Sunday, April 20, 2014

Why Doesn’t the Cuban Regime Dialogue With the Dissidence?

Why Doesn't the Cuban Regime Dialogue With the Dissidence? / Ivan Garcia
Posted on April 19, 2014

Luis, retired military and supporter of the regime, has a few arguments
to debate with several neighbors playing dominoes in the doorway of a
bodega in the Havana neighborhood of Lawton.

The theme of the day is the dialog between the opposition and Nicolas
Maduro's government, broadcast on Thursday night on TeleSur. Among the
players were professionals, unemployed, ex prisoners and retirees.

"When we see this type of face-to-face debate, one realizes we are
living in total feudalism. Cuba hurts. Here we have a ton of problems
that have accumulated over these 55 years. The government has no
respect. The solution is to carry on: more taxes, prohibitions on
private work, and raising the price of powdered milk. Why don't they
follow the example of Venezuela and sit down to talk with the
dissidence," asks Joel, a former teacher who now survives selling
fritters on Calzada 10 de Octubre.

The ex-soldier Luis feels dislocated by the several ideological
pirouettes of the Castros. Unrelentingly sexist and homophobic, these
new times are an undecipherable code.

"Even I have my doubts. I fought in Angola. We were trained in Che's
theories not to cede an inch to the enemy (and he signs with his
fingers). But now everything is a mess. The old faggots, that we used to
censure, walk around kissing on every corner. The self-employed earn
five times more than a state worker. And the worms are called señor. If
the government is on the wrong path, say so loud and clear. We
supporters have a few reasonable arguments to fire back," says Luis,

The dialogue table between the opposition and the government in
Venezuela was a success for many in Cuba. Arnaldo, manager of a hard
currency store, continued the debate until around two in the morning.

"I was amazed. I don't not know if it was a blunder of the official
censorship. But the next day on the street, people wondered why dissent
in Cuba remains a stigma. As for me, the discourse of the Venezuelan
opposition was striking. They spoke without shouting, with statistics
showing that the failure of the economic model and highly critical of
Cuban interference in Venezuela," said the manager.

Noel, a private taxi driver, believes that "if the pretension was to
ridicule the Democratic Unity Table (MUD) with the discourse of the
Chavistas. it backfired. Capriles and company had a deeper analysis and
objectives than the government. Like in Cuba, the PSUV (United Socialist
Party of Venezuela) defended themselves by attacking and speaking ill of
the capitalist past. They do not realize that what it's about is the
chaos of the present and how to try to solve it in the future."

In a quick survey of the 11 people watching who watched the debate, 10
thought the opposition was superior. The best comments were for
Guillermo Aveledo and Henrique Capriles.

"Those on the other side seemed like fascists. Frayed, with a mechanical
discourse filled with dogmas like those of the Cuban Communist Party
Talibans. The worst among the Chavista was the deputy Blanca Eekhout.
She's more fanatical and incoherent than Esteban Lazo, and that's saying
a lot," commented a university student.

Although institutions and democracy in Venezuela have been taken by
assault, with under-the-table privileges, populism and political
cronyism among the PSUV comrades, in full retreat, the fact is that
there is a legal opposition allowed to do battle in the political field.

Cuba is something else. Despite the efforts of CELAC (Central and Latin
American Community) and the European Union patting the old leader on the
back and seducing him with the red carpet treatment, it continues as the
only country in the western hemisphere where dissidence is a state crime.

The opposition on the island is repressed with beatings and verbal
lynchings. A law currently in effect, Law 88, allows the regime to
imprison a dissident or free journalist for 20 years or more for writing
a note the authorities deem harmful to their interests.

For Ana Maria, a professional who applauded Fidel Castro's speeches for
year, seeing a political dialogue like that in Venezuela on Telesur,
allowed her to analyze things from a different perspective.

"It's a dictatorship. No better or worse. It's hard to accept that many
of us Cubans have been wrong for too long. I lost my youth deluded,
repeating slogans and accepting that others, without asking me my
opinion, manipulated us at their will," she confessed.

Eleven U.S. administrations, with controversial programs or others of
dubious effectiveness such as Zunzuneo, have been unable to spread an
original message and change the opinions of ordinary citizens, like the
enduring repression, economic nonsense, rampant corruption, prohibitions
of 3D movie rooms and the sale of cars at Ferrari prices, among others.

In these autocratic societies, you never know if an apparent reform will
produce benefits or it will begin digging its own grave. It's like
walking on a minefield.

Iván García

Photo: Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela, shaking hands with
Henrique Capriles, secretary-general of the Democratic Unity Roundtable
(MUD). Madura greeted him without looking at his face, though Capriles
looked at his, demonstrating and more correct and better behavior than
the successor to Chavez. Taken from Noticias de Montreal.

15 April 2014

Source: Why Doesn't the Cuban Regime Dialogue With the Dissidence? /
Ivan Garcia | Translating Cuba -

A Law with Dark Corners

A Law with Dark Corners / Fernando Damaso
Posted on April 19, 2014

The Foreign Investment Law, debated and approved by the National
Assembly in extraordinary session, has some worrisome aspects, both for
foreign investors as well as for Cuban citizens.

It seems that Cubans living in other countries are not covered under the
law since the definition of a domestic investor applies only to current
legal residents of Cuba and to cooperatives. The latter are legally
recognized non-state administrative entities which may participate as
domestic investors in projects financed with foreign capital but which
remain completely under state control to prevent the accumulation of
excess wealth.

Elsewhere, investment priority is usually given to a country's own
residents, then to its overseas residents and lastly to foreigners. In
Cuba it is the opposite: foreigners get top priority. Afterwards, we
have to listen to authorities tirelessly proclaiming themselves to be
the defenders of national dignity, independence and sovereignty.

The claim that investments "may not be expropriated except for reasons
of public utility or social interest, as previously defined by the
Council of Ministers" should give one pause. This is a well-established
procedure in most countries. Before such actions can be taken, they must
be discussed and approved by legislative bodies (a house of
representatives, senate, parliament or national assembly).

It is a process in which those concerned — governmental authorities as
well as those in the opposition who may hold with differing views —
participate fully. Final implementation is subject to review by the
judicial branch, which makes sure any such actions do not violate the

This is not the case in Cuba where the National Assembly is made up
exclusively of deputies from one party. It is a legislative body without
an opposition in which anything the government proposes is approved
unanimously. The Cuban judiciary, which is nothing more than an appendix
of the government, also has no independence.

In spite of anything that has been stipulated in writing, investors lack
any real protection or legal recourse. They remain subject to decisions
by a centralized authority in the person of the president, who for
political, ideological or circumstantial reasons can act as he pleases
without having to consult anyone, as has happened repeatedly over the
last fifty-six years.

Regarding employment of Cuban citizens, the law stipulates that an
investor must hire workers through an employment agency selected by the
Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment and authorized by the
Ministry of Labor and Social Security. Payment to workers would be by
mutual agreement between the investor and the employer. Neither exchange
occurs between the investor and the worker directly but through a state

Though the purported purpose is not to generate revenue, it stipulates
that a portion of the wages paid by the investor will be retained to
cover costs and expenses for services provided.

As one might expect, there is a big difference between what the investor
pays and what the employee receives. The salary paid to the employee
will correspond to a minimum wage set by the employment agency, which it
claims will be higher than that for the country's other workers. Also
factored in will be a coefficient which will allow the agency to adjust
salaries based on a worker's performance.

The unfortunate history of low pay for doctors, teachers, athletes and
other professionals working overseas to fulfill the Cuban government's
contracts with other countries speaks volumes.

It would perhaps have been advantageous to draft an investment law that
also regulated state investments (considering the many examples of bad
investments made over the years). It might also have covered private
investment, differentiating between foreign and domestic investment.

In regards to domestic investment, it might have included both
investment by Cubans living on the island as well as those living
overseas, especially since the latter currently must also possess a
Cuban passport to enter and exit the country, thus confirming their
legal status as Cuban citizens.

This law is not free from the burden of obsolete concepts of failed
socialism, with the objective in ensuring a leading role for the state.
It lacks sufficient transparency to really stimulate foreign investment
and includes some traps into which those who bet on it, without giving
it enough thought, might fall.

7 April 2014

Source: A Law with Dark Corners / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba -

U.S. has a history of encouraging free expression

Posted on Saturday, 04.19.14

U.S. has a history of encouraging free expression

If it comes from the United States it must be bad. That is the
conclusion some critics of ZunZuneo, the U.S.-sponsored Twitter-like
platform that the Obama administration promoted in Cuba to disseminate
information and encourage personal communications on the island.

One of the more vocal critics, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont,
called the program "dumb, dumb, dumb" and "cockamamie" because the
United States "discreetly" promoted the platform, as if any
communication system free of the Castro government control could be
presented any other way.

The fact is these programs are not new and, if done properly, should be
encouraged as an additional mechanism to promote democracy. Besides, in
this day and age of NSA surveillance on all Americans, a program such as
ZunZuneo overseas should come as little surprise.

