Free Alan Gross Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner Sun, 21 May 2017 17:23:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Castro Regime Rushes Unfinished Business Before Raul Leaves the Presidency Sun, 21 May 2017 17:23:31 +0000 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 –

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Cuba: Forbidden Fruit Sat, 20 May 2017 17:58:23 +0000 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 –

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Why Cuba’s Brain Drain Looks Different Mon, 15 May 2017 15:26:13 +0000 Why Cuba’s Brain Drain Looks Different

COLLEGE PARK, Md., May 15, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Cuba is
experiencing a brain drain, though it’s not the kind that forecasters
were predicting when the long-closed country began opening its borders.
It’s internal brain drain, says Rebecca Bellinger, managing director of
the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business Office of
Global Initiatives and Center for International Business Education and

The small island nation’s doctors and other highly skilled workers
aren’t emigrating for more lucrative jobs in Miami and elsewhere. In
fact, they aren’t emigrating at all. They’re staying in Cuba, but moving
toward the burgeoning hospitality sector.

And it’s posing a major new threat to Cuba, Bellinger says. „Cubans are
deciding that they’ll have a higher quality of life if they enter the
travel and service industry.”

To be sure, some highly skilled Cubans – doctors, lawyers, professors
and others – are leaving the country in search of opportunity. But many
more who are staying in Cuba are opting to leave their jobs because of
low state salaries or are taking on second jobs, becoming taxi drivers,
waiters and bellhops – jobs involving regular interaction with foreign
visitors and their hard currency. The government is experiencing a sort
of „drain” as well, as state workers flee their jobs for the more
lucrative private sector.

„These are people who are leaving the jobs for which they have been
trained,” Bellinger says. „Last year, we met an English teacher who left
his rural school position to become a tour guide, both to use the
language he had learned and to gain access to hard currency.”

Cuba’s universities have long been regarded as the best in Latin
America, but in recent years, gross enrollment has been plummeting,
sparking additional worries.

The country maintains two forms of legal tender: the Cuban peso (CUP)
and the Cuban convertible peso (CUC). The CUC is pegged to the U.S.
dollar, and is many times more valuable than the CUP. Neither trades on
the global forex market. Most Cubans are paid in the weaker peso (CUP),
limiting their buying power. Visitors to the country use the CUC and
leave tips, and that’s helping to fuel Cuba’s internal brain drain.

Bellinger has been traveling to Cuba since 2010, studying what’s
happening there as she forges experiential learning opportunities for
students and collaborative partnerships with the University of Havana
and its associated research centers. As part of her work with NAFSA, the
Association of International Educators, she has worked with the Office
of Foreign Assets Control, a Treasury Department unit that manages
sanctions, to educate the higher education community in the U.S. on
regulations that govern legal travel to Cuba. She also leads the CIBER
Faculty Development in International Business (FDIB) Program to Cuba for
faculty from across the U.S.

She has seen an uneven upturn in travel, steep in Havana, but shallow
everywhere else.

„Last year, we were told by a hotel manager that Havana has 100 percent
capacity in hotels all year long,” she says. The capital city is so full
of foreign travelers today that it’s scarcely recognizable from even a
year ago.

Travel to Cuba’s secondary cities, meanwhile, has been generally missing
the boom. That’s in large part because U.S. travelers have faced highly
restrictive travel conditions in the past and may not be aware of what
the island has to offer outside of Havana.

To be approved for travel to Cuba, Americans must have an itinerary that
aligns with one of 12 approved purposes, which include religious
activities, journalism, humanitarian projects and people-to-people
outreach. „And tourism is not one of them. This is not a destination
that U.S. citizens can just explore for sun and sand,” Bellinger says.
That has kept most U.S. travelers in Havana for now, but gradually that
will change, Bellinger says, as U.S. relations with Cuba continue to evolve.

As Cuba looks to its future, Bellinger says, it must focus on these
eight things.

Support economic reforms: This has already begun, Bellinger notes, but
much work remains. The economic reforms announced in 2010 have
encouraged development and job creation in the non-state sector, which
has eased the financial burden on the state. Over 500,000 Cubans are now
self-employed in their own microenterprises and private cooperatives,
but the regulations that govern these businesses are still constraining.
For example, private restaurants are able to have only 50 seats, and
private companies are not permitted to import any goods or foodstuff to
support their business.

Address the dual currency issue: Rebuild the country around a single
currency, to level the playing field for Cubans and increase consumer

Address salary issue: Traditionally esteemed, high-skilled work should
be appropriately compensated, to counter brain drain tendencies in the

Invest in innovative capacity: „Because of Cuba’s history,” Bellinger
says, „it does not lack the ability to innovate. Just think about the
old jalopies.” Closed off from much global trade, Cubans have long found
ways to maintain and retrofit 50-year-old automobiles. „That type of
innovation exists,” she says, „but so do impressive global innovations
in health, biomedical and pharmaceutical fields.

Ease access to information: Access to the internet has increased in
Cuba, with about 2,000 homes in Havana authorized to receive the
internet directly and with the number of Wi-Fi hotspots growing
virtually every day. „It is fantastic,” Bellinger says, „that the
government is no longer afraid of giving people access to information.”
The country should encourage the democratization of the internet,
allowing greater accessibility at a fair and level price, she adds. In
most countries, internet prices are determined based on the amount of
data used. In Cuba, users are charged based on the types of websites
visited, with domestic websites costing less than foreign ones. Some
foreign websites are still blocked in Cuba.

Educate a generation of business leaders: For a half-century beginning
around 1960, the economy was generally controlled by the Cuban
government. Now, the country faces a crisis in business education: Who
will educate the next generation of business leaders, job creators and
entrepreneurs? The reforms that have allowed for the creation of private
business have not been supported with education, meaning that the
individuals starting and running small businesses do not have access to
the formal training they need to be successful. The Catholic Church has
begun a program that’s similar to a masters of business program, and a
Miami-based nonprofit is doing some startup business training on what
Bellinger describes as „a very small scale.” But education remains an
area where Cuba prohibits joint ventures with foreign entities, so
prospects for business education remain murky.

Improve transportation and infrastructure: Cuba has infrastructure
problems, „first and foremost,” Bellinger says, making travel cumbersome
between Havana and the country’s secondary cities. Addressing those
problem would spread economic development across the island.

Choose democracy: Elections are planned for 2018, when Cuban President
Raul Castro plans to step down. „But if there’s going to be an election,
is it going to be fair? Who will be the key players? We don’t know,”
Bellinger says. „It’s as important as ever that Cuba listen to its

Central to her suggestions is the notion of investing in human capital.
„At the end of the day,” Bellinger says, „if you don’t invest in human
capital – if you don’t invest in your workforce – nothing is going to
change in Cuba.”

Visit Smith Brain Trust for related content
at and
follow on Twitter @SmithBrainTrust.

About the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized
leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and
schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School
offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online
MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as
outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its
degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North
America and Asia.

Contact: Greg Muraski at 301-892-0973 or

Source: Why Cuba’s Brain Drain Looks Different | satPRnews –

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The Dangers of Hatred Tue, 02 May 2017 19:36:33 +0000 The Dangers of Hatred / Miriam Celaya

Cubanet, Norma Whiting, West Palm Beach, U.S., 29 April 2017 – The news,
later refuted, of a supposed Cuban flag burning in recent days by
Venezuelan demonstrators who oppose the government of Nicolás Maduro
provoked diverse reactions on social networks and some Cuban websites.
Many Cubans, mostly residing overseas, immediately expressed their
indignation against Venezuelans at what they interpret as an affront to
a national symbol they consider sacred, which does not represent in the
least the dictatorial power that has ruled Cuba for almost sixty years,
ultimately co-responsible for the deep political, social and economic
crisis that Venezuela is currently experiencing.

The misconception, however, was not completely unfounded, considering
that a few years ago Cuban flags burned in connection with student
protests in Venezuela.

However, leaving aside anything smacking of nationalism, justified or
not, the Venezuelans’ apocryphal pyromantic message against the Cuban
flag in several important cities of their country would have made clear
the rejection of the gross Cuban interference in Venezuela by Havana’s
Palace of the Revolution, since it is not just the perverse tabernacle
where the devastation of their nation has been cooked for years, but, to
date, it’s the arena from where the strings of the Chávez-Maduro regime
are manipulated, now decadent but, because of this, more dangerous.

Thus, in any case, it should have been that evil power and not the Cuban
national emblem that Venezuelans burned in their riots of recent days.
In fact, the images from 2014 that caused the confusion leave no room
for doubt when we see that several of the flags burned then carry Fidel
Castro’s image on a bundle of dollars displayed under his face, and
other pictures where the signs “Out with the Castros” and “Out of
Venezuela” can be seen. At that time, they also set on fire mannequins
that mimicked the now deceased creator of the longest dictatorship that
has existed in this region.

But it is also true that one of the dangers now is that, in the midst of
the violence applied by the repressive bodies and the gangs incited by
the central government against the demonstrators, their response will
turn more violent. The Venezuelan crisis offers a much more convulsive
and highly volatile and unstable scenario as a result of widespread
hunger, the shortages and the needs of the population, social
frustration, and the regime’s misrule, so that any situation can lead to
uncontrollable chaos for any of the parties.

In this context, popular indignation would not be able to discriminate
between Cuba and Cubans on the one hand, and the Castro regime on the
other, bypassing the irrefutable fact that the misfortune of living
under autocratic regimes is something that nationals of both countries

In this sense, and not wishing to be apocalyptic, it cannot be denied
that the thousands of Cuban civilians who currently collaborate in the
populist programs (called “missions”) of the Castro-Chávez alliance are
very fragile links in the midst of the Venezuelan confusion, not only
because they could easily become victims of the hatred, accumulated over
many years, against a political project led by a gang of thieves and
crooks which turned out to be a swindle, but because the perverse nature
of the alliance between the hierarchs of Havana and Caracas would not
hesitate for a second to sacrifice them motu proprio, and to attribute
to the opposition the loss of life and the violence against Cuban civilians.

The Cuban gerontocracy knows that the loss of Cuban lives would allow
them to unleash a whole Witches’ Sabbath through their monopoly of the
press, and would be a golden opportunity to stir the patriotic spirits
of the masses in the hacienda in ruins, especially now, when the defunct
revolution doesn’t have any credibility among Cubans, and when the final
fall of ” twenty-first century socialism” also heralds (more) difficult
times for the Cuban population.

The fact that it would involve Cuban professionals, mostly in the health
industry, who carry out a humanitarian mission of medical care to very
poor populations, would add a dramatic touch that is extremely conducive
to the propaganda effects of the Palace of the Revolution. Who could
resist the tragedy of perhaps dozens of Cuban families?

For now, the official Cuban press is keeping a suspicious, almost
sepulchral, silence about what is taking place in Venezuela. Or it has
lied cynically, as is evident in the printed version of the main
official newspaper, Granma, which contained a brief note this past
Monday, April 24, stating that “normalcy reigns” in Venezuela, despite
the opposition to Maduro calling for demonstrations, the massive
mobilizations that have flooded the streets of many cities in Venezuela
since the beginning of April, and the dozens of deaths, mainly
protesters’, that have taken place at the hands of the delinquents
grouped in the sinister “collectives”, that variety of motorized
terrorists at the service of the government who assassinate their
compatriots with impunity, just for exercising their right to protest.

Let us hope that the best children of Venezuela do not allow the just
aspirations of freedom, justice and democracy of her people to be
contaminated with criminal acts against Cuban civilian collaborators.
They need to not give in to the hatred sown by officials in power. But,
in any case, the evils that might take place in Venezuela will be the
direct responsibility of the Cuban leadership and its puppets at the
head of the Venezuelan government.

(Miriam Celaya, a Havana resident, is currently visiting the U.S.)

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: The Dangers of Hatred / Miriam Celaya – Translating Cuba –

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What would happen in Cuba if Maduro fell? Tue, 02 May 2017 16:12:11 +0000 What would happen in Cuba if Maduro fell?
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 1 de Mayo de 2017 – 09:38 CEST.

There are probably not many Cubans who are aware of the economic and
social tsunami that the fall of the military regime in Venezuela could
unleash upon them. They can’t be. Reading Granma, Juventud Rebelde, and
Trabajadores, and watching the nightly news and listening to Radio
Rebelde, Radio Reloj and the rest of the radio stations in the country,
it is impossible.

Of course, thanks to the new “counterrevolutionary” technologies, and to
independent journalists, some Cubans are better informed, and can
already spot a new “Special Period” looming on the horizon.

State media asserts that Nicolás Maduro is being harassed by terrorists
and fascists organized by “the right” as part of a plot devised by
Washington to crush the “Bolivarian Revolution.” Those who are
anesthetized by this propaganda will be the most shocked when chavismo
ultimately collapses.

It is no longer feasible to sacrifice Maduro and replace him with Tareck
el Aissami, Diosdado Cabello, Jorge Rodríguez or any other chavista
higher-up. The time to do so ran out when they began massacring
demonstrators in the streets. There have been almost 70 murders
committed by the government, in public, since 2014. These are crimes
whose perpetrators must be tried. They do not prescribe.

After Maduro, in Miraflores there can be no other chavista, however
“moderate” and “pragmatic” they attempt to portray him. There will be a
democratic government, provisional or definitive, and without colonial
ties to Cuba. A legitimately Venezuelan regime.

More cash than in the previous 206 years

Chavismo had the opportunity to diversify the economy and develop the
country. Between 1999 and 2015 it received $960.589 billion for its
petroleum, an average of 56.5 million per year, according to the
consultancy Ecoanalítica. That amount is far superior to all the money
generated by Venezuela in its 206 years of history, since its
declaration of independence from Spain.

This not sufficing, Chávez, to get his hands on even more, and to
continue squandering mass quantities of capital, ordered the issuance of
54.327 billion dollars in bonds by the Republic and the PDVSA, the
State’s petrol entity. Now broke, the country has to pay those
Venezuelan bondholders (creditors) 110 billion until 2027, for interest
and principal. It also owes Russia and China. The debt to Beijing
reached 60 billion dollars. The country is bankrupt.

Under el chavismo the total number of public employees shot up, from
900.000 to 2,4 million. And the PDVSA went from 40.000 employees to the
over 145,000 it staffs today. Chávez used his fat wallet to buy
political allegiances in Latin America and votes in the OAS And the UN,
finance leftist electoral campaigns, and consolidate Latin American
socialism. And also to prop up the unproductive Cuban economy, and
launch social programs without investing anything in the country’s
socio-economic development.

The worst part is that part of this fortune was stolen and deposited in
foreign banks by members of the chavista leadership. Meanwhile,
Venezuelans are suffering the worst existential crisis in their history,
beleaguered by a government of malandros, as they call criminals, drug
dealers, thieves and murderers there.

Many of them will end up in jail (even in the US). They know this, and
are clenching the reins of power. They will never hand it over in an
electoral process that they cannot control. In the elections of 2013 the
winner was Henrique Capriles. Maduro governs thanks to a fraud cooked up
in Havana. The official election result was 50,66% for Maduro and 49,07%
for Capriles, but everyone in Venezuela knows that Henrique received
more votes than Nicolás.

New elections in Venezuela would make sense if the National Assembly
were allowed to exercise its functions, the members of the National
Electoral Council and the Supreme Court of Justice were dismissed,
people who are respectful of the Constitution were appointed, all
political prisoners were released, and adequate international oversight
were accepted, including the OAS and EU.

That is what the Venezuelan people are demanding. They know that only
pressure from the street can change things. That is why they are out
there today. They knows that only pressure on the street can cause a
rupture in the Chávez leadership leading to real elections, or an
intervention by military forces not linked to drug trafficking and the
embezzlement of public funds.

Consequences for Cuba

For Castro Maduro’s fall would mean the end of “21st-Century Socialism”
and even the Sao Paulo Forum, the Communist/Castro international created
in 1990 by Fidel Castro and Lula da Silva with a view to socializing all
of Latin America. The chavistas’ fall would leave the Cuban dictatorship
politically and ideologically helpless, more isolated than ever, because
the “socialist camp” would no longer exist.

As for the economy, according to calculations by Professor Carmelo
Mesa-Lago, Cuba’s dependence on Venezuela is equivalent to 21% of the
Island’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This includes almost half of the
deficit in the trade balance and 42% of Cuba’s total foreign trade.

Caracas’ subsidies to Havana amounted to, until recently, about 10
billion dollars a year. They have fallen to about 7 billion, according
to a range of sources. This torrent of foreign currency, although
diminished, constitutes one of the two great pillars of the Cuban economy.

The other is money received from the “empire” via remittances, packages
and travel, in 2016 amounting to some 7 billion dollars. The Cuban
economy depends on foreigners because the state’s productive apparatus
generates very little and only exports four products (sugar, tobacco,
nickel and pharmaceuticals), worth less than 4 billion dollars. Tourism,
in net terms, generates less than 1 billion.

The collapse of el chavismo would knock out one of the two columns
underpinning the Castro economy. Until recently Cuba received 36 million
barrels of oil per year from Venezuela, 61% of the nation’s consumption
(59 million barrels). Now it receives 19,3 million barrels (32,7%). The
Island also re-exported gasoline sent from Venezuela or refined in
Cienfuegos, for more than 720 million dollars annually.

In short, with $7 billion less in cash, and without receiving 61% of the
oil consumed by the country, it is time to ask Raúl Castro out of what
hat he is going to pull the 3,7 billion that would be necessary just to
buy the oil not sent by Venezuela, and import food.

