
levels of government with their constituents to hear from them and be
"held accountable" for their performance.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Source: Fire, Neglect and Bureaucracy Sink the Moscow Restaurant /
14ymedio, Luz Escobar – Translating Cuba -

Cuba Expects To Receive 4.2 Million Tourists In 2017

Cuba Expects To Receive 4.2 Million Tourists In 2017 / 14ymedio

14ymedio, 19 January 2017 — Cuba is preparing to receive 4.2 million
foreign tourists in 2017, with priority for investments in new and
higher quality facilities for tourists, according to projections
announced Wednesday by management of the island's Ministry of Tourism

Cuba's Deputy Minister for Tourism, Mayda Álvarez, speaking on a state
TV program dedicated to the sector, said that the record of 4 million
international visitors to the island in 2016 represented a growth of
14.5 percent compared to 2015, in a state television program dedicated
to the prospects from the sector.

But she noted that there "dissatisfactions" remain and there are
"challenges" to improving the quality of services, the effectiveness of
investments to ensure the vitality and image of tourist facilities,
improve marketing and achieve greater diversification of tourism products.

José Reinaldo Alonso, investment and development director of Mintur,
explained that among the plans this year is to promote activities linked
to nature, heritage and cultural tourism.

With regards to this, he mentioned that Cuba ended last year with 66,547
rooms, and expects to have an increase in capacity of another four
thousand in 2017.

Cuba closed last year with 66,547 rooms, and expects to have another
four thousand ready in 2017

The official said that by the year 2020 the country expects is expected
to add 20,000 new rooms to reach a total of 104,000 by 2030, in order to
meet the high demand in the main tourist centers of the Caribbean
country such as Havana, Varadero, Holguin, Cayería Norte and Trinidad.

He indicated that tourism is currently the sector with the largest
foreign investment, with 110 new projects approved. However he is
determined to streamline the bidding process and for this purpose has
introduced management contracts with financing.

Officials said that in the previous year's growth the North American
region remained the largest supplier of travelers to Cuba, with Canada
as the leader, followed by the United States; with the latter not having
eased travel restrictions and authorized direct commercial flights to
the island, although traveling to the island solely as a tourist is
still formally prohibited.

Source: Cuba Expects To Receive 4.2 Million Tourists In 2017 / 14ymedio
– Translating Cuba -

An end to wet foot, dry foot

An end to wet foot, dry foot
The outgoing American president makes it harder for Donald Trump to undo
the rapprochement with Cuba

Floating to Florida is now futile
AMONG a group of young men gathered in a tin-roofed telephone-repair
shop in Havana, the topic of conversation is how to leave Cuba. The
easiest way, they now reckon, is to marry a European. That is because on
January 12th, in one of his final acts as president, Barack Obama ended
the 22-year-old "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which allowed Cubans who
land on American soil to stay in the country; those caught at sea were
sent home. That shuts off the main escape route for Cubans in search of
a better life.

Mr Obama's decision looks like an attempt to protect one of his few
foreign-policy successes: his agreement with Cuba's president, Raúl
Castro, in December 2014 to restore diplomatic relations and loosen an
economic embargo imposed on the island by the United States in 1960.
Donald Trump, who will become the American president on January 20th,
has said contradictory things about the rapprochement with Cuba, but his
more recent comments have been negative. Some members of his transition
team are fierce opponents of the normalisation policy.

Mr Trump's administration may thus try to undo the rapprochement with
Cuba, which includes freer travel and better telecoms links with the
island. The wet foot, dry foot decision makes that harder. Mr Trump does
not like immigration; he will find it awkward to reverse a decision that
makes it more difficult. It will also be tricky to justify reopening
automatic asylum for Cubans but not for citizens of countries that are
even more repressive.

Fearing that the United States would shut its Cubans-only entrance, many
Cubans rushed to its borders. In fiscal year 2016, which ended in
September, 56,000 arrived, more than double the number of two years
before. Many paid thousands of dollars for tickets and in bribes and
fees to people-smugglers to reach the United States' southern border.
One popular route started with a flight to Ecuador, followed by a
perilous land journey through Central America. Some Cubans still venture
into leaky boats to cross the Florida Strait.

Mr Obama's abrupt decision to end the wet foot, dry foot policy leaves
some—no one is sure how many—stranded en route to the United States.
More than 500 are in southern Mexico, waiting for documentation from the
Mexican government that would allow them to journey to the American
border. They will now be treated just like others clamouring for
admission, though the United States says it will try to give them
humanitarian assistance.

Nearly half a million people were caught trying to enter the United
States illegally in fiscal 2015 (down from 1.8m in 2000). They face
detention until they are sent back. About a third were from Central
America's "northern triangle", where governments are less repressive
than in Cuba but violence is far worse. Cubans who face political
persecution will still have a right to asylum. Others can apply for the
20,000 migrant visas available to the country's citizens each year.

American conservatives have slammed Mr Obama's wet foot, dry foot
reversal, and his simultaneous decision to stop giving Cuban doctors who
defect from a third country fast-track entry to the United States, as
his final betrayal of the Cuban people. The regime has become more
repressive since he unfroze relations, they maintain. Arrests of
dissidents, for example, have increased.

Defenders of Mr Obama's thaw point out that the government now uses
short-term detention rather than long jail sentences to discourage its
opponents. The number of political prisoners has fallen sharply.
Although Mr Trump has complained that the United States gets "nothing"
from its new relationship with Cuba, it has led to co-operation in such
areas as drug-trafficking and cyber-crime.

In Havana, the reaction to Mr Obama's gambit is mixed. Cuba's
government, which saw the wet foot, dry foot policy as an insult and a
cause of a damaging brain drain, is pleased. Some ordinary folk think
the change is justified. Wet foot, dry foot was just "another way to
implement the blockade", said a well-dressed woman who would not give
her name. Barbara Izquierdo, a housewife whose brother went to the
United States 15 years ago, admits that most Cubans leave for financial
reasons, not political ones.

But many Cubans, living on monthly incomes of $50-200, are crestfallen.
"We don't live, we survive," says a young man who works in property. He
had hoped to leave and then to return to "build something for myself".
He must now wait for the government to allow greater economic and
political freedom. The death last November of Fidel Castro, the leader
of the Cuban revolution, and Raúl Castro's plan to step down as
president next year, may help bring change. Ambitious Cubans, denied the
prospect of escaping to the United States, may now push harder for that.

Source: An end to wet foot, dry foot | The Economist -

Other immigrants shouldn’t cheer Obama’s blow to Cubans

Other immigrants shouldn't cheer Obama's blow to Cubans
By Fabiola Santiago By Fabiola Santiago Published 2:41 pm, Friday,
January 20, 2017

A little empathy is in order for the Cubans suffering and stranded en
route to the United States after President Barack Obama abruptly ended
the 21-year-old wet foot/dry foot policy. It's basic human decency.
Yet I see, hear and read a gotcha attitude and an inordinate amount of
glee in the reaction of other immigrants - and American liberals, too.
The discord has been ugly and divisive.
I don't understand immigration advocate Marleine Bastien, founder of
Haitian Women of Miami, claiming this anti-immigrant move as "a big day
for us." I thought being treated like the Cubans was the standard
everyone was aspiring to and fighting for in decades of demonstrations,
court battles and civic engagement.
Dragging another group down won't lift anybody up. It only makes things
"We just lowered the bar," a Miami immigration lawyer tells me.
Wet foot/dry foot, adopted by the Clinton administration in 1995 to
return Cubans interdicted at sea, allowed those who did reach U.S. soil
automatic entry without review of their history back in Cuba. Sure, it
was a stark contrast to how Haitians and Latin Americans are treated,
but those groups also benefited from the comparison when pressing their
cases for humanitarian relief.
Immigration lawyers have certainly used the Cuban standard to win relief
for their Haitian and Central American clients, who in the middle of
wars and disasters have received temporary protected status that in many
cases led to permanent residency. I've used it in columns to wake up
Cuban-Americans to the need to support immigrant children and their parents.
But what are Haitians and other immigrants likely to get now that they
didn't have before? Does it feel better to get the same bad, but equal
Even if you think wet foot/dry foot needed to end, that shouldn't
preclude anyone from caring about the plight of newly divided families -
or the suffering of the newly stranded.
There's Elaine Miranda, 21, who left Cuba eight weeks pregnant on a
flight to Trinidad and Tobago, not realizing that the long, treacherous
trek through the Amazon region and Guyana would force her to give birth
to a daughter while traversing the Panamanian jungle. Eight men carried
Miranda during two days of painful contractions until she was airlifted
by helicopter to a capital hospital.
"I drew strength from the hope that I was going to make it to the United
States," Miranda told a reporter for the Spanish newspaper El Pas. She's
in the town of Tapachula, in Chiapas, Mexico, where she and her husband,
Marcos Delgado, 25, and their baby are temporarily housed in a
ramshackle hotel along with about 50 stranded Cubans.
Obama's timing couldn't have been worse.
After ignoring the exodus from Cuba by land and sea for the past two
years as he made normalizing relations with Cuba a priority, his
11th-hour ending has created a humanitarian crisis at points all along
Latin America, at the U.S. border and in Miami.
How can a couple, ages 67 and 64, visiting their daughter in Miami and
arriving at the airport with a five-year tourist visa end up in
detention? Didn't the U.S. embassy in Havana grant that hard-to-get
visa? Hadn't they already established a record of visiting and returning
home? Now they're guilty until they prove themselves innocent. It's only
the beginning of the new policy, and it's already hunting season for
suspect Cubans by overzealous immigration agents.
I can buy the argument from people who're happy at the Cubans'
misfortune that Cuban-Americans haven't done enough to show empathy for
other communities. That's a generalization and a matter of perception,
largely based on the abandonment of immigration reform by politicians
like Miami's Sen. Marco Rubio. But he's not us.
President Obama, dubbed "Deporter-in-Chief" for the record-breaking
deportations throughout his presidency, is leaving in peril the Cubans
he set out to help with his "friendly" Cuba policy - only days away from
the inauguration of a president-elect who won on an anti-immigrant platform.
Other immigrants are cheering the move against the Cubans, but this is
bad news for them, too.

