Sunday, July 31, 2011

Original Names / Fernando Dámaso

Original Names / Fernando Dámaso
Fernando Dámaso, Translator: Unstated

Our authorities have the absurd habit of changing the names of streets,
parks, shops, businesses and even some public places, according to their
short-term political interests. Thus, Presidents Avenue, El Vedado,
built during the Republic and along which appear monuments, statues or
busts of various Cuban presidents, degenerated into a the so-called
Avenue of the Latin American Presidents (not of all of them, just the
"friendly" ones). Previously, the site dedicated to the American
Presidents (taking the Americas as a whole), was the beautiful
Fraternity Park, next to the Capitol building. In its conversion to
Estrada Palma (the first President) all that is left on the marble base
is a pair of shoes, near the Hotel Presidente, an outstanding display of
cultural vandalism, and Jose Miguel Gomez was saved at the junction with
Calle 29, as his monument was so huge. The spaces provided for the
others have been occupied by statues or busts (some quite poorly
executed artistically) of Bolivar, Alfaro, Torrijos, Allende, etc., in a
strange hodgepodge of history.

The Avenida de Carlos III, has long has imposed on it the name of
Salvador Allende, but only a tiny minority of people call it this. The
same thing happened to Reina (renamed Simon Bolivar), Galiano (Father
Varela), Monte (Maximo Gomez) and others, all of which ordinary people
still call by their original names. This extends to sports venues, where
most of the ballparks have names that have nothing to do with their
sport, whether it be swimming pools, facilities for basketball,
volleyball and others where elementary logic suggests they should be
named for the respective leading figures in that sport.

Recently a rally held at the Acapulco Park in Nuevo Vedado got my
attention; in one of its corners they have erected an unimaginative and
completely oblivious to the design of the park monument dedicated to
Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh. It turns out that they have renamed it Ho
Chi Minh Park (when they dedicated the monument, it called Liberty
Park). At the ceremony, which they repeat every time some important
Vietnamese visits, the only ones participating were the students from a
nearby high school, in full uniform, Vietnamese students studying in
Cuba and a few selected officials. A political assembly that passersby
observe from afar, since it has nothing to do with them or with the
neighborhood. I don't know if the Vietnamese have noticed.

Undoubtedly, the authorities of the city and country have the right to
name avenues, streets, parks, etc., but please, build them first rather
than rededicate existing ones; it would be much easier and less
expensive than changing existing, and therefore historical, ones. For me
and the neighbors who live in Nuevo Vedado, Acapulco Park was, is and
always will be the Acapulco Park. I think, the same thing happens with
the neighbors of other places.

These names are also part of the much touted national identity. They
constitute the heritage of neighborhoods, areas and cities. Changing
them for short-term political expediency shows disrespect for the
citizens (who are not consulted) to whom they really belong, because
they live in the area around them, and also shows a lack of culture and
civility. The defense of national identity is demonstrated by deeds and
not speeches. Hopefully this nefarious practice, which has failed
wherever there have been efforts to impost it (St. Petersburg will
always be St. Petersburg), will cease once and for all, not further
complicating the lives of future historians with so many name changes,
which almost everyone ignores.

July 7 2011

And the Cable? / Regina Coyula

And the Cable? / Regina Coyula
Regina Coyula, Translator: Unstated

July is almost over and I have not heard or read anything about the
operation of fiber optic cable which, with great optimism and media
hype, was laid between Cuba and its Bolivarian sister [Venezuela]. In
military life I imagine they've finished the implementation plan, but
must be keeping it secret like all things there. In civilian life, the
authorities in charge take prophylactic measures. The departments with
access to the Internet apply new versions to stop recording the sites
their surfers access, and to more carefully wipe clean their browsing
history, because this makes you a candidate for losing your connection
time, the nightmare of any "State" navigator.

The cable couldn't be the exception to Cuban plans, whose completion
date is set by the turn of events and does not adhere to any reality.
That must be the explanation for it being the end of July and civilians
continuing to get slow connections, very slow.

July 29 2011

We Want Yordi in Santa Clara / Ricardo Medina

We Want Yordi in Santa Clara / Ricardo Medina
Ricardo Medina, Translator: Unstated

The Methodist Pastor Yordi Alberto Toranzo Collado, rector of "Trinity"
Church in the city of Santa Clara. Source: Google Images.

Seeking the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, has been the Methodist
Pastor Yordi Alberto Toranzo Collado,, rector of the "Trinity" Church in
the city of Santa Clara, who swore before the Altar of God to seek the
Kingdom of God and his Righteousness. The same inscription is in a
stained glass image of Jesus with outstretched arms, leading the church
whose rector, with the consent of the Holy Spirit, Yordi leads in that
city, this image offers a welcome to the people of Santa Clara who pass
in front of the temple and gather there.

So the Rev. Yordi Alberto Toranzo Collado, encouraged by the sense of
justice, left his house and walked a few blocks to join the grieving
family of Soto García, Sunday May 8, the feast of Mother's Day, as he
does and is called on to do, not only as a minister of God, but to all
the baptized.

It is sad to see how Monseñor Ricardo Pereira Díaz, Bishop of the
Methodist Church in Cuba, a few days later and prompted by fear of State
Security through the Department of Attention to Religious Matters and
the Ministry of Justice and the Council of State, called for the removal
of the pastor to the town of Santa Cruz del Norte, of Havana province.
It is painful that an authority of the Church of Christ for the Republic
of Cuba serves the government better than he serves his flock and their

Monseñor Pereira, I am a witness of this town of Santa Clara, where the
adages of contempt continued against the temple, the sign that announced
the Municipal Party Headquarters, the place which was operated as the
Methodist Church in Cuba, I remember as a child (because I am from Santa
Clara), how the workers of the Municipal Part bought eggs and called the
children studying the Mariano Clemente Prado primary school, located
across from the church, to through the eggs at the Reverent Pedro Mayor
and his wife Ana Luise whom I remember with much fondness.

Now as a priest of Christ I do not understand, nor will I ever
understand, the position you have taken agasint Yordi, his place is to
be at the side of justice and I am very sure that this is being denied
by the ministry in which you preside. Reflect and ask for the light of
the Holy Spirit and say with us:

"We want Yordi in Santa Clara."

June 28 2011

Dreamer and Disconnected / Luis Felipe Rojas

Dreamer and Disconnected / Luis Felipe Rojas
Luis Felipe Rojas, Translator: Raul G.

I was able to hear, via a radio show being transmitted from Miami, the
reading of an article by a Cuban writer named Eduardo del Llano. It was
a perfect sonata defending the right of Cuban workers and dissidents to
strike. "Why not?", asked del Llano. I was greatly impressed by the
light and fresh prose of the excellent humorist and I really wanted to
be able to re-read that specific work. I wanted to see those blunt words
on my lap top (which, of course, has no internet connection) so I could
reply to him in regards to two phrases that didn't sound right to me,
and congratulate him regardless. I sent a friend of mine so that he
could download the mentioned article, while dodging the cyber-informers,
but he called me from his province with fatal news. There were
connection problems. "There is no internet access to that blog from my
work place", he assured.

When I tried to do it on my own, a blue logo popped up and told me:
"Internet Explorer cannot display this web site", and immediately
another sign followed it which amicably suggested: "You can try the
following- Diagnose connection problems". And it went on like that
forever, that sign which haunts me like a childhood ghost and which
props up for certain pages and names, like a sharp weapon of the Cuban
cyber-police: "Internet Explorer cannot display this web site" or "You
are using an outdated version of FireFox, try again with an updated
one". I swear I would try it if it weren't for the fact that 6.00 CUC or
150 Cuban pesos only allows me 60 minutes on the internet.

Not too long ago, my uncle asked me if Facebook was an epidemic created
by the Yankees (Americans), and I really just wanted to laugh. But I
didn't want to miss the morning coffee and I asked him why he was asking
that. According to him, he had read a Cuban newspaper where they hurled
countless insults against "that Facebook thing". I also did not laugh
because I am not a masochist, because, I admit it, sometimes I'm not
that much of a good Cuban, like the manuals say, to laugh at all my

A friend of mine from the university who now works at a weekly
provincial newspaper was recently complaining about having lost contact
with other friends on Facebook. His ideological chiefs in Havana had
prohibited the use of this virtual tool for those working for the
state-run press. According to him, he had no way of replying to attacks
made on the local healthcare and the health care of Cuba in general.
When he complained, they responded by stating that it was an order from
above, suggesting names like Ramiro Valdes, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura,
Rolando Alfonso Borges, or some other information capo from the Central

It was many months ago when I lost my Facebook friends, that I cannot
follow them from a cybercafe with the occasional internet card given to
me by other internet surfers or tourists who have decided to join me in
solidarity. I have not been able to upload images of that Cuba which the
regime allows me to photograph, or to write 200-word screams from a
crazy man from his island-prison.

On Twitter, and with the modest re-charges which friends have provided
me, I have been able to spit out a couple of letters every once in a while.

Translated by Raul G.

30 July 2011

To Support Who, in Reality? / Fernando Dámaso

To Support Who, in Reality? / Fernando Dámaso
Fernando Dámaso, Translator: Unstated

Not surprisingly, in the crusade against the empire that the Cuban
regime has waged since its establishment, they have regressed from
supporting the progressive forces of that time, to closing ranks with
the reactionary regimes of today. It seems that in the long journey some
ideals were lost, mainly having to do with the full freedom, humanism,
civil rights, et cetera.

