Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Deadly Poison of Political Discourses

The Deadly Poison of Political Discourses / Miriam Celaya
Posted on May 30, 2014

Socialism is like dancing a milonga* in the midst of a carnival parade
of rumba dancers

HAVANA, Cuba – Indians and Cowboys, heroes and villains, the good and
the bad… these are terms often used in movies, soap operas and
literature to classify polarizations of characters, placing them, by
virtue of that dual machination, in hostile camps where, invariably,
good triumphs over evil.

This same framework does not escape politics in its most simplistic
interpretation, especially manifesting itself through the yardstick of a
young and radical left, whose obstinacy is almost as astonishing as it
is scary, by appealing to the nostalgic past and "better" times of the
so called real socialism, when the Soviet era of influence extended over
the better part of the world and even invaded, though not quite
congealing, a reality so culturally different, in culture and in spirit,
as that of Cuba.

It seems surprising, after the resounding disappointment of Eastern
Europe's "Marxist-Leninist" experiment, the proven economic inefficiency
and widespread corruption of the model, in addition to the repression
applied against any manifestation of free thinking, to find, among
relatively young Cubans, who in addition consider themselves
libertarians, such expressions, full of admiration and longing for that
"beautiful and giant nation" as they refer to the defunct Soviet Union,
especially in a social environment that is increasingly more distant to
that monster's, so such a stance is an anachronism similar to dancing a
milonga* amid a rhumba carnival dance troupe.

Paradoxically, these diehard nationalists, whose common denominator is
the absolute rejection of anything that smacks of "Yankee imperialism",
are the staunch defenders of what was once the metropolis of Cuba for
thirty years, the USSR — that peculiar form that the Russian imperialism
took for a time — and they don't accept that a "bureaucratic elite"
which held power, and particularly Mikhail Gorbachev, brought about "the
betrayal of possibilities" of a socialist system that could not be
sustained after 70 years of tight control over the economy, natural
resources, political power and over society as a whole. They believe
that in a few months barely a handful of bureaucrats swept off the
socialist moral force and its achievements against millions of the
"aided," who later ratified at the polls the return to capitalism.
That's why our sleepless party animals are demanding another opportunity
for the standardization and consecration of poverty. This is indeed the
point: like postmodern Cathars, they demonize material wealth, as if
poverty itself constituted supreme virtue.

Noting this, but being aware of everyone's right to express their own
political and ideological credo, which is what freedom is about — and
also democracy, which these subjects distrust so, because it was born in
bourgeois societies, and it's fitting of them — we have to add that
these are groups (the principle of the "collective" is essential)
lobbying for the rights of workers, especially those of laborers, though
they might not be, based on the absolute rejection of "capitalism". They
are so many other messiahs, especially those who worship that other
ardent killer, Che Guevara, who, after executing so many Cubans,
promoting so much violence in different regions, received a taste of his
own medicine and made a disappearing act.

Their ideas and political strategies are, therefore, based on the old
outlawry-Twentieth Century principle of socialism's struggle (the
"good") against capitalism (the "bad"), where humankind — the workers,
the "masses" — will achieve their due prosperity once the former
triumphs over the latter. It doesn't matter that we are already moving
through the second decade of a new century, where knowledge,
technological revolution, information and communications are essential,
indispensable conditions for seeking global solutions for the present
and the future of humankind; where political borders are increasingly
blurring, and where the narrow concept of "capitalism" and "socialism",
"rights and lefts", are not enough to define the complexities of an era
that is giving birth — not without labor pains — to new relations and
principles of global coexistence, including political ones.

But the infantile left (which, fortunately, is not the whole so-called
"left") is so caught up in flashbacks and in the contemplation of their
virtuous navels that they have no clue.

Maybe that's why they use trite phrases (as that kitsch one with an aura
reminiscent of Guevara: "socialism cannot be built with the dull weapons
of capitalism") and, at the same time, they dusted off old and dull
slogans and historical figures that were the authors or founders of the
thought trends of which they are the self-proclaimed heirs, perhaps due
to a congenital disability to establish some new paradigm of thought,
better suited to the times. None of them has bothered to define what
those "dull weapons of capitalism" might be which have allowed its
continuation for over a millennium.

And it is not about denying true claims. I share, in principle, the
critical attitude of those leftist sectors before the issue of foreign
investments, be it at Mariel, in the field of tourism (hotels, golf
courses, marinas, etc.) in various industries, in the field of
agriculture or in other economic areas that this regime has
systematically destroyed for 55 years. But, for the sake of the presence
of the "transnationals" or because that "places us in the flux of
capital and the global capitalist economy" — by the way, the only global
economy is the capitalist economy, the "socialist" one is village
economy, of whores and sugar mills — for, after all, I am definitively
in favor of all that means prosperity, development and wealth, but
Cubans on the Island are excluded from partaking in it, because such
investments will only enrich the autocracy and its elite, and because
workers will not even have the right to enter into contracts directly
with those companies; on the contrary, they will be doubly dispossessed
by the Government-State-Party through its employment agencies and by an
abusive wage system.

At any rate, it is not seeking equality or in defense of socialism that
thousands of Cubans leave the country each year, nor are those who risk
their investments in a private enterprise inspired by Che or the USSR.
It is well-known that true freedom lays in the full exercise of the
capabilities of individuals, in their chances of success, not in the
hypnotic miasma of ideologies. Let's not blame capital for our own
failures, because in Cuba there has not been any deadlier poison than
that of the political discourse. The Cuban Nation was forged on the
desire for prosperity of her children, on the work and the talent of
millions of them, not on the primacy of one ideology over another: such
are the dull weapons that History has bequeathed to us.

Translator's note: A milonga is an Argentine dance… as (in)appropriate
in Cuba as another famous Argentine import.

Cubanet, 27 May 2014 | Miriam Celaya

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: The Deadly Poison of Political Discourses / Miriam Celaya |
Translating Cuba -

Miguel's Drone, Cuba From the Air

Yoani Sanchez - Award-winning Cuban blogger

Miguel's Drone, Cuba From the Air
Posted: 05/30/2014 7:03 pm EDT Updated: 05/30/2014 9:00 pm EDT

Nobody knows how he got it into the country, with so many customs
restrictions and government paranoia, but Miguel has a drone. Tiny, like
a kid's toy, and with a camera. In his spare time, this forty-something
Havanan dedicates himself to using his new amusement to explore the
nearby patios and rooftops of his neighbors. It's so tiny that it's
barely noticeable when flying over the neighborhood, while it transmits
images and videos to a screen in the home of its proud owner.

Right now it's a prank, but if one day Miguel is discovered with his
diversion, at best he could show up on official TV as a "CIA agent." Who
knows. An uncle of his was arrested on the street in the seventies for
carrying a tape recorder that belonged to the government newspaper where
he worked. He spent long hours at a police station, until the director
of the publication himself had to intercede for him. Time has flown and
now the "fearful" objects are other things, but the reprisals are
usually the same.

In any event, beyond the presumed punishment, Miguel has now learned
some valuable things. He has seen the pool hidden behind his neighbor
the Colonel's high fence, the satellite antenna a former minister has on
the roof of his house, and even the bowl overflowing with meat for the
rottweiler belonging to the painter who lives on the corner. He has also
observed, with the device's night vision, the man who, in the early
hours of the morning, dives into the dumpster and emerges with his
"treasures" under his arm, and the watchman who spends time opening the
warehouse containers to steal from them, without leaving any traces on
the security seals. Early one morning he even captured the president of
his local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) trafficking
in the alcohol from a nearby hospital.

Through the eyes of his drone, Miguel has been looking at Cuba from the
air, and what he is seeing is a country divided into pieces that don't fit.

Source: Miguel's Drone, Cuba From the Air | Yoani Sanchez -

Friday, May 30, 2014

Memories of One December 10th

Memories of One December 10th / Jeovany Jimenez Vega
Posted on May 30, 2014

Act I: The Barricade

I notice the foul stench the moment I turn the corner and see the piles
of garbage blocking the street. A pair of patrols is stationed,
threateningly, half a block away. I keep walking as though it has
nothing to do with me but a State Security agent — dressed in civilian
clothing and without identification, as per usual — stops me and I
realize that it is, indeed, about me.

"Good afternoon, where are you headed?" he challenges me.

"To a friend's house," I reply, allowing myself this small amusement.

"But… to whose house?" asks a second agent, approaching inquisitively
and also dressed as a civilian, of course.

I cut to the chase and look him in the eye. "Yes, I'm going to [Antonio]
Rodiles' house."

"Let me see some identification," he demands, as though issuing an
order. The radio transmits my information and immediately the agent
returns, this time with an unequivocal command. "You cannot pass!"

"Yes, I need to get by," I reply.

