Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cubans missing out on information revolution: poll

Cubans missing out on information revolution: poll
Thu Sep 30, 2010 1:03pm EDT
By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cubans remain extraordinarily isolated from
information technology, with only 2.9 percent reporting regular use of
the Internet and 5.8 percent regular use of e-mail, according to a
government survey released on Thursday.

Just 2.6 percent said they regularly used cell phones, according to the
poll conducted by the National Statistics Office and posted on its web
page (ONE.CU).

The statistics office (, which queried 38,000 homes,
found almost all users accessed the Internet at work or school, as few
have it at home.

Internet access in the Communist-run country is highly restricted and
users must obtain government authorization.

Cuba's failure to embrace modern telecommunications is a major complaint
among citizens under 50 years old, who cite it as one of the reasons
they seek to migrate abroad.

Revolutionary Cuba largely blames its technological isolation on the
United States trade embargo against the island.

The government's 2009 statistical abstract reported that there were 1.6
million Internet users, or 14.2 per 100 residents, but in most cases
they used a government-controlled intranet with limited access to the
world wide web.

Cuba's Internet use trails much of the world and all of its neighbors.

In Jamaica, Internet access was 53.27 per 100 inhabitants in 2008 and in
the Dominican Republic 25.87 percent, the International
Telecommunications Union reported in 2009.

In Haiti, just 10.42 percent had Internet access, the ITU said.

Cuba only legalized cell phones in 2008 and as of the end of 2009, there
were 800,000 being used in the country, according to government figures.

Including mobile and land lines, Cuba has just 1.8 million phone lines,
or 15.5 for every 100 people, the lowest in its region, the ITU said.


The poll found that 31.4 percent of respondents had access to computers,
but more than 85 percent said the computers were located at work or
school. Cuba legalized the purchase of computers in 2008.

There is no broadband in Cuba and the relatively few Internet users in
the country suffer through long waits to open an e-mail, let alone view
a photo or video. This also hampers government and business operations.

Access to satellite television was not included in the survey as it is
illegal without special permission from the government and authorities
regularly raid neighborhoods and homes in search of satellite equipment.

The government says the 48-year-old U.S. trade sanctions force it to get
the Internet via satellite, which is expensive and slow.

Plans to lay a fiber optic cable with Venezuela have been repeatedly

Last year, in a move easing some aspects of the embargo, President
Barack Obama allowed U.S. telecommunications firms to offer services in
Cuba as part of a strategy to increase "people to people" contact.

While Cuba's leaders welcomed the move, they reiterated their demand
that Washington completely lift the embargo and to date there has been
no progress, business sources said.

Various mobile phone companies recently petitioned the U.S.
administration to loosen regulations further.

Cuban officials say data for use and ownership of computers and
telephones is misleading, as priority is given to using
telecommunications technology for "social causes" such as health and

The poll, performed in February and March, questioned respondents about
their Internet and cell phone use during the previous 12 months. It had
a margin error of under five percent, the statistics office said.

(Editing by Jeff Franks and Jackie Frank)

Salsa: Cuban culture in China

Salsa: Cuban culture in China

Salsa is a dance that originates in Cuba, but lately the passionate
Latin music and dance is becoming more popular among Chinese people.

Many salsa lovers choose to learn Spanish or travel to Cuba to learn how
to really get in the groove. Let's find out what makes it so fun.

This is one of the most famous Salsa clubs in Beijing. Many salsa lovers
come to enjoy the passion and joy the dance brings. They feel
unrestrained and free when the music is on.

Salsa, passes on the joy of dancing to the Chinese people. Through
Salsa, more Chinese people are starting to learn the culture and history
of Cuba.

Wang Yi, salsa lover, said, "Cuba is an enthusiastic country full of
passion. Through Salsa, the Chinese people can feel the enthusiasm
coming from the Caribbean. It is like a refreshing Ocean breeze from
Central America. "

Ai Yuxin, salsa lover, said, "In my impression, Cuba has Hemingway,
endless white beaches, cigars, hospitable people, an outstanding leader,
as well as very advanced medical science. It is a pity that I have never
been able to go to the country. But I am dreaming of going there one day."

Wang Ting, salsa lover, said, "When I was studying in Cuba, we took
Salsa dance class every week. Cubans are extremely good at it. We can
really feel the enthusiasm from the people. This passion motivates me.
Since then, I fell in love with Salsa too."

Mr. Huo is one of the founders of this salsa club. He visited Cuba
several times in the past 7 years. The spirit and hospitality of the
Cuban people left a deep impression on him. After falling in love with
the dance he began running this club. Now, he hopes more Chinese people
can learn salsa and the Cuban culture through dance.

Huo Yaofei, salsa dance coach, said, "I like salsa very much. Then, I
went to Cuba to learn more about it. I think Salsa is very bold and
passionate. This is what many Chinese lack in our own culture. I hope to
bring it back to China and let more people enjoy the Latin culture."

In 2006, the first Chinese Salsa international Convention was
successfully held in Beijing. The dance has helped promote Sino-Cuban
cultural exchanges.

Drilling Plans Off Cuba Stir Fears of Impact on Gulf

Drilling Plans Off Cuba Stir Fears of Impact on Gulf
Desmond Boylan/Reuters
Cuba's nascent oil industry has pumps near Havana but lacks some of the
equipment needed to handle a major deepwater spill.
Published: September 29, 2010

HOUSTON — Five months after the BP oil spill, a federal moratorium still
prohibits new deepwater drilling in the American waters of the Gulf of
Mexico. And under longstanding federal law, drilling is also banned near
the coast of Florida.

Yet next year, a Spanish company will begin drilling new wells 50 miles
from the Florida Keys — in Cuba's sovereign waters.

Cuba currently produces little oil. But oil experts say the country
might have reserves along its north coast as plentiful as that of the
international oil middleweights, Ecuador and Colombia — enough to
bolster its faltering economy and cut its dependence on Venezuela for
its energy needs.

The advent of drilling in Cuban waters poses risks both to the island
nation and the United States.

Ocean scientists warn that a well blowout similar to the BP disaster
could send oil spewing onto Cuban beaches and then the Florida Keys in
as little as three days. If the oil reached the Gulf Stream, a powerful
ocean current that passes through the region, oil could flow up the
coast to Miami and beyond.

The nascent oil industry in Cuba is far less prepared to handle a major
spill than even the American industry was at the time of the BP spill.
Cuba has neither the submarine robots needed to fix deepwater rig
equipment nor the platforms available to begin drilling relief wells on
short notice.

And marshaling help from American oil companies to fight a Cuban spill
would be greatly complicated by the trade embargo on Cuba imposed by the
United States government 48 years ago, according to industry officials.
Under that embargo, American companies face severe restrictions on the
business they can conduct with Cuba.

The prospect of an accident is emboldening American drilling companies,
backed by some critics of the embargo, to seek permission from the
United States government to participate in Cuba's nascent industry, even
if only to protect against an accident.

"This isn't about ideology. It's about oil spills," said Lee Hunt,
president of the International Association of Drilling Contractors, a
trade group that is trying to broaden bilateral contacts to promote
drilling safety. "Political attitudes have to change in order to protect
the gulf."

Any opening could provide a convenient wedge for big American oil
companies that have quietly lobbied Congress for years to allow them to
bid for oil and natural gas deposits in waters off Cuba. Representatives
of Exxon Mobil and Valero Energy attended an energy conference on Cuba
in Mexico City in 2006, where they met Cuban oil officials.

Right now, Cuba's oil industry is served almost exclusively by
non-American companies. Repsol, a Spanish oil company, has contracted
with an Italian operator to build a rig in China that is scheduled to
begin drilling several deepwater test wells next year. Other companies,
from Norway, India, Malaysia, Venezuela, Vietnam and Brazil, have taken
exploration leases.

New Mexico's governor, Bill Richardson, a Democrat who regularly visits
Cuba, said Cuba's offshore drilling plans are a "potential inroad" for
loosening the embargo. During a recent humanitarian trip to Cuba, he
said, he bumped into a number of American drilling contractors — "all
Republicans who could eventually convince the Congress to make the
embargo flexible in this area of oil spills."

"I think you will see the administration be more forward-moving after
the election," Mr. Richardson said.

Despite several requests in the last week, Cuban officials declined to
make anyone available for an interview.

Currently, the United States, Mexico and Cuba are signatories to several
international protocols in which they agreed to cooperate to contain any
oil spill. In practice, there is little cooperation between Washington
and Havana on oil matters, although American officials did hold
low-level meetings with Cuban officials after the BP blowout.

"What is needed is for international oil companies in Cuba to have full
access to U.S. technology and personnel in order to prevent and/or
manage a blowout," said Jorge Piñón, a former executive of BP and Amoco.
Mr. Piñón, who fled Cuba as a child and now briefs American companies on
Cuban oil prospects, said the two governments must create a plan for
managing a spill.

Several American oil and oil service companies are eager to do business
in Cuba, Mr. Piñón said, but they are careful not to identify themselves
publicly because they want to "protect their brand image in South
Florida," where Cuban-Americans who support the embargo could boycott
their gasoline stations and other products.

There are signs the Obama administration is aware of the safety issues.
Shortly after the BP accident, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the
agency that regulates the embargo, said it would make licenses available
to American service companies to provide oil spill prevention and
containment support.

Charles Luoma-Overstreet, a State Department spokesman, said licenses
would be granted on a "application-by-application basis," but he would
not comment on the criteria.

