Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Requiem For My Havana

Requiem For My Havana / Somos+, Grettha Yedra

Island, what happened to you?
Who changed the spring?
Who shut the door?
What ship left you alone?

Island, they have changed your clothes
They have distorted decency
They have trafficked your innocence
They have shit on your equality and mine.

Island, by Lien Y Rey

Somos+, Gretther Yedra Rodriguez, 29 March 2017 — A few days ago I
arrived from Cuba. I was there about a month. Havana was where I spent
most of my time. I hadn't seen it for almost two years, two years of not
feeling the breath of the Malecon which enchants even the most
skeptical. I suffered the spectacle. The most controversial capital in
the world felt to me like a Dantesque chaos. In a few years, I thought,
it's going to look like a pile of trash where there once was a city.
Cardboard houses proliferate on the periphery and spread throughout the
country. Havana, my beautiful Havana, what happened to you?

I saw something that I had not seen before and that, in the country
where I now reside, caused me great sorrow: I saw beggars, tons of them.
Beggars and children wandering aimlessly along the Malecon and the
historic center. Old people with lost gazes, filled with despair and
empty hands. Irritable people, alcoholic men… and even women. State
companies in a lamentable state, indolent workers who say NO for the
pleasure of saying it.

I saw Havana as a raggedy old man, lying in a doorway while a copy of
the Granma newspaper pretends to protect him from the cold.

On my way from Matanzas to the city I could see idle lands, plagued by
the invasive marabou weed, and I thought enviously of the Ecuadorian
earth, deeply cultivated, filled with cattle, of the rows of plants
created by the indians and native people. I thought with sadness that
there was a time when Cuban land did not suffer by comparison to the
beautiful Andean land. It is not necessary to be a specialist to see the
decline in agricultural and livestock, to notice the huge expanses of
idle farmland, the volume of imported food continually increasing,
making up for the deficit in national production.

While most of the Asian and Latin American countries lagged behind Cuba
in the 1960s, they have now overtaken Cuba in the diversification of
their economies, the development of competitive manufacturing sectors
for export, and the decline in their dependence on a limited group of
export products. And knowing this data and returning to Cuba, it
hurts. It forces you to rethink many things, to not remain silent when
the instinct of self-preservation demands it.

As I was walking along Montes street, I looked in disbelief at how the
building collapses multiplied in only two years of absence. A man,
seeing my puzzled face, told me: "Looks like they threw bombs, right?"
My silence was agreement. And the bombs exploded in my head. Nothing
they promised was fulfilled, economic failure has made a beautiful
country into an arid land, cold and dirty, where people fight to survive.

How to wake an entire people from their slumber? How to tell them that
humanity said "Enough" and got up and walked, and that we should do the
same if we want a future?

We cannot remain with the masterful lines of Gabriel García Márquez,
where an omniscient narrator asserts that those condemned to a hundred
years of solitude do not have a second chance on earth. We are not
García Márquez's fictional Macondo, we are Cuba. We come from the line
of Maceo, Gomez and Martí, Jose Antonio Echeverria, Frank and
Camilo. Let us honor these men by rescuing what we have all lost. Let us
awaken from this lethargy and, without shaking off the dust of the road,
let us act. These are times to act.

It would kill me to say that Cubans are afraid, that it is difficult to
reveal ourselves to a totalitarianism that constantly represses and
annuls. In Cuba today, fear no longer exists, what we lost was faith and
with it shame. From the ashes of Havana we must rescue her.

Source: Requiem For My Havana / Somos+, Grettha Yedra – Translating Cuba
- http://translatingcuba.com/requiem-for-my-havana-somos/

Health Of Three Siblings On Hunger Strike In Cuba Worsens

Health Of Three Siblings On Hunger Strike In Cuba Worsens

14ymedio Havana, 27 March 2017 — The health of the siblings Fidel
Batista Leyva, and Anairis and Adairis Miranda Leyva is worsening, as
Monday marked their 21 days on a hunger strike, according to their
mother, Maydolis Leyva Portelles, who spoke with 14ymedio.

Members of the Cuban Reflection Movement, the three siblings are
experiencing "a serious deterioration" of their health.

In a telephone conversation, Leyva denounced the "cruel and inhuman"
treatment she has received from the political police who will not allow
her to see her twin daughters, one of them admitted to the Vladimir
Ilich Lenin University General Hospital of Holguin and the other in
Lucía Iñiguez Landín Clinical Surgical Hospital.

"All patients have the right to see their relatives at two in the
afternoon but I have been told that until my daughters stop the strike I
cannot see them," says the mother.

14ymedio contacted the Lenin Hospital by telephone and was able to
confirm with the information desk that Anairis Miranda has been admitted
to the intermediate therapy care room in bed 2. Medical sources report
her condition as "serious."

The nurse on duty in the intermediate therapy room explained that
Adairis Miranda, sister of Anairis, "is not reported to be in as serious
a condition," but continues in "voluntary starvation."

Leyva explains that her son is being held in the Cuba Sí Holguin Prison
where as of Monday he has been a hunger strike for 21 days, with five
days of that also on a thirst strike.

"Despite the prolonged strike they keep him in a punishment cell
sleeping on the ground," says his mother.

The three siblings were serving sentences of one year accused of the
crimes of public disorder and of defamation of heroes and martyrs. The
authorities accuse them of having "made a provocation" last November 27,
during the days of national mourning over the death of former President
Fidel Castro, an accusation that the three deny.

Later the activists were victims of an act of repudiation; their homes
were raided, they were beaten and their personal property was stolen,
concluding in the arrest of the three siblings

The Miranda Leyva twins were held in the Provincial Women's Prison,
while Batista Leyva was a prisoner at La Ladrillera Work Camp, from
where he was transferred to Cuba Sí, a penitentiary with a more severe
regime.

The strikers demand the "unconditional freedom for the 10 political
prisoners of the Cuban Reflection Movement" and the "acquittal" of Dr.
Eduardo Cardet of the Christian Liberation Movement.

The regime opponent Librado Linares who heads the Cuban Reflection
Movement told14ymedio that the siblings are being held prisoner "unjustly."

"Those responsible for their lives are placed at the highest level, from
Raul Castro to the authorities of the Interior Ministry in the province,
for having thrown them into this situation," said Linares.

Source: Health Of Three Siblings On Hunger Strike In Cuba Worsens –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/health-of-three-siblings-on-hunger-strike-in-cuba-worsens/

Young Cuban Women Skaterboarders Defy Gravity And Machismo

Young Cuban Women Skaterboarders Defy Gravity And Machismo

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havna, 28 March 2017 — A pirouette and life is
turned upside down. Another and the wheels crash against the pavement
leaving a mark in their path. Cuban women skaters defy gravity and
machismo, two forces trying to make them fall. Their dreams are told in
the documentary Sisters on Wheels by director Amberly Alene Ellis,
currently in the United States.

The film looks at the phenomenon of skateboarders told from the
experience of young Cuban women who practice a sport marked by
prejudice. Not only must they deal with the animosity still provoked in
some observers, but also with putting themselves in "a territory of men."

The protagonists of Sisters on Wheels display the technical difficulties
of practicing this discipline in Cuba, with few resources and places to
skate for training. The young women talk about their struggle to have
skateboarding recognized as a sport, far beyond an entertaining pastime.

The Amigo Skate project has helped alleviate the material hardships of
some of these young women. The initiative asks, from its on-line site,
for people to bring or send skateboarding equipment to the island, and
facilitates events linked to the sport, in additional to concerts and
the painting of murals.

Cuban-American René Lecour is part of the solidarity project and the
director of Sisters on Wheels came to the reality
of skateboarding through him. In a country where very few skateboards
have been marketed and there are barely enough spare parts to fix a
broken table, the practice becomes complicated. However, new
technologies help, with videos and tutorials that teach spinning and
other techniques.

Ellis, who traveled to the island initially to film material about women
filmmakers, was attracted by the "innovation" she saw in these urban
athletes and knew first hand about a similar phenomenon in her own
country when "skateboarding pioneers, in the '80s, made their own boards
with what they could find."

"Without intending to, we moved from filmmaking to skating," recalls the
director, who believes skating becomes an act of protest for these young
people in a nation where the government regulates every centimeter of
reality, especially the sports scene.

The documentary, which began filming in 2015, uses skateboarding as a
way to approach the national reality and in particular the changes that
occurred after the thaw between the Governments of Cuba and the United
States.

In the practice of skateboarding, the filmmaker sees a gesture of
independence that "is seeking free expression"

Source: Young Cuban Women Skaterboarders Defy Gravity And Machismo –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/young-cuban-women-skaterboarders-defy-gravity-and-machismo/

Cuba’s communists dig in as Castro’s reform drive hits the sand

Cuba's communists dig in as Castro's reform drive hits the sand

Islanders mystified as 'economic tsar' Marino Murillo not heard in
public for a year

Cuban president Raúl Castro is preparing to step down next year,
Venezuela has cut millions of dollars in aid and Donald Trump's election
has cast a shadow over the nascent US-Cuba detente. Unnerved by the
changes, Havana has allowed its domestic reform drive to grind to a halt
as the Communist party battens down the hatches.

Marino Murillo, the senior official leading Cuba's reforms, has not been
heard in public for almost a year. His absence has mystified Cubans and
dented the high expectations Mr Castro's liberalising drive once
fomented, both at home and abroad.

