Saturday, December 31, 2011

The General’s Pardons / Yoani Sánchez

The General's Pardons / Yoani Sánchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

Thousands of eyes were glued to national television screens this last
Friday. The social networks and text messages also vibrated nervously. A
strong rumor had been growing all week, feeding the hopes of Cubans on
and off the island, killing sleep. Initiated and fed by official voices,
the speculations centered on the possibility of the National Assembly
announcing travel reforms.

In a country where citizens face severe limitations on leaving and
entering their own territory, such suspicions are too important not to
pay attention. Bags packed, airplane tickets reserved, and long-delayed
hugs between relatives not seen for decades about to be realized. But
the illusion lasted only a few days and was deflated with the same haste
with which passports are stamped "denied."

Instead of proclaiming the end of the demeaning Exit Permit — also known
as the "White Card" — Raul Castro reported on a pardon for more than
2,900 prisoners. People sentenced for diverse crimes, among which were
some against State Security. In the words of the official press release,
it affected prisoners, "older then 60, sick, women, and also young
people with prior criminal histories." A gesture that could be aimed at
paving the way for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI this coming March.

The General thus preferred to open the doors of the small prisons,
seeing that he is still not disposed to pull back the bureaucratic bars
of the great prison. The island as a penitentiary and the immigration
officials as stern gatekeepers with a bunch of keys hanging from their

Although the president reaffirmed his "unchanging will to gradually
introduce the required changes" in the current migratory policies, he
could not prevent a snort of frustration bursting forth from the mouths
of those who listened at home. For the umpteenth time hope withered and
the embrace of an uncle or brother who would not be returning remained
annoyingly locked in the trunk of the postponement.

The family and friends of the newly pardoned, however, did have reasons
to prepare a Christmas with greater happiness. Although the penal code
keeps intact that crimes that led them to prison, those released this
Christmas feel themselves to be the beneficiaries of a magnanimous wink
from the seat of power.

The presidential indulgence has touched them this time, but thousands of
Cubans wait for a similar gesture in matters of basic human rights: A
pardon that manages to open the heavy gate that blocks free travel,
coming and going from one's country without having to ask for permission.

30 December 2011

Cuba: A Country Being Auctioned / Angel Santiesteban

Cuba: A Country Being Auctioned / Angel Santiesteban
Angel Santiesteban, Translator: Regina Anavy

These days the Cuban nation should be crying and writhing in its own
betrayal. It gives the sensation of a country winding down, that sells
quickly, like someone trying to extract every possible benefit before

For years it has been auctioning off its cultural heritage on the
Internet. Works by leading artists who are not even alive to replace
them. Creations that would be difficult to return to our country. This
year important works by Servando Cabrera Moreno have been auctioned off
for more than 600,000 dollars: A 1957 painting, "Figure with Bird,"
"Cocoon" (1945), "Emilio's Daughter" (1974), and "Kisses" (1966). Also
"Last Journey" (1979) by Wilfredo Lam. Among the 44 artists were Tomás
Sánchez, Mario Carreño, René Portocarrero, Amelia Peláez and Raúl
Martínez. In recent years we have lost an important part of the
pictorial wealth of the nation.

In other countries, when private collectors decide to sell, government
regulations to preserve the cultural heritage, which is untouchable,
establish that the State has priority over cases of interest. Owners
have to accept three propositions. They can keep the work but not sell
it. They do not have the right to take it out of the country. Also, if
they keep a work considered to be part of the nation's heritage in their
house, an annual tax must be paid to the State. This seems a laudable
idea to me. I believe that the place for the best paintings of every
nation is in its museums, so that they can be admired by both nationals
and visiting foreigners.

Theft and demagoguery

Yet lately we hear denunciations from Cuban government spokespeople
lamenting the "thefts in the museums by the Allied troops when they
entered Iraq." Also, the world still mourns for the cultural works
destroyed and sacked by the Nazi hordes in the invaded countries, a
great part of which remain hidden.

But in Cuba it's like we don't have the ability to look at ourselves.
Education was required for the sake of protecting the supposed
Revolution of 1959, and that was no more than a way of allowing Fidel
Castro to commit his outrages without being criticized. I realize that
to try to do so would have been a grievous mistake. Confronting him
would have immediately led to a fierce punishment. Trying to criticize,
even constructively and for "revolutionary" honesty, is seen as suicide.

Few of that generation, none of those who today live in the country and
participate in the official social life, confronted the designs of Tsar
Fidel Castro, and in cowardice they remained silent so they would not be
considered eligible for punishment. They preferred to be slaves, silent
accomplices, incapable of dissent. They considered this appropriate for
survival, and they forgot their place before their own consciences and
before history, which will remember them as they were and still are today.

And they tried to transmit that education to the three generations that
followed them. And because we don't accept it they brand us as traitors,
saying that we are complicit with an enemy we don't even know, one that
hasn't tried to "buy us," "capture us," or whatever other accusations
the spokespeople make on that insufferable Round Table TV show. They
don't still believe in the consciousness of Marti. Later, in personal
conversations, they acknowledge that there are problems with the system,
and on occasion they even discover a certain admiration for the opposing
positions that their fears, in moments of rebellion, don't let them develop.

Beneficial Intellectuals

So what can remain of a cultural milieu whose Cuban Book Institute sent
a group of intellectuals to a Book Fair in Mexico without guaranteeing
them economic support? Especially since they were sent to represent
Cuba, to obey the orders of the officials who sent them, and to attack
whomever opposed the State. They looked like a "delegation of famine,"
and as official writers they were willing to wave the little flags so
they could continue being considered "trustworthy" by the regime and
keep receiving handouts as mercenaries.

Outside Cuba I have attended the National Literature Awards, to beg from
the organizers of international events, with the excuse that "Cuba is
poor," so they will assume that its people are as well, and they bury
their pride and decorum. The "Revolution" asked so many to sacrifice;
there were times when it made them grovel to ask for pardon for words or
actions committed, and the politicians were not grateful and made them
lose their shame. I would have to quote the Indian Hatuey, "If that is
the revolution, then I'd rather not be a revolutionary."

Intellectuals, despite not sharing political views, are immeasurably
respected for their creative and spiritual work and, in many cases, for
their social mission. But they assume an attitude of silence, despite
having their souls wounded by seeing how the cultural riches of a nation
are lost. The Historian of Old Havana himself, Eusebio Leal, who has
returned to the historic center the pride and respect it deserves, is
silent before the government's robbery. The great poet, Roberto
Fernández Retamar, Director of the House of the Americas, also remains
silent before the depredation, and will leave this life with the blood
on his soul of the young men shot for trying to escape in a boat. The
President of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), the
ethnologist and writer Miguel Barnet, also is silent, as he has always
known how to be. They, among many who are respectable voices, should
join together to defend the cultural treasures of the nation.

What shall we do with the yacht Granma? Sink it into the sea?

Why doesn't the Government of Cuba sell the yacht Granma? I know some
who would buy it, to destroy it or worship it – the fate of that barge
would be their choice. Why not sell all the possessions of the Argentine
Ché Guevara? He has many fans in the world who would buy his weapons and
uniforms with economic generosity. Let them strip those heroic museums
throughout the island, filled with their materials of war. They could be
auctioned off! But the egoism of the regime and their lack of respect
for the culture has been constant. They get rid of art because they
underestimate it. It bothers them because it doesn't reflect their epic
or because its authors are homosexual. They see it only as a source of
wealth, and before the economic crisis they prefer to lose the nation's
heritage rather than the symbols that support their ideology, its great
farce and fraud. And all this happens before the cowardly silence of the
voices called to guard this heritage.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats.

Translated by Anonymous and Regina Anavy

December 22 2011

On travel to Cuba, think liberty first

On travel to Cuba, think liberty first
By ANGEL CASTILLO JR. | Florida Voices
Published: December 31, 2011

It has now been 63 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
was adopted by the United Nations, in 1948. Both the United States and
Cuba ratified it, and neither has withdrawn its consent.

The declaration sets out a list of human rights that signatory countries
agree to respect. One of them, Article 13(2), states that, "Everyone has
the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his

As the Castro dictatorship celebrates 52 years in power, both Cuba and
the United States are embroiled in domestic controversies over the right
to leave and return to one's own country without having to ask for
government permission.

The Castro brothers — Fidel, 85, and Raul, 80 — have exercised rigid
control since 1959 over Cubans' ability to leave the island and return.
No Cuban can leave, even when another country has authorized a visit,
unless Communist bureaucrats issue a permit known as "the white card."
Similarly, to travel to Cuba, Cubans living outside the island must
request an entry permit.

In August, Raul Castro announced that he was going to review and
possibly modify "the reigning migration policy." While those words
evoked hopes of liberalization, on the day before Cuba's annual
"Nochebuena" (Christmas Eve) family holiday, he threw the proverbial
bucket of cold water over those expectations. The issue is "complex," he
said, and requires further study.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the embargo commenced by President
Kennedy in 1960, after Fidel Castro "nationalized" (i.e., stole) the
properties of United States citizens and corporations in Cuba without
compensation, in violation of international law, continues to affect the
ability of United States citizens and Cubans who live in this country to
travel to Cuba. By law, all those wishing to travel to Cuba must request
U.S. government permission. Unlike the situation in Cuba, the United
States government does not attempt to totally control egress and
ingress, but it imposes burdens on the exercise of those rights when the
destination is Cuba.

