Tuesday, December 21, 2010

U.S. Allows Remittances to Cuba in Pesos

U.S. Allows Remittances to Cuba in Pesos
Published December 21, 2010

Agencies that send remittances to Cuba will be able to send money orders
in Cuban pesos beginning Monday, as a new regulation of the U.S.
Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control takes effect.

The new regulation of the Treasury, which enforces Washington's nearly
50-year-old economic embargo against the communist-ruled island, takes
effect 15 months after the approval of several measures passed by the
administration of President Barack Obama to lift restrictions on
traveling and sending money to Cuba.

"This is a great step forward that will benefit Cubans living on the
island, since they won't have do any kind of currency exchange to get
their money. By the same token, the measure will facilitate the
procedures for sending remittances," Western Union executive Victoria
Lopez Negrete told Efe.

"Western Union has been sending money to Cuba since 1999 and has more
than 150 offices in Cuba, where we try to provide rapid, efficient
service. This new measure will make our work a lot easier," Lopez said.

The measure will allow anyone living in the United States to send money
orders to Cuba to aunts and uncles and cousins, to parents, brothers,
sisters and children, who will now receive them in the most direct way.


Cuba and China renegotiate debt

Cuba and China renegotiate debt
Published December 21, 2010

Havana – The governments of Cuba and China have renegotiated Havana's
debt to Beijing, which will also extend new credit to the island at no
interest, Cuban state media said.

The rescheduling pact was signed by Cuban Vice President Ricardo
Cabrisas, Banco Nacional de Cuba chief Georgina Barreiro and the vice
president of the China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation, known as
SINOSURE, Zhou Ji An, the official AIN news agency said.

The story did not specify the amount of the debt negotiated between Cuba
and China, considered the island's second biggest trade partner after

Cabrisas and Chinese Deputy Trade Minister Wang Chao also signed "an
exchange of notes postponing for 10 years the start of payments on a
government loan."

All the documents were signed during the 23rd Session of the
Intergovernmental Commission, held over the weekend in Havana.

The agreements reached also included economic and technical cooperation,
as well as a project for modernizing the Cuban National Seismological
Research Center, based in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.

Cuba and China currently have about a dozen mixed enterprises underway,
seven of them on the island, in the sectors of mechanical and light
industries, communications, agriculture and tourism.

During 2009 their bilateral commercial exchange amounted to around $1.55
billion, a drop of 31.5 percent from the year 2008, when it reached $2.2

Last Saturday, Cuban President Raul Castro told Parliament that the
island has achieved "significant progress" in renegotiating its debts,
and planned to eliminate in 2011 all payment defaults to its trade partners.

For his part, Economy and Planning Minister Marino Murillo said that the
country has renegotiated some $2 billion in debts, a sum that will
basically be deferred until after the year 2015.


Venezuela to import cement from Cuba while local supply falls

Venezuela to import cement from Cuba while local supply falls
There are fewer housing units for sale and for rent

The Venezuelan government considers that the construction sector is a
strategic area. Therefore, it has used this argument to nationalize
inputs and control the process to build houses. Both actions have had
some effects: the production of materials has declined and there are
fewer housing units for sale and for rent.

As a result of the rain emergency, Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez
said that the process to build houses will go faster. He explained that
a total of 6,900 tons of cement from Cuba will be imported, although the
government controls 90 percent of the cement market. The reasons to
purchase this input are a lower production capacity and the fact that
many plants have been shut down for repair works.

Construction industry sources said that the supply of cement has been
ensured only by Cementos Venezuela (former Cemex), which has a 45
percent market share.


Cardinal hopes Cuba will release 11 dissidents

Posted on Tuesday, 12.21.10
Cardinal hopes Cuba will release 11 dissidents
The Associated Press

HAVANA -- The Roman Catholic Cardinal who helped broker a deal with Cuba
to free dissidents jailed in a 2003 crackdown says he hopes the
government will make good on its pledge to release the last 11 remaining
in prison.

Havana Archbishop Jaime Ortega says "hope springs eternal" that Havana
will honor its "formal promise" to free them.

But he declined to speculate Monday on when they might be released.

He told reporters: "I can't make conjectures."

Cuba agreed to the deal in July. All 52 were supposed to be freed by
early November.

Exile was not an explicit condition of the agreement, however all but
one of the 41 released so far are now living in Spain.

Those still behind bars have said they want to remain on the island.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Ontario man arrested in Cuba in Molson grow-op case

Ontario man arrested in Cuba in Molson grow-op case
Globe and Mail Update
Published Monday, Dec. 20, 2010 2:02PM EST

BARRIE, Ont. — Provincial police have arrested another man in a
years-long investigation into a massive marijuana grow-op uncovered in a
former Ontario brewery.

Police charged a dozen people from Ontario and Quebec in October, six
years after the drug operation was discovered in Barrie, Ont.

Ontario Provincial Police obtained an international arrest warrant for
Robert Derosa, 51, of Phelpston, Ont., and on Saturday he was arrested
in Cuba while trying to board a flight to South America.

He faces 13 charges including trafficking marijuana, conspiracy to
traffic firearms and belonging to a criminal organization.

Officers swarmed a former Molson brewery in Barrie in January 2004 and
seized 30,000 marijuana plants.

At the time, police called it the largest marijuana grow operation to be
uncovered in Canada.

Nine people who lived at the plant were arrested in the initial raid."


In Cuba, Questions About Economic Change Persist

CUBA -- December 20, 2010 at 10:25 AM EDT

In Cuba, Questions About Economic Change Persist
By: Ray Suarez
Ray Suarez's three-part Cuba series begins Monday night on the NewsHour.

When I returned from Cuba recently, I was struck by the intense level of
curiosity about the place, and the air of mystery the United States
trade embargo and travel ban have created around a place 90 miles from
the U.S. mainland.

"What was it like?" "Was it easy to get around" "Were you followed? Or
were you just able to go about your business?"

Among the most frequently asked questions had to do with the economic
conditions almost two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union,
which had provided major subsidies to the Cuban government.

"How were people dressed?" "Was there enough food in the stores?" "How
did people look? Did they seem healthy and fed?"

Questions about the Cuban economy and the effect on every day Cubans are
not easy to answer because any calibration to economic conditions in the
United States simply doesn't work. Period. Detractors of Cuban economic
management point out correctly that many people who work for the
government, about 8 of every 10 workers, earn about 20 dollars a month
in Cuban pesos, one of the two currencies in circulation. And that's
true, technically.

But it's also true that prices for staple foods are subsidized and kept
low. On the other hand, many items are disappearing from the ration
cards, heading toward a market-based pricing system, because the
government can't afford to keep up the subsidies. The pay is low, but
the government has made itself the aggregator of wealth, which it then
attempts to dole out in a fair and rational way.

Though the prices are low, corresponding with pay, the two are no longer
in sync, creating a Cuba where inequalities have set in. That may be the
rub: not that Cubans are poor as much as we are witnessing the creation
of a multi-tiered society, and that's anathema to many Cubans and to the
Communist Party.

Families with relatives in the developed world have access to hard
currency, and therefore the ability to buy a much wider range of goods
and services. Cubans who work in the tourist industry or come into
regular contact with foreigners also get hard currency in payments and
tips. That currency can open doors to material comfort unavailable to
most of their fellow countrymen.

One sociologist mentioned to me the danger of a re-stratification along
racial lines. Before Fidel Castro rode into Havana to seize control of
the government, blacks lived far worse lives here, and had much less
opportunity. Cuban exiles in the years after the Revolution came from
the country's middle, upper middle, and wealthy classes, many of whom
were white.

Exiles in the U.S. in the post-Revolutionary years reflected this trend.
With the years of struggle far behind them, many of the Cubans who
rushed to the U.S. did very well, and contributed enough to their
families back on the island to make remittances one of the top sources
of national income. The beneficiaries of that exile largesse are
disproportionately white.

The published unemployment rate is low. But people with inside knowledge
of ministries say featherbedding is rampant because access to public
jobs is a lifeline for so many families, and because there are so few
alternatives. The old Soviet-era joke, "We pretend to work, and they
pretend to pay us," still has some life today in Cuba.

When the announcement came that the government was preparing to lay off
500,000 workers in the coming year, some analysts predicted the public
might see very little difference. Thousands of Cuban workers, it is
said, use their government job as a base for making and getting phone
calls, for lifting office supplies, and managing the hustle they're
working on the outside, the jobs they do to support their families and
make ends meet.

The ongoing conversations inside Cuban society about economic change are
carried out, for the most part, inside an oddly constrained set of
boundaries. People hope for new private enterprises, but don't imagine
they'll be allowed to get very big. If private initiatives get very big,
with stratification and bosses and lower level workers answering not to
the government, but to an owner, the architects of the current Cuban
system get very nervous.

But they're not the only ones.

The Cuban people, now more than a half century into life with built-in
cradle to grave guarantees, might initially have a lot to fear from any
rapid reform to the economy. Yes, reform might offer go-getters new
pathways to prosperity. But millions of people might wonder if they are
any of those things. They might have serious doubts about how they might
fare in a tough, competitive economic order. Allowing some to get rich
might eventually make many, many more people less poor.

Cubans are aware of the affluence that can be attained not only in the
wealthiest industrialized economies, but even in nearby Colombia, the
Dominican Republic, and Brazil as well. They are just as aware of the
widespread poverty in all the above-mentioned societies, with poor
people expected to work very hard with few guarantees of government
support. Those same poor people can't necessarily see a doctor or send
their own children to the national university system. Cubans can, or
operate on the assumption they can, even with their small earnings.

