Friday, February 28, 2014

Former Commander Huber Matos Dies

Former Commander Huber Matos Dies
Posted on February 28, 2014

Former commander of the Cuban revolution Huber Matos Benítez, one of the
most important figures of the opposition to the regime of the Castros,
died early Thursday morning in a Miami hospital, reported his
organization Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID). He was 95.

Matos (born in Yara, Granma province, on November 26, 1918) had been
admitted two days earlier to Kendall Regional Hospital "where he was
diagnosed with a massive heart attack" according to the CID report.

"On the 26th he asked to be disconnected from breathing equipment
because he wanted to say farewell to his wife María Luisa Araluce, his
children and grandchildren," it added.

The organization said that during his hospitalization Matos received
call from Cuba from the principal leaders of his party, "who affirmed
that the organization would not rest until the island was free."

According to CID, shortly before he died Matos declared "The fight goes
on. Long live free Cuba!"

There will be a wake in Miami next Sunday for the former commander, who
participated in the struggles that brought Fidel Castro to power and
then spent 20 years in prison on the island for dissenting from the
direction that the regime took.

CID said that Matos requested that his body be taken to Costa Rica, the
country that welcomed him when he was first exiled in 1957 and from
which he went to the Sierra Maestra to join Fidel Castro's men.

Costa Rica was also Matos's first destination in 1979 when he was
released after serving two decades of political imprisonment imposed by
the regime.

"I want to make my trip back to Cuba from the same land whose people
always showed me solidarity and affection; I want to rest on Costa Rican
soil until Cuba is free and from there to Yara, to rejoin my mother and
my father and all Cubans," Matos explained about his wishes.

Huber Matos, a school teacher, opposed the dictatorship of Fulgencio
Batista. He was captured in 1957 for participating in operations
providing logistical support to the rebels who were in the Sierra
Maestra, but managed to escape into exile in Costa Rica.

In the Central American country he gathered weapons that arrived on a
cargo plane in the Sierra Maestra and were instrumental in the offensive
against Batista's troops.

Because of his courage and leadership, Matos was the rebel who rose
fastest through the ranks to commander, as head of the Antonio Guiteras
9th Column, in charge of the positioning, surrender, and capture of the
city of Santiago de Cuba.

In 1959 he was named Commander of the Army in Camaguey province. Having
discussed several times with Fidel Castro the increasing alignment of
the revolution with communism, he resigned, stating that this was a
betrayal of the democratic principles that the Revolution had promised
the Cuban people. In response, Castro ordered his arrest on October 21,
1959, a week before the mysterious disappearance of Camilo Cienfuegos,
who according Matos shared his concerns.

Matos was subjected to a summary trial for sedition in December 1959.
During the process, he insisted on denouncing the deviation from the
goal of the revolutionary movement for which he and others had risked
their lives.

He was sentenced to twenty years in prison, which he served in full.

In exile, Matos tirelessly denounced the betrayal by the Castro regime.

In 1980 in Caracas he founded Independent and Democratic Cuba, with
social democratic leanings, today headquartered in Miami, and claiming
activists throughout the island.

In his autobiography How Came the Night, which, according to CID has
sold over 100,000 copies and that circulates clandestinely in Cuba,
Matos recounts in detail his participation in the revolutionary army,
his subsequent imprisonment and the tortures to which he was subjected.

Diario di Cuba, 27 February 2014

Translated by Tomás A.

Source: Former Commander Huber Matos Dies | Translating Cuba -

Huber Matos - “The struggle continues. Viva Cuba Libre!”

Huber Matos: "The struggle continues. Viva Cuba Libre!" / CID
Posted on February 27, 2014

Huber Matos died on the morning of 27 February in Miami. On the 25th he
was admitted to Kendall Regional Hospital where he was diagnosed with a
massive heart attack. On the 26th he asked that they withdraw his
respirator because he wanted to say goodbye to his wife María Luisa
Araluce and to his children and grandchildren. During the day he
received calls from Cuba and the main leaders of his party, the
Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID) movement, who assured him the
organization would not rest until the island is free.

Activists in Holguín sang the national anthem to him and members of the
organization throughout Cuba were notified of the situation and of the
commitment of their leader. His last words were: "The struggle
continues. Viva Cuba Libre!"

Huber Matos left a political testament and a letter to Venezuelans.
There will be a service for him in Miami on Sunday, 2 March, and he
asked to be taken to Costa Rica, the country that sheltered him when he
went into exile the first time during the Revolutionary struggle in
1957. It was from Costa Rica where he left for the Sierra Maestra to
join the guerrilla war, and to this nation that he returned after
spending two decades in prison in 1979.

"I want to return to Cuba from the same land whose people always showed
me solidarity and affection, I want to rest in the earth of Costa Rica
until Cuba is free and from there go to Yara, to accompany my mother and
reunite with my father and with Cubans."

Huber Matos Benítez was born in Yara, Cuba, on 26 November 1918. He was
a schoolteacher turned Revolutionary from his opposition to the
dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. In 1957, during one of the rebels'
logistical support operations, Matos was captured by Batista's army in
the Sierra Maestra area, but he was able to escape and go into exile in
Costa Rica.

There, with the support of president José Figueres, he raised arms with
which he landed in a cargo plane in the Sierra Maestra. These arms were
decisive for the triumph of the small and poorly equipped Rebel Army
against the offensive launched by Batista in 1958. For his courage and
leadership in the guerrilla struggle, Matos was the rebel who rose most
quickly to commander, as head of the Antonio Guiteras Column 9.

The frequent battles and triumphs of this column converted Huber Matos
and his men into a legend. Column 9 was in charge of the siege,
surrender and taking of the city of Santiago, a deciding action in the
final victory of the revolutionary movement. Photographs of Fidel
Castro's triumphant entry into Havana show Huber Matos and Camilo
Cienfuegos at his side.

In 1959 Matos was named Army Commander in Camagüey province. After
having discussed several times with Fidel Castro the growing alignment
of the process with Communism, he renounced it, stating that this
constituted a betrayal of the democratic principles of the Revolution as
they had been promised to the Cuban people. In response, Castro ordered
his arrest on 21 October 1959.

A week after his detention Camilo Cienfuegos, who shared Matos' concern,
mysteriously disappeared with his plane and pilot and they were never found.

During the summary trial for sedition in December 1959, Matos insisted
on denouncing the deviation from the objective of the Revolutionary
Movement for which he and so many others had risked their lives. He was
sentenced to twenty years in prison, which he served in rebellion until
the last day in 1979.

When he left prison, a representative of the Costa Rican government
traveled to Cuba to accompany him on his trip to Costa Rica, where a
large group of Cubans met him at the airport, along with the president
Rodrigo Carazo, José Figueres and Oscar Arias.

From exile, he worked tenaciously to denounce the Castro regime. This
led him to found, in 1980 in Caracas, Venezuela, the Independent and
Democratic Cuba movement (CID), which today has a large membership
organized in delegations throughout the entire island. Members of the
CID are frequently harassed, imprisoned, and at times tortured by the
Cuban authorities.

In his autobiographical book "How the Night Came," which has sold more
than 100,000 copies and which circulates clandestinely in Cuba, Matos
relates the details of his participation in the Revolutionary army and
his subsequent imprisonment, in which he was subjected to every kind of

As Secretary General of the CID, from his base in Miami, Florida, Huber
Matos engaged in intense activity reporting and campaigning in the
United States, Latin America and Europe. In 2002 his social-democratic
party published the Project of the New Republic, which has five key
programmatic fundamentals:

1. Independence and sovereignty

2. Multiparty democracy

3. Free market economy

4. Human rights and social justice.

5. Latin American and continental integration

In addition, in 2011 the CID published a draft Constitution that
guarantees the exercise of democratic freedoms and respect for human
rights for all the inhabitants of the island, and includes a variety of
provisions on education, social welfare, the economy and the environment.

Commander Matos qualified as a teacher in Santiago de Cuba and received
a PhD in Teaching from the University of Havana.

