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Thursday, July 24, 2014

New Measures by Cuban Customs Service Coming in September

New Measures by Cuban Customs Service Coming in September / Ivan Garcia
Posted on July 23, 2014

On September 1, 2014 the Customs Service of the Republic of Cuba will
begin enforcing new regulations intended to combat illegal trafficking
of merchandise by relatives, friends and "mules"* through airports and
port facilities.

It's one more turn of the screw. Every year since 2011 new regulations
have been put in place designed to halt the illegal importation of goods
destined for families and private businesses on the island.
In Spring 2012 the customs service began charging ten dollars for every
kilo above the twenty-kilo limit for personal baggage. For parcel post
the charge was ten dollars per kilo above the five-kilo limit.

According to Onelia, a customs official, "The new measures are intended
to halt the trade in goods brought in by mules."

The military regime quite often resorts to demagogic rhetoric. It
eschews the military uniform and takes on the role of victim when
talking about the economic and financial embargo that the United States
has imposed on Cuba since 1962.

But the embargo does not justify establishing a string of regulations
that affect family well-being, private businesses and the quality of
life for a wide segment of the population.

Simply put, they are applying a set of prohibitions and laws in order
increase sales in the chain of hard-currency stores operated as military
businesses. It is a disgrace.
It is monopoly in its purest form. The government would now find itself
hard pressed to explain how these measures are benefitting its citizens.
Its aberrant customs rules, prohibitions on retail sales of imported
clothing and high taxes on the self-employed are anti-populist edicts.

I asked twenty-eight people — friends, neighbors, taxi drivers, public
and private sector workers — if they approved of these regulations.
Regardless of their political beliefs, the verdict was unanimous: all
twenty-eight were opposed to the current measures as well as to those
scheduled to take effect on September 1.

Some 80% of Cubans have a relative or friend in the United States or
Europe. Some benefit from regular shipments of clothes, food,
appliances, video games, computer tablets or smart phones. Others
receive occasional shipments.

But it is black market commerce, driven scarcity and a system of
economic production that does not satisfy demand, the most important
provider of the things people need.

HP laptops, plasma-screen TVs, instant soups and even major league
baseball hats arrive on the island from Miami, as do Russian car parts
and cloned satellite TV cards, which are banned by the Cuban government.
What businessmen, politicians and exiles living in the United States do
not mention when expressing support for relaxing or repealing the
embargo is the regime's obsession with controlling our private lives.

We must navigate an internet packed with filters, watch TV channels that
the government authorizes, read books over which the mullahs of
censorship pass judgment and pay extortionist prices for cell phone service.

We should be talking more often about the internal blockade the
government imposes on its citizens.

Is it legal for a nation to stifle illegal commerce? Yes, it is. But
before punishing people, it should provide by offering range of products
and prices for the domestic market, living wages and efficient services.

This is not the case in Cuba. State workers earn around twenty dollars a
month. The "basic basket" of goods that a ration book covers barely
lasts ten days. Putting two meals a day on the table is a luxury in many
homes.

The State has become an insatiable overseer. It owns industries that
provide us with overpriced mayonnaise, canned tuna and queso blanco.

At no meeting of the boring and monotonous National Assembly did I hear
any delegate demand that the state set fair prices. Food prices in Cuban
hard currency stores are higher than those in New York.

The price of flat-screen TV or a computer is two and a half times what
it is in Miami. Tiles and bathroom fixtures are five times as expensive.
And a Peugeot 508 sells for an exorbitant price, comparable to that of a
Ferrari.

Thanks to mules, relatives in Florida send us everything from powdered
milk to sanitary pads because the state cannot satisfy the monthly
demand of women or offer such products for sale at affordable prices.

This is what it's about. The new measures attempting to stop trafficking
by mules are intended to benefit state enterprises and businesses, and
to increase their sales, though what becomes of the profits is never
revealed.

They are only hampering the transfer of small ticket items, however, not
of dollars. Greenbacks are still welcome. The more, the merrier.

Before the Obama administration relaxes that relic of the Cold War
called the embargo, those speaking on behalf of the Cuban people should
ask Raul Castro for greater freedom and economic independence for his
citizens.

And don't get me started on the denial of political rights. That's
another story.

Photo: From Univision Colorado.

*Translator's note: Slang term for couriers of goods from overseas.

18 July 2014

Source: New Measures by Cuban Customs Service Coming in September / Ivan
Garcia | Translating Cuba - http://translatingcuba.com/new-measures/

China, Cuba sign bilateral agreements

China, Cuba sign bilateral agreements
Raúl Castro is working to attract foreign investment to jumpstart the
ailing Cuban economy
MAYE PRIMERA Miami 23 JUL 2014 - 16:14 CEST

Chinese president Xi Jinping arrived in Havana on Tuesday to sign 29 new
bilateral agreements in finance, biotechnology, agriculture,
infrastructure and renewable energy.

Beijing will finance a new terminal at the port of Santiago de Cuba,
according to the news website Cuba Debate. China and Cuba will also
cooperate on cyberspace issues.

On the economic front, Xi and Raúl Castro agreed on protocols to oversee
the quality of the tobacco and sugar that the island nation exports to
China.

Before the meeting at the Palacio de la Revolución, Xi visited historic
Cuban leader Fidel Castro, 87, and presented him with "the respect" of
the Chinese people.

"You are the founder of the causes of the revolution and the
construction of Cuba, and you are the founder of relations between China
and Cuba," said Xi.

Xi and Castro were also expected to discuss the new conditions of the
Foreign Investment Law approved by the Cuban government in March. This
legislation, part of a government drive to jumpstart the ailing economy,
will allow foreign investors to bring their own workforce over to the
island to work on construction projects.

The Chinese president hopes to get a sense of Cuba's progress on
economic reform, especially with regard to foreign investment, with a
view to reactivating old projects and launching new ones.

This is the fourth and last Latin American stop for Xi before returning
home. Before this, he was in Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, where he
signed off on multi-million-euro loans and dozens of cooperation agreements.

The government of Raúl Castro hopes for similar treatment, but first
China needs to make sure that Cuba has done its homework.

Both Raúl and Fidel Castro have underscored the key role of Chinese
investment in regional development, especially when it comes to
exploiting the rich oil, mineral and freshwater reserves in Latin
America. "We face the challenge of working toward the industrialization
of our natural and agricultural resources, of increasing and
diversifying our exports, and achieving a more equal trade balance that
will reserve an important role for our ties with the People's Republic
of China," said Raúl Castro in Brazilia on June 17.

China has significant oil interests in Cuba, where it manages several
wells in the northern coast. In June 2011, then vice-president Xi
Jinping signed 13 energy and economic agreements with Havana, including
two projects to expand the Cienfuegos refinery and build a liquid gas
plant in partnership with Venezuela.

China is Cuba's second-most-important trade partner after Venezuela,
with a bilateral trade volume of 1.4 billion dollars in 2013.

In the last 17 years, Raúl Castro has traveled to Beijing three times to
learn about the "Chinese experiment" of economic reform.

Source: China, Cuba sign bilateral agreements | In English | EL PAÍS -
http://elpais.com/elpais/2014/07/23/inenglish/1406124841_312333.html

Cuban migrants repatriated to Cuba from Cayman Islands

Cuban migrants repatriated to Cuba
By: Laura Buttigieg | lbuttigieg@pinnaclemedialtd.com
24 July, 2014

A group of 21 Cuban migrants who were detained at the Immigration
Detention Centre have been repatriated to Cuba.

The group was supervised by Immigration and Prison officials and left on
a chartered flight from Owen Roberts International Airport on Tuesday.

Six Cuban migrants remain at the center, including two women. Five men
who arrived on Cayman Brac on July 20 and requested repatriation will be
moved shorty to the Immigration Detention Centre off Fairbanks Road.

The group forms part of hundreds of Cuban migrants who arrive in Cayman
on their way to the U.S. every year. Since June, more than 100 Cuban
migrants have landed in Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac's coastal waters.

Cuban migrants who enter the Cayman Islands are held at the detention
center while they wait for their paperwork to be processed. Detained
migrants are transported back to Cuba in line with a memorandum of
understanding between Cuba and the Cayman Islands.

During the 2013/14 fiscal year, the cost of housing, feeding and caring
for the migrants in Cayman was more than $500,000.

Repatriation to Cuba has been taking an average of two or three months,
a delay responsible for the backlash in May when a group of Cubans
threatened to burn down the immigration detention center.

During the disturbance, one of the migrants jumped the fence and escaped
before being recaptured by prison officers, and a second man climbed up
onto the roof armed with rocks. The center also recorded an attempted
suicide involving one of the migrants earlier this month.

There have been a number of escape attempts from the center this year,
including more than two dozen migrants who ran from the center in the
middle of the afternoon on March 17. All except one were picked up
immediately by enforcement officials.

A group of 13 escaped on April 16, with 10 captured immediately.

Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Gary Wong told the Cayman Compass
earlier this month sources in Cuba believe the boats being used by Cuban
migrants are built somewhere about 90 miles north of Cayman.

Mr. Wong said immigration officials had received information that the
boat building was financed by Cuban migrants' families who live in the U.S.

Under United Nations conventions, migrants are allowed to make an
application for asylum in the Cayman Islands. However, most migrants do
not qualify for the application.