Think of it. High rates of literacy. High levels of awareness, or at the
very least an imagined understanding of the pay and opportunity of
people in Canada, the United States, and Western Europe. Add to that the
dissatisfaction of a people marching in place economically. They know
change is coming, but wonder what it will mean for them. They want very
much to do better. But they also understand that the risks involved in
removing the state from the economy also hold the possibility of doing

It was a fascinating time to be in Cuba.


Is Cuba Heading Towards Capitalism or Will It Create Its Own Hybrid System?

Is Cuba Heading Towards Capitalism or Will It Create Its Own Hybrid System?
December 20, 2010 12:11 PM

The former beacon of socialist revolution and rebellion is now facing
one of the most complex moments in its history. Raul Castro, who
inherited the presidency from his brother Fidel, told legislators that
as a result of the country's economy woes, there would be some major
changes next year, including a move toward more capitalist ventures that
will help to bolster the socialist nation. Part of this plan includes
laying off half a million government employees by March 2011. Laid off
government employees will be encouraged to start businesses for
themselves in hopes of boosting the country's productivity.

No doubt that the most important issue for Cuba right now is the future
of its economy, but in what direction should it go and more importantly,
after being the lone wolf of communism, will capitalism be Cuba's saving

The Cuban population is nearly one-third larger than it was at the time
of the 1959 revolution; however, its economy—which has been devastated
by U.S. trade embargoes, economic blockades,and the fall of the Soviet
Union and other former socialist countries—has failed to exceed the
prosperity it achieved in 1960. Since then, wages have been inadequate,
housing and transportation have deteriorated, and high unemployment has
destabilized the country both economically and politically.

Cuba has instituted many reforms to create material and wage incentives
for workers, who have long been conditioned to solely rely on the
government. Increased tourism—thanks to the recent decision of the U.S.
to to lift some travel restrictions for students and artists—hasn't hurt
either, but to what extent will these reforms impact the country's
long-standing history of providing free public services and subsidies,
as well as impact Cuba's fundamental principles of social equality?

It may seem contradictory to promote both socialism and capitalism, but
countries throughout Europe have done just that—promoted the virtues of
making money and building wealth, while providing universal services
such as free healthcare and education. Then there is of course China,
which once stood as the powerhouse of communism, but now has did a
complete 180 and is enjoying a rather fruitful capitalist economy. It
should come as no surprise that both Castro brothers have referenced
China's progress and has even renewed trade agreements and deals with
the country.

However, Cuba is not in the same political and economic position as
China was after the Cold War. As all indicators suggest, a China-style
reform may be ill suited for an island nation of 11 million with a
relatively small agricultural sector, a heavy reliance on service
industry jobs, and the misfortune of being too close in proximity to one
of the world's largest economies.

Truthfully, it's hard to say for certain which direction Cuba will go
in. But it will certainly be interesting to see how Cuba evolves and if
it will fully embrace America's system or try to model itself after
other European nations.

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.


Cuba's Cupet to Operate Oil Blocks Offshore Angola, Angop Says

Cuba's Cupet to Operate Oil Blocks Offshore Angola, Angop Says
December 20, 2010, 9:25 AM EST
By Colin McClelland

Dec. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Angola's national oil company signed a
production-sharing contract with Cuban Commercial Cupet SA to operate
two blocks off the southwest African country, state news agency Angop
reported today.

The deal to operate blocks N23 and N33 was signed Dec. 8 in Havana by
Mateus de Brito, an administrator at the Angolan company, Sonangol, and
Rafael Luis Arias Batista, deputy president and director general of
Cuban Commercial, Angop said, citing Sonangol.

--Editors: Alex Devine, Rob Verdonck.


Wikileaks: NZ's relationship with Cuba

Wikileaks: NZ's relationship with Cuba
Tuesday, 21 December 2010, 9:33 am
Press Release: Wikileaks

Wikileaks cable: NZ's relationship with Cuba

This is one of the diplomatic cables about New Zealand held by Wikileaks.

June 29, 2004 New Zealand's relationship with Cuba

1. (C) The Government of New Zealand formalized diplomatic relations
with Cuba in 2001, with their Ambassador resident in Mexico City
accredited to Havana. According to Mike Shaw, Americas Division, New
Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the GoNZ uses meetings
with Cuban officials to "express its concern over the human rights
situation in Cuba, and encourage moves towards democratization and the
promotion of human rights. These include the proper treatment of those
who hold political views in opposition to the Cuban government." This is
consistent with the GoNZ's policy of engagement with states that have
poor human rights records. Post is unaware of any NZ entity or nationals
who would be subject to Title III of the LIBERTAD Act. The GoNZ would
strenuously object to any effort to apply Title III to a NZ national or
entity on extraterritoriality grounds. The GoNZ is strongly supportive
of U.S. positions re Cuba's human rights record, and use of Title III
would jeopardize continued good-faith cooperation.

2. (SBU) Economically, Cuba was New Zealand's 40th largest trading
partner in calendar year 2003, with exports to Cuba at NZ$68 million
(USD42.1 million,) and imports at NZ$934,000 (USD579,000.) 97 percent of
these exports were in the dairy sector, specifically milk powder. Swindells


Government will let loss-making state companies falter

Government will let loss-making state companies falter

During a frank, four-day exchange with deputies of the national
parliament about economic reform projects, Raúl Castro and Marino
Murillo, Cuba's point man of the reform, said that loss-making state
companies are running out of time and will be gradually stripped of

"We have companies in Cuba that have had 10 years of losses," Murillo
told the deputies. "Either they get out of their losses or we shut them
down. It's not possible to have four or five consecutive years of a
company making losses and the state subsidizing the losses. This makes
no sense."

The discussions in the run-up of a rank-and-file congress of the
Communist Party April 16-19 were unusual. The year-end session of the
Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular included four days of plenary
sessions, compared to typically one or two days. Also, in contrast to
its typically ceremonial meetings, the parliament had a true working
session, with Murillo giving an extended PowerPoint presentation about
the outlines of the reform, and deputies asking questions, challenging
and making proposals.

The Asamblea Nacional de Poder Popular discussed the five-year plan
using the 291 points of an "outline" that had been previously approved
by the Politburo of the Communist Party and the Council of Ministers.
According to Murillo, beginning in May, the outline was prepared by Raúl
Castro and Politburo member Julio Casas Regueiro and 11 work groups
consisting of Central Committee staff, Economy Ministry staff, and other
economic experts, coordinated by Murillo. The groups came up with four
work versions. On Sept. 29, the Executive Committee and Politburo of the
party approved the current version.

In addition to Murillo and Finance Minister Lina Pedraza, Raúl Castro
himself threw his whole weight behind the session, confronting
resistance, providing hands-on economic information, speaking frankly,
telling anecdotes and even making jokes. Granma published verbatim
transcripts of the session.

In one instance, Castro told the joke that just after its war with the
United States, an impoverished Vietnam asked Cuban coffee experts to
help set up coffee production. Three decades later, Vietnam has become a
coffee exporter while Cuba has become a coffee importer. So a Vietnamese
expert asks a Cuban colleague what happened. "What did the Cuban expert
respond?", Castro asked. "The blockade."

Other reform outlines mentioned during the session:

•State companies will gain more autonomy, Murillo explained, by
curtailing the involvement of government ministries and city or
provincial councils. State companies will be allowed to use part of
their profits to set up funds aimed at company development, investment
and providing stimulus payments, performance-oriented salaries and other
benefits to employees. At the same time, Murillo emphasized that the
"socialist state enterprises" will continue to be central to the economy
and still be subject to central planning.

"The socialist state enterprise will determine the economy," Murillo
said. "What happens is that we must put it to work within a planning
process and an economic management model that won't tie it down, and
that gives it all the possibilities to be efficient." High value-added
state companies, he said, will be given special treatment within the new
economic arrangement. He probably referred to tourism-related, nickel,
oil or biotech companies.

•In another significant announcement, Murillo and Castro said that the
government will not regulate prices private businesses will charge their
clients. "Regulating the relations between state and individuals" will
continue to be a mainstay, President Raúl Castro told deputies of the
National Assembly during the year-end session. "But the state doesn't
have to interfere in the relations between individuals; neither the
government nor anyone else," he added, to the applause of the parliament.

•Another reform cluster is aiming at empowering municipalities. The
largest share of the new income taxes generated by the new private
companies will be collected by cities, not the national government, the
economy minister said.

•For the first time, the government publicly discussed details about the
future role of member-owned cooperatives. Five points of the outline
concern cooperatives, Murillo said, suggesting that they will be
expanding beyond agriculture, be allowed to join forces to form
coop-owned cooperatives that offer services, enjoy income tax breaks,
and not be allowed to lease their property to third parties. He said the
idea behind allowing second-grade cooperatives is not to create
large-scale entities but to allow agricultural co-ops to take advantage
of economies of scale, for example in servicing machines and vehicles.
Non-agriculture co-ops will be allowed to become active in "all
activities that are needed," Murillo said, adding that gastronomy and
retail services are first priority.


Trial opens for suspect in 1990s Cuba bombings

Posted on Monday, 12.20.10
Trial opens for suspect in 1990s Cuba bombings
Associated Press

HAVANA -- A Salvadoran man accused of being involved in a 1990s bombing
spree at Cuban tourist hotels went on trial Monday on terrorism charges,
the government said.

Havana has blamed Cuban-American exile groups for the deadly attacks and
claims that Francisco Chavez Abarca confessed to being hired to plant
the bombs by a U.S.-based opponent of former President Fidel Castro.

Chavez Abarca's trial was taking place at Havana's state security crimes
court, the state-run Cubadebate website reported. It was not clear what
sentence he would face if convicted, or how long the trial would last.