Source: Huber Matos: "The struggle continues. Viva Cuba Libre!" / CID |
Translating Cuba -

No-one Knows What Fish They are Buying

No-one Knows What Fish They are Buying / Ernesto Garcia Diaz
Posted on February 27, 2014

Havana, Cuba – At la Playa de El Chivo (El Chivo beach ), on the
northeast coast of Havana, at the foot of the Castillo de los Tres Reyes
del Morro (Three Kings Castle), people carry on fishing for sport and
business, between the marine waters and sewage, without the health
authorities, environmental authorities or the coastguards taking a
responsible attitude. The zone receives thousands of cubic metres of
polluted water and its sand dunes are deteriorating as a result of the
man's actions.

The grunt, snapper and barber fish, among others, turn the rocky beach
into both a centre for boats which arrive every day to seek their
economic support; and at best, some people who are enjoying their
leisure and are fishing for sport.

This is going on in the mouth of the submerged sewage outlet pipe which
runs from the Havana sewage treatment plant, which filters the solid
waste coming from the northern and southern collectors of the capital. A
concrete pipe of about 375 metres in length crosses Havana Bay, as far
as Casablanca, where they pump the dirty water up to La Cabaña, so that
it then falls by gravity down to the El Chivo beach, about 150 metres
along the coast.

The most astonishing thing is that many fishermen enter into the area of
the lower reefs, without any protection, on the edge of where they are
fishing in a contaminated area, breathing in the fetid smell from the
drain, which keeps the coastal water cloudy with its permanent discharge
from the Havana sewers, whose pipes and canals are not lacking in cracks
and leaks.

When it comes to the end result of the activity, various fisherment
indicate that they eat the fish themselves, and that they also sell
some, but they don't say where the fish come from.

These citizens, impelled by their desperate need to support themselves
and their families, imperil the health of people who are unaware that
they are buying a product of uncertain or unknown origin, as many are
offered as skinned fillets, or say that they are deep sea fish, which
prevents the consumer seeing the physiognomy of the species, so they can
at least identify them, in order to avoid the "ciguatera" (tropical
fishfood poisoning syndrome ) which is transmitted by the picúa or the
aguají, among other species which it is forbidden to fish.

Additionally, on this beach's rocky and sandy coast, the environment is
being damaged by the dumping of plastic handles, fish-hooks, fishing
lines, and other discarded items, which are thrown away by people living
there or those passing through the area who don't take any notice of the

Alberto, an ex-fisherman, known as "The Wizard", admitted that he used
to sell fish for a while, but that it was very hard work, always running
the risk of a consumer falling ill, because the species caught in this
area end up eating the discarded rubbish in the sewage, or a shoal of
sardines who have also come over to eat toxic residues.

El Chivo Beach, by the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, classified
by UNESCO in 1982 as a World Heritage site, has been converted into a
contaminated focal point of bacteria and micro-organisms which can
affect the health of those who fish in its waters, pass through there,
or consume its fish.

The authorities would be perfectly able to preserve the cleanliness and
health of the ecosystem of this sandy coastline, which has been abused
and is hardly a good example of sustainable development of a zone of
natural, historical and cultural value which should be cared for.

Cubanet, 22 January 2014, Ernesto García Díaz

Translated by GH

Source: No-one Knows What Fish They are Buying / Ernesto Garcia Diaz |
Translating Cuba -

Huber Matos Benitez, Cuban opponent of Castro, dies at 95

Huber Matos Benitez, Cuban opponent of Castro, dies at 95
By Laura Wides-Munoz, Published: February 27

Huber Matos Benitez, who helped lead the Cuban Revolution as one of
Fidel Castro's key lieutenants before his efforts to resign from the
burgeoning communist government landed him in prison for 20 years, died
Feb. 27 at a hospital in the Miami area. He was 95.

He had a heart attack, his grandson Huber Matos Garsault told the
Associated Press.

Mr. Matos was a 34-year-old rice farmer and teacher — and an opponent of
Cuban dictator Gen. Fulgencio Batista — when Castro led a failed
uprising in 1953. Mr. Matos later joined Castro and served as a
commander in the Sierra Maestra mountains.

The two clashed on occasion, but Mr. Matos claimed that at one point
Castro named him third in line for leadership after Castro's brother
Raúl and ahead of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Mr. Matos maintained.

In a May 2009 interview with the AP at his home in Miami, Mr. Matos said
he joined the revolution hoping to restore democracy to his country,
which the island experienced only briefly before Batista led a coup in
1952. Mr. Matos, who had been a professor of education, first traveled
to Costa Rica to obtain weapons and ammunition for delivery to Castro's
forces before eventually joining the rebels in the mountains. He was
captured in 1957 by Batista forces but was able to escape, according to
his family.

The revolution overthrew Batista on New Year's Day 1959, and Mr. Matos
rolled into Havana at Castro's side. But within months a disillusioned
Mr. Matos wanted out of the new government, fearing the Castros and
Guevara were steering the country toward communism, and that Fidel
Castro had no intention of holding free elections as he had promised.

"There was another agenda," Mr. Matos told the AP in 2009. "Fidel said
one thing for the public, and the steps he took were another story."

When he first tried to resign, Castro wouldn't let him. In October 1959,
Mr. Matos was arrested and convicted of treason. He was told he would
face the firing squad but believes he was sent to prison instead because
Castro feared he would become a martyr.

In his book, "How Night Fell," Mr. Matos described being tortured and
kept for years in isolation. He was released in October 1979 and was
reunited with his wife and four grown children. He initially lived in
Caracas, Venezuela, where he founded the group Independent and
Democratic Cuba, and later moved to Miami.

"The revolution didn't have to become a catastrophe," Mr. Matos said.
"If [Castro] would have brought reforms within the democratic framework,
Cuba would have been a great country."

Source: Huber Matos Benitez, Cuban opponent of Castro, dies at 95 - The
Washington Post -

Prominent art dealer - Paintings stolen from Cuba’s National Museum of Fine Arts now in Miami

Posted on Thursday, 02.27.14

Prominent art dealer: Paintings stolen from Cuba's National Museum of
Fine Arts now in Miami

Works of art recently discovered stolen from the collection of the
National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana are for sale in South Florida,
according to a prominent Cuban art collector.

Miami art dealer Ramon Cernuda, owner of a large private collection of
20th Century Cuban paintings, said Thursday that he has found at least
11 paintings in Miami that belong to the collection of Cuba's Museo
Nacional de Bellas Artes. He said he learned of the theft after
purchasing a stolen painting by Vanguardia artist Eduardo Abela.

"We called the museum authorities and spoke at length with two museum
officers," said Cernuda, who has a history of reporting stolen art.
"They discovered through our call that this painting had been stolen.
Because of our call it was also discovered they had lost other works
stolen from their warehouse."

Cernuda was unsure of the totality of the crime, which he said occurred
at a museum warehouse. The blog Cafe Fuerte, citing sources, puts the
number of stolen pieces at close to 100.

Contacted Thursday, museum spokeswoman Diorca Diaz said she was not
authorized to comment. She referred a reporter to the Center for
International Press, which did not respond to an email. Likewise, an FBI
spokesman did not comment Thursday and an Immigration and Customs
Enforcement spokesman said investigators were unaware of any artwork in
Miami stolen from the museum's collection.

Several local collectors and gallery owners said they had heard little
to nothing of pieces stolen from the museum. But the reported thefts
would appear to be the latest example of the complications of trading
and collecting Cuban art in Miami, where the authenticity and ownership
of such pieces can be suspect, in part because of the large number of
artworks confiscated by the government during the Cuban Revolution.

"I've been dealing with Cuban art since the mid-'50s and we're very,
very, very careful about what we take in," said Virginia Miller, whose
Coral Gables gallery is currently showing an exhibit of Cuban art from
the 1950s to 2013.

Miller, whose gallery recently hosted two curators from the museum, was
among Miami collectors who said they'd heard nothing of the reported
thefts. But others said they'd received word of stolen art being hawked
in recent days.

