Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Obama presses Cuban president to respond to U.S. moves

Obama presses Cuban president to respond to U.S. moves
By Karen DeYoung September 29 at 12:27 PM

UNITED NATIONS — With two rounds of regulatory reform since December,
President Obama has expanded opportunities for Americans to travel,
spend money and set up businesses in Cuba. So far, Cuba seems to have
done little beyond reopening its Washington embassy.

In a meeting here Tuesday with Cuban President Raúl Castro, held on the
margins of the U.N. General Assembly, Obama pressed for a more energetic
Cuban response. "The President welcomed the progress made in
establishing diplomatic relations," a White House statement said after
the meeting, "and underscored that continued reforms in Cuba would
increase the impact of U.S. regulatory changes."

Prior to the meeting, which began with a smiling handshake and included
top national security aides on both sides, senior administration
officials were more direct in their description of Obama's message,
saying that if Cuba wants progress on its demand that Congress lift the
long-standing U.S. embargo, it must demonstrate that it is prepared to
take steps opening its economy and respecting human and political rights.

Lawmakers who are supporting bills against the embargo, which the
Republican leadership has thus far declined to bring to the floor, "are
desperate for gestures" from Cuba, "and they aren't getting those
gestures," said one official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to
discuss administration thinking. "There's been no real give at all" from

"At the beginning, we were saying, 'You don't have forever' to make
progress," the official said. While the Cubans may think they are on a
schedule pegged to Castro's stated intention to depart from office in
2018, "they're really on a schedule for Obama's stepping down" in
January 2017.

Opponents of the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement, first announced by Obama and
Castro on Dec. 17, have repeatedly noted that Cuba's detentions of
political dissidents have only increased since the announcement. Some
dissidents' attempts to see Pope Francis during his recent visit there
were blocked.

While most detentions do not result in arrest and dissidents are usually
released within hours, many have been roughed up by security forces with
the aim of disrupting any bid at political assembly or public expression.

Another way to demonstrate human rights progress, the official said,
would be to allow access to the International Committee of the Red
Cross, which has never been permitted to visit Cuban prisons.

Although the 1961 trade embargo and other subsequent legislation
restrict most direct U.S. exports to Cuba, prohibit credit transactions
and most interactions with the U.S. financial system, and ban U.S.
tourism, Obama has pushed through regulatory changes that broadened the
number of Americans who can travel there for specific purposes, allow
correspondent banking in Cuba, and permit U.S. businesses in certain
sectors to set up offices and hire workers in Cuba.

Bilateral dialogues are underway on civil aviation, telecommunications
and other potential areas of interaction.

In an assessment distributed Friday of what has happened since December,
the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council described the
U.S. measures as "chum" that Cuba is using to attract investment and
cooperation from other countries that may fear losing out to U.S.

On the plus side, the council noted that while Cuban agricultural
imports from the United States have decreased significantly this year,
health-care product purchases have increased. Both items are largely
exempt from the embargo. Direct telephone service between the United
States and Cuba has resumed, and Cuba has authorized a wireless-device
roaming agreement with Verizon. Limited postal service between the two
countries has resumed, and Cuba has allowed the lodging Web site Airbnb
to operate there.

But despite significant outreach from U.S. Internet providers and other
telecommunications companies, Cuba has not taken up any offers. No new
U.S. companies have been allowed to establish a presence in Cuba or to
hire Cuban workers.

"Visits to the Republic of Cuba by Members of Congress, Governors, trade
organization members, advocacy group supporters, company
representatives, and sole proprietors increased," the council said in
its assessment. "None have resulted in payments by the Republic of Cuba
for any of the newly-authorized exports from the United States."

In his speech Monday to the U.N. General Assembly, Castro briefly
mentioned the opening to the United States, repeating his demand that
the embargo be lifted and offering a litany of long-standing Cuban
foreign policy positions, including independence for Puerto Rico.

Karen DeYoung is associate editor and senior national security
correspondent for the Washington Post.

Source: Obama presses Cuban president to respond to U.S. moves - The
Washington Post -

U.S.-Cuban aviation deal possible this year, official says

U.S.-Cuban aviation deal possible this year, official says
By Daniel Trotta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba and the United States advanced toward restoring
scheduled airline service during two days of talks that concluded in
Havana on Tuesday, with the potential to reach a deal this year, a U.S.
official said.

"One more meeting might be enough to finalize an arrangement. I can't be
sure," said the U.S. official, who was familiar with the talks and spoke
on the condition of anonymity.

The two sides planned to meet again, possibly before the end of this
year and most likely in Washington, the official told Reuters.

Scheduled commercial airline service has been suspended for decades as a
result of Cold War animosity, but both sides quickly made resumption a
priority upon detente last December.

Charter flights have long connected the United States and Cuba. Then
Washington initiated new rules in January that more easily permit U.S.
airlines to fly to Cuba.

However, U.S. and Cuban officials first need to negotiate a new
arrangement before restarting scheduled service in which customers could
book travel directly with airlines.

After that informal deal is reached, the two sides have agreed to work
on updating a 1953 civil aviation agreement that is still valid but

Officials from six U.S. government agencies met with counterparts from
the Cuban Foreign Ministry and the Cuban Institute of Civil Aviation on
Monday and Tuesday, the official said.

Safety and security cooperation was well advanced, largely because
existing charter flights already meet U.S. Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) and Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)
standards, the official said.

General U.S. tourism to Cuba is banned by the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba
but certain Americans are allowed to go on specially sanctioned travel.

U.S. President Barack Obama has relaxed those restrictions, leading to a
boom in U.S. citizen travel to Cuba, which is up more than 60 percent
this year with 106,607 Americans arriving as of Sept. 20.

The market would grow further if the U.S. Congress were to lift either
the tourism ban or the embargo.

"We don't have a deadline. We're eager. Our carriers are eager," the
U.S. official said about reaching a deal. "Both sides see it as positive
in and of itself but positive also as a signal of progress in the
broader relationship."Major U.S. airlines including JetBlue Airways
Corp, American Airlines Group Inc, Delta Air Lines Inc and United Air
Lines have all expressed interest in scheduled service to Cuba.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Source: U.S.-Cuban aviation deal possible this year, official says -
Yahoo News -

Amnesty International declares Cuba graffiti artist a prisoner of conscience

Amnesty International declares Cuba graffiti artist a prisoner of conscience
By Daniel Trotta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Amnesty International on Tuesday declared a Cuban
graffiti artist as the country's only prisoner of conscience, demanding
the release of a man held for "disrespect of the leaders of the
revolution" over a satire of Fidel and Raul Castro.

Danilo Maldonado, 32 and known as "El Sexto," has been held since
December for painting "Fidel" and "Raul" on the backs of a pair of pigs
in apparent reference to former leader Fidel Castro and his brother and
current president, Raul Castro, Amnesty said in a statement.

"We are declaring him a prisoner of conscience. At the moment, he is the
only prisoner of conscience in Cuba. However, we are evaluating a number
of other cases," said Josefina Salomon, a spokeswoman for the human
rights group.

The Cuban government did not immediately respond to a request for
comment. Officially, the government maintains it does not have any
political prisoners, and characterizes Cuba's small but vocal dissident
community as mercenaries paid by U.S. interests to destabilize the

In conjunction with detente reached with the United States last Dec. 17,
Cuba released 53 prisoners that the U.S. government had considered

But Maldonado was detained eight days later when police discovered the
animals in the trunk of his taxi before he intended to display them in a
Christmas Day art show, Amnesty said.

He has been on a hunger strike since Sept. 8, Amnesty said.

"He has been held for a long time in a high security prison, without
formal charges and without trial," said Elizardo Sanchez, leader of the
dissident Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

The commission estimates there are about 60 political prisoners in Cuba,
including some two dozen held for peaceful political protest.

Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama surprised the world last
December by announcing the two former Cold War foes would seek to
restore diplomatic ties, which happened eight months later.

Castro and Obama shook hands on Tuesday during a rare one-on-one-meeting
at the United Nations.

"To jail an artist for painting a name on a pig is ludicrous. Cuban
authorities are using any cowardly excuse to silence Danilo and send a
message to others that any criticism of the government and its officials
will not be tolerated," Carolina Jimenez, Americas Deputy Director for
Research at Amnesty International, said in the statement.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Chris Reese, Bernard Orr)

Source: Amnesty International declares Cuba graffiti artist a prisoner
of conscience - Yahoo News -

Getting to Cuba for $40,000 on a private jet

Getting to Cuba for $40,000 on a private jet
Published: Sept 30, 2015 10:02 a.m. ET

If you and seven friends can scrap together $40,000, getting to Cuba
just got easier.

Private jet booking service Victor will begin offering direct private
flights on Monday from 19 cities in the U.S. to Havana, Cuba. The
company's service allows users to enter a destination, see price quotes
and then book a private flight.

Travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens is still limited as travelers have to
be approved to visit under 12 visa categories. Victor has partnered with
Cuba Educational Travel, which organizes travel to Cuba under
educational visas, so that its fliers are approved to visit the country
and have a set itinerary while there.

The itinerary could include cigar and rum tastings with country experts,
riding in 1950s American cars and dinners with prominent cultural
figures and historians, the company said. For a group of eight staying
four nights, prices start at $40,000.

David Young, senior vice president at Victor, said the company is adding
the service because of growing demand for travel to Cuba. "It's the
hottest travel destination," said Young.

The U.S. has recently moved to normalize relations with Cuba after more
than 50 years. Restrictions on trade and travel have been eased, and the
U.S. Embassy in Havana reopened in August.

JetBlue JBLU, +1.43% offers weekly direct chartered flights from New
York's John F. Kennedy airport and said this week that it will add a
second flight starting in December.