Mr. Piñón said it appeared that an American company could apply for a
license before an emergency but that a license would be issued only
after an accident had occurred. "We're jumping up and down for
clarification," he said.

One group — Clean Caribbean & Americas, a Fort Lauderdale cooperative of
several oil companies — has received licenses to send technical
advisers, dispersants, containment booms and skimmers to Cuba since
2003. But it can only serve the member companies Repsol and Petrobras,
not Cuba's government.

Economic sanctions on Cuba have been in effect in one form or another
since 1960, although the embargo has been loosened to allow the sale of
agricultural goods and medicines and travel by Cuban-Americans to the

Mr. Hunt of the drillers' group said that the association had sent a
delegation to Cuba in late August and had held talks with government
officials and Cupet, the Cuban national oil company.

He said that Cuban officials, including Tomás Benítez Hernández, the
vice minister of basic industry, asked him to take a message back to the
United States. "Senior officials told us they are going ahead with their
deepwater drilling program, that they are utilizing every reliable
non-U.S. source that they can for technology and information, but they
would prefer to work directly with the United States in matters of safe
drilling practices," Mr. Hunt said.

Mr. Benítez became the acting minister last week when the minister of
basic industry, the agency that oversees the oil industry, was fired for
reasons still unclear.

Donald Van Nieuwenhuise, director of petroleum geoscience programs at
the University of Houston, said that if an accident occurred in Cuban
waters, Repsol or other companies could mobilize equipment from the
North Sea, Brazil, Japan or China. But "a one-week delay could be
disastrous," he said, and it would be better for Havana, Washington and
major oil companies to coordinate in advance.

Opponents of the Cuban regime warn that assisting the Cubans with their
oil industry could help prop up Communist rule. Instead of making the
drilling safer, some want to stop it altogether.

Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, is urging President Obama to
recall a diplomatic note to Havana reinforcing a 1977 boundary agreement
that gives Cuba jurisdiction up to 45 miles from Florida. "I am sure you
agree that we cannot allow Cuba to put at risk Florida's major business
and irreplaceable environment," he wrote the president shortly after the
BP accident.

A version of this article appeared in print on September 30, 2010, on
page A1 of the New York edition.

Castro's daughter speaks at UF event

Castro's daughter speaks at UF event
Alina Fernández spoke as part of Hispanic Heritage Month
By Nathan Crabbe
Staff writer

Published: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 9:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 11:34 p.m.

Like many Cuban immigrants, Alina Fernández settled in Miami after
fleeing the country.

But Fernández is different: She's the daughter of Fidel Castro.

"I'm surrounded by people that really hate my father and were really
damaged by him," she said.

Fernández spoke Wednesday to a crowd of nearly 600 people at the
University of Florida in an event held as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Since fleeing Cuba in 1993, she's written the book "Castro's Daughter:
An Exile's Memoir of Cuba" and now hosts a radio show in Miami.

She's a critic of her father, the leader of the Cuban Revolution who
served as president until health problems led to his resignation in 2008.

Fidel Castro's brother, Raúl, then took over.

This month, the Cuban government announced some of the biggest changes
to its economy in decades.

It is laying off 500,000 workers and allowing citizens to work in some
private activities.

But Fernández questioned the scope of the reforms, saying they will
allow people only to work in limited kinds of employment, such as
cutting hair or cleaning houses.

"They are the most bizarre jobs you've ever heard about," she said.

Fernández, 54, is the product of an affair that Castro had with her
mother, Natalia Revuelta, before he took power.

She said Castro wrote love letters to both his wife and her mother while
he was imprisoned before the revolution.

The affair was revealed to Castro's wife when a prison censor switched
the envelopes.

"A few months later Fidel found himself free from prison and free from
marriage," she said.

Fernández was just a toddler when Castro helped overthrow the Batista
government in 1959.

She recalled watching cartoons at the time and having them disappear
from the television, replaced by revolutionaries.

She later found one of the revolutionaries in a cloud of cigar smoke in
her living room — the man who turned out to be her father.

"That was for me the beginning of the end of the revolution in Cuba,"
she said.

She described subsequent years when the execution of political
opponents, the suppression of freedoms and a lack of food and other
necessities became the norm.

She became disillusioned and joined a group of dissidents.

In 1993, she posed as a Spanish tourist to escape the country.

The ACCENT student-run speakers bureau sponsored her speech.

Fernández was paid $7,000 to speak at the university, according to
Student Government.

Fernández said she foresees changes in Cuba when the older generation
passes away.

In a question-and-answer session after her speech, she told a student
whose family fled Cuba that she expected that young people like him
would return to the country to make it a better place.

"I think the future is going to be brilliant," she said.

Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or

Cuban '09 coffee harvest was worst in history

Cuban '09 coffee harvest was worst in history

Adios, cafe con leche?

Cuba -- where super-strong shots of espresso are a way of life -- says
it had its worst coffee harvest in history last year, with production
plummeting to just 5,500 tons nationwide.

And a full-page article in the Communist Party newspaper Granma on
Wednesday warned that authorities will no longer fill the shortfall with
imports. It said the government cannot afford to spend a projected $40
million this year and $47 million next just to keep islanders in
high-octane caffeine.

Cuba was the world's top coffee exporter in the 1940s, Granma reported,
producing a bean "that was very coveted in discerning markets."

As recently as the harvest of 1961-1962, Cuba produced 60,000 tons.

The newspaper cited inefficiency and negligence as reasons for the drop
in production, but did not go into detail.

Orlando Guevara, a coffee specialist at the Agricultural Ministry, told
Granma that Cuba hopes to produce at least 6,700 tons of coffee in the
coming harvest that begins in October and lasts about two months. He
said Cuba hopes to one day get back to 1970s' level of 28,000 to 30,000
tons a year.

As part of an effort to improve coffee production, Cuba recently
abandoned the long-held practice of using teams of ill-trained student
volunteers to harvest coffee, most of which is grown in the island's east.

Strong, almost tar-like espresso is most commonly served on the island
in thimble-sized shots cut with copious portions of sugar. Cafe con
leche is strong espresso combined with a large glass of steamed milk.
Though it is famous in Cuba, it is more commonly drunk by Cubans living
in the United States or elsewhere.

But cafe con leche's days could be numbered on the island itself. Bad
news about coffee production follows a report in May that Cuba recorded
its worst sugar harvest in more than a century, a scathing assessment
that followed the firing of the head of an industry that was once a
symbol of the nation.

No official figures were given, but officials acknowledged there had not
been "such a poor sugar campaign" since 1905, when the Cuban census
reported 1.23 million tons of sugar were harvested in the 1905-1906 season.

Communist officials have also for years attempted to jump-start the
country's foundering milk production, with only spotty results.

All of that could mean a lot less cafe con leche.

President Raul Castro has used every major address since taking over
power from his older brother Fidel in July 2006 to stress the need to
revive Cuba's farming sector and cut back on costly imports.

Cuba to drill for oil in water deeper than failed BP well

Posted on Wednesday, 09.29.10
Cuba to drill for oil in water deeper than failed BP well
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON -- Cuba is expected to begin drilling offshore for oil and
gas as soon as next year in waters deeper than those the Deepwater
Horizon rig was drilling in when it exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April.

The Spanish energy company Repsol, which drilled an exploratory well in
2004 off the coast near Havana, has contracted to drill the first of
several exploratory wells with a semi-submersible rig that is expected
to arrive in Cuba at the end of the year, said Jorge Pinon, an energy
expert and visiting research fellow at the Cuban Research Institute at
Florida International University.

He said the rig is expected to begin drilling in 5,600 feet of water
about 22 miles north of Havana; and 65 miles south of Florida's
Marquesas Keys. The oil reservoir is thought to lie 13,000 feet below
the seafloor. The Deepwater Horizon rig was drilling in about 5,000 feet
of water when it exploded April 20, touching off the oil spill that
fixated the Gulf region throughout the spring and summer.

Luis Alberto Barreras Canizo, of Cuba's Ministry of Science, Technology
and the Environment, confirmed the drilling plans in an interview this
week in Sarasota, Fla., where he was one of 20 Cuban scientists who met
with scientists from the U.S. and Mexico to finalize a long-term marine
research and conservation plan for the three countries.

"Cuba needs to find its oil. It's a resource Cuba needs," Barreras said.

Environmentalists said the prospect of rigs just miles from Florida
could intensify pressure for the U.S. to engage in talks with its Cold
War antagonist to prevent ecological damage.

"We have a selfish interest in talking with Cuba," said David
Guggenheim, a conference organizer and senior fellow at The Ocean
Foundation in Washington. "At a minimum, you need a good Rolodex."

Guggenheim, who has worked on marine research and conservation issues
with Cuba for nearly a decade and helped that country track the
trajectory of the Deepwater Horizon spill, said computer modeling shows
that oil from a spill off Cuba's coast could end up in U.S. waters -
chiefly the Florida Keys and the east coast of Florida.

"The Gulf isn't going to respect any boundaries when it comes to oil
spills," Guggenheim said.

Barreras said he isn't worried about the ecological affects of offshore
drilling. "The Cuban environmental framework is very progressive," he said.

Pinon said, however, that an effective response to a spill might be
delayed by the need for U.S. companies to apply to the Treasury
Department for permission to work in Cuban waters, but State Department
spokesman Charles Luoma-Overstreet said U.S. companies could apply for
permits now to do such work.