Cernuda said he came across the first piece of museum art two weeks ago
when he purchased Abela's Carnaval Infantil from another gallery, which
he declined to name. He began to suspect the painting was stolen when he
found a book that listed the art as museum property.

After confirming the painting was stolen, Cernuda said he checked around
South Florida and found another 10 museum paintings in one location, all
by the the well-known Leopoldo Romañach. He declined to name the location.

"To see three or four of those works together is not common," he said.
"And I saw 10 that had been cut with, like, an Exacto knife. The thieves
didn't even bother to take out the nails from the stretchers."

Cafe Fuerte reported that the Romañach works were confirmed by a second
U.S. art dealer, though none who spoke to the Miami Herald and El Nuevo
Herald Thursday said they'd seen any stolen pieces.

This would not be the first run-in with stolen art by Cernuda, a
colorful collector whose paintings were once confiscated and then
immediately returned by the U.S. Government in a Cuban embargo flap.
Four years ago, he tipped off the FBI when a nurse tried to sell him
seven paintings that had been reported stolen from a Miami storage unit.

Works confiscated by Communist regimes frequently turn up in Miami,
according to Tania Mastrapa, a consultant who specializes in researching
ownership history — or provenance — for prospective buyers. Mastrapa
said museum heists, which have been reported before at the Havana
institution, are usually committed with the knowledge of the government.

Cernuda, speaking to the Herald from Spain, said he has yet to call U.S.
authorities. He said he intends to return the painting to the museum
when he gets back from Spain, and has asked them to document the stolen
paintings with Interpol, which keeps a database of pilfered art.

"We have recommended to the national museum they fully report the theft
to Interpol and request and consider the cooperation of the FBI so these
works, which are property of the national museum, be returned to the

El Nuevo Herald reporter Maria Perez contributed to this report.

Source: Prominent art dealer: Paintings stolen from Cuba's National
Museum of Fine Arts now in Miami - Miami-Dade - -

Lining a Dictator's Pockets

Lining a Dictator's Pockets
No good would come of lifting the embargo on Cuba.
By Jorge Benitez Feb. 27, 2014

Based on a new poll it commissioned on U.S. relations with Cuba, the
Atlantic Council issued a report recently calling for a "policy shift"
that would end the U.S. embargo on the Castro regime. But when asked to
respond to the statement that "after more than 50 years of no U.S.
relations with Cuba the Castro regime remains in power," 51 percent of
those polled want to keep the current policy in place.

Nevertheless, the key issue is not whether the embargo is popular.
Rather, the main question is, would dropping the embargo better serve
the interests of the United States? The answer to this question remains
a strong "no," because ending the embargo would be bad business,
strengthen an oppressive government and abandon American values.

The U.S. should not normalize trade with the Castro regime for the plain
and simple reasons that his ventures lose money and his government is an
international "deadbeat." Any economic partnerships with authoritarian
regimes are morally suspect, but making deals with the Castro government
is pouring billions of dollars down the drain. In 1986, Cuba defaulted
on its multibillion dollar debt to the Paris Club of nations. That debt
is now estimated to be around $37 billion and the Castro government
refuses to pay it. A couple of months ago, Russia had to write off 90
percent of Cuba's $32 billion debt. That's almost $29 billion dollars
that Castro will never pay back to Moscow. In November, Mexico wrote off
$340 million of Cuba's debt to its development bank, Bancomext. It is no
wonder that, according to Moody's, Cuba's credit rating is Caaa1, which
means worse than highly speculative and a "substantial risk" to investors.

It makes no business sense to drop the embargo for the sake of trading
with a government that reneged on so many loans its credit rating is now
at the subprime or "junk bond" level. Yet, loans are what would be
necessary to "normalize" relations with Cuba. The embargo allows for
U.S. food and humanitarian supplies to be sold to Cuba. In fact, the
U.S. is currently the fifth largest exporter to Cuba. The big difference
is that, according to the embargo, the Castro government must pay for
all U.S. imports with cash, no credit allowed.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

This brings us to the most overlooked and dangerous factor in trading
with Cuba. Most of the Cuban economy is owned by the Castro government
and all foreign trade is channeled through agencies that support the
regime. For example, all foreign companies must pay wages in hard
currency (dollars or euros) to the Cuban government, and from those
wages the state pays in local currency (Cuban pesos) a small percentage
to the individual employees. As a report by the Brooking Foundation
described it: "If the firm pays the employment agency $500 a month and
the employment agency pays the workers 500 pesos, over 90 percent of the
wage payment disappears in the currency conversion; the effective
compensation is instantly deflated to $21 per month." Brookings said
this may be "the world's heaviest labor tax." Or as one Cuban worker
disclosed: "In Cuba, it's a great myth that we live off the state. In
fact, it's the state that lives off of us."

This is why decades of trade between Cuba and market economies in
Europe, Canada and Latin America have only lined the pockets of the
Castro government and not produced any of the promised political or
economic benefits for the people of Cuba. This is what "normalized"
relations with Cuba looks like. If the U.S. dropped the embargo, our
companies would join those from around the world that pay dearly to the
Castro regime as it exploits the Cuban people. It is this corrupt
system, not the embargo, which deprives the people of Cuba of the
benefits of trade and the skill of their labor. As the U.S. argued in
the United Nations, "the Cuban Government's own policy was the largest
obstacle to the country's own development, concentrating political and
economic decisions in the hands of the few and stifling economic growth."

Ending the embargo on the Castro regime would be a blow not only to
American wallets, but also to American values. The American people want
"free trade with free people," not manipulated trade that strengthens an
authoritarian government's oppression of its people. The Castro regime
is on its last few breaths and the Cuban Spring will soon come to
millions who will remember that for decades the U.S. chose solidarity
with the Cuban people instead of business partnerships with the dictator
in Havana.

Jorge Benitez is director of the NATOSource blog and a senior fellow at
the Atlantic Council.

Source: Lifting the U.S. Embargo on Castro's Cuba Would Be a Mistake -
US News -

Second member of Cuban Five spy ring freed from U.S. prison

Posted on Thursday, 02.27.14

Second member of Cuban Five spy ring freed from U.S. prison

A second member of the "Cuban Five," the Castro-directed spy ring that
infiltrated South Florida military installations and the exile community
in the wake of the Cold War, was released from federal prison Thursday
and was expected to be deported soon to Cuba.

Fernando Gonzalez, 50, was convicted for acting as an illegal Cuban
agent at a 2001 espionage trial of the five men in Miami. He and the
others are considered "heroes" in Cuba, which is planning festivities to
honor them this weekend.

The highly controversial case strained already poor U.S.-Cuba relations
not only because the five Castro agents infiltrated South Florida, but
also because they were linked to the Cuban government's 1996 shoot-down
of two Brothers to the Rescue planes that killed four exile pilots over
the Florida Straits.

Gonzalez, who was serving an 18-year sentence, was released from an
Arizona federal prison early Thursday after more than 15 years behind
bars because of time off his term for good behavior and other factors.

Gonzalez, known to U.S. authorities by his alias, Ruben Campa, is the
second member of the Cuban Five to be released from prison. Rene
Gonzalez, who is not related to Fernando Gonzalez, finished his prison
sentence in 2011 but spent more than a year on probation in the U.S.
until a federal judge allowed him to return to Cuba. Rene Gonzalez, a
Chicago native with dual U.S.-Cuban citizenship, renounced his U.S.
citizenship after returning to Havana.

"This is slightly different because [Fernando] Gonzalez is not a U.S.
citizen," said Maggie Khuly, sister of one of the Brothers to the Rescue
shoot-down victims, Armando Alejandre Jr. "I would imagine Cuba will
welcome him with open arms."

Fernando Gonzalez was turned over immediately to the custody of
immigration officials, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement
spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez. For security reasons, she said she could
not disclose exactly where he was being held or when he would be
returned to Cuba, but a deportation order has already been issued.

Fernando Gonzalez was part of a 14-person "Wasp Network" sent by
then-Cuban President Fidel Castro to spy on South Florida. They were
indicted in 1998 on charges of conspiracy, espionage and failure to
register as foreign agents in the United States. Five of the original
defendants pleaded guilty following the FBI investigation and were
deported. Four others were fugitives.

