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
failure.
- 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 -
http://translatingcuba.com/corruption-versus-liberty-a-cuban-dilemma-dimas-castellano/

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
By ALEX SCOTT
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 -
http://abcnews.go.com/International/48-days-photographer-captures-8000-mile-journey-cuba/story?id=46918018

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
happened.

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 -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1493373273_30713.html

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 -
http://translatingcuba.com/two-cuban-activists-from-otro18-arrested/

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
false."

"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 -
http://translatingcuba.com/police-raid-rafters-homes-looking-for-a-boat-stolen-from-the-army/

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
slowness.

"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
movie.

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)
communications.

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 -
http://translatingcuba.com/3g-has-arrived-in-havana/

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

Huawei, Chinese Technology Giant, Is Focus of Widening U.S. Investigation
By PAUL MOZURAPRIL 26, 2017

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
programs.

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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our reporters and editors.

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
capabilities.

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
percent.

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 -
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/26/business/huawei-investigation-sanctions-subpoena.html?_r=0

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 -
https://www.energyvoice.com/otherenergy/137741/scots-pair-delivering-cubas-first-major-renewables-project/

Google Global Cache is now available in Cuba

Google Global Cache is now available in Cuba
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

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

"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
December.

"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
(Downwiththeblockade).

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: Google Global Cache is now available in Cuba | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article146903509.html

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 -
http://translatingcuba.com/names-and-brands-fernando-dmaso/

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 -
http://translatingcuba.com/el-templete-has-a-new-ceiba-the-second-in-a-year/

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
contents."

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 -
http://translatingcuba.com/independent-journalist-arrested-for-investigating-the-case-of-karla-perez-gonzalez/

Lady In White Sentenced To Almost Three Years In Prison For Alleged Crime Of ‘Attack’

Lady In White Sentenced To Almost Three Years In Prison For Alleged
Crime Of 'Attack'

14ymedio, Havana, 25 April 2017 — On Tuesday morning the Court in
Havana's municipality of Diez de Octubre, confirmed the prosecutor's
request of two years and eight months in jail for Micaela Roll Gibert, 53.

The woman, a member of the opposition group Ladies in White, is charged
with the crime of attack, alleging that she knocked down Luanda Mas
Valdés, an official from the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), during
an arrest.

According to Berta Soler, the leader of the women's group who spoke with
14ymedio, the incident took place on May 1, 2016, when Roll Gibert left
the headquarters of the Ladies in White.

"Roll was beaten by two cops. When they put her inside the bus to take
her to the police station, one of the officers twisted her arm and
knocked her down. As she fell, Roll took with her another police officer
who was trying to repress her," explained Soler.

Soler says that Micaella Roll Gibert's 16-year-old daughter was expelled
from the School of Nursing because of her mother's activism and another
of her children, a son, was fired from his job in retaliation against
his mother

The officer who fell, Mas Valdés, did not appear in this Tuesday's trial
and according to Soler, they explained to those present that she was
"nine month's pregnant" and "has high blood pressure."

"The trial was finally held without the presence of the officer making
the accusation and instead the court accepted an affidavit, taken at the
house of Mas Valdés moments before the trial," adds Soler.

According to the opposition leader the trial was rigged, prepared by
State Security.

"It's one more woman they are going to send to prison," says the
activist, who notes that some time ago a State Security official
proposed to Roll Gibert that she "collaborate with them."

"When she refused him, they warned her that her life would become a
nightmare," Soler adds.

Soler says that Micaella Roll Gibert's 16-year-old daughter was expelled
from the School of Nursing because of her mother's activism and another
of her children, a son, was fired from his job in retaliation against
his mother.

The Lady in White also denounced that other women from the movement are
"still missing since early this morning."

"We do not know where the Ladies Yolanda Ayala, María Josefa Acón and
Gladys Capote are," says Soler.

