Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cuba’s Monetary Unification - a Turn for the Better or for the Worse?

Cuba's Monetary Unification: a Turn for the Better or for the Worse?
October 31, 2013
Haroldo Dilla Alfonso*

HAVANA TIMES —The announcement that the Cuban government plans on
eliminating Cuba's two-currency monetary system has awakened numerous
concerns among common citizens and analysts. This was to be expected,
for, even if we assume the simplest and most vulgar point of view on
Cuban reality, it is clear that this is a serious issue that is going to
change many of the rules of the game on the island's playing field.

We should not imagine that the world is going to change after the two
peso currencies are fused into one, but neither should we underestimate
the significance of the measure.

I think that one of the most interesting things we find in the First
Report of the Cuban Civil Society Consulting Group recently published by
Cubaencuentro – I haven't been able to find out who these people are –
is the statement that some believe Cuban society is changing for the
better and others for the worse. Ignoring such changes condemns us to
idly imagine a society which is disappearing more and more every day.

The two-currency system was an emergency measure implemented by Cuba's
political class during the worst moments of the stifling economic crisis
it brought about. It was also a monetary scheme suited to the economic
system Fidel Castro then envisaged: a dual economy with a dollarized,
dynamic sector, and a weak, Cuban-peso sector sustained by infusions
from the first via payment balances.

It was the system that the military conspired against with its company
streamlining campaign throughout the 90s and what former vice-president
Carlos Lage promoted with unbridled Fidelista fervor until his political
decapitation some years back.

The two-currency system has been maintained, and not without reason.
Future studies will reveal to what extent the existence of the two
currencies and parallel economies, and the diffuse border between the
two which always provided those who crossed it with differential
profits, has been a key factor in the original accumulation of Cuba's
emerging bourgeoisie, a class which today is nestled in the folds of the
country's political elite, the black market and foreign investment.

Currently, however, the two-currency system proves unworkable in terms
of affording Cuba the quota of technical rationality and transparency
its system requires.

If the so-called "updating process" aspires to a minimum of coherence
and is at all serious in its efforts at restoring capitalism (be it the
Chinese, Russian or Antarctic variety), then, it has no choice but to
re-establish the one-currency system.

I don't know how it's going to do it, something which should not be
surprising (as I am not an economist). However it is likely Cuban
government officials also don't have a clear idea of how to go about it.
To date, very little has been explained, and there isn't even a rough
chronogram, which suggests the whole process will advance as slowly as
all of Raul's reforms.

A single currency is not going to give people greater access to the
market; it is only going to eliminate all legal barriers blocking such
access. That could well give rise to frustrations similar to those
experienced by Cubans upon realizing that having a passport doesn't
automatically get anyone on a plane.

This monetary unification, to be sure, is going to have an
unquestionable impact on Cuban society, for, what we are talking about
are the direct effects on the prices of merchandise sold in Cuban pesos,
which, in turn, conditions the prices of other things, including labor

We can also predict that, in the short term, money laundering operations
will emerge (be it in the form of bank deposits or real estate
purchases) in response to subtle government threats regarding settling
scores with those who have accumulated ill-gotten money.

If that were the case, we would be seeing a number of collateral
phenomena involving the black market, concealed practices and repression
which have already become part of Cuban culture.

In short, this is an issue to follow, as the Cuban president likes to
say, patiently but surely. So, let us take a seat, put away some bills
as numismatic memorabilia and reflect on what is to happen in a society
where, for the longest time, something new is always going on…for better
or for worse.
(*) A Havana Times translaton of the original published in Spanish by

Source: "Cuba's Monetary Unification: a Turn for the Better or for the
Worse? - Havana" -

“Normal Travel”: 42% Don’t Return

"Normal Travel": 42% Don't Return / Enrique Del Risco
Posted on October 30, 2013

Colonel Lamberto Fraga, Deputy Director of the Office of Immigration and
Foreigners of CUba, has declared that 57.8 percent of those Cubans who
have traveled abroad since the travel and immigration reforms have
returned to the country, and he concludes:
"We Cubans are not fleeing [the country], this is normal travel."
Thank goodness.
P.S. The 42% (who don't return) are (the figure is not mine) 95,888
Cubans. Three times more than during the rafter crisis. This is what's
called a peaceful Mariel boatlift.
Enrique Del Risco (from his blog: Enrisco)
29 October 2013

Source: ""Normal Travel": 42% Don't Return / Enrique Del Risco |
Translating Cuba" -

Finally, A Crime or Not?

Finally, A Crime or Not? / Cuban Law Association, Osvaldo Rodriguez Diaz
Posted on October 30, 2013

In Cuba prostitution is not a crime, this statement is repeated over and
over by the media and by people who are considered to have due authority
to do so.

In the special part of the Penal code on crimes, this figure does not

Thus, many ask, "How is it that there are so many who are detained for
this type of activity?".

Our society, like others, suffers from it and also considers
prostitution as a reprehensible vice, affecting morality and decency.

This "antisocial behavior," as it is named in the criminal law, can be
punished with rehabilitation measures of up to four years of detention
in certain establishments.

These security measures, which are called "pre-criminal" and whose
purpose is expressed in the law and complementary provisions and which
prevent the subject from committing a crime, are imposed on prostitutes.
So, is prostitution a crime or not?

If the objective of these security measures is to to avoid crime, then
what crime can be committed when a young girl dedicates herself to the
oldest profession?

We must look at the causes and conditions that have generated the
excessive increase of this activity, and try to eliminate them at their

Despite the rigor of pre-criminal security measures, with almost the
same regulations as other punishments, although classified as protected,
many repeat their act.

In this area, a sad reality is presented in everything that revolves
around prostitution, persons accused of and punished for renting a room
to a prostitute, not for the exercise itself but as a temporary
dwelling, or the hired driver that transfers them to where they will
practice the oldest profession.

The subject presented is complex, others who are licensed in the matter
should offer their opinion in respect to this matter.

By Osvaldo Rodríguez Díaz

Translated by: Shane J. Cassidy

25 October 2013

Source: "Finally, A Crime or Not? / Cuban Law Association, Osvaldo
Rodriguez Diaz | Translating Cuba" -

Remnants to the Wind

Remnants to the Wind / Rosa Maria Rodriguez
Posted on October 30, 2013

I found the body of a dead dog like a decal on the floor of the
intersection of the streets Amado and Goss, in Vibora, and twenty meters
closer to Mayia Rodriguez, a bird also laminated in the asphalt. That
image filled my retina in the block of the Monaco market.

So daily deteriorates the hygiene in any Havana neighborhood for
ordinary Cubans. There where the animal died — it does not matter if run
over by a car or illness — his entrails were left in the sun for the
decay to infect the environs and pollute the olfactory space of the

What's worse is the level of contamination to which those who habitually
pass through there — among them many children — are exposed and the
possible breeding ground for transmission of sicknesses and the risk of
contagion for other vagabond dogs and hungry scavenging animals that
poke at or feed on the hound's remains.

Cuba has become — also — a dump or open cemetery for unburied animals
and it seems to matter to no one. These kinds of situations should not
happen, but now that they do, to whom to write or direct oneself? It is
possible that we get a faceless, nameless replica of an entity and
although you have it, it does not fill the void of decades of
helplessness, indolence and filth.

The most regrettable thing is that the answers almost always remain on
paper, in the article and personal interest of a journalist, in a public
complaint and nothing more. When will we overcome the stage of
explanations and confront problems with facts and concrete solutions?

The remedy would not be — as the authorities are accustomed to doing —
to create more entities to attend to social matters and needs
accumulated for decades, but they should de-bureaucratize the agencies
or firms and give them the resources and powers to quickly and
satisfactorily solve these kinds of issues that confront the people and
that the State does not solve.

I would like to see the surroundings of the residences, markets and
commercial centers that the head honchos, their relatives, their friends
and high military chiefs frequent. I wonder if there are stray dogs in
those areas. Possibly not, to avoid fecal waste, disagreeable odors and
the running over of one of those animals. But if something were to go
astray, have an accident or perish in one of those places, surely it
would be duly and diligently "transferred" in order to receive "rapid"
burial or cremation.

Logic works expeditiously for sectors from "above" like a horizontal and
vertical elevator which, although it seems to be, is not stuck but
really designed not to go further down from a certain level.

Translated by mlk

29 October 2013

Source: "Remnants to the Wind / Rosa Maria Rodriguez | Translating Cuba"

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

State Security Tries to Stop Possible Mass Demonstration

State Security Tries to Stop Possible Mass Demonstration / Miriam Celaya
Posted on October 30, 2013

HAVANA, Cuba , October 2013, Rumors have been
circulating in the past few days about an alleged "strike" or
"demonstration" of the self-employed to be held in Havana next November
1st. This is not an extended commentary on society, but it's limited to
the self-employed sector, stemming from official countermeasures that
aim to increase controls on small family-owned clothing businesses.
Some say that this call to a public and peaceful protest, with a march
ending at the Plaza Cívica -(Plaza de la Revolución)- was summoned "from
outside", while others claim that it is the initiative of a group of
self-employed who have been affected by recent government restrictions
particularly harmful to those who trade in articles of clothing, and
that it will soon reach other private businesses.