ZunZuneo is consistent with previous U.S. strategies in effecting
foreign policy. Historical archives show that it was vital in aiding
Soviet dissidents in Europe during the Cold War. Radio Free Europe came
into being in 1950, touted as the only nongovernmental American radio
programming in an age where many countries had their freedoms denied, as
in Cuba.

The programs included news, music and stories that captured the
imagination, portraying what living in freedom could be like. The
program became so successful that, when several members of Congress
attempted to end it upon discovering that it was CIA-funded, its
popularity was too great. It had become an integral part of the freedom
movement behind the Iron Curtain, despite periodic radio jamming by the

Government funding was then shifted from a covert operation to an overt
program, and it survived the fall of the Berlin Wall. Countless numbers
of dissidents relied upon Radio Free Europe, fully aware of its history
as a U.S.-funded operation, because it was the only means to get any
information of what was happening within the region and in Washington
D.C. It is responsible, in part, for bringing about peaceful change in
Europe. The same approach could do the same in Cuba.

The United States has a history of using foreign aid to foster democracy
through economic development. The federal foreign-aid agency known as
USAID was established under the Kennedy administration in 1961. Created
initially to save poverty-stricken Third World countries from
starvation, USAID also introduces free-market strategies in emerging
economies, particularly in the former Eastern-bloc countries. The
mission has been consistent and not particularly veiled in its efforts
to forge pro-U.S. ties.

Now we're in the age of personal communication technology, and it has
made revolution faster and more expedient. During the Arab Spring, many
Egyptians used technology, specifically texting and social media, to
share information about what was occurring in Cairo. Crowds gathered
faster, journalists reported faster, change — for better or for worse —
came faster. In Venezuela, students opposed to the Nicolas Maduro regime
use text messages to coordinate strategies to bring down their
oppressive government. Dissidents can move together in real time.

Some argue that the United States should not sponsor such unrest. The
truth is the United States is just tapping into the organic discontent
that already exists.

Yet, ZunZuneo is a different program that brings some discomfort, but
only as to its home at USAID, not its mission. The question is whether
this program might be better served if it were implemented by another
agency. The answer is a resounding Yes. USAID is an invaluable tool, but
it has been more successful in promoting economically sustainable
communities than programs such as ZunZuneo.

The Twitter program in Cuba is different in method and feel. USAID's
economic and pro-democracy missions are equally important, but openly
distributing technology within a hostile country presents circumstances
and expectations that make USAID the wrong place for such a program.
After the disclosure of ZunZuneo's funding roots, USAID's presence
overseas will be viewed with greater suspicion, although in certain
quarters any U.S. program is met with suspicion. USAID is expected to be
transparent internationally and in Washington, D.C. The reality is that
government programs can't be transparent and discreet all at once.

Change the venue, change the conversation.

Source: U.S. has a history of encouraging free expression - Other Views
- MiamiHerald.com -

Cuba's Culture of Violence - A Dangerous Spiral

Yoani Sanchez - Award-winning Cuban blogger

Cuba's Culture of Violence: A Dangerous Spiral
Posted: 04/20/2014 12:44 am EDT Updated: 04/20/2014 12:59 am EDT

A woman hits a child, who appears to be her son, on one corner. The
passersby who see it don't get involved. A hundred yards further on, two
men get in a fight because one stepped on the other's shoe. I arrive
home thinking about this aggressiveness, just under the skin, that I
feel in the street. To relax my tension I read the latest issue of the
magazine Coexistence, which just celebrated six years since its
founding. I find in its pages an article by Miriam Celaya, who
coincidentally addresses this "dangerous spiral" of blows, screams and
irritation that surrounds us.

Under the title "Notes on the anthropological origins of violence in
Cuba," the scathing analyst delves into the historical and cultural
antecedents of the phenomenon. Our own national trajectory, steeped in
"blood and fire," does not help much when it comes time to promote
attitudes like pacifism, harmony and reconciliation. From the horrors of
slavery during the colonial period, through the wars of independence
with their machete charges and their high-handed caudillos, up to the
violent events that also characterized the republic. A long list of
fury, blows, weapons and insults shaped our character and are
masterfully enumerated by the journalist in her text.

The process that started in 1959 deserves special mention, as it made
class hatred and the elimination of those who are different fundamental
pillars of the political discourse. Thus, even today, the greater part
of the anniversaries commemorated by the government refer to battles,
wars, deaths or "flagrant defeats inflicted" on the opponent. The cult
of anger is such that the official language itself no longer realizes
the rage it promotes and transmits.

But take care! Hatred cannot be "remotely controlled" once fomented.
When rancor is kindled against another country, it ends up also
validating the grudge against the neighbor whose wall adjoins ours.
Those of us who grew up in a society where the act of repudiation has
been justified as the "legitimate defense of a revolutionary people,"
may think that blows and screams are the way to relate to what we don't
understand. In this environment of violence, for us harmony becomes
synonymous with capitulation and peaceful coexistence is a trap that we
want to make "the enemy" to fall into.

19 April 2014

Follow Yoani Sanchez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/yoanifromcuba

Source: Cuba's Culture of Violence: A Dangerous Spiral | Yoani Sanchez -

Cuba Faces Condom Shortage

Cuba Faces Condom Shortage
April 19, 2014
By José Jasán Nieves Cárdenas (Progreso Weekly)

HAVANA TIMES — The iffy supply of condoms in Cuban pharmacies and
markets in recent months has meant greater risk for some and an
impediment to others who prefer to restrain their libidos rather than
fall sick or become pregnant.

The situation seems to have worsened since early April but has been
intermittent for more than a year, in another recurring episode of
bureaucratic mismanagement and shortages.

"I don't know what's happening, but I know that they're not available,"
says a young student of medicine, who adds a warning about the danger
posed by the lack of condoms. "The indices of pregnancies and abortions
are up, and so are the sexually transmitted diseases," (STD) he says.

The condom conundrum

According to the Public Health Ministry, the interruption in the
distribution of "preservativos" occurred because of the need to
repackage millions of units of the "Momentos" brand, which arrived from
China showing an expiration date of 2012 although they're good until
late 2014.

The process meant recalling the product throughout the island and
relabeling it, in the absence of new supplies of other brands or even
the same brand.

Evidently, it has been impossible to solve the problem quickly, because
the health authorities on April 7 authorized the sale of condoms without
correcting the "printing error," according to an announcement by the
Medical Supplies Enterprise and the Center for the State Control of
Medications, Medical Equipment and Devices (CECMED).

As articles for medical use, condoms are heavily subsidized, because the
price of a strip of three units is barely 1 peso — less than five cents
of a dollar. But the fact that they are a product managed only by the
health authorities means that the market leaves little room to choose.

"Although the Momentos condoms have never been among the better
accepted, they're the ones that the government bought and they're the
only ones that are available until year's end," admits one of the
specialists in the STD/HIV/AIDS-prevention program.

He sides with those who say that Cuba does not import products from
wherever it wants but from wherever it can, due to the lack of money and
the U.S. embargo.

Until recently, Cubans could buy other condoms sold under the brand
names "Love" and "Vigor" (the latter a product financed by the United
Nations World Fund) but the contract with the makers of the former was
not renewed and the latter used up the five years of international
financing it had for its production.

Not just quantity; quality, too

"The Momentos are supposed to be tested electronically, but I don't
believe that because, when you open them, it is obvious that they have
very little lubricant," says Claudia Martínez, a young radio reporter in
south-central Cuba.

"I've found that the condoms sometimes break," says a 19-year-old girl.
Her opinion on the quality of the available condoms coincides with those
of many others.

"The number of condoms that break matches the proportion established by
the international parameters," says Ramiro Espinosa González, chief of
the anti-AIDS program in Cienfuegos province.

"There are condoms with better quality and others with standard quality,
but all meet the international requirements for safety," Espinosa says.
"When they break, it's almost always because of the improper technique
used to slip them on."

According to medical indicators, for a population to consider itself
"sexually protected," it must use condoms in at least 73 percent of all
the acts of copulation.

The reality in Cuba is far from that objective. In a small province like
Cienfuegos (pop. 400,000) only 28 percent of the sexually active
population uses prophylactics, yet it's one of the provinces with the
highest condom usage.

Colors and types of every variety

Some users are advocating an increase in the supplies but without state
subsidy, so as not to depend on just one option.

In some stores, condoms are sold in convertible pesos, or CUC, a unit of
currency equivalent to one dollar or 24 "national" pesos, or CUP, but
the prices are a strain on a Cuban's average income. A box can cost as
much as 1.80 CUC (almost 50 CUP), one-eighth of the average monthly wage
in Cuba.

In the face of a fluctuating supply, a momentary solution is solidarity.

"Friends tell each other who has [condoms] and where. They share a few
of them, because the only option is abstinence, if we don't want to
contract a disease or become pregnant," says blogger Alejando Ulloa, one
of the many young men who have to walk up and down the streets of the
capital to find a condom or the answer to why they disappeared.

Source: Cuba Faces Condom Shortage - Havana Times.org -

Cuba, US are warily, slowly improving relations

Cuba, US are warily, slowly improving relations
By Bryan Bender | GLOBE STAFF APRIL 20, 2014

HAVANA — The imposing, seven-story structure with darkened windows sits
just across from the Malecon, or sea wall, central Havana's communal
hangout. It is unadorned, flying no flags, offering few signs that
germinating inside are seeds of a better relationship between official

The United States cut off relations and imposed a trade embargo with
communist Cuba more than half a century ago. But at the so-called US
Interests Section in Havana, 50 US diplomats and 300 locally hired
Cubans are quietly working on a range of common challenges.

