Sunday, December 4, 2016

Castro’s last stop - inside a cave-like crypt that says ‘Fidel’

Castro's last stop: inside a cave-like crypt that says 'Fidel'
adiaz@miamiherald.com
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@MiamiHerald.com

SANTIAGO DE CUBA
As a new day dawned Sunday in this city, the launching site for the
Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro was laid to rest in a private ceremony
for family and friends.

His ashes were interred in a crypt next to the 85-foot mausoleum of
Cuban patriot José Martí in the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery.

In contrast to Marti's towering mausoleum, which was completed in 1951,
Castro's crypt was a simple, boulder-like structure. His ashes were slid
into a niche in the stone, and workers sealed the entrance with a metal
covering that said simply Fidel.

Castro's remains join those of fallen rebels who took part in the July
26, 1953, assault on the Moncada Barracks, which marks the start of the
revolution. Other Cuban historic figures also are buried in the cemetery.

Thousands of mourners had kept vigil at the plaza overnight and then
fanned out to surrounding streets to watch the passing of Castro's ashes
one last time as the sun began turning the sky pink early Sunday.

"I've been here since yesterday morning," said Ernesto Echevarria, 44,
who works at the University of Oriente. "I just left for some coffee and
now I'm back to watch the funeral procession. I didn't sleep a bit."

Echevarria, who sported a 26th of July armband made by university
students, said he decided to keep the vigil because of a "sense of
commitment. How could you miss a day like this?"

The burial was over shortly before 9 a.m., according to those in attendance.

"There was no speech, it was very somber, only the ashes were buried
before family, members of the government and officials," Segolene Royal,
ecology minister of France, told Agence France-Presse.

Just before 7 a.m., a somber mood spread as mourners of all ages waved
Cuban flags and chanted, "Yo soy Fidel! Yo soy Fidel!"

Cuban state television was offering constant coverage of the island's
farewell to Castro and recalling the life of the revolution's historic
leader, but it did not provide live coverage of the funeral.

Pictures taken by photographers for Cuban state media who were permitted
inside the cemetery during the service captured mourners including Raul
Castro and Castro's wife, Dalia, and his sons, as well as Venezuelan
President Nicolas Maduro and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega of
Nicaragua.

For the first time in the more than 600-mile odyssey Castro's ashes made
from Havana to Santiago and points in between, the honor guard
accompanying his remains were attired in dress whites for the funeral.

On the ground, the funeral procession arrived at the cemetery at 6:50
a.m., following the short 10-minute trip from the plaza. The Cuban
military kicked off the private ceremony with a 21-gun artillery salute.

Just before 8 a.m., Cuban television showed images of his ashes, in a
box wrapped in a Cuban flag, carefully being lifted from atop an
olive-green trailer towed by a military jeep. Two soldiers,
goose-stepping, carried the ashes into the cemetery in front of a row of
saluting officials.

The cemetery is located in the northwestern part of Santiago, close to
the bay. Castro's tomb had been a long-guarded secret. Construction
began about two years ago, according to those who live nearby.

Cuban officials have said nothing about future access to Castro's tomb,
but its apparent location alongside Marti's, a grand site heavily
visited by tourists and Cubans alike, indicates that there will be some
form of public access to the grave.

"It's a privilege to have him here," said Cruz Maria Pardo, 64, who
worked at the cemetery cleaning the mausoleums for more than 20 years.
She told The Associated Press that she had seen trucks bringing in
materials for a little over a year.

Beyond Cuban patriots, martyrs, celebrities and other important figures,
Santa Ifigenia also houses the remains of prominent members of families
who fled after the revolution such as Emilio Bacardi Moreau, who managed
his family's rum dynasty and died in 1922. The Bacardi family left Cuba
in the early years of the revolution after their properties were
nationalized by the Castro government.

The funeral service followed a night in which leaders of Cuban mass
organizations from the Cuban Federation of Women to the Federation of
University Students rose one by one to remember Castro at the Plaza of
the Revolution Antonio Maceo. Cuban state television reported that some
500,000 people attended the event.

Cuban leader Raúl Castro, who took over for his brother when Castro fell
ill in 2006, was the final speaker of the homage Saturday night.

He those gathered in the plaza that his brother wasn't one who wanted a
cult of personality to develop after his death.

"The leader of the revolution rejected any manifestation of a cult
personality and was consistent with that through the last hours of his
life, insisting that once dead, his name and likeness would never be
used on institutions, streets, parks or other public sites, and that
busts, statues or other forms of tribute would not be erected," Raúl
Castro said at the Saturday rally.

He added that legislation would be introduced in the next session of the
National Assembly of People's Power, Cuba's parliament, to that effect.

But the interlude since Castro's death, announced by Raúl Castro on Nov.
25, gives the impression that a cult of personality has already
developed. Cubans who lined the highways to watch the passage of a
caravan carrying Castro's ashes from Havana to Santiago hugged portraits
of Castro and painted "Fidel Vive" (Fidel Lives) on their faces.

"Yo soy Fidel" [I am Fidel] has become a national mantra since Castro's
death, and a warehouse along the funeral procession route also spelled
out the message in large letters.

"Why 'Yo Soy Fidel'? Fidel did everything for this country. Even though
he's now dead, we would die for the same causes," said Ernesto Lao, a
technical professor. "My name is Ernesto, but now my name is Fidel."

Large billboards with Castro's image also have long been present from
one end of the island to the other, and it was unclear from Raúl
Castro's remarks whether those would remain.

During the nine-day mourning period, the public adulation has reached
staggering levels. But South Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
wasn't impressed. On Sunday morning she tweeted: "Fidel Castro's death
still leaves tyrant Raul oppressing."

