Friday, November 30, 2012

The Harassment of Cotorro

The Harassment of Cotorro / Cuban Law Association, Esperanza Rodriguez
Bernal #Cuba
Cuban Law Association, Esperanza Rodríguez Bernal, Translator: Unstated

By Lic. Esperanza Rodríguez Bernal

On more than one occasion the citizen William Alexis Cacer Diaz has
requested assistance from the Cuban Law Association for having been the
victim of unlawful conduct by police officers.

First, he was robbed of a camera, a mobile phone and a mini tape
recorder he used in his work as a self-employed photographer).

At that time he was oriented with regards to what he needed to do in
accordance with the provisions of Article 66, paragraph 1) in relation
to Article 401 and following of the Law of Civil Administrative, Labor
and Economic Procedure, to lodge a Demand for Process of Protection of
Possession, against the Relevant Acts of the Authorities before the
corresponding court.

Now William returns to us for advice as he continues to suffer arrests.

On none of the occasions on which he has been detained have they showed
him an arrest warrant: he has been taken in a police car to the Cotorro
Police Station and kept in a cell there for several hours.

When he asks about the reason for this the answer has been: "it's a CI
(counterintelligence) matter."

Now William refers also to the threat that, for going to Estado de Sats,
they have warned him he will be arrested every time there is an event
announced at the home of Antonio Rodiles.

It is legal to do what the law does not prohibit and therefore if the
agents arrest William again for attention Estado de Sats it will confirm
their illegal conduct and they can be accused before the Military
Prosecutor for this act that contravenes Article 58 of the Constitution
of the Republic:
Freedom and inviolability of persons is assured to all who reside in the

No one may be arrested except in the cases, in the manner and with the
guarantees prescribed by the laws…

What is happening with William reminds me of that famous work of Victor
Hugo, in which a police displayed a visceral satisfaction in a lifelong
pursuit of a former convict who, in the end, ended up saving the life of
his pursuer.

Who can refute that life, with its avatars someday repeats an episode
similar to Les Miserables? … Only with new characters and and a new
location, and so it seemed to me a good idea to call this the Harassment
of Cotorro.

October 3 2012

Without the Right to Be Mistaken

Without the Right to Be Mistaken / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado
Rosa Maria Rodriguez Torrado, Translator: Unstated

Raul Castro's public expression justifying his delay in modifying
everything that must be reformed sounds like a hollow cliché which, to
be fair to Cubans and our history, the truly practical and effective
thing would be that it were changed.

"We don't have the right to be mistaken" is no more than a military
slogan brought to the civilian field, whose truth the same authorities
are constantly putting to the test, by counterproductive decisions and
the interests of the state bureaucracy that surrounds the
general-president himself.

An example is the law decree 259 concerning the delivery of lands (to
farmers in a form of leasing called "usufruct"), which was "reformed"
and undone according to decree 300, in which is evidenced the intention
to not cede control, which for the Cuban totalitarian model equates to
not losing power.

It is incredible that after almost fifty-four years in government, the
repeated and apparent improvisation of the authorities leaves us the
frustrating and exhausting flavor of the endless dictatorial problem. If
in psychology contradictory tendencies in people generate anguish and
even neurotic disorders, as a society, what will be provoked in us by
the permanent conflicts that the government has gotten us accustomed to
and that they seem to have no intention of solving?

With the same slogan they spent two years "analyzing and studying" in
order to "not be mistaken" and to bring to us Cubans an incomplete
travel/immigration law that in spite of recognizing only a handful of
rights for those on the island, truncates and leaves inconclusive many
of those belonging to our diaspora.

The motto remains in force — as an expression, clearly — not because the
real changes that they urge for our society are really taken seriously,
it seems. The keep us entertained with the dual game of "I want to but I
do not dare," when in reality they "dare and can, but do not want to."

The foremost objective is to create for themselves a good programmatic
cushion for the seat of those that succeed them or inherit, and later,
for each to use his legal "reformist" feather duster in his own way so
as to move the dust from one place to another and appear to be cleaning.

Maybe with such manipulations the moment will arrive when a deep
cleaning becomes truly necessary, rearranging the furniture and the
surly personnel accustomed to the homeland being the pedestal for the
group that comes to power. That, it seems, is the basic currency of
these systems, and in preserving their privileges they certainly will
not allow themselves the least bit of carelessness or the right to be

November 28 2012

Presionan a trabajadores para que pertenezcan al MININT

Presionan a trabajadores para que pertenezcan al MININT
Jueves, Noviembre 29, 2012 | Por Yoel Espinosa Medrano

SANTA CLARA, Villa Clara, Cuba, 29 de noviembre de 2012, Directivos del Ministerio del Interior (MININT) en la
central provincia de Villa Clara presionan a trabajadores civiles para
que se conviertan en uniformados.

Oficiales del MININT visitan empresas y exigen a dirigentes que designen
a trabajadores para integrar diferentes órganos del ramo. Los
uniformados sugieren que sean militantes del Partido Comunista de Cuba
(PCC) para obligarlos a dar el paso al frente, según refirió Reinaldo
Batista, trabajador de Servicios Comunales.

"En mi empresa le pidieron al director que designara a varias mujeres,
me vivieron a ver, al no aceptar la propuesta me amenazaron con
separarme del PCC, pero al final desistieron", dijo Rosibel Lama,

La medida está dada por el bajo por ciento de concurrentes a las
convocatorias para el adiestramiento de Funcionario de Orden Interior
(FOI) en las prisiones, Policía (orden público), Peritos, Carpeteros de
unidades de policía, entre otros.

Cuba Recognizes Role of Catholic Church

Cuba Recognizes Role of Catholic Church
November 30, 2012

HAVANA TIMES — Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the archbishop of Havana, said
recently at a conference in Germany that the Cuban Catholic Church is
recognized as a legitimate interlocutor by the island's government.

Since 2010 the Church has been in dialogue with the authorities and "not
only with President Raul Castro" on topics such as "the grave economic
situation of the country, and the fears and demands of citizens," but
also "the aspirations and hopes" of Cubans, said the priest.

The religious leader admitted to not knowing "how far the dialogue can
advance or its real scope or potential outcomes." "However," he added,
"dialogue is the only path that the Church must pursue to procure a good
material and spiritual life for society and the Cuban people."

Cuba is immersed in an economic and spiritual or existential crisis,
Ortega said, adding that the process begun in 1959 has not succeeded at
realizing itself, "at least not as expected," where the "Cuban dream"
would meet "the aspirations of the righteous poor of this land."

Nevertheless Ortega said the Catholic Church is encouraging the changes
"timidly taking place" on the island and it hopes that other changes
will be introduced "for the good of the country and its citizens," he added.

Cuba's Agriculture: Relativity and Time

Cuba's Agriculture: Relativity and Time
November 30, 2012
Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — Administrators of the Ministry of Agriculture say that
four years is too little an amount of time for any changes in that area,
but I can't believe they required 48 months to determine that campesinos
needed to have their homes located on their farms.

In a recent press conference, these officials announced that they had
eliminated the ban on building homes on land distributed in usufruct so
that campesinos wouldn't have to live in the city and commute every
morning to work their fields.

That loose concept of time may explain why they're still continuing to
"study" the issue of the distribution and marketing of agricultural
products. Notwithstanding, this overly centralized form of production —
monopolized by agencies for half a century — has given ample proof of
its inefficiency.

The administrators didn't want to talk about this; they simply repeated
over and over again that "it's not the topic of this press conference."
This came as a great surprise since most farmers believe that to be the
main obstacle of Cuban agriculture.

For an example, we foreign journalists explained what's happening with
milk, whose price has been reduced to a third of what's established by
the government. However the officials only talked about the quality of
that product using technical arguments that are difficult to confirm.

Nevertheless campesinos are very pragmatic and have years of experience
in dealing with bureaucrats; so if they're not paid what's agreed on,
they'll sell their milk on the black market, where there's always
someone willing to pay its true value.

Roads are a good barometer of what's happening. When the government
began to pay cheese vendors more, they disappeared from the highways.
Now they're back, and in force, even in places that aren't traditionally
cattle-raising areas.

Nevertheless the administrators of the nation's agriculture assured us
that reform is proceeding smoothly, though they refused to give us
figures about how much is being produced by the new farmers – the
150,000 campesinos who have just received land in usufruct.

These specialists say that agricultural development has to be measured
qualitatively, not quantitatively; they also talk about "impacts,"
gibberish that seems to have the sole purpose of hiding figures that
would allow the measurement of the effectiveness of the work of MINAGRI.

The problem is that people don't eat "impacts" – they eat fruits,
vegetables and meat. The only "impact" they experience is that felt by
the increasingly higher prices at agricultural markets, where a pound of
potatoes now costs $2 USD in some places.