Foreign currency from the United States would not be sufficient to
maintain even the precarious standard of living of Cubans, whose average
salary of $24 is not even half that in Haiti ($59). In response to the
reassuring arguments of the regime’s economists that a suspension of
ties with Venezuela could be weathered without trauma, I can think of
three questions: How? Are they counting on subsidies from China, Russia,
Iran or Algeria? Is the European Union, Japan, Canada, Singapore or
Australia going to give them money?

These questions lead to another: what can the regime do to prepare for
such a socioeconomic tsunami? Everyday Cubans have the answer: General
Castro and his military junta must stop trampling on the economic
liberties embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as
private property, and having businesses of their own that can grow
without state obstacles. And they must be able to export and import, and
invest capital in their own country. Foreign investment must be
facilitated. And farmers must be able to own their land, and sell their
crops freely.

That is, the regime must liberate the Island’s productive forces and
foster a thriving private sector. Otherwise, there will be another
“Special Period,” and Cuba might end up resembling China during Mao’s
“Great Leap Forward,” which almost destroyed the country

Source: What would happen in Cuba if Maduro fell? | Diario de Cuba –

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Happiness Sat, 29 Apr 2017 18:22:11 +0000 Happiness / Somos+

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Happiness / Somos+ – Translating Cuba –

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Látigo y fusta para el Primero de Mayo Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:32:49 +0000 Látigo y fusta para el Primero de Mayo
¿Cómo funcionan los ‘sutiles’ mecanismos de coacción del Gobierno cubano?
Miércoles, abril 26, 2017 | Osniel Carmona y Alejandro Hernández

LA HABANA, Cuba.- Entidades estatales de distintos sectores han
comenzado a presionar a sus empleados para asegurar una asistencia
masiva al desfile anual por el Día Internacional de los Trabajadores,
según el reporte de obreros que fueron advertidos acerca de las
consecuencias de faltar a la convocatoria.

Si las amenazas se cumplen, entre otras represalias administrativas, los
empleados comunican que aquellos que no desfilen perderán los estímulos
monetarios que varias instituciones pagan en paralelo al salario básico.

Los desfiles del Primero de Mayo se celebran cada año en las principales
plazas públicas del país. La ocasión es utilizada por el gobierno
criollo como una plataforma mediática donde la masa obrera debe patentar
su conformidad con el sistema político.

Sin embargo, a raíz del creciente descontento social en las últimas
décadas, los organismos estatales fortalecen los mecanismos de coacción
para que, en el día de los “mártires de Chicago”, los trabajadores
mantengan el espaldarazo al sistema.

Pedagogos de la capital reportan que los consejos de dirección en los
centros escolares, por indicación previa de las instancias municipales,
señalaron la disposición de afectar los sueldos de los profesores
manipulando el método evaluativo que categoriza su desempeño.

Según dio a conocer un funcionario de la enseñanza preuniversitaria en
el municipio Cotorro, en reunión dedicada a los preparativos del
desfile, la directora municipal de Educación en ese territorio avisó que
a los maestros ausentados se les negará la posibilidad de obtener una
evaluación final satisfactoria.

A grosso modo, ilustra el funcionario desde el resguardo del anonimato,
el método evaluativo se rige por una escala de cuatro niveles (Mal,
Regular, Bien y Muy Bien) determinados por parámetros que analizan
asistencia, puntualidad, cumplimiento del horario laboral, porciento de
promoción de los educandos, superación profesional, participación en las
actividades políticas y sindicales, pago de las cuotas impuestas como
aporte a las Milicias de Tropas Territoriales (MTT) y sindicales entre

La evaluación, que se otorga a finales del curso escolar y prevalece
durante el siguiente, no regula el salario básico pero constituye un
mecanismo de estimulación que a lo largo del año supera los 800 pesos.
Además, incumplir con los aspectos establecidos sobre cuestiones
políticas-ideológicas puede acarrear más sanciones administrativas.

Héctor Luis Fleites, profesor de enseñanza primaria en el municipio
Guanabacoa, resalta que, dadas las circunstancias, el desfile será “un
fraude, como todos los años. Habrá que mostrar un compromiso de ‘sí o
sí’, pero la mayoría iremos en contra de la voluntad”.

Fleites, quien cursa su segundo año como docente, señala a los desfiles
del Primero de Mayo como un montaje político.

“Los trabajadores agitan las banderitas y gritan consignas solo cuando
pasan frente a las cámaras de televisión, el resto del tiempo rezongan
porque tienen hambre o porque lo que cobran es tan poco que les molesta
verse sirviendo de marioneta”, dijo.

Los agentes de las empresas de Seguridad y Protección, cuyos mayores
beneficios económicos salen de los mecanismos de estímulo, son otro de
los sectores notificados acerca de las implicaciones de no asistir a la

“Se nos pidió que hiciéramos temblar la tierra, y estoy seguro que así
será, pero de impotencia por no poder protestar contra las desigualdades
que sufrimos los asalariados”, expresó Gustavo Leiná Solano, Agente de
la Empresa de Seguridad y Protección CORAZA.De acuerdo con Leiná,
durante la semana pasada la agencia que le emplea exigió la
participación de todos los agentes que descansarán del servicio en esa
fecha, que será asumida como otra jornada corriente de trabajo.

“Si no vas te declaran ‘no idóneo’ y vas de paticas para la calle, o
cuando menos te quitan el estímulo en divisa que significa más de la
mitad del cobro mensual”, refiere Leiná, quien además amplió que “nos
dijeron que un salario tan generoso no cae del cielo y como tengo dos
hijos no puedo arriesgarme a perderlo. Si quieren que vaya voy, y si
quieren que grite lo que les dé la gana, lo grito y ya”.

Al igual que la clase obrera, estudiantes de último año de las
enseñanzas preuniversitaria y universitaria fueron llamados a participar
de la actividad para poder optar por las mejores opciones de continuidad
de estudios y trabajo.

En la Facultad de Ciencias Médicas de la Universidad de La Habana, tres
estudiantes que prefieren omitir su identidad explican que a la docencia
se une la participación en actividades políticas como requisito para
recibir la prolongación de estudios en las diferentes especialidades.

Del mismo modo, amplían que es una de las principales condiciones que
deben cumplir quienes aspiran a comenzar la carrera como profesional de
la salud en el extranjero, en el marco de los convenios de exportación
de servicios.

“La facultad lleva días recordando que tenemos que ir. Estamos sobre
aviso porque estas actividades pesan mucho en las comisiones de
otorgamiento. Si faltas luego te sacan las tiras del pellejo, buscan y
buscan hasta encontrar de qué manera quitarte lo que ganaste
académicamente en cinco años”, acotaron.

Source: Látigo y fusta para el Primero de Mayo CubanetCubanet –

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The King, The President and The Dictator Tue, 25 Apr 2017 18:20:29 +0000 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

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 –

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Theft and Subsidies, Not Exports Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:36:47 +0000 Theft and Subsidies, Not Exports
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 24 de Abril de 2017 – 17:00 CEST.

Once gain former Economy minister José Luis Rodríguez has attempted to
pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. Apparently the Castro dictatorship
has called on him to do its dirty work and cook the books to present a
more favorable picture of the regime’s administration.

Rodríguez recently wrote, in Cubadebate, that the export of doctors,
nurses and other health professionals brought in revenue amounting to an
average of 11.543 billion dollars yearly between 2011 and 2015. False.
As a source he drew upon the 2016 Statistical Yearbook on Health – which
was so incomplete that it does not even mention how many health
professionals work outside Cuba, the most important factor of all. The
Ministry of Public Health acknowledges that there are about 50,000 in all.

I think it is appropriate to note that last February Rodríguez announced
that in 2016 Cuba paid its foreign creditors $5.299 billion, which is
also false. And, in 2006, as Minister of the Economy, he said, with a
straight face, that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Cuba had grown
12.5%, the greatest growth in the world, even surpassing China.

This time the former Castroist higher-up – who today serves as an
advisor at Cuba’s International Economy Research Center (CIEM), and at
the aforementioned Yearbook of Public Health – is guilty of several more

To begin with, in order for the medical services that Cuba exports to 62
countries on four continents to have generated $11.543 billion, the
average salary of each contracted Cuban professional would have to have
been around $19,200 per month, which is impossible. His claim is even
more far-fetched when said yearbook indicates that 35 countries paid for
these services, and the other 27 paid nothing.

The key to all this is that the regime lies. It calculates Venezuelan
subsidies as a sale of medical services. Curiously, in his article
Rodríguez did not include the year 2016, in which Caracas slashed its
subsidies to the Island. Experts estimate that they have fallen by 40%,
and that oil deliveries were reduced from 110,000 to 55,000 barrels a
day, which would explain the current fuel crisis on the Island.

Cuba now depends and will depend more and more of the flow of foreign
currency coming from the “Empire” via remittances, packages and travel
to the island, which in 2016 came to more than 7 billion dollars. That
figure probably already equals or exceeds the subsidies from Venezuela,
and triples the gross revenue generated by tourism.

Moreover, even supposing that everything stated by the former minister
were true, it is immoral for the Castroist leadership to openly proclaim
that it steals salaries from doctors. That’s called trafficking. Those
$11.543 billion belong to the doctors, who earned them with their work,
and then saw them confiscated.

According to the pact between the previous government of Brazil and
Cuba, negotiated with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the
Brazilian government pays Cuba $4,080 per month for each Cuban doctor.
Of this amount, the physician receives less than 25%, that is, less than
$1,000, according to doctors who have left Brazil, and complaints from
the National Federation of Brazilian Doctors, which describes the
contracts as “slave work.” For every Cuban doctor in Brazil, Castro
pockets $3,000 a month.

The figures do not add up

There are now some 10,400 Cuban doctors and professionals in Brazil;
that is, 20% of those it has abroad. Venezuela, meanwhile, has more than
34,000 professionals, almost 70% of the total. That means that if the
average salary obtained, based on the figure cited by Rodriguez, comes
to $19,200 per month, and Brazil pays only $4,080 per doctor, then
Venezuela pays several times that monthly amount for each Cuban
professional, which is untrue.

Moreover, the $11.543 billion reported surely include the more than $720
million per year that Cuba was making by re-exporting gasoline from
Venezuela, or refined in Cienfuegos with crude given away by Caracas. Is
that not that a subsidy, like the one that was previously received from
the USSR, when the Island re-exported Soviet oil?

It is outrageous that the international community has not condemned the
export of Cuban doctors, essentially working as slaves in the 21st
century. Neither the International Labor Organization (ILO), nor any
government in the world has censured this abusive practice. The UN
Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Maria Grazia Gianmarinaro,
just visited Havana, but apparently apparently was satisfied with the
explanation provided by her hosts, masters of propaganda to protect the

In Brazil, for example, Article 149 of the Penal Code states that “slave
labor” exists when one is subjected to “forced labor, excessive shifts,
and remuneration that is dramatically deficient relative to the work
performed, justified by debts owed one’s employer.”

But the governments of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff wanted to favor
the Castros, and signed those shameful agreements. And the current
government has done little to fight this abuse.

Why no self-employed doctors?

The truth is that more than a third of the 90,161 doctors of the Island,
according to the yearbook, do not work in Cuba, but rather abroad, which
affects medical services on the Island. The regime graduates them, en
masse, to export and exploit them, as they are sent abroad for the
selfish aim of confiscating their wages. They are reminiscent of the
“talking instruments,” as Marco Terencio Varrón called slaves in
classical Rome, 2,000 years ago.

If the Castro hierarchy allowed university professionals to enjoy
economic freedom, provide their services on their own, and doctors to
have private practices, they would render a valuable public service,
earn much more income, and not have to accept being exported as if they
were owned by the State, or the Castro family, to receive meager
remuneration, with which to make their lives and those of their families
on the Island more bearable.

Exported doctors have their freedom of movement restricted. They travel
alone, without their families. Their passports are held, and they are
enlisted in pro-Castro political campaigns with local populations, with
which they cannot interact privately. The whole system is like a modern
version of labor markets in the 18th and 19th centuries through which
masters rented out their slaves to third parties for given periods.

In short, the $11.543 billion cited by Rodríguez were not obtained just
through the “exported services.” Rather, they mainly came from
Venezuelan and Brazilian subsidies. And the money confiscated from
doctors constitutes an international crime, which does not prescribe,
and ought to be punished.

Source: Theft and Subsidies, Not Exports | Diario de Cuba –

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Should U.S. Companies Hit ‘Pause’ on Doing Business in Cuba? Sun, 23 Apr 2017 13:07:22 +0000 Should U.S. Companies Hit ‘Pause’ on Doing Business in Cuba?
Apr 20, 2017

President Trump’s government has yet to reveal its hand on the issue of
reconciliation with Cuba. There had been a lot of progress towards
greater ties following President’s Obama’s overtures in December 2014:
Some cooperation agreements were signed – particularly in aviation and
communications — and Google and Airbnb now have a presence on the island
nation. But only about two dozen U.S. companies have taken early steps,
and there has been limited progress on other fronts, such as the
reconciliation of Cuban-Americans with the Cuban people.

And while President Trump had supported more economic ties with Cuba in
the past, just before the presidential election he reversed course. That
makes it unclear what business should expect going forward.

The overarching issue is the ongoing U.S. economic embargo, noted
Cuban-American attorney Gustavo Arnavat at the recent 2017 Wharton Latin
American Conference. Arnavat, now a senior adviser at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, had a front-row seat on U.S.-Cuba
policy as an advisor to President Obama’s team on the issue. He also
represented the U.S. in 2009 at the Inter-American Development Bank
(IDB), the largest provider of development finance in Latin America.

“It would be crazy for anyone right now to be trying to invest in Cuba,
even in those areas we can invest, because at any moment, the Trump
administration may come out and totally reverse what was done
previously,” he said. Adding further to the uncertainty, Cuban President
Raul Castro is scheduled to leave office in February 2018, with no clear
successor in the wings.

Arnavat took stock of the emerging state of U.S.-Cuban ties in a
discussion with Knowledge@Wharton at the recent Wharton Latin American
conference. An edited transcript of the conversation appears below.

Knowledge@Wharton: It was a historic time in the Winter of 2014 when the
U.S. government decided that a policy that had been in place for 50
years was no longer working, and that it was time to rethink how the
U.S. and Cuba were engaging with one another, and try to normalize
relationships at whatever level was possible. Could you describe why and
how you got involved in U.S.-Cuba relations before President Obama’s
policy shift on December 12, 2014?

Gustavo Arnavat: The greatest variable contributing to my interest in
Cuba has to do with the fact that I was born in Cuba. I grew up in a
very conservative, Republican household in Hialeah, Florida, and there
wasn’t a day that went by that a family member, or friend or visitor
didn’t criticize some element of the Cuban revolution or talked about
Cuba. So, it was impossible for me not to be interested in Cuba and
U.S.-Cuba relations as I grew up. Later, I came to understand that the
world was not black and white, and that realization and complexity made
me even more interested in the topic.

After law school, I was a lawyer focusing on sovereign finance and
corporate finance, and eventually went over to investment banking on
Wall Street. I worked on many deals, but Cuba was never part of that,
for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, there was always a part of me that
wanted to be involved, somehow. Eventually, I became involved in several
projects examining U.S policy toward Cuba, but all of that came to an
end when I joined the Obama Administration because I was at the IDB, and
Cuba wasn’t a member of the IDB, and I otherwise wasn’t involved in
setting Cuba policy while I worked in the Obama Administration.

Knowledge@Wharton: The major policy shift occurred in December 2014.
What do you think motivated President Obama to make such a major change?

Arnavat: The primary reason is that this was something that I think
President Obama wanted to do for a long time. When he was a senator in
Illinois, he spoke about the futility of the embargo. At the annual
luncheon of the Cuban-American National Foundation in Florida in May
2008, he said that if Cuba began to open up, starting with releasing all
political prisoners, he would begin a dialogue that could lead to
normalized relations. This was startling and unprecedented for a
presidential candidate of either political party. Anyone from Miami
knows that advocating “normalized” relations and a “dialogue” with the
Cuban government just 15 or 20 years ago was a very dangerous thing to do.

He also faced pressure from other Latin American countries, particularly
in the context of the Summit of the Americas. A number of the countries’
presidents told President Obama during the Summit in Cartagena, Colombia
in 2012, that for the next summit (in Panama City in 2015, if Cuba is
not invited, they were not going to participate. That also weighed on
the White House

Related to this, there was a growing consensus in the region – and U.S.
foreign policy –that the primary issues affecting Latin America were not
the same ones from 20, 30 or 40 years ago, which chiefly included
unstable and undemocratic governments, drug trafficking, corruption,
etc. Instead, the focus has been on trade and economic development
through integration. If you are the U.S., it’s difficult to make a case
for global economic integration and certainly regional economic
integration, when Cuba is prevented from being fully integrated from an
economic perspective. Finally, President Obama felt that since the
elections of 2014 were over, he had nothing to lose from a political
perspective, and the timing was right to do what he wanted to do all along.

But very little could be done while Alan Gross remained in Cuban
custody, and the Cubans knew this to be the case. [Editor’s note: Alan
Gross, a U.S. government contractor employed by the United States Agency
for International Development (USAID), was arrested in Cuba in 2009.]

Knowledge@Wharton: What was your reaction to the policy shift and what
steps did you take?

Arnavat: I was shocked. After I left the IDB, I became aware of a
growing number of Cuban Americans, particularly in Miami, who were
successful lawyers, businesspeople and bankers, who wanted to promote
engagement between the U.S. and Cuba in order to help the Cuban people
more directly. We thought, what can we do? How can we try to convince
the White House to go in a different direction? But we were extremely
pessimistic because we had witnessed very little interest on the part of
the White House, especially because of the situation with Gross.

