Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cuba currency reform will take 3 years - ex-minister

Cuba currency reform will take 3 years: ex-minister

The unification of Cuba's dual currency system will take at least three
years, the architect of the unpopular two-decades old policy of using
dollars and convertible pesos has said.
The government announced last month that it would phase out the existing
system as part of President Raul Castro's gradual attempt to streamline
Cuba's Soviet-style economy.
Under current rules, a minority of Cubans who have dollars can buy
convertible pesos (CUC) at a one for one rate, and use them to buy
scarce goods in well-stocked special state stores.
Cubans' salaries, however, are paid in non-convertible pesos (CUP),
which are valued at 24 to a convertible peso and do not go far in a
country where builders, teachers and doctors, for example, are paid $20
a month.
Amid uncertainty about when the change will happen, Jose Luis Rodriguez,
the communist state's minister of economy and planning between 1993 and
2009, said it would take time to devalue the exchange rate.
"This process will likely take at least three years," he said, referring
to the need to first devalue the exchange rate for business
transactions, and then secondly for private individuals.
Rodriguez said currency unification would "create the conditions for
better management and measurement of the economy," but it involves a
"profound structural change" for those providing goods and services in
the country.
The government established the current system to steer hard currency
into its coffers which it needs to buy bulk food on international
markets for the country's 11 million population.
While Cubans enjoy almost free education and health benefits, housing
and a subsidized food basket, most say they still struggle to put food
on the table.

Source: "Cuba currency reform will take 3 years: ex-minister - Yahoo
News Malaysia" -

Cuba Corruption Cases Circulate Offline

Cuba Corruption Cases Circulate Offline
November 28, 2013
by José Jasán Nieves Cárdenas (Progreso Weekly)

HAVANA TIMES — The contents of USB memory sticks and DVDs now
circulating informally in Cuba reveal three realities as hard as rocks:
three cases of corruption (now dismantled) that demonstrate how
dangerous that practice is if not attacked in time and with vigor.

The unofficial videos show police operations at the Guantánamo Meat
Packing Company, the Carlos III shopping center in Havana and the
Community Services Company of Old Havana.

In the most illustrative of the three cases, the accused employees stole
more than 33 million 845 thousand pesos from the sanitation budget of a
patrimonial territory. They did so by simply making out bank withdrawal
forms that were signed by the company's director, who never reviewed the

"Every 15 days, I would [withdraw] $480,000-and-some pesos," says a
young defendant, who admits to the camera how long he and his
co-defendants engaged in the theft.

One hidden camera in the eastern province of Guantánamo showed how, as
other workers looked on impassively, employees in a meat packing company
slipped packages of newly processed meat to associates outside.

Another video revealed the shady maneuvers by employees at a
hard-currency store (one of the establishments known as TRDs) in the
Carlos III shopping mall in Havana.

In great detail, one of the arrested sales clerks describes a procedure
that is very common in almost all commercial establishments in Cuba:

"The theft is done through a document that lists the products and
merchandise that are defective. The document is taken to the manager's
office, where it is reviewed and approved. This merchandise was never
inspected by any committee."

The manager completes the story. "The employees listed the 'defective'
merchandise that they needed. They told me they'd be willing to buy it
for a pittance. The merchandise wasn't really defective."

The manager also says that the employees used sales pads instead of
computerized transactions, "so they could 'fine' [overcharge] the
clients." At the end of the day, when they recorded the products by
their actual sales codes, they would split the difference among themselves.

The lack of control over public resources, on one hand, and the
employees' greed for material needs, on the other, are two of the
conditions that these videos reveal as the causes of broken ethics.

"The key to the corruption is that I come to you, and do you favors
because you're a very needy person. I begin by bringing you a snack,
then I take you to lunch, and before you realize it you're totally
committed to me," says the main organizer of the Community Services theft.

The three examples caught on video confirm the various degrees of
seriousness and extent of corruption in Cuba. They also account for the
silence of the official media, because, as happens with increasing
frequency, the videos were conceived for "select audiences," were
leaked, and for the past several weeks have been available to the
ordinary citizen.

Many people lament that, because the disclosure of these activities
demonstrates the words of President Raúl Castro, who on several
occasions has said that a loosening of exigency leads to violations and

"That negligence, failure to do one's duty, and the ignorance of cadres
and administrative leaders [...] is also a cloak that covers all the
malfeasance and theft of not just hundreds of pesos, or thousands, or
millions, but of hundreds of millions," Castro said during a plenary
meeting of the Party's central committee.

It is hard to find an authority who will explain why these videos are
not shown to the public at large as examples of good police work and as
an acknowledgment of very deep societal problems.

Because of a history of concealing events that are detrimental to the
official image (so as not to give "weapons to the enemy") we can see in
this lack of communication by the authorities a desire to maintain the
"image of Cuba" free of those phenomena. But closing our eyes will not
make the problem go away.

Source: "Cuba Corruption Cases Circulate Offline - Havana" -

Saving in Cuban Pesos - A Strategy

Saving in Cuban Pesos: A Strategy
November 27, 2013
Preparing for the end of the two-currency system
Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — During a Santeria festivity, a number of Cubans were
debating about the consequences that the elimination of the two-currency
system would have. One of them said to us: "I'm exchanging all of my
savings for Cuban pesos, because that's the currency they're going to
keep and the one that's going to be revalued."

The others agreed and several of them recommended I buy Cuban pesos,
anticipating that Euros, US dollars and even the Cuban Convertible Peso
will become devalued. The news is welcomed by most Cubans, who blame the
loss of their purchasing power on the island's two-currency system.

This trend is confirmed by statistics. According to some economists and
researchers, the purchase of Cuban pesos skyrocketed in the days
following the government's official announcement. "Many millions of
pesos above the average" were bought, they casually tell us.

In 1993, when Fidel Castro legalized the circulation of the US dollar in
the country, Cubans began to look down on their own currency because, in
addition to experiencing a drastic devaluation, it could not be used to
buy products at hard-currency stores, where the articles they needed to
meet their basic needs were sold.

Neither How Nor When

The Cuban government announced it would begin to re-establish a
single-currency system but didn't explain what steps it would take or
when it would do so. Currently, two Cuban currencies are in circulation,
but there are at least three different exchange rates that depend on the
financial sector you move in.

Cubans must pay 24 Cuban pesos (CUP) out of their pockets to get one
Convertible Peso (CUC) at an exchange locale. State companies enjoy a
parity of exchange between the two currencies and tourist companies
exchange their money at a 1 to 7 rate to buy part of their supplies.

It is a veritable economic mess, in which highly profitable companies
appear to be bankrupt and others that only have losses show enviable
surpluses in their books. The double-currency system also gives rise to
two, separate bookkeeping processes that enable corruption.

A Cuban economist gave BBC Mundo the example of a tourist hotel that
takes in 5 million dollars and, when it exchanges at a State locale to
pay its salaries, electricity or water bill, it gets back 5 million
Cuban pesos, losing 24 times the real value of its income.

The Two-Currency System and Salaries

According to research, the purchasing power of Cubans has dropped by 35
% since 1990. In this time, salaries have doubled, but the cost of life
has risen eightfold. Economists use the example of pizzas, "which used
to cost 1.20 pesos. Today, you have to pay at least 10 pesos."

Many blame this drastic change on the two-currency system, but
researchers suggest that the real problem is people's salaries. "If you
were paid 14 thousand Cuban pesos a month, no one would complain,
because you'd be able to buy everything you need with that amount of money."

Despite rumors, no one in the government has publicly announced that the
Cuban peso is to be revalued. Thus the so-called monetary unification
could also maintain the current exchange rate of 24 to 1, which would
not increase the purchasing power of the average salary.

Apparently, a transition rate for State companies will be put in place,
but even such companies would need to adapt to the new exchange rate
applicable to the rest of society at the end of this grace period…or go
under for lack of profits.

Why Two Currencies?

Cuba's two-currency system was established in 1993 when the government,
facing a financial crisis, announced that it would authorize the
circulation of the US dollar. Up until that point, carrying dollars had
been such a serious crime that many Cubans had to be released from
prison, where they were serving sentences for trafficking hard currency.

Washington then began to clamp down on Cuban financial transactions,
sanctioning the banks of third countries that accepted dollars from
Cuba. In response, Castro substituted the dollar with the Cuban
Convertible Pesos and applied a 10% penalty on all dollar exchanges.

Later, the Cuban peso was revalued (the exchange going from 150 to 1 to
24 to 1, the current rate). The current exchange rate, however,
continues to be prohibitive for Cubans who, on exchanging their monthly
salaries, obtain a measly 17 CUC, a sum that can be spent in a single
purchase at a hard-currency store.

The experts approached agree that the re-establishment of a single
currency monetary system will be beneficial in terms of certain
macroeconomic processes, but that the purchasing power of the average
Cuban will not improve, unless the peso is also revalued, prices are
lowered or salaries substantially increase.
(*) An HT translation of the original published in Spanish by BBC Mundo.