"No, you cannot," he shoots back.

"Then let's see what you do about it because I need to pass," I say

Because of my "insolence," I am subjected to a thorough search for a
cellphone I do not have.

"Frisk him and take him away!" he finally orders. It is 4:20 PM.

Act II: The Detention

I try telling the agents of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) that
the handcuffs are not necessary, but they clamp them on tightly. In a
few minutes I am at the Territorial Unit of Criminal Operations and
Investigations (DIVICO 3) located on 62nd Street at 7th and 9th in
Playa, where I am met along the side of the parking lot.

They take off the handcuffs but their imprint — on the skin, that is —
will last for hours. The booking officer asks for my name and the group
to which I belong. I identify myself and I say that I do not belong to
any group. There is no point in telling him I am a doctor, who would
have been at Rodiles' house for only 20 minutes because the next day I
am on call at the hospital for 24 hours and must now get home. Moments
later another agent appears and asks, "Haven't you had problems with
your work… or something like that?"

"Yes, that's me," I say, almost interrupting to save him from further
reflection. Having verified my coordinates, he leaves. That is when the
man I presume to be the boss relaxes his tone of voice a bit. I tell
them they are making a serious mistake, that it will lead to nothing,
that they have no right to detain me, that they should try other methods.

"So, tell me," asks the official, "how would you solve this?"

I tell him it was not up to me to solve the problem. He spends the next
hour trying to persuade me to go home but I insist that first I have to
go to Rodiles' house.

"You can go there some other time but not today," he tells me
emphatically. "If you try to do it again, we'll just arrest you again.
We'll be at this all day, so let's just avoid the hassle."

During this "impasse" I manage to talk for a few minutes with Gorki
Avila, who is in great pain after his "peaceful" arrest. The agents come
back, convinced the game is deadlocked. They confiscate my camera and
send me to a jail cell.

Act III: Convicted

It is an almost hermetic cell of about 50 square meters and about 6
meters high that, in addition to a door, has a single barred window half
a meter tall and about 5 meters from the floor. Three granite benches
are the only elements besides the walls, which are painted with several
layers of quicklime in an attempt to cover up the graffiti of slogans
and curses that bear witness to the cell's history. Inside are thirteen
detainees whose luck today has been similar to mine. They tell me that
before they arrived there were others who passed through and estimate
that — in this one unit — there may have been fifty prisoners, including
several women.

Act IV: The Wait

In time boredom and heat set in, forcing me to remove my pullover. The
hours pass in fleeting conversation with occasional outbursts from those
screaming at the top of their lungs at the sons of bitches. At the end
of the afternoon they bring in Gorki, who is still in pain and complains
repeatedly of a headache. After awhile we manage to get him medicated at
a nearby clinic and he returns, his pain eased.

About 8:00 PM hunger sets in. Those who so desire are taken to eat but I
decline. I guess captivity has taken away my appetite. It is at this
moment that the official I saw earlier that afternoon chooses to diffuse
the tension— he says to call him Mandy — by playing the good cop. In a
tone that in other circumstances might be described as conciliatory, we
chat and even philosophize a bit. I take the opportunity to reiterate,
for the third time, that I need to call home and, also for the third
time, that I am running out of time.

Just then it occurs to me that not only am I being arbitrarily detained
but that I am what would technically be described as a missing person.
My family will have been waiting for me for several hours without
knowing of my whereabouts. For a long time the cell door has remained
open, giving the impression that we could leave our confinement and go
have a cup of coffee at the corner, if only we were dumb enough to
believe it.

The hours pass and little by little the detainees are released so that
by 10 PM only five of us remain. Around 10:30 PM they call out for
Edilio, an attorney with the Cuban Legal Association, along with another
detainee. Now there is only Gorki, Aldo (who manages the Castor Jabao
website*) and I. Around 11:00 PM three mats appear and it is then that I
resign myself to spending the night in jail.

Act V: "Liberated"

In the morning the bars finally open and they call out my name. I say
goodbye to Gorki and Aldo, who would remain there 12 hours more. At the
exit a PNR official shows me a document. In the place where I am
supposed to sign, someone has already written, "Did not sign," which
saved me the trouble since that was exactly what I was thinking anyway.
The document mentions something about counter-revolution but I tell them
they should look for counter-revolutionaries among the crooks who are
embezzling this country. They give me back my camera but not before
completely draining the battery

After the Terminal Lido stop the bus takes me towards Artemisa. I am
gross. I quickly bathe, have something for lunch and head back to Havana
for my shift at the hospital because, in spite of it all, it is not the
members of my team nor my patients who are responsible for my detention.

Last Act: The Next Day's Pill

My shift is a killer. When I get home that evening, I open the newspaper
Granma to find that in a farewell address at Nelson Mandela's memorial
service, President Raul Castro spoke movingly of the need for the people
of Latin America to be "respectful of diversity, with the conviction
that dialogue and cooperation are the way to resolve differences and
civilized coexistence of those who think differently…"

I do not find out about this until the next day for reasons that are
obvious. As the president of this country, who now chairs the United
Nations Human Rights Council, is delivering his speech, this Cuban was
being detained for 16 hours for trying to attend a State of Sats
meeting. This amounted to a violation of his right to freedom of
movement, freedom of assembly and freedom of thought, considering he was
only thinking of going to this meeting.

The question one then has to ask is, What is the Cuban government afraid
of? Could it be that the it has not ratified the UN Convention on Civil
and Political Rights or the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights, which it signed in 2008, because it intends to continue its
attacks on our civil liberties. This is precisely why, now seven weeks
later, I am providing an account of these events. In light of the
evidence, further comments are unnecessary.

*Translator's note: a satirical Cuban website.

29 January 2014

Source: Memories of One December 10th / Jeovany Jimenez Vega |
Translating Cuba -

What is your network called?

"What is your network called?" / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on May 29, 2014

They meet on a corner, eyes red from lack of sleep, their pants on the
verge of falling down to their knees. They aren't yet twenty and have
spent the night immersed in the plot of a video game. Greeting each
other they no longer use the popular "qué volá?*" nor do they mumble a
grunt, but they speak to each other in the language they understand
best: "What is your network called?" says the tallest to the other. "Bad
Team" is the answer that remains floating in the air.

With this simple exchange, the two young men have introduced themselves
and offered the credentials that are most important to them right now.
They have shared the essential: the name of where they can meet in the
web of wireless connections weaving itself over the city. Despite police
raids and the high prices of routers or an APN in the black market,
wireless networks multiply. They serve as a substitute for the absent
internet. Through them move games, documentaries, OS updates, pirated
software, magazines in PDF format, music, video clips, and the nascent
private sector publicity.

"No one can stop it," says a teenage boy with long and agile fingers,
agile perhaps because of so much practice with the mouse and keyboard.
He is one of the creators of an extensive network that starts in La
Habana del Este, weaves itself through the mazes of Centro Habana, and
ends–with its digital tentacles–in the heart of San Miguel del Padrón.
When a police offensive falls on a part of it to confiscate antennae and
accessories, they immediately notice: "We notice that we lose users,
that they disconnect themselves…and that gives us the clue that
something is going on." A virtual complicity unites them.

The government is right to worry; these youths are already living in the

*Translator's note: Cuban Spanish equivalent of "What's up?"

Source: "What is your network called?" / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez |
Translating Cuba -

The US is seeking more than US$10 billion from French bank BNP Paribas to settle charges it violated US sanctions on Iran, Sudan and Cuba, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The US is seeking more than US$10 billion from French bank BNP Paribas
to settle charges it violated US sanctions on Iran, Sudan and Cuba, the
Wall Street Journal reported.

WASHINGTON: The US is seeking more than US$10 billion from French bank
BNP Paribas to settle criminal charges it violated sanctions on Iran,
Sudan and Cuba, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Citing people familiar with the negotiations between the bank and the
Justice Department, the newspaper said the two sides are still locked in
talks, and that BNP wants to pay less than US$8 billion.

Both numbers are far higher than earlier reports of less than US$4
billion, and would far outpace the US$1.9 billion British bank HSBC was
fined in 2012 for routinely handling money transfers for countries under
US sanction and for Mexican drug traffickers.

The Journal said a final resolution of the BNP case, which related to
the bank's activity in 2002-2009, is "likely weeks away."

A person familiar with the talks could not comment on the Journal's
number, but told AFP the fine could be above US$5 billion.

The source said the amount is linked to other key issues under
negotiation, including whether the bank pleads guilty to felony charges,
and whether it keeps its US banking license.

According to the Journal, the two sides are also discussing whether BNP,
as part of its punishment, will be temporarily denied the right to
transfer money into and out from the United States, a central part of
any foreign bank's business in the US.