With the 2016 presidential election on the horizon, we thought U.S.-Cuba
policy would once again be the victim of domestic political
considerations. That was despite the fact that Hillary Clinton in her
book (titled Hard Choices, published in 2014), criticized the embargo in
a very open way, and in a way that was unexpected. Some of us in
retrospect thought that was her signal to the White House to encourage
it to pursue engagement.

When the announcement was made, the thinking was, we were finally going
to be able to sit down with the Cubans, and talk to them about all the
issues that two normal countries should want to engage in, on areas of
mutual interest. Little did I know that in fact, they had been
negotiating for about 18 months, but this was an opportunity to test the
waters and see to what extent it made sense to engage diplomatically and
commercially in ways that would benefit both countries.

So a number of us provided the White House with our insights, though few
of us had very high expectations over the short-term effects of an
opening toward Cuba, especially with respect to political matters.

Knowledge@Wharton: How would you assess the progress since the winter of
2014? Has there been real progress, or as somebody once said, is it a
triumph of hope over experience?

Arnavat: I break it down into three buckets. Let’s call the first bucket
official U.S.-Cuba bilateral relations. The second bucket is commercial
relations between the U.S. and Cuba. The third is Cuban-American
reconciliation issues.

On the official bilateral bucket, a lot has been accomplished. After
more than 50 years of acrimony between the two countries, diplomatic
relations were reestablished. Embassies were reopened. As part of that
process, Cuba was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism,
based on an analysis conducted by the State Department with input from
our intelligence community. Regular mail service was established between
the two countries.

Migration talks were regularized, and they’ve become much more
substantive and more meaningful. Agreements were entered into with
respect to cooperation in law enforcement, environmental disasters and
other areas. I believe close to two dozen such agreements were reached.
A lot was accomplished given the relationship the two countries had.
However, I know that Obama Administration officials were frustrated that
more wasn’t accomplished on the human rights front, although the belief
is that civil society in general has benefited because of the new policy

On the other hand, the biggest issue is the embargo, which is still in
place. Another issue relates to property claims that U.S. citizens have
against Cuba for property that was expropriated in the first few years
of the revolution. Those have still not been resolved, and they’re far
from being resolved. Keep in mind, this was the primary reason why the
U.S. broke off diplomatic relations in the first place. So in that
sense, very little progress has been made.

As far as the commercial relationship is concerned, the assessment
depends on whom you talk to; the Cubans believe that a lot of progress
was made given that the embargo remains in place. On the bilateral
front, commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba were reestablished.
U.S. Airlines, as part of a process led by the Department of
Transportation, competed for those routes, and six or seven airlines won
those routes.

A number of mobile carriers like AT&T and Verizon have entered into
roaming agreements with the Cuban government. You may not think that’s a
big deal, except that before, there were no such roaming agreements and
it made mobile phone communications very difficult. Airbnb is there,
which is very helpful for travelers who don’t want to pay for relatively
expensive hotels in Havana. Google has a presence now, and U.S. cruise
ships are sailing into Havana and bringing Americans.

However, a lot more could have been done. One of the missed
opportunities is in fact that not as many deals were done. That’s bad
for a number of different reasons. One, U.S. companies have missed out.
The Cuban people and the Cuban government have missed out on great U.S.
products and services. While the Trump administration is reviewing the
policy, instead of having a hundred companies advocating, you only have
25 or 30 or so going to their congressional representatives and saying,
look, we have this business now in Cuba.

When you ask the Cuban government, they will grant that a lot of
proposals were presented to the Cuban government. The pushback came for
a variety of reasons. In some cases, the companies were too small or
were startups. They want to be able to deal with the major players. The
problem with deals that were proposed by major global corporations was
that those proposals didn’t necessarily fall into one of the priority
areas in Cuba’s plan for economic development.

Then, even with the right kind of company, in a priority area, they
would site the embargo. They would say that even if we wanted to do
this, we couldn’t, because there’s no way that U.S. companies could pay
for a service or the other way around. They are right to an extent,
because of the continuing restrictions on financial transactions, but
more important, the way those restrictions and regulations have been
interpreted by legal counsel and compliance officers at major financial
institutions around the world, especially in the U.S. They’re very well
aware that if you run afoul of those regulations, you get hit with a
multi-billion-dollar fine, as has happened, even recently.

At the same time, investment conditions in Cuba are very challenging for
U.S. companies that are not accustomed to working with foreign
governments in transactions normally involving private sector companies
as counterparts. But the reality is that doing business in Cuba
necessarily means doing business with the government, and not all U.S.
companies are prepared to do that at this point.

So those are in the first two buckets. In the third bucket, on
reconciliation, Cuban-Americans are going to play some role, just as
they have played an important role in shaping U.S.-Cuba policy in the
past. I know that many Cuban government officials are not comfortable
with that involvement, but the sooner we can start to engage from that
perspective and have reconciliation, the better it is both for Cubans in
the U.S. as well as Cubans on the island. Very little has been done, or
has occurred, on that front because of the lack of mutual trust.

Knowledge@Wharton: You’ve just returned from Cuba. Looking at things
right now, what are the biggest opportunities in Cuba, and what are the
biggest challenges or the biggest risks?

Arnavat: Imagine you discovered a country that you didn’t know existed.
You realize that less than 100 miles away from the U.S. is a country
that, if it were a U.S. state, would be the eighth-largest in
population, right after Ohio, for example. It has 11 million people who
are very well educated, despite all of the challenges in Cuba, and lack
of resources. It has software engineers, for example, who graduate from
some of the best technology universities in Cuba, but they’re
underemployed. A lot of people code quite a bit in Cuba. So from a human
capital perspective, it’s a country that is enormously resourceful, and
this presents a huge opportunity for U.S. companies that will invest
when they are able to do so.

From a natural resource perspective, it’s a very large Caribbean
island, so it will be an important destination for tourism, or for
second homes for Americans, whenever that becomes a possibility. It’s
got a health care system that is, again, very poorly resourced, but
there is a high level of training on the part of medical staff there,
and access to knowledge and technology. Some presidents in Latin America
from the ALBA countries (the 11-member Bolivarian Alliance for the
Peoples of Our America), when they get seriously sick, they go to
Havana. Medical tourism would be of great interest as an area to invest
in if that were possible.

It is also a country that has tremendous needs from an infrastructure
perspective. The roads are quite better than a lot of places I’ve been
in the Caribbean, and certainly Central America. But it’s a country that
needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. The question, of course, is
going to be how do you pay for it? That brings us to the challenges.
There is no access to capital. It has a legal system that was set up to
support a socialist economic model, which is anachronistic and foreign
to U.S. investors. They’re beginning to figure that out, and are
struggling with how to emerge and how to evolve from that. But even
those who recognize the need for change don’t want that change to be
forced on them from abroad. This is an essential point to keep in mind.

Cubans are increasingly getting comfortable referring to non-state
employees or entrepreneurs as the private sector, although officially
it’s called the non-state sector. I am certain that when things do open
up, and the right incentives are in place, the human capital there is
going to be such that Cuba is going to be well-placed as a market for
Americans to investment.

I’m not sure how independent the judiciary is to resolve disputes
between, let’s say a foreign company, a foreign investor and an entity
where the Cuban government may have an interest. So that’s obviously a
risk for any U.S. company to consider. It’s a risk in any country, but
especially in a country where the government plays such an important
role in the running of the society. There is also the political risk
associated with the fact that [President Raul] Castro is supposed to
leave office on February 24 of next year, and it’s always unclear as to
who’s going to take over and in what direction the country will go.

If you have to put a bet, Cuba is likely to continue on a socialist
trajectory for an indefinite period of time. You also have the immediate
risk of the Trump administration in trying to decide what to do. So it
would be crazy for anyone right now to be trying to invest in Cuba, even
in those areas we can invest, because at any moment, the Trump
administration may come out and totally reverse what was done previously.

Knowledge@Wharton: How do you think U.S. policy towards Cuba will evolve
under President Trump? You were very complimentary about President
Obama, very optimistic about reading Hillary Clinton’s book and what she
said about Cuba. What’s your assessment of what President Trump will do,
and what that will mean for Cuban-American relations?

Arnavat: I honestly have no idea. And I don’t think anyone has any idea.
People in Cuba have no idea. It could go in lots of directions. It seems
that President Trump is not going to come out any time soon and say
we’re going to continue to engage without the Cubans making any
quote-unquote “concessions.”

Trump has said very little about Cuba in his career. He appeared to
entertain launching a potential campaign in the 1990s, I believe it was
in Miami he talked about how he was such a strong supporter of the
embargo and he would never do business in Cuba while the Castro brothers
were in place, etc.

Two years later, as it turns out, he sent a consultant to Cuba — a paid
consultant, to figure out how to do business in Cuba. Beginning about
six years ago up until sometime last year, people in the Trump
organization had visited Cuba, exploring opportunities in golf and
hotels, hospitality, that sort of thing. So we know that from a
commercial perspective, he definitely has been interested in doing so.
And, it makes sense, given his investments in China and other countries
that don’t adhere to U.S. standards of human rights and democracy.

When President [Obama] announced the policy shift, on a few occasions,
[Trump] said that he supported the engagement. One time, I think he was
in a debate in Miami, a primary, and he said something along the lines
of, “Come on, folks, it’s been over 50 years. We’ve got to move on.
We’ve got to try something else.” But then about six weeks before the
election, he began to tailor his message much more to the conservatives
and the hardliners in the community. He said, “Unless the Cubans take
steps to,” and I think he said, “to provide for more political freedoms
and religious freedoms, then I’m going to reverse everything.” Mike
Pence said that as well shortly before and maybe after the election.

But having said that, [Trump’s policies regarding Cuba are] just not
clear. There are a number of individuals who worked on [Trump’s]
transition team, who are involved in the administration, who have been
very focused the last 15-20 years on enforcing the embargo, on
tightening the embargo, on making life as hard and difficult for the
Cuban government. Those people are certainly weighing in very heavily on
the policy. A policy review is ongoing, but it is unclear when they’ll
be done with that and what the outcome will be. I imagine an important
consideration will be the change in government that I mentioned previously.

Knowledge@Wharton: When you met people in Havana, what did you hear from
them about how they expect relations with the U.S. to shape up?

Arnavat: Shortly after the announcement of the policy shift, something
like 97% of the Cuban people expressed they were in favor of the
engagement, and of reestablishing diplomatic relations, etc. This makes
sense, because the more Americans that travel to Cuba and invest in
Cuba, the greater the economic benefits to the Cuban people in general.

Everyone is concerned that in fact, the policy will reverse, that there
will be fewer people visiting, fewer people making investments, as a
result of a decrease in remittances that are used as seed capital to
start new businesses on the island. Even if you stay at a state-owned
hotel, you hire private taxis, and you eat in private restaurants that
are allowed under Cuban law. So a lot of people who are private
individuals are in fact benefitting because of the increase in travel
between the U.S. and Cuba. And they’re very concerned about that not

Source: Should U.S. Companies Hit ‘Pause’ on Doing Business in Cuba? –

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Retired military officials ask Trump to continue normalization process with Cuba Fri, 21 Apr 2017 13:41:10 +0000 Retired military officials ask Trump to continue normalization process
with Cuba

Sixteen retired senior military officers are asking the Trump
administration to continue the process of normalization with Cuba for
the sake of U.S. national security and stability in the region.

“The location of Cuba in the Caribbean and proximity to the US make it a
natural and strategically valuable partner on issues of immediate
concern, including terrorism, border control, drug interdiction,
environmental protections, and emergency preparedness,” the retired
officers stated in a letter that was for National Security Adviser Lt.
Gen. H.R. McMaster and made public on Thursday.

The retired officers indicated that ensuring economic stability on the
island was beneficial to the United States for security reasons.

“We acknowledge the current regime must do more to open its political
system and dialogue with the Cuban people. But, if we fail to engage
economically and politically, it is certain that China, Russia, and
other entities whose interests are contrary to the United States’ will
rush into the vacuum,” the letter said. “We have an opportunity now to
shape and fill a strategic void.”

Six of the 16 letter-signers traveled to Havana from March 14-17 at the
invitation of the Cuban government and met with officials from the
Foreign Ministry as well as representatives from the Energy,
Agriculture, Trade, and Foreign Investment ministries. The group also
visited the Port of Mariel and met with 12 Ministry of Interior
officials — a gathering not previously disclosed. The MININT is in
charge of domestic security but also of the Cuban intelligence services.

The Cuban officials provided “a significant hour and a half Power Point
brief on their security concerns and their thoughts on cooperation with
the United States,” Stephen A. Cheney, a retired brigadier general in
the U.S. Marine Corps, said. “A pretty interesting group of active
military folks.

“Some questioned why we did not meet with dissidents, but this was not
the purpose of this trip but to listen to government people, have an
idea of ??how it works and what their concerns are.”

The letter seeks to influence the administration while it is still
reviewing Cuba policy, an exercise spearheaded by the National Security
Council. The Trump administration “must take into account all national
security factors under consideration” and not look at the current policy
“simply as something that Obama did and because Obama did it, you hate
it,” Cheney said.

The main concern from the national-security standpoint, he added, is a
migration crisis if the island’s economy worsens, a possibility that “at
90 miles from our coasts, does not do us any favors.”

“If they feel desperate, they are going to reach out to those we would
rather not want,” added retired Brig. Gen. David McGinnis, in reference
to the growing role of China, Russia, and Iran in the region.

Cheney highlighted the level of cooperation with Cuba on issues like
anti-drug efforts but said that part of the “frustration” of the Cuban
government is that the routine meetings to continue these mechanisms of
cooperation have been canceled by the Trump administration, “not out of
a policy change but because the people are not there.”

Cheney also said the Trump administration could lift trade and financial
restrictions, such as in agriculture, to the benefit of U.S. companies.
“Clearly the embargo has not worked. We have to look for new actions if
we want to increase our security,” said retired Lt. Gen. John G. Castellaw.

The trip and the missive were coordinated by the American Security
Project (ASP), a non-partisan organization of which several of the
retired officials who signed the letter are members of — Cheney is its
executive director. According to an ASP statement, the trip was
organized by Scott Gilbert, a member of its board and a lawyer of
contractor Alan Gross, who was jailed in Cuba for five years and
released on Dec. 17, 2014.

Among those who signed the letter are retired Gen. James T. Hill, who
headed the U.S. Southern Command from 2002-2004 and retired Admiral
Robert Inman, who held senior positions in the intelligence services
under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Several signers of the letter including, McGinnis; retired Major Gen.
Paul Eaton; retired Rear Admirals Jamie Barnett and Michael Smith; and
retired Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis publicly supported Hillary Clinton
during the presidential campaign.

Source: Retired military officials ask Trump to continue normalization
process with Cuba | Miami Herald –

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Estrategias del gobierno cubano en el enfrentamiento al lavado de dinero, los capitales ilícitos, el terrorismo y la proliferación de armas Wed, 19 Apr 2017 17:31:42 +0000 Estrategias del gobierno cubano en el enfrentamiento al lavado de
dinero, los capitales ilícitos, el terrorismo y la proliferación de armas
18 Abril, 2017 9:25 pm por René López Benítez

La Lisa, La Habana, René López, (PD) El Consejo de Estado, mediante el
Decreto-Ley No. 317, dispuso la “Estrategia de Prevención y Detección de
Operaciones en el enfrentamiento al Lavado de Activos, al Financiamiento
del Terrorismo, a la Proliferación de Armas y al Movimiento de Capitales
Ilícitos”, con fecha 7 de diciembre de 2013.

El Consejo de Ministros estableció el Decreto No. 322, “De la Dirección
General de Investigación de Operaciones Financieras, sus Funciones y
Estructura”, del 30 de diciembre de 2013.

Los dos decretos, publicados en la Gaceta Oficial de la República de
Cuba, Edición Extraordinaria No. 8 de 23 de enero de 2014, no tienen
transcendencia para el ciudadano común.

El Estado y Gobierno cubanos reiteradamente se han manifestado contra la
Lista de Países que apoyan al Terrorismo, instrumento expedido por el
Departamento de Estado del Gobierno de Estados Unidos de América. El
fundamento que incrimina a la parte cubana está dado en el asilo y
protección brindado a personas prófugas de la justicia norteamericana
por graves delitos criminales y a miembros de movimientos armados como
Los Macheteros, ETA, IRA, narco-guerrilleros Colombianos y otros.

Desde los años 60, el gobierno cubano suministró financiamiento, armas y
logística a muchos de esos grupos armados, algunos de los cuales
desistieron de sus acciones violentas, se incorporaron a procesos
democráticos y en varios casos obtuvieron victorias electorales.

Otro tema que atenta contra Cuba es el apoyo político a gobiernos con
marcada proyección terrorista como Libia, Siria, Irán, Irak y Corea del

Es de destacar que en los últimos años la parte cubana ha dado muestra
de haberse alejado de estas prácticas en Latinoamérica. Como garante del
proceso de dialogo concluido en La Habana, contribuyó a los acuerdos de
paz entre el gobierno colombiano y las FARC-EP.

El tema del lavado y desvío de dinero llama la atención en los últimos
años. Producto de algunos desfalcos a gerencias, programas y entidades
norteamericanas, el destino de significativas sumas después de transitar
por bancos internacionales, principalmente del área del Caribe, ha sido
entidades bancarias y financieras no bancarias de origen cubano, extremo
que ha sido probado en procesos penales seguidos en las cortes
estadounidenses contra criminales asociados a estas acciones, vinculados
a las estafas al Medicare, hipotecas inmobiliarias, seguros, etc.

