Saturday, June 30, 2012

Be strong and courageous and connect us at once!

Be strong and courageous and connect us at once! / Eliécer Ávila
Eliécer Ávila, Translator: Unstated

Attentive and engaged, and all ages, participants at the independent
CLIC Festival held in Havana in June 2012

Just being in Cuba and within this struggle for the right to exist,
makes you realize how difficult it is to organize a participate and
plural event such as the recent CLICK Festival.

Here is it virtually impossible to do anything without the support of
the State institutions; now imagine doing it with the entire repressive
apparatus of the State working overtime to disrupt and block the
planning of the event.

In this context, the most insignificant detail is complicated and
becomes a real odyssey. Which is why I admire and congratulate the
organizers who took on this challenge and accomplished it, with
intelligence and a great deal of work.

In my case, I had the honor of being invited to join the opening panel
on Twitter, with Yoani Sánchez, Rebeca Monzó and Félix Lleonart.

With the constant rain I had my doubts that many people would be able to
get to the site of Estado de Sats, but what happened dispelled my fears.
When we started there audience exceeded the available chairs and some
found a seat in the corners on the floor while others stood in the
hallway to listen.

We panelists talked about the essentials. Cubans are tired of hearing
long speeches and what they need is to speak and be heard.

The debate was rich, people spoke with the assurance of those who do not
feel threatened, who do not stifle their opinions for fear of losing
their livelihood. This is a marked difference from what happens in any
official event in Cuba, where you are only invited if you have shown a
reverent attitude toward the government and complete lack of sympathy
for those who question its decisions.

This is why all the meetings that take place independent of the State
are so interesting. You never know what people are going to say, nor is
anyone worried about it. We are not going to hear elegies, nor will we
be thanked for no reason. We are not on a platform above the audience.
We don't take the names of those who criticize us. No one is careful to
prevent our hearing harsh words. No one separates us from the people and
their desires.

I am quite sure that these spaces are the embryos of Cuban democracy,
which will come because history is unforgiving and advances relentlessly
beyond any human whim.

People, like forests, grow towards the light.

Parallel to the CLICK Festival, the Government organized an opposing
festival using their Young People's Clubs as sites.

According to a laugh-inducing report broadcast on official television
news, "There was talk of responsible use of social networking, the
social priority that the Cuban State gives to the network was explained,
and the public were offered options such as navigation and copying of
digital books." So far everything was more or less acceptable, but then
came a worker in a Young People's Club speaking complete nonsense:
"Internet is very important but we all know that the U.S. does not allow
us to connect, its not that we don't want to, the cable does not touch
us, the blockade, etc … "

It seems that this man knew nothing of the famous project of the cable
to Venezuela and all of the nonsense that revolves around it. Or he's a

It is important that the world realizes how the Cuban government tries
to handle modern concepts and holds events about issues and options that
the great majority of people know nothing about, much less can they use
them fully and freely, as is truly needed.

They must be totally unserious to play at this game. And some even come
from other countries to contribute to this theatrical pantomime which
does absolutely nothing for is.

First we must demand the massive connection to the Internet promised,
and in which millions has been invested. And then, from the actual
Internet, that we can talk about whatever we want.

At the CLICK Festival — the real one, not the invented one — it became
clear that the Internet has a real impact on our lives, on the economy,
and in all the spheres of society, and that there must be Internet
access in homes, all the time and with unlimited access.

The inventions of the State to "control" information flows and, thus,
the people, are abusive, unnecessary, inefficient and boring mechanisms
that have no reason to exist in a decent and free society, where the
leaders have nothing to hide from the people, nor do they base their
hold on power in the ignorance of the masses.

Internet would be a good topic for a presidential campaign, so badly
needed in Cuba. Any candidate who didn't emerge from the closed,
hermitic and mysterious little power group of the Cuban Communist Party
(PC), would, immediately upon being elected, order the immediate
implementation of a full public connection.

It is very clear that the Government, regardless of what it says, fears
the Internet, fears allowing Cubans to communicate among themselves and
with the rest of the world. It fears dropping the mask and the make-up
of the media that transmit 24/7 at its service.

And if this is not the case, make me look ridiculous and show me that
I'm wrong. Be strong and courageous and connect us at once!

From Diario de Cuba

27 June 2012

Efficiency and Productivity

Efficiency and Productivity / Rebeca Monzo
Rebeca Monzo, Translator: Unstated

Today, Friday, we woke without electricity. Regular television viewers
said yesterday's late-night news program had reported that a large area
of one town, Plaza, would be impacted by maintenance workfrom 8:00 AM
until 5:00 PM. This has been going on for several weeks.

Since I had not heard about this, I called 18888, the magic phone number
for reporting such instances. A weary voice came on, repeating over and
over in monotone, "Outages due to repairs."

Of course! Those impacted are us, the ordinary citizens, especially
those who pay excessive sums of money in license fees and taxes for
their nascent private businesses. No one is compensated. They stopped
doing that here half a century ago.

In the very early hours of the morning a truck with a crane, a repair
truck and ten men arrived atthe corner ofForty-firstStreet and Conill B
in the Nuevo Vedado neighborhood.Eight of the men spent nearly the
entire time sitting on the pavement while the other two were perched on
the pole. Later it occurred to me that the two climbers themselves were
sufficient; all the others were just there as cheerleaders.

Forty-first Street was closed to traffic from Avenue 24 to Avenue 26,
with cables laid out all along it. The neighbors – some resigned, some
indignant – contemplated the spectacle from their balconies.

The delay is such that we have still not determined if they are
sculpting the pole or decorating it. Since we are such an artistic
powerhouse, it is quite possible they are turning it into a work of art,
given the time invested in repairing the thing. So, now, to whom does
one submit a claim? Who is responsible for the resulting losses and
nuisance? No one, of course. Just like the complaints made to the famous
telephone number in question, all protests fall on deaf ears.

It is now a little past five in the afternoon (the promised hour of
completion). Traffic and electrical service have now been restored.
Perfect timing.

If this is efficiency and productivity, God himself should come and see!

June 29 2012

The Ghost of the Treaties

The Ghost of the Treaties / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallín Almeida
Cuban Law Association, Translator: Chabeli, Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

By Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

"A ghost is traveling around Europe: it is the ghost of Communism" said
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their famous Manifesto.

Over a century later, when he was Foreign Relations Minister and the one
who best interpreted the thoughts of the Commander in Chief (Fidel
Castro), a photo of Felipe Pérez Roque shaking hands with Mr. Ban Ki
Mon, Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), appeared in the
newspaper Juventud Rebelde, on February 28, 2008.

The snapshot was taken on the occasion of the signing, by Foreign
Relations Minister Felipe Pérez Roque, of the two International
Covenants on Human Rights (ICCPR and ICESCR) that came out of the UN in
1966 and started to be signed and ratified worldwide, going into effect
in 1976, 10 years later.

The UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, despite the
overwhelming moral commitment that it entails, is only a recommendation,
not a binding treaty for any government.

Precisely, because of its non-obligatory condition (or non-binding, as
you would say in the language of international law), the UN created
these two International Covenants, detailing and more specifically
defining the rights laid out in the Universal Declaration. The two
Covenants are: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR), (or first generation), and the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), (or second generation).

Four years after this event, there are several questions to be answered
if we want to analyze it:

Why would the Cuban government take 32 years to sign such important
Why did the citizens never receive an explanation about the reasons
why the documents were signed?
Why have the Cuban people never been exposed to the content of
these Covenants?
What implications would the ratification of such legal instruments
of justice have for the Cuban people?
Why, since their signing date, have these agreements been kept in
the "secrecy" that today is criticized by the authorities?

The problem is that, right now, we continue to face this widespread
crisis that seems endless, just like the absence of deep and serious
responses from the side of the government.

Outraged people are not only in Europe, in Wall Street or in Arab
countries. A group of citizens from Cuban civil society is demanding the
ratification of the UN Covenants signed on behalf of the Cuban people,
precisely because we are… outraged.

Ghosts have always existed throughout history. Yesterday, Communism was
Europe's ghost. Today, in Cuba, a new ghost starts moving around,
horrifying and frightening for some: the ghost of the Human Rights
Covenants of the United Nations.

Translated by ChabeliJune 28 2012

Paying the Price

Paying the Price / Yoani Sánchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

restauranteTo brag about the achievements of our children and to crow
about the good grades they got on a test are some of the pleasures that
we can't forgo when the opportunity presents itself. June comes and we
bump into a neighbor or a friend and the obligatory question is, "How is
your child doing studying for the final exams?" The heat takes a
backseat, and summer's apathy gains some mystery with the questions:
Will they pass or fail? Will they be promoted to the next grade, or not?
Long nights are spent solving math problems, the tutors can't keep up
with so many students, and outside the schools they post the listings
with the standings. The year-end vortex sucks us in… but this year there
are several new features.