Whether or not these rumors about the protest are true, places in Centro
Habana, some of which were once shops, where now several private workers
group together to offer their services, be it merchandise sales,
equipment repair or even bodybuilders gyms, have been visited by agents
of the State Security ("DTI agents", according to some people), who have
warned the self-employed" that disorder or disturbances will not be

On the real possibility that there will be an autonomous demonstration
in Cuba without being suffocated even before it starts, there is every
reason for doubt. In fact, some argue that potential marching groups
have already been infiltrated by the political police, something that is
not new. Nevertheless, government measures that keep limiting or
stifling private businesses are accentuating the discontent in a sector
that has begun to identify itself as independent, legitimate and
self-funded, and the insertion of agents to contain their claims would
not be sufficient in the mid-term. Additionally, there are many
self-employed who already view the Party-Government-State as a parasitic
entity that feeds on them, and not as the benefactor that, until
recently, guaranteed certain social benefits.

Other rumors have been anticipating that the turnaround will expand to
other private businesses, including to 3D theaters that have been
proliferating in several provinces, and more so in the capital,
heralding the increase in volume of dissenters who would join the chorus
of protests.

If the new edicts of the olive-green caste generate a level of
dissatisfaction sufficient to breed a movement of protest and eventually
become an alternative social force is something to be seen. However, the
deployment of repressive agents around self-employed merchants is
evidence of the government's concern with the potential of a sector
that, in current circumstances, brings together the biggest and best
conditions to stand up to power.

In any case, even if said protests of the self-employed don't take
place, the acknowledged concern of government officials in the face of a
rumor should serve as a sample button to private businessmen about their
mobilizing potential to transform Cuba's reality, not from the meager
and illusory "economic opening" dispensed from the cupola as a function
of the interests of the authorities, but from the interests, needs, and
the will power of independent subjects, an unwanted effect miscalculated
by the General-President when he decided to open his Pandora 's Box of

By Miriam Celaya

Translated by Norma Whiting

Cubanet, 29 October 29, 2013

Source: "State Security Tries to Stop Possible Mass Demonstration /
Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba" -

Antennas and the Ears of the Gods

Antennas and the Ears of the Gods / Rosa Maria Rodriguez
Posted on October 30, 2013

It is not my invention, it was on Cuban TV where they announce the
creation of national social network called "The Clothesline," for
domestic users. Do you think they're finally respecting our rights to
have Internet? Hopefully! But in any event it wouldn't be a "half
respect" nor even a half measure of respect, but the total lack of it,
for them to limit or prohibit our access to sites like Twitter and
Facebook to constrain our social, virtual and mental frontiers.

To force us to interact entirely within the country is a violation of a
fundamental human right and also, ironically, almost like inviting us to
a prison to take part in a conference about the freedom that will be
offered to someone condemned to 55 years in jail.

A friend — the very best of friends — and reader called me on the phone
to tell me about Cuban social mesh. She noted the coincidence with a
writing of mine that she couldn't remember the title of, but she did
remember the metaphor. I remembered it too, but I had no idea of the
approximate date nor the context in which I used it. Later I hunted for
more information and was able to recall it. I put the noun "clothesline"
in the XML code I keep the blog in and it appeared in the post SOS: The
Weapon of the Word, which I published on 16 August 2011.

In the third paragraph of the text I stated: "But here we are and will
be as long as God allows it. I will continue using the clothesline — in
the original text it's not in bold — of WordPress to hang my opinions
without letting myself be intimidated by those who come along with their
shears, cutting freedoms to feed despotism."

Coincidence or inspiration? Don't know if an official "liked it" and
borrowed the term, like Aida says. If that is what happened, I think
it's a real shame that they don't have the same 'ears' when it comes to
paying attention to the multiple political and economic proposals that
we, the opposition, have been working on throughout the years; proposals
whose implementation would help untie the knots of many of the problems
which, as a country and as a nation, we suffer.

However, I invite them to continue visiting the websites of the
political organizations — illegal according to the dictatorships — and
the blogosphere of the emerging alternative civil society, and which
there are many talented people who have spent decades offering antidotes
and paths in an endless stream, preventive and therapeutic solutions and

Let's drink from our own source in a respectful, participative and
diverse dialog, including the range of cultural identities. No matter
what the discriminating historic leaders say, we still have more, "much
more to give!

27 October 2013

Source: "Antennas and the Ears of the Gods / Rosa Maria Rodriguez |
Translating Cuba" -

What Water is Cuba Thinking of Exporting?

What Water is Cuba Thinking of Exporting?
October 29, 2013
Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES – Even though Cuba's National Environmental Strategy Report
identifies the "water shortage" as one of the island's five main
problems, the Cuban government aims to export bottled water to other
countries in the Caribbean.

According to an article published in Havana Times, a new manufacturing
plant with "cutting edge" Italian technology began production at the
beginning of September. The trade name of the bottled water produced
there is Sierra Canasta, a mountain range in Guantanamo, whose springs
provide the company with the precious liquid.

Sierra Canasta is to compete with the only domestic manufacturer Cuba
had to date, Ciego Montero. It is reported that it will sell a water
bottle of 600 mL (100 mL more than what its predecessor offers) for a
similar price.

With the installed capacity to date, it is estimated that some 144
thousand boxes of the product will be produced each year. That amount is
enough to supply all of TRD, Palmares and CIMEX stores (as well as the
tourism industry) in the island's eastern region.

According to the news piece, the potential of this manufacturing plant,
built with funds from the Cuban State and the Spanish International
Cooperation for Development Agency, is far greater (over 400 thousand
boxes a year), something which will make it possible for Cuba to "begin
to gain a market among countries in the Caribbean basin."

Though the environmental report issued by the Cuban Ministry of Science,
Technology and the Environment (CITMA) reports that the island "lacks an
adequate monitoring system to assess the quality of its land and marine
waters," it seems that the dividends expected are far more persuasive.

Globally, the production of bottled water can cost anywhere between 0.25
to 2 US dollars per bottle. According to Bottledwaterblues, 90% of this
money is spent on manufacturing the bottle, the label and the caps.

Eastern Cuba's Water Situation

The report issued by CITMA alerts us to the fact that "the drought (…)
and other phenomena caused by human intervention (…) are causing broad
coastal areas and dry expanses of land around the country to experience
significant processes of desertification, which tend to be more intense
in Cuba's eastern regions."

Towns in Cuba's east such as Baguanos and Tacajo have been practically
devoid of water for decades owing to the degradation or contamination of
the water table. The town's inhabitants have no access to any
infrastructure that can supply them with water.

"Repeated and destructive droughts, combined with high evaporation
rates, lead to the exhaustion of soils and the reduction of underground
water reserves," the report states.

One of the priorities of the Water Resources Institute for Cuba's
eastern region is supplying communities with water, sanitizing the
environment and the restoring of the water distribution networks in
areas most severely affected by drought, Rolando Calzada, director of
this institute, announced during the recent International Hydraulic
Engineering Congress.

He also pointed out that another priority is to guarantee that areas
being developed for tourism are supplied with the vital liquid. Now, we
have a clear sense of how they hope to achieve this.

The Impact of Bottled Water Production

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and hundreds of other environmentalist
movements around the world have called on people to begin consuming less
bottled water. Their campaigns claim that bottled water is not any
better than tap water, and that its production generates waste materials
that are difficult to recycle.

According to Annie Leonard, an expert on the subject, bottled water
companies have "manufactured a demand" for their product. To achieve
this, they scare the public with news about the contamination of a
number of water sources, many a time polluted by the very industries
that produce the plastic bottles.

The fact of the matter is that, many a time, bottled water meets less
sanitary regulations than tap water and even tastes worse. Regardless of
what the seductive labels showing natural landscapes may suggest, on
occasion, bottled water actually comes right out of the tap (but costs 2
thousand times more money).

Marketing strategies deceive the consumer and conceal the fact, for
instance, that, in the United States, 80% of empty plastic bottles end
up in the countryside, where they take thousands of years to decompose.
Or they end up in incinerators, where they are burned, releasing toxic
fumes into the atmosphere. Many are also dumped into the ocean.

Only a small fraction of these bottles are recycled, that is to say, a
good share are exported to countries like India, where they are
deposited in gigantic garbage dumps. Who's to say that the same thing
doesn't happen in the poor nations of the Caribbean, including Cuba?

"In 2030, nearly half the global population will face a water crisis,
the level of demand is expected to be 40 per cent higher than the
available supply," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated some days ago
in Budapest, during the opening of the Water Summit.

Ignoring such warnings and turning a deaf ear on the UN leader's call to
"combat the unsustainable use of water," the Cuban government plans on
selling the scant reserves of the precious liquid available in Cuba's
eastern regions in hard currency and hopes to export it to other nations
of the Caribbean.

