Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Not All, General, Not All!

Not All, General, Not All! / Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
Haroldo Dilla Alfonso, Translator: Unstated

At last week's celebration of the 26th of July something happened I
didn't quite understand. The program stated that Machado Ventura was
going to speak, but then the General/President also spoke. It seems
someone asked him to and people went along with it. After a speech by
Machado Ventura — his oratory is unmistakeable, saying what everyone
expects and in the most boring possible way — anything is welcome. And
Raúl, when he improvises, has the virtue of using Cuban slang and
relating trifling events, which is relaxing. And after a tirade from
Machado one needs to relax.

Raúl dropped some interesting tidbits. One of them referred to the issue
of wages. Given a population that spends the month — as my friend Henry
says — "smoking under water" (that is making silk purses out of sows'
ears), the General/President declared that there will be no increases in
salaries until there is an increase in production, especially in food.
Which is very confusing in so many ways, but particularly in the fact
that the reforms come to a halt right at the heart of things: the
immense and dilapidated State economy. And in the lack of effective
policies to jump start the agricultural economy.

And the responsibility for all this is primarily the orator's, who has
spent his six years in power playing around the edges, rummaging through
other people's pockets, with an economy that grows only in the
government statistics. That is, inevitably, the General/President has to
say as Sor Juana Inés said to the men of her day: you pay for the sins
you condemn.

He then noted that doctors earn very little, but so, he said "do we
all." Another vulgarity because as it happens, and the whole world knows
it, everyone, as he said everyone, obviously, does not have to count
pennies. The overwhelming majority do, yes, but not all. And what puts
some on one side of the line where very little is earned, and others on
the side where a great deal is earned, is not a gamble or bad luck, but
the result of the very politics and practices that animate the system
commanded by the General.

And this is interesting for the following reason. The functionaries,
intellectuals and academics faithful to the system, including the
half-asleep journalists and badly-paid official bloggers frequently
mention "the losers," that is the people who will inevitably lose with
an economic adjustment, needed, they say, for the economy to take off.
There are a lot of dark corners here, because they are the same people
who have been the preferred victims of belt-tightening: teachers, State
employees, retirees, slum dwellers, women, young people entering the
labor market, etc. etc.

Only our economists — who celebrate the Chinese model while condemning
the Chilean — never clarify that these people are sacrificed, helpless
to defend themselves or negotiate, because in an authoritarian regime
like Cuba's — as happened in Chile and is happening in China — there are
no independent labor unions or social associations who represent the
interest of the helpless "losers."

But nobody — certainly not the anguished General/President — speaks
about the winners. That is the tiny minority of people who better their
economic and social situations and eventually become the dominant class
in the emerging capitalism. This elite is already visible, and there are
places in the principal Cuban cites, and especially in Havana, that
serve as the seat for a kind of consumption and behavior that has
nothing to do with the discourse of Machado Ventura. But everything to
do with the descendants of people like Machado Ventura.

So while it is true that in this group of elite consumers there are many
people who have arrived through a combination of talent and market
opportunities — artists, writers, small entrepreneurs — these reasons
have very little to do with the recruitment of the other chosen ones of
the new Cuban capitalism. The most important group of the new elite are
made up of those who appropriated the best houses in the best places to
rent rooms (or even to run small hotels with very sophisticated
services) or to open restaurants; or those who have the best higher-up
contacts for joint-ventures, or those who run the best businesses to
partner with foreign capital.

In short, those who had relations, political protections, information,
and the cunning and astuteness to slide through the intricacies of an
infernally corrupt system, all the while swearing allegiance to socialism.

These people, needless to say, do not have the low incomes that,
according the General/President, are suffered by all Cubans. They are
the winners of a divvying up of the spoils from the work of others, the
frustrated expectations, and the dangerous resentments of millions of
people of several generations.

People whom our economists call — simply — the losers.

From Cubaencuentro

30 July 2012


The Empty Table

The Empty Table / Miriam Celaya
Miriam Celaya, Translator: Unstated

Again, Cuba's general-president has offered his gastronomic policy to
the American president. "The table is set…" said a Raúl Castro who
appeared erratic and inconsistent at the podium this 26th of July, as if
a touch of rum had been added to his morning coffee. He laughed at his
own bad jokes like some street corner drunk, alternating with pathetic
bravado. The public appearances of the Cuban leaders are a real
embarrassment to the nation. Unfortunately for him, despite his antics
the government to the north doesn't seem interested in the love feast,
perhaps because it's unworthy of democratic governments to negotiate
with dictators.

Most contradictory is that in the same address just minutes before,
Castro II had accused the "empire" of trying to subvert order in Cuba
and of hoping that the same thing would happen here as in Libya or
Syria, using for this the internal dissent (mercenary, annexationist,
submissive). It is at least paradoxical that a government resists dialog
with its own opposition and with all representatives of alternative
civil society and, instead, tries to sit down at the negotiating table
with a foreign government and, what's more, with one distinguished with
the official epithet of "enemy." The general insists on declaring that
Cuba is sovereign but calls into question such sovereignty by wanting to
resolve the internal conflicts of a nation with the power that
supposedly provokes them. The apotheosis of absurdity.

On the other hand, it is the Cuban authorities and not the dissidents
who are leading the violence within Cuba, which reinforces the thesis
that official fear becomes hatred and repression. For many years
opposition sectors have tried to establish a path for dialog with the
government, without success. The world is a witness to the fact that the
Cuban dissidence, contrary to that of other countries, uses peaceful
methods to promote its demands and is not armed, so it does not
constitute a danger to national security.

The government, however, is a powder keg that threatens internal peace
and it is increasing the pressure on a conflict with unpredictable
consequences. Far from recognizing the legitimate right of citizens to
dissent and propose alternatives, given the acute structural crisis of
the system, the military caste has chosen to increase the persecution
and harassment against all demonstrations of civic dissent. Furthermore,
it appears to have a strategy directed at assassinating selected leaders
of the opposition and of independent civil society.

In October 2011 it was Laura Pollán, this time they got rid of Oswaldo
Payá, an opponent who fought for democratic changes in Cuba for more
than 20 years and who put the government in a straitjacket with his
Varela Project, forcing them to unmask themselves with the farce of a
plebiscite on "eternal socialism." Events show that they didn't forgive him.

It must be made clear that the Island's authorities are directly
responsible for the turn of events in Cuba. A nation is not governed
based on terror and force, nor on negotiating with foreign powers. The
government, incapable of overcoming the internal crisis and recognizing
citizens' rights, increasingly loses any semblance of legitimacy before

A peaceful solution to Cuba's problem is becoming ever more elusive,
thanks the stubbornness of an olive-green gerontocracy; but in any case,
it is not ethical to dialog with assassins. Perhaps when some come to
understand that a negotiated solution is preferable, they will find
themselves at an empty table.

Note: I could not find a picture on official government websites of R.
Castro standing on the podium on July 26, 2012.

July 30 2012


Machado Ventura and the Theory of Relativity

Machado Ventura and the Theory of Relativity / Reinaldo Escobar
Reinaldo Escobar, Translator: Unstated

"The enemies of the Revolution, both those within and those without —
under the umbrella of criticizing the supposed slowness or lack of
boldness of the adopted measures — hide their true intentions of
restoring the shameful regime existing in Cuba until 1959."

The above quote is one of the pearls shed by José Ramón Machado Ventura,
second to the General-President, in his statement at the event for the
59th anniversary of the 26th of July. His boss later took the podium
where, in an improvised speech, he announced that the table was set for
talks with the Americans, but this has already been talked about too
much and I won't add fuel to the fire.

It turns out, according to the guidelines emanating from the highest
levels, that accelerating the speed or imparting boldness to the adopted
measures is a sign of counter-revolutionary conduct. Because, according
to what we are told, the ideologically correct thing is to advance
little by little, without haste, but without pause, as the Revolutionary
gradualist Raúl Castro frequently repeats.

On more than one occasion I have said "the adopted measures" go in the
right direction but lack the necessary depth and adequate velocity. And
I think they go in the right direction because they don't dictate the
closure of private businesses, nor the suspension of self-employment, as
happened in the notorious Revolutionary Offensive of March 1968. It is
not a nationalizing but a "cooperativizing" and in some ways
privatizing, although slowly and superficially.

Those of us who think it should be accelerated are now accused of
wanting to return to the past. When in reality the only thing the
leaders of this process would be delighted to return to are the earlier
times when the Soviet Union existed. They would return with pleasure to
those decades when Cuba was a subsidized satellite that sent troops to
Africa to indulge the geopolitical appetites of one of the contenders of
the Cold War. In return we barely received technological junk, so that
the government could buy our loyalty with an Aurika washing machine, a
Krim TV or, in the best of cases, a Lada car. This is not velocity, my
dear Machado, but a direction that leads to a destination. The slowness
only serves to buy time before the inevitable.

"You don't understand — my son told me — that gentleman believes in the
time machine, pure Theory of Relativity: if you go very fast, you could
get to the past."

