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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Artist El Sexto Will Face Trial in a Few Hours

Artist El Sexto Will Face Trial in a Few Hours / 14ymedio
Posted on October 22, 2014

The trail of the independent artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto
– "The Sixth" – has been set for tomorrow at 8:30 AM in the Plaza of the
Revolution municipal court.

The cartoonist and creator of numerous graffiti is accused of the
alleged crime of threatening his wife, which could mask political
retaliation. The complaint was made by Danilo's wife's father, who was
also present as the main prosecution witness.

Friends and colleagues fear that the court hearing is a way of settling
accounts with this uncomfortable "king of the spray can." In statements
to 14ymedio, El Sexto has demonstration his dissatisfaction with the
legal process and has confirmed that his wife was present during the
session to "state what occurred." Right now the couple is living under
the same roof together with their small daughter and hope that "the
charges won't go forward."

With regards to tomorrow's trial, Maldonaldo believes, "There won't be
any problems, although there is always the pressure. Just for the simple
fact of thinking differently, I feel exposed in front of them."

In recent decades it has become a frequent practice to bring common
crime charges against activists and artists who undertake work critical
of the government. In a similar situation right now is the writer Angel
Santiesteban, condemned and sentenced to prison on alleged charges of
violation of domicile and injury.

Gorki Aguila, the famous singer and leader of the punk rock band Porno
para Ricardo is also on the list of those awaiting trial, accused of
alleged "drug abuse."

As a general rule, people critical of the government are not judged on
political reasons but for "common crimes" with the aim of limiting
solidarity and international pressure.

Source: Artist El Sexto Will Face Trial in a Few Hours / 14ymedio |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/artist-el-sexto-will-face-trial-in-a-few-hours-14ymedio/

Berta Soler - They Must Put An End To This

Berta Soler: They Must Put An End To This / 14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez
Posted on October 22, 2014

14ymedio, Havana, Victor Ariel Gonzalez, 21 October 2014 — Berta Soler,
leader of the Ladies in White, has called for a vigil this October 21 in
front of the Diez de Octubre Municipal Court in Havana. The reason is
the new suspension of the trial of Sonia Garro.

Soler explained that there are "dubious things" in the way the
authorities have handled this latest extension. "Sonia called to tell me
that a captain had told her that the trial was suspended, but she did
not believe it." The activist also said that Sonia Garro's defense
lawyer "was unaware" of the decision. The new date for holding the
criminal trial has been set for next November 7.

"We do not trust the Cuban Government, therefore the vigil goes on," the
leader of the Ladies in White told this newspaper. Soler does not rule
out that "all this supposed suspension is for the purpose of
demobilizing the people." So, "we are going to be there anyway," she
announced.

There will also be a vigil in the interior of the country because it is
expected that in front of the courts of Santiago de Cuba and other
cities peaceful demonstrations similar to that in Havana will take
place. The Diez de Octubre municipal court is at Juan Delgado and
Patrocinio, and Berta Soler says that "the plan is to begin at 8:00 a.m.
and last until noon. It depends on whether they let us or not."

The activist also reported that "since this Saturday, State Security has
reinforced vigilance over the Ladies in White." This is the third time
that they have suspended the trial of Sonia Garro. "They must to put an
end to this," she demands.

Translated by MLK

Source: Berta Soler: They Must Put An End To This / 14ymedio, Victor
Ariel Gonzalez | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/berta-soler-they-must-put-an-end-to-this-14ymedio-victor-ariel-gonzalez/

Burma is closer than we think …

Burma is closer than we think … / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on October 23, 2014

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Prague, 15 October 2014 – A few years ago, when
I was overcome with despair about the situation of my country, I thought
about those who were in worse shape with regards to the lack of
freedoms. Two nations invariably came to mind: North Korea and Burma.
The first of these still tops the list of places where few want to live,
while Myanmar (Burma) has undertaken a slow and imperfect process of
opening.
In Prague I just met two Burmese who are contributing to these small
changes, the blogger Nay Phone Latt and activist Soe Aung.

Question: Nay, you are just 34-years-old and you were arrested for
spreading information about the 2007 protests in your country on the
Internet, and then convinced of the alleged crime of violating the
electronic law. Do you think that now the access to information is more
free?

Nay Phone Latt: Right now there is less censorship in the media, it is
not as strong as before. I'm speaking not only of digital media, but
also of the written press that is subject to fewer controls on the part
of the government. The problem we still have is that some of these media
are in the hands of the ruling party and the others, which are private,
belong to people who have very good relations with the military, so many
are corrupt. However, there are always some who try to be independent.

There are still very clear limits on what you can write and what you
can't. For example if someone posts an article criticizing the
Government and uncovering a corruption scandal, they can get into
serious trouble and even end up in jail.

"There are still very clear limits on what you can write and what you can't"

Q. How has the situation changed since the election in 2012?

Soe Aung: Currently in Burma we have a Parliament whose majority is
still made up by the military. The Constitution reserves a quarter of
the seats in parliament and 56 of the 24 Senate seats to the ruling
Union Solidarity and Development Party. Meanwhile, the opposition
National League for Democracy (LND) has barely 43 seats. Thus, it is
every difficult to promote changes, becaue this isn't a real democratic
process.

Q. The Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi is the most visible
face of dissent in Burma What other opposition groups are calling for
changes?

Soe Aung: There is the movement known as Generation 88, because there
was a popular protest in 1988 against the military junta. These
demonstrations, composed mostly of students, were brutally repressed.
Currently the group is still very strong in Burmese society and demands
a democratic and open society.

Q. What are the main problems for the Burmese people now?

Nay Phone Latt: First, the lack of trust in institutions, in the police,
the judiciary and the government. People have a lot of disbelief, they
are very skeptical. The whole society has lost trust in the military
regime. We have lost the ability to believe.

Aung Soe R.: In my opinion, our biggest problem is still poverty. We
still have very poor people in our country who do not even have a piece
of land to grow their own food. We have experienced an economic opening
but the big winners are the military and the people close to them who
have become very rich.

Source: Burma is closer than we think … / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/burma-is-closer-than-we-think-14ymedio-yoani-sanchez/

El Washington Post dice que no se debe premiar a Cuba por privar de libertad a su gente

El Washington Post dice que no se debe premiar a Cuba por privar de
libertad a su gente
EFE
10/21/2014 12:21 PM 10/21/2014 1:46 PM

WASHINGTON
El diario The Washington Post advirtió el martes de que "no se debe
premiar a Cuba por privar de libertad a su gente", en un nuevo editorial
publicado en medio del intercambio de artículos entre La Habana y
Estados Unidos sobre un eventual levantamiento del embargo a la isla.

El periódico capitalino arrancó citando la más reciente columna del ex
gobernante cubano Fidel Castro para el diario estatal Granma, en el que
el Post considera que "se prodigó en elogios" sobre un artículo
publicado previamente por The New York Times que pedía el fin del
embargo comercial de Estados Unidos a La Habana.

Sin embargo, el rotativo de Washington arremete en su texto del martes
contra el ex mandatario cubano por "quejarse" de que el Times mencionara
en su reflexión "el acoso a los disidentes y la muerte aún no explicada"
de los activistas Oswaldo Payá y Harold Cepero.

"'La afirmación de que el gobierno autoritario de Cuba todavía tenía que
explicar la muerte fue "calumniosa y (la) acusación barata', farfulló el
señor Castro", recuerda el periódico.

"Así que, ¿por qué Cuba no ha hecho nada para disipar la niebla de la
sospecha que aún persiste sobre la muerte? Si la acusación es
escandalosa, entonces ya es hora de que el señor Castro curse una
investigación a fondo de lo que ocurrió en una carretera cubana el 22 de
julio de 2012. Hasta ahora, sólo ha tenido lugar un burdo intento de
encubrimiento y negación", agrega el editorial.

The Washington Post defiende una vez más la versión del político español
Ángel Carromero, que estaba al volante del coche de alquiler en el que
Payá y Cepero iban a una reunión con simpatizantes.

"Tras el suceso, el señor Carromero fue presionado por las autoridades
cubanas para describirlo como un accidente causado por su exceso de
velocidad temeraria. Pero la semana pasada (en la que el español visitó
Washington), nos reiteró que lo que realmente sucedió es que el coche de
alquiler fue embestido por detrás por un vehículo de matrícula estatal",
insiste.

Según el periódico, Carromero les mostró en su visita a Estados Unidos
fotografías del vehículo dañado, y los desperfectos no parecían los
ocasionados por un accidente causado por exceso de velocidad.

"El embargo de Estados Unidos -apunta- se ha relajado considerablemente
en los últimos años para permitir cientos de millones de dólares de las
exportaciones de alimentos y medicinas, además de los bienes de consumo
suministrados a los cubanos por sus familiares en este país. La cuestión
es si una mayor relajación es merecida".

El artículo considera que la persecución de los disidentes del régimen
"es incesante" y que el hecho de que el estadounidense Alan Gross siga
encarcelado en la isla "con falsos cargos" demuestra que los hermanos
Castro no han levantado la mano para limar asperezas.

"El levantamiento del embargo ahora sería premiar y ratificar su
intransigencia", asevera el rotativo.

"Una concesión como acabar con el embargo comercial -concluye- no debe
darse a cambio por nada. Debe hacerse cuando Cuba conceda una auténtica
libertad a su gente, la meta anhelada por el señor Payá".

Source: El Washington Post dice que no se debe premiar a Cuba por privar
de libertad a su gente | El Nuevo Herald -
http://www.elnuevoherald.com/noticias/mundo/america-latina/cuba-es/article3196984.html

What Will Become of Cuba After the Embargo is Lifted?