Source: Fabiola Santiago: Other immigrants shouldn't cheer Obama's blow
to Cubans - The Edwardsville Intelligencer -

Mexico deports Cubans awaiting travel documents to try to reach the U.S.

Mexico deports Cubans awaiting travel documents to try to reach the U.S.

A group of 91 Cubans who were stranded in Mexico following an end to
migration policy that would have allowed them entry to the United States
was deported to the island Friday, the Mexican authorities announced.

"In compliance with the provisions of the Migration Law, 91 Cuban
nationals were sent to their country this morning from the airport in
Tapachula Chiapas, after Cuban authorities issued a recognition of their
nationality," according to a statement issued by the Mexican National
Institute of Migration (INM).

The group included 20 women and 71 men who, according to the INM, were
waiting to obtain transit documents to continue their their journey to
the U.S. border.

Yadel González Sagre, who had been in Tapachula for 19 days, was among
those returned to the island. He said he and others were taken from the
Siglo XXI Migrant Station early Friday.

"Suddenly they told us that they were going to deport us and they got us
all out of there. It was terrible, they beat us and threatened us. Then
they pushed us into buses and from there they took us directly to the
airport and they have been sending us in small groups," González said
via text messages.

González said he feared returning to a life he described as "hell" in
his native Havana.

"We live in a country without rights," he said.

In its statement, the INM pointed out that Mexico's Migration Law
provides undocumented foreigners the ability to obtain transit documents
that allow them to legally travel through Mexico for up to 20 days so
that they can legalize their migration status to leave the country.

In the case of 91 Cubans, the Consulate General of Cuba formally
recognized and agreed to take back its citizens, allowing Mexican
authorities to carry out deportations, INM said.

Since the Jan. 12 end to U.S. immigration policy known as wet foot, dry
foot, hundreds of Cubans have been stranded in Mexico and elsewhere in
their attempt to reach the United States.


Source: Mexico begins deportation of Cuban migrants | Miami Herald -

Cuba’s ‘deserting’ doctors fear losing the American Dream amid policy shift

Cuba's 'deserting' doctors fear losing the American Dream amid policy shift

In a tiny house in a sprawling suburb of this capital city, a group of
Cubans — all of them doctors, dentists and medical professionals —
huddled around a television Friday watching Donald Trump's inauguration
speech, hoping he might shed some light on their future.

He didn't.

"I can't say we were surprised he didn't say anything about Cuba. He has
to defend U.S. interests first," said Jorge Carlos Rodríguez, a
26-year-old ophthalmologist. "But we are hoping he does say something
about us soon."

When the Obama administration ended its controversial immigration policy
for Cubans on Jan. 12, it left thousands stranded in South and Central
America with no guarantee they'd be able to enter the United States.
Among the elite group of would-be immigrants now in limbo: Cuba's
medical workers.

For a decade, the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) program has
given the island's internacionalistas — doctors working abroad on behalf
of the communist government — the right to apply for expedited U.S.
visas. As a result, thousands of Cubans have deserted their "medical
missions" in places like Venezuela and Brazil.

Cuba said the program was tantamount to stealing: robbing professionals
that the cash-strapped island had educated.

But medical workers say the policy offered one of the few ways out of a
system they described as indentured servitude — and they're hoping that
the incoming Trump administration will revive it.

Barrio Adentro
Rodríguez arrived in Venezuela on Nov. 2 to work in "Barrio Adentro,"
the government's signature program that uses Cuban doctors to provide
free healthcare. His team, however, was immediately confronted with
Venezuela's economic chaos and paranoia.

"For the first 10 days that I was there, the only food I was given was
boiled macaroni," he said. "There was nothing else for us to eat even
though we were all medical professionals."

By the time he was sent to his "mission" in Lara state, he said
officials had branded him a flight risk because he has a brother in the
United States. Rodríguez said he feared he was going to be punished and
sent back to Cuba so he decided to run, crossing the border into
Colombia in mid-November to apply for the parole program.

In total, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said it
received 2,335 applications for the program between October 2014 and
September 2015, and 82 percent of them were approved.

It's unclear how many Cubans remain here awaiting visas under the now
defunct program. But Maykel Palacio, the administrator of a WhatsApp and
Facebook group for the doctors in Colombia, said he estimates there are
a little more than 600 people, and some of them have been waiting for
more than five months.

While they wait, many spend their time in group houses studying English,
surfing the internet on their cellphones and trying to move around as
little as possible to make their money last.

In this pressure-cooker environment, rumors run wild.

Shortly after the policy change, word spread that those who hadn't
already received visas would be left out in the cold. Then they heard
they might still be eligible but were being lumped in with every other
foreign doctor trying to enter the United States. Then, on Wednesday,
hopes soared again when seven people were given their parole visas.

"There is a lot of stress and fear. On social media, there are all sorts
of rumors floating around," said Ibrahím Mustelier, a 25-year-old
doctor. "We'd like someone from the U.S. government to stand up and say:
this is how it's going to work."

Medical 'deserters'
Even so, most say they have no other option but to hope for the best.
They can't stay in Colombia indefinitely, and if they return to
Venezuela, they'll be deported to Cuba and an uncertain future.

While in Venezuela, the doctors were paid about 27,000 bolivares a month
(less than $10 at the time and a starvation wage in Venezuela, although
that salary has been bumped up recently). But the bulk of their money is
held in Cuba by the government. However, as soon as they abandon the
program, those accounts are seized and their medical titles back home
are voided — years of study are simply erased from their records.

"It's impossible for us to go back," said Efrén Luis Izquierdo, a
26-year-old doctor. "From the moment we get off the plane in Cuba we're
considered scum, political pariahs."

The group said they would never be allowed to work as doctors again or
hold any job worthy of the years they've put into study.

The level of rejection against medical "deserters" is a direct
reflection of how important the doctors are to Cuba's foreign policy and
its very survival.

First brigades
The island began sending medical brigades abroad in 1963 — the first
cohort went to Algeria. Since then, almost 132,000 doctors have worked
in the program, according to a 2014 article in the state-run Granma
newspaper. Currently, as many as 50,000 Cuban doctors are thought to be
working abroad.

Foreign governments pay the communist island for the doctors' work,
making them an important source of revenue. Perhaps nowhere is the
program more vital than Venezuela, which established the free health
clinics staffed by Cubans in 2003.

In exchange for the Cuban workers, Venezuela sends crude oil and cash
back to Cuba. During 2003-13 the state-run PDVSA oil company pumped
$22.4 billion dollars into the program. And President Nicolás Maduro
said that from 2003-2016, Barrio Adentro had saved more than 1.4 million

Doctor dreams
Mustelier said that many doctors were deserting to defend the profession
they loved. After spending six years in medical school, he ended up at
an office in rural Cuba where his primary role was to spray the town
with insecticide.

When he got the chance to go to Venezuela, he said he spent as much time
trying to recruit patients to pump up the statistics at his clinic as he
did tending to the needy.

Rodríguez said his version of the American Dream includes the
possibility of practicing medicine in some form.

"I know it's going to be hard and that we're going to have to study a
lot," he said of making the transition to the U.S. "But we've never lost
the dream of being doctors."

Even amid their doubts, the Cubans said they know they're the lucky
ones. Some of their colleagues didn't make it out in time. Others are in
a terrifying limbo: they had already abandoned their missions but hadn't
filed their paperwork.

