Sunday, April 30, 2017

Peru,Thank You for Your Example and Great Strength

Peru,Thank You for Your Example and Great Strength / Somos+

Eliecer Avila on a walk around Lima's mountains, with two Peruvians
Somos+, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 21 March 2017 — During those days we
observed with deep sorrow the disaster that Peruvians are enduring, with
many deaths and thousands homeless due to flooding and landslides. A
beautiful country that has overcome some of the most unfavourable
historical events, to rise up to one of the continent's and the world's
emerging economies of our time.

It has reached a stable democracy after more than a decade of civil war,
dictatorship, and extreme poverty. It has since started to forge a
modern history of sustained growth, advances in social issues, in
infrastructure, in telecommunications, with booming business and an
unprecedented right-wing state.

Eliecer Ávila visiting a family-run ice cream factory in Lima in 2014
Still far away from its potential, Peru today constitutes an example of
what a Latin American nation can achieve when it advances together and
is reconciled in what is necessary. One can appreciate the tremendous
efforts of its entire diaspora that has not rested, collecting
assistance that will soon reach the hands of their compatriots to
alleviate, even if just a little, so much shared pain.

Our movement maintains strong ties of solidarity and cooperation with
different institutes and civil organizations in Peru. We have witnessed
there the humility, education and immense spirit of work that
distinguishes its people. To all our friends, we want to let you know
that we are at your disposal to help in everything that is possible.

We are sure that this dark chapter will pass and the immense South
American nation will resume even more strongly its path of flourishing
and progress. They will achieve it with the same spirit they express, in
the motto that accompanies their shield and banner: "Steady and happy
for the union."

Source: Peru,Thank You for Your Example and Great Strength / Somos+ –
Translating Cuba -

Cuban state news agency restarts operations in Washington

Cuban state news agency restarts operations in Washington
AFP April 28, 2017

Washington (AFP) - Cuba's state news agency Prensa Latina officially
restarted journalism operations in the US capital of Washington on
Friday, unfreezing 50 years of inactivity and marking another step in
the rapprochement between America and the Communist island.

"The agency had a functioning office in Washington from 1959 to 1967,"
even after the US cut diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, one of the
Cuban journalists in the bureau, Diony Sanabria, told AFP.

Its reopening was made possible under a 2014 thaw in relations agreed by
then-US president Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro, which has
already seen the return of each country's embassy operations in the
other two years ago.

Prensa Latina's chief, Luis Enrique Gonzalez, was participating in the
agency's reopening ceremony Friday.

Although the Obama-Castro deal has relaxed tensions dating back to the
Cold War and restored ties, the easing of many American sanctions on
Cuba is dependent on the US Congress.

With the arrival of President Donald Trump in the White House and the
dominance of his Republican party in both houses of the legislature, the
future of the bilateral thaw is seen to be under a cloud of uncertainty.

Source: Cuban state news agency restarts operations in Washington -

Cuban plane crashes, kills 8 troops on board, military says

Cuban plane crashes, kills 8 troops on board, military says

CARAMBOLA, Cuba -- A Cuban military plane crashed into a hillside
Saturday in the western province of Artemisa, killing eight troops on
board, the government said.

Cuba's military said in a statement that the Soviet-made AN-26 took off
from the Playa Baracoa airport outside Havana at 6:38 a.m. and crashed
outside the town of Candelaria about 40 miles away.

Fidel Castro, Cuba's fiery communist leader, dead at 90
The weather was clear and sunny. The military said a special commission
would investigate the cause of the crash. Officials did not immediately
release any further information.

"At about 7 a.m. I was sitting in front of the cafe and I saw an
airplane, which I watched because it looked slow, almost touching the
palm trees," said Regla Maria Gallardo in Carambola, a community in
Artemisa surrounded by mountains. "After a bit I heard what had happened."

Carambola residents watched as ambulances arrived and police and
soldiers blocked the road leading to the accident site.

In November 2010, an AeroCaribbean flight from Santiago to Havana went
down in bad weather as it flew over central Cuba, killing all 68 people
aboard, including 28 foreigners, in the country's deadliest air disaster
in more than two decades. In 1989, a chartered Cubana de Aviacion plane
flying from Havana to Milan, Italy, went down shortly after takeoff,
killing all 126 people on board, as well as at least two dozen on the

Source: Cuban plane crashes, kills 8 troops on board, military says -
CBS News -

Direct flights from Minnesota to Cuba are stuck at the gate, and may be for quite a while

Direct flights from Minnesota to Cuba are stuck at the gate, and may be
for quite a while
Sun Country plays a waiting game while President Trump's Cuba policy
By Kristen Leigh Painter Star Tribune APRIL 29, 2017 — 5:25PM

Nonstop flights between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Cuba are stalled — and
becoming less likely.

Sun Country Airlines, which was granted the right to fly from Minnesota
to two small Cuban cities last year, has asked the U.S. Department of
Transportation for more time before it begins the routes. Some of its
competitors who were granted other routes to Cuba last year are dropping
them altogether.

Too many flights with too few passengers have already started, turning
the Cuban market into a financial sinkhole for airlines. Complicating
matters, President Donald Trump has said he opposes looser trade and
travel restrictions for Cuba, reversing the Obama administration's
efforts to extend its diplomatic opening by encouraging American tourism

None of this bodes well for a small airline like Sun Country, which
relies on ease of travel for its largely leisure passenger base. But
some experts say Sun Country's delay strategy may work in its favor over
the long run — if the right puzzle pieces fall into place.

It's been nearly a year since the DOT approved Sun Country's request to
fly nonstop from Minneapolis-St. Paul to two Cuban cities: Santa Clara
and Matanzas. The agency denied the airline's request to fly to Havana,
the island nation's cultural and political capital, instead giving those
slots to larger airlines or those offering flights from the southeastern
U.S. where a large percentage of Cuban-Americans live.

Sun Country originally planned to begin service last month but filed for
an extension to exercise the right through December 2017.

Sun Country is based at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
"We remain optimistic and continue to work through logistics for
dedicated Cuba service, but our priority is ensuring an easy and
enjoyable travel experience for our customers upon arrival," the airline
said in a statement last week.

While President Barack Obama normalized diplomatic relations, travel and
trade embargos remain, making Cuba a challenging vacation destination.
All U.S. citizens must prove they are visiting the communist nation for
a reason other than tourism. Airlines can't sell traditional vacation
packages without helping its customers fit one of the 12 approved
reasons, such as humanitarian projects, family visits, journalistic
activity or religious activities.

Airlines ferried more passengers from the U.S. to Cuba in 2016 than in
previous years. More than 576,000 people made the trek last year
compared to more than 463,000 the year before, according to the U.S.
Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Still, the initial bump wasn't
enough to sustain all of the additional flights.

"It's not an unrestricted market situation and the airline has to go
through a fair amount of rigmarole to make sure you have a valid reason
to travel," said Robert Mann, an airline industry analyst based in Port
Washington, N.Y. "So it's both restricting the demand for Cuba and
imposing significant costs on the airline."

The industry's gold-rush mentality toward Cuba has subsided since last
year. Many airlines, knowing there would be stiff competition for
passengers, had hoped to hold on long enough for the U.S. government to
lift the travel restrictions on U.S. citizens. But Trump has said he
would like to tighten U.S. relations with Cuba again, though he has not
yet acted. This has led many to throw in the towel.

"It's natural. Some players will move out of the market," said John
Brawley, owner and president of Plymouth-based Premier Travel Service,
who has traveled to Cuba on multiple occasions. "It's a whole new world
down there for the airline business."

Several airlines have already canceled or scaled back their existing
flights to Cuba. Silver Airways, which was given authority to fly to
nine Cuba cities, has ended all of its flights. Frontier Airlines
canceled its only flight from Miami to Havana, and American Airlines cut
flights to Holguín, Santa Clara and Varadero from twice to once a day.
JetBlue Airways, which was the first to fly to Cuba on Aug. 31, recently
switched all of its Cuba-bound flights to smaller aircraft.

"We are in a situation where airlines are reluctantly saying, 'We aren't
going to invest in this forever if there's no prospect of having a
regular, open market in Cuba," Mann said. "Even the big guys are pulling

The DOT designed these flight allocations as "use it or lose," Mann
said. "But with so many [airlines] handing them back, it's kind of a
toothless threat."

As a result, Sun Country's long game just might work. "If you haven't
started yet, there's really no rush," Mann said. "I think it shows
prudence on their part."

The airline is hoping to push back the start date as long as possible,
citing "the continued travel, trade and infrastructure constraints," in
hope that policies might eventually change in their favor.

Even if the travel restrictions are lifted, Sun Country would have to
build relationships and contracts with the few hotel and transportation
operators in those Cuban cities, and there aren't a lot of them to go

"There's really not a lot of infrastructure for travel and hospitality
there. What is there is largely consumed by European, Canadian and Latin
American travelers who have been visiting for years," Mann said.
"Ultimately if you are going to be an airline down there and you don't
have access to rooms and hotel nights and other ground arrangements, you
are just not going to be successful there."

