Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Hero To Justify The Cuban Failure

A Hero To Justify The Cuban Failure / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez
Posted on January 30, 2016

We continue on without wanting to admit that if our "wine is sour," even
if "the wine is our own," it is no more than that: sour wine.*

Cubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez, Havana, 28 January 2016 — Today marks the
163rd anniversary of the birth of our national hero, José Martí. It is
the time to repeat by rote the two or three of his sayings that all of
us Cubans learned since grade school. It is but a short time before we
again commemorate his death on May 19. Those two remembrances comprise
most of the veneration of Martí that was instilled in us from childhood.
What a shame!

We have the myth, but the counsels and teachings of Martí have served us
precious little. Rather, from the era of independence [from Spain] up to
today, we have systematically devoted ourselves to incurring everything
against which he warned us. We have done as the Israelites in the Old
Testament, who continually disobeyed Jehovah and were punished for it.
Although we are not even remotely like the Hebrews, our people, too,
have received their due punishment. And what awaits us, still…

Whatever became of all that which was quoted so often but has never come
to pass, of the republic and the nation "for all, and for the good of all"?

We Cubans have exploited, with no compunction, the legend of Martí. Few
peoples enjoy the privilege of having a poet as their national hero. But
poets and their worldviews are not easy to comprehend. We never
understood Martí well, and we have idealized and inflated him into the
politician that he was not and never wanted to be.

Upon preparing for the War of Independence, Martí fulfilled his
principal historic role. There was little else by then that he could do.
His death at Dos Ríos, on 19 May 1895, confronting a Spanish patrol, was
almost a suicide mission. It provided him the out that that he could not
find before such great obstinacy and lack of understanding among the
principle leaders of the Mambíses.

But the official story, that which was taught before [the 1959
Revolution], and which is badly taught today, refuses to acknowledge the
conflicts that existed among the leaders of the independence movement…

Would Martí, after independence had been won, been able to work with
those who were intending to lead the Republic as if it were a military
camp**, and instill in them his civic and democratic vision?

Very few Cubans have read Martí deeply. What we have an abundance of are
those who distort and manipulate his ideology. Thus, they have created a
multi-purpose Martí, useful and convenient for all.

The greatest plagiarist, Fidel Castro, made of Martí the intellectual
author of the attack on the Moncada barracks, his guide for the
construction of a socialist society, and mentor to his pathological
confrontation with the United States. To justify his single-party
dictatorship, Fidel cited the case of the Cuban Revolutionary Party,
overlooking the fact that it was created solely to organize the War of
Independence, and not to perpetuate the rule of any political caudillo.

The legend of Martí contributed to the construction of a meta-history, a
teleology of the nation's destiny, which has done us more harm than
good. Rather than redeem us, it bequeathed to us, among other things, a
bad conscience and the fate of national misfortune.

Writing from exile, Martí idealized a Cuba in which he lived barely 20
years of his life. But the Cuba he invented surely would have been much
better than the real one, if we Cubans had been able to make it come
true—if not exactly as Martí envisioned it, at least close to it. But we
were not able. And we continue not being able.

They beat us over the head so much with the pure heroes and the bronze
statues that they ended up boring us. As a result of this boredom, today
many Cubans, especially the young, associate Martí with the Castro
regime's harangue, and they reject him outright.

We Cubans should be ashamed of all the ignorance of and distortion of
Martí. But it is easier to feel sorry for ourselves. So we continue to
quote his sayings—even if they are out of context, or we do not
understand them well, or we interpret them according to our whim and
convenience—to justify our failure as a nation.

Thus attached to Martí, we continue not wanting to admit that if the
wine is sour, for all that it is our wine, is no more than that: sour
wine. Or even worse: vinegar. Which stings so much in our wounds…

Translator's Notes:

*A reference to a quotation of Jose Martí well-known to Cubans, "Nuestro
vino es agrio, pero es nuestro vino" – Our wine may be sour, but it is
our own wine.

** A reference to another oft-remembered phrase from José Martí (though
not one commonly invoked by Fidel or Raul Castro): "Un pueblo no se
funda, General, como se manda un campamento" — A people is not founded,
General, the way one commands a military camp. Martí wrote this in a 20
October 1884 letter to General Maximo Gomez, in which he resigned from
the revolutionary movement.

About the Author

Luis Cino Álvarez (Havana, 1956) has worked as a professor of English,
in construction, and in agriculture. He entered independent journalism
in 1998. Between 2002 and Spring 2003, Cino was a member of the
reporting team at De Cuba magazine. He is assistant director of the
online magazine, Primavera Digital [Digital Spring], and is a regular
contributor to CubaNet since 2003. A resident of Arroyo Naranjo, Cino
dreams of being able to make a living from writing fiction. He is
passionate about good books, the sea, jazz and blues.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: A Hero To Justify The Cuban Failure / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez
| Translating Cuba -

If We Are Talking About Terrorists

If We Are Talking About Terrorists / Mario Lleonart
Posted on January 30, 2016

Mario Lleonart, 29 January 2016 — A few days ago (January 15th and 16th)
I took part in a gathering in Miami of the Coordinating Liaison
Committee of the Cuban National Meeting, of which I am a member, along
with eight others. On the 18th, on Martin Luther King Day in Saint
Petersburg, Florida, I paid tribute to King, joining in the parade in
his honour distributing copies of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. On the 19th I visited locations in Sarasota and Manatti,
Florida, which had been pounded by tornados early in the morning of the

While I was doing this, the political police made appointments with or
visited people who know me in Cuba, who take part in forums of the
Instituto Patmos, parishioners, collaborators, friends, neighbours and
family members, to warn them that it was dangerous to have anything to
do with me, inviting them to cooperate with their secret services, and
to turn them against me. After I returned to Cuba some of them dared to
tell me about these contacts, pressures, harassment and threats. One of
the reasons put forward by the Cuban Gestapo, without any support, was
that I had met terrorists in the USA.

In the afternoon of the 20th, I visited Leonardo Delgado, a one-time
political prisoner, in his house in Tampa. He has been battling lung
cancer for five years. With him was Roberto Pisano, one of his prison
companions. His stories about the ancient Cuban prison are shocking.

That morning I had received some mail from Cuba, testifying to the
arguments put forward against me by the State Security. Listening to
Pisano and Delgado's stories made me think how ridiculous it was that
someone in Cuba would say that I had met terrorists in the US, since it
was in fact the opposite.

I replied to the mail saying that if, by any chance I had had a meeting,
without knowing it, with terrorists in the USA, it would have been if I
had unknowingly met an undercover agent, one of the hundreds illegally
infiltrated into the US by the Cuban political police. Like those
involved in the shooting down of the four Brothers to the Rescue pilots,
or those who specialise in assassinating without leaving any traces.

Translated by GH

Source: If We Are Talking About Terrorists / Mario Lleonart |
Translating Cuba -

U.S. companies not finding many consumers in Cuba

U.S. companies not finding many consumers in Cuba
By Silvio Canto, Jr.

Over the last couple of months, U.S. delegations have traveled to Cuba
looking for markets. They have seen pretty beaches, heard a lot of
promises but found few markets or consumers. This is not
your grandfather's Cuba, or the island nation that had a prosperous
economy in 1959:

- In the 1950's Cuba was, socially and economically, a relatively
advanced country, certainly by Latin American standards and, in some
areas, by world standards.
- Cuba's infant mortality rate was the best in Latin America -- and the
13th lowest in the world.
- Cuba also had an excellent educational system and impressive literacy
rates in the 1950's.
- Pre-Castro Cuba ranked third in Latin America in per capita food
- Cuba ranked first in Latin America and fifth in the world in
television sets per capita.
- Pre-Castro Cuba had 58 daily newspapers of differing political hues
and ranked eighth in the world in number of radio stations.

Unfortunately, the Cuban economy today is a disaster, specially for the
Cuban people. Who is going to buy auto parts? Or shop at retail
stores? Or buy computers? Not the Cuban people on government-dictated

My friend Jason Poblete nailed it by calling it "irrational exuberance":

Cuba is far from being an emerging economy; because of political and
economic immaturity, they are more akin to an underdeveloped nation.

No matter how hard the Obama administration tries to subvert U.S. law
through the regulatory process, and make no mistake about it, they have
been doing so,

Cuba remains a frontier market that also happens to be subject to
comprehensive U.S. sanctions.

It is time that the Congress end their slumber on U.S.-Cuba policy and
initiate a series of oversight hearings to expose the lawlessness of
recent regulatory changes. U.S. taxpayers are already owed billions of
dollars by the Cuba regime. Let's not make it billions more.

As I shared with the Wall Street Journal in February 2015, and believe
it even more so today, certain sectors in Washington, D.C., when it
comes to Cuba, are suffering from a severe case of "irrational exuberance".

Among other things, it is irrational to get excited about engaging with
a police state and command economy whose total GDP is less than 1/10 or
so that of the GDP of South Florida.

