Monday, March 31, 2014

Stakes Are High for Cuba Foreign Investment Law

Stakes Are High for Cuba Foreign Investment Law
HAVANA March 28, 2014 (AP)
By PETER ORSI Associated Press

Cuban authorities are on the verge of enacting a new foreign investment
law considered one of the most vital building blocks of President Raul
Castro's effort to reform the country's struggling economy.

The law is seen as so important that an extraordinary session of
parliament has been scheduled for Saturday so the matter doesn't wait
several months until the regular summer session.

Few concrete details have been made public, but this week official media
gave some hints of what the draft law looks like.

The newspaper Juventud Rebelde said it will allow foreign participation
in all sectors except health and education, and not only through joint
partnerships with the socialist government. Also allowed would be an
"international economic association contract, or business of completely
foreign capital."

Juventud Rebelde said most companies would be taxed at 15 percent of
profits, half what they pay under current rules, and they will be exempt
from paying for the first eight years of operation. Investors apparently
will not see their personal income taxed.

Duties may be higher for operations that exploit natural resources, such
as nickel and fossil fuels.

Foreign investment in the Communist-run country has lagged behind
expectations in recent years, and the shortfall is seen as a major
reason for disappointing economic growth. Analysts say that officials
must show they are truly committed to easing the way for foreign firms
if this latest attempt to lure overseas capital is to succeed.

"It's really about (creating) a business climate in which business feels
government at senior levels has an unambiguously favorable attitude
toward foreign investors," said Richard Feinberg, a professor of
international political economy at the University of California, San
Diego. "That's the best guarantee."

"If this law gives the right signals," Feinberg said, "it would be a
major step forward in the economic reforms."

Cuba isn't the easiest place for a foreign businessperson to make a buck.

Labor taxes are high, there is no open bidding for projects, the
approval process is opaque and cumbersome and the government has been
reluctant to let outsiders have majority ownership.

Companies often find themselves negotiating multimillion-dollar deals
with government officials who earn tiny salaries, and some say payoffs
are an unfortunate part of doing business in Cuba. At the same time, a
crackdown on graft, including the jailing of Canadian, Chilean, Czech,
English and French citizens, has sent a chill through the foreign
business community.

Then there's the 52-year-old U.S. embargo, which bars most American
trade with the island and effectively obliges many foreign companies to
choose between doing business with Cuba or the United States.

There's no sign the embargo will be lifted anytime soon, but observers
say Cuba can make itself more attractive to investors by doing things
like making approvals more transparent, easing payroll taxes, enabling
direct hiring of local employees and relaxing rules that require foreign
companies to purchase a certain amount of local inputs.

The rules described in Juventud Rebelde would be almost as favorable as
those already in place for a special economic development zone at
Mariel, a massive port project west of Havana that was formally
inaugurated in January.

Officials are also talking of guarantees that the property of foreign
companies and individuals will not be nationalized as happened after the
1959 Cuban Revolution, except in cases of national interest and only
with due compensation.

In a recent report for the online publication Cuba Standard, which
closely follows Cuban business news, former Cuban Central Bank economist
Pavel Vidal noted that foreign investment has remained flat since
Castro's economic reforms began, about 20 percent below forecast on
average. GDP grew just 2.7 percent last year, low for a developing
nation and again short of expectations.

Meanwhile, Cuba is heavily dependent on the billions of dollars in oil
it gets from ally Venezuela. The socialist-run South American nation is
experiencing its own economic woes these days, rocked for weeks by
violent protests amid calls by some in the opposition for President
Nicolas Maduro to resign.

Vidal said the new law could help stimulate investment by limiting
government officials' discretion in decision-making on approvals, ending
a longstanding tendency to green-light only large-scale investment and
allowing investment in Cuba's emerging privately owned businesses and
independent cooperatives.

"The new foreign investment law is the last opportunity for the reform
to come close to the growth goals planned through 2016," wrote Vidal,
who is currently a professor at Javeriana University in Cali, Colombia.
"At the same time, it will help diversify the island's international
relations, as well as reduce vulnerability due to its links with Venezuela."


Peter Orsi on Twitter:—Orsi

Source: Stakes Are High for Cuba Foreign Investment Law - ABC News -

New Face of Cuba’s Official Online Newspaper

New Face of Cuba's Official Online Newspaper
March 31, 2014
Isbel Díaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES — On March 13, a new version of Cuba's Granma newspaper
website went online. The most attractive feature of the new, more
dynamic page design is the possibility of posting comments on published

Till now, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party had a
website with a static and visually awful platform, far behind other
Cuban government pages, such as Cubadebate, Cubasi and newspaper sites
such as Trabajadores and Juventud Rebelde.

The digital version of the weekly Granma Internacional, which came
online in August of 1996, was the first Cuban Internet press site. The
online edition of the newspaper (which has now been fused with Granma
International) became available as a digital publication in July of 1997.

According to Granma, the new staff of designers sought to make the site
"modern, respond to the demands of new information and communication
technologies and any platform used to convey news, in order to inform
the public quickly and truthfully, sharing news content in such a way
that users aren't mere passive receivers of information, but also the
main sources of such content."

The current Internet platform of Cuba's official newspaper relies on a
"dynamic framework" that employs a modern "content manager". This allows
for updating from different places, regardless of circumstances. Tablet
and smartphone versions of the site have also been released.

The new website also affords a range of editorial solutions that "allows
decision-makers to act, not only expediently, but also intelligently.
This holds for the editing of a given text and for the way it is
presented to the user, with emphasis on the classification of the
materials to be uploaded."

In addition to improved design, better content organization, responsive
design, performance, increased cache and the availability of 2.0
applications, a portion of the published news can be read in English,
French, German, Italian and Portuguese.

The Face and the Body Aren't Always the Same

Granma's new young staff introduced itself to readers through an article
titled ", nuestra nueva cara en la red" (" Our New
Face on the Internet").

On this occasion, Granma journalists didn't quote Marx, Lenin or Fidel
Castro. Rather, in keeping with the new times, they turned to the East
and invoked Mahatma Gandhi, in a phrase that reads: "We would do many
things if we believed that fewer things were impossible."

As though that weren't enough, the communist staff of Granma shared a
phrase written by Confucius in 551 AD: "whoever aspires to constant
happiness and wisdom must adjust to frequent changes."

Fortunately, the information acknowledges the fact that "these new tools
facilitate the management of the site but do not of themselves write,
investigate or express opinions. These, it said, require the
professionalism and commitment of a higher form of journalism," in
keeping with the appeals made by President Raul Castro.

The impact Cuba's recently appointed First Vice-President Miguel
Diaz-Canel working towards a change in the methods of the national
press, is fairly obvious.

That said, the newspaper continues to be prepared at Poligrafico Granma
("Granma Publishing House"), where all the country's national
newspapers, including those read in Havana, Mayabeque and Artemisa, are

Nor has Granma changed its fundamental objective, which isn't to inform
the public (as one would expect of a newspaper), but to "promote,
through its articles and comments, the work of the revolution and its
principles, the achievements reached by our people and the integrity and
cohesion of our people around the Party and Fidel," as the page "About
Us" announces.

Another indication that the "body" hasn't changed is that the initiative
to modernize Granma will be extended to Juventud Rebelde, through the
same team of designers, commented Diaz-Canel in a recent interview.

I must acknowledge that slightly fresher articles written by young
people can now be found in the newspaper's Opinions column. These,
however, aren't published in the privileged spaces, which are still
reserved for the familiar praise for the current state of things on the

The Communist Party Now Accepts Comments

After two weeks online, it is clear that the editors of Granma are
willing to publish comments expressing criteria opposed to those of the
article and even opinions that are fairly critical of the government's
general policies.

An article that announced the appointment a new chair of the National
Association of Small Farmers, for instance, showed several comments
criticizing the PCC's meddling in an autonomous farmers' organization
and the Party's tendency to appoint leaders who had no direct experience
in the field.

Flattering comments continue to be the immense majority for the time
being, though a group of cybernauts seems to have discovered this new
possibility and timidly begin to post their criticisms.

Generally speaking, Internet users supportive of Granma have
acknowledged that the change was necessary and appear to be pleased by
the opportunity to share their comments.

In addition, Granma designers have implemented a number of changes
suggested by readers and replied to a number of comments, giving signs
of a willingness to converse with the public (at least on matters that
aren't explicitly political).

Cuba's extremely limited Internet access could be the reason these new
spaces have been opened, in one of the few sites that didn't allow for
public participation until recently.

It is worth pointing out that several users who use Cuba's national
health network connection (Infomed) left comments expressing their
dissatisfaction with the slowness of the connection and the amount of
time it took to open the different news pages.

That dissenting opinions are still treated with a measure of
apprehension is revealed by the fact that, once articles are published
on the main page, only a selection of the comments made are left – the
majority are positive and a small number of them (usually the worst
arguments) are negative.

Regardless, we should pay attention to these shy steps and what they
could mean for the future: a move towards an acceptable model of free
press for the island, or a mere disguise used to conceal the censorship
mechanism we know so well.