Source: Direct flights from Minnesota to Cuba are stuck at the gate - -

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Reporters Without Borders Rates Press Freedom In Cuba Very Low

Reporters Without Borders Rates Press Freedom In Cuba Very Low

14ymedio, Havana, 27 April 2017 — Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has
placed Cuba in position 173 on its 2017 World Press Freedom Index
published on Wednesday, two places lower than last year, and in the
lowest category (shown in black), along with "the worst dictatorships
and totalitarian regimes in Asia and the Middle East," according to the NGO.

Cuba is the only country on the American continent and the Caribbean
that is in this section of the index and is almost at the end of the list.

According to a note published by the NGO, the Cuban government "is the
most hostile on the American continent to the freedom of the press,"
emphasizing that the state maintains a monopoly on the press and that
the situation "has not changed after the death of Fidel Castro."

In addition, RSF has described the former Cuban leader, who died in
November 2016, "as one of the greatest offenders again press freedom on
the planet."

This classification contrasts with the report of attacks on the
press published Tuesday by the Committee for the Protection of
Journalists (CPJ), according to which "Cuba's media landscape has begun
opening up in recent years," thanks to a timid increase in Internet
connectivity and a generation of journalists who are "who are critical
of, yet still support, socialist ideas."

The RSF publication shows how the Caribbean country shares positions at
the bottom of ​​the list with Egypt, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Syria, China
and North Korea, countries in which, according to the note, the
deterioration of press freedom is "very serious."

In Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Mexico, Honduras,
Guatemala and Colombia, the organization believes that the press is in
"a difficult situation."

North Korea ranks lowest on the list in terms of freedom of the press,
according to the NGO, a country "which continues to be a Cold War
dictatorship," in which "listening to a radio station from outside the
country may lead to a concentration camp."

However, RSF notes that the quality of press freedom has declined
globally, where the western democracies are no exception even though
they occupy the top of the list

Since 2002 an international group of journalists has produced this list,
where 180 countries have been listed, following a series of criteria
such as the independence of the media in each nation, the legislation
under which journalists work, and the pluralism and security of
journalists in the performance of their profession.

Source: Reporters Without Borders Rates Press Freedom In Cuba Very Low –
Translating Cuba -


Happiness / Somos+

Somos+, Roberto Camba, 21 March 2017 — The United Nations has just
launched the 2017 World Happiness Report, coinciding with the World
Happiness Day on March 20th. From its first publication in 2012, the
world has come to understand more and more that happiness has to be used
as the correct measure with regards to social progress and the objective
of public policies.

The report is based on statistics collected from the happiness index or
subjective well-being, Gross Domestic Product, social support, life
expectancy from birth, freedom to make decisions, generosity, perception
of corruption (within the government or in businesses), positive or
negative feelings, confidence in the national government and in society,
the level of democracy and the level of income per household.

Much of the data is taken from the average of the results of Gallup's
global survey. For example, the "life's staircase" question: "imagine a
staircase, with steps numbered from 0 (at the base) to 10 (at the top).
The top of the stairs represents the best life possible for you and the
base the worst life possible. Which step do you feel like you are
currently at right now?"

"Social support" means having someone that you can rely on during times
of difficulty. Generosity equates to having donated money to a
charitable organisation over the past month. Whereas, positive or
negative feeling relates to questions about whether for the most part of
the previous day the individual experienced happiness, laughter or
pleasure; or rather did they experience negative feelings such as worry,
sadness or anger. The report references its sources and explains the
other indexes which negatively influence the perception of happiness
such as: unemployment or social inequality.

The 2017 Happiness Report places Norway at the top of its list, followed
by: Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New
Zealand, Australia, and Sweden as the top ten.

The US was listed at number 14 and Spain at 34. The best placed Latin
American nations were Chile (20), Brazil (22), Argentina (24), Mexico
(25), Uruguay (28), Guatemala (29) and Panama (30). The list included
155 countries. Those that have improved the most with regards to their
position between 2005-2007 are Nicaragua, Lithuania and Sierra Leone,
whilst Venezuela is the country that has slipped down the rankings the most.

And Cuba? It does not appear on the list. The Network of Solutions for
Sustainable Development that prepared the report only possesses data on
Cuba from 2006. During that time, the average response to the "staircase
of life" was 5.4 (which placed it at 69th out of 156 nations), just
behind Kosovo. Possibly today many Cubans would answer "where is the
staircase to even begin to climb it?"

According to the 2006 data, Cuba appeared to be high in its ranking of
social support and life expectancy from birth, but it was the third
worst in freedom to make decisions. It was ranked as low for level of
democracy, despite the fact that its per capita GDP surpassed China,
Mexico, Brazil and South Africa to name some of the prosperous economies
in the world*. In the net index of feelings (the average of positive
feelings subtracted by the average of negative feelings) Cuba occupied
the 112th place, making it the lowest ranked country in Latin America,
with only Haiti having worse figures.

This index is the most direct measurement of fulfillment or of personal
frustration that influences values and behaviour.

Of course beyond scientific rigour, no statistic or survey is 100%
reliable. Subjective happiness or individual perception of happiness is
very variable. Replying to these questions implies making a mental
comparison. We compare ourselves to our neighbour, to those abroad, to
our past or to our previous situation.

who receive manipulated information will not be able to effectively
compare themselves. Furthermore, people think as they live: having
access to running water could be the ultimate happiness for someone
living in Sub-Saharan Africa, but a European or North American considers
that they must have that and would take offense if they did not have it.

Cubans do not need a global report to know that there is a low happiness
index among the people. The problems seem insoluble, the shortages are
growing, personal ambitions have had to be postponed for decades,
emigration becomes the only hope. The government quashes individual
initiatives and working towards the happiness of its people — or
allowing others to do it — does not seem to be in its projections.
At Somos Más (We Are More) we believe that a responsible government must
have this as its main objective and we will continue to fight to achieve it.

Translator's note: If the GDP used for this analysis was that provided
by the Cuban government, it would likely have been inaccurate.

Source: Happiness / Somos+ – Translating Cuba -

Eleven Minutes of Horror: Stray Animals in Cuba

Eleven Minutes of Horror: Stray Animals in Cuba
April 29, 2017
Veronica Vega

HAVANA TIMES — "Natural Selection" is a documentary which shows, in only
eleven minutes and a succession of visual cuts, the current landscape
for stray animals in Cuba.

Filmed in May 2016, it was officially shown on April 7th this year at
the Cine Chaplin, during Havana's Young Filmmakers' Festival, where it
received a side prize: the creativity grant awarded by the Ludwig
Foundation in Cuba.

"Natural Selection" has traveled the world in the year that it was
absent from Cuban screens. It was presented at the Ethnografilm Festival
in Paris, at the LA CineFest (Los Angeles) where it was a semi-finalist,
at America's Rainbow Film Festival, in New York, at the Indie Wise Free
Virtual Festival…

The film's director, Cynthia Cazanas Garin is a fourth year student at
the Facultad Arte de los Medios de Comunicación Audiovisual (FAMCA),
where she specializes in Direction of Photography for films and TV. At
just 21 years old and with a radiant face, she states that her target
audience has always been the Cuban audience.

I don't know what we're turning into
HT: What motivated you to make this documentary?

Cynthia Cazanas Garin: My dad is an animal protector, and it was through
him that I began to learn a little about this subject: that there is a
dog catching program, what the situation is with stray animals, the need
to create an Animal Protection Law… And when I began to research what
the current landscape is here in Cuba, that's what made me decide to
make this documentary, and I did it with the objective to help in some way.

HT: How long did it take you to gather all the information that appears
in the documentary?

CCG: About three months. Filming as such only took a month and then, of
course, there's the time you need for post-production, but the most
difficult thing was getting film permits to shoot at the Dog Catcher's
and at the Public Health Ministry.

HT: Was that the greatest challenge?

CCG: Yes, coming up with a strategy that would allow me to bring my
camera into a place such as the Dog Catcher's, where filming is strictly
forbidden, to get an interview with one of its managers… always with a
letter from my school, which allowed me to prove that it was an
educational project.

I came to think that I wouldn't be able to pull it off, but my parents
and my grandmother supported me so much, with funding the project and
also emotionally. Another of the bigger challenges I faced was working
with such little technical equipment; there was only one guy who helped
me film the shots on the street and with editing, but most of it was
directed by me: editing, photography, production, sound… everything. The
greatest risk I had was that it wouldn't be the documentary I wanted to
make, that it would be something else, because I dared to choose a very
difficult subject matter for my final exam and I didn't have a lot of
time. I could have even failed the year.

I also received a lot of support from my professors. The Dean in my
Faculty was always advising me, asking if I was clear about what I
wanted because it's a subject which isn't seen in Cuban film, and that's
what made my documentary even more necessary. If you do a survey with
people on the street right now, many don't know what the Dog Catcher is;
there are even a lot of myths.