Where are the customers? They are not in Cuba, with the legacy of
50-plus years of communism and a total disregard for property law.

Here is the bottom line: Cuba will not be prosperous again until the
Castro family lifts the embargo on freedom that they've had on the
island. It's a shame that the Obama administration does not see the
connection between freedom and prosperity.

Source: Blog: U.S. companies not finding many consumers in Cuba -

10 N.J. legislators in center of storm over unauthorized trip to Cuba

10 N.J. legislators in center of storm over unauthorized trip to Cuba
on January 30, 2016 at 3:45 PM, updated January 31, 2016 at 2:22 AM

TRENTON — Angry Cuban exiles in New Jersey are demanding state Assembly
Speaker Vincent Prieto condemn a trip 10 state lawmakers quietly made to
Cuba this week, an action they say legitimizes that government's
oppressive regime.

Woodcliff Lake Mayor Carlos Rendo said Friday that American tourism
"props up a murderous regime with every penny they spend in Cuba."

"I would like to see every Cuban American legislator come out strongly
and condemn this trip," said Rendo, who was born in the communist country.

Menendez, Sires at odds with Obama on Cuba
Normally two of Obama's most loyal supporters, Sen. Robert Menendez and
Albio Sires are among his most strident critics on this issue

Prieto (D-Hudson), who fled the island with his mother when he was 10
years old, told NJ Advance Media he was reluctant to criticize his
colleagues for making the trip on their own time. But he wanted to be
clear they did not go representing the state.

"I did not sanction the trip," Prieto said. "They never went as a
delegation representing the Assembly of New Jersey."

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), said he and the nine other
legislators had good reason to make the four-day trip that ended Friday.

"After Obama said he wanted to ease the (diplomatic) restrictions, we
wanted to see for ourselves what Cuba is all about," Gusciora told NJ
Advance Media Saturday. "We wanted to see how we can make things better
in both of our countries."

Gusciora said it isn't fair for anyone to implicate Prieto. Everyone
paid their own way and made arrangements directly with the tour company
run by the Cuban government, he stressed. The trip cost $2,000, he said.

"It's disappointing some people in the Cuban-American community want to
stifle our rights of free speech and free association," he said.

Besides Gusciora, the lawmakers on the trip included Assemblymen Gordon
Johnson (D-Bergen), Tim Eustace (D-Bergen), Paul Moriarity
(D-Gloucester), John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), Assemblywomen Holly
Schepisi (R-Bergen), Cleopatra Tucker (D-Essex), and Sheila Oliver
(D-Essex), and state Sens. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) and Nia Gill (D-Essex).

The Senate Majority Office "did not pay for the trip, nor did it make
arrangements," spokesman Luke Margolis said.

Prieto said that in December, Johnson asked whether the Assembly
Majority Office would pay for the trip. The speaker said he refused. He
said on Friday that he learned that the lawmakers had actually made the
trip from Rendo and other Cuban leaders who saw a story about it in a
government-owned news website, Diario de Cuba on Thursday.

Like other Cuban-American leaders who have been critical of the Obama
administration's decision to re-establish diplomatic relations with
Cuba, Prieto said he explained to Johnson he did not want to do anything
that could be perceived as supportive of the Castro government, which
unilaterally seized property and jobs and jailed dissidents in 1959.

"For me it's an emotional thing because I lived it," Prieto said.

"In a a three-day trip, you will not be able to understand the struggles
of the people," he added.

Cuba's decision to continue harboring fugitive Joanne Chesimard is
another reason he could not sanction the visit, Prieto said. Chesimard
broke out of prison in 1979 after she was convicted in the shooting
death of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973.

While he isn't pleased by the trip, Prieto said he was stopping short of
condemning it.

"As I said I would not authorize them going as a delegation but I cannot
say anything about them going as U.S. citizens. That is one of the
freedoms we have here that is not available to the Cubans in Cuba."

During the trip, the New Jersey lawmakers repeatedly pushed Cuban
officials to turn over Chesimard and other American fugitives, Gusciora
said. "They seemed to ignore it," he said.

Obama 'dead wrong' on opening Cuba embassy, Christie says
Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday President Obama is "dead wrong" for
permitting the United States and Cuba to open embassies in their capital

The Diario de Cuba article described a meeting Wednesday between members
of the National Assembly of People's Power with an unidentified number
of New Jersey lawmakers.

The article said Gusciora criticized "the position of the Cuban exile
sectors and said it was 'one of the main problems that threaten the
normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States.' "

Gusciora said he was misquoted and his comment was taken out of context.
"I asked, what would you like us to tell the Cuban-Americans who would
not want us here?"

Cuban Deputy Lazaro Barredo told the lawmakers the United States would
have to lift economic embargo and return the territory occupied by the
Guantanamo Naval Base before Cuba agrees to normalize relations,
according to the article.

"I said that was above our pay scale. How about we give them back Ted
Cruz and call it a day? They laughed at that," Gusciora said, referring
to the Republican U.S. Senator from Texas who is running for president.

Gusciora said the lawmakers were accompanied on the trip by Newark
school board member Antoinette Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, a
federal judge, two Cuban American restauranteurs, Jay Redd, lobbyist
from the high-profile firm Gibbons, and a student from The College of
New Jersey.

Lawmakers also challenged the Cuban government's poor record of
respecting the rights of its gay and lesbian citizens, Gusciora said. An
artist he met told him there have been modest changes on that front. The
government doesn't jail gays and lesbians anymore. President Raul
Castro's daughter, Mariela, led a gay pride parade last year and openly
advocates for the LGBT community.

Other states such as New York and Arkansas have sent their governors and
legislators to Cuba to explore economic opportunities and New Jersey
should do the same, Gusciora said. The medical school accepts students
from across the globe for free and the advances in treating diabetes and
prostate cancer are documented, he noted.

"We have had this policy (the embargo) for 50 years and it hasn't
worked. It has not brought the Castros to their knees," Gusciora said,
who was stunned by the evidence of "abject poverty everywhere. "It has
hurt the average Cuban."

Rendo called the trip "a direct insult to the Cuban exile community"
where he grew up in Union City.

Sergio Gatria of Guttenberg, director of the anti-Castro Cuban
Information Center, said the lawmakers "were used, as part of the

Based on monthly reports from inside the country, "The oppression in
Cuba is worse now," Gatria added.

An earlier version of this story misidentified the county in which
Assemblyman John Burzichelli lives. He is a Democrat from Gloucester County.

Source: 10 N.J. legislators in center of storm over unauthorized trip to
Cuba | -

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Audit Detects Millions Missing In Havana

Audit Detects Millions Missing In Havana / 14ymedio
Posted on January 30, 2016

14ymedio, 28 January 2016 – The results of the "national internal
control check" undertaken by the Office of the Comptroller General of
the Republic between January and September 2015 in Havana has set off
alarms. In 366 audits conducted on 63 entities, it was found that more
than 267 million pesos had gone missing (a combined figure for Cuban
Pesos and Cuban Convertible Pesos), according to the government
newspaper Granma, reporting on Thursday.

This is the tenth internal control check of this kind and the findings
of the inspection were announced Wednesday at the Ministry of Energy and
Mines, through statements by Miriam Marban, head comptroller for the
Cuban capital.

The official stressed the need for greater "preparation, responsibility,
demand and organization in management" to avoid losses of this
magnitude, and she also stated that there had been no progress in the
control of resources as had been expected.

Corruption and diversion of resources was on the agenda of the 2015
parliamentary sessions, where Comptroller General Gladys Bejerano
Portela, emphasized that the greatest effects were concentrated in
inventories, contracts, billing, fuel, the leasing and use of land, and
standards of consumption and waste.

During the meeting this Wednesday, the issues of preparing institutions
for the aging population was analyzed, and current mistakes in the
supervision of the old age homes that were audited were detailed. In
surveys, respondent complaints focused on the hygienic and structural
conditions of these institutions.

The awarding of subsidies for the purchase of building materials was
also a target of criticism. The Comptroller General revealed a lack of
monitoring of the progress of the subsequent work undertaken, along with
obstacles and delays in delivering the aid, as was the case in Central
Havana, in which only 5% of the total beneficiaries of subsidies had
actually received building materials.

The secretary of the Communist Party in the capital, Mercedes Lopez
Acea, said the plan "has to prioritize those most in need." Lopez, who
is also a member of the Politburo, said managers have "an obligation" to
control "the proper use of available resources."

Source: Audit Detects Millions Missing In Havana / 14ymedio |
Translating Cuba -

Machado Ventura - “The sugar harvest is very bad” in Cuba

Machado Ventura: "The sugar harvest is very bad" in Cuba / 14ymedio
Posted on January 30, 2016

14ymedio 29 January 2016 — At least 43 of the 50 sugar mills taking part
in the current sugar harvest are experiencing delays due to adverse
weather conditions. This situation led Jose Ramon Machado Ventura,
Second Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party Central Committee, to
announce on television on Friday that "the sugar harvest is very bad."