Chavez Abarca was detained in Venezuela in July as he tried to enter the
country on a false passport. Venezuelan authorities alleged he was
plotting violence ahead of congressional elections there and swiftly
extradited him to Cuba, where he was jailed.

In September, Cuban state television aired a confession in which Chavez
Abarca said that he was hired to plant the bombs by Luis Posada
Carriles, an 80-year-old anti-Castro militant and former CIA operative
who lives in the United States. Chavez Abarca said that Posada Carriles
told him the hotel attacks were backed by the CIA, although he
acknowledged he could not be sure it was true.

On the television program, Chavez Abarca also participated in what was
described as a re-enactment of several of the hotel bombings, showing
how and where he placed the explosives. He said he was paid $2,000 for
each blast.

He appeared calm as he detailed the bombing campaign, but it was
impossible to tell if the confession was made under duress.

Two other Salvadorans, Ernesto Cruz Leon and Otto Rene Rodriguez, were
convicted for their involvement in the bombings and sentenced to death,
though the island's Supreme Court recently commuted their sentences to
long prison terms.

Three Guatemalans were also convicted in Cuba for their roles in the

The hotel blasts, which killed one Italian tourist and wounded several
other people, came just as Cuba was turning to tourism as a source of
much-needed cash following the collapse of the Soviet Union.


Diaz-Balart to Cuban military: avoid Tiananmen

Posted on Monday, 12.20.10
Diaz-Balart to Cuban military: avoid Tiananmen
AP Hispanic Affairs Writer

MIAMI -- Outgoing Republican U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart on Monday
called on Cuba's military to help its citizens liberate their country
from the leadership of Fidel and Raul Castro and to avoid another
Tiananmen, a reference to the massive 1989 Chinese military crackdown
against peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing.

The Cuban-American lawmaker was honored by a who's who list of Cuban
political and business leaders at a luncheon organized by the U.S. Cuba
Democracy PAC, which supports tight restrictions on travel, trade and
diplomacy with the communist island.

Diaz-Balart passionately fought to strengthen the U.S. embargo of Cuba
during his nearly two decades in Congress, orchestrating the effort to
turn the embargo from an executive order into a more permanent law.

He is retiring from the House but has pledged to continue fighting to
bring political change to Cuba.

"I have a message for the armed forces of Cuba," he told the packed
audience at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. "Help the Cubans free
themselves from the Castro brothers. If you help with the transition to
democracy, you will enjoy the role that all armed forces should have in
a democratic society ... and not the guaranteed repudiation of a
Tiananmen," he said.

The PAC, which contributed more than $450,000 to Democratic and
Republican political campaigns in the 2010 election, celebrated the
election last month of two new Cuban-American officials: Florida
Republicans U.S. Sen.-elect Marco Rubio and Congressman-elect David
Rivera. Both men have long opposed travel and diplomacy with Cuba.

Outgoing Florida Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, who has long
supported the embargo and lost the Senate race to Rubio, also received a
standing ovation from the crowd.

Rubio joked that the two had spent a significant amount of time together
during the campaign in makeup, a nod to their frequent televised
debates. But he also saluted Meek's decision to stay in the three-way
race with Republican turned independent Charlie Crist, despite pressure
on Meek to bow out, calling it a sign of the Democrat's principled


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cuban president says economic changes will help sustain socialism

Cuban president says economic changes will help sustain socialism
From Shasta Darlington, CNN
December 19, 2010 -- Updated 0501 GMT (1301 HKT)


* The president says the aim is to make socialism "irreversible"
* "There will be no going back," Castro says
* Cuban officials expect its economy to grow 3.1 percent in 2011

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Cuban President Raul Castro told legislators
Saturday that the country's economy would undergo significant change in
the coming year, but added that the measures aimed to bolster socialism
-- not make Cuba a capitalist nation.

Castro has begun a radical shakeup of the Soviet-style economic model,
previously announcing the elimination of one million state jobs and the
expansion of private businesses. Cuba's National Assembly tapped him as
the Caribbean nation's president in 2008, ending nearly five decades of
rule by his older brother Fidel Castro.

As part of the plan, Cubans are being allowed and even encouraged to go
into business for themselves, working as barbers, plumbers and even
birthday clowns as the government tries to boost productivity.

"The measures we are applying, and all of the changes that are necessary
for the modernization of the economic model, are aimed at preserving
socialism, strengthening it and making it truly irreversible," said
Castro, according to a copy of his speech published by the state-run
website Cubadebate.

Castro has called for debates across the country before April, when the
Communist Party holds its first congress in almost 14 years at which
they could approve his plan.

In the speech, he insisted there should no longer be a stigma attached
to working in the private sector.

"Many Cubans confuse socialism with handouts and subsidies, equality
with egalitarianism," said the president, who spoke at the close of the
country's National Assembly in Havana, according to Cubadebate.

The government expects the Cuban economy to grow 3.1 percent next year,
up from a projected 2.1 percent growth in 2010.

"We can assure you that, this time, there will be no going back." said


Cuba to remove all payment holds in 2011 for foreign suppliers: Castro

Cuba to remove all payment holds in 2011 for foreign suppliers: Castro
11:12, December 19, 2010

Cuban leader Raul Castro said on Saturday that the Cuban government will
remove in 2011 all payment holds affecting its foreign trade partners.

At a parliament session, Castro said Cuba has eased restrictions on its
banks to pay foreign suppliers since 2008, and will lift them completely
next year.

The government has given clear instructions not to take on new debts
without granting assurance of complete payment by an agreed deadline,
the leader said.

Cuba has renegotiated debts amounting to over 2 billion dollars, which
would have remained unresolved after 2015, said Minister of Economy and
Planning Marino Murillo.



Raul Castro says Cubans must back economic reforms

Raul Castro says Cubans must back economic reforms
Big News Network.com Sunday 19th December, 2010

In a two hour speech, President Castro warned that the island's
revolution could fail without a major overhaul of Cuba's state-run
system, which has not changed since the 1960s.

The government wants to expand the private sector and reduce the role of
the state.

Mr Castro's two-hour speech was made at the closing session of
parliament, where he said: "We are playing with the life of the
revolution. We can either rectify the situation, or we will run out of
time walking on the edge of the abyss, and we will sink."

Cuba still runs under a Soviet-style economy, but is in deep financial
trouble due to massive subsidies paid to workers plus a decades-old US
trade embargo.

The socialist system was created by his brother Fidel Castro after the
revolution in 1959.

In Cuba, half a million state workers have been told they will lose
their jobs, but restrictions on people who want to become self-employed
have been lift


Even Cuba nixed the 'sick' flick

Even Cuba nixed the 'sick' flick
Last Updated: 7:07 AM, December 19, 2010
Posted: 2:26 AM, December 19, 2010

Not even Fidel Castro believed the nice things Michael Moore said about
Cuba's health-care system.

Moore's positive depiction of Cuba's cradle-to-grave health-care system
in the 2007 documentary "Sicko" seemed so "mythical" that Castro and
government officials decided to ban the film, according to the latest
leaked US diplomatic cables.

Cuba's government "knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a
popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not
available to the vast majority of them," a US diplomat wrote in 2008.

The gleaming treatment center Moore visited is reserved for high-level
government officials and foreign tourists -- and ordinary Cubans are
banned, the cable posted on WikiLeaks said.

Moore yesterday accused the diplomat of "lies" on his Web site."


Castro layoff plan has even the left furious

Posted on Sunday, 12.19.10

Castro layoff plan has even the left furious

Cuba's draconian plan to lay off 10 percent of its workforce is running
into a slew of problems – not the least of which are the growing fights
over who will wind up on the street.

Cuban and foreign economists say it's too much, too fast.

Radical leftists are branding Raúl Castro as a capitalist exploiter of
workers and – in an odd alignment with Cuban dissidents – are urging
workers to fight the job cuts.

One well-known historian and Communist Party member has warned of social
chaos, maybe even a mass exodus, and cautioned that the layoffs may be

Workers desperately trying to keep their jobs are accusing others of
corruption. And some blacks and women are warning that those sectors may
be hardest hit by the job cuts.

Almost no one doubts the job cuts are necessary in a country where the
government pays the salaries of 85 percent of the workers – many of them
in little more than make-work jobs. Castro has admitted the state
payrolls are padded with more than one million surplus workers.

In his most significant reforms since he succeeded brother Fidel in
2008, Castro is laying off 500,000 workers by April and is expected to
cut another 500,000 to 800,000 in three years.

He's also cutting back other public spending and subsidies, and allowing
an expansion of the private business sector in hopes that at least
250,000 of the newly laid off workers will be able to support themselves.

Some Cubans say they are not overly concerned by the job cuts because
Castro has promised that no worker "will be left unprotected.'' The
island will eventually muddle through the crisis, they say.

Others say the country is awash in fear, especially among the
bureaucrats, administrators, elderly, academics and recent university
graduates seen as most likely to be left jobless.

"The entire country is afraid. Fear of who'll be out of work.

Fear of how you're going to buy food or something for the kids,'' said
Evelina, a Havana mother of two teenagers. "That's what people are
talking about, every minute, in every place.''

But the problems with the job cuts extend far beyond the fear. Dissident
Havana economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe said he does not doubt the layoffs
are needed, but argued that Castro is doing it the wrong way.

"He's doing in a very abrupt, very brutal way, without first creating
the proper conditions'' by waiting until the private sector had begun
expanding, Espinosa said by telephone from Havana.