Meanwhile, the government has been making the point that the
revolutionary ideas of Castro will continue despite his death.

"Fidel, seed that will keep on germinating," stated the headline on the
Sunday edition of Juventud Rebelde, the newspaper of Cuba's Communist youth.

Granma, the official daily of the Communist Party of Cuba, led with this
headline: "The permanent teaching of Fidel is yes you can."

MIAMI HERALD STAFF WRITER DAVID OVALLE CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT FROM
MIAMI.

Source: Fidel Castro's interred after funeral in Cuba | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/fidel-castro-en/article118796048.html

Raúl Castro at Fidel’s final homage: ‘We vow to defend the homeland and socialism’

Raúl Castro at Fidel's final homage: 'We vow to defend the homeland and
socialism'
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@MiamiHerald

SANTIAGO DE CUBA
Invited world leaders and tens of thousands of Cubans flocked to the
Plaza Antonio Maceo for a final farewell to Fidel Castro on Saturday
night, the eve of his internment at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery.

"On behalf of our people of the party, the state, the government and
family members, I reiterate the deepest gratitude for countless signs of
respect for Fidel, his ideas and his work that continue to come from all
over the world," Cuban leader Raúl Castro said during the homage, adding
that legislation would be introduced in the next session of the National
Assembly of People's Power, Cuba's parliament, that would reflect the
late Fidel Castro's will.

"Few in the world bet on our ability to resist," Castro said with a
towering statue of Antonio Maceo, an independence hero, as a backdrop.

He added that Fidel demonstrated "that one could proclaim the socialist
character of the revolution within 90 miles of the empire … that one can
resist, survive and develop without renouncing the principles and
achievements of socialism.

"This is Fidel," Raúl Castro said, "…who summons us with his example and
actions to show that we could, we can and we shall overcome any
obstacle, threat or turmoil in our firm commitment to build socialism in
Cuba or, what is the same, guarantee the independence and sovereignty of
the homeland."

Then he made a solemn promise: "Before the remains of Fidel, in the
Plaza of the Revolution Major General Antonio Maceo, the heroic city of
Santiago de Cuba, we vow to defend the homeland and socialism and
together we reaffirm the phrase of the Bronze Titan (independence hero
Antonio Maceo)," he said. "Whoever tries to take over Cuba, will collect
the dust of its soil flooded with blood if he doesn't die first."

The end of his address, which lasted about 30 minutes, was greeted with
chants of "Raúl, amigo, el pueblo esta contigo (Raúl, friend, the
country is with you).

The event was designed as an homage from the people of Cuba's eastern
provinces, and representatives from mass organizations and the Union of
Communist Youth offered their tributes.

As the late leader's friends and allies, including both of Brazil's
former presidents — Dilma Rousseff and Inacio Lula da Silva — as well as
Bolivian President Evo Morales, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, arrived, the crowd began to chant
"Yo Soy Fidel, Yo Soy Fidel" (I am Fidel), which has become a mantra
following Castro's death.

The United States wasn't among the foreign delegations attending the
events in Santiago, although U.S. officials attended an homage at the
Plaza of the Revolution in Havana earlier in the week.

Those at the podium at the Plaza Antonio Maceo spoke before a sea of
fluttering Cuban flags. Many in the crowd also held up images of the
former leader at varying stages of his political life.

"Fidel was a political giant of the 20th century," Ulises Guilarte de
Nacimiento, the secretary general of the Cuban Workers Federation, told
the audience. "From him, we learned that all who fight have the right to
triumph."

In words meant for Fidel Castro, he said, "Thanks to you, Cuba is a
dignified, independent and solid homeland."

Under Castro, "for the first time we Cubans were the protagonists of our
own destiny," said Teresa Amarelle, secretary general of the Federation
of Cuba Women.

"The revolution has dignified the role of women," she said.

Castro's ashes arrived earlier in the day to the city where he and a
band of rebels staged an assault on the Moncada Barracks, the beginning
of the Cuba Revolution, and the place where he began his march into the
history books.

Castro, the historic leader of the revolution, died Nov. 25, at the age
of 90, after a lingering illness that resulted in his ceding power to
Raúl Castro in 2006.

The caravan carrying Castro's ashes arrived to Santiago — the "heroic
city" and so-called cradle of the Cuban Revolution — on the final leg of
a four-day journey across Cuba that began on Wednesday from Havana. The
journey retraced, in reverse, the triumphant march into the capital that
los rebeldes made after the ouster of dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Castro will be laid to rest Sunday morning next to the mausoleum of 19th
century Cuban patriot José Martí, who fought for Cuban independence from
Spain.

Many in the plaza planned to spend the night in vigil and then fall into
a funeral procession accompanying Castro's ashes to the cemetery where a
private funeral is planned.

"We Santiagueros think Santa Ifigenia is a fitting place for him because
Santiago is the city of heroes — Carlos Manuel de Cespedes (another
independence hero from nearby Bayamo), José Martí and now Fidel," said
Norma Arias, who runs a bed and breakfast overlooking Parque Cespedes.

From the balcony of the blue and white municipal building on one end of
the park, Castro addressed all Cubans on Jan. 1, 1959, the day Batista
was defeated.

"This time the revolution is for real," Castro said. "The revolution
will not be an easy task; the revolution will be a tough enterprise and
full of dangers."

In the afternoon, as she sat on the balcony of her home where she could
get a clear view of the passing caravan that carried Castro's ashes in a
small flag-draped chest, Arias became overcome with emotion.

"Really, his death has affected me a lot. Fidel was everything,
everything," Arias said tearfully. "We feel like orphans, like something
is missing."

For many Cubans, the only government they have known has been run by a
Castro.

