Monday, October 31, 2011

The Machine of Time / Angel Santiesteban

The Machine of Time / Angel Santiesteban
Angel Santiesteban, Translator: Josephine Larke

It's been a few days since I got to chat with a Uruguayan man who
announced to me "I hate Fidel." And, after we exchanged a few lines, he
informed me: "I won't got to Cuba until the era of the Castros and their
communism is over." I assured him that he would lose the opportunity to
get to know, with his own eyes, a unique experiment that maybe won't be
repeated in the history of humanity.

He assured me: "If I go to Cuba they would catch me because I'm opposed
to the system and I make that public." I again affirmed that it would be
another good experience in that there was a big chance that he wouldn't
have the opportunity… He was surprised by my response and he wrote it
down so that I could reread it and, sure of myself, correct my mistake.
And I again reaffirmed it… After a space of silence he responded: "I
prefer Cancun."

Surely he went away with the suspicion that I am a maniac or
sadomasochist who encouraged him towards suffering. To finish, I assured
him that what he would come to know was that my reality is my problem.
Especially knowing that those who govern my country for last fifty
years, instead of peace, planted guerrillas in Latin America, that
didn't serve any purpose but to augment the pain of its nations. In this
case the Tupamaros were made to follow Raul Sendic, or the Montoneros in
Argentina, and the Che's disaster in Bolivia, and that of the
guerilleros in El Salvador, who because of so much killing assassinated
each other, like the agent, combatant and poet Roque Dalton. And we
continue in Brazil, Nicaragua, Colombia, Venezuela, and many more, in
some places with worse results than in others.

One wick that we burned and that lasted several decades until thousands
were left dead in the confrontation, and later we didn't move a finger
to stop the slaughter.

In any case, if I were able to put myself in the place of the Uruguayan,
here is what I would have liked to have heard. Because if I had the
opportunity to enter and leave the scenes, like in a play at the
theater, according to the circumstances, I would have spent a few hours
or days with the Jews in the concentration camps during World War II. I
would have spent my weeks accompanying Mohandas Gandhi. I would have
entered the rescue of Paris with Hemingway. Or I would have been in the
reunion of La Mejorana, waiting for the dawn to accompany Jose Martí to
Dos Ríos and die at his side.

It's true, the responsibility falls to the Cubans. All we have to do is
take it. Affecting a reality that they have stolen from us. Let every
minute carry with it the grief and agony of millions of compatriots who
cry out Freedom.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Translated by: Josephine Larke

October 21 2011

Antics of the New Class / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado

Antics of the New Class / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado
Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado

It is nobody's secret that we Cubans are comiendo el cable ("eating the
cable"). This is an expression of the popular argot in Cuba used to
allude to a person or group that is going through a hard time, that
feels itself to be a victim of neglect and that accumulates many
unresolved needs. Many cannot visualize a horizon where satisfying
their needs doesn't entail moving beyond our borders; others, have the
luck of belonging, maybe even from a seminal accident, to the
olive-green royalty, and enjoy the benefits that their relatives or
contacts trained in the ideology of the chat in time and the public and
opportune praises for the historical leader can allow them.

They are the children and grandchildren of the so called Revolution, the
paragon of "those who don't traffic in influences" nor do they stoop to
oligarchic behaviors to establish their own — because it would be
immoral to practice that which led them to armed struggle first and then
to power; those who are models of loyalty and its problems, as long as
they haven't committed a disloyalty or problem of principles, who
minimize themselves through a thoughtful gift and stereotype it as an
antic, never as corruption.

They are the descendents and unconditionals of the sharks who fear
freedom of information, those called to work side-by-side with the
foreign investors, those enabled to occupy a position that results in
juicy returns with "enemy money" in the accounts that they probably have
overseas providing for the inevitable change, while Cuban workers are
exploited with symbolic salaries and a currency turned evil.

Despite the official excessive secrecy that they have turned into
tradition, by different means the comments of a new scandal of
corruption reach them, associated with the higher echelons and reliable
businessmen installed by the nomenklatura in mixed enterprises and
foreign corporations.

The fiber optic conduit that left Venezuela, arrived in our territory in
February this year, and should have been operational in July, but it was
a disaster because those chosen by the authorities were so busy planting
dollars in their own financial grove, that they bought the cheapest
technological cable, one without the shielding required to protect
against bites from sharks that inhabit the Caribbean.

Hasn't it been a policy directed by the caste of the country that
products be acquired elsewhere so we can save our currency reserves?
There is also talk about the abduction of funds destined for the cable's
activation, that have frozen its implementation. I don't know if this
is real or if it's an information cocktail that they allowed to filter
to continue violating Cubans' rights to the internet.

In any event, any skullduggery by the state elites and their partisans
is credible when they train their chosen in the practice of their
capitalism. It is also rumored in Havana that the media grave weighing
in this matter is due to the lineage of those involved and their
hangers-on, and that soon they will get the blow required in such cases.

To simple citizens, we who know of unripe and ripe, we get spoiled and
it looks as if we continue to be witnesses to the crumbling of this deja
vu dictatorship and the immobility they hold on to, like the chrysalis
of rock discordant with the modern world's democratic symphony

Our anguish to scream sticks in our throats; but the death rattles of
the model are so evident that the opportunists of the upper class
leadership risk exchanging their Communist party red cards for green
paper money, and we wonder how many more of these are hidden, still
shouting out empty slogans in exchange for favors, which is to sin
against ideology. While these hindrances of a discredited system fatten
their personal fortunes with their influences and their false doctrine,
we ordinary Cubans the true sharks that for these last few decades eat
the cable of hope, and of undelivered promises that, in a model like
this, will never come.

Translated by: lapizcero

October 4 2011

Will Offshore Oil Lubricate US-Cuba Relations?

Will Offshore Oil Lubricate US-Cuba Relations?
Editor's Desk | Casey Research | October 28, 2011 2:02 pm

Courtesy of Casey Research

One of Spain's largest oil companies, Repsol, is gearing up to spud a
deep, offshore well in Cuban waters, just 60 miles from the Florida
Keys. A huge rig is still en route to the site from Singapore, and as it
draws closer to its destination the zealous opposition from Floridian
politicians who rely on the Cuban expatriate vote gets louder.

They argue that the well should not be allowed to proceed because it
violates the embargo and on a deeper level, that any oil found would
prop up the Cuban regime. The first claim is incorrect – it does not
violate the embargo as there are no American companies involved; but the
second claim deserves closer inspection. Indeed, oil experts say Cuba
may have as much as 20 billion barrels of oil in its as-yet untapped
portion of the Gulf of Mexico, though the estimate from the US
Geological Survey is considerably more modest, pegging potential
reserves at 5 billion barrels.

And yes, finding and developing oil resources in Cuban waters would
provide a major boost to the country's struggling economy and would help
to reduce its total dependence on oil-rich, leftist ally Venezuela.
Fidel Castro's close ally Hugo Chavez currently dispatches 120,000
barrels of oil a day to Cuba on very favorable financing terms. However,
the arrangement is heavily dependent on the friendship between
octogenarian Castro and cancer-stricken Chavez… hardly a recipe for
permanence. Cuba's oil contracts with Repsol and various other
international partners probing its waters call for Cuba to get 60% of
the oil, so a few good wells would make a marked difference for the
Caribbean nation.

But the more pressing issue is proximity. If this well were to blow –
like the Macondo well did – the two American companies that provide
blowout-containment services to deepwater drillers in the Gulf of Mexico
would not be allowed to come to its aid. Yes, it is possible to obtain
exemptions from the embargo, but spill responses are based on a simple
premise: Everything has to be on standby, ready to go. While US
officials say there is a longstanding practice of providing licenses
(embargo exemptions) to address environmental challenges in Cuban
waters, and Americans have previously provided booms, skimmers,
dispersants, pumps, and other equipment to respond to a spill, obtaining
exemptions from international embargoes does not fit the ready-to-go

The Repsol well will sit just 60 miles from the Marquesas Keys, an
uninhabited group of islands near Key West in an area of strong, 4-6
mile-per-hour currents that come from the Gulf, shoot through the
Florida Straits, and then churn northward up the Atlantic Coast. It
would take only a few days for an oil spill to reach the Keys. In fact,
Repsol's well will be twice as close to US shores as drillers in
American waters are allowed to operate.

Any angst over the situation should not be directed toward Repsol, as
the Spanish company has done nearly everything it can to placate
American concerns. The company has offered US agencies an opportunity to
inspect the drilling vessel and its equipment before it enters Cuban
waters, and Repsol officials have stated publicly that in carrying out
its Cuba work it will adhere to US regulations and the highest industry
standards. The only thing Repsol has not done is concede to demands from
some US Congresspeople to walk away from the project, which the
politicians described in a letter to Repsol as a venture that "endangers
the environment and enriches the Cuban tyranny."

However, Repsol is inclined to be accommodating because it is a publicly
traded company. It is the only such company operating in non-American
Gulf waters – the others operating or considering operating in Cuba's
Gulf waters are primarily national oil companies. The United States'
sphere of influence over these state-owned, national oil companies is
far, far less; in many cases, American desires have no bearing on these
entities… and any effort to exert influence over them immediately raises
questions of sovereign immunity.

