Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sadistic, Extravagant and Kleptomaniac: General Gondin

Sadistic, Extravagant and Kleptomaniac: General Gondin / Juan Juan
Almeida #Cuba
Juan Juan Almeida, Translator: Unstated

CarlosFernandezGondinWhen being "Papá's boy" I decided to break out of
my bubble, I knew I would face criticisms and threats. But I never
imagined that the wicked and fearful smile of Carlos Fernandez Gondin
while I was cruelly expelled from the funeral of my father on the orders
of General Raul Castro, would remain in my memory as eternal scar. I
wished I had died that day.

Today I want to write about his sons for whom, more than medication, I
recommend an exorcism. It has not been easy for them to have a father
who is believed to be a popular hero and is just a bunch of medals. It's
a pleasure to color the image of the occasional smiling General Gondin,
with guidelines more than stories, whom they called "The Fairy
Godmother" because he loves to make numbers out of names and turn people
into a national security issue.

Despite his small stature, grotesque manners, and hideous countenance,
General Gondin Fernandez is a man detached and extravagant, especially
with what is not his. Let's say that like Farouk, the last Egyptian
monarch, the soldier referred so inclines to the promiscuous, is
extravagant and a kleptomaniac.

Thoroughness is his virtue. Spying for Raul, and sharing the love of
vodka, he became head of the Military Counterintelligence, a member of
the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, Division General,
First Vice Minister of the Interior, and with the arrival of Raúl to the
presidency of the Republic of Cuba, the cloying Gondin thought to occupy
the throne of his Ministry.

But no, the theories are flawed and even the Roman Empire lasted four
centuries longer than expected. With the entry onto the scene of
Alejandro Castro Espin as Colonel Coordinator of the activities of his
father, and the total subordination MININT to Vice Admiral Julio Cesar
Gandarilla Bermejo, Head of the Directorate of Military
Counterintelligence, the only sailor who can not swim; exacerbating the
fears of Gondin who, feeling displaced, dedicates himself to mining in
silence the old wall of loyalty.

There is nothing more frustrating for a climber than to feel he is a
spectator. But his life continues to be a sort of ossuary. He is shy,
intense, unusual and almost mute; severe prudent, unscrupulous, sadistic
and not the least starry-eyed. Despite all his glory, and although
enjoying the benefits of selling fake battles, he appears paranoid and
insecure. Maybe because of this he visits the empyrean realm of
divination with a gentleman of Havana. Miramar, to be exact.

Hungry for power, he knows exactly where to run in panic situations.
With his arrogant appearance, and his ridiculous outfit, he loves
hunting, fishing, and is steadfast to the allegory of terror. Some say
Gondin is a good man, who did not reach tenth grade, and doesn't know
the article of the Declaration of Independence that says "When a
government becomes a danger to its own ends, it is the right of the
people to abolish it."

"Commander in chief, at your orders" has been his motto in life. But his
work — by his own comments — is reduced to inventing the impending
accident, one that also seems fortuitous, such as making one of the
beautiful granddaughters of the chief slip and fall into the bed
occupied by the gentleman lawyer, President Rafael Correa, during one of
his visits to Havana. We must not think evil, that's not pimping,
hustling, nor even a foreign siege, it is a coldly calculated attempt to
change the geopolitical division of the region.

December 16 2012

Cuba embargo isn't working but isn't going away

Cuba embargo isn't working but isn't going away

For many in Washington, Cuba just doesn't matter anymore.
By JOEL BRINKLEY | 12/18/12 11:17 PM EST

America's embargo on Cuba began its 53rd year this fall, and it's hard
to find anyone who thinks it's working. Even Cuban-Americans who hate
the Castro brothers and fervently insist that the embargo remain in
place generally agree that it has accomplished little, if anything.

Still, said Jaime Suchlicki, a Cuban émigré who is the director of the
Cuba Transition Project at the University of Miami, "do you give away a
policy that has been in place for 50 years, whether you think it's right
or wrong, good or bad, effective or not — for nothing? Without a quid
pro quo from Cuba?"

Suchlicki came to the United States in the first wave of Cuban refugees
in 1960 after the communist revolution. His hardline views mirror those
of many in his generation. And for decades, it dominated the Cuba
discussion in Florida, a state presidential candidates have long
believed they need to win to be elected.

But today the Cuban-American population is more diverse, as the U.S.
presidential election last month showed. Previously, Cuban-Americans
regularly voted in favor of Republicans, who are generally staunch
embargo supporters, by 4 to 1. This time, President Barack Obama won
half their vote.

Now an argument can be made that if the half-century of political
paralysis on this issue can be overcome, both Cuba and the United States
would benefit. American tourists would most likely pour into Cuba,
buying cigars, staying in beachfront hotels — spending money in the
Cuban economy. And American businesses would find an eager new market
for a range of products beyond the food and medicine they are already
authorized to sell.

"We cannot afford an obsolete ideological war against Cuba," Richard
Slatta, a history professor at North Carolina State University who
specializes in Latin America, wrote in an op-ed last month. "The embargo
against Cuba denies North Carolina businesses and farmers access to a
major, proximate market."

Cuba experts say many business leaders, particularly, are making the
same case, especially now that the American economy has remained in the
doldrums for so long. They add that it's an obvious second-term issue;
Obama doesn't have to worry about winning Florida again.

But for so many people in Washington, "Cuba doesn't matter any more
now," said Ted Piccone, deputy director for foreign policy at the
Brookings Institution and a former National Security Council official.
"There's no political incentive" to change the policy — even though the
arguments for changing it are rife. Despite ample provocation, the U.S.
doesn't impose similar embargoes on other authoritarian states.

Late last month, for example, Kazakhstan said it planned to shut down
the last of its independent and opposition media, meaning "pluralism
would quite simply cease to exist in this country," Reporters Without
Borders said in a news release. But has anyone talked about imposing an
embargo there?

In September, Cambodia, one of the world's most repressive nations,
sentenced Mam Sonando, a 71-year-old radio station owner, to 20 years in
jail for criticizing the government on air. He'd been broadcasting for
decades. At about the same time, newspaper journalist Hang Serei Odom
was found dead in the trunk of his car, hacked to death with an ax. He
had been writing about illegal logging, a long-standing problem in Cambodia.

Despite that and much more, Obama visited Phnom Penh last month,
attending an Association of Southeast Asian Nations conference. Has
anyone in Washington advocated imposing an embargo there? Suchlicki
said, "Maybe we should."

"Despite political tensions" with Venezuela, another authoritarian state
in Latin America, the State Department says: "The United States remains
Venezuela's most important trading partner. In 2011, bilateral trade
topped $55.6 billion."

The State Department endlessly debates this question about foreign aid
that applies to Cuba: Cutting off aid to a nation removes any ability to
influence it, one side of the debate goes. But the counterargument is:
Does that mean the U.S. should continue giving aid to a brutal,
repressive government? It's a quandary with no clear solution.

In this debate, Egypt is the state du jour. Last month, Rep. Vern
Buchanan (R-Fla.) issued a news release calling on "Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton to immediately suspend U.S. aid to Egypt, saying
'American taxpayer dollars should not be used to aid and abet any nation
that stands with terrorists.'" In Congress, he was hardly alone in that
view, but the State Department is resisting.

Of course, the U.S. embargo of Cuba arose from a totally different set
of circumstances, in 1960 at the height of the Cold War and Washington's
unremitting opposition to Communism. Cuba was allying itself with the
Soviet Union. Fidel Castro also nationalized American property on the
island. (Even as he announced the embargo, President John F. Kennedy
sent his aide, Pierre Salinger, to buy him 1,000 Cuban cigars, Petit
Upmanns, in the hours before the full embargo took effect.)

After the Soviet Union fell in 1991 that reasoning fell away, but at
that time the Cuba lobby in Miami was at its strongest. Looking at the
embargo today (Cuba calls it "the blockade"), its principal
accomplishment is that "it has given Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro the
perfect scapegoat on which it can blame all their problems," argued Ted
Henken, a fervent Cuba expert at Baruch College in New York. A few days
ago, Cuba's Ministry of Education asserted that "the 50-year trade
embargo imposed by the United States has severely undermined the
country's education efforts."

Piccone said most Cubans aren't buying that argument. "The average Cuban
is not blaming the U.S." he said. "I've seen polling on this. They're
blaming the system."

Henken said the embargo "has strengthened the revolution" and "ceded
Cuban policy to the most conservative Cuban-Americans." Even Suchlicki
acknowledges that the embargo has accomplished "nothing substantial,"
though he adds: "That's not an argument for changing it."

Some Cuba experts argue that allowing American tourists to visit Cuba
for the first time since 1960 might bring the beginnings of substantial
change by fostering greater prosperity. They point to China, a passive
agrarian society until the government opened the economy, pulling
millions of Chinese out of poverty. Suddenly, these newly prosperous
people began standing up to their government, demanding greater freedom
and opportunities. The same could be true for Cuba, Henken said.

President Raúl Castro has opened the economy a bit, allowing more free
enterprise. But apparently wary of this threat, his efforts have been
small, cautious and halting.

The changes "are only half-hearted in the sense that [Cuban officials]
are taking it slow," Piccone said. "The want to manage it; they don't
want to undermine their political position."

