Saturday, May 28, 2016

Welcome to the new Cuba, where dog baths cost what some state workers make in a whole paycheck

Welcome to the new Cuba, where dog baths cost what some state workers
make in a whole paycheck
By Ana Campoy

If there's anything more anathema to the ideals of the Cuban Revolution
than a chihuahua-sized hoodie, I don't know what it is.

The story behind the racist Chinese ad where a black man gets his skin
color scrubbed off
Yet a Havana pet boutique I came across on a recent visit was selling
dog coats in both female and male designs for the equivalent of $18, not
far off an entire monthly salary for the average state worker. The pet
specialty shop, one of several in the Cuban capital, also had doggie
nail polish and American dog treats, likely smuggled in a suitcase on a
flight from Miami.

In today's Cuba, the Castro brothers stick to their communist spiel in
speeches, tourists continue to drool over Old Havana's crumbling
facades, but Cubans have moved on. Their sights are on branded sneakers
and all-inclusive beach vacations, the latest MacBook Air and a car to
get to work in. And thanks to legal changes in both Cuba and the US, a
growing number of them can actually afford those things.

As one local observer put it, the well-off have become the neediest
people in Cuba. And new businesses to serve those needs abound. For $60
a session, the island's nouveaux riches can get rid of tacky
communist-era tattoos. For $10 more, they can have a facial mud
mask—another superfluous vanity in a country where much of the
population is seemingly blessed with near-flawless skin.

Why does gin and tonic taste so good?
The rise of this consumer class is the new Cuban revolution. Its members
are sidestepping the island's schizophrenic, half-planned, half
market-driven economic model, and going full-blown capitalist. Give them
a few years, and they will turn Cuba around.

First, though, they need their dogs groomed.

Capitalism, self-multiplied

The whims of the wealthiest Cubans are contributing to a chain reaction
that's pulling everyone up the socioeconomic ladder. How it started
dates back to the final days of the Soviet Union.

Desperate for cash after the Soviet collapse, Fidel Castro flung Cuba's
doors open to tourism, and released Cubans to strike out on their own,
albeit in a highly restricted set of economic activities.

The pace of reform quickly picked up after Raúl Castro took over from
his more dogmatic older brother in 2008. He opened up more sectors to
cuentapropistas, or private entrepreneurs. In a stunning break with
previous rules, he even allowed them to hire workers who were not
actually related to them.

Meanwhile, in the US, president Barack Obama opened up the remittance
floodgates and in not-so-many-words told Americans it was now okay to
visit Cuba as tourists. Money orders worth roughly $2 billion a year
started gushing in, along with dollar-toting rubberneckers. The
cuentapropistas catering to them and the lucky Cubans with rich
relatives abroad had cash to burn. Thanks to the paquete semanal, the
stash of foreign media delivered weekly on USB sticks—a kind of
pre-internet internet—they also got ideas on how to spend it.

Other enterprising Cubans obliged, opening up spinning gyms,
party-planning companies, and private kindergartens. All those
businesses have employees, also considered cuentapropistas, earning
several times a state salary. This has added yet another layer of
consumers to the economy.

To be sure, even the richest Cubans would be considered middle-class
elsewhere. And many in Cuba's new private sector are barely making
enough to survive. But they, too, seem to be driven by the intoxicating
promise of stuff—everything from $67 Puma sneakers to new Audis, which
stand out amid Cuba's otherwise dilapidated fleet like American tourists
on the Malecón.

The officially estimated number of cuentapropistas has now reached some
half a million.

That's 10% of the workforce, and it doesn't include another 600,000 or
more making money in the underground economy, according to Richard
Feinberg, a Cuba scholar at the University of California, San Diego.

On May 24, the government announced that it would grant legal
recognition to small and medium-sized private businesses. Though details
on what this means are scarce, it could potentially lift many of the
current barriers that have stunted private enterprise.

Quick studies

The speed at which Cuba has caught up to standards outside the island is
mind-boggling. When Kché, a beauty salon, started out 11 years ago, it
consisted of one office chair and an antique sewing-machine table that
had been turned into a manicure counter.

Its owner, Cassandra López Tirado, had studied business management back
when "business" meant a slightly more independent branch of the
government. But a financial statement is a financial statement, she
says, whether you're at a state firm or a private company. She's gone
from being a state-employed shoe buyer making 300 pesos ($11) a month to
earning enough for a nanny, spinning lessons, and pet-parlor visits for
her dog.

Not that it's been easy. López Tirado has to buy nail polish at state
stores, at retail prices, because she has no access to the wholesale
market. Loans are hard to get and, when available, tend to be small, so
she had to rely on her savings, and the ornate apartment she inherited
from her aunt, to set up her newest salon on Havana's happening Calle 23.

The clucking chickens and the goat tied in the driveway a few buildings
down take Kché's classy ambience down a notch. Still, it's way more
sumptuous than many of the strip-mall salons that dot the US. It has
crystal chandeliers, perfectly restored, double-height ceilings, and a
gigantic vase of fragrant tiger lilies to greet customers.

It also has a much wider array of services than I'm used to back in the
US, all priced in CUCs, Cuba's secondary currency, which trades
one-to-one with the dollar. I had to Google some of the beauty
treatments on the list: Diamond-tip dermabrasion (essentially
dead-skin-cell vacuuming) and radiofrequency (or sagging-skin repair
without undergoing the knife).

There's also tattoo removal, made possible by a machine López Tirado
imported from the US in her suitcase. She reserves that service for
clients with smallish tattoos, because after all, this is still Cuba.
Who can afford the multiple $60-an-hour sessions needed to clear a large
swath of inked skin?

Actually, who can afford any of this stuff? I asked several experts that
question, and they said the answer is hard to pin down, because the
Cuban government doesn't acknowledge this social class, much less put
out statistics on it. Roughly speaking though, it's a heterogeneous
group of remittance recipients and independent entrepreneurs—people who
range from artists to babalaos, the Afro-Cuban priests commissioned to
perform other-worldly services. The academics I spoke with did not
mention prostitutes, but one business owner I interviewed whispered to
me that they, too, have small fortunes to drop on clothes and beauty salons.

Kché's clientele doesn't want the out-of-date techniques imparted at
state-run beauty schools. So the manicurists dutifully study the latest
international styles on YouTube beauty videos included every week in the
paquete. I got a pedicure adorned with a cute sparkly flower. It cost me
two CUCs and I left another two as a tip.

The ultimate middle-class indulgence

On a recent Friday morning, all the kennels at iDog, a pet salon in one
of Havana's nicer residential neighborhoods, were occupied by slightly
irritated dogs and one sleeping cat.

Since it opened three years ago, the business has exploded. Yorkies
alone take up six pages of the ruled notebook that serves as iDog's
client directory, says Anitée Vidal, one of the groomers. After studying
veterinary medicine, she's now getting an education in the kind of
marketing that spurs consumers to buy things they don't really need,
like polka-dot doggie bows. And I get why she's there, trimming dog ears
and paws. It's way better than working at a threadbare animal clinic, or
inspecting pig parts at a meat-packing plant, some of the state-job

iDog is covered in minimalist red tile and pictures of cute dogs. There
is a clear divider between the small receiving area and the grooming
stations so owners can see first-hand the devoted care doled out to
their pets. The air-conditioning is always on.

It wasn't that long ago that dogs were just another animal to Cubans,
says Vidal. But a growing number of Cuban families now treat their dogs
the way dogs are treated by the affluent in other countries—like spoiled
children. A client who dropped in while I chatted with Vidal couldn't
stop kissing her baby pit bull. It's named "Limbo," after the new
restaurant/bar her family is opening. The puppy sleeps with her, she
says, and gets a helping of her restaurant meals.

Another client, who pulled up in a modern Chinese sedan, was less
affectionate with his fluffy white dog. He takes her to iDog because he
has too much work to do to bathe her himself. Our conversation quickly
petered out after I asked him what it was that kept him so busy. He
loaded his perfumed dog into his new car and drove off.

Veterinarians can't yet get cuentapropista licenses. But if and when
they do, and if she can cobble together enough capital, Vidal hopes to
open her own clinic, going after the kinds of clients who come to iDog.
Like many of the Cubans I met during my visit, she's caught the
entrepreneurial bug.

The American dream, Cuban style

Castro came to power partly on the back of resentment at the excesses of
a small, corrupt elite. But two generations on, many Cubans say that
when they see the new elite's ballooning prosperity, they want to
reproduce it, not expropriate it.

It's hard to see the state's staid bureaucracy holding them back, much
less competing with them. A taxi driver pools his family savings to buy
one of the dilapidated American cars pictured in nearly every Cuban
postcard. He restores it and is now getting ready to sell it at several
times its original value. With the money, he plans to buy an even better
car to repeat the process.

A mathematician repurposes himself as a photographer of quinceañeras, or
girls turning 15. He promotes his services, which cost around $300 a
session, on Facebook, and on the glitzy virtual pages of Primavera, a
paquete-distributed magazine in PDF format and devoted to the teen
market. He proudly shows me his latest photos; they show a gangly girl,
posing provocatively, half-immersed in the Caribbean. The idea for the
setting came from his art director—a necessity, he says, to stand out in
his competitive line of business.