The problem isn't that there's no food in the streets; the agro markets
are full, fixed-location sales stalls are multiplying and cart-pushing
vendors are crisscrossing the neighborhoods touting their products.
Never since the time when I first arrived in Cuba have I ever seen so
much food – but never has it been so expensive.

Part of the explanation is that many farmers are evading
commercialization that goes through the government because of the low
prices it pays, in addition to delays and inefficiency when it comes
time to for harvesting crops, which can lead to substantial losses.

Because of this, much of the food produced in Cuba moves within a
semi-legal spectrum in which intermediaries and the black marketeers
jack-up the prices, with these players earning much more than campesinos
or bled-dry consumers.

While all of this is being experienced by people on the street, MINAGRI
administrators are continuing to "study" the issue of marketing. They
may require six or seven years of analysis because it's an issue that's
even more complex than authorizing the construction of homes on farms.

A person would be led to believe that this ministry is composed of a
small group of people over their heads in work, but the truth is that
this office has hundreds of thousands of employees. The problem is that
most of them are engaged in paper shuffling.

After the press conference, I kept thinking about the theory of
relativity. Four years for an ordinary person equals 1,460 days of daily
struggle for them to put at plate of food on the table. Obviously
administrators see things different from how consumers do.

(*) See Fernando Ravsberg's blog (in Spanish).

Casting the Blame in the Same Old Direction

Casting the Blame in the Same Old Direction
November 30, 2012
Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES – Our media's obsession with justifying the unjustifiable
seems to have no end, always putting the blame on the same guilty party:
that consumer society; those countries where state power is based on the
dispute and succession of this or that political party; those rightist
governments; those class societies; that perpetual enemy, that…!

We know all too well that each of us human beings is a kind of
receptacle for good or for evil. The spice of the story lies in which
of these elements will predominate in our actions. This goes beyond
questions of society, or of who's in the government.

Throughout the history of humanity, criminals, the corrupt, the
unscrupulous have existed, as well as those of good faith, the honest,
and the virtuous. This was true during slavery, under feudalism, in
capitalism and in socialism.

For that reason, it's outrageous to cast responsibility solely on the
social and contemporary climate, even though these certainly exert some
influence. I'm one of those who vote with Marti's assertion: "I believe
in the betterment of humanity and in the usefulness of virtue."

This is what leads me to disagree with an article titled, "Pablo
Escobar's Show" written by Javier Ortiz and published on November 13 of
this year in the Culture and Opinion section of "Cubadebate". In this,
the author attempts to excuse the atrocities committed by the well-known
drug lord with paragraphs like this:

..Pablo Escobar didn't become what he was by pure evil, independently of
the fact that he may have had the cerebral chemistry of a born criminal.
It was the result of his era, the perfect pairing of the violence in
Colombia with the demand for drugs in the United States. He himself did
not forget the class and country he had been born into, and constructed
a good number of social projects that earned him the affection of the
lower classes in Medellín, the city that was the seat of his cartel…"

Even though the man had his positive traits, it was quicker and easier
for him to follow the path of drug trafficking and crime than that of
honest work.

My feelings about this article were similar to those I harbored a few
years ago when I saw the movie "The Broken Gods", a fictional
feature-length film directed by the Cuban filmmaker Ernesto Daranas, and
produced by ICAIC in 2008. At one point the actress portraying the
teacher Laura is discussing the topic of her thesis before a tribunal
and offers this discourse:

…Frustration – that's the word that defines 1910. An unsatisfactory
independence and two North American interventions had humiliated the
national self-esteem excessively. Then this man arose who seemed
capable of recuperating our damaged virility with the unzipping of a
fly.. Alberto Yarini y Ponce de León appeared to rescue a part of our
honor by defeating the French who dominated the prostitution in San
Isidro, Havana…Finally a Cuban had won a war against a foreign power.
And, for further glory, even gave his life "for the cause"…

As you can see here, too – although masked by the subtlety and sarcasm
that any Cuban script must utilize in order to be screened – they
pretend to excuse the greatest Cuban pimp of his time under pretext of
the wounded national ego.

I've used these two examples to demonstrate how, be it in an article
referring to a foreign TV series or in the lines from a movie character
who narrates passages from our history, the blame is always cast in the
same place.

And that speech, although well written, doesn't convince me. People are
responsible for their acts. The situational context, though it can
influence, is not the determinant factor.

Cuba Travel: With People-To-People Trips On The Rise, Advice To First-Time Travelers To Cuba

Cuba Travel: With People-To-People Trips On The Rise, Advice To
First-Time Travelers To Cuba
By Paul Brady Posted: 11/29/2012 7:18 am EST Updated: 11/29/2012 7:25 pm EST

The Castro regime is still in charge, but for some travel companies, the
2012 election in the U.S. has ushered in the closest thing to a golden
era of Cuba travel possible under the current trade embargo.

Earlier this year, the future of legal travel to Cuba seemed in doubt as
tour companies faced unprecedented hurdles in securing required
licenses. But in the run-up to November 6, the Office of Foreign Assets
Control renewed a number of licenses for "people-to-people" trips, run
by companies with an educational mandate to show the cultural side of
Cuba rather than the beaches that are so popular with Canadian, Japanese
and other tourists from around the world.

President Obama called for people-to-people trips back in 2011. His
second term should offer further stability for travelers contemplating a
trip to Cuba, says Tom Popper of Insight Cuba, a tour company that
focuses exclusively on trips to the island.

"We went from the doldrums to the most glorious position," Popper says
of the delay in license renewal followed by the Obama victory. "This is
amazing for everybody involved."

Speaking generally about legal travel to Cuba, Popper also shared with
HuffPost Travel a number of tips for first-time visitors to the island.

"People-to-people licensing is really the only time in the last 50 years
that any American can travel to Cuba," Popper says. Journalists, church
groups and others were able to travel to the island but "this changes
everything." In other words, if you've wanted to go but were afraid of
going illegally, now's the time.

"Select a company that has experience," Popper says. He also advises
travelers to ask good questions of their trip provider -- and to be sure
that the itinerary as advertised is up to date.

"Most of the trips are going to be expensive," Popper warns. Between
regulatory requirements and the general difficulty of doing business in
Cuba, prices can seem high compared to trips of similar lengths going to
other destinations.

"Properly set your expectations," Popper advises. "Hotels in Cuba are
not like international hotels anywhere else," he adds with a laugh. Food
too can be less impressive than some visitors might expect --
particularly given the quality of Cuban food in the U.S. Popper says
that the quality of tourist services on the island is a direct result of
the trade embargo: "They can't get stuff," he says.

Be prepared to pay for the web. Many major hotels have insanely
expensive Wi-Fi, but other than that, you'll be largely disconnected
from the web, Popper says.

"Things are expensive, in part because they're for tourists," Popper
says. Between cocktails, small souvenirs, cover charges, the
aforementioned internet, things add up -- and there are no ATMs. You'll
need to take all the cash you think you need plus plenty more just in case.

Cuba: To Be or Not to Be a Revolutionary

Cuba: To Be or Not to Be a Revolutionary
November 30, 2012
Veronica Vega

HAVANA TIMES — At our last neighborhood meeting to select candidates
before the recent election of a delegate (this was the third attempt
since the two previous meetings were canceled due to the lack of
attendance), one man began his presentation for nomination saying:

"In view of the fact that there are no revolutionaries here…!

He was then interrupted by several people present, all indignant. One
resident even demanded a retraction. Very few of us remained unmoved by
the offense. But I could only but reflect on the enormous submerged
portion of the iceberg.

I can bet that the residents who reacted most violently to the adjective
have never bothered to look it up in a dictionary. But they have seen
the price of being identified with the terrible antonym:
"counterrevolutionary" (with it not having mattered if the person
designated as such was precisely someone who wanted to "change
everything that needs to be changed").

Fear is an effective method of persuasion because what doesn't change
within is held onto, at least on the outside, and the way the soul
reacts to those harsh orthopedics can go on for many years.

The word "revolutionary" is among my earliest memories from school. It
remains linked to the neckerchief and lined formations, to those ballot
boxes they sent us to guard, which where people dropped in pieces of
folded paper. It is tied to the CDR meetings that my sisters and I used
to attend, not because we understood anything of was being talked about
there, but because sometimes a neighbor would play the accordion, a
great show for kids.

That word is connected to the speeches of Fidel on TV (which I didn't
understand), though one of which I remember in particular because my
mother suddenly jumped up in front of the TV, screaming with joy. When
asked what happened, she replied bursting with emotion: "They're going
to start issuing school uniforms that don't need ironing!" You can
imagine what that meant to a housewife who had three daughters and was
expecting the fourth.

Digging deeper into my memory, the word "revolutionary" gradually became
diffuse, lost between white spaces, reappearing between sneers, shrugs
and scoffs.

The return

Just three years ago, I met someone who had just published a serious
social analysis on the Internet that they directed to "Cuban
revolutionaries." I asked why she didn't simply expand his invitation to
"Cubans," since that abused "R" word could turn off many otherwise
interested readers.