Henken jokingly calls Suchlicki "old Ironsides " for his continuing
support of the embargo. Most Cuban-Americans of Suchlicki's era agree
with his position. In Henken's view, though, "it's really hard to keep
justifying it since it hasn't borne any fruit." Cuban-Americans seem to
be coming to the same view. A recent poll by Florida International
University in Miami showed that just 50 percent of Cuban-Americans still
support the embargo, "well below its heyday," the university said in a
news release. "This, despite 80 percent believing that the embargo has
not worked very well or not well at all."

"We ought to change our tactics," Piccone said, and "think of other ways
to support our goals."

Right now, though, Cuba and the embargo are not occupying even a moment
of attention in Washington, given the urgent concerns about Iran, North
Korea, the fiscal cliff and so much else. But that will almost certainly
change next month.

In October, the Cuban government gave its people permission to travel at
will beginning in mid-January. Well, since 1966 the Cuban Adjustment Act
has afforded every Cuban who reaches the United States by any means
automatic refugee asylum. Now, with travel to the U.S. legalized, some
in Congress — including outgoing Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.), a fervent
embargo supporter — are talking about hurriedly revising the act before
the new Cuban law takes effect next month and thousands of Cubans begin
stepping off airplanes.

Suddenly Cuba could be thrust to center stage in Washington again. That
may prove to be the time, some experts say, when serious discussion of
the embargo could be on the table again, for the first time in more than
50 years.

Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University, is a
Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent for The New York Times.

Chilean Lawmakers Ask Cuba to Allow Dissident's Daughter to Travel

Chilean Lawmakers Ask Cuba to Allow Dissident's Daughter to Travel
December 19, 2012

HAVANA TIMES —Chilean parliamentarians on Monday asked the Cuban
government to allow Rosa Maria Paya (daughter of the late opposition
leader Oswaldo Paya) to travel to their country, reports the La Tercera

Senator Ignacio Walker and Deputy Jorge Burgos — both members of the
center-right Renovacion Nacional party — deposited their letter of
request in the mailbox of the Cuban embassy in Chile because Cuban
officials refused to receive them, according to a local newspaper.

"We hope that the words expressed last year by Cuban President Raul
Castro — when he spoke of efforts being made to promote the departure
and entry of Cubans — weren't only rhetoric void of content, but a
reality," said Walker.

According to the Cubaencuentro website, last week the Cuban government
refused the dissident's daughter permission to leave the country to
attend "a course at a Chilean university" where she was invited from
January 8-15, 2013.

Brazilian Donated Rice Arrives in Cuba

Brazilian Donated Rice Arrives in Cuba
Wed, 19 Dec 2012 17:05 GMT
Source: Content partner // World Food Programme

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today the
arrival of 25,000 MT of rice donated by the Government of Brazil, whose
transport costs were covered by the Government of Cuba. The Brazilian
donated rice will be used to support food-based social protection
programmes across Cuba.  

Havana-The donation, which arrives onboard the MV Nahide ship and
offloaded at the seaports of Havana and Santiago de Cuba, is parta of a
global fund of 710,000 tonnes of food that was created by Brazil in 2011
to support WFP operations worldwide. Through the process of "twinning,"
Brazil donates food whereas Cuba covers the food transportation and
storage costs, which in the case is a total of USD2.7 million and is the
first time the Cuban Government participates in this twinning process.
Cuba is a regular WFP donor and over the last 12 years it has donated
2,500 tonnes of sugar annually. We are grateful to the Government and
the people of Brazil for this contribution," said WFP Regional Director
for Latin America and the Caribbean, Gemmo Lodesani, after concluding an
official visit to Cuba. Brasil has been playing a growing role in terms
of humanitarian assistance and this donation confirms its commitment to
those in need. "Cubas generosity is also remarkable," says Lodesani.
Brazil has donated already more than 300.000 tonnes of food to 35
countries through WFP since 2011 and its contributions has increased
from USD1 million in 2007 to more tan USD82 million during 2012, placing
this South American country among the top 10 WFP donors.

Wife of imprisoned U.S. contractor in Cuba says she has renewed hope of his release

Posted on Tuesday, 12.18.12

Wife of imprisoned U.S. contractor in Cuba says she has renewed hope of
his release

Judy Gross, whose husband has been detained in Cuba for three years,
said the United States should negotiate with Cuba to free him.
By Juan O. Tamayo

The wife of Alan Gross, the U.S. government subcontractor jailed in
Havana for the past three years, says she hopes that the reelection of
President Barack Obama will open the door to a White House effort to
free her husband.

"To be honest, I am losing some hope. After three years, it's only
natural," said Judy Gross. "But I guess I have some renewed hope, now
that the elections are over, that the White House can get involved in
getting Alan out of Cuba.

Gross' detention in Havana since Dec. 3, 2009 has become the key
roadblock in Obama administration hopes of improving relations with
Havana on issues such as migration, drug smuggling and possible maritime
oil spills.

But to Judy Gross her husband is a man unfairly imprisoned who should be
freed as soon as possible to rejoining his family in Potomac, Md., and
comfort his 90-year-old mother Evelyn, due to start a new round of
chemotherapy for cancer soon.

"Alan's mother says she doesn't care about her health, that all she
cares about is seeing Alan again," Judy Gross said in a telephone
interview with El Nuevo Herald. "And I just want him home as soon as

Alan Gross, 63, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for delivering
satellite telephones to Cuban Jews, paid for by the U.S. Agency for
International Development under a pro-democracy program outlawed by
Havana as part of a bid to topple the communist system.

The phones allow access to the Internet and people abroad but bypass the
government's closely monitored telephone monopoly. Cuba says delivering
them amounted to acts against its "independence or territorial integrity."

Judy Gross said her husband first went to the island with a group of
other Jews to learn about the tiny Jewish community and deliver
medicines, food and other humanitarian assistance.

"He just fell in love with the community because he's a humanitarian and
a real people person," she recalled. "So he wanted to go back and help
them. They were so isolated, they even needed food."

Gross said her husband now suffers from chronic pains and has a lump on
his shoulder that Havana authorities insist is not malignant, even
though a U.S. physician who has read some of the medical reports says
they do not rule out a cancer.

"We don't understand why Cuba doesn't allow in a third-party medical
person for an independent check, and that makes us suspicious that maybe
there is something wrong that they are hiding," she added.

During his three years detained in a Navy hospital, the six-foot Alan
Gross dropped from almost 250 pounds to about 150 pounds, his wife said,
"and that's also frightening, because the Cubans say they give him three
meals a day and I know he's eating."

"He now weighs less than I do," she joked, adding that the couple speak
by telephone about once a week.

Judy Gross conceded that in the first months of her husband's detention
she did not publicly criticize the Cuban government, hoping to avoid
angering Havana and thereby perhaps prolonging Alan's time in prison.

But she has been steadily turning up the volume on her demands, now
often picketing outside the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington and
this fall hiring human rights lawyer Jared Genser to push Alan's cause
on the international stage.

Today, she says she first blames "the Cuban government for arresting him
on trumped up charges, so he could be a pawn … His arrest was ridiculous
and his sentence absolutely uncalled for. They should have just thrown
him out of the country."

She also blames the USAID private contractor that hired Alan Gross to
deliver the satellite phones, Development Associates Inc., (DAI) for
failing to make him fully aware of the dangers he ran by going to Cuba
on behalf of the U.S. government.

And she blames USAID for allowing him to go to Cuba on a mission that
was clearly dangerous. She has filed lawsuits against DAI and the U.S.
government for $60 million.

"USAID knew that it was not safe," Judy Gross said. "Alan wanted to go
to help the people there. But he would not have gone had he known it was
this dangerous."

Some of Alan Gross's reports to his supervisors include references to
the risks he was running in Cuba.

Havana has made several thinly veiled offers to free Gross in exchange
for five Cuban spies convicted in a Miami trial in 1998. The Obama
administration has just as often rejected the swap offers, saying the
two cases are not at all similar.

One of the five is serving two life sentences on murder-conspiracy
charges for helping Cuban warplanes shoot down two civilian airplanes in
1996, killing all four Miami men aboard. Three others are still in
prison and the fifth completed his 13-year prison term last year and is
now serving a three- year parole somewhere in the United States.

Asked if she favors a swap, Judy Gross said she knows that the situation
with the Cuban spies is "complicated " but doesn't know much about what
the Cuban spies are alleged to have done or the exact legal charges
against them.

"I would favor anything that would get Alan home," she said, but added
that it is the U.S. government's duty to open negotiations with Cuba for
his release.

"To just say no, no negotiations, to me that's irresponsible. You sit
down and you negotiate," she insisted. "To say no, that makes us feel,
to be honest, that the U.S. government does not care that he's in a
prison in Cuba."

Widow of Cuban dissident Payá wants to meet Carromero

Posted on Wednesday, 12.19.12

Widow of Cuban dissident Payá wants to meet Carromero

Ofelia Acevedo, widow of dissident Oswaldo Payá, says she wants to hear
Spanish politician Angel Carromero's version of the car crash that
killed her husband.
By Juan O. Tamayo

The widow of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá said Tuesday she wants to
speak with Angel Carromero, the Spanish politician convicted of causing
her husband's death in a car crash, before he leaves the island to serve
the rest of his prison sentence in Spain.