Then there's Sandro Fernández López, a personal trainer who wants to
spread the tropical version of spinning he's developed. He's doing all
the right things. He came up with a catchy name: "Q'suin", which is how
a Cuban would say "What swing!" He has a logo, and is in the process of
registering a trademark. He assembled a crowd of more than 700 last year
to watch sweat-dripped Q'suin practitioners dance atop stationary bikes.
Red Bull was a sponsor.

And yet he's not making any money off his idea. He needs a partner to
launch Q'suin classes at hotels in Cuba, or gyms abroad, but
cuentapropistas are not allowed to strike direct deals with government
entities or foreign companies.

For now, his business plan requires way more than what Cuba's confining
private-business rules allow.

But even as Fernández López struggles within Cuba's weird breed of
socialist capitalism, the achievements of the revolution are not lost on
him. A while ago, as he was planning a trip abroad, his heart failed. He
spent 15 days in the hospital, for free. "Had I left," he says, "I would
be dead."

Unlike the thousands of Cubans who are abandoning the island to try
their luck abroad, he's staying put.

"I'm hoping for my dream to come true," he says of Q'suin, "and that
it's here in Cuba."

Source: Welcome to the new Cuba, where dog baths cost what some state
workers make in a whole paycheck - Yahoo Finance -;_ylt=AwrC0CNQYElXkGcAN1LQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByOHZyb21tBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--

José Daniel Ferrer, the man behind Cuba’s largest opposition group

José Daniel Ferrer, the man behind Cuba's largest opposition group

Former political prisoner heads the Cuban Patriotic Union, an
organization in eastern Cuba that has launched a campaign urging the
island's people to let go of their fear.

Irreverent youth, activist in the Christian Liberation Movement's early
days, political prisoner and now leader of Cuba's most active opposition
group, José Daniel Ferrer is probably one of the biggest headaches for
the island's government.

One of the 75 political prisoners jailed in the 2003 crackdown known as
Cuba's Black Spring, Ferrer, 45, was one of the last to be freed in 2011
under a parole that barred him from leaving the country. He arrived in
Miami last week, after the government gave him a one-time permission to
travel abroad.

After his release Ferrer founded the Cuban Patriotic Union, UNPACU by
its Spanish initials, which he estimates now has more than 3,000 members
and sympathizers, mostly in Santiago de Cuba and other parts of eastern
Cuba although it also has members in Havana, Camaguey and the Isle of Youth.

How he managed to gather those 3,000 supporters — a number that is small
in an island of 11 million people yet is significantly large compared to
other dissident organizations — is a question with more than one answer.

He is a clearly charismatic leader, and even in prison he managed to
persuade the jailers to improve the quality of the food or rush an
inmate to a nearby hospital. His love for politics, he told el Nuevo
Herald and Miami Herald editors on Thursday, grew as he listened
clandestinely to foreign radio broadcasts. He described himself as a
voracious reader, and more than once quoted Chinese strategist Sun Tzu's
book, The Art of War.

Czech leader Vaclav Havel was another idol.

"When I completed my military service in 1991, I got a copy of Vaclav
Havel's book, The Power of the Powerless, and I understood that we could
topple the dictatorship," he said. "Until that time, the question of
whether I would leave [Cuba] or stay was in the air. But the fall of the
Communist bloc and this book encouraged me to start the struggle."


What's more, Ferrer has organized UNPACU for maximum efficiency, and the
movement now has a structure and way of operating that look much like
those of a political party. Although Cuba bans all but the Communist
Party, Ferrer acknowledges that turning UNPACU into a political party is
one of his goals.

Members have concrete and clear goals to meet, and they are checked
regularly. One important part of their work is face-to-face contacts,
trying to persuade others to join the group. They receive training to do
just that.

If anything distinguishes UNPACU from other dissident groups in Cuba, it
is that ability to move beyond street protests.

Ferrer said that "valiant work in the streets" is indispensable for
showing the government that there is "a vanguard that is not afraid of
it" — an important message to convince the rest of the people that
change is possible and that the opposition has at least some chance of

But Ferrer also lists other key activities: humanitarian assistance to
the poor "without asking for anything in return," and an "intelligent
outreach" with the organization's anti-Castro message.

That's another strong side of UNPACU, which maintains an active presence
in social networks, publishes videos of its activities and
man-on-the-street interviews on topics like rising food prices, and goes
door-to-door distributing thousands of DVDs and flash drives with its
work or foreign news reports. Occasionally, it also manages to sneak
UNPACU information into the paquete — the weekly digital archive of
entertainment, news and other items sold throughout the island and the
main source of independent information for most Cubans.

UNPACU also creates its own educational materials from a broad range of
sources, including Hollywood movies edited "to encourage people to lose
their fear" or to generate discussions at group meetings.

"No one wishes for what they don't know, and no one loses their fear if
they don't see that others have liberated themselves, that they have
lost their fear," he said.


Ferrer said that one of the positive results of President Barack Obama's
recent visit to Cuba, aside from his meeting with a group of dissidents
that included the UNPACU chief, was the media spotlight trained on the
island for a few days.

"When Obama went to Cuba, dozens of journalists from the free world also
went and asked us about the political prisoners, the basic freedoms," he
said. UNPACU activists later copied the articles published and
distributed them "house to house. Then people can say, 'They really are
right, because the newspaper said so.' "

Ferrer stressed that this work of disseminating information is essential
in a place like Cuba, where the mass media is totally and tightly
controlled by the Communist Party.

"A people that for so many years has received only the information
allowed by its oppressors cannot see things in the way that a free
person sees them, for example in Miami, where they can see as many
newspapers as they want," he added.

Another UNPACU initiative has been the elaboration of a "minimum
program" for a transition, in which the organization calls for economic
reforms, a new electoral law, a free press and the release of all
political prisoners, as well as decent wages and food security. It also
declares that "health, together with education and social welfare, will
be considered a non-negotiable right of all Cubans" — an ideal that
aligns the dissident group with the desires of many Cubans on the island.

UNPACU also is trying to use the micro-enterprises allowed by the
government to sustain its members and make up for the emigration of many
of its members, who have been joining the exodus shaking up the island
in the past few years.

What's more, all of the group's activities take place under the tight
vigilance of and repression from Cuba's political police, which
constantly try to keep the opposition from continuing to grow.

Aware of the government's power to "intimidate," his strategy has been
to use small activities to slowly move toward "the democratization of
Cuba," Ferrer said.

Ferrer, who spent 90 minutes in conversation with Herald and el Nuevo
Herald journalists, acknowledged that his leadership accounts for much
of UNPACU's success. He was asked what would happen if the organization
suddenly lost its leader.

"It's a risk, but there are other people in other organizations. In
fact, I have said [to members] on several occasions that if I disappear
and they don't feel they are capable of carrying on with UNPACU, they
should end the organization and join the United Anti-Totaliarian Front,
the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement or the Ladies in White," he answered,
referring to some of Cuba's other dissident movements.

Ferrer already has urged other dissident organizations to put aside
their differences over the changes in U.S. policies toward Cuba and
agree on common aspects under a Democratic Action Unity Roundtable,
which backs initiatives such as trying to register independent
candidates for legislative elections in 2017.


"We have to be active in all sectors of society. We have to battle the
regime in any arena where we can," said Ferrer, who is scheduled to
visit several other cities in the United States and Europe before
returning to the island.

"We cannot allow them to feel comfortable any place," he said with a
smile. "Anywhere they are, they should feel the heat. They should feel
the chair is a little tight."

Source: José Daniel Ferrer, the man behind Cuba's largest opposition
group | In Cuba Today -

Lighthouse Cubans won’t be sent home, for now

Lighthouse Cubans won't be sent home, for now

Judge orders another hearing
Migrants swam from boat to American Shoal lighthouse
Legal challenge to America's wet-foot, dry-foot policy

A federal judge offered hope for 21 Cubans being held on a U.S. Coast
Guard cutter awaiting repatriation back to their homeland.

U.S. District Court Judge Darrin Gayles at a hearing Friday, May 27,
scheduled an evidentiary hearing for next Thursday, June 2 at 2 p.m. at
the federal courthouse in downtown Miami.

Lawyers with the non-profit group, Movimiento Democracia filed an
injunction earlier this week arguing the Cubans should be able to stay
in the United States under the wet-foot, dry-foot policy stated under
1995 changes to the Cuban Adjustment Act.

The migrants swam off their makeshift vessel and climbed onto the
American Shoal lighthouse off the Lower Keys on Friday, May 20 after
being confronted by a U.S. Coast Guard crew.

They stayed on the 109-foot structure for about eight hours before
coming down and being taken aboard an undisclosed cutter. Under
wet-foot, dry-foot, Cuban migrants caught at sea before making it to
land must be returned to Cuba.

Those who make land can stay and apply for permanent residency after a year.

The Coast Guard and the U.S. Attorney's Office argue the lighthouse,
which is about 7 nautical miles at sea south of Sugarloaf Key, does not
count as dry land under wet-foot, dry foot.

William J. Sanchez-Calderon, one of the several attorneys working on
behalf of the migrants, praised both Gayles and the Coast Guard
following Friday's decision.

"The Coast Guard has been extremely helpful in this too," he said.