Source: New Face of Cuba's Official Online Newspaper - Havana

Cuba Needs to Unleash Creative Energy

Cuba Needs to Unleash Creative Energy
March 28, 2014
Vicente Morin Aguado

HAVANA TMES — Michael A. Lebowitz, Canadian economist and professor at
the Simon Frazer University in Vancouver, answered our questions
regarding: Socialism and the Party, the New State from the bottom up,
cooperatives and self-management, Cuba and its economy.

HT: What does the Cuban economy need as a factor of the first order to

Michael A. Lebowitz: I don't think it is appropriate for me, as an
outsider, to make specific proposals for the Cuban economy. However, on
the basis of my studies of countries which attempted to build socialism
in the 20th century and several years as an adviser in Venezuela, I
think I can make some general comments.

If you wish to build a new society, it is essential to find ways to
unleash the creative collective energy of the people. It is important to
create conditions in which people through their practice can transform
circumstances and themselves.

In the Soviet Union and countries which followed that model, this was
sorely lacking. The tendency was to think that all solutions and all
movements toward socialism were to be determined at the top and
transmitted to the bottom. The result was that people did not develop
their capacities, that they were alienated in the workplace and
communities and did not and could not defend the gains that were made in
those societies. And we know the result: capitalism triumphed. In short,
even though some people may think it is more efficient to make the
decisions at the top, it should be understood that this is a
disinvestment in people.

I spent a number of years living and advising in Venezuela during the
period when Chavez was president. It was evident there in the communal
councils and workers councils that when people have the ability to make
the decisions that affect them, they develop strength and dignity. One
of the wonderful characteristics of Chavez was that he had confidence in
the ability of people to develop and to build socialism and he never
hesitated to encourage them. If you want to solve the problem of
poverty, he said, you have to give power to the people. Chavez was
consistent on this point: he stressed the importance of producing new
human beings, and he often cited Che Guevara on the necessity to build
new socialist human beings.

HT: Is an economy possible completely based on self-management and the

ML: I think self-management of state-owned enterprises and cooperatives
are an important way of unleashing the creative energy of people. They
build solidarity within those workplaces and demonstrate essential
aspects of a society based on cooperation rather than competition.
However, I don't believe that you can build a just economy limited to
these islands of cooperation. Their inherent tendency is the
self-interest of the members of these collectives.

For example, in Yugoslavia the orientation of self-managed enterprises
was to maximize income per worker. They functioned within the market
and, rather than building solidarity within the society, the tendency
was to generate inequality in the society. When every group of workers
is looking out only for itself, who is there to look out for the
interests of the working class as a whole?

It is a myth (a dangerous myth advanced by those who are either ignorant
or ill intentioned) to argue that, when everyone acts out of their own
self-interest, the interests of all are advanced. That is the mythology
of Adam Smith and neoliberal economics. In Yugoslavia: the stress upon
self-interest and the market produced the destruction of solidarity
within the society and ultimately the destruction of Yugoslavia itself.

I believe that it is essential that there be an organized voice which
expresses the needs of people and thus acts as a corrective to the
self-orientation of the members of the enterprises. In Venezuela, the
stress has been to bring together the communes (composed of a number of
communal councils) and the workplaces in those areas to explore the ways
in which the workplaces can serve the needs of the local communities.

Obviously, it is not only the needs of local communities have to be
taken into account. However, it is very important that the members of
these workplaces understand their responsibility to society. Otherwise,
you can get the perverse situation which existed in Yugoslavia where
state taxation (for the purpose of equalizing development in the
country) was attacked as exploitation by a Stalinist state.

HT: Do the cooperatives need the unique party and the state as
institutional rectors of the nation?

ML: I definitely believe that you need the state. How else can you deal
with the problem of inequality and problems of national importance like
defense? However, I think it is important to begin to build a different
kind of state – a new state.

In Venezuela, Chavez described the communal councils as the cells of a
new socialist state. They were institutions characterized by
protagonistic democracy, a democracy in practice, in which people
develop through their own activity. And he saw these as the building
blocks to move to communes and from there to the creation of a communal
city and from there upward to the new national state – a state from below.

Obviously, that new state cannot possibly develop overnight and it
necessarily coexists with the old state for a period of time. But the
goal should be to build that new state consciously – precisely because
it is a state which produces the people required for a socialist economy.

I don't think that such a new state emerges spontaneously. It requires
conscious effort. It requires the battle of ideas. It requires
leadership. In short, it requires a party which recognizes the necessity
to create the conditions in which new socialist human beings produce
themselves. And that means, I think, a party with a different focus –
not a focus upon making decisions at the top and enforcing discipline
within the party but one which creates the conditions internally for
people to develop all their potential and initiative, one which contains
within it different tendencies and which respects minorities, a party
oriented toward building socialism which can listen and learn.

HT: Do you think cooperatives are the answer to the problems of Cuban

ML: Certainly the problems of Cuban agriculture are very serious and
much depends upon a solution to these. While these problems have unique
characteristics (reflecting particular decisions that were made in the
past), it is essential to understand that there are many common
characteristics in other countries of the South.

In many places, people have abandoned the rural areas in part because of
the inability to compete with the highly subsidized agriculture of the
United States and other developed capitalist countries. It is not at all
a level playing field – poor and developing countries are pressured not
to subsidize rural production but nothing is done about the subsidies
(direct and hidden) in the rich countries. The result is that many
countries of the South lack food sovereignty despite their fertile land
and end up importing substantial amounts of their foodstuffs.

This is the situation in Venezuela, where there was an enormous movement
from the countryside to the cities in the period before Chavez's
election; a particular factor there was an overvalued currency (due to
oil exports) which meant that rural producers could not compete with

The result was that Venezuela was importing 70% of its food and much of
its countryside was empty. How was it possible to reverse that and to
develop food sovereignty? In a paper I did for the Venezuelan Ministry
of Economic Development in 2008, I stressed that if you want to
encourage food production, you have to encourage food producers and, in
particular, you have to encourage new entry into agricultural production
especially of young people.

And, I argued that this goes far beyond simply increasing food prices
for the producers (which does not necessarily mean increasing prices for
consumers). It means developing an infrastructure, schools, cultural
facilities and access to modern communications. In short, you have to
create the conditions in which young people do not see themselves as
turning their back on civilization to work in the countryside. This is
obviously an investment – an investment for the future which goes far
beyond a simple solution of raising prices for agricultural production
and leaving things to the market to solve the problem.

If a society is prepared to make such an investment (which needs to be
widely discussed so people understand its necessity), then the next
question is what should be the nature of the relations of production in
agriculture. From what I've said earlier, it is obvious that I think
that forms of self-management (whether under state ownership or
cooperative ownership) are essential. It should be obvious, too, that if
society is making this investment, then the self-managed enterprises
need to recognize their responsibility to society.

If Cuban society is not prepared or is unable to make such investments,
I fear that the prospect is one of shortages, high food prices and
continued high food imports (especially with the aging of the rural

Source: Cuba Needs to Unleash Creative Energy - Havana -

Cuba - Censorship, Self-Censorship and Common Sense

Cuba: Censorship, Self-Censorship and Common Sense
March 27, 2014
Ernesto Perez Chang

HAVANA TIMES — As a mechanism for ideological control, censorship is not
unique to totalitarian regimes. In nearly every country around the
world, there are political, religious and other demarcations that make
so-called freedom of expression mere semblance. This is a truism. No one
is so naïve as to believe they can freely express their opinions without
some form of hostile consequences.

The fact censorship exists nearly everywhere should not, however, be
used by governments to justify its practice as an unquestionable right,
nor as a kind of consolation for those whose right to dissent is curtailed.

All countries will always suffer some form of censorship (tacitly or
explicitly), but public opinion groups and individuals must be very much
aware of the legitimate role they must play in their relationship with

Journalists and writers – provided they are true to their calling and
assume the absolutely independent and responsible attitude devoid of
opportunism and complicity with higher-ups their profession demands –
are duty-bound to practice their trade honestly and decorously, even
when this means an open and direct confrontation with the political

It is not a question of turning literature or journalistic work into
propaganda, creating spaces, columns or opinion groups, much less
affiliating oneself to parties or parading down the streets holding
banners and yelling out slogans (as citizens, we are all free to do
this, of course). It is a question, rather, of shedding one's fears
ceasing to conceive of our intellectual subjugation and self-censorship
as "common sense", as these phenomena only lead to ridiculous and
nonsensical text and never to genuine literature or journalism.

While it is true that efforts to avoid censorship through the use of
literary disguises of every sort has spawned literary masterpieces and
brilliant authors whose real names we will never know, hidden as they
remained behind a pseudonym or total anonymity, it is also true that no
hand numbed by fear or guided by a foreign and despotic will ever
managed to write anything worthwhile. One cannot write a journalistic or
literary piece if one is forced to respect the limits imposed by others.
Nothing of any significance can be achieved when one needs a permit in
order to create.

