Saturday, June 24, 2017

Trump, The Military And The Division Of Powers In Cuba

Trump, The Military And The Division Of Powers In Cuba

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 20 June 2017 — The recent decision
by the president of the United States to limit commercial relations with
Cuban companies controlled by the military highlights a rarely explored
corner of the national reality.

Anyone who knows the Island minimally knows that there is nothing like
what can be called a "division of powers" here. It was demonstrated
recently when the deputies to the National Assembly of People's Power
unanimously raised their hands to "back" some program documents from the
Communist Party, documents that the deputies had no legal capacity to
approve but politically could not disapprove.

In other countries, it is to be expected that Congress will oppose what
the Executive has proposed or that the Judiciary will rule
unconstitutional what a Parliament has approved. In most nations, when
some measure, new policy, or any law is applied, analysts wonder how the
unions will react or what the students are going to do. In Cuba it is
not like that. Those who rule give the orders and the rest obey or go to
jail.

The ostensible presence of individuals from the military sector in power
structures, especially in economic management, may lead one to think
that the army enriches itself this way and that having so many resources
in its hands makes it easier for it to repress the people. This
reasoning thus forms part of the belief that there is some kind of
division of powers and that introduces a huge error in the analysis.

The presence of colonels and generals (retired or active) in charge of
tourism companies such as Gaviota, or powerful consortiums such as
Gaesa, Cimex and TRD among others, may not mean the militarization of
the economy as much as it means the conversion, the metamorphosis, of
soldiers into managers.

Devoid of or "healed" of an authentic "working-class spirit," they
handle with the iron fists of ruthless foremen – loyal to the boss – any
dispute with the workers. Their habits of discipline lead them to do
what they are ordered to do without asking if it is viable or
absurd. They do not demand anything for themselves and anything that
improves their standard of living or working conditions (modern cars,
comfortable homes, trips abroad, food and beverage baskets…) will be
considered as a favor from the boss, a privilege which can be paid for
only with loyalty.

Although difficult to believe, they are not backed by their cannons or
their tanks, their influence is not determined by the numbers of their
troops or the firepower of the armaments they control, but by the
confidence that Raúl Castro has in them. It is as simple as that.

When we review the extensive documentation issued by the different
spheres of the outlawed political opposition, or by the officially
unrecognized civil society, we can barely observe any protest against
the dominance that the military has gained over the economy in the last
decade.

Civil society's priorities are different. The liberation of political
prisoners, the cessation of repression, freedom of expression and
association, the right to choose leaders in plural elections… In the
area of ​​economics, what is being questioned are the difficulties faced
by private entrepreneurs in starting a business, limitations on access
to the international market, excessive taxes, and the plunder to which
the self-employed are subjected to by the inspectors.

The most perceptible concern in this sense is that placing these
soldiers in key points of the economy is engineering the future economic
empowerment of the ruling clans in a virtual piñata, which implies
self-annihilation of the system by the heirs of power.

If it were not so dramatic it would be laughable to imagine the infinite
solutions that the Cuban rulers have to circumvent "the new measures"
announced by the president of the United States. All they have to do is
change the name of the current monopolies and place civilian leaders in
charge of supposed "second level cooperatives," already foreseen in
Guideline 15 from the 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.

This magic trick or, to use a Cubanism, "shuffling of the dominoes"
would force the mammoth American bureaucracy to make a new inventory of
entities with which trading is forbidden. "As the stick comes and goes,"
they reorganize their forces while remaining at the helm of the country
and watching Donald Trump's term expire.

To perform this trick it will not be necessary to gather the Party
together in a congress, nor to consult the constitutionalist lawyers,
they would not even have to inform the Parliament. To make matters
worse, in the streets there will be no protest against the chameleon
gesture of the military exchanging their uniforms and their weapons for
guayaberas or business cocktails.

Source: Trump, The Military And The Division Of Powers In Cuba –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/trump-the-military-and-the-division-of-powers-in-cuba/

Sweating Is Not For Cuba’s New Rich

Sweating Is Not For Cuba's New Rich

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 20 June 2017 — The passenger complains
of the heat while frantically moving the fan. "In a few days I will
install an air conditioning," justifies the taxi driver and adds that he
will charge "higher fares." In summer everyone dreams of
air-conditioning their rooms or vehicles, but whether or not one suffers
the heat depends on the pocketbook.