Ofelia Acevedo's comments came after Payá's Christian Liberation
Movement (MCL) published several posts on Facebook over the weekend
repeating allegations that Cuban security agents bore responsibility for
the accident.

Acevedo said she plans to go to the Spanish embassy in Havana in the
next few days to ask that she and her daughter, Rosa Maria, be allowed
to meet with Carromero and hear his version of the crash before he is
sent to Spain.

Carromero was sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular homicide
for having been at the wheel of a rented car that crashed July 22,
killing Payá and MCL activist Harold Cepero. The Spaniard and Swedish
politician Jens Aaron Modig escaped with minor injuries.

The Spanish and Cuban governments announced last week that Carromero
will be allowed to return to Madrid soon under a 1998 bilateral
agreement that allows convicts from those countries to serve their
prison terms in their home countries.

Payá's family has said repeatedly that the crash was not Carromero's
fault and pointed to a string of unconfirmed reports indicating that
State Security agents who had followed Payá caused the crash by ramming
Carromero's car and forcing it off the road.

"We have been asking to speak with him since the crash took place,"
Acevedo told El Nuevo Herald on Tuesday by phone from her home in
Havana. "We are going to go to the embassy in the next few days to ask
again to speak to him before he leaves."

After most of the news stories on the Carromero repatriation agreement
last week failed to mention the accusations of a government hand in the
crash, the MCL published four posts on its Facebook page Saturday
providing a few new details and repeating some old ones.

The day before the crash, Carromero and Modig sent text messages to
friends in Europe reporting Payá was being tightly watched by security
agents, one post noted. Another said Carromero reported after the crash
that Payá was alive when he was pulled from the wreckage.

A third post alleged that Cepero arrived alive at a hospital but "was
allowed to die" because nurses were told he was a "terrorist." The Cuban
government often labels dissidents as "counterrevolutionaries" or

The digital Madrid newspaper El Confidencial, meanwhile, quoted
unidentified MCL members and supporters in Spain as saying that the
Spanish government had told them "we could not say anything that would
anger the Cuban dictatorship."

Opponents of the Cuban government have steadfastly alleged that the
conservative government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy cut a
deal with Havana to cover up any state security role in the fatal crash
in exchange for Cuba's cooperation in getting Carromero home early.

The Cuban government has made public a video recording of Carromero's
interrogation in which he makes no mention of any third-party
responsibility for the crash. Modig, who returned to Sweden a week after
the accident, has said he was sleeping before the crash and does not
remember what happened.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Another December 10th

Another December 10th / Rafael Leon Rodriguez #Cuba
Rafael Leon Rodriguez, Translator: Unstated

Yesterday we commemorated the 64th anniversary of the signing of the
Charter of Human Rights by the United Nations of that time, in the
creation of which there was an outstanding Cuban representation.

The authoritarian authorities of our country, who already for more than
half a century have appropriated and pretend that it really belongs to
them, have set aside, according to their own interests, the importance
of this date, accepting now a discreet approach from the media and
organizations controlled by the regime at the celebration of the event.

On the other hand, they have undertaken coercive and punitive measures
they think are necessary to prevent an independent civil society, the
political and peaceful opposition and whoever opposes them from publicly
demonstrating that day, because they know like the violators they
are,that civil society not only will celebrate the date, but will demand
the recognition and implementation of these violated rights of the Cuban

Arbitrary arrests, demonstrations of rapid response paramilitary groups,
public parks occupied by government activists, the phones of people
related to the opposition have been cut off, police visits to the homes
of opponents with the intention of intimidating them, are some of the
measures implemented by the repressive police organizations to
discourage and prevent these citizen actions.

Meanwhile, the working committees of the National Assembly is meeting on
the eve of the great and last annual day of this 2012. The attempts to
create an economy the works, that is sustainable, while at the same time
ensuring the dynastic succession and perks seems nothing more than to
progress towards discouragement, corruption and vested interests of the
government bureaucracy. In addition they remain silent on changes that
need to be made in the field of human rights that are based on the
ratification and implementation of the Covenants on Civil and Political
rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations.

The need to realize real social and political changes is more than
obvious if we really aspire to retain a sovereign independent Nation in
the near future for all Cubans. This necessarily should include firm
respect for diversity and plurality of the citizenry, and from it,
project the imperative and urgent National Rule of Law, endorsed by a
new and plural Constitution of the Republic of Cuba.

Human rights belong to everyone and each one is like an indivisible beam
and only with this can the Cuban nation be reborn in the true virtue and
the necessary hope for the future of the country of all.

December 17 2012

Two Outdated Terms

Two Outdated Terms / Fernando Damaso #Cuba
Fernando Damaso, Translator: Unstated

While I was having a conversation with the poet Rafael Alcides on "the
human and the divine," something we do regularly, he reminded me that
the terms right and left, as applied to different political positions,
appeared in Cuba at the beginning of the 1920s as a reaction to the
Russian revolution of 1917. Never before in our history had they been
used, having been preceded by annexationism, reformism, autonomism,
independentism and, after the establishment of the Republic in 1902, by
liberalism and conservatism. At the end of that period, the 1920s, they
carried a certain weight, and their use reached a climax with the fall
of the regime of Gerardo Machado in 1933 and in subsequent years with
the legalization of the Communist Party, rechristened the Socialist
People's Party to make it more palatable to the masses.

These terms were only used, however, by communists in their propaganda,
referring to themselves as being of "the left" and generalizing all
their opponents as being of "the right." In reality it was a minority
party, one whose orthodox true believers led the way in the national
political arena. The change came about in 1959, "the year of the
accident," when the state was proclaimed to be "leftist" and imposed its
political, ideological and economic concepts on all of society.
Subsequently, it tried to portray the left as the sum of all that was
progressive, new, humane and good, and the right as the sum of all that
was archaic, obsolete, brutal and bad. But life, that supreme judge,
showed that neither left nor right were what they proclaimed themselves
to be. The former showed itself to be a fraud, becoming fossilized, and
the latter, reinventing itself over time, consolidated.

To speak of left and right in today's globalized world is very
anachronistic, a topic suitable for dilettantes, now that both have been
bypassed by history. The terms have become so intermingled that any
differences are discernible only in their extreme forms. Those who
support democracy, development, and solutions to political, economic,
social and environmental problems are "progressive," while those who
cling to totalitarianism, lack of freedom, backwardness and stagnation
are "retrograde." Trying to maintain this dichotomy of left and right at
all costs, taking advantage of their historic meanings and even trying
to inject new life into them, is a task doomed to failure.

December 16 2012

Spanish businessmen in Cuba ask Iberia not to drop Havana route

Spanish businessmen in Cuba ask Iberia not to drop Havana route
Havana, Dec 18, 2012 (EFE via COMTEX) --

The association representing the more than 360 Spanish firms with
operations in Cuba asked Iberia airline and Spain's government Tuesday
for the carrier to reverse its decision to eliminate service between
Havana and Madrid.

In letters to Iberia chief Antonio Vazquez and Spanish Development
Minister Ana Pastor, the association expressed its "deep concern" about
the upcoming suspension of Iberia flights between Spain and Cuba.

"We know the elimination of this and other routes to the Caribbean will
have a negative effect on our productive activities as well as on the
growing and, right now, very profitable economic relations between the
Iberian Peninsula and the island (Cuba)," the letters said.

The business group recalled that Spain is the island's third-largest
trade partner and the largest in the European Union, while noting that,
despite the recession, Spanish sales to Cuba grew by 9.5 percent in 2011.

Spain's minister of industry, energy and tourism, Jose Manuel Soria,
said last week it is "unacceptable" that to fly from Spain to Havana one
has to go through London, and asked Iberia to keep its routes to Latin

In his opinion, Iberia ought to continue offering its service on routes
to Latin America because this market is very important for Spain and for
the airline, and there is absolutely "no reason" to lose it. EFE

High stakes for Cuba in Chavez's cancer battle


High stakes for Cuba in Chavez's cancer battle
By Marc Frank
HAVANA | Tue Dec 18, 2012 7:19am EST

(Reuters) - As Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez recovers in Havana from
his fourth cancer operation, Cubans face renewed worries about their
economic future if the country's top ally dies or has to step down from

Cuba has staked its economic well-being on the success - and generosity
- of Chavez's self-declared socialist revolution, much as it did with
another former benefactor: the Soviet Union.

Cubans vividly remember the great depression of the 1990s that followed
the demise of the Soviet Union, and they worry about the communist-run
island plunging into similar economic hardship if Chavez loses his
struggle with cancer.

In the 1990s, they suffered through severe shortages of food, consumer
goods and oil. Prolonged electricity blackouts made daily life miserable
in what the government called the "special period".

"I remember those days. No lights, no transportation, no food. Nothing
of nothing. It drove you crazy and it can't happen again," said Havana
handyman Domingo Garcia.

Recalled Marlen Perez, an operator at the state telephone monopoly: "I
had to ride a bicycle to work and I'm too old for that now."

