Friday, September 30, 2011

Notes from a Liberating Passage / Luis Felipe Rojas

Notes from a Liberating Passage / Luis Felipe Rojas
Luis Felipe Rojas, Translator: Raul G.

The sun was burning like never before over Eastern Cuba. It was
September 10th when we immersed ourselves in the hills of Baracoa, we
had to hide for two days so they wouldn't notice us. The National
'Boitel and Zapata Live' March for Cuba's Freedom on the 13th of this
month consisted of the presence of 36 human rights activists from the
Eastern Democratic Alliance. The Orlando Zapata Tamayo National
Resistance Front invited me to cover the event.

The Eastern retinue kicked off the March from Duaba Beach, where Maceo
and Flor Crombet (Cuban independence fighters) disembarked in 1895. The
opening remarks made by Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina highlighted the
purpose of this civic action. We were not to respond to the offenses of
either civilians or soldiers, nor to the same physical blows usually
employed against us, we would not resist arrests and we would not shout
slogans or display written ones, and those of us who could were to dress
in white. We would be as peaceful as possible, as we ended up doing.
When we were just about 20 meters from the police cordon we began to
sing the national anthem and turned ourselves in to our captors. That
was it, a total of 36 detainees between the 13 of us who participated
and those who were jailed before arriving at our meeting spot.

The Arrest

Eliecer Palma, Jose Triguero Mulet, and I were taken on a Jeep to the
Operation Unit towards Moa. We spent nine hours in that unit, sitting on
a concrete bench waiting for the supposed decision of the Holguin G2
about our destiny, just for them to later decide to send us to the
filthy cells of that center of horror.

As we waited to be locked away there, activists Annie Carrion Romero,
Milagros Leyva Ramirez, and Lewis Fajardo showed up to check on us and
they were quickly detained. After keeping them for a few hours, the
women were sent off to Mayari and the man dropped off in Cueto.

The food was more of the same: an acid and foul smelling ground beef, a
transparent water with some noodles floating in it, rice with rocks and
other pieces of trash, and a piece of a viand.

Among the detainees that I was sharing a cell with, there were two young
men accused of killing and selling a cow. Those in another cell nearby
mine had been caught in the illegal game of 'lottery', known as 'La
Bolita', and I saw others who had been stripped of their conditional
freedom for not working- they owed fines they could not afford or had
bought some item of suspicious origin.

The chief of that Unit, Major Claudio Zaldivar Matos, a thug who is well
known in Moa for his aggressiveness towards detainees and even his
proper men, put on a show of 'toughness' so that I would get off the
bunk bed and get in the line of prisoners who were to be inspected on
that morning. The intervention of another police official kept him from
beating me as he had promised, though we were able to exchange a few
words: he stated that he did not care that I was a peaceful dissident
and I assured him that they were all violators and that I did not follow
orders, much less from soldiers.

I found out that he (Zaldivar) had paralyzed a man after a supposed
accident in the municipality of Sagua de Tanamo. At 2 pm sharp, they
released us without charges, contradicting the farce of the previous day
when they tried to sign a document which stated we were carrying out
acts of Public Disorder. They did not confiscate anything from us, and
at that time others who had joined us in the march were already in the
warmth of their homes savoring a cup of coffee. We left behind the
squalor of that place, though I can still feel the pestilence of that
dungeon on my skin, which is nothing more than an instrument frequently
used by the regime in an attempt to impede what is inevitable, although
many may doubt it because of distance, blindness, or a paralyzing fear.

Translated by Raul G.

September 30, 2011

Any Old Registry Office / Rebeca Monzo

Any Old Registry Office / Rebeca Monzo
Rebeca Monzo, Translator: Espirituana

The Registry Offices on my planet have become human concentrations or
people's saunas. The long lines overflow to the outside of the building,
most of them ending on the street, sidewalks and curbs, where those who
aspire to be assisted hang around, waiting for the hoped-for moment. At
lunch time, the office is closed and everyone must leave and wait
outside. It should be noted that so far none of these sites has a
computerized database.

None of them provides enough seats to accommodate everyone; insufficient
ventilation is guaranteed. Of course, there is an exception that
confirms the rule: the Central Havana Registry – perhaps the only one
that works well, based on my personal experience.

I think I have visited almost all of them in the capital, including the
one in Santiago de las Vegas, which like all of their species are
located in houses and apartments, abandoned for several decades by their
former owners and later by the State, which took possession of them
without giving them any maintenance in all these years (including
cleaning them).

The people who work there do not enjoy appropriate working conditions
and generally display a very bad temper. They do their work as if they
were doing a great favor to the applicant, even making an effort so that
it will not go unnoticed. This forces many users to arrive at the place
bearing some small gift. If not, sit down and wait! In the end, whether
they do their work well or badly, they will receive the same meager salary.

After waiting for more than three hours to be helped, I was able to
notice one of the possible causes of the delay: the long silicone nails,
green and with small raised flowers, of the employee who took care of
the applications. It was to be expected that she would take more than
twenty minutes with each short four-line form to be filled out, in
addition to the innumerable times that she would leave her work station
for just a moment, to go deal with some small matter in another
department, and not taking into account the friends who are allowed to
go first, cutting into the line.

I was finally provided with a copy of my application on a recycled piece
of paper, written exactly on the previously printed side, almost
illegible, but even so I left the place relieved, and even happy to have
been able to file my application.

Translated by: Espirituana

September 25 2011

Citizen Evening: First Free Territory of Cuba / Angel Santiesteban

Citizen Evening: First Free Territory of Cuba / Angel Santiesteban
Angel Santiesteban, Translator: Unstated

A group of civil rights activists gather every Tuesday and Thursday
between 6:00 and 8:00 PM in the park at 31st and 41st, at the corner of
the "League against Blindness" hospital, very much in tune with the
function of activists to tear off the Cubans' blindfold and teach them
to overcome their fear.

To carry on his example and in memory of one who was vilely murdered,
they began to meet the same day the dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto (known
as "The Student") was buried, and branded this day as the birth of the
Citizen Evening.

In the beginning there were three who started the Evening, then five,
eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen defenders of a free
space, who have resolved to pay the highest price.

They come from all directions, with saddened faces. It's time for those
who have heard the call. They don't know what's in store for them for
the rest of the afternoon. On previous occasions they have been
arrested, beaten, threatened. But despite everything, they find a
glimmer of nobility invades them and they embrace each other.

"We came to have a contradiction," José Alberto Álvarez Bravo, the
principal organizer, told me. "Every time we would get to ten people,
they beat us. Sometimes we saw we had reached the number nine, we didn't
know if we wanted the next one to join us or not; but the conviction we
have chases away the fear, the beatings don't matter. They break our
heads, we go to the doctor, get sewn up and return. They break our
bones, we get a cast and come back. They lock us in a cell, we wait, at
some point they will have to release us, and without another thought we
return. It is our conviction. Despite the suffering we have to bear, we
want a hundred, a thousand, a million to join us, all the people of Cuba
to demand their rights."

While members of State Security remain on the lurk, the dissidents help
to chase away the fear by conversing on specific topics, "The concept of
possible unity"; "The need to implement the affective element in civil
society"; "Tolerance"; "Absolute respect for individual freedom".

"We try to learn to be citizens," one of the youngest people, Yaroslan
Tamayo Rueda, told me, without losing sight of the two agents who
pretended to be chatting.

"We train ourselves," continued a girl, "on how we will live in a
democratic Cuba, at least theoretically."

The agents move around us, looking nervous. They are awaiting the order
to proceed or to remain "passive."

I look over the faces of the group of dissidents, looking for the answer
that summons several generations to meet, what motivates them to run the
risk, despite the harassment and abuse: professionals, workers, a
peasant woman, blacks and whites. I talk with them and learn the reason
that unites them: CHANGE. They need progress, freedom.

José Alberto Álvarez Bravo, as his second surname attests, has suffered
six arrests. Threats to send him to prison, even death.

"The political police stole two cellphones from me," Jose Alberto told
me. "On July 12 several police raided my house to steal my laptop and
all its components. They took my books," he continues calmly while I
take notes, "worth 64 CUC. They are common thieves, plain highway robbers."

He pauses, looks around or into the void, trying to let his eyes rest in
the distance.

"But having understood that nothing they do against me is going to
intimidate me, they have decided to plant fake "dissidents" that have
said that in the search they found 20,000 dollars under my pillow that
had been donated, and that I had not reported it so that I wouldn't have
to share it," José Alberto smiles sadly. "I haven't seen money like that
even in films."

And he calls to Inés Antonia Quezada Lemus, one of the courageous Ladies
in White.

"Show him," he begs her, "the bruises you received at G and Calzada
streets." She, without much interest, shows some marks that refuse to go

Inés calls José Ángel Luque Álvarez to come over.

"It was worse with him," and she hugs him. "He is a real hero; he put up
with as much pain and humiliation as Christ."

The shy young man shows me a string of cuts on the arms. He states that
the military men, in exchange for granting gifts, would incite the
common prisoners to beat him.

"I was raped," he told me and the news hit me like a blow on the chin.
"The officers penetrated me. One by one while they repeated that I would
never again think of yelling 'Down with the dictatorship' and 'Fidel is
a murderer'". They would assure him that he was going to know what a
real dictatorship was. (But this is for a future post that I will do in
the form of a reminder. The denunciations will never be sufficient.)

In solidarity, a girl watching from a nearby bench alerts us to the fact
that they are taking photos of us.

