Thursday, March 23, 2017

Censored at the Camaguey Festival, Rapper ‘Rapshela’ Denounces “Fear of Liberty”

Censored at the Camaguey Festival, Rapper 'Rapshela' Denounces "Fear of
Liberty" / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto

14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto, Camaguey, 22 March 2017 – Hip Hop has
become that redoubt of rebellion that other musical genres, like rock
and roll, used to embody. The Trakean2 Fesitval, which ended Monday in
Camaguey, gave voice to performers who sing as if they were shooting
truths at the public, but censorship against Cuban rapper Rashel
Cervantes – known as Rapshela – who lives in Spain, overshadowed the event.

Also missing were rappers who sing their lyrics in marginal
neighborhoods where the genre enjoys the greatest vitality. But that is
what was decided by the Brothers Saiz Association, who organized the
ninth edition of the event with 40 participating rappers, including MCs
(Masters of Ceremony), breakdancers and graffiti artists. Cockfights,
the improvised verbal confrontations between musicians, were the moments
most appreciated by the public.

Rapshela could not appear before the public in spite of having travelled
to the Island for the occasion. Problems with her cultural visa and
reproof by the organizers prevented it.

After spending her own money for the plane ticket from Barcelona, where
she lives, Rapshela ran into the cancellation of the presumed
institutional promise to pay for her travel from Havana to Camaguey. She
managed to arrive nevertheless, but the obstacles had not ended: as a
resident abroad she did not receive authorization to appear in time.

"As soon as I arrived I went to the AHS, and the organizer [Eliecer
Velazquez] told me that I could not sing because I was living abroad,"
she tells this daily. Nor was the artist included in the lodging and
food options that other guests enjoyed. A situation that she regrets
"after four months of speaking" with the event promoters.

In a gesture of solidarity, Los Compinches, a group from Pinar del Rio,
invited Rapshela to accompany them to the stage. But when the artist
began to sing, the Festival organizers ordered the microphone sound
lowered. A little later the spectacle came to an end.

The event generated an intense debate when other musicians and the
public clamored for her to be permitted to sing, but the organizers
proved inflexible. Although they declined to give their version of what
happened, Eliecer Velazquez justified himself to the artist, arguing
that it was the first time that he had organized a festival, and he did
not know "that there was so much paperwork to do." The promoter
explained to the singer that she sought the cultural visa too late and
that is why they did not grant it.

Among the attendees, many considered it absurd that a Cuban had to wait
for a cultural visa to appear in the city where she was born, so they
saw what happened as censorship masked in bureaucratic delays.

The organization also had disagreements with some lyrics by the group
Los Compinches, in which marijuana consumption is promoted and Cuba's
economic situation is criticized.

Before the microphones went mute, the spectators had shown great
enthusiasm and repeated choruses like Don't step on the herb, smoke it.
A second song increased nervousness of the authorities when the singer
explained that the video clip that accompanied the lyrics had been censored.

Joaquin Corbillon Perez, member of the group, does not explain what they
did wrong although he argues that the Brothers Saiz Association is not
responsible for the situation. "The guilty ones are much higher and are
the ones who prohibit it," he said.

The AHS director from Pinar del Rio, Denis Perez Acanda, also a member
of Los Compinches, defended the lyrics of his song and characterized as
an "act of repression" the fact that the organizers did not let Rapshela
sing.

For Rapshela the problems that she suffered transcend the music scene.
"The Cuban people are censored," she says. In her opinion "rap is a
weapon for expression" and "a window to liberty, but here they are
scared of liberty."

The organizer of the Havana female rap festival and manager of the Somos
Mucho Más (We Are Much More) project, Yamay Mejias Hernandez, known as
La Fina (The Fine One), showed her solidarity with Rapshela because "she
is Cuban, Camagueyan, and has never performed in her land. What she
wanted was to introduce herself and for her people to hear her."

Mejias Hernandez, also a feminist activist, told 14ymedio about the
festival's other problems. "It needs a little more organization, maybe
more coordination in the places where they hold the concerts at night."
She thinks that Cristo Park, a site intended to offer concerts, did not
meet the requirements for nighttime performances.

"There have to be more theoretical events like discussions, meetings,
book readings," adds Mejias Hernandez. "They need more female presence
because at this event only two female rappers appeared." The singer
asserts that throughout the Island there are many females who are
connected to the genre.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Source: Censored at the Camaguey Festival, Rapper 'Rapshela' Denounces
"Fear of Liberty" / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/censored-at-the-camaguey-festival-rapper-rapshela-denounces-fear-of-liberty-14ymedio-sol-garcia-basulto/

Now That 'El Supremo' Is Gone, I'll Be The King Of Havana

"Now That 'El Supremo' Is Gone, I'll Be The King Of Havana" / Cubanet

You're lucky to be witnessing the debut of one of the major go-getters
in the bicitaxi business. Old Havana is crammed with 'yumas'
[foreigners]. You see them on the streets, getting crazy, desperate to
move from one place to another, looking and always asking. (…) And
here's Pancho, ready to be of service to those who need it. (…) I'll
admit I still have to fix up my "ship", paint it, add cushions, lights,
music. I'll even have to dress better; I know the competition will
back-stab you with those little details. (…)

Even though it's my first week, I can already see that a lot of people
are trying to get into the bicitaxi trade. You're in constant contact
with foreigners who are the ones with big bucks. (...) Since networking
is everything, I've already partnered with some hotel owners, so I can
play that card. If I happen to pick someone up who doesn't have a place
to stay, I'll drive them to one of my contacts and afterwards I'll
collect my commission. (…)

I have a lot of advantages, but I'm just getting started. I know the
neighborhood. I know five languages, at least enough to communicate the
basics. Besides, now that "El Supremo" is gone, I'll be the king of
Havana. As the saying goes: I've got my charm going for me, asere! I
have the key!

Translated by Camila Fernandez, Kendra Gil, Jingqi He

Source: "Now That 'El Supremo' Is Gone, I'll Be The King Of Havana" /
Cubanet – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/now-that-el-supremo-is-gone-ill-be-the-king-of-havana-cubanet/

My Father Washed His Hands Of Me And My Mom Did The Best She Could

"My Father Washed His Hands Of Me And My Mom Did The Best She Could" /
Cubanet

I studied at a Camilito [one of the Camilo Cienfuegos Military
Academies]. But for financial reasons, I had to drop out and start
working. My father washed his hands of me and my mom did the best she
could. When I used to go out on the weekends, I would come home with no
shoes. It was very hard.

I started working as a bicycle taxi driver approximately four years ago.
My work hours are around 7AM to 5PM, and I pay 3 CUC [equivalent to
$3.00 U.S.] a day for the bicycle rental. Clients call me or look for me
because I have a reputation for being trustworthy and honest. Thanks to
them I always have work.

What I'd really like is the restaurant business, to be a bartender or
something like that. I've always wanted to better myself professionally,
but if I were attending night school I couldn't work past 1pm. That
wouldn't allow me to earn enough money to accomplish the goals I've set.
If I continue down this path, ten years from now, I'm not going to be
much good to anyone unless my quality of life changes for the better.

I have thought about leaving Cuba. I love my country, but there is so
much that needs to be changed and no one knows where to start. My dream
is to have my own business. I'm willing to make sacrifices. But I don't
want to do it for no reason.

Translated by Mayra Condo, Karlina Cordero, Stephanie Desouza

Source: "My Father Washed His Hands Of Me And My Mom Did The Best She
Could" / Cubanet – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/my-father-washed-his-hands-of-me-and-my-mom-did-the-best-she-could-cubanet/

My Dream Was to Become a Cameraman

"My Dream Was to Become a Cameraman" / Cubanet

My name is Ángel Martínez and my dream was to become a cameraman. I
always thought about photography. Just like you, my friends made fun of
me, but I was stubborn and I started to work as a television assistant
in 1954. I got to know the best of the culture of that time. At work, I
was the first one in and the last one out. That's how I climbed up the
ladder till I earned the title of cameraman (…)

Many years later in the middle of the Special Period [the early 1990s],
they retired me. They explained that they were concerned about me making
a mistake behind the cameras, and that I was of retirement age. They
gave me this bicycle, which helps me get around and sell my goods [on
the bike are paper cones filled with peanuts]. It's not a lot of money
but it's some. At least enough to pay taxes and keep a little over 260
pesos, which is my pension. They convinced me, but I swear that even now
that the equipment is more modern, as long as I'm mentally fit, I will
keep on dreaming.

Translated by Maite Arias, Tamara Belmeni and Jorge Caceres

Source: "My Dream Was to Become a Cameraman" / Cubanet – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/my-dream-was-to-become-a-cameraman-cubanet/

Scramble for GOP healthcare votes suddenly puts Cuba policy in play

Scramble for GOP healthcare votes suddenly puts Cuba policy in play
BY PATRICIA MAZZEI AND NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
pmazzei@miamiherald.com

The showdown in Congress over House Republicans' healthcare bill might
have nothing to do with Raúl Castro — if it weren't for Miami.

Thursday's planned vote on the American Health Care Act is so razor
tight that House GOP leaders and the White House are leaning hard on
every single shaky Republican for their support. One of them: Rep. Mario
Diaz-Balart of Miami, whose foremost want is to overturn the Obama
administration's Cuba opening — and who has recently taken it upon
himself to outline a possible Cuba policy for the Trump administration.

Perhaps Diaz-Balart and the White House would engage in a little
old-fashioned horse trading — a "Yes" vote on healthcare for swift
action on Cuba?