Source: Lady In White Sentenced To Almost Three Years In Prison For
Alleged Crime Of 'Attack' – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/lady-in-white-sentenced-to-almost-three-years-in-prison-for-alleged-crime-of-attack/

How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants

How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván García

Iván García,9 April 2017 — They did not put a Makarov pistol to his head
or torture him with electric prods. Let's call him Josué. (The names in
his article have been changed). He is a guy who wears American-made
jeans, listens to jazz by Winton Marsalis on his iPhone 7 and is a
diehard fan of LeBron James.

He used to work at a gasoline station. One day earned the equivalent of
fifty dollars, enough to have some beers at a Havana bar with his
buddies. "One of my friends was an opponent of the regime and two were
independent journalists," says Josué. "That wasn't a problem for me. I
had known them for years and they were decent, trustworthy people. We
talked politics but, when we just hanging out, we usually talked about
sports or our daily lives," says Josué.

One morning two officials from the Department of State Security (DSE),
dressed as civilians and riding motorcycles, showed up at his door.
"They wanted to 'have a friendly chat' with me. They asked if I would
collaborate with them, if I would pass on information about my dissident
friends. When I refused, they threatened to charge me with embezzling
state funds."

"'We know you are stealing gasoline,' they said. 'Either you work for us
or we'll press charges.' At first, I went along with it but only passed
along false information or said that my friends didn't tell me anything
about their work activities. Then they suggested I infiltrate the
dissident movement. I refused. In the end I quit my job at the gas
station. So now they hassle me constantly and come up with any excuse to
arrest and detain me at the police station," say Josué.

For Sheila, an engineer, the modus operandi is familiar: "First, they
tried to blackmail me, accusing me of having an extra-marital affair
with a dissident. When I told them, 'Go ahead; do it,' they changed
tactics and said they were going to charge me with harassment of
foreigners and prostitution because I have a European boyfriend."

One of the objectives of Cuban special services is to "short-circuit"
the connections that so many of the regime's opponents, such as
independent journalists, have with official sources. "They are in a
panic over the possibility that dissidents and independent journalists
are building bridges and establishing networks of trust with employees
and officials at important state institutions. That's why they are
trying to poison the relationships dissidents and journalists have with
relatives, friends and neighbors," claims an academic who has received
warnings from the DSE.

According to this academic, "The DSE will use whatever weapon it can to
achieve its goals. These include blackmail, psychological pressure, a
person's commitment to the party and the Revolution, and threats of
imprisonment for criminal activity, which is not uncommon given that
some potential informants work in the financial or service sector and
often make money by defrauding the government. State Security does not
need to torture its informants. A system of duplicity, widespread
corruption and fear of reprisal are enough to accomplish the objective:
to isolate the opponent from his circle of friends."

Yusdel, an unlicensed bodyshop repairman, recalls how one day an
agent from State Security told him, "If you want to keep your business,
you have to inform on your stepfather," a human rights activist.
"They're pigs," says Yusdel. "It doesn't matter to them if you betray
one of your relatives. If you refuse, you are besieged by the police."

For Carlos jail is a second home. "Once, when I was a serving time at
Combinado del Este prison, a guard asked me to intimidate another
inmate, who was a dissident. 'Punch him, do whatever it takes. Nothing
will happen to you.' In exchange for this, they were going to give me
weekend passes. I said I wouldn't do it. But there are common criminals
who are all too willing to do this shit," says Carlos.

The pressure to become a "snitch" is greater when a government opponent
or an alternative journalist is inexperienced. Because the dissident
community is made up of groups of pacifists and because it operates
openly, it is easy for counterintelligence to infiltrate it and
blackmail dissidents, who can easily break down or crack under
psychological pressure.

With eighteen years' experience in the free press, a colleague who has
known fake independent journalists such as the late Nestor Baguer and
Carlos Serpa Maceira says that ultimately they became informants
"because of pressure exerted on them by State Security."

A professor of history who has been subjected to bullying by an agent
believes, "The revolutionary/counterrevolutionary rhetoric was inspiring
in the first few years after Fidel Castro came to power, when those who
supported the revolutionary process were in the majority. Now, those who
collaborate do not do it out of loyalty or ideology. They do it out of
fear. And that makes them vulnerable and unreliable citizens. Not to
mention that the professionalism of the current DSE officers leaves much
to be desired. Some agents seem marginal and very intellectually unstable."