Victor acknowledges that the private flights aren't cheap, and says it
is aimed at a high net worth clientele. Many of the company's members
are involved in entertainment or sports, he said.

Being a member is free, and Victor has more than 40,000. The company
takes a fee from each booking and partners with different jet operators.
The company, which has raised $26 million in private equity, operates
national and international flights with offices in London, New York and
Santa Monica, Calif.

Source: Getting to Cuba for $40,000 on a private jet - MarketWatch -

Carnival announces ports of call for planned Cuba cruise

Carnival announces ports of call for planned Cuba cruise
By - Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Carnival's proposed cruises to Cuba will include two
colonial cities outside Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba, in
addition to the Cuban capital, the cruise company said Wednesday.

Carnival is working to finalize approval from the Cuban government for
the planned seven-day trips from Miami on a ship from the new Carnival
brand, Fathom.

The cruises have already been approved by the United States. Americans
cannot travel as ordinary tourists to Cuba under current U.S.
regulations, but they may participate in certain types of trips,
including people-to-people trips that foster cultural exchanges.

Carnival said the trips will "focus on supporting cultural exchange and
economic development for the Cuban people and include a variety of
artistic, educational and humanitarian activities."

The preliminary itinerary includes meetings with artists, entrepreneurs,
schoolchildren and others in settings ranging from the Afro-Cuban
community in Havana's Muraleando neighborhood to an organic farm to
colonial heritage sites.

Carnival says the Cuba cruises will begin in May.

All trips offered by the Fathom brand will have a focus on volunteering
in a destination. The brand is also selling service trips to the
Dominican Republic.

Source: Carnival announces ports of call for planned Cuba cruise -
Washington Times -

Want to Do Business in Cuba? All Roads Lead to Raúl Castro’s Son-in-Law

Want to Do Business in Cuba? All Roads Lead to Raúl Castro's Son-in-Law
Things are changing rapidly in Cuba, and people from around the world
are eager to get in on the action. Wait until they meet their new partner.
September 30, 2015 Michael Smith

Propaganda outside Mariel, a new base for private investment. The sign
reads, "By order of the commander in chief, we fulfill our promise at
Baragua." It refers to a 19th-century Cuban rebellion against colonial

Omar Everleny Pérez is eager to show me how far Raúl Castro's overhaul
of Cuba's socialist economy has advanced, and so, on a muggy evening in
August, the 54-year-old economist invites me into his home in Havana's
Marianao neighborhood. Above his cramped desk, shelves sag under the
weight of economics books and monographs, including more than a dozen
that Pérez wrote.

"Just look at this," he says, pointing to the screen of his wheezy black
desktop PC. He clicks on a file, and scenes of Havana's colonial-era
port appear. A female narrator with a soothing voice describes a 14-part
government plan to replace the gritty piers with cruise ship terminals,
restaurants, and hotels, all to be bankrolled by foreign investors.
Run-down warehouses fade digitally into luxury apartments, shops and
offices, and marinas crowded with yachts. Little virtual people jog and
bike along greenways where an oil refinery now sits, and a ferry glides
into a modern glass-and-steel terminal.

"It's really visionary, what they want to do, if you think about it,"
says Pérez, a professor at the University of Havana and a researcher at
the influential Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy.

Later, a few steps from the port in Old Havana, I see the city's
redevelopment in progress. Near El Floridita, where Ernest Hemingway
once knocked back daiquiris, the hulking Manzana de Gómez building is
being transformed into a five-star hotel. Stylish boutiques sell perfume
and stereos. Inside an old warehouse is a microbrewery teeming with
people drinking lager made in huge steel tanks imported from Austria.

What isn't immediately apparent to a person taking a walk on a warm
Caribbean night is that all of this—and anything else that stands to
make money in Old Havana, and much of the rest of the country—is run by
a man who is little known outside the opaque circles of Cuba's
authoritarian regime. A quiet general in the Revolutionary Armed Forces,
Cuba's multibranch military, he has spent his life around the communist
elite that served Fidel Castro's revolution. Yet he is chairman of the
largest business empire in Cuba, a conglomerate that comprises at least
57 companies owned by the Revolutionary Armed Forces and operated under
a rigid set of financial benchmarks developed over decades. It's a
decidedly capitalist element deeply embedded within socialist Cuba.

This is Luis Alberto Rodriguez. For the better part of three decades,
Rodriguez has worked directly for Raúl Castro. He's the gatekeeper for
most foreign investors, requiring them to do business with his
organization if they wish to set up shop on the island. If and when the
U.S. finally removes its half-century embargo on Cuba, it will be this
man who decides which investors get the best deals.

It's a decidedly capitalist element deeply embedded within
authoritarian, socialist Cuba.

Rodriguez doesn't just count Castro as a longtime boss. He's family.
More than 20 years ago, Rodriguez, a stocky, square-jawed son of a
general, married Deborah Castro, Raúl's daughter. In the past five
years, Castro has vastly increased the size of Rodriguez's business
empire, making him one of the most powerful men in Cuba. Rodriguez's
life is veiled in secrecy. He's rarely been photographed or quoted in
the media, and his age isn't publicly known. (He's thought to be 55.)
Rodriguez and the other Cuban government officials in this story
declined multiple requests for comment.

In a country where capitalism was treated as a subversive enemy force
for a half-century, Raúl Castro has been cautiously opening the island
to private enterprise since he effectively succeeded Fidel as president
of the country in 2006. Daily life has changed for many people. There
are now 201 permitted types of private businesses (restaurants and
bed-and-breakfasts are the biggest categories), employing a million
people, or a fifth of the Cuban workforce, according to Pérez and other

Raúl Castro has legalized the sale of homes and cars, scrapped travel
restrictions, and allowed private farming and cooperative businesses.
It's now legal for Cubans to stay in hotels, and 2.6 million people own
cell phones, up from close to zero a decade ago.

But Castro has kept the big-money industries in the hands of the state,
and much of it is managed by his son-in-law. (Or former son-in-law;
there are rumors, difficult to confirm, that Rodriguez and Deborah
Castro have divorced.) Rodriguez's Grupo de Administración Empresarial
runs companies that account for about half the business revenue produced
in Cuba, says Peréz. Other economists say it may be closer to 80 percent.

GAESA, as it's called (it's pronounced guy-A-suh), owns almost all of
the retail chains in Cuba and 57 of the mainly foreign-run hotels from
Havana to the country's finest Caribbean beaches. GAESA has restaurant
and gasoline station chains, rental car fleets, and companies that
import everything from cooking oil to telephone equipment. Rodriguez is
also in charge of Cuba's most important base for global trade and
foreign investment: a new container ship terminal and
465-square-kilometer (180-square-mile) foreign trade zone in Mariel.

Cubans talk constantly about the changes they've seen. But for a
majority of people, Castro's reforms haven't delivered that most basic
thing: a living wage. Salaries average just 584 pesos, or about $24, a
month, government figures show. That's what it costs to buy 2 kilos (4.4
pounds) of chicken breasts, a couple bags of rice and beans, and four
rolls of toilet paper in one of GAESA's Panamericana supermarkets. Costs
are sky-high for most people because they earn Cuban pesos but
everything they have to buy is priced in a parallel, dollar-linked
currency called Cuban convertible pesos, or CUCs.

On a breezy Saturday morning, I head to the neighborhood of La Timba,
down a warren of streets lined with tin-roofed shanties and piles of
rotting garbage. It's all within sight of the hulking, Soviet-inspired
monuments of Plaza de la Revolución, where Fidel Castro used to speak
for hours on end and Raúl Castro has his offices.

Dayanis Cabrera, 38, calls me into her home, three rooms built from
cracked cinder blocks and rotting planks. The intense morning sun
pierces the darkness through gaps in the corrugated-metal roof. Her
elderly father, who's suffering from cancer, lies on a bare mattress in
the small bedroom to the left. Cabrera leafs through her little, 22-page
food-rationing booklet, which lists the staples every Cuban can get for
next to nothing at government food depots.

"No one can live off this," she says, sitting in her kitchen, where a
tattered curtain serves as a door. Her family's rations: a quarter-kilo
of chicken, 10 eggs, one pack of spaghetti, a half-kilo of black beans,
and a quarter-liter of cooking oil per person per month. Shortages of
food are rare, but the price of most things is simply prohibitive. "I'm
just hopeful that all this change will bring a living wage," Cabrera
says, shaking her head.

As we speak, she's loading a metal tray with peanuts she's roasted over
her gas stove. She'll take them around her neighborhood and try to sell
them on the street.

Most Cubans have to scrape and hustle to put together a decent living.
Nearly everyone I meet in Havana has a story of moonlighting in odd jobs
or even stealing to make up for dismal pay. One friend's father sells
Cohiba cigars pilfered from the factory where he works. A young engineer
drives tourists around in his mother's Lada to supplement his $19.59
monthly salary as a university professor.

Since Dec. 17, when Castro and President Barack Obama announced plans to
normalize U.S.-Cuban relations, the country has been abuzz with talk of
money to be made. You hear Cubans everywhere speaking giddily about the
imminent end to the U.S. embargo that's hobbled the country for half a

On Aug. 14, I walk to the U.S. embassy on the Malecon seaside promenade
to watch U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry order a Marine honor guard
to run up the U.S. flag, for the first time in 54 years. I am among
thousands of cheering Cubans. Some weep, holding homemade American
flags. Digmari Reyes, a 27-year-old worker at a finance company owned by
GAESA, stands there afterward, smiling broadly. She'd waited three hours
in the searing heat to watch the flag go up. "This has to bring
something good, some prosperity for the vast majority of us who don't
earn enough to live a dignified life," Reyes says, as people surge past
her to take selfies with the embassy's flag in the background.