Source: Lighthouse Cubans won't be sent home, for now | In Cuba Today -

Hot new trend in Cuban ID photos - digital suits and blouses

Hot new trend in Cuban ID photos: digital suits and blouses

It wasn't yet 10 a.m. but Juan Carlos Espinosa was sweating when he
exited his Soviet-era Lada sedan in front of a photo studio in the
middle-class Havana neighborhood of 10 de Octubre.
Associated Press

It wasn't yet 10 a.m. but Juan Carlos Espinosa was sweating when he
exited his Soviet-era Lada sedan in front of a photo studio in the
middle-class Havana neighborhood of 10 de Octubre.

With temperatures in the 80s and humidity lying thick over the city,
Espinosa wore a black T-shirt as he posed for a visa photo in front of a
white sheet. Then, in a side room, Lian Marrero worked magic: digitally
cutting away the T-shirt with a photo-editing program and pasting in a
somber black suit with a neatly knotted gray tie.

Marrero hit print and Espinosa had a set of three professional-looking
ID photos of himself in a suit that once belonged to a total stranger,
or may have never existed at all.

Across Cuba and the world, tens of thousands of Cubans stare out of ID
photos in elegant suits and dressy blouses they have never actually
worn. Each imperceptibly altered photo is a tiny tribute to Cubans'
finely honed ability to apply ingeniously homebrewed technical solutions
to the problems of an island beset by economic scarcity.

In this case the problem is relatively minor: how to look one's best in
official photos when tropical heat, lack of air conditioning and tight
family budgets make it highly impractical to wear dressy clothes to the
local photo studio. The answer: over-the-counter photo-editing programs
and an informal sharing network of photo studio owners who trade images
of suits and blouses among themselves.

Marrero, a 27-year-old electrician who runs a busy photo studio in the
front room of the home he shares with his wife, said they had offered
clients actual clothing to try on but people found it unappealing to
wear clothes that others had been sweating in.

"We realized that people preferred the idea of digital suits," he said.
"We ended up with three real suits and 10 digital ones," and eventually
the shop got rid of the real clothes entirely.

The demand for altered photos has diminished as more Cuban and foreign
government agencies equip themselves with the ability to take in-house
digital photos. But many foreign consulates still require visa
applicants to bring their own headshots, and since few explicitly
prohibit altering photos, the digital suit business is still flourishing.

Espinosa, a 53-year-old mechanic, said he and his wife, Isis Lopez, had
debated between a blue digital suit with a patterned tie and the
black-and-gray combo they eventually settled on.

"Wearing a suit in Cuba isn't easy," he said. "Here, we have the ability
to pick whichever one we want."

Both ended up happy with the result.

"I thought this one was more serious. I like the solid-color tie," Lopez
said. "Yes, I like this combination."

Source: Hot new trend in Cuban ID photos: digital suits and blouses | In
Cuba Today -

Friday, May 27, 2016

I’m Going to Set Fire to It and See What Happens

"I'm Going to Set Fire to It and See What Happens" / Anddy Sierra Alvarez

by Lumumba residents against the dumping of solid waste in the
neighborhood is all but lost. The garbage dump, established three years
ago, is bigger today and includes debris from roadwork done in the area.

According to residents, there were initially only twenty meters of
trash, but today it covers more than a hundred. Local residents point to
Comunales, the company in charge of collecting the solid waste, as the
main cause for what is happening.

"They blame us for creating this dump but it's not our fault. In this
borough (Arroyo Naranjo) it's Comunales; they are the ones responsible
for all the waste here," said Amelia Corrales, a resident of Lumumba.

"The problem is that we are black and that makes us scapegoats," notes
Yaima Lombillo, a resident of a neighborhood that is predominately
dark-skinned. We either have to put up with it or set the trash ablaze
to get the firemen to come, as happened three months ago."

Enrique Peña, a worker at the local headquarters of the company, says
that every three months they pick up all the refuse. "We come with a
six-person brigade, two trucks and a bulldozer to collect the debris
left there by residents. It takes us three hours and in the end
everything is clean," he said. Pity.

He continues, "We don't throw our trash there but neither do we make
sure that some of our workers aren't dumping garbage there instead of
going someplace further away."

But the problem is that residents do see company workers dumping their

"I passed there three times yesterday and there was a worker throwing
garbage there instead of picking it up. When I returned, there was
another one doing the same thing. We will continue living in filth and
breeding more Aedes aegypti mosquitoes [carriers of dengue fever and the
zika virus]," said Miguel Borroto, an area resident.

Local authorities have not responded to the problem. Attempts were made
to speak to the local representative but he refused to discuss it. "I am
very busy and am not going to my waste time talking to you," said
Alejandro, the area's representative, when I asked him about the Lumumba

Residents will have to make due with Comunales' three-month schedule for
cleaning an area which apparently its own employees are trashing. "I am
not expecting much," says Yaima Lombillo, "so I am going to set fire to
it all and see what happens."

Source: "I'm Going to Set Fire to It and See What Happens" / Anddy
Sierra Alvarez – Translating Cuba -

U.N. panel rejects press freedom watchdog accreditation request

U.N. panel rejects press freedom watchdog accreditation request
May 26, 2016
By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Committee to Protect Journalists, a press
freedom watchdog group, was denied consultative status at the United
Nations on Thursday, with South Africa, Russia and China among the
countries that opposed it.

The United States quickly denounced the decision and vowed to try to
overturn it.

New York-based CPJ reports on violations of press freedom in countries
and conflict zones around the world, reporting and mobilizing action on
behalf of journalists who have been targeted. A U.N. panel rejected its
application for status that would have given it access to U.N.
headquarters and allowed it to participate in U.N. events.

The 19-member U.N. Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations has for
years delayed action on the group's application for accreditation. CPJ
Executive Director Joel Simon described the NGO committee process as

"A small group of countries with poor press freedom records are using
bureaucratic delaying tactics to sabotage and undermine any efforts that
call their own abusive policies into high relief," he said in a statement.

The NGO committee rejected CPJ's application with 10 votes against, six
in favor and three abstentions.

Normally the committee decides by consensus. But a senior U.S. diplomat
requested a vote after South Africa and other committee members kept
posing questions that the United States and others denounced as a
delaying tactic.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Washington
would seek to overturn the NGO committee's "outrageous" decision by
calling for a vote in the 54-nation U.N. Economic and Social Council.

"We are extremely disappointed by today's vote," she told reporters. "It
is increasingly extremely clear that the NGO committee acts more and
more like an anti-NGO committee."

Western diplomats said the U.N. NGO committee has become increasingly
unfriendly to organizations supporting Western notions of human rights,
noting that gay rights NGOs and other groups have had trouble securing

The NGO committee's current members are Azerbaijan, Burundi, China,
Cuba, Greece, Guinea, India, Iran, Israel, Mauritania, Nicaragua,
Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sudan, Turkey, United States, Uruguay
and Venezuela.

Western diplomats said they were especially disappointed by South
Africa, whose delegation criticized CPJ for, among other things, not
supporting punishment for speech that incites hatred. The CPJ has noted
that there is no internationally agreed definition of the term "hate

A Russian delegate said he had "serious doubts about whether this
organization really is a non-governmental organization."

China, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Sudan were also among those that voted
against CPJ's accreditation.

Azerbaijan, Iran, China, and Cuba are on the CPJ's list of the 10
most-censored countries. It says on its website that the legacy of
Nelson Mandela's drive for press freedom in South Africa has faded.

On Russia it says: "Russia has a poor record of impunity in the cases of
murdered journalists, which increases intimidation and acts of violence
against the press."

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by David Gregorio and Dan Grebler)

Source: U.N. panel rejects press freedom watchdog accreditation request

Havana’s Man in Washington Takes to Twitter for Q&A

Havana's Man in Washington Takes to Twitter for Q&A
May 26, 2016 1:41 pm ET

Diplomats are increasingly turning to Twitter to engage with people
around the world and Thursday was no different. Except that the diplomat
the social media platform featured in a live question-and-answer
session hails from a country with extremely low Internet access and
scant press freedom.

José Ramón Cabañas, Cuba's ambassador to the U.S. in Washington, spent
about an hour answering questions via his verified account, from which
he frequently tweets.

He weighed in, in English and Spanish, on the significance of President
Barack Obama's March visit to the island, diplomatic contacts and
priorities between the two countries, whether Cuba's president Raúl
Castro would make a trip of his own to Washington and his taste in
music, among other topics.

Source: Havana's Man in Washington Takes to Twitter for Q&A - Washington
Wire - WSJ -

Cuba and its Outstanding Dreams

Cuba and its Outstanding Dreams
May 26, 2016
By Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES – When our children left home it was as if the sky had
fallen; my wife and I fell in what is known as the "empty nest
syndrome". Suddenly we were without our main occupation; educate this
pair of boys who gave us life.

Grisel, an excellent psychologist and best friend was the one who gave
us the key to get out of this existential anguish. Write down on paper
all the things you had wanted to do and had to forego to devote time to
your children, she said.

I realized then that we are not what we want to be but what the
circumstances impose and that can be projected to Cuba as a whole. I had
read somewhere that Cuban society in general and individual Cubans are
not what they had wanted to be.