The report said Justice Department prosecutors continue to press the
bank to plead guilty to the charges, which theoretically could risk its
US banking license.

But in a separate case last week involving a bank helping thousands of
Americans avoid taxes, Switzerland's Credit Suisse pleaded guilty to one
felony charge and was fined US$2.6 billion, but was allowed to keep its
banking license.

That was the first time in 20 years a major bank had been convicted on
US criminal charges.

Officials of BNP, the largest publicly traded French bank, could not be
immediately contacted to comment on the Journal report.

Last year it set aside 789 million euros (US$1.1 billion) to resolve the
US sanctions case.

But in its first-quarter earnings report in late April, BNP noted "a
possibility that the amount of the fines could be far in excess of the
amount of the provision."

In May a person familiar with the negotiations said US prosecutors were
insisting that it plead guilty to charges it did business with
sanctioned parties in Iran, Sudan and elsewhere; pay a large fine; and
fire 12 employees involved in the transactions.

But BNP chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe had expressed grave
concerns to regulators and prosecutors about lodging a guilty plea, in
part because it could endanger the bank's license for operating in the
US, according to the source.

BNP would likely be able to absorb such a large settlement without being

At the end of the first quarter this year, the bank had 90 billion euros
in shareholder equity, a 264 billion euro liquidity reserve and a strong
10.6 percent capital ratio.

But the fine could impact shareholders. Net income for the quarter was
1.7 billion euros, on 9.9 billion euros in revenues.

- AFP/fl

Source: US seeks to fine BNP US$10b for breaking sanctions - Channel
NewsAsia -

My Mom’s Experiences at Havana’s “Roach Motel” Hospital

My Mom's Experiences at Havana's "Roach Motel" Hospital
May 29, 2014
Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — She was sweating buckets. An intense burning sensation in
her chest was making her dizzy. She started to go cold and pale, and her
lips took on that frightening purple tonality. Then, she passed out.

Despite this, when we got to the nearest polyclinic, the doctor on duty
didn't sound her with a stethoscope. We described the symptoms my mother
had just shown. The doctor saw that she had walked into the clinic
looking a little pale, so she said they first had to rule out a
hypoglycemic episode and then anemia. In response to my demands and
restlessness, she would continue chewing her gum and say: "Easy, love,
easy. I know what I have to do."

I felt bound hand and foot. Was I to yell, take my mother somewhere
else, even if it were farther away? It was not the first time I'd had a
delicate situation with the doctors at "my" polyclinic.

Finally, when she was good and ready, she gave my mother an
electrocardiogram and fitted her with an oxygen mask. Immediately, my
mother's face regained its color. More than 40 minutes had already gone
by and only a memory remained of the chest pain. The doctor found no
reason to refer her to a hospital or to admit her to the polyclinic's
emergency ward. What's more, it is impossible to catch anything that
will take you out of Alamar at 3:00 in the morning.

We went home (and barely slept).

Morning found us at the cardiovascular hospital. There, employees smile,
ask how you're doing and are generally kind – from doctors, through
nurses to janitors. I am of course referring to the emergency ward,
where there are the material conditions needed for professionals and
patients to feel comfortable.

There, she had more electrocardiograms and underwent all manner of
(quick) tests. She was then taken to the observations ward.

At the waiting room, it felt strange to be in a hospital that didn't
feel oppressive. With the exception of a number of people who were
worried about the seriousness of a relative's condition, a sense of
peace prevailed.

A few hours later, a professor of medicine confirmed that my mother
ought to be admitted, particularly because of the syncope she had
experienced the night before. But she had to be admitted at the hospital
in our jurisdiction.

I couldn't help but blurt out: "God, they're going to admit my mother to
the roach motel!"

Yes, we residents of Habana del Este must be admitted to the Calixto
Garcia Clinical, Surgical and Teaching Hospital, popularly known as the
"roach motel."

A brief stay at this hospital's emergency ward set the differences
between the two health facilities in starker relief. The permanent
presence of two police officers there reminded me that crime rates in
Havana are not low.

Every so often, someone would burst into the ward yelling: "He's
bleeding to death, he's bleeding to death, I need a stretcher!" First,
we heard the screams of pain of a man with a dislocated tibia. Then came
the heartrending cries of a young woman who learned of her mother's
death. Then, we saw a young man who had been struck on the head with a
machete: he was being held up by the hands while he tried to articulate
words that wouldn't come out of his mouth. Blood everywhere, stretcher
bearers that do not reply promptly to emergencies, loud-mouthed
receptionists, collective hysteria. "Does my mother really need to be
admitted here?" I thought.

The question was beginning to torment me when the doctor on duty came
out to speak to relatives about emergency cases. The first feeling was
relief: he believed there was nothing seriously wrong with my mother and
that there was no reason to admit her. "We're leaving!" I thought. Then
I began to think that they were basing their diagnosis on how well she
looked and downplaying the importance of what she experienced. The image
of her deathly paleness came back to me.

"What if it happens again?" I thought.

Since she had arrived at the hospital referred from another hospital
(the Cardiovascular Hospital), we had to wait for a specialist to
examine her and confirm whether she was fit to go back home or not.
Nearly two hours later, a cardiologist examined her and discovered some
problems in the results of the electrocardiogram from the previous night.

So what happened? Exactly what you're imagining: we had to stay in the
"roach motel."

After decades of neglect, a slow, long-overdue restoration process is
underway at the more than 100-year-old Calixto. The dilapidated halls
are still there but, generally speaking, and in spite of the
constructive mess it is in, the hospital is trying to put behind its
reputation as a filthy, neglected place where cockroaches thrive
unchecked, a reputation that has accompanied it for far too long. I
can't say it will manage to do so with any certainty. What I can say is
that my mother received quality attention at the intensive and
intermediate therapy ward.

Though located in Havana's residential neighborhood of Vedado, the
Calixto is a place frequented by humble patients, common folk who can't
afford medical services in hard currency and do not have friends in high
places who can arrange these for them – hence the hustle-and-bustle of
its emergency ward.

The hospital is not only known for its dilapidated state and its bugs.
Its health professionals are also glorified by people.

The remodeling of the ward and purchase of new, quality equipment will
likely make doctors, nurses and others at the coronary ward – in
addition to highly knowledgeable and eager to continue learning – more
affable and solicitous.

For an entire week, we saw them work, treat everyone equally and carry
out their duties diligently despite the low wages they earn. It didn't
strike us as the kind of emotional blackmail that says: "I'm giving you
a royal treatment so that you'll pay me something later."

In short, everyone was carrying out their duties and treating others
well – the way things should always be but rarely are. They even held a
meeting aimed at hearing the opinions patients and relatives had about
the treatment they had receiving from doctors and their work in general.

I don't know whether it was mere coincidence or if such meetings are
held every so often, but, accustomed as people are to seeing their
comments at meetings go nowhere, very few people expressed their opinions.

The coronary ward isn't free from the shortcomings of the notorious
hospital. Even though it was recently repaired, it has a number of
deficiencies. As we all know, intensive care patients should not get out
of bed, not even to urinate. However, there are no screens or room
dividers in the ward so that patients can satisfy their physiological
needs privately. I had to work miracles to scrub my mother's body clean
while keeping the man in the bed across from her from seeing her breasts.

I consider it dangerous that street venders come into the wards where
patients in intermediate care are. Most of the time, they offer products
that these patients should not eat.

The TV isn't working. According to one of the doctors, patients and
their relatives do not look after the ward and some even steal things
like the remote control and bathroom fixtures. Since the television is
propped up high on the wall, they started using a stick to press the on
button…until they broke a hole through the TV. These practices may also
explain why the shower in the ward my mother was in could never be shut
off. It was painful watching the water pour out ceaselessly, what with
the many families in Havana who suffer a shortage of water.

It is pointless to lay the blame on patients and their relatives and
forget about the theft of resources by hospital employees – at this
stage, all of that is secondary. If it continues to accumulate problems,
the Calixto, despite its qualified professionals, will continue to be
Havana's "roach motel."

Source: My Mom's Experiences at Havana's "Roach Motel" Hospital - Havana -

Cuban Customs Warns Tourists and Nationals on Gifts and Packages

Cuban Customs Warns Tourists and Nationals on Gifts and Packages
May 29, 2014

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban Customs office issued a statement today (in
Spanish) warning travelers to the island of a crackdown on the carrying
of packages for third parties. The measure especially affects
Cuban-Americans who routinely carry parcels from friends and neighbors
when traveling to the island.

Customs informs that passengers are not authorized to carry with them
any entrusted parcels for other persons or legal entities. Violating the
regulation can lead to fines or criminal charges, notes the authorities.

The office warns that "parcels can be used to transport and conceal
substances and materials used in terrorism, drug-trafficking and the
contraband of merchandise that could endanger security, human health,
and the environment."