"Fidel is part of every one of us — an entire generation, more than 50
years," said Manuel Rondón Medina, Arias' husband.

But Cuba is also very much a nation divided with many of its former
residents in exile in Miami and around the world decrying its revolution
as one of betrayal.

Those in exile point to human rights abuses, firing squads after the
revolution and imprisonment of Castro opponents, and the losses they
suffered after the nationalization of their homes and businesses.

Cubans who turned out to see the remains of Castro pass in the "Caravan
of Liberty" chose to focus on advances in education, free medical care
and other social benefits of the revolution.

There was palpable excitement in Santiago and in the small towns along
the Central Highway where throngs lined up to greet the caravan.
Residents arranged white rocks on hillsides along the route that spelled
out "Fidel vive" (Fidel lives), "Fidel will always be among us" and
other revolutionary slogans.

Buildings and curbsides were painted and townspeople swept the streets,
hacking away brush and sprucing up their yards in anticipation of the
passage of the caravan, which also drove by El Cobre where the Basilica
of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba's patron saint, is located.

Santiago is full of landmarks weighted with revolutionary significance.
But the Moncada Barracks, where the Castro brothers and a group of
rebels attacked at dawn on July 26, 1953, tops the list.

The plan was to capture the barracks, distribute arms to the population
and begin a nationwide insurrection. The attack failed miserably but it
is the event that set in motion the Cuban Revolution.

In memory of Castro, some Santiago residents wore homemade versions of
the red and black arm bands of the 26th of July Movement.

Now the mustard-colored barracks has been converted into a museum and a
scholastic center, housing several primary and secondary schools.

Yoaleni Martínez, a teacher at another elementary school, carried a sign
reading: "Who says Fidel has died? He lives, grows and multiplies
himself. He lives in the heart of every Cuban."

"Here at this barracks we have the blood of many Cuban revolutionaries
and today it is a school. Imagine that," said Martínez. "And this girl
standing next to me, how much would the medicine that saved her life
have cost elsewhere? She had a serious bacterial infection and the
medicine was free. Now she's 12 years old."

Just after the caravan passed the barracks, the military vehicle pulling
the trailer containing Castro's ashes stalled, and members of his honor
guard jumped off to give it a push. The caravan continued through the
streets of Santiago.

Even those who chose not to witness the passage of the caravan
remembered Castro in their own ways.

Ninety-six-year-old María Estrella Estévez Blanco dug out an old picture
of Castro, who lived in a blue and yellow house next door to hers at 6
Gen. Jesús Rabí St. when he was sent to Santiago to study as a child.

She didn't know him as a youngster, but met him several times over the
years.

"He always liked to visit that house when he came to Santiago," she
said. "This is a picture with my grandchildren from the last time he
visited."

In the image, Castro can be seen leaning toward the porch of Estévez's
home to talk with her. It was 2003 — three years before Castro took ill.

MIAMI HERALD STAFFER KYRA GURNEY CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT FROM MIAMI.

Source: Raúl Castro at Fidel's final homage: 'We vow to defend the
homeland and socialism' | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/fidel-castro-en/article118755668.html

HBO Documentaries Illuminate Castro’s Brutal Cuba

HBO Documentaries Illuminate Castro's Brutal Cuba
Two offerings coincide with strongman's death.
Glenn Garvin | December 3, 2016

HBO should get a little trophy from the television industry for giving
executives something to talk about at holiday parties besides falling
ratings and the specific level of Hell that should be reserved for
whoever invented this internet thing. Instead, they can ponder over the
question: Is HBO's documentary division the most genius outfit in
television, or just the luckiest? Months ago, HBO acquired two
unheralded documentaries on Cuba, then booked them for the very moment
when Fidel Castro would head off to the great workers' collective in the
sky. Water-cooler buzz galore, Latin American Policy Wonk Department.

And if that department had an Emmy, Patria O Muerte: Cuba, Fatherland or
Death would win it right now. First-time director Olatz López Garmendia
is better known as a model and a fashion designer, but she must have had
a career in operating heavy construction equipment, too, because Patria
O Muerte takes a merciless wrecking ball to the Potemkin Village imagery
of Cuba promoted by most of the American chattering class. The
desolation and despair of Castro's Revolution—its actually existing
socialism, as Marxist theoreticians of the 1950s would have called
it—has never been on such devastating display for American audiences.

Garmendia lived in Cuba as a child, when her Spaniard parents joined the
flocks of European Fidel groupies moving to Havana to stand by their
man, but she clearly didn't swallow the Kool-Aid; Patria O Muerte is not
her first demythology project on Cuba.

She also informed the sensibilities of her then-husband, Julian
Schnabel, when he was making his epic anti-Castro movie Before Night
Falls. (Garmendia worked on the film as music supervisor.) She made
Patria O Muerte as something of a samizdat work; the film was shot
without Cuban authorization, and she had a devil of a time getting the
footage off the island.

Without narration and little archival footage, Patria O Muerte makes its
points through a series of interviews of ordinary Cubans, filmed in
their seedy tenement apartments in Old Havana. The stories they tell,
with only occasional exceptions, are not of lurid torture or
persecution, but of the quiet desperation of life in a dead-end society
weighed down by decay of every type: economic, physical, mental.

There's a cadaverous old man named Julio who bluntly declares his life
useless and is clearly talking about more than his grubby apartment when
he responds to a question: "What am I missing? Everything." Or Valery, a
goth transvestite who took to the streets as a jinatera, as the island's
part-time hookers are known, after the remittances from a sister in the
United States dried up and she found herself without enough money to buy
a new toothbrush. That career ended, though, one night after she was
lectured by a tourist whose appreciation for cheap commercial sex had
not diminished his more-revolutionary-than-thou ardor for the Castro
regime. He told her that "Cubans were shameless, that Cubans said they
had problems, when there weren't any problems in Cuba." Retorted Valery:
"If that's true, then what am I doing here with you for $20?" She left
the streets, fearful that she was "about to kill [herself], or kill one
of these foreigners."