"There are three reasons for the pause in the reforms — and I say pause,
because inevitably reforms will continue at some point," says Richard
Feinberg, a Cuba scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
"Senior leadership is focused on managing austerity and preparing the
succession as Raúl steps down . . . They are also managing a backlash
over emerging inequality, low state wages and inflation."

Mr Castro made reform the hallmark of his presidency when he formally
took over from his elder brother Fidel Castro in 2008. He sought to
decentralise the economy and boost productivity by allowing
self-employment, slashing state bureaucracy, welcoming foreign
investment and unifying Cuba's dual currency system.

Mr Murillo, who became known as Cuba's "economic reform tsar" when he
was appointed minister of planning and the economy in 2009, was the
technocrat in charge of implementing the changes. In some ways, he and
Mr Castro made up a tag team that repeatedly cajoled Cuba's stolid
bureaucracy to reform.

While Mr Castro's revolutionary stature provided moral cover, Mr Murillo
gave lengthy PowerPoint presentations to party and government members
that explained the changes. His talks, usually an hour long, were later
broadcast on state television, sometimes more than once.

By contrast, Mr Murillo has not uttered a word in public since last
July. At the same time, price controls have been slapped on burgeoning
private sector businesses in agriculture and transport.

The reversal comes as Mr Castro, 85, prepares to carry out his pledge to
step down as president on February 24 next year. If he does so, 2018
will be the first time in six decades that Cuba has not been ruled by a
Castro — although he is expected to remain head of the Communist party
and armed forces. Fidel Castro died last November.

"In a way, the reforms have not gone far enough but at the same time too
far," says Bert Hoffman, a Cuba expert at the German Institute of Global
and Area Studies. "Not far enough to . . . lift up growth [but] too far
in that social inequalities are widening, the cost of living is rising
and the Communist party fears the discontent this produces."

These tensions became clear at a party congress in April 2016, which
admitted that reforms had failed to meet popular expectations in terms
of economic growth, supplies of goods and higher wages. At the same
time, a debate on state television showed party delegates fuming over a
private onion farmer who had earned enough money to buy a car and fix
his house.

In many ways, Cuba has been here before. Reformist officials have often
had their wings clipped after liberalising drives were stifled by
hardliners who feared loss of control. One famous case is that of Carlos
Lage, Fidel Castro's "economic fixer" in the 1990s, who was
unceremoniously dismissed in 2009 and now works as a paediatrician.

One difference today is that Mr Murillo still seems to enjoy official
blessing. He was promoted to the powerful politburo in 2011 and remains
chairman of the government's economic policy commission.

The slowdown in domestic reforms suggests the orthodox wing of the
Communist party is strengthening, says Carmelo Mesa-Lago, professor
emeritus of economics at Pittsburgh University and a long-time Cuba
watcher. He sees reform opponents using Mr Murillo as a scapegoat to
strengthen their position before Mr Castro steps down.

"All this has been a severe blow to Murillo, although the main problem
is the deterioration of the Venezuelan economy," he says.

Caracas has long supplied Havana with 100,000 barrels per day of
subsidised oil, but Venezuela's economic and political crises have
forced it to cut shipments by as much as 40 per cent. Largely as a
result, Cuba's economy shrank by almost 1 per cent in 2016, entering its
first recession since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In another setback for reformists, Mr Trump has promised to re-examine
the detente begun under his predecessor Barack Obama — although the US
president has taken no concrete steps since his election last November.
His state department has yet to appoint an official in charge of Latin
American affairs.

Some US businesses have scaled back their initial euphoria about
opportunities in Cuba. Although 615,000 Cuban-Americans and US tourists
visited the country last year — of a total 4m foreign visitors —
Frontier Airlines and Silver Airways cancelled scheduled US flights on
March 13, citing lack of demand and market saturation. American Airlines
and JetBlue have also reduced their schedules.

"They [the Cubans] have managed quite well to dampen reform
expectations," says a senior European diplomat, referring to Mr
Murillo's muting.

However, the corollary of prioritising political stability over economic
reforms, at least for now, is that complaints about government inertia,
low wages, high prices, shortages and deteriorating services have become
routine.

One clear sign of that came in a rare private survey carried out in Cuba
late last year by the independent NORC research group at the University
of Chicago, in which 46 per cent described the country's economy as
"poor or very poor". A similar number said they expected it to stay the
same while only three in 10 expected it to improve. Remarkably, half of
polled Cubans said they wanted to leave the country.

Source: Cuba's communists dig in as Castro's reform drive hits the sand
- https://www.ft.com/content/c84eb5a2-0fe3-11e7-b030-768954394623

No bandits, scum, or mercenaries (bandidos, escoria, mercenarios) - learning to speak without the keywords of Castroist propaganda

No bandits, scum, or mercenaries (bandidos, escoria, mercenarios):
learning to speak without the keywords of Castroist propaganda
FRANCISCO ALMAGRO DOMÍNGUEZ | Miami | 29 de Marzo de 2017 - 11:00 CEST.

On March 11 Cuban television aired The Other War (La otra guerra) a
series on the civil conflict (1960-1966) that took place in the center
of the Island and produced thousands of victims. As is typical of
political propaganda, the series seems to lack the essential balance
between good and evil, and exhibits a substantial detachment from
historical truth: the "bandits" (bandidos) remain those who rose up
against the Communist regime; the civil war is still called "clean-up of
Escambray," (limpia del Escambray) as if it just involved cleansing some
pestilent redoubt.

Assuming that the democratization of information, and the passage of
time, have enabled those living on the island to harbor a more balanced
understanding of those days can be a critical mistake. There may be no
little glasses of milk, or free bread, as had been promised by the
regime, but a steady diet of anti-history and political manicheism is
and will be guaranteed. Most of our compatriots have a skewed view of
the past, and, as a consequence, of the future. As with the psychotic,
their views are impervious to the logic of evidence.

Perhaps for this and many other reasons it is necessary to explain to
newcomers, before any legal process, or job application, that there are
words and concepts that on this side of the water are not used, or are
understood in a completely different way, or are even
offensive. Fernando Ortiz conceived the term catauro, a kind of rustic
basket used in fields, as a dictionary to "translate" Cuban terminology
that is difficult to understand for other Spanish speakers, or those
speaking other languages.

A generous humanitarian gesture would be to read to each new Cuban
immigrant this new catauro, a kind of lexical primer. For example,
those who live in this country and in this city are not gusanos
(worms). We are people. Those arriving probably still call escoria
(scum) those who left from the Port of Mariela; as in, "He came with the
scum." We should talk about the thousands of Cubans who arrived 50 years
ago with nothing but the shirts on their backs, or those who, 40 ago,
crammed into boats full of madmen and criminals. They are the ones who
have built this beautiful and vibrant city.

Cuba was no pseudocolony of the US. In 1959 almost 70% of Cuban industry
and commerce were in the hands of nationals. It was a republic whose
independence was recognized on May 20, 1902, and not on January 1. Cuba
was a country that had several presidents (some true heroes in the War
of Independence), a Senate, House, and Supreme Court, with their highs
and lows, but more good than bad, allowing it to became one of the most
advanced republics in the Americas in the 50s.

Among the ranks of the strong opposition to the Batista regime there
were rich people, merchants, professionals, workers, peasants and
students. It was not a "class struggle". No senior leader of the armed
opposition to Batista was a worker or a peasant. And in the early
months of the effort there was little talk of Communism, Lenin or Marx.
In fact, the Cuban people were thoroughly anti-Communist. Unfortunately
for the propagandists, there are reels and reels of film and hundreds of
yellowed pages constituting incontrovertible evidence of this.

The catauro of terms should include a chapter dedicated to the Bay of
Pigs. The so-called "mercenaries" were young Cubans who did not fight
under the US flag, but rather that of their homeland, Cuba. They did
receive US financial support and training. But, as history would have
it, there has not been a single strike against an oppressor in Cuba that
has not been funded by and supported from the US territory, whether
actively or passively. Here in Miami they respect and revere the
"invaders" of the Bay of Pigs. To say otherwise is an insult to the
memory of nearly 100 Cubans killed in combat, or who ended up in prison.

Finally, it is important for the catauro or primer for the
visitor/emigrant to Miami to clarify that the "clean-up of Escambray"
was an actual civil war in the Cuban mountains, and that the regime
displaced entire civilian populations to the far end of the island,
seizing all their property, as part of a kind of a "reconcentration"
that gave rise to the infamous "captive towns."

There were atrocities on both sides: summary executions, torture,
indiscriminate bombing. Many "bandits" had been officers of the Rebel
Army, peasants who had served in the columns that took Santa Clara and
other cities in Las Villas and Camagüey. Which is why the fighters in
Escambray should really be called "mutineers."

Cuban television can keep making all the TV series its wants, while
paying with the material and spiritual poverty of a whole people. Once
Cubans have reached this country, they ought to know that those over
here have the right, and the duty, to tell the other side. Those who
step on this soil will realize, as Rabindranath Tagore said, that the
truth does not belong to he who screams loudest.

Source: No bandits, scum, or mercenaries (bandidos, escoria,
mercenarios): learning to speak without the keywords of Castroist
propaganda | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1490778024_29994.html

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Enigmatic Closing Of Plaza Carlos III Causes Discomfort

The Enigmatic Closing Of Plaza Carlos III Causes Discomfort

14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 27 March 2017 – It is almost noon on
Sunday and a young couple, with their two young children in their arms,
stops frustrated in front of the closed gate of the Plaza Carlos III
Shopping Center. For a moment they are confused, they consult the clock
and immediately become inquisitive towards several people who arrived
earlier and who, like them, have stopped in front of the lattice. Some
wait patiently in the entryway from very early, "in case they open
later," but in vain.