It further states that the full responsibility for the contents of the
packages rests on the passenger.

For more information the Cuban Customs invites you to visit their
website ( or phone 883-8282 and 881-9732 (both
in Havana) 287827 (in the city of Matanzas) 513965 Ext. 119 (in the city
of Cienfuegos) 225041 (in the city of Villa Clara) 223613 Ext. 120 (in
the city of Ciego de Ávila) 211809; 211303; 211504 Ext. 113, or 211449
(in the city of Camagüey) 481801; 468594 Ext. 110 (in the city of
Holguín) 652892; 628991 Ext. 124 (in the city of Santiago de Cuba).

Source: Cuban Customs Warns Tourists and Nationals on Gifts and Packages
- Havana -

Addressing Academic Fraud in Cuba

Addressing Academic Fraud in Cuba
May 29, 2014
Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — Surprisingly, the most talked-about news this month of
May was not the crackdown on a supposed terrorist network operating
within the country with macabre intentions (people seem to have had
enough of and to be skeptical about these gruesome stories about spies,
agents and terrorists).

The incident that made the loudest splash this month was the academic
fraud that took place during university entrance exams.

The official media have treated it as an isolated event, steering clear
of a profound, systematic and historical analysis of the problem.

A university professor interviewed by Cuba Dice ("Cuba Says", a
journalistic TV news segment that tackles social issues in a highly
superficial manner), enumerated a series of ethical values whose absence
allegedly opens the doors to fraud, values that will have to be drummed
into students more intensely as of the coming school year (poor kids).

Others approached on the street said that those involved should not go
unpunished and that professors ought to be subjected to stricter
controls and things of that nature.

What Cuba Dice or any news segment directed by the Cuban Communist Party
will never admit is that such fraud has become an indispensable part of
the system and that it has been integrated organically into our current

The corruption that permeates nearly all State institutions manifests
itself at schools in the form of fraud. The growing gap between official
reports and reality is closed at schools through fraud.

I was a teacher at a senior high school and I experienced this
personally. The majority of my students hadn't even mastered primary
school content (adding fractions and negative numbers, clearing up
variables, etc.) Since exams are designed for mid-level students, the
gap between reality and theory is solved…you guessed it, through fraud.

Why are students lagging behind academically? Let us look at the
situation closely. It is because the majority of teachers, tired of
being undervalued, have quit education. Why are they paid so poorly? Why
do even the students feel they can mistreat them? Because the entire
system is topsy-turvy.

Let us stick to the issue of fraud. A series of compelling reasons
discourage the teacher who would oppose or chose not to participate in a
corrupt practice. To begin with, his/her students would not pass the
course and the teacher's evaluation would suffer. In addition, teachers
would make enemies of their students and their parents, and their
not-so-honest colleagues and perhaps even the school principal, who
might connive against them. But that's not all: they will also have to
start figuring out a way of making ends meet each month.

I myself had to quit half way into the school year to not find myself in
the awful situation of having to flunk most of my students. To avoid
getting stabbed outside the school (there was no shortage of threats), I
resigned. You start acting like Don Quixote, you try and rock the boat,
and you'll get what's coming to you.

If we follow the trails of those factors that lead to systemic fraud,
one of them will take us to government and Party leaders. They prefer to
hide the cracks on the walls of the educational system because of the
high political cost that acknowledging these problems would entail, and
they manage to do this with the kind help of journalists.

Thus, since the problem "doesn't exist", there is no debate on the
subject and no ways to rectify the situation are attempted. It may be
better this way, because those in the Party may come up with something
like holding talks about Jose Marti and things of that nature.

In short, the situation is considerably more far-reaching than the Party
would have us believe through the media. The solution, obviously, isn't
making an example of the culprits, much less forcing students to
memorize a list of ethical values.

What could be the solution, then?

I can think of a number of them, within Cuba's current educational model:
• Raise the salaries of teachers, in acknowledgment of the extremely
complex work they do and the heavy burden of social responsibility they
• Instill respect for their profession, which does not consist in taming
beasts or being the spokespeople of knowledge.
• Instill respect for their time and put an end to such practices as
keeping teachers at school all day because some disciplinary regulations
demand this.
• Instill respect towards their ideas and cease forcing them to promote
an ideology many do not share.
• Instill respect towards them as people and cease forcing them to have
to put up with aggressive students or those who boycott their classes.
• Greater autonomy for schools: let teachers, parents and students
participate in decision-making processes.
• Allow for the opening of educational institutions that abide by basic
regulations but are based on other educational principles.

These are some ideas off the top of my head. If I were to think it over
a bit, I would start making radically different suggestions.

Currently, numerous schools inspired by libertarian principles* exist
around the world. Their teachers do not have to worry about fraud
because they do not subject their students to exams or make them compete
for a grade.

Those who study under these ideals learn what they are interested in at
the pace they want, because learning can and should be enjoyable. I say
this so that we understand to what extent fraud is co-extensive with the
educational paradigm that common sense and the bureaucracy accept and
the only, adequate system.
* Libertarian pedagogy came into existence under the Paris Commune. This
May 28 marked another anniversary of the massacre that put an end to the
government of the people and workers.

Source: Addressing Academic Fraud in Cuba - Havana -

Cuba embargo under pressure as Obama urged to lower barriers

Cuba embargo under pressure as Obama urged to lower barriers
By Bill Faries and David Lerman, Bloomberg News
11:20 p.m. CDT, May 29, 2014

MIAMI — A political consensus against trade with communist Cuba that has
prevailed in Washington for half a century is showing signs of cracking.

As the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's biggest
business lobby, visits the Caribbean island this week, support is
growing for an easing of trade restrictions and an increase in academic
and cultural exchanges.

While few are advocating a full lifting of the embargo or the
restoration of diplomatic relations, almost four dozen former government
officials, retired military officers and business leaders wrote an open
letter to President Barack Obama this month urging him to ease some

In another indication of the shifting mood, Cuban-American sugar
producer Andres Fanjul — part of a family long associated with support
for the embargo — signed the letter, which asks Obama to use his
presidential powers to authorize more import and export licenses, among
other steps.

"This is a moment to act," Fanjul, executive vice president of the West
Palm Beach, Fla.-based Fanjul Corp., said in an interview. "It's
important to expand opportunities to build relationships between the
American and Cuban families."

Supporters of further easing the 52-year embargo by executive order see
a window of opportunity after the U.S. midterm elections in November,
said Carl Meacham, director of the Americas program at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"You're seeing, slowly but surely, a ratcheting up of the pressure,"
said Meacham, who served as the senior adviser for Latin America and the
Caribbean on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "The window for
action starts with the election and finishes around the first quarter of

The momentum for change was on display on Thursday, when Tom Donohue,
president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber, gave a speech
at the University of Havana aimed at encouraging economic change in Cuba
and an eventual lifting of the trade embargo. He was to be accompanied
by Steve Van Andel, chairman of Amway and Marcel Smits, chief financial
officer of Cargill.

Donohue's visit to the island, his first in 15 years, came after the
Cuban government passed a law this year to attract more foreign
investment and President Raul Castro eased travel restrictions on
Cubans, including some dissidents.

"Through the new investment law, Cuba is inviting foreign partners to
invest in new sectors of the economy," Donohue said in prepared remarks.
"Approval of the law suggests that Cuban leaders understand what a
powerful tool for economic development and job creation foreign direct
investment can be."

Citing in particular a change in attitudes toward the embargo "among
younger generations of Cuban-Americans," Donohue called on Obama to
"create new avenues for imports and exports of goods" and services,
"starting with Cuba's new private sector."

Obama has acted on Cuba before, reversing some restrictions put in place
by his predecessor, George W. Bush, after taking office in 2009. Obama's
moves were denounced by lawmakers such as Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of
Florida, a Cuban- American Republican, who hasn't wavered in her
opposition to any easing of sanctions against the regime in Cuba, 90
miles from Florida.

Having outlasted 10 U.S. presidents so far, Cuba's Castro brothers are
approaching their 90s. Raul Castro, 82, has vowed to step down after his
term ends in 2018, while 87-year-old Fidel Castro is seldom seen in
public anymore.

Longtime Cuba watchers such as Wayne Smith say the approaching end of
the Castro regime, shifting political dynamics in the Cuban-American hot
spot of Florida, amid generational change, and an eagerness among some
in the U.S. business community for trade have combined to make an
opening possible.

"It shows the way the thing is moving," said Smith, a former U.S. chief
of mission in Havana who served as executive secretary of President John
F. Kennedy's Latin American Task Force a half-century ago. "Fewer and
fewer people are sticking with the old policy. There's a lot of momentum."

