Saturday, August 31, 2013

Castro’s Strategy, in Short - A Perfect Manual for Disaster

Castro's Strategy, in Short: A Perfect Manual for Disaster / Manuel
Cuesta Morua
Posted on August 30, 2013

HAVANA, Cuba, August, — Does Raul Castro have a vision
for the state? After seven years in office the question bears asking.
Perhaps few people thought about it during the previous forty-six years
because most observers just assumed that Fidel Castro had a grand plan
for the state. But in perspective I do not think so. One can be a
political animal yet lack a strategic vision for the country. What is
clear, however, is that Fidel Castro did have the political fiber
required to constantly to remain in power.

He demonstrated the abilities necessary to fuse a founding myth with a
sense of opportunity and social control. And everything seemed perfect
politically as long as he was able to hide the brutality of his regime,
his absolute lack of principles and his incompetence at financial
management behind this fusion. But where his lack of vision for the
state can be seen is in not having left behind anything serious, such as
a legacy, in the three areas where he uprooted the myth: in the social,
in values and in the reconquest of the nation. In the end he did not
know how to do what politicians with a head for strategy do. He did not
know how to reinvent himself.

The followers of Castro, the tall one, can say what they want in his
defense. However, this only demonstrates that the confusion between
expectations and results continues to be fascinating material for two
types of study: mythology and clinical psychology. It has nothing to do
with reality.

Milk and marabou

It was hoped that whoever came to power in 2006 would take a healthy dip
in reality. Cuba had strayed so far from its revolutionary dreams that
this cleansing would be a preliminary step in confronting the task
refreshed and with mental clarity. Asians know a thing or two about the
relationship between the sauna and the mind. And this appears to be what
happened when Raul Castro, in a speech on July 26 of that year in
Camaguey, said two trivial words: milk and marabou. They indicated a
fresh return to the abandoned land, and an idealized return to the land
as metaphor; this after a lofty, fattened regime anchored to the rest of
the world only through rhetoric and foreign subsidies.

But strategically the shorter Castro could write a how-to book on
disaster. I will not dwell on the long list of his economic adjustments
and their social consequences. Much has been well and wisely said about
the failure of his so-called economic reforms, notwithstanding the
analytical obstinacy of an unwavering group of academics, prominent in
the news media, who did (and do) not realize that in terms of economic
reform Cuba had (and has) to learn to run, not just move. So I am not
interested in judging Raul Castro by his own words. We must measure the
man by his results, not by his efforts.

There are two areas I would like to visit in order to analyze what I
consider to be a worrying lack of national vision or strategic
proposals. One is the port of Mariel and the other is the set of factors
facilitating the exodus to what Cubans refer to as la Yuma, meaning
everything outside the island, whether it be Brazil, Haiti or the
United States itself.

The island as banana republic

Many see in the construction of the port of Mariel a brilliant strategic
move. I see the new port as a step towards turning the island into a
banana republic, as we used to be portrayed in the schools of most
Central American countries. A social poet, who visited several places in
our archipelago to feel its vibration before reflecting them in his
poetry, described us at the time as a synthesis that was simultaneously
powerful and depressing: Cuba, the ruin and the port.

I find no strategic value in a project that ratifies Cuba as a landlord
state, living off of a couple of assembly plants and on being the
connecting port-of-call between a super-power (the United States), an
emerging power (China) and a jolly secondary power (Brazil). Foregoing
the economic possibilities offered by the knowledge economy in favor of
one for which we are better prepared — one which depends on the crude
economics of the exploited and poorly paid port worker — does not get us
much closer to a strategic vision for the state. Nor does a property
owner prepared to collect tolls and warehouse fees from all who pass
through his ports. But that is indeed what is happening.

Mariel: a circle of illusion

This is because — and here the circle of illusion becomes complete —
such a step presupposes two additional elements. One is a deep knowledge
of the internal reality of the countries in question. The other is
effective control over the temptation of the governmental elite to
decide things lest they forget that there is a new port in Cuba called

Keep in mind what happened in the Soviet Union in 1989 and in Venezuela
in 2013. Having information about what really takes place in countries
that affect us economically, and being able to process it, is not the
strong point of revolutionary leaders. The former socialist superpower
collapsed and Maduro won in spite of losing. China is only interested in
money and we have none. And Planalto Palace — the headquarters Dilma
Rouseff took over from Lula da Silva — has been trembling lately.

Let us remember that investments in Mariel were being managed by a
risk-taking partner, President Lula, who held out the promise to a
Brazilian business conglomerate, Odebrecht, of a hypothetical opening by
the United States to Cuba. It is as though a fiancée were to put on a
wedding dress without knowing for sure that her intended would show up
to satisfy her nuptial ambitions. A fiancée who, on top of everything
else, behaved as though she did not have to do anything to attract the
very specific type of suitor she was after by showing him anything he
might possibly find attractive in her.

From subsidies to an economic enclave

There is nothing strategic about turning a subsidized economy into an
economic enclave within the confines of old-fashioned capitalism,
especially for a country that loudly demands — or rather politely
requests — a comprehensive modernization built on the foundations of a
knowledge-based economy.

If you are wondering why the government of Raul Castro is involved in
this issue, which we know as state strategy, then imagine all that can
be done by using Cuba's potential to assure the structural integrity of
the country, guaranteeing a relaxed transition and re-legitimized
mandate for successors who lack the pedigree of the mountains we know as
the Sierra Maestra.

A new port development provides no insurance in either of these areas.
It puts Diaz-Canal in quite a precarious position relative to two
interest groups. One is made up of real estate interests tied to
unproductive corporations, and the other is made up of citizens excluded
from sharing in the pie, which can only grow arithmetically rather than

And the exodus to la Yuma? Well, this is where the disconnect between
the sense of the treasury and the sense of State is perhaps best
revealed. Now that the treasury no longer puts food on the table, we
have weakened the possibilities of redefining the State by making an
overseas sojourn possible for what the utilitarian language of economics
calls human capital. It really surprises me that the emigration reform
law has been so widely applauded. After granting fifteen minutes of fame
to the restitution of a right that did not have to be taken away, there
should have come a serious and sober analysis of its medium and
long-term impact on the nation and the country, which are really the
same thing.

Living off remittances

Two facts continue to be confused: as an economic reform measure, the
migratory reform converts Cuba into the El Salvador of the Caribbean:
living off remittances. And as the restitution of a right, it destroys
the options to rethink an economic model to export the best young minds
of the country, as a country like India has avoided.

The media analysis has blurred the problem, focusing the discussion on
superficial political terms. They say that the Cuban government has
thrown the ball in the court of the rest of the world, as if it were a
tournament which, in reality, doesn't exist between states — all
countries let their own citizens leave and abrogate the right to allow
the citizens of other countries to enter — and obscure the principal
debate: the fate of a country, aging, losing in a trickle or a torrent
its potentially most productive and creative people and, on the other
hand, not rebuilding its image as a possible nation.

This the principal problem of our national security. And it only has one
origin: The concentration of the political in a single lineage. The
philosophers of this matter are right: politics begins beyond the family

The problem takes on a new light, more dangerous in terms of national
security, with an immigration reform targeted to Cubans by the United
States, much deeper than that of Raul Castro. The granting of a
five-year multiple-entry visas to those who live on the island grants a
right foreigners greater than that granted by the Cuban State to its own
nationals living inside and outside the country. This is somewhat
embarrassing. Cubans from here can freely enter and leave the United
States for much longer than Cubans can enter and leave their country of
birth without renewing their permit.

Citizens of both countries

One of the results we have, one which I want to focus on, is this: we
Cubans have become, in theory, resident citizens of two countries. Cuba
is one, you choose the other. This is an issue that goes beyond the
transnational nature of our condition — very well analyzed by Haroldo
Dilla, a Cuban historian based in the Dominican Republic — because over
the long term it weakens the center that serves as the axis to the
global nature of citizenship. We Cubans will stay in the same place in
an ambivalence that weaken loyalties to a nationality that one now feels
and lives anemically. A strange and dangerous situation for a country
lacking a sense of solidity.

If the story says that the new U.S. policy serves to promote relations
between Cubans and Americans and between Cubans and Cuban Americans, in
reality we are moving to a scenario in which relations between
Cuban-Americans, in fact, resident on the island, and Cuban-Americans by
law, resident in the United States arise and are strengthened; and on
the other hand between Americans and Cubans residing on both shores.

All that will be left is an irreducible minority, regardless of their
ideological leanings, who will resist nationality in both, taking
American or Spanish nationality as strong reference points.

So, we return to the economic and cultural circuit of the United States
— in some way we have already entered that of Spain — which we
supposedly left more than half a century ago. Not to mention other
smaller circuits such as those of Jamaica and Italy.

Surrendering to this reality, hiding behind the anti-imperialist
rhetoric of "no one surrenders here," that keeps obsolete arms oiled and
"repaired," is evidence that the strategy of the State has never
accompanied the Castros. Will our paradigm as a nation ever be viable?
The question is not rhetorical.