"They got it 'bass-ackwards'. They are laying off first and hoping and
praying that the small private sector is going to expand enough to
absorb them,'' said Archibald Ritter, a professor at Carleton University
in Ottawa who specializes in the Cuban economy.

Former Cuban Deputy Labor Minister Lázaro González Rodríguez wrote in a
recent Internet column that while the job cuts are needed, ''what I
can't agree with are the methods, ways and time frame.''

The organization of labor at most state agencies and enterprises have
not been studied for years, González argued, so the decisions on how
many employees will be laid off at each workplace "are not the result of
a technical study."


Article 45 of the Cuban constitution also says that a job "in socialist
society is a right, a duty and an honor,'' he added. A group of
Afro-Cubans, the Cofradía de la Negritud, in a Sept. 22 declaration
urged blacks who believe they are to be dismissed for racial reasons to
"not accept this passively and be ready to defend their labor rights.''

Cuban women also have warned against discriminating against them in the
layoffs, with one writer noting that women hold 80 percent of the
administrative jobs – a sector singled out for deep cutbacks.

And a group of dissident lawyers, the Corriente Agramontista, issued a
set of guidelines this month explaining the rights of workers to appeal
their layoffs and if denied, challenge them in court.

Even the leftist International League of Workers, active mostly in Latin
America, blasted the layoffs as "a classic capitalist plan'' and added:
"The true defense of socialism in Cuba today means supporting the
workers against this plan and ...demanding the right to strike.''

Castro has promised that the process of selecting those who will keep
their jobs will be done not on the basis of seniority but "with strict
observance of the principle of suitability.''

But his government has taken a somewhat hands-off approach to the
process, apparently to distance itself from some of the pain of the

The layoffs were first announced by the communist-run Confederation of
Cuban Workers (CTC), the island's lone labor union. And the initial
recommendations on who goes are made in each workplace by a Committee of
Experts made up of one administrator, one CTC official and either three
or five workers chosen by fellow employees.

Final decisions are made by higher-level supervisors. The government has
not revealed how many workers have been laid off so far, though the
cutbacks were to have started Oct. 4.

But the committees already have sparked intense tensions, especially in
government agencies and enterprises with access to goods that can be
filched and sold on the black market.

Miriam Celaya, a Havana woman who writes the blog Sin Evasion (Without
Evasion), reported on Oct. 23 on a friend who works for a food-related
state enterprise in Havana and now sits on its Committee of Experts.


Workers at the enterprise used to happily kick back their meager
salaries to supervisors in exchange for the chance to earn much more by
stealing supplies and cheating customers, Celaya wrote, comparing the
arrangement to a "Sicilian mafia.''

The scheme is not uncommon in tourist restaurants, where administrators
claim that the state keeps all the profits so they need the workers'
salaries to maintain and upgrade the facilities, two Havana residents said.

But now her friend "must decide, along with the other commissioners,
which ones of these thieving associates [who, along with her, and just
like her, cheat customers and bribe the bosses] ... remain as part of
the gang'' Celaya wrote.

In another post, Celaya reported "pitched battles'' between workers as
the commissions consider who should keep their jobs.

"These days anyone can be another's executioner,'' she added. "Why are
they going to fire me and not that woman, who is corrupt ... And why me
and not that guy, who's always late? ...

And of course they don't fire that woman because she's having an affair
with the boss.''

Independent journalist Adolfo Pablo Borrazá wrote that at the Book
Institute in Havana employees are denouncing co-workers "just to keep
their jobs.'' He added, "Even if it's a good worker, it would be enough
for someone to denounce a criticism of the government.''

Mutual accusations of corruption during committee sessions at a Havana
hotel and José Martí International Airport already have sparked
inquiries by prosecutors, according to reports circulating in Havana.
The planned layoffs also have sparked warnings of unrest, even among
government supporters like Pedro Campos, a historian, Communist Party
member and former diplomat.

"This could lead to unnecessary chaos, a social collapse, a massive and
uncontrollable exodus,'' declared a column signed by Campos "and other
companeros'' and published Sept. 27 on the Internet.

But Cubans are more likely to accept the layoffs without complaints,
wrote Havana blogger Elha Kovacs on her Internet page, Arma de Tinta –
Ink Weapon. "In the long run people will use their personal resources
and strategies for survival – and continue thinking about anything
except changing the circumstances and conditions at the root of the
dramatic scenario,'' Kovacs added.

Espinosa Chepe said the Castro government may even decide to lay off
less than the targeted 500,000, or extend the March 31 deadline, once it
realizes the magnitude of the problems ahead.

"I have my doubts that this will go ahead as planned because there are
no – none at all – conditions for it to succeed,'' he said.


New book preserves stories of Cuban exodus

New book preserves stories of Cuban exodus
El Nuevo Herald

Miami music mogul Emilio Estefan has always carried his love of Cuba on
his sleeve. From the conga beat he made famous with his wife Gloria to
his restaurant fare, there's no doubt he's a proud product of his homeland.

Like nearly two million others, he was forced from his homeland by Fidel
Castro's rise to power and eventually came to live among Miami's Cuban
exile community, where, as we know, he found fame and fortune.

Now, he wants to ensure the history of other Cubans like him is captured
for posterity -- the beginnings of an Ellis Island-style chronicle.

Going on sale today is Estefan's personal pet project, a massive,
bilingual coffee table book. Through stories, photographs and lists of
names, the book documents the different generations of Cubans who
escaped through three famed exoduses -- Operation Pedro Pan, the Freedom
Flights and Mariel.

The Exile Experience: Journey to Freedom fittingly debuts at Christmas
-- a melancholy time for older exiles who recall Castro took power 51
years ago this month. The book can be purchased at six CVS stores in
Miami-Dade or ordered at www. MiamiHerald.com/exile.

The book is the brainchild of Estefan, who contributed to its creation
through his Crescent Moon Publications and Emilio Estefan Enterprises.
Guiding the project was HCP/Aboard Publishing, an affiliate of the Miami
Herald Media Co.

It's Estefan's second book this year. His The Rhythm of Success: How an
Immigrant Produced His Own American Dream is still in stores.

``For a long time, five years more or less, I've been thinking, `What
can I do for the world to understand what happened to Cubans?' '' said
Estefan, who wrote the foreword and took part in deciding which authors
would contribute.

``There are many people who are not Cuban and they ask, `What is your
pain and why did you leave Cuba?' You can never tell the entire truth of
what happened in one sitting -- the separation, the dead, the lack of
freedom for so many years, the prisoners, the Mariel boatlift, the
Freedom Tower, so many things that have transpired in 50 years.''

He hopes this book will help the world understand.

The book tells the story of the various waves of exiles who arrived on
these shores. It is a collaboration of well-known Cuban writers: Carlos
Eire, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Mirta Ojito and poet Carlos Pintado. But
Estefan also sought personal testimonials of successful people from
different generations of exiles, like the Mas Canosa family, television
personality Cristina Saralegui, medical entrepenuer Benjamin Leon Jr.,
and Perry Ellis International chairman and CEO George Feldenkreis.

``It has been an exile (community) that has fought a lot,'' said
Estefan, who fled Cuba as a teen with his father. ``They have had to
work hard, to defend themselves against everything, to separate from
their families, their properties, even their own personalities, because
they have had to start all over again in a totally new country.''

The Exile Experience: Journey to Freedom is published in three separate
editions -- each tailor-made for those who arrived through Operation
Pedro Pan, the Freedom Flights and the Mariel boatlift. Each edition
features the names of every Cuban who arrived in one of the three
exoduses, more than 400,000 names between the three editions.

Garry Duell, publisher of HCP/Aboard, guided the project with Estefan
and the book's sponsors. He says the names in the back of each edition
give Journey to Freedom an emotional impact.

``If you came in the Freedom Flights, as a member of the Pedro Pan group
or during the Mariel boat lift, you can find yourself in one of the
three volumes.'' The books serve as proof and verification of your
arrival into exile, he said.

For months, Duell's staff worked to weave together the work of Miami
Herald and El Nuevo Herald reporters and photographers and other
writers. It took weeks to figure out how to fit the exile names in the
book from existing Miami Herald exile databases.

The first chapter was written by Montaner, whose life is as dramatic as
that of any exiled Cuban. He was a political prisoner at the age of 17,
but escaped from prison and took refuge at a foreign embassy in Havana.
He arrived in Miami in September 1961 with hundreds of other Cubans.

In his chapter, ``The Cuban Revolution: Why and How,'' Montaner presents
the historic background that produced this dramatic change in the
island. ``My assignment was to explain why hundreds of thousands of
Cubans ended up in Florida,'' Montaner said. ``Until 1959, Cuba was at
the receiving end of immigrants, there were more Americans living in
Cuba than Cubans in the U.S.'' Then Castro came to power.

The assignment to explain the exodus of 14,000 children during Operation
Pedro Pan fell upon Carlos Eire, who was one of the children who came in
that program sponsored by the Catholic Church and the U.S. government.

Several successful people, such as Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, musician
Willy Chirino, Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón, and former
senator Mel Martínez were Pedro Pan children, whose exemplary lives are

The following exodus was the Freedom Flights, where 260,000 Cubans
arrived on two daily flights from Varadero to Miami from 1965 to 1973.
The chapter is written by Miami Herald reporter Luisa Yanez, who as a
child was among those exiles.

Based on her own experience and journalistic research, Mirta Ojito
summarizes the Mariel experience in the chapter ``Mariel, An Epic
Exodus.'' She explains one of South Florida's most famous and impactful
immigrant waves and how her family came to join its 125,000 participants.