I told her about what a poet had said to me about the need to drop
certain words emptied by abuse, to let them rest a while and become
recharged in time with their original meaning and depth.

I even told this writer about my experience when I would speak to God,
how I realized the tension a certain term could cause and therefore
decided to replace it. Communication with people then became clearer,
avoiding misunderstandings.

Nevertheless this friend said preferred to use the word "revolutionary,"
with all its risks.

Already by that time I had noted that the epithet was used as a
safe-conduct pass for saying anything publicly. It was invariably the
preamble — either that or its opposite: "I'm not counterrevolutionary" —
like advance warning when making any critique of anything.

This is the conflict of using vivid words to demarcate phenomena that —
because they too are living — are transformed to the point of dying and
need other words to define them.

Being etymologically accurate, what "revolutionary" means, according to
Larousse, is:

1. (Adj.) Having to do with a political, social or economic revolution
of a nation.

2. One who supports the revolution of political, social and/or economic

3. That which produces a sudden and innovative change.

4. That which causes an uproar (e.g., a revolutionary attitude)

Despite how much people publicly use it, Cuba doesn't have a population
that is outstandingly revolutionary, nor is this obvious when you travel
across the country. What one finds is statism and apathy, qualities
opposed to change and movement.

With all that I've experienced with Cuban institutions (and not just
cultural ones), proposing and achieving noticeable changes is almost
impossible. There's a fierce inertia of conservatism and control
supported by more than candid prejudices.

Of course this obstruction of movement (which denies the very principle
of "revolution") cannot avoid other internal movements, thus creating a
situation that ends up being outrageously visible: decline.

A new aspect of the problem

No matter how much those of us born in Cuba since the '60s were taught
that being "revolutionary" was the highest of quality, I for one had
questions as to whether this was achieved through merit (as with the
Pioneer badges and certificates) or if it was automatically inherited.

Certainly there are born revolutionaries, but they're the exceptions.
Now, being strictly honest, how many human beings have proven themselves
to be "revolutionary" (re-evolutionary?). How many can be revolutionary
in every single aspect that society needs?

By natural law, each generation is more advanced than the preceding one.
Under this premise, a generation that set a precedent for progress is
superseded by the next, which assimilates and optimizes what it inherits.

This is also the undeniable principle of synergy. As the poet Khalil
Gibran said when discussing children: "You can try to look like them,
but don't try to make them be like you, because life doesn't go backward
nor does it stop with yesterday."

Now, what bothers me most about all the verbal iconography and
paraphernalia that developed during my childhood (and with all Cuban
children after 1959) is a basic question: Why is it so important to be
defined as revolutionary?

When one reads the moral foundations of ancient religions and
philosophical systems, you don't find this term. I wonder (here I'll
rule out everything about faith so as not to limit the analysis), if a
person aspires to and sincerely struggles to: not lie (which implies not
deceiving or manipulating), not steal, not kill, earn one's own living,
share with the needy, respect laws and norms and develop one's will and
consciousness, then what does it matter if they're revolutionary or not?

Likewise, in the name of this "revolution" (often overpowering and
confusing, like all social whirlwinds), what was stigmatized was not
only religion but also spirituality itself, along with plurality,
individuality, autonomy and civil consciousness – cardinal aspects for
developing a genuinely revolutionary society.

Paradoxically (and not innocently) the term was used (and still is) to
divide, confront and exclude, thereby perpetuating the denial of its

Someday perhaps, in honor of the truth, the deeper etymology of
"revolutionary" in Cuba will be restored. In the meantime, because
experience always supersedes words, I'll continue associating it with
anger, imposition, hatred… and fatigue.

Wife turns up heat as US man stuck in Cuba prison

Posted on Friday, 11.30.12

Wife turns up heat as US man stuck in Cuba prison
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Almost three years after her husband was arrested and
jailed in Cuba, Judy Gross still talks to Americans who haven't heard
his story. Now she is speaking more openly than in the past, hoping to
make her husband's case as well-known as those of other Americans who
won freedom after being jailed overseas.

Alan Gross, a Maryland native and 63-year-old father of two, was working
as a U.S. government subcontractor in Cuba when he was arrested nearly
three years ago. He was there setting up Internet access for Cuba's
Jewish community, and a U.S. official said this week he is in prison for
no reason. But Cuban officials say he hid the fact he was working for
the U.S. government and also illegally brought sophisticated
communication equipment into the country. He was sentenced in 2011 to 15
years in prison for crimes against the state.

Judy Gross said her husband's imprisonment hasn't generated the interest
level given to other jailed Americans. That includes three hikers jailed
in Iran and two American journalists held in North Korea and later freed
during a visit by former President Bill Clinton. Like Gross, all were
arrested in 2009.

Alan Gross' story is better known in Cuba and Latin America, but his
wife said it has gotten somewhat lost in the U.S., possibly overshadowed
by the presidential race and economy. Weekly rallies urging his freedom
outside the Cuban Interests Section, Cuba's presence in Washington, draw
just a handful of dedicated supporters.

"I'm constantly educating people," Gross told The Associated Press on
Thursday night at her home in Washington.

Gross has had some high-profile attention, but it hasn't brought him
home. Former president Jimmy Carter met him during a 2011 visit to the
country and discussed his case with Cuban officials. Former New Mexico
Gov. Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations,
visited Cuba several months later and hoped to secure Gross' release.
But Gross stayed put.

Part of the reason Gross' case isn't better-known has to do with
strategy. For two years after he was arrested, Judy Gross and her
then-lawyer tried working quietly through diplomatic channels. They
talked to reporters, but appearances were limited.

Earlier this year, Gross changed lawyers and began more publicly
agitating for her husband's release. In September, for example, 44
senators signed a letter to Cuba's president calling for his release. A
new lawyer, Jared Genser, wrote a letter to the United Nations'
anti-torture expert complaining about Gross' medical care. On Friday,
Gross spoke about her husband's case to a room full of approximately
three dozen journalists at The National Press Club in Washington.

"The quiet, diplomatic way wasn't working," Gross said during Thursday's

Gross also recently filed a $60 million lawsuit against the U.S.
government and the Maryland-based government contractor her husband was
working for at the time of his arrest.

The company, Development Alternatives Inc., was working for the U.S.
Agency for International Development, the government agency that
provides economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide in support of
U.S. foreign policy. USAID spends millions of dollars on programs to
promote democracy and political change in Cuba.

Cuba sees USAID's programs as a threat to its sovereignty, and Gross,
who was on his fifth trip to the country for USAID when he was arrested,
acknowledged in company reports that his work was "very risky business."

Judy Gross said her husband should never have been sent to Cuba, and she
believes it's the government's duty to bring him home as it would bring
a soldier home from battle. She called on President Barack Obama to
help. Right now, she said, her husband feels "totally deserted by his

Cuba expressed willingness to talk with U.S. officials about the case as
recently as this week, according to a letter from the government
obtained by the AP. But the letter also suggested Cuba won't release
Gross without a similar gesture by the U.S. The letter again raised the
case of the so-called "Cuban Five," a group of men convicted of
participating in a Cuban spy ring. But U.S. officials have said Gross'
case is far different and have rejected the idea.

For her part, Judy Gross said it's not important to her what kind of
deal is reached.

"Bring him home," she said. "I don't care how they do it."

Follow Jessica Gresko at

Cuban dissidents say attacks are evidence of anxiety about the opposition

Posted on Friday, 11.30.12

Cuban dissidents say attacks are evidence of anxiety about the opposition

Cuban human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez says he has been harassed
by Cuba's secret police for the first time in decades
By Juan O. Tamayo

Cuban human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz says the secret
police harassed him for the first time in 20 years, and dissident
Guillermo Fariñas says they hit him, in what the two men called yet
another sign of the government's growing nervousness over the opposition.

Sánchez has been one of the few critical voices that seemed to be
tolerated by the communist government. He has run the Cuban Commission
for Human Rights and National Reconciliation from his home in Havana
without trouble since 1992 even though it has never been recognized by

But he alleged that two State Security agents in plainclothes who
approached him on a street Tuesday called out his name, accused him of
being a "liar" and a "mercenary for Washington" and threatened that
"soon I will receive a forceful reply from the revolution."

"This was very rare," he told El Nuevo Herald. "The truth is that I have
not been molested" since a 1992 police raid on his commission's offices.
"Monitored yes, but molested, no."

Sánchez blamed the incident on "the increasing nervousness in the
government" over continuing opposition activities despite a harsh
crackdown over the past year by the Raúl Castro government.

Sánchez's commission reported earlier this month that police carried out
5,625 short-term arrests — usually lasting only hours — for political
motives in the first 10 months of the year, a monthly average of 562
that compared to 172 in 2010 and 343 in 2011.

Dissidents also have complained of increased beatings, and some have
been jailed for longer periods. Antonio G. Rodiles, one of the most
active dissidents in recent times, was beaten during his arrest and held
for 19 days earlier this month.