"Don't give them an importance they don't deserve," says Leidi Coca,
another of the Ladies in White.

Someone in the group says that, sadly, we need to break it up because
it's 8:00 pm.

"And now we wait again, five days, to revive this space of freedom not
governed by the Castro brothers," laments Inés Antonia.

Each of us expresses the feeling, the experience that goes through our
bodies and minds as we inhabit a space, miniscule for now, of total freedom.

Finally we give a parting embrace to those mentioned before and to René
González Bonella, Florentina Machado Martínez , Pedro Larena Ibáñez.

We go away fearful, but with the firm determination to return the
following Tuesday and bring that space of freedom back to life .

José Alberto Álvarez Bravo has been detained since September 20th, when
he was on his way to participate in one of the Citizen Evenings.

September 28 2011

CDR, Castro's Popular Weapon / Iván García

CDR, Castro's Popular Weapon / Iván García
Iván García, Translator: Regina Anavy

On September 28, 1960, while homemade bombs and firecrackers were being
detonated by his political opponents, an angry Fidel Castro created the
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). From the balcony of
the north wing of the Presidential Palace, the guerrilla commander,
recently returned from a tour of New York, argued the need to monitor
all the blocks in the country for the "worms and disaffected," to
protect the revolutionary process.

It was one more step in the autocratic direction in which he was now
navigating the nascent revolution. Another deep stab towards the
creation of a totalitarian state.

From 1959, Castro had struck a mortal blow to press freedom when,
methodically, between promises and threats, the main newspapers of Cuba
were shut down. He eliminated the rights of workers to strike and habeas
corpus. The legal safeguards for those who opposed his regime were
almost nil. He concentrated power. And he made political, economic and
social policies by himself, without previously consulting ministers.

The process of establishing himself as the top pontiff in olive green
culminated in 1961, with the radicalization of the revolution and the
strangulation of the pockets of citizens who dissented against his

The CDRs are and have been one of the most effective weapons to
collectivize society and get unconditional support for Castro's strange
theories. And one way to manage the nation. They were also the standard
bearers at the time, shouting insults, throwing stones and punching the
Cubans who thought differently or decided to leave their homeland.

The CDRs are a version of Mussolini's brownshirts. Or one of those
collective monstrosities created by Adolf Hitler. More or less. Over 5
million people are integrated into the ranks of the CDRs on the island.

Membership is not mandatory. But it forms part of the conditioned
reflexes established in a society designed to genuflect, applaud and
praise the "leaders".

Although as many people have no desire to take part in revolutionary
events and marches, or to attend the acts of repudiation against the
Ladies in White and the dissident protestors, as if they were on a
safari, in a mechanical way at the age of 14, most Cuban children join
the CDR.

It forms part of the greased and functional machine of the Creole
mandarins. A collective society, where the good and bad must be doled
out by the regime.

Two decades ago, with a state salary you could buy a Russian car, a
refrigerator, a black and white TV and even an alarm clock. If you
surpassed your quota in cane cutting, you were demonstrating loyalty to
the fidelista cause or you were a cadre of the party or the Communist Youth.

The others, those who rebuked Fidel Castro's caudillismo, in addition to
being besieged and threatened by his special services, did not even have
the right to work.

The CDRs played a sad role in the hard years of the '80s. They were
protagonists in the shameful verbal and physical lynchings against those
who decided to leave Cuba.

It can't be forgotten. The crowd inflamed by the regime's propaganda,
primary and secondary students, employees and CDR members, throwing eggs
and tomatoes at the houses of the "scum", to the beat of chanted slogans
like "down with the worms" or "Yankee, you're selling yourself for a
pair of jeans".

Among the dark deeds of Fidel Castro's personal revolution, the acts of
repudiation occupy first place. In addition to monitoring and verbally
assaulting opponents, the CDRs perform social tasks.

They collect and distribute raw material. They help deliver polio
vaccines. And, from time to time, less and less, they organize study
circles where they analyze and vote to approve a political text or some
operation of the Castro brothers.

That bunch of acronyms generated by the sui generis Cuban socialist
system, CTC, FMC, MTT, UJC and FEU, among others, are "venerated NGOs".
According to the official discourse, those who by sword and shield
support the regime.

In this 21st century, the CDRs, like the revolution itself, have lost
steam. And their anniversaries and holidays are scarce. The night guards
are rare birds. But the CDR members still keep their nails sharp.

They are the eyes and ears of the intelligence services. Snitches pure
and simple. In one CDR a stone's throw from Red Square in Vibora (which
is not a square nor is it painted red), some of the species remain.

Now one has died. A lonely old man and childless, a factory worker, who
was noted for his daily reports about "counter-revolutionary activities
on the block".

Two remain active. They have antagonized the neighborhood by their
intransigence. All who dissent publicly in Cuba know that there is
always a pair of eyes that watch your steps and then report by telephone
to State Security.

Over time, you get used to their clumsy maneuvers of checking up on you
and interfering with your private life. They inspect your garbage, to
see what you eat or if you bathe with soap you bought in the "shopping".
Sometimes they make you laugh. Almost always they make you pity them.

Translated by Regina Anavy

September 27 2011

Realism, yes. Magic, well, not so much / Regina Coyula

Realism, yes. Magic, well, not so much / Regina Coyula
Regina Coyula, Translator: Espirituana

This picture was take in the lobby of the Luis de la Puente Uceda
Hospital in La Víbora.







I DO NOT ACCEPT CHAVITOS (convertible currency) OR EUROS.









Translated by: Espirituana

September 5 2011

For the bangers of Havana, it's the end of the road

For the bangers of Havana, it's the end of the road

Cuba's rusting, outdated cars are part of the city's tourist appeal. But
their days may be numbered
By Simon Calder
Friday, 30 September 2011

You step off the plane at Jose Marti international airport outside
Havana, and immediately find yourself in a rumbling, rusting automotive
museum. The highway into the centre of the Cuban capital comprises a
noxious, noisy procession of trucks and cars from either side of the
Cold War. The lorries that clog up the carretera are vile Soviet brutes
that, you suspect, would survive any nuclear attack.

Growling as they weave between them are the relics of capitalism in its
most glorious incarnation: 1950s Detroit. And it is thanks to the US
that the monsters of Motown are still providing "transportational
solutions" to the citizens of Cuba.

The best way, believes Washington, to "assist the Cuban people in
regaining their freedom and prosperity, as well as in joining the
community of democratic countries that are flourishing in the Western
Hemisphere," is to impose harsh economic sanctions against the
Caribbean's largest island. Five decades and 11 presidents later, the
embargo has failed to substantially shift the regime.

On Wednesday, though, circumstances did change a little. As part of a
broader programme of economic reforms, President Raul Castro, younger
brother of Fidel, relaxed the rules on buying and selling cars; hitherto
only pre-revolutionary vehicles could be traded freely. The rule change
will still only apply to foreign nationals and Cubans who have official
permission. But the pace at which the gas-guzzlers are replaced will

At the moment, as far as cars go, the music stopped in
post-revolutionary Cuba in 1960, when, even if the nouveau-Marxists
could afford new vehicles from the US, car-makers were not allowed to
export them.

So an astonishing five-decade programme of "make do and mend" began,
with inventiveness battling against built-in obsolescence – and just
about winning. A combination of backstreet welding and mechanical
excellence kept the Pontiacs and Studebakers on the road.

In Havana, vehicles with thirsty V8 engines have long provided the
alternative to the overcrowded bus service. Even in the depths of the
"Special Period", following the collapse of the USSR, they kept rolling.

In the 21st century their numbers have slowly diminished – not because
they have rusted to death, or hit one bache (pothole) too many, but
because of the demand from overseas collectors. The Cuban government
began doing what it is now allowing its people to, in the 1990s – buying
up the best-preserved saloons, offering their owners a new Russian-built
Lada instead. These cars were sold to collectors to earn precious hard
currency. And as Havana became the venue of choice for fashion shoots,
some of the remaining vehicles were bought and fixed to provide
automotive chic; the Hotel Nacional de Cuba built up a fleet, offering
stylish airport transfers.

Yet as Cuba's economy has emerged from the post-Soviet depths, the
American beauties have become a lumbering sideshow. They were squeezed
out of the taxi market by modified Ladas holding up to nine passengers,
and are now taking a back seat to Mexican-built imports of Japanese marques.

Ironically, by the time US citizens are able freely to visit Cuba
(current laws forbid tourism) their idea of an island filled with relics
of an innocent America are likely to be misplaced.

Not nostalgia all is lost, however. The pride of Cuban Railways
comprises rolling stock from the 1960s for Trans Europ Express trains
between Amsterdam and Paris, while the line through the canefields east
of Havana uses equipment almost a century old.

Farming and Landholding in Cuba

Farming and Landholding in Cuba
September 29, 2011

An interview with officials of the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI)
Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 29 – The Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) occupies
an enormous building near Havana's Revolution Square, the island's
center of power. It has 1.2 million employees across the country, a
third of whom are officials not directly connected with production.

Despite such a figure, its directors complained about the lack of
personnel necessary to advance the current land reform effort, an
essential area of the process of transformation being undertaken in the

The change is evident. "The cooperative and (individual) campesino
sectors (private) already exceed 50 percent of most productions,"
MINAGRI Vice Minister Ramon Frometa told us. In addition, he maintains
that this percentage will increase over the next few years with the
transfer of additional land.

