Monday, August 29, 2016

Asking Questions Is A Crime

Asking Questions Is A Crime / 14ymedio

14ymedio, 29 August 2016 — A few days ago I arrived in the town of
Cespedes, where my house is, and among the things that caught my
attention was a sign in one of the town's snack bars with the following
announcement: "All food will increase in price 0.10 centavos for special
account concept."

A logical question immediately came to mind: What is a special account
and what is it used for? Given my concern, and using my civil right, as
expressed in Article 63 of the Constitution of the Republic – "Every
citizen has the right to direct complaints and petitions to the
authorities and to receive the pertinent attention or answers in a
reasonable time, according to the law" – I began to investigate in the
appropriate places.

On 25 August, in the same snack bar I asked the clerk, Hortelio, who
told me the sign had been posted but he didn't know anything about it,
he didn't even know what a special account was. As I was on my way, I
went to the Municipal Commerce Enterprise, but there I only found Betsy,
in charge of the defense and command post. This official explained to me
that she wasn't sure, but the increase was because of the carnivals and
the special account was the Ministry of Culture. She recommended that I
come back another day and ask to speak to the director.

Continuing on my way, I came to another snack bar, where Ariel spoke
with me, and showed me a resolution from the Municipal Administrative
Council authorizing the 0.10 centavo charge as a tax on food products,
0.20 centavos on beer or rum, and that this would be during popular
fiestas. My original questions remained unanswered.

The next day, 26 August, I went to the Municipal Commerce Enterprise.
The entity's municipal director saw me, a man with the surname
Perez-Ibanez, and he explained to me that the special account was the
tax on products sold during popular fiestas (carnivals) and that it was
collected in order to pay the musical orchestras who were contracted by
the municipality for these festivities, as well as other expenses
related to the celebrations.

In Cespedes the carnivals began on 22 July [ed. note: "carnival" in Cuba
is a "flexible" holiday that occurs at different times in different
years in different places, seemingly according to the whims of the
higher ups], and it was already more than a month later and the tax was
still being applied. The municipal director's response to this complaint
was that during the three days of the carnival it was impossible to sell
everything that was in the plan. He added, that the Municipal
Administrative Council was considering the vacation period as popular
fiestas and for these reasons the charge continued.

I asked if the Council had not approved a budget for these popular
fiestas and he responded in the negative. I found it difficult to
understand that a great quantity of people had to pay for the musicians
they hadn't listened to. Not to mention that the quality of the
celebrations was terrible, according to the residents, who even said so
on Facebook.

Before I left, the director asked me if I had come in a personal
capacity or on behalf of some organization. I responded that I came as a
citizen and that I did indeed come on behalf of an organization: the
people. Despite feeling dissatisfied with the usefulness of the special
account, I went home and did nothing more about it.

On 27 August, at 1:45 pm, an official from State Security calling
himself Manuel arrived at my house and told me that at 2:00 pm I must
present myself at the police station. On going to the place indicated, I
was received, in an arrogant and overbearing tone, by the official René.
Also there was the director of the Commerce enterprise. It wasn't by
chance. They had cited me to deliver to me a warning letter for
counter-revolutionary public demonstrations in divulging state
information. According to what they told me, if I did this again I would
be accused of espionage.

In response to my claim that I was exercising my citizen's right in
asking a question in an official way for my own understanding, and in
addition that it was not about a state secret but about public
information, the official René told me that I was lying, because I had
published it on the networks. In addition, he explained that any citizen
could ask a question but that I could not, because I was a mercenary in
the service of imperialism and an opportunist.

They asked me to sign the warning letter which I refused to do, and in
addition they "warned" me to get out of Cespedes, that here I would not
"have a career." They also told me that if I stayed it was all the same
to them because they had won a lot of awards and would continue to win
awards if they managed to control me here.

Many questions could emerge from this, one more of the many meetings I
have had with State Security, but I wonder: By what law or what
authority, for the fact of being opponents or dissidents, can they limit
our civil rights? How can a simple question constitute a crime against
State Security? How much longer is the most basic freedom of expression
going to be a crime in Cuba? Apparently, in the municipality of
Cespedes, in Camagüey, which by all indications is governed by a special
law, asking questions is a crime.

Source: Asking Questions Is A Crime / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/asking-questions-is-a-crime-14ymedio/

Journalism on Demand

Cuba: Journalism on Demand / Iván García

Iván García, 27 August 2016 — I still remember that two-day trip to
Pinar del Río. I stayed in a Communist Party hotel at the side of the
old central highway. I visited the province's outstanding factories,
cooperatives and work centers.

Then in Havana, I wrote three or four sugar-coated articles about the
excellent management of the Peoples' Power and the "enthusiasm" of the
workers' collective at the Conchita factory after winning a banner of
socialist excellence.

No one told me how to do journalism. I experienced it for four decades.
I was studying primary education and during school recesses, at the
request of my grandmother, my mother [Tania Quintero, now living in
Switzerland], a former official journalist, took me with her when she
had to do reports in the cities of the interior.

In that epoch – and now, according to what they tell me – journalists
covered the subjects indicated by the Department of Revolutionary
Orientation, which weekly dictated the guidelines to the communication
media.

Most official journalists are scribes rather than reporters. They write
on demand.

With the arrival of new information technologies and the transition from
a personalistic and totalitarian society to an authoritarian country of
incipient military capitalism, dozens of State journalists now publish
with their names or pseudonyms in alternative digital media, generating
a reprimand from their bosses.

It's precisely in blogs and on independent sites that these
correspondents can express their talent, tell their stories and pour out
opinions that they never would publish in the dull, propagandistic
Government press.

The most notorious case is Periodismo de Barrio (Neighborhood
Journalism), spearheaded by Elaine Díaz, ex-professor of the University
of Havana Faculty of Communication and probably the best journalist in
Cuba. After dropping the official ballast, Díaz published excellent
research on communities and citizens that never appeared in the Party media.

Doing independent journalism in Cuba brings risks. You won't get a
pension when you retire; you will suffer harassment from State Security,
and the Taliban hard-liners will try to assassinate your reputation with
every type of crude accusation. But those who manage to do it are free
persons.

In my case, I choose the topics and how I'm going to present them. The
only censorship is that imposed by reason or by the sword of Damocles
represented by the Gag Law, which obliges you to revise the content with
a magnifying glass so you don't get tangled in a crime of defamation or
accused of denigrating the President of the Republic.

Certainly, the chief editors with whom I collaborate make
recommendations. Up to now, they haven't censored the content nor the
style of drafting. Only on two occasions did they not publish one of my
articles (a right that newspapers or websites have). Then I uploaded
them to my two blogs.

That an independent journalist doesn't write on demand means that inside
the Island several opposition organizations and dissident leaders try to
use you at their convenience.

It seems legitimate to me that a dissident project aspires to having the
best media impact possible. That's not what I'm referring to. It's the
deplorable obsession of certain dissidents who want to manage the work
of a journalist.

They use different strategies. One is to invite you to meetings where
they paint a superficial picture of their organization and their
chimeric plans. The story is like that of the Government, but in
reverse. They exaggerate the number of members and present a battery of
proposals that are forgotten after a few months.

If you ask uncomfortable questions, they simply take you off the list of
their meetings and press conferences. If you're too critical of the
dissidence, they prepare a reprimand.

They never tell you that they disagree with you. They start the
discussion by pointing out that you're wrong. If voices are raised,
accusations begin: that you're an undercover agent of State Security, a
traitor to the cause, or you're providing arguments to the "enemy" (the
Regime) that later will be used to discredit the opposition.

Another strategy, in mode among certain opposition groups, is that in
addition to "renting" a journalist, they enroll him in their cause. A
huge mistake. Keeping a distance is the first rule of journalism.

If you are for democracy, that doesn't mean you should march with the
Ladies in White through Miramar. When that happens, the journalist
misjudges the profession.

Sometimes the debates caused by a journalistic article are civilized.
Other times they set up a "repudiation meeting" for you.

The Sunday of March 20, hours before Obama landed in Havana, I was with
the Ladies in White in Gandhi Park, to write an article about the
aggressions against the group of women on the part of the repressive bodies.

There I had to put up with the insolence of Ailer González, a member of
Estado de Sats, asking me what I was doing there and refuting my
assessments. I answered her briefly and told her that she didn't have to
read me.

This type of journalism by genuflection, habitual in Cuba, sometimes
tries to pass itself off as freelance.

Everyone is free to have an opinion and reproduce it. Sometimes our
commentaries or stories provoke controversy and irritate the local or
exile dissidence. But at least I don't write to please anyone.

If a handful of ungagged journalists have been able to defy an
olive-green autocracy for 20 years, I don't believe that the pride and
intolerance of some dissidents should inhibit us.

Authentic journalism is always in search of the truth. Whatever it costs.

Photo: Elaine Díaz and Abraham Jiménez, directors of the digital media
Periodismo de Barrio (Neighborhood Journalism) and El Estornudo (The
Sneeze). Taken from Brotes de periodismo cubano (Outbreaks of Cuban
Journalism), an article by Pablo de Llano, El País (The Country, a daily
newspaper in Spain), March 22, 2016.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Cuba: Journalism on Demand / Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-journalism-on-demand-ivn-garca/

Yailin Orta Named Director Of Juventud Rebelde Newspaper

Yailin Orta Named Director Of Juventud Rebelde Newspaper / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 23 August 2016 – Journalist Yailin Orta Rivera, a
member of the National Committee of the Young Communists Union (UJC),
has been names as the new director of the newspaper Juventud Rebelde
(Rebel Youth) according to a note in that newspaper on Wednesday. The
young woman, who worked as deputy editor, replaces Marina Menendez
Quintero, who will undertake "other journalistic tasks on the same
publication."