The scene has been repeated every day since Friday, March 24, the day
when the commercial center, the largest and most popular of its kind in
Cuba, was closed. Dozens of regular customers from various provinces in
the interior have traveled to the capital just to stumble across a small
and laconic sign on the security gate, which warns the obvious and
offers no useful information:

DEAR CUSTOMER

THE PLAZA CARLOS III SHOPPING CENTER

IT WILL BE KEPT CLOSED UNTIL NEW ADVISORY

Apologize for the annoyances that we may occasion

GENERAL MANAGEMENT

Of course, without official information, the surprise closure of Plaza
Carlos III has raised a lot of speculation, especially in the
neighborhoods surrounding the enclave, in the heart of downtown Havana,
being one of the pioneer shops of the "opening" to foreign currency
transactions in Cuba, since the so-called decriminalization of the
dollar, back in the 90's of the last century. Since its opening as a
foreign exchange market Carlos III has undergone several renovations in
different stages, but never before have the sales to the public been
completely discontinued.

Rumors are circulating that relate this unusual closure to the recent
fires that have occurred in other establishments that operate in foreign
currency in the municipality. "The management denounced to the fire
department headquarters the bad state of the fire-fighting media,
because it does not want the same thing to happen to them [as in the
last ones], so they are renovating the whole system," say some residents
of the neighborhood who, according to what they say, received that
information from some of the shopping center's employees and officials.
There are those who say that "the firemen came and found that there were
flaws in the fire protection system."

These days, however, no metal or metal bars covering the two entrances
of the Plaza have been seen to deploy personnel or vehicles specializing
in fire-fighting technology, nor have any workers been seen to be
reinstalling or maintaining the electrical networks or other similar tasks.

The most visible interior hassle has been the employees of the place,
occupied in general cleaning of the floors and windows, who have been
reluctant to give explanations to those who are not satisfied with the
simple poster and inquire about the date of reopening. "Until further
notice," they repeat, as automatons, those who deign to respond.

Other neighbors speak of a "general audit" that "becomes very
complicated" due to the large number of shopping mall departments and
the size and complexity of their stores. This conjecture is reinforced,
on the one hand, by the experience of decades of cyclical (and futile)
raids against mismanagement, administrative corruption,
misappropriation, embezzlement, smuggling, black marketing and all other
illegalities to be found in a socioeconomic system characterized by
growing demand, insufficient supply and the poor management of the state
monopoly on the economy. The regularity of which does not escape any
establishment where a high amount of state resources moves.

On the other hand, the surprise and unannounced closing – with all the
losses it entails in a shopping center that bills thousands of pesos in
both national currencies – is a sign of the intervention of the highest
ranking government auditors to detect irregularities on the spot without
giving transgressors time to hide traces of their misdeeds.

If the alleged audit is, in fact, underway, it would be a demonstration
of the nullity of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) and their
failure to prevent illegalities in the neighborhood. For several months
the constant and strong police presence around the outer areas of the
commercial center have conferred a deplorable image of a besieged
square, while the "inside" thieves, those who are part of the staff,
looked after their own interests.

Last Sunday some trucks continued unloading merchandise in the Plaza
Carlos III warehouses, which augurs that on an imprecise but possibly
soon date, the mall will be reopened to the public. There is every
indication, for the moment, that it does not seem to have fallen prey to
that closure epidemic that has recently affected several establishments
of the capital that trade in hard currencies.

Affected sites include the hardware stores at 5th, 42nd and La Puntilla,
in the Playa municipality Playa; the Yumurí and Sylvain de Zanja and
Belascoaín stores in Centro Habana; the Pan American TRD on 9th Street,
in the Casino Deportivo neighborhood of the Cerro municipality; and
numerous sale kiosks spread around different points of the city, just to
mention some cases.

While the waiting lasts and the questions accumulate without answers,
the more optimistic habaneros have begun to rub their hands in the
intangible expectation that the next reopening of the popular Plaza
Carlos III will be accompanied with a renewed merchandise, and that at
least in the first days of resumed sales the usually depressed shelves
of the different departments will offer a greater quantity and variety
of products.

Hope is the last thing you lose.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: The Enigmatic Closing Of Plaza Carlos III Causes Discomfort –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-enigmatic-closing-of-plaza-carlos-iii-causes-discomfort/

The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear

The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García

Iván García, 21 March 2017 — In the slum of Lawton, south of Havana, the
need for housing has converted an old collective residence with narrow
passageways into a bunkhouse. With dividers made from cardboard or
bricks recovered from demolished buildings, "apartments" have appeared
where a dozen families reside, living on the razor's edge.

Among the blasting Reggaeton music and illegal businesses, cane alcohol,
stolen the night before from a state distillery, is sold and later used
in the preparation of home-made rum; or clothing with pirated labels,
bought in bulk from stalls in Colón, a stone's throw from the Panama
Canal. A while back, when cattle were slaughtered in the Lawton or
Virgen del Camino slaughterhouses, you could get beef at the wholesale
price.

These overpopulated townships in the capital are cradles of
prostitution, drugs and illegal gambling. Lawton, like no other
neighborhood in Havana, is the "model" for marginalization and crime.
People live from robbing state institutions, selling junk or whatever
falls from a truck.

But don't talk to them about political reforms, ask them to endorse a
dissident party or protest about the brutal beatings that the political
police give a few blocks away to the Ladies in White, who every Sunday
speak about political prisoners and democracy in Cuba.

Let's call him Miguel, a guy who earns money selling marijuana,
psychotropic substances or cambolo, a lethal mix of cocaine with a small
dose of bicarbonate. He's been in prison almost a third of his life. He
had plans to emigrate to the United States but interrupted them after
Obama's repeal of the "wet foot-dry foot" policy.

Miguel has few topics of conversation. Women, sports, under-the-table
businesses. His life is a fixed portrait: alcohol, sex and "flying,"
with reddened eyes from smoking marijuana.

When you ask his opinion about the dissident movement and the continued
repression against the Ladies in White, he coughs slightly, scratches
his chin, and says: "Man, get off that channel. Those women are crazy.
This government of sons of bitches that we have, you aren't going to
bring it down with marches or speeches. If they don't grab a gun, the
security forces will always kick them down. They're brave, but it's not
going to change this shitty country."

Most of the neighbors in the converted bunkhouse think the same way.
They're capable of jumping the fence of a State factory to rob two
gallons of alcohol, but don't talk to them about politics, human rights
or freedom of expression.

"Mi amor, who wants to get into trouble? The police have gone nuts with
the businesses and prostitution. But when you go down the path of human
rights, you're in trouble for life," comments Denia, a matron.

She prefers to speak about her business. From a black bag she brings out
her Huawei telephone and shows several photos of half-nude girls while
chanting out the price. "Look how much money. Over there, whoever wants
can beat them up," says Denia, referring to the Ladies in White.

Generally, with a few exceptions, the citizens of the Republic of Cuba
have become immune or prefer to opt for amnesia when the subjects of
dissidence, freedom and democracy are brought up.

"There are several reasons. Pathological fear, which certainly infuses
authoritarian societies like the Cuban one. You must add to that the
fact that the Government media has known very well how to sell the story
of an opposition that is minimal, divided and corrupt, interested only
in American dollars," affirms Carlos, a sociologist.

Also, the dissidence is operating on an uneven playing field. It doesn't
have hours of radio or television coverage to spread its political
programs. The repression has obligated hundreds of political opponents
to leave the country. And State Security has infiltrated moles in almost
all the dissident groups.

"The special services efficiently short-circuit the relation of the
neighbors of the barrio and the people who support the dissidence. How
do you overcome that abyss? By expanding bridges to the interior of the
Island. I believe the opposition is more focused on political crusades
toward the exterior. The other is to amplify what the majority of Cubans
want to hear: There isn't food; to buy a change of clothing costs a
three months' salary; the terrible transport service; the water
shortage….There is a long list of subjects the dissidents can exploit,"
says Enrique.

I perceive that around 80 percent of the population has important common
ground with the local opposition. The timid economic openings and
repeals of absurd regulations were always claimed by the dissidence,
from greater autonomy for private work, foreign travel or being tourists
in their own country.

According to some dissidents, many neighbors approach them to say hello
and delve into the motives for their detentions after a brutal verbal
lynching or a beating. But there aren't enough.

Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, the leader of the Alianza Democrática
Oriental (Eastern Democratic Alliance) and director of Palenque Visión
(Palenque Vision), felt frustrated when street protests demanding rights
for everybody were taking place, and people were only watching from the
curb of a sidewalk.

"One night I was in the hospital's emergency room, since my son had a
high fever, and I initiated a protest because of the poor medical
attention. Several patients were in the same situation. But no one
raised their voice when the patrols arrived and the political police
detained me by force. That night I realized that I had to change my
method to reach ordinary Cubans. Perhaps the independent press is a more
effective way," Lobaina told me several months ago in Guantánamo.

Although independent journalists reflect that other Cuba that the
autocracy pretends to ignore, their notes, reports or complaints have a
limited reach because of the lack of Internet service and the
precariousness of their daily lives.

For the majority of citizens, democracy, human rights and freedom of
expression are not synonymous with a plate of food, but with repression.
How to awaken a Cuban from indifference is a good question for a debate.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-cuban-regime-survives-by-fear-ivn-garca/

Cuba Holds World Record For Visa Applications Rejected By The United States

Cuba Holds World Record For Visa Applications Rejected By The United States

14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 25 March 2017 – Maria,
59, has a daughter in Miami she hasn't seen for six years. Her visa
applications have been denied three times and she promised herself that
she would never "step foot in" the US consulate in Havana again.