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Diaz-Balart wanted assurances
from White House officials that President Donald Trump would keep his
campaign promise to take a harder Cuba line. There was no explicit
discussion about trading a healthcare vote for a Cuba promise, The Times
said after initially reporting otherwise.

"I wish that they would've given me a commitment on something, but that
is just made up," Diaz-Balart told McClatchy, the Miami Herald's parent
company, on Wednesday.

He added that he's still undecided on the healthcare bill, mostly based
on concerns about insurance coverage and premium costs for older Americans.

"I am very concerned that particularly that population is not being
dealt with yet in a way that is giving me a lot of comfort," he said.

Politically, he noted, it's better not to be a hard "Yes" or "No": "Once
I do that, then I'm out of the loop."

But there's no denying that Diaz-Balart has brought up Cuba every time
he's had a chance to speak to the White House, where he's closest to
Vice President Mike Pence. And the Trump administration has spent two
days openly wooing Republicans who, like Diaz-Balart, are on the fence
about healthcare. (The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the bill
lacks the votes to pass the House on Thursday.) Diaz-Balart was the
tie-breaking vote approving the bill in the Budget Committee last week
but has said he nevertheless leans against it.

Diaz-Balart said Wednesday he hasn't talked to Trump — but wouldn't say
if he's spoken with Pence.

The suggestion that Diaz-Balart or the White House might even consider
cutting a deal on Cuba to pass healthcare prompted immediate criticism
from advocates of U.S.-Cuba engagement and from the Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee, which said the AHCA would "cost tens
of thousands of his own constituents access to healthcare, blow the roof
off of others' premiums, and slap an age tax on older South Floridians."

"Mr. Diaz-Balart is playing politics with his constituents' healthcare
in order to settle a family feud," said James Williams, president of
Engage Cuba, a group that advocates for closer U.S.-Cuba ties. "Our
U.S.-Cuba policy should be guided by what's in the best interests of the
American and Cuban people, not one congressman's personal agenda."

The White House has yet to make any commitments on Cuba, a congressional
source told the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald on Wednesday — in part
because Trump has yet to appoint No. 2s at the State Department and
National Security Council to handle Western Hemisphere affairs.

In the absence of any high-level policy officials, Diaz-Balart has
recently circulated a two-page memo to other Cuban Americans in Congress
outlining a possible Trump approach to Cuba. The memo, titled "A Good
Deal that Upholds the Law and Protects National Security," has also been
passed around the White House.

The memo lists no author, and Diaz-Balart's office would not confirm
Wednesday that he wrote it. Diaz-Balart, however, rattled off the same
proposals — practically verbatim — in a November interview with el Nuevo
Herald. Another congressional source confirmed Wednesday that the memo
had come from Diaz-Balart.

The memo doesn't go as far as calling for a return to restrictive
Bush-era Cuba policy. Instead, it seeks to undo former President Barack
Obama's actions from December 2014, when he announced the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the island's Communist regime.

Cuba would get 90 days to meet criteria set by Congress in the 1996
Helms-Burton Act, including schedule free, multiparty elections,
respecting political and civil rights, and making "demonstrable
progress" on returning property confiscated from Americans or
compensating them for it. Failure to do so would result in returning
Cuba to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, allowing lawsuits
against confiscated Cuban property, and eliminating the October 2016
Obama guidance to federal agencies on normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations.

"The top priority is that sanctions must be tightened at least to those
that were in place prior to President Obama's changes announced in
December 2014," the memo says, in a line that is bold and underlined.
"In addition to that fundamental change, President Trump has other
opportunities listed here which together will generate a better deal for
the American and Cuban people that furthers U.S. law and vital national
security interests."

McClatchy Washington correspondent Lesley Clark contributed to this report.

Source: Scramble for GOP healthcare votes puts Cuba policy in play |
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article140190463.html

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Raul Castro Squandered His Last Chance

Raul Castro Squandered His Last Chance / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 March 2017 — A year
ago Cuba had a once in a lifetime opportunity. US President Barack Obama
came to the island willing to turn the page on political
confrontation. The gesture transcended the diplomatic situation, but
Raul Castro – fearful of losing control – responded by putting the
brakes on economic reforms and raising the levels of ideological
discourse and repression.

Nations are not presented with opportunities every year, nor even every
century. The decision to entrench itself and not to undertake political
flexibilizations has been the Plaza of the Revolution's most egotistical
measure of recent times. Failure to know how to take advantage of the
end of public belligerence with our neighbor to the north will bring
this country lasting and unpredictable consequences.

These effects will not be suffered by the so-called "historic
generation" – those at the forefront of the 1950s Revolution – now
diminished by the rigors of biology and desertions. Rather than the
generals in olive-green, the ones who will pay the price will be those
who are still sleeping in their cradles or spinning their tops in the
streets of the island. They don't know it, but in the last twelve months
a short-sighted octogenarian tricked them out of a share of their future.

The greatest waste has been not exploiting the international moment, the
excitement about foreign investments, and the expectations everywhere in
Cuba of taking the first steps towards democratic change without
violence or chaos. It was not the job of the White House to encourage or
provoke such transformations, but its good mood was a propitious setting
for them to be less traumatic.

Instead, the white rose Obama extended to Castro in his historic speech
in Havana's Gran Teatro has faded, beset by hesitations and fears. Now,
it is our job to explain to these Cubans of tomorrow why we were at a
turning point in our history and we threw it away.

Source: Raul Castro Squandered His Last Chance / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
– Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/raul-castro-squandered-his-last-chance-14ymedio-yoani-sanchez/

Obama’s Unquestionable Imprint

Obama's Unquestionable Imprint / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 20 March 2017 — Putting aside the
passions of supporters and detractors of the policies drawn up by
President Barack Obama for Cuba, there is no doubt that, for better or
worse, it set indelible before and after benchmarks in the lives of the
Cuban people.

The first benchmark was the reestablishment of relations after half a
century of confrontation, which – although it did not even come close to
the high expectations of Cubans – did manage to expose the Cuban
dictatorship to the scrutiny of international public opinion, thus
demonstrating that the regime is the true obstacle to the wellbeing and
happiness of Cubans.

Consequently, although Cubans are no freer, after two years of
rapprochement with the former "imperialist enemy," the Castro regime has
run out of arguments to justify the absence of economic, political and
social rights, and thus has lost credibility in the International forums
and in political circles, where it is being openly questioned.

Just a few days before leaving the White House, Obama took another
decisive step by repealing the "wet foot/dry foot" policy, giving up
immigration privileges for Cubans in the US, and thereby crushing the
hopes of an large number of Cubans who aspired to enjoy the rights and
prosperity in that destination, that they can only dream about now, and
are unable to demand in their own country.

Thus, in two years, these two Cuban exceptions which seemed eternal,
suddenly disappeared: an old dictatorship, long tolerated by the
international community when it was considered the "small, heroic and
defenseless victim resisting the onslaught of the strongest of world
powers," and the people – equally victimized, persecuted, helpless and
subjugated by the dictatorship enthroned in power – who were forced to
emigrate, deserving the consubstantial privilege, above that of any
other immigrants, to live quietly in the territory of the United States,
no longer setting foot in Cuba.

Thus, in the future, the Castro regime can be considered as what it
really is: a prosaic dictatorship without heroic attire, while those
Cubans who flee it without making the slightest effort to face it, will
not be described as "politically persecuted," but as any other run of
the mill immigrants, such as those throughout the world who aspire to
enjoy the wellbeing and opportunities that residing in the most
developed country on the planet offers. No more, no less.

That is to say, though Barack Obama did not improve or worsen the Cuban
crisis, we, nevertheless, must thank him for putting things in their
right perspective, whether we like it or not. But it may be that some,
or perhaps too many, find it much more comfortable to steer the direct
burden of the current state of affairs in Cuba – including increases in
repression – while others (more astute) here and there toss their hair
and tear their patriotic garments against the "betrayal" of the former
leader, generally with the untenable intention of making a political
career or of continuing to thrive in the Cuban calamity.

These are the "hard hand" theorists who will attempt to use it as a
trump card to overthrow the Castro dictatorship, this time with the
hypothetical support of the new US President, as if that strategy had
not proved ineffective during the previous 50 years.

The sad paradox is that, judging from the present reality, the Castro
way of government – like other known dictatorships – will not "fall,"
defeated by the indignant people, fed up with poverty and oppression.
Neither will it be crushed by the tenacious struggle of the opposition
or the pressures of some foreign government. Most likely, instead of
falling, the Castro regime will gently slide down of its own accord into
another advantageous form of existence in a different socioeconomic setting.

For, while not a few Cuban groups from both shores wear themselves out
and gloat over mutual reproaches and useless lamentations, the olive
green mafia continues behind the scenes, distributing the pie, quietly
accommodating itself in the best positions and palming its cards under
our clueless noses, to continue to enjoy the benefits and the privileges
of power when the last remnants of the shabby backdrop of "socialism,
Castro style," which is all that barely remains of the glorious
revolutionary project, will finally fall.

To the surprise of the army of disinherited survivors of the communist
experiment, the progeny of the historical generation and their
accompanying generals could emerge, transmuted into tycoons and
entrepreneurs, thus consummating the cycle of the swindle that begun in
1959. This is, so far, the most likely scenario.