30 July 2012


Cuba opens criminal proceedings over dissident death

Cuba opens criminal proceedings over dissident death

HAVANA — Cuba has opened criminal proceedings against a Spanish
political activist blamed for a car crash that killed leading dissident
Oswaldo Paya and another man, the Communist Party daily Granma said Tuesday.

Granma said Angel Carromero, who was driving when their rental car went
off the road and slammed into a tree, was formally named in homicide
proceedings in connection with the July 22 accident in Bayamo,
southeastern Cuba.

At the same time, the newspaper said a Swedish survivor of the crash,
Jens Aron Modig, had been given permission to return to his country.
Modig had been in custody since being released from hospital shortly
after the crash.

Under Cuba's penal code, Carromero could face up to 10 years in prison
for committing traffic violations that resulted in death.

Cuba's dissident community suspected another vehicle might have forced
the car carrying Paya off the road, but Carromero and Modig both said
Monday that the crash was accidental and that no other vehicles had been

"I was driving in an area (of road that was) in bad condition" and lost
control, Carromero said, noting that he had taken "all the precautions
that a driver should take under such circumstances."

Modig backed up that story in a live interview before reporters.

Paya, 60, a leading opponent of the one-party rule of the Cuban
Communist Party, was the 2002 recipient of the European Parliament's
prestigious Sakharov prize, which is awarded for defending human rights
and freedom of thought.

His widow Ofelia Acevedo last week rejected a government report that
blamed the car crash on the driver. She also criticized officials for
not allowing her to talk to Carromero and Modig, who had been kept in

Paya's relatives had said they believed the rental car was forced off
the road by another vehicle.


US to Cuba: Relations Depend on Freedoms

US to Cuba: Relations Depend on Freedoms
July 30, 2012

Washington is willing to talk with Havana about ensuring political
rights of expression if Cuba wants to improve U.S. relations, the State
Department said.

The Obama administration is prepared to "forge a new relationship" with
Cuba, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Mike Hammer said
after Cuban President Raul Castro expressed an interest Thursday in
starting a dialogue with Washington to mend fences.

The Castro regime must make democratic reforms and improve human rights,
Hammer said.

"Our message is very clear to the Castro government," he said. "They
need to begin to allow for the political freedom of expression that the
Cuban people demand and we are prepared to discuss with them how this
can be furthered."

Cuba must also release U.S. government contractor Alan Gross of Potomac,
Md., Hammer said.

Gross, an international development expert, is serving 15 years in a
Cuban prison after being convicted in March 2011 of crimes against the
Cuban state. He was arrested in 2009 bringing satellite phones and
computer equipment into Cuba while working for the U.S. Agency for
International Development on a democracy-building project.

Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., met with Castro
in February in an unsuccessful bid to win Hammer's freedom.

Gross' wife, Judy Gross, told Politico in March she considered her
husband "a pawn from a failed policy between the two governments."

The United States has not had formal diplomatic relations with Cuba
since Jan. 3, 1961, and has maintained an embargo that makes it illegal
for U.S. corporations to do business with the island nation, 90 miles
south of Key West, Fla.

Raul Castro made his mending-fences remarks at a ceremony in Guantanamo,
Cuba, observing Cuba's National Day of Rebellion -- the anniversary of
former President Fidel Castro's July 26, 1953, uprising against dictator
Fulgencio Batista, which marked the beginning of the Cuban revolution.

Raul Castro is Fidel Castro's younger brother.

"The day they are ready, the table is set, and this has been
communicated through the regular diplomatic channels," Raul Castro said
in remarks broadcast several times over Cuba's state-controlled media
and published by the official Cuban news agency Prensa Latina.

"If they want to hold a discussion, we will do so, but on equal terms,
because we are no one's subjects, nor a colony, nor anyone's puppets,"
he said.

Havana is ready to discuss "the problems of democracy, as they say,
freedom of speech, human rights, the things they have invented for
years," CNN quoted him as saying.

Cuba would also voice its own grievances, he said as he called for
"bilateral understanding," Prensa Latina said.

"Hostility from Washington," mainly through the embargo, has led to
Cuban economic losses of more than $975 billion, the news agency said.

Castro said Cuba and the United States could be adversaries on the
baseball diamond but not the geopolitical theater.

"If they want confrontation, it must be in sports -- preferably baseball
-- nothing else," he told a crowd gathered for the 59th anniversary

"We must respect one another. You cannot run the world -- that's crazy,
especially on the basis of repeated lies," Castro said.

Castro's remarks were not the first time he expressed a willingness to
talk with Washington.

In April 2009 he said during a summit of leftist Latin American leaders
in Venezuela he was willing to discuss "everything, everything,
everything" with the United States, including human rights, freedom of
the press and political prisoners.

During his Thursday remarks -- which CNN said appeared impromptu --
Castro said "small factions" within Cuba were "trying to lay the
groundwork so that one day what happened in Libya will happen here, what
they're trying to make happen in Syria."

That will never happen in Cuba, he asserted.

"Here we are, with our troops, as prepared as ever, just in case," he
said, adding: "Once again I proclaim our interest in peace. We have no
interest in harming anyone, but our people will defend themselves, and
we all know what to do under any circumstance."

Prominent Cuban political activist Oswaldo Paya Sardinas died Sunday in
a car crash. Havana said the driver of Sardinas' car lost control of the
vehicle and hit a tree, but Paya's children said the car had been
deliberately run off of the road.

Hammer in Washington pointed Thursday to Cuba's brief detention of
dozens of dissidents outside Paya's funeral this week.

"The authoritarian tendencies are very evident on each and every day in
Cuba," he said.


Cuba's Economic Desperation

Cuba's Economic Desperation
Sean Goforth
July 31, 2012

Earlier this month, Cuba's parliament rubber-stamped several reforms
tied to Raul Castro's program, announced almost two years ago, to grow
the country's private sector. If all goes according to plan, Cuban
officials expect roughly half of the economy will be reborn in the
private sector over the next five years. In theory, steep taxes on small
businesses and privatized co-ops will bolster state coffers, and
regulation will keep state-owned enterprises insulated from competition.
In practice, the government is losing control of the privatization program.

For the most part, the hundreds of thousands of small-business licenses
handed out so far by the government pertain to low-skilled services and
nonessential industries, including restaurants, car-repair shops and the
like. Entrepreneurial Cubans have improvised solutions to prohibitions
against most forms of advertising by painting the side doors of their
cars and leafleting window shields. Another major hitch to the expansion
of private enterprise, access to wholesalers, is being resolved in part
by the Obama administration's 2009 decision to allow greater freedom of
travel to the island by Cuban Americans.

According to some estimates, roughly $1 billion a year in goods enters
Cuba in this fashion. Despite the kinks, the nascent private sector is
outcompeting the state. Last week, the Miami Herald reported that the
Castro government is raising fees on goods imported by Cuban Americans,
"apparently trying to force émigrés to send badly needed cash instead,
to control the trade in imported items and counter the drop in sales of
those types of goods at state-owned stores."

If the specter of better private-sector goods at lower prices seems bad
for the government, the alternative may be more troubling. What if
people try to keep state jobs while peddling their services and wares in
the informal economy? Cubans have decades of experience—often expressed
in terms of "resolve"—in getting by this way. This may explain an
apparent lull in interest to join the private sector. According to a
recent New York Times article, Havana planned to move 170,000 people off
the government payroll in 2012, but from January through May it issued
only 24,000 licenses for self-employment.

Then there's Cuba's relatively large class of skilled professionals,
people highly trained at government expense, who need to be kept in
state employ. Yet at $20-a-month salary, many Cuban doctors are leaving
the profession to work as taxi drivers or waiters, while others have
taken to prioritizing patients willing to pay extra for care.
Consequently, health care, the one indisputable achievement of the Cuban
Revolution, is faltering.

To these and other problems, the government still could reassert its
control, as it did under Fidel in the mid-2000s. In the aftermath of the
Soviet Union's collapse, Cuba's economy contracted, then stagnated.
Fidel kept the Cuban economy afloat in the officially sanctioned
"special period" by allowing use of the dollar, rationing hundreds of
additional foodstuffs, permitting some small businesses to operate and
encouraging tourism to the island. Relief eventually came when Hugo
Chavez, having solidified his control over Venezuela's oil industry,
began pumping billions of dollars of aid into Cuba, thereby allowing
Fidel to reverse many of the compromises he'd been forced into making in
the 1990s.

Now facing a serious challenger in the presidential election later this
year and an unknown cancer status, Chavez's future looks more uncertain
than that of the geriatric Castros.

Communist Cuba's salvation this time around was expected to come in the
form of massive offshore oil and gas deposits. The Economist last year
called the Scarabeo 9, a rig built and shipped from China by the Spanish
oil firm Repsol in order to skirt the U.S. embargo, "Cuba's main hope of
economic independence." China, Russia and other countries eagerly
courted Raul as the rig moved into place, each vying for a sizeable
concession or servicing contract, and each probably rather pleased by
the potential side effect of sticking in Washington's craw.