Poet Carlos Pintado, was living in Havana during the 1994 balsero crisis
-- the last major exodus from Cuba to Miami -- uses poetic language to
narrate the chapter ``Rafters: Lost Between Two Destinations.''

Born in 1974, Pintado considered leaving Cuba on a raft, but changed his
mind after realizing that the people crafting those small boats were
neither sailors nor boat builders. ``I had doubts and thought the ocean
was the only way out. But one of the things that frightened me was that
the boat builders were dancers, actors, writers.'' He had already
written books he would later publish in Miami, where he arrived in 1997
with his father, who came as a political refugee.

The current editions of The Exile Experience do not list the names of
rafters, or those who came in the early days of the revolution, or via
third countries. Some of those will be chronicled in later editions.

Still, the book is a rich trove of historic photographs from The Miami
Herald/El Nuevo Herald and private collections.

There is also a tribute to the Freedom Tower, or El Refugio as Cubans
called their processing center, this community's Ellis Island. Today,
the iconic 1925 building is owned by Miami Dade College, where the book
was launched last Tuesday with a party for dignitaries and contributors.

``The Freedom Tower means a lot to me,'' Estefan said. ``I stood in line
there to get food with my aunt. ... my father lived in Puerto Rico and
my mother remained in Cuba with my brother. Once they gave me a voucher
to have surgery at Variety Children's Hospital, and when the operation
was over my parents were not by my side. There are many things we have
lived in our own flesh.''

When the gala for the college's 50th anniversary was held in the Freedom
Tower earlier this month, Estefan sat at the presidential table.

``That's what my career and this book are all about. We have to explain
it to the world. I went there for food and now I was sitting at the
presidential table,'' he said.


Cuban-Americans haul goods home on holiday visits

Posted on Saturday, 12.18.10
Cuban-Americans haul goods home on holiday visits
Associated Press

HAVANA -- In Cuba, Santa's sleigh is a Boeing 737.

Thousands of Cuban-Americans are heading to Havana this holiday season
carrying everything from electronics and medicine to clothing and
toiletries to help relatives back home supplement monthly salaries
averaging about $20.

Not only are Cuban-Americans visiting the island in far greater numbers
since President Barack Obama lifted travel restrictions last year, they
are bringing more stuff. One carrier says the average bag weight per
passenger is up 55 percent - and many Miami-Havana flights are shadowed
by a separate cargo plane just to haul the load.

"They bring you things for the family," said Paulo Roman Garcia, a
45-year-old Havana native who makes $9.50 a month selling fruit at a
market in the city's historic quarter.

Roman Garcia was looking forward to a visit in the New Year from his
older brother, who lives in New Jersey and will be coming down with
stocking-stuffers such as clothing and treats, as well as big-ticket
items including a stereo.

"My son has asthma, and he's bringing inhalers for his asthma," Roman
Garcia said. "Medicines are very important. Some don't exist here, or
they're hard to find."

During the administration of former President George W. Bush,
Cuban-Americans were allowed to visit only once every three years and
were limited to $100 a month in remittances. Those restrictions ended in
April 2009, although most non-Cuban Americans are still barred from
traveling to the island.

Cuba watchers and charter flight operators say travel between the United
States and Cuba skyrocketed after the change and continues to climb

"About 1,000 visitors are arriving a day from the U.S., and they expect
somewhere close to 400,000 by the end of the year," said Kirby Jones,
president of Alamar Associates of Bethesda, Maryland, a consulting firm
that works with American companies looking to do business with Cuba.

"The U.S. is now sending the second-most visitors to Cuba than any other
country," after Canada, Jones said.

The great majority are of Cuban heritage, and the rest are non-Cuban
Americans traveling for officially sanctioned activities such as
academic, cultural and sports exchanges. The figure does not include the
small but growing number of Americans who sidestep the travel ban by
flying in through Canada, Mexico or other countries, risking a stiff
U.S. fine if they are caught.

Traffic is even greater during the busy holiday season, when charters
add additional flights that quickly fill up. Miami airport officials
said 55 flights are scheduled to depart to four Cuban cities this
weekend, among the heaviest travel days leading up to Christmas.

At Havana's Jose Marti International Airport, Cubans crowded up against
a low metal fence last week, straining to watch for loved ones as they
emerged from customs pushing carts piled high with shrink-wrapped
luggage, kitchen appliances, televisions, stuffed animals and cardboard
boxes bursting at the seams.

Arturo de Cordoba traveled from Miami with five suitcases crammed with
cookies, sweets, rice and other goodies for his son and daughter, who
picked him up at the airport.

"I come here to share with my children," said Cordoba, a jeweler who has
been living in the United States for 30 years.

Tom Cooper, the president and owner of Miami-based Gulfstream Air
Charter, which flies a 146-seat 737 jetliner to Havana daily, said his
company's passenger load has doubled from about 23,000 in 2009 to
approaching 50,000 this year.

Also on the rise are baggage numbers.

"We track every pound that goes on the airplane. Our average bag weight
in the last year has gone from 85 to 132 pounds (from 40 to 60
kilograms) per person," Cooper said. The first 44 pounds (20 kilos) are
free, and there is a $1-a-pound surcharge after that, he said.

The load is so great that for about half of Gulfstream's flights, the
company charters a twin-turboprop cargo plane to carry the excess
baggage, Cooper said.

The visits are something of a lifeline in Cuba, where, five decades
after the Cuban Revolution, many basic goods that Americans take for
granted are in short supply - from office supplies to clothing, makeup,
aspirin, batteries and even cat food.

The Cuban government blames the 48-year U.S. embargo, which prohibits
nearly all commercial trade with the island, with the exception of food
and medicine. A historically stagnant Cuban economy hasn't helped.

What goods can be had are often out of reach for average Cubans. A small
19-inch (48- centimeter) flat-screen TV can cost well over $2,000 in the
few stores that supply them. That's far more than the cost of bringing
one in from the United States, even with the $270 import duty levied on
electronics and the extra overweight charges.

Ten-year-old Daniela Lezcano of West Palm Beach, Florida, flew in alone
for a three-week visit with her aunt, uncle, grandfather and other
relatives in Pinar del Rio carrying clothing, food, medicine and toys,
including a red model of a 1960 Corvette. Her family planned a Christmas
feast of roasted pork, homemade sweetened cassava and a typical rice and
bean dish known as "congri."

"We are very, very, very happy to see other family members more often"
since the travel restrictions were changed, said her uncle, Juan Miguel
Guerra Pereira.

Indeed, many say that as important as the gifts are, the emotional
reunions are far more significant for families separated by just 90
miles (145 kilometers) of sea between Cuba and Florida, but torn by
decades of Cold War tensions.

Take Roman Garcia, who said he and 10 other relatives plan to be on hand
at the airport to greet his brother when he returns for the first time
since leaving Cuba in 1980.

"We will have to cry a lot. It's a very beautiful moment, but very sad,"
Roman Garcia said. "We will go home together. ... He is going to be very
happy, because it's the house where he was born."


Raul Castro touts economic changes

Posted on Saturday, 12.18.10
Raul Castro touts economic changes
Associated Press

HAVANA -- Cuban President Raul Castro told legislators Saturday that the
future of the country's revolution is at stake as the government tries
to institute sweeping economic reforms, adding that the changes are
meant to strengthen socialism - not replace it.

Cuba has announced it will lay off a half-million workers from bloated
state-run enterprises, while simultaneously allowing more free
enterprise. It has also begun to scale back many of the subsidies Cubans
have come to rely on to compensate for salaries that average just $20 a

Castro has argued that the changes are needed to boost notoriously low
productivity, and that once that happens, living standards will begin to
rise. He urged his countrymen to embrace the changes, and warned that
anybody who doesn't will be left behind.

"The life of the revolution is in the balance," Castro said in a
two-hour speech closing out a twice-yearly meeting of the island's
national assembly. He repeated his contention that the dollop of limited
capitalism being injected into the economy does not mean the end of the
revolution's ideal to create an egalitarian utopia.

"The strategic economic changes are being made to sustain socialism," he
said. "They are to preserve and strengthen socialism, so as to make it

Still, Castro had a message to those who wonder if the Cuban government
is serious this time around - since past economic openings have fizzled.

He said the changes are "the result of profound meditations and
analysis, and we can assure you this time there will be no going back."

He urged Cubans not to listen to naysayers - particularly in the United
States - who have dismissed the economic changes as window-dressing.

"Our adversaries abroad, as we might expect, have challenged our every
step, first by calling the measures cosmetic and insufficient and now by
trying to confuse public opinion by prophesying a sure failure," he
said. "Sometimes it seems that their most heartfelt wishes (for Cuba's
failure) prevent them from seeing the reality."

He also warned his countrymen that they'll have to work in the new Cuba,
and can no longer rely on the state for handouts.

"Many of us Cubans confuse socialism with freebies and subsidies, and
equality with egalitarianism," the president said.

Castro also announced that a major Communist Party Congress where many
of the reforms are to be enshrined will be held April 16-19, with the
end date coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Cuba's victory in the
U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion. The government had previously said
only that it would be held in April.

Cuba's economy minister, who also spoke to the legislators, said the
government expected the economy to grow by 3.1 percent in 2011, up from
2.1 percent this year.

Revolutionary icon Fidel Castro was not present. Normally a ceremonial
seat is left empty for the former president, with a glass of water set
out in front of it. But the tradition was dispensed with this year.

Raul Castro also used the speech to blast Washington for its policies
toward Cuba, saying it has shown itself completely closed to better ties.

"There isn't the slightest willingness on the part of the United States
to change the policy against Cuba, not even to eliminate its most
irrational aspect," he said. "The U.S. policy on Cuba does not have an
ounce of credibility."