Cuba is the country with the most denials of those who aspired to travel
to the United States in the last two years. In the midst of an abrupt
drop in the granting of visas under Barack Obama's administration, the
Department of State rejected 76% of the travel requests made by Cuban
citizens in fiscal 2015, according to figures released by the US press.

Cubans are followed on the US consulate most-rejected list by nationals
of Laos (67%), Guinea-Bissau (65%) and Somalia (65%). In the Americas,
the others most affected, although far behind Cubans, are Haitians (60%).

According to preliminary data released by the US State Department, the
situation has worsened in fiscal year 2016, with Cuban visa applications
rejected at a rate of 81.85%.

Each interview to request a visa cost Maria about 160 Cuban convertible
pesos (CUC), with no chance of reimbursement, nor has she ever received
any explanations about why her permission to travel was denied.

On each occasion the woman dressed in her best clothes, added an
expensive perfume that her daughter sent her, and practiced her possible
answers in front of the mirror. "No, I will not work during my stay,"
she repeated several times. "I want to see my granddaughter who is a
little girl," and "I can't live anywhere but Cuba," she loudly repeats
as a refrain.

She took with her the title to her house in Central Havana, a copy of
her bank statement and several photos with her husband in case they
asked her to provide reasons why she would not remain "across the pond."

Last year 14,291 Cubans received visas for family visits, to participate
in exchange programs, and for cultural, sports or business reasons,
among other categories. The figure contrasts with the 22,797 visas
granted in 2015 and, more strikingly, the 41,001 granted in 2014.

The State Department said that the reduction of visas granted in Havana
is because of no specific reason, but that because the valid time period
of the multi-entry visas was extended to five years in 2013, many
islanders don't need to return for new interviews to make multiple trips
to the United States.

But Maria did not figure among the fortunate in any of her three attempts.

The last time she headed to the imposing building that houses that US
consulate in the early morning hours, she prayed to the Virgin of
Mercedes, made a cross with the sole of her shoe and put flowers before
the portrait of her deceased mother.

She went to apply for a B2 Visa, the ones that allow multiple visits to
the United States to visit relatives and for tourism. It seemed like the
line lasted "an eternity" before they called her name, she said. Then
came the iron-clad security to enter the building.

"The interview room had an intimidating coldness," she recalls, and was
long and rectangular. Applicants talked to immigration officials through
shielded glass.

The woman's feet trembled and the clerk on the other side of the glass
gave her no time to explain much. He just made a mark on the form with
each answer. A man was crying ata nearby window and an octogenarian lady
sighed after hearing she was not approved.

Maria knows that the United States and Cuba have signed an agreement for
20,000 Cubans to receive immigrant visas every year. In 1995, President
Bill Clinton negotiated that agreement to end the Rafter Crisis, fueled
by the economic recession that hit the island after the fall of the
socialist camp.

In 2016, 9,131 Cubans obtained a visa to legally emigrate to the United
States, many of them under the Cuban Parole Family Reunification
Program, and others through the International Lottery of Diversity Visas
or the Cuban Parole program, among others.

More than two million Cubans reside in the United States, with an active
participation in the economy and politics, primarily in South Florida.

The Cuban Adjustment Act, approved in 1966, allows Cubans to obtain
permanent residence (a green card) if, after entering legally, they
spend one year in the United States. A special welcoming policy only for
Cubans known as wet foot/dry foot was cancelled in January; this policy
allowed any Cuban who stepped foot in the country, even without papers,
to remain, while Cubans who were intercepted at sea were returned to the
island. In the last five years 150,000 Cubans took advantage of this
policy to settle in the United States.

However, Mary's intention is not to emigrate. She does not want to live
in a country that is not her country, although her relatives have told
her that Miami "is full of Cubans" and that Hialeah is like Central Havana.

Despite her Afro-Cuban rites and trying to maintain a positive mental
attitude, in her last interview she didn't have any "luck" either.

She received a quick denial and was given no chance to display all the
answers she had rehearsed. In her opinion, the fact of being under 65
plays against her. "They approve older people who cannot work illegally
there," the lady assumes.

For Eloisa, a retired science teacher, that is not the reason, rather it
is "hostility toward Cubans" by the US Government.

"The Americans want to take over Cuba. It has always been their greatest
desire and because they cannot do it, they punish us by separating us
from our children," the woman says by phone. She has been a member of
the Cuban Communist Party for 25 years and has had two children living
in Houston for just over six years.

Although she only tried once, last year, the refusal from the consulate
made her not want to try again.

"My children work very hard and I wanted to give them the pleasure of
going to spend a little time with them. But hey, it's not to be, " she
says in a voice that is brittle and resigned.

Mary, however, does not tire. This year her daughter will gain American
citizenship and the woman hopes that this new condition will facilitate
a positive response to her next request. Although this new attempt will
leave her a little older and with almost $500 less in her pocket, in a
country where the average monthly salary does not exceed $28.

Source: Cuba Holds World Record For Visa Applications Rejected By The
United States – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-holds-world-record-for-visa-applications-rejected-by-the-united-states/

Russia will help Cuba recover its citrus sector

Russia will help Cuba recover its citrus sector

Russia is ready to help Cuba in the recovery and development of the
island's citrus sector, said the Russian Ministry of Agriculture at the
end of a meeting between Russian Deputy Evgueni Gromika and the Cuban
ambassador in Moscow, Emilio Lozada Garcia.

"Russia's participation in the recovery and development of Cuba's citrus
sector was discussed during the meeting," he stated, adding that Russia
could supply agricultural and transport equipment.

The Deputy Minister of Agriculture confirmed Russia's willingness to
help Cuba in this area, and the Cuban ambassador said his country was
willing to study Russia's proposals and conditions to supply the machinery.

The two officials highlighted the importance of examining the financial
sustainability of this project and agreed to continue working in this area.

Source: Sputnik News

Source: Russia will help Cuba recover its citrus sector -
http://www.freshplaza.com/article/172995/Russia-will-help-Cuba-recover-its-citrus-sector

Downhole problem sinks Cuba well

Downhole problem sinks Cuba well
Canada-based Sherritt abandons lower part of Litoral-100 well after
encountering 'geological complexities'
Caroline Evans
27 Mar 2017 23:28 GMT Updated 27 Mar 2017 23:39 GMT

Canada-based Sherritt International has come up dry at its Litoral-100
in the Bay of Cardenas in Cuba after running into technical problems
with the well.

The exploration well aiming for the Lower Veloz formation failed to
reach its target because of wellbore instability caused by "unexpected
geological complexities when a zone of the less stable Vega Alta rock
formation repeated itself", Sherritt said in a release.

"This resulted in drilling problems and the lower section of the well
had to be abandoned."

The well is located on Sherritt's Block 10 production sharing contract
concession.

Sherrit had planned to drill the well to 5836 metres, but it only
reached 4232 metres.

The company did find "good" shows on a sidetrack drilled from the
existing wellbore into the Upper Veloz formation and was able to produce
oil, but not in commercial quantities, the company said.

"While this well was not successful at reaching its target of the Lower
Veloz, nothing has changed concerning our view of Block 10's potential,"
Sherritt chief executive David Pathe said.

"LT-100 has provided valuable data about the fold and thrust geology of
the basin that we are currently using to update our geological models
and drilling plans. We expect to be in a position to provide a further
update by the time we release first quarter 2017 results."

Source: Downhole problem sinks Cuba well | Upstream -
http://www.upstreamonline.com/live/1232589/downhole-problem-sinks-cuba-well

Cuban factory assembles first 7,000 tablets and laptops

Cuban factory assembles first 7,000 tablets and laptops
Published on March 25, 2017

HAVANA, Cuba (ACN) -- The Industrial Company for Informatics,
Communications and Electronics (GEDEME by its Spanish acronym) in Havana
has assembled the first 3,500 laptops and 3,583 tablets for Cuban
government agencies and organizations.

The initiative is part of an effort by the Cuban government to continue
expanding, within the limit of financial constraints, the secure
computerization of local society.

Fernando Fernandez, chief of the Computer Solutions Project, said that,
for the current year, the goal is to reach 50,000 units, from the
arrival of the parts and components provided by the Chinese company
Haier, with which agreements were signed for the transfer of technologies.

He noted that the training of personnel concluded on January 20 with the
participation of the Chinese experts, who were satisfied with the
competence of the operators who will take up this challenge.

Fernandez explained that currently the entity is immersed in the second
stage of the project that includes the assembly of 40 percent of the
equipment received from China.

The executive stated that facilities have been created to undertake the
manufacture of touch screens.

He recalled that this program also involves the University of Computer
Science which provides the Nova operating systems, computer applications
and their production processes.

GEDEME is in charge of the installation of the equipment, the production
process and commercialization through wholesale chains.

China provides all the technology, raw materials and guarantees the
processes of training and technical exchange with Cuban specialists.

The modern hybrid line installed in Cuba can assemble 120,000 laptops
annually, all sixth generation.

