Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    The odyssey of finding food in Cuba

    The odyssey of finding food in Cuba High food prices and meager supplies in stores and markets continues to be a fundamental problem for Cubans on an island where one restaurant dish can cost a month’s salary. Agricultural output is not improving, and the government is threatening to pull back on economic reforms. NORA […] Continue reading

    Obama arrives in Cuba; hopes visit will usher in change

    Obama arrives in Cuba; hopes visit will usher in change By Kevin Liptak, CNN White House Producer Updated 1139 GMT (1939 HKT) March 21, 2016 Story highlights The presidential trip to Havana is the culmination of a three-year effort to restore ties to the island The regime in Havana has shown little movement toward improving […] Continue reading

    Congressional travel to Cuba surged last year

    Congressional travel to Cuba surged last year BY SUSAN CRABTREE | JANUARY 28, 2015 | 5:00 AM Travel by members of Congress to Cuba shot up last year ahead of President Obama’s December executive action normalizing relations with the island nation. Thirteen Democratic House members traveled to Havana in 2014 on at least three separate […] Continue reading

    To Cuba, for haute cuisine

    To Cuba, for haute cuisine UCSD-based think tank sponsors tour of Fidel’s food and politics By Matt Potter, Dec. 4, 2014 As rumors of an impending thaw in relations with Cuba make the rounds, some well-heeled tourists affiliated with a UCSD-related think tank had planned to set off this weekend on a seven-day, $6100-a-person haute […] Continue reading

    Beyoncé and Jay-Z in Havana another calibrated Cuba plot

    Posted on Saturday, 04.06.13

    Beyoncé and Jay-Z in Havana another calibrated Cuba plot
    By Myriam Marquez

    Beyoncé and Jay-Z trotted around their mothers in Havana for the
    couple's fifth anniversary, posing with cute Cuban schoolchildren,
    dining at a famous paladar — the royal couple of hip-hop-pop creating
    the predictable paparazzi buzz and Cuban exile lament.

    The calibrated juxtaposition of BeJay's arrival in La Habana late last
    week with Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez's departure from Little Havana has
    served the regime's propaganda purposes quite well: See, we let Yoani go
    to you. If only the U.S. lifted that silly embargo, you americanos could
    be here, too, spending time with BeJay and company in our island
    paradise of quaint little poor people staring down from their crumbling
    balconies. How Third World chic!

    BeJay's tourist excursion in a forbidden land also picks at that always
    oozing exile scab that Yoani's visit here had started to heal: the
    passions surrounding 52-year U.S. trade embargo of Cuba and the travel ban.

    Under current rules, Americans are banned from traveling to the island
    unless they go as part of a cultural, educational, religious or other
    civil-society-building excursion. The policy in effect has allowed the
    Castro regime to control the itinerary for those groups, hide the
    people's despair and slap an exotic veneer of harmlessness on a 54-year

    Internationally renowned Yoani has argued for removing the regime's
    excuse for all its failures on the embargo by lifting it — but also for
    a responsible, "humanitarian" tourism, one that understands the
    information "blockade" that Cubans face without a free press, one where
    a conscientious visitor will drop off a memory stick, a cell phone, a
    laptop before departing. That's what happened to her when she served as
    a tour guide for Germans visiting Cuba.

    The blogger's support for lifting the travel ban implies that there is
    safety in numbers. If Cuba is flooded with clueless American tourists
    the likes of BeJay, then the "humanitarian" tourist will have less
    chance of getting caught and imprisoned (as USAID subcontractor Alan
    Gross has been since 2009) for providing technology that the regime
    deems to be spyware.

    Nothing happens coincidentally when it comes to Cuba. The regime knows
    when to turn over the tortilla, as they say in Spain, for its benefit.

    So Yoani calls for Cubans on both shores to unite and tweets photos from
    Miami with crooners Willy Chirino and Lissette Alvarez, with actor Andy
    Garcia, and Emilio and Gloria Estefan, all those local Cuban kids done
    good, gone international stars.

    And — poof! — when photos of BeJay's Havana adventure hit the
    twitterverse, the Cuban diplomat in Washington, Jose Cabanas, tsks-tsks
    to a group of foreign and U.S. journalists: "Too much attention has been
    devoted to this lady, taking a lot of attention from the most important
    . . . news that has been happening these days in regards to Cuba.
    Including the presence of Beyoncé, the singer, who is today in Havana,
    enjoying a lot of attention from the public, but it's not covered by the
    media — incredible."

    Yes, well, let's ignore "this lady" Yoani, one of the world's most
    talented award-winning writers who's breaking barriers with new
    technology to bust open a totalitarian regime's abuses day after day.
    Let's instead focus on two American celebrities whose knowledge of Cuba
    amounts to mojitos and Cohibas.

    At least Beyoncé and Jay-Z seem more like tontos utiles (useful idiots,
    their star power used by the regime) than star apologists for a
    murderous violator of human rights, a la Danny Glover or Sean Penn.

    Soon to arrive in Miami will be Berta Soler, who now heads the Ladies in
    White, a group of women who have peacefully marched in defense of Cuba's
    political prisoners for a decade now. Perhaps Cuban American rapper
    Pitbull could set Beyoncé and Jay-Z straight about how Cuba's regime
    mistreats Afro Cubans, starting with Berta Soler and her family. Or how
    it beats women who criticize the regime's treatment of blacks like Yris
    Aguilera, who runs the Rosa Parks Movement in Cuba.

    From Havana, the regime will try to incite exile boycotts and protests
    against Beyoncé, who'll be singing in Miami soon — anything to make
    Cuban Americans look as inflexible and dogmatic as the island's masters,
    anything that makes us look like kooks.

    Except the reactionary forces failed to stir exiles against Yoani. She
    was embraced because her insights from Cuba are raw truth. Whatever
    difference of opinion on the embargo or travel ban seems inconsequential
    when weighed against her work (and that of other dissidents like Soler
    and Rosa María Payá) to expose Cuba's reality to the world.

    Still, expect the usual hypocritical skirmishes to continue about an
    embargo so porous that the U.S. now serves as Cuba's biggest supplier of
    food. The local Cuban-American pols will proclaim once again their
    pro-embargo hardline against tyranny even as Cuban-American industry
    barons quietly visit the country of their birth to explore the
    possibilities of a fast-approaching future without the Castros.

    Who's turning the tortilla now?

    Read more here: Continue reading