For half a century they lived in a "besieged plaza" and adapted to the
circumstances; rationed food and freedoms, a single centralized chain of
command, unanimous unity, the nation above the individual and a single
slogan: resist, resist and resist.

Perhaps resistance could have been done differently or perhaps there was
no alternative to successfully stand up to the wrath of the world's
greatest economic and military power. The costs were high but even Obama
acknowledged that they had been unable to subdue Cuba by force.

But the fact is that in this process the nation ceased to be what it
wanted to be, adapting all the time to aggressions. If today you have a
dual currency, for example, it was because one day the US decided to
punish banks that receive dollars from Cuba.

However, now the "enemy" recognizes its failure, begins to lift the
siege mounted against the island and develops a new strategy that puts
the dispute on a different plane and changes "the circumstances" of
Cuban society.

The government complains that Washington is moving too slowly in the
dismantling of the economic war but perhaps they should be thankful
because it gives them the time to develop the new Cuban strategy adapted
to this context.

My wife and I had it worse when our children left home, almost
overnight, without giving us the shortest time to adapt our lives but we
finally managed to recycle or our original plans, those that had been
continually postponed.

Obama's policy regarding Cuba is not the same as that of his
predecessors; therefore Cuba's policy should also be different. However,
designing the new society only thinking in response to the US takes away
possibilities for the nation.

Perhaps the advice of my friend Grisel would serve the whole society,
look back and remember that nation it had wanted to build. Not
everything will be useful in the present circumstances but it will serve
as a compass to resume aspirations and redraw the course.

With the change of US policy the nation should not fall asleep but it
can dream again and even build on one of those old dreams that one day
was left in the storage room because the times demanded their being
very, very awake.

The exercise could be useful even to bring the different generations
closer. Possibly if a young Cuban asks his/her grandfather what society
he dreamed of in 1959 they will realize that it is much like the Cuba
that today's youth are seeking.

Source: Cuba and its Outstanding Dreams - Havana -

Hearing in lawsuit for Cubans who climbed Keys lighthouse

Hearing in lawsuit for Cubans who climbed Keys lighthouse

A hearing is set in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of Cuban
migrants seeking to remain in the U.S. after they climbed onto a
lighthouse several miles off the Florida Keys.

A hearing is set in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of Cuban
migrants seeking to remain in the U.S. after they climbed onto a
lighthouse several miles off the Florida Keys.

An attorney for the migrants says he's hopeful a Miami federal judge
will order at Friday afternoon's hearing that the Cubans remain under
U.S. control until the matter is settled. The 21 migrants are on a Coast
Guard cutter.

Under the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, Cubans who reach U.S. shores are
usually allowed to stay, while those intercepted at sea are generally
returned to the communist island.

The lawsuit claims the 136-year-old American Shoal lighthouse on a reef
off Sugarloaf Key should qualify as U.S. territory so the migrants can
stay. U.S. officials disagree.

Source: Hearing in lawsuit for Cubans who climbed Keys lighthouse | In
Cuba Today -

The Cuban justice system is seriously corrupt

"The Cuban justice system is seriously corrupt"
DDC | Oslo | 26 Mayo 2016 - 9:03 pm.

For more than 15 years the Cubalex Legal Information Center has been
providing free guidance to Cubans, who, lacking resources and
information, must grapple with the regime's legal system.

Cubalex also advises Cubans and foreigners with regards to human rights,
and drafts reports for international organizations about the situation
in the island.

One indication of this independent project's success are the
approximately 120 requests for advice that it currently receives per
month. Another, the regime's harassment of its members.

Independent lawyer Laritza Diversent, the Director of Cubalex, spoke
with DIARIO DE CUBA at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

What does Cubalex's work consist of?

People come to Cubalex with housing problems, criminal matters, or want
to ask us questions. We do not discriminate. Most people have no
political motivations. They come to us to solve personal problems.

We ask for documentation, as one of our limitations is that we cannot
access records like the lawyers at the Collective Firms can. We conduct
a first interview and create a digital record that allows our lawyers to
carry out an analysis and assess each case.

We determine whether there have been any human rights violations, what
strategy to follow, if it is necessary to appeal to the international
level, but first internal legal channels must be exhausted.

The work can sometimes take between 15 to 20 days, because we labor
under difficult conditions, but when they come we give them a printed
document so they can present it directly to the authorities.

What kind of cases do you tend to receive?

Most of the cases we get at Cubalex are criminal matters, very shocking
murders, situations that clearly evidence the violence, often extreme,
affecting Cuban society, in which women bear the brunt. Apart from the
events themselves, we have also found very serious due process violations.

Prisoners and their families are among our main clients. Most of our
services are discussed inside the prisons, as the inmates themselves
pass the word on. They ask mothers and wives to come to us.

We are working, for example, with a blind mother who for two years has
been unable to visit her son in prison because he was transferred. That
mother is raising her grandson because her son killed his wife, the
child's mother. Such are most of the cases; people who are facing
critical social situations.

How many requests for assistance have you received since the project
began in 2010?

I can't venture an exact figure, but I would say more than 5,000. In the
last four months some 300 people have turned to us.

There is a lot of domestic violence, injuries suffered by women,
murders. The Government does not issue statistics on gender violence,
but what we see the most are cases of violence, intimidation and murder.
They are disturbing.

How do you work on a project like this, not recognized by the
Government? What kind of problems do you run into?

Almost all the cases that come to us have already been heard. Sometimes
they come to us during the investigation phase, but those involved are
compelled to hire a defense attorney from a Collective Firm, so in this
regard we cannot do anything.

What we can is to advise, orient. We say "look for this evidence, do
this, present that" because, generally speaking, unless you pay the
official attorney, they're not going to show much interest.

We provide technical assistance mechanisms to deal with the mechanisms
of the system. A lawyer may charge extra fees of 100, 200 or 400
dollars. Many of the people we see have no money even to pay the
attorney they're assigned. So, their lawyer often receives the case
immediately before the trial. It is very common to find contradictions
between what the lawyer and his client have said.

How serious is the corruption in the judicial system?

The justice system is seriously corrupt. Lawyers, prosecutors and judges
... many charge through the defense lawyers and ask for astronomical
figures that it is very difficult for a Cuban to come up with, unless he
has family abroad.

We have received cases of Cuban Americans charged with drug trafficking,
and in this regard we have achieved positive results. State justice
authorities have accepted appeals that we have prepared. We drew up the
appeals for a good number of those acquitted in 2015.

How many lawyers work at Cubalex? How do they join the project?

We have only four lawyers working full time at our "offices," which
consist of two rooms of my own house. Cubalex also offers advisory
services in Camagüey and Granma, where there are two lawyers.

First we look at the evolution of each person and their real interest,
and then we integrate him into the team. We don't close the door on
anyone, but one of the requirements is that they cannot work with the
Government, and they must have a bachelor's degree in Law.

We are now trying to form a multidisciplinary team. We have a
psychologist, a doctor and a social and prison investigator, working
from within these institutions, with the cooperation of prisoners.

What other lines of work does Cubalex have?

Legal professionals, a prosecutor, for example, do not take into account
the issue of gender when applying the law, and sometimes they do so
crudely and arbitrarily, in a way that is sexist. We consider this
institutional violence.

During the investigative work we have done we have found that most men
deprived of their freedom, more than 50%, are from families of African
descent living in slums.

This caught our attention, and we are conducting a transversal analysis
of the issue of gender, the plight of Afro-cubans, and criminal penal
policy. We started working on these research topics to present reports
on human rights.

We also strive for civil society to receive more information on human

We started out with workshops, going to organizations, mostly in the
eastern region, and with the Damas de Blanco. We managed for them to at
least begin to gather information about arrests. We teach them to act as
observers and not as victims.

Unfortunately, we have not yet succeeded in getting them to document
things thoroughly. We are planning a course for human rights activists,
to teach them mainly to document and exhaust internal legal channels
before taking their grievances international.

We were struck by the fact that, between December 2013 and December
2014, Cuba had only three complaints at the international level. That is
because civil society was not doing its job. How are you going to go the
United Nations to report human rights violations if there are no records
of complaints?

You mentioned gender violence and racial discrimination.

Crime statistics are secret in Cuba. We do not know, for example, the
number of murders, or femicides. The statistics are only those that are
issued by institutions such like the Interior Ministry and the Public
Prosecutor's Office. Some defense attorney might have access, but not
because they are public.

Police pursue lines of investigation based on racial profiling, which
constitutes institutional discrimination. Most Cubans of African
descent, we have seen in our research, live in marginal areas and their
social situations are dire. We have to work on a bill so that, at least,
positive measures are taken to address the challenges facing Afro-Cubans.

In the case of black women, they are discriminated against not only due
to the color of their skin, but also because of their sex. Almost all
live in slums, with rundown infrastructure and dreadful health and
hygiene conditions.

How does the regime react to the work of a project like Cubalex?

One of the regime's objectives is to isolate us, and to this end it
resorts to harassment. It is totally different from what it does with
activists who protest publicly. In our case, it is with threats,
interrogations, official citations... But we have a policy of not
accepting any citations if they are not signed by a court clerk.

Although until now it has not gone further, the regime has become more
aggressive of late. In April they prevented me from giving a talk on the
election issue. They surrounded the house and would not let me leave.
And, at airports the tactic is to review things, make you uncomfortable,
take what they believe is suspect.