What Will Become of Cuba After the Embargo is Lifted?
by EcoWatch October 21, 20149:00 am
Written by David Guggenheim and reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

When a foreigner sets foot in Cuba, it immediately becomes clear that
this magical island is profoundly unique and has developed drastically
differently than any other country in Latin America and the Caribbean.
And for those who venture into its verdant mountains or below its
aquamarine waves, a striking revelation awaits: Just as the fifties-era
Chevys and horse-drawn buggies portray an island seemingly frozen in
time, so, too, do its exceptionally healthy and vibrant ecosystems
illustrate that Cuba may have picked the perfect time in history not to
follow the path of its neighbors. Indeed the past half century has seen
a tragic and unprecedented decline in Caribbean coastal and marine
ecosystems.

Elkhorn coral, one of the Caribbean's most iconic and important species,
is estimated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) to be 95 extinct from Caribbean waters today. But in Cuba's
Gardens of the Queen National Park—which includes Cuba's first "no-take"
marine reserve, the largest in the Caribbean—a barrier reef of healthy
and magnificent elkhorn stretches across more than thirty miles as part
of a barrier reef, brimming with snapper, grunt, eagle rays and sea
turtles, leaving one scratching their head and wondering how in a world
of corals dead and dying that such a sight is possible today.

The health of Cuba's environment is partially an accident of history and
the unique way Cuba has developed—or not developed as the case may be.
The U.S. economic embargo, which was imposed on Cuba 54 years ago today,
has no doubt kept millions of would-be tourists from Cuban shores and
the consequent development of the resorts and golf courses that might
have accommodated them. However, an important part of the story lies
with the Cubans themselves who have placed strong environmental laws in
place along with a comprehensive national system of protected areas.
Its national commitment to protect 25 percent of its marine waters in
protected areas is world-leading. In comparison, the global average is
only one percent.

At a time when we reflect on the embargo, it is critical to consider
what becomes of Cuba's environmental achievements in a post-embargo
world. Given the uncertainty in Cuba's future—including a burgeoning
privatization movement and the possibility of an end to the U.S.
economic embargo and massive influx of tourism and business—it is
important to anticipate dramatically increasing pressures on Cuba's
natural resources. A team of Cuban and American scientists believes that
placing an economic value on Cuba's natural resources will be essential
to ensure the long-term protection of Cuba's ecosystems and the
"future-proofing" of its environmental laws.

By the 1960s it became clear that traditional economics failed to take
into account important factors, such as social welfare and the
environment. Environmental economics seeks to measure the environmental
impacts or costs of economic decisions, helping to address the
shortfalls of policies based on traditional economics which often treat
environmental impacts as externalities without economic consequence.
Interestingly, Cuba's "Law of the Environment" requires that its
environmental ministry "… direct actions intended to promote the
economic evaluation of biological diversity." Cuba has a handful of
dedicated environmental economists who have had to adapt to an
ever-shifting economic landscape that is comprised of dizzying
combinations of socialist and capitalist elements. The work of one Cuban
environmental economist, Tamara Figueredo, helped support the Cuban
government's decision to establish Gardens of the Queen as a national
park in 2010. Our team is now working with Tamara to perform an economic
assessment focused on the possible expansion of the marine reserve
within Gardens of the Queen National Park.

We believe that helping Cuba apply the principles of environmental
economics will serve to "future-proof" the country's strong
environmental legacy against future economic pressures by providing it
with the tools and information necessary to demonstrate the economic
value of its resources in their natural state. Such studies, though
limited in Cuba, have already demonstrated that protecting large marine
areas can be more valuable to the economy than commercial fishing,
thanks to Cuba's growing ecotourism sector.

Just over the horizon lies the first day of Cuba's post-embargo
existence. It is our fervent hope that on that day and those that
follow, Cuba avoids the well-worn path that too many nations followed
over the past half century, at the expense of too many of their
environmental treasures. By considering the economic and cultural value
of some of the last remaining vibrant marine ecosystems in the
Caribbean, Cuba has a unique opportunity to continue on a truly
sustainable path. In a country where boundless Cuban ingenuity keeps
Chevys running for more than 60 years, we have faith that Cuba's people
will find a way to ensure that their pristine ocean ecosystems endure
for centuries to come.

Source: What Will Become of Cuba After the Embargo is Lifted? | Care2
Causes -
http://www.care2.com/causes/what-will-become-of-cuba-after-the-embargo-is-lifted.html

Gran Piedra Park in Eastern Cuba Will be Renovated

Gran Piedra Park in Eastern Cuba Will be Renovated
Created on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 14:39

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba, Oct 22 (acn) A comprehensive project for the
renovation of La Gran Piedra (The Great Stone) area is underway in that
place on the outskirts of this city, belonging to Baconao Park, declared
a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1987.
On the occasion of the celebration next year the 500th anniversary of
the founding of Santiago de Cuba city, important actions will be
undertaken there including the repair of Gran Piedra hotel, belonging to
Islazul Group.
Marisol Rodriguez, Delegate of Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR by its
Spanish acronym) in this territory, said that the 27 rooms will receive
resuscitation in accordance with their quality standard.
The project also includes the physical plant and the redesign of
gastronomic services in line with the features and advantages of this
place, Rodriguez said.
A new and well-equipped point of sale, with exceptional location,
already provides services, Rodríguez added.
The project will repair the access to the viewpoint and will add
observation points and signs to the path to inform visitors of the
natural, historical, cultural and heritage attractions of the place,
where the big rock lies, at 1 227 meters above the sea level, she noted.
It also aims to rescue nature tourism in this important area, for which
the trails must be revived, she added.
These actions would also facilitate access to La Isabelica museum,
former manor house of the hacienda of the same name, where it was placed
the Heritage Site plate of the archaeological landscape of the first
coffee plantations in southeast Cuba.
La Gran Piedra is considered a unique product in Santiago de Cuba, and
will be included in the project ´Los Caminos del café¨ (Paths of
coffee), of the Office of the Curator of the City, which will link old
farms of that eastern hilly region.
This natural attraction with immense tourism potential, since it allows
to interact with the flora, fauna, climate and landscape, in addition to
visit the hotel and rural communities, is 23 km far from Santiago de
Cuba city.

Source: Gran Piedra Park in Eastern Cuba Will be Renovated - ACN -
http://www.cubanews.ain.cu/economy/1753-gran-piedra-park-in-eastern-cuba-will-be-renovated

Rubio to Kerry - No Cuba at Summit of Americas

Rubio to Kerry: No Cuba at Summit of Americas
By Ramsey Cox

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told Secretary of State John Kerry Cuba should
not be allowed to participate in the upcoming Summit of the Americas in
Panama.

Rubio wrote to Kerry on Tuesday, saying the administration has sent
mixed messages to the Panamanian government about Cuba's participation.

"Allowing a country that is a habitual violator of human rights and has
not allowed a free election in over 50 years would damage everything
that the Summit wishes to accomplish," Rubio wrote. "Cuba should not be
allowed to undermine the commitment to democracy made by the remaining
nations of the Western Hemisphere during the Summit process."
Rubio said the United States should stick to its word. At the 2001
summit, the United States made a formal commitment that a democratic
system was an essential condition for a country to be invited to
participate. Rubio said Cuba is a nondemocratic system, therefore Panama
should not allow Cuba to attend the gathering next year.

"The United States should not stand idly by if Panama does indeed intend
to invite Cuba to the Summit," Rubio wrote. "I urge you to reaffirm the
United States' position that Cuba should only be welcome to participate
in the Summit when the Castro regime abandons its repression of the
island's population."

Rubio is considered a potential GOP presidential nominee in 2016.

Source: Rubio to Kerry: No Cuba at Summit of Americas | TheHill -
http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/221523-rubio-to-kerry-no-cuba-at-summit-of-americas

Cuba's black market thrives

Cuba's black market thrives
AAP

From foreign DVDs to perfume, rum and coffee, Cuba's shelves are packed
with pirated and counterfeit goods, which are sold as authorities turn a
blind eye -- using the longstanding US embargo as justification.
The more than 50-year US trade freeze with communist-ruled Havana has
bred a healthy appetite for smuggled goods, including TV series, films,
music and software -- all available at a low cost.
"Here, everything costs one CUC," the Cuban convertible peso equivalent
to one US dollar, explains 28-year-old vendor Jorge, standing before
three bookcases packed with CDs and DVDs.
In southern Havana's October 10 neighbourhood, where Jorge peddles his
wares, pirated DVDs featuring current American blockbuster films,
children's movies and Latin music are all on sale to delighted crowds.
For Jorge, the cost of doing business is affordable. For 60 Cuban pesos
($A2.59) a month, he can buy a vendor's licence to sell his goods.
He is one of half a million Cubans who work in the 200 or so independent
jobs authorised under President Raul Castro's economic reforms.
Though buying and selling pirated goods is technically illegal in Cuba,
the trade is widely known and mostly tolerated, even by the Committee
for the Defence of the Revolution officers who rarely punish vendors.
"I pay for my licence on time and no one interferes with my work," said
Jorge, who declined to give his full name.
Like many other merchants, Jorge's stock extends far beyond
entertainment DVDs. He also sells "packages," which feature hundreds of
megabytes of data obtained weekly from overseas sources.
The bundles include television series, sports programs, films,
anti-virus software and up-to-date listings from the banned classified
sites "Revolico" and "Porlalivre".
The online classified listings, which are officially banned in Cuba,
offer interested buyers anything from air conditioners to black market
tyres, and even empty perfume bottles to be secretly refilled in
off-the-grid factories.
With the help of complicit employees, some of the black market
fragrances and other items even find their way to the shelves of
government-owned stores.
Every so often, the heavily-censored state-run media report on police
busting illegal rings producing fake perfume, rum, beer, coffee or
toiletries -- items rarely found in supermarket aisles -- but
authorities mostly ignore the contraband sales.
Authorities struggle to contain this Cuban "tradition," which emerged
during the dark days of severe shortages in the early 1990s following
the collapse of the Soviet Union, one of Cuba's staunchest Cold War-era
allies.
"The new situation in the 1990s was so sudden, so violent, so
unexpected... that people started, with the only means they had, to find
ways to fulfill their needs," said sociologist Mayra Espina in the
online newspaper Cuba Contemporanea.
"Certain activities, previously deemed unacceptable or socially
negative, started to become legitimate."
This time of shortages bred a social phenomenon called "la lucha," or
"the struggle," which has seen Cubans do whatever is necessary to tackle
the island nation's social and economic malaise, Espina said.
Pirated programs have also crept into the state's sphere, with public
media and government-owned cinemas running illegally-obtained shows and
films.
Some television networks lacking their own means to produce original
programming have "resorted for years to carrying shows from American
channels without paying for the rights," Cuban TV director Juan Pin
Vilar told AFP.
Indeed, this is one of the fringe benefits of the US embargo -- the
Cuban TV channels and cinemas could act with virtual impunity, as legal
repercussions were unlikely.
"There is a kind of tactical willingness (in the US) not to bother Cuba
because culture... is a very effective means of communication," said
Jorge de Armas, a member of a group of Cuban exiles calling for a
rapprochement with Washington.
But the flip side, according to Vilar, is that certain stations in Miami
-- home to most of the Cuban diaspora -- air Cuban programs to satisfy
their viewers, nostalgic for home.
On Miami's "Calle Ocho," or 8th Street, in the heart of Little Havana,
the Maraka shop sells pirated music, films and television programs
brought in from Cuba.
On the other side of the Florida Straits, the international Cuban
television network Cubavision offers its signal to satellite suppliers
around the world.
The idea, said one Cubavision executive, is "to spread our image".