In official statements and in the media, openly and shamelessly, they
defend the rulers overthrown by the will of the people in Tunisia and
Egypt. Also those who, faced with popular demonstrations and riots, are
trying to maintain power in Yemen, Libya and Syria. They also supported
the ruler — ultimately ousted — in the Ivory Coast who, despite having
been defeated in a legal electoral process, refused to relinquish power.
All this without mentioning the absurdity of North Korea where power, as
a dynasty, is passed from fathers to sons (just in recent days they
commemorated the 99th anniversary of the birth of the great leader,
founder and eternal president of Korea), or the desire to perpetuate
himself in power of the Venezuelan president.

It is understandable that this happens: the Cuban regime has been in
power for 52 years, and in practice has also functioned as a dynasty
where the main political positions are held by the so-called historic
leaders. Therefore, the issue is close enough to them and they defend
their peers as a way of defending themselves.

It is a reality that social phenomena do not have to be repeated
identically, but also a reality that, when the causes are the same,
anything can happen. The domino effect is very old and is part of the
history of mankind and will not fail to be taken into account, despite
the geographic space separating the different events.

An intelligent appraisal what is happening, must lead to objectively
analyzing our situation and taking appropriate decisions in time to
avoid greater evils. This process includes the active participation of
all stakeholders, without exclusive policies, and the exercise of
citizens' rights. Only in a climate of tolerance, without obsolete
dogmatic entrenchment, can you secure the tranquility necessary to the
whole nation, a prerequisite for solving many problems.

April 29 2011

Five Years Ago Raul Castro "Inherited" a Nation and Its People; What Has He Done With It?

Yoani Sanchez - Award-Winning Cuban Blogger

Five Years Ago Raul Castro "Inherited" a Nation and Its People; What Has
He Done With It?
Posted: 7/31/11 01:30 PM ET

"The chocolate is over!" screamed my two friends, as I opened the door
that night of July 31, 2006. They were alluding, with their improvised
slogan, to the latest plan pushed by Fidel Castro to distribute a
chocolate quota to every Cuban through the ration market. When the
doorbell rang there were only two hours left before the first of August
and Carlos Valenciaga, Fidel's personal secretary, had already read a
proclamation on TV announcing the unexpected illness of the Maximum
Leader. The lights at the Council of State remained lit -- oddly -- and
an anomalous silence settled over the city. During that long night, no
one could sleep a wink in our house.

As they reached for their second glass of rum, my friends began to count
how many times they had planned for that day, predicted that news. He, a
singer-songwriter; she, a television producer. Both had been born and
grown up under the power of the same president, who had determined even
the smallest details of their lives. I listened to them talk and was
surprised by their relief, the flood of desires for the future now
unleashed. Perhaps they felt more free after that announcement. Time
would bring them to understand that while we were chatting about the
future, others were ensuring that the package of succession was neatly
tied up.

Five years later, the country has been transferred, entirely via blood.
Raul Castro has received the inheritance of a nation, its resources, its
problems and even its inhabitants. Everything he has done in the last
five years stems from the imperative not to lose this family possession,
passed on to him by his brother. The slow pace of his reforms, their
timidity and superficiality, is marked in part by feeling himself the
beneficiary of the patrimony entrusted to him. And what, you wonder, of
my friends? When they realized that under the younger brother the
repression would continue, that the penalization of opinion would remain
intact, they distanced themselves, frightened. Never again did they
knock on my door, never again did they enter this place where, in 2006,
they had come screaming, believing that the future had begun.

Home sales would be a sea change for Cuba

Posted on Saturday, 07.30.11

Home sales would be a sea change for Cuba

A law allowing Cubans to buy and sell homes could be enacted this week
when the Cuban parliament convenes to discuss pending economic reforms.

Selling an apartment in front of the Habana Libre, excellent condition

The seller, Marita, is advertising this Havana apartment on, an online marketplace that's kind of like a Cuban
Craigslist. She's asking the equivalent of around $57,600 in convertible
Cuban pesos.

Of course, at the moment real estate sales in Cuba are strictly illegal
and have been for the past five decades. But that may change soon. As
part of sweeping economic reforms unveiled at the Communist Party
Congress in April, Cuba plans to allow the buying and selling of homes
and cars.

A July 1 article in Granma, the Communist Party newspaper, painted the
broad brush strokes of the real estate reform: such transactions would
be permitted with little government interference beyond getting notary
approval, making payment through a state bank and paying an as yet
unspecified tax.

The real estate reform has yet to become law, but it's possible it could
when the National Assembly, Cuba's parliament, convenes Monday for a
three-day meeting at Havana's Convention Palace. In any case, the
government has said a new law will take effect by the end of the year.

This potential sea change has set off a flurry of activity on both sides
of the Florida Straits. For years, Cuban-Americans have been funneling
money to relatives to fix up tired properties or for under-the-table
payments to "buy'' a home or sweeten a permuta, or swap, the accepted
form of acquiring Cuban real estate.

Now with the possibility of a true real estate market developing, people
have been dusting off property titles or trying to find them and have
been busy fixing up properties they anticipate putting on the market,
said Antonio R. Zamora, a Miami lawyer who specializes in foreign

"A lot of money is coming from Miami — some of it's speculative,'' said
Zamora, who visited Cuba recently.

Some exiles say they have made under-the-table payments to purchase
beach homes or other properties from family or friends with the
understanding that some day they will own the homes outright. But they
have no official paperwork to acknowledge such transactions.

In these cases, it should be buyer beware, said George Harper, a Miami
attorney who left Cuba when he was 17. "That's all well and good but any
deal is subject to what the local laws are.''

The expected law does not allow foreign ownership. The guidelines
announced in Granma said that foreigners and Cubans living abroad can't
own property unless they are permanent residents of Cuba. Cubans will be
allowed to own only one home and they can inherit a dwelling, even if
the relatives of the deceased don't live in the home, according to Granma.

Because of the influx of exile money, Zamora said it would be more
realistic to "get the name of the foreign relative into the title."

Phil Peters, a vice president at the Lexington Institute and a veteran
Cuba watcher, said that the exile money flowing into Cuba may have an
impact beyond investment.

"Now with the door open for Cuban-Americans to visit, to support their
families, to invest and to perhaps indirectly buy real estate, it
becomes not just an exile community but also an immigrant community with
a foot in both places,'' he said.

One thing that isn't expected to be a topic of debate in Cuba is exile
claims on homes.

Over time, Zamora said, families who occupied the homes of Cubans who
left the island have essentially become the owners of the dwellings.

"There's always been a difference of opinion on residential properties
that were taken but now I think most people, with some notable
exceptions, have given up on the notion of getting those properties
back,'' said Harper.

He's been back to Cuba twice since he left as a teenager and visited the
home where his family once lived. He found several families in the
residence. "From a humanitarian point of view, it would be impractical
to kick those people out,'' he said.

Also expected to change once a property law is enacted is the messy
permuta system. Currently, homes that are exchanged are supposed to be
of "equal value.'' But matching up the homes on offer with what people
want is often a tricky business.

Sometimes two apartments are exchanged for a large home in a prime area
and multiple parties are involved in so-called triangular deals.
Although no money is supposed to change hands, there are sometimes
under-the-table payments to even up deals or bribes paid to officials to
let dubious swaps go through.

Under the new system, someone wanting to downsize from a four-bedroom
home with a garage, for example, to a smaller apartment will probably
just be able to do the swap and pay the difference in value, said
Zamora. "The reform should make the permuta much easier and out in the
open,'' he said.

Besides cleaning up illicit housing transactions, the government has
said the reform is designed to help with Cuba's serious housing shortage.

But Harper said, "The fact that people can buy and sell homes won't
really impact the housing supply. If Cuba had money to build new
housing, I think they would have done it by now.''

Cuba, however, may be counting on real estate owners to expand and
improve properties. In its effort to move more people off the state
payroll into self-employment, the government has said that renting
rooms, gardens and even swimming pools can be considered an alternative
to state employment. Permitting home ownership may also encourage home

"If people are allowed to sell homes, this is a huge step forward in
terms of property rights,'' said Peters. "It makes assets liquid, a home
can be used as collateral.''

Because of the possibility of freeing up capital when a home is sold,
other entrepreneurial activity may be unleashed, Peters said. "This
really would be a sign of the Cuban government being serious about
letting go of controls,'' he said.

Cuba renews appliance sales amid economic changes

Posted on Saturday, 07.30.11

Cuba renews appliance sales amid economic changes
Associated Press

HAVANA -- Cuba is renewing sales of energy-sucking appliances, reversing
a pillar of Fidel Castro's "energy revolution" in response to popular
demand and to support the growing ranks of independent workers under an
economic overhaul launched by President Raul Castro.

The measure covers appliances such as air conditioners, electric stoves,
coffee makers, grills and sandwich makers. The appliances will begin
going on sale gradually as they become available, according to a notice
published in the Official Gazette and dated Friday.

It said the action was aimed at "supplying products to the population
and independent workers."

Appliance sales have been largely restricted since 2003, and they were
key targets of former President Fidel Castro's "energy revolution."

That initiative sought to replace aging, inefficient kitchen appliances
that taxed Cuba's shaky electrical grid and contributed to frequent
summer blackouts that lasted for hours.

The former leader regularly appeared on television to push conservation
measures and flog less-power-hungry rice steamers and pressure cookers.
Government workers went door to door in many neighborhoods to replace
incandescent light bulbs with more-efficient alternatives. Officials
also overhauled the antiquated electrical grid.

Blackouts are not as frequent or severe today, though officials still
urge conservation. While most of Cuba's electricity is generated by
crude oil, there have been efforts to increase renewable sources like solar.

Raul Castro launched an economic overhaul last year that aims to rescue
Cuba's perennially weak economy by including a taste of the private
sector, though Castro stresses that the government is "updating" its
socialist model, not embracing capitalism.

The state is planning to slash expenses, subsidies and payroll, while
allowing more islanders to open their own businesses and hire employees.
Many of the independent business licenses are for restaurants,
cafeterias and home-based snack bars, where something like a sandwich
maker or an electric coffee pot could come in handy.

