Saturday, November 28, 2015

Alarm Bells on the Route of the Illegal Market

Alarm Bells on the Route of the Illegal Market / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma
Posted on November 28, 2015

14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 27 November 2015 – Children's clothes
and sneakers were a part of the goods being called out by an illegal
vendor this Thursday on Galiano Street in Havana. Although it is just
four days until the migratory restrictions on Cubans announced by
Ecuador take effect, alarm has already spread among merchants and "mules."

The news of the new visa requirement for Cubans, starting on December 1,
has fallen like a bucket of cold water, and not just among those who
were planning to leave with Quito being the first step to their final
destination: the United States. The bad news also affects a wide network
in importing, distribution and sale of illegal goods that range from
cleaning supplies to sophisticated appliances.

This Friday, when there are still no tangible effects of the change, the
vendors already anticipate a drastic fall in their merchandise and
customers fear the loss of variety in clothing and footwear now
available on the illegal market. On the street, many speculate that the
probability that prices will rise in the coming days and will trigger
sales, especially so close to Christmas.

The mules who arrive in Havana on the Taca flight that landed shortly
after five in the afternoon on Thursday felt fortunate. Coming from
Quito, after a stop in San Salvador, the Cubans felt like shipwreck
survivors and were received with relief by their families outside the

The luggage belt was full of the so-called bolas – suitcases full of
clothes, shoes and home appliances, wrapped in nylon in the airport of
origin. The customs dispatch the bolas first and the passengers with
suitcases have to wait behind the priority of the obvious freight
traffic. Despite strict legislation approved in September 2014 on
non-commercial imports, a whole network of corruption guarantees that
the merchandise passes through the controls without major incidents.

A young man of 32, who asked to remain anonymous, was one of the
fortunate ones who ended his trip to Ecuador without legal holdups. "We
arrived just in time," he told 14ymedio on his arrival at Terminal 3 at
Havana's José Martí International Airport, where he heard about the
announcement of the new restrictions on Cuban nationals entering
Ecuador. "There was a rumor there that they were going to close the door
soon, but we never imagined it would be so soon," he added.

The boy's luggage contained everything from Christmas wreaths to a
carpenter's saw. "I should have risked bringing more stuff, because now
I don't know when I'll be able to travel," he lamented while his cousin
helped him to push two carts full of bolas and boxes between which a
flat screen TV also peeked out.

From now on Ecuador will apply the same restrictions as Panama, Mexico
and the other nearby nations, which already require Cubans to have a
visa to enter the country. Instead, holders of Spanish passports or
Cubans with five-year visas to the United States will be able to travel
freely, as before, to all those countries, including Ecuador. For
informal traders, this path was a safe route despite the high ticket
prices, which in the high season can exceed $1,000 US.

The buyers have also benefited from the use of this Ecuadorian trade
route. The high prices of products in state sores push many families to
buy their clothes and shoes in the illegal market, following an
unwritten maxim often shared on this island: priority to individuals,
rather than the State.

A pair of sneakers, which in the hard currency stores cost around 45
convertible pesos (roughly $45 US), can but got for half the price and
of better quality. "You see these Adidas? You can't find them here,"
says Victor Manuel, a high school student who says he lives for clothes.
"That's what matters most to me," he says.

The official press published a note this Friday on the new immigration
rules for Cubans going to Ecuador. In the same issue, an article
criticized the preference for foreign products among Cuban children and
youth. The main reproach is directed directly to backpacks and
accessories with the faces of Barbie dolls which are some of the
products the mules import from Ecuador.

Despite the fears, some traders seem confident that the situation will
be resolved. "We'll find another way, we always have done," assured the
young man who arrived on the Taca flight. The bolas that he brought on
his last trip from Ecuador barely fit in the family car that came to
pick him up at the airport.

Source: Alarm Bells on the Route of the Illegal Market / 14ymedio,
Orlando Palma | Translating Cuba -

Cubans Propose Paying for Air Transport Out of Costa Rica

Cubans Propose Paying for Air Transport Out of Costa Rica / 14ymedio
Posted on November 28, 2015

14ymedio, Havana, 27 November 2015 — A group of Cuban migrants stranded
in the Costa Rican city of La Cruz on the border with Nicaragua, have
sent a letter to the country's government in San Jose, and to other
countries involved in finding a solution to the crisis, asking them to
analyze the option of a "humanitarian corridor" by air, as revealed
Friday in the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa.

Nearly 4,000 Cubans are in the north of Costa Rica where, as of November
14, Nicaragua has blocked their passage to continue on their way to the
United States. The signatories of the document, some 200 people staying
at the de La Cruz Night School assure that most of them have enough
money to meet the cost of the flight.

"Today in La Cruz, Guanacaste province, there are a significant number
of Cuban immigrants who are able to afford to travel without occasioning
any government expenditures," they say. They explain they sold their
homes and belongings before the trip and they have the support of family
and friends abroad.

This letter is in addition to other statements shared through the
Facebook page, "Let the Cubans pass." In a post published this Thursday
from Peñas Blancas, the migrants addressed the Nicaraguan people. "The
decision of President Daniel Ortego not only promotes human trafficking,
but creates a problem where none existed, putting political interests
above human rights," they write.

Just a day earlier, the Cubans sent their "heartfelt thanks" to the
institutions and people of Costa Rica. "At no time has it been our
objective to disturb your tranquility and daily routine, but given the
current circumstances we have been forced to stay longer than expected,"
they explain.

Source: Cubans Propose Paying for Air Transport Out of Costa Rica /
14ymedio | Translating Cuba -

Cubans in Nazareht, Costa Rica

Cubans in Nazareht, Costa Rica / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on November 27, 2015

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar (Special envoy), Liberia (Costa Rica), 27
November 2015 — The morning was warm and the Nazareht neighborhood had
been listening for days to the distinctive Cuban accent. This point in
the geography of Liberia, capital of Costa Rica's Guanacaste province,
is now one of the places where dozens of our Cuban compatriots are
waiting to continue their journey to the United States.

At least 70 of them are housed in the premises of the Bethel Assembly of
God Church. This newspaper spoke with Gerardo Obando, Costa Rican and
pastor of the congregation, who detailed the current situation of the
migrants in his care.

Escobar. Have you had any previous experience with migrants?

Pastor Obando. This is the first time that we have had this kind of
emergency. When we were contacted by the authorities of the National
Emergency Commission (CNE) we didn't hesitate to say yes, to be able to
help our Cuban brothers. My wife and I came from a tour of Nicaragua two
Sundays ago and we couldn't cross because the border was closed. We had
to stay one more day on that side and it really bothered us, we were
very sorry for the Cubans.

Especially thinking that there were children, older people, and because
it was raining at the time. We were there, praying for them and it was a
surprise when we arrived here the same Monday and the CNE coordinator
contacted us to ask if we would lend our facilities.

Escobar. Is it a solitary task or are you being supported?

Pastor Obando. Several independent organizations and government
institutions are involved, such as the Red Cross, the National
Children's Trust, the Lions Club and the national Ombudsman, among
others. They have all been hand in hand here with us.

Escobar. Has there been any rejection by nearby residents to the arrival
of so many Cubans?

Pastor Obando. People living here have reacted in a very humane way,
there has been no opposition. They have been lending a hand, bringing
any kind of assistance that may be needed here. Even some who do not
come to the church have baked bread and brought it and milk for the Cubans.

Escobar. Are the migrants are being held here?

Pastor Obando. They are not prisoners here. They have complete freedom
and can come and go. We only have a time when we close the gates, for
reasons of security. On the other hand, they have visas and Immigration
came yesterday and extended their visas for 15 days.

Escobar. Nicaragua officials have hinted that these people are
criminals. Have there been violent incidents in the shelter?

Pastor Obando. We have not had any incidents. There is harmony and they
are very nice people, well educated and very helpful. They have
collaborated with us in fixing some things around the building, they are
eager to work.

Escobar. Do they participate in church services?

Pastor Obando. Yes, many are participating. We are also praying for them
that they may continue their journey to the United States.

Escobar. What have you heard them say they wish for most?

Pastor Obando. The biggest dream of all of them is to reach
freedom. Many of them have dreamt since childhood of a freedom they have
not had.

Source: Cubans in Nazareht, Costa Rica / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar |
Translating Cuba -

My Cable and I. Fiber Optics in My Town?

My Cable and I. Fiber Optics in My Town? / Somos+
Posted on November 27, 2015

SOMOS+, Frank Rojas Torres, 24 November 2015 — It was October 15, 2015,
and a success that should be transcendental for all my compatriots turns
out to be nothing more than a false alarm, one more of so many
expectations that remains only that. Another promise to be fulfilled in
the long-term, only because "the steps taken should be well thought-out
in order to not commit errors."

It's true that weeks before the news spread by word of mouth, growing or
shrinking according to what one brought to it or took from it, showing
this writer that we all believed it would be a reality weeks later.

The so-much announced, glorified, dreamed-of and awaited fiber optic
cable called ALBA-1 finally made its brilliant entrance onto the terrain
of my little country town, opening a passage between the solid rocks
that make up its subsoil, pushing us a little more while we try to
shorten the tremendous gap, which on this subject as on almost all,
separates us from a large part of the outside world.