From Cubanet

18 August 2013

Source: "Castro's Strategy, in Short: A Perfect Manual for Disaster /
Manuel Cuesta Morua | Translating Cuba" -

Prison Diary LII Dear Vilches, Welcome to the Space of Decorum

Prison Diary LII: Dear Vilches, Welcome to the Space of Decorum / Angel
Posted on August 30, 2013

Any injustice against a single person, represents a threat to everyone.

"God makes us, and freedom joins us."

This post I owe to the brave writer and friend Rafael Vilches Proenza
who, by dint of talent, earned the recognition of the intelligentsia of
the Island.

Vilches has followed the call of conscience to do his duty, and
responding to his feelings, forgot the gifts that the Government gives
to those who follow its dictates without opposition; thus, he is about
it enter the Cuban insile, his career as a ghost writer beginning, and
now many who call themselves friends will distance themselves from him,
especially those who were, for a time, advising him to leave this path
of freedom and continue to suck on the teat of the State.

They ar already plotting some strategy, so I ask my friend Vilches to
walk with firm steps. State Security is on the hunt, searching, trying,
how to muddy, at times, without an alibi, the desperation with which
they carry out their coarse punishments, as in my case, but they don't
know that the lash of their whip tastes heavenly, giving us another
reason for living.

Dear Vilches, welcome to the space of decorum, of transparency, tired of
speaking sotto voce, after making sure that nobody will be listening to
an honest judgment.

I swear I've heard those who called themselves friends, who wrote me
extravagant dedications in their books — and then came forward to sign
the document of the "eight women against violence" — being more critical
of the government than I am; as also happened with my literary masters,
hearing their discontent, their pleas for a way out of the crisis and a
political change, but then, when it was time for decency, they showed
caution and moved the flags, writing odes to the leaders of the
dictatorship, and signing whatever open letter is organized against
their colleagues.

Vilches, my brother, now it touches me to be in solidarity with you, you
have stayed to give me encouragement since the regime launched its
filthy thrust. I am experiencing the contradiction of feeling myself
happy to know that History will not record you as pusillanimous, that
you prefer to remain silent to not exchange your dignity for perks, but
in turn it saddens me to know that misery you will receive from many
around you, the betrayal, the loneliness; yet I predict for you that in
the end you will have the compensation of one who stays by your side,
worth more than a hundred, how else would you have discovered false
friends, the cowards?

I only ask that you notice that in addition to the fear in their souls,
they are acting in a mediocre play, none will go down in literary
history, so they do it, because it's the only way to be valued as
writers and receive trips abroad, of those who bring soap to clean the
skin because they have soiled their spirit; of those who have been taken
over by UNEAC. Do not expect solidarity, nor even bureaucratic
protection from what is supposed to the space that represents artists,
to defend us; because that place is just another arm of totalitarianism.

In the end history will render its accounts, because history is what
matters, it is where you can live forever.

From my captivity I send my thanks to you for joining the fight against
the dictatorship.

The embrace of forever, your brother Angel.

Lawton "settlement"*
August 2013

*Translator's note: "Settlement" is the euphemism for the Ministry of
the Interior "special" prison where Angel is now being held.

30 August 2013

Source: "Prison Diary LII: Dear Vilches, Welcome to the Space of Decorum
/ Angel Santiesteban | Translating Cuba" -

UPEC and the Freedom of the Press

UPEC and the Freedom of the Press / Dimas Castellanos
Posted on August 30, 2013

The few expectations generated by the Ninth Congress of the Union of
Journalists and Writers of Cuba ( UPEC ), held last weekend, ended in
frustration. The changes that demand journalism plays an effective role
in social transformations were conspicuous by their absence. The
conclave ignored the issue of press freedom, a vital issue to delve into
the causes of the current crisis and suggest possible solutions,
although Cuba has a rich history in this area.

The Camaguey national hero Ignacio Agramonte, in defending his thesis in
law said: The right to think freely corresponds to the freedom of
discussion, of doubt, of opinion, as phases or directions of that.

The press in Cuba was inaugurated with Papel Periodico (Newsprint) in
Havana in 1790; it disseminated the accord reached with the Pact of
Zanjón of 1878, thanks to which Juan Gualberto Gomez won the legal
process against the colonial authorities which allowed the public
disclosure of the ideas of those supporting independence. It was
multiplied during the Republic: Diario de La Marina, Bohemia, El País,
El Mundo, Alerta, Noticias de Hoy, La Calle, Prensa Libre, Carteles and
Vanidades, to cite just ten. In 1930 there were 61 radio stations, a
number that placed Cuba 4th worldwide; and as for television, in 1950,
almost immediately after the United States, Television Radio Union
Channel 4, the third television station in Latin America, followed the
same year by Channel 6.

Thanks to the media, from the colony to the Republic , the debate of
ideas reached such importance that it is impossible to explain any event
in our history without considering the role of press freedom. The best
evidence was the allegation of Dr. Fidel Castro, known as History Will
Absolve Me, in which he said: Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time
there was a Republic. It had its Constitution, its laws, its freedoms, a
President, a Congress and Courts of Law. Everyone could assemble,
associate, speak and write with complete freedom. The people were not
satisfied with the government, but the people could change it… Public
opinion was respected and heeded and all problems of common interest
were freely discussed. There were political parties, hours of doctrine
on radio, debate programs on television, public meetings…"

The Russian historian, sociologist and politician Pavel Milyukov, in an
article entitled In defense of the word, defined the press as the finest
and most perfect expression of socio-psychological forms of interaction;
he explained that the rules of relationship between man and society
constitute the core of human rights and freedom of the press is the only
civil liberty can guarantee all the others.

If, from the ideas expressed, we accept that press freedom is an
indispensable factor for social development, any action to preclude it,
can only be described as an act against the development of the country
and the dignity of the people.

Yes, the nation really is everyone, Communists or not, revolutionaries
or not, intellectuals or not, everyone has the right to think, express
and disseminate their ideas freely, as active subjects in national
issues. The opposite is exclusion, totalitarianism or apartheid. So in
the age of the newest information technologies and communications, any
restrictions on press freedom in a country with such a rich tradition of
freedom are inadmissible.

Suffice it to recall that in difficult years like 1947, 1950 and the day
after the assault on the Moncada barracks in 1953, Noticias de Hoy (News
of Today), organ of the then Communist Party (People's Socialist Party)
was shut down. However, time and again, thanks to the so-called freedom
of the "bourgeois" press, the communists, supported by much of the
existing press, demanded that they be re-opened and succeeded, even
though Noticias de Hoy advocated class struggle to overthrow the ruling

However — returning to the Cuban of today — the member of the Politburo,
Miguel Diaz-Canel, at the closing ceremony of UPEC, suggested that what
is needed to feed the desire to improve the press and make it more
virtuous press is dialogue. That is, the official press is virtuous and
those virtues, in his words, lie in having denounced the imperialist
campaigns of internal and external enemies, so it is able and has as its
mission to contribute to the achievement of a prosperous and sustainable
socialism. We need to support — said Diaz-Canel — a set of principles
for the Cuban press, extracted from the thoughts of José Martí and Fidel.

The question to Diaz-Canel is if what Fidel said about civil society and
citizens' freedoms during the Moncada trial retains its value, and with
respect to Martí it is good to remember the central idea that he
presented on the Third Anniversary of the Cuban Revolutionary Party: A
people is composition of many wills, vile or pure, frank and grim,
hindered by shyness or precipitated by ignorance.

Several journalists from the official press praised the subordination of
the press for the purpose of PCC, as in the case of Oscar Sánchez Serra,
in his article "The Congress of those we see, hear and read," published
in Granma on 15 July, that posited that the journalist is a builder of

But the person who more clearly summarized the praises of the
subordination of the official press to the PCC was Victor Joaquin
Ortega, who in a short editorial appeared in the weekly Tribuna de La
Habana, Sunday, 14 July, wrote: "We are the weapon of the Communist
Party of Cuba, the only one we need for the struggle, the son of the
dignity and creative line of the Cuban Revolutionary Party founded and
led by the Apostle [José Martí]."

These and other similar proposals demonstrate that the journalism of
UPEC is the journalism of a political party and of a specific ideology,
so that it cannot define itself as representative of the Cuban press in
general, whose natural plurality extends beyond the communist ideas.

The official press sustains itself on the base of restrictions on the
freedom of the press, it as not — as Jorge Barata expressed it well in a
dossier on the subject published in Lay Space — plural, nor open, so it
is prevented from speaking in the name of Cuban society in total. The
PCC defines it politics, based on the limits established in the Cultural
Congress of 1961: Within the Revolution everything. Against the
Revolution nothing, a limit that should begin by defining what a
revolution is and then demonstrating that there is a revolution in Cuba.

The exclusion is not only unjust and unacceptable, but unreal, because
the new technologies prevent it. Another press has emerged, parallel and
coexisting with the official press. Lay Space, Coexistence, Critical
Observatory, Voices, the SPD Bulletin, Cuba Spring and dozens of blogs
and websites that do not respond to the PCC, whose importance lies in
the decision to participate, without permission, from differing views on
the problems of the nation. An alternative journalism, independent,
citizen and participatory, reflecting realities ignored by the official
press and complying with the requirements of traditional journalism and
includes others which are possible with the new technologies, despite
the obstacles represented by the lack of freedom of the press.