A 2006 graduate, Orta Rivera said in an interview last October that
young people should have "a more systematic presence in decision-making
areas, not only because they bring their audacity, irreverence, and
their transgressive look to different news realities."

On that occasion, during the celebrations for the newspaper's half
century mark, the journalist noted that among the great challenges of
the publication is "doing a better job of satisfying the demands of its
reading public," and she said that they received demands from their
audience to stay "connected to the public agenda."

The designation of Orta Rivera as the new director of Juventud
Rebelde occurs at a time when calls are being made from the highest
echelons of the Party for a journalism more connected to reality and
with a critical focus. Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, Cuban First Vice
President has stated in public speeches the need for "a brave
responsible press."

In Tuesday's edition of Juventud Rebelde, Yailin Orta Rivera's name
already appears as director and her vacancy in the group of editors was
covered by Yoerky Sánchez Cuéllar.

Previously the "Newspaper of Cuban Youth" was directed by Terry Pelayo
Cuervo, who took over the leadership of the newspaper Granma in October
2013.

Source: Yailin Orta Named Director Of Juventud Rebelde Newspaper /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/yailin-orta-named-director-of-juventud-rebelde-newspaper-14ymedio/

Police Arrest Several Activists From Candidates For Change

Police Arrest Several Activists From Candidates For Change / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 27 August 2016 – Regime opponent Julio Aleago reported
to this newspaper that the police detained several activists on Saturday
morning to keep them from attending a meeting of volunteer observers
associated with the Candidates for Change platform. The meeting was to
be held at the home of Juan Moreno in Havana's Vedado district, but the
host was taken to the Aguilera police station in the 10 de Octubre
municipality.

The activist Ricardo Marlene was prevented from leaving his home in San
Miguel del Padron, where he now remains under house arrest. The
whereabouts of the other participants are unknown.

Julio Aleaga, executive secretary of the electoral platform Candidates
for Change, told this newspaper that the arrest of Moreno was made by a
State Security officer identified by the alias Diego. "We will not
allow" the meeting to take place, "Diego" had warned last Tuesday.

Among the tasks of the volunteer observers are to gather the concerns of
the population and present them in the district accountability
assemblies – meetings where elected officials report back to citizens on
the achievements of government programs and promises – and to make these
concerns available to the elected delegates through the offices
instituted for that purpose.

The initiative is an effort by Candidates for Change with the aim of
overseeing the government on behalf of the citizens and questioning
public policy at the district, people's council and municipality levels.

At present Candidates for Change is discussing the appointment of Party
Central Committee member and National Assembly Deputy Reinaldo Garcia
Zapata to the position of governor of Havana. He has been brought in
from the province of Santiago de Cuba to replace the recently removed
Marta Romero.

The appointment was a proposal presented last Saturday by Agustin de la
Pena, from the Candidacy Commission, with the concurrence of the Vice
President of the National Assembly, Ana Maria Mari Machado, and of
General Ulises Rosales del Toro.

Aleaga notes that there is no protocol in the law for citizens to reject
these appointments, which are not the result of an electoral process.
The objection lodged by Candidates for Change has received no
institutional response.

The volunteer observers have representatives in the provinces of
Santiago de Cuba, Sancti Spiritus, Granma, Cienfuegos and Havana. Its
members plan to work intensively on the electoral process that
will begin in late 2017. They will focus on the electoral registers, the
area assemblies where direct proposals from the population are put
forward, and on verifying election results at polling stations.

Aleaga believes that the intent to repress this meeting is "an attempt
to prevent the strengthening of the internal structures of this movement
whose objective is to use the government's electoral system to promote
the transition to democracy."

Source: Police Arrest Several Activists From Candidates For Change /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/police-arrest-several-activists-from-candidates-for-change-14ymedio/

Doctors Give Medical Clearance To Guillermo Fariñas /

Doctors Give Medical Clearance To Guillermo Fariñas / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 28 August 2016 — Regime opponent Guillermo Fariñas
received medical clearance on Saturday, after staying for several hours
at the Arnaldo Milian Castro Hospital where he was taken because of his
delicate state of health after 39 days on a hunger and thirst
strike. The 2010 winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for
Freedom of Thought fainted at his home in the Chirusa neighborhood in
the city of Santa Clara, as was confirmed to this newspaper by his
mother, Alicia Hernandez.

On a phone call from 14ymedio's newsroom to the observation room in the
hospital, an employee confirmed that Fariñas "arrived unconscious at
about three in the afternoon," but an hour and a half later was "better
as he opened his eyes."

Alicia Hernandez said her son "recovered consciousness" and the decision
about whether he should remain in the hospital or be discharged would
depend on "how he reacts to treatment," a reference to the rehydration
sera administered during his stay in the observation room.

The dissident suffers severe dehydration and severe joint pain. This is
the fourth time he was transferred to the hospital after fainting.

Along with his mother, several activists from the Anti-totalitarian
Forum (FANTU) were also with Fariñas in the hospital.

Source: Doctors Give Medical Clearance To Guillermo Fariñas / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/doctors-give-medical-clearance-to-guillermo-farinas-14ymedio/

Trial opens of 6 Cuban volleyball players charged with rape

Trial opens of 6 Cuban volleyball players charged with rape
The Associated Press•Aug 29, 2016, 11:39 AM

HELSINKI (AP) -- Six members of Cuba's volleyball team have appeared in
a Finnish regional court on charges of aggravated rape.

The trial, which began on Monday behind closed doors in the District
Court of Pirkanmaa, is expected to last three days.

The men, who have been held in police custody since they were arrested
last month, have denied the charges. If found guilty they face maximum
eight-year prison sentences.

Eight Cuban players were initially arrested in early July following
allegations that a woman was raped at a hotel where the team was staying
in Tampere, 170 kilometers (105 miles) north of the capital, Helsinki.
Two were later released.

The arrests were during the Volleyball World League in the southern
Finnish city.

Source: Trial opens of 6 Cuban volleyball players charged with rape -
http://sports.yahoo.com/news/trial-opens-6-cuban-volleyball-players-charged-rape-093928381--spt.html;_ylt=AwrC0CYJfMRXABcALDXQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByOHZyb21tBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--

Cashing in on Cuba: Why the U.S - tourism industry isn’t waiting for Congress to lift the embargo

Cashing in on Cuba: Why the U.S. tourism industry isn't waiting for
Congress to lift the embargo
Cuba Libre? It took capitalist motives to beat the embargo and make
travel to the communist country a reality
ANGELO YOUNG

Tourists in Havana, Cuba, March 20, 2016. (Credit: AP/Ramon Espinosa)
When Juan Santamarina's two uncles from Cuba recently visited the U.S.
for the first time, the travel experience was exceptionally . .
. unexceptional.

"It was a pretty simple process to get their five-year visas, as if they
were flying to anywhere else, which is remarkable," Santamarina, chair
of the history department at the University of Dayton, told Salon.
"After so many years, we're finally beginning to see the U.S. having
more normal relations with Cuba — more like the relations with other
countries."

It was just 20 years ago that President Bill Clinton signed a law
strengthening the embargo imposed in 1960. But since President Barack
Obama lifted restriction on family travel and money transfers from the
U.S. to Cuba in 2009, the process of normalizing diplomatic and trade
relations between the two countries has picked up the pace. In the past
seven years, two-way travel restrictions have been lifted, diplomatic
ties have been restored, prisoners have been swapped and more U.S.
business delegations have been exploring the streets of Havana. And U.S.
companies eager to do business in and with this long
off-limits market have been leading calls to end the 56-year-old trade
embargo.

Now after the Obama administration used its executive powers to lift
some trade restrictions in September and renewed calls to lift the
embargo, companies in the tourism sector have decided the time to try to
gain a foothold in Cuba is now. They're working around the embargo,
which Congress has failed to rescind. Among other things, the
legislation, a lingering vestige of the Cold War, requires Americans
traveling to Cuba sign an affidavit promising that they aren't going to
the island nation on vacation — Cuba is the only destination in the
world for which this is required. But that isn't stopping the airlines.

On Wednesday, JetBlue will become the first U.S. carrier since the 1950s
to offer commercial routes to Cuba. The inaugural flight will depart
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, filled with Cuban-born Americans heading to
the central Cuban city of Santa Clara. Other airlines will soon follow
and by the end of the year regular direct routes are likely from Miami,
Chicago, Minneapolis and Philadelphia to and from nine Cuban cities.

Although there are still only 12 approved reasons for U.S. citizens to
travel to Cuba, they can now be defined broadly enough to accommodate
almost any type of tourism, according Samuel Engel, vice president for
the Aviation group of ICF International, a global advisory firm. "You'd
have to be pretty uncreative not to find a way to put yourself into one
of the 12 categories in order to fly to Cuba from the U.S.," Engel told
Salon. What, for example, constitutes "educational activities," or
"support for the Cuban people," two of the authorized reasons to visit Cuba?

In other words, the gaps in the embargo's fine print are big enough to
sail a cruise ship through. Indeed, earlier this year, Carnival became
the first U.S. leisure travel company since the 1950s to offer cruise
packages to Cuba by carefully categorizing the tour as a cultural
exchange program.

"The Obama administration's steps to broaden and more generously
interpret the 12 authorized categories have punched a beneficial, big
hole in that barrier," Fulton Armstrong, a research fellow at the Center
for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University in
Washington, D.C., told Salon via email. "Commercial flights make that
travel more irreversible, and they lock in the interests of powerful
political voices — the airline industry and others — in favor of travel."