And yes, here I was so proud telling people about the immense amount of
information that can run through its veins. I became majestic making a
show of what it could do and having it rubbed it in my face that in the
matters of information and informatization we are, as a good Cuban says,
"more backward than the ampalla" (i.e. extremely backward) or light
years from even the century in which we live.

I can't deny that I was inundated with emotion, feeling the privilege of
remembering that I'm human.

From Venezuela swam the cable, which would connect us with
civilization, with our fellow men, leaving behind the primitive life of
ignorant cave-dwellers. Now it seemed I finally would belong to the
modern era. I already felt better located in time and space. It made me
think about the idea of having nearby the key of traveling "to the
infinite and beyond."

In front of me, the brigade of workers and machinery from the army —
something already suspicious, hmmm — charged with creating the
conditions pertinent to the good functioning of the new technology, were
hard at work opening a trench where the aforementioned cable would
extend to the terminals, while the curious — like me — little by little
were gathering around the work area, asking questions and exchanging
opinions about something that also was novel for them, seeing who could
pick out the next stone that they would fling away.

Well, it's not that I like gossip, but I couldn't avoid being pushed by
curiosity to see up close how they were connecting the cable to the
terminals. Who would be the object of the test? Because everything
that's done here is submitted to a meticulous test before using it for
more people, to avoid a "false" step. Because of this we function so
"well." Because of this our country is in the "vanguard" of
"everything." We can't give ourselves the luxury of committing "errors."
We can't give the "enemy" even the least opportunity to criticize us.

Well, who is our enemy now? Caramba, we have to fabricate another now
that the Americans suddenly became our friends. Well, now someone will
have to appear who wants to "blockade" us and put us on some black list.

Well, as I was saying, an irresistible force pushed me onto Street 3, to
follow "Mr. Cable" as in his time Theseus did, following Ariadne's
thread that was leading him to the exit of the Minotaur's labyrinth.

While I walk I wonder about who has been chosen for such an experiment.
Finally I turn the corner and follow my cable, if indeed it's mine. At
this height and with all the joy that seizes me, I already feel it's
mine, a part of me and my family. Okay, it's not a guy or a girl, nor
will it be in the bakery or the grocery store. It's logical that it
should be in the library. Nor is Frank here.* I miss him, but I follow
my cable. Where will it take me?

I almost run into a gentleman on a bicycle while I walk down the street,
already connected with my friends, investigating things, looking for
information, rediscovering my country and its rich history, especially
the one not told, exploring a new world and perhaps finding a new girl
to conquer in cyberspace.

I come to another corner and look up to calculate how many more were
left before I saw where my cable would be placed, and I finally see its
destination. No, it can't be! This has to be a joke in very poor taste!
I almost fall on my ass when, before my thunderstruck eyes, my cable, my
friend the cable, like a fish in water, is being hooked up at the PNR
(National Revolutionary Police) headquarters.

What was it doing there? It recently had come to my humble little town,
and now they were surely warning the cable that it wouldn't be like we
thought, no sir, without first having to pass through this place before
entering the life of all of us, because here all is done with "order."
This would be its Customshouse, where surely they would remove from it
many things it was bringing to me and my people. I suppose they left the
cable very clear about what it could or could not say, and what it could
or could not let us see.

I felt newly brutalized and regressed again in time, moving away more
and more from my friends and from the enormous universe that minutes
before told me it was waiting for me. I was on the point of screaming
from so much rage and frustration. I can't deny that I almost cried.

Soon came to mind the image of a large filter through which would pass
the information traffic that would travel in all possible ways through
my cable. At once I realized it was an illusion to believe that
everything would be so easy beneath this Regime of "total"
totalitarianism. My naivety betrayed me at thinking during my detective
run that this innovation would come to me just like that. Automatically
I began to link together the latest stories about the building where the
PNR is located, subjected for a couple of months to changes in its
structure and some other remodeling.

Of course, conditions must be created in order to better adapt oneself
to the new area of work. I had to change many things so that I felt
comfortable with their listening in when I spoke with the "worms**," my
brothers in struggle.

Today is November 7, 2015, and for me it was going to be a big date in
my little rural town. It ended up adding to that long list of things
that today move me to continue looking for a different Cuba. I continue
dreaming, awake, about something that arrived but continued on, like the
waiter that passes in front of you with a succulent plate, leaving
behind the smell of what you would like to eat but can't because your
money doesn't stretch far enough to allow yourself that luxury.

Today November 7, 2015, and it's almost a month since the arrival in the
land of Limonar of the fiber optic cable. My buddy, my brother, I remain
with the desire to touch you and a strange, bitter taste that reminds me
where I am. I still see in the streets the open wounds made by those
machines of doubtful origin, now infested with garbage and dirty water
as unequivocal marks of a system that only leaves us that: open wounds
full of filth.

Today I want to laugh at myself for being so stupid and for having
converted this real-life story into one of those scenes from the fairy
tale, "Little Red Riding Hood." In the distribution of roles, the PNR is
the wolf that waits for me in bed after swallowing my grandmother – my
cable. I am the tender and innocent Little Red Riding Hood, who arrives
at her grandmother's house and sees her in bed with the face of a wolf:

"Yo! Little Red Riding Hood." "But grandmother, what big ears you have!"

PNR, the wolf: "Ah, the better to hear you with my dear!"

Translator's notes:
*Reference to a movie about a band leader.
** "Gusanos" — worms — is one of Fidel Castro's epithets for people who
leave Cuba for the U.S.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: My Cable and I. Fiber Optics in My Town? / Somos+ | Translating
Cuba -

Henry Constantin Arrested at the Airport on His Return From Lima

Henry Constantin Arrested at the Airport on His Return From Lima /
14ymedio, Luz Escobar
Posted on November 27, 2015

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 26 November 2015 — Journalist and
activist Henry Constantin, director of the magazine La hora de Cuba
(Cuba's Hour), a member of the editorial board of the
magazine Convivencia (Coexistence) and collaborator with 14ymedio, was
arrested at three in the afternoon on Thursday at customs in the José
Martí Airport, as he himself reported via text message. "They demand my
laptop. And magazine. I respectfully refuse. They do not let me talk,"
he said in his text.

Constantin arrived in Havana from Lima, Peru, where he participated in
the Conference of Investigative Journalism (COLPIN), along with Amarilis
Cortina Rey, Ernesto Perez Chang, Ignacio Gonzalez Vidal and Armando Soler.

Later, Inalkis Rodriguez said by telephone from Camagüey that Constantin
was taken to the Boyeros police station, near the airport. However,
Constantin confirmed to this newspaper that moments before getting into
the car that was to take him to the police station, he was told he could
go. According to his account, he was able to handle the pressure and
remained in possession of his laptop. He then headed to Camagüey.

Meanwhile, Ignacio Gonzalez, director of En Caliente Prensa Libre (In
Hot Free Press), said that he was also separated for a "routine
examination" in the words of Cuban Customs officials.

They searched all his luggage, but after a while let him leave without
further consequences.

Source: Henry Constantin Arrested at the Airport on His Return From Lima
/ 14ymedio, Luz Escobar | Translating Cuba -

Cubans Protest outside Ecuador’s Embassy in Havana

Cubans Protest outside Ecuador's Embassy in Havana / 14ymedio
Posted on November 27, 2015

[UPDATED] 14ymedio, Havana, 27 November 2015 — Hundreds of Cubans, on
Friday, demonstrated their dissatisfaction with Quito's decision to
require visas from he island's nationals as of Tuesday, December 1.

The embassy, ​​located in the Miramar neighborhood, is currently
cordoned off by a strong police operation preventing anyone from
approaching. The agents assert that "last night several people tried to
sneak into the embassy," although the majority of those congregating on
the corners were talking about the unreliability of the official version.

Many people are also gathered in front of the offices of the airlines
that fly to Ecuador, to demand or change tickets. At the office of Copa
Airlines in Miramar, people continued to gather despite an employee
advising them, an hour ago, that there are no more tickets for Ecuador
until April Some have stayed, despite the warning, hoping to be refunded
the price of their ticket.

The Ecuadorian consul in Cuba, Soraya Encalada, took to the streets with
other diplomats to explain that her government's position is not to
"obstruct" travel, but to "prevent human trafficking," according to the
press agency EFE. The diplomat said that the decision to require visas
from Cubans was a "temporary situation," which required everyone
interested in traveling to Ecuador to enter their data into the
embassy's website in a "simplified" procedure to speed up the paperwork.

For years, Cubans who want to reach the United States have flown to
Ecuador because it did not require a visa. The migrants would then
continue their journey through seven countries (Colombia, Panama, Costa
Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico), facing many
difficulties and dangers on the way.

Source: Cubans Protest outside Ecuador's Embassy in Havana / 14ymedio |
Translating Cuba -

Tania Bruguera is With Cubans in Costa Rica

Tania Bruguera is With Cubans in Costa Rica / 14ymedio
Posted on November 27, 2015

14ymedio, Havana, 26 November 2015 — The artist Tania Bruguera heeded
the call of some of the more than 3,000 Cuban migrants who have been
stuck for more than ten days ago in the north of Costa Rica after the
Government of Nicaragua prevented their continuing their journey to
United States.