Publishing a sterile work that has been emptied of potentially offensive
content, besmirched by convenience and adulterated by the fear of
punishment could be tolerated in mentally challenged people, but it is
shameful and objectionable when practiced by individuals who have an
effective influence on the public sphere.

Any system that fears individual opinion, the direct usage of the
written word or questioning (misguided or not) only demonstrates that
the ideological foundations that sustain it are as fragile as paper or
as insubstantial as hot air.

By attacking those who dissent, governments merely reveal their colossal
clumsiness. By revealing, through their hatred, their disproportionate
and contradictory faith in the written word, they attest to the fact
that their reality is made up of a huge pile of words, each propped up
by the other, part of a discourse that is only apparently coherent.

Words are not the political or ideological property of anyone. Imposing
limits on the activities of intellectuals and artists does great harm to
a country's culture. Strategies aimed at silencing people and at
controlling the opinions of individuals within the sphere of culture and
others are the fundamental causes behind the stagnation and mediocrity
that prevail in our society.

Source: Cuba: Censorship, Self-Censorship and Common Sense - Havana -

Shortage of potatoes in Cuba

Shortage of potatoes in Cuba

Potatoes are scarce in Cuba. Cuban weekly 'Trabajadores' reported last
Monday, that the import prices for seed potatoes has risen sharply and
as a result, only half the total area is being planted, compared to last

At the moment approximately 3200 hectares of potato are being cultivated
in Cuba. This is 57% smaller than the total area of 2013, and a 17%
smaller area than 1990. "It will not be enough for everybody," warns
'Trabajadores'. The harvest runs from the end of March to early April.

Publication date: 3/31/2014

Source: Shortage of potatoes in Cuba -

Fidel is a talented, egotistical guy who hates the Cuban people

Fidel is a talented, egotistical guy who hates the Cuban people /
Augusto Cesar San Martin
Posted on March 30, 2014

Havana, Cuba — Hubert Matos is a symbol of the struggle against the
tyranny that has dominated Cuba since 1959.

As an admirer of his rebelliousness and perseverance — something that
characterized him until he drew his last breath — I resolved during my
visit to the United States in January of last year not to go home
without interviewing him.

We quickly settled on a date for the interview, arranged by Cuba
Independent and Democratic (CID), an organization that he founded to
bring freedom to his homeland.

With the help of a 17-year-old student, Christopher Campa, to capture
the images of the meeting — he filmed unedited images — we'll see three
generations in his house in Miami. The same home which welcomed him on
October 2, 1979, coming from Costa Rica, to where he was exiled by Fidel
Castro, and in which country he asked for his body to be temporarily
interred, before being placed to rest in Cuba some day.

Huber Matos gave us four hours of his precious time to explore his
indefatiguable life, which he committed fully to Cuba.

Before his physical loss, we forwarded Cubanet fragments of the
interview, taking notes of the transcription of the video.

Cubanet: I understand that your name has something to do with the life
you have lived.

Huber Matos: "The first thing you should know, or the most important in
my life, is that they gave me a name the kids said was unique — "Where
did they get that name Huber from?"

"Before I was born, my father read a book by a Swiss-German researcher,
biologist and naturalist named Francisco Huber. I used to say, "What
does that have to do with me?" The man was blind by the time he began
studying the lives of honeybees. He spent twenty years studying the
subject with the help of two assistants and wrote the most definitive
book of its era on the subject.

"That persistence, that strong will of that man… that means you have to
be strong inside," said my father. And that's how me raised me.

"One cannot soften oneself, one cannot allow oneself to be defeated by
adverse circumstances … The life of a human being has one principal
function that goes beyond saving one's skin.

"So I owe a lot to my parents and teachers. It is not happenstance that
I could withstand 20 years in prison. Of course, there's the luck
factor. If, in those beatings they give … once they almost split me.
They made deep scars on my neck area.

Cubanet: But you also trained values as a part of the Cuban magisterium.

HM: "I spent years training teachers in the normal school in Manzanillo.
We were some 20 professors training teachers, from the first year though
the fourth. Trying, not only to give them knowledge, but also to train
conscience in my case.

"I told them: The Republic is an entity that must be built day by day.
Each of you has a role to play, not only to teach reading and writing,
and teaching arithmetic … helping to train the citizen in the field
which corresponds to him. Help form a conscience.

"As a youth I was afraid of prison. Once they condemned a relative to
one year, 8 months and 21 days because he'd taken a girl and didn't want
to marry her. He asked me to visit him in prison. "Cousin, get me out of
here", I told him, "this is insufferable". Afterwards I had to tolerate
20 years in prison.

Cubanet: You were incarcerated due to a sinister and vengeful trial
during the beginning of the Revolution. Linked to events like the death
of Camilo Cienfuegos, one of the dark chapters of the revolution. Do you
feel hatred towards the Castros, declared enemies of yours since then?

HM: "With all certainty, I tell you in a very sincere way, the question
of hatred no, it's a rejection and some unsettled scores. But I
subordinate that of the unsettled scores to the harm I've done to them
and they are doing to Cuba. In my personal order of things, I've
overcome all they've done to me.

"When I left a free man, I could have accepted recognition at the
international level. Afterwards, when I wrote my book, I noted that in
my story.

"Right now they've called me to Mexico to recognize me as a Hero of
Freedom in America", I told myself "Boy, I didn't expect this … I think
this is beyond my rights, what I deserve."

"Anyway, I think that in some form it's a recognition of the demand of
the Cuban people for respect of their rights. I try to cover the
unsettled account (with the government) with the Cuban people.

"The Castros killed Camilo. I have no proof, but I know that Fidel had
tremendous jealousy of Camilo, for his popularity. He wasted no
opportunity in the months I was in office, from 1 January (1959) until
21 October, which was when I resigned, to impress me with Camilo.

"Fidel traveled all the provinces twice. I was the boss in Camaguey. No
two weeks passed without Fidel calling to tell me something … the two
(Fidel and Raul Castro) were determined he'd form some part of the
government, or perhaps the Minister of Foreign Relations, or Minister of
Agriculture, at the beginning, when they were talking of agrarian
reform. In all their conversations with me they were always trying to
impress me with Camilo.

"Camilo was a guy the people applauded, but he was disorganized, drunken
… I was Camilo's friend, and I'd tell him: "Take care, you know that
Fidel eulogizes you in public, but in private he says nasty things about
you." Camilo didn't put much stock in that.

"They took advantage under cover of my resignation to see if my people
were trying to kill Camilo. Afterward, they took advantage of my
situation to eliminate him.

"How they killed him, I don't know. That which I do know is that they
killed the pilot and bodyguard. I can't affirm how they killed him
because I don't have the evidence. Camilo got in the way of Fidel's

Cubanet: Have you been afraid?

HM: "I've been lucky to be a man who doesn't scare easily. In more
difficult situations, I haven't backed down.

"At my sentencing, I was convinced they were going to shoot me, they
were going to shoot me for proclaiming my truth. If they didn't shoot
me, it was because they made a mistake. They brought a lot of people to
encourage my execution, so they would shout "To the wall!", and it
happened that when I stopped speaking, they applauded me. And they
applauded me because I said: "Okay, if with my death the true Cuban
Revolution is saved and the republic is saved, then blessed be my death."

Cubanet: You know intimately the how attached the Castros are to power.
Do you think Raul has the will to change?

HM: "A change to survive them. One always has to expect the chance of
deceit, of the trap. Because they're two individuals who, although they
differ much in their personalities, they team up to scam the rest. To
deceive the rest and leave with what's theirs.

"Fidel is a talented guy, an egomaniac who with all certainty harbors a
tremendous hatred of the Cuban people, which no one can explain. He
hates and detests everything that is not in his self-interest. His taste
for dominion and power traps all mankind.

"Raul is very careful to make sure of this and that, he's organized.
Fidel is chaos.

"They're being flexible in matters of maneuvering here and there, but if
they find a seriously adverse situation, they will ensure it's invented
on the way. That is Raul Castro, in my manner of seeing, the man I know
and have known through his pronouncements."

Cubanet: If I told you to send a message to the new generations of
Cubans, what would you say?

HM: "That it's worth it to make the maximum effort to implement the
ideals of the founders of the Cuban nation. In a true republic, as Marti
said, "with everyone and for the good of everyone".

"What exist and what the Castros have imposed on us is something, but
not a republic. The opposite of the ideals that inspired the mambises,
the founders of the Cuban nation. This one (Castro) has a fiefdom, a
whorehouse, a colony, a farm — something — but not a republic.

"The compromise with the founders of the Cuban nation and the compromise
with the values that inspired them is permanent. Service to collectivity.

"I trust in that. I don't know if it will take us 20, 15, or 100 years
more to achieve a real republic. It's worth the trouble to make the
maximum effort for that achievement."

Cubanet: Does Huber Matos still have things to do?

HM: Before I die, although one never knows if death will come tomorrow
or the day after, I have to write a few more things. I'm taking it from
there. I can't afford to fool myself, 94 years isn't a very short time.