También ha habido desvío de otras fuertes sumas de dinero de cubanos que
viajan a ese país y regresan a Cuba con un capital sustancial.

Toda esta vinculación ha sido rechazada por la parte cubana.

El Banco Central de Cuba dispuso mediante su Resolución No. 51-2013 de
15 de mayo del 2013, normas generales para la detección y prevención en
operaciones de enfrentamiento al lavado de activos, al financiamiento al
terrorismo y movimientos de capitales ilícitos, con el fundamento de
evitar el mal uso de las entidades bancarias y financieras no bancarias

El Consejo de Estado, con el interés de preservar la seguridad
ciudadana, así como los compromisos y convenios de la ONU, ha declarado
que la prevención es el elemento fundamental en el enfrentamiento a los
nocivos flagelos que hacen proliferar estas acciones criminales.

Con un importante fundamento de acción, el Consejo de Estado dispuso el
Decreto-Ley 316 del 7 de diciembre del 2013, que modificó la Ley No. 62,
Código Penal y la Ley No. 88, la Ley contra Actos de Terrorismo,
alegando atemperarse a compromisos internacionales asumidos por el
Estado y el Gobierno cubanos. No ha habido divulgación en los órganos de
prensa cubanos sobre este particular.

Funcionarios de Estados Unidos y Cuba se reunieron en La Habana para
revisar la implementación de los acuerdos bilaterales en materia
migratoria de 1994. En este encuentro se trató el intercambio
humanitario del ciudadano norteamericano Alan Gross y los cuatro
procesados y sancionados por espionaje en Estados Unidos. Este espacio
de diálogo pudiera tomarse para constituir un mecanismo permanente de
análisis y consulta bilateral en materia de fuentes criminales de desvío
de dinero y terrorismo. Ambas partes podrían quedar satisfechas de
lograr la pretensión y de hecho el monitoreo y colaboración jurídica. En
el caso que nos ocupa está prevista en la Metodología para la
tramitación de solicitudes de cooperación jurídica internacional y notas
verbales, adoptada mediante la Instrucción No. 214, del 27 de marzo de
2012, con independencia de los conductos del Ministerio de Relaciones
Exteriores y de instituciones policiales, contralorías, etc.

Esta propuesta será rechazada de plano por facciones que continúan la
apuesta por el rechazo a la estabilidad de las relaciones plenas.

Sería oportuno señalar que para lograr la pretensión y sustanciación de
conversaciones sobre este tema, las partes deben arribar despojadas de
agendas contentivas de demandas y reclamos históricos, resultado de
cincuenta y tantos años de confrontaciones. Solo lograrían apartarse de
la realidad y las necesidades.

Retomando el Decreto-Ley No. 317, este establece objetivos sobre el
fundamento de implementar compromisos internacionales, creación de
estructuras de gestión, control, investigación y análisis de la
información y establecer nuevas bases legales de prevención y ejecución
de los elementos previstos. Establece claramente los sujetos sometidos,
teniendo en cuenta la proliferación de entidades y personal vinculado a
estas de carácter estatal, gubernamental, ministerial o gerencial, estos
últimos en lo referente a la Ley de Inversiones Extranjeras, modificada

Se creó la Dirección General de Investigaciones de Operaciones
Financieras, siendo el Banco Central de Cuba quien actúa como autoridad
rectora, subordinada al Superintendente, sin afectar en lo más mínimo
las funciones de los Organismos de Control de la Contraloría General de
la República y las Direcciones Integrales del Ministerio del Interior.

Se requiere diligencia y responsabilidad en el pleno conocimiento de
clientes radicados y promotores de operaciones, derivándose del análisis
de Operaciones Sospechosas, Registro de Operaciones en Efectivo, Otros
Depósitos, así como el Régimen de Sanciones Financieras y la Prevención
y Enfrentamiento.

Para todo el funcionamiento procesal de estas regulaciones se dispone la
constitución del Comité Coordinador para la Prevención y Enfrentamiento,
presidido por presidente del Banco Central de Cuba, sustituido en su
ausencia por el superintendente. Integran el Comité, representantes de
la Fiscalía General de la República, el Ministerio del Interior, el
Ministerio de Justicia, el Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, la
Oficina Nacional de la Administración Tributaria, así como otros
expertos de órganos y organismos de la Administración Central del Estado.

La Contraloría General de la República tiene facultades rectoras en la
ejecución del Decreto-Ley, que establece un término de sesenta (60) días
naturales para que los jefes de los organismos que integran el sistema
dispongan de normas procesales para su ejecución.

Un tema escabroso fue el referente al papel de suministrador de armas
por parte del gobierno cubano al de Corea del Norte, violando normas de
prohibición adoptadas por el Consejo de Seguridad de Naciones Unidas.

La referida violación fue detectada materialmente al cruce de un buque
por la Zona del Canal de Panamá. El gobierno panameño dispuso mediante
su sistema jurídico la imposición de una multa de mil dólares a la
tripulación norcoreana y el correspondiente procedimiento criminal para

Funcionarios y peritos del sistema de ONU procedieron a la investigación
del hecho en cuestión. Se conoció que el gobierno cubano aportó los
elementos reclamados por los investigadores, sin determinar los
responsables de la autorización y ejecución del suministro.

El gobierno de Panamá presentó serias reservas contra la ejecutoria
procesal del gobierno cubano. El asunto en cuestión se articuló como una
violación grave dentro del tema Terrorismo de Estado.

El Consejo de Ministros (Gobierno) dispuso mediante el Decreto No. 322,
la Reglamentación del Decreto-Ley No. 317, en lo referente a la
Dirección General de Investigaciones de Operaciones Financieras,
referente a sus funciones y estructura, con una marcada subordinación a
la legislación de ONU sobre el particular, entre ellas, las resoluciones
Nos. 126-99 y 1323-2001, del Consejo de Seguridad, información y
listados de identificaciones de sujetos, circulados a organismos
naciones e internacionales, en el marco de sus competencias.

Se impone el conocimiento y dominio control de las estructuras del Banco
Central de Cuba, (Decreto-Ley No. 172, modificado por el Decreto-Ley No.
294; Sobre bancos e instituciones financieras no bancarias (Decreto-Ley
No. 173); estructura y organización de la Banca Internacional Cubana
(Decreto-Ley No. 181); sobre el otorgamiento de licencias a bancos e
instituciones financieras no bancarias (Resolución No. 24-1999 del
presidente del Banco Central de Cuba); sobre el procedimiento de
otorgamiento de tarjetas como medios de pago (Resolución No. 64-1999,
del presidente del Banco Central de Cuba); Procedimiento sobre Licencia
de Interrelación Financiera en la Zona Especial de Mariel, (Resolución
No. 872-2013 del presidente del Banco Central de Cuba); Compendio de
Licencias Operaciones otorgadas al Banco de Crédito y Comercio (Bandec),
Banco Popular de Ahorro, Banco Nacional de Cuba, Banco Industrial de
Venezuela, Banco de Inversiones S.A., Banco Metropolitano S.A. Banco
Exterior de Cuba, Banco Financiero Internacional, Banco Internacional de
Comercio S.A. Estos bancos mantienen relaciones financieras no bancarias
con otras instituciones de origen cubano y extranjeras radicadas en Cuba
y en el exterior.

Se actualiza la política crediticia a sectores alternativos de la
economía cubana. El Banco Central de Cuba mantiene el control de las
negociaciones de la deuda externa y la deuda bilateral y multilateral.

Indiscutiblemente, la política y proyección del gobierno cubano en
relación con el terrorismo y el terrorismo de estado fue reestructurada
o rediseñada ajustándose a normas internacionales. La inclusión en la
Lista de Países Vinculados al Terrorismo es motivo bastante y suficiente
para tomar medidas que justifiquen salir del monitoreo que ejecuta el
Departamento de Estado.

La celebración de las cumbres de la CELAC ha sido utilizada por la parte
cubana para probar su proyección democrática, siendo ponente de la
Declaración de Región Libre de Enfrentamientos. Haber logrado un espacio
fuera de la OEA ha sido utilizado como elemento probatorio de cambio de
estrategia.; René López
Tomado del blog Referencia Jurídica

Source: Estrategias del gobierno cubano en el enfrentamiento al lavado
de dinero, los capitales ilícitos, el terrorismo y la proliferación de
armas | Primavera Digital –

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The Secrets of Secretismo Mon, 17 Apr 2017 00:37:07 +0000 The Secrets of Secretismo

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 16 April 2017 — The term secretismo
(secretiveness), to refer to the absence or delay of certain information
of public interest in the Cuban official media, began to be used first
among critics of the system, until it came to appear in the speeches of
the highest officials of the government.

The list of what the official media has never reported, or only reported
with an inexplicable delays, deserves a thorough study, which in
addition to filling thousands of pages, would serve to better understand
the country’s most recent history.

Among the headings to organize the list of the omitted would be: deaths,
destitutions, desertions, economic failures, military defeats,
diplomatic fiascos, serious damage to nature, consequences of mistakes
made, and even data on the rates of suicides, divorces or emigration,
along with references to the country’s debt or to the decrease in Gross
Domestic Product. All this and more has fallen into that black hole of

The temptation to offer some examples would lead us to mention, among
other pearls, the forced relocation of peasants from the Escambray in
the 1960s, the disastrous effects of the whim of trying to produce 10
million tons of sugar in 1970, the collapse of the military operation in
Granada in 1983, the consequences that the epidemic of polyneuritis
brought in the most difficult years of the Special Period, and more
recently the clinical causes of Fidel Castro’s death.

The response that has often been given to criticism of secretismo has
ranged from the most tenacious justification, based on being a country
threatened by the most powerful power in the world, to the pretense of
blaming the mid-level cadres.

It has been this way since the days when party ideologue Carlos Aldana
pontificated on the need to have “critical, militant and creative
journalism,” right up to our time when Raúl Castro himself advised
before the parliament: “It is necessary to put on the table all the
information and the arguments that underlie each decision and step, to
suppress the excess of secretismo to which we have habituated ourselves
during more than 50 years of enemy encirclement.”

These self-critical pretenses have had the peculiarity of appearing in
cycles, which has given the permanent impression of being on the eve of
an always timid and incomplete opening. The journalistic guild has been
perhaps the most victimized with these frequent promises, made in
Congresses of the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC) or in informal
meetings with the press.

When it seems that “now we are going to end the secretismo” the promise
of promulgating a new electoral law disappears, the head of the
commission in charge of implementing the Party’s guidelines disappears,
and the sale of premium gasoline is suspended without any media of the
official press daring to review or comment on what happened.

Even the euphemism of using the word “secretismo” to refer to what
strictly must be called censorship, only serves to cover up what is
supposed to be revealed. It is a crime of linguistic injury whose result
lies in keeping in obscurity what outwardly is illuminated.

Source: The Secrets of Secretismo – Translating Cuba –

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Cuba and Venezuela: And God Created Them… Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:03:07 +0000 Cuba and Venezuela: And God Created Them… / Cubanet, René Gómez Manzano

Cubanet, René Gómez Manzano, Havana, 5 Abril 2017 — In recent days, the
absence of a true rule of law has become evident in the two countries of
“Socialism of the 21st Century,” an absence that reached the highest
levels of arbitrariness and injustice: Cuba and Venezuela. In the second
of these the iniquity took place at the highest level, the
Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court.

The brand new Chavista magistrates ruled: “As long as the contempt and
invalidity of the proceedings of the National Assembly persist, this
Chamber will ensure that the parliamentary powers are exercised directly
by this Chamber or by the body that it designates.” In short, the court
replaced the parliament with itself.

And in passing, the High Court also withdrew immunity from the country’s
parliamentary deputies. It was a coup d’etat pure and simple; only not
one undertaken by the military or the congressional branch, but by the
judicial. Of course, it didn’t happen on the judges’ own initiatve, but
because Maduro ordered it, because it is already known that the supposed
independence of that power is now a fiction in the homeland of the
“Liberator,” Simon Bolivar.

The voices of protest did not hold back: in Venezuela, National Assembly
President Julio Borges called the shameful ruling “trash” and ripped it
up in front of the television cameras. The protests of students and
others who disagree began. At the international level, the Permanent
Council of the Organization of American States was convened, and Peru
withdrew its ambassador from Caracas. Even complacent the mediators
Torrijos, Fernandez and Rodríguez Zapatero rejected the gross maneuver.

But not only democracy supporters weighed in. A character as little
suspected of being anti-Chavez as the Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa
Ortega (yes, the same person labeled the “Eternal Commander” as “the
most humanist man that has ever existed on the planet” and totally
supported the unjust imprisonment of Leopoldo López) described what
happened in his country as a “rupture of the constitutional order.”

Urgently convened, the Venezuelan Defense Council called on the Supreme
Court to “review” the statements that left Parliament without
functions. The obedient magistrates, in a fulminating manner, applied
“what I meant to say was…”

In Cuba, on the other hand, recent illegality had a lower level, in both
directions of the word. Lady in White Lismerys Quintana Ávila, also
urgently, was subjected to a spurious trial and sentenced to six months
in prison — the maximum allowed penalty — by a docile Municipal Court.

As a precedent for this injustice, we must remember the new trick that
the political police use against these admirable women: At the outset,
they impose a fine for a misdemeanor that does not exist. After the
refusal to pay the illegally imposed penalty, the defendant (in this
case, Lismerys) is taken to a Municipal Court to be tried.

Now the offense charged is “breach of obligations arising from the
commission of misdemeanor,” and is provided for in article 170 of the
current Penal Code.Under this provision, “anyone who fails to comply
with the obligations arising from a resolution that has exhausted its
legal process, issued by a competent authority or official, relating to
contraventions” may be punished.

According to the final sentence of that rule, “if before the sentence is
pronounced, the accused meets the obligations derived from that
resolution, the proceedings will be archived.” The purpose of this,
obviously, was not to establish a mechanism to send one more person to
prison, but to dissuade her from not paying the imposed pecuniary penalty.

But it is already known that, in Cuba, “whoever made the law, set the
trap.” In the case of someone who disagrees and says so, any
misrepresentation of the correct sense of the rules is valid for the
Castro regime’s authorities. What real chance to pay the fine had
Lismerys or her loved ones if she were detained and the latter did not
know what her situation was?

We know that the repressor who “cared for her” (who calls himself
“Luisito”, but whose real name is known (unusual in itself) — Ariel
Arnau Grillette) was truthful in the text messages with which he
harassed this Cuban mother. We know what they said thanks to the
inventiveness of the brave fighter Angel Moya Acosta: “the desicion to
send you to prision is in my hands,” he wrote. A phrase in which we do
not know what to admire more: his creative spelling or the confidence
with which he says what everyone knows, but usually shuts up about …

However, what is decisive in this case is not what the murky State
Security intended, but the submission of a court to the design of that
repressive body. This is how the “organs of justice” of Cuba and
Venezuela, once again, have become brothers in ignominy.

Translated by Jim

Source: Cuba and Venezuela: And God Created Them… / Cubanet, René Gómez
Manzano – Translating Cuba –

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Depression, the “Silent Epidemic” Also Attacks in Cuba Tue, 04 Apr 2017 12:26:54 +0000 Depression, the “Silent Epidemic” Also Attacks in Cuba
April 3, 2017
By Pilar Montes

HAVANA TIMES — A recent medical event in Havana and particular
indicators I picked up on in TV programs and social projects, stirred my
curiosity about the impact of depression in Cuba.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO),
depression affects 322 million people worldwide, 18% more than in the
last decade.

Delving into the distribution of this so-called “silent epidemic” in the
world, the WHO says that the relationship between this disease with
rapid changes, war and migration isn’t clear and that this illness is
more closely linked to addictions such as alcoholism and drug abuse.

In Latin America, Brazil is the country with the highest level of
depression, followed by Cuba, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay.

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that over 4%
of the global population suffers from depression and that women, young
people and the elderly are more prone to its crippling effects.

While it’s true that the most immediate causes of depression can be
found in alcohol and drugs, underlying root causes lie in war and
regional conflicts, violence including domestic violence and families
being separated because of migration or economic needs.

“Alcohol consumption is our number one problem,” explains Dr. Alejandro
Garcia, director of the Mental Health Community Center in Central
Havana, the most densely populated muncipality in Cuba, with over
160,000 inhabitants in a total area of 5.44km2.

“They aren’t alcoholics as such, but people who consume alcohol in an
irreponsible manner, which leads to family violence, accidents and
behavioural problems.”

Garcia explained that the response to this health problem is founded on
a three-way strategy which consists in promoting health awareness and
preventing diseases, medical care, as well as rehabilitation, the latter
being closely monitored.

Meanwhile, Conner Gorry, the author of an article published by MEDICC
magazine, which publishes articles by US and Cuban scientists, claims
that the statistics could hit us hard: in Cuba, suicide is one of the
ten leading causes of death and 25% of people who go to health centers
are diagnosed with depression.

In her article published in 2013, Gorry claims that this health
situation “isn’t any different to the global health trend, especially in
Europe, the United States and Canada.” However, Cuba is facing specific
challenges and since 1995 put its mental health system at the service of
the community with professionals available to provide a coordinated
national response to this problem.

Cuban experts agree that one of the greatest challenges the island is
experiencing right now is the rapid increase in its aging population,
Gorry points out. Life expectancy in Cuba is around 80 years, and the
gross birth rate is the lowest within the region and has a lower
fertility rate than what’s needed to replace the generations.