The two governments are cooperating to combat human trafficking, improve
airline security, and conduct search and rescue operations. They are
working on joint efforts to improve public health and guard against
environmental degradation. And "working-level" discussions are under way
to do more, officials say.

Ideas: Cuba, you owe us $7 billion
The Drug Enforcement Agency could soon be sending agents to work with
Cuban counterparts to track South American cartels, and the United
States has proposed reestablishing direct mail delivery between the

The behind-the-scenes work continues despite the recent controversy over
a covert US effort to provide Cubans access to a Twitter-like social

Another thorny disagreement is over the fate of Alan Gross, a US State
Department contractor who has been jailed in Cuba for four years,
accused of being a spy. Cuban officials insist they want something in
return; namely, three Cubans convicted in the United States on charges
that they were intelligence agents.

"There is a big over-arching political cleft. But we are doing a number
of things that have been politically blessed by both sides," said a
senior US diplomat who works at the diplomatic post.

The diplomat — who requested anonymity to speak, in compliance with
State Department rules — expressed frustration that interaction between
the two governments at higher levels is still officially prohibited.

The Obama administration, under pressure from politically powerful
Cuban-Americans in South Florida and their supporters in Congress,
insists that relations can be restored only when Cubans win "fundamental
human rights and the ability to freely determine their own political

Cuba's leaders, meanwhile, decry continuing US efforts to destabilize
their one-party system.

But a recent visit to this island just 90 miles from Florida, and
interviews with Cuban and American officials, revealed a slow but
unmistakable thaw on both sides of the Florida Straits. They are
realistic about the snail's pace of change, while describing pent-up
demand for better economic opportunities.

Nowhere is that more evident than at the US Interests Section, housed in
the former US Embassy that was completed just before the Cuban
Revolution in 1959, when Fidel Castro, along with his brother Raul, took

Each day, up to 800 Cubans line up seeking various services such as
licenses for cultural exchanges, passport services, and other travel
documents. That compares with about 100 per day last year, according to
US diplomats.

US residents are now the second largest group of foreign travelers to
Cuba each year, behind Canada, including at least half a million
Cuban-Americans last year, who are now allowed to freely travel here
under relaxed rules instituted in 2009. Another 100,000 Americans
visited as part of educational and cultural exchanges approved by the US
State Department.

According to a new report by the Havana Consulting Group, more than
173,000 US residents visited the island just between January and March
of this year.

Meanwhile, studies find that money and goods pumped directly into the
Cuban economy by Cuban-Americans — as much as $5 billion in 2012 — now
outstrip the country's four major sectors, including tourism as well as
nickel, pharmaceutical, and sugar exports. That is having a major impact
on a population of just 11 million people, most of whom barely eke out
an existence in the island's centrally controlled economy.

Cuban officials, who agreed to speak to a reporter only if they were not
named, denied the common view among Cubans that the government is
fearful of renewed ties with its neighbor to the north.

"We can defend what we have. We are not afraid," said a senior official
at Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "We have spent 50 years preparing
the people for anything."

The gradual thaw in relations provides some hope for many average
Cubans. The country's economic anemia — the average Cuban earns roughly
$17 a month — is evident in daily life, from a crumbling infrastructure
that has seen little investment since the 1950s, to shortages of staples
such as eggs and meat, which for many Cubans are still rationed.

Darien Garcia Arco, 26, an electrical engineer who works for the
government, earns the equivalent of about $70 a month. That is more than
most Cubans, he points out, allowing him to have his own apartment, a
rarity for someone his age.

"There have been changes. Now you can buy and sell in a way that you
couldn't before," Arco said at a small social gathering in a dilapidated
high-rise (which, like most buildings, still has a Committee for the
Defense of the Revolution post on its ground floor, a mainstay of Cuba's
surviving police state apparatus).

"Things are changing but they should have changed years ago,'' Arco
said. "They are still not being felt widely."

The older generation, which appears most committed to the socialist
model spearheaded by the Castro brothers, also openly expresses a desire
for greater opportunity. Maria Cirules, who fought with some of the
leading Marxists who took power in 1959 and is now in her 70s, recounted
some of the hard-won achievements of Cuba's socialist political system:
Health care for all. Near-total literacy. No starvation.

"That is a conquest for us," she proudly declared.

Yet when asked what her late comrade, socialist visionary Ernesto Che
Guevara, might think of modern Cuba's economic situation, she was just
as adamant.

"He wouldn't like it," she said. "He was very exacting."

There have been a series of reforms instituted since Raul Castro took
over as president in 2009 from his ailing brother, who ruled for nearly
50 years.

Dozens of private restaurants, known as casa particulares, have appeared
in the past few years, usually located in private homes or apartments,
an easily visible sign that the government is allowing more of a
free-market economy to emerge. A few state enterprises have also been
turned into cooperatives.

The Cuban government has recently welcomed some foreign investment,
including a port project and industrial zone underway on the western
part of the island that is financed by Brazilian investors. Also, the
parliament is considering a broader foreign investment law.

Most striking to longtime observers was the announcement last year that
Cubans, who have largely been prisoners in their own country, can apply
to travel out of the country. There is also a small but vibrant
blogosphere emerging on the government-controlled Internet, including
some commentators who are openly critical of the government.

One US official who has had a unique viewpoint into the changes is
Representative James P. McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat who has long
advocated for normalizing relations.

"It is difficult but it is not oppressive," McGovern, visiting Cuba at
the same time as a Globe reporter, said of the political atmosphere
here. "It is not to minimize the human rights challenges, but there have
been changes here that have resulted in more political space."

McGovern, who has traveled here more than a dozen times since his first
trip in 1979, nevertheless believes the Obama administration, acting
independently, can do far more to encourage change here, and he has
taken his case directly to Secretary of State John F. Kerry, his former
Bay State congressional colleague.

"I firmly believe that now is the time to take more significant steps
that address our relationship with Cuba," he said.

Among the steps McGovern and his allies in Congress are advocating is
permitting US firms to offer goods and services to the privately run
businesses and cooperatives and increasing the number of Americans who
can apply for a license to travel to Cuba for educational and cultural

Another plea falls directly under Kerry's purview: removing Cuba from
the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, which would
clear some of the legal impediments to greater diplomatic engagement.
("Nobody can explain to me why they are on the terrorist list," McGovern

The State Department says it has no plans to remove Cuba from the list.
But a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs said that
such sanctions against Cuba are "only one aspect of US policy."

"The administration has taken steps to improve conditions for Cuban
citizens through initiatives aimed at increasing the flow of
information, resources, and humanitarian relief," said Angela M.
Cervetti. "We will continue to think creatively about appropriate policy
changes that will enhance the Cuban people's access to human rights and
fundamental freedoms, and their ability to freely determine their own

She also said that Gross's continued detention "impedes our ability to
establish a more constructive relationship with Cuba on matters
affecting both countries."

For longtime Cuban officials like Gladys Rodriquez, there remains a deep
sense that the road to normalization will require more struggle.

"I will admit that I still believe the day the United States will lift
the blockade or embargo is far away," said Rodriquez, an official at
Cuba's National Council of Heritage.

She has worked for more than a decade with Boston-based Finca Vagia
Foundation to restore the Cuban legacy of American novelist Ernest
Hemingway, a project McGovern helped launch and that, like the broader
relationship, has suffered from some fits and start.

"But I do have the conviction that sooner or later, the process we are
all waiting for shall take place and our two countries will have normal
relations," she said.

Bryan Bender can be reached at bender@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter

Source: Cuba and United States are warily, slowly thawing relations -
Nation - The Boston Globe -

Company fined $5.9 million for travel to Cuba

Posted on Saturday, 04.19.14

Company fined $5.9 million for travel to Cuba

A major Netherlands company that handled the travel of 44,430 people to
and from Cuba will pay $5.9 million to the U.S. government to settle a
complaint that it violated the trade embargo on the island, the U.S.
Treasury Department has announced.

Treasury's announcement said CWT B.V. had continued to do business in
Cuba after it became majority-owned by U.S. entities in 2006, and
therefore was subject to the U.S. Trading With the Enemy Act.

The fine appeared to be one of the largest assessed on a travel agency
for Cuba embargo violations, although several foreign banks have had to
pay hundreds of millions of dollars to settle alleged violations.

CWT B.V. was part of the Netherlands-based Carlson Wagonlit Travel, a
global leader in travel. CWT specializes in business travel, operates in
more than 150 countries and reported $21.4 billion in total sales volume
in 2009, according to its website.

Treasury did not identify CWT's U.S. buyers in 2006. One Equity Partners
II, L.P., a subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase, and JPMorgan's Chase Travel
Investment, were listed in business reports as holding some ownership
interests in CWT in 2010.