The Obama administration on Thursday announced that paperwork for parole
consideration under CMPP would be processed only if it was submitted by
5 p.m. on Jan. 12, when the halt to the CMPP program as well as the
so-called wet foot, dry foot policy took effect.

"For the program to be eliminated with a pen-stroke just isn't fair,"
Izquierdo said. "There were people in transit — trying to get to a place
where they could apply — and now they have nowhere to go because they
can't stay here and they can't go back."



Source: Cuba's "deserting doctors" fear they may be stuck in limbo |
Miami Herald -

Stranded - A Cuban doctor ponders life stuck between policies and politics

Stranded: A Cuban doctor ponders life stuck between policies and politics

When Elisabet Casero, a 26-year-old Cuban dentist, decided to abandon
her assignment in Venezuela earlier this month, she knew the stakes. She
would have to cross a crime-infested border to get to Colombia, forfeit
her life savings in Cuba and be considered a pariah on the island.

But the risks seemed worth it. She planned to apply for a U.S. visa
under the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program, tailor-made for the
island's health professionals.

But just hours after she was smuggled into Colombia on Jan. 12, on the
back of a motorcycle, she heard the news: the Obama administration had
canceled the parole program.

"I got so depressed," Casero said. "But I have no choice but to move
forward. I can't go back to Cuba and much less Venezuela."

Now Casero finds herself in a precarious situation: unable to continue
to the United States, unable to work in Colombia and unwilling to return

Hundreds of Cubans are stranded in the Americas after the Obama
administration ended the so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy as well
as the parole program for medical professionals earlier this month.

The administration has said it will continue processing parole
applications submitted before the program was canceled, but it hasn't
said what might happen to people like Casero. And while it's not clear
how many people might be in her situation, Cuban doctors in Bogotá said
they knew of at least two more cases of people who had already abandoned
their jobs but hadn't been able to apply for the program.

In Cuba, being chosen to work in an international medical mission is
considered prestigious. But the reality can be stark. Casero said she
was paid 27,000 bolivares a month — less than $10 — while she worked in
the northern Venezuelan state of Valencia. To pay for her escape, she
had to save as much as possible.

"I couldn't even pay for the transportation to the office. Our Cuban
bosses also did not give us money for water and cooking gas," she said.
"They told us we had to rely on the 'solidarity' of friends."

She said her supervisors also encouraged the doctors to get their
Venezuelan patients to pay for a portion of the care, even though it's
supposed to be free.

Her decision to join the Cuban government's "medical mission" to
Venezuela was not free of pressure either, Casero said.

"We were told that we should go on the mission. If you refuse, you can
even lose your career because they brand you as a counterrevolutionary,"
the dentist said.

In Venezuela she says she was required to work long hours and was
closely monitored to make sure she met her quota of patients. (Venezuela
pays Cuba for the service with oil.)

Casero has been biding her time at a group house in Bogotá, hoping for a
miracle. Even though she's barred from working in Colombia, she's hoping
an offer might come in from somewhere. And she's starting to explore the
idea of seeking asylum in other countries.

But going home isn't an option, she said. Deserting a medical mission is
almost seen as an act of treason.

"My record is stained, they'll take away my degree and you're looked
down on by everyone," she says. "You were once a dentist but now you're
a nobody."

Asked if she thought that the medical parole program might be revived
under the new Trump administration, she was pessimistic.

"I have no hope at all," she said. "And I have no idea what to do next,
except to wait."


Source: Cuban dentist is unable to head to U.S., unwilling return home |
Miami Herald -

703 euros for Lesiat

703 euros for Lesiat
DDC | Santiago de Cuba | 21 de Enero de 2017 - 11:32 CET.

The campaign undertaken by DIARIO DE CUBA to help the child Lesiat
Torres Carrión, age four, suffering from cerebral paralysis and hearing
difficulties, has been a success.

In just 9 hours the initial objective of raising 500 euros was met, and
in 24 hours a total of 32 people donated 703 euros for Lesiat.

The boy and his father, Armando Torres Pozo, will receive 627.64 euros,
as the campaign website retains 10% of the funds collected.

DIARIO DE CUBA will initiate the process to get the money to Torres Pozo
and his son, and will continue reporting on this case.

Backers of the campaign included the Mariel Bloch Memorial Fund, Omar
Álvarez, Javier Marimón, Ileana Serrano, Yaumara Rodríguez, Magela
Hernández, Elianys Pérez, Lindomar Placencia, Francesco Celotto, Giselle
Martínez, Jorge Casals, Giscard Yanez, Michael Di Giacomo, Yulenia
Garrido, Nelson González, Frank Pupo, Jorge Herrera, Gustavo A. Fuentes,
Adrian Beruvides, Mauricio Zequeira, Omaira Pérez, Ernesto Pérez, Emilio
Lindsay and Boris Fornaris, who donated between 5 and 100 euros. The
rest of the contributions were anonymous.

Armando Torres Pozo, age 63, and his son Lesiat reside in Santiago de
Cuba in a home severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Both lack
clothing, shoes, and the rundown bed on which they sleep gets wet due to
the house's leaky ceiling.

They receive state aid of about about 6 dollars per month.

Torres Pozo is raising his son alone. He has tried to work
independently, selling fried fare and cleaning shoes, but the taxes,
scant earnings, and complete attention his child needs have forced him
to stay at home.

In spite of his situation, Lesiat does not have access to a special diet
to improve his nourishment, as Torres Pozo does not even have a kitchen
to prepare his son's food.

The money raised by this campaign will alleviate at least some of the
family's immediate needs.

Source: 703 euros for Lesiat | Diario de Cuba -

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Mummified Corpse Of A Rafter, Witness Of The Migratory Drama

The Mummified Corpse Of A Rafter, Witness Of The Migratory Drama /
14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 19 January 2017 — A picture of the Virgin
of Regla, the identity cards of two brothers and a mummified corpse of a
Cuban moored alongside the remains of a raft is the only evidence that
remained of the six men who escaped from Cuba's Isle of Youth to Central
America This summer looking to reach the United States.

Missing for six months, the discovery of the remains of a man on the
beaches of Corpus Christi last fall shocked his relatives, most of them
humble fishermen on the Isle of Youth.

In early October a shrimp boatman from Port Aransas informed the US
Coast Guard that he had found a raft with a body, as reported
to Entravisión a local television channel.

The authorities were able to confirm that it was a man in an advanced
state of decomposition. In the pockets of the victim they found the
identity cards of Juan Antonio Pupo Pupo and Amauris Pupo Pupo, next to
a picture of the Virgin of Regla.

Heraldo Peña, a forensic investigator in Nueces County, explained via
telephone to this newspaper that, because of the condition of the body,
it was not possible to identify the victim, but DNA samples were kept
for comparison to relatives who might appear later.

"We could see that it was a man and we determined that he died because
of the lack of food and water," said Peña, who also added that because
of the saltpetre the remains were mummified.

"It was not possible to conclude if the corpse corresponds to any of the
identifications that he carried," he says.

An official related the case, who did not want to be identified, said
that since the first clues were known about the possible Cuban origin of
the deceased, the authorities tried to contact the Pupo Pupo family in
Cuba to make the comparison of the DNA samples, but the Cuban embassy in
Washington did not facilitate communication.

"It is not allowed to speak about the role of the Cuban Consulate in the
investigation because now we want to have better relations with Cuba,"
said the official, adding that everything possible was done before
burial of the body in a graveyard for the indigent.

This version does not agree with the statements of Hugo Vega, officer in
charge of the US Border Patrol's Missing Migrant Initiative.

Vega maintains that the Cuban consular section promised to provide
fingerprints and information that would enable identification of the
alleged Cuban.

"We try to get the deceased migrants identified by their relatives,"
says the official from the state of Texas. Since the case was heard, the
Border Patrol agent contacted Noyri Muñoz, the sister of one of the
rafters residing in Spain.

14ymedio contacted the press office of the Cuban Embassy in Washington
via email in order to confirm this information but received no reply.

The identity cards carried by the body found south of Corpus Christi
correspond to two brothers of the Pupo Pupo family, who along with four
other rafters have been missing since last July.

The group, initially composed of 13 men, left the Isle of Youth on a
precarious boat to try to reach Mexico or Central America and from there
to continue their journey to the United States.

After about 15 days of navigation and the breakdown of the engine, they
decided to separate. The boat was made of boards and truck tires, so
according to the testimony of Guillermo Ramirez, the only survivor of
the crossing who is in the United States, they divided the raft in hopes
of being found more easily.

Ramirez, like the rest of the survivors who were repatriated to Cuba
from Mexico, does not want to respond to questions from the press. The
only testimony about what happened he told a family member this summer.