After testing one educational method after another, now several batches
of students trained in these teaching "laboratories" have come to the
university. I am referring to those who, from the first day of junior
high school, faced those so-called "emerging teachers" at the
blackboard; the same teenagers who, for years, received 60% of their
classes through a television screen. My son is a good example of this.
He benefited from the abandonment of the "high schools in the
countryside" program — excellent news — but he suffered from the
restructuring of the school program, plagued with misfits, lost hours,
and the poor academic preparation of the educators. He has also been
affected by the high desertion rates among the ranks of teachers whose
salaries remain on the symbolic, if not the ridiculous, plane. Added to
this is the presence — excessive and continuous — of an ideology that
pervades even subjects and materials as far from the political spectrum
as possible.

These winds are now bringing real storms. The lack of educational
quality is bumping up against an increasing rigor in the final exams for
high school. The result: entire schools where they are barely able to
pass three or four students; complete groups who must cram and take the
test second time, and even a third; parents on the edge of nervous
collapse on learning that their "intelligent" child doesn't even know
the Pythagorean theorem. To the lack of control comes the firm hand; the
delirious educational system starts to see reason. But we're not talking
about numbers here, it concerns young people whose learning has been far
below what now appears on the test. People for whom volunteerism and
school experimentation have been shown to fail.

29 June 2012

Sonia Garro: Notes from Prison

Sonia Garro: Notes from Prison / Iván García
Iván García, Translator: Unstated

The road that led to jail began with a project for poor children in

A gray afternoon in 2010, Sonia Garro told me her reasons for creating a
community project with poor children in her neighborhood Los Quemodos,
in the Havana municipality of Marianao.

She recalled that while sitting at her 1950s sewing machine from the
U.S., she frequently observed accidents to children playing in the
street without the oversight of their parents. From the doorway of her
house, at night, she saw emaciated teenagers prostituting their bodies
for a few pesos or trinkets. At that time, Sonia worked in a clinic as a
laboratory technician.

In a few months she made a decision that would change her life. She
created in her neighborhood an independent center for children of low
income parents. No matter their political affiliation. The idea was that
in their spare time the kids wouldn't expose themselves to danger
playing in the streets.

The project grew. And in its prime had more than 20 kids. She even
thought of opening other branches in the slums of Pogolotti and Palo
Cagao. It never occurred to Sonia Garro that the special services police
would roughly harass her. But yes, the tough guys were annoyed by her work.

And often at her house on Avenida 47 between 116 and 118 acts of
repudiation were launched against her. You already know what these are.
Pure verbal lynching. In addition to crude insults, with sticks and iron
rods in hand, a band of retired fighters threw stones and tomatoes.

After failing in her attempt to create a space offering activities for
children and teens, Sonia decided to raise the stakes. Along with other
women like herself, the "Ladies in Support" of the Ladies in White, she
went to protest in downtown streets. The reasons were varied. It could
be in memory of the dissident Orlando Zapata, shouting until her veins
popped for freedom and respect for human rights.

It was her personal commitment. It is precisely in the streets and
against public activities that the great fear of Raúl Castro's
government uses all the weapons in its arsenal to exercise control. So,
in addition to frequent beatings, high official from State Security let
Sonia know that they would not permit any more street protest. And so
it was.

In March of this year, a week before the visit of the Pope, in a
spectacular operation, riot police arrested her and her husband Ramon
Alejandro Muñoz. Now she is awaiting sentencing in the maximum security
prison for women known as Manto Negro — Black Robe.

She could be sentenced to many years. The government is charging her
with "attempted murder" and "public disorder." Sonia does not know for
sure why she is accused of "attempted murder." Never has the idea of
killing anyone crossed her mind.

At times, Sonia Garro sends me little notes from jail. In a letter
written on a piece of notebook paper she says: "Since I have been in
prison they have denied me all contact with my husband. They take the
women here with imprisoned husbands to see them at Combinado del Este
prison. They said I was not on the list."

In another note she tells me that on May 30 had an accident while
traveling in a paddy wagon. Shee has had many problems trying to see a

Her sister Yamile, brings a weekly bag of 10 kilos to bring food and
toiletries to Sonia and her brother-in-law Ramon. She told me that after
a thorough search conducted by the State Security in the couple's
modest house in Marianao, looting of alleged vandals has left them with
no belongings.

In addition to expecting a very severe prison sentence, and leaving
behind a daughter of 15 who will grow up without the affection and
teachings of her parents, Sonia Garro is suffering reprisals from the
authorities. The message sent by General Raul Castro to the dissidents
on the barricades is loud and clear: there is a tenuous border that
should not be crossed.

Although nobody knows for sure what is the thin line between what is
allowed and what the Government considers a crime. Garro Sonia does not
know. She is convinced that she only demanded her rights.

From Diario de Cuba / 28 June 2012

Cellular Telephony "a la Cubana"

Cellular Telephony "a la Cubana" / Rebeca Monzo
Rebeca Monzo, Translator: Maria Montoto

"+0000000000 Today 6:48

From mobile phones (

Call as soon as possible to 07 2043145

For recharge of minutes balance via Internet,

If you do not call back today the charge will be returned

to the purchaser.

In case of fraud, the line will be cancelled."

As soon as I saw this same message twice, I called the number in
question and the voice of the woman who took care of me repeated that I
had received a recharge. I asked for how much, as I was not expecting
one, and she did not want to say.

Thereupon she asked my name, the number of my identification card, my
cell phone number and the address of my house. I gave her all these
facts believing that they were necessary and she immediately asked me
the name of the person who was doing the recharge. I asked her if this
was an interrogation, to which, a bit irritated, she responded that she
had only asked three questions. Since she insisted on the name of the
possible benefactor, I answered that it could be one of my two sons or
my aunt. Then she told me: "say a man's name". I mentioned those of my
sons and she said: "Those are not it… (This reply means that she knows
the name)… when you know the name, call us. In the meantime, your
recharge will be here. Have no fear". The message in question has been
repeated, as of now, five times.

This whole conversation, as well as its very tone, at first appeared to
me to be in jest and immediately thereafter, a lack of respect and even
a violation of the client's right to privacy.

I state this so that anyone who might generously recharge my telephone,
be they family or friend, may know just how tightly our telephony is
controlled. This appears to be a new "Service to the client" of the
Cubacel Enterprise.

Translated by: Maria Montoto

June 28 2012

Site manager's note: If you recharge the bloggers' cellphones (a
WONDERFUL thing to do) it's a good idea to send them an email with
whatever name you used when you recharged it and the amount… otherwise
it may not always be credited to them. If there's no email on their
Spanish blogs … email us (translatingcuba … at… gmail…) and we'll try to
get in touch with them. I will also put this information and the emails
we have for the bloggers on the "How to Recharge Bloggers' Phones" page.

An Embrace Between Equals: Alexander Lukashenko and Raúl Castro

An Embrace Between Equals: Alexander Lukashenko and Raúl Castro / Yoani
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

A colorfully painted presidential plane landed at José Marti airport
last Sunday, and by Monday afternoon was already taking off again,
headed to Venezuela. Alexander Lukashenko's visit to Cuba, part of a
brief tour of Latin America that included Ecuador, lasted just over 24

To commemorate twenty years of diplomatic relations between Havana and
Minsk, Raúl Castro received the man who is considered "the last dictator
in Europe" at the Palace of the Revolution. The laying of a wreath at
the statue of our national hero, the exchange of hugs between host and
guest, a triumphant photo at the foot of the stairs. In short, the
protocol of official sympathy upheld in all its glory.

With this meeting an alliance was consolidated between two governments
who have become especially close in the last five years. Both leaders
are trying to survive increased social unrest within their borders, as
well as increased international pressure challenging the legitimacy of
their mandates. Hence, they consider their mutual relationship
"strategic," especially at a time when they are suffering growing
diplomatic isolation. Both are examples of the solitude that surrounds

Trade between Cuba and Belarus now exceeds 50 million dollars, and
includes technology, transport and agricultural machinery. This commerce
received a new impetus during Lukashenko's stay on the Island, with the
signing of two agreements and three memorandums of cooperation in
agriculture, technology, science and health.

Many of the buses that travel the streets of Havana are successive
purchases from this former Socialist Soviet Republic. After years of
over-use and few repairs many of these vehicles urgently await spare
parts. The newly initialed agreements could help in this direction,
specifically to reduce the long lines that form at bus stops on the Island.

Also encouraging is the commitment of the Belarus delegation to
modernize refineries and repair the national energy system, as well as
their interest in our biotechnology research. But the economic bonanza
is just a small part of the ties that bind what was once called "White
Russia" with the largest of the Antilles.

There is speculation that this has been a visit characterized more by
ideology than by economics. Raúl Castro's government has been supporting
Lukashenko and has aligned itself with him on repeated occasions before
the Human Rights Council at the United Nations. In 2010, elections in
Belarus sparked heavy criticism among the opposition sector, victimized
by strong electoral irregularities. The Cuba partisan press, however,
reported the issue entirely from the point of view of its counterpart.