Current policy regarding travel to Cuba has been criticized on many
grounds, including that it violates U.S. citizens' constitutional "right
to travel." While such a right is not found explicitly in the U.S.
Constitution (as it was in the Articles of Confederation of 1781) the
courts have found that such a right indeed exists, by implication.
Nonetheless, in decisions in 1965 and 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled
that travel restrictions to Cuba are valid.

I am not among those who hold the naïve belief that allowing free travel
to Cuba from the U.S. will make the Castros embrace democracy. Millions
of Canadian, European, Mexican and other tourists have traveled to Cuba
for five decades, and all they have accomplished is helping finance the

However, if Cuba and the U.S. mutually agreed to honor their promises
from 1948, everyone in both countries could at least make his or her own
free decision regarding travel in or out of Cuba. Raul Castro and Barack
Obama should include such a pledge among their New Year's resolutions.
Angel Castillo Jr., a former reporter and editor for The Miami Herald
and The New York Times, practices employment law in Miami. © Florida Voices

Friday, December 30, 2011

Toothbrush Solutions for Cuba

Toothbrush Solutions for Cuba
December 30, 2011
Julio De La Yncera

HAVANA TIMES, Dec 30 — A few days ago I read an article in Cubadebate
that caught my attention. The article deals with the production of
toothbrushes in what is apparently the only factory that produces them
in Cuba – and which is, of course, state-run.

The article informs us of the low demand for the factory's product. It
also noted that the price of a toothbrush is high for consumers. A Cuban
must pay 16 pesos, which is equivalent to more than a half day of work.

The article ends by explaining that the Cuban population is not in the
habit of changing toothbrushes regularly and that they don't brush their
teeth four times a day. They add that the high price explains the low
demand. The piece then concludes saying that this situation causes major
expenses in dental services.

I was reviewing comments on the article and many people complained about
the quality of toothbrushes. Supposedly the bristles detach easily,
thereby posing a danger. Some people complained about the high price
while others explained that the toothbrushes are actually inexpensive,
pointing to low wages as the problem.

This article reminded me of the wise English expression, "Never put all
your eggs in one basket," which translated into our context would be
written as "Don't make all your toothbrushes in a single factory."

In this case, the fundamental problem is not the consumers. The
explanation for the low demand is certainly the product's poor quality
and its high price for ordinary Cubans.

One wonders how the price of a toothbrush produced in a Cuban socialist
company is determined, and how do they ensure that the products produced
have the quality necessary to avoid creating greater problems.

I think the problem occurs for several reasons.

The management of the company, like all socialist enterprises, has
nothing personal invested in the company's success. If what occurs is
like what happens in the worst cases, they will be transferred to manage
(or rather de-manage) another company.

This is an example of why a state monopoly is terrible from any
perspective one looks at it.

Let's say that instead of one company, there were at least two companies
producing toothbrushes. And let's say that these two companies were
owned by individuals. It would be in the best interest of these
individuals to make the company work properly.

This means they would produce quality and affordable products, the
opposite of what happens at the socialist enterprise in question.

In addition, these companies would probably pay for television and radio
commercials for their products, explaining and educating the public
about why oral hygiene is necessary and how their product is better than
that of the competition.

From the competition between the two companies, the price would be
optimized to the maximum that consumers were willing to pay and the
companies would price the product at the minimum necessary to trigger
the sale and movement of these so as not to cause them losses.

These individuals would pay taxes to the government on their profits,
and another part of the proceeds could be devoted to research for better
toothbrushes or other methods of cleaning the teeth that are less costly
and more effective.

Meanwhile, with a state monopoly we have a group of workers who might
lose their jobs, and rightly so, because they don't do them well.

Cuba's Humanitarianism Falls Short

Cuba's Humanitarianism Falls Short

The United States is deeply disappointed that the pardon was not
extended to Alan Gross.

The government of Cuba says it has pardoned and will release some 2,900
prisoners held in its jails. President Raul Castro called the
pre-Christmas announcement a humanitarian gesture that would include
women, the ailing, people older than 60, dozens of foreigners and a
small number of political prisoners who have served a large part of
their sentence with good behavior.

The United States is deeply disappointed that this pardon was not
extended to Alan Gross, an American who is unjustly imprisoned in Cuba.
The fact that the Council of State did not consider Mr. Gross's
deteriorating health and the two years he has already spent behind bars
suggests the gesture was a calculated and hollow one indeed.

Sixty-two years old and suffering from arthritis, Mr. Gross is a
dedicated development professional who has a long history of providing
assistance and support to underserved communities in more than 50
countries. He was a subcontractor working on a project sponsored by the
U.S. Agency for International Development in Cuba helping connect
members of civil society to the outside world. For these
well-intentioned activities, he was arrested on Dec. 3, 2009, convicted
of crimes against the state and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

We continue to call on the Cuban authorities to release Mr. Gross and
return him to his family, where he belongs.

Raul Castro Releases 2,900 Common Prisoners But Holds Onto His 11 Million Cuban Hostages

Yoani Sanchez - Award-winning Cuban blogger

Raul Castro Releases 2,900 Common Prisoners But Holds Onto His 11
Million Cuban Hostages
Posted: 12/30/11 08:39 AM ET

Thousands of eyes were glued to national television screens this last
Friday. The social networks and text messages also vibrated nervously. A
strong rumor had been growing all week, feeding the hopes of Cubans on
and off the island, killing sleep. Initiated and fed by official voices,
the speculations centered on the possibility of the National Assembly
announcing travel reforms.

In a country where citizens face severe limitations on leaving and
entering their own territory, such suspicions are too important not to
pay attention. Bags packed, airplane tickets reserved, and long-delayed
hugs between relatives not seen for decades about to be realized. But
the illusion lasted only a few days and was deflated with the same haste
with which passports are stamped "denied."

Instead of proclaiming the end of the demeaning Exit Permit -- also
known as the "White Card" -- Raul Castro reported on a pardon for more
than 2,900 prisoners. People sentenced for diverse crimes, among which
were some against State Security. In the words of the official press
release, it affected prisoners, "older than 60, sick, women, and also
young people with prior criminal histories." A gesture that could be
aimed at paving the way for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI this coming

The General thus preferred to open the doors of the small prisons,
seeing that he is still not disposed to pull back the bureaucratic bars
of the great prison. The island as a penitentiary and the immigration
officials as stern gatekeepers with a bunch of keys hanging from their

Although the president reaffirmed his "unchanging will to gradually
introduce the required changes" in the current migratory policies, he
could not prevent a snort of frustration bursting forth from the mouths
of those who listened at home. For the umpteenth time hope withered and
the embrace of an uncle or brother who would not be returning remained
annoyingly locked in the trunk of the postponement.

The family and friends of the newly pardoned, however, did have reasons
to prepare a Christmas with greater happiness. Although the penal code
keeps intact that crimes that led them to prison, those released this
Christmas feel themselves to be the beneficiaries of a magnanimous wink
from the seat of power.

The presidential indulgence has touched them this time, but thousands of
Cubans wait for a similar gesture in matters of basic human rights: A
pardon that manages to open the heavy gate that blocks free travel,
coming and going from one's country without having to ask for permission.

There’s No Turning Back Now for Cuba

There's No Turning Back Now for Cuba
December 30, 2011
Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES, Dec 30 — When I'm out on the street, in the corner bodega
store, at the bus stop, standing in the line at the Coppelia ice cream
parlor, at the farmers markets, relaxing in any park, visiting at the
homes of friends, sitting at a table sipping coffee with some stranger,
in any of these places people speak in one voice using one recurrent
phase: "This isn't working anymore."

No demonstration of the outraged around the world is comparable to the
state of outrage and indignation experienced by people here. The pitiful
living standard that Cubans have been forced to adopt is unsustainable.

Nonetheless, the "anthropological damage" (the phrase used so often by
my friend Alfredo to explain people's fear of free expression), almost
assumes we have no rights as citizens, but only ways of asking for
trouble or losing one's job or freedom, depending on the case.

There is a visceral panic when it comes to free expression, an
unawareness of us having all the legal authority under the Cuban
Constitution to express disagreement. If it's not permitted us then it's
worth demanding.

But fear is the reason we've yet to see Cubans take to the streets in
protest demonstrations demanding change – and not partial change, but a
general one.

This is something that can no longer be disguised. The younger
generation, middle-aged people, the elderly, everyone making up the vast
majority has woken up from the collective state of hypnosis in which
they were immersed, or pretended to be immersed, over these past 52 years.

It is a population that feels cheated, where the promise of "by the
poor, with the poor and for the poor," sounds just like the buzzword
"planned obsolescence."

Such is the political-social system imposed on us: obsolete, outdated,
designed to be held up to the masses only for a period of time, but then
fading away. The problem is that it's not programmed like cutting edge
technology; rather, it has the congenital defect of those regimes that
only seem to work in theory, while in practice they demonstrate their

Yet some things are changing. We can now find the video and written
materials of Estado de Sats or Razones ciudadanas and bloggers, photos
and postings on unofficial sites, the statements of artists or
intellectuals in any demonized setting.

Likewise, the simple responses by anyone on the street to our incredible
life situations, evidence of privileged lifestyles and corruption within
the militocracy and the Communist leadership at the highest level (as
exposed by former military exiles on Miami television programs).