Perhaps by then 60 years of totalitarianism would have elapsed, and
eleven presidents will have passed through the White House, but until
today, only one of them, Barack Obama, will have influenced, in such a
defining way, in the political future of Cuba.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Obama's Unquestionable Imprint / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya –
Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/obamas-unquestionable-imprint-cubanet-miriam-celaya/

The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba

The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 21 March 2017 – This Tuesday, the Cuban government
prevented Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White movement, from
traveling outside the country because of an unpaid fine for for an
alleged infraction "against public adornment." Meanwhile, the
authorities accuse her of having thrown "papers in the street," which
the regime opponent clarified to 14ymedio were "leaflets."

Soler took advantage of the action to denounce the disappearance, this
Tuesday, of her husband, the activist Angel Moya. "We consider that he
is 'disappeared' because when he left the house he was being followed,"
she detailed. "Today I am calling him and his phone is shut off or
outside the coverage area."

"This morning I was supposed to travel to the United States, first to
Miami and then to California," said Soler. However, after passing
through the immigration booth and security controls at Jose Marti
International Airport in Havana, she was intercepted by an immigration
official who asked her to accompany him to an office.

The official told Soler that they would not let her board the plane
because she had not paid a fine for "throwing papers into the street."
According to Decree 272, whoever "throws into the public street waste
such as papers, wrappings, food waste, packaging and the like," will
have a fine of 50 pesos and must "pick them up immediately."

"Here, the person who owes the Cuban people freedom is Raul Castro,"
Soler replied to the accusation. She claims that it was sheets with
political slogans. "The fine is from last September, after that I went
to Panama and the United States, so I don't understand this now," the
dissident complains.

Last year, when the Aguilera Police Station informed Soler about the
fine, she signed a document informing her of the contravention with an
ironic "Down you-know-who," and threw it in the agents' faces, telling
them: "I do not accept any inappropriate fines."

Subsequently, Soler was informed that the unpaid fine could be doubled,
and it was suggested that the police could exchange each Cuba peso
(approximately 4 cents US) of the fine for one day in jail or instead
not let her travel on Tuesday.

The activist was planning to meet in California with David Kaye, United
Nations rapporteur for freedom of expression. Instead of Soler, Lady in
White Leticia Ramos will attend the meeting.

"In the report we list all those fines that they assign to us
inappropriately," reflects Soler. "They are illegal and violate the
Republic's penal code," a situation that is complemented by "the
harassment, the threat and violence that is unleashed against our
families, against our children and our husbands to try to get us to stop
our activism."

This month marks a year since the Lady in White was prevented from
attending mass at Santa Rita parish, and also blocked from attending the
Sunday marches on 5th Avenue, a traditional route that goes back to the
origins of the movement after the repressive wave of 2003, known as the
Black Spring.

Source: The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/the-government-prohibits-berta-soler-from-leaving-cuba-14ymedio/

Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba

Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba / 14ymedio,
Zunilda Mata

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 21 March 2017 — Cubans know a lot about
adulterations. For decades they have grappled with the "diversion of
resources" [i.e. stealing] from state stores and the practice of state
employees acquiring products elsewhere at low prices, bringing them into
the stores and selling them at high prices and keeping the profit for
themselves. Hence the scandal of the altered meat that involves two
Brazilian companies has hardly surprised anyone on the Island.

This Monday Brazilian meat products continued to be sold in Cuba's
retail network, where the frozen chicken of the brands Frangosul and
Perdix, from the companies JBS and BRF respectively, continue to be on
sale. According to an investigation by the Federal Police of Brazil,
both these companies adulterated these products.

In the case of chicken, the authorities have warned that it is more of
an economic fraud, consisting of adding water to the product to increase
the weight, without any risks to health.

The results of what was called "Carne Fraca" ("weak meat" in
Portuguese), confirmed the suspicions of those who warned that something
"doesn't smell right" in the world's largest exporter of these products.
Each year Brazil exports beef worth roughly 5.5 billion dollars and
chicken worth roughly 6.5 billion. This business represents 7.2% of
Brazil's Gross Domestic Product.

So far, no Cuban store or market has withdrawn the Brazilian frozen food
products. On the digital sites that offer a wide range of foods that
emigrants abroad can order for their families on the island, Brazilian
beef and chicken remain on sale.

The official media spread the news of the scandal, focusing on the
possible repercussions for President Michel Temer's government. The
Ministry of Public Health did not discuss the issue when asked by 14ymedio.

Cuba imports more than 80% of the food it consumes. For 2017, the bill
for these purchases is expected to exceed $1.75 billion, $82 million
more than the estimate for the previous year.

Each year, more than 120,000 tonnes of chicken meat are bought in the
international market, most of it hindquarters, also called "dark
parts." Alberto Ramírez, president of the Cuban Society of Poultry
Producers (SOCPA), recently confirmed to the official press that
"[domestic] meat production is practically zero."

In 2014, several representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture visited
Brazil to inspect the facilities of the dairy and beef plant managed by
JBS in Mato Grosso do Sul, with a view to importing its products to the
Island. Another 25 facilities approved for trade with Cuba are located
in the states of Tocantins, Rondonia, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul,
Goiás, Mato Grosso and Sao Paulo

The United States and Brazil are the countries supplying the greatest
amount of frozen products to the Cuban market. Faced with the lack of
supply and the lack of variety, chicken has become one of the most
common foods at the table of Cubans. Only the wealthy can afford beef.

"I came to buy a piece of top round steak," said a retired woman at the
butcher's in Plaza de Carlos III on Monday. She said, "it is a luxury
that I can only allow myself from time to time." The meat on offer in
that market comes from Brazil, according to an employee who preferred
anonymity, but who, so far, had received "no order to stop selling it."

On display in the meat case are several packages with prime ground beef,
stew meat, top round and tip steak. No merchandise specifies where it
comes from, but local workers confirm that it has been bought from
Brazil. The customers look longingly at the display; meat remains a
forbidden delicacy for many, even if it is wrapped up in
investigations and fraud.

"Here we work with Brazilian meat," explains one of the waiters at the
restaurant next to the Riviera cinema, formerly El Carmelo, on 23rd
Street. In their menu they offer sirloin, fillet mignon, fried beef
tender and ropa vieja (shredded beef in sauce), this last a very
traditional dish that is in high demand among tourists.

The select El Palco market, whose main customers are diplomats and
foreigners living in Havana, is also "especially stocked with Brazilian
meat," points out one of the local cashiers.

Some 27 people have been arrested in Brazil, and Federal Police
Commissioner Mauricio Moscardi warned of a corruption network inside the
government that allowed adulterated meat to be legalized. That chain of
infractions involved officials of the Brazilian Democratic Movement
Party, to which President Temer belongs.

The main Brazilian meat producers added chemicals to meats that were
"rotten" or unfit for human consumption. An extensive network of bribe
payments purchased approval from the Ministry of Agriculture.

"They used acids and other chemicals, in some cases carcinogenic, to
disguise the physical characteristics of the rotten product and its
smell," Moscardi explained. They treated the meat with vitamin C to give
it a more "appetizing" color, along with levels of preservatives well
above those allowed by health authorities.

Representatives of both companies have denied allegations by police
authorities, but the alarm has spread in the international market and
the companies' stock prices have tumbled sharply.

"BFR ensures the high quality and safety of its products and guarantees
that there is no risk for its consumers," said one of the largest food
companies in the world with more than 30 brands in its portfolio, Sadia,
Perdigão, Qualy, Paty, Dánica, Bocatti or Confidence.

The Chilean Ministry of Agriculture announced, a few hours ago, that it
would accept no more imports from the Brazilian beef market. Minister
Carlos Furche explained that the measure is temporary "until the
Brazilian authorities know exactly what facilities are being
investigated, and of those facilities which have exported to the world
and Chile," he said.

The Chinese authorities have responded unceremoniously. The Government
banned all such imports and prevented meat already shipped from being
unloaded in its ports. Last year the Asian country imported 1.6 billion
dollars from Brazilian meatpackers.

Europe has slowed shipments from JBS and BRF. This week the European
Commissioner for Health Affairs, Vytenis Andriukaitis, will travel to
Brasilia and the agenda revolves around the food scandal.

Cuban customers who are learning about the news coming from Brazil are
beginning to connect the dots. "The chicken no longer came with the
quality of before and had a lot of ice," complains Luisa Cordoves, a
housewife in Central Havana who says that "right now it's better to buy
the chicken boxes that come from United States, because the product
tastes better. "

She believes that the scandal will not dissuade domestic consumers from
acquiring these products. "People have many needs and there is no
choice: you take it or leave it."

Source: Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba /
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata – Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/doubtful-meat-from-brazil-continues-to-be-sold-in-cuba-14ymedio-zunilda-mata/

'When I'm 64': Beatlemania blooms belatedly in Cuba

'When I'm 64': Beatlemania blooms belatedly in Cuba
Carlos BATISTA
AFP March 22, 2017

More
Havana (AFP) - While their American and European peers twisted and
shouted to The Beatles in the 1960s, in Cuba childhood sweethearts
Gisela and Hector kept their Beatlemania a naughty secret.

Now, still Beatles-crazy after all these years, but with the communist
island's Cold War-era censorship of rock music a thing of the past, they
are making up for lost time.

"We are very happy that Cuba is becoming reconciled to the Beatles,"
says Gisela, 64.

She and Hector, 65, have decorated their home with pictures, posters and
souvenirs dedicated to the British band.

Whenever they can, they join crowds of fellow Cubans in their 60s and
70s, singing and dancing at the Yellow Submarine bar -- El Submarino
Amarillo -- in downtown Havana.

"This is not nostalgia," says the artistic director of the club,
journalist Guillermo Vilar, 65.