U.S.-owned companies doing business in Cuba or with Cuban entities are
required to have special licenses issued by Treasury's Office of Foreign
Assets Control (OFAC), which enforces U.S. sanctions on all foreign

CWT's possible violations took place from Aug. 8, 2006 to on or about
Nov. 28, 2012, "dealt in property in which Cuba or its nationals had an
interest" and involved trips by 44,430 people, Treasury said in a
statement Friday.

OFAC said the base penalty for the case was $11,093,500, but that was
cut to $5.9 million because CWT voluntarily reported the apparent
violations, halted them, cooperated with U.S. investigators and took
"significant remedial action."

CWT is a "commercially sophisticated international corporation and
travel services," the Treasury statement noted, "but failed to exercise
a minimal degree of caution or care regarding its obligations to comply
with OFAC sanctions against Cuba."

The large number of Cuba travelers it handled "caused significant harm
to the objectives" of the U.S. sanctions on the communist-ruled island
under the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR).

JPMorgan Chase Bank agreed to pay $88.3 million in 2011 to settle
allegations of "egregious" CACR violations by processing 1,711 wire
transfers totaling $178.5 million from Dec. 12 of 2005, and March 31 of
2006 involving Cuba or Cuban nationals.

JPMC investigated a tip from another institution that it could be
violating the regulations, confirmed it and yet "failed to take adequate
steps to prevent further transfers" and did not voluntarily report the
apparent violations, Treasury said at the time.

ING bank in the Netherlands paid $619 million in 2011 to settle
allegations of illegal dealing with Cuba, Iran, and other sanctioned
countries. Credit Suisse Bank paid $536 million in 2009 and the
Swiss-based UBS paid $100 million in 2004 for similar cases.

Source: Company fined $5.9 million for travel to Cuba - Breaking News -
MiamiHerald.com -

Archbishop Wenski asks for prayers for Cuban dissidents

Posted on Saturday, 04.19.14

Archbishop Wenski asks for prayers for Cuban dissidents

Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski has asked that masses at the Our Lady of
Charity shrine say special prayers this weekend for Cuban dissident
Sonia Garro and two others jailed without trial since shortly before a
papal mass in Havana in 2012.

Wenski was responding to a request by the Center for a Free Cuba, a
pro-democracy group based in Washington and headed by Frank Calzon, to
several Roman Catholic Church officials to offer prayers for the
dissidents on Easter Sunday.

"Please know that this family will be in my prayers -- and that I have
asked that this prayer of petition be included in the prayers offered at
La Ermita de la Caridad this weekend" in Coconut Grove, Wenski wrote in
an email.

Garro, a member of the Ladies in White, husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz
and activist Eugenio Hernández were arrested at the couple's home in a
poor Havana neighborhood March 18 2012 as they made plans to attend Pope
Benedict XVI's mass, dissidents say.

Prosecutors accused them of trying to kill policemen when they resisted
a raid on the home. Garro has claimed that there was no resistance and
alleged that police used tear gas and shot her in the leg with a rubber
bullet during the raid.

No trial has been held but prosecutors have asked for a 14-year sentence
for Muñoz, 11 for Hernandez and 10 for Garro – among the longest prison
terms for dissidents since 75 opposition activists were sentenced to up
to 28 years in the spring of 2003.

Police detained more than 1,000 dissidents during the pope's Cuba visit
April 26-28 to keep them away from the papal masses, and blocked their
cell phones in an apparent attempt to keep news of the crackdown from
filtering out to the news media.

Calzon also made public a response from Bishop Richard Pates of Des
Moines, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of
the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.

"We share in your heartfelt concern for these brave individuals, and
indeed for all the (Ladies in White) and their supporters in Cuba,"
Pates said, promising to "take such further steps as may be advisable to
pursue a just resolution of this case."

Pates added that he was convinced "the best way to assist these heroic
individuals is by supporting the efforts of the Cuban Bishops'
Conference in its work of fostering human rights and democracy in that

Source: Archbishop Wenski asks for prayers for Cuban dissidents - Cuba -
MiamiHerald.com -

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Changes Come, Although the General May Not Want Them To

Cuba: Changes Come, Although the General May Not Want Them To / Juan
Juan Almeida
Posted on April 19, 2014

For more than half a century, the Cuban Revolution developed exclusively
inspired by the powerful and omnipresent archetype Fidel Castro. An
image that no longer exists or is hidden is the dressing rooms of the
current political-economic-social theater. That is why when someone asks
me if there exist in Cuba objective and subjective conditions for
forging change, I always begin by saying: It depends on what we
understand and want to assume by "Change."

It is clear that the so extended process called the Cuban Revolution did
not lead to a more just or prosperous or inclusive society, but to a
strange and irrational collapse that still endures. The seizure of all
powers, judicial and executive, did away with the legal protection of
the citizen, and imposed apathy and fear; like that singular combination
that exists between a cup of coffee with milk and a piece of bread with

The old Asian theory that speaks of two elements is the basis of the
idea that all phenomena of the universe are the result of the movement
and mutation of various categories. The good and the bad, the beautiful
and the ugly, the yin and the yang.

The presence of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the chief of the
political department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party,
and the misguided intervention of the President of the Republic of Cuba
in the closing event of the recently held Eighth Congress of UNEAC was a
terrible implementation of this old theory, and a disastrous strategy
for showing the authority of the Government and the State, and at the
same time it tried to reconquer the intelligentsia that as we all now
know appears because of obstinacy, compromise, inertia or boredom, but
that for some time, due to these same reasons, distanced itself from the

The island's government, upon the prompt and unstoppable disappearance
if its leader-guide-priest and example, manages to entertain by talking
of transformation while it intimidates us, leaving very clear the place
of each in its chain of command.Many times we have seen dissident voices
that issue from within the island repressed using mental patients with
disorders like bi-polar and schizophrenia that without adequate
medication exhibit extremely violent behaviors. Outrageous.

I ask myself what the representatives of international organizations do,
or what those sensitive and passionate people who decided to defend
vehemently and peevishly the Hippocratic oath say, on learning that the
mentally ill are used as deadly weapons.

On April 14, 1912, the Titanic, at that time the safest boat in the
world, crashed into an iceberg, and while it was sinking, the orchestra
played. In all ways, whether the general wants it or not, change is
coming, although I have to admit that since 2008, the man has exerted
himself in confusing us with an imaginary and mythological climate of
national improvements and radical reforms; on one hand he shows several
political prisoners, and on the other he hides political prisoners from
us (here the order of the factors does alter the product).

According to the Marxist bible, the Communist Manifesto, a
transformation of the structure of the classes demands a change in the
social order and a political revolution.

La Habana decided to wind up its old and rusted clock because it had
turned into quite the brake.

Translated by mlk.

14 April 2014

Source: Cuba: Changes Come, Although the General May Not Want Them To /
Juan Juan Almeida | Translating Cuba -

Overthrowing the Castros with Twitter

Overthrowing the Castros with Twitter / Ivan Garcia
Posted on April 19, 2014

Barack Obama and the State Department aren't stupid. But on the issue of
Cuba they act as if they were. Their cluelessness is monumental. They
should check their sources of information.

The NSA team in charge of monitoring phone calls to and from Cuba, as
well as emails and the preferences of the still small number of Internet
users on the island seems to be on vacation.

A word to the US think tanks that come up with political strategies for
Cuba: obsession disrupts insight.

Let's analyze the points against having a couple of autocratic dinosaurs
as neighbors. It's true that Fidel Castro expropriated US business
without paying a cent. He also seized the businesses of hundreds of
Cubans who are now citizens of that country.

Castro has all the earmarks of a caudillo. Ninety miles from the United
States, he blatantly allied with the Soviet empire and even placed
nuclear arms in Cuba. He destablized governments in Latin America. He
places himself on the chessboard of the Cold War, participating in
various African wars.

As he was an annoying guy, they tried to kill him with a shot to the
forehead or with a potent poison that was activated by using his pen.
Out of bad luck of the lack of guts of his executioners, the plans failed.

For five decades, the bearded one continued to lash out against US
imperialism. Then Hugo Chavez appeared on the scene along with the
troupe of Evo Morales and Rafael Correa. On Central America the
presidential chair was returned to the unpresentable Daniel Ortega.
Kicking the anti-American can.

I can understand what it means to have an annoying neighbor. I live in a
building where a woman starts screaming insults at 8:00 in the morning
and other one usually plays reggaeton at full volume. But common sense
says, move or learn to live with different people.

Cuba and the United States will always be there. Closer than they
wanted. What to do?

An American politician can raise the alarm because there is no
democracy, nor political freedoms, nor freedom of expression on the
island. He knows that Cubans on the other side of the pond have three
state newspapers that say the same thing and that dissidence is
prohibited. They consider it a horror. And he candidly thinks, "Let's
help them. Teach them how to install a democracy."

This is where the gringo philosophy of reversing the status quo comes
into play. They are right in their dissections, but the solution fails them.

Cuba's problems, which range from political exclusion,the absence of an
autonomous civil society, the legal illiteracy of most citizens, lack of
freedom of the press and political parties and the fact that opposition
is illegal, are a matter that concerns only Cubans.