The Obama administration continues to weigh how best to encourage
positive change in Cuba, according to a State Department official who
asked not to be identified discussing policy deliberations. The U.S. has
taken steps to encourage greater access for Cubans to the Internet and
social media and has started talks with the Cuban government to set up
direct mail service between the countries, the official said.

The biggest obstacle to any White House movement on Cuba may be Sen.
Robert Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants who is chairman of the
Foreign Relations Committee.

In advance of Donohue's speech, the New Jersey Democrat wrote a letter
criticizing him for reaching out to a Cuban government that Menendez
said "jails foreign business leaders without justification, violates
international labor standards, and denies its citizens their basic rights."

"Such conditions hardly seem an attractive opportunity for any
responsible business leader," Menendez wrote.

Another barrier is Cuba's continued imprisonment of former U.S.
government contractor Alan Gross, who was arrested on spying charges in
2009 after taking telecommunications equipment to the island.

Source: Cuba embargo under pressure as Obama urged to lower barriers - -,0,7251392.story

Tweak Cuban embargo for sake of safe drilling, Sen. Bob Graham says

Posted on Thursday, 05.29.14

Tweak Cuban embargo for sake of safe drilling, Sen. Bob Graham says

Concerned about the impact of a spill if Cuba drills for oil offshore,
environmentalists and former Florida Sen. Bob Graham are pushing to
change the U.S. trade embargo to allow Cuba to buy state-of-the-art
safety equipment from U.S. sources.

"We're not doing the Cubans a favor," said Graham, who led an American
delegation to Havana in January to meet with Cuban officials. "We are
protecting ourselves by decreasing the chances of an event which would
be extremely damaging to the United States and, in particular, South

Graham was co-chairman of the 2010 national commission on the BP
Deepwater Horizon spill.

The tide in the Straits of Florida between Cuba and the Keys, where the
Cubans would drill, runs west to east, then turns north along Florida's

In the event of a spill, "the entire east coast of Florida would be at
risk. The Gulf Stream could potentially carry oil from a major spill up
the coast as far as North Carolina before it veers off into the
Atlantic," said Dan Whittle, Cuban program director for the
Environmental Defense Fund.

"What we're shooting for is basically a world without the embargo with
respect to offshore oil exploration," Whittle said.

Earlier this month, Graham met with a White House official to discuss
the matter. "He seemed receptive to the argument that the U.S. is the
most at-risk party," said Graham, who did not name the official.

The Council on Foreign Relations, the New York-based think tank that
sponsored Graham's Havana trip, will hold a private, invitation-only
event to alert certain South Florida business interests about the
pollution threat a large spill would pose.

"The council is seeking to organize a workshop primarily focused on the
tourism industry, which would be the most immediately effected if there
was a major spill," Graham said.

Anti-spill efforts by nongovernmental organizations like the council
have been accompanied by recent governmental action.

In March, after several years of talks, officials in the United States
and Cuba joined with other nations in a little-noticed agreement to
adopt nonbinding procedures that seek to streamline international
cooperation efforts in the event of an oil spill. Also participating are
Mexico, the Bahamas and Jamaica.

The intent of the so-called Wider Caribbean Region Multilateral
Technical Procedures (MTOP) "is to build a responder-to-responder
network so that in the event of a large oil spill, participating
countries can work effectively together to minimize environmental
impacts," according to the 60-page document.

Cuba's renewed interest in finding oil in its sovereign waters about 50
miles south of the Florida Keys, in waters a mile deep, is motivated by
its desire to have greater control over its energy supply. Today, Cuba's
primary source of oil is an unstable Venezuela.

Twice before, while working with a Spanish oil firm, Cuba drilled dry
wells. According to Graham, however, the Cuban officials he met with
believe that recent seismic data was sufficiently compelling to justify
further exploration in the deep water of the Florida Straits.

The Cubans told Graham their future partners in any search for oil would
likely be from Brazil or Angola.

"The concern that a number of us have is that other than those failed
efforts by the Spanish, Cuba has had no experience with deep-water
drilling and we learned with BP how fragile that process can be," said
Graham. "Cuba also has limited access to the kind of technology which
would mitigate against an accident during the drilling process and has
no capability to respond were there to be one."

The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of
Mexico on April 20, 2010, killed 11 workers, injured 16, and spilled oil
that ultimately spread across more than 1,000 miles of shoreline in
Louisiana, Mississippi Alabama and Florida, according to the National
Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration. BP has spent more than $25
billion in cleanup and settlement costs.

Graham and Whittle agreed that a similar spill in the Florida Straits
could be worse.

"There are more entities that would be affected. It would also have a
deleterious effect on the coral reefs and the mangroves and the fish,"
Graham said.

"Marine life in the Gulf Stream would be damaged," said Whittle.
"Ecosystem damage would also happen along the northwest and north
central coast of Cuba. Seagrass, mangroves and coral systems could be

They say a modification of the U.S. trade embargo is necessary to allow
Cuba access to advanced U.S. technology, like blowout preventors and
rigs, needed to lessen the likelihood of a spill.

Under the embargo, items that have more than 10 percent U.S. content
cannot be sold to Cuba.

The embargo should also be changed to allow Cuba to participate in the
24-hour response capability established by oil companies in the Gulf
since the Deepwater Horizon spill, Graham said.

The embargo has been changed before to protect U.S. interests regarding
sea search and rescue, weather information sharing and drug trafficking.

Broward Bulldog is a not-for-profit online only newspaper created to
provide local reporting in the public interest.

Source: Tweak Cuban embargo for sake of safe drilling, Sen. Bob Graham
says - Cuba - -

Groups call for arrests in alleged Cuba plot

Posted on Thursday, 05.29.14

Groups call for arrests in alleged Cuba plot

Two pro-Havana groups have called for the prosecution of Miami exiles
who the Cuban government has alleged were behind a plot by four other
men, arrested in Cuba last month, to attack military installations on
the island.

The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five and Act Now to Stop War
and End Racism (ANSWER) said it also asked the CIA, FBI and State
Department for massive amounts of information on militant exiles and
terror attacks on Cuba.

"We believe the U.S. government has information" on the four men
arrested in Cuba, ANSWER executive director Brian Becker said at a news
conference Thursday in Miami.

A Cuban Interior Ministry statement earlier this month said Miami
residents Raibel Pacheco Santos, Obdulio Rodríguez González, Félix
Monzón Álvarez and José Ortega Amador were arrested April 26 in Cuba.

The statement added that the four confessed their plot was "organized
under the direction" of Miami exiles Santiago Álvarez Fernández, Osvaldo
Mitat and Manuel Alzugaray, all linked to Luis Posada Carriles. But it
gave no other details.

Posada, 86, is a Miami exile wanted by Havana for the 1976 bombing of a
Cuban airliner that killed 73 passengers and crew members.

Posada, Álvarez, Mitat and Alzugaray should be arrested and prosecuted,
said Gloria La Riva, director of the National Committee to Free the
Cuban Five, which seeks the release of three Havana spies serving long
sentences in U.S. prisons.

La Riva said the intelligence agents — two finished their sentences and
returned to Cuba — were spying on radical exiles to avert terror attacks
on the island. Evidence at their trial showed the "Wasp Network" also
monitored U.S. military bases.

The nine-page requests to the CIA, FBI and State Department under the
Freedom of Information Act seek all information about the eight men in
the alleged April case and about 13 other well-known exiles — a virtual
who's who of Miami militants.

Also requested was any and all information held by the U.S. government
on a string of court cases involving Posada, Alvarez and others, plus
several organizations, including Alzugaray's Miami Medical Mission and
the Cuban American National Foundation.

"We believe these documents will show the U.S. government knows of,
allows and carries out" terrorist activities against Cuba going back to
the early 1960s, Becker said at the news conference.

Becker also noted that recent weeks have seen a campaign urging
President Barack Obama to improve relations with Havana that includes
posters in Washington's Metro system and a letter to the White House
signed by 44 prominent personalities.

Source: Groups call for arrests in alleged Cuba plot - Cuba - -

Groups seek info from US about exiles in Cuba

Posted on Thursday, 05.29.14

Groups seek info from US about exiles in Cuba

MIAMI -- Two groups have filed Freedom of Information Act requests
seeking details from the U.S. government about Cuban exiles detained on
the communist island in an alleged terrorist plot.

The requests were filed with the FBI, CIA and State Department by the
National Committee to Free the Cuban Five and the ANSWER Coalition, an
anti-war organization. Representatives of the groups said Thursday they
are seeking any information in U.S. possession about the four men and
any connections or support they may have had with Cuban exiles based in

"We believe that documentation will reveal a great deal," said Brian
Becker, national director of the ANSWER Coalition. "The point of the
documents is to find out the truth."

FOIA requests frequently take months or even years.