I meet Alcibiades Hidalgo, an eloquent man of 70 who spent decades
working in Cuban state media and government posts, at an Italian
restaurant in Doral, a prosperous Latino neighborhood in Miami. He's
part of a network of Cuban defectors and self-described exiles engaged
in a cottage industry of sorts, that of forecasting Raúl Castro's next
move. Hidalgo wants to offer his perspective on how Castro plotted the
changes Cuba is now experiencing.

In April 1981, Castro called Hidalgo, then a young diplomat, into his
sprawling office on the fourth floor of the headquarters of the
Revolutionary Armed Forces. He directed Hidalgo to join a handful of
powerful advisers who, among other things, were going to overhaul the
economy. Unlike his impulsive, autocratic brother, Castro was always a
conciliatory, methodical commander who preferred change when it was
gradual, well planned, and, above all, efficient. He ordered his
advisers to scour the world for interesting economic policies that might
be adapted to Cuba. "Raúl always wanted to study economic experiments
and apply them to the economic model," says Hidalgo.

One of the most powerful advisers of them all was general Julio Casas, a
bank accountant–turned–guerrilla commander who fought under Castro's
command during the revolution. In meetings, Castro praised Casas for his
stingy nature, which was applied to controlling costs and improving
efficiency in whatever mission he was given. Castro put Casas to work
building what would become GAESA. Casas's top aide was Rodriguez, who
would sit quietly near Casas in meetings with Castro, talking only when
addressed, Hidalgo recalls.

"Luis Alberto was not very sophisticated."

Casas built GAESA around wringing revenue from the military's properties
and assets. Soldiers planted crops on fallow swaths of bases. Work
brigades built tourist hotels. Military planes were refitted for
domestic passenger flights for GAESA's ad hoc civilian airline,
Aerogaviota. Casas, assisted by Rodriguez, also helped develop a
benchmarking process for state companies called the Business Improvement
System. "Under Raúl, the military had its own, parallel economy,"
Hidalgo recalls.As Casas started new businesses, he put Rodriguez in as
manager. "Luis Alberto was not very sophisticated," says Hidalgo, who
rose to become Castro's chief of staff. (In 2002, Hidalgo fled Cuba at
night in a speedboat, bound for Miami, after being sidelined and then
blacklisted for almost a decade, in one of the regime's political
purges.) "But he was an efficient manager who was cold and calculated in
his pursuit of power."With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991,
Cuba lost its economic patron, and the country was plunged into a
crushing four-year contraction known as the Special Period. Cubans
endured shortages of food and medicine. Jobs disappeared. The sugar
industry, which had long supplied the Soviets at inflated prices, fell
apart. In 1993, Cuba's gross domestic product shrank 14.9 percent,
according to the World Bank.Fidel Castro responded with schemes to lure
foreign money into Cuba. He legalized the possession of hard currency.
He allowed people to start dozens of kinds of private businesses,
including family restaurants.

Big change came to GAESA as well. Its tourism arm, Grupo de Turismo
Gaviota, cut deals with international chains, most notably Spain's Meliá
Hotels International and Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, to build and run
hotels and resorts in Varadero, a 20-kilometer stretch of white, sandy
beach two hours east of Havana by car.

By the late 1990s, the Castros had found their savior in Hugo Chávez,
the charismatic ex-paratrooper who was elected president of Venezuela on
promises to emulate Cuban-style socialism. He quickly flooded Cuba with
free oil—up to 115,000 barrels a day. Cuba also cut creative and
lucrative deals with other leftist leaders, including Brazil's Luiz
Inácio Lula da Silva, to send tens of thousands of medical doctors to
work abroad. Under the terms of those deals, many of which are still in
place, the Cuban government kept up to 90 percent of the doctors' wages.

After Chávez died of cancer in March 2013, Venezuela slid into an
economic crisis. The country slashed oil shipments to Cuba—some
estimates say by a third or more. Cuba once again needed cash.

"Raúl Castro has to open Cuba up to the world, to the capitalist,
free-market world. He has no choice," says Emilio Morales, a former
marketing executive at Cimex, a big conglomerate later folded into
GAESA. Morales, too, now lives in Miami, where he runs the Havana
Consulting Group. He has developed an unmatched database of thousands of
new, private businesses in Cuba.

Morales opens his laptop to take me through his analysis of the new
Cuban economy. According to his research, people made 650,000 trips to
Cuba from America last year, taking advantage of Obama's and Castro's
relaxed travel restrictions. "Look at this," he says, pointing to a 2013
survey of travelers to Cuba. "They brought $3.5 billion of goods with
them in their suitcases." And Cuban-Americans sent $3.1 billion to
relatives in Cuba. "It's a huge impact."

Foreign businesspeople are not immune.

So much has changed in Cuba, but so much hasn't. In August alone, the
month the flag was raised over the U.S. embassy, security forces made
913 politically motivated arrests, according to the Cuban Human Rights
Observatory. Castro's government represses dissent, routinely harasses
independent journalists and activists, and restricts access to the
Internet for the vast majority of Cubans, Human Rights Watch
says.Foreign businesspeople are not immune. Sarkis Yacoubian, a
55-year-old Canadian, made his home in Cuba for two decades, building a
company called Tri-Star Caribbean. He sold cars, trucks, and industrial
equipment, mainly to GAESA-owned companies. On July 13, 2011, armed
internal security troops—Cuba's secret police—swarmed Yacoubian's
office. He was held for more than two years as police interrogators
leveled allegations of tax evasion, corruption, and, ultimately,
espionage.Investigators seemed to believe, Yacoubian says, that the BMWs
a GAESA executive expressed interest in buying contained technology that
would allow Cuba's enemies to track Raúl Castro. Yacoubian denied all
the allegations; he says he wasn't given the time or resources to
prepare a proper defense. Government officials and documents concluded
that Tri-Star and Yacoubian didn't owe any taxes in Cuba, court records
show. Nevertheless, after a two-day trial in May 2013, a Havana court
sentenced Yacoubian to nine years in prison and fined him $7.5 million
on charges of bribery, tax evasion, and causing economic harm to
Cuba.Then, in February 2014, Yacoubian was suddenly released without
explanation and put on a plane to Canada. The Cuban justice ministry
seized Tri-Star Caribbean's assets, valued at $20 million. Most of them
were absorbed by GAESA's Almacenes Universales and other companies
Yacoubian did business with. "They took everything from me," says
Yacoubian, who is now a consultant on Cuban business issues. "I was
completely innocent."

Cuba is a place both frozen in time and moving swiftly toward a future
in which private enterprise will be a bigger part of life. Vast areas of
Havana are little changed from 1959, when Fidel Castro's bearded
guerrilla fighters marched into town. The streetscapes are largely free
of billboards and ads. Vintage American cars are, as promised,
everywhere. As for the fast-arriving future, there are Afro-Cuban jazz
clubs, swank private restaurants, and boutique hotels. More tellingly,
on street corners within the few, closely controlled,
government-sponsored Wi-Fi zones, Cubans by the hundreds sit and stand
all day in the tropical sun, clutching phones, tablets, and laptops,
eager to take advantage of the first chance many have ever been given to

What's amazing about all this is how Raúl Castro has managed to convince
the most die-hard followers of Cuba's socialist revolution to embrace
his capitalist changes. After succeeding his brother as head of state,
Castro placed a series of reform proposals before a powerful body he
leads, the Council of State.

Miguel Barnet, a famous Cuban anthropologist, author, poet, and
translator who sits on the council, says he's no economist but he was
convinced that Cuba had to embrace Castro's vision. "We need to develop,
and these changes will help us do it without sacrificing the
revolution," says Barnet, 75, who in conversation toggles between
Spanish and near-perfect American English, which he polished in New
York, where he spent several months after winning a Guggenheim
Fellowship in 1983.

The members of the council debated and shaped Castro's proposals
endlessly. In April 2011, the Cuban Communist Party's Sixth Congress
approved 313 Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the

In early 2013, Marino Murillo, who's known as Castro's economic reform
czar, called 20 of Cuba's top economic minds to his office on Plaza de
la Revolución. They were leaders of university departments, think tanks,
and foundations, including Pérez. Murillo, a general known for his
straight talk and blunt style, didn't mince words. He told them to use
their knowledge to turn the guidelines into policies that would reshape
the Cuban economy.

Murillo ordered one group, which included Pérez, to come up with
proposals to overhaul Cuba's 1995 foreign-investment law. They had to
sum it up in fewer than 32 pages, following a strict PowerPoint-like
format used in the Cuban military. Pérez and six other economists
studied foreign-investment laws from around the developing world. Six
months later, they gave their pitch to a panel of military commanders,
government officials, and economists. The changes they proposed included
allowing foreign companies to own 100 percent of their ventures in Cuba,
up from 49 percent, and giving them an eight-year respite from paying
taxes. "They asked a lot of hard questions. There was a lot of
reflection, trying to square it with their ideology," Pérez says. The
National Assembly of People's Power, Cuba's legislative arm, approved
the new law in March 2014. "In the end, they accepted 80 percent of what
we proposed," Pérez says.

By then, Castro had already moved Cuba's most profitable state companies
under GAESA and Luis Alberto Rodriguez. The biggest addition to GAESA
was Cimex, which had been run for three decades by military commanders
chosen by Fidel Castro. Adding the Cimex companies more than doubled the
size of GAESA. More recently, Rodriguez was given the green light to
take over Habaguanex, the state company that owns the best commercial
real estate in Old Havana, including 37 restaurants and 21 hotels.