Source: Cuban factory assembles first 7,000 tablets and laptops |
Caribbean News Now -
http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/headline-Cuban-factory-assembles-first-7%2C000-tablets-and-laptops-33898.html

Perdue supports expanded trade with Cuba

Perdue supports expanded trade with Cuba
James Williams 8:35 p.m. CT March 27, 2017

USDA Secretary designate Sonny Perdue is an exceptionally qualified
nominee to lead the USDA. Mr. Perdue has long been an advocate of
expanding trade with Cuba's $2 billion agricultural import market. We're
very optimistic that Mr. Perdue will be confirmed by the Senate and will
continue to support American agribusiness by advancing efforts to lift
the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

In an exchange with committee member Senator John Boozman from Arkansas,
Perdue said, "with respect to Cuba, for those of you on the Gulf Coast
and those along the East Coast as well as those who have been mentioned
by your colleagues in the upper Midwest, I think we would love to have
Cuba as a customer in many things.

As Mr. Perdue notes, American producers are able to sell their products
to Cuba. However, they are unable to offer private financing for the
sale of agricultural commodities to Cuba. As a result, American farmers
have consistently lost market share in Cuba's market every year since
2009. While this restriction is codified in law and would require an act
of Congress, Mr. Perdue went on to announce his support for legislative
efforts to remove these financing restrictions.

"So I think we have the product they need and they would like the
product. The real issue I heard regarding Cuba was the financing part
and certainly that would come probably under another area, not the USDA,
but I would support their efforts if we could get private financing,"
Perdue said, referring to the bipartisan Cuba Agricultural Exports
Act which would remove restrictions on offering credit for the export of
agricultural commodities to Cuba.

That bill has been introduced by Congressman Rick Crawford from Arkansas
in the House and Senators Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota and John
Boozman from Arkansas.

Williams is president of Engage Cuba

Source: Perdue supports expanded trade with Cuba -
http://www.wisfarmer.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/03/27/perdue-supports-expanded-trade-cuba/99715716/

Never belonging - Random reflections on my last visit to Cuba

Never belonging: Random reflections on my last visit to Cuba
OPINIONMIGUEL DE LA TORRE | MARCH 28, 2017

Returning to the land which witnessed my birth is always a gut-wrenching
experience. Separation from my island has now been five times longer
than Odysseus' was from his. But unlike Odysseus, who was returning to a
place he was familiar with, I am attempting to piece together some type
of rootedness upon the shifting sands of my parents' false memories (sí,
porque los bichos no picaban, y los mangos eran más dulce; yes, because
the bugs were not biting, and mangoes were sweeter).

Every Cuban over a certain age lives with a particular trauma caused by
the hardships of being a refugee. Homesickness for a place that was
never home, mixed with nostalgia, romanticization and an
unnaturally-taught hatred towards various actors blamed for our
Babylonian captivity contributes to the trauma of not having a place, of
not ever being able to visit one's grandmother's garden to eat mangos
from its trees, nor enjoy the gentle sea breezes.

By the rivers of Miami we sat and wept at the memory of La Habana. There
on the palm trees we hung our conga drums. For there, those who stole
our independence with gunboat diplomacy, asked us for songs. Those who
forced on us the Platt Amendment demanded songs of joy. "Sing us one of
the mambo songs from Cuba." But how can we sing our rumba in a pagan
land? If I forget you, mi Habana, may my right hand wither. May my
tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do
not consider la Habana mi mayor alegría. Remember, Yahweh, what the
oppressors did. A blessing on him who seizes their infants and dashes
them against the rock!

As I stroll down el malecón, as I amble along calle Obispo, as I have a
daiquiri en el Floridita, I observe. I randomly gaze at my surroundings,
reflecting upon what I see, attempting to understand what occurs beneath
the surface. In no specific order, here are some of my musings:
- I notice many yuma lechers — old white men with young beautiful
mulatas on their arms, planning to do to them what the embargo has done
to the island.
- I notice yumas rushing to see Cuba before it changes, before it is
spoiled, fetishizing the misery and poverty of others, ignoring how much
the people want change because they hunger.
- I notice la buena presente, where the faces of tourism's
representatives have a light complexion, thus denying their darker
compatriots lucrative tourists' tips.
- I notice how liberals, from the safety of first-world middle-class
privilege, paint Cuba as some socialist paradise, ignoring how sexism
and racism continues to thrive, along with a very sophisticated and
not-so-well hidden classism connected to political power.
- I notice how conservatives, with an air of superiority, paint Cuba
with brushes which impose hues of oppression to color a portrait of
repression ignorant of the survival mentality of a people fluent in
doublespeak and sharp tongues of criticism.
- I notice tourists who can't salsa dancing in well-preserved streets
while a block away from the merriment are inhabited buildings on the
verge of collapsing.
- I notice Trumpites insisting on removing the human rights violation
splinter out of Cuba's eye while ignoring the log of Border Patrol
abuses against the undocumented, the log of black lives not mattering,
the log of grabbing women by their ——-, paying them lower wages than men
for the same job, the log of unthreading a safety net which keeps people
alive, and all the other human rights violation logs firmly lodged in
the USA's eye.
- I notice liberal yumas apotheosis of el Ché and Fidel, dismissing as
gusanos the critiques of those and the surviving families who have suffered.
- I notice the swagger of conservative yumas quick to dictate the
conditions under which they will recognize someone else's sovereignty,
holding on to the self-conceived hegemonic birthright of empire.
- I notice the false dichotomy created by bar stool pundits between
ending the genocidal U.S. embargo and the need for greater political
participation from the people. This is not an either/or issue; it's a
both/and.

The most painful thing I notice is how I am not fully accepted aquí o
allá — here or there. I am held in contempt and suspicion on both sides
of the Florida Straits. Here, I'm too Cuban to ever be American, and
there, I'm too American to ever be a Cuban. The trauma of which I speak
is never belonging.

As you contemplate these reflections, note I have again returned to la
isla de dolor. Like Odysseus I am struggling against the gods who decree
separation from the fantasy island I claim to love, an irrational love
toward a place where I am neither welcomed nor truly belong. I close
these reflections with that of another refugee, who also spent his life
wandering the earth where there was no place he could call home or where
he could rest his head. According to José Martí, "Let those who do not
[secure a homeland] live under the whip and in exile, watched over like
wild animals, cast from one country to another, concealing the death of
their souls with a beggar's smile from the scorn of free persons."

Source: Never belonging: Random reflections on my last visit to Cuba –
Baptist News Global -
https://baptistnews.com/article/random-reflections-on-my-last-visit-to-cuba/#.WNppUfmGP6Q

Monday, March 27, 2017

Cuba: more reliant on the US than ever

Cuba: more reliant on the US than ever
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 27 de Marzo de 2017 - 16:38 CEST.

The best way to appreciate how that Cuba's economy today depends on the
US more than ever before in its history is to engage in a very simple
mental exercise: imagine that Washington banned travel, remittances and
packages to the island, except for medicines and special visits by
Cubans to see very sick relatives.

What would happen? Can anyone even make a coherent assessment of a
scenario like this? Many shudder at even the notion. This is not going
to happen, but the mere thought places many's hair on end – especially
that of the Castroist political and military elite. Political science
also encompasses possible situations and potential scenarios.

For 60 years the regime's propaganda has been vociferously claiming that
before 1959 Cuba was a pseudo-colony of the US. Of course, media and
academic centers on the island have been prohibited from researching or
publishing anything about how, in fact, "revolutionary" Cuba was much
more dependent on the USSR than "bourgeois" Cuba ever was on the US.
And, what's worse, now it depends more than ever on American cash,
especially in the wake of the devastating economic crisis in Venezuela.

Hypocrisy in the regime's realpolitik and its two-faced policies are
evident. On the one hand, it waves the flag and stirs up enmity against
the "Empire" and the "criminal blockade", while simultaneously
supplicating, wheeling and dealing, and spreading its tentacles behind
the scenes, both in political circles on the left, and within the US
business community, to encourage travel and commercial flights to Cuba,
and for Congress to lift the embargo so that they can obtain access to
international loans and foreign investment.

The latter, getting loans, cash and investments, is vital to the
dictator and his military junta. The plans of the Government and elite
of the Communist Party (PCC) to pass power to a new generation of
leaders, military and civilians, starting in 2018, call for stabilizing
financial support that they currently lack.

More American money than ever

Between remittances, packages and trips to Cuba from the US, in 2016
Cuba brought in more than 7 billion dollars. According to experts that
figure has already surpassed the amount from Venezuelan subsidies. It is
triple the revenue from the Cuban tourist industry, almost double the
value of Cuban exports in 2016, which did not reach 4 billion, and 15
times the value of sugar exports. Incidentally, this last harvest in
2016 yielded only one third of the sugar produced back in 1925 (5.1
million tons).

From 1902 to 1958, although nearly 80% of Cuban sugar was exported to
the US (at rates higher than those on the world market) and the rest of
the Island's trade was largely with its northern neighbor, there were
two big differences to the situation today:

There were not, as there are today, almost 2,000,000 Cubans in the US,
furnishing the country with more money than all of Cuba's exports,
including sugar, nickel, tobacco, rum and pharmaceutical products,
combined. The funds obtained from goods exported from the island in 2016
came to half of total monies received from the US.
There were private enterprises in Cuba that generated the bulk of its
Gross Domestic Product (GDP), for a per capita GDP higher than Spain's
and almost equal to that of Italy.
Genetic parasitism

The problem is that, unlike a market economy, Cuba's is parasitic, due
to the congenital defect of its Marxist-Leninist statism, which is
contrary to human nature, such that it can only work if it is subsidized
from abroad; first by Moscow, and then by Caracas. Now, with the crisis
in Venezuela, the Cuban economy is sustained by "counterrevolutionaries"
in Miami. The profound irony is that the cash that meets most of Cuba's
needs today is "imperialist" in origin.