Friday's note in the Gazette specifically mentions the needs of the
small business owners, and says the appliances will be available on the
domestic retail market.

Cuba prepares for parliamentary session on economic reforms

Posted on Saturday, 07.30.11

Cuba prepares for parliamentary session on economic reforms

Cuba prepares for a three-day parliamentary session that begins Monday
on economic reforms.
By Juan O. Tamayo

Complaints of continuing corruption, shortfalls of food production and
other economic ills rattled Cuba Friday on the eve of a session of
parliament expected to endorse Raúl Castro's ambitious efforts at reforms.

"Order, discipline and exigence," Castro demanded at a cabinet meeting
in which he laid out the string of problems undermining his reforms,
according to a report Friday in the state-run Granma newspaper.

Castro will address the three-day session of the National Assembly of
People's Power, which opens Monday, to report on his reform program to
the one government institution that has not yet approved it.

A full congress of the ruling Communist Party in April approved a list
of more than 300 "guidelines" for the reforms, designed to yank the
Soviet-styled economy out of its deep and long-running slump.

The guidelines include deep cuts in state subsidies and payrolls, giving
more autonomy to government-owned enterprises and allowing expansions of
foreign investments and small private enterprises such as barber shops.

But Cuban news media reports Friday indicated that while the campaign is
making progress in some areas, it is falling short in many others.

Castro, who has repeatedly branded corruption as an impediment to the
reforms, warned his cabinet last Saturday that prosecutors and judges
will have to crack down on the shady dealings, Granma reported.

Granma and Juventud Rebelde also reported the Cuban economy grew in the
first six months of 2011, but gave no figures except for some of the
sectors that fell short of the government's central planning goals.

Of all the construction materials that the government plans to sell to
private individuals this year, only 15.6 percent had been sold as of the
end of June, according to the newspapers.

And of the 23.394 housing units that state enterprises plan to build
this year, only 28 were in fact finished in the first six months, they
added. Private builders did even worse, finishing only 16 percent of
their 3,206 planned units.

Granma also reported that costly agricultural imports will have to
increase because of continuing shortfalls in agricultural production,
despite Castro's two-year-old program of leasing fallow state lands to
private farmers.

Cuba will have to spend about $1.5 billion this year to import at least
60 percent of the food its people consume, according to government
estimates. Other estimates put imports at up to 80 percent of consumption.

Granma and Juventud Rebelde usually report on the weekend cabinet
meetings in their Monday or Tuesday editions, and there was no immediate
explanation for the delay this week. Last month, Granma reported it
would soon publish "important news" from the cabinet, but then published

More details on the reforms are expected to be made public when Vice
President Marino Murillo, Cuba's "reforms tsar," addresses the
parliament, which meets only twice a year for one-week sessions.

About 600 members have been meeting in committees and subcommittees
behind closed doors this week to discuss what Granma describes as
"dozens of issues, most linked to the economic-social transformations
under way."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cuba should free Alan Gross

Cuba should free Alan Gross
By Editorial, Saturday, July 30, 2:05 AM

ALAN P. GROSS, the U.S. Agency for International Development
subcontractor who committed what Cuba considers the unconscionable
offense of making the Internet available to members of its minuscule
Jewish community, has almost exhausted possible judicial appeals of his
15-year prison sentence.

Mr. Gross, 62, a resident of Potomac, was arrested in December 2009 as
he prepared to fly home from Havana. Convicted on trumped-up charges in
March this year, he appeared a few days ago before Cuba's highest
tribunal to appeal his conviction and plead for release. The outcome of
his appeal, expected in the coming days, is certain to be dictated one
way or another by Cuban leader Raul Castro — and will be a sign of
whether Cuba is remotely interested in better relations with Washington.

Cuba, besides its repressive ally Venezuela, is virtually the only place
in the Western Hemisphere where distributing laptop computers and
satellite phone equipment intended to connect people to the Internet —
Mr. Gross's supposed "crime" — could be construed as subversive. The
regime in Havana is so brittle and creaky that it blanches at the idea
of its subjects communicating too freely with the outside world, lest
they undermine a communist system whose attempts at economic development
have delivered scanty results.

There are plenty of humanitarian reasons to release Mr. Gross, who has
been confined for 19 months. Somewhat overweight when he was arrested,
Mr. Gross has lost 100 pounds, according to his wife and other American
visitors who have been allowed to meet with him; he also suffers from
gout, ulcers and arthritis. His daughter is struggling with cancer, and
his mother is reported to be in poor health.

Cuban authorities have portrayed Mr. Gross as a spy involved in an
enterprise aimed at undermining the regime. That seems unlikely in the
extreme. In fact, Mr. Gross, a veteran development worker who had
minimal command of Spanish, was part of a democratization project of the
sort the U.S. government runs in countries all over the world.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Gross was working for Development
Alternatives Inc., a Bethesda firm that had won a $6 million government
contract to promote democracy in Cuba. His work consisted mainly of
providing computers and satellite phones to Cuban Jews, a community
thought to number about 1,500, so they could access the Internet, whose
use is restricted in Cuba, and contact Jewish communities beyond Cuba's
shores. Not exactly a cloak-and-dagger project likely to bring the
Castro brothers to their knees.

The Obama administration has made it clear that any improvement in
relations with Cuba is on hold pending Mr. Gross's release. That's a
fitting response to the communist regime's knee-jerk behavior in
persecuting an American whose "crime," if any, may have been an excess
of naivete.

Cuba sentences airline, pharmaceutical executives to 3- to 13-year prison terms for corruption

Cuba sentences airline, pharmaceutical executives to 3- to 13-year
prison terms for corruption
By Associated Press, Saturday, July 30, 3:52 AM

HAVANA — Cuban courts have convicted airline and pharmaceutical
executives of corruption and sentenced them to three to 13 years in prison.

The stiffest sentence is 13 years for Cubana de Aviacion director Jose
Heriberto Prieto.

An announcement on state television Friday night also mentions sentences
for various officials from pharmaceutical company Herbiotec SA.

It says the penalties correspond to the seriousness of the offenses and
"numerous losses to the economy."

Cuba has recently seen a series of convictions in an anti-corruption
campaign that has swept up two Chilean businessmen and a Frenchman who
was accused of laundering drug money.

President Raul Castro has warned that his government is serious about
fighting graft."

Cubans Aren't Racist, But…

Cubans Aren't Racist, But…
By Patricia Grogg

HAVANA, Jul 29, 2011 (IPS) - "I'm not racist, but at night, if I see
three black men coming, I cross the street"; "I have a black friend, but
I'd never accept him as my brother-in-law"; "Who me, racist? Not at all!
But my daughter marrying a black man…" These are the kinds of comments
that can frequently be heard in Cuba, where discrimination of any kind
is prohibited by law.

Based on research at the Cuban Institute of Anthropology, the institute
head, Pablo Rodríguez, described this as the "I'm not racist, but..."
attitude, a common way of proclaiming that one is free of skin colour
prejudice, before expressing negative attitudes and rejection towards
darker-skinned people.

"The Cuban revolution fostered rejection of discrimination, so people
react negatively when they are accused of being racist, because they are
aware that it's considered ugly and is frowned on," University of Havana
Professor Esteban Morales told IPS. He added that racism is not
necessarily aggressive or characterised by animosity, but is expressed
in ways that need to be confronted.

In the view of Roberto Zurbano, an essayist and cultural critic, the
problem is exacerbated by silence and by the lack of social debate.
There is nowhere to complain of and prosecute the many instances of
racial discrimination faced by black people "every three minutes, in the
streets, at workplaces or study centres, in the media, on neighbourhood
street corners, in family arguments and even in bed," he said.

"It is true that a lot of other issues also need to be discussed in
Cuban society, but none of them has undermined the credibility of its
social policies as much as this one, in the eyes of a black majority who
see the revolution as their victory, their opportunity for
self-fulfilment and their utopian horizon," Zurbano wrote in his essay
titled "Doce dificultades para enfrentar al (neo) racismo" (Twelve
Difficulties for Challenging (Neo) Racism).

Blacks and people of mixed-race heritage officially make up 34.9 percent
of Cuba's total population of 11.2 million, according to the latest
census, carried out in 2002. However, most Cuban academics estimate that
between 60 and 70 percent of the population is black or "mulatto".

Given the likelihood that the issue of racism will be on the agenda at
the next national conference of the ruling Communist Party of Cuba
(PCC), the Cofradía de la Negritud (CONEG), a civil society association
of black people aimed at raising awareness of racial discrimination, set
forth a total of 48 concrete proposals for action against discrimination
and racial inequality.

"This is our contribution, and we hope it will be taken into account. We
are assuming that the problem will almost certainly be discussed at the
PCC Conference, and we would like it to be taken up also by the National
Assembly (parliament)," Tato Quiñones, one of CONEG's founders, told IPS.

The CONEG document, which is being circulated by e-mail, expands on
demands and concerns raised at monthly meetings organised by CONEG,
where experts in different social disciplines hold discussions with
members of the public who are attending the meetings.

Several of the group's proposals have to do with education, and they
range from strengthening egalitarian and humanistic values, to
introducing studies for teaching staff on "the contribution of black
Africans and their descendants to economic progress in the country, and
to the forging of the Cuban nationality and identity."

Another proposal recommends "promoting appropriate coverage of racial
issues in the media, from a scientific and multidisciplinary point of
view that considers the different aspects of the racial question and
fosters constructive debate in existing - and future - scenarios where
opinions are shaped."

The CONEG document also proposes eradicating the taboo on discussing
race issues, and promoting a constructive approach to the question. In
addition, it advocates fomenting sales of beauty products and services
catering to darker-skinned people, as well as re-issuing new editions of
the works of the main exponents of Cuban anti-racist thought.