Frometa, and Pedro Olivera, who is in charge of distributing properties
nationally, agreed to be interviewed by BBC Mundo. Frometa's first
words were, "Well…here I am behind the defendant's table."

And in a certain way he was right. Most of the campesinos with which
we've spoken accuse MINAGRI of constantly generating new rules and
regulations that have become the principal obstacles for the development
of Cuban agriculture.

Q: Why do farmers have that perception?

A: Each one would like to do what they please, but that's not possible.
It's necessary to be governed by laws and state institutions. In any
case, I believe that there's still a lot we have to do.

Q: Your office gives them land and then prevents the farmers from
building housing on it. Do you expect them to live in Havana and
commute to the fields every morning?

A: I believe it's necessary to provide them with facilities (for
construction), and the solution should come with the new law on the
transfer of land. Those are the things we have to improve.

Q: It took eight months to realize that the farm implements (plows,
seeders, cultivators, etc.) being sold to campesinos were too expensive,
even though an average of only seven were being purchased monthly across
the entire country. Your solutions seem a little slow.

A: At first we thought the sales would be greater. Though it was
considered slow, our decision was to do things right and not make
mistakes. When we commit an error, agricultural production is curbed,
and when that happens everybody says we're not part of the solution but
part of the problem.

Q: I know guajiros (small farmers) who have been offered tractors
donated from overseas but your office prohibits the entry of these into
the country. How do you justify that with the lack of equipment in Cuba?

A: The country has an import policy that must be respected. Also, to
import items (from the United States) we have to do it through third
countries because of the blockade. It's not possible for us to allow
anybody to import whatever they want. That wouldn't be consistent with
our own discipline.

Q: The guajiros blame MINAGRI for having organized a redistribution
system that ends up with crops rotting in the fields.

A: Since last year we've only contracted for 22 products for the basic
family food basket of rationed articles – the rest aren't regulated.
Therefore campesinos are free to deliver these directly to markets. I
admit that last year there were a lot of problems with the tomato crop.
There were errors in the system, that can't be denied. We were
responsible for all that.

For his part, Pedro Olivera (MINAGRI's director of the National Center
of Land Control) explained the advances and difficulties faced in the
process transferring land, an effort that began in 2008.

Q: How has the transfer of land been going?

A: We've received 176,000 applications and we've approved 146,000.
More than 1,131,000 hectares (2.8 million acres) are now in production,
79 percent of those Ok'd. Moreover, 30 percent of the new campesinos
are under 35.

Q: Campesinos complain that MINAGRI drags its feet in turning over land.

A: The law establishes the maximum time of 108 days and we have more
than 2,000 cases that we're behind on. Our problem is the lack of
specialized personnel in addition to negligence and feet dragging.

Q: What improvements can guajiros expect?

A: A change in the terms of usufruct (eliminating the 10-year
limitation), solving the housing issue, and giving families the
opportunity to work the land. All of that will encourage people to
invest in agriculture.

Q: State farms hide land so that it's not distributed. What is MINAGRI
doing about that?

A: Certainly we've had business managers who have hidden land. Those
are unhealthy attitudes. We started with 1.2 million hectares of idle
land (from the state farms), and now we're reaching 1.8 million. That
gives a sense of how some people haven't internalized the importance of
what we're doing.

Q: How can agriculture advance if you provide land but don't sell
tractors and tools?

A: That all depends on the country's economic conditions. We decided
to reduce the price of supplies, which will of course always be
insufficient. Our producers are going to continue working under very
limited conditions.

Q: Doesn't it work out cheaper to provide supplies and fertilizers than
to continue importing food?

Of course, but that involves gradual growth. We started up three years
ago, and we never imagined that 146,000 people would be working the
land. It exceeded all expectations. But the lack of supplies will
continue marking and burdening the process.

Q: What's the greatest challenge that you face?

A: The first great battle is to transfer idle lands (from state farms)
where that hasn't been done. It's necessary for these potentially
productive areas to be a part of this redistribution process. Some even
possess irrigation infrastructure, meaning that investments would be
much smaller.

Cuba's Tree without Roots

Cuba's Tree without Roots
September 29, 2011
Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 29 — The Romans weren't the ones who invented
municipalities as local institutions, though they understood the need to
develop political structures capable of maintaining the unity of their

Argentinean law professors Natalia Stringini and Mariana Sconda insist
that, "The Roman Empire's long life and the conservation of its forces
were due to the proper organization of municipalities."

In short, for them to govern, the Romans were forced to decentralize
power, creating a political-administrative structure that was able to
harmonize the needs of the local community with the interests and unity
of the far-flung empire.

But the professors go further to affirm that, "Municipalities had a
preponderant role in the political history of the world" and today these
still imply a "social and political duality" that serves as a
counterbalance to central governments.

Cuba's government opted for centralization

The Cuban model — to the contrary — is so centralized that almost
nothing is done on the island without the authorization of Havana. The
country was standardized to this degree even to the point of losing many
of each region's particular cultural traditions.

The attempt at creating a system of municipal government based on local
institutions of "Popular Power" never caught on. It may be possible
that their composition has a base that's "popular," but it's also
evident that these have practically no "power."

A few months ago I learned that a European NGO couldn't begin its
operation because the benefitting municipality didn't receive
authorization — from Havana — for the organization to open an account in
a Cuban bank or receive a donated vehicle.

The phrase most repeated by municipal delegates to their constituencies
is that "we haven't received an answer to our request," because
generally business managers and politicians in the capital city don't
answer those requests – they sometimes don't even receive them.

This happens because those local structures are the "tail end" of state
power, instead of being the "head" of the community. This was something
that the newly formed province of Artemisa tried to correct through a
pilot program, which was carried out with the "greatest of
discretion"…in case things turned out badly.

Just as the Romans foresaw centuries ago, centralization didn't bring
Cuba greater control – just the opposite. Since the capital was never
able to govern each corner of the country, people began making decisions
"on their own."

The solutions to problems at the local level were established at the
margin of those "Roman laws." In Camaguey they began making cheese
clandestinely and in Matanzas marriages of convenience began popping up
so that people could live closer to all the tourists.

Families that received farm land for free from the government were
prohibited from building homes on these properties, so they erected
"barns" for storing tools and equipment (an imperceptible way to start
building houses).

Cuban socialism has operated as if all citizens have always defended the
same interests. In this way the unions, civic organizations and
political structures each wound up losing their distinct essence…their
reason for being.

Negating problems don't make them disappear

Some laws are implacable and legitimate, but dialectical contradictions
of society don't disappear because a government denies their existence,
they simply fade into secrecy and continue incubating, hidden from sight.

Those contradictions are sometimes bitter swigs for the local community.
During the closing of the sugar refineries I saw men and women crying
in those bateyes while telling me about "their" freight cars, the scent
of "melao" (molasses) and the sounding of the daily break whistle.

Someone should defend those interests and serve as a counterweight to
central power. That's why when municipalities work well, the country
advances toward fuller democracy, increasing people's participation in
decision making.

Cuban society seems to be beginning to understand the matter, as
interesting initiatives are now emerging. One of those has come from
economics professor Maria Elena Betancourt, who is proposing that
tourism serve as the motor of local development.

She argues that, "Sustainability can only be reached by those
jurisdictions that make their own investments. This goal will be met
when they're able to produce the majority of the supplies and resources
demanded by their activities, even guaranteeing their own labor force."

If municipal taxes and wages were added to the profits of such sectors,
it would mean an increase in the quality of life in those communities,
not to mention higher incomes for their residents…without any need to
violate the law.

It's true that there will be unequal regional development and that some
Cubans will live better than others, but what's certain is that the
residents of the Varadero resort community always had a higher quality
of life than the rest of the country's citizens.

With financial, administrative and political autonomy, the
municipalities could solve many of their local problems. But the key
would be citizen's participation; otherwise this change would only act
to expand the bureaucracy even more.

Greater financial autonomy would mean institutional structures closer to
people, with the proper operation of these serving to unleash more
citizen initiative to the degree that they themselves defended their
rights and transformed these structures into tools for development.

It wasn't surprising that the report by Argentinean professors Stringini
and Sconda begin their article with the words: "It is tremendously
difficult to have good government without free municipalities; it would
be like a house without a foundation, or a tree without roots."

Cuba does away with emblematic Ministry of Sugar

Posted on Thursday, 09.29.11

Cuba does away with emblematic Ministry of Sugar
Associated Press

HAVANA, Cuba -- Cuba announced the elimination of its Ministry of Sugar
on Thursday in a sign of how far the symbolic crop has fallen since its
heyday, when much of the population was mobilized to the countryside at
harvest time to help cut cane.

President Raul Castro's government determined that the ministry
"currently serves no state function" and will therefore replace it with
an entity called Grupo Empresarial de la Agroindustria Azucarera, the
Communist Party newspaper Granma reported.

The goal is to "create a business system capable of turning its exports
into hard currency to finance its own expenses," Granma said. There was
no mention of any private or foreign investment.

Like coffee and tobacco, sugar is a highly emblematic crop on this
Caribbean island. Cuba used to be a world leader in sugar, annually
producing 6 million to 7 million tons.

Former leader Fidel Castro made the annual harvest a point of
revolutionary pride and regularly mobilized brigades of Cubans from
government officials and urban office workers to artists and ballet
dancers to boost output.