"We would expect that any company engaged in oil exploration activities
to have adequate safeguards in place to prevent oil spills or other
incidents," he said. "U.S. companies can be licensed ... to provide oil
spill prevention and containment support related to operations in Cuba."

Daniel Whittle, the Cuba program director for the Environmental Defense
Fund, who recently returned from the island, said Cuban government
officials are "moving forward as quickly as possible" on securing
domestic oil production.

Cuba imports most of its oil and gas from Venezuela, and Whittle said
its own source would be critical to its economy.

He said the country is "taking a very close look at the lessons learned
from the BP oil spill. I can say they're determined to do it right. The
international consequences of doing it wrong are all something they'd
like to avoid."

Pinon said the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba had complicated Cuba's
efforts to secure a drilling rig. Vessels with more than 10 percent U.S.
parts are barred from operating in Cuba.

Repsol has hired an Italian rig, the Scarabeo 9, with a 200-member crew,
to do the job, but the rig's blowout preventer, a critical piece of
safety equipment that failed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion, was
manufactured in the U.S. The Scarabeo 9 is expected to drill as many as
nine other wells off Cuba's coast.

Florida lawmakers have sought - unsuccessfully - to squash Cuba's efforts.

When news reports of a potential deal with Repsol emerged in June, Sen.
Bill Nelson, D-Fla., asked the Obama administration to withdraw from a
1977 Maritime Boundary Agreement with Cuba to pressure its government.
National security adviser James Jones, however, said withdrawal "would
have no discernible effect" on the Cuban government and could create
further boundary claim disputes for the U.S.

Nelson tried a similar approach with the Bush administration in 2007
when Cuba was talking to Brazil about oil exploration. The Bush
administration also turned him down.

Guggenheim said he's encouraged that the State Department had granted
visas to 20 Cuban delegates to attend the marine and conservation
conference at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota - it was the
highest number ever issued for such a conference. The attendees
discussed a tri-national plan of action for protection of coral reefs,
sea turtles, fish, sharks and other marine life.

"We can't protect our own waters without working closely with Mexico and
Cuba," he said.

(Clark reported from Washington; Kennedy, of the Bradenton Herald,
reported from Sarasota, Fla.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Castro recycles '60 speech

Castro recycles '60 speech
Severance packages outlined by paper, not leaders
By Combined dispatches
7:58 p.m., Tuesday, September 28, 2010

HAVANA | Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro accused the U.S. of
warmongering and capitalistic excesses on Tuesday, using rhetoric from a
50-year-old speech, as the island nation's communist government provided
details about severance packages for state workers facing massive
layoffs over the next six months.

Speaking before a crowd of 20,000 in front of Cuba's former presidential
palace, Mr. Castro, 84, marked the 50th anniversary of the creation of
his country's neighborhood vigilance system by quoting extensively from
a speech he delivered at the same location on Sept. 28, 1960.

The ailing orator spoke of Cuba's moral superiority and U.S. cowardice
using the same words from his 1960 speech, then warned of an apocalyptic
future of nuclear war and environmental destruction with capitalism and
its chief proponent, the United States, as the primary culprits.

"The world has to know — if you see the theories they have, the plans
they have and the military doctrines they have, it would make your blood
run cold," said Mr. Castro, who reappeared in July after a four-year
absence because of a serious illness that forced him to hand power to
his brother Raul.

Meanwhile, the Cuban government was trying to reassure a jittery public
that nobody will be left defenseless amid the country's historic
economic reboot, which entails laying off 500,000 state workers.

Under a severance plan revealed Tuesday, many of those who are fired
will receive an offer of alternative work, and can appeal to labor
authorities if they are not happy with it.

For those who cannot find work immediately, the state will pay severance
of 60 percent of their salary for up to three months, depending on their
seniority, according to an article in the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

"Cuba will leave no one defenseless," reads the red-letter headline
above the article.

The newspaper has been the preferred conduit of information on the most
sweeping economic changes in Cuba since the early 1990s. No senior Cuban
official, including President Raul Castro, has spoken publicly about the
layoffs since they were announced on Sept. 14.

It was not clear what will happen to workers after the three-month
severance period has ended. Many outside economists and Cuba analysts
have expressed doubts that the private sector will be able to absorb so
many workers — one-tenth of the island's labor force — in such a short time.

Mixed among his anti-U.S. comments, Fidel Castro alluded at one point to
Cuba's economic problems, referring to "errors committed in every
revolution" that have led to declines in productivity.

Raul Castro, who took office officially in 2008, earlier this year
unveiled plans to get 500,000 workers off state payrolls and triple the
size of Cuba's small private sector to stimulate the economy.

When it first announced the layoffs, Cuba said it also was reforming the
economy to allow for more private enterprise. Since then, the government
has said it would encourage a wide range of small businesses, allow
islanders to hire employees not related to them and give credit to new

The changes have been welcomed by many, but there is also fear that they
will cause upheaval in a nation where people are not accustomed to
fending for themselves.

Cuba's communist government employs about 84 percent of the work force.
It pays workers about $20 a month in return for free education and
health care, and nearly free housing, transportation and basic food.

Cuba mulls economic freedom -at last

Cuba mulls economic freedom -at last
Mark Milke, Financial Post · Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010

In Fidel Castro's recent interview with Atlantic magazine columnist
Jeffrey Goldberg and in response to the question, "Is the Cuban economic
model still worth exporting?", the retired dictator made this admission:
"The Cuban model doesn't even work for us any more."

Several days later, Castro backpedalled. He claimed he actually meant
the opposite. "My idea," said Fidel, "is that the capitalist system no
longer works for the United States or the world. How could such a system
work for a socialist country like Cuba?"

Goldberg didn't buy the post-interview spin and neither should the rest
of the world. Castro only admitted what was obvious to any tourist and
what the economic data has shown for years: Cuba's detour into economic
tyranny produced a half-century of suffering for Cubans. It's why many
of them risked their lives on rickety rafts to get to Florida.

Castro's recent frankness was of particular interest to me because in
February 2008 I was in a hotel bar in Varadero, Cuba, when Castro
announced his resignation. A friend and I toasted his departure.

The tourist resort was not the real Cuba, so I spent two days there and
five in Havana. With rare exceptions, crumbling buildings and rationing
for ordinary Cubans were the norm. One guidebook said 45% of Cubans live
in substandard shelter. When it came to food, the Varadero resort had
full trays of scrambled eggs for tourists. But in Havana, the average
Cuban faced rations. I snapped a picture of one store that sold eggs; a
nearby sign noted a limit of five eggs per person.

Since Fidel's brother Raoul took over power in 2008, the reforms have
mostly been minor; all Cubans were finally allowed to own cellphones,
but all the more serious restrictions remained. Recent reforms might now
be more consequential. In conjunction with Fidel's recent interview,
Cuba's government just announced one-10th of the island gulag's
workforce, or 500,000 people, will be laid off from inefficient state
enterprises (there are rarely any other kind).

Revolutionary as that realization of state inefficiency is, even more
surprising is the statement from Cuba's only legally allowed union, the
Cuban Workers' Confederation. It supported the cuts to state enterprises
with this language: "Our state cannot and should not continue supporting
businesses, production entities and services with inflated payrolls, and
losses that hurt our economy are ultimately counterproductive, creating
bad habits and distorting worker conduct."

Granted, the Cuban union is a mouthpiece for the Communist government,
but that's the point. Along with Fidel's comments, they both underline
how serious the regime may be about opening the door a crack to economic

It's been a long time coming. In 1958, the year before Fidel Castro came
to power, Cuba was better off than most developing nations with a $2,363
per capita GDP close to the Latin American average of $3,047 and
exceeding all Caribbean countries save Costa Rica, Jamaica, Puerto Rico
and Trinidad/Tobago.

Cuba's per-capita GDP was higher than some East Asian jurisdictions such
as Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea, and two-thirds as rich as Japan.

Castro's Jan. 1, 1959, revolution promised prosperity, democracy and the
restoration of Cuba's (1940) constitution; Cubans have seen none of it.

Five decades after the revolution, by 2008, Cuba's per-capita GDP was
just $3,764, due mostly to growth in the past decade, and presumably
from growth sectors such as tourism. As recently as 2000, Cuba's
per-capita GDP at $2,422 was almost exactly the same as it was in 1958.

In comparison, the economy of another Latin American country also run by
a dictator for a time, Chile, grew from $4,392 per-capita GDP in 1958 to
$13,185 in 2008. That transformation occurred because its rulers at
least embraced the market economy.

Meanwhile, the East Asian jurisdictions that half a century ago were
either below or barely above Cuba's economic status have long eclipsed
Castro's island. In 2008, per-capita wealth was $19,614 in South Korea,
$20,926 in Taiwan, $28,107 in Singapore and $31,704 in Hong Kong. In
real terms over five decades, Hong Kong's per-capita economy grew by a
factor of 11, Singapore's by 12, and South Korea and Taiwan by a factor
of 16 -- this while Cuba's equivalent didn't even double from its
prerevolutionary state.

- Mark Milke is director of the Fraser Institute's Alberta office and of
the Alberta Prosperity Project.

Cuba travel bill put on hold

Cuba travel bill put on hold
Published: Sept. 29, 2010 at 8:06 AM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- A bill lifting restrictions on travel to
Cuba has been put on hold by a panel of the U.S. House of
Representatives, the chairman says.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee was scheduled to mark up the bill
Wednesday but an analysis by The Hill indicated only 15 members were
publicly committed to voting in favor of the measure.