Despite the fact that the bottled water business has begun to show signs
of decline around the world, Cuba aspires to enter it precisely now,
through an initiative that need not be approved by local authorities, as
these decisions are made by the central government.

On the other hand, the precarious situation of Cuba's civic
environmental organizations makes it impossible to exert any significant
pressure on the company and the country's leadership, a situation
exacerbated by a maddening lack of any direct information about these

Source: "What Water is Cuba Thinking of Exporting? - Havana" -

How Cubans Travel

How Cubans Travel
October 29, 2013
Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES — On the morning of Tuesday, October 16, 2012, Cuba's radio
and television news programs, printed and online newspapers and the
regular edition of the Official Gazette of the Republic announced that
the government had decreed the modification of the island's migratory

This awakened much enthusiasm among the population, particularly those
who had intentions of leaving the country, be it for personal or
professional reasons and on a temporary or permanent basis.

In the first moments following the news, some issues were not understood
very well. Of course, to those who had no experience with or any
information regarding the steps needed to secure a visa or travel
abroad, everything seemed easy.

They assumed, for instance, that, once they had their valid passports
and the financial means to travel, it was simply a question of
requesting a visa from the country they wished to travel to and nothing

People continue to talk about Cuba's migratory reforms and to look for
different alternatives to be able to travel, for Cubans require visas to
travel to nearly every country in the world. Securing them can be a bit
tricky, for, many a time, you need a work pre-contract, a letter of
invitation or proof of financial solvency from a bank (an account that
usually must have more than 2,000 dollars in it) in order to obtain a
tourism visa.

Thus, Cuba's elimination of the travel permit and letter of invitation
as requirements do not broaden people's possibilities of leaving the
island much. Some countries allow Cubans to enter their territory
without a visa, but none is very appealing for Cubans, nor could they
ever become a migratory destination point.

Let us look at the list of these countries.

In Africa:

- Kenya (For stays not to exceed 90 days. US 25 $ must be paid upon
- Republic of Bostwana (For stays not to exceed 90 days)
- Guinea (For stays not to exceed 90 days)
- Namibia (For stays not to exceed 90 days)
- Seychelles (For stays not to exceed 30 days)
- Togo (For stays not to exceed 7 days)
- Uganda (Tourism visas received upon arrival)

In Asia:

- Cambodia (For stays not to exceed 30 days. US 20 $ must be paid upon
- Georgia (Tourism visas received upon arrival)
- Kirguistan (For stays not to exceed 30 days. Between US $ 40 and 100
must be paid upon arrival)
- Laos (For stays not to exceed 30 days. US 30 $ must be paid upon arrival)
- Malaysia (For stays not to exceed 90 days)
- Maldive Islands (For stays not to exceed 30 days)
- Mongolia (For stays not to exceed 30 days)
- Singapore (For stays not to exceed 30 days)
- East Timor (For stays not to exceed 30 days. US 25 $ must be paid upon

- Indonesia (No visa required for stays not to exceed 30 days. US 10 $
must be paid upon arrival)

In Oceania:

-Cook Islands (For stays not to exceed 31 days)
-Federated States of Micronesia (For stays not to exceed 30 days)
- Niue (For stays not to exceed 30 days)
- Palau (For stays not to exceed 30 days)
- Samoa (For stays not to exceed 60 days)
- Tuvalu (For stays not to exceed 30 days)
- Vanuatu (For stays not to exceed 30 days)

In Europe:

- Belorussia (For stays not to exceed 30 days)
- Montenegro (For stays not to exceed 30 days)
- Russia (For stays not to exceed 30 days)
- Serbia (For stays not to exceed 90 days)

In the Americas:

- Dominica (For stays not to exceed 28 days)
- Granada (For stays not to exceed 60 days)
- Haiti (For stays not to exceed 90 days)
- Saint Kitts and Nevis (For stays not to exceed 30 days)
- Saint Lucia (For stays not to exceed 45 days)
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (For stays not to exceed 30 days)

It is interesting to see that Cuba's so-called "sister nations", like
Angola, where thousands of Cubans lost their lives in a war, don't
appear in this list. So, having fought next to them in a war doesn't
quite entitle us to travel to their country freely? What of Ethiopia,
Nicaragua, Bolivia and the closest sister nation of all, Venezuela?

Source: "How Cubans Travel - Havana" -

Back to a Single Currency - Preparing Cubans Psychologically for What’s to Come

Back to a Single Currency: Preparing Cubans Psychologically for What's
to Come
October 28, 2013
Vicente Morin Aguado

HAVANA TIMES — The recent decision of Cuba's Council of Ministers to
re-establish a single currency system in the country has, first of all,
a psychological aim with a clear political motivation: getting us used
to the high retail prices we will be seeing when this one currency, most
likely the Cuban Peso (the "CUP", in bank jargon), becomes generalized.

In practice, however, it makes no difference whether one pays 500 Cuban
Pesos (CUP) or 20 Convertible Pesos (CUC) for a pair of shoes. The
self-employed, in fact, do not object to being paid in pesos. They even
exchange the CUC for 24 pesos and, after some haggling, they may end up
selling the article in question for a few less CUP so as to end the day
with a good sale.

Let us imagine that a hard-working man from the countryside (a guajiro,
as they are known in Havana) has sold four well-fattened pigs and
arrives at the capital with twenty thousand Cuban pesos. Nowadays, he is
forced to go to a currency exchange locale (CADECA) in order to acquire
Convertible Pesos. There, he exchanges his money for 800 of the latter,
which circulate throughout the country (as do the regular pesos).

The gentleman heads to a hard-currency store (known as TRDs) to purchase
a variety of products, today sold exclusively in CUCs. Quite a different
story is that of a pensioner who receives maybe 250 CUP a month, the
equivalent of 10 CUC. Mathematics has no feelings and, in both cases, we
have a common denominator which does not alter the earnings of the
self-employed or the TRDs in the least.

The psychological effect of this measure, however, is very real,
because, in the course of many years, we Cubans became used to paying
for things in Cuban pesos and are totally put off by the notion of
having to pay, say, 25 thousand pesos for a plasma TV, which would be
the rough equivalent of the one thousand Convertible Pesos this TV costs

The numbers are shocking, they get to you, they remind you how screwed
you are, that they've hit you with the double currency, paying you for
your day's work in one and selling you products in the other.

So, now they are giving us the option – first on an experimental basis,
before the measure is implemented throughout the country – to pay for
products and services in any of the two currencies, as though they were
actually changing the country's economic situation with that, when, in
fact, it's a simple mathematical equivalence, in a world where everyone
has an electronic calculator at hand.

What they are in fact doing is accustoming our minds to what we will be
heading towards in the near future. We will have a single currency, it
doesn't matter whether it's the CUP or CUC (though, for
"prestige-related" reasons, I suppose it will be the old Cuban Peso).
The point now is to accustom us to thinking in high figures, something
common in other countries, but until now unthinkable under the
revolutionary government.

As they do in Venezuela, Mexico or Japan, we will speak in hundreds or
thousands of pesos about things we regard as having a small value, a
pack of candy, a chocolate bar, a fan or a bicycle. The idea is to
prepare Cubans psychologically for the hard reality that there are no
magical solutions out there, that things cannot be changed by
presidential decrees. We've had a single currency for a very long time,
now we're simply giving this reality legal expression.

Before concluding, however, I would like to point out that, in addition
to the "prestige" I mentioned, there are a number of services that
Cubans pay in CUP (like electricity, gas, water, subsidized products
offered at ration stores, bread and others), which justify the choice of
the CUP as the single currency that will remain.

Cuba is slowly moving towards a limited market economy whose subsequent
growth appears unavoidable. There are no magic-wand or immediate solutions.

For the time being, they're "preparing" us for the coming step, the
implementation of a single currency system, without altering the current
relations between consumer item prices and salaries (as a government
decree cannot change a country's economy). It is a question of softening
the psychological impact of things to come.

Another aspect of this measure is actually positive, even though it has
nothing to do with the purchasing power of the population: the
unification of the country's accounting system will give rise to more
reliable financial mechanisms, which will henceforth have a single referent.

This will put an end to numerous arbitrary phenomena which today result
in conflict, embezzlement, scams and other contradictions inherent to
the absurd two-currency system.

A single price for Cubans and tourists, a single payment obligation in
any establishment: this will close the door on blackmailing inspectors,
eliminate a double accounting system for the payment of products, their
preparation and sale and do away with a number of prerogatives enjoyed
today by the bureaucracy that has become enthroned in Cuba.

I applaud the measure aimed at re-establishing a single currency system
because it will legalize what is already a reality and will curtail the
"swindles" of those who take advantage of the sweat of workers. I
realize this is still too little, but it is nonetheless a step forward.
I can only hope we won't be seeing any steps backward, as tends to
happen in my unpredictable country.

Source: "Back to a Single Currency: Preparing Cubans Psychologically for
What's to Come - Havana" -

Bahamas detains about 40 Cuban migrants left on deserted island; 2 alleged smugglers held

Bahamas detains about 40 Cuban migrants left on deserted island; 2
alleged smugglers held

NASSAU, Bahamas - The Foreign Ministry of the Bahamas says about 40
migrants from Cuba have been detained among the small, uninhabited keys
in the south of the island chain.