On the other hand, the discourse of both leaders is fraught with that
anti-imperialist diatribe that tries so hard to hide the fundamental
contradictions of their regimes: that between the government and the
governed. They have shaken hands in Havana just as the reforms
undertaken by the General President, beginning in 2008, have reached a
point of stagnation, with people now waiting for other relaxations, most
importantly in the area of travel and immigration restrictions.

The well-worn argument that "Raúl Castro wants to implement more changes
but the bureaucrats won't let him," is less convincing to Cubans every
day. Also lacking is any gesture to demonstrate that there are changes
afoot in the political and diplomatic order. In this context, the
open-arm welcome of Lukashenko seems to signal a direction completely
contrary to that which people are hoping to see.

Another important variable in the relationship between Havana and Minsk
is, undoubtedly, the presence of Hugo Chavez as the main guarantor of
this particular friendship. For Belarus, Caracas stands as the gateway
to Latin America, with more than 200 cooperation agreements including 25
recently signed in the areas of oil, gas, petrochemicals, industry and
housing construction. Without the third leg represented by Miraflores,
the bilateral stool would face too many difficulties to stand alone, and
the relationship would likely be more distant.

An association marked by affinities, a pact based on the common
character of two totalitarian regimes, are some of the motivations that
lie behind this meeting full of smiles and pats on the back. Lukashenko
has now ruled his nation with an iron fist for 18 years, and Raúl Castro
inherited the presidential chair through blood-ties from his brother in

They both know they have a great deal to lose were they to allow certain
freedoms of expression and association in their respective countries.
They sense that their time is passing and that their people could react
at any moment. Being together makes them believe they are strong,

28 June 2012

The Presidency and Family

The Presidency and Family / Anddy Sierra Alvarez
Anddy Sierra Alvarez, Translator: Maria Montoto

The cases of corruption involving Cuban officials who served in Fidel
Castro's regime are increasing. Or Raúl Castro is simply switching
Fidel's men for his own.

Raúl Castro replaced Fidel Castro on February 24, 2008 due to an illness
that had almost led to the latter's death. Subsequently, we began
hearing media reports about the replacement of ministers and
vice-presidents, and the astonishing disgrace of Felipe Pérez Roque* and
Carlos Lage Dávila*, the physician who brought financial ruin to the
island – one of many such people.

There was virtually nothing the men around Fidel did not steal. After
fifty years these cases of corruption finally came to light. And yet
with all the security at the government's disposal, it nearly failed to
discover a single one. The fact is Raul now wants to govern with men in
whom he has confidence and knows what they are capable of "doing."

As it happens, Fidel's cohorts did as they liked in Cuba as long as he
remained president. The president who wanted everyone to be equal had
determined that a lazy revolutionary pioneer should earn as much as a
college graduate.

Little by little the country is being militarized while members of civil
society are increasingly being branded as "mercenaries" by the Cuban

*Translator's note: Felipe Pérez Roque was Minister of Foreign Affairs
until he was ousted in 2009. Carlos Lage Dávila was a Vice-President of
the Council of State until he also was ousted in 2009.

Translated by: Maria Montoto and Anonymous

June 27 2012

Readers of Granma in an Angry Struggle Against Retailers

Readers of Granma in an Angry Struggle Against Retailers / Laritza Diversent
Laritza Diversent, Translator: Regina Anavy

by Laritza Diversent

Readers of Granma, the official daily publication of the Communist Party
of Cuba, are requesting real action against the sellers of various
household items, one of the self-employment categories most in demand by

J.C. Mora Reyes, this last Friday, complained about the lack of
governmental action to repress it, in the Letters to the Editor section
on June 8. According to the commentator, along with the denunciation,
the retailers have crossed a line: "What was sneaky before and
supposedly ignored, now is known." However, he asserted that "everything
stays the same, thereby encouraging transgressive tendencies as
something quasi-normal."

"I've read, heard, and given many opinions about the resale of articles
commercialized by the State with inflated prices formed only by the law
of supply and demand and the pretense of innocence by those who should
and are obligated to protect the consumer," commented J.P. Granados
Tapanes, in the same section.

The weekly section in Granma, in less than one month, published around
10 opinions of readers who were against the retailers. The majority of
readers think these people are not self-employed and accuse them of
strangling the economy for those who are working.

According to official data, before expanding and creating flexibility in
the types of self-employment in October 2010, the sector constituted
approximately 87,889 people, 0.78 percent of the population. Presently
there are 378,000, and it is hoped that the number will grow to 500,000
this year.

Right now the category of Contracted Workers is the one most requested
by Cubans. Next comes Producer-Seller of Food, Transportation of Cargo
and Passengers, and Producer-Seller of Various Household Items (retailers).

"It's sad to see how all types of merchandise, in many cases subsidized
by the State, and other things that come from outside in hard currency,
are for sale publicly at inflated prices with self-employment licenses,"
comments J.P. Granados Tapanes.

Legislation prohibits self-employed Cubans from selling industrial
articles acquired through established state networks. It also requires
them to market their own products exclusively, with the possibility of
freely setting prices.

Grandos Tapanes called the self-employed cuentapropistas "workers by
means of extortion" and held them responsible for "the deterioration in
the ability of any employed Cuban, no matter what his economic level, to
buy things with his salary, which is worth less all the time."

The solution for these retailers is a wholesale market, where they can
acquire merchandise in quantity and at lower prices than those offered
to the population in retail markets, only the ones legally recognized by
the authorities. This is a problem that, according to the recorded
guidelines approved by the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party, will
be worked out before the end of 2015.

According to Mora Reyes, public denunciation doesn't have any effect
when "there exists tolerance, procrastination, inability, expediency, or
defections on the part of the authorities in the application of
energetic measures" against these demonstrations.

According to the reader, to go on the offensive is not something to be
taken lightly. It's "a pressing responsibility from the moment in which
you become conscious of a situation incompatible with human dignity.
Acting is better than talking," is the conclusion.

There's no doubt that the government's inactivity in the face of these
denunciations converts this section of the only daily newspaper into a
national tirade. It airs complaints and laments without giving any
solution, in the style of the accountability of the municipal delegates.
However, the cuentapropistas are worried about the influence that these
opinions could have on the upper echelon of leadership.

Translated by Regina Anavy

June 25 2012

Cuban dissident arrives in U.S. as political refugee

Cuban dissident arrives in U.S. as political refugee
Published June 29, 2012

Cuban dissident Darsi Ferrer traveled Friday from Miami to Tennessee,
where he will live with his family after coming to the United States
with a political refugee program.

Ferrer, a 42-year-old physician, arrived Thursday night in Miami and
will join his family in Chattanooga, where they have been living since

Ferrer "leaves Cuba with a certain sadness, because he leaves behind his
life and his struggle," but with the hope of beginning a new life in the
United States, Janisset Rivero, director of the exile group Directorio
Democratico Cubano, told Efe.

He seems in good spirits and now will need time to heal the "wounds
caused by the repression and viciousness" of the Cuban regime against
him and his family, Rivero said.

And, she said, though Ferrer will feel somewhat isolated in Chattanooga,
far from the exile groups in Miami, that will help him learn English,
one of his priorities, and integrate more quickly into American society.

Ferrer will try in some way to resume his profession, which he was
forced to quit in Cuba "after being expelled from the center where he
worked and the authorities refused to let him continue practicing
medicine," Rivero said.

In December 2010 the dissident said that Cuban State Security made it
clear that if it gave permission for his family to leave the country, he
would have to travel with them to the United States, where his wife,
Yusnaimy Jorge, sought needed medical treatment.

Ferrer was held without charges in Havana for 11 months and even after
his release was the victim of several brief arrests for his opposition
activities and for trying to meet with other dissidents. EFE

Cuba both fuels, fights new private restaurants

World Watch
June 29, 2012 4:48 PM

Cuba both fuels, fights new private restaurants
By Portia Siegelbaum

(CBS News) HAVANA - As Cuba attempts to retool its economy,
contradictions pop up, some of them seemingly inexplicable.

Last year, the state eliminated 140,000 jobs. This year, it is slated to
eliminate another 170,000. The newly opened private sector is supposed
to provide opportunities for laid-off workers, and one of the most
popular areas for the "self-employed" is the food service industry.

Private eateries range from homemade pastries and pizzas sold out of a
"businessman's" front door to upscale designer restaurants catering to
tourists and diplomats.

Many of the better restaurants, known in Spanish as "paladares," have
been opened by chefs and others who have gotten their experience in
state-owned establishments but who are finding it much more profitable
to strike out on their own under economic reforms set into place by
President Raul Castro.

It's also profitable for the government, which collects taxes from these
and other private businesses.

However, there seems to be an unofficial but powerful resistance to
these businesses, which are seen as creating stiff competition for the
restaurants owned and operated by the state that previously held a
monopoly on visitors to Cuba.

Americans coming on group tours to the island naturally want to try some
of the new private restaurants. To their surprise, tour bus drivers
refuse to take them to any paladar, and the Havanatur agency guide
accompanying them everywhere else is not allowed to eat with them at
private places.