The gravity of Chavez's condition became clear when, before returning to
Cuba to be operated on last week, he named his vice president and
foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, as his preferred successor if he
cannot continue in office.

Between bouts of cancer, Chavez won a new, six-year term in October, but
if he has to step down in the first four years of his new mandate, a new
election must be held within 30 days.

In politically polarized Venezuela, where Chavez's opponents do not hide
their disdain for Cuba, their victory at the polls would have huge
consequences for the heavily indebted island which relies on lucrative
barter contracts with Venezuela, such as exchanging thousands of medical
personnel for oil.

One economist warned that if a loss of Venezuela's support were to
destabilize the Cuban economy and cause a new round of serious
shortages, there could be bouts of social unrest.

"Take away the preferential terms for our oil and the billions of
dollars for our services and there is no doubt we would be in very
serious trouble," he said, requesting anonymity due to a ban on speaking
with journalists. "I doubt many people would put up with another crisis,
even if it was only half as bad as the last. There would be serious unrest."


Chavez's government offers economic help to allies around Latin America,
but Cuba is the biggest beneficiary, receiving 60 percent of its energy
needs on preferential terms.

Ahead of Chavez's re-election, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles
made clear that the distribution of oil to Cuba and other countries at
reduced prices or in barter deals would end if he won the presidency.

Capriles, who won 45 percent of the vote in the October election, would
likely be the opposition candidate again if Chavez died or had to step down.

While a change of government in Venezuela would clearly be bad for Cuba,
Capriles would be unlikely to cut off all ties.

"It is potentially a serious blow, but it is unlikely that the entire
relationship with Venezuela would end because the opposition has said it
would continue to pay for Cuban medical personnel," Phil Peters, a Cuba
analyst at the Virginia-based Lexington Institute, said.

"Even a steep drop in revenues from Venezuela would not be as severe as
the loss of the Soviet bloc support. Cuba is on a better international
footing today," he said.

Soon after Chavez won his first election in 1998, Fidel Castro anointed
the young and vitriolic firebrand as his revolutionary successor in
Latin America.

The two men became close friends and as leader of oil-rich Venezuela,
Chavez proved to be a crucial ally for Cuba, which has faced a U.S.
embargo for half a century. Today, the worst horrors of the "special
period" are just painful memories.

President Raul Castro, who replaced his ailing brother in 2008, has
strengthened relations with Venezuela even as he forged closer ties with
other oil-producing nations such as Brazil, Angola, Algeria and Russia.


Cuba and Venezuela have formed more than 30 joint ventures over the
years, most of them based in Venezuela.

They range from a fishing fleet, to port and rail repair, to hotels,
agriculture, nickel and steel production and just about all of Cuba's
downstream oil industry.

In 2011, Venezuela accounted for $8.3 billion of Cuba's $20 billion in
foreign trade. It pays Cuba an estimated $6 billion or more annually for
the services of 40,000 doctors, nurses and other professionals, local
economists say. That is around 60 percent of the foreign exchange Cuba
earned from services.

Venezuelan banks provide soft credits for dozens of development projects
across the island.

"Venezuela's support for Cuba reduces the risk of investing in and
trading with the country," a foreign banker said, asking his name not be
used. "They lose that and things might dry up."

Most Cuban economists point out that the economy has become more
diversified over the last 20 years with the development of tourism,
pharmaceuticals and increased oil and nickel production. But they say it
remains far too dependent on Venezuela for comfort.

Many Cubans expect that if Chavez fades Maduro will win the election,
thereby ensuring the continuity of Venezuela's support - but the mere
possibility of a major change is nerve-wracking.

"If we return to a situation similar to the fall of the Soviet Union, it
would be horrible," said Garcia, the handyman.

Raul Castro, since taking over for his brother, has initiated an
overhaul of Cuba's state-dominated economy and has loosened various
regulations on daily life, allowing people to buy and sell property, own
mobile phones and travel.

Venezuela's economic largesse has helped cushion the economic pain of
moving away from a bankrupt paternalistic system to a less centralized
and more market-oriented model.

No matter what happens now, most experts agree that as the man Cubans
pinned their hopes on falters, the pace of reform and Cuba's opening to
foreign investment will have to pick up.

"The old model started to decay with the expanding role of Raul Castro
and pragmatist reformers," said Mauricio Font, director of the Bildner
Center for Western Hemisphere Studies in New York.

"Other things being equal, a substantial loss of Venezuelan support
would thus make clearer to Cubans the urgency of structural change."

(Editing by David Adams, Kieran Murray and Philip Barbara)

Cuban oil plans irk Florida congresswoman

Energy Resources

Cuban oil plans irk Florida congresswoman
Published: Dec. 18, 2012 at 8:35 AM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen" class="tpstyle">U.S.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said she was concerned about Cuba's
commitment to energy safety now that a Russian company started oil work

Russia oil company Zarubezhneft is expected to start drilling for oil
off Cuba's coast through a joint venture with state-run oil company

Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said
the administration of Cuban President Raul Castro was rushing to exploit
potential offshore reserves while it continued to impose an "iron grip"
over the people. This, she said, was a U.S. national security risk.

"The administration (of President Barack Obama) must wake up and see
that a Castro regime rich in petrodollars is not in the interest of our
national security," she said in a statement.

Cuba is looking into cutting the amount of oil it imports from Venezuela
through development of offshore reserves. The U.S. Energy Information
Administration estimates that, as of 2009, Cuba had less than 1 billion
barrels of oil reserves.

Members of the House of Representatives, all of Cuban descent, from both
parties criticized Obama in a letter last year for not standing against
foreign investments planned for Cuba's energy sector. Ros-Lehtinen, a
harsh critic of Cuba, was one who signed the letter.

Documentary Tackles Child Abuse in Cuba

Documentary Tackles Child Abuse in Cuba
By Patricia Grogg Reprint
Patricia Grogg interviews ERIC CORVALÁN, Cuban independent filmmaker

HAVANA, Dec 18 2012 (IPS) - "Child abuse merits a different, in-depth
approach. The objective of this film is to make the problem visible and
promote debate and reflection," says Eric Corvalán, director of a
documentary that required "breaking through walls."

In the film "No es el camino" (This is not the way), prominent Cuban
experts discuss child abuse. Social issues are nothing new to Corvalán.
In 2008 he premiered "Raza" (Race), about the no-less thorny issue of
racial discrimination.

That documentary won a number of awards, including the David Prize
awarded by the University of Oriente, for its contribution to education.
However, it has yet to be shown on Cuban television.

"When I asked why (it hasn't been shown), they told me that it was a
controversial issue, and that our society wasn't ready to see it on
television. If that was the case with 'Raza,' then I imagine that the
same thing will happen with 'No es el camino'," the independent
filmmaker, who is a member of the Cuban Audiovisual Association (ACAV),
told IPS in this interview.

His documentary premiered in Havana on Sept. 25 as a demonstration of
the commitment by the Oscar Arnulfo Romero Reflection and Solidarity
Group to the U.N. secretary-general's UNiTE to End Violence against
Women campaign, which celebrates Orange Day on the 25th of each month.

Q: Why child abuse and not another issue for your second documentary?

A: Because it is an issue that has hardly been addressed. If we
acknowledge that domestic violence exists, then we need to know what is
going on with the children, who suffer the most. They cannot defend
themselves, and they are subject to that violence in different ways:
physical, psychological and sexual. Walking through the city, I have
seen mothers and fathers who abuse their children in public.

Q: Where does this problem occur?

A: Mostly within the family. The abuser may be an uncle, a cousin, the
mother or the father. They scold the child, use disparaging language, or
shake or pull the child – as if these were educational methods. That's
why I made the documentary, for children and also for parents, other
relatives and the world in general.

The documentary makes it clear that many institutions are working on
this issue, but there is no follow-up on cases and no specific law
exists. The Penal Code includes a very general reference to the normal
development of children and women.

Q: But there is a Family Code.

A: That legislation dates back to 1975. Since then, three generations
have gone by…and it hasn't been changed. In its time, it was very
advanced, but now it's not. Child abuse merits an in-depth approach. For
example, in situations of economic crisis, social inequalities increase
and children are the most vulnerable.
Related IPS Articles

CUBA: Violence against Women Out of the Closet
CUBA: Children Reach Out Through the Screen to Peers in Post-Quake
Q&A: Child Victims Have 'Leading Role' in Creating a Non-Violent

Q: The documentary brings together a good group of specialists on the
matter, but does not include the testimony of any children. Why?

A: They are not in the documentary directly, because in Cuba, if you
don't have official authorisation you can't interview a child and place
him or her onscreen. The objective of this material was to make the
phenomenon visible and to protect children. Before interviewing the
specialists, I visited several communities in the city and talked to
many boys and girls. I realised that the problem is cause for concern.

Children are very sincere, and you can find out about anything talking
to them. Both boys and girls are very sensitive and they feel and suffer
from problems without having anybody to turn to.

There is no infrastructure in Cuba where children can go and make a
complaint. What is needed is a daily education campaign, teaching
parents how to listen to their children and to know about their
obligations to them.

Q: Do you feel that child abuse should not exist in a society like Cuba's?