A Foreign Ministry statement says the migrants include one child and
were left by smugglers on a deserted island near Cay Sal. The ministry
says it detained two alleged smugglers along with the group.

The migrants had apparently taken off from La Isabela, Cuba, about 55
miles (90 kilometres) to the south.

The Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that the migrants would be taken to
Bahamas' New Providence island to be processed and then repatriated to Cuba.

The Bahamian government has come under pressure in recent months from
Cuban advocates in the United States who have accused authorities in the
Bahamas of mistreating migrants.

Source: "Bahamas detains about 40 Cuban migrants left on deserted
island; 2 alleged smugglers held" -

For McAuliffe, Cuba trip to promote Va. products was a bust

For McAuliffe, Cuba trip to promote Va. products was a bust
By Peter Wallsten and Carol D. Leonnig, Wednesday, October 30, 1:59 AM

Terry McAuliffe has always fashioned himself a master salesman. He could
pitch anything.

Then he went to Cuba.

McAuliffe said he journeyed to the island to sell Virginia wine and
apples. Yet the Cubans scoffed at his propositions during the April 2010
visit, unmoved by the full-frontal style of persuasion that has long
powered McAuliffe's success as an investor and political rainmaker.

Cuban officials not only rejected McAuliffe, but in meeting after
meeting lectured him about the supposed ill effects of the U.S. trade
embargo on the island nation.

In many ways, the three-day adventure was classic McAuliffe, offering a
taste of the freewheeling, even impulsive, style the Democratic
candidate for Virginia governor could bring to the executive mansion if
he is elected next week.

He was, in effect, winging it — relying largely on personal charm and
hoping for the best, even as many of those around him say they saw
little chance for success.

The trip had been intended, at least in part, to erase the sting of
McAuliffe's dismal showing in the gubernatorial race the previous year
while showcasing his deal-making skills and home-state advocacy in
advance of a second run for office. After it all fell apart, McAuliffe
stayed in his permanently upbeat sales mode even as his travel
companions privately lamented a journey that was more fiasco than triumph.

McAuliffe returned from Havana with a rosy report: "We got them to agree
to open up the market for Virginia wines," he told The Washington Post
at the time. "We are going to export Virginia wines to Cuba for the
first time ever."

In reality, the sales trip was a bust.

"It was like, 'What just happened?' Were we rolled?' " said Blaze
Wharton, a McAuliffe friend and Utah-based lobbyist who organized the
trip for McAuliffe and a handful of politically connected business friends.

"We were all under the impression that it would work out," Wharton said.
But, he added, "it went nowhere."

Why McAuliffe chose Cuba, a communist-led island with a moribund
economy, as the place to prove his mettle as a champion of Virginia
commerce is a curiosity. Any trip to Cuba, which is still designated a
state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. government, brings complications
— particularly for a figure with McAuliffe's deep ties to America's
political elite. He is a close friend and adviser to Hillary Rodham
Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the Cuba trip and,
should she run for president, would be courting Cuban-American voters
wary of contact with the regime there.

McAuliffe, now waging a campaign in which he presents himself as a
skilled deal-maker and cheerleader for Virginia businesses, rarely if
ever mentions his one venture since the 2009 campaign to sell Virginia
products abroad.

McAuliffe's campaign declined to make him available for an interview.
Neither his campaign nor the organizers of the trip could provide the
paperwork that McAuliffe was required to file with the U.S. Office of
Foreign Assets Control to obtain a license to travel to Cuba, saying
they no longer had copies. An OFAC spokesman said the office does not
comment on specific licenses.

Source: "For McAuliffe, Cuba trip to promote Va. products was a bust -
The Washington Post" -

Communist Cuba's new private industry - 3D theaters

Posted on Wednesday, 10.30.13

Communist Cuba's new private industry: 3D theaters

HAVANA -- The streets of central Havana were dark and almost silent as a
young married couple climbed a chipped marble staircase to the top of an
aging building.

Dubied Arce and Dayelin Perez opened a narrow door to a flood of cold
air, colored light and the twang of a country-and-western video blasting
from a wall-mounted TV. To their right: a private movie theater with a
200-inch screen, glossy leather armchairs and a high-definition 3D
projector. In another room: a half dozen Xbox video-game consoles wired
to flat-screen displays that were hand-carried by Cubans returning from
trips abroad.

Cuban entrepreneurs have quietly opened dozens of backroom video salons
over the last year, seizing on ambiguities in licensing laws to
transform cafes and children's entertainment parlors into a new breed of
private business unforeseen by recent official openings in the communist

"It's a cool atmosphere," Perez, 27, said Sunday night as she munched
free popcorn and waited with her husband and four other patrons for the
late-night showing of the 2010 terror film "Saw 3D." "We have some more
options these days, at least."

It's increasingly clear that 3D movie and video-game salons have grown
too popular for the government to ignore. Officials said Sunday that
they were working on new regulations for the businesses, sparking fears
the government might be on the verge of stamping out this flowering of
private enterprise.

"We don't have any concrete information yet about whether they're going
to allow it or not. But they haven't come out and said it's prohibited
either," said the manager of the central Havana video salon, speaking on
condition of anonymity because of the murky legal status of the
businesses. "We just don't know."

President Raul Castro has legalized small-scale private business in
nearly 200 fields since 2010 in an effort to rejuvenate Cuba's economy.
The limited opening has created jobs for some 436,000 people, but is
often accompanied by tighter regulations or higher taxes as private
enterprise starts to compete with the government.

Video parlors aren't mentioned among the approved businesses but aren't
explicitly prohibited either. Their owners usually operate under
licenses for restaurants or snack bars, then add entertainment options
that grow larger than the original business.

The Communist Party youth organ Juventud Rebelde published a 3,260-word
article Sunday on video salons that prominently featured officials
pointedly discussing the need to do something.

"What are we to do: prohibit or regulate? I believe in regulating, from
a fundamental starting point: everybody complying with cultural policy,"
Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas told the newspaper.

The paper said Rojas believes the video salons are promoting "a lot of
frivolity, mediocrity, pseudo culture and banality, which flies in the
face of a policy demanding that quality comes first in Cubans' cultural

"Notwithstanding, our interest isn't in limiting these offerings, rather
that they promote, I repeat, cultural products of the highest quality,"
he said.

Most video parlors feature recent Hollywood blockbusters like "Star
Trek," "Ice Age" and "World War Z," with children's fare in the daytime
and horror late at night. Cuba's state-run cinemas generally show
higher-brow films in poorly maintained theaters. The current government
fare in Havana includes "Sarah's Key," a 2010 French drama about the

The private video parlors' combination of success and legal ambiguity
makes them a particular conundrum for Cuba's government, which is trying
to improve conditions for ordinary Cubans but protect state enterprises
at the same time.

The theaters are employing a growing number of people, and offering
entertainment for many others, but they're also competing successfully
with state-run theaters.

"There are those in the government who presumably want to see more
private investment, consumers better served, and then there are those
who represent traditional interests and industries," said Richard
Feinberg, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies
private enterprise in Cuba.

"It's a fascinating competition, and that competition will determine the
future of Cuba."

Some parlors have nothing more than a TV, a DVD player, a handful of 3D
glasses and a dozen or so chairs in a family garage or living room.
Others, like the cinema and game parlor where Arce and Perez had their
night out, are professionally designed.

Aixa Suarez, a former purchasing agent for a state-run business, said
the 55-inch LG 3D TV set and Xbox game console bought by her brother in
Florida allow her to support her mother, father and 9- and 16-year-old
son and daughter.

She charges teens in her central Havana neighborhood $1 or $2, depending
on the hour, to play video games or watch a movie in her home. That
income has fully replaced her $45 monthly state salary and added a
significant percentage, but her feeling of independence is even more
important, she said.

"I don't have a boss. I am the boss," said Suarez. "I don't have set
hours. That's the biggest advantage. And that's enough for me."

In the higher-end salon, the equipment alone cost $100,000, all
hand-carried on flights from Canada, where the Cuban-born owner lives,
the manager said, declining to provide details because of the
possibility of a government crackdown. Movie tickets cost $4, which
includes a drink and popcorn. The eight employees share a percentage of
the earnings, and it should take three years to recoup the initial

Employee Junior Armenteros, 26, said he quit university a year before
getting an information technology degree. He struggled to find
interesting work until he was hired by the central Havana salon, where
he and his fellow employees discuss their shared interests in computers,
video games and mobile phones.

"There are other 3D cinema rooms but not with the high quality of these
ones," he said proudly. "This business is a pioneer."

Michael Weissenstein on Twitter:

Source: "HAVANA: Communist Cuba's new private industry: 3D theaters -
Technology -" -

Key West-Havana flights resuming for first time since 1962

Posted on Wednesday, 10.30.13

Key West-Havana flights resuming for first time since 1962

For the first time since 1962, regularly scheduled air travel between
Key West and Havana is returning.