"I wrote the book How the Night Came; now I have to write how we want
the dawn to come out.

"I still have a little understanding, but doubtlessly the almanacs are

Cubanet, 28 February 2014. Augusto Cesar San Martin

Translated by: JT

Source: Fidel is a talented, egotistical guy who hates the Cuban people
/ Augusto Cesar San Martin | Translating Cuba -

Cuba for Foreigners

Cuba for Foreigners / Miriam Celaya
Posted on March 31, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba – On Saturday 29 March 2014 the Cuban Parliament "will
debate" in a special session period the new Foreign Investment Law,
another desperate attempt by the regime to attract foreign businessmen
who choose to risk their capital and ships where those of others have
already been shipwrecked.

This time the scenario and the circumstances are markedly different from
the decades of the 90s, when the fragile and dependent Cuban economy
touched bottom and the government had no other alternative but to
reluctantly open it to foreign capital, creating then a Foreign
Investment Law that granted some legitimacy and limited guarantees for

Hugo Chavez's rise to power in Venezuela at the end of this same decade
came to the rescue of the regime with new subsidies that allowed
backtracking on the opening to capital and the small private family
businesses that arose in the midst of the privations of the period.

Paradoxically, 15 years later, the critical socio-economic and political
situation in Venezuelan situation, which threatens to collapse the
Bolivarian project, once again closing the sources nourishing the Cuban
government, strongly affects a new search for foreign capital because
this is the only way the system will survive, but the investors are
reluctant and skeptical given the absence of a legal framework to
protect the invested capital.

It is rumored that the recent visit of José Ignacio Lula Da Silva to
Cuba , concerned about the risk of elevated investments from Brazil and
the delay of the government of the Island in updating the Foreign
Investment Law, was the definitive touch that made the Cuban cupola
decide to push its approval, postponed several times. There are also
unofficial rumors about the freezing the Brazilian investments in the
Mariel Special Development Zone, and the approval of new credit to the
Cuban side, until there are adequate legal safeguards. The agreements
are no longer based in solidarity, but rather on purely capitalist
financial and commercial relations.

Propaganda at the Recent International Trade Fair of Havana

The new Foreign Investment Law in progress, therefore, is to "strengthen
the guarantees of the investors," while it "also contemplates the total
tax credits and exemptions in determined circumstances, was well an
increased flexibility with regards to customs, to encourage investment,"
according to the statements from José Luis Toledo Santander, president
of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly of People's Power
which, "deals with the Constitutional and Legal Affairs," (Granma,
Saturday March 17, 2014, page 3), elements not covered in the Law.

Also the high official declared that the draft presented to the
deputies,"established the priority character of foreign investment in
almost all sectors of the economy, particularly those related to
production." Clearly, a self-employed person is not the same thing as a
capitalist entrepreneur, in case anyone had any doubts.

In the preparatory process, which according to the official press has
been developing throughout the country, participating along with the
deputies have been "specialists, functionaries from the municipal and
provincial governments, representatives of international legal
consultants and consultants from important businesses; in general people
who could support the discussion." (Emphasis by this author.) A plot
behind closed doors of which some harmless notes have reached the
national media, but the common people are nothing more than this
conglomerate of spectators incapable and prevented from making some
"contribution" and should swallow the pill as the olive-green
filibusters stipulate.

The "main concerns and contributions of the deputies" in the so-called
process of analysis and discussion of the draft on the Island revolved
around "the labor rights of the Cubans who work on these projects, the
terms for the investment and the protection of the National Patrimony,"
omitting the fundamental question: the privileging of foreigners over
what should be the national rights of Cubans. A details that recalls
that "Carolina Black Code" that in 1842 recognized the doubtful rights
and privileges of slaves such as corporal punishment not exceeding 25
lashes, and the prize of freedom in exchange for the betrayal of fellow

Almost 40 years of experience in parliamentary simulations allow us to
anticipate that, like all the previous laws "discussed," this one will
also be unanimously approved by the choir of ventriloquists from the
from the orchestra seats in the headquarters of the farce, the Palace of
Conventions, on March 29th. For now, many of the parliamentarians have
conceded that the new Law "is in complete harmony" with the economic
adjustments drive by the General-President in his process of updating
the model, another experiment that—indeed—will allow him, through
capital, through capital, the solving of the ever pressing problems of
building socialism.

Miriam Celaya

28 March 2014

Source: Cuba for Foreigners / Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba -

With Regards to the Promised Salary Increase for Doctors

With Regards to the Promised Salary Increase for Doctors / Jeovany
Jimenez Vega
Posted on March 30, 2014

It's said that on a misty winter day the old Chinese emperor, aroused by
the longing for spring, desired to delight his eyes with a painting of a
beautiful bird, and as the desire of any emperor is an order for his
vassals, the search began immediately, first among the artists of the
court, and later further and further afield, to the borders of that vast
empire that seems to be the borders of entire world.

So, after long investigations, they found in the most distant region, a
painter as skilled as he was wise: it was said that after so much
reflection on the mysteries of the universe he had come to glimpse the
most hidden secrets of the universe; it was said he could talk to the
birds in the forest.

That humble maestro was presented to the sovereign who solicitously
asked what he needed to paint the perfect bird, a beauty never seen in
live, a bird worthy of adorning the palace of an emperor. The wise
painter answered that he needed a large workshop, five servants, one
year, and one hundred gold coins. "So be it!" commanded the emperor.

They tell how a year passed and the maestro was sent for and he came,
just as he was, and to the scandal of the idle court, wearing his
stained painter's smock. The sovereign asked, "Is your work ready?"

"No my Lord," responded the maestro, "now I need a still larger
workshop, ten servants, five years and two hundred gold coins."

"So be it!" commanded the emperor.

They tell how five winters later the maestro was again called to appear
before the sovereign. "Let's see," he said, "show me, finally, your work."

"It's still not ready, my Lord," responded the maestro, "I need ten more
servants, five more years, and five hundred gold coins."

Not believing his ears, the emperor consulted his ministers and
counselors who warned him against such an absurdity. But the longing for
spring overcame him and he decided, again, that it would be thus.

Finally after five more long winters, the emperor, compelled by hope and
curiosity and determined not to wait one more day, decided to visit
himself the workshop of the painter who now seemed too demanding. When
he entered with his entourage he found himself enveloped in a mysterious
light, in silence, in the middle of the spacious salon. The maestro
bowed with respect.

"Everything is ready, my Lord," he said, and immediately revealed to the
incredulous a blank canvas. At the offense, the emperor stared,
understanding nothing.

Only then did the maestro take a few minutes to mix the exact colors,
and according to the legend, before the astonishment of the emperor and
the amazement of the court, he painted, in sublime and serene strokes,
the most beautiful nightingale in the world.

10 March 2014

Source: With Regards to the Promised Salary Increase for Doctors /
Jeovany Jimenez Vega | Translating Cuba -

Use and Abuse of the Lab Coat

Use and Abuse of the Lab Coat / Fernando Damaso
Posted on March 30, 2014

During my childhood, adolescence, youth and young adulthood, doctors
wore their lab coats only when they were working in hospitals, clinics
and other health care facilities, and only for hygienic reasons. They
were intended to help prevent the spread of germs between doctor and
patient. On the street and in public places they dressed like anyone
else of their social class. This seemed to be the case in the rest of
the world as well, judging from films and television programs which
portrayed medical personnel.
In my country, however, lab coats seem to have become a kind of second
skin, an official uniform for doctors, who never take them off. They
wear them when walking from place to place and on buses, in commercial
establishments and in the management offices of state enterprises and
institutions. They were the damn things in preparation for travel to
countries where they provide cheap labor, in assembly rooms where they
receive their political and professional "orientation," and even as they
get on and off the planes taking them to their final destinations.

Undoubtedly, this use and abuse of the lab coat is not a coincidence but
rather a response to political objectives. It serves as a propaganda
tool, intended for both domestic and international audiences, which is
used to promote one of the most important "achievements" of the regime.

The lab coat, which is worn at all hours of the day, seems to define the
personality of our doctors. In Cuban TV news reports they are always
seen wearing them, even when travelling on foot through fields and
mountains, or on boats on rivers and lakes. They wear them in groups,
"moving towards the bright future" together, as in old Soviet-bloc
propaganda posters illustrating "the path towards communism."

It would be desirable if lab coats were once again used for the purposes
they were originally intended, which was for the well-being of doctors
and their patients. Moreover, they would undoubtedly last much longer.

30 March 2014

Source: Use and Abuse of the Lab Coat / Fernando Damaso | Translating
Cuba -

UNEAC - A VIII Congress Like the Previous

UNEAC: A VIII Congress Like the Previous / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on March 30, 2014

If Fidel and Raul Castro should be delegates to the UNEAC Congress
again, we can predict right now that it will be a copy of the previous,
which, viewed from a distance, did not achieve any social scope, saving
to mitigating development, destroying illusions and win the trust of
power with opportunistic statements.