A: When we talk about violence in Cuba, we immediately begin comparing
it to other countries, as a defence mechanism. There is less violence
here than in other places, but it does exist. "A single boy or girl who
is mistreated in this country is a serious problem for us," said one of
the people interviewed, Dr. Cristóbal Martínez, of the national
children's psychiatry group.

Our society is machista. We are violent and loud, but at the same time
we are very humane and have a high educational level. These are
tremendous contradictions, and in the face of a phenomenon like this,
you wonder why it exists and what is being done to solve it.

Q: The documentary premiered in September. Why hasn't it been screened

A: In May 2013, it will compete in the Santiago Álvarez (documentary
film festival) in Santiago de Cuba. It will also be shown in
international festivals in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, France, Canada, and
the United States. Moreover, I hope that it will be used as a tool for
studies by international and Cuban organisations.

Q: What was your greatest challenge in taking on such a sensitive social

A: The main challenge was simply to do it – that is, to break through
the walls of censorship and fear. I'm using these big words because
making a film about violence of any kind is very difficult. Another main
challenge now is for people to see it, and discuss and debate it. The
idea of issues being discussed is now being promoted in our country,
including at the level of the state.

Air Canada Rouge, Flying to Cuba and Beyond in 2013

New Airline Alert: Air Canada Rouge, Flying to Cuba and Beyond in 2013
Where: Canada
December 18, 2012 at 11:58 AM | by JetSetCD

Hey look! There's fun new airline stuff happening up in the Canada, too!
Today, Air Canada makes the announcement that they're proceeding with
the launch of a low-cost carrier little brother airline, to be called
Air Canada rouge, a name decided through a Facebook contest. Yes, that
"R" is lowercase, but we're going to uppercase it from here on out to
save our sanity.

Beginning July 1, 2013, Air Canada Rouge will jet from Toronto to a
variety of international destinations, some never before serviced by Air
Canada itself. We're talking Venice, Edinburgh and Athens from $949
roundtrip, Cuba from $538 (roundtrip) and Jamaica, Costa Rica and the
Dominican Republic from $269 (one-way). These are the introductory,
yay-we-will-fly-soon fares to get you all hot and bothered, and they're
good for booking on and until
December 25, 2011.

Rouge will only be nabbing four planes from Air Canada's mainline fleet
to begin with, two Boeing 767-300ERs and two Airbus A319s. Five years
from now, they'd like to have a whopping 50 planes tarted up in the
Rouge livery for leisure routes, not to mention that Air Canada's
package vacation business will be funneled into Rouge flights.

Luckily they've got the jumpstart on another Canadian low-cost carrier
due to launch; we're talking about WestJet Encore, which will focus on
undermining Air Canada's domestic routes, though it isn't due to start
doing its thing until later in 2013. Rouge will mainly compete with
WestJet's Vacations sector, as well as Sunwing and Air Transat on their
leisure routes.

Let's see that new livery again!

Launch destinations, from Toronto unless otherwise specified:
Venice, Italy (brand new!)
Edinburgh, Scotland (brand new!)
Athens, Greece (from Montreal & Toronto)
Varadero, Cuba
Cayo Coco, Cuba
Holguin, Cuba
Santa Clara, Cuba
San Jose, Costa Rice
Liberia, Costa Rica
Kingston, Jamaica
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Samana, Dominican Republic

Will Air Canada Rouge seamlessly link up with other Star Alliance
flights at Toronto-Pearson? YES, with through ticketing and checked
baggage, even.

Will you earn miles with Aeroplan or Star Alliance for Air Canada Rouge
flights? YES.

Will there be a business class? YES, if you're flying on their 767s.
Here's the cabin make-up, straight from the official press release:

The Air Canada rouge fleet will initially be comprised of two
Boeing 767-300ER aircraft to operate transatlantic flights in a
two-cabin configuration offering a selection of rouge Plus™ seats with
additional legroom and Premium rouge™ seats featuring additional seating
comfort, space and enhanced meal and beverage service; and two Airbus
A319 aircraft to operate North American flights in an all-economy
configuration offering a selection of rouge Plus seats with additional

Still curious? Rouge has its own site with all the info you could ever want.,+Flying+to+Cuba+and+Beyond+in+2013

Church evicts occupiers from Havana temple

Posted on Tuesday, 12.18.12

Church evicts occupiers from Havana temple
The occupation of the protestant temple in Havana lasted 16 months.
By Juan O. Tamayo

Leaders and members of a Pentecostal church in Cuba have evicted the
followers of a rebel pastor who had occupied a temple and apartment in
Havana in a bizarre stand-off for the past 16 months.

Pastor Braulio Herrera was expelled from the Assembly of God church two
years ago, but he and about 60 followers occupied the complex in August
of last year in what they described as a "religious retreat."

The stand-off at the complex on busy Infanta and Santa Marta streets at
times sparked speculation about an end-of-the-world cult, with Herrera
quoted as saying that God was punishing Cuba for its sins with plagues
and diseases.

But Assembly of God officials insisted Herrera was fired for
"theological deviation" — he claimed personal revelations from God — and
then refused to leave the apartment above the temple where his family
had lived for 10 years.

Church leader Eliseo Villar confirmed the eviction to the Spain-based
blog DIARIO DE CUBA but denied allegations by Herrera's son, William,
that the eviction was carried out with violence.

"We decided to get them out, using our rights, and that's all that
happened," he declared. "A group of church leaders, church members,
national and other executives went in and put them outside the building
without affecting their physical integrity at all."

William Herrera had alleged that about 100 persons broke into the temple
Saturday and expelled about 20 people, and then on Sunday drove out the
last nine occupiers, who had holed up in the apartment, including himself.

"They had no shame forcing out of the rooms the brothers who were
sleeping, people who had been living there a long time," Herrera
declared. Some of them suffered bruises but no one reported serious

Independent journalist Roberto de Jesús Guerra, who lives near the
temple, said Monday that the doors to the complex were broken and church
members were cleaning up the temple. There was no word on Braulio
Herrera's whereabouts.

Cuba's government regarded the 16-month standoff as an internal church
affair but usually kept police guard near the temple to avert

William Herrera reported Sunday that he and about 100 of his father's
followers had marched to nearby government offices to complain about the
evictions, and had been taken by bus to another government office to
await a reply. His cell phone was not answering Monday.

The Pentecostal church has a reported 103,000 followers in Cuba, 156
temples and 883 "casas-templo" — private homes used for services.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fidel Castro nominated for Cuban parliament seat

Posted on Sunday, 12.16.12

Fidel Castro nominated for Cuban parliament seat
Associated Press

HAVANA -- Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro has been nominated for a
seat in the country's parliament, authorities said Sunday.

The afternoon TV news announced "the leader of the Cuban Revolution
Fidel Castro Ruz heads the list of 25 candidates to the Cuban parliament
from the municipality of Santiago de Cuba, approved by the delegates of
this state body."

Castro was also named as a delegate in 2008, when he officially retired
as president. It's unclear whether he has played an active role in
legislative duties in the years since.

The current session of parliament held its last gathering last week and
is due to reconvene with new membership in February following elections.
It's expected to rename to the presidency Castro's younger brother Raul,
who was also nominated as a representative of the municipality of
Segundo Frente.

Fidel Castro, 86, stepped down as president temporarily in 2006 due to a
near-fatal illness and left the presidency for good two years later.
Raul has been in charge since then.

Today the elder Castro spends most of his time out of the public eye and
has ceased penning his once-regular essays known as "Reflections."

In October, Castro mocked those who are anxious to see him depart this
world after speculation that his health was dire once again made the
rounds on the rumor mill.

In an essay ironically titled "Fidel is Dying," he explained that he
decided to stop publishing the opinion pieces not due to poor health,
but because the space that Cuban state media devoted to his words was
needed for other purposes.

This weekend he once again ended weeks of public silence in a letter
that Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro read to a ceremony marking
the eighth anniversary of the ALBA block of Latin American nations.

In it Castro praised his friend and ally President Hugo Chavez of
Venezuela, who is recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba, and recalled
the two men's first encounter 18 years ago.

"The name of Hugo Chavez is admired and respected throughout the world,"
Castro wrote in the letter, which was dated Saturday. "Everyone and even
many of his adversaries wish his quick recovery."

"The doctors are fighting with optimism for that objective," Castro

Also Saturday, a high-ranking Venezuelan official said Castro has been
paying daily visits to Chavez since last Tuesday's operation.

"He always stops by to personally find out about El Comandante's health
condition and also to share his knowledge with all of us, and to give
the family courage and encouragement," said Science and Technology
Minister Jorge Arreaza, who is also Chavez's son-in-law. He spoke to
Venezuelan television by phone from Havana.


Associated Press writer Anne-Marie Garcia in Havana contributed to this

Russian oil firm set to drill in Cuban waters

Russian oil firm set to drill in Cuban waters

* Zarubezhneft latest oil firm to try Cuba offshore
* Cuba says offshore may have 20 billion barrels of oil
* Other drillers have come up empty in Cuban waters

HAVANA, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Russian state-owned oil company Zarubezhneft
is expected to start drilling Cuba's latest offshore well soon in the
latest effort to find oil in waters off the communist country's northern
coast, state media said.