In the view of Morales, a national agenda on the problem must include
education as well as a social policy that recognises and pays special
attention to skin colour as a factor in social differentiation, and must
raise the debate on race issues at all levels of society.

"Racial issues should be discussed in the Cuban Workers' Federation, the
Women's Federation, the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution and
the mass media. On television, the question should be portrayed in soap
operas, in order to inform people and make them understand that
discrimination exists, because not everyone is willing to accept that it
is a problem," he said.

According to Morales, a leading researcher on race relations in Cuba,
there is no immediate solution to the phenomenon of racism, which he
says will require a great deal of work. "It isn't just about raising
living standards; it is more complex and more difficult, and involves a
change of mentality and the creation of anti-discrimination
consciousness," he said.

Morales said racism must be challenged in a comprehensive way throughout
society, without forgetting that expressions of racism occur even among
the black or mixed-race population. "Racial discrimination goes beyond
poverty, but a special development policy that takes skin colour into
account would go a long way toward solving it," he said.

Zurbano, CONEG and Morales all stressed the triple burden of prejudice
that weighs on darker-skinned Cuban women.

"Black women are the most vulnerable, because they are discriminated
against on the grounds of skin colour, poverty, and their sex. They are
also more exposed to machismo and domestic violence," Morales pointed out.

Civil society sources and some authorities interviewed by IPS gave the
impression that discrimination on the grounds of race, and legislative
bills supporting the freedom to choose one's gender identity and sexual
preferences, might well be on the agenda of the PCC Conference scheduled
for April 2012.

However, in his speech on Jul. 26, Revolution Day – commemorating the
1953 assault on the Moncada barracks, the first armed action of the
Cuban revolution – Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura did not
mention these issues as being included on the agenda for the important
party conference.

Cuba approves flights from 9 more American cities

Cuba approves flights from 9 more American cities
Fri Jul 29, 2011 5:24pm EDT

HAVANA (Reuters) - Air travel between the United States and Cuba will
become easier with the opening of charter flights to the forbidden
island from an additional nine U.S. cities announced by Cuba authorities
on Friday.

Cuban travel agency Havanatur Celimar said it added the cities of Tampa,
Fort Lauderdale, Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas,
Houston and San Juan, Puerto Rico, to the list from where charter
flights would be accepted.

Cuba is preparing for an increase in visitors from its long-time
ideological foe under a recent loosening of travel restrictions by the
Obama administration.

The United States, which maintains comprehensive sanctions on the
communist-run island and bans tourism to Cuba, does not allow regular
commercial flights between the two countries.

But the Obama administration has lifted all restrictions on Cuban
Americans visiting their homeland and allowed religious, academic and
other professional travel by Americans to Cuba.

Havana Celimar has a monopoly on the Cuban end of U.S. charter flights
and already receives travelers on flights from Miami, New York and Los

The number of U.S. citizens visiting Cuba increased last year by 20
percent, to 63,000, according to Cuban statistics.

Some 350,000 Cuban Americans visited Cuba in 2010 after the Obama
administration lifted all restrictions on their travel.

The travel opening annoyed Cuban American lawmakers who have introduced
legislation in Congress that would reimpose a Bush-era restriction on
Cuban American travel to the island of only one visit every three years
and more strictly enforce the ban on U.S. travel to Cuba.

The lawmakers argue that the Obama administration is helping prop up the
Cuban government, while the White House counters more people-to-people
contact is the best way to undermine the island's communist system.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any move to undercut his
people-to-people policy toward Cuba.

Cuba has said it had 2.53 million tourists in 2010, with Canada the
largest provider at nearly 945,000, followed by Britain at 174,000 and
Italy at 112,000.

Tourism is one of Cuba's most important earners of foreign exchange,
with revenues of $2.2 billion last year, and an important provider of jobs.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

Tag: Transport, Tourism, Economy

Cuba prepares for parliamentary session on economic reforms

Posted on Saturday, 07.30.11

Cuba prepares for parliamentary session on economic reforms

Cuba prepares for a three-day parliamentary session that begins Monday
on economic reforms.
By Juan O. Tamayo

Complaints of continuing corruption, shortfalls of food production and
other economic ills rattled Cuba Friday on the eve of a session of
parliament expected to endorse Raúl Castro's ambitious efforts at reforms.

"Order, discipline and exigence," Castro demanded at a cabinet meeting
in which he laid out the string of problems undermining his reforms,
according to a report Friday in the state-run Granma newspaper.

Castro will address the three-day session of the National Assembly of
People's Power, which opens Monday, to report on his reform program to
the one government institution that has not yet approved it.

A full congress of the ruling Communist Party in April approved a list
of more than 300 "guidelines" for the reforms, designed to yank the
Soviet-styled economy out of its deep and long-running slump.

The guidelines include deep cuts in state subsidies and payrolls, giving
more autonomy to government-owned enterprises and allowing expansions of
foreign investments and small private enterprises such as barber shops.

But Cuban news media reports Friday indicated that while the campaign is
making progress in some areas, it is falling short in many others.

Castro, who has repeatedly branded corruption as an impediment to the
reforms, warned his cabinet last Saturday that prosecutors and judges
will have to crack down on the shady dealings, Granma reported.

Granma and Juventud Rebelde also reported the Cuban economy grew in the
first six months of 2011, but gave no figures except for some of the
sectors that fell short of the government's central planning goals.

Of all the construction materials that the government plans to sell to
private individuals this year, only 15.6 percent had been sold as of the
end of June, according to the newspapers.

And of the 23.394 housing units that state enterprises plan to build
this year, only 28 were in fact finished in the first six months, they
added. Private builders did even worse, finishing only 16 percent of
their 3,206 planned units.

Granma also reported that costly agricultural imports will have to
increase because of continuing shortfalls in agricultural production,
despite Castro's two-year-old program of leasing fallow state lands to
private farmers.

Cuba will have to spend about $1.5 billion this year to import at least
60 percent of the food its people consume, according to government
estimates. Other estimates put imports at up to 80 percent of consumption.

Granma and Juventud Rebelde usually report on the weekend cabinet
meetings in their Monday or Tuesday editions, and there was no immediate
explanation for the delay this week. Last month, Granma reported it
would soon publish "important news" from the cabinet, but then published

More details on the reforms are expected to be made public when Vice
President Marino Murillo, Cuba's "reforms tsar," addresses the
parliament, which meets only twice a year for one-week sessions.

About 600 members have been meeting in committees and subcommittees
behind closed doors this week to discuss what Granma describes as
"dozens of issues, most linked to the economic-social transformations
under way."

The awakening of Cuba's resistance movement

Posted on Saturday, 07.30.11

The awakening of Cuba's resistance movement

In Guantánamo, Cuba, an important eastern city near the eponymous Naval
Base, the streets recently reverberated with shouts of "Down with Fidel!
Down with Raúl!" and "The streets belong to the people!" as dozens
marched in open defiance of the iron-fisted rule of the Castro brothers.
Even the physical attacks hurled by the regime's paid thugs did not
prevent the march from continuing.

Over the past few months similar protests have taken place across cities
and towns throughout the island. What do they portend?

To most people, popular uprisings against dictatorships appear
spontaneous because they capture our attention at their moment of
fruition, when massive crowds in public plazas attract television
cameras. In truth, uprisings are the result of many years of individuals
struggling to overcome personal fear, and of tenacious organizational
work by small groups.

Resistance networks that grow through repressed societies act like
arteries that arouse a subjugated people, a key event or moment serving
as the critical spark, the catalyst for the awakening. The death last
year of prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo, an Afro-Cuban
bricklayer, perpetrated by the authorities' denial of water for 18 days
in an attempt to force him to stop a hunger strike, set off a wave of
street protests and hunger strikes. International condemnation forced
the dictatorship to release hundreds of political prisoners. Many of
those released were pressured into exile, but a hard core of political
prisoners chose to remain on the island, their leadership qualities
thereby growing exponentially in the eyes of the population.

The Castro dictatorship is once more trying to stem the growth of such
resistance in Cuba through persecution and brutality because popular
demonstrations, unprecedented in number and message, have erupted
throughout the island, among them:

• On March 24, citizens in the central city of Santa Clara blocked
traffic to protest the arbitrary arrests of peaceful activists.

• On March 28, resistance members demonstrated at Havana's historic
capitol building for the release of all political prisoners, an action
timed to coincide with a visit by former President Jimmy Carter.

• Demonstrations again took place in Central Cuba during the run-up to
the Communist Party Congress in April, despite heightened surveillance.

• May saw a 13 day-long "Boitel and Zapata Live!" memorial, a series of
nonviolent actions commemorating martyrs in the anti-communist
resistance struggle. It started with nationwide pots and pans protests
and continued with marches and meetings.

The resistance also responded to the murder of activist Juan Wilfredo
Soto García by joining the Guantánamo march and demonstrating in the
central city of Placetas, where in a separate action, women activists
carried out a sit-in in the lobby of the government-controlled radio
station demanding to state their perspective on the murder of Soto García.

Scores of people turned Soto García's funeral in the streets of the
central province capital of Santa Clara into a demonstration calling for
the end of the Castro regime and freedom for all Cubans.

The protesters are young, many of them black, most of them poor and from
the provinces. Coalesced in the Cuban National Civic Resistance Front,
the island's new resistance movement rises from a marginalized
population that derives strength from the social bonds of family and
friendship harnessed under the duress of decades of economic
exploitation, criminal persecution, political imprisonment and
ideological discrimination by its own government. These brave Cubans
have nothing to lose — not freedom nor material goods, for there is
neither on the island. They fight for liberty and for restored natural

The struggle of Cuba's democratic resistance is lonely and hard. Not
only do they face a vicious regime's police brutality, but an
indifferent world and a Catholic hierarchy too close to the regime (as
information revealed on Wikileaks corroborated). Leftist international
leaders — typified by Spain's Prime Minster José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
and Brazil's former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — who put
ideological predilection and commercial interests above human rights,
and shamelessly coddle Castro's decrepit tyranny, prolong the repression.

