Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cuba: Risk of Health Crisis Due to Lack of Potable Water

Cuba: Risk of Health Crisis Due to Lack of Potable Water / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 21 April 2017 — There is a slightly damp and cold breeze
when Antonio, after drinking a rather bitter sip of coffee, with his
wooden cart with rusty steel wheels, moves to a water spout in Manglar
Street, very close to an old Sports field in the overpopulated
neighborhood of La Victoria, in the heart of Havana.

A couple of cylindrical metallic tanks that can carry 55 gallons of
water each are attached to the truck. At seven o'clock in the morning,
when the city listens as a symphonized tune, a trail of alarm clocks,
and Havanans get ready to go to work or school, Antonio unloads dozens
of buckets to several customers in the neighborhood of San Leopoldo.

"Two years ago, for filling a 55-gallon tank, I charged 50 Cuban pesos
(equivalent to two dollars) but now, because of the drought which is
causing some scarcity, the price has risen to 60 pesos for each tank,"
Antonio explains, while lunching on a serving of congrí rice, pork steak
and cole slaw and cucumber in a private restaurant.

After five o'clock in the afternoon he goes back to the capital's
neighborhood to sell the water. In one day he can earn 500 pesos, about
20 dollars. "In addition to earning money, I keep in shape," he says,
and shows his trained biceps after almost twenty years carrying buckets
of water.

In Havana there are more than 170,000 units that do not receive drinking
water in their homes. Some of them due to breaks in the pipes and others
because with aluminum sheets and pieces of cardboard and veneers they
have raised frightening shacks without bathrooms and lacking the most
basic conditions for human life.

According to an official of the state-run Aguas de La Habana, "these
people are supposed to receive water in (state) tanker trucks. But
because of the lack of gasoline, the drought that affects the country or
simply corruption, the 'pipers' sell water to those who can pay, and
thousands of families do not receive water in a timely manner."

In Cuba, plagued with a dysfunctional government and low productivity
that generates scarcity, anything can become a business. Why not water.

From aguateros, like Antonio, who travel through the cracked streets of
the old part of Havana selling water, to the tanker trucks of the state
companies that also profit from the precious liquid.

"A full tank at this time costs between 25 and 30 pesos Cuban
convertible pesos (about 25-30 dollars US). And demand outstrips
supply. The buyers are business owners who have restaurants or rent out
lodging, those who have swimming pools in their homes and in buildings
where there is water shortage and people have a source of hard
currency," says the driver of a tanker truck.

The problem of the water supply in the capital is longstanding. For lack
of a coherent hydraulic policy, the regime has been overwhelmed by
something that is as essential as water.

With a population that exceeds two and a half million inhabitants,
Havana continues to have as its main source of supply the old Albear
aqueduct, a masterpiece of industrial engineering that began to be built
in 1858 and was inaugurated in 1893, for a city of 600,000 people.

When Fidel Castro took power in January 1959, and after the October 1963
passage of Hurricane Flora, which left more than a thousand dead in the
eastern part of the island, hundreds of dams and reservoirs of water
were built that multiplied the country's water storage capacity by a
factor of five.

In 1987 the construction of the El Gato aqueduct began in the
southeastern part of Havana. But because of lack of maintenance of the
aqueduct and sewer networks, more than half of the water that was
distributed was lost by leaks and ruptures of the pipes.

In the midst of the current drought, which plagues 81% of the country
and is considered the worst that Cuba has suffered in the last hundred
years, authorities that manage water resources have tightened measures
to prevent water being wasted.

Manuel Manso, Aguas de La Habana's ombudsman, explained that an
inspector squad of 108 workers is trying to interact more directly with
consumers, whether business or residential. One of the provisions is the
application of fines, with 870 already having been imposed on private
companies, in amounts of up to one thousand Cuban pesos (about 42 dollars).

Although the regime has invested nearly 9 million dollars in the
rehabilitation of 550 miles of water networks in the capital, the effort
appears to be inadequate.

"The company repairs a section, but then the water pressure damages
another section that has not yet been repaired. Also, the quality of the
repairs is not always good. And the technological obsolescence and
timespans between maintenance complicate things. It's like 'plowing the
sea,' (a complete waste of effort)," says an engineer.

A health and epidemiology specialist is worried that "the water deficit
in the residential sector could have an impact on the emergence of new
outbreaks of Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, carriers of dengue fever,
chikungunya and other deadly diseases. Plus there is the proliferation
of rats and cockroaches. Water scarcity, poor cleanliness in streets and
public spaces, and the irresponsibility of citizens who dump garbage on
any street corner have made Havana one of the dirtiest cities in Latin
America."