So, while Repsol's case is at the forefront for the moment, it seems
that the US government needs to pay more attention to these national
companies and attempt to formulate a way to engage in their exploration
process. It's a complicated, sensitive arena, incorporating issues like
transboundary compensation for oil pollution damages, the role of
international oil pollution liability conventions, and recovering costs
when one country provides most of the spill response and clean-up assets.

But there are quite a few national oil companies interested in Cuba.
Repsol is working in a consortium with Norway's Statoil and a unit of
India's ONGC. The partners plan to drill one or two wells; once they are
complete, the rig will pass to Malaysia's state-owned oil company,
Petronas, and then on to another ONGC unit, ONBC Videsh, both of which
have also leased offshore Cuban blocks. Brazilian state oil company
Petrobras is also developing plans to explore its Cuban blocks.

The multinational face of exploration in Cuba's waters is a good
representation of the support Cuba has received from the rest of the
world. Indeed, every year for the past 19 years, and soon for an
almost-guaranteed twentieth time, the United Nations General Assembly
has overwhelmingly adopted a resolution condemning the US embargo. Every
year, something like 187 of 189 nations appeal to the United States to
end the embargo, with (usually) only Israel voting with the US.

Almost no one else supports the embargo, and it is time to assess
whether it is still in the US's best interests.

The embargo on Cuba represents the most comprehensive set of economic
sanctions the US imposes on any nation in the world. The goal has always
been to make the Cuban people suffer so much that they would tear down a
government that was at one point a Cold-War security threat. The US has:
imposed sharp limits on Cuba's access to American food, medicines, and
visitors; banned almost all other business activity; used sanctions to
stop third countries from trading with Cuba; blocked Cuba's access to
high-technology goods; and even siphoned off some of its most promising
thinkers by giving Cubans incentives to emigrate and persuading its
highly trained doctors to defect.

None of this has, of course, caused an uprising, let alone broken the
back of the Cuban system. It has been a generation since the Cold War
ended, since the Soviet Union fell, and since the US intelligence
community concluded that Cuba posed no threat to American security. Why
does the embargo still stand? Well, for several reasons, two of the
clearest being opposing communism in general and maintaining political
support from the large Cuban expat community. However, another reason
may be a lack of data. There is no formal mechanism within the US
government to monitor the impact of the embargo on economic and social
rights in Cuba; nor is there a process to assess the impacts of the
embargo on the United States.

Without a way to gather this information, there are tough questions that
remained unanswered. Do the sanctions backfire and take away from
everyday Cubans the prospect for leading more prosperous and independent
lives? Is the embargo damaging US standing in Latin America? Do the
sanctions cost the US jobs for workers, markets, profits for businesses,
or liberties for American travelers?

These questions have lingered for years, but with Fidel Castro having
passed the reins over to his slightly more liberal younger brother Raul,
changes are afoot in Cuba that make these questions more pressing.
Adding all the new interest in Cuba's deepwater oil potential to the mix
only increases the pressure.

Raul Castro took over the presidency in 2008, and his goal is to have
35% of the economy privatized by 2015. In April the Cuban Communist
Party approved 311 decrees designed to meet that goal, though to date
only a few have passed into law. Those that have been enacted are mild
relative to the bigger picture of creating a private sector.
Nevertheless, they represent dramatic change for Cubans, who have not
been allowed to buy or sell vehicles or real estate for fifty years. Now
they can.

For the first time since the early years of Castro's 1959 revolution,
private individuals in retail services, agriculture, and construction
are allowed to hire employees, even though there remains an article in
the Cuban Constitution that says one's property and equipment "cannot be
used to obtain earnings from the exploitation of the labor of others."

Over the next five years the regime intends to lay off up to a million
public sector workers – no less than 10% of its workforce. The food
rationing system, on which many Cubans rely daily, is also set to be
phased out. The goals are clear – to reduce the state payroll, boost
productivity (especially in the agricultural sector), and nourish the
private sector – even if the timeline and plans for dealing with the
fallout are far from clear.

Cuban authorities are careful to depict this restructuring as upgrading
the revolution, not forsaking it. As one political analyst said, the
Cuban government is trying to "let the economic genie out of the bottle
while keeping the political genie in." It's a tough act. And the fact is
that the regime can no longer afford to finance the socialist ideas upon
which it was founded. The question is: Which way will it turn?

If reforms are too limited and private enterprise remains too restricted
to flourish, nothing much really changes, aside from a few aspects of
the current black market becoming legal. At the other end of the
spectrum is rapid and rampant capitalism, with all of the debt and
accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few that today are such clear
downsides of free-market economies.

The Goldilocks answer is somewhere in between, positioning Cuba as a
miniature China with a mixed economy, the state holding tight grip over
some sectors but loosening control over others. The state will almost
certainly retain its grip over mining, oil, sugar, health care, and
tourism, cumulatively a large chunk of the country's economic strength.

Nevertheless, even this partial transition to capitalism offers some
good economic opportunities to the US, if it were to open those avenues.
The embargo may be aimed at restricting the Cuban regime so harshly that
it fails, but it is also preventing the US from even encouraging, let
alone participating in, a more modern Cuba. In terms of the Gulf, the
embargo restricts US opportunities to provide exploration expertise to a
developing nation and to share in the spoils of that work, which could
be another, much-needed, convenient source of oil, while also
hamstringing the US's ability to protect its own waters.

Courtesy of Casey Research

The Cuban Missile Crisis Myth: 49 Years Later

The Cuban Missile Crisis Myth: 49 Years Later
Posted By Humberto Fontova On October 31, 2011 @ 12:02 am In Daily

Forty nine years ago on Oct. 28th JFK "solved" the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Given the influence of Camelot's court scribes and their cronies in the
mainstream media, perhaps a refresher on conservative reaction to this
"solution" is in order:

"We locked Castro's communism into Latin America and threw away the key
to its removal," growled Barry Goldwater.

"Kennedy pulled defeat out of the jaws of victory," wrote Richard Nixon.
"Then gave the Soviets squatters rights in our backyard."

"We've been had!" yelled then Navy Chief George Anderson upon hearing on
October 28, 1962, how JFK "solved" the missile crisis. Adm. Anderson was
the man in charge of the very "blockade" against Cuba.

"The biggest defeat in our nation's history!" bellowed Air Force Chief
Curtis Lemay, while whacking his fist on his desk.

"We missed the big boat," said Gen. Maxwell Taylor after learning the
details of the deal with Khrushchev.

"It's a public relations fable that Khrushchev quailed before Kennedy,"
wrote Alexander Haig. "The legend of the eyeball to eyeball
confrontation invented by Kennedy's men paid a handsome political
dividend. But the Kennedy-Khrushchev deal was a deplorable error
resulting in political havoc and human suffering through the Americas."

Even Democrats despaired. "This nation lacks leadership," said Dean
Acheson, the Democratic elder statesman whom Kennedy consulted on the
matter. "The meetings were repetitive and without direction. Most
members of Kennedy's team had no military or diplomatic experience
whatsoever. The sessions were a waste of time."

But not for the Soviets. "We ended up getting exactly what we'd wanted
all along," snickered Nikita Khrushchev in his diaries:

– security for Fidel Castro's regime and American missiles removed
from Turkey. Until today the U.S. has complied with her promise not to
interfere with Castro and not to allow anyone else to interfere with
Castro. After Kennedy's death, his successor Lyndon Johnson assured us
that he would keep the promise not to invade Cuba (emphasis added).

Khrushchev seemed prepared to yank the missiles even before any
"bullying" by Kennedy. "What?" he gasped that week, as recalled by his
son Sergei. "Is he [Fidel Castro] proposing that we start a nuclear war?
That we launch missiles from Cuba? But that is insane!…Remove them
[Soviet missiles] as soon as possible! Before it's too late. Before
something terrible happens!" instructed the Soviet premier.

The Kennedy team's brainstorming sessions were certainly no waste of
time for the primary beneficiary. "Many concessions were made by the
Americans about which not a word has been said," snickered Fidel Castro.
"Perhaps one day they'll be made public."

"We can't say anything public about this agreement. It would be too much
of a political embarrassment for us." That's what Robert F. Kennedy said
to Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin when closing the deal that ended
the so-called crisis.

(All above quotes are fully documented in "Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite

Castro's regime's was granted new status. Let's call it MAP, or
Mutually-Assured-Protection. Cuban freedom-fighters working from South
Florida were suddenly rounded up for "violating U.S. Neutrality laws."
Some of these bewildered men were jailed, others "quarantined,"
prevented from leaving Dade County. The Coast Guard in Florida got 12
new boats and seven new planes to make sure Castro remained unmolested,
that not a hair on his chiny chin-chin was harmed by the hot-headed
exiles. When some moved the bases of the liberation fight to the
Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, the adamantly
"non-interventionist" Camelot liberals suggested (strongly) to these
governments that the Cuban freedom-fighters be booted out.