The official argued that first the country suffered "a severe drought
that affected the estimates," and in the current period of cane cutting,
"the dampness and rain" have limited the process and paralyzed the
milling in dozens of sugar mills.

"Although it can be cut, the industrial yield is low because the cane
isn't concentrated, it doesn't have enough sugar," said Machado Ventura,
who is also vice president of the Council of State. The yield from the
cane "is below what is normal for this time. Therefore, we have some
affect on the harvest," he emphasized.

The main problems with the harvest are concentrated in the western part
of the country, according to the midday newscast. At least five sugar
mills have had to stop their machines and another five have been unable
to start the harvest because of the high levels of dampness in the fields.

"They are going to make the effort; if the weather improves they will be
able to do it. They are not giving up, they can do it, they mustn't
start too soon, but we have to recognize that we are experiencing a
harvest with many problems."

Directors of the state sugar company Azcuba, which has a monopoly on
sugar production on the island, had warned since November that the
2015-2016 harvest would be "special" due to the weather problems
affecting the country. "We will be bringing in less cane than expected,"
affirmed company specialist Dionis Perez Perez at that time.

The results of the 2014-2015 harvest have not been made fully public and
the group only said that an increase of 18% over the previous harvest
was achieved, although "the plan was some 4% lower than expected." The
experts put the figure at around 1.6 million metric tons of sugar (about
1.76 U.S. tons).

Source: Machado Ventura: "The sugar harvest is very bad" in Cuba /
14ymedio | Translating Cuba -

Cuban Police Detain Two UNPACU Activists UNPACU After Raiding Their Homes

Cuban Police Detain Two UNPACU Activists UNPACU After Raiding Their
Homes / 14ymedio
Posted on January 29, 2016

14ymedio, Havana, 29 January 2016 — The houses of Alexeis Martínez and
Carlos Oliva Rivery, both members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba
(UNPACU), were raided by police this morning, according to the
opposition organization. The two houses, located in the Mariana de la
Torre neighborhood in Santiago de Cuba, were searched just after six
o'clock in the morning by uniformed personnel and the two activists were
taken to the second unit of the PNR (People's Revolutionary Police) in
Santiago de Cuba.

Some witnesses commented to 14ymedio that participating in the operation
were Special Troops of the Ministry of Interior along with the police.
The 20 uniformed personnel presented a search warrant, but failed to
summon two witnesses from the Committee for the Defense of the
Revolution to be present during the search, as required by regulations,
and instead took advantage of two "unknown passersby" to play that role.

According Alianne Pérez, the wife of Alexeis Martínez, at the conclusion
of what she considered "an assault," a computer, several disks and
documents, two mobile phones, all the food in the house and two
paintings hanging on the wall were seized.

In Oliva's house, the dining room serves the organization's members from
other places who pass through the city to take courses, as well as other
activists who work full time for UNPACU.

Between last 22 November and today, the organization has already
reported 15 raids.

Source: Cuban Police Detain Two UNPACU Activists UNPACU After Raiding
Their Homes / 14ymedio | Translating Cuba -

Residents Of Cuba’s ‘Oil-houses’ Will Be Relocated

Residents Of Cuba's 'Oil-houses' Will Be Relocated / 14ymedio
Posted on January 29, 2016

14ymedio, 28 January 2016 — On Tuesday, the residents of El Molino
neighborhood in Havana's Cotorro district, were summoned in two groups
to the municipal People's Power to be informed that within a period of
no more than 18 months they will be relocated into other housing, due to
the calamitous state of the "petrocasas" (oil-houses) they were given
less than a year ago.

A report titled "The Oil-houses are Falling Apart," published by
14ymedio last week, revealed the deterioration and lack of finishes seen
in the buildings and the infrastructure of this Havana settlement. The
residents' discontent had led to a situation that is "ready to explode,"
confessed a resident of the area.

According to the testimonies of several local residents who participated
in the meeting on Tuesday, the president of the Municipal Assembly,
Teresa Beltran Santana, let them know that their complaints had reached
those "very high up" and that according to studies, "the buildings had
barely a year of life left in them."

Zoraida Dopico, the mother of two children who lives in El Molino, is
surprised by the solution they've been promised and adds, "Everyone
knows that this was all constructed in a big rush and that it wouldn't
survive the first hurricane. When we complained that we were in danger,
many said we were exaggerating," says the woman.

Dopico confirms the long list of complaints and letters sent to official
institutions. "We went to see Esteban Lazo, President of Parliament, and
wrote letters to all levels … The problem even came out on the
Internet!" said the lady, referring to the report published in this

Carlos, whose testimony was collected in 14ymedio's first report,
recalls that shortly after the buildings were inaugurated, staff from
the government TV program "Cuba Dice" (Cuba Says) came by. However,
"they only told them about buildings with Chinese technology, which are
concrete," the elderly man remembers. The petrocasas are made from
polyvinyl chloride panels.

With a certain sarcasm, the man predicted "surely at some moment they
will show up here and they always find someone who seems content to have
a microphone shoved in their face."

Some were more cautious from the start and didn't let their dreams run
away with them in the petrocasas settlement, as is the case with a
retired construction worker who commented, "It was clear to me, they
didn't even change the addresses on our ID Cards. Now with the move I'm
not going to have to go to the end of the line because according to the
paperwork I was never here," he smiled.

For some, like Zoraida Dopico, the problem does not end with the
transfer of the residents to another location. "The worst thing is that
nobody cares who's going to pay for all this. These components were
brought from Spain, they paid salaries and spent millions doing it all
so badly," said the neighbor.

When asked if the government will find homes for so many people in less
than a year and a half, she replied: "They do not want to see people
here explode and if this problem isn't solved quickly, what is going to
develop here is going to be a revolution."

Cuba faces a profound housing crisis with a deficit of more than 600,000
homes, and also a lack of maintenance of the buildings that are in a
precarious state. According to official data, of 3.7 million properties
in the country, almost 40 percent are in poor condition. However, only
27,000 homes were built in 2015.

Source: Residents Of Cuba's 'Oil-houses' Will Be Relocated / 14ymedio |
Translating Cuba -

Protest To Demand Food In Havana

Protest To Demand Food In Havana / 14ymedio
Posted on January 29, 2016

vegetables launched in Havana last week by the government is causing
unease among large sectors of the population. Most affected by the
restrictions are those who find in this commercial alternative a chance
to buy food in their own neighborhoods and streets, far from
agricultural markets.

For the elderly, people with disabilities or families with small
children, the ability to buy fruits and vegetables "on their doorstep"
has been very popular in recent years, despite high prices. In a clear
strategy of "cutting off their nose to spite their face," the
authorities have decided to combat high food prices through maximum
restrictions on intermediaries and street vendors.

The scene of a group of people protesting when police demand to see his
papers and confiscate the merchandise from a street-cart vendor, as
shown in this video that has come into our hands, says a lot about the
unpopular measures of control the government has adopted against private
vendors; and it also highlights the shortages of food products Cuban
society is suffering today.

In the images posted on YouTube under the pseudonym SomosdeCuba (We are
Cuban), the police harass street vendors selling fresh food. People
start to gather and shout: "Abusers," and then in a chorus yell "Food!
Food! Food!" Finally the vendors start giving away their products rather
than let the police confiscate them.

Source: Protest To Demand Food In Havana / 14ymedio | Translating Cuba -

Price Controls Extended Across Havana

Price Controls Extended Across Havana / 14ymedio
Posted on January 29, 2016

14ymedio, 25 January 2016 — What began as a novelty in mid-January has
become common in the Cuban capital. The network of agricultural markets
with controlled prices now extends to 66 markets and the authorities
plan to extend the measure to the 105 people's council markets in the
city, as confirmed by the official press.

The second secretary of the Communist Party, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura,
said after a meeting held on Saturday in Mayabeque, that fixing prices
is being evaluated, "setting a maximum" on the price of numerous
products, based on the cost of production and the total supply of the goods.

However, Machado Ventura acknowledged at the meeting that to finally
solve the problem more and higher quality goods need to be produced, and
he railed against the "illegal intermediaries" on whom the State is
placing the blame for the sharp increase in prices since the middle of
last year.

In Havana, the so-called State Agricultural Markets (MAE) were added to
those covered by price controls; these markets had been under non-state
forms of management but have now reverted to their former status. At
these sites the government will maintain price controls on products such
as bananas, taro, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, garlic, cabbage, squash,
peppers, papaya, pineapple, okra, eggplant, chard and beans.

The implementation of the measure carries with it major restrictions on
private transport that cater to the non-state markets, as well as and on
street vendors who, with their wheeled carts, sell fruits and
vegetables. These vendors have faced heavy police raids in recent weeks,
leading them to abandon the streets of Havana where they had already
become a part of the everyday landscape.