Earlier this year, Connecticut-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts signed
deals with three state-owned hotels in Cuba after the U.S. Treasury
Department gave it the go-ahead. And last week, AT&T became the first
U.S. telecom to sign a deal with Cuba's state-owned phone companies to
offer mobile roaming service to customers who travel to Cuba.

The doors the Obama administration has opened will be very difficult to
close, and they may even compel the reluctant Republican Congress to
lift the embargo. One stumbling block to that may soon be resolved
if negotiations to settle claims on properties appropriated by the Cuban
government are resolved. Human rights in Cuba still remains a big
sticking point, but advocates of normalizing relations can point to
America's engagement with other authoritarian states across the globe,
such as Egypt, China or Saudi Arabia, and question why a neighbor just
90 miles south of Miami is held to a different standard.

And so while the GOP-led Congress is unwilling to remove the embargo, a
majority of Americans favor ending it, according to a poll earlier this
year. It's telling that since 2012 the number of people taking charter
flights to Cuba has grown fivefold, to a half million travelers last
year, according to Engel: Americans are unlikely to dissuaded from
traveling to Cuba, embargo or no. The moves being made by JetBlue,
Starwood, Carnival and AT&T are sound business decisions: There's an
underserved demand and a new market: So no one should be surprised
that capitalism is bringing the de facto end to the embargo of communist
Cuba.

Source: Cashing in on Cuba: Why the U.S. tourism industry isn't waiting
for Congress to lift the embargo - Salon.com -
http://www.salon.com/2016/08/29/cashing-in-on-cuba-why-the-us-tourism-industry-isnt-waiting-for-congress-to-lift-the-embargo/

New Cuba tourism seen slow to take off despite U.S. flights

New Cuba tourism seen slow to take off despite U.S. flights
By Marc Frank and Jeffrey Dastin | HAVANA/NEW YORK

An expected explosion in U.S. tourism to Cuba will likely take years to
materialize even after U.S. airlines resume commercial flights to the
Caribbean island this week for the first time since 1961, industry
officials said.

JetBlue Airways Corp (JBLU.O) will pilot its historic flight from
Florida to the Cuban city of Santa Clara on Wednesday, the latest step
in normalizing relations that earlier this year included a visit by U.S.
President Barack Obama and the first U.S. cruise to the island in decades.

The planes may some day be filled with U.S. beach-goers, looking for an
economical Caribbean break at resorts favored by Canadians and Europeans
on the sandy keys north of Santa Clara.

But for now, U.S. law and constraints on Cuba's tourism infrastructure
will act as brakes on increasing demand, experts said.

Congress has yet to lift a trade embargo that prohibits U.S. citizens
from visiting Cuba as tourists. The Obama administration has approved 12
categories of exceptions to the ban ranging from cultural, religious and
educational travel to business and visiting family.

That means JetBlue's initial flights will mainly carry Cuban-Americans
visiting relatives or other U.S. citizens interested in seeing the Che
Guevara Mausoleum and other cultural sites.

Eventually, up to 25 flights a day by various carriers will connect the
United States and the Cuban provinces, with another 20 to Havana, under
an agreement reached by the two Cold War foes as part of a gradual
détente begun in December 2014.

Services on Silver Airways and American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) from
the Miami area to other outlying provinces are the next to start, in
September.

While the direct flights could carry more than a million U.S. residents
to Cuba annually, according to John Kavulich, head of the New York-based
U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council Inc, he and other experts believe
that mark will not be reached for several years.

In the beginning, the new routes are expected to absorb customers from
the average of 17 charter flights that Cuba's government says have
arrived from the United States daily for several years.

"The fares that have come out so far, announced by American and JetBlue,
have been super competitive," said Bob Guild, vice president at Marazul
Charters Inc. "I don't have any question that it's going to shrink," he
said of the charter services. Marazul, one of the largest charter
companies operating to Cuba, plans to scale back services to provinces
this fall but continue with its Havana flights while commercial airlines
await approval, Guild said.

HOTEL ROOMS FULL

There is already a boom in visits to Cuba from the United States. Some
300,000 Cubans living in the United States now travel home annually. In
2015, the Cuban government reported 161,233 Americans visited, compared
to 91,254 in 2014, and arrivals through June nearly doubled over the
same period last year, a trend that the dawn of commercial flights can
only further.

"The fact that travelers can book flights directly online not only
streamlines that process and makes it more affordable, it adds a feeling
of legality," said Collin Laverty of Cuban Educational Travel.

But another barrier to increased U.S. travel is that Cuba's hotels, bed
and breakfasts, transportation services and amenities are already
stretched to the limit, with a record 3.5 million foreign arrivals last
year. Higher hotel prices, pegged to the U.S. dollar, might push out
some travelers from Europe and Canada, creating more space for
Americans, said Emilio Morales, CEO of Miami-based Havana Consulting
Group. Private bed and breakfasts would absorb what they could of
increased demand, he said.

Over time, airlines are betting travel restrictions will be further
relaxed and want to get their foot in the door before Obama leaves
office next year.

"While all of the flights are unlikely to operate at capacity, the
airlines want to plant their respective flags," Kavulich said.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Source: New Cuba tourism seen slow to take off despite U.S. flights |
Reuters - http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-usa-flights-idUSKCN1141YQ

More bad news for new ideas in Cuba

More bad news for new ideas in Cuba
BY PAUL HARE
paulhare@bu.edu

Very few without Castro in their name have survived in the leadership of
the Cuban Revolution as long as Eusebio Leal. And he didn't do it by the
conventional means of silence and obedience. He brought loyalty but also
ideas to the Castros. Now the military-run business empire has asserted
itself in Old Havana as elsewhere and Leal appears to have been
outmaneuvered.

Uniquely among Cuban leaders Leal has cared about other things beyond
preserving the Castro Revolution. He has been as fascinated by Cuba's
past as its future. He has received numerous overseas cultural awards
but his stature in Cuba has been that he thought differently.

In 2002 the British embassy in Havana staged a two-month-long series of
events to commemorate 100 years of diplomatic relations between Cuba and
the United Kingdom. We were told it was the largest such festival by an
overseas country ever held in Cuba. Leal was our indispensable ally for
venues, organization, contacts and vision. At times the Revolution's
agenda surfaced and he negotiated hard. But his heart was in the history
of both our countries. Leal even created a garden in Old Havana in
memory of Princess Diana. And as a historian he loved the story of the
British invasion of Havana in 1762.

The military conglomerate GAESA will now assume business control over
Leal's beloved Old Havana project. This has been a labor of love and
ingenuity. But it has also depended on his versatile role at the heart
of revolutionary politics. He proved a man of taste, of determination
but also shone as a contemporary entrepreneur in a Cuba which despises
individualism.

His versatility served him well. A teenager at the time of the
Revolution, he chose to prove that innovation and a love of past
cultures and elegance could coexist with the new era. He admired Fidel,
a fellow intellectual, and — not accidentally — he was chosen by the
official Cuban media to eulogize his old friend again on his 90th
birthday. Typically, the Revolution was extracting a declaration of
loyalty from a man who was feeling pretty disgruntled.

Times are changing in Cuba and the undermining of Leal's control has
wider implications. He may not be a household name outside Cuba and he
may be in failing health. But his project showed he knew the Castros
would never allow private sector growth to restore the largest area of
Spanish colonial architecture in the Western Hemisphere.

His only chance was to harness funds from tourist visitors and foreign
investors. There is still much to do but the current rush of tourists to
Cuba owes much to achievement.

Leal's fate is nothing new. Set in the 57-year context of the Cuban
Revolution, many able and loyal leaders have been discarded. Felipe
Pérez Roque, Carlos Lage and Roberto Robaina are recent examples. But
Leal had survived and appeared to be growing in stature with Raúl. His
walking tour of Old Havana with Obama received worldwide publicity.

Leal's bonding with the U.S. president may have irked the Castros. The
disintegration of Venezuela and loss of subsidies under Nicolás Maduro
gave the military companies the opening they needed to swoop for Old
Havana. Now, effectively Raúl Castro's son-in-law will rule the roost
and U.S.-operated cruise ships will soon be occupying many berths in the
Old Havana harbor.

But perhaps the saddest lesson from Leal's marginalization is the signal
it sends to Cuban innovators and foreign investors. The restoration of
the Revolution is still more important than the architectural jewels of
past eras. Almost at the same time as Leal's demise, a far less
visionary but unquestioning loyalist, Ricardo Cabrisas, was promoted.
These are indeed depressing times for Cubans hoping for some new ideas
and less of the same.

PAUL W. HARE IS A FORMER BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO CUBA AND CURRENTLY SENIOR
LECTURER AT THE FREDERICK S. PARDEE SCHOOL OF GLOBAL STUDIES AT BOSTON
UNIVERSITY.

Source: More bad news for new ideas in Cuba | In Cuba Today -
http://www.incubatoday.com/news/article98569717.html

Commercial flights from the U.S. to Cuba augurs the demise of the ‘mules’

Commercial flights from the U.S. to Cuba augurs the demise of the 'mules'
Agence France-Presse

The start this week of the first regularly scheduled commercial flights
from the United States augurs the likely demise of Cuba's "mules" —
suppliers of last resort for scarce consumer goods on the island.

For more than half a century, commercial air travel between Cuba and the
United States was all but non-existent, a victim of frosty Cold War-era
enmity.

What little air transit there was between the two nations came in the
form of charter flights that made a profit not only selling plane seats
to approved groups of passengers, but marketing entire travel packages
including hotel, car rental and sightseeing tours.

Many travel agencies also squeeze out a profit by shipping light cargo —
clothes and consumer appliances — from Cubans in the United States to
their relatives on the island.

The packages and parcels — often containing consumer items that are all
but impossible to find for most Cubans — are flown to the island for $5
or $10 per pound via charter flight.