"This is about them claiming their right to experience what they could
not experience before because of all the contradictions of the time."

- You Can't Do That -

Fidel Castro's revolutionary regime banned songs in English, the
language of its enemy the United States, for fear such music would spawn
ideological deviance.

Gisela Moreno and Hector Ruiz would listen to The Beatles on US radio
stations they captured on short-wave radios.

Records lent by the occasional returning traveler were copied in state
recording studios, with the complicity of staff, onto low-quality metal
discs.

"You put it on the record players we had back then and you just heard
noise with the music in the background," Ruiz recalls.

"It was terrible, but hey, at least it was The Beatles."

At their high school, skinny-leg trousers, miniskirts and long hair were
also banned.

But times have changed. The Yellow Submarine, opened in 2011, is one of
at least six Beatles tribute bars across the island -- all of them run
by the culture ministry.

One of them, in the eastern city of Holguin, is said to be an initiative
of ruling party leader Miguel Diaz-Canel -- widely touted as the
country's possible next president.

- I Should Have Known Better -

On a bench near the Yellow Submarine sits a bronze statue of late Beatle
John Lennon.

Fidel Castro himself inaugurated the statue in 2000. In footage of the
ceremony, the late leader can be heard bewailing the former censorship
of Beatles songs.

"I greatly regret not having met you sooner," Castro told the statue.

The censorship was not his idea, Castro went on: he delegated cultural
policy to underlings while he was busy leading Cuba through the Cold War.

Fidel Castro's death last November marked the end of an era in Cuba. His
brother Raul, in charge now for more than a decade, has been gradually
opening up the economy and foreign relations.

The bronze Lennon has become an attraction for locals and the growing
number of foreign tourists visiting the island.

The statue's spectacles have been stolen several times and a guard has
been appointed to take care of them, getting them out for passers-by
when they want to take photos.

- From Me To You -

Fans trace the rise of Beatlemania in Cuba to 1990, when Vilar organized
a tribute concert to mark the 10th anniversary of Lennon's murder.

For many Cubans, that marked the belated birth of rock on the island --
for the old generation and the new.

At the Yellow Submarine, gentlemen's bellies bulge under black Beatles
t-shirts and grey ponytails, while the ladies show off their miniskirts
and long boots.

On stage, Cuba's top Beatles tribute singer Eddy Escobar, 46, plays the
band's hits for scores of ageing revelers.

This ponytailed rocker was not yet born when The Beatles lit up the
counter-culture movement before they broke up in 1970.

But he discovered the music, like younger Cubans are doing now.

"Good music will always last as long there is someone who somehow
appreciates it, right?" says Escobar.

"The Beatles are here to stay," he says. "I give the bug to anyone I can."

Source: 'When I'm 64': Beatlemania blooms belatedly in Cuba -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/im-64-beatlemania-blooms-belatedly-cuba-155002022.html

Cuba official - Mich. could be trade partner, investor

Cuba official: Mich. could be trade partner, investor
Charles E. Ramirez, The Detroit News 3:17 p.m. ET March 21, 2017

Detroit — Michigan and Cuba could be great business partners, Cuba's
ambassador to the U.S. said Tuesday.

"I think (like Cuba,) your main asset here is the people," José Ramón
Cabañas Rodríguez said after his keynote address to the Detroit Economic
Club. "We probably should think about how we can compliment each other.
No doubt agriculture is one field, but there are many others."

Cabañas, who is based in Washington, D.C., and has been Cuba's
ambassador to the U.S. since 2015, spoke to a crowd of about 200 people
at the club's luncheon.

"I invite all of you to come to Cuba and see what we have done over the
last few years," he said.

He was visiting Michigan and Detroit to discuss America's embargo on the
communist Caribbean island nation and future investment opportunities
there. The U.S. has maintained a 59-year-old trade embargo on Cuba and
formal ban on Americans engaging in tourism on the island. But the ban
on trade with Cuba softened in 2014, when then-President Barack Obama
announced the U.S. would re-establish diplomatic relations with the
small nation.

Cabañas said the blockade on Cuba continues to have profound
repercussions on the country's economy and called members of the
audience at the economic club luncheon to urge elected officials to lift it.

"The U.S. has been wasting money, many, many millions of dollars in the
last 20 years in order to reach and influence the Cuban people," he
said. "Our suggestion is: Let's stop all of that. Let's use that money
in a productive way, and let's do business with Cuba the same way we do
with everyone else."

Kimberly Hairston, 52, of Southfield said she was excited to hear the
ambassador's speech Tuesday.

"I think it's very encouraging and very promising," said Hairston, who
attended the luncheon with a group of students from the Wayne County
Community College District, where she works in student services. "I hope
relations between Cuba and the U.S can become stronger."

Cabañas speech at the Detroit Economic Club comes a day after he spoke
to the board of directors of the Michigan Farm Bureau.

Kevin Robson, horticulture specialist with the bureau, said Cabañas
spent about 90 minutes talking to board members about normalizing trade
relations between Cuba and the U.S through bilateral agreements and
potential opportunities for Michigan's farmers to export dairy and fruit
to the island Latin American country.

Michigan and Metro Detroit have small populations of people with Cuban
ancestry.

Am estimated 10,000 people of Cuban descent, or about a tenth of one
percent of the state's total population, call Michigan home, according
to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Metro Detroit, those of Cuban ancestry
account for about 3,000 — or .06 percent — of the area's 4.2 million
people, the agency reports.

cramirez@detroitnews.com

Source: Cuba official: Mich. could be trade partner, investor -
http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2017/03/21/cuba-detroit/99459650/

Rare poll finds Cuban citizens favor better U.S. relations

Rare poll finds Cuban citizens favor better U.S. relations
UPDATED: TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2017, 9:28 P.M.
By Emily Swanson and Michael Weissenstein
Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A rare poll of Cuban public opinion has found that most of
the island's citizens approve of normal relations with the United States
and large majorities want more tourists to visit and the expansion of
private business ownership.

In a poll of 840 people taken in Cuba late last year by the independent
research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, 55 percent said
normal relations with the U.S. would be mostly good for the country.

"I'd love for the two peoples to be even closer," Rebecca Tamayo, an
80-year-old retired museum worker, said Monday in Havana. "If there were
better relations, more products would be entering the country. There'd
be more opportunity to buy things."

Among Cubans ages 18-29, approval of closer relations with the U.S. rose
to 70 percent. An overwhelming 8 of 10 respondents said they believed
tourism to Cuba should be expanded.

President Donald Trump has pledged to reverse former President Barack
Obama's 2 1/2-year-old opening with Cuba, which restored full diplomatic
relations and allowed a dramatic expansion of U.S. travel to the island.
Trump has said little about the matter since taking office, but his
administration says it is conducting a full review of Cuba policy with
an eye toward possible changes.

Critics of Obama's policy hope Trump will reinstate regulations limiting
the ability of Americans to travel to the island. U.S. travel to Cuba
has roughly doubled every year since the declaration of detente in
December 2014. Critics of closer relations argue the added revenue has
funded a repressive single-party system without helping ordinary Cubans.

The reality is more complex. New tourism revenue is being captured by
government-run tourism businesses, often controlled by the military. At
the same time, thousands of new private enterprises, primarily
bed-and-breakfasts and restaurants, are allowing many Cubans to forge
livelihoods independent of the state. Meanwhile, a drop in aid from
Cuba's main patron, Venezuela, helped push the country last year into
its first recession since 1993, after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The poll reflects this complex reality, with Cubans expressing pessimism
about the government's management of the economy while supporting better
ties with the U.S. and hoping for increased privatization.

"Tourism is improving the country's economy, but it's still not enough,
because people aren't seeing a better quality of life," Jorge Beltran, a
66-year-old retired accountant said Monday in Havana.

Forty-six percent of Cubans say the island's economic performance is
poor or very poor, and most said the country's economic fortunes haven't
changed significantly over the past three years. Still, Cubans are
nearly unanimous in saying more tourism would be good for the economy,
and nearly 9 in 10 say it would result in more jobs for local workers.

Sixty-five percent of Cubans said there should be more private business
ownership and 56 percent said they wanted to start their own business
over the next five years.

"It's been demonstrated that the market economy is more efficient than a
centralized economy," Beltran said. "People who've started private
businesses, you can see that they're happier, they have more access to a
lot of things. It's a tremendous benefit for them."

The NORC survery was conducted via in-person interviews of adults across
Cuba in October and November of last year. The survey has a margin of
sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

Seventy-six percent said they had to be careful about expressing
themselves freely. Over half of Cubans said they would move away from
the country if given the chance. Of those, 70 percent said they would
head to the United States, where many respondents said they had relatives.

Nearly half of respondents said they received remittances from family or
friends overseas.

Seventy-seven percent had a positive view of the U.S.

UPDATED: MARCH 21, 2017, 9:28 P.M.

Source: Rare poll finds Cuban citizens favor better U.S. relations | |
The Spokesman-Review -
http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/mar/21/rare-poll-finds-cuban-citizens-favor-better-us-rel/

How the Black Market Keeps Cuba’s Private Restaurants in Business

How the Black Market Keeps Cuba's Private Restaurants in Business
The challenge of running a restaurant "a la izquierda"
by Suzanne Cope Mar 21, 2017, 2:02pm EDT

On a recent January evening, tourists and a few Habaneros sat under a
palm frond canopy sipping rum cocktails, listening to a live band
playing Cuban folk songs — and eating notoriously difficult-to-procure
lobster, a special of the day.