Source: Cuba's black market thrives - Yahoo7 Finance Australia -
https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/cubas-black-market-thrives-030111009.html

Tourist Development Council study looks at travel to Cuba

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tourist Development Council study looks at travel to Cuba
BY MANDY MILES Citizen Staff
mmiles@keysnews.com
"If and when..."

The words have preceded "Cuba conversations" in South Florida for more
than 50 years as travel experts, tourism officials, business owners and
boaters discuss the possibilities and realities of travel "when Cuba
opens," and "If the embargo is lifted."

But despite the prevalence of such conversations from Key West to
Kissimmee, researchers with the Monroe County Tourist Development
Council learned recently that interest in Cuban travel restrictions is
not as widespread as South Florida residents may have thought.

"In reality, only 8 percent of households, or two of five active
travelers, are interested in Cuba as a travel destination," Jessica
Bennett, market research director for the TDC, said during Wednesday's
Key West Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Bennett shared the results of a recent TDC survey of "U.S. Travelers'
Intentions and Perceptions Toward Cuba Travel."

The survey was the TDC's latest move toward evaluating, understanding
and reacting to the age-old "if and when" possibility.

Bennett reminded Chamber members that the TDC established its Opening of
Cuba Committee back in 2000 with the goal of creating a strategic
marketing plan to prevent travelers from skipping over the Florida Keys
and flying straight from Miami or other metropolitan airports to Havana.

That marketing plan was finalized in 2009, when U.S. policy changes
increased travel opportunities from the U.S. to Cuba. In that time
period, Cuba's tourism has increased by 17 percent and is still on the
rise, Bennett said.

"My role in developing the plan was to talk about how U.S. travelers
could react to an open Cuba," Bennett said. "There were so many
questions, but really no good research telling us who would actually
want to go to Cuba."

So the TDC decided to ask the questions and find the answers.

Bennett and others from the TDC evaluated the results of more than 2,500
surveys collected from active U.S. travelers with an annual household
income of $50,000 or more.

"We wanted to know what they'd heard about Cuba, and what would make
them want to go there," she said.

But the researchers were somewhat surprised to learn that "most U.S.
travelers -- three out of four -- haven't heard anything about Cuba, and
only two of five active travelers are interested in Cuba, Bennett said,
adding that aside from Florida, the states with the most interest were
California, Georgia and New York.

"The longevity of the embargo has affected the American psyche when it
comes to travel planning," Bennett said.

But even without a keen American interest in the off-limits island, Cuba
is welcoming more than three million visitors per year, mainly drawing
tourists from Canada and Germany.

So the next question was "why," Bennett said.

"That's what's most interesting to me," she said, pointing out that the
answers were about the same for all U.S. travelers, regardless of their
income, age or gender.

Nearly all travelers surveyed said they would go to Cuba for the history
and culture; "just to see it," and for the beaches.

Fortunately for the Florida Keys, 81 percent of travelers said they
would consider a "Florida Keys plus Cuba trip," Bennett said, adding
that the Keys' proximity to Cuba is a key advantage over other Florida
cities that would offer similar options.

In addition to the surveys, the TDC's marketing plan includes an
analysis of Cuba's strengths and weaknesses with regard to tourism.

Cuba's strengths include its island climate and beaches, its colonial
architecture and cultural history, "and it's perceived as being safe for
visitors," Bennett said.

On the flip side, Cuba also struggled with an aging infrastructure
system, especially in its hotels, which find it difficult to keep
workers and often fall short of customer service expectations.

"As a result, they have a low incidence of repeat visitors," she said.

The Keys continued viability as a destination "if and when" they are
competing with Cuba, likely will come down to transportation options
between the two islands, Bennett said.

Mike Morawski asked Bennett whether the Keys stood to lose its weekend
visitors from Miami and the mainland if Cuba becomes an option.

Bennett reported that people in South Florida weren't necessarily more
interested in traveling to Cuba, but are interested in going there
sooner. In other words, the first flights to an open Cuba will likely be
filled with South Floridians in years one, two and three, she said.

"The rest of the country will wait to make sure it's safe."

When asked about cruise ships going to Cuba instead of Key West, Bennett
said, "We found that interest in Cuba via cruise ship was significantly
lower than interest in a Florida plus Cuba trip," she said, reminding
the audience of Cuba's resources and infrastructure, which are currently
inadequate to handle the pressures of a cruise port.

Now armed with research and revelations, the Florida Keys and its
tourism officials will be ready -- if and when Cuba opens.

For a complete copy of Bennett's report, email research@fla-keys.com.

mmiles@keysnews.com

Source: Tourist Development Council study looks at travel to Cuba |
KeysNews.com - http://keysnews.com/node/59517

Cuba emerges as committed ally against Ebola - yet can't treat illnesses at home

Cuba emerges as committed ally against Ebola - yet can't treat illnesses
at home
By Andrew O'ReillyPublished October 22, 2014 Fox News Latino

Cuba is a nation of just over 11 million people that has been in
economic dire straits since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the
early 1990s and has had a combative relationship with its neighbor to
the north, the United States, for much longer than that.

Yet the socialist state has emerged as one of the most committed
providers of medical supplies and healthcare workers to the
Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa.

About 165 Cuban health workers arrived last Thursday in Sierra Leone –
the largest medical contingent from any nation, according to the World
Health Organization (WHO) – to fight Ebola and 296 other doctors and
nurses are currently being trained in Cuba before shipping out to
Liberia and Guinea where the deadly virus is also spreading. On Tuesday,
Cuba's intensive care specialist Leonardo Fernández headed to Guinea and
Liberia along with 90 other Cuban medical workers as part of the
country's half-century-old strategy that puts doctors on the forefront
of the Cuba's foreign policy.

The commitment from the government of Raúl Castro has led to widespread
praise from across the international community – including the United
States – but also to allegations that the regime is sending doctors to
West Africa for less than altruistic reasons along with neglecting its
own populace in the meantime.

"They've been doing this kind of medical diplomacy for years because
this is really all they've got besides rum and cigars," Ricardo Herrero,
the executive director of the Miami-based advocacy group #CubaNow told
Fox News Latino. "They've got plenty of work to do with their image on
the world stage but they've got some good PR from this."

Cuba's Ebola effort has been called "robust" and "impressive" by media
outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, while WHO
praised the effort and encouraged more countries to follow in Cuba's
footsteps.

"Those of us who have been working on the response efforts at WHO know
how truly valuable this offer is," Bruce Aylward, assistant director at
WHO said of Cuba's doctors heading to West Africa in a press statement.
"Many countries have offered money but no other country has offered such
a large number of workers to go in and help do the most difficult jobs
in this crisis."

The United States and Western European powers have so far donated vast
sums of money - $258 million from the U.S. alone – but despite the U.S.
sending some Marines to Liberia to battle the virus, no country has
committed as many boots on the ground as Cuba.

Some experts see the silver lining of the Ebola crisis being the
opportunity for the U.S. and Cuba to jointly work on combating the virus
and possibly repairing some of the strained relations on the side.
Former leader Fidel Castro said in an article published Saturday that
Cuba was ready to work with the U.S. and Secretary of State John Kerry
mentioned Cuba on Friday as a country stepping up on the frontlines.

"We've seen mutual cooperation before between the U.S. and Cuba,"
Herrero said. "To us, however, eradicating Ebola is the mother of common
concerns."

Besides the philanthropic gesture to send medical workers to West
Africa, some observers say that Cuba's efforts against Ebola is a way to
put on a good face toward sympathetic U.S. politicians as Cuba's economy
– and those of some of its close allies – continues on a downward spiral.

World Bank statistics put Cuba's gross domestic product at about $68.2
billion in 2011 – only a little better than Azerbaijan $65.9 billion –
and its per capita GDP is $6,051 compared to the U.S.'s $49,855. When
Hugo Chávez took power in Venezuela, Cuba found a wealthy ally to supply
cheap oil in exchange for doctors, but as the government in Caracas
suffers through its own economic doldrums they have signaled that the
inexpensive shipments of oil could soon slow…if not stop altogether.