Alejandro Robaina, owner of the paladar La Casa, said this policy is
really hurting his business.

Open since the 1990s, La Casa is popular with American travelers and has
long been visited by groups of Jewish delegations visiting Cuba. A
majority of these Americans are senior citizens, and many of them find
it difficult to walk the five or so blocks from where the Transtur bus
company will sometimes decide to drop them off. Often the bus driver
will not even do that.

A Havanatur guide who asked not to be identified said the Ministry of
Tourism has not put anything in writing but all guides have been told
private restaurants are off limits.

The guides normally share meals with their clients at state-owned
places. The guide said the tour bus drivers have told him they were
shown a memorandum from their employers ordering them not to take
visitors to paladares.

So, on one hand, the government is issuing licenses to open private
enterprises so owners hire staff, some of whom have lost their state
jobs. On the other hand, elements in the state bureaucracy are
interfering with the progress of this non-state sector.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Venezuela to join in oil exploration off Cuba, plans to invest $40 million, official says

Venezuela to join in oil exploration off Cuba, plans to invest $40
million, official says
By Associated Press, Friday, June 29, 2:48 AM

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela's national oil company will join in
exploratory drilling for crude in deep waters off Cuba, the company's
president said Thursday.

State-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, is next in line to drill
after Malaysia's Petronas completes its work, said Rafael Ramirez,
Venezuela's oil minister and president of the company. He said Venezuela
has budgeted an estimated $40 million for the project.

Spanish oil company Repsol said last month that it would stop searching
for oil off Cuba after hitting a dry well drilled at a cost of more than
$100 million.

"Repsol unfortunately didn't have success in its well," Ramirez said,
"but that same platform is being used among all the companies that are
participating there."

He said Repsol had encountered some problems with the drill but that
seismic data has shown "good prospects" in the area off Cuba.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is a close ally of Cuba and sends oil
to the island under a long-running deal that allows the Cuban government
to pay through the services of doctors, nurses and others who work in
the South American country.

Petronas has said it expects to have results of its exploratory drilling
by the end of July. It holds rights to explore an area in the Florida
Straits known as the Northbelt Thrust.

PDVSA was granted an option to drill next in a different zone as the
huge Scarabeo-9 platform is rotated among the companies. The platform
was built in Asia with less than 10 percent U.S.-made parts, making it
uniquely suited to be used by companies without risking sanctions under
the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

"Now drilling corresponds to Petronas, and we come immediately after
that, but in another block, our block," Ramirez said. "If it's
successful, if it's quick, we aren't going to let the platform be idle.
We'll immediately take it."

Venezuelan oil company to drill off Cuba

Posted on Thursday, 06.28.12

Venezuelan oil company to drill off Cuba
Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela's national oil company will join in
exploratory drilling for crude in deep waters off Cuba, the company's
president said Thursday.

State-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, is next in line to drill
after Malaysia's Petronas completes its work, said Rafael Ramirez,
Venezuela's oil minister and president of the company. He said Venezuela
has budgeted an estimated $40 million for the project.

Spanish oil company Repsol said last month that it would stop searching
for oil off Cuba after hitting a dry well drilled at a cost of more than
$100 million.

"Repsol unfortunately didn't have success in its well," Ramirez said,
"but that same platform is being used among all the companies that are
participating there."

He said Repsol had encountered some problems with the drill but that
seismic data has shown "good prospects" in the area off Cuba.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is a close ally of Cuba and sends oil
to the island under a long-running deal that allows the Cuban government
to pay through the services of doctors, nurses and others who work in
the South American country.

Petronas has said it expects to have results of its exploratory drilling
by the end of July. It holds rights to explore an area in the Florida
Straits known as the Northbelt Thrust.

PDVSA was granted an option to drill next in a different zone as the
huge Scarabeo-9 platform is rotated among the companies. The platform
was built in Asia with less than 10 percent U.S.-made parts, making it
uniquely suited to be used by companies without risking sanctions under
the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

"Now drilling corresponds to Petronas, and we come immediately after
that, but in another block, our block," Ramirez said. "If it's
successful, if it's quick, we aren't going to let the platform be idle.
We'll immediately take it."

Gay activists in Cuba demand that parliament respect their rights

Gay activists in Cuba demand that parliament respect their rights

Cuban gay activists held a kiss-in demonstration and presented a demand
for respect to the country's parliament on Thursday, as they prepared
for the upcoming island's second annual Gay Pride parade.

Fifty people — mostly gay rights activists but also a handful of
dissidents such as Guillermo Fariñas and Martha Beatriz Roque — signed a
petition calling for civil rights and handed it to the National Assembly
of People's Power, said Ignacio Estrada, a gay activist and dissident.

"Our document calls on the Cuban government to fully comply with
international agreements it has signed on human rights, especially those
that apply to LGBT rights," Estrada said after delivering the petition.

The petition also calls on lawmakers to launch an investigation of the
Military Units to Aid Production, or UMAPs — hard-labor camps created by
Fidel Castro during the 1960s to detain homosexuals and government
critics — and requests trials for government officials responsible for
the camps.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Hallucinatory World

The Hallucinatory World / Jeovany Jimenez Vega
Jeovany J. Vega, Translator: Unstated

In its June 22 edition the newspaper Granma published an article from
Prensa Latina (Latin Press) entitled "UN Commends Cuba for Freedom of
Assembly" in which it expresses "its satisfaction with having been
mentioned as an example of good practices in the area of freedom of
peaceful assembly and association in the report by the UN Rapporteur for
Human Rights in this area, Maina Kivi." According to Granma the Cuban
delegate,Juan Antonio Quintanilla, added that "in our country there are
many opportunities for the exercise of this right as exemplified by the
existence of more than 2,200 non-governmental organizations in the
widest variety of fields possible."

That the rapporteur stated this, that she might have written her report
in a comfortable office in Geneva or in a shady spot in Central Park, is
understandable. We are by now accustomed to such slip-ups by the UN.
Such a report or some similar resolution, dictated from one of the
organization's sterile platforms, deserves to be treated no better than
a piece of toilet paper. It is not surprising that a UN rapporteur would
babble on as much as he or she wishes on the subject of Cuba's freedom
of association, but to hear the same thing coming from the mouth of a
Cuban always leaves one quite astonished.

To be fair, it must be pointed out that the life of an official from our
emblematic MINREX (Ministry of Foreign Relations) is full of trips and
diplomatic missions.Señor Quintanillacould be so busy that it is
possible he has not been informed about the misfortune befalling a Cuban
opposition figure when he wishes to take full advantage of his right to
free association. Or perhaps he has not heard about the mobs who attack
women who defend themselves with fragile gladiolas*. Or about the
scandalous repudiation demonstrations organized by the Communist Party
and State Security which take place outside – and even inside – the
homes of many dissidents.

There certainly is no visible movement of indignados (outraged people)
here, as the Cuban delegate mentions when he refers to the protestors on
Wall Street or throughout Europe, who have been the focus of repressive
waves, which, incidentally, we know about thanks to press reports from
those countries themselves. But what the Cuban delegate knows very well
yet fails to mention is that here the matter is resolved in a much
simpler and more pragmatic way: If you try to cause similar troubles,
you will simply be detained in the very doorway of your house. You will
not be allowed to go out into the street and, to top it off, you will
have to put up with them telling you that this is being done to protect
you from the anger of an "enraged people."

As for the thousands of NGOs mentioned in Quintanilla remarks, one need
only take a quick glance to realize that they all have one element in
common. Not one has a political profile. None have the slightest
intention of questioning in any way the current system of government in
Cuba. At this stage only a crazy person would dare to deny that real
civil society exists only in a semi-clandestine form. It is not even
officially recognized by our government, which refuses to establish any
sort of dialog. The profile of each and every one of these "NGOs" has
been knowingly designed and approved under the watchful eye of the
Communist Party to reject any inconvenient proposals. To put it simply,
anyone talking about freedom of association and of an authentic civil
society which enjoys "ample freedoms for the exercise of this right" in
this one-party state is hallucinating.

*Translator's note: The writer is referring to the Ladies in White,a
Cuban opposition movement consisting of the female relatives of jailed
dissidents who protest the imprisonments by attending Mass each Sunday
wearing white clothes and carrying gladiolas.

June 26 2012

"Europe's Last Dictator" Lukashenko On Latin American Tour, Visits Chavez, Castro

"Europe's Last Dictator" Lukashenko On Latin American Tour, Visits
Chavez, Castro
By Ryan Villarreal: Subscribe to Ryan's RSS feed
June 27, 2012 1:50 PM EDT

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warmly embraced his Belarusian
counterpart Alexander Lukashenko as the two met in Caracas Tuesday to
sign a set of cooperative deals.

"Venezuela is full of joy, decked out to welcome our brother president,"
Chavez said at the welcoming ceremony. "Over the years we have not only
built a true strategic alliance, but a sense of brotherhood."