Rodriguez rarely deals with clients, apparently preferring to delegate
to the managers who run GAESA's collection of companies. Early one
morning, Mohamed Fazwi, who runs operations in Cuba for Blue Diamond
Resorts, a Barbados-based hotel chain, meets me for coffee at Memories
Miramar Havana, set amid a cluster of grand art deco and neoclassical
mansions. Fazwi has been busy since 2011, when Blue Diamond won its
first hotel contract in Cuba.

The company now manages 14 hotels across Cuba, with 8,600-plus rooms,
second to the Meliá group. Many of Blue Diamond's contracts are with
GAESA's Hoteles Gaviota, the biggest state lodging company. "The
executives we deal with are very, very knowledgeable and active. They
know what they want and are really good negotiators," says Fazwi, 43, a
man of Spanish-Palestinian descent who moved to Cuba in 2008. "They are

Rodriguez seemed to be more hands-on in Mariel, where he was entrusted
with building the $1 billion megaport and surrounding free-trade zone.
As the vast ship terminal rose atop an abandoned U.S. air base by the
old Mariel port, where Fidel Castro allowed 125,000 people to flee to
the U.S. in 1980, Rodriguez regularly assembled his engineers for
progress reports. Rodriguez liked to listen more than talk, according to
people who dealt with him in these meetings. But when he spoke,
Rodriguez was concise, specific, and crystal clear. The government saw
the port and the surrounding special development zone as a gateway for a
new economy for Cuba, Rodriguez explained. It would anchor a wave of
international trade, factories, and economic growth.

On Jan. 27, 2014, the port was ready, and dignitaries took their seats
under a brilliant sun for the formal opening. On the stage was Castro,
Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, and Brazilian President Dilma
Rousseff. The port, a collection of more than a dozen big cranes, a
700-meter-long pier designed to handle the world's biggest container
ships, a highway, and a rail line to Havana, had been built by Brazil's
mightiest construction company, Odebrecht SA. It was financed at
subsidized rates by Brazil's state development bank in a deal negotiated
directly between Castro and Lula, the former Brazilian president.

Rousseff, smiling, walked up to the podium and started her speech with
the customary naming of dignitaries in the crowd. She thanked Castro and
unnamed Cuban ministers, foreign executives, and leaders. And just
before she leaned into her short address, she thanked one more person by
name: GAESA Chairman Luis Alberto Rodriguez.

This story appears in the November 2015 issue of Bloomberg Markets. With
assistance from Blake Schmidt and Javiera Quiroga.

Source: Want to Invest in Cuba? Meet Your Partner, Castro's Son-In-Law -
Bloomberg Business -

U.S. hotel chains circle Cuba as visitors surge, restrictions ease

U.S. hotel chains circle Cuba as visitors surge, restrictions ease

The race for Cuba's beach-front is on.

Executives from major U.S. hotel chains have stepped up their interest
in the Communist island in recent months, holding informal talks with
Cuban officials as Washington loosens restrictions on U.S. firms
operating there.

Executives from Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and Carlson
Hospitality Group, which runs the Radisson chain, are among those who
have held talks with Cuban officials in recent months, they told Reuters.

"We're all very interested." said Ted Middleton, Hilton's senior vice
president of development in Latin America. "When legally we're allowed
to do so we all want to be at the start-line ready to go."

The United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations in July after
decades of hostility. Washington chipped away further at the
half-century-old trade embargo this month, allowing certain companies to
establish subsidiaries or joint ventures in Cuba as well as open
offices, stores and warehouses in Cuba.

The United States wants to strike a deal that lets U.S. airlines
schedule Cuba flights as soon as possible, a State Department official
said last week, amid speculation that a U.S. ban on its tourists
visiting Cuba could be eased.

U.S. hoteliers are not currently allowed to invest in Cuba, and the
Caribbean island officially remains off-limits for U.S. tourists unless
they meet special criteria such as being Cuban-Americans or join special
cultural or educational tours.

Foreign companies have to partner with a Cuban entity to do business and
U.S. hoteliers expect they will have to do likewise if and when U.S.
restrictions are lifted.

While they wait for the politicians to iron out their differences, U.S.
hotel bosses are conducting fact-finding missions in Havana and holding
getting-to-know-you meetings with government officials in Cuba and
various European cities.

This week, Middleton, along with executives from Carlson and Wyndham
Worldwide Corp., which runs the Ramada chain, are meeting with Cuba's
Deputy Tourism Minister Luis Miguel Diaz at an industry conference in
the Peruvian capital, Lima.

In the 1950s Cuba was an exotic playground for U.S. celebrities such as
Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardener, as well as ordinary tourists, who travel
led there en masse on cheap flights and ships from Miami.

A recent relaxation of some of the restrictions on U.S. travelers has
encouraged over 106,000 Americans to visit Cuba so far this year, more
than the 91,254 who arrived in all of 2014, according to data compiled
by tourism professor José Luís Perelló of the University of Havana.

Overall, tourist arrivals are up nearly 18 percent this year after a
record 3 million visitors in 2014, making Cuba the second-most popular
holiday destination in the Caribbean behind the much-smaller Dominican

U.S. hoteliers expect the number of U.S. visitors to balloon if all
travel restrictions are axed.

"If and when the travel ban is lifted. We estimate there will be over
1.5 million U.S. travelers on a yearly basis," said Laurent de
Kousemaeker, chief development officer for the Caribbean & Latin
American region for Marriott.

De Kousemaeker accompanied other Marriott executives, including chief
executive Arne Sorensen, to Havana in July to meet with representatives
of management companies and government officials.


Even if sanctions were lifted soon, Cuba traditionally has been slow to
approve foreign investment projects, making it unlikely that U.S. hotels
would be popping up immediately.

Rivals from Canada and Europe have seized the opportunity, operating and
investing in Cuban hotels and resorts, alongside Cuban government
partners, for years.

Spanish hotel operator Meliá Hotels International SA, is aiming to have
15,000 rooms in Cuba by 2018. It currently has 13,000 rooms via 27 joint

London + Regional Properties Ltd, a U.K. hotel and real estate
development firm, agreed a deal this summer for an 18-hole golf course,
hotel and condominium project with state tourism enterprise, Palmares
SA, which has a 51 percent stake in the project.

But even with government plans to add 4,000 new hotel rooms every year
for the next 15, the island is not ready for a significant surge in tourism.

The island's tourism infrastructure went into decline in the decades
following the 1959 revolution. Five-star hotel rooms, good restaurants
and cheap Internet access are all in short supply.

When and if they get a green light from both governments, executives
said U.S. hotel chains will likely offer branding and management
partnerships to Cuban government partners such as Palmares and Tourism
Group Gaviota, the largest Cuban government tourism entity.

The ultimate goal would be to secure long-term leases on resort
developments, which is how Cuban authorities have generally operated
with foreign hotels.

But right now, U.S. hoteliers can't even refer to tourism when they meet
Cuban counterparts, let alone talk about actual deals. Instead the buzz
word is "hospitality."

Marriott's de Kousemaeker likes to use an analogy from baseball, a sport
loved both in Cuba and in the United States, to describe the situation.

"We're learning, and taking batting practice, but we're sitting on the

(Additional reporting by Jaime Hamre in Havana. Writing by Carmel
Crimmins; Editing by Stuart Grudgings)

Source: U.S. hotel chains circle Cuba as visitors surge, restrictions
ease | Reuters -

Cuba must release graffiti artist jailed for painting Castros’ names on pigs’ back

Cuba must release graffiti artist jailed for painting Castros' names on
pigs' back
29 September 2015, 14:50 UTC

A Cuban graffiti artist who has been unfairly held in prison for nearly
a year after he painted "Raúl" and "Fidel" on the backs of two pigs has
been named as a prisoner of conscience, said Amnesty International today
as it called for his immediate release.

Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as 'El Sexto', was accused of
"disrespecting the leaders of the Revolution" and sent to prison after
officers opened the taxi's boot and found the two pigs. Danilo intended
to release them in an art show on Christmas Day.

"To jail an artist for painting a name on a pig is ludicrous. Cuban
authorities are using any cowardly excuse to silence Danilo and send a
message to others that any criticism of the government and its officials
will not be tolerated," said Carolina Jiménez, Americas Deputy Director
for Research at Amnesty International.

To jail an artist for painting a name on a pig is ludicrous. Cuban
authorities are using any cowardly excuse to silence Danilo and send a
message to others that any criticism of the government and its officials
will not be tolerated
Carolina Jiménez, Americas Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty
"What this story shows is that while Raúl Castro shakes hands with the
world in his historic visit to the USA, things have hardly changed in
Cuba, where people are still being thrown in jail solely for peacefully
exercising their right to freedom of expression."

Danilo was arrested by agents of the political police (Seguridad del
Estado) in Havana while travelling in a taxi on 25 December 2014 and has
been in prison ever since. He recently began a hunger strike and has
been moved to an isolation cell.

"Danilo is a prisoner of conscience who should have never been put in
prison in the first place. He must be released immediately and
unconditionally," said Carolina Jiménez.

Source: Cuba must release graffiti artist jailed for painting Castros'
names on pigs' back | Amnesty International -

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Soup Under the Eclipse

Soup Under the Eclipse / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on September 28, 2015

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 28 September 2015 — On the night of
a red moon eclipse, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution
(CDR) celebrated the 55th anniversary of the founding of their
organization. Updated reports state that more than 8,500,000 people (91%
of the population over age 14) are enrolled in the CDRs, of which there
are 136,000 registered throughout the country.

In a common pot the broth is cooking, with root vegetables, a pig's head
or some rib bones. There is music, rum and a statement is read at
midnight. The youngest dance, while the oldest repeat the same jokes
from the year before and there is always someone who asks about someone
else to which the response is "they passed to a better life," which
means they left the country.

