Friday, August 31, 2012

The Mediocre Cuban National Assembly

The Mediocre "Cuban National Assembly" / Angel Santiesteban
Angel Santiesteban, Translator: Unstated

It's sad to see the "deputies" applauding every stupidity that
originates in the puppet theater, and how many respectable, and some
admired figures — very few are left — are unaware that history will
remember them as accomplices to the Totalitarian Government.

Not to be forgotten is the consistent attitude maintained by the painter
Pedro Pablo Oliva, who was expelled because of his personal opinions
from the "Assembly," where the people had put him, where one is supposed
to repeat the institutional unlikely tongue twister they present as
"democratic socialism." In reprisal they seized and closed his Home
Workshop, a response of the dictatorship so that those
"parliamentarians" won't forget that here there is no democracy, only
absolute obedience to the whims of the Castro brothers.

The truth is that at the last meeting of the "delegated representatives
of the people", the artist Kcho, (or perhaps his intentions were to
venture into the humor and therefore I didn't understood what he said),
asked something stupid that I won't venture to repeat again, and until
that time he had been acceptable, because everyone's opinion has worth,
that is the teaching that they themselves have not learned.

The sad, dramatic, the unacceptable, is what the other "lawmakers" will
give a standing ovation to, rising to their feet, as a way of shouting
to the world "we are stupid and all of us are incapable of having
individual opinions," because you can't conceive that there are so many
cowards together, that no one has the courage to confront the slanders
they perpetrate there behind the backs and against the people,
forgetting that their names will be part of the disrepute and history
will not forgive them.

The meetings of the "National Assembly of Cuba", have become a place of
sleep and overall apathy. We can see this simply observing what happens
when the television cameras pan over those stale faces, struggling not
to make their lethargy obvious, faces awakened only by the applause of
some "parliamentary pilots" whose job is to warn them when they should
be clapping or raising their hands in the unanimous vote that so shames
us, and which is the living proof of the lack of individual thought in
those instances.

Apparently we will have to continue to live with such "councilors", only
Fidel, Raul Castro and God, know why and what they are there for, but
what most Cubans do know is that they are never going to benefit the
people they claim to represent.

August 30 2012

Complicated Pathways

Complicated Pathways / Fernando Damaso
Fernando Damaso

A citizen decides to solve the housing problem of his daughter and
grandchildren by deeding her the roof of his house so she can build on
top of it. He begins by submitting an application to the Ministry of
Housing, but they first require a report from the city architect and a
permit from Physical Planning. He has made attempts to do this, but he
has been waiting for the document from the architect for a month, and
more than six months for the one from Physical Planning. Thus far
nothing has happened.

In spite of having delivered the products they were contracted to
provide, the workers of an agricultural production cooperative do not
receive money owed to them since 2009 from a farm belonging to the same
cooperative. All their demands for payment are unsuccessful.

Another citizen, who was a victim of a flood caused by a storm in 1996,
is given a house in 2002. Ten years later, in spite of having completed
all the applications, he still has not been able to obtain title to his

A third citizen goes to Immigration to submit an application They
require that she first present an original birth certificate. She can
only request one at a time from the Civil Registry Office, and must wait
fifteen days for delivery. When she goes back with the original
certificate, they tell her they do not accept copies.

These accounts are not fictional. They are actual cases selected at
random. The questions that arise are: Have they crippled the legal
application process for citizens, and why is obtaining a document so
burdensome? Where is the so-called rationalization of these services?

The governmental bureaucracy exists in all state agencies. They provide
fertile ground for it to take root and grow. This is not the case in
private, service-oriented businesses because, in a competitive world,
this would lead to bankruptcy. Instead, administrative staffs are small
and function efficiently. On the other hand, under socialism—with its
massive and inefficient administrations—this adverse phenomenon finds
its fullest expression. This is understandable. Since everything belongs
to the state, these are the"power centers" that give it a feeling of
importance. In spite of the laws, regulations, directives and
resolutions drafted by the nation's top leaders to combat it, the
bureaucracy continuesusing its weaponryto resist efforts to displace it.
What would become of it if this were to happen?

The only effective way to confront it is to reduce the number of
agencies from which it operates, simplifying the application process to
essentials and eliminating unnecessary paperwork. It is also vital to
abandon the obsolete and absurd politics of control, which in fact
control absolutely nothing and hinder everything. Until this happens,
the bureaucracy will continue demanding respect while citizens pay the
price in lost time and money, as well as in mistreatment and added

August 30 2012

The Beginning of the End of Cuba’s Dual Currency? (I)

The Beginning of the End of Cuba's Dual Currency? (I)
August 31, 2012
Dmitri Prieto

HAVANA TIMES — A few days ago I was surprised by a sign posted in a
chopin (a hard-currency store) in my neighborhood. It was located right
next to the register (as well as next to the store entrance, as I
realized later).

It's a truism that two currencies circulate in Cuba.

Perhaps the most pathetic corollary of this fact is that the dual
currency — more than representing inequality with regard to the access
to foreign currency (generated from remittances, tourism, the mixed
sector, work contracts and travel abroad) — conceals rampant income

While it's possible to purchase convertible pesos with national currency
pesos, the true complication is being able to get enough money (either
in convertible pesos or "national" pesos) to meet one's personal or
family needs (whether basic or not).

The poster in question announced that people holding RED system magnetic
debit cards could use these in that chopin to pay for purchases in local
currency, of course at the officially established exchange rate.

The RED system operates for three Cuban banks (Banco Popular de Ahorro,
Credito y Comercio, and Banco Metropolitano), which issue debit cards
for accounts into which the wages of Cuban workers in some sectors are
deposited (with these salaries being paid in local currency, of course).

There still aren't many ATMs in Cuba, and very few stores have terminals
where you can use those debit cards in local currency* (actually, I
don't recall having seen any).

So I was surprised by that poster in the store. In addition to expanding
the use of these cards, it threatens to break one of our "psychological
barriers," one that is even more rooted in the Cuban system today.

This barrier is the tacit acknowledgment that there exists the
possibility of buying goods in a chopin with the "money from one's
wages" (of course, only if you have a RED card).
* Magnetic cards are not always viewed as "conveniences," because the
vast majority of products and services are paid for in cash, and these
debit card holders often have to wait in long lines to withdraw their money.

Buying Soda Pop in Cuba

Buying Soda Pop in Cuba
August 31, 2012
Luis Miguel de Bahia

HAVANA TIMES — I learned that soda was on sale and went looking for a
bottle. As my turn in line was coming up to buy it, I heard a woman in
front of me ask for 20 large plastic bottles to be filled.

The dispenser, which had been there for a while, couldn't have been
holding too much more. Therefore everybody started protesting, including
one person who chewed out the voracious woman.

However, she replied, "Pop isn't rationed; its sale is unrestricted,"
demonstrating herself to be a person who didn't care about anyone else.

Her argument was correct, but it's also true that we need to have some
degree of ethics. If there wasn't enough for everybody, she should have
bought less and given others a chance.

Hoarding is one of those problems that arise when sales are unrestricted
but there's not enough to go around.

How can these two legitimate but conflicting concerns be resolved?

On the one hand there's the right to purchase, but on the other there's
the unpleasantness of there not being enough.

Public intervention is often the solution adopted in Cuba, rationing the
free trade of items.

Even the public authorities are tied by an insoluble contradiction: the
combination of elements of market economics with the characteristics of
the Third World and of Cuban socialism.

The denying of consumerism, as an extreme desire on the part of the
state, is to deny free trade.

You can't tell a person: "Buy however much you want…but hey, you can't
buy it all!"

But nor can we legitimize unrestricted consumption within the logic of
socialism, even when industrial production would allow it.

However it's impossible to ration everything given that freedom — and
within this business — is a part of our culture.

In the end, I was one of the lucky ones who was able to get some soda,
though it turned out to be pretty bitter, but that was due more to the
lack of ethics on the part of some people than it was owing to the
contradictions of the system.

Cuba reports mixed results of labor reform

Cuba reports mixed results of labor reform
Fri Aug 31, 2012 4:09am IST

* More than 350,000 join "non-state" sector
* Unemployment nearly doubles since 2009
* Wages show little improvement
By Marc Frank

HAVANA, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Communist-run Cuba's five-year plan to cut
more than a million state j obs, create a strong "non-state sector" and
improve wages has made only limited progress, according to a government
report released this week.

Authorities announced the shift of state workers to private and leased
small businesses and farming in late 2009 as the core of a broader
reform of the state-dominated economy that employed 90 percent of the

Authorities want to streamline the state and pull it out of secondary e
conomic activity in order to focus on improving the efficiency of larger
state-run companies and the wages they pay employees.

The report, "Workforce and Salaries," revealed some progress in
self-employment, often a euphemism for small businesses and their
employees, and cutting bureaucratic jobs, but little improvement in
wages. ()

The report said there were 5 million people employed in 2011, similar to
2009, while unemployment rose from 86,000 to 164,000.