After the early enthusiasm over price controls in a limited number of
markets such as the Youth Labor Army (EJT) located on Tulipan Street in
the Nuevo Vedado neighborhood, customers are beginning to voice their
complaints about the decline in quality of the products and the lack of
stable supplies.

"Yesterday I came and bought cheap taro, but today I came and there is
nothing but sweet potatoes," complained a buyer at this Sunday's busy
market. This weekend the pallets displayed green tomatoes, squash and
bananas. "But they are not ripe, you have to buy them green and wait for
them to ripen in the house," the customer protested.

Some neighbors looked thankfully on the lower prices. "I am retired and
can not be paying 25 Cuban pesos for a pound of tomatoes," says a buyer
near the EJT market. "Many people are profiting from people's needs,"
added the retiree, who sees it as a good thing, because "they'll see for
themselves where the shoe pinches, and how are they going to steal now."

The authorities have stated that only an efficient use of the land could
cut prices on a permanent basis. In a recent interview with Eddy Soca
Baldoquín, director general of the National Control Center of Land and
Tractors, he stated that the amount of agricultural land in Cuba amounts
to 15.4 million acres. State management is in charge of 30.5% of the
land; cooperatives, 34.3%; and the rest is in the hands of small farmers.

Since Decree-Law No. 259 on the leasing of idle land in usufruct was
approved in 2009, some 279,021 people have received land throughout the
country and they currently remain in possession of about 3.5 million
acres. But the measure has not had the expected impact on productivity
and the prices of goods.

In a recent inspection in the province of Pinar del Rio chaired by
Machado Ventura, 3,531 land leases were terminated: at least 1,126 for
breach of contract; 766 for the abandonment of the land for more than
six months; 703 for not using the land for the purpose for which it was
granted; while the rest of the cancellations were due to deaths or
voluntary abdications.

Source: Price Controls Extended Across Havana / 14ymedio | Translating
Cuba -

The Death of Cuba's Railroads

The Death of Cuba's Railroads
01/29/2016 09:42 pm ET
Yoani Sanchez
Publisher of 14ymedio, independent newspaper in Cuba

14 y medio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 29 January 2016 - My father is
a train engineer. It has been decades since he drove a train, long years
in which he hasn't sounded the whistle of a locomotive while passing
through a village with children running alongside the line. However,
this still agile retiree originally from Matanzas still marks the 29th
of January on the calendar and says "it is my day." The day still smells
of iron braking on iron, and has the rush of the platform, where some
leave and others say goodbye.

The date honors the guild established in 1975, during the finishing of
the first stretch of the central line. At the celebration Fidel Castro
operated a Soviet locomotive, a moment that is still a source of
amusement among elderly train engineers. "Everything was ready and he
didn't even get the credit of making that mass move," says an old
conductor in his eighties. The event, more about politics than
railroads, was enough to let the imposed anniversary go.

The 19th of November should be the date for those who carry the iron
serpent circulating in our blood. The day the first rail link in Cuba
was completed, between Havana and Bejucal, in 1837, should get all the
credit to earn itself a celebration that goes beyond the fanfare of the
politicians and the headlines of the official press. In those nearly 17
miles (27.3 kilometers) of the initial line, a lineage began that
refuses to die.

Now, when I stand in front of the lines at La Coubre terminal in Havana
and observe the disaster that is rail transport in Cuba today, I ask
myself if the era of the "sons of the railroad" will come to an end. Old
cars, unsafe, accidents, delays, long lines to buy a ticket, luggage
thefts, the stench of the toilets... and an iron fence that isolates the
platform and those going aboard from those who are saying goodbye.

The Cuban railroad died. There is not much to celebrate on this day.

Source: The Death of Cuba's Railroads -

Cuba a Low-Key Presence at US-Jamaican Security Conference

Cuba a Low-Key Presence at US-Jamaican Security Conference
4:34 PM ET

A delegation from Cuba has taken part for the first time in a Caribbean
regional security conference co-hosted by the United States. But
officials sought to downplay their participation as the four-day event
came to a close Friday in the Jamaican capital.

Maj. Gen. Antony Bertram Anderson of the Jamaica Defense Force, which
co-hosted the event with U.S. Southern Command, started a closing news
conference by thanking the U.S. for agreeing to invite Cuba for the
first time to the annual event and the Cubans for sending a delegation.
He noted, however, that their presence was not a focus of attention.

"They were at the table like everybody else," Anderson said. "It was
quite a normal thing. It is the first time but it is what it is. They
are a regional country."

U.S. Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, the new commander of Miami-based Southern
Command, said Cuba was one of the 18 countries from across the region
taking part in discussions of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief
and other challenges.

"We share challenges, all of the countries across this region," Tidd
said. "Cuba is one of those countries in this region. And so I believe
in the future we'll have opportunities to find ways to work together."

Later, Army Col. Lisa Garcia, a Southern Command spokeswoman, said that
Jamaica had technically issued the invitation since it was the host
country and that Tidd did not mention the Cuban participation in his
official closing remarks because "the conference was about more than
Cuba; it was about all the Caribbean nations."

The admiral said the subject of the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, did not come up. The base is the oldest U.S. overseas military
outpost and the Cubans have long demanded its return. President Barack
Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro restored relations in December
2014 and relations have been improving but the U.S. has said returning
Guantanamo is not on the table.

The Cuban delegation was led by Gustavo Machin Gomez, deputy director
general of the U.S. department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It
also included an official with the Cuban coast guard and the country's
ambassador to Jamaica.

Source: Cuba a Low-Key Presence at US-Jamaican Security Conference - ABC
News -

Cuba's Raul Castro on grand bridge-building France trip

Cuba's Raul Castro on grand bridge-building France trip
By Martine Nouaille, and Alexandre Grosbois in Havana

Paris (AFP) - Cuba's Communist President Raul Castro will be welcomed
under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris during a rare state visit Monday to
showcase his island's warming ties with big world powers.

Cuba's leader Raul Castro thanks pope for aiding U.S. detente Reuters
Pope arrives in Havana with call for further US-Cuba thaw AFP
Timberland jusqu'à -75% de réduction Zalando Lounge Sponsored 
The Cuban leader arrived in Paris on Saturday, two days ahead of the
start of the official programme, sources at Orly airport south of Paris

Castro's visit is an indication of his island's improved ties with major
powers following last year's restoration of relations with longtime foe,
the United States.

On the back of that rapprochement the 84-year-old leader is now paying
court to France, one of his most powerful European allies.

French officials said when the visit was announced January 19 that it
would mark "a new stage in the strengthening of relations between the
two countries" following on from President Francois Hollande's own state
visit to Cuba last May, the first by a western head of state in more
than half a centrury.

"This visit is important for Cuba's image," said Eduardo Perera, an
expert in international relations at Havana University, specializing in

"It will undeniably make Cuba shine on the international stage."

Havana hopes the visit will allow Cuba to "widen and diversify its
relations with France in all possible areas -- politics, economics,
trade, finance, investment, culture and cooperation," said Rogelio
Sierra, Cuban deputy foreign minister.

Although Washington has yet to lift its half-century trade embargo on
Cuba, US and European businesses are jockeying for a place in the market
as the island's economy gradually opens up. Hollande urged an end to the
blockade, which was imposed in 1962, on his Havana visit.

Trade delegations have been flocking to Cuba, hoping to cash in on its
highly trained workforce and natural assets such as its sundrenched
Caribbean beaches, a draw for tourists.

Cuba, meanwhile, needs to tap new sources of income as its main ally and
financial backer, Venezuela, remains mired in economic and political crisis.

During Castro's visit, France and Cuba are expected to sign an "economic
roadmap" to improved ties, French officials said.

They will also sign deals on transport, tourism and fair trade.

Bilateral trade between France and Cuba is currently worth about $195

That level is "not in line with our ambitions," France's minister of
state for foreign trade, Matthias Fekl, was quoted as saying in French
newspaper L'Humanite.

- Castros in the Elysee -

Castro's Paris trip is his first state visit to Europe since he took
over from his elder brother Fidel as leader in 2006. The latter visited
France in 1995 and met then president Francois Mitterrand.

French officials said Hollande will officially receive his guest Monday
under the Arc de Triomphe at the top of Champs Elysees avenue, which
will be decked with Cuban flags.

Castro will then hold talks with Hollande at the Elysee presidential
palace and attend a state dinner before Tuesday meeting various French

France recently engineered an agreement among the Paris Club of
international creditors to write off $8.5 billion of Cuba's debt.

It could now agree to further debt relief, potentially widening Cuba's
access to international financial markets.

Paris is also taking a leading role in strengthening Cuba's political
ties with Europe as a whole.

Human rights remains a sensitive issue, with international authorities
accusing the Castros of repressing and harassing their political
opponents. The government is sensitive about being lectured on the topic.

A diplomatic source in Paris said human rights "will be discussed"
during the bilateral talks. Hollande is expected to take a discreet
stance on the issue, however, after his meeting with Fidel Castro last
year drew some criticism.