In 2013, after eight years of prohibition, the government authorized
travelers to import air conditioners, electric stoves, refrigerators and
microwave ovens. It was the starting shot for an avalanche that invades
the airports, the port terminals and the shipping agencies to Cuba.

"Six 'splits' (air conditioners) came on that flight," said an employee
of Terminal 3 at José Martí International Airport in Havana. The plane
from Cancun, a route greatly appreciated by the mules, also brought a
dozen flat-screen TVs, eight minibars and two desktop computers.

Among the boxes that are piled around the luggage belt are the units
that will be placed inside rooms and others that will be placed on a
roof or an outer wall, a cruel irony, because in the main airport of the
country travelers complain about the heat and drip fat beads of sweat
while waiting for their suitcases.

"It is difficult to know the number of AC units entering each day," says
the employee. "It is rare that a flight arrives from Panama, Mexico or
any other nearby country that comes without at least two devices." In
the lines to pay for overweight luggage and the import of domestic
appliances one sees the new arrivals loaded with bundles.

Permanent residents in Cuba, national or foreign, can import two air
conditioners of up to one-ton capacity on each trip. On the first
occasion only – over the space of a year — they pay tariffs in Cuban
pesos at a price ranging from 150 to 200 CUP (roughly $6 to $8 US). For
additional imports they pay that amount in convertible pesos (CUC –
roughly $150 to $200 US).

The business is booming. Even paying in CUC the traveler can resell a
one-ton air conditioner on the black market for about 650 CUC, for a
device that originally cost less than 350 dollars. The brands that enter
most frequently are Midea, LG, Carrier, Royal, Daewoo and
Prestiger. Prices have fallen by up to 30% since the imports were
authorized and given the volume of supply that trend will continue.

State stores try to compete with the "under the counter" sales but have
higher prices, fewer models and shortages that make the supply unstable.

The air conditioners have slowly been incorporated into the landscape of
cities and towns. If before the economic relaxations they were installed
discreetly, now with a more open economy the tendency is to exhibit them.

"The people living there have cash," says Igor, a pedicab driver who
waits for his clients in the vicinity of the Plaza de Carlos III. While
pedaling and showing some parts of the city, the cyclist glances at
these signs of families with money. "Wherever there is an air
conditioner they are affluent," he muses. Not only does acquiring one of
these devices mark membership in a social group, the most difficult
thing is to pay for its operation.

Much of the electricity supply remains subsidized. "The average monthly
consumption in the residential sector in 2013 was approximately 180 KWh
per customer," said Marino Murillo. For that amount a consumer pays
36.60 CUP, "while the cost to the state is 220 CUP," said Cuba's vice
president.

Keeping a one-ton air conditioner on all night can trigger electricity
consumption above 400 CUP monthly, the entire salary of a
professional. However, many families decide to do so, overwhelmed by the
heat or because they want to rent rooms to foreigners.

"Air conditioning and hot water cannot be lacking in this business,"
says Rocío, who operates a colonial hostel in Trinidad with his
mother. With three rooms for rent, each with AC, minibar and television,
the entrepreneurs pay a four-digit electricity bill. They consider that,
even so, it "brings in business" in an area with a high occupation rate
throughout the year.

In November 2010, a new progressive electricity rate began to be
imposed, which imposes a penalty of up to 300% on households that
consume more than 300 KWh per month, a situation that has triggered
electricity fraud.

An engineer from the Electricity Company in Havana told 14ymedio about
the new ways in which citizens seek to steal electricity. Before there
were "visible" cables that were easy to detect or they tampered with the
meters in a way that technicians noticed right away, but now they
conspire with the workers who repair the streets and get the cables
installed underground.


In 2013 the Cuban government authorized travelers to import air
conditioners, electric stoves, refrigerators and microwaves. (J. Cáceres)
The specialist says that there are "people whose homes abut state
entities and they steal electricity from a company, a warehouse, a
carpentry workshop or even a polyclinic." He says that almost always "it
is a cases of people who have some highly customer-based business, like
an electric oven to make pizzas, a body shop, a private restaurant or a
lot of air conditioners."