Fariñas, who won the European Parliament's Sakharov prize for Freedom of
Thought in 2010, said he believed the attack against him showed
authorities are "in a state of nervousness" because dissidents will not
halt their work despite the repression.

He was walking to a friend's home in Havana Tuesday night when two men
in their 20s who were dressed in civilian clothes called him a
"mercenary" and "counterrevolutionary" and tried to hit him on the head
with a stick, he said. He put up his arm and the blow landed on his forearm.

The two men then ran into a dark-colored Lada, a Soviet-era car
traditionally used by State Security agents, and a third man at the
wheel sped away, Farinas told El Nuevo Herald.

Cuban officials claim that dissidents are paid by the U.S. government
for their opposition and brand them as mercenaries. Dissidents say they
oppose the Cuban government because of its human rights abuses and
communist system.

Sanchez said he sent a telegram to Interior Minister Gen. Abelardo
Colomé Ibarra, in charge of the secret police, denouncing his harassment
"in an aggressive and humiliating form.'' He said the two men "made
various threats against my integrity."

"Arbitrary detentions, physical aggressions, threats and humiliations
against peaceful citizens are counterproductive as an alternative to the
national dialogue… that could help reverse the grave and growing crisis
affecting the great majority of Cubans," he added.

Fariñas said State Security officials have told him in previous
encounters that some of the best known dissidents on the island cannot
be detained without the express approval of Castro, Colomé or Gen.
Carlos Fernandez Gondín, the head of State Security.

"That these things are happening now to Elizardo and I indicate to us
that the situation is getting tough," he added. "Well, if martyrs are
needed, if it's the turn of Guillermo Fariñas or Elizardo Sanchez, we
accept that."

Fariñas has launched more than two dozen hunger strikes during his years
as a dissident and independent journalist. Several of them have landed
him in the hospital.

The InterAmerican Press Association, meanwhile, denounced the
"arbitrary" and "violent" detention Wednesday of Roberto de Jesús
Guerra, who heads the independent news agency Hablemos Press in Havana.

Guerra was freed hours later, and on Thursday he reported that the
government had just restored service to his cellular phone — the most
efficient method of communicating on the island — after a two-month outage.

Hablemos Press writer Calixto Ramón Martínez was arrested in September
and declared a hunger strike about three weeks ago to protest his
continued detention.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cuba keeps intense pressure on rights advocates

Cuba keeps intense pressure on rights advocates
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting

More than 5,600 dissidents, journalists and human-rights activists have
been arrested or detained in Cuba between January and the end of October
of this year, a leading human rights group reports.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation
recorded 520 detentions in October alone. For the year, the group says
it has documented 5,625 cases, which is "consistent with the high level
of political repression in Cuba over recent years."

The Hablemos Press Information Center reported that 4,542 people had
been either arrested or detained during the same period. However, the
group's records do not include all of Cuba.

The two groups most aggressively targeted are the Ladies in White -
women campaigning for the release of relatives imprisoned in the "Black
Spring" of 2003 - and the Patriotic Union of Cuba. One reason for the
high number of detentions is the Cuban authorities' tactic of using
repeated short-term internment to harass anyone who criticizes the system.

For example, Yoani Sanchez, perhaps Cuba's most famous blogger, was
arrested on Oct. 4 while en route to attend a trial. He was held for 30
hours and then released.

Sanchez had been following the trial of Spanish politician Angel
Carromero, who was charged in connection with the death of Cuban
dissidents Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero in a car crash in July. On
Oct. 15, Carromero was found guilty of manslaughter while driving, and
sentenced to four years in prison.

Similarly, journalist Yosbel Ramos Suarez was detained twice in October,
once to prevent him visiting human-rights activist Vladimir Alejo, and
again to stop him from attending a church service.

But not all detentions end quickly. Dissidents Emilio Plana Robert and
Rafael Matos Montes were given three and a half and two and a half years
respectively, while Reinaldo Castillo Martinez was sentenced to a year
and Alberto Ramos Prados to a year and a half.

The human rights group notes that six individuals arrested in September
are still awaiting trial, including independent journalist Calixto Ramon
Martinez Arias. He is accused of "disrespecting" Cuba's current and
former leaders Raul and Fidel Castro - a criminal offense that can carry
a three-year sentence.

Meanwhile, a number of political prisoners were also released. Niurka
Luque Alvarez, a member of Damas de Blanco, along with 17 others from
the group, was freed on Oct. 5 after being held for seven months. And
Amnesty International reported that Antonio Michel Lima was released on
Oct. 26, two years and a day after he and his brother were arrested for
the crime of listening to hip-hop music with lyrics criticizing the lack
of freedom of expression.


Ivette Martinez is an independent journalist in Mexico. This article
first appeared on a website maintained by The Institute for War & Peace
Reporting, a nonprofit organization that trains journalists in areas of
conflict. Readers may write to the author at the Institute for War &
Peace Reporting, 48 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, U.K.; Web site: For information about IWPR's funding, please go to

This essay is available to McClatchy-Tribune News Service subscribers.
McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the
opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the
views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.

2012, The Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Posted on Thu, Nov. 29, 2012 07:17 AM

Cuban appeal for storm funds

Cuban appeal for storm funds
Archdiocese uses Facebook to seek donations
Paul Keenan
Thursday, 29 November 2012
5:00 AM GMT

Cuba - The Archdiocese of Santiago has issued an appeal to the
international community for further assistance in the wake of Hurricane
While much media attention focused on the damage wrought by Sandy as it
tore through New York in America, Cuba - and Haiti - were seriously
Now, in an appeal backed by Archbishop Dionosio Garcia, the Santiago
archdiocese has launched a Facebook appeal for funds to be forwarded via
two accounts it has opened at the Vatican's Institute for Religious
Works and the US-based Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre Foundation.
On November 19, Caritas in Cuba received the first batch of humanitarian
aid gathered by the US Archdiocese of Miami, home to many Cuban
emigrants and exiles.

Cessation of Cohabitation

Cessation of Cohabitation / Cuban Law Association, Miguel Iturria Medina
Cuban Law Association, Miguel Iturria Medina, Translator: Unstated
By Miguel Iturria Medina

Property Law governs the use, enjoyment, possession and availability of
good which one owns. The ultimate power is related, in short, to the
possibility of the title holder doing with his property what he deems to
be best. In the case of housing one of the issues is the disposition it,
that is the owner's decision about who lives in his property.

This is addressed in Article 64 of our General Housing Act, Act No. 65;
however there are exceptions provision regulated in Article 65 of the
law itself, which limits the cessation of cohabitation for ancestors and
descendants of the owner, mothers with children born during the
marriage, formalized or not with the owner, or mothers with children
living in the housing for three or more years and having no other
residence; elderly who have lived for more than three years in the
building and who do not have a place to reside, cases of manifest
injustice or inhumane acts.

Outside of these exceptions, the owner may terminate the cohabitation of
any person without requiring an administrative or judicial declaration,
but if the cohabitant refuses to leave the property, then the owner can
call the Municipal Department of Housing to issue a resolution which
determines whether unwanted cohabitant must leave, a process that can be
achieved in the second instance in the Provincial Court, by application
of nonconformity of the administrative decision, and which ends,
finally, in appeal to the Supreme Court.

The real problem lies in the Order to Cease Cohabitation because once it
is signed, either by resolution of the Municipal Housing (DMV) or
Judgment of the Provincial or Supreme Court, whether the cohabitant
refuses to leave the property and which is antisocial behavior unrelated
to a work center, the competent authority comes to force removal by the
police. But if the cohabitant does not meet these characteristics, the
DMV only issues a provision ordering them to leave the house in 30 days
and if they do not they will be fined 30% to 50% of their salary which
will accrue to the State. So far.

Why doesn't the competent authority take action in all cases where a
final decision calls for the cessation of cohabitation? What coercive
force is there in reducing the minimum wage by 30% to 50% when the cost
of renting a home is around 20 Cuban Convertible Pesos (around 500 pesos
in "national money"), and this figure is more than 50% of what the
average worker earns? How can the owner get someone out of his house who
doesn't meet this requirement of an "anti-social labor link"?

There is no other option than to modify the Law so that it truly
guarantees this ability.

September 30 2012

The Dilemma of Economic Contracting

The Dilemma of Economic Contracting (1) / Cuban Law Association, Rodrigo
Chavez #Cuba
Cuban Law Association, Rodrigo Chavez Rodriguez, Translator: Unstated

Monotony? War of attrition? Psychological pressure? False expectations?
Or direct or indirect solutions in the short, medium or long term?

With so many questions, we do not know how to start, but it is true and,
as always, there is a beginning and an end, that … God forbid, has
started and can be completed, directly or indirectly in the short,
medium or long term.