Washington has maintained an economic embargo on the communist-run
country for 48 years, and effectively bars most U.S. tourists from
visiting. Despite hopes by many that President Barack Obama would usher
in a new era in Cuban-U.S. relations, little has changed and the
countries remain enemies.

Two U.S. diplomatic cables from late 2009 recently released by WikiLeaks
indicate Raul Castro was perhaps hoping to change that, requesting
through a senior Spanish diplomat that a secret back channel be opened
between him and the White House. The overture was rejected, however, and
Castro was told that if he wanted to engage he should do so through
normal channels.

Cuban officials have expressed exasperation that Washington is not more
interested in talking, noting that the government has released many of
the island's dissidents and that they are reforming the economy to
inject more aspects of the free market.

A State Department spokesman on Thursday said Cuba had not made serious
efforts to change the country's political system - dominated since 1959
by Castro and his brother Fidel - or truly reform the economy.

Associated Press writer Paul Haven contributed to this report.


US castigates much-vaunted Cuban health system

US embassy cables: US castigates much-vaunted Cuban health system

guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 December 2010 21.30 GMT
Article history

Thursday, 31 January 2008, 19:52
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 HAVANA 000103
EO 12958 DECL: 01/25/2018
Classified By: COM: Michael E. Parmly: For reasons 1.4 b/d

1. Sicko
2. Production year: 2007
3. Country: USA
4. Cert (UK): 12A
5. Runtime: 113 mins
6. Directors: Michael Moore
7. More on this film


1. Diplomats believe Michael Moore film "Sicko" was banned in Cuba -
for showing the country's health system in such glowing light that it
would have provoked a popular backlash. Key passages highlighted in yellow.

1. (C) SUMMARY: This cable is a follow up to Reftel and provides
anecdotal accounts from Cubans about their healthcare, based on USINT
FSHP's (Foreign Service Health Practitioner) interactions with them, her
unauthorized visits to Cuban hospitals, and her care of USINT American
and Cuban personnel. End Summary.

2. (C) The following anecdotes were obtained from Cubans of various
walks of life: domestic employees, neighbors in the Havana suburbs,
USINT Local Contract National (LCN) employees, service providers such as
manicurists, masseuses, hair stylists, chauffeurs, musicians, artists,
yoga teachers, tailors, as well as HIV/AIDS and cancer patients,
physicians, and foreign medical students.

-- A Cuban woman in her thirties confides, "It's all about who you know.
I'm okay because I am healthy and I have 'friends' in the medical field.
If I didn't have my connections, and most Cubans do not, it would be
horrible." She relates that Cubans are increasingly dissatisfied with
their medical care. In addition to the general lack of supplies and
medicines, and because so many doctors have been sent abroad, the
neighborhood family physicians now care for 300-400 families and are
overwhelmed by the workload. (Note: Neighborhood doctors are supposed to
provide care for only 120 families. End Note.) In the absence of the
physicians, patients go to their municipality's "polyclinic," but long
lines before dawn are common, with an all too common 30-second diagnosis
of "it's a virus."

-- A 40-year old pregnant Cuban woman had a miscarriage. At the OB-Gyn
hospital they used a primitive manual vacuum to aspirate the contents of
her womb, without any anesthesia or pain medicine. She was offered no
emotional support for her 'loss' and no pain medication or follow up

-- A 6-year old Cuban boy with osterosarcoma (bone cancer) is admitted
to the oncology hospital. Only his parents are permitted to visit, and
then only for limited hours. He does not have a television nor any games
or toys. The hospital offers no social support services. The parents do
not seem informed as to their son's case. When asked by the FSHP what
they know about the management of the disease, they shrug their
shoulders. According to the FSHP, cancer patients do not receive
on-going basic care utilizing testing procedures common in much of the
world to monitor cancer care -- such as blood chemistries and tumor
markers, sonograms, x-rays, CT and bone scans, MRIs, PET scans, etc.
Patients are generally informed of the type of cancer they have, but
know little of its staging, tumor size, metastasis, or prognosis. They
may be offered surgery followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation but are
not given choices to decide an aggressive versus less aggressive
approach, nor are they allowed internet access to learn more of their

-- Many young cancer patients reportedly have become infected with
Hepatitis C after their surgeries. Contracting Hepatitis C after surgery
indicates a lack of proper blood screening prior to administering
transfusions. All blood should be screened for Hepatitis B, C, HIV and
Syphilis prior to use. Patients have no recourse and are not fully
informed of the seriousness of such an inadvertent infection.

-- During chemotherapy and radiation treatments, patients receive little
in the way of symptom or side-effects care (i.e., severe nausea,
vomiting, low blood counts, fever, diarrhea, radiation burns, mouth
sores, peripheral neuropathies,etc.) that is critically important in
being able to continue treatments, let alone provide comfort to an
already emotionally distraught victim. Cancer patients are not provided
with, nor can they find locally, simple medications such as Aspirin,
Tylenol, skin lotions, vitamins, etc. Most Cuban patients are not
offered Hospice Care or any social support programs for children,
adults, or their care providers.

-- HIV positive patients have had the letters 'SIDA' (AIDS)

HAVANA 00000103 002 OF 006

stamped on their national ID cards. Needless to say, in a country where
the national ID card must be shown for everything from getting monthly
rations to buying a train ticket, the person is stigmatized for life.
There is no patient/doctor confidentiality and discrimination is very
strong. (Note: According to Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO)
officials in Havana, stamping ID cards used to be the case but is no
longer the practice in Cuba, something we could not independently
corroborate. End Note.)

-- Some newly diagnosed HIV/AIDS patients are held in what has come to
be known as "Prision de Pacientes con SIDA de San Jose" (Prison for AIDS
patients). There they are started on antiretrovirals AZT, D4T, 3TC. It
is unclear to them why they were put in this prison-like facility but
believe it is plain discrimination due to their homosexuality. The
average period spent at this facility seems to be 18-24 months.

-- AIDS patients are not given prophylaxis medication for the prevention
of PCP (Pneumocysti carinii pneumonia), and for lack of newer medicines
some patients are re-started on antiretroviral regimens that were
stopped due to significant side effects. The Cuban family physicians who
care for these patients' primary care needs do not have the authority to
treat their HIV/AIDS disease. There is only one facility in Cuba,
Instituto Pedro Kouri, located in Havana, where HIV positive patients
can receive their specialty care, antiretroviral medications and
treatments. According to HIV positive Cubans known to FSHP, one usually
waits for months for an appointment, but can often move ahead in line by
offering a gift or hard currency. We are told five Cuban convertible
pesos (approximately USD 5.40) can get one an x-ray and more can get one
a CD4 count. Patients on the island must travel to the capital city for
their specialist visits and medication. Due to the lack of island-wide
transportation and the cost of travel, many HIV-positive patients may be
seen only once per year.

-- While the GOC claims there is a network of organizations that provide
social support for HIV/AIDS patients, many of our sources say they have
never been to one. Because they are "marked" as HIV positive, many are
prevented from pursuing university studies and few can find gainful
employment -- many must resort to menial jobs to survive.

-- A physician XXXXXXXXXXXX told the FSHP that he works 14 hours every
other day, then has to hitchhike home because he cannot afford to own a car.

-- XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that Cuban authorities have banned Michael
Moore's documentary, "Sicko," as being subversive. Although the film's
intent is to discredit the U.S. healthcare system by highlighting the
excellence of the Cuban system, he said the regime knows the film is a
myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans
facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.
When the FSHP showed Sicko to a group of XXXXXXXXXXXX, some became so
disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that
they left the room.

-- Even the Cuban ruling elite sometimes goes outside of Cuba for the
best medical care. Fidel Castro, in July, 2006 brought in a Spanish
doctor during his health crisis. Vice Minister of Health Abelardo
Ramirez went to France for gastric cancer surgery. The neurosurgeon who
is Chief of CIMEQ Hospital (reportedly one of the best in Cuba) went to
England for eye surgery and returns periodically for checkups.

-- According to a local pediatrician, the approximate breakdown of Cuban
physicians' salaries are: 1st & 2nd year residences earn 325 pesos
monthly (USD 15.00); 3rd year residences earn 355 (USD 16.00); 4th year
residences (specialists) earn 400 pesos monthly (USD 18.00). For every
four years of medical practice thereafter, a physician receives an
additional 20 pesos (USD 0.89 cents) per month.

-- There is reportedly such a shortage of nurses that within the last
few years, a high-school graduate is now offered an

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accelerated training course of just ten-months duration entitled,
"Enfermeras Emergentes" (Emergency Nurses). These "quasi" nurses are not
trained to start Intravenous lines, interpret lab results or draw blood.

-- Few medical professionals are allowed access to the internet and are
rarely allowed to travel to participate in international conferences or
continuing education courses. Access to up-to-date medical literature is
not available. Some physicians have confided to the FSHP, "All of us
want to leave." They are dissatisfied with their salaries and their own
medical care. They receive no special privileges - most of them do not
even have access to care at the better foreigner hospitals, even if they
work there.

-- As described in reftel, the best medical institutions in Cuba are
reserved for foreigners with hard currency, members of the ruling elite
and high-ranking military personnel. These institutions, with their
intended patient clientele in parentheses, include: Clinica Central Cira
Garcia (diplomats & tourists), Centro Internacional de Investigaciones
Restauracion Neurologica (foreigners & military elite), Centro de
Investigaciones Medico Quirurgicas (military & regime elite), Clinica de
Kohly (Primer Buro Politico & Generals of the Ministry of Interior), and
the top floors of the Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital (foreigners) and
Frank Pais Hospital (foreigners). These institutions are hygienically
qualified, and have a wide array of diagnostic equipment with a full
complement of laboratories, well-stocked pharmacies, and private patient
suites with cable television and bathrooms.