HT: One of these myths is that the dogs they catch are thrown to the
lions at the Zoo.

CCG: Yes, people constantly say this and that's because there isn't any
infomration, and that was one of the things that helped me convince them.

HT: Is it true that strychnine injections cause animals to convulse for
45 minutes?

CCG: The person I interviewed didn't explain anything about this, the
only thing he said was: strychnine. Just like you see in the
documentary, they have very few resources and I think that the
government should support them, finding a way for animals to die in the
least painful way possible, which would be euthanasia, according to
Animal Wellbeing laws. Even though the solution isn't to kill them, but
to sterilize them, to create mass campaigns and especially an Animal
Protection Law, because there are things outside of the Dog Catcher's
control such as dog fighting, for example. This law has to be created
and a different conscience needs to be promoted when it comes to
animals, creating a culture of responsible ownership.

HT: Now that you mention dog fighting, there's a fight which appears in
the documentary and it's one of the most violent scenes, did you take it
from another documentary?

CCG: Yes, from the short film "Por amor", which isn't very well-known.
The girl who made it has left Cuba now, it wasn't even shown, and it's
almost unedited. The title is ironic, from the dog's point of view, it's
his loyalty, how he is able to die for his owner. The director gave me
the rights to use this scene because it's very difficult to attend a dog
fight, as it is an illegal activity to some point. And I say "to some
point" because there is no law in Cuba which stops you from fighting
your dog, and that's one of the things we are strugling for. What you
can't do is bet.

HT: Why the title "Natural Selection"?

CCG: The title refers to Charles Darwin's theory, but you can look at it
from two angles: from the animals' point of view, their everyday
struggle to survive, and also from people's points of view. As people
are becoming more and more insensitive, ignoring animal rights, not
thinking that they are living beings and how their attitude has
contributed to creating an uncivilized society. According to Darwin's
theory, natural selections is a form of evolution but from the point of
view of civilization, it is rather a regression.

HT: How did you hope it would be received?

CCG: I always knew, and my professors always warned me: that my
documentary was going to be very shocking, because it's a very complex
issue and because of the way I have dealt with it. I decided to put in
the scenes of cruelty because they were necessary, and I always hoped
that people would take it this way because this is reality. I wanted it
to reach them, to really move them. I have seen people who haven't
wanted to continue watching, who cry, who leave the cinema… a lot of
times, but I don't need to change these people's mentality. I need those
who stay in the cinema, those who feel nothing for animals, who don't
like them, who have never even thought about the significance that abuse
they have suffered has, while they can suffer. That was always my hope.

HT: Where has it been screened the most?

CCG: After being shown at the Chaplin, it was screened at the Academia
Dante Alighieri, where a conference about Cuban and Italian animals was
held, which had been organized by members of the Veterinary Science
Council, and it was the subject of their debate. According to what I've
been told, it's also been shown at the Veterinary School. And I think
that's great, because it's important that young people who are studying
to become veterinarians know what is happening, that they aren't fooled.
That they know jsut how important their job is when it comes to animals'

HT: Why did it take a year for it to be officially shown in Cuba?

CCG: I don't know. They never told me that it was censored, I was even
interviewed for national TV but the interview never came out, they never
put the documentary on either. I sent it to the Havana Film Festival and
they told me that they had too many projects. Thanks to the Young
Filmmaker's Festival, it was finally able to be shown in Cuba.

HT: Why did you choose to study film?

CCG: In my opinion, film is what unites all the art forms and my
connection with it is very strong. It allows you to express your inner
thoughts, your subjectivity. It allows you to dream, to fly… But it is
also a very powerful weapon which transmits and controls information.
And I believe that it can be used for the good of society, of human
beings and living beings in general.

HT: So you believe that it being one of the most popular mediums, can
contribute to the regeneration of society?

CCG: It can always contribute, in a positive or negative manner. In my
case, I want to use my knowledge to change people's mentalities towards
a new society where human values are restored. I believe that this is my
duty with film. To fight for the dreams which still haven't been made

HT: "Natural Selection" is very hard-hitting, but it ends with a glimpse
of hope. Is this just a film technique or do you really believe this
hope exists?

CCG: I wanted it to be a blow to those who are responsible for making
this hope a reality, let's say the government, I wanted them to see it
and ask themselves, what is this? What kind of society are we building?
Everything that is depicted in this documentary is wrong, something
which needs to be urgently changed. Hope doesn't really lie in the
documentary; it lies in the viewer, when they finish watching it.

HT: Do you think passing an Animal Protection Law in Cuba is viable?

CCG: Viable? I don't know. All I know is that it's crucial. But, three
draft bills have been made and they haven't led to anything, why? And
these haven't been proposals that the Cuban people have suggested, but
they have rather come from experts who have studied this phenomenon, who
have presented the facts. What else does the government need? I hope
that this Law will be approved at some point; it's what I most want.

HT: Do you know a lot of young people who are concerned about the animal
situation in Cuba?

CCG: No. I think there are very few people who are concerned about this,
and not only this, but about Nature on the whole. There isn't a lot of
culture here of looking after the environment, I believe we need to work
more on this, educate… everything starts with education. If you walk
down the street, you'll see that the first people to throw some trash
onto the ground or abuse an animal are adults, and next to them you see
children, young people. This behavior is then reflected in their own
lives. I can't say that there isn't anybody who worries about this, at
my school, for example, I see some people but, how many? 3, 4, 5? What
are 4 or 5 people when we are millions? This really distresses me
because I don't know where this will end. I don't know what we're
turning into.

HT: Do you believe that Cuban youth worry about the future of our country?

CCG: I don't believe they are that interested. I wish they were! There
are a lot of university projects which are led by professors, and I
would like these to be led by the students themselves. That students
themselves come together and say: "Let's make an eco-friendly group", or
"Let's create an animal protection project", but this interest, when it
exists, I don't find it among young people. I know a group of ecologists
made up of young people and I am very happy to know they exist because
they are an example of the few people who worry about this, if only more
people would join, but they don't receive any support either, they don't
have the means to promote their work. I believe that every individual
can contribute in their own way, with what they know.

HT: What do you see young people interested in?

CCG: I think they live the day to day, the present. That's what I see:
that they are a little unmotivated. They study and then they work in
something else, they don't follow what they want, they don't follow
their dreams, and although we have all the problems we have in society,
you can never lose the motivation to live, you have to fight for what
you want. What you want won't turn up and knock on your door to say:
"I'm here," you have to go out and look for what you want. What's the
worst that will happen, that you don't get it? At least you tried, and
you also enjoy that experience. I tried to make this documentary a lot
of times, that is to say, to get the permits I needed. However, all the
doors closed in my face but I kept on trying, until I managed to get
what it was that I wanted. You can never try hard enough.

HT: What are your future plans?

CCG: To use this creativity grant from the Ludwig Foundation to make a
new documentary that will also be about animals because there were a lot
of things that I couldn't include in this one. I have also thought about
doing something related to animation photography, for my thesis. My
future plans are somewhat overaching… I want to continue to do what I'm
doing, to continue making films that benefit people, to change what I
feel needs to change.

Watch Natural Selection with subtitles in English.

Source: Eleven Minutes of Horror: Stray Animals in Cuba - Havana -

Friday, April 28, 2017

Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma

Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellanos, 18 November 2016 — The evil of corruption–the act of
corruption and its effects–has accompanied the human species since its
emergence. It has been present in all societies and in all ages. Its
diverse causes range from personal conduct to the political-economic
system of each country. In Cuba it appeared in the colonial era, it
remained in the Republic, and became generalized until becoming the
predominant behavior in society.

To understand the regression suffered we must return to the formation of
our morality, essentially during the mixing of Hispanic and African
cultures and the turning towards totalitarianism after 1959, as can be
seen in the following lines.

The conversion of the island into the world's first sugar and coffee
power created many contradictions between slaves and slave owners,
blacks and whites, producers and merchants, Spanish-born and Creole, and
between them and the metropolis. From these contradictions came three
moral aspects: the utilitarian, the civic and that of survival.

Utilitarian morality

The father of utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), said that
utility is measured by the consequences that actions tend to produce,
and came to the conclusion that all action is socially good when it
tries to procure the greatest possible degree of happiness for the
greatest number of people, and that each person has the right to be
taken into account in the exercise of power.

That thesis of Bentham became a popular slogan synthesized in the
phrase: "The greatest happiness for the greatest number." Such a concept
crystallized in Cuba as a creole variant of a utilitarianism that took
shape in exploitation, smuggling, corruption, banditry, and criminality,
which turned into the violation of everything predisposed as an accepted
norm of conduct in society.