The issue of contracting, which is so inherent to the Cuban, that you
can almost say he has become a specialist in this area without even
knowing the essential elements that comprise it, suffice it to say that
"horse trading" or "haggling" or whatever you want to call it is a daily
form of establishing contractual relations between two or more people
who want to be engaged in a relationship, legal or illegal (it's very
trendy in the underground market), and even though the State knows it,
it cannot act effectively against them and believe me, in this market
there is more than enough supply to meet the demand.

Let's look at the issue of the newspaper Granma, on August 3, 2012, on
page 4, titled Companies Must Play Their Part, by the journalist Ivette
Sosa Hernandez. We ask ourselves, if the international contraction goes
badly, as required, is contracting at the national level in good health?
The rules for international contracts (covering a larger number of
subjects, different economies, etc.), are not the same as those that
apply to the national (internal order in the state enterprise sector and
even in the private sector).

Indeed, the laws and regulations that still apply to economic
contracting, do not conform to current conditions, so we can infer they
have been frozen in time.

Both internationally and nationally, concluding a legal instrument of
the magnitude of a contract, involves a solemn act, seriousness,
responsibility, rights and obligations for the parties, but is primarily
a meeting of the minds, wills backed by trust and commitment to its full
implementation, so much so that in its commitment and arbitration
clauses it does not become a dead letter.

Formalism, has become for Cuban entrepreneurs, something commonplace and
everyday and therefore close to creativity, so it is unusual to speak
about about bidding, negotiating; in such cases, the lawyer's voice or
intervention is usually relegated to the background, the lawyer is not
on the plane where he should be but is called in cases of default, when
conflict is already imminent, when given sufficient time he would have
known the state of gestation that led to the evolution, development and
delivery of such conflict.

October 1 2012

The Dilemma of Economic Contracting (2) / Cuban Law Association, Rodrigo
Chavez #Cuba
Cuban Law Association, Rodrigo Chavez Rodriguez, Translator: Unstated

Lic. Rodrigo Chávez

The underutilization of the attorney and the little or poor
participation accorded to him in the contracting process, ultimately
leads to problems with regards to the intentions or expected outcomes of
the established relations.

In any state agency, it is not difficult to see that the activity of the
lawyer, or the legal counsel, the attorney, or whatever you call him, is
limited or tied to the development of disciplinary action, claims that
could have been avoided, had he worked on the economics of the case, or
even in some instances as secretary to the Board of Directors. In the
latter role, discrepancies exist because some people advocate for him
and others do not, but in the end, whenever one is in a subordinate
role, the decision of the boss prevails without exception. A rational
use of human capital makes sense, but in the same vein is the irrational
use of the attorney.

There are lines which lead to imperfections in contracts, their normal
development, and given that in the end a contract is a voluntary
agreement, these must be true, solid, achievable objectively true and
not fictitious, things that in our day constitute justification,
failures to meet production or distribution or provide services, the
inadequate or improper use of the contract; it would not be improper to
speak in these terms same terms with regards to planning.

The labyrinth through which contracting passes, affects the stipulations
for agricultural production, as well as those for supplies, and even the
execution of the work; in these three alone the incidence rate is so
negative, it deserves special attention devoted to it, given that even
if the performance of a farmer's harvest exceeds expectations that, too,
does not meet the objective of achieving the terms because it was not
reflected in the contract.

How is it possible that markets are largely unserved, making it possible
to supplement the initial contract, but here's another great dilemma: if
it is nefarious to fail to meet the plan, it is more nefarious to over
fulfill it. They would have to walk hand in hand as binomial-procurement
planning. With proper planning, could well provide an adequate contract,
and with a good solution, it would lead to a good distribution and a
high probability of satisfying the consumer, right?

October 2 2012

Havana Energy to sign Cuban biomass plant deal

November 28, 2012 4:34 pm

Havana Energy to sign Cuban biomass plant deal
By Marc Frank in Havana

One of former British energy minister Brian Wilson's dreams will become
reality on Thursday when Havana Energy signs a joint venture agreement
in Cuba to produce renewable energy with cane refuse and other biomass

Mr Wilson, a former Labour MP and chairman of Havana Energy, said he had
always held an interest in the Caribbean island and had worked to forge
better bilateral relations.

"This is a big step forward for the company and for Cuba, and I hope it
pushes forward our bilateral economic relations," Mr Wilson said.

The venture will burn sugar cane bagasse, the fibrous residue left after
cane crushing, and marabu, a hardwood brush that quickly overgrows and
renders the land useless. As much as a third of Cuba's arable land is
over-run with marabu, according to the government.

Zerus, a subsidiary of the Cuban state's sugar monopoly Azcuba, will
hold 51 per cent of the new company, named Biopower, and Havana Energy,
a subsidiary of the Esencia Group, would have 49 per cent, Andrew
Macdonald, chief executive of the British company, said.

"The agreement between Havana Energy and Zerus is excellent news. It
will help create jobs, build a greener economy and support the positive
economic changes happening in Cuba," said Tim Cole, Britain's ambassador
to Cuba.

"It is the first joint venture with any EU nation in three years and a
major step forward for the bilateral commercial relationship. We hope
that other contracts will soon follow," he said.

Mr Macdonald also heads Esencia, which has a number of other projects
with Cuba, including a joint research agreement to investigate marabu's
potential as an activated carbon and a potential agri-energy business on
the cleared land.

Several UK institutions have supported the initiative during the past
few years, including Strathclyde University, the Scottish Development
International, the Crop Institute and the Scottish Agricultural College.

The venture is the first in the sugar sector that will produce energy
for the national power grid and one of only a handful of foreign
investment projects approved by Cuba over the past few years.

Biopower will set to work early next year harvesting marabu on an
experimental basis toward building the first of what it hopes will be
five 30-megawatt power plants attached to sugar mills around the
country, according to Mr Macdonald.

"We plan to invest about $50m in this first plant in Ciro Redondo
[central Cuba], which should be up and running in early 2015," he said.

President Raúl Castro, who assumed power from his brother Fidel in 2008,
is trying to revive the country's economy through market-oriented
reforms that include more foreign investment. However, to date few
agreements have been signed.

Cuba creates biotech-pharma combine

Cuba creates biotech-pharma combine
Published November 28, 2012

Cuba's government has created a new business group comprising 38
companies involved in the manufacture and sale of medicine and provision
of services in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

The new group will operate under the name BioCubaFarma and "will be
guided by business principles," an official statement said.

It was created "by merging entities belonging to the Scientific Pole and
the QUIMEFA Business Group with a mission to manufacture medicine and
equipment (and provide) hi-tech services," the statement added.

Production will be aimed at "improving people's health and generating
exportable goods and services" through "scientific and technical
development" on the island.

The Council of Ministers named Dr. Carlos Manuel Gutierrez Calzado,
previously the director of the National Scientific Research Center, as
president of BioCubaFarma.

Jose Miyar Barruecos, who had been the head of the Scientific Pole, will
"now fulfill other duties directly with (President Raul Castro)."

The government said the newly created group is part of reforms being
carried out to "update" Cuba's socialist model.

Those reforms also include broadening the scope for private business and
plans to lay off 500,000 state employees through 2015.

The reform guidelines approved by Cuba's Communist Party in 2011
underscore the goals of consolidating the pharmaceutical and
biotechnology industry "as one of the (island's) most exportable
activities" and "introducing new products into the domestic market to
substitute imports." EFE

Cuban, US doctors at odds over jailed American's health

Cuban, US doctors at odds over jailed American's health
Published November 27, 2012
Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Cuban government said Wednesday that a test shows an
American imprisoned in Cuba doesn't have cancer, countering a previous
statement by a US doctor that a mass on his shoulder should be assumed
to be cancerous unless proven harmless.

Both sides have spent the past several months going back and forth about
the health of Alan Gross, who has been in prison in Cuba for nearly
three years. Gross, 63, has had a mass on his shoulder since May.
Overweight when he was arrested, he has also lost more than 100 pounds
since being in prison. Gross' lawyer and family want to be able to
choose a doctor to examine him. The Cuban government has said his health
is fine.

Cuban officials said in a statement Wednesday that Cuban and American
officials met Monday to discuss Gross' health. During the meeting
officials discussed in part an Oct. 24 biopsy that confirmed that a lump
on Gross' right shoulder is not cancerous, the one-page statement from
Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The statement said the test
"could not be performed before due to Mr. Gross' refusal" and that
Gross' wife, a resident of the District of Columbia, was given the test
results during a meeting in Washington on Monday.

The Cuban medical team treating Gross said "the general health condition
of Mr. Gross is normal" though he is being treated for "chronic
illnesses that are typical of his age."

A radiologist from Maryland who reviewed tests performed on Gross in
Cuba before the biopsy had said they were inadequate and suggested both
an MRI and possibly a biopsy. On Wednesday the same doctor, Alan A.
Cohen, concluded in a letter released to reporters that the results of
the biopsy were "hopeful but not definitive." He repeated his suggestion
of an MRI and suggested a biopsy using a larger needle.