If the drought persists, along with poor hygiene in the city and
problems with water supply, which cause families to store water in
inappropriate containers without adequate protection, the arrival of
summer could bring the breeding ground for a huge epidemic of
mosquito-borne diseases.

"Every year we run the same danger, for not carrying out the necessary
preventative work and the lack of hygiene in the city," said one
official. And walking on the edge of a cliff always carries risks.

The worst has not yet come. But the conditions are given.

Note: Although this article is limited to Havana, the water shortage due
to drought has long been affecting all provinces.

Source: Cuba: Risk of Health Crisis Due to Lack of Potable Water / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-risk-of-health-crisis-due-to-lack-of-potable-water-ivn-garca/

Pedicab Drivers Can Only Work Where They Live

Pedicab Drivers Can Only Work Where They Live

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 20 April 2017 — The transport
ministry (MITRANS) has issued a new provision that obligates Havana's
pedicab drivers to have visible identification that specifies the
municipality where they can operate.

The sticker carries the driver's license number and the name of the
municipality. An official calling herself Tamara explained
to 14ymedio that MITRANS inspectors in the Central Havana district will
ensure that "if you do not live in this municipality you can't put the
sticker on your vehicle that authorizes you to operate here."

The office is located in a half-wrecked building on Zanja Street with a
poorly painted façade and tree growing out of it, from a seed that fell
into a crack in the building.

Sheathed in her blue MITRANS inspector's uniform, Tamara barely looks up
from the papers she has in front of her on her desk, to clarify that if
you don't have a license, don't come. "In addition, they have to bring
the acrylic."

The situation of transport in the capital, traditionally complicated,
has become chaotic in recent times due to fuel restrictions and other
bureaucratic measures that have affected private taxi drivers. Driving a
pedicab is not very profitable, since drivers usually charge 1 Cuban
convertible peso (roughly $1 US) for relatively short stretches, but
unlike the so-called almendrones– the shared fixed route taxis whose
name comes from the "almond-shape" of the classic American cars used in
that service – they do not run on a fixed route and take the customers
"to the door of their house." Most of them are young people without a
defined profession who work for an invisible boss who owns the
equipment, and whom they have to pay more than half of what they collect
daily.

A tour of the pedicab stands where the drivers usually find their
customers, found that only a few drivers were displaying the
identification. Very close to Chinatown a young man barely 20, who
identifies himself as Yuslo, gives the impression of not feeling
threatened by the new measure.

"I am a Palestinian* from Mayarí Arriba, I rent in a room in the Cerro
district and I circulate around Old Havana. I don't have an address in
the capital on my identity card or license, I am a pirate who fights to
survive. If things get ugly I make the sticker my own way and put it on
the front of the bike," he explains resolutely.

A little more measured and optimistic is Alberto Ramirez, who despite
being in quarantine still has the energy to live from his physical
effort. "We are accustomed to occasionally 'inventing' something of this
type. A few days later the fever passes and no one remembers anything. I
have my sticker to work in Old Havana because I have been living there
for more than 20 years in a state shelter, but if a client asks me to
take him to Coppelia (outside his district), I'll charge him what the
trip is worth and take him."

While Alberto talks, a colleague at the pedicab stand keeps making
gestures of disagreement. Finally he intervenes to say, "They are the
ones who call the shots and do what they want. You don't have to be an
engineer to realize that this measure is a barbarity. It's fine to have
control but if no one cares where a minister or a chief of something
lives in order to work here or there, why do they have to worry about
where the unfortunates who survive from our work live? There's no one
who understands it," protests the pedicab driver.

Without taking the time to answer another question he gets on his bike
and in the worst possible mood concludes the conversation. "I'm going
home. I don't feel like working."

*Translator's note: Havanans call Cubans from the provinces who settle
in their city "Palestinians" – a reference to the fact that without a
resident permit, they are "illegals" in the city.

Source: Pedicab Drivers Can Only Work Where They Live – Translating Cuba
- http://translatingcuba.com/pedicab-drivers-can-only-work-where-they-live/

Elderly man in Cuba treats arthritis pain with scorpion venom – swears by it

Elderly man in Cuba treats arthritis pain with scorpion venom – swears by it
Published April 21, 2017 EFE

PINAR DEL RIO, CUBA – At age 71, Cuban peasant Pepe Casañas fends off
the typical aches and pains of his age in a unique, and effective, way.
His secret: letting himself be stung every now and then by a scorpion,
the venom of which has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Although anyone who has been stung by a scorpion says that it hurts a
good deal, for Pepe it's "just a minor sting," which he endures at least
once a month using one of the three or four scorpions that he keeps
close at hand in his house.