The other remaining defendants, who came to be known as the Cuban Five,
faced trial and were convicted.

Trial testimony showed they sought to infiltrate the headquarters of the
U.S. Southern Command and military installations in the Florida Keys.
They also reported on Cuban exiles and politicians opposed to the
communist government in Havana, prosecutors said.

Havana maintained that the agents posed no threat to the U.S. government
and were only monitoring militant exiles to prevent terrorist attacks in
Cuba. The most notorious of those was a series of bombings of Havana
hotels that killed an Italian tourist in 1997.

In response to Gonzalez's release, Cuba plans a concert Saturday night
at the University of Havana in honor of the five men.

The Communist Party newspaper Granma published interviews Thursday with
two of Gonzalez's friends back home. Rafael Hojas said he and Gonzalez
knew each other as young students and crossed paths on international
missions in Africa.

"I hope he spends as little time as possible in an immigration jail and
can enjoy as soon as possible his mother, his wife, his family, and
we'll see when we might be able to meet," Hojas was quoted as saying.

Gonzalez's mother, Magali Llort, told The Associated Press that she
sometimes thinks her son's release is a dream "but luckily it's a great

"But we can't feel satisfied with Fernando arriving and Rene having
come," she said. "We have to keep up the fight so that the rest, their
brothers, are here."

The Cuban Five have sometimes been linked to the case of American Alan
Gross, who has spent four years in a Cuban prison after he was arrested
while working covertly to set up Internet access for the island's Jewish
community. He was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for
International Development, which Cuba considers bent on undermining its

Cuba has suggested it might swap Gross for the Cuban Five, but
Washington has rejected any such deal.

Khuly, who has been an unofficial spokeswoman for the shoot-down
victims' families, said they would oppose any exchange of the remaining
three Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States.

"Our main concern is that Gerardo Hernandez stay in the United States
and that there be no exchange involving him," Khuly told The Miami
Herald Thursday. "The other two are also of concern."

Hernandez is serving a life prison sentence on a murder-conspiracy
conviction for his role in the 1996 killings of the four Brothers to the
Rescue pilots. For years, the organization had dropped pro-democracy
leaflets over Cuba and assisted Cuban migrants trying to reach the
United States.

Khuly said the only exchange that the victims' families would consider
would be for the two Cuban Air Force pilots who shot down the Brothers
to the Rescue planes over international waters and for the Cuban general
who gave the order. They have been indicted in Miami federal court.

Fernando Gonzalez was originally sentenced to 19 years. But a Miami
federal judge reduced that by one year after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals said he was wrongly labeled a supervisor of other spies.

Two other men sentenced to life on espionage conspiracy convictions also
had their terms lowered as a result of that same court order. U.S.
District Judge Joan Lenard reduced Antonio Guerrero's sentence to 22
years and Ramon Labanino's to 30 years in prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Second member of Cuban Five spy ring freed from U.S. prison -
Cuba - -

Huber Matos - The passing of a Cuban patriot

Posted on Thursday, 02.27.14

Huber Matos: The passing of a Cuban patriot

It was 1958, and he was a schoolteacher and a small rice grower near the
Sierra Maestra mountains in Cuba's easternmost province. Unhappy with
Fulgencio Batista's dictatorship, he carried rifles to the rebels amid
the produce of his farm.

Alerted that Batista's police were after him, he went into exile in
Costa Rica. He returned on a small aircraft bringing in weapons. The
aircraft landed at Cienaguilla in the foothills of the mountains. He
joined the guerrilla war and rose to the rank of Comandante, the highest
rank in the Rebel Army. Two years later he broke with Fidel Castro over
the issue of communism.

Condemned to 20 years by a kangaroo court, he served his sentence,
became a symbol of the Cuban opposition to totalitarianism and went into
exile. His name was Huber Matos, and he died in Miami on Thursday at the
age of 95.

The revolution came to power in January 1959 after Batista fled. In a
triumphant march into Havana, surrounded by thousands of cheering,
adoring Cubans, was Fidel Castro. At his side, on top of a tank, stood
Matos. After Matos parted ways with the L íder M áximo, his image
promptly disappeared whenever that photograph was used by Cuba's media,
but elsewhere the original remains as proof of historical truth.

As time went by, just like under Josef Stalin, the history of the
revolution was rewritten on a regular basis, and names and provocative
photographs disappeared from the public record. Besides Matos, the first
hand-picked president of the Revolutionary Government (exiled), minister
of agriculture (executed), chief of the Revolutionary Air Force
(exiled), and several comandantes were executed over the issue of
communism. Some, realizing how many of their friends had died in vain,
committed suicide.

After the 1959 victory, Fidel Castro named Matos military governor of
Camaguey province. Raúl Castro was named governor of Oriente province
and Comandante William Gálvez, later executed for opposing communism,
governor of Matanzas.

Shortly after Fidel named his brother Raúl head of the Cuban Armed
Forces, Matos, concerned about the growing infiltration of the rebel
army by communists, resigned his army commission. In a private letter to
Fidel Castro, he wrote: "I don't want to become an obstacle to the
Revolution and I believe that, facing the option of adapting myself or
to resign to prevent greater misfortunes, the honest and 'revolutionary'
thing to do is to leave," he wrote, adding: "If after my dedication to
the country, I were to be ambitious or to conspire, this could be a
motive for me to regret not being one of the many comrades who died in
the struggle."

If Matos still harbored hopes that Fidel Castro was not fully cognizant
of what was happening, they were quickly dashed when Fidel publicly
denounced him for slandering the revolution and ordered the takeover of
the city of Camaguey by the armed forces.

Matos had gone home, where, despite urging from his military officers to
fight back, he waited patiently for his arrest.

Commander Camilo Cienfuegos, head of the Rebel Army, arrived in Camaguey
and met with Matos. After appraising the situation in the military base,
he told Matos that he would explain to Fidel that there was no
conspiracy and everything was peaceful and normal in the city.
Cienfuegos took off in a small aircraft but disappeared on an overland
flight and was never found.

Fourteen of Matos' officers resigned. One committed suicide. Matos and
others were eventually tried by a military court, with Fidel Castro as
the main accuser. He claimed Matos had committed treason by lying about
the revolution. The implication was that by raising the issue of
communism, which at the time Castro had been denying, Matos was
providing fodder for the revolution's critics, including the United
States, which had early on objected to the Revolutionary Tribunals and

The National Leadership of Fidel Castro's 26 of July Movement resigned,
and Matos was sentenced to 20 years in prison, together with other
officers. He served his sentence, went into exile, and founded
Independent and Democratic Cuba, his political movement. He wrote his
memoirs, How Night Fell.

With his passing, another of the iconic figures of the Cuban
insurrection has died. Sadly, many of Matos' generation believed in
Fidel Castro and died on behalf of a democratic revolution that never was.

Frank Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, based
in Washington, D.C.

Source: Huber Matos: The passing of a Cuban patriot - Other Views - -

Former Cuban revolutionary Huber Matos is dead

Posted on Thursday, 02.27.14

Former Cuban revolutionary Huber Matos is dead

Huber Matos, a former Fidel Castro commander who later broke with the
Cuban revolution and served two decades in prison before going into
exile, died in Miami early Thursday. He was 95.

The cause of death was a "massive heart attack," according to a lengthy
statement released by the family shortly after his death at 4 a.m.

Matos had been taken to Kendall Regional Hospital Tuesday and the next
day asked to be disconnected from an oxygen system so he could "say
farewell to his wife María Luisa Araluce, his children and
grandchildren," the family statement said.

Later Wednesday, Matos took calls from supporters in Cuba, including a
group of activists who sang the Cuban national anthem over the phone,
the statement said. It added: "His last words were 'The struggle
continues, long live a free Cuba' "

Matos' death closes one of the most significant chapters in Cuban
history. Matos, a schoolteacher, joined the Castro revolution against
Fulgencio Batista and helped provide weapons to rebels by staging supply
flights from abroad.

