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

Anywhere, anytime: reggaeton

Anywhere, anytime: reggaeton
MANUEL GUERRA PÉREZ | La Habana | 26 de Abril de 2017 - 14:03 CEST.

"You're crazy, sick, reckless," goes the chorus of one of the tunes by
the singer El Chacal, along with the group Los Cuatro, among the most
popular on the Island.

Reggaeton is one of the musical genres most listened to by Cubans.
Despite the authorities' insistent criticism of its lyrics, and attempts
to limit the public forums where it can be played, and its omission from
(State) media, this music is still ubiquitous, heard by both those who
enjoy it and for its critics; in taxis, buses, cafes, restaurants,
schools...almost where there is a device that can play it, you can hear
reggaeton.

Those who do not appreciate this "invasion" find the genre offensive and
point out its that lyrics are pointless and degrading to women.

Its musicians, meanwhile, have engaged in clashes, attacking and
insulting each other. More than a few admit that they resort to explicit
lyrics that can often be audacious.

"My lyrics are romantic and mellow, a fusion with reggaeton, but I
always have to write a more provocative song or two to reach out to
audiences. It shouldn't be that way, but it's what most people want to
hear. I'm against music that's offensive to women," says the singer El
Proklive.

"To reach audiences reggaeton singers have to use bawdy lyrics, for it
to be heard on heard on the street. It's what young people like. As the
years have passed, it's clear that it's what people want to hear," says
William Sánchez, a singer, song writer and one of the earliest musicians
in this genre in Cuba.

"It's a bit sad what we see today: primary school kids who can sing a
whole reggaeton song, but probably don't know the National Anthem, or
the multiplication table," says one teacher.

Despite the public's acceptance of this music, "we have never been able
to perform a concert with multiple reggaeton groups," complains singer
Meyse d Perce. "The Culture Ministry doesn't let us. In fact, in most
cases we have to say we're a salsa group, or some other musical genre,
to be able to perform in public places," he adds.

However, "it's a different story with big names who fill venues, for
whom doors are open at places that attract tourists, or where tickets
are more expensive," he says.

The genre and its fan base continues to grow, although many of the
performers and song writers have no musical education. Some make a lot
of money turning their homes into recording studios.

Facing a lack of official promotion, reggaeton reaches fans through the
well-known Paquete, flash drives and shows at discos.

Venues featuring reggaeton performers charge prices ranging from 5 all
the way up to 50 CUC.

Its popularity is surprising, and belies propaganda claiming that Cubans
boast a high cultural level.

"Some reggaeton artists use very lewd lyrics, but this is just a
response to circumstances, as those who have performed in the United
States and other places around the world have changed their songs and
adapted their messages for different audiences," says the singer Leo Ortiz.

With many performers of this music having settled in the US, many young
people have followed their dreams of taking the reggateon path.

Source: Anywhere, anytime: reggaeton | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1493208205_30654.html

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists

Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 17 April 2017 — Money is no object. When it comes to
thwarting, harassing and repressing intellectuals or journalists, there
are always enough funds in military's coffers to write a blank check.

Solid numbers are hard to come by but, according to conservative
estimates, Cuba's special services and armed forces account for roughly
35% of the nation's paltry GDP.

There is never a shortage of fuel, guesthouses, vacation homes, medical
clinics or surveillance equipment for monitoring alleged
counterrevolutionaries.

It is mistakenly believed that the top priority of the Special Services
is the fragmented domestic opposition, which can never turn out more
than a few followers for any public gathering. Meanwhile, the brave
fighters at the barricades are kept in line by punches, karate chops and
detention in damp, filthy jail cells.

The real danger for the government, and for counterintelligence as well,
are high-level officials. "They are like laboratory guinea pigs, always
under observation. Their phone calls, internet traffic, contacts with
foreigners, sexual preferences and personal tastes are monitored. They
cannot escape electronic surveillance even in the bathroom," says a
former intelligence officer with experience listening in.

As in the German film The Lives of Others, people with meaningful
positions in government, the armed forces, international trade and the
foreign ministry are under tight scrutiny. The next most heavily
monitored group of individuals — more closely monitored even than
dissidents — are those in the world of arts and letters and the sciences.

"The method for dealing with outspoken opposition figures is to
intimidate them, pressuring them with physical and psychological abuse,
or simply incarcerating them. We know how they think. But individuals
such as writers, musicians, scientists, researchers and
government-employed journalists are like a knife with two edges. Many
are silent dissidents. They often lead double lives. In assemblies,
government offices and newsrooms they appear to be loyal to the system.
At home they are budding counterrevolutionaries," observes the former
intelligence officer.

According to this source, agents are well-trained. "They focus on
managers, officials and employees of important state institutions.
Recent graduates of the Higher Institute of the Ministry of the Interior
are assigned to dissidents and independent journalists. They are more
adept at using physical and verbal violence than intellectual arguments."

In my twenty-years working as an independent journalist, State Security
has summoned me for questioning five or six times. On other occasions
the interviews were more casual. A guy would park his motorcycle outside
my building or near my house, as though he were a friend, and calmly
chat with me or my mother, Tania Quintero, who now lives in Switzerland
as a political refugee and who was also an independent journalist.

He said his name was Jesús Águila. A blond, Caucasian young man, he had
the air of an Eton graduate. When he became annoying, as when he would
call or visit us to discuss our case or would harass my sister at work,
Tania would threaten him with a ceramic mug and he would flee the scene.

One afternoon in the late 1990s I was questioned at a police station by
a high-ranking, rather refined official. Then, on an unbearably hot
morning in 2010, I was questioned at a branch of Special Troops near the
Reloj Club on Boyeros Avenue by officials from Military Counterintelligence.

