Friday, May 31, 2013

Prison Diary XXII Maximum Security and Minimum Decency

Prison Diary XXII: Maximum Security and Minimum Decency / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on May 31, 2013

Some days ago I was told that I had been "revoked" to a maximum security
prison for six months for the hunger strike I undertook. They are so
predictable I could not help smiling. But it has been nothing more than
a justification to punish me and keep me away from the phone in a
further attempt to reduce the regularity of the posts I write for my
blog, The Children Nobody Wanted.

Since I've been here I haven't gone to the dining room, for the benefit
it represents for me to spend time in my cell, allowing me to write,
read, and also avoid losing this in search of food you can not eat.

One prisoner told me that perhaps the conversation I had with the Prison
Director had been a provocation for me to declare a hunger strike again,
to land me in solitary confinement and to put an end to my public
demands. They want to silence me to prevent me from giving my opinions
about May 1st and their report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva,

Once again, the government of the Castro brothers, violates the rights
of a Cuban with their usual cynicism, using another lie to commit a new
injustice, as I had been informed that he was not revoked because the
transfer from La Lima Prison to 1580 Prison was not because of a
discipline infraction, and this is what they also told my family on
Saturday April 13.

Now I am, for those who still defend the dictatorship, in a maximum
security prison, instead of the promised hospital where they would give
me a "check up." Lie after lie.

Worst of all is that they have emerged, again, unharmed before the Human
Rights Council, precisely on the issue of prisons in Cuba, where they
commit so many abuses and violate the rights of prisoners with impunity.

The Council and the world must prevent the Cuban government from
continuing to mock the United Nations.

We Cuban Prisoners ask each fair and decent citizen take a minute of
your life and protest the abuses that occur in Cuban jails.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats
1580 Prison, May 2013
Havana, Cuba

30 May 2013

Real Blockade

Real Blockade / Fernando Damaso
Posted on May 30, 2013

To update, in one of its many meanings, means to put in tune with the
times. It updates the valued, that which, having demonstrated its
effectiveness, should be retained, although infused with new spirit or,
what is similar, provided with renewed energy. It wouldn't occur to
anybody to update the obsolete, whose properties have been superseded by
development, because updating cost far more than replacement with
something new, which is much more efficient.

In the case of the so-called "Cuban upgrade" some inconsistencies occur:
first, it's trying to update the archaic, the failed, which throughout
its existence has demonstrated its practical infeasibility, and also
this updating is carried out "at the speed of the burial of the rich" —
slowly — and plagued with absurd restrictions that reduce its
effectiveness for oxygenating the dying national economy,
"straitjacketing" it even more, making it hard for it to breathe. This
is the stark reality.

None of the measures taken so far — most simple legalizations of what
has been being done illegally for years — have represented improvements
for the ordinary citizen, much less an economic boom. Moreover, they
haven't even offered stable solutions for many of the main problems,
such as food, which is becoming more precarious and more expensive every
day. Actually "there has been a lot more heat than light,"
notwithstanding the usual triumphalist declarations, which we are so
accustomed to.

The fact is that what we need is not an "upgrade" but a "change." What
doesn't work should be replaced by something that does work, or at least
that has proven to be better. If we don't abandon the "ideological hoax"
and the eternal empty slogans, we will never get out of the impasse to
which we've been brought. We are simply continuing to enmesh ourselves
in the unbearable tangle of these fifty-four years, with no present and
no future, living in the past, clinging now to some "generic
guidelines," that try to say a lot without actually saying anything.

Change is an urgent need, both economically as well as politically and
socially. Without it the way continues to be blocked, and this is a real

30 May 2013

Who Will Rule Cuba in the Future?

Who Will Rule Cuba in the Future? / Pablo Pacheco
Posted on May 30, 2013

Life has shown me that the future is unpredictable and what lies ahead
in Cuba is difficult to predict.

The regime in Havana tries to oxygenate itself any way it can. Raul
Castro is more pragmatic than his older brother, he knows that system
they built is unsustainable and that any moment it could collapse under
its own weight.

The elite in power announces more access to the "Internet," (which will
really be an Intranet), controls politics in Venezuela, allows
dissidents to leave a return to the island, calls for more foreign
investment and under the table tries to approach its eternal enemy, the USA.

Three years outside the island have helped me to mature politically,
professionally, and above all, to learn to live as a human being.

From my point of view, those who will rule on Cuba's future will not be
those who have been persecuted, abused, imprisoned and beaten for years.
Perhaps one will come to fill an important position in a democratic
government, perhaps.

I don't doubt that some exiled could manage to take the reins of the
Cuban nation and that is legitimate, because one never ceases to be
Cuban. Also, the exiles have the greatest advantage because in freedom
they can study and prepare, unlike those still on the island.

The children, grandchildren and other descendants of those in power in
Cuba have studied abroad and that's not by choice. But the topics
studied by a peaceful opponent are the prison bars, hunger and
repression, a great deal of repression.

In the Cuba of the future there must be room for the whole world, but if
we rest on our laurels, tomorrow our island will be governed by those
who today are encroaching upon the rights of Cubans, ordered the
beatings, spying on opponents and other atrocities. Those who are
pushing for change will be swallowed up by history, not for the first
time, I see it coming.

Five decades of repression is a long time to implant fear and erode the
values of a people, five decades change the mindset of people and
destroy their own capacity to govern. Hopefully, hopefully, I am wrong.

Pablo Pacheco Avila

30 May 2013

Cuba still on U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism

Cuba still on U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism
Cuba's inclusion was political, critics say, noting Havana's efforts to
distance itself from terrorism activities. Also on the list are Syria,
Iran and Sudan.
By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times
May 30, 2013, 5:52 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Cuba further distanced itself from terrorist activities
last year but the U.S. government still considers it a state sponsor of
terrorism along with Syria, Iran and Sudan, according to the State
Department's annual report.

The report for 2012, released Thursday, says the government in Cuba last
year reduced support for Basque separatists in Southern Europe, joined a
regional group that seeks to block terrorism financing, and sponsored
peace talks between Colombia and an armed rebel group.

The report finds "no indication that the Cuban government provided
weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups."

Countries listed by the State Department as state sponsors of terrorism
face economic and political sanctions, including U.S. opposition to any
aid from the International Monetary Fund and other major financial

The report says there was a sharp uptick in Iran's sponsorship of
terrorism around the world, including attacks or attempted attacks in
India, Thailand, Georgia and Kenya.

Critics contend that Cuba's inclusion on the list is not justified and
reflects the views of members of Congress who are fiercely opposed to
the communist leaders in Havana. State Department officials are not
considering delisting Cuba, which has been under a U.S. economic embargo
since 1962.

"The report makes it clear that the State Department doesn't really
believe that Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism," said Geoff Thale,
program director at the Washington Office on Latin America, a liberal
advocacy group. "Cuba is clearly on the terrorist list for political

Cuba still shelters about two dozen members of the separatist group
Basque Homeland and Freedom, or ETA, one of the groups on the terrorist
list, according to the report. But Havana has been reducing its support
for the group and no longer provides it with travel documents, the
report says.

Cuba also has provided haven for members of the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia, or FARC, another organization on the terrorist list.
But in November, Cuba began hosting peace talks between the Colombian
government and the rebels.

Washington had faulted Cuba for doing too little to prevent money
laundering and international terrorist financing. But last year Cuba
joined the Financial Action Task Force of South America, an
intergovernmental group that seeks to enforce U.S.-supported standards
on such illicit activities.

Cuba's shift reflects changes in the country's leadership and a
preoccupation with domestic economic problems, analysts say.

The State Department added three groups to the list: Jemmah Anshorut
Tauhid of Indonesia, the Abdallah Azzam Brigades of Lebanon and the
Arabian peninsula and the Haqqani network of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It removed one group from the list, the Mujahedin Khalq, or MEK, an
Iranian opposition group based primarily in Iraq.,0,1419974.story?track=rss

Cuba's New Cybercafés: A Piecemeal Strategy

Cuba's New Cybercafés: A Piecemeal Strategy
May 30, 2013
Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — Next month, 118 public Internet access points will open
across Cuba, something which Cubans, one would expect, ought to regard
as rather good news. Though any step in the right direction should be
applauded, it would be remiss not to gauge the real impact this measure
will have on the island.

Supposing that there are 8 million young people and adults across Cuba
who are interested in using the Internet, we would have one cybercafé
for every 65 thousand people. You would see line-ups of people longer
than those that would gather outside bodegas if they began handing out
beef rations again.

With a total of 334 computer consoles around the country, the cybercafés
will be open 11 hours a day. If every user were to navigate for only an
hour, a mere 3,700 people would be able to access the Internet a day. If
we maintain our initial figure of 8 million potential Internet users,
people would get to connect once every 5 years.

Even if we assume I am exaggerating and that only 10 % of this
hypothetical population wants to use the Internet, each person would
have access to the web only once every six months. And Cuba's phone
company, ETECSA, needed all of two years to take this bold step, from
the date in which the installation of an underwater fiber-optic cable
between Cuba and Venezuela was completed.

Though the company's directives offer some hope, claiming that, "in the
future", they will attempt to expand their services to meet demands with
Wi-Fi networks, Internet service for mobile phones and even homes, they
play it safe and conclude by saying they "cannot give any specific dates."