There are neighbors who collaborate with State Security forces. There
are many who support us, but those closest are watching us. Security
forces don't show up directly to repress you, but they use other
indirect methods, involving your family and your close circle, to wear
you down and demoralize you. Repression takes the form of constant
surveillance, threats, and isolation.

Source: "The Cuban justice system is seriously corrupt" | Diario de Cuba

The Mercado Único will be renovated ... but don’t hold your breath.

The Mercado Único will be renovated ... but don't hold your breath.
PABLO PASCUAL MÉNDEZ PIÑA | La Habana | 27 Mayo 2016 - 10:19 am.

"Mala lengua conocida/ hablando mal de Machado/ que te ha puesto allí un
mercado/ que te llena la barriga/ La mujer de Antonio/ camina así" (A
famous sharp-tongued woman/ badtalking Machado/ who put a market there
for you/ that fills your belly/Antonio's wife /walks like this) sang the
trio Matamoros in its popular guaracha, back in 1928. But if the
Mercado (market) de Cuatro Caminos was the inspiration for the song's
lyrics, they made a mistake, as the landmark building opened in 1920,
when Mario García Menocal was the President of the Republic. And in
early 2014, without any official explanation, it was closed.

However, in the last 15 days, its perimeter has been covered with
galvanized steel plates, and signs have gone up reading, under a sketch
of the building in perspective: "Work on the Mercado de Cuatro Caminos;
License: 2304-100-1609-1 -2013; Designer and Investor: CIMEX;
Contractor: ECUSE; Completion date: December / 2019." Among other
details we can deduce, based on the code, that the project dates from
2013, one year before the closing. And the traditional participation of
the Office of the City Historian has been forgone.

In this way the military consortium GAESA went public with the
commencement of work to reconstruct the popular market delimited by the
streets Monte, Matadero, Arroyo and Cristina, in the Havana municipality
of Cerro. The construction involves two levels; a basement and a surface
area of ​​11,000 square meters.

Without even entering the site one can appreciate the ramshackle state
of the light, hipped roof, which lacks a significant number of
corrugated asbestos cement tiles resting on a frame of steel, joined by
rivets that remain rusty due to the lack of paint and their exposure to
the elements.

Despite its age (96 years since its construction), neglect, lack of
maintenance, and the heavy toll taken by car fumes, the building's
exterior is not in such bad shape.

Exhibiting an eclectic style typical of the first third of the 20th
century, its four exterior walls feature a number of pillars, openings,
arches, cornices and brackets, among other architectural elements which,
to the naked eye, do not feature damage that would prevent its restoration.

The mezzanine floor is of reinforced concrete and sustained by a series
of square columns with expanded capitals, affected by some structural
problems not classified as serious by the experts consulted, as are the
public entryways. Unfortunately, the state of the basement could not be
assessed, as access to the area was barred.

According to the sketch appearing on the sign, skylights or dormer
windows will be used – a plausible solution given that these features
can reduce energy costs during daylight hours by up to 25%. This system
was, in fact, widely employed in industrial architecture during the era.

What is distressing about the information one finds on the fence is that
the restoration work will take three years, an extremely protracted
period, in the view of specialists. And, according to sources with the
contractor hired for the project (ECUSE is a company attached to the
CIMEX corporation, dedicated to the repair and maintenance of automotive
systems and construction), the lack of skilled labor to complete the
work is alarming, due to the meager incentives. Therefore, it is
possible that the late deadline will not even be met, as is often the case.

In the memories of old Havanans

The original name of the property was the Mercado General de Abasto y
Consumo (General Supply and Consumption Market), and its construction
cost 1.2 million pesos at the time. Its administration was initially
assigned by the City of Havana to the Cuban politician and entrepreneur
Alfredo Hornedo, back when the capital listed a population of some 400,000.

In an article entitled "El Mercado Único" (The Sole Market), published
in the daily Juventud Rebelde, Ciro Bianchi stated that the concession
granted to Hornedo prohibited the opening of another similar market
within a radius of 2.5 kilometers, and within 700 meters for the most
humble sellers of foods and fruits and vegetables, hence its "Sole"

On the ground floor of the market agricultural products were sold, and
upstairs, meats and foods of all kinds. The freezers were found in the
basement. In the late evening the goods arrived on trucks, and were then
unloaded in the central courtyard, from which they were distributed to
the sales stands. There they were usually sold in the early morning
hours. After 9:00 am the products were discounted and sold to the mobile
vendors, to keep from storing them in the basement freezers. At 11:00
am the market closed for cleaning.

Felipe, a 78-year-old retiree who worked as a vendor in the 50s, said
the carts were rented at a daily cost of 40 cents, from a warehouse on
the Calle Vives, just a few blocks away. Many of the products were sold
"with the pointing of a finger;" that is, they could paid for later,
after their second sale. "Back then honesty was a good deal," he recalls.

Fish and shellfish were brought directly by the fishermen. They came
fresh and packed in zinc boxes full of ice. Lobster, shrimp, snapper,
yellowtail snapper, sawfish, grouper and other species stood out, among
others on offer. There was also a stand called El Escorial, where live
animals for sale were kept in cages on a shelf.

Most of the sellers were Spanish and Chinese immigrants; the former
mainly ran the stands selling meat, while the latter hawked fruits and
vegetables. Later Polish Jews began to run some of the stalls.

Some companies were present at the Mercado Único: the Compañía de
Armadores de Barcos, the American Chomer Fruit Company, and others. The
market housed a tavern, and various cafes and bars that were open 24 hours.

Antonio, a former tobacco vendor, age 82, still laughs about a trick he
played on a Chinese man at the Mercado Único. He shared how he put a
dead cockroach in a matchbox, went to the tavern and, after bingeing on
fried rice, dropped the insect into what remained on his plate.
Discreetly, but with an expression of outrage, he went up to the Chinese
man and said: "Look at this," to which he replied, "You no pay, you no
pay, you shut mouth."

José Candelario, an 84-year-old retiree, before 1959 was one of the many
night owls who, after frequenting bars, cabarets and other nightclubs
ended up at the Mercado de Cuatro Caminos. "Those soups cured your
hangover in a flash," he recalls. "I couldn´t even eat a full plate of
fried rice, the servings were so huge .... Oh, and the price for both
dishes was 25 cents. Those days were wonderful, until Mr. Barbatruco
(Fidel Castro) showed up, and brought hunger and misery."

Source: The Mercado Único will be renovated ... but don't hold your
breath. | Diario de Cuba -

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Los ladrones de huesos saquean los cementerios

Los ladrones de huesos saquean los cementerios
MARIO J. PENTÓN, Miami | Mayo 26, 2016

Ernesto no es para nada amigo de los cementerios, pero ese día llegó
temprano a la necrópolis de Colón para limpiar la tumba y prepararla
para recibir a su madre, recientemente fallecida. Con estupor, descubrió
que en el lugar en el que había dejado a su padre cinco años atrás solo
estaban los restos de un ataúd vacío.

Las palabras proféticas inscritas en la lápida estaban esparcidas en mil
trozos tras el último mandarriazo del inescrupuloso profanador. El
costoso mármol de Carrara importado a inicios de siglo por sus ancestros
burgueses no pudo resguardar las reliquias familiares que celosamente
custodiaba. El miedo a la profanación de tumbas para negocios
relacionados con la religión es hoy uno de los principales móviles de
los cubanos para incinerar a sus seres queridos.

A pesar de la seguridad con que el sepulturero intentaba convencerlo de
que las osamentas desaparecen por efecto del tiempo, de las
averiguaciones que procuró realizar con las autoridades del cementerio
de Colón y del intento mismo de sobornar a los funcionarios para obtener
información sobre la ubicación de los vestigios de su progenitor, no
consiguió absolutamente nada. Como si se tratase del pasaje de la
resurrección de los huesos del profeta Ezequiel, de aquellos restos no
quedaba ni rastro.

El robo de huesos con fines religiosos se ha convertido en una manera
más de resolver para los trabajadores de los cementerios del país. "El
que trabaja en una tienda resuelve (roba), o el que trabaja en un
almacén, pero los que trabajamos en los cementerios también tenemos que
comer", dice Luis Ernesto, un sepulturero que asegura que su sueldo es
de 250 pesos cubanos (10 CUC) más 100 pesos por trabajar en Servicios
Comunales (4 CUC).

Entre las ilegalidades relacionadas con las necrópolis en el país, se
encuentran la reventa de bóvedas de personas que emigraron y de
ornamentos funerarios, especialmente el codiciado mármol de Carrara que
no se importa desde hace décadas, pero también rejas, cristales y hasta

"A mi madre la tuvimos que incinerar después de ver aquello", cuenta
Ernesto. "Pensábamos cremarla y dejar sus restos en el panteón familiar,
pero una amiga de mi sobrina que conoce de santería nos aseguró que el
mecanismo de robo de restos se activa en cuanto tú avisas de que vas a
llevarlos, incluso las cenizas, y por eso finalmente tiramos las cenizas
al mar".