The gift of a plant by the sugar planters to the governor Don Luis de
las Casas; the diversion of funds for the construction of Fortaleza de
la Real Fuerza de la Cabaña, which made it the most expensive fortress
in the world; the gambling house and the cockfighting ring that the
governor Francisco Dionisio Vives had for his recreation in the Castillo
de la Real Fuerza, whose government was known for "the three d's":
dancing, decks of cards, and drinking, for which reason, at the end of
his rule, there appeared a lampoon that said: "If you live (vives) like
Vives, you will live!"; the mangrove groves; bandits like Caniquí, the
black man of Trinidad and Juan Fernandez, the blond of Port-au-Prince …
are some examples.

Utilitarianism reappeared on the republican scene as a discourse of a
political, economic, and military elite lacking in democratic culture,
swollen with personalismo, caudillismo, corruption, violence and
ignorance of anything different. A masterful portrait of this morality
was drawn by Carlos Loveira in his novel Generales y doctores, a side
that resurfaced in the second half of the twentieth century.

Thus emerged the Republic, built on the symbiosis of planters and
politicians linked to foreign interests, with a weak civil society and
with unresolved, deep-rooted problems, as they were the concentration of
agrarian property and the exclusion of black people. The coexistence of
different moral behaviors in the same social environment led to the
symbiosis of their features. Utilitarianism crisscrossed with virtues
and altruisms, concerns and activities on matters more transcendent than
boxes of sugar and sacks of coffee.

Throughout the twentieth century, these and other factors were present
in the Protest of the 13, in the Revolution of the 30, in the repeal of
the Platt Amendment, in the Constituent Assembly of 1939, and in the
Constitution of 1940. Also in the corruption which prevailed during the
authentic governments and in the improvement accomplished by the
Orthodox Dissent and the Society of Friends of the Republic. Likewise,
in the 1952 coup d'etat and in the Moncada attempted counter-coup, in
the civic and armed struggle that triumphed in 1959 and in those who
since then and until now struggle for the restoration of human rights.

Civic morality

Civic morality, the cradle of ethical values, was a manifestation of
minorities, shaped by figures ranging from Bishop Espada, through Jose
Agustín Caballero to the teachings of Father Felix Varela and the
republic "With all and for the good of all" of José Martí. This civic
aspect became the foundation of the nation and source of Cuban identity.
It included concern for the destinies of the local land, the country,
and the nation. It was forged in institutions such as the Seminary of
San Carlos, El Salvador College, in Our Lady of the Desamparados, and
contributed to the promotion of the independence proclamations of the
second half of the nineteenth century, as well as the projects of nation
and republic.

Father Félix Varela understood that civic formation was a premise for
achieving independence and, consequently, chose education as a path to
liberation. In 1821, when he inaugurated the Constitutional Chair at the
Seminary of San Carlos, he described it as "a chair of freedom, of human
rights, of national guarantees … a source of civic virtues, the basis of
the great edifice of our happiness, the one that has for the first time
reconciled for us the law with philosophy."

José de la Luz y Caballero came to the conclusion that "before the
revolution and independence, there was education." Men, rather than
academics, he said, is the necessity of the age. And Jose Marti began
with a critical study of the errors of the War of 1868 that revealed
negative factors such as immediacy, caudillismo, and selfishness,
closely related to weak civic formation.

This work was continued by several generations of Cuban educators and
thinkers until the first half of the twentieth century. Despite these
efforts, a general civic behavior was not achieved. We can find proof of
this affirmation in texts like the Journal of the soldier, by Fermín
Valdés Domínguez, and the Public Life of Martín Morúa Delgado, by Rufino
Perez Landa.

During the Republic, the civic aspect was taken up by minorities.
However, in the second half of the twentieth century their supposed
heirs, once in power, slipped into totalitarianism, reducing the Western
base of our institutions to the minimum expression, and with it the
discourse and practice of respect for human rights.

Survival morality

Survival morality emerged from continued frustrations, exclusions, and
the high price paid for freedom, opportunities, and participation. In
the Colony it had its manifestations in the running away and
insurrections of slaves and poor peasants. During the second half of the
twentieth century it took shape in the lack of interest in work, one of
whose expressions is the popular phrase: "Here there is nothing to die for."

It manifested itself in the simulation of tasks that were not actually
performed, as well as in the search for alternative ways to survive.
Today's Cuban, reduced to survival, does not respond with heroism but
with concrete and immediate actions to survive. And this is manifested
throughout the national territory, in management positions, and in all
productive activities or services.

It is present in the clandestine sale of medicines, in the loss of
packages sent by mail, in the passing of students in exchange for money,
in falsification of documents, in neglect of the sick (as happened with
mental patients who died in the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana of
hypothermia in January 2010, where 26 people died according to official
data), in establishments where merchandise is sold, in the workshops
that provide services to the population, in the sale of fuel "on the
left" and in the diversion of resources destined for any objective.

The main source of supply of the materials used is diversion, theft, and
robbery, while the verbs "escape", "fight" and "solve" designate actions
aimed at acquiring what is necessary to survive. Seeing little value in
work, the survivor responded with alternative activities. Seeing the
impossibility of owning businesses, with the estaticular way (activities
carried out by workers for their own benefit in State centers and with
State-owned materials). Seeing the absence of civil society, with the
underground life. Seeing shortages, with the robbery of the State.
Seeing the closing of all possibilities, with escape to any other part
of the world.

Immersed in this situation, the changes that are being implemented in
Cuba, under the label of Guidelines of Economic and Social Policy of the
PCC, run into the worst situation regarding moral behavior. In this,
unlike in previous times, everyone from high leaders to simple workers
participates. A phenomenon of such a dimension that, despite its
secrecy, has had to be tackled by the official press itself, as can be
seen in the following examples of a whole decade:

The newspaper Juventud Rebelde on May 22, 2001 published an article
titled "Solutions against deception", where it is said that Eduardo, one
of the thousands of inspectors, states that when he puts a crime in
evidence, the offenders come to tell him: "You have to live, you have to
fight." According to Eduardo, neither can explain "the twist of those
who bother when they are going to claim their rights and instead defend
their own perpetrator." It results in the perpetrator declaring that he
is fighting and the victims defending him. The selfless inspector,
thinking that when he proves the violation he has won "the battle," is
wrong. Repressive actions, without attacking the causes, are doomed to
- The same newspaper published "The big old fraud", reporting that of
222,656 inspections carried out between January and August 2005, price
violations and alterations in product standards were detected in 52% of
the centers examined and in the case of agricultural markets in 68%.
- For its part, the newspaper Granma on November 28, 2003, in "Price
Violations and the Never Ending Battle" reported that in the first eight
months of the year, irregularities were found in 36% of the
establishments inspected; that in markets, fairs, squares, and
agricultural points of sale the index was above 47%, and in gastronomy 50%.
- On February 16, 2007, under the title "Cannibals in the Towers", the
official organ of the Communist Party addressed the theft of angles
supporting high-voltage electricity transmission networks, and it was
recognized that "technical, administrative and legal practices applied
so far have not stopped the banditry. "
- Also, on October 26, 2010, in "The Price of Indolence", reported that
in the municipality of Corralillo, Villa Clara, more than 300 homes were
built with stolen materials and resources, for which 25 kilometers of
railway lines were dismantled and 59 angles of the above-mentioned high
voltage towers were used.

If the official newspapers Granma and Juventud Rebelde had addressed the
close relationship between corruption and almost absolute state
ownership, with which no one can live off the salary, with which
citizens are prevented from being entrepreneurs, and with the lack of
the most elementary civic rights, then they would have understood that
repression alone is useless, that the vigilantes, policemen, and
inspectors are Cubans with the same needs as the rest of the population.

In order to change the course of events, it is necessary to extend the
changes in the economy to the rest of the social spheres, which implies
looking back at citizens' lost liberties, without which the formation
and predominance of civic behavior that the present and future of Cuba
require will be impossible.

Ethics, politics, and freedoms

In Cuba, the state of ethics – a system composed of principles,
precepts, behavior patterns, values and ideals that characterize a human
collective – is depressing; While politics – a vehicle for moving from
the desired to the possible and the possible to the real – is
monopolized by the state. The depressing situation of one and the
monopoly of the other, are closely related to the issue of corruption.
Therefore, its solution will be impossible without undertaking deep
structural transformations.

The great challenge of today's and tomorrow's Cuba lies in transforming
Cubans into citizens, into political actors. A transformation that has
its starting point in freedoms, beginning with the implementation of
civil and political rights. As the most immediate cause of corruption –
not the only one – is in the dismantling of civil society and in the
nationalization of property that took place in Cuba in the early years
of revolutionary power, it is necessary to act on this cause from
different directions.

The wave of expropriations that began with foreign companies, continued
with the national companies, and did not stop until the last fried-food
stand became "property of the whole people", combined with the
dismantling of civil society and the monopolization of politics, brought
as a consequence a lack of interest in the results of work, low
productivity, and the sharp deterioration suffered with the decrease of
wages and pensions. Added to these facts were others such as the
replacement of tens of thousands of owners by managers and
administrators without knowledge of the ABCs of administration or of the
laws that govern economic processes.