This had never happened before. According to official figures, in the
50s the US acquired 57% of Cuba's total exports. That is, the Island
sold almost half of its exportable goods to the rest of the world,
including cattle, coffee, pineapple and other products that the country
was later unable to export when the Castros rose to power. In that
pre-Castro decade Cuba produced 60,000 tons of coffee annually. In 2016
it produced a grand total of 5,687 tons. Incredible, but true.

With regards to dependence on the USSR, renowned Cuban economist
Professor Carmelo Mesa-Lago offers some impressive figures. In 1989,
Cuba received from the Soviet Union (and, to a far lesser degree, other
allied countries) 98% of its oil, 80% of its machinery, 57% of its
chemicals, and 53% of its food. 78.6% of all imports also came from
those Communist nations.

According to the few official figures available in this regard, since
Cuba joined the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) in 1972,
between 75 and 80% of its total trade (exports and imports) was with the
USSR and other Communist countries. The highpoint occurred between 1984
and 1991, during the zenith of Soviet subsidies, when Moscow paid Castro
45 cents for a pound of sugar – while the price on the world market was
at 4 or 5.

What few people know around the world is that Cuba got the lion's share
of these supplies for free, as it never paid its huge trade deficits. In
fact, it racked up a debt of 35 billion dollars with Moscow. 90% was
pardoned in 2014 by Vladimir Putin, aware that they would never collect.
He did try to force Castro to pay at least 3.5 billion, however. But
he's not going to get a penny.

I still have a yellowing paper teletype, an AFP report from back in
1995, indicating that between 1984 and 1991 Cuba had accumulated a trade
deficit of more than 16.08 billion dollars during those 8 years, an
average of over 2 billion per year, with a spike to 2.74 billion in
1989. And almost all that unbalanced trade was with the USSR.

Total subordination

Furthermore, the island received billions of dollars in weapons of every
type: planes, tanks, artillery, ships, rockets, vehicles, guns, and
equipment, allowing it to wield the largest and most powerful army in
Latin America after Brazil. Cuba even received 42 nuclear missiles (able
to reach Washington and New York), which put the world on the brink of
nuclear war in 1962.

But what takes the cake is that in the 80s (until 1986), then Economy
Minister Humberto Perez told me, off the record, that Moscow was selling
to capitalist countries almost three million tons of crude oil that Cuba
did not use, from its annual quota allocated by the CMEA, and then
sending the money to Havana, these funds exceeding the amount generated
by all its sugar mills.

We can clearly see that Cuba was not a pseudocolony of the USSR, but an
outright one, as we can add that the largest apparatus for intelligence
and repression in Latin America, the Castros', was organized and trained
by the KGB, with the help of East Germany's neo-Nazi Stasi. All for free.

Despite its trade dependence on the US before 1959, Cuba was never as
subordinate to its northern neighbor as it was later on the USSR, 19,000
km away, beyond the Mediterranean.

Given the parasitism endemic to Castroist socialism, Cuba today depends
on the US so profoundly that if the scenario described at the outset of
this article were to come to pass, the nation would come to an utter
standstill. It would be another Cambodia, with people eating out of
communal pots. Without "Yankee" money, Castroism would be unsustainable.

*In an earlier version of this text the caption stated that the image
was from Havana. The picture was, in fact, taken in Washington, DC.

Source: Cuba: more reliant on the US than ever | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1490629128_29947.html

A Month Without Machado Ventura

A Month Without Machado Ventura

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 27 March 2017 — Just a month ago his
face disappeared from the Cuban government's family photo. The last time
he was seen, Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura handed out orders
in an extensive agricultural area of ​​Pinar del Río. Four weeks later,
no official media has offered an explanation for the absence of the
second most powerful man on the island.

Now 86, this man born in Villa Clara's San Antonio de las Vueltas, has
stood behind Raul Castro for more than five years, in his position as
the second secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), which the
Constitution of the Republic consecrates as the "the highest leading
force of society and the State."

The man who was never absent from our television screens and newspaper
pages for more than 48 hours has failed to appear since 27 February. An
absence that feeds rumors among a people accustomed to giving more
importance to a lack of news than to the news itself. But above all, it
is a disappearance that comes at a bad time for the Plaza of the Revolution.

It is less than a year before Raúl Castro leaves his office as president
and every day the uncertainty of who will relieve him in his post
increases. Machado Ventura's departure from the game would force the
hurried naming of a second secretary of the PCC and put a face to one of
the most jealously guarded mysteries of recent years.

The next few weeks could be of momentous importance for clearing up this
question. If the first vice-president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, assumes the
second position in the Party it will prolong the tradition of
concentrating in a single person the highest positions in the
country. To choose among other names, such as Bruno Rodríguez, Lázaro
Expósito or Salvador Valdés Mesa, could open a bicephalic route,
unprecedented in communist regimes.

For decades, all power was concentrated in Fidel Castro, who placed his
brother in the rearguard of his countless positions. In 2006, already
with serious health problems, the Maximum Leader had to step away from
public life and Raúl Castro inherited that conglomerate of faculties
that placed him at the head of the Party and the State.

Nevertheless, during the Raul era "second positions" have
bifurcated. The first vice-president is no longer the same person as the
second secretary of the PPC, among other reasons so that no one person
could completely replace the General-President. A measure of protection,
but also an evidence of the lack of confidence of the historical
generation in its relief team.

In this new structure, Machado Ventura remained second in the
Party. Machadito, as his friends call him, has cultivated a public image
as the ayatollah and custodian of ideological purity. An orthodoxy that
in the Cuban case does not cling to the dogmas of Marxism-Leninism but
to the voluntarist* doctrine of Fidelismo.

Analysts blame this iron-fisted goalkeeper's presence at the top of the
pyramid on Fidel Castro's express wish, placing him behind his brother
to prevent the latter from veering from the path. This is how a man who
once qualified in medicine became, according to Soviet terminology in
the times of perestroika, the "braking mechanism" on the reforms Raul
Castro might have pushed.

Machado Ventura earned his reputation for immobility through
prohibitions and punishments. He was in charge of leading the provincial
assemblies prior to the last Communist Party Congresses, confabs where
the principle agreements were hatched, the delegates chosen and where
the key points of the Party Guidelines that today are the "sacred
commandments" of Raulismo were committed to.

However, that role seems to have come to its end. The man who ordered
the dismissal of high-level cadres and for decades banned Christmas
trees in public establishments has left the scene. Missing with him are
his harangues calling for efficiency and his visits to workplaces where
he advocated greater discipline and sacrifice.

It remains possible that Machadito – the guardian of orthodoxy – will
reappear at any moment like the phoenix, and leap between the furrows to
explain to farmers how to plant sweet potatoes or arrive to instruct
the engineers of some industry how to make better use of their
resources. The followers of the hard line would receive that return with
relief.

Translator's note: Voluntarism is the view that revolutionaries can
change society by means of will, irrespective of economic conditions.
Source: David Priestland, Stalinism and the Politics of Mobilization.

Source: A Month Without Machado Ventura – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/a-month-without-machado-ventura/

An Unfortunate Article

An Unfortunate Article / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 26 March 2017 — In a mis-timed article, a journalist
from the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth), a self-proclaimed
Cuban youth, visits Hiroshima and unleashes her personal feeling about
the events of 6 August 1945. She says she "is pained," that "August in
Hiroshima is forever" and shocked that a survivor, after the passage of
71 years, bears no grudge, and that "in Japan forgiveness is
long-overdue subject."

Then, instead of understanding that forgiveness is a sign of wisdom, she
speaks about "the fiery blood of Cubans," and says "it is hard to
understand it."

She's right: We Cubans lack the wisdom necessary to forgive, and what's
more, to ask for forgiveness. To forgive and to ask for forgiveness are
pending subjects here, despite the fact that our mambises — the original
freedom fighters of a previous century — at the end of a real war, knew
how to forgive.

These last 58 years are filled with bad examples. In Cuba hatred has
overcome love, even though Jose Marti made it very clear that love
builds and hatred destroys. The problem is that the example of Marti is
used according to political convenience: one part of his thinking is
manipulated and published and the other is hidden.

The journalist, to ride the wave, goes even further and addresses the
visit and words of President Obama, when he was here. She says, "But
that a victim of the Holocaust leans on his words to talk about the most
painful moment? That's more than I can stand."

Despite everything, I understand it: if she were not spiteful, filled
with hatred and a practitioner of intolerance, it would be very
difficult for her to write for Juventud Rebelde.

It is striking that "at this stage of the game," when it is already lost
and it will end very soon, instead of drawing useful conclusions from
her visit, she shows herself to be so dogmatic. These are times to
forgive and not to accumulate rancor and historical hatreds that, as can
be seen, contribute absolutely nothing: Cuba is an example.

You have to know how to "turn the page" and not get stuck in the past.
Japan demonstrates this with its spectacular development without losing
its national dignity. It would be wise to learn from them.

Translated by Laura

Source: An Unfortunate Article / Fernando Dámaso – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/an-unfortunate-article-fernando-dmaso/

Evangelical Churches Booming In Cuba Amid Tensions

Evangelical Churches Booming In Cuba Amid Tensions
March 27, 2017 7:47 AM

HAVANA (CBSMiami/AP) — Fidel Castro's government punished Rev. Juan
Francisco Naranjo and sent him to two years of work camp for preaching
in Cuba where atheism was law. For years, Naranjo's church was almost
abandoned, with just a handful of people daring to attend services.