California Cafe, a paladar, or newly legal, privately owned restaurant
in a country where the state has controlled almost all businesses for
the past half century, is owned by a couple who met in San Francisco.
Paver Core Broche is Cuban, Shona Baum is American, and they decided to
return to Havana to open a restaurant in February 2015, not long after
the regulations for private businesses started loosening.

"In some ways it was really easy," Baum says about the process of
opening a paladar in Havana. "You can't even open a coffee cart in San
Francisco without a million permits and tons of money, and here… we
bought the space, and applied for a license, and it didn't take that long."

But in Cuba, most businesses can't simply call up a bulk vendor or
wholesaler purveyor to place a produce order, since most means of
production are controlled by the government. The country uses two
currencies, Cuban convertible pesos (CUCs) and Cuban pesos (CUPs), the
former tied to the U.S. dollar and known as the "tourist currency," the
latter, valued at 1/25th of the CUC, used by the government to pay its
oversized labor force. (Paladares and private businesses might charge in
either.) Running a restaurant can be complicated in the best of
situations, but it's especially challenging in a country where most
aspects of daily life are tightly regulated — and where much of the
economy operates a la izquierda, or "on the left."

As California Cafe grew, both Baum (who works the front of the house)
and Broche (who cooks) had to learn to navigate the labyrinth of
sourcing food and supplies in a place where the state-run corner bodega
might have 100 imported fruit cakes on the shelf but no toilet paper.
Baum says the reality in Cuba is that product availability is sporadic.
"When they have mayonnaise, they have three million [jars of]
mayonnaise, and then it's gone and they have three million of something
else," she says.

To find many necessary items — from condiments to serving plates — one
has to travel around the city visiting various markets. That process can
quickly become time-consuming, and Broche and Baum hired a full-time
person to help with sourcing. They also rent a storeroom to stockpile
enough nonperishables to last a few weeks of service, and they plan
their menu around ingredients that are usually available. The result is
a style they call "Californian-Cuban fusion," with vegetable-heavy
dishes like pork and vegetable "California" skewers.

But the inconsistent availability of products is only one aspect of
sourcing that makes operating a paladar a complicated endeavor in
Havana. The other is the persistence of a la izquierda — the Cuban black
market. There are many ingredients and products needed by restaurants
that are either illegal to buy or else often expensive or scarce, such
as lobster or non-processed cheese. And staples like toilet paper,
vinegar, and beer can also suddenly become hard to find, or "esta
perdido," (literally "it's lost"), Baum says. Numerous restaurant owners
note that if they want to stay in business, they have to buy certain
things a la izquierda.

Alexi, a paladar owner near Cuba's second-largest city, Santiago de
Cuba, worked for many years in the state-owned hotel industry before
opening his own open-air restaurant with tented tables right on the
Caribbean. "You must be enterprising to get all of the things you need
for your restaurant," he says. "Today we have something, but tomorrow it
will be quite difficult to get that same thing … and it is illegal to
buy some things. For example, the government has made all kinds of
seafood illegal to buy. So sometimes I have to buy products other ways."

The Cuban black market works in many ways to circumvent the government's
control of goods. One is the common — and complicated — practice of
state-owned-store employees holding back certain goods to sell a la
izquierda, while accepting pay-offs for other goods — procured illegally
by individuals — to be sold in their shop instead. The government has
strict regulations on the sale of almost every food sourced, from
seafood to coffee to tomatoes, setting the harvest goals and prices for
each farmer or fisherman and prohibiting the sale of excess through
private channels. To make extra money, almost any person within the
supply chain might reserve products to be sold at a price he or she
dictates.

Buying products a la izquierda is so integrated into daily Cuban life
that it often does not look much different than most other transactions
to the average non-Cuban — these sales aren't all happening in dark
alleys with secret handshakes. Rather, there is a complex system of
bribery and separate record-keeping that many employees of both state-
and private-run businesses take part in.

Both Alexi and a former military cook, Marcus, who lives in Santiago de
Cuba, attribute this in part to the government prioritizing state-run
restaurants and hotels when they distribute the best-quality food. "If I
have a good paladar, then that means people are going to eat at my
paladar and they are not going to be a good customer for the
government," Marcus says. "That's [the government's] loss, and they
don't want that." Marcus is currently attending a military cooking
school, but hopes to soon work in a tourist hotel and eventually own his
own restaurant, a dream that wouldn't have been possible just a few
years ago.

Paladares were technically legalized in the 1990s, partially in reaction
to a mass poisoning in an illegal restaurant, when a cook accidentally
added rat poison to the food. However, they were highly regulated, and
it was difficult to obtain their required permits until the 2011
economic reforms under Raúl Castro's leadership. These reforms made
opening paladares much easier — and in 2016, the government announced
plans to ease other private ownership laws as well, paving the way for
individuals to open a variety of private businesses.

These changes, along with the revised laws allowing United States
citizens to more easily travel and send money to the island, have helped
the number of paladares swell. After President Barack Obama restored
diplomatic relations with Cuba in mid-2015, U.S. tourism to the country
hit an all-time high, with 615,000 travelers visiting Cuba from the U.S.
in 2016.

However, the support for this quickly growing class of business has not
been enough to sustain them, particularly as competition increases.
There have been reports of food shortages for locals in part due to the
demand of private restaurants (although some Cubans are equally quick to
blame farmer strikes and government disorganization over the emerging
private sector). Leo, one of the owners of the popular Havana paladar
Havana Blue, has noted the number of paladares that have already come
and gone in his quickly changing city. "There are some that open and
then close," he says. "Not because of lack of demand. It's also bad
management. Many people don't have the foggiest idea because they have
never run a restaurant before."

The government, for its part, has made some effort to support paladares,
at least in gesture. It opened a version of a wholesale market, but
multiple paladar owners question its usefulness. The prices aren't any
cheaper than a retail market, and availability is still often
unpredictable. "People pull up and the beer is gone in two minutes,"
Baum says.

Baum also says that the national bank reached out to small business
owners in the last two years to offer loans. While commonplace in the
United States, this kind of credit is mostly unheard of in Cuba. Yet
when Baum asked about interest rates, the bank associate was vague.
"'Don't worry, we'll give you a good rate!'" was the answer.

Ministry of Agriculture journalist Jose Ignacio Fleitas Adan says the
government is working to do better. "There's an intention, and also
projects and plans, to increase food production and availability," he
says, echoing the official government response. "Es complicado," he adds
with a laugh.

And that seems to be the one truism about food sourcing in Cuba,
particularly when one is running a business. Baum mentions two
restaurants nearby that were shut down recently. "They just
disappeared," she says. "Basically, they were doing illegal things. So
there's a lot of fear around what's going to happen next." She questions
whether more crackdowns are coming for those who buy goods a la izquierda.

What were those shuttered restaurant doing that was more illegal than
what anyone else is doing? Baum pursed her lips. This answer, too, was
complicado. "I spoke with someone who ate there, and they had dried
cranberries on their salad. Which is great, but clearly dried
cranberries aren't available here." She pauses. "What you realize over
time is that there are people who are really well connected, so it's
hard for the regular people like us, and all the other people in our boat."

Still, the opportunities for business owners are lucrative. A Cuban
working in the growing service industry — as a taxi driver or a
restaurant host — can earn exponentially more than the average state
wage of around 20 to 40 CUCs per month. Many educated young Cubans are
thus leaving professions like teaching or medicine to work in the
emerging private sector. When I walked into a new Mediterranean-themed
paladar with Habanero food writer Sisi Colomina, the first question she
asked the host was, "What did you do before?" The answer: psychology.

This wage disparity also makes it easy to understand why so many people
risk buying and selling a la izquierda, or starting their own businesses
in an uncertain market, to supplement their meager income. What
successful paladares demonstrate is that capitalism can work in a
country where almost all aspects of (legal) businesses have being
tightly controlled by the state for more than 50 years.

Yet while many come to the restaurant business for monetary reasons, for
others, opening a paladar is a chance to follow their passion. "It was
always my dream — illegal or legal," Alexi says. "Cooking is an art." He
also called paladars the most popular private businesses in the country
by almost any metric: They're "the most important window for showing the
possibilities to other Cubans."

And while the challenges of food sourcing can make running a private
business in a communist state complicated, Baum does appear to love her
work. We finished our cocktail as she sang along to the band and then
did a sweep of the patio to help her servers deliver food and greet
customers she had met earlier in the week. When she sat back down, she
admitted that the business had a rocky start. But now, she says, she is
"slowly falling in love with Cuba."

Suzanne Cope is the author of Small Batch and an upcoming book on food
and revolution.
Editor: Erin DeJesus

Source: How the Black Market Keeps Cuba's Private Restaurants in
Business - Eater -
http://www.eater.com/2017/3/21/14946146/cuba-paladar-private-restaurant-black-market

Foot placed on Cuba oil accelerator

Foot placed on Cuba oil accelerator
Melbana Energy Ltd. said if potential pans out, onshore Cuba could be
definitive for the company.
By Daniel J. Graeber | March 22, 2017 at 6:26 AM

March 22 (UPI) -- A basin in Cuba that has a reserve potential of 647
million barrels is scheduled for an accelerated exploration program, an
Australian energy company said.

Melbana Energy Ltd. is targeting the Block 9 prospect onshore along the
Varadero oil field in Cuba. The company described its target as one of
the "most exciting" prospects in the world.

Peter Stickland, the company's CEO, said in a statement that some of the
areas in its Cuban portfolio could be definitive for Melbana if their
potential is realized fully.