Of those working, 391,500 were self-employed in 2011, compared with
147,400 in 2009, when the government loosened regulations on small

More than 170,000 individuals have also taken advantage of a land lease
program begun in 2008, the government recently reported.

There was some significant progress reported in trimming the
bureaucracy. The number of "directors" fell from 380,000 in 2009 to
249,000 in 2011.

But if the shift from state to non-state employment is aimed in part at
improving state wages and thus performance, to date the plan has failed.

The average monthly wage increased from 429 pesos in 2009 to 455 in
20l1, the equivalent of just over a dollar based on the official
exchange rate of 25 to 1, no t nearly enough to stimulate productivity.

The government reported food prices alone increased 20 percent in 2011.

Cubans spend most of their wages on food, as health and education are
free, few pay rents or mortgages, there is no insurance, and few pay
income and property taxes.

Cuba: Private employment now 22 percent of jobs

Posted on Thursday, 08.30.12

Cuba: Private employment now 22 percent of jobs
The Associated Press

HAVANA -- Twenty-two percent of Cuban workers were employed in
non-governmental jobs last year, up from 16 percent in 2010, according
to statistics released Thursday.

The increase in non-state jobs was most noticeable in agricultural
cooperatives and in self-employment, both areas that are growing because
of economic reforms that aim to ultimately slash state payrolls by as
much as 1 million.

In a report posted on its website, Cuba's National Office of Statistics
said the island had a total workforce of 5 million last year. Of those,
1.1 million were not employed by the state. Instead they were private
entrepreneurs, worked for the burgeoning class of private small
businesses or were part of independent cooperatives.

That compares with 2010, when just 801,000 of Cuba's 4.9 million workers
did not work for the government.

That year, President Raul Castro announced his intention to slim down
government and expand private economic activity to absorb layoffs.
Authorities relaxed rules on private businesses, approved a number of
new areas where Cubans can seek licenses to work independently and
increasingly began handing over fallow state-owned land to independent
farmers and cooperatives.

The only cooperatives currently operating in Cuba are in agriculture,
but the government has announced plans to begin experimenting with urban
cooperatives in areas such as construction and transportation by year's end.

Vice President Esteban Lazo recently said Cuba hopes to have 40 percent
of the economy under non-governmental control in the coming years.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just Decision, Complex Execution

Just Decision, Complex Execution / Fernando Damaso
Fernando Damaso, Translator: Unstated

An article about so-called "subsidies"—recently approved to help
families who have housing problems, lack financial resources and are
willing to rebuild or make repairs themselves —raises some questions.
The article deals only with Pinar del Río, one of the provinces most
affected in recent years by hurricanes that have passed through the
nation's frontiers.

It is reported that 12 million pesos have been budgeted, from which 357
families have benefitted so far, 133 repair or constructions projects
have begun, and 231 people have acquired building materials at the point
of sale. Of 952 subsidy applications, 357 have been approved (as
previously mentioned) and 328 are being processed. This suggests that
the remaining 252 have been denied, or are not being processed. So far,
everything seems clear.

The first question arises over the report that more than 22,000 homes
have been affected by hurricanes over the last decade. Assuming that 952
applications are approved (something very difficult to accomplish), that
would leave 21,048 affected homes without coverage. In black and white
terms this would mean that, if 952 cases were resolved this year, it
would take an additional 21 years to resolve the rest. This assumes that
there is no additional damage from future hurricanes.

Since this is an "orderly process" (which to me means lengthy and slow)
and there is "rigorous control from the point of sale to completion,"
according to the official interviewed, this suggests that the subsidy
recipient must not only do the actual work, he must also accept the fact
that bureaucrats from the various organizations involved in the process
will control his every move. As if this were not enough, it is reported
that "money from the subsidy may not be used to cover the costs of
transporting building materials." This raises another question. Is he
supposed to carry the cement, concrete, iron rebar, etc. on his back and
those of his friends and family?

When those who draft regulations know absolutely nothing about what they
are regulating, these sorts of inconsistencies occur. Wouldn't it be
easier, after analyzing and approving each application, to hand the
subsidy over to the beneficiary and let him—the person most concerned
with solving his housing problem—use it as he sees fit without pointless
interference? Would it cost so much to stop wanting to control everything?

Someone might point out that this is not the only way to solve the
housing problem, that there are also bank loans. That is true, but just
try to apply for one and you will see the vía crucis that awaits you,
assuming you can even get it. I think the decision to grant subsidies is
a just one, but if the bureaucratic impediments that currently accompany
them are not removed, it is a program that will fail without
accomplishing its objectives.

August 27 2012

Alea jacta est — The die is cast

Alea jacta est — The die is cast / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo
Vallin Almeida
Cuban Law Association, Translator: Unstated, Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

Oswaldo Payá has died and, despite his death, his enemies don't hesitate
to throw dirt on his corpse and present him as a reprobate.

Whether his death is the result of an accident or of a machination, it's
clear for those of us who knew him, the class of person he was, and that
up to now his Varela Project has been the only one with the virtue of
having shaken the government to its foundations.

In the Republic of Cuba sovereignty resides in the people from whom
originates all the power of the State, says article three of the
Constitution in force in the country.

Faced with the almost twenty-five thousand signatures that Payá
presented, our government of 54 years felt itself in danger, because
these signatures represented a fraction of that sovereignty.

And now, again, that sovereignty is standing up to raise another
petition, also covered in article 63 of the Supreme Law, only on this
opportunity this new request is called the Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights of the United Nations.

The promoters of this campaign are demanding: given that the government
offered a first signature in this direction, it should ratify these
important documents of the international community and even the Optional
Protocols, because only in this way is the government going to offer a
serious manifestation of its will to change.

But what will happen if the organizers of this new campaign manage to
collect 100,000 signatures in support of their petition that the
government ratify these Pacts that they signed in 2008 in the city of
New York?

Will the government refuse to respond publicly before such a great
manifestation of the popular will?

Will it say that these signatures should be "authenticated by a notary"?

Will it adopt the position of Libya or Syria charging that the signers
are "paid from abroad" to destabilize the "socialist" government?

Will it persecute and imprison the activists of this new citizen request
like it did the 75, alleging a new media campaign against the Cuban
people by its "eternal" enemy?

Cuba is a member of the U.N. We suppose, therefore, that its government
is in agreement with with the universal principles and tenets of the
Organization and does not repress those who support these same criteria.
But in the current national reality, anything is possible.

The disenchantment of the nation is obvious as much as they want to hide
this reality; on the one hand the current leaders do not appear disposed
to any dialog with their opposition while the country collapses before
our eyes, and not only its buildings when it rains a little. On the
other hand, the promoters of this new popular motion appear disposed to
assume their civic responsibility to its ultimate consequences.

If I'm not mistaken in my views, then, for Cuba, Alea jacta est (the die
is cast).

Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

August 30 2012

From Kerosene to Electricity

From Kerosene to Electricity / Yoani Sanchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sanchez

Fidel shows Cuban women how to use a pressure cooker during the 2005
"Emergy Revolution". Source:

The kitchen no longer smells of kerosene, nor are the walls black with
soot, nor is alcohol needed to "warm up" the stove. The tenement no
longer wakes up with the noise of the air valve stoking the fire, and
the lady's allergies are not set off by the stench of burning. The
little window no longer vents a gray smoke, and the food doesn't have
that faint taste of fuel. She no longer fears falling asleep and having
the flames crawl through the wooden door. Now, no…

Now the problem is the electricity bill. The rice cooker that they gave
out five years ago and that has had to be repaired dozens of time. The
stove that was handed out in those days of the so-called Energy
Revolution which seems to voraciously swallow kilobytes. The Chinese
refrigerator — a replacement given out for the old Frigidaires — which
spends more hours thawing than freezing. In short, now her great concern
arises from the excessive bill with the blue numbers that they slip
under her door.

If, before, she spent her day in search of fuel, now her pension goes to
the high costs of electricity. Using the stove and water heater at least
three times a week, means she now has to allocate 80% of her retirement
to pay for energy. It's gone from one distressing difficulty to another
desperate one. Che changes a ceiling covered in soot for several days a
month with no electricity because she can't pay for it. Before she could
complain, swear, scream at the stove, howl to the four winds because the
damn burner wears her out. Now, no. Because it's all been "the
Comandante's idea," the "Comandante's program."

29 August 2012

In Truth

In Truth / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallin Almeida
Cuban Law Association, Translator: Unstated, Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

For a moment I thought it would pass without incident, that the funeral
procession would arrive without mishap to the Columbus Cemetery and the
remains of the winner of the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights, Oswaldo
Paya Sardinas, would be laid to rest in peace.

From my place in the long line of vehicles, perhaps because we had 16
or 17in the column, we noticed that something happened at the head of
the line, which stopped without those in the back knowing exactly
happened. Several minutes later the march was resumed.