Solo el pasado año 2015 fueron cremados 6.131 cadáveres de los 23.641
fallecimientos registrados en la capital cubana. Cremar un cadáver en
Cuba puede parecer barato frente a los estándares internacionales, pero,
además de los 340 CUP o los 115 CUP para los restos óseos, se tiene que
complementar con un jugoso soborno para priorizar el trámite.

"Tuvimos que pagar 20 CUC para que pusieran en la cabeza de la lista de
la incineración a mamá. Al regresar por las cenizas, las encontramos
sobre un estante, en un jarrón de cerámica extremadamente rústico y sin
identificación", dice Ernesto, quien, al reclamar por la ausencia de un
nombre que probara que los restos eran efectivamente los de su madre,
recibió una respuesta lapidaria de la funcionaria de Servicios
Comunales: "Es la única que tenemos, así que no puede confundirse".

El uso de restos humanos en la religión afrocubana de Palo Monte es un
fenómeno que tradicionalmente ha estado presente en el país. Un palero
(sacerdote de la religión Palo Monte) de la Isla que prefirió el
anonimato sostiene que "los huesos son esenciales. Sin restos humanos no
hay obra espiritual".

"Para los trabajos generalmente utilizamos la cabeza ( macoyumba), los
brazos y las piernas. Puedes tener un esqueleto completo, pero lo que se
usa más son esos tres elementos. Cabeza para pensar, manos para trabajar
y pies para andar".

Según expertos, aunque se carece de un estudio estadístico, en las
últimas dos décadas se ha visto un repunte en expresiones religiosas y
sincréticas, en especial en temas relacionados con el animismo
afrocubano, que están vinculadas directamente con el empeoramiento de
las condiciones de vida.

"En la actualidad, muchas mujeres vienen a que se les amarre el marido y
para solucionar problemas de enfermedad, pero también hay un incremento
sustancial de gente que viene buscando salir del país", comentó el palero.

Explica que para una salida ilegal se utilizan manos y pies del difunto.
"La forma en que eso se usa no la puedo decir porque es secreto, pero
por ejemplo, si la persona va a caminar y atravesar fronteras, necesitas
huesos de los pies", añadió.

El líder religioso opina que su religión es muy incomprendida. "La
mayoría de la gente cree que trabajamos con el mal y eso no es así, uno
puede escoger si desea trabajar con el mal o el bien. El uso de huesos
humanos en algunos de los ritos no es exclusivo nuestro. La Iglesia
católica venera las reliquias de los santos, a las que se le atribuye
poder", explicó.

Los insumos para las ceremonias religiosas han aumentado de precio en la
última década. "Los precios por las osamentas pueden variar. Por
ejemplo, un cráneo está costando entre 70 y 90 CUC, el resto de los
huesos tiene un valor menor, pero siempre hay que tener presente que el
que hace el trabajo también tiene que comer", dijo el religioso, que
trabajó en Servicios Comunales y asegura que en ese tiempo conoció de
alrededor de 800 quejas por profanaciones de tumbas que no pudieron ser

"Si hay que sacrificar a los muertos para dar de comer a los vivos, lo
haremos", dice un personaje de la película cubana Se vende. Mientras la
población de la Isla envejece a un ritmo vertiginoso, la infraestructura
funeraria apenas se ha actualizado en décadas.

Tener una bóveda puede considerarse un lujo y aún así no se está seguro
de que los restos de los seres queridos sobrevivan al mercado ilícito
que se ha creado en torno a las necrópolis. Ante esta realidad, en el
país se busca repetir la experiencia habanera y se están construyendo
nuevos hornos de incineración en las provincias.


Este reportaje se hizo con la colaboración de Luz Escobar desde La Habana.

Source: Los ladrones de huesos saquean los cementerios -

‘El Sexto’ - “Myths are very dangerous, but an idea can break them.”

'El Sexto': "Myths are very dangerous, but an idea can break them." /
14ymedio, Maria Tejero Martin

EFE (via 14ymedio), Maria Tejero Martin, Oslo, 24 May 2016 – Danilo
Maldonado is known as El Sexto the name engraved in ink on his skin and
that he paints on the walls of Havana to plant an idea of freedom in his
compatriots, like a seed that flourishes and breaks the "dangerous
myths" that, he says, surround Cuba.

When he was nine he caused his mother grief when he drew Fidel Castro in
his military uniform but with the head of a monkey; by his twenties he
had decided to turn himself into the antihero El Sexto (The Sixth), in
response to the regime's campaign to free Los Cinco (The Five), Cuban
agents arrested in the United States.

In his thirties, after the United States initiated contacts with Cuba
after years of the embargo, Maldonado "knew I would go to jail" he told
EFE, when he was inspired to paint the names "Raul" and "Fidel" on the
backs of two pigs for a piece of Orwellian inspired performance art
which he was unable to carry out.

"The worst thing is that I never got to release them, but I went to
jail, I went to jail for something that never existed, without cause or
role," explained Maldonado, who was declared a prisoner of conscience by
Amnesty International.

His incarceration prevented him from collecting the Vaclav Havel Prize
for creative dissent a year ago in Oslo, and today he is in the
Norwegian capital for the first time, where he is participating in the
Oslo Freedom Forum, although he says that he has already attended this
annual forum of activists and defenders of human rights "in conscience."

This is a basic word for this artist who considers himself a "prisoner
of conscience" who seeks to "awaken" the conscience of Cubans and open
the eyes of foreigners whose romanticism prevents them from seeing that
the vintage cars that circulate around Havana "means that we are stuck
in time."

Meanwhile he draws on a page, showing the Little Prince that he carries
on his long lean arm. And if, as Antoine de Saint-Exupery's character
would say, "the essence is invisible to the eyes," Maldonado feels that
his mission is to attack just there, on the plane of abstract
consciousness, where he "works with things that don't exist to make them
a reality."

Like freedom in Cuba, he laments, although he is "sure" that art will
first bring rights to the island and later allow them to become reality,
in the same way, he explains, that he conceived the hunger strike he
undertook in prison as a work of art titled "Mao's awakening."

"I said that if consciousness could change what is, it should save me
from there, I would die because I would have been talking complete shit.
The bars have to opened by the hands of the repressor himself, only in
this way will art exist. And so it happened," he affirmed.

Maldonado believes that art can serve as a catalyst for any change, like
a predecessor, and says that "an idea can destroy what exists." Even the

"I want to bring down a dictatorship that has lasted for a very long
time in my country, demystify it and demystify the false canons it was
selling, like that of Che Guevara," says El Sexto.

"Often it sold [the idea] that wearing green and roaming the world with
weapons was cool. And it is not cool. Cool was a guy like Martin Luther
King, Mahatma Gandhi or Christ. But cool is not the type of people who
believe they are rebels and what they are is a murderer who wants to
impose his idea," he added.

Maldonado does not mince words, either to defend the caricatures of
Muhammad or to charge his followers who have spent centuries killing in
his name.

"That is what I don't want to have happen in my country, that I die and
that fucking nutcase passes as a savior. What I want is that my art
demystifies and destroys him, leaves his essence in the base and that
people understand he is not good," he says, referring to Castro.

For him, he is confident that "art can do anything," even with some
"very dangerous myths."

"They manage to go on for so long that if people don't chip away at them
they are more dangerous dead than alive. But an idea can destroy and
undermine anything (…) That is why they fear me and follow me. They took
me prisoner because they know of this influence," says the artist, who
says he will continue living in Cuba and will give his life for what he
considers his duty: "Awakening" consciences.

Source: 'El Sexto': "Myths are very dangerous, but an idea can break
them." / 14ymedio, Maria Tejero Martin – Translating Cuba -

Internet Domains, Sovereignty And Freedom

Internet Domains, Sovereignty And Freedom / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 25 May 2016 — For Cubans who update
their domestic entertainment weekly with the now famous, private and
anonymous "Weekly Packet," a subtitle in bright greenish-yellow letters
at the beginning of movies has become familiar. It is the ever present, which appears so frequently that it spurred my curiosity:
I found it impossible to recognize what country corresponded to the
extension ".nu" so I turned to the always useful Wikipedia.

Surprise. The country where all the movies we watch at home are pirated
is Niue, an atoll with the pretensions of a little island, attached to
New Zealand. In 1996, an American (who of course doesn't live in Niue)
took the rights to ".nu" and in 2003 founded the Niue Internet Society,
and offered to the local authorities to convert the quasi-island into
the first wifi nation of the world. The offer was rounded out with a
free computer for every child. Nothing spectacular; we're talking about
a population of barely 1,300 people.

The irony is that while ".nu" generates enormous profits, the
inhabitants of Niue who want to connect from home and not from the only
internet café are obliged to pay for installation and service.

So I find another curiosity: the second most used internet extension
after ".com" corresponds to another little place in the corner of the
Pacific, also unnoticed, a group of islets of roughly four square miles.
Tokelau is the name of this place whose domain ".tk" hatched in 2009 and
was free, and today it is the virtual home of hundreds of thousands of
sites of dubious probity.

The way in which the territorial domains of each country (ccTLD, which
stands for: country-code-top-level-domain) are managed is very
different. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
(ICANN) has left the who and how to the discretion of each country. Many
countries have privatized it either in the hands of institutions or
companies created for that purpose, while in others it is done by an
entity attached to a stage agency.