Source: Cuban migrants repatriated to Cuba :: Cayman Compass -
http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2014/07/24/Cuban-migrants-repatriated-to-Cuba/

China Grants Credit to Cuba to Build Port Terminal in Santiago

China Grants Credit to Cuba to Build Port Terminal in Santiago
July 23, 2014

HAVANA TIMES — China granted Cuba several new loans on Tuesday,
including one for the construction of a port terminal in Santiago de
Cuba, according to the agreements signed during the visit to the island
by Chinese President Xi Jinping, reported dpa news.

The loans from Peking are interest-free, while there are also new trade
agreements and donations. The official Cuban media did not disclose the
amounts involved.

The new lines of credit for Cuba add to the loans and investment
agreements granted by China to Venezuela and Argentina during the
earlier legs of the trip of President Xi Jinping to the region. Havana
and Santiago de Cuba are his last stops before returning to China later
Wednesday.

The governments of Beijing and Havana signed a total of 29 agreements to
enhance cooperation and economic relations, according to information
released by the state television.

The first "concessional credit line" will be aimed at "building a
multipurpose terminal in the port of Santiago de Cuba," states the text
of the agreement.

Other loans are meant to postpone payment of the Cuban debt with Beijing
and make possible the installing of digital television on the island,
which is being carried out with Chinese technology.

Other contracts provide for cooperation in the sugar and oil industries
as well as Cuba's sale to China of nickel derivatives.

Xi took part in official talks in the afternoon on Tuesday with his
Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro. In the morning he visited former
President Fidel Castro, active in recent days with foreign policy matters.

Xi gave Fidel Castro a bronze bust of 175 kilograms depicting the Cuban
revolutionary in his youth.

In his first visit to Cuba as head of state, Xi was granted the Jose
Marti order, the highest distinction awarded by the Cuban state.

The Chinese leader travels on Wednesday to Santiago de Cuba, from where
he will return to his country. Cuba's second largest city, located in
the east of the country, is still recovering from the devastating
hurricane "Sandy" in October 2012.

Before reaching Cuba, the Chinese leader was in Venezuela and Argentina.
Last week he also participated in the summit of the emerging group of
BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) held in
Fortaleza and Brasilia.

The BRICS group approved the creation of two alternative institutions to
the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), focused on
their interests.

In Venezuela, Xi and President Maduro signed 38 agreements that include
the sharp increase in the South American country's oil sales to China.

Caracas will go from providing the current amount of 524,000 barrels per
day to nearly double. The increase will be covered by a new line of
Chinese credit of US $4 billion, which should ensure the supply of one
million barrels of oil per day through 2016.

Xi also announced in Buenos Aires investments of almost $7 billion for
the construction of two hydroelectric dams and the modernization of the
railway.

Source: China Grants Credit to Cuba to Build Port Terminal in Santiago -
Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=105054

My Own T-Shirt Hero - The Forgotten Story of a Bay of Pigs Pilot

My Own T-Shirt Hero: The Forgotten Story of a Bay of Pigs Pilot
July 22, 2014
Clive Rudd Fernández (Cafe Fuerte)

HAVANA TIMES — I recall I was around 10 years old when my father used to
take me from one ministry to the other to collect his salary. It could
have been the Ministry of Sugar or Transportation. He didn't work at any
of them, but he would collect his full salary there every month. In
fact, he didn't work anywhere. He was paid on instructions from the
Ministry of the Armed Forces.

That situation was difficult for me to understand. To me, a
14-year-old-child, my father was a Cuban hero and a pilot of the Armed
Forces who risked his life for the country.

When I'd ask him something like, "Dad, what you know about sugar?", or
"Why do you get paid by the Ministry of Transportation if you don't work
there?", he would reply with that cold, fixed gaze that characterized
him. "It's because Diocles is here now." Then, he would turn away from
me so as not to look me in the eyes and wince. That was his way of
saying that was an "awkward question" and that I shouldn't ask another.
I had a lot of respect for him, so I would zip my lip immediately.

With "Diocles", he meant Minister Diocles Torralba, a former officer of
the Revolutionary Armed Forces. One of his tasks was seeing to the needs
of the hero who had been chewed up and spat out by the revolution –
Douglas Rudd, my father.

As a teenager, I began to realize that a number of episodes were missing
from my dad's story. My old man, who wasn't very talkative (much less
boastful), never spoke about planes or about his air combat at the Bay
of Pigs or his involvement in Cuba's Vietnam campaign.

From time to time, I would gather the courage to ask him when he would
take me flying with him. Without looking at me in the eyes, he would
always say: "One of these days." Later, I would find out he hadn't flown
in years and would never do so again in his life.

The Douglas Plane

The void of my father's silence was gradually filled by the anecdotes of
his friends, who would tell me of his feats in the Air Force, about how
he played a crucial role as war pilot during the Bay of Pigs invasion
and his work as one of the military advisors the Cuban government had
sent to Vietnam during the war.

They told me that, after being promoted up the ranks of the Air Force,
he began to question decisions made by the high command and that the
revolutionary leadership had given him a number of warnings, telling him
to forget about his ideas and proposals and to follow the "strategy
traced by the revolution and Fidel."

Around 1968, my father, disillusioned with the Castro government,
tendered his resignation to begin flying as a civilian pilot with Air
France, where they had spoken to him about a job.

No sooner had rumors of his resignation began to circulate than he was
detained for having "sensitive documents" at home. According to some of
the old pilots I've spoken to, those national security documents were
nothing other than flight manuals for some of the planes they were
piloting at the time and it was routine to have copies at home to go
over the technical specs of the plane.

Following a summary trial, he was sentenced to 30 years at Havana's La
Cabaña prison. He broke out of there by sea with two common inmates.

Waiting for Celia Sanchez

Many years later, my mother told me of the terrible days she spent at
the State Security's Villa Marista, where she was interrogated for hours
about my father's whereabouts, while still pregnant with my younger
sister Yvonne.

While my mother was being tortured psychologically by the Ministry of
the Interior, a police and military detachment was mobilized across
Havana in search of the missing hero.

My father had set up camp outside the home of Celia Sanchez Manduley,
Fidel Castro's assistant, to demand an explanation for what the
revolution was doing to the country and to him.

When they found him, Celia had his prison sentence commuted and he was
sent home. From that point on, they strictly forbade him to work
anywhere in Cuba. The island's sole employer, the Cuban government, had
condemned him to a virtual house arrest. He would remain in this
situation for more than 25 years, until he was able to leave the country.

Years after having his sentence commuted, a high-ranking Air Force
(DAAFAR) pilot showed up at his house in Vedado to tell him that Army
General Raul Castro wanted to decorate him on April 17, during the
commemorative ceremony for the 25th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs
invasion. My father kicked him out of the house, yelling a number of
rude things at him. So many years without being able to have any kind of
job had destroyed his meager "social skills."

In the 1980s, I had the impression that my father had become delirious.
One day, he said to me: "The Soviet Union is going to fall to bits and
no one's going to cry over it. Fidel Castro is going to turn Cuba into
Haiti and no one's going to stand in his way. Try and get out of this
country while you still can. There's no future here, neither for you nor
any young person in Cuba who isn't willing to submit to Fidel completely."

In one of his last ravings, he said to me: "Clive, the Brigadier General
and head of Cuba's Air Force Rafael del Pino came to see me to tell me
he was planning on fleeing the country in a two-engine Cesna and asked
me whether I wanted to go with him. Of course, I said no. I'm sure it's
a trap to send me to prison again."

Of course, I didn't put much stock in that rumor and thought that, in
addition to delirious, my father was also becoming paranoid. But then,
through Radio Marti and other unofficial channels, I heard of the
desertion of General Rafael del Pino and his family in 1987. Several
years later, when I took out my private pilot license in England, I
would fly with Rafael del Pino over the outskirts of London and I would
finally confirm that he had indeed invited my father to leave the
country with him. The paranoia they had injected into his DNA had made
him miss the boat.

The Hero's Image

My father was finally able to leave Cuba in 1990. He died two years
later in the home of one of the pilots he had fought during the Bay of
Pigs invasion. He had become reconciled with his combat enemies, but not
with his past.

After leaving Cuba in 1992, it would take me fifteen years of coming to
terms with my past and country to go back.

In one my trips in 2008, I traveled to Cuba with an English friend of
mine who was a journalist for The Independent. I told him that, like
many men of his generation, my father had given his life and youth to
the revolution, and that many of these people had been devoured and
thrown out the window by that same, insatiable beast they helped create,
that they were now among the country's enemies.

We did a basic tour of Havana's Revolution Museum and made our way to
the Bay of Pigs exhibit. There, I was surprised to see that my father,
Douglas Rudd, a man who had been decorated and defenestrated by the
revolutionary New Man, had his name inscribed on the wall as one of the
heroes of that battle. After having destroyed and swallowed up the man,
they had decided to leave behind the image of the hero, because it sells
ideas and T-shirts at a museum and Havana's tourist areas.

I continue to remember my father as I pictured him when I was a child,
when I would imagine him flying, risking his life and going to battle
for just and important causes – as a man of great courage. I've been
telling my children, from a very early age, that T-shirt heroes do not
exist.

Source: My Own T-Shirt Hero: The Forgotten Story of a Bay of Pigs Pilot
- Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=105039

Confessions of a Cuban Plumber

Confessions of a Cuban Plumber
July 22, 2014
Yusimi Rodríguez

HAVANA TIMES — Last Sunday, I washed some rotten lentils down the drain
and ended up clogging the pipe. I had no choice but to look for a
plumber and pay to have it fixed. I called a plumber who had fixed a
number of other things around the house, with whom I'd never exchanged
more than a few words of greeting and the inevitable "how much do I owe
you?" He is a polite and quiet man with a reassuring smile that seems to
tell you everything will be alright.