Panel Chairman Howard Berman, D-Calif., needs 24 votes to get the bill
out of committee and onto the House floor.

"I am postponing consideration of H.R. 4645 until a time when the
committee will be able to hold the robust and uninterrupted debate this
important issue deserves," Berman said in a statement released Tuesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated recently if Berman's committee
approved the bill, it could be brought to the House floor either before
or after the November midterm elections.

The measure lifts travel restrictions to Cuba on U.S. citizens and
permanent residents of the United States.

A helping U.S. hand to Cuba's market reform?

A helping U.S. hand to Cuba's market reform?
Sep 29, 2010 08:33 EDT

– Boston University Professor Susan Eckstein is author of "The Immigrant
Divide: How Cuban Americans Changed the U.S. and Their Homeland" and
"Cuba under Castro," and past president of the Latin American Studies
Association. The views expressed are her own. –

Raul Castro announced that 10 percent of Cuba's state employees, half a
million people, will be dismissed from their public sector jobs and free
to pursue work in the private sector. The near-fiscally bankrupt state
no longer can afford to pay inefficient workers. But the Cuban
leadership remains a reluctant reformer. We Americans have a vested
interest in facilitating a deeper market transition 90 miles off shore.

This is not the first time Cuba under the Castro brothers has launched
market reforms, having introduced minor openings over the years. After
paying nearly all workers equally and distributing most goods equitably
through a ration system in the '60s, it began to tie earnings to work
performance, expand private economic opportunities in agriculture and
the service sector, and allow goods to be sold off the ration system on
an ability to pay basis. It has also permitted private foreign
investment since the '90s. But measures introduced during economic
troubles proved too meager to fuel significant economic growth and many
were reversed when priorities shifted.

While head of state, Fidel made the decision to follow neither the
Soviet nor the Chinese examples of reform. He considered the Soviet
model — in which glasnost (political reform) preceded perestroika
(economic reform) — an invitation for political suicide. While the U.S.
applauded Soviet changes, the political opening drove Gorbachev from
power, leaving the Soviet Union to join the dustbin of history. And
when Fidel went very publicly to China to learn about capitalism, he
didn't like what he saw — rising inequality and materialism,
antithetical to the egalitarian and non-materialistic precepts of the
Cuban revolution.

If times have changed and continued commitment to socialist precepts are
a luxury the Cuban government no longer can afford, how likely is a full
market transition? Private sector jobs require private investment.
Earning only about $20 a month on average, ordinary Cubans cannot be the
main source of capital. The government might provide some financing,
but it plans to slim down state employment precisely because it lacks
the fiscal resources to keep the economy afloat.

The Cuban-American community and the U.S. government might be sources of
capital, but this will require both to break with their policies of the
past, just as the Cuban government now plans to break with its past.
Unlike overseas Chinese who played a key role in the "Chinese miracle"
by convincing officials to reform the economy and by investing large
amounts of money in their homeland, the more than half a million Cubans
who fled the revolution in their country in the first decade of Castro's
rule took a different path. They determinedly sought to bring Castro's
government to heel, partly through economic strangulation. Although
many shared in the American Dream, they resisted sending money home.
Instead, they used their emergent political clout in the U.S., their
votes, and a political action committee they formed to pressure
Washington to maintain a virtual Berlin Wall across the Florida Straits.

Because of immigrant political influence, the U.S. government maintains
an embargo on U.S.-Cuba trade and investment, though it has opened up
economic relations with China and even Vietnam with which it fought a
major war. The most recent Cuban immigrants send remittances to family
they left behind to help them cope with the economic crisis they are
experiencing. They may be a source of funds for the private economic
activity Raul will now allow. But as struggling newcomers to the U.S.
they have little money to spare and share. Although they favor improved
U.S.-Cuba relations, many are not yet U.S. citizens and have no PAC of
their own — and thus have little influence over U.S. Cuba policy,
despite being a force for change.

As both Raul and Fidel acknowledge that their economic system no longer
works, we have an opportunity to respond in kind, to make a full market
transition more probable. If we acknowledge that our 50-year embargo
has been ineffective (never strangulating the Castro regime to the point
of collapse) and signal to the Cuban government that we are supportive
of their effort to restructure their economy, we will be working in our
best interests as well as Cuba's. U.S. business will benefit from new
investment and trade opportunities, and we will minimize the likelihood
of another mass exodus from Cuba, of un- and under-employed Cubans who
envision their future prospects far better in the U.S. than in their
ailing economy.

In 1980, 125,000 Cubans took to the sea from the port of Mariel to
emigrate without U.S. entry permission. We do not want "another
Mariel," potentially on a larger scale, at a time when close to 10
percent of our own labor force is jobless. Moreover, improved relations
with Cuba will further our political interests: In our post-9/11 world,
we could help transform one of our closest of neighbors into an ally.

Cuba poised for offshore drilling?

Published: Wednesday, Sep. 29, 2010
Cuba poised for offshore drilling?
Experts at Mote conference think so

SARASOTA — Cuba may be poised to begin offshore drilling for oil and gas
as soon as next year, according to some of those attending a
tri-national conference on marine issues here.

"They will begin drilling, I think, within the next year," said Wayne
Smith, Ph.D., who served in the foreign service in Cuba during the
Carter and Reagan administrations, and now works for the Center for
International Policy in Washington, D.C. He is also an adjunct professor
at Johns Hopkins University.

"It's good for Cuba," Smith added during an interview at a break in the
conference at Mote Marine Laboratory. "Let's hope the Cubans are more
careful about their drilling practices than we were."

The island nation about 90 miles from Florida's tip already has oil
wells on land, but offshore exploration and drilling for oil and natural
gas will be new, scientists said.

The conference, the Tri-national Initiative for Marine Science and
Conservation of the Gulf of Mexico and Western Caribbean, focused not on
oil drilling, but on finalizing a long-term marine mutual research and
conservation plan for the United States, Mexico and Cuba.

It continues today with a program addressing ecosystem-wide conservation
for animals like sharks and sea turtles, along with discussion of
marine-protected areas, coral reefs, fisheries and other topics.

One session did address the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster: It was
titled "BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Disaster: Lessons and Implications
for Our Tri-national Work."

In interviews with The Herald, many of the delegates appeared to be
well-acquainted with Cuba's energy development plans, which entail
leasing offshore sites to international oil companies. U.S. companies
are prohibited from participating, due to a long-standing economic
embargo of the Communist nation.

"It's still in the exploratory phase, but it's no doubt it'll be
significant," said David Guggenheim, Ph.D., moderator of the conference.
"It will generate badly needed revenue and energy independence."

Guggenheim said the U.S. government had granted visas to 20 Cuban
delegates attending the marine conference, which he hoped might
encourage at least a conversation on how Cuba, the United States and
Mexico might work together on issues of such great importance.

He said it was unusual for so many to be allowed in the United States at
one time, constituting "a dramatic change at least in this regard."

The Cuban delegation was headed by Luis Alberto Barreras Cañizo, M.Sc.,
representing the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment.

"Cuba needs to find its oil, it's a resource Cuba needs," he said during
an interview.

Asked if the idea of oil and gas drilling off the coast of his country
bothered him from an ecological point of view, Barreras replied it did not.

"The Cuban environmental framework is very progressive," he said through
an interpreter.

Jorge R. Piñon, a former president of Amoco Oil Latin America, which
merged with BP, was not at the Sarasota conference, but said later in a
telephone interview that Cuba had awarded 29 blocks, called concessions,
to a group of about seven international oil companies.

Piñon, who is also a visiting research fellow at the Cuban Research
Institute at Miami's Florida International University, said that a
submersible oil drilling rig is going through sea trials, and is
expected to arrive near Cuba at the end of the year.

"The first quarter next year, we do expect for (Spanish company) Repsol
to be drilling about 22 miles north of Havana," he said.


Committee to Protect Journalists

( New York, September 27, 2010. Imprisoned
Cuban journalist Miguel Galván Gutierrez was released from jail and
flown to Madrid on Saturday, as part of a July agreement between the
Havana government and the Catholic Church. Sixteen journalists jailed in
the 2003 Black Spring crackdown have now been freed and exiled as part
of the agreement.

"Although I am currently fighting with some health issues resulting from
a seven year- period in jail, I am ready to continue reporting and
working on behalf of democratic ideals in Cuba ," Galván told CPJ in a
phone interview today. Despite a deep desire to stay in Cuba , Galván
said, he decided to leave the island for the sake of his long-suffering
family. "I was ready to face any obstacle in my attempt to practice
independent reporting. But as soon as I was jailed, I realized that all
the obstacles had been transferred to my family," Galván said.

A journalist for the independent news agency Havana Press, Galván was
sentenced to 26 years in prison shortly after his arrest in the March
2003 government crackdown on political dissent and independent
journalism. Four journalists arrested in the 2003 crackdown remain in
jail, as does one other journalist who was detained later, CPJ research

Following talks with leaders of Cuba 's Catholic Church, President Raúl
Castro's government agreed in July to free a total of 52 dissidents
arrested in the 2003 crackdown. Spanish government officials also
participated in the talks.

All 16 of the journalists released thus far were immediately whisked
into exile in Spain . (One has since relocated to Chile .) So far, the
Cuban government has not freed imprisoned reporters who want to remain
on the island after their release.