A group of seven men stayed in half the boat and six others headed off
in the other half to increase the chances of a boat finding them.

According to Ramírez, at least four boats passed by and did not help
them. The group of seven drifting rafters were rescued by the supply
vessel MV Fugro Vasilis, 130 miles from Arrecife Alacranes, north of the
Yucatan peninsula. Of the other six nothing is known at the moment.

The names of the disappeared are José Armando Muñoz López, Luis
Velásquez Osorio, Rafael Rives Rives, Yoendry Rives del Campo, Amauri
Pupo Pupo and Juan Antonio Pupo Pupo.

"We don't know anything of my husband," the wife of Amauris Pupo Pupo
said by telephone from the Isle of Youth. "We all consider him dead, it
is better not to continue with this tragedy," she adds.

According to the woman's statements, they have not received any official
communication about the finding of the corpse, but through other
relatives they are kept informed of the case..

"Their mother is the one who has suffered most through all this. She
will end up in a hospital with so much suffering," she adds.

For Noyri Muñoz, sister of José Armando Muñoz López, hope is the last
thing that is lost.

"I have brought my nephew to live with me in Spain. He did not have the
opportunity to see videos about the rafters and the migratory drama in
Cuba, and every time he does he gets very ill," says Muñoz, 48.

Muñoz's mother remains on the Isle of Youth with her sister-in-law.

"At least I have the consolation that wherever he is, my brother will be
happy to see that his son was able to leave Cuba, which was why he
launched himself into the sea: to have freedom and prosperity," she says.

Source: The Mummified Corpse Of A Rafter, Witness Of The Migratory Drama
/ 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -

First Laptops Arrive in the Hands of Artemisa’s Doctors

First Laptops Arrive in the Hands of Artemisa's Doctors / 14ymedio,
Bertha Guillen

14ymedio, Bertha Guillen, Candelaria, 19 January 2017 – "After a long
wait I have my laptop," affirms Amaury Rodriguez, a doctor who is a
general practitioner in Guanajay, Artemisa, with satisfaction. The
laptops are being distributed at subsidized prices to the public health
sector in Artemisa, an initiative that is not without its critics.

At a cost of 668 Cuban pesos, about 25 dollars, and without the ability
to pay in installments, the computers are allocated to any doctor who
obtained a diploma before the end of 2015. The list of beneficiaries
also includes those who have served on a medical mission abroad.

"My salary is 1,295 CUP from which they deduct 5% for the payment of
social security and any other invention that arises, which leaves me
approximately 1,240 CUP," Rodriguez told this newspaper. The health
professional estimates the cost of the laptop to be "more than half" of
his monthly salary.

Nevertheless, in spite of the juggling he has to do to make ends meet
with the new expense, Rodriguez is content. "It's about time they
remembered us," he says, referring to the medical profession.

Cuban Public Health employs a total of 262,764 people, of whom 87,982
are doctors, according to data from the 2015 Statistical Yearbook.

The doctors earn the highest wages in the country, equivalent to a total
of between 50 and 70 dollars per month, but also have to deal daily with
a working day marked by very long hours, the material deficiencies that
affect the hospitals, and the dissatisfaction of their patients.

In Artemis, the physicians can acquire a laptop at a store that caters
to public health workers, located in the provincial capital, a situation
that has led to long lines outside the premises, where impatience mixes
with the desire to obtain the desired piece of technology as soon as

The store's administrator, Roberto Gallardo, told the provincial
newspaper, El Artemiseño, that "once the sale of the laptops is
concluded," there will be offerings for "uniformed nurses, lifeguards,
anti-mosquito campaigners and physiotherapists."

Gallardo, who works for the Provincial Logistics Company (Epola), said
they are trying to pay more attention to health care workers and so
among the things that might be offered are, "home appliances, and
supplies for personal grooming and the home."

One of the workers from the store told 14ymedio that the sale of
computers will continue throughout January, although they initially
planned to end it in the first half of the month. "So far we have sold,
in Artemisa, San Cristóbal, Candelaria and Guanajay, but we still have
towns to cover," explains the employee.

"We started with the hospitals and then the doctors in the clinics,
which is a large number," said the employee, who preferred to remain

The computers distributed are mostly ASUS brand, from Taiwan, and have a
two-year warranty, but only on condition that the user does not change
the version of the Microsoft Windows operating system that comes with
the computer.

The price of one of those notebooks in the informal market is between
200 and 300 Cuban convertible pesos (equivalent to about the same in
dollars), so some doctors are not waiting to resell them to get cash,
and others to buy a machine with better features.

Rubén, a computer engineer in the area, points out that other
little-known brands are also being sold. In his opinion, "the computers
are only a token," because the quality is not good and he considers the
integrated battery a limitation, since it makes it difficult to replace
it in case of damages.

The price of one of these laptops in the informal market oscillates
between 200 and 300 CUC, so some doctors aren't waiting to resell them
for cash

Ana, a doctor in the provincial hospital is not satisfied. "We Cuban
doctors are accustomed to surviving from the charity and gratitude of
our patients," she complains. "The bad conditions under which we work
are a secret to no one."

Nor is she satisfied with the quality of the computer compared to "the
millions of dollars the Government earns through the sale of medical
services abroad." The official Granma newspaper itself has revealed that
each year Cuba collects more than 8.2 billion CUC (roughly equivalent to
the same in dollars) through "exporting health services."

Roberto, another doctor in Artemisa, does not share the opinion of his
colleague. "I'm happy with mine, and I can connect via Wi-Fi," he tells
this newspaper. "Maybe the machine is not the best, but it's cheaper
than you can buy on the street, and anyway, I didn't have one," he enthused.

However, the physician is more cautious about the other possible
benefits announced for the sector. "The story that they are going to
give us access to the internet is a trap." He also distrusts being the
idea that he will be able to obtain an affordable car and sees it as
something unattainable "for those who have to go to work every day on a

Source: First Laptops Arrive in the Hands of Artemisa's Doctors /
14ymedio, Bertha Guillen – Translating Cuba -

Cuba deal 'burns bridge' to convicted cop killer's return, N.J. State Police head says

Cuba deal 'burns bridge' to convicted cop killer's return, N.J. State
Police head says
By S.P. Sullivan | NJ Advance Media for
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on January 19, 2017 at 5:43 PM

TRENTON -- The head of the New Jersey State Police on Thursday decried a
deal struck between the United States and Cuba because it did not
require the return of convicted cop killer Joanne Chesimard.

Earlier this week, the White House announced an agreement on law
enforcement cooperation with Cuba, part of President Barack Obama's
effort to normalize relations between the two countries.

The Associated Press reported the State Department and Cuba's Interior
Ministry agreed to share information on international criminal activity
including human trafficking and terrorism.

Some Republicans cried foul over the deal, partly because of objections
to sharing sensitive information with the Castro regime and because it
did not require the island nation to extradite high-profile U.S.
fugitives it has been harboring.

Among those fugitives is Chesimard, who goes by Assata Shakur and was
convicted for the 1973 killing of New Jersey State Trooper Werner
Foerster. Chesimard later escaped prison and fled to Cuba, where she
holds asylum status and maintains her innocence.

Col. Rick Fuentes invokes convicted trooper-killer Joanne Chesimard in
travel warning

In a statement released on Thursday, State Police Superintendent Col.
Rick Fuentes, who for years has led the campaign for Chesimard's return
to serve her murder sentence, expressed "bewilderment and confusion" at
the agreement.

The colonel criticized the deal for not requiring the return of
Chesimard as well as fugitives Victor Luis Gerena, Charlie Hill and
William Guillermo Morales.

"Their omission from this agreement and from the negotiations-at-large
is so glaring as to signal a clear intent by the Obama administration to
ignore these fugitives," Fuentes said.

"By burning the last bridge to this administration's opportunity to gain
their negotiated return, families who have long suffered the
consequences of their terrorist acts and law enforcement everywhere in
this country have been shown the back of the hand."

Fuentes said "an ignominious torch has been passed to the next
president" and added that he and other state officials would work with
President-elect Donald Trump's administration to negotiate Chesimard's

S.P. Sullivan may be reached at

Source: Cuba deal 'burns bridge' to convicted cop killer's return, N.J.
State Police head says | -

With no deal on convicted killer, police slam US-Cuba pact

With no deal on convicted killer, police slam US-Cuba pact
Associated PressJanuary 20, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The head of New Jersey's state police has
criticized a law enforcement deal reached between the U.S. and Cuba,
because it doesn't require the return of a woman convicted of killing a
state trooper.

Col. Rick Fuentes said Thursday that the information-sharing agreement
announced this week burned Barack Obama's last opportunity to negotiate
for the return of fugitives including Joanne Chesimard before he leaves

Fuentes says he will work with Donald Trump to negotiate for her return
after he is inaugurated.