Based on government data, it’s estimated that by 2030, more than a third
of the population will be aged 60 years old and over, he said. Cuba is
on its way to becoming one of the planet’s eleven oldest countries.

The population sector to be most affected by depression and other health
problems that derive from this disease are precisely the elderly. A lot
of the time, the cause for this stems from families being separated, due
to migration and even due to domestic violence.

War, conflict and migration
This situation isn’t exclusive to Cuba, not in the least, it is also
evident in developed countries, where some don’t have universal health
care and the country’s wealth is becoming more and more concentrated in
fewer hands.

Ever since I was little, I was always struck by the fact that the
highest rates of suicide took place in the richest countries with the
highest levels of education.

The richest part of the planet make up 70-80% of the 800,000 annual
suicides that take place in high-earning countries, according to a
recent WHO report.

In spite of the increasing threat of this “silent epidemic” in the
world, national health systems continue to dedicate pitiful resources to
dealing with and treating this health problem.

And it’s obvious that when a human being suffers failure in their life
goals, being mentally and professionally capable of reaching these
goals, depression and despair take root.

In the biological, psychological and social make-up of every individual,
changes to any of these components can influence everything and this
disease appears as a result.

According to the Pan American Health Organization, there are 100 million
new cases of depression in the world every year. Primarily in adults,
depression is suffered by 15% of men and 24% of women. The greater
percentage is understood to be in the 18-45 year old age group, which is
when people are at the most productive stage of their lives.

People live and are driven by their interest to satisfy their needs,
ranging from the most basic or simple to the most complex on a spiritual
level, while also interacting with the rest of society, where questions
like how to live, what the meaning of life is and even if it’s worth
living or not come up.

One of the authors of the Pan American Health report, Dan Chisholm,
warned at the Geneva Assembly that the majority of people who suffer
from depression don’t have access to treatment.

“The number of people who access treatment in these countries is
extremely low, it’s less than 5%. Around 95% of those suffering from
depression don’t seek help and this is truly worrying,” the expert said.
Mental health in Cuba: some statistics

Psychiatric hospitals: 17
Admittanceto psychiatric hospitals per 100,000 inhabitants: 0.3
Psychiatric consultations: 899,075
Psychiatric consultations per 100,000 inhabitants: 79
Psychiatrists: 1051
Psychiatric interns: 167
Child psychiatrists: 297
Child psychiatrist interns: 72
Graduated Health psychiatrists (2010-2011): 26
Health psychiatrist interns: 49
Graduated psychiatrists in 2012: 491
Graduated psychiatrists since 19959: 28,745
*Mental Health Community Centers: 101

Sources: Annual Health Statistics, 2012. Public Health Ministry, Cuba;
*Dr. Carmen Borrego, director of the National Mental Health and Drug
Abuse Program, MINSAP

Source: Depression, the “Silent Epidemic” Also Attacks in Cuba – Havana –

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Cuba’s elderly adrift on the streets Sun, 02 Apr 2017 12:17:41 +0000 Cuba’s elderly adrift on the streets
By: Mario J. Penton and Luz Escobar
Posted: 04/2/2017 4:00 AM
Miami Herald/Tribune News Service

HAVANA — At 67, struggling against the challenges that come with aging
and a meagre pension, Raquel — an engineer who in her own words was
“formed by the Revolution” — survives by sifting through garbage every
day in search of recyclable products.

Hands that at one time drew plans and measured distances now pick up
cardboard, cans and other discarded containers.

“My life is a struggle from the moment I wake up,” Raquel said.

“My last name? For what? And I don’t want any photos. I have children,
and I once had a life. I don’t want people talking about me,” she said
after agreeing to tell her story.

Digging through garbage as a way to make a living was not part of
Raquel’s plan, but she is not alone. Many within the island’s growing
aging population are struggling with survival in their twilight years.

Cuba has become the oldest country in the Western Hemisphere, according
to official figures, amid an accelerated process that has even surprised
specialists who had not expected the phenomenon to become apparent until

Facing a pension system that is increasingly nonviable, a harsh economic
recession and an expected impact on social services as a result of the
aging population, the island is confronting one of the biggest
challenges of its history, experts say.

Almost 20 per cent of Cubans are older than 60 and the fertility rate
stands at 1.7 children per woman of child-bearing age.

To counter the aging population, the fertility rate would have to rise
to 2.4 children per woman of child-bearing age. Cuba’s economically
active population shrank for the first time in 2015, by 126,000 people.

“The population aging that is affecting the country leads to a
significant increase in public spending as well as a drop in the
population of the fertile age, which in turn leads to a decrease in the
fertility rate,” said Juan Valdes Paz, a Cuban sociologist who has
written several books on the issue.

Valdes said no government can be prepared for the kinds of demographic
problems Cuba has.

“If there’s no harmony between demographic progress and economic
development, the latter is impacted,” he said.

Government spending on public health per capita in 1999 was 21 per cent
lower than in 1989, economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago said. Official Cuban
figures show that category of spending dropped from 11.3 per cent of the
country’s gross domestic product in 2009 to eight per cent in 2012.

Although Raquel is retired, government pharmacies do not subsidize the
medicine she needs for her diabetes and hypertension. State social
service programs do not serve elderly Cubans who live with relatives or
other presumed caretakers.

“I get a pension of 240 pesos a month,” said Raquel, the equivalent of
less than US$10. “From that money, I have to pay 50 pesos for the Haier
refrigerator the government forced me to buy and 100 pesos to buy my

Cuba has about 300 daytime centres for the elderly and 144 nursing
homes, with a total capacity of about 20,000 clients. Officials have
acknowledged a significant portion are in terrible shape and many
elderly prefer to go into one of the 11 homes across the country run by
religious orders.

They operate thanks to foreign assistance, such as the Santovenia asylum
in the Cerro neighbourhood of Havana.

The state-run daycare centres charge 180 pesos per month and the nursing
homes charge about 400 pesos. Social security subsidizes the payments
when social service workers determine the clients cannot afford to pay
those fees.

Cuba once had one of the most generous and broadest social security
systems in Latin America. But that was largely possible because of the
massive subsidies from the Soviet Union, calculated by Mesa-Lago at
about US$65 billion over 30 years.

“Although the pensions were never high, there was an elaborate system
established by the state to facilitate access to food and other products
at subsidized prices,” the economist said.

“After the Soviet subsidies ended in the early ’90s, pensions remained
at about the same level, but their purchasing power collapsed. In 1993,
a retired Cuban could barely buy 16 per cent of what he could afford in

By the end of 2015, the purchasing power of retirees remained at barely
half of what it was when the Soviet Union collapsed and Cuba entered
into the so-called Special Period.”

Raquel is a product of that reality.

“It bothers me when I hear talk of the good services for the elderly,”
she said. “I don’t get any subsidies because I live with my son, his
wife and my two grandchildren. But they have their own expenses and
can’t afford to also pick up all of mine.

“I need new dentures,” she added, “and if you don’t give the dentist a
little gift, they take months or come out bad.”

Other elderly residents on the island echoed Raquel’s sentiments.

“We are two old people living alone, we have no one overseas, so we
receive no remittances,” said Andres, a former cartographer who lives
with his wife Silvia in the central city of Cienfuegos, and now sells
homemade vinegar and other products to make ends meet. “It’s very hard
to get old and live off a US$10 pension when four drumsticks of chicken
cost US$5.

“Last year, I was awarded with a lifetime achievement recognition at
work and then I was laid off,” he said. “I was already retired but
continued to work because we could not live on my pension.”

After Fidel Castro left power in 2006, following a health emergency, the
Raul Castro government began drastic cutbacks in social security
benefits under the rubric of “the elimination of gratuities.”

From the 582,060 Cubans who were receiving social assistance benefits
in 2006, such as disability or special diet funds, the number was
slashed to 175,106 by 2015.

Castro also removed several products from the highly subsidized ration
card, such as soap, toothpaste and matches, forcing everyone to pay far
more for those products when they bought them on the open market.

The government has launched some new programs for the elderly. The
Sistema de Atencion a la Familia (System to Help the Family), for
example, allows more than 76,000 low-income elderly to obtain food at
subsidized prices. That’s a tiny number compared to Cuba’s elderly
population, estimated at more than 2 million in a nation of about 11

Some elderly Cubans also receive assistance from churches and
non-governmental organizations.

“People see me picking up cans, but they don’t know I was a
prize-winning engineer and that I even travelled to the Soviet Union in
1983,” Raquel said.

After retirement, she had to find other ways of making ends meet. She
cleaned the common areas of buildings where military officers lived near
the Plaza of the Revolution until she got too old to handle the work.

“They wanted me to wash the windows of a hallway on the ninth floor.
That was dangerous and I was afraid of falling. I preferred to leave,
even though they paid well,” she said.

Raquel was earning 125 pesos (about US$5) per week — more than half her
monthly pension of 240 pesos.

Raquel said she sells the empty recyclable containers she collects to
state enterprises but would love to be able to sell them to a private
company, instead, to avoid bureaucratic problems and delays.

In the patio of her home, she has created a homemade tool to crush the
empty cans she finds on the streets.

The work can be profitable but competition is stiff and physically
tougher for the elderly and disabled who have to wait in long lines to
sell their products at state enterprises or pay someone else to hold
their spot in line.

“In January, I made 3,900 pesos on beer bottles. But I paid 500 pesos to
hold my spot in line because I can’t just lay down on the floor while I
wait,” she said. “Aluminum also pays well. They pay 40 pesos for a sack
of cans. It’s eight pesos per kilogram.”

Cuba does not have official statistics on poverty.

A 1996 government study concluded 20.1 per cent of the two million
people in Havana were “at risk of not being able to afford a basic

A poll in 2000 found 78 per cent of the country’s elderly complained
their income was not enough to cover their expenses.

The majority of the elderly polled said their main sources of income
were their pension benefits, assistance from relatives on the island and
remittances sent by relatives and friends abroad.

Many elderly now walk the streets in Havana and other cities, selling
homemade candy or peanuts to make ends meet.

Others resell newspapers or pick through garbage for items to sell. The
number of beggars on the streets of Cuba’s main cities has visibly

For Raquel, the daily struggle is but another chapter of her life.

“I have always been a hard worker because the most important thing is my
family,” she said. “It doesn’t bother me to wear old clothes while I
collect the cans. The one who has to look good is my grandson, who just
started high school.

“The kids in school sometimes make fun of him, but my grandson is very
good and he’s not ashamed of me, at least not that he shows,” she said.
“He always defends me against the mockery.”

— Miami Herald

Source: Cuba’s elderly adrift on the streets – Winnipeg Free Press –

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The Thousand Faces of “Journalism” Sat, 01 Apr 2017 15:06:44 +0000 The Thousand Faces of “Journalism” / Miriam Celaya

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 29 March 2017 – An opinion piece
published in recent days by El Nuevo Herald gives me a disturbing
feeling of déjà vu. It is not the subject – overflowing with a number of
articles by different authors – but its focal point, which presents as
adequate a number of superficial and highly subjective assessments to
validate conclusions that in no way reflect the reality it alleges to

With other hues and nuances, it has the same effect in me as the
experience of participating as a guest at a meeting of journalists,
politicians and academics – primarily Americans – held October, 2014 at
Columbia University, just two months before the announcement of the
restoration of relations between the governments of Cuba and the United
States, where the wish to support rapprochement and to substantiate the
need to eliminate the embargo was essentially based on colossal lies.

For example, I heard how the “Raúl changes” that were taking place in
Cuba favored the Cuban people and a process of openness, and I learned
of the incredible hardships that Cubans had to endure as a result of the
direct (and exclusive) responsibility of the embargo, of the fabulous
access to education and health services (which were, in addition to
being easily accessible, wonderful) enjoyed by Cubans, and even the zeal
of the authorities to protect the environment.

To illustrate this last point, an American academic presented the
extraordinary conservation state of the Jardines de la Reina
archipelago and its adjacent waters, including the coralline formations,
as an achievement of the Revolutionary Government. She just forgot to
point out that this natural paradise has never been within reach of the
common Cuban, but is a private preserve of the ruling caste and wealthy
tourists, a fact that explains its favorable degree of conservation.

The Cuba that many American speakers described on that occasion was so
foreign to a Cuban resident on the Island, as I was, that I wondered at
times if we were all really speaking about the same country.

In my view, the question was as contradictory as it was dangerous.
Contradictory, because there is certainly sufficient foundation, based
on realities, to consider the (conditional) suspension of the embargo or
to show partiality for dialogue between governments after half a century
of sterile confrontations, without the need to resort to such gross
falsehoods, especially – and I say this without xenophobic animosity or
without a smack of nationalism – when they are brandished by foreigners
who don’t even have a ludicrous idea of the reality the Cuban common
population lives under or what its aspirations are. Dangerous, because
the enormous power of the press to move public opinion for or against a
proposal is well known, and to misrepresent or distort a reality unknown
to that public, can have dire consequences.

But it seems that such an irresponsible attitude threatens to become a
common practice, at least in the case of Cuba. This is what happens when
overly enthusiastic professionals confuse two concepts as different as
“information” and “opinion” in the same theoretical body.

It is also the case of the article referred to above, that its essence
is the answer to a question that is asked and answered by the author,
using the faint topic of the first anniversary of Barack Obama’s
historic visit to Cuba and some conjectures about the continuity of the
relations between both governments with the new occupant of the White House.

“What repercussions have the normalization of relations between the
United States and Cuba had on the Cuban people?” the writer of the
article asks, and she immediately answers herself by assuming several
suppositions, not totally exempt from logic, but regrettably inaccurate.

“Greater openness to Cuba has undoubtedly meant greater interaction with
the Cuban people through the exchange of information from the thousands
of Americans who now visit the island”, she says. And this is partially
true, but this “exchange of information” about a society as complex and
mimetic, and as long closed off as Cuba’s, is full of mirages and
subjectivities, so it ends up being a biased and exotic vision of a
reality that no casual foreign visitor can manage to grasp.

A diffuse assertion of the article is one that reassures: “Tourism
represents the main economic source for the country, and at the same
time it leverages other sectors related to textiles, construction and
transportation.” Let’s see: It may be that tourism has gained an
economic preponderance for Cuba, but that it has boosted the textile,
construction and transportation sectors is, at the most, a mere
objective, fundamentally dependent on foreign capital investment, which
has just not materialized.

In fact, the notable increase in tourist accommodations and restaurants,
bars and cafes in the private sector is the result not of the tourist
boom itself but of the inadequacy of the hotel and gastronomic
infrastructure of the State. If the author of the article has had
privileged access to sources and information that support such
statements, she does not make it clear.

But if the colleague at El Nuevo Herald came away with a relevant
discovery during her trip to Havana –job related? for pleasure? – it is
that many young people “believe in the socialist model.” Which leads us
directly to the question, where did these young people learn what a
“socialist model” is? Because, in fact, the only thing that Cubans born
during the last decade of the last century have experienced in Cuba is
the consolidation of a State capitalism, led by the same regime with
kleptomaniacal tendencies that hijacked the power and the Nation almost
60 years ago.

About the young people she says that “many are self-employed and
generate enough resources to live well.” There are currently more than
500 thousand people In Cuba with their own businesses, about 5% of the
population, according to ECLAC” [U.N.’s Economic Commission for Latin
America and the Caribbean]. This is another slip, almost childish. The
source that originally reports the figure of half a million
self-employed workers belongs to the very official National Office of
Statistics and Information (ONEI), a Cuban Government institution, and
not to ECLAC. This number has remained unchanged for at least the last
two years, as if the enormous migration abroad and the numerous returns
of licenses on the part of the entrepreneurs who fail in their efforts
or who are stifled by the system’s own circumstances, among other
factors, did not make a dent.

But even assuming as true the immutable number of “self-employed” that
the authorities refer to, on what does the writer base her assumptions
that the self-employed generate sufficient recourses to live well? Could
it be that she ignores that that half a million Cubans includes
individuals who fill cigarette lighters, sharpen scissors, recycle trash
(“the garbage divers”), are owners of shit-hole kiosks, repair household
appliances, are roving shaved-ice, peanut, trinket and other knickknack
vendors, and work at dozens of low-income occupations that barely
produce enough to support themselves and their families? Doesn’t the
journalist know about the additional losses most of them suffer from
harassment by inspectors and the police, the arbitrary tax burdens and
the legal defenselessness? What, in the end, are the standards of
prosperity and well-being that allow her to assert that these Cubans
“live well”?

I would not doubt the good intentions of the author of this unfortunate
article, except that empathy should not be confused with journalism. The
veracity of the sampling and the seriousness of the data used is an
essential feature of journalistic ethics, even for an opinion column, as
in this case. We were never told what data or samples were used as a
basis for the article, the number of interviewees, their occupations,
ages, social backgrounds and other details that would have lent at least
some value to her work.

And to top it off, the trite issue of Cuba’s supposedly high educational
levels could not be left out. She says: “While it is true that education
in Cuba is one of the best in the continent, the level of education is
not proportional to income, much less a good quality of life.”
Obviously, she couldn’t be bothered going into the subject of education
in Cuba in depth, and she is not aware of our strong pedagogical
tradition of the past, destroyed by decades of demagoguery and
indoctrination. She also does not seem to know the poor quality of
teaching, the corruption that prevails in the teaching centers and the
deterioration of pedagogy. We are not aware of what comparative patterns
allow her to repeat the mantra of the official discourse with its myth
about the superior education of Cubans, but her references might
presumably have been Haiti, the Amazonian forest communities or villages
in the Patagonian solitudes. If so, I’ll accept that Cubans have some
advantage, at least in terms of education levels.