The site where I was interviewed was an interrogation cubicle located in
a holding area for inmates. I had written a couple of articles for the
Americas edition of the Spanish newspaper El Mundo on meddling by senior
military officers in businesses and corporations. According to my
interrogators, the Cuban armed forces did not like the image these
articles created of military institutions. In a hollow threat, they told
me that I could charged with violating a law — I do not remember which
one — against disrespecting the "glorious and undefeated revolutionary
armed forces."

But ultimately it only amounted to intimidation. For six years they did
not bother me. They denied me access whenever I tried to cover something
at which operatives from State Security were present but they never
detained me. Then, three weeks ago, they questioned a few of my friends
whom they suspected of being sources for my articles.

I wrote one piece in which I said that, if they wanted to know anything
about me, they could call me in for questioning. Apparently, they read
it because on April 4 they summoned me to appear the next day at a
police station in Havana's Lawton district.

There I encountered two pleasant, mixed-race and educated young men. I
cannot say much else about them. I told them that what is needed — once
and for all and by everyone — is open dialogue, to acknowledge the
opposition and to try to find a solution to the national disaster that
is Cuba today by following the path of democracy. While the officers did
not promise tolerance, they did remain silent.

Three days later, one saw the flip side of the coin. As had happened for
ninety-seven Sundays, a mob dressed in civilian clothes was incited by
State Security to stage a verbal lynching of the Ladies in White House
near the police station in Lawton where I had been questioned.

From January to March of 2017 the political police made 1,392 arrests
and in some cases confiscated work materials and money from independent
journalists and human rights activists.

They harass people with little rhyme or reason. A group of reporters
from Periodismo del Barrio (Neighborhood Journalism), an online journal
which focuses on environmental issues and vulnerable communities, or a
neo-Communist blogger like Harold Cardenas are as likely to be targeted
as an overtly anti-Castro figure like Henry Constantin, regional
vice-president of the Inter-American Press Society.

With ten months to go before Raul Castro hangs up his gloves, the
Special Services' game plan is poised to undergo a 180-degree
turnaround. Using its contacts, it could establish a channel of
communication between dissidents and the government, which could serve
as a first step towards the ultimate legal resolution of Cuba's
political problems.

But I fear that democracy is not one of the Cuban regime's top priorities.

Source: Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-counterintelligence-plays-hardball-with-journalists-ivn-garca/

The King, The President and The Dictator

The King, The President and The Dictator

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 23 April 2017 — In the palace of the
Captains General in Havana there is a throne awaiting its king. It was
prepared when Cuba was still a Spanish colony and a monarch has never
sat in its imposing structure. The visit of Spain's King Felipe VI visit
may end such a long wait, but the Island needs more than gestures of
symbolism and protocol.

The king and the Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, will arrive in the
country a few months before Raul Castro leaves power. The official
visit, long prepared for, has all the traces of a farewell. It will be
like the farewell of the Mother Country to one of its descendants across
the sea. Someone who began as leftist revolutionary and ended up being a
part of a rigid dynasty.

The visitors will arrive in the middle of "the cooling off of the thaw"
between Washington and Havana. The expectations that led to the
diplomatic normalization announced on 17 December 2014 have been diluted
with the passage of months in the absence of tangible results. More than
two years have tone by and the island is no more free nor has it
imagined to merge from its economic quagmire.

US airlines have begun to reduce the frequency of their flights to Cuba,
discouraged by low demand and the limitations that remain on Americans
traveling to Cuba as tourists. Castro has not withdrawn the ten percent
tax he keeps on the exchange of dollars, and connecting to the internet
from the island is still an obstacle course. All this and more
discourages travelers from the country to the north of us.

The photos of building collapses and old cars fill the Instagram
accounts of the Yumas (Americans) who tour the streets, but even the
most naïve get tired of this dilapidated theme park. Cuba has gone out
of style. All the attention it captured after the day Cubans refer to in
shorthand as "17-D," has given way to boredom and apathy, because life
is not accompanied by a comfortable armchair to support this incredibly
long move where almost nothing happens.

Last year tourism reached a historic record of 4 million visitors but
the hotels have to engage in a juggling act to maintain a stable supply
of fruit, beer and even water. Between the shortages and the drought,
scenes of long lines of customers waiting for a Cristal beer, or
carrying buckets from the swimming pool to use in their bathrooms are
not uncommon.

Foreign investors also do not seem very enthusiastic about putting their
money into the economy of a country where it is still highly centralized
and nationalized. The port of Mariel, tainted with the scandals of the
Brazilian company Odebrecht, and with activity levels far below initial
projections, seems doomed to become the Castro regime's last pharaonic
and useless project.

But Donald Trump's arrival in the White House hasn't meant an iron fist
against the Plaza of the Revolution as some had prophesied. The new US
president has simply avoided looking toward the island and right now
seems more focused on the distant and dangerous Kim Jong-un than the
anodyne and close at hand Raul Castro.

The Havana government lost its most important opportunity by not taking
advantage of the opening offered by Barack Obama, who hardly asked for
anything in return. Right now there hasn't even been start on the
drafting of the new Electoral Law announced in February of 2015. Was
that news perhaps a maneuver so that the European Union would finally
decide to repeal the Common Position? Fake news that sought to convince
the unwary and fire up the headlines in the foreign press with talk of
openings?

To top it off, they have increased the level of repression against
opponents, and just a few days ago a journalism student was expelled
from the university for belonging to a dissident movement. A process
in the purest Stalinist style cut off her path to getting a degree in
this profession that, decades ago, officialdom condemned to serve as a
spokesperson for its achievements while remaining mute in the face of
its disasters.