A group of migrants created a Facebook page called "Let the Cubans Pass"
so that "the world will know their names, experiences and professions in
order to contradict those who brand Cubans trying to reach the United
States as criminals."

"I want to show my solidarity by being there with them. I have no plan,
I am not anybody who is going change any situation. But well, at least
to be with them," said Bruguera in an interview published by the Costa
Rican online journal Socialism Today.

"A mechanism needs to be created for the people to hold the government
accountable in a peaceful and legal way, without it being seen as a
counterrevolutionary attitude" she stresses.

"I think the government is dedicated to lowering people's hopes and what
we are seeing today is that a year after [the restoration of relations
with the US] people do not see a solution to their problems and prefer
to sell their homes and leave their families and go to another country
to seek their fortune rather than stay in Cuba to see what happens," she
says. "In Cuba there is no economic migration that is not political."

Bruguera has also been affected by government limitations on movement
when, between late December of 2014 and August of this year she was
prevented from leaving Cuba. After being held on the island for eight
months for organizing a performance in Revolution Square in Havana, the
authorities finally returned her passport and she was able to take up a
fellowship at Yale University.

The artist has worked previously on the subject of migrants, in
particular when she founded the Immigrant Movement International, an art
project conceived in 2006 and presented by Creative Time and the Queens
Museum of Art. With this initiative she proposed to initiate a
socio-political movement, so she spent a year working in the
multicultural neighborhood of Corona, Queens in New York City.

Source: Tania Bruguera is With Cubans in Costa Rica / 14ymedio |
Translating Cuba -

Former Cuba prisoner Alan Gross details torture threats and survival strategies

Former Cuba prisoner Alan Gross details torture threats and survival
Government contractor spent five years in jail on espionage charges
Release in December 2014 was part of thaw in US-Cuba relations
Friday 27 November 2015 18.48 GMT Last modified on Friday 27 November
2015 18.50 GMT

Alan Gross, the American government contractor who spent five years in a
Cuban jail on espionage charges, has said remembering how his family
survived the Holocaust helped him through his ordeal, according to
interview excerpts released on Friday.

Gross, 66, spoke in what CBS News said was his first interview since his
release in December 2014 as part of a historic diplomatic thaw between
the US and Cuba. Gross said he was threatened with death and torture,
according to CBS, which plans to air the full interview on Sunday.

"They threatened to hang me. They threatened to pull out my fingernails.
They said I'd never see the light of day," he said.

To get through the ordeal, he said, he focused on three things: "I
thought about my family that survived the Holocaust, I exercised
religiously every day and I found something every day to laugh at."

While imprisoned, Gross would refuse to eat, losing 100lbs. He also
grieved for his mother's death, from cancer. In his last few months he
stopped taking visitors.

Gross, a longtime-supporter of Jewish causes, was sentenced to 15 years
in prison for importing banned technology and trying to establish
clandestine internet service for Cuban Jews. He was caught off-guard
when he was not quickly released and saw no signs of action by the US
government, he told CBS.

"I said to myself, 'Where the hell are they? Where are they?' I didn't
have any idea I'd be there for five years. I knew I was in trouble,"
Gross said, according to the excerpts.

Gross and his wife sued the federal government in 2012 for negligence,
but the lawsuit was thrown out and the supreme court in April rejected
his appeal. He has since joined a new lobbying effort aimed at greater
engagement between Cuba and the US.

Gross has also settled with the US Agency for International Development
and the contractor for which he worked, Bethesda, Maryland-based DAI. He
was expected to receive $3.2m.

Source: Former Cuba prisoner Alan Gross details torture threats and
survival strategies | World news | The Guardian -

Ecuador's visa rule puts roadblock on Cubans' path to U.S.

Ecuador's visa rule puts roadblock on Cubans' path to U.S.
Associated Press
Friday, November 27, 2015 8:59pm

Cubans gather outside Ecuador's embassy in Havana on Friday, expressing
frustration at a new visa rule that now requires they have a visa to
visit the South American country. The lack of a visa requirement for
Cubans made Ecuador a favored destination for those seeking to leave the
island and make the overland route to the United States, where they can
receive automatic legal residency. Some came with plane tickets, and
flight itineraries, demanding reimbursement of the cost of their airline
tickets with destination to Ecuador. [Associated Press]

HAVANA — Hundreds of angry Cubans confronted police and Ecuadoran
embassy officials in an unusual display of public discontent on Friday
after the surprise announcement of a new visa requirement aimed at
choking off this year's historic overland emigration of Cubans across
more than 3,000 miles of South and Central America to the U.S. border
with Mexico.

Chanting "Visa! Visa!" as dozens of uniformed and plainclothes security
agents looked on, Cubans with tickets booked for Ecuador in coming days
complained that they would lose years of savings because of the change
announced by the Ecuadoran government Thursday evening, which left them
less than two business days to get their hands on a visa.

Deputy Foreign Minister Xavier Lasso said Ecuador would require visas of
Cubans starting Dec. 1 in order to curb migration that he said "puts at
risk men, women and children."

Ecuador had been one of the few countries in the hemisphere that doesn't
require visas for Cuban visitors, making it the chief starting point for
tens of thousands of Cubans who have flown there this year and then made
an overland trek across seven borders to reach the U.S., where they
receive automatic legal residency. The flow has surged in 2015 due
largely to fears that the detente between the U.S. and Cuba announced
last Dec. 17 would lead to the end of special Cold War-era privileges
for Cuban migrants.

Two leftist Latin American countries allied with Cuba have begun to
crack down on the northbound flood.

Nicaragua closed its southern border to Cuban migrants this month,
leaving more than 2,000 stranded inside northern Costa Rica. Ecuador,
another Cuban ally, said Thursday that it was committed to what it
called efforts by the Latin American community to prevent migration
without authorization.

Cubans who learned that they would suddenly need visas for flights as
early as Tuesday massed in front of the Ecuadoran embassy early Friday
as security agents closed off the surrounding streets with yellow police

Street gatherings that aren't explicitly pro-government are extremely
rare in Cuba and the crowd in front of the Ecuadoran embassy on Friday
expressed a degree of anger at President Raul Castro's government that
is rarely seen in public.

"This is Raul Castro's fault, nobody else's," said one member of the
crowd, as security agents and members of the international media
recorded the events. .

"I'm desperate," said Carmen Lopez, a 62-year-old homemaker who spent
$800 on a ticket for a Wednesday flight to visit her two sons in
Ecuador. "I've made a lot of sacrifices to save my money to be able to
go see them."

Ecuadoran embassy officials outraged the crowd when they announced
through a loudspeaker than Cubans traveling next week would have to
apply online for tourists visas.

Most Cubans have almost no internet access.

"They haven't told us anything," said Yasell Zayas Salinas, a
25-year-old self-employed candy seller, who had been planning to fly to
Ecuador with his brother. "They changed it all from one day to the next."

Source: Ecuador's visa rule puts roadblock on Cubans' path to U.S. |
Tampa Bay Times -

Cubans Protest Stricter Rules for Traveling to Ecuador

Cubans Protest Stricter Rules for Traveling to Ecuador

MEXICO CITY — Dozens of Cubans crowded outside Ecuador's embassy in
Havana on Friday, worried and angry about new rules that require Cubans
to have a visa to enter Ecuador, which is a vital steppingstone for
islanders trying to migrate to the United States.

Until now, Ecuador was the only Latin American country that did not
require Cubans to have a visa to enter. Starting Tuesday, it will ask
them to apply online, a difficult process in a country with very limited
Internet access.

Bloggers and passers-by said that a crush of about 200 people formed in
the early morning outside the Ecuadorean Embassy in the residential
Miramar neighborhood, brandishing plane tickets and passports. "Who's
going to pay me back?" one man shouted in a news agency video posted on
YouTube. Dozens gathered outside airline offices to try to change their

Cubans will "always be welcome" in Ecuador, Xavier Lasso, the deputy
foreign minister, said in a statement. The measure was necessary, Mr.
Lasso said, to "prevent violations of human rights and even loss of life."

Thousands of Cubans travel to Ecuador each year, many to buy goods that
they sell in Cuba and many to begin an arduous trek north through
Central America to the United States. There, they cross the border and
become residents under special regulations intended to give them refuge
from persecution.

Their numbers have surged this year because of fears that those
privileges will end. About 35,000 Cubans crossed the border from October
2014 to August.

The number of people leaving Cuba is "a reflection of the mess this
country is in," said Regina Coyula, a blogger who passed the Ecuadorean
Embassy on Friday morning. Cubans in Miami are sending money to their
relatives, Ms. Coyula said, "not to invest in the future of Cuba but to
pay for these journeys."

The decision by Ecuador, a close ally of Cuba, appeared intended to ease
a crisis involving about 2,000 Cubans who have been stranded between
Costa Rica and Nicaragua since Nicaragua closed its border to them on
Nov. 15.