The engineer recalls a family in which "even the youngest children had
AC in their room and left it on all day." A neighbor reported the
situation when he learned that they paid a very low electricity
rate. The complaint brought the inspectors and they discovered that the
meter was tampered with. In addition to the fine "they had to pay
retroactively all that they owed."

To counter fraud, analog meters were replaced by digital ones and in
some areas of the country they are being changed again for new ones with
infrared technology. But the tricks are inexhaustible.

"The upstairs neighbor lives alone and is retired, and he passes the
cable with electricity to me and in return I also pay for his
consumption," says a prosperous entrepreneur who runs a coffee shop on
Zanja Street. "So I share the consumption and it's not as expensive"
because it prevents all the kilowatts going on a single account with the
consequent progressive surcharge.

The customer has three air conditioners installed throughout the
house. "Without this you can not live here, because this house hardly
has windows to the outside and the kitchen of the business generates a
lot of heat," he explains. He bought the devices in the informal market
and is waiting for them "to lower prices a little" to buy a room.

"It is not the same to be Cuban with a fan as it is to be a Cuban with
AC," he reflects. "The first one is irritated but the second is less
stressed because he has air conditioning."

Source: Sweating Is Not For Cuba's New Rich – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/sweating-is-not-for-cubas-new-rich/

Cuba From The Inside With Alternative Tour Guides

Cuba From The Inside With Alternative Tour Guides

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 21 June 2017 — Economic hardships
turn many Cuban engineers to work as bartenders, doctors become taxi
drivers and innumerable professionals become alternative guides for
tourists. Among the latter, there are the experienced or the
just-getting-started, but all of them earn more money than they would
working in the state sector.

"When they change a picture I know instantly," says Natacha, a Havana
city guide who says she has visited "the Museum of Fine Arts more than
300 times" with her clients. She graduated from the Teaching Institute
but she left the classrooms after five years of teaching in junior high.

"I had to think about what to do with my life and I realized that I
spoke Spanish very clearly, I knew the history of Cuba and I was good at
dealing with people." A friend advised her to start offering tours to
foreigners who came to the country.

At first, Natacha stood in a corner of Old Havana and whispered her
services to travelers. Now, after the relaxations regarding
self-employment, she has been able to legalize part of her activities
and form a team. "We have a network that includes rental houses, dance
teachers, masseuses and chauffeurs," she says.

With the increase in tourism, which last year exceeded 4 million
visitors, the guide has "a surplus of work," but now fears that after
the announcements of US President Donald Trump that "the business will
decline."

Natacha accompanies her clients "to places where a state guide will
never take them…The program is flexible according to their tastes: from
exclusive areas to poor neighborhoods, trips in collective taxis, a
train ride and a santería party."

She speaks English and French fluently and recently began studying
Italian and Japanese. "Japanese tourism is still small but they pay very
well and are very respectful people," says Natacha. Most of her clients
end up recommending her services to a friend who wants to travel to
Cuba. "This is a chain of trust that has allowed me to have up to 200
customers a year."

The prices of a walk with the former teacher vary. "They can go from 20
to 100 CUC (roughly $20 to $100 US) depending on the place, the time and
the complexity of the subject." For years she included visits outside of
Havana but now she has left these to her younger colleagues because her
mother is very old and she doesn't want to leave the city.

"This work is hard because it takes a lot of personal involvement,
learning something new every day and answering many questions," she
explains. "I spend hours walking, most of the time under the sun, but I
would not give up my independence by going back to teaching." She says
that being a tourist guide has allowed her to "put a plate of food on
the table every day… a good plate of food."

A growing alternative is digital sites that advertise independent guides
and offer a wide variety of services or entertainment packages. Recently
a team of 30-something Cuban residents in Miami launched Tour Republic,
a website to sell recreational activities on the Island.

The site connects the traveler with urban guides with a marketplace –
similar to Airbnb – but instead of offering lodging it markets tours of
varied intensity and duration, from a ride in a classic car through
Havana, to an escape through the unique natural landscape of the valley
of Viñales.

Máximo, a 30-year-old Italian newcomer to Havana, was hesitant Tuesday
about whether to buy a three-day package worth $58 including visits to
the Ernest Hemingway Museum, the University of Havana, the old colonial
fortresses of the capital, and even an encounter with the sculpture of
John Lennon located in a Vedado park.