Everything leads us to a single conclusion: the scene is changing for us

Change is imminent on our island, but how will the transition be? This
is the question everyone is asking, with the fear that it will occur in
the worst way possible, which is what we must avoid. A civil conflict
should not be the manner, much less foreign intervention. Nevertheless,
an immediate end to the prevailing political situation is urgent.

The new tactics of reformist resolutions and bills are inadequate and
fruitless. Changes like being able to sell or buy a car or a house, or
to check into a hotel, or to have a cellphone are nothing more than
crumbs. They are being used by the government to placate citizens.

They are no more than expedient alternatives to buy time to deal with
the wave of unpopularity under which they are submerged.

Writing is my way of contributing my speck of sand to that change. Every
day more people are adopting this point of view. We're turning the page
in Cuba, and now there's no turning back.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Allow us a word… / Jeovany J. Vega

Allow us a word… / Jeovany J. Vega
Jeovany J. Vega, Translator: Unstated

To Dr. Adelaida Fernández de Juan.

Esteemed colleague:

I recently read your article, "Medicine defended, which circulated on
the web this past August. Before I read it I saw your name at the
bottom, and as this is a sign of responsibility and courage — as those
who dare not to hide in anonymity may be arrested — for me, in advance,
I felt your sincerity and valor, and so I feel a reverence, far beyond
what I can share. Like you, I am a doctor, graduated in 1994, and I find
in your writing references to the abuse and misunderstandings, so I
would like draw your attention to some details.

During the time I practiced medicine I was a witness to various
situations in which a health worker mistreated, consciously or
unconsciously, some patient or family member. This is undeniable. But as
undeniable as this, is the fact that for each of these cases of
mistreatment I can recall a dozen cases (without exaggerating), on the
contrary, only in these, different from the others, were rarely reported.

When a patient feels mistreated, frequently they immediately complain to
the different levels of the Health System, the Government and the Party,
but this almost never happens when the mistreatment — much more
frequently than people think — happens in reverse. Sometimes the patient
isn't even aware of his attitude, as the grievance is assumed from the
professionalism of the mistreated, in this case us.

However, there is a point where I disagree with you or with whomever
suggests it. When you refer to the topic, "…the extremely low and
disproportionate salaries, the undervaluing of the vocation, the truly
abusive treatment of which we are victims and other grave matters…";
then giving the sense that, "…there are possibilities of lessening these

This takes me to past times, when our sector was on the list of the
so-called "budgeted," that is those depending completely on State
financing. This was the excuse to explain why professional salaries in
the health sector were so low and could not in any way be raised. But
time passed, then came the era of medical missions abroad and now we
live in a very different reality.

Today Cuba maintains collaborative medical missions in over 70
countries, which have been reported in recent years to bring up a sum of
between five billion and eight billion dollars annually. A rapid
calculation converts 8 billion dollars — in the Cuban peso in which we
receive our wages — into 180 billion pesos annually.

With this alone we are the most productive economic sector of this
country. But to these millions in income (which greatly exceeds even
Tourism, which generates some two billion) we have to add that
contributed by the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, the
third highest exports after nickel and petrochemicals. It's clear: our
section has become the engine of the Cuban economy, so there is no
compelling reason that we should be paid this miserable salary,
equivalent to less than 30 dollars for an entire month's work.

If I go on about the numbers, it's only because they are very eloquent.
You know, as I do, that the added human sensibility that makes our work
priceless, despite our great scarcities that perhaps those who judge
with surprising lightness us don't know, don't fully understand the
seriousness of the matter.

You, like me, have been on medical duty where there is a lack of vital
medications, reagents, X-ray film and essential disposable materials;
where we don't even have running water, where we can't even wash
ourselves on a 24-hour shift, without even being able to wash our hands;
resting in such tough conditions that people wouldn't even believe it if
they saw it; eating poorly — for example broth and mashed potatoes, or
corn flour and boiled potatoes for every meal — knowing beforehand that
this shift did not bring us a penny to feed our children and knowing, as
well, what is even more painful, that other State sectors like ours,
which don't generate anywhere near the income we do, are much better paid.

For decades we have been a very poorly served sector. In my case, I
remember that since 1994 I worked for seven years with only the two
doctor's coats I was given as a recent graduate, and this compares with
other sectors that have received uniforms and shoes every year — some
even every six months — as well as extra monthly pay in convertible
pesos, personal hygiene products and food. I couldn't explain this if it
weren't accepted, with pain I say it, hard evidence: those responsible
for dealing with this sector don't concern themselves with the
well-being of our workers, nor with our families, everything is a matter
of sheer laziness, a proverbial irresponsibility, or both.

You quote another journalist, Fernando Ravsberg, as part of what is
already becoming a crusade, also on the attack — according to what I
infer from what you wrote, because I haven't had access to that article
— extending the shadow of bribery on the just and the unjust. I read it
and remember, however, such elevated examples of moving dedication:
professionals who are second to none in knowledge, and also in ethical
principles, people of integrity, who carry their wisdom with a shining
humility, living in the midst of shortages and that it shames me even to
remember, and who even so, prefer to die rather than stoop so low.

I know there are the unscrupulous among us, I know its face, its name,
its last name, they are not abstract examples but reality. But for my
pride and yours, Doctor, and perhaps to the surprise of Mr. Ravsberg,
they will never be the rule, they are a painful exception. That I know
and I would hold both my hands to the fire for that, my disinterested
and honest people. Who search the trees for firewood, who look above us
and find enough reed to cut it; but when there is not enough courage, it
is more comfortable and certain to take from us, those below.

For saying words very similar to yours, Doctor, I was stigmatized, and
some idiot even accused me publicly of being "money-grubbing," when I am
among those convinced that capitalism is very far from offering a
solution to the problems of the world, but to belabor this point would
take us far off topic.

I think it is stupid to run after the superfluous, following a consumer
culture that compels me to buy a cellphone every month or a new car
every year. But as absurd as this is, after working 26 years, to be
without a penny three days after being paid; that the workers of our
sector eat lunch at noon without knowing if they will eat dinner that
night; that our "salaries" honorably earned don't even allow us to feed
our families for more than a week a month; that a specialist with 20
years experience has only one pair of broken shoes; that the most that
we can aspire as physicians is to a battered bicycle.

Before such a picture, even Kafka would pale, would certainly suffer a
massive heart attack with all the complications described by cardiology.
I don't ask for irrational opulence, but nor do I deserve the miserable
existence they seem to want to condemn me to.

Excuse my manners, allow me to present myself: I am Jeovany Jimenez
Vega, I live in Artemisa and I have been a specialist in Internal
Medicine since 1999. Five years ago I was disqualified to practice
Medicine anywhere in the national territory indefinitely, since October
2006, for having channeled to then Minister Dr. José R. Balaguer Cabrera
the opinions of 2300 professionals in Public Health about that
disrespectful "salary increase" in our sector in mid-2005.

At the time of my punishment I was a Party member – since 1995 – and was
studying the final year of specialization in Internal Medicine; I was
expelled from the party immediately and suspended from my Residence, and
several months later was disqualified, along with a colleague and friend
who accompanied me on that initiative.

The details of they flat out lied to try to legitimize our punishment
can be found in the first post of my blog "Citizen Zero"
(, open since last December to
denounce this injustice and fight to regain the exercise of the
profession that was taken from me.

Doctor: Despite everything, I have no doubt, we can count on the respect
and caring of the majority of our patients and this is a great
encouragement to continue. Along with this, I am comforted that there
are professionals like yourself, who are not resigned to look on with
indolence and shame, but who break their silence and share the truth. We
consecrate our lives to the medical profession, as we must, but this
should never be understood as renouncing the right to proudly defend our

We live proud of our sublime profession, far beyond that "…contempt for
the vocation, the abusive treatment…" to which we are subjected by those
whose job it is to ensure our well-being as workers.

We will never forget that our oath imposes on us the duty to comfort man
in his sickness and at his death, and to always comfort him in his pain,
even if in his delirium he comes to bite the hand that cures him. In
this endeavor, Doctor, we hold our heads high and our hearts open, and
nothing else matters. Be assured, better times will come.

September 12 2011

Neither a Poet or a Cuban / Luis Felipe Rojas

Neither a Poet or a Cuban / Luis Felipe Rojas
Luis Felipe Rojas, Translator: Raul G.

It is the determination of the literary colonels of the Cuban Book
Institute. Five years ago, they officially ceased inviting me to
artistic events, competitions, and public readings. An edict, coming
from the ditches of Villa Marista and aimed at cultural institutes, has
automatically excluded me from any sort of intellectual debate. Still,
to this day, no one has showed me an official document which prohibits
cultural promoters from including me in the learned spaces of my
generation. I know it is just a whisper, a card slid under the table.
There a dozens of my friends and acquaintances which have already been
visited by the "colleagues of Security". Almost none of them have been
tactically pressured, but they consider the warnings to be like yellow
cards, and just like in soccer, some have challenged the referee and
have reached for the red card.

The latest beauty of the list of prohibitions is that of "The Island in
Verses: 100 Cuban Poets", published by La Luz, 2011. Each anthology is
an authoritarian exercise, I know. In just an instant, I have been left
out of hundreds of bards which one day I believed I was part of. Luis
Yussef and Yanier Echavarria have understood, for the good of their
poetic discrimination, that despite the fact that I was born after 1970
and before 1988, I do not count with sufficient literary quality to be
ranked in the list. I would say, in reference to the host Jorge Luis
Sanchez Gras, that I am not a third world poet in the era of
postmodernism. I am not, according to the violation of the Hermanos
Sainz Association, a human being who seeks change and not utopia.