There are still other controversial points in the text, but the most
relevant ones are sufficient to calculate the confusion the narration of
a reality that is clearly unknown can cause to an unaware reader. It is
obvious that the writer was not up to the task, or is simply not aware
of the responsibility that comes from a simplistic observation. And she
still pretends to have discovered not one, but two different Cubas.
Perhaps there are even many more Cubas, but, my dear colleague: you were
definitely never in any of them.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: The Thousand Faces of “Journalism” / Miriam Celaya – Translating
Cuba –

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Qué cambios trajo a Cuba la reanudación de las relaciones con EEUU? Thu, 30 Mar 2017 18:11:05 +0000 ¿Qué cambios trajo a Cuba la reanudación de las relaciones con EEUU?
Danilo Maldonado Machado “El Sexto” , artista y activista por los
derechos humanos en Cuba, expone cuál es la situación actual de los
derechos humanos en la isla, en el primer aniversario de la visita de Obama
29 MARZO 2017

El artista y activista por los derechos humanos en Cuba Danilo Maldonado
Machado “El Sexto”, está de visita en California, para promover sus
obras y su defensa de los derechos humanos en Cuba, precisamente después
de recuperar su libertad tras pasar 55 días encarcelado en Cuba sin que
se le acuse en un debido proceso legal, y cuando se cumple un año de la
visita de Obama a La Habana.

El grafitero a su vez tiene previsto asistir al Foro por las Libertades
de Oslo (Oslo Freedom Forum) en mayo próximo a denunciar las violaciones
de derechos humanos que se cometen en Cuba.

En diciembre de 2014, El Sexto fue arrestado cuando iba a montar un
performance llamado “Rebelión en la Granja”, con dos cerdos decorados
con los nombres de “Fidel” y “Raúl”. El artista permaneció encarcelado
por 10 meses, sin un juicio. Finalmente fue liberado el 20 de octubre de
2015, debido a la presión de organizaciones que defienden los derechos

En 2015, Danilo Maldonado mereció el premio Vaclav Havel, otorgado por
la Fundación para los Derechos Humanos a personas “que participan en la
disidencia creativa, exhiben valor y creatividad para desafiar la
injusticia y vivir en la verdad”, pero solo pudo asistir a recibir el
reconocimiento en 2016.

Esa es una pregunta muy interesante, porque las personas creen que al
comienzo de una relación va a cambiar algo, lo que no tienen en cuenta
es que estamos hablando de las mismas personas que llegaron al poder
matando personas, quitando, usurpando y adueñándose de todo a su
alrededor. Cuando tú ves a un presidente que fue elegido
democráticamente acercarse a este tipo de persona, sencillamente lo que
le está dando es poder o legitimando esa delincuencia.

Pero más que eso, considero que lo más importante que hizo Obama durante
su visita a Cuba es que es el primer presidente de EEUU que visita Cuba
y se reúne con la disidencia, y eso le da un reconocimiento a ese
movimiento por un cambio en Cuba a nivel mundial que antes no tenía. Eso
fue interesante y fue bueno.

Por lo demás, valga la redundancia, no ha favorecido en nada a ninguna
persona, y en materia de derechos humanos, menos.

En enero de este año te liberaron tras 55 días de encarcelamiento en
condiciones brutales que hicieron temer por tu vida, ¿de qué delito te
acusaron para que te arrestaran nuevamente?

En mi caso, por ejemplo, hace apenas tres meses que salí de prisión, por
hacer una obra, por escribir un graffiti.

Son innumerables detenciones, registros, incautaciones, sin ninguna
causa legal, esta última a la que me refiero es precisamente un
encarcelamiento prolongado que ocurre después de la visita de Obama,
después de reanudarse las relaciones entre Cuba y EEUU, y porque me
niego a ser silenciado y dejar de usar mi arte para pedir la libertad
para el pueblo cubano.

Por ejemplo, en la Novena Cumbre Anual de Ginebra para los DDHH y la
Democracia realizada en febrero de 2017, yo hice una denuncia por las
detenciones arbitrarias y sin proceso legal que se realizan en Cuba, y
fue aceptada, ya podemos ver así cómo se puede avanzar en la exigencia
de que cese la impunidad del gobierno de Cuba por reprimir los derechos

Maldonado explica que estas denuncias por violaciones de los derechos
humanos, se han realizado caso por caso, hasta el momento él no conoce
que se haya presentado una denuncia colectiva.

En su caso personal, su denuncia fue aceptada por la Corte de Derechos
Humanos en Ginebra, así como la denuncia de Rosa María Payá por el
homicidio no esclarecido de su padre, Oswaldo Payá, el líder opositor
creador del Proyecto Varela y el Proyecto Heredia, que intentaba
realizar un plebiscito para modificar la Constitución de Cuba, y que
estas denuncias permiten influir en las votaciones que sancionan a un
país por sus violaciones de los derechos humanos, porque hasta ahora,
los que representaban a Cuba en estos organismos internacionales eran
designados por el gobierno, eran funcionarios.

Este cambio ocurre en 2011, cuando el gobierno de Cuba elimina el
permiso de salida que era obligatorio para poder salir de Cuba, y esto
es lo que permite se pueda denunciar lo que sucede en Cuba. Hasta ese
momento, solo se conocía la “versión oficial”. Estamos hablando de un
régimen que tiene todo el poder y todo el tiempo para manipular los
hechos y prepararse a presentar un caso favorable de cómo ellos obedecen
todas las reglas sin que nadie los contradiga.

Para poder presentar un caso que desmienta esa versión oficial sostenida
durante años, para poder demostrar que no es cierto que se respeten los
derechos humanos, que se abusa del poder, se requiere preparación,
porque ellos han tenido tiempo y recursos para vender la imagen que
ellos desean.

Ahora ya es posible llegar a un tribunal y acusarlos, y que haya un voto
contra un gobierno, y que si ese tribunal internacional estima que ese
gobierno comete crímenes, también se les haga un proceso penal y que
sancionen a esas personas que ocupan el gobierno de un país por un golpe
de estado y cometen abusos de poder.

Ha sido la fuerza de las denuncias de la comunidad internacional, del
mismo gobierno de EEUU, como en el caso de Alan Gross, lo que ha
permitido que esto suceda. Porque el gobierno de Cuba nunca demostró que
Alan Gross era un espía, aunque lo acusaba de ello y exigió el rescate
de cinco espías cubanos a cambio de liberar a un ciudadano de EEUU
injustamente acusado, sancionado y encarcelado.

¿Por qué insistes que en Cuba hay que enseñar a perder el miedo?

Yo no esperaba la reacción, la reacción que ellos tuvieron fue la que me
demostró la fuerza que puede tener el graffiti, el arte en sí mismo,
para demostrar cómo se violan los derechos humanos en Cuba.

Cuando puse la frase “Se Fue” cuando se murió Fidel, el 26 de noviembre
de 2016, el delito que me acusan es de daños, que se castiga con una
multa, nunca ir a prisión. Y sin embargo, me encarcelan.

Cuando el performance de los cerdos en 2015, ellos me acusaban de
desacato, por faltarle el respeto a la autoridad, pero esto tampoco fue
un proceso legal, porque el performance no se realizó, ellos me detienen
antes de que lo haga, ellos no presentaron una acusación ante un
tribunal, no hubo un juicio, pero lo que sucedió fue una prueba que todo
el proceso fue una detención arbitraria con el objetivo de atemorizar a
un artista, de sancionar una forma de pensar.

Lo peor de todo lo que sucede en Cuba es que esta represión va dirigida
a la forma de pensar, es algo muy abstracto, no es ni siquiera contra la
forma de actuar de una persona, es contra la forma de pensar, algo que
es muy difícil de probar, estamos hablando de que ellos se sienten con
el derecho de pararte en la calle o invadir tu casa sin una orden de
registro y ocupar cuadros, bocetos, una agenda con direcciones y
teléfonos. Ellos se sienten con el derecho de encarcelarte sin poderte
acusar realmente de algo. En el caso del performance de los cerdos,
ellos me encarcelan por mi forma de pensar, porque el performance nunca
se realizó, ellos me detienen y me registran antes de que haga el

Estamos hablando de un sistema que no quiere que pienses algo diferente
de lo que ellos quieren que pienses, es muy complejo, muy difícil de
probar en un proceso judicial, ante un juez. Estas detenciones
arbitrarias son muy difíciles de verificar, porque nadie te acusa, no
hay un crimen, no te presentan a un juez, porque si hicieran esto,
podrías probar por qué te encerraron en la cárcel, nombrar a un defensor.

Es nefasto, es libre la creación artística, siempre y cuando no sea
contra la Revolución. Más que contra la libertad de expresión, es un
sistema que te castiga por ejercer el derecho a pensar libremente.

¿Cuál fue tu experiencia más positiva durante tu más reciente

Que pude ver la Cuba que actualmente está en las prisiones, que pude
hablar con personas que están encarceladas sin que nadie las acuse, que
pude ser testigo de que en las prisiones de Cuba están detenidas
personas que en cualquier otro lugar del mundo estarían libres, y que
las personas que están en el gobierno pueden hacer esto impunemente, sin
que tengan que responder por eso.

Source: ¿Qué cambios trajo a Cuba la reanudación de las relaciones con
EEUU? | La Opinión –

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Cuba: more reliant on the US than ever Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:00:40 +0000 Cuba: more reliant on the US than ever
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 27 de Marzo de 2017 – 16:38 CEST.

The best way to appreciate how that Cuba’s economy today depends on the
US more than ever before in its history is to engage in a very simple
mental exercise: imagine that Washington banned travel, remittances and
packages to the island, except for medicines and special visits by
Cubans to see very sick relatives.

What would happen? Can anyone even make a coherent assessment of a
scenario like this? Many shudder at even the notion. This is not going
to happen, but the mere thought places many’s hair on end – especially
that of the Castroist political and military elite. Political science
also encompasses possible situations and potential scenarios.

For 60 years the regime’s propaganda has been vociferously claiming that
before 1959 Cuba was a pseudo-colony of the US. Of course, media and
academic centers on the island have been prohibited from researching or
publishing anything about how, in fact, “revolutionary” Cuba was much
more dependent on the USSR than “bourgeois” Cuba ever was on the US.
And, what’s worse, now it depends more than ever on American cash,
especially in the wake of the devastating economic crisis in Venezuela.

Hypocrisy in the regime’s realpolitik and its two-faced policies are
evident. On the one hand, it waves the flag and stirs up enmity against
the “Empire” and the “criminal blockade”, while simultaneously
supplicating, wheeling and dealing, and spreading its tentacles behind
the scenes, both in political circles on the left, and within the US
business community, to encourage travel and commercial flights to Cuba,
and for Congress to lift the embargo so that they can obtain access to
international loans and foreign investment.

The latter, getting loans, cash and investments, is vital to the
dictator and his military junta. The plans of the Government and elite
of the Communist Party (PCC) to pass power to a new generation of
leaders, military and civilians, starting in 2018, call for stabilizing
financial support that they currently lack.

More American money than ever

Between remittances, packages and trips to Cuba from the US, in 2016
Cuba brought in more than 7 billion dollars. According to experts that
figure has already surpassed the amount from Venezuelan subsidies. It is
triple the revenue from the Cuban tourist industry, almost double the
value of Cuban exports in 2016, which did not reach 4 billion, and 15
times the value of sugar exports. Incidentally, this last harvest in
2016 yielded only one third of the sugar produced back in 1925 (5.1
million tons).

From 1902 to 1958, although nearly 80% of Cuban sugar was exported to
the US (at rates higher than those on the world market) and the rest of
the Island’s trade was largely with its northern neighbor, there were
two big differences to the situation today:

There were not, as there are today, almost 2,000,000 Cubans in the US,
furnishing the country with more money than all of Cuba’s exports,
including sugar, nickel, tobacco, rum and pharmaceutical products,
combined. The funds obtained from goods exported from the island in 2016
came to half of total monies received from the US.
There were private enterprises in Cuba that generated the bulk of its
Gross Domestic Product (GDP), for a per capita GDP higher than Spain’s
and almost equal to that of Italy.
Genetic parasitism

The problem is that, unlike a market economy, Cuba’s is parasitic, due
to the congenital defect of its Marxist-Leninist statism, which is
contrary to human nature, such that it can only work if it is subsidized
from abroad; first by Moscow, and then by Caracas. Now, with the crisis
in Venezuela, the Cuban economy is sustained by “counterrevolutionaries”
in Miami. The profound irony is that the cash that meets most of Cuba’s
needs today is “imperialist” in origin.

This had never happened before. According to official figures, in the
50s the US acquired 57% of Cuba’s total exports. That is, the Island
sold almost half of its exportable goods to the rest of the world,
including cattle, coffee, pineapple and other products that the country
was later unable to export when the Castros rose to power. In that
pre-Castro decade Cuba produced 60,000 tons of coffee annually. In 2016
it produced a grand total of 5,687 tons. Incredible, but true.

With regards to dependence on the USSR, renowned Cuban economist
Professor Carmelo Mesa-Lago offers some impressive figures. In 1989,
Cuba received from the Soviet Union (and, to a far lesser degree, other
allied countries) 98% of its oil, 80% of its machinery, 57% of its
chemicals, and 53% of its food. 78.6% of all imports also came from
those Communist nations.

According to the few official figures available in this regard, since
Cuba joined the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) in 1972,
between 75 and 80% of its total trade (exports and imports) was with the
USSR and other Communist countries. The highpoint occurred between 1984
and 1991, during the zenith of Soviet subsidies, when Moscow paid Castro
45 cents for a pound of sugar – while the price on the world market was
at 4 or 5.

What few people know around the world is that Cuba got the lion’s share
of these supplies for free, as it never paid its huge trade deficits. In
fact, it racked up a debt of 35 billion dollars with Moscow. 90% was
pardoned in 2014 by Vladimir Putin, aware that they would never collect.
He did try to force Castro to pay at least 3.5 billion, however. But
he’s not going to get a penny.

I still have a yellowing paper teletype, an AFP report from back in
1995, indicating that between 1984 and 1991 Cuba had accumulated a trade
deficit of more than 16.08 billion dollars during those 8 years, an
average of over 2 billion per year, with a spike to 2.74 billion in
1989. And almost all that unbalanced trade was with the USSR.

Total subordination

Furthermore, the island received billions of dollars in weapons of every
type: planes, tanks, artillery, ships, rockets, vehicles, guns, and
equipment, allowing it to wield the largest and most powerful army in
Latin America after Brazil. Cuba even received 42 nuclear missiles (able
to reach Washington and New York), which put the world on the brink of
nuclear war in 1962.

But what takes the cake is that in the 80s (until 1986), then Economy
Minister Humberto Perez told me, off the record, that Moscow was selling
to capitalist countries almost three million tons of crude oil that Cuba
did not use, from its annual quota allocated by the CMEA, and then
sending the money to Havana, these funds exceeding the amount generated
by all its sugar mills.

We can clearly see that Cuba was not a pseudocolony of the USSR, but an
outright one, as we can add that the largest apparatus for intelligence
and repression in Latin America, the Castros’, was organized and trained
by the KGB, with the help of East Germany’s neo-Nazi Stasi. All for free.

Despite its trade dependence on the US before 1959, Cuba was never as
subordinate to its northern neighbor as it was later on the USSR, 19,000
km away, beyond the Mediterranean.

Given the parasitism endemic to Castroist socialism, Cuba today depends
on the US so profoundly that if the scenario described at the outset of
this article were to come to pass, the nation would come to an utter
standstill. It would be another Cambodia, with people eating out of
communal pots. Without “Yankee” money, Castroism would be unsustainable.

*In an earlier version of this text the caption stated that the image
was from Havana. The picture was, in fact, taken in Washington, DC.

Source: Cuba: more reliant on the US than ever | Diario de Cuba –

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Cardenal Ortega confirma que hijo de Raúl Castro encabezó negociación con EEUU Sat, 25 Mar 2017 17:23:46 +0000 Cardenal Ortega confirma que hijo de Raúl Castro encabezó negociación
con EEUU

El purpurado cubano fue emisario en 2014 del triángulo de negociaciones
secretas Cuba-EE.UU-Vaticano, pero ahora publica parte de sus memorias
donde confirma que fue el delfín Alejandro Castro quien representó a
Cuba en esas conversaciones.
Mientras continúa la cuenta regresiva para que Raúl Castro se retire del
poder en Cuba el próximo año, el cardenal cubano Jaime Ortega, emisario
que involucró al Papa Francisco en el deshielo Cuba-Estados Unidos, ha
confirmado que el hijo de Castro fue el representante enviado por su
padre a las negociaciones secretas con el gobierno de Barack Obama.

Un despacho al respecto de la Agencia France Press señala que el coronel
Alejandro Castro Espín, de 51 años, “es un poderoso funcionario que pasa
prácticamente por desconocido en Cuba, pero la revelación de su papel en
el acercamiento refuerza su imagen de cara al relevo de Raúl Castro en
la presidencia en febrero de 2018”.

La confirmación la hizo Ortega el 16 de septiembre pasado en Nueva York,
pero en un marco más discreto, mientras que ahora la revista católica
cubana Espacio Laical dice que Ortega prepara un libro donde describe
detalladamente aquel proceso y el papel por él desempeñado, y que ha
compartido con la publicación las primicias de esa información, a partir
de la conferencia que dictó en aquella fecha y lugar, en un evento
organizado por la ONG Concordia.