On this occasion, I stood next to him, watching him unclog the drain. We
started a conversation for the first time. Without turning away from the
basin, he told me he had been a photographer and, before that, a teacher
of Marxism in junior and senior secondary school. "I had my graduation
at the steps," he said, referring to the steps of the University of
Havana (UH).

For a very long time, I've had the impression that a degree issued by
the UH is more impressive than one issued by another university. When I
say I am an English language graduate, people enthusiastically ask me:
"from the UH?" Their enthusiasm vanishes when I reply: "from the
Pedagogic Institute."

Luis, the plumber, does not evince the pride of many from his
generation, particularly black men, who have their degrees framed and
hanging on a wall in their living rooms. Neither does he speak with the
pessimism of others who, today, feel they wasted their time studying at
university. His tone is casual, the same he uses when he asks me to hand
him a bucket to place under the sink.

Why does it still surprise me that this man in overalls, who finds it
increasingly difficult to crouch under sinks and basins and would like
to be a photographer again (because it requires less effort, though the
digital age has left him behind), graduated from the UH with a Social
Sciences major? I don't know.

I've heard many similar stories and they still leave me in shock. The
most intriguing thing, for me, is the reason they leave behind the
classroom, the engineering project or the clinic. It took me a while to
get my answer in this case, because Luis kept losing himself in
anecdotes about city historian Eusebio Leal.

They were classmates for a while, and Luis described him as a "simple
and kind" man. Leal had every qualification for the position of City
Historian, save for the university degree. He would often miss classes
and exams because of his job. He would have to take these in the
classroom later, in the middle of a lecture. "He would hand in the exam
twelve minutes later," Luis told me. "What about his grades?" I asked.
"Always the highest."

I managed to get him to tell me why he quit his job as a teacher,
presuming the reason had been his low salary at the end of the 1980s.
His answer was even simpler: "I taught Marxism-Leninism and, by the end
of the 80s, when the socialist bloc collapsed, I no longer believed in
any of that, particularly the twist given to the subject here, by this
fellow (our Eternal Leader, Comrade Fidel Castro)."

When he quit education, Luis got a job in tourism. The hard years of the
Special Period didn't hit him that hard, but one day, in 1994, at the
end of his vacation, he told his wife he would not be going back to his
job. "I was too old to have the police knock at my door. There was a lot
of corruption, people were stealing a lot. They didn't simply take what
they and their families needed, they took things by the truckloads. I
got scared." Around that time, he also handed in his Party membership card.

Now, he makes a living as a plumber and by selling pru (a traditional,
fermented drink from Cuba's eastern regions). His older children live in
the United States. Perhaps, with their help, he can get his hands on the
equipment he needs to work as a photographer again.

After making sure the pipes were draining properly and charging me for
the job, he said goodbye to me. His story was interesting to me from the
beginning and I asked him permission to tell it. "I won't use your
name," I assured him, in the hope he would give me permission and allow
him to take some pictures. "Write it if you want," he finally says,
"without using my name." His name isn't Luis, but that doesn't matter,
because, as he says at the door, "my story could be that of any Cuban."

I watch him go and think about other Cubans like him, about my own
father, people who believed in a bright future and even acknowledge some
of Cuba's achievements, but who do not see any balanced relationship
between these achievements and what they cost the country.

Source: Confessions of a Cuban Plumber - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=105037

Being a Teenager in Cuba

Being a Teenager in Cuba
July 23, 2014
Mercedes Gonzalez Aguade

HAVANA TIMES — At the pharmacy, I ran into some of the mothers of my
son's friends. We had a long conversation and, like always, almost every
topic had to do with the central issue in our lives: children.

We spoke about education, clothing, teenagers and their changes, in
short, everything that's wrong in the world and how to fix it. Then, we
started talking about something that worries us: there are no places
where they can vent and channel all of the hormonal energy of this stage
in life.

Sometimes, they go to places that aren't suited to their age (they are
either too old or too young for a particular environment) and almost
always end up taking away the negative side of that environment.

That's why, most of the time, we force them to stay at home, sitting in
front of the TV, the computer or videogames, denying them the right to
have fun and generally enjoy themselves. As mothers, we worry about
their safety and integrity, but we feel guilty about this situation.

I say this thinking about my own son, who barely goes out. There are
very few options out there: Vedado, the Coppelia ice cream parlor and
the occasional party thrown by a friend or classmate. The movies could
be another option, but, in the age of DVDs, kids see the cinema as
something old fashioned.

Everyone, mothers and children, would be grateful if there were places
for teenagers at affordable prices, where alcohol and violence were
strictly prohibited.

Some mothers offer their homes once a month so that kids will have a few
hours of fun, listening to music in a safe environment without alcohol.
That is all fine and good, but I feel it limits kids a lot, as,
ultimately, they continue to be confined between four walls, and it is
good for them to go out and get to know the world.

Another concern of ours is that, once alone and away from home, they
should want to experience their teenage years to "the fullest" and,
overwhelmed by their wish to have fun, should skip that beautiful stage
in their lives, a time when proper guidance is hard to offer.

Source: Being a Teenager in Cuba - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=105063

Cuba’s All-So-Kind Economy Czar

Cuba's All-So-Kind Economy Czar
July 22, 2014
Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — Marino Murillo, the so-called "reforms Czar", has always
struck me as a contemptuous person. The arrogance with which he speaks
before those who allegedly represent the people, the self-confidence
with which he addresses the thorny issues no one before him has been
able to solve, and his body language, place him somewhere between a
domineering public official and a neighborhood butcher.

These elements of body language, together with the concrete content of
his pronouncements, make it seem as though Murillo does not appear
before parliament to account for his actions but to threaten and scold
the public, inform them at best.

I did however notice a certain change in his demeanor in his most recent
public appearances: a distant melancholy in his eyes, an almost
unnoticeable stammering, there where there was once resolve, less
vigorous hand movements…

There were subtle signs of fatigue and doubt, signs that less sensitive
spirits may not have noticed. The fact is that, in these appearances,
his spiels did not make my blood boil.

Today, however, he once again set me off.

After referring to the re-establishment of a single currency monetary
system and other labor-related provisions that would be implemented in
the coming new stage of the reform process, the Czar said:

"These tasks are all the more complex because of the commitment towards
the people we have. In other parts of the world, these things can be
done much more easily."

The phrases that Murillo often lets out reveal the real state of Cuba's
power relations and the way in which the governing class interprets the
social contract.

In the Czar's worldview, Cuba's political stage is set up as follows:

On the one side, we have the people, not the real people but the people
presupposed by the Party Guidelines: an innocent people, as helpless as
a small child that tells the leaders its problems so that they can solve
them.

On the other side of the equation we have the leaders: a group of
know-it-all technocrats and responsible patriarchs who know what to do
to solve the said problems, provided people work hard and remain
disciplined.

If the technocrats wanted (this is the best part) they could solve
social problems through unpopular measures, as their super-evil
counterparts do in the rest of the world, but their commitment towards
the people prevents them from going so far.

Ultimately, I am grateful for such unsubtle politicians, for politicians
who think like foremen and bare themselves and call a spade a spade from
time to time. I am confident such insolent remarks will someday end up
angering Cubans and awakening their civic pride, their dormant dignity
and their political awareness. If it happened to me, why can't it happen
to others?

Source: Cuba's All-So-Kind Economy Czar - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=105029

China eyes investment boost in Cuba

China eyes investment boost in Cuba
Wed Jul 23, 2014 9:29AM GMT

China's President Xi Jinping has held talks with his Cuban counterpart
Raul Castro during a state visit to the Caribbean country in a bid to
discuss the expansion of Chinese investment in the country.

Castro greeted Xi with military honors on Tuesday at the Palace of the
Revolution, where the two leaders later held private talks.

The opening of the Cuban economy has created new opportunities to
tighten bilateral ties, said Xi, who arrived in Havana Monday night.

"Cuba is already fully promoting the updating of its economic model,
which means new and important development opportunities for
Chinese-Cuban ties," he added.

China is already the Caribbean island's second-largest trading partner
after Venezuela and its primary source of credit, filling the gap left
by the US embargo on Cuba and its long-time exclusion from institutions
such as the World Bank.

Nearly 50 Chinese entrepreneurs traveled to Havana along with Xi to
explore business opportunities, attracted by foreign investment
incentives and the planned Mariel free trade zone outside Havana.

Xi kicked off his tour last week in Brazil by pledging a new $20-billion
infrastructure fund for Latin America, highlighting the fast-growing
Asian giant's increasing interest in the resource-rich region.

The trip, Xi's second to Latin America since taking office last year,
has also taken the Chinese president to Argentina and Venezuela. He
offered cash-strapped Buenos Aires an $11-billion currency swap and
signed a raft of oil and mineral deals with Caracas.

Chinese trade with Latin America has grown rapidly in recent years,
reaching $261.6 billion in 2013. China is now the second-largest trading
partner of many countries, including Argentina, and has been Brazil's
largest since 2009.

MFB/HJL

Source: PressTV - China eyes investment boost in Cuba -
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/07/23/372453/china-eyes-cuba-investment-boost/

Does Cuba Intend to Fight For Gay Rights?