However, it would not be just to say that- marginalization aside- I do
not enjoy the selection which did make it to the list. Among those 100
Cuban poets which I can say are part of my generation, are some which
kept me up at night reading, those which I applauded during an afternoon
of youth in the Gulf of Guacanayabo or under the shades of an Eastern
beach. Though I keep writing in isolation from San German and hover
through the city of Holguin like a ghost, I still celebrate my mention
in the other anthology: the one which includes the excluded and
marginalized. The ones who have been prohibited from publishing in our
own country- Cuba- are more than a hundred and if we count those around
the world, maybe even thousands.

As a writer and a mutilated artist (because of a military decree), I
have no other option but to continue writing for me. There is no editor
waiting for me. I have all the time in the world, even to read the
island 'one verse at a time'.

Translated by Raul G.

27 December 2011

Plataforma Scarabeo 9 muy próxima a aguas cubanas

Plataforma Scarabeo 9 muy próxima a aguas cubanas
Última actualización Wednesday, 28 December 2011

- El conteo regresivo para las exploraciones petroleras en aguas cubanas
ya comenzó.

La plataforma Scarabeo 9 llegó a Trinidad Tobago la víspera de Navidad y
partirá rumbo a Cuba en dos semanas luego de un período de inspección,
confirmó a la prensa local el ministro trinitario de Energía, Kevin

El ministro reveló que funcionarios de la empresa española Repsol YPF le
habían informado de la llegada de la plataforma, que se encuentra
ubicada actualmente en la costa de Chaguaramas, al noroeste de la
península de Trinidad.

Chaguaramas es una zona de desarrollo, al oeste de Puerto España, y allí
se estableció en los años 40 una base para acorazados de guerra,
construida por Estados Unidos. La instalación retornó a manos del Estado
trinitario en 1973 y es hoy un centro internacional de yatismo.

Preguntas de CaféFuerte enviadas a la sede de Repsol en Madrid no fueron

La Scarabeo 9 -propiedad de propiedad del compañía italiana Eni SpA's-
zarpó de Singapur a fines de agosto y ha hecho escalas en Cabo
Esperanza, Sudáfrica, y Brasil en camino al Golfo de México. Fue
fabricada en Shangai a un costo de $750 millones de dólares.

Un comunicado de la Embajada de Estados Unidos en Puerto España indicó
que las autoridades norteamericanas fueron ya invitadas por Repsol para
que observen un simulacro de emergencia, relacionado con los planes de
contingencia que se han preparado con vistas a la perforación.

Una inspección formal

"Repsol se ofreció y nosotros aceptamos abordar la plataforma para
inspeccionar los equipos y la documentación pertinente", indicó el
mensaje. "Estas acciones son consistentes con nuestros esfuerzos para
minimizar la posibilidad de un gran derrame de petróleo, lo que
afectaría intereses económicos y ambientales de Estados Unidos".

Funcionarios del Servicio Guardacostas y el Departamento del Interior
deben realizar la inspección, que será un hecho formal, pues las
exploraciones petroleras se efectuarán en una zona martítima fuera de la
jurisdicción estadounidense.

La delegación estadounidense debe llegar en las próximas horas a
Trinidad Tobago.

La polémica sobre la llegada de la plataforma a aguas del Golfo de
México ha desatado ya debates en el Congreso y ha motivado proyectos
legislativos para impedir las perforaciones a sólo 60 millas de los
Cayos de la Florida.

Se calcula que la Scarabeo 9 debe arribar y posicionarse en aguas
profundas de la Zona Económica Especial (ZEE) en la primera quincena de
enero. Las perforaciones en los bloques contratados por Repsol
comenzarán de inmediato y escalonadamente lo harán las firmas Petronas,
de Malasia -asociada con Gazprom, de Rusia- y ONGC, de India, en un
plazo de dos años.

El primer bloque a perforar es el conocido como Jaguey, al noroeste de
La Habana.

El hallazgo de petróleo en aguas cubanas sería una promisoria noticia
para el régimen de La Habana en el 2012, aunque la puesta en marcha del
proceso de explotación podría demorar hasta cinco años.

El Servicio Geológico de Estados Unidos sitúa en 4,600 millones de
barriles las reservas petroleras de Cuba.

Spanish exiles' Latin America families in passport rush

Spanish exiles' Latin America families in passport rush
28 December 2011 Last updated at 06:21 GMT

An estimated 180,000 Cubans could be eligible

Large numbers of people in Latin America have rushed to apply for
Spanish citizenship on the final day descendants of civil war-era exiles
were eligible to apply.

The scheme was open to people whose parents or grandparents fled Spain
under Franco and during the 1936-39 civil war.

Since 2008 more than 200,000 people have been recognised as Spanish.

Most applicants were in Latin America, particularly Cuba and Argentina.

The Historic Memory Law was passed by Spain's former socialist
government in 2007.

A provision added in 2008 - known as the Law of Grandchildren - offered
citizenship to anyone whose parents or grandparents were born in Spain
but left the country between 1936 and 1955.

A three-year period during which applications could be made expired on

A large queue formed outside the Spanish consulate in the Cuban capital,
Havana, as people rushed to beat the deadline.

"I am very satisfied to have done this on the last possible day," Cuban
pensioner Jorge Vallos told the Associated Press after submitting his

"Everyone is trying to take advantage of this in order to travel and to
be able to visit our families," teacher Daisy Ramos said.

Spanish embassy officials say that up to 180,000 Cubans could be
eligible for Spanish citizenship - more than 1% of Cuba's population.

Long queues also formed outside the Spanish consulate in the Argentine
capital, Buenos Aires.

More than 60,000 Argentines have already been given Spanish citizenship,
out of about 300,000 who are thought to be eligible - the largest number
in any one country.

But most are not expected to go to live in Spain, which is suffering an
economic crisis and high unemployment.
Soldiers of Gen Franco's Nationalists escort captured Republican troops
in the Spanish Civil War Citizenship was also offered to foreign
volunteers who fought in the International Brigades

"For now I am staying here," Argentine Daniel Garcia told Reuters after
making his application. "I am doing it to be able to travel and to have
the passport."

Latin America accounts for more than 90% of those seeking citizenship,
with large numbers applying in Mexico and Venezuela.

Outside the region, the most applications have been in France, where
many Spanish Republicans took refuge after their defeat in the civil war.

The Spanish foreign ministry says that - as of 31 August - citizenship
had been granted to 213,787 people out of 378,862 applications.

The total by the end of the process is expected to reach 300,000. Those
granted Spanish passports do not have to give up their current citizenship.
Bitter legacy

About half-a-million people were killed during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil
War, in which a nationalist military revolt led by General Francisco
Franco overthrew a left-wing Republican government.

An estimated 500,000 people died in the war, and political killings and
persecution continued during Gen Franco's long dictatorship, which only
ended with his death in 1975.

The Historic Memory Law passed under the previous socialist government
was aimed at addressing the legacy of the conflict.

It offered compensation to the victims and help in finding the bodies of
the dead, many of whom were buried in secret mass graves.

But the measure proved controversial in a country still divided by the
Civil War. It was opposed by the conservative Popular Party, which won
power in this November's general election.

Cuba to consider term limits

Cuba to consider term limits
Thursday, December 29, 2011 » 08:16pm

Cuba's Communist Party is expected to consider a strategic overhaul at
its first National Conference in 50 years next month, including a
radical presidential proposal to impose term limits on top leaders.

President Raul Castro has said the gathering, set for January 28, will
tackle big social issues like discrimination and official corruption,
and will look at how to handle Cubans' access to the internet and social

It will also take on a proposal by Castro, 80, to impose a 10-year term
limit on government officials, including the president and party leaders.

Such changes would amount to a mini-revolution in the country where his
brother - the revolutionary icon Fidel Castro - ruled for almost five
decades before handing over power to Raul in 2006.

'In January, the party's National Conference is to be held, so there is
no time to rest,' the president told the National Assembly on Friday.

He was more direct on August 1, saying: 'If we do not change our
mentality, we are not going to be able to ride out the changes that are
necessary to guarantee' the current system remains in place.

As defence chief, Raul Castro turned Cuba's armed forces into major
players in the country's tourism sector.

Few expected he would open Cuba up politically, but many thought he
would champion economic reforms.

He has implemented some reforms, such as allowing Cubans to have mobile
phones and stay in hotels once reserved for foreign tourists.

He has also pared state payrolls while encouraging more Cuban workers to
be self-employed.

But some analysts argue the president has dragged his feet on other
reforms, even as Cuba's economy has sputtered.

Others believe that his range of motion may be limited by the
still-influential Fidel.

The Americas' only one-party Communist regime has been on the ropes
economically and politically since the end of the Cold War.

The country of 11.2 million has been in economic crisis mode for more
than 20 years.

With the loss of vital Eastern Bloc partners in the early 1990s, Cuba's
economy largely collapsed, sending thousands of Cubans fleeing on
fragile rafts across the Florida Straits to the United States.

The two countries still do not have full diplomatic ties.