A story Thursday in the Madrid-based daily El País quoted Spanish
officials as saying that imprisoned reporters who want to stay in Cuba
upon release will be freed through a special parole program. Rights
groups on the island decried the parole program as an effort to keep
close control of the detainees even after their release, the Miami-based
daily El Nuevo Herald reported. The Cuban government has not confirmed
the existence of the parole program.

By clicking here, you can access a capsule report on Galván's case from
CPJ's annual census of jailed journalists, conducted in December 2009.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nowhere, But Everywhere

Nowhere, But Everywhere

It's two in the afternoon at the Department of Immigration and Aliens
(DIE) on 17th Street between J and K. Dozens of people are waiting for
permission to leave the country, that authorization to travel that has
been given the name "white card," although it might better be called
"the safe conduct," "the freedom card," or "the get out of prison
order." The walls are peeling and a notice to "be careful, danger of
collapse" is posted next to a huge mansion in Vedado. Several women —
who have forgotten how to smile and be pleasant — wear their military
uniforms and warn the public that they must wait in an orderly fashion.
Now and then they shout a name and the person called returns some
minutes later with a jubilant face or a strained pout.

Finally they call me to tell me of the eighth denial of permission to
travel in barely three years. Specialists in stripping us of what we
could live, experiment, and know beyond our borders, the officials of
the DIE tell me that I am not authorized to travel "for the time being."
With this brief "no" — delivered almost with delight — I lose the
opportunity to be at the 60th anniversary of the International Press
Institute, and at the presentation of the Internet for the Nobel Peace
Prize in New York. A stamp on my file and I was obliged to speak by
telephone in the activities of Torino European Youth Capital, and to
communicate with the publisher Brûlé to launch Cuba Libre in Montreal
without my presence. The absurd immigration has inserted itself between
my eyes and the full shelves of the Frankfurt Book Fair, between my
hands and the compilation of my texts which will see the light at the
Nonfiction Literature Festival in Poland. I will not go to the Ferrara
Journalism Fair nor to the presentation of the documentary in Jequié,
Brazil, much less be able to participate in the Congress of Women
Leading the Millennium based in Valencia, nor in Cuneo, during the City
Writers event. My voice will not be hear at LASA, which sent me an
official invitation, and I will have to enjoy from a distance the
appearance of my book Management and Development of Contents With WordPress.

All this and more they have taken. However, they have left me — as if
it were a punishment — along with the basic raw material from which my
writings come, in contact with that reality which would not forgive me
were I absent.

Military man to head Cuba's biggest company

Military man to head Cuba's biggest company
By Marc Frank Marc Frank – Mon Sep 27, 4:10 pm ET

HAVANA (Reuters) – President Raul Castro has put a military officer in
charge of Cuba's largest commercial corporation as part of a drive to
increase efficiency and reduce corruption in the country's major foreign
exchange companies.

Colonel Hector Oroza Busutin arrived at the headquarters of the Cuban
Export-Import Corporation (CIMEX) earlier this month, replacing its
long-time President Eduardo Bencomo, according to various company employees.

"Since then, there have been a lot of military people running around
here," one of them said, asking that her name not be used.

Since taking over the presidency from older brother Fidel Castro in
2008, Raul Castro has taken steps to boost Cuba's troubled state-run
economy and weed out corruption.

He reportedly wants to brings some of the country's independent
companies under government ministries and views consolidation, which has
already begun, as the best path forward.

In many cases, he has entrusted the task to military officers, with whom
he is said to feel more comfortable after almost five decades as Cuba's
defense minister.

At least 10 military men hold positions in his cabinet or as deputy
ministers and heads of key agencies.

Oroza Busutin moved to CIMEX from his position as No. 2 in the
military-run Administrative Group of Businesses (GAE.SA), a holding
company which also operates numerous foreign exchange businesses
including the country's largest tourism corporation and real estate
firm, a chain of warehouses and hundreds of retail outlets selling
everything from groceries to domestic appliances.

Castro's son-in-law, Colonel Luis Alberto Rodriguez, is the chief
executive of GAE.SA.

CIMEX's new deputy director, Ana Maria Oretega, held a similar position
at the military's retail chain, TRD-Caribe, according to the company

"I'm not surprised. It follows the trend under Raul," said a Western
diplomat in Havana.

The appointment has not been announced despite CIMEX's relations with
hundreds of foreign suppliers and significant role in Cuba's everyday life.


CIMEX, with annual revenues of more than $1 billion, is an independent
state-run conglomerate that operates exclusively in foreign exchange and
the local equivalent called the convertible peso, valued at $1.08 per unit.

It runs its own shipping line and bank, clears foreign credit card
transactions, controls remittance wire transfers, operates a real estate
business and the country's largest travel agency and owns more than
2,500 commercial outlets including department stores, fast food spots
and gas stations.

The change in command at CIMEX follows the liquidation last year of
CUBALSE, Cuba's second-largest foreign exchange company. Its numerous
businesses were spun off mainly to military-run companies and CIMEX.

The dissolution of CUBALSE, Cuban authorities said at the time, would
"reduce expenses, increase negotiating power, concentrate the
administration of service-providing entities, and carry these out with
greater efficiency."

In the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba's chief
benefactor, the elder Castro opened the door to international tourism
and investment, legalized the dollar and later the convertible peso and
welcomed family remittances.

The military along with CIMEX and CUBALSE were given the task of
absorbing the influx of cash by establishing retail and other businesses
in what the government viewed as an experiment in state-managed competition.

But Raul Castro reportedly has come to view the competitive model in
state-run foreign exchange operations as redundant and rife with corruption.

Theft at their gas stations has been estimated at up to 50 percent by
the official media and much of Cuba's prolific black market is said to
be fed by warehouses under the various companies' control.

It is still not clear what will happen to CIMEX, but many believe some
of its operations will be spun off, with, for example tourism businesses
going to the Tourism Ministry.

There is also talk that a single chain of retail establishments
operating in convertible pesos is planned.

(Editing by Jeff Franks and Cynthia Osterman)

Key West sets up task force with mission to keep LGBT people safe

Key West sets up task force with mission to keep LGBT people safe
September 27th, 2010
Key West, Fla.

KEY WEST, Fla. – This island city, closer to Cuba than Miami, has long
been a haven for the LGBT community. But an ugly incident last month in
which a gay couple were beaten amid sexual orientation slurs has shaken
this laidback community.

A new Anti-Hate Crimes Task Force has been formed by Key West's Gay and
Lesbian Community Center. And because the suspects in the crime appeared
to be teenagers – and have not been caught – the task force is
developing a program to encourage diversity training at local schools.

Key West's Center is also compiling an information sheet to alert
tourists, bars, restaurants, taxi drivers and others on safety issues,
how to avoid dangerous situations and what to do if threatened or attacked.

More information is available by calling the Center at (305) 292-3223."

Azerbaijan ready to study Cuba's investment potential

Azerbaijan ready to study Cuba's investment potential
28.09.2010 19:01

Azerbaijan and Cuba consider the possibilities for cooperation in the
field of medicine, agriculture, tourism, Deputy Economic Development
Minister Niyazi Safarov said at a business meeting with the Cuban
delegation in Baku.

"Cuba is greatly interested in Azerbaijan. The Cuban delegation visited
Azerbaijan several times. The purpose of this delegation's visit is to
get information about Azerbaijan, familiarize with the sectors,
including agriculture, medicine and tourism development and exchange
views, " deputy minister said.

Safarov said that it is planned to get acquainted with investment
opportunities in Cuba's economy, which may be interesting for
Azerbaijani entrepreneurs.

Deputy minister said that two countries have great potential to expand ties.

The head of the Cuban delegation, deputy minister of external trade and
foreign investment Oscar Peres-Oliva Fraga said that Cuba and Azerbaijan
can cooperate on mutually beneficial conditions in many areas. First of
all, cooperation is possible in the field of medicine, namely biotech
programs to reduce the number of cases in which Cuba has made great success.

"We will discuss cooperation in the field of oil and gas, as well as
other sectors after the meeting with entrepreneurs," the Cuban deputy
minister said.

Cuba Says Fired Workers Won't Be Left Defenseless

Sep 28, 2010 11:39 am US/Central

Cuba Says Fired Workers Won't Be Left Defenseless
PAUL HAVEN, Associated Press Writer

HAVANA (AP) ― Cuba on Tuesday gave details of the severance packages it
will offer state workers who lose their jobs in massive government
layoffs slated for the next six months, reassuring a jittery public that
nobody will be left defenseless amid the historic economic reboot.

Many of those fired will receive an offer of alternative work, and can
appeal to labor authorities if they are not happy with it.

For those who cannot find new work immediately, the state will pay
severance of 60 percent of their salary for up to three months,
depending on their seniority, according to an article in the Communist
Party newspaper Granma.

"Cuba will leave no one defenseless," reads the red-letter headline
above the article.

The newspaper has been the preferred conduit of information on the most
sweeping economic changes in Cuba since the early 1990s. No senior Cuban
official, including President Raul Castro, has spoken publicly about the
layoffs since they were announced on Sept. 14.

It was not clear what will happen to workers after the three-month
severance period is up. Many outside economists and Cuba experts have
expressed doubts that the private sector will be able to absorb so many
workers — one-tenth of the island's labor force — in such a short time.

When it first announced the layoffs, Cuba said it was also reforming the
economy to allow for more private enterprise. Since then, the government
has said it would encourage a wide-range of small businesses, allow
islanders to hire employees not related to them and even give credit to
new entrepreneurs.