U.S. officials have said very little about the case since Cuba announced
earlier this month it had arrested four men from Miami for planning what
authorities called "terrorist actions" against military targets on the
island. They were the first such arrests in years.

The U.S. Interests Section in Havana issued a statement May 10
confirming a meeting with representatives of the Cuban Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. The statement said some information had been provided
by the Cubans and that was under review.

Miami-based Cuban exiles cited by Cuba as alleged backers of the plot,
including Santiago Alvarez and Luis Posada Carriles, have denied any
connection to the men. Both Alvarez and Posada were longtime CIA
operatives opposed to the communist Cuban government, and Posada is
accused of masterminding bombings including the 1976 downing of a Cuban
jetliner that killed 78 people.

Source: MIAMI: Groups seek info from US about exiles in Cuba - Florida
Wires - -

US Chamber head urges Cuba to open economy more

Posted on Friday, 05.30.14

US Chamber head urges Cuba to open economy more

HAVANA -- The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a prescription
for communist-run Cuba's struggling economy: less government control and
a heavier dose of the open market.

In a speech at the University of Havana, Chamber president and CEO
Thomas J. Donohue cautiously praised what he saw during a visit to
evaluate economic reforms that have hundreds of thousands of islanders
working independently of the state.

But he added that the challenge now is to consolidate and expand the

"We at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce believe in the power of private
enterprise to help societies progress and improve," he said Thursday,
before heading back to the U.S. "And it is in that spirit that we come
to your country ... and offer these observations."

About a dozen business leaders arrived this week on the chamber's first
trade mission to Cuba since 1999. During the visit they met with
entrepreneurs and government officials to talk about the reforms, which
President Raul Castro began in earnest in late 2010.

"We have come to Cuba to assess the seriousness of this effort and to
encourage and support it in any way we can," Donohue said. "We're trying
to engage Cubans of all walks of life and explain how private enterprise
can dramatically improve the lives of your citizens."

State television reported Thursday night that Donohue met with Cuba's
president. It showed images of the encounter, but did not say how long
it lasted or what they discussed.

About 455,000 islanders are currently running or working for private
small businesses as a result of the reforms, and about 450 new
non-agricultural cooperatives are operating autonomously.

"Their efforts to start their own businesses show that the spirit of
entrepreneurship and enterprise is alive and well in the hearts of many
Cuban citizens," Donohue said. "And indeed, when that spirit is properly
encouraged and given the freedom to operate, the country as a whole can
do much better."

He cited China and Vietnam's economic overhauls as a model for improving
Cubans' lives. "It can happen here, too."

Cuba has also decentralized a number of bloated state-run businesses and
undertaken a big port project west of Havana that seeks to turn the
sleepy fishing town of Mariel into a regional shipping hub. An adjacent
special economic zone aims to lure much-needed foreign investment.

Island officials say they are not abandoning the socialist principles
that have ruled here for more than 50 years, but rather are "updating"
Cuba's model to perform better in a globalized economy.

Donohue disagreed with those back home who criticized the trade mission
by arguing it would be a mistake to strengthen commercial ties with Cuba
due to questions about its record on civil liberties and political freedoms.

He said the Chamber of Commerce takes human rights concerns seriously,
calling it an issue that should be part of a "constructive dialogue"
between the U.S. and Cuba.

He called for Washington to allow imports and exports of goods and
services involving a number of sectors in Cuba, saying it would be in
the interests of American citizens and U.S. business. He cited
telecommunications as one area with great potential.

Donohue said the chamber has lobbied for years to end the now
52-year-long U.S. economic embargo that bars most commerce between the
two countries. Some exceptions exist for food and agricultural goods,
but as Cuba turned to other partners such trade has fallen by nearly
half in recent years to about $509 million in 2012, the most recent year
for which officials figures are available.

"Changes take time, but if (President Barack Obama) wants to get it done
before the end of his term, he's got two years," Donohue said. "And it's
going to take a while to do it, so he'll have to get busy."

Peter Orsi on Twitter:

Source: HAVANA: US Chamber head urges Cuba to open economy more - Latest
News - -

New book sparks renewed discussion of jailed Cuban novelist

Posted on Thursday, 05.29.14

New book sparks renewed discussion of jailed Cuban novelist

The publication in Miami of the novel El verano en que Dios dormía (The
Summer When God Was Sleeping) has revived the controversy surrounding
Cuban dissident writer Angel Santiesteban, who is serving a five-year
sentence on the island for allegedly breaking into the home of his
ex-wife and attacking her.

Santiesteban is a renowned author who won the international Casa de las
Américas Award in 2006 for his book of short stories Dichosos los que
lloran (Lucky Are Those Who Cry), a volume of crude tales about Cuban
jails. His new novel received the 2013 Franz Kafka Award for Drawer
Novels, created in the Czech Republic to support Cuban writers who
cannot publish in their country due to censorship.

In 2008, Santiesteban started a personal blog in which he harshly
criticized the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC in its
Spanish-language acronym) and the Cuban government, which, according to
opposition figures and writers abroad, eventually got him incarcerated.

In his blog, Santiesteban documents a series of irregularities in the
Cuban judicial process. Particularly, he alleges that he was not at the
time and place where supposedly the crimes took place, but he was
visiting a friend, who confirmed this fact in the trial.

The writer, who pleaded not guilty on all charges, has requested "a
clear and transparent trial," one that could be attended by people who
may assess whether "it's rigged or not."

Amir Valle, a writer and Santiesteban's literary agent abroad, has
pointed out that this is a typical case of "criminalization of
dissidence in Cuba," referring to the attempts to jail opposition
figures accusing them of common crimes.

"If I thought that these accusations were true, I wouldn't be defending
Angel," he said.

There is an ongoing campaign to have Amnesty International declare
Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience. The author has been included in a
list of 100 Heroes of Freedom, published this month by Reporters Without

However, some writers on the island expressed doubts about
Santiesteban's innocence. In an open letter, writer José Miguel Sánchez
Gómez, better known as Yoss, accused him of having a history of
harassing his ex-wife. But Yoss later recanted in his personal blog and
apologized for having rushed to condemn Santiesteban on "hearsay." He
also said "he was not so convinced" that Santiesteban committed the
crime for which he is in prison and acknowledged "irregularities" in the
judicial process.

Santiesteban's case prompted a debate in Cuba about gender violence.

On March 8, 2013, a group of writers, journalists and academics publicly
read at the UNEAC a declaration titled "All Against Violence," in which
they said that "no one should accuse a victim of trying to fabricate a
case so that someone can be sentenced for obscure political reasons."
They also appealed to Cuban institutions to launch a public campaign
"against all types of violence, especially against women."

Danae Diéguez, a professor, activist and one of the signees, told El
Nuevo Herald that the declaration had been "a spontaneous gesture," with
no institutional support. She said the declaration was a response by
Cuban feminists who were outraged by a letter written in support of
Santiesteban by another writer, Rafael Alcides.

In Alcides' letter, which drew responses on several websites, he
describes the incident as a "family quarrel" and speculates that, if
justice were done, Santiesteban would receive "house arrest ... with a
sentence to fit what in a few years would, after all, turn into
neighborhood folklore."

This shows, according to Diéguez, the tendency to downplay gender
violence, including within intellectual circles in Cuba. The activist
said she had information that points to guilty behavior by the author.

However, the female signees have been criticized for not mentioning, in
the original letter or subsequent versions, other notorious cases of
violence against women in Cuba, such as the harassment against the
dissident Ladies in White. A law against gender violence would, in
theory, also protect women in the opposition within Cuba.

In July 2013, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination Against Women expressed concern about the lack
of statistics on this issue in Cuba and the absence of a law in Cuba
about domestic violence. Also, it noted the nonexistence of independent
human rights organizations that could help victims.

Diéguez said the campaign in which she is involved seeks exclusively to
typify the crime of gender violence, though she rejected any other type
of violence against women, "regardless of ideological or political
motives. I don't believe that violence is the way to resolve any
political conflict," she said.

Blogger Yoani Sánchez's news site, 14ymedio, was launched recently with
an interview with Santiesteban, in which the author says he feels "freer
than many walking the streets."

He also said that he had declined meeting with Fidel Castro at a
reception at the Palace of the Revolution after receiving the Casa de
las Américas Award. However, El Nuevo Herald confirmed with other
participants that the reception was held at the Riviera Hotel, without
the presence of Castro.

In his exclusive interview for 14ymedio, the writer also said that in
1998, Abel Prieto, then-president of UNEAC, offered him a car or a house
in exchange for excluding five stories from his book Sueño de un día de
verano (A Summer Day's Dream).

"I needed a house at that moment. In the end, the book was published
without those five stories," he said.