Naranjo died in 2000 but on a recent Sunday, his William Carey Baptist
Church was packed and noisy. Government doctors treated disabled
children at a clinic inside. A Bible study group discussed Scripture in
one corner of the building before a service attended by 200 of the faithful.

"In the 1960s, the few brothers and sisters who came here had to hide
their Bibles in brown-paper covers," said Esther Zulueta, a 57-year-old
doctor. "It's night and day."

Trump administration officials have repeatedly said religious freedom is
one of the key demands they will make of Cuba when they finish reviewing
former President Barack Obama's opening with the island. The
administration has never been more specific, but outside groups have
accused Cuba of systematically repressing the island's growing ranks of
evangelicals and other Protestants with acts including the seizure of
hundreds of churches across the island, followed by the demolition of many.

An Associated Press examination has found a more complicated picture.
Pastors and worshippers say Cuba is in the middle of a boom in
evangelical worship, with tens of thousands of Cubans worshipping
unmolested across the island each week.

While the government now recognizes freedom of religion, it doesn't
grant the right to build churches or other religious structures. It has
demolished a handful of churches in recent years, but allowed their
members to continue meeting in makeshift home sanctuaries. And like the
Roman Catholic Church, the island's dominant denomination, evangelical
churches have begun providing social services once monopolized by the
Communist government.

"There's a revival of these churches, of the most diverse denominations
in the country, and all of them are growing, not just in the number of
members, but in their capacity to lead and act in society," said
Presbyterian pastor Joel Ortega Dopica, president of Council of Churches
of Cuba, an officially recognized association of 32 Protestant
denominations. "There is religious freedom in Cuba."

Clergy and academics say Cuba's 11 million people include some 40,000
Methodists, 100,000 Baptists and 120,000 members of the Assemblies of
God, which had roughly 10,000 members in the early 1990s, when Cuba
began easing restrictions on public expressions of religious faith. The
church council estimates there are about 25,000 evangelical and other
Protestant houses of worship across the country. About 60 percent of the
population is baptized Catholic, with many also following Afro-Cuban
syncretic traditions such as Santeria.

Naranjo was part of that opening. After the work camp, he returned to a
church whose worshippers were barred from many state jobs. A thaw began
in 1984 when visiting American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson
stunned Cuba by taking Fidel Castro to a Protestant church service. In
1990, Naranjo was among a group of pastors who met with Castro to push
for a greater freedom, and his own church worked on building ties
between religious groups and the Communist Party.

The opening culminated in the 1998 visit of Pope John Paul II, which led
to new liberties for both Catholic and Protestant worshippers.

The Cuban constitution now recognizes freedom of religion, but the law
is silent on the issue of church construction. In a system where the
government has long monopolized public life, virtually all activities
are presumed illegal unless the law says otherwise. Authorities in some
areas have prohibited new churches, even as they allow worship in
religious buildings erected before Cuba's 1959 revolution.

The London-based advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide issued a
report alleging the Cuban government committed 2,380 violations of
religious liberty in 2016, most linked to the declaration of 2,000
Assemblies of God churches as illegal, with 1,400 in process of
confiscation. The group says it based that information on a source
inside Cuba whom it would not name.

Juan Whitaker, the Assemblies of God's treasurer in Cuba, told The
Associated Press this month that none of its churches had been declared
illegal or were at risk of confiscation.

David Ellis, regional director for Latin America and Caribbean for world
missions of the Missouri-based General Council of the Assemblies of God,
told the AP, "We are in ongoing contact with the Cuba Assemblies of God
leadership and they have not reported any churches being confiscated.
Neither have they reported that churches have been threatened with
confiscation."

Kiri Kankhwende, a spokeswoman for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said
its assessment hadn't changed and any statement to the contrary could be
explained by official pressure on churches in Cuba.

Christian Solidarity has also cited the case of Juan Carlos Nunez, a
minister in the Apostolic Movement in the eastern city of Las Tunas,
while other religious freedom advocates have cited the case of Bernardo
de Quesada, in the eastern city of Camaguey, as examples of religious
persecution.

Both men told the AP that churches they built in the yards of their
homes were demolished by the government because they were constructed
without permits. Both continue leading services inside their homes,
where hundreds of worshippers gather each week.

"They tolerate me, but they don't accept me," said de Quesada. "I'm not
shutting up or leaving. We have passion and no one will stop us."

Nunez said he was sentenced to a year of house arrest after neighbors
complained about speakers he set up to boost the sound of services in
his home. He blamed the situation on the vague status of new churches in
Cuban law.

"If there were a law on church activities, none of this would happen and
everything would be clear," he said.

Even so, churches are working on projects that once would have been
forbidden to them, including efforts on AIDS prevention, sustainable
agriculture, renewable energy, medicine distribution, training of farm
workers and disaster relief.

"The Cuban authorities have understood the necessity of our presence and
dialogue with the government, which still continues, even if we don't
always agree," said the Rev. Dorilin Tito, a 38-year-old pastor at
William Carey Baptist Church.

Source: Evangelical Churches Booming In Cuba Amid Tensions « CBS Miami -
http://miami.cbslocal.com/2017/03/27/evangelical-churches-booming-in-cuba-amid-tensions/

Christie Renews Call to Demand Cuba Return Convicted Killer

Christie Renews Call to Demand Cuba Return Convicted Killer
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is again calling on the federal
government to have Cuba return a woman convicted in the murder of a
state trooper.
March 25, 2017, at 5:45 p.m.

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has again called on
the federal government to have Cuba return a woman convicted in the
murder of a state trooper.

Christie discussed Joanne Chesimard during an interview Friday with Fox
News Channel's Tucker Carlson. She is the state's most wanted fugitive,
with a $2 million bounty for information leading to her capture.

Saturday marked the 40th anniversary of Chesimard's conviction in the
death of Trooper Werner Foerster. He was killed during a gunfight after
a traffic stop on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973.

Chesimard was sentenced to life in prison but escaped in November 1979
and eventually traveled to Cuba. Fidel Castro granted her asylum and she
has been living under the name Assata Shakur.

"Foerster gave his life. And his family has lived for the last 40 years
with the knowledge that his murderer has been living with impunity in an
island protected by that government," Christie said. "It's outrageous."

The Republican governor urged the Trump administration to make
Chesimard's return to the United States part of any change in Cuba
policy. Christie had made a similar request to former President Barack
Obama after the United States and Cuba restored full diplomatic relations.

"This is something that Secretary of State (Rex) Tillerson and others in
the Trump administration should make a top priority, in any dealings
they have with Cuba," Christie said.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Christie Renews Call to Demand Cuba Return Convicted Killer |
New Jersey News | US News -
https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-jersey/articles/2017-03-25/christie-renews-call-to-demand-cuba-return-convicted-killer

Sunday, March 26, 2017

“Adequate Social Behavior” Is The Requirement For A Sports Contract Abroad for a Cuban Athlete

"Adequate Social Behavior" Is The Requirement For A Sports Contract
Abroad for a Cuban Athlete

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 18 March 2017 — To the voices that
call for more autonomy for athletes, the Cuban government has just
responded with a clear message. "To enter into a contract abroad, the
athlete" must have "adequate social behavior," according to Ramiro
Domínguez, legal director of the National Institute of Sports, Physical
Education and Recreation (INDER), speaking to the press

The official's statement was accompanied by data about the number of
athletes residing on the island who obtained a contract in other
countries through the state entity. By the end of last year 61
agreements had been signed in different disciplines, and there are
"between 200 and 300 athletes engaged temporarily in tournaments,
training camps or leagues abroad," he said.

Domínguez explained that to achieve one of these contracts the athlete
must also have "good teaching and sports results, be of interest to his
national federation and receive authorization from the country where he
would perform."

INDER evaluates "the athlete's living conditions in the club" where he
will play, "the right to represent Cuba when asked and his safety," as
well as a "second medical opinion in case of injury or discomfort." The
official commented that he is studying to implement a scheme for
"economic compensation" that would go to the State for the training the
athlete received in Cuba, and that "can be a fixed economic amount or
the equivalent of 20% of the contract in question."

He clarified that in the case of baseball, the money that the Federation
collects in that way is not "to satisfy personal whims, but destined to
solve problems of the sport itself."

"One of our main goals is to prevent the athlete from being treated as
merchandise," and "every athlete hired leaves Cuba with a rigorous
medical examination, anti-doping test and aware of their contractual and
tax obligations, and in some cases accompanied by relatives," Domínguez
pointed out.

Alfredo Despaigne from Granma province is the emblematic example of an
athlete hired by a foreign club. The player achieved a million dollar
contract with the Japanese club Fukuoka Hawks of Softbank, and according
to Domínguez does not have to pay the Cuban Federation of Baseball, nor
INDER.

"Once he returns to the country, the athlete will comply with tax
obligations, like all Cuban citizens who receive income abroad,"
Domínguez had indicated in an earlier statement.

Source: "Adequate Social Behavior" Is The Requirement For A Sports
Contract Abroad for a Cuban Athlete – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/adequate-social-behavior-is-the-requirement-for-a-sports-contract-abroad-for-a-cuban-athlete/

On A Daily Basis I Prepare Around Fifty Lunches

"On A Daily Basis I Prepare Around Fifty Lunches" / Cubanet

Ay mi'jo, I would die of shame if I told you the things I've had to do,
to earn a living (…) Fortunately, the best thing about working on my own
is that even though beginnings are hard and there are always
difficulties, I have managed to find my business (…)

Since I'm from Bauta [municipality about 25 miles southwest of Havana] I
have to get up early almost every day, from Monday to Saturday, to be in
Havana from 7 to 8 AM at a friend's house who rents me her kitchen in
Cerro. Then I have until noon to cook the food I'll sell, and I have to
make it well (…)

On a daily basis I prepare around fifty lunches. I put them in the
containers I have, and around noon I go and sell them at a taxi stop by
Parque de la Fraternidad.