The Norwegian-owned Songa Mercur drilling rig will be used "in the
coming days," the weekend reports said, to explore shallower, coastal
shelf waters near Cayo Santa Maria, about 200 miles (320 km) east of Havana.

The rig arrived in Cuba in mid-November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) from
Trinidad and Tobago where it was refitted with non-U.S. equipment to
comply with technology limits imposed by the longstanding U.S. trade
embargo against Cuba.

Zarubezhneft officials have said the field, which they will explore for
the next six months or so, may hold up to 200 million barrels of oil.

Cuba believes its top oil prospects lie in deeper waters, but for now,
the Russian company's exploration work is Cuba's best hope at tapping
into fields the Caribbean country says may hold 20 billion barrels of oil.

The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated a more modest 5 billion barrels
in the area.

Three wells drilled earlier this year near Havana and further west - all
in waters more than a mile (1.6 km) deep - were unsuccessful, a big blow
to the island's hopes of achieving energy independence.

Cuba currently gets most of its oil from Venezuela in a generous barter
deal that is looking more precarious recently with the illness of
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Cuba's top ally.

Chavez is recovering in Havana from his fourth cancer-related surgery,
with unknown prospects for his health and political future.

The three earlier wells were drilled with the Scarabeo 9, a newly-built
rig owned by Italian oil service company Saipem (Other OTC: SAPMF.PK -
news) that is capable of exploring in 12,000 feet (3,650 meters) of water.

Spanish energy giant Repsol drilled the first well, followed by
Malaysia's Petronas and Venezuela's PDVSA .

The Scarabeo 9 left Cuba on Nov. 14, headed to West Africa.

The Songa Mercur, owned by Songa Offshore (Other OTC: SGAZF.PK - news) ,
can operate in water up to 1,200 feet (365 meters). (Reporting by Jeff
Franks, Editing by G Crosse)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gross accepted project in Cuba without knowing risks, lawyer says

Gross accepted project in Cuba without knowing risks, lawyer says
US CUBA | 14 de diciembre de 2012

Washington, Dec 14 (EFE).- The U.S. subcontractor Alan Gross, a prisoner
in Cuban since 2009, was no James Bond, just someone who undertook a
project without knowing what the risks were, but convinced that if any
problems should arise, the United States and the company that contracted
him would come to his aid, his lawyer, Scott Gilbert, told Efe.

Now 63, Gross was detained in Havana three years ago in possession of
satellite communications equipment he was planning to distribute among
Cuba's Jewish community under a contract with a firm hired by the U.S.
Agency for International Development.

Gross and his wife Judy filed a $60 million lawsuit last month against
USAID and contractor DAI for allegedly failing to inform Alan of the
risks associated with the mission or provide him with protection.

"The State Department has said publicly in the press that they knew that
Alan was being sent to Cuba with devices that were illegal in Cuba ...
how can the U.S. government send a civilian to Cuba knowing that?"
Gilbert said during an extensive interview at the offices of his
Washington law firm.

Havana says Gross was illegally aiding dissidents and inciting
subversion on the Communist-ruled island. Last August, Cuba's highest
court upheld the 15-year jail sentence imposed on the American five
months earlier.

U.S. officials and the Gross family demand his unconditional release,
insisting that Gross did nothing wrong and is a humanitarian worker
dedicated to Jewish causes.

Gross made five trips in 2009 - he was arrested during the last one on
Dec. 3 - and according to the lawsuit, in his reports on the third and
fourth trips he had started sounding the alarm about what a high-risk
mission this was.

"I can tell you categorically that Alan Gross did not expect to be
apprehended or detained in Cuba or spend one night in custody," Gilbert
said. "For Alan, it's been a Kafka-like experience every step of the way."

"When Alan raised concerns about the trips they essentially said to him
either you finish this project or we'll find somebody else to do it,"
the Gross family attorney said.

"Alan believed they (USAID) were looking out for him and that they would
never let him get into a situation where direct harm would come to him,"
Gilbert added.

"I believe that Alan is a very idealistic individual, idealistic to the
point of being even potentially somewhat naive," the lawyer said,
insisting that "USAID and DAI never should have approved this project in
the first place."

"They violated their duties to Alan (and) their own rules," Gilbert said
of the defendants in the suit.

In parallel to the lawsuit, another Gross attorney, Jared Genser, is
collaborating with public relations efforts and a campaign to pressure
the U.S. and Cuba to sit down and negotiate a solution.

The Gross family is asking President Barack Obama to designate a special
envoy with full authority to negotiate with Cuba.

Faith Put to the Test by Dengue

Faith Put to the Test by Dengue
December 15, 2012
Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — My dear father is a true revolutionary soldier, one who
describes himself as an "unconditional supporter." He'll put his
shoulder to any Olympian task and attempt to execute it without
question…though later he might grumble.

That was how he was educated and how I imagine he'll be until the day
his soul takes leave of his body. I'd go so far as to say he belongs to
that Abrahamic generation that will never hesitate when given any
"divine" mandate.

And a divine command was given to him — for the umpteenth time — with
the start of weekly fumigations of our building against dengue-carrying

In every block or apartment building, there are always some
"undisciplined" people who refuse to open their doors to this
vector-control campaign. Their reasons? – they're diverse.

Sometimes it will be because the fumigators arrive unannounced or at an
inappropriate time. Other times it might be because there's someone sick
in the home or the resident might have something urgent to do.

Then too, the occupant may just not want to be bothered. But my father
has never prevented them from spraying, no matter what the circumstance.

One day, from out of nowhere, the Ghostbusters-looking crew appeared at
dinner time and with a few drinks under their belts. Almost no resident
opened their door, yet my father stepped forward and let them in.

On another occasion someone in the family was struggling with
bronchitis, but — all the same — with fever and coughing, they had to go
out into the hall while the smoke filled our house. Wow, just think how
it would be if everybody was like my father – dengue wouldn't last
longer than a cake.

The test

As one of those ironies of life, or perhaps out of revenge, our building
became infested with mosquitos. So who do you think paid the price? My
family of course. Everybody ended up getting infected at the same time.
My mother got it so bad that she had to be admitted into the hospital.

We tried everything to keep my grandmother from being admitted for fear
that she would suffer complications and never return, just like what
happened to my grandfather. We were therefore leery of all hospitals,
but when we got to the ward for dengue patients at the Covadonga
Hospital, it was a big surprise.

The floors and bathrooms gleamed. Similarly, the sheets were clean and
the service was excellent. The food was even acceptable and they served
meat every day. But what impressed us the most was the quality of the

The problem is that this profession requires a lot dedication and
experience, but for some time now, what's most common is that you'll run
into the typical nurse/reggaeton fan.

These nurse/reggaetoners are generally super young boys who dress like
people on their way to a disco. They work in the health care field
because they have no other choice (and they let you know it).

They are orphans of any knowledge or skill, and they pass their time
engaging in erotic games or screwing around with the peers. And all of
these youthful shenanigans are in an environment that requires — more
than anything — peace and quiet.

Well, there was none of that at Covadonga. The nurses there were
excellent (they were young, admittedly, but also friendly, attentive and
skilled in their profession). A Mother Superior-type supervised the work
of the unit and kept an eye on everything so that store-product
re-sellers didn't invade the ward. As a result, the services were of
high quality.

Thanks to them the story ended happily. My family was back to health
after a week, and my father — with the patience of Job — came out of
that test with his faith renewed.

PS: Several people and even doctors have told me that my hospital
experience at Covadonga was an exception.

Cuba's Gay Population Is Itself Responsible

Cuba's Gay Population Is Itself Responsible
December 12, 2012
Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES — The current session of the Cuban parliament is ending and
the issue of the extension of rights to people with sexual orientations
that are not heterosexual has again been left off the island's
legislative agenda.

Though outraged, I'm really not too surprised given the lack of autonomy
of the Cuban Parliament. It is subject to the decisions of the Communist
Party, making it impossible for such initiatives to be openly debated
and for any consensus to be reached.

The democratic deficit that the nation has suffered for decades cannot
bear more of this type of arbitrary behavior. This is why I think it's
going to be very difficult to transform the situation of the
vulnerability suffered by LGBT individuals and families if we don't
first transform the mechanisms of the political structure and the

Of course it's not possible to expect these changes to take place first
and then for us to demand respect for our rights. These changes won't
occur "by the power of the Holy Spirit" but through social action and
the pressures that can be exercised in the civil society of which we're
an active part.

The violations committed during the recent Census of the Population and
Housing against LGBT households and families unequivocally signaled the
Cuban government's unwillingness to include the changes that our society
requires. These occurred despite the valuable items discussed during the
last Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC).

What are known here as "appropriate channels" have proved ineffective
(or at least slow), therefore we urge the adoption of new approaches,
while not compromising the existing ones.

The pioneering work of CENESEX could be enriched with the coordination
of horizontal autonomous and independent initiatives that are
unencumbered by "state institutions." These could transparently present
demands regarding the shortfalls and failures of legislative bodies.

The statement by the group HxD this past May 12 was exemplary in this
regard. They called for "discussion and approval by the appropriate
government authorities of the projects of the new Family Code, an
executive order on gender identity and any other legal rulings that
progressively incorporate other rights, including all possibilities for
unions between same-sex couples, including marriage for those who wish,
adoption and reproductive rights for homosexuals."