The changes have been welcomed by many, but there is also fear that they
will cause upheaval in a nation where people are not accustomed to
fending for themselves.

Cuba's communist government employs some 84 percent of the work force,
paying workers about $20 a month in return for free education and health
care, and nearly free housing, transportation and basic food.

President Raul Castro has said the state can no longer afford such deep
subsidies. He says he wants to lay off 1 million workers in the next
five years, and has complained that Cuba is the only country in the
world where people expect to get paid for not working.

The goal of the reforms is to both trim government payroll and spur a
private sector that will increase taxes paid into state coffers. The
government has said the changes are not meant to signal a break with
socialism or an embrace of free-market capitalism.

Castro addresses tens of thousands for over an hour

Posted on Tuesday, 09.28.10
Castro addresses tens of thousands for over an hour
Associated Press Writer

HAVANA -- Fidel Castro gave his longest speech since illness forced him
from power four years ago, but limited his comments on Tuesday to
describing Cuba's past and avoided any mention of the tumultuous
economic changes the country is embarking on under his brother's leadership.

The speech before tens of thousands marked the 50th anniversary of the
establishment of neighborhood watch groups designed to defend the
government against subversive activity.

As is his style lately, the 84-year-old offered no opinions on
contemporary Cuban life, such as the recent decision to fire half a
million workers and embrace small pockets of private enterprise.

Nor did Castro say anything about his health or future plans. Though he
is no longer Cuba's leader, he remains head of the Communist Party.
Instead he spent much of the first part of his address quoting his own
old speeches and joking about his age.

Gesturing to younger members of the crowd, Castro said, "I really envy
the youth I see in these guys" even though he himself appeared stronger
than he did during appearances even a few weeks back.

He used reading glasses to decipher prepared remarks and deviated little
from them at first, mostly railing against what he described as the
all-powerful imperialist monster of the north: The United States.

But when his prepared text ended, Castro began talking without notes,
waving his hands for emphasis and noting that the morning sun was not
yet unbearable. His second wind pushed the speech to an hour, 14 minutes
- the longest address in years though far from the five- and six-hour
speeches that were routine in the younger days of the revolution.

"We haven't even been here two hours," he finally grinned in conclusion.
"But I'm leaving now. It's getting hot."

The former Cuban leader wore olive-green fatigues without any insignia
designating rank, as well as a military cap, as he has on past occasions.

Castro ceded Cuba's presidency to his younger brother Raul after his
health crisis of July 2006 and has said nothing publicly to indicate he
is itching to retake power since emerging from the shadows several
months ago and launching a series of public appearances.

A swelling crowd, many waving Cubans flags, stretched from an outdoor
stage in front of Cuba's former presidential palace for blocks through
parks and surrounding streets. "Fidel! Fidel!," it chanted, and "Where
ever you lead, Fidel!"

A surrounding downtown area normally filled with strolling tourists and
hulking Detroit sedans from the 1950s was instead blocked off by police
and crammed with parked Soviet-era buses that ferried supporters to the

That effort made it by far the largest crowd Castro has addressed in
years. He spoke to a smaller group of university students for 35 minutes
earlier this month.

The Committees for the Defense of the Revolution keep an eye on their
neighbors and report behavior considered subversive, but they also lead
immunization drives, recycling efforts and other public service campaigns.

Their task is to defend the communist government and the revolution that
brought Castro to power on New Years Day 1959, "house by house and block
by block." A banner hanging behind Castro on Tuesday featured the logo
of the committees and read, "Defending Socialism and the Revolution."

Castro announced their creation during a nighttime speech from nearly
the same location at the presidential palace on Sept. 28, 1960, amid a
wave of bomb attacks meant to destabilize his new government. Then, he
denounced the U.S. as masterminding those attacks, and said Cubans then
fleeing the island in droves for exile there would be disappointed with
American life.

Tuesday's event opened with a snippet of video from that night a half
century ago. Castro smiled playfully as he watched a younger version of
himself gesturing and wagging his finger in the air during the animated
1960 speech.

"What a privilege it is for me to come back here to meet with all of you
50 years later," he said.

Cuba upgrades seismic network with Chinese help

Cuba upgrades seismic network with Chinese help
13:18, September 28, 2010

Cuba is updating its seismic network with Chinese technology and the
process will be finished this year, Bladimir Moreno, director of Cuba's
National Earthquake Research Center, said Monday.

After the update, information on the movement of the tectonic plates
will be available online, and with that Cuba's earthquake research
center will be linked to 150 stations and institutes worldwide to share
seismic data on the Internet, Moreno said.

Among the equipment installed there are 18 highly sensitive seismometers
made in China, he added.

"With those devices it is possible to record seismic signals within a
higher frequency range, to conduct groundbreaking researches on the
internal structure of the earth, and also to detect events so far
undetectable," Moreno explained.

"For the first time and thanks to this advanced technology, the Cuban
seismology network will be linked to the Central Station in real time,
displaying all the earthquake traces at the time of their occurrence and
reducing the response time," the expert said.

Over 25 perceptible earthquakes have been reported in Cuba so far this year.


Cuba's Latest Reforms Won't Work

Javier Corrales
Associate professor of Political Science at Amherst College
Posted: September 28, 2010 05:30 AM

Cuba's Latest Reforms Won't Work

In early September Fidel Castro, former president of Cuba and now
opinion-maker-in-chief, stunned the world twice by declaring, first,
that the Cuban model "doesn't work for us" anymore, and second, by
arguing a few days later that he didn't really mean what he said. While
Fidel Castro seems confused, his brother Raúl, Cuba's official
president, seems pretty clear about the issue. With the set of
market-oriented reforms that he recently announced, Raúl Castro has
essentially confirmed that Fidel's original statement was
correct--Cuba's current model needs overhaul. The key question is
whether the announced reforms will save Cuba. The answer is no.
Raúl Castro's reforms are no doubt significant. Ten percent of public
sector employees will be let go. Self-employment will be allowed in 178
activities. Private restaurants will be allowed to add more tables.
Rental markets will be expanded. And for the first time ever, Cubans
will be able to hire non-relatives, and Cubans living overseas will be
allowed to take part in these new economic liberties. In total, the
government expects to authorize 250,000 new businesses, tripling the
size of the current self-employed private sector.
There is no question that Cuba needs reform. Cuba is the one country of
the Americas that has had not one, not two, but six lost decades,
experiencing a deterioration of living relative to its peers steadily
since the mid 1950s. Something must change. However, the current reforms
won't do the trick. This is not because the reforms are, economically
speaking, too modest (they are), but because the most vital political
factor that is required for market reforms to be effective is still
missing--societal trust in the state.
Cubans mistrust the state for a simple reason: every time the state
opens the economy, sooner rather later, authorities unilaterally change
their mind, decide to take those liberties away, and end up punishing
those who tried to take advantage of the small breathing space that had
been provided. This promise reversal has taken place four times under in
the Revolution's history.
The first occurred two years after the triumph of the Revolution.
Initially, Fidel promised to create a favorable climate for private
investment. The first major law of the Revolution, the "Fundamental Law
of Cuba" of February 7, 1959, even stated that "Confiscation of property
is prohibited" (Art. 24) and recognized the "legitimacy of private
property" (Art. 87). There was so much trust in the state that Bacardi,
one of the largest Cuban-owned multinational ever, paid its 1959 taxes
all at once. But in December 1961 Castro declared himself a
Marxist-Leninist and launched the most aggressive confiscation drive
ever in the Americas, collectivizing almost 70 percent of the total
economy by 1962.
The second promise reversal was the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968.
Initially, small retailers were exempted from the nationalization drive
of 1961-62. This made many Cubans feel that the revolution was
supportive of economic rights for the little guys even if it punished
the big capitalists. But in 1968, the state changed its mind again and
proceeded to nationalize 55,636 small businesses (groceries, butcher
shops, laundries, barber shops, boarding houses), essentially
eliminating all non-agricultural retail still left in Cuba.
The next broken promise came in 1986 with the "rectification of errors"
campaign. That year, a few markets that had been allowed to reopen
earlier in the decade were suddenly shut down. This policy reversal was
so severe that two scholars described it as "a return to
totalitarianism," inexplicably at a time when economic totalitarianism
was waning in the big communist powers of China and the USSR.
Finally, and most gravely, the unprecedented market reforms of 1993-94
(dollarization, opening to foreign investment, and legalization of
self-employment) were also terminated--more gradually but also equally
decisively--by the early 2000s. By then, most foreign direct investments
failed to materialize due to unfavorable business conditions, possession
of dollars was penalized again, and most self-employment activities were
reregulated, or altogether banned, legally or extralegally.
Cuba thus has a history, as economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago always points
out, of introducing modest economic openings, only to reverse them soon
thereafter. The brief reforms allow the state to weather a momentary
fiscal crisis. But when the fiscal crisis subsides, the state re-imposes
draconian measures. This return to totalitarianism is something that all
college-level Cubans have seen once; older Cubans have seen multiple
times. It is the way that the Cuban state conducts business, or rather,
chooses to interrupt business. The result is that Cubans have learned
not to trust the state.
Without this trust, Castro's microeconomic reforms won't amount to much.
No doubt, Cubans will try to take full advantage of the new
openings--many will open new businesses, retool themselves to work in
different trades, and borrow money from relatives abroad. This will
bring some economic relief. But these will be baby steps. The much
bigger steps that are required for market reforms to deliver
transformative effects--firms making large investments in capital and
technology, conducting research to develop new markets, borrowing
long-term to pursue high returns projects--won't happen in Cuba. All
these activities require citizens to think long term, which in turn
requires citizens to have state institutions in which they can believe,
such as property-defending courts, reliable and balanced legislatures, a
legal system that is predictable and committed to protecting contracts,
and a state that governs by negotiation rather than decree. These
institutional conditions are absent in Cuba, and nobody believes that
the current state will ever deliver them or guarantee their survival.
Analysts have begun to debate whether the current round of reforms goes
too far or fails to go far enough. But focusing on the reforms alone
misses the point. The key problem is that Cubans have a long history of
being cheated by their state, and the current reforms do nothing to
address this problem. Contrary to press accounts, the current reforms
are not new. The Cuban state has made similar promises in the past, only
to change its mind arbitrarily, abruptly, punitively, and always in a
reactionary direction.
The Cuban state has been trying to bring revolution to Cuba's society
since 1959. But what Cuba needs is no more revolutions at the level of
society, but a revolution at the level of the state. The conditions that
allow the state to act so arbitrarily and imperiously must end. This
behavior has been the hallmark of the Cuban state since
pre-Revolutionary times--arbitrariness expanded under the Fulgencio
Batista regime (1952-1958) and became more pronounced under the Castros.
The current reforms do nothing to strip the state of arbitrariness, and
until that changes, it is hard to imagine that this round of reform will
be more than another failed déjà vu.