The impasse has fixed the region's attention on the special immigration
rules, which many Central American leaders say are unfair, and has drawn
calls from Cuba for them to be rescinded.

Arturo López-Levy, a lecturer at the University of Texas who used to
work for the Cuban intelligence services, said that while Cuba
recognized that the special regulations for Cuban migrants were an
economic lifeline, the government was unsettled by the numbers traveling
through Central America with the help of sophisticated trafficking
networks. He said this month's crisis would send a message that getting
to the United States through Central America "was not a cakewalk."

Holly Ackerman, an academic at Duke University who studies migrant
flows, said Cuban migration was "becoming more and more like the
European situation," where migrants cross several countries to reach
their destination.

"You have countries brought into it in a new way," she said. "The U.S.
has to deal with it as a transit migration issue. We have to negotiate
and coordinate."

Source: Cubans Protest Stricter Rules for Traveling to Ecuador - The New
York Times -

Cuba sees rare protest as migration tensions rise

Cuba sees rare protest as migration tensions rise
By Nick Miroff November 27 at 6:05 PM

HAVANA — Irate Cubans protested outside airline offices and at the
Ecuadoran Embassy on Friday, a day after Ecuador announced new visa
requirements for Cuban travelers in an attempt to cut off what has
become a popular, if circuitous, migration route to the United States.

Spontaneous public protests are rare in Cuba, and police moved quickly
to close the streets around the Ecuadoran Embassy when a crowd of
hundreds gathered, demanding visas. Elsewhere in Havana, Cubans formed
long lines at airline offices, seeking refunds for flights booked to
Ecuador or seats on one of the last few flights before Dec. 1, when the
new visa requirement will take effect.

"I don't know where I'll go now," said one man outside the Havana
offices of Copa Airlines. He said he had spent $600 on a flight to
Quito, Ecuador, for Dec. 7 but feared it would be useless now that he
would need a visa. "I just want to go somewhere," he said.

Seeing the long line outside the airline's offices, he joined a group of
other Cubans headed to the Ecuadoran Embassy.

By late afternoon, several hundred protesters remained in the streets
near the embassy, chanting, "Give us our money back," as consular
officers urged the crowd to ask the airlines for reimbursements. A heavy
deployment of plainclothes Cuban police and uniformed officers kept the
crowds behind yellow tape, blocking access to the building.

In recent years, Ecuador has become a popular way station for Cubans
heading to the United States, after President Rafael Correa implemented
one of the most lenient visa policies in the world, essentially opening
the country's borders to visitors from any nation.

It did not take long for Cubans to figure out that getting to the United
States through Ecuador was a lot better than getting there on a raft.

Cuban migration to the United States along the Ecuador land route has
been growing ever since. After a flight from Havana to Quito, some
Cubans hire "coyote" smuggling guides to head north, but many, like the
much larger wave of Syrian migrants headed to Europe, rely on
smartphones and social media to navigate the jungles, rivers, border
crossings and criminal gangs who stalk the route.

The number of Cubans using the Ecuador route has increased this year.
Many migrants say they fear that improving U.S.-Cuban relations spell
doom for the unique immigration privileges offering automatic U.S.
residency to any Cuban who reaches American soil, regardless of whether
the point of arrival is a South Florida beach or a border crossing with

Some 45,000 Cubans are projected to reach the United States in 2015,
turning this year into one of the biggest for Cuban emigration in decades.

So many Cubans have passed through Central America in recent weeks that
their presence touched off a border conflict between Costa Rica and

Nicaragua's government, led by longtime Cuban ally Daniel Ortega, began
blocking Cuban migrants from entering the country, causing a backup.
Some 3,000 Cubans are stranded in Costa Rica, and a regional summit this
week aimed at resolving the impasse failed to persuade Nicaragua to
grant the Cubans passage.

On Thursday, Ecuador tried to stem the problem at the source by adding
the visa requirement. It does not block Cubans from coming but will
require them to obtain visas beforehand.Several Cubans interviewed
Friday said they would try to find another route.

"I'm going to try to change my ticket to Guyana," said a young man
outside the Copa offices, who, like others, did not want to give his
name because his travel plans involved semi-illegal activity. "I hear
you don't need a visa for Russia, either."

He insisted that he was not planning to head to the United States and
said he was one of the many Cubans who travel to Ecuador to buy cheap
clothing and other items for sale on Cuba's black market.

The Cuban government blames the United States for the crisis, saying
U.S. immigration perks create a powerful incentive for Cubans to attempt
risky, illegal journeys, even as the U.S. Consulate in Havana denies
visas to those wishing to travel legally. U.S. officials say the Castro
government's failed socialist system and lack of freedoms are driving
Cubans to flee.

The new Cuban surge is expected to dominate the agenda Monday when U.S.
and Cuban officials meet in Washington for regular talks on migration

Nick Miroff is a Latin America correspondent for The Post, roaming from
the U.S.-Mexico borderlands to South America's southern cone. He has
been a staff writer since 2006.

Source: Cuba sees rare protest as migration tensions rise - The
Washington Post -

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Exodus Is Due To The Lack Of Freedom

The Exodus Is Due To The Lack Of Freedom / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos
Posted on November 26, 2015

14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 25 November 2015 — The current
immigration crisis created by the presence of thousands of Cubans in
Central America in transit to the United States has put the issue of
human rights in Cuba back in the international arena, in particular the
civil, political, social and economic rights of Cubans.

The government of General Raul Castro and a part of the international
press emphasize the idea that it is a legal issue, related to the Cuban
Adjustment Act. The Cuban government also links it to the maintenance of
the blockade-embargo, which analysts say is an attempt to pressure the
US government to repeal both laws.

However, it is not possible to hide, behind the Cuban exodus, the
fundamental problem in Cuba: the dissatisfaction of hundreds of
thousands of Cubans with the economic and political situation in
our country, which remains essentially unchanged thanks to decisions
taken by the government — which has been in power for more than half a
century – in the name of socialism, which has never existed.

No, we Cubans are not starving, because really there is no generalized
crisis of that type in Cuba. Although for many nutrition is precarious,
the fundamental appetite Cubans have is for rights and freedoms, for
democracy, because the "dictatorship" – supposedly of the proletariat –
established in Cuba and always led in the same direction by the
Communist Party, continues to insist on its political and economic model
of monopolistic State capitalism; by its nature anti-democratic,
exclusive and retrograde.

Despite the public discourse of an "opening," in reality economic
activity outside the State is constantly limited by laws, regulations
and provisions at all levels and by high direct and indirect taxes.
Autonomous work, or self-employment, continues to be restricted to a
group of activities and cannot be exercised by professionals in medicine
or law, for example. To establish a cooperative requires permission from
the Council of State.

But above all, State monopolies in domestic and foreign trade and the
limited access to international communications networks, hinder
non-State economic activity.

But what most oppresses Cubans, along with the daily problems of
housing, transportation or poor-quality food, is the repressive
philosophy of the State that impedes the freedom of expression, of
association and elections, which obstructs any democratic alternation in
power of forces and figures different from the governmental clan, forces
and figures that could bring another focus to politics and get the
country out of the stagnation in which it finds itself.

This is definitely a massive and flagrant violation of the civil,
political, economic and social rights of the Cuban people, by a
government that has spent more than half a century in power, with the
methods and mechanisms to guarantee its indefinite existence. And this
is the real cause of the exodus and of the current crisis.

It is true that the internal problems of Cubans must be resolved by
Cubans ourselves, but when these problems affect other nations it is
logical that they would take action in the matter and try to influence
events through international means established by multilateral
institutions recognized by the States.

The Central American community has met to discuss the crisis, but it
should go beyond the legal and border problems involved and evaluate it
in its entirety. The Inter-American system should also take action on
the issue and the United Nations itself should involve itself, because
as long as there is no resolution to the internal problems in Cuba, the
system imposed by this "eternal Government" is going to continue to
generate regional tensions related to immigration, be it in Central
America, South America or the Straits of Florida.

Some believe that the current immigration crisis caused by the presence
of thousands of Cubans in Central America is a land version of the
Rafter Crisis of 1994. Any attempt to put a plug in the Cuban exodus
across the continent could lead to a situation like that one, if
democratic changes that loosen tensions do not come to pass in Cuba

Source: The Exodus Is Due To The Lack Of Freedom / 14ymedio, Pedro
Campos | Translating Cuba -

‘La Joven Cuba’ Blog Questions Official Position on the Cuban Adjustment Act

'La Joven Cuba' Blog Questions Official Position on the Cuban Adjustment
Act / 14ymedio
Posted on November 26, 2015

"Cubans who reach the United States without the Adjustment act will have
to submit to the exploitation that other illegal immigrants are
subjected to," says the blog: La Joven Cuba

14ymedio, Havana, 25 November 2015 – In an unusual gesture of criticism
toward an official position, the blog "La Joven Cuba" (Young Cuba)
published a post on Tuesday that challenges the Cuban government's
approach to the Cuban Adjustment Act.