"There has been a lot of talk about Cuba being concerned about Venezuela
having to cut off the amount of oil its ships to them," Susan Kaufman
Purcell, the director of the University of Miami's Center for
Hemispheric Policy, told Fox News Latino. "This is part of an effort on
the part of Cuba to look good in the eyes of the U.S. and get support of
U.S. politicians who could help lift the embargo."

The U.S. has had a commercial, economic, and financial embargo against
Cuba since 1962 and while there has been a loosening in years, Cuba –
and the vast majority of countries in the United Nations – has lobbied
for it to be lifted.

While Cuba's motives in Africa have been ubiquitously praised, some
experts worry that Cuba's historical focus on using its doctors on
so-called "soft power" missions is hurting its population on the island.

For decades, Cuba has been praised for its free, universal healthcare
and medical advances that has brought its life expectancy rate on par
with the U.S., made its infant mortality rate the lowest in the
hemisphere and eradicated measles on the island.

The crumbling economic situation, however, has shown cracks in the
country's aging system and revealed poorly stocked pharmacies, hospitals
that require patients to bring their own sheets and only about 10
percent of the island having access to clean drinking water. The U.S.
embargo hasn't helped either as it makes replacing parts for more
technologically advanced equipment such as mammograms and cancer therapy
hard to replace.

"The foreign policy concerns of the country have always outweighed the
ability of the country to deal with its own population," Kaufman Purcell
told FNL. "Now they really can't afford to do this."

And despite the training the doctors in Cuba are receiving before
heading to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, observers say that the
nation itself is ill fit to deal with the virus if it comes to Cuba –
making the country hope that the goodwill they have now will pay off.

"If there is Ebola exposure that reaches them," Kaufman Purcell said,
"they're woefully unprepared to deal with it."


Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.

Source: Cuba emerges as committed ally against Ebola - yet can't treat
illnesses at home | Fox News Latino -
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2014/10/22/cuba-emerges-as-committed-ally-against-ebola-yet-cant-treat-illnesses-at-home/

No change by Castro, no change in trade embargo

No change by Castro, no change in trade embargo
BY JAIME SUCHLICKICTP.ICCAS@MIAMI.EDU
10/22/2014 6:26 PM 10/22/2014 6:26 PM

There's an eagerness among many in this country to begin a process of
normalizing relations with Cuba. The belief persists that economic
considerations could influence Raúl Castro's policy decisions and that
Cuba's difficult economic situation will force Cuba's leader to move
toward a market economy and closer ties to the United States.

Yes, despite economic difficulties, Castro does not seem ready to
provide meaningful and irreversible concessions for a U.S.-Cuba
normalization. He may release and exile some political prisoners. He may
offer limited economic changes to tranquilize the Cuban population, but
not major structural reforms that would open the Cuban economy. Cuba is
not moving to a market economy. In Cuba, political considerations
dictate economic decisions.

Raúl's legitimacy is based on his closeness to Fidel Castro's policies
of economic centralization, control and opposition to U.S. policies.
Raúl cannot reject Fidel's legacy and move closer to the United States.
A move in this direction would be fraught with dangers. It would create
uncertainty among the elites that govern Cuba and increase instability
as some advocate rapid change while others cling to more orthodox
policies. The Cuban population also could see this as an opportunity for
mobilization demanding faster reforms.

Raúl is also unwilling to renounce the support and close collaboration
of countries like Venezuela, China, Iran and Russia in exchange for an
uncertain relationship with Washington. Russia and China have recently
provided billions of dollars in credits to Cuba, and Venezuela's aid to
the island surpasses $7 billion yearly.


SUCHLICKI | Hector Gabino/El Nuevo Herald

Raúl is no Gorbachev or Deng Xiaoping and no friend of the United
States, presiding over the worst periods of political repression and
economic centralization in Cuba.

Raúl has been a loyal follower and cheerleader of Fidel's anti-American
policies and military interventions in Africa and elsewhere. In 1962, he
and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev conspired to surreptitiously
introduce nuclear missiles into Cuba. He supervised the Americas
Department in Cuba, approving support for terrorist, guerrilla and
revolutionary groups throughout Latin America, and in 1996 he personally
ordered the shooting down of two Brothers to the Rescue unarmed civilian
planes in international waters, killing three U.S. citizens and one
Cuban-American resident.

Raúl's politically motivated speeches in the past, in which he expressed
his willingness to negotiate with the United States, are preceded by
attacks on U.S. foreign policy and followed by the now-standard
qualifiers that Cuba is sovereign and that its revolution won't change.

For the past four decades, Fidel Castro had been making similar
statements. Raúl's statements are aimed at foreign audiences, the
Europeans and, particularly, the U.S. Congress. He expects unilateral
U.S. concessions on the embargo and the travel ban. In a rare public
statement six years ago, Raúl warned that the United States should
negotiate its differences with Cuba while Fidel was alive since "the
U.S. would find it more difficult to negotiate with him."

There has to be a willingness on the part of the Cuban leadership to
offer real concessions — in the area of human rights and political and
economic openings — for the United States to change its policies.

No country gives away major policies without a substantial quid pro quo
from the other side. Only when Raúl is willing to deal, not only with
the United States, but more importantly with the Cuban people, then and
only then we should sit down and talk.

JAIME SUCHLICKI IS DIRECTOR OF THE INSTITUTE FOR CUBAN AND
CUBAN-AMERICAN STUDIES AT UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI.

Source: No change by Castro, no change in trade embargo | The Miami
Herald - http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article3307743.html

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lech Walesa - “Cubans need responsible leaders”

Lech Walesa: "Cubans need responsible leaders" / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on October 21, 2014

The Nobel Peace Prize winner speaks with several Cuban activists on the
situation of the island and the possibilities for democratic change

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Warsaw, 21 October 2014 — Vaclav Havel and Lech
Walesa had an agreement that death annulled. The two would go to Havana
when the democratic transition occurred to support the process of
political and civic reconstruction in our country. The "Cuban change,"
however, has been too long delayed and the Czech died before realizing
his dream. The Solidarity leader, meanwhile, has only been able to have
contact with the island through dissidents visiting Poland.

Yesterday, Monday, Walesa talked for more than two hours with a group of
activists from diverse provinces and political leanings. It was if a
piece of Cuba had arrived in the autumn cold of Wasaw. I share here with
the readers of 14ymedio the first part of that conversation.

Lech Walesa: Tell me what can I do to help speed up the democratization
process in your country. Am I likely to see a Free Cuba before I die?

Dagoberto Valdés. I have good news for you and a suggestion of how you
can help. A significant and growing group within Cuban civil society has
identified four points on which we agree and which are demands to the
regime. It is a way of organizing ourselves, but not the only one. There
are other agendas, but I will now read the four issues on which we
converge: the release of political prisoners, the ending of political
repression, ratification of International Covenants on Human Rights, and
recognition of Cuban civil society as a legitimate interlocutor. You
could collaborate with us to disseminate these and support them in
international forums.

Lech Walesa: I like those points, but I would add a fifth which would be
to ask that "Raul Castro leave power," because I think when the previous
four are achieved it will be because the current system has been
dismantled. If the rulers accept that agenda, that would mean that they
would lose power immediately. So I think that they will never approve
them, but in any event I support them.

Yoani Sánchez: You wonder when you can visit a free Cuba, but for now
what has happened is that a fragment of an already free Cuba has come
here. A plural, diverse and growing group of Cubans, who behave as free
beings, have come to Warsaw this week. Isn't that hopeful?

Lech Walesa: Wherever there are two Poles there are three political
parties and from what I see wherever there are two Cubans there are five
political parties. You have to be very well prepared and organized, not
only for what you are doing now but for what comes next.

Once democracy is achieved there are very important elements that have
to be considered and one of them is creating laws that protect the
rights of the people. However, if they already exist, than you have to
ask yourself if people are using them to behave like citizens, if they
are enjoying the legality they have and are organizing themselves in
accordance with it. Another important part is economic resources. If
people are afraid of showing their political differences because they
will lose their jobs or resources, this greatly limits democratic activism.

Yoani Sánchez: In the case of Cuba, recent years have also been
characterized by a loss of the government's monopoly on information.
Numerous independent publications have emerged and new technologies help
people to be better informed. Do you think this flow of information will
help bring about change?

Lech Walesa: I am a big user of the new technologies, I always have a
computer or tablet nearby. However, although technology and information
are very helpful in any democratic process there is also information
that can slow it down.

One day, after the transition, I was speaking with a Polish soldier who
had had a high position in the Communist regime. I asked him why the
military had not participated actively in the democratic struggle. His
response was very interesting. He told me that in the barracks they that
knew all the major Polish cities were targeted for a Soviet military
attack. They had missiles pointed at those cities. Many people did not
know, but the military itself was aware it. They feared that the USSR,
with the push of a button, could erase a third of our country. Knowing
too much paralyzed them, the responsibility this information brought
them made them opt for passivity.

Dagoberto Valdés. With this control and all the threats of a foreign
force how did Poland free itself? Did the spiritual power of the nation
help?

Lech Walesa: For over twenty years I was looking for people to join me
to overthrow communism, but very few wanted to join. We had a more
difficult situation here because our country came to be occupied by more
than two hundred thousand Soviet soldiers and people were enormously
afraid. Our struggle was different, for too long we couldn't organize
because the government had a very simple formula against us: disperse,
divide and dissolve the democratic forces. We were lucky that a Polish
pope was appointed. He joined us first in prayer and faith, but
afterwards the opposition also learned to channel that sense of unity
brought to us by John Paul II.