JFK's Missile crisis "solution" also pledged that he immediately pull
the rug out from under Cuba's in-house freedom-fighters. Raul Castro
himself admitted that at the time of the Missile Crisis his troops and
their Soviet advisors were up against 179 different "bands of bandits"
as he labeled the thousands of Cuban anti-Communist rebels then battling
savagely and virtually alone in Cuba's countryside, with small arms
shipments from their compatriots in south Florida as their only lifeline.

"Gaddafi, you poor, stupid sap," Castro must be snickering.

Think about it: here was the U.S. Coast Guard and Border Patrol working
'round the clock arresting Hispanics in the U.S. who were desperate to
return to their native country.

It's a tribute to the power of Castroite mythology that, even with all
this information a matter of public record for almost half a century,
the academic/media mantra (gloat, actually) still has Castro "defying
ten U.S. presidents." Instead he's been protected by them.

Perhaps a refresher on what preceded this crisis is also in order:

On October 14, 1962 JFK's national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy,
appeared on ABC's "Issues and Answers" to rebut hysteria from some
tinfoil-hatters of the time. "Nothing but refugee rumors," sneered
Bundy regarding reports from Cuban-exiles about Soviet missiles going up
in Cuba.

For months, Cuban freedom-fighters (mostly youths and college kids) had
been risking death by KGB-tutored torture and firing squads by
infiltrating Cuba to obtain these eyewitness reports of missiles and
passing them to the CIA and U.S. State Department.

"Nothing in Cuba presents a threat to the United States," continued the
Ivy League luminary Bundy—barely masking his scorn for these hot-headed
and deceitful Cubans. "There's no likelihood that the Soviets or Cubans
would try and install an offensive capability in Cuba," he scoffed.

"There's fifty-odd-thousand Cuban refugees in this country," added
President Kennedy himself the following day, "all living for the day
when we go to war with Cuba. They're the ones putting out this kind of

Exactly 48 hours later U-2 photos sat on JFK's desk revealing that those
"refugee rumors" were sitting in Cuba and pointed directly at Bundy, JFK
and their entire staff of sagacious Ivy League wizards.

Much of his fame in the Third World, on college campuses (especially
among faculty) and in Europe stems from the fable of Castro "defying" a
superpower. In fact, he survived because of a sweetheart deal that
allowed him to hide behind the skirts of two superpowers.

For Cuban women, Sundays are for protest marches

For Cuban women, Sundays are for protest marches
31 Oct 2011 03:09
Source: Content partner // Womens eNews

The Ladies in White, a group of family members of imprisoned dissidents,
march during their weekly protest in Havana February 27, 2011.
REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa

Relatives of political prisoners in Cuba--many of them women--are
fighting to curb abuses they say family members suffer during
incarceration. One of the most prominent opposition groups, Ladies in
White, meets on Sundays.

(WOMENSENEWS)-- Four women stood with anti-government signs in a
well-trafficked square in Havana.

They were members of Ladies in White, a group that formed in 2003 after
75 political dissidents were jailed.

Dressed in white--the color of peace--they march to Catholic mass to
pray for human rights and the release of relatives and loved ones in prison.

The group has been meeting on Sundays across Cuba for years. But this
particular small demonstration a couple of months ago--on Aug. 23 in
Havana--proved momentous. When a plain-clothes police officer came to
break up the women, some nearby people defended the women and forced the
officer to leave in search of backup.

It wasn't the first time bystanders had aided the women, but because it
was in such a busy area, it was the first time such an action was caught
on video with cell-phone cameras and uploaded to YouTube the very next day.

"It was visible proof, released to an international audience over
YouTube, that there is an increasing support for the resistance
movement," said Aramis Perez, a leader of the Assembly of Cuban
Resistance, based in Miami, Fla.

Often, he said, reports filed from Havana are censored or written by
government supporters and describe activist groups as "small and

Two days later Amnesty International, the London-based rights group,
published a call to stop the repression of the Ladies in White.

Police and government officials have violently attacked individuals and
groups of female political dissidents on at least 25 occasions this
year--sometimes while the women were engaged in nonviolent protest, and
other times while they were with their families at home--according to a
report released by the Assembly of Cuban Resistance in August. The
report, "Cuba: Violent Aggressions Against Women, Human Rights
Defenders," was based on daily communication with activist groups in Cuba.

'A Leading Role'

The resistance movement is carried out by a wide cross-section of Cuban
citizens--urban, rural, farmers, students--but "women have been playing
a leading role," said Perez.

One of those women is Laura Pollan, the leader of Women and White and
the recipient of the European Parliament's 2005 Sakharov Prize for
Freedom of Thought. Pollan died on Oct.14 at age 63.

Another is Bertha Antunez who lives in exile in Florida.

She spoke at a meeting last month on the sidelines of the U.N. General
Assembly along with other human rights activists, including Marina
Nemat, Iranian author and former political prisoner; Jacqueline Kasha,
Ugandan LGBT rights activist and winner of Martin Ennals 2011 Human
Rights Defenders Prize; and Rebiya Kadeer, Uyghur dissident and former
political prisoner.

Antunez used the podium to urge the international community to help
women in Cuba who are working for human rights.

"These women, today, at this moment, risk their lives, put their bodies
before the police violence," she told a roomful of people at the forum,
organized by a coalition of international nongovernmental groups. "Their
voices shout for freedom while they are brutally beaten and they
continue to take to the streets."

Antunez said her activism was fueled by prison visits to her brother,
released in 2007, after 17 years of incarceration in various prisons,
making him one of the longest serving political prisoners in Cuba.

"Soldiers from the prison savagely beat my brother in my presence and in
the presence of two children from our family. We were beaten too. On
various occasions I had to resort to a hunger strike to save my
brother's life," she told the human rights activists, advocates and

Motivational Visits

In an interview with Women's eNews, Antunez expanded on how those prison
visits had motivated her.

"I got firsthand testimony from many prisoners and there were things I
couldn't believe" she said. "I never thought these abuses were taking
place in my country. I knew there were injustices outside the prison
because we are all victims of those; but this was torture."

A Cuban dissident group, the Cuban Democratic Directorate, based in
Hialeah, Fla., reports that Antunez's brother, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez,
was arrested during a demonstration for yelling that communism was "an
error and a utopia." His speech was considered "oral enemy propaganda,"
the report says. His sentence was extended several times for speaking
back to guards and continuing to vocalize his political beliefs.

Antunez and relatives of other family members of political prisoners
founded the National Movement of Civic Resistance "Pedro Luis Boitel" to
fight abuse in prisons.

The group remains active and continues to organize peaceful protests,
sit-ins and hunger strikes at prisons across the island.

This year, the incarceration of two of the group's members and other
recent crackdowns on dissidents spurred Human Rights Watch to issue
statement in June saying that Cuban laws "criminalize virtually all
forms of dissent, and grant officials extraordinary authority to
penalize people who try to exercise their basic rights."

Appeals court reverses sports agent's conviction

Posted on Monday, 10.31.11

Appeals court reverses sports agent's conviction
Associated Press

ATLANTA -- A federal appeals court has reversed some of the convictions
against a professional sports agent who was sentenced to prison for
smuggling five Cuban baseball players into the U.S.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday reversed Gustavo "Gus"
Dominguez's conviction on charges of transporting and harboring aliens.
But the three-judge panel's decision let stand his convictions on
smuggling charges.

Dominguez was sentenced to five years in prison after he was convicted
in April 2007 of paying the players to be smuggled by boat from Cuba in
2004. His attorneys said he was dedicated to helping oppressed Cuban
athletes, but prosecutors said he went too far.

Defense attorney Ben Kuehne said Dominguez, who was released from prison
this year for good behavior, is thrilled with the decision.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cuba eases curbs to boost food output

Cuba eases curbs to boost food output
Published: Oct. 28, 2011 at 4:16 PM

HAVANA, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Cuba is easing communist rules and nudging its
agriculture toward a market economy model as part of a stepped-up
government effort to boost food production.

Imports of raw foodstuffs and processed food claimed a further 25
percent of foreign earnings, prompting Cuban President Raul Castro to
exhort Cubans to produce more and import less.

Communist Party daily Granma warned Cuba was running out of miracles and
called on Cubans to pool energies and drive for self-sufficiency.

Castro has relaxed rules on ownership and Cubans setting themselves up
as traders as part of his effort to liberalize economy in stages. A key
new departure is the allocation of larger tracts of state land to
private farming enterprises.

Farmers who can prove their productivity will be able to lease land
nearly five times the area allowed under a 2008 decree. Until now
farmers were limited to the use of 13 hectares of land.

William Hernandez Morales, a senior agricultural official in the eastern
province of Santiago de Cuba, announced on the radio that lease holders
who could demonstrate they could produce more food would be able to
increase their holdings.

Years of Communist Party haranguing prompted many Cubans to grow part of
their food requirements in any available green patch -- a familiar scene
even in urban areas.

The Cuban state owns more than 70 percent of the arable land but critics
say nearly half of that area on the island is unused. State-led
agricultural production on the remainder of the land averages lower than
yields attained by private entrepreneurs.

Some estimates cited in the media said Cuba's private farmers produce 57
percent of the food on only 24 percent of the land.

Castro made increased food production a top priority after taking over
from brother Fidel in 2008. He also announced other economic
liberalization reforms, though at a slower pace than expected by Cubans.