Matos also embodied the widespread disillusion that many Cubans felt
toward Castro when it became clear early on that the revolution was
turning toward Communism. In 1961, three years after Batista fled Cuba,
Castro openly acknowledged the "Socialist character" of the revolution.
But in his autobiographical book, How the Night Arrived, Matos says he
began harboring doubts about Castro and the revolution only seven months
after Castro took over.

"I believe steps have been taken toward establishing a dictatorial
government, probably of a Marxist nature," recalled Matos of his
thoughts in 1959 in his book, published in 2002.

Castro ultimately ordered Matos' arrest and he ended up spending 20
years in prison. In 1979, he was released and quickly flew to Costa
Rica, where his wife and children had lived since the 1960s.

The family then resettled in Miami.

After his death Thursday, the family revealed that in a letter he wrote
before dying, he says he wants to be buried in Costa Rica. But the
letter also says, according to the family, that he wants to be
disinterred and reburied in his Cuban hometown of Yara, about 450 miles
southeast of Havana, once democracy reigns on the island.

"I want to make my trip back to Cuba from the very land whose people
always displayed solidarity and affection toward me," Matos wrote in his
last letter, a sort of political testament to be disclosed after his
death. "I want to rest in Costa Rican soil until Cuba is free and from
there go to Yara, to join my mother and reunited with my father and the
Cuban people."

Source: Former Cuban revolutionary Huber Matos is dead - Cuba - -

Countryside Boarding Schools in Cuba - My First Experience

Countryside Boarding Schools in Cuba: My First Experience
February 26, 2014
Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES — I took part in Cuba's "countryside boarding school"
program – which sought to combine study and manual labor – while in
junior high school back in the 1970′s. At the time, young people were
obliged to go work in the countryside and contribute to the country's
agricultural output for 45 days each school year.

Only a handful of students who could produce a medical certificate
describing a chronic condition could save their skins. Teachers would
say that refusing to go meant a stain on one's school record.

The state of the boarding schools was something no one could imagine
beforehand. To top things off, parents had to spend money on
transportation and food to take to their kids on visiting days (to
"improve" the menu there).

When we got there, everything was shrouded by a cloud of red dust. We
had to clean up and organize the place, amid the arrival of more
prepubescent and scared students (many of whom had never before been
away from home).

Though we cleaned and organized our surroundings, the state of our
accommodations was quite depressing: there were feces around the
latrines (students couldn't be asked to walk a short distance to go
where one is supposed to), the mattresses were old and dusty, the food,
in addition to scarce, was badly-cooked.

Likewise, the windows all had cracks where the cold seeped in during the
early morning, the bath houses didn't have roofs and, instead of doors,
had a hanging sac of jute held in place by two stones. To make matters
even worse, there was no running water and we had to bathe with water
brought in buckets from a source. The cold water would run down our skin
in the cold temperatures.

Reveille (this is what they called waking us up) would be at 5:30 in the
morning. A small glass of milk with a bit of cereal and a bread roll was
our modest breakfast. Then, we had to dash off to bathe where the
laundry was washed. We did all this in the chilling cold. We would then
hop onto trucks and pierce through the icy fog to get to the furrowed plots.

The trip lasted more than half an hour, and they transported us like
cattle. Extremely long furrows would be waiting for us. I could barely
finish weeding the crop down a single furrow – my friends always had to
help me. I didn't have gloves or boots. I would wear a pair of plastic
shoes that would be blackened by the mud. They had only given us two
work shirts and a single pair of pants.

Weeding cassava plantations, surrounded by parasitical and thorny weeds
was extremely dangerous (that's why one should wear boots and gloves).
At noon, we got a break and they would take us back to the cafeteria for
lunch. We'd get back at 2 in the afternoon and continue working until
five. We'd even work on Saturdays (until one in the afternoon).

There wasn't much to do in our free time. We wouldn't get to watch much
television, for the lights went out throughout the boarding school at
10. Once, a group of people from the Cuban Film Art and Industry
Institute (ICAIC) came to screen a fairly old movie. That's the only
good thing I remember from those days, and the music they would play so
we could dance on weekends. I don't know why I remember the songs of
Peter Frampton particularly.

I would cry often, for I missed my family and loathed that place. It
wasn't even that safe there and teachers would take turns keeping guard,
as there were rumors that a stranger was prowling the vicinity to "feel
up" the girls and steal our clothing.

I returned home with a case of pneumonia and my right arm injured (a
sudden slam on the brakes by the driver left my arm trapped between a
rope and the bodies of my classmates). Despite the hematoma and the pain
I felt, the woman in charge of the boarding school didn't let me go home
and instead assigned me cleaning chores.

When my parents found out what happened, they became furious and wanted
to take me home, but this woman said that would mean a stain on my
record (even though there were only ten days left). I returned home on
the established date. I was only 13.

A friend told me high school students are still sent to the countryside
through this program, but only for a week. I sure hope conditions have

Source: Countryside Boarding Schools in Cuba: My First Experience -
Havana -

Another Cuban 5 Spy Getting Release From US Prison

Another Cuban 5 Spy Getting Release From US Prison
MIAMI February 27, 2014 (AP)
By CURT ANDERSON AP Legal Affairs Writer

A second member of the "Cuban Five" spy ring is getting his release from
a U.S. prison after spending more than 15 years behind bars.

Bureau of Prisons records show 50-year-old Fernando Gonzalez — known to
U.S. authorities by his alias, Ruben Campa — will complete his sentence
Thursday at a prison in Safford, Ariz.

Gonzalez will be turned over to immigration officials and deported to
Cuba as soon as possible, said Michelle Alvarez, spokeswoman for the
Miami U.S. Attorney's Office.

The five men, who are hailed as heroes in Cuba, were convicted in 2001
in Miami on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as
foreign agents in the U.S. They were known as part of the "Wasp Network"
sent by Cuba's then-President Fidel Castro to spy in South Florida.

Trial testimony showed they sought to infiltrate military bases,
including the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command and
installations in the Florida Keys. They also kept tabs on Cuban exiles
opposed to the communist government in Havana and sought to place
operatives inside campaigns of U.S. politicians opposed to that
government, prosecutors said.

Havana maintains the agents posed no threat to U.S. sovereignty and were
only monitoring militant exiles to prevent terrorist attacks in Cuba,
the best known of which was a series of bombings of Havana hotels that
killed an Italian tourist in 1997.

Gonzalez was originally sentenced to 19 years but had his prison term
reduced after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said he was wrongly
labeled a supervisor of other spies for certain activities. Two others
also had their prison sentences reduced by that same court order,
including 55-year-old Antonio Guerrero, who is set for release in
September 2017.

Rene Gonzalez, who is not related to Fernando Gonzalez, finished his
prison sentence in 2011 but spent more than a year on probation in the
U.S. until a judge allowed him to return to Cuba. Rene Gonzalez, a
Chicago native, had dual U.S.-Cuban citizenship, and he renounced his
U.S. citizenship after returning to Havana.

One of the five, Gerardo Hernandez, is serving a life prison sentence
for murder conspiracy for his role in the 1996 killings of four
"Brothers to the Rescue" pilots whose planes were shot down by Cuban
fighter jets. The organization dropped pro-democracy leaflets over Cuba
and assisted Cuban migrants trying to reach the U.S.


Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter:

Source: Another Cuban 5 Spy Getting Release From US Prison - ABC News -

Huber Matos: his testimony

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Declaration of Cuban Civil Society Activists Joining Forces in Madrid

Declaration of Cuban Civil Society Activists Joining Forces in Madrid
Posted on February 26, 2014

Madrid, February 26, 2014

For recognition of the legitimacy of Cuba's independent civil society

We, activists of independent civil society, have agreed to promote a
representative group to act as a channel of dialogue with international
institutions and other potential partners.

Since the ratification of our commitment to peaceful methods to achieve
the Rule of Law, we demand from the government of Cuba and before the
international community:

1. The unconditional release of all political prisoners , including
those under extra-penal license (on parole).
2. The end of political repression, often violent, against the peaceful
movement for human rights and pro- democracy.
3. Respect for the international commitments already entered into by the
government of Cuba, the ratification – without reservations – of the
International Covenants on Human Rights and compliance with ILO
conventions on labor and trade union rights.
4. Recognition of the legitimacy of independent Cuban civil society.