Javier Corrales is professor of political science at Amherst College,
Amherst, MA.

Cuba's neighborhood watches: 50 years of eyes, ears

Cuba's neighborhood watches: 50 years of eyes, ears
By Isabel Sanchez (AFP)

HAVANA — Pituca is 68, a frail wisp of a woman dressed in a housecoat
whose looks may be deceiving: the ex-armed forces captain is a founder
of Cuba's Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, neighborhood
watch groups marking their 50th anniversary Tuesday.

She cannot walk too far for too long any more.

But Francisca Diaz, nicknamed Pituca (Twiggy), still stands overnight
guard to protect communist Cuba from the perceived threat of "the
Enemy," the United States, just like she has since Fidel Castro launched
the CDRs -- as they as known in Spanish -- five decades ago, though now
she is technically retired.

CDRs, often described as a pillar of the communist regime itself, are
the self-styled "eyes and ears of the Revolution" in Cuba.

Critics say the watch groups are a repressive tool, giving the
government a heads-up on dissident activities on the micro-local level,
sometimes tattling on the non-compliant.

Indeed, 8.4 million Cubans over 14 of the national population of 11.2
million register as CDR members; some critics claim Cubans fear
potential reprisals if they do not toe the party line.

The political model has been exported to Venezuela, Nicaragua and
Ecuador to considerably more criticism in countries with multiparty
political systems.

In the Americas' only one-party communist regime, Fidel Castro, 84 --
who stepped aside from the presidency during a 2006 health crisis but
remains head of the Cuban Communist Party -- was to make an address at
1200 GMT to mark the occasion Tuesday.

Castro was to make his speech in front of the Museum of the Revolution.
It was there, at the former presidential palace, that on September 28,
1960 he announced the creation of CDRs as Cuba faced a wave of violent
attacks after he rose to power January 1, 1959.

Though she has spent years fending off the Enemy, Diaz's latest job is
explaining to neighbors President Raul Castro's recent massive state
employee firing plan, a source of great local concern.

"Over there is the Enemy," she told AFP referring to the United States.

"My legs really are too tired for marching, but I do still have my
heart, and my tongue, to defend the Revolution with," Diaz said as she
dusted off old pictures of Fidel Castro in the dining room of her humble
home ahead of the anniversary party.

"But we do a wide range of work," mentioning vaccination campaigns,
blood banks, recycling, practicing evacuations for hurricanes, and
backing up the government in its fight against corruption.

On her list of 110 neighbors, she knows everyone personally, and has
their names, addresses and occupation data.

Her husband, Lazaro Sanchez, 68, agreed that there was critical work to
do "orienting people" about government policy because "the Enemy as well
as (Cuban) sellouts take advantage of confusion to sow doubts."

The CDR's emblem is a man with a machete raised high in the air, a
symbol reminiscent of Cuba's sugar workers. But the machete might as
well be a threat, for some critics.

The CDRs really "are a tool for the systematic and mass violation of
human rights, for ideological and repressive discrimination. They assist
the police and the secret service," said dissident Elizardo Sanchez. He
noted that CDRs even held rallies against people who chose to emigrate
in the 1980 Mariel boat lift to the United States. Some 125,000 Cubans
left the country in that episode alone.

Celia, a 51-year-old teacher, said she was bothered by having to have to
offer her personal information when someone questions her conduct or
"political reliability."

"They know everything. And the worst thing is that sometimes they start
gossip because someone is jealous about something," she said.

Diaz insists the only thing CDRs might report on is someone stealing
from the state, a massive problem in a country where the government
controls more than 90 percent of the economy, and salaries average under
20 dollars a month.

But for Lazaro Sanchez, the CDRs work can indeed be political and not
just to help the police.

"If we have to act, we are going to act. Our streets cannot belong to
criminals, or to counterrevolutionaries. The (US) Empire has the FBI;
the Revolution has its CDRs," Lazaro Sanchez argued.

Restructuring Cuba's Economy

September 27, 2010 3:25 PM
Restructuring Cuba's Economy
Posted by Portia Siegelbaum

HAVANA -- Fiscal austerity has not been part of the Cuban Revolution's
lexicon but since President Raul Castro officially began calling the
shots in February 2008 the island has slowly begun a political U-turn in
an effort to pull the economy out of recession.

Sociologist Aurelio Alonso says the latest measure laying off 500,000
civil servants and other state employees by March 2011 is nothing less
than "a process of restructuring the Cuban socialist economic system."

Before Castro took the knife to the bloated public sector this month,
the salaries of some 5 million people -- over 85 percent of the Cuban
labor force -- were coming out of the national budget. Last April, the
President announced up to a million unproductive workers would get axed.

Inevitably, Alonso, a researcher at the Center for Sociological and
Psychological Studies in Havana, says these changes are creating
"uncertainty" among the population, raising "fears of losing their
jobs". He adds that the government's new opening for the private sector
could be the opportunity to better their lives.

The Government, meanwhile, he says, has to deal with the crossover
between the formal and informal economies.

Official statistics show there are 143,000 workers currently registered
as self-employed, but Alonso believes the number of people involved in
the informal economy is three to four times higher. There could be as
many as 500,000 people working for themselves either full or part-time,
without licenses, either because the government stopped issuing
permission for self-employment in their fields or because they want to
avoid paying taxes.

There are at least two reasons for the boom in the informal economy and
the black market it feeds off of: 1) the inability of the state to meet
all the demand for a wide variety of services; and 2) the state's
inability or unwillingness to keep prices in convertible currency (many
items are simply not available in the non-convertible Cuban pesos in
which Cubans are paid) at affordable levels (such as cement, paint, wall

Anyone in Cuba who has remodeled their kitchen or fixed their roof or
needed a car mechanic knows there exists an army of competing
construction workers, house painters, carpenters, plumbers, electricians
and others offering their services and the vast majority of them are
unlicensed. You may have to put yourself on a waiting list for them as
they are often booked months in advance. The same is true for catering

Apart from the 143,000 people with licenses to be self-employed, there
are another 448,000 registered to work in the private sector primarily
on family farms.

Reforms set into motion by Castro in September 2008 put nearly 2.5
million acres of fallow State-owned land into the hands of already
existing private farmers, individuals who wanted to try their hand at
it, as well as cooperatives.

In all 110,000 farmers received the right to cultivate though not the
ownership of the land. The plots are expected to begin fully producing
within two years which would provide a major relief to the government
which spent nearly $100 million on food imports for the population last

And the government announced last Friday that it will issue 250,000 new
licenses for trabajo por cuenta propia or self-employment.

Another 200,000 government jobs will be converted into worker-run
cooperatives or leasing deals. An experiment in this began months ago
with the leasing of taxis to drivers and premises to barbers and
beauticians formerly employed by the State who now run their operations
as private businesses. Similar conversions from State to cooperative-run
enterprises will probably take place on the level of local industries
such as furniture making and upholstery.

Alonso describes what is taking place as a change in the "vision of
socialism". The new view is that the State shouldn't dominate
everything, run everything. The role of the State, he says, should be to
establish controls and taxes but it doesn't have to manage every little
corner food stand and every grocery store.

"The State gains nothing by running a national system of grocery stores
(where Cubans buy their state-subsidized monthly food rations). It gains
nothing by distributing the food to these state shops. This method is
supposed to control theft but it still exists.

On Sept. 24 Granma also published a list of 178 types of work that will
be legalized as of next month ranging from home appliance and car
repairs, to carpentry, massages, home caretakers, animal groomers and
park attendants.

One entirely new job description opened is for accountants. Presumably
they will be needed by the new businesses and cooperatives which will be
required to keep books for tax purposes.

Without giving the long explanatory speeches for which his older
brother, former President Fidel Castro is known, Raul Castro has quietly
chipped away at the Revolution's long held vision of the welfare state
and launched a series of painful spending cuts.

Gone are the subsidies for many basic food items -- like potatoes and
peas -- that customers once bought for pennies as part of a monthly
ration. Gone are most of the items that used to make up a food basket
capable of taking families to the end of the month -- they are now lucky
if they last a week to 15 days. Gone are the virtually free lunches that
until a few months ago, were provided at every business, factory, office
and construction site.