Does Cuba Intend to Fight For Gay Rights?
BY EMMA MOORE
JULY 23, 2014 8:58 PM )

A pioneer in the region, Cuba has begun to add to its list of internal
advancements LGBTI rights; the 1990s saw the abolishment of many
oppressive laws and practices towards gays while the National Center for
Sex Education (CENESEX, Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual) was founded
to affect policy change and to provide sexual education programs. As
with just about anything occurring in Cuba, despite many progressive
accomplishments, many Cubans strongly disagree with the purported extent
of the changes and their use as propaganda by the Castro government
abroad. Dissidents, activists, and human rights organizations denounce
the government's scope of inclusion and depth of understanding.
Homosexuality is a topic that has faced a deluge of inconsistent
government attitudes and policies, illustrating incompleteness and
failure on the part of the government to include all Cubans within the
Revolution, illustrating incompleteness and failure on the part of the
government to include all Cubans within the Revolution.

Regardless of government attitudes, the LGBTI community in today's
Havana is thriving, and open enough to be visible. The Teatro Nacional
(National Theater, usually home to the ballet) hosts Proyecto Divino,
featuring live music, shows of strength, and male strippers until 6AM.
It acts as the government's official endorsement of a gay party while
keeping everything under one roof. On the other hand, certain privately
owned bars are known for their clientele and public locations around
Havana serve as informal meeting places such as a wooded area near the
baseball stadium on the outskirts of the city. Support for the community
tends toward obvious displays such as Proyecto Divino while excluding
other more critical items. Nightclubs and discotecas, like all major
venues, are government-owned in Cuba, and have therefore historically
not been amenable to homosexuals. Legislative reform has also not
assisted in the creation of safe and comfortable gathering spaces, and
the government regularly shuts down popular gay bars and organizations.

The Castro regime and Cuba as a whole has a long history of LGBTI
discrimination with which to contend. Cuba used to be one of the most
repressive socially and politically towards homosexuals. Communism did
not include gays, who had been supportive of Fidel's revolutionary
movement with hopes for societal change and abolishment of
pro-harassment laws. These laws were maintained under the principle that
gay men were not the Revolution's envisioning of Che Guevara's 'New Man'
and between 1965 and 1966 homosexuals were placed in UMAP labor camps
along with others considered unfit for military service and HIV patients
quarantined from 1986 until 1993.

Nowadays, gay rights tend to extend only as far as one operates within
the government. Cuba legalized state supported sex changes in 2006,
openly serving as gay in the military in 1993, and the right to change
one's legal gender on their government ID Officially, marriage in Cuba
is defined as being between a man and a woman. This is less important
than in the United States,, as marriage does not hold the same societal
values or financial rewards. CENESEX is currently working on legalizing
civil unions, the reluctance on the part of the governing body
illustrating to many Cubans the rifts between the political desires of
the Castro family and actual government policies. Despite policy
changes, however, advocacy and organizing attempts that test boundaries
beyond government-endorsed measures are met with anger and attacks by
the Castro family and government supporters.

Gay rights advocacy in Cuba, although effective, has similarly failed to
resolve some of the more probing issues within the Cuban LGBTI
community. CENESEX (Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual), founded by the
feminist Cuban Women's Federation, is the only legal channel for gay
rights activism in Cuba. It has proven vital in opening the public
debate on the topic, producing a series on television (the best way to
reach everyday Cubans) called the Dark Side of the Moon about a married
man who realized he was bisexual, supporting sexual diversity classes
among students, publishing the journal Sexology and Society, and
directing an educational association on human sexuality. Other chapters
such as the Cuban League Against AIDS and Divine Hope technically
function illegally. Functionally, this limits the degree of social
change that can occur and the support provided to the LGBTI community.
Similarly, many gay activists are also 'dissidents,' consistently
followed and observed by the government as with Isbel Díaz Torres or
beaten up (ostensibly by) the police as with Mario José Delgado.

As can be expected in Cuba, personal involvement by the Castro family in
promoting LGBTI rights account for some of the greater contributions —
and­ failures — of the Cuban government on the issue. In the 1990s,
Fidel took full responsibility for Cuba's homophobic policies in the
1960s, paving the way for some resolution of institutionalized
discrimination and harassment. In practice, though, the government often
appears disingenuous, paying lip service to the cause than actually
changing it.

Castro family involvement in gay rights has continued over the years,
with Mariela Castro, the government's representative for sexual health
and rights, at the epicenter of the debate. Mariela is the daughter of
current President Raúl Castro and niece of Fidel and serves as the head
of CENESEX . She is both advocate and propaganda machine, although her
unwillingness to more extensively combat LGBTI issues has led to ample
criticism and backlash. Dissident Yoani Sánchez and activist Mario José
Delgado both target her personally in columns and tweets as culpable for
failing to follow through with HIV/AIDS support and more profound
structural changes that would truly assist the LGBTI community.

In Cuba, everyone is equal and everyone shares the same opportunities
and benefits— this is the continued rhetoric of the Cuban government
apparatus since its inception in 1959. Nevertheless, Cuba is not a
utopia, and despite attempts to achieve communist ideals it is largely
stuck when it comes to guaranteeing fair treatment of the LGBTI
community. Discrimination of any kind is difficult to correctly
identify, especially considering the effect of inconsistent, but
intense, government involvement. By and large, this means that LGBTI
rights are treated like a non-issue, halting further consciousness of
bias towards homosexuals. Well-meaning Castro involvement has only
fostered uncertainty, whereas real progress through renegotiation of
party policies remains indecipherable outside of official circles. If
true progress towards LGBTI equality is in the works, Havana's
bureaucrats have little intention of letting it show.

Source: Does Cuba Intend to Fight For Gay Rights? | Brown Political
Review -
http://www.brownpoliticalreview.org/2014/07/does-cuba-intend-to-fight-for-gay-rights/

Cuba Looks to Mangroves to Fend off Rising Seas

Cuba Looks to Mangroves to Fend off Rising Seas
HAVANA — Jul 24, 2014, 12:04 AM ET
By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ Associated Press

Many people in this tiny hamlet on the southern coast of Cuba remember
when the shore lay about 100 meters (yards) farther out. That was four
decades ago.

Since then, rising waters have gradually swallowed up rustic homes, a
narrow highway that once paralleled the coast, even an old military tank
that people now use to measure the sea's yearly advance.

"There was a road there," said Jose Manuel Herrera, 42, a fisherman and
former charcoal harvester, pointing toward the gentle waves. "You could
travel from here all the way to Mayabeque."

Worried by forecasts of rising seas from climate change, the effects of
hurricanes and the salinization of farmlands, authorities say they are
beginning a forced march to repair Cuba's first line of defense against
the advancing waters — its mangrove thickets, which have been damaged by
decades of neglect and uncontrolled logging.

In the second half of 2013, a moratorium was declared on mangrove
logging. Now, the final touches are being put on a sustainable
management master plan that is expected to be in place before the end of
the year. President Raul Castro has said the plan is a top priority.

What makes the effort vital and closely monitored by environmentalists
is that Cuba is one of the few places left in the Caribbean with
extensive mangrove forests. Cuba accounts for about 69 percent of the
region's current mangroves, the New York-based Environmental Defense
Fund says. Mangroves act as both a barrier to the sea and a saltwater
filter, making them important for coastal health.

Even in Cuba, experts say the situation is critical.

"The situation is bad. More than 30 percent of the mangroves are in a
critical state," government forest scientist Reynier Samon said on a
recent tour of Surgidero de Batabano, an area where deforestation has
been extreme. The rest, he said, are in a state of medium deterioration.

Mangroves historically have been harvested heavily, for textile dyes,
tannins used in the pharmaceutical industry, lumber for furniture and
charcoal that rural Cubans rely on to fire their kitchens.

But healthy mangrove stands are important to alleviating one of the
island's biggest headaches: Rising seas stand to wipe 122 towns off the
map and penetrate up to 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) inland in low-lying
areas by 2100, posing a serious threat to coastal communities and
agriculture, according to a government study last year.

Efrain Arrazcaeta, who runs a local environmental nonprofit, has
witnessed the phenomenon with growing alarm. His group estimates a
2-meter (6.6-foot) maritime advance each year, using the submerged tank
as a reference point.

"If the mangroves are restored, the mitigation of these effects will be
notable," Arrazcaeta said.

No details of the mangrove plan have been made public. It will
apparently include sustainable exploitation measures with some logging
for the pharmaceutical industry under study, though the moratorium will
remain more or less in place.

Officials are also waging a public awareness campaign to educate coastal
residents to be caretakers of the tangled, mosquito-infested thickets.
The campaign shows them how their own homes and farms are at stake and
urges them to protect freshwater streams vital for maintaining the right
saline levels.

"The perception of the importance of this ecosystem for these
communities is low. They see it as something to exploit," said Samon,
the government scientist.

Source: Cuba Looks to Mangroves to Fend off Rising Seas - ABC News -
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/cuba-mangroves-fend-off-rising-seas-24689433

Chinese president concludes visit to Cuba

Chinese president concludes visit to Cuba
Published July 24, 2014 EFE

Chinese President Xi Jinping was in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba
on Wednesday accompanied by his Cuban counterpart and host, Raul Castro,
on the last day of his official visit to the communist island.

"It's a pleasure to come to this beautiful land," said Xi upon his
arrival in the city.

In Santiago, Xi's agenda includes paying tribute to Cuban independence
hero Jose Marti at the mausoleum containing his remains in the Santa
Ifigenia Cemetery.