"The sting doesn't hurt me a bit. And if they're using it as a treatment
for cancer in Cuba, it has to be good," said Pepe, who sometimes keeps a
scorpion in his hat in case he starts to feel a pain he needs to treat.

"About eight years ago, I started with this scorpion stuff. My bones
were beginning to hurt me, arthritis, and it helped me to feel
comfortable," Pepe told EFE at his home in the town of Los Palacios in
Cuba's far western province of Pinar del Rio.

"I couldn't brush my teeth, or comb my hair. I got a scorpion, squeezed
it, and it stung me twice, and look: My arm's doing fine."

Pepe, who comes from a family of beekeepers, began using insect bites –
starting with bee stings – as a remedy against pain. He even says his
brother cured himself of a disability thanks to bee stings.

Although Pepe's strategy might seem strange as a way to combat the aches
and pains that come along at his age, it is a fact that scorpion venom
is used in Cuba as the main ingredient in Vidatox, a homeopathic
medication that is prescribed mainly to alleviate pain and other
symptoms associated with cancer.

In 2006, Cuba started clinical trials to test the efficacy of scorpion
venom in cancer treatment and researchers quickly noted that patients'
quality of life was substantially improved.

In 2011, the Cuban pharmaceutical firm Labiofam began manufacturing Vidatox.

"A very important use of Vidatox, which we want to promote, is that of
an analgesic and anti-inflammatory, for use against cancer, given that
any osteoarthritic process such as rheumatism can be treated with this
medication," Dr. Fabio Linares, who heads the Vidatox project, told EFE.

According to Linares, "it makes sense" that Pepe feels better after a
scorpion sting, since in addition to its analgesic effect, the venom
stimulates the body's natural curative mechanisms and immune system.

In a laboratory in the city of Cienfuegos, where the Vidatox project is
under way, Linares' team is raising some 7,000 "blue scorpions"
(Rhopalurus junceus, a species endemic to Cuba) and is taking 10 or 12
venom extractions from each of them every year before releasing them
back into the environment.

Some 17,000 bottles of Vidatox are produced and sold over the counter
every year in Cuba and in 15 other countries around the world.

In Cuba alone, an estimated 65,000 people have used the remedy to
alleviate cancer pain.

Source: Elderly man in Cuba treats arthritis pain with scorpion venom –
swears by it | Fox News -
http://www.foxnews.com/health/2017/04/21/elderly-man-in-cuba-treats-arthritis-pain-with-scorpion-venom-swears-by-it.html

Morocco and Cuba have restored 37-year-old broken diplomatic ties weeks after the private visit of Morocco’s King Mohamed VI to Havana.

Morocco and Cuba have restored 37-year-old broken diplomatic ties weeks
after the private visit of Morocco's King Mohamed VI to Havana.

Ambassadors of the two countries to the United Nations signed a
memorandum of understanding on Friday in New York to reestablish
diplomatic ties.

Cuba's Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement that: "Guided by the
mutual will to develop friendly relations, the two governments agreed to
reestablish ties as well as political, economic and cultural cooperation."

Already, King Mohamed VI of Morocco is reported to have ordered the
opening of an embassy in Havana.

Morocco cut ties with Cuba in 1980 after the latter's recognition of
Western Sahara and support for the Polisario Front.

Cuba has since trained several Saharawis.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara , a former Spanish colony in 1975 and
fought the Polisario Front. It considers the mineral-rich territory as
its "southern provinces" and has proposed wide-ranging autonomy.

The UN brokered a cease-fire in 1991 and established a peace keeping
mission to monitor and help prepare a referendum on the the territory's
future which has never taken place.

Polisario Front insists on self-determination through a referendum for
the local population which is estimated at between 350,000 and 500,000.

Source: Morocco extends hand to Cuba after 37 years, diplomatic ties
restored | Africanews -
http://www.africanews.com/2017/04/22/morocco-extends-hand-to-cuba-after-37-years-diplomatic-ties-restored/

Cuba needs new laws and stronger action targeting human trafficking – UN rights expert

Cuba needs new laws and stronger action targeting human trafficking – UN
rights expert

21 April 2017 – A United Nations human rights expert has urged Cuba to
consider introducing new legislation to ensure that everyone who falls
victim to trafficking in persons can be identified and helped, and the
authorities can take action against offenders.