But the Cubans will regain their freedom. And when Cuba's plazas are
filled with crowds clamoring for, or celebrating, the removal of the
dictatorship, no one should be surprised and say they were not warned as
to when the awakening began.

Otto J. Reich, a Washington, D.C.-based consultant, is a former U.S.
assistant secretary of state and ambassador to Venezuela. Orlando
Gutierrez-Boronat is a member of the Secretariat of the Assembly of the
Cuban Resistance.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Beast Grows Angry When it is Reminded of its Dead / Ricardo Medina

The Beast Grows Angry When it is Reminded of its Dead / Ricardo Medina
Ricardo Medina, Translator: Nina

My brother and friend, Priest Pastor Bautista Mario Félix Lleonart
Barroso, told me "the beast grows angry when it is reminded of its dead"
in a text message that reflected his worry because of the arbitrary
arrest of my wife Katia Sonia Martín Véliz and Aimé Cabrales Aguilar, on
the morning of July 13.

Unfortunately, while many Cubans paid tribute to the victims of the
tugboat "13 de Marzo" (March the 13th) that, by order of the Cuban
government, was sunk in the waters of the Bay of Havana to the sound of
pressurized water jets and sandbags, the world shuddered because of the
death by freezing of a young Cuban who was trying to escape the same
regime that massacred a group of people seventeen years ago.

This time, Adonis put himself at the risk in search of freedom like any
human being, he tried to make it in the rear landing gear of an Iberia
aircraft that served the Havana-Madrid Flight 6620. His body was found
with wounds in the chest and the head, as reported by the Anatomical
Forensic Institute of Madrid. Cubans submerged in complete
misinformation had no knowledge about another victim of the Castro
regime intolerance. I do not think Adonis was escaping repression, but
he was in search of opportunities that Cuban people are deprived of.

The Priest Bautista was right; the beast grows angry when it is reminded
of its dead, but the firm stand of the internal opposition movement, day
after day, continues to remember and pay tribute to the dead of the
dictatorship, until it is time for the murderers to present themselves
before the court of life and assume the consequences of their actions.

Presbyterian Ricardo Santiago Medina Salabarria+

Translated by: Nina

July 13 2011

Sad Memory / Miguel Iturria Savon

Sad Memory / Miguel Iturria Savon
Miguel Iturria Savón, Translator: Unstated

It was July 15 or 16, 1994 when Angela Medina, my children's aunt, asked
me to accompany her to a house in the Purisima neighborhood, Cotorro
municipality, where she saw her neighbors shot with water cannons in
Havana Bay by the military who shipwrecked the tugboat, 13 de Marzo, in
which she had meant to leave for Florida with her husband, children, and
dozens of people made desperate by hardship and lack of opportunities.

Ángela, Jesús, Mileidis and Miguel Ángel owed their life to the haste of
the driver who forgot to pick them up in the middle of the secrecy and
rush of the endeavor. They felt then, relief, frustration, anger and
grief for their dead friends, whose relatives refused to say goodbye to
them at the municipal funeral, controlled by the agents of State
Security, ready to quell any outbursts in response to the crime
committed by those who carried out the orders from the highest
governmental level.

I can't forget the face of tragedy of those tearful people, shocked by
the news of the disaster and the offensive of the authorities. A few
steps from the market were the Purisima market were the uniformed
forces, ready to arrest and detain, robots without mercy.

A month later, Jesus threw himself into the sea on a raft and was taken
to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, converted into makeshift camp
for 40,000 boat people, among which were survivors of the tugboat 13 de
Marzo, who gave witness to the tragedy in front of the cameras of the
northern nation, despite having accused themselves in Havana under
threat, made to corroborate the official version of events.

That event, still hidden away on the Island under seven locks, is an
international scandal. The dedication of the authorities to protect the
perpetrators and silence the aftermath of the assassinations is evidence
of the absurdities of power. By violently preventing the diversion of
the old tug loaded with children and young people they sent a message of
horror to thousands party enthusiasts.

The familiar sequels rounded out the trauma: The Balsero/Rafter Crisis
of August 1944; the signing of immigration treaties with the United
States; the later illegal exits and other alternatives to exile through
Mexico, The Bahamas, Venezuela or Ecuador, all mask the real problem.
That socio-political immobility continues to fuel the dream of escape
from the "socialist paradise."

I hardly hear from Angela and her family, they live in Florida with the
relatives of the victims of the tugboat 13 de Marzo, not wanting to know
about Cuba or the circumstances that led them to abandon the country
where they grew up. Perhaps in a short while, that "marine warning" of
July 13, 1994, will be a chapter in the past and those guilty will be
called to account for their infamy.

July 18 2011

The Magnification of the Absurd / Rebeca Monzo

The Magnification of the Absurd / Rebeca Monzo
Rebeca Monzo, Translator: Unstated

In my stroll around the neighborhood, camera in hand and absorbed in my
thoughts, I sensed the voice of a man walking beside me talking to
himself. I can't bear to look at him — not even if he's that old — I
thought. When his eyes met mine, taken by surprise, he said to me,
"Don't think I'm crazy, it's that the most unusual thing just happened
to me."

He told me that for some time he had been suffering from some problems
that he blamed on the age, but a doctor friend of his, after taking a
peek, told him that what he had to do was go to a dentist, that is was
almost certain that his health problems stemmed from the poor condition
of his mouth. He added that because of this, he decided to go to the
dentist's clinic and there he saw a doctor, who told him he needed
several extractions to be done urgently. That same day, he had four. The
doctor gave him an appointment for the next week, to recuperate a little
and continue with other things. When the date of the appointment came,
he went back to polyclinic and on leaving it, continued his story. But
this time things did not turn out as he thought. After having to wait a
couple of hours, because the office was full, the doctor told him she
could not see him because they had run out of gloves, and to call
occasionally to see if they had arrived, as if the gloves traveling
alone, he said.

Without giving it much thought, he went back to his friend the doctor,
and asked if he could get him some from the hospital where he worked,
and he got a package with twelve pairs. Very happy, he hugged the
treasure and went back to the clinic to see the doctor. Look, I brought
you a few pairs of gloves. He started to get a little more heated as he
told me that she refused to accept the gift, arguing that this was not
enough for all patients she had to see, and if she cared for him and not
others, it could turn out to be a problem for her. He said that even
though he insisted and argued, the doctor reiterated her refusal, so he
left, feeling defeated and crushed. That's why you caught me talking to
myself, 'he reiterated.

Thinking about it, it brought to mind misery loves company, and I dared
to tell him that I had also experienced a similar situation in the
polyclinic that served the area where I live. On one occasion, I told
him, I had gone to see a doctor recommended to me by a friend, to get a
filling. The doctor told me to wait in her cubicle, while right before
my eyes she attended a patient with an oral infection. When she finished
with him she told me to sit down and washed her gloved hands in the
little sink there. When I saw that, I got up as if I were operated by a
spring and said, "I'm so sorry, doctor, I just remembered I left the
pressure cooker in the stove, I'll come back another day."

She's still waiting for me!

If Kafka were alive now, here on my beloved planet, he would still be,
I'm sure, I great writer of novels of manners.

July 27 2011

Food imports put Cuban reforms at risk

Food imports put Cuban reforms at risk
Published: July 28, 2011 at 11:46 AM

HAVANA, July 28 (UPI) -- High food imports are putting Cuban economic
reforms at risk because of the drain they pose on foreign exchange
The government sounded warnings about rising food commodities import
bills after it emerged that while Vietnam, the lead exporter, saw
earnings rise from rice sales to Cuba, Havana's cash-strapped state
trade sector wasn't too pleased about the situation.
Cuban President Raul Castro has been exhorting Cubans to become
self-reliant and has laid off of tens of thousands of government
employees to cut state spending and signal his readiness to accept a
gradual shift toward a market-oriented economy.
Cubans catapulted out of state employment were told to become
self-employed and start anew as merchants and entrepreneurs.
State curbs on buying and selling in the marketplace were eased and
Cubans were told they could buy and sell real estate. The rule change
that has sent the fledgling market economy into a subdued frenzy as
would-be property tycoons begin to hone their skills in a fast-changing
business environment.
However, government statistics indicated the food import bill was a
major worry. Cuba imports up to 60 percent of rice it consumes and, by
the latest count, bought more than 400,000 tons of the commodity to meet
basic needs, Juventud Rebelde newspaper reported.
The import bill is set to rise as domestic demand for the staple grain
this year is likely to exceed that level and may reach 600,000 tons to
meet the basic needs of Cuba's population of 11.2 million.
Despite numerous moves to relax state control on food distribution and
supply, Cubans depend on rationing to fulfill basic needs for rice and
other consumables.
Grain Research Institute Director Telce Gonzalez said self-sufficiency
in food was crucial to Cuba's economic well-being.
"The first challenge is to produce what we need," he said, adding that,
although Cuban agriculture expanded areas under rice cultivation, it
still had a long way to go to realize that goal.
This year, the government will need to import almost double the quantity
of rice it produces for domestic consumption, new estimates indicated.
Vietnam is Cuba's main supplier of rice. Neither side has disclosed the
terms under which Cuba buys rice from Vietnam, a socialist nation in an
advanced stage of transformation into a market economy.
The prospect of the state trade sector having to pay more for imports
sent the government into overdrive this month. There were calls to
institutions to galvanize rice farmers to produce more and reduce
dependence on imports.
The campaign aims at raising awareness of about 50 varieties of the
grain that can be grown in the island's different ecosystems for maximum
rice yield.
Cuba's agriculture suffered when it lost export markets as they ditched
communism and switched to capitalist options, or cut imports with the
collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The government frequently has set targets to boost rice production and
reduce dependence on imports but has missed reaching any of the goals.