Yoani Sánchez – Blogger
Berta Soler – Spokesperson of the Ladies in White
Elizardo Sanchez – President of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights
and Cuban National Reconciliation
Juan Felipe Diaz Medina – Christian Liberation Movement (MCL )
Guillermo Fariñas – UNPACU
Manuel Cuesta Morúa – Progressive Ar
Reinaldo Escobar – Journalist
Antonio Guedes – President of Ibero American Association for Freedom (AIL)
Guillermo Gortázar – President of the Cuban Hispanic Foundation
Javier Larrondo – UNPACU Representative in Spain and EU
Virgilio Toledo – President of Coexistence Spain
Frisia Batista – President of Roots of Hope Spain
Elena Larrinaga – FECU
Alejandro González Raga – Cuban Observatory for Human Rights
Blanca Reyes – Ladies in White
Eduardo Pérez Bengoechea – Coordinator of International Human Rights
Platform of Cuba
Tomás Muñoz and Oribe – Cuban Liberal Union

Source: Declaration of Cuban Civil Society Activists Joining Forces in
Madrid | Translating Cuba -

Shelves of Misery

Shelves of Misery / Victor Ariel Gonzalez
Posted on February 26, 2014

The old Carlos III market was transformed into a "mall." At the
beginning, Havanans found a wide selection of merchandise (in CUC — hard
currency); today the showcases are empty.

The shelves where the most common ingredients should be found often
appear empty or offer only one product of its type without options of
quality or size. Those foods that Cubans eat the most are exhausted
rapidly, sometimes missing from the shelves for weeks. On the other
hand, the most expensive foods stay for sale for so long that many wind
up expiring.

Not to mention the toiletry section. This week there was only one kind
of soap for sale, a small bar for 0.25 CUC. The counter where there used
to appear dozens of offers for varying budgets now presents a desolate

Another features of the supermarket is the disorganization. It is no
surprise that at midday the aisles are full of boxes, piled one on top
of the other. "Don't touch" has been scrawled on them by the
establishment's clerks, who also work as stockers and have neither time
nor intention for assisting customers. The boxes that have been empty
for hours still wait for someone to retrieve them.

That same disorder is expressed in that the supermarket's departments
have been inconveniently separated: on one side, the meat and dairy
where the rotten odor is unbearable, and there are only two types of
cheese. There a Cuban resident of Spain visiting the Island comments to
this reporter that she has brought all her food from abroad for her
stay, and that she is in the place just to buy something for a friend.
"I don't like the quality here," she confesses is the motive. On the
other side is the preserves department as in other stores where packets
of coffee or cookies can be obtained. The products may repeat from one
department to another.

The lack of sanitation is also seen in the dust on the bottles of wine
in the liquor section, one of the most Cuban products offered. The main
current suppliers for the shelves of Plaza Carlos III are the Spanish
brands Gourmet or Spar, food of national production has almost disappeared.

In this atmosphere, when a humble and fortunate customer in the end has
found what he needs, he must confront a long line to pay because one of
the two cash registers never works. The difficult mission of obtaining
food ends when, at the exit, a character sometimes not in uniform and
with a very bad look on his face treats the clients like criminals,
being able to search bags shamelessly.

This process is not applied to foreigner who visit the store. This is
done to remind Cubans that, as miserable as the shelves of the
supermarket are, also miserable is the spirit that the regime has developed.

Cubanet, February 25, 2014 / Victor Ariel Gonzalez

Translated by mlk.

Source: Shelves of Misery / Victor Ariel Gonzalez | Translating Cuba -

Havana - Castro-McDisney Theme Park

Havana: Castro-McDisney Theme Park / Luis Cino Alvarez
Posted on February 26, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba- Some years ago the American sociologist George Ritzer
adopted the perspective of the "McDonaldization of society." Within
this, and thinking of the Disney parks, he coined the term,
"McDonaldization of tourism."

It would be interesting to know Ritzer's opinion about the great theme
park that Cuban has been turned into. Or the several sub-parks that it's
divided into, according to the interests of the visitor.

For ideological tourism, Cuba continues to be the mecca of the world
left, now before than yesterday, in the face of the proto-capitalist
reforms, they call them "Guidelines," updating the economic model or as
they call it, taking it apart and auctioning off the pieces.

Then, they rush to make the pilgrimage before the Revolutionary story is
exhausted, the almendrones (the old American cars) stop rolling, before
they tear down the old buildings and the prostitutes and pimps adjust
their rates to those of Bangkok or Amsterdam.

Of the Revolutionary utopia, all that's left is what the tourists see,
planned in advance, and that's exactly what the guides show them. The
tourists don't like unpleasant surprises or upsets. Before, with
unpredictable people, they could ruin their day talking about their
troubles; the tourists prefer to talk with happy, helpful people, salsa
dancers like they expect them to be, although they can get rude about
the tip.

The do indeed assume that here the Revolution doesn't abandon anyone to
their fate, instead of certain crazies and beggars who roam the street,
the tourists prefer to take pictures of those who resemble the
Comandante, those old guys with the long beard, olive-green shirt,
military cap, and licensed by the City Historian as "extras."

The Havana on sale from Eusebio Leal is like that recorded by Landaluze.
A shed to raise hard currency. Tourist postcard folklore. Orthodox
mosque and cathedral without worshipers. A garden-cemetery for the rich,
with colorful earth and the shadow of a convent. Black-robed fortune
tellers with Bayajá scarves.

A virtual Havana, sepia, Technicolor or olive-green: of the wallet and
the private taste of each person depending on how they color it.

Cohiba cigars, mojitos and Cuba Libres without Coke. Artisans, guerrilla
berets and posters and T-shirts with the fiercely dreamy face of Che
Guevara. Pseudo postmodern and almost post-Castro art, just enough to
sell well. Salsa and son. Girls and boys for rent: sexy, tanned, healthy
and educated at bargain prices.

A picturesque scam just meters from the deep, real Havana. The one that
talks loud and swears so as not to explode from rage. The city that
smells of the rum and roast pig of hard currency restaurants, with
stinking sewers, sweat, grease, coffee mixed with God knows what, dirty
reefs and uncollected garbage.

In the midst of the Havana tournament for the crumbs of tourism,
foreigners wander around sunburned and laughing, as if they were in the
best of all worlds. That other that says it's possible and that they
seem to see embodied in Cuba, where the only annoying thing is the heat.

They roam between the columns, gratings, establishments with first world
prices, and buildings in ruins. Dour police in black or grey berets
everywhere they look, with their rubber nightsticks and unmuzzled dogs,
keeping order. If they exaggerate the task, no matter. They are the
guardians of the park, don't forget, and the place is also under siege
by the Yankees, which explains any inconvenience.

Cubanet, 25 February 2014 | Luis Cino Álvarez

Source: Havana: Castro-McDisney Theme Park / Luis Cino Alvarez |
Translating Cuba -

Rubio Destroys Harkin on Cuba

Rubio Destroys Harkin on Cuba
February 26, 2014


RUSH: I'm kind of torn here 'cause I've really got some interesting
callers on and I've gotta do this Marco Rubio response to Tom Harkin
because he just nails Harkin, and this is classic. So I'm gonna try to
get a lot of stuff done here. Let's start with Harkin. This was late
Monday afternoon on the Senate floor. Harkin just got back from Cuba,
and he's singing their praises.

HARKIN: When a woman gets pregnant in Cuba, she gets visited
immediately, well, soon as they know about it. She gets visited by a
nurse. She gets visited by health officials who put her on a better
diet, make sure she doesn't smoke, provide supportive services for her
during her pregnancy, make sure that there's someone there for the
birth, and that child is -- everything is just covered from the earliest
time of pregnancy through early childhood.