Beginning Nov. 15, a Miami-based travel company says it will offer
chartered flights from Key West International Airport to Jose Marti
International Airport in Cuba for small groups of qualifying travelers.

"But they still have a lot of work to do in a short period of time,"
Monroe County Airports Director Peter Horton said.

The process began in 2009 with a request to U.S. Customs and Border
Protection to designate Key West International as an official point of

Following that was a three-phase, two-year, $2.25 million project to
have the airport reclassified as a federal inspection station, instead
of the current label of a general aviation facility.

Horton said that with the upgrades the feds signed off in October 2011,
it left it up to industry operators to begin offering service.

That role is being filled by Miami-based Mambi Travel and airline Air
MarBrisa, which already offers flights to Cuba from Miami, Tampa and New

Horton said before flights can begin, Mambi has to finalize an agreement
with Air MarBrisa, with the fixed base operator in Key West and get a
final sign-off from Customs and Border Protection.

Flights will leave Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3:30 p.m.,
returning the following morning. Cost aboard a Metro II turboprop
airplane is $449 round-trip. Each flight will be able to accommodate 10
people, including the pilot.

Mamba Travel spokesman Isaac Valdes said that "we just started
advertising today and we've pretty much got the flight booked for that
[first] date."

On the Customs and Border Protection approval timeline, he said, "We
don't foresee any problems there." He added, "It's going to be a
historical day."

Flights, expected to take between 30 minutes and 45 minutes each way,
will originate from the fixed-base operator portion of the Key West
airport where charters and private aircraft are maintained.

"There won't be any use of the terminals," Horton said.

Still, the new flights don't mean anyone can just step up and buy a
ticket to go to Cuba.

Rather, the Office of Foreign Assets Control in the U.S. Department of
the Treasury regulates travel to Cuba. Would-be visitors must obtain
either a general or specific license to make the trip.

A general license gives "blanket authorization" for the holder to engage
in travel to Cuba for broad activities: Visiting "close relatives" who
are either Cuban nationals or Americans working in Cuba for the U.S.
government; official business; journalistic, educational or religious
activities; professional research; and "commercial marketing, sales
negotiation, accompanied delivery or servicing in Cuba" of
telecommunications-related items, agricultural commodities, medicine or
medical devices.

A specific license is considered when the nature of the travel isn't
covered by a general license. That includes visiting close relatives who
aren't nationals or government employees, freelance journalism,
educational exchanges, academic seminars or conferences, athletic
competitions, participation in a public performance, and humanitarian
projects and research.

Source: "Key West-Havana flights resuming for first time since 1962 -
Florida Keys -" -

Cuban dissidents testify on human rights at OAS

Posted on Tuesday, 10.29.13

Cuban dissidents testify on human rights at OAS

Seven top Cuban dissidents alleged during testimony before the human
rights branch of the Organization of American States Tuesday that
security officials regularly beat, strip search and evict government
opponents from jobs and schools.

The Inter American Commission on Human Rights announced at the hearing
that it had issued a "cautionary measure" urging the Cuban government to
investigate complaints from the dissident group Ladies in White and to
adopt measures to protect its members.

An IACHR official noted, however, that Havana never acknowledges any
communications from the panel, which is part of the OAS. Cuba's
membership in the hemispheric organization has been suspended since the

The testimony by Berta Soler — president of the Ladies in White, three
other members of the organization, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez — known as
Antúnez, his wife Yris Tamara Perez and Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina marked
one of the rare times when Cuban dissidents have appeared in person
before the human rights commission.

"This is fresh and direct testimony provided by people who suffered the
repression on their own bodies… and who will return to Cuba to continue
fighting for democracy," said Janisset Rivero, deputy head of the
Miami-based Cuban Democratic Directorate.

Soler said she was especially concerned with the fate of Ladies in White
member Sonia Garro and her husband, Ramon Alejandro Munoz, scheduled to
be tried Friday on charges of trying to kill one of the policemen who
raided their home last summer. They have been jailed since then, and
prosecutors are seeking 10-year sentences for each.

Sayli Navarro testified that over the past six months police intensified
the repression against her fellow Ladies in White, strip-searching some,
performing body cavity searches on others and releasing many of them in
remote places.

Magaly Norvis Otero complained that relatives of dissidents are
regularly kicked out of their jobs or expelled from schools. She asked
the IACHR to urge the Cuban government to observe international norms
for the protection of human rights activists.

Garcia Perez, who served 17 years in prison, said the Cuban government
has launched "an intense and systematic escalation" of abuses against
dissidents and human rights activists in recent months that included
beatings, arrests and home detentions.

His wife said she was beaten so badly during one arrest this summer that
she suffered a loss of memory, and added that Havana activist Sara
Martha Fonseca could barely walk after one police beating earlier this year.

Dissidents also are regularly subjected to government-organized "acts of
repudiation" in which mobs often throw rocks and other materials at
their homes and chant pro-government slogans, said Rodriguez Lobaina,
who spent six years in prison.

Garcia Perez, his wife and Rodriguez Lobaina also alleged that state
security agents were responsible for the deaths of Oswaldo Payá and
Harold Cepero who both died in a car accident, Orlando Zapata Tamayo and
several other dissidents.

Source: "Cuban dissidents testify on human rights at OAS - Cuba -" -

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

To Have or Not To Have a Car

To Have or Not To Have a Car / Fernando Damaso
Posted on October 29, 2013

In any country, the acquisition of a car, whether new or used, usually
represents a reason for the new owner's satisfaction. In Cuba, if
acquiring a vehicle demands overcoming numerous obstacles, keeping it
functioning requires overcoming many more.

In the first place, new cars can only be gotten if the State grants the
right, generally to functionaries of political and governmental
agencies, armed forces officers, some professionals (above all from the
health sector after completing missions abroad), artists (mainly
musicians), some intellectuals and high performance athletes with
relevant results in international events. In all cases, demonstrated
loyalty to governmental ideology and politics is an indispensable requisite.

In the second place, the decree that authorizes the purchase and sale of
vehicles between citizens — something that was already done in an
illegal manner — refers only to those in use for several years. We are
talking about those that have traveled our deteriorated roads and
avenues for a long time: vehicles from the '40s and '50s, the first
known as "almendrones" (from the word for "almond") mostly of American
make, some German and Italian, and the ones built in the formerly
socialist camp, largely the extinct Soviet Union and Poland. In recent
years, although in reduced quantities, vehicles from Japan, South Korea,
Germany, Brazil and lastly China have been added.

The owner of a vehicle must confront various problems, one of the most
important being the acquisition of fuel: he must pay 1.20 CUC in
convertible pesos for each liter for regular gasoline and 1.40 CUC for
higher octane. This represents, in the first case, two days' salary in
national currency (29 Cuban pesos, or CUP), and in the second, more than
two days' (33 CUP), based on an average monthly salary of 440 CUP.

The next problem refers to the oils and lubricants, missing in the
garages that offer scrubbing and lubricating service in national
currency, requiring the car owner to get them in CUC, at elevated
prices, in the convertible pesos garages, or in CUC or CUP at a lower
price on the black market.

Nevertheless, these problems are trifles compared to those involved in
confronting repairs and the acquisition of replacement parts, tires and
batteries. The majority of state mechanic shops disappeared, and
individuals not yet authorized, the repairs must be resolved with
private mechanics, who are able to work on state premises devoid of
equipment (by arrangement with the appropriate administrator), at his
home, at that of the car owner, using his own tools and, sometimes, even
those of the client.

The prices, as is to be expected, are arranged directly between the
mechanic and the car owner, usually being elevated, as much in CUC as in
CUP. The main replacement parts, almost always missing from the state
stores, must be gotten on the black market. Customarily, near the state
stores, the presence of the citizens equipped with cell phones that,
before any solicitation, immediately locate the searched-for piece or

In the state stores, depending on the type of vehicle, a tire may cost
between 89 and 155 CUC (five or eight months' average salary) and a
battery between 90 and 175 CUC (the average salary of almost five to
nine months). On the black market tires can be acquired for 60-80 CUC
and batteries for 90-110.

It seems, although it may not be the intention, that the State, with its
elevated sale prices for citizens, stimulates the the existence of the
illegality, especially when all or most of these items come from the
"misappropriation of resources" and theft from the state stores and

And best not to address the issue of sheet metal and paint, because
these services, more than the cost of the materials (sheet metal,
acetylene, welder, paints, thinners, etc) reach astronomical figures, on
the order of hundreds of CUC.

The decision about having or not having a car in Cuba demands a lot of
reflection: although it resolves a problem of scarce public
transportation and represents freedom of movement, it constitutes too
heavy a burden for any pocket and the psyche of the happy (?) owner.

From Diario de Cuba.

23 October 2013

Translated by mlk

Source: "To Have or Not To Have a Car / Fernando Damaso | Translating
Cuba" -

Prison Diary LXII Award-Winning and Censored Books

Prison Diary LXII: Award-Winning and Censored Books / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on October 29, 2013

With the recent presentation in Europe of my novel "The Summer When God
Was Sleeping", which won the Internation Franz Kaka Prize for Novels
from the Drawer, convened in the Czech Republic, and the resumé of
awards which accompany me, you could think that I am a very lucky writer
when it comes to awards, but this is very far from reality.