Then, after spending over $100 million in the endeavor, Repsol decided
in late May to stop exploring off Cuba's coast. Four of the five wells
it drilled didn't turn up any oil. In turn, Raul's visit to China,
Vietnam and Russia earlier this month—almost certainly scheduled before
the Repsol announcement—didn't result in any breakthrough commitments
for investment in Cuba.

Of course, Cuba still may become an oil-rich nation in time; already a
Malaysian outfit plans to explore a separate offshore bloc. But that's
scant consolation for the communist government, which desperately needs
the influx of international credit that would accompany a significant
oil strike. In more stark terms, Cuba needs a new sponsor, and just who
that might be is now in doubt given the recent reticence of the Chinese,
Brazilians and others to having greater sway over the island's future.

The bad news about oil also makes it harder to envision the Cuban
economy transitioning to a state capitalist system. Meanwhile, those in
the privatized economy are thrashing out wholesale markets via the
informal sector, largely at state expense. For the first time since Raul
ushered in his seemingly methodical economic reforms, the aging autocrat
faces a pressing "from, to" dilemma.

Sean Goforth is author of Axis of Unity: Venezuela, Iran and the Threat
to America.


Cuban bank deposits abroad continue massive migration

Cuban bank deposits abroad continue massive migration
By JUAN O. TAMAYO - McClatchy Newspapers

MIAMI -- Cuban bank assets deposited in an international group of
financial institutions showed a second stunning plunge in a row, with
the total nose-diving from $5.65 billion on Sept. 30 to $2.8 billion at
the end of March.

"Two consecutive quarters of massive bank withdrawals signal a drastic
policy change in Cuba that is not the result of temporary factors,"
wrote Luis R. Luis, a former chief economist at the Organization of
American States, who has been monitoring the deposits.

The Bank for International Settlements, or BIS, regularly reports
banking statistics, such as deposits by Cuban banks, from 43 major
Western and emerging economies and offshore financial centers around the

Countries, such as Cuba, usually keep deposits in BIS member banks and
other financial institutions to pay for or guarantee the purchases of
goods abroad.

A BIS report on June 4 showed Cuban bank deposits in BIS member
institutions had plunged from $5.65 billion on Sept. 30 to $4.1 billion
on Dec. 31. The latest BIS report showed that amount dropped to $2.86
billion at the end of March.

"What appears to be going on is a major portfolio reallocation of Cuban
international reserves and assets away from Western financial centers
and possibly into banks in countries such as Venezuela and China, which
do not report to the BIS," Luis wrote.

One reason for the shift may be Havana's concern over the stability of
European banks that held much of Cuba's assets, he noted. But there
might be another reason because the European Central Bank will have to
support those banks in a crisis.

"A more powerful reason may be concerns regarding the legal
vulnerability of having financial assets in Western banks which may be
subject to forfeiture by the courts," Luis added in a report emailed
Monday to McClatchy Newspapers and others.

Several Cuban exiles have won multimillion-dollar judgments against
Havana in U.S. courts and are now trying to collect.

Luis noted that it makes sense for Cuba, whose main trade partners are
Venezuela and China, to shift some deposits to banks in those countries
"but not the kind of massive displacement that is apparently taking place."

Cuban officials also may have drawn down the country's deposits to
settle outstanding debts, Luis speculated after the BIS report on June
4, or turned them into gold in hopes of protecting themselves from
global economic swings.


CDC issues a travel notice for Cuba

CDC issues a travel notice for Cuba

The CDC has issued a travel notice for travelers to Cuba because of
cholera outbreak

For the first time in a century, the island country of Cuba is
experiencing a cholera outbreak. Health officials have confirmed at
least 137 cases of the bacterial disease including three fatalities.

The Cuban outbreak has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) to issue a travel notice Friday for US travelers to the
Caribbean island.

Federal health officials say the risk of contracting cholera for
travelers in quite low. However, travelers to an area with a known
outbreak should take steps to avoid getting sick.

The current outbreak in Cuba has been reported in Granma province in the
cities of Manzanillo, Bayamo, Yara, and Campechuela Niquero.

Cholera is an acute bacterial intestinal disease caused by the bacterium
Vibrio cholerae. The disease is characterized by sudden onset, profuse
watery stools (given the appearance as rice water stools because of
flecks of mucus in water) due to a very potent enterotoxin. The
enterotoxin leads to an extreme loss of fluid and electrolytes in the
production of diarrhea. It has been noted that an untreated patient can
lose his bodyweight in fluids in hours resulting in shock and death.
© 2012 NAVTEQ© 2012 Microsoft Corporation
Location: Manzanillo, Cuba
20.337989807129 ; -77.101249694824

The bacteria are acquired through ingestion of contaminated water or
food through a number of mechanisms. Water is usually contaminated by
the feces of infected individuals. Drinking water can be contaminated at
the source, during transport or during storage at home. Food can get
contaminated by soiled hands, during preparation or while eating.

Beverages and ice prepared with contaminated water and fruits and
vegetables washed with this water are other examples. Some outbreaks are
linked to raw or undercooked seafood.

The incubation for cholera can be from a few hours to 5 days. As long as
the stools are positive, the person is infective. Some patients may
become carriers of the organism, which can last for months.

There is an oral vaccine available in some countries but it is not
available in the U.S. Cholera prevention is the same as in other causes
of traveler's diarrhea.

The CDC recommends the following basic steps for travelers to take to
avoid getting cholera:

1. Drink and use safe water.*
• Bottled water with unbroken seals and canned or bottled carbonated
beverages are safe to drink and use.

• Use safe water to brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, and make ice.

• Clean food preparation areas and kitchenware with soap and safe water
and let dry completely before reuse.

*Piped water sources, drinks sold in cups or bags, or ice may not be
safe. All drinking water and water used to make ice should be boiled or
treated with chlorine.

To be sure water is safe to drink and use:

• Boil it or treat it with water purification tablets, a chlorine
product, or household bleach.

• Bring your water to a complete boil for at least 1 minute.

• To treat your water, use water purification tablets—brought with you
from the United States or a locally available treatment product—and
follow the instructions.

• If a chlorine treatment product is not available, you can treat your
water with household bleach. Add 8 drops of household bleach for every 1
gallon of water (or 2 drops of household bleach for every 1 liter of
water) and wait 30 minutes before drinking.

• Always store your treated water in a clean, covered container.

2. Wash your hands often with soap and safe water.*

• Before you eat or prepare food

• Before feeding your children

• After using the bathroom

• After changing diapers

• After taking care of someone ill with diarrhea

* If no soap is available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
(containing at least 60% alcohol).

3. Use toilets; do not defecate in any body of water.

• Use toilets, latrines, or other sanitation systems, such as chemical
toilets, to dispose of feces.

• Wash hands with soap and safe water after using the bathroom.

• Clean toilets and surfaces contaminated with feces by using a solution
of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water.

4. Cook food well (especially seafood), keep it covered, eat it hot, and
peel fruits and vegetables.*

• Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it.

• Be sure to cook shellfish (such as crabs and crayfish) until they are
very hot all the way through.

• Do not bring perishable seafood back to the United States.

*Avoid raw foods other than fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself.

5. Clean up safely—in the kitchen and in places where the family bathes
and washes clothes

• Wash yourself, your children, diapers, and clothes at least 30 meters
away from drinking water sources.


Cuban bank deposits abroad plummet from $5.65 to $2.8 billion

Posted on Tuesday, 07.31.12

Cuban bank deposits abroad plummet from $5.65 to $2.8 billion

A new report shows that Cuba's bank deposits have fallen from $5.65
billion at the end of September 2011 to $2.8 billion at the end of March.
By Juan O. Tamayo

Cuban bank assets deposited in an international group of financial
institutions showed a second stunning plunge in a row, with the total
nose diving from $5.65 billion on Sept. 30 to $2.8 billion at the end of

"Two consecutive quarters of massive bank withdrawals signal a drastic
policy change in Cuba that is not the result of temporary factors,"
wrote Luis F. Luis, a former chief economist at the Organization of
American States who has been monitoring the deposits.

The Bank of International Settlements (BIS) regularly reports banking
statistics, such as deposits by Cuban banks, from 43 major Western and
emerging economies and offshore financial centers around the world.

Countries, such as Cuba, usually keep deposits in BIS member banks and
other financial institutions to pay for or guarantee the purchases of
goods abroad.

A BIS report on June 4 showed Cuban bank deposits in BIS member
institutions had plunged from $5.65 billion on Sept. 30 to $4.1 billion
on Dec. 31. The latest BIS report showed they dropped to $2.86 billion
at the end of March.

"What appears to be going on is a major portfolio reallocation of Cuban
international reserves and assets away from Western financial centers
and possibly into banks in countries such as Venezuela and China which
do not report to the BIS," Luis wrote.