This organization, ubiquitous in the '60s and '70s, no longer represents
the threat that terrorized so many people. It is strange, at least in
Havana and other provincial capitals, that the CDR surveillance
continues, a task that was presented as the original and main work of
the committees. On the other hand, membership in the CDRs has become
ever more formal and meaningless, as the only thing demanded from each
member is that they pay the dues, which allows them to aspire to a job
that requires them to be trustworthy, because they can identify
themselves on the forms as a CDR member.

One of the most common difficulties for the organization now is to
complete all the assigned tasks. That is why at the beginning of the
year a campaign was developed to attract young people to infuse fresh
blood. According to official reports, currently 42% of the leadership
positions are held by people under 35.

Another novelty is trying to revive the lost vigor of the CDRs by
calling them non-governmental organizations, dedicated to acting on
behalf of the community, with voluntary blood donations, organizing
sporting activities and the beautification and cleaning of public areas.

In this regard, Carlos Rafael Miranda, National Coordinator of the CDRs,
said in a recent interview in the national press, "We have to ensure
that every CDR has its own content, that implies that its members become
involved in the transformation of the community for the good of
neighbors. The organization has to be useful for the neighborhood. And
it is essential to our core mission, which is the unity of
revolutionaries in defense of the Revolution."

As a part of the attempts to "civilize" the tough forces of the CDR,
political persecution is now disguised as "the fight against crime,
illegalities and social indiscipline." In this way they propose to give
it a preventive character, even when it comes to such sensitive issues
as trafficking in and using drugs. In this aspect great importance is
given to the 308 "Detachments Watching the Sea," which are dedicated to
investigating and collecting drug caches that are thrown overboard along
Cuba's coasts by drug traffickers before they are captured.

All efforts to mask the repressive face of the institution become
useless when the highest levels require the immediate mobilization of
the "rapid action brigades" to confront any opposition demonstration.
Then, the community's guileless benefactors go from being willing to
donate their own blood, to willingness to shed the blood of others, and
the vocation to work together to improve the neighborhood becomes a
fierce intolerance of divergent thinking.

The eclipse on this night of celebrations is not announcing anything good.

Source: Soup Under the Eclipse / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar |
Translating Cuba -

Cuba 2019 - Translated

Cuba 2019 / Ivan Garcia
Posted on September 29, 2015

Ivan Garcia, 26 September 2015 — Let's climb aboard a time machine.
Into the future, of course. By now, Raul Castro has given up the throne.
His son Alejandro has been tried for abuse of power, financial
corruption and violations of human rights.

Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, the Cuban Martin Borman, has fled
with a safety deposit box. His face appears on wanted posters issued by
Interpol, which is offering a substantial reward for information leading
to his capture.

Antonio Castro has had better luck. A wayward womanizer, he stole a
couple of million and squandered it in luxury European resorts. In the
end, however, evidence that he had helped Cuban baseball players to
escape the island led to his release from prison.

Two years have passed since the death of Fidel Castro on January 6,
2017. His embalmed body was removed from the Jose Marti Monument in
Civic Plaza (it is no longer called Revolution Plaza) and interred in
Biran, his birthplace. Since bad stuff tends to be forgotten quickly,
people no longer talk about him or his eighty-eight-year-old brother.

Cows have gotten fatter and dairy farmers can now sell milk on the open
market. Cubans can now have cafe con leche and buttered toast for
breakfast. A steak with a side of fries is no longer just a dream.

The education and culture ministries were merged and Lis Cuesta, the
wife of Miguel Diaz-Canel, was named to lead them. Given her travel
experience, well-known blogger Yoani Sanchez was nominated to be head of
the Ministry of Tourism but she turned it down. Dissident attorney
Laritza Diversent did, however, agree to organize an independent
judiciary, while prominent dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua is preparing to
run as president in the 2022 elections. He wants to be the Creole Barack

Opposition is legal and political dissidents are no longer physically
attacked. The opposition is led by Antonio Rodiles, Berta Soler and
Angel Moya, whose commitments to freedom and respect for human rights
are unquestioned. What must now be done, they say, is to eliminate
vestiges of Castro-ism, whose supporters still control 90% of the
country's businesses.

The waters of national life are somewhat calmer. The ration book was
eliminated along with the dual currency system. Every home now has
internet access and cybercafes offer free wifi.

Diario de Cuba and On Cuba Magazine compete for online readers. Varela
is organizing an exhibition of humor at the Acacia Gallery next to the
Capitolio, while Ivan Cañas is preparing a photo exhibition at Fine
Arts. El Pais, Le Monde, ABC, El Nuevo Herald, Diario de las Americas,
The New York Times, The Washington Post, Folha de S. Paolo and Varela
magazine are for sale on newsstands.

From their respective vantage points in Madrid, Paris and Miami,
writers Raul Rivero, Zoe Valdes and Carlos Alberto Montaner observe the
island's state of affairs and are considering whether to bring their
works to the International Book Fair of Havana, now held in temporary
kiosks along Paseo del Prado.

The Karl Marx is now the Miramar Theater. After a major renovation, it
will be the venue some of the events scheduled for the 500th anniversary
of the founding of Havana on November 16, 2019. One of them is a concert
of female voices from various countries: Xiomara Laugart, Argelia
Fragoso, Vania Borges and Haila Mompié (Cuba), Julieta Venegas and
Natalia Lafourcade (Mexico); Mala Rodriguez and Rozalén (Spain); India
(Puerto Rico); Shakira (Colombia); Elida Almeida (Cape Verde); Maria
Rita (Brazil); Alizée (France); Alanis Morissette (Canada); Emeli Sandé
(United Kingdom) and Alicia Keys (United States).

The 2019-2020 baseball season has made a 180-degree turn. In the winter
there will be a ninety-game tournament in which sixteen teams will
participate: Pinar del Rio, Artemisa, Mayabeque, Industrial, Isla de la
Juventud, Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, Sancti Spiritus, Ciego de
Avila, Camaguey, Las Tunas, Holguin, Granma, Santiago de Cuba and
Guantanamo. (The Havana and Metropolitan teams were both eliminated.)

The Premier games will be played in the summer with the top eight teams:
the four stalwarts (Almendares, Havana, Cienfuegos and Marianao) and
four additional teams (Vegueros, Azucareros, Ganaderos and Avispas).*
Except for major league stars, Cubans who work in different MLB
circuits, the Caribbean and Asia may play. Dominican, American,
Venezuelans, Puerto Rican players will also participate. One change will
be that twelve players who have been recruited from Japan, South Korea
and Taiwan will play in the opening tournament.

All the provincial stadiums have been updated. The fans refused to allow
the Havana Reds' owner to demolish the Latino and in the east of the
capital there was a plan to build what would be the "most modern
baseball stadium in the world." The old Cerro stadium has been decked
out in the latest gear — a state-of-the-art scoreboard and giant screens
— and is now a place where Cubans could enjoy pure, unadulterated
coffee. (Production of coffee blended with peas was phased out).

Pito Abreu and Yasiel Puig have a major gripe with the club owners
because they are not allowed to play for Cienfuegos, the team of their
home province. Citing extreme fatigue, the Big Show stars must watch the
games from the stands.

Sixty-years after the man with the beard came to power at the point of a
gun, Cuban baseball is once again part of the MLB circuit. Major League
clubs spend their pre-seasons in Cuba, as they always did before 1959.

Different major league organizations recovered lost ground and reopened
dozens of training schools across the island. Adolescents and young
people have come down from the soccer cloud and are once again playing
baseball in the jungles or on street corners. They now realize that a
baseball player earns more than a soccer player.

On October 10, the opening day of the season, Roberto Gonzalez
Echevarria is wearing a faded Havana baseball cap that has been in
storage for six decades. He will hit the first ball, thrown by the
reform-minded president Miguel Diaz-Canel, the first freely elected
president since 1948. Later, the umpire will shout, "Play ball!"

Ivan Garcia and Tania Quintero

Photo: Landscape painted in 2008 by Arnoldo Nuñez Verdecia (Guantanamo,
1967). From an early age he was interested in drawing characters based
on models from the surrounding countryside. A completely self-taught
artist, Nuñez Verdecia is not a studio painter, preferring to follow the
example of the 19th century French Impressionists. With an easel thrown
over his shoulder, he goes out in search of subjects.

He is one of Cuba's few plein air painters. Characterized by their
secure, accurate and thorough brushwork, his paintings convey the
greenery and freshness of the Cuban countryside. Some of his canvases
are animated by the inclusion of peasants and animals. All the elements
combine harmoniously to achieve an effect of visual beauty. His peasants
never sit idle; they are always immersed in daily chores.

Since 1992 Nuñez Verdecia's work has been included in exhibitions of
landscape paintings at the Jorge Arche de los Arabos Gallery in
Matanzas. He has also exhibited at the Victor Manuel Gallery in Havana,
at Salon de Paisaje 2000 in Havana's St. Francis of Assisi Basilica, and
at a 2007 group exhibition of landscape paintings at the Hotel Melia

*Translator's note: The last four team names in English are the Tobacco
Farmers, the Sugar Bowls, the Ranchers and the Wasps.