In Chavez, Lukashenko has found a like-minded leader, as both are known
for their autocratic style of rule and their entrenchment as heads of
state. Chavez has held the presidency since 1999, while Lukashenko has
been in power since 1994.

At the meeting, Chavez made light of the fact that both leaders have
been characterized by Western powers as authoritarians.

"The United States and Europe call him (Lukashenko) 'Europe's last
dictator' ... They also call me a 'dictator,'" which he dismissed as the
propaganda of "capitalism and imperialism."

The two countries signed some 20 agreements, ranging from joint oil
ventures and auto manufacturing deals to housing projects and
agricultural developments.

"We have come, not to enrich ourselves, but to transfer technology,
build homes and teach Venezuelan specialists," Lukashenko said.

Venezuela stands to gain from Belarusian technical expertise, while
Belarus views its partnership with Venezuela as the key to expanding its
ties with other Latin American countries.

"Hugo Chavez has done a lot so that we can begin a dialog with other
countries, such as Brazil, Argentina or Chile," Lukashenko said.

Lukashenko has also sought out other leftist governments in Latin
America, meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana before
arriving in Venezuela. He will also travel to Ecuador where he will meet
with President Rafael Correa, concluding his three-nation tour.

Belarus' diplomatic push into Latin America is particularly important
for the Eastern European nation which has been isolated by EU sanctions
over its record of political oppression. Relations with neighboring
Russia, once a strong ally, have deteriorated in recent years over
Lukashenko's failure to support Russian ambitions for a strategic
regional bloc.

Cuba Freedom of Speech Dissident Voices Try Spreading the Truth Through Texts and Tweets

Cuba Freedom of Speech Dissident Voices Try Spreading the Truth Through
Texts and Tweets
Natalia Martinez

Bloggers, tweeters, and techies met last week at a three-day forum – the
Click Festival – intending to discuss and promote social media and
technology. The setting would have been all too familiar in Tel Aviv,
San Francisco, or New York, but this time, it was taking place in La
Habana. In a country where Internet penetration is intentionally low, it
is not surprising to hear the Cuban government sounding subversion
alarms and accusing the attendees of seeking to incite political action.
Despite its unsurprisingly anachronistic language, the aging Cuban
political apparatus is somewhat in step yet appropriately afraid of the
kind of expression that new media affords.

The focus on technology, access, and communication as a means of
empowerment and building social, economic, and political capital is
admirable. But the road to achieving a critical mass of information
hubs, of bloggers, of connected youth is ambiguous and often derailed by
intolerance and repression. It begs the question: do virtual masses
stand a better chance at unity or at change?

From personal experience, I can recall standing mid-trivial-thought
during a requested moment of silence at Pope Benedict's mass in Santiago
de Cuba at the end of March, when I heard a loud yell followed by the
single loudest communal gasp I had ever heard.

Andres Carrion Alvarez – a dissident on the island – had overcome the
barriers and rushed out yelling in Spanish, "Down with communism!"
before being pummeled by secret service officers. In turn, the masses
began clamoring for his arrest, either from genuine disagreement or to
hide personal concurrence and be safe from arrest themselves.

I held back my excitement, not only because it would have been imprudent
to yell out, but also because I was a prodigal child returning after 20
years of absence. My recently renewed Cuban passport gave me neither the
right to clamor nor to judge those who remained silent.

The sight looked like a Zimbardo experiment someone had left unattended:
a group of subjects with assigned roles – some in power, some not –
forgetting their humanity. Someone in a Red Cross t-shirt struck Alvarez
with a portable stretcher, twice. These men seemed drunk on the kind of
fabricated superiority a plutocrat would envy, secure in the certainty
of their monopoly on morality on the island.

On the ground, Alvarez stood alone among thousands that day. This
incident was reported first in the blogosphere and in 140-character
snippets full of abbreviations and Twitterisms. Mainstream media around
the world was playing catch up.

In part, it was not shocking that a brave man would yell so publicly;
dissident groups on the island had been clamoring for the Pope's
attention for weeks before his arrival. Nor was the affront on human
dignity that constituted his beating and detention a surprise; such
treatment has been the modus operandi of the Cuban security apparatus
for decades. In the Kafka-esque theater of absurdity that Cuba panders
as reality to tourists – restaurant food beyond the budgets of average
Cubans, dancing and singing in hotel lobbies that Cubans were legally
barred from until recently – doubt and dissension have always been

But, during the Pope's visit Santiago and Havana were brimming with
additional tension. Plain-clothed security walked by freshly painted
facades as strategically placed Cuban flags, branded with the creases of
their recently removed packaging, flew above them.

Demonstrators were banned from protesting in the weeks leading up to the
papal visit, but commentary on Cuban reality, repression, and human
rights appeared often in online dialogue, both formal and informal, on
and off the island. The tools we normally use for recreation – cell
phones, social media outlets – became the building blocks of the
elephant in the plaza – what the Cuban people were not allowed to do and
what the Pope was or was not saying were reported instantaneously
through clicks and texts – loudspeakers for Cuban voices.

But the connectivity of the Cuban people remains tightly controlled.
Just a few days ago, when Google blocked Google Analytics on the island
in accordance with laws governing the embargo, Cuba criticized the
censorship and oppression this implied. Sadly, the acute irony of such
accusations is too blatant to reflect the least bit of humor. The future
of new technology in Cuba lies between a rock and a hard place, limited
from both sides of The Florida Straights.

Tags: cuba, freedom, of, speech, dissident, voices, try, spreading, the,
truth, through, texts, and, tweets,

Euro 2012 football fever hits baseball-loving Cuba

Euro 2012 football fever hits baseball-loving Cuba
Sarah Rainsford By Sarah Rainsford BBC News, Havana
28 June 2012 Last updated at 08:13 GMT

Baseball is Cuba's national sport. But a new craze is sweeping this
island: football.

You are as likely to see a young Cuban in a replica football shirt as in
a baseball top these days. Street kickabouts have become as common as
children playing with a bat and ball.

"Support for football has grown a lot among young Cubans in recent
years," says student Manuel Alejandro as he takes a break from his own
game with friends on the Havana seafront.

"It's a football revolution," he adds. "There are more fans here every day."

This month, that is clearer than ever. Euro 2012 has had people glued to
their TV sets across the island.

"We're not just following the championship, it has paralysed Cuba. All
young Cubans are watching and they know every detail," says Carlos Mendez.

The taxi driver is head of Cuba's very own fan club for Spanish club
Barcelona's star striker, Lionel Messi. His Havana home is plastered
with pictures of the player.

It is illegal to have satellite TV at home here, but state TV is
carrying the championship live and it is on screens in bars, homes, even

"Since they started showing football on TV here, support for the game
has been growing. Now it is a passion," Carlos says.
Canada's De Rosario, left, and Cuba's Alianni Urgelles in a World Cup
qualifier on 8 June in Havana Cuba's national side (here in white)
currently ranks 145th out of 206

Baseball is on TV every day during the National Series. But it was not
until 1998 that a football World Cup was screened live.

Now El Clasico - the Real Madrid-Barcelona clash in Spain - is shown
live too, and one European league game is chosen for rebroadcast every week.

"If you can't see the game, you don't know if you like it!" explains
Rafael Hernandez, another Messi - and Barcelona - fan.

"But now lots of people are switching from baseball to football," he says.

There are still problems: if state TV is not showing a "Barca"
(Barcelona) match, he has to run around Havana's hotels trying to catch
it on satellite. But at least he can now get in. Cubans were not allowed
to enter hotels until 2008.

While passion for international football is mounting, the domestic game
lags far behind.

Football enthusiasts know very little about Cuban league teams.
Travelling between provinces to matches costs money and is complicated.
There is little media coverage, and even the Cup final is not televised.

"I watch every Barcelona match, but I've never been to see Havana play,"
admits Carlos Mendez, and his Messi fan club friends all agree.

"I just don't follow them. It's not the same quality."
Poor facilities

Havana's main football stadium is a neglected, sorry-looking place, its
facade faded and its rough pitch covered in long grass better suited to
Sunday league football than international fixtures.

Cuba has not made it to a World Cup since 1938.

Still, when the national side took on Canada in a recent World Cup
qualifier to try to change that, a few thousand hopeful fans turned out,
faces painted, flags and hooters in hand.

Despite the home advantage of a scorching hot, 2pm kick-off, they lost.

In the stands, fans complained that baseball is the favoured sport of
the revolution.

Fidel Castro is a big fan: he often used to pitch the ceremonial first
ball in tournaments.

"We have more success in baseball and boxing. I think our footballers
could to the same, they just need the opportunities," said Jose Gomez,
wrapped in a Barcelona flag.

"And if they can't play in foreign leagues, they will never get better,"
he added.

Professional football, like all sport, was abolished in Cuba with the

"Our pitches are bad, there are no good trainers. The team has to take
public transport while baseball players get cars," says another fan,
Yosef Borraya.