Or Mercedes, a housewife living in a tottering building built in the
1870s in which she must sleep with one eye open to avoid being hit by
chunks of falling masonry. Her young son, injured in a balcony collapse,
needs surgery, but building repairs make it impossible: "If we buy
cement, then we can't buy food or medicine." An aphorism which, oddly,
didn't make it into Sicko, Michael Moore's encomium to the Cuban
health-care system.

Garmendia shot some interviews with dissidents, too, including rogue
blogger Yoani Sanchez, whose contribution of an audio tape of her 2010
detention by men without uniforms or credentials is by far the most
chilling moment in the film. Unfortunately, her cameras weren't along
when one of her subjects, graffiti artist El Sexto, was arrested when
found in possession of a couple of pigs painted with the names Fidel and
Raul.

Patria O Muerte's companion piece, Mariela Castro's March: Cuba's LGBT
Revolution, is a far better film than I would have guessed, given it's a
project of longtime Castro apologists Saul Landau and Jon Alpert. But it
has to be given credit as the first English-language documentary to
discuss, however briefly, the regime's brutally harsh treatment of
homosexuality during the 1960s and 1970s.

There was no shortage of official homophobia around the globe at that
time, of course, particularly in the machista world of Latin America.
But few counties took it to the extremes of Cuba, where gays were locked
up in work camps for years at a time.

"Look at me here, with bright shiny eyes," says one elderly gay man,
brandishing what looks like an old graduation photo. Then he opens the
internal passport the government issued him after two years in a work
camp: "The camp changed that for the rest of my life. ... My eyes are
vacant and sad." They would become sadder still; the passport was marked
with his sentence to the work camp, Castro's equivalent of a pink
triangle that doomed any social or professional prospects.

But that rare and valuable look at a largely unseen side of Cuban
history is over in a few short minutes. The rest of Mariela Castro's
March is about the budding movement for gay acceptance being led by the
daughter of Raul Castro. It has its oddly charming moments, including an
interview in which Cuba's first female-to-male transgender surgery
patient displays his bulging new package, which he's named Pancho, and
proclaims: "Pancho works perfectly!" Grumbles his elderly brother: "I'm
jealous."

Yet too much of this documentary is suffused with the cult of
personality that colors everything about the Castros. And there's no
awareness—on the part of the filmmakers or the movement activists,
though the latter may simply be exercising reasonable prudence—of the
irony of seeking liberty in one small sphere of Cuban life while
ignoring the crushing totalitarianism of everything else. "I can shout
that I'm gay and nothing happens!" boasts one giddy man. Yeah, but
trying painting "RAUL" on a pig's butt and see what happens.

Photo Credit: 'Patria O Muerte: Cuba, Fatherland or Death'
Contributing Editor Glenn Garvin is the author of Everybody Had His Own
Gringo: The CIA and the Contras and (with Ana Rodriguez) Diary of a
Survivor: Nineteen Years in a Cuban Women's Prison. He writes about
television for the Miami Herald.

Source: HBO Documentaries Illuminate Castro's Brutal Cuba - Reason.com -
http://reason.com/archives/2016/12/03/hbo-documentaries--castros-cuba

Embargo remains for some Cuba sectors, as trade grows slowly

Embargo remains for some Cuba sectors, as trade grows slowly
December 3, 2016 at 2:42 PM EST

AMY GUTTMAN: Visitors to Cuba may find the lack of modernization part of
the country's charm, but if Cuban farmers and American investors get
their way, oxen that still till these fields may finally be replaced.

Cuban-American entrepreneur Saul Berenthal owns Cleber, an Alabama-based
tractor manufacturing business. He's among the first to obtain a U.S.
license to export agricultural machines, like the ones seen here, to Cuba.

SAUL BERENTHAL: This is an opportunity for us to go back and see, in my
mind, how do we help the two communities together? Because I believe,
through commerce, through business, and not politics, is the best way of
bringing the peoples together.

AMY GUTTMAN: Berenthal also believes better machines will help Cubans
decrease their dependence on imports, which account for 80 percent of
the island's food supply.

SAUL BERENTHAL: What we chose was a tractor that was designed in the
late 1940s for the U.S. family farm. Very much like what you see here
and very much like what you see throughout the whole country.

AMY GUTTMAN: Cuba has yet to approve the sale of Berenthal's tractors.
When it does, he plans to ship them assembled, but one day he hopes to
set up a factory here so Cubans can build them. Berenthal was born and
raised in Havana, the son of European immigrants who fled the Holocaust.
His parents were successful merchants who imported American products
until the Cuban Revolution in 1959 when they left Havana for Miami.

SAUL BERENTHAL: The socialist economic model is to keep the land in the
hands of the people who work the land, and therefore every Cuban that is
willing to, is given X amount of land, for them to cultivate and they
get the government to buy their crop, and what we're doing is trying to
bring some technology that will allow them to be more productive with
what they do.

AMY GUTTMAN: The Cuban Government buys a portion of what farmers produce
to stock bodegas where Cubans use ration cards to buy food. Farmers can
sell the rest at produce stands for cash.

Agriculture is one of the biggest sectors targeted for stronger trade
with the U.S. Since a sanctions reform act in 2000, thirteen states led
by Virginia, Alabama, and Louisiana have exported to Cuba limited
amounts of products like soybeans, apples, and poultry. Those shipments
topped $150 million in the first nine months of this year.