Before the appointment of Karol Józef Wojtyla as Pope, I could not
muster even ten people, and then ten million joined in. He awakened the
nation and said "do not be afraid."

Mario Felix Lleonart: I would like to say that even though you are not
able to travel to the island, the government is very annoyed that you
are receiving activists in Poland. The official press has published
several articles against you. What message would you like to send to
those who are in opposition in our country?

Lech Walesa: During the years of change in Eastern Europe, the Cuban
opposition was not as organized and could not use that democratizing
energy. Maybe that's why you have had to wait so long. However, in the
eighties when I was asking people whether they believed that Poland
could democratize, everyone answered me no, we had no chance. The
forecasts were very unfavorable.

You are in this situation now, because few believe you can change. Sure,
they said the same thing to us, but you should wake up and find those
values—which every nation has—and in these is the unifying force. If you
find them and bring them together you can achieve it. You need a
multitude of people who say, "Starting tomorrow we are going to change
our country." Who don't just believe it but who take to the streets, who
go into the factories to convince others. For this you have to have
structures. You need responsible leaders.

Source: Lech Walesa: "Cubans need responsible leaders" / 14ymedio, Yoani
Sanchez | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/lech-walesa-cubans-need-responsible-leaders-14ymedio-yoani-sanchez/

US would represent main market for Cuban cigars

US would represent main market for Cuban cigars
Published on October 22, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba (ACN) -- The vice-president of Habanos SA international
corporation, Jorge Luis Fernandez, said in Havana that if the US trade
restrictions were lifted, Americans could make up the main market for
Cuban Habano cigars.

Speaking to Trabajadores newspaper, Fernandez said that from 1949 to
1958, just before the Cuban revolution, the US was a natural market for
the Cuban product, as Americans would buy 33 percent of the Cuban cigar
production, which translated into 35 percent of the total income of the
sector.

But the US trade restrictions imposed on Cuba in the 1960s not only
deprived Cuba of a stable market, but also prevented US cigar smokers
from having access to the Cuban product.

In normal conditions, Cuba could sell from 150 to 170 million premium
cigars, those hand-rolled and weighing over three grams, which would
translate into $380 million a year.

At present, Cuba sells its premium cigars in 25 European countries,
meaning 58 percent of its production, disregarding the cost of the
freight, and this compares to a previous sales of 33 percent of the
production in only one country.

Source: US would represent main market for Cuban cigars | Caribbean News
Now -
http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/headline-US-would-represent-main-market-for-Cuban-cigars-23319.html

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Down With the Embargo, Long Live the Embargo

Down With the Embargo, Long Live the Embargo / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Posted on October 20, 2014

The New York Times is not in favor or against the American embargo of
the Cuban government. The New York Times is simply in favor of what in
every circumstance is most convenient to the Castro regime.

So it was that the New York Times just published this recycled editorial
where they ask for an end to the embargo for the 1959th time, even going
beyond American law (they are like frogs in the Fidelista fable,
demanding of the White Heron that governs at coups of presidential
resolution.

So, in addition, the New York Times in a second act to its distracting
editorial, opened its plural debate pages to the one thousand and 959
Cubanologists: and so dissolved all the attention to not speak of what
is most important now (and has been for two years),
Olympianically omitting the presence in the United States of the witness
to a double State murder on the part of the Raul and Fidel regime.

In effect, Angel Carromero is in American territory. However, the last
reference on the New York Times to this criminal case of the Castro
regime was from last year. The complaint of the Payá-Acevedo family, the
complicity of the Spanish judiciary and executive with this announced
assassination, the violations and mockery of those uniformed in
olive-green on the little Island of the Infamous: none of this is
Newyorktimesable. They love only the embargo because they know it works
like an engine of little lies.

And because of this I don't have one ounce of respect for the great
media. They are killing machines in exchange for majestic salaries. I
prefer the tiny voices of the nobodies. The almost anonymous biographies
of the redeemers and their blogs with zero commentaries in every post.

So they killed Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá, martyrs to a perverse
country where a perpetual power stones you and manipulates you to death
with impunity. The Cuban Interior Ministry killed them both on Sunday,
22 July 2012, like two nobodies who are now barely doubtful statistics
for the Ph.D.-holding experts of the New York Times. In this Manhattan
edifice, so chilling in its supposed transparency, I say: Fuck you, New
York Times.

But, of course, the debate of our exile, historic or recently arrived,
follows the rhyme of the New York Times. Some say: lift it… Other say:
keep it… and the arguments in both cases were conceived decades ago by
the genocidal hierarchs from Havana.

What is laughable about this debate between dinosaurs is that it keeps
the commanderesque mummy of Fidel alive and kicking: the dictator makes
us dance the motherfuckers' conga every time his cadaverous cojones come
out.

Cubasummatum est.


14 October 2014

Source: Down With the Embargo, Long Live the Embargo / Orlando Luis
Pardo Lazo | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/down-with-the-embargo-long-live-the-embargo-orlando-luis-pardo-lazo/

Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people

Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people
By Editorial Board October 20 at 7:56 PM

THE OTHER day, Fidel Castro wrote an opinion column for Cuba's state-run
newspaper, Granma, as he has done periodically from retirement. He
lavished praise on an editorial in the New York Times that called for an
end to the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. But Mr. Castro had one complaint:
The Times mentioned the harassment of dissidents and the
still-unexplained death of a leading exponent of democracy, Oswaldo
Payá, and a younger activist, Harold Cepero, in a car wreck two years ago.

The assertion that Cuba's authoritarian government had yet to explain
the deaths was "slanderous and [a] cheap accusation," Mr. Castro sputtered.

So why has Cuba done nothing to dispel the fog of suspicion that still
lingers over the deaths? If the charge is slanderous, then it is long
past time for Mr. Castro to order a thorough investigation of what
happened on an isolated Cuban road on July 22, 2012. So far, there has
been only a crude attempt at cover-up and denial.

We know something about what happened, thanks to the eyewitness account
of Ángel Carromero, the young Spanish politician who was at the wheel of
the rental car that was carrying Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero to a meeting
with supporters. Mr. Carromero, who visited Washington last week, told
us the car was being shadowed by Cuban state security from the moment it
left Havana. He said his conversations with Mr. Payá as they traveled
were mostly about the Varela Project, Mr. Payá's courageous 2002
petition drive seeking to guarantee democracy in Cuba. Many of Mr.
Payá's supporters in the project were later arrested and imprisoned.

After the wreck, Mr. Carromero was pressured by the Cuban authorities to
describe it as an accident caused by his reckless speeding. But he
reiterated to us last week that what really happened is that the rental
car was rammed from behind by a vehicle bearing state license plates.
Mr. Carromero showed us photographs of the damaged car, damage that
seemed inconsistent with a wreck caused by speeding. But the precise
details of what happened are unknown and need to be cleared up by a
credible investigation. Mr. Payá's family has sought one for two years,
without success. When the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of
the Organization of American States sent a query to Cuba about the case,
they got no answer. Nothing.

The U.S. embargo has been substantially relaxed in recent years to allow
hundreds of millions of dollars of food and medicine exports, in
addition to consumer goods supplied to Cubans by relatives in this
country. The question is whether a further relaxation is merited. The
regime's persecution of dissidents is unceasing; it continues to
imprison American Alan Gross on false charges. While Cuba has toyed with
economic liberalization and lifted travel restrictions for some, we see
no sign that the Castro brothers are loosening their grip. Fully lifting
the embargo now would reward and ratify their intransigence.

A concession such as ending the trade embargo should not be exchanged
for nothing. It should be made when Cuba grants genuine freedom to its
people, the goal cherished by Mr. Payá.

Source: Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people -
The Washington Post -
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/cuba-should-not-be-rewarded-for-denying-freedom-to-its-people/2014/10/20/753b7bd8-588f-11e4-b812-38518ae74c67_story.html

To stop invasive lionfish, divers are helping sharks acquire a taste for them

To stop invasive lionfish, divers are helping sharks acquire a taste for them
Darryl Fears, Washington Post | October 20, 2014 2:20 PM ET

In the war against invasive lionfish, Andres Jimenez took up one of the
oldest weapons used by humans: the spear.

Jimenez thought this was a novel approach to help rid the Caribbean
Ocean of a growing menace. He skewers the colorful fish into a kabob,
swims to coral in a marine sanctuary off the coast of Cuba and holds it
bleeding and squirming under the jaws of reef sharks.

The idea is to get sharks to develop a taste for a fish they are not
accustomed to eating. That's right, Jimenez, who co-manages a dive
operation in the Gardens of the Queen National Marine Park, is trying to
teach one of the Caribbean's biggest predators to eat a new type of fish.

The lionfish is an exotic glutton that eats everything it can stuff in
its mouth, and the fish are destroying life on the coral reef. Native to
the Pacific Ocean, the fish were widely traded for their looks and were
first spotted near Miami in the mid-1980s before proliferating in the
Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and the Caribbean near the turn of the century.

They have been called the Norway rats of the Atlantic and Caribbean
because they are voracious eaters that wolf down scores of reef animals
from Florida to Mexico and Venezuela but have no predator in those waters.

Spoon-feeding sharks, as Jimenez has done in recent weeks, is the latest
desperate attempt to restore the balance of an ecosystem that humans
threw out of whack.

Reef sharks are thought to be one of a few animals that can choke down a
lionfish. To avoid the toxic spikes on its back and tail fin, said
Antonio Busiello, they eat the fish starting at its mouth.

Busiello, a photography documentarian in Florence said he watched that
happen while diving in Honduras with park officials who speared lionfish
and fed them to reef sharks in 2010. His website is full of pictures
depicting the action.

But marine ecologist Serena Hackerott and her colleagues at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said feeding lionfish to
sharks is crazy. Sharks "are going to associate divers with food," she said.