The result could not be otherwise: work ceased to be the main source of
income for Cubans. To transform this deplorable situation requires a
cultural action, which, in the words of Paulo Freire, is always a
systematic and deliberate form of action that affects the social
structure, in the sense of maintaining it as it is, to test small
changes in it or transform it.

Paraphrasing the concept of affirmative action, this cultural action is
equivalent to those that are made for the insertion and development of
relegated social sectors. Its concretion includes two simultaneous and
interrelated processes: one, citizen empowerment, which includes the
implementation of rights and freedoms; and two, the changes inside the
person, which unlike the former are unfeasible in the short term, but
without which the rest of the changes would be of little use. The
transformation of Cubans into public citizens, into political actors, is
a challenge as complex as it is inescapable.

Experience, endorsed by the social sciences, teaches that interest is an
irreplaceable engine for achieving goals. In the case of the economy,
ownership over the means of production and the amount of wages
decisively influence the interests of producers. Real wages must be at
least sufficient for the subsistence of workers and their families. The
minimum wage allows subsistence, while incomes below that limit mark the
poverty line. Since 1989, when a Cuban peso was equivalent to almost
nine of today's peso, the wage growth rate began to be lower than the
increase in prices, meaning that purchasing power has decreased to the
point that it is insufficient to survive.

An analysis carried out in two family nuclei composed of two and three
people respectively, in the year 2014, showed that the first one earns
800 pesos monthly and spends 2,391, almost three times more than the
income. The other earns 1,976 pesos and spends 4,198, more than double
what it earns. The first survives because of the remittance he receives
from a son living in the United States; the second declined to say how
he made up the difference.

The concurrence of the failure of the totalitarian model, the aging of
its rulers, the change of attitude that is occurring in Cubans, and the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the US, offers better
conditions than previous decades to face the challenge. The solution is
not in ideological calls, but in the recognition of the incapacity of
the State and in decentralizing the economy, allowing the formation of a
middle class, unlocking everything that slows the increase of production
until a reform that restores the function of wages is possible. That
will be the best antidote against the leviathan of corruption and an
indispensable premise to overcome the stagnation and corruption in which
Cuban society is submerged.

Source: Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano –
Translating Cuba -

48 Days: Photographer captures 8,000-mile journey from Cuba to the US

48 Days: Photographer captures 8,000-mile journey from Cuba to the US
Apr 27, 2017, 10:14 AM ET
Lisette Poole

There are currently more than 20 daily flights from the United States to
Cuba. The 330-mile trip from Miami takes a little over an hour and
helped fill the streets of Cuba with a record number of tourists in 2016.

Although the island nation is evolving to accommodate the growing
tourism, the sense of hope is offset by an increasing economic divide.
For two Havana women, Marta and Liset, their lives did not improve as
they hoped, so they decided to leave.

Photographer Lisette Poole departed with them, documenting the entire
8,000 mile journey as they illegally crossed borders, joined other
groups of migrants and navigated the sometimes treacherous world of
smugglers, border control and jungle paths used by narco-traffickers.

Departing from Havana in May 2016, Liset and Marta were among the last
Cuban immigrants to make it across the U.S. border before the end of the
"Wet Foot, Dry Foot" policy that granted automatic asylum to Cuban
immigrants. In the slideshow below, Poole documented intimate moments of
the arduous journey, while experiencing it first-hand.

Poole has a personal interest in the women's journey as a Cuban-American
herself. Her mother left for the United States in 1969, and Poole grew
up in the U.S. with a constant awareness of the immigration issues that
affected her family.

"Living and working in Cuba, I always imagine what kind of life I would
have had if I'd been born here," Poole said. "I imagine what kind of
person I would be, what my goals would be, and I question whether I'd
have the courage to do what Liset and Marta did."

Marta and Liset's journey began in Havana with a plane ticket and the
name of a human smuggler, known as a coyote, scribbled on a piece of
paper. After flying to Guyana, the two navigated through South and
Central America following routes that many immigrants traveled before
them. Poole departed with them, documenting the complete experience as
Marta and Liset joined groups of other immigrants, illegally crossed
borders and were detained by law enforcement.

The women journeyed on planes and buses, but also traveled many miles by
foot. Their route crossed through Brazil and Peru before heading north
through Colombia. The ever-changing immigrant group then traversed
through the Darien Gap, a roadless jungle swamp on the Panama-Colombia
border, and into Central America.

For Poole, the journey was not without incident. In Costa Rica, Marta
and Liset had a falling out over money. Liset had been funding their
trip and was unable to continue paying for herself as well as Marta.
Liset planned to move ahead and send back money for Marta once she could
gather more funds.

"At the prospect of being left behind Marta was enraged. (She) fought
with Liset and told the men running the stash house that I was a
journalist. I'd been keeping quiet there, it was one of the places I
didn't feel safe having the coyotes know who I was," Poole said.

The stash house was a remote shelter where immigrants were housed along
the migration routes. Poole was able to talk her way out of the
situation and continue on with Liset and other migrants. The two parted
ways with Marta, who would end up joining the next group.

Here she walks for several days without food or water. more +
Poole continued on, photographing the resolve and resourcefulness of
migrants attempting the journey. Her reportage gracefully blurs the line
between straight documentation and personal insight through her experience.

"There was one moment in Nicaragua (after the Costa Rica incident) where
we were without food or water or even sleep for a few days," Poole said.
"I was getting delirious and so was Liset. We helped each other during
that time, and we got through it together."

Poole and Liset crossed the U.S. border into Texas, followed by Marta 12
days later. The two women rekindled their friendship and lived near each
other in Miami before moving around to other places in the U.S. Poole
has since returned to Cuba, but is continuing her work with Liset and
Marta and documenting their new lives.

Poole is currently fundraising on Kickstarter to turn the project into a
photo book styled as a classic travel guide. More information can be
found here.

"I hope that by looking at my work and experiencing the journey of Liset
and Marta, readers would relate to them and be able to put themselves in
their shoes as two people who wanted a better life," Poole said. "There
are significant global issues causing migration and it isn't a matter of
personal choice so much as a consequence of greater forces at play."

Source: 48 Days: Photographer captures 8,000-mile journey from Cuba to
the US - ABC News -

The alliance between Spanish colonialism and the Castroist leadership

The alliance between Spanish colonialism and the Castroist leadership
PEDRO CAMPOS | La Habana | 28 de Abril de 2017 - 11:54 CEST.

An article appearing in the Spanish newspaper El País, entitled "España
no puede perder Cuba dos veces" ("Spain cannot lose Cuba twice"),
analyzes the machinations of the latest Spanish Governments' policies
towards Cuba, and observes that "Rajoy's government seems determined to
make up for lost time with Havana."

The article, written on the occasion of a recent visit by Raúl Castro's
Foreign Minister to Madrid, applauds and foments the ideas of the old
Spanish colonial empire, which saw Cuba as the most precious jewel in
its Crown, endorsing taking advantage of the economic weakness in which
the Island has been submerged – by Castroism, in the name of socialism –
and retaking control over "the ever faithful Island of Cuba," now in a
neocolonial fashion, through massive joint investments in Cuban military
and State enterprises.

This new Spanish colonialism, in its penchant for reconquest, does not
seem to realize, or to care about, the Castro Government's notorious
reneging on its debts, or the fact that its investments could serve to
prop up one of the most undemocratic and corrupt governments in the
history of the Americas.

The Spain that brought us slavery, Valeriano Weyler's "reconcentration"
policy, and then spent more than a century attempting to infect us with
its hatred of the US, due to the help it gave Cuba in its struggle for
independence, has a lot of experience investing in companies of the
Castroist state, and sharing in the abusive, joint exploitation of
underpaid workers on the Island.

In politics there are no coincidences, and the visceral hatred of Fidel
and Raúl Castro towards the US seems to find its roots precisely in an
identification by both with a father figure. This rejection clearly
stemmed all the way back to the Sierra Maestra, when the first of the
two brothers swore to Celia Sánchez that his great war would be against
the United States. The younger brother, meanwhile, in his so-called
"Antiaircraft Operation," kidnapped dozens of US workers and soldiers,
and took them hostage, as human shields, to his area of ​​operations so
that Batista would suspend his bombing.

As is known, Ángel Castro, the father of the two, came to Cuba with the
troops of Valeriano Weyler and, according to different versions, fought
on the Júcaro-Morón military line, and later against the troops of
General Antonio Maceo. Following Spain's defeat, Ángel Castro returned
to the Peninsula, but came back to the island shortly afterwards in
search of fortune, bought a property, and, changing the fences on land
owned by the United Fruit Co., and exploiting countrymen and Haitians,
ended up as a wealthy landowner.