With Tour Republic the customer pays the online service and must be at
the site where the itinerary begins at the agreed-upon time. In the case
of the tour that interests Maximo, the guide is at the bottom of the
steps of the Capitol and departs every morning at ten.

The tourist says he prefers an independent guide because "the program is
more flexible and can be adjusted more" to what he wants. In a small
notebook he has noted some interesting places that escape the typical
tourist route: the town of San Antonio, the Superior Art Institute and
the Alamar neighborhood.

"In this arena there are people very prepared and with excellent
training," says Carlos, an alternative guide who leaves the statue of
José Martí in Central Park every morning for a tour he has
baptized Habana Real. "I take them through the streets where tourists do
not normally pass, I have them try a drink of rum in a bar where the
Cubans really go," he says.

The young man, with a degree in geography, has been "wearing out shoe
leather in the city for seven years." At first "I did not know much
about history, architecture or famous people, but little by little I
have become an itinerant encyclopedia of Cuba," he says.

The GuruWalk platform has also risen to the crest of the wave of tourist
interest in Cuba. The Spanish company runs an international website
for free walking tours and has chosen Havana as their preferred site to
begin operations.

Communications director, Pablo Perez-Manglano, told 14ymedio that "the
platform is completely democratic, anyone can join and create a
tour." Site administrators check the offers one by one, but the reviews
are left to users after each visit.

"We are an open and free platform, we do not charge the guide or the
visitor anything, and therefore, we hope that each person understands
and takes responsibility to comply, or not, with the legality in their
respective cities of the world," he clarifies.

The site already has seven free tours in Havana, one in Santiago and
another in Santa Clara. "In addition, we had about 200 registered users
in the last month, which is a lot for such a new platform," says
Pérez-Manglano.

Unlike Tour Republic there is nothing to pay online and the money is
delivered directly to the guide.

The perspectives that the web offers for entrepreneurs like Natacha
sound promising. GuruWalk does not deny "entry to someone for not having
an official guide qualification." Rather, it seeks "people who are
passionate about culture and history, who also enjoy teaching and
transmitting that knowledge."

One of the strategies of the company is to make itself known among "the
owners of private houses" because it is to them that more often the
foreigners ask: "What should we see in the city?"

Pérez-Manglano underlines that the cornerstone of GuruWalk is the
"collaborative economy." Instead of "certificates, rules, rules, or
permits," they are interested in trust, which "is built little by little."

Source: Cuba From The Inside With Alternative Tour Guides – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-from-the-inside-with-alternative-tour-guides/

Thanks for Nothing, Trump

Thanks for Nothing, Trump

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 21 June 2017 — After much media frenzy,
Trump's "new policy" toward Cuba has not gone beyond the rhetoric
expected by most political analysts. His act was more a symbolic gesture
towards his faithful than any practical novelty. In short, those who
expected an announcement of truly transcendental changes in the policy
toward Cuba by the US president during his speech in Miami on Friday
June 16, were left wanting. As we say in Cuba, the show turned out to be
more rigmarole than movie reel.

The long-awaited changes, far from being novel, are actually quite
limited. In fact, the highlight of his announced "punishment" for the
Castro dictatorship is enveloped in an inconsistent magic trick where
the essential cards seem to be a ban on US businessmen to negotiate with
Cuban military companies, the suppression of non-group tours visits by
US citizens to Cuba and the auditing of group visits. The rest is garbage.

The whole of the Palace of the Revolution must be shaking in terror. The
dictatorship can already be considered as having failed: judging by the
enthusiasm of its fans gathered in the Manuel Artime Theatre in Little
Havana, with Trump in power, the Castro regime's hours are numbered.
Those who know about such things say that the Castros and Miami's
"Dialogue Mafia" "have run out of bread," that "the political actors (?)
are now where they should be" And that Trump's speech was "friendly
towards the Cuban people." If the matter were not so serious, it would
probably be laughable.

The sad thing is that there are those who believed the sham, or at least
they pretend to believe what he said. At the end of the day, everyone
should stick to the role of the character he represents in the script of
this eternal Cuban tragicomedy.