At the same time, the U.S. allowed Cuban imports of coffee for the first
time and a greater range of textiles. But Cuba's largest exports to
other countries like rum, tobacco, exotic fruit, and honey have yet to
make it to the U.S. market due to the continuing embargo.

Isis Salcines runs a 125-acre or 300 hectare organic cooperative farm
called Vivero Alamar. 140 people work here.

ISIS SALCINES: I need tools, I need implements, I need infrastructure
for support.

AMY GUTTMAN: Is the trade embargo the obstacle here to developing that land?

ISIS SALCINES: when you have 300 hectares, and you have a pair of oxen.
We need tractors.

AMY GUTTMAN: American trade delegations regularly visit the farm, which
raises cows and grows lettuce, sugarcane, and Moringa trees, whose
leaves are packed with protein, calcium, and other nutrients.

ISIS SALCINES: You can eat the leaves, the flower, everything. Has more
calcium than milk, more protein than meat.

AMY GUTTMAN: Without modern tools, the farm uses arduous techniques. For
example, it doesn't have PH meters to test whether the soil is too
acidic or alkaline, so workers count out 100 worms before placing them
in the ground for a few days. If the majority survive, the PH levels are
good.

So what are some of the things that you would buy from the American
market if you were able to import them?

ISIS SALCINES: Any supplies, the more simple things. The gloves for the
workers, the shoes, the boots, the irrigation system. I need everything.

AMY GUTTMAN: How much could you increase your production here at this
farm if you had a few of the things on your wish list, PH meters as an
example?

ISIS SALCINES: I think that maybe between 20 and 30 percent.

AMY GUTTMAN: Since Raul Castro succeeded his brother, Fidel, as
President in 2008, the Cuban Government has taken small steps away from
Communist dogma that defined its Revolution…softening the state monopoly
on distributing agricultural goods, allowing Cubans to own their homes,
and permitting them to run their own shops and restaurants.

Despite an increase in small businesses, greater access to the Internet
and other changes here, Cubans I've spoken to fear the path toward trade
with the United States isn't developing fast enough.

HUGO CANCIO: As an American businessman, I'd like to see, and as a
consultant for some American companies, I would like to see more progress.

AMY GUTTMAN: Hugo Cancio fled Cuba for Miami with his mother and sister
in 1982, when he was just 16. In the 1990s, when the U.S. and Cuba let
Cuban-Americans visit relatives on the island, Cancio set-up a travel
agency in Miami. Today, he also publishes the English-language
bi-monthly magazine "On Cuba," with offices in Havana.

HUGO CANCIO: I have been focused 100 percent on Cuba. I've put all of my
emotions and energy into this whole process that we're experiencing today.

AMY GUTTMAN: Cancio says in the past year, the arrival of Western Union
in Cuba and the approval of commercial airline flights from nine
American cities has made it easier for Cubans to access cash. In
addition, remittances from friends and family in the U.S. hit a record
$3.3 billion last year. With travel restrictions eased, Americans spent
more than a billion dollars in Cuba in the first six months of this
year, the number of U.S. tourists nearly doubled.

To meet the growing demand, American and international hotel chains are
building or remodeling properties, typically co-owned by the Cuban
government, like the La Manzana complex near Old Havana.

HUGO CANCIO: This park represents the old and the new, and I think will
continue to do so.

AMY GUTTMAN: And now, it's the foreground for the many cranes and
building works going on.

HUGO CANCIO: Cranes mean prosperity, you know, something's brewing in
the economy. There are companies that used to be here prior to 1959
whose properties and businesses were nationalized or confiscated or
expropriated, and they're willing to forgive and forget their claims
against the government to be the first one to get in here. It's taking a
bit too long and people are readjusting their expectations.

AMY GUTTMAN: American companies expecting to do business in Cuba
exhibited at Havana's annual International Business Fair in October,
including General Electric and NAPA Auto Parts. They join a queue of
foreign companies from Canada to China that have been investing in Cuba
for decades. Cancio warns the Cuban Government is cautious to avoid the
over-dependence on America that helped fuel the revolution.

HUGO CANCIO: Remember, part of the whole process that led to the Cuban
Revolution was the fact that back in 1959, the Cuban economy was in the
hands of American businesses and American interests. That Cuba is not
coming back.

AMY GUTTMAN: Despite that concern, Ricardo Torres, an Economist at the
University of Havana's Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, says
the U.S. and Cuba are natural trading partners.

RICHARD TORRES: Culturally speaking, those two countries are much closer
than probably other countries and the fact there are almost two million
Cubans living in the United States, means that there is a powerful force
out there that will, you know, stick the two countries very close.

AMY GUTTMAN: Is there any concern that interest from foreign investors
will wane if it takes too long?

RICHARD TORRES: Yes, there might be a problem with that. We need facts
to tell people that we are ready and we are open for business.

AMY GUTTMAN: Torres says Cuba's crumbling infrastructure is an area ripe
for deals with American investors.

RICARDO TORRES: I think there are billions of dollars to be invested in
that sector over the coming decades. We are talking about roads, we are
talking about railroads, we are talking about airports, talking about
ports, we are talking about telecommunications.

AMY GUTTMAN: Torres points to the special economic zone established at
the Port of Mariel, an hour outside of Havana, which has drawn foreign
investment mainly from Brazil and Singapore. It's a state of the art
deepwater port with huge container terminals and warehouses.

Port officials from several American states have been making visits
here. Already, government officials from Virginia and Louisiana have
made future agreements to facilitate trade between the U.S. and Cuba.

Those agreements envision ramping up imports and exports when the
existing trade restrictions with Cuba are eased. Mariel port official
Wendy Barroto says the Cuban Government has offered tax breaks,
expedited permits, and built a monorail line to attract more foreign
companies.