"Although cases of trafficking in the country may appear to be limited,
the number of criminal prosecutions and victims assisted is still too
modest, and shows that a proactive approach to detection of the problem
is needed," said the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons,
Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, wrapping up a five-day visit to Cuba.
Ms. Giammarinaro acknowledged the Government's political will to address
human trafficking and appreciated its strong aim on prevention, while
underscoring that the protection of children from sexually motivated
crimes should be extended to everyone under 18 years old.
"The focus of Cuba's anti-trafficking action so far has been sexual
exploitation. However, recent developments which have created new
opportunities for individual initiatives in the tourist sector require
vigilance to stamp out any cases of labour exploitation; the use of
foreign workers in the construction industry should also be monitored"
she stressed.
Based on a multi-disciplinary and coordinated approach to combat
trafficking, Ms. Giammarinaro welcomed Cuba's 2017-2020 Action Plan to
prevent and fight against trafficking in persons and for protecting
victims, which had been approved just before her visit – the first by a
UN rights expert in 10 years.
"The real challenge will be the implementation of measures provided for
in the document, especially aimed at identifying and supporting victims,
while respecting their human rights" the Special Rapporteur said.
The UN expert praised Cuba's universal and free systems for education,
healthcare and social security, saying they helped to reduce the
vulnerability of Cuban citizens to trafficking.
However, citing thousands who, in 2015, were exposed to trafficking and
exploitation, she said that migration in unsafe conditions created
situations that could lead to trafficking.
Ms. Giammarinaro spoke with a few of the survivors, who said that they
had signed apparently legal contracts and been promised good working
conditions abroad, "but, at their destination, their passports were
confiscated, and they found themselves in the hands of gangs determined
to exploit them for work without payment."
"When efforts were made to force them into prostitution/sex work, the
women managed to communicate with their families in Cuba and were
rescued thanks to the immediate action of Cuban embassies. However, we
don't know how many young women may have been obliged to stay in
exploitative situations abroad," the expert said.
Ms. Giammarinaro called for the social stigma surrounding
prostitution/sex work to be removed, and for the closure of so-called
'rehabilitation centres' where women are detained even though
prostitution is not a crime.
"Any fear of being punished is a major obstacle for victims of
trafficking for sexual exploitation to report their plight and the abuse
they have suffered," she stressed.
Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights
Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a
country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN
staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Source: United Nations News Centre - Cuba needs new laws and stronger
action targeting human trafficking – UN rights expert -
http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56601#.WPtQ9dKGP6Q

Friday, April 21, 2017

For Ordinary Cubans, Democracy Isn’t a Priority

For Ordinary Cubans, Democracy Isn't a Priority / Iván García

Iván García, 19 April 2017 — When evening falls, Yainier and a group of
friends who live in El Canal, a neighborhood in the Cerro municipality,
20 minutes by car from the center of Havana, grab a table by the door of
an old bodega, and between swigs of rum and Reggaeton, they play
dominoes well into the dawn.

They are six unemployed youths who live by whatever "falls off the back
of a truck." They also sell clothing imported from Russia or Panama,
joints of Creole marijuana and toothpaste robbed the night before from a
local factory.

They note down the domino scores they accumulate in a school notebook.
The duo that gets to 100 points earns 20 pesos, the equivalent of one
dollar, and if they really kick ass, they can earn double that amount.

The winners buy more rum, and between laughter and chatting, they kill
time in a country where the hours seem to have 120 minutes. No one has a
plan for the future.

In the seven or eight hours they pass playing, they usually talk about
women, football or black-market businesses. Politics is not a subject of
conversation.

The dissident, Eliécer Ávila, lives a few blocks away from where they're
playing dominoes. He's an engineer and the leader of Somos Más (We Are
More), an organization that supports democracy, free elections and free
speech.

Probably Ávila is the most well-known dissident among Cubans who drink
their morning coffee without milk. His debate in 2008 with Ricardo
Alarcón, then the president of the one-note national parliament, was a
success on the Island. The concerns of the young computer engineer and
Alarcón's incoherent answers circulated clandestinely on flash drives.

Eliécer, together with Antonio Rodiles, Manuel Cuesta Morúa and Julio
Aleaga Pesant, figure among the most well-prepared dissidents in Cuba.
Born in 1985 in Puerto Padre, Las Tunas, Ávila has leadership qualities
and good speaking skills.