It would be another thing if all this elaborate anti-Castro theory (!)
could be successfully implemented, which is at least as dubious as the
construction of socialism that the extremists continue to proclaim from
opposite points on the globe.

And it is doubtful, not only for the intricacy of the long process that
each proposal of the US Executive branch must follow before being put
into practice — as detailed in a White House fact sheet — but because
its sole conception demonstrates absolute ignorance of the Cuban reality
in trying to "channel economic activities outside the Cuban military
monopoly, GAESA."

It would seem that there is a division of powers and an autonomy of
institutions in Cuba that clearly distinguishes "military" from "civil,"
defines its functions and establishes to what extent the economic
structure of companies, cooperatives and other sectors are or are not
related to the military entrepreneurship, or with the
State-Party-Government monopoly itself, which is one and the same, with
which, nevertheless, relations will be maintained. Just that would be a
challenge for Cubans here, let alone for those who emigrated 50 years
ago or for the very Anglo-Saxon Trump administration.

On the other hand, Mr. Trump's proposals carry another capricious
paradox, since limiting individual visits would directly damage the
fragile private sector — especially lodging and catering, not to mention
independent transportation providers, and artisans who make their living
from selling souvenirs and other trinkets, a market that is sustained
precisely by individual tourism.

Tour group visits, which remain in effect, are those that favor the
State-owned and run hotels, where these groups of visitors usually stay
because they have a larger number of rooms and more amenities than
privately-owned facilities.

This would be the practical aspect of the matter. Another point is the
one relating to the merely political. It's shocking to see the rejoicing
of some sectors of the Cuban-American exile and the so-called "hardline
opposition" inside Cuba, after the (supposedly) "successful" speech by
the US president, and his pronouncements about benefits that the new-old
politics of confrontation will bring "to the Cuban people" in the field
of human rights.

In fact, such joy is hard to explain, because it is obvious that Trump's
speech fell far short of the expectations these groups had previously
manifested. One of the most supported claims of this segment has been
the break in relations between both countries, and, more recently, the
reinstatement of the policy of "wet foot/dry foot," repealed in the
final days of the previous administration. Far from that, the
unpredictable Trump not only reaffirmed the continuation of diplomatic
relations, but omitted the subject of the Cuban migratory crisis and
even the suppression of aid funds for democracy, which he had proposed a
few weeks before.

Curiously, no member of the media present at the press conference held
after the very conspicuous speech asked uncomfortable questions about
any of these three points, which do constitute true pivots of change in
US policy towards Cuba which affect both the fate of the Cubans stranded
in different parts of Latin America on their interrupted trip to the US,
and the financing (and consequently, the survival) of various opposition
projects both inside and outside Cuba.

The truth is that, so far, the great winner of Trump's proposals is none
other than the Castro regime, since the rhetoric of confrontation is the
natural field of its ideological discourse inside and outside Cuba.
Thus, has rushed to evidence the official declaration blaringly
published in all its press monopoly media last Saturday, June 17th, with
plenty of slogans and so-called nationalists for the defense of
sovereignty and against "the rude American interference", which that
gray scribe, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Cuban chancellor by the grace of
the divine green finger, repeated two days later in his apathetic press
conference from Vienna.

Meanwhile, the "Cuban people" – with no voice or vote in this whole saga
— remains the losing party, barely a hostage of very alien policies and
interests, whose representation is disputed by both the dictatorship and
the US government, plus a good part of the opposition.

We must thank Mr. Trump for nothing. Once again, the true cause of the
Cuban crisis — that is, the dictatorial and repressive nature of its
government — is hidden behind a mask, and the "solution" of Cuba's ills
is again placed in the decisions of the US government. At this rate, we
can expect at least 50 additional years of burlesque theater, for the
benefit of the same actors who, apparently and against the odds, have the

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Thanks for Nothing, Trump – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/thanks-for-nothing-trump/

Cubans Feel Like Hostages to Both Castro and Trump

Cubans Feel Like Hostages to Both Castro and Trump / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 19 June 2017 — "Impotence." This is the word that a
performer in the Guiñol Theater (located in the basement of the FOCSA
building in Havana's Vedado district) uses when asked her opinion of the
new Trump Doctrine regarding Cuba.