One reason for the shift may be Havana's concern over the stability of
banks in Spain, France, Germany and The Netherlands that held much of
Cuba's assets, he noted. But there might be another reason because the
European Central Bank will have to support those banks in a crisis.

"A more powerful reason may be concerns regarding the legal
vulnerability of having financial assets in Western banks which may be
subject to forfeiture by the courts," Luis added in a report emailed
Monday to El Nuevo Herald and others.

Several Cuban exiles have won multi-million dollar judgments against
Havana in U.S. courts and are now trying to collect the money. The
largest was the $2.8 billion awarded last year by a Miami-Dade judge to
CIA and Bay of Pigs veteran Gustavo Villoldo.

Luis noted that it makes sense for Cuba, whose main trade partners are
Venezuela and China, to shift some deposits to banks in those countries
"but not the kind of massive displacement that is apparently taking place."

Cuban officials also may have drawn down the country's deposits to
settle outstanding debts, Luis speculated after the BIS report on June
4, or turned them into gold in hopes of protecting themselves from
global economic swings.


European survivors of crash in which Cuban dissident Payá was killed insist it was an accident

Posted on Monday, 07.30.12

European survivors of crash in which Cuban dissident Payá was killed
insist it was an accident

In person and in video, they insist crash that killed Cuban dissidents
was accidental
By Juan O. Tamayo

Two European politicians who survived the crash in which Cuban dissident
Oswaldo Payá died have denied claims they were driven off the road by
another vehicle, appearing in person and in a video before journalists
Monday in Havana.

The government-arranged presentation did nothing to assuage Payá's
relatives, who are demanding to speak in person with the Europeans, or
human rights activists who say they will not trust anything the
survivors say until they are safely out of Cuba.

The version told by the Europeans hewed to the government's description
of the car crash July 22 near the eastern city of Bayamo that killed
Payá, 60, and Harold Cepero, 31, a member of his Christian Liberation

Angel Carromero of Spain, who was driving, and passenger Jens Aron Modig
of Sweden, both 27, suffered minor injuries. Carromero is in police
custody while Modig is being held by immigration officials. Neither had
been seen in public until Monday.

In a video apparently recorded as Carromero spoke with authorities
investigating the crash, the Spaniard declared that his rented Hyundai
Accent was not rammed by another vehicle but tried to sidestep personal
responsibility for the crash.

"No other vehicle hit us from behind. Simply, I was driving, saw a
pothole and took the precaution of any driver, which is to brake
lightly. The car lost control," he said.

The government's version is that Carromero missed a road sign warning of
repairs ahead, was speeding when he hit a dirt section and then slammed
on the brake too hard, loosing control of the car on the gravel and
crashing into a tree.

Carromero, a leader of the youth wing of Spain's ruling Popular Party,
also makes as plea on the video to leave Cuba, where he could face one
to 10 years in prison if convicted of causing the fatal accident.

"As for the news reports that I have been allowed to read, I ask the
international community to please focus on getting me out of here, and
not on using a traffic accident, which can happen to anyone, for
political ends," the Spaniard says.

Appearing in person before foreign journalists in Havana, Modig said he
was snoozing when the car crashed and added, "I have no recollection
that any other car was involved in the accident," according to the
journalists' reports.

Modig also referred to his memory when asked about claims by Payá's
relatives that he had sent text messages from his cellular phone to
contacts in Sweden, before or after the crash, reporting his car had
been rammed by another vehicle.

"I don't remember. I was simply informing that I was well after the
accident," declared Modig, president of Youth League of Sweden's
Christian Democratic Party. "I sent text messages, I don't know to how
many people, after the accident."

Asked if he will change his version of the crash once he leaves Cuba,
the Swede replied, "In this case my apologies are honest. All the Cubans
that I have met here … have been kind, have treated me well."

Payá's widow, Ofelia Acevedo, told El Nuevo Herald on Monday that she
would continue to push to meet with the Europeans in person, to hear
their version of the crash, because the Cuban government cannot be
trusted to tell the truth about her husband's death.

"The Payá family does not accept the word of a government that
repeatedly threatened to kill him," she said, adding that just last
month the couple was involved in a suspicious traffic accident in Havana
that almost killed them.

Havana human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez said the Modig and
Carromero statements fell short of "providing a complete vision of what

"We reiterate our position that as long as the two remain in Cuba, their
statements would be subject to the inevitable pressures of the
government," said Sánchez, head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights
and National Reconciliation.

Modig also provided a possible explanation of why Cuban authorities have
detained him since the crash, saying that he "understood" that his and
Carromero's activities supporting dissidents in Cuba were illegal.

The Swede said his goals during the visit were to hand some cash to
Payá, meet with members of his Christian Liberation Movement in order to
exchange experiences and to facilitate any travels around the island
that Payá needed to undertake.

Modig said he brought 4,000 Euros — about $5,200 — for dissidents but
did not clarify whether all the cash was for Payá. He also delivered
money and equipment to dissidents during his first trip to Cuba in 2009,
he added.

Payá was known to reject U.S. aid for pro-democracy programs in Cuba,
but was close to Christian Democratic parties abroad. Cuba has outlawed
cooperating with the U.S. programs, branding them as thinly veiled
attempts to topple the communist system.

The Europeans planned to contact "miniscule groups of the internal
counterrevolution in Santiago de Cuba province to provide them with
financing," Gustavo Machín, head of the government's International Press
Center in Havana, told the EFE news agency.

"I understand that these activities are not legal in Cuba and want to
apologize for having come to this country to undertake illegal
activities," Modig was quoted as saying.

This report was supplemented with news agency reports from Havana.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Time Will Have the Last Word

Time Will Have the Last Word / Alberto Mendez Castelló
Translating Cuba

The tree against which, according to the official version, the car of
Oswaldo Payá and his companions crashed
The death of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, occurred according to the
official version by accident while traveling in a rental car, driven by
a Spanish citizen with a tourist visa, and it could take as many years
as the regime endures to know the reality of what happened.

According to the authorities the accident was caused by the driver of
the vehicle traveling at excessive speed and without due attention to
his control.

Those imputations involve violations of Articles 102 and 126 of the
Highway Safety Code. According to the glossary of terms and definitions
of the code, a traffic accident is defined as the incident occurring on
the road on which a moving vehicle is operated and, as a result, death,
injury to persons or property damage occurs.

Therefore, given the facts in the official version, technically the
driver of the vehicle in which Oswaldo Payá and his companion were
killed has committed a crime. And, under Article 177 of the Penal Code,
the driver of a vehicle violating the traffic laws or regulations that
causes the death of a person, shall be punished by imprisonment of one
to ten years.

According to Article 183 of the code itself, the courts can adjust the
penalty, taking into account, the degree of seriousness of the offense
that caused the accident, according to the classification in the Highway
Safety Code and, in the case of offenses with whose major or minor
seriousness has not been determined specifically for traffic law, the
court will use its judgment, taking into account the greater or lesser
probability of creating the accidents incurred.

As for the term of the trial, in accordance with Article 479 of the
Criminal Procedure Act, in the case where exceptional circumstances so
warrant, the Attorney General of the Republic may appeal to the Chief
Justice, and he may decide through a summary process the offenses within
the jurisdiction of any court of justice, thus reducing the terms prior
to trial. This could be done in a very short time, rather than taking

Sentencing of foreigners is provided for in Article 7.1 of the Criminal
Code and foreigners sentenced to imprisonment by the Cuban courts may be
delivered to complete their sentences in the the countries of which they
are citizens.

Knowing the interrogation procedures, the prospect of a season in Cuban
prisons and the natural survival instinct of man, and noting that there
are two dead through alleged violations of the Highway Safety Code, they
are now looking at ten years in prison, and one wonders if there is a
reality other than the official version, and what other statement the
driver of the car in which Payá and his Swedish comrade were traveling
might have made.

On one side of the balance is a summary trial and a minimum sentence
with a prompt execution of sentence in his country of origin, while on
the other side is a long process and who knows how many years in prison.

Hopefully Payá and Harold were not victims of a crime. A new crime in a
country where mistrust and hatred grow every day as a result of
political segregation, not convenient to anyone.

Hopefully the pain of these deaths will not be joined by that of murder.
Sadly, only time will have the last word.

From Diario de Cuba

28 July 2012


Payá’s death leaves leadership gap in Cuba dissident movement that’s hard to fill

Posted on Sunday, 07.29.12

Payá's death leaves leadership gap in Cuba dissident movement that's
hard to fill

Oswaldo Payá, unquestionably the most centrist of Cuba's opposition
leaders, was also one of the movement's giants.
By Juan O. Tamayo

The death of Oswaldo Payá has left a gap in the moderate heart of the
Cuban dissident movement, which has tried for decades to figure out the
most effective way to confront the communist system and push for democracy.

Payá was unquestionably the most centrist of Cuba's opposition leaders,
a profoundly Catholic activist who believed in reconciliation and
dialogue, tried to change the system with its own rules and rejected
both Fidel Castro and the U.S. embargo.