A passage from one of the many biographies of the caudillo recounts how,
in 1958, with Fidel Castro still in the Sierra Maestra, at a family
gathering including Ramón Castro, the eldest of the brothers, and his
aunt Juana Castro, in Lugo, she said to him: "As rich as they are, I
don't know what your brothers are doing, getting into that revolution
business... Fidel is mad!" To which Ramon replied: "Auntie, you don't
know what you're saying. Cuba is in our hands." And that's just how it

Once in power, well known were Fidel Castro's close ties to the
Government of Francisco Franco, and special relationship with one of the
key figures in Franco's regime: Manuel Fraga Iribarne, President of the
Xunta de Galicia, who visited Cuba several times.

On July 28, 1992, Fidel Castro visited the Galician town of Láncara,
where his father was born, accompanied by Fraga, whose father had also
emigrated to Cuba. There Fidel was dubbed an "Adopted Son," and boasted
that his "Spanish blood had given him a bold, adventurous and audacious
spirit." To dispel any doubts about his family identity and his
"anti-imperialism," he added: "The neighbors to the North [USA] suffer
and turn yellow when there is any event in which Cuba participates."

Yes, we already know that he identified himself with Cuba, the
Revolution and "his" socialism.

Even today, groups on the Spanish "left" who admire Castroism's
anti-American attitudes as "anti-imperialist" forget this historical
background, and fail to perceive the colonial and neocolonial nature of
Spain's policies toward Cuba; between their nationalism and
neo-Stalinism, they end up identifying with the Cuban rulers.

The Spanish libertarians and anarchists who contributed so much to our
wars of independence, and later, during the first part of the 20th
century, helped to develop free forms of labor for wage earners, to
stand up to employers; and who welcomed a thousand Cubans to fight
alongside them in defense of the Spanish Republic, should realize that
the new Spanish colonialism does not care about everyday, working-class
Cubans, but rather saving an exploitive government controlled by the
children of a Spaniard who loathed the USA.

In the midst of so much neo-colonial Ibero-Castroist euphoria, it would
be good to remind the columnist for El País, Gabriela Cañas, that his
headline is all wrong. Spain can not lose Cuba for a second time, today
or tomorrow, for the simple reason that Cuba does not belong to it, and
never will, and the Castros are one thing, and Cuba is quite another.
This kind of patronizing and colonial language is offensive to the Cuban
nation, as it ignores Cuba's struggles for independence, and reminds us
how Spain opted to surrender to the US and ignore Cuban independence.

His article does not conceal the Spanish Government's interest in taking
advantage of the impasse created by the change of administration in the
United States, and the uncertainty about policy shifts under Trump. The
analyst believes that an eventual return by the US to its policy of
isolation, that embraced before Obama, would open the doors to
rapprochement with Spain after the change in the Common Position
encouraged by the Government of Aznar in Europe; reconciliation, not
with the people of Cuba, but rather with the Castro clan's "business
portfolio," especially in the lucrative tourism business, controlled
mostly by the Cuban military.

The neocolonial nature of the article published in El País is
reminiscent of the old dispute between the US and Spain over control of
the Caribbean and Central America in the 19th century, which ended with
US intervention in the Cuban war for independence from Spain, and the
disastrous defeat of the Spanish Navy.

It is striking that this article coincided with the Cuban Foreign
Minister's visit to Madrid, who bore an invitation from Raúl Castro to
the King of Spain to visit Cuba, just a few days after a group of
retired US officials reminded President Trump of the strategic
importance of continuing the country's policy of conciliation with the
Government of Raúl Castro.

To dissipate any doubts about the colonial-Castro collusion, the
newspaper Granma, regarding the visit by Bruno Rodríguez to Madrid,
stated: "Spain continues to promote and solidify its hotel investments
in Cuba. It has recently approved the cancellation of almost 2 billion
euros of Cuban debt, and is considering how to allocate 275 million
euros that, rather than being forgiven, are to be invested in projects
of common interest to both parties."

Source: The alliance between Spanish colonialism and the Castroist
leadership | Diario de Cuba -

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Two Cuban Activists From Otro18 Arrested

Two Cuban Activists From Otro18 Arrested

14ymedio, Havana, 26 April 2017 — Activists Arturo Rojas Rodríguez and
Aida Valdés Santana were arrested at noon on Tuesday as they tried to
reach the Justice Ministry in Havana. The dissidents planned to enter
into the associations register the Citizens Observers of Electoral
Processes (Cope) initiative, one of the branches of the #Otro18 (Another
2018) platform, which pushes for multi-party and democratic elections in
Cuba in 2018.

Rojas, 51, was taken to the Santiago de las Vegas police station and
Valdés, 78, was taken to the Zapata and C Station and then to Aguilera,
where police threatened to prosecute her legally.

The woman was released on Tuesday at about 10 at night, but there is
still no information on the whereabouts of Rojas Rodriguez whose
telephone continues to be out of service.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, speaking on behalf of #Otro 18, told 14ymedio that
"actions of this nature make clear the government's intention to prevent
the free participation of citizens in the next electoral process, thus
opening the way to delegitimizing it."

"The narrative of the government consists in classifying what we do as
counterrevolutionary activities, but we have to assume that the law is
not only for revolutionaries, but for all citizens and precisely because
of this we are within the law," he added.

The #Other18 initiative collects citizen proposals for new electoral
laws, associations and political parties. In addition, at the moment it
is focused on obtaining the nomination of independent candidates for the
next elections for the People's Power.

Source: Two Cuban Activists From #Otro18 Arrested – Translating Cuba -

Police Raid Rafters’ Homes Looking for a Boat Stolen From the Army

Police Raid Rafters' Homes Looking for a Boat Stolen From the Army

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 26 April 2017 — Cuban police are
searching for a boat stolen from the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR)
and to find it they are raiding houses of former rafters, according to
Solainy Salazar, whose husband tried to leave the island several
times. That was the justification given by the authorities, including
several State Security agents, who searched her home on Monday.

"I was resting next to my four-year-old boy when the neighbors called me
and I discovered the officers who were searching my yard," says Salazar
by phone from San Miguel del Padrón in Havana.

"They came into the house and told me they were going to search
everything because they were looking for an inflatable boat and that I
and my husband were accomplices to the theft," she adds.

José Yans Pérez Jomarrón, Salazar's husband, has tried unsuccessfully to
escape from Cuba six times, but has been intercepted by the Cuban Coast
Guard or returned to the authorities of the island by its American
counterparts. On his last voyage he took refuge, with some twenty
Cubans, in a lighthouse 30 kilometers northeast of Key West.

Although most of the rafters managed to be admitted a special program
that gives them the opportunity to be relocated in a third country,
because they were able to demonstrate "credible fear" of being
persecuted in Cuba, for Pérez Jomarrón the outcome was different.

"When I finished my military service they offered me a job with the
Ministry of the Interior (MININT). As an inexperienced boy I agreed and
when the immigration agents in the United States learned that I had once
belonged to that repressive organ, they returned me to Cuba," explains
the rafter-turned-entrepreneur who at the moment is in Guyana looking at
the possibility of some business linked to his commercial activity.

Police and State Security agents accused Solayni Salazar of being an
accomplice in the theft of the boat and described all the members of
her family as antisocial and counterrevolutionary. "They offended me
with their words as much as they wanted and when I threatened them with
filing a complaint they were indifferent, because they know nothing is
going to happen to them," says the wife, age 31.

"They threatened to arrest me. But they never brought the witnesses
(required by law) when they did the search and they never showed me a
court order to enter my home. And they did all this in front of my
little boy," she says.

In addition, she says, she was told that her husband was in Guyana
escaping from the law, an argument that Salazar considers "completely

"I fear for what will happen to my husband when he returns from the
trip. Surely they will try to arrest him or persecute him for a crime he
has not committed," she says.

Salazar believes that the authorities are persecuting her family due to
her husband's multiple attempts to illegally exit the country and
because of his opposition to the government.

"They do not want to give me jobs in state institutions. It's a way to
persecute those who disagree with official politics," says José Yans
from Georgetown via telephone.

The situation is increasingly complex for the Cuban authorities. "Now
not only do we have to pay for a 'crime' we didn't commit but we are
suspected of everything else that happens in the country."

Alfredo Mena, a rafter who tried four times to leave the island, was
also searched last Wednesday.

"They came to my house and broke down the door without a search warrant.
They took me to the police unit and accused me of having stolen a boat
belonging to the FAR (National Revolutionary Police)," says Mena,
nicknamed El Pelú, by the locals.

"The officers who were dealing with me asked me why we wanted to go to
the United States, because there they killed people like us and another
series of lies," he adds.

Mena, 50, a native of Granma province, says he was threatened with being
"deported" to the East, because he resides in Havana without having an
address officially registered in the capital.

Mena was fined 2,000 pesos for the crime of "receiving" for buying
supplies for his work as a welder. Although he swears he is innocent,
those metal parts are an indispensable component in the manufacture of
the makeshift boats used to emigrate.

"Nothing they took had anything to do with the supposed theft of the
boat. The only thing they do with these things is to reaffirm one's
desire to escape from such garbage," he adds.