To achieve its objective, Cuban counterintelligence resorts to extortion
of would-be informants. And in the case of the opposition, to physical
violence. If you have any doubts, just ask the Ladies in White.

Source: How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/how-cuban-state-security-intimidates-potential-informants-ivn-garca/

Cuban sugar burns to recapture sweet smell of success

Cuban sugar burns to recapture sweet smell of success
by Hector Velasco - AFP on April 26, 2017, 4:30 pm

Pedro Betancourt (Cuba) (AFP) - A sweet smell of treacle used to fill
the air in the village of Pedro Betancourt -- but like the workers from
the derelict Cuba Libre sugar refinery, it has dispersed.

It was the smell of success against the odds for Cuba, reviled by the
United States and its allies in the Cold War but still a world champion
sugar producer -- until the Soviet Union fell and stopped buying it from
Fidel Castro's communist regime.

Now a demolition crane is attacking what is left of the Cuba Libre
refinery's rusty steel skeleton. Fidel is dead, the Cold War is over --
and Cuba wants its sugar industry back.

"The refinery was the life of the people who lived here," says Arnaldo
Herrera, 86. He lost his job at the plant when it closed in 2004.

"When that changes, life changes."

- Cane on the risin' -

Britain and other colonial powers grew fat on Cuban sugarcane --
harvested by black slaves -- from the 18th century until independence at
the turn of the 20th.

The island then sold a lot of sugar to the United States until
Washington imposed a trade embargo after communist revolutionary Castro
took over in 1959.

Castro later announced a "revolutionary offensive" to relaunch the
industry. The Soviet Union bought the sugar at preferential prices.

For 1970 Castro famously set a production target of a "great harvest" of
10 million tonnes. (He fell short by 1.5 million.)

But after the Soviet bloc collapsed in 1989, with the US embargo still
in place and prices falling, the island could no longer compete.

Two-thirds of its refineries -- about 100 plants -- have shut down since
2002.

From eight million tonnes a year in the 1990s, production plunged to
just over one million in 2010.

"That was when we touched bottom," says Rafael Suarez, head of
international relations for the state sugar monopoly Azcuba.

"Since then an effort has been made. The refineries have been improved
and a lot of emphasis has been put on recovering sugarcane production."

Suarez says Azcuba is also looking to expand production of sugar
derivatives: rum, cattle feed and renewable fuel.

- Human cost -

Some 100,000 Cubans used to work in refineries like the one in Pedro
Betancourt in the east.

The refineries used to pay well, for Cuba -- at least double the $28
average monthly salary.

Julio Dominguez, 84, worked in Cuba Libre until it shut.

"This town has been stripped bare. Tobacco production is all it has
left," he says.

The refinery stopped milling in 2004 and demolition began in 2007. Like
everything in Cuba, it takes time.

Some still weep when they pass the site, says the head of the
demolition, Eliecer Rodriguez.

"I am knocking it down, but that was someone else's decision," he says.

Workers were kept on their salaries for some time after the closure.

Some have since moved on to work as tobacco producers, taxi drivers or
handymen. Others have emigrated to the United States.

"Closing a sugar refinery is always traumatic in human and social
terms," Suarez says.

"What the revolution did was take a lot of care to see that no one was
abandoned."

- Sweet smell -

Soon only the concrete smokestacks of Cuba Libre will still stand among
the green fields of sugarcane.

But 70 kilometers (some 40 miles) away, a chimney is still smoking. The
air smells of caramel.

It is business as usual at the Jesus Rabi refinery.

The plant's boiler operator Juan Hernandez, 63, was made redundant from
two sugar plants that shut down before he landed here.

"Those were bitter times. When a sugar refinery shuts, it really shuts.
There isn't the economy for it."

Yet by mechanizing the sugar harvest almost completely, Cuba has managed
to boost production to some two million tonnes a year from its 2010 low
point.

More than half of that it exports, mostly to China and Russia.

Suarez reckons the island can pump up production to four million tonnes
a year. That will still leave it as a minnow in world terms.