In 1968 he famously announced that Cuba would try to harvest 10 million
tons of cane that year, mobilizing labor from nearly the entire
workforce. That aim proved overly ambitious, though some 8 million tons
were harvested.

Later, the collapse of the Soviet Union deprived Cuba of its main buyer,
and sugar has since fallen on hard times. It now trails nickel
production and tourism as a source of foreign income, contributing about
$600 million a year.

Last year, Cuba reported its lowest harvest since 1905 - 1.1 million
tons - and fired its sugar minister. Officials have said this year's
harvest is expected to be only slightly higher.

In 2002, the government launched a restructuring of the industry due to
low sugar prices. Prices have since recovered, prompting officials to
redouble efforts to mechanize the sector and increase efficiency.

Government officials boasted last March of improving per-acre yields
during a media tour of sugarcane country in the central province of
Matanzas, showing off a revamped sugar mill and modern combines from
Brazil that strip the cane as it is picked.

Granma said Thursday that the decision to eliminate the Sugar Ministry
was announced at a Cabinet meeting over the weekend. It said 13
provincial companies will oversee the 56 sugar processing plants
operating this year - down from 156 in the 1970s.

Juan Tomas Sanchez, who contributes writings on Cuban agriculture to the
U.S.-based Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, said the
restructuring should save money on overhead but more must be done to
improve efficiency, like overhauling transportation and replotting
fields to work better with new machinery.

"It's logical. ... It has a strategic importance," said Sanchez, who
also heads a Florida exile group known as the Association of Cuban
Settlers. "But it has to be accompanied by a necessary investment of

Granma said the Cabinet ministers also assessed the progress of a
national agriculture overhaul begun in 2008 as part of Raul Castro's
program to overhaul the economy with some free-market initiatives,
including turning over fallow state land to private farmers and

The ministers discussed "shortfalls" in production targets for rice,
beef and other agricultural products, Granma said..

Fidel Castro mocks Obama for Cuba comments

Posted on Thursday, 09.29.11

Fidel Castro mocks Obama for Cuba comments
Associated Press

HAVANA, Cuba -- Fidel Castro mocked President Barack Obama on Thursday
for saying he's open to changing U.S. policy toward Cuba if there is
change on the island first, calling the U.S. leader "stupid."

Writing in one of his semiregular essays published across state-run
media, Castro reacted with sarcasm to reported comments that Obama would
be open to a different relationship with Cuba when there is political
and social change.

"How kind! How intelligent!" Castro said. "Such kindness still has not
allowed him to understand that 50 years of blockade and crimes against
our country have not been able to bow our people."

Cuba uses the term "blockade" to refer to the nearly five-decades-old
economic embargo against the island.

"Many things will change in Cuba, but they will change through our
efforts and in spite of the United States. Perhaps that empire will fall
first," Castro added, a reference to the United States.

Castro wrote glowingly about Obama when he was elected in 2008, saying,
"The intelligent and noble face of the first black president of the
United States since its founding two and one-third centuries ago as an
independent republic had transformed itself under the inspiration of
Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King into a living symbol of the
American dream."

But Castro has increasingly shown disillusionment as Cuban-U.S.
relations remain in a deep freeze, despite measures undertaken by Obama
allowing more remittances and travel to the island.

Castro also criticized as "brutal, blundering and expected" a U.S.
judge's recent ruling that an imprisoned Cuban intelligence officers
must serve his parole in the United States instead of returning to his
family on the island after he is released in early October.

The case of Rene Gonzalez, who holds dual American and Cuban
citizenship, and four other agents imprisoned for espionage in the U.S.
is one of the Cuban government's chief complaints about Washington, and
newspapers and airwaves on the island call each day for their release.

"This is how the empire responds to the increasing demand around the
world for their freedom," Castro wrote. "If it weren't so, the empire
would cease to be an empire and Obama would cease to be stupid."

Gonzalez and the others, collectively known as the "Cuban Five," were
convicted in 2001 of attempting to infiltrate U.S. military
installations in South Florida. They also monitored militant anti-Castro
groups and tried to place operatives inside the campaigns of anti-Castro

One of the five was convicted of murder conspiracy related to the 1996
shootdown by Cuban fighter jets of planes flown by an exile group.

Havana lauds the men as heroes. It contends that they were no threat to
the U.S. government and were unfairly tried and given exorbitant
sentences not commensurate with their activities.

Lawmakers warn against oil drilling off Cuba

Posted on Wednesday, 09.28.11
Lawmakers warn against oil drilling off Cuba
A group of lawmakers warned a Spanish company against drilling for oil
off the coast of Cuba, saying the investment would benefit the Castro
By Erika Bolstad
WASHINGTON -- Thirty-four U.S. lawmakers, led by Miami Republican Rep.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, on Wednesday asked the Spanish oil company Repsol
to keep out of Cuban waters, saying the company's pending offshore
drilling plans would support the Castro regime and "bankroll the
apparatus that violently crushes dissent."
"The decaying Cuban regime is desperately reaching out for an economic
lifeline, and it appears to have found a willing partner in Repsol to
come to its rescue," wrote Ros-Lehtinen.
The company says it could begin exploratory drilling as soon as
December, a prospect that has the state and federal governments
scrambling to develop contingency plans for a spill even as many
Floridians have fresh memories of last year's BP spill in the Gulf of
"We are working on spill response and we're working with the federal,
state, and local agencies — very closely," said U.S. Coast Guard
spokeswoman Marilyn Fajardo.
The possibility of exploratory drilling also has federal agencies
grappling with the international and political implications on the U.S.
embargo with Cuba.
Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned
Repsol in the letter that any drilling operations it conducts in Cuban
waters could provide direct financial benefit to the Castro
dictatorship. The company's partnership with the Cuban regime could
also violate U.S. law, and may run afoul of pending legislation in
Congress, she said.
Recently, representatives from several industry and environmental groups
traveled to Cuba to check in on the country's offshore plans. They
included Lee Hunt, the chief executive of the International Association
of Drilling Contractors and William Reilly, a former EPA administrator
and co-chair of the White House task force that investigated last year's
BP oil spill.
The group also included Richard Sears, the former vice president of
deepwater drilling for Shell, and Dan Whittle, an attorney for the
Environmental Defense Fund.
Repsol spokesman Kristian Rix said the company has no comment on the
letter from Congress.
The company, which has U.S. operations that include leases in the Arctic
waters off the northern Alaska coastline, is in the process of bringing
a drilling rig to Cuba.
Repsol in January 2010 signed a lease contract with the Italian energy
company Saipem for drilling equipment. Repsol on its website describes
the equipment as complying "with all the technical requirements and all
the limitations established by the U.S. administration for drilling
operations in Cuba."
The congressional letter drew bipartisan support, with South Florida
Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, David Rivera, Tom Rooney signing
onto it; they were joined by Democrats Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson and
Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Others from Florida who signed on include
Republican Reps. Vern Buchanan, Dennis Ross and Sandy Adams.
The Republican-led House Natural Resources committee had scheduled a
hearing on drilling in Cuban waters for last week, but it was postponed
after Obama administration officials said they weren't yet prepared to
outline their overall response to offshore drilling in Cuba.
Some Republican members of the committee have complained in the past
about Cuba's ability to drill so close to the U.S. coastline even as a
125-mile buffer zone remains in place in U.S. waters off of most of
Florida's coast

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Strings of the Piñata / Yoani Sánchez

The Strings of the Piñata / Yoani Sánchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

I remember very well the children's parties that ended with the pushing
and shoving and laughter of those who wanted to grab a candy or a gift.
The piñatas, shaped like a clown or a boat or resembling some cartoon
character, were the funnest part of every birthday. But that time has
passed and what is being distributed now in our country is not sweets or
balloons, but properties. Like the Nicaraguan Sandinistas once did, or
the leaders of the Communist Party in Russia, Cuban leaders are
distributing — at their convenience — rental properties, cars,
businesses, houses.

Yesterday's publication of Decree 292 — for the ownership transfer of
motor vehicles — has been the culmination of a several decade's wait.
For far too long obtaining a car has been a perk earned through
unconditional ideology. Now, they have added a few pinches of this
ingredient called "market" to a mechanism that has been ruled for half a
century. Even with this new legal reform, however, the great majority of
citizens are only allowed to buy a used car, which in Cuba means
vehicles more than 15 years old, and in particular Russian Ladas or
Moskvitches, or Polish Fiats, which were previously marketed through a
meritocracy. Some modern cars in State service will be sold to those who
meet the strict requirements of belonging to an institution and
demonstrating their fidelity to the Government. And those impeccably new
ones, recent imports, are destined for a Revolutionary elite that has in
their pockets money sanctified through official channels. To drive a
shiny Citroen or a late model Peugeot will continue to be a sign of
being a member of the powers-that-be.

Another revealing detail in this resolution is the emphasis given, in
its pages, to the concept of "final departure" for those who relocate
abroad. If, as Raul Castro himself has said, we are committed to
migratory reform, what is the significance of not repealing this
shameful category? Those who leave may not sell their cars before
departing, they may only transfer them to their closest relatives. The
penalization of emigration, then, remains in place. But what is most
worrying is the already visible composition of the piñata, the structure
of a sharing out among equals, embodied in cars taken out of tourist or
business use which will be marketed to a very select group of people.
The existence of such a mechanism will undoubtedly feed corruption,
"socialism," and put into the hands of government sympathizers the
fattest strings for when it becomes necessary to pull on them in unison.
I have no doubt that to this party, which they have already begun to
prepare, we Cubans will not be invited.