Cuban-American writers Carlos Alberto Montaner and Antonio Correa
Iglesias will lead a discussion about El verano en que Dios dormía at 6
p.m. Tuesday at Casa Bacardi, 1531 Brescia Ave., in Coral Gables. It has
been republished by Neo Club Ediciones, an independent publishing house
based in Miami. The plot of the novel is about the drama of the Cuban
rafters and, according to Valle, its main feature is the "strength of
its characters" and "the combined force of Angel's stories with the
spirit of the novel."

Santiesteban will also receive that day the JOVENAJE Award from a
coalition of local cultural groups, designed to recognize writers,
promoters and artists, and will be picked up by the author's sister,
María de los Angeles Santiesteban.

Source: New book sparks renewed discussion of jailed Cuban novelist -
Little Havana / Flagami - -

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Judge or Divide?

Judge or Divide? / Antonio Rodiles
Posted on May 29, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba – The debate set off by the letter from more than 40
personalities asking for the relaxation of restrictions towards the
Havana regime letter from more than 40 personalities asking for the
relaxation of restrictions towards the Havana regime has been copious.
Those who support, as a premise, that Cubans must regain their
fundamental rights and freedoms have responded with intensity and been
very explicit in declaring that it would be members of the regime who
would have the most to gain from these measures. Meanwhile, the silence
from the Island of those who support this document is striking. I
haven't read a single article defending it.

Amid the controversy, today I came across an interview on the new site
of Yoani Sanchez, who in the past has expressed support for the agenda
of Carlos Saladrigas, one of the principle promoters of the anti-embargo
missive. The interview refers to the debate and its headline caught my
attention. I quote:

"The proposal has unleashed passions and speculation, also fueled by the
imminent arrival in Havana of representatives from the U.S. Chamber of

"Cuban society, however, seems to remain out of the headlines, the hot
articles, the replies — or support — like the so-called "letter of the
40" already circulating on the networks and in emails. Thinking about
this uninformed population submerged in the big problems of everyday
life, I did this interview with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who
received me in Washington a few weeks before the launch of 14ymedio."

Cuban society has not remained "outside," and more and more one hears
the opinions of citizens of "this uninformed population submerged in the
big problems of everyday life," who openly acknowledge that it is not
the embargo that is responsible for so much hardship, but a dictatorship
willing to continue preying on the country.

The writers, intellectuals, journalists, activists, political prisoners,
readers and forum members, from outside and within the island, who have
expressed themselves lately on the subject through articles and comments
in, and other sites, also make up the Cuban
nation. Those who offer their opinions from within and support projects
and other independent media and constantly confront the repression of a
dictator and his regime, also belong to Cuban society.

Amid intense debate and without even taking part, to attempt to be the
voice or the channel that can inform the Cuban people about what is
happening is pretentious and a dismissal of those who have engaged in
this controversy.

The need for political honesty is fundamental, 55 years of Castrismo has
been too long a time of simulation. Now is a time for greater
transparency and clarity. Hopefully that openness is an essential part
of the political game, even if it hurts. Hopefully those in Cuba who
have their agendas, and their companions, will provide something of
interest to demand the rights of those who are totally defenseless, and
not resort to justifying themselves in relativism.

When the future of a nation is at stake, it is important to respect
diverse opinions and visions. But it is also basic to pay special
attention to those well summarized in an phrase by the journalist Raul
Rivero, those who are "very close to the fire."

The debate about the embargo occupies a primordial space in Cuba today.
But it should contain as an essential element the demand for our basic
rights. And here we have the United Nations Covenants as fundamental
tools. Ratifying them and implementing them would give us a real
scenario of changes and then, perhaps, we would begin to glimpse another

May 28, 2014 | Antonio G. Rodiles

Source: Judge or Divide? / Antonio Rodiles | Translating Cuba -

Mommy, I want a new uniform

"Mommy, I want a new uniform" / 14ymedio
Posted on May 29, 2014

The sale of school uniforms started in Pinar del Rio this morning, a
moment eagerly awaited by parents and students at different levels of
education where the satisfaction of having a new outfit mixes with the
frustrations of long lines and the problems with sizes.

A few days ago the Ministry of Education and the Ministry Domestic Trade
reported that the pennant will be raised for the sale of uniforms on
Wednesday. Unlike other years, this time the sales haven't started in
the capital. The provinces of Ciego de Ávila, Villa Clara, Guantánamo
and Pinar del Río are leading off and the other regions of the country
will be added throughout the month of June.

The news wouldn't be significant if it weren't that in recent decades
the purchase of school uniforms has been an agonizing process for Cuban
families. The national newspapers are obliged to publish a schedule of
the sales and the rules governing them: a voucher with the student's
name, their town, province, school, gender and grade, authorizes the
purchase of a school uniform.

Even the central store, La Capitana on Maximo Gomez Street, has come to
14ymedio to learn people's opinions. Some two hundred mothers and
grandmothers, as confirmed by this newspaper, are outside and inside the
store. The line started forming yesterday afternoon.

The uniform for elementary school costs 9 Cuban pesos (CUP), and can be
bought by students in the first, second, third, fourth and sixth grades,
or those starting this level; while the junior high uniform costs 22.50
CUP for boys and 15.50 for girls. This year they've extended the
possibility to grades that previously didn't receive the so-called
"uniform voucher."

A similar policy was followed for junior high, high school and other
educational levels.

Migdalia Herrera, with an eight-year-old son in elementary school, says
she's been there since last night. "I don't want what happened in other
years, when the medium sizes didn't come, and I had to alter the shirt
and the shorts," she said. The main complaint of those who have already
purchased uniforms is centered on the availability of "too few sizes for
small or thin children."

Another seller, The Sensation on Martí Street, also in Pinar del Rio,
came to 14ymedio to ask about the "problem with sizes." Assuncion Valdez
has twin granddaughters who are starting in kindergarten. "Fortunately,
I'm a good seamstress, because these skirts need to be taken in a lot at
the sides," she says while showing the uniforms she'd already bought.

The parallel path

Outside the stores where they're selling the uniforms are resellers. A
blouse for junior high students costs around 50 CUP in this informal
market, almost ten times the price in the subsidized market. Many
parents are forced to buy illegally because the school uniforms wear out
or their teenage children grow too fast.

Not only reselling helps alleviate the shortage of uniforms; a new
phenomenon is expanding: importing these garments made abroad. Given the
high demand on the island, some stores located in Miami, Florida offer
almost identical – and better quality – copies of Cuban school uniforms.
"My daughter said to me, 'Mommy, I want a new uniform,' and I have to
ask my sister who lives in the North," says Lilian Herrera, with a
daughter in the third grade.

Similar scenes and comments are being repeated today in Ciego de Ávila,
Villa Clara and Guantánamo.

Source: "Mommy, I want a new uniform" / 14ymedio | Translating Cuba -

American trade delegation in rare Cuba visit

American trade delegation in rare Cuba visit

A delegation from the American Chamber of Commerce has begun its first
visit to Cuba in 15 years.

Chamber president Thomas Donohue said he was in Cuba to assess the
economic changes taking place under President Raul Castro.

The United States imposed an embargo on the communist-run island more
than 50 years ago following the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.

Members of the Cuban community in the US have criticised the visit.

They accuse Mr Castro's government of persecuting political opponents
and violating basic human rights.

Cuban-American Senator Robert Menendez said political opponents
continued to be arrested "without justification," in Cuba.

"Such conditions hardly seem an attractive opportunity for any
responsible business leader," Mr Menendez told the AP news agency.

'Civilised relations'

Members of the trade delegation told AP that they were in Cuba to assess
the trade possibilities in a post-embargo scenario.

However, the vast and politically-active Cuban community in the US has
been strongly opposed to any change to trade ties with the communist-run

Since Fidel Castro handed power to his brother Raul in 2006, Cuba's
communist government has introduced a number of economic reforms.

Cubans are now allowed to own small businesses and to buy and sell cars
and properties.

"We are very pleased to be here. We are learning a lot about the changes
taking place in Cuba," said Mr Donohue.

He said that Cuba is now "fundamentally different in terms of the number
of people that are operating under the private system".

In December, President Raul Castro called for "civilised relations" with
the United States, saying the two countries should respect their

The US should drop its demand for regime change and allow both sides to
continue work on improving relations, Mr Castro said.

The US Chamber of Commerce delegation was welcomed to Havana on Tuesday
afternoon by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Trade Minister Rodrigo
Malmierca Diaz.

Source: "BBC News - American trade delegation in rare Cuba visit" -

US business leaders assess Cuba business climate

Posted on Wednesday, 05.28.14

US business leaders assess Cuba business climate

HAVANA -- The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce toured an auto repair
cooperative and talked with newly minted private entrepreneurs Wednesday
as part of the first American trade mission of its kind to Cuba in 15 years.