The practice is not illegal in Cuba, so long as the value of the wares
are within customs limits.

The items can include "televisions, microwave ovens, bicycles or an air
conditioner," a travel agency owner told AFP.

"In Cuba, we need everything." It's an arrangement that works out well
for everyone: Consumers in Cuba get access to sought-after goods and
travel agencies get to pad their profits.

Mules benefit as well, typically getting to travel to Cuba for a deeply
discounted price of around $100 — about one fourth the usual cost for a
seat on a charter flight.

Charter companies over the years have been more than happy to allow to
fly planes to the island groaning with heavy luggage and boxes.

"Have you seen those flights?" asked Frank Gonzalez, owner of Miami's
Mambi Tour.

"It was practically a cargo business," he said of the Florida-to-Cuba
charter flights.

In this new era of U.S.-Cuba normalization, all of that now appears
poised to change, as flight options multiply.

Washington and Havana agreed in February to restore direct commercial
flights, one of the watershed changes initiated in December 2014, when
US President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro
announced a thaw after more than 50 years of Cold War hostility.

Jet Blue flies the first commercial plane on Wednesday from Fort
Lauderdale to the central Cuban city of Santa Clara.

Other U.S. air carriers planning to start airline service to the island
include American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Silver Airways, Southwest
Airlines and Sun Country Airlines.

In another development expected to hasten the demise of the mule, FedEx
is due to arrive in Cuba beginning next year, giving those who hope to
send their loved ones food, medicine and clothing another way to do so.

One Florida-based charter operator said the opening up of commercial
flights has led his company to scale back its charter flights already.

"We will stop operating charter flights in September and October," said
Michael Zuccato, general manager at Cuba Travel Services.

"We may operate flights again in December... but we are changing the way
we are operating," Mr Zuccato said.

"Unless you can bundle the package together, the charter flight doesn't
make a lot of sense. And right now the majority of the passengers are
Cuban Americans going to visit family, so they don't require those kinds
of services."

Even though charter operators expect to be hurt by the change, travel
agents say they expect to sell more packages than ever, since Cuba
remains a somewhat unusual and complicated travel destination —
particularly for curious Americans eager to travel to the once-forbidden
communist island.

Source: Regularly scheduled flights to Cuba augurs the likely demise of
the "mules" | In Cuba Today -
http://www.incubatoday.com/news/article98570597.html

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Moscow Does Not Fit In A Suitcase

Moscow Does Not Fit In A Suitcase / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 25 August 2016 – For decades visiting
Moscow was the golden dream, but only the most trusted could enjoy a
stay in the Soviet Union. From these trips to the "godmother nation"
they returned with suitcases filled with products unavailable in Cuba.
Today, some take the same route, but this time they shop in a Russia
with a market economy and well-stocked stores.

Most of them are "mules" who make the long journey to Pushkin's native
land to bring back shoes, clothing and Lada or Moskvitch car parts,
which they sell in the informal market. Those with more resources pay
for their own airline tickets, knowing that they can make back the
money; but others offer the room in their suitcases in search of an
investor to pay for the trip.

With the restrictions imposed late last year on the entry of Cubans to
Ecuador, one of the most important routes of imports for the black
market was closed. Russia, however, has continued its policy of not
requiring visas from residents of the island, so the "mules" have
reoriented their travel to Moscow, a route also widely used to emigrate.

The travel agency Ancon, located in a spacious property on Linea Street
in Havana's Vedado district, is taking advantage of the growth in
interest in Russia to offer "shopping trip" packages to Moscow. There is
no shortage of customers and the tour operator focuses on organizing
visits to markets, filling travelers' suitcases and facilitating getting
the merchandise back to the island.

Vladimir Putin's Russia has a commercial network unthinkable in Raul
Castro's Cuba. While the shelves of Havana stores display the same
products over and over again, or are empty, Moscow's markets are a
permanent temptation to the wallet.

"The travel agency is part of the Russian company Kompozit 21 and has
been operating in Cuba for three years," says Ada Soto, an employee of
Ancon. The CEO is Nikolay Popov, but in a spacious 16th floor apartment,
two Cubans manage reservations and sales.

Soto explained to 14ymedio that since early this year business has
significantly increased. Cubans who contract their services are received
by one of their compatriots based in Moscow who greets them at the
airport and will answer any questions in Spanish, while leading them to
their hotel arranged from the island.

The seven-day packages that costs not more than $500 for accommodation,
transfers and a guide, are the most sought after and the highlight is
the tour of the a visit to the Sadovod marlet, a shopping mall with
wholesale deals and more than 4,500 stores.

Most customers prefer to focus on shops and ignore Ancon's cultural
program with visits to museum. Cuban travelers seem more interested in
the goods on offer and the sales rather than taking a look at the Red
Square.

Vivian, 32, made the trip earlier this year. She says she spent it
"eating hamburgers and pizza," while acknowledging that "the Russian
language is a bit of a problem, but if you speak some English and with a
calculator in hand, no problem." Together with her husband they bouhgt
two passages and hired the services of Ancon. "It was a business trip,"
she says.

The couple spent a day in Moscow in the Saviolovskiyo electronics market
to stock up on photography and video equipment, mobile phones, tablets
and other electronic devices, merchandise that can be sold at three
times its value in the Cuban black market.

Vivian fed her nostalgia for the times when the Kremlin and Revolution
Square were close with some Russian souvenirs, like matryoshka nesting
dolls and decorated wooden crafts. She also fulfilled the request of her
father in the Puerto Sur car market, buying some spare parts for his Volga.

The young woman's husband was delighted with the Sokolniki shopping
center with accessories for Jawa, Voskhod, Minsk, Karpati and Riga
motorcycles, models that circulate widely on Cuba's streets. With a
couple of purchases made at the request of some friends he said he would
"recover nearly half the money spent on tickets."

The agency handled the transfer of goods to the hotel, gave them the use
of a cellphone, and helped them manage the payment for an extra
suitcase, in addition to the 33 kilograms they could bring home free,
between a large bag and a piece of hand luggage.

On Revolico, the classified site similar to a Cuban Craigslist, they
rented coats and boots because it was still "quite cold" when they
landed in Moscow. The couple hopes to repeat the trip in late September
and has already bought the tickets on Aeroflot for 630 convertible pesos
each.

"I've realized a dream of my lifetime because when I was a chiquita my
father went to Moscow on a trip he earned as a bonus for being a
vanguard worker, but my trip was for shopping," enthused Vivian while
showing off some of her purchases. Unlike her father, she didn't have to
work overtime or demonstrate ideological fidelity to realize her dream.

Source: Moscow Does Not Fit In A Suitcase / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/moscow-does-not-fit-in-a-suitcase-14ymedio-luz-escobar/

Costa Rica Returns 56 Cuban Migrants To Panama

Costa Rica Returns 56 Cuban Migrants To Panama / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 24 August 2016 — The Government of Costa Rica returned
a group of 56 Cuban migrants to Panama, according to a report in the
local press on Tuesday. The Cubans, including an eight-year-old boy and
a woman eight months pregnant were taken to the capital where the
Catholic charity Caritas will care for them until the government decides
their future.

Sietnel Candañedo, a member of Pastoral Caritas of Chiriqui, explained
to the newspaper La Prensa that the migrants have no money, nor any
place to stay and that they need "urgent" help with personal hygiene
items, canned food, water, drinks, disposable cutlery and milk for children.

The Cubans allegedly entered Panama through Colombian's Darien jungle.
In the the last three weeks several migrants have traveled from Panama
City to Chiriqui hoping to cross the border to continue their journey to
the United States.

Source: Costa Rica Returns 56 Cuban Migrants To Panama / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/costa-rica-returns-56-cuban-migrants-to-panama-14ymedio/

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cuban Official Josefina Vidal Accuses US of Using the Internet “To Promote Subversion”

Cuban Official Josefina Vidal Accuses US of Using the Internet "To
Promote Subversion" / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 26 August 2016 – Josefina Vidal, Director of the
United States Division for Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said
Tuesday that the internet is being used from the United States as a way
to promote internal subversion on the island.

"The illegal use of radio and TV against Cuba isn't enough, they insist
on using the internet as a weapon of subversion," the diplomat
complained through her Twitter account.

Vidal criticized the first conference on the free use of the internet on
the island, organized by the Office of Cuban Broadcasting, which
operates Radio and TV Martí. The event, which will be held in Miami on
12-13 September, will bring independent Cuban journalists together with
digital innovators and individuals who are fighting for the island to
open up to the World Wide Web.

In an article published by Cubadebate and shared on social networks by
the diplomat, she says that the government of the United States, over
the last two decades, has spent 284 million dollars to promote programs
of regime change in Cuba.

Source: Cuban Official Josefina Vidal Accuses US of Using the Internet
"To Promote Subversion" / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-official-josefina-vidal-accuses-us-of-using-the-internet-to-promote-subversion-14ymedio/

First Conference On Internet Freedom In Cuba To Be Held In Miami

First Conference On Internet Freedom In Cuba To Be Held In Miami /
14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 24 August 2016 – This coming 12-13
September, independent Cuban journalists will meet with digital
innovators and individuals who are fighting to open the island to the
World Wide Web. This first conference on the use of the internet in Cuba
is being organized by the Office of Cuban Broadcasting (OCB), which
operates Radio and TV Martí. The event will be free and open to the public.

One of the pillars of "The Martís" (as OCB's media are known on the
island), is free access to the internet in countries where the right is
censored, as is the case in Cuba," explained Maria (Malule) Gonzales,
OCB's director.

According to Gonzalez, the event will be something new because it will
not be Miami Cubans teaching islanders about the internet, but more than
20 experts in different areas who will come exclusively to share their
knowledge and experience with the use of the network in Cuba.