He was also the first opposition figure to try to mobilize the Cuban
streets for change, while others focused on seeking political freedoms,
establishing civil society groups or recording and denouncing human
rights abuses.

"His death was truly an irreparable loss, because he was the most
notable figure of the internal resistance," Havana human rights activist
Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz said of the 60-year-old Payá, killed Sunday
in a disputed car crash.

The death also recalled the struggles of a man whose victories and
failures as he tried to nurture the seeds of democracy in Cuba,
peacefully and patiently, can provide lessons to the dissidents who
survive him.

A soft-spoken and unassuming engineer who worked in a state-owned
business making and repairing hospital equipment, Payá was "the
anti-Fidel," said Joe Garcia, a Miami Democrat and former executive
director of the Cuban American National Foundation.

Although a Vatican official reportedly told U.S. diplomats in 2003 that
he had urged the Cuban government to "cultivate Payá as a 'soft
oppositionist,' " government State Security agents constantly monitored
his movements and his Havana home was often marked with pro-Castro graffiti.

Payá's biggest triumph came in 2002, when his Christian Liberation
Movement and a nationwide network of supporters collected 25,000
signatures seeking free elections, freedom of expression and association
and amnesty for political prisoners in the so-called Varela Project.

He was praised by moderates who favored engaging the Castro government
in hopes of pushing it gently toward democracy, was awarded the European
Parliament's Sakharov human rights prize in 2002 and was later nominated
for the Nobel peace prize.

Payá "managed to mobilize people and unite the opposition in some ways,"
said Guillermo Fariñas, an independent journalist who won the Sakharov
Prize in 2010. Unlike Payá, Fariñas was not allowed to leave the island
to pick up his award.

But Project Varela was criticized by anti-Castro hardliners in Cuba and
in exile as too conciliatory toward the government — and was brutally
crushed by Castro.

The legislative National Assembly of People's Power never acknowledged
Payá's petition and Castro called his own referendum on the
"irrevocable" socialist character of the revolution — approved by 99.5
percent of the voters in late 2002.

Just months later, 75 dissidents, including more than 40 Project Varela
activists, were convicted in one-day trials and sentenced to up to 28
years in prison. Payá had spent three years in a hard labor camp in the
1960s but was not arrested in the 2003 crackdown.

The dissident soldiered on with the stubbornness of his faith after the
so-called Black Spring but with less success, proposing several citizen
initiatives that did not achieve the recognition or headlines of the
Varela Project.

And although Payá criticized the U.S. embargo — he repeatedly insisted
that Cubans must fix their own problems — he also scoffed at the claim
that increased U.S. tourism and business would entice the government to

"That's an insult to the Cuban people. Changes will not be made by
tourists drinking daiquiris and mojitos, strolling through our beaches,"
Payá declared in a video interview rebroadcast this week by Miami's MEGA TV.

Payá also was critical of Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino and his
talks in 2010 with Raúl Castro, who succeeded brother Fidel in 2008. The
contacts led to the release of the last of the "Group of 75" still in
prison and other political prisoners.

"We believe Cubans should not remain mere spectators in this or any
other negotiation," he declared. "The dissident movement is much more
than an issue that government and church representatives can discuss
without listening to us."

In 2007 he joined several well-known dissidents, including Martha
Beatriz Roque and members of the Ladies in White, declaring their unity
in the struggle for peaceful change toward democracy.

But Payá and others were absent last year when a dozen other dissidents,
including Fariñas and Oscar Elias Biscet, a member of the "Group of 75,"
issued a "reaffirmation of unity" to "motivate the population to join in
a peaceful fight against the regime."

Payá was the second top leader of Cuba's dissident movement to die in
nine months. Laura Pollán, the widely respected founder and head of the
Ladies in White — female relatives of the 75 — died Nov. 14 from a heart
attack and respiratory failure.

Well-known blogger Yoani Sánchez wrote that Payá's death was "a dramatic
loss for [Cuba's] present and an irreplaceable loss for its future," and
that without him "the island is more of an orphan now."

But dissidents noted that the opposition movement has other top figures,
from veteran political activists like Roque, Biscet and Fariñas and
Elizardo Sánchez, head of the Cuban Commission for Human rights and
National Reconciliation, to younger firebrands like José Daniel Ferrer
García and Pollán's successor, Berta Soler.

Payá's MCL is "very well organized and no doubt someone will succeed him
as its leader," said Biscet by phone from his home in Havana.

Catholic activist Dagoberto Valdés noted that in a sign of their unity,
opposition activists of every stripe attended Payá's wake and funeral
Mass last week at the El Salvador del Mundo church in Havana.

"In the struggle for freedom, those who fall on the road turn into
flags, into symbols of the peaceful struggle," Valdés added. "The
opposition will continue, with this new symbol of our struggle."

Elizardo Sánchez said the dissidents' own fractiousness — with scores of
factions that range from hundreds of members in key cities to little
more than two or three people in a remote town — actually helps them
remain strong despite the death of a leader like Payá.

"A shortcoming of the opposition becomes a virtue," said Sánchez.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cuba Closes ‘Street Opera’ Project

Cuba Closes ‘Street Opera’ Project
July 27, 2012
Fernando Ravsberg*

“La Opera de la Calle” (The Opera of the Street) combined a cultural program with a restaurant, the proceeds of which went to pay the salaries of all the personnel and other expenses. Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — One-hundred and thirty Cuban families have lost their source of income due to the closing of the “El Cabildo” cultural project, where they had worked putting on a regular musical show that mixed opera, zarzuela (Spanish musical comedy), rock, pop and Cuban rhythms – including those of African religions.

Known nationally and internationally as “La Opera de la Calle” (The Opera of the Street), the company cleaned up a vacant lot, and built a stage and a restaurant on it. From the sales of food and beverages they financed the salaries of the musicians, singers, dancers, cooks and waiters.

An article that appeared in the foreign press triggered the alarm of the Ideological Department of the Communist Party. Ulises Aquino, the director of the cultural initiative, told us that he was called to that department for questioning, and “El Cabildo” was shut down a few days later.

The group was accused of “enriquecimiento” (enrichment) for the members earning monthly salaries of around 2,000 pesos (equivalent to about $80 USD). Such a figure is higher than those paid by the government but — according to Cuban economists — it corresponds to the cost of the average family food staples here on the island.

A Cuban ajiaco (*)

A week before its closing, we visited “El Cabildo” (The Council) to do a story. We were interested in this cultural program that — availing itself of fewer economic restrictions these days — had created a restaurant that operated in parallel so as to achieve self-funding.

Ulises Aquino is an important Cuban lyrical singer who tries to promote that art form among his fellow citizens through the Street Opera cultural program by incorporating “archetypes and folklore that are identified with our society.” Photo: Raquel Perez

Its director, Ulises Aquino, explained that “the effort is called ‘opera of the street’ because we are trying to bring the lyrical art form closer to everyday people, which is why we add those archetypes and folkloric elements that are identified with our society; it’s a new form of lyrical expression.”

The show lasts about an hour and in it “we merge everything from lyrical theater, opera, musical comedy, Cuban folk music, rumba, rock and pop – everything; it’s the melting pot of Cuba,” said Ulises, who is also an important opera singer.

Economically too it was a melting pot. As Ulises went on to explain, “We’re part of the Ministry of Culture but we’re a new type of structure that has served to promote changes in the country. We believe that there must be a convergence between each cultural program and their funding.”

“My life project”

Samila Lacosta is twenty-four years old – of which six she has spent working with “la Opera de la Calle” as a second soprano. As she explained: “This is a totally different company; in my case, I trained as a singer and a dancer. This was my school, it’s a comprehensive professional approach.”

“I came here not knowing what opera was, I didn’t even know what a stage was,” explained Samila, adding that for her “this is very special; it’s the project of my life.” At that time, though, she didn’t know that just days later she would lose her job and her livelihood.

Sulay Hernandez had been unemployed but she found work in the cultural project, which “[gave] us much from the cultural and social standpoint.” Photo: Raquel Perez
Sulay Hernandez, 34, had been the chief waitress in the restaurant since this past December; prior to that she had studied social communication. “I was unemployed until I was offered this position; I’m not going to get rich off the salary but at least I can survive,” she said at the time of our interview.

Sulay lost more than a job. As she put it: “This is a family. The project gives us a lot from the standpoint of culture and society. As artists and workers, we maintain very good relations, with many common activities among everyone. There’s no class relationship.”

The fifth column

However, nothing could prevent their locale from being shut down. For Ulises this was the work of “a hidden fifth column that is attempting to stop the unstoppable movement that’s being promoted by President Raul Castro (…), it’s those of the bureaucratic class who are trying to preserve their power from a position of obscurantism.”

“They came in at 10 o’clock at night, interrupted the show and created confusion among the audience. It was a fascist approach that had nothing to do with the principles that I, the general population of Cuba and the president believe in. Just three days before he had argued for the need for a change in people’s mentality.”