"By burning the last bridge to this administration's opportunity to gain
their negotiated return, families who have long suffered the
consequences of their terrorist acts and law enforcement everywhere in
this country have been shown the back of the hand," Fuentes said. "An
ignominious torch has been passed to the next president."

Joanne Chesimard was convicted in 1977 in the death of Trooper Werner
Foerster during a gunfight on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. She was
sentenced to life in prison but escaped and traveled to Cuba, where
Fidel Castro granted her asylum and she has been living under the name
Assata Shakur.

The Obama administration and Cuba's Interior Ministry Monday agreed to
share information on international criminal activity such as terrorism,
human trafficking and money laundering despite Republican objections to
U.S. law-enforcement cooperation with President Raul Castro's government.

Source: With no deal on convicted killer, police slam US-Cuba pact -

Cubans who once feared Trump see him now as their last hope

Cubans who once feared Trump see him now as their last hope

Sitting on a dusty curb in this Mexican city just steps from the U.S.
border, Eliannes Matos Salazar thinks back to when President Barack
Obama visited Cuba 10 months ago.

Like many Afro-Cubans, the 32-year-old shopkeeper from Guantánamo was
inspired by the president's speech about change and the bridge between
the nations. She admired Michelle Obama's grace and the couple's rise to
such a high position of power.

But that was before Jan. 12, when Obama canceled the two-decade-old "wet
foot, dry foot" Cuba immigration policy and ripped Matos from her
husband – who had been allowed to cross into the United States before
the policy's cancellation, while she was kept back. It ended her dream
of life in the United States.

"I thought he could help us," she said of Obama. "He went to Cuba and
spoke very well. But now – with this – I won't forgive him."

Wet-foot, dry-foot had given Matos and other Cubans an extraordinary
advantage over migrants from other countries by allowing any Cubans who
touched American soil to enter, even if they had no visas. With its
cancellation, Cubans without valid humanitarian and asylum claims face
the same hurdles to U.S. entry as any undocumented migrant from, for
example, Mexico or El Salvador.

The policy's cancellation turned Cuban immigration on its head. But it
did more than that. In a flash, it turned Obama's hero image into one of
revulsion among Cuban migrants. And it paid major dividends to the
reputation of Donald Trump, whose tough talk on Cuba policy and
immigration had made him a figure of fear. No more.

"Trump. Trump. Trump," a group of about two dozen Cubans chanted during
a demonstration at the end of the International Bridge #1, the span that
links Nuevo Laredo with Laredo, Texas, across the Rio Grande.

"We beg you Donald Trump. Please help us," read a sign held by Henry
Valdez of Mantanzas.

Valdez, 25, had traveled months to get to this point only to be turned
away at the last hour – one of hundreds, if not thousands, who now look
to Trump to let them in.

Ironically, they'd been rushing to get into the United States before he
was sworn in.

Since Trump's election victory Nov. 8, the number of Cubans processed in
Laredo had surged – up 55 percent to 4,602 from November to December.
Alvaro Moreno, one of the Cubans who made it to the U.S. before the
policy's cancellation, said fear of what Trump might do once he'd been
sworn in had caused him to rush his arrival.

"When Trump won the election, my plans changed," Moreno said. "The
people I was going to travel with got scared and panicked" and hurried
their travel – fearing that Trump would erect a wall that would keep out
all Latin American immigrants.

Alejandro Ruiz, a Cuban entrepreneur who runs a Laredo safe house known
as Cubanos en Libertad that took in newly arrived Cubans, summed up the
quick reversal in reputations: Cubans stuck on the border now see Obama
as a traitor, he said. Trump is a hero.

"It was a betrayal by Obama," said Abel Diaz Chavez, 41, from Ciego de

"Our last hope is Trump," said Yamila Gonzalez Cabeza, 44, from Havana.

Fernand Amandi, the principal at Bendixen & Amandi International, who
has studied public opinion on the island, said Obama's legacy on Cuba
was still being written. If economic improvements take place within
Cuba, people's views of Obama will rise. Trump, whose policy toward
Obama's Cuban opening is uncertain, could affect it.

"It's still a very fluid situation," he said. "Much of it has to do with
what transpires within Cuba. Particularly, if Trump doesn't do anything
to upend the policy."

Feelings were still raw at the end of the 1,050-foot bridge over the
U.S.-Mexico border days after the end of wet-foot, dry-foot. Denial.
Anger. Grief.

On Monday, a group of 60 Cubans who'd arrived too late pulled out
markers to make signs. "Obama, our dead shall fall on your shoulders.
Freedom now!" read one.

Valdez and Matos told a tale of a journey that many had made: a flight
from Cuba to Guyana and on to Venezuela, then a tortuous land journey
through the notoriously dense Darien Gap jungle on the Panamanian
border. They were arrested in Tapachula, Mexico, where they spent days
before being released to continue their journey.

If Matos hadn't been arrested, she likely wouldn't be sitting on a
Mexican street corner now. She'd be in the United States. The delay was
enough that she was still being processed when her special privilege was

Her husband, who was in an earlier group, had made it through just
minutes before. Matos was turned away, crying about being separated.

"They took my picture," she said. "They took my fingerprints."

Ruiz, the entrepreneur, said he was now looking for a shelter in Nuevo
Laredo that could house some 50 to 100 Cuban migrants. He anticipates
that as many as 3,000 Cubans could flock to this border city by the end
of January or early next month, hoping Trump will change policy – though
there's no hard evidence that he will.

Matos said she could not give up hope.

"I want to be with my husband," she said. "I am confident that the new
president is going to change the law."

Email:; Twitter: @francoordonez.

Source: Cuban fears of Donald Trump turn to hope | Miami Herald -

Cuban doctors get a new shot at emigration — if applications were submitted prior to cutoff

Cuban doctors get a new shot at emigration — if applications were
submitted prior to cutoff

Hundreds of Cuban medical professionals waiting in third countries for
permission to emigrate to the United States got a reprieve Thursday with
a new announcement by the Obama administration: paperwork submitted
prior to the official end of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole
program will be processed.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) updated aspects of the new
immigration policy toward Cuba and now says it will process pending
applications to the parole program known by the acronym CMPP — provided
paperwork was submitted before 5 p.m. Jan. 12, the official end to the

"[United States Citizenship and Immigration Services] will not accept
and adjudicate any CMPP cases received at U.S. embassies and consulates
on or after 5:00 p.m. EST on January 12, 2017," a DHS spokesman said in
statement Thursday. "However, cases initiated before that time frame
will continue to be accepted and adjudicated by USCIS to completion."

The clarification comes a week after the Obama administration announced
the elimination of the program, as well as an end to wet foot, dry foot
policy, which gave entry to most Cuban migrants who made it onto U.S. soil.

A DHS spokeswoman told el Nuevo Herald earlier this week that doctors
with pending applications to the CMPP program would be affected by the
change, suggesting that even those with the parole status stamped on
their passports would be treated like any foreigner with a visa, and
therefore subject to being denied U.S. entry.

DHS sent the correction on Thursday.

The CMPP grants parole to Cuban doctors who can prove their nationality
and that they were working as part of a Cuban government mission in a
third country. On Thursday, DHS clarified that doctors with pending
applications have to meet these requirements, too.

The updated criteria came as a relief to hundreds of doctors in third
countries who have been waiting months for a USCIS response to their
parole requests.

"Doctors who take this step are generally illegal in these [third]
countries during the waiting time for a response from USCIS, under
constant danger of deportation to Cuba," a Cuban doctor waiting in
Barbados said in an email. Because they are deemed "deserters" by the
Cuban government, medical professionals returned to the island would
suffer consequences, said the doctor who requested anonymity for fear of
reprisals if deported.

In 2015, the Cuban government invoked the existence of the CMPP to
announce that it would restrict doctors from the freedom to travel. At
the same time, it offered "similar" positions within the Ministry of
Public Health to doctors "tricked to defect by deceiving policies" who
wanted to return to the island.

The export of medical services is one of the most profitable activities
for the Cuban government — valued at $8 billion in 2014. The current
economic crisis in Venezuela and political upheavals in Brazil have
brought that number down in the past two years.

The Cuban doctor in Barbados, who spoke on behalf of several doctors in
the same situation, said that they were not looking for "preferential
treatment" but wanted to avoid being treated as "pariahs" by the Cuban
government, if they return.

The Cuban government welcomed the announcement last week of the end to
the program and issued its own declaration denouncing the CMPP as "part
of the arsenal to deprive the country of doctors, nurses and other
professionals in the field, in a virtual international operation of
brain theft promoted by the U.S. government since 2006."

In his statement on Jan. 12, President Barack Obama said preferential
treatment to Cuban doctors "contradicted" joint U.S. and Cuban efforts
"to combat diseases that endanger the health and lives of our people"
and risked "harming the Cuban people."