Havana later found a new ally in Hugo Chavez, the leader of oil-rich

Over the past decade Venezuelan aid has allowed Cuba's leaders to
indefinitely postpone the kind of market reforms undertaken by formerly
communist countries elsewhere in the world.

January's high-stakes party conference could well be the last one for
the Castro brothers, given their age - both are in their 80s - and
Cuba's dire economic straits.

Most Cubans make the equivalent of about 20 dollars a month.

As long ago as December 2010, Raul Castro warned the National Assembly:
'Either we put this right, or it is time to stop getting close to the
edge... We are sinking, and we will sink... the efforts of whole

Cuba’s Justice System Mustn’t Be Blind

Cuba's Justice System Mustn't Be Blind
December 29, 2011
Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES, Dec 29 — Upon hearing the news of the pardon of 2,900
prisoners, a friend who's a "revolutionary" warned me that "the streets
are going to turn bad"; while a dissident complained to me that "the
Cuban government's decision was too limited." The controversy sparked my
interest, so I went looking for some of those who were released.

I talked with three of them for a good while. Though those conversations
didn't get me any statistical parameters, it was enough to make me
realize that not necessarily all of those men and women would return to
the streets to repeat the crimes committed in the past.

This also made me wonder about how fair it is to keep a man locked up
for 36 years — married and trained in prison as a level "A" technician
in electricity for machine assemblies — for a crime he committed when he
was a 17-year-old adolescent.

It's certain that some of those pardoned will fail to re-integrate
themselves into society and will return to crime, but that cannot serve
as an argument to deny all the others a second chance.

Prisons shouldn't be used as punishment, but as places of confinement
for those who are unable to live in society without harming the rest of
us. But under this criterion, there's no justification for keeping them
behind bars when they're not dangerous.

It's very healthy that each year the authorities will be obligated to
review the cases of people placed in their custody to serve a sentence;
men and women should never be denied the right to rehabilitation.

The 2,900 released at Christmas time adds to the 200 political prisoners
released since Raul Castro assumed the presidency, and to those figures
should be added the commutations of the death sentences of dozens of
other convicts.

We can hope that this is a first step towards the elimination of capital
punishment, because it's a penalty where there is no turning back, even
if justice is mistaken. It's also a cruel punishment that denies human
beings the opportunity to correct themselves.

I know that my opinion is not shared by many Cubans. In street
interviews on the topic, most people with whom I spoke were in favor of
maintaining the death penalty for serious crimes.

In any case, deputies in parliament raised the need to revise the Cuban
penal code, and I imagine this will be one of the items on its agenda.
However it's certainly not the only one, because the challenges facing
Cuban society today are enormous.

Despite Raul Castro's insistence on the need to prosecute cattle
thieves, the sentence for that crime shouldn't be greater than that
applied to those who caused the deaths of dozens of mentally ill
patients from hunger and cold.

If, as the president said in parliament, the main enemy of the nation is
white-collar corruption, it seems logical that the government would arm
itself with a strategy and a legal structure that allows it to fight
harder and more efficiently.

How much has the country lost through the embezzlement and theft in the
areas of civil aviation, nickel, cigars, telephone services, food
imports, biotechnology, transportation and spare parts, sugar and even
within some companies run by the military?

The truth is that any of those convicted leaders or officials did much
more damage to the national economy in one year than could have been
done in the whole life of some Cuban cattle rustler killing cows.

If the government fails to eliminate the milking of the nation's
industries, it will mean little if ordinary Cubans increase productivity
on their jobs, use less electricity or stop receiving subsidies. The
sacrifices of the people will end up in private bank accounts abroad.

In parliament, the president blasted them as "corrupt bureaucrats." He
accused them of holding positions "to accumulate wealth, counting on the
eventual defeat of the revolution" and he warned that "we will be
relentless" in the fight against that "parasitic plague."

In the same address he announced that there are documentaries and filmed
interviews of "white-collar criminals." Nonetheless, these can only be
viewed by deputies and other leaders, denying that opportunity from most

Can people be asked to understand the gravity of what is happening when
most of the information is hidden from them? Is it correct to maintain
secrecy around an issue that affects the entire nation? And will the
national media again bury its head and pretend nothing is happening?

From what has been leaked, few of these cases have anything to do with
national security. The silence only serves to keep people passive in the
grandstands circulating rumors – some true, and others preposterous.

The lack of transparency in fighting corruption seems to prove the
correctness of Cuban writer Lisandro Otero when he concluded that under
capitalism, citizens don't know what will happen, while under socialism
they never find out what has happened.

An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original)
published by BBC Mundo.

Cuban Jewish leaders meet with jailed American

Posted on Wednesday, 12.28.11

Cuban Jewish leaders meet with jailed American
Associated Press

HAVANA -- A leader of Cuba's small Jewish community who visited jailed
American contractor Alan Gross and even released pictures of them
celebrating the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah together said Wednesday that
he was in good spirits and fine health. But her account was quickly
disputed by the man's wife, who said he was increasingly frail and

Adela Dworin said that she and another Jewish leader spent nearly two
hours Monday with Gross at the military hospital where he is being held.
They lit candles, ate potato pancakes and passed around chocolate coins
to celebrate Hanukkah.

Photographs taken during the meeting show a thin Gross wearing a
light-blue guayabera shirt standing between Dworin and another Cuban
Jewish leader, David Prinstein. Gross has a gray beard. They are
believed to be the first photos released of Gross inside the military

"His health is very good," Dworin told The Associated Press ahead of the
photos' release. "He has gained some weight. He's not fat, but he's not
so thin anymore."

But that account was questioned by Gross's wife, Judy, who revealed that
she had traveled to Cuba to visit her husband a few weeks ago, and said
she speaks to him regularly on the phone.

"He is deteriorating more and more every day," she wrote in a statement.
"He told me he is feeling very hopeless ... I truly do not know how much
longer he can take this ordeal."

Judy Gross said her 62-year-old husband had recently cried for the first
time while they spoke on the phone together, and said if he appeared
cheerful in front of Dworin it was only to "put on a brave face."

"We continue to beg the Cuban authorities to let Alan come home to us,"
she wrote, adding that one look at the photos released by Dworin show a
man who is weak and frail compared to the way he looked before his arrest.

Gross, who was portly, reportedly had lost 100 pounds (45 kilos) since
he was arrested in December 2009.

Dworin said he told her he now weighs 161 pounds and walks five miles a
day within the military hospital he is being held. She said he looked
considerably better than on a previous visit she made to see him, and
even made a muscle to show her his returning strength.

Dworin said Gross even told her he would like to return to Cuba for a
visit after his release, noting he has seen the entire island except for
the western province of Pinar del Rio.

Gross was working on a USAID-funded democracy-building program when he
was arrested. His supporters say he was only trying to help the island's
small Jewish community improve its Internet connection. Cuba says the
USAID programs are aimed at bringing about regime change on the island.

Gross was sentenced to 15 years in jail earlier this year. His family
and other prominent Americans have pleaded with Castro to release him on
humanitarian grounds, noting that both his mother and daughter have been
diagnosed with cancer since his incarceration.

Castro has voiced concern about Gross' condition, but the American was
not included on a list of 2,900 prisoners the Cuban leader pardoned last
week, most of them in jail for common crimes.

Gross' wife, Judy, said Saturday that her family was deeply distressed
to hear that Gross was not included in the pardon.

"To receive news in the middle of Hanukkah that the Cuban authorities
have once again overlooked an opportunity to release Alan on
humanitarian grounds is devastating," she said.

Dworin said Gross was extremely anxious to get back home to his wife and
family, but said he was upbeat during the visit.

She said they did not discuss Castro's prisoner amnesty at length during
the Hanukkah celebration, but that Gross knew about it and was clearly
disappointed not to be part of it.

"He wants to have hope," Dworin said. "We Jews always live with hope, or
we would have disappeared from the earth long ago. A miracle could
occur. After all it is Hanukkah, which is all about a miracle."

Hanukkah, which concluded Tuesday, is the Festival of Lights for Jews.
The holiday commemorates the rededication of the Jewish Temple in
Jerusalem in 164 B.C. According to tradition, a candelabra was lit with
only enough oil for one day, but it miraculously burned for eight days.

Paul Haven can be reached at

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Little Report about Governmental Fraud / Ángel Santiesteban

A Little Report about Governmental Fraud / Ángel Santiesteban
Angel Santiesteban, Translator: Regina Anavy

The last thing able to survive from our Cuban heritage is housing, owing
to the totalitarian will of Fidel Castro, who dictated for more than 50
years that everything was his property and only he would decide what was
whose and when it stopped being so. Fortunately or unfortunately, the
family home was the only thing that couldn't be sacrificed to survive
the debacle that has lasted over 50 years. Soon that ban on the sale of
real estate will be a memory.

In the 1980s, the Cuban people were robbed of jewelry inherited from
their ancestors; the elderly, to satisfy their children and
grandchildren and alleviate their extreme poverty, handed over their
goods in exchange for a few "chavitos" [Cuban convertible pesos], which
had value only in hard-currency stores, where the prices of the items
were laughable. And everything worked like a robbery because there were
no other stores where they could get these products, which were nothing
special, other than the opportunity to acquire them.