From Diario de Cuba

2 July 2013

Source: "UPEC and the Freedom of the Press / Dimas Castellanos |
Translating Cuba" -

The New School Term in Cuba - Teachers Hoping for Raises

The New School Term in Cuba: Teachers Hoping for Raises / Ivan Garcia
Posted on August 30, 2013

The Minister of Education, Ena Elsa Velázquez, is hoping to turn
corruption and academic fraud in Cuban schools around.

In her tour through several provinces to check on preparations for the
new school term beginning on September 2, Velázquez highlighted the
"social commitment of teachers and professors" to address illegalities
and acts of corruption.

She spoke of strengthening families' confidence in the educational
system and confronting "scholastic fraud and other more subtle and
nefarious distortions."

This requires great political and oratorical skill in analyzing the
conditions that for years have affected education on the island, to say
nothing of the low salaries paid to teachers.

As always in Cuba, one must separate demagoguery from reality. The
complacency of government officials causes them to suffer from an
irreversible myopia.

They only see the successes. And they do exist. For a third-world
country, it is laudable to be able to provide free education and public
health. We may be better than Burma or Haiti, but there has been a
qualitative reversal in sectors which once were showpieces of the

There are schools but they lack good instructors, teaching material has
to be recycled, the merienda* has been eliminated in primary schools,
and lunch for boarding students is wretched.

And we have not even talked about the extreme politicization and
ideological content in course material and extracurricular activities.
These include everything from classes on how to load an AKM assault
rifle to fundraising for self-defense militias.

Too often the Cuban government likes to remind us that education and
health care are free. These are the cornerstones of the socialist model
that the world sees.

They are, however, distortions of reality. The state can subsidize the
health and education system thanks to the high tax rate it imposes on
workers. In countries where students pay not one penny towards the cost
of their education, the money to fund this "privilege" must come out of
the taxpayers' pocketbooks.

But this is not the case with Cuba. A percentage of the ridiculously low
salaries paid to workers and employees, excessive taxes on the
self-employed and import duties of up to 300% on hard-currency
remittances subsidize a significant portion of the national educational
However, everyone who one way or another contributes to society —
whether it be by cutting cane or spending dollars they have received
from relatives in Miami — can and should demand a better education for
their children.

For a decade primary, secondary and pre-university education has been in
marked decline. Because of poor wages and low social status many
instructors go to work as porters in five-star hotels or as fry cooks in
a street-side stalls.
It is inconceivable that a policeman or armed forces officer would make
close to 900 Cuban pesos a month — not counting their ability to acquire
groceries, cleaning supplies and clothing at low prices, or to stay in
exclusive recreational villas — while a professor at a secondary school
makes only Cuban 350 to 400 pesos a month.

The teaching profession is one that is not highly valued in Cuba. It is
not an attractive alternative for university graduates. Only when there
is no other option, or when men are trying to evade military service, do
young people choose to study pedagogy.

The new school term will begin on Monday, September 2 in schools which
have received a fresh coat of cheap paint, whose furniture and windows
have been repaired and whose families have put aside some money for
their children's meriendas. Believe me, it is not easy to provide five
meriendas a week. Children's backpacks resemble those of mountain climbers.

The school uniform presents another problem. Some sadistic bureaucrat
decided that each student would get a new uniform every two terms. The
dim-witted technocrat did not stop to think that in their primary school
years children grow quite rapidly. Or that given the heat and the
carelessness typical at this age, students often return home with their
uniforms in tatters.

The solution was for families to buy uniforms on the black market for
five convertible pesos apiece. These are not their only expenses.

In case a child gets a mediocre professor — something now quite common
in primary and secondary education — parents must pay ten convertible
pesos a month to a retired teacher to tutor him after school.

As the Minister of Education follows her road map through the country,
checking on preparations for the next school term, teachers are hoping
the official will agree with them and announce a salary increase.

Teaching remains the worst paid profession in Cuba.

Iván García

*Translator's note: A traditional afternoon snack or light meal somewhat
comparable to tea time.

28 August 2013

Source: "The New School Term in Cuba: Teachers Hoping for Raises / Ivan
Garcia | Translating Cuba" -

'Una Noche' Stars, Who Play Twins Fleeing Cuba, Expecting Twins After Fleeing Cuba

'Una Noche' Stars, Who Play Twins Fleeing Cuba, Expecting Twins After
Fleeing Cuba
2:13 PM PDT 8/30/2013 by Seth Abramovitch

The pair, who play brother and sister in the critically acclaimed new
film, vanished on their way to Tribeca; now they are in love, in America
and in need of diapers.
It's a remarkable story of art imitating life, sort of.

A pair of young Cuban actors who play twins who attempt to flee the
Communist country have sought political asylum in the U.S. -- and are
now expecting twins of their own.
The film is Una Noche, a gripping tale of a trio of beautiful Havana
teenagers and their daring escape from the city. It began as the thesis
film project from NYU film student Lucy Molloy. The project gained the
interest of NYU alum Spike Lee, who offered his input from the early
script stages and championed Una Noche through its debut on the film
2012 festival circuit. There it collected a slew of awards, including
best actor, best cinematography and best new narrative director at the
Tribeca Film Festival.
It was on the way to that festival in April 2012 that two of the film's
stars -- Javier Nunez Florian and Anailin de la Rua de la Torre, who
play sensitive twin siblings Elio and Lila -- vanished from the Miami
Airport during a layover to New York City. Only costar Dariel Arrechaga
-- who plays their horny, hotheaded pal Raul -- made it to Tribeca,
telling reporters there that he had no knowledge of their whereabouts.
Three days later, the missing Cuban actors confirmed to Reuters that
they were alive and well and seeking political asylum. The dramatic
getaway made international headlines.
The pair, now both 21, have at last resurfaced, showing up to a recent
Spanish-language press event in Miami. (The film is already in theaters
in Miami and New York and currently available on iTunes; it gets a Los
Angeles theatrical opening on Friday, Sept. 6.) It turns out that Nunez
Florian and de la Rua de la Torre -- both non-actors chosen by Molloy
after auditioning over 2,000 Cuban youth -- fell in love on the set, and
are currently living together as boyfriend and girlfriend in Las Vegas.
What's more, de la Rua de la Torre is four months pregnant with twins.
"It's just crazy, because they're twins in the movie," a flabbergasted
Molloy tells The Hollywood Reporter by phone. "The screen twins are
having real twins together!" Last week's press event in Miami was the
first time the 33-year-old London native had laid eyes on her leads
since shooting wrapped in 2010. Both stars are still interested in
pursuing acting careers, Molloy says, but de la Rua de la Torre is
waiting tables to get by while Nunez Florian has been "doing this and
that." Arrechaga has been living legally in New York City, a source
close to the actor tells THR.
STORY: Cuban Actors Missing From Tribeca Film Festival Resurface in Miami
The development is made all the stranger by the fact that Molloy, who
had lived in Cuba for a number of years before shooting Una Noche, had
noticed a great many pairs of identical twins living there and sought
them out when casting extras: "If you look through the movie, a lot of
them are identical twins. I just found it really amazing that there was
so many twins in Havana. I thought it would be cool to incorporate that
-- and because [Elio and Lila are] twins in the movie."
The Cuban government has so far remained silent on the actors'
defections. Recent changes in Cuba's travel laws have increased the
length its citizens can leave the country from 11 to 24 months.
Meanwhile, on the American side, a new visa policy offers Cubans five
years to visit the U.S., during which they can stay up to six months at
a time.
"It's lucky for them," Molloy offers, hopefully. "They should be able to
return to Cuba to see their family."

Source: "'Una Noche' Stars, Who Play Twins Fleeing Cuba, Expecting Twins
After Fleeing Cuba" -

Major Department Store in Havana Shut Down for Health Issues

Major Department Store in Havana Shut Down for Health Issues
August 29, 2013
Daniel Palacios (Cafe Fuerte)

HAVANA TIMES — Havana's Almacenes Ultra department store will remain
closed "until further notice" on instructions from the Cuban Ministry of
Public Health (MINSAP).

The busy store was closed last week owing to "large concentrations of
mosquitos and rodents and severe leaks in sanitary facilities," store
sources confirmed.

Located in Centro Havana, Almacenes Ultra is one of the busiest State
department stores in the Cuban capital, drawing thousands of customers
every day.

"The store looks very pretty from the outside, but things are rather
different behind the counters. The warehouses aren't as clean as we
would want," said one of the cashiers at the store, who chose to remain
anonymous. The clerk was transferred to a neighboring hardware store.

No announcements as to when the store will reopen have yet been made.
Several of the more important services that had been offered in the
store, such as money transfers via Western Union, were relocated at the
Yumuri and Carlos III shopping centers in Havana.

Officials from MINSAP and the Anti-Epidemic Campaign have been seen
inspecting store facilities.

This incident arises within the context of intense efforts undertaken in
Havana to combat several outbreaks of dengue fever and cholera,
epidemics that threaten to place the island's sanitary authorities in
check once again. Havana was hit by outbreaks of these two illnesses at
the beginning of the year.

Official efforts to contain the spread notwithstanding, garbage piled up
around the city and the deplorable condition of Havana's sewage system
continue to be huge obstacles in the way of eradicating these illnesses.