People, however, can do their own math. If, in the time since the
sub-aquatic cable was installed, the capacities created can accommodate
a mere 3,700 users a day, it will take centuries before all Cubans of
age and deserving of Internet access have this privilege.

In addition to this, they have announced that rates will be lowered to
US $5.00 (4.50 CUC) for every hour of Internet use, a price which proves
affordable if one connects to the web once every six months, but which
would entail spending US $135 a month if one wanted to do so, for 1
hour, at least once a day.

A Cuban's average monthly salary is of US $20. Supposing that, in a
given family, there are two people earning this salary and a couple of
pensioners receiving US$ 10, plus a relative in Miami who sends them US
$50 every month, they would have to devote the family's entire income to
pay the cybercafé bill.

The problem, apparently, is that ETECSA requires substantial sums of
money, "significant investments", to modernize the country's
technological infrastructure. It shouldn't take long to put together
such money, considering that, with these new cybercafés, the can take in
US $16 thousand a day, some 6 million a year.

Strict Rules on Users

In addition to being expensive, cybercafés will impose strict rules on
users, and authorities will reserve the right to block the account of
any individual who employs the web to carry out actions that "undermine
public safety or the country's integrity, economy, independence and

ETECSA will also "immediately suspend the service if it detects that,
during the navigation session, the user has violated any of the ethical
norms of behavior which the Cuban State has established."

In a nutshell, no politics and no sex. I imagine that the slogan of
these cybercafés will be something along the lines of "A healthy
Internet for the Cuban family." A system of filters which block access
to a number of ideologically or morally "offensive" sites is already in

Political censorship on the web is rather "tropical": though some sites
operated by Cubans living in Miami are blocked, the main newspaper of
Cuban exiles can be freely accessed by cybernauts on the island. In the
case of Spain, one anti-Castro page is blocked and another isn't, though
both publish pretty much the same information.

When it comes to moral matters, however, censors evince the puritanism
of a small-town parish priest. In their crusade against pornography,
they block new pages containing videos, photographs, contacts, stories
or any kind of eroticism – literally nothing gets past them.

They are also particularly intolerant of any commercial use of the web.
Cuba's main classifieds page,, is blocked. There isn't a
single Internet user in Cuba, however, who does not know how to use a
proxy to evade the official filters and access these ads.

The most surprising restriction, however, is that people under 18 will
not be allowed to navigate the Internet at these cybercafés. It looks as
though junior and senior secondary school students will have to
cultivate a good deal of patience and wait until they reach university
to get to know what the Internet is all about.

We would well be justified in describing Cuba's current strategy for the
expansion of Internet services, which leaders in the sector insist will
lead to a luminous future of web connectivity, as a piecemeal tactic.
(*) An authorized HT translation of the original posted in Spanish by
BBC Mundo.


Last Update 30 May 2013
38th FIDH Congress
23-27 mai 2013
Istanbul (Turkey)


« On civil and political rights in Cuba »

1. Although the situation of economic, social and cultural rights in
Cuba has been less bad under the present government, which has been in
power for 54 years, there has been no improvement in civil and political
rights. The situation obtaining in Cuba could even be considered as the
worst situation in all of Latin America since the civil and political
rights have been reduced.
2. The 38th Congress takes note of the recent amendments to the law and
administrative practices, which have encouraged, inter alia, greater job
opportunities for independent workers. The measures have also made it
possible for dozens of human rights defenders and pro-democracy
activists to leave and return to the country, e.g. The representative of
the CCDHRN (the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation), who had not been authorised to leave the country for
eleven years.
3. We encourage the Cuban Government to ratify, without delay, the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the U.N.
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, signed five years ago,
to take the necessary steps to guarantee their implementation on the
Island and to reinstate the abolition of the death penalty, in keeping
with the spirit of the 1940 Constitution.
4. We also encourage the Cuban Government to agree to cooperate with the
ICRC and other NGOS that work on human rights and wish to send missions
with pre-established goals, and with the United Nations Special and
Thematic Rapporteurs.
5. We encourage all parties in contact with the Cuban Government,
especially the European Union, to prioritise the very fundamental
question of human rights in their bilateral discussions with the

In Vietnam, a Cuban rat poison finds new market

Posted on Thursday, 05.30.13

In Vietnam, a Cuban rat poison finds new market
Associated Press

HANOI, Vietnam -- His wares banned in much of the world, the Vietnamese
salesman hawking a rat poison laced with salmonella sought to prove the
bait was as safe as claimed. He sliced open a packet with a pair of
rusty scissors, dipped his finger into the sticky, bad-smelling rice,
brought out a few grains and then chewed them gingerly.

"It tastes a little bitter, that's all," said Nong Minh Suu. He chose
not to swallow the unhulled grains, instead spitting them out after a
few seconds before lighting a cigarette. "When rats eat this, 100
percent of them will be killed. It is absolutely safe to human health."

Rat poisons normally come with warnings against human consumption and
medical directions about what to do if accidentally eaten. Not so
"Biorat," a bait produced in Vietnam by a Cuban-state owned company that
earns foreign exchange for the Castro government.

The company claims the salmonella strain it includes is "harmless" to
everything - humans, the environment, pets and other animal species -
apart from rats. That is disputed by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, a U.S. federal government agency, and other international
health institutions including the World Health Organization.

Biorat's production and sale in Vietnam is a legacy of the cozy ties
between Cuba and Vietnam, two nations on opposite sides of the world but
whose leaders are bound together by a public embrace of Communism. By
operating here, the company, called Labiofam, can import ingredients
free of any complications stemming from the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba
that has been in force since the early 1960s.

It also gives it a base to try and enter new markets in Southeast Asia.
The company is currently installing a new, automated production line at
its Vietnam factory in preparation for a push in the region, where
demand for rat poison is growing along with its population of rats,
which nibble their way through at least 15 percent of the region's
annual rice crop.

Labiofam produces an array of products alongside Biorat, from cancer
treatments made from the stings of scorpions, larvacides that target
mosquitoes, pesticides, even a probiotic range of yoghurt. They are
marketed across the developing world, mostly in African and South
American countries, where the company leverages government-to-government
links forged in the Cold War and by the ongoing deployment of teams of
Cuban health workers.

Salmonella, the name given to a group of bacteria, is the most common
cause of food poisoning in the United States. In 2011, it was
responsible for around 1 million illnesses and at least 29 deaths,
according to the CDC. Most people infected with Salmonella develop
diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting. It is especially
dangerous for young children and the elderly.

A strain of salmonella was used in rat poisons in Europe until the
1960s, but it was linked to several deaths and illnesses in humans,
triggering the ban. Labiofam says it has isolated a different strain to
that used in those preparations, but the CDC says its research shows it
is the same. A 2004 report by the American agency even warned that it
could be used in a bioterrorism attack.

"There are too many questions, why would you want to use something that
has not been cleared by the CDC," said Grant Singleton, an expert on
rodent biology and management at the International Rice Research
Institute. "Its efficacy is questionable. I have not seen anything
published in mainstream peer-reviewed scientific papers to demonstrate
it's effective."

Singleton also pointed to an ingredient in the poison that its makers
rarely mention: a small amount of warfarin, a chemical rodenticide in
its own right, and suggested that it could be the agent that is killing
rats. Company marketing literature refers to the chemical only as a
"catalyst" though on the packet it is listed as warfarin.

The company said criticism of its product was a result of American
hostility to the country and commercial jealousy. There are no
documented deaths or illnesses as a result of using the product in
Vietnam or other countries.

"It is quite complicated, but this all comes down to politics," said
Gustavo Junco Matos, the head of the company in Vietnam, in an interview
at a trade stand in Hanoi where the product was on display next to
Cuba's better known exports: rum and cigars. "Ours is a biological
product and only causes damages to rats."

The Vietnamese government, which controls all media in the country and
doesn't allow for open discussion and criticism of its decisions,
acknowledged that the product was banned in some countries, but said
there was nothing to worry about. "We use it and find that it's
effective and it's good in Vietnamese conditions," said Nguyen Xuan
Hong, director of the plant protection department at the agriculture

Biorat's backers admit it has disadvantages: it is more expensive than
most of its chemical competitors and needs to be refrigerated, adding to
costs for distributors. But it has captured market share in several
regions, something helped by government subsidies toward its purchase
when it first hit the market 10 years ago, according to Suu.

There is so far little sign of Biorat getting much traction in Asian
markets, even with the backing of the Cuban diplomats who are tasked
with promoting it via its embassies in the region. Biorat demonstrations
have been held in the Philippines and Indonesia, but so far its sales
push has only resulted in one import license, that of Malaysia,
according to the company.

Most of the 2,000 tones the factory and 100 workers produce each year is
shipped to Angola, Biorat's number one market and a country that the
Castro regime gave massive military, humanitarian and development
support to from its 1960s independence struggle onwards. The company
declined to reveal its global revenues.

At least one other Labiofam product has run into problems. The marketing
of its larvacide as a major weapon in the battle against malaria in
Africa has been criticized by international health organizations, which
says larvacides have only a limited role to play.