Cuban Pastor Granted Asylum but Blocked from Leaving Country

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cuban Pastor Granted Asylum but Blocked from Leaving Country
By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- A Cuban pastor who was imprisoned on bogus
charges has been granted asylum by the United States, but refused
permission to leave Cuba. He is the second high-profile protestant
pastor to be granted asylum in the US this year.

According to a news release from Christian Solidarity worldwide (CSW),
Pastor Omar Gude Perez, who was imprisoned in May 2008, his wife Kenia
and their two children, learned on July 18 they had been granted asylum.
However, two days later, Cuban immigration officials in Camaguey
informed them they would not be issued exit visas, referred to in Cuba
as a White Card.

CSW said authorities justified their decision to the family by saying
Perez must serve out the remainder of his prison sentence in Cuba,
despite the Cuban government allowing scores of political prisoners to
go into exile last year without completing their sentences.

CSW reported that Perez was granted conditional freedom, and released
from prison earlier this year after serving three years of a
six-and-a-half year sentence. If he is forced to serve out the rest of
his sentence in Cuba, he and his family would be forced to stay in the
country until 2014.

As part of the conditions of his conditional freedom, Perez is
prohibited from pastoral work, including preaching, and his movements
are severely restricted.

CSW's Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said in a news release, "We were
relieved to hear that the Gude family has been granted asylum, but
strongly condemn the Cuban government's petty decision to deny Pastor
Gude and his family the right to leave the country. Their decision to
leave the country was reluctantly made after years of intense
persecution on the part of the authorities."

He added, "Unless the Cuban government is prepared to cease its
persecution of the family and to allow them to work as pastors openly
and without restrictions, they must afford them the same right they have
granted so many others and allow them to go into exile."

CSW is a Christian organization working for religious freedom through
advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

For further information, visit

Cuban pastor helps Pawleys Island Presbyterian build mission ties

Cuban pastor helps Pawleys Island Presbyterian build mission ties
By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

Spreading the word of God is a personal calling for Daniel Gonzalez. Not
only is the will embedded in his soul, but it is also common to his
practice as senior pastor of the M.N. McCall Baptist Church in Havana, Cuba.

With governmental policy forbidding large religious gatherings in public
places, Gonzalez often relies on one-to-one sermons with members of his
church and those he is trying to bring into his congregation. Practicing
religion in this manner is a process, but the numbers reflected in M.N.
McCall's membership demonstrate Gonzalez's faith and charisma, as the
church has grown from just a few members to a congregation that would
rival those in a small, American community church.

"I think evangelism can be very effective when it is done on a personal
basis," Gonzalez said. "It's about spreading and sharing information.
There is a strong desire to learn about the word of God and live a
fuller life. The people who we speak to are very welcoming."

Gonzalez brought his personal message to Pawleys Island Presbyterian
Church last weekend. He attended a dinner on Saturday and spoke at both
sermons and Sunday school the following day. That provided him the
opportunity to share his message of faith and his continuing efforts to
build his church with the congregation, several of whom have visited
M.N. McCall.

"Daniel is amazing," said Carroll Armstrong, who has visited Cuba five
times. "His energy and enthusiasm are inspiring. The work he is doing in
Cuba is vital. We want to help him as much as we can."

Forging that spirit of kinship is what Jack Brakebill was hoping for
when he arranged Gonzalez's visit to Pawleys Island. A part-time area
resident – he also has a home in Knoxville, Tenn. – Brakebill has
attended Pawleys Island Presbyterian for many years. He has known
Gonzalez for 10 years and has made 20 visits to Cuba.

"People were very impressed with Daniel and what he had to say,"
Brakebill said. "They found him to be warm, genuine and caring, which is
exactly the type of person he is.

"I wanted his message to be heard, but I also wanted to get people
thinking about doing more mission work. The church is looking to expand
its [mission] efforts and I thought by hearing and seeing Daniel, people
would realize the importance of volunteering and all the good that comes
from doing mission work."

As with any grassroots movement, Gonzalez focuses a lot of his efforts
on the youth. Capitalizing on Cuba's passion for sports, he is reaching
out to young people through activities such as basketball, soccer and
volleyball. Not long ago the church playing field was a vacant hillside,
but in just a few months time it was dug out and upgraded into a
sufficient playing surface.

"In September of last year they had just had the bulldozer in clearing
things out," Armstrong said. "By October it was ready to host a concert.
The work that was done in such a short amount of time was incredible."

"The hillside was physically dug out," Brakebill said. "The Cuban people
love sports. Baseball, soccer and boxing have always been popular, and
sports like basketball are growing. Using sports programs to create
excitement and interest in the church is an excellent way to reach
people, especially young adults."

Since the early 1960s the United States policy toward Cuba has been one
of isolationism, implemented by a host of economic sanctions. That
policy has remained basically unchanged, though it is now possible to
get a direct flight from the U.S. mainland to Cuba. Visitors face heavy
governmental restrictions from both sides and travel must be for the
purposes that were expressly intended.

In addition to working with Gonzalez, Pawleys Island Presbyterian has
forged a relationship with the Camajuani Reformed Presbyterian Church,
which acts as its sister church. Despite several economic changes
created by the government of Raul Castro – who succeeded his brother,
Fidel, as the Cuba's ruler in 2006 – the island nation remains
impoverished. Ownership of homes and cars are promised reforms, but the
majority of citizens won't be able to afford those luxuries. Currently,
most can't even afford basic items like cell phones.

Still, change is occurring.

"Cuba is changing," Gonzalez said. "We are already seeing some
differences. The fact that we are talking about people one day being
able to own cars or homes is amazing. Many people are fearful that the
changes will happen too fast. But every generation faces challenges. It
will be up to our young people to face those challenges and handle the
changes that are coming."

Cuba seeks more active role for youth

Cuba seeks more active role for youth

Calls grow for more power to be given to nation's youth as government
marks 58th anniversary of communist revolution.
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2011 11:51

Cuba has marked the 58th anniversary of the communist revolution, the
culmination of a five-year revolt led by Fidel Castro against the
government of Fulgencio Batista.

The ceremony was held on Tuesday at Revolution Square in the central
city of Ciego de Avila, a year after President Raul Castro called on the
youth to take a more active political role in the country.

The holiday is often used to make major announcements, but this time
Cubans heard from Castro's second-in-command, who offered few new
details while touching on standard themes such as organisation,
discipline and economic reform.

Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, the 80-year-old vice president, said at the
ceremony - which was not attended by Fidel Castro who has fully retired
from politics - that the country would move forward with economic
reforms, but asked for patience.

"We must make a definitive break with the mentality of inertia, it
drives us to sit down and wait looking up," Machado Ventura said,
imploring the crowd and his countrymen to work harder and more efficiently.

He also said that the country was not abandoning socialism even as it
embraced limited free-market reforms.

Al Jazeera's Craig Mauro, reporting from Havana, said calls had been
growing for more power to be given to the country's youth.

Raul Castro has allowed more citizens to run small independent
businesses and hire employees, and pledged to groom new political
leaders to take over from the ageing revolutionary generation.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Law Easy to Neutralize / Fernando Dámaso

A Law Easy to Neutralize / Fernando Dámaso
Fernando Dámaso, Translator: Unstated

Cyclically, like the seasons, the Cuban Adjustment Act appears in the
national media, always to criticize it, to call it a murderous law and
to demand its repeal. It is considered, although it us a U.S. law, that
it intrudes on the problems of Cuba and, therefore, has an interfering
character. Everything that touches the government of the island, even
with the petal of a rose, is of this character. It is a legendary
defense, used for too many years.

As much as they talk against it, its maintenance or repeal is vested
solely in the United States government. Their legislative, judicial and
executive have the final word. The rest are just media campaigns, to
distract attention from more complex and important problems. Its
existence, no matter what anyone says, has benefited many thousands of
compatriots who have remade their lives and their families in a land of
freedom, where they now live and no longer sacrifice their years, hoping
for a glorious future never comes and is increasingly more distant.

Let's consider the issue from another angle. If the Cuban authorities
want to solve the problem on their hands they have the solution: simply
have to restore to citizens the rights they had under the Constitution
of 1940, and that were taken from them in 1959. Among them, for those
who don't know or have forgotten, the right to exit and enter the
country freely and without any permit, as well as respect and protection
for their property, without the ability to seize it, in addition to the
exercise of all other citizen rights. If these rights are restored, the
Cuban Adjustment Act would lose its raison d'etre and, naturally and
without complications, would cease to apply as unnecessary. As you see,
it is a decision that is entirely in the hands of those who demand its
repeal. It seems absurd but it is reality.

Sometimes, at the height of the manipulation, they go so far as to say
that rushed law should also apply to immigrants from other countries.
Which is it, is it a killer or not? The answer is not difficult, it does
not apply because these immigrants have not lost their rights as
citizens in their respective countries and can freely come and go and
live where they please, without losing any of their property.

It is symptomatic that a regime that has always been extremely
conservative about the reception of immigrants in its own territory (the
Haitian brothers are returned as soon as they hit the east coast of the
country), is so worried about the situation of immigrants other
countries. It smells of political expediency and is a token of eternal
confrontation with the empire.