"If one day they start getting results they'll suddenly get everything
they need. But that's the wrong way round!" he complains.

Those in charge of the game here accept there are problems.

"Our football pitches and stadiums need improving for official
competitions. And we need to work from the bottom up with young
players," says Antonio Garces Segura, vice president of Cuba's Football

But he expects work on a new, Fifa-funded synthetic pitch to be approved

"If we don't get to this World Cup, there's 2018. We have to dream!"
'No football tradition'

Meantime, there is no denying Cuba's enduring passion for baseball.
Cuban children play baseball Baseball is still entrenched as Cuba's
national sport

Every day, a group of men lock horns in furious debate under the shade
of palm-trees in a central Havana square.

It looks like a fight from a distance, with voices raised and arms
waving wildly. But the men are discussing the latest game.

"There's no tradition of football here," one man explains, in a break in
the shouting match. "We've been playing baseball for generations."

They say the sport runs in their blood.

But what if a big ball game and El Clasico match were both scheduled for
the same day?

"People of my age would go to the baseball," says Gilberto, in his 60s.
"But the young would watch the football," he laughs.

It is a big swing in allegiance.

Cuba's national sport still gets most of the official attention and funding.

But when it comes to luring fans, football has emerged as a strong

Russian for Cuba's oil

Russian for Cuba's oil

Soviet-built 'Songa Mercur' platform boosts Cuba's hopes of oil riches.
And its operators don't seem to care about US trade sanctions.
Nick MiroffJune 28, 2012 06:00

Working on an oil rig in Cuba. The island nation has not had much luck
so far with quests for oil offshore. (Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images)
this story is part of globalpost's continuing coverage of world
business. for more visit our new business page.

HAVANA, Cuba — For 30 years, generous oil subsidies from Moscow kept the
lights on for Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution. Until the Soviet Union
went kaput.

Now, Russian state oil companies may be coming to Cuba's rescue again.

Oil industry journals reported this week that a Soviet-built,
Norwegian-owned drilling platform is headed for Cuban waters this
summer, under contract with Moscow-based state company Zarubezhneft.

The company has hired the rig, called the Songa Mercur, at a cost of $88
million for nearly a year, with plans to begin drilling in November.
That should be enough time to poke plenty of holes in search of Cuba's
elusive undersea oil fields, which are thought to hold billions of
barrels of crude but have yet to yield a decent strike.

The rig's arrival couldn't come at a better time for the Castro
government and its state oil company, CubaPetroleo. The state firm has
signed multiple contracts in recent years with foreign producers looking
to drill in Cuban waters.

Another drilling platform, the Scarabeo 9, has been working off the
island's north coast this year, but has come up dry, dealing a blow to
Havana's hopes for weaning the island off imported crude.

Cuba currently gets about two-thirds of its fuel from socialist ally
Hugo Chavez. But the Venezuelan president has been battling cancer and
must campaign for re-election in October.

The Scarabeo 9 has been Cuba's best hope. The Chinese-built,
Italian-owned rig arrived late last year, opening a gusher of anxieties
in the US. Environmental groups and Florida tourism operators worried
about damage from a potential spill. Anti-Castro lawmakers worried an
oil strike would give the Cuban government a cash windfall.

Repsol, the Spanish oil company that first hired the rig, was the
subject of hearings on Capitol Hill, and the Obama administration made
the unusual move of sending an inspection team to visit the platform
when it stopped in Trinidad en route to Cuban waters.

But the state-of-the-art Scarabeo 9 was made for the Cuba job —
literally. It is the only rig in the world designed specifically to
comply with US trade sanctions against Cuba, which limit the amount of
US technology that can be used in Cuban territory to no more than 10

So far the rig has come up empty in Cubans waters. Having spent more
than $100 million for a dry well and a political headache, Repsol
executives have announced they're pulling out of Cuba.

Scarabeo 9 is now in the hands of Russia's Gazprom Neft, which is
drilling in Cuban waters at another offshore location in partnership
with Malaysia's Petronas. Results may be announced as soon as next month.

More from GlobalPost: Cuba injects Africa with doctor diplomacy

The Songa Mercur will be working much closer to shore. Built in 1989 at
the Soviet Union's Vybord Shipyards, its maximum drilling depth is just
1,200 feet of water, according to the rig's specifications.

Jorge Piñon, an expert on Cuban oil exploration at the University of
Texas, said the Songa Mercur was retrofitted and modernized in 2006 in
Galveston, Texas, after it was purchased from a Mexican firm by Norway's
Songa Offshore SE. It's currently working in Malaysia.

Unlike the Scarabeo 9, the Songa Mercur is loaded with US technology,
including five Caterpillar generators, General Electric mud pump motors,
and cementing equipment made by Halliburton. That will likely leave
Russian operator Zarubezhneft in violation of the US' Cuba sanctions,
Piñon said.

Not that there's much the US government can do about it.

"This is a Russian state oil company, and they do not have US assets or
interests to safeguard," said Piñon, a former British Petroleum executive.

"Do you think that Zarubezhneft is going to invite the US Coast Guard
and the Interior Department to board (the Songa Mercur)?" he said. "How
then is [the US] going to validate whether the Songa Mercur meets the
embargo regulations?"

The area where the platform will be drilling is off the coast of Cuba's
Ciego de Avila and Villa Clara provinces, and adjacent to an area that
the Bahamas Petroleum Corporation is also looking to develop, Piñon added.

That location should present less of a threat to US beaches in the event
of a spill, according to Lee Hunt, former president of the Houston-based
International Association of Drilling Contractors.

Shallow water does not eliminate the risk, Hunt said, but ocean currents
in that area would likely keep floating crude away from US shores.

"What has not changed is the need for blowout prevention," said Hunt,
who advocates closer cooperation between the US and Cuba on oil spill
prevention. "The best and safest practices, and preparation for spill
capping, capture, containment and cleanup remain risk factors for Cuba
and the United States."

Duty free access to Cuba attracts Trinidadian interest

Duty free access to Cuba attracts Trinidadian interest

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, Thursday June 28, 2012 - Sacha
Cosmetics Ltd is targeting its second Spanish-speaking country for the
year as it continues to push its regional expansion.

Just a few months after revealing its renewed marketing thrust into
Colombia, the make-up company from Trinidad and Tobago, held a
presentation in Havana, Cuba of its most popular product lines for the
benefit of the top officials of Cuba's largest retail companies.

In business for 33 years experience and present in over 20 countries,
Sacha is keen to penetrate the region's Spanish-speaking countries and
in April Kama Maharaj, chief executive officer of the company, revealed
that they intended to use Colombia as the launching pad to do so.

During meetings in Cuba organized by the Trinidad and Tobago Trade
Facilitation Office (TIDCO) and the Chamber of Commerce of Cuba, Maharaj
indicated that Sacha's interest in the Cuban market was in part driven
by the Cuba- Caribbean Community (CARICOM) agreements that allowed Sacha
cosmetics to enter that country duty free as Trinidad and Tobago is a
CARICOM member.

Maharaj used the opportunity of the visit to promote Sacha's unique
selling point in its suitability for tropical climates. He noted that
its main brand Sacha, and lower cost Arista have a wide range of bold
and vibrant colours, and their makeup remained "freshly applied" for
many hours, even in hot and humid climates such as Cuba.

However, this is not the first time that Sacha has sought to penetrate
the Cuban market. Over the past 10 years Sacha Cosmetics Ltd has
exhibited its make-up at the Havana International Fair; and Maharaj
revealed that its cosmetics and perfume were marketed before in Cuba,
but funding problems caused the contract not to be renewed.

Jennifer Jones Kernahan, Trinidad and Tobago's ambassador to Havana,
expressed her satisfaction with the growth of trade relations between
the two nations, especially after the creation of TIDCO four years

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cuba struggles for food self-sufficiency

Cuba struggles for food self-sufficiency
by: W. T. Whitney Jr.
June 27 2012

Responding to popular expectations, diminished worker productivity, the
U.S. blockade, and skyrocketing costs of imports - particularly food -
Cuba is restructuring its economy. Agricultural changes are part of the

In 2008, the government opened up idle land for long-term, independent
use by individuals and cooperatives. The action came in response to the
annual cost of food imports rising to above $1.5 billion and to the
reality that half of Cuba's arable land, 8.5 million acres, was idle.
Policymakers hoped many of the half million workers removed from state
jobs would take up farming.

Almost four years later, on May 17, agricultural official Pedro Olivera
reported that 163,000 farmers or cooperatives had received 3.8 million
acres of idle land, of which 79 percent was being farmed.

Many recipients say the process was long and tedious. Some found
contracts they were signing difficult to understand. Their farming
operations often were delayed due to non-availability of credit and
promised supplies. Transportation of products to market remains
problematic. Many farmers protest remaining state controls over food
distribution. Plans are afoot to restructure the Agricultural Ministry.