Although about 1.6 million hectares of state land has been leased to
about 143,000 farmers since October 2008, the small plot size and other
bureaucratic hurdles continue to discourage the farmers.

The government's easing of farming policies coincided with attempts to
encourage foreign investors. Brazil, Venezuela and other neighboring
countries have already become involved in the Cuban economy as it

Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca reasoned that
inclusion of foreign investment "guarantees the access to markets for
Cuban goods and services."

Coinciding with that shift is a renewed government effort to bring
Cuba's tourism and travel sector into the 21st century, despite the
continuing U.S. embargo.

Cuba has set sights on attracting 3 million tourists and earning at
least $2 billion this year, mainly from Spain, Italy and Canada. Chinese
tourism is also expected to rise after recent agreements between Beijing
and Havana.

The government's emphasis on growing more food is a response to
escalating costs of food imports, likely to reach $1.5 billion in 2011.

Cuba Government Opens 3.2 Million Acres of Idle Land for Individual Use

Cuba Government Opens 3.2 Million Acres of Idle Land for Individual Use

HAVANA – The Cuban government up to last September had awarded usership
of over 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres) of land for
agricultural purposes, of which 79 percent is being used for crops that
are mostly being tilled by "individual" farmers.

The amount of idle land in Cuba in 2008 was estimated at more than
1,800,000 hectares (3,200,000 acres), for which the official daily
Granma said Saturday that the opening of land for agriculture and the
use it has been put to since then "has contributed to reverse the poor
state of a large part of that terrain."

The director of the National Land Control Center, Pedro Olivera, told
the newspaper that a total of 1,313,396 hectares (3,242,943 acres) have
been released for use since July 2008 when the government of President
Raul Castro decreed the release of land in usufruct to revive the
nation's agriculture.

The measure forms part of the "reordering" of the agricultural sector
included in the plan of reforms promoted by the government for the
purpose of "modernizing" the socialist economic model of the island.

According to Granma, the fields handed over are basically being used by
146,816 individual users but not owners of the land, who represent 97
percent of the total applications received by the government.

It also said that of the new farmers, a fourth of them had no previous
connection with farm labor, 13 percent were retired, a third are young
people between 18 and 35 years old, and more than 13,000 are women.

The daily said that the new usership system on the island not only
allows an increase in food production but also generates "great job

Last August the Cuban government lowered the prices on several
agricultural articles to stimulate food production, in particular on
plots of land for usership.

The month before, in July, official media said that the right to use
land had been taken away from 9,000 people for "deficient use."

When the usufruct decree was issued in 2008, 51 percent of the total
arable land on the island was either idle or poorly used.

In Cuba, the revival of agriculture to increase food production is
considered a matter of "national security" because the country spends
more than $1.5 million per year on importing 80 percent of the food it

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sugarcane Flower / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado

Sugarcane Flower / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado
Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado, Translator: lapizcero

Closing of sugar mills >> reduces direct employment of workers in the
sugar agro-industry >> diminishes planting of sugarcane >> reduces
production of derivatives of sugarcane >> depresses services and
production related to the sector >> impoverishes the quality of life of
communities of farm workers >> affects in general sugar production >>
hurts the country's economy. (end diagram)

As if we were dealing with an erotic passage, each day, the arbitrary
and improvised nature of the system or policy of prices in Cuba gets
undressed. Like the policy itself – being designed by the pyramid of
power, we find it capricious and illogical sometimes – permeates all
societal strata and impacts the actions and speech of diverse aspects of
our reality, including household finances. Like a well established
culture of sultanístico volunteerism, many prices seem to be determined
from the fly of the pants of some leaders, independent of the law of
supply and demand; even more, after a process as long as the Cuban,
January 1 of 2012 will mark fifty-three years of doing and undoing at
the whim of the original "guides".

I say this because after "digesting"and concatenating certain news
offered in different occasions by the newspaper Granma, mouthpiece of
the Communist Party, regarding the sugar cane agro-industry, sugar cane
itself, the mills and the equipment required for its exploitation, I
reflect on this important sector which for centuries was the fundamental
industry of our country.

The problem is not simple, happening first because a bad decision to
close two thirds of the sugar mills in Cuba with the consequent
decapitation of the economic activity of the sugar mill communities and
the whole infrastructure created around the mills, affecting other rural
communities that exist around these agro-industrial centers; which led
to a reduction in the number of jobs in planting and harvesting of the
cane, depressed production of syrups, electric energy and other
derivatives of sugarcane such as alcohol, animal feed, waste for
furniture making, etc.

It may be central to the economy to diversify agricultural production,
but fighting the monoculture should not be accomplished by destroying
the sugar industry, but rather through the creation of other productive
sectors or agro-industrial bases so as to avoid dependency on a single
product. The bad decision to close sugar mills occurred in the very
moment when it was booming and expansion of ethanol in an international
scope was occurring; which suggests a lack of foresight and resulted in
the lack of one important source of income for the country.

The economic determinations of a state should be subject to satisfying
the needs of citizens and always oriented towards that purpose, it is
not fair or smart to subject them to the irresponsible or irrational
whims of one person or group of them in detriment to the well-being and
quality of life of the majority. Another element of importance is
evidenced by the potential loss of sugar traditions by reducing the
number of employees involved in agricultural industry; moreover, the
waste of the resources invested in developing intangibles over the
centuries to foment sugar culture. Equally it seems they forgot or
ignored the importance of multiple sugar mills to insure sugar culture
areas that are as near as possible to the mills.

In the newspaper they also pointed out the reduction in price for inputs
and the doubling in what independent producers are paid for a ton of
sugarcane. Here I go back to the old proverb "better late than never",
but why did we wait this long? It would be good if the population knew
who sets the prices for plows and other agricultural implements. The
extinction of the Sugar Ministry transpired as well and the creation in
its stead of an Entrepreneurial Group of the Sugar Agro-industry.

In the same way, they mentioned the deficiency in diverse aspects in the
Ministry of Agriculture and "(…) the approval of instructions from the
President of the State Council and the Ministers to shed light on the
general policies and work plans of the entities, Organisms of the
Central Administration of the State, other national entities and the
Local Administrations of Popular Power." Isn't it the excessive
centralization that has damaged ostensibly their development and
prevented the positive functioning of Cuban society in the economic,
political and social realms? So many contradictions persuade us that we
cannot advance with the controlling way of thinking of the
mega-proprietors of a country.

Production is stimulated precisely by decentralizing and interesting
workers in a common project, and in the results of their labor, the
opposite of what they have done for more than 50 years and apparently
intend to continue doing. If they are unwilling to institute the
foundation so society grows and develops healthy in support of better
individual and collective productive yields, it is time for a real
liberation of mindsets and a transition towards more just and efficient
models for the development of Cuba.

Translated by: lapizcero

October 4 2011

Potatoes with Police / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado

Potatoes with Police / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado
Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado, Translator: lapizcero

I heard it when I was in the patio taking in some clothes I had washed
because it looked like rain. I don't know who shouted to someone on the
block that there were potatoes with police. I perked my ears because,
like the smartest of the bunch, I was intrigued by this pronouncement.
The person addressed asked and got an explanation that there were
potatoes in the store, but they were only giving ten pounds of potatoes
per person, and that the queue and order were being controlled by the
police. In Cuba, the same way that what the authorities call liberty
and democracy aren't, ten pounds aren't ten, because the scales are
damaged by the corruption that gangrenes at almost every level.

We Cubans are accustomed to persuading our young children of the
importance of eating "la papa" — potatoes — to grow strong. For the
Cuban adult population, not only has this staple disappeared for five
decades, they have been weakened by being made to run from one place to
another in our country in the search for food,but their time and energy
has been diverted to prevent them from using it to think about other topics.

If a product is scarce for many years, as has been the case with this
root vegetable – and for most everything in Cuba – it's natural that
people want to buy the largest quantity permitted by their budgets, so
as to guarantee variety in the diet of their family for a greatest
number of days. Others, perhaps, place it on the table as the only
option, but we would all like it to be on sale all the time, accessible
to whomever wishes to consume it, in the amount desired and not when the
authorities want or direct it. But we are a country blocked by
inefficiency, incompetence and lack of order. These, among others, are
some of the prejudicial signs that cause the necrosis of our economy.

I started fantasizing during my domestic chores and imagined how my city
should be in this 2011; without piles of garbage in the corners, without
rats and other disease-carrying vectors running through it, with houses
with a coat of paint (not only the facades), with gutters also dressed
up and with well executed ramps to prevent handicapped people from
encountering architectural barriers; children reciting childhood texts
and not poetry about a soldier who died firing his weapon for the
politicized morning school assembly; a press that is free and truthful –
reliable rather than "realigned" – unions equally free, trade
associations, political pluralism, a civil society that is independent
from the state, monitoring and observance of human rights and
fundamental liberties, where people aren't jailed for wanting to promote
democratic change by peaceful means, where all Cubans can enter and exit
our country freely, independent executive, legislative and judicial
branches of government, a mixed economy, etc.

I was also of a mind to solve, also in my imagination, Cuba's food
problems when the strident voice of a street vendor – not mindful of
grammar – returned me to my routine: "Sponge mops, sticks to hang
clothes, floor mopppps …!"