I want to share and I'm sure that I once wrote this in another post,
that if you could publish in Cuba, it was thanks to the competitions,
which function as a form of blackmail, once won, it shows their moral
and ethical responsibility, which I assure you that they do not have,
but they like to pretend to the public, especially internationally, that
they themselves do have moral and ethical responsibility, because my
books were and are rejected out of hand as soon as they are presented to
publishing houses.

To me, they made it harder than anyone to get published. The editors and
newsroom chiefs of these publishers, who maintain dialogues at book
fairs as friends, confessed to me the impossibility of publishing them,
precisely because of the topics addressed; if they did so they would be
relieved of their jobs. Therefore, at different times, I was rejected
from several news features, which were intended to show the different
ways to approach the narrative by writers of my generation.

My art was always accompanied by the themes of social deprivation and
lack of political freedoms, so I was constantly an unprintable writer. I
learned that winning the awards was the only possibility for me to
address my failure to publish. Therefore in 1992, after I had been
awarded the Casa de las Américas Prize, it was withdrawn thanks to the
interference of State Security before the jury which retracted its vote,
convinced that my human and slightly epic vision of the war of Cubans in
Africa would create great political damage and it did not seem eloquent
nor productive to present an image of those suffering soldiers that I
outlined in my stories.

After changing the title of the book, in an attempt to mislead the State
security agents, who were like dogs sniffing the trail of my creations,
I sent it to a contest of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba
(UNEAC), and it was honored in 1995; but that wasn't enough to get it
published and for three years it would remain on the desk of the then
President of UNEAC, Abel Prieto. After a dark negotiation, it was
published in 1998, after I agreed to remove five stories from the final
copy. They published a poor and ugly edition on purpose, which more
closely resembled a box of detergent than a book and this was done with
the purpose of weakening the book's distribution.

In 2001, after internal pressure from the organizers of the Cuban Book
Institute, whose president was the Taliban Iroel Sánchez, it was decided
in the office of Iroel Sánchez himself, with a vote of 2 to 1, with the
previous winner of the award, the writer Jorge Luis Arzola,
communicating via telephone and by giving his vote to my collection of
short stories, my book "The Children Nobody Wanted" saw the light of day.

Immediately, the War Combatants Association of Cuba (veterans), sent a
letter to the Ministry of Culture and the Book Institute itself, for the
critical vision of my literature, cataloged the poor management before
the Revolution and condemned the actions of those leaders of the culture
that allowed it. Iroel Sanchez himself, who was taunted for having
participated in the Angolan war, confessed to me that his fellow
soldiers criticized him for having allowed, despite it being against
their will, the book's publication.

Later, in 2006, also under pressure, when the doctor Laidi Fernández was
part of the jury, and at the end she gave her vote, when she realized
that there was no point in voting against, it would be 3-2, and that her
father, the poet Roberto Fernández Retamar, president of Casa de las
Americas, made the comment to Roberto Zurbano, then Director of the
Editorial, "my book would remove the foundations of the institution,"
the jury awarded me the prize, and the book, despite being published and
presented in a small percent of the copies which they delayed for two
years, in another attempt to postpone the promotion of the book.

Anyway, I regret nothing, something made me guess that it was the right
thing, so much censorship against me was the announcement of a
literature which was non-conformist and contained an unfriendly vision
of officials. These are the fortunes of my "prize-winning" books, and so
much anguish has accompanied them, to the same extent that they caused
distress to the political and cultural leaders.

For many years, more than ten books have slept in my drawer. Sometimes
they look through the crack and sigh, waiting for better times, that the
darkness would dissipate and the light and the wind would come in and
stir the box like signs of progress, as it did recently with a ray of
light with the Franz Kafka Prize.

One already escaped, and those that remain in the drawer await the
literary raft which will take them across the raging sea of censorship
imposed by the dictatorship, to reach the land of the reader and be
published in their own right, and not to be silent but to be waving
little flags and smiling at leaders and self-censors. At that price I
prefer the "unpublished."

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement. October 2013.

Translated by: Shane J. Cassidy

28 October 2013

Source: "Prison Diary LXII: Award-Winning and Censored Books / Angel
Santiesteban | Translating Cuba" -

Over 1,000 Evacuated In Central Cuba Due To Heavy Rain

Over 1,000 Evacuated In Central Cuba Due To Heavy Rain

HAVANA, Oct 29 (BERNAMA-NNN-XINHUA) -- More than a thousand people have
been evacuated in Cuba's central province of Villa Clara due to heavy
rains that started Friday.

Major Isidro Sanchez Alfonso, section head of National Civil Defence
(NCD) in Villa Clara, said a total of 1,433 people were evacuated, and
most of them were residents of the towns of Encrucijada, Sagua la Chica,
Camajuani and Caibarien, local media sources reported Monday.

The official said 1,354 of those evacuated went to stay with relatives
or neighbours, and the rest were transferred to shelters.

According to figures issued by the state-run Water Company, in the past
72 hours, as much as 12.5 to 32.7 cm of rain has fallen in parts of the
province, with dams filled to 83.7 per cent of their capacity after
reaching 847 million cubic metres of water.

Forecasts from the National Meteorology Institute, meanwhile, warn that
rain will continue to fall in central Cuba.

Cuba's civil defence agency is internationally acknowledged for its
handling of extreme weather events and the subsequent lower rate of
human loss and economic damage.

Source: BERNAMA - Over 1,000 Evacuated In Central Cuba Due To Heavy Rain
- <>

Mississauga man trapped in Cuba after car accident

Mississauga man trapped in Cuba after car accident
Damian Buksa, a 34-year-old Mississauga man, fell asleep in the back of
his rental car. His guide drove the car and crashed into a tree. Now
Buksa can't leave the country.
By: Tim Alamenciak News reporter, Published on Mon Oct 28 2013

A back-seat nap turned into a nightmare for Damian Buksa, who says an
evening at a bar in Cuba ended with his guide dying in a car accident
and the Mississauga man becoming stranded in the country for months.
Buksa, 34, says he was asleep in his rental car after leaving the bar
when his guide fatally plowed into a tree. Buksa was questioned by
police, who allowed him to keep his passport but advised him not to
leave Cuba.
That was nearly three months ago. Buksa still has little information on
when he will be permitted to leave.
"When I woke up . . . I didn't know we were in a different place. I felt
something on my forehead and wipe my hand and see blood. I looked around
the car — carnage. I knew something bad had happened," he said in a
phone interview.
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Buksa said the guide took the keys from his pocket while he slept. Two
women they had been drinking with at the bar were in the car with them,
he said. Both women survived.
Buksa, who is trained as an electronics engineer, said he sought help
from the Canadian Embassy and was told to listen to the Cubans.
He was billed $7,000 for the rental car and about $2,000 in medical
costs for himself and another injured passenger. He said he has paid up
but was still told not to leave the country.
The Canadian government is working on the case, said Foreign Affairs
spokesman Ian Trites.
"Canadian consular officials in Guardalavaca, Cuba are in contact with
local authorities to gather additional information and are providing
consular assistance to the affected Canadian citizen as required," said
He refused to elaborate, citing privacy reasons.
Buksa is not the first Canadian to be stranded in Cuba after a car
accident. Cody LeCompte, then 19, spent three months there in 2010 after
his rental car was sideswiped by a truck. Police also told him he must
stay while the investigation was ongoing.
"Traffic accidents are a frequent cause of arrest and detention of
Canadians in Cuba," according to the Canadian government's Cuba travel
advice. All accidents are treated as crimes and those involved may be
asked to stay in the country until the trial is done. The document says
cases can take between five months and a year to go to trial.
Andy Gomez, a senior policy adviser for Poblete Tamargo LLP, a
Washington, D.C., law and public policy firm, and Cuba expert, said
negotiations are likely going on behind the scenes and there's no
telling how long the man could be stranded.
"The Cuban government has their own way of interpreting their own laws.
Whether the gentleman has not been charged or arrested, they will keep
him on the island as long as they want to regardless," he said.
Gomez said the Canadian government was wise to tell him to listen to
Cuban police.
"He (would) be stopped at the airport and possibly arrested. The laws
that they have on the books, their interpretation is according to them."
Meanwhile, Buksa's mother, Boguslawa Pec, said she's concerned for his
health and safety.
"He's by himself. He doesn't speak Spanish. He doesn't have anybody to
rely on to help him with anything. His credit card is up to max," she said.
Buksa said he injured his head in the crash and, while he received
primary medical care, still suffers from migraines and blackouts.
"This is an unhappy accident," said Pec. "My son should be home and
looked after in a hospital."