Hollande this week hosted Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, another head
of state from a country whose leaders are accused of human rights abuses.

Hailing a "new relationship," Hollande and Rouhani sealed a sheaf of
large trade deals drawn up after nuclear sanctions on Iran were lifted.

Source: Cuba's Raul Castro on grand bridge-building France trip - Yahoo
News -

Friday, January 29, 2016

US-Cuba Relations - A Passing Idyll?

US-Cuba Relations: A Passing Idyll? / 14ymedio, Andres Oppenheimer
Posted on January 29, 2016

14ymedio, Andres Oppenheimer, 28 January 2016 – There is a lot of
excitement on all sides about president Barack Obama's approach to Cuba,
but allow me a word of caution: it is likely that the current idyll
between Washington and Havana will cool somewhat after the November
elections in the United States, regardless of who wins.

The reason is very simple: it takes two to tango (or cha-cha, in this
case) and Cuba is doing little from its side to accompany the easing of
U.S. trade relations against the island.

In addition, the next United States president will see the trade opening
to Cuba as a legacy of Obama, and will likely not spend much political
capital to continue unilaterally expanding a policy that will go down in
history as the work of a previous president.

When Obama first announced the opening to Cuba on 17 December 2014, he
said, rightfully, that the previous policy of the United States had
failed, and that United States trade would help to create a new class of
entrepreneurs and an independent civil society in Cuba.

But more than a year later, even the State Department officials who
negotiatied the agreement are frustrated with Cuba.

Earlier this month, the official Cuban weekly Workers reported that the
number of self-employed workers in Cuba has fallen to 496,000, from
504,000 six months ago, according to Cubaencuentro's 12 January webpage.

The blog Letters From Cuba, by the Uruguayan journalist Fernando
Ravsberg, said on 17 December that "internally, the paralysis is
great." He added that "during 2015 not one more cooperative was
legalized, no new forms of self-employment were opened up, the wholesale
markets were conspicuous by their absence and the long demanded
unification of the currencies is still on the shelf."

Politically, the military dictatorship in Cuba continues to ban
political parties, freedom of assembly, and independent media.

During the past year, the number of arrests of peaceful dissidents rose
to a record of 1,447 in November, according to the Cuban Commission on
Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Yoani Sánchez, the brave Cuban journalist publishes her digital daily
14ymedio from abroad because the regime does not allow her to publish it
from Cuba, even online, wrote on January 6 that "Television, radio and
newspapers are maintained under strict monopoly of the Communist Party."

And she added, "Access to the microphone is granted only to those who
agree with the government and applaud the actions of its leaders. They
never interview someone with a difference of opinion."

Despite all this, Obama announced a few days ago a third round of
unilateral measures to ease the embargo on the island. The new measures
will allow more American visitors to travel to Cuba and increase the
number of authorized exports to the island.

The normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba has
turned the island into a global object of curiosity. Tourism to Cuba
increased to 3.5 million in 2015, up 17.4% over the previous year,
according to official Cuban figures.

Cuban art, cuisine and music have become fashionable, and are the
subject of countless newspaper articles. In contrast, few journalists
report on the political prisoners or investigate the more than 3,130
killings attributed to the Castro regime since 1959, according to the
records compiled by the research group

My opinion: As I have said in earlier columns, the previous United
States policy of isolating Cuba did not work and Obama's new measures
deserve a chance. However, so far they have not worked.

At this point, the normalization of relations has only helped Obama to
cement his legacy as the president who resumed relations with Cuba, as
Nixon did with China. So Obama pressed the accelerator with new measures
of additional openings a few days ago, and will continue to do so.

But I do not think the next president of the United States – even if it
is Hillary Clinton – will invest much political capital in cementing
Obama's legacy, unless Cuba gives concrete signs of an economic or
political opening. The ball is in the Cuban court, and this idyll can
cool off after November.

14ymedio Editorial Note: This analysis has been previously published
in El Nuevo Herald. It is reproduced with the permission of the author.

Source: US-Cuba Relations: A Passing Idyll? / 14ymedio, Andres
Oppenheimer | Translating Cuba -

Singapore firm fined over North Korea arms shipment

Singapore firm fined over North Korea arms shipment

A Singapore firm has been fined 180,000 Singapore dollars ($125,700;
£87,900) for facilitating a shipment of arms from Cuba to North Korea.
A court found in December last year the Chinpo Shipping Company was in
breach of the UN sanctions on North Korea.
The company paid a Panamanian shipping agent $72,000 (£50,000) for the
passage of North Korean ship the Chong Chon Gang through the Panama Canal.
The arms shipment was hidden under more than 10,000 tonnes of sugar.
The Chong Chon Gang was stopped while navigating the Panama Canal, by
officials who suspected it was being used to smuggle drugs.
Cuba said it had shipped the weaponry to North Korea for repair. It did
not explain why it was hidden under a cargo of sugar.
Chinpo was also fined S$100,000 for operating a remittance business
without a license, for performing hundreds of remittances, worth tens of
millions of dollars, on behalf of North Korean entities.
During the trial, the prosecution said the company often did not provide
relevant names or documents when carrying out transactions, in a bid to
obscure the counterparties involved.
The arms included disassembled radar systems, missiles, MiG fighter jets
and engines, many of which dated from the Soviet era - something the
shipping company attempted to use in its defence, arguing they were
The defence also claimed the aircraft were intended for training, not
battlefield use, although training weapons are also covered by the sanctions
Chinpo director Tan Cheng Hoe, also cited what he said were his
well-known connections to North Korea, stretching back decades, as
evidence that he and his company were not trying to hide their dealings
with Pyongyang, dubbed "proliferation finance" by experts.
He claimed that omitting such details was a common way to speed up money
transfer times.
Both Singapore-based Chinpo Shipping and Pyongyang-based Ocean Maritime
Management (OMM), which operated the seized ship, have been named by the
UN as entities involved in shipping North Korean arms.
Under United Nations sanctions, the Democratic People's Republic of
Korea (DPRK), as it is formally known, is banned from weapons exports
and the import of all but small arms.
The Panama incident was the largest seizure of arms going to or from
North Korea since the UN began its current sanctions on the country in
2006, said the Singapore District Court judge.

Source: Singapore firm fined over North Korea arms shipment - BBC News -

France to offer Cuba more debt relief during Castro visit

France to offer Cuba more debt relief during Castro visit - source

PARIS (Reuters) - France is to sign a deal with Cuba next week to ease
the Caribbean island nation's bilateral debt to Paris during a visit by
the Cuban president to the French capital, a diplomatic source said on

Raul Castro is due to arrive on Saturday in Paris for a five day stay,
in what will be the first official visit to France by a Cuban president
since the country's independence.

With ties between Washington and Havana warming, France is eager to
further improve relations with Cuba starting with a visit by French
President Francois Hollande to the island last year.

As Havana's biggest creditor, France played a key role in December in a
debt relief deal between Cuba and the foreign governments it owes money to.

Its Paris Club creditors agreed to forgive $8.5 billion in late interest
payments of Cuba's $11.9 billion in debt, including $4 billion in late
payments due to France.

The bilateral agreement to be signed next week will allow for part of
the principal that Cuba still owes France to be converted into financing
for development projects, the source said.

"It's an additional gesture on France's part after forgiving the late
interest payments," the source said, adding that France's development
agency would set up an outpost in the country.

Several commercial and development agreements are due to be signed
during Castro's visit, the source said.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; writing by Leigh Thomas)

Source: France to offer Cuba more debt relief during Castro visit -
source - World | The Star Online -

Zika - How to protect yourself from the mosquito-borne virus

Zika: How to protect yourself from the mosquito-borne virus

Pregnant women should not travel to affected areas
Children under 3 should not use certain types of insect repellent
CDC: An outbreak in the U.S. would "likely be limited.''

As the mosquito-borne Zika virus tears through Latin America and the
Caribbean, health officials in the United States say it's only a matter
of time before someone is affected here.

But Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director for the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, said Thursday that "outbreaks of Zika in the
continental U.S. will likely be limited."

The mosquito-borne disease has raged in South America and other regions
for months. The World Health Organization said it continues to spread.
While the mosquito that carries the virus, Aedes aegypti, is common in
South Florida, Schuchat said several factors in the United States work
in our favor: U.S. urban areas are less densely populated,
air-conditioning is more widespread and mosquito control efforts are
generally stronger.

"We are very aggressive when it comes to mosquito control," said Beth
Ranson, of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. The district has
been working with Oxitec, a biotech company, on developing a genetically
modified male mosquito to mate with female mosquitoes, which would
produce offspring that won't make it to adulthood. The company has said
trials conducted in Brazil have reduced the Aedes aegypti population by
90 percent. The Food and Drug Administration is examining the proposal.

Beth Ranson, Florida Keys Mosquito Control District.

The World Health Organization said Thursday possible links of Zika to
neurological syndromes that can cause paralysis changed Zika from "a
mild threat to one of alarming proportions.''