The government is trying to persuade young people and city dwellers to
take up farming. Renewed efforts to remove the invasive marabú plant
from idle land received a boost from increased use of that plant as
biomass for producing energy. Although new harvest and irrigation
techniques are being applied to sugar cane harvesting, holdover of
inefficient milling facilities hampers sugar production. Vietnam
continues to advise Cuba on rice production.

Led by successful rice and bean harvests, agricultural production
expanded 9.8 percent over the first four months of 2012, and Cuba is
having to import less rice than before from Vietnam, Cuba's main foreign
supplier. Yet overall 2012 production levels so far fall below those
achieved in 2005. Cuba's apparent inability to increase overall food
production is part of a long pattern of relatively low production levels.

In 2010 Cuba's rice production per acre, poultry production, and corn
production were all below the annual averages established over 50 years
for these food products. Cuba that year spent $159.9 million and $155.9
million to import poultry and corn, respectively. In world rankings
Cuba's current production levels for rice and corn are very low.

Cuba in 2010 had to import 40,000 tons of powdered milk costing $194,000
million. Milk and beef production is down, so far, in 2012. Analysts say
farmers' perennial difficulties in maintaining the health of their
cattle contribute to low production levels. Over half the new farmers
receiving land under the 2008 reforms plan to raise cattle.

Paradoxically, Cuba's agricultural reformation following the Soviet bloc
collapse and loss of its trading partners earned worldwide praise for
Cuban farmers' practice of sustainable agriculture. Cuba's 4.2 percent
average annual growth in agricultural production from 1996 through 2005
was tops in Latin America. Midway during the 1990s, the government began
to transfer small holdings to individual farmers for long-term use. City
and country populations alike applied ecological principles to
small-scale farming.

In their recent article "The Paradox of Cuban Agriculture," Miguel
Altieri and Fernando Funes-Monzote attribute agricultural success then
to decentralized controls and the newly ascendant role of individual
farmers and cooperatives. Small farmers in 2006 controlled only 25
percent of cultivated land in Cuba, but accounted for 65 percent of the
island's food production while reducing their use of chemical
fertilizers and pesticides.

The recent agricultural reforms came about in response to Cuba's burden,
as reported, of having to import 70 percent of its food. Altieri and
Funes-Monzote say that estimate refers to food provided through the
rationing system. They indicate data for the production and distribution
of some basic foods like seafood, many vegetables, eggs, and fruits are
less well known and that, in fact, Cuba may be approaching
self-sufficiency in these categories.

Agriculture seems to be evolving on parallel tracks in Cuba. Human and
animal powered organic farming coexists with signature tools of
industrial agriculture like genetically modified seeds, big farm
equipment, and elaborate irrigation systems. Yet if farmers' resiliency
after disastrous hurricanes and the economic collapse of the 1990s means
anything, Cuba may end up attaining a measure of food independence
sometime soon.

And importantly, Cubans don't go hungry. According to the United Nations
Agricultural and Food Organization, their average daily per-capita
caloric intake hovers around 3,200 calories - the highest in Latin America.

Repression of Religious Minorities

Repression of Religious Minorities / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada
Translator: M. Ouellette, Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

The levels of intimidation and repression of religious freedom on the
island are the highest since 1980, according to a report by Christian
Solidarity Worldwide, published in May 2012.

Their report documents a total of forty religious freedom violations in
different regions of Cuba and compares them to those from previous years.

Benedict XVI's visit to the island in March 2012 caused a strong display
of security which prevented defenders of human rights and pro-democracy
activists, many of them practicing Catholics, from attending the events
of the papal visit. Because of this, hundreds of Cubans were jailed or
imprisoned in their own houses through police harassment.

The report highlights the case of people like the Lady in White Caridad
Caballers, who was regularly prevented from attending religious
services, especially Sunday mass. Her family has been the victim of
verbal and physical abuse and, in spite of relying on the support of
religious leaders in their community, some family members have not been
able to make their first communion.

The report illustrates the pressure that the government exercises over
some religious groups to expel leaders who are not in agreement with the

Many congregations belonging to the Western Baptist Convention have been
threatened with church closures and the confiscation of vehicles and
other goods.

They mention the case of pastor Omar Gude Pérez, who was condemned to
six and a half years in prison and was freed in 2001. He is prevented
from leaving the country in spite of the fact that the United States has
granted political asylum to him, his wife, and his children.

Marriage of religious groups works to disclose the persecution of the
Apostolic Movement, a network of churches constantly attacked by the

The report highlights an increase in physical aggression against
pastors, as well as the brutality used. The pattern repeats in every
case: victims have been leaders of small denominations that don't have a
support network and are found in isolated places.

Local security agents are responsible for the beatings, but since they
have never been investigated, it is suspected that they rely on the
backing of the government.

Last week, Cuban religious leaders gave testimony before the
Congressional International Religious Freedom Caucus in the United
States and members of the United States Commission on International
Religious Freedom, and prepared a petition to include Cuba on the list
of Countries of Particular Concern in relation to religious freedoms,
according to the Capitol Hill Cubans blog.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

June 25 2012


Omen / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallín Almeida
Cuban Law Association, Translator: Maria Montoto, Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

By Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

The multifamily building lies in ruins. A mountain of rubble rises now
in its place occupying a part of Monte, a very central street of Havana.
Passers-by run, there is noise from sirens of patrol cars and
firefighter equipment since there are most probably dead and injured.

Within the drama all of this implies the most serious thing, however, is
not the collapse of the building but that occurrences of this nature are
being repeated with a lot of frequency in the whole country.

It is very sad and at the same time unpleasant to see images as
these…just because it rains a bit.

And it is that during more than fifty years those facilities were not
repaired, were never subjected to maintenance of any nature neither on
behalf of the State nor of its inhabitants since, in the case of the
latter, they did not have the necessary resources at their disposal to
do so.

Another circumstance that would bring about laughter if the problem were
not so dramatic (it is unknown what will become of the persons who were
left homeless, where they will go and if they will remain during many
years in shelters crammed with others who suffered the same fate), is
that one is not permitted to take photos of the collapse.

Those who dare to do so may be detained.

The image of a Cuba where buildings collapse only because nature
fulfills her duty of making it rain, should not circulate around the
world. It would be a discredit to the genuine representation of the

But not only the buildings and streets are cracking.

The credit of the authorities splinters (constant cases of corruption at
that level, admitted failure of the programs of the Party, promises of
recovery that we do not see, changes that don't get to the bottom of the

Each day the peso and CUC are more devalued by the continuous increase
in prices.

Thousands of Cubans continue, especially the young, trying to abandon
the country by whatever means.

And this list could also continue ad infinitum.

The real lifeline, perhaps the only ones that we see, are the Pacts with
the UN which the government of the island signed in 2008 but does not
ratify and of which not a single word is spoken.

If tomorrow there appeared in the official press that the current
authorities have ratified those most important documents, many of us
would think the real changes have begun to arrive to our country and
that it is the start of speaking and acting seriously for a transition
that is real, peaceful and controlled in order to avoid disorder and
violence that is unwanted by the great majority of us.

While that is not the attitude, this building in ruins, one more of the
many I have already seen, aside from being the disaster that it
represents for those who once lived in it, constitutes an inevitable and
dangerous OMEN.

Translated by: Maria Montoto

June 25 2012

Castro's Too Repressive for Al Jazeera

Castro's Too Repressive for Al Jazeera
at 12:01 AM Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The Al Jazeera television network has closed its Havana bureau.

According to Diario de Cuba, the network has grown tired of dealing with
the Castro regime, which constantly sought to disrupt its reporting.

Earlier this year, Al Jazeera's Havana correspondent Moutaz Al Qaissia
was chastised and threatened by the Cuban authorities pursuant to a
story about dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez.

Things must be pretty bad in Havana when even Al Jazeera can't tolerate
the censorship and repression of the Castro regime, as it's used to
dealing with unsavory tyrants.

Also, makes you wonder just how much the remaining news bureaus in
Havana are willing to put up with or acquiesce to.

The CIA Should Declare Bankruptcy

The CIA Should Declare Bankruptcy
June 26, 2012
Alfredo Fernandez

HAVANA TIMES — If indeed the CIA was the sponsor of the recently
concluded "Festival Clic" in Havana, the leaders of that notorious
international agency should seriously consider filing for "bankruptcy"
right now.

According to Cubadebate, an official website of the Cuban Communist
Party (PCC), the "Festival Clic," which was held at the office of the
opposition Estado de SATS group, was organized by the CIA.

The purported aim of this activity was to destabilize the Cuban
Revolution and so as to lay the foundation for a future US military
attack against the island.

For this, the CIA used its Cuban-based agents: Yoani Sanchez and Antonio
Rodiles, who organized the event along with the Spanish "Evento Blog
Español" (EBE) group, noted Cubadebate.

For at least two of its three days, I participated in the "Festival
Clic." There I learned that if this event were in fact sponsored by the
CIA (an entity that used to make us feel so threatened), then people can
now breathe easy. The CIA is flat broke.