"They do a very good job in getting governments to pay a lot of money
for products that appear to be deficient," said Maria Werlau, a
Cuban-American analyst from the U.S.-based Association for the Study of
the Cuban Economy and a critic of President Raul Castro's government.
"You don't have the same kind of accountability (in Cuba) that there is
in other countries. There is no way to scrutinize what is going on.
That's why they market these products in the developing world."

Rats have been feasting in Asia paddy fields since famers began
cultivating it around 12,000 years ago, but an increase in the number of
yearly harvests in many regions has meant more for them to feed on. As
rat numbers increase, so does the economic cost: a loss of just 7
percent of Asia's rice crop is enough rice to feed 245 million people
for 12 months.

Farmers in Vietnam often build plastic fences around their plots, which
can protect them but only shifts the problem to neighbors. Trapping and
electrocution, supposedly banned because of the risks posed to farmers
of accidental electrocution, are common, but for many farmers poison is
the weapon of choice, either routinely or when an infestation strikes.

Cao Thi Huong has been using Biorat for more than 10 years, spending
around $30 on treating her small plot two times a year. She lives close
to Suu's house, where boxes of Biorat are kept in large refrigerators at
the back of the garden close to a chicken coop. "Personally speaking, I
think it's better than the chemical," she said.

24 Cuban migrants returned home by Coast Guard

Posted on Thursday, 05.30.13

24 Cuban migrants returned home by Coast Guard
The Associated Press

MIAMI -- The Coast Guard has returned a total of 24 Cuban migrants to
their Caribbean homeland this past week.

Coast Guard officials say a U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft
spotted a "rustic vessel" in the waters southwest of Key West on
Saturday. The Coast Guard dispatched a cutter and retrieved 11 Cubans
from the vessel.

Two days earlier, Coast Guard watchstanders received a report of
suspected migrants aboard an unseaworthy vessel and diverted a cutter,
whose crew embarked 13 Cubans.

Both groups of migrants were taken to Bahia de Cabanas, Cuba, after
receiving food, water and medical care aboard Coast Guard vessels.

About half of the more than 1,000 migrants picked up at sea by the Coast
Guard since Oct. 1 have been Cuban. Of the other half, most are Haitian.

Russian oil company suspends exploration in Cuba

Posted on Friday, 05.31.13

Russian oil company suspends exploration in Cuba
By Juan O. Tamayo

A Russian state oil company drilling off Cuba's northern shores has
reportedly confirmed that it is temporarily halting its exploration —
the fourth disappointment for Cuba's dreams of energy self-sufficiency
in less than two years.

The announcement by Zarubezhneft signaled an end to the only active
exploration program on the island, which now relies on highly subsidized
oil from the beleaguered Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Zarubezhneft confirmed this week that it was halting work due to
"geological" problems but added that it will resume its exploration next
year, the Reuters news agency reported Thursday in a dispatch from Havana.

The Russians withdrawal had been expected because the Norwegian company
that owns the drilling platform they have been leasing, the Songa
Mercur, already had announced that it would be leaving Cuban waters in
July for another contract.

Zarubezhneft's confirmation, nevertheless, signals "another
disappointment" for Cuba's dreams of finding oil in its waters, said
Jorge Pinon, a Cuba energy expert at the University of Texas in Austin.

The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that Cuba's offshore waters
have "significant undiscovered conventional oil potential" — between 4.6
billion and 9.3 billion barrels. Cuban officials estimate the potential
reserves at 20 billion.

"This is the second geological area in Cuba that … seemed to be
promising," Pinon said of Zarubezhneft's exploration block. But finding
the oil means "you have to go into your pocket to drill exploratory wells."

Spain's Repsol oil company spent $100 million in the early part of 2012
unsuccessfully exploring with the Scarabeo 9 drilling platform,
especially built in China to avoid the restrictions of the U.S. embargo,
in deep waters northwest of Havana.

Petronas of Malaysia, Russia's Gazprom and Petroleos de Venezuela SA
(PDVSA) later leased the Scarabeo platform but also struck out, and the
rig left Cuban waters at the end of last year.

Zarubezhneft then gave it a try, leasing the Songa Mercur to explore
waters not as deep and east of Havana starting late last year.
Neighboring Bahamas also has expressed interest in that area, but the
Russians also drilled a dry hole.

The Russians are considered likely to meet their promise to return next
year because President Vladimir Putin's government has been pushing hard
to warm up political and commercial ties with Moscow's one-time allies
in Havana.

Cuba's oil explorations have caused concern among U.S. environmentalists
and tourism officials that any spills would impact the entire Eastern
Seaboard, from the Florida Keys to Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

Supporters of improving U.S. relations with Cuba argued that Washington
should allow American oil firms to get a piece of the potential profits.
The U.S. embargo adds about 20 percent to that island's exploration
costs, according to Cuban officials

Repsol publicly allowed U.S. officials to inspect the Scarabeo rig
before it reached Cuban waters. Zarubezhneft privately allowed the U.S.
inspectors to examine the Songa Mercur, according to some reports.

Zarubezhneft's announcement means that for at least the next couple of
years Cuba will have to continue relying on the estimated 96,000 barrels
of oil it receives each day from Venezuela – about two thirds of its

Under highly advantageous deals signed by the late President Hugo
Chávez, Cuba pays for part of the already subsidized oil with the vastly
overpriced salaries that Venezuela pays for the 45,000 medical and other
personnel working in the South American country.

Maduro has promised Cuba that he will continue the subsidies, but
Venezuela's oil production has been shrinking, its economy is in turmoil
and the president's political rivals are pushing for his removal.

Cuban blogger Sanchez back after world tour

Posted on Thursday, 05.30.13

Cuban blogger Sanchez back after world tour
Associated Press

HAVANA -- Blogger Yoani Sanchez returned Thursday to the island homeland
that officially considers her a traitor, concluding a more than
three-month globe-trotting tour that cemented her status as the most
internationally recognizable face of Cuba's small dissident community.

Sanchez emerged from the airport in the evening, hugged her husband and
son and greeted about a dozen relatives and friends who were on hand.

"It has been a marvelous trip," she told reporters gathered at the
terminal. "A trip that is going to change my life in many ways ... and I
have returned with lots of projects."

Pleading exhaustion after a trans-oceanic flight capping a journey that
lasted more than 100 days, she asked for time alone with her family and
said she would speak more of her future plans after resting.

Sanchez has been on the road since Feb. 17, when she took advantage of a
new reform ending a longtime requirement that all Cubans obtain
permission to travel abroad. Under the old rules, government critics who
are branded as "counterrevolutionary" sellouts were routinely denied
exit visas.

Sanchez visited more than a dozen countries in Europe and the Americas
and gave speeches criticizing President Raul Castro's Communist-led
government. She also met with human rights activists and foreign
lawmakers, and cultivated relationships with journalists at leading
Western newspapers.

In the process she picked up more than 100,000 new Twitter followers to
top the half-million mark.

She is less well-known at home, however. Of 20 Cubans surveyed
informally by The Associated Press this week in Havana, just seven said
they had heard her name, and several of those were unclear on exactly
who she was. Only three were aware of her global tour.

Her challenge now is to try to change that.

Sanchez has said a main goal of the trip was to prepare herself to
launch an independent online newspaper in Cuba, something will surely
rankle local authorities.

The government, for its part, will be closely scrutinized abroad for how
it treats her. At the same time, by allowing her to travel it has
undercut accusations from foreign capitals and human rights groups that
it essentially held its citizens hostage through the now-scrapped exit
visa requirement.

A number of other dissidents have also tested authorities' patience
since the January migration reform by going overseas and publicly
bashing their government, and some have reported various levels of
harassment upon their return.

Eliecer Avila said he was taken aside at the airport and subjected to an
exhaustive search in which agents examined every item in his luggage and
confiscated 26 books.

"They pulled me out of the line and had me in there for four hours and
15 minutes," Avila said. "They took pictures of everything."

Sanchez, however, said she sailed through immigration and customs.

Analysts say Sanchez's rising international fame likely insulates her
physically from arrest. She has told people close to her she expects to
be the target of less detention but more propaganda offensives by the
government and its allies.

A twitter account with the handle Yohandry Fontana, which fiercely
defends Castro's government and is harshly critical of Sanchez and other
dissidents, went on the attack even before her plane was wheels-down.

"Today (is) the arrival of Yoani Sanchez to (hashtag)Cuba, the
vacationer who received 90 days of training to topple the island's
government," Fontana tweeted.

Earlier Thursday, Sanchez sent out a stream of messages recalling high-
and lowlights of the tour, from hugging her sister in Florida and
visiting the site of the fallen Berlin Wall to raucous protests by
pro-Castro demonstrators who razzed her at several stops. She also
thanked those who lent material and emotional support for the trip.

Before boarding her plane in Madrid, she posted a photo of herself at
the airport lugging a small blue suitcase emblazoned with the logo of
her Generation Y blog.

"Ready to leave for Cuba," she tweeted, accompanied by a smiley-face
emoticon matching her own expression in the picture.

Cuba rejects continued inclusion on US terror list

Posted on Thursday, 05.30.13

Cuba rejects continued inclusion on US terror list
The Associated Press

HAVANA -- Havana is forcefully condemning a U.S. government decision to
keep Cuba on its annual list of state sponsors of terrorism.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry calls it an "arbitrary and
unilateral" ruling that cynically aims to justify the 51-year economic
embargo and placate the Cuban exile lobby.