"We are looking forward to commencing the detailed planning phase to
support our ambition of a drilling campaign with a target of two wells
in the first half of 2018," he said.

Melbana estimated last year that Block 9 holds 637 million barrels of
prospective recoverable reserves and 19 drilling prospects there were
described by the company as high impact and low risk. Its highest ranked
drilling opportunity is the Alameda-1 well, with an estimated 400
million barrels of recoverable oil on the high side of Melbana's estimates.

Melbana is one of the few Western oil companies, and the only one listed
on the Australian exchange, with a footprint in Cuba.

The national oil company of Cuba, CUPET, extended its contract last year
for early exploration efforts in Block 9 by eight months to November
2017. Melbana estimates Cuban programs have a competitive operating cost
of around $7 per barrel of oil.

In its second-half report, the company said adequacy of funding was its
main focus. More funding could come from capital injections, share
placements or farm-ins to some of its prospects.

Source: Foot placed on Cuba oil accelerator - UPI.com -
http://www.upi.com/Foot-placed-on-Cuba-oil-accelerator/2771490173980/

Activist sentenced to three years in jail after criticising Fidel Castro - Amnesty International

Cuba: Activist sentenced to three years in jail after criticising Fidel
Castro
21 March 2017, 16:58 UTC

A three year sentence against the leader of a Christian pro-democracy
movement after he criticized Fidel Castro is a stark illustration of
ongoing restrictions to the right to free expression in Cuba, said
Amnesty International.

Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción, leader of the Christian Liberation
Movement (Movimiento Cristiano Liberación, MCL) was sentenced on Monday
20 March, his wife told Amnesty International.

He was charged with attacking an official of the state (atentado) after
he publicly criticized former Cuban leader Fidel Castro a few days after
his death. During an interview with Madrid-based radio station esRadio,
aired two days before his arrest, Cardet described the mourning in Cuba
following the death of Fidel Castro as imposed, and said: "Castro was a
very controversial man, very much hated and rejected by our people."
His lawyer has ten days to file an appeal.

"For decades, the Cuban authorities have harassed and intimidated
members of the Christian Liberation Movement in a attempt to silence any
dissenting ideas," said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at
Amnesty International.

"Despite some recent openness, we see how the Cuban authorities continue
to control free expression. It is beyond belief that people are still
routinely arrested for criticizing a politician or for writing an
opinion on a wall – as was the case of graffiti artist Danilo 'El Sexto'
Maldonado. Sadly, Cuban courts continue to fail to provide a rigorous
check and balance to executive powers."

Despite some recent openness, we see how the Cuban authorities continue
to control free expression. It is beyond belief that people are still
routinely arrested for criticizing a politician or for writing an
opinion on a wall.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International
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"There is no doubt that Dr Cardet is a prisoner of conscience, put
behind bars for speaking his mind. He must not be made to spend a second
longer in jail."

Provisions of the Cuban Criminal Code, such as contempt of a public
official (desacato), resistance to public officials carrying out their
duties (resistencia) and public disorder (desórdenes públicos) are
frequently used to stifle free speech, assembly and association in Cuba.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a
Cuban-based human rights NGO not recognized by the state, documented a
monthly average of 827 politically motivated detentions in 2016.

The Christian Liberation Movement (Movimento Cristiano Liberación, MCL)
is a prominent actor in the pro-democracy movement in Cuba. According to
its website, it is a movement for peaceful and democratic change and
respect for human dignity. It was founded in 1988 by Oswaldo Payá
Sardiñas, who became a visible figure of the Cuban political opposition,
and four other activists.

Amnesty International has documented harassment and intimidation of
members of the MCL for decades. In 1991, after Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas
presented a petition calling for a national referendum relating to
constitutional reform, he had his home destroyed by over 200 people,
said to be members of a Rapid Response Brigade. After Oswaldo Payá
announced his intention to put himself forward as a candidate for deputy
to the National Assembly for the municipality of Cerro, Havana, members
of his organization were reportedly subjected to frequent questioning
and short-term detention.

Source: Cuba: Activist sentenced to three years in jail after
criticising Fidel Castro | Amnesty International -
https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/03/cuba-activist-sentenced-to-three-years-in-jail-after-criticising-fidel-castro/

How Congress Can Send a Strong Message to Cuban Diplomats in DC

How Congress Can Send a Strong Message to Cuban Diplomats in DC
Jackson Ventrella / Ana Quintana / @Ana_R_Quintana / March 20, 2017

COMMENTARY BY
Jackson Ventrella
Jackson Ventrella is a member of the Young Leader's Program at The
Heritage Foundation.
Ana Quintana
@Ana_R_Quintana
Ana Quintana is a policy analyst for Latin America and the Western
Hemisphere in The Heritage Foundation's Allison Center for Foreign
Policy Studies.

Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J.,
have reintroduced a bill to rename the street outside the Cuban Embassy
in Washington, D.C., after Oswaldo Payá.

This bill conveys a sense of solidarity with the Cuban people whose
rights have long been abused by their corrupt and evil government.

Human rights violations continue in Cuba, despite what proponents of
President Barack Obama's Cuba policy believe. It has been two years
since the Obama administration attempted to normalize relations with the
Cuban government.

But what has actually changed?

Attempting to normalize relations has only bought tourists a cozy island
getaway and some commodities like cigars and rum to bring back with
them. It has given the Cuban people nothing.

Since 1961, the Cuban government has oppressed and imprisoned dissidents
simply for disagreeing with the regime. Today, this is still the case.
There is no freedom or prosperity in a place like this.

More importantly, there are no protections for even the most basic of
human rights. Any dissent in Cuba is met with imprisonment, violence,
and even death.

Payá was one of those people.

Payá, the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, established
himself as one of the most well-known dissidents in Cuba. Tragically,
his life was cut short before he could see his dream of a freer and
democratic Cuba realized.

In 2012, Payá died in a car accident when his car was run off the road.
His incredible story includes intentionally staying on the island, even
after having the opportunity to leave in 1980 on the Mariel boatlift.

The independent Human Rights Foundation has found the Cuban government
culpable for his death.

Payá committed his life to the promotion of human rights and democracy
in Cuba, and in making that decision, he also made a commitment to stay
in Cuba. Although he will never see the complete fruits of his labor,
the important groundwork that he laid will enable future generations to
secure and protect the human rights of all Cubans.

His daughter, Rosa María Payá, continues his activism efforts in Cuba.
She was recently set to present a human rights award to Luis Almagro,
the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, but the
Cuban government denied entry to him and former heads of state.

The Castro regime simply could not allow an awards ceremony that would
champion and celebrate human rights and democracy to take place.

The Cruz, Rubio, and Menendez bill will serve as a reminder, not only of
Oswaldo Payá's life, but of the purpose of his life and all the things
for which he fought. If the bill passes, Cuban diplomats will be given a
daily reminder of their criminality.

Those who promote human rights and democracy may be persecuted in
Havana, but they are celebrated in the United States. The Castro regime
has a long and consistent history of human rights violations, and even
though other nations, like Venezuela, may imitate it, it will not last.

Payá gave his life to lay a firm and resolute foundation for change. The
base he created will continue to thrive and inspire others to complete
his work.

Source: How Congress Can Send a Strong Message to Cuba -
http://dailysignal.com/2017/03/20/how-congress-can-send-a-strong-message-to-cuban-diplomats-in-dc/

Congratulations To Cuban Socialists - 95% Of Cubans Want Economic Growth, 13% Think They Have It

Congratulations To Cuban Socialists - 95% Of Cubans Want Economic
Growth, 13% Think They Have It
Tim Worstall , CONTRIBUTOR
I have opinions about economics, finance and public policy.

Other than the very few remaining deluded lefties out there there's no
one who thinks that the Cuban government has done a good job these past
6 decades so this finding shouldn't be all that much of a surprise. Said
government, that Castroite revolution, managing to fail in the basic
mission of all governments everywhere, to produce whatever it is that
the population would actually like. It's also not that much of a
surprise what the Cubans themselves would like, a bit of economic
growth. For one thing we've noted about humans over the millennia is
that they rather like full bellies, sound roofs over their head and a
sense that things will be even better for their children. Again, not
things known to be in great supply these past 6 decades in Cuba.

"...a rare survey of 840 Cubans conducted in the country late last year
by an independent research group, asking for opinions on topics from
free speech to diplomatic ties to crime."

Not what the government says people should want, not what the government
says the people are going to get, but what do the people actually want?
You know, the sort of things we get to impress upon our rulers at
election time in a free country. And what is it that Cubans would like?

"What emerges most clearly from those interviewed is a desire to enjoy a
more certain, and robust, economic future."

We might even say that they'd like to have an economy and the hell with
the perils of capitalist exploitation in fact:

"And yet Cubans seemed to have little faith in their government's
capacity to deliver on those goals. Only three in 10 felt the economy
would improve in the next three years. And just 13 percent said the
current economy was good or excellent."

Or as the headline puts it, 95% of Cubans want economic growth, only 13%
think they're getting it and only 30% think they will get it. This is
not a great vote of confidence in Raul now, is it?

The fuller survey results are here.

"Many Cubans feel stuck in the current economic climate. Overall, just
13 percent of Cubans describe the condition of the Cuban economy today
as good or excellent, 35 percent say it is fair, and 46 percent say it's
poor or very poor."

Few Cubans think the economy is going to improve anytime soon. Three in
10 say the condition of the economy is going to get better over the next
three years, 8 percent say it is going to get worse, and 47 percent say
the economy will stay about the same.