One of Gross' U.S. lawyers, Jared Genser, also questioned the results of
the biopsy and repeated requests that Gross be allowed to choose a
doctor to examine him. Genser questioned the public release of medical
records without Gross' consent.

Gross has been in prison in Cuba since late 2009. He was working as a
U.S. government subcontractor when he was arrested, and his case has
become a source of tension in U.S.-Cuba relations.

A New York rabbi who saw Gross on Tuesday also said the growth was not
cancerous. Rabbi Elie Abadie, who is a doctor, told The Associated Press
in an interview that he had examined Gross and received a lengthy
briefing on his health. Gross' lawyer said the value of Abadie's
assessment is limited because he is a gastroenterologist. But, he said,
if the Cuban government is now allowing American doctors to examine
Gross they will have an oncologist apply for a visa to see him.

"We urge the Cuban government to allow this to happen promptly so we can
put questions about Mr. Gross's health to rest," Genser said in a statement.

Next week will mark three years since Gross was arrested.

Cuba Poised To Make Statement on Fate of Alan Gross

Cuba Poised To Make Statement on Fate of Alan Gross
Rabbi Pronounces Jailed American in Good Health: Report
By Paul Berger
Published November 27, 2012.

Cuban officials are poised to make an important "announcement" this
morning about the plight of Alan Gross, a Jewish contractor held in a
Cuban jail for almost three years.

Media have been told to expect an announcement around 9 a.m., the
officials said.

The alert came hours after a New York rabbi visited Gross at a military
hospital in Havana and told the Associated Press that he appeared to be
in relatively good health.

Rabbi Elie Abadie, who is also a gastroenterologist, told the AP that he
met with Gross for 2-1/2 hours and also received a lengthy briefing from
a team of Cuban physicians.

Abadie said a growth on Gross's shoulder appeared to be non-cancerous
and it does not pose a serious health risk.

"Alan Gross does not have any cancerous growth at this time, at least
based on the studies I was shown and based on the examination, and I
think he understands that also," Abadie told the AP.

The flurry of activity came amid speculation that Cuba may hope to use
Gross's possible release to improve relations with the U.S., especially
after the reelection of President Obama, who in the past has called for
an end to the 50-year-old embargo of the island nation.

Cuba expert Jaime Suchlicki, of Miami University, published an article
in the Miami Herald hinting that Cuba is considering a pardon for Gross.

Suchlicki, director of the university's Institute for Cuban and
Cuban-American Studies, told the Forward that his source is a former
Cuban intelligence official living in Miami.

An ardent critic of the Castro regime, Suchlicki said he hoped that the
Obama Administration would make no concessions if Gross was freed.

Cuban officials said they did not know if such a pardon has even been

Alan's wife, Judy Gross, did not return a call for comment.

The developments follow several weeks of intense pressure on the Cuban
and American governments to resolve Gross's case.

Gross was arrested in Havana, in December 2009, while working as an
independent subcontractor for the United States Agency for International
Development. He claimed to have been trying to help improve internet
access for the island's Jewish community, but he was accused of working
to subvert the Cuban government.

When Gross was arrested, he was found in possession of high-tech
satellite equipment commonly used by the Defense Department.

In recent weeks, Gross's wife Judy and a human rights lawyer, Jared
Genser, have embarked on a campaign to draw greater attention to the
case and to increase pressure on the Cuban regime. Gross' supporters saw
the time as ripe, coming soon after Barack Obama's re-election to a
second term.

The Gross campaign strategy included reporting Cuba to the United
Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture claiming that an insufficient
amount of medical attention was being given to Alan and that it
constituted torture. Gross's health has deteriorated rapidly since he
was jailed. He has lost more than 100 pounds and he has developed a mass
on his shoulder, which Cuba insists is not life-threatening but that his
family says could be cancerous.

On November 16, Alan and Judy Gross filed a lawsuit against the U.S.
government and Development Alternatives Inc, the contractor that sent
Gross to Cuba, claiming that they failed to adequately train him or warn
him of the risks of working in Cuba.

Contact Paul Berger at or on Twitter @pdberger

Attorney Disputes Test Results Of American Imprisoned In Cuba

Attorney Disputes Test Results Of American Imprisoned In Cuba
November 28, 2012 11:35 AM

MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – An attorney representing Alan Gross, an American
who has been imprisoned in Cuba for nearly three years, has disputed
test results provided by the Cuban government that show his client does
not have cancer.

On Monday, Cuban and American officials met to discuss Gross' health,
Cuban officials said in a statement Wednesday.

During the meeting officials discussed in part an Oct. 24 biopsy that
confirmed that a lump on Gross' right shoulder is not cancerous. The
Cuban medical team treating Gross, 63, said "the general health
condition of Mr. Gross is normal" though he is being treated for
"chronic illnesses that are typical of his age."

A New York rabbi who saw Gross on Tuesday also said the growth was not
cancerous. Rabbi Elie Abadie, a gastroenterologist, said that he had
examined Gross and received a lengthy briefing on his health.

In a statement released Wednesday, attorney Jared Genser said Gross did
not authorize the public release of his medical records which
constituted a regrettable breach of the confidentiality that any patient
should expect from their doctor.

Genser said his firm is having an oncologist review the results because
the test results raise doubts about how definitive it is.

"First, the fine-needle aspiration biopsy that was performed removed 1
cc of bloody fluid. It is not clear if tissue was removed. Our doctors
tell us that given the size of the lesion, they recommended both a CT
scan with contrast to examine blood flows into the area and a biopsy
with tissue," said Genser in a statement. "Second, previously Cuban
doctors had told Mr. Gross definitively that the growth was a hematoma
and that it would reabsorb within three months of its appearance in May
2012. Instead, the growth has gotten larger and now, according to their
own report, Cuban doctors are now saying it 'could relate to a hematoma'."

Genser said there is also no clear medical explanation as to why Gross
has lost more than 105 pounds during his three years of incarceration.

A U.S. doctor who previously reviewed tests performed on Gross in Cuba
before the biopsy said they were inadequate.

Dr. Alan A. Cohen, a Maryland radiologist, said in early October that
the mass "has yet to be properly evaluated." Cohen suggested it would be
preferable if Gross was immediately examined at a facility in the United

Gross, 63, has been in prison in Cuba since late 2009. He was working as
a U.S. government subcontractor when he was arrested, and his case has
become a source of tension in U.S.-Cuba relations.

Next week will mark three years since Gross was arrested.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Indecent Proposal

An Indecent Proposal / Jeovany Jimenez Vega
Jeovany J. Vega, Translator: Unstated,

In response to an article published by Jean-Guy Allard in the newspaper
Granma on November 12, in which Yoani Sanchez is accused, for the
umpteenth time, of being "a mercenary working for the United States."

Clearly the theme "Generation Y" has escaped the hands of those
responsible for calming the troops, and I presume this has upset the
dream of countless government operatives, real and virtual, at all
levels of Cuban counterintelligence.

As in my role as a doctor I'm obliged to look after the physical as well
as the mental health of every Cuban, today I am trying to convey to the
author of this article and to State Security — including its Section 21,
that maintains a very intense romance with this young woman in Havana —
a doubt that assails me: if the U.S. government and/or the CIA have
contracted with this "mercenary" and this is what motivates her,
financial payments, she works only for this, then the solution to their
insomnia is extremely simple: why don't they bribe her? Why don't they
pay her more and call it good?

If there is something that history has amply demonstrated, it is that
the mercenaries, without honor and flag, serve the highest bidder; then
the solution is easy: if the people to the north have paid her some
miserable half million euros, then pay her, let's say, a million, or
five, or even ten, and surely her eyes will jump out of her head at such
an irresistible offer. After all, in this heart vacant of principles
there is nothing more than greed, so now it's time to raise the stakes
on this out-of-control woman and you'll see how fast she changes sides
and sinks into an absolute silence, as such a contract would require.

Although I have been to her house many times, the only life of Yoani's
that I know is the publicly visible one. Despite the cordiality with
which she treats everyone there, along with her husband — that also
irredeemable soul, Reinaldo Escobar — there are barriers that respect
and prudence presuppose. Because of this I don't aspire in this post to
offer an apology, not to mention that's not my personal style, it's
about something much more elemental: someone who has managed to feed a
blog that receives, according to Wikipedia, 14 million visits a month —
making it the most visited page in the Spanish language network —
doesn't need it.

As for me, I don't seek anything personal from Yoani either, and what's
more, having never flattered or bowed down to absolute power and the
onerous owner of everything around me, capable of ruining my life with a
snap of his fingers, then I'm not going to do it before anyone.

But it fries my bacon that in the official Cuban press, which is
scandalously silent about the high level corruption overrunning my
country, everything is reduced to the old story of money money money —
as evidenced by the fact that absolutely every Cuban political opponent,
from the oldest and most recalcitrant to the latest upstart, without
exception, is accused of this.