Source: Mississauga man trapped in Cuba after car accident | Toronto
Star -

U.N. investigators visited Cuba to discuss N. Korean freighter

Posted on Monday, 10.28.13

U.N. investigators visited Cuba to discuss N. Korean freighter

A team of United Nations experts was in Havana last week to talk about
the Cuban weaponry found aboard a North Korea-bound freighter this
summer, showing that Cuban officials have at agreed to discuss the
shipment, according to a Japanese media report.

Luxembourg Ambassador Sylvie Lucas, chair of the U.N. Security Council
committee that supervises sanctions on North Korea, told the Japanese
Kyodo News Service that the team of experts who advise the committee had
returned from Cuba on Friday.

Kyodo quoted Lucas as saying that the team went to Cuba for
"consultations on the consignments discovered" on the North Korean
freighter Chong Chon Gang.

She gave no other details, but the visit clearly signaled that the Cuban
government has been cooperating with the U.N. inquiry into the case
since the experts could not have flown to Havana without government

The team is headed by Martin Uden, a former British ambassador to North
Korea. He was not available for comment on this story.

The Chong Chon Gang was seized by Panama authorities in July on a tip
that it was carrying illegal drugs as it prepared to cross the Panama
Canal on a voyage from Cuba to North Korea. Instead, searchers uncovered
Cuban weaponry hidden under 10,000 tons of sugar.

Havana later confirmed the ship carried 420 tons of weapons but claimed
it was "obsolete" equipment on its way to North Korea to be upgraded and
returned to Cuba. Independent reports said some of the weaponry was in
"mint" condition.

North Korea has not cooperated with the U.N. investigators and does not
recognize the sanctions the Security Council slapped on the Pyongyang
government beginning in 2006 for its nuclear weapons and missile
development programs.

The usual procedure for the experts would be to complete their
investigation and later write an "incident report" for the committee.
The experts have no deadlines for either their investigations or the
incident reports.

Incident reports can recommend that the committee designate people,
enterprises or countries as suspected sanctions violators, according to
Security Council diplomats. Such recommendations, however, are usually
reserved for those involved in a pattern of violations rather than
one-off cases.

The 508-foot Chong Chon Gang, flagged in North Korea, carried three
anti-aircraft missile and radar systems, two MiG-21 fighter jets and 16
engines for the MiGs as well as artillery and anti-tank munitions when
it was intercepted in Panama.

North Korean shipping officials had declared that the freighter carried
only sugar as it prepared to transit the Panama Canal, which connects
the Atlantic and Pacific. Canal regulations require all ships to declare
any weapons or explosives on board.

Panama authorities said last week that they plan to free all but two of
the freighter's 35 North Korean crew members, who have been detained
since July, because they claim that they did not know the ship carried
weaponry. Only the captain and his top aide will continue in detention.

The freighter, the weaponry and the sugar remain under Panamanian control

Source: U.N. investigators visited Cuba to discuss N. Korean freighter -
Cuba - -

Number of Cuban travelers rises with looser rules

Posted on Monday, 10.28.13

Number of Cuban travelers rises with looser rules

HAVANA -- Cuban officials say travel abroad has risen 35 percent since
the island's government loosened restrictions this year.

Col. Lamberto Fraga, an official in the immigration directorate of the
Interior Ministry, says Cubans took 226,877 trips to other countries
between Jan. 1 and Oct. 23. In mid-January the government eliminated a
widely disliked requirement for an exit permit.

Fraga doesn't say how many trips were made off the island the previous
year. He also doesn't provide the total number of people traveling this
year — only the number of trips. He does say that 24,000 Cubans made at
least two journeys this year.

He says the primary destination for travelers was the United States,
followed by Mexico and Spain.

Fraga made his comments Monday.

Source: HAVANA: Number of Cuban travelers rises with looser rules -
Florida Wires - -

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sanguily! Get Me Out of These Ruins!

Sanguily! Get Me Out of These Ruins! / Lilianne Ruiz
Posted on October 27, 2013

HAVANA, Cuba, October 2013, – Amid the ruins, the people
living in No. 216 Tulipan, in El Cerro, are convinced they inhabit the
same house where Manuel Sanguily lived.

"Sanguily lived here. On the terrace he had coffee with Maceo," they're
heard to say, excited.

Beyond the myth or the truth, the house is falling to pieces with its
inhabitants inside.

Leonila Mirtha Cruz is 61 and was three when she moved into the house.
"My grandmother was the rent collector for the rooms." Her eyes light up
when she says, "Indeed, I know the history of this house."

When it rains she leaves the one room to which her ownership has been
reduce, and takes cover with a nylong bag under the eaves of the house
across the street, until the rain passes.

If there isn't too much water, she puts the bed in the corner by the
door into the room, where there is still a good piece of roof and falls
asleep there listening to the sounds of the stones falling in the false
ceiling. "The only place that doesn't get wet is this little corner."

Cruz explains the reason for the falling fragments of the roof:

"What I have up there is a grove of trees. A yagruma, a paradise tree, a
capuli, and the roots grow at night."

The roots hang down through the roof and the walls of the abode. Even
more than its extravagance for the perception, the growing vegetation of
the house, which retains the majesty of the ninetheenth century,
contains the exact path to its end.

Uninhabitable patrimony

With the imminent danger of collapse, the house has a demolition order,
but the authorities haven't offered a way out other than eviction.

Cruz relates that, years ago, "they gave homes" to some families living
in the rooms of the old mansion. But the bad luck of not having been on
this list is to blame for her being alone. Her children left as rafters
in 1994 and she hasn't heard from them. "They left because they couldn't
take it any more," she says.

According to her account, the house was to be declared a heritage site
in 1979. On that occasion, they were told the property couldn't be touched.

"I'm content with a tiny little room like this," she says, bringing
together the tips of her index finger and thumb. And she adds,
"Sometimes I tell myself it's better to live in a cardboard box, because
it's less dangerous. Living here, a stone could fall on you and kill
you. When the dead person has no one to mourn them, it's worse."

To shake off the sadness that has overcome her for a moment, Cruz says
impishly, "Sanguily, get me out of here please. Find me a better room."

"A coffin is cheaper"

In another room of the house a family of three gneerations lives
together. The children, 10 and 11 years old, were bornthere. When the
roof collapsed, they built a small house of roof panels and shingles
inside the room.

The two children attend school. The clothesline with clean clothes and a
few pots and pans, give a homey touch that speaks of humanity, which
resists misery.

The children's grandfather tries to fix a chair, straightening some
nails with a table knife. He breaks the silence, "We have asked for help
to fix the house, but it seems a coffin is cheaper."

He points to the street, "The bosses come by here, the Housing boss, the
Sector (police) boss. They say they're going to tear it down, but
without telling people where they're going to take them." He concludes,
sadly, "This is abandonment, and they treat us as if we were animals."

Tulipán 14

According to historic data, Manuel Sanguily received Maceo in the No. 14
Tulipan house on the latter's visit to Havana. Both had fought in the
Ten Years War.

In the pause before the War of '95, specifically in 1889, they organized
gatherings at this house, where the patriots discussed the future of
Cuba. Sanguliy was considered by Maceo to be the exemplary figure of

With urban growth, the street numbering changed on Tulipan. What was
once No. 14 Tulipan, now might be No. 216. But they no longer speak of
democracy there. Its inhabitants are content to have survived the last

Lilianne Ruíz

See related story of the "1889 Newspaper with a photo of the house" here.

From Cubanet, 23 October 2013

Source: Sanguily! Get Me Out of These Ruins! / Lilianne Ruiz |
Translating Cuba -

With Salt and Pepper

With Salt and Pepper / Fernando Damaso
Posted on October 27, 2013

The Cuban cartoonists, who publish their cartoons and works in the
official media, seem to have signed an agreement, by which eighty
percent of their satirical darts are directed against the empire and its
lackeys, and the other twenty are partitioned between the treatment of
general topics (peace, war, hunger, climate change, etc.), that does
make anyone cringe, nor cause them personal problems or complicate their
existence, plus some things and cases about irrelevant administrative
leaders, bureaucrats, service employees, and so on.

Never has any politician at any level been touched with so much as the
petal of a rose, although they have systematically demonstrated their
ineptitude and incapacity to fill the jobs they occupy. They seem to be
included in some clause of untouchables, together in a signed agreement.
It is often said that political satire has been and is an important part
of humor because it is a thermometer of politicians' rights and wrongs.

In Cuba it was like this until the liquidation of freedom of the press
by the new regime. The Liborio character created by Roberto de la
Torriente, later the Bobo (Fool) character created by Eduardo Abela, and
later, in the fifties, Loquito (Wacko) by Rene de la Nuez, showed, with
salt and pepper, what was going on in our national life.

Other cartoonists did the same, having among the characters in their
cartoons and work all the public figures, from the president of the day
down to minor figures. Then, political humor was not persecuted nor
punished. To review the thousands of caricatures published during the
years of the Republic, is to take an interesting and instructive tour
through this part of our history, which is impossible with the most
recent, where reality has been kept hidden and distorted by spurious
ideological interests.

To be able to do this, we have had to turn to publishers outside of
Cuba, for the magnificent Cuban comedians living abroad.