The two ways of operating ccTLDs have advantages and disadvantaged.
Deregulating the extensions tips the balance toward the more profitable
companies to the detriment of the agencies, NGOs and social and cultural
institutions. Decreasing the influence of governments, can weigh heavily
on the sovereignty of countries with fragile economies or small and
young countries.

As a counterpart, state-regulation administration tends to protect
social and cultural interests, a successful management style that can
lead to gains that positively impact national life. It can also happen
that the process for buying a ccTLD are restrictive or discriminatory,
sheltering under deliberately vague rules to be applied at their
discretion, as is the case with Cuba's ".cu".

In Latin America, Argentina is the only country that offers a site for
free; hence the millions of sites with the extension ".ar". This
gratuity is about to change because a way to collect payments is being
studied. In Chile and Nicaragua domains are administered through public
universities. In Guatemala it is also done through a university but in
that case a private one.

State regulation occurs in Venezuela through the National
Telecommunications Commission (Conatel), and in Cuba through the
Information Technologies and Advanced Telematic Services Company (CITMATEL).

Colombia, and without going into details about its antecedents, is a
reflection of a similar debate ongoing in many countries. A private
company owns its ccTLD and they believe that the fact that 89% of the
owners of a ".co" site are foreigners living outside the country, far
from violating national identity, internationalizes Colombia and brings
its brand to the entire world. What underlies these debates is that the
market is imposed on cultural values and little can be done in the
defense of an intangible patrimony.

But ultimately, who governs the Internet? Any observant newcomer claims
that the United States governs it. On its territory are the institutions
and the majority of the servers intended to organize what would
otherwise be chaos.

The now well-known ICANN assigns domain names (DNS) to IP addresses, has
a contract with the government and is located in California. Very
influential internet companies such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon are
also American. By September there will be news of a change; simply that
ICANN will be independent of the United States Department of Commerce.

In this asymmetric influence are counterpoised the interest of other
parties involved and also of the internet. International organizations
such as those dealing with trade (the ITO), intellectual property and
the International Communications Union have been involved in conjunction
with ICANN. Virtual space modifies the notion of sovereignty, with added
risks to equality and diversity; so the term governance has gained
importance in the design of policies, where governments, civil society,
business, academic and technical innovators come together.

In the same way that innovative technicians have placed in our hands the
protocol that ensures open access to the internet from any type of
device, it behooves governance to establish policies, even if they are
not binding, to guarantee freedom of expression and information, full
access and limits on control.

Source: Internet Domains, Sovereignty And Freedom / 14ymedio, Regina
Coyula – Translating Cuba -

Return to sender - Cayman’s policy on Cuban migrants

Return to sender: Cayman's policy on Cuban migrants
By Editorial Board - May 24, 2016

On a picturesque beach in South Sound, there is an abandoned boat. The
waves pound upon its boards and planks. Scattered on the sand are dozens
of containers, for provisions and unspent fuel. Near the bow of the
makeshift wooden vessel, a simple message is painted in three capital
letters: "USA."

The photograph of the Cuban boat on the front page of Tuesday's
newspaper is an image of a dream deferred. The 43 Cuban migrants who
arrived in Grand Cayman on May 6 will not achieve their goal of escaping
their home country and reaching the United States … at least not this time.

For now, they have been detained by Cayman Islands immigration
officials, who currently have 116 Cuban migrants in custody in various
locations around the island. What follows next is a bureaucratic waiting
game, with the probable result being transportation back to Cuba by air,
and then, perhaps, some day, more attempts to flee.

It is important to understand the tremendous risks that these people
take when they fling their lives upon the mercy of the sea. For the
migrants who head south from Cuba, if and when they finally reach land
in Central America, their journey has just begun. From there they face
an arduous trek of 1,500 miles or more — on foot, by car, on trains …
any way possible — across multiple borders, facing natural elements,
government officials and organized criminals; until they maybe, at last,
attain their Promised Land, of the Free, of Opportunity, etc.

It is just as important to recognize the rewards that — perhaps aren't
actually received — but that these migrants anticipate, and upon which
they have pinned all their dreams, and all their hopes.

The experiences of the disappointed Cuban migrants who wash ashore in
Cayman are very different from what happens to those who do successfully
reach the U.S.

The New York Times recently published a story based on interviews with a
group of a dozen Cubans who made landfall in the Florida Keys. The men
expressed gratitude in two equal measures — for being in America, and
for no longer being in Cuba.

"What you have here is a nest of hope," one migrant said. "What you have
there is a nest of scorpions."

Instead of an immigration detention facility, the Cubans who reached
Florida were taken to a nonprofit assistance center run by the Roman
Catholic Church. They were put up in a motel in the short term. Half
were to be transported to Las Vegas, Nevada, to find work, and the other
half to Austin, Texas. The dreams of these dozen were, in fact, realized.

As has been related in The New York Times and many other news sources,
Cubans are saying that they are more afraid than ever that if they don't
get out of Cuba now, they may never be able to enjoy the special
protections still being extended to Cuban migrants by the U.S. (i.e.,
"wet-foot, dry-foot").

In Cayman, we are witnessing the effects of the nascent U.S.-Cuban thaw,
and the turbulent diplomatic and political currents, in the form of the
swelling numbers of migrants whose journeys end prematurely in our
waters or on our shores.

The agreement Cayman has in place with Cuba, to detain the migrants and
have them returned to the land from which they tried to flee, is far
from ideal. It is, to many Cayman residents, undesirable or even
distasteful. It is also expensive. But, unlike the vast nation of the
U.S., Cayman cannot possibly accommodate even a small portion of the
Cuban migrants who might wish to stay.

Although the conditions in Cuba may be the source of the problem, Cayman
is the recipient. Unfortunately, that doesn't look to change, unless or
until the U.S. alters its policies on accepting Cuban migrants (and
extinguishes their beacon of hope).

The problem of how to handle Cuban migrants may remain one for which
Cayman may not have an adequate solution.

Source: EDITORIAL – Return to sender: Cayman's policy on Cuban migrants
| Cayman Compass -

Bartenders Are Winning Cuba's Embrace of Capitalism, and Doctors Are Losing

Bartenders Are Winning Cuba's Embrace of Capitalism, and Doctors Are Losing
By Henry Grabar

Cuban state employees are abandoning their jobs for high-paying,
private-sector gigs—in Cuba. As bartenders, bellhops, and taxi drivers.

The growth of the Cuban private sector over the past two decades has
created some serious imbalances between skills and pay: A bartender with
some generous foreign customers could make more in tips in a weekend
than a doctor, each of whom is employed by the Cuban government, does in
a month.

A new reform could exacerbate that issue. Cuba will soon legalize small-
and medium-sized private businesses, according to an economic
development plan approved by the Cuban Communist Party Congress last
month. The 32-page document hit newsstands in Havana on Tuesday,
according to the Associated Press, and offers the first glimpse of the
reforms approved at April's five-year CCP meeting. It comes on the heels
of President Obama's historic trip to Cuba in March, and the relaxing of
the U.S. embargo.

The CCP hasn't released many details, but the plans have been the works
for some time, says Richard Feinberg, a professor at the University of
California-San Diego and the author of Open for Business: Building the
New Cuban Economy. It will soon be possible for Cuba's self-employed,
known as cuentapropistas, to incorporate their operations, easing the
way toward working with Cuban banks, foreign investors, and state-owned
companies. Small businesses will be the vanguard of the market economy
in Cuba, while bigger industries remain under state control.

Some private enterprise—including small restaurants, guesthouses,
construction trades, and taxis—is already legal in Cuba; a good deal
more occurs on the margins of the law. About half a million Cubans have
self-employment licenses; as many as a million Cubans may have some
illegal or informal involvement in the private sector.

"Up until now, the whole private sector was under something of a
cloud—something that was tolerated, a way to sop up some unemployment,"
Feinberg says. The CCP document, in contrast to your classic Fidelista
pronunciations, affirms the positive contributions of private property.

In some cases, anyway. Authorized private enterprise in Cuba currently
includes the sale of food and drink, the production and sale of
handcrafts, transportation, room rentals, construction, and some
services. But private professional activities—anything that requires a
college degree, basically—aren't legal yet. Engineers and lawyers, for
example, aren't yet allowed to have their own practices. If they do have
a side gig, it's by operating without (or with an inaccurate) license
and with the aide of mulas, who smuggle in supplies like printer ink
from abroad. It's not uncommon for a university professor to do tutoring
in the evenings, or a state-employed architect to have his or her own
clients outside the office.

The 200-plus legal means of self-employment in Cuba are themselves
severely restricted. Rules on property ownership would prevent the owner
of a successful guesthouse, or casa particular, from buying the house
next door, for example. The owners of paladares, Havana's chic private
restaurants, make their own menus and set their own prices—but the state
limits their size to 50 seats. When I visited Cuba last summer, one
entrepreneur, who runs a hip private cafe amid the state-run tourist
restaurants of Old Havana, told me he wasn't even allowed to put up a
sign outside.