On the other hand, the annual "campaign of struggle against homophobia"
could also accommodate critical debates about their own efforts, which
would be a chance to invigorate their policies and procedures. However,
as emerging collectives — without giving up our support for and
contribution at this time to the national coalescing around this issue —
we should not limit ourselves to simply waiting.

The new legislature, that takes office next year, must again be "made
literate" concerning these issues. This means more hard work on top of
what was carried out over the past five years in the hope that the
legislature would finally approve the new Family Code, bogged down for
years in the bureaucratic intricacies of the National Assembly and in
other state institutions.

It is essential to broadly and widely advocate the contents of the
legislative proposal so that people can see how much they would gain
with its approval, especially given that this includes many other
modifications in support of women, for example, and families in general.

Without popular support this will be impossible. If we insist on
reasserting an elitist model, where the "experts" decide behind the
backs of those who are involved — not matter how just the proposal might
be — this would in itself bear the seeds of authoritarianism and the
false democracy that neoliberal models try to sell us.

Therefore such "literacy" cannot be strictly informative and it should
have a strong component of political pressure.

Our representatives must be accountable to Cubans who are gay, and gay
Cubans have the responsibility to demand that accountability. We must
demand respect for our human condition.

To do this, it is essential to form a critical LGBT community that is
conscious of its needs, which doesn't exist today. Nor, of course, can
this awareness be created by decree.

One possible path to achieving this could be:

- Systematizing our activism work.

- Spreading the valuable intellectual findings that have been generated
in recent decades and translating those ideas into tangible
socio-cultural projects.

- Making the daily violations we suffer public through the press
(state-run and independent), and directing these toward example-setting
criminal legal actions.

- Focusing on what we lack rather than being complacent concerning
battles that have already been won.

- Integrating our demands with other movements and people that are also
seeking emancipation.

I'm sure that there remain other constructive ideas outside of these. An
agenda that's incomplete is always an agenda that's open.

The New Cuban Economy: What Roles for Foreign Investment?

December 2012

The New Cuban Economy: What Roles for Foreign Investment?
By: Richard Feinberg

The Cuban revolution defined itself in large measure in terms of what it
was not: not a dependency of the United States; not a dominion governed
by global corporations; not a liberal, market-driven economy. As the
guerrilla army made its triumphal entry into Havana and the infant
revolution shifted leftward, a hallmark of its anti-imperialist ethos
became the loudly proclaimed nationalizations of the U.S.-based firms
that had controlled many key sectors of the Cuban economy, including
hotels and gambling casinos, public utilities, oil refineries, and the
rich sugar mills. In the strategic conflict with the United States, the
"historic enemy," the revolution consolidated its power through the
excision of the U.S. economic presence.

For revolutionary Cuba, foreign investment has been about more than
dollars and cents. It's about cultural identity and national
sovereignty. It's also about a model of socialist planning, a hybrid of
Marxist-Leninism and Fidelismo, which has jealously guarded its
domination over all aspects of the economy. During its five decades of
rule, the regime's political and social goals always dominated economic
policy; security of the revolution trumped productivity.

Fidel Castro's brand of anti-capitalism included a strong dose of
anti-globalization. For many years, El Comandante en Jefe hosted a large
international conference on globalization where he would lecture
thousands of delegates with his denunciations of the many evils of
multinational firms that spread brutal exploitation and dehumanizing
inequality around the world.

Not surprisingly, Cuba has received remarkably small inflows of foreign
investment, even taking into account the size of its economy. In the
21st century, the globe is awash in transborder investments by
corporations, large and small. Many developing countries, other than
those damaged by severe civil conflicts, receive shares that
significantly bolster their growth prospects. The expansion of foreign
direct investment (FDI) into developing countries is one of the great
stories of recent decades, rising from $14 billion in 1985 to $617
billion in 2010.1 While FDI2 cannot substitute for domestic savings and
investment, it can add significantly to domestic efforts and
significantly speed growth.

Today's ailing Cuban economy, whose 11.2 million people yield the modest
GNP reported officially at $64 billion3 (and possibly much less at
realistic exchange rates), badly need additional external
cooperation—notwithstanding heavily-subsidized oil imports from
Venezuela. As with any economy, domestic choices made at home and by
Cubans will largely determine the country's fate. Yet, as Cubans have
been well aware since the arrival of Christopher Columbus, the
encroaching international economy matters greatly; it can be a source of
not only harsh punishments but also great benefits. In the Brookings
Institution monograph Reaching Out: Cuba's New Economy and the
International Response, I explored the modest contributions already
being made by certain bilateral and regional cooperation agencies and
the larger potential benefits awaiting Cuba if it joins the core global
and regional financial institutions— namely the International Monetary
Fund, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the
Andean Development Corporation. This sequel explores the contributions
that private foreign investments have been making, and could make on a
much greater scale, to propel Cuba onto a more prosperous and
sustainable growth path.

Download » (PDF):

A Day for Human Rights... Even in Cuba

Yoani Sanchez - Award-winning Cuban blogger

A Day for Human Rights... Even in Cuba
Posted: 12/11/2012 5:24 pm

Lately my days are like weeks concentrated into twenty-four hours. I
have Wednesdays that come one after another, Saturdays full of work and
Mondays on which nothing seems to start, it all just continues.
Sometimes I combine the most incredible events in a single day: sublime
or mundane; extraordinary or tedious. But there is, every now and then,
a date into which it seems I'd like to drain the entire calendar.
December 10th was one of those days and I'd have liked to have on hand
"The Devil in the Bottle" -- as imagined by Robert Louis Stevenson -- to
ask him to delay nightfall by at least 72 hours.

This year has been no exception. From the night before, we began to
notice "the syndrome of the eve of Human Rights Day." Everyone notices
it, even those who refuse to acknowledge these situations. We can
observe an increase in the number of police in the most central parts of
the city, and an increased tension in the security forces. For a while
now here, the official institutions also try to appropriate a date that,
for decades, has belonged to the critical sector of this society. We see
television announcers smilingly presenting activities throughout the
country that are honoring "rights... " and see their mouths dry up,
their tongues falter, simply trying to come out with the words "cultural
and social." For too long the phrase "human rights" has been
stigmatized, such that it provokes, at the very least, a blush among
those in government spaces who now try to repeat it.

They carry out arrests and threats throughout the country on this day,
but we always manage to do something. This year I participated in the
opening day of the Endless Poetry Festival. This alternative fiesta in
Cuba resurfaced yesterday with a fair of diverse projects. A hundred
people gathered at the site of Estado de SATS and erected various
exhibition spaces that ranged from music making to activism for racial
integration. It was possible to visit the work of the Civic Libraries,
the brand new Journal of Plural Thinking from the city of Santa Clara,
and the young DJs of "18A16 Productions." There was also our booth under
the name "Technology and Freedom," offering a sample of the work of the
bloggers, independent journalists and Twitterers.

An island within the Island, this space was a foretaste of that day when
respect for plurality will exist in our country. Laughter, projects,
united in diversity and great friendship, formed the magic of the first
day of the Endless Poetry Festival. When I got home it seemed I had
lived a whole week in the space of one day and -- for once -- had not
needed a bottled demon from a story to do it. With the energy of so many
people we had managed to fit into every minute the colossal density of
the future.

Cuba's 'new' real property rights — one year later

Cuba's 'new' real property rights — one year later
By José Manuel Pallí, Esq.

A year ago, the buzz in Miami about the incipient real estate market in
Cuba was almost deafening. My phone rang and rang, and I had to recharge
its battery every three hours or so. But once again, we have to concede
that Cuba moves at a pace that neither Americans, nor even
Cuban-Americans seem to be able to grasp.

Sure, there are some who have gone ahead and 'invested' — through straw
friends or relatives living in Cuba — in Cuban real estate, bent on
benefiting from being among the "first movers." But all indications are
that such 'investments' have only had a negligible impact in Cuba, if
any (which is not to say they might not still have a significant, and
likely negative, impact on the pockets of those intrepid 'investors' who
dared to make their moves while skirting present Cuban laws).

The two derechos reales, or real property rights, which currently — and
under the limits Cuban laws place on private property rights — could
come closer to fulfill the expectations of a sensible real estate
investor or developer, the derecho de superficie and the derecho de
usufructo, still lack, in my humble opinion, the level of clarity or
transparency required to answer the questions of a prudent investor. And
this should not be an issue framed by ideology: As soon as I perceive a
sufficient degree of legal certainty with regard to these two rights,
even if limited by Cuban "socialism," I will gladly report it here. But
I do not see that yet.

It is not as if the "liberalization" process begun late last year has
stalled. Cuban banks will have authorized around 100,000 loans to
individual Cuban citizens by the end of the year, many of them for
improvement of housing units and for the purchase of building materials.
But the average amount of these loans is under $300, roughly 15 times
the average monthly salary.

The number of real property (or housing) titles recorded at the Registro
de la Propiedad has also increased substantially, with people realizing
the importance of being able to show — and prove — their rights.