Source: "Saving in Cuban Pesos: A Strategy - Havana" -

Cuba Is a Multicultural and Multiracial Country

Cuba Is a Multicultural and Multiracial Country
November 28, 2013
Dmitri Prieto

HAVANA TIMES — "Cuba is a multicultural and multiracial country," said a
journalist for Cuba's midday news while reporting on an activity
organized for an anniversary of Havana's Arab Union.

I'm glad someone's finally realized that the concept of a "mixed race"
is obsolete and dangerous.

Obviously, we can't expect this new take on things to become official
overnight, but the reporter's words were music to my ears.

At the very least, the official media discourse ceased being monotonous
for an instant…

In my opinion, trying to reduce Cuban identity to a series of
stereotypes about its "national sport" (baseball, but, why not soccer?),
"national dance" (danzon, but, for many young people, it is reggaeton)
and "character" (eternal happiness, but, aren't Cubans also entitled to
be sad once in a while?), is extremely dangerous.

As regards the issue of "multiculturalism", I have maintained a personal
and friendly polemic with one of the leading authorities of Cuban
socio-cultural anthropology, who claims there's only one Cuban culture
as such.

I doubt my arguments will help solidify an opposing viewpoint (in fact,
I am immensely wary of the now fashionable concept of
"multiculturalism"), but, the mere fact that I am part of a fairly
neglected diaspora within Cuba leads me to think that we need a free
debate about how diversity (understood as all of the dimensions of being
human) is part of Cuba's culture/s.

Source: "Cuba Is a Multicultural and Multiracial Country - Havana" -

Alan Gross Wife Plans New Freedom Push for Jew Held in Cuba

Alan Gross Wife Plans New Freedom Push for Jew Held in Cuba
Rally Will Push White House for Action
Published November 27, 2013.

Alan Gross' wife and Washington's Jewish community will call on
President Obama to make a priority of securing his release from a Cuban
jail on the fourth anniversary of his imprisonment.

Judy Gross will appear with officials from the Jewish Community
Relations Council of Greater Washington on Dec. 3 outside the White
House in a protest.

Joining them will be other faith leaders and local elected officials.

Gross, a subcontractor for the State Department on a mission to hook up
Cuba's small Jewish community to the internet, was arrested in December
2009 as he was leaving Cuba. He is serving a 15-year sentence for
"crimes against the state."

At the Dec. 3 rally, Judy Gross will read an excerpt of her most recent
letter from her husband.

"It is clear that only the president of the United States has the power
to bring me home," Gross says in an excerpt of the letter the family
provided to JTA. "On behalf of my family and myself, on behalf of every
American who might ever find himself or herself in trouble abroad – I
ask President Obama to direct his administration to take meaningful,
proactive steps to secure my immediate release."

Judy Gross told JTA in an interview that her husband, 64, is depressed
and is in chronic pain from arthritis.

"The best thing to do is contact the White House," she said she would
ask the American people at the rally. "Ask them to do what you need to
do to get Alan home."

She would not elaborate except to say that the "president has the power
to do what it takes to get him home."

The Cuban government has indicated that it wants the United States to
allow to return to Cuba five spies currently in prison or on probation
in the United States.

Source: "Alan Gross Wife Plans New Freedom Push for Jew Held in Cuba –" -

Court upholds American's sentence in 1968 Cuba hijacking

Court upholds American's sentence in 1968 Cuba hijacking

A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the prison sentence of a man
who turned himself in to authorities more than 40 years after
participating in an airplane hijacking, but said he is a "worthy
candidate" for a pardon.
Luis Armando Pena Soltren, a U.S. citizen, spent more than 40 years in
Cuba as a fugitive after taking part in the 1968 hijacking of a Pan Am
flight. He surrendered to U.S. authorities in 2009 and eventually
pleaded guilty. In January 2011, Pena Soltren was sentenced to 15 years
in prison.
On Wednesday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said
that the lower court had properly taken all relevant factors into
account when sentencing Pena Soltren. The judges, however, expressed
some measure of sympathy for the defendant.
"There seems to be no reason to question his genuine remorse and his
otherwise unblemished record of service to family and community," the
decision said. "Pena Soltren is eligible for parole after five years. He
is a worthy candidate for that relief, or for a pardon, notwithstanding
that he can find no basis for relief in this court."
The U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, which prosecuted Pena Soltren,
declined to comment.
Pena Soltren's lawyer, James Neuman, was not immediately available to
The ruling marked the second time that the appeals court has weighed in
on Pena Soltren's sentence. Last year, the court vacated his initial
15-year sentence because it did not include the possibility of parole.
The lower court judge, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in
Manhattan, then resentenced him to 15 years and added the possibility of
The hijacking took place on Nov. 11, 1968, when Pena Soltren, then 25,
and two other men boarded Pan Am Flight 281 from New York to Puerto Rico.
After approximately an hour and a half, Pena Soltren used a knife and a
gun to threaten a flight attendant and force the pilots to change course
and fly to Cuba.
Dozens of planes were hijacked from the United States to Cuba during the
Cold War as tensions with Cuban President Fidel Castro intensified. Some
hijackers aimed to make political statements, while others sought asylum
in Cuba or ransom payments from Washington.
The 2nd Circuit's ruling comes a week after a federal judge in Miami
denied bail for a former Black Panther charged with hijacking a U.S.
plane and forcing it to fly to Cuba in 1984.
William Potts, 56, returned to the United States from Cuba earlier this
month to face charges stemming from his participation in the hijacking
of a Piedmont Airlines flight. He was convicted in Cuba, where he spent
a total of 16 years in prison before his release more than a decade ago.

Source: "Court upholds American's sentence in 1968 Cuba hijacking - U.S.
News" -

Top Cuban rapper skeptical of reforms

Posted on Wednesday, 11.27.13

Top Cuban rapper skeptical of reforms

Listening to Cuban rapper "Silvito el libre" (Silvito the free one), son
of Cuba's internationally known pro-government singer Silvio Rodriguez,
you can't but conclude that the grandchildren of Cuba's revolution are
skeptical about the island dictatorship's latest economic reforms.

I sat down with "Silvito el libre'' last week, during a visit by the
young rapper to Miami, and asked him about one of his group's songs,
entitled "Háblame" (Tell me). The song says, among other things, that
Cuba is a country beset by sadness, where state security agents harass
citizens, and where communism serves the interests of very few.

"Definitely, the majority of the Cuban people are living in sadness,"
Silvito told me. "Today's Cubans have changed a lot from yesterday's.
The average Cuban has lost his joy, and many have lost their hope,
because of the ongoing situation in Cuba."

I was expecting him to add that the U.S. trade embargo on the island is
part of Cuba's dire situation — the Cuban regime's explanation for
everything that's wrong on the island — but Silvito didn't even mention
it. He said that Cubans are a sad people "because they feel they are
being trampled on every day by the police, by the government, by the
laws, by everything."

Asked about his father's reaction to his political views, Silvito said,
"My father is a very free and very open person. He has always supported
me... He thinks his way, and I think my way."

Silvito said that his mother and many of his friends have been harassed
by the secret police. Not being part of the government -sanctioned
artists' union, he cannot perform in mainstream concerts, and can only
work in alternative concerts "once every six months, or so," he said.

Is he an exception to the rule, or do most Cuban youth think that the
Cuban revolution has been a huge failure? I asked.

"No, absolutely. The whole Cuban youth, or almost the whole Cuban youth,
thinks like I do," he responded. "The whole Cuban youth, or almost all
of it, is a victim of police abuse, is a victim of the separation of
families between Cuba and Florida, and knows what it is like to go to
work without having had breakfast, and to a job where they don't pay you
almost anything."

I mentioned that, after 54 years of one-party rule and stringent press
censorship, one would think that most Cubans — especially those born
after the 1959 revolution — would have been brainwashed by now. Why
didn't government indoctrination work? I asked.

"I think it worked that way for a while, because there are still people
who believe in the revolution. But lately, people have been waking up,
because too much has happened. It has been too much."

When I asked him about the latest economic reforms by Cuba's military
leader Gen. Raúl Castro, who has relaxed travel restrictions and has
authorized some 435,000 people to work in the private sector, Silvito
shrugged, clearly unimpressed by the measures. Cuba has allowed some
pro-private sector reforms in the past during hard times, only to
reverse them later.

"There have been some changes, some of them positive, but I personally
don't see any (major) change," Silvito said. He paused, and added, "I
see things getting worse every day. In fact, I don't see any positive

Silvito's skepticism, which according to Cuban visitors to Miami is
shared by the vast majority of Cuban youths on the island, is in sharp
contrast to the optimism of recent U.S. academic studies, some of which
see positive changes taking place on the island.

A new Brookings Institution report entitled "Soft landing in Cuba?" by
former Clinton administration Latin America adviser Richard Feinberg,
says that "a dynamic independent private sector" of as many as two
million people is emerging, and ads that "tectonic shifts" are already
taking place on the island.