The site, run by graduates of the University of Matanzas, stresses "the
need to of more than a few fellow countrymen to emigrate," and defends
the thesis that Cubans who want to reside in another country will do
so regardless of whether conditions are better or worse. The article,
signed by Roberto G. Peralo and titled "Eliminate the Cuban Adjustment
Act and What," uses an example close to him as an illustration.

"A woman friend who is a doctor was preparing to emigrate to Ecuador.
She had a job lined up at a clinic. When she learned that the government
of Ecuador wouldn't recognize her license to practice her profession,
she told me, 'I'm going even if I have to clean the hospital floor for
the rest of my life.'"

The author defends the Cuban government's asking for the elimination of
the law which also provides an advantage for Cubans over other
immigrants and believes that the United States will end up repealing it.
However, he believes that this will not improve things because Cubans
will continue leaving and will do it in even worse circumstances.

"Cubans who reach the United States without the Adjustment Act will have
to submit to the exploitation that other illegal immigrants are
subjected to. They will not receive government benefits and will have to
take the worst jobs at the most miserable wages. In the best of cases
they will have to renounce returning to Cuba, even to visit, to be able
to support the thesis that they are "politically persecuted," so that
they can receive government benefits.

The Joven Cuba website, which has also suffered censorship within the
University of Matanzas, is a part of the sector relatively critical of
the government, although from a "revolutionary" position that leads to
censoring dissent and opposing a market economy.

In the official discourse the Cuban Adjustment Act is the target of the
worse criticisms and is held responsible for the exodus of Cubans to the
United States. On national television the presenters call it "The
Assassin Law" and hold it entirely responsible for the current migratory
crisis provoked by the arrival of more than 2,000 Cubans at the border
between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

This Wednesday, the newspaper Granma published a note on the meeting of
the foreign ministers of the member countries of the Central American
Integration System – Cuba, Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico – to seek a
solution to the drama of the Cuban migrants. As the official organ of
the Cuban Communist Party, Granma noted the unanimous rejection of "the
Cuban Adjustment Act and other regulations related to the wet foot-dry
foot policy and the Parole Program for Cuban Healthcare Professionals,
which stimulates illegal immigration to the United States."

Source: 'La Joven Cuba' Blog Questions Official Position on the Cuban
Adjustment Act / 14ymedio | Translating Cuba -

A New Campaign For Marriage Equality Announced

A New Campaign For Marriage Equality Announced / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma
Posted on November 26, 2015

14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 25 November 2015 — After forty years
together, Roberto's partner died this year from a respiratory condition,
but he will not collect a penny of the widow's pension because in Cuba
same-sex unions are not legally recognized or protected. Situations like
this are in the sights of several independent organizations that demand
rights for the LGBTI community, and that have just launched a campaign
for marriage equality.

"We also love," is the slogan under which different civil society groups
will demand a legal framework that allows unions between people of the
same sex, and equality of rights between homosexuals and heterosexuals.
The initiative was presented to the press this Tuesday and will go
public on the first of December.

Among the groups involved in the project is Corriente Martiana (Current
[José] Martí), which is working on this project in coordination with the
Cuban Foundation for LGBTI Rights, led by Nelson Gandulla in Cienfuegos
province, and which shares the lead in the new campaign with the
Integration Project of the Gay Community in Cuba led by Navit Fernandez
in Havana.

Other entities not directly related to the LGTBI environment have begun
to get involved in the project after being invited to show solidarity,
such as the Candidates for Change project.

The organizers have developed several initiatives. including the
presentation of a written request to the People's Power delegates during
weekly office hours they have with their constituents. Each of the
activists should ask for a receipt that gives evidence of the request
and that will accompany the collective petition that is finally delivered.

The collective petition will be delivered to the National Center for Sex
Education (CENESEX) and the Cuban Parliament, Moises Leonardo,
spokesperson for the Corriente Martiana, explained to 14ymedio.

"First we will present it in municipal assemblies, then in the provinces
and finally to the National Assembly of People's Power. We will seek the
support of artists and personalities of our culture, as well as a number
of independent civil society organizations that want to join us. The
campaign starts the first of December and will last six months, but even
when that date has passed it will be ongoing."

This campaign seeks to protect a couple's rights, such as inheritance or
insurance payments with respect to accidents at work, as well as
obtaining legal protection for the distribution of property in the case
of a separation.

"The intention is to climb one more step in the defense of human rights
for a sector of the population. Practice tells us that the LGBTI
community is very united in defense of their rights, and that encourages
us a lot," added Leonardo.

Source: A New Campaign For Marriage Equality Announced / 14ymedio,
Orlando Palma | Translating Cuba -

A Night in Paso Canoas on the Border with Panama

A Night in Paso Canoas on the Border with Panama / Ivan Garcia
Posted on November 26, 2015

Ivan Garcia, Costa Rica, 25 November 2015 — When Alex Sigler, 22, landed
in the Quito airport in an African heat with thunderclouds that presaged
a tropical shower this past November 11, he began his own journey to
achieve the American dream.

In five days of passing through the Colombian jungle, Alex encountered
hitmen of few words and with twitchy trigger fingers.

"The police, who supposedly are there to preserve citizen order, are the
first to rob us. Almost all Cubans have been fleeced at Colombian
checkpoints. The coyotes are frightening. They traffic cocaine the same
as people. They talk about their criminal exploits like a group of
friends in the neighborhood commenting on football and a penalty,"
explains Alex, lying on top of some tattered cardboard in an
inter-provincial bus terminal in the Costa Rican town of Paso Canoas, a
stone's throw from the border with Panama.

On the platform about 30 Cubans are sleeping, having been robbed or
conned by drug traffickers in Colombia. They have lost everything.

They find themselves without money, waiting for some relative or friend
in Miami to urgently spin a few hundred dollars their way so they can
pay for the rest of the crossing, if the authorities in Nicaragua will
finally let them pass through their territory.

They burned all their bridges. On the Island, they sold everything. Or
almost everything. The hazardous journey through eight countries to
reach the U.S. is much harder than they thought.

But they're not sorry. "I was already worn out. In Cuba we're just a
number. People count only for voting in the elections or supporting the
Government. Maybe things will be bad for me in la Yuma (the US), but at
least I'll be a free man," says Alex, who in Caibarién, some 350
kilometers east of Havana, left his wife and a four-month-old daughter.

The village of Paso Canoas is a township of one-story houses and
ambulatory stalls where they sell every possible commodity. At night
it's deserted. The more than 300 Cubans who arrive in unstoppable
dribbles from Panama have several options at hand for lodging. Those who
arrive without a cent sleep in the old Canoas bus terminal.

Others pay five dollars a night, the lowest price for lodging, in a
sweltering hostel without windows that is run by Pepe Restoi, a Catalán,
who says with two raised hands that he is voting for Catalán independence.

"Man, it's not that I'm uncaring; obviously I'm aware of the drama of
the Cuban emigrants. But I'm a businessman. In Paso Canoas, between
hotels and guest houses, there are about twenty. What you have to do is
keep your property occupied," says Restoi in the door of the El Azteca

It would be very pretentious to call "hotels" a chain of houses adapted
for guests or enlarged to be rented to the more than 3,125 Cubans who,
since November 15, have walked through Paso Canoas.

Prices are expensive for a segment of terrestrial balseros (rafters)
who, in tune with the closing of the Nicaraguan border, have to dig out
bills and scratch their heads to stretch their money after having spent
between three and four thousand dollars on their trip through Ecuador,
Colombia and Panama.

"You have to be very farsighted with your money. You have to hide it in
unsuspected places so that the Colombian hitmen don't fleece you. You
still have to cross four countries before reaching the U.S., and the
dough is going to run out," says Alfredo Ávila, 28, an electrical
engineer who lives in the eastern province of Holguín.

Among the island emigrants there are different hierarchies. Those of
extreme poverty are the ones who spend the night on the unpolished
cement floor in the bus terminal and, for lack of a bathroom, urinate in
a garbage dump site.

"This is hard. The majority eat only once a day. They only have their
clothing left from their baggage. On the road, to lighten up, they left
their belongings or sold them to be able to eat," indicates Alex.

Gabriel, a young man who recently left military service in Cuba, says
that while crossing Colombia a compatriot had to improvise a fishing rod
to be able to eat.

The emigrants who have a more substantial economy spend the night in
third- or fourth-class hotels, which in Costa Rica rent at first-class
prices. The El Descanso hostel doesn't calculate how many it's received.
A large grocery store is sometimes a restaurant, a bar and,
occasionally, the Cubans who wait to cross the border drink beer without
too much moderation.

One night, in a monumentally drunken episode in the swimming pool, some
Costa Rican guests were wounded.

"They had to call the police. Many Cubans behaved inappropriately.
Particularly those from Havana, who believe they deserve everything.
They steal the towels, destroy the electrical outlets and are always
complaining, even though the hotel management decided to reduce the
tariff for them to nine dollars a night," says Rey Guzmán, the manager
of the El Descanso.

The lack of money has caused several girls to prostitute themselves or
ask for money from the ticos (Costa Ricans). "In the Peñas Blancas
encampment, two or three girls offered me sex in exchange for 20
dollars. Another asked me for two dollars to buy cigarettes," says
Jorge, a Costa Rican taxi driver.