Having dollars in those days could send you to prison for many years.
People were confronted with the perfected gears of a governmental
blackmail, which left some in bad shape, those who refused to sacrifice
the memory of their ancestors for their family. In the end, the old
women who gave up their engagement rings, relics that they exhibited on
their hands as a window into profound feelings, did it with a mixture of
pain and satisfaction, to please their families. They were left with the
perception that they were duped like the Indians at the arrival of the
Spanish, when they traded gold nuggets for stained glass.

The State also bought their porcelain vases, silver and gold, paintings
that their ancestors hung on the walls to admire, design furniture,
wealth that went into the coffers of politicians or their families and
that now rest in safe deposit boxes in foreign banks. If I may say, it
reminds me of the Jewish Holocaust, where they even removed gold teeth
by force.

Our people are like the sugar cane: squeezed.

Cuban society has been sacked spiritually and materially, like the cane,
which is repeatedly passed through the mill, where it loses consistency,
becoming bagasse and powder. What's painful is that everything happens
in total silence, under the auspices and complicity of Cuban officials
and intellectuals, who don't comment because of the fear that always
accompanies them in their artistic souls. They remained silent before
the grand theft that exchanged jewelry for bread. For once they didn't
fulfill the role, so vaunted, that makes intellectuals the voice of
society, its defender, its living memory. Instead, they preferred to
turn their backs on the people, and history will recognize this in its
righteous assessment.

But circumstances have changed so much for the ruling elite, that it has
no choice but to revise its extreme methods and wave the flag, always
for the sake of its benefit, ignoring the repeated and lengthy speeches
that claimed that "private property will never return to Cuba." Have you
ever wondered how much pain it must cause Fidel Castro to see how the
whole house of cards he forced us to visualize is crumbling? He wanted
us to believe it as if it were true and palpable. What must be happening
and what plans do they have for beginning to return some small freedoms
that they took away before and that makes them feel they are losing
their valued power? Surely it's the same feeling of helplessness the
masters felt when they were forced to free their slaves. For let's not
deceive ourselves, no measure of this Government will ever improve
things for the people, not even to restore the freedoms and rights that
correspond to being human.

The right to be born….in the wrong place?

Now the government has approved the sale of houses, something that had
already been announced. But it's also been more than a year, as "by
chance" they began in Cuba, after 50 years of stagnation, to update the
property registrations. Everything has been done with the utmost
urgency. It has been a so-called mandate for the state enterprises, with
the inescapable management of citizens for any procedure involving their
homes. In each municipality offices were opened to enter into the books
the names of the current owners, with extreme urgency and pressure. They
know that time is running out. The locals have handed over premises for
these offices, given training courses, printed flyers that have been
corrected, and delivered computers, files and office supplies. Visits by
the Provincial Director of Justice and political officials are constant.
They also are pressured with other requests. They have to answer for how
much the total climbs when they get an entry on the books. The first
person who began this task, as part of his duties as Prime Minister
(Mayor of Havana), Juan Contino Aslan (may his small power rest in
peace), was dismissed and now is on the "pajama plan," (like his
predecessors and political mentors, who allotted houses to their

The Government of Cuba never makes a move that will not bring it
compensation. But in this case, all the trappings lead us to the true
intent, which is to take back the properties belonging to the old
owners, who have left the country or died in Cuba.

The goal is to erase the past. When the State gets in its possession all
the old properties, it will make them disappear and, with the
registration, only the updated properties will remain. No property owner
whose property was "nationalized" beginning in 1959, nor their heirs,
will be able to reclaim something that doesn't exist and that they can't
prove officially.

Perhaps some have conveyed their properties from exile, but they were
the minority. And you might think it's a commendable gesture of the
Castros to assure Cubans that they will not be thrown into the street
when the inevitable political change appears, but that would be naive.
The real reason is that the power elite is trying to hide the family
estates that were seized or inventoried after the departure of their
original owners. Inside the great mountain of paper that contains the
entries, the personal properties will be lost. By the way, this will
reassure the generals and acolytes that they will not lose the
confiscated property given to them when they came to power.

The country is bleeding

The Cubans, in this carnival of small, unknown freedoms, in their
desperation to change their reality, in the desire to fulfill some
dreams, especially that of emigrating, now can sell their homes. Those
who wish to stay on the island immediately think about how that money
will solve all their pressing needs: eating, dressing and sleeping
without the torture of not knowing what you will eat the next day. The
government is already warning that it is "not responsible for the bad
decisions of owners who spend the money and end up in homes in poor
condition that may fall down, or for those who are wandering around
without a roof over their heads."

Once again, we wonder what function this supposed revolution had, which
presumably was made to guarantee people a secure life with equal rights.
What do we gain from suffering a dictatorship for more than 50 years, if
at the end we find ourselves selling the only things we posses, the only
things we could keep? And what's worse, it's a "socialist" state that
has nothing to do with its people, who were its only standard and
justification in this long march of agony.

The Comandante's bag

As a child, we thought the "coconut" would come for us, for our body; it
would come to take us away for not eating all our sweet potatoes, or for
not going to bed on time. After growing up we knew that the man with the
bag, the bogeyman, had passed through our lives, and he took in his
bundle more than wealth and family belongings. He took the lives and
dreams of my grandparents, parents, siblings, friends, those relatives
who still grasp me with their nails and their teeth so they won't be
snatched, and already he controls my children and now, if we permit him,
our grandchildren.

The Cuban State, for more than half a century, has held up the monster
of "capitalism," which it constantly criticized, to children who were
frightened that the "coconut" would come, and by studying so thoroughly
the original, it now has become the reflection and has converted itself
into the image of "the bogeyman who is coming to take us away," in order
to frighten us with capitalism as communist propaganda.

We Cubans have been scammed. The socialist State is slowly giving way to
ideas with which they can perpetuate the dictatorship, a frank
regression to capitalism. With the difference that now it will be more
vulnerable, because there is no knowledge of either family or social
infrastructure, which is necessary to meet and sustain a dignified life.

The big difference is in who wins at the considerable sacrifice of
millions of Cubans in this more than half a century. The Castro family
lives in luxurious mansions They own several cars and yachts. They
travel constantly and have prosperous businesses, fortunes and
properties in other countries. They definitely enjoy an income that
allows them to live like millionaires.

The beginning of the 21st century has begun to be their end. They sense
that they are running out of time. The only thing I don't know is how
and what they will develop for the family to maintain its status and
wealth, and to ensure, of course, that it will not be returned later to
the Cuban people.

While they prolong the strategies for usurious benefits for the Castro
family, the Cuban peoples' dreams of freedom and a prosperous economy
are put off and continue being deferred.

Ángel Santiesteban Prats

Translated by Regina Anavy

November 16 2011

The Pineapples of Wrath / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado

The Pineapples of Wrath / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado
Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado

I'm not referring to John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath written
in 1939. I'm talking about the culinary experience that led me to the
farmer's market: I decided to make a cold salad with a pasta base. For
any mortal in another country, it's probable they would have the option
of buying the dish ready-made, or if they wanted to make it at home, of
buying all the ingredients at one time, or perhaps making a second trip
because they forget something, but everything would be available.

In Cuba it's an exercise in mental hygiene requiring huge portions of
patience. This recipe calls for — at the least the one we make at home —
lots of mayonnaise and white onions, as well as boiled potato cut in
small pieces. Some reinvented their own recipe for mayonnaise, and by
saving great quantities of oil (a scarce product selling dearly in hard
currency), make it by giving the oil body with mashed potato, milk with
cornstarch, or some other ingenious and available substitute.

Rafa and I preferred, this time, to spend the hard cash — I don't think
mayonnaise is sold in Cuban pesos — to give it the familiar taste. For a
customary exercise in survival, we Cubans often forget to eat, and so to
feed ourselves is a pleasure.

Recovered from the horror of the fiftieth anniversary of Castro, I
didn't want to find myself surprised by the usual shortages and was
collecting some of the ingredients several days in advance. After
roasting the quarter chicken I was going to throw shredded into the
salad, I tossed my lucky coin and went out shopping to buy what I
lacked. As we were packed like sardines in the farmer's market I
searched quickly for what I needed so I could get away from so many
people rabid for food. The onion cost me very dear, I bought it with a
little mountain of national currency, and I also acquired the mayonnaise
easily — notwithstanding the excessive price which I paid in hard
currency — but it is the third ingredient that led to this post.

Incredibly, the farmer's market near my house only sold green
pineapples. To avoid disgracing my salad with sour pineapple, I walked
from market to market and found the same thing at some while others had
none at all. After two hours and so as not to waste the whole day, I
went to a stall and asked the seller for a ripe one. "Señora, all that I
have are ready to eat and very good." As she had them in front of her
and I am not colorblind, I responded and we got into an argument because
she wanted to tell me that a green rind is a sign of ripeness, and that
I shouldn't "be picky" and ask for "difficult things," but just be
grateful there was pineapple at all.

In the end, as I didn't have enough cash to substitute apples — which
are only sold in convertible pesos — and I left the crush of people
disgusted by the dispute, wanting to punch myself for my stupidity in
demanding "ripe tropical fruits in the tropics" and in frustration for
"leaving the party" empty handed.

I left mentally fuming, making an analogy with the title of the Pulitzer
Prize novel of 1940 which is considered a major work: The Grapes of
Wrath. I also remembered the phrase attributed to the late Armando
Calderon — anchor and host of the long-gone Sunday TV show, "The Silent
Comedy" — who said that one morning he had modified his usual chatter
for the children present: "This is de piña*, dear little friends!"