Translated by: lapizcero

October 27 2011

Cuba's "silent Transition" To Free Market Economy

Cuba's "silent Transition" To Free Market Economy

Cuba is undergoing a "silent transition" from socialism to a mixed
economy but the U.S. hasn't responded with diplomatic initiatives, an
authority on Latin American affairs writes.

"A series of economic reforms are shrinking the size of the state-run
economy and making room for a greatly expanded private sector," says
Michelle Chase, professor of Latin American history at Bloomfield (N.J.)

The reforms are being instituted slowly, however. Roberto Veiga
Gonzalez, a progressive Catholic editor of a journal published by the
Archdiocese of Havana calls the gradual transition "responsible," but
adds Cubans needs the reforms now because they can't take the hardship
any longer. Cubans are enduring hard times. Many families are already
spending 80% of their income just on food.

Writing in the November 7th issue of The Nation magazine, Chase says
some in the government want economic reforms modeled after China and
Vietnam but others "want Cuba's reforms to be tailored in a way that
would give priority to small, worker-owned cooperatives" that are a kind
of "decentralized socialism."

Whatever the shape of the future, Raul Castro, who promised Cuba would
never return to capitalism, appears to be doing just that. A year ago,
Chase writes, he directed mass layoffs of government workers to trim a
bloated bureaucracy and designated new areas for entrepreneurial expansion.

Since last April, Havana has granted some 330,000 licenses and the newly
self-employed, known as cuentapropistas, are now allowed to hire Cubans
outside of their own families. "The government's stated goal," Chase
writes, "is to have nearly half the populace working in the private
sector by 2015. For a country where nearly 90 percent of the economy was
once in state hands, that will be a major about-face."

Whereas in 1990, liberal reforms in Cuba were viewed as "a necessary
evil" today, Chase explains, "the leadership actually embraces the
notion of a robust private sector." Adds Omar Everleny, a professor at
the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy at the University of
Havana, "When you read the Guidelines and Raul's speeches, you realize
he's determined to change things....he's made the decision not to turn

A key factor slowing Havana's reforms "is undoubtedly the U.S. embargo,"
Chase writes, as it has "a toxic, distorting effect on internal Cuban
politics." She explains, "Washington's openly stated goal of
destabilization and regime change creates a sense of permanent crisis, a
siege mentality, in the leadership. This has long had the effect of
limiting internal debate and bolstering hardliners who view any critique
as a dangerous prelude to subversion."

What's more, by blocking American tourism, for example, "the U.S.
government is in effect slowing the growth of Cuba's private sector"
where the government has opened the doors for Cuban businesses to operate.

Reviewing the past few years, Chase writes, it is apparent "a transition
of sorts has already happened in Cuba. Raul Castro...and his cohort now
openly embrace market reforms and have implemented measures to foster a
large private sector....In addition, with the Catholic church serving as
intermediary, the government recently released most political
prisoners....If there has ever been a time for the US government to
acknowledge internal reforms and reciprocate with increased diplomacy,
that time is now."

Americans, however, may have a long wait before Washington turns to
diplomacy. The U.S. attitude has long been "do it our way (economically)
or else." Countries, including Cuba, whose rulers tried non-capitalist
economic approaches, have been attacked militarily by the U.S. or its
surrogates and/or destabilized by the Central Intelligence Agency. At
times, the leaders of those countries were assassinated by the CIA.

America's Founders established a policy of realism in matters of
diplomacy. They held governments in power were governments the U.S.
would recognize because we needed to treat with them, whether we liked
them or not. Modern presidents trampled this common-sense approach for
years by not recognizing Soviet Russia and Communist China. And they are
still withholding it from Cuba. The authors of the Constitution might
well be appalled if they knew the CIA backed the Bay of Pigs invasion in
1961, tried to poison the Cuban sugar crop and wreak other calamities on
the country, and made at least eight attempts on the life of Fidel Castro.

With Fidel out of power and his more rational brother in charge, now is
the time for the U.S. to open talks leading to improved U.S. relations
with Cuba, as well as full liberties and economic opportunities for the
Cuban people. #

(Sherwood Ross, who formerly reported for major dailies and wire
services, is director of the Anti-War News Service .)

Notes from Captivity XVII / Pablo Pacheco

Notes from Captivity XVII / Pablo Pacheco
Pablo Pacheco, Translator: Raul G.

"Violation of Correspondence"
by Pablo Pacheco Avila

The communication between those of us prisoners in "The Polish" jail and
the functionaries of the interior was deteriorating daily. The guards
had a low cultural level and engaged in despotism and intolerance. The
prisoners, on the other hand, were rebellious, energetic, and desired
freedom, which conflicted with the aspirations of the political police
which wanted to make us crack through the guards which kept strict
vigilance over us.

One afternoon, the chief of the Punishment Cells Section, subtenant
Yosbany Gainza, showed up to our dungeons with letters from our
families. To the surpise of all, including the common prisoners, the
letters had all been opened, which according to the guard had been done
on orders from the Direction of National Prisons. The verbal protests
did not take long to begin, and to top it off, Gainza assured us that as
of that moment all letters from relatives and friends which we turned in
or received had to be opened.

Our citations of article 57 of the Cuban Constitution and Chapter 12 of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were futile. The guard did
not want to accept our rights, once again proving that the Cuban regime
violates its own laws and international pacts which it has signed.

Two days later, a few common prisoners informed us that this measure had
also been applied to Blas Giraldo Reyes and Fidel Suarez Cruz whom were
locked away in the isolation cells of "La Tercera".

After trying just about all we could do and seeing that no positive
results were coming out of our attempts, we decided to go on hunger strike.

The deep totalitarian rule went beyond our "Polish" prison walls and
even attacked common prisoners. We had two options. First, to get
these suffered men, victims of the communist prison system, to join our
hunger strike or, second, they would accuse us of arbitrary measures
taken by the jailers.

Alexis Rodriguez, Miguel Galban, Manuel Ubals, and I decided to send a
letter to our partners in struggle located in that same section about or
decision to start the protest over the violation of our correspondence
as well as other arbitrary measures against those of us in the "Polish
Cell". Much to our surprise, the note went from hand to hand and only
one convict didn't have access to it due to the lack of trust he had for
the others.

On the next morning the guard of that section, last name Garvey, was
shocked upon our refusal to accept the breakfast he was serving. But
what most caused an impression on him was the solidarity of the common
prisoners, and that the information of the hunger strike did not reach him.

The situation just grew more tense and we could not imagine what the
outcome of our protest would be, but we were willing to assume the
consequences, while the support of those who suffered with us gave us
the extra strength we needed.

Of the 16 men who were imprisoned in "The Polish", 15 joined the
protest. The prisoner who accepted the piece of bread and cereal was
the first one taken by the police to be interviewed, but he did not know
what was going on. Soldiers from diverse ranks began to show up
throughout the prison, not asking anything, just walking into our
dungeons. It was the beginning of a psychological battle between them
and us.

Translated by Raul G.

30 September 2011

Ideological Concoction, a la Carte / Luis Felipe Rojas

Ideological Concoction, a la Carte / Luis Felipe Rojas
Luis Felipe Rojas, Translator: Raul G.

The Cuban Communist Party (PCC) has just made their National Conference
document (scheduled to take place on January 28th 2012) public. It is
like an extract from a manual containing the recipe to revive the
ideological corpse, that political dinosaur that is communism in the
21st century. As if it were a self critique, the document mentions the
confrontation of the illegalities, the corruption at all levels and the
internal functioning of the partisan organization. In less than 8 pages,
the ideological department of the PCC calls on its members to be
creative and to allow, for once and for all, the administrators to carry
out their primary function: allow the country to move forward.

46 years after re-founding its bases in Cuba, the PCC attempts to remove
the brains from its militants, and asks them, almost as if it were a
favor they have to do, to attend the base, to make themselves
trustworthy among the militants and to make it possible for blacks and
women to move up in rankings and levels in order to create an image of
non-discrimination when it comes to a persons race, sex, or social
class. It seems like the PCC's Central Committee is trying to sew the
old olive green rags, fixing up the old patches.

When a partisan organization (the only one that is legally allowed in
the country) prepares itself to discuss topics regarding militants, the
internal organization, and its established members nearly a century
after its foundation, it is tearing apart its own previous jargon. If
the communist leadership on the island would focus on increasing
production and liberating the productive forces without prejudice and
would have social well being as a goal, then perhaps there would be at
least a glimmer of hope in the dark well we find ourselves submerged in.
But the news coming from the island tells us otherwise.

On Saturday October 22nd, the ideologist of the PCC, Jose Ramon Machado
Ventura visited the municipality of San German, located in Holguin
province. Three days prior to his arrival, various homes of dissidents
were surrounded by soldiers, police officers, and Interior Ministry
officials who claim to represent State Security.

On the afternoon of the 22nd the peaceful dissident Eliecer Palma Pupo
was detained in my house, right in front of my children. He was taken
by a strong military operation made up of more than a dozen agents, a
Operational Guard Jeep, and a National Revolutionary Police vehicle.
They handcuffed him, pressing his hands against his back, and took him
to the political police barracks known as Pedernales. As I read this
note to my editors, he had still not been released.