RUSH: It's a paradise, why, it's an absolute paradise. Do you believe
that excrement? When they find out that a woman is pregnant in Cuba --
how often do they find out? When they find out she gets visited
immediately. Well, as soon as they know about it, she gets visited by a
nurse, a health official who puts her on a better diet. No way do we
care as much as the Cubans do, see. They do it right. We don't care at
all. We're insensitive. We don't have any prenatal care, postnatal care.
We don't have any kind of care. But the Cubans, they do it right because
in Cuba, medicine is a public government service.

HARKIN: One of the key features of what Cuba has done is they have made
the practice of medicine a public service, a public service, in all
aspects, whether you're a doctor or a surgeon or a nurse or various
other health practitioners. It is a public service. The life span is now
even longer than ours in the United States.

RUSH: Just not true. I mean, this is just incredible. Cuba is a
hellhole. It is so backward the infrastructure is falling apart. The
newest car you can get is a '57 Chevy. Well, maybe some of the
limousines for the mob that's going back in there to set up casinos now
at some of the hotels. But, I mean, this is just -- did you hear that
medicine is a public service. Yes, there's no profit in it. It's just
people who care. Government people who care, from the surgeons to the
nurses, to various other health practitioners, it's just people who
care, it's a public service. And you know what? You know what?
Everything is free in Cuba.

HARKIN: Every one of these students are going to medical school, and you
know what it costs them? Zero. Not one cent. The 108 students that are
there, pay nothing. We have over 90 graduates of this school back here
in America right now. And that's another thing, whenever we traveled all
over Cuba, I went to the clinics, and I talked to health people, I'd
always ask them, "What did it cost you to go to the school? Do you have
student debt?" No. Medical school is free. There is no cost to going to
medical school. None whatsoever.

RUSH: It's a paradise. It's a literal paradise. The people involved in
health care don't get paid because it's a public service. They just
care. The students don't get paid because it doesn't cost them to become
doctors and nurses. There is no debt. Everybody just does for everybody
else because they care. Everything is public service, and everything is
free, and they're living longer. Well, Marco Rubio was watching this in
his office, and he literally charged to the Senate floor and rebutted this.

RUBIO: A few moments ago the body was treated to a report from the
senator from Iowa about his recent trip to Cuba. It sounded like he had
a wonderful trip visiting what he described as a real paradise. I heard
him also talk about these great doctors that they have in Cuba, and I
have no doubt they're very talented; I've met a bunch of them. You know
where I met them? In the United States, because they defected. Because,
in Cuba, doctors would rather drive a taxicab or work in a hotel than be
a doctor. I wonder if they spoke to him about the outbreak of cholera
that they've been unable to control, or about the three-tiered system of
health care that exists, where foreigners and government officials get a
health care much better than that that's available to the general

RUSH: That's probably what they showed Harkin. And, Rubio, he wasn't

RUBIO: Who are Cuba's allies in the world? North Korea; before he fell,
the dictator in Libya; the dictator in Syria; the tyrant in Moscow. This
is who they line up with. This is this wonderful paradise? By the way,
this in and of itself deserves attention, what's happening in Venezuela,
in our own hemisphere. It's shameful that only three heads of state in
this hemisphere have spoken up forcefully against what's happening. It
is shameful that many members of Congress who traveled to Venezuela and
were friendly with Chavez -- some even went to his funeral -- sit by
saying nothing while this is happening, in our own hemisphere. And this
wonderful Cuban paradise government that we heard about? This is what
they support.

RUSH: If it's such a paradise, why isn't everybody going there?

RUBIO: We have to listen to what a paradise Cuba is. Well, I wonder, how
come I never read about boatloads of American refugees going to Cuba?
Why don't any American doctors defect to Cuba, if it's such a paradise?
If America and its policy makers are not gonna be firmly on the side of
freedom and liberty, who in the world is? Who on this planet will? If
this nation is not firmly on the side of human rights and freedom and
the dignity of all people, what nation on the earth will? And if we are
prepared to walk away from that then I submit to you that this century
is gonna be a dangerous and dark one.

RUSH: That wasn't the best of what he had to say, though. He said, "Let
me tell you what the Cubans are really good at, because they don't know
how to run their economy. They don't know how to build. They don't know
how to govern a people. What they're really good at is repression."

He cited a poll. "More Americans want normal relations with Cuba. So do
I -- a democratic and free Cuba. But you want us to reach out and
develop friendly relationships with a serial violator of human rights,
who supports what's going on in Venezuela and every other atrocity on
the planet? On issue after issue, they are always on the side of the
tyrants. Look it up. And this is who we should be opening up to? Why
don't they change? Why doesn't the Cuban government change? Why doesn't
the Venezuelan government change?"

Why is it up to us to change? Why is it they are the beacon and we are
the problem?

"But here's the great news. I don't know if they get C-SPAN in Cuba. I
bet you the government people do. I hope you see that in America, we're
a free society. You're allowed to come on the floor and you're allowed
to say and spread whatever you want. You think Cuba's a paradise? You
think it's an example and a model that we should be following? You're
free to say that, here, in the press and anywhere you want. But we're
also free to come here and tell the truth. We're also free to come here
and denounce the violations of human rights and brutality."

Just made mince of it. But here, you heard Harkin, this guy's in love.
He's literally in love, blinded and obsessed, because it's socialism,
which history proves is a dismal failure everywhere it's tried: Ukraine,
Venezuela, Cuba, Detroit. This is absolute insanity to listen to Tom
Harkin go on and on and on with such love for Cuba, what a paradise it
is. But it isn't. We haven't had communism blasted like Rubio did it by
an elected official in I don't know how long. Certainly since the days
of Reagan. We have not had an elected official in public bash a
communist regime like this in I can't tell you how long.

Source: Rubio Destroys Harkin on Cuba - The Rush Limbaugh Show -

Economic Independence?

Economic Independence? / Fernando Damaso
Posted on February 26, 2014

According to official propaganda — intended to validate the experimental
economic measures taken during his early years in power and which is
repeated incessantly — nationalizations and interventions were aimed at
returning the wealth held by foreigners, mostly American, to the people.

Statistics show, however, that this was not exactly the case. Those most
affected were in fact Cubans, who held between 82% and 85% of the
nation's wealth. This included the entrepreneurial and successful middle
class, the principal generator of wealth and employment, most of which
was liquidated during the early years. What little remained was finished
off during the ludicrous "Revolutionary Offensive" of the 1970s.

In his book, The Owners of Cuba 1958, Guillermo Jiménez focuses on the
island's 551 most influential and powerful families. He notes that only
102 were foreign; the rest were Cuban. In most instances the foreigners
were based in Cuba and had Cuban families, including all 65 from Spain.
There were 24 Americans, some of whom had Cuban wives and lived in Cuba.
At the time the nationalizations took place, the economy was largely in
Cuban hands. Some 61.1% of bank deposits were held in Cuban banks, while
Cuban-owned sugar processors accounted for 62.2 of daily production,
with Americans accounting for 38.4%.

I bring this up because now much is being said and written about the
importance of attracting foreign investment to shake the moribund Cuban
economy out of its coma. The same government responsible for expelling
Cuban investors (who were the majority) and foreign investors (who were
the minority), now calls for their return. And what about Cubans?
Priority should first be given to Cubans living in Cuba, then to Cubans
scattered around the world, and finally to foreigners. Or is it that the
authorities do not care about the vaunted economic independence?

It is true that in today's globalized world no one can pursue economic
development on his own, that capital is necessary, no matter where it
comes from. But there must be some respect shown to one's own nationals.
At least that is what one expects of intelligent governments which
actually look out for the interests of their citizens.

26 February 2014

Source: Economic Independence? / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba -

Winnipegger stuck in Cuba after hitting a pedestrian

Winnipegger stuck in Cuba after hitting a pedestrian
CBC News Posted: Feb 26, 2014 5:29 PM CT Last Updated: Feb 26, 2014 8:09

He loves the place, but he can't get out of it fast enough.

Winnipegger Ted Barnett has been to Varadero, Cuba, three times and went
back again Jan. 11.