Source: "Major Department Store in Havana Shut Down for Health Issues" -

Port Manatee Cuba travel plans

Port Manatee Cuba travel plans
Posted on August 30, 2013
by Bobeth Yates

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. - How would you like to take a trip to
Cuba...legally? It is possible from several ports across the state,
and now Port Manatee may soon be adding the service.
When many people think of Cuba, the first thought that comes to mind is
Ricky Ricardo playing "Babalu". That image dates back to the 40's but
for most people in the United States, getting a more updated vision of
the country has not been possible. That's because of U.S. imposed travel
"The embargo against Cuba from many years ago is still in place and it
really hasn't changed much so that basically blocked everything to do
with Cuba including travel," said Steve Briggs the owner of VIP World
But, Port Manatee officials are exploring the option of adding a cruise
or ferry service that would travel from Port Manatee to Cuba.
And many we spoke with say they are open to the idea. "I would go in a
heartbeat we've been wanting to go to Cuba forever," said Sarasota
resident Kim Soto.
Still other are a little skeptical.
"Is it legal? Well I might check it out," added Doug Trottier.
While the details of Port Manatee's travel plan have not been released
yet. Briggs says traveling to the country is becoming more common now
that the United States is loosening some of its restrictions on the country.
"If anybody said they wanted to go to Cuba the answer was just no, but
that's been changing no," said Briggs
But for Port Manatee or any agency wanting to move forward with Cuba
travel plans they must first get permission from the U.S. government and
prove that the trip meets certain criteria. That includes not spending
any money in the county. And, that's just the beginning.
"There's a number of tour companies who are now be able to sell trips to
Cuba but they have to sell them as a people to people exchange program.
Like some type of cultural exchange or art exchange," added Briggs.
Port Manatee Official were not available for comment. But we do know
they are not the only port in the state who has attempted similar travel

Source: "Port Manatee Cuba travel plans - Sarasota News |
and ABC 7: Manatee Newsroom" -

Cuba's boxers go professional

30 August 2013 Last updated at 04:00 GMT Share this pageEmailPrint

Cuba's boxers go professional
By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Havana

Cuba's boxers have been the poster-boys of its amateur sports ethos for
over five decades.

Drilled to fight for the country, not for cash, they have won an
impressive 34 Olympic gold medals over the years.

But in a move that would have been unimaginable while Fidel Castro was
in charge, the island's elite fighters are now entering the ring as
professionals for the first time.

Ten top Cuban boxers have been sent to Mexico for their first foray into
the World Series of Boxing this week. Run by the governing body of
amateur boxing, AIBA, the league allows fighters to receive a regular
salary as well as bonuses.

Cuba's communist authorities are currently considering going even
further, allowing boxers to join a fully-professional series with
10-round fights that AIBA plans to launch next year.

Boxers in both series remain eligible for the Olympics.

So at La Finca training camp on the edge of Havana, the workouts have
been even more rigorous in recent months.

By 07:30 each morning, two dozen or so elite fighters have been breaking
a sweat in the cavernous, well-worn gym, sprinting, skipping and
shadow-punching to the commands of their exacting coach.

They have had to up their game for the World Series, where they face
five-round bouts instead of the three they are used to as amateurs.

They will also shed their protective headgear and shirts.

"We know it's different. But nothing is impossible," defending World
Champion bantamweight Lazaro Alvarez shrugged, a few days before
departing for the exhibition match in Mexico.

Cuban fighters routinely go eight or 10 rounds in training, he pointed
out, and he had no worries about losing the head guard.

On guard
"You have to be more careful, more defensive, to make sure the blows
don't go straight for your head. But you readjust," he said.

The World Series was launched in 2010 and AIBA has been courting
participation by Cuba - a nation that has produced boxing legends like
Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon, with three Olympic triumphs apiece.

"This event will lift the athletes' level a lot and so lift the quality
of boxing at the Olympics. It is precisely what we needed to stimulate
our athletes," believes national coach Roland Acebel, who sees the new
style as more dynamic.

"We have a slogan that a boxer is made by fighting. If he doesn't fight,
he falls behind," he argues, adding that his team is filled with new

But there are other factors driving this radical shift in policy. Like
many Cuban sports, boxing has been badly hit by defections in recent years.

Fighters can earn as little as the $20 (£13) average monthly state
salary and even champions take home under $300 a month.

Talent flight
In the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, several boxers skipped the
country to try their fortune in the professional ring, and Cuba failed
to win gold for the first time since 1972.

Anxious to retain the rest, trainers talk of increasing the
"psychological" work with fighters; the Boxing Federation says it helped
resolve complaints over perks such as apartments and cars - and Cuba
signed-up for the World Series.

An official at the state sports institute, INDER, told the BBC that
boxers' salaries will vary between $1,500 and $5,000 a month plus bonuses.

If so, that would be a huge increase - although an undisclosed cut will
be retained by the state.

"I'm mainly surprised this change took so long," says John Duncan,
author of In the Red Corner, an insider's account of Cuban boxing.

The sport has been amateur-only on the communist-run island since 1961.

John Duncan believes Cuba's reticence stemmed from its "strong distaste"
for professional boxing, rooted in the exploitation of Cuban boxers by
US promoters before the revolution.

"Now it seems that Cuba's decided that if its boxers are going to defect
and go pro and there is money to be made, then the state should get a
piece of it," the writer argues, pointing out that the athletes pay
nothing for their years of training.

Higher calling
"Sport is everywhere in Cuba, it's an integral part of the system. But
it's expensive to keep all that going now there's less money," he adds.

So if it ever turns a profit, the World Series could help plug the
funding shortfall.

"We will improve conditions for our athletes. We will improve the
quality of their training, and their quality of life," National Boxing
Federation chief Alberto Puig concedes of the new venture.

But he insists that Cuban boxing retains a higher calling.

"The fundamental motivation for the fighters, is demonstrating what
Cuban boxing is capable of," Mr Puig argues. Some argue that the true
test of that would be in the fully professional ring.

Cuba says joining the AIBA professional series is "an option" that it is
studying. AIBA says it "would be delighted" to welcome them, in the future.

But for now the fighters' own ambitions remain unchanged.

"For me, to be an Olympic champion would be the highest achievement,"
says Julio Cesar la Cruz, a light heavyweight who missed out on a medal
last year in London.

In the future, he could achieve that as a professional.

Source: "BBC News - Cuba's boxers go professional" -

Cuban arrivals from Bahamas allege beatings and sexual abuses

Posted on Saturday, 08.31.13

Cuban arrivals from Bahamas allege beatings and sexual abuses

The first Cubans to arrive in Miami from a notorious migrant detention
center in Bahamas this month alleged Friday that guards regularly beat
some of the male inmates and sexually abused some of the women.

One of the women repatriated from the center to Cuba earlier this month
arrived pregnant by a guard, according to the Democracy Movement, a
Miami group that has been helping the undocumented migrants detained in

The movement led a string of protests against the Bahamas government
this summer after detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre
smuggled out cell phone images of inmates sewing their lips together in
protest and an alleged guard kicking prisoners.

Randy Rodriguez, 31, his wife Misleidy Olivera, 30, and their two
children were the first detainees to speak in person to journalists
about conditions at the center after they arrived in Miami on a flight
from Nassau.

"That video is real, and after the video came the beatings" by guards as
punishment for the negative publicity, said Rodriguez.

Bahamas Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell has said the video is a fake,
though Bahamas news media reports this week indicate it is real. He said
recently that the allegations are under investigation.

"I wish to say that no one from the Bahamas government has admitted that
there was any abuse of detainees by the Bahamas government," he said in
an Aug. 18 statement.

Detainee Alexander Vásquez said he suffered a punctured lung from two
broken ribs and his brother suffered a cut on his head that required 17
stitches in a hospital. Rodriguez said he still has a lump on his
forehead, from a kick, that refuses to go away.

One night the guards tear gassed the wards to force everyone outside
despite a heavy rain and then kept them, face down on the ground and
lined up should-to-shoulder, from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., he said.

One hefty guard then counted the inmates, twice, by walking on their
backs, each step counting one prisoner, he added.

Rodriguez said he took part in a 17-day hunger strike that never became
public, and after the video incident was taken to Fox Hill maximum
security prison and imprisoned put in a cell with a cop killer, a rapist
and an apparently deranged man.

Food was delivered to the Carmichael Road center only once every three
days, he added, and the Cuban men usually saved their meager rations of
bottled water for their female relatives and children in a separate ward.

He weighted about 232 pounds when he was sent to the detention center
and now weighs 183 pounds, he said.

His wife said she was not sexually abused by guards during their stay
because she stayed with their children, but added in a low voice that,
"It is true that the women, to get water or food, have to sell their

Democracy Movement chief Ramón Saúl Sánchez, who greeted the family on
their arrival, said a 24-year-old woman repatriated from Nassau to
Havana last week had reported that she was six months pregnant by a
guard at the detention center.

Rodriguez's son Landy, 12, speaking briefly at a news conference just
hours after the family's arrival in Miami, said that conditions at the
detention center had been "very bad" while his 4-year-old brother Leandy
dozed on his father's lap.

"I don't know what the guards had against us," the father said. "We were
treated barbarically, and I don't know why."