The same was done to Jose Antonio Triguero Mullet, a 68 year old man who
was violently attacked and taken in front of his young granddaughters.
He was released 4 hours later. Machado Ventura's visit was preceded by
the repairing of holes in the street and the lending of ambulances and
fire trucks from Holguin. As for the workers of the sugar plant, they
were exempt that day from their habitual chores, while the market was
replenished with some foods, which has not happened for a very long time.

The small town was practically frozen that afternoon.

Translated by Raul G.

28 October 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Mariel boatlift survivor comes full circle

Mariel boatlift survivor comes full circle
Updated: Thursday, 27 Oct 2011, 4:21 PM EDT

LAKELAND - A generation has gone by since the mass exodus from Cuba to
Florida known as the Mariel boatlift.

Cuban refugees escaped from their homeland and a communist dictator for
a better life in America.

As we observe Hispanic Heritage Month, a survivor of the boatlift
decided to go back to Cuba and make a documentary on the life he left

Doctor Jose Manuel Garcia knows the success freedom can bring. He's a
professor at Florida Southern College who came here as a Cuban refugee.

"This is an important part of history. Not just Cuban history, but
American history, especially Florida history," he says.

The Mariel boatlift was a five-month long exodus from Mariel Harbor in
Cuba between April and October of 1980. Seventeen hundred boats, with
more than a 125,000 Cubans, came to Florida's shoreline.

Jose survived the treacherous journey at age 13, but believes Americans
don't know the full story. So Garcia decided to do a documentary, even
traveling back to Cuba to see relatives he hadn't seen since he was a boy.

"Here at last was the final leg of a very long journey," he says in the

An emotional journey, taking gifts to relatives who live with very little.

"I wanted to capture with the camera essentially what it was like for
somebody to return 30 years later and come in contact with the people I
left behind," Garcia said.

He is referring to people in his family who thought he had perished at
sea in a failed attempt to seek freedom.

"They had written my name the day that I left on a piece of paper and
buried that. In a way, it was almost a symbolic death," Garcia said.

Jose's documentary includes personal stories of others who were allowed
to leave, but faced beatings and taunting from Castro regime supporters.

"What I really hope is people will walk away with is seeing the human
side, a human documentary. This is not a political documentary," he says.

His documentary is called " Voices from Mariel ." It's a personal
project Jose believes shows the enduring spirit of those who risked
their lives for freedom. The film has won several awards at local and
national film festivals.

Cuba Will Have Casinos, Again

Cuba Will Have Casinos, Again
I. Nelson Rose, Encino, California

President Obama has just announced that he is easing restrictions on
visits to Cuba; the second time he will be relaxing travel rules imposed
on Americans by Pres. George W. Bush.

Casual tourism is still difficult, but it will be much easier for
students and teacher, religious groups and journalists to request
permission to visit Cuba. He had already made it easier for
Cuban-Americans to travel to see relatives on the island.

Although the State Department takes the position that tourists cannot
legally travel to Cuba, my reading of the statutes is a little
different. To obey federal laws, all U.S. citizens have to do is not
spend any money whatsoever once they set foot on the island.

But that law will have to be changed. Because Cuba will have casinos
within the next 10 years.

Or, more accurately, Cuba will again have casinos. Because during the
1950s the island nation, less than 100 miles from Florida, was one of
the leading gaming and tourist destinations of the world.

It started in the 1920s, when Havana assumed a role later taken by Las
Vegas: a vacation spot where Americans could party in ways not allowed
at home. But it was not the gambling as much as it was the booze.
America was in the midst of the disastrous experiment known as
Prohibition, which also created modern organized crime. Cuba flourished
with nightclubs, bordellos and casinos.

World War II was a minor interruption. Then the partying was reborn.
Havana became so notorious, that in 1950 a Broadway musical, "Guys and
Dolls," could be built around its reputation. The audience knew why
Nathan Detroit (the Frank Sinatra character in the 1955 film) bet Sky
Masterson (Marlon Brando) that Sky could not convince the Salvation Army
"doll" (Jean Simmons) to go with him for "dinner in Havana."

But it looked for a while like the good times might be coming to an end.
Cuban casinos had become so crooked that Americans were beginning to
stay away. They were saved when Fulgencio Batista became dictator in 1952.

In an ironic twist, Batista called upon the mob, particularly Meyer
Lansky, to clean things up. And they did. It is hard to believe
organized crime syndicates would run completely honest games. But
Lansky realized they could make more money with magnificent
hotel-casinos then if they cheated everyone.

Throughout the 1950s, the American and Cuban mob families opened
luxurious casino resorts, each one bigger and more successful than the
last. The money poured in. Batista got a cut of everything.

Three recent books, Offshore Vegas: How the Mob Brought Revolution to
Cuba; Havana Before Castro: When Cuba was a Tropical Playground (great
photos); and Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba...and Then Lost It
to the Revolution (being made into a movie), may overstate the
importance of organized crime in the Communists coming to power.

The economy under Batista was not that bad. Cuba had a large middle
class. Lansky was, in fact, originally reluctant to open casinos,
because labor unions were so strong.

Still, most Cubans never shared the wealth they saw all around them, and
corruption was rampant. The result was revolution.

When news hit the streets on New Year's Day, 1959, that Batista had fled
the country, angry crowds poured into the casinos, destroying everything

As one of his first decrees, Fidel Castro outlawed gambling. He then
tried to reopen some, with untrained dealers, after he discovered how
important the casinos were to the local economy. But it was too late –
the American patrons were gone.

The Soviet bloc never could supply enough tourists to make up for being
isolated from the U.S. I remember seeing faded posters for Havana
vacations in a tourist bureau in Prague, shortly after the Velvet
Revolution. But the other store windows were practically empty, since
there was little to buy and few people had any money, or the right to
fly over the barbed wire and minefields that had surrounded Communist

The fall of the Iron Curtain shows what we can expect for Cuba: A
combination of two of the greatest expansions of legal gaming in the
last 40 years.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the replacement of communism
with capitalism lead to an explosion of casinos throughout Eastern
Europe and Russia.

And the death of the dictator Francisco Franco led to an explosion of
slot machines and other legal gaming throughout Spain.

Although Franco was strongly anti-communist, the comparison with Castro
is apt. The Iberian peninsula and Latin America have a long tradition
of strongmen, "caudilhos" in Portuguese, in Spanish "caudillos." Franco
ruled from 1936 to 1975, and even called himself "Caudillo de España,
por la gracia de Dios;" which Wikipedia translates as "Leader of Spain,
by the grace of God."

Castro has been the caudillo since 1959, first as Prime Minister, then
President and now as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba.
Due to illness, he turned over much of his power to his younger brother
Raúl, on July 31, 2006.

Raúl has shown some independence. He doesn't really have what it takes
to be a caudillo. So he might start true liberalization as soon as the
sickly Fidel, 84 years old, dies. Raúl is 79, so both Castro brothers
will probably be gone within the next 10 years.

The caudillo tradition seems to be coming to an end. The U.S. will drop
its economic embargo when democracy and capitalism come to Cuba, in
whatever form they take. In fact, as we know from Macau, democracy is
not the essential part of the equation. China is still Marxist, but it
is hard to call it communist.

The initial breakthrough will probably take place on cruise ships, with
casinos, returning to the Port of Havana. Initially, gaming will only
be permitted on the high seas. But it is a short step from there to
allowing the casinos to be open while the ships are docked.

Bingo machines are sweeping Latin America. These are often called Class
II. Of course, there is no Class I or Class III, since the categories
were created by, and apply only to, the U.S. Indian Gaming Regulatory
Act. But, it is an easy way to distinguish these gaming devices from
true slot machines, at least for political cover.

True casinos, with true slots and table games, are also common in much
of Central and South America. But even more so in the Caribbean. A
free Cuba will quickly allow casinos to reopen, in high-quality hotels
designed for, and possibly even limited to, tourists.

So, I'm inviting you to G2E-IGE Havana, 2011. Given the consolidation
of every part of the gaming industry, I have taken the liberty of
predicting the merger of the two largest trade shows, the Global Gaming
Expo, now held in Las Vegas, and the International Gaming Expo, in London.

And the conference venue should be magnificent. Castro's Communist
regime may have accidentally contributed something else to the speedy
rebirth of casinos. There has been so little economic progress on the
island, that apparently the ornate buildings constructed in the 1950s to
house the mob's casinos are still standing, waiting to be refurbished
and reopened, under new management.

They Spy on Us, and With Their Own Tools, We Spy on Them

Yoani Sanchez - Award-Winning Cuban Blogger

They Spy on Us, and With Their Own Tools, We Spy on Them
Posted: 10/27/11 05:13 PM ET

How many telephones do you think are listened into by the political
police? I asked a man who once worked for state intelligence and who now
is just one more private citizen. I ventured a three-digit number, a
modest count that provoked gales of laughter across his wrinkled face.
"Up to the mid-90s about 21,000 lines were tapped, and now it must be
double that with the addition of cellphones." Another gentleman
confirmed the number; his work had once been nosing around in other
people's conversations and installing microphones in the homes of
dissidents, state officials and even inconvenient artists. I spent the
day I heard such a bloated number feeling Big Brother's eye on every
tree, in every corner of my house, thinking about the indiscreet ear
stationed in that little gadget with a screen and a keyboard that I
carry in my pocket.