"We are looking, first of all, to provide the ABCs of internet use in
Cuba, and also to present the 'offline' internet that people on the
island have developed: applications, informal information networks,
among other things," she explains.

The Office of Cuban Broadcasting is an institution funded by the US
government in order to break the government monopoly on information in
Cuba. For more than 30 years it has managed Radio Martí, later adding a
television signal, both of which are bones of contention between the
Cuban government, which wants their elimination, and the US government
which funds them.

"Our first means of distribution is Radio Martí, but shortwave use is
declining in Cuba. The digital world is gaining tremendous momentum,"
said Gonzalez, hence the interest of the enterprise to enhance its
digital portal.

The conference will include different sessions, among them universal
access to the internet as a human right, the work of social networks and
dissidence and activism in the digital era, as well as covering
different Cuban media from outside the island.

Among the speakers from Cuba will be Eliecer Avila, president of the
Somos+ Movement (We Are More), and Miriam Celaya, freelance
journalist. In addition, professors Ted Henken and Larry Press will
attend, along with Ernesto Hernández Busto, manager of the blog
Penúltimos Días, and Karl Kathuria.

For Celaya, the meeting in Miami will be an occasion to show that
journalism on the island has its own voice. "We are in a process of
maturation. Independent journalism in Cuba was not born yesterday, but
is the result of an evolutionary process. Right now, the conditions are
ripe to accelerate it," she said.

Cuba ranks among the countries with the poorest internet access in the
world. According to official sources, about 30% of the Cuban population
has been on the wireless networks that the government has installed in
parks and downtown streets of some cities. Only two provinces have wifi
in all municipalities, and prices remain very high for the average
Cuban, at two CUC per hour, in a country with an average wage equivalent
to about 20 CUC a month.

Source: First Conference On Internet Freedom In Cuba To Be Held In Miami
/ 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/first-conference-on-internet-freedom-in-cuba-to-be-held-in-miami-14ymedio-mario-penton/

All the U.S. Airlines That Are Flying to Cuba

All the U.S. Airlines That Are Flying to Cuba
by Christopher Tkaczyk August 26, 2016

Looking for a flight schedule to Cuba? We've got you covered.

When JetBlue's inaugural commercial flight to Santa Clara lands next
week, it will become the first U.S. airline to begin regular commercial
flights to Cuba in more than 50 years.

The New York-based airline already has been running charter flights from
New York to Havana since earlier this year when President Obama eased
travel restrictions that had been in place since the Cold War era. And
American Airlines began a charter flight from Los Angeles to Havana last
December. But like other airlines, JetBlue is still awaiting government
approval for regular commercial flights to the Cuban capital.

While Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and
United have received tentative approval from the U.S. Department of
Transportation to fly to Havana, their flight schedules have not yet
been confirmed. As such, the airlines cannot begin selling airfare to
Havana until government approval is finalized.

Only 20 daily non-stop flights will be permitted from the U.S. to the
Cuban capital and 14 will be from Florida, out of Miami, Fort
Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando. The remaining six flights will connect
Havana with Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, and New York.

Over the next few months, six airlines will begin regular weekly service
to nine other Cuban cities. American, JetBlue, Frontier, Southwest, Sun
Country, and Silver Airways will operate a combined 155 weekly flights,
which will be rolled out between now and January. Their planned flight
schedules are listed below.

But don't start packing your bags just yet. There are still restrictions
for Americans to travel to Cuba—you must fulfill one of 12 entry
requirements. For the latest news, check out the webpage of the U.S.
embassy in Havana. The schedule below lists the date that each airline
begins operating flights to nine cities in Cuba, other than Havana.

Flights to Cuba from the U.S.
JetBlue

All flights originate in Fort Lauderdale (FLL)

Beginning Aug. 31: Three weekly flights from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara

Oct. 1: One daily flight from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara
Nov. 3: One daily flight from Fort Lauderdale to Camagüey
Nov. 10: One daily flight from Fort Lauderdale to Holguín
American Airlines

All flights originate in Miami (MIA)

Sept. 7: One daily flight to Holguín and Cienfuegos
Sept. 9: One daily flight to Camaguey and Santa Clara
Sept. 11: One daily flight to Varadero
Frontier Airlines

Oct. 27: Daily flights between Chicago O'Hare and Santiago de Cuba
Dec. 15: Four weekly flights between Philadelphia and Camaguey
Dec. 15: Three weekly flights between Philadelphia and Santa Clara
Jan. 7: One weekly flight each from Chicago O'Hare and Philadelphia to
Varadero.
Silver Airways

All flights originate in Fort Lauderdale (FLL)

Sept. 8: Daily flight to Santa Clara
Sept. 22: Five weekly flights to Camagüey
Oct. 6: Two weekly flights to Cienfuegos
Oct. 20: Daily flight to Holguín
Nov. 3: Daily flight to Santiago de Cuba
Nov. 17: Three weekly flights to Cayo Coco
Dec. 1: Four weekly flights to Varadero
Dec. 8: One weekly flight to Cayo Largo del Sur
Dec. 15: Three weekly flights to Manzanillo
Southwest Airlines

All flights originate in Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Tampa (TPA)

TBD: Two daily flights to Varadero
TBD: One daily flight to Santa Clara
Sun Country Airlines

All flights originate in Minneapolis (MSP)

TBD: One weekly flight to Varadero
TBD: One weekly flight to Santa Clara
But that's not the only way to get to Cuba. You can also take HavanaAir,
which flies out of Miami and Key West. In May, Carnival's newest brand
Fathom began cultural cruises to Cuba out of Miami. Check out these 9
other ways to get to Cuba by boat or plane.

Christopher Tkaczyk is the Senior News Editor at Travel + Leisure.
Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ctkaczyk.

Source: All the U.S. Airlines That Are Flying to Cuba | Travel + Leisure
-
http://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/airlines-airports/airlines-that-fly-to-cuba

US sends 161 immigrants back to Cuba after stopping their sea crossing

US sends 161 immigrants back to Cuba after stopping their sea crossing
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
26 AUG 2016 AT 22:05 ET

The United States repatriated 161 Cubans this week after intercepting
them at sea as they attempted to reach American soil, the US Coast Guard
said Friday.

Coast Guard patrol boats shuttled the migrants to Bahia de Cabanas, Cuba
on three separate trips made Monday, Thursday and Friday, the agency
said in a statement.

"We discourage anyone from taking to the sea and attempting to reach
U.S. soil illegally – they are risking their lives with very little
chance of success," Coast Guard Captain Mark Gordon said.

"Navigating the Florida Straits can be extremely dangerous for the
unprepared on illegal voyages and often leads to injury or death."

The Coast Guard has seen a spike in the number of Cubans arriving in the
United States by land and sea since Washington and Havana announced they
would begin normalizing relations in December 2014.


Cuban migrants who reach the United States are put on a fast track to
residency and citizenship under a Cold War-era policy that many fear
will be shelved as the two countries normalize relations.

The US Coast Guard has registered at least 6,318 Cubans who have sought
to reach US shores by sea since October 1, compared to 4,473 intercepted
in the Florida Straits, Caribbean and Atlantic in the fiscal year 2015.

Source: US sends 161 immigrants back to Cuba after stopping their sea
crossing -
https://www.rawstory.com/2016/08/us-sends-161-immigrants-back-to-cuba-after-stopping-their-sea-crossing/

Iranian minister's trip to Cuba, Latin America raises concern about its influence in region

Iranian minister's trip to Cuba, Latin America raises concern about its
influence in region
By Andrew O'Reilly Published August 25, 2016 Fox News Latino

Trailed by an enormous delegation of economic advisors, Iran's Foreign
Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Havana earlier this week to
start a six-day swing through Latin America.

The trip to Cuba, in which Zarif met with various dignitaries including
Cuban President Raúl Castro, was billed by the foreign minister as one
that would unite two countries with histories of resisting what he
referred to as "atrocities" by the United States.

"It's a very opportune moment to extend our relations," Zarif said at a
press conference. "We have always been on the side of the great Cuban
people in the face of the atrocities and unjust sanctions they have
faced, and vice-versa."

Foreign policy analysts say that Zarif's trip and his choice of words in
Havana should not be taken lightly by Washington, especially as the
Obama administration has worked hard in the last few years to improve
the tense relations with both Havana and Tehran.

"The U.S. should be very aware of this type of mission to Cuba and what
Iran's plans are," Leah Soibel, executive director of Fuente Latina,
told Fox News Latino.

The U.S. – along with the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and
Germany – brokered a controversial deal last year with Iran that would
limit the Islamic republic's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting
of crippling economic sanctions.

In a historic moment that ended decades of Cold War animosity, Cuba and
the U.S. re-established diplomatic ties last year and have slowly worked
to normalize issues like travel, money exchange and information sharing.
The historic rapprochement, however, has still not brought an end to the
U.S. embargo imposed on the communist island since 1962.

Cuba and Iran have had close relations ever since the Middle Eastern
country's 1979 Islamic revolution, which overthrew Shah Mohammad Reza
Pahlavi and installed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as the nation's
supreme leader. Following the revolution, the U.S. established economic
sanctions against the country.

Since then, decades of mutual ideological enmity toward the U.S. have
forged a strong bond between the two nations.

"Both Cuba and Iran have reached a road map after years of sanctions
which they should use to explore new economic opportunities and take
advantage of each other's capabilities," said Cuban Minister of Foreign
Trade and Foreign Investment Malmierca Díaz, according to Iranian media.