It says Cuban soil will never be used to accommodate terrorists or
organize violent acts against any nation.

Cuba rejects charges it harbors Basque militants and Colombian FARC
rebels, noting that it is hosting peace talks between the FARC and the
Colombian government.

President Raul Castro's government recently condemned the Boston
Marathon bombings.

The Foreign Ministry statement was read out on the Thursday evening
state TV news.

Havana provides safe haven to US fugitives - State Department

Posted on Friday, 05.31.13

State Department: Havana provides safe haven to US fugitives
By Juan O. Tamayo

Cuba is harboring and supporting U.S. fugitives but may be trying to
distance itself from two dozen members of a Basque terrorist group who
live on the island, according to the State Department's annual Country
Report on Terrorism released Thursday.

The report for 2012 is totally separate from the department's list of
state sponsors of terrorism, which now includes Cuba, Iran, Syria and
Sudan and subjects those nations to a special set of U.S. economic and
other sanctions.

Advocates of keeping or removing Cuba from the list awaited the 2012
report with special interest because of media reports earlier this year,
flatly denied by the State Department, that Secretary of State John
Kerry would take Havana off the list.

The Cuba section of the 2012 report appeared to be similar to the
section in 2011, with both noting that Havana authorities are continuing
to harbor fugitives wanted in the United States and supporting them with
housing, ration books and medical care.

One such fugitive is Joanne Chesimard, on the FBI's "most wanted
terrorist" list since 2005. A Black Panther who was convicted in the
1973 murder of New Jersey State Trooper, she escaped from prison in 1979
and turned up in Havana in 1984. The FBI hiked the reward offered for
her capture to $2 million in April.

"There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or
paramilitary training to terrorist groups," the 2012 report said, in
wording almost exactly the same as in the 2011 report.

Both reports also noted "suggestions" that Havana has tried to distance
itself from members of Spain's Basque Homeland and Liberty (ETA),
classified by Washington as a terrorist group, who live in Cuba by "not
providing services, including travel documents, to some of them."

The 2012 version adds that two dozen ETA members are living in Cuba.

Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also classified
as a terror group, received refuge in Cuba in past years, according to
the latest version. The 2011 report noted that FARC members had received
medical assistance. The FARC and Colombian government are currently
holding peace talks in Havana.

Both reports also noted that the U.S. Financial Actions Task Force has
identified Cuba as having "strategic … deficiencies" in the fight
against terrorism financing and money laundering. The latest report adds
that Cuba has now joined a regional body designed for that purpose.

Cuba has been on the separate U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism
since 1982. Havana also is on a separate U.S. government list, with
Venezuela and others, of countries that are not "cooperating fully with
United States antiterrorism efforts."

To remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors, the White House is
required to notify the U.S. Congress that Cuba has not engaged in
terrorism for some time and promised not to do so again.

Britons on trial in Cuba corruption crackdown

Posted on Thursday, 05.30.13

Britons on trial in Cuba corruption crackdown
The Associated Press

HAVANA -- Two British businessmen targeted in a corruption probe in Cuba
went on trial Thursday, as authorities continue to press a crackdown on
graft that has caught up several other foreigners and dozens of islanders.

A court official identified suspects Amado Fakhre, a British citizen of
Lebanese origin who was executive director of Coral Capital Group, and
fellow Briton Stephen Purvis, the investment firm's chief of operations.

A half-dozen Cubans were also being tried in the case.

Coral Capital partnered with government entities on hotel management and
represented automobile companies in Cuba until it was shuttered in 2011.

Purvis was seen entering a Havana building that houses a special
tribunal Thursday morning, wearing a checkered shirt and escorted by an
apparent state security agent.

He did not speak to reporters. The Cuban government did not comment on
the case or allow media access to the proceedings.

Automobiles with license plates identifying them as belonging to the
British Embassy in Havana suggested that U.K. diplomats were on hand to

Canadian businessman Sarkis Yacoubian, president of another company,
Tri-Star Caribbean, went on trial last week in the same courthouse on
reported charges of bribery, tax evasion and "activities damaging to the

No verdict has been issued in Yacoubian's case.

Another Canadian man, Cy Tokmakjian of the Tokmakjian Group, is also
expected to go on trial shortly.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Havana, Between Filth and Social Indiscipline / Ivan Garcia

Havana, Between Filth and Social Indiscipline / Ivan Garcia
Posted on May 29, 2013

Although a sputtering Russian-made truck and its crew passed through the
Sevillano neighborhood picking up trash and garbage in the streets the
night before, debris had once again accumulated on the street corners by

"It never ends. At dawn every morning we go through areas of Diez de
Octubre picking up trash. We take tons of waste to the dump, but a
little later the street corners are overflowing with junk again," says
Orlando, a 35-year-old sanitation worker.

Directly facing the Plaza Roja in the heart of the Havana neighborhood
of La Víbora, there is an unoccupied building where neighbors dump
significant quantities of trash. Every so often large dump trucks and a
bulldozer carry off the piles of debris. A few days later the building
is once again filled with refuse and discarded objects.

The garbage trucks cannot always make their rounds. The drivers do what
they can with the aging fleet. Many of the vehicles remain idle due to a
lack of spare parts. Widespread indifference leads some people to steal
the wheels off the trash containers to make pushcarts. Or for fun, gangs
of youths turn trashcans over into the streets.

Public health and epidemiological officials launch media campaigns in an
effort to stem the illegal dumping, but they have little effect.

"Havana as a city is extremely vulnerable to diseases associated with a
lack of cleanliness. Unhealthy conditions as well as rats, mice,
mosquitoes as well as poor water treatment can lead to skin infections,
cholera and dengue fever," says a specialist.

In spite of some outbreaks of dengue fever and cholera, Havana has not
seen large-scale epidemics — at least not yet — even though dengue fever
has reached almost epidemic proportions.

Because potable water is not available 24 hours a day, a large segment
of the population is forced to store water in containers, and not always
in the most hygienic or careful way. As a result mosquito larvae
carrying hemorrhagic dengue fever can be difficult to eliminate.

"Ending the cycle of the dengue epidemic has so far proved to be
impossible. As long as current living conditions in Cuba persist, trying
to eradicate dengue is like tilting at windmills," says the head of a
brigade which fumigates houses in an attempt to prevent the illness.

A shortage of trash bins means pedestrians often throw peanut wrappers,
beer cans and other pieces of trash into the street. Because there are
fewer public restrooms — especially in bars, cafes and nightclubs — at
night many people urinate or defecate in public thoroughfares, on street
corners or in building stairways.

Public apathy and societal discontent among certain segments of the
population manifest themselves in acts of petty vandalism towards public
telephones, automatic teller machines and city buses.

The filth and stench have turned the capital into the dirtiest city on
the island. A shortage of trashcans and public idleness have caused the
streets to overflow with refuse and debris.

"If the accumulation of dirt and poor water treatment continue, an
epidemic of huge proportions could be unleashed in Havana in the near
future," warns an epidemiologist. We have been lucky so far.

Iván García

18 May 2013

The Food Aid Problem Continues for People with HIV/AIDS in Cuba

The Food Aid Problem Continues for People with HIV/AIDS in Cuba /
Ignacio Estrada
Posted on May 29, 2013
By Ignacio Estrada

Havana, Cuba – The population affected by HIV/AIDS in Cuba is still not
receiving oil as part of the aid from the United Nations Global Fund.

The Cuban community living with this disease has been living without aid
since late 2012 and this continues to date. The aid was restored only a
month ago and is expected to be only a total of 22 cans of sausages for
all the rest of the year. Meanwhile vegetable oil has not been deposited
in the warehouses for distribution.

According to what we learned, the food aid being delivered has only been
approved for two years, due to continued growth of the population that
lives with HIV/AIDS in Cuba, figures which are kept a state secret by
the authorities in power. The appearance of these figures in the media
would put in the public arena the uncertain efforts of the faltering
health system.

It is important to clarify that aid provided by the UN relieves the lack
of products on the island and is a relief for every home where a person
lives with the disease.

I asked one of the UN officials in Havana — who preferred that his name
not be mentioned — "Why did the help end before the scheduled time?" and
he unhesitatingly replied, "The health authorities on the island receive
help for a specific number of affected, which are backed by our project.
Each year in Cuba new cases are detected and they are given the help of
the already approved initial figure. This fact makes the products run
out sooner than expected and causes the bumps from one year to another…"

The truth is that this year the population that lives with HIV/AIDS has
received as aid only hot dogs and there is already talk of a second
round with the same amount but vegetable oil is conspicuously absent.
What many do not know is that even apparently after the next installment
Cuba will say a final farewell to an aid which for years has palliated
the hunger and the needs of the sick on the island.

27 May 2013

Cuban oil hopes sputter as Russians give up for now on well

Cuban oil hopes sputter as Russians give up for now on well
Thu May 30, 2013 3:16am IST

* Russians say they will resume drilling next year
* Cuba seeking to end dependence on Venezuelan oil
* Several companies still interested in Cuba's offshore
By Jeff Franks

HAVANA, May 29 (Reuters) - Russian state-owned oil company Zarubezhneft
said this week it was giving up for now on a problem-plagued exploration
well off Cuba's north-central coast, which brings to an end the
communist-led island's only active project in its search for offshore
oil fields.