The Obama administration praised the work of Cuban doctors who were sent
by their government to fight Ebola in several African countries in 2014.
But, according to various reports, the doctors only received half the
salary paid by the World Health Organization while the Cuban government
took the rest. Similar payment irregularities to Cuban doctors were
reported in Brazil.

Florida Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Marco Rubio expressed their
"hope" that the government of Donald Trump, who takes office Friday,
will resume the parole program for Cuban doctors.

Source: Some Cuban doctors will be allowed to enter the U.S. | Miami
Herald -

Trump team doesn’t seem to oppose Obama’s shift in immigration policy for Cubans

Trump team doesn't seem to oppose Obama's shift in immigration policy
for Cubans

The Obama administration has worked until its final days to try to
ensure the continuity of its Cuba policy, but Ben Rhodes, one of the
chief architects of the rapprochement with the island, says he's still
not sure what approach Donald Trump will take after he's sworn in as the
nation's 45th president on Friday.

The administration has briefed the incoming Trump team on the goals of
its Cuba policy and tried to make the argument that engagement with Cuba
is in the best interest of the Cuban people as well as the United
States. In the final news conference of his administration Wednesday,
Obama reiterated his rationale for the "monumental shift" in U.S. Cuba
policy that began on Dec. 17, 2014.

The Trump team also was notified in advance of last week's decision to
end the wet foot, dry foot policy and deport Cubans who enter the United
States without a visa, said Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser,
during a briefing at the Washington Foreign Press Center this week.

"They did not express any opposition to that change," Rhodes said,
adding that his hope was that the U.S. government, Central American
governments and the Cuban government would work together to see if they
could provide some type of humanitarian assistance to Cubans already in
the migratory pipeline when the policy changed abruptly.

This week, Cubans en route to the United States before the policy shift
was announced began gathering near the Mexican border with the United
States, hoping that the Trump administration might grant them an amnesty.

In its final days in office, the Obama administration tied up loose ends
and tried to solidify the new relationship with Cuba by finishing up
negotiations and signing new cooperation agreements with Havana. In the
18 months since the two countries resumed diplomatic relations, 21 such
agreements have been signed on topics ranging from counter-narcotics
cooperation and environmental and marine protection to resumption of
direct mail service and civil aviation.

But despite meetings with the Trump team, Rhodes said: "I can't say for
certain what the incoming team's approach is going to be. There's been a
diversity of views expressed by both the president-elect and members his

Trump was initially supportive of the rapprochement but said he would
get a better deal. Then he said he would terminate the new relationship
if Cuba was unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, Cuban
Americans and the U.S. as a whole. Trump's nominee for secretary of
state, Rex Tillerson, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that
all of Obama's executive orders on Cuba would be among those the Trump
administration planned to review.

"They can choose to emphasize different things than we did, but my hope
and expectation is that it's sufficiently in America's interest that
they continue, at least, important elements of what we're doing and
recognize the cost of seeking to turn back other elements," said Rhodes,
who spent a few days in Havana during Obama's last week in office.

In making the case to the Trump administration for keeping Obama's Cuba
policy intact, Rhodes said the Obama administration stressed "that their
focus on economic and commercial opportunities for the United States in
our foreign policy should correspond with what we're trying to do in
opening up more space for American businesses and American travel to Cuba."

The potential benefits of such policies, he said, "are consistent with
their expressed view of the foreign policy priority of promoting
American jobs and American businesses."

Rhodes said the Obama administration also made the point that "Cuba
policy cannot be seen in isolation from our policy in Latin America, in
that we have removed a very significant irritant between the United
States and the countries of our hemisphere. If we were to roll back the
Cuba policy, I think that would have repercussions not just in Cuba, but
it would significantly set back our position and our ability to
cooperate with countries across the hemisphere."

In the weeks leading up to the inauguration, groups for and against
rapprochement have been trying to put a bug in Trump's ear.

The latest groups trying to sway Trump are a nationwide agriculture
coalition and a coalition of groups that favor engagement with Cuba.

In late December, a letter signed by five former ambassadors with
experience in the Americas criticized what they called "President
Obama's ill-conceived and unlawful executive orders" allowing more
commercial ties with Cuba and asked for a "course correction" on U.S.
relations with Cuba during Trump's first 100 days.

Obama's economic opening to Cuba, the group wrote, "has had the effect
of giving a new economic leases on life to the regime, emboldening it to
curtail, not expand, private economic activity on the island while
increasing its repression of the dissident movement."

Rhodes said the administration shared "concerns about the human rights
situation in Cuba. Our belief continues to be that we're better
positioned to address those with an embassy, with relationships with the
Cuban government."

Obama said at his news conference that despite disagreements with Cuba
over political repression, treatment of dissenters and freedom of the
press and freedom of religion, "our best shot" is "having the Cuban
people interacting with Americans and seeing the incredible success of
Cuban Americans," and "engaging in commerce and business and trade."

This week, the Miami-based Cuba Study Group in collaboration with 13
other groups, including the National Foreign Trade Council, the
Washington Office on Latin America, Engage Cuba, The U.S. Cuba Business
Council and the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, sent a memo to
Trump making a case for engagement.

After a review of current policy, the memo said, "We are confident that
a close evaluation will confirm that constructive engagement — including
the reduction of travel and commercial barriers — is the best strategy
for supporting the Cuban people and boosting U.S. jobs and exports."

A coalition of more than 100 agriculture, trade and commerce businesses
and associations also urged Trump to keep Obama policies in place and
build on the U.S. trade relationship with Cuba.

"As a broad cross-section of rural America, we urge you not to take
steps to reverse progress made in normalizing relations with Cuba, and
also solicit your support for the agricultural business sector to expand
trade with Cuba to help American farmers and our associated industries,"
said the letter whose signatories included USA Rice, the American Farm
Bureau Federation and Hormel Foods Corp.

The letter to Trump said that net U.S. farm income is down 46 percent
from three years ago and that the "importance of trade to America's
farmers and ranchers cannot be overstated." They asked Trump for help in
seeking the removal of financing restrictions and other barriers to
trade with Cuba, which imports nearly 80 percent of its food.

The Cuban market's "proximity to U.S. ports allows for considerably
lower shipping costs and shorter delivery times than our foreign
competitors," the letter stated. "The logistical advantages alone should
make Cuba a common-sense partner for two-way commerce."

Meanwhile, in Cuba's Pinar del Río province, Santa Blanco Echevarria and
her family work a small tobacco plot and sell their production to the
state. She, too, hopes the rapprochement will continue under Trump.

"I'm very happy to have relations with the United States," said Blanco,
72. "When President Obama came here he was very well-received by the
Cuban people.

"I would like Donald Trump to continue relations with Cuba and extend
them even more," she said. "I hope our two presidents get along."

Source: Obama pushes to keep Cuba policy intact until final days in
office | Miami Herald -

Trump May Make It Harder To Travel To Cuba – And Send Remittances

Trump May Make It Harder To Travel To Cuba – And Send Remittances

Donald Trump becomes President on Friday – and now here we wait to see
how he plans to keep his pledge to roll back normalized relations with Cuba.

In recent weeks his transition team has reached out to Cuban-Americans
in South Florida for conversations about U.S.-Cuba policy. One of them
is Andy Gomez, a former senior fellow at the University of Miami's
Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. Gomez spoke with WLRN's
Tim Padgett this week about his sense of what's coming on Cuba.

Andy, after listening to the transition team, how important is Cuba to
the incoming administration?

Well, realistically, we in South Florida like to think Cuba is always at
the top of the list in Washington. What I hear is, given all the issues
around the world this incoming administration will have to face, Cuba is
not even among the top 100 issues that they're looking at right now.
Unfortunately for us.

That said, what do you sense might be some of the more significant steps
Donald Trump is set to take regarding Cuba policy?

Donald Trump is going to address all foreign policy with a very firm
hand. Particularly on Cuba, the question that has been asked is, What
have we gained from Cuba in the last two years-plus since we established
diplomatic relations – and they think very little. If there is one thing
from my point of view, as I discussed with them, at least there is an
open line of communications.

But I don't think they'll continue these discussions that have been
going on, on a regular basis, between Washington and Havana. They think
we're going to have to push back – to see if Cuba might be willing to
come to the table on more serious issues.

So having said that: Remittances, you know, that used to be $300 and
President Obama changed all that and made it unlimited now? Possibly
that's going to be looked at very carefully – and it might even be reduced.

So Cubans here would no longer be able to send an unlimited amount of
remittances to the island?

That's what I hear.

And they'll will be rolled back to $300 per year?

They haven't set a figure yet. It might be $300 – it might be less. But
it's not going to be more.