Zarif's stop in Havana – before heading to Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile,
Bolivia and Venezuela – is also seen as a symbolic move on the part of
Iran to reach out to the sociopolitical leader of Latin America's
left-leaning nations. Since Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959,
socialist leaders like the Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and Nicaragua's
President Daniel Ortega have looked to Cuba as ideological guidepost.

"Cuba is a very important player in regards to Iran's relations with
Latin America," Soibel said. "If Cuba gives the greenlight, the rest of
the nations will follow suit."

Of the other countries on Zarif's itinerary, Ecuador and Bolivia also
have leaders in presidents Rafael Correa and Evo Morales who have
enjoyed warm relations with the Castro regime.

Despite the fanfare of the visit, some experts argue that Iran doesn't
have much to offer Cuba, and that leaders in Tehran are worried that the
island's thaw in relations with the U.S. threatens to undermine what
influence the Iranians have in the communist nation.

"They're jockeying for Cuba's favor," Chris Sabatini, a professor at
Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, told
FNL. "Iran can't bail Cuba out of its economic crisis, and Cuba knows that."

Sabatini added that while it is important for the U.S. to monitor the
visit, it shouldn't be as big a cause for concern as it would have been
before the thaw.

"The U.S. is becoming more and more of an influence – not just now in
Cuba, but it will continue into the future," he said.


Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.

Source: Iranian minister's trip to Cuba, Latin America raises concern
about its influence in region | Fox News Latino -
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2016/08/25/iranian-minister-cuba-latin-america-trip-raises-concern-about-its-influence-in/

Cuba shipping gains unlikely in the short term

Cuba shipping gains unlikely in the short term
Greg Miller, Special Correspondent | Aug 24, 2016 12:23PM EDT

Despite all the hype on Cuba, commercial shipping's opportunities to do
business with the island are unlikely to significantly improve until at
least February 2018.

U.S. President Barack Obama has since December 2014 used his regulatory
powers to ease restrictions on U.S. business ties with Cuba. In the
maritime industry, the highest-profile example was permission for
Carnival Corporation to offer cruises to Cuba.

However, volume gains for commercial shipping still hinge on the U.S.
Congress lifting the embargo on trade with Cuba and repealing the
"180-day rule," which prevents ships without a waiver calling at a U.S.
port within 180 days of visiting Cuba.

"Since December 2014, the legislative efforts have been almost a waste
of time," said U.S.-Cuba Trade & Economic Council President John
Kavulich in an interview. "You have a lot of inspiration and a lot of
aspiration chasing very little reality."

"When it comes to Cuba, there has been more public relations than actual
growth," said Carlos Urriola, senior vice-president of Carrix, the
parent of port group SSA International. "Even if things are starting to
move forward, it's not going to change tomorrow."

Commentators have focused on the potential for lifting the trade embargo
after a new U.S. president is inaugurated and a new Congress convened in
January 2017.

However, Kavulich sees that timetable as overly optimistic.

"There will be no legislative changes before President Obama leaves
office and after his presidency Cuba is not going to be a priority on
the list of issues facing the new president," he said.

"Nor should it be. It shouldn't be high on anyone's agenda, because no
one (in the U.S.) needs Cuba. Cuba is not China, where if a company
doesn't have China it can put the company in jeopardy. Cuba doesn't have
that role."

Any political momentum for ending the U.S. embargo will be focused on a
later date: Feb. 24, 2018, according to Kavulich.

"That is the date when (Cuban president) Raul Castro has said he's going
to retire, so members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will look
at the process and say, 'We should hold back on making changes because
we want to have something to either use as bait for Raul's successor or
to reward Raul's successor. Let's not give everything now to the old
guy. Let's try to enhance the new people,'" he said.

In other words, the closeness of Castro's retirement date — just 13
months after the U.S. government's transition — will effectively push
back the timetable for transformative change until 2018.

Hopes have been raised within maritime circles that the 180-day rule
could be repealed before the trade embargo is lifted. While the U.S.
president can exempt shipping companies on a case-by-case basis,
abolishing the rule would require an act of Congress.

If the 180-rule were revoked, container lines could use neo-Panamax
ships to drop off Asia-sourced transshipment cargo at the PSA-operated
terminal in Mariel, Cuba, and then continue on their front-haul voyages
to final destinations in the United States.

The challenge facing this lobbying effort is that U.S. business
interests would not necessarily benefit. In fact, some could be harmed.

Repealing the 180-day rule would allow no additional U.S. export volumes
to Cuba beyond the currently permitted cargo categories. However, Mariel
would be enabled to develop a transshipment business to serve Caribbean
islands in direct competition with U.S. exporters and U.S.-based liners
sailing out of ports in Florida and along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

"For U.S. ports, having Mariel as a receptacle for U.S. exports is
great, but having Mariel as a potential competitor is not. That's where
the challenge is," said Kavulich.

"By opening the 180-day rule, you're hitting Miami, you're hitting Port
Everglades, you're hitting Jacksonville — and what would you (the U.S.)
get in return?" Carrix's Urriola said.

Ending the 180-day rule and providing an economic boost to Cuba prior to
Castro's retirement would also go against the grain of America's
long-standing strategy, said Kavulich.

"There is a feeling that we (referring to U.S. government leaders) don't
want to be giving the current Cuban government any more money it can use
to perpetuate itself, because the more money it has, the less incentive
it has to change," he said. "We want to make it difficult for them, so
they have to make the changes."

Contact Greg Miller at greg.miller@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on
Twitter: @GMJournalist.

A version of this story originally appeared on IHS Fairplay, a sister
product of JOC.com within IHS Markit.

Source: Cuba shipping gains unlikely in the short term -
http://www.joc.com/maritime-news/container-lines/cuba-shipping-gains-unlikely-short-term_20160824.html

Cuba, China sign new accords to boost economic cooperation

Cuba, China sign new accords to boost economic cooperation
(Xinhua)
Updated: 2016-08-27 10:58

HAVANA - Cuba and China on Friday signed new agreements aimed at
deepening bilateral cooperation in a number of fields.

Zhang Xiangchen, deputy international trade representative with China's
Ministry of Commerce, and Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuba's Minister of Foreign
Trade and Investment, signed the conclusive documents for joint projects
in the sectors of telecommunications, industry and water resources.

"We have reviewed the advances made in our relations and planned out our
economic collaboration for the next year," Zhang told reporters after
the signing.

Malmierca said the agreements prelude an expansion of bilateral economic
cooperation.

"Chinese investments in Cuba are starting to blossom and we have a joint
strategic vision of the future," he said.

China is Cuba' s second largest trading partner. Chinese enterprises
have participated in many joint projects contributing to Cuba's economic
and social development.

Source: Cuba, China sign new accords to boost economic cooperation -
Business - Chinadaily.com.cn -
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2016-08/27/content_26614606.htm

U.S. should end special treatment for Cubans, Costa Rican minister says

U.S. should end special treatment for Cubans, Costa Rican minister says
BY FRANCO ORDOÑEZ
fordonez@mcclatchydc.com

WASHINGTON
The foreign minister of Costa Rica has called on the United States to
abandon the Cuban Adjustment Act, saying it's largely responsible for
attracting tens of thousands of Cubans to Latin American countries,
which they then use as a springboard to get to the United States.

Foreign Minister Manuel González said this week that Costa Rica and
other transit countries – from Ecuador to Mexico – were paying the
consequences of the controversial law that all but guaranteed Cubans'
admission to the United States, by permitting those who reach the U.S.
to stay there. Now that Cuba and the United States have restored
relations, González questions the need for a law constructed in the
midst of the Cold War, he said.

"We don't disregard the humanitarian perspective," González said during
an interview about the thousands of Cubans who've passed through Latin
America this year as they tried to get from the island to the United
States. "But this has cost us millions of dollars – and millions of
dollars that we don't have available. Our people are claiming how is it
possible that you don't invest in your own people and you spend millions
of dollars on handling migrants?"

Costa Rica found itself at the center of the controversy earlier this
year, when thousands of Cubans were stranded after officials broke up a
smuggling ring that was bringing them from Ecuador. Gonzalez said the
United States must do more than simply urge the countries to be tougher
on enforcing their own immigration laws.

Largely at the behest of the Obama administration, the governments of
Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama have ramped up enforcement
efforts in an effort to keep thousands of Cubans, as well as migrants of
other nationalities, from using those nations to get to the United
States. The United States has urged Latin American leaders to tighten
their borders, dismantle smuggling networks and issue travel documents
only for legal travel.

The efforts have alarmed Cuban activists, who say the U.S.-encouraged
crackdown will only force desperate Cubans back into the ocean for the
more dangerous journey through the Florida Straits.

But the U.S. push has had an impact. Officials in Colombia this month
began deporting to Cuba about 1,200 Cubans who had been stranded there
after Panama closed its border. The Panamanian government warned 600
Cuban migrants that they had until mid-August to abandon the region or
risk deportation. Mexico recently deported more than 88 Cubans.

U.S. officials acknowledge that the administration has been pressing
regional governments to toughen their efforts in order to discourage
unsanctioned Cuban migration. "We have encouraged regional governments
to work together to find solutions to the ongoing Cuban migration
challenge and prevent irregular migration," a senior State Department
official said, agreeing to discuss the issue only anonymously because of
its sensitivity.

More than 46,500 Cubans were admitted to the United States without visas
during the first 10 months of the 2016 fiscal year, according to the Pew
Research Center. That figure compares with more than 43,000 in 2015 and
just over 24,000 in 2014.

For many of the deportees, the return to Cuba represents the end of what
had been a journey for which they'd risked everything.

José Antonio Quesada, 46, and his pregnant wife, who reached Miami on
May 10, recounted his journey in a tale that gains in poignancy when
viewed from the perspective of those who failed.