His project goes over the heads of people in the neighborhood, like the
six domino players, who are indifferent to the reality of their country.
How to achieve anything is a problem to solve for a repressed local
opposition, which up to now has no power to convoke a meeting. Without
going farther, in the slum area of Canal, where most inhabitants are
black and deathly poor, almost no one is interested in demanding
inalienable rights in any modern society.

One of those neighbors is Raisán, a mulatto with discolored skin, who
religiously pays his dues to the Cuban Workers Center, the only labor
organization that's authorized on the Island. However, he recognizes
that the Center, which supposedly ensures his salary and labor demands,
doesn't even attempt to manage them.

"Brother, this has to change. You can't live on a salary of 400 Cuban
pesos — around 17 dollars — while it costs 10 times that to eat or dress
yourself," says Raisán, after making a list of the daily hardships that
the government never solves.

There's a dichotomy in Cuba. Ask any Cuban his assessment of the
performance of the State organizations and you can publish several tomes
of complaints. People are tired of political rhetoric. The citizens want
better services, salaries and living conditions. But they don't have the
legal tools to carry out their propositions.

Creating a movement or party that looks out for their interests,
changing the political dynamic and demanding the democratization of
society, continue to be taboo subjects. Although the dissidence requests
these rights, it still hasn't managed to gain the confidence of the
beleagured citizens, for whom the priority is to find food and money
sufficient to allow them to repair their houses, among other needs.

State Security, the political police, short-circuits any initiative that
tries to insert the opposition inside the population. And certainly it's
the fear, typical of a tyrannical regime that has more severe laws for
dissenting than for certain common crimes. Fear is a powerful wall of
containment that repels nonconformists.

Cuban society continues being excessively simulated. It always was.
During the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, after the assault on the
Presidential Palace by the Revolutionary Directorate, March 13, 1957,
the authorities called for an act of reconciliation with the dictator,
and in spite of the rain, 250,000 residents of Havana responded in a
spontaneous manner.

The same thing happened in 1959, after Fidel Castro took power. In
silence, without protesting, Cubans saw how Castro knocked out
democracy, dismantled the legal judicial machinery, buried the free
press, eliminated private businesses and governed the country like a
vulgar autocrat.

The answer to discontent always was to emigrate. A considerable segment
of the citizenry didn't support – nor do they support – those who bet on
peacefully reclaiming their rights, inserting themselves into politics
and denouncing the frequent attacks on human rights.

People prefer to look away or continue coming to the game, seated in the
stands.

To get Cubans to understand that the best solution to their complaints
is democracy, free elections and a coherent and independent judicial
framework, which supports small and medium-sized businesses, until now
has been a subject that stopped with the internal opposition. Which has
tried, but without success.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: For Ordinary Cubans, Democracy Isn't a Priority / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/for-ordinary-cubans-democracy-isnt-a-priority-ivn-garca/

Is Raul Castro in Hibernation Mode?

Is Raul Castro in Hibernation Mode? / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 11 April 2017 — Right now the most closely guarded secret
in Cuba is the protocols for succession of the nation's president, army
general Raul Castro, after his retirement in February 2018.

I will tell you what is rumored among some officials close to the
tight-lipped team of advisers and influential relatives in the Council
of State.

A well-informed source claims, "The man is desperate to retire. He wants
to spend more time with his children and grandchildren and travel around
the world. He's really going to retire. And it seems to me that he will
probably pass his job on to the first party secretary. He has always
preferred to be in the background."

A technocrat with connections to powerful elites states, "The succession
is not happening at the best time but Raul is serious when he says he is
leaving. I have it on good authority that Miguel Diaz-Canel and his wife
Lis Cuesta, around whom the media has been creating a presidential image
in recent months, are studying English in depth and preparing to lead
the country."

A former personal security officials says, "Resources have been put at
Diaz-Canel's disposal, the kind of communication technology and
logistical support that a president would have."

Meanwhile, as the official media has been inundating us with reports of
economic successes and the alleged loyalty of the population to Raul
Castro and his deceased brother, the countdown to the succession continues.

There is only a little more than ten months until D-Day. At midnight on
February 24 the republic will presumably be governed by a civilian
president without the last name Castro.