On a day of African heat, a group of eight waits to navigate the
Internet in a hall administered by the state-run telecommunications
monopoly ETECSA. The performer exchanges opinions with the others
regarding the event of the week: the repeal by Donald Trump's
administration of Obama's policy of détente.

On the street, for those Cubans who earn only token salaries, breakfast
on coffee alone and complain constantly about the inefficiency of public
services and the government's inability to improve the quality of life,
political machination is just an annoyance.

Human Rights, democracy and political liberties all sound good, but they
are not understood in their full context. At least, this is what can be
deduced from the opinions expressed by the people waiting in line. Some
make clear that they are speaking from their personal perspective, that
they watched Trump on Telesur but have yet to read the measures for
themselves.

For lack of time, and the propaganda fatigue brought on by the barrage
from the official press–which has caused many compatriots to decide to
not keep up with news reports but instead take shelter in social-media
gossip–the group waiting to go online is shooting to kill in all directions.

"Everybody talks about 'the people,' about the 'dissidents,' about the
Cuban American congressmen over there, about the government over here,
but nobody has hit on the formula for us to derive benefits from a
particular policy. Obama tried, but the gerontocracy that rules us did
not allow private business owners to get ahead. I feel like a hostage,
to Castro and to Trump. A puppet," the performer confesses.

One lady, a loquacious and chain-smoking housewife, asks, in a tone of
disgust, "What have the people gained from Obama's policy? Nothing." And
she explains to herself, "Those people (the government) don't want to
change. They will not give up," she says ironically, "the honey of
power. Trump is a crazy man, a clown. The guy is a pill. His speech was
pure theater. It's all cheap politicking. And in the middle of it all,
we Cubans are–and will remain–screwed. Nobody can change this [regime],
and nobody can take it down, either."

A self-employed worker affirms that he does not see a solution to
Cubans' problems because "we haven't had the balls to confront the
arbitrariness of the government. To hold on and and get screwed, that's
our fate. With all his yammering, the only thing Trump will achieve is
that the 'revolutionary reaffirmation' marches will start up again,
condemning 'yankee interference.' You can already see that coming."

At a park in Old Havana there are no optimists to be found, either. On
the contrary. "Damn, brother, I thought that The One was going to put
back the Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot law. The only way this shit's going to be
resolved is letting people leave Cuba. You think that over here the
folks are going to sign up with the Ladies in White to get beaten up?
No, man, people will mind their own business, getting by under the table
and trying to scrape together a few pesos. There is no way that Cubans
will take to the streets. Unless it's to get in line at foreign
consulates, or if Gente de Zona put on a free concert," declares a young
man in the Parque del Curita, waiting for the P-12 line to Santiago de
las Vegas.

Almost 60 years since the protracted and sterile political arm-wrestling
between the various US administrations and the Castro brothers, a broad
segment of the citizenry sees itself caught in a no-man's land–in a
futile battle for which nobody, not the Cuban rulers nor the US, has
asked their permission. They think also that political naiveté has
always reigned supreme in the White House, given the oft-repeated
intentions to export democratic values to a fraternity of autocrats with
the mentality of gangsters and neighborhood troublemakers.

"It is a narrative replete with personal ambitions, pseudo-patriotic
elation and cheap nationalism, which has served only to consolidate a
history of sovereign and intransigent rulers who never allowed North
American interference. It's fine for a tale, but this politics of
confrontation on both sides has left only one winner: the regime of
Fidel and Raúl Castro. The rest of us have been the losers. Those who
were not in agreement with the Revolution or who wanted to emigrate were
called 'gusanos' [worms]. Families were split up and kept from having
contact with relatives in the US. The result of all this is what we see
today: a great number of Cubans who cannot tolerate those who think
differently from them, many who want to emigrate, women who don't want
to have children in their homeland and, in general, a great indifference
on the part of citizens towards the problems of their country," explains
a Havana sociologist.

The official reaction has been restrained. For now. A functionary with
the Communist Party assures me that "the government is not going to wage
a frontal campaign to discredit Trump. Yes, of course, the various
institutions of the State will mobilize to demonstrate that the
government has it all under control. But Trump's speech was more noise
than substance. Except for the matter of US citizens' travel to Cuba,
which undoubtedly will affect the national economy, the rest [of the
Obama-era policies] remains in place, because the military-run
businesses are only two hotels.