My opinion: It's hard to tell from a distance whether Cuba's economic
reforms are cosmetic or the beginning of a larger economic opening. Most
likely, they have been conceived as a damage control policy by the Cuban
dictatorship to appease an increasingly restless population.

The grandchildren of the Cuban revolution are sick and tired of being
lied to, repressed and censored, and the longer the ruling Castro family
takes to open the island to the world, the more anti-communist Cuba's
youth is likely to become. As Silvito told me, "it has been too much."

Source: "Andres Oppenheimer: Top Cuban rapper skeptical of reforms -
Andres Oppenheimer -" -

Cuba Manufactures Own 32-inch Integrated Digital Televisions

Cuba Manufactures Own 32-inch Integrated Digital Televisions

HAVANA, Nov 27 (BERNAMA-NNN- ACN) -- A Cuban 32-inch screen digitally
integrated television set will be displayed at the 12th edition of the
Technological Week event opening Wednesday.

The new television set is produced by the Electronic Industry
Enterprise, opened in a close relationship with its Chinese developers.

The set is undergoing tests for its final registration in the industrial
output record. The price of this set is very competitive and its high
quality guarantees its successful entry in the market.

The new equipment introduces several innovations, such as the
reproduction of music, films, videos and photos, besides its normal
reception of TV signals.

The Technological Week event is focusing on the application of
electronics to educational processes and to the sustainability of
telecommunications in Cuba.

Source: "BERNAMA - Cuba Manufactures Own 32-inch Integrated Digital
Televisions" -

Key West to Cuba flights struggle to take off

Posted on Tuesday, 11.26.13

Key West to Cuba flights struggle to take off

KEY WEST, Fla. -- One of the first sights greeting passengers at the Key
West International Airport is a statue of two families with children
standing around a large, concrete buoy. "Ninety miles to Cuba," reads
the words etched on the centerpiece.

From that runway, tourists are closer to Havana than they are to Miami.
And decades ago, residents of this southernmost outpost in Florida could
fly to Cuba for lunch and be back in time for dinner.

It's only a short flight across the Florida Straits, once crisscrossed
regularly. But that hasn't happened since 1960 and it's uncertain
whether it will happen any time soon.

Two years ago, U.S. Customs and Border Projection gave Key West the
green light to resume flights to and from Cuba that had long been
stifled by a ban on most American travel to the island after the Cuban
Revolution. Yet not a single plane has taken off for the island since.

"Several organizations have approached us, including airlines, and said,
'If you get status as a port of entry for Cuba, we sure are interested
in flying to Cuba,'" Key West International Airport director Peter
Horton said. "And so far all of those — and there are at least four that
I can remember offhand — have not been successful."

Charter flight companies and booking agencies say they've struggled to
get all the required approvals from U.S. and Cuban authorities. One of
the charter companies that initially was taking part in the airport's
application has gone out of business. Another stopped service to Florida

Then there's the issue of airport capacity: Currently, Key West is only
approved by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to process 10 passengers
and crew flying in from Cuba at any one time. The airport is working on
an expansion that would eventually allow it to process about 70.

"If you would have a 30-seater, or a 25-seater that could do flights,
that could be a profitable operation," said John Cabanas, former
president of C&T Charters, which initially wanted to do the flights but
has since closed.

Key West and Cuba have a long and intertwined history. So when President
Barack Obama announced in 2011 that he was directing agencies to allow
all U.S. international airports to apply to allow licensed charters to
operate Cuba flights, Key West was among the first to apply.

There are now 19 U.S. airports authorized to provide flights to the
Caribbean nation, which has had limited diplomatic relations with the
U.S. since shortly after the 1959 revolution. Under Obama, travel to
Cuba has increased. U.S. citizens can once again apply for so-called
people-to-people licenses, which encourage cultural and educational
exchanges. Cuban-Americans also have returned to visit the island in
rising numbers.

Cuban officials have said they receive as many as 500,000 visitors from
the United States annually, most of those Cuban-Americans visiting

The majority depart from big cities like Miami and New York. But Key
West has long held a special place in the story of U.S. and Cuba relations.

Cuban poet and independence leader Jose Marti visited Key West to rally
support from the island's large and wealthy Cuban population in 1892. He
spoke to workers in the island's many cigar factories and at the San
Carlos Institute, a stately building that still proudly hangs a large
Cuban flag from its balcony.

The first flight ever to depart from the island left en route to Havana,
as did the first commercial Pan American Airlines plane in 1928. And
there were once daily ferries.

That history is still palpable today. Locals boast Key West has at least
20 Cuban coffee shops and just one Starbucks.

Nance Frank, director of a Key West art gallery, was born and raised on
the Florida island and recalls how she learned the Cuban national anthem
before the Florida one. "I can still sing it," she said gleefully.

Unlike Miami 160 miles to the north, there tends to be less contention
about Cuba in Key West. Exchanges between the two have flourished.
Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad has been celebrated here after recently
becoming the first woman to swim across the Straits without a shark cage.

"There's been a move from the people of Key West for many, many years to
reconnect the two islands," city commissioner Tony "Fat" Yaniz said.

Still, there are moments of tension. A city move to bring Cuban
diplomats to lay a wreath at a statue of Jose Marti in the San Carlos
Institute earlier this year drew a heavy rebuke. The institute's
director is opposed to resuming flights to Havana, as well.

"It's very insulting for people to use my heritage to say that they are
promoting Cuban history and Cuban heritage when in fact all they want is
Cubans' money with no concern for a political opening in Cuba," said
Rafael Penalver, president of the San Carlos Institute's board of directors.

But Horton, the airport director, said he hasn't fielded any calls from
islanders angry about flights.

"We aren't breaking new ground here," Horton said. "This isn't the first
airline flight to Cuba. Hundreds of people go back and forth to Cuba
every day in Miami."

In October, it appeared the flights were just around the corner.

Mambi International Group, a travel agency, teamed up with charter
operator Air Marbrisa Airlines to operate a flight. Mambi executive
Isaac Valdes said the flights would be set to depart Nov. 15.

But one week before, Bob Curtis, the head of Air Marbrisa, wrote to
Horton to say flights were being delayed. He said Mambi had failed to
obtain a required certificate from the Department of Transportation.
Curtis set the new date of departure as Dec. 15. He declined to comment
when reached by phone.

Horton said companies have also faced delays with Cuban authorities. One
interested charter agency said it had applied to the Office of Foreign
Assets Control over two years ago and was still awaiting approval.
Robert Valle, president of Florida AeroCharter, Inc., said he checks in
periodically, including just three months ago.

Valle said he was told all the company's documents were complete and
were being processed.

"In other words, 'Don't call us, we'll call you,'" Valle said. "Pretty


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Source: "KEY WEST, Fla.: Key West to Cuba flights struggle to take off -
Nation Wires -" -

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Prison Diary LXIX Camilo, Henchman of a Regime That is a Member of the United Nations Human Rights Council

Prison Diary LXIX: Camilo, Henchman of a Regime That is a Member of the
United Nations Human Rights Council / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on November 26, 2013

November 8 marked a year since our peaceful demonstration in front of
the Acosta Police Station (Unit 1), demanding the release of Antonio
Rodiles, Yaremis Flores and Laritza Diversent.

After the corresponding beating and arrest, while they led us to our
respective cells, distributing us around the city (divide and conquer?),
the henchman Camilo, a State Security official, assured me that I would
be sentenced to five years in prison.

Eugenio Leal, who was with me in the patrol car, heard him from inside
the car, and everything that happened a month earlier at the Provincial
Court determined this same sentence, of course, everything would have
been understandable if we restrict ourselves to saying that the trial
was in Courtroom 1 at State Security at their special site at Carmen and
Juan Delgado.

I assured the official Camilo that from my part I wasn't scared, but
when the moment came to pay for his abuses and atrocities, I hopes he
would behave with dignity, as I did. Then he smiled with characteristic
cynicism. "When I'm touched, you will already have been touched," he
said, brimming with sarcasm.

While the wait for my imprisonment wore on, I had the opportunity to
leave the country and avoid the agony, but my need is to continue, and I
preferred to be imprisoned here rather than free in Miami.

Shortly I will have served nine months in prison, I corroborate my
decision, and I will continue to try to be helpful in prisons where I
have been locked up. Never before had I felt that I could help safeguard
the integrity of persons, in this case the prisoners who are in the
barracks with me, I have maintained the level of denouncing the
injustices the guards have been committing.

What the official Camilo did not know is that with his response he
accepted that the dictatorship will pay for its excesses, except that,
like the human beasts that they are, they are unable to act with
decency, that's impossible for them given the job they have to perform.
Meanwhile, they are going to live as best they can, they receive gifts
and awards from the regime to maintain the level of immorality, which
also they enjoy committing, but we all know that justice will come, then
we will look at those criminal eyes covered in tears, justifying the
orders that they fulfilled, and next to them they will see those who
pushed them to commit their fascist acts.