One of the sources consulted for this article believes that "after his
own retirement, Raul will force the retirement of several longtime
revolutionary officials such as Jose Ramon Machado Ventura and Ramiro
Valdes.* His son Alejandro, who is a colonel in the Ministry of the
Interior, will retain a certain degree of power while his daughter
Mariela will continue promoting an image of tolerance towards
homosexuality but will no longer hold any really significant positions.

"The power behind the throne will be the military. Everything has been
arranged. There will be major economic changes. If the purchasing power
of the population does not increase, consumer spending will be
encouraged while the monetary and intellectual capital of the exile
community will be tapped.

"If not, Cuba will never get out of the swamp. Political exhaustion and
systemic failures have created conditions conducive to the emergence of
an acute social crisis whose outcome no one can predict. That is why
there will be changes."

In Cuba, where the state press's greatest strengths are saying nothing
and masking daily reality, rumors within the halls of power carry more
credibility than the official news.

Raul Castro is a perpetual schemer. Let the analyst or journalist who
foresaw the secret negotiations with the United States and the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations on December 17, 2014 raise his hand.

Prognosticating in such a secretive country can be disastrous but there
have been some signals. During the the monotone National Assembly's 2015
legislative session a gradual rollback of Raul's reforms began. And
Marino Murillo, the czar of these reforms, disappeared from official photos.

In response to the Venezuelan crisis, which led to cuts of 40% in fuel
imports, the economic initiatives promoted by Raul Castro came to an
abrupt halt.

Barack Obama's visit to Cuba in March 2016 was the final straw. The
regime's most conservative factions began changing the rules of the game.

While lacking the charisma or stature of his brother, Castro II has
proved to be more effective at putting together negotiating teams and
has had greater successes in foreign policy. They include reestablishing
diplomatic relations with the United States without having to make many
concessions in return, acting as mediator in the meeting in Havana
between the Orthodox and Catholic churches, facilitating the peace
agreement in Colombia and securing the cancellation of a considerable
portion of the nation's financial debt.

His agricultural reforms have failed. People are still waiting for that
glass of milk he promised them in a speech given in Camaguey on July 26,
2007. On that day Raul Castro said, "We have to erase from our minds
this limit of seven years (the age at which Cuban children are no longer
entitled to receive a certain ration of milk). We are taking it from
seven to fifty. We have to produce enough so that everyone who wants it
can have a glass of milk."

The Foreign Investment Law has not been able to attract the roughly 2.5
billion dollars expected annually. The sugar harvest and food production
have not gotten off the ground, requiring the regime to import more than
two billion dollars worth of food every year.

Except for tourism, the profitable foreign medical assistance program
and other international missions, and remittances from overseas, all
other exports and economic initiatives have decreased or not shown
sufficient growth.

Vital industrial sectors are not profitable and its equipment is
obsolete. Problems in housing, transportation and public service
shortages are overwhelming. The price of home internet service is
outrageous. Official silence has surrounded recent restrictions on the
sale of gasoline** while public speculation about a return to the
"Special Period" has not been discussed by the executive branch.

Raul Castro barely appears in the public anymore. Aside from attending
Fidel's funeral in November 2016, presiding over parliament last
December and sporadic appearances at the Summits of the Caribbean and
the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, his presence is
almost imperceptible.

He is governing in hibernation mode, on automatic pilot. There is no
word on currency reform. The vaunted Economic Guidelines, only 21% of
which have been carried out, seem to be dead in the water.

According to a former journalist who now lives in Miami and who dealt
closely with Raul in the late 1980s, his seemingly erratic behavior
could be interpreted in several ways.

"Raul is not doctrinaire like his brother. Nor does he leave tasks half
done like Fidel used to do. I supposed he has his hands full preparing
Diaz-Canal so he can finish the job and implement good, effective
reforms. I think Diaz-Canal will play an important role in Cub's future.
Reporters should start lining up their canons now," says the former
journalist.

The sense on the street is that the island is going to hell. The outlook
does not look good. The future is a question mark. The pathways to
emigration are closing. And the average person's salary remains a bad joke.

The optimists, who are in the minority, are praying the general has an
emergency plan in his desk drawer. The pessimists, who are in the
majority, believe that life in Cuba will go on as it has, whether under
Raul, Diaz-Canal or any other members of the Communist praetorian guard.

*Translator's note: Vice-president of the Council of State and
governmental vice-president respectively.

** Though no public announcement has been made, as of April 1 sales of
so-called "special gasoline" have been restricted to tourists with
rental cars.

Source: Is Raul Castro in Hibernation Mode? / Iván García – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/is-raul-castro-in-hibernation-mode-ivn-garca/