Over the past four years, Cuba has 'granted' its farmers over 1.5
million hectares under usufruct rights, and a recent piece of
legislation (Decreto Ley 300/12), effective Dec. 9, 2012, gives those
who have benefited from this distribution of idle lands more leeway in
what they are allowed to do with them. The families involved can now
build their housing premises on the land they have received; their
usufruct rights over that land can be renewed every 10 years (the
maximum length of usufruct rights remains at 10 years for individuals or
natural persons, but it is now 25 years for cooperatives and other
personas jurídicas or entities).

But at this slow pace, it is Myanmar (Burma, as I still prefer to call
it), and not Cuba, that is staking a claim to become the newest
attraction for serious real estate investors. A recent visit by
President Barack Obama reinforces that perception — and should invite us
to wonder why a presidential trip to Cuba remain inconceivable when a
visit to a still authoritarian regime that is slowly emerging from
behind its bamboo curtain is kosher. But I am digressing, and probably
inviting the usual shower of claptrap that passes for an explanation of
this absurdity.

And I am not suggesting that we Cubans should seek any guidance in
Burma's transition. Looking for a game plan for post-Castro Cuba in the
experiences of people who hardly resemble the Cuban people (be they
Hungarians, Estonians, or now Burmese) has long been a staple of that
uniquely Miamian science known as 'Cubanology.' I have always thought
that perhaps the only people whose 'transition' from an authoritarian
system into a democratic one merits a closer look by all Cubans is the
Spanish people, whose idiosyncrasy, for better of for worse, truly
matches ours. And I still do.

But when it comes to nurturing and developing a healthy real estate
market, the hyper-leveraged Spanish model and the Spanish people's most
recent experiences with it would probably scare most Cubans used to
taking their housing for granted and understanding the right to housing
as protected under existing international human rights law (see Article
25(a) of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the first
paragraph of Article 11 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights). What with people jumping from balconies to
avoid eviction, while foreigners are being offered legal residence in
Spain if they buy a little piece of the huge unsold real estate
inventory widely scattered over the landscape of Spain's financial crisis.

And the rain in Spain falls mainly from clouds that originally gathered
over our own American plains. So when we talk about the Spanish model
for a real estate market, we are talking about our U.S. model. For
Miamians, the model is one where real estate prices are set by wealthy
Brazilians, desperate Venezuelans and cash-rich Canadians (and now even
Chinese), with no regard whatsoever for the true buying power of our
local workers' salaries. We seem to be, yet again, at the stage in the
cycle where the usual suspects among our real estate tycoons shed their
last vulture feathers and are reborn like the Phoenix. I can almost hear
the trumping sound made by a scrum of semiliterate businessmen with egos
as tall as the Petronas Tower and laughable political ambitions
(although one lesson apparently learned from "the crisis" is to stay
away from christening buildings after themselves).

My hunch is Cubans will not buy into this model, whether it comes from
Spain or from the United States. It makes little sense to pay close to
$1,000 a month to a landlord for renting an apartment that does not look
much better than their present housing units in Centro Habana, as a
series in a Miami newspaper showed not long ago.

And that very human need for housing is what Cubans should be focusing
on — not on 18-hole golf courses, shopping malls, or hotels with marinas
— as far as their "real estate market" is concerned. It is hard to see
how the changes made to Cuban housing laws over a year ago have made a
dent in Cuba's chronic housing shortage. And for that failure, the blame
lies squarely with the Cuban government, which has been slow to open its
housing market to foreign capital, while tentatively opening up to
touristic developments and similar ventures.

José Manuel Pallí is a Cuban-born member of the Florida Bar, originally
trained as a lawyer in Argentina. He is president of Miami-based World
Wide Title and can be reached at

Cuba cracks down on activists, journalists

Cuba cracks down on activists, journalists

After a year away, Cuba returns to the list of countries imprisoning
Alex Pearlman
December 11, 2012 13:56

Human rights defenders, political dissidents and journalists have been
threatened, beaten and arbitrarily imprisoned in Cuba recently, and the
widespread government crackdown continued on International Human Rights
Day yesterday.

On the 64th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
over 100 activists were detained and up to 150 others were put under
house arrest, including members of the Ladies in White, women who
campaign for the release of relatives imprisoned by the government,
reports the Miami Herald.

Protesters were harassed by police in Havana and detained for hours
after staging rallies and marching outside two churches, one in Havana,
and one in the eastern town of El Cobre.

The State Department issued a statement Monday saying the US was "deeply
concerned" about the Cuban government's actions.

"We call on the Cuban government to end the increasingly common practice
of arbitrary and extra-judicial detentions, and we look forward to the
day when all Cubans can freely express their ideas, assemble freely and
express their opinions peacefully," said State Dept. spokesperson
Victoria Nuland, according to AFP.

More from GlobalPost: Cuba: When bureaucrats attack

Cuba has been increasingly harsh on activists and journalists. This year
alone has seen over 5,600 cases of detention or imprisonment, according
to rights advocacy group the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and
National Reconciliation.

Most notably, Cuban journalist Calixto Martinez Arias, who reported on a
2009 cholera outbreak and in September wrote about shipments of medicine
expiring, was imprisoned in September and has been on a hunger strike
since November.

Martinez Arias is being held in solitary confinement and spoke with his
news agency, the independent Centro de Información Hablemos Press about
the inhumane conditions in Cuban prisons, which the Committee to Protect
Journalists recorded and posted on their blog [in Spanish].

According to, another political prisoner, Alexander Roberto
Fernández Rico, informed Martínez Arias' news agency in November that he
"was being held naked in a 'punishment cell' and being given only a
liter of water per day."

Cuba reappeared on the CPJ's list of countries that imprison journalists
this year after a year off it, one of the only countries in the Americas
to still regularly appear.

However, political dissidents see significant, on-going brutality by
secret police and plain clothes officers, according to the Cuban
Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation

More from GlobalPost: With new travel rules, most Cubans are free to go.
Will they return?

"Recent years have seen a growing trend toward police violence during
detentions, despite the dissidents' entirely peaceful behavior," the
commission said in its monthly report in November.

The commissions's leader, Elizardo Sanchez, a leading opposition figure,
reported similar treatment to Time magazine and said he was personally
attacked in Havana, and another activist, Guillermo Farinas, was
allegedly set up on by police weilding wooden sticks.

In a letter to Cuban Interior Minister Abeladro Colome and the
international press, Sanchez complained about the situation, saying
"Arbitrary arrests, physical aggression, threats and humiliations
against peaceful citizens are counterproductive to the necessary
alternative that is a national dialogue."

Cuba denies visa for opposition leader wanting to study in Chile

Cuba denies visa for opposition leader wanting to study in Chile
Thursday, 13 December 2012 21:34
Written by Amelia Duggan

Decision to deny visa to Rosa María Payá provokes outcry from Chile.

The Cuban government denied the request Tuesday of opposition movement
leader Rosa María Payá to leave the country to study in Chile.

Payá, who became the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement in July
following the death of her father and previous leader Oswaldo Payá, was
granted a visa and scholarship to study political theory and public
management at Universidad Miguel de Cervantes in Santiago and was due to
begin in January.

Mijail Bonito Lovio, a Cuban expat and the secretary of international
relations for the Chilean chapter of the Independent and Democratic Cuba
Party (CID), decried the Cuban government's decision.

"It is the second time this year that the Cuban government denied the
travel permit to Rosa María Payá," Bonito Lovio told The Santiago Times.
"The reason is very simple: Cuban dissidents on the island suffer
repression and their statements abroad could cause the Cuban government
to lose the image of sanctity it still has in many parts of the world."

"(Her trip) threatened to show the world that Cuban dissidents are
articulate young idealists and not the criminals that the Cuban
government wants us to think," he said.

The Cuban government's decision is particularly controversial as the
country is preparing to relax its stringent border controls. President
Raúl Castro announced in October the elimination of the half-century-old
restriction that requires all Cubans to have a government-approved
travel permit. The new measure, which would drop this stringent
requirement, is set to be implemented Jan. 14, 2013.

However, critics like Bonito Lovio fear arbitrary requirements will
simply be transferred to the process for obtaining a passport, leaving
the essential process unchanged.

The news also comes as Cuban President Castro is scheduled to attend the
Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit to be
held in Chile in January 2013.

"We find it unacceptable that a dictator will arrive and be greeted with
the same honors as those of a president of a democratic state in a
country like Chile," Bonito Lovio said.

"We, along with several political groups of Chilean civil society, will
carry out activities to express our deepest rejection of the visit of
this dictator and we hope that this is seconded by Chileans who truly
value democracy, which is the majority," he added.

Sen. Patricio Walker, a member the center-left Christian Democrat Party
(DC) and a vocal critic of Castro, also condemned the Cuban government's

"It's really incomprehensible and shows that the Cuban government wants
to control its people completely, even in their ability to travel,"
Walker told The Santiago Times.

"Raúl Castro should understand that we have a free press in Chile, and
he should know that if he comes here, he will be asked some very
uncomfortable questions," he added.

Walker, who had a personal relationship with Oswaldo Payá, was denied an
entry visa to Cuba on a trip to attend Payá's funeral. According to
official reports, the former opposition leader died in a car crash
earlier this year, but his family accused the Cuban government of
ordering his assassination.

By Amelia Duggan (