"The days when such a small country as Cuba was the biggest exporter of
sugar will never return," he admitted.

"We don't pretend they will."

Source: Cuban sugar burns to recapture sweet smell of success - Yahoo7 -
https://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/35168276/cuban-sugar-burns-to-recapture-sweet-smell-of-success/#page1

Fast-track drilling for Cuba envisioned

Fast-track drilling for Cuba envisioned
Australian energy company Melbana said conditions ripe for action in oil
prospects in Cuba.
By Daniel J. Graeber | April 26, 2017 at 8:05 AM

April 26 (UPI) -- The necessary components for an accelerated drilling
program for oil prospects in Cuba may already be in place, Australian
energy company Melbana said.

Melbana Energy Ltd. estimated last year that Block 9 in Cuba holds 637
million barrels of prospective recoverable reserves and 19 drilling
prospects there were described by the company as high impact and low
risk. Its highest ranked drilling opportunity is the Alameda-1 well,
with an estimated 400 million barrels of recoverable oil on the high
side of Melbana's estimates.

Melbana is one of the few Western oil companies, and the only one listed
on the Australian exchange, with a footprint in Cuba. CEO Peter
Stickland said the company had about $2.7 million in cash on hand as of
March 31 that it would use in part to develop its drilling program in Cuba.

In its latest statement, the company said it was focused on accelerating
the program in Cuba, which outlines two new wells during the first half
of 2018. Melbana said it "concluded that the appropriate equipment,
experienced personnel and support services necessary to safely and
effectively undertake a drilling program can be expected to be available
in Cuba."

The company estimated its drilling campaign for 2018 would cost about
$30 million at the high end and it was now in the process of a detailed
contractor evaluation.

The national oil company of Cuba, CUPET, extended its contract last year
for early exploration efforts in Block 9 by eight months to November 2017.

In its second-half 2016 report, Melbana said adequacy of funding was its
main focus. More funding could come from capital injections, share
placements or farm-ins to some of its prospects.

Source: Fast-track drilling for Cuba envisioned - UPI.com -
http://www.upi.com/Fast-track-drilling-for-Cuba-envisioned/9361493205316/

Former CIA Operative Argues Lee Harvey Oswald's Cuba Connections Went Deep

Former CIA Operative Argues Lee Harvey Oswald's Cuba Connections Went Deep
Olivia B. Waxman
Apr 25, 2017

After Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy shortly after
noon on Nov. 22, 1963, things moved quickly. About an hour later, Oswald
fatally shot Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit. Thirty minutes after
that, police found Oswald and arrested him. Two days later, on Nov. 24,
Jack Ruby shot Oswald. And just a day after the assassination, FBI
Director J. Edgar Hoover had already expressed his preliminary finding
that Oswald had acted alone.
The full Warren Commission report would later back up that finding — but
more than a half-century later, polls have found that most Americans are
not convinced of that fact.
That's why former CIA operative Bob Baer launched an investigation into
the declassified government files on the case. As the above clip shows,
on his six-part series JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald — debuting
Tuesday night on the History channel — Baer (seen in the clip above with
former LAPD police lieutenant Adam Bercovici) attempts to demystify the
link between Oswald and Cuban and Soviet operatives. It's no secret
that, for example, Oswald went to a meeting at the Soviet embassy in
Mexico eight weeks before he assassinated JFK, or that he tried to
defect to the Soviet Union in 1959. But Baer pursues those leads, and
further investigates Oswald's connections to the Cuban dissident group
Alpha 66, which had been infiltrated by Cuban intelligence officials who
were reporting their activities back to Fidel Castro's government. His
conclusion is that, while Oswald acted alone when he fired the bullets
that killed the President, his connections to Cuban and Soviet officials
were deeper than is often assumed.
Ahead of the debut of his series, Baer spoke to TIME about why Oswald
could have wanted to work with the Soviets and Cubans:
TIME: Why did you start looking into declassified government files on
Lee Harvey Oswald?
BAER: I went through CIA files on it when I was working there, and there
was Cuban-related stuff that didn't make a whole lot of sense to me.
When I got into the CIA, George H.W. Bush signed a release [of files] to
me, and the archives came back and said they couldn't find [the files I
requested] anymore. Documents on it that shouldn't have disappeared had
disappeared. So that raised an alarm bell. But what really got me into
it was meeting a defector from Cuba and one of the best agents the CIA
has ever had. He said that on the 22nd of November 1963, four hours
before the assassination, he was at an intelligence site in Havana when
he got a call from Castro's office, saying, "Turn all of your listening
ability to high frequency communications out of Dallas because
something's going to happen there."
What are the biggest revelations in the documentary?
Our hypothesis was that the Cubans knew [about Oswald's plan] in
advance. We have eyewitnesses putting Oswald with Cuban intelligence in
Mexico City. And the last people that Oswald was hanging out with before
the assassination were Alpha 66. I do believe that, after the
assassination, Oswald was heading for a safe house that was owned by
Alpha 66. Now, according to the FBI, CIA and Cuban intelligence sources
we talked to, in November 1963, info about anything that Alpha 66 did in
the U.S. was sent back to Cuba. So if, in fact, Oswald told Alpha 66 he
was going to kill the president — and we do have witnesses saying he
told them this — then Castro knew. And the borders were all shut down at
that point, so our assumption is he was going to this Cuban safe house,
where he had been before. Whether the Cuban dissidents of Alpha 66 knew
he was coming or not, we don't know.