That's right. It turns out the tired old American institution is
financially on its last leg. The paltry resources that went into the
June 21 to 23 sessions demonstrated more than anything else that "the
Agency" is no longer a danger to anyone these days.

It turned out that the CIA gave the participants in the event nothing
more than baloney sandwiches and Kool-Aid (oh…though on Friday afternoon
they had the kindness to give us cheese rolls – but without the
fruit-flavored drink).

Now I wonder: Could it be that the CIA couldn't even come up with enough
money to buy a little coffee for its agents, just to keep them alert
throughout the afternoon sessions?

If what Cubadebate is saying is true, then I am an eyewitness to the
beginning of the collapse of not only that once-powerful international
espionage agency, but of the economic might of the very United States of
America itself.

Yes, dear readers, judging by the horrendous performance of the CIA at
the recently concluded "Festival Clic," the introduction of ration books
in the United States is only a question of time.

If this is the case, I don't see how this institution will ever return
to anything like its economic splendor of the past.

I don't think that Cubadebate should be concerned, at least not
directly, with the "bankruptcy" of the United States. To tell the truth,
with our own country being as screwed up as it is, I can't imagine us
allowing in boat people fleeing our northern neighbor.

It's worth mentioning that at the closing of the ceremony, Sanchez and
Rodiles not only denied any link with the CIA, but they disavowed any
institutional sponsors other than Sanchez' own Academia Bloguer
collective, Rodiles' Estado de SATS organization and the EBE group.

How Cuba Became a 'Happy' Country

June 26, 2012, 6:49 p.m. ET

How Cuba Became a 'Happy' Country
Citizens flee on rafts. But environmentalists know better.

In what league does Iraq beat Britain, Haiti beat the United States, and
Afghanistan beat Denmark? Political corruption? Violent crime?
Temperature? No, welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the Happy
Planet Index. It is a little window into the way many environmentalists

The Happy Planet Index (HPI) purports to "measure what matters: the
extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the
people that live in them." It beautifully illustrates the two great
vices of environmentalist thought: fetishizing resource efficiency above
everything else and treating happiness economics with far too much respect.

Countries with high living standards tend to use more natural resources.
That's why instead of being praised as having a dynamic economy and
being the least corrupt country in Africa, Botswana comes at the bottom
of the Happy Planet Index. It scores a pitiful 22.6, way below the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (30.5) and Zimbabwe (35.3). Botswana's
people might enjoy a much higher standard of living, but that means a
larger ecological footprint.

Of course I will use less oil if I walk to work instead of driving or
even getting the bus, or if I bring in crops by hand instead of using a
combine harvester. The price you pay for that is normally taking a lot
more time and therefore being a lot less productive: That's why we have
to balance resource efficiency against other priorities. You might be
able to consume fewer resources (and create lots of green jobs) by
having people run in giant hamster wheels, but that doesn't make it a
sensible way to power a city.

Happiness economics has similar problems. It works by asking people how
satisfied they are with their lives. To assess "experienced well-being,"
the Happy Planet Index uses a question called the "Ladder of Life" from
the Gallup World Poll. It asks respondents to imagine a ladder, where
zero is the worst possible life and 10 is the best possible life, and
report the step of the ladder on which they feel they currently stand.

The problem with a question like that is that your horizons might be a
little more limited if you've grown up in a war-torn village in
Afghanistan instead of prosperous, stable and connected Denmark. The
average inhabitant of Copenhagen can probably imagine a more impressive
life than the average inhabitant of Kabul, and that means a much higher
bar for the real lives to meet.

It's even worse if you've grown up on the American dream. Do we really
want to give countries high marks because the people living there treat
just scraping by as a real achievement?

The Happy Planet Index hasn't been composed by some lonely obsessive
living with his mother and boring a very small number of readers in a
rarely visited corner of the Internet. No, the Happy Planet Index has
been produced by the New Economics Foundation, a think tank with an
annual budget of more than $3.9 million and a staff of more than 50.
They may be as mad as a box of frogs, but these people are well-funded
and influential.

They are also playing with taxpayers' money. One of the New Economics
Foundation's biggest donors in 2010-11—giving them more than
$155,000—was the British government's Department for Business,
Innovation and Skills. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs paid more than $90,000 for another project in 2009 in which the
New Economics Foundation produced a report—"Moments of change as
opportunities for influencing behaviour"—which looked to Communist Cuba
for an example of "mass efficiency improvement."

Cuba, by the way, ranks 12th on the Happy Planet scale.

Reports like the Happy Planet Index claim to show us a different way of
measuring success that "puts current and future well-being at the heart
of measurement." But there's a reason Cubans regularly risk (and lose)
their lives trying to escape their home country and make it to America,
and there's no waves of humanity flowing in the opposite direction. That
the Happy Planet Index can't capture those realities, or chooses to
ignore them, suggests, well, that its authors are living on another planet.

Mr. Sinclair is director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, a London-based

A version of this article appeared June 27, 2012, on page A15 in the
U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: How Cuba
Became a 'Happy' Country.

IKEA asks for help in Cuban prison labor probe

Posted on Wednesday, 06.27.12

IKEA asks for help in Cuban prison labor probe

The Swedish furniture giant has set up a hotline and asked anyone with
information on a 1987 contract to make furniture in Cuban prisons for
IKEA to call
By Juan O. Tamayo

Furniture giant IKEA has asked for help from anyone with information
regarding a 1987 agreement between government enterprises in Cuba and
the former East Germany to manufacture furniture in Cuban prison
workshops for the Swedish firm.

A telephone hotline has been established in Germany for people "who want
to contribute to clarifying the production conditions among our
suppliers" in the former communist-ruled German Democratic Republic,
said an IKEA announcement Monday.

IKEA hired the firm of Ernst & Young to investigate complaints that one
of its Berlin subsidiaries agreed in 1987 to buy furniture manufactured
in prisons in Cuba and the GDR. It is not clear whether the Cuba part of
the agreement was carried out.

Those with information can contact the hotline Monday through Friday
from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 0800 0007303 (free of charge from Germany) or
011+49 (6196) 996 14023 (from abroad, subject to charges), or by fax at
011+49 (6196) 996 19854.

IKEA executives met early this month with Cuban-American members of the
U.S. Congress and assured them that the firm has no current business
with Cuba and will report back to them on the results of its investigation.

The Monday statement said IKEA's code of conduct for suppliers around
the world "includes a zero tolerance of any form of forced or bonded
labor," and that the company carries out more than 1,000 audits per year
to ensure compliance.

The company "takes the allegations that political prisoners were used to
manufacture IKEA products … in the former GDR (and) in Cuba very
seriously," it added. "Should this have occurred, it is totally
unacceptable and deeply regrettable."

Complaints against IKEA's production in Cuba have not specifically
mentioned political prisoners. Several Cuban former political prisoners
have said they were not required to work.

The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine reported in April that an
IKEA subsidiary in Berlin agreed in 1987 to a furniture manufacturing
deal with two trading companies owned by the GDR government, KuA and
Delta GmbH. The firms in turn contracted some of the work to EMIAT, a
firm run by the Cuban Interior Ministry that sells products made in the
island's prisons.

Documents founds in the archives of the Stasi, the GDR's much feared
state security ministry, showed there were quality problems with the
first batch of Cuban furniture delivered, apparently sofas and tables,
and it was not clear whether the deal continued.

The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, communism followed and the GDR disappeared
in 1990, reunified with the Federal Republic of Germany, which was
sometimes called West Germany.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Law on Emigration and Its Effect

The Law on Emigration and Its Effect / Anddy Sierra Alvarez
Anddy Sierra Alvarez, Translator: Unstated

Raúl Castro spoke about the laws governing Cuban emigration, giving hope
to the citizens of Cuba that they would gain the freedom to travel, a
right enjoyed by all people throughout the work, Cuba being the exception.

The purpose of the law on emigration is to tie the hands and feet of the
country's professionals. Since there is no acknowledgement or incentive
allowing a worker to enjoy the fruits of his labor, the government knows
that it cannot open the gates since it would be left without the
productive workforce that a country needs.

This change to the emigration policy is still eagerly anticipated, but
time passes at the speed of light and there has been no adjustment to
the law.

The blows to the gut that the government receives from athletes is
nothing more than a response to the refusal to let the sports of boxing
and baseball compete in professional leagues; athletics and volleyball
are a different situation. They complain and humiliate the government
with "treason" (leaving the country), but it is the government that
forces their decisions.

Organizations with travel privileges such as cultural institutions,
which have seen an increase in trips abroad by actors and singers who
participate in international cultural exchanges, give the impression
that the situation for travel in and out of the country is improving.
But those who leave have the confidence of the government. They are the
95% who return to Cuba, with Carlos Otero* making up the remaining 5%.

But what the average Cuban wants is the freedom to leave when he sees
fit, not when the government decides he can leave.

*Translator's note: A popular Cuban television personality who
defected to the United States with his family while on a trip to Canada
in 2007.

June 25 2012