Past midnight, Yadira, a willowy morena (brown-skinned woman) of 22
years, a native of Las Tunas, some 600 kilometers from the capital, was
dancing a Dominican merengue surrounded by a chorus of drunken men who
were whistling at her.

"She's happy. If she's looking for a man to save her (offer her money)
she'll do well. All the Cubans who are here have had trouble crossing,
but for women it's been worse. I have a friend who was raped seven times
in Colombia," says Magda, a blond who, in Cuba, owned a small manicure

Among the wandering emigrants from the Island there are those with
sufficient money to stay in the best hotel in Paso Canoas, a two-floor
building, painted an ivory color, that rents for 50 dollars a night.

Where are some Cubans getting so much money that they can pay between 10
and 12 thousand dollars in a country with an average salary of 23
dollars/month? I asked the engineer, Alfredo, at the entrance of the El
Azteca pension.

"Many sold their car, their house or gold. Others earned money thanks to
private business. Or they receive enough money from their relatives in
the U.S. But most travel with their own money, which a family member
abroad sends them, little by little, after a reunion, so they can come.
It's not recommended to travel with so much cash," he answers.

Gabriel made an agreement with a sister who lives in Miami. "She offered
me a loan and when I get to the U.S. I will pay her back," he confesses,
worried. He has spent the three thousand dollars and is still stranded
in Paso Canoas.

Even far from Cuba, not a few emigrants are panicked at the thought of
talking before the cameras or answering questions from journalists. "If
I talk more, in case they send me back, I wouldn't even be able to
belong to the CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution)," says a
shirtless young man in the bus terminal.

On the contrary, a black man with a rugged complexion unloads his
frustration, blaming the government of the Castros. "It's their fault
that people have to leave their country. Not even dead will I return."

That's the perception of the Cubans stranded in Puerto Canoas. There's
no way back.

Iván García, from Costa Rica

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: A Night in Paso Canoas on the Border with Panama / Ivan Garcia |
Translating Cuba -

President Solis Assures Cubans Of Costa Rica’s Support To Reach US

President Solis Assures Cubans Of Costa Rica's Support To Reach US / EFE
– 14ymedio
Posted on November 27, 2015

EFE (published in 14ymedio), San Jose, Costa Rica, 26 November 2015 —
The president Luis Guillermo Solis of Costa Rica, on Wednesday,
guaranteed the thousands of Cuban migrants who have been stranded in his
country since 14 November that his government will make every effort to
help them reach the United States, their final destination. "We will do
whatever is necessary for you people to get to your destination and
while you are here to live with dignity," said the president at a press
conference in San Jose.

Solis said that, following Nicaragua's opposition to allowing the
islanders to pass through that country, Costa Rica is making bilateral
contacts with other countries involved in the migratory path of these
people, to find a solution.

The solution is to "establish routes that allow them to continue their
journey. The conditions, time and number are details that we are
refining, but in this situation it is clear that we will not have the
cooperation of Nicaragua and therefore we must take other measures under

President Solis said that Costa Rica will not abandon the Cuban
immigrants, but warned that their trip to the United States will be a
process that will take time.

"In Costa Rica we will facilitate their travel and this entails a great
effort not only to conclude the final negotiations with each country,
many of whom will announce measures in the coming days, but also to
guarantee, as long as they are in our territory, that they are living in
adequate conditions," he said.

Solis's involvement in the case of Cuban migrants even led to an
exchange views with the Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez through the
artist's blog. The Costa Rican president left a comment on a post in
which the singer demanded solutions for the migrants and criticized
Solis for advocating a humanitarian corridor to the United States only
for the Cubans and not for other Latin American, knowing that "there is
a special law that favors the arrival of our people with dry feet."

Solis Rodriguez said that it is most urgent is to find solutions for
those at the border who are not at fault. The president also added that
Nicaragua and Costa Rica would be wrong to "insinuate the situation of
the migrants into geopolitics."

Costa Rican Minister of Communications Mauricio Herrera Ulloa also
responded to the musician, saying that his government's request is "more
than politics, it is humanitarian."

The troubadour thanked the minister for his comments and acknowledged
having written his post without all the information and out of concern
for his compatriots. But then, Rodriguez added: "In addition to the best
intentions of the Government in which you are a minister, there is
constant propaganda against my country."

Meeting in El Salvador on Tuesday, the foreign ministers of the
countries of Central America, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico,
Ecuador and Colombia sought a solution to the current crisis and also a
long-term solution to Cuban emigration.

However, Nicaragua was adamant in not allowing the entry of Cubans to
its territory, and accused Costa Rica of causing a humanitarian crisis
by "ignoring the responsibility of the United States in the issue of
illegal migration" and demanded that the immigrants be withdrawn from
the border area.

As of 14 November, Costa Rica has granted temporary transit visas to
3,600 Cubans who arrived at its border with Panama, and has set up 12
shelters to provide humanitarian aid in communities near the border with

President Solis also said that resolving the crisis will require
"slowing down" the flow of Cubans into Costa Rica from Panama.

On Tuesday the Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez accused
Nicaragua of being "intransigent" and acting in "bad faith" in this
matter and said the region intends to find a solution.

The immigrants left Cuba legally by air and flew to Ecuador, which does
not require them to have a visa, and from there they traveled
"irregularly" through Colombia and Panama to Costa Rica.

The Costa Rican government has attributed this migratory wave to the
dismantling of a human trafficking network and the rumor on the island
that the United States is going to repeal its immigration laws that
favor Cubans.

Source: President Solis Assures Cubans Of Costa Rica's Support To Reach
US / EFE – 14ymedio | Translating Cuba -

The First Anniversary of a Truncated Hope

The First Anniversary of a Truncated Hope / Rebeca Monzo
Posted on November 27, 2015

Rebeca Monzo, 26 November 2015 — Some days from now it will be the first
anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the
governments of Cuba and the United States, but the great expectations
awoken by the desired event seem to have fallen into uncertainty and

The vast majority of Cubans believed they saw on this event the
potential for great improvements in every sense, but disappointment soon
invaded all of us on seeing that the island's government had not taken a
single measure to indicate good faith and the desire to realize the
changes so greatly longed for.

The fact that they authorized travel for all Cubans and have streamlined
the paperwork is nothing new, nor is the authorization to buy and sell
homes and cars. These are not government handouts, but simply a
restoring of citizens' rights usurped 56 years ago by the regime itself.

Government immobility has led to a new stampede of Cubans abroad, using
every kind of means to escape from a regime in which nobody believes or
has any confidence.

Moreover, while thousands of compatriots abandon the country that is
totally bankrupt, selling all their property and belongings in order to
finance the path to a new dream, the influx of tourists to the island
grows as never before, surprising given that the country does not have
adequate infrastructure to receive them.

Shortages in the markets and hard currency stores, the sporadic
disappearance of basic goods like mineral water, soft drinks and beer,
the bad state of the streets and highways, the unhealthy atmosphere in a
city where garbage collection is inadequate, the outbreaks of dengue
fever and cholera in the capital and other provinces, make me question
what motivates this great arrival of foreigners, among whom we find
stars of the screen, the stage and music.

Could it be they want to visit this great Caribbean Jurassic Park before
the oldest and sickest of its dinosaurs, still breathing, cease to
exist? Only time will have the last word.

Source: The First Anniversary of a Truncated Hope / Rebeca Monzo |
Translating Cuba -

Alleged spy Gross felt abandoned by US in Cuba

Alleged spy Gross felt abandoned by US in Cuba

Washington (AFP) - US contractor Alan Gross says he was mistreated by
his captors and felt abandoned by his own government after Cuba arrested
him and accused him of spying.

In his first major interview since his release last year, Gross said
exercise, family memories and humor kept him going though his five-year

"They threatened to hang me. They threatened to pull out my fingernails.
They said I'd never see the light of day," the 66-year-old told CBS
television's 60 Minutes.

"I had to do three things in order to survive, three things every day,"
he said, in an extract from a longer interview to be broadcast in full
on Sunday.

"I thought about my family that survived the Holocaust. I exercised
religiously every day and I found something every day to laugh at."

Gross was contracted by the US Agency for International Development to
deliver electronics to Jewish groups when he was arrested in Havana in
December 2009.

Initially accused of espionage, he was tried in 2011 and sentenced to 15
years for committing "acts against the independence and territorial
integrity" of Cuba.

Asked whether he had thought that the US government would find a way to
get him out, he said: "Oh, I absolutely did for the first two weeks.

"And then I said to myself, 'Where the hell are they? Where are they?' I
didn't have any idea I'd be there for five years," he told CBS.

The US government has always insisted Gross was not an intelligence
agent but a development worker trying to connect Cuban communities to
the outside world.

A specialist in satellite communications, he had previously done such
work in around 50 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

He had visited Cuba four times before to his arrest, delivering computer
and satellite gear to the communist island's small Jewish community.

On his fifth journey he was allegedly in possession of an electronic
chip that prevents governments from tracking the location of satellite
telephone calls.