But I do not think that [Castro] furthered the plot. I think the Cuban
dissidents reporting back to Havana informed him that there's this
American, Lee Harvey Oswald, who says he's going to kill the president.
The fact that this stuff has never been looked into I find extraordinary.
Why didn't they?
The Warren Commission did mention it, but they just said that it was a
coincidence that he met with the KGB's head of assassinations for North
America in Mexico City. They didn't look into how peculiar it is for an
American, on a weekend, to meet with three KGB officers during their
time off. The Warren Commission said he only went to the Cuban consulate
in Mexico City and met a local employee. But I believe his Cuban
connections are much deeper than the Warren Commission shows. I think
[the commission] just didn't want to make that public. Johnson told the
FBI that if they can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Russians
and the Cubans were involved in this, then they shouldn't drag their
suspicions into the public eye. But they sort of suspected it.
That reminds me of the discussion of whether the FBI should have shared
its news from its investigations into Hillary Clinton's email use or
possible Russian involvement in the campaign prior to the election last
fall. It's this question of how and whether intelligence officials
should talk about something that's still ongoing.
Yeah it's exactly like that; If you can't prove it, don't drag it out to
the public. Except the [Oswald] evidence is stronger than so far what
we've seen on Russia and its connections to the Trump campaign.

What was going on in Cold War history at this point that caused this
controversy to play out the way that it did?
My assumption at the end is that Castro had every reason in the world to
[want to] kill Kennedy. It's risky if there are actual Cuban agents
shooting the President, that's Armageddon, nuclear war. But if you
simply hear rumors of this, you don't do anything. I've seen that happen
in the CIA, where we heard stuff and didn't pass the details to another
government because it was a hostile government.
What about the Soviet side? Did you find any evidence that they
encouraged Oswald?
There's no evidence that the Russians took that risk, providing him
money weapons or training, and I don't think the Russians encouraged
him. What we think is that they were like three times removed. I think
they simply monitored Oswald as best they could. The Russians probably
thought, "We can't afford to deal with an American crazy person," but
Cuban intelligence deals with a lot of crazy people. The Cubans didn't
give money or guns to agents; they were just looking for fellow believers.
Why did Oswald want to defect to the Soviets in the first place?
I think he was at a dead end. He had a broken childhood, and he joined
the Marines to become somebody. He wanted to become a historical figure,
and he thought he deserved to be one. He needed some sort of anchor to
his life and that thing in 1959 was communism. When he gets there [to
the Soviet Union], they don't want him at first. And when they have to
accept him after he attempts suicide, they send them to Minsk. It's sort
of the end of the earth. He's a factory worker, not what he expected at
all, so he comes back. That's the context of the whole series, what was
going through his mind at each one of these steps.
Are there any unanswered questions you still have or now have after
doing the documentary?
I'd look for further confirmation that Cubans knew about this to confirm
our thesis. We don't know exactly what the Cubans told him in Mexico
City — was it to go back to Louisiana and Dallas and tell us what Cuban
dissidents there were doing? And what did Oswald mean when he said he
was a "patsy" when he was being questioned by the Dallas police? A patsy
for whom?I know the general relationship was that Russians and Cubans
shared everything in those days. So did this get back to Moscow? I don't
know, I don't have the evidence. Do I suspect it did? Yes. It's sort of
like if an American went to Syria, spent a month with the Islamic State,
and came back and assassinates the President. Would anyone call him a
lone wolf? That's what happened with Kennedy.