In a test of 71 ocean sites — in Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Cuba and the
Bahamas — UNC researchers found nothing to show that lionfish are shark
bait, according to a paper published last year in the journal PLOS One.

"I've been a diver for more than 10 years and have never felt threatened
by a shark," Hackerott wrote in a recent blog post. "I might not feel so
comfortable, though, if sharks began to expect snacks every time I enter
the water."

It's a justifiable fear that often plays out at the sanctuary, Jimenez
said. In an email from Cuba, he wrote that "sharks don't seem to be
hunting for lionfish naturally, but they are really mad for dead or
injured lionfish, and they get used to being fed lionfish by divers.
They learn fast and improve ways to get that lionfish once the diver
captures it."

When Jimenez dives with groups of divers and photographers, the
sight-seeing can become tense and dangerous.

For example, he wrote, "An injured lionfish escapes the sharks and then
the sharks get really mad. They start looking for the prey everywhere,
and in this quest they . . . sometimes hit divers with the nose, or can
even try to bite the spear, the rocks where the lionfish is hiding, or
the cameras. Then the situation sometimes gets out of control."

I might not feel so comfortable, though, if sharks began to expect
snacks every time I enter the water
Busiello could testify to this behavior. When he traveled to Roatan
Marine Park in Honduras four years ago to see thousands of grouper in a
mating ritual and "missed the moment," he wound up diving to watch
lionfish get fed to the park's 22 gray reef sharks.

The sharks came close — 15 inches from his camera. "I got bumped a
couple of times. They hit me on the side," Busiello said. "A big shark,
a six- to seven-foot shark hits you, you feel it."

Somehow the recommended approach to reducing lionfish was twisted
around, Hackerott said: They should be overfished for human consumption,
not reef sharks. The pretty fish is poisonous, but when a chef rips out
its spine and cooks it, lionfish are delicious.

There's no witness to an instance of someone releasing lionfish into the
waters in Florida, but that's the largely agreed upon working theory for
how they ended up there.

This sort of thing keeps happening in the United States, the second
largest market for the legal trade of wildlife. Florida in particular is
overrun with Burmese pythons, tegu lizards from South America and Cuban
tree frogs to name only a few invasive animals.

The Chesapeake Bay region is fighting the aggressive Asian northern
snakehead fish that eats native fish, and efforts to harvest it from
rivers have done little to stop it. Asian carp that spread from Arkansas
to the Great Lakes region and Louisiana have out-muscled native fish for
food, leaving many to starve.

The voracious appetite of lionfish is why divers and marine biologists
want to eliminate them, but feeding them to sharks is a scary task,
Jimenez said. "I am [spearing them] very seldom, as it gets dangerous,"
he said. "You can't do it in all spots, only in places with small shark
populations."

Teaching sharks to eat lionfish "is a double-edged sword," said Ian
Drysdale, the Honduras coordinator for the Healthy Reefs Initiative.
"You don't want to relate human divers with shark feed. It can get out
of hand."

Source: To stop invasive lionfish, divers are helping sharks acquire a
taste for them | National Post -
http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/10/20/to-stop-invasive-lion%ef%ac%81sh-divers-are-helping-sharks-acquire-a-taste-for-them/

Cuba pledges more doctors, nurses to fight Ebola in Africa

Cuba pledges more doctors, nurses to fight Ebola in Africa
BY JOHN ZAROCOSTAS
McClatchy Foreign StaffOctober 20, 2014

GENEVA — The announcement Monday by Cuba that it will send an additional
91 medical staff to help contain the Ebola virus outbreak surging across
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea brings the island nation's contribution
of people fighting the epidemic to 256 – or more than one-third of all
foreign medical staff in the three hardest-hit West African countries.

The new pledge by Cuba's minister of public health, Roberto Morales
Ojeda, came in Havana during an extraordinary summit on Ebola. The 91
include 53 doctors and nurses who will be sent to Liberia and 38 to
Guinea; 165 Cuban health care workers already are in Sierra Leone.

David Nabarro, the United Nations special envoy on Ebola who was in
Havana for the meeting, told McClatchy that the new Cuban teams are
scheduled to leave Tuesday for Liberia and Guinea.

Cuba's contribution of people to fight the outbreak has drawn outsized
attention as the world health system struggles to find the resources to
combat what is becoming one of the most serious public health crises in
a generation. The World Health Organization's director, Margaret Chan,
called the Cuban doctors and nurses "a most welcome face of hope to what
is otherwise a horrific outbreak."

WHO spokesman Dan Epstein said the organization has deployed about 600
health care workers to the three most affected countries since the start
of the outbreak.

WHO still needs more medical professionals to travel to the three
countries, Epstein said. "The needs are quite high," he said,
calculating that WHO needs 25 international staff and 200 local medical
workers for each of 40 Ebola treatment centers it's hoping to open soon.

According to the Pan-American Health Organization, WHO's office in the
Western Hemisphere, the Cuban government has trained 460 doctors and
nurses on the strict precautions that must be taken to treat people with
the highly contagious virus.

Epstein said the United States has pledged to send 65 commissioned
public health service corps officers and 100 staff from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention to the three countries. The U.S. also has
committed to send 3,000 U.S. service personnel to run labs and build
treatment centers.

Other countries that have sent medical professional include Canada,
China, Russia, Uganda and the United Kingdom, Epstein said.

WHO is negotiating with Germany, Japan, Thailand and the Philippines for
additional medical professional, he said.

Source: GENEVA: Cuba pledges more doctors, nurses to fight Ebola in
Africa | World | McClatchy DC -
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/10/20/244070/cuba-pledges-more-doctors-nurses.html

New gloss on Cuba's classic cars

New gloss on Cuba's classic cars
Published October 20, 2014 Associated Press

When Martin Viera's Chevrolet rolled out of the dealer's lot, Harry
Truman was president of the United States, gasoline cost 27 cents a
gallon and a 24-year-old lefty named Tommy Lasorda was pitching for
Almendares in the Cuban winter baseball league.

That world is long gone, but the Chevy's still running on the streets of
Havana — part of a fleet of classic cars that have become an icon of
tourism in the socialist nation.

For decades, the cars slowly decayed. But officials in recent years have
eased state control over the economy by allowing limited
self-employment. So those lucky enough to have a pre-revolutionary car
can earn money legally by ferrying tourists — or Cubans celebrating
weddings — along Havana's waterfront Malecon boulevard.

That's allowed many to paint and polish their aging vehicles.

Viera's 1951 Chevrolet and Osmani Rodriguez's 1954 Ford are now part of
Havana's tourist draw.

Rodriguez, who has three daughters, said the opening to self-employment
"was a great benefit for me. I bought an apartment to live in and really
it improved my standard of living a lot."

The cars may gleam on the outside, but they're often battered, rolling
monuments to ingenuity within. People like Yoandri Failu fabricate parts
in crude workshops. Many scavenge parts, particularly engines, from
Soviet-era cars and trucks.

While the U.S. embargo that took effect in 1961 stopped the flow of new
cars, and most parts, a few Cubans now manage to bring in replacement
parts when friends or family visit from the U.S.

Source: New gloss on Cuba's classic cars | Fox News -
http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2014/10/20/new-gloss-on-cuba-classic-cars/

Florida Aquarium leaders visit Cuba

Florida Aquarium leaders visit Cuba
By Paul Guzzo | Tribune Staff
Published: October 20, 2014

TAMPA — Leaders from Tampa's Florida Aquarium visited Cuba over the
weekend to discuss a possible partnership with the island nation's
National Aquarium in Havana.

No official agreement was signed but those representing The Florida
Aquarium on the trip believe that day is coming.

It would mark the first time such a deal is struck between Cuban and
U.S. aquariums since the U.S. travel and trade embargo was imposed over
five decades ago.

"The trips and the talks exceeded my expectations," said Margo McKnight,
vice president of biological resources at the Florida Aquarium. "We
spent a lot of time sharing information with their aquarium's officials
and agreed that working together makes sense. Now we need to talk it
over with the overall leadership at The Florida Aquarium and move from
there."

A return trip to Cuba has not been planned. Nor has bringing officials
from the National Aquarium of Cuba to Tampa.

While the two sides discussed a variety of ways they could collaborate,
McKnight said, the primary focus was on coral reef restoration research.

Scientists predict that by 2050, all the world's coral reefs will be
threatened by pollution and changes in water temperature. Florida's
coral reefs already are dying at an alarming rate, McKnight said.

Coral reefs protect coasts by reducing wave energy from storms and
hurricanes. And as home to more than 4,000 species of fish and countless
species of plants, some support up to 25 percent of all known marine life.

The Florida Aquarium, McKnight said, is actively searching for ways to
reverse the decline.

Cuba, she added, has the most pristine coral reef in the world — one yet
to feel the effects of the changing marine environment.

Called "Gardens of the Queen," the reef is in southern waters off the
provinces of Camagüey and Ciego de Ávila.

"Just 90 miles off Florida's coast is a look back into time at what a
reef should be like," McKnight said. "We want to study it to understand
why its ecosystem is so healthy and learn if we can extract any lessons
from it that we can apply."

Under the preliminary talks, the Florida Aquarium would get access to
the Gardens of the Queen. In return, the Florida Aquarium would keep the
National Aquarium of Cuba up-to-date in its research on restoring coral
reefs.

"This would be their way of proactively protecting their reefs,"
McKnight said. "They don't have a problem now but they want to be
prepared in case it is threatened in the future."

McKnight was unsure if this would be the first collaboration between a
U.S. and Cuban aquarium since the embargo was put in place. But last
week, Jeffrey Boutwell, board member with the Latin America Working
Group Education Fund in Washington, D.C., told the Tribune it would be.