29 September 2011

I Know the Writer Angel Santiesteban Whom Cuba Wants to Punish / Angel Santiesteban

I Know the Writer Angel Santiesteban Whom Cuba Wants to Punish / Angel
Angel Santiesteban, Translator: Unstated

[This text is from the website Incredible Universe]

Manuel Fernández reveals in Incredible Universe how, when he met the
Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban, State Security recorded the conversation.

A Spanish citizen, Fernández was the manager, at that time, of one of
the hotels in Havana.

A few days ago we talked to him about the regime's campaign against
Santiesteban and he was inspired to recount to us what happened at that
time, a sincere testimony about the struggle for life.

These are the words of Manuel Fernandez. He lives in Spain. He continues
to admire the Cuban intellectual and warns of the government's maneuvers
to totally silence him by sending him to prison.

Testimony of Manuel Fernández Manero

I met Angel Santiesteban like most of his current best friends, through
his books. Through someone I can't remember, his books came to me, and I
then decided to meet him. His literature overwhelmed me, but especially
his knowledge of the Cuban reality.

In Cuba I was devoted to tourism, I was the manager of the Deauville
Hotel, and could rub shoulders with all strata of society, knowing that
many wouldn't risk talking in the light of day for fear of the consequences.

I told a mutual friend I wanted to meet him, I wanted to talk with that
writer who scoffed at the canons established by the system. Writing in
this raw way within the system was certain suicide.

Honestly, I imagined someone half crazy with the airs of an alien, but
above all with talent and determined to write the Cuban reality and that
was what interested me.

When I met him he wasn't what I'd imagined. He conversed calmly and the
whole time it seemed to me that he knew what he wanted, where he wanted
to go. We talked of common themes: literature, society, ideology, the
dictatorship, the future of Cuba.

And at that time — it was six years ago — Santiesteban was pessimistic
about a democratic solution in the coming years, because in those years,
in Cuba and in the world, there was little evidence of the Castro
brothers abandoning power. He said no, they adjusted to the times.

He assured me that Fidel Castro had become a specialist in playing for
time and in manipulation. All he wanted was not to lose power. At times
he seemed disposed to make concessions, to appear to be preparing the
changes the country needed, particularly for democracy.

And time has proved Angel right. Fidel and Raul are still in the same
place after more than fifty years, feigning change to gain the time
necessary to ensure "tranquility" for the rest of their lives. This
supposed "tranquility" is nothing more than continuing in government,
betting on Alejandro and Mariela Castro, Raul's children, as the
racehorses they've allowed to play a different game, a measuring stick
to gauge the desires and wishes of the Cuban people. And at the same
time to save their fortunes and to gain time to get their family members
out of the country.

I said goodbye to Angel, assuring him I would return in a few days, and
even promised to bring him a book by the journalist Jose Manuel Medem
who had recently ended his contract as a reporter in Cuba for Spanish

I couldn't return, they didn't let me return. I learned that State
Security had recorded my conversation with Angel that first time we'd
met and that I was definitely not welcome in Cuba.

Since then I've followed Santiesteban's life, thanks to email, and after
they closed down his account we sustained our conversation on Facebook,
which is like sitting at home carrying on a natural conversation.

I have supported Angel in the advocacy campaigns every time they've
abused him. I have always been at his side and always will be. It's a
promise that I made to him and to my son. I will never abandon him.

Every outrage has been a pain in my own flesh. I suffer it double
because I want to be in his skin, to receive these injuries in his
place, I can't be at his side physically to ease it every time State
Security decides to hurt him.

My cry for Angel goes out from Spain to every corner of the world, I do
it for our brotherhood, my family has already accepted him as one of us,
very special of course; but I also do it for the intellectual that he
is, for his work and for the need Cuban culture has that he continue to
develop his talent and enrich the literary landscape.

Also for the natural fighter that he carries within, for all he
sacrifices so that Cubans can be free and obtain the rights defended by
the Constitution of the Human Rights Organization of the United Nations.

Of course we are worried about the General Prosecutor of the Republic's
request for 15 years for Angel, we know that it is a campaign, first to
intimidate him, and then to discredit him internationally so that his
denunciations in his blog will not be believed.

They know that Angel is a strong writer, that he has made his talent
into a powerful weapon against the system. And for this they try to
destroy him, to make him give way with these dirty media tricks.

Angel is going to continue writing his blog with the same strength with
which he began it. He is going to continue to delight us with his
literature. We will not allow him to be imprisoned. These are the
convictions with which we support him and with which we will do
everything within our power, and more, because justice must prevail once
and for all, the Castro dictatorship must understand that there are men
who can overcome fear.

Manuel Fernández Manero

September 28 2011

Doctors for oil - international trade Cuban-style

Doctors for oil - international trade Cuban-style
By Phillip Hart
12:01AM BST 31 Jul 2006

For a man who is so averse to the ways of capitalism, Fidel Castro, the
Cuban president, has spotted a lucrative money-earner for his
economically stagnant island. He is exporting the country's medical
expertise in return for hard currency and cheap oil - even as the
country's health service needs emergency treatment of its own. Always on
the look-out for a propaganda coup, he portrays the operation as an act
of selfless revolutionary solidarity.

Jabbing his spindly fingers at an audience in a speech in southern Cuba
last week, Castro boasted that 30,000 Cuban medics were sharing their
skills abroad. To loud applause, he contrasted this with the fact that
some 40 million Americans do not have health insurance. Better known for
sending soldiers to Third World war-zones, Castro has now dispatched an
estimated one in five Cuban doctors and nurses to work abroad for his

There are 15,000 in Venezuela and nearly 1,000 in Bolivia - Latin
American allies run by fellow Left-wing radicals. Most are genuine
medics, although their ranks also include political operatives and
security agents.

The payback for Castro is the highly subsidised oil that he receives
from Venezuela, estimated to be worth up to $1 billion a year. It helps
to keep Cuba's industry afloat and he reportedly re-sells some for a profit.

Elsewhere, Cuban doctors work in large numbers in countries such as
South Africa, Pakistan and China. It costs those governments much less
to pay Havana direct for their services than to train and remunerate
their medics.

At home, Cuban specialists receive a basic salary averaging just $25-$30
(£13 to £16) a month. The exported doctors are understood to be paid
$100 a month, with another $100 put aside in a special account for their
relatives to ensure their return. This does not always work - local
media have reported hundreds of defections among doctors in Venezuela
and Bolivia.

Cuba is also establishing itself as a base for medical tourism from
friendly countries. A beach resort near Havana has been turned into a
sanatorium for mainly Venezuelan patients. Here, eye doctors paid $30 a
month conduct hundreds of cataract operations in a lucrative business
for the regime.

Castro is sending waves of his best doctors abroad while Cubans have to
fork out dollar-convertible pesos - local pesos buy little - to obtain
anything other than basic medicines or treatment. "It's an apartheid
system," said Luis, a geography teacher. "If you can afford it, you can
get treated today. If not, good luck. So much for the revolution."

Trade potatoes for Cuban doctors, P.E.I. party says

Trade potatoes for Cuban doctors, P.E.I. party says
CBC News
Posted: Sep 28, 2011 8:08 AM AT
Last Updated: Sep 28, 2011 7:59 AM AT

A fledgling political party on P.E.I. is proposing a trade arrangement
with Cuba that would see doctors come to Canada in exchange for potatoes.
Jason MacGregor says his trade plan would help farmers as well.Jason
MacGregor says his trade plan would help farmers as well. Courtesy of
Jason MacGregor

Jason MacGregor, 23, is the candidate for the Island Party in
Souris-Elmira, where a shortage of doctors shut down the emergency
department in the local hospital in 2006. This week, he presented the
Island Party's plan for fixing that problem.

"Our idea is to put in place a trade agreement between Cuba and P.E.I.,
where we'll send them so many potatoes in exchange for enough doctors to
reopen our ER in Souris," said MacGregor.

MacGregor believes the plan is a perfect fit for problems in both Cuba
and P.E.I. Cuba has a potato shortage but a strong medical system, while
P.E.I. needs doctors and has plenty of potatoes.

MacGregor said Cuba already has similar agreements in place for other
resources. The country has sent Cuban doctors and nurses to Venezuela in
exchange for oil.

The plan would also help farmers, said MacGregor, providing a new outlet
for surplus potatoes and strengthening the market overall.

Cuban-Americans Divided Over Expanded US-Cuba Flights

September 28, 2011
Cuban-Americans Divided Over Expanded US-Cuba Flights
Alex Villarreal | Miami

More U.S. airports are now offering charter flights to Cuba after
President Barack Obama relaxed travel restrictions earlier this year. A
long-time U.S. trade embargo still bans tourist travel to the communist
nation, but the move makes it easier for Cuban-Americans and other
authorized travelers to visit. Not everyone approves.

A cigar store in the Miami neighborhood of Little Havana gives Cubans in
the U.S. a taste of home. But for many, this Cuba away from Cuba is not

About a 30 minute drive away at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, several
generations of Cubans wait eagerly to visit their families.
"This is a very big day because a new location has been opened for all
the Cubans who want to travel to the island," said Octavio Giraldo, who
is one of more than 100 passengers on a flight that is first from Fort
Lauderdale to Cuba in more than two decades. The occasion inspired a
fiesta, complete with Cuban food, live music and even dancing.