Source: Police Raid Rafters' Homes Looking for a Boat Stolen From the
Army – Translating Cuba -

3G Has Arrived In Havana

3G Has Arrived In Havana

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 26 April 2017 — The third
generation (3G) of voice and data transmission via mobile phones reached
all municipalities in Havana on Monday after it was launched earlier
this month in several areas of Matanzas, Villa Clara, Ciego de Avila,
Pinar del Río, Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey, according to the
Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA).

Prepaid users in the capital are now experiencing a substantial
improvement in Nauta's e-mail service on their mobile phone, a relief
after three years since the creation of this product, which has been a
frequent target of criticism and complaints about its instability and

"I opened my mailbox and: abracadabra! I got all the messages at
once," a young high school student tells 14ymedio in amazement while
standing in line on Tuesday to buy recharge cards at the ETECSA office
on the lower level of the Focsa building.

The days are long gone when only resident foreigners and tourists could
contract for mobile phone service in Cuba. One of the first measures
implemented by Raul Castro when he assumed the presidency in 2008 was to
allow nationals to contract for prepaid cellphone service.

Since then, more than four million customers of the state monopoly have
been looking forward to connecting to the internet through their
mobiles. Enabling 3G coverage has set off speculation about the imminent
arrival of that service to cellphones.

"They can't wait any longer, because having the internet on your
cellphone is normal for most people in the world, but here it seems like
a dream," complains Rodobaldo, an industrial engineer, 42, who travels
frequently to Panama. "As soon as I get there and install my Panamanian
SIM card I can surf and receive emails, but when I return to Cuba my
phone doesn't have that capability."

In Latin America, 3G has given way to 4G, which has been available for
years. Uruguay has this network in 84% of its territory, Bolivia in 67%,
Peru in 61% and Mexico in 60%, according to data from the International
Telecommunication Union (ITU). However, in Cuba having this
functionality on the mobile network still seems like a science fiction

Rodobaldo is hopeful that ETECSA will soon offer packages to connect to
the web from cell phones. Recently there was the first pilot project to
bring internet to some 700 families (of the 2,000 initially planned)
through in-home ADSL in Old Havana, but the users complain about the
high prices: according to the bandwidth chosen it cost between 30 and 70
pesos for 30 hours.

"Every day there are more foreign companies offering packages so that
tourists who come to the island can surf the internet from their own
cellphone accounts," an official of the state company, who preferred to
remain anonymous,told this newspaper. "We have roaming agreements in
more than 150 countries," he says.

Following the beginning of the diplomatic thaw between Washington and
Havana, announced on 17 December 2014, Barack Obama's administration
authorized US telecommunications companies to operate in Cuba.

Verizon took the first step and offered services to its users visiting
the Island, and was later joined by Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T. However,
the prices of browsing from one of these phones during a stay in Cuba
are still very high, averaging about $2.05 per megabyte.

Until the implementation of 3G, roaming services sent and received
emails via Nauta and text messages using the General Packet Radio
Service (GPRS) connection, an enriched Global System for Mobile (GMS)

Now, to be able to take advantage of 3G in Cuba, "the customer must have
3G coverage on their cellphone with the WCDMA standard on the 900 MHz
frequency, which is the international standard in several European and
Latin American countries," Luis Manuel Díaz, ETECSA's Director of
Institutional Communications told the official press.

Phones that technically do not have the ability to access the new
network will continue to use the 2G that "coexists without difficulty,"
the company's representative told the official newspaper Granma.

A marketing specialist for the state monopoly, Óscar López Díaz, goes
further and in addition to highlighting the improvement in the
connection speed for the use of the Nauta mail brought by 3G service, he
believes that its arrival will enable " future access to other services
such as the Internet on phones."

Source: 3G Has Arrived In Havana – Translating Cuba -

Huawei, Chinese Technology Giant, Is Focus of Widening U.S. Investigation

Huawei, Chinese Technology Giant, Is Focus of Widening U.S. Investigation

A Huawei booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, in
February. The widening inquiry in the United States puts Huawei in an
awkward position at a moment when sanctions have taken on new import.
Credit Eric Gaillard/Reuters
HONG KONG — As one of the world's biggest sellers of smartphones and the
back-end equipment that makes cellular networks run, Huawei Technologies
has become one of the major symbols of China's global technology ambitions.

But as it continues its rise, its business with some countries has
fallen under growing scrutiny from investigators in the United States.

American officials are widening their investigation into whether Huawei
broke American trade controls on Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, according
to an administrative subpoena sent to Huawei and reviewed by The New
York Times. The previously unreported subpoena was issued in December by
the United States Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets
Control, which oversees compliance with a number of American sanctions

The Treasury's inquiry follows a subpoena sent to Huawei last summer
from the United States Department of Commerce, which carries out
sanctions and also oversees exports of technology that can have military
as well as civilian uses.

Huawei has not been accused of wrongdoing. As an administrative
subpoena, the Treasury document does not indicate that the Chinese
company is part of a criminal investigation.

Still, the widening inquiry puts Huawei in an awkward position at a
moment when sanctions have taken on new import. The Trump administration
has been working to push China to cut back its trade, and in turn
economic support, for North Korea, amid rising tensions over the North's
nuclear and missile programs. The growing investigation also comes after
Huawei's smaller domestic rival, ZTE, in March pleaded guilty to
breaking sanctions and was fined $1.19 billion.

It is not clear why the Treasury Department became involved with the
Huawei investigation. But its subpoena suggests Huawei might also be
suspected of violating American embargoes that broadly restrict the
export of American goods to countries like Iran and Syria.

"The most likely thing happening here is that Commerce figured out there
was more to this than dual-use commodities, and they decided to notify
Treasury," said Matthew Brazil, a former United States commercial
officer in Beijing and founder of the Silicon Valley security firm
Madeira Consulting.

Huawei said in a statement that it "has adhered to international
conventions and all applicable laws and regulations where it operates."
The company would not comment on the specifics of the investigation but
said it had a "robust trade compliance program."

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Still, by its own admission, the company has at times struggled with
corporate governance. In a rare 2015 media appearance, Ren Zhengfei,
Huawei's founder, said that 4,000 to 5,000 employees had admitted to
various improprieties as part of a "confess for leniency" program the
company set up in 2014.

"The biggest enemy we've run into isn't other people," he said at the
time. "It's ourselves."

A Treasury spokeswoman declined to comment on whether it was conducting
an investigation. A Commerce Department spokesman also declined to comment.

Huawei plays an important strategic role for China. The company is often
a part of Chinese overseas trade delegations and investment deals in
emerging markets like South America and Africa. As a major spender on
research and development, it is also a crucial part of Chinese
industrial policies aimed at building up domestic technological

It has also turned itself into an increasingly recognized smartphone
brand. In the fourth quarter of 2016, Huawei was the third-largest
smartphone maker in the world, with a global market share of about 10

The subpoena, which was sent to Huawei's Texas offices in the Dallas
suburb of Plano, called for the company to describe technology and
services provided to Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria over the past five
years. It also called for the identity of individuals who played a part
in those transactions. North Korea, which was named in the Commerce
Department subpoena issued last year, was not named in the Treasury
Department subpoena.

The scrutiny of Huawei shows the increased importance both the United
States and China are putting on the technology industry. Earlier this
year a Pentagon report distributed at the top levels of the Trump
administration indicated Chinese flows of investment into American
start-ups were a new cause for concern.

The American authorities have jurisdiction over the trade of companies
like Huawei and ZTE when those companies sell equipment made by or
featuring components from American companies. If Huawei is deemed to
have violated American laws, it could have its access to American
electronic components cut off. Given the company's size — it is one of
the two largest cellular phone equipment makers in the world — that
could have an effect on the expansion of mobile networks around the globe.

When the Department of Commerce first announced its investigation into
ZTE, it released a document in which ZTE executives mapped out a plan
for how to get around American export controls. The document said the
strategy came from a company that ZTE labeled with the code name F7,
which The New York Times reported closely resembled Huawei.

Earlier this month 10 members of Congress sent a letter to the Commerce
Department demanding that F7 be publicly identified and fully investigated.

"We strongly support holding F7 accountable should the government
conclude that unlawful behavior occurred," read a part of the letter.

Source: Huawei, Chinese Technology Giant, Is Focus of Widening U.S.
Investigation - The New York Times -

Scots pair delivering Cuba’s first major renewables project

Scots pair delivering Cuba's first major renewables project
Written by Reporter - 27/04/2017 8:18 am

Two Scots, including the head of the biggest manufacturer of Harris
Tweed, are helping deliver Cuba's first major renewables project.

A ground-breaking ceremony at Ciro Redondo sugar mill today will herald
the start of construction on one of four planned biomass power plants
which will add 300 megawatts to the country's power grid.

Generating electricity partly from residues of its sugar crop, the
£500million scheme is seen as vital to reducing Cuba's reliance on oil
imports from Venezuela.