From inability, egos, and ridiculous strategies, the dissidence hasn't
been able to connect with ordinary Cubans. Eight out of every ten Cubans
are against the government and its proven inefficiency. For now, their
decision is to escape.

It's not for lack of information that people aren't taking to the
streets. Cuba is now North Korea. Shortwave radios are sold here and
thousands of people connect illegal cable antennas. It's just they are
more interested in seeing a Miami Heats game or Yaser Puig playing for
the Dodgers than following CNN news in Spanish.

At present, Cuba has two million cellphone users. They can send text
messages. But not to denounce human rights abuses. They used to ask for
money from their families in Miami, the latest iPhone, or that their
relatives expedite immigration procedures so they can permanently leave
the country.

The Internet on the island is the most expensive in the world. One hour
costs 4.50 CUC (5 dollars), the same as two pounds of meat in the black
market. I usually go to internet rooms twice a week and talk with many

The majority don't want to read El País, El Mundo or El Nuevo Herald.
Nor Granma nor Juventud Rebelde. They want to send emails and tweet, to
their wave. Upload photos on Facebook, look for a partner or work abroad.

Are they fed up with politics? I suppose. Are they afraid of going to
jail if they openly confront the regime? Of course. Are they masochists
who do not want to live in a democratic society? Evidently so. But they
have no vocation to be martyrs.

This political apathy among a great segment of the population, weary of
the olive-green loony bin, is fertile ground for the proselytizing
efforts of the opposition, which has not done its job,

People are there in the streets. Only dissidents prefer to gatherings
among themselves, chatting with diplomats and, since 2013, traveling the
world to lecture on the status quo in Cuba and get their photo taken
with heavyweights like Obama, Biden or Pope Francisco.

For the gringos I have good news and bad news. The bad is that it is
great foolishness to expect to topple the Castros with Twitter, call it
Zunzuneo or whatever it's called. The good news is that this type of
totalitarian regimes has not worked anywhere in the world and they
crumble by themselves. You have to have patience.

There is a popular refrain in Cuba that states the obvious: desires
don't make babies.

Iván García

7 April 2014

Source: Overthrowing the Castros with Twitter / Ivan Garcia |
Translating Cuba -

TV, film lag behind other Cuba reforms

'TV, film lag behind other Cuba reforms'

Havana (AFP) - Cuban television and cinema are lagging behind other
industries that have seen recent reform on the communist island, a
writers' and artists' group wrote in a report published on Friday.

The study released by Cuba's Commission on Culture and Media urged the
Havana government to create television and film programming not under
government control, among other proposed reforms.

"Cuba's television system is urged to make structural and productive
changes, in keeping with the current reality in the rest of the
country," said the report, published after a recent gathering of the
Union of Cuban Writers and Artists, known by its Spanish acronym UNEAC.

The film and television industries currently are plagued by problems
that have gotten worse over time, including "a shortage of funding, poor
leadership, disorganization and a lack of discipline."

There currently are five national television channels available in Cuba,
many fewer than most other countries.

The paucity of choice is "a far cry from the cultural, information and
entertainment offerings needed for our people," the report said.

Recent Cuban economic reforms have opened up many businesses to private
enterprise on the island, although the Havana government still controls
90 percent of the economy.

Source: 'TV, film lag behind other Cuba reforms' - Yahoo News -

Cuba’s foreign investment law - ‘New’ indeed, but barely

Cuba's foreign investment law: 'New' indeed, but barely
By José Manuel Pallí, esq.

Now we can comment on Cuba's new foreign investment law — Ley 118/ 2014
— since its "official version" is now published at the Gaceta Oficial de
Cuba, together with a Reglamento or regulatory law and other companion
governmental resolutions that should further help in interpreting its
significance and clarify its intent.

If you put a copy of Ley 77/95, the old foreign investment law which
this new one supersedes, alongside Law 118/ 2014, you'll probably think
they are twins. The language is almost the same in a huge percentage of
the provisions contained in both laws, which are essentially, well, the
same. And there is a very good reason for these similarities: The 'old'
law was not a bad law at all, in terms of the protection it afforded
(affords, since the new one will not be in force until late June) to
foreign investors.

Of course, that protection can only be effective to the extent the
attitude of those enforcing the law leads them to do so enthusiastically
and fairly, without arbitrariness of any kind. Whether that will be the
case with the implementation of this new foreign investment law in Cuba,
only time will tell. But I do sense that there is a generalized
conviction among decision makers in Cuba that they do need the tool
foreign investment could be, in terms of helping the Cuban economy grow
and develop, and they need it now, and I believe that conviction should
prod their enthusiasm.

There is one area where the new law may well open an entirely new world
of opportunity to foreign investment in Cuba, while at the same time
improving dramatically the quality of life of Cubans in the island (and
Cubans, el cubano de a pie, are the main constituents any Cuban law
should serve and please, even if a foreign investment law should also
please foreign investors): Foreign capital may now be used to build (and
repair) housing units — viviendas — to be used as such by José Q Cuban
citizen, which is to say the majority of natural persons who reside
permanently in Cuba.

Chapter VI in the old law dealt with investments in real property
(Inversiones en bienes inmuebles), and, in article 16, it allowed such
investments, provided the real property in question is used to house
"natural persons who were not permanent residents in Cuba" (Article
16.2(a)), thus keeping the Cuban people right to housing out of reach to
foreign capital, and away from the benefits foreign investment could
bring to the quality of their houses (and safety: no more crumbling

Chapter VI of the new law has one section, Article 17, that reads
exactly the same as article 16 of the old law, but it omits the
provision (restriction) whereby foreign investment was ruled out if the
real property in play was used to house everyday Cubans. Article 17.2(a)
now says foreign investment is possible in housing and buildings
(viviendas y edificaciones) that are private domiciles (dedicadas a
domicilio particular) or for touristic ends, period.

It does not say flatly that someone can, as a builder who wants to be a
foreign investor in Cuba, build (or improve by way of urgent structural
repairs) housing for the consumption of the Cuban people in general. But
I read in the deletion of the condition (only if the real estate is used
to house those who are not permanent residents in Cuba) found in the
equivalent article of the old law as a strong indication that that is
the case, assuming the approval of the governmental entity who will have
to authorize the investment in question is obtained.

In future columns I will go into some murky aspects regarding how that
real estate asset (the land) where the housing is to be emplaced finds
its way into the entity or vehicle of choice of the foreign investor,
the enterprise that actually makes the investment, when that entity is
capitalized. I will also delve into what's new (mostly the changes in
tax treatment and the use of incentives) in this foreign investment law,
and what smacks of "old" (the persistence in controlling Cuban employees
of foreign investors by meddling into their relationship with those who
want to hire them).

José Manuel Pallí is president of Miami-based World Wide Title. He can
be reached at jpalli@wwti.net; you can find his blog at

Source: Analysis: Cuba's foreign investment law: 'New' indeed, but
barely « Cuba Standard, your best source for Cuban business news -

Bay of Pigs at 53

Posted on Friday, 04.18.14

Bay of Pigs at 53

One of their American trainers, multidecorated WWII and Korea veteran
Grayston Lynch, called the Bay of Pigs freedom fighters, "brave boys who
mostly had never before fired a shot in anger."

Indeed, they were college students, farmers, doctors, common laborers,
whites, blacks and of mixed race. They were known as La Brigada 2506, an
almost precise cross-section of Cuban society of the time. The Brigada
included men from every social strata and race in Cuba — from sugarcane
planters and cutters, to aristocrats and their chauffeurs. But mostly,
La Brigada comprised the folks in between.

Short on battle experience, yes, but they were bursting with what
Napoleon Bonaparte and Gen. George Patton valued most in soldiers:
Morale. No navel-gazing about "why they hate us" or pondering the merits
of regime change for them. They'd seen Castroism point-blank.

When those Cuban freedom fighters hit the beach at the Bay of Pigs 53
years ago this weekend, one of every 18 Cubans suffered in Castro's gulag.

Mass graves dotted the Cuban countryside, filled with hundreds of
victims of Castro and Che Guevara's firing squads. Modern history
records few soldiers with the burning morale of the Bay of Pigs freedom

Too bad their fate rested with "the best and brightest."

Humberto Fontova, Miami

Source: Bay of Pigs at 53 - Letters to the Editor - MiamiHerald.com -

Neither Blacks Nor Whites, Just Cubans

Neither Blacks Nor Whites, Just Cubans / Fernando Damaso
Posted on April 18, 2014

Neither black nor white, Cuba is mixed, some of the country's
investigators and intellectuals have asserted for some time now. The
declaration seems to respond to an eminently political intention:
incorporation into the current Latin American mixed ethnicity, so
fashionable among our populists.

This tendency, promoted by the authorities and some associated
personalities, instead of looking objectively at the African influence
in the formation of the Cuban nationality and identity, overestimating
it to the detriment of the Spanish, also an original race. To do this,
for many years, they have officially and supported and promoted its
demonstration, both in arts and religion, with the objective of
presenting it as the genuine Cuban.

Bandying about issues of race has many facets and, hence, varied
interpretations. Marti said they didn't exist, and wrote about the
different people who populate the distinct regions of the planer, noting
their unique characteristics, both positive and negative and which, in
practice, differentiate them. His romantic humanism went one way and
reality another. In more recent times, they sent us to Africa to fight
against colonialism, to settle a historical debt with the people of that
continent brought to Cuba as slaves, according to what they tell us.