Gross returned to the United States in December last year after he was
released as part of a historic warming of ties between the former Cold
War foes.

Source: Alleged spy Gross felt abandoned by US in Cuba - Yahoo News -

Cape winemakers look to Cuba market

Cape winemakers look to Cuba market
November 27 2015 at 08:28am
By Nicola Jenvey

Durban - The exhibition hall during this year's highly successful Cape
Wine 2015 demonstrated the extent to which South Africa's wines were
being welcomed globally.

Now two Stellenbosch winemakers say they will take advantage of the
positive developments in Cuba to open an export market in the Caribbean
country for their wines.

Kanu Wines MD Ben Truter and Koopmanskloof Vineyards MD Rydal Jeftha are
part of a group of South African businesspeople who participated in the
Havana International Trade Fair earlier this month.

Truter had participated in the trade fair two years ago, but had found
the market impenetrable at the time. He said now the changing
environment in Cuba, driven by the normalised relationship with the US,
offered a different scenario.

Jeftha said Cuba was attracting global attention, but specifically from
the US, and he wanted to be a step ahead to take advantage of the good
relationships between South Africa and Cuba. That meant penetrating the
wine market and getting South African wines on restaurant wine lists and
into hotels.

In finding a Cuban agent he believed he could establish his brand in
Cuba and increase the presence of his wines in the country. Already the
restaurants and hotels were teeming with tourists.

Truter was inspired by the media reports of developments in Cuba and
observed a potentially sound market provided by the tourists, especially
European, streaming into Cuba.

"This is the opportune time to establish a presence here … there is no
time to procrastinate as things will be more difficult in the future as
more companies target Cuba as an export market for their products," he said.

There is little doubt South African wines can compete against the best
in the world. The opportunity to demonstrate that on another
international stage can only hold our wines in good stead.

Closer to home, South Africa has a new wine route – the 21st time a
group of wineries has formed a collective to draw tourists and promote a
specific region. Misty Mountains Estate is the first winery visitors
encounter on the Stanford Wine Route when travelling from Hermanus on
the R43.

Next is Springfontein on the opposite side of the Klein River where the
cool, windy Walker Bay climate and limestone soils have brought out the
best in chenin blanc and pinotage. The Sir Robert Stanford Estate is
just off the R43 and about 1km before the town of Stanford.

Established in 1855 and once owned by entrepreneur Sir Robert Stanford,
it is one of Walker Bay's oldest wine estates with vineyards overlooking
the Klein River Valley.

The balance of the route includes Stanford Hills winery, Walker Bay
Vineyards, Vaalvlei, Raka and Boschrivier Wines – certainly a trip well
worth considering for anyone looking for another experience in the

Source: Cape winemakers look to Cuba market - IOL Lifestyle -

Ecuador imposes visa requirement to stem Cuban migration

Ecuador imposes visa requirement to stem Cuban migration
Associated Press

Ecuador announced Thursday that it will begin requiring Cubans to get
entry visas beginning Tuesday, seeking to discourage the flow of migrants.

Deputy Foreign Minister Xavier Lasso said Ecuador wants to curb the flow
of migrants who have been using Ecuador as a transit country to reach
other nations without permission.

He said such migration is risky and "puts at risk men, women and children."

"We do not close the door to Cuba," but Ecuador is committed to efforts
by the Latin American community to prevent migration without
authorization, Lasso said.

His announcement came after a weekend meeting in El Salvador where
Central American and other officials, including Ecuador's foreign
minister, discussed the plight of 3,000 U.S.-bound Cuban migrants who
are stranded at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

See the most-read stories this hour >>
The vast majority of those Cubans started their journey in Ecuador,
which until now has allowed any foreigner to enter without a visa.

The year-old detente between the U.S. and Washington has set off a surge
in Cuban migrants headed for the United States. They fear the
normalization of relations will bring an end to Cold War-era special
immigration privileges that give U.S. residency to any Cuban who sets
foot on U.S. soil.

Source: Ecuador imposes visa requirement to stem Cuban migration - LA
Times -

Swampscott to Cuba for Jewish philanthropy

Swampscott to Cuba for Jewish philanthropy
Posted: Friday, November 27, 2015 3:00 am
Gayla Cawley / The Daily Item

SWAMPSCOTT — Neil Donnenfeld took a trip many Americans don't get to
take when he visited Cuba earlier this month.
Donnenfeld said the Cuban government requires a philanthropic or
cultural reason for a trip to the country, so he took the trip as part
of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) to visit with leaders of the
Jewish community in Cuba who are living under the communist system.
Donnenfeld is a past president of the Jewish Family Service and is
currently the treasurer of the Marblehead Jewish Community Center (JCC).
He is also a member of Chabad Lubavitch of the North Shore, a temple.
Donnenfeld took the trip with fellow members of the CJP and a member of
the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). He said the JDC works with the
Jewish Federation System around the world to provide emotional,
spiritual, financial and humanitarian aid to Jewish people in need
around the world.
He said the resources available to Jewish people in Cuba are extremely
limited, so he and his group brought Hanukkah toys for children as well
as medicine. He said the group also provided financial assistance for
the chicken dinner that is held for the Jewish people every Friday night.
With a Cuban population of 12 million, Donnenfeld said there are only
about 1,200 Jews remaining in the country, which is down from a Jewish
population that got as high as 15,000 at one point.
Donnenfeld said he was nudged by his girlfriend to take the trip to Cuba
and he eventually made the four-day visit from Nov. 12-15.
"It's fascinating and close by," Donnenfeld said of Cuba. (I had a)
desire to reach out to my common culture — my Jewish family in Cuba —
and to help and tell them what's going on in the world."
Donnenfeld said certain experiences stuck with him from the trip. The
night before he set off for Cuba, he said he saw on the news that three
Chinese warships had sailed into the Havana harbor. When he got there,
he saw the ships in person and asked a tour guide about them. At first,
the guide didn't acknowledge the ships were there but then told him they
were to commemorate the 55th anniversary of a treaty between China and Cuba.
Donnenfeld said there has been instances of the U.S. and other countries
contesting the legitimacy of some of the man-made islands in the South
China sea. He said there have been some instances of the U.S. entering
into those territorial waters of China surrounding those man-made
islands. He said he found it a little reminiscent of the Cuban Missile
Crisis for China to have warships within 90 miles of the U.S.
Another instance that stuck out to him was walking into one of the
temples in Havana and having the female president of that temple showing
special interest in his group from Boston, saying she loved the city. He
said he was further surprised when she asked if there was anyone from
Swampscott in the group.
Donnenfeld said the woman told the group that four years ago, a group
from a Swampscott temple, Congregation Shirat Hayam of the North Shore,
showed up unannounced with a torah as a gift.
"It was a recognition of the common bond of the Jewish people,"
Donnenfeld said of the torah.
Later in the trip, Donnenfeld said he was wearing a New York Yankees
Thurman Munson jersey and was approached by an elderly Cuban man who
started a conversation about baseball with him. He said the man was
speaking in Spanish, but as he is fluent in the language, this wasn't a
barrier. He said the man opened up the conversation by saying he didn't
believe Babe Ruth is baseball's greatest player. Instead, the Cuban man
said that distinction should go to Boston Red Sox player Ted Williams,
as he saw Williams play in Cuba in 1946.
"It opened up the opportunity to have a conversation with a real Cuban
old-timer," Donnenfeld said.
As the trip had a philanthropic reason, Donnenfeld said he kept a
pocketful of CUCs, the Cuban currency, with him and handed them out to
children. When he offered a few of those to the man, he said the Cuban
looked at him and said he was a member of the Communist party. He said
the man told him "I'm very grateful for the gesture but my country gives
me everything I need."
Donnenfeld was struck by a cutting edge nightclub that he went to. He
said the club is evidence that the country, which he said doesn't have
Internet access most places, is rapidly moving towards the future.
Donnenfeld said with tensions easing between the U.S. and Cuba, with the
trade embargo recently lifted, that it won't be much longer that a
philanthropic reason is needed to visit the country.
"Cuba is going to be an immensely interesting country to watch over the
next couple of years," Donnenfeld said. "With China and the U.S. vying
for economic and political power and with the Castros (Fidel and Raul)
being in their late 80's, dramatic change is axlmost inevitable."
Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com

Source: Swampscott to Cuba for Jewish philanthropy - Itemlive.com: News

The call of the wild

The call of the wild
JORGE OLIVERA CASTILLO | La Habana | 27 Nov 2015 - 2:19 pm.

Astounding is the shock of a Cuban national and resident on the Island,
at a video posted on the Internet of a dog violently thrown into a
vehicle belonging to Zoonosis, the agency responsible for the collection
and euthanization of sick stray dogs.

The condemnation of this action, certainly reprehensible, came from a
scandalized Dr. Valia Rodríguez Rodríguez, who decided to send a letter
to the "Acuse de Recibo" ("Acknowledgement of Receipt") section of the
Granma newspaper in order to denounce a phenomenon that transcends the
hurling of the pet, like a rag ball, against the vehicle's metal sides.

Without wishing to downplay the complainant's concern, I think it is
more important to focus on other more everyday and humiliating types of
violence that, unfortunately, are not even covered by the official press.