130 people worked at “El Cabildo,” including artists, musicians, dancers, waiters and cooks. Photo: Raquel Perez

Aquino told us that the problem arose when the “Reuters news agency reported our story, which led to me being called in by the Central Committee of the Party to explain our program to functionaries of the Ideological Department. I thought they were satisfied with my explanation – but apparently they weren’t.”

Ulises added that, “Based on that meeting, a whole series of incidents were triggered. They accused me of ‘enrichment’ and took away my self-employment license.”

He concluded by stating, “It hurts most because I’m a revolutionary and I believe deeply in the humanistic work of the revolution.”

(*) A Cuban stew made up of many varied ingredients; a melting pot.


Brain Drain or Brain Squander?

Brain Drain or Brain Squander?
July 28, 2012
Dariela Aquique

In Cuba you will find highly trained specialists in many fields working as taxi drivers or waiting on tables.

HAVANA TIMES — Much has been said throughout all periods of history about how the major economic powers have promoted the so-called “brain drain” from less developed countries.

Of course the wealthiest nations have always managed to plunder the resources of the poorest, and human capital has not been an exception to this rule.

But in this specific case, other factors come into play, namely that this supposed theft (which isn’t so much theft) is achieved with the consent of the person whose intellect is being stolen.

These brain drains are always consensual: those who have economic capital make offers and those who have intellectual capital respond.

Of course it’s not very ethical to take advantage of the needs of others, but those are the laws of the concrete jungles. For centuries, prominent figures of science, literature and the arts have gone to the great metropolises, for whatever reasons.

But a phenomenon is occurring in Cuba now that has some bearing on this. Though looked at from another perspective, it’s what I call “brain squander.” Many professionals in the country do not exercise their careers so as to pursue other jobs that are better paid.

I have a close friend who is a biologist, having graduated with honors for being exceptional in her field. She finished school just five years ago and was well recognized during her initial period of job training. She was then relocated to another workplace and began studying for her master’s degree, which was really exciting.

But it turns out that in the last year she has felt that she wasn’t doing anything really important. What’s worse is that she didn’t do anything edifying as an expert. She was still receiving a minimum salary, which wasn’t enough to cover her basic needs and those of her newborn child.

To make matters worse, her boss didn’t allow her to go to Havana to defend her master’s thesis. He argued that the content of her research wasn’t relevant to her job and nor was working on it included on her list of work responsibilities.

My friend — who by then was extremely frustrated — decided to quit her job. Now she’s making cakes and pastries for private restaurants and other individual’s orders. She says it’s going well; she now makes in one week what would have taken her two or three months to earn in her professional position.

My friend has a brain that wasn’t robbed by the capitalists. It’s a brain that was squandered here in this country.

Last week I went to have lunch in a private restaurant, one that had an unbeatable menu, moderate prices and excellent service. I was invited by two ex-actress friends of mine who now live in Spain.

The owner of the place is very charismatic, and after eating he joined us to talk and have a few beers. In that conversation I learned that he was an ophthalmologist, specializing in pediatrics, but he gave up his white coat and stethoscope for self-employment in food services.

He says that as a doctor he couldn’t make ends meet. The same is true with many sociologists I know who are waiters in hotels and engineers who sell snacks on the street.

In short, I know of many brains that haven’t been exactly stolen, but they have been squandered by real-life circumstances and personal choices.


Inverse Racism

Inverse Racism / Rebeca Monzo
Rebeca Monzo, Translator: Unstated   

A friend who works in a place where it is very well-known told me that he along with his co-workers, are puzzled because there are Immigration Offices, where only black people work there, and that calling attention to this and looking into it, they could only learn that by resolution, the order was given, because the rate of Afro-Cubans in these offices was very low. Now this happened some years ago with the Communist Party.

As Maximo Gomez said well, referring to us Cubans: we fall short or we go too far. This is not just a new form of racism. This time, affecting whites, Chinese and mixed race, who are also important members of our society.

How long will we keep repeating the same mistakes? To get a job or not should depend on the ability to do the work implied, not the skin color of the aspirant. It’s shameful that with more than half a century of proclaiming “equality” we still mark this type of difference which only serves to further deepen inequality.

July 27 2012


Too Many Experiments — Part 1

Too Many Experiments — Part 1 / Fernando Dámaso
Fernando Dámaso   

Those who read what was published in the official press, on the recently concluded Ninth Regular Session of the Seventh Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power (the name gets it done), may have noticed that the most word used is “experiment“: it approved a policy to create experimental cooperatives in non-agricultural activities; it authorized the application of leasing to food service establishments that employ up to five workers (which is already being experimented with in barber shops, beauty salons, shoe repairs and other places); it selected a group of business organizations to undertake experiments aimed at providing them autonomy; and addressed… experimental policies for the commercialization of agricultural products in the provinces of Havana, Artemisa and Mayabeque; experimental formulas for the production of food; continued the experiment in the provinces of Artemis and Mayabeque to delineate functions between the assembly and provincial councils and municipal administration.

To deny the importance of experimentation before applying it in some generalized form, would be a mistake. However, we can not spend our lives experimenting. If someone suggested these experiments were a government about to come to power, without experience, perhaps one could concede a vote of confidence, but not for the same government to experiment for more than fifty-three years (most of which failed) and, for the sake of them sacrifice almost four generations of Cuba.

A country is not a laboratory or a research center to test formulas that are supposed to solve long-term national problems.Too much time has been lost in experiments, which, incidentally, have always been applied widely throughout the country since the inception of this government, with devastating effects.

There is no need to invent warm water, without using experience and known formulas, which have been proven over the years and which still demonstrate their effectiveness. We have Brazil, Chile, India, South Korea, Japan, South Africa, China, Vietnam, Russia and most of the countries that were part of the former socialist camp, as examples.

We must not forget either that fifty years ago most Latin American countries were more backward than Cuba, and today it is the opposite: the foremost in leading economic indicators and even in some social indicators. To bet yet again on the so-called socialist economy (failed everywhere) and the socialist enterprise (also failed), is to insist on backing a losing horse.

Many meetings could be organized, hundreds of speeches delivered and dozens of experiments performed, and until our authorities leave behind their ancestral atavism, more ideological than rational, there will be no solution to the crisis, no solution to existing problems, nor will the country go down the right path towards progress and satisfaction of the always growing needs of its citizens.

July 26 2012


Cuba dissident's widow rejects official death account

Cuba dissident's widow rejects official death account
AFP Updated July 29, 2012, 5:02 pm

HAVANA (AFP) - The widow of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya has rejected a government report that blamed the car crash that killed her husband on the driver because she has been denied access to witnesses of his death.

Ofelia Acevedo criticized the government for not allowing her to talk to the two survivors of the crash, including the driver, who have been kept in custody since the July 22 incident in southeastern Cuba.

"I reject this report because it is the official report of the government of Cuba and because I have not had access to this information that they say they have," she told AFP. "I have no reason at all to believe this version of events."

The government insists Paya, 60, was killed when the rental vehicle in which he was riding went out of control and struck a tree.

In a lengthy report issued Friday, the Interior Ministry said the driver, Spanish political activist Angel Carromero, lost control of the vehicle when he abruptly hit the brakes on the slippery surface of an unpaved section of road while speeding.

Paya's family, however, has said it had information that the rental car was driven off the road by another vehicle.

Acevedo said she had not yet been able to talk to Carromero, 27, or the other survivor, Swedish political activist Jens Aron Modig, also 27.

"They were the last people who saw my husband alive and they have to know a lot more than I do so far," she said.

Authorities have kept the two witnesses in custody since they were discharged from hospital after being treated for injuries they suffered in the crash. Both men were in Cuba on tourist visas.

Acevedo said she did not believe the government's account of what Carromero said about the accident because "he has not had access to the communications media, outside the presence of state security, which has had him sequestered since he came out of the hospital."

Paya's widow said she had asked the ambassadors of Spain and Sweden to arrange for her to speak to Carromero and Modig but "not even they have been able to speak with them without the presence of state security."

Carromero, who is being held by police in a town close to where the crash occurred, faces charges of traffic violations resulting in death, which can carry up to 10 years in prison under Cuba's penal code.

In Madrid, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo confirmed Carromero was still being held in Cuba, and could possibly be charged on Monday or Tuesday once the investigation was over.

"If he were to be charged, we would like him to be staying in our embassy; in any case the most important thing is to bring home" Carromero, the Spanish minister said.

Also killed with Paya, winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov prize in 2002, was a fellow Cuban dissident, 31-year-old Harold Cepero Escalante.

Paya, a fervent Catholic, is best known for presenting the Cuban parliament in 2002 with a petition signed by 11,000 people demanding political change in Cuba.

Known as the "Varela Project," the initiative was instrumental in opening debate in Cuba on the direction of a communist regime dominated for more than half a century by Fidel Castro and his brother Raul.

Paya's death was keenly felt among Cuba's dissident community, and authorities have been quick to respond to any sign of protests.

About 50 people were arrested Tuesday after they emerged from Paya's funeral in Havana shouting anti-government slogans. Most were later released without charge, activists said.

Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Anders Jorle said there was no reason Modig, who is being held in an immigration detention center in Havana, should not be allowed to go home.

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights, officially outlawed but tolerated by the government, urged the regime to allow the two survivors to speak publicly about the accident.
"Now that the government has given the official version, we continue to insist that the absolute truth will be known when both survivors are able to make statements, without any kind of conditions," said the group's leader, Elizardo Sanchez.


Cuba dissident movement suffers blow with leaders' deaths

Cuba dissident movement suffers blow with leaders' deaths

Two of the country's top government critics have died nine months apart, leaving a depleted opposition that was already being eclipsed by a new generation.
By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times
July 29, 2012

MEXICO CITY — The abrupt deaths of two ofCuba'stop dissidents barely nine months apart represent a demoralizing blow to a movement already weakened by time and government-sponsored harassment.

Democracy activist Oswaldo Paya was killed July 22 when the driver of his car lost control while speeding and hit an unpaved patch of roadway in eastern Cuba, authorities said. The government identified the driver as a Spaniard, who was hurt along with a Swede also in the car. Another dissident traveling with the group was also killed.

Paya, 60, was one of the most respected dissidents in Cuba, a devout Roman Catholic who spent decades criticizing the Castro governments and urging peaceful democratic change. Although the opposition movement in Cuba is tiny, authorities used Paya's funeral to round up about 40 activists and briefly arrest them, a move widely criticized by human rights groups.

In October, Laura Pollan, a founder of the Ladies in White group, which has fought on behalf of political prisoners, died in a Cuban hospital after a sudden respiratory illness.

In both cases, the families raised questions about the circumstances and suggested the possibility of foul play, though they presented no evidence.

Even as they mourn, dissidents will have to dig deep into their depleted ranks to find new leaders and continue their struggle.

Already, the movement that Paya, Pollan and others led was in some ways being eclipsed by a new generation of dissidents and critics of the regime who use blogs, music and even poetry readings to demand freedoms.

"That is where the new voices are, the new ideas," said Ted Henken, an expert on Cuba at the City University of New York. And they have broader reach and deeper connection to people on the island, something that Paya and the older activists could not claim.

But, Henken added, that was not to say that Paya and the others didn't play a role in dissent.

"They are relevant to the international dialogue on Cuba," he said, "the boomerang of international pressure."

U.S. diplomatic cables dated 2009, released by WikiLeaks, were harsh in their criticism of Paya and dissidents of his ilk, calling them out of touch and torn by petty rivalries.

Still, Paya holds a special place in Cuba's political struggle. In an unheard-of campaign in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he managed to collect nearly 25,000 signatures in a petition drive that was aimed at forcing the Cuban National Assembly to consider laws that would guarantee civil rights such as freedom of assembly and speech.

It was called the Varela Project and was widely seen as one of the most important nonviolent challenges to the Castro regime; it won praise from President Carter and helped earn Paya the European Union's top human rights award.

Then-President Fidel Castro responded by having the socialist revolution officially declared "irreversible," and the National Assembly rejected the petition. In spring 2003, 75 dissidents were imprisoned for long terms; many of them with Paya's group.

Those arrests in the so-called Black Spring gave rise to Pollan's Ladies, many of them the wives, mothers or sisters of the jailed activists. They fought for years to free their relatives, staging small protest marches that often got heckled and harassed by pro-government mobs.

Although dissidents were occasionally released over the years, it took the intervention of the Roman Catholic Church to free most of the men, and not until the last few years. Most had to agree to go into exile.

With all the high-profile political prisoners freed, human rights organizations say, Cuban authorities have turned to a different tactic, as illustrated by the detentions at the Paya funeral. Instead of long sentences, activists are arrested and held briefly, then released and fined. The goal is a steady drip-drip of nuisance and intimidation, say groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Yoani Sanchez, a Cuban dissident blogger who has gotten international attention, represents the new generation of protesters now overshadowing the work of people like Paya.

But after his death, she paid tribute to the trailblazer.

"Cuba has suffered a dramatic loss in its present and an irreplaceable absence in its future," she wrote on her Generation Y blog. "The great lesson that he leaves us is equanimity, pacifism, ethics above differences, the conviction that with civic action and legality, an inclusive Cuba is within our reach."



Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pope Benedict Didn’t Look Behind the Scenes

Pope Benedict Didn’t Look Behind the Scenes / Yoaxis Marcheco Suárez
Translator: Unstated, Yoaxis Marcheco Suárez   

In Cuba there is the habit of arranging or accommodating things so as to keep up appearances, while the reality and the truth remains behind the curtain. So it usually happens in businesses, offices, agencies and ministries. Lying is so natural and inventing figures and adulterating statistics so common, that we can now say that we Cubans have lived the story and the bad idea for a long time. Invention has saturates all the spaces at all levels, clearly we can’t leave this behind, the greatest storytelling, the most fallacious, is the State.

So, this great machinery of invention was put into practice during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. Specialized as it is to invent images and pretend that’s not what they are, the created a whole march of the combative people, where hypnotized masses in the strictest order and most militarized discipline waited, listened, cheered and said goodbye to the Pope.

A considerable number of those attending the masses offered by the Pontiff both in Santiago de Cuba as in Havana attended not because the Pope is of interest to them, much less the Catholic Church, but because the Revolution called them to line the streets and plazas and make up the number, so that the world would see a fierce and respectful people show consideration to the leader of the Catholics. Benedict appeared dazzled by by crowd listening to his homilies and did not notice, or at least pretended not to very well, what was happening behind the scenes.

Among the crowd and all around it a strong police cordon was set up, belonging to the organs of State Security, the mission was not to let opponents or dissidents enter the plazas. Despite the measures and precaution, some could express themselves, still it ended in assaults and blows by the Cuban Red Cross, which should have been neutral. Although the aggression occurred only a few yards from the Pope, he took a cold political attitude and showed no sign, then or later, of giving any importance to the event.

Nor did he give any importance to the hundreds of detainees, some in prisons and others in their homes, among these later were my husband and I, guarded all night the night before the mass in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, and through the whole time this lasted, in the house of some fellow servants in the faith, who gave us asylum and showed their solidarity and friendship, witnesses also to the arbitrariness of the repressive forces of the Cuban government.

Benedict XVI has refused to offer an opinion on what happened with the Cuban dissidents during his visit, he refused to listen to them and bring them under his spiritual protection. Cardinal Jaime Ortega, in addition, was hostile toward the opponents and too servile and cloying with respect to the authorities. It seems that the Cuban Catholic Church and the highest levels at the Vatican have given their approval to the Cuban dictatorship. It would not be the first time that Catholics made pacts with the powerful and with bad governments.

For my part, I who did see what happened behind the scenes, because I was behind them, say and will say what happened in Cuba during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, particularly from my own experience, which although I am not Catholic and have no interest in being in the close presence of this person, was placed under house arrest, watched for hours as if I were a criminal and held incommunicado because, like many others, my husband’s cellphone was cut off and silenced from before the mass and several days afterwards.

Benedict did not see this, or pretended that he did not, so delighted was he with the false theater, while behind the scenes the reality was very different from the appearances.

July 20 2012


No one can doubt that totalitarianism will be dismantled.

“No one can doubt that totalitarianism will be dismantled.” / Antonio Rodiles
Antonio Rodiles, Translator: Unstated   

Antonio Rodiles Speaks to PenultimosDias.com about his arrest and detention at Oswaldo Payá’s funeral

On July 24th, during Oswaldo Payá’s funeral, Antonio Rodiles, coordinator of the independent project Estado de Sats, was arrested by the police and held for almost 24 hours in the Police Station at Infanta and Manglar, in the Cerro neighborhood. Some twenty bloggers, dissidents and activists remained outside the Station, along with Rodiles’ family, for the better part of the night, until they were assured he would be released the following day as, in fact, happened. This interview, conducted just hours after his release, aims to clarify the circumstances of the arrest and the events that followed.

PenultimosDias.com: What exactly happened?

Antonio Rodiles: The problem begins when the hearse is ready to go to the cemetery. A group of activists wanted to accompany the coffin on foot, alongside the car, because not everyone could fit in the vehicles that were going to the cemetery. The police refused to allow the dissidents to walk alongside the car to the Colón Cemetery, and so there was a confrontation.

Guillermo Fariñas was in the front row. We were behind several cars, waiting to leave, when we saw a group run towards the hearse. From where we were we couldn’t see what was happening and so Ailer [Conzález] got out of the car to look. He was delayed in returning and when I was about to leave, the cortege started off following the cars.

We go to the Avenue, but I stop the car to get out and look for Ailer. Once I’m in the street I’m aware of the violence of State Security and the police, and I return to the car to leave my wallet. I’m looking for Ailer and find Julio Aleago, who I ask for help to find him amid this mass of people. I walk down one side of the sidewalk, Aleaga down the other, and suddenly one agent says to another, “There goes Aleago Pesant, let’s arrest him.”