The news was not all bad because the company said it would return to the
same spot next year. But it was another blow to Cuba's hopes for energy
independence, which have acquired new urgency with the March death of
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the communist-led island's top ally
and benefactor.

The Russians' plan to drill 6,500 meters (21,325 feet) below the sea
floor and hopefully find oil appears to have been derailed by the same
issue that others have encountered in Cuban waters - difficult geology -
as well as problems with its rig, the Songa Mercur, which at one point
lost its blowout preventer.

"Taking into consideration geological complications, Zarubezhneft and
(Cuban state oil company) Cubapetroleo have jointly decided to make
changes in the initial drilling program by dividing it into two stages,"
the company told Reuters this week.

"The second stage of exploration work on Block L is due to be launched
in 2014," it said, declining to comment further. The well, begun five
months ago, was in shallow water about 200 miles (320 km) east of
Havana, near the popular tourist destination Cayo Santa Maria.

The premature end of the Zarubezhneft well was not totally unexpected
because Songa Offshore, owner of the Songa Mercur, earlier said the rig
would leave by June 1 for a project in Southeast Asia. It had originally
been scheduled to stay in Cuba until July 1.

There was a Russian press report that the rig would come back for
another attempt by Zarubezhneft, but Songa Offshore Chairman Jens
Wilhelmsen told Reuters the report was "completely without foundation."

"We have not any agreement that Mercur will return and we have not
received any inquiries from Zarubezhneft that they want it back," he
said. "So I can just deny that Mercur will return."


All of which means that Cuba is back to square one in its quest to tap
into fields off its northern coast that it says may hold 20 billion
barrels of oil. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated a more modest
4.6 billion barrels.

In the last year, Spain's Repsol SA, Malaysia's Petronas and Venezuela's
PDVSA sank wells in waters more than a mile deep off Cuba's northern and
western coasts. They all came up dry, and encountered a thick layer of
dense rock difficult to drill through.

The Caribbean island's hopes now lie with projects under consideration
that may or may not come to fruition and are likely at least a year or
more away if they do. Should oil be found, it would take another three
to five years to put it into production, experts say.

Time is of the essence for Cuba because, under a generous deal made with
Chavez, it gets 110,000 barrels per day, or two-thirds of its oil, from
Venezuela in exchange for the services of more than 40,000 Cubans, most
of them doctors and other medical personnel.

Chavez's successor, President Nicolas Maduro, vowed during a recent
visit to Havana to keep the oil flowing, but he faces mounting economic
problems and political pressure from opponents to stop shipping oil to Cuba.

Repsol, which also drilled an unsuccessful well in deep water near
Havana in 2004, pulled out of Cuba, but some of the other oil partners
are still around.

Petronas is continuing to conduct seismic studies in the four blocks it
leases with Russian partner Gazprom and is considering another well, as
is Venezuela's PDVSA, which has four blocks at Cuba's western tip,
industry and diplomatic sources said.

A unit of India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp, which had a share of the
Repsol wells, has two offshore blocks of its own and has been looking
for a partner to drill a well.


In a development that is potentially both interesting and controversial,
Norway's Statoil ASA, which also partnered with Repsol, appears to be
looking at possibilities on Cuba's mostly unexplored Caribbean side.

A Cubapetroleo map on display at a recent geosciences conference in
Havana indicated that as of last November, Cuba was in negotiations with
the Norwegian oil giant to lease three large blocks along the central
and southeastern coast, between the archipelago of the Gardens of the
Queen and the coast in the Gulf of Ana Maria and the Gulf of Guacanayabo.

Statoil does not comment on pending projects, but industry sources said
it may just be sniffing around as it does all over the world looking for
oil prospects and that its level of interest remains to be seen. The
company has not mentioned Cuba in its drilling plans for the next two years.

It is likely also mindful of the sensitivity and potential dangers of
drilling near the Garden of the Queens, which is regarded as one of the
world's most pristine coral reefs and whose preservation as such has
become a cause for international environmental groups.

The same Cubapetroleo map showed that a Brazilian firm, Synergy Corp,
was in negotiations for a near-shore block on Cuba's north coast that
state-owned Petrobras abandoned two years ago, citing poor prospects.

Attempts to reach Synergy for comment were unsuccessful.

A number of factors are working against Cuba's oil hopes, among them the
political and logistical difficulties imposed by the long-standing U.S.
trade embargo against the island.

The embargo makes it difficult to find rigs that do not violate its
limitations on the use of U.S. technology in Cuba and, according to
experts, adds an estimated 20 percent to costs because everything in the
project has to be shipped in from distant, non-U.S. sources.

There is also Cuba's history of failed wells, which makes it hard to
compete for the oil industry's interest in a world where there are many
other areas with proven oil reserves.

"It is very difficult today with other opportunities out there for a
major oil company to justify going to Cuba and spending what will
certainly be over $100 million in areas where it is yet to be proven
they have recoverable reserves," said Jorge Pinon, an expert on Cuban
oil at the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy at the University
of Texas in Austin.

"It is going to be extremely challenging (for Cuba)," he said.

Fake Money and Picture IDs

Cuba: Fake Money and Picture IDs
May 29, 2013
Vicente Morín Aguado

HAVANA TIMES — The grocer at the bodega on my block, a man well liked in
our neighborhood, has put up a sign which reads: "Notice: Anyone making
purchases with 50 or 100-peso bills must show me their photo ID. No

Asking around, I found out the man had been paid with a fake one-hundred
peso note, yet another victim of the veritable invasion of counterfeit
money Havana is experiencing. A neighbor of mine tells me they haven't
yet found the printers, true counterfeiting masters. She says that if
you place the notes side by side, real next to fake, it's almost
impossible to tell them apart.

I get a little concerned, thinking this might be an instruction handed
down from the Ministry of Domestic Trade. Clerks at other shops set the
record straight: "No, no such instruction's has ordered that. That's
just your grocer being silly."

I say goodbye to my friend at the Cuatro Caminos market and head to La
Segunda Estrella, a very popular cafeteria, where my friend Mario, who
has worked many years behind a counter, tells me: "the bills are
identical; they even have the security watermark."

I ask him whether one sees Jose Martí, Cuba's great martyr, when one
looks at the bill against the light. "You see him, Vicente. You can only
tell it's fake if you wet your fingers and rub the note, because the ink
runs. Your grocer is going to need a glass of water and a lot of
patience to check each note, by the looks of it!"

That's a bit much, I think to myself. People don't often make large
purchases at a bodega and pay with fifty or one hundred peso notes even
less often. Of course, this doesn't make my grocer feel any better over
being shafted like that, because that money will need to come out of his
own pocket, and because he feels cheated by people he has been serving
for years in the neighborhood. My concerns, rather, surround this whole
business of showing ID, as no one, at least not the competent
authorities, has issued any instruction in this connection.

In Cuba, it is mandatory to carry personal identification – a document
created by the State as a means of controlling the population – at all
times. The police may request to see it, at their discretion, whenever
they deem it necessary.

If you don't have it on you, the police are authorized to take you to a
station, fine you and lock you away until they have determined your
identity or, of course, until your ID turns up.

Decades ago, Cuban citizens had approved of this law, regarding it as
something positive without thinking about its future consequences. We
placed a lot of trust in our government, in this and many other matters.
It was only years later that we began to see the repercussions of our trust.

Today, the personal identification document can be requested by any
figure of authority at an entity whose services one requires, and one
must produce it, lest not be denied the treatment that one deserves.

For example, you head to the Computer Sciences Center to get the last
update for an antivirus and, if you don't show them your ID, you get
anything. The same thing happens when you need to leave your belongings
in a checkroom to go into a store or if you're seen conversing with a
foreigner on the street.

This business of asking for one's ID upon payment dates back to the
1990s, when the U.S. dollar began to circulate, along with the Cuban
peso, in Cuba's domestic market. If you paid with a fifty or a
one-hundred greenback note, it was mandatory for the person collecting
to write down the serial number on the note and the personal information
of the individual making the purchase.

Now, to make matters more complicated, the managers of many locales
offering different services have made this a requirement, of their own
free will. At this pace, I will likely have to apply for a new ID card
soon, for the plastic is beginning to peel off from so much handling,
and, if they ask for it at the bank or police station, where it actually
is mandatory to show it, I will be denied service or fined, justifiably,
for the questionable state it's in.

This last remark, made by a concerned neighbor, takes me to the end of
this chronicle, leading us, full circle, back to the beginning.
According to the newspapers, this year, the Personal Identification
Document all Cubans currently have, known as the "CI", will be replaced
with a new, high-security card which is more practical as a means of
verifying personal information.

At this pace, I will likely have to apply for a new ID card soon, for
the plastic is beginning to peel off from so much handling, and, if they
ask for it at the bank or police station, where it actually is mandatory
to show it, I will be denied service or fined, justifiably, for the
questionable state it's in.