4. (C) Below are first-hand observations from USINT's Foreign Service
Health Practitioner's (FSHP) impromptu and unauthorized (by the GOC)
visits to major Havana hospitals where average Cubans receive their
healthcare, and from conversations with Cubans in many walks of life.

A. Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital

-- Address: San Lazaro #701 Esquina A Belascoain, Centro Habana, Havana

-- Date of visit: October, 2007

-- Built in 1982, this newly renovated 600 bed, 24 story hospital is
depicted in Michael Moore's film "Sicko," where some 60 surgeries are
performed daily including heart, kidney, and cornea transplants, mostly
to patients who receive free treatment as part of Operation Milagro
(mostly from Venezuela, but also from the rest of Latin America). The
two top floors (shown in the movie) are the most modern and are reserved
for medical tourists and foreign diplomats who pay in hard currency. The
hospital has three intensive care units and all medical specialties
except Pediatrics and Obstetrics/Gynecology and has no emergency room.
The facility has a CT scanner (often said to be out-of-service), MRI and
hyperbaric chamber capabilities.

-- Upon entering the building the FSHP was struck by the grand and
impressive lobby with a four-story ceiling, polished terrazzo floors and
an elegant center reception booth. No one was in the reception booth,
which displayed a digital streaming ticker-tape announcing an outdated
hospital event; 30 or 40 people were sparsely scattered in the
leather-like chairs throughout the lobby. There were no wheel chairs or
other obvious signs this was a hospital.

-- She was told the majority of patients came from Venezuela and each
received weekly one bar of Palmolive bath soap, Palmolive shampoo, and a
tube of Colgate toothpaste. She was also told the Venezuelan patients
frequently take these items outside to the front parking lot and sell
them to local Cubans. Cuban in-patients receive one tube of Colgate
toothpaste and no other toiletries.

-- Due to the high volume of foreigners receiving treatments and
surgeries, most Cubans do not have access - the only chance might be a
through a family member or connection working there and a gift or 20
CUCS (USD 21.60) to the Hospital Administrator. Cubans are reportedly
very resentful

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that the best hospital in Havana is "off-limits" to them.

B. Ramon Gonzalez Coro Hospital

-- Address: Calle 21 #856 between 4th & 6th Avenues, Vedado Plaza, Havana

-- Date of visit: July, 2006

-- What is today the Obstetrics & Gynecology (OB-Gyn) hospital for
Havana, used to be a private clinic prior to the revolution. The
hospital has: 300 beds and reserves 12 beds for foreigners; an Intensive
Care Unit for women as well as a Newborn Intensive Care Unit (using a
very old infant 'Bird' respirator/ventilator - the model used in the
U.S. in the 1970s); an Intermediate Newborn Care Unit; one room for
babies less than five pounds needing weight gain; a Genetics Department
with a specialized laboratory; and five surgical suites.

-- The FSHP visited this hospital with a pregnant USINT American
patient. Normally USINT staff is required to go to Cira Garcia Clinic,
but because there were possible OB complications the FSHP was able to
arrange, through a Cuban medical contact, for the patient to be seen by
a highly-recommended obstetrician.

-- This hospital, located in the densely populated residential area of
Vedado, had a dilapidated and crumbling exterior. The FSHP was stopped
at the entrance by a guard, but upon mentioning the name of the doctor
they were to see, were allowed to proceed to the second floor -
supposedly the nicest part of the hospital, which is reserved for
foreigners; it reminded the FSHP of some of the poorest hospitals she
had seen in Africa - unkempt rooms, old wrought-iron beds, flat
mattresses with only one sheet, no A/C, no TV, no amenities. At the
nursing station there was no nurse, but a metal cabinet with glass doors
that had one jar filled with cotton and one half-full 16 ounce bottle of
isopropyl alcohol. There were no other supplies nor any indication this
was a nurse's station - no stethoscopes, no computers, no medical
charts, no papers or pens on the desk - there was a lone dial-type black

-- After waiting 15 minutes a nurse in a white uniform appeared and told
the FSHP and her patient to wait. She wasn't friendly. There was no
waiting room, so they found some chairs in the hall. It was very hot and
the patient was very anxious and in pain. After 45 minutes and several
attempts in a polite manner to move things along, a young female doctor
came out smiling and asked for the patient - she asked that her husband
remain in the chair, but did allow the FSHP to go with her upon
insisting. At the end of a long hallway, the FSHP and the patient were
guided into an "exam room." There were no chairs, screens, posters, any
medical supplies or equipment; only one old rusting sheet-metal table
without any covering, extensions or stirrups. She asked the patient to
undress and climb on the table with no intention to drape her. Having
worked in third-world countries, the FSHP brought with her a bag of
supplies that included paper drapes, which she placed on the table and
over the patient. The doctor pulled out of a nearby drawer an old Pinard
fetal heart stethoscope made of aluminum (funnel-shaped, like those used
at the turn of the Century ) to listen for the baby's heart beat. The
FSHP could not believe her eyes -- this was one of the best OB/GYN
hospitals in Cuba. When the FSHP offered the doctor a portable fetal
Doppler she had brought from the USINT Health Unit (HU), she gladly

-- Although the doctor appeared to be clinically competent, she was
abrupt and rough with the patient. FSHP believes this to be typical of
the hierarchical doctor-patient relationship in Cuba. She stated, "She
has an infection and needs an antibiotic," and gave the FSHP a written
prescription for an antibiotic generally not recommended during
pregnancy. Upon returning to the HU the FSHP did a culture that returned
negative for a bacterial infection. Needless to say, the FSHP did not
give the prescription to the patient. As a result of this experience,
the FSHP concluded that the best care for her unstable female pregnant
patients in Havana -- barring a MEDEVAC to the U.S. -- would

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be by the FSHP in their own home with telephone consults to an
obstetrician in the U.S.

-- XXXXXXXXXXXX told the FSHP that XXXXXXXXXXXX foreign medical students
are increasingly covering for the gross shortages of physicians in Cuban

C. Calixto Garcia Hospital

-- Address: Avenida De Universidad Y 27 De Noviembre, Vedado, Havana

-- Date of visit: November, 2007

-- Built in the late 1800's, this dilapidated 400-bed hospital was the
first teaching hospital in Cuba and is only for Cubans. FSHP believes
that if Michael Moore really wanted the "same care as local Cubans,"
this is where he should have gone. The 22-bed emergency room receives
all the major trauma and accident victims from Havana City, plus there
are large Intensive and Intermediate Care Units. It also has a CT
scanner and an MRI, which are reportedly often out of order. The
hospital provides specialist care in all medical fields except OB-Gyn
and Pediatrics.

-- During the hospital visit, FSHP was struck by the shabbiness of the
facility -- no renovations were apparent -- and the lack of everything
(medical supplies, privacy, professional care staff). To the FSHP it was
reminiscent of a scene from some of the poorest countries in the world.

-- In an open-curtained exam room inside the emergency room, FSHP saw a
middle-aged man lying on a gurney in his own soiled clothes with a large
bloody bandage wrapped around his head - he was breathing, but was
neither moving nor talking - there was no IV, oxygen (in fact no
piped-in oxygen at all at this facility) or monitoring equipment.
Neither did there seem to be any sense of urgency to his care.

-- The hospital is spread out over several city blocks consisting of
many two-story buildings with various specialties: Internal Medicine,
Cardiology, General Surgery, Orthopedics, Ophthalmology, and Neurology,
etc. Each building is set up in dormitory style, with 44 metal beds in
two large open rooms.

-- The laboratory equipment is very rudimentary - a simple CBC (complete
blood count) blood test is calculated manually by a laboratory
technician looking through a microscope and counting the individual
leucocytes, lymphocytes, monocytes, etc.

-- As the FSHP exited a building, XXXXXXXXXXXX drove up in a badly
dented 1981 Moskovich that belched exhaust fumes. The private car, which
is a luxury in Cuba, was a gift from his deceased father. He was a thin
man, appearing disheveled, unshaved, with a cigarette between his lips,
wearing a tattered white lab coat without a shirt underneath. He said
his salary was 565 pesos (approximately $22) per month.

D. Salvador Allende Hospital

-- Address: Calzada Del Cerro # 1551, Cerro, Havana

-- Date of visit: November, 2007

-- This 400-bed hospital is located in Cerro - a poorer and more densely
populated section than the others visited in Havana. It is an old,
run-down facility similar in appearance to Calixto Garcia Hospital in
that there are several two-story buildings each with a medical specialty.

-- The FSHP was dropped off a few blocks away so the guards wouldn't see
the diplomatic plates. When she walked in, the guards smelled of
alcohol. In the emergency room there were about 40 mostly poor-looking
Afro-Cuban patients waiting to

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be seen. It appeared to be very orderly, clean, and organized.

-- The rest of the buildings were in shambles . The FSHP did not see any
"real" medicine or nursing practiced during her almost one-hour walk
through most of the buildings. As she saw patients, she could not help
but think that their own home might provide more value-added than
remaining in that hospital. Patients had to bring their own light bulbs
if they wanted light in their rooms. The switch plates and knobs had
been stolen from most of the rooms so one had to connect bare wires to
get electricity. There was no A/C and few patients had floor fans.
Patients had to bring their own sheets, towels, soap and supplemental
foods. Hospital food service consisted of rice, fish, rice, eggs, and
potatoes day after day. No fresh fruits, vegetables, or meat were available.