For now they continue to laugh but, ultimately and unfailingly, justice
will be done.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement. November 2013

Translated by: Shane J. Cassidy
25 November 2013

Source: "Prison Diary LXIX: Camilo, Henchman of a Regime That is a
Member of the United Nations Human Rights Council / Angel Santiesteban |
Translating Cuba" -

Angel Santiesteban’s Right To A Pass Violated By Regime Which Is A Member Of The Human Rights Council

Angel Santiesteban's Right To A Pass Violated By Regime Which Is A
Member Of The Human Rights Council / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on November 26, 2013

As expected, Raul Castro, the second emperor dictator of the tropical
Communist Nazi dynasty, recently recognized by the UN Human Rights
Council with a seat in the "distinguished" set of toilets that make up
the guardians and safeguards of each other, has debuted such a
"deserved" honor by violating the rights of prisoners of Lawton prison
settlement where Angel Santiesteban-Prats is unjustly caged.

Yesterday, Friday November 22nd, all prisoners were awaiting their
coveted pass which they receive every 27 days, and Angel every 60 days,
as he is subject to a different regime for not going to work like the
rest of his teammates. On the day and time appointed, simply and without
giving any explanation, they were informed that there was no pass.

It is not the first time since Angel has been in this settlement that
they have violated the rules concerning the treatment of passes. Having
nullified this one, the next will be in 2014, and they will have been
120 days without a pass, again violating their rights.

Violating the individual rights of ordinary citizens has been rife in
the Cuba of the "Revolution" for 54 years, and rape in prisons and the
concentration camps is not only common, but also is an everyday
enjoyment for thousands of servants and lackeys who work sadistically
fulfilling orders from above.

Sonia Garro, Ramón Muñoz, El Crítico (The Critic), Armando Sosa Fortuny,
Marcelino Abreu Bonora, Roilan Alvarez Rensoler are just some of the
human beings who, along with Angel, make up the painful and shameful
list of over a hundred political prisoners who are locked in Castro's
concentration camps, many of them in serious danger of death on hunger
strike, and all unjustly imprisoned, with unfair trials or no trials,
all with false charges, tortured, abused, humiliated, simply for the
"crime" of expressing themselves and desiring a free and democratic Cuba.

The UN Human Rights Council miserably endorsed the existence of the
dynastic dictatorship that has, for more than half a century, been
oppressing the Cuban people, and in giving it a "toilet" honor among the
"illustrious" it endorsed the systematic violation of human rights on
the Island, setting a dangerous precedent for the community of nations.

Angel did not leave on a pass yesterday in Havana. I wonder if today
they will already be preparing for Dec. 10 in Geneva, a tribute to the
Five Spies* and if they will denounce the "serious" abuse of the
American government which they will repeat at the weekly rant?

Dictator Castro, even having his delegate in the UN Human Rights Council
and to show his "power" in such sad maneuvers such as "Bastion", if it
is necessary to cage a writer for what he writes, and to strip a few
brave women who carry gladioli as a weapon, there should be no doubt
that his place in history has already been secured: a coward and a
despicable loser and murderer.

The Editor

*Translator's note: A reference to the five State Security agents —
lauded as "The Five Heroes" in Cuba — imprisoned in the United States
(one of whom, having served his sentence, is now back in Cuba) for
spying and related crimes.

Translated by: Shane J. Cassidy
23 November 2013

Source: "Angel Santiesteban's Right To A Pass Violated By Regime Which
Is A Member Of The Human Rights Council / Angel Santiesteban |
Translating Cuba" -

The “Forbidden” and the “Mandatory”

The "Forbidden" and the "Mandatory" / Miriam Celaya
Posted on November 26, 2013

In numerous conversations with Cubans, émigrés as well as those "on the
inside" (I share the experience of living every day under this Island's
sui generis [unique] conditions with the latter) surfaces a phrase,
coined through several decades, whose credibility rests more on
repetition by its own use and abuse in popular speech than on reality
itself. "In Cuba, whatever is not forbidden is mandatory".

I must admit that the former is true enough. If anything abounds in Cuba
it's prohibitions in all its forms: those that truly are contained in
laws, decrees, regulations and other provisions of different levels, all
aimed at inhibiting individuals and controlling every social or personal
activity, what the coercive nature of the system imposes on us, even if
not legally sanctioned, (for example, male students can not wear long
hair, music of any kind may not be broadcast through radio or TV, people
may not gather in certain places, etc.) and those we invent, that is,
the self-imposed prohibitions of people who since birth have been
subjected to fear, indoctrination, permanent surveillance and to the
questionable morality of everyday survival that forces one to live
thanks to the illegalities, that is, violating injunctions established
by the government beyond common sense. It is natural that transgressions
abound most wherever greater number of taboos exist.

Now, the "mandatory" is another matter. It is rather about a total
legend that, be it through ignorance or for another number of reasons
(irrational at that) it's a legend that serves many Cubans to
unconsciously justify their behavior and to embed themselves in the
civic mess that is choking us. The list of "obligations" would be
endless, but some of the handiest can be summarized as follows:
belonging to organizations that are pure pipe dream, such as the
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban
Women, Territorial Militia Troops, Cuban Workers Central, Pioneers
Organization, High School Student Federation, University Student
Federation, etc., all of them with payment of dues and attending
different rituals according to the agendas, also supposedly of a
"mandatory" nature.

But many Cubans seem to consider it mandatory to vote for the Delegate,
attend meetings and accountability meetings, to shout slogans, sing the
National Anthem, salute the flag, honor the martyrs of the revolutionary
calendar, to sign political commitments, other documents and a very long

Actually, there is the assumption that failure to comply with these
"obligations" would result in some reprisals, such as the loss of one's
job, our children not being accepted in some study centers, not being
eligible for certain child-care or semi-boarding services for children
of working mothers, etc.. However, many of us have found from experience
that none of the above mentioned is in truth mandatory, but it
constitutes the general answer to the fundamental prohibition that
weighs over this nation: it is forbidden to be free.

Oh, Cubans! If ever the courage that drives so many to brave the dangers
of the sea in an almost suicidal escape, to create a new life away from
here, to survive in such precarious conditions inside, and to succeed
against all obstacles outside of Cuba, could be turned into overcoming
the fear of the regime, how different everything would be! If so much
energy could be directed towards changing our own reality, we would make
the world of prohibitions disappear in no time, that world that has kept
us in chains for half a century, and we would stop feeling compelled to
be slaves forever. It is not mandatory, but it is also not prohibited.

Translated by Norma Whiting

25 November 2013

Source: "The "Forbidden" and the "Mandatory" / Miriam Celaya |
Translating Cuba" -

Echoes of Cuba’s Homophobic 2012 Census

Echoes of Cuba's Homophobic 2012 Census
November 26, 2013
Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES – Last year, I published a post condemning how the
Population and Household Census then conducted in Cuba had crudely
manipulated information in order to conceal the existence of homosexual
couples living together in the country.

As you may recall, it was revealed at the time that any reference to
same-sex couples had been crossed out during the processing of forms
submitted by census takers and that, next to the information, they had
written an explanatory note reading something along the lines of
"couples must be of opposite sexes."

A year later, the final results of the census have begun to be
published. As it turns out, marital status indices (calculated on the
basis of questions put to anyone over the age of 12) reveal that "56.8 %
of the country's population is married; 21.7 % declared that they are
living together."

Though many homosexual couples declared that they were living together
(and this information was written down on the questionnaire), the census
takers were instructed to erase this information upon leaving the home
in question.

As such, we members of the gay community who publicly assume our sexual
orientation and declare to be living together under the same roof aren't
included in that 21.7 %

I've been in a stable relationship for eleven years and have been living
with my partner for two, but that doesn't count as "living together" for
Cuba's bureaucracy.

It doesn't look as though these deliberate distortions of information
will be rectified any time soon. According to reliable sources (which I
am unable to reveal), as a result of complaints registered following
last year's census, the census director, Juan Carlos Alfonso Fraga,
promised that he would conduct a survey in 2013 to collect information
exclusively on these and other aspects of the LGBT community.

November is coming to an end and we've seen no surveys for Cuba's gay
community. We continue to be invisible on paper, even though we are
portrayed in TV soaps. We're going to be hard pressed to see any
inclusive and non-discriminatory policies if the State isn't even
interested in collecting information about us.

Source: "Echoes of Cuba's Homophobic 2012 Census - Havana" -

Cuba indefinitely suspends consular services in U.S.

Posted on Tuesday, 11.26.13

Cuba indefinitely suspends consular services in U.S.

In a startling move, the Cuban government's diplomatic mission in
Washington announced Tuesday that it was suspending consular services
until further notice — in effect no longer issuing passports or visas
for travel to Cuba.

The decision will upend the thriving travel business to Cuba that has
seen hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans and Cubans who live in the
United States taking frequent trips to the island to visit relatives. In
addition, almost 100,000 other U.S. citizens have traveled to Cuba on
so-called "people-to-people" trips under rules relaxed by the Obama

Among the three million visitors to the island in 2012, about 476,000
were Cuban Americans and Cuban residents of the United States who said
they were visiting relatives. Another 98,000 were registered as members
of people-to-people programs in which travelers engage in specific
educational or cultural activities that cannot involve tourism. Tourist
travel to Cuba remains prohibited.