Afterwards, I'll go back to my friend's house and prepare for the next
day, buying anything I might need, or defrosting and seasoning meat. In
the afternoon, I'm off to Bauta once again (…)

It's been like that for five years (…) I've always been a dreamer, with
many hopes and aspirations, but now at my age I try to not expect much
from the future. Better to have it surprise me.

Translated by Leidy Johana Gonzalez and Brenda Rivera

Source: "On A Daily Basis I Prepare Around Fifty Lunches" / Cubanet –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/on-a-daily-basis-i-prepare-around-fifty-lunches-cubanet/

Christie Renews Call to Demand Cuba Return Convicted Killer

Christie Renews Call to Demand Cuba Return Convicted Killer
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is again calling on the federal
government to have Cuba return a woman convicted in the murder of a
state trooper.
March 25, 2017, at 5:45 p.m.

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has again called on
the federal government to have Cuba return a woman convicted in the
murder of a state trooper.

Christie discussed Joanne Chesimard during an interview Friday with Fox
News Channel's Tucker Carlson. She is the state's most wanted fugitive,
with a $2 million bounty for information leading to her capture.

Saturday marked the 40th anniversary of Chesimard's conviction in the
death of Trooper Werner Foerster. He was killed during a gunfight after
a traffic stop on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973.

Chesimard was sentenced to life in prison but escaped in November 1979
and eventually traveled to Cuba. Fidel Castro granted her asylum and she
has been living under the name Assata Shakur.

"Foerster gave his life. And his family has lived for the last 40 years
with the knowledge that his murderer has been living with impunity in an
island protected by that government," Christie said. "It's outrageous."

The Republican governor urged the Trump administration to make
Chesimard's return to the United States part of any change in Cuba
policy. Christie had made a similar request to former President Barack
Obama after the United States and Cuba restored full diplomatic relations.

"This is something that Secretary of State (Rex) Tillerson and others in
the Trump administration should make a top priority, in any dealings
they have with Cuba," Christie said.

Source: Christie Renews Call to Demand Cuba Return Convicted Killer |
New Jersey News | US News -
https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-jersey/articles/2017-03-25/christie-renews-call-to-demand-cuba-return-convicted-killer

When Pope Benedict was in Cuba, he added a politically charged word at the last minute

When Pope Benedict was in Cuba, he added a politically charged word at
the last minute
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD, KEVIN G. HALL AND FRANCO ORDOÑEZ
Miami Herald Archives

SANTIAGO, CUBA
From the Miami Herald archives: Five years ago, Pope Benedict visited
Cuba, greeting tens of thousands of Cubans on March 26, 2012 on the
first leg of his visit to the island. The last papal visit to Cuba had
been 14 years before by Pope John Paul II. Here is a look back:

Tens of thousands of Cuban well-wishers greeted Pope Benedict XVI Monday
on the first leg of his whirlwind tour of this communist island, a visit
aimed at building on the spiritual gains that his predecessor, John Paul
II, made during a historic visit 14 years ago.

Thousands lined the road from the airport to catch a glimpse of the
pontiff as he passed by in his "popemobile, " and tens of thousands more
gathered in Santiago's Plaza of the Revolution Antonio Maceo for a papal
Mass that began a half-hour late in the unrelenting afternoon sun. But
the hot weather and the delay did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm as
the crowd jumped with joy and roared its approval as a statue of Cuba's
patron saint made its way through the crowd of a Vatican-estimated
200,000 people.

"This is not political. You see, everybody here is happy, happy, happy,
" said Maria, a Santiago resident who asked that her surname not be used.

For 64-year-old Ana Cajigal and her daughter Mayra, 32, it was a chance
to hear their second pope.

"We are very emotional, happy, we want peace in the world, " said the
older Cajigal, flanked by her daughter wearing a USA cap, not common in
Cuba. Asked if she was sending a message as she posed for pictures, she
smiled coyly and said, "It's for the sun."

Politics, however, were not far away. Shortly after two white doves were
released as the Mass began, a man charged the stage, shouting in
Spanish, "Down with communism." He was quickly subdued, and none of it
was visible to television viewers. A video showed the crowd striking him
as he was hauled away.

The pope himself made little mention of politics in his homily until the
very end, when he called on Cubans to "strive to build a renewed and
open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which
better reflects the goodness of God."

Earlier, Benedict, 84, offered gentle criticism for both Cuba's
authoritarian government and a U.S. trade embargo on the island that's
more than 50 years old in remarks he gave when he arrived at Santiago's
airport at about 2:30 in the afternoon. He was greeted on the airport's
tarmac by Cuban leader Raúl Castro, who wore a business suit and sported
a red tie.

In his arrival remarks, Benedict said Cubans "wherever they may be" were
in his prayers. He said he prayed for guidance for "the future of this
beloved nation in the ways of justice, peace, freedom, liberty and
reconciliation."

The word liberty, a politically charged word, was not in the prepared
remarks that had been distributed to reporters in advance of the pope's
arrival and was added by the pope apparently at the last minute.

Tweaking the Castro government, Benedict said, "Greater progress can and
ought to be made" in relations between the church and state. In a
criticism of the United States and other developed countries, Benedict
said "not a few people regard" the world's current economic troubles "as
part of a profound spiritual and moral crisis" afflicting the developed
world.

For his part, Castro criticized the five-decade U.S. trade embargo on
Cuba and said Cuba was opening up and "changing all that needs to be
changed." Like his brother Fidel's welcoming speech to John Paul II in
1998, Raúl defended the pair's legacy of healthcare and education for all.

Benedict was scheduled to spend Monday night at a restored home for
retired priests in the small mining town of El Cobre, home to Cuba's
patron saint, Our Lady of Charity, where he was to sleep on a new
"memory foam" mattress donated by a furniture store in Miami. On Tuesday
morning, he'll pray at the Our Lady of Charity shrine before leaving for
Havana.

The pope's trip coincides with the 400th anniversary of the discovery of
the small, doll-like wooden statue of the Virgin Mary bobbing in the Bay
of Nipe after a violent storm. From that day forward, Catholics have
revered her as Our Lady of Charity. For centuries, the faithful have
prayed to Our Lady of Charity, now Cuba's patron saint, for her help.

"I, too, wish to go to El Cobre to kneel at the feet of the Mother of
God, " the pope said. "I want to ask her to guide the future of this
beloved nation in the ways of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation."

He added: "I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate
desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be, their sufferings and their
joys, their concerns and their noblest desires, those of the young and
the elderly, of adolescents and children, of the sick and workers, of
prisoners and their families, and of the poor and those in need.''

While the German-born Pope Benedict lacks the charm and charisma of his
Polish predecessor, his visit has stirred hopes among Cuban believers
and Cuban exiles in Miami and elsewhere for change in an island nation
that the Castro brothers have ruled for more than five decades, first
Fidel, and then, since 2006, Raul.

"We await the pope with much joy. The Cuban people love the pope. The
Cuban Catholic Church is very proud that the pope has shown a preference
for Cuba, because it's the second such visit in which a pope has come, "
said José Julio García, who was interviewed Sunday as his four-truck
caravan, carrying dozens of Roman Catholic worshippers from the city of
Camaguey, paused along the way to Santiago, Cuba's second-largest city.

Church leaders in Cuba and the United States are walking a fine line. On
one hand, they're trying to boost the influence of the Catholic Church
in Cuba, which has made gains in followers and charity work since John
Paul II's 1998 visit. On the other hand, they're under pressure from
staunchly Catholic Cuban exiles in the United States and Europe who
think the church should use its moral authority to pose a stronger
challenge to Cuba's autocratic regime and help bring about its end.

Even before he arrived, Pope Benedict caused a stir by suggesting during
his visit to Mexico that Cuba's Marxist ideology is outdated and the
country needs a new model. Overlooked were his comments that changes
should come slowly and in a deliberate process, not unlike the sorts of
openings already happening in a small scale under Raúl.Castro.

Raúl, 80, who assumed the presidency in 2006 when Fidel, now 85, fell
seriously ill, has expanded self-employment, shrunk government jobs and
scaled back subsidies to state enterprises. The communist government,
however, continues to have firm control over many aspects of public
life, and there are no opposition parties.

The government has been closely following the activities of the Ladies
in White, a small movement of women who wear white and gather at Masses
at Catholic churches in Cuba to protest the treatment of the island's
prisoners of conscience.

They're expected to protest sometime during the papal visit to Santiago,
and the dissident group is still holding out hope that it will be able
to speak with the pope when he arrives in Havana on Tuesday.

After a protest march Sunday outside the Santa Rita church in Havana's
Miramar neighborhood, the group's leader, Berta Soler, said that all
they wanted was "just a moment" with the pope to discuss human rights.
The Castro government doesn't want the Ladies in White to attend the
pope's Mass in Havana's José Martí Revolution Square, but Soler vowed
that the women will make their presence known.

"We will be there, all of us, dressed in white, " she said. "We won't
stop until human rights are respected."

Whitefield and McClatchy News Service correspondent Hall reported from
Santiago, and Ordonez of McClatchy reported from Havana.

Source: Miami Herald archive: Pope Benedict visited Cuba five years ago
| Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article140873393.html