Afterwards he was scheduled to visit the July 26 City School established
in the old Moncada military barracks, where in 1953 Fidel Castro led the
first armed action of the Revolution that ultimately brought him to
power in 1959.

Xi arrived in Havana at the head of a large delegation of Chinese
officials and businessmen.

Raul Castro and Xi presided at the signing of 29 agreements to
strengthen bilateral economic relations, including a loan to modernize
the port of Santiago de Cuba and accords in agriculture, industry,
health, biotechnology, petroleum, energy, culture, education and even
the use of cyberspace and digital television technology.

"The Chinese party is full of confidence about the future development of
relations between our country and Cuba, and we will be good friends,
comrades and brothers of Cuba forever," said Xi late Tuesday after his
talks with Raul Castro.

EFE

Source: Chinese president concludes visit to Cuba | Fox News Latino -
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2014/07/23/chinese-president-concludes-visit-to-cuba/

Payá family launches new effort for plebiscite in Cuba

Posted on Tuesday, 07.22.14

Payá family launches new effort for plebiscite in Cuba
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
NGAMEZTORRES@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

On the second anniversary of the death of Cuban opposition leader
Oswaldo Payá, his daughter, Rosa María Payá, announced Tuesday that the
Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) he founded is preparing a campaign
to demand a plebiscite on the island's future.

Rosa Maria Payá said that the plebiscite, based on her father's Varela
Project, would include "one single question: Do you want to participate
in free and multi-party elections?"

The Varela Project gathered more than 10,000 signatures on a petition
seeking a new electoral law and demanding the right to freedom of
expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association, among other
measures.

The signatures were rejected by the legislative National Assembly in
2002 but later that year Payá won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of
Conscience, the most prestigious prize awarded by the European Union.

His daughter told El Nuevo Herald on Tuesday that since the Varela
Project remains alive, "it is not necessary to collect more signatures.
More than double the number required already have been handed in, even
though the National Assembly has not responded to the demand.

"But the Varela Project is a citizens' effort. Our intention with this
(new) campaign is to mobilize citizens to demand their rights," she
added. "There can be no transition in Cuba unless first there's a
recognition of civil rights, of freedom of expression, of freedom of
association to carry out the change we want."

The activist added that her family, which now lives in South Florida, is
also preparing a new request to the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights, a branch of the Organization of American States, for an
independent investigation of her father's controversial death.

According to the official version of the Cuban government, Payá and MCL
activist Harold Cepero died when the driver of their vehicle, Angel
Carromero, lost control near the eastern city of Bayamo and crashed into
a tree on July 22, 2012.

Carromero, a member of the youth wing of Spain's Popular Party, was
tried in Cuba and sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular
homicide and is now serving his sentence in Spain, free but under
probation. The other passenger in the car, Jens Aaron Modig, a member of
the youth wing of Sweden's Christian Democratic Party, was allowed to
leave Cuba shortly after the crash.

The Payá family and Carromero have repeatedly insisted that the car
carrying the two Cubans and two Europeans was rammed from behind and
forced off the road by another vehicle that had been following them.

Source: Payá family launches new effort for plebiscite in Cuba - Cuba -
MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/22/4249586/paya-family-launches-new-effort.html

Chinese leader signs accords, wraps up Cuba visit

Posted on Wednesday, 07.23.14

Chinese leader signs accords, wraps up Cuba visit
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

HAVANA -- Chinese President Xi Jinping is wrapping up his visit to Cuba
after signing dozens of agreements for such things as investment by
Chinese firms on the island.

The official newspaper Granma on Wednesday published a description of
the agreements signed by the Chinese leader and Cuban President Raul Castro.

One calls for joint construction of a multipurpose port terminal in the
eastern city of Santiago, while another would form a real estate firm
associated with a golf course in Havana's Bellomonte section. Others
deal with telecommunications, nickel extraction and other subjects.

China is Cuba's No. 2 international trade partner after Venezuela.

The Chinese president began his tour of Latin America last week in
Brazil, and has also visited Argentina and Venezuela.

Source: HAVANA: Chinese leader signs accords, wraps up Cuba visit -
Latest News - MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/23/4250751/chinese-leader-signs-accords-wraps.html

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Political Legacy of Oswaldo Paya

The Political Legacy of Oswaldo Paya / 14ymedio
Posted on July 22, 2014

14YMEDIO, 22 July 2014 – On 22 July 2014, the opposition leader Oswaldo
Payá and the activist Harld Cepero died. Payá led the Christian
Liberation Movement and promoted the Varela Project, which managed to
collect some 25,000 signatures to demand a national referendum. Freedom
of expression, of association, freedom of the press and of business, as
well as free elections, were some of the demands of that document signed
by thousands of Cubans.

Nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize, Payá was one of the most
visible and respected figures of the Cuban opposition. In 2002 the
European Parliament awarded him the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights by
and he was able to tour several countries to offer information about the
situation on the island. He was also an official candidate for the
Prince of Asturias Award and received honorary degrees from Columbia
University and the University of Miami.

Paya's death occurred in the vicinity of the city of Bayamo, while he
was traveling accompanied by the Spaniard Angel Carromero, the Swede
Aron Modig, and his colleague Harold Cepero. The Cuban government
explained the death as the result of a car accident, but his family and
many Cuban activists have maintained their doubts about that version. An
independent investigation into the events of that tragic July 22 has
been requested in various international forums, but Cuban authorities
have not responded to those requests.

On the second anniversary of the death of Oswaldo Payá, we asked
activists who shared his democratic ideals, "What is the greatest legacy
of the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement?"

Guillermo Fariñas, a psychologist and the winner of the European
Parliament's Sakharov Prize

The main legacy left by Oswaldo Payá Sardinas for the Cuban nation,
beyond its geographical boundaries, was that he showed his people and
the world that the Cuban government breaks its own laws. When the Varela
Project submitted almost 25,000 signatures to the People's Assembly on a
citizens' petition for a plebiscite, the Cuban government refused to
hold one and in a crude way changed the Constitution. That in my opinion
was his main contribution: demonstrating that the Cuban government is
beyond anything that could be construed as the Rule of Law and that it
does not even respect its own draconian laws that support Castro's
totalitarian state.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, promoter of Constitutional Consensus

I see the legacy of Oswaldo Paya in his pioneering activity to
demonstrate that it was possible to generate civic trust towards
democratic change. Even he had many doubts that the public would respond
positively, would commit itself to a proposed change, especially at a
time like the 90s and early 2000s when it was even more difficult for
the civic movement. That's what he sowed, what he left as a legacy,
which demonstrated this as a future possibility for all pro-democracy
activists on the island.

Dagoberto Valdés, director of the digital magazine Convivencia

First we recall our brother Oswaldo Paya with much love and affection
and I would especially emphasize the future, in his legacy, the legacy
he has rendered to all Cubans and so I think of the three gifts he left
us. First, his posture, his civic attitude. He was a citizen who forged
this society and who knew how to awaken a consciousness to fight for
democracy in a peaceful way, and from there came his second
contribution. Oswaldo was a man who fought tirelessly throughout his
life with peaceful methods without being provoked or coming to violence.
Finally—I have to say it—as someone who is also a Christian: he was a
man who understood that religion could not be alienated or be divorced
from the reality in which he lived, and that was why he was deeply
committed as a Christian to work for democracy in Cuba.

Jose Conrado Rodriguez Alegre, Catholic priest

Oswaldo has left us a legacy full of sincerity and honesty; a love
sacrificed for his country and a genuine commitment to the gospel of
Jesus Christ, a gospel embodied in social life, in political life, in
the good of others, everything that has to do with society as such. His
was a radical commitment to the gospel, but at the same time, as it
should be, to every human being. In remembering him, we must pay tribute
to the man he was in every dimension, while we feel the pain of the
brother we lost and we ask God that there be many others like him, men
who can give their lives for others, in silence, in humility, in the
midst of the misunderstandings of men, but certainly with a total
commitment and a quality of life that today illuminates the existence of
those of us still here.

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)

There is no doubt that the late Oswaldo Payá left an everlasting
impression. We remember him as a determined and courageous Cuban who,
from an early date, assumed the method of nonviolent struggle with the
intention of bringing Cuba the rights and freedoms that we have lacked
for half a century. The work of the Christian Liberation Movement set a
tone in peaceful actions in favor of the fair, free, democratic and
prosperous Cuba that we all want, this was the side he was on.

The Varela Project, the citizen initiative launched by Oswaldo in which
so many of us became involved full-time, also set a tone in the actions
of the fighters for democracy. Initially, there were more than 11,000
people, in complex and difficult circumstances, circumstances that were
against those who collected signatures and against those who signed that
citizen petition. The fact that for the first time so many Cubans
defended a proposal, putting their names and identity data, supporting
the five points that made up the project, it was a real milestone.

Personally Oswaldo was a great friend with whom I shared both difficult
and happy moments. We are very mindful of that. The Cuba Democratic
Union (UNPACU) will render the homage he deserves on this second
anniversary of his tragic death.

***

Today, from 6:45 PM (Havana time) there will be the premiere of a
documentary about Oswaldo Paya of the Varela Hall of Ermita de la
Caridad in Miami, Florida. The video can also be viewed simultaneously
on www.vocesdecuba.com.