The State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But an executive of one of the oldest Cuba travel companies in Miami,
Marazul Charters, said the decision constitutes a "crisis" in the
industry because it comes as travel agencies geared up for the heavy
year-end travel season.

Armando García, president of Marazul Charters, said, however, that the
crisis may be a temporary problem — but only if the issue is resolved.
The Cuban Interests Section in Washington blamed the problem on a
decision by the bank that managed its accounts to stop providing the
service and the diplomatic mission's inability to find a replacement bank.

Garcia also noted that travelers who already have valid passports and
visas will have no trouble traveling to Cuba. But he added that he had
no way of knowing how many people ultimately will be unable to secure
travel documents.

A longtime Cuba expert in Miami said the suspension of consular services
likely will reduce not only trips to Cuba, but also revenue the Cuban
government derives from travelers.

"This will reduce travel to Cuba," said Jaime Suchlicki, director of the
University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.
"It will also reduce income for the Cuban government and make some
people happy and other people unhappy."

Suchlicki was referring to the divided opinions among Cuban-Americans
and others. Many Cuban-Americans favor travel to Cuba to see family
members, but others oppose it. They argue that the more travel the more
income the Cuban government earns, eroding the goals of the trade
embargo. There are also groups that seek an end to the tourist travel

The surprise announcement comes just weeks before travel to the island
was expected to pick up for the year-end holidays and only days after
two officials from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington traveled to
Miami to meet quietly with companies that handle travel between the
island and the United States.

In a two-page statement, the Cuban Interests Section in Washington
blamed the suspension of consular services on a decision by its bank,
M&T Bank. The mission said that on July 12 M&T Bank advised the
interests section that it would no longer handle services for foreign

M&T Bank's public relations office did not respond to a request for comment.

Since July, the Cuban mission said, it has tried to find a new bank —
even with the assistance of the U.S. State Department — but has failed
to find a new service provider. The Cuban statement blamed the U.S.
trade embargo for the mission's inability to find a replacement bank.

"Due to the existing restrictions stemming from the policy of economic,
commercial and financial blockade by the North American government
against Cuba, it has been impossible for the Interests Section to find
until now a U.S. bank or any other bank based in the United States
willing to take over the bank accounts of Cuban diplomatic missions,"
the statement said.

As a result, it added, the mission decided to suspend as of Tuesday and
until further notice all consular services. Only humanitarian requests
for travel will be processed, the statement said.

That means Cuban-Americans and Cuban residents of the United States will
no longer be able to obtain Cuban passports and U.S. travelers
authorized to fly to the island will not be able to obtain visas. U.S.
citizens born in Cuba generally are required to obtain Cuban passports
to travel to the island.

"The Interests Section regrets the impact this situation will cause to
Cuban and North American citizens, given the inability of the consular
section to continue issuing passports, visas and document processing,"
the statement said.

Source: "Cuba indefinitely suspends consular services in U.S. - Cuba -" -

Oilfield company to pay $253M to settle bribe case

Posted on Tuesday, 11.26.13

Oilfield company to pay $253M to settle bribe case

WASHINGTON -- The oilfield services company Weatherford International
has agreed to pay more than $250 million to settle federal charges that
it bribed officials in the Middle East and Africa to win business.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday it charged the
company with violating U.S. law by offering foreign officials bribes,
improper travel and entertainment to win contracts under the United
Nations' Oil-for-Food program. Regulators say Weatherford falsified its
records to hide these payments as well as other transactions in Cuba,
Iran, Syria and countries subject to U.S. sanctions.

The Swiss-based company says it agreed to pay $253 million to settle the
charges and other claims against it by the U.S. Department of Justice,
the Department of Commerce and other federal agencies.

The pact is subject to court approval.

"This matter is now behind us. We move forward fully committed to a
sustainable culture of compliance," said Weatherford CEO Bernard
Duroc-Danner, in a statement.

SEC officials said in a release that Weatherford's lack of internal
controls led to an environment where employees engaged in bribery and
failed to maintain accurate records.

Weatherford staffers used code names like "Dubai across the water" to
hide business dealings in Iran, according to the SEC investigation. In
other cases the company created bogus accounting and inventory records
to hide illegal transactions.

Among other improper payments, the SEC said Weatherford paid for a trip
to the 2006 World Cup for two officials from a state-owned Algerian
company, a honeymoon for an official's daughter and a religious trip to
Saudi Arabia for an official and his family.

Regulators documented the misconduct from at least 2002 to 2011,
according to the SEC's complaint filed in federal court in Houston.

"This case demonstrates how loose controls and an anemic compliance
environment can foster foreign bribery and fraud by a company's
subsidiaries around the globe," "said Mythili Raman, acting assistant
attorney general of the Justice Department's criminal division.

U.S. shares of Weatherford International Ltd. rose 27 cents, or 1.7
percent, to $16.22 in afternoon trading Tuesday. Its shares have risen
more than 42 percent so far this year.

Source: "WASHINGTON: Oilfield company to pay $253M to settle bribe case
- Business Breaking News -" -

Cuba to let islanders rent out their home phones

Posted on Tuesday, 11.26.13

Cuba to let islanders rent out their home phones

HAVANA -- Cubans have a new private enterprise opportunity — acting as
"telecommunications agents" by essentially turning their homes into
phone booths and charging neighbors by the minute to use their telephones.

The Labor Ministry rule announced Tuesday also says the "agents" will be
able to offer Internet access at some point in the future.

Cuba has some 1.2 million fixed phone lines and 1.8 million cellphones
for a population of around 11 million. Many domestic land lines are not
equipped for making long-distance and international calls, though they
can receive them.

The "agents" will have to charge the same as what state telecom monopoly
Etecsa charges customers, with the company paying them a commission.
International rates in Cuba can run as high as several dollars a minute.

The measure also authorizes the contractors to sell prepaid cellphone
cards, collect phone bill payments and even offer Internet.

As with a number of the 200 or so areas of independent economic activity
now allowed under President Raul Castro's reforms, the resolution seems
geared toward regulating and taxing activities that are already common
in the informal economy.

Cubans with long-distance lines already let neighbors use their phones
for a fee, and there's also a black market for the sale of dial-up
Internet minutes.

According to government figures, only 2.9 percent of Cubans say they
have access to the full Web, though the real figure is believed to be
higher accounting for the black market. More Cubans do have access to a
domestic Intranet where they can browse homegrown websites and send and
receive email.

Home Internet accounts are still closely restricted, though authorities
have said they intend to begin offering them to the wider public next year.

Recently, authorities opened more than 200 public cyber-cafes across the
island that charge about $4.50 an hour.

Source: "HAVANA: Cuba to let islanders rent out their home phones -
Business Breaking News -" -

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mummies Against Prostitutes - The Last Revolutionary Combat

Mummies Against Prostitutes: The Last Revolutionary Combat / Jose Hugo
Posted on November 25, 2013

Havana, Cuba. November, www.cubanet/org — The prostitutes of Havana
never inspire as much pity as when we see them accompanied by those
mummies of European and US Stalinism who today constitute their VIP
clientele. Really you have to have a heart of stone not only to go to
bed with such a stinky and gassy old fogy but even to barely endure his

As soon as they disembark on the Island, without shaking off the dust of
the road, these old gentlemen feed their spirit going to the Plaza de la
Revolution and the Che sanctuary in Santa Clara. Then, invariably, it is
time for dessert. So they get naked in Obispo Street in Havana, around
Central Park or on La Rampa, in pursuit of our little hookers, the last
flashes of the beacon of America.

"What a waste, buddy," exclaim the gentlemen from around here on seeing
them bargaining, while the women whisper, teasingly, and the oldest ones
are scandalized at "the turns life has taken here." But they continue on
their way, business as usual, confident, it seems, that they have left
respectability in safekeeping, beyond the sea, along with their ancient

If it were possible to take into account decency or common sense when
dealing with this wildlife, you would have to ask why, at least, they do
not attempt to take the prostitutes to some place apart, where they
would be waiting for them without the need to expose themselves so
boldly to absurdity and ridicule. But that's not how they are. It is
obvious that they have resolved to enjoy as God commands their last
revolutionary orgy, now that only the devil knows the sacrifice that it
cost to organize it, gathering for years the remnants of their salaries
as retirees.

What a pity that there are no statistics that reflect how many
casualties the worldwide revolution has suffered as a consequence of the
heart attacks provoked by these encounters between the mummy veterans
and our mud blossoms of the Fidelist legacy. In any case, they would say
they'd died for socialism, if they managed to say anything, before
shutting their trap, in the end, forever.

"Old age is an incurable disease," Terentius warned us. But it may be
that he was not right, at least in this situation. I believe that my
grandmother was more accurate, and did not agree that people lose shame
as they age because now nothing matters to them. He who has no shame in
old age — she used to say — never had any.

José Hugo Fernández

Cubanet, 21 November 2013

Translated by mlk.