Irelys Uzcategui-Alvarez, returning to Cuba for the first time in 10
years, says the day is historic. "[It's] very exciting, because it's the
first flight from here, near my house in Fort Lauderdale, and it seems
to me that it's more economical and more convenient."

Fort Lauderdale is one of several airports that have begun flights to
Cuba since the Obama administration loosened restrictions this year.

Before, only airports in Miami, New York and Los Angeles were authorized
to run direct flights to the island.

Vivian Mannerud is president of Airline Brokers, the charter company
behind this flight and others to Cuba.

"It's a celebration for everybody, because anything that we can get
approved that makes it more normal to travel to Cuba, to leave from any
airport to visit your family, is a celebration day," Mannerud said.

But not all Cubans are celebrating.

"This decision to open flights to Cuba is a mistake - more space that we
have for a country that is a sponsor of terrorism," said Emilio
Izquierdo, coordinator of a citizen movement known as Cuban American
Patriots and Friends. He spent more than two years as a political
prisoner in Cuba in the 1960s. He and others in the exile community
often gather at Little Havana's famed Versailles Restaurant - a hub of
anti-Castro politics.

Antonio Esquivel, head of the democracy-seeking Cuban Patriotic Council,
says U.S.-Cuba flights provide only one-sided benefits.

"It's not helping anybody but the Castro regime. What they're looking
for is their money. That's all," he said.

But travelers say money is not the motive. "It's not putting money in
the hands of the Castros, but happiness in the homes of the families who
miss their relatives who have come to this country and are returning and
can return every day to see them," said passenger Octavio Giraldo.

As takeoff gets closer, it is clear how much that family time means to
Manuel Marquez and many other Cubans. "There I have my mother, my
siblings, my wife, and they are my loved ones. I wish I could have them
here," Marquez said.

Marquez wants the flights to continue. And in Little Havana, whether
other Cuban-Americans agree or not, they remain connected to their homeland.

A sweet life if you belong to Cuba's upper crust

A sweet life if you belong to Cuba's upper crust
Jonathan Curiel, Special to The Chronicle
Thursday, September 29, 2011

Michael Dweck / Modernism gallery

"Rachel Going for a Surf," a photograph by Michael Dweck taken at Playa
del Este in Cuba, is part of his work focusing on the privileged lives
of those in the island nation's "creative class."

Everyone knows that Cuba is one of the Western Hemisphere's poorest
countries. Its economic indices lag in nearly every category, including
gross domestic product and household income. Yet the stereotype of Cuba
as a strict post-Communist backwater - a kind of Shangri-la of
egalitarianism - has taken a beating in the past year.

First, there was an article in the Economist that quoted Ada Fuentes, a
woman who returned to Havana after living in New Jersey for five
decades. "If you have money," Fuentes said, "life's good here."

Now there is Michael Dweck's photo project that shows Cuba's privileged
side - a side of beautiful models, late-night partiers, daytime surfers,
hard-working guitar players and other people who make up Cuba's
"creative class," as Dweck calls them. Two of Fidel Castro's sons (Alex
and Alejandro) are on the periphery of this strata. So is the son of Che
Guevara, Camilo Guevara, who's a photographer.

The revolution that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara brought to the island
nation five decades ago has evolved into something unexpected: Guilty
pleasure. As Dweck notes in his new book, " Michael Dweck: Habana
Libre," some of the people he photographed are "embarrassed" about their
relatively elite standing; others, he says, "are afraid to draw
attention to it for fear the socialist government will punish them for
having a good life." An exhibit of photos from "Habana Libre" continues
at San Francisco's Modernism gallery through Oct. 29.

"Artists, writers, filmmakers, dancers - they live this secretive life
under the radar in Cuba that is really cool and lends itself well to a
narrative," says Dweck. "I'm playing on the theme of privilege in a
classless society."

Not surprisingly, some Cubans didn't want to cooperate with Dweck. One
woman he met there told him, "I think this project is going to get a lot
of people in trouble, and you're on your own." But Dweck, based in New
York City, was never really on his own. Within hours of first flying to
Havana, he befriended a well-connected British expat who told him about
a private party at an old 20,000-square-foot oceanside residence, where
Dweck met Cubans he would photograph for "Habana Libre."

From then on, Dweck was invited to other private parties, then -
eventually - to his subjects' homes and sanctuaries. Painters Rene
Francisco and Carlos Quintana took Dweck to their studios. Camilo
Guevara is in his house. Rachel Valdes, an accomplished model and
painter, is among those photographed with little on as she goes about
her business.

"I got lucky, and they were nice to trust me," says Dweck, who visited
Cuba eight times from 2009-2010.

People who know Dweck's earlier photographic work will recognize a
pattern with "Habana Libre": Water and nubile women (and men). In 2004,
Dweck published "The End: Montauk, N.Y.," which featured topless
beachgoers posing, cavorting and rushing to their destination - a scenic
tapestry that evoked, Dweck said, "the paradise of summer, youth, and
erotic possibility." Dweck says his photos - whether he's in Havana,
Montauk or New Mexico's White Sands Missile Range (shooting shiny
weapons of mass destruction for his next project) - are often about
things that hint or intimate at a compelling story.

"My work is very much about being suggestive," Dweck says. "For me,
photography is not so much about capturing 'the moment.' My work is more
about time and place and how we got there and where we're going next."

Dweck came to photography in a circuitous way. Until 2002, he was head
of his own advertising firm, whose best-known TV spot, "Arctic Ground
Squirrel," featured a caustic man dressed as a squirrel getting a
mattress delivered to his winter house in Brooklyn. (The man wants to
"hibernate" to get away from his nagging wife.) The ad still makes the
rounds on YouTube and other video sites, and the Museum of Modern Art
owns a copy.

Dweck garnered scores of awards for his advertising and did work for
"The Daily Show" and "South Park," but he left it all behind ("at the
peak of my career") to pursue photography full time, drawn soon after by
capturing Montauk life while the Long Island community was unchanged
from his teen years there. Dweck's Montauk photos were initially shown
on the sixth floor of Sotheby's - the first time the New York auction
house had devoted an exhibition to a living photographer.

Since then, Dweck has garnered a portfolio that any photographer would
dream of: Images in publications like Vanity Fair and Esquire; a series
of well-reviewed books; and gallery shows around the world, including
Tokyo, Belgium and Hamburg.

For Dweck, Cuba was the embodiment of everything he lives for. "I'm
always attracted to subject matter that has seduction in it, and Cuba,
to me, has all the elements of a seductive subject," Dweck says. "It's
dangerous, it's mysterious, it's playful, it's subtle, it's sensual."

It also has name recognition. For an older generation, the name "Cuba"
instills immediate associations with Castro, the 1962 missile crisis,
and a long-standing American embargo that has helped keep the island
isolated economically.

Dweck's photos are a jarring update of Cuban society. The Cubans in
"Habana Libre" are able to express themselves through their art and the
way they live. Young in spirit if not in age, they wanted Dweck to know
that Cubans on the island can transcend their economic limitations. For
these Cubans, "the good life" is never far away.

"Michael Dweck: Habana Libre": The photo exhibit runs through Oct. 29.
Modernism, 685 Market St., Suite 290, Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Information: (415) 541-0461 or

US, Cuba seek improved relations but stumbling blocks remain

Posted on Wednesday, 09.28.11

US, Cuba seek improved relations but stumbling blocks remain

President Barack Obama says Cuba must first respect human rights and
follow through on releasing political prisoners before relations could

The United States and Cuba say they're interested in improving frosty
relations but both countries have stopped short of the steps the other
deems necessary to put the relationship on a better track.

"What we've tried to do is send a signal that we are open to a new
relationship with Cuba,'' President Barack Obama said Wednesday during
an online forum on Hispanic issues.

Earlier this week, while addressing the United Nations General Assembly,
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said Cuba wanted to "reiterate
the proposal of beginning a dialogue aimed at solving bilateral
problems, including humanitarian issues, as well as the offer of
negotiating several cooperation agreements to fight drug-trafficking,
terrorism, human smuggling, to prevent natural disasters and protect the
environment, even in the event of oil spills such as the one that
occurred at the British Petroleum platform in the Gulf of Mexico.''

But there are big caveats on both sides.

Obama said the United States is open to a new relationship "if the Cuban
government starts taking the proper steps to open up its own country
and... provide the space and respect for human rights that would allow
the Cuban people to determine their own destiny.''

For the Cubans, the U.S. trade embargo against the island and the
release of the "Cuban Five,'' a group of Cuban agents convicted of
spying in the United States, are the sticking points.

Despite exceptions to the embargo that allow the export of U.S.
agricultural products, foodstuffs and some other products and the Obama
administration's shift that allows most Cuban-Americans to travel to the
island at will, Rodríguez valued the negative impact of the
five-decades-old embargo at $975 billion. In his U.N. remarks Monday,
Rodríguez said he was calculating that value according to present world
gold prices, which have been at historically high levels this year.

Although Rodríguez mentioned changes that have been undertaken in Cuba
to make its economy and socialism more effective, Obama said "so far at
least what we haven't seen is the kind of genuine spirit of
transformation inside of Cuba that would justify us eliminating the

The president mentioned steps he has taken — allowing more remittances
"to create an economic space for [people] to prosper'' and allowing
Cuban-Americans to travel to the island more frequently — that "send a
signal that we're prepared to show flexibility.'' But he said he was
still waiting for a signal back from Cuba "that it is following through
on releasing political prisoners, or providing people basic human rights.''