Upon arriving at the cemetery and realizing the absence of Antonio
Rodiles, director of Estado de SATS and friends traveling with him, I
inquired about them. So I knew what had happened: a great fight in
Calzada del Cerro, with the violent intervention of the police with
fists and truncheons, and the arrest of about fifty people, all
opponents of the regime, and put in a bus belonging to the Armed Forces,
that just happened to be there, they were taken to police unit Tarara.

Once back in my house, I prepared to go in search of the missing, when
Antonio's mother called and told me that, apparently, he and other
friends were detained at the Fourth Police Station at Infanta and
Manglar in neighborhood of Cerro. I told them I would meet her and her
husband, already there.

Again we started to run up against those who say the country's laws, the
members of the Department of State Security.

On reaching the station of the People's Revolutionary Police (PNR), no
one outside yet knew what was going on. I decided to find out if Antonio
and other friends were really there. I talked to the duty officer, with
a rank of Major. He looked for a paper he had and told me THESE PEOPLE

I then told him they could have been brought to this police station by
State Security Agents. He made a call. After hanging up he confirmed to
me that yes, they were detained there.

The reasons why the political police had brought many of the arrested to
the national police stations instead of taking them to one of their own
facilities, are not very obvious, although there are many versions. What
is clear to us is that Article 244 of the Criminal Procedure Act provides:

Upon the arrest of any person a written report to record the time, date
and reason for detention as well as any other particular of interest
shall be prepared. The report will be signed by those acting and the

When, about ten o'clock at night, the independent journalist Julio
Aleaga was released, we learned they never filled out an Act of
Detention. Nor was this done with Ailer González Mena or many other

When they did it, in the morning for Antonio Rodiles, the Act of
Detention tried to justify the arrest as "in the interest of CI"

I could be wrong, but I think this latter was due to our having already
pointed out to the PNR and State Security officials with whom we spoke
precisely about the absence of such Acts, making the arrests illegal and
saying that the detainees should be released immediately.

From the beginning there were two things that were obvious to all of us
citizens who met in front of the police station in solidarity with the

1) That the PNR of that station was not very pleased with what happened
there. The treatment of its officers toward us was measured, correct,
without being overbearing, never disrespectful and tried all the time to
find a solutions that was, as far as possible, without violence and in a
negotiating framework.

We can not say the same for the State Security agents involved.

2) The level at which decisions were made regarding what happened there
was always elsewhere, much higher, and where the regulations established
in a simple little article of the Criminal Procedure Act do not seem to
have, in truth, any relevance.

August 24 2012

Namibia: Cuban Engineering Degrees 'Useless'

Namibia: Cuban Engineering Degrees 'Useless'
Tagged: Business, Labour, Namibia, Southern Africa
By Selma Shipanga, 30 August 2012

NAMIBIAN engineering graduates with qualifications from Cuban
universities say they are struggling to register with the Engineering
Council of Namibia (ECN) because their qualifications apparently do not
meet the required standards.

The graduates, whose six-year study courses in Cuba were paid for by the
Ministry of Education, say they have been unable to get jobs because
employers require them to be registered with the ECN.

The ECN is the statutory body which regulates the engineering profession.

The graduates all have bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering and
have been back in Namibia since last April. Some are only temporarily
employed, while others are jobless.

The graduates told The Namibian that they were informed by the ECN that
their qualifications were unknown and had to be assessed first.

Such assessments by the ECN are based on the ECN Standards which have
been developed to ensure conformity with the requirements of the
Washington Accord, Sydney Accord and Dublin Accord in all three
registration categories. These standards have also been endorsed by the
Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA). Registration is a two-part
process and is based on academic qualification and practical experience.

The ECN has since told the graduates that their qualification "does not
meet the standards for professional degrees in engineering".

In email correspondence with one of the graduates, Fillipus Nandiinotya,
the ECN informed him that "the outcome of the assessment has found that
your qualification has some major shortcomings in several core parts of
an engineering education and does not meet the requirements for
registration as an engineer in training."

The same is the case for Johannes Kauko Penda Negonga, Erikson
Nghiitwikwa and Johannes Hifikepunje Kandjungulume.

The graduates said when they decided to go and study engineering in Cuba
six years ago, it was in response to the Namibian government's call for
more qualified engineers and its promises of jobs upon their return.

The government recently recruited 15 expatriates from Zimbabwe in the
fields of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, quantity
surveying and architecture.

The Cuban graduates call this move "a slap in the face", saying that
they are disappointed in a government that called on them to go and
study for six years, but then turned around and gave jobs to Zimbabwean

The government is said to be struggling to implement capital projects
because of a lack of skilled professionals.

"Obviously I feel bad, irritated and victimised by circumstances that I
have no control over. These delays for registering are delaying
everything in our lives. We can't get any proper or permanent jobs
because the employers are asking for the engineer-in-training
registration proof and we don't have that. We keep telling the employers
we are working on that until they are fed up and kick us out," said

The ECN last week told The Namibian that it needed time to answer
questions submitted to it.

The questions included what the reason is for the delay, what
engineering graduates need to do to get registered, and whether the same
problems are faced by graduates who studied in countries other than Cuba.

Cuba won't allow refugee’s son to come to Canada

Cuba won't allow refugee's son to come to Canada
CBC News
Posted: Aug 29, 2012 4:23 PM NT
Last Updated: Aug 29, 2012 5:44 PM NT

While many Canadians' image of Cuba includes sandy beaches and tropical
drinks, one St. John's resident paints a very different picture.

Yadier Perez Leon arrived two years ago after escaping his native Cuba
by boat. It was a harrowing journey, during which the craft ran out of
gas, leaving them stranded on an island for two weeks.

They eventually landed in Florida, after being discovered by the US
Coast Guard. After months of bureaucratic processing, Canadian officials
approved him as a refugee in February.

Now Leon wants his 5 year-old son to join him.

As a refugee, he has one year to bring relatives to Canada. But Cuban
officials are making it tough. Despite repeated dealings with the consul
in Montreal, the government there won't allow the boy to leave.

Leon says their resistance stems from a long-standing grudge.

During the communist revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959, people had
their property taken away. Leon's grandfather owned a large farm and a
lot of livestock, all of which was seized. His family continued to
express disagreement about this over the years.

According to Leon, the Cuban government can make life difficult for
those who show dissent.

Several years ago, the island nation was struck by a hurricane. While
other residents received government assistance to rebuild, his mother
did not. Leon was incapacitated at the time, following a bad motorcycle
accident, and was unable to help.

Discouraged and bedridden, it was then that he made the decision to leave.

"I say, 'Okay, Yadier, you need to get out (of) the bed, make yourself
strong,'" said Leon, who is now learning to speak English in St. John's.
"You need (to) go outside this country because you don't have too much
time in the life. In this country, you don't have any opportunity."

Now Leon wants the same opportunity for his son.

"This boy, my little son need me, the only father he have," said Leon,
whose wife died only two days after giving birth to their child. "And I
need him."

He hopes getting the word out will help resolve the situation.

"Please, call everyone in the world, everyone in this country," said
Leon. "Everyone hear this situation, help me for my son stay with me as
soon as possible."

Key Biscayne club seeks place for salvaged refugee boat

Posted on Tuesday, 08.28.12

Key Biscayne club seeks place for salvaged refugee boat

Weeks ago, an unmanned Cuban refugee boat arrived at the Key Biscayne
Yacht Club. Now, its members are trying to find a new home for what they
feel is a perfect symbol of freedom.

Not many things happen unexpectedly at the normally tranquil Key
Biscayne Yacht Club.

But on a Thursday in late June, a dock worker suddenly spotted a boat in
the waters that he wasn't waiting for.

"At first I thought somebody was fishing," recalled dockmaster assistant
Mario Rodriguez Cabrera. "But after a while things started to feel odd."

Covered in blue vinyl and shaped like a pontoon, the 19-foot vessel was
floating unmanned towards the fancy yachts.

Turned out, it was a refugee boat, and club members think it may have
drifted up from the Keys.

How many migrants it actually transported and what happened to them, no
one could say.

Diapers left behind suggested at least one infant was on board. And the
heavy, four-cylinder Russian-made engine revealed its most likely
origin: Cuba.

Since then, the yacht club has become an ambassador for what it feels is
a special treasure.

Members have hired a publicist and reached out to city officials,
museums and private institutions to find a permanent home for the boat,
now sitting atop a trailer at the Key Biscayne club.

"We would love to find some place where people can appreciate it as a
symbol for the sacrifices many migrants make," says Harry Gottlieb, the
media consultant who is trying to find an exhibitor. "The boat is such a
great icon of freedom."

Just after its arrival, it won the "Most Patriotic Float" at Key
Biscayne's upscale Independence Day parade.

Hand-made refugee boats are not particularly unusual in this community.
Every once in a while an odd-looking vessel arrives on the South Florida
shore, just like in 2003, when a dozen Cuban migrants tried to make
their way to Florida sailing in a rebuilt Chevy truck.