In the meantime, the streets are still a mess, waiting for a modicum of
order which refuses to arrive. Yesterday, I was walking down Monte
Street, away from the Parque de la Fraternidad, overwhelmed by the heat
of our early summer. I see a brewery, the kind that serve beer on tap,
and ask for a pint.

Imagine my surprise when the waiter, a young man whose swarthy
complexion Cubans colloquially refer to as "indian", says to me: "Fella,
I need your ID." "Why?" I ask him, somewhat taken aback. "Cause the
place is full, people take off and take the mugs with them, and I bought
those mugs myself. If I lose 'em, I can't come in to work tomorrow!"

That is to say, this young man, without being rude, was guaranteeing the
return of the mugs he had purchased by holding on to people's IDs. I
looked him over twice and continued on my way, angry.

The young man called after me, perhaps as a show of respect towards an
older gentleman, to offer me an alternative I, a 56-year-old man, would
find acceptable. I was grateful for the gesture, laughed, paid for the
beer and gave him a USB memory stick as the guarantee of my good behavior.

As I took the first sip of beer, someone nearby said: "Boss, you're on
top of things!" In Cuba, this is a synonym for an uncommon and effective
response to a situation that is out of the ordinary.

Between truth and falsity, we continue to stumble along.
Vicente Morín Aguado:

Cuba Keeps Private Internet on Hold

Cuba Keeps Private Internet on Hold
May 29, 2013

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban authorities ruled out today widespread Internet
access to homes on the island, despite the expansion of public
infrastructure, reported dpa news.

"It is foreseen that [someday] Cubans may have a connection at home, but
the initial priority under the current circumstances, is for public
access," at government cybercafés, said Cuban Vice Minister of
Communications, Wilfredo Gonzalez Vidal, in an interview published today
in the official Granma newspaper.

The aim is "to reach a greater number of people with the least
investment," he said.

The Cuban authorities announced Tuesday the opening of 118 cybercafés
across the country, thanks to the fiber optic submarine cable laid from

Gonzalez ruled out that the restrictions on home connections are
politically motivated, as people opposing the government contend. "We
reiterate that there are no other limitations than the technological and
financial ones," he said.

The island does not allow private access to the network to its citizens.
Only public institutions, foreign companies and some journalists,
officials and artists can have a connection at home.

Opponents like blogger Yoani Sanchez accuse the government of Raul
Castro of fearing the free flow of information on the net. Sanchez, who
became known for her criticism of the Castro regime in her blog
Generation Y, says she connects to the Internet at the exorbitant prices
(around US $9.00 per hour) at Havana hotels.
Besides the opening of 118 cafes nationwide (12 in the capital), Cuban
authorities announced Tuesday a substantial improvement in the
infrastructure on the island.

This is due to the entry into operation of the fiber optic cable laid
from Venezuela, one of the most anticipated and controversial projects
in recent years.

The cable, a project in cooperation with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, should
improve the very poor internet access on the island, one of the worst in
the world. Until recently, the connection was made only through satellite.

The laying of the submarine cable from Venezuela, which also extends
from Cuba to Jamaica, originally was to be ready in July 2011. Raul
Castro's government, however, was silent on the project until January of
this year.

"The submarine fiber optic cable is already providing services,"
Gonzalez confirmed today.

The new offering of the cafes, in addition to about 200 facilities
already available in hotels in the tourism sector, reduced the price to
US $5.00 per hour of Internet access. This, however, remains high
compared to international standards and exorbitant for Cubans who have
an average US $20 per month salary.

The high priced Internet at the public facilities favors Cubans who
receive remittances especially from the USA and others who have some way
to earn hard currency instead of the devalued regular Cuban peso.

How Cubans Recycle Disposable Diapers

How Cubans Recycle Disposable Diapers
May 29, 2013
Mercedes Gonzalez Amade

HAVANA TIMES — Becoming a mother is one of the greatest challenges a
woman can take on. Today, faced with endless financial woes, women have
to work miracles to give their children what's best.

In Cuba, nearly all baby products are sold in hard currency stores, at
prices that are exorbitant for anyone living on a basic salary of 250
Cuban pesos (the equivalent of 10 CUCs).

Today, many people are using disposable diapers, or Pampers. At first
glance, they seem to be immensely practical for mothers, saving them
time, energy and – most importantly – money. But things aren't that simple.

These diapers are a good deal while the baby is still small. A package
of extra-small diapers contains anywhere from 20 to 30 diapers. As you
go up in size, however, the price increases and the quality of the
diapers decreases.

If your child is anything like mine, who weighed as much as a
four-month-old baby when he was only two months old, this will take a
big bite out of your paycheck. Cuban women must therefore rely on their
innate ingenuity: in order to save, they recycle.

Let me briefly explain how we do this.

First, you unfold the used diaper and remove the padding. Then, you wash
the body of the diaper and hang it out to dry. Once the diaper has
dried, you fold two cloth diapers in four and stuff them into the pocket
where the padding, or "gut" (as we call it), once was. If the adhesive
has worn off, we use two safety pins to keep the diaper on the baby.

You can do this as many times as you can wash and dry the diaper without
destroying it. Sometimes, the much-needed "guts" are sold at stores,
but, since they're in such high demand, they run out quickly. The cloth
replacement padding is easy to wash, if soiled.

I can confidently say this method is used by 90 % of Cuban women. Though
it is reassuring to know one's child is protected by the diaper, one
must remember that, when the child begins to walk and talk, the diaper
should be removed so that the baby begins to grow out of the habit and
to gain control over his or her sphincter.

Unfortunately, not all mothers are of the same opinion, and I've seen
kids as old as two walking around with the "disposable" diapers.

I also used them for my kid, but, when he turned nine months old, I made
him wear cloth diapers or small jockeys. It took a lot of patience and
effort, but Carlos stopped peeing himself at 10 months, so I was able to
save a fair amount of money. Today, he is eleven. I still keep the cloth
diapers he used back in the day.

Cuba plans to connect homes to Web eventually

Agencia EFE May 29, 2013 21:17

Cuba plans to connect homes to Web eventually

Havana, May 29 (EFE).- Cuba's government plans to bring the Internet
into people's homes, but that is not the "initial priority" of its
overall strategy to expand Web access, Communist Party daily Granma said

"Plans are in the works for Cubans to have a connection in their homes,
but the initial priority under the current circumstances will be the
collective access points so that with less investment we can reach a
larger number of people," Deputy Communications Minister Wilfredo
Gonzalez told the newspaper.

The only barriers on the island to private Internet use are
"technological and financial," he said in an interview.

While the activation in 2011 of an undersea fiber-optic cable linking
Cuba with Venezuela and Jamaica eased some of those technical
constraints, "immediate full Internet access is not possible given the
country's economic possibilities," Gonzalez said.

The deputy minister's remarks came a day after authorities revealed
plans to expand public Web access starting in June by opening new
Internet cafes nationwide.

That decision is part of Havana's official policy of facilitating
"social" access to the Web, even as private Internet use is still

The vast majority of Cubans do not have home Internet access, a
privilege reserved for around 100,000 doctors, journalists, academics,
intellectuals and artists.

"It won't be the market that regulates access to knowledge in our
country," Gonzalez said, adding that Cuba will launch mobile Internet
service "in the relatively near future."

Cuban blogger returns home to unknown future

Posted on Wednesday, 05.29.13

Cuban blogger returns home to unknown future
Associated Press

HAVANA -- One of Cuba's most famous names is returning from a prolonged
global tour on Thursday, but don't expect well-wishers, flowers or
marching bands.

Most islanders won't even know about it.

When Yoani Sanchez touches down on a flight from Madrid on Thursday, she
will step into an unknown future that could bring the dissident blogger
more influence - or significantly more trouble - on this Communist-led
island that has never looked kindly on dissent.

"It is too early to know what it will bring, what impact it will have,"
Sanchez's husband and fellow dissident, Reinaldo Escobar, told The
Associated Press of his wife's highly-publicized travels. "What awaits
her is a lot of work, a lot of responsibility and the possibility to
realize her dreams."

In several tweets early Wednesday, Sanchez said she was returning to
Cuba after a "never-ending trip" and that she was "happy, exhausted and
full of ideas."

For those wondering why she would go back to an island that considers
her a public enemy, Sanchez answered: "Because I am stubborn ... for me,
life is nowhere but in Cuba."

Communist authorities allowed Sanchez and several lesser-known
opposition figures to travel as part of landmark migration reforms that
took effect in January, eliminating exit visa requirements for all Cubans.

She has taken advantage of the newfound freedom by visiting more than a
dozen countries since her trip began Feb. 17, touring the White House,
giving speeches before European and Latin American parliamentarians and
exchanging ideas with luminaries as diverse as Polish politician Lech
Walesa and Cuban-American musician Emilio Estefan.

Sanchez, who has won fame with searing social commentary in her
Generation Y blog and in a steady stream of tweets, has said she wants
to start an independent online newspaper when she returns.

That could put the 37-year-old on a collision course with the government
of President Raul Castro. The island has never shied away from
international opprobrium when it felt its security was at risk.

In 2003, Fidel Castro jailed 75 intellectuals, activists and social
commentators in a notorious crackdown on dissent. But Raul, who took
office in 2006, has freed them amid a slate of social and economic reforms.