Source: Lee Harvey Oswald and JFK—Documentary Argues Cuba Connection |
Time.com - http://time.com/4753349/oswald-kennedy-declassified-documentary/

Cuba beach invaded by millions of crabs

Cuba beach invaded by millions of crabs
By NBC News
Published: April 25, 2017, 12:39 pm

CIENAGA DE ZAPATA, Cuba (NBC News) — Cuba's Bay of Pigs has been invaded
again, this time not by U.S. backed anti-Castro forces, but by millions
of red, yellow and black landcrabs.

Each year, after the first spring rains, the crabs march for days from
the surrounding forests to the bay on Cuba's southern coast to spawn in
the sea, wreaking havoc along the way.

At dawn and dusk they emerge, scuttling sideways toward the sea,
climbing up house walls and carpeting the coastal road that curves
around the bay.

The stench of crushed crab fills the air and their sharp shells puncture
car tires.

The Bay of Pigs, where in 1961 Cuban exiles landed in a failed attempt
to end Fidel Castro's revolution, lies within a national park where 80
percent of Cuba's endemic birds, along with crocodiles and other
wildlife, can be observed. With its deep sinkholes, coral reefs and
turquoise waters, the bay is known as one of Cuba's best spots for diving.

Cubans believe this type of prolific species, which are not endemic to
Cuba, is toxic. As cars speed by, some swerving to avoid the ten-legged
crustaceans, the cracks of carapaces zing through the air.
"Seeing all these crabs at the moment is nothing like what we've seen
before, it's just amazing to see the whole road covered," said
Australian tourist Kaliash Attwar.

Similar crab migrations occur in other parts of Cuba at the same time of
the year, as well as in some other special ecosystems such as
Australia's Christmas Island.

Source: Cuba beach invaded by millions of crabs | NBC4i.com -
http://nbc4i.com/2017/04/25/cuba-beach-invaded-by-millions-of-crabs/

Cuba weathers storm in Venezuela but future looks uncertain

Cuba weathers storm in Venezuela but future looks uncertain
By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN Published April 26, 2017

HAVANA – Refineries have gone dark. Gas rations have been slashed for
hundreds of thousands of state workers. Construction materials are
nearly impossible to find.

But Cuba's hotels and restaurants are packed, major U.S. airlines are
adding flights and government stores are full of frozen American chicken
and U.S.-made candy. So far, Cuba is weathering the storm as Venezuela's
economy craters and protesters fill its streets to denounce Cuba's
greatest socialist ally.

A much-feared return to Cuba's post-Soviet "Special Period" of food
shortages and blackouts has yet to materialize as energy conservation
and a boom in tourism and overseas remittances cushion the blow of a
roughly 50 percent cut in Venezuelan oil aid worth hundreds of millions
of dollars a year. Interminable bus lines and long hunts for products
like milk, paint and cement seem manageable by comparison with the
hunger and hardship of the early 1990s that followed the drastic loss of
Soviet bloc aid and subsidies that had propped up Cuba's economy for
decades.

The boom set off by the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with
the U.S. in 2015 shows no signs of slacking: About 285,000 American
tourists visited in 2016, up 76 percent from 2015, and the Cuban
government says U.S. visitors increased 125 percent in January. The
number of visitors from all countries topped a record 4 million last
year and appears on track to top that in 2017.