All those of us from the base who have participated in these events,
know that the presidents of the associations, not to mention of UNEAC
and is vice-president, are handpicked according to political trust. The
vote of the artists don't decide, but their personalities are malleable.

I remember a ballot count when the now-deceased Guillermo Vidal–a great
writer from Las Tunas–obtained a huge triumph in the votes, but he was
not invited to join the Congress because his literature and posture were

The system of elections of the UNEAC is similar to that of the president
of the nation; a total fraud.

The creator's guild does not answer to its members but to the State.
It's just a detail that makes an organization useless and falacious.

Dreaming of a Pen Club to work for the benefit of its members, will be
the carrot of Cuban writers.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison settlement. March 2013

To sign the petition please follow the link, asking Amnesty
International to declare Angel a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by: Shane J. Cassidy

7 March 2014

Source: UNEAC: A VIII Congress Like the Previous / Angel Santiesteban |
Translating Cuba -

Cuba's past raises scepticism about new foreign investment law

Cuba's past raises scepticism about new foreign investment law
31/03/2014 - 13:11
By Daniel Trotta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba has declared itself open for business with a new
foreign investment law but faces deep scepticism given a history that
includes jailing foreign executives and attempting to seize greater
control of businesses once they prove successful.

The National Assembly unanimously passed a law on Saturday that embraces
foreign capital as crucial to Cuba's development, while disappointing
those who had hoped for even more changes, such as allowing foreign
ventures to hire Cuban labour freely instead of through the government.

Cut off from U.S. investment by Washington's comprehensive trade
embargo, Cuba says it needs $2 billion (£1.2 billion) to $2.5 billion
(£1.5 billion) a year in foreign direct investment (FDI) to help reach
its target of 7 percent growth a year. Economists estimate current FDI
at a few hundred million, and the economy is expected to grow just 2.2
percent this year.

The new law, which will take effect within 90 days, is most notable for
cutting the tax on profits in half and eliminating a labour tax while
granting new investors an 8-year exemption on the profits tax.

In an economy suffering from chronic underinvestment, foreigners are
being enticed. Among the areas in need are agriculture, infrastructure,
sugar, nickel mining, building renovation and real estate development.

The law is part of a series of reforms enacted by Cuban President Raul
Castro that would have been unthinkable before his brother, Fidel,
formally handed over power in 2008.

It appears to be a genuine attempt to join the global economy, although
Cuba's past dealings with foreign investors suggest caution.

"Given what we know so far, this is something of an improvement in the
investment climate but some important obstacles remain. We won't really
know until we see how it is applied in practice," said Richard Feinberg,
a former national security advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton who
now teaches at the University of California, San Diego.

The communist government sometimes lets investment proposals die on the
shelf without explanation. It has, for example, entered talks with
several groups about building golf resorts only to let proposals wither
after once appearing to favour them.

"The problem with the new law is that except for taxes, little has
changed, which means their attitude hasn't changed," said one European
diplomat who declined to be identified. "In the end, the entire law
remains discretionary."

Experts say Cuba's approach to foreign business has been arbitrary. If a
venture is successful, the government often wants a bigger stake. It
welcomes foreign financing, but once a project is operational it wants
to take charge, they say.

"Use the foreigners where it suits you. Spit them out as soon as their
usefulness is over," said another European diplomat who requested anonymity.

Cuba has closed more joint ventures than it has opened since the ruling
Communist Party adopted wide-ranging economic reforms in 2011, and last
year the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods group Unilever ended a 15-year joint
venture after failing to resolve a dispute with the government over who
would have the controlling interest.

More chillingly, Cuba jailed executives in British investment and
trading firm Coral Capital Group Ltd on unspecified fraud changes. They
were found guilty of minor charges last June and released for time
served, more than a year each.

The government was previously more likely to deport such suspects. Now
it has made clear it is willing to find executives criminally liable.

French entrepreneur Michel Villand stopped doing business in Cuba after
establishing a chain of bakeries called Pain de Paris, now in the hands
of the government. He wrote a book entitled "My Associate Fidel" in
which he said his government partners defrauded him by keeping two sets
of books, then offered a ridiculously low sum for his stake.

"Starting a joint venture in Cuba for a small or medium-sized foreign
business is the same as putting a noose around your neck," Villand told
the Spanish news agency EFE.

A number of foreign companies have prospered in Cuba, notably Swiss food
giant Nestle, Britain's Imperial Tobacco Group, Spain's Melia Hotels
International, and Canada's Sherritt International, which has a joint
venture with the Cuban state to mine nickel.

"It's still a place to do business. Ask the Brazilians. They just put
$800 million in there," said Kirby Jones, president of Alamar
Associates, a consultancy for companies with an interest in Cuba.

Brazilian development bank BNDES financed a new special trading zone at
Cuba's port of Mariel, with an expansion built by the Brazilian
construction company Odebrecht SA.

Despite the past failings, some investors and analysts believe the new
law shows that Cuban authorities at the highest levels agree they need
to attract more foreign investment and that it marks a true change in
course by a secretive government that has been in power since a 1959

"This is still only speculation, but I believe it is a real change,"
said Thomas Herzfeld, whose Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund groups stocks
and other assets that he believes will benefit from an eventual end to
the U.S. economic embargo. "The new bill will probably encourage foreign
investors to take another look at Cuba."

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Marc Frank; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Source: Cuba's past raises scepticism about new foreign investment law - -

Is Cuba ready to open up to foreign investment?

Is Cuba ready to open up to foreign investment?
By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Havana

"Socialism or death" is the stark choice that shouts down from the sign
above a Havana steel firm. The words surround a painted image of Fidel
Castro's face, a reminder that Cuba remains a very peculiar place to do

But it seems a new, pragmatic mood has taken hold.

This weekend, Raul Castro - now in charge and overseeing a broad, albeit
snail-paced reform programme - convened an extraordinary session of

The goal was to bring more foreign investment to the island.

Sense of urgency

Deputies duly approved a new law that Cuba hopes can attract more than
$2bn a year in investments and help treble economic growth to 5-7%.

Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca told deputies that the foreign
investment law was intended to help Cuba access advanced technology, new
management methods and export markets, and create jobs.

[It] "will not only help attract foreign capital with clear rules and
incentives, it will also allow us to use that potential to develop the
country, whilst preserving our independence and sovereignty," the
minister said.

Political unrest and economic problems in Venezuela have added urgency
to the move, as Havana has been forced to contemplate losing a vital
ally and financial prop.

It was the loss of a previous benefactor - the USSR - that first forced
Fidel to open Cuba's economy to outside investment.

Money poured into tourism in the 1990s as well as the island's nickel
mines and elsewhere.

But getting a venture approved has always been laboriously slow, with
some projects stalled for no apparent reason beyond lingering,
ideological concerns.

"The new law looks very promising as a strong incentive for foreign
investment," says British businessman Andrew McDonald, suggesting such
doubts have finally been overcome.

His own firm, Havana Energy, is part of a joint-venture building a
biomass power plant at a Cuban sugar mill.

"I think this will give a significant signal to the international
community that Cuba is ready for business," he adds, arguing that there
is strong interest in the market here - on the right terms.

In one indication that old attitudes die hard, the foreign press was not
given a copy of the new law or allowed into parliament for Saturday's

But details released to state media showed an eight-year exemption from
profit tax, moving to 15% - or half the current rate. They mention other
tax advantages and stress legal guarantees to prevent businesses being
expropriated by the state.

That addresses a serious concern given the mass nationalisations in the
wake of the 1959 revolution.

The dearth of investment over many years suggests Cuba is an attractive
market: over 11 million people, with many and varied needs.

US trade embargo

But there are obstacles for investors.

Cuba is still designated a "State Sponsor of Terrorism" by the US, which
complicates financial transactions with the island, and raising capital.

On top of that, restrictions imposed by the US trade embargo bar
Americans and any firms with US interests from doing business here, and
eliminate a major export market.

Then there's Cuba's own past.

"What the Cubans have to overcome is a record of nearly 20 years of
vacillating treatment of investors," believes former British ambassador
to Havana, Paul Hare.

Since 2002 he says the number of joint ventures on the island has
dropped by nearly a half.

He also highlights the arrest and opaque trial proceedings of several
well-established foreign businessmen, ostensibly linked to an
anti-corruption campaign, which spooked fellow investors.

"The regime may want a makeover, but the scars will be hard to erase,"
Mr Hare argues.

Phase one in that attempt was inaugurating the Mariel Special
Development Zone outside Havana, which offers even greater tax breaks
for foreign firms.

The investment law is phase two.

"Maybe some political prejudice against foreign investment was really
strong in the past but I think [policy] today is more rational," state
economist Juan Triana recently told the BBC.

He also believes business confidence can be restored.


"The way the government handled the legal framework before was really
discriminatory. I think we are building a new environment. But it takes
time," Mr Triana argues.

Cuba invited a delegation of Brazilian entrepreneurs to visit this week
as part of its new charm offensive.

"Of course there are a lot of obstacles. But this is a new opportunity,
too," Julian Pedro Carpenedo said after the three-day mission by 31 firms.