Rodriguez said his group of 10 relatives and friends from the north
central town of Caibarien set off of in a 19-foot boat hand-made with
bits of lumber and metal sheeting and headed for Florida but were
intercepted Aug. 12, 2012 by the U.S. Coast Guard. They were taken to
Nassau, apparently because they were in Bahamian waters.

He was later approved for U.S. asylum, he said, because he could be
sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for taking his children out of the
island without permission and because of help from Rep. Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican.

Bahamas repatriated 24 Cubans to Havana on Aug. 16 and another eight on
the 21st, including several of the alleged victims of beatings and
sexual abuse in what Sánchez has complained is an attempt to silence
their reports of abuses.

Another 18 undocumented Cubans detained in the Bahamas will be allowed
to fly to Panama, which has agreed to issue them "territorial asylum"
while they try to arrange onward trips to the United States.

Joining Sánchez in a news conference was MarleineBastien, executive
director for Haitian Women of Miami, who said that Haitians also have
been complaining about the treatment at the Carmichael Road center "for
many years."

Source: "Cuban arrivals from Bahamas allege beatings and sexual abuses -
Cuba -" -

Friday, August 30, 2013

Federation of Cuban Women: Reasons to Celebrate?

Federation of Cuban Women: Reasons to Celebrate? / Yaremis Flores
Posted on August 30, 2013

HAVANA, Cuba, August, 2013 – At age 16, every girl who
is part of an "integrated" and "revolutionary" family, automatically
becomes a "federated" woman. Perhaps, like me, the only memory they
retain of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) is when a neighbor came by
the house to collect the dues.

On August 23rd, the only state organization that "defends" the human
rights of women celebrated its 53rd anniversary. At the time, extensive
articles in the official press accentuated stories about Heroines of
Labor, including a female crane operator, among others.

They stuck to those cases of women who were able to overcome the
barriers of sexism, but as usual this is a government strategy to hide
those Cuban women who are victims of discrimination and of domestic and
institutional violence.

Recently, Cuba was examined by the Committee against Discrimination
Against Women (CEDAW, for its acronym in English) and the FMC was
challenged about the absence of complaints on this issue.

As noted by one of the experts, "the absence of complaints does not
always mean the absence of problems; sometimes it's because of fear and
various other reasons that women do not get around to making the complaint."

In fact, Cuban women do not recognize the House of Guidance to Woman and
the Family, nor the FMC, as potential organizations to resolve their
problems. This is demonstrated by the low numbers provided by the State
regarding assistance to members of the Federation in cases of violence
between 2006 to 2008.

Eloísa Ricardo, after a history of mistreatment and abuse by her former
husband, a government official, looked in vain to the FMC. On the other
hand, Mrs. Regla Bárbara complained to the Federation, and received a
response letter sending the case to the Prosecutor's office, which is
standard practice.

The FMC reached this anniversary under the disappointed and concerned
gaze of international bodies such as CEDAW, for failing for, so many
years, in getting the Parliament to pass a specific law protecting women.

By Yaremis Flores

August, 27, 2013

From Cubanet

Translated by: Tomás A.

Source: "Federation of Cuban Women: Reasons to Celebrate? / Yaremis
Flores | Translating Cuba" -

Tomb Raiding and Wreath Robbing

Tomb Raiding and Wreath Robbing / Rebeca Monzo
Posted on August 29, 2013

The scandal of thefts in cemeteries continues, despite all the
denunciations published inside and outside the island. Of course for
many years here there was a silent complicity by the official press, the
only one accredited in the country. But with the advent of technology
and the access, although greatly restricted, to the social networks,
this seems to have escaped the censors and now, from time to time, an
occasional critical comment appears in local newspapers on this thorny

No longer is it only the Colon Cemetery, perhaps the most looted simply
because it has the most works of art of household value, but also
Baptist, Chinese, and Jewish graveyards have recently been vandalized,
by practitioners of African cults, who use bones of the dead (preferably
unbaptized) as offerings for their "religious" practices, in the face of
the unpunished and easy access to them.

Another phenomenon that occurred since the appearance of the two
currencies — the current Cuban pesos (CUP), in which they pay you wages
and pensions, and the strong pesos (CUC), in which you are forced to pay
for almost everything — is the reappearance at burials of two types of
wreaths: the poor ones, with sparse flowers, unattractive and
mass-produced, with paper tape and letters in purple ink, offered for
CUP, and occasionally in limited supply, depending on time and death;
and the others, for "hard currency," well-made with beautiful imported
flowers, fabric ribbons for the dedication in gold letters, and in
unlimited supply. As a result of this another type of theft began: that
of wreaths.

It is sad to think about the people who have made a sacrifice offered to
their deceased friend or family member of one of these beautiful wreaths
acquired in hard currency which, just after the burial is concluded and
the accompanying mourners dispersed, then disappears "as if by magic"
and is offered, in CUC of course, by other unscrupulous mourners, or is
simply dismantled to sell its flowers, to people who already have
pre-established contacts to buy them.

This has led increasingly to seeing fewer floral offerings on the
graves. This type of desecration also may occur at some of the monuments
to heroes in the city, where foreign delegations deposit elegant
wreaths, as recently occurred at the monument to Eloy Alfaro on the
Avenue of the Presidents, between 15th and 17th in Vedado.

Until now, as far as I know, there is no effective measure for stopping
this miserable and criminal practice. Nor do I know of anything having
been returned to the owners, any of the sculptures or large bronze
crucifixes stolen over the past twenty years. My family's burial vault
was plundered; I submitted the complaint, supported with
before-and-after photos, over five years ago, yet the cemetery
authorities have not given me any response.

It is shameful that these activities continue to occur in the 21st
century, practices that seem better suited to the Middle Ages, and which
are perpetrated in the face of the apparent apathy of the authorities,
who have the obligation of ensuring the preservation of our historical
and cultural heritage.

Translated by: Tomás A.

29 August 2013

Source: "Tomb Raiding and Wreath Robbing / Rebeca Monzo | Translating
Cuba" -

Uninformed or Poor?

Uninformed or Poor? / Yusimi Rodriguez Lopez
Posted on August 29, 2013

A couple days ago two neighbors were talking outside my house about the
notice published in the newspaper Granma, official organ of the
Communist Party. I don't know what the news was, but one said to the
other, "It came out in Granma, I read it," as proof of veracity. The
other responded, "I don't believe what Granma says, I read the internet."

A year ago it would have been difficult to hear a conversation like this
between neighbors, I don't think anyone would have talked out loud about
the question of the credibility of the official national press. Nor do I
know if my neighbor could connect to the internet a year ago, or just a
few months ago, and by what route if he was able to do so.

Many Cubans connected before network access became widely available in a
legal form for nationals. How? Some from their workplaces, legally and
free, had access to the pages that the Government allowed. Others
accessed from embassies, which is perfectly legal, but frowned upon by
our authorities: many did not use this route for fear of stigma, for
example that anyone could reproach them on seeing them enter the United
States Interest Section.

Other compatriots accessed the internet "under the table." Someone
whispered to you "so and so has internet, but you can't tell, it's under
the table." Not the least bit strange in a country where illegality
appears to be a prerequisite for things achieving the desired legal
status. For example, people sold their homes and cars before it was
legal to do so, not surprising in a country where you can go to jail for
an illegality one day before it ceases to be one. This happened with
holding currencies: one day made the difference between an "integrated
and compliant citizen under the law" and a "criminal"; the next day the
same difference was between "someone dying of hunger" and "a privileged

Because in the end, it's all about money. It's money that makes the
difference. We don't want to have the right to enter the hotels in our
own country, to travel, to buy a house or a car, unless we are high
performance athletes and important cultural figures? Then there are our
rights, let them. What's stopping us? Money.

The Government seems to be so aware that we do not have money, that,
according to the vox populi (which almost always is right), when a Cuban
citizen living in Cuba has stayed at hotels with a regularity outside
what is considered normal, their names are noted in a list and the
government then comes around to ask how they can afford it. But this may
be a rumor. Many good and bad things are attributed to our Government.
Not all are true (bad or good).

The truth is that money now not only divides us into Cubans can stay in
a hotel and those who can't even dream of it; between Cubans who can
dine at restaurants like Doña Eutimia, The Decameron or The Mimosa, and
Cubans who can only afford a pizza for ten Cuban pesos (and barely
that). Now money also divides us between Cubans who can access the
Internet, and Cubans who never will nor care to, because first they need
to think about eating. You can't think about having information, unless
you have a full stomach and more or less decent clothes to dress and
clothe the family.

I guess that's the difference between my two neighbors. One of them can
afford to discard Granma in favor of the internet as an information
source (I don't know if he's aware that not everything that is published
on the Internet is reliable); the other goes along with the official
national press that does not cost more than two Cuban pesos, even if you
buy from resellers.

A year ago, I complained that Cubans only had access to official
national information media, which contained information that the
Party-Government's interest in our consuming, processed in the way that
the Party-Government's interest wants us to have it. Now you can go into
the rooms that have opened in the country, and pay for services to
navigate the web (national and international) and email (national and
international). It's not news that one hour of internet costs 4.50 CUC,
just over $ 5 US and just under half the monthly salary of a worker. The
cheapest is the using national email only, 1.50 CUC. Well, you decide,
you aren't forced to access the internet.