But what is unusual about this one is that it survived.

Bullet holes in the sides tell that the boat must have been shot at,
possibly in an effort to sink it after the migrants were offloaded.

But in this case, the mission apparently failed. Spray foam in the vinyl
prevented the boat from going under.

"It is basically unsinkable," says Rodriguez Cabrera. "You can bomb it
and nothing will happen."

However, having it drift at sea is dangerous, he said.

"You hit that engine in the middle of the night, your
half-a-million-dollar vessel will sink – but not this amateur one," he says.

That it was him who spotted the drifting boat in Key Biscayne is an
irony not lost on Rodriguez Cabrera.

In 1994 he and 18 others, including his mother and sister, took off for
Florida on a simple raft.

They were picked up the Coast Guard near Key West and brought to Guantanamo.

Nine months later, they were allowed to enter the United States.

Comparing his raft to the boat he recently salvaged, Rodriguez Cabrera
can hardly hide his amazement.

"When I see how sophisticated this boat is I wonder how the people could
secretly build it," he says.

For now, most of the Miami institutions Gottlieb reached out to have
shied away from adopting the boat.

But he and Rodriguez Cabrera are sure that eventually, someone who
appreciates the vessel and its message will come forward.

"If we don't find a home, we have no choice but to cut it apart," he says.

Gas station blast injures 31 in Cuba; 5 'grave'

Posted on Wednesday, 08.29.12

Gas station blast injures 31 in Cuba; 5 'grave'
The Associated Press

HAVANA -- An explosion ripped through a gas station in the eastern city
of Santiago, injuring 31 people, including five seriously, Cuban state
media reported Wednesday.

The blast happened Tuesday evening when the driver of a
government-operated truck struck a gas tank, which tipped over and
spilled its contents, the Sierra Maestra newspaper said on its website.

"Even as firefighters urgently tried to contain the spill, specialists
agree that among a group of people nearby, a spark originated that
ignited the spill and the fire extended to the tanks, causing the
explosion," Sierra Maestra said.

State television broadcast images of a completely charred gas station,
but the blaze was extinguished before it could spread to other buildings.

The victims were taken to a burn unit at a nearby hospital, and five
were in "very grave condition," Sierra Maestra added.

Authorities were investigating.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Where the Dictatorship Nests

Where the Dictatorship Nests / Lilianne Ruiz
Lilianne Ruiz, Translator: Unstated

When in Cuba we say "the system" we are referring to a circumstance
which, even though we recognize it as abnormal, arbitrary and unnatural
— the condition of being on an Island and being subjected to a
"political-ideological education" experiment, as well as the terror —
can be, for many, unbearable.

There are many families of university professionals who retire to their
home life. They manage — God only knows how — to maintain a standard of
living that they find acceptable and good. They don't recognize the
abnormal situation other than when they think they should earn more
money and have more comforts, increasingly retired and amoral. Because
in Cuba it seems that the native character lacks some essential,
something they had in Tunisia, thanks to solidarity with the tragedy of
another people came out and protested and demanded real change. Change
of government and of political orientation, a change toward democracy.

We all have our limits. The limits of fear and the instinct of preservation.

What is more disheartening is to see some who can contrast the "system,"
leaving frequently for abroad, or having more information, and all they
care about is earning more money and maintaining their comfortable
lifestyle. They're indifferent to the rest of the issue.

A friend of K, who lives a few blocks from the house where Laura Pollan
lived, has a son she doesn't allow outside — naturally — during the acts
of repudiation against the Ladies in White. She's doing the right thing
because the people who gather to scream under direction can reach
dangerous extremes, but the important thing is that she also, from an
instinct of preservation, stays behind the door, recognizing what's
wrong when she says to K, "I have to see what they do to the Ladies in
White," and this scandalizes her although later she bites her tongue.

The workers of the repressive organs take as a given the current
government and that things won't change in Cuba. Such that the
government counts on the complicity of everyone, including — as much as
I hate it — my own complicity!

Within the Cuban jails, throughout these 53 years, there have been acts
of sadism — physical and psychological torture — executions by the
regime's gunmen, State Security agents, workers in the Ministry of the
Interior; all of them "good revolutionaries." Of the same school as the
"heroes" of those melodramas in the style of "The Silence That Had to
Be," those with which "the people" have identified.

One of the things that characterizes opponents in a totalitarian system
is the need to act as visibly as possible. So the purpose of these
tortures doesn't seem to have been to find out hidden things. The sense
of torture in Cuba is to demoralize the opponents of the regime, make
them doubt their sense of strength and force them to withdraw.

The ways in which they exercise cruelty against another human being,
legitimated by a government that persecutes the political opposition,
can't comfort us in its differences: what happened in Chile under the
Pinochet regime, which the Cuban people were so sensitive to, never
should have happened, and what happened and is happening in Cuba under
the current regime — to which they have given the name revolution, and
that confuses many — should not be happening.

There are many witnesses. Those whom they've taken prisoner and the
resisters in prison who describe it as a martyrdom of every single day,
to destroy you as a person, demoralize you, a living death, violate all
your rights with frightening arbitrariness, as well as extreme
situations which I've heard from Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco who continues
fighting; from Ányer Antonio Blanco Rodríguez, so young and yet so old
like the Iron Marti; the doctor Oscar Elias Biscet who despite all he
suffered in prison for defending the human rights of this people,
violated every day in its 30 articles, gave me a lesson in forgiveness
and Christian love to its ultimate consequences that destroyed my sleep.

The dilemma of every Cuban could be to obey, making ourselves immoral,
or to resist, recovering something more than our voice. The State
represses because it doesn't look kindly on the resisters, the
dissidents, in a "world" (system) of great ideas that claim to have been
constructed "by and for the good of humanity and the disadvantaged." It
would be a good title for a book of testimonies: How 'the good' have
executed and inflicted pain.

Armando Valladares told in his eyewitness book of political imprisonment
in Cuba, which he called "Against All Hope," that after being beaten and
seeing how some of his companions were bayoneted to death, he came to
find that they had poured buckets of excrement and urine on them.

The world was scandalized by the revelations of torture from the Abu
Graib prison, but the world has had the testimony of Valladares for
years and there hasn't been sufficient international denunciation to
liberate Cuba.

Do they believe that these guys who govern Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, North
Korea, Syria, wouldn't give society something in exchange, while to stay
in power they commit crimes against humanity?

The native citizen, or of any place in the world, that lets their
conscience be bribed with a school or a free hospital is no more worthy
than those who sell their silence for a sum of money.

The excuse that the prison is closed and the bosses pretend to be decent
people and they say it's a lie that Cuba violated human rights, is
another way of bribing the conscience with being too lazy to find the truth.

This morning (assuming I can post this soon) we learned that on the eve
of the first anniversary of the "Patriotic Union of Cuba" (UNPACU), Jose
Daniel Ferrer's house is being assaulted by the political police. Jose
Daniel Ferrer is the leader of this organization that undertakes
peaceful protests, in the streets of Santiago de Cuba, against the
government and for the Release of the political prisoners. As the
telephone company is state-owned, the telephone lines of UNPACU members
have been disabled. So there is no communication.

I am not satisfied with sitting here, writing the same thing one more
time that almost the whole world already knows and when I finish this
oration I'm going to season the beans, I being no less indolent that
those people who hear news about repression in Ciba and don't do
anything and "season the beans" as if nothing was happening.

We Cubans need to become moral subjects, whose consciences hurt when we
see any kind of abuse and who set aside fear of death or believing in
God, it hurts us when it happens to others as if it were happening to
us. It is in our "Cuban" egotism — resident on the Island or in exile —
where the dictatorship nests.

Are the zombies within the walls worse than the mere spectator zombies
who live all over the world and know a closer approximation of what it
is to live in Freedom?

August 28 2012

Punching Bag

Punching Bag / Rosa Maria Rodriguez Torrado
Rosa Maria Rodriguez Torrado, Translator: Unstated

Cuban society is the crazy punching bag on which the Cuban leaders and
the national media train, and sometimes beat up. If there is an epidemic
of dengue fever or some other illness it's the people's fault because
they don't maintain adequate hygiene in their home and in the city; as
if we were responsible for vector control, trash collection and street

Of if some neighborhoods lack water, while others are flooded because
the leaks aren't fixed, or the dumpsters are overflowing… it's our
fault. They also criticize us for not properly covering our water tanks,
and breeding the Aedes aegypti female mosquito, which carries dengue fever.

In the first place, why should we store water at all? If we were
guaranteed that it would flow from the taps, no one would take the
trouble to store it, much less in the inadequate containers where we do
so, because the plastic tanks they sell in the store are prohibitively
priced for the average Cuban. So We must make do with what we have, as
the majority of the population solves its problems.

The city buses always break because they're always overloaded. It's
common to hear on the television or read in the press reproaches about
people writing their names on the backs of the seats or the bus stops —
something clearly wrong — but they don't call attention to or make any
mention of the over exploitation by the competent State authorities,
which constitutes official and institutionalized mistreatment of the
transit equipment.