Rodríguez, meanwhile, called on Obama to set the "Cuban Five'' free "as
an act of justice or a humanitarian gesture.''

During an address to the U.N. committee on counter-terrorism Wednesday,
Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno reiterated the call for
the release of the five, who were seeking information on U.S.-based,
anti-Cuban groups.

"The things that each side is seeking are unlikely to happen,'' said
Phil Peters, a veteran Cuba watcher at the Lexington Institute. "Now
that we're in the campaign season, my belief is that absent some really
significant changes in Cuba, the administration is going to let it [Cuba
policy] sit.''

Neither Obama nor Rodríguez made mention of the case of jailed American
Alan Gross, a subcontractor who was convicted of crimes related to his
distribution of satellite telephone equipment in Cuba and sentenced to
15 years. But Peters said that although Rodríguez's comments on
humanitarian issues were "ambiguous,'' it was clear he was talking about

Earlier this month, the Gross family released a statement in which they
expressed hope that Gross would be released before the Jewish High Holy
Days, which began Wednesday evening.

Special Correspondent Stewart Stogel contributed to this report from the
United Nations.

The Cuban People Continues to Suffer

Publicado el 09-28-2011

The Cuban People Continues to Suffer

If someone had any hope that the sacrifice of the Cuban people was
entering into a stage of reduction or revision, that someone was clearly
wrong by failing to interpret the historic reality of more than half a
century when Fidel Castro took over power and installed a totalitarian
tyranny with the help of his brother Raúl, who now heads that tyranny,
without this meaning that Fidel Castro is no longer a determining factor
in control of the situation.

What Cuba has is a totalitarian regime, regardless of its hues. The
fundamental thing is that the regime functions with full powers and that
the country is subjected to a situation totally incompatible with what
democracy and any form of political tolerance are.

The Ladies in White, that already are an institution in their efforts to
free their country, are openly and violently persecuted. The same thing
happens to other groups, which are less well-known abroad, that are also
trying to fight against the dictatorship. That dictatorship prevails and
there is no hope –although some might have had it– that Cuba might again
be a republic, albeit with certain limitations. The totalitarian state
is there with all its characteristics incompatible with democracy.

Unfortunately, in the international scene there are many governments
that purposely ignore what is happening in Cuba and act in ways that
favor the tyranny. Many are these governments that are openly
irresponsible and, to describe it better, that are complicit with the
tyranny. They behave with brutal hypocrisy, as if there were no
totalitarian dictatorship, as if the Cuban people were enjoying some
important manifestations of liberty. And there is nothing like that, no
significant liberty, nor relative liberty.

It is necessary that no one take for granted that there are reforms in
Cuba in favor of that freedom. Whatever change there is, if any, is in
the sense of entrenching the tyranny, of strengthening the liberticidal

Cuba must reform before U.S. eases stance - Obama

Cuba must reform before U.S. eases stance - Obama
WASHINGTON, Sept 28 | Wed Sep 28, 2011 12:25pm EDT

(Reuters) - The United States is ready to change its stern policy toward
Cuba but has not seen steps from Havana that would justify lifting its
embargo, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday.

Obama said he did not want to be "stuck in a Cold War mentality" and
that Washington had sought to improve ties by changing rules about
remittances and travel but was waiting for signals from Cuba such as the
release of political prisoners and guarantees of basic human rights.

He urged the communist-run Caribbean island, under a U.S. embargo for
the last five decades, to join the wave of democratic change sweeping
the Arab world and that ousted most authoritarian rulers in Latin
America in decades past.

"The time has come for the same thing to happen in Cuba," Obama said in
a question and answer session with U.S. Hispanic media. "If we see
positive movement then we will respond in a positive way."

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro accused Obama on Monday of talking
"gibberish" in his recent speech to the United Nations and said NATO's
actions in Libya were a "monstrous crime."

Cuba makes it official: ordinary citizens can buy and sell cars

Cuba makes it official: ordinary citizens can buy and sell cars
by Associated Press,

HAVANA — Cuba legalized the sale and purchase of automobiles for all
citizens on Wednesday, another major step in the communist run island's
economic transformation and one that the public has been clamoring for
during decades.

The government announced the move in April, but sales have been on hold
until the measure was published into law in the Official Gazette.

Under the law, which takes effect Oct. 1, buyers and sellers must each
pay a 4 percent tax, and buyers must make a sworn declaration that the
money used for the purchase was obtained legally.

Unrestricted sales had previously been limited to cars built before the
1959 revolution, one of the reasons Cuba's streets are about the only
place on the planet one routinely finds a multitude of finned American
classics from the 1950s such as Chevrolets Bel Airs and Chrysler
Imperials, all in various states of disrepair.

Doctors, athletes, artists and others sent abroad on official business
were allowed to bring cars back or purchase a boxy, Russian-made Lada or
Moscovich from the state. Some senior workers were given company cars,
though gas usage is strictly monitored to make sure they are only driven
for work reasons.

The new law will allow the sale of cars from all models and years, and
it legalizes ownership of more than one car, although tax rates go up

"It is a very positive step," said Rolando Perez, a Havana resident who
was standing in line to get a license to go into business for himself.
"They should have done it a long time ago."

The 40-page Gazette also says that Cubans who leave the island for good
can transfer ownership of their car to a relative or sell it outright.
Previously, the state could seize the automobiles of those who emigrated.

While most car sales have been illegal without government permission
since the early 1960s, used automobiles have been widely traded in a
booming black market for years. Buyers would hand over large amounts of
cash under what amounted to handshake agreements, with title not
changing hands.

Many cars are generations removed from the original title holder,
meaning ownership will have to be untangled once the new regulations
take effect.

While Cubans have long complained about restrictions on car sales, it is
not clear how many will be in a position to take advantage of the new
law. Most islanders make just $20 a month, although remittances from
relatives overseas are playing an increasingly important role in
household economies. A small number of successful new business owners
may also be able to parlay their profits into a new set of wheels.

Cuban President Raul Castro has instituted a series of free-market
reforms designed to rescue the island from economic ruin. Cuba has
legalized some private enterprise, and allowed citizens to rent out
rooms and hire employees.

The government has also announced it plans to legalize the sale and
purchase of real estate by the end of 2011.

Paul Haven can be reached at

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Welcoming Review of a Different Blog / Miriam Celaya

Welcoming Review of a Different Blog / Miriam Celaya
Miriam Celaya, Translator: Norma Whiting

The independent Cuban blogosphere has had an impressive growth in its
few years of existence despite low Internet connectivity on the Island.
Most blogs that have been set up and kept open during this time are
autonomous spaces arising by the spontaneous free will of their
respective administrators and, although the authorities insist on
including almost all under the generic label of "dissidents," (in Cuba
the slightest sign of independence automatically implies "subversion")
the truth is that at least some of them are not particularly concerned
with political issues, with accusations or with the social criticism of
the Cuban reality.

In spite of that and without denying that inspirations for criticism
abound in a reality such as ours, the continuing growth and
diversification of the blogosphere into themes and interests that have
nothing to do with the ideological over-saturation we have endured for
over half a century is something to celebrate. For that reason, among
more powerful ones, I wanted to dedicate a brief overview of the recent
birth of a peculiar blog. As far as I know, Cuba did not have a personal
blog devoted to culinary and gastronomic topics, irrespective of some,
like the blog "Through the Eye of the Needle", where my friend Rebecca
Monzo sometimes inserts one or another recipe. The new space (Voy
Caliente), with strong interests in fusion-kitchen; with dietary
proposals in line with current world trends and also the bearer of a
refreshing ideas segment of young Cuban restaurateurs, brings a little
spice to a blogosphere that continues to grow. Each new blog is a sign
of the health of the spirit of a consolidated online community.

And if some of my readers find it surprising that a blogger so stubborn
and free thinking would pay special attention to a blog seemingly far
removed from her everyday comings and goings and her strong voice, I
must say that I have reasonable grounds for this, not only because Jorge
Ortega Celaya, principal of the new blog, is a great young chef who
aspires to someday have his own restaurant with the personal seal of his
talent, and whose creations I have often enjoyed, but because this
blogger is my oldest son. So the adage "the testimonial is up close and
personal" is fulfilled to a T.

Thus, just like I welcomed my son to the world in January 1980, today I
want to welcome the blogger, born to the same virtual space I have
dwelled in for a few years; a place where – just like he did in real
life — he must carve a course for himself. I wish him, of course, all
the luck in the world.

Translated by Norma Whiting

September 23 2011

Obama: U.S. "open to a new relationship with Cuba."

Obama: U.S. "open to a new relationship with Cuba."

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that his administration has tried
to send a signal "that we are open to a new relationship with Cuba."

But that's only if the Cuban government "starts taking the proper steps
to open up its own country and provide the space and the respect for
human rights that would allow the Cuban people to determine their own
destiny," Obama said.

The question about Cuba came during an online forum Wednesday morning on
Hispanic issues. Obama noted that "everywhere else in the world you've
been seeing a democratization movement that has been pressing forward."
Democracies have emerged from previously authoritarian regimes
throughout LAtin America and the world, he said, and "the time has come
for the same thing to happen in Cuba."

Obama said he pushed for changes in the family travel laws, so that
people can travel more frequently, and also modified remittance laws so
that family members could more easily send money back to Cuba. That was
designed to give people "more power and create an economic space for
them to prosper within Cuba."