Former UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson chaired Havana Energy after being
asked by the Cuban government to help find a solution to their energy
needs. The company secured a joint venture with the Cuban sugar ministry
in 2012 to build the plants and found technical and investment partners
in the Chinese conglomerate Shanghai Electric.

The joint venture, Biopower Ltd, will be headed by Havana-based Scot,
Andrew MacDonald, who also has a home in South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides.

Mr MacDonald said: "The fact that we are now delivering the first of
these power stations should give other investors confidence in the
potential to do business, particularly at a time when change is in the
offing and opportunities are many and varied."

Mr Wilson, a UK Business Ambassador and chairman of Harris Tweed
Hebrides, said progress on the project had been "a long haul made
infinitely more difficult by the American blockade."

He added: "Without Andrew's presence on the ground and his utter
commitment to overcoming obstacles, we would never have reached this point.

"There is still the challenge of funding subsequent plants but the first
one was always going to be the most difficult."

In addition to residues of the sugar crop, power will be generated by
burning an invasive weed called marabou.

Source: Energy Voice | Scots pair delivering Cuba's first major
renewables project - News for the Oil and Gas Sector -

Google Global Cache is now available in Cuba

Google Global Cache is now available in Cuba

Cubans can access Google sites faster now that Google Global Cache (GGC)
service is available on the island, an internet analysis firm announced

"GGC nodes in Cuba finally went active in the past 24hrs," Doug Madory,
director of Dyn Research, wrote in an email. "It is a milestone as this
is the first time an outside internet company has hosted anything in Cuba."

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google Global Cache allows users to store content from Google services
such as Gmail and YouTube on local servers, in this case those of the
state telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. The agreement between
Alphabet, Google's parent company, and ETECSA was signed in Havana in

"This will only improve Cuban users experience with Google webpages,
with the most notable improvement being in loading YouTube videos,"
Madory explained. "Video is very traffic intensive and caching popular
videos locally will improve load time and relieve strain on ETECSA's
congested international links."

After former President Barack Obama started a process of normalization
with Cuba, Google has made several attempts to improve internet access
on the island, which has one of the slowest connections on the planet,
despite the existence of submarine cable ALBA-1. Internet penetration is
also one of the lowest in Latin America and ETECSA is one of the
companies most criticized by Cubans.

However, the Cuban government rejected a more ambitious Google plan to
expand the internet on the island. Google then opened a technology
center with free high-speed internet service in the studio of artist
Alexis Leiva Machado, known as "Kcho".

The password to access the internet at the studio: AbajoElBloqueo

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: Google Global Cache is now available in Cuba | Miami Herald -

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Names and Brands

Names and Brands / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Dámaso, 29 October 2016 — Creating a brand name respected
around the world requires resources, effort and time. In the colonial
and republican eras certain Havana names became famous established
brands over time.

Among retail department stores there were El Encanto, Fin de Siglo, La
Epoca, La Opera, Filosofia, Sanchez Mola and Los Precios Fijos. Stores
specializing in jewelry, fine china, and luxury giftware included Le
Trianon, Riviera and Cuervo y Sobrino.

Confectioners included Potín, La Gran Vía, and Sylvain. Restaurants and
cafes included La Zaragozana, El Castillo de Farnes, Floridita, El
Emperador, Monseñor, El Castillo de Jagua, and Rancho Luna.

If other types of retailers are included, the list becomes almost
endless. This was the case throughout the entire island.

Brands also repeated the phenomenon: Bacardí. Arechabala, Hatuey,
Cristal, Tropical, Polar, Pilón, Regil, Jon Chí, Tío Ben, Bola Roja, El
Miño, Nalón, Escudo, Catedral, Guarina, Hatuey, Regalías El Cuño,
Partagás, H. Hupman, Competidora Gaditana, Trinidad, and many more.

Beginning in 1959 the new authorities changed the names and the brands,
and allowed years of resources and serious work by many Cubans to be
lost. It was a suicidal commercial policy, replacing established names
and brands with absurd numbers and generic names.

So appeared the markets A-14, S-34, M-67, and others; cigarettes were
all Popular or Soft; soaps were Nácar; soft drinks and deodorant were
Son; cologne, shampoo, and other products were Fiesta.

Gone were the labels and containers that differentiated one brand from
another, although they were made in different places. Names and brands
to defend or to answer for ceased to exist, losing quality.

This still happens with some products, the most representative example
being matches: they are called Chispa, although their producers are
different and they are located in different provinces. Many beers, with
different brand names, are produced in a factory in Holguín, closing the
existing factories in Havana.

With the slow entry into the world market, some names and brands have
been rescued and other new ones have been created.

As for commerce, the laurels go to the Historian of the City, who has
restored the original names to many business of the historic district,
although with some liberties regarding their locations: Cuervo and
Sobrinos were in Águila and San Rafael and not in Oficios and Muralla,
where they are located now. But hey, not everything can be perfect. The
effort should be appreciated.

Hopefully the new private businesses being built on the sites of old
shops will imitate him. Maybe this way in Havana and in other places in
Cuba the lost historic continuity will be restored.

Source: Names and Brands / Fernando Dámaso – Translating Cuba -

El Templete Has A New Ceiba, The Second In A Year

El Templete Has A New Ceiba, The Second In A Year

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 24 April 2017 — The place where the
town of San Cristóbal was founded in Havana has a new ceiba tree, the
second planted there in a little more than a year. The specimen comes
from the road between Managua and Boyeros, south of the Cuban capital,
and comes to fill the void left at El Templete by its predecessor,
planted a few days before President Barack Obama's arrival in Cuba.

On this occasion, the arrival of the ceiba was not surrounded by the
excitement that marked the planting of the previous specimen. The
8-year-old, twenty-foot tree reached its final site at midnight last
Friday, an hour that specialists recommended because it is cooler, and
therefore less damaging to the newly transplanted tree. It rained while
the neighbors watched a crane lift the imposing tree and plant it in the
historical site of the city.

Now, the waiting period for this Havana symbol begins. Will this tree be
able to adapt to its new habitat? Will it survive the salt air, the
compaction of the soils of the area and the rigors of urban life? No one
wants to risk predicting its future, but next November, which will
mark 498 years after the founding of the Villa, Havanans will need a
tree to perform the ritual of walking around its trunk and making a wish.

Source: El Templete Has A New Ceiba, The Second In A Year – Translating
Cuba -

Independent Journalist Arrested For Investigating The Case Of Karla Pérez González

Independent Journalist Arrested For Investigating The Case Of Karla
Pérez González

14ymedio, Havana, 25 Havana, 25 April 2017 — The independent magazine El
Estornudo (The Sneeze) has denounced Monday's detention of its
collaborator Maykel González Vivero. The young journalist was detained
at Marta Abreu de las Villas Central University, while reporting on the
expulsion of journalism student Karla Pérez González.

The digital site asserts that the reporter "did not at any time hide"
that he was investigating on the case. "He managed to interview Karla's
classmates who voted in favor of her definitive exclusion from Higher
Education, including as Miguel Ángel Castiñeira and Ney Cruz," the
article said.

However, in the course of the investigation "a number of teachers tried
to confiscate Maykel's belongings and his tools of the trade." He was
subsequently "held in a university department until police took him to
the State Security Santa Clara Operations Unit."

At the Unit, the reporter was subjected to five hours of interrogation
and his equipment was confiscated: a laptop, tape recorder and cell
phone. El Estornudo clarified that the reporter "is not facing any legal
charges, but his devices will be returned to have after the police
penetrate (sic) them and check their contents."

In October of last year, González Vivero was jailed for three days in
Baracoa, Guantánamo, "for covering as an independent journalist the
passage of Hurricane Matthew through the East of the country," the
article notes.

The reporter "is not facing any legal charges, but his devices will be
returned to have after the police penetrate (sic) them and check their

El Estornudo said that the expulsion of the journalism student was
arbitrary, as was the arrest of Maykel Gonzalez Vivero: "two
unjustifiable abuses that the Cuban government commits, in a manner as
shameful as it is ironic, through one of its centers of higher education."

On Monday, Karla María Pérez González received the official ratification
of her expulsion from the University and has ten working days to appeal
the decision. The young woman was accused of belonging to the Somos+ (We
Are More) Movement and "having a strategy from the beginning of the
course to subvert the young."

The case has aroused a wave of outrage and in her favor official voices
have weighed in, such as the singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez,
who wrote in his blog, "What brutes we are, for fuck's sake, it's been
decades and we don't learn.

"It is so clumsy and obtuse what has been done to this girl that
inevitably this will draw attention to the group to which she belongs
and the ideas it defends. I know that they will come out with lists of
links of some of these groups calling them terrorists, etc. But the
damage is already done, because such injustice can only arouse
solidarity," he said.

Source: Independent Journalist Arrested For Investigating The Case Of
Karla Pérez González – Translating Cuba -