Source: "Mummies Against Prostitutes: The Last Revolutionary Combat /
Jose Hugo Fernandez | Translating Cuba" -

Are Private Small Business Owners the Scapegoats?

Are Private Small Business Owners the Scapegoats? / Gladys Linares
Posted on November 25, 2013

LA HABANA, Cuba, November, – To us, the most interesting
part of the National Television News is the weather report. "There is no
use in watching the news," says Julio, an octogenarian neighbor, "just
to hear that the whole world is screwed up and in Cuba everything is
going very well".

After a speech on July 7th, 2013 by General Raul Castro Ruz, first
secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and
president of the Councils of the State and Ministers, a speech in which
he criticized the Cuban people's loss of values and the chaotic
situation of the country, the news started transmitting on Tuesdays a
series of reports titled "Cuba Says".

The one aired this week has given rise to a series of commentaries among
the people, for example, that the large amount of inspectors imposing
high penalty fees and suspending licences is part of an arranged
operation, without doubt created against the private small business
owners, because in the State's good service centers everything seemed to
be too organized: employees wearing uniforms, talking about hygiene
norms… for many it was obviously staged.

A neighbor was commenting: "Before giving the private owners the
licenses to process and sell food products, they were inspected by
Public Health, because that is what happened to my son before he could
open the restaurant. How is it possible that right after they get closed
because they don't meet the requirements?"

"They are clipping their wings, it's not like they are becoming rich
with their businesses", another man says, "They are not fooling anybody:
they gave out all those licenses to mask the massive layoffs in 2010,
but as always, that's a way to keep them in check and controlled".

The lack of hygiene in the state centers where they process and sell
food products is nothing new, unfortunately. Just to give an example,
the bread that people eat daily, is left on a counter for hours, full of
flies. The same employee handles the bread, money, and writes down on
the food booklet with his bare hands. When the bread is covered we all
know it is because an inspection is due. They deliver the bread to the
so-called Paneras — where the bread is sold but not baked — transporting
the bread in carts pulled by horses, a cart or a bicycle cart, and it is
stored in open boxes, made out of plastic, wood or woven baskets.

People prefer the service of privately-owned cafeterias because of the
quality of the products, the speed and quality of customer service that
most of them offer, while in state-owned cafeterias the menus are very
limited, and many times flies are part of the menu. Even the more
expensive establishments, like some of the pastry chain Sylvain, have
missing glass on the counters and flies have free access to the pastry.

The cockroaches find a home in hospitals, urgent care facilities, and
doctor offices, but also in food processing establishments: lunchroom,
bakeries, and restaurants of selling in the national currency, the Cuban
peso, or in CUCs, the Cuban Convertible Peso. This is the case of Plaza
Carlos III or the cafeteria in La Rampa Movie Theater.

In the "bodegas", where food rations distributed by the State are sold,
rats are also found camping, that is why some employees have a cats in
these establishments, hidden from the view of the customers. A neighbor
was telling me how she didn't dare to buy the rice last month, because
she saw how the seller killed a mouse inside a rice bag and he didn't
even bother to throw it away.

The lack of concern on the part of the Government about the lack of
hygiene is detrimental to the health of the population. The water
pollution, the bugs in the trash that is not picked up for days, and
other ills, are some of the consequences. People need their problems to
be addressed with a real solution, instead of drawing attention away
from them and using the small business owners as scapegoats.

Gladys Linares

Cubanet, 21 November 2013

Source: "Are Private Small Business Owners the Scapegoats? / Gladys
Linares | Translating Cuba" -

The Future, Questions and Predictions to Break

The Future, Questions and Predictions to Break / Yoani Sanchez
Posted on November 25, 2013

Ten prognostications, ten failures, ten predictions that did not even
make it to a dead letter. This is what a Decalogue of possible future
prognostications — personal and national — that would have been made in
2003 has been reduced to. Such that, knowing the twisted paths events
take, today I am trying to imagine the surprises in store for us in the
next decade. I know — at least I know this — it will be difficult, very
difficult times are coming for everyone. To forget, as we go to bed one
night, the huge problems we do indeed have, and pretend we will wake up
to another day, isn't going to happen. It's very naive to believe we can
shake off this totalitarianism and all that will result from it. It's
not going to happen, new problems and new challenges will begin. Are we
prepared for them?

Are we prepared for a society where the responsibility lies with us and
not with the State? A country where we can choose a president, but where
he could perhaps turn out to be corrupt, a liar, an authoritarian? Are
we capable of realizing, in that case, that we voted to name a "father,"
rather than a public servant who answers to us? How long will it take
for us to lose our suspicions about everything that contains the world
"social" or about the unions, who today are simply transmission poles
for the powers-that-be to the workers? Are we ready for tolerance? Can
we live together peacefully with those of other political viewpoints and
ideologies who take the microphones and propose their programs? Will our
inexperience, perhaps,l launch us into the arms of the next populist?
Are we aware that we will experience a Cuba where, most likely, there
will be a lot of nostalgia for the Castro regime? What will we do if,
instead of real change, those who are now part of the Nomenklatura
exchange their olive-green uniforms for the suits and ties of

How will we react to immigration? Right now we only know the phenomenon
of those who leave and also those visitors who — briefly — come as
tourists to our land. However, we must know that if we manage to build a
prosperous country, others will come to stay. How will we receive them?
What will be the effects of so many years of shortages and rationing on
personal consumption? Will families put themselves deeply in debt buying
everything they see on TV? How will we resolve the dilemma of State
property versus privatization? Will it be possible to maintain the
extensive educational and hospital infrastructure throughout the
country, while improving its quality, breaking the bonds of ideology,
and paying employees dignified salaries? What will happen to the
enormous governmental and official apparatus, whose costs fall on our
shoulders to an extent we can barely conceive of?

As you can see, rather than certainties, I only have questions.
Questions that haunt me when I speak of the future of my nation. At
least some things are clear to me: I will be in Cuba, I will do
everything I can to help my country and will try — through journalism —
to dispel many of these doubts or to amplify them until someone responds.

The post El futuro, preguntas y vaticinios por romper appeared first on
Generación Y – Yoani Sánchez.

Source: "The Future, Questions and Predictions to Break / Yoani Sanchez
| Translating Cuba" -

Teacher Dismissed from Job for Reporting Fraud

Teacher Dismissed from Job for Reporting Fraud / Roberto Jesus Quinones
Posted on November 25, 2013

GUANTÁNAMO, Cuba, November, – Alain Lobaina Laseria is a
mathematics graduate and worked in the Pedro Agustín Pérez Basic
Secondary School in the municipality of El Salvador in Guantánamo.
However, he has been dismissed from his employment for reporting
failures and irregularities related to the education system.

When one teacher at the school went to complete a work mission to Haiti
and another transferred to a polytechnic, Alain, who until that point
had worked as a tutor, had to teach mathematics and physics to eighth
grade students. Upon receiving the groups he carried out an examination
to check the students' knowledge and the results were disastrous. In one
of the groups no one passed and in the other, from 72 students, only 7

As the course advanced Alain noticed that the students level of
knowledge was extremely low. After carrying out the second test in
mathematics, he failed 8 students because they had handed in their exam
papers almost completely blank. After reporting the results, the teacher
in charge of the grade carried out an analysis and threatened him,
saying that he could not fail those students. From that moment onwards
his situation in the school became very difficult.

Then he decided to write, under the protection of Article 63 of the
Constitution of the Republic, a letter to the government and the
municipal Party in which he reported the fraud that had been committed
in the school and how he had been pressured to pass 100 percent of the

Furthermore, as a response to the public call to the highest levels of
government and the Party to combat corruption and all kinds of
violations, Alain reported other cases of fraud committed in Polytechnic
No. 2, in the San Justo neighbourhood, in the Vocational Computing
Polytechnic, in the Pre-University Vocational Institute of Exact
Sciences and in the educational centres of the city of Guantanamo.

Shortly after Alain sent his letter, the Provincial Director of
Education turned up at the school and read it in front of all the
workers. The purpose of discrediting him in front of his colleagues and
making an enemy of him was made clear through the following warnings:
"All of this school's workers can be involved in this….this letter
cannot be published in the Venceremos de Guatanamo Newspaper…and we will
not tolerate a Gorbachov here in El Salvador"

In the final test, Alain failed various students, being the only teacher
who didn't promote 100 percent of students. In the re-evaluation test he
caught a student copying the exam responses from a cheat sheet and
reported the incident to the school administration. However, all he
achieved was to have the school principal, Angel Velazquez, the
secretary of the Party named Leticia, the municipal education teacher
leader and the secretaries of the UJC (Young Communist Union) and the
trade union reprimand him as if he were the guilty one.

Although Alain was opposed to the fraudulent student sitting another
re-evaluation test, the aforementioned people agreed to allow it and
they never investigated to find out how, suspiciously, the boy obtained
the correct responses to the exam.