Cuba considers all dissidents to be stooges paid by Washington and Miami
to stir up trouble. It had no comment on Sanchez's imminent return.

Observers were divided on how Cuba would react, though they agreed the
government would probably not come down too hard because Sanchez, like
other dissidents, has a very small following on the island.

"International prominence offers her opportunities for future trips and
protection against possible arrest," said Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban
analyst and lecturer at the University of Denver. "But none of that
strengthens her capacity for internal organizing, which is still meager."

Dissidents complain the government controls all media, effectively
shutting them out of public discourse, and say those who openly support
them are harassed and ostracized. But it is also true that after more
than half a century of one-party rule, many Cubans express cynicism
about getting involved in political matters, and don't see the
dissidents as a viable answer to their daily problems.

Of 20 Havana residents polled informally by The Associated Press this
week, only seven said they had heard of Sanchez, and several of those
weren't sure exactly who she was. Just three said they knew about her
international trip.

"It's the first time I ever heard that name," said Irene Solis, 23.

"Who?" asked Rosa Suarez, 34.

Sanchez's obscurity back home is a far cry from the star treatment she
got on the trip, her first off the island after years of being refused
an exit visa.

Over three-plus months, Sanchez visited Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Spain,
Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Norway,
Holland and the United States, where she met with senior members of
President Barack Obama's staff.

She spoke to international human rights leaders, gave speeches at U.S.
universities and toured the New York offices of Google and Twitter. In
Miami, she received hearty ovations from Cuban exiles and marveled at
encountering a "Cuba outside Cuba."

She strolled the sun-kissed beaches of Rio de Janeiro, tweeted a photo
of a Picasso masterpiece at New York's Museum of Modern Art and stood at
the site of the long-fallen Berlin Wall.

She also met with editors at media outlets from NPR and the New York
Times to Spain's El Pais, and told a regional journalism conference in
Mexico that Cuban bloggers walk "a red line between liberty and jail" -
comments that surely upset authorities.

Ted Henken, a Cuba expert who helped organize part of Sanchez's tour,
said she had gained more than 100,000 Twitter followers since she left,
bringing her total above half a million.

It will be a strange homecoming when Sanchez steps back into the simple
apartment she shares with Escobar and their son.

But Sanchez's return also presents challenges for the government, since
its treatment of her is sure to receive close scrutiny from journalists,
foreign governments and human rights organizations.

"She's the tip of the iceberg of an emergent civil society," said
Henken, though he also predicted Sanchez's fame would immunize her
somewhat from arrest or detention.

Carlos Saladrigas, co-chairman of the U.S.-based Cuba Study Group, which
advocates closer ties between America and Cuba, said Sanchez's trip
marked a seminal moment for dissidency on the island - but that the
government could also gain from showing a new tolerance for criticism.

"There is no return from this," he said. "They knew that dissidents
would say overseas what they say in Cuba. They took that risk."

Added Henken: "It does give (the government) a quiver in their arsenal
to say that this is change, and change is real: 'We have allowed this to
happen, and we have taken the consequences.'"


Andrea Rodriguez and Anne-Marie Garcia in Havana, and Christine Armario
in Miami contributed to this report.


Follow Paul Haven and Peter Orsi on Twitter:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thoughts About the Agricultural Problem in Cuba

Thoughts About the Agricultural Problem in Cuba / Dayana Cruz Vega,
Cuban Law Association
Posted on May 29, 2013

Agricultural Problem: These have been two very controversial words down
the years, they refer to the unequal distribution of land between the
rural population, also the combination of socioeconomic and political
conditions, relations and contradictions which characterise the
structure and working of the agricultural sector. This problem has been
a persistent presence in Cuban political legal thinking even though it
was one of the first labour directives after the triumph of the revolution.

The Agriculture Reform Laws acquired a constitutional status which they
maintained up until the 1976 Constitution took effect.

On the subject of agriculture there exist bodies of law such as
Resolution 288/90 which establishes the regulations for the functioning
of the register of land tenure, Law number 36 relating to farming
co-operatives, repealed by Law 95/2002, among others which have seen the
light of day in recent years, like Decree Law 259 which guarantees the
awarding of the right to enjoy land for the purpose of production and
number 300 which modifies the extension of lands which the previous one
permitted to be handed over.

But in spite of all of this pointing in the direction of the improvement
of the living and working conditions of the farming sector, and the
increased productivity of the land as the only way to replace imports,
they haven't met their objective.

In this regard it is necessary to stress that the scattered legislation,
the legal ignorance of the peasants in relation to their rights and the
process of accounting in the various sectors and co-operatives have had
their influence of production and productivity, in spite of there being
sufficient projects put in place for this function; and, just as
important as the above-mentioned, are the occurrence of instances of
violation of the generally accepted Principles of Accounting, breach of
the System of Internal Control, all of which have encouraged the
commission of economic crimes with increasing frequency.

All of this brings us to the point at which we can conclude that the
land problem is in need of objective solutions which have the necessary
legal backing to turn agriculture into our principal source of income,
and not what has in fact happened which is to be converted into an
unproductive sector incapable of satisfying our immediate nutritional
and economic needs.

Translated by GH

22 May 2013

The University of Havana Falls 27 Places in the Latin American Ranking

The University of Havana Falls 27 Places in the Latin American Ranking /
Diario de Cuba
Posted on May 28, 2013

The University of Havana fell 27 places in the Latin American ranking,
going from 54 to 81, a fall with several explanations.

With a score of 49.10 (out of 100), the main Cuban school lost ground in
almost all aspects evaluated, but its decline is due mainly to the
advancement of other universities in the region.

Its best indicator is its academic reputation (83.5 points) and its
worst, the amount of research by faculty (22.5 points).

The second-ranked Cuban institution is the University of the Oriente,
which slightly improved in ranking to145 in Latin America, with a score
of 34.70. In 2012 it was ranked 149.

The next-ranked are José Antonio Echeverría City University and the
University of Cienfuegos, both between the positions 201-250, and the
Central University of Las Villas 251-300. (After 150th place, the
universities were ranked in groups of 50.)

No medical school on the island made the list.

According to the QS University Rankings, produced annually in London,
the University of São Paulo in Brazil tops the chart for the third
consecutive year. Brazil dominates with 81 institutions in the top 300.

Of the ranked universities, 44% were founded in the last 50 years.

According to the report of QS World Universities Rankings, assessments
are based on surveys of academic reputation and work, along with
research productivity and citations, student-faculty ratio, academics
with doctorates and web presence.

Translated from Diario de Cuba

28 May 2013

Venezuela imports 408 tons of drugs from Cuba in two weeks


Venezuela imports 408 tons of drugs from Cuba in two weeks

Two shipments of drug products from Farmacuba entered Venezuela through
Puerto Cabello, northwest Venezuela
Products from Farmacuba are not traded in private drug stores nor are
they sold in state-owned drugstore network Farmapatria (File photo /
Venancio Alcázares)
Tuesday May 28, 2013 02:02 PM

The Venezuelan government continues importing drugs from Cuba. Some 408
tons of products from Farmacuba arrived in Puerto Cabello, northwest
Venezuela, in 14 days.

The latest shipment hit Venezuela on May 12 with 84 tons, according to a
report published by Informes, a magazine issued by Puerto Cabello
Chamber of Commerce and whose content is based on information from state
company Bolivariana de Puertos (Bolipuertos).

In another shipment, on April 29, 324 tons of products from Farmacuba
entered Venezuela.

Although the pharmaceutical products imported by the Venezuelan
Government from Cuba are not traded in traditional drug stores, Cuba has
become one of Venezuela's main drugs suppliers.

Data from the National Statistics Institute confirms this information.
In 2012, imports from Cuba amounted to USD 324 million, 10.6% up with
respect to 2011.

Last week, the president of state-run pharmaceutical network
Farmapatria, Freddy Arenas, said Farmacuba's products are not sold in
any of Farmapatria's 78 stores.

Pitching in My Two Cents for Cuba's CDR Congress

Pitching in My Two Cents for Cuba's CDR Congress
May 28, 2013
Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES — A new congress of Cuba's Committees for the Defense of
the Revolution (CDRs) is nearing and winds of change seem to be coming
with it. Such change would be a positive sign, an indication that Cuban
authorities are beginning to acknowledge that something in this
organization isn't working too well.

I suspect, however, that this is something of a bluff. The way I see it,
we need to do more than recognize "our mistakes" in order to overcome
the crisis currently faced by the CDRs – we need to re-think the very
foundations of the Committees.

Why do I say this? Because there are basic problems in the way this
organization works, and these problems have turned it into something
unwieldy and obsolete. The vast majority of people no longer feel they
belong in the organization and no longer see it as a tool they can use
to solve problems in their communities.

Perhaps this is because the Committees have become eminently political
in nature, mechanisms used to control and exert pressure on any
individuals over fourteen, and this fact has become increasingly harder
to conceal.

Though no law I know of makes membership mandatory, belonging to a
committee is practically a must, and the pressures that are brought to
bear on anyone who wishes to remain outside of these are quite intense.

The CDRs have a say in housing-related matters, applications for new
jobs, and legal and criminal proceedings. The chair of the CDR you
belong to is the person who has the last word on these and other
matters. These individuals all too often abuse the authority afforded
them by their position to settle personal scores.