I am referring to those which occur daily on our buses, or just outside
oir grocery markets, where people flock to buy some of the products they
are so lacking, or in the many neighborhoods where conflicts are settled
by knives, blows and punches.

In the litany of evidence of the regression that eats away at us, like
termites at a piano, we ought to highlight the thuggish passion of the
"rapid response brigades" that the government unleashes against
pro-democracy activists, with tactics that include verbal harangues,
beating, kicking and spitting.

These behaviours, incompatible with reason, which have taken root across
the country, reflect the intransigent entrenchment that the regime
employs in order to maintain unanimous support for its ideology of
power, with the consequent violation of the ethical and moral values
surviving in our homes, schools and workplaces.

If seeking water from a stone is absurd, it is equally so to demand
sanity and decency in the midst of a socio-economic disaster with no
signs of any solution, while the resistance to change only hardens,
holding out against the struggle to replace the old structures
sustaining ongoing chaos, in the broadest sense of the term.

It is dramatic that the whining of a dog has shone a spotlight on
violence in Cuba.

What about human suffering, of the kind that comes when someone is
stabbed over something that never should have escalated beyond a simple
argument, or strings of expletives, shouted out and accompanied by
vulgar gestures, in response to a simple stepping on of toes, or some
other insignificant incident?

What about the torment suffered when facing a mob licensed to offend and
beat others in the defense of socialism, invented by the Castros to
remain in perpetual power?

Violence is a phenomenon inherent to this political model, now
approaching its 56th anniversary.

Its existence depends on the use of brutality, in all its forms.

The worst thing about the situation is that it is not limited to the
normality of these episodes today, but the aftershocks that will occur
in the future.

In its sluggish metamorphosis, Castroism sees to the conservation of
extreme violence, in almost all its manifestations.

It is unfortunate that the thousands of samples of the paradigmatic man,
formulated in the laboratories of the Revolution, have lost the ability
to behave civilly.

Without a prior process of civilisation, democracy is unviable. But what
else can be done in response to such beasts, disguised as people?

Source: The call of the wild | Diario de Cuba -

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Annoyances of the New Identity Card

Annoyances of the New Identity Card / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto
Posted on November 26, 2015

14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto Camagüey, 25 November 2015 – One year since
the start of the issuing new identity cars in Cuba, many recognize the
advantages of the modern ID card, but criticize the complex process to
get one. In Camagüey province the manufacture and distribution of the
new identify card started last May, but delays in delivering them and
long lines continue to characterize their arrival in this region.

To learn about the details of the process, 14ymedio approached the ID
card office this Tuesday, where people interested in applying for the
new polycarbonate card had gathered since the early morning hours. The
applicant must bring one or several stamp/seals with a total value of 25
Cuban pesos. Fingerprints are taken on the premises and the applicant is

Among those waiting to update their identity card was Gabriel Villafaña
Bosa, whose previous document had deteriorated through use and the
passing of years. This Camagüeyan believes that the new format is
"stronger and more durable," so that the number of times it needs to be
replaced because of damage will be reduced. However, to get it he had to
overcome a long wait.

Yosbani Martinez commented, "I still don't have the new card because
everyone in the world is here." Living near the office, the young man
says that he has passed by the place at four in the morning, "and the
line goes to the corner."

Trying to reduce the avalanche of requests, the authorities have warned
that the document can only be replaced in case of loss, damage, change
of address or reaching the age of majority. In statements in the
official press, several officials have insisted that it is not
obligatory to possess the new card, because the two prior formats
continue to be valid.

The dissatisfaction with the long wait even made the pages of the local
newspaper Adelante this last September whenthe journalist Yasselys Perez
Chaos commented to a friend, "after waiting five days in nighttime lines
I was allowed to enter the office, where a single unhappy looking
official was able to issue only three to twelve cards a day."

The delays mean serious problems for those who have lost their
identification. "Imagine a police officer stops me and asks for the
card. When I tell him I don't have it they take me to the station for
fun," said Villa Faña Bosa. The lack of the document has even affected
his collection of remittances. "What do I do if my dad sends me money?
How can I collect it at Western Union without the card," the young man
asks, standing in the middle of a long line.

Others resist losing patience despite the obstacles. This is the case
with Adalberto Perez Arteago, who says, "It's the first card I have,
because I spent 25 years in prison and didn't participate in the prior
change of format." The man also feels that the design of the new
document, "looks better."

Among the changes in the document is that the identity number is
embossed, there are security features, the content is printed in
invisible ink, the bars are machine readable, and there is a ghost image
on the back.

The most repeated complaints also address the continued interruptions in
the service of delivering the new cards, for various reasons. This
Tuesday the building was being fumigated, which paralyzed the process in
the only office authorized to issue them in the Camagüey capital. A
couple waiting for the process so they could get married decided to
return another day, earlier. "It's already five in the afternoon and
look at the number of people who are here. We lost an entire day on
this," the woman pointed out.

As of last June, 380,645 new-format identify cards had been issued in
the entire country; that covers 4% of the population over age 16. In
Camagüey the numbers are more modest; with a population of 717,686
adults, only 5,746 had obtained the document by that date, some 0.8% of
the local population.


Bucanero-Cristal Exploits Ties to Self-Employed and Palco and Habaguanex Executive

Bucanero-Cristal Exploits Ties to Self-Employed and Palco and Habaguanex
Executives / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on November 25, 2015

Juan Juan Almeida, 24 November 2015 — Just as the proceedings surpassed
the scandalous total of 42 people indicted, the General Vice-Prosecutor
of the Republic of Cuba, Carlos Raúl Concepción Rangel, imposed a gag
order on the case and hid it underneath the trite mantle of "secret
character," because — according to sources in the Prosecutor's office —
he's expecting the number of those involved to increase.

The investigation filtered down, and some of the people implicated
hardened themselves and beat it out of the country. Others are hiding
out; there is a border alert for them, and an order of search and capture.

Before such an emergency, and even without finishing the trial, they're
taking the accused out of the investigation center at 100 and Aldabó —
the women to the western prison, El Guatao (known as Manto Negro), the
men to Valle Grande or the Combinado del Este. The VIP accomplices,
owing to their natural status as first-class citizens, were sent home
and asked to be "low profile" until their names could be pulled from the
file or, at least, their complicity silenced in a case that could paint
them as crooks.

Certainly the population's complaints will increase due to the absence
of the country's beer in Cuban markets. There hasn't been any of the
national beer available in any restaurant or State establishment, nor in
the TRD shops, the so-called Rápidos, or Ditú*.

The Minister of Foreign Trade faces lawsuits from international
distributors for frequent non-compliance with contractual commitments.

The litigants claim that there was no delivery of Cristal and Bucanero;
but the headquarters, Cervecería Bucanero S.A., says it fulfilled its
production plans and satisfied requests without reporting anything
stolen or lost.

Everyone's asking the same question: "Where did that beer mysteriously
go, once it left the factory, was paid for and didn't show up in the
State system?"

Indications point in only one direction: the private restaurants,
private bars and other establishments of the self-employment initiative.

The investigation started at the end of last August, when a couple of
inspectors, as lethal and accurate as good snipers, targeted a truck
from Cervecería Bucanero S.A., which each week unloaded merchandise in a
private restaurant located on the Pinar del Río-Havana highway.

Inconsistent but true because — although the Government says it's
boosting private initiative and the press repeats the lie and many who
are misled believe it — there is a regulation that prohibits the
self-employed from buying what they sell privately directly from the
companies (whether national or foreign), that is, wholesale; they can
only buy goods in ordinary consumer stores or shops.

Ministry of the Interior (MININT forces), as part of the process of
compiling data and evidence to document the investigation's case, and
make citizens uncomfortable, are examining the house of one of the
managers of the Bucanero warehouse, and — according to the investigative
file: "In one room (Fambá's**), inside a safe, the police confiscated
82,000 CUC and three lists: one with the names of sellers to whom they
must pay a commission, another of Palco and Habaguanex officials, and
the other with directions for distributing merchandise."

They're adding prisoners to the list; the investigation is expanding;
and the anger of those organizing the case is growing, even when those
implicated find themselves facing an "accomplished fact" with no
defense. It's difficult to imagine, because they managed to use methods
of buying and selling that are not even conventional enough to qualify
as criminal acts.

The private business owners delivered money to the officers of State
companies, Palco and Habaguanex; and the officers issued, to Cervecería
Bucanero S.A., a bill of payment (not falsified) with the amount of the
merchandise, together with an official order.

Bucanero had to deliver, and it did deliver. So sellers and buyers were
violating the regulations, yes, but not the law. And in place of being
judged for an act of corruption, they should be awarded for their
ingenious solution.

Translator's notes:
*TRD is the Spanish initials for "Hard Currency Collection Store" —
which the regime uses to 'collect' people's remittances from abroad by
selling them overpriced products not available in Cuban pesos; El Rápido
is a fast-food chain; Ditú is a chain of coffee shops.
**In the African-Caribbean religion, Abakua, the Fambá is a room where
rituals are performed.

Translated by Regina Anavy