We can't freely enter and exit the country because we will conspire with
the enemies of the regime — a vain and speculative pretext — nor can we
watch international television channels, because they are full of
slanders "against Cuba."

We can't freely access information or the Internet which is the fault of
the United Stations and the transnational media corporations, who
constantly defame the revolution. If there are blackouts, it's our fault
for consuming too much electricity, and if the salaries are low it's the
sin of the workers who don't produce, etc.

Then, you must agree with me that the authorities, instead of putting on
the gloves to beat the undeserving culprits and injustices of society,
should hang them up and give new people or groups, with new or different
programs and mentalities, a chance to promote the common good and
happiness of Cubans from an effective power, so that we all live
together in our national home and democratic, plural environment with
the genuine rule of law and social justice.

August 28 2012

Breathing Can Shut Down the System

Breathing Can Shut Down the System / Rebeca Monzo
Rebeca Monzo, Translator: Unstated

I felt wiped out when I got there after having waited for more than
three quarters of an hour for the Route 27 bus. I finally gave up and
opted instead for an almendrón—one of those cars from the 1940s or 1950s
that are virtually the only available form of transportation these days
and that cost ten pesos per passenger. I needed to get some decent
photocopies for travel documents for a friend's son. She is living
outside the country so, in her absence, she gave me legal authority to
act on his behalf.

The Foto-Service shop in La Rampa, which offers these services, is
partially air-conditioned and was almost full. There were six people
waiting for documents. Seeing that the shop still had enough room, I
opened the door and went in. The employee who was in charge of the
photocopier immediately told me to leave. "If you come in here, it could
shut down the system. There are a lot of people breathing in here," he said.

Before obeying his order, I replied, "Do you really think I can shut
down the system just by breathing? Look, the system will fall apart by
itself and not because of me."

Then the employee, in a very arrogant tone, said to me, "Nothing is
going to fall apart here."

"No?" I said. "Well, Havana is falling apart! Tell me where you got your
glasses so I can get some for myself, because when I leave my house,
everything I see is deteriorated or destroyed."

He remained silent. I went into the adjoining non-air-conditioned room.
Later, when it was my turn, I went back in and the man in question said
to me, in front of all those present, "There is a lot of deterioration
in the world, Señora."

"No doubt," I replied, "but what most concerns me is the deterioration
of my city and my country."

He said nothing more. He made the copies and we said goodbye, as though
nothing had happened. None of those present said anything. No one took
sides. Sometimes silence is more eloquent than words.

Later, after I left, I started thinking: If it really did depend on my
breathing, it would be so nice to stop breathing for a minute. I would
get a few of my friends to do the same.

August 27 2012

Accessing the Internet in Cuban Churches

Accessing the Internet in Cuban Churches / Cuban Legal Advisor, Yaremis
Cuban Legal Advisor, Translator: BW, Yaremis Flores
By Lic. Yarmis Flores

Liu, reader of this blog, asked the Office if Cuban churches one can
have access to the internet. Since 1996, the Cuban government, has been
clear about its policy with respect to full access to internet services,
in Decree 209 of the Council of Ministers, "Access from the Republic of
Cuba to Information Networks of Global Reach."

The island's government established its proposal to guarantee full
access to the Internet, but in a regulated form and acting in the
national interests, giving priority to the connection of people in the
judiciary and the institutions of the most relevance to the life and
development of the country.

All the users with access to the internet on the island, be they Cubans
or foreign residents in Cuba, need authorization from the Ministry of
Information and Communication (MIC).

In addition, the IP address has to be registered (the only addressing
protocol of the Internet, assigned to each machine or device found on
the network) and they are controlled by the Agency of Control and
Supervision of the MIC. Penalties are imposed on those who don't comply
with this requirement, like the removal of the license to be an Internet

It is not recommended to access the Internetsecretly, because if the
authorities suspect some irregularity in a church or religious group, an
order is not required to carry out a search, because Article 217 of the
Law of Legal Procedure establishes that "To enter and search a temple or
other place intended for a religious group, handing a messageto the
attention of theperson in charge is all that is required."

Translated by: BW

August 28 2012

Tempering Dad

Tempering Dad / Yoani Sanchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sanchez

For Marino Murillo, Cuban Vice President and father
who, a few days ago, saw a daughter leave into exile.

"Daddy, you're not getting involved in this stuff," his daughter advised
from the other end of the line. The same daughter who a few weeks ago
sent him some money and a package with medicine and clothes. She who
emigrated a decade ago and who, from Berlin, is the principal support of
her family back in Havana. Her father swallows hard every time his
firstborn tells him — by phone — not to involve himself in the work of
the Communist Party, nor that of the Committees for the Defense of the
Revolution, much less to allow himself to be used in any repudiation
rallies against opponents. "Listen, that's about to collapse and you're
the one who is going to get muddy," repeats the insistent young woman.
Such that the obedient retiree has significantly reduced his ideological
intolerance, moderated the rage he harbored for those who were against
"his Comandante" and even hidden his Communist Party membership card at
the bottom of a drawer.

He looks a changed man. When someone talks about politics he changes the
subject to the weather or baseball. To his dissident neighbors, whom he
used to refuse to greet, he now offers a wink of complicity. Old
soldier's association meetings now seem so boring, the newspapers so
empty, the slogans so false… he doesn't even turn on the television any
more to watch the official speeches. What happened? A mix of
frustration, annoyance at his very low pension, the corruption and the
indefinite postponement of dreams. But in his case his children have
been the main catalyst for discontent, the most emphatic denial his
ideology could receive. Most of them live in Europe and the youngest
crossed the Straits of Florida on a raft. None wanted to stay and wait
for the fruits of the system "Daddy fought so hard for."

After the departure of his "babies," he's discovered a more moderate man
in himself, capable of accepting that other people's children also leave
without having to throwing eggs or insults. He doesn't allow anyone to
call his offspring "traitors" and has learned that the English spoken by
his granddaughter born in Arkansas is absolutely not the language of the
devil. In addition, the vitamins they send are so good, the gel for his
back pain of such good quality, the dollars via Western Union so
opportune… In short, he is a different man. This October he will fly to
the United States to visit his family and he has no plans to return. He
will go quietly, without saying goodbye, without even resigning from the
only party he belongs to. He will leave without publicly recanting
anything, without apologizing to any of the dissidents he insulted, spat
on, denigrated, for decades. He will leave.

28 August 2012

Cuba starts coffee harvest early due to storm Isaac

Cuba starts coffee harvest early due to storm Isaac
Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:41am EDT
* Isaac leaves little damage but rapidly maturing crop
* Harvesting underway throughout eastern Cuba
* Plans call for output of 8,500 tonnes
By Marc Frank

HAVANA, Aug 28 (Reuters) - The Cuban coffee harvest began ahead of
schedule this week, with farmers scrambling to pick ripe beans over the
weekend as tropical storm Isaac bore down on the island and then left a
rapidly maturing crop in its wake.

Isaac moved along the north coast of the eastern part of the country on
Saturday, home to some 90 percent of the coffee crop, shaking plants and
delivering torrential rains before heading toward the United States.

"We picked mature beans as Isaac's winds blew around us, and now we have
to move the harvest up because lots of coffee will ripen quickly,"
coffee farmer Adela Martinez said in a telephone interview from eastern
Santiago de Cuba.

Isaac left the crop maturing more rapidly than expected, but otherwise
left it unscathed, other sources in the major producing provinces of
Guantanamo, Santiago and Granma said.

Losses suffered in the coffee-producing municipality of Maisi, in
easternmost Guantanamo province were still being quantified as residents
rushed to collect fallen beans.

Cuba produced 7,100 tonnes of semi-processed beans during the 2011-2012
harvest and plans to increase production this season to 8,500 tonnes,
according to the Agriculture Ministry.

The harvest usually begins in September, with the bulk of the beans
picked from October through January.

Last season's crop was the best in over a decade, as reforms aimed at
reducing imports apparently kicked in.

Communist Cuba's 35,000 growers, in exchange for low-interest government
credits and subsidized supplies, must sell all of their coffee to the
state at prices that historically have been below what the beans fetch
on the black market.

Local analysts said 10 to 20 percent of the crop was diverted, though
recent increases in state prices may have lessened the flow.

The country's plantations, which at the time of the 1959 revolution
produced 60,000 tonnes of coffee, have steadily declined ever since.

Cuban president Raul Castro, as part of his efforts to improve food
production and cut massive imports, has pointed to coffee as a crop ripe
for increased attention and growth.

Cuba imported 18,000 tonnes of semi-processed beans from Vietnam in 2010
at a cost of $38 million, and a bit less in 2011, though no figures are

The state has leased abandoned coffee plantations over the last few
years to hundreds of individuals to grow coffee and has nearly tripled
the price it pays farmers for their beans.