Source: The Political Legacy of Oswaldo Paya / 14ymedio | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-political-legacy-of-oswaldo-paya-14ymedio/

Chinese president backs Cuba's economic reforms

Chinese president backs Cuba's economic reforms
Chinese president says Cuba's economic reforms could lead to more trade
between nations
By Andrea Rodriguez, Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping lauded Cuba's economic
reforms on Tuesday during a visit to the communist-run island, saying
they could lead to greater commercial ties between the nations.

Xi's visit to Cuba is part of a nine-day tour of Latin America that has
highlighted China's growing ties to the commodities-rich region. He
previously visited Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina.

Xi said in a statement reported on state website Cubadebate that Cuba
"has continued on the road to socialism, firmly guarding state
sovereignty while promoting economic growth."

"Both China and Cuba are at a key stage in their respective
development," Xi said. "China has sounded the trumpet for deepening
integrated reforms, while Cuba is now updating, in an integrated manner,
its economic model."

Under President Raul Castro, Cuba has decentralized state-owned
enterprises, legalized home and used car sales and let hundreds of
thousands of people open or work for small businesses in the private
sector. Cuban officials, however, say the reforms do not amount to an
embrace of capitalism, but are rather an "update" of Cuba's socialist
model to survive in the 21st-century global economy.

Xi arrived in Havana Monday night and plans to meet with Castro and see
a ballet before traveling to the province of Santiago de Cuba on Wednesday.

China is Cuba's second-largest trade partner after Venezuela. Coinciding
with Xi's visit, a group of Chinese and Cuban businesspeople inaugurated
a plant that will produce biosensors for the detection and control of
diabetes.

In Brazil, at a meeting of five emerging market powers known as the
BRICS nations, Xi agreed to the creation of a development bank that aims
to be an alternative to the World Bank and the International Monetary
Fund, which are seen by some as too U.S.-centric. Xi also reached an
energy agreement with Argentina's government.

Source: Chinese president backs Cuba's economic reforms - Yahoo News -
http://news.yahoo.com/chinese-president-backs-cubas-economic-172049113.html;_ylt=AwrBEiK0rs9TQ0wAnAPQtDMD

Tampa delegation sees ways to help during Cuba visit

Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014

Tampa delegation sees ways to help during Cuba visit
As Darryl Rouson, center, recited "I've Been to the Mountaintop," Cubans
walking by stopped to listen, forming a crowd around him. VICTOR DIMAIO
By Paul Guzzo | Tribune Staff
Published: July 22, 2014 | Updated: July 23, 2014 at 12:31 AM

TAMPA — A delegation that traveled to Cuba last week signed up in the
belief they would be part of history — the Charlie Crist excursion,
featuring the Florida gubernatorial candidate who denounced the Cuban
embargo.

But Crist, the St. Petersburg Democrat, pulled out, saying he didn't
have time before the Nov. 4 election.

So instead, Tampa City Councilwoman Yvonne Capin led the 43-member group
— elected officials, arts and civic leaders and business people.

And while the July 16-20 trip didn't draw the attention Crist would
have, the travelers returned home confident they still made a
difference, sowing seeds for return trips to bring positive change.

Two examples: Restoring a crumbling monument in Havana that honors U.S.
civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr and guiding the Cuban
government on ways to make the nation more accessible to the disabled.
Among those who hope to return are state Rep. Darryl Rouson, the St.
Petersburg Democrat and a Martin Luther King Jr. scholar, and Tampa's
Arizona Jenkins, member of a committee that provides advice on
disability issues to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit.

❖ ❖ ❖

Albert A. Fox Jr., founder of the Tampa-based Alliance for Responsible
Cuba Policy Foundation, organized the trip and said he is already in
discussions with the Cuban government to set up meetings for both
causes. ❖  ❖ ❖

The Martin Luther King Jr. monument is in the Havana section called Vedado.

It consists of two marble and granite walls — one with an engraved photo
of King, his dates of birth and death, and behind it a longer wall
resembling the Vietnam Memorial with excerpts from King's "I Have A
Dream Speech" in English and Spanish.

The monument was erected in the 1980s, Fox said. As many as half the
raised bronze letters have disappeared over the years.

"Dr. King's legacy deserves better," Fox said.

Vedado is best known as the location of the U.S. Interests Section, like
an embassy except the two nations have no formal diplomatic relations.
Vedado is also home to monuments honoring Abraham Lincoln, musician John
Lennon, civil rights activist Malcolm X and the USS Maine — the
battleship whose mysterious explosion in Havana harbor touched of the
Spanish-American War in 1898.

Some believe Cuba honors U.S. civil rights heroes as a publicity stunt.
Others say the government has a true affinity for those who fought for
equality.

Rouson's motive is not political, he said, but rooted in his desire to
spread King's philosophy.

"We should want it to be in perfect condition so his message can clearly
reach," Rouson said. "The words of Dr. King can inspire men and women
everywhere. This is about honoring a man who was against violence and
for equal rights not just in America but all over the world."

Fox said it is too early to consider a specific plan or costs.

"Let's talk with the Cuban government and our delegation and see what we
can come up with," he said.

❖ ❖ ❖

Jenkins found his purpose for making the Cuba change while he was there,
once he found that accommodations for people with disabilities are even
poorer than he expected.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba in Havana, with ramps and specially built rooms,
was one exception.

First, he had to leave behind his motorized wheelchair because of
restrictions on the size of batteries allowed on board the aircraft in
which he flew.

The delegation was able to find him a manual push chair in Cuba. He does
not have full use of his hands.

"It was the best they could get," he said.

And he learned that in all of Havana, only three vans have a mechanized
lift for a chair — none of them available during his trip.

Jenkins had to be pushed everywhere he went and lifted by hand into vans.

"It created awareness for all of us," said Frank Reno of Cuba Executive
Travel, who licensed and accompanied the delegation on its trip.

Reno has been to Cuba over 80 times and never realized how inaccessible
it is.

"But perhaps Arizona can now lend his guidance to Cuba in this arena,"
he said.

"It's an educational process," Jenkins said. "I want to let them know
what they need to do and which step they need to do next. They don't
have to spend as much money as they may think. They just need to spend
it right."

❖ ❖ ❖

Fox has had success brokering such meetings in the past, initiating
meetings in 2010 that led to an agreement this year between Cuba and the
U.S. to work together in the event of an oil spill in Caribbean waters.

Fox' connection to Martin Luther King Jr. dates to his days working for
then-Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield. When King visited the
Senate, Fox showed him around. Later, as a lobbyist, he served as
chairman for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Prayer
Breakfast.

He has been interested in repairing the Havana monument and invited
Rouson because he's a King scholar.

"I know few people who have studied Dr. King more than he has," Fox said.

Rouson proved his knowledge on his first visit to the memorial July 19.

As Rouson talked to a dozen members of the delegation about restoration,
he began reciting King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech.

"He knew every word of it," Fox said. "And Cubans walking by stopped to
listen. By the time he was done, a crowd had formed around him. It gave
me goose bumps. His delivery was perfect."

The next day, the entire delegation visited the monument and Rouson
delivered the speech again.

"I was mesmerized," Councilwoman Capin said. "And so was everyone else
who walked by."

❖ ❖ ❖

What Rouson remembers about the visit twas Jenkins' words.

"He told me he has been fighting for equal rights for the disabled for
years," Rouson said. "He said we have come so far in our country but
then he saw how far behind Cuba is and said he wanted to do something to
help them too."

Jenkins said Cuba has good intentions but lacks the resources and
knowhow to accommodate the disabled.

He said Cuban citizens helped him whenever he needed it. But he also
noticed few disabled people in the streets..

The delegation traveled under a "people to people" cultural and
educational license. The group met with Cuba's minister of oil, the
Cuban Chamber of Commerce, and leaders of Cuban cultural and arts
organizations.

Other members of the delegation included former secretary of the U.S.
Senate Walter Stewart, CFO of the Alabama based producer of construction
aggregates Vulcan Materials Daniel Sansone; Tampa restaurant owner Scott
Courtney; and David Cox, founder of the Gasparilla Music Festival.

Mario Nunez, host of the cable access show Tampa Natives, joined the
delegation to support Crist and admitted he was disappointed at the
candidate's cancellation.

Still, he said, he's glad he went.

"It was wonderful," he said. "Who knows, if they do what they want to do
maybe this trip will be historic anyway.

pguzzo@tampatrib.com

Source: Tampa delegation sees ways to help during Cuba visit | TBO.com,
The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times -
http://tbo.com/news/politics/cuba-trip-crist-skipped-may-bear-fruit-in-other-ways-20140722/

Payá family launches new effort for plebiscite in Cuba

Posted on Tuesday, 07.22.14

Payá family launches new effort for plebiscite in Cuba
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
NGAMEZTORRES@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

On the second anniversary of the death of Cuban opposition leader
Oswaldo Payá, his daughter, Rosa María Payá, announced Tuesday that the
Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) he founded is preparing a campaign
to demand a plebiscite on the island's future.

Rosa Maria Payá said that the plebiscite, based on her father's Varela
Project, would include "one single question: Do you want to participate
in free and multi-party elections?"

The Varela Project gathered more than 10,000 signatures on a petition
seeking a new electoral law and demanding the right to freedom of
expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association, among other
measures.

The signatures were rejected by the legislative National Assembly in
2002 but later that year Payá won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of
Conscience, the most prestigious prize awarded by the European Union.