I would assume that would also include the amount of travel that
Cuban-Americans can make to Cuba. Is that a political risk for Trump?
Allowing unlimited travel was one of the more popular moves that
President Obama made in the Cuban-American community in South Florida,
for example.

Yes, there is a political risk. And their idea here – which I don't
completely agree with, Tim, based on what has happened in the past – is
that if you create social pressure within the island by cutting down
additional help from the Americans, there could be the possibility of
social instability and millions of people out in the street protesting
and demanding. I don't see that happening in Cuba. I think it's very

So you do think we will see the Trump Administration make it harder for
Americans to visit Cuba?

Absolutely – until the Cubans come to the table with something concrete.
And let me tell you what I think that issue might be. If the Cubans are
willing to develop a long-term plan to repay American companies that had
their properties confiscated when the 1959 revolution came into play, I
think that will attract, as I am told, the Trump Administration to say,
OK, let's now move forward.

Another issue, as you know very well, is human rights. I mean,
repression under Raúl Castro has actually been worse than it was under
Fidel Castro during the last five years of his rule.

Or at least in terms of short-term jail detentions.


But you also mentioned that you see them rushing to reverse many of the
business executive orders Obama made on Cuba.

I think they will. But they're going to be very careful not to step on
or violate any contracts that are already in place.

For example, the Starwood hotel corporation – they have an agreement
with the Cuban government, so does Google, to operate in Cuba. If we
cancel the executive order that allows them to do that, we're cancelling
their contract with the Cuban government. Is the American government
then responsible for paying Starwood the amount that that contract was
worth? You know, those issues will have to be looked at very carefully.

Source: Trump May Make It Harder To Travel To Cuba – And Send
Remittances | WLRN -

Visiting Julio Ferrer Tamayo in jail

Visiting Julio Ferrer Tamayo in jail
BORIS GONZÁLEZ ARENAS | La Habana | 20 de Enero de 2017 - 06:05 CET.

Cuban misery really stands out when it is cold. In a country without
much of a winter it is not worth spending much on jackets, which are
passed down for decades. On January 15th, I was struck by the manifest
poverty of those waiting for the A-5 bus at its first stop, across from
the Parque de la Fraternidad.

It was chilly, and the group's threadbare jackets revealed their penury.
But the coats were not the only thing denoting the poverty there. Many
of us were going to visit prison 1580 and, if in the world prisons are,
basically, places to lock up poor people, the people gathered there
revealed that Cuba is no exception to this rule.

Prison 1580 was that chosen by the Cuban regime to illegally lock up
lawyer Julio Ferrer Tamayo by falsifying documents and through the
exertion of paramilitary pressure. In a call to his daughter, Karla
Ferrer, Brigade General Marcos Hernández Alcalá, head of the National
Prison Administration, recognized this. And so have the authorities at
1580, who, against their will, have kept him there. The Inter-American
Human Rights has also acknowledged this, as has the American ambassador
to the UN, Samantha Power, by including the Cuban lawyer in the
#FreeToBeHome campaign, demanding the freedom of political prisoners all
over the world.

Last Saturday I saw Julio for the first time in almost four months. In
addition to the medium-security prison, the area features camps as
ancillary, lower-security facilities, where Julio is located. His
daughter Karla explains that at the section of the prison where he was
first confined, "visits were in windowless chambers, with just a little
vent to provide some air circulation, and nothing else. There were many
tables, and a racket, with only three people allowed to visit each

At the camp, however, the conditions are different. The prisoner
receives his relatives under an open sky, in an enormous clearing dotted
with towering trees, and enclosed by an enormous wall protected with
abutments and half-built watchtowers, where I spotted a very young guard
toting a gun.

Before getting there I had to go through a small door and into a
dimly-lit enclosure where one waited until an official summoned the
prisoner's relatives by reading his name. The edifice's walls, featuring
massive, stacked horizontal blocks, featuring visible seams, evoked a
great number of places from my life: those from the country schools, the
army units, the bedrooms at the popular camping facilities we visited
during summer vacations, those of low-cost housing, and rural general
hospitals. In addition to those walls, I was familiar with those
ramshackle windows too, the polished cement floor, the tiled ceiling,
the mediocre lighting, the mural, and the generic corridors that
accompany the "new man" from nursery school to the cells of punishment.

Julio calls out to me, as I make him out among the group of inmates and
their relatives. He later describes to me details that I did not know
with regards to the incident on 23 September, when paramilitary officers
and civil officials raided the headquarters of the Cubalex Legal
Training Centre in the Havana district of El Calvario. He tell me that
the public prosecutor who took the statements from Cubalex's members had
allowed him to go, but he had remained to support the rest of those
present with his knowledge. At a certain point during the conversation
with her, Julio reported the illegalities related to his previous
incarceration and the new case that was being prepared against him. It
was then that an official who was eavesdropping, after speaking on the
telephone, ordered his arrest, after which he was taken to a police
station, but not before the official gave the police a document
specifying that this was a Counterintelligence case.

It continues to be difficult to understand the use of the term
"Counterintelligence," the pretentious name used to refer to
paramilitary staff dedicated to hampering the work of civil society.
Castroism has always endeavored to convince people that all those
opposing it are crazy, delinquents, or agents in the service of some
foreign intelligence service, generally American. Hence its psychiatric
hospitals, electroshock and jails, and hence the term
"Counterintelligence," which they attach to their corps of young and
uneducated recruits, who receive military training, are disciplined in
perverse values, and whose excesses enjoy complete impunity.

Our communication during the visit was constantly interrupted by inmates
asking Julio for information. One came over to introduce him to his
mother. And it was not only the inmates, but also the prison authorities
who asked him for help with the files of the prisoners arriving at the

"The authorities here have recognized that the prosecutor falsified the
documents," Julio explains to me. "My sanction says that I have been
detained this whole time, without recognizing my departure in September
of 2015, when my sentence ran out. So they are accusing me again. But I
have in my possession the document certifying the expiration of my
sentence on that date, at the Valle Grande prison, and there appears no
other entrance into the prison until November of 2016, when they brought
me for here, to 1580. That is what exposes the court's fraud."

Like Julio, Cuban many activists from civil society and politicians been
illegally sentenced to prison terms, through cunning machinations
between official institutions and paramilitary bodies. The artist El
Sexto, for example, currently remains locked up without cause, where he
has been for more than two months, as has Eduardo Cardet, national
coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (CLM), founded
by Oswaldo Payá.

Mario Alberto Hernández Leyva is yet another one of those cases.
Vice-president of the Movement of Dissidents for a New Republic and
Movimiento Democracia, in addition to a coordinator of the Orlando
Zapata Tamayo National Front for Resistance and Civil Disobedience,
since 1 November, 2015, he has been in prison, charged with assault and
contempt. Previously, on 8 January, 2015, he had been released, as a
member of the group of the 53 political prisoners freed at the request
of the US Government and as part of negotiations for the reestablishment
of diplomatic relations.

Hernández Leiva's last internment began in the Gran Valle prison, from
where he was transferred to the Combinado del Este, both in Havana, the
province in which he resides and where his colleagues at the
organization are located. Then they sent him to El Pre, in Santa Clara,
where physical abuse left him with reduced mobility, from which he is
barely recovering after eight months, now at a new prison: Holguín.

More and more distant from his relatives and friends, the separation of
prisoner Mario Alberto Leyva Hernández from his place of residence is
another ploy by Castroist authorities to break his will and spirit.

If, in a general way, prison is a questionable method for the
containment of crime, and dubious human values are employed to make it
possible, incarceration for reasons other than crime is used to inflict
physical, emotional and spiritual damage, these elements characterizing
something more terrible than the concept of prison: torture.

Source: Visiting Julio Ferrer Tamayo in jail | Diario de Cuba -

Thursday, January 19, 2017

And Now What?

And Now What? / Somos+, Jose Presol

Somos+, Jose Presol, 18 January 2017 — We expected it for a long time
and it happened, but when we weren't in the line for the ration book. I
am referring to the end of the "wet foot, dry foot" policy. We all knew
that it would end, but what we least imagined was that it would be now
and done by the current president, Barack Obama.

It had to be sooner or later. The American people are leaning toward a
policy of protectionism and focusing on their own problems and stumbles,
and there are many Cubans in exile who affirm, "I am not politically
persecuted, I came to resolve my economic problems."

At the same time, there are constant complaints that old and current
repressors and collaborators with the Cuban political regime are also in
the United States, and whether or not they are still collaborating with
the tyranny is not clear. This had to come.

Obama, who not so long ago seemed wonderful to so many people, now has
thousands of defects. No friends, his message was clear, "Cuba's
problems must be solved by Cubans." One more thing we have heard and
interpreted according to our own convenience.