Yes, yes, we all know, the Cubans are different. They've not got that
same greed for personal comfort as the rest of us and what about that
free health care!

The correct answer to which is that all of Europe now has free health
care for those who need it and none of us had to shoot the bourgeoisie
(even though several places did that's not where we've got the health
care from) nor ship hundreds of thousands on tire tubing through shark
infested oceans to get it. So perhaps there's something wrong with the
justification of the poverty, mass emigration and shootings by that
Cuban health care. Just a possibility, eh?

As to why what was a relatively rich part of the world in the 1950s is
now one of the poorest places in the Western Hemisphere that's
easy--truly foul economic policy. Cuba tried to operate with a planned
and priceless economy. This does not work. The only economics we have
available to us which does actually work--work in the sense of providing
full bellies, roofs and the possibility of a better tomorrow for the
children--is a market economy using prices to guide resource
allocations. There are different flavours of this available to us, most
assuredly, from Hong Kong's laissez faire through to Swedish social
democracy but it's worth noting that Sweden is actually more free market
than the US or UK.

And yes, there is a lesson here for the rest of us. We can indeed have
interesting discussions about what sort of free marketry we wish to be
but we're not going to have a functional economy if we're not some
version of that market economy.

Source: Congratulations To Cuban Socialists - 95% Of Cubans Want
Economic Growth, 13% Think They Have It -
https://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2017/03/22/congratulations-to-cuban-socialists-95-of-cubans-want-economic-growth-13-think-they-have-it/#15a7d0f67c58

Cuban dissident leader to Trump - ‘Treat Cuba like a dictatorship’

Cuban dissident leader to Trump: 'Treat Cuba like a dictatorship'
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

Frustrated by what they see as "indolence" from the previous
administration, some Cuban government opponents are urging President
Donald Trump to backtrack current Cuba policy and speak out about
increased government repression on the island.

Antonio G. Rodiles and his partner Ailer González — both members of the
Forum for Rights and Freedoms — are calling on the new administration to
reset U.S.-Cuba relations and "recognize that they are dealing with a
dictatorship."

"The main thing would be for those of us who are legitimate actors on
the Cuban scene — inside and outside the island — to be part of the
policy design and part of that political process toward the island"
unlike what former President Barack Obama did, Rodiles said during a
recent meeting with el Nuevo Herald.

The couple also denounced an increase in repression since Obama
announced his policy of engagement and the restoration of diplomatic
ties with Cuba in December 2014. The situation, they said, has become
worse since the death of former leader Cuban Fidel Castro in November
with a "millimetric monitoring" of opponents' actions and harassment of
their families.

"It is important for the new administration to start taking action on
the issue and make some statement, because silence is being very well
used by the regime to try to crush the opposition," Rodiles said.

The Cuban government opponent criticized the "indolence" of the Obama
administration toward the human rights situation on the island.

"We have direct experience, including talking to President Obama, and
the direct experience was that there was a lot of indolence in what
happened with Cuba ... There was a moment when we understood that the
administration was not an ally [in the struggle for] for democratic
changes in Cuba, that they had a vision that Cuba was going to change in
the long term and that we would have to accept neo-Castroism," he said.

Although he was careful not to mention what measures taken by the
previous administration should be eliminated — such as sending
remittances or authorizing U.S. airline travel to the island, which are
popular in Cuba and within a large portion of the Cuban American
community — Rodiles said he supports returning to the previous longtime
policy of applying economic pressure against the Raúl Castro government,
a practice Obama has referred to as a "failed policy."

"If the regime is taking advantage of some of these measures, I'd cut
that economic income," Rodiles said. "Everything that is giving benefits
to the regime and not to the people must be reversed."

The frustration expressed by the activist couple has become increasingly
evident. A video published by the Forum for Rights and Liberties and in
which González exclaims, "Obama, you are finally leaving!" unleashed a
whirlwind of controversy within social media networks.

According to Rodiles, Obama asked dissidents and activists during a
meeting in Havana on March 22, 2016, to have patience with his policy of
rapprochement.

"I told him that you can't be patient when they are kicking citizens and
women with impunity," Rodiles said. The couple was among several
activists arrested during a widely reported act of repudiation against
dissidents on the same Sunday that Obama arrived in Havana for an
historic visit.

Rodiles and González dismissed criticism by those who question their
support for President Trump and claim their agenda is dictated by groups
within the Cuban exile community. They said their interest is in
readdressing Cuba issues not taking a position on U.S. domestic issues.

"Those same people who say that we are being radical and
confrontational, are extremely unsupportive. They do not report any
violation of human rights. These are hypocritical positions," González said.

As for other strategies being carried out by other opposition groups on
the island in an effort to incite change, the couple acknowledged that
there are many different ideologies and approaches, which they said was
a healthy element in the struggle for democracy.

"The most important thing," Rodiles said, "is that the regime has to
understand that 60 years is more than enough, and that it's over."

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: Cuban dissident Antonio Rodiles calls on Trump to get tough on
Cuba | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article139927853.html

A Cuban film about gay repression pulled from festival. Was it censorship?

A Cuban film about gay repression pulled from festival. Was it censorship?
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

Cuban filmmaker Carlos Lechuga has pulled an acclaimed film, based on
repression against gay writers in the early years of the Revolution,
from an upcoming presentation in New York after festival organizers
banned it from official competition and instead categorized the
screening as a special presentation.

"Santa and Andrés," which was recently shown at the Miami Film Festival,
will no longer be screened at the Havana Film Festival New York next
week, following days of social media controversy in which filmmakers
accused festival organizers of censorship and organizers declared that
the film was no longer worthy of competition due to "political gossip"
surrounding the film.

"After being confirmed in more than 30 film events worldwide, the
decision whether or not to screen our film in a festival that does not
consider us worthy of joining the list of select titles in its main
competition slate is totally ours to make," Lechuga said in a joint
statement, according to a report by Variety.

When the decision to exclude "Santa and Andrés" from competition was
made, Lechuga made his complaints public via social media, denouncing
the awards ban as censorship and blaming the decision on pressure by the
Cuban government.

"Under nebulous circumstances I have learned that Cuban authorities have
tried to get my film out of the festival," Lechuga posted in Spanish on
his Facebook page. "At this moment the film has been removed from
official competition, again being excluded because of its political tone."

The film has made the rounds in the international circuit of film
festivals. Recently, it was shown at the Miami Film Festival and its
leading Cuban actors, Lola Amores and Eduardo Martínez, were honored
with awards for best performance, an accomplishment that has not been
publicized by official press on the island.

The film was already censored in Cuba and was not included in the
Festival of New Latin American Cinema last December, despite the fact
that its script was awarded in the competition run by the same festival
two years ago.

Carole Rosenberg, executive director of the Havana Film Festival New
York, told el Nuevo Herald recently that the removal of the film from
official competition was not due to pressure from Havana.

"It has nothing to do with that," said Rosenberg, who explained that she
decided to withdraw it "due to the political tones of what has been
posted on the internet," without giving more details about the
problematic posts.

"I do not know how to explain it to you, but our mission is to build
bridges and we have always stayed away from the politics of either
country. We do not get into political gossip, it's not how we operate.
And all of the sudden this erupted. I simply felt that I did not want to
be part of this," she said in a telephone interview.

"It would be inappropriate to have it in the competition," Rosenberg
added, "because it really does not fit the mission of our organization."

The Havana Festival began in 2000 as an initiative of the American
Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba, a nonprofit organization that
supports the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba, described by festival organizers
as "an autonomous cultural and artistic nongovernmental institution and
nonprofit organization in Havana, founded in 1995."

American Friends points out that it has "built cultural bridges between
the U.S. and Cuba" and offers "unique cultural travel programs to the
island that exposes American travelers to Cuban cultural riches while
generating significant personal connections."

The Havana Film Festival New York — to be held in that city from March
30 to April 7 — is sponsored by the New York Film Academy, various media
and travel agencies, as well as public funds from the state and the city
of New York. The festival also collaborates with the International
Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana "to present outstanding
and emerging filmmakers to its audience."

Film critic Alejandro Ríos said the elimination of the film from
competition for political reasons is an act of unprecedented censorship.

"By not including it in the competition, the organizers are becoming
part of the Cuban censors. It is incredible that the arm of Havana
reaches so far and that the cultural bridge serves to discredit the work
of a director," said Ríos, who also is part of the press team at Miami
Dade College, which sponsors the Miami Film Festival. Last year, Lechuga
was a judge for entries in that festival.

Cuban intellectuals and critics also denounced the censorship of "Santa
and Andrés" on the island. The film is set in the 1980s but is based on
the lives of several homosexual writers such as Reinaldo Arenas, René
Ariza and Delfín Prats — the latter still lives in Cuba — and whose
dissident positions during the 1960s and 1970s cost them ostracism,
exile, internment in agricultural labor camps known by the Spanish
acronym UMAP, or even prison terms.

"Almost 50 years following those events, 'Santa and Andrés' proposes a
kind of rehabilitation, on full screen, for all those, like Delfin, who
paid with silence and prison terms the price for what they were allowed
to express artistically," wrote Cuban critic and essayist Norge Rodríguez.

"That the writer portrayed in the film is also homosexual, puts another
stone against his name in a country that has not yet properly
reorganized its memories of repression against gays and lesbians," he added.

The Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) — which
controls the screening of films throughout the island — has a long
history of censorship, from the documentary "PM" (1961) to "Alicia en el
pueblo de Maravillas" (1991). More recently, the award-winning film
"Melaza," also by Lechuga, languished for a year without being screened
in Cuba.