Now that some pro-government journalists have dared to respectfully
request a loosening of the current secrecy, it would also be advisable
for some of these humorists to ask, also respectfully of course, to be
allowed to reflect, from the humor side, the sad national reality and
the many responsible for it.

26 October 2013

Source: With Salt and Pepper / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba -

Cuba's currency

Cuba's currency
Double trouble
Oct 23rd 2013, 13:23 by

"ONE country, two currencies" is one of Cuba's more peculiar
idiosyncrasies. The Cuban peso (CUP) and the Cuban convertible peso
(CUC) are both legal tender on the island, though neither is
exchangeable in foreign markets. The CUC is pegged to the dollar and
worth 25 times as much as the CUP. But whereas most Cubans are paid in
CUP, nearly all consumer goods are priced in CUC. The system, which
highlights divisions between those with access to hard currency and
those without, has proved unpopular. On October 22nd state media
published an official announcement that it is finally going to be
scrapped. Cuba's Council of Ministers, it said, had approved a timetable
for implementing "measures that will lead to monetary and exchange

Raúl Castro had promised to tackle the issue on taking over as President
from his brother Fidel in 2008. The unusual scheme has been in place
since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1993, after decades of
benefiting from generous trade arrangements with the Eastern bloc, Cuba
found itself desperately short of hard currency. With few other options,
Fidel made the momentous decision to legalise the American dollar
(possession of which had previously been punishable by prison). Dollar
stores mushroomed to capture the money flowing in from newly welcomed
tourists and Cubans living abroad. Meanwhile, all Cuban state workers
were still paid a pittance (less than $20-worth a month) in the old
Cuban peso.

Initially the dollar stores sold only "luxuries", such as perfumes and
fancy kitchen utensils. But the Cuban government increasingly took to
pricing anything from toothbrushes to cooking oil in dollars. In 2004
the greenback was officially removed from circulation, and replaced by
the convertible peso. For Cuban shoppers this amounted to but a name change.

Other countries have managed to unify twin exchange rates in their
economies (most notably China when it devalued the yuan in 1994). But
unravelling twin currencies with such diverging values will be trickier.
That is perhaps why details of the timetable have not been made public,
as one Havana-based businessman wryly notes. The transition is in any
case likely to begin cautiously, with selected state enterprises being
allowed to trade using a variety of hypothetical exchange rates. Some
shops are also expected to start accepting payments in either CUCs or
CUPs (at the current real rate of 25 CUPs to one CUC).

The government has declared that the transition will not hurt holders of
either currency. Cubans, though, are understandably wary. Any increase
in the value of the unified peso would increase their spending power.
This could stoke inflation and lead to widespread shortages. The
concomitant fall in the value of the CUC, meanwhile, would be fiercely
resisted by those with savings in the harder currency.

Unifying the currencies would also end a bizarre anomaly in Cuban
accounting, whereby state companies pretend in their balance sheets and
domestic trading books that one CUP equals one CUC. The practice has
prevented CUP inflation. But it has made imports seem artificially cheap
and exports unprofitable. It also obfuscated inefficiencies that plague
Cuba's predominantly state-owned businesses. Ending the charade could
have dire consequences for many firms.

Over the past twelve months rumours that unification is being seriously
considered have led to an appreciable weakening of the CUC. In Havana's
main tourist hotels bank clerks offer to buy dollars, off book, at above
market rates. An illegal network of currency traders, which almost
disappeared when the dollar was legalised in 1994, is re-emerging.
Unpicking the bizarre system is a good idea. Cubans will be hoping that
the island's authorities can implement it better than they have socialism.

Source: Cuba's currency: Double trouble | The Economist -

An Assault on Freedom of Expression in Cuba

An Assault on Freedom of Expression in Cuba
October 26, 2013
Luis Miguel del Bahia

HAVANA TIMES — Two weeks ago, I saw something I'd never seen before:
around eight men in Havana's Parque Central, yelling "freedom" and "down
with the dictatorship" while holding up cardboard signs bearing their

A large crowd of Cubans and foreigners (some holding cameras) silently
followed the "show", while a man in civilian clothing tried to snatch
the signs from them and yelled "Long live Fidel! Long live the revolution!"

One of the protesters yelled something I didn't like (though it is clear
to me that he should have the right to yell whatever he pleases): "Long
live the president of the United States!"

In addition to being a bit unintelligent (as it plays into the hands of
Cuba's State Security agents), Obama is no standard-bearer of democracy
and civic freedoms (we're all well aware of the Snowden and Assange
cases, the tapped telephone lines, and other such fiascos).

He couldn't exactly be called unpatriotic, either, for, then, we would
have to do the same thing with one fellow in the "audience", who was
yelling "Long live Chavez!" I don't know why Obama and Chavez have to be
thrown into the mix. I get the impression that we're always looking for
help from a "big brother."

A short time later, the police arrived and put an end to the commotion.
Cuffed, with the authorities behind them, the protesters could do
nothing save something intelligent: to not resist arrest, and deny the
powerful a reason to make use of force.

It's easier to see the mistakes of others than one's own. Neither the
news nor the official newspapers reported on this incident, which is the
opposite of what took place with the repression of the 15M movement in
Madrid, the Occupy Wall Street Movement and others. This shameful moment
was, however, captured by the eyes and lenses that witnessed it that day.

Source: An Assault on Freedom of Expression in Cuba - Havana -

Cuban Activist Losses His Optometrist Job

Cuban Activist Losses His Optometrist Job
October 25, 2013
Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES — As I predicted, my partner Jimmy Roque, member of the
Observatorio Critico Network, ultimately lost his job because of his
political ideas. The management of the 27 de Noviembre Polyclinic, where
he worked, came up with a strategy to get rid of him.

The first measure was the arbitrary decision that he was not an
"optimal" employee, with which they managed to dismiss him from his
position as optometrist (a position that has been filled by another
polyclinic employee, with the pretext that this employee must "receive
training in a number of technical areas").

Jimmy's education, technical knowledge and professional skills are
superior to those of his replacement, something the specialists and
patients at the polyclinic can attest to.

The decision to remove Jimmy from his post makes no explicit mention of
any infraction whatsoever. Nor does it present the evidence reviewed to
establish and confirm the alleged incidents that led to the decision.

All of Jimmy's employee assessments before his dismissal had been
satisfactory and neither the polyclinic's management nor his immediate
superior had ever questioned his professional integrity or "suitability"
for the job.

Some days later, the management took a "disciplinary measure" and
penalized Jimmy with a public reprimand for two alleged absences and
four late arrivals. I say "alleged" because Jimmy had only been absent
from work once, and with the authorization of his superiors.

On theaverage, Jimmy was late an average of 1.7 minutes on the late
arrivals in question, something which in no way affected the
ophthalmology services at the polyclinic, as there is only one piece of
equipment in use and there are other technicians available to see the
patients. What's more, no complaints were ever received in this connection.

The management's ill intentions are clear in the text of the decision,
which claims, in an exaggerated manner, that Jimmy maintained an
"undisciplined conduct" and a "poor attitude towards work", claims that
cannot be supported by any rational argument and which are not
substantiated with any evidence.

Finally, on September 26, the polyclinic's management referred Jimmy to
"the review of the Marianao Municipal Health Department," that is to
say, fired him, achieving their initial objective.

Weeks earlier a direct intervention at Jimmy's workplace by the
Observatorio Critico Network frustrated attempts at dismissing him
explicitly for political reasons. That is the reason the clinic's Party
Secretary Berardo Duque, the director of the polyclinic Xiomara Iglesias
and the Vice-Director Zunilda Crespo, came up with a strategy that
managed to get this inconvenient employee fired in less than a month.

To date, Jimmy has been unable to appeal this decision before any Local
Labor Court, in violation of the principle which establishes that these
types of cases must be reviewed immediately. The reason is that not one
such court was in operation for the health sector in Marianao – showing
how vulnerable healthcare employees are there.

The officials from the Municipal Labor Office are now trying to have
Jimmy present his appeal to the at his former workplace, chaired by none
other than Mr. Berardo Duque, the main instigator and champion of the
unjust measures taken against him.

Jimmy will be submitting a complaint to the Council of State, the
Ministries of Labor and Public Health, the newspaper Trabajadores, the
National Workers' Union, the Provincial Health Department, the Attorney
General's Office, the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), the Municipal
Government and the Municipal Labor Office.

These institutions may not be able to right this wrong (as is commonly
the case), but, in the future, when they are asked to account for their
complicity with the unjust measure, they will not be able to claim
ignorance of the facts.

The use of administrative measures to respond to critical political
positions has been one of the common strategies used by Cuba's
authoritarian bureaucracy. These illegitimate practices, which are in
violation of Cuba's Labor Code and Constitution, are yet another
demonstration of their impoverished political fiber.

Jimmy suffered all of this two years ago, when he was fired from the
hospital where he worked for the same reasons. Despite this, he has not
renounced his critical posture or to his libertarian socialist ideas.
The political police are going to have to come up with a different strategy.

Source: Cuban Activist Losses His Optometrist Job - Havana -