The owner of a paladar [private restaurant] in Havana believes that "if
the yumas [Cuban slang for Americans] stop coming there will be effects
on the private sector, because almost all of them stay in private homes,
travel around the city in convertible almendrones [classic cars], and
eat lunch and dinner in private paladares."

The news was not good for Cubans who had plans to emigrate to the US.
"Many dreamers thought that Trump was a cool guy and would reinstate the
Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy. I was not expecting as much, but I thought at
least that the Cuban-American congressmen would influence Trump's
allowing the exceptional granting of visas to Cubans stuck in Central
America, Mexico and the Caribbean, and reactivating the asylum for Cuban
medical workers who have deserted their missions," said a engineer who
dreams of resettling in Miami.

The perception right now among Cubans on the street is that they are
back to a familiar scenario. One of trenches. Replete with
anti-imperialist rhetoric and zero tolerance for liberal thought of any
stripe. The scenario most favorable for the hierarchs who dress in olive
green.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Cubans Feel Like Hostages to Both Castro and Trump / Iván García
– Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubans-feel-like-hostages-to-both-castro-and-trump-ivn-garca/

A Bad Bet

A Bad Bet / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 13 June 2017 — Of the real and supposed problems that
the Cuban Revolution proposed to solve, as the basis of its historical
necessity, after more than half a century of exercising absolute power,
many have not been solved, the majority have been aggravated, and others
have emerged that did not exist before.

The housing shortage, the thousands of families living in precarious and
overcrowded conditions, and more thousands housed in inadequate
locations, constitute a clear demonstration of the Revolution's failure.
Insufficient and inefficient public transit, for years incapable of
meeting the minimum needs of the population, and the appalling and
unstable public services of all types, show another face of the failure.
If we add to this the loss of important agricultural outputs, the
obsolescence of the industrial infrastructure (lacking upgrades and
needed investments), plus a generalized lack of productivity, the
situation becomes chaotic.

Nor have the political and the social spheres achieved what was
promised, what with the continued absence of freedoms and basic rights
for citizens, as well as low wages and pensions, covert racial and
gender discrimination, street and domestic violence, incivility,
antisocial behaviors, corruption, and disregard for flora and fauna.

The blame for this string of calamities has always been cast upon the
embargo–but even back when it went unmentioned while the country was
benefitting from enormous Soviet subsidies* these problems went
unresolved. At that time, the abundant resources were squandered on
foreign wars, backed insurgencies, absurd and grandiose failed plans,
and other frivolities.

The socialist state and its leaders, albeit abusing the revolutionary
rhetoric, have reliably demonstrated in Cuba that the system does not
work and is unfeasible–just as happened in the other socialist countries
which erroneously bet on it.

To propose a "prosperous, efficient and sustainable socialism" is to
propose a negation, and it constitutes no more than another utopia to
deceive the citizenry and detain the march of time a little
longer–knowing that, at the end, it will fail as it has up to now.
Socialism, perhaps attractive in theory, is in practice a failure. A bet
on it, in any of its forms, is to ensure a loss.

Translator's Notes:

*Before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the start of Cuba's
"Special Period."

Source: A Bad Bet / Fernando Damaso – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/a-bad-bet-fernando-damaso/

The Cuban Republic: Buried by Official Decree

The Cuban Republic: Buried by Official Decree / Iván García

Iván García, 24 May 2017 — May 20 of this year with mark the 115th
anniversary of the birth of the Republic of Cuba. In the Throne Room of
the Palace of the Captains General, a building which now serves as the
City Museum, Tomás Estrada Palma — born in Bayamo in 1835, died in
Santiago de Cuba in 1908 — would go down in history as the first
popularly elected president of the republic.

With heat bouncing on the asphalt so intensely that even stray dogs seek
shelter under covered walkways, I go out to inquire about the May 20
anniversary.

Four pre-university students in their blue uniforms have skipped class
to go to Córdoba Park, a free wifi zone in the 10 de Octubre district.
They want to check out their Facebook wall, chat with relatives in Miami
and read the latest soccer blog from the Spanish newspaper Marca.