I was told that these cyber rooms you could get access to the The Miami
Herald, for instance, and it's true. I was able to check a couple of
weeks ago, when I decided to commit harakiri and create myself an
internet account. The connection is fast, at least compared to what I
knew, and yes, you can access any publication even if it criticizes the
government. This is freedom of information, I thought. I can no longer
talk about uninformed Cubans; there are simply poor Cubans.

To be informed costs, in Cuba and in the world. It's only that we are
entering the ring right now. In the world there are places where the
information is free, and sites where you sign up to receive information,
places where you read a piece of information, and pay for the rest, and
places where you pay for quality information. Cubans are just entering
the XXI century. What happens is that at this stage of the game, it
still amazes us sometimes to discover that things are not as we were led
to believe that they were; that in reality, we are not all equal, and in
the future will be about the same.

That was my conclusion until I tried something as simple as accessing
the blog Generation Y, by the blogger Yoani Sanchez, who, believe it or
not, I had never read. I read a couple of her articles that were linked
to or posted on other sites, but not her blog. The worst thing is that
it took me a while to realize I could not access it. As I'm used to the
internet being I slow, waited, waited and waited, watching the minutes
that for me were money.

I tried the same with the blog Sin evasion, by Miriam Celaya, and that
of Reinaldo Escobar. In all cases I access articles and interviews from
elsewhere, but not their blogs. I repeated the operation with David
Canela, a journalist at Cubanet. I couldn't even read his articles. I
also could not access the publication.

I asked the workers staff the cybercafes, if Generation Y, for example,
was blocked. They didn't know what Generation Y is, or who Yoani Sanchez
is. No surprise, it happens to many people in Cuba. I explained, with
some difficulty because I realized I do not know how to define Yoani:
Dissident? Opposition?? Citizen? Highly embarrassing for the government?
Finally I was told that such sites or blogs are blocked. Then I learned
that the classified ad page Revolico is blocked too.

I could have saved money and time, if I had read the internet contract I
signed: Article 9 of the generalities of the service states "ETECSA is
exonerated from liability for the limited access to the content,
accuracy, quality and accuracy of the information posted on sites …"

Now I'm not sure it is enough to have money. Things do not seem so
simple. You can pay, but that does not guarantee that access to the
information that interests you. You do not decide what information to
consume. In the end will we be only poor? Or we also uninformed?

Yusimi Rodriguez Lopez

From Diario de Cuba

19 August 2013

Source: "Uninformed or Poor? / Yusimi Rodriguez Lopez | Translating
Cuba" -

El Vedado - From Modernity to Brutality

El Vedado: From Modernity to Brutality / Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna
Posted on August 30, 2013

HAVANA, Cuba, August, –The identity of El Vedado has
been in jeopardy for a long time. This neighborhood in the old Elegant
Havana is no longer a museum of modern architecture. Here Cuba entered
modernity, which was always an accent of its identity. It wasn't just a
neighborhood founded by families of the aristocracy, it was also a
neighborhood of tourism and prosperity.

This neighborhood, which germinated from the forest, today has aged very
badly. It is a scrap of city that is no longer prepared to handle hard
hits, its views have been sacked, deteriorated and blurred, it stopped
being an ostentatious site and today its facades are merely a game of

I remember the homeland of my childhood as a hospitable place, an
ecological settlement in which the way of life breathed dignity. Having
been born in the Sagrado Corazon and being from El Vedado demanded an
etiquette of distinction and elegance, even among the humblest.

Teresa, a woman from Guantanamo who was born in La Loma del Chivo,
vowed, from very young, never to go back to her hometown: "I arrived in
this neighborhood in 1962 –she testified–and I was dazzled by El Vedado,
one could distinguish the personality this place held, it had its own
glamor, it was a place where one breathed decency. Back then, the beat
of a drum, witchcraft and the sacrifices of animals under the ceiba tree
was foreign to this place. Today this identity has disappeared and a
culture of flip flops and barracks has been superimposed.

With the new social contract pushed by the Revolutionary inquisition,
the customs and culture of El Vedado, as a style of life for the elite
of Havana, was amputated by decree and replaced by a culture of barbarity.

The Hotel Trotcha, the Govea and Alaska buildings, or the gardens of the
Loynaz home, are some of the lost local patrimony. The Alaska building,
that could have been saved, was destroyed by dynamite, and today in its
place is the park of the Provincial Communist Party Committee. It's
possible that the same fate awaits the Medical Retreat building, located
on N, between 23 and 25. Cinematographic rooms, such as the Gris
theater, and cultural plazas, such as the Casa de la Cultura Checa have
been lost.

According to Hilda, a Havanan born in the neighborhood of Cayo Hueso,
today many mansions in El Vedado are citadels: "I remember that here
there weren't many ancestral homes, among them were the home of the
Chalas, now known as Blumer Caliente, and the Guillermina home, where
the most troublesome family was that of Silvia, known as La Cochina,
white with dark hair and eyes, who left the country in 1980. Now there
are other places , such as La Mierdita (The Little Shit), El Sopena, el
Hormiguero (The Anthill) and the Pentagon. Chivalry is over, as is good
taste and the pride we once felt for this place."

Areas linked to the echo of fine dining, such as the Varsovia, Sofia and
El Jardin restaurants, as well as coffee shops, La Cocinita (The Little
Kitchen), El Avioncito (The Little Plane), La Piragua (The Canoe), La
Fuente (The Fountain) and Sol Mar (Sun Sea), no longer exist. Other
restaurants like Rancho Luna (Moon Ranch), Los Andes (The Andes), Vita
Nova, El Cochinito (The Little Pig), Centro Vasco, Casa Potin, Las
Bulerias, El Castillo de Jagua, (The Castle of Jagua), La Roca (The
Rock), El Mandarin, Siete Mares (Seven Seas), where it is now very
difficult to eat seafood and fish, or the pizzerias Cinecitta, Buona
Sera and Milan. They are all grey places, abandoned to their fates.

The few places with foreign currency have cancelled opportunities for
free entertainment of the common people. The Vedado Tennis, today the
Jose Antonio Echevarria Social Circle, is a jungle in which the floating
class free their repressions and lay out the trash talk. The Club
Sayonara is a sad warehouse of food administrated by the Provincial
Management of Gastronomy of the People's Power of the municipality. The
Escondite de Hernando and Club Oluku clubs disappeared and were
transformed into a piloto for the mass consumption of beer. The feeling
vanished from Pico Blanco. The children's hospital Pedro Borras, and the
maternity ward, Clodomira Acosta, have been waiting to be demolished for
more than 20 years.

While El Vedado continues to lose its role as the Garden neighborhood it
once was, new places are being superimposed, as part of the emerging
economy: Dulcilandia (Candyland), La Farandula (Showbiz) and La Moraleja
((The Moral). The walk along the Avenue of the Presidents is the
sanctuary of the urban tribes (emos, rockers, preps and gangsters). The
culture of parks is also crumbling, the Victor Hugo (H and 21) or Medina
and Menocal are now animal cemeteries, for the permanent offerings to
the ceiba tree of the spirits.

A long time ago, El Vedado stopped being this elegant gentleman, an
intellectual dressed in white with a blue cummerbund. Of its traditions,
which constituted their own culture, all that is left is the eroticism
of La Rampa and the romanticism of the Malecón.


Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna: Civic Activist and leader of the Citizen's
Committee for Racial Integration (CIR).

He lives in the city of Havana.

From Cubanet

27 August 2013

Source: "El Vedado: From Modernity to Brutality / Juan Antonio Madrazo
Luna | Translating Cuba" -

Outstanding Child Baseball Player Marginalized Because he is the Son of Dissidents

Outstanding Child Baseball Player Marginalized Because he is the Son of
Dissidents / Michel Iroy Rodriguez
Posted on August 29, 2013

HAVANA, Cuba, August 28, 2013, Michel Iroy Rodriguez /
The ballplayer Jonathan Machado Tarrago, nicknamed Suzuki, age 14, who
was stolen base leader in games held in Taipei, China in July 2011, will
not be allowed to participate in the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto,
Canada, as the son of a regime opponent. It is expected that he will
also be suspended from the World Cup to be held in Mexico next year.

Yonatan Tarrago Machado was suspended from participating in games by
State Security, because he is the son of Antonio Machado Ramirez, a
political opponent of the regime.
His mother, Ana Maria Tarrago Ruiz, a resident of 80th Street between
49th and 51st, in the Havana municipality of Playa, says she feels hurt
and that the measure is stupid. "They want to destroy the future of my
son because of our political position," she said.

Her son has played baseball since he was 5. When he was 8 he was
eligible to play in the age 9-10 category, with a 300 batting average.
He was batting above 300 in his first year in the age 11-12 category.
The following year, when he joined the City of Havana team, he was
already batting 489, but he was not allowed to be on the Cuba team.
After several efforts by his coach, Jorge Mazorra, he joined the team to
travel to Taipei, China, where he led with 13 stolen bases and a 615
average. Even then, his speed from home to first base of 7.7 seconds,
and he had 22 hits and more than 24 stolen bases.