Cuban farmers are now growing coffee in the lowlands with the aim of
both selling to the state and directly to consumers, according to local

Plans call for producing 22,000 tonnes in 2015 and eventually 28,000 to
30,000 tonnes a year, equal to levels in the 1970s. (Reporting By Marc
Frank; Editing by Jeff Franks and David Gregorio)

Cruise line Star Clippers to offer voyages to Cuba

Cruise line Star Clippers to offer voyages to Cuba
By Gene Sloan, USA TODAY

Cruise company Star Clippers has announced plans for voyages to Cuba,
but the trips will be off limits to U.S. citizens in observance of the
U.S. embargo of the country.

The Monaco-based sailing ship line says the 170-passenger Star Flyer
will operate two repositioning cruises ending or originating at
Cienfuegos, Cuba; one six-night cruise round trip from Cienfuegos; and
five seven-night round-trip sailings from Cienfuegos -- all to take
place during February and March of 2014.

"Star Clippers is headquartered in Europe and caters to an international
clientele," Star Clippers owner Mikael Krafft notes in a statement.
"Each season we try to diversify our itineraries and offer something new
and exciting. The small islands that we're calling at in Cuba are an
ideal match for the Star Clippers product."

Star Clippers notes that U.S. citizens cannot reserve or purchase the
new Cuba cruises from a travel agent, a Star Clippers sales
representative or reservationist, or through an affiliated website or
other general sales agent.

Isaac caused minimal damage in Cuba

Posted on Tuesday, 08.28.12

Isaac caused minimal damage in Cuba

Tropical Storm Isaac knocked down four houses and forced nearly 50,000
people from their homes but caused no deaths in Cuba.
By Juan O. Tamayo

As the death toll from Tropical Storm Isaac climbed to 24 in Haiti, work
crews in Cuba were sweeping up the debris left behind by the storm,
which knocked down four houses and forced nearly 50,000 people from
their homes.

Interior Ministry Col. Luis Macareño, second in command of the National
Civil Defense, declared in a television appearance late Monday that the
weekend storm caused no deaths or significant material losses.

Modest flooding was reported Monday in Havana neighborhoods closest to
its iconic Malecón seaside boulevard, lashed by powerful swells churned
up by Isaac's winds. Work crews carted off storm debris from the
neighborhoods to keep street drains clear.

About 48,600 people left their homes for safer ground during the storm,
mostly to the more sturdy homes of relatives or neighbors, Macareño
added. Only 1,200 went into official shelters.

Damages to Cuba's tourist facilities were minimal, added José Bisbé,
commercial director of the tourism ministry. About 37,000 foreign
tourists and nearly 30,000 Cubans were staying in the island's hotels
and camp grounds at the time.

Deputy Health Minister Luis Estruch warned during the program that
Isaac's rains could unleash a plague of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito,
which carries dengue fever. There have been unconfirmed reports that an
outbreak of dengue already has reached epidemic proportions.

Isaac hit Baracoa, the oldest and most eastern Cuban city, on Saturday.
It left land five hours later through the famed Guardalavaca beach in
northeastern Holguín province. On Tuesday, officials reported that Isaac
caused 24 deaths in Haiti and another five in the Dominican Republic.

Haiti's Civil Protection Office said in a report that the bulk of the
deaths happened in the southeastern and western departments of the country.

Some of the victims were electrocuted and others died after objects fell
on them. Three people are missing.

In Cuba, the storm destroyed four homes in Baracoa and damaged another
19, according to official reports. It also knocked down power lines and
damaged nearly 1,100 acres of plantain, cocoa, and coconut plants in the

The Sagua de Tánamo River in Holguín overflowed and flooded 72 homes
near its banks, according to the National Information Agency (AIN). But
the river quickly retreated and families were returning home.

The damages paled in comparison with 2008, when three hurricanes caused
$10 billion in losses and damaged 500,000 homes.

Material from The Associated Press was included in this report.

Cuba says cholera outbreak over

Posted on Tuesday, 08.28.12

Cuba says cholera outbreak over
By Juan O. Tamayo

Cuba's Public Health Ministry has announced that an outbreak of cholera
has ended and put the final tally at three deaths and 417 cases — an
inexplicably higher number of confirmed cases than its last official totals.

A ministry statement in the Granma newspaper reported that the
overwhelming majority of the cases were in the city of Manzanillo in
eastern Granma province. It said no new cases had been reported in more
than 10 days, so the outbreak was being declared over.

The three deaths were the same reported in the national government's
only previous comments on Cuba's first outbreak of the deadly disease in
decades, on July 3 and July 13.

But the 417 confirmed cases was far higher than the 158 cases the
national government reported on July 13 and the 263 cases reported by
Granma provincial health officials only 15 days ago on Aug. 13, the last
of their daily reports on provincial television.

The gap may be caused by the number of cholera cases confirmed outside
Granma province. The ministry's announcement Monday said cholera cases
were reported in Havana, Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba, all among
people who had been in Manzanillo. It gave no numbers for the cases
outside Manzanillo, but previous government announcements had indicated
that few such cases had been confirmed.

The ministry blamed the outbreak on the heavy rains that lashed Granma
in mid-June, flooding outdoor toilets and contaminating water wells. The
bacteria apparently was brought to the area by Cuban medical personnel
working in Haiti, where a cholera epidemic has killed more than 7,400

Granma published the ministry announcement without any additional
details or comments.

Aunt says the daughter of Cuba’s vice president defected for love

Posted on Tuesday, 08.28.12

Aunt says the daughter of Cuba's vice president defected for love

The daughter of Cuba's vice president defected because she has a
boyfriend in Florida, her family said.
By Juan O. Tamayo

The tale of the Cuban vice president's daughter who defected may turn
out to be a love story after all. Glenda Murillo went to Tampa to be
with her boyfriend and not for political reasons, her aunt declared Tuesday.

Murillo has a boyfriend in Tampa and left Cuba "for personal and not
political reasons," the aunt, Idania Diaz, told El Nuevo Herald in a
polite but brief phone conversation from her home in Tampa.

What's more, Murillo is not married, the aunt added, regardless of what
El Nuevo was told by the mystery man who answered her cell phone in
Havana and claimed to be her husband.

Murillo's defection, first reported by El Nuevo Herald on Monday, drew
intense news interest because her father is vice president of Cuba's
ruling Council of State and member of the powerful political bureau of
the island's Communist Party.

The father, Marino Murillo, 51, an economist trained in Cuba's National
Defense University, is in charge of enacting Cuban ruler Raúl Castro's
ambitious economic reforms and has been mentioned as a possible successor.

Glenda Murillo did not have a U.S. visa and slipped into Texas from
Mexico, where she had been attending a psychology seminar, around Aug.
16, according to knowledgeable sources. She was paroled under the
wet-foot, dry-foot policy, which allows Cubans who set foot on U.S. land
to stay.

The State Department said Tuesday that privacy regulations bar it from
providing information on specific cases of visa, asylum or parole
requests. It referred all questions on the Murillo defection to the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security.

Idania Diaz told El Nuevo Herald in a phone conversation that her niece
left Cuba and was living with her in Tampa to be with her boyfriend,
whom she declined to identify.

But it was clear that Diaz spoke with the newspaper primarily to ask
about the mystery man who identified himself as Murillo's husband when
the newspaper called her cell number in Havana last week to inquire
about her case. The man confirmed she was in Tampa, said she would not
make any comment and declined to give his name.

Diaz, who told El Nuevo that Murillo was next to her during the phone
chat, confirmed the cell number called by the newspaper belonged to
Murillo and added that her niece had arranged to sell the phone before
she left to a man she did not know.

"We don't know who that might have been, the man who answered," Diaz added.

Diaz also noted that Murillo was happy to be in Tampa, but hung up
quickly when she was asked about a report that Marino Murillo cried when
he learned that his daughter had defected and was in Tampa.

Her husband, Boris Loynaz, also told a Univision 23 television news crew
outside the couple's home in Tampa that Murillo was happy to be in the
United States and declined comment on the report that the father had
broken down in tears.

Diaz also noted that her elderly father, Rolando Diaz, who is visiting
her from Havana, had overcome the shock he suffered when he answered the
doorbell Tuesday morning and found the Univision 23 crew asking
questions about Murillo.

He told the crew he was afraid that he was going to have a heart attack.

Cuba: Cholera outbreak over; 417 cases, 3 dead

Posted on Tuesday, 08.28.12

Cuba: Cholera outbreak over; 417 cases, 3 dead
The Associated Press

HAVANA -- Cuba says a cholera outbreak on the island has run its course
with more than 10 days since the last confirmed case of the infectious

A notice from the Health Ministry gives a final toll of 417 people
sickened and three dead.

It blames heavy rains and high temperatures this year for raising the
risk of diarrheic diseases.

The notice says the outbreak originated in contaminated water systems in
the eastern city of Manzanillo, Granma province.

Cases elsewhere in Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Havana were detected in
people who had traveled from Manzanillo.