Boutwell's organization carries on the work of author Ernest Hemingway
on a shared U.S.-Cuba approach to maritime resources. He recently met
with the National Aquarium of Cuba to discuss such collaboration with
the National Aquarium in Baltimore. He has no connection to The Florida
Aquarium or the delegation that traveled to Cuba.

Tampa has been part of a historic maritime alliance between the U.S. and
Cuba before.

In March, an international oil spill agreement was signed by five
nations with Caribbean shorelines — Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica, the
United States and Cuba. The agreement circumvents the U.S. travel and
trade embargo, which would have slowed the process of sharing resources
to clean up a spill in Cuban waters that could reach Florida shores.

Albert A. Fox Jr., founder of the Tampa-based Alliance for Responsible
Cuba Policy Foundation, introduced U.S. oil and environmental leaders
from the private sector to members of the Cuban government in 2010.
These people later successfully lobbied the U.S. government to work with
Cuba on the cleanup and containment protocol.

In a similar way, David Guggenheim, director of the Washington,
D.C.-based Cuba Conservatory, said he believes a partnership between the
two aquariums could help persuade the U.S. government to support
collaborative research on coral reefs between U.S. and Cuban scientists.

"If enough research partnerships are happening between private U.S.
organizations and the Cuban government, the U.S. government may take
notice and get involved sooner," Guggenheim said.

Guggenheim helped establish the Tri-National Workshops — meetings
between researchers from the U.S., Cuba and Mexico on issues affecting
turtles, sharks, dolphins, fisheries, coral reefs and protected marine
areas.

Sarasota-based Mote Marine Laboratory is among the private research
institutes that regularly attends the annual meetings, held since 2007.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has sent
representatives to observe the meetings, Guggenheim said, while Mexico
and Cuba send government representatives who actively participate.

Guggenheim said he is talking to members of the U.S. State Department
about increasing federal involvement.

He welcomed news of talks between the two aquariums.

"Collaborations like that one could kick what we are doing to a new level."

The future of the marine ecosystem shared by Cuba and Florida depends
upon college students from both nations studying the waters without
concern for politics, Guggenheim said.

"Marine life does not know borders," he said. "The students need to be
trained as leaders who work together. Ultimately, they will inherit this
issue."

The Florida Aquarium has an internship program, but it is too early to
discuss sending those students to Cuba, McKnight said.

If that day does arrive, it may be the only opportunity for students
from the University of South Florida to study Cuban waters.

Under Florida law, money that flows through a state university cannot be
used for travel to a nation on the U.S. list of state sponsors of
terrorism. Cuba is on that list.

"I realize nothing is ever easy to do between these two countries,"
McKnight said.

"But ultimately I think everyone will agree this is not about politics
but about doing what is best for the environment. Cuba offers us an
amazing opportunity for our research here."

pguzzo@tampatrib.com

Source: Florida Aquarium leaders visit Cuba | TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune
and The Tampa Times -
http://tbo.com/news/business/aquarium-leaders-visit-cuba-20141020/

Cuba and the USA - Beyond Confrontation

Cuba and the USA: Beyond Confrontation
October 20, 2014
Roberto Veiga Gonzalez*

HAVANA TIMES — The normalization of relations between Cuba and the
United States has long been a thorny issue. Bilateral conflicts between
the two countries date back to the 19th century and reached a peak with
the embargo policy applied following the triumph of the revolution in 1959.

That said, following Raul Castro's appointment as head of State, the
matter has been gaining momentum (unexpectedly for some), to the point
that the strained relations between the two countries and the island's
ties to other States and a number of supra-national institutions could
be modified. It is also worth emphasizing that this could make Cuba's
domestic social structures (be these economic, civil, political or
other) more dynamic.

It's not that I am inclined to think that the improvement of our
internal and international relations ought to ultimately depend on the
sensibleness of US power sectors vis-a-vis the issue of Cuba. I believe,
on the contrary, that, regardless of the policy of any country, no
matter how powerful they are, any bloc of countries or any international
mechanism, the progress and balance of the nation should always
ultimately depend on our political maturity and ingenuity.

I am also of the opinion, however, that, without normalized relations
between Cuba and the United States, securing the internal conditions and
the atmosphere needed to consolidate ourselves as a nation in important
areas would prove burdensome. We cannot deny the history, culture,
geography and other economic, social and political realities that bind
us to the United States, for better and for worse.

In this sense, we are duty-bound to strengthen the ties that could make
a positive contribution to both societies and, on the basis of the
mutual trust this ought to afford us, we must make an effort to overcome
the negative situations that could arise, or become more intense, as a
result of power asymmetries. This could contribute to helping us
overcome the difficulties we face and set us down the road of economic
and socio-political development.

There's a broad consensus within Cuban society regarding the need to
transform the current social model in order to make it increasingly
easier to materialize the shared aspirations of the nation. The
country's current collective longings stem from a process of national
maturation rooted in the numerous achievements and frustrations it has
accumulated over history.

The generations that share the country today wish to have greater
possibilities to develop responsible forms of freedom and social
justice, greater balance in terms of the entire range of rights,
educational, cultural and spiritual efforts capable of bolstering human
virtue and solidarity within communities, an economic model aimed at
development and the common good, a heterogeneous social tapestry that is
committed to the overall development of society, an increasingly more
effective citizen's democracy and relations of peace and cooperation
with all of the world's countries.

There are, however, different ideas and proposals as to how to move
forward to attain the above, and this demands the tracing of common path
among Cubans. This process is already a reality in the nation today, but
it still lacks all of the needed facilities.

To secure these, as we all know, developing the country's
socio-political institutions is of the essence. Though some sectors find
more than enough reasons to try and destabilize this process and exclude
those sectors committed to the historical process known as the Cuban
revolution from it, it isn't difficult to see that the changes brought
about by this, though potentially positive, would not suffice in terms
of achieving greater and more plural political participation. This is
both obvious and irrefutable, as no one in their right mind provides
others with the tools needed to destroy them.

In addition, if we pay close attention to the genuine demands of those
Cubans who are in dearest need of change in the country, we see that we
cannot aspire to restoring the past or to completely and hastily
dismantling the current system. We must, rather, strive to broaden the
entire universe of human possibilities in a peaceful and gradual manner.

Therefore, if we seek to transform Cuba's current model to a more
positive arrangement, in which there are, of course, no newly excluded
sectors, but rather collective and liberating efforts based on
solidarity, we must develop the conditions that make it possible. To
achieve this, we require an intense leap forward where the economic and
social stability of the country is concerned, for this, in turn, will
reduce the potential for an internal, heart-rending political
confrontation and will gradually create – likely to the displeasure of
some at either end of the political spectrum – the conditions for a
diverse, serene and edifying political spectrum.

I have focused on this, which eminently appears to be an issue of
domestic policy, because I want to reiterate that, without the
normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, it would
be very difficult to achieve economic and social stability on the
island, conditions that could sustain a far more audacious and intense
process of reforms. The potential for pluralistic political
participation would also not be feasible while it can be argued, and
even proven that spaces for citizen participation can be utilized by
certain US power sectors, and their allies, with a view to perturbing
and irresponsibly modifying sovereign socio-political processes.

In this connection, we must express satisfaction over the island's
current reform process. Though perceived as inadequate and confused now,
these can mobilize a process sustained by a vision that can create ever
more solid forms of social justice in a continuous and unrestrained fashion.

Similarly, we must commend all efforts in the United States aimed at
arriving at a solution to these bilateral conflicts, particularly those
undertaken as of 2006, when the Cuban head of State and government
announced the country's willingness to hold talks with the US
administration and, on the basis of respect and equality, to address all
pertinent issues, with a view to easing tensions between the two states.

The movements in Cuba and the United States that support these processes
have expanded and are being coordinated by important personalities and
sectors in the two countries. This embodies a possibility and a radical
sign of hope that was long unheard of for most Cubans. It suggests that
human and political hatred, the different but identical attempts at
exclusion and vengeance, and the creation of mechanisms for
confrontation and destruction, may today be on the retreat, and that
their somber ambitions to determine the present and, most importantly,
the future of the Cuban nation, may also be vanishing.

*General Coordinator of Cuba Posible.

Source: Cuba and the USA: Beyond Confrontation - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106809

Cuba and the World’s Oldest Business

Cuba and the World's Oldest Business
October 20, 2014
Warhol P

HAVANA TIMES — On Sunday, October 12, I was invited to the birthday
party of a close friend. A cousin of his had offered her apartment for
the party. The apartment is close to Old Havana's well-known Parque de
la Fraternidad.

The owner has been legally renting out the two bedrooms in the apartment
for two months. The day of the party, I wasn't in the mood for drinking.
During my stay, I only tried the occasional snack and enjoyed the
company of my friends, who do drink and usually have a very good time
under the influence of beer and rum.

The observant type, I saw that, in less than three hours, more than five
girls and their partners (some young, others not-so-young), had gone in
and out of the bedrooms. A group of four shared a room for half an hour
(personally, I feel that half an hour is not much time for a foursome.
You're supposed to enjoy those kinds of things, right?)

Other girls would arrive and be told that the rooms were occupied. They
would decide to sit and wait for their turn patiently, then go up into
the bedroom to give their best and, most importantly, make a little cash
with the sweat of their…brows.

A girl that caught my eye was a 20-year-old with a happy little face
whom people called La Flaca ("Skin-and-Bones"). She was a regular
customer, judging from the familiarity between her and the owners. "In a
single day, she's brought as many as ten different men here, of all
skin-colors and ages," my friend's cousin said to me after she'd had a
few drinks too many. Many of the girls who use the bedrooms come and go
non-stop and, according to the owners, don't ever rest, not in the
morning or at night.

The price of room rental is relatively cheap: 1 CUC for half an hour.
They sell beer at 1.50 CUC.