However, the U.S. hasn't seen what Obama called "the kind of genuine
spirit of transformation inside of Cuba that would justify us
eliminating the embargo," including the release of political prisoners
and basic human rights for the country's citizens.
"I don't know what will happen over the next year, but we are prepared
to see what happens in Cuba," he said. "If we see positive movement, we
will respond in a positive way. Hopefully, over the next five years
we'll see Cuba looking around the world and saying we need to catch up
with history."

If there was "a release of political prisoners, the ability for people
to express their opinions and to petition their government, if we saw
even those steps, those would be very significant," Obama said. "And we
would -- we would pay attention and we would undoubtedly reexamine our
overall approach to Cuba if we saw a serious movement in that direction."

He also said that Cuba wouldn't have to have a "perfect market system"
as a condition for ending the embargo, "because obviously we have trade
and exchanges with a number of countries that fall short of a liberal

"But there is a basic, I think, recognition of people's human rights
that includes their right to work, to change jobs, to get an education,
to start a business," he said. "So some elements of freedom are included
in how an economic system works. And right now, you know, we haven't
seen any of that."

A Cuban Kid's Hunger

A Cuban Kid's Hunger
September 27, 2011
Rosa Martinez

HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 27 — Around 9 o'clock last night, while I was
passionately reading an autobiography, my youngest daughter interrupted
me. With the face of a good little girl, she announced: "Mummy, I'm

"Hungry?" I asked surprised, since coincidentally that night she had
eaten a full supper with nothing left on the plate.

"Yes, I'm really hungry," she said with a frown.

"Okay, let's see… hungry for what? What do you want to eat?" I asked.

"Some cookies, I want some cookies."

"No, we don't have any."

"And ice cream – isn't there any ice cream?"

"No, there's no ice cream either."

"A little piece of chocolate?"

"No, honey, there's no chocolate either," I told her sadly.

"But there's some packaged ham, I saw it."

"No, it's gone. Your sister ate the last piece."

"So, what is there, then?" she asked, annoyed.

"Milk, there's some warm milk. Would you like a little? It's delicious,
it's got anise in it."

"Milk? No, I don't want any milk. Maybe you better give me a book to
read instead."

"A book?" I exclaimed, taken aback.

"Yes, a book. That will surely bore me and take away my appetite."

Models for Caravaggio

Yoani Sanchez - Award-Winning Cuban Blogger

Models for Caravaggio
Posted: 9/27/11 10:10 PM ET

Narcissus stares fixedly into the water which reflects his own image,
but at moments he also perceives in it the flashes of a city with
crumbling columns and shattered stained glass. Since September 23rd, the
oil painting of a young man leaning over a lake, attributed to
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, has been on display in the Universal
Hall of the Museum of Fine Arts in Havana. The king of chiaroscuro,
whose brush delighted in shadows, has come to this city that abounds in
sun and shade. Transported and protected by the aviation company Blue
Panorama, this painting and twelve other works make up an exhibition
curated by Rossella Vodret and Giorgio Leone. A fragment of the Italian
Baroque here with us, a piece of that epoch when a quarrelsome and
eminent artist forever changed the concept of light in painting.

After the listlessness of August, this art exhibit brings back to us the
sensation of being a part of the world. The university students look at
Narcissus with greedy eyes, the museum curators feel they have a unique
opportunity in their lives, and the nocturnal prowlers of Old Havana
wonder why all the fuss over a "painted cloth." If the unquiet Milanese
-- dead at just 39 years of age -- could shake off the dust of the
centuries and walk our streets he would find here his old models, the
same prototypes that served him to paint virgins and saints:
prostitutes, beggars, the excluded... and also the young, seized by
their own beauty. Caravaggio would find in this city many self-absorbed
and distracted Cubans, trying not to let their eyes stray beyond the
narrow circle around them. Hundreds of thousands of Narcissuses,
refugees in what only feels safe now: their youth, their bodies, their

Cuba drilling next hurdle for U.S.

Cuba drilling next hurdle for U.S.
By DARREN GOODE | 9/27/11 10:38 PM EDT

The White House must crisscross complex political and policy waters as
it faces the impending reality of oil drilling off Cuba a mere 60 miles
from the Florida Keys.

"It's just like firing a shotgun in a crystal store," said Jorge Piñón,
a visiting fellow with the Florida International University Latin
American and Caribbean Center's Cuban Research Institute. "You're going
to break something eventually."

That presents multiple challenges for the Obama administration, which is
tasked with protecting the U.S. coastline and waters if a catastrophe
begins off Cuba.

"I think there is a lot of a tendency to hold the breath and hope it
doesn't happen," said Lee Hunt, president of the International
Association of Drilling Contractors. "I can assure you that inaction and
lack of leadership against a potential disaster would be this
administration's Katrina."

Administration officials have already upgraded drilling standards for
operations off the U.S. coast and have established a partnership with
Mexico to set higher bilateral standards in the Gulf of Mexico since
last year's historic spill. And Bureau of Ocean Energy Management,
Regulation and Enforcement Director Michael Bromwich said last week that
"the issue of drilling offshore Cuba has been on our screen for many

"I can say that this issue has been focused on and discussed in very
high levels of the government," Bromwich said.

The Spanish company Repsol is expected by January to begin drilling a
deepwater exploratory oil well off Cuba in waters about 60 miles south
of Key West and slightly deeper than BP's doomed Macondo exploration
well. Other exploratory wells from the same Chinese-built
semi-submersible rig owned by the Italian company Saipem would follow in
subsequent months — involving companies such as Russia's Gazprom.

"Politicians don't like to take the risk with Cuba unless they see a
clear positive payback of some sort," said Bill Reilly, a former EPA
administrator under President George H.W. Bush. "Now that we see the rig
approaching Cuban waters, the political calculus will change."

Reilly — who co-chaired a bipartisan commission that investigated last
year's Gulf spill — and Hunt were among a group granted permission by
the administration to trek to Havana in early September to talk to
senior Cuban officials in the absence of direct talks between the two

"The message was drilling in deepwater is a highly challenging, risky,
technologically complex job, and the lessons of Macondo show that even
very experienced companies and very practiced regulators can get it
wrong," Reilly said.

Cuba Silent on Child Prostitution Case

Cuba Silent on Child Prostitution Case
September 27, 2011
Rosa Martinez

HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 27 — According to unofficial media here, yesterday a
trial began — behind closed doors — in which 14 people (among them three
Italian citizens) are implicated in the death of a Cuban junior high
school student.

When a friend commented to me about this incident involving a teenager
from the eastern Cuban city of Bayamo, I was left stunned. I quickly
began searching on the Internet to find what was being said about the
girl, Lilian Ramirez Espinosa, who was only 12 years old.

Thinking about my two daughters, each detail that I discovered
concerning the police investigation turned out more painful than the
previous one. The mere thought of one of my little girls entangled in a
case of pedophilia or child pornography cut me to the core.

How much is true in what's being said on the Caféfuerte website?
They're reporting that the girl's mother is detached and dispassionate,
that she has a low educational level and doesn't take care of herself or
her other daughters. They're say that her father, on the contrary, is
an affectionate and honorable man, and that Lilian was introverted,
docile and disciplined.

Did the girl die from respiratory arrest due to the consumption of
alcohol and narcotics forced on her by the degenerate pedophiles, or was
she overcome by the toxic effects of gases inhaled in the trunk of the
car in which she was later transported for burial? Did she die from
suffocation after being buried alive, or did one of the Italians choke
her with his own hands in an act of desperation?

It seems that we're destined to remain in the dark about yet another
case that we've only found out about through foreign newspapers and
independent bloggers. Once again the national press remains silent
before a threatening incident, and once again others have to tell us
what's going on under our very own noses. Should we believe what they
say in Miami, Italy or Spain about something that's happened in our own

Just like me, many people will wonder: Why are the Cuban authorities
submerged in total silence? There's no reason to remain quiet when they
know that the Internet doesn't allow the slightest secret to go
undisclosed. If they don't give the official version, others will give
theirs, often misinforming and circulating nothing more than rumors and

When will they figure out that keeping silent about such delicate issues
doesn't do anybody any good? I thought they would have learned this
from the more than two dozen deaths — resulting from negligence — of
elderly people at the Mazorra Psychiatric Hospital last year.

Perhaps it's embarrassing to the government to recognize that child
prostitution is practiced in the safest Latin American country for
children. Or could it be that discussing the issue will give the Yankee
enemy ammunition for defaming the revolution? Or are they simply afraid
that coverage will immediately put them on the spot?

I really don't understand it. I will never understand silence in the
face of a circumstance that not only must be combatted but must also be
thoroughly reported on so that the Cuban public knows that situations
like these occur in many provinces.

In this way fathers and mothers will be made aware that not all tourists
who visit us come to enjoy their vacations or do business – some come
here solely and exclusively to practice prostitution, especially with

A statement by the Cuban government might have possibly bothered some
Italians or other Europeans who believe in the innocence of their
compatriots, but what does it really matter if we lose some guests when
it's a question of serious damage also being done to the Cuban
government's own moral standing.

If there's someone who is in fact innocent in this case (one dubbed "El
Salado" — because the body of the murdered victim was found near a
bridge with that name), then I hope they go free. But what I hope for
more is that the guilty individuals, whoever they are, serve the long
sentences they deserve, even though years in prison obviously won't
bring back the little Bayamo girl who was ripped from the world in May
of last year.