Source: Cuba 2019 / Ivan Garcia | Translating Cuba -

Repression of Science

Repression of Science
Posted on September 27, 2015

Oscar Antonio Casanella Saint-Blancard, bio-chemist, researcher for the
National Institute for Oncology and Radiobiology, speaks of how he is
pressured and prevented from fully carrying out his work because of his
friendship with dissidents., Waldo Fernandez Cuenca, Havana, 25 September 2015 — It
all started because of a party for his best friend, Ciro Diaz, at the
end of 2013. Ciro Diaz, besides being a graduate in Mathematics from the
University of Havana, has just one remarkable characteristic: He is a
dissident and member of the band Porno for Ricardo. Soon came the
threats from State Security to make him a prisoner if he engaged in the

Then came the accusations at work of his being "mercenary" and
"annexationist*." But at no time was this young man, a bio-chemist by
profession, intimidated, and he resisted the wishes of his oppressors.
Oscar Antonio Casanella Saint-Blancard has kept his ties of friendship
with Ciro and other opposition figures.

Casanella made his case known to the independent project Estado de Sats
and was also arrested during the wave of repression unleashed by the
performance by activist and artist Tania Bruguera at the end of last
year. Since that time his harassment by State Security has continued,
principally at his place of employment: The National Institute for
Oncology and Radio-biology (INOR) where he serves as a researcher.

We talked about his current work situation and the plight of the Cuban
health system. In spite of the difficulties he has lived through, Oscar
has never lost his smile, and he maintains the same composure as always,
which has lead to his repressors to try to corner him.

What situation are you in right now?

Right now I am subjected to psychological warfare in the workplace. Not
just me, but also my co-workers, and it hurts me more for them than for
myself because I have already overcome my fear, but my colleagues have not.

What does the psychological warfare consist of?

The doctor and deputy director of research for INOR, Lorenzo Anasagasti
Angulo, has been pressuring and coercing my co-workers, above all the
laboratory managers, to not let me into the various labs of the Center.
He explains that there is a labor rule that says that access to these
places is restricted, and that is true, but it only applies in my case,
because the other researchers enter and exit the various labs without
any restriction, while my access is impeded. I think I am treated very
differently and discriminated against.

That is not the only thing that has happened to you…

Before this, in June of this year, I prepared a course on Bio-computing
for students at the University of Havana and researchers from the INOR,
and after my immediate boss had approved it, even though teaching
personnel had reserved a hall for me to teach the classes, when this was
all coordinated with the Biology Faculty so that students of that school
could receive this training, this gentleman, Lorenzo Anasagasti Angulo,
did not give me the authorization to teach the class.

But it did not stop there, he also coerced many employees of the
Oncology Institute to not attend the course, and he has told them on
more than one occasion not to talk to me. All these actions were not
enough for him, and he told me: "Oscar, get this into your head; I am
going to make sure that you have no future in this institution and I am
going to make everything as difficult for you as I can."

This gentleman, together with a member of the Communist Party from the
Pedro Fernandez Cabezas Institute, has threatened to expel me from the
Center just because of my ties with opposition figures. Also, Anasagasti
has pressured my colleagues to deliver the copy of the lawsuit and
letter that I sent to Raul Castro where I reveal the articles and laws
so violated by the State Security officers, agents of the PNR and
members of the PCC and where I demand the President of the country leave
me in peace.

The deputy director asked my colleagues to destroy all this
documentation and said that it was "enemy propaganda." So, to demand
adherence to Cubans laws is, according to Doctor Anasagasti, "enemy

As if that were not enough, just a month ago Lorenzo Anasagasti appeared
with two State Security officers at the home of Doctor Carlos Vazquez,
head of the Board of the Oncological Tumor Devices, in order to sound
him out and tell him in a threatening tone: "We're checking up on you."

Lorenzo Anasagasti is a collaborator with the repressors, which makes
him another repressor who occupies a job at the Institute of Health
which has nothing to do with these issues. This is a person in service
to the Cuban political police and for him that function is more
important than the professional development and education of the INOR.
This gentleman has demonstrated that he prefers no thesis be carried out
if I participate in the statistical analysis of an academic project in
the Institute.

I also am a Molecular Biology teacher for a module that is taught to
doctors who are specializing in Oncology, and I have to interact with a
person who coordinates that course, but Anasagasti has demanded that
person prohibit me from accessing his laboratory and pressured him to
not even talk to me. In this way the interaction between researchers and
workers, so necessary to offering high quality training for the
country's future oncologists, is made more difficult. The development
and quality of teaching are sacrificed for the sake of repression.

Some foreign mission doctors are familiar with the dispossession of
their fees by the Cuban government, and they justify it on the grounds
that the country invests that money primarily in oncology resources.
What is your opinion of this matter? Do you believe that is really so?

It is true that cancer treatments are expensive anywhere in the world
and that, for being an underdeveloped country, the country's situation
is not one of the worst. But really the duties that the doctors,
researchers, nurses and service personnel perform does not correspond at
all with the wages that they earn and the conditions under which they work.

Currently the volume of patients seen in Cuba by a single doctor is
abusive. It is a situation that affects the doctor as well as the cancer
patient, who has to wait long hours to be seen, and now the quality of
the attention and treatment is not the same. This is mainly due to a
stampede, a very big exodus of professionals to the outside, and this
causes a work overload for those who remain, although those from the
INOR who emigrate the most are the recent graduates, not doctors, who
barely stay two years between their graduation and their exit abroad.

I worked some years ago on research about brain tumors and, of the
specialists who carried out the research with me, all left the country.
There was one point when INOR had no neurosurgeons or neurologists.
Another interesting element is that when I started to work at the
Institute in 2004, there was free internet access for all researchers,
and the situation, 11 years later, is very different. In my department I
do not have access to the internet, and I work in Bio-computing. They
have restricted access to the internet only for department and
laboratory heads, but there is less access than there was 11 years ago.

In spite of the promises that the Government has made to doctors about
economic improvements like better wages, the chance to buy a car, a
laptop, etc., several of the doctors at my workplace are very
pessimistic, because they listened to the words of Chancellor Bruno
Rodriguez Parrilla at the press conference about the embargo on
September 16, which confirmed that Cuba was not going to change its
internal politics. "Maybe I improve my life, but my relatives who are
not doctors are going to continue with the same deprivations," one of
them told me. That's why they have decided to abandon the country at the
first opportunity that is presented.

*Translator's note: An "annexationist" is someone who advocates Cuba
becoming a part of the United States.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Source: Repression of Science | Translating Cuba -

San Antonio de los Banos in Uncertainty

San Antonio de los Banos in Uncertainty / Alexander Perez Rodriguez, Somos+
Posted on September 28, 2015

SOMOS+, Alexander Perez Rodriguez, 24 September 2015 — With the new
relations between the U.S. and Cuba the hopes of many went skyrocketing
in an alarming manner, principally in the Diaspora, where people dream
of returning to their country and prospering there in a dignified way. I
already imagined my city as totally changed, with new streets, shops
full of everything a human being needs and no ration book to restrict them.

Well, finally the moment arrived to go and visit my family on the
island. I remember that on this occasion I exited the airport earlier
than usual. I only had to enter Calzada de Boyeros to have all my
illusions fall away. Everything, absolutely everything, remained the
same or worse than when I was there a year ago.

I left for the outskirts of Santiago de la Vegas Carretera Rincón to go
to the municipality where I was born. Those who know San Antonio de los
Baños will share with me that it's a very unusual and attractive town.
At least it always was.

This municipality is known as the City of Humor, and those who live
there are known as ariguanabenses.* And we are very funny and
talkative. We laugh at everything and everybody. Like, for example, that
day when we went to sleep in Havana and woke up in Artemisa, ha ha ha,
I'm still laughing about it, ha ha ha.**

We never knew when this change was discussed and who approved it.
However, there have been many events in these last few years that have
brought the town a pure disaster and wiped the smiles off our faces.

We still remember and bleed for the loss of the 14 young people who left
the coast of Mariel to go to the U.S., and their precarious boat sank.
This grief today is kept alongside a rage that is on the point of exploding.

However, the events of these last months have put San Antonio in a
desperate situation. News like the Computer Science University's passing
into the hands of the Minister of Education has made many of the workers
who were from my town believe that things are hopeless. The same thing
will happen with the Eduardo Abela School of Art, since the level of
deterioration in less than five years is incredible. The Iván Portuondo
Hospital is also in critical condition.

When I asked why my town was so deteriorated, they sat me down and
explained: Only two months ago, all or almost all of the leaders of my
town had fallen victim to an investigation, presumably for embezzling funds.

But in spite of having a new municipal directorship, people don't seem
to have accepted it, at least in fact.

Because no one has given a concrete explanation of what happened. It's
not possible that this not be published by the State agencies when it's
an issue for a whole town. The result: Today San Antonio is a town where
nothing works.

Everyone whispers about the problem. I remember when I arrived at the
physical planning office to manage my house and they told me the
paperwork wasn't there because the Director's signature was missing.

I asked where I could find her and, very mysteriously, they informed me
that a doctor confirmed she had a psychiatric problem. It seems she was
embarrassed about it, and thus all the State agencies in my town
couldn't function.

There's a lot of sadness and indignation because that president, Tomy,
was respected and admired by the town. Everyone concurred that whether
or not she ripped things off, in any event this had been happening their
whole lives. And everyone agreed that the only time the streets were
fixed was under her leadership. When there was a lack of water, she
found a solution. She paid attention to many people who were not
important and helped them. That's the Tomy the people remember.

The culprits appear to be others: the upper Government, those who have
disengaged from Cuba for more than 55 years, and no one has audited them
and called them out for everything the people have suffered.

It's sad to see the condition of my town. Nothing pretty remains. It's
ugly, very deteriorated and the schools are in the worst condition; the
hospital, the hotel, the Cecropia trees, the shops and the bars are very
dirty. My god, how it hurts to see my town in this condition.

But I know and am certain that one day, not far in the future, my town
will look different. It will return to its youth. Now, we can't make the
many who have perished at sea fleeing a lack of opportunity return. But
we can guarantee a more just and equal society where young people don't
have to flee as if they were guilty.