Though the heat is stifling, the young men do not even notice it. They
are eating ice cream cones, joking, gesturing and shouting at each
other. Striking up a conversation with them is easy. They are
seventeen-years-old and all four of them say that they hope to go to
college when they finish high school. When I ask them if they know on
what date the Republic of Cuba was founded, they hesitate and look at
each other, trying to come up with a correct answer.

"January 1, right?" two of them respond simultaneously.

"You guys are so dumb," says another, mocking his cohorts. "Independence
day is 10 October, when Carlos Manuel de Céspedes freed his slaves."

Another justifies his ignorance with the excuse that he does not like
history. "That subject is a drag. You mechanically learn to answer exam
questions like that, but the next day no one remembers the dates or what
they commemorate."

A man selling popcorn, who has been eavesdropping on the conversation,
sums it up by saying, "There are a lot of opinions on this topic.
Whether it was January 1 or October 10. But I think it was 1492, when
Christopher Columbus discovered the island."

It seems only academicians, professors, students of history and
well-informed citizens can explain the significance of May 20, 1902 in
the context of national history. Most Cubans are unaware of it. Keep in
mind that around 70% of the current population was born after 1959.

For people over the age of sixty-five like Giraldo — from his wheelchair
he asks people walking along the side streets of the nursing home where
he lives for cigarettes and money — the date brings back fond memories.

"It was the most important day of the year," he says. "The tradition was
to debut a new pair of shoes and a change of clothes. Cuban flags were
hung from balconies. I would go with my parents and brothers to Puerto
Avenue. In Central Park there were public concerts by the municipal
band. The atmosphere was festive. But this government erased it all from
popular memory. Now the dates that are celebrated are those that suit them."

While Cubans living in Miami enthusiastically celebrate May 20, in Cuba
it is a day like any other. That is how the military regime wants it.

Dictatorships have a habit of manipulating events. Just as the official
narrative would have us believe that José Martí was an admirer of
Marxist theories, so too does a military confrontation take on aspects
of science fiction. This is what happened in 1983 in Granada. According
to the Castros' version of events, during the invasion of the country by
U.S. forces, a group of Cuban workers sacrificed themselves while
clutching the Grenadian flag.

For Cuba's ruling military junta, the past is something to be erased.
Economic, urban infrastructure and productivity gains achieved in the
more than half century that the republic existed do not matter.

In an article published in Cubanet, independent journalist Gladys
Linares recalls that in 1902, as a result of the war for independence,
"agriculture, livestock and manufacturing were in a disastrous state. In
a gesture of great sensitivity, Estrada Palma's first action was to pay
members of the Liberation Army and to pay off the war bonds issued by
the Republic in Arms. To do this, he secured a loan from an American
lender, Speyer Bank, for $35 million at 5% interest, which had already
been repaid by 1943."

For its part, EcuRed, the Cuban government's version of wikipedia,
states that "Estrada Palma was noted for being extremely thrifty during
his presidency (1902-1906). In 1905 the Cuban treasury held the
astonishing sum of 24,817,148 pesos and 96 centavos, of which the loan
accounted for only 3.5 million pesos. The accumulation of so much money
compelled Estrada Palma to invest in public works. The government
allotted 300,000 pesos to be used in every province for the construction
of roads and highways as well as more than 400,000 for their upkeep and
repair.

The state-run press labels this period with the derogatory term
"pseudo-republic" or "hamstrung republic."

"They have done everything imaginable to obviate or destroy it. From
producing television programs such as "San Nicolás del Peladero," which
ridiculed the venal politicians of the time, to minimizing the advances
in material well-being achieved by various sectors of society. But when
you review economic statistics from the period 1902 to 1958, you realize
that, despite imperfections, there was more growth," says a retired
historian.

He adds, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. The Republic
of Cuba was founded on May 20, 1902. In the future, setting ideology
aside, May 20 should be included in the schedule of national holidays
and should be celebrated once again. Everything began on that day."

That remains to be seen. For the moment, new (and not so new)
generations are unaware of the significance of May 20.

This ignorance, a willful act of forgetting, is part of the late Fidel
Castro's strategy of building a nation from the ground up, burying its
customs and values, rewriting history to suit his aims. And he succeeded.

Source: The Cuban Republic: Buried by Official Decree / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-cuban-republic-buried-by-official-decree-ivn-garca/