In 2012 he was again chosen by the Cuban baseball commissioner, who told
his parents that due to his high performance in the leadoff spot he
would be taken to the Pan American Games in 2015.

When Machado Tarrago was suspended from the Pan American Games, the
teenager assigned to his place had much lower stats: 13 hits and 3
stolen bases.

"The Cuban government feels it has the power to destroy the future of
any young person. It mistreats, humiliates and destroys whomever it
pleases. It believes it is the owner of all Cubans, entitled to decide
who will become something and who will not. And then they complain that
young people want to leave Cuba. It's not just because of economic
problems that they go," said Ana Maria Tarrago, the mother of this
promising baseball player.

From Cubanet

29 August 2013

Source: "Outstanding Child Baseball Player Marginalized Because he is
the Son of Dissidents / Michel Iroy Rodriguez | Translating Cuba" -

CUBACEL recharges - Why Isn’t It Allowed From Inside?

CUBACEL recharges: Why Isn't It Allowed From Inside?
Posted on August 29, 2013

Double Recharge…Double happiness this summer from 30 July to 2 August…
Gift of 30 text messages… Other surprises on these days.

For some time and with some regularity, many Cubans have received
refills on our phones thanks to the generosity of friends and advocates
who support us from the outside. Many others receive it by the kindness
of family and friends living outside of Cuba

These refills, promoted by a subsidiary of ETECSA, CUBACEL, S.A, the
telephone company responsible for cellular telephone service in Cuba,
are announced through a message that appears on our phones with the
following content: "CUBACEL Reports: PROMOTION . Recharge the balance
from overseas from 20.00 CUC and get twice the amount recharged", then
it shows the beginning and ending dates of the promotion.

And this comment is stressed by the writer because I have always been
shocked at the explicit declaration which, by all accounts, is
discriminatory, harmful to Cubans living in Cuba and violates their
rights to enjoy a service even if they have the ability to pay. I have
asked several employees of the Príncipe branch on Carlos III Avenue, and
their answers have been evasive, if not incriminating: "It's
management's decision" "We only work with the public, we don't make the
rules" "Why are you asking me? you should be asking Raúl" I wish I could
ask him, though that would be the least I would ask him.

That is, it's not just about the real and true fact that CUBACEL and
ETECSA take it upon themselves to arbitrarily interrupt at will
telephone communication of those pesky customers who don't have,
according to the system's standards, the "correct" political leaning,
thus, ETECSA violates the contract's conditions, but, in addition, it
voids everyone's rights, including those of people who are obedient or
quiet, who don't bother with political matters.

In short, I would like to know what this policy is about. It is
exclusionary for Cubans residing here, whose money seems to be of
absolutely no value for this telephone company managed by – how well we
know it — the Ministry of the Armed Forces, that is to say, Castro II.

So I appeal to the imagination, information or wisdom of readers to help
me understand what, needless to say, the employees of the Cuban
revolutionary telephone company will never explain. How is it
"politically" possible that a Cuban who has 20.00 CUC to recharge his
cellular phone will be unable to benefit from his own country's company
promotion? Could it have anything to do with the criminal imperialist
blockade? Could it be that the evil "Big, Bad Wolf" and other stateless
Cubans can't prevent us from having émigrés recharge our mobile phones
and yet have the power to influence media policy dictated by the no less
big, bad Cuban dictatorship?

No doubt, the communications issue is extremely delicate for the aging
olive-green cupola. It isn't merely about the undeniably most expensive
cellular telephone service in the world, but, in addition, the only one
that discriminates against its clients for the simple geographically
tragic fate of living inside CUBACEL territory.

Translated by Norma Whiting

2 August 2013

Source: "CUBACEL recharges: Why Isn't It Allowed From Inside? |
Translating Cuba" -

The Arcos Building is Falling to Pieces

The Arcos Building is Falling to Pieces / Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro
Posted on August 29, 2013

HAVANA, Cuba , August, – The Arcos building is in the
block formed by
F and E, between 19 and 21 in Vedado. Everyone in Havana knows this
unusual building built in the 1930s in the middle of one of the deepest
ravines in Vedado.

It's bad state of repair presents a serious danger to the many families
living there, and the tourists who visit it as an example of rare

One of the neighbors, who asked not to be named, said that they have
exhausted all possible official channels for requesting the
reconstruction of the old building.

"This building has 71 apartments and is built in an ancient ravine in
Vedado that we Havanans call 'the hole.' The Department of Multi-Unit
Housing promises, the Plaza municipal government promises, the
provincial government promises, they ensnare you and do nothing.
Everyone is brazen, sh..politicians."

The facts bear out this neighbor. For a long time now the structure of
this property has been suffering as a result of the passage of time,
lack of maintenance and neglect of the authorities.

The atypical characteristics of this building require specialized
reconstructive procedures. Partial collapses have occurred, for example
in the passageway that accesses the apartments from the entrance on 19th

At present, the staircase leading to 19th is virtually collapsed. This
staircase, and a long exterior passageway in the form of a balcony,
connect 21st Street with 19th Street.

The route allowed pedestrians to avoid the obstacle of the deep and long
ravine that cuts across F street in that area. The neighbors decided to
avoid greater evils by blocking the way and placing signs warning of the

You can see that the stair supports are broken, weakening it. From
another angle, coming from 19th, the principal column that supports the
stairs is extremely damaged.

Also the base and the support columns of the building all require
attention. A photo accompanying this note is in eloquent in itself. It
shows a sign painted by the neighbors which states : "We need help
(now), responsibility and the promises to be met. We hope not to face
the displeasure of putting ourselves dead." (sic)

27 August 2013

From Cubanet

Source: "The Arcos Building is Falling to Pieces / Camilo Ernesto
Olivera Peidro | Translating Cuba" -

Report reveals abuse of Cuban detainees in Bahamas

Report reveals abuse of Cuban detainees in Bahamas
Published on August 30, 2013
By Candia Dames
Nassau Guardian News Editor

NASSAU, Bahamas -- Cuban detainees were severely beaten at the
Carmichael Road Detention Centre in The Bahamas for almost two hours
after they attempted to escape, and one even appeared to have
temporarily lost consciousness as a result of the abuse, according to
one of the marines interviewed as part of the initial investigation into
the incident.

Witness statements from both guards and detainees are contained in the
closely guarded report of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) dated
July 19, 2013, The Nassau Guardian has exclusively revealed.

The Guardian has decided to withhold the names of the marines and
detainees interviewed as part of the probe.

The beatings allegedly occurred after detainees attempted to escape from
the facility on May 20.

The report contains explosive details of the abuse that allegedly
occurred at the facility. A marine reported that detainees were sprayed
with pepper spray in their eyes and wounds after the beatings.

They were then beaten some more, according to the marine.

One guard told investigators that another marine became concerned when
one of the detainees briefly appeared to have lost consciousness, and he
left the room where the beatings were taking place.

That marine reportedly remarked, "The young fellas went too far". It was
an apparent reference to some of the marines doing the beatings.

The report says that at the outset of the interview, one marine appeared
angry and had established that he had a prior heated conversation with a
leading seaman who is one of the investigators in the matter.

During that exchange, the marine threatened to report this individual to
Member of Parliament Alfred Gray, "a personal associate of his", says
the report completed by the RBDF's senior intelligence officer (SIO).

The marine also alleged that he had informed Minister of National
Security Dr Bernard Nottage that Cuban detainees had informed him that
one of the detainees had accused him of supplying cell phones to the

When questioned by the SIO as to how he came to be engaged in
conversations with detainees about matters of national security, he
became calm, possibly realizing that he had just admitted to committing
a breach, the report says.

The marine suddenly became a willing participant in the interview and
volunteered the following information, the report adds.

When questioned about cellular phones, he stated that he was aware and
had seen two officers selling cell phones to the detainees.

However, he was not aware of defence force and immigration uniforms
being given to detainees.

One marine stated that after the attempted escape sometime around 4:15
that morning, someone instructed him along with two other guards to
escort three Cuban male detainees to the RBDF front guard house.

While en route to this location, several guards began violently beating
the detainees in front of immigration officers.

The marine further stated that the mentioned detainees were taken into
the very back room of the guard house, which contains barbells and other
exercise equipment, where the beatings of the detainees continued by the
majority of the members of the guard watch.

He stated that initially he held one of the detainees while another
marine kicked and punched him (the detainee) and another marine hit him
with a baton over the head, ears, hips and legs.

The marine stated that when blood from the detainee started to pour out
he lost his composure and left the room.

Moments later, he heard another marine encouraging the young marines
with use of words like "prove your manhood by punishing these detainees".

After what appeared to be an hour, the detainees were dragged out of the
guard house and placed near the fence opposite the guard house entrance.

It was at this point that a marine sprayed pepper spray into the eyes,
wounds and bruises of the detainees.

This display was visible to all the remaining detainees -- the women,
children and the men who were watching from outside their dorms.

Apparently, it was done to send a message to the wider group not to try
escape, the report states.

A short time later, the detainees were taken back into the back room and
the beatings were continued by other members of the watch.

It was at this point that a marine reportedly became concerned when one
of the detainees briefly appeared to have lost consciousness and he left
the room.

The marine stated that the beatings lasted almost two hours.