"So far we aren't living in the Special Period again and I don't think
we will be," said Ramon Santana, a 52-year-old bicycle taxi driver.
"Before, we depended on a single country but now we're trading with
many. Before, the Soviet Union fell and everyone thought we would die.
But we didn't die. We're still here."

Still, Cubans are nervously watching Venezuela for signs of a deeper cut
in oil shipments, which are paid for with the services of Cuban state
doctors on "missions" in poor Venezuelan neighborhoods. So far, the
Cuban government has funneled nearly all the cuts into the state sector,
cutting air conditioning and summer work hours at government offices
and, most recently, eliminating the supply of higher-octane "special"
gasoline for state employees.

The special gas is entirely imported while regular is maintained through
the small but steady domestic oil production on Cuba's north-central
coast, which touches the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico. Owners of modern,
fuel-injected cars buy special if they can afford it to prevent the
lower-octane fuel from damaging their engines.

High-ranking Cuban public officials often get both government cars and a
monthly gasoline ration; their pay of $30 to $40 a month makes it
impossible otherwise to afford gas that costs more than $4 a gallon. As
in virtually every aspect of the Cuban economy, special gas cards
provided to state employees to buy the fuel fed a thriving black market.
Throughout the day, state officials can be seen filling the tanks of
their government car, then popping the pump nozzle into a used 2-liter
soft drink bottle and filling it with gas to be sold at a discount to
other drivers.

Starting April 1, state gas stations were instructed to stop selling
special gas to card-holders, a move that sent state employees to regular
pumps, forced business people and diplomats to buy special gas with cash
and set off shortage fears and panic buying that created several days of
hours-long lines.

Many gas stations around the capital appear to have permanently stopped
selling even regular gasoline, their pumps blocked off by orange traffic
cones. The column of black smoke from one of Cuba's main refineries, the
Nico Lopez facility overlooking Havana Bay, has disappeared without
explanation, leaving the skies clearer but residents worried about
Cuba's future energy supplies.

The replacement of oil money with tourism dollars has accelerated both
the decline of Cuba's ailing state-run businesses and the growth of its
small private sector. Whereas oil money went entirely to the Communist
state, much of the tourism is going to private enterprise — taxi
drivers, private restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts that provide higher
value service to tourists trying to avoid the high prices and poor
service at state-run eateries and hotels.

"Those who work in the private sector have, in one way or another, seen
improvement in their quality of life," said Omar Everleny Perez, a Cuban
economist and expert on the private sector. "The state worker on a
salary hasn't seen that."

There's also a geographic disparity, with rural areas and towns that
don't draw tourists seeing deeper, more protracted shortages.

In Cuba, there's a widespread sense that deeper cuts in Venezuelan oil
would push the entire country over the edge into intolerable economic
problems.

A near-constant refrain is that Cubans can tolerate deep deprivation,
but would not stand for a repeat of the Special Period. On Aug. 5, 1994,
at the depth of post-Soviet crisis, Havana residents clashed with police
around the Malecon seaside promenade in civil unrest that only subsided
after Fidel Castro rushed to the scene and called for the protests to end.

Fidel's brother and successor, President Raul Castro, has announced that
he will step down from the presidency in February 2018. His most likely
successor appears to be his first vice-president, 56-year-old Communist
Party official Miguel Diaz-Canel, but the government has said nothing
about the handover process. Cubans are highly skeptical that a new
leader without the credibility conferred by the Castros' founding role
in the Cuban revolution will be able to guide an increasingly
well-informed and worldly population through a new period of profound
economic hardship.

"If Venezuela falls, if Venezuela changes and they don't send Cuba any
more oil, it's going to be like it was, in 1991, '92, '93. It's going to
be hard," said Li Nelson Florentino Abreu, an 80-year-old retired
electrical engineer. "And Cubans aren't sheep. They aren't going to put
up with everything. Cubans today, they know how to defend their rights."

___

Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein

Source: Cuba weathers storm in Venezuela but future looks uncertain |
Fox News -
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/04/26/cuba-weathers-storm-in-venezuela-but-future-looks-uncertain.html