That is, we accept that they can't free themselves and we, in some way
considering ourselves superior, come to their aid, independent of the
true political hegemonic interests, which were the real reason for our
presence in favor of one side in the conflict, during the so-called Cold

Without falling into the absurd extremes, talking about superior and
inferior races, in reality there are differences of every kind between
the historical inhabitants of different regions. To hide or distort it
doesn't help anyone. Some ethnic groups have developed more than others
and have contributed more to humanity, and still do.

No wonder we speak of a developed North and the underdeveloped South,
and it has not only influenced the exploitation of some by others, as
both the carnivorous and vegetarian Left and their followers like to
argue. There are those who, with their talent and work, are able to
produce wealth, and those who find it more difficult and only create misery.

In Cuba, the original population lived in north of South America and
expanded to the Antilles. Afterwards came the Spanish, and later the
blacks, Chinese, Arabs, French, Japanese and the representatives of
other nations of the world, bringing their customs, characteristics,
traditions, virtues, defects and cultures, which in the great mix (never
in a pot) formed the Cuban nation. For many years whites were the
majority, followed by mixed, blacks and Asians (in 1953, whites were
72.8%, mixed 14.5%, black 12.4% and Asians 0.3% of the population).

From the year 1959, with the mass exodus of whites and Asians, who
settled mainly in the United States, and the increase in births in the
black and mestizo population, plus the various racial mixtures, their
percentages increased within the country, but not among Cubans living
abroad, who are mostly white.

To ignore the statistics constitutes both a demographic and political
mistake, they are as Cuban as those based in the country, often with
more rooted customs, traditions and culture. Cuba is white, mestizo,
black and Asian and much more, but above all, it is Cuba. Who benefits
politically from this extemporaneous definition of a mixed Cuba? What
are they trying to accomplish? to divide Cubans still further?

It is absurd that, after years indoctrinating people about the
non-existence of races (say man and you will have said it all), and not
taken into account published statistics, now appears this strange
assertion,which no one is interested in or cares about, whites, blacks,
mixed, Asians, trying to survive within a system that has been unable,
for over 56 years, of solving its citizens' problems.

It's a secret to no one, that it is precisely and black and mixed
population that is most affected by the economic and social crisis, the
most discriminated against by the authorities, despite their discourse,
propaganda, and the 30% quotas within political and governmental

With the exception athletes and artists, blacks and mixed-race are the
poorest, hold the worst jobs, are least likely to graduate from college,
live int he worst conditions, often bordering on slums, and are the most
likely to be in jail or prison.

I doubt that the conclusions reached by these investigators and
intellectuals have some practical value or help in any way to change
this terrible situation, nor to the authorities of Public Order cease to
besiege them, continually stopping them and demanding their ID cars on
the streets of our towns and cities.

11 April 2014

Source: Neither Blacks Nor Whites, Just Cubans / Fernando Damaso |
Translating Cuba -

Angel Santiesteban’s Work Again Recognized in France

Angel Santiesteban's Work Again Recognized in France
Posted on April 18, 2014

The dictator Raul Castro continues stubbornly to make the world believe
that he's bringing to Cuba an opening that in reality doesn't exist. He
continues being the same dictator as always, violating the rights of all
Cubans, submitting them to misery, censoring the press, harassing,
beating and imprisoning peaceful opponents.

Angel Santiesteban, unjustly imprisoned, has completed one year after a
rigged trial for some crimes that his ex-wife and mother of his son
invented together with the political police. They sought to silence his
critical voice against the dictatorship, but they have not succeeded. No
punishment, beatings or prison itself has made a dent in him.

And by keeping him locked up, the dictator hasn't prevented his
literature from continuing to be recognized in the world, which condemns
the injustice against him.

Again in France, this time in Marseille, his book of stories, "Laura in
Havana", published in 2012 by L'Atinoir, will be presented before the

Raul Castro continues violating his own law, taking away Angel's passes
that he is supposed to get every sixty days. It doesn't matter to Angel,
because when his companions go to visit their families, he takes even
more advantage of the time and the calm to continue writing.

The Editor

A meeting

We invite you to a convivial meeting with Jacques Aubergy and Rasky
Beldjoudi, Saturday, April 12, at 5:00 p.m. at the Maison Pour Tous de
la Belle de Mai (House For All of the Belle of May).

Jacques Aubergy is a translator, bookseller and publisher. His
publishing house, L'Atinoir, publishes authors of noir fiction and Latin
American writers.

He will speak to us of his trade, how he chooses his books, and will
make us know intimately and with passion some marvels of Latin American
literature chosen by him.

He will also present the book, "Laura in Havana," a collection of ten
short stories by Angel Santiesteban-Prats, published by Atinoir.

Angel Santiesteban Prats is one of the greatest Cuban authors, presently
in prison after having openly criticized his country's system. His
imprisonment has generated strong support from Reporters Without Borders
and the world-wide community of bloggers.

An enthralling book

"The Eleventh Commandment" is a book by Rasky Beldjoudi, a resident of
the Belle de Mai.

The name Rasky Beldjoudi will surely mean nothing in particlar to you.
You have never noticed him, although it's very probable that you have
already seen him on Caffo Square or perhaps, one day, sitting next to
you on bus 32.

However, Rasky is impressive, muscular, and his Belgian accent with a
Kabyle (Berber) accent leaves no one indifferent. Since his infancy,
Rasky has accumulated difficulties. From scholastic failures to
precarious employment, he knew years of struggle and the hell of drugs.

In spite of an uneven road and a life story that is sometimes not very
glorious, he succeeded in rising above the circumstances of his life and
has just published "The Eleventh Commandment": an enthralling
autobiography, written in a remarkable style, full of humanity, and
unbelievably touching.


Saturday, April 12 at 5:00 p.m., Maison Pour Tous de la Belle de Mai, 6
Blvd. Boyer, 13003 Marseille

Free admission

Event organized by Brouettes & Compagnie, the association CIN-CO and the
Maison Pour Tous de la Belle de Mai.

To sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban
dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience follow the link.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Angel Santiesteban's Work Again Recognized in France |
Translating Cuba -

UNEAC Complicit In Its Silence

UNEAC Complicit In Its Silence / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on April 18, 2014

Previously I have said that in the circus exercise called court, which I
attended with the sentence already dictated by State Security, as I was
made to know long before by one of their henchmen, a fact that I made
known publicly — and which the judges in the First Chamber of Crimes
Against State Security executed, in their special headquarters for
notorious crimes on Carmen and Juan Delgado, when it was supposed that
my crime was common — officials of the Cuban Artists and Writers Union
(UNEAC) attended, sent by their president Miguel Barnet to watch the
show, like poet Alex Pausides, accompanied by the legal official, who
said that to his understanding what the prosecution could present
against me was smoke, like the report of that handwriting expert who
said that the height and slant of my handwriting made me guilty.

At the exit, the poet and Communist Party member Alex Pausides as well
as the legal official, said that I would be absolved given that what was
presented, and according to what was exposed in the oral ceremony, I
could not be judged, especially when I presented five witnesses who
demolished those accusations.

Dear members of UNEAC (take note). Angel Santiesteban, Revolutionarily, Me

Then, when they found me guilty, my lawyer went to UNEAC and left all
the documents that corroborated my innocence and that they requested for
presentation to Miguel Barnet, but we never received an answer, they
kept silent.

Of course, I am not naive, I never expected a reaction from UNEAC, I
always knew what they would do, but above all, what they would not do,
and they have fulfilled my predictions. I understood that they would
take that posture because I believe in history like a religion, and I
knew that history would yield that despicable stance. Their silence is
their shamelessness. And that shamelessness is now written in our history.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement. April 2014.

To sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban
dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience follow the link.

Translated by mlk.

Source: UNEAC Complicit In Its Silence / Angel Santiesteban |
Translating Cuba -

Another Sweeping Law

Another Sweeping Law / Rosa Maria Rodriguez
Posted on April 18, 2014

The National Assembly or Cuban parliament approved with no problems —
not a rare thing for this organ where although it's not divine it "comes
from above" — the new foreign investment law. You don't need a crystal
ball to know that new legislation, like the new broom of the refrain,
sweeps fundamentally well for them and their orbit.

The suffocating financiers of the nineteenth-century Cuban political
model shows that for the nomenklatura the urgency of their bank balances
or updating — aerating — their state capitalism is more important than
truly reviving the battered "socialist economy."

Like every law "that is disrespected" in Cuba after 1959, it was
approved unanimously, meaning that everyone agreed, or at least raised
their hands, in a caricature of a senate composed almost entirely of
members of the only party legalized in Cuba which has been in government
for 55 years and although it calls itself communist, it is not.

One might then suggest to the Cuban authorities, to be consistent with
their own laws, to carry out an aggiornamento also of the philosophical
basis of their ideology and the name of the historical party of government.