Once inside, there are a number of assigned tasks you need to fulfill in
order to earn a favorable opinion from other members. To prove you're a
worthy CDR member, tantamount to proving you're a "good person" in the
community, you must participate in at least one neighborhood watch every
month, recycle garbage, donate blood, attend all Committee parties and
meetings and, most importantly, report any "crimes" you witness within
the community.

In today's Cuba, however, ethical and legal limits have become two
rather distinct categories. Such practices as "getting by", or, in plain
language, stealing from the State, aren't always necessarily understood
as "crimes". People thus generally opt to protect one another, because
everyone relies on these "crimes" to make ends meet.

This is the reason the interests of the CDR often go in the opposite
direction than those of its members, who fulfill the tasks assigned to
them just to do what's expected of them, not because they feel that the
Committee is an effective tool for solving the community's problems.

I am not suggesting that donating blood and preventing theft or breaking
and entering in the community is wrong, not at all. It's the
centralized, inflexible and mandatory method with which this is carried
out I am criticizing.

It is worth pointing out that, owing to the recent changes (in legal
self-employment) that Cuba has seen in this area, the task of collecting
recyclable garbage around the community has become rather superfluous.

One of the more serious problems that the CDR has as an institution is
the fact that local Committees, and, consequently, CDR members, have
very little say in decision-making processes.

Its hierarchical structure, with those at the top handing down
instructions and those at the bottom blindly obeying or rejecting these
instructions, makes for a highly mechanical way of doing things and only
deepens the already exasperating automation of human beings.

Many problems that concern the community, and can be solved at meetings,
never make it to the table because of this mechanical way of doing things.

State businesses, offices and utilities, which respond to the interests
of the government, then act in ways that recall the behavior of the
transnational corporations we criticize so much. This means, for
instance, that the demands of an area like the one I live in, in dire
need of government aid, filled with factories that produce nothing but
pollution, fall on deaf ears.

I pointed all of these things out, and more, at the last meeting held by
my CDR, not for the sake of disparaging the institution (of which I am
an organizer), but from the position of a Cuban citizen who believes
that the best way to solve a problem is to "roll up one's sleeves" and
knuckle down to hard work.

In short, I call for CDRs to serve the people, not the government, to
act more as a tool used to benefit the community than as instruments
used to cast away the enemies of the revolution. For, if the Cuban
revolution is so strong and enjoys the support of the vast majority of
the people, why should we be so afraid of a disenchanted minority?

If any of these issues were addressed at the 8th CDR Congress, I would
be more than satisfied.

Cuba 'to offer' limited public internet access

28 May 2013 Last updated at 20:15 GMT

Cuba 'to offer' limited public internet access

The government of Cuba has said it will soon expand public access to the
internet, although it will maintain restrictions for access at home.

It said that 118 internet points would be set up on the Caribbean island
from 4 June, to allow web surfing for $4.5 (£3) an hour.

Cuba's average salary is $20 a month, and it has one of the lowest
levels of internet access in the world.

Most Cubans can connect only at work, at school, or in luxury hotels.
Traffic will be monitored

The easing of restrictions was published in the official paper, Gaceta

It said that member of the public will be able to access international
websites for $4.5 (£3) an hour - down from $6 - or $0.6 (£0.4) an hour
for national sites.

The cost for checking emails will remain unchanged at $1.50 (£1).

The government also reaffirmed that it would continue monitoring
internet traffic closely.

Cuba's telecommunications company, Etecsa, will "immediately" stop
access to users if they commit "any violation of the norms of ethical
behaviour promoted by the Cuban state", the Ministry of Communications
said in its government decree.

Only some professionals, like journalists and doctors, are allowed to
surf the internet at home.

Most Cubans, however, can get online only in their places of work or
study, or check their email at post offices.

They can also use internet points in hotels which mostly cater to
international tourists.
Slow connection

Up until recently, Cuba relied upon slow and expensive satellite links
for internet connections.

But in January, Etecsa announced it would start using an under-sea
fibre-optic cable from Venezuela that would provide high-speed internet

The Communist-led government has blamed limited bandwidth for
restricting web access, saying it is forced to prioritise it for
universities, companies and research centres.

But critics have accused the government of wanting to censor free speech
and control access to information.

On her Twitter account, dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez said that "it
will take time to get internet at home, but I'm sure it will come... and
this will hurt (the government)."

Cuba's fibre optic link to Venezuela creates greater internet access

Cuba's fibre optic link to Venezuela creates greater internet access

More people in Cuba will be able to use the internet, although access
will still be under strict government control.

The government is creating an additional 118 outlets, which will make
use of faster bandwidth thanks to undersea fibre optic cables between
the Caribbean island to Venezuela. Cuba cannot use others due to a US

Starting from June 4, the extra access will be provided by the state
telecommunications monopoly ETECSA for a reduced price than is currently

However, there still be no internet provided directly to private homes.

"I think it's brilliant. For students, it's a fantastic tool. For the
rest of the population, it's a way to communicate with the outside
world. For me, the internet is everything," said technology student Jose

Cuba has one of the lowest rates of internet usage in Latin America.
There are only 2.6 million users out of a population of 11.1 million.

Despite the increased access, the government has warned it will not
tolerate Internet users who "endanger or prejudice public security, or
the integrity and sovereignty of the nation.""

British fund executives to go on trial in Cuba

Exclusive: British fund executives to go on trial in Cuba
By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - The two top executives of a British investment fund
in Cuba are scheduled to go on trial in Havana on Thursday, according to
sources close to the accused men, as part of an unprecedented government
crackdown on corruption involving foreign businessmen.

In the second trial of foreign executives on the Communist-run island in
a week, Amado Fakhre, a Lebanese-born British citizen and chief
executive officer of Coral Capital Group Ltd, faces various bribery
charges related mainly to the fund's import business.

Chief Operating Officer Stephen Purvis, who headed up various investment
projects, reportedly faces lesser charges, such as operating outside the
bounds of the fund's license.

Fakhre has been jailed since the company's offices were raided and
closed in October 2011. Purvis was arrested and imprisoned in March 2012.

"We are providing consular assistance to them and their families and a
consular official will attend the trial," a British diplomat said.

The trial has not been announced to the public or media.

Coral Capital was one of only a handful of small foreign investment
funds in Cuba. It was caught up in a dragnet of Cuba's international
trading sector, which was part of a broader crackdown on corruption by
President Raul Castro, who replaced ailing brother Fidel in 2008.

In September 2011 authorities shut down one of the most important
Western trading companies in Cuba, Canada-based Tokmakjian Group, after
doing the same in July to another Canadian trading firm, Tri-Star Caribbean.

The closed trial of Sarkis Yacoubian, originally from Armenia and the
owner of Tri-Star Caribbean, was held last week. An associate of
Yacoubian, Lebanese citizen Krikor Bayassalian, was a co-defendant.

They were charged with bribery, tax evasion and damaging the economy. If
the court affirms their guilt, sentencing is expected within a week or so.

"The arrests are aimed at shaking the tree to get to corrupt Cuban
officials and purchasers," a local expert on state-run companies said,
asking that his name not be used.

Dozens of Cuban officials and businessmen have reportedly been arrested,
tried and sentenced in the anti-corruption sweep.

A number of other foreigners and Cubans who worked for the three foreign
companies remain free but cannot leave the island because they are
considered witnesses in the cases.

Cuban officials and lawyers for the defendants could not be reached for

Cuba's state-run media has not yet reported the trials, nor mentioned
the arrests and crackdown on foreign trade.


"If the Cuban government intends that such penalties serve as effective
deterrents to corruption, and not as deterrents to legitimate foreign
investment, it should clarify the precise nature of the alleged
infractions and make the entire legal process more transparent," said
Richard Feinberg, a non-resident senior fellow of the Washington-based
Brookings Institution and author of a number of studies on Cuba's economy.

The arrests were unprecedented for Cuba, where foreign businessmen
suspected of corruption are usually deported, and are viewed as a
measure of President Castro's determination to clean up a vice he views
as a threat to Cuba's socialist system.

But repression alone will do little, many observers believe.

"Real change would mean not only pursuing enforcement actions but also
coming up with meaningful internal controls for Cuban officials with
discretion in procurement and the licensing of business activity," said
Jose Gabilondo, associate professor of law at Florida International
University in Miami.

"These officials are paid little and face enormous temptation to cut
corners for the sake of themselves and their families," he said.

Coral Capital, registered in the British Virgin Islands in 1999, was
best known in Cuba as the joint venture partner in Havana's upscale
Saratoga Hotel and another hotel complex on the resort key of Cayo Coco.
It had plans to build golf courses and related real estate developments
near Havana, for which it had begun raising equity capital.

The fund diversified into trade financing and importing heavy equipment
and other merchandise and this, rather than its real estate ventures,
may have led to its problems, foreign business sources said.

The company represented various international brands in Cuba, among them
Liebherr Earth Moving, Yamaha Motor Corporation and Peugeot Motorcycles,
according to its now defunct Internet site.

The site said Coral Capital had invested some $75 million in Cuba, with
more than $1 billion of projects in the works.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Jeff Franks and Bill Trott)