We are more, much more, those of us who every day struggle for this
dream and know that it will come true, and soon.

Translator's notes:
*Those who live by the Ariguanabo River, which runs through San Antonio
de los Baños.
**A political-administrative redistribution in Cuba created two
provinces for San Antonio de los Baños, and Habana Province became
Artemisa Province.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: San Antonio de los Banos in Uncertainty / Alexander Perez
Rodriguez, Somos+ | Translating Cuba -

China entrega 587 tractores a la estatal cubana TECNOIMPORT

China entrega 587 tractores a la estatal cubana TECNOIMPORT
DDC | La Habana | 29 Sep 2015 - 1:23 pm.

El grupo YTO debe enviar otras 333 unidades antes de que acabe el año.

El secretario del Partido Comunista del grupo chino YTO y vicepresidente
de su Junta Directiva, Wang Er Long, entregó de forma simbólica las
llaves de 587 tractores a la empresa estatal cubana importadora y
exportadora de productos técnicos (TECNOIMPORT), reportó el diario
oficial Granma.

"Esta es otra demostración de cooperación con éxito", dijo el directivo
chino. La entrega es parte de dos lotes, y recientemente tuvo lugar la
rúbrica de otro contrato para el suministro a TECNOIMPORT de 333 nuevas
unidades, que deben arribar a la Isla antes de que concluya el presente
calendario, indicó el reporte.

El embajador chino en Cuba, Zhang Tuo, destacó en la ceremonia,
realizada en el hotel Meliá Cohíba, los históricos nexos entre ambos
regímenes, cuyas relaciones diplomáticas cumplieron el lunes 55 años.

Asimismo, agradeció a la parte cubana por "su confianza y su decisión de
optar por productos chinos", y a los representantes de YTO por ayudar a
la concreción de dicho proyecto.

El reporte oficial no indicó el monto de la operación.

Según Granma, las maquinarias se destinarán principalmente al sistema de
la Agricultura y el Grupo Azucarero Azcuba. Asimismo, al Ministerio de
Salud Pública, Servicios Comunales y la actividad de apoyo a la pesca,
entre otros sectores.

Source: China entrega 587 tractores a la estatal cubana TECNOIMPORT |
Diario de Cuba -

Unprecedented abstention on UN vote condemning Cuba embargo? US weighs options

Unprecedented abstention on UN vote condemning Cuba embargo? US weighs
SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 12:08 AM

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration may allow the U.N. to condemn
America's economic embargo against Cuba without a fight, The Associated
Press has learned, an unprecedented step that could increase pressure on
Congress to end the 54-year-old restrictions.

As it does every year, the U.N. General Assembly will vote as early as
next month to demand the embargo's end. But this time, U.S. officials
told the AP that the United States could abstain instead of voting
against the resolution as it normally does.

It is unheard of for a U.N. member state not to oppose resolutions
critical of its own laws. And by not actively opposing the resolution,
the administration would be effectively siding with the world body
against the Republican-led House and Senate, which have refused to
repeal the embargo despite calls from President Barack Obama to do so.

The U.S. and Cuba restored diplomatic relations this year, and leaders
of the two countries want to improve commercial ties. But the embargo

"Obviously, we have to obey the law," State Department spokesman John
Kirby told reporters Monday. "It doesn't mean you can't take a position
that you want the law changed."

No final decision on how to vote has yet been made, said four
administration officials who weren't authorized to speak publicly on
sensitive internal deliberations and demanded anonymity. White House
spokesman Josh Earnest also declined to weigh in because he said the
proposed resolution wasn't final. He noted, however, that U.S. policy
has changed since the last time the world body assessed the embargo.

The very idea of an abstention prompted immediate Republican criticism.

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American senator
from Florida, said that by abstaining, Obama would be "putting
international popularity ahead of the national security and foreign
policy interests of the United States." The embargo, he said, denies
money to a dictatorship that can be used to further oppression.

General Assembly resolutions are unenforceable. But the annual exercise
has given Cuba a stage to demonstrate America's isolation on the
embargo, and it has underscored the sense internationally that the U.S.
restrictions are illegitimate.

The United States has lost the votes by increasingly overwhelming and
embarrassing margins. Last year's tally was 188-2 with only Israel
siding with the U.S. Israel would be expected to vote whichever way the
U.S. decides.

The American officials said that the U.S. is still more likely to vote
against the resolution than abstain. However, they said the U.S. will
consider abstaining if the wording of the resolution significantly
differs from previous years. The administration is open to discussing
revisions with the Cubans and others, they added, something American
diplomats have never done before.

The latest U.S. easing of sanctions occurred Friday and was followed by
a rare phone call between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro. Pope
Francis, who has played a key role in the rapprochement between Havana
and Washington, arrived in Havana a day later. He travels to the U.S. on

Obama and Castro discussed "steps that the United States and Cuba can
take, together and individually, to advance bilateral co-operation," the
White House said. The Cuban government said Castro "emphasized the need
to expand their scope and abrogate, once and for all, the blockade
policy for the benefit of both peoples."

Neither statement mentioned the U.N. vote. Yet as it has for the past 23
years, Cuba will introduce a resolution at the upcoming General Assembly
criticizing the embargo and demanding its end. Cuba's government
wouldn't comment Monday on the new U.S. consideration.

The U.S. officials, however, said the administration believes an
abstention could send a powerful signal to Congress and the world of
Obama's commitment to end the embargo. Obama says the policy failed over
more than five decades to spur democratic change and left the U.S.
isolated among its Latin American neighbours.

It's unclear what changes would be necessary to prompt a U.S. abstention.

Last year's resolution cited the "necessity of ending the economic,
commercial and financial embargo" and took aim at the Helms-Burton Act.
That 1996 law made foreign firms subject to the same restrictions U.S.
companies face for investing in Cuba, and authorized penalties for
non-U.S. companies operating and dealing with property once owned by
U.S. citizens but confiscated after Fidel Castro's revolution.

A report issued by Cuba last week in support of this year's resolution
doesn't suggest Havana is toning down its approach.

It says American efforts to ease the embargo are "a step in the right
direction but are limited and insufficient in the face of the magnitude
and scope of the blockade laws for Cuba and the rest of the world."

The 37-page document says the embargo has cost the Cuban people $833.7
billion — a number the U.S. would never accept. Washington says the
communist government has used the embargo as an excuse for its own
economic failures.


Associated Press writers Jennifer Kay and Sergio Bustos in Miami
contributed to this report.

Source: Unprecedented abstention on UN vote condemning Cuba embargo? US
weighs options -

Obama, at UN, calls for lifting Cuba embargo

Obama, at UN, calls for lifting Cuba embargo

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - President Barack Obama on Monday
called for ending the decades-old US embargo on Cuba, in his address to
the UN General Assembly.

Obama said he was confident that the US Congress will "inevitably lift
an embargo that should not be in place anymore," drawing applause from
the 193-nation assembly.

Washington and Havana reestablished diplomatic relations in July after
more than half a century of enmity.

But the US embargo, which has been in place since 1960, remains a bone
of contention as the Republican-held Congress balks at the
administration's move to end the blockade.

Obama acknowledged that Washington's Cuba policy had "failed to improve
the lives of the Cuban people" but stressed that human rights remained a
concern in relations with Havana.

Obama spoke ahead of Cuban leader Raul Castro's first address to the UN
General Assembly and a meeting is planned Tuesday between the two
leaders, only the second since the thaw in relations.

Source: Obama, at UN, calls for lifting Cuba embargo - Yahoo News -

In U.N. speech, Raúl Castro calls for end of embargo

In U.N. speech, Raúl Castro calls for end of embargo

Castro delivers his first speech ever before U.N. General Assembly
He says lifting the embargo and other conditions must be met before
relations are normal
Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker plans trip to Cuba next week

Cuban leader Raúl Castro said Monday in his first address ever before
the United Nations General Assembly that a resolution condemning the
United States for the economic "blockade" against the island would
continue to be raised at the international body until the embargo ceases
to exist.

It was the first General Assembly held since the United States and Cuba
restored diplomatic relations on July 20 after a gap of more than 54
years. Castro and President Barack Obama plans to meet on the sidelines
of the U.N. Tuesday.

"Now a long and complex process begins toward normalization," Castro
said during his General Assembly address.

But he repeated previous declarations that true normalization can only
be achieved if these conditions are met: lifting of the embargo — return
of the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, the end of U.S.-sponsored Radio
and TV Martí broadcasts and other "destabilizing" activities against
Cuba by the U.S. government, and reparations for the Cuban people for
damages caused by the embargo.

Castro noted that since the founding of the United Nations 70 years ago,
"there have constantly been wars of aggression and interference in the
internal affairs of the states, the ousting of sovereign governments by
force, the so-called 'soft coups' and the recolonization of territories."

He also endorsed the Iran nuclear deal as proof "that engagement and
negotiations are the only effective tools to settle disputes" among
nations. Castro said resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
requires Palestinians' "inalienable right" to build a state within
pre-1967 borders. And he ripped into stakeholders of the bloody Syrian
conflict, demanding that the European Union "take full and immediate
responsibility for the human crisis it helped to generate" by giving
safe haven to refugees.

Castro received sustained applause as he took his seat, and several
Latin American and African leaders gave him a standing ovation, in
apparent approval of his narrative that Western colonialism and
imperialism are at the roots of today's conflicts.

During the morning session of the General Assembly, Obama also mentioned
the new relationship between the United States and Cuba but he was more

"For 50 years, the United States pursued a Cuba policy that failed to
improve the lives of the Cuban people," he said. "We changed that." He
said in "this new era," a country has to "be strong enough to
acknowledge when what you're doing is not working."