The Cuban state has had its eyes on foreign investment for a long time.
Rodrigo Malmierca, Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, said
earlier this year in Brazil, which in Cuba there would continue to be
only one party. Emphasizing, of course, the interest in Brazilian
entrepreneurs and the message of confidence and stability he wants to
convey to them from the Cuban ruling class, to encourage them to do
business in Cuba.

This norm becomes another discriminatory law "with the bait" of fiscal
and tax benefits for foreigners, in contrast to the thunderous taxes
payable by nationals who venture into the private sector. They did away
with all the Cuban and foreign businesses when this model came to power
and now stimulate and encourage only foreign capitalists to invest in
our country.

They say they aren't giving it away, but any citizen from other climes
is placed above nationals, who once again are excluded from the
opportunity to invest in medium and large companies in their own country.

Just like our Spanish ancestors committed shameless abuses and
marginalized native Cubans and restricted them in their economic role in
their own national home.

The state still owns "the master key" of labor contracting–the employing
company– to calm their followers and to urge them to continue giving
their unconditional support to the established and visible promise that
they will be rewarded and privileged, if only with a tiny,
revolutionary, symbolic and coveted "mini-slice" of the state pie.

On the other hand, the impunity in the management of public officials,
on part with the lack of respect for society implicit in secrecy,
exposes the heart of corruption. One of the many examples that get under
the skin of Cubans of various geographic coordinates is, what is the
state of the country's accounts. What are the periodic incomes and
expenses in different parts of the economy. Why isn't Cuban society
informed about the annual amount of the income from remittances from
Cubans who have emigrated, and how these resources are used?

A lot could be said and written about the new law and the old
discrimination and practices contained in previous legislation, which
for me is a horse of a changeable–not another–color.

But it would give a lot of relevance to the segregationist, sloppy and
desperate search for money by power elite in Cuba, which requires
increasingly huge sums of "evil capital" to sustain its inefficient
bureaucracy and unsustainable model.

In short, the new law, like the proverbial broom, will always sweep well
for them and that seems to be all that, according to their dynastic
mentalities, fiftieth anniversaries and blue-blooded lifestyles, they
care about.

15 April 2014

Source: Another Sweeping Law / Rosa Maria Rodriguez | Translating Cuba -

Cuba, you owe us $7 billion - Top 50 claims

Cuba, you owe us $7 billion - Top 50 claims

The top 50
The largest American property claims against Cuba certified by the
Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, according to a 2007 report by
Creighton University scholars.
Rank Name of claimant Amount certified Assets include
1 Cuban Electric Co. $267.57m Corporate assets
2 Intl. Telephone & Telegraph Corp. $130.68m Corporate assets
3 North American Sugar Industries Inc. $108.98m Corporate assets
4 Moa Bay Mining Co. $88.35m Rural mining property
5 United Fruit Sugar Co. $85.10m Improved real property
6 West Indies Sugar Corp. $84.88m Rural farming land
7 American Sugar Co. $81.01m Urban beachfronts
8 Exxon Corp. $71.61m Oil refinery
9 Texaco Inc. $56.20m Corporate assets
10 The Francisco Sugar Co. $53.39m Corporate assets
11 Bangor Punta Corp. $53.38m Securities
12 Manati Sugar Co. $48.59m Corporate assets
13 Nicaro Nickel Co. $33.01m Corporate assets
14 The Coca-Cola Co. $27.53m Urban commercial buildings
15 Lone Star Cement Corp. $24.88m n.a.
16 The New Tuinucu Sugar Co. $23.34m Sugar mills
17 Colgate-Palmolive Co. $14.51m Corporate assets
18 Sinclair Oil Corp. $13.20m Corporate assets
19 Braga Brothers Inc $12.61m Securities
20 Boise Cascade Corp. $11.75m Urban commercial building
21 Claflin, Helen A. $11.69m Securities
22 American Brands Inc. $11.68m Debts and mortgages
23 Burrus Mills Inc. $9.85m Experimental farm
24 Pan-American Life Insurance Co. $9.74m Corporate assets
25 United States Rubber Co. $9.52m Corporate assets
26 Powe, William $9.51m Urban residential property
27 Estate of Sumner Pingree $9.37m Rural farming land
28 F.W. Woolworth Co. $9.19m Contents of 11 retail stores
office building
29 Havana Docks Corp. $9.18m Commercial building, land
30 Continental Can Co. $8.91m Rural commercial building
31 Loeb, John L. $8.57m Securities
32 International Harvester Co. $8.26m Corporate assets
33 Owens-lllinois Inc. $8.04m Securities
34 Arango, Mercedes $7.92m Rural farming land
35 Order of Hermits of St. Augustin $7.89m Urban commercial
36 The Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A $7.71m Corporate assets
37 Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. $7.65m Corporate assets
38 Carl Marks & Co. $7.33m Securities
39 IBM World Trade Corp. $6.45m Corporate assets
40 Swift and Co. $5.95m Land, buildings, machinery
41 The First National Bank of Boston $5.90m Corporate assets
42 General Electric Co. $5.87m Corporate assets
43 Estate of Sumner Pingree $5.81m Securities
44 Libby, McNeil & Libby $5.71m Securities
45 The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. $5.12m Debts and mortgages
46 Procter & Gamble Co. $5.00m Debts and mortgages
47 First National City Bank $4.97m Urban commercial buildings
48 Lengyel, Olga $4.87m Apartments, art objects, cash
49 Davis, Arthur V. $4.27m Rural farming land
50 GMAC, South America $3.88m Corporate assets

Source: Cuba, you owe us $7 billion -

Cuba, you owe us $7 billion

Cuba, you owe us $7 billion
Behind the trade embargo lies a huge and nearly forgotten obstacle: the
still-active property claims by American companies. Inside the effort to
settle a 50-year-old debt
By Leon Neyfakh | GLOBE STAFF APRIL 18, 2014

IF SYMBOLS COULD GATHER RUST, the American trade embargo against Cuba
would be covered with it. Enacted in 1960, shortly after Fidel Castro
came to power, and expanded in 1962, at the height of the Cold War, the
embargo has frozen the United States and its tiny neighbor off the
Florida coast in a standoff that seems as dated as the classic American
cars on Havana streets.

Leaders from around the world have been calling on the United States to
dismantle the embargo for more than 20 years, and recent polls show that
a majority of Americans are in favor of lifting it. With the repressive
Castro regime seemingly nearing its end, a "normalization" of relations
between the countries seems increasingly within reach. That would appear
to spell an end sometime soon for the embargo, which in the popular
imagination stands as a sort of political weapon that was designed to
cripple Castro and stem the tide of communism.

What's often forgotten, though, is that the embargo was actually
triggered by something concrete: an enormous pile of American assets
that Castro seized in the process of nationalizing the Cuban economy.
Some of these assets were the vacation homes and bank accounts of
wealthy individuals. But the lion's share of the confiscated
property—originally valued at $1.8 billion, which at 6 percent simple
interest translates to nearly $7 billion today—was sugar factories,
mines, oil refineries, and other business operations belonging to
American corporations, among them the Coca-Cola Co., Exxon, and the
First National Bank of Boston. A 2009 article in the Inter-American Law
Review described Castro's nationalization of US assets as the "largest
uncompensated taking of American property by a foreign government in

Today, the nearly 6,000 property claims filed in the wake of the Cuban
revolution almost never come up as a significant sticking point in
discussions of a prospective Cuban-American thaw. But they remain
active—and more to the point, the federal law that lays out the
conditions of a possible reconciliation with Cuba, the 1996 Helms-Burton
Act, says they have to be resolved. According to that statute, said
Michael Kelly, a professor of international law at Creighton University
in Nebraska, settling the certified property claims "is one of the first
dominos that has to fall in a whole series of dominos for the embargo to
be lifted."

While the other dominos are clearly much more daunting—the overall point
of the Helms-Burton Act is that Cuba has to have a democratic,
America-friendly government in place before there can be any talk of
lifting the embargo—experts say the property claims will be an intensely
difficult problem to settle when it comes time to do so. For one thing,
Cuba is unlikely to ever have enough cash on hand to fully compensate
the claimants, especially while the embargo is still in place; to make
matters even more complicated, many of the individual claimants have
died, and some of the companies no longer exist.

With Cuba inching toward reform on a number of fronts over the past
several years, giving hope to those who believe our two countries might
reconcile in the near future, a number of Cuba experts have begun to
study the question of how to resolve the property claims in a way that
is both realistic and fair. The proposals that have come out of their
efforts provide a unique window onto the potential future of the
American relationship with Cuba—and point to the level of imagination
that can be required in the present to turn the page on what happened in
the past.


THE CUBA THAT CASTRO took over in 1959 was a nation overrun with
American business. Tourists could stay in American-owned Hiltons, shop
at Woolworth's, and withdraw money at American-owned banks.
American-owned petroleum refineries sat amid American cattle ranches,
sugar factories, and nickel mines, and an American-owned
telecommunications firm controlled the country's phone lines. According
to a 2008 report from the US Department of Agriculture, Americans
controlled three-quarters of Cuba's arable land.