So fine, back to the point: paying this "depraved" woman more would be a
solution, right? And given that, thanks to the blockade, budgets for
repressive activities are tight, something unlikely, say 500,001 euros
ought to be enough. After all, for these out-of-control people,
according to the official accusation, the difference of a single dollar
ought to be enough to make them collapse, drooling, at the feet of their
new master.

In a country where millions keep their mouths shut and fake it for a
leadership position, for the assignment of a State-owned car, for a
little work mission abroad, what wouldn't this libertine do before such
an offer. I think, I suppose, I am saying, the best thing to do with
this trifling sum — which would be worth extracting, with due prudence,
from the secret account of some tycoon who's robbed millions from this
little country — would be enough to rid the general staff of such a pain
in the testicles.

I do want to note, though, that I acted here only from the professional
point of view, from an analgesic vocation to relieve the discomfort
caused by this chick with iron balls — undoubtedly the largest and most
powerful on the island, nobody questions it — and all would be carried
out in the most secretive and strict confidentiality.

After all, we doctors work for free in Cuba, it's nothing to me, but
it's amazing, I remain concerned that the genitals … I mean the genial…
strategists of State Security never thought to follow such an elementary

November 27 2012

Treatment and Classification of Prisoners

Treatment and Classification of Prisoners / Cuban Law Association,
Dayami Pestano Lazos
Cuban Law Association, Dayami Pestano Lazos, Translator: Unstated

Under the Geneva Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (1955), are rules
57 and 59 which address Imprisonment and other measures whose effect is
to separate the criminal from the outside world, which are afflicting by
the very fact of depriving the individual of his right to dispose of his
own person by depriving him of his liberty.

Therefore, the prison system should not aggravate the sufferings
inherent in this condition… the prison regime should utilize — trying to
apply them according to the individual treatment needs of all offenders
— all the remedial, educational, moral, spiritual and methods of other
natures and all forms of assistance that can be provided.

The individualization of punishment is the adaptation process that
occurs between the subject and the sanction. Within this process we find
legal, judicial and prison individualization, this last phase, the most
important, which must be continuous and must comply with all the
biological, psychological and social peculiarities of the subject. Some
of the components of this individualization are the classification and
treatment of prisoners as a way to treat the prisoner as a person in
need of assistance or aid for belonging to a particular group or be a
special case.

Treatment must occur within a framework of respect for human rights to
dignity, liberty, equality and safety.

In Cuba much of recidivism in crime is due to the poor conditions in
prisons where there are no buildings suitable for the various categories
of offenders, nor the prison staff suitable to working scientifically
with the current measures for this.

Despite some experiments, such as sports fields, shops, schools,
hospitals, we have not gone beyond mere mechanical custody, and have
never applied enough effort and and enough funds, to establish a more
serious and consistent therapy, we have settled on external isolation.

Among the many defects are overcrowding and lack of hygiene in these
centers, the idleness which most inmates suffer, and especially the
grouping of inmates regardless of age, severity of the crime and
personal situation: indicted or convicted, or repeat offenders, healthy
versus physically and mentally ill. All these factors adversely affect
the inmates and should be avoided.

There are other drawbacks to imprisonment and that is the violent, the
sexually abnormal, the doctor who has caused an illegal abortion,
motorists who violated traffic code, coexist in the same facility and
share the same areas, and yet there is a great difference between all
these prisoners.

September 27 2012

For American Imprisoned in Cuba, Suit Against U.S. Is Part of New Strategy

For American Imprisoned in Cuba, Suit Against U.S. Is Part of New Strategy
Published: November 28, 2012

MEXICO CITY — Alan Gross, a computer expert with extensive experience
overseas, went to Cuba in 2009 as part of a State Department program
delivering satellite Internet equipment to Jewish groups in Havana. He
was a longtime supporter of Jewish causes, and his wife, Judy, said he
fell in love with Cuba, praised the contractor that hired him and
enjoyed the work.

Then he was arrested. And now, after nearly three years behind bars in
Cuba, Mr. Gross, 63, is mostly angry, his wife says — and not just with
the Cuban authorities who prosecuted him.

In a lawsuit filed Nov. 16 in federal court in Washington, Mr. Gross
directs his ire at the United States and at the contractor, DAI,
accusing both of negligence for sending him on five semi-covert trips to
Cuba without proper training, protection or even a clear sense of Cuban law.

The case is part of an aggressive new strategy by the Gross family to
win his release. After reorganizing their legal team to include a human
rights lawyer, who has started a campaign to pressure Cuba partly
through the United Nations, the Grosses sued the United States
government for up to $60 million and made it clear that they do not
intend to stay silent about their growing sense of disappointment with

"Alan is a victim of 50 years of failed policy with Cuba," Mrs.Gross
said, adding, "I don't like to shame people, but if that's what it's
going to take, that's what we need to do,"

Scott Gilbert, one of the Gross family's lawyers, said the case could be
especially damaging for the State Department and DAI if the discovery
process produces more examples of unqualified and ill-prepared
contractors sent to Cuba. He said the suit would draw attention to the
American government's pro-democracy effort, which Mr. Gilbert described
as "flawed in conception" and "completely messed up" in execution.

Run chiefly by the United States Agency for International Development,
the program was authorized in 1996 by the Helms-Burton Act, which
tightened the Cuba trade embargo and allowed for money to be set aside
for "democracy building efforts."

Created to push Fidel and Raul Castro from power, the program has seen
its budgets range wildly — from $3.5 million in 2000 to $45 million in
2008 and $20 million a year under President Obama. Some of that spending
has been criticized. A government audit in 2006, for example, found that
several groups with democracy grants made dubious purchases, including
Nintendo Game Boys.

Cuba considers the effort an affront to its sovereignty. Collaboration
with the program has been illegal for years, prompting one group with
the democracy program to try to evade detection by hiding satellite
Internet equipment in boogie boards.

Mr. Gross acted more openly. His wife says he registered the equipment
he carried into Cuba with customs authorities, and was never told by his
employer that Cuban law did not allow what he was doing.. "You could say
Alan was naïve, and I'm sure he was in some way, but there was no
indication that it was this serious," Mrs. Gross said.

In a statement, DAI refused to comment on whether it had adequately
trained Mr. Gross. "As much as we would like to address the numerous
disagreements we have with the content of the complaint, the fact is
that doing so will not advance the cause of bringing Alan home, which
remains our highest priority," the company said in a statement. The
State Department also declined to comment.

Mr. Gross did appear to learn over time that he was engaged in sensitive
activities. After his first visit working with DAI in the spring of
2009, he wrote a memo that said the group he met with "has specific
concerns about government informants and the highest level of discretion
is warranted."

By his third trip in June, he had become more blunt, writing to DAI that
"this is very risky business in no uncertain terms." Detection of the
networks he set up, he said, could lead his Cuban contacts to be arrested.

The lawsuit argues that these memos should have been enough to lead to
additional training for Mr. Gross, or a new approach. Instead, the
complaint says, DAI and the American government "failed to take an
action to protect Mr. Gross."

On his next trip, he was arrested. On the Friday in December when he was
supposed to come home, Mrs. Gross had set the table for the Sabbath with
wine and candles. She discovered what had happened only after frantic
calls to the State Department, which confirmed Mr. Gross's detention.

She said she initially expected him a quick release. "I had faith in my
government and my State Department," she said. "Of course they are going
to do something about this right away. Of course they are going to get
him out right away. The idealism didn't last very long."

A petition that the Grosses' new lawyer, Jared Genser, filed in August
with the United Nations described his trial and imprisonment as a
violation of his human rights and an international treaty Cuba signed in
2008 guaranteeing freedom of expression in any medium.

Mr. Genser also told the United Nations that a growth on Mr. Gross's
shoulder could be cancerous and was being ignored by Cuban doctors, but
on Wednesday Cuba issued a statement declaring Mr. Gross's health was
"normal." The statement said a biopsy performed Nov. 24 showed that the
lesion "was not carcinogenic."

Mrs. Gross said that her husband is clearly a victim of "a brutal
Communist government" but that she and he have also become frustrated
with their own government's hard-line approach, in which American
officials say discussions are dead because they refuse to negotiate
certain issues — especially a possible pardon for the Cuban Five, Cuban
citizens who were convicted in the United States 2001 of spying on Cuban

Mrs. Gross said she understood that American officials are frustrated
with the Cubans and that "part of me thinks you don't reward a country
for holding a hostage" — the argument favored by Senator Robert
Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and other Cuban-American lawmakers.

But she said she had also come to realize that her husband might have
already been released if not for these same hard-liners in Congress.
Even after Mr. Gross was detained, Mr. Menendez and others successfully
resisted the Obama administration's attempts to reduce financing for the
Cuba pro-democracy programs, making negotiations harder.

What the Gross family now realizes, she said, is that her husband is "a
pawn of these very radical right-wing Cuba haters, for lack of a better
word, who don't want to see any changes happen, even to get Alan home."