On hearing this, I turn and go over to them; they come up and I am questioning them and trying to avoid their grabbing him. One of them shouts at me, I respond, and then I feel several of them grab me violently. I defend myself and start to also throw punches and kicks.

About six or seven of them descend and take me to the police car where we have more wrestling to prevent them forcing me in it. Finally they get me in and one of them sits on me, pushing his head against the roof of the car, and another trying to grab my feet. We head off this way until by common agreement we decide to stop the struggle. The air was completely rarefied within the backseat of the car.

When we arrived at the station there is again physical violence. One of them tells me I’m going in the cells and I tell him I’m will not go in. They threaten me and I tell them to save their threats, I am not going in. He and his partner pull me up and the fighting and punching starts again until a person from the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) intervenes. Those in the PNR try everything to calm things down, the State Security agents left the area and a Lieutenant colonel came to talk to me.

Meanwhile, Aleaga remained on the bench at the entrance to the cells. The lieutenant Colonel assured me we would not be put in the cells and would remain in a small room at the entrance to the dungeon, and that’s what happened.

Security didn’t stop pressuring them to put us in the cells, but the people of the PNR left us permanently in that little room. The interrogation was more of a conversation with the lieutenant colonel from State Security, in which I mostly talked. My conclusion is that they no longer have much to say or to argue, faced with the disaster.

PD: What did the police accuse you of and what were the details of the arrest?

AR: They didn’t accuse me of anything, in the record of the arrest it just says, “Matter of SE [State Security].”

PD: Did the solidarity of the activists, families and friends who were outside the station help you?

AR: I believe it was fundamental. I have no way to give thanks for the total support my family received, two elderly and sick people. It’s very important to send a clear message of determination and support. It’s importation that this kind of response be part of the action of civil society.

PD: What are your plans, for Rodiles and for Estado de Sats, now that you have been a victim of direct physical repression?

AR: Sadly, these barriers have become a part of the proofs of the defeat of this system. My plan is to continue working, now with a clearer view of all the effort we must put into a peaceful and democratic transition in our land. What does seem very clear to me is that we are on a one-way road, no one can doubt that totalitarianism will be dismantled.

26 July 2012


US Tells Cuba to End Authoritarianism, Then We'll Talk

US Tells Cuba to End Authoritarianism, Then We'll Talk
Published July 27, 2012

The U.S. government on Thursday reaffirmed its willingness to "forge a new relationship" with Cuba, but it insisted that the Raul Castro regime must take various measures to clear the way for that to occur including releasing U.S. contractor Alan Gross.

"Our message is very clear to the Castro government: They need to begin to allow for the political freedom of expression that the Cuban people demand, and we are prepared to discuss with them how this can be furthered," Mike Hammer, assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. State Department, said.

Pointing to the brief detention of dozens of dissidents at this week's funeral of prominent opposition figure Oswaldo Paya, he said that "the authoritarian tendencies are very evident on each and every day in Cuba."

Hammer also reiterated the demand the Cuba release Gross, now serving a 15-year sentence for illegally bringing communications gear into the Communist-ruled island as part of a U.S.-funded program.

Hammer made his remarks in response to the proposal made on Thursday by Raul Castro to begin a dialogue with the United States in which all issues would be on the table, including freedom of the press and human rights.

"I have already said this through the existing diplomatic channels. If they want to talk, we will talk," the Cuban president said at a Revolution Day event in the eastern province of Guantanamo.

He added, however, that Havana will accept only a dialogue of equals, as Cuba is neither a colony nor a satellite.


What happened to Cuba's Oswaldo Payá?

What happened to Cuba's Oswaldo Payá?
July 27, 2012
By: Achy Obejas

Did Oswaldo Payá die in a straightforward auto accident, or was he killed by Cuban government forces?

According to official reports, Payá and another Cuban died when the driver of the rented car he was in lost control and violently crashed against a tree in the far Eastern side of the country, where roads are particularly bad.

But speculation swirls around the incident. Was the car run off the road by another vehicle? Payá’s daughter, Rosa María, says that’s the case, that maybe it was only meant to be a warning but that her father ended up dead as a result. This would be the second auto accident Payá had in less than a month, and in the first he was run off a Havana street by another car.
With dissidents dropping like flies in the last few years, every move stirs suspicion and doubt.

In most other countries perhaps, this tragedy would be treated as a simple automobile fatality. But in Cuba, which has seen dissidents dropping like flies in the last few years, and where authorities operate in secret, defensively, and without explanation, every move stirs suspicion and doubt.

I confess that when I came upon the news, my guts twisted. Without reading much more than a headline, I immediately wondered about the circumstances of Payá’s death. (The late Laura Pollan, leader of the Ladies in White, had also worried about being run off the road by unidentified government agents.)

It’s not that Cuba puts its dissidents up against the wall and shoots them (although 40 years ago, it did just that). And under Raúl Castro, the long prison sentences that were the staple of Fidel Castro’s rule have become rarer.

But this is not because Raúl is more tolerant. His tactics regarding dissidents are simply different: Rather than virtually disappearing them into the black hole of prison, Raúl bullies and harasses them in plain sight, often violently, giving street toughs carte blanche to do as they will.

Consider this video of “acts of repudiation” against the Ladies in White, the female relatives of political prisoners swept up in the 2003 Black Spring. The “acts,” which the government doesn’t officially admit to encouraging but for which every Cuban has been recruited at some time in their lives, involve the crudest and most vulgar epithets, pushing, shoving, and, sometimes, punching. When the cops finally show up, they arrest the Ladies in White. And say what you will about them — even if you believe they’re funded by nefarious U.S. based forces — the Ladies in White are absolutely non-violent. So why the use of such force?

And how, exactly, does a scene like this, taken with a cellphone, unfold in a Havana suburb, with both sides approaching each other as if in a duel? The result? A street fight: primitive, mindless. Where was the police? Nowhere, which given their ubiquity in Havana, is a real question.

Or consider this one, also from a cell, in which a dissident is confronted by an organized crowd outside his home. They chant slogans endlessly while Félix Navarro tries to talk to them, his voice even, his hands always where they can see them. The cops show up for this — but not to disperse the crowd or negotiate a public peace. Instead, they arrest Navarro and take him away.

The charges? None, as was the case with the 50 or so mourners who attended Payá’s funeral and found themselves detained without charges for about a day. Among those held overnight was Guillermo Fariñas, a dissident whose 2010 hunger strike forced the government into negotiations with both the Catholic Church and the Spanish government and into releasing the prisoners from the Black Spring. Fariñas, like Payá, is a recipient of the European Union’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for Human Rights.

So what happened to Payá? Cuban authorities have so far not allowed either survivor of the fatal crash — both Europeans — to comment publicly but Spanish newspapers say Ángel Carromero, the Spaniard at the wheel, claims in the police report that he failed to see a traffic sign to reduce speed and lost control. (Different reports have noted that the foreigners, in the front seat, wore seat belts, and the Cubans, in the back, did not — which strikes me as probable.)

Ofelia Acevedo, Payá’s wife, says she knows of text messages sent by Carromero and another passenger, a Swede who, like Carromero, had come to Cuba on a tourist visa but was doing political work, in which they said they were being repeatedly hit by another car. (Both foreigners, who remain in Cuba, are also affiliated with conservative political parties in their home countries.)

Why does any of this matter? Besides the fact that two men died in that mystery crash, one of them happened to be one of Cuba’s best known dissidents, but also one of its most curious.

Even tempered, measured in his statements, and a man who kept his government job long after he could have given it up to live off remittances from abroad, Payá founded the Christian Liberation Movement, a party that remains illegal in Cuba. (All but the Cuban Communist Party are illegal on the island.) Committed to non-violence and a lifelong practicing Catholic, Payá — who was also a lifelong anti-communist — was best known for two projects that, at their core, ironically recognized the fundamental legitimacy of the revolutionary government.

The Varela Project used the Cuban constitution revised in the '70s and '90s as its basis and depended on a clause that supposedly allows Cuban citizens to petition for change. Payá accomplished an incredible feat of getting 14,000 signatures to present to the Cuban parliament, demanding that it recognize rights enumerated in the constitution, such as freedom of speech and assembly, that have been historically ignored. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter endorsed his efforts, as did former Czechoslovakian President Vaclav Havel. The Cuban congress responded by endorsing a separate referendum which made the island’s socialist system “irrevocable.”

Payá’s second petition drive, the Heredia Project, demanded that the government — which currently charges an arm and a leg for a passport and other travel documents (and in Cuba, Cubans always need other travel documents) -- allow Cubans to come and go, to housing rights, to equality before the law, and to citizenship regardless of their place of residence, as the constitution guarantees.

What set Payá apart was less the projects themselves — which were brainy but futile —  than that, while he understood that the government had all the power, he never, ever called for Cuba’s problems to be solved by anyone but Cubans. And by Cubans, he meant those on the island. It gave him an incredible moral force.

What happened to Payá? We may never really know.