Upon starting this school semester, the principal of the school
cancelled Alain's work contract. All this has occurred after the Granma
Newspaper has repeatedly denounced academic fraud and the radio program
"Speaking Clearly" of Rebel Radio and the television program "The
Roundtable" have adopted similar positions.

Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces

Cubanet, 19 November 2013

Translated by Peter W Davies

Source: "Teacher Dismissed from Job for Reporting Fraud / Roberto Jesus
Quinones Haces | Translating Cuba" -

A Repentant Former Gunman

A Repentant Former Gunman / Michel Iroy Rodriguez
Posted on November 26, 2013

Havana, Cuba, November 2013, — Juan Lazaro Avila
Herrera, physically impaired (his right leg is lame) regrets having
belonged in his youth to a firing squad at the La Cabaña Fort.

When he served in the Association of Rebel Youths, at only 18 years of
age, he was attracted to belonging to the firing squads. He remembers
that along with him, a group of 23 youths, aged between 16 and 20, were

According to him, sometimes the executioners seized rings and other
items from the people shot.

Once he was accused of counterrevolution and taken to the Principe
prison. He says that during the trial he was so scared that he defecated
in his pants. He thought he would be shot, but he was absolved. In spite
of that, after he left jail, for a week he had to go sign in every day
at a police unit.

"I was infiltrated into a counterrevolutionary band and participated in
several operations. In one of them I arrested a priest, from whom we
confiscated in the basement of the church explosives and weapons plus a
map where the places were marked that would be blown up," he recounts.

He says he is remorseful for having been at the point of killing a man
named Jose Diaz when he arrested him in his home, where they took him
with 14 AKs and several Makarov pistols. "I put the pistol to his
forehead and squeezed the trigger. If I did not kill him it was because
the weapon jammed," he said.

He served as investigator for the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) in
the Guanabacoa police unit, dealing with cases of car theft and rape in
the area of the beaches to the east of the capital. He remembers that
one time, when he was investigating a case of the rape of a young girl
of 12 years of age, he was outraged and beat the arrestee he was
interrogating with the butt of his pistol.

Avila also belonged to the Merchant Marine. He says he has transported
weapons and sugar to several countries, among them Angola, Nicaragua and
Honduras. He says that in this latter country, 10 thousand tons of sugar
were sent once, which were not for the Honduran people but were
transported to a North American boat which was found lying alongside his

"It was a mistake to have dedicated almost all my life to the
Revolution. I ask myself all the time what did I fight for," he told
this reporter.

Avila Herrera retired with a pension of 279 Cuban pesos (slightly more
than $10 US). He lives in a dwelling that is a hallway with kitchen and
bath. He decided to tell his story to the independent press because he
is very disappointed in the government he served and for which he was
willing die and kill.

Michel Iroy Rodriguez,

Cubanet, November 21, 2013

Translated by mlk

Source: "A Repentant Former Gunman / Michel Iroy Rodriguez | Translating
Cuba" -

Hard-Liners Seek to Reverse Economic Liberalization

Cuba: Hard-Liners Seek to Reverse Economic Liberalization
November 25, 2013 | Economics | The Americas

Hard-liners within the Cuban leadership are moving behind the scenes to
roll back even the half-steps taken by President Raul Castro in recent
years, attempts to open the island economy that had been applauded by
the outside world. As the Castro era reaches its end — both Raul and
brother Fidel are set to leave politics in 2018 — Communist Party
conservatives jockey for position and work to set the agenda for a
post-Castro Cuba.
Most recently, the government on Nov. 1 announced the closure of all
privately owned movie theaters and video game arcades. These enterprises
were never legal, according to Havana, which said it took the action to
"bring order" to independent businesses. The closures came a few days
after Cuba's Vice Minister of Culture said that video arcades promoted
"frivolity, mediocrity, pseudo-culture and banality."


Raul Castro replaced his brother Fidel as the Cuban head of state in
2008. After ascending to office the younger Castro introduced several
economic reforms that he said would modernize and open the economy.
Although he camouflaged the moves as "updates" to the communist system,
they included capitalist ideals such as decentralized planning,
privatization of state-owned assets and efforts to attract foreign

Two of the most important changes implemented by Castro were regulations
allowing private ownership and legalizing private business, following
the lead of earlier Chinese reforms. For the first time in decades,
Cubans could buy and sell cars and homes and run their own businesses.

Under the regulations, Cubans now can privately own more than 200 types
of businesses, including farms, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, taxis
and barber shops. "Entertainment" was also eligible for self-employment
under the new regulations.

More than 79 percent of Cuba's workforce remains employed by the
government. But there are now 442,000 self-employed people on the
island, according to official estimates. Approximately 70 percent of the
country's farms are now managed by independent farmers who now sell
products directly to the public. Before, farmers were required to give
their crops to the state.

In July, the government conducted an unusual public briefing on the
reforms. Politburo member Marino Murillo, a reformer, told journalists
that the government was moving to allow Cubans to create wealth and
participate in the market. He also explained plans to allow companies to
retain half their profits and to reward profitable businesses while
shuttering those that consistently lost money.

The government expanded the number of acceptable private industries in
September, adding 12 categories of private businesses, including real
estate brokers and seamstresses. At the same time, the government
"clarified" approved activities. For example, seamstresses were allowed
to make and repair clothing but could not participate in "the sale of
manufactured or imported clothing." Government auditors began visiting
small businesses to review their activities and issued warnings to some.

In a move widely opposed by small business owners, the government also
banned the sale of imported goods. It gave vendors until January to
liquidate their inventories. Small business owners and radio station
hosts condemned the move, saying it forced Cubans to purchase
higher-priced, lower-quality goods from state-owned stores and undercut
promises made by the government.

Havana justified the action by saying it was implementing "order,
discipline and obedience" in the self-employment sector. Most recently,
the government shut down theaters and video arcades, announcing: "These
measures are corrections to continue bringing order to this form of
management, fight impunity and insist people live up to the law."


The recent pullback on economic reforms signals an internal struggle
between reformers and hard-liners within the Cuban government. Many in
the government worry that broad economic reforms will imperil the
state-controlled system established by Fidel Castro and they fear
revolutionary political and economic changes will follow.

Raul Castro, who has spearheaded the reforms, seems to understand that
change is necessary to save Cuba's moribund economy. However, he also
appears cognizant of the dangers of moving too quickly and of angering
conservatives in government. He has taken pains to avoid the appearance
of undercutting the system established by his brother or lauding the
free-market economy advocated by the United States.

Agreeing to reinstate some controls over economic freedoms is likely an
effort to mollify hard-liners and avoid larger curbs on reforms. Raul
Castro and the reformers almost certainly understand that abrupt changes
would test the patience of the powerful Communist Party elites who
oppose reform. While Raul has some protection as the brother of the
aging and infirm Fidel, he is not untouchable and could lose control of
the party if he moves too quickly to implement change.

Public discontent also could prompt hard-liners to pull back on change.
The Communist Party remains concerned about popular revolution and the
overthrow of its system. It is not likely, for instance, to tolerate
public demonstrations.

While reforms have had minimal success to date, slapping restrictions on
new economic freedoms could be disastrous for Cuba. Rescinding economic
policy could discourage international investment and create renewed
economic hardship.

As Cuba approaches 2018, the year Raul Castro says he will leave power,
Communist Party leaders on both sides of the question are likely to
increase efforts to position themselves for a post-Castro Cuba.
Reformers will attempt to push their model further while hardliners work
to rein in change.

The most likely scenario is that Cuba will continue to implement minor
reforms while avoiding significant moves that might prompt a backlash.
As long as the Castro brothers retain power the island will allow some
modernization — but not enough to tarnish Fidel Castro's legacy or
suggest a new fealty to the U.S. economic model.

Cuba's telecoms company to allow self-employed workers

Cuba's telecoms company to allow self-employed workers

Cuba will allow self-employed workers at the country's telecoms
monopoly, Etecsa, in the latest in a series of economic reforms to
streamline a bloated government bureaucracy.

Under the new system, which was announced Monday on the
website, private sector "communications agents" will be allowed to
assist with local, regional and international phone calls.

They also will be allowed to sell prepaid phone cards and Internet
cards, or reload used ones, and also will be able to take telephone bill

The agents, who will work on a commission paid by Etecsa, will be
required to obtain licenses and pay taxes on their earnings.

These new private employees will add to the rapidly growing ranks of
self-employed workers in Cuba since economic reforms have begun to be
put in place.

A growing number of Cubans, no longer workers of the state, earn their
living as restaurant owners or self-employed barbers, electricians,
mechanics and other occupations.

All told, there are about 200 sanctioned occupations in which Cubans are
allowed to work for themselves.

Government figures show that more than 436,000 Cubans are now
self-employed since the government began expanding the ranks of the
private sector in 2010.

President Raul Castro introduced the reforms to try to rescue the
foundering Cuban economy by making deep cuts in the number of workers
dependent on the state for their livelihood.