Still, tourism is where the money is. Most emerging opportunities for
new business are directly or indirectly related to tourism, says Jorge
Duany, the director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida
International University. Because of Cuba's dual currency system—state
wages are paid in Cuban pesos (CUP), while private businesses can take
in the vastly more valuable convertible pesos (CUC)—the country has seen
a flood of professionals into the private sector, and into tourism in
particular. "People who have higher degrees are less remunerated than
people with less education, who are able to participate in this growing
private business sector," Duany says.

So the reforms will do two things: further liberalize the country's
existing, tourist-focused private sector, which is limited to a list of
jobs proscribed by the government. That will help Cuba prepare to meet
the growing influx of American tourists. (Already, there aren't enough
tables at Havana's private restaurants to go around.) But it will also
increase the flow of professionally trained Cubans into better-paying,
nonprofessional employment.

Is it a waste of a good socialized education to have economists giving
tours and driving cabs? Probably.

On the other hand, there's only so much prestige in a white-collar job.
"Baking cakes can be fun," Feinberg says. "Maybe more fun than being a
chemical engineer."

And it pays better too.

Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate's Moneybox.

Source: Cuba reforms business laws, but not for professionals -

Connecting to Cuba - Accomodations

Connecting to Cuba: Accomodations
Jake Whittenberg , wsts2 3:05 PM. PDT May 25, 2016

It's just a 45-minute flight from Miami to Havana, but it's a world away.

When we landed at Jose Marti International Airport (HAV), I noticed my
cell phone with Verizon service switches to Cubacel. I was able to make
calls in Cuba back to the states, but it's $2.99/min. WiFi is only
available in certain hotels. The Cuban people don't have access to the
internet, unlike the government, and American credit cards do not work.

When I got off the plane, the line for customs was very fast actually.
(Aside from the few moments when the power went out, and we thought we
were stuck.)

After showing my journalist visa and passport, I was asked about any
recent illnesses or trips to Africa; then that was that. My bags were
never searched, and I was never asked any other questions.

I exchanged my money to the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) which is almost
1:1. From the airport, there were a lot of people gathered outside,
waiting for loved ones to visit. But there were also a lot of Cubans
hoping to earn a dollar from the tourists getting off the airplane.

My taxi ride from the airport opened my eyes to Cuba right away. My cab
driver spoke English, and also served as an excellent tour guide during
our drive.

There are a lot of Cubans trying to make extra money by renting out a
room or a house to tourists. I stayed with Jorge Luis Onidina in his
house along the seawall in Havana. He was incredibly gracious and
accommodating. The Cubans are very hospitable and kind-hearted. My room
was comfortable and cost $60 CUC/night. (I found out later that is
actually a little high)

After I woke up every morning, Jorge would offer me an espresso. Being
from Seattle, I love good coffee. Jorge could have dialed back on the
sugar, but I appreciated the gesture. Again, the Cubans are very caring.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are booking a hotel online you can do that, but
MAKE SURE YOU BRING CASH TO PAY FOR IT. Right now, Cuba is not connected
to American banks. So, just because you enter your credit card online to
book your room, it is not paid for until you get there. Cuba is still a
cash economy, so remember that when scheduling a trip.

To get around, I mostly took taxi cabs. In populated areas they are
everywhere and easy to hail. To find one from Jorge's house in the
suburbs, I had to be more patient or ask him to call a local friend to
give me a ride. I was given a tip to only use the yellow taxis because
they are owned by the government and drivers won't try to scam you. The
cost to get to and from the airport was $25 CUC. Most shorter rides were

If you are traveling a short distance in areas like La Habana Vieja (Old
Havana), try to hop in one of the classic American cars. The Cubans
offer taxi rides in them to tourists for extra money. They are
everywhere and fun to see their interiors. See the classic cars section
for more.

Because a lot of the cars are rebuilt using local parts, I found a lot
of cars spew a lot of exhaust. Sometimes on a busy morning, the major
roads got incredibly busy. Cubans drive with the windows up and the
air-conditioning on.

And although my first cabbie spoke English, it's not very common. So
brush up on your Espanol!

Source: Connecting to Cuba: Accomodations | -

Cuba’s Shameful Friends

Cuba's Shameful Friends / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
05/25/2016 04:49 pm ET | Updated 10 hours ago
Yoani Sanchez
Publisher of 14ymedio, independent newspaper in Cuba

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 25 May 2016 - People with
whom we share sorrows and joys are a reflection of ourselves, however
different they may appear. As friends we choose them to accompany us,
but also to complete us, with the diversity and continuity that our
human nature needs. The problem is when our choices of coexistence are
not based on affinities and preferences, but on interests and alliances
focused on annoying others.

In the same week, the Cuban executive has embraced two deplorable
authoritarian regimes. A few hours after Cuban Vice President Miguel
Diaz-Canel Bermudez met with government functionaries in Belarus,
Havana's Plaza of the Revolution hosted a meeting between Raul Castro
and a special representative from North Korea's Workers Party.
Disgraceful comrades, shamelessly embraced and praised by the island's

In a world where civil society, calls for the respect for human rights,
and movements that promote the recognition of rights are making
themselves heard ever more loudly, it is difficult for the Cuban
government to explain his good relations with Europe's last dictator and
with the cruelly capricious grandson who inherited power through his
bloodline. What united the island's authorities with similar political

The only possible answer is sticking their finger in the eye of Western
democracies and the White House. The problem with this attitude lies in
the demands from these fellow travelers for commitments and silences.
Diplomatic friendship is converted into complicity and the comrades end
up defining the nature of those who have chosen their company.

Source: Cuba's Shameful Friends / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez -

Royal Caribbean still waiting on Cuba

Royal Caribbean still waiting on Cuba
By Rebecca Tobin / May 25, 2016

Royal Caribbean International said that the cruise line is still in the
process of obtaining permission to sail to Cuba, and would likely use
the Empress of the Seas for Cuba voyages.
"Obviously, we're looking forward to being able to sail to Cuba, and
we're in the process of talking to various authorities ... to get the
various permissions that are required," Royal Caribbean International
CEO Michael Bayley told reporters at a press conference on the new
Harmony of the Seas last weekend.
As for when? "Tomorrow would be good," Bayley said. "But we're waiting
for the approvals."
The Empress is scheduled to operate short Caribbean cruises from Miami
through the end of July. "So we wouldn't be going [to Cuba] until the
end of July, beginning of August, assuming we get permission from the
Cuban government."
The 1,602-passenger Empress, which previously sailed for Spanish cruise
line Pullmantur, is in drydock through the end of May.
Carnival Corp. began sailing to Cuba in early May via its Fathom brand.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has also expressed interest in Cuba,
possibly using an Oceania Cruises ship.

Source: Royal Caribbean still waiting on Cuba: Travel Weekly -

14 more Cuban migrants land in the Keys

14 more Cuban migrants land in the Keys

The group arrived in Islamorada on Tuesday
They spent four or five days on a "rustic vessel"

A group of 14 Cuban migrants came ashore in Islamorada and 13 landed on
Ballast Key off Key West on Tuesday morning, according to the U.S.
Border Patrol.

The Upper Keys group landed near the Morada Bay Resort, on the bay side
of U.S. 1 at mile marker 81.6, around 8 a.m. A "concerned citizen"
noticed the 14 men and called the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, said
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Adam Hoffner.

The men told Border Patrol agents that they traveled for four or five
days on a "homemade rustic vessel." The boat's engine failed at sea,
leaving the men stranded in the open ocean while they made repairs.

"Homemade vessels such as this, often suffer from engine of other types
of mechanical failures putting the migrants at risk," Hoffner said in an
e-mail. "The vessels also lack appropriate safety equipment and
navigational devices."

Hoffner said his agency regularly receives both confirmed and
unconfirmed reports of migrants drowning at sea on their way to the
United States.

Under the 1995 changes to the Cuban Adjustment Act, migrants from Cuba
who set foot on dry land in the United States can stay here and apply
for permanent residency after a year. The policy is known as wet-foot,

The Lower Keys group — all men — landed on Ballast Key, part of a group
of small islands west of Key West known as the "Mule Keys." They were
reportedly in good health. They said they were at sea in a single-engine
fishing boat for two days.

It has been a busy year for the Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border
Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies responsible for
keeping an eye out for migrants and human smugglers. Migrant arrivals
and interdictions are up sharply in the wake of thawing relations
between the United States and the Castro regime. Many Cubans fear the
wet-foot, dry-foot policy will soon be repealed, and they want to leave
the island before that happens.

On Friday, a group of 21 migrants climbed onto the American Shoal
lighthouse off Sugarloaf Key after being confronted by a Coast Guard
boat that morning. They eventually came down off the 109-foot structure
later in the afternoon and were taken aboard an undisclosed Coast Guard
cutter to be sent back to Cuba.

However, an injunction was filed in U.S. District Court Tuesday by the
non-profit group Movimiento Democracia on behalf of some of the
migrants' families living in Florida arguing the Cubans made it to the
United States under wet-foot, dry-foot.

Also last Friday, nine Cubans arrived in a "single-engine rustic boat"
at the Dry Tortugas National Park about 70 miles from Key West. The
eight adult men and one woman arrived about 7:30 p.m., Hoffner said.

They told Border Patrol agents they spent two days at sea. The migrants
were first picked up by the Coast Guard, and it is not yet clear if they
will be allowed to stay.

Source: 14 more Cuban migrants land in the Keys | In Cuba Today -