The State's once model childcare system has shrunk to the point where it
can no longer meet the needs of many working women.

Primary and secondary schools, despite great efforts can no longer
provide truly nutritional or even filling lunches for students. Talk to
any parent and they'll tell you that they pack something, even if only a
hard boiled egg, to supplement the meals served in the school lunchroom.

Free government boarding schools in the countryside for the upper grades
have been closed down as there is no longer cash to cover food,
electricity, and transportation to and from what was once heralded as a
revolutionary experiment in teaching adolescents to work and study at
the same time. It should be mentioned here that both parents and
children were more than happy to bid farewell to a failing system --
failing to a great extent because teachers were no longer willing to
work under the poor conditions for inadequate salaries and left the
profession. Classes were pre- videotaped and distributed to all the
schools. Televisions replaced teachers.

Omar Everleny of the University of Havana Center for the Study of the
Cuban Economy says that despite the reality of bloated state payrolls
there are still government jobs to be filled: in teaching, particularly
on the primary and secondary levels; in agriculture, construction, and
the police. But he says it remains to be seen if someone who for years
held the post of a mechanical engineer will want to work in construction.

"The salaries," he says, "do not motivate people to take these jobs."

Everleny believes the transition will be rough going and "there are
going to be losers in the initial stage" but that in the end things
could be better for people.

There are those who haven't waited for Raul Castro to enact change.

A private spa offering waxing, massages and sauna was recently
inaugurated in a typical Havana neighborhood. A mother-daughter team of
entrepreneurs paid a builder to put up a structure in their large back
yard to house their business.

Several dozen Cubans attended the reception featuring wine, food and
live music. The guests were all people who run some form of private
business-- either rent rooms in their homes to tourists, or run beauty
parlors, or paladars (home restaurants). They represent the type of
person who will have the money to pay for the spa's services.

The beauty products on display, as well as the massage table, had been
brought in from the United States by the owner's son who lives in Miami.
The modest spa far from being a Golden Door spa nevertheless represents
a considerable cash investment in the Cuban context.

One item stood out: the towel covering the massage table was clearly
stolen property from one of the major Spanish hotel chains prominent in

This highlights one of the great problems raised by the layoffs and the
opening to self-employment and cooperatives. Where are these new
businesses supposed to get their supplies?

Economy Minister Marino Murillo Jorge admitted in last Friday's edition
of the Communist Party newspaper Granma that the country was in no
condition to establish the wholesale outlets for "the next few years".
He further confessed that state-run retail shops did not at present have
sufficient inventory to meet the newly emerging private sector's demand
for supplies and equipment.

The self-employed will therefore have to buy their supplies at the same
stores and at the same prices as the rest of the population. Just how
much of a profit will they be able to make without their prices driving
away customers? How much will a private restaurant owner be able to
charge for a can of beer that both he and the public buy for one
convertible peso in a supermarket?

The lack of wholesale suppliers for the self-employed is not a new
problem. People were first granted licenses to work for themselves back
in the 1990s when Cuba faced a catastrophic economic crisis and major
unemployment for the first time since 1959.

"Many activities that were legal during this period have always had to
turn to the black market to find supplies at lower prices, so that they
could make a profit and not price themselves out of the market," notes

Resorting to the black market has become such an accepted part of life
in Cuba that people openly speak about it to the foreign press.

Ildelisa, a single mother and housewife, sells soft drinks and pastries
from her home in the densely populated Centro Habana neighborhood. For
several years she has a government license for her business but she took
it a step further by organizing a virtual cooperative with several of
her neighbors who pitch in to make the desserts.

She's worried that with more people going into business for themselves
(and 80 percent of those who are self-employed today either operate
gypsy cabs or are in some form of food services) it might become more
difficult to obtain the ingredients she needs. "If there are more people
buying sugar and flour, the prices on the black market may go up," she
said. Prices outside the black market often have a 200 percent mark up
and purchasing items in state-run stores would be ruinous to her
business she says.

Dissident Vladimiro Roca, son of a leader of Cuba's first Communist
Party, says nothing has changed, that the apparent reforms are nothing
more than the same old, same old. Without really opening up and giving
private business access to goods at wholesale prices, he asks, how can
the private sector thrive?

There are many other unanswered questions. A call to the Ministry of
Labor and Social Security produced the response that people would have
to wait for the regulations to be published in the Official Gazette but
they couldn't say when that would be.

Especially worrying to the self-employed is the issue of taxes. Clearly
the State expects everyone to pay taxes on earnings. Private businesses
in certain categories that will be allowed to hire workers will have to
pay an added tax for the right to have employees. As well, all the
self-employed will have to pay into the national social security fund
and employers will have to contribute to it for their employees.

Rumors are rampant as to the amounts to be paid. An alleged Communist
Party document leaked to the media says taxes on gross income will range
from 10 to 40 percent, plus another 25 percent toward social security
but this could not be confirmed.

Everleny suggests that the State needs to avoid putting a very high tax
on certain activities that would impede their development. "When the
State wants to promote an activity that has not been embraced with
enthusiasm by people, it will lower the taxes [on that business], and
that will not be a step back," he said. In order to encourage the
self-employed to take up certain less desirable occupations, the State
could considerably drop taxes on them. But, he said he could not say
which jobs would fall into this category until people start requesting

Both Everleny and Alonso are convinced that Cuba is better prepared than
it was in the 90s to implement an efficient tax collection system and
that the taxes to be applied now have been more thoroughly thought out.

Alonso notes that in the past someone with a room in their home to rent
to tourists was obligated to pay a standard monthly tax whether or not
they actually had a guest. Now he believes the tax will be geared to
their actual earnings. But he is convinced that taxes must be paid.

One of the new categories of job to be legalized is that of a domestic
worker, a job which in reality is already widespread.

"At the moment earnings are totally disproportionate," says Alonso. "A
domestic worker earns much more than a transplant surgeon." In his
opinion, cleaning women should be well paid, but he believes they should
have to pay taxes to redress this imbalance in society.

Hopefully, say both Alonso and Everleny, the State will now run only
those industries of national importance such as mining and petroleum,
electricity production, health care and education and let the private
sector, including cooperatives, take on all the rest as the experience
of the past five decades has shown the State can't do it all.

Most people are going to wait and see, but as the pink slips are handed
out, the newly unemployed will have to find some way of feeding their
families. That just may be the impetus needed to jump start the Cuban

Cimex, Cuba's largest commercial corporation

Cimex, Cuba's largest commercial corporation
Mon, Sep 27 2010

(Reuters) - President Raul Castro has put Colonel Hector Oroza Busutin
in charge of Cuban Export-Import Corporation, or CIMEX, Cuba's largest
commercial corporation, as part of his campaign to increase efficiency
and reduce corruption.

The state-owned company that Oroza will run has operations ranging from
banking to jewelry stores, but there is little detailed information
available on its more than 80 companies and 25,000 employees.

What follows comes from the CIMEX web page,, and the
last annual information released by the company covering 2006, when
revenues were $1.3 billion, with 48 percent of that coming from retail
operations and the rest from its other businesses.

* FINANCE - The company operates the Banco Financiera International, one
of the three most important state-run banks in Cuba, which specializes
in financing trade operations. Its financial division, FINCIMEX, clears
all foreign credit card transactions in Cuba and manages all remittance
wire transfers from the United States and most other countries,
operating for example more than 100 outlets with Western Union.

* INTERNATIONAL TRADE - CIMEX accounts for between 6 percent and 10
percent of all foreign trade and operates the Melfi Marine container
shipping company, Zelcom free trade zone and two companies that handle
customs and other logistics, ADESA and AISA. The company maintains
numerous offices abroad and exports specialty products such as rum,
coffee, cigars, ice cream, perfume, soda, fruit juice, seeds, jewelry
and commemorative items.

* TOURISM - The company's travel agency, Havanatur, is the country's
oldest and largest with a monopoly on travel from the United States,
while Havanauto is the largest rent-a-car agency and also provides taxi

* DOMESTIC TRADE - The company operates around a dozen wholesale outlets
and a similar number of factories to process food for its outlets. In
2006, CIMEX operated 2,747 retail outlets, including 1,188 Panamericanas
all-purpose stores, 363 gas stations (Servi-Cupet), 1,128 eateries from
fast food to full service restaurants, 49 photo shops and 14 video
stores, some of which were located in its numerous commercial centers.
The company reported it accounted for 46.1 percent of foreign exchange
retail sales in 2006 and 70 percent of gas station revenues.

* REAL ESTATE - In 2006 the company owned 13 office buildings and
condominiums, but the number has increased since then.

* OTHER BUSINESSES - Cimex operates businesses in almost every sector of
the economy. The following are some of the most important:

Coral Negro - Jewelry and sale of international brand watches in Cuba.

Casa de la Moneda - Mints commemorative coins and medals.

Contex - Cuban fashion and uniforms.

Imagines - Advertising and operates the only satellite television service.

Ecuse - Construction and automotive service.

Cubapack - International package and messenger service and online
shopping for delivery inside Cuba.

Producciones Abdala S.A. - Recording studio and Unicorn record label.

Tecun - Importation, assembly and sale and service of computer technology.

La CerrajerÌa Integral - Security systems.

La Maison - fashion

(Reporting by Marc Frank in Havana; Editing by Jeff Franks and Cynthia