While Obama said the United States continues to "have differences with
the Cuban government' and plans to "continue to stand up for human
rights," he said the best way to address such issues is "through
diplomatic relations, and increased commerce, and people-to-people ties."

During his address, Castro also mentioned concern for human rights
violations, but he made it clear that Cuba has a different
interpretation of human rights than the civil and political rights the
United States insists should be respected on the island.

Castro mentioned the right to live in peace and the right to a better
standard of living, citing the 795 million people who do not have enough
to eat, the 781 million who are illiterate and the 17,000 children who
die everyday from curable diseases at the same time annual military
expenses worldwide amount to more than $1.7 trillion.

"Barely a fraction of that figure could resolve the most pressing
problems afflicting humanity," Castro said.

Although Obama didn't indicate how the United States might vote on a
U.N. resolution condemning the U.S. embargo that is expected to come up
next month, he repeated his position that the embargo has outworn its
usefulness. Last year, only two countries, the United States and Israel,
voted against the resolution.

"As these contacts [with Cuba] yield progress, I'm confident that our
Congress will inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place
anymore," Obama said to applause. "Change won't come overnight to Cuba,
but I'm confident that openness, not coercion, will support the reforms
and better the life the Cuban people deserve, just as I believe that
Cuba will find its success if it pursues cooperation with other nations."

In another Cuba development Monday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny
Pritzker announced she will travel to Havana next Tuesday and Wednesday
to meet with senior Cuban officials and discuss recent U.S. rule changes
on trade, financial transactions and travel designed to make doing
business with Cuba easier. She's the second U.S. cabinet-level official
to visit the island since resumption of diplomatic ties. Secretary of
State John Kerry visited in August.

A number of leaders, including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, mentioned their satisfaction at the
new relationship between the United States and Cuba.

Rousseff, who by tradition was the first national leader to speak at
Monday's plenary, said the region "welcomes the establishment of
diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, putting an end
to a dispute derived from the Cold War." She said she hoped the
culmination of the process would be the end of the embargo.

Whitefield reported from Miami and Allam from the United Nations.

Source: In U.N. speech, Raúl Castro calls for end of embargo | Miami
Herald -

Monday, September 28, 2015

Obama Predicts Cuban Embargo Will “Inevitably” Be Lifted

Obama Predicts Cuban Embargo Will "Inevitably" Be Lifted
September 28, 2015 12:07 PM
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – President Barack Obama joined leaders from around the
world on Monday, covering controversial topics like Cuba at the United
Nations in New York.
The president arrived under very heavy security and spoke about various
topics including the United States' new relationship with Cuba and where
it should go in the future.
"For 50 years the United States pursued a Cuba policy that failed to
improve the lives of the Cuban people. We changed that," said the
president. "We continue to have differences with the Cuban government.
We will continue to stand up for human rights but we address these
issues through diplomatic relations and increase commerce and people to
people ties."
To cheers, the president predicted Congress would eventually vote to
lift the embargo on the island nation.
"As these contacts yield progress, I am confident that our Congress will
inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place anymore," said
the president. "Change won't come overnight to Cuba but I'm confident
that openness, not coercion will support the reforms and better the life
the Cuban people deserve."

But not all agree with the president's view.
A Cuban woman who lives in Queens, Ana Martinez, plans to join a group
of Miami protesters on Monday who oppose the plan to lift the embargo
and disagrees with how relations were re-established.
"The have an agenda, okay, they have an agenda," said Martinez. "I don't
know for how many months they do secret negotiation. That's not the
American way."
Cuban leader Raul Castro will also address the assembly later on Monday.
During a speech at the United Nations summit on Saturday, Castro told
the world leaders that re-opening the U.S. Embassy in Cuba was an
important first step forward. He then slammed the U.S. for maintaining
the embargo on his country.
"The economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba persists,
bringing damages and hardships on the Cuban people and standing as the
main obstacle to our country's economic development," said Castro.
The Cuban leader also touched on the treatment of women in other countries.
On Tuesday, Castro will have his first formal meeting with President
Barack Obama.
CBS4's Ted Scouten is in New York and will be reporting on Castro's
address to the UN and his meeting with President Obama.

Source: Obama Predicts Cuban Embargo Will "Inevitably" Be Lifted « CBS
Miami -

Justice Before Delivering Forgiveness?

Justice Before Delivering Forgiveness?
Posted on September 28, 2015

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 24 September 2015 — The recent visit to
Cuba of the Bishop of Rome, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, brought a flood of
masses and homilies in several different settings, where, among others,
two words were often heard in the context of the Cuban landscape:
forgiveness and reconciliation. They were all the more curious since
they were not evoked at the same time as those other words to which they
are unavoidably related: offense, confession and repentance.

In this fashion, Francis urged all Cubans, believers or not, to
reconciliation in the abstract and forgiveness of no particular offense,
an exhortation so cryptic and watered-down that it well could have been
uttered anywhere in the world. Who are the offenders and the offended,
what do offenses consist of, whose turn is it to forgive and who will be
the forgiven were matters that were left to each individual to ponder.
The Pope also spoke of "suffering of the poor," of "respect to
differences" and many other similar phrases that can assume conflicting
interpretations according to one's point of view.

In any case, forgiveness and reconciliation have different nuances,
depending whether they stem from theology or from politics. Let us
assume, then, that Francis remained more attached to the first, given
his status as a clergyman, though we must not forget that he is also a
head of State, a politician and a diplomacy maker representing very
particular interests – beyond his good intentions towards the Cuban
people — and with no responsibility at all for solving the serious
problems facing our nation.

In case there is doubt, the Pope had announced himself in advance as
'missionary of mercy', which strips this visit — at least in the obvious
— of any political overtones. It is fair to understand the Supreme
Pontiff's delicate position that aims to sail to a safe harbor. Further
considering his complicated role as mediator between God and Catholics,
and even between rival governments — as has been plainly demonstrated on
issues of the restoration of US-Cuba relations — it could be argued that
he played his role with dignity during his stay in Cuba.

Because of this, anyone who had expected the Pope to give the
dictatorship a scolding, to extend some considerate gesture towards the
dissidence or to adopt a position of outright rejection of the Lords of
the Palace of the Revolution has been greatly disappointed. The Pope
might have done more, but we already know that the ways of God's
ministers on earth are as inscrutable as the Lord's.

However, once we acknowledge the unpredictability of words, the time may
be is right to put them in context and give them the interpretation they
deserve from a closer perspective to mundane issues. Let us try to
reconcile Bergoglio's case against reality, plainly assuming that the
Pontiff might have implied that Cubans should forgive crimes and abuses
inflicted by a dictatorship about to celebrate its 57th healthy
anniversary in power, a regime that has never shown any interest in our
forgiveness, never confessed its countless mortal sins, and remains ever
reluctant to show any repentance.

Should we merely forgive the oppressors, informers and other despicable
humanoid instruments used by the dictatorial power to repress, which
they continued to do even at the very moment when the Pope launched his
message of peace? Is Bergoglio asking of us, without further ado, to
place a veil of piety over victims of the firing squads, over the
innocent dead of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat and over all the crimes
committed by the Cuban dictatorship over more than half century?

He does not have the right to do so.

If we Cubans want to build a healthy and free nation, devoid of the
grudges of an ominous past, if we aspire to the Rule of Law, we must
mention the word justice before pronouncing the word forgiveness. We
must not make the mistake of ignoring and forgetting the pain of
thousands of Cuban families or we will suffer the consequences: revenge,
punishment and resentment. Without justice there will be no harmony,
because it's a well-known fact that ignoring the horrors of the past has
never been a basis for achieving national peace.

Recent history is rich in examples of processes of reconciliation and
forgiveness in different countries. Suffice it to recall typical cases,
such as the Spanish National Reconciliation of 1956, a proposal aimed at
overcoming the schism caused by the Civil War won by Franco; or that of
Chile after the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet; or of South
Africa at the end of the apartheid regime and the creation of the
Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, through which the moral
condemnation of perpetrators of many violent crimes and of multiple
human rights violations was achieved, a process that allowed victims the
opportunity to offer their testimonies and publicly accuse their abusers.

Other examples, perhaps less conspicuous though no less valuable, are
the Commissions of Truth and Reconciliation that were created in Peru to
clarify the acts of violence experienced by the Andean country, victim
of terrorism led by the Shining Path and the Tupamaros groups, and the
military repression from the late 1970's until 2000; or that of El
Salvador, at the end of its bloody civil war, to unravel the human
rights violations that took place in that Central American country
during the conflict.

Perhaps someday we Cubans will have to democratically assume the
responsibility to choose between impunity or condemnation of the
perpetrators for the sake of the reconciliation and reconstruction of
our nation's moral force. Perhaps it will be impossible to fully satisfy
the thirst for justice of all the victims. The moral condemnation of the
perpetrators, at least of those who have not committed bloodshed, might
be preferable for Cuba's spiritual recovery.

If we opt for generosity, a known character trait of our people, as
demonstrated in accepting, at the time, tens of thousands of Spanish
immigrants — including the parent of today's dictators — in the Republic
born after the last war of independence against Spain, harmony will
exceed grudges, and we will prevent the establishment of the new country
over another spiral of hatred and exclusions.

But the patterns of a true national reconciliation will not be dictated
by the speeches of mediators or by the practices of the same victimizing
power. In order for the country to achieve true spiritual recovery and
lasting democracy, Cuba's own people – whose dreams and voice are still
unacknowledged — will need to be the ones to decide to forgive or not
their executioners. For now, the culprits have not shown the slightest
sign of humility or repentance.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Justice Before Delivering Forgiveness? | Translating Cuba -