Chamber president and CEO Thomas J. Donohue led a baker's dozen of U.S.
business figures to assess the island's changed business climate under
economic reforms that have included an expansion of the tiny private
sector, the decentralization of state-run enterprises and a drive to
lure badly needed foreign investment.

"We're very pleased to be here," Donohue said. "We're learning a lot
about the changes taking place in Cuba."

Washington and Havana have not had formal diplomatic relations since the
early 1960s, and the United States maintains a 52-year-old trade embargo
against the Communist-run country.

Cuba buys some U.S. food and agricultural goods under an exception to
the sanctions, but in recent years has increasingly turned to other
countries that don't require cash up-front.

From a high of $962 million in 2008, U.S. sales to the island fell to
$509 million in 2012, the most recent year for which official figures
are available.

Cuba's calculation is believed to be higher than the simple dollar value
of the imports, apparently factoring in embargo-related losses due to
unfavorable credit terms, currency exchanges and shipping complications.

Chamber officials said the goal of the trip was to explore not only
trade possibilities allowed under the current rules but also
opportunities in a post-embargo future.

At the Havana auto body shop, which 10 months ago was converted from a
state-run business to an autonomous cooperative, masked workers sanded
car hoods and fenders to prepare them for fresh paint jobs as the
visitors got a guided tour.

"This new model of association gives you the freedom of self-management,
which allows us to do more and make decisions about our resources,"
co-op president Marcelo Gonzalez said. "Productivity has greatly increased."

Cuban officials say cooperatives are a key element of their drive to
boost efficiency without abandoning entirely the socialist principles
that have guided the economy for more than a half-century.

About 450 non-agricultural cooperatives are currently in operation and
some 455,000 Cubans own or are employed by private small businesses,
according to government figures.

Donohue, who has been president of the Chamber since 1997 and last
visited the island in 1999, said today's Cuba is "fundamentally
different in terms of the number of people that are operating under the
private system ... not working for the government."

The trip was criticized by some back home including Sen. Robert
Menendez, a Cuban-American Democrat from New Jersey who sent a letter to
the Chamber expressing concerns about strengthening trade ties to Cuba.

He alleged that several foreign businesspeople jailed alongside dozens
of islanders as part of a crackdown on corruption were imprisoned
"without justification," and accused Havana of violating international
labor standards and oppressing fundamental human rights.

"Such conditions hardly seem an attractive opportunity for any
responsible business leader," Menendez said.

The Chamber group was meeting privately with small-business owners later
in the day and paying a visit to Energas SA, a joint concern between the
Cuban government and Canada's Sherritt that operates several gas-powered
electrical plants on the island's northern coast.

The delegation included top executives from Minnesota agribusiness giant
Cargill and Alticor, the Michigan-based parent company of the
direct-sales business Amway.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Foreign Commerce Minister Rodrigo
Malmierca Diaz greeted the group after it arrived Tuesday.

Peter Orsi on Twitter:

Source: "HAVANA: US business leaders assess Cuba business climate -
Business Breaking News -" -

Problems Facing Cuba’s Official Press

Problems Facing Cuba's Official Press
May 28, 2014
Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — We hear many complaints to the effect that Cuba's
official press does not fulfill its informative duties. Sometimes,
people blame the ineptitude of journalists, their lack of cunning or
motivation to criticize bad practices and offer solutions to the
problems that affect the population.

Over the last fifty years, however, we have had no shortage of
courageous and sharp journalists who have reported on Cuba's ills with
professionalism and have shared their ideas and suggestions with us. The
fact no one has paid any attention to them, the fact they were later
demoted, is a different story.

Other times, the blame is laid on mid-level bureaucrats who supposedly
"do not want to give out information" about the problems journalists try
to investigate, the notorious "secrecy" criticized by President Raul
Castro himself, someone who, in conjunction with Cuba's historical
leadership, has maintained all of the restrictions and censorship that
have been in existence for over half a century, stating these are in the
interest of national security or designed to keep the "enemy" from using
information against the "revolution."

Cuba's official journalism has been the victim of this mentality and the
notion of a "city under siege", wielded by those in power to protect
themselves and justify the censorship and repression of dissenting
thought. It is also true that, faced with these enormous levels of
censorship, self-censorship (the worst kind) has been a survival
mechanism for people.

The fundamental problem facing the Cuban press, however, resides in the
logic of a system in which government and economic planning are
integrated, where those who hold political power, the eternally
unchanging Party leadership, are also the entrepreneurial planners of
the economy and those who control the policies that govern the media.

The centralized and planned economy of "State socialism" aspires to
operate like a massive, nationwide company, managed by one, central
political command post. Under such circumstances, the chief aim of the
officially authorized press – which is also financed by this leadership
– is to defend these interests and, at most, publish criticisms designed
to make the established system work more smoothly, never to change it.

In capitalist countries, the mass media are in the hands of large
capitalist companies linked or financed by big capital and, of course,
their chief aim is to defend the interests of those they respond to. The
freedom afforded by the Internet and new communication technologies,
however, makes it impossible to prevent the divulging of dissenting thought.

In Cuba, the government controls the traditional media and restricts the
flow of information through the Internet, keeping the majority of the
people from accessing the web. Despite this, Cuba's alternative press
and blogosphere have been challenging the official press more and more.
We must acknowledge that, faced with criticisms and pressures at home
and abroad, the Cuban government has taken a number of modest and
positive steps, such as broadening the still limited and extremely
expensive Internet access and allowing some comments with differing
opinions to be published in the web pages of official publications.

Journalistic criticisms that have sought to bring about changes to the
country's political and economic system, coming from the Right and Left,
have had no choice but to turn to alternative media, because the
official ones have not offered them any space to do so.

When a journalist or media begins to encroach on established interests,
they are in some way censored, punished, suspended and even expelled. It
is the same thing that happens to mid-level bureaucrats who offer the
press information or opinions that contradict the interests of those
"above," which is why many evade the press or omit or distort certain

And that's to say nothing of the repression of dissident journalism,
which has always been accused of being the work of "mercenaries" or of
serving the interests of the "enemy", as though it had no interests of
its own. This does not mean there are no pens that are moved exclusively
by money, but we come across this in all political contexts.

There are "reasons of State" to conceal economic and political
information, if not downright conflicts of interests at mid-level
administrative positions. For instance, "the prestige of leaders and the
image of their dedication to the interests of the people" must be
maintained. "The fact the resources needed to overcome local problems
are in the hands of superiors, centralized so as to be given better use,
must be justified." Or, one has to lie about the fulfillment of a given
plan in order to retain one's position.

Officials must also "avoid having the foreign press find out about
epidemics, because that could reduce the number of foreign tourists who
visit the country, and the propaganda portraying Cuba as a medical force
to be reckoned with must be kept up in order to continue to export
doctors." "Cuba must demonstrate that the opposition represent a small
minority," and so on and so forth – all of this secrecy, all of these
prohibitions, are to be found in "reasons of State" or bureaucratic

In short, as long as we have an all-controlling State above the
interests of the people, of the workers, of citizens and communities, a
system in which those above "elect" those below (when the opposite
should be the case), things will remain the same.

A Press Law could solve many of these problems, if it were established
on the basis of democratic principles, with the full, horizontal and
uncensored participation of all journalists, without any kind of
exclusion because of political or ideological reasons – if it were
established by those who believe that the press should not be
subordinate to the establishment and that it should struggle to get the
truth out.

To date, however, the government has refused to discuss such a law and
even turned down the proposal advanced at the last Cuban Journalists'
Association (UPEC) Congress, demonstrating it is not interested in
freedom of expression and press.

In order to have a press free from bureaucratic fetters and political
prejudices, a press capable of undertaking investigative processes that
cannot be hindered by the powers that be and that can both inform the
public objectively and divulge points of view that differ from those of
the government, Cuba's political system must be democratized.

Cuban theatre actors and visual artists have secured niches of freedom
for themselves on the strength of their courage alone, as have a number
of musicians and singers. Cuban filmmakers have been battling for
greater creative freedoms and a cinema free from impositions. Writers
and poets are engaged in similar quarrels. Journalists, however, have
been left behind.

The struggle for freedom of expression and press is very difficult in a
country as centralized as Cuba. This is evidenced by the recent
controversy surrounding declarations made by award-winning Cuban
novelist Leonardo Padura, "accused" by a number of his colleagues of
failing to mention imperialist aggression and the US blockade when he
referred to Cuba's problems, of offering statements to a foreign,
reactionary newspaper and voicing unjust opinions about the degree of
dependence Cuban intellectuals have on the State.

Those interested in a free and responsible press in Cuba, no matter what
their ideology, will have to make the democratization of the country's
political system their top priority.

Source: "Problems Facing Cuba's Official Press - Havana" -