ETECSA, the only phone company in the country, uses its status as a
state monopoly over communications to provide listening services to the
Ministry of the Interior. This is not a delusion of my fevered brain. I
have tried taking apart my phone, even removing the battery and leaving
town; the nervousness of the "shadows" who guard my house is immediately
evident. Sometimes, just to amuse myself -- I freely admit it -- I use
my cellphone to invite several friends to participate in some
presentation of an official book or an event organized by a state
institution. The resulting operation would seem almost comical, if it
weren't for the evidence of the excessive resources -- which should be
contributing to the well-being of the people -- that the government
devotes to such things.

The watchers, however, can also become the watched. ETECSA employees
leaked a data base through the alternative networks with many details
about the country's telephone numbers. Without a doubt a violation of
the discretion any company should exercise over its information about
its clients. But this has served to unmask the phone numbers of those
who watch and denigrate us. From journalists working for the newspaper
Granma, to members of the Central Committee, to senior police officials,
their data appeared with their identity card numbers and even their home
addresses. Brief acronyms show which phones are paid for by government
agencies and which are private. This exposes the official links of many
who call themselves independent. For once, the detailed inventory
they've made on every citizen has served for us to know about "them," to
know that those who are listening on the other end of the line have
names, not just pseudonyms. Now, anyone can call them, send them a
message, something as short and direct as a text saying "Enough already!"

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Our Life / Regina Coyula

Our Life / Regina Coyula
Regina Coyula, Translator: Unstated

A reader of this blog from Portugal was at my house recently. In the
middle of the obligatory coffee she asked me why, since starting to
write about domestic topics and daily life, each time with increasing
frequency, I broached political themes and if that did not cause
problems for me.

I was not aware of the change that my Portuguese friend alerted me to,
so my answer to a topic that I had not noticed would be the same as what
I told her without thinking and after the reflection that followed her

I barely have a social life, so my topics are mostly domestic, reminding
me of a line from Carlos Varela: politics doesn't fit in the sugar bowl,
with the polysemic sense that it doesn't fit because it spills over. The
political theme jumps out at me from the TV or the radio, after a
conversation with acquaintances or strangers, or from something I
stumble across the in the newspaper. Politics has marked our lives, so
it has come to be a domestic issue, ergo, I am writing about my daily life.

October 16 2011

Castro should go: Clinton

Castro should go: Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the United States
remained firm that the Castro regime should end in Cuba, despite
overtures seeking reform on the communist island.

Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban American and
fierce critic of the Castro brothers, told Clinton during a
congressional hearing that the administration had a double-standard
after using force to remove Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi.

"Our position has been the same for more than 50 years. We think Fidel
Castro should go," Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be going anywhere."

The United States first partially imposed an embargo on Cuba in 1960,
just after Fidel Castro's revolution. It remains in force, with most
trade and travel banned to the Caribbean island.

After taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama eased restrictions
on travel and remittances by immediate family members. He has said the
United States is ready to change its tough policy if the communist state
is ready to reform.

Castro, 85, formally ceded power in 2006 to his younger brother Raul due
to health reasons but he has continued in a role as elder statesman.

Despite the absence of diplomatic ties, Clinton said that the United
States maintained contacts with Cuban officials on a range of issues
such as drug trafficking but also engaged ordinary people on the island.

"It is our view that we should help those who are trying to work toward
positive change," Clinton said.

She renewed calls for Cuba to free US contractor Alan Gross, who was
arrested in 2009 and sentenced in March to 15 years in prison.

"It is a gross violation of his human rights and a humanitarian abuse
that he has not been returned to his family and we would like to see
that happen as soon as possible," Clinton said.

Gross was arrested as he distributed cellphones and laptops to members
of the island's Jewish community under a State Department contract. Cuba
charged him with violating the island's "independence or territorial

Varied reactions to Communist Party policy document


Varied reactions to Communist Party policy document

The conference, which has the power to make changes to the party's
Central Committee, comes on the heels of the PCC's Sixth Congress, held
in April.

HAVANA, Cuba, Thursday October 27 (By Patricia Grogg) - The Communist
Party of Cuba (PCC) began a wide process of consultation among its
members this week with a view to an upcoming national conference charged
with charting policies on issues that range from generational renewal
and the internal functioning of the party to dealing with corruption and
other social problems.

Several active party members confirmed to IPS that they were asked to
organise meetings of their local chapters to discuss a document that
will be the focus of the national conference.

The conference is an unprecedented event, although according to the
party's internal rules, a national meeting of this type may be held
between party congresses to address "important matters of party policy."

"I'm going to take my thoughts with me in writing so I won't forget
anything," said a 48-year-old party member, who declined to be
identified. "One of the ideas I will raise is that the party should
outline a more concrete policy on youth, and create the conditions that
can satisfy the aspirations of so many young people in the country who
are emigrating in search of better prospects," she said.

The conference, which has the power to make changes to the party's
Central Committee, comes on the heels of the PCC's Sixth Congress, held
in April, which focused on defining the course and depth of reforms now
underway, described by authorities as the "updating" of the country's
economic model. A key objective of the upcoming conference, therefore,
is to determine the changes needed to be able to ensure that the PCC –
the country's only political party, which has some 800,000 members out
of a total population of 11.2 million – is able to live up to the
demands of the current circumstances.

According to President Raúl Castro, this means leaving behind a
mentality tied to "dogma and obsolete points of view."

Discussions at the conference, to be held on Jan. 28, 2012, will
concentrate on a 97-point central document, which has been in public
circulation since last week, both in printed tabloid form and on the
government website Cubadebate.

The economic and social policy guidelines debated at the April congress
were also widely circulated prior to that event. Unlike that document,
however, which was submitted for mass debate in assemblies and meetings
involving more than eight million people, the conference document will
be formally discussed only by PCC members, the Young Communist League
(UJC) and mass organisations "on all different levels," according to
official announcements.

The draft document has sparked different reactions among party members
interviewed by IPS. For some, "it doesn't say anything new," while
others say it is poor and does not contain any core concepts or lines of
work. Nor does it expressly mention key issues for party functioning,
such as the "dysfunctionality" that exists between the party, government
and State. In his central report to the Sixth Congress, President Castro
said that one pending problem is the confusion of tasks and functions
among those three powers, manifested in the "weakening of political
work" by the party and the "deterioration" of government and State

The conference agenda devotes several points to the strategic
generational change in key political and government posts, and makes
proposals such as ensuring that leaders have "solid professional and
technical training," in addition to ethical, political and ideological
qualities. It also proposes term limits based on time and age, including
a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms for political and State
offices, which would also cover the president of the councils of State
and Ministers.

On social questions, some of those who talked to IPS said they expected
"more," expressing a certain amount of disappointment.

"I think mention of the race issue is weak," said Tato Quiñones of the
Cofradía de la Negritud (CONEG), an association of black people aimed at
raising awareness about racial issues. "Maybe it is not given enough
importance, or perhaps we put too much of a priority on it, but we
believe that it is a very important issue that should be discussed
seriously," he said. CONEG, which promotes periodic debates at the
community level on the persistence of inequality and discrimination
based on skin colour, is one of the groups that hope the national party
conference will analyse the race question in depth, and will produce a
working programme to address the issue.

"I agree that the issue should be mentioned more strongly in the
document, but there is material for debate," Esteban Morales, a leading
researcher on race relations in Cuba, told IPS. "I think it is a
conceptual document, and that modifications will emerge out of the
consultations." In any case, the text clearly expresses that the PCC
proposes "dealing with prejudice based on race, gender, religious
beliefs, sexual orientation and others…that can limit the exercise of
people's rights, such as holding public office and participating in
political and mass organisations."

It also emphasises a determination to deal with gender-based and
domestic violence and violence in the community. According to experts,
the abuse of women is an issue that has been silenced for decades, and
changing that situation requires political will and a multisectoral

The conference document also says it is necessary to step up efforts to
deal with the causes and conditions that generate "social indiscipline,"
"illegality," corruption and other phenomena that, together with
bureaucracy and negligence, "are undermining the foundations" of Cuban
society. In that sense, the PCC proposes stronger actions to prevent and
deal with these problems.

In 2009, the president created a special Comptroller General's Office to
audit and investigate public companies. Headed by Gladys Bejerano, vice
president of the Council of State, the Office was tasked with exercising
closer scrutiny and taking direct action in response to any sign of

Since then, several dozen officials and executives of Cuban companies
and joint ventures with foreign firms have been tried and convicted in
corruption cases, including a former minister, a former vice minister
and at least three foreign business executives.

More recent cases involve the communications sector and at least three
foreign companies with investments in Cuba, which are also subject to
investigation. No official information on the cases is available, and
the state-controlled media has not reported on them.