*If you substitute "ng" for the letter "ñ" in "piña" (pineapple), we
have the name of the masculine sex organ which is a part of so many
expressions and expletives in the vulgar Spanish of Cuba.

Translator's note: This text in the original Spanish plays with longer
words that include the letters "piña"; unfortunately this wordplay
cannot be reproduced in translation.

November 15 2011

Jailing of Cuban dissidents denounced

Posted on Tuesday, 12.27.11

Jailing of Cuban dissidents denounced
By Juan Carlos Chavez

Activists and groups advocating individual freedom in Cuba denounced the
jailing in maximum security prisons of three peaceful opponents,
including Ivonne Malleza Galano, who this year carried out a series of
daring street protests.

The arrests coincide with the massive amnesty announced by Cuban leader
Raúl Castro of about 2,900 Cuban prisoners. Five political prisoners
were also released, according to information given on Tuesday by
Elizardo Sánchez, director of the illegal but tolerated Cuban Commission
of Human Rights and National Reconciliation, based in Havana.

"Suddenly the signs are very negative," Sánchez told El Nuevo Herald.
"Because while there is an amnesty of criminal and political prisoners,
three people who simply staged a small peaceful protest on the streets
without any kind of force or violence are being jailed."

Malleza was transferred to Manto Negro women's jail in Havana together
with dissident Isabel Hayde Alvarez Mosqueda. Both could be sentenced to
five years in prison. The third opponent jailed is Malleza's husband,
Ignacio Martínez Montero.

Malleza, a member of the group the Ladies in White, began to draw
attention in the last few months because of her work in the opposition

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chronicle of Asclepius in Cuba (Part 2) / Jeovany J. Vega

Chronicle of Asclepius in Cuba (Part 2) / Jeovany J. Vega
Jeovany J. Vega

Translator's note: Asclepius is the ancient Greek god of Healing and

If you are moderately well-informed you know that we 11 million Cubans
living in Cuba are subject to a ban on free travel abroad. In this case
it's not about a personal decision, but requires that you be invariably
authorized by an arm of the Ministry of the Interior with discretionary
power to say yes or not to your "permission to leave"; a privilege that
becomes the stuff of blackmail, with perks awarded to those who remain
"quiet" and refusals as punishment for the irreverent, to set an example
to others. This general prohibition is contained in the Ministry of
Public Health (MINSAP) Resolution 54, specifically designed for those
who work in Public Health, and which presents a bleak picture.

But returning to our mental exercise, here we have our thoughtful doctor
who is forbidden to travel abroad, who can't support his family on his
evanescent salary, who can't go to work in another better paid sector
because the Resolution prohibits it, with a purely decorative Union that
bows to the orders of the Administration and the Party, through which he
can't channel any solution to these basic problems, nor will it
acknowledge his starvation wages, nor the terrible conditions of hygiene
and good, coupled with the lack of resources and medications which, save
in happy exceptions, he passes his medical shifts in our polyclinics and
hospitals; shifts for which our doctor, incidentally, does not receive
even a penny.

Then our thoughtful physician has only one way out, and resignedly
chooses the only door left open; he applies to be part of some medical
mission that our supportive government sustains in some dozens of
countries. He just has to fill out the rigorous documents, and spend a
few months or years, and then our doctor leaves his office or hospital
to care for the poor of the world.

I believe in human solidarity like I believe in the light of the sun,
but in life you have the discern the luster of gold from the shine of
the mirrors. When a doctor, dentist or other Cuban health professional
leaves to work on a foreign mission, regardless of any moral valuation,
he does it under indisputable circumstances. This worker, until now
deprived of a decent wage, will from this moment forward receive 300 or
400 dollars a month, while his family in Cuba – which under no
circumstances Is allowed to accompany him — will receive his full wages
in Cuban pesos along with 50 convertible pesos every month.

Although under certain circumstances it can come to more depending on
the destination country, it will never exceed 15% to 20% of what the
host country is paying Cuba for his services. This is an estimate, as
this information is practically inaccessible, but it's true that around
80% of what our doctor generates in his contracted wages — not taking
into account extras for additional tests, radiology studies, etc., which
are generously covered — goes directly to the coffers of the Cuban state
to be administered by human functionaries.

Meanwhile, the Cuban health workers abroad receive a wage that in many
cases is less than the legal minimum wage for a native of the country
they are working in. When the worker returns to Cuba on completing his
mission, he is once again subject like any good Cuban to the travel ban.
Any professional that abandons his mission is invariably treated like a
traitor, and is never permitted to enter Cuba again and will not be able
to see his children grow up; he will not even be authorized to come in
the case of an illness or death of a loved one.

Now let's look at a revealing fact: over the last decade contracting for
medical services has brought the Cuban government tens of billions of
dollars, and has become the country's largest source of export earnings.
The selfless medical missions which our government exports to the
world's poor, in the last decade, have generated between five and eight
billion dollar annually; tourism is a distant second at two billion.
This number accounts for the export of services only; our professionals
in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are third in line,
surpassed only by the nickel industry and the petroleum products.

Note, first, the enormous economic dividend this implies, and secondly
the obvious, and no less important, political benefit, that makes our
leaders smell like Messiahs and garners votes for them in international
forums. Add to that, thirdly, the escape valve it provides for the mood
of the worker, who knows if he waits patiently for a mission abroad he
can multiply his salary by 20 to 40 times during the two or three years,
on condition he remain silent.

For the protestors, the outlaws, they will never join this mass of
internationalists who now amount to about half of our practicing
physicians who, clearly, resent the quality of medical care offered to
the Cuban population.

Every human society is a complex system of relationships that require
adjustments in their mechanisms and which should reward personal effort,
because this will encourage respect for the value of honest labor. In
this system, each one should have a well-defined place. While it is the
role of the doctor to safeguard health and human life, that of the
senior leaders of this country should be to guarantee the strategic
design of a balanced and functional society and this, without a doubt,
they have not managed to accomplish after 50 years of projects and

Not only did they fail in their design, but they did so resoundingly.
The apologists talk about "free" education and health, but without
attempting to complain of the sun for its spots, I suggest that this is
relative, because the money they don't charge me at school or at the
hospital, bleeds from my fingers in the hard-currency stores with their
absurd policy of extremely abusive prices, where things are marked up
500% or 1000% over their wholesale price. Also, to guarantee an
education and people's health is not a gesture of goodwill, but an
obligation of the State. We mustn't forget that over his whole life a
worker salary is cut by 33% to guarantee his Social Security. This
gloomy subject is rarely spoken of in my country.

I have clean hands and I like to play it straight, so someone who's
playing a game can save the lectures on patriotism. I believe the
necessary Revolution of 1959 was right and authentic, but I can't
applaud what it has condemned us to, because if there is no respect for
the rights of man, there is nothing left to defend.

I am with the Revolution, but will never resign myself to its errors,
nor with the acts of demagogues and opportunists. I am a doctor, a
Cuban, I live in the real and difficult Cuba, not in the TV newscasts
and I do not wish to emigrate. I graduated in 1994, and since 1998 have
had a specialty in General Medicine. I was a third-year Resident in
Internal Medicine until April 2006 when, in my last year, I was
suspended from the study of this specialty and then disqualified from
the practice of medicine in Cuba, for an indefinite time in October
2006, along with a colleague, Dr. Rodolfo Martinez Vigoa.

The ancestral intolerance to which we were already accustomed made the
powers-that-be react as if we had thrown a Molotov cocktail. Terrified
by that tiny consensus, they did what they do best: put down by force
and show of dissent. They never responded, they were unscrupulous and
brutal. The details of this injustice are fully known by all the
relevant central agencies including the Attorney General's Office,
without anyone doing anything to fix it.

I am one more among tens of thousands of Cuban doctors who live every
day under this outrageous reality. I live under a government that
deprived me of the right to exercise my profession for political
considerations, that systematically censored my opinions, that took away
my right to travel freely, that doesn't respect my right to receive
information first hand and that denies me 21st century Internet access,
all of which give an idea of how retrograde they are when topic is man's
right to think freely.

The government that commits this flagrant violation of the rights of
millions of Cubans now occupies no less than the Vice Presidency of the
Human Rights Council of the UN. If you had the patience to read this
far, you already have a rough vision of what our professionals in Public
Health experience. If you belong to the group of apologists or those
with clenched fist, know that this is the Cuba that you applaud or
condemn so fervently as your conscience dictates.

August 19 2011

What to Celebrate? / Rebeca Monzo

What to Celebrate? / Rebeca Monzo
Rebeca Monzo, Translator: Meg Anderson

Today, December 3rd, we celebrate the Day of the Doctor in my world.

I have a doctor friend, with twenty-five years of experience,
specializing in psychiatry, with good results, according to the
acknowledgement of her patients, which is what really counts, who this
year will be in her house baking cakes to be able to survive, while in
her ancient place of employment, a polyclinic in Central Havana, they
will hand out flowers and make speeches, with out taking into account
that of the five psychiatrists who work there, only one of whom kept
their job, while the other four, including my friend, were let go.