Since 2015, 31 travel-associated Zika cases have been detected in 11
U.S. states, Schuchat said. Earlier this month, the Florida Health
Department confirmed three travel-related cases in Florida. Two were in
Miami-Dade from people who brought the disease back from Colombia. The
third was in Hillsborough County, where a person contracted the virus in

The disease cannot be transmitted by routine human contact. Rather, it
is transmitted when an infested mosquito bites a human, and then another
mosquito bites the infected person. The main risk is to pregnant women,
as the disease has been linked in Brazil to about 4,000 cases of
microcephaly, a rare birth defect that causes babies to be born with
smaller brains. There has been one case where a wife contracted the
disease from her husband during sexual intercourse, Schuchat said.

The CDC has issued a travel alert for more than 20 countries including
Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, French Guiana,
Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay,
Suriname and Venezuela. The virus also has been found in Puerto Rico and
the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The reason for the concern: the mosquito that transmits the Zika virus
is linked to the same mosquito that brought cases of tropical diseases
chikungunya and dengue to the United States, particularly to South Florida.

"I am willing to bet money we will see some locally transmitted cases
[of Zika]," said Amy Vittor, an assistant professor in the University of
Florida's Department of Medicine and Emerging Pathogens.

Additionally, the Aedes aegypti mosquito multiplies exponentially in
small levels of standing water.

"It only takes a tablespoon of water to produce 300 mosquitoes,'' said
Ranson of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District.

Here, then, is more information about Zika and steps you can take to
minimize your risk of contracting it.


Only one out of five people who contract the disease will show symptoms,
according to the CDC. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and
conjunctivitis (red eye). That makes it harder to know if someone is
infected, Schuchat said.

"Those who do get sick usually have very mild symptoms," Schuchat said.

The incubation period is usually three to 12 days, meaning if you were
exposed to the virus, you would get it during this period.

There is no vaccine or medications to treat the virus.


Pregnant women — or women who are planning to become pregnant — are at
the greatest risk. The risk is not so much to themselves, but to their
baby, who can be born with the rare birth defect that causes the small
brains. The CDC strongly recommends that pregnant women in any
trimester, especially the first trimester, not travel to affected areas.

"If you are pregnant we recommend you consider postponing travel to a
region with ongoing Zika virus transmission," said Schuchat.

If you have visited one of the countries with the virus, and develop a
fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes within two weeks after traveling to
that country, see your doctor immediately, the CDC says. A blood test
can determine if you're carrying the virus.

The CDC said this week that U.S. doctors should test newborns who show
signs of the Zika virus, especially in states such as Florida, where
mosquitoes are prevalent.

Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding can use insect repellent
with one of the following active ingredients: DEET and Picaridin, found
in such products as Off!, Cutter and Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus. These
are EPA-registered insect repellents. The CDC does not recommend using
the following non-registered repellents: Citronella oil, cedar oil,
geranium oil, peppermint and peppermint oil, pure oil of lemon
eucalyptus and soybean oil.

The CDC does not know whether a future pregnancy would be at risk if a
woman is bitten by an infected mosquito now and gets pregnant later.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says a small
amount of the Zika virus found in breast milk is "unlikely to be
harmful'' to the baby.


Most insect repellant can be used on children, according to the CDC,
with a few caveats.

For one, never apply insect repellent to children younger than 2 months
old, warns the American Academy of Pediatrics.

For children 3 and under, do not use products containing oil of lemon
eucalyptus, found in many repellents, the CDC says.

In terms of applying repellent on children, here are a few guidelines
from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

▪ Never spray repellent directly onto a child's face. Instead, spray a
little on your hands and rub it onto a child's face.

▪ Avoid spraying repellent on cuts, wounds or irritated skin.

▪ Always wash a child's skin with soap and water after they come inside.

▪ Do not use products that combine DEET with sunscreen, as you run the
risk of overexposing your child to the repellent.

▪ Cover cribs, strollers or baby carriers with mosquito netting.

"Parents should always check with their pediatrician to see what works
best for their child," said Dr. Jefry Biehler, chairman of pediatrics at
Nicklaus Children's Hospital.


If you're traveling to an area that has the Zika virus, here are some
key steps to take, according to the CDC:

▪ Choose a hotel or lodging with air-conditioning and screens on windows
and doors;

▪ If you are sleeping outdoors, sleep under a mosquito net, preferably
one treated with permethrin, an insecticide that kills mosquitoes. You
can also buy permethrin-treated clothing, shoes and camping gear. But,
do not spray permethrin onto your skin;

▪ Travelers to affected areas should monitor for symptoms or illness
upon return.


Local governments are stepping up mosquito control efforts. And the
Florida Department of Health is closely monitoring mosquitoes in South
Florida to determine whether the disease has hit the local population.

But, officials say, individuals can help prevent the spread of the
disease by taking these steps:

▪ Clear and drain standing water. Mosquitoes breed in standing water.

▪ When outside, wear light-colored long-sleeve shirts and long pants.

▪ Stay in air-conditioning and keep doors and windows without screens
closed. This type of mosquito likes to live indoors as well as outdoors.

"The best way to prevent Zika is by not getting bitten,'' Biehler said.
"But if your child gets bitten in South Florida, don't panic.''

Source: Zika: How to protect yourself from the mosquito-borne virus |
Miami Herald -

Now You Can Buy Wood in Cuba

Now You Can Buy Wood in Cuba
January 27, 2016
Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES — After decades of absence from the market, Cubans can now
buy lumber. Thanks to a resolution of the Ministry of Domestic Commerce,
published in the Official Gazette on January 15, 2016, the retail market
of building materials can now offer wood to the population.

The announcement comes with a long list of types of wood with their prices.

This isa necessarystep becauseseveral years agothey
legalizedself-employedcarpenters, and designated a store for them to
purchasetools. However, the most essential element, the wood, could only
be bought on the black market

Source: Now You Can Buy Wood in Cuba - Havana -

Cuba Attacks Religious Believers Even As It Liberalizes Economic Rules

Cuba Attacks Religious Believers Even As It Liberalizes Economic Rules

The Obama administration has been easing restrictions on travel,
exports, and export financing. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker spoke
of "building a more open and mutually beneficial relationship."

However, the administration expressed concern over Havana's dismal human
rights practices. Despite the warm reception given Pope Francis last
fall, the Castro regime has been on the attack against Cubans of faith.

In a new report the group Christian Solidarity Worldwide warned of "an
unprecedented crackdown on churches across the denominational spectrum,"
which has "fueled a spike in reported violations of freedom of religion
or belief." There were 220 specific violations of religious liberties in
2014, but 2300 last year, many of which "involved entire churches or, in
the cases of arrests, dozens of victims."

Even in the best of times the Castros have never been friends of faith
in anything other than themselves. The State Department's 2014 report on
religious liberty noted that "the government harassed outspoken
religious leaders and their followers, including reports of beating,
threats, detentions, and restrictions on travel. Religious leaders
reported the government tightened controls on financial resources."

Last year the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was
similarly critical. The Commission explained: "Serious religious freedom
violations continue in Cuba, despite improvements for
government-approved religious groups." Never mind the papal visit, "the
government continues to detain and harass religious leaders and laity,
interfere in religious groups' internal affairs, and prevent democracy
and human rights activists from participating in religious activities."

Now CSW has issued its own report. Last year's increase in persecution
"was largely due to the government declaring 2000 Assemblies of God
(AoG) churches illegal, ordering the closure or demolition of 100 AoG
churches in three provinces, and expropriating the properties of a
number of other denominations, including the Methodist and Baptist

This wide-ranging campaign was led by the Office of Religious Affairs.
Noted CSW: "In 2015, the ORA continued to deny authorization for a
number of religious activities and in cooperation with other government
agencies, issued fines and threats of confiscation to dozens of churches
and religious organizations."

Through the ORA the Communist Party exercises control over religious
activities. Indeed, reported CSW, the Office "exists solely to monitor,
hinder and restrict the activities of religious groups."

The regime also has increasingly targeted church leaders and
congregants, for the first time in years jailing one of the former. In
early January two churches were destroyed, church members arrested, and
three church leaders held incommunicado. One of the government's more
odious practices, according to CSW, has been to threaten churches with
closure if they "do not comply with government demands to expel and shun
specific individuals."

The regime's destructive activities have been justified as enforcing
zoning laws. But in practice the measure is a subterfuge to shut down

Other legislation threatens house churches. While not consistently
implemented in the past, "church leaders have repeatedly expressed
concern at its potential to close down a large percentage of house

CSW concluded that the ongoing crackdown was an attempt to limit calls
for social reform which would complement ongoing, though limited,
economic changes. Detentions initially were concentrated on "Cubans
considered by the government to be political dissidents," including a
group of Catholic women called the Ladies in White. The regime crackdown
later "expanded to include other individuals associated with independent
civil society, including human rights and democracy activists."