The Health Ministry's bulletin says "the outbreak is over," but
authorities remain vigilant.

It was published Tuesday in Communist Party newspaper Granma.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Calves of the Revolution

Calves of the Revolution / Rosa Maria Rodriguez Torrado
Rosa Maria Rodriguez Torrado, Translator: Unstated

The newspaper Granma provokes, slapping its readers' faces with a
fistful of falsehoods. I am not saying they use fallacy on a regular
basis, but sometimes they publish opinions with a manipulative slant.
These must be refuted because, if we remain silent, we are ourselves
guilty of lying through inaction or omission.

On July 31 of this year the journal, an "official organ of the Central
Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba," published an editorial
entitled "Truth and Reason" to address the repercussions and doubts
resulting from the deaths in an automobile accident of the well-know
opposition leader, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, director of the Christian
Liberation Movement,and Harold Cepero Escalante, another member of the

It is the same old tedious conversation, with its glossy praise for the
faded revolution and its abicú* political party. And, as usual, the
purpose is to say that the United States is responsible for whatever
discordant opinion or criticism that is generated in the world towards
the dictatorial Cuban regime.

One is taken aback to read in the fourth paragraph of the editorial the
writer's statement that "the immaculate history of the Revolution is
well-known." Did the journalist forget about the unpunished crime
involving the tug boat March 13th in July 1994 in which 41 people lost
their lives, 10 of them minors? Or those who were gunned down in Cojímar
earlier that same year?

Perhaps he ignored the 2003 shooting of three people, who were not
attempting homicide, but rather were trying to emigrate using a
state-owned boat? Were they shot in order to send a message? Is it for
wanting to leave Cuba or for having an opinion different from that of
the system's officials that people lose their dignity or become objects
of mistreatment? To what impeccable history is he referring?

To the one who punches and verbally assaults peaceful, defenseless women
such as the Ladies in White, cowardly impeding their right of reply? Or
takes water away from Orlando Zapata Tamayo – who was on a hunger
strike, not a thirst strike – so that he would die? Perhaps he is
referring to the "humanitarian action" against another striker, Wilmar
Villar Mendoza, and the failure to provide necessary and timely

Perhaps the editor-in-chief has fed so long at the revolutionary udder,
drinking the milk of amnesia, that he has forgotten about the trips
abroad, the ease of buying a car or of being assigned one, the abundant
supply of gasoline to go with it, the shackles on his writers, the
appearances on national radio and television, and other such perks.

They are the calves of the revolution. Rather than being faithful to
Cuba, they are the ones who serve and are loyal only to the party in
power. The ones who did not and do not respect a family's grief after a
tragic death by interrupting the funeral procession of a respectable man
like Payá in order to put on their usual show of mobilization to train
and motivate their followers and send the message that the street
belongs to the revolutionaries and not to all Cubans, as it should. It
is the same mechanism, established years ago, with its running routine
that get activated automatically, and it is worn out by the old
mentality of those who do not want anything to change. The following
excerpt underscores the type of lies found in this editorial:

"You cannot block out the sun with your finger.** In spite of
censorship and manipulation, it is well-known that, in our country, the
counterrevolution is and has always been mercenary. They are vulgar
agents that the government of the United States and its allies pay,
supply and instruct. They betray the Fatherland for a few coins."

It seems that something is twisted in the minds and thinking of Cubans
living here who defend the dictatorial Cuban model. Or is it the
privileges that I mentioned earlier? Another of the meanings of
mercenary — in addition to the well-known definition that applies to the
troop or soldier that for a stipend serves in the war against a foreign
power — it alludes to working for money, perceiving a salary for work or
payment for services.

A refrain says that thieves think that everyone robs. The opposition and
independent journalism are diverse and pluralistic and, as a ridiculous
result, tries to think that we all think and act the same way; as well
as the followers of the Castro regime think and act differently,
according to their personalities, preferences, and levels of political
compromise. I'm not doubting that defending to the death the 53 year old
failed system,

*Abicú: A term for children who have an incarnate spirit that does not
die, and are under a particular spell that can cause the premature
deaths of their siblings, or prevents them from being born. Ceremonies
are performed to "dispel" the curse. By extension, it is said of a
person who is dirty, jealous or not well-intentioned that "He is an abikú."

—Natalia Bolívar Aróstegui, The Orishas of Cuba, Vocabulary, p. 169.

**Translator's note: An expression which roughly means: You cannot deny
the obvious.

August 22 2012

Old Tricks, New Tricks

Old Tricks, New Tricks / Yoani Sanchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sanchez

Hands fly over the table. So fast you can only see the slipstream of the
fingers and the brilliance of a golden ring. You can divine — at least
the first time — under which container is the small wad of paper. It's
just for you, you're the prey, the only audience for the spectacle.
You're in that room in a dark tenement to buy a pair of shoes more
cheaply than in the stores. But when you get into the maze-like hallway
the youngster who suggested those great prices vanishes. So you remain
standing there, a few yards from two men who play as if you weren't
there, but at the same time direct their gestures to your eyes. In a few
minutes they suggest you bet and you believe you can discover where the
slippery little ball is. In less than an hour you will have lost all the
capital you had on you.

So far, a succinct narration of one of the most common scams in our
country and in the world. A brilliant swindle which, despite its
simplicity and repetition, hasn't stopped working. In Cuba new methods
have recently arisen to separate people from their money. There's
everything. One peso bills with crudely drawn zeros to "pass them off"
as if they were hundreds. Bags with jeans sold from a doorway, but when
you get them home they just contain on old sack of harvested potatoes.
Even "boat trips to Florida" that end with the takers eaten by
mosquitoes, never with the appearance of a boat. I repeat, there's
everything. Although recently there is a new type of theft that almost
always involves a supposed foreigner.

Even the technique is sympathetic, if it weren't for its effect on the
wallet. Someone, with an Argentine or French accent, rents a taxi. He
offers the driver an amount of money to hire him for the whole day. With
the car in motion the foreigner, upset, begins to talk about all the
problems he has with his Cuban wife, while also describing a profitable
business he's setting up on the Island. The itinerary always includes
going to a hotel, going by a hospital, picking up some suitcases at the
home of some "friend" and even having a beer in a bar. When the driver
has already struck up a certain friendship with his client, the latter
asks for some money to pay for some transaction, with the excuse that
they don't accept hundred peso bills or all he has is euros. "Lend it to
me for a couple minutes and then we'll go to the bank to change the
money and I'll pay you back." And the tourist in his hat and flowered
shirt gets out of the car. After waiting for more than an hour, the taxi
driver begins to get suspicious, but the scammer is already a long way
from there.

If the trick with the little ball under a cup appeals to our ego, making
us believe that our eyes are faster than the player's hands, the trick
of "the tourist who asks for money" is based on the widespread belief
that foreigners "can never be more cunning than we are." So taking
advantage of this false stereotype, the Havana scammers are making a
killing. By training their hands, or waiting for their "prey" to enter a
dilapidated room looking for a pair of shoes, or deciding whether
sounding like Buenos Aires or Quebec will lead to a greater gain. A
certain smell of sunscreen, dark glasses, bermuda shorts, and curious
looks toward the buildings seen through a taxi window… just that and the
scam is on the point of making off with the contents of your pocket.

28 August 2012

What Does a President Do?

What Does a President Do? / Yoani Sanchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sanchez

The question of the title was inspired by Fidel Castro himself when, on
March 28 of this year, he asked Benedict XVI, "What does a Pope do?"
Beyond the childishness of the question, it made me reflect on what any
president would say if we inquired about his agenda, how a dignitary
would narrate his usual day-to-day. Surely his schedule would include
participating in the council of ministers, receiving other presidents,
overseeing the functions of state, being present at public acts, plus
this or that speech on particular dates.

The list of his responsibilities, of his commitments, would be long,
from the hectic days in the presidential palace and the difficult
discussions in the congress or parliament. Perhaps he would even preside
over factory openings, or sites of social interest, and hold more than
one press conference with the national media.

If the president is a statesman with a marked populist tendency, he
would probably have to leave time to have his picture taken with
children, snapshots amid a walkabout, and to be filmed distributing
refrigerators, rice cookers and water heaters. He would put long
speeches on his daily activity list, a variety of interventions where he
talks about genetics in an auditorium filled with scientists, and about
intensive grazing before sunburnt farmers.

Because, for political egomaniacs, the presidency is like a stage where
every day there must be a lavish and intense spectacle. So they divide
their days between true executive tasks and the work of self-promotion,
in obvious showing-off to stay in power. But what happens when the
maximum leader of a country offers no evidence of meeting even a small
part of his agenda? What can we do when citizens don't have the
slightest mechanism to know whether our president is working or not?

So far in 2012, Raul Castro has given very few signs of industriousness
in office. If we count the hours he has appeared in public, the speeches
he's made, and the trips he's taken… we have to conclude that his
productivity is extremely low.