His daughter told El Nuevo Herald on Tuesday that since the Varela
Project remains alive, "it is not necessary to collect more signatures.
More than double the number required already have been handed in, even
though the National Assembly has not responded to the demand.

"But the Varela Project is a citizens' effort. Our intention with this
(new) campaign is to mobilize citizens to demand their rights," she
added. "There can be no transition in Cuba unless first there's a
recognition of civil rights, of freedom of expression, of freedom of
association to carry out the change we want."

The activist added that her family, which now lives in South Florida, is
also preparing a new request to the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights, a branch of the Organization of American States, for an
independent investigation of her father's controversial death.

According to the official version of the Cuban government, Payá and MCL
activist Harold Cepero died when the driver of their vehicle, Angel
Carromero, lost control near the eastern city of Bayamo and crashed into
a tree on July 22, 2012.

Carromero, a member of the youth wing of Spain's Popular Party, was
tried in Cuba and sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular
homicide and is now serving his sentence in Spain, free but under
probation. The other passenger in the car, Jens Aaron Modig, a member of
the youth wing of Sweden's Christian Democratic Party, was allowed to
leave Cuba shortly after the crash.

The Payá family and Carromero have repeatedly insisted that the car
carrying the two Cubans and two Europeans was rammed from behind and
forced off the road by another vehicle that had been following them.

Source: Payá family launches new effort for plebiscite in Cuba - Cuba -
MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/22/4249586/paya-family-launches-new-effort.html

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How would you feel if you were innocent but still thrown in jail each Sunday?

How would you feel if you were innocent but still thrown in jail each
Sunday?

As a result of the Ladies in White movement continuing to be a target of
Cuban state authorities, the Czech NGO People in Need would like to
bring greater public attention to two cases of Ladies in White members
who have been forced to contend with constant repression over the last
two years.

Keila Ramos Suarez is 28 years old. She has been detained and assaulted
15 times between March 2013 and April 2014.

Due to the fact that her family doesn't agree with the political
opinions she holds, she has been repressed to an even greater extent.
She has been thrown out of her house and left to live on the street.
Furthermore, her son has been taken away from her by state authorities
on account of her dissident activities. She has regularly been arrested
before the weekly Ladies in White marches held on Sundays or been given
orders that prevent her from participating in the Mass.

Maria Teresa Gracias Rojas is 48 years old. She has been detained and
assaulted 39 times between January 2013 and March 2014.

The state police organized a so called search of her house during which
all of her belongings were destroyed; she was assaulted, and subjected
to acts of repudiation and intimidation. She has been under constant
surveillance, including having a police patrol car permanently parked in
front of her house. She has been prevented from participating in the
Ladies in White marches almost every Sunday during this time span. The
police usually arrest her either just outside of her residence or in
front of the local church. We would like to stress the gravity of the
fact that she happened to be assaulted directly by the priest as well.
Her situation has been made all the more difficult due to her daughter's
health problems for which she hasn't been receiving any help.

The scripts and tactics the authorities use are almost always the same:

One of them is to detain members of the Ladies in White before the
Sunday Mass, so that they cannot participate in their weekly protest by
taking part in their common walk to the church. They are brought to the
local police station for several hours where they are placed under
constant psychological and physical distress: the police agents have
been beating, humiliating and threatening to jail them for years, while
also openly threatening to harm their families if they don't stop their
dissident activities. The Ladies in White protest every Sunday dressed
in white, as a symbol of peace, in order to demand freedom for the their
relatives who are jailed dissidents, as well as on behalf of all other
political prisoners.

The other tactic is to organize public acts of repudiation against them
in order to cause them distress, while also intimidating and frightening
them. Usually small groups of people are brought to the dissidents'
residence who then shout insults at them, throw stones at their houses
and threaten them.

Why have these brave women kept on fighting their battle despite the
pressure they find themselves under? Their answer is simple and clear:
they want change and freedom for their loved ones and the people of Cuba.

The NGO People in Need condemns the repression that the Cuban
authorities have directed towards Keila and Maria Teresa, as well as
towards all the Ladies in White, and ask for them to comply with the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Cuba is a signatory.

The regular weekly march was harshly repressed in Havana, as well as in
the provinces, following the announcement of celebrations in memory of
the victims of "13th of March" Tugboat that was sunk in 1994. A total of
89 Ladies in White, among which the leader of the movement, Berta Soler,
and 9 men who participated in the march were arrested.

The Ladies in White Movement was initiated in the aftermath of the Black
Spring in 2003, when the Cuban government arrested and summarily tried
and sentenced 75 human rights defenders, independent journalists, and
independent librarians to terms of up to 28 years in prison. The
initiator was Laura Pollan, the wife of one of the jailed activists,
Hector Maseda. Each member of the march carries a picture of her jailed
relative and the number of years to which he has been sentenced.

Sincerely,

Cuban Team / Equipo de Cuba

People in Need - Human Rights and Democracy
Facebook.com/peopleCuba | @PeopleCuba
Cubalog.eu - rewriting Cuba, EyeOnCuba.org

The Battered Press

The Battered Press / 14ymedio, Fernando Damaso
Posted on July 22, 2014

14YMEDIO, Fernando Damáso, Havana, 21 July 2014 – It is no secret that
the editorial policy of a newspaper responds to the interests of its
owners. In countries where freedom of the press exists and is respected,
newspapers abound, reflecting many different interests. In countries
where freedom of the press is clearly absent, one, two or three
newspapers are sufficient, more than enough to cover the form, because
they all say the same thing and defend the same principles.

The case of Cuba is a good "bad example"; Granma, Juventud Rebelde
(Rebel Youth), and Trabajadores (Workers), each in its area of
influence, serve a single objective: to defend at all cost the
established political economic system.

In Republican-era Cuba, with a population half as large as today, there
were 14 national newspapers: Diario de la Marina, El Mundo, Información,
El País, Excelsior, Prensa Libre, Mañana, Alerta, El Crisol, Ataja,
Tiempo en Cuba, La Calle, Diario Nacional and Noticias de Hoy. There
were also two newspapers in English and three in Chinese, as well as
newspapers in each one of the six provinces.

Some came out in the morning and others in the afternoon. Some included
comic strips and were printed in color with photographs, and some had
weekend supplements. In their Sunday additions the newspapers multiplied
the number of pages and had a great number of advertisements. They sold
for five cents during the week and 10 cents on Sunday.

This variety of daily papers covered the entire Cuban social spectrum,
from the most conservative positions represented by Diario de la Marina,
to the most radical represented by Noticias de Hoy, the newspaper of the
communist. Between one or another there appeared the whole gamut of
political, economic and social concepts. Some prioritized political
news, and others events. All of them dedicated space to culture and
sports, where qualified journalists had regular columns.

In their Sunday editions Diario de la Marina, El Mundo and Información
devoted ample space to literature, visual arts, theater, music, film,
science, among other topics, with articles written by prestigious
intellectuals who were not forced to toe the editorial line.

Leafing through old copies, articles appear from important personalities
and journalists such as Enrique José Varona, Juan Gualberto Gómez, Rubén
Martínez Villena, Raúl Roa, Carlos Márquez Sterling, Sergio Carbó, Jorge
Mañach, Anita Arroyo, Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, Gastón Baquero,
Felipe Pazos, Mirta Aguirre, Eladio Secades, Edith García Buchaca, Alejo
Carpentier, Agustín Tamargo, Enrique de la Osa and many others who make
up the endless list and demonstrate the multiplicity of views.

Every citizen could freely choose the one most corresponding to their
own, without dogmatic impositions of any kind.

There were dailies that exploited sensationalism and yellow journalism
to sell their copies quickly, and those that offered more serious news
in a measured way, which were most of them. Newspapers were hawked on
the streets by vendors, using as promotional hook the main news on the
front page, always leaving up in the air a question that forced you to
buy it, if you wanted to know everything.

Some famous hooks, often repeated, were: See how they caught him! He
struck her and fled! He stole and jumped from the second floor! Get the
scandal! Here is all the evidence! The cyclone is coming tomorrow! and
others.

The main points of sale were the bus stops, where they were offered to
the passengers through the windows in quick sales transactions. In
addition, there was home delivery by subscription or, more leisurely, by
distributors that roamed the neighborhoods. They were characterized by
punctuality, thus ensuring that the papers arrived daily before
breakfast or before dinner, depending on whether it was a morning or
evening edition.

After 1959, the Republican-era press had a sad ending, first with the
invention by the government of "tag lines"—short texts, supposedly
written by "revolutionary" workers, were added at the ends of articles
and reports to reject the opinions expressed—and finally, with the
intervention and closure of the newspapers.

The Republican-era Cuban press was dismissed during the last half
century by the spokespeople of the ruling party, forgetting that it
provided an important service in the defense of citizens' interests and
in critiquing the different governments in every era, a source of pride
and an example to imitate in these times, where free opinions are only
possible in the few independent newspapers that exist against all odds,
persecuted and suppressed by the authorities, and whose circulation is
hindered.

Source: The Battered Press / 14ymedio, Fernando Damaso | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-battered-press-14ymedio-fernando-damaso/

Oswaldo Payá’s death in Cuba two years ago still awaits a proper investigation.