WENDY BARROTO: The total completion for this area is estimated in about
30 years.

AMY GUTTMAN: What industries are you hoping to attract here?

WENDY BARROTO: They are basically logistics services, pharmaceutical
industry, biotechnology, and advanced manufacturing, with priority given
to food processing and packing, and steel works.

AMY GUTTMAN: While American companies wait for these deals to go
through…Saul Berenthal is optimistic his tractors will one day plough
Cuban soil. Berenthal says he understands why Cuba has been slow to
trust the U.S.

SAUL BERENTHAL: The difficulty lies between developing a trust with a
country that on one side says we want to do business with you and on the
other side has an embargo that forbids practically any activity in the
business world.

AMY GUTTMAN: So you're hopeful that eventually your tractors will come
to Cuba.

SAUL BERENTHAL: In time, with the proper political changes that must be
put in place, yes.

Source: Embargo remains for some Cuba sectors, as trade grows slowly |
PBS NewsHour - http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/embargo-cuba-trade-slowly/

Trump looked into hotels in Cuba ‘no more than 6 months ago,’ Spanish exec claims

Trump looked into hotels in Cuba 'no more than 6 months ago,' Spanish
exec claims
BY PATRICIA MAZZEI AND NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
pmazzei@miamiherald.com

ORDER REPRINT OF THIS STORY
As a candidate, President-elect Donald Trump looked into the possibility
of establishing hotels in Cuba, according to the head of a major Spanish
hotel chain.

Miguel Fluxà, chief executive of the Iberostar Group, said at a public
event Thursday that Trump's interest in Cuba existed "no more than six
months ago."

"Trump until recently has tried to negotiate for hotels he wanted to
have in Cuba," Fluxà said at a 60-year anniversary event for Iberostar
in Mallorca, according to the Spanish newspaper ABC.

"If American tourism continues, Havana will be a top-of-the-line global
destination, as it already is," Fluxà added.

He announced that his company planned further investments in Cuba — and
thanked the Cuban government — when he mentioned Trump.

Fluxà did not respond to a request for comment from el Nuevo Herald.

In a statement, the Trump Organization said it "owns and manages
billions of dollars of five-star hotels, luxury real estate, and golf
courses worldwide."

"In the last 12 months, many major competitors have sought opportunities
in Cuba," the company said. "While it is important for us to understand
the dynamics of the markets that our competitors are exploring, we do
not intend to expand into Cuba nor have we ever done any business there."

Trump tweeted Monday, two days after former Cuban leader Fidel Castro's
death, that as president he may "terminate" President Barack Obama's
opening to Cuba unless the island's communist regime agrees to more
concessions.

On Oct. 21, Cuba's tourism ministry invited the Trump Organization — and
a number of other U.S. hotel and tourism operators — to the 34th Havana
International Fair, which began in late October. According to an email
obtained by el Nuevo Herald, among the invitees was Jason Greenblatt,
executive vice president and chief legal officer for the Trump
Organization. Also listed was an executive from Starwood, which has
already signed deals to operate hotels in Cuba, and representatives of
other U.S. hotel chains whose interest in the Cuban market has not been
made public.

Greenblatt did not respond to a request for comment from the Miami
Herald. He was one of the Trump executives who, according to Bloomberg
Businessweek, visited Cuba as late as 2013 to explore investing in a
golf course on the island.

Another one of the Trump representatives who traveled to Cuba, Ed Russo,
denied to the Miami Herald that the Trump Organization has had any
recent interest in establishing hotels in Cuba.

"No, not at all," Russo said, adding that it's outsiders who have tried
to get the company to jump in. "There are so many people pitching us
offers, it's crazy: 'Come to this country, look at this property, buy
this golf course.'"

"There's no golf course in Cuba — absolutely not," continued Russo, who
lives in Key West. "Something has to happen at some point in time" in
Cuba, he noted, but Trump "isn't focused on that, I don't think."

Russo suggested that people with no knowledge of Trump's business like
to drop Trump's name because he's now president-elect.

"One thing I've learned over the years is that there are people out
there that like to turn 'I saw Donald Trump walk by' into 'I had a long
conversation with Donald Trump' — and it never happened," he said.

Trump admitted to Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 in October that
"some meetings" took place. In March, Trump told CNN he'd be interested
in opening a hotel in Cuba "at the right time, when we're allowed to do it."

"Right now, we're not," Trump said.

This story has been updated with the Trump Organization's statement.

Source: Trump looked into opening hotels in Cuba, Spanish executive says
| Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article118435048.html

Fidel Castro’s ideal of amateur sport for Cuba lies in ashes

Fidel Castro's ideal of amateur sport for Cuba lies in ashes
BY LINDA ROBERTSON
lrobertson@miamiherald.com

Among the items that ought to be interred with Fidel Castro's ashes when
Cuba's "Maximum Leader" is formally laid to rest on Sunday are a
baseball glove and a tracksuit.

Castro was not only an avid sports fan but an astute propagandist who
wielded the power of sports with the same skill as a Cuban pitcher
working the strike zone.

Like other dictators, Castro integrated sports into the national
identity and used success on the playing field to raise national pride.
But he went one step further because he had Cubans' devotion to baseball
at his disposal. He beat his archrival at its own game. America's
pastime was Cuba's passion, and every time Cuba's team won a
championship, Castro could claim victory for the underdog island in his
proxy war against the capitalist Yanqui empire.

Castro, who died on Nov. 25 at age 90, about one month short of the 58th
anniversary of his revolution, outlived six U.S. presidents, dissidents
and exiles who dreamed of returning home to a free Cuba.