His company - Globoaves - already exports chicken meat to Cuba; the
government wants it to invest in reviving the domestic poultry
production industry too.

"We have to come and see what's going on in order to decide if it's
actually the right place to invest but we're still excited to check the
opportunities," Mr Carpenedo says.

As for Cubans themselves, Raul Castro's reforms allowing limited private
enterprise have made life a little easier for some but they can't give
the economy the boost it needs.

So most say they welcome foreign investment.

"We're all struggling," a pensioner tells me as he whips up a milkshake
in a porch for a thirsty customer.

"We manage. But maybe with a bit of outside help, life for us Cubans
could be a little better."

Source: BBC News - Is Cuba ready to open up to foreign investment? -

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Raul Castro’s Son-in-Law Rises to General

Raul Castro's Son-in-Law Rises to General
Posted on March 30, 2014

Cubanet, 19 March 2014 –A son-in-law of Cuban leader Raul Castro, in
charge of the military businesses that dominate the economy on the
island, has risen to general, according to a report today in the south
Florida's El Nuevo Herald.

Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, barely over 50, who for a long
time has been identified Colonel in the Revolutionary Armed Forces
(FAR), was identified as a brigadier general in a January 29th report on
the website Cubadefense, a publication of the FAR, according to the Herald.

Rodríguez directed the Business Administration Group S.A. (GAESA), the
business branch of the FAR–the armed forces controls 80 percent o the
Cuban economy, including hotels, factories, restaurants and airlines–and
he belongs to the Communist Party Central Committee.

Rodríguez López-Callejasis also is in charge of the development project
for some billion dollars of the Port of Mariel to the west of Havana, a
strategic attempt by Cuba to reinsert itself in the global economy with
the help of $800 million in Brazilian financing.

Rodríguez, married to Raul Castro's eldest daughter, Deborah Castro
Espín, is seen by many as one of the most powerful and ambitious men in
all of Cuba.

19 March 2014

Source: Raul Castro's Son-in-Law Rises to General | Translating Cuba -

S.O.S. The Soldiers Are Suffocating Us

S.O.S. The Soldiers Are Suffocating Us / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on March 29, 2014

A daring prisoner has revealed to me the intention of high-ranking
soldiers to become my enemies. To accomplish this they took away a pass,
the most sacred thing for them; then they reduced even more the
precarious nutrition. The ration of chicken, which is provided two times
a month, has been reduced to one sole occurrence, and what before could
be divided by two persons now is shared among three. The acid picadillo
has been substituted for the main dish.

The chiefs of the Direction of Prisons, seeing that their pressure has
not been effective, have advanced by four hours the schedule for
returning from the pass. Before it was at six in the evening; now they
stipulated that it be at two. Another gesture of manipulation has been
that of the four hours granted for time on the telephone so prisoners
can communicate with their families, they have left only one.

The day of access to the pass, they assign work that could be done the
following day, with the sole purpose of annoying the prisoners, to
increase the ill will against me, since, according to Lieutenant Colonel
Eduardo, the head of the penal prosecution, I don't comply with the
schedule and discipline established because the inmates allow me to do
it. He asked that they confront me, that they demand I be "re-educated,"
so that, once they succeed, they will have privileges returned to them.

Today, payday, their salaries, gained according to contract, have been
reduced; that is to say, they can calculate the amount they earned in
the month and thus the salary they are owed. However, without
explanation, they have been fleeced in the worst style of highway robbery.

I can't predict how long the prisoners will support this subjugation of
their "rights," in a country where rights don't exist, especially if
people are detained in penitentiaries, where they are persecuted and
receive the most inhuman treatment, where the blackmail of the officials
is constant, since they control the prisoners' lives and destinies.
Tomorrow, for example, with a single movement of their lips, they can
order that those prisoners wake up in Santa Clara, Camaguey or Santiago
de Cuba, and thus be removed from their families.

I continue writing my literature in this sabbatical year that the
dictatorship has granted me, and I remain standing in the struggle for
human rights for all Cubans.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. March 2014.

Editor's Note: The dictatorship continues to systematically violate the
rights of Angel Santiesteban, in breach of their own laws. By law he
should get a pass for 72 hours every 70 days, in agreement with the
prison regimen to which he is submitted. From the second of August 2013
until now, they have "granted" him one single pass at the end of
September. That week the rest of the prisoners "enjoyed" a pass of six
days, and he was returned to remain alone with the jailers. These
punishments that they impose on him don't scare him. They should realize
by now that the more they try to harm him, the more they strengthen him,
and they are even collaborating with Cuban literature, which has – for a
year – one of the great talents working without pause.

To sign the petition to have Angel Santiesteban declared a prisoner of
conscience, please follow the link.

Translated by Regina Anavy

19 March 2014

Source: S.O.S. The Soldiers Are Suffocating Us / Angel Santiesteban |
Translating Cuba -

Gossip from Cyberspace

Gossip from Cyberspace / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on March 29, 2014

According to the blog "Cuba al Descubierto" (Cuba Uncovered), edited by
Mr. Luis Dominguez and specializing in Cuban curiosities, recently
arrived in Miami after crossing the Mexican border and asking the US
authorities for refuge, is a young Havanan named Josué Colomé Vázquez,
and the question many are asking is what's so special about a Cuban
crossing the border and asking for asylum in the United States.

Well, the first is that although entering the United States by this
route is a common practice, it's considered illegal. The second, and
more interesting one, is that the so pompous Josué is the son of the
Cuban vice-president and Minister of the Interior General Abelardo
Colome Ibarra. So it's all perfectly normal, exiled and emigrated will
return to Havana; and the children of the elite will continue to
increase in la Yuma (the US of A).

27 March 2014

Source: Gossip from Cyberspace / Juan Juan Almeida | Translating Cuba -

Half Measures

Half Measures / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on March 29, 2014

The newspaper Granma intended to have an impact with pompous editorial
"Towards the 500 years of Santiago de Cuba" where it explains how that
province has developed a project consisting of measures that will allow
it to arrive at July 2015, the date commemorating 500 years since its
founding, with the rehabilitation and total embellishment of its
historic city center and significant sites.

Certainly, as it suits them, the Cuban authorities will disburse funds
to restore important public works exposed to the eyes of foreign
visitors. But I am slightly curious: what are they going to do with the
beggars and mentally ill who wander around the city and leave much to be
desired relative to social adornment, will they include them in the
beautification? Hopefully they'll hide them because then, as the song
says… Who cares, I don't give a damn.

25 March 2014

Source: Half Measures / Juan Juan Almeida | Translating Cuba -

Confused Phrase

Confused Phrase / Regina Coyula
Posted on March 29, 2014

"Revolution is to shape ethical principles." I repeat from memory a
phrase I heard today in the press. Attributed to Fidel Castro, I'm not
too sure if it forms a part of a well-known fragment of one of his
speeches (Revolution is…). A phrase in the midst of the corruption,
laziness, the poor quality of education, the visible lack of an
education that governs relationships among young people–and those not so
young–the patterns of the political police harassing the dissidence.

An incomplete list but sufficient. The so-called Revolution not only
doesn't shape new ethical principles; it lambastes the existing ones for
being "bourgeois." The irony: the Revolution ended years ago, and
ethical principles are degraded to the point where it will take several
generations to restore them.

To say it in the official way: this is neither the time nor the place to
wield a phrase so devoid of content.

26 March 2014

Source: Confused Phrase / Regina Coyula | Translating Cuba -

Skepticism as Cuba OKs law to lure foreign investors

Skepticism as Cuba OKs law to lure foreign investors
Alan Gomez, USA TODAY 6:52 p.m. EDT March 29, 2014

MIAMI — A new law approved by the Cuban National Assembly on Saturday
designed to lure more foreign investment to the island nation has many
wondering what it will mean.

The new law has Cuba observers wondering whether it will energize the
country's struggling economy, whether it represents a step from the
county's centrally planned economy to a more capitalist one, and whether
the success of foreign companies there will prompt American businesses
to push for a change in the U.S embargo on the Communist country.

For some, the question is far simpler.

"Would you put your money in Cuba?" says Jaime Suchlicki, director of
the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of
Miami. "It's a system that's not transparent, there's no legal system
that protects foreign investment."

"They can change the law," he adds, "but they have to change the system
for people to jump in and invest."

That skepticism is exactly what government officials are trying to
change in Cuba, which has a complicated history with foreign investment.

While Cuba has allowed foreign investors from across the globe to
participate in selective, carefully monitored enterprises, its
government has permitted those companies to maintain only 49% ownership
of their operations.

Under the new law — endorsed by President Raúl Castro and approved
Saturday by the Cuban parliament — foreign companies will be able to
hold a 100% ownership in ventures. For companies that engage in joint
ventures, the profits tax will be cut from 30% to 15%, and most
investors would be exempt from paying that tax for at least eight years.
The law also would allow the free transfer of profits and dividends off
the island without additional tax and ensure legal protections for
companies engaged in disputes.