Repeated absences from international events, summits and regional
meetings, highlight to his lack of activity. Just one short
international tour in the eight months of this year, to reliable allies
such as China, Vietnam and Russia. But we add to that almost no travel
in his own Cuban territory.

He did not go to Sancti Spiritus provence at the end of May to see with
his own eyes the devastation left by the floods. Nor did he go to Granma
province where — after a century with no reported cases — a cholera
outbreak has so far caused several deaths. Nor did he go to some of the
Havana and Camaguey hospitals where the numbers of those infected with
dengue fever is climbing into the hundreds.

One could say that his public appearances have been limited to welcoming
a few foreign leaders, a speech at the First Conference of the Cuban
Communist Party at the end of January, another at the National Assembly
in July, and a few brief words at the commemoration of the assault on
the Moncada Barracks.

Beyond that we have no evidence that the General President is assuming
his responsibilities or — on the other hand — that he's not on a
permanent vacation. Especially because nothing suggests that far from
the spotlights, the former Minister of the Armed Forces is undertaking
frenetic political and organizational activity. The slow pace of Raul's
reforms disprove that possibility.

It is worth noting that this is not a demand that the current Cuban
president maintain the same omnipresence his brother had in the national
media and in the smallest details of the lives of eleven million people.
Nor that, in a frankly demagogic approach, he start to make us believe
that he is aware of everything when in reality he spends more time in
leisure than in working. It's definitely not about that.

But the exercise of an executive job implies mobility, efficiency, long
work days and sacrifice. If this man of 81 is not able to fulfill his
presidential agenda because his physical and mental capacity don't allow
it, then resign. A country can't be administered "once in a blue moon,"
from the palace couch, and much less by showing up only on significant

In February of 2013 it will fall to Raul Castro — as he himself declared
— to begin his second term, after having inherited power through
consanguinity. He then has the option of waiving his continuation in
office, given his apparent inability to perform the major
responsibilities involved in running a country.

He could vacate the post for some substitute… most likely one he himself
would designate. But should he decide to continue and cling to power,
will there be another five years of sporadic appearances and a few
public events? Of long silences and absences at the times and places of
crises? A new period of having to ask sarcastically: What does a
president do? What does THIS president do?

26 August 2012

Client-User Defenselessness

Client-User Defenselessness / Cuban Law Association, Lic. E. Javier
Hernandez H.
Cuban Law Association, E. Javier Hernandez H., Translator: Courtney Finkel

For years there has been a reality in our country that isn't exposed nor
analyzed from all angles as the suffering of citizens deserves to be: it
pertains to the defenseless state of Cuban
client-user-buyer-consumer-constituents in the face of administrative
and governmental requests, particularly when the parameters of quality,
efficient operation, or the most basic rights are not fulfilled or

We are observing in a majority of cases that come to our Association, in
addition to our becoming a last resort or "lifesaving plank in the vast
sea"; we can see inefficiency, laziness and insensitivity. The
fundamental causes of our compatriots' troubles are also the errors or
violations committed toward them by entities and officials with
impunity, sheltered by the lack of culture and discipline that would
allow administrative and judicial proceedings to be correctly appealed
and directed for the sake of restoring violated rights.

The ultimate tendency of the Organs of State Administration, as well as
their subordinates, is the refusal to respond, be it a quality parameter
claim, a complaint, a violation of rights or a breach of contract with
the main service providers, be it the Electric Company, ETECSA (mobile
phone and landlines), Aguas de la Habana (the water company),
Immigration, Customs, among others. Examples abound as water service
days are skipped, telephones break or are suspended without
compensation, decisions delay or prohibit exit from and entry to the
country, and seizures occur at officials' discretion or interpretation
without legal basis; in the end, the common Cuban's defenseless
situations are endless.

The country's top leaders are carrying out an offensive against
corruption—an evil that is difficult to avoid, especially in a country
of fundamental weaknesses, as much present in the Basic Food Basket as
in other individual liberties—a very valid offensive, since with
egalitarianism, paternalism and decontrol, it is nearly impossible to
move forward and plan with what little we have; however, as always, we
observe how far removed this is from the citizens' own "offensive."

Why is it so difficult for the Comptroller to review the Municipal
Housing Agencies, where records of exchanges or expropriations get lost?

Why don't the supervisors of Justice reach the Municipal and Provincial
Courts, where they almost always don't know or don't want to properly
prosecute citizens' administrative, labor and civil cases against those
monopolistic businesses that frequently operate with impunity and
contract abuse?

When will the those charged with applying the law of our country's
People's Courts of Justice recognize their latent responsibility to use
their wisdom to support a true equilibrium, between arrogance, impunity,
mediocrity, and insensitivity of those "officials" and the defenseless

When should these same professionals turn to a concept as a guide in
their precincts… "to challenge dominant, powerful forces within and
beyond the social and national scope…" or also… "defend the values we
believe in, at any cost…"

Or also, why not, to feel that our profession has been a marker and an
honor in the history of democratic and just society, in the brilliance
of public servants like Lincoln, Jefferson, Montesquieu, Agramonte,
Céspedes, and Martí.

There is still time to participate judiciously in a new society, where
we will lack neither compensation, retribution, certification, nor
justice in the shadow of whatever power.

Translated by: Courtney Finkel

August 25 2012

More Testimonies from House Raid Victims: “I was threatened that If I don’t Leave the Ladies in White, They’d Kill Us All”

More Testimonies from House Raid Victims: "I was threatened that If I
don't Leave the Ladies in White, They'd Kill Us All"
Posted by Pedazos de la Isla on August 25, 2012

After the brutal house raid which occurred in the home of Lady in White
Glisedis Pina Gonzalez in Holguin this past Saturday August 18th, all
the detainees have been released. Three of these activists have shared
their testimonies with this blog, offering details of the harassment and
threats they endured while being held in police units under the hands of
State Security and the political police:

Rosa María Naranjo Nieves
Lady in White

"The mobs of State Security agents broke into the home (…) one officer,
in charge of matters with minors, grabbed a 14 year old and arrested
her, nearly stripping her of her clothes. Our response was to protest
because of this, and he beat all of us. Those women who were not hit
inside, they were later beat outside by the mobs. In my case, they
punched me on my back and pulled my hair. They then twisted my arm and
shoved me into a police vehicle, which took me to the Instructional Unit
of Pedernales. That was on Saturday, August 18th, in the afternoon and
I was held till the morning of Monday, August 20th.

On Saturday night, while I was in the cell, I started to get dizzy and
desires to vomit. I told the guards I felt bad so they took my blood
pressure, which was on 210 with 120- very high. They told me they did
not have the medicines to take care of my blood pressure but later ended
up giving me something and it went down slightly. When I had it on 170,
they shoved me into the dungeon again".

Danay Mendiola
Lady in White

"A MININT (Ministry of the Interior) agent whose name I did not get,
beat us and applied immobilization locks on us. They took us in police
vehicles. In the Unit, they beat us more. They mistreated us, insulted
us. We were taken to the Pedernales Unit and kept there from Saturday
to Monday. We screamed slogans like "Down with hunger", "Long live
Human Rights", and "Freedom for all political prisoners". They
mistreated us, we were hungry, and I feel very weak. In fact, my throat
is in pain. But we are going to keep fighting. The more repression
they carry out against us, the more strength we obtain to continue in
the struggle.

A State Security agent known as 'Chacman'- from Holguin- went to see me
in my cell on Monday night and he told me that if we (referring to the
Ladies in White) continued to be active, then he, and others, were going
to kill us, because we are 'counter-revolutionaries'. He asked me what
I gained with doing what I do. I told him the only purpose was for the
freedom of Cuba, and that if they keep repressing us, we were going to
get more strength. We are under total threats, every single Lady in
White from Holguin province.

Chacman threatened me again, saying that if I did not leave the Ladies
in White, he was going to kill us all, little by little, and slowly.
This happened on Monday. He went to my cell to tell me this".

Alexei Jiménez Almarades
Independent journalist

"I am the husband of Lady in White Eleiny Villamonte Cardozo. I had
left my wife in the Glisedis' house that afternoon, and when I returned
to pick her up, I noticed that the entire entrance of the house was
surrounded by mobs, organized by State Security. A minor was
accompanying me- my wife's 16 year old female cousin. The mobs
violently rushed at us. What was interesting, though, was that State
Security alleged that the mobs were everyday neighbors, but it is
obvious that this mobs were manipulated and sent by the
counter-intelligence Department of Holguin.

I was aggressively attacked, they hit me on my arms, on my ribs, and I
thank God that I was wearing a helmet for my bicycle. They grabbed
sticks and hit me with them, but the helmet protected me.

Afterward, once the women were detained, I directed myself to the State
Security Unit at around 12 AM to demand them that they release all the
detainees. The agent known as 'The Polish' came out. He quickly called
a police car and they detained me. Once detained, I remained in protest
and on hunger strike, demanding freedom for the detained activists".