The Obama administration was right to engage Cuba. After more than 50
years, the embargo serves no useful purpose.

However, even lifting all economic restrictions won't turn Cuba into a
democracy. Only sustained pressure from within and without Cuba is
likely to force the Castro regime to yield control to the Cuban people.

As I wrote in Forbes: "Americans should forthrightly encourage freedom
in Cuba. Religious believers should be particularly vocal in supporting
people seeking to live out their faith under Communist oppression. Some
day autocracy will give way to liberty even in Cuba."

Source: Cuba Attacks Religious Believers Even As It Liberalizes Economic
Rules | Cato @ Liberty -

How to Rent a Private Jet to Cuba

How to Rent a Private Jet to Cuba
Written by Barbara Peterson January 28, 2016

Just gather some friends, $11k, and have a good reason to go.
Getting to Cuba continues to get easier: JetSuite, the jet charter
company that pioneered "value"-oriented private air travel via a fleet
of smaller, lighter jets, is staking out new turf with flights to once
off-limits Caribbean island. Customers will now be able to charter one
of JetSuite's six-passenger CJ3 jets nonstop to Havana from one of 16
U.S. gateways authorized by the U.S. government; they include virtually
all major airports in the state of Florida, including Key West, plus
Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, and, farther afield, New
York, Chicago, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh.

One-way pricing, for a flight with a full load of six, varies according
to the length of the trip, ranging from $11,152 out of Key West to
$23,675 from Chicago. And private or not, the U.S. government still has
an interest in knowing the purpose of your journey. Alex Wilcox,
JetSuite CEO, explains that customers need to secure the necessary
permission that's required of all U.S. visitors to Cuba. In other words,
they must be able to show they satisfy one of the 12 approved reasons
for the trip—and tourism is not among them.

Still, Wilcox told Conde Nast Traveler that he's gotten a lot of
interest from potential customers eager to explore a destination in
transition. Wilcox said that he hasn't seen any particular challenges in
flying to Havana; after all, his company serves more than 2,000
airports, large and small, some of them with limited services. "We're
not talking about Timbuktu," he says. "Havana is a major international

The California-based operator isn't the first private air company to get
into the U.S.-Cuba market—private jet app Victor is already here, but
it's getting in just as interest in the destination is surging,
post-détente. Flying to the island nation is still far from simple for
U.S. travelers; other than charter flights, there's no regular
commercial air service between the countries (yet). Scheduled flights
are expected to resume later this year, with airlines like American and
JetBlue declaring their intention to fly to Cuba under their own colors
at affordable fares. In the meantime, companies like JetSuite and Victor
can get you there in style.

Source: How to Rent a Private Jet to Cuba - Condé Nast Traveler -

After unusual weather, Cuba struggles to save prized tobacco crop

After unusual weather, Cuba struggles to save prized tobacco crop

Highly unusual weather has damaged Cuba's tobacco crop, raising concerns
among farmers and cigar-lovers that the island's supply of its famous
cigars might suffer at a time of increased demand resulting from detente
with the United States.

The weather phenomena El Niño led to Cuba's worst drought in a century
in 2015, followed by heavy rain during the northern winter, which is
normally a dry period in Cuba.

While all Cuban crops have suffered, delicate tobacco plants are
especially vulnerable. Rains have wiped out production at some
plantations and severely damaged others. In response, tobacco farmers
are replanting now, out of season, in hopes of salvaging the 2015-2016

In western Pinar del Rio province, where most of Cuba's tobacco is
grown, farmers are slogging through rain and mud to replant destroyed
crops. The best Cuban tobacco is cultivated from late October into early
January and then harvested into March.

"This has been a disaster, not just for us, but everyone," Juan
Hernandez said as he steered his oxen-pulled plow through rain and a
field of mud where tobacco plants once stood. "We are trying to see if
we can still have a harvest."

Down the road, 60-year-old farmer Andres Chirino picked damaged leaves
from plants and scowled.

"I have been growing tobacco since I was born and this is the worst
harvest in my experience," he said. "Look at those stains and rot on the
leaves. The quality is bad so we will earn much less."

The impact on cigar supply has yet to be determined, as tobacco normally
requires at least two or three years of curing, fermenting and aging.
Farmers and cigar experts say there have been several weak harvests in
recent years, inconveniently occurring just as tourism in Cuba is booming.

The cigar monopoly Habanos S.A., a joint venture between the Cuban state
and Imperial Tobacco Group PLC, has adequate stock to manage a dip in
supply, said Carlos Ferran, an executive who was surveying western
farms. Other Habanos officials referred questions to holding company
Tabacuba, which did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

David Savona, editor of Cigar Aficionado magazine, said Habanos reported
three substandard harvests in a row before this year, but so far cigar
quality has been maintained.

"Cuban cigars have been doing superbly in our ratings for the past
several years," Savona said. "They've admittedly had some weak harvests
at a time when people are thinking more and more about Cuban cigars.
That can hurt you down the road."


In the short-term, meteorologists forecast more soggy weather in
February and March.

"The normal is a little rain every once in a while, but it has been
raining day after day with tremendous intensity," said Ivan Rodriguez,
spokesman for the famed Alejandro Robaina Tobacco Plantation.

An outlier, the Robaina plantation has been largely unaffected by the
weather due to its elevated ground and resistant seeds.

Pedro Jesus Alonso, western regional director of the Agriculture
Ministry's export company CATEC, insisted others could also save the

"Everything depends on a little improvement in the weather," he said.
"If it does not rain too much the harvest can get back on track."

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing
by Daniel Trotta and Frances Kerry)

Source: After unusual weather, Cuba struggles to save prized tobacco
crop | Reuters -

PACs for and against Cuba embargo bring in big money

PACs for and against Cuba embargo bring in big money

In its first seven months, the New Cuba PAC rakes in nearly $350,000
Big names are on its contributor roster
Anti-Castro U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC says it gave $350,000 to political
campaigns in 2015

The New Cuba PAC, a political action committee that supports federal
candidates who favor lifting the trade embargo against Cuba, raised
nearly $350,000 in the seven months since its founding last May.

"Our historic fund-raising haul firmly establishes the New Cuba PAC as a
force to be reckoned with in Washington. It shows unprecedented support
from Americans in South Florida and across our country who want our
representatives to modernize our outdated policies toward Cuba and lift
the embargo once and for all," said Ric Herrero, co-director of the PAC.

Checks continued to come in during the first week of January and now the
Washington-based PAC has raised considerably more than $350,000, said
James Williams, co-director of the non-partisan, political-action committee.

"As we enter 2016, we will do all that we can to support candidates and
elected officials working towards ending the embargo, which will
ultimately benefit both U.S. citizens and the Cuban people," Williams said.

Among the contributors to the PAC, he said, are: healthcare magnate Mike
Fernandez, top donor to Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush; Carlos
Gutierrez, former secretary of commerce in the George W. Bush
administration; the Marriott PAC; Pat Riley, president of the Miami
Heat; and Miami area businessmen Manny Medina, Joe Arriola, and Paul Cejas.

Fernandez, Gutierrez, Public Health Trust Chairman Arriola, and tech
entrepreneur Medina were among the 10 signatories of an open letter —
published in December in the Miami Herald — that called the embargo
ineffective and urged engagement with Cubans on the island.

"We have arrived at the point in our lives where we have no interest in
personal advancement, but only in what would be good for 'nuestra
gente,' " [our people], they said in the letter, which followed a trip
to Cuba by the group. They lauded entrepreneurs they met on the island
and said "we saw progress beyond what we could have imagined."

Williams said the success of the PAC's fund-raising efforts is "further
proof that Americans from across the political and economic spectrum are
continuing to unite in their support for normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations."

The Hialeah-based U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC — whose mission is to promote
a transition to a multi-party democracy, the rule of law, and a
free-market system in Cuba — also has been busy raising funds. In its
mid-year 2015 filing with the Federal Election Commission, it reported
contributions of $214,322.40.

The report for the full year hasn't been filed yet, but Mauricio
Claver-Carone, a co-founder of the PAC, said that last year it raised
more than $350,000 and has raised $4.3 million since its inception in
2004. The new report will show that "contributions came from hundreds of
Cuban Americans, as opposed to just a handful of wealthy donors and
corporate PACs," he said.

The PAC made more than $350,000 in political contributions last year and
still has more than $200,000 in cash on hand, said Claver-Carone.

The anti-Castro PAC says its mission will continue until all Cuban
political prisoners are freed, human and civil rights are respected in
Cuba, and there is a democratic transition on the island.

Source: PACs for and against Cuba embargo bring in big money | Miami
Herald -

Among Cuban-American Business Leaders, Divided Views On Way Forward

Among Cuban-American Business Leaders, Divided Views On Way Forward

MIAMI, Florida -- In December, a group of 10 Cuban-American business
leaders, including some Republicans, traveled to Cuba, to see for
themselves if anything had changed since the December 2014 historic
announcement that the U.S. and Cuba would restore diplomatic ties. The
group returned to the U.S. so convinced closer ties to the communist
island would help everyday Cubans that they published a full-page ad in
the Miami Herald titled "An Open Letter to Our Fellow Cuban-Americans,"
urging others to join their cause.