But any measure of his legacy must include the fact that he also
outlived the sports powerhouse he built. Castro, who abolished
professional sports in Cuba in 1961, contended that the noblest athletes
were amateurs, competing for the love of the people rather than the lure
of the dollar.

"What is one million dollars worth compared to the love of eight million
Cubans?" three-time Olympic gold medalist Teofilo Stevenson said when
asked why he rejected a lucrative offer to box Muhammad Ali.

Yet today, baseball players are Cuba's most valuable export. The
national team, which dominated international competition until 2009, has
been decimated by defections. Stadiums can't be lit for night games,
foul balls have to be fetched, bats and cleats are shared. The Big Red
Machine is crumbling just like the magnificent mansions of Miramar.

Castro lived long enough to know that since Rene Arocha started the
exodus in 1991, some 350 players have chosen to flee and that two dozen
Cuban-born stars such as Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu
were on Major League Baseball rosters last season with contracts
totaling more than $250 million. It must have galled him to hear
defector Livan Hernandez say "I love you, Miami!" to the gusanos when he
won a World Series title for the Marlins and to see Livan's half
brother, Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, win three with the New York
Yankees. Perhaps he was aware that Aroldis Chapman, who drives a
Lamborghini with a "106-MPH" vanity license plate to signify his
pitching record, was the Chicago Cubs' closer during their World Series run.

For decades, Castro's sports system was preserved in a time warp like
Havana's vintage Fords and Chevys. The U.S. trade embargo, his style of
communism and Cuba's stagnant economy enabled baseball and Olympic
sports to thrive in isolation.

"Castro created an alternate universe," said Peter Bjarkman, a former
Purdue linguistics professor who has written five books on Cuban
baseball and made 65 visits to the island. "It is doomed not just
because Fidel is dead but because of the way the world has changed
around Cuba. The concept of an inwardly focused nation-state is no
longer sustainable, just as the reliance on sugar and tobacco was not
sustainable. But it is remarkable that Fidel's social experiments
survived for half a century."

World champions Ana Fidelia Quirot, Javier Sotomayor, Omar Linares,
Orestes Kindelan, Cuba's boxers, judokas and volleyball players were
powerful, graceful embodiments of Castro's philosophy.

But their prime is long past. The system that nurtured athletes in
sports schools and produced more medals per capita than any other
country began to decline when subsidies from the Soviet Union ended.
Although INDER, the government's sports ministry, has rented out coaches
and athletes to other countries and pro leagues, there's not enough
money for the travel and equipment Cubans need to stay competitive.

Baseball fans don't talk about the shrinking national league, which once
fielded 16 provincial teams but has been reduced to six for the second
half of the season. In Parque Central, aficionados talk about the Cubans
in Major League Baseball.

"The great irony is that the defectors Castro labeled as traitors are
now heroes for the fans on the street," said Bjarkman, who predicts
retrenchment by Raúl Castro on the ties he renewed with President Barack
Obama. "Spring training, academies and an expansion franchise in Havana
are not going to happen under President Donald Trump."

Along the Malecon, "Havana's couch," young people don't mourn El Jefe
the way their elders might. They're worried about a numb future under an
increasingly repressive regime. Who cares about Cuba's mediocre teams?
When Bjarkman visited for games in October, only 2,000 of Estadio
Latinoamericano's 55,000 seats were filled. He used to love the
atmosphere inside Cuba's ballparks.

The Great Cheerleader is gone. I remember how Castro was everywhere
during Cuba's triumphant hosting of the 1991 Pan Am Games, doing the
wave in the stands, draping medals around athletes' necks. There was
nothing to eat but scrawny pieces of chicken, but no matter. Cuban
citizens sated their hunger with the satisfaction of beating Goliath
from the United States.

The romantic ideal of sport as the right of the people: Was it an
illusion? Herald photographer Marice Cohn Band and I went back two years
later to find out. Through word of mouth and without INDER's aid, we
showed up unannounced on athletes' doorsteps.

We went to Quirot's apartment building, where she greeted us warmly and
apologized as we traipsed up 11 flights of stairs (the elevator was
usually broken or the power was out). She served us coffee (from the
stove where she would later suffer disfiguring burns in a horrific
accident) and spoke forcefully about the rewards of running for the
revolution rather than riches.

We got to La Finca, the boxing team's rural training center, with the
aid of a driver whose Lada had to be coaxed around every corner.
Expecting perhaps a top-secret gym, we found Felix Savon and teammates
beating truck tires with metal poles. They showed us their Spartan dorm
rooms and shared their beans and rice.

We visited high jumper Sotomayor, volleyball player Joel Despaigne, a
gymnast, a wrestler, baseball players — they all lived in simple homes.

The unpretentious charisma of the athletes and the inspiration of their
accomplishments against all odds spun a spell. But once the national
anthem stopped playing and the curtain was peeled back, the impurity of
the Bearded One's motives were exposed. While it's sad to think that
sport for the love of the people was a fleeting conceit, it's also sad
to think that so many Cubans — athletes and fans — were duped by it.
Cuba might have even been a greater sports power if Castro had allowed
his athletes to compete with and against the best in the word.

The collapse of amateur Cuban sports was inevitable. The people can't
eat gold medals.

Source: Crumbling sports system and exodus of baseball players among
Fidel Castro's legacies | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/linda-robertson/article118729448.html

Fidel Castro's ashes return to the city where the revolution began

Fidel Castro's ashes return to the city where the revolution began
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@MiamiHerald

SANTIAGO DE CUBA
Fidel Castro returned Saturday to the city where he and a band of rebels
staged an assault on the Moncada Barracks, the beginning of the Cuba
Revolution, and the place where he began his march into the history books.