El cardenal cubano admite que el Papa se involucró en el proceso por la
petición que le hiciera a él el senador demócrata antiembargo Patrick
Leahy en marzo del 2014, en vísperas de una visita de Obama a El
Vaticano y cuando las conversaciones secretas todavía se centraban en la
liberación en Cuba del subcontratista estadounidense Alan Gross y de
tres espías cubanos de la Red Avispa condenados en 2001 en EE.UU.
También asegura que La Habana pidió la intervención del mitrado.

El cardenal se regocija en el texto de haber transmitido a tiempo al
Papa la carta que le enviara Leahy solicitando que intercediera con el
Pontífice para que este mediara en el caso de los presos, y luego una
carta de Francisco a cada uno de los presidentes, así como “también de
conocer y transmitir a cada uno de ellos el mensaje que el otro le enviaba”.

Ortega dice que a su regreso a Cuba visitó “al presidente Raúl Castro
para hacerle presente el mensaje del presidente Obama y su esperanza en
la mejoría de relaciones entre los dos países antes del término de su

“Después hubo silencio total y las conversaciones continuaron en Canadá
con el Sr. Ricardo Zúñiga (asesor de Obama para América Latina) al
frente de la delegación americana y el coronel Alejandro Castro Espín al
frente de la delegación cubana, hasta que el acuerdo se firmara en el
Vaticano por representantes de los dos gobiernos ante el Secretario de
Estado de la Santa Sede. En esa ocasión acordaron que se haría público y
efectivo el día 17 de diciembre de 2014, fiesta de cumpleaños del papa

Ya en abril de 2016 el Diario Las Américas había publicado una nota
donde se afirmaba el rol principal que jugó Alejandro Castro en esta

Entonces el periodista Rui Ferreira, citando a dos fuentes en el
gobierno y una en la prensa oficial, aseguraba que el primogénito de
Castro fue el único interlocutor por Cuba.

Aunque su cargo formal es de “asesor”, Castro Espín controla la poderosa
Comisión de Defensa y Seguridad Nacional, una entidad supervisora de
los organismos centrales que responde al Presidente del Consejo de Estado.

Castro Espín ha aparecido junto a su padre en todos los encuentros de
éste con Obama desde la Cumbre de las Américas en Panamá, en abril de
2015; estuvo en la reunión que sostuvieron en Nueva York al margen de la
Asamblea General de la ONU en septiembre de 2015, y acompañó al General
en la bienvenida a Obama en el Palacio de la Revolución de La Habana en
marzo de 2016.

La idea de involucrar al Papa

Los autores del libro Diplomacia encubierta con Cuba, William Leogrande
y Peter Kornbluh, han explicado, en un artículo publicado por Mother
Jones, que la idea de involucrar al Papa fue del senador demócrata por
Illinois Dick Durbin, uno de los miembros del Congreso interesados en
dar a Obama el capital político para avanzar hacia el deshielo con Cuba.

Precisan que el razonamiento se basaba en que como primer pontífice de
América Latina, Francisco conocía bien a Cuba. Además, después de
acompañar al Papa Juan Pablo II en su visita a la isla en 1998,
Francisco, entonces arzobispo asistente de Buenos Aires, había escrito
un pequeño libro sobre el viaje, “Diálogos entre Juan Pablo II y Fidel
Castro”. Y el Vaticano tenía credibilidad con La Habana debido a su
constante oposición al embargo.

[Con información de AFP]

Source: Cardenal Ortega confirma que hijo de Raúl Castro encabezó
negociación con EEUU –

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Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba Wed, 22 Mar 2017 18:05:35 +0000 Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba / 14ymedio,
Zunilda Mata

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 21 March 2017 — Cubans know a lot about
adulterations. For decades they have grappled with the “diversion of
resources” [i.e. stealing] from state stores and the practice of state
employees acquiring products elsewhere at low prices, bringing them into
the stores and selling them at high prices and keeping the profit for
themselves. Hence the scandal of the altered meat that involves two
Brazilian companies has hardly surprised anyone on the Island.

This Monday Brazilian meat products continued to be sold in Cuba’s
retail network, where the frozen chicken of the brands Frangosul and
Perdix, from the companies JBS and BRF respectively, continue to be on
sale. According to an investigation by the Federal Police of Brazil,
both these companies adulterated these products.

In the case of chicken, the authorities have warned that it is more of
an economic fraud, consisting of adding water to the product to increase
the weight, without any risks to health.

The results of what was called “Carne Fraca” (“weak meat” in
Portuguese), confirmed the suspicions of those who warned that something
“doesn’t smell right” in the world’s largest exporter of these products.
Each year Brazil exports beef worth roughly 5.5 billion dollars and
chicken worth roughly 6.5 billion. This business represents 7.2% of
Brazil’s Gross Domestic Product.

So far, no Cuban store or market has withdrawn the Brazilian frozen food
products. On the digital sites that offer a wide range of foods that
emigrants abroad can order for their families on the island, Brazilian
beef and chicken remain on sale.

The official media spread the news of the scandal, focusing on the
possible repercussions for President Michel Temer’s government. The
Ministry of Public Health did not discuss the issue when asked by 14ymedio.

Cuba imports more than 80% of the food it consumes. For 2017, the bill
for these purchases is expected to exceed $1.75 billion, $82 million
more than the estimate for the previous year.

Each year, more than 120,000 tonnes of chicken meat are bought in the
international market, most of it hindquarters, also called “dark
parts.” Alberto Ramírez, president of the Cuban Society of Poultry
Producers (SOCPA), recently confirmed to the official press that
“[domestic] meat production is practically zero.”

In 2014, several representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture visited
Brazil to inspect the facilities of the dairy and beef plant managed by
JBS in Mato Grosso do Sul, with a view to importing its products to the
Island. Another 25 facilities approved for trade with Cuba are located
in the states of Tocantins, Rondonia, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul,
Goiás, Mato Grosso and Sao Paulo

The United States and Brazil are the countries supplying the greatest
amount of frozen products to the Cuban market. Faced with the lack of
supply and the lack of variety, chicken has become one of the most
common foods at the table of Cubans. Only the wealthy can afford beef.

“I came to buy a piece of top round steak,” said a retired woman at the
butcher’s in Plaza de Carlos III on Monday. She said, “it is a luxury
that I can only allow myself from time to time.” The meat on offer in
that market comes from Brazil, according to an employee who preferred
anonymity, but who, so far, had received “no order to stop selling it.”

On display in the meat case are several packages with prime ground beef,
stew meat, top round and tip steak. No merchandise specifies where it
comes from, but local workers confirm that it has been bought from
Brazil. The customers look longingly at the display; meat remains a
forbidden delicacy for many, even if it is wrapped up in
investigations and fraud.

“Here we work with Brazilian meat,” explains one of the waiters at the
restaurant next to the Riviera cinema, formerly El Carmelo, on 23rd
Street. In their menu they offer sirloin, fillet mignon, fried beef
tender and ropa vieja (shredded beef in sauce), this last a very
traditional dish that is in high demand among tourists.

The select El Palco market, whose main customers are diplomats and
foreigners living in Havana, is also “especially stocked with Brazilian
meat,” points out one of the local cashiers.

Some 27 people have been arrested in Brazil, and Federal Police
Commissioner Mauricio Moscardi warned of a corruption network inside the
government that allowed adulterated meat to be legalized. That chain of
infractions involved officials of the Brazilian Democratic Movement
Party, to which President Temer belongs.

The main Brazilian meat producers added chemicals to meats that were
“rotten” or unfit for human consumption. An extensive network of bribe
payments purchased approval from the Ministry of Agriculture.

“They used acids and other chemicals, in some cases carcinogenic, to
disguise the physical characteristics of the rotten product and its
smell,” Moscardi explained. They treated the meat with vitamin C to give
it a more “appetizing” color, along with levels of preservatives well
above those allowed by health authorities.

Representatives of both companies have denied allegations by police
authorities, but the alarm has spread in the international market and
the companies’ stock prices have tumbled sharply.

“BFR ensures the high quality and safety of its products and guarantees
that there is no risk for its consumers,” said one of the largest food
companies in the world with more than 30 brands in its portfolio, Sadia,
Perdigão, Qualy, Paty, Dánica, Bocatti or Confidence.

The Chilean Ministry of Agriculture announced, a few hours ago, that it
would accept no more imports from the Brazilian beef market. Minister
Carlos Furche explained that the measure is temporary “until the
Brazilian authorities know exactly what facilities are being
investigated, and of those facilities which have exported to the world
and Chile,” he said.

The Chinese authorities have responded unceremoniously. The Government
banned all such imports and prevented meat already shipped from being
unloaded in its ports. Last year the Asian country imported 1.6 billion
dollars from Brazilian meatpackers.

Europe has slowed shipments from JBS and BRF. This week the European
Commissioner for Health Affairs, Vytenis Andriukaitis, will travel to
Brasilia and the agenda revolves around the food scandal.

Cuban customers who are learning about the news coming from Brazil are
beginning to connect the dots. “The chicken no longer came with the
quality of before and had a lot of ice,” complains Luisa Cordoves, a
housewife in Central Havana who says that “right now it’s better to buy
the chicken boxes that come from United States, because the product
tastes better. ”

She believes that the scandal will not dissuade domestic consumers from
acquiring these products. “People have many needs and there is no
choice: you take it or leave it.”

Source: Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba /
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata – Translating Cuba –

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La carne brasileña continúa vendiéndose en la Isla después del escándalo de adulteración Wed, 22 Mar 2017 15:40:33 +0000 La carne brasileña continúa vendiéndose en la Isla después del escándalo
de adulteración
DDC | La Habana | 21 de Marzo de 2017 – 15:35 CET.

Este lunes productos cárnicos de Brasil continuaban a la venta en la
Isla, entre ellos el pollo congelado de las marcas Frangosul y Perdix,
de las compañías JBS y BRF respectivamente, las mismas que están
implicadas en el escándalo por adulterar sus productos, según dio a
conocer la web 14ymedio.

En la Plaza de Carlos III o en el selecto mercado Palco (donde compran
mayoritariamente diplomáticos y extranjeros), continuaba la venta de
carne brasileña, así como el consumo en restaurantes como el antiguo El
Carmelo, a un costado del cine Riviera.

La llamada Operación Carne Débil, de la Policía Federal brasileña, dada
a conocer el pasado viernes, destapó que varias empresas, entre las que
se encuentran JBS y BRF, adulteraban la carne que vendían en el mercado
interno y externo.

De acuerdo con la BBC, las adulteraciones de la carne incluían cambiar
la fecha de vencimiento, “maquillar” su aspecto, inyectar agua para
aumentar su peso o usar químicos para disimular su mal olor.

“Usaban ácidos y otros productos químicos, en algunos casos
cancerígenos, para disimular las características físicas del producto
podrido y su olor”, dijo Mauricio Moscardi, jefe de la Policía Federal
de Brasil, en conferencia de prensa.

La investigación en el país sudamericano echó luz sobre una trama en la
que inspectores sanitarios supuestamente recibían sobornos de los
frigoríficos para autorizar la venta de alimentos no aptos para ser

Más de 30 personas fueron detenidas y los 21 frigoríficos investigados
fueron clausurados temporalmente, según reportó AFP.

De acuerdo con 14ymedio, a pesar de tenerse conocimiento del caso y de
que los medios oficiales de la Isla se han hecho eco de lo sucedido,
ninguna tienda o mercado cubanos ha retirado los congelados brasileños.

Tampoco las autoridades sanitarias de la Isla han emitido comunicado
alguno o alerta.

China, Chile, la Unión Europea (UE) y Corea del Sur, por su parte,
cerraron este lunes total o parcialmente sus mercados a las carnes
brasileñas, tras lo sucedido, según informó AFP.

Cuba importa más del 80% de los alimentos que consume.

En 2014, Alberto Ramírez, presidente de la Sociedad Cubana de
Productores Avícolas (SOCPA), afirmó que la producción nacional de carne
era “prácticamente nula” y que la carne de pollo se importaba “de
mercados más estables como los de EEUU, Brasil y Argentina”, alcanzando
las 120.000 toneladas.

Autoridades del Ministerio de Agricultura cubano visitaron Brasil en
2014 para inspeccionar las instalaciones de la planta de productos
lácteos y carne de vacuno gestionada por JBS, en Mato Grosso do Sul, con
vistas a importar esos productos a la Isla, así como instalaciones
en los estados de Tocantins, Rondonia, Río de Janeiro, Rio Grande do
Sul, Goiás, Mato Grosso y Sao Paulo.

Source: La carne brasileña continúa vendiéndose en la Isla después del
escándalo de adulteración | Diario de Cuba –

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La carne dudosa de Brasil se sigue vendiendo en Cuba Tue, 21 Mar 2017 17:41:48 +0000 La carne dudosa de Brasil se sigue vendiendo en Cuba
El pollo congelado de dos de las compañías que adulteraban productos
está disponible aún en la red minorista
ZUNILDA MATA, La Habana | Marzo 21, 2017

Los cubanos saben mucho de adulteraciones. Durante décadas han lidiado
con el desvío de recursos en las tiendas estatales y la sustitución de
productos que los empleados realizan para obtener ganancias. De ahí que
el escándalo de la carne alterada que envuelve a dos empresas brasileñas
apenas haya sorprendido en la Isla.

Este lunes los productos cárnicos del gigante sudamericano continuaban a
la venta en la red minorista, donde tiene una gran presencia el pollo
congelado de las marcas Frangosul y Perdix, de las compañías JBS y BRF
respectivamente, las dos que maquillaron y adulteraron sus productos
según una investigación de la Policía Federal de Brasil.

En el caso del pollo, las autoridades han advertido que se trata más de
un fraude económico, consistente en agregar agua al producto para
aumentar el peso, sin riesgo para la salud.

Los resultados de la Operación “Carne Débil” (Carne Fraca, en portugués)
confirmaron las sospechas de quienes señalaban que algo “no olía bien”
en el principal exportador de estos productos en el mundo. Cada año
Brasil exporta carne de res por unos 5.500 millones de dólares y pollo
por 6.500 millones. El negocio representa el 7,2% de su Producto Interno
Bruto (PIB).

Hasta el momento ninguna tienda o mercado cubanos ha retirado los
congelados provenientes de ese país. En los sitios digitales que ofrecen
una amplia gama de alimentos para que los emigrados abastezcan a sus
familiares en la Isla, se mantienen en oferta la carne de res y los
pollos brasileños.

Los medios oficiales difundieron la noticia del escándalo, centrándose
en las posibles repercusiones sobre el Gobierno de Michel Temer. El
Ministerio de Salud Pública no ha emitido ninguna advertencia y
empleados del Ministerio de Comercio Interior evitaron pronunciarse
sobre el tema al ser preguntados por 14ymedio.

Cuba importa más del 80% de los alimentos que consume. Para 2017 se
prevé que la factura de esas compras supere los 1.750 millones de
dólares, 82 millones más que el estimado para el pasado año.

Cada año se compran en el mercado internacional más de 120.000 toneladas
de carne de pollo, la mayoría cuartos traseros, también llamados “partes
oscuras”. Alberto Ramírez, presidente de la Sociedad Cubana de
Productores Avícolas (SOCPA), confirmó recientemente a la prensa oficial
que “la producción [nacional] de carne es prácticamente nula”.

En 2014 varios representantes del Ministerio de Agricultura visitaron
Brasil para inspeccionar las instalaciones de la planta de productos
lácteos y carne de vacuno gestionada por JBS, en Mato Grosso do Sul, con
vistas a importar esos productos a la Isla. Otras 25 instalaciones
aprobadas para comerciar con Cuba se ubican en los estados de Tocantins,
Rondonia, Río de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Goiás, Mato Grosso y Sao Paulo

Estados Unidos y Brasil son los países con más presencia de productos
congelados en el mercado cubano. Ante el desabastecimiento y la falta de
variedad en la oferta, el pollo se ha convertido en uno de los alimentos
más comunes en la mesa de los cubanos. Solo los más acomodados pueden
permitirse la carne de res.

“Vine a comprar un pedazo de cañada”, aseguraba una jubilada en la
carnicería de la céntrica Plaza de Carlos III este lunes que opina que
“es un lujo que solo uno puede darse de vez en cuando”. La carne en
oferta en ese mercado proviene de Brasil, según aclaró un empleado que
prefirió el anonimato, pero hasta el momento no habían recibido “ninguna
orden de parar la venta”.

En la vidriera se ven varios paquetes con picadillo de primera, trozos
de carne, bistec y bola de res en exhibición. Ninguna mercancía
especifica el lugar de donde proviene, pero los trabajadores del local
confirman que ha sido comprada al gigante sudamericano. Los clientes que
pasan miran con deseo las ofertas, la carne sigue siendo un manjar
prohibido para muchos, aunque esté envuelta en cuestionamientos y fraudes.

“Aquí trabajamos con carne brasileña”, aclara uno de los camareros de la
cafetería a un costado del cine Riviera, antiguo El Carmelo, en la
céntrica calle 23. En su carta se ofertan solomillo, filete miñón, vaca
frita y ropa vieja, este último un plato muy tradicional que tiene una
alta demanda entre los turistas.

El selecto mercado El Palco, donde compran mayoritariamente diplomáticos
y extranjeros residentes en La Habana, también “está surtido
especialmente con carne brasileña”, puntualiza una de las cajeras del lugar.

En Brasil han sido arrestadas unas 27 personas y el comisario de la
Policía Federal Mauricio Moscardi advirtió de la existencia de una red
de corrupción dentro del Gobierno que permitía legalizar la carne
adulterada. En esa cadena de infracciones estarían implicados
funcionarios del Partido del Movimiento Democrático Brasileño, al que
pertenece el presidente Temer.