Oswaldo Payá's death in Cuba two years ago still awaits a proper
investigation.
By Editorial Board July 21 at 6:40 PM

TWO YEARS ago Tuesday, a blue rental car was wrecked off a deserted road
in eastern Cuba. In the back seat was Oswaldo Payá, one of Cuba's
best-known dissidents, who had championed the idea of a democratic
referendum on the nation's future. Mr. Payá's voice was not the loudest
against the Castro dictatorship, but it was one of the most committed
and determined. On the day of the car crash, he had been trying for more
than a decade to bring about a peaceful revolution, one that would
empower Cubans to decide their own fate and end the half-century of
misrule by Fidel and Raúl Castro.

Mr. Payá endured harassment and intimidation for his efforts. Many of
his friends and allies were jailed. He received threats by phone and
other warnings, some violent. But he did not give up. On the day of the
crash, Mr. Payá was traveling with a young associate, Harold Cepero,
across the island to meet with supporters of the Christian Liberation
Movement. In the front of the rental car was a visitor from Spain, Ángel
Carromero, a leader of the youth wing of that country's ruling party,
and one from Sweden.

The car spun out of control after being rammed from behind by a vehicle
bearing state license plates, according to Mr. Carromero. While he and
the associate from Sweden survived, Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero were killed.
Mr. Carromero says he was then coerced to confess and subjected to a
rigged trial in order to cover up what really happened. Mr. Carromero's
videotaped "confession," broadcast on television, was forced upon him;
he was told to read from cards written by the state security officers.
He was sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular homicide and
later released to return to Spain to serve out his term.

Since then, there has been no serious, credible investigation of the
deaths. Cuba has brushed aside all demands for an international probe
that would reveal the truth. Mr. Payá held dual Cuban and Spanish
citizenship, but Spain has been shamefully uninterested in getting to
the bottom of the story. The truth matters — to show the Castro brothers
that they cannot snuff out a voice of freedom with such absolute impunity.

On May 14, Pope Francis received Mr. Payá's family at his private
residence. We don't know what the pope said, but Mr. Payá's daughter,
Rosa Maria, delivered a letter carrying an impassioned appeal for the
cause of democracy and human dignity in Cuba. Hopefully, the pope will
keep listening to the voices demanding change in Cuba and speak out for
democracy and freedom there. The values that Mr. Payá fought for in Cuba
must not be forgotten. Other dissidents are still struggling, despite
crackdowns, beatings, jailings and persecution, and they must not be
forsaken.

Source: Oswaldo Payá's death in Cuba two years ago still awaits a proper
investigation. - The Washington Post -
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/oswaldo-payas-death-in-cuba-two-years-ago-still-awaits-a-proper-investigation/2014/07/21/b0ac9612-0bb8-11e4-8c9a-923ecc0c7d23_story.html

Cuba hopes for more investment as Chinese president arrives

Cuba hopes for more investment as Chinese president arrives
BY MARC FRANK
HAVANA Mon Jul 21, 2014 1:42pm EDT

(Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping begins a two day visit to Cuba
on Monday evening, stirring hopes on the island that China will finally
invest in the country after a number of important deals never materialized.

Xi was to meet with President Raul Castro on Tuesday and then fly to
Santiago de Cuba to see plans to improve port facilities and recovery
efforts from Hurricane Sandy, which devastated Cuba's second city almost
two years ago.

Xi was in Brazil last week for a summit of the BRICS nations, which also
includes Russia, India and South Africa. He then traveled to Argentina
and Venezuela, signing a raft of multi-billion dollar credit and
investment agreements, before stopping in Cuba on his way home.

Communist-run China and Cuba are close political allies. Generous trade
credits have made China the island's largest creditor and second biggest
trade partner after Venezuela at $1.4 billion last year.

China has rescheduled Cuba's government and commercial debt, believed to
top $6 billion. But large investment agreements for the nickel industry,
signed in 2000, another in hotels, and a deal to expand an oil refinery
agreed five years ago, have not materialized.

Chinese-made cars, buses, locomotives, ships and household appliances
are increasingly prevalent in Cuba. China's flag flies from leased oil
rigs along the northwest coast and a modern container port boasts
Chinese equipment, but direct investments are limited to a
communications venture established 15 years ago and an onshore oil block
in Pinar del Rio province.

Chinese diplomats and businessmen have told Reuters over the years that
they had little confidence in Cuba's ability to work efficiently with
them, complained about the high cost of doing business, and said Cuba
has balked at bringing construction crews in from China to build projects.

Little of the $80 billion China has invested in Latin America and the
Caribbean in recent years has been in Cuba. That, along with a review of
debt and trade, will top this week's agenda.

Raul Castro began instituting market-oriented reforms after taking over
from ailing brother Fidel Castro in 2006, much as China did in the 1980s.

This year, Cuba established its first Chinese-style special development
zone and passed a more attractive foreign investment law with a
particular eye to friendly nations such as Russia, China and Brazil. It
includes a clause aimed at China that for the first time would allow
investors to bring in their nationals for construction.

Talks are reportedly underway for a number of investment projects,
including in pharmaceuticals and automotive assembly, but no final
investment agreements are expected this week.

"The Chinese are not satisfied with the pace and depth of reforms in
Cuba," said Christopher Sabatini, senior director of policy at the
Americas Society and Council of the Americas.

"This is ultimately a pragmatic government and it's not about to invest
in Cuba for ideological reasons or even for geopolitical, long-term
reasons if there isn't a profit or resource to be gained immediately."

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Kieran Murray and Andre Grenon)

Source: Cuba hopes for more investment as Chinese president arrives |
Reuters -
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/21/us-cuba-china-idUSKBN0FQ1SI20140721

Everything We Know About The Huge Spy Base In Cuba That Russia Is Reopening

Everything We Know About The Huge Spy Base In Cuba That Russia Is Reopening
COREY ADWAR AND MICHAEL B KELLEY
JUL. 21, 2014, 6:00 PM 6,857 24

Moscow and Havana have agreed to reopen a Cold War-era signals
intelligence (SIGINT) base in Lourdes, Cuba.
An agreement was reached during Putin's visit to Cuba last week to
reopen the base, Russia business daily Kommersant reported last week.
That was confirmed by a Russian security source who told Reuters: "A
framework agreement has been agreed."

The base was set up in 1964 after the Cuban missile crisis had brought
the U.S. and Soviet Union close to confrontation over Moscow's proposal
to place nuclear weapons on Cuban soil.

Havana shut it down in 2001 because of financial issues and American
pressure.

Located south of Cuba's capital Havana and just 150 miles from the U.S.
coast, the base left many parts of the U.S. vulnerable to Soviet
communication intercepts, including exchanges between Florida space
centers and U.S. spacecraft.

Here's what a Congressional report from 2000 said about the facility:

• The Secretary of Defense formally expressed concerns to Congress
regarding the espionage complex at Lourdes, Cuba, and its use as a base
for intelligence directed against the United States.

• The Secretary of Defense, referring to a 1998 Defense Intelligence
Agency assessment, reported that the Russian Federation leased the
Lourdes facility for an estimated $100 million to $300 million a year.

• It has been reported that the Lourdes facility was the largest such
complex operated by the Russian Federation and its intelligence service
outside the region of the former Soviet Union.

• The Lourdes facility was reported to cover a 28 square-mile area with
over 1,500 Russian engineers, technicians, and military personnel
working at the base.

• Experts familiar with the Lourdes facility have reportedly confirmed
that the base had multiple groups of tracking dishes and its own
satellite system, with some groups used to intercept telephone calls,
faxes, and computer communications, in general, and with other groups
used to cover targeted telephones and devices.

• News sources have reported that the Lourdes facility obtained
sensitive information about United States military operations during
Operation Desert Storm.

• Academic studies cite official U.S. sources affirming that the Lourdes
facility was used to collect personal information about United States
citizens in the private and government sectors, and offered the means to
engage in cyberwarfare against the U.S.

• The operational significance of the Lourdes facility reportedly grew
dramatically after Russian President Boris Yeltsin issued a 1996 order
demanding the Russian intelligence community increase its gathering of
U.S. and other Western economic and trade secrets.

• It has been reported that the Government of the Russian Federation is
estimated to have spent in excess of $3 billion in the operation and
modernization of the Lourdes facility.

• Former U.S. Government officials were quoted confirming reports about
the Russian Federation's expansion and upgrade of the Lourdes facility.

• It was reported in December 1999 that a high-ranking Russian military
delegation headed by Deputy Chief of the General Staff Colonel-General
Valentin Korabelnikov visited Cuba to discuss the continuing Russian
operation of the Lourdes facility.

Defense experts agree the base could significantly boost Russia's
ability to spy on America during a low-point in U.S.-Russia relations.

Ivan Konovalov, head of the Moscow-based Center for Strategic Trends
Studies, estimated that the Lourdes base was used to acquire at least
50% of the Soviet Union's radio-intercepted intelligence from the U.S.,
according to Reuters.

Reopening the Lourdes base could boost Russia's intelligence-gathering
capabilities "quite significantly" as U.S.-Russia relations remain
strained. "One needs to remember that Russia's technical intelligence
abilities are very weak. This will help," Konovalov told Reuters.

If reopened, the base will demonstrate Russia's interest in maintaining
its own alliances to counter those of the U.S.

"After what's happened in Ukraine, with all these alliances the United
States has developed, Russia is showing it's joining the game and that
it too can lean on allies and form alliances," Sergey Ermakov, head of
the Regional Security Section at the Russian Institute for Strategic
Studies, told Reuters.

Source: The Spy Base Russia May Reopen In Lourdes, Cuba - Business
Insider -
http://www.businessinsider.com/the-spy-base-russia-may-reopen-in-lourdes-cuba-2014-7