Cuba's revolutionary leader swiftly signed several laws nationalizing
what was previously private property. Though the laws required the
government to compensate the owners, the payment was to be made in Cuban
bonds—an idea that was not taken seriously by the United States. In
1960, the administration of President Eisenhower punished Castro's
expropriation of American assets by sharply cutting the amount of sugar
the United States was buying from Cuba. "We kind of went ballistic at
the thought that anyone would take our property," said John Hansen, a
faculty associate at Harvard University's Center for Latin American
Studies. Tempers ran hot in both directions: in a speech, Castro vowed
to separate Americans in Cuba from all of their possessions, "down to
the nails in their shoes." The standoff culminated in a near-total
embargo on American exports to Cuba and a reduction of sugar imports to

Other countries that had holdings in Cuba—including Switzerland, Canada,
Spain, and France—were more amenable to Castro's terms, apparently
convinced that there was no chance they'd ever get a better deal. But
the Americans who had lost property wanted cash, and submitted official
descriptions of what had been taken from them to the Foreign Claims
Settlement Commission at the Department of Justice. Meanwhile, US
relations with Cuba deteriorated. Diplomatic ties were cut. An attempt
by President Kennedy to overthrow Castro failed, and a standoff over
Soviet missiles in 1962 brought the world as close to nuclear war as it
has ever come. The invisible economic wall—which by then had been
expanded to ban virtually all imports from Cuba—had become part of
something much larger.

Half a century later, the cash claims that started it all still sit on
the books. And while a full list of claimants is maintained by the US
Department of Justice, they have largely receded from view—in part
because most of the claimants have become quiet about their hopes for
compensation. According to Mauricio Tamargo, a lawyer who served as
chairman of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission for almost a decade
before going into private practice and taking on a number of claimants
as clients, complaining about monetary losses associated with the Cuban
revolution has become increasingly risky from a public relations
standpoint. The embargo has taken on more and more political meaning,
and Cuba has become more destitute. "The corporations that have these
claims are very sensitive to bad press," Tamargo said, "so they decide
to keep a low profile and work quietly behind the scenes where
possible." (Of several corporate claimholders contacted for this story,
the only one that provided a statement by deadline was Chevron Corp.,
which now owns the claims originally filed by Texaco, and considers "the
claim to be valid and enforceable if and when there is a change in the
Cuban government.")

But regardless of how morally or politically sensitive it might be for
America's corporations and the wealthy executives who run them to claim
money from Cuba, their claims will still need to be untangled in order
for the embargo to be lifted, experts say. "The US government is
obligated by law to defend the claims of US citizens and enterprises
whose properties were expropriated by the Cuban government," wrote
Harvard professor Jorge Dominguez, a top Cuba scholar, in an e-mail. As
for how that might be done, he added, "one can imagine a range of

One possibility has been put forth by Tamargo, who advocates for an
approach that would compensate claimants—his clients among them—by
imposing a 10 percent user fee on all remittances sent to Cubans by
their American relatives, as well as all other transactions that are
allowed to take place under the current embargo rules. (While this
proposal can be seen as a tax on US residents, it is designed to come
only out of money that is entering the Cuban economy.) Another proposal
was presented several years ago by Timothy Ashby, a Miami lawyer, who
started a company designed to buy claims at a discount from their
original owners and then use them to broker a private settlement with
the Cuban government. Ashby's plan was thwarted when the Bush
administration declared it illegal, but the prospect of a negotiated
group settlement remains on the table—as long as it's carried out by the
US government, in accordance with existing law.

Perhaps the most ambitious and pragmatic solution that's been laid out
so far appeared in a lengthy report published by scholars at Creighton
University, who were given a grant in 2006 by the US Agency for
International Development to investigate the claims issue. "There was a
hope that, if through God's grace things improved and we were able to
enter into a mutually beneficial relationship with Cuba, we would be
able to pull something off the shelf and say, 'Here's how we're going to
start dealing with it,'" said Patrick Borchers, the law professor who
led the Creighton team.

Borchers and his colleagues found that untangling all the claims would
be extremely complicated: "A lot of the original corporate claimants,
through the process of 50 years worth of mergers and acquisitions, don't
even exist anymore," said Creighton's Michael Kelly, who also worked on
the report. "But the claims don't go away—they go with the mergers." One
of the largest claimants today, for example, is Starwood Resorts, a
company that didn't even exist in 1959, but received a claim on the ITT
Telegraph Tower when it acquired another company. "Starwood Resorts
doesn't want an old radio tower," Kelly said. "What they [might] want is
beachfront property."

This insight led to the proposal that the Creighton team ultimately
submitted to the government. Under the team's plan, some of those who
had lost property during Castro's nationalization campaign could be
compensated in ways that didn't involve the transfer of cash or bonds:
Instead, they could be given tax-free zones, development rights, and
other incentives to invest in the new Cuba. This, according to Borchers,
would be a win for both sides, compensating the claimants while
stimulating the Cuban economy.


NO ONE IS ARGUING that settling the property claims of Americans is
anything like the first or most important step to normalizing the US
relationship with Cuba: There are other, more formidable obstacles in
the way, as well as significant wiggle room for increasing economic
activity between the two countries without formally lifting the embargo.

"There's a scenario that I see, which is bit by bit the fundamentals of
the embargo are chiseled away by executive order, by the economic and
family ties linking Cuba and the United States, and by non-enforcement,"
said Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. In
that scenario, the claims might someday be resolved, but wouldn't hold
the process of reintegrating the United States and Cuba hostage.

There's another big complication, too: the thousands of Cuban families
who fled to America after the revolution and had everything they owned
confiscated by the Communist regime. These Cuban exiles and their
descendants form the backbone of the most intransigent anti-Castro lobby
in the United States. If and when Cuba does open up, they're going to
want their property back as well, which will likely result in extensive
litigation in Cuba. (To address their interests, the Creighton report
proposed setting up a special tribunal in Cuba that could try to
compensate Cuban-Americans for their losses once the country had found
its feet economically.)

What will end up happening—both for the American claimants and the
Cubans who moved here after the revolution—will undoubtedly provoke
debate about what is fair when it comes to setting right the wrongs of
the past. How much debt is worth forgiving to help a country back on its
feet? And how much should private citizens expect to give up to help a
diplomatic resolution? But the provisional plans and proposals that have
been made in the meantime—whether preferential development deals or a
tax on cash flow between our two countries—reflect something else:
visions of a new Cuba, in which American economic interests and Cuban
ones are once again closely intertwined.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. E-mail leon.neyfakh@globe.com.

Source: Cuba, you owe us $7 billion - Ideas - The Boston Globe -

Cuba’s Mariel Development Zone Unmasked

Cuba's Mariel Development Zone Unmasked
April 18, 2014
Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — Ana Teresa Igarza, director general of the Mariel Special
Development Zone (ZEDM) Regulations Office, recently announced that a
special hard-currency exchange rate had been established for Zone employees.

Contracted employees will receive 80 percent of the salaries agreed to
by Cuban employment agencies and investors, and payments are to be made
in regular Cuban pesos (CUP), at a "special" exchange rate of 1 Cuban
Convertible Peso (CUC) to 10 CUP. This is as "special" as the Special

That is to say, if the employment agency negotiates a 1,000 CUC salary
(or its equivalent in US dollars) for a Cuban worker, the agency will
pocket the 1,000 CUC (or its equivalent in US dollars) and pay the Cuban
worker (in CUP) 80 percent of the sum agreed to, at the special exchange
rate of 10 CUP to 1 CUC.

If mathematics hasn't also been deformed by "State socialism", this
means the worker will receive 10 Cuban pesos for each CUC, which means
that their salary would be 8,000 CUP (10 x 800).

When that worker comes out of the ZEDM, in order to purchase anything at
the hard-currency stores operated by Cuba's military monopoly, they will
have to resort to government exchange locales (or CADECAS), where they
are required to buy CUC at an exchange rate of 25 to 1. Thus, their
8,000 Cuban pesos become 320 CUC.

This means that, of the 1,000 CUC (or their equivalent in US dollars)
paid by the investor, Cuban workers will only receive 32%. To this, we
must add that the wage worker must pay an additional 5 percent for State
"social security", which means that they are ultimately only receiving
27 percent of the original 1,000 CUC.

A total of 63 percent will go to the State, which will sit back and not
"get its hands dirty" – it will pocket this only for acting as an
"intermediary" between the investor, a euphemism for a foreign
capitalist exploiter, and Cuban salaried workers.

A crafty maneuver, true, but it can't hide the double exploitation they
would submit Cuban workers to, between the foreign capitalists and the
extortionist State which, to add insult to injury, leaves workers
helpless, deprived of laws that could protect them from their employers.

Having accustomed Cuba's working class to hyper-exploitation, the State
of course expects workers to content themselves with 32 % of their
salaries. The other 68 % goes to the "nation."

The benefits that the Mariel port mega-project brings the Cuban working
class are becoming clear.

The much publicized Mariel project thus takes off its "progressive" mask
to show its true face, to reveal itself as the extortionist of Cuban
wage workers.

It is a clear illustration of the sought-after alliance between Cuba's
State monopoly capitalism (which has sought to pass itself off as
"socialism") and international capital, coming together to jointly
exploit Cuba's workforce.

Source: Cuba's Mariel Development Zone Unmasked - Havana Times.org -