Take care. The visit of King Felipe and Queen Letizia is inscribed in
times of fiascos. Failures that include the economic recession that
plagues a country with a Gross Domestic Product that closed out last
year in negative numbers, despite the usual make-up the government
applies to all such figures. And the Venezuelan ally unable to shake off
Nicolas Maduro, increasingly less presidential and more autocratic. The
convulsions in that South American country have left Cuba almost without
premium gas and with several fuel cuts in the state sector.

These are not the moments to proudly show off the house to visitors, but
rather a magnificent occasion for the highest Spanish authorities to
understand that totalitarianism never softens nor democratizes, it just
changes its skin.

The Spaniard will have to spin a very fine thread not to turn the visit
of the head of state into an accolade for the dying system. The royals
will be surrounded by the attentions of officials who are trying to
avoid, fundamentally, their stepping a single decorated millimeter
beyond the careful preparations that have been underway for months. As
was once attempted during the 1999 visit of Juan Carlos de Borbón to
participate in an Ibero-American Summit.

On that occasion, and during a stroll with Queen Sofia through the
streets of Old Havana, officialdom blocked access to the neighbors,
emptied the sidewalks of the curious and worked the magic of converting
one of the most densely inhabited areas of the city, with the most
residents per acre in all of Cuba, into a depopulated stage where the
royal couple walked.

Their successors, who will travel to the island "as soon as possible,"
could do worse than to study the ways in which Barack Obama managed to
shake off the suffocating embrace in March of 2016. The American
president handled himself gracefully, even when Raul Castro – with the
gesture of a conquering guerrilla, fists raised – tried to trap him in a
snapshot. But the White House tenant relaxed his hand and looked away. A
defeat for the Revolution's visual epic.

Nor does Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy have an easy time. The official
press does not like him and surrounds him always with criticism and
negative news about his Party. He does not enjoy sympathies among the
circles of power in Havana despite having reduced the degrees of tension
that reached a peak during the term of Jose Maria Aznar. But on the
island there are more than 100,000 Cubans who are nationalized Spanish
citizens, also represented by that nation's leader and who are, in the
end, his most important interlocutors.

Felipe VI and Rajoy have in their favor that they will no longer be
bound by the protocol to be photographed with Fidel Castro in his
convalescent retirement. The king declined his father's participation in
death tributes for the former president last November in the Plaza of
the Revolution. Thus, the young monarch managed that his name and that
of the Commander in Chief do not appear together in the history books.

However, he still has to overcome the most difficult test. That moment
in which his visit can go from being a necessary approach to a country
very culturally familiar, to become a concession of legitimacy to a
decadent regime.

Meanwhile, in the Palace of the Captains General, a throne awaits its
king, and in the Plaza of the Revolution a chair awaits the departure of
its dictator.

Editorial Note: This article was published in the original Spanish
Saturday 22 April in the Spanish newspaper El País.

Source: The King, The President and The Dictator – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-king-the-president-and-the-dictator/

Crabs invade Cuba's Bay of Pigs

Crabs invade Cuba's Bay of Pigs
April 25, 2017, 10:59:00 AM EDT By Reuters
By Sarah Marsh

BAY OF PIGS, Cuba, April 25 (Reuters) - 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.
"Thirty to 40 can enter without you even realizing it," said
Edian Villazon, who runs a food hut opposite the sea, which does
not serve up crab meat. Cubans believe this type is toxic. "We
have to always keep the door shut."
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.
Visitors have spiked in recent years, in tandem with the overall
tourism boom since the U.S.-Cuban detente.
"It's very surprising and impressive to see so many crabs in
one go and to watch them crossing so quickly," said 36-year-old
French tourist Emilie Lannegrand, adding it was "a little
heartbreaking" to see so many crushed on the road.
As cars speed by, some swerving to avoid the 10-legged
crustaceans, the cracks of carapaces zing through the air.
That does not threaten the survival of the two prolific
species, Gecarcinus ruricola and lateralis, which are not
endemic to Cuba, said Jorge Luis Jimenez, a science ministry
official who works in the park.
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'sChristmas Island.
At the Bay of Pigs, the adult crabs return to their forest
burrows after releasing clouds of eggs and are joined a couple
of months later by the baby crabs which hatched at sea, said
Jimenez.
For locals, the crab invasion is good business.
Ito Molina, 45, said tourists would happily pay $10 for tire
repair, a princely sum compared with the average state salary of
around $25 per month.
For patches, he applies condoms, which get put to many uses
in Cuba given how cheap and readily available they are.
"All the cars pass along this road, and they all get
punctures," he said. "So we stand there and repair the tires."

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Richard Chang)

Source: Crabs invade Cuba's Bay of Pigs - Nasdaq.com -
http://www.nasdaq.com/article/crabs-invade-cubas-bay-of-pigs-20170425-01212

As Cuba’s economy embraces global tourism, modernist works fall under threat

As Cuba's economy embraces global tourism, modernist works fall under threat
By ANTONIO PACHECO • April 25, 2017

This article appears in The Architect's Newspaper's April 2017 issue,
which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA
Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We're publishing
the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the
latest articles to be uploaded.

Preservation efforts aimed at recognizing and restoring Cuba's storied
architectural relics—long a pet project within professional and academic
circles—might finally become mainstream as the country adopts
market-based policies.

The implications of these economic and political changes for Cuba's
cultural heritage—much of which suffers from decades of deferred
maintenance—are potentially vast and unknown. Architect Belmont Freeman,
who has led many tours to Cuba on behalf of Docomomo and the Society of
Architectural Historians, said, "There are a lot of cranes in Havana
right now, every one of them related to a hotel project."

Recent years have seen a ballooning interest in Cuba by international
hoteliers. European luxury-hotel group Kempinski is set open its first
hotel in Cuba this summer. The hotel will feature 246 rooms in the
renovated Manzana de Gómez building, a UNESCO World Heritage site that
was designed as Cuba's first shopping mall in 1910. Starwood Hotels &
Resorts Worldwide is also entering Cuba by taking over operations of
Havana's neoclassical Hotel Inglaterra, the Hotel Quinta Avenida, and
the colonial-era Hotel Santa Isabel. The move makes Starwood the first
United States hotelier to enter the Cuban market since 1959. Hotel
Quinta Avenida was renovated in 2016 and opened last summer. The Hotel
Inglaterra, originally built in 1844, is expected to open in late 2017
after its renovation.

Real questions exist, however, not only in terms of the quality of these
renovations, but also with regard to the status of other cultural,
archeological, and architectural artifacts in the country. Cuba is home
to a vast array of architectural history, including relics and sites
important to the indigenous cultures that originally inhabited the
island. However, colonial-era fortifications and more recent building
stock, including successive waves of 18th-, 19th– and 20th-century
development, make up the vast majority of structures across the country.
What will happen to those less prominent and more sensitive relics? Many
of the city's inner neighborhoods are filled with eclectic Beaux
Arts–style structures, while the outer city and its environs are a
hotbed of proto- and early-modernism, with works like the Hotel Nacional
by McKim, Mead & White from 1930 and the Habana Libre Hotel by Welton
Becket with Lin Arroyo and Gabriela Menendez from 1958 standing out both
in terms of architectural style and for their respective roles in local
and international history.

Furthermore, the Revolution's communist utopianism was codified through
the prodigious production of radically progressive works of architecture
by Cuban modernist architects. Those works include the expressionist
National Schools of Art by Ricardo Porro, Vittorio Garatti, and Roberto
Gottardi from 1961; the Brutalist Ciudad Universitaria Jose Antonio
Echeverria (CUJAE) building by Humberto Alonso from 1961; and the vast
neighborhoods of Habana del Este that are made up of locally derived
designs modeled after Soviet modular apartments.

It is unclear if and when future building improvements are undertaken
across the city, whether more recent works of architecture will be
prized to the same degree as colonial-era works. Freeman painted a grim
picture, saying, "There has been a steady pace of cosmetic refurbishment
of old buildings in the colonial core of Old Havana, but (generally
speaking) historic preservation efforts have not picked up in any
significant way except for those related to tourism infrastructure."

The effects of the recent formal economic and political changes in
official policy are not necessarily new phenomena, however: Havana has
strong track record of using historic preservation as an economic
driver. The office of the City Historian, led by Eusebio Leal Spengler,
has pioneered local attempts to embed the preservation and restoration
of Old Havana's neighborhoods into economic development plans. Old
Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right, and while many
projects in the colonial core have benefitted from Leal Spengler's
efforts—namely the restoration of Plaza Vieja and a slew of other
properties the office has converted for hotel and tourismuses—many of
the city's early modernist and post-revolutionary architectural marvels
sit in various states of decay and disrepair. The restoration of the
National Art Schools was, until recently, slated for completion and
renovation. Those efforts have petered out, subsumed by a new economic
downturn following geopolitical turmoil in Venezuela, one of Cuba's
chief oil providers.

Cuban architect Universo Garcia Lorenzo, who was coordinating the
renovations for the National Art Schools until the funding dried up,
explained that with the Cuban government strapped for cash, major
restoration projects in the country will have to rely on international
funding. Some help is coming: The Italian government is funding the
continuation of work on Gottardi's School of Dramatic Arts and also,
England's Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation was working to
finance the rehabilitation of the ruined, Garatti-designed School of
Ballet. But, Garcia Lorenzo said, "I can't speculate now on when the
restoration will be completed," adding that despite the fact that
Porro's School of Plastic Arts and School of Modern Dance had been
completely renovated in 2008, the current funding lapses meant there
would be a shortage of funds "dedicated to maintaining those structures
into the future."

International funding cannot come soon enough, as the partially
completed and dilapidated structures are exposed to the tropical
elements. Garcia Lorenzo said, "Essentially, the three unfinished
buildings are frozen in time, slowly decaying and waiting to be restored."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Antonio Pacheco
West Editor, The Architect's Newspaper

Source: As Cuba embraces global tourism, modernist works are threatened
- Archpaper.com -
https://archpaper.com/2017/04/cuba-tourism-modernist-buildings/

Human trafficking focus of Cuba, Cayman Islands talks

Human trafficking focus of Cuba, Cayman Islands talks
By Kayla Young -April 24, 2017

Cuban officials and the Cayman Islands government met in bilateral talks
last week to discuss migration between the two island nations.

The meetings on April 20 and 21 in Havana focused on controlling illegal
migration and human trafficking, Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Relations
reported. Talks also touched on a Memorandum of Understanding the
countries signed in 2015 that regulates migrant handling between the
countries. The memorandum has not been made public.

While in Havana, Cayman's Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and Cuba's
Director of Consular Affairs Ernesto Soberón Guzmán signed minutes from
the meetings, reaffirming established migratory regulations.

Mr. Manderson said the meetings were successful.

"We exchanged useful information on both sides. The relationship
continues to be strong, and we're grateful for the cooperation of the
Cuban government on the Memorandum of Understanding," Mr. Manderson said.

While human trafficking continues to be a concern for both governments,
Mr. Manderson said no policy changes were made during the talks.

The Cuban government described the meetings as friendly and respectful.

"Representatives of Cuba and the Cayman Islands reiterated the
importance of these types of meetings for the good development of
relations between the two countries and reaffirmed the government
willingness and compromise to ensure regular, orderly and secure
migratory flow, and to increase bilateral cooperation in the fight
against illegal migrant trafficking," the Cuban government said in an
official release.

Source: Human trafficking focus of Cuba, Cayman Islands talks | Cayman
Compass -
https://www.caymancompass.com/2017/04/24/human-trafficking-focus-of-cuba-cayman-islands-talks-cuba/

Monday, April 24, 2017

Social justice in Cuba? No racism?

Commentary: Social justice in Cuba? No racism?
Javier Garcia-Bengochea
Guest Columnist

Privacy Policy
It ain't what you don't know that hurts you. It's what you think you
know that just ain't so ... Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige
paraphrasing Mark Twain.

It's called fake news. For decades, Cuba has promoted a false narrative
regarding its revolution. A receptive media have dutifully perpetuated
this lie and Americans remarkably suspend all critical thinking
regarding Cuba, accepting this deception categorically.

What Americans think they know about Cuba just ain't so. Here's the
#FakeNews:

Cuba is a socialist country. Wrong. Cuba is a totalitarian white male
military dictatorship that insulates itself from accountability to the
Cuban people through the enormous bureaucracy of the Cuban government.

The Cuban government "owns" Cuba's industries. No, the military owns
these, particularly the tourist industry run by Raul Castro's son-in-law
(a general). Virtually every aspect of licensed travel by the U.S.
Treasury to Cuba is controlled by the military (who are white). Tourism
funds the repression.

There is social justice in Cuba. Nope. The dictatorship has
institutionalized an apartheid between foreigners and Communist Party
elites — Cuba's 1 percent — and "ordinary" Cubans. How? Through two
currencies, a valuable one for the former and a worthless one for the
latter, who are mostly black and brown.

Tourists use one currency (CUCs) pegged to the U.S. dollar. Cubans are
paid (by law) in the second worthless currency. The latter can pocket
tips in CUCs. Consequently, neurosurgeons rush through brain surgeries
to park cars, drive taxis and bus tables for tips. Most doctors,
lawyers, teachers and engineers leave their professions altogether. This
slavery few Americans even notice. It's disgraceful.

There is no racism in Cuba. Ha! As one white regime official put it on
page 119 of UCLA professor Mark Sawyer's book, "Racial Politics in
Post-Revolutionary Cuba," "It is simply a sociological fact that blacks
are more violent and criminal than whites. They also do not work as hard
and cannot be trusted." This was 2003; enough said.

Free health care and education for all. Sorry. University professors and
managers in tourism are overwhelmingly white and connected to the
generals. Most university students must join the communist party.

There are hospitals for foreigners and Communist Party elites and those
for everyone else. The former are for medical tourism with Cuba's best
doctors. The latter have no sheets, soap, toilet paper, electricity,
medicines or even Cuban doctors — they are imported from Africa.

Where are Cuba's doctors? Those not driving cabs are "rented" to foreign
countries for $10,000 monthly. The chattel slave doctors are paid a few
hundred CUCs while their families are held in Cuba. Ditto for thousands
of Cuban nurses, social workers and teachers. Human trafficking is the
dictatorship's largest source of hard currency — by far.

Opening Cuba represents a tremendous business opportunity. Really? Cuba
is bankrupt. Moreover, everything in Cuba is stolen: land, homes, rum,
cigars, even old American jalopies — in many cases from Americans. Every
enterprise in Cuba will involve trafficking in stolen property. This
isn't a business opportunity; it's criminal and immoral behavior.

The intent of U.S. law is to protect, not disenfranchise claimants as
President Obama has done by allowing select companies to "do business"
and traffic in stolen property. Sustaining this requires protection by
the dictatorship and a U.S. administration that disregards property
rights and the rule of law. It's politically sanctioned organized crime.

History is replete with examples that economic engagement will not bring
political liberalization or change (e.g., China). See Cuba before 1959,
when American cronyism brought corruption and three dictators — Batista
and the Castro brothers. Why would U.S. businesses "invested" in Cuba
property want change? A democratic government will return property to
the legitimate owners and these "investments" will be lost. Investment
seeks certainty.

The embargo is "failed" policy. The teeth of the embargo, the ability to
prosecute traffickers in stolen property, has been waived since its
inception to "expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba," a
justification that is conclusively false.

It's the definition of insanity: capitulating with another dictatorship
and perpetually violating existing sanctions while expecting change.

Here's a novel approach to Cuba policy: Enforce the law.

Javier Garcia-Bengochea, a Jacksonville neurosurgeon, is a certified
U.S. Claimant for The Port of Santiago de Cuba.

Source: Social justice in Cuba? No racism? #FakeNewsCuba - Orlando
Sentinel -
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-cuba-fake-news-20170424-story.html

Cuba’s foreign minister reiterates the island’s desire for dialogue with the U.S.

Cuba's foreign minister reiterates the island's desire for dialogue with
the U.S.
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

In another apparent attempt to get a high-profile message to Washington,
Cuba's Minister of Foreign Affairs during a swing through Europe
repeated the island's desire to maintain the level of dialogue and
cooperation that started under former President Barack Obama.

"The current government of the United States has said it is reviewing
its policy towards Cuba. We reiterate our readiness for dialogue and
cooperation on the basis of the absolute respect for our sovereignty,"
Bruno Rodríguez told Spain's RTVE in an interview televised Saturday.

Cuban ruler Raúl Castro made a similar offer of dialogue just a few days
following Trump's inauguration in January.

Rodríguez, who visited several European countries last week, did not
directly answer a question about whether his government has had any
contact with the Trump administration. But his cagey response indicates
that formal interaction between both nations has not yet occurred.

"Naturally, there are intense relations between the U.S. and Cuba, due
to our proximity," Rodríguez said. "There has been a significant
increase in travelers...Cooperation agreements that were signed during
the last period are being implemented and there are some contacts at the
level of the U.S. government agencies and its Cuban counterparts on that
basis."

The foreign minister also refrained from commenting on Trump's time in
office thus far.

"Trump is the president of the United States, I don't vote in that
country," Rodríguez simply stated, adding that he was hopeful that Cuba
and the U.S. could maintain "a civilized relationship despite the
profound differences — which are known — that exist between the two
governments."

Cuba's highest-ranking diplomat also declined to answer a question about
his government's succession plans in 2018, when general elections are
expected to take place and Castro himself has publicly stated that he
will resign from the presidency.

"We will have to wait for the election results," Rodríguez said.

"Indeed, there will be general elections. Municipal and provincial
representatives will be elected, and also deputies, to the National
Assembly, and they will elect the President of the State Council and
Council of Ministers," he said, without making a direct reference about
Castro leaving his post.

Asked if there would be changes on the island when Cuba finally has a
president without Castro as a surname, Rodríguez responded: "Cuba is
changing all the time...There is no revolution that is not permanently
undergoing renewal."

Rodríguez was also cautious with his words when asked about the ongoing
turmoil in Venezuela, a close ally. Cuba is monitoring the current
situation, he said, "with confidence in the Venezuelan people, in whom
we recognize have the full capacity to find solutions to their problems.

"We expect the international community to do the same," he added.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: Cuba's Bruno Rodríguez reiterates its desire for dialogue with
the U.S. | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article146487204.html

JetBlue, American and Delta apply for more flights to Havana

JetBlue, American and Delta apply for more flights to Havana
BY CHABELI HERRERA
cherrera@miamiherald.com

While several U.S. airlines have cut flights to Cuba citing weak demand,
American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Delta Air Lines are investing in
more service to Havana.

Monday, American filed an application with the U.S. Department of
Transportation requesting seven weekly flights between Miami
International Airport and Havana. Last week, JetBlue did the same,
applying for seven slots: an additional Havana to Fort Lauderdale flight
six times a week and an inaugural weekly flight from Boston to the Cuban
capital on Saturdays. Delta Air Lines requested seven weekly flights
from Miami to Havana.

If approved, American would start flying to Cuba on a 160-seat Boeing
737 on Oct. 5. JetBlue plans to use a 162-seat Airbus A320 aircraft for
its flights beginning Nov. 1.

The openings for new routes were made available after Spirit Airlines,
Silver Airways and Frontier Airlines announced they would completely
pull out of Cuba by June 4.

From Miami, American currently offers daily flights to Holguín,
Cienfuegos, Camagüey, Santa Clara, Varadero and Havana and Delta Air
Lines offers one daily flight to Havana. JetBlue operates 13 times
weekly service from Fort Lauderdale to Havana.

While flights to other parts of the island have been reduced in the
past, Havana routes seems to be profitable — but there were some growing
pains.

In February, JetBlue said it would move to smaller planes on several
routes, including Havana, to adjust for demand to the island. In all,
JetBlue is cutting capacity to Cuba by 300 seats a day beginning May 3.

"With these adjustments, Havana is performing well against our
expectations and we are seeing strength in our group's business," said
JetBlue spokesman Philip Stewart, in a statement. "We hold an optimistic
long-term view as visitor levels grow at a record pace."

Since the initial frenzy to add service to Cuba began last year, some
airlines have cut some, if not all, of their flights to Cuba. The
changes, experts said, were likely due to overly optimistic forecasts
for demand.

American Airlines was the first to reduce its service to Cuba,
announcing in November that it would cut flights from Miami
International Airport to Holguín, Santa Clara and Varadero from two
daily to one. In December, Silver Airways reduced the number of flights
on six of its nine destinations to the island before announcing in March
that it was cutting service to Cuba altogether on April 22. Last month,
Frontier announced it would completely eliminate its Miami to Havana
route on June 4.

Spirit is the latest airline to make a change, announcing earlier this
month that it would reduce flights to once daily, from its daily two
flights between Fort Lauderdale and Havana, from May 3 to 23, offer its
usual twice-daily flights from May 24 to 31 and then end flights
altogether beginning June 1.

Source: JetBlue, American and Delta apply for more flights to Havana |
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article146402999.html

An inside look at Cockfighting in Cuba

An inside look at Cockfighting in Cuba
SARAH MARSH AND ALEXANDRE MENEGHINI
Apr 23rd 2017 6:01PM

CIEGO DE AVILA, April 20 (Reuters) - Cuban farmer Pascual Ferrel says
his favorite fighting cock's prowess was "off the charts," so after it
died of illness he had the black and red rooster preserved and displays
it on his mantelpiece beside a television.

"He fought six times and was invincible," the 64-year old recalled
fondly, talking over the crowing of 60 birds in his farmyard in the
central Cuban region of Ciego de Avila.

Though it is banned in many parts of the world, cockfighting is favored
throughout the Caribbean and in Cuba its popularity is growing.

Last year, Ciego de Avila opened its first official cockfighting arena
with 1,000 seats, the largest in Cuba, to the dismay of animal rights
activists who see it as a step backward.

Cockfighting is a blood sport because of the harm cocks do to each other
in cockpits, exacerbated by metal spurs that can be attached to birds'
own spurs.

After the 1959 revolution, Cuba cracked down on cockfighting as part of
a ban on gambling, recalls Ferrel.

Over the years that stance has softened. Official arenas have opened and
hidden arenas are tolerated as long as there are no brawls.

"'People say: if the government is allowed to hold cockfights, why can't
we?" says Nora Garcia Perez, head of Cuban animal welfare association
Aniplant.

Enthusiasts argue that cockfighting is a centuries-old tradition.
Critics say it is cruel, and they blame its popularity on lack of
entertainment options, poor education on animal welfare, and its
money-making potential.

In Ciego de Avila, there is a different clandestine arena for every day
of the week, some hidden among marabu brush or in sugarcane fields, down
dirt tracks with no signs.

People carrying cockerels in slings or under their arms travel to these
venues by horse-drawn carriage, bicycle or in candy-colored vintage
American cars.

Arenas made of wood and palm fronds operate like fairgrounds. Ranchera
music blasts from loudspeakers, roasted pork and rum are sold and tables
are set up with dice and card games.

"You'll see how fun this is," says Yaidelin Rodriguez, 32, a regular
with her husband, writing in a notebook bets she has placed on her cock.

Gambling is outlawed in Cuba but wads of cash exchange hands at most
arenas. Enthusiasts wear baseball caps that read "Cocks win me money,
women take it away."

In the Ciego de Avila official arena, foreigners pay up to $60 for a
front row seat. At concealed arenas, mainly a local affair, seats are $2
to $8, a princely sum in a country where the average monthly state
salary is $25.

"We can earn about $600 a day from entrance fees and the sale of seats,"
says Reinol, who declined to give his full name.

He splits that sum with his business partner and still earns more from
it than from his regular job as a butcher.

Cuba also exports cockerels, breeders say, adding that cocks with proven
fighting prowess could sell for up to $1000.

At a secluded arena near Ciego de Avila one recent afternoon,
cigar-smoking, rum-swigging owners guarded their birds to make sure
noone hurt or poisoned them before the fight.

"Come on," "Go for it," onlookers screeched once it began, the cocks
flying at one another in rage.

"You have to train the cocks like they are boxers, so they are
prepared," says Basilio Gonzalesm adding they must also be groomed,
scarlet legs sheared and feathers clipped.

Some, like cockfighting enthusiast Jorge Guerra, dream of making more
money in countries where betting is legal.

Source: An inside look at Cockfighting in Cuba - AOL News -
https://www.aol.com/article/news/2017/04/23/an-inside-look-at-cockfighting-in-cuba/22047976/

USF scientists headed for Cuba to study what it looks like before any oil spills

USF scientists headed for Cuba to study what it looks like before any
oil spills
Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
Monday, April 24, 2017 10:40am

ST. PETERSBURG — Florida scientists will ride their research vessel to
Cuba next month to take measurements of its coastal waters before any
oil spill ruins them.

One of the major problems with the 2010 BP oil spill, say scientists, is
that no one — not the government, not the oil companies, not even
universities — had taken base line measurements of what conditions were
like in the Gulf of Mexico prior to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

So the University of South Florida's marine science department has been
trying to rectify that by taking readings all around the edges of the
Gulf over the past year or so. They even journeyed down to Mexico, where
they not only took readings but also found signs that oil still remains
from the 1979 Ixtoc I spill, a disaster that paralleled the BP spill.

And now in their ship the R/V Weatherbird II they're heading for Cuba on
May 9, according to David Hollander, a USF chemical oceanographer who
played a crucial role in the university's investigations of the BP
spill's effects.

They will be paying particular attention to conditions in the Florida
Straits, "because those are the ins and outs of the water coming into
the Gulf of Mexico," he said.

In addition to taking the baseline measurements of the water's chemical
composition, Hollander said, "we'll be looking at aspects of the
contamination levels and fisheries conditions, and comparing those to
what we found in Mexico and U.S. waters."

Cuba has tried repeatedly to drill for oil off its coast, where an
estimated 20 billion barrels of crude await. But all of their efforts,
including the most recent one led by Spain's Repsol, have come up dry.

But Cuba is now partnered with Angola's state-run petroleum production
company, Sonangol for yet another attempt. Meanwhile other companies
continue trying their luck. One, Sherritt International, announced last
month that its exploratory offshore wells were disappointing, but the
company intended to keep trying.

The thaw of relations between Cuba and the U.S. has opened the door for
scientific collaboration on issues of interest to both countries. For
instance, the Florida Aquarium has partnered with the National Aquarium
of Cuba on coral research.

That's why the USF contingent is expecting a warm welcome from its Cuban
counterparts.

The thirteen U.S. scientists on board will be joined by 30 graduate
students, professors and biologists from the University of Havana and
the Cuban Fisheries Agency to share information on their technology and
techniques, Hollander said.

Contact Craig Pittman at craig@tampabay.com. Follow @craigtimes.

Source: USF scientists headed for Cuba to study what it looks like
before any oil spills | Tampa Bay Times -
http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/water/usf-scientists-headed-for-cuba-to-study-what-it-looks-like-before-any-oil/2321200

Growth returns to Caribbean Basin, but recovery is uneven

Growth returns to Caribbean Basin, but recovery is uneven
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES AND MIMI WHITEFIELD
jcharles@miamiherald.com

Economic performance in the Caribbean will be uneven this year: Some
economies will grow by 5 percent or more, but others will be lucky to
eke out even negligible economic growth.

"The Dominican Republic and Guyana are expected to remain the strongest
performers in the subregion," according to the U.N.'s Economic
Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. "The outlook is less
favorable in the Bahamas, Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago — countries with
deep-rooted structural impediments and high vulnerability to external
developments."

The Dominican Republic is projected to have 5.1 percent growth, while
Guyana is expected to check in at 5 percent and St. Kitts and Nevis at
5.3 percent. On the other end of the spectrum are Trinidad and Tobago
(.5 percent growth), the Bahamas (1 percent), Suriname (1.4 percent),
and Cuba (1.5 percent).

Low global oil prices have dampened economic growth in oil-rich Trinidad
and Tobago. "Hopefully Trinidad will have bottomed out from last year,"
said Trevor Alleyne, Caribbean division chief at the International
Monetary Fund. "For the region as a whole, Trinidad won't be pulling
down the region's average as it was last year."

While some Caribbean economies have little more than tourism to sustain
themselves, even those with other resources can find themselves hurting.

"It goes back to undisciplined fiscal policies," Alleyne said. "When
things were great, when oil was $100 per barrel and gold was high, they
decided, 'OK it's time to party.' When these prices plummeted, they
found themselves without any buffers to manage that process."

Institutional problems and political uncertainty have buffeted a Haitian
economy already hit hard by natural disasters. Flooding from last year's
Hurricane Matthew and a prolonged drought have weighed heavily on
growth, and the country is still feeling the after-effects of a
devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.

"Economic activity in Haiti and Jamaica was adversely affected by
drought conditions as well as structural obstacles, including
institutional weaknesses, tight fiscal budgets and high unemployment and
underemployment," ECLAC said in its annual forecasting report.

Although ECLAC estimates 2.1 percent economic growth for Haiti, the
World Bank is predicting the economy will decline by -0.6 as Haiti
continues to wrestle with double-digit inflation, a hunger crisis in the
region slammed by Matthew, a depreciating domestic currency and low
investment levels.

The Haïti Priorise project, which brings together a group of economists,
is looking at ways to not only perk up economic growth but provide
improved services to the Haitian population. It is run by the Copenhagen
Consensus Center, a think tank that has receive Canadian government funding.

Among the suggestions to boost economic growth are faster Internet
service and more digitization. Pantelis Koutroumpis, a research fellow
at Imperial College Business School in London, noted that it takes 312
days to start a business in Haiti and 97 days to register a property.
Both processes, he said, can be reduced significantly if the
infrastructure that powers the country's Internet is improved to allow
for digitized registrations.

The Cuban government is more optimistic about the island's prospects
than ECLAC is. It is predicting economic growth of around 2 percent with
an increase in tourism leading the way. But other economists aren't as
sanguine. Pavel Vidal, a professor at Javeriana University in Colombia,
is forecasting a decline of between .3 percent and 1.4 percent in the
Cuban economy.

Cuban tourism officials are predicting the number of international
visitors will increase to a record 4.2 million. The officials say
tourism arrivals for January and February were up 15 percent over the
first two months of 2016.

But as economic problems in Venezuela deepen, the future of crucial oil
supplies from Cuba's main benefactor are in question. The government
recently announced that premium gasoline wouldn't be available on the
island in April, and long lines at gas stations are becoming more frequent.

To achieve sustainable growth, analysts say Cuba needs to undertake
economic reforms such as unifying its unwieldy dual currency system and
creating a more attractive environment for foreign investors, including
allowing them to directly hire their Cuba workers, cutting through red
tape, making it easier to sign contracts, and offering better legal
guarantees.

Cuba has said it wants foreign investment to be a cornerstone of its
future economic development.

Meanwhile, high debt burdens, large government deficits and a lack of
competitiveness remain at the center of the economic challenges facing
the Caribbean, said Justin Ram, director of economics for the Caribbean
Development Bank.

The bank is projecting economic growth for the Caribbean region at 1.7
percent this year. But Ram said the Caribbean as a whole will continue
to lag other regions unless it addresses high levels of crime and
violence in some countries, unemployment and poverty and reduces its
high debt levels.

"We're not seeing the level of investments we need to boost growth," he
said. "Our economies have not kept pace with the kind of competitiveness
we are seeing in other parts of the world. We are lagging behind... with
respect to the types of economic reforms they are pushing through to
keep their economies competitive."

Caribbean nations also need to improve their "doing business"
environment, he said. "Investors look for these things," Ram said.

In the Dominican Republic, last year's brisk growth (6.8 percent) is
expected to ease somewhat as major construction projects are completed
and government expenditures drop. Tax evasion and a large informal
economy remain persistent challenges in the Caribbean's largest tourism
destination, according to the World Bank.

There are also questions about the future of the Dominican
Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, which also includes Costa
Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, now that it appears
NAFTA will be reopened.

"There is concern about what happens with DR-CAFTA if it becomes part of
the bulls eye in the Trump equation," said Jason Marczak, director of
the Latin America Economic Growth Initiative at the Atlantic Center's
Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

Among the smaller Caribbean economies that have introduced reforms and,
as a result, are seeing economic growth is Grenada. Its rules-based
fiscal policy drives the budget process rather than the other way
around, and it also requires officials to report their assets.

Last year's growth rate was even higher than the 2.6 percent the
government had anticipated, said Prime Minister Keith Mitchell during a
recent visit to Miami to participate in a Caribbean growth conference
organized by the Miami Herald and World Bank.

"With what we are seeing on the levels of construction and business
activities in the country, and the further growth in the agriculture
sector and tourism... we believe we will, in fact, top" last year's
growth, Mitchell said.

Increased exports, more tourism arrivals and fiscal reforms in the
country known as the Spice Island have allowed Grenada to reduce its
unemployment levels from 40 percent to 28 percent in the last few years.
While that's still high, the reduction makes it clear "that things are
happening in the country," Mitchell said.

Another Caribbean country that may be turning the corner is Jamaica. It
has increased tax revenues and international reserves after years of
struggling with high debt and low growth. This year, the recovery is
expected to continue with "slow, incremental growth," Alleyne said.
Growth projections range from 1.7 percent to over 2 percent, thanks to
low oil prices and an improving Jamaican investment climate.

Follow Jacqueline Charles on Twitter: @jacquiecharles

Follow Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @heraldmimi

Source: Uneven economic recovery expected across the Caribbean in 2017 |
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article146326224.html