Las principales productoras cárnicas brasileñas agregaron productos
químicos a carnes que estaban “podridas” o no eran aptas para el consumo
humano. Un extenso entramado de pagos de sobornos compraba la aprobación
por parte del Ministerio de Agricultura.

“Usaban ácidos y otros productos químicos, en algunos casos
cancerígenos, para disimular las características físicas del producto
podrido y su olor”, explicó Moscardi. Colocaban desde vitamina C para
dar un color más “apetitoso” hasta niveles de conservantes muy por
encima de los permitidos por las autoridades sanitarias.

Representantes de ambas empresas han negado las acusaciones de las
autoridades policiales, pero la alarma se ha extendido en el mercado
internacional y sus cotizaciones en bolsa se han desplomado

“BFR asegura su alta calidad y la seguridad de sus productos y garantiza
que no hay ningún riesgo para sus consumidores”, advertía una de las
compañías de alimentos más grandes del mundo y que cuenta con más de 30
marcas en su cartera, entre ellas, Sadia, Perdigão, Qualy, Paty, Dánica,
Bocatti o Confidence.

El Ministerio de Agricultura de Chile anunció hace unas horas la
interrupción de las importaciones del mercado brasileño de carne bovina.
El titular de la cartera, Carlos Furche, explicó que la medida tiene un
carácter temporal “hasta no saber con exactitud por las autoridades
brasileñas sobre cuáles son las plantas que están siendo investigadas, y
de esas plantas cuáles son las que han exportado al mundo y a Chile”,

Las autoridades chinas han respondido sin miramientos. El Gobierno
prohibió todas las importaciones de ese tipo e impidió que carnes ya
embarcadas sean descargadas en sus puertos. El año pasado el país
asiático importó 1.600 millones de dólares desde los frigoríficos

Europa ha frenado los despachos procedentes de JBS y BRF. Esta semana
viajará a Brasilia el Comisario de Asuntos de Salud de Europa, Vytenis
Andriukaitis, y la agenda gira en torno al escándalo de los alimentos.

Los clientes cubanos que van enterándose de las noticias provenientes de
Brasil empiezan a atar cabos. “El pollo ya no venía con la calidad de
antes y tenía mucho hielo”, se queja Luisa Cordovés, ama de casa del
municipio Centro Habana y quien asegura que “de un tiempo a esta parte
es mejor comprar las cajas de pollo que vienen de Estados Unidos, porque
el producto tiene mejor sabor”.

Cree que el escándalo no va a disuadir a los consumidores nacionales de
adquirir estos productos. “La gente tiene muchas necesidades y no hay
opción: lo tomas o lo dejas”.

Source: La carne dudosa de Brasil se sigue vendiendo en Cuba –

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‘A partir de ahora no tienes nombre’ – ser prisionero en Villa Marista Tue, 21 Mar 2017 15:24:49 +0000 ‘A partir de ahora no tienes nombre’: ser prisionero en Villa Marista
Este jueves será lanzado a la venta el testimonio del inglés Stephen Purvis
Lunes, marzo 20, 2017 | CubaNet

MIAMI, Estados Unidos.- El testimonio del arquitecto inglés Stephen
Purvis que será lanzado a la venta el próximo 23 de marzo cuenta cómo
este hombre que llegó a Cuba como empleado de una compañía extranjera
terminó en el lugar más temido por los cubanos: los calabozos de Villa

El periódico The Guardian publicó un resumen de lo que será este libro,
a la venta ya en la web.

A le habían ofrecido un trabajo como director de desarrollo con Coral
Capital, una empresa de inversión y comercio, y decidió mudarse a la
isla con su esposa.

Su tarea era buscar oportunidades de joint venture con el Gobierno
cubano. Los proyectos incluyeron el primer campo de golf que se
construyó en la isla desde la revolución de 1959, y la remodelación del
hotel Saratoga.

“La última vez que vi a Purvis en La Habana fue en 2011, pocas semanas
antes de su arresto, en una fiesta de Año Nuevo (yo había sido el
corresponsal de la BBC en Cuba entre 2002 y 2007), pues la llegada del
Año Nuevo es una gran cosa en Cuba, en parte porque coincide con el
aniversario de la revolución castrista y allí estaban nada menos que dos
de las hijas del general Raúl Castro“, señala el periodista Stephen
Gibbs para The Guardian.

Era el mismo período en que proliferaban los arrestos a empresarios
extranjeros en Cuba, entre ellos los canadienses Sarkis Yacoubian y Cy
Tokmakjian. Raúl Castro había desatado una “ola anticorrupción”.

“La sensación de un destino inminente estaba creciendo día a día”, dice
Purvis, que admitiría haber sido “un idiota” por no dejar la isla cuando
todavía podía. No lo decidió así porque estaba convencido de que no
había hecho nada malo.

Sin embargo, el 8 de marzo de 2012 lo detuvieron. Una flota de Ladas sin
matrícula se detuvo estrepitosamente frente a su casa al amanecer. Se lo
llevaron esposado, la cabeza entre rodillas, a una casa anónima de
estilo art decó cerca del aeropuerto. Allí, fue acusado de actuar un
“enemigo del Estado”.

Purvis fue aconsejado de no contratar a un abogado y cooperar
inmediatamente. Luego fue llevado a Villa Marista, uno de los cuarteles
de la Seguridad el Estado cubana.

Uno de los oficiales de allí, cuando le informó de las reglas del lugar,
le dijo: “A partir de ahora no tienes nombre” y le asignó el número 217.

En un fragmento del libro sobre la entrada a Villa Marista se lee:

“Este lugar fue originalmente destinado a ser un seminario, pero ahora
no hay ningún signo de ninguna inspiración celestial. Dios ha abandonado
el lugar y está en las manos del lado oscuro. Aquí es donde se encierra
a los presuntos agentes de la CIA, donde los funcionarios purgados se
arrepienten y donde todos los cubanos temen pisar. Aquí es donde el
contratista estadounidense Alan Gross fue interrogado durante meses y
meses para tratar de probar que era un espía y no un activista judío.
Esta es su Lubyanka, su cuartel general de la Gestapo. Estos toscos y
verdes bloques están diseñados para extraer confesiones, reales o
fantásticas, para paralizar mentalmente a los enemigos del Estado. Tiene
una temible reputación de tortura psicológica”.

“Salimos a un amplio corredor… Me empujan a una habitación de lado y me
ordenan poner todas mis cosas encima de un colchón repugnante, sucio,
manchado de mierda. Una almohada manchada con sangre es tirada en la
parte superior. Miro fijamente la sangre con incredulidad, una ola de
desesperación dentro de mí…”

“Me arrastro, ahora casi catatónico. El guardia tiene una cadena larga
que lo rodea y un enorme bastón de goma bamboleante que golpea contra la
pared mientras marcha. Todo está en silencio excepto por el goteo del
agua, el chirrido de las botas de los guardias y el sollozo de un hombre
en una celda…”

Source: ‘A partir de ahora no tienes nombre’: ser prisionero en Villa
Marista CubanetCubanet –

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Stephen Purvis o la vida de un extranjero en Cuba… hasta que la Seguridad toca a la puerta Mon, 20 Mar 2017 15:30:43 +0000 Stephen Purvis o la vida de un extranjero en Cuba… hasta que la
Seguridad toca a la puerta
marzo 19, 2017

El hogar de Purvis era una villa hermosa de los años 50, pronto llena
con sus cuatro niños. Los sábados los pasaba en la piscina de un club en
la playa. Pero el poderoso título de sus memorias, Close but No Cigar,
es su propia admisión de lo mal que la vida puede terminar bajo un
régimen comunista.
Muchos recuerdan a inicios del nuevo milenio a Stephen Purvis en las
recepciones de la embajada británica en La Habana con sus más de seis
pies, cabello gris recortado, vaso de ron en la mano, una amplia sonrisa
y buenas historias que contar, escribe Stephen Gibbs en The Guardian en
un extenso artículo que narra la odisea del arquitecto inglés en La Habana.

A Purvis le encantó Cuba, donde escapaba de la ordenada y aburrida vida
capitalista en Wimbledon. Le habían ofrecido un trabajo como director de
desarrollo con Coral Capital, una empresa de inversión y comercio, y
decidió mudarse a la isla con su esposa, dice Gibbs en el artículo
titulado ‘From now on you have no name’: life in a Cuban jail (A partir
de ahora no tienes nombre: la vida en una cárcel cubana) .

Coral Capital era una de varias pequeñas firmas extranjeras -casi todas
encabezadas por individuos extravagantes y aventureros- que se
instalaban en Cuba cuando el país buscaba socios internacionales después
del colapso de la Unión Soviética.

El trabajo de Purvis era buscar oportunidades de joint venture con el
Gobierno comunista cubano. Los proyectos planificados incluyeron el
primer campo de golf que se construyó en la isla desde la revolución de
1959, y la remodelación de un hotel antes glamoroso, el Saratoga.

Cuenta Gibbs que los Purvis se instalaron en una villa hermosa de los
años 50 de la capital, pronto llena con sus cuatro niños. Los sábados
los pasaba en la piscina de un club en la playa. Purvis también se metió
en el teatro, produciendo en La Habana el espectáculo de danza cubana
Havana Rakatan, que se exhibió con éxito por varios años en Londres.

Nadie, por supuesto, imaginó que esos días de gloria terminarían tan
abruptamente, con Purvis encarcelado en lo que él describe como un
“zoológico” montado para meter a los enemigos del Estado. Pero así
resultó. El poderoso título de sus memorias, Close but No Cigar, que
saldrá a la venta este 23 de marzo, es su propia admisión de lo mal que
la vida puede terminar bajo un régimen comunista.

“La última vez que vi a Purvis en La Habana fue en 2011, pocas semanas
antes de su arresto, en una fiesta de Año Nuevo (yo había sido el
corresponsal de la BBC en Cuba entre 2002 y 2007), pues la llegada del
Año Nuevo es una gran cosa en Cuba, en parte porque coincide con el
aniversario de la revolución castrista y allí estaban nada menos que dos
de las hijas del general Raúl Castro”, señala Gibbs en su artículo.

Para entonces, el terror cundía entre los extranjeros haciendo negocios
en la isla. Muchos estaban susurrando que este probablemente sería su
último fin de año en Cuba. Todos conocían a alguien que había estado
atrapado en una misteriosa pero cada vez más amplia serie de arrestos.
Dos destacados canadienses, Sarkis Yacoubian y Cy Tokmakjian, habían
sido detenidos desde el verano. Un conocido empresario chileno, que
antes se jactaba de ser amigo de Fidel Castro, había sido condenado en
rebeldía a 20 años de cárcel. Y el jefe de Purvis, Amado Fakhre, el CEO
británico-libanés de Coral Capital, había sido encarcelado en octubre.

“La sensación de un destino inminente estaba creciendo día a día”,
recuerda Purvis. Asegura que sería el primero en admitir que fue “un
idiota” por no dejar el país cuando todavía podía. Pero estaba
convencido de que no había hecho nada malo.

Ninguno de los extranjeros encarcelados había sido formalmente acusado
de nada, pero se suponía que estaban atrapados en la promesa del general
Castro de presuntamente “erradicar la corrupción”.

En el 2010, cientos de cubanos, incluyendo ministros y altos ejecutivos,
habían sido detenidos o despedidos. La red se estaba ampliando a los
extranjeros, que también estaban infringiendo la ley al pagar a sus
empleados cualquier bonificación por la izquierda, o incluso comprarles
el almuerzo.

Purvis, que admite pagar una pequeña pensión a un ex empleado, está
convencido de que los arrestos masivos no eran en realidad sobre la
corrupción, sino la torpe purga de la vieja guardia de Fidel Castro, que
estaba siendo reemplazada por una nueva camarilla (compuesta sobre todo
de ex militares) aliada de su hermano Raúl.

El 8 de marzo de 2012 vinieron por él. Poco después del amanecer, una
flota de Ladas sin chapa se detuvo estrepitosamente frente a su casa.
Purvis fue llevado esposado, su cabeza forzada entre sus rodillas, a una
casa anónima de estilo art deco cerca del aeropuerto. Allí, fue acusado
provisionalmente de ser un “enemigo del Estado”. Se le aconsejó no
contratar a un abogado y cooperar inmediatamente. De acuerdo con eso,
fue llevado a la tristemente conocida cárcel de la Seguridad cubana
conocida como Villa Marista, en lo que se describió, eufemísticamente,
como “instrucción adicional”, describe Gibbs.

“Villa”, como es conocida por los disidentes cubanos, es un antiguo
seminario católico en las afueras de La Habana convertido por los
castristas en centro de interrogatorio en 1963, donde utilizan técnicas
perfeccionadas por la KGB. Eventualmente, dicen, todo el mundo “canta”
en Villa. Purvis cree que él y su jefe son los únicos ingleses que han
sido llevados allí. Durante meses, se convirtió en “Prisionero 217”. Su
vida fue totalmente controlada por un hombre conocido como “el
instructor”. Pasaba casi cada hora del día en una celda del tamaño de un
colchón, con otros tres internos (uno de los cuales creía que era un
informante del gobierno). Los cuatro compartían una letrina abierta.

Las terribles condiciones sólo fueron atenuadas por los “juegos
psicológicos” de los interrogatorios que tuvieron lugar día y noche.
Purvis dice que fue interrogado durante horas, a menudo sobre los
detalles de las vidas de otros extranjeros en la isla. La intención era
hacer que informara sobre cualquiera que pudiera haber hecho algo
ilegal, por poco que fuera. Purvis dice que se negó a hacerlo,
probablemente ahorrando a otros expatriados (algunos de los cuales aún
viven y trabajan en Cuba) un destino similar al suyo propio. No niega
que “la tentación estaba allí”, señala Gibbs.

Después de meses en Villa Marista, dice que se sentía “a la deriva”,
dormía poco y estaba perdiendo su visión. Aproximadamente una vez al mes
escuchaba de un intento de suicidio cerca. La tensión en su familia era
enorme. Su esposa sufrió un colapso y tuvo que ser hospitalizada. La
anciana madre de Purvis vino a Cuba para cuidar a los niños antes de que
finalmente se tomara la decisión de que la familia se fuera del país.

En su libro, Purvis es mordaz sobre la falta de ayuda recibida de la
embajada del Reino Unido en La Habana. Ninguna escolta consular fue
ofrecida a la esposa y los hijos de Purvis el día que salieron de Cuba.

Purvis fue trasladado a La Condesa, una prisión de máxima seguridad para
extranjeros. Describe a sus compañeros allí como “un grupo mixto” de
inocentes, asesinos, violadores y narcotraficantes.

En junio de 2013 se organizó una fachada de juicio, en un proceso que
finalmente conduciría a la libertad de Purvis, al tiempo que le
convencía del carácter burlesco de la justicia cubana. Como el juicio
era secreto, no se le mostró ninguna evidencia, por lo que nunca tuvo
oportunidad de saber de qué se le acusaba o de preparar una defensa.
Purvis fue declarado culpable de transacciones ilegales en moneda
extranjera. Su condena fue de dos años y medio de duración sin custodia.
Fue puesto en libertad.

Todos sus bienes en Cuba se han perdido. El proyecto del campo de golf
en el que trabajó ha sido asumido por una empresa china. El Saratoga es
ahora considerado el mejor hotel de Cuba. Madonna celebró su 58
cumpleaños allí el año pasado. Los inversionistas de Coral Capital
todavía están tratando de recuperar su desembolso.

Después de regresar a Londres, dice que se volvió “agresivo y volátil”.
Los hábitos penitenciarios eran difíciles de sacudir. Con frecuencia
llamaba a la cárcel de La Condesa para hablar con sus amigos allí.

Purvis dice que se está “recuperando ahora”, y el proceso de escribir
este impactante libro de memorias, que ha sido nominado para un premio
Gold Dagger, ha ayudado a ese proceso.

En un fragmento del libro sobre la entrada a Villa Marista se lee:

“Este lugar fue originalmente destinado a ser un seminario, pero ahora
no hay ningún signo de ninguna inspiración celestial. Dios ha abandonado
el lugar y está en las manos del lado oscuro. Aquí es donde se encierra
a los presuntos agentes de la CIA, donde los funcionarios purgados se
arrepienten y donde todos los cubanos temen pisar. Aquí es donde el
contratista estadounidense Alan Gross fue interrogado durante meses y
meses para tratar de probar que era un espía y no un activista judío.
Esta es su Lubyanka, su cuartel general de la Gestapo. Estos toscos y
verdes bloques están diseñados para extraer confesiones, reales o
fantásticas, para paralizar mentalmente a los enemigos del Estado. Tiene
una temible reputación de tortura psicológica.

Salimos a un amplio corredor… Me empujan a una habitación de lado y me
ordenan poner todas mis cosas encima de un colchón repugnante, sucio,
manchado de mierda. Una almohada manchada con sangre es tirada en la
parte superior. Miro fijamente la sangre con incredulidad, una ola de
desesperación dentro de mí…

Me arrastro, ahora casi catatónico. El guardia tiene una cadena larga
que lo rodea y un enorme bastón de goma bamboleante que golpea contra la
pared mientras marcha. Todo está en silencio excepto por el goteo del
agua, el chirrido de las botas de los guardias y el sollozo de un hombre
en una celda”…

(Basado en el artículo ‘From now on you have no name’: life in a Cuban
jail, publicado por Stephen Gibbs en The Guardian)

Source: Stephen Purvis o la vida de un extranjero en Cuba… hasta que
la Seguridad toca a la puerta –

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