9 Cubans found on beach after 11 days at sea

Posted on Wednesday, 10.26.11

9 Cubans found on beach after 11 days at sea
The Associated Press

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. -- U.S. Border Patrol authorities have taken nine
people, reportedly from Cuba, into custody after they came ashore on a
beach in South Florida.

Agent John Modlin told the Palm Beach Post ( the
group spent 11 days at sea on a raft and were found in Boynton Beach
early Wednesday morning. The group included eight men and one woman. All
were taken the hospital for dehydration and other non-life threatening
injuries and later detained.

Authorities are in the process of seizing the raft.

Under the U.S. Cuban Adjustment Act, most Cubans who reach U.S. soil are
allowed to stay.

Critical vacancy atop Cuba’s army

Posted on Wednesday, 10.26.11

Critical vacancy atop Cuba's army

The strongest and most essential institution in Raúl Castro's government
has been without a leader since Sept. 3 when three star general Julio
Casas died unexpectedly. Nearly eight weeks later the vacancy in the
revolutionary armed forces ministry suggests that the leadership is in a
quandary about who should fill it.

Beginning in October 1959 when Raúl assumed command of the military, he
and Casas were its only chiefs. The younger Castro reigned until
February 2008, later boasting in a remarkable flourish during an
interview that he had been the longest serving defense minister in human

His faithful crony Casas, who fought with him in the late 1950s
guerrilla struggle, succeeded as minister when Raúl officially took over
the presidency. But now Raúl must elevate another man to the only job in
Cuba where viable challenges to his supremacy could originate. There
have been just two known instances of severe disenchantment in the armed
forces, and both were dealt with by the Castro brothers with cruelty and

In late 1959 the courageous Huber Matos, one of the most respected
veterans of the insurgency, was imprisoned on Fidel's orders by a
kangaroo court. Thirty years later, during the summer of crisis in the
Soviet bloc, General Arnaldo Ochoa, then the most accomplished and
popular military commander, was executed on trumped up charges. In both
cases, the offenders had lost confidence in the Castros' dictatorship
and sought liberalizing change.

If absolute loyalty to the regime were the only requirement for filling
the defense post, several candidates could be relied on. Three-star
generals and vice ministers Leopoldo Cintra Frías and Ramón Espinosa
Martín, both in their early 70s, certainly qualify. They served
dependably, if unimaginatively, as commanders of Cuba's two most
powerful regional armies and sit on the Communist Party Politburo.

Cintra Frias ran the strategically important Western Army, headquartered
in Havana, from 1991 until 2009. He has the seniority, but is not one of
Raúl's favorites and has not been identified as acting minister. That he
was not present on October 3 when Raúl met with a visiting military
delegation from Angola may indicate that he is actually out of the running.

Interior minister, Politburo member, and three-star general Abelardo
Colomé Ibarra is closer to Raúl than any other officer, and would be
unquestionably loyal. But his health is reported by many sources to be
in serious decline. Nonetheless, he could prove to be the ideal place

Only two other three-star generals are currently on active duty, just
one of whom is sufficiently close to Raúl to be a serious candidate.
Army chief of staff Alvaro Lopez Miera is said to be like a second son
to Raúl. As a 14-year-old, he went up into the eastern sierra to fight
with Raúl's forces, but was considered too young to take up arms and was
assigned to teach local peasants instead. Now in his late 60s, Lopez is
the youngest of the contenders in an armed force dominated by elderly

Seventy-nine year-old Ramiro Valdes has the requisite experience
managing the armed forces' extensive for-profit enterprises, especially
in electronics and communications, and therefore must be considered a
dark horse candidate. He served two tours as minister of interior, sits
on the party Politburo and the Council of State, and is generally
regarded now as third in the line of succession. But he has been a
perennial rival to Raúl and is not trusted by the senior military
establishment. His appointment would likely open many old wounds.

In short, there is really no one among the candidates who meets all of
Raul's criteria. As Cuba's only four-star general, he will continue as
the country's highest ranking military officer, but, at 80 years of age,
he is too old and preoccupied with righting the precarious economy to
manage day-to-day ministry affairs. He has undoubtedly been busy since
Casas' death consulting with his top generals, trying to forge a
consensus, and demanding their loyalty amid the unanticipated new
uncertainties this decision poses for him.

Raúl is all too aware that the man he chooses as Cuba's next defense
minister will instantly become the second most powerful leader on the
island. That succession, therefore, is nearly as important as the
presidency. Whoever it is Raúl ultimately selects could easily be the
man who will lead post-Castro Cuba into a new era.

Brian Latell is a senior research associate at the Institute of Cuba and
Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami and a former National
Intelligence Officer for Latin America at the Central Intelligence Agency.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Higher Education / Fernando Dámaso

Higher Education / Fernando Dámaso
Fernando Dámaso, Translator: Unstated

Next I am transcribing, textually, some of the statements from the
current maximum Cuban authority of Higher Education (universities) that
recently appeared in the official press: insufficient
ideological-political and integral preparation of professors and
students, limited commitment to studies, low academic efficiency and
urgency to be pertinent to develop investigations with social and
scientific impact; emphasis on the training of competent professionals,
committed to the Revolution and the university; counting on a
revolutionary group, of excellence , is a key element. Another political
authority stated: to make irreversible, the little word appeared already
– the universalization of Higher Education. Just as a sample it is

One could as: What is more important? Political-ideological education or
teaching? Are we going to continue with the absurd and
anti-constitutional principal that the university is only for
revolutionaries? With the greatest of respect for these authorities,
certainly more political than educational, it would be useful to
remember that higher education, or university, serves, first and
foremost, to prepare highly qualified professionals, regardless of their
ideological, political, religious, sexual, sports, gastronomic etc.
preferences, according to the needs of the country. At least, in Cuba,
it was always this way: As the rich history of the University of Havana
shows, where students from all backgrounds were prepared, who played an
active role in it, and later became respected professionals who with
their talent and work helped the development of the nation and its many
achievements in various fields. Universities and university students
have a beautiful history, that doesn't deserve to be overshadowed by
cyclical intolerances, which negate precisely what a university should
be: an open furnace of universal thought.

It's worth pointing out that higher education, or the modern university,
independent of the many resources invested in it and in the increase of
its branches, (in many cases converting simple schools or faculties into
universities, that once formed part of a single institution), has its
foundations in the education system existing during the republic. As in
health, education was also well rewarded and the trunk had deep roots
and grew healthily. Here, nobody created anything from scratch, as is
often claimed.

Some pre-Revolution facts: 3.8 university students per 1,000 inhabitants
(first place together with Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico); 75.8 million
pesos to Education and Culture (22.3% of annual budget expenditures
compared to Latin America, only surpassed in the eighties by some
countries like Costa Rica, Ecuador, etc.); 23.6% illiteracy (second
lowest rates in all of Latin America, and not currently achieved by many
countries); the educational system consisted of about 20,000 teachers,
all with Normal School or College degrees since 1940; exporting
textbooks worth 10 million dollars annually. As is easy to see, no one
plow any desert or anything.

Today, after having left behind, apparently, the idealism that they were
all college -more to compete with someone that country's real needs-(a
lot of college graduates universities — more to compete with someone
than to meet the real needs of the country — (a great number of
graduates don't practice the professions for which they were educated,
we find architects performing as artisans, industrial engineers as tour
guides or waiters, nuclear engineers driving taxis, etc.).

Higher or university education should focus on developing good
professionals, capable of restoring a nation in poverty through their
well-paid jobs, who don't have to migrate to another country in order to
practice their professions. In short, so much political and ideological
education for over fifty years, has not been very useful, as students,
intelligently, have worn the masks of the widespread double standards,
so as to seem to be one thing during their studies and another after
graduation. It is a reality that only those who don't want see it, can't

July 26 2011

Climate of Utmost Trust / Reinaldo Escobar

Climate of Utmost Trust / Reinaldo Escobar
Reinaldo Escobar, Translator: Unstated

"1.8 …a climate of utmost trust should be encouraged and the necessary
conditions created at all levels for the widest and honest exchange of
opinions, both within the Party an in its relations with the workers and
the people. This would allow, in a framework of respect and commitment,
the expression of ideas and diverse concepts, in a way that
disagreements are assumed to be a normal thing."

Taken from the base document of the First Cuban Communist Part Congress.

On this point I have more questions that opinions. Here are some of them:

Does this climate of utmost trust refer exclusively to the relations
that the Communist Party establishes (a) among its militants, (b) in its
relations with the workers and the people?

Does the widest and honest exchange of opinions include the political
opinions of others or those adverse to the ideology of the Communist Party?

It is understood that this must happen in a framework of respect, but
what does a framework of commitment signify?

Can the expression of diverse concepts happen through the mass media?

Will "spontaneous reprisals" be prohibited, such as the repudiation
rallies directed against those who express in the streets and in a
peaceful way their disagreement with the politics of the Communist Party?

Will official reprisals be ended, such as arbitrary arrests, preventing
people from entering public places, home arrests, kidnappings, forced
interrogations, denial of permission to leave the country, false
accusations and public disgrace with no right to respond, the control of
technological and communications media, the confiscation of literature,
wiretapping, surveillance, harassment and other oppressive activities
practiced daily against those who don't want to wait to be given
permission to be honest?

25 October 2011