Right now, the owners of this business want to improve the conditions of
the bedrooms, which aren't bad (but, if they improve them a bit, they
can charge a little more).

An excellent and very prosperous business, don't you think?

Source: Cuba and the World's Oldest Business - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106803

Monday, October 20, 2014

Getting out of Cuba gave us a future

Getting out of Cuba gave us a future
BY LEIMYS RAMIREZSPECIAL TO THE MIAMI HERALD
10/20/2014 10:53 AM 10/20/2014 10:53 AM

Hands shaking…holding back tears…acting as if it weren't breaking me
apart… I said good-bye with tears falling down my cheeks and walked
through the doors, not looking back.

They were the doors that would forever separate me from my family. The
doors that made it impossible for my grandparents to see me grow up and
graduate with honors from high school. The doors that took me away from
my three closest cousins, Javier, Joan and Yoandi.

While I was waiting for my flight with my parents and sister Leirys, my
mind drifted and I began to wonder why my mother Mirian and father Erick
had decided to leave everything behind to start all over in a new
country. I could not comprehend why they did not stay with the rest of
our family.

The more I thought about it, the less it all made any sense and the more
aggravated I became with Mirian and Erick. My parents had never told me
the reasons behind moving. What 9-year-old child could ever understand
that there was no hope for anyone in their country? How could my parents
explain to me that they were leaving because it was the best decision
for everyone?

"Mami, why must we leave?"

"Sara, please, try to understand. We are only doing this so that you and
your sister can have a better future."

"But why? I was fine here with everyone."

"Trust your parents, Sara. One day you will understand."

"No, I will never understand."

I left Cuba in November 2003 after my family won the visa lottery — the
random selection of legal U.S. entry visas granted to Cubans on the
island each year.

In Miami, one of our father's cousins, Nico, waited for us at the
airport. Nico welcomed my family into his humble home. He gave us
shelter, food, and transportation for three months. My father was very
independent and did not like taking advantage of anyone so he decided
that it was time to move out after three months.

During this time, I struggled because I couldn't adjust to all the new
changes. I had lived all my life in a place where everyone was family,
in the sense that they all helped each other.

My mom enrolled me in elementary school as soon as she could to help me
make new friends. Unfortunately, this did the very opposite. I began
with a teacher who knew not even a single word in Spanish. The teacher
would ask the other students to translate for me but they were cruel and
would tell the teacher horrible things about me. They would also make
fun of her for not knowing the language. I isolated myself little by
little in school.

"Mami?"

"Si, mi niña…"

"I don't want to go back to school. No one likes me and they are always
making fun of me."

"That can't be true, sweetheart, they like you. It's just that they have
a different way of showing it."

The years passed by, and I was now in eighth grade. I was able to
understand why my parents made the decision they did and why they
sacrificed their lives for my sister and me. I saw that we both had
futures in the land of opportunities, while our cousins and friends were
unable to better themselves.

Back in our country, the situation had worsened. The majority of the
teenagers were dropping out of school to find a job and help at home. I
couldn't help but think that would have been our case if our family had
stayed. I couldn't believe that my cousins would never have the
opportunity to attend college.

Although I was very proud of my heritage, I was ashamed to talk about
how Fidel Castro left families to die of hunger; how he took their
belongings, ripped their freedom from their hands, and separated
families forever. I was torn between the culture I once left behind and
the new one she was part of. I was growing up with two cultures.

It was difficult for me to adopt the ways and beliefs of the United
States because I felt I was betraying my family in Cuba. Visiting my
country after nine years confused me more. It was as if I were being
pulled by opposite sides.

When I was a baby, I was always with someone related to me, and now I
couldn't accept the fact that people in the United States did not see
each other as often. I never considered myself American because I was
not born in the United States. Whenever I was asked where I was from my
answer was always the same, Cuba.

But this changed after my first visit back. I've come to realize I'm
part of the American culture and the Cuban culture because I've been
raised by both. Ever after, when I'm asked where I was from, I say Cuba
and the United States.

After living with the separation from my family, I wanted everyone to
move to the United States. I embarked on a long journey that consisted
of raising funds in order to claim my close family members — my
grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins.

I wanted to give them the opportunity to have the "American Dream," as
my parents had given me when I was a child. I believed my cousins had
the right to receive an education and aspire to be someone in the
future, something they couldn't even think about back in Cuba.

Source: Getting out of Cuba gave us a future | The Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/history-miami/article3082550.html

Crisis Among Cuban Dissidents?

Crisis Among Cuban Dissidents? / Ivan Garcia
Posted on October 19, 2014

The egos and grandstanding are projecting an uncertain outlook within
the peaceful opposition in Cuba. It's like a symphony orchestra without
a conductor, where musicians play their own tunes.

It's not for lack of political programs that Cuban activists cede space.
They are overflowing with ideas, projects and platforms aimed at
democratic change. Some are more consistent than others.

And although all platforms and political parties are entitled to have
their doctrines and programs, the reality in Cuba has demonstrated the
ineffectiveness of dissident theses.

Born deformed as a matter of genesis. They have no popular support.
There are ever fewer reports about them in the Florida media, the
Spanish press and the BBC.

Indeed, to be an opponent on the island is an act of unquestionable
value. Hanging in the air of the Republic is a dark law that sanctions
with up to twenty years behind bars those who oppose the regime or write
without permission.

But the repression, fierce or subtle, the lack of public space, has
transformed the dissidents into a group of coffee klatchers, without
support in their neighborhoods.

The evidence of their incompetence is that they're out of sync with the
average Cuban. Never before in the 55 years of the Castro brothers'
government, has the percentage the citizenry who disapprove been higher.

Any survey or conversation with people on the street serves to confirm
it. But political proselytizing has failed to organize that anger.

Their interests are different although they sound analogous. Carlos, a
carpenter, also wants democracy. He feels that the military autocracy
has hijacked the future of his family with unfulfilled promises. Be he
has no confidence in the discourse and narrative of the Cuban opposition.

In the old taxis in Havana, in the lines for bureaucratic paperwork, or
at a baseball stadium, people talk to you without hesitation about a
radical change to improve the economy and the precarious quality of life.

Some have read or heard about an opposition paper. But it does not
excite them. They see it as distant as a government minister. Although
the dissidents are neighbors on their same block, they have done little
for his district or municipality.

They are disconnected, like a cosmonaut from the Earth. The particular
world of dissent is to generate news, report meetings, make suggestions
or report police abuse, but they lack a basic foundation to become
legitimate actors for the future that is upon us.

The fate of the Island will be decided in the next five years. Perhaps
earlier. The great majority of those in European Union, the United
States and Latin America also want a democratic Cuba.

But the opposition's raw material to manage the future is tenuous. So
the strategy of the international community is to agree to a bizarre
transition from totalitarianism to authoritarianism with Castro
supporters. According to their perception, it is the least bad way.

On issues ranging from the repression to the shamelessness, the
opposition has degenerated into a "swallow" dissent who at the first
change ask for political asylum, preferably in the United States.

Those who remain are tough, but have adapted to the rules dictated by
the regime.

There is an unwritten law of what can be done within the magical realism
of autocracy.

The elderly rulers have gone from an anachronistic and authoritarian
totalitarian system to another with a veneer of modernity and more
flexible laws.

In 2014 you won't be sent to prison for writing articles critical of the
government. The most that will happen is a short detention in a police
dungeon, an act of repudiation, or screams on the public street from an
enraged assassin.

Depending on the circumstances, the dissidence is allowed to hold
discussions, forums and debates in private homes. For two years, just
for dissenting, Sonia Garro and her husband Ramón Alejandro Munoz, both
black, have been held in jail. Another dozen activists are also
prisoners or awaiting sentencing.

But the playing field is much wider today than before 2003. Since
February 2013, most opponents and independent journalists are allowed to
travel abroad.

A golden opportunity for more effective political lobbying. And they are
not taking advantage of it. Everything stays in sterile encounters.
Probably the most consistent program is led by Antonio G. Rodiles with
his Citizen Demand For Another Cuba.

(http://www.porotracuba.org/demanda-citizen-by-another-Cuba-2/).

It is reasonable, because it has a grip on reality and not in the
political science fiction of other groups with their outlandish appeals.
Rodiles uses a primary logic.

If we want Cuba to change, the government must ratify the United
Nations' international covenants signed in 2008. This is the gateway to
legalizing a future civil society where, in addition to freedoms and
human rights, there is political pluralism.

All opponents should support Rodiles and the Campaign for Another Cuba.
But egos and grandstanding prevails. Each dissident leader is surrounded
by a cloud of minions who defend their project as if it were an island
under siege.

In turn, they attack and discredit contrary proposals. The worst of
these brawls is that they don't generate any credible proposals. Just
bluster and platitudes. And behind them are the special services with
their strategy of division.

Unfortunately, the Lades in White, an organization whose street marches
in 2010 forced the government to release the 75 dissidents imprisoned in
the 2003 Black Spring, has been split by intrigues and intemperate
personalities.

This scrapping also extends to other dissident groups. More than an
internal crisis or one of leadership, the Cuban opposition suffers from
paralysis and the inability to join with the citizens.

When I read that some opposition groups claim to have the support of
thousands of followers, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. An event
that triggers a massive protest needs capable leaders Any event that
triggers a massive protest only need capable leaders. And that is what
we're lacking.

Iván García

Photo: Antonio G. Rodiles, Coyula Regina and Ivan Garcia in a panel of
independent journalism in Cuba organized by Estado de SATS in Havana on
September 4, 2014.

9 October 2014

Source: Crisis Among Cuban Dissidents? / Ivan Garcia | Translating Cuba
- http://translatingcuba.com/crisis-among-cuban-dissidents-ivan-garcia/