The marine further revealed that another marine came to him the night
before the interview and said that this is the last straw, and that the
command will seek to dismiss him due to his prior infractions and if he
is not truthful about his actions about this incident.

The marine further asserts that the other marine wanted him to convey to
the investigators that he is willing and wishes to speak candidly with them.

This report is the first real black and white glimpse into what
allegedly transpired at the detention center back in May.

The claims have fueled a firestorm both locally and in Florida, where
protestors have been agitating and demanding answers from the Government
of The Bahamas.

The official opposition raised alarm on the issue during a press
conference last week, calling on the government to provide details on
the matter.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell has said a retired Court of
Appeal judge and a leading cleric are investigating the matter and that
report will take at least another month.

The Nassau Guardian understands that the government intends to have a
formal inquiry into this matter.

Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian

Source: "Caribbean News Now!: Report reveals abuse of Cuban detainees in
Bahamas" -

Cuban blogger tackles Dutch foreign minister

Cuban blogger tackles Dutch foreign minister
Published on : 29 August 2013 - 4:33pm | By Themes Desk

Bloggers from various countries have been invited by the Dutch
government to take part in the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of
the Peace Palace in The Hague. The bloggers spent the first day at RNW
where they prepared a blog on the theme of peace and justice.

Carlos Alberto Pérez Benítez from Cuba, editor of the blog La Chiringa,
arrived three days late after being blocked from leaving his country.
Once he arrived, he, together with the other bloggers, were able to
speak with the Dutch Foreign Minister, Frans Timmermans, in the Peace
Palace, which is home to the International Court of Justice. They spoke
about Timmermans' upcoming visit to Cuba, the changes taking place on
the island, bilateral relations, and bloggers' role in guaranteeing
freedom of expression.

Source: "Cuban blogger tackles Dutch foreign minister | Radio
Netherlands Worldwide" -

Measuring Cuba’s Moral Degeneration

Measuring Cuba's Moral Degeneration
August 29, 2013
Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES — We speak so much about the moral degradation of Cuban
society that sometimes it feels we are deep in a quagmire that can't get
any worse. This isn't exactly true, and we should not deceive ourselves
that it is.

Today, I had one of those days in which you go out with all of the
positive energy in the world, hoping to get some things done, and you
come home frustrated and empty-handed. This does not exactly illustrate
my point, I know.

I don't have any statistics at hand that would support my claim either.
I only have the facts. I sometimes wish there was an instrument designed
to measure what I'm talking about. It would be called a "degradation
meter," or something like that.

It would suffice to go out to the street and point it towards people's
rude behavior, the misconduct of consumers and public officials, bosses
and employees, adults and the young. The device would then give us a

Since such an extraordinary piece of technology does not exist, I will
try and measure the vibe of Cuba's streets on the basis of my own

The incidents I will describe are not exactly revealing, in and of
themselves. I think the fact they took place within the course of a
single day, however, gives us a sense of how inhospitable Cuban society
has become. My best reason for saying this is the simple and
overwhelming fact that incidents like these no longer shock anyone.

To improve public transportation, the number of buses operating in
Havana was recently increased. On this day, however, we are witnessing
bus stops with the kind of large crowds we hadn't seen for a good while.

Public transportation difficulties giving rise to stress among
passengers has been described at length in posts like this one. It is
understandable that people should be irritated. The hot August sun also
has a say in this.

But the fact that people – particularly the young – speak in a loud tone
of voice all the time has nothing to do with the public transport system
or the heat. That people should curse and say rude things to one another
while joking, that can't be chalked up to the weather or bus shortages

This morning, a woman almost knocked me down while scrambling to get a
seat in the bus. Things like this, folks, bring us a step closer to
savagery, even barbarism.

Another fellow who got on the bus was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt. His
armpits were hairy and sweaty. By then I was sitting on the seat the
rude woman had emptied. He settled next to me, placing his hairy armpit
very close to my face. He didn't seem to notice what he was doing.

My arm still hurts from having had to wrestle my way onto the bus, and I
was third in line. It actually hurts, the people standing behind me
almost tore it off, supposedly trying to keep others from taking their
place in the line.

On my way back, I ran into a friend. Just before I got off the bus, she
told me she had seen a man looking at her and masturbating, right behind
me. In effect, he had been fondling his genitals a few centimeters
behind my back. She had said nothing "to avoid problems."

Something isn't right here. Many things aren't right, for people are
shedding all civility with less and less shame and no one does anything.
This trend continues to grow and the "decent" appear to have become
immune to it.

Source: "Trying to Measure Cuba's Moral Degeneration" -

Thursday, August 29, 2013

As of today, Angel Santiesteban has served 6 months in prison, incommunicado

Communication: As of today, Angel Santiesteban has served 6 months in
prison, incommunicado
Posted on August 28, 2013

Today, August 28, marks six months since Angel was unjustly imprisoned
by the Castro dictatorship, after their having invented crimes he did
not commit, making use of his former wife and the mother of his son to
perform a show trial in which they were unable to prove absolutely any
of these alleged crimes for the simple reason that he did not commit
them. His sentence was based on the testimony of a handwriting expert
who alleged that the "accused" was guilty of the crimes charged because
he wrote in large and slanted print.

After the verdict which sentenced him to five years in prison, we have
made public by various means what should have been sounding alarms in
all the governments of the region that call themselves democratic and
defenders of human rights, and Angel is deprived of his freedom and has
been transferred arbitrarily between various prisons of the island, from
which he has continued to report abuses and violations of civil and
political rights that are committed in Cuba, especially now with the
prison population.

The last transfer, carried out illegally even by Cuba's own laws,
occurred on the August. It was the surprise they had prepared for his

For five days he had literally disappeared, held incommunicado in an
unknown location. Currently we only know it is in a site that has no
name, a place that deals with the constructions of the Ministry of
Interior and in which there are only twenty-two prisoners, including
Angel. We also know that there are no visits allowed there, nor phone
calls, because prisoners are entitled to a monthly pass to visit relatives.

All this we know from Angel himself who has managed to filter out a
note, which I have posted on the blog. Officially the family has been
informed of nothing regarding the transfer or the current status of Angel.

But, as we suspected would happen, they said that as Angel is not
working, he has no right to the pass his companions were given on August
23. They have said that in his case they will alternate visits with
passes, neither of which have happened, not even when they said they
would award it, between August 2 up to today, the 28th, he is literally
incommunicado, deprived of any right to receive news of his family, to
be able to see them and set his mind at rest that they are in good
condition, especially his children who both suffer from the lack of
their dad.

We do not know what the political police is up to now that, as we have
shown, they concocted the criminalization of Angel to convict him like a
common criminal. On July 4 they visited him in the 1580 prison and tried
to persuade him to abandon his political position and to record a video
promising to cease his opposition in exchange for his freedom. When he
refused, he was urged to avail himself of his diplomatic "friends" to
grant him a visa to leave the country, to which he also refused.

These two proposals are a clear assumption by the government that Angel
is not a common criminal, but a political prisoner. So far there is no
record of violent attackers of homes who have been tempted to renounce
their political positions in exchange for their release. But Cuba and
its dictatorship never cease to amaze for their crass use of the obvious
and ingenuous,which makes us wonder if they are fools, or they think we
are as foolish as the rest.

The truth is that almost after Angel received the "generous" proposal
from the political police, they have moved him in this way not only
illegal, but extremely suspiciously, and we know they have something up
their sleeve.

The Application for Review of Judgment has been submitted and there is
no response from what calls itself Justice in Cuba. But as we expect
nothing of a Regime in which justice is a subsidiary of political power,
from outside we have not stopped for a moment to move through all
possible channels, and international demands in favor of Angel 's
innocence are underway.

The eyes of the world are on Cuba and the dictator. The demands on
behalf of Angel are traveling far, and the case of Angel too. We recall
that a few months ago we pointed out that the political police hitman
known as Camilo threatened to kill him, chased him through the streets
of Havana and even maneuvered against Angel's car to the point that
there was almost an accident. There will be no possible and credible
accident with Angel. We won't fall for that while they keep attacking,
harassing, repudiating, reprimanding the people who have decided to say,
"Enough already!" Spanish Justice is investigating the murders of
Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero.

Every day, like wildfire, are published new assassination attempts
against so many opponents, but the cowardice and desire for evil have no
limits, to the point that they have dared to attack the daughter of
Berta Soler, to attack Iris Tamara Perez Aguilera, wife of the
well-known opponent Jorge Luis García Pérez — Antúnez — and against
Rigorberto Rodríguez from the Christian Liberation Movement, which are
the last three cases, reported this week.

We call upon Raul Castro Ruz to respect the rights of Angel Santiesteban
Prats, to immediately release him while the review of his trial
proceeds, which, if there is true justice in Cuba, will end with him
acquitted. We also demand an end to this shameful situation of isolation
and incommunicado in which they are keeping him. His voice will not be
silenced because his blog will continue to speak for him, restoring the
space for free expression that they have stolen from him.

Everything that can happen to Angel Santiesteban is Raul Castro Ruz's
sole and absolute responsibility.

The Editor

Source: "Communication: As of today, Angel Santiesteban has served 6
months in prison, incommunicado | Translating Cuba" -