The law follows a series of economic reforms that have been instituted
since Raúl Castro assumed power over his ailing brother, Fidel, six
years ago. Cubans can now buy and sell their homes and cars, and the
government cut more than a half-million workers from the state payroll
and has encouraged more private operation and ownership of small businesses.

"They've made a bunch of positive changes, but so far they have not seen
the growth and the job creation and the foreign exchange earnings that
they need," says Phil Peters, president of the Virginia-based Cuba
Research Center. "They've made progress, but the economy needs a bigger
lift and foreign capital can do that."

Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a Cuba native who has studied the country's economy
as a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, says the lower taxes,
higher ownership stakes in investments and streamlined process to open a
business in Cuba are all things that any company would look for.

"I know companies who negotiated for over a year and then get denied,"
he says. "The law limits the process for that to two months. That's very

While the country's biggest economic lures — tourism and mining for
natural resources — are already being handled by foreign companies, some
see openings in the lagging agricultural industry and emerging sectors,
like biotechnology and pharmaceutical production.

But as with most things related to Cuba, there's a catch. Cuba passed
another foreign investment law in 1995 that allowed for such things as
100% ownership by foreign companies. But Mesa-Lago says the legions of
government functionaries never permitted that to be carried out.

"There is little confidence investing in Cuba," he says. "The question
is, how is this new law going to change that mentality? This is going to
depend on how they implement this new law in reality."

The new law does not change the fact that foreign companies must still
go through a government-run workforce agency, meaning the government
will still oversee the hiring and firing of all employees. The new law
also prohibits Cubans on the island from investing in any new companies
or joint ventures, meaning residents of Cuba can still only own
small-scale businesses like restaurants and barber shops.

And despite the welcoming tone, every decision is still made by a
government that, as one of its first acts in power more than 50 years
ago, nationalized foreign companies.

"If you were a businessman in France and you want to invest in the
Caribbean, you wouldn't go to Cuba," Suchlicki says. "You'd go to Mexico
or the Dominican Republic or, if you want to sell in the United States,
you got Puerto Rico. Why would you go to Cuba?"

If enough companies invest in Cuba and they prove successful, that could
reignite a debate in the U.S. over the embargo on the island.

"American companies are interested," says Yosbel Ibarra, a Miami-based
corporate attorney at Greenberg Traurig who co-chairs the firm's Latin
American and Iberian practice. "I think that there is some nostalgia for
the possibility of being one of the first American companies in Cuba."

That could prompt business leaders to press Congress for a change in
U.S. policy toward Cuba.

"Certainly what we're going to see in the coming months is that new
investment opportunities are going to open up in Cuba and everyone but
the United States is going to seize them," Peters says. "If that prompts
efforts to change U.S. law, then that would be a good thing."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., dismisses any talk of weakening the
embargo and says the idea of a bright, new day for investment in Cuba is

"This is the latest desperate effort to maintain its brutal totalitarian
control over the Cuban people," she says. "It's just an old regime ploy
to hide its failed policies that have shown that Cuba is not open for
business because the Castro regime continues to owe billions of dollars
to foreign entities."

Still, some say it's impossible to simply dismiss what has now been six
years of economic changes in Cuba.

"When an adversary adopts a position you suggested, let them. Celebrate
it," says Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla. "Yes, it's a step for them to continue
to survive. But it's a step in the direction that all of us want, which
is the further liberalization of the Cuban economy."

Source: Skepticism as Cuba OKs law to lure foreign investors -

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Soldiers of Information

Soldiers of Information / Rosa Maria Rodriguez
Posted on March 29, 2014

On March 14, the Cuban press spent another day with more grief than
glory. Like previous years, some media guerrillas pledged to do more
critical journalism. I wonder with whom. With society and grassroots
leaders? So not fair! To criticize anyone but those responsible for the
devastation of Cuba seems to be the motto of the soldiers of the media,
because nobody wants to jeopardize their job and perks, which translated
back to 1959 Cuban means, "let death take another." The key is given by
the fifty-five years of the of the Castro dictatorship in general and by
the forty-seven of the original dictator, who left the national
caudillista scar of "as I say," in a trail of verbal violence,
disrespect and discrimination towards those who think differently. Then,
what or who to criticize? Capitalism, of course, the United States, and
all who are not aligned or sympathetic to the so-called Revolution.

The group is power always had ears receptive to their own interests and
deaf to the real demands of society. The monopoly of information in Cuba
is in the hands of the state, which officially prohibits the circulation
of independent publications, freedom of association and a multiparty system.

The most chilling test starred the journalist Arleen Rodriguez around
2005, in the days when the price of a kilowatt had risen. On a visit by
Fidel Castro to The Roundtable show in which she participated, she
complained about the high price of electricity in front of him, and he,
clearly annoyed, and with the veiled threat of "your husband is my
friend," appeared the following day at the beginning of the program,
with a written text to make no mistake nor to say a single letter more
than needed, and clarify that "what she wanted to express was…" It goes
without saying, the writer and poet Heberto Padilla, founder of the
Origins group, who in the 1960s was made to publicly denounce his peers
and commit harakiri with a blade rusted by extortion.

Personally, I reaffirm what I have said before, that while our
communication professionals do not have and feel the freedom to express
what they really want and that concerns some or all of the people, there
will be no true information transparency that facilitates and stimulates
the freedom of expression of the workers in the industry and of the
society in general. From themselves, without changing the violence that
ended the democratic structures, which remain in order to perpetuate
themselves in power and a dependent and manipulated press, couldn't
obtain what the leaders of the government want: instead of "dropping
political flirtations" to the model in the Cuban media, creating the
props for a media theater to send the world the false messages that
there is freedom in Cuba.

25 March 2014

Source: Soldiers of Information / Rosa Maria Rodriguez | Translating
Cuba -

Microbuses or Transport’s Shame

Microbuses or Transport's Shame / Ernesto Garcia Diaz
Posted on March 29, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba – In the Cuban capital, two cooperatives operate the old
public routes of the so-called taxis-ruteros, microbuses which take
passengers from the Parque de El Curita, to four destinations: El
Náutico, Alamar, Santiago de las Vegas and La Palma.

Curious to know why the people in Havana speak so ill of these services,
I asked the impatient passengers: how frequently do they run? how long
do they take to get there? And to various drivers of the vehicles, about
the contracts the cooperatives use to lease out the buses.

A driver on the Parque del Curita Micro X line – who didn't give his
name – answered me: " I do about 16 journeys a day, the microbus has 25
seats, and the fares for them to go to the CNoA (Non-Agricultural
Cooperatives), 50 seats for the total return journey, or say 250 pesos.
The fare is 5 pesos (CUP), equivalent to 20 cents."

The driver continued: I carry more than 800 passengers a day, I collect
about 4,000 Cuban pesos (equivalent to $160). In 24 working days I hand
over to the association, not less than 96,000 pesos ($3840). First I pay
over what is due to the cooperative, which leases me the vehicle, the
difference, or what is left over, goes to the drivers, because we are
the semi-owners of these microbuses. Did you know we have to repair,
clean, and cover the cost of maintenance, for which we have to pay third
parties and the CnoA itself?

Another driver went further than his colleague: "After paying the
association, I am left with some 1,200 pesos ($48), because as I am
going along people get on and off. Those receipts don't go to the CNoA;
we keep them for our costs, because we are driving piles of old junk.

I could recognise that the micro's driver, as well as his own income,
receives about 600 pesos a month from the cooperative ($24), as profit
share for being associates.

Liliana Ezquerra, vice president of the Provincial Administration
Council of Havana, recently emphasized to the media: "When the two
transport cooperatives started operating, using vehicles rented from the
state, the number of passengers in the capital increased and at a lower
fare than the private drivers charge."

One passenger in the Micro X Alamar told me "It's 8:50 in the morning, I
waited 40 minutes for the bus, they arrive here when they feel like,
come to fill up with fuel and hang around to go back again or to start
their working day. They take time having a snack – how should I know?!
The bottom line is, it's a disaster. They may be cheaper than the
privates, but I can't rely on them to get me to my work on time."

Another passenger told me: "There is no fixed time for them to start
work; but nevertheless the pirates are in the street at 6 in the
morning, and at 12 at night they are still providing a service; I don't
even want to talk about the public buses, you can't even count on
finding one at 7:30 at night."

The third passenger, irritated, assured me: "Look, a microbus just got
here and it got lost more than 30 minutes ago. Just so you can see.
Look, there it comes, who should I complain to if now they are the owners?

As for me, I took a photo of the delayed bus, because I also spent more
than 30 minutes waiting for it.

Cubanet, March 11th 2014. Ernesto García Díaz

Translated by GH

24 March 2014

Source: Microbuses or Transport's Shame / Ernesto Garcia Diaz |
Translating Cuba -

Cuba approves law aimed at attracting foreign investment

Cuba approves law aimed at attracting foreign investment
By Daniel Trotta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's National Assembly passed a new foreign
investment law on Saturday that aims to bring badly needed capital to
the communist economy by offering steep tax cuts and promising a climate
of investment security.