That was a way of saying, among other things: Gentlemen, the American
taxpayers have no obligation to indefinitely finance the immigration of
citizens of other nationalities, especially when we are not sure of
their ideology and when these funds are needed, for example, to improve
the conditions of our own veterans.

Few governments in the world are not aware that these resources are not
unlimited and that this problem is not solved by "minting money."

The fault belongs to us, Cubans. We all know, we are not fools, that the
problem is not that there is no food, the problem is those who have made
it so that there is no food. We have found it more convenient to confuse
the symptoms with the disease. We have found it more convenient to deny
reality. We have found it more convenient to say, with clenched teeth
"over there," that it is an economic problem.

But yes, it is an economic problem, but please, haven't we been under a
constant bombardment of Marxist doctrine for 58 years? Have we not
listened to a single word? Hey guys, they say it themselves, "The
economic problems are political problems."

I am not a fortune-teller and I don't know what the evolution of the
problem in Cuba will be, but I am sure that there have already been two
things: 1) a bucket of cold water for those who hoped to "escape" the
situation, and 2) the disappearance of the escape valve from the current
situation in Cuba, which does not please the regime, despite their
saying otherwise.

As I said, I do not know how the subject will evolve, but I have hope
that it will end up radicalizing the postures inside Cuba and clarifying
them outside Cuba, and vice versa.

I hope that we Cubans, once and for all, will face our problem, trying
to provoke quantitative changes (so they will understand me, I use
Marxist terms) that, in accumulation, end up producing qualitative changes.

And those quantitative and qualitative changes begin with ourselves.

First, we have to think about who our real rival is and face it, without
palliatives; finding all the cracks in the system and enlarging them,
analyzing their contradictions and denouncing them.

Second, recognize that the problem of Cuba belongs to Cubans, all of us
without exception, and that Cubans must solve it, and forget about
remedies, collective or individual, that come from outside.

Third, we need to focus on programs and lines of action to conquer our
rival; focus on weakening everything that benefits it; focus on
highlighting the weaknesses and errors of the system.

Fourth, these programs and lines of action should focus on Cuba's real
needs. We must not return to situations that we often yearn for and fail
to recognize that they were the reasons for what we have now. We must
build a New Republic, with the ideals of freedom and democracy from our
early founders.

Fifth, around these programs and lines of action, we have to create the
necessary unity (and, why not, organization) to gather forces instead of
dispersing them, not looking for some leader to solve it for us.

Sixth, these programs and lines of action must be peaceful, we are
children of a nation that has not known peace and tranquility since
October 10, 1868, it is high time that we also address that.

Seventh: Cubans, think. You are the children of the people who fought
for 30 years for independence, who suffered 4 years of American
occupation, people who have had 57 years of a false republic and more
occupations (material or mediated) and another 58 of tyranny. We have
fallen many times and many times we have risen, even mistaking and
getting it wrong again. So get up at once and contribute with your
effort and imagination. This is your opportunity. Do not let it pass.

Translated by Jim

Source: And Now What? / Somos+, Jose Presol – Translating Cuba -

Thousands Of Cubans Stranded Along The Continent Put Their Hope In Trump

Thousands Of Cubans Stranded Along The Continent Put Their Hope In Trump
/ 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 18 January 2017 — Abandoned to their fate
on islands, in jungles and at borders, thousands of Cubans have not
recovered from the surprise measure of Barack Obama's administration
that frustrated the trip for which they sold their few belongings in
Cuba to venture to reach American soil.

With a soft voice, sometimes broken by emotion and sadness, Elisabet
Casero Fernández, a Cuban dentist who fled Venezuela a week ago, laments
the situation in which her compatriots have been left.

Casero escaped one day before the United States eliminated its Cuban
Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) program – through which doctors who
deserted their missions abroad were allowed to settle in the United
States – and the policy of wet foot/dry foot, by which Cubans who
touched land in the United States were allowed to stay and become legal

"We believed in American legality, in the opportunity to rebuild our
lives away from a government that does not allow us to be free and that
clings to not changing," she says from Bogota.

Cuban doctors go abroad with an official passport, which is why on the
border between Colombia and Venezuela they are easily identified and
handed over to the Cuban authorities, who will forcibly repatriate them
and retaliate.

"I had to cross the jungle on a motorcycle. It was the only way to
circumvent the surveillance that doctors are subjected to," she explains.

Leaving is expensive. Dr. Casero earned barely 27,000 bolivars a month
(less than 10 dollars when exchanged on the street) while working in the
state of Carabobo. In order to flee, she had to save as much as she
could from her meager salary.

"The Cuban medical mission also did not give us money for water and gas,
we had to rely on the 'solidarity of friends'," she told us.

In practice, the Cuban authorities asked their doctors to have
Venezuelan patients pay for the cost of these basic services.

The decision to travel to Venezuela was also made under pressure,
according to the doctor. "They told us that we should go on a mission.
If you refuse, you can lose even your career because they call you a
counterrevolutionary," she says.

According to Casero, once in Venezuela she understood the urgency of the
Cuban Ministry of Health.

"You are a mainstay of the medical mission," they were told. The
reality, according to this young woman of 24 years, is that Venezuela
"pays more" for dentists than for other doctors, so they had to work
more hours and were carefully monitored to enforce the statistics of
consultations in exchange for which the Venezuela Government pays Cuba
in oil.

"I did not even have the opportunity to finish my residency," she adds.

With the recent changes, even Cuban doctors who have already applied for
the CMPP program will be treated like any other migrant, so the
dentist's hopes of resolving her case are increasingly distant.

"When I arrived at the US embassy in Bogotá, they told me that I could
no longer ask for asylum. Now that I have deserted I cannot enter Cuba
for eight years and if they catch me, I will end up being retaliated
against," he says.

Her money that, as a stimulus, the Cuban Government deposited in an
account in a bank in Cuba, has already been expropriated, she learned
directly from her mother, whom she had lived with.

In Colombia hundreds of doctors are waiting for a favorable decision
from the US embassy. An indeterminate number are in Brazil where, in
2016, 1,439 doctors benefited from the CMPP.

But doctors are not the only ones affected. There are also dozens of
emigrants who are transiting Central America after their departure from
Ecuador and Guyana. They seek to reach Panama by going through the
Darien Gap, one of the most dangerous jungles in the world.

In Trinidad and Tobago, of a group of 15 Cubans detained by the
immigration authorities, there are only six left. All the others have
been forcibly repatriated to Cuba.

"The Cuban embassy is involved in this and we are desperate. There were
political refugees among us, but they did not care," explains Baldomero
Despaigne speaking from that Caribbean country.

"They are preparing everything to return all of us who are still here.
We need help," he says.

In Suriname, another group of Cubans, including women members of the
Ladies in White with their children, are asking for clemency to reach
the United States.

In the Caritas hostel in Panama the presence of Cuban migrants has
increased significantly. In less than a week more than 230 refugees have
arrived for the US administration to grant a grace period that allows
them to reach their destination.

"They are calling by phone to indicate that they will continue to arrive
from the jungle. At least 70 migrants are announced for the next few
hours," said Deacon Victor Berrío, who is in charge of the institution.

However, the director of Panama's National Service of Migratio, Javier
Carrillo, announced that undocumented Cubans must leave the country.
"The law is clear, they must leave the national territory," Carrillo
told this newspaper.

Some of these migrants have not stopped at the announcement of the end
of the policy of wet foot-feet and continue their way towards the
American border. On Tuesday, the presidential adviser Ben Rhodes said
the US does not host the Cubans who were on the border of that country
and Mexico.

"We are not going to stop, we will continue to the border, we have spent
a lot of time to escape from Cuba and we have no desire to go back, we
have no house or money or anything," says Yuniel Ramos, a migrant who
left everything and crossed Central America from Ecuador. Now he is
about to cross Mexico.

"The Siglo XXI Migrant Station in Tapachula is full of Cubans, people do
not want to go there because they leave you in jail," says Miguel
Antunez, another Cuban who is in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

"The lines are long to get the safe passage and cross Mexico. They gave
me an appointment for the second week of February," he adds. This
situation of defenselessness makes migrants the victims of scammers and
corrupt officials.

"An attorney with connections inside Migration is giving Cubans papers
for $500. Even the Migration officials themselves tell you that if you
give them money they will move your turn up to the next day," adds Antunez.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Cubans continue to arrive from Central America.
Next to the US border dozens of Cubans wait to see what the new White
House tenant will do.

"Trump is the only hope we have left," says Antunez. "Obama has betrayed
us, and he went to Cuban to become the friend of Cubans. Trump is the
only hope left to us," says Antunez.


This article is part of an arrangement between 14ymedio and El Nuevo Herald.

Source: Thousands Of Cubans Stranded Along The Continent Put Their Hope
In Trump / 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -