Monday, May 22, 2017

Cuba’s Proxy War in Venezuela

Cuba's Proxy War in Venezuela
Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal

The commitment to Maduro among soldiers and police is breaking down

Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro is responding to mass demonstrations
by selectively killing civilians. If, as a result, some branch of the
military breaks with the regime, the country will descend into civil
war. But until then it's a one-sided slaughter.

It's also a Cuban proxy war. More than a dozen high-ranking Cuban
officers are said to be in Venezuela, along with thousands of Cuban
intelligence agents. Their job is to keep Venezuelan army officers under
constant surveillance to prevent the feared military uprising to restore
democracy. If the international community wants to head off disaster, a
good place to start would be in Havana.

On Thursday Miami's El Nuevo Herald reported it has a recording of
Venezuelan generals—at a meeting in Barquisimeto three weeks ago—"giving
orders to use snipers to control demonstrators." According to the Herald
they did so "with the argument that they find themselves on the
threshold of a civil war."

Maybe the generals know something not yet acknowledged publicly—that the
commitment to Mr. Maduro among the nation's soldiers and police is
breaking down.

It happened once before, in April 2002, when snipers backing the regime
picked off protesters during a demonstration in Caracas. When some
members of the army refused to help then-President Hugo Chávez crack
down on the crowd, he was forced to step aside, albeit temporarily.

Once back in power, Chávez accelerated the recruitment and arming of
paramilitaries. Thousands now show up at antigovernment protests, firing
weapons into crowds and using their motorcycles to run down
demonstrators. If the Cubans remain the power behind the throne, there
will be no one to stop these trained killers from slitting the throats
of the opposition.

The possibility of a break inside the armed forces seems to be on the
rise. As the Journal's Anatoly Kurmanaev reported on Wednesday, National
Guard riot police are worn down from taking on thousands of street
protesters almost daily since the beginning of April. Rank-and-file
soldiers also are not immune to the hardship and hunger caused by Mr.
Maduro's senseless economic policies. They say they too are underpaid
and underfed.

The dictatorship is clearly worried about this and recognizes it will
lose a war of attrition. One source in Caracas who marched in the
streets Thursday observed a noted increase in regime repression.

In recent weeks government enforcers also have launched attacks on lower
middle-class neighborhoods where Maduro critics live. They break down
gates and doors, rampage through apartment complexes, fire tear-gas
canisters through windows and loot homes.

On May 7 the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional reported that between
April 4 and May 5 the National Guard, together with National Bolivarian
Police and chavista militia, invaded 11 different residential areas in
Caracas. One family of four in the El Paraíso district, requesting
anonymity, told of how they cowered together in a bathroom for eight
hours to keep from being asphyxiated by the tear gas that had inundated
the rest of their apartment.

It wasn't the first blitz on the building complex known as Terrazas del
Paraíso. On April 19 pro-government thugs smashed an iron grille to get
in and rob one of the neighbors. On April 26 civilian-clothed militia
entered the complex and fired rubber bullets, injuring some residents.
"But it was to frighten us, because they didn't steal anything," one of
the victims told the newspaper.

On May 11 El Nacional reported that since this most recent wave of
protests began, state security forces and paramilitary have engaged in
similar violence and theft against 13 condominiums in six cities
including Maracay, Valencia, Barquisimeto and Merida. Forty-seven people
have been killed in the violence perpetrated by the antiriot squads and
paramilitary madmen since early April.

This is state terrorism. But it may not have its intended effect. Most
of the country is solidly against the government, and this includes
low-income Venezuelans, once the base for chavismo. Paradoxically the
repression seems to be strengthening opposition resolve. Perhaps
Venezuelans have reached a tipping point. They will get new elections
and freedom for political prisoners, or are ready to die trying.

The brutality also may be eroding the confidence of the men and women in
uniform. Many seem not to have the stomach for the cruelty their Cuban
handlers expect from their South American protégés. On May 5 opposition
leader Henrique Capriles said 85 members of the armed forces, including
some young captains and sergeants, had been detained by the regime for
criticizing the repression. On May 19 a member of the National Guard was
arrested in Táchira for having crossed over to defend protesters.

The international community has the power, through sanctions, to rein in
Cuba. If it fails to do so, the Venezuelan opposition will be massacred.

Source: Cuba's proxy war in Venezuela | Babalú Blog -

We Have Survived

We Have Survived

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 21 May 2017 — Three years ago this
digital daily was just a dream, a project on paper and a desire in the
heads of several colleagues. On that 21 May 2014, the mirage took shape
on the first cover of a site that robs us of our nights, brings us
frequent moments of tension, but also puts a smile on our faces when we
publish a successful investigation or report.

When we joined together around that initial idea of ​​creating a
newspaper from within Cuba, we had at least two pillars on which to
build this informational edifice: to engage in quality journalism and to
maintain our economic independence. Fulfilling those initial goals has
been a difficult challenge, but we are pleased and proud to have
succeeded in most cases.

For three years this newspaper has privileged opinion, has made
reporting its flagship content and has opted for well written stories,
carefully prepared and anchored to reality. We have managed to address
opposing worlds: opposition and officialdom; ecology and
industry; emigration and local entrepreneurship.

We have avoided adjectives to focus on the facts and to distinguish
ourselves from activism journalism. Our compass seeks to maintain
seriousness and rigor in the simplest and most complex articles. In this
newsroom we repeat some phrases that reveal this premise: "it is better
to be late than wrong," "we do not work for the hits but for the
information," "being a reporter is not a good profession for making
friends," "a good journalist will always end up annoying someone"… and
many others.

In this time, we have rejected all offers of economic support from
foreign governments, political parties, foundations linked to power
groups and figures with a marked ideological position. Instead we have
chosen to "make a living" through journalism, something so distressing
and difficult in these times it has put us constantly on the verge of
material indigence. However, this tension has been the best incentive to
produce high quality content that we can offer to media and agencies in
other parts of the world.

Our editorial team is the best family you can imagine. Like all
relatives, it has its headaches: there are severe parents, hypercritical
uncles, grumpy grandparents, unkind brothers and fast-paced cousins when
it's time to click the button to "publish" to information. But in
general it is a team united by the best possible glue: the search for
journalistic quality.

Our main obstacles remain obtaining information in a country where
institutions practice secrecy, the official press gilds reality and most
citizens are afraid to speak with an independent newspaper. They are not
insurmountable difficulties, but they demand an enormous amount of
energy and patience from us every day.

The blocking of our digital site, the stigmatizing of our name and the
harassment of reporters have also negatively affected the scope of our
work, but we are not discouraged. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

The most important thing we are going to keep in mind today, when we
blow out the three tiny candles on our digital cake, is that "we have
survived." Against all the predictions of friends and enemies, we are
here, we have made a space in Cuban journalism and we will continue to
work to improve the quality of this newspaper.

Source: We Have Survived – Translating Cuba -

In a first, Cuba loses patience with Trump’s “ridiculous” statements

In a first, Cuba loses patience with Trump's "ridiculous" statements
US president criticizes regime on Independence Day; Havana chides
Miami 22 MAY 2017 - 17:36 CEST

For the first time, the Cuban government has responded to US President
Donald Trump in an exasperated tone. On Saturday, when the island nation
was observing the anniversary of the creation of the Republic of Cuba on
May 20, 1902, the White House released a statement from Trump "to the
Cuban-American community and to the people of Cuba" stating that
historical figures such as the Cuban patriot José Martí "remind us that
cruel despotism cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of

Cuba se crispa por primera vez con Trump y lo califica de "ridículo"
"The Cuban people deserve a government that peacefully upholds
democratic values, economic liberties, religious freedoms, and human
rights, and my Administration is committed to achieving that vision,"
reads the statement.

Just hours later, Cuban television aired a reply that derided Trump's
message as "ridiculous" and "ill-advised." Cuban authorities criticized
"the contradictory, blundering statements by the
millionaire-magnate-turned-president on matters of foreign and domestic

This recent verbal scuffle could set the tone for a future relationship
defined by an ill-humored pragmatism

Up until now, the Raúl Castro administration had exercised
self-restraint in the face of Trump's criticism. This verbal clash is
the first direct falling out between both countries since the new US
president took office, and it represents a harsh change of tone in
bilateral relations following the diplomatic normalization that began in
December 2014 under then-president Barack Obama.

Under Trump, who has spoken – both before and after his election victory
– of the possibility of backtracking on his predecessor's overtures to
Cuba if Havana did not respect civil liberties, bilateral relations have
entered a period of unease until the White House defines its Cuba policy.

Cuban-American political power, which remains loyal to Miami exiles'
traditional demands for Washington to be tough on Havana, is pressuring
the president in this direction, although his administration is not
expected to go much further than verbal political denunciation and the
odd minor corrective measure. This is because half of all Cuban-American
voters support a normalization of relations, and because there is
significant US business interest in continuing with the thaw.

This recent verbal scuffle could set the tone for a future relationship
defined by an ill-humored pragmatism under which both governments would
direct barbs at one another but make no politically significant moves –
or it could herald a regression to the days of open hostility that could
eventually have real political repercussions.

English version by Susana Urra.

Source: Cuban thaw: In a first, Cuba loses patience with Trump's
"ridiculous" statements | In English | EL PAÍS -

Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Cuban Independence Day

Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Cuban Independence Day

On Cuban Independence Day, I extend my warmest wishes to the Cuban
American community and the people of Cuba as our whole Nation joins you
in celebrating the anniversary of Cuban Independence.

Americans and Cubans share allegiance to the principles of
self-governance, dignity, and freedom. Today, we remember patriots like
José Martí, who devoted himself to making Cuba an economically
competitive and politically autonomous nation. He reminds us that cruel
despotism cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of
Cubans, and that unjust persecution cannot tamper Cubans' dreams for
their children to live free from oppression. The Cuban people deserve a
government that peacefully upholds democratic values, economic
liberties, religious freedoms, and human rights, and my Administration
is committed to achieving that vision.

Today, we also honor the generations of Cuban Americans who have made
outstanding contributions to our country by sharing their culture and
talents. Cuban Americans have distinguished themselves in literature,
the arts, business, sports, the courts, Congress, and within my
Administration. We are especially thankful to the Cuban Americans who
serve in our military and who have sacrificed in defense of our freedom.

Melania and I send our best wishes on this important day in history for
the Americas. God bless the people of Cuba and our Cuban American
friends who call the United States home.

Source: Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Cuban Independence
Day | -

Havana lashes out against Trump’s May 20 message to the Cuban people

Havana lashes out against Trump's May 20 message to the Cuban people

Havana has reacted strongly to a statement issued by President Donald
Trump to the Cuban people over the weekend to mark the 115th anniversary
of the birth of the Republic of Cuba.

A statement read on Cuban state television on Saturday described Trump's
message as "controversial" and "ridiculous."

"...the Miami Herald on Saturday published a controversial and
ridiculous message from the ill-advised U.S. President Donald Trump to
the people of Cuba about May 20, a date that the United States considers
as the emergence of the Republic of Cuba, when we actually know that
what was born that day was a Yankee neo-colony, which lived until on
January 1, 1959," says the statement, referencing the date when Fidel
Castro seized control of the island.

The statement, which was also published on the Cuban TV website, is
signed only as "Official Note" and it is unclear whether it corresponds
to a change of position by the Cuban government, which had been careful
in its statements on the new U.S. president, who has ordered a review of
Cuba policy.

On several occasions, the Cuban government has offered to maintain a
dialogue with the United States.

Official notes from Havana are usually signed by "the Revolutionary
Government" or the governmental entity issuing it. Cuban Television
responds directly to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, a
conservative bastion within the government of Raúl Castro.

The Cuban Embassy in the United States did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.

The statement also references a wire story published in el Nuevo Herald
that focused on "Trump's slips in state affairs."

"Even within in the U.S. government there is knowledge of the
contradictory and clumsy pronouncements of the millionaire tycoon turned
president, on issues of politics, both exterior and interior," the
statement says.

On Sunday, state television continued to lash out with commentator
Oliver Zamora stating in the noon newscast:

"..Now we must really worry about the future of bilateral relations
after this letter from the president-magnate, because he can only
respond to two initial positions, or part of the cynicism, or at best

Trump's message, which triggered Havana's reaction, highlighted "that
cruel despotism cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of
Cubans, and that unjust persecution cannot tamper Cubans' dreams for
their children to live free from oppression."

Trump also promised that he will work for Cubans on the island to have a
government that respects democracy and civil liberties.

During his campaign, Trump promised to change Cuba policy, and a State
Department official recently said that the United States would seek to
put more pressure on the Cuban government regarding its human rights
record. It was anticipated that an announcement about these changes
would come by Saturday, but it was postponed because of the president's
trip to the Middle East and because the Cuba policy review has not been
completed, a White House spokeswoman told el Nuevo Herald.


Source: Havana reacts to Trump's May 20 message to Cubans | Miami Herald

Offutt airman who spotted Soviet missiles in Cuba inducted into Strategic Air Command Hall of Fame

Offutt airman who spotted Soviet missiles in Cuba inducted into
Strategic Air Command Hall of Fame
May 22, 2017

Deep in the basement of the Strategic Air Command's headquarters at
Offutt Air Force Base, Airman 1st Class Michael Davis studied the
black-and-white film squares through a magnifying lens on that October
day in 1962.

Hunched over the light table, he noticed some cigar-shaped objects. He
knew they were out of the ordinary; though only 24, he had been studying
aerial reconnaissance photos like these, from a U-2 flight over Cuba,
for three years.

"Major, take a look at this," Davis told an officer. "I think you'd
better call the colonel."

The Cuban "cigars" were actually Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles
on the backs of transport trucks. The SAC commander, Gen. Thomas Power,
looked over the photos. The next day, the president was briefed. For the
next two weeks, the United States and the Soviet Union stood toe-to-toe
in what came to be known as the Cuban missile crisis.

Davis couldn't share his secret discovery, of course, but he was named
Offutt's "Airman of the Month" and received a three-day pass, he told
The World-Herald in a 2002 interview.

On Saturday, Davis received additional recognition when he was named to
the SAC Hall of Fame, one of four members of its second class of
inductees. The ceremony was held on Saturday — Armed Forces Day — at the
Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum near Ashland.

The inductees were selected for their "significant impact in service to
SAC or to its mission," according to a press release from the museum.
Nominees were selected by a committee of six community leaders who are
knowledgeable about the military and about SAC history.

» Gen. Russell E. Dougherty, a World War II veteran who was SAC's eighth
commander, from 1974 to '77, described by the SAC Museum as a
"transformational leader" who "positively impacted the quality of life
for those serving in SAC." He died in 2007 at age 86 and is buried at
Arlington National Cemetery.

» Gen. Larry D. Welch, 82, who headed SAC in 1985 and 1986 before
stepping up to become Air Force chief of staff. He is credited by the
museum with raising SAC's readiness through "tough, realistic training,
modernization, and improving efficiency." In retirement, he continues to
serve on the Defense Policy Board and U.S. Strategic Command's Strategic
Advisory Board.

» Ed Wells, longtime chief engineer at Boeing Co., who was involved in
the design of aircraft from the B-17 to the 747, and was responsible for
designing or improving many SAC aircraft platforms, including the B-29
Superfortress, B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress. He died in 1986
at age 75.

The museum also inducted three supporters to its own Hall of Fame: Bruce
Rohde, Lee Seemann and Clarence Werner., 402-444-1186

Source: Offutt airman who spotted Soviet missiles in Cuba inducted into
Strategic Air Command Hall of Fame | Military | -

Supporting Cuba through the drought of the century

Supporting Cuba through the drought of the century

REPORT from European Commission's Directorate-General for European Civil
Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Published on 22 May 2017
By Hilaire Avril, Regional Information Officer, EU Humanitarian Aid.

Cuba has been fighting one of the toughest droughts in a century for the
past three years. Declining and erratic rainfall, increasingly long
periods between rainy seasons and dry spells caused by the El Niño
phenomenon, have affected more than 50% of the island's territory. "The
frequency and severity of droughts in the Caribbean region have been
increasing steadily in the past years, and - like other hazards such as
hurricanes; one needs to prepare for and address these recurrent
events," says Virginie André, who coordinates EU Humanitarian Aid
programmes for the Caribbean.

The situation has a direct impact on the water level of the dams -
throughout the country dam levels are below 50% of capacity. Although a
staggering 141 of Cuba's 168 municipalities have been affected, Central
and Eastern Cuba have been hit particularly hard.

"More than 1 million Cubans have been affected," Virginie explains.

Even the land is parched: 75% of Cuba's soils are dry which means that
crop growth and agricultural production is limited. The lack of water is
persistent throughout the nation and the country's efforts to mitigate
the effects of this phenomenon focus on saving - and investing - in
order to ensure an adequate supply to people and crops.

But proper disaster risk management requires intervention prior to a
disaster (prevention), during the impact itself (response) as well as
after the event.

This is why the EU is funding a €600 000 drought resilience initiative
through two projects implemented by partners the World Food Program
(WFP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Movimiento por la
Paz (MPDL) to strengthen preparedness, early warning, response and
adaptation as well as to build up the technical capacity of
meteorological and hydrological networks.

"We aim to bring assistance to those who need it most, but also to
prevent the worst impacts of future droughts by reducing vulnerabilities
and strengthening the resilience of municipalities and local authorities
in Cuba's eastern provinces," says Virginie André. This includes
sustainable community access to water in the most vulnerable
neighbourhoods of Santiago de Cuba (Cuba's second largest city after
Havana, the capital), for 69 300 residents.

The project addresses priorities identified in consultation with
national and local authorities, with the support of all institutions,
based on risk assessments carried out at local levels.

"EU support has been focused on adapting measures to the current drought
and helping communities to prepare for the next drought, before it hits
the country again, as we can unfortunately expect," Virginie concludes.

To learn more about resilience and disaster risk management, register
for the World Reconstruction Conference which takes place in Brussels on
6-8th June. For more details click here.

Last updated 22/05/2017

Source: Supporting Cuba through the drought of the century - Cuba |
ReliefWeb -

Sunday, May 21, 2017

“We Are Not Leaving Cuba”, Say Members Of The Center For Coexistence Studies

"We Are Not Leaving Cuba", Say Members Of The Center For Coexistence Studies

14ymedio, Havana, 16 May 2017 — In the midst of a wave of pressure from
the authorities, members of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC)
have issued a declaration of commitment to their work on the island. "We
are not leaving Cuba, we are not leaving the Church and we will continue
working for the country," says the text signed by Dagoberto Valdés,
director of the CEC.

The message expresses gratitude for "solidarity in moments of tough
repression" and assures that the team "continues to think, propose,
dream and build a free and prosperous future for all Cubans."

The statement was issued a few hours after police stopped the vehicle in
which Yoandy Izquierdo, a member of the CEC, was traveling from Pinar
del Rio to Havana to board a flight. The activist was invited to
participate in the Stockolm Internet Forum (SIF) in Sweden but misses
his plane this Sunday because of the arrest.

Izquierdo was detained at the police unit in Los Palacios and officers
asserted that they need to conduct a search to determine if the driver
of the car was "charging for the shuttle service to the airport."

The activist was not released until after his flight took off, but this
Monday he managed to reach José Martí International Airport and board a
plane to his destination.

The detention of Izquierdo was added to an escalation in repression
against the members of the CEC that has increased in the last months;
several of the organization's managers have been object of pressures,
warnings and interrogations.

Last January the economist Karina Gálvez suffered a raid on her home and
has been accused of an alleged tax evasion offense. The police are
keeping her house sealed waiting for the trial to take place.

The Coexistence Studies Center organizes training courses for the
citizenry and civil society in Cuba. The entity functions independently
of the State, the Church and any political grouping. The magazine of the
same name emerged in 2008 and is published bimonthly.

Source: "We Are Not Leaving Cuba", Say Members Of The Center For
Coexistence Studies – Translating Cuba -

Castro Regime Rushes Unfinished Business Before Raul Leaves the Presidency

Castro Regime Rushes Unfinished Business Before Raul Leaves the Presidency

14ymedio, Havana, 19 May 2017 — The government rushed on Friday to
accomplish some pending tasks before Raul Castro leaves the
presidency. The Third Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the
Communist Party ratified two programmatic documents at a meeting where
Marino Murillo reappeared, vice-president of the Council of Ministers
removed from the family photo of power as of November of last year.

Just 40 days before the promised deadline, the Conceptualization of the
Cuban Social and Economic Development Model and the bases of the
National Economic and Social Development Plan were approved until 2030.
The package also included compliance with the new modifications to The
Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the

A note read on the noon edition of the television news reported that
President Raul Castro considers these documents as "the most studied,
discussed and rediscussed in the history of the Revolution." The
approval of the texts occurs after a long process in which, it is said,
more than 1.5 million Cubans participated.

The Plenum agreed to submit to the consideration of the National
Assembly the Conceptualization of the Model and the Guidelines, but with
regards to the Plan it only proposed to inform the parliamentarians
about its approval.

The ratification of these programs comes at a difficult time for the
country. Last year, the island experienced a 0.9% decrease in its Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) for the first time since 1995. Stopping this drop
and obtaining an increase in GDP is the government's main economic
objective for this year.

The political and economic crisis in Venezuela has caused an abrupt drop
in oil imports to the island. Of the 100,000 barrels a day received by
Cuba at a subsidized price during the best years of closer ties with
Venezulea, analysts estimate that now only less than half as many
barrels are arriving.

A Russian oil company has taken on providing an emergency supply and
plans to send in the next few months about 250,000 tonnes of oil and
diesel to the island where, since last year, the consumption of
electricity in state entities has been rationed and cuts have been
applied to the fuel supply.

The current scenario directly raised questions about what was
established in the Plan for 2030.

The Conceptualization does not reference that the ultimate goal of Cuban
socialism is to build the communist society; nor does it mention as a
goal the suppression of the exploitation of man by man.

Missing in the document are topics of great interest to the population
such as the elimination of rationing system, the permitting of
professionals to exercise self-employment in their specialties, or human

Source: Castro Regime Rushes Unfinished Business Before Raul Leaves the
Presidency – Translating Cuba -

As Cubans await policy changes, Trump sends a message on Cuban Independence Day

As Cubans await policy changes, Trump sends a message on Cuban
Independence Day

On the 115th anniversary of the birth of the Republic of Cuba, President
Donald Trump on Saturday extended his "warmest wishes" to Cuban
Americans and promised that he will work for Cubans on the island to
have a government that respects democracy and civil liberties.

"Today, we remember patriots like José Martí, who devoted himself to
making Cuba an economically competitive and politically autonomous
nation," Trump said in a statement. "He reminds us that cruel despotism
cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of Cubans, and that
unjust persecution cannot tamper Cubans' dreams for their children to
live free from oppression."

During his campaign, Trump promised to change Cuba policy, and a State
Department official recently said that the United States would seek to
put more pressure on the Cuban government regarding its human rights
record. It was anticipated that an announcement about these changes
would come by Saturday, but it was postponed because of the president's
trip to the Middle East and because the Cuba policy review has not been
completed, a White House spokeswoman told el Nuevo Herald.

In his statement, Trump also highlighted the "outstanding contributions"
of several generations of Cuban Americans to the United States.

"Cuban Americans have distinguished themselves in literature, the arts,
business, sports, the courts, Congress, and within my Administration. We
are especially thankful to the Cuban Americans who serve in our military
and who have sacrificed in defense of our freedom."

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: As Cubans await policy changes, Trump sends a message on Cuban
Independence Day | Miami Herald -

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Miami Has It All, Even Russian Meat

Miami Has It All, Even Russian Meat / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 18 May 2017—A neighbor of mine in
Arroyo Naranjo recently had to ask an old friend of his who lives Miami
to help him obtain some amitriptyline. A psychiatrist had recommended
this medication for my neighbor's wife to treat a nervous condition that
would worsen without it.

This drug, among many others on a very long list, has been off the
shelves of Havana pharmacies for months. The official excuse, aside from
usual ones such as "the criminal blockade [U.S. embargo]," is that the
cash-strapped Cuban state has been unable to square its debts with
foreign pharmaceutical companies.

For the very astute customs officials at Cuban airports, ever on the
hunt for drug trafficking and other illegal activities, it is a headache
to conduct their painstaking inspections of the troves of medicines and
vitamins that are brought in by travelers from the U.S.

Thus, it is no surprise that in Havana at this time, it is easier to
find Tylenol than aspirin, and Centrum or Kirkland brand vitamins than
the yellow multivitamin powder produced by the state, which some prefer
not to use because it "whets their appetite too much."

Cubans on the Island are evermore dependent on the remittances and
packages they receive from their relatives and friends abroad, primarily
those in the U.S., whom the regime demonized for decades, called
traitors, and tried to cut their emotional ties to Cuba.

Many Cubans depend on the emigres and exiles not only for medicine,
sustenance and clothing, and the monthly recharging of their mobile
phones. They also request and obtain from them the most varied and
sundry goods: from santería necklaces and white garments for the iyabó
to school uniforms, and even parts for Russian-made automobiles.

That's right. You heard it. In various Miami establishments one can find
parts for Soviet-era automobile makes such as Lada and Mokvich, and for
Ural and Berjomina motorcycles. In today's Russia it is probably
difficult to find these parts, they may not even be produced anymore,
but in Miami, I know not how, there is an abundance of them. And
obviously they are aimed at Cuba, where Russian cars compete for
longevity with the Fords and Chevrolets more than 60 years old that are
still circulating.

But do not be surprised by the availability of Russian products in Miami
(let us hope this is not a plot by Czar Putin and his intelligence
service). When I visited that city last year, I spotted on the shelves
of a well-stocked bodega (it being so Cuban I hesitate to call it a
supermarket), located on Southwest 27th Avenue near Coconut Grove,
nothing less than Russian canned meat. Those very same cans that we
would refuse back in the day, the ones we said contained bear flesh or
god-knows what other greasy Siberian beast, and that today, after so
many years of enforced vegetarianism, cause our mouths to water as
though they were the most exquisite delicacy. It appears that in Miami,
while hunger is not their motivation, there are Cubans who are nostalgic
for Russian canned meat, because I doubt very seriously that the only
customers for this product would be the wealthy Russians who reside in
Hallandale and Sunny Isles.

In Hialeah, which is like a piece of Cuba transplanted to South Florida
(but without the ration books and the CDR) it probably is not very
difficult to find those damned cans of Russian meat.

Also there, and in any other part of Miami, one can hear reggaeton and
watch the pigswill of Cuban TV. And don't be surprised if the generation
of Bolek and Lolek manage to get their hands on those cartoons they had
to watch as children in Cuba, when Pluto, Porky Pig and Donald Duck were
considered agents of the imperialist ideological penetration.

Those who cannot resign themselves to watery coffee and bland
cigarettes—if they wish to smoke (to the horror of the nonsmokers,
always such scolds) stronger cigarettes than American Spirit and the
Wranglers sold by the Indians in Kendall—can find in Hialeah, and not
too expensive, cigarettes directly from Cuba: H. Upmann, Populares and
even the unsmokeable Criollos and Titanes, a.k.a. "chestbusters."

It seems to be true what I heard from a Cuban American who, as a sort of
savior-magus bearing gifts, was visiting his impoverished relatives in
Mantilla: "You can find everything in Miami, anything, whatever it is."

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Miami Has It All, Even Russian Meat / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez
– Translating Cuba -

Cuba: Forbidden Fruit

Cuba: Forbidden Fruit / Iván García

Iván García, 11 May 2017 — Scarcely a block away from the majestic Grand
Hotel Manzana Kempinski, whose inauguration is expected next June 2nd,
next to the Payret cinema, a state-owned cafeteria sells an acidic and
insipid hamburger with bread for the equivalent of 50 centavos. Workers
in the neighbourhood and beggars who survive on asking foreigners for
change, form a small queue to buy the inedible hamburger.

The hotel, built by Kempinski, a company started in Berlin in 1897,
stands in the place of the old Manzana de Gómez, the first shopping mall
on the island, at Neptuno, San Rafael, Zulueta and Monserrate streets,
in the heart of Havana. Opened in 1910, throughout its history, the
Manzana de Gómez housed everything from offices, lawyers' chambers and
commercial consultants to businesses, cafes and restaurants and other

Very near to Manzana Kempinski, the first five star hotel there, will be
the Cuban parliament, still a work in progress, which will have as its
headquarters the old National Capitol, a smaller scale replica of the
Congress in Washington.

The splendid hotel, owned by Gaviota, a Cuban military corporation, and
managed by the Kepinski organisation, can boast of having the old Centro
Asturiano, now the home of the Fine Arts Museum's private collections,
the Havana Gran Teatro and the Inglaterra, Telégrafo, Plaza and Parque
Central hotels as neighbours.

Apart from the recently-built Parque Central Hotel, the other three
hotels are situated in 19th century or Republican era buildings, and are
among the most beautiful in the city. In the centre of these
architectural jewels we find Havana Park, presided over by the statue of
the national hero, José Martí.

In those four hotels, you will find shops selling exclusively in
convertible pesos (CUC), a strong currency created by Fidel Castro for
the purpose of buying high quality capitalist goods.

Incidentally, they pay their employees in the Cuban Pesos (CUP), or
national currency. In the tourism, telecoms and civil aviation sectors,
their employees only earn 10-35 CUC as commission.

The chavito, as the Cubans term the CUC, is a revolving door which
controls the territory between the socialist botch-ups, shortages and
third rate services and the good or excellent products invoiced by the
"class enemies", as the Marxist theory has it, which supports the olive
green bunch which has been governing the island since 1959.

21st century Cuba is an absurd puzzle. Those in charge talk about
defending the poor, go on about social justice and prosperous
sustainable socialism, but the working class and retired people are
worse off.

The regime is incapable of starting up stocked markets, putting up good
quality apartment blocks, reasonably priced hotels where a workman could
stay or even maintaining houses, streets and sidewalks in and around the
neighborhoods of the capital. But it invests a good part of the gross
domestic product in attracting foreign currency.

José, a private taxi driver, thinks that it's good to have millions of
tourists pouring millions of dollars into the state's cash register.
"But, the cash should then be reinvested in improving the country. From
the '80's on, the government has bet on tourism. And how much money has
come over all those years? And in which productive sectors has it been
invested?" asks the driver of a clapped-out Soviet-era Moskovitch.

Government officials should tell us. But they don't. In Cuba, supposedly
public money is managed in the utmost secrecy. Nobody knows where the
foreign currency earned by the state actually ends up and the officials
look uncomfortable when you ask them to explain about offshore
Panamanian or Swiss bank accounts.

In this social experiment, which brings together the worst of socialism
imported from the USSR with the most repugnant aspects of African style
capitalist monopoly, in the ruined streets of Havana, they allow Rapid
and Furious to be filmed, they tidy up the Paseo del Prado for a Chanel
parade or open a Qatar style hotel like the Manzana Kampinski, in an
area surrounded by filth, where there is no water and families have only
one meal a day to eat.

In a car dealer in Primelles on the corner of Via Blanca, in El Cerro,
they sell cars at insulting prices. The hoods of the cars are covered in
dust and a used car costs between $15-40,000. A Peugeot 508, at $300k,
is dearer than a Lamborghini.

For the authorities, the excessive prices are a "revolutionary tax", and
with this money they have said they will defray the cost of buying city
buses. It's a joke: they have hardly sold more than about forty
second-hand cars in three years and public transport goes from bad to worse.

For Danay, a secondary school teacher, it isn't the government opening
hotels and luxury shops that annoys her, "What pisses me off is that
everything is unreal. How can they sell stuff that no-one could afford
even if they worked for 500 years? Is it some kind of macabre joke, and
an insult to all Cuban workers?" Danay asks herself, while she hangs
around the shopping centre in the Hotel Kempinski.

In the wide reinforced concrete passageways, what you normally see there
is amazing. With his girl friend embracing him, Ronald, a university
student, smiles sarcastically as he looks in a jewelry shop window at
some emeralds going for more than 24k convertible pesos. "In another
shop, a Canon camera costs 7,500 CUC. It's mad." And he adds:

"In other countries they sell expensive items, but they also have items
for more affordable prices. Who the hell could buy that in Cuba, my
friend? Apart from those people (in the government), the Cuban major
league baseball players who get paid millions of dollars, and the people
who have emigrated and earn lots of money in the United States. I don't
think tourists are going to buy things they can get more cheaply in
their own countries. If at any time I had any doubts about the essential
truth about this government, I can see it here: we are living in a
divided society. Capitalism for the people up there, and socialism and
poverty for us lot down here".

Security guards dressed in grey uniforms, with earphones in their ears
and surly-looking faces, have a go at anyone taking photos or connecting
to the internet via wifi. People complain "If they don't let you take
photos or connect to the internet, then they are not letting Cubans come
in", says an irritated woman.

In the middle of the ground floor of what is now the Hotel Kempinski,
which used to be the Manzana de Gómez mall, in 1965 a bronze effigy of
Julio Antonio Mella, the student leaders and founder of the first
Communist party in 1925, was unveiled. The sculpture has disappeared
from there.

"In the middle of all this luxurious capitalism, there is no place for
Mella's statue", comments a man looking at the window displays with his
granddaughter. Or probably the government felt embarrassed by it.

Iván García

Note: About the Mella bust, in an article entitled Not forgotten or
dead, published 6th May in the Juventud Rebelde magazine, the journalist
Ciro Bianchi Ross wrote: "I have often asked myself what was the point
of the Mella bust which they put in the middle of the Manzana de Gómez
mall and then removed seven years ago, before the old building started
to be transformed into a luxury hotel, and which seems to bother people
now. Mella had nothing in common with that building. The Manzana de
Gómez had no connection with his life or his political journey. Apart
from the fact that from an artistic point of view it didn't look like

Translated by GH

Source: Cuba: Forbidden Fruit / Iván García – Translating Cuba -

Make-A-Wish Sends 11-Year-Old to Cuba to Visit Grandparents

Make-A-Wish Sends 11-Year-Old to Cuba to Visit Grandparents
Make-A-Wish New Jersey has surprised an 11-year-old lymphoma patient
with a trip to Cuba.
May 20, 2017, at 11:30 a.m.

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Make-A-Wish New Jersey has surprised an
11-year-old lymphoma patient with a trip to Cuba. ( ) reports Tyler Machado thought he was
heading to the doctor's office Friday morning. But he instead was
greeted with a red carpet leading to a stretch limousine.

Tyler is the first child from the United States to go to Cuba through
Make-A-Wish since the travel ban was lifted under the Obama administration.

Tyler's mother says her son is a "family person" who has always wanted
to go to Cuba to meet his grandparents. Her son said he was happy before
heading out on his six-day trip.

The communications director for Make-A-Wish says the foundation is
working on trips to Cuba for other children throughout the U.S.

Information from:,

Source: Make-A-Wish Sends 11-Year-Old to Cuba to Visit Grandparents |
New Jersey News | US News -

Democracy in Cuba is smuggled on thumb drives, spreads on street networks

Democracy in Cuba is smuggled on thumb drives, spreads on street networks
Revolution in the time of the internet
by Brian Crecente@crecenteb May 19, 2017, 4:30pm EDT

Cuba is like the memory of somewhere you've never been.

It's the bilinearity of capitalism and commercialism, rum and coke,
offline and on, that takes two opposing ideas and turns them into some
different, often wondrous thing.

In spending a week wandering the streets of Havana and its suburbs on
the hunt for Cuba's video gaming generation, I kept stumbling across
this sort of low-tech meets high-tech fabulism. It gave my short stay in
Cuba, already stripped of free time, time to think, time to relax, a
sense of almost magic realism.

Viewed through the pictures found in travel magazines, or the
conversations I had with smiling, sun-burnt tourists over a dinner, Cuba
was a place lost to time, a relic of communism and 1950s America.

But in talking to today's generation of Cubans, the growing pool of
20-somethings that will one day inherit this island nation, Cuba is much
more an idea than a collection of meticulously cared for aging Buicks,
rum distilleries and sugar cane fields.

There is a great pride in the Cuban people for Cuba. That is Cuba the
land, the island, the culture, not necessarily Cuba the government.

Cuba is the land of making do. Of making it work. Of doing the
impossible, and nowhere is that more evident than in the country's
embrace of technology and gaming.

Despite long-held embargoes, an average monthly salary of $25 and a
government restriction on all but official media, Cubans still find a
way to watch the latest American TV and movies and play video games.

It was two gamers who, wanting to play a video game with each other,
built the first local, unofficial network with a bit of cable. That
"Street Network" takes in all of Havana and, I've been told, even
connects outlying cities. In the city of Havana alone, 20,000 people
play games, shop, chat and watch restricted movies and television on the
network these days. All without government oversight or an internet
connection to the outside world.

Arcades could never happen in Cuba, thanks to trade embargoes and other
government restrictions, so instead people began hosting game sessions
on smuggled consoles, charging a pocketful of change for an hour on a
PlayStation in their home.

Game development, once an unimaginable career in Cuba, now has official
backing from the government and at the universities. And, perhaps more
importantly, a group of unorthodox developers, independent from
government censorship, control or funding, is fighting to create their
own sorts of video games that can tell Cuba's stories in the same ways
that music, sports and art have for so long.

Video games in the land of Castro are an impossibility and yet I found
them everywhere: as nightly ritual for an entire generation of Cubans, a
stretch of illicit network cable hidden in a bundle of utility lines,
the hushed giggle of children playing in a speakeasy arcade, the
champion professional gamer with no one to play.

Gaming in Cuba is perhaps the truest sign that the country, if not its
government, is ready, eager and wanting to join the rest of the world,
to embrace a connected society.

And soon, as with the "Street Network" which continues to grow like
cobwebs in a massive machine struck silent, no person, no government
will be able to stop that relentless push for international connectivity.

That the democratization of a socialist country would arrive in the
thumb drives and gaming consoles of Cuban smugglers alongside Hollywood
blockbusters, episodes of American Gods and copies of the latest
computer games seems fitting.

Revolution in the time of the internet seems to come a bit at a time.

Good Game is an internationally syndicated weekly news and opinion
column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its
bigger impact on things to come. Brian Crecente is a founding editor and
executive editor of Polygon.

Source: Democracy in Cuba is smuggled on thumb drives, spreads on street
networks - Polygon -

Private credit for Cuba on table

Private credit for Cuba on table
Bill would ease agriculture trade
By Frank E. Lockwood

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he wants to
remove barriers to trade with Cuba, telling a House committee this week:
"If our folks grow it, I want to sell it."

Current U.S. law prevents American farmers from extending credit to
Cuban purchasers. U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, a Jonesboro Republican who
represents much of eastern Arkansas, has introduced legislation that
would remove the restrictions on private loans.

This week, Crawford lobbied for the bill on Capitol Hill and at the
White House.

During a meeting of the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday,
Crawford asked Perdue to back H.R. 525, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act.

"I think that's something I would be supportive of if folks around the
world need private credit to buy our products, and I'm all for that,"
Perdue told Crawford and the other committee members. "I probably would
have some personal concern if we were doing public credit to the nation
of Cuba."

Crawford, who represents the nation's top rice-producing district, said
he shared that view. "That is strictly a private transaction with no
taxpayer public backstop and I think that is important to note," he replied.

Supporters of U.S.-Cuban trade welcomed the statement from a member of
President Donald Trump's cabinet.

One day later, Crawford and three of H.R. 525's co-sponsors met with
White House officials who are helping to craft the Trump
administration's Cuba policy.

"It was a high-level meeting," Crawford said in an interview Friday,
calling it a "very positive" discussion.

"I can't speak for the administration, but I get the sense that there is
a feeling there that this vestige of the Cold War needs to go away and
we need to play an active role in shaping the future of Cuba," he said.

Prior to the Cuban revolution, the U.S. was a major supplier of rice to
the island. But the trade ended after the rise of Cuban dictator Fidel
Castro and the nation's embrace of communism.

With a U.S. trade embargo in place, Havana turned to other nations for
rice imports.

Restrictions on the sale of medication and agricultural products were
rolled back in 2000, and by 2004 U.S. rice sales had climbed to $64
million. The exports ended, however, after the U.S. government barred
farmers from extending credit to Cuban purchasers.

Since fiscal 2009, Cuba has opted not to buy any U.S. rice. Most of its
rice imports are from Vietnam and Brazil.

The country is buying U.S. chicken, however. The U.S. is "the lead
supplier" of poultry -- mostly frozen chicken leg quarters -- according
to the United States International Trade Commission. Easing the
restrictions could lead to modest growth for U.S. chicken exports, the
agency said.

If the trade barriers on rice are removed, the two states that would
benefit most are Arkansas and Louisiana, the trade commission stated in
its March 2016 analysis.

After more than a half-century of economic sanctions, it's clear that
the economic embargo isn't working, Crawford said.

"I think it's just time to take a different look, take a different
approach," he said.

Crawford said he's hopeful that his legislation, which has 38
co-sponsors, will advance.

It helps to have Perdue's backing, Crawford said.

"He's an influential voice in the Cabinet so I think we're very well
positioned to get the kind of support we need from the administration to
move forward," he said.

Similar legislation, on the Senate side, has the backing of Arkansas'
U.S. Sen. John Boozman.

The Republican from Rogers is an original co-sponsor of the Agricultural
Export Expansion Act of 2017, which also would allow U.S. businesses to
extend credit to Cuban purchasers of agricultural commodities.

James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, said Perdue's statements give
Crawford's bill "a big boost" and "should make this move a lot quicker
through Congress.

"We're sort of at a breakthrough moment for this legislation," he said.

Speaking to the Economic Equality Caucus Conference in Washington on
Thursday, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said supporters of trade with
Cuba appear to have the momentum.

Although he opposes efforts to relax the restrictions, "You are winning
the argument and I'm losing it and I'm losing it gracefully," he told
the audience. "I think I see the handwriting on the wall."

Business on 05/20/2017

Source: Private credit for Cuba on table -

Unique Sandbar Coastal Ecosystem in Cuba Calls for Climate Solutions

Unique Sandbar Coastal Ecosystem in Cuba Calls for Climate Solutions
By Ivet González

BARACOA, Cuba, May 19 2017 (IPS) - A battered bridge connects the centre
of Baracoa, Cuba´s oldest city, with a singular dark-sand sandbar, known
as Tibaracón, that forms on one of the banks of the Macaguaní River
where it flows into the Caribbean Sea in northeastern Cuba.

Just 13 wooden houses with lightweight roofs shield the few families
that still live on one of the six coastal sandbars exclusive to Baracoa,
a mountainous coastal municipality with striking nature reserves, whose
First City, as it is locally known, was founded 505 years ago by Spanish

These long and narrow sandbars between the river mouths and the sea have
a name from the language of the Araucan people, the native people who
once populated Cuba. The sandbars are the result of a combination of
various rare natural conditions: short, steep rivers, narrow coastal
plains, heavy seasonal rainfall and the coral reef crest near the coast.

Local experts are calling for special treatment for these sandbars
exclusive to islands in the Caribbean, in the current coastal
regulation, which is gaining momentum with Tarea Vida (Life Task),
Cuba´s first plan to tackle climate change, approved on April 27 by the
Council of Ministers.

Baracoa, with a population of 81,700, is among the municipalities
prioritised by the new programme due to its elevation. Authorities point
out that the plan, with its 11 specific tasks, has a more far-reaching
scope than previous policies focused on climate change, and includes
gradually increasing investments up to 2100.
"I was born here. I moved away when I got married, and returned seven
years ago after I got divorced," dentist María Teresa Martín, a local
resident who belongs to the Popular Council of La Playa, a peri-urban
settlement that includes the Macaguaní tibaracón or sandbar, told IPS.

The sandbar is the smallest in Baracoa, the rainiest municipality in
Cuba, while the largest – three km in length – is at the mouth of the
Duaba River.

"It's not easy to live here," said Martín. "The tide goes out and all
day long you smell this stench, because the neighbours throw all their
garbage and rubble into the river and the sea, onto the sand," she
lamented, while pointing out at the rubbish that covers the dunes and is
caught in the roots of coconut palm trees and on stranded fishing boats.

The Macaguaní River runs down from the mountains and across the city,
along Baracoa bay, which it flows into. It stinks and is clogged up from
the trash and human waste dumped into it, one of the causes of the
accelerated shrinking of the tibaracón.

"We even used to have a street, and there were many more houses," said

"We have lost other communication routes with the city. We have to
evacuate whenever there is a cyclone or tsunami warning," said the local
resident, who is waiting to be resettled to a safer place in the city.

Local fisherman Abel Estévez, who lives across from Martín, would also
like to move inland, but he is worried that he will be offered a house
too far from the city. "I live near the sea and live off it. If they
send us far from here, how am I going to support my daughter? How will
my wife get to her job at the hospital?" he remarked.

Such as is happening with La Playa, the
Coastal regulations establish that municipal authorities must relocate
to safer places 21 communities – including La Playa – along the
municipality's 82.5 km of coastline, of which 13.9 are sandy.

"We have exclusive and very vulnerable natural resources, such as the
tibaracones," explained Ricardo Suárez, municipal representative of the
Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. "They are a sandy strip
between the river and the sea, which makes them fragile ecosystems at
risk of being damaged by the river and the sea."

The disappearance of the tibaracones would change the "coastal
dynamics", explained the geographer. "Where today there is sand,
tomorrow there could be a bay, and that brings greater exposure to
penetration by the sea, which puts urban areas at risk and salinises the
soil and inland waters," he told IPS.

He said that these sandbars are affected by poor management and human
activities, such as sand extraction, pollution and indiscriminate
logging, in addition to climate change and the resulting elevation of
the sea level. He also pointed out natural causes such as geological
changes in the area.

In his opinion, the actions to protect the sandbars are band-aid
measures, since they are destined to disappear. He said this can be
slowed down unless natural disasters occur, like Hurricane Matthew,
which hit the city on Oct. 4-5, 2016.

Suárez is the author of a study that shows the gradual shrinking of the
tibaracones located in Baracoa, which serve as "natural barriers
protecting the city". He also showed how the population has been
migrating from the sandbars, due to their vulnerability.

In the shrinking community where Martín and Estévez live, between the
mouth of the Macaguaní River and the sea, there were 122 houses in 1958.
And on the Miel River tibaracón, at the eastern end of the city, there
were 45 houses in 1978, while today there are only a few shops and

The unique Miel River delta used to be 70 metres wide in the middle of
the last century, while today the narrowest portion is just 30 metres
wide. In Macaguaní, meanwhile, the shrinking has been more abrupt, from
80 metres back then, to just six metres in one segment, the study found.

The expert recommends differentiated treatment for these ecosystems,
which are not specifically contemplated under Decree Law 212 for the
Management of Coastal Areas, in force since 2000, which is the main
legal foundation for the current land-use regulation which requires the
removal of buildings that are harmful to the coasts.

Suárez said the removal of structures on sandy soil surrounded by water
must be followed with preventive measures to preserve the sand, such as
reforestation with native species.

In the study, he notes that the government's Marine Studies Agency, a
subsidiary of the Geocuba company in the neighbouring province of
Santiago de Cuba, proposes the construction of a seawall and embankment
to protect the Miel River delta. And he emphasised the importance of
carrying out similar research in the case of Macaguaní.

Cuba´s Institute of Physical Planning (IPF) inspected the 5,746 km of
coastline in the Cuban archipelago, and found 5,167 illegalities
committed by individuals, and another 1,482 by legal entities. The
institute reported that up to February 2015, 489 of the infractions
committed by legal entities had been eradicated.

When the authorities approved the Life Task plan, the IPF assured the
official media that the main progress in coastal management has been
achieved so far on the 414 Cuban beaches at 36 major tourist areas.
Tourism is Cuba´s second-biggest source of foreign exchange, after the
export of medical services.

The Greater Caribbean launches a project

The 25 members of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) approved on
Mar. 8 in Havana a regional project to curb erosion on the sandy
coastlines, promote alternatives to control the phenomenon, and drive
sustainable tourism.

The initiative, set forth by Cuba during the first ACS Cooperation
Conference, in which governments of the bloc participated along with
donor agencies and countries, including the Netherlands and South Korea,
was incorporated into the ACS´ 2016-2018 Action Plan, which will extend
until 2020.

The project, currently in the dissemination phase to raise funds,
already has a commitment from the Netherlands to contribute one billion
dollars, while South Korea has initially offered three million dollars.

The initiative will at first focus on 10 island countries, althoug
others plan to join in, since the problem of erosion of sandy coastlines
affects local economies that depend on tourism and fishing.

Source: Unique Sandbar Coastal Ecosystem in Cuba Calls for Climate
Solutions | Inter Press Service -

Friday, May 19, 2017

Cuban Professionals Are Afraid In Venezuela

Cuban Professionals Are Afraid In Venezuela

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 18 May 2017 — Seen from the Venezuelan
opposition as an army of occupation and from the Venezuelan government
as soldiers of socialism, tens of thousands of Cuban professionals live
a situation that is complicated day after day in convulsive
Venezuela. The Cuban government has asked them to stay "until the last
moment," but misery, fear and violence are overwhelming athletes,
doctors and engineers.

"We are not soldiers and we did not come to Venezuela to put a rifle on
our shoulders," says a Cuban doctor from the state of Anzoátegui who
asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals.

According to the physician, who has been working for two years in the
country, Havana has asked them to remain "with honor until the last
moment," in a clear allusion to the possible fall of the Venezuelan

"We are working under a lot of pressure because the Medical Mission is
adept at continuing to insist that services not be closed and that we
maintain our position here in spite of everything," he adds.

In Venezuela there are about 28,000 health workers and thousands of
others who are sports instructors, engineers, agricultural technicians
and even electricians. The model of paying for Cuban professional
services through the export of oil to Cuba has never been clearly
exposed by the Venezuelan government.

According to Nicolás Maduro, since Chavez came to power, more than
250 billion dollars have been invested in the so-called "missions." The
former Minister of Economy of the Island, José Luis Rodríguez, published
last April that Cuba received 11.5 billion dollars a year in payment for
professional services rendered abroad, most of which comes from
Venezuela. Other sources consider, however, that this is a very inflated
number, although Havana's profits are undoubtedly very high.

"We are afraid every day about what could happens to us. Sometimes they
throw stones at us at the CDI [Centro de Diagnóstico Integral, doctor's
offices] or they yell all kinds of insults at us. Every day there are
demonstrations in front of the medical unit and nobody protects us,"
explains the doctor.

"So far they only attack us with words. They shout at us to get out of
here, that they do not want to see themselves like us and other
atrocities," he adds.

The doctor, however, assures that those who work in the missions also do
not want to be in that situation, but they are forced by the Cuban
Government, that exerts pressure through diverse mechanisms.

"If we leave, we lose the frozen accounts maintained for us in Cuba.
Also, if you leave the mission you are frowned upon in the health system
and you have no possibility of being promoted," he explains.

The Cuban government deposits $200 a month in a frozen account that at
the end of the three years the mission lasts in Venezuela, totals
$7,200. If the professional maintained "proper conduct and did their
duty," they can withdraw that money upon their return to the island. If
they return before the established period or their participation in the
mission is revoked (among other reasons for attempting to escape) they
lose all that money.

In Cuba 250 dollars a month are deposited that can be withdrawn when the
professional on the mission visits the Island once a year. Meanwhile, in
Venezuela, they receive 27,000 bolivars, less than 10 dollars a month.

In the case of health technicians, Cuba pays them 180 dollars in a
current account and another 180 dollars a month in an account frozen
until the end of the mission.

A Cuban radiologist who is in the Venezuelan state of Zulia explains
that for months they have no "Mercal," a bag of food delivered by the
Government of Venezuela.

"We live in overcrowded conditions with several colleagues and we do not
even have potable water," he adds.

"Thanks to some patients we can eat, but they are having a very bad
time. We are repeating something like the Special Period that we
experienced in Cuba," he says.

Although he fears for his life because of the situation in the country,
he says he is determined not to return to the island. "We have to endure
until the end. It is not fair to lose everything after so much
sacrifice," he says.

Following the outbreak of the protests in Venezuela, Cuban aid workers
have been directed not to leave their homes and have experienced reduced
communications with their families in Cuba.

"The internet is very bad, you can not even communicate. We have been
forbidden to go out after six o'clock in the afternoon, as if we were
slave labor, and on television they broadcast news that has nothing to
do with what we are living through," he explains.

Julio César Alfonso, president of Solidarity Without Borders, a
Miami-based nonprofit organization that helps Cuban health personnel
integrate into the US system, says the exodus of professionals has
increased in recent weeks.

"Even without the US Medical Professional Parole Program, which allowed
doctors to obtain refuge in the United States, they continue to escape
because of the situation in Venezuela," said the physician.

Alfonso added that his organization is lobbying to re-establish the
Parole Program, eliminated by former President Barack Obama in January,
and allowing more than 8,000 Cuban professionals to enter the United States.

Eddy Gómez is an critical care doctor who worked in the state of Cojedes
in western Venezuela. He decided to escape because he was afraid of the
difficult conditions in which he was forced to work.

"We had to work in dirty places, without air conditioning, exposed to
the fact that even the patients insulted us because we nothing to treat
them with," recalls the doctor who now lives in Bogota and acts as
spokesperson for dozens of other professionals who escaped medical missions.

"After the end of Medical Parole program people have continued to escape
and come to Colombia. There are more than 50 professionals who left
Venezuela after President Obama's decision to eliminate it. We hope that
Trump will admit doctors again," says Gómez.

To escape Venezuela, the Cubans have to pay the coyotes about $650 to
take them to Colombia. The path, full of dangers, includes a bribe to
Venezuela's Bolivarian National Guard that protects the borders, and to
whom they must be careful not to show their official passports issued to
them by the Cuban government because they would immediately be deported
to the Island.

"There are many Cubans who have died violently in Venezuela, but the
Cuban government does not tell the truth to their families, nor does it
pay them compensation," explains the doctor.

"We left Cuba looking for a better life, but in Venezuela we discovered
a real hell."

Source: Cuban Professionals Are Afraid In Venezuela – Translating Cuba -

Behind the ‘Information Note’

Behind the 'Information Note'

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 18 June 2017 — The regular readers of the
official press have learned that the most innocent headlines can hide
the most interesting news. Phrases such as Notice to the
population or Information note, which defy any elementary lesson in
journalism, alert those initiated into the special "granmer" of the
Granma newspaper that, behind the candid title, there could be hidden
some threat, a hope, or the apparent fulfillment of a formality, so that
no one can say that this or that detail was never published in the press.

On Thursday, the Directorate of Identification, Immigration and
Immigration (DIIE) published an "Information note"in the official media
in which it announces to Cubans permanently resident in the country that
its offices will be open to "update the address from where they will
exercise their right to vote."

The note then invokes Electoral Law No. 72 of 1992 to specify who has
the right to active suffrage.

The real information that underlies all this, is that the first steps
have now been taken to initiate the elections that will result in the
final departure of Raul Castro from the job of President of the Councils
of State and of Ministers. Perhaps even more significant, is that this
process will begin without the new electoral law having been
promulgated, regardless of the fact that the coming of the new law was
announced by the president himself in February of 2015, at the
conclusion of the Tenth Plenary of the Communist Party Central Committee.

There is no permanent entity on the island that governs the electoral
processes, so the preparation of the Register of Voters is a task that
falls on the Ministry of Interior through its offices of the DIIE. This
is where it is registered whether a citizen resides in the national
territory and whether or not he or she is under some legal sentence that
limits his or her rights.

Oddly, the Information note makes it clear that people will be able to
go to the relevant offices in any of the municipalities in the country
"regardless of their place of residence," but does not clarify if voters
can exercise suffrage in the specific district where they physically
reside, even if that is not the legal address recorded on their identity

Thousands of people throughout the country are living as tenants in
private homes without being "properly registered"; many of them,
especially if they live in the capital and are from other provinces, are
prevented from finding a job, even with private employers, because they
can not show "an appropriate address" in their identification document.

In the interest of reducing the number of people who do not vote, the
state might be willing to overlook – for the purposes of voting only –
what it will not tolerate with regards to finding work or enrolling
one's children in school.

No doubt the upcoming elections will be as uninteresting as any others
have been. The absence of a new law indicates that the Candidacies
Commission will continue, and that it will be these bodies that prepare
the lists of aspiring deputies, while maintaining the prohibition
against any of these candidates from presenting a political platform.

As has been the case to date, voters will have to be satisfied with
nothing more than biographical data (prepared by the commissions, not by
the candidates themselves), along with a photo. They will have to vote
for their representatives without having any idea whether or not these
individuals are in favor of foreign investment, if they want to increase
or decrease non-state forms of production in the country, or if they are
likely to be for or against it if the day comes when acceptance of
same-sex marriage is introduced. They will not even know if their
preferred candidate wishes to allocate the nation's budget to build
sports stadiums or theaters.

Of course, there will be no polls speculating on what will be the name
of the person who will occupy the presidential chair in February
2018. Who are they going to put forward? It is the question that the
majority of those few people interested in the subject at all tend to
ask. Perhaps we will have to wait for another Information Note to get a
clue about this great unknown.

Source: Behind the 'Information Note' – Translating Cuba -

2 adrift Cuban fishermen rescued after 3 days at sea

2 adrift Cuban fishermen rescued after 3 days at sea
The Associated Press

The U.S. Coast Guard has rescued two Cuban fishermen who had been adrift
for three days without food or water.

Coast Guard officials said in a news release that Cuban Board Guard
contacted them Wednesday after the fishing boat didn't return to Santa
Cruz del Norte, Cuba.

Officials got a mayday call Thursday from a disabled vessel off the
Florida Keys matching missing boat's description.

The U.S. Border Patrol took custody of the men, who were treated at a
hospital and will be returned to Cuba.

The Coast Guard recently released statistics illustrating the dramatic
drop in the number of Cuban migrants trying to reach U.S. shores by sea
since President Barack Obama ended the "wet foot, dry foot" policy in
January. The number has held at zero since April 1.

Source: 2 adrift Cuban fishermen rescued after 3 days at sea | Centre
Daily Times -

Activists on both sides still await President Trump’s reset with Cuba

Activists on both sides still await President Trump's reset with Cuba
Ledyard King and Alan Gomez, USA TODAY Published 5:41 p.m. ET May 18, 2017

WASHINGTON — Four months after he was sworn in, President Trump has yet
to make good on his vow to undo his predecessor's Cuba policies.

There were reports the president would unveil his plan on Saturday to
coincide with the 115th anniversary of Cuba's independence. But those
who oppose Barack Obama's thawing of diplomatic relations with the
communist country 90 miles south of Key West will have to wait until
next month.

Trump initially applauded Obama's decision to ease sanctions. But he
shifted during the last few months of last year's presidential campaign.
In media interviews, campaign speeches and tart tweets last fall, Trump
condemned Obama's Cuba policy saying it gave away too much without
requiring human rights guarantees from the Castro regime.

Then on Nov. 28, three weeks after he won the election and two days
following the death of Cuban President Fidel Castro, Trump tweeted an

"If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the
Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal."

Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio expects he'll follow through.

"The president has committed to addressing U.S. policy towards Cuba in a
way that supports our national security, democracy and human rights,"
said Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and one of Congress' fiercest
anti-Castro voices. "I have no doubt it is a commitment he will keep."

A top State Department official told reporters last week the
administration is conducting a "comprehensive policy review" that will
include an assessment of human rights progress in Cuba.

"I suspect that there will be important differences that will emerge
between how this administration plans to address the situation in Cuba"
and those under Obama, said Francisco Palmieri, acting Assistant
Secretary in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Because most of the steps Obama took to open up relations with Cuba,
such as opening an embassy, loosening the ability of Americans to visit
the island nation, easing trade and financial barriers, were
presidential orders, Trump could reverse them without congressional consent.

But whenever the president decides to announce his policy, anti-Cuba
hardliners might face some disappointment. Cuba experts don't expect
Trump to make the kind of wholesale changes to Cuba policy that he
hinted at during his presidential campaign.

Frank Calzon, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, has been
a long-time advocate of maintaining the economic embargo on the
communist island and opposed Obama's decision to open up relations with
the island.

But even he doesn't expect — or want — Trump to change some of the core
aspects of the opening, such as the reestablishment of diplomatic
relations, the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana, and some
of the new business opportunities available to American companies who
have already invested millions in new ventures.

"You can never go back," Calzon said.

Instead, many believe Trump will tinker around the edges of Obama's
opening. That could include revoking some business opportunities that
are too closely tied to the Cuban government, or making it more
difficult for Americans to visit the island.

Frank Mora, director of the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean
Center at Florida International University in Miami, said Trump has
never been adamant about shutting down Obama's Cuba opening, but feels
he must do something to satisfy Cuban-American voters, and members of
Congress, who supported him in Florida.

"They can't say, 'We were wrong, we're going to continue with Obama's
policy,'" Mora said. "They need to deliver something. They need to be
able to say, 'Promise made, promise delivered.' That way, they can go
home (and) declare victory. End of story."

But that's probably not a victory Cuban-Americans in Congress who remain
critical of the Castro regime are likely to salute.

They point to continued reports from rights groups suggesting very
little has changed since U.S-Cuba relations began thawing in 2014

"The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and punish public
criticism," according to a report from Human Rights Watch, "It now
relies less than in past years on long-term prison sentences to punish
its critics, but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders,
independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in
recent years. Other repressive tactics employed by the government
include beatings, public shaming, and termination of employment."

"Despite all of the propaganda, despite all of the misguided policy over
the past years, the reality is that the regime's repression is only
getting worse," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami-Dade, said on the
House floor Wednesday

"We must be honest about what is really going on in Cuba. We must not be
placated by the regime's lies or by those who repeat them," she said.
"We must fight for the truth and show the Cuban people that they are not
alone, that together we all stand in solidarity with them in the pursuit
of freedom."

Source: Cuba policy: Activists on both sides still await President
Trump's reset -

‘Experiencing Cuba’ while under government surveillance

'Experiencing Cuba' while under government surveillance

CAIBARIÉN Cuba — Caibarién is a town on a bay that separates it from
Cayo de Santa María, which is located on Cuba's northern coast. It's
proximity to the city of Santa Clara, which is less than an hour to the
south, provided the perfect place to escape "experiencing Cuba" and all
that it entails — including a flat tire and dead battery on my rental
car on Thursday morning — before returning to the U.S.
The breeze that was blowing off the bay was refreshing. The fish at La
Tormenta, a small restaurant on Caibarién's beach that means "the storm"
in Spanish, that I had for lunch was freshly caught and delicious. There
were also no visible Cuban police officers or security agents within sight.
It became increasingly clear over the last couple of days the Cuban
government decided to place me under surveillance, or at the very least
knew where I was and with whom I spoke. The Cuban government will likely
never confirm my suspicion if I were to ask, but coincidence is more
than simple coincidence in a country with little tolerance of public
criticism of the government and/or those who represent it.
Tuesday afternoon was the first time I realized the Cuban government may
have decided to place me under surveillance.
I called Nelson Gandulla, president of the Cuban Federation of LGBTI
Rights, an independent LGBT advocacy group, shortly after noon from the
street to confirm our meeting at his home in the city of Cienfuegos that
we scheduled for 3 p.m. I called Nelson from the cell phone that I
bought from the state-run telecommunications company shortly after I
arrived in Cuba on May 2. The conversation lasted less than two minutes
and I walked back to the apartment near Santa Clara's Parque Leoncio
Vidal that I had rented on Airbnb from D.C.
I was leaving around 2 p.m. when the woman from whom I was renting the
apartment told me someone from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs
called and asked her whether I was a credentialed journalist. The Cuban
government granted me a 20-day visa that allowed me to report on
LGBT-specific issues in the country. I also received a Cuban press
credential from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' International Press
Center in Havana.
The situation clearly left the woman from whom I rented the apartment
embarrassed, and I honestly felt bad the government had placed her into
such an awkward position. She profusely apologized to me several times
after I showed her my Cuban press credentials and assured me that I
would not have any problems while staying in her family's home. I left a
few minutes later and walked to my car that was parked a couple of
blocks away.
Police checked documents after interviewing activist
The hour-long drive from Santa Clara to Cienfuegos, which is on Cuba's
southern coast, was largely uneventful aside from getting lost while
leaving the area around Parque Leoncio Vidal. Driving anywhere in the
country is another one of those "experiencing Cuba" moments that can
certainly leave a lasting impression.
Four Cuban soldiers in red uniforms were clearly visible when I drove
onto the main road on which Nelson's house is located. The large rainbow
flag that usually hangs on the fence and a poster on the front door that
describes Mariela Castro as a "fraud" were gone. The dozens of people —
independent activists and neighbors — who welcomed me to Nelson's house
in 2015 and 2016 were not there when I arrived.
Nelson, who is a doctor, was alone. The only interruptions during our
nearly hour-long interview were a handful of telephone calls and a woman
who asked him to write her a prescription. Nelson casually pointed out
two security agents who passed by his house as he sat in an old wooden
rocking chair with his front door open.
The soldiers that I had seen at the intersection when I drove to
Nelson's house were not there when I passed it shortly after 4:30 p.m.
Men wearing military uniforms were among local residents as I drove
through Cienfuegos, but they are a common sight in Cuba.
I parked alongside a square in Palmira, a town that is roughly 15
minutes north of Cienfuegos, shortly after 5 p.m. to check my email on a
public hotspot. One must use cards from the state-run telecommunications
company to access it. I sent a couple of emails and texts about my
interview with Nelson and started driving again after about 15 minutes.
I was driving through a town near the border of Cienfuegos and Villa
Clara Provinces less than 15 minutes later when a police officer on a
motorcycle pulled me over. He asked me to where I was driving — Santa
Clara I told him — and requested my documents — passport, visa, driver's
license and Cuban press credentials — that I politely and calmly handed
to him. The officer took them and walked over to his motorcycle. He
spoke to someone over the radio before writing something down on a piece
of paper. The officer walked back to my car a few minutes later, handed
my documents back to me and said that I could leave.
I returned to my apartment in Santa Clara about half an hour later. The
trip to and from Santo Domingo, a town that is roughly half an hour west
of Santa Clara on Cuba's Carretera Central, where I met a group of
independent activists who are less forceful in their criticism of
Mariela Castro and her father's government was uneventful.
Back in Santa Clara, I began to notice a white police car (patrulla in
Cuban Spanish) that was parked near the corner of Parque Leoncio Vidal
that was closest to my apartment. I took particular note of its location
in the morning and at night when I walked to the park to check my email
at a public hotspot in the park.

I'm a curious and somewhat defiant person, so I decided to stare into
police officers' eyes on Wednesday when I saw them. It was an admittedly
self-serving attempt to convince myself that they know that I know the
government decided to place me under surveillance.
A white patrol car was once again parked along the edge of Parque
Leoncio Vidal that was closest to my apartment on early Thursday morning
when I was walking home from a party that Mariela Castro's organization,
the National Center for Sexual Education, organized as part of its
International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia commemorations.
There were two officers leaning on the car smoking cigarettes. I walked
past them and said, "Good evening" to them in Spanish. They looked at me
incredulously. I chuckled and called them "idiots" in Spanish under my
breath as I walked home.
A white patrol car was parked in the same area on Thursday morning when
I walked through the park to exchange some U.S. dollars into Cuban pesos
at a government-owned currently exchange house. It was not there when I
returned to my apartment about half an hour later.
The idea of "experiencing Cuba" during the 16 days that I was working in
and traveling through the country will continue to evoke laughter,
resignation, frustration and a variety of other emotions long after I
have returned to D.C. The idea the Cuban government likely placed me
under surveillance — however absurd the reason may have been — is a
clear reminder the country's human rights record remains a very serious
problem that should not be ignored.

Source: 'Experiencing Cuba' while under government surveillance -

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cuban Government Extends Censorship To The Digital Site Somos+

Cuban Government Extends Censorship To The Digital Site Somos+

14ymedio, Havana, 16 May 2017 — The digital site of the Somos+ (We Are
More) Movement has now joined the list of pages censored on the servers
of the Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA) which supply public
WiFi. The leader of the organization, Eliecer Avila, links this measure
to "the growing influence" of the site among the younger generation.

The government is "very aware of the statistics of who reads our blog
and from where they are reading it," says the opponent. "They have
simply detected that the site is a threat to the system's monolithic
discourse," he told 14ymedio on Tuesday.

"The blocking is the clearest sign our site is effective," he adds. "We
are trying to make a video tutorial of how it can be accessed despite
censorship" and for months "we have had a weekly newsletter that is sent
by email."

The independent movement has been subjected in the last months to strong
repression that includes the arrests of its members, police operations
around the homes where they meet and a raid on Avila's house, who is
being prosecuted for an alleged crime of "illicit economic activity."

Officialdom maintains censorship over several dozen critical pages, as
well as blogs and opinion sites that shed light on Cuba's most serious
social problems. Among the sites shuttered in this way are 14ymedio and
the news portals CubaNet, Diario de Cuba and Martí Noticias, among others.

Until the middle of last year the popular classified ad site also was blocked on the national servers, but in August
access to that page was restored.

Cuban authorities have copied the Chinese model of filtering digital
sites by their content. A situation that Internet users are struggling
to overcome through the use of anonymous proxies, the so-called "virtual
private networks" (VPNs), and other tools such as the Android operating
system app Psiphon and the Tor browser.

Freedom House recently produced a report in which it identified 66
countries in which it believes that the free right to information is not
exercised. Cuba ranked among the top ten, in a list headed by North
Korea and Turkmenistan.

In September 2016, 14ymedio published an investigation into censorship
of words and phrases in text messaging in the cell phone network. The
state monopoly of telecommunications maintains at least fifty blocked
terms, among which the name of the organization Somos+ stands out.

Source: Cuban Government Extends Censorship To The Digital Site Somos+ –
Translating Cuba -