This letter was reminiscent of another letter published in the
Washington Post in February 2015. But in this case, the letter held a
very different view: "The New Cuba Policy: Breakthrough or Bailout?"
criticized Obama's overtures to the island.

Both letters signed by prominent Cuban-Americans demonstrate how divided
the Cuban exile community is on the issue. Though both groups want the
same end result -- a free, democratic Cuba -- both disagree on which is
the best path to take. Here are four well-known, successful
Cuban-Americans and their takes on the issue.


Manny Medina, a tech pioneer who sold the company Terremark to Verizon
for $1.4 billion and the owner of the private equity firm Medina Capital
was one of the businessmen who went on the three-day trip to Havana. He
returned thinking, "the way to effectuate change is to continue what
we're doing," he told NBC News.

He wants to see entrepreneurs in Cuba have more freedom to hire people
directly. Currently, workers must be hired through a state controlled
agency, which retain a portion of the profits. Overall, he would like to
see less state control. "This will ultimately make change come about
more quickly, in my mind," Medina said, warning the change won't be

Medina, who was born in the city of Matanzas in Cuba and fled the island
when he was 13 years old, had visited his home country once before at
the end of 1993. He said he had reached a time in his life where he had
gained a certain amount of success and wanted to "find his roots." But
in 1993, Cuba was in the midst of the "special period" when Soviet
subsidies dried up, leading to extreme poverty and deprivation. Medina
said the trip was one of "extreme highs and extreme lows." The longtime
supporter of the U.S. embargo against Cuba left the island convinced the
embargo needed to be lifted.

Feeling there was nothing he could do to influence Cubans, Medina never
went back until last month. He had heard from people that things were
beginning to change on the island and he wanted to see for himself. He
met with tech entrepreneurs during his trip and said he was very
impressed with their entrepreneurial spirit.

It's important to support those who are opening businesses in Cuba so
they can move forward, according to Medina

He said he, nor the others on the trip have any vested interests on the
island. "I have no interest in doing business in Cuba. What I'm doing is
completely from a personal interest," he said.


On the same December trip was Joe Arriola -- a self made millionaire and
politician who is Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Jackson Health
System, a nonprofit, major provider of health services in South Florida
and the teaching facility for the University of Miami's medical school.

"Right now there are 500,000 Cubans who don't depend on the government
for work. When we get 2 million who no longer need the government, they
will create change," Arriola said.

Like Medina, Arriola was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. when he was
13 years old. He never returned to his homeland until September 2013. He
said the embargo and disengagement with Cuba had began to bother him so
he visited the island with his wife to see what the situation was like.
He said it was during this trip he realized "there was enormous hunger
for change in Cuba."

He said he was bothered by his own ignorance, and that of others, who
support the U.S. embargo.

Arriola feels the embargo needs to be lifted and the Cuban Adjustment
Act (CAC) amended. The CAC of 1996 allows Cubans to apply for residency
one year after being paroled. This policy has become controversial in
recent years as Cubans have arrived more for economic reasons than as
political refugees.

By the same token, the communist government needs to become more
receptive to small Cuban business owners by loosening restrictions and
making it easier for people to become entrepreneurs. In the meantime,
continuing to engage with Cuba is important, said Arriola.

He also wants to see the Cuban government pay more respect to human
rights. "That's a must," he said.

Arriola is critical of those who support the embargo. He said, "you
could be a hardliner, but you have to have a plan … That's what you do
in business. What is their solution? What are they brining to the table?"


One of those involved with the Washington Post letter from 2015, Nestor
Carbonell is a retired former VP of Pepsico who was with the company for
40 years. Carbonell, who has authored several books, says Obama's Cuba
policy was poorly negotiated and it primarily benefits the Castro regime.

"We are breathing new life into the repressive system at a time when the
Castro regime needs resources, funds, and in particular, financing,"
Carbonell said via phone from Connecticut.

Carbonell was born in Cuba and fled the island when he was 24 years old.
The closest he has been to returning was during the 1961 botched
invasion at the Bay of Pigs, which he took part in. The boat he was
traveling on was part of a second wave that was supposed to provide
support when it was cancelled while very near the shores of Cuba.

After one year of rapprochement, Carbonell feels the situation is worse
for Cubans, pointing out that repression against activists has
intensified. The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National
Reconciliation, an independent group based in Havana, reported earlier
this month that political repression in Cuba increased in a sustained
manner throughout 2015.

According to Carbonell, the recent spike in Cuban migrants is an
indication that the situation has worsened. More than 43,000 Cubans
entered the U.S. in fiscal year 2015, which is the largest amount in 20
years. The migrants are escaping poverty but many are reportedly
concerned that the establishment of relations between the two countries
could put an end to their privileged immigration treatment.

Carbonell argues the self-employed Cubans are not true owners of their

"They are mere licenses of the state, which subjects them to arbitrary
regulations and exorbitant taxes, and bars them from incorporating,
mortgaging, or transferring their mostly in-home struggling
enterprises," he said. According to Carbonell, many Cubans have returned
their licenses and opted for the black market.

Carbonell says the U.S. government needs to use the embargo as leverage
to advance substantial democratic and political reforms on the island.


Alberto Mestre, a former president of General Mills in Venezuela, also
signed the Washington Post letter, saying the timing of the Obama-Castro
deal was "horrendous." The U.S. is providing money to the Cuban regime
through tourism just as Venezuela's economic crisis has created a cash
shortage for the government, he explained.

"What have the Castro brothers given us? Very little. What has the US
given them?" Mestre asked.

He thinks if the U.S would have waited a little longer, "Cuba would have
been obliged to change."

Mestre, whose surname is well-known in the Cuban exile community, was
born in Cuba and comes from an entrepreneurial family, whose enterprises
included car dealerships and a pharmaceutical company. But the family
was best known for being media trailblazers. Mestre's father and uncle
bought CMQ Radio in 1944 and launched what became a major television
network in Cuba, CMQ TV, in the early 1950s.

The Mestre family was wary of Fidel Castro, especially when he began
naming communists as ministers. Mestre, who is a Yale graduate, was home
for spring break in March of 1960 when all of his family's assets were
confiscated. "My parents couldn't write a check," he said.

Mestre fled with his mother and sister to Miami. His father stayed
behind and spoke to the nation that night, alerting the public of the
rode Cuba was heading towards. Mestre still has a copy of his father's

Though Mestre's wife and sister have returned to Cuba on more than one
occasion, he has refused. As an outspoken person, he is afraid of
getting into trouble in a country that still does not allow free speech.
And like many Cubans of his generation, he prefers to remember the Cuba
he left behind.

He feels the U.S. was not tough enough during the negotiations and has
paved the way for Cuba's next president to remain in power for decades,
like has happened in China and Vietnam. Raúl Castro, who is 84 years
old, has said he will step down in 2018.

Mestre wants the Obama administration to be more demanding in
negotiations with Castro's government, and press them on issues like
releasing political prisoners and holding free elections.

"You cannot have a prosperous system in a communist government. Obama
knows that," Mestre said.

The group of four businessmen want to see Cuba become a democracy but
their diverse views on how to get there reflect those of the greater
Cuban-American community.

Since Obama and Castro stunned the world announcing diplomatic relations
would be reestablished there has been somewhat of a shift in attitude
among Cuban-Americans. Traveling to Cuba and lifting the embargo -two
topics that were once taboo among Cuban-Americans- are now more openly

Carbonell and Mestre, who would be considered "hard-liners" by many, are
not calling for a reversal of Obama's Cuba policy, like Republican
Presidential candidate Marco Rubio, who has said he would absolutely
roll it back. The two former businessmen are calling for something less
dramatic, which is to use the embargo as leverage to gain more
concessions from the Cuban government. This is perhaps another
indication that times have changed.

But some topics in the exile community remain delicate. The idea of
establishing a Cuban consulate in Miami has stirred emotions. A recent
county resolution urges the Obama administration to refrain from
establishing a Cuban consulate because its presence "could inflame
passions and create security risks." Miami's mayor, Thomas Regalado,
recently said he would sue in federal court if the State Department
grants Cuba a license to establish a consulate in his city. Miami is
home to the largest amount of Cubans outside the island.

An opinion poll released in mid December by Bendixen & Amandi
International indicates that for the first time, a majority of Cuban
Americans around the country support ending the embargo. But it's only a
slight majority, with 53 percent in favor and a margin of error of plus
or minus 4.9. This demonstrates how polarized the exile community remains.

"I totally understand both sides. We all want the same thing: a totally
free Cuba. But how do we make that change in a quick efficient way?"
Medina said.

Source: Among Cuban-American Business Leaders, Divided Views On Way
Forward - NBC News -