April 2 2011

Cuba Independent and Democratic Party Delivers Constitution Proposal to Cuban Parliament / Ricardo Medina

Cuba Independent and Democratic Party Delivers Constitution Proposal to
Cuban Parliament / Ricardo Medina
Ricardo Medina, Translator: Unstated

Katia Sonia Martín Véliz, Eastern Coordinator of the Cuban Independent
and Democratic Party, delivered a Constitution Proposal at noon on July
21, to the People's Power National Assembly in the name of the National
Executive Committee of the CID.

The proposal of the Constituent Assembly is the fruit of months of work
and was accompanied a cover document, signed and sealed by that body as
an acknowledgment and nod with folio 1487, in which the National
Executive Committee Cuba of the Cuban Independent and Democratic Party
explains to the Nomenklatura that real change in Cuba must be under the
rule of law, without any exclusions, and where supported by the people
directly and without repression; taking into account the opinions and
participation of all Cubans, regardless of their place of residence.

The missive dated July 20, recognizes the example and vision of
Commander Huber Matos Benitez, founder of the CID and current Executive
Secretary and stresses that accepting the enrichment of the constituent
proposal with the opinion of all Cubans living on the island or in the

The National Executive Committee (CEN) is composed of Daniel Mesa
Cantillo, Katia Sonia Veliz Martin, Ricardo Santiago Medina Salabarria,
Irel Gómez Moreira and Nivaldo Amedo Ramírez.

Lisbán Hernández Sánchez
Giraldilla Information Center

July 22 2011

Family Members of Teenager Killed by Ex-Police Official Demand Justice / Laritza Diversent

Family Members of Teenager Killed by Ex-Police Official Demand Justice /
Laritza Diversent
Laritza Diversent, Translator: Unstated

Raiza Medina claims justice for the death of her son Ángel Izquierdo
Medina, a black teenager of 14, who died this last July 15, after having
been shot by a retired police official.

According to Ismael Suarez Herc, 17, eyewitness of the events and he
victim's cousin, who was climbing a mamoncillo tree when Amado Interian,
alias "el Pinto," an ex-police official, fired his 45 caliber revolver.
He reached for his left buttock. The teenager was still breathing when
he fell. Minutes later he died.

The news affected the capital town of Mantilla, Arroyo Naranjo. Hundreds
of people gathered outside the clinic in the town where the teenager's
body was first taken, and in chorus shouted "murderer." Forensic
medicine certified the cause of death as acute anemia.

At the wake, in the Mauline funeral home, over 400 people attended. The
funeral was held in the afternoon the next day, at the Colon cemetery.
State Security troops, in civilian clothes, were in the farewell to
Izquierdo Medina. Although protests were reported, no arrests were made.

The farm where the incident occurred is located in Las Lajas, Mantilla,
a neighborhood on the edge of the Arroyo Naranjo municipality, in
Havana. It has a predominantly black, low income population with a high
dangerousness index. Suarez Herce affirms that they crossed through
there to take a dip in the Abelardo dam, in Calvario.

Interian, was head of the police sector in various localities of Arroyo
Naranjo, the poorest and most violent municipality in Havana. Neighbors
and relatives of the victim described him as an angry man with a short fuse.

They say he killed two people and caused several injuries with his
weapon. An unofficial source told Raiza, Medina Izquierdo's mother, that
a man, approximately 60, said he acted in self defense.

As of now his whereabouts are unknown. Witnesses said he was detained by
police. However, some in the area say he ran away and others that he
hung himself. The authorities have given no details.

Relatives and neighbors of the victim suspect the police are looking for
excuses not to prosecute him, and they are demanding justice for the
death of Angel Izquierdo Medina, that it not go unpunished.

July 25 2011

Watching Yesterday's Event / Regina Coyula

Watching Yesterday's Event / Regina Coyula
Regina Coyula, Translator: Unstated

I decided not to write about the celebration of the event for the 26th
of July. Last year's post would be perfect to narrate the essence of
what happened yesterday in Ciego de Avila. These celebrations and the
supposed competition of the provinces to be the site of them, have been
converted into mere formalities. Formalities full of hollow figures,
because if simply search your memory you can remember the speech for the
occasion, a long list of achievements of all the provinces, as all at
some time have been the site of event of yesterday, some provinces
several times; figures that, if true, should have brought a better
economic outlook in the country, and we know the sorry state in which
the Cuban economy finds itself.

It's not a bad idea to abandon the paraphernalia that surrounds the
country each year with the celebration of the 26th of July, and honor
the martyrs by dedicating to social works the enormous resources that
are devoted to the event (transportation and accommodation for the
Moncada combatants, printed T-shirts, hats or caps, food and snacks,
mobilization of personal), in short, the always secret funds that swell
the enormous and seemingly bottomless debt, that yet hangs over us all.

July 27 2011

An Ingenous Question / Fernando Dámaso

An Ingenous Question / Fernando Dámaso
Fernando Dámaso, Translator: Unstated

Among the authorities and officials serving in the national mass media,
the verb "to recover" is the most used in these times of guidelines and
updating the economic model. It is practically applied to all areas and
activities of the nation, whether of a material or spiritual nature:
everything should be "recovered."

First things first: when something has to be recovered, it means that at
some point it existed and then at another point, for some reason, it
disappeared. Something that never existed can't be recovered. So, when
one speaks of recovering the sugar production, the coffee crop, grains,
rice, minerals, and so on, or mining, the railroad, the fishing fleet,
the merchant marine, et cetera, it is assumed that it existed and
disappeared. This corresponds to material matters.

The same happens with the spiritual. When considering the recovery of
social and labor discipline, good manners, formal education, morality,
civility, correct language, etc., is also accepted that it existed and

If we simplify the problem, which is quite complex, we can conclude that
all these issues, as in any other country, were established and
consolidated over time, from colonial times through the Republic and
into the early years of the sixties until we come to socialism, when
there was a massive collapse. Today, if we listen to the authorities,
everything has to be recovered. It is a true work of giants, that pretty
much everything created in the colonial era and in 56 years of the
Republic does not exist.

It remains a mystery: no one speaks of the causes of this disaster. One
could think that it was due to cyclones, but there have always been
cyclones, drought, but there have always been droughts, heavy rains, but
there have always been heavy rains. Perhaps the blockade (in reality,
the embargo) is responsible, but for more than thirty years, the former
USSR and the rest of the extinct socialist countries subsidized us with
billions in financial aid, in addition to technologies, specialists and
goods. Afterward the support was taken on by the Bolivarian Venezuela up
until today. It is possible that we Cubans are an incapable people, but
during the colonial period and the Republic we proved capable, becoming
an example for Latin America and other countries. In short: there don't
seem to be any causes. Could it be that the model doesn't work? Draw
your own conclusions.

July 4 2011

Cuba: For macho island, a shift on civil unions

Cuba: For macho island, a shift on civil unions
Cuba is close to recognizing civil unions for same-sex couples.
Nick MiroffJuly 28, 2011 06:49

HAVANA, Cuba — There was no mention of it in the pages of Granma, the
Communist Party newspaper, but when word came that Cuban authorities
were considering the legalization of same-sex civil unions, it was a
cause for quiet celebration here.

The announcement was made by Mariela Castro, daughter of Raul Castro and
the director of Cuba's national sex education center, during an
interview with Spanish broadcaster Cadena Ser earlier this month.
Castro, the island's leading gay rights advocate, said Cuban authorities
are already studying the proposal in preparation for the upcoming
Community Party conference on Jan. 28.

"This is a historic opportunity, and I think we're close to having draft
legislation," said Castro, who also revealed in the interview that gay
Cubans can serve in the military. "We've been working on this issue for
a long time, with a lot of activism. We're starting to see results and a
political solution."

Certainly the recognition of same-sex civil unions would be a landmark
achievement — for Mariela Castro and the island's gay rights activists.
But it also prompts the question: Why has it taken Cuba so long?

After all, six other Latin American nations already recognize same-sex
civil unions: Uruguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico
(in certain states). Why then is Cuba, a largely secular society where
left-wing politics have dominated for 50 years, still slow to grant full
legal equality for gays and lesbians? As Castro told the interviewer, "A
socialist society can't be a homophobic one."

But it has been one in the past.

In the decades following Fidel Castro's 1959 Cuban Revolution, gay
Cubans endured various forms of harassment, and many in the late 1960s
were sent to military labor camps to be "rehabilitated" by grueling
agricultural work. The socialist "New Man" envisioned by Che Guevara was
strong, self-sacrificing, masculine — and unambiguously heterosexual.

Several of Cuba's leading artists and intellectuals at the time,
including some of Castro's fiercest critics, were gay, contributing to
perceptions among some Party stalwarts that homosexuals were inherently
"subversive" or "counter-revolutionary." Acclaimed Cuban writer Reinaldo
Arenas, who fled the island in the 1980 Mariel boatlift, was a case in

Much has changed since then. Cubans now march in government-sanctioned
gay pride parades each year, and the state has even begun offering a
limited number of sexual reassignment surgeries to transgender Cubans at
no cost, in keeping with the spirit of the island's socialist health
care system.

Yet many gays here remain closeted about their sexuality. There are no
designated gay bars, and a macho-male culture that either mocks or
rejects homosexuality remains deeply engrained, just as it is in many
parts of North America.

Gay rights activists, led by Mariela Castro (who is not gay herself),
have made uneven progress, while continuing to face considerable
push-back from a culture that has casual attitudes about sex, but not

And while Cuba's Catholic Church is not as powerful as it is in other
Latin American countries, it remains a formidable institution on the
island and a moral authority for many. It has openly stated its
opposition to any move to formally recognize homosexual relationships,
even if its protests have been quieter in recent years.

When the Cuban government screened the film "Brokeback Mountain" on
national television in 2008, church spokesman Orlando Marquez wrote "I
respect homosexual individuals, but not the promotion of homosexuality.
We're going down a dangerous path when our own state institutions
promote programs that undermine the foundations of our society."