Roberto Smith, the current director of the ICAIC, justified the
censorship of "Santa and Andrés" because "it presents an image of the
Revolution that reduces it to an expression of intolerance and violence
against culture, makes irresponsible use of our patriotic symbols and
unacceptable references to comrade Fidel [Castro]," he wrote in a public
letter.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: A Cuban film about gay repression pulled from festival. Was it
censorship? | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article139831628.html

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cuba: Afrodescendientes

We've Been Investigating Ivan Garcia for Five Years

"We've Been Investigating Ivan Garcia for Five Years" / Iván García

Iván García Quintero, Havana, 19 March 2017 — When the summons arrived
for an interview with a police official, the girl's puzzled family
thought it was a mistake.

Let's call them Kenia, Pedro, and Camila. They are neighbors of mine and
prefer to remain anonymous.

Kenia was summoned to a police station on Finlay street, in the
Sevillano District, near the State Security barracks known as Villa Marista.

"When I arrived, the man started harassing and threatening me, saying
that I hung around with foreigners. Then he wanted to get information
about Ivan García, 'a known counterrevolutionary that we've been
investigating for five years.' He wanted to know details about his
private life, about where he got the money to repair his house. He also
asked my opinion about his work as an independent journalist. At one
point he described him as a 'terrorist' and said that both he and his
mother were 'conspirators.'

"I was in a state of shock. I told him that he is a friend of mine and
my family, and that if what he said is true, why didn't he arrest him.
The officer who interviewed me— young, hostile, and with a military
haircut — replied that for now they had no evidence, but they were
contacting people like me to collaborate with them and give them more
information. I refused to be an informant," says Kenya.

They were more direct with Pedro. "They accused me of giving
confidential information to Ivan Garcia. I told them that I had been
retired for four years. They threatened to open a file on me for
collaborating on some of the news stories written by Ivan. At the end of
the meeting, they warned me to be careful not to say anything to Ivan,
because 'he might get off scot-free, but you, Pedro, old as you are, you
could die in jail.'"

Without providing any evidence, they issued Camila a warning for
harassing tourists and prostitution. "I didn't sign it. But they told me
that if I keep associating with Ivan I will be prosecuted for
prostitution. I was accused of pimping and, together with Ivan, of
controlling several prostitutes who, in return for money, offered
information about their work. All that is a scandalous lie. Out of fear,
I promised to delete Ivan's phone from my contact list. "

All three were warned that they would soon be summoned again. I told
them that when they were, to let me know so I could go with them. If you
want to know about me, cite me; it is despicable to intimidate innocent
people.

In March 1991, four years before I began writing as an independent
journalist at Cuba Press, I was detained for two weeks in a cell at
Villa Marista, the headquarters of the State Security Department. They
accused me of "enemy propaganda." I was never tried, but beginning in
1991, for whatever reason, I was detained.

Then there was a period of less harassment until October 22, 2008, when
at the intersection of Prado and Teniente Rey, a Colombian colleague
handed me some books sent by Ernesto McCausland, a prestigious Colombian
journalist, writer, and filmmaker (deceased in 2012). The Colombian and
I were arrested by the police and placed in a patrol car. He was
released immediately, but they took me to the station at Zanja and
Lealtad and kept me in solitary confinement for 11 hours. I recounted
this in State of Siege.

Two years later, August 2010, brought the first harassment by Military
Counterintelligence. I was then writing for El Mundo.es/América, which
published three denunciations, the first titled Citación oficial. Three
years later, I would again be harassed by the secret police. On February
18, 2013, Diario Las Américas published, on its front page, "Las
Américas Journalist harassed by the Cuban government." Continuing
evidence of this remains posted on the blogsite Desde La Habana.

State Security knows where to find me. They have my phone number and the
address where I live. I wait for them.

Translated by Tomás A.

Source: "We've Been Investigating Ivan Garcia for Five Years" / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/weve-been-investigating-ivan-garcia-for-five-years-ivn-garca/

To Live As Third Class Citizens

Cuba: To Live As Third Class Citizens / Iván García

Iván García, 17 March 2017 — On a wooden shelf are displayed two bottles
of liquid detergent, a dozen packs of Populares cigarettes, a packet of
coffee, and, on a hastily-drawn poster, a quotation from the deceased
Fidel Castro.

Past 10:30 am, the hot bodega [in this case a store where rationed items
are sold] is like a steam oven. Luisa, the saleswoman, seated on a
plastic chair, tries to start up a rusty residential fan. In the
background can be heard the baritone voice of an announcer narrating a
soap opera scene.

In the bodega's storeroom, stacked in random heaps, are 10 or 12 bags of
rice, a half-empty container of vegetable oil, and several bags of
powdered milk that the State provides exclusively for children younger
than 7 years of age and for individuals who possess medical
documentation of having cancer or some other grave illness.

Sitting on the stoop at the store's entrance, two dirty guys knock back
mouthfuls of rum from a small jug while a stray dog, old and ragged,
urinates on the door. The monotony of the surreal panorama is broken
when the saleswoman hurls a piece of hose at the dog to frighten it away.

After a while, customers begin arriving, nylon bags dangling from their
forearms and ration books in their hands.

To all who were born in Cuba, the regime sells 7 pounds of rice, 20
ounces of black beans, a pouch of coffee blended with peas, a half-pound
of vegetable oil, and 1 pound of chicken per month–and on a daily basis
one bread roll, almost always poorly made.

This subsidized market basket, if consumed in small portions at lunch or
dinner, will probably last 10 or 12 days. After that, for the remainder
of the month, people are on their own. Housewives and mothers who, after
getting home from work, must turn on the stove should be given prizes
for creativity.

To feed a family requires 90 percent of the household income. Those who
make a low salary (which is the majority of the population) have no
choice but to purchase average to low-quality merchandise offered by the
State. Those who receive remittances from family or friends abroad in
hard currency can purchase higher-quality products.

The ration book, which was implemented in March 1962, is the reason that
thousands of Cubans have not died of hunger. Although what they eat
remains a mystery.

Luisa the saleswoman says that "for four months now, the rice we get at
the bodega is dreadful. Nobody can eat it. Not even the best cook could
make it better. It sticks, forming a sludge, and it tastes like hell.
And don't even mention the beans. They've been taken from the state
reserves, where they've been stored for ages. They have a terrible
smell. And you could try cooking them for four or five hours and they
still wouldn't soften. This is rice and beans that pigs would not eat."

But Diego and María, a couple of pensioners who between the two of them
take in the equivalent of 25 dollars a month, cannot afford the luxury
of discarding the subsidized rice.

"I mix it with the rice that's sold at 4 Cuban pesos per pound; it's
pretty good, and this way we can eat it. If you live in Cuba you can't
be picky. You have to eat what they give you, or what you can
find," María emphasizes.

If you go around inside any state-run cafeteria, you will note that
hygienic standards are nonexistent: stacks of cold-cut sandwiches,
fritters or portions of fried fish on aluminum trays surrounded by a
chorus of flies.

The elderly, those great losers in Raúl Castro's timid economic reforms,
tend to eat foods of low nutritional value and worse preparation, just
to lessen their hunger.

There is a chain of state-run dining halls on the Island that serve
lunch and dinner to more than a half-million people who are in extreme
poverty.

One of these facilities can be found in the old bar Diana, located on
the busy and dirty Calzada Diez de Octubre street. The rations cost 1
Cuban peso. According to a Social Security roster provided to the
administrator, about 100 Havana residents–almost all low-income elderly
people–are served there daily.

At two steel tables covered with cheap cloths, three women and four men,
holding their old metal bowls, await the day's rations. "The food isn't
worth mentioning. A bit of rice, often hard, watery beans, and a
croquette or a boiled egg. Sometimes they give you a little piece of
chicken," says Eusebio, a retired railway engineer who lives by himself.

A dozen people interviewed complain more about their bad luck, about
having no money and being dirt-poor, than about the bad cooking. "Yes,
it's bad, but at least in these dining rooms we can count on getting
lunch and dinner," notes Gladys, a single mother of four daughters who
receives Social Security.

A staff member admits that "it's very difficult to cook well without
seasonings and condiments. Nor do we get vegetables and fruits. On top
of that, the administrator and the cooks make off with the oil and the
chicken when we get them."

In Cuba, what is bad, unpleasant and incorrect goes beyond food
preparation. You can find it in the dirty stands that hold vegetables
and fruits, in the sale of unwrapped goods, or the adulteration of
standards for making sausages and weighing them appropriately at the
point of sale.

"It shows a lack of respect towards the population. Anything that you
buy in Cuban pesos is of horrible quality. It's the same for clothing,
hardware items or household items. In general, what is sold to the
people is shit. Look at these bags of watery yogurt," Mildred points out
while standing in line at a state store to buy whipped yogurt at 15
Cuban pesos per bag.

Even when purchases are made with convertible pesos*, it is hard in Cuba
to buy items of assured quality.

But Cubans, who must eat, dress and enjoy their leisure time by paying
for it with the national currency– the Cuban peso–must make do with
devalued merchandise. They are third-class citizens in their own country.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

*Translator's note: Cuba has two currencies: Cuban pesos, worth about 4
cents US, and Cuban Convertible pesos, each worth 25 Cuban pesos, or
about one dollar US. It has been a longstanding, but as yet unfulfilled,
promise of the government to move to a single currency.

Source: Cuba: To Live As Third Class Citizens / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-to-live-as-third-class-citizens-ivn-garca/