5. (C) Comment: After living in Cuba for two and a half years, treating
numerous Cuban employees at USINT, and interacting with many other
Cubans, the FSHP believes many are malnourished and psychologically
stressed. Hypertension, diabetes and asthma are widespread, but poorly
treated. Common prescription and basic over-the-counter medications are
unavailable. Given the large number of chronic diseases treated by the
FSHP, preventive medicine in Cuba is a by-gone ideal, rather than the
standard practice of care. PARMLY


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cuba's 'best friends forever' ignore human rights

WikiLeaks cables:
Cuba's 'best friends forever' ignore human rights
Australia, Canada, Switzerland and Spain among countries damned by
diplomat for 'kowtowing' in hope of trade favours
* Rory Carroll
* guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 December 2010 21.30 GMT

Australia, Canada and several European countries have stopped pressuring
Cuba over human rights in the hope of winning commercial favours from
Havana, according to confidential US diplomatic cables released by
The western governments continued to pay lip service to concerns about
political prisoners and censorship, but in reality were appeasing the
island's communist rulers, said Jonathan Farrar, the US head of mission.
The diplomat made scathing remarks about his colleagues shunning
democracy activists, "kowtowing" to the Castro regime and joining what
he scornfully termed the "best friends forever" camp.
"The Cuban government has been able to stonewall its independent civil
society from foreign visitors who have, for the large part, been all too
ready to give in to Cuban bullying and give up on these encounters,"
Farrar said.
He named and shamed the countries Washington considers offenders in its
battle, started half a century ago by JFK, to keep an international
squeeze on the island.
"The Australian foreign minister, Switzerland's human rights special
envoy and the Canadian cabinet level minister of the Americas not only
failed to meet with non-government Cubans, they didn't even bother to
publicly call for more freedoms after visiting Cuba in November," Farrar
Canada had softened its position over the past year, he said, with newly
arrived diplomats minimising civil society contacts. "Promoting
democracy may play well in political circles in Ottawa but the Canadian
government appears to have decided that doing anything serious about it
in Cuba under the current regime could jeopardise the advancement of
Canada's other interests."
He railed against the European commission for sitting "snugly in the
best friends forever" camp and siding with Spain – which seeks warmer
ties with Havana – against more hawkish EU members. "Their functionaries
share with us their reproach of the 'radical' Swedes and Czechs, with
their human rights priorities, and can't wait for 'moderate' Spain to
take over the EU presidency."
The US envoy mocked those who claimed to push for human rights in
private meetings with Cuban officials. "The truth is that most of these
countries do not press the issue at all in Cuba. The GOC [government of
Cuba] … deploys considerable resources to bluff and bully many missions
and their visitors into silence."
The criticised governments are likely to reject the memo as an example
of sour grapes from a country that has seen its Caribbean foe embraced
by Africa, Latin America, Asia and increasingly the west. Even
Washington's allies consider its embargo a cold war anachronism.
"Demented," as one European ambassador put it.
Cuba's opposition is small, fractious and powerless – split between
groups who favour hardline US policy and those who think the softer
approach of other governments will do more to open up the island.
The confidential US memo said the Castro government was determined to
drive a wedge into the EU's common policy on Cuba, which in theory
obliges member states to lobby hard for human rights. Britain is among
countries that refuse to send a minister to Havana without concessions.
Farrar approvingly categorised this as the "take your visit and shove
it" approach. "Germany, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom may
pay a price in terms of lost business and access from their principled
stance. Others who stand in this camp have less to lose from sticking it
to the Cubans, and include Poland and Sweden."
There is no mention of William Hague, the then British shadow foreign
secretary, and Lord Ashcroft meeting senior Cuban officials in Havana
last year. The pair did not meet democracy activists, but since taking
office Hague has promised to continue the British policy of not sending
Farrar said those foreign delegations that shunned civil society
activists and avoided mention of political prisoners reaped few
dividends. "For the most part the rewards for acquiescing to GOC demands
are risible: pomp-full dinners and meetings and, for the most pliant, a
photo op with one of the Castro brothers. In terms of substance or
economic benefits they fare little better than those who stand up to the
In a separate cable, Arnold Chacon, the American charge d'affaires in
Spain, noted Croatia's effort to placate the US by playing down the
importance of a trumpeted visit to Havana last year by Stjepan Mesić,
Croatia's president at the time. Croatia's ambassador assured the US
envoy that the trip had "zero value" and that the visitors were in fact
"embarrassed" by the red carpet treatment.

Urban Tribes Prowl Havana Nights


Urban Tribes Prowl Havana Nights
By Dalia Acosta

HAVANA, Dec 17, 2010 (IPS) - A different city emerges on the weekends in
Havana. Young people, whose faces are as strange as they are common,
take possession of the city and reinvent it. They are the "urban
tribes," a global phenomenon that has made its mark on Cuba.

A stretch of about 700 metres of Calle G, one of Havana's main avenues,
is a meeting site for these informal networks. As described by French
sociologist Michel Maffesoli back in 1985, these "tribes" are groups of
young people, ages 12 to 20, who create new forms of human relations and
establish their own behavioural norms.

In Cuba, it is cultural consumption that differentiates the main tribes,
largely based on their musical preferences: the rockers (rockeros) are
divided among metalheads (metaleros), new metalheads, punks, hippies and
freaks (friques); the "emos," devotees to the subgenre of dark,
emotional rock music; the "mikis," dedicated to electroacoustic, disco
and Cuba's native-grown trova music; and the "reparteros," who follow
reggaeton, hip hop, rap and timba (often referred to as Cuban salsa).

"Every urban tribe has its sanctuaries and traditions," states writer
and rocker José Miguel Sánchez (Yoss) in the digital magazine "La Isla
en Peso." Nevertheless, Calle G accepts everyone. The street becomes the
great unifier, even for those who do not embrace any particular identity.

"There really aren't many options for young people. Here you run into
thousands of people, and they might not have much in common with you,
but you build your social life with it," Max, who had made himself
comfortable on a bench on the old Avenida de los Presidents, told IPS.
By day, he works for a state-run transport company.

Only a few academics have turned their gaze to this social phenomenon,
which grew out of the new identities emerging amongst "a young and
adolescent population that needed to differentiate itself," according to
psychologist Daybel Pañellas. A professor at the University of Havana,
she led a study about nights on Calle G.

In a debate organised by the Cuban magazine "Temas," Pañellas said she
does not agree with classifying these groups as tribes, "in terms of a
solid ideology that mobilises a particular social project," with the
exception of the "rockeros," a group that has been well established
since the 1960s.

Some 2,000 youths swarm the area on weekend nights, Friday to Sunday,
and have their spaces marked: first the rockers, then the reparteros and
mikis, and ending with the emos, often spurned by the others due to
their tendency towards melancholy and sentimentality, men and women alike.

According to the academic study of these groups, based on more than 400
interviews, the mikis, reparteros and emos are united in essence for
their aesthetic, musical and entertainment preferences. The rockers,
meanwhile, come from years of resistance against official policies. For
years the government considered them "ideological deviants" and

"We are different from all the rest: in philosophy, clothing, musical
genre, the way we talk and how we behave in society," Alejandro, a
17-year-old rocker who studies electronics, told IPS. "We now have a
calmer philosophy, less conflictive and more centred on ourselves," he said.

Some of Cuba's other cities have their own urban tribe phenomena, to
varying degrees, including Matanzas (west), Santa Clara (central), and
Holguín and Santiago de Cuba (east).

In 2008, Calle G saw a rise of a futuristic aesthetic, with straightened
hair -- whether black, blonde or red -- moulded into a long fringe that
covered half the face, and in many cases both eyes. In Cuba, this style
is known as "bistec" (beefsteak). However, few people wear the style
very long, due to the tropical climate.

Lila, and 18-year-old emo, explained to IPS why she thinks other groups,
like the reparteros, reject her "tribe": "We are based on feelings. We
are very united and we make our friendship into a brotherhood. The male
emos face more social disapproval because they are seen as 'flojitos'
(weaklings, suggesting homosexual), but they aren't at all."

The emo culture of Europe, dating to the 1980s, is strong on misanthropy
and self-inflicted pain, like cutting. But in Cuba it is nuanced by the
Caribbean identity of "someone who is happy, optimistic, a little
machista, a femme- fatal or Casanova," according to psychologist
Yessabel Gómez Sera.

Gómez Sera, author of "Who Are the Cuban Emos? An Exploratory Study of a
Group of Adolescent Emos," from 2009, stressed that "not all emos cut
themselves. They simply scratch themselves, and then quickly realise
that they can be emo without it."

Meanwhile, the mikis in Cuba are similar to those known as "chetos" in
other Latin American countries. According to Ángel, a self-identified
high-school- aged miki, his "tribe" is characterised by happiness,
"having a good time" and "great outlooks for the present and the
future." He doesn't like that mikis are often seen as materialistic and

With stronger local roots, the reparteros emerged from timba music, a
fast and aggressive type of salsa music from the late 1990s. They listen
to "danceable rhythms that are catchy, contagious, and rich... and are
closely tied to fashion," said a young man who didn't want to give his name.

The reparteros arrived relatively recently on Calle G. "It has to do
with humble people, who live in marginal neighbourhoods where there
isn't very much culture," he said, referring to a tribe often
stereotyped as violent and conflictive.

Regardless, the diversity of Cuba's urban tribal identities is reflected
in their aesthetics: borrowing from African styles for the Rastafarians,
imposing and dark for the rockeros, irrevocably androgynous for the
emos, attention grabbing for the reparteros, and clandestine painting
for the graffiti artists.