My friend is still young, not yet fifty years old, and has vast
experience in her field, is divorced and has two children to take care
of who are still studying. It is inconceivable that a doctor's knowledge
and experience would be wasted in this way. I understand that if this
polyclinic had too many psychiatrists, something I doubt as this is an
overpopulated city in which people do not enjoy the best living
conditions, they should have had the others sent to other health centers
where they could have used them. The sick who come in search of medical
help almost always have to be attended to by inexperienced foreign
students, who in some case cannot communicate very well with them,
because they do not speak our language correctly. In general, this is
not well received by those who come seeking medical attention, when our
government shows off by sending so many doctors on foreign missions.

Is it that, since people here the do not have life insurance (it doesn't
exist), they come to practice on us as if we were guinea pigs? What's
certain is that already this is causing discomfort among people; we like
to be well served and to be in the presence of an experienced doctor,
from whom the students next to them can gain experience, rather than
practice on the sick.

Nevertheless, my congratulations to all these hardworking Cuban doctors
who take the bus (guagua in "good Cuban") or bicycle to their hospital
or polyclinic, who have shifts too often, who work with many difficult
materials and who even so are kind and professional with the patients
(as they should be), receiving a lower salary than an employee at Aurora
(a business that sweeps the streets) or a fumigator. To all of them, my
deepest respect.

Translated by: Meg Anderson

December 3 2011

Radio Gitmo has laughs at Fidel's expense

Radio Gitmo has laughs at Fidel's expense
By Carol Rosenberg, The Miami Herald
10:36 a.m. EST, December 25, 2011

-Drive through this base dotted with a McDonald's, golf course and
drive-in cinema featuring first-run movies and you could be in anywhere

But switch on the radio in this one-station town and the location is
inescapable. "Radio Gitmo," goes a jingle in an unspoken nod to the
economic embargo, "We're close but no cigar."

The station's motto: "Rockin' in Fidel's Backyard."
Video: Check out Santa riding the surf at Fort Lauderdale beach

It's emblazoned on T-shirts, key chains, tote bags and beer-can covers —
classic public-radio fundraising fare. Except these poke fun at the
Cuban comandante who's been telling the U.S. Navy to get out since the

Each item bears the motto, along with a likeness of Fidel Castro in a
green military cap. And, though he claimed to kick the habit years a-go,
he's chomping on a cigar — a caricature stubbornly locked in time, not
unlike the U.S. grip on this outpost in southeast Cuba.

Successive U.S. administrations have considered Guantánamo a strategic
location. So the Navy maintains it as a small town with a port, prison
and airstrip maintained by 6,000 or so occupants, from U.S. troops and
contract workers to sailors' spouses and kids.

For residents who don't want to tune in to Spanish broadcasts of Radio
Reloj from Cuba proper across the minefield, there's Radio Gitmo, with
its mix of country music in the morning and hip-hop programming at
night, mostly streamed in from elsewhere.

It offers public service programming, too, such as reminders to use
sunblock while snorkeling and to designate a sober driver when out
drinking. A sailor-announcer adopts the audio persona of a talking
iguana to warn people against feeding the wildlife. A more solemn
announcer advises listeners to be aware of their surroundings, avoid
terror attacks — all pretty dry stuff.

Still, the station's lobby is a popular spot for its gift shop — a pair
of bookshelves stuffed with swag.

Hooded sweat shirts are the most expensive at $40. A Fidel figurine
whose head bobbles costs $25. Travel mugs and bottle openers go for $10,
all of it for fun, not profit.

Proceeds this year are going to help the nine seniors at the high school
fund their class trip, an eight-day cruise, and also cut the costs for
juniors enlisted to attend the Navy and Marine Corps balls, says Chief
Petty Officer Stan Travioli, who runs the station.

By far, the $15 T-shirts are the best-selling items.

Soldiers on deployments of a year or less send them to the kids back
home. Off-duty troops sport them at the beach. A British newspaper
correspondent was picking one up for her husband recently when a
counterman at the Guantánamo McDonald's walked in to buy two.

During war crimes hearings, escorts shuttle observers from Camp Justice
— where the Pentagon puts them up in a crude tent city powered by
cacophonous generators — to buy the kitsch. More likely than not,
they're souvenirs of something they've never heard.

Drummer Derek Berk got his Radio Gitmo regalia, gratis, when his
Detroit-based indie rock band, The High Strung, played a couple of
concerts and spent a week kicking around the 45-square-mile base.

Berk literally did rock in Fidel's backyard: "There's not any combat
going on down there," he says. "We're just occupying our area." He
considers his souvenir a treasured addition to his T-shirt collection —
political correctness not a concern.

"I think it's just kind of funny," he says.

"Is it PC for our Army to make fun of their so-called enemy? I feel like
silliness is OK."

Sailors at the radio station don't use the motto as a radio jingle, just
in case it might offend the neighbors. And it's simply not known how
those in Havana view it, if at all.

Neither the motto nor the broadcasts have come up in monthly meetings
with a Cuban military officer along the fence line, said Navy Capt. Kirk
Hibbert, the base commander.

The U.S. military opened the channel of communication in the 1990s, to
let one side alert the other to activities that may alarm the other's
troops. At the meetings, commanders have given advanced notice of
training at the firing range and the first arrival of al-Qaida suspects
in 2002.

The radio station and its quirky motto were already around for years
when Hibbert got to the base 14 months ago. He "never gave it much
thought," he said, until a reporter asked about it.

"I don't see myself sitting in Fidel's backyard," he replied
good-naturedly. "I see myself as the naval officer in charge of
Guantánamo Bay.",0,1968504.story

Cuba makes more reforms to retail sector

Cuba makes more reforms to retail sector
ReutersBy Marc Frank | Reuters – Mon, Dec 26, 2011

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba will open up more of the country's retail
services to the private sector next year, allowing Cubans to operate
various services such as appliance and watch repair, and locksmith and
carpentry shops, official media reported on Monday.

The measures are the latest by President Raul Castro in his attempt to
reinvigorate Cuba's struggling Soviet-style economy by reducing the role
of the state and encouraging more private initiative.

A resolution published in the official gazette on Monday said the new
reforms would take effect on January 1.

Earlier this year, the Cuban government turned over some 1,500 state
barbershops and beauty parlors to employees.

Former state employees now pay a monthly fee for the shop, purchase
supplies, pay taxes and charge what the market will bear.

Shortly after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, all businesses in Cuba
were taken over by the state. But since the former leader handed power
to his brother in 2008, the policy has been openly criticized as a mistake.

Ordinary Cubans have long complained about dismal state services,
including small retail services, which they say have deteriorated
because of a theft of resources and a shortage of sufficient supplies
from the government.

Cuba has been moving over the last year to liberalize regulations over
private economic activity. Since then, tens of thousands of Cubans have
taken out licenses "to work for themselves," a euphemism used by the
government to describe operating mom-and-pop businesses.

Cuba plans to have 35 percent to 40 percent of the labor force working
in the "non-state" sector by 2016, compared with 15 percent at the close
of 2010.

Raul Castro, faced with stagnating production and mounting foreign debt,
has made clear the economy must be overhauled if the socialist system he
and his ailing brother Fidel installed is to survive.

Moving most retail services to the "non-state" sector is one of more
than 300 reforms approved by the ruling Communist Party earlier this
year to "update" the economy.

The measures aim to introduce market forces in the agriculture and
retail services sectors, cut subsidies and lift restrictions on
individual activity that once prohibited the sale and purchase of homes
and cars.

On Monday, the Communist Party daily Granma said the moving of thousands
of state retail services to a leasing arrangement would be done
gradually throughout 2012.

Economy Minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez told a year-end session of the
National Assembly last week the number of state jobs would be reduced by
170,000 next year, with 240,000 new jobs likely to be added to the
"non-state" sector.

Thousands of state taxi drivers are expected to move to leasing
arrangements next year. Some state food services are also expected to be
allowed to form cooperatives.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Eric Beech);_ylt=ApjY9B0o9UVc6xdWzIS.0Zz9SpZ4

Cuba expands free-market reforms

Cuba expands free-market reforms
26 December 2011 Last updated at 23:45 GMT

A Cuban selling meat on a street stall gives the thumbs -up Many
restaurants and food stalls are already privately operated

Cuba says it is expanding free-market reforms, opening more of the
retail services sector to private business.

From 1 January workers including carpenters, locksmiths, photographers
and repairmen will be allowed to become self-employed.

They will be able to set their own prices, while paying taxes and
leasing their premises from the state.

The measures are the latest reforms aimed at reviving Cuba's socialist
economy by boosting private enterprise.

President Raul Castro, who took over from his brother Fidel in 2008, has
said the changes represent an effort to update rather than abandon the
socialist model.

His government plans to have up to 40% of the the workforce employed by
the non-state sector by 2016, compared with just 10% at the end of 2010.
Dramatic change

Restrictions on private business have been relaxed, large numbers of
state workers have been laid off, and tens of thousands of Cubans have
applied for licenses to work for themselves.

For the first time in decades people are allowed to buy and sell homes
and cars and take out private business loans from banks.

Earlier this year state barbers shops and beauty salons were handed over
to their employees, who now work for themselves while paying rent, tax
and social security to the state.

That initiative is now being extended to a wide range of small retail
services, including shoe, watch and electronic repairs, the official
Communist Party newspaper Granma said.

The change will be rolled out gradually over the course of the year,
starting in six provinces including the capital, Havana.

President Castro's programme of reform represents a dramatic change in
Cuba, which for nearly half a century was been run as a command economy,
with almost all activity controlled by the state.