The two lawyers sold their house and everything else they owned and
leaned on family in Miami to raise the $2,300 – the equivalent of five
years' salary – that they needed for the journey for airfares, bus fares
and smuggling fees. They spent two months traveling from Ecuador over
Colombia's mountains and through Panama's jungles before they were able
to board a flight to Mexico and then to the United States.

But he has friends who are stuck in southern Panama because they
couldn't afford the journey and now the borders are closed.

"If we tried to come now, we would not be able to make it," Quesada
said. "I have a friend who is still stuck in Puerto Obaldia in Panama."

Colombian migration officials said they could not discuss collaboration
with the United States, but they noted it's not only Cubans who have
been coming to the U.S. border.

Perhaps encouraged by the Cubans, a surge of migrants from Haiti, Africa
and the Middle East have been following a similar route, drawing
comparisons to the much larger migration crisis unfolding in Europe.

The exodus is a huge concern for Cuban officials, who charge the United
States is encouraging "illegal" and dangerous migration by tens of
thousands of Cubans who fear their windows of opportunity might close.
The communist government likens the migrant flow to stealing – many
would-be arrivals are professionals trained at Cuban government expense
– and see it as an obstacle to improved relations with the United States.

It's a touchy subject for the United States, which has long generously
welcomed Cubans who fled the repressive regime constructed by Fidel
Castro. But times have changed. The Cold War is over. The two countries,
once bitter enemies, have re-established relations.

Cuban activist Ramon Saul Sanchez said the crackdown by regional
governments hadn't affected the number of Cubans arriving in Miami and
that in any case, islanders would continue to flee until the Cuban
government provided them with economic opportunities at home. That, he
said, will mean that more will take the dangerous ocean route or hire
human smugglers who can take them through perilous jungle regions where
they can avoid authorities in other countries.

That assertion is supported by U.S. Coast Guard statistics, which show a
steady increase in the number of Cubans attempting the sea crossing.

As of Thursday, the Coast Guard said, 545 Cubans had attempted to reach
the United States by sea in August. In July, 773 migrants made the trek,
compared with 653 in June.

The number of sea journeys so far this year, both successful and
intercepted – 6,310 – already has surpassed those for 2015 – 4,473 – and
2014 –3,940.

How many don't survive the effort is unknown. Since Ecuador began
cracking down on Cubans last month, Sanchez said, he's been receiving
more calls from loved ones looking for family members who attempted to
come by sea.

"A lot of people have now disappeared or died," Sanchez said. "I get
calls – 10, 12, 14 a day – from relatives here looking."

NORA GAMEZ TORRES AND MARIO J. PENTON OF EL NUEVO HERALD CONTRIBUTED TO
THIS ARTICLE FROM MIAMI.

Email: fordonez@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @francoordonez.

Source: U.S. should end special treatment for Cubans, Costa Rican
minister says | In Cuba Today -
http://www.incubatoday.com/latest-news/article98137562.html

U.S. rules out swap of jailed Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes

U.S. rules out swap of jailed Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

The Obama administration "has no intention" of releasing or swapping
jailed Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes, according to a letter sent by the
U.S. Department of State to the House Permanent Select Committee on
Intelligence.

The Aug. 19 letter, obtained by el Nuevo Herald, followed a number of
news reports pointing to the possibility of freeing Montes — a top
Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst on Cuban affairs who is
serving a 25-year prison sentence — in exchange for Cuba handing over
American fugitive Assata Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard.

The letter, addressed to committee chairman U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes,
R-Calif., says the State Department "want(s) to assure you that the
United States government has no intention of releasing or exchanging
Montes."

Nunes had written to Obama on July 12 urging the president not to
release or swap Montes, calling her "one of the most brazen traitors in
U.S. history." The State Department wrote that it was "responding on the
president's behalf."

Montes, one of the top foreign spies captured in recent years, authored
some of the key U.S. intelligence assessments on Cuba. She was arrested
in 2001 and was sentenced in 2002 after she pleaded guilty to spying for
Cuba throughout her 16 years at the DIA.

"Montes was — and remains — unrepentant. She betrayed the public trust,
the security of the United States and her oath to support and defend the
constitution while remaining loyal to the Castro brothers in Havana,"
Nunes wrote. "Ana Belen Montes richly deserved her 25-year prison
sentence, and must serve every day of it."

Montes, who is of Puerto Rican descent, declared in a 2015 interview
with the blog Cayo Hueso, which supports the Cuban government, that she
has not changed. "I will not be silenced. My commitment to the island
cannot be ignored," she was quoted as saying.

Nunes' letter noted that because of her senior post at DIA, Montes has
compromised every single U.S. intelligence collection program that
targeted Cuba, revealed the identity of four covert U.S. intelligence
agents who traveled to Cuba and provided Havana with information that
could have wound up in the hands of other U.S. enemies.

"In short, Montes was one of the most damaging spies in the annals of
American intelligence," the committee chairman wrote.

The State Department replied that it "shared" Nunes' concerns "regarding
national security and the importance of safeguarding classified
information. The department is dedicated to taking all possible steps to
protect against and to prevent the unauthorized release of classified
information."

Nunes' letter to Obama followed a round of news reports about a possible
swap of Montes for Shakur, a member of the former Black Panther Party
and Black Liberation Army who is wanted in the shooting death of a New
Jersey state trooper. She lives in Cuba as a political refugee.

During a meeting in June with U.S. officials, their Cuban counterparts
mentioned their desire to see Montes released as part of a prisoner
swap, according to the published reports. Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez
also urged Montes be released during an April concert in Spain.

Committee member U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, said
she does not trust Obama's intentions or the State Department promise.

The Obama administration also promised Congress it would not swap five
other convicted Cuban spies from the so-called Wasp Network, promises
"that we now know to have been false," she said. The last three spies
still in U.S. prisons were freed on Dec. 17, 2014, the day Obama
announced a thaw in U.S. relations with Havana.

Ros-Lehtinen also noted that Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress
in 2013 that the Obama administration would not swap spies for Alan
Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor jailed in Havana. He was freed on
Dec. 17, 2014.

"When it comes to U.S. foreign policy with Cuba, the Obama
administration cannot be trusted."

Source: U.S. rules out swap of Ana Belen Montes for Joanne Chesimard |
In Cuba Today - http://www.incubatoday.com/news/article98161267.html

Cuba calls Miami conference on internet freedom an act of ‘subversion’

Cuba calls Miami conference on internet freedom an act of 'subversion'
In Cuba Today Staff

Josefina Vidal, Cuba's Foreign Ministry's director general for the
United States, said that an upcoming conference in Miami on internet use
on the island seeks to promote internal subversion.

"The illegal use of radio and television against Cuba is not enough for
them, they insist on the use of the internet as a weapon of subversion,"
Vidal wrote in her Twitter account Thursday.

Her comment was in reaction to an article published by the
government-run Cubadebate criticizing the Cuba Internet Freedom
conference to be held in Miami Sept. 12-13, which is being organized by
the U.S.-funded Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB).

Cubadebate characterized the event as "the first conference on internet
use in Cuba, as part of subversion programs by the U.S. government
against the island that have been maintained during the administration
of Barack Obama."

The article went on to say that,"since [former president] George W. Bush
activated the Law for Democracy in Cuba, which empowers the U.S.
Congress to allocate $20 million a year for programs to promote regime
change in Cuba, has spent $284 million over the past two decades for
this purpose."

The Cuba Internet Freedom conference is part of Social Media Week taking
place in Miami's Wynwood Arts District.

Source: Cuba calls Miami internet freedom conference an act of
'subversion' | In Cuba Today -
http://www.incubatoday.com/news/article98078597.html

Friday, August 26, 2016

An Enslaved People

An Enslaved People / 14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco

14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco, Camagüey, 24 August 2016 – The level of
enslavement of a people is determined by the sum of freedoms that are
restricted. Slavery and freedom are two ends of a scale that, as one
side slants downward from the weight of the load on its side, its
counterpart rises.

I explained this to a high school student some days ago when he asked me
if I agreed with the opinion of his grandfather, who told him that the
Cuban people are suffering a modern form of slavery.

It took me a few minutes to answer his question. With teenagers and
children one has to be extremely cautious when offering insights, and
even more so when they ask questions based on the admiration and respect
they have for us. What we express to them can become a dogmatic axiom
for their lives. Children are intelligent and think for themselves and
then seek out an adult who, for them, has their own opinion.

To dodge his query I answered with another questions;

"What is the basis for your opinion of the condition of a modern slave."

"Many characteristics, prof (high school students call everyone who
teaches them 'prof').

"For example?"

"The slaves of previous centuries suffered punishments that today
wouldn't work: shackles, whips, mutilation… But my grandfather says that
we Cubans have lost rights that we enjoyed before the triumph of the
Revolution and this is called modern slavery."

The young man's grandfather had informed him that in January of 1959
more than 90% of Cubans were fidelistas – Fidel loyalists – and that
people put signs on their doors saying, "Fidel, this is your home," and
that apparently the Maximum Leader took the offer seriously: he banned
the sale of homes and confiscated more from everyone who kept things in
their own names than from the rest. This he called "Urban Reform."

Then he did the same thing with the haciendas and he called that
Agrarian Reform. He confiscated the businesses, from the huge
corporation to the last little mom-and-pop stands that supported
thousands of proletarian families, stretching out their meager earnings.
His grandfather had told him all this with a wry smile, saying that even
the combs and scissors of the barbers did not escape confiscation. He
didn't know what to call this.

Possession of firearms was prohibited. Anyone who rebelled was shot or
imprisoned. The labor unions were nationalized and the right to strike
eliminated. The intellectuals were told "within the Revolution everyone
and against the Revolution nothing," leaving the concept ambiguous, but
in a clear warning to those who tried to present personal arguments in
publications and artistic works of any kind. The Cuban people, as a
whole, were left stripped of their basic rights: without possessions,
without arms and without the ability to show their discontent. The great
ideologues of tyranny, especially Stalin, were always convinced that
miserable people were not capable of rebellion.