Castro, the historic leader of the revolution, died Nov. 25, at the age
of 90 after a lingering illness that resulted in his ceding power to his
brother Raúl Castro in 2006.

A caravan carrying Castro's ashes arrived Saturday afternoon in Santiago
— the "heroic city" and so-called cradle of the Cuban Revolution — on
the final leg of a journey across Cuba that began on Wednesday from
Havana. The journey retracked, in reverse, the triumphant march into the
capital that los rebeldes made after the ouster of dictator Fulgencio
Batista.

On Saturday night, tens of thousands of Cubans are expected to turn out
for a final farewell to Castro at the Antonio Maceo Plaza on the eve of
his internment at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery. He will be laid to rest next
to the mausoleum of 19th century Cuban patriot José Martí, who fought
for Cuban independence from Spain.

Cuban leader Raúl Castro was expected to give the main address at the
nationally televised homage, which begins at 7 p.m.

Many in the plaza, which had begun to fill by mid-day, planned to spend
the night in vigil and then fall into a funeral procession accompanying
Castro's ashes to the cemetery where a private funeral is planned.

"We Santiagueros think Santa Ifigenia is a fitting place for him because
Santiago is the city of heroes — Carlos Manuel de Cespedes (another
independence hero from nearby Bayamo), José Martí and now Fidel," said
Norma Arias, who runs a bed and breakfast overlooking Parque Cespedes.

From the balcony of the blue and white municipal building on one end of
the park, Castro addressed all Cubans on Jan. 1, 1959, the day Batista
was defeated.

"This time the revolution is for real," Castro said. "The revolution
will not be an easy task; the revolution will be a tough enterprise and
full of dangers..."

As she sat on a balcony of her home where she could get a clear view of
the passing caravan that carried Castro's ashes in a small flag-draped
chest, Arias became overcome with emotion.

"Really, his death has affected me a lot. Fidel was everything,
everything," Arias said tearfully. "We feel like orphans, like something
is missing."

For many Cubans, the only government they have known has been run by a
Castro.

"Fidel is part of every one of us — an entire generation, more than 50
years," said Manuel Rondón Medina, Arias' husband.

But Cuba is also very much a nation divided with many of its former
residents in exile in Miami and around the world decrying its revolution
as one of betrayal.

Those in exile point to human rights abuses, firing squads after the
revolution and imprisonment of Castro opponents, and the losses they
suffered after the nationalization of their homes and businesses.

Cubans who turned out to see the remains of Castro pass in the "Caravan
of Liberty" chose to focus on advances in education, free medical care
and other social benefits of the revolution.

Thirty foreign delegations were expected to attend the events in
Santiago, including a Haitian delegation led by Interim President
Jocelerme Privet. But the United States isn't among them. U.S. officials
attended an homage at the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana earlier in
the week but said they wouldn't be in Santiago.

Ex-presidents from around Latin America also are flying in for Castro's
funeral service and even former Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona came.

"I come to be with my second father," he told Cuba state television.
"There are many players but he was the leader of the [World Cup] team of
politicians."

There was palpable excitement in Santiago and in the small towns along
the Central Highway from Bayamo, where Castro's ashes spent the night.
On Friday, people were busy arranging white rocks on hillsides along the
route that spelled out "Fidel vive" (Fidel lives), "Fidel will always be
among us" and other revolutionary slogans.

Buildings and curbsides were being painted and townspeople were sweeping
the streets, hacking away brush and sprucing up their yards in
anticipation of the passage of the caravan as it headed to Santiago. En
route, it passed El Cobre where the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity of
El Cobre, Cuba's patron saint, is located.

Santiago is full of landmarks weighted with revolutionary significance.
But the Moncada Barracks where the Castro brothers and a group of rebels
attacked at dawn on July 26, 1953 tops the list.

The plan was to capture the barracks, distribute arms to the population
and begin a nationwide insurrection.

The attack failed miserably but it is the event that set in motion the
Cuban Revolution.

In memory of Castro, some Santiago residents have been wearing homemade
versions of the red and blacks arm bands of the 26th of July Movement.

Now the mustard-colored barracks has been converted into a museum and a
scholastic center, housing several primary and secondary schools.

School kids and their teacher lined the blocks around the barracks to
watch the passage of the caravan. Some had written "I am Fidel" and
"Fidel Lives" on their foreheads and cheeks with marker.

Yoaleni Martínez, a teacher at another elementary school, carried a sign
reading: "Who says Fidel has died? He lives, grows and multiplies
himself. He lives in the heart of every Cuban."

"Here at this barracks we have the blood of many Cuban revolutionaries
and today it is a school. Imagine that," said Martínez. "And this girl
standing next to me, how much would the medicine that saved her life
have cost elsewhere? She had a serious bacterial infection and the
medicine was free. Now she's 12 years old."

Just after the caravan passed the barracks, the military vehicle pulling
the trailer containing Castro's ashes stalled, and members of his honor
guard jumped off to give it a push. The caravan continued through the
streets of Santiago.

Even those who chose not to witness the passage of the caravan,
remembered Castro in their own ways.

Ninety-six-year-old María Estrella Estévez Blanco dug out an old picture
of Castro who lived in a blue and yellow house next door to hers at 6
Gen. Jesús Rabí St. when he was sent to Santiago to study as a child.

She didn't know him as a youngster, but met him several times over the
years.

"He always liked to visit that house when he came to Santiago," she
said. "This is a picture with my grandchildren from the last time he
visited."

In the image, Castro can be seen leaning toward the porch of Estévez's
home to talk with her. It was 2003 — three years before Castro took ill.

Source: Fidel Castro's ashes return to the city where the revolution
began | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/fidel-castro-en/article118721913.html