Source: "Cuba's telecoms company to allow self-employed workers |
GlobalPost" -

Cuba and the Problem of Marginality

Cuba and the Problem of Marginality
November 25, 2013
Janis Hernandez

HAVANA TIMES — A great many Cubans express concerns over the rise in
misdemeanors, public vulgarity, vandalism and other phenomena associated
with people or groups whose conduct suggests social exclusion.

The media have also been showing much interest in delving into the
causes of the problem and have set a broad campaign in motion to somehow
contain this ill, which seems to be growing unchecked.

A Round Table program was devoted to the issue of marginality some weeks
ago. The guests were two psychologists and a journalist.

What caught my attention was how the phenomenon is attributed to causes
that are almost subjective. It was said that, in our country,
marginality constitutes something akin to an attitude by the individual
in certain contexts. Much less was said of other factors.

The journalist was the only one who touched on the deterioration of
social relations in Cuba brought about by the economic crisis of the
Special Period in the '90s and of the repercussions of this to date. He
was also the only one who emphasized that the pronounced differences in
income have created great gaps between social groups.

He spoke of the low salaries, the lack of motivation (particularly among
the young) to work for such inadequate remuneration and of the need for
more intensive community work.

The psychologists, though expressing agreement with this, showed
themselves more conservative when they spoke of the genesis of the
problem. The most alarming thing, for me, was when one of them said that
the Cuban State and the revolution had, from the very beginning, made
social inclusion one of their chief dividends.

In my opinion, this is debatable for, while it is undeniable that the
government gives everyone the same opportunities to obtain an education
or better themselves, it is also true that this same government has
marginalized many people.

Back in the days of the Military Units for Aid in Production (UMAP),
some 25,000 young men of military age were confined in work camps for
being religious, gay or dissidents. These people were dubbed parasites,
slackers and antisocial scum. Though efforts were made to correct this
mistake later, the episode was burnt into the country's collective memory.

Expressions of commonness, vulgarity and aggressive urban behavior were
at their height in the 80s, when the country's leadership itself
organized and encouraged large groups of people to take part in violent
reprisals against fellow citizens.

Eggs, stones and garbage were hurled at people and large paper and
rubber worms were burnt on the porches and in front of the houses of
those who had decided to leave the country. These people were referred
to as scum and lumpens.

These shameful actions are still practiced by so-called Rapid Response
Brigades, whose ranks are filled with people willing to physically
attack others, for the sole reason that these others do not share their
ideology, or because they demand freedom of speech.

To give the semblance of "cultural plurality", radio and television
shows have promoted grotesque and vulgar singers and genres, some of
which are a direct copy of foreign trends (this includes most of Cuba's
reggaeton performers).

On occasion, however, highly-talented artists like Frank Delgado or
Carlos Varela have been censored or denied promotion because they are
considered anti-establishment. Other Cuban artists like Amaury Gutierrez
or Pancho Cespedes have also suffered this, simply because they live abroad.

It is true that marginality, as the name suggests, is nothing other than
the characteristic of that which is marginal or secondary, the condition
of a person or social group that hasn't been integrated into society at
large. The phenomenon has a historical background that involves certain
racial or socio-cultural groups.

It is true there are those who marginalize themselves, who choose to
behave in negative ways, to make a living out of illegal activities and
other types of infringements.

But there you have the mistakes of the family as an institution and even
of the educational system, which has been quite dysfunctional in the
past decades, what with the massive deployment of "teachers" who do not
have the calling, education or talent for the profession.

Another reason behind this problem could be the absence of laws aimed at
ensuring civility and/or their enforcement, a strict set of rules
designed to guarantee respect among people.

In short, even though everything described above is everyone's
responsibility, the authorities and people of Cuba have a lot of work
ahead of them if they have any interest in reducing marginality.

Source: "Cuba and the Problem of Marginality - Havana" -

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Prices In The All Stores Are Fined

"The Prices In The All Stores Are Fined" /Jorge Olivera Castillo
Posted on November 24, 2013

Havana, Cuba, November, — The details of the corrupt
practices detected in the Carlos III Complex of stores and in a
municipal entity in the business of community services reinforce
opinions about the incapacity of the government to stop a phenomenon
that has metastasized in Cuban society.

As on previous occasions, people have counted on documentary proof of
the facts, recorded on flash drives that are distributed furtively from
hand to hand. One never knows who is the initial provider, but
presumably it is a premeditated act in the Ministry of the Interior. The
lack of official information is compensated for by the traffic in
copies, rented or sold, to a clientele eager to find out the identity of
the guilty parties and their schemes to enrich themselves.

Both cases, occurrences in Havana, again reliably demonstrate the
infeasibility of economic centralization. In most state enterprises. a
lack of administrative control still prevails, which facilitates the
growth of corruption in all its forms.

The efforts by the General Controller of the Republic to put a stop to
it are worth nothing. Few wind up in prison. The rest contrive to
continue their dirty shenanigans which include embezzlement, extortion
and bribery.

"Prices in all the stores are 'fined.' Besides being already inflated by
order of the enterprise that provides the merchandise, extra is added
that is later shared between the management, the financially
responsible, and the employees," a store clerk explained to me on
condition of anonymity.

"Our salary is a pittance. If we don't do this, it would be like working
for free. It's true that we steal from the customer, but those are the
rules of the game. This is every man for himself," he added.

In the conversation I found out that the managers make off with the
greater part of the illegal revenues. In some cases their earnings
exceed 300 convertible pesos a day. Such dividends represent a fortune
in a country where the average salary is less then one convertible peso

Among the beneficiaries of these illegalities must also be mentioned the
hundreds of former counter-intelligence officials. Not a few are listed
on the security payrolls of each shopping center, others work as
inspectors of those who have to deliver part of the booty. Refusing to
do it is the shortest path to jail.

In the end, everything functions without setbacks. They only have to
comply with the established codes. From time to time, the general
controller, Gladys Bejerano, in order not to completely lose her
credibility, decides to put an end to some of the corruption. It is like
putting your hand in a drum with your eyes closed. You will always
extract a corrupt person, but at a low level, since the big ones are

Jorge Olivera Castillo

Cubanet, November 20, 2013

Translated by mlk

Source: ""The Prices In The All Stores Are Fined" /Jorge Olivera
Castillo | Translating Cuba" -

Are We Caring for the Environment in Cuba?

Are We Caring for the Environment in Cuba? / Yoani Sanchez
Posted on November 24, 2013

A man dressed like a mechanic pours liquid from a tank into the sewer. A
few yards away, two boys are scrubbing a motorcycle and the soapy water
runs off onto the ground, watering the roots of some nearby trees.
Several neighbors have set fire to a pile of trash: dry leaves,
branches, but also a couple of batteries, a portable radio and even a
laser printer cartridge. After re-using it a dozen times, the restaurant
cook pours the burned oil down the sink, that is if he doesn't take it
home for his family to eat. The hairdresser upstairs does the same
thing, when she tosses the used hair dye down the toilet. This
irresponsibility in the treatment of waste products extends across the
entire Island. Few are aware of the ecological damage caused by ordinary
daily activities.

Separating trash such as cardboard and glass, which is natural to
others, seems like a chimera in a country that hasn't even solved the
problem of efficient trash collection. Even today the containers on the
corners overflow, bringing the flies, health hazards and stink that now
make up an inseparable part of cities like Havana. Thus, it's hard work
to awaken awareness in a population whose priorities still center on the
so-called community services working at all. However, much of the damage
that we are causing to the environment is irreversible, and requires
urgent measures to slow it down as quickly as possible.

The State sector is the greatest predator of our ecosystem, with its
enormous factories that spew chemicals into rivers and the oceans, its
many sugar plants without oxidation ponds, and its thousands of vehicles
that don't meet environmental standards. In addition, all this is hidden
by the absence of transparency, the falsification of statistics and the
prohibition on independent organizations that could address such
behaviors. Nevertheless, we as citizens also have to share a good part
of the blame.

The lack of an environmental mindset is felt in every detail of our
lives. It's notable, for example, the self-confidence with which so many
Cubans cut down a tree, cement over their backyard where plants used to
grow, throw chemical products into the water, mistreat and kill animals,
or simply toss out recyclable materials. It's not enough to ask children
in elementary school to plant a bean seed to foster in them a love of
nature. It's also not enough to show ads on prime time TV calling on us
to preserve the planet on which we live. Caring for the environment has
to become a part of educational programs, strictly addressed in the law,
and promoted in all areas.

The emerging civil society should also adopt this banner. Without
lowering the torch of human rights and democratic changes, it's time for
civic movements to create environmental defense strategies for this
Island we will bequeath to our children. Groups that report incidents
against the ecosystem, organize recycling training programs, and try to
protect natural resources should all take on a leading role. It's great
that we want the coming generations to be free, but we must start by
guaranteeing we have a country to bequeath to them.

The clock is ticking. Nature does not wait. Tomorrow there will be no
turning back.

The post ¿Cuidamos el medio ambiente en Cuba? appeared first on
Generación Y – Yoani Sánchez.

24 November 2013

Source: "Are We Caring for the Environment in Cuba? / Yoani Sanchez |
Translating Cuba" -