This happened in the first decade of the Revolution. The results didn't
have to be waited for. The population, all of it, became the
proletariat. The ration card arrived, a macabre Leninist idea from when
people in Russia were starving to death in huge numbers. The coffee and
meat quotas were reduced, along with those of other most needed items.
Smallholdings were forbidden from selling their products to anyone but
the State; the rancher who slaughtered a cow for family consumption
could be punished with a long prison sentence; and so it was with most
individual producers, creating the largest monopoly in memory in all of
Cuba's history, including during the centuries of colonial rule.

An official document was created for those who wanted to leave the
country: the "white card," controlled by the Ministry of the Interior
and virtually unattainable by the common citizen except in exceptional
cases. Cubans became inmates within the limited territory of the island,
and all those who emigrated illegally, became a foreigner, stripped of
their Cuban citizenship. An even greater limitation, was restricting the
right of residents of other provinces to live in Havana.

In 1973, the right of the people to appear directly in court as an
accuser was eliminated, regardless of their having proof of being the
main injured party, regardless of the damage suffered, thus violating
Article Six in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "Everyone has
the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law."

In 1975, tens of thousands of Cuban were sent to fight in Angola.
Refusing to serve as soldiers in this war was severely punished,
especially among young people doing their compulsory military service.
Members of the Communist Party and the Young Communist Union were
stripped of their membership, and non-members were fired from their
jobs. Thousands of Cubans lost their lives for a cause interfering in
the affairs of another country that had nothing to do with them. The
Cuban people still do not know the number of their compatriots who died
in this adventure.

In 1980, homophobia reached its peak when a group of desperate people
invaded the Peruvian Embassy; the Port of Mariel was opened for their
deportation, and from there homosexuals, the disaffected and prison
inmates were expelled to the United States. President Jimmy Carter's
humanist approach cost the Democratic Party the presidency of the United
States.

At the end of the decade European Communism collapsed and Cuba faced a
misery unprecedented in its history. The country coped by enforcing
major restrictions on citizens, and there was even talk of communal
kitchens and creating an indigenous style habitat. Luckily Hugo Chavez
showed up with his oil in exchange for highly qualified Cuban personnel,
rented out by the State, these "internationalist" collaborators – mostly
doctors and other health care workers – received barely a miserable
stipend from what Venezuela paid the Cuban government for their work.

Possession of an American dollar was punished by several years in
prison. The consumption of fish was restricted to a greater extent and
the ordinary citizen never had the right to try seafood, beef or other
products from livestock farming.

Then came the new millennium, the high school student's grandfather
explained to him. Time did its work and the leadership of the country
passed – apparently, the grandfather stressed slyly – to the hands of
Raul Castro, the general president.

The general president opened some opportunities to the beleaguered
citizens with his reiterative motto, "without haste, but without pause."
He removed the restrictions on travel, without completely letting go of
the rope through a section of a decree. He allowed individual work,
despite impeding the economic growth of businesses, and much less
authorizing national citizens to make major investments, a privilege
reserved only for foreigners. Holding of dollars was allowed, but every
remittance received by an individual – from family or friends abroad –
had to be immediately exchanged for a currency that has no value outside
the country.

The Cuban people continue to drink at dawn a concoction that is not pure
coffee. They put "chopped meat" on their tables with such a high
proportion of soy it's an effort to believe they are eating meat. They
buy used clothes in the trapishoppings – a name derived from the word
for 'rag' – donated by charities in other countries. They continue to be
paid in Cuban pesos worth four cents each, versus the convertible pesos
worth a dollar. They go on vacation to popular campsites along the
riverbanks like aborigines, because places like Varadero are reserved
for foreigners and senior leaders.

Their proletarian earnings don't allow them to buy plane tickets to
travel abroad and they lack the wherewithal to buy a car. The state
monopoly swallows, as if into a funnel, the country's scanty
agricultural production at bargain prices. Popular dissent is not
allowed or recognized, and when women go out into the streets carrying
flowers in peaceful protest they are beaten, while the voices of
dissenters, opponents and freethinkers are hermetically silenced in the
mass media, and in the blocking of internet sites and radio broadcasts,
which are considered enemies…

After listening to all the conjectures of the young high school student,
I had no choice but to respond: "You belong to the new generation of
Cubans that represent the future of the nation. You are young, talented
and a friend of truth and wisdom. You have the right to determine
through your own reasoning if the Cuban people are slaves or not; and,
of course, the duty to work so that these injustices are eliminated."

Source: An Enslaved People / 14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/an-enslaved-people-14ymedio-pedro-armando-junco/

You bring out the Cuban in me, Randy!

You bring out the Cuban in me, Randy!
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO
fsantiago@miamiherald.com

Dear Randy,

What a sweet name for such a nasty character.

For me, it conjures the infectious loud laugh of a football player I
knew in high school, a friend during a time when I was still privately
heartsick over losing country and family but reveling in the adventure
of becoming an American.

It's not every day that you see a committed soldier of the failed Cuban
Revolution with an American name like Randy, a throwback to the time
when Cuban culture flirted with Americana, and it was oh, so fabulously
chic. With that name, Randy Alonso, you've had to work overtime to climb
the Cuban government's career propagandist ladder to host "Mesa
Redonda," the national television talk show used to indoctrinate Cubans
on what they're supposed to believe.

Branding to demean is your signature talent. You've dubbed us "the Cuban
mafia in Miami" and referred to us as gusanos — worms — but never the
butterflies we became when we began to visit the island laden with gifts
and began to subsidize families to the tune of hundreds of million of
dollars a year. It was the Cuban people who nicknamed us the latter,
their crafty humor intact despite the bitter lies pounded into their psyche.

And now, suffering from a bout of Olympics sour grapes, you've coined a
new term to diminish exiles, immigrants, defectors and hyphenated Cubans
around the world: excubano.

The motive for your trantrum and odious comment? Runner Orlando Ortega,
who won a silver medal for Spain and, in victory, the Cuban native
refused to wrap himself in the Cuban flag. Your disdain only grew as
more Cuban athletes living as far away as Turkey to Azerbaijan won more
medals for their adopted countries, and they had nothing but praise and
gratitude for the refuge and acceptance. No win was sweeter than Danell
Leyva's two silver medals in gymnastics for the USA — Matanzas' loss and
Miami's gain. I felt double the dose of hometown pride.

Embracing as our own those who gave us refuge from oppression doesn't
make us any less Cuban. Wasn't the most heralded Cuban of them all, Jose
Martí, an exile in the United States for many years?

How little you know us, Randy.

If being Cuban is measured by succumbing to the subhuman category the
Cuban government has created for you, then luckily, no, I'm not that
kind of Cuban. I live in a country where I'm not banned from hotel and
beaches, as native-born are in Cuba. I live in a city where I can buy a
ticket to sail along Biscayne Bay on a tour boat full of tourists who
can't wait for the stop in front of a Star Island home to scream and
wave: "Gloria! Gloria!"

That would be the cubanaza Gloria Estefan who has taken Cuban music all
the way to Broadway and the Billboard charts. Believe me, she is no
ex-Cuban.

You, unfortunately, have to live on an island where foreigners are
kings. They enjoy your hotels, your tours of those beautiful archipelago
islets on the Camagüey coast — the ones that not even the Cuban woman
who sells the tour tickets can visit. You, "real Cuban," live in a
national prison where your musicians have to pay tribute to the
comandante if they want to get top bookings on their own turf. The
repressive government you defend is master of all things, even the
culture you're allowed to consume.

By supporting a government that demeans Cubans who don't think like
them, by trying to paint us as the enemy at a time many Cuban-Americans
are building even more bridges, you, Randy, are the pauper who serves them.

When I travel abroad and people ask me where I'm from, I say proudly:
The Independent Republic of Miami. They always want to know more: Where
am I really from? I'm Cuban, I say with equal pride.

But you really want to know how Cuban I am, Randy?

So Cuban that the other day, I angered some of my people when I said
that Cuban supporters of Donald Trump suffer from supremacy syndrome —
and they let me have it. I was treated to one of those hideous things
you invented on the island, the acto de repudio. The act of repudiation
against me, however, had something yours lacks: Internet access, zero
violence and international cachét — the glamour that comes from being
castigated all the way from Paris. To be worthy of repudiation by the
author of a classic Cuban novel — a writer I defended when other Cubans
called her a vulgar Communist — is the ultimate Cuban experience.

Such is the glory of democracy. It has room for everything, something a
repressed person like you, who accepts his master without question,
wouldn't understand. I'm so damn Cuban that I feel empowered to
criticize us — without losing an iota of my "Cubanhood" — when we lose
our way and support an unhinged cretin. And so American that I'm willing
to die defending their right to disagree with me.

If I weren't so Cuban, I would have kept that to myself, written theses
lines with the intellectual serenity of my American persona.

But, Randy, you bring out the Cuban in me.

I'm so Cuban — and I'm surrounded by so much cubanía every day of my
American life in Miami, capital of Cuban exiles — that sometimes, to
tell you the truth, it smothers me.

But to my great fortune, I am Cuban-plus, and like the Olympic athletes,
I'm free to escape into the embrace of another land I love.

Fabiola Santiago: fsantiago@miamiherald.com, @fabiolasantiago

Source: Host of official Cuban television show brands expatriate Olympic
winner 'excubano' – and Cuban-Americans answer: #YoNoSoyExCubano | In
Cuba Today - http://www.incubatoday.com/news/article97965777.html