"While homosexual behavior isn't new," he wrote, "the international
agenda that promotes homosexuality at all levels is."

Marquez, who is also the editor of Palabra Nueva, the church's magazine,
declined to comment on Mariela Castro's announcement, referring
inquiries about the Church's views to previously published statements
opposing same-sex unions, including declarations on the subject by the
Vatican and Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

In Cuba's gay community, the reaction to Mariela Castro's announcement
has been enthusiastic, but also mixed. Ailec Garcia, 32, said that while
her partner of seven years was eager to formalize their relationship, it
wasn't a priority for her.

"It's hard to get excited about it when you still live with your parents
and can't think about having a house of your own," Garcia said,
explaining how Cuba's miserably low salaries and acute housing shortages
make sobering realities of many couples' domestic aspirations, whether
they're gay or straight.

Castro did not go into detail about what legal benefits the unions might
bring. But Cuba is also a country where the practice of marriage has
also been in dramatic decline and many heterosexual couples go unwed,
even after they've had children, since they can't afford to have a
wedding and would derive few legal benefits.

Still, Garcia said, the legalization of same-sex civil unions would
carry enormous symbolic importance for the country. "We still have a
long way to go toward eliminating machista attitudes and taboos," she
said. "But it would be a huge step forward."

Cubans Still Suffer, But Media Looks Away

Cubans Still Suffer, But Media Looks Away
By Mike Gonzalez
Published July 26, 2011

Last week, just outside Cuba's holiest Catholic shrine, government thugs
attacked in plain daylight a group of opposition women -- beating them,
stoning them and stripping them naked to the waist. The women, mostly
black and middle-aged, suffered this public humiliation because they
were trying to find a dignified way to bring attention to the plight of
their husbands, who are in prison for freely speaking their minds.

The archbishop of Santiago de Cuba has condemned the attack. You can
find an eyewitness account in Spanish here:

It should make for poignant watching today, the anniversary of the start
of the Cuban Revolution.

Unfortunately, there's nothing unusual in this grotesque attack on the
Damas de Blanco (or Ladies in White, the harassed association of wives
of political prisoners) on the street outside the shrine of Our Lady of
La Caridad del Cobre. It's routine for Cubans to be publicly degraded,
brutalized and imprisoned when they dare speak their minds. Their daily
existence has been one of fear and wretched suffering for 50 years now.

Yet the chances are that you probably haven't heard about this story. A
quick Google search of the attacks on the Damas de Blanco turned up only
about five hits, none from a major publication. Why?

Not because it's a dog-bites-man story (literally, in this case), as
some journalists might have you believe. No, it's simply because the
media don't report the daily attacks on the Cuban dissidents.

All the major international news wires, and at least two TV networks,
have bureaus in Cuba. But they're either so afraid of being expelled, or
have so bought into the regime's propaganda, that all they report is how
Raul Castro is bringing economic reforms to Cuba.

So little is the story of Cuba's oppression known outside that island
prison that, were the constant repression reported occasionally, it
might actually cause a stir.

Clearly, Raul—Fidel's brother, who was handed the day-to-day reins of
the island when his elder brother fell ill a couple of years back—has no
intention of doing anything that will threaten communism's firm grip on
Cuba. Otherwise, his goons would feel no need to terrorize and drag a
bunch of older women naked through the streets.

What this dearth of news on the Gulag Next Door has produced is a
strange double standard, where similar repression in far-away Burma,
Zimbabwe or Libya -- also by leftist regimes -- gets far better
coverage. Such is the ignorance of events in Cuba that MSNBC host Chris
Matthews two years ago asked this question in an interview:

"Congressman Burton, why do you think Cubans on the island still support
the Castro brothers? What is it that allows that lock on those people to

Well, Chris, here's your answer to what happens to Cubans when they try
to pick that lock. Leaving Cuba is illegal, so you either stay silent,
brave shark-infested waters on inner tubes (it is illegal to own boats
in Cuba, for reasons that should be apparent), or risk suffering the
fate of the Damas de Blanco.

Culturally as well, Castro gets a pass not just from committed Marxists
like Michael Moore, from whom it is expected and therefore ignored, but
from otherwise well meaning personalities like TV chef Anthony Bourdain.

On the day the Anthony Bourdain Goes to Cuba episode aired to much
fanfare on the Travel Channel, July 11, news also emerged from the
center of the island that dissident Guillermo Fariñas had been beaten up
and arrested by police.

This poor timing was hardly Bourdain's fault; again, Cubans get
physically attacked and incarcerated for speaking their minds quite
frequently. What is Bourdain's fault, and the Travel Channel's, is that
they decided to give Fariñas' tormentors such unfiltered propaganda.

Our leaders are no better. Lawmakers such as Barbara Lee, Javier
Serrano, Emanuel Cleaver, Bobby Rush, Rosa DeLauro, Kathy Castor, James
McGovern, Charlie Rangel, Laura Richardson and Jim Moran are constantly
carrying water for the Castros.

It is well past time for people of conscience to continue supporting
this abomination, here or elsewhere.

The shrine of del Cobre commemorates the occasion in 1604 when the
Virgin appeared to three fishermen, the mestizo Juan Moreno and two
Indian brothers surnamed Joyo, and carried their boat to safety from a
storm. Those of the Christian faith would take comfort from the fact
that this attack on helpless women happened to close to a church
dedicated to this Virgin and would pray that Cubans too will one day
soon be delivered from their suffering.

Mike Gonzalez is the Vice President of Communications for The Heritage
Foundation ( You can follow him on Twitter @Gundisalvus.

The Last Pilgrims to Havana

The Last Pilgrims to Havana

Visiting Fidel Castro used to be a proud rite of passage for Latin
American leftist leaders like Peru's Ollanta Humala. Now it's an act of

HAVANA — There was a moment in history when Cuba was a beacon for the
Latin American left. A now remote past when the Plaza of the Revolution
was a beacon for the dozens of progressive movements that crossed the
continent. "The island where utopia triumphed," many thought, the place
that showed the way for revolutionaries and idealists everywhere.

Those were the days when young people kept posters of Fidel Castro in
their rooms, believing that the dreams of so many years of proletarian
struggle had come to fruition in the Caribbean. Our cultural centers
filled with writers and artists, born from the Río Bravo all the way to
Patagonia. And some of those who would later become the region's
political leaders came to study in schools across the country.

The infatuation with the Cuban process eventually fell victim to events;
the executions, purges, and censorship of the early Castro era led
millions of admirers to realize that "Red Cuba" was living not under the
old ideals of Marx and Engels, but rather under authoritarianism. The
excessive presence of the Soviet Union in decision-making, the Kremlin
subsidies, and the high costs in political independence paid for them
alienated the faithful followers of years past.

The apex of disappointment came in 1968, when the treads of the Soviet
tanks entered Czechoslovakia, and Fidel Castro -- before the stunned
eyes of those who had raised him up as the indisputable emblem of the
Latin American left -- gave his blessing to the military action.
Something irreversibly snapped that day, shattering the link (based more
on emotion than reality even in the best of times) between Castro and a
good part of the progressive world. The honeymoon was over.

But compared with the right-wing dictatorships spreading across the
southern cone of the Americas, the Cuban Revolution still offered a
little light at the end of the tunnel -- flickering, it was true, but
still phosphorescent. Eminent visitors from elsewhere in Latin America
continued coming to the island from all over to get their picture taken
with the leader in olive green. Landing at Havana's airport, placing a
wreath on a statue of José Martí -- the man Cubans call "The Apostle"--
or joining those on the dais during some popular parade, all were common
events on the agendas of these foreign friends.

Nor could anyone miss the marathon conversations with Castro, who left
his visitors from abroad dumbfounded by his knowledge of agriculture,
genetics, space exploration, or biotechnology -- not to mention
historical details he would know about his guests' own countries. The
chat would be accompanied by advice for whatever group or political
power could take control in that country, and finally put an end to
capitalism. Thus, the chief officiant of the left catechized the new
shoots who would spread Marxism across the continent. Returning
afterward to their respective countries, they would report that they had
been in the sanctum sanctorum of socialist Cuba and repeat, over and
over, the words they had heard from the Maximum Leader.

But even this personal adoration finally crumbled. Other voices arose in
Latin America, less orthodox and more democratic, voices that also
defined their projects as "revolutionary," "citizen," and "progressive."
They had the advantage over the old patriarch, however, in that they had
submitted themselves to the scrutiny of the ballot box and -- for better
or worse -- lived with opposition parties and a press that disputed
their positions. Now Castro's island has become like a room in a museum,
with half-empty display cases where few see themselves reflected. To
visit the seat of its government and take a snapshot with its president
can now represent a blemish rather than a credit on one's record.

It was precisely to this mummified Cuba where Peru's president-elect,
Ollanta Humala, arrived last week -- and the brief nature of the
ascendant leftist's visit speaks volumes. In decades past, a lengthy and
personal visit to Cuba would have been the centerpiece of Humala's first
continental tour, but instead he was only in Havana for a few hours, a
lightning-quick visit marked by formality. Unlike his hosts, the
Peruvian dignitary represents a left that has faced elections against
other forces, that has had to make concessions to its adversaries to
achieve power, and whose time in the presidential chair will be limited.
Although the Peruvian leftists felt, or feel, some sympathy for Cuba and
its leaders, they know that keeping their distance is healthier for
their own project than would be excessive concomitance.

But Humala's presence here reminds us that the pilgrim cannot complete
his journey without passing under the shadow of the ruined temple in
which he once believed. He sat at the table with Fidel Castro, but this
old man in Adidas pajamas is no longer someone who validates by his
contact; quite the opposite. Humala had come to testify that the
charismatic leader of old is still alive. But in a museum, only the gaze
of the visitors restores the splendor of the pieces on display.