In an interview, Mr. Menendez said the focus should be on Cuba, which
has "arrested an American who should not have arrested in the first
place." Asked if he would support any change in Cuba policy — including
cuts to the Cuba democracy program — if it meant getting Mr. Gross
released, he said no.

"I'm not into negotiating for someone who is clearly a hostage of the
Cuban regime," he said.

Mr. Genser said he was urging senior White House officials to ignore
such absolutist opposition to engagement with Cuba. Noting that former
President Bill Clinton negotiated the release of two American
journalists from North Korea in 2009, he called for another high-level
envoy to be sent to Havana as soon as possible.

"Alan Gross is a U.S. government contractor sent to do a job by the
United States," he said. "If we can negotiate the release of people in
Iran, Burma and North Korea, surely we can find a way to get someone
released from Cuba."

In communist Cuba, the tax man cometh

In communist Cuba, the tax man cometh
November 28, 2012|Marc Frank | Reuters

HAVANA (Reuters) - Most Cubans have not paid taxes for half a century,
but that will change under a new code starting January 1.

The landmark regulations will change the relations of Cubans with their
government and are a signal that market-oriented reforms, launched since
President Raul Castro succeeded his brother, Fidel Castro, in 2008, are
here to stay.

The recently published code constitutes the first comprehensive taxation
in Cuba since the 1959 revolution abolished just about all taxes.

In the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country's main
benefactor, the Cuban government imposed a few scattered taxes, but
mostly preferred to maintain low wages so it could fund free social

The government's free market reforms introduced over the last two years,
are designed to encourage small businesses, private farming and
individual initiative, along with plans to pay state workers more. Under
the new tax code the state hopes to get its share of the proceeds.

The government also envisions replacing subsidies for all with targeted
welfare, meaning that the largely tax-free life under a paternalistic
government is on its way out.

"This radically changes the state's relationship with the population and
taxes become an irritating issue," said Domingo Amuchastegui, a former
Cuban intelligence analyst who lives in Miami and writes often about Cuba.

The new code covers 19 taxes, including such things as inheritance,
environment, sales, transportation and farm land, various license fees
and three contributions, including social security.

A sliding scale income tax - from 15 percent for earnings of more than
10,000 pesos (about $400) annually, to 50 percent for earnings of over
50,000 pesos, (about $2,000) - adopted in 1994, remains in the new code
for the self-employed, small businesses and farms, but it also includes
a series of new deductions to stimulate their work.


For example, farmers may deduct up to 70 percent of income as costs, and
small businessmen, who are taxed by income not profit, up to 40 percent,
plus various fees and secondary taxes they pay.

A labor tax of 20 percent will gradually be reduced to 5 percent by
2017, and small businesses with five employees or less are exempt.

Eventually all workers will pay income taxes as well as a new 2 percent
property tax, but both measures are suspended until "conditions permit"
them to go into effect.

The government admits, with an average pay of about 450 pesos per month,
or $19, many workers do not earn enough to make ends meet.

"They collect taxes for all these things around the world, it's normal,"
said Havana economist Isabel Fernandez.

"But here we face two problems. On the one hand we are not used to
paying for anything and on the other our wages are so low we can't spare
a single peso," she said.

Under the old system, large and small state-run companies, which
accounted for more than 90 percent of economic activity, simply handed
over all their revenues to the government, which then allocated
resources to them.

The reforms call for large state-run businesses to be moved out of the
ministries and become more autonomous.

Under the new tax system they will pay a 35 percent tax on their
profits, but can take advantage of a myriad of deductions ranging from
amortization and travel to sales taxes, insurance and environmental

Many smaller businesses will become cooperatives or be privately leased
and taxed based on income.

The state-owned Cuban National News Agency said Cuba had studied the tax
systems of a number of other countries, including several with
capitalist economies.

"The experiences of China, Vietnam, Venezuela, Brazil, Spain and Mexico
were taken into account, but they were refined to the particularities
and conditions of the island," the new agency said.

The new code is not etched in stone - it can be amended each year as
part of the annual budget passed by the National Assembly, and
temporarily modified for different reasons by the executive branch of

"Like the reforms, it is a work in progress, a work that has barely
begun and will take time to put in place," said a Western businessman
who has worked in Cuba for almost two decades.

But, he added, "this is of course a major step forward toward the 21st
century and a modern state."

(Editing by Jeff Franks, David Adams and Paul Simao)

Stranded In Cuba

Stranded In Cuba
by Jessica Marati on Nov 28th 2012 at 10:00AM

We were ready to leave Cuba. We had toasted our last mojitos, danced our
last salsa steps and bid farewell to our home-stay hosts with promises
to return.

But Cuba had other plans for us – or rather, Cubana Airlines did.

We arrived at Jose Marti International Airport two hours before
departure. One counter was open, with a line at least one hundred deep.
Yup, we were ready to leave Cuba.

Thirty minutes passed, and the line didn't budge. We decided to buy
postcards. An hour later, the line had moved forward a few feet. I went
for a beer. Two and a half hours later, tensions were high and patience
was thin. My boyfriend and I had spent the last twenty minutes trying to
head off the Italian girls behind us, who were obviously trying to cut
in line. This wasn't the time nor the place for generosity. It was every
man for himself.

We finally reached the counter. I handed off my passport, glaring at the
counter agent who was preoccupied in conversation with a co-worker. Five
minutes later, she hadn't given my passport a glance. Finally, she
looked over my information, checked my name off a list and handed the
passport back to me. "Go outside, the bus will take you to the hotel."

"Hotel?" I sputtered, torn between the urge to burst into tears and
strangle her.

"Yes, the flight has been canceled. You will leave tomorrow," she said,
reaching out her arm for the Italian passports behind us. Nonchalant.
Dismissive. I, on the other hand, was about to lose it.

After ten days in Cuba, I really shouldn't have been surprised. Earlier
in our vacation, we had encountered some of the frustrations of life
here. Internet? That'll be $6 an hour, and only in hotels. But this
hotel's 24-hour cyber café is closed, the next hotel has computers but
no password tarjetas and the next hotel has password tarjetas but no
computers. So you volley between three different hotels until finally
you reach a PC from the 1990s that, after an excruciatingly long wait,
allows you access to the HTML version of Gmail.

"Lo siento," says everyone I encounter along the way. "Es domingo." I'm
sorry, it's Sunday.

But today isn't Sunday. It's Monday, and we have a flight that is
supposed to transport us to Mexico. Instead, we are herded onto an
air-conditioned bus and shuttled to the Hotel Panorama, a 317-room
monstrosity in the affluent Havana suburb of Miramar. It's an odd place,
this Panorama, and as we check in and check out our room, we wonder who
would actually pay to stay here. The air is stale, the decorations
charmless and the paper on the free soap sticks to the bathroom sink – a
sure sign it's been sitting there for a while.

But today, the hotel is bustling as dozens of harpooned travelers occupy
the lobby and common areas. The receptionists are accustomed to dealing
with frustrated travelers; it seems that Cubana Airlines has a
reputation for delaying and sometimes outright canceling its flights,
without rhyme or reason. No one is sure if the delay is due to
maintenance or weather. We could depart this evening, or we could depart
Thursday. When I ask the receptionist if we can leave the hotel, she
smiles apologetically and says that we probably shouldn't, lest the
airline deign to make an official announcement. "We have a swimming
pool," she offers.

And so we head to the swimming pool, and we lie on the pool chairs,
stuck in limbo between work mode and vacation mode, anxiety and
relaxation, the real world and Cuba. There's nothing to do but wait,
swim and avail ourselves of the plentiful, if mediocre, free buffet. All
out of local currency, we opt not to take advantage of the extra night
out. We're in bed by 9 p.m.

The next day, we head to the lobby at 10:30 a.m, the time our bus driver
told us we'd be shuttled back to the airport. But that's not happening.
Reception tells us to check back at noon, then 1, then 3. Powerless at
the hands of Cuban bureaucracy, the travelers begin camping out in the
lobby out of protest, or perhaps just boredom. Friendships are made;
alliances are formed. One German guy breaks out his guitar, and an
international chorus joins him in Bob Marley songs. I'm too frustrated
to join in the camaraderie, so I glare while typing cynical observations
on my laptop.

In time, we make it back to the airport, past security, onto the
airplane and into the sky. When we finally touch down in Cancun, the
plane erupts in cheers. For a while there, we weren't sure we'd ever
make it out.

Cuba is a fascinating country with a rich culture, beautiful scenery and
hospitable people. But it is also a country plagued with bureaucracy and
inefficiency. My frustration with Cubana Airlines is nothing compared to
the frustrations that face many Cubans as they go about their day-to-day
business. The 36 hours we spent stranded was a pain. But perhaps it was
one of the most authentic looks at the reality of life in Cuba, beyond
the mojitos and salsa music."