The assembly voted in a special session to approve the law, state
television reported without providing a vote tally. It will become valid
within 90 days.

The new law halves the profits tax from 30 to 15 percent and exempts
investors from paying it for eight years, though it also appears to
withhold many of the tax benefits from companies that are 100 percent
foreign-owned. Those incentives are reserved for joint ventures with the
Cuban state and investments linking foreign and Cuban companies.

Analysts and Cuban-based diplomats have expressed skepticism over the
law, uncertain whether the one-party state has undergone a genuine
change of heart and truly wants to attract foreign investors on
international terms.

Areas such as agriculture, infrastructure, sugar, nickel mining,
building renovation and real estate development are considered ripe for

Cuba needs to attract $2 billion to $2.5 billion in foreign direct
investment per year to reach its economic growth target of 7 percent,
minister for foreign trade and investment Rodrigo Malmierca said on
Cuban state television on Friday night.

Cuba does not publish figures on FDI, which economists estimate to be
several hundred million dollars a year at most. Cuba's gross domestic
product is expected to expand 2.2 percent this year, compared with 2.7
percent growth in 2013.

"If the economy does not grow at levels around 7 percent ... we are not
going to be able to develop," Malmierca said.

"We have to provide incentives in order for them to come," Malmierca
said of foreign investors.

Cuba is cut off from U.S. investment by a comprehensive trade embargo
and has failed to meet its investment targets for each of the past five

The new investment law continues the structural economic reforms under
way in Cuba since President Raul Castro took over from his ailing
brother Fidel in 2008. It has been anticipated since 2011, when Cuba
enacted a 300-point overhaul of its domestic economy to encourage more
private enterprise.

(Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta, Rosa Tania Valdes and Marc
Frank; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Source: Cuba approves law aimed at attracting foreign investment - Yahoo
News -;_ylt=AwrBEiQ5CTdTxBQAm9vQtDMD

Sociology of Transport

Sociology of Transport / Regina Coyula
Posted on March 28, 2014

My acquaintances in public transport like Ms. C tells me that we are now
facing another cyclical crisis in urban transport. In the rush hours you
see bus stops which are full up and people hanging about in queues 50
metres long and who are trying to guess where the bus is going to pull
up, which, you can be sure, will not be at the stop.

The "blues" and "yellows" we used to see have disappeared, those
inspectors authorised to stop public transport and organise passengers
wanting to get on. In contrast, lots of fairly empty buses associated
with work places, pass the crammed-full bus stops, one after the other,
giving rise to lots of colorful comments on the subject of the
privileged few.

In the face of this phenomenon, I always ask myself whether it wouldn't
be better if this semi private transport were incorporated into the
public transport, but as a dear acquaintance says to me: The "Razonamil*
I'm taking must have too strong an effect.

The irritation of buses whizzing past just adds to other frustrations,
every one of which is a burden. Therefore, waiting for a bus and, if you
can manage to get on, listening to how everyone in there gives vent –
even if briefly – to his individual view of the process of modernisation
of the economy, and how it provokes immediate reactions from other
passengers, is a good thermometer, even though it may be that the
general "reaction" is one of indifference.

Looking at the passengers' faces doesn't show you a happy society. Some
of them pass the journey dozing, even though they are standing up; the
younger ones often cut themselves off with their earphones or, on the
other hand form noisy groups and are often abusive if people protest.

Most of the passengers are men and they are also the majority sitting
down. Rucksacks, baskets, briefcases and parcels which seem to be heavy,
take up a space which is already insufficient for the passengers. Gaunt
faces, acrid smells, verbal violence in response to the slightest
incident. And the heat is the last straw in this micro world.

*Translator's note: "Razonamil" is a joke, a fake name of a drug that
makes Regina "see reason".

Translated by GH

28 March 2014

Source: Sociology of Transport / Regina Coyula | Translating Cuba -

Membership Card or Passport?

Membership Card or Passport? / Yoani Sanchez
Posted on March 28, 2014

The whole neighborhood called him by the peculiar last name he'd
inherited from his Basque grandfather. Vertical for ideological reasons,
he always made it clear that he was "a man of the cause." Meeting after
meeting, report after report, complaint after complaint, few exceeded
him in offering proofs of faith in the system. He was also characterized
by his severe face against the protestors and the hugs he gave to those
who shared his ideology. And so it was, until a week ago.

The family tree bore fruit and the combative man just managed to get his
Spanish passport.* In his Communist Party nucleus they told him to
choose: foreign nationality or continuing to be a member of that
organization. Faithful, but not stupid, he chose the first. As of a few
days ago he premiered his new life without red card or statutes. He has
already started to wink at some of the dissidents in the neighborhood.
"You know you can always count on me," he blurted out at someone who,
until recently, he'd always kept a watch over.

It's a curious party organization that brags about exercising
internationalist solidarity, but doesn't want dual nationality
communists in its ranks. At least such narrow-mindedness is helping to
convert certain extremists into "meek foreigners." Given the speed with
which they change, one wonders if they previously believed in what they
were doing, or were simply opportunists. Perhaps in preferring an EU
passport they are just choosing a different mask, a new tone for their
chameleon skins.

*Translator's note: Spain's Law of Historical Memory set a limited
period during which Cubans who could prove a Spanish grandparent
qualified for Spanish citizenship.

Source: Membership Card or Passport? / Yoani Sanchez | Translating Cuba

Carromero’s Last Days

Carromero's Last Days / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Posted on March 28, 2014

The young Spanish politician Ángel Carromero's days are numbered. It
could be 6 or 666 days, but it will not be a "natural" death. He knows
it and his executioners also know that he knows it. So it must be in his
still-open file in the confidential archives of Cuban State Security.
Hence, the Ministry of Interior (MININT) thugs who let him leave Cuba
contrary to every prediction warned him, with all historical honesty: if
you talk, no one will save you from the long arm of evil.

Rest in peace, Ángel Carromero, witness to totalitarianism in its
terminal phase. Nobody escapes the criminal Castroism in the
democracies. Hence the fascist repudiation that was the Iberian Left's
welcome for this snitch of two assassinations, with the political
correctness that demands we pardon the clan of the Cuban comandantes.

The Spanish publisher Anaya just punished Death Under Suspicion. A book
that the intellectuals will literally turn to shit with their prejudices
and opinions. They don't believe this victim, nor any who come from
Cuba. They don't want to read this kind of gloomy witness to the meaning
of Real Socialism's survival. They don't want to have to—and certainty
not because of a Popular Party politician—stop showing solidarity with
the Real Socialist Revolution. They don't want to believe that Crimes of
the State are possible in the mecca of international anti-imperialism.
Nobody asked this human rights guy, imprisoned in Cuba and in Spain no
less, to spoil the Faustian fiesta of the European Left and its
sentimental Castrismo.

Especially in Spain, where the hatred of everything Spanish that can be
smelled from Havana (the only city on the planet where everyone wants to
be Spanish).

I won't say a single word about the book. There is nothing new in its
pages. It's just a testimony in the face of posterity, so that new
generations will remember, when it pleases them, that at noon on 22 July
2012, in Cuba, the State committed a double assassination against the
human rights activists Harold Cepero and the founder of the Christian
Liberation Movement Oswaldo Payá, our first winner of the Andrei
Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament
(2002), and perhaps also our first Premier when the Castro regime collapsed.

Carromero already spoke. He spoke from minute zero, when men in plain
clothes took him to the militarized hospital in eastern Cuba, the most
vile area of our debased little island. Men in plain clothes who never
spoke at the hijacked trial where they condemned Carromero in Cuba, a
trial whose sentence of four years perhaps even the King of Spain
himself now considers impeccable, such that the Iberian National
Audience literally also throws shit all over this conspicuous case of a
Spaniard* killed at the hands of another Spaniard.

It would not be strange that Oswaldo Payá's death had been agreed to in
advance, beyond the Plaza of the Revolution: perhaps with sectors of the
Cuban exile interested in paving an economic path to reconciliation—the
new reconcentration; perhaps with the quackquackquack Cardinals who, in
the end, practically made Payá a Catholic pariah inside Cuba; perhaps
with the high politics that is cooked up between Strasbourg and
Washington DC, where, far from the thousand and one infertile forums,
everyone agrees that democracy in Cuba has to wait. Contrary to Payá's
redemptive preaching, the last thing they want is for Cubans to
recognize their rights. We have lived too many decades without rights,
why insist now on these desires for freedom that will only destabilize
our region in relation to Europe and the United States.

The Cuban people should express their gratitude for Ángel Carromero's
unarmed courage and they should hurry while he's still alive. But I
suspect that after the testimony of Death Under Suspicion, once again
the idea of Revolution and the idea of crime-without-punishment will be
synonymous with the idea of lack of solidarity.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

*Translator's note: Oswaldo Payá had Spanish citizenship; Ángel
Carromero was driving the car in which he died.

From, 25 March 2014

Source: Carromero's Last Days / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo | Translating
Cuba -