But a crash on a rented moped has put a dent in his return home.

Instead of a week-long stay, Barnett, 60, has been stuck in Cuba nearly
seven weeks, paying an ever-increasing hotel bill at the resort he booked.

Barnett hit a pedestrian while driving the vehicle. It broke the woman's
leg. He said it's rocked him to his core.

"I've never hurt anyone," he said. "I've never been in that type of a
situation. I just felt terrible."

Barnett said he's been told he won't face any charges, but the police
investigation has taken weeks to complete, and Barnett has been told he
is not allowed to go home.

"I'm being detained here, no doubt about it," he said. "Have I been
terrified about that? Yes."

Barnett told CBC his MTS international texting plan has been his
lifeline to the outside world. But he's desperate to return home.

"Has my mind been wandering? Oh, yeah," he said. "You think the worst
possible thing is happening to you and I guess being told you can't go
home is pretty bad."

An official with the department of foreign affairs would only say the
Canadian officials are assisting a Canadian in the country.

"Canadian consular officials in Havana, Cuba are providing consular
assistance to a Canadian citizen in Cuba and are in contact with local
authorities on the matter," said the spokesperson.

Sunwing Vacations, the travel agency Barnett booked his trip with, said
it's holding a seat for him on its next flight out of Varadero and on to
Winnipeg, free of charge. A spokesperson said the agency is just waiting
for the green light from authorities.

Barnett said he's trying to be patient for just a while longer.

"It's time to come home," he said. "And everyone tells me that will
happen. You just need to be patient."

Source: Winnipegger stuck in Cuba after hitting a pedestrian - Manitoba
- CBC News -

Jurassic Cuba

Jurassic Cuba / Miriam Celaya
Posted on February 26, 2014

The news agencies don't have a moment's rest these days: a satrap in
Ukraine has been overthrown through demonstrations and street protests
amid the harsh winter, people stand on long lines to see with their own
eyes the pomp and pageantry in which the ex-ruler, an ally of Russia, lived.

In Venezuela, student demonstrations continue, supported by opposition
leaders finally came together to confront the Maduro government. In
Ecuador, the opposition has just delivered a commendable blow to the
government authorities by winning an unquestionable majority vote during
local elections this Sunday February 23rd in important places like Quito
and Guayaquil, putting the brakes on the rampant President of the
"citizens' revolution."

The world is moving at breakneck speed, changing scenarios and
uncovering new players, while we in Cuba remain in the political
Jurassic era, with a government of dinosaurs perpetuated in power.

Judging by the official Cuban press, external reality does not seem to
exist, so the "events" may be a gray "syndicate" congress in a country
where no syndicates exist, a few "reforms" that do not reform anything,
or whatever is dictated by a government that misgoverns a colony of ants
that spends its days striving for sustenance, untouched by the joy of
the liberated, ignorant of the will and courage of the opponents of
Nicolas Maduro, the civility of Ecuadorians who opted for the polls to
control the excessive power ambitions of a thug vested as president, and
of everything that happens in the world beyond the reefs of a damned Island.

Venezuela hits us especially close, because of its shameless sponsorship
by the Cuban dictatorship, obsolete and ruined, extending its evil
shadow over a nation rich in natural and human resources. Fortunately
for them and for us, Venezuela is not a country of zombies.
Nevertheless, it causes sadness and apprehension all at once to see
evidence that other peoples are capable of what we are not.

Pity our country, Cuba, whose children choose silence and flight instead
of exercising their rights against the olive green satrapy that condemns
them to slavery and poverty.

Translated by Norma Whiting
24 February 2014

Source: Jurassic Cuba / Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba -

Inventarla o trabajar para mal comer una semana

Inventarla o trabajar para mal comer una semana
Con 17.69 dólares al mes, eliminación de gratuidades y altos precios, la
miseria es la pandemia de los cubanos
jueves, febrero 27, 2014 | Osmar Laffita Rojas

LA HABANA, Cuba. – Durante el gobierno de Raúl Castro los salarios no
han experimentado la menor mejoría: el salario promedio mensual, entre
2008 y 2013, fue 17.69 dólares. Los salarios en las diferentes
provincias no fueron uniformes. Las provincias que reportaron los
salarios promedios más altos son Ciego de Ávila (19,44 dólares), La
Habana (17,92) y Camaguey (17.80).Las provincias de menores salarios
promedios en esos cinco años fueron Santiago de Cuba (16,80 dólares), el
municipio especial Isla de la Juventud (16, 56) y Guantánamo (16.48).

Aquellos en el mundo que devengan dos dólares diarios de salario (serían
unos 60 dólares mensuales) y que se encuentran ubicados por debajo del
nivel de la pobreza, se preguntarán cómo se las ingenian los
trabajadores cubanos con tan misérrimos salarios para asumir la atención
de sus familias los 30 días del mes.

A los expertos en microeconomía se les hace el cerebro agua, porque no
encuentran una forma de explicar esa crítica realidad. La organización
sindical oficialista, la Central de los Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC) y la
Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, por órdenes recibidas del Partido
Comunista, eluden abordar el asunto de los bajos salarios. La
responsabilidad de que no se hayan aplicados medidas dirigidas a la
solución definitiva de tan espinoso asunto, recae enteramente en el

Cuando comentan el tema, los dirigentes sindicales y los parlamentarios
argumentan para que lleguen los añorados aumentos salariales,
primeramente tienen que cumplirse un grupo de condiciones, tales como el
aumento de la productividad y la modernización tecnológica. El salario
promedio de 17,69 dólares mensuales, dados los altos precios de los
productos de primera necesidad, solo alcanza a un trabajador y su
familia para mal comer, cuando más una semana.

Tal situación ha llevado a la desesperación, principalmente a aquellos
trabajadores que no tienen entradas adicionales como las remesas, que
son la mayoría, y que como resultado de la despiadada política de
precios que aplica el gobierno a los productos de primera a necesidad,
tienen que destinar más del 80% de sus haberes a la compra de alimentos.

Es escandalosa la complicidad de la CTC con el régimen. Ulises Guilarte
De Nacimiento, el nuevo Secretario General de la oficial y verticalista
organización obrera, será "elegido" por el voto directo y secreto de los
delegados al XX Congreso, los cuales tienen la orientación de votar
obligatoriamente por él.

Sobre el asunto de los bajos salarios, en una entrevista publicada en el
semanario Trabajadores el 17 de febrero, Guilarte reconoció que "eso hoy
es insatisfactorio, ante el crecimiento que han tenido los precios de
los productos básicos". Pero más adelante, advirtió que "en las
condiciones actuales de nuestra economía no es posible ir a una reforma
general de salarios". A modo de justificación, señaló: "Primero tiene
que haber producción, eficiencia, generar riqueza, porque que si no,
¿qué repartimos?

Ulises Guilarte explicó que "el sindicato tiene que promover la
eficiencia en las empresas" y se quejó de que "todavía no se avanza con
la suficiente celeridad en el perfeccionamiento empresarial". Con esos
criterios del responsable de la máxima organización obrera cubana,
quedan despejadas todas las dudas: el aumento de los salarios es algo
que todavía tardará bastante para que se materialice.

Guilarte, el flamante nuevo mandamás de la CTC, tiene que decir lo que
le orienta el Partido Comunista, que es en definitiva quien lo dirige y
al cual tiene que responder y no a los millones de trabajadores que dice
él que dirige por medio de los 25 sindicatos nacionales.

La vertical y oficialista CTC podrá esquivar los temas espinosos, pero
no puede rehuir las grandes tensiones existentes en estos momentos
dentro de la clase obrera cubana, motivadas por los bajísimos salarios.

Estos misérrimos salarios, las políticas de ajuste que aplica el
gobierno con la eliminación de los subsidios y gratuidades, y la
imparable subida en los precios de los alimentos y los productos que
venden las redes de Tiendas Recuperadoras de Divisas (TRD), se traducen
en mayor pobreza y desigualdad para la mayoría de los cubanos.

Source: Inventarla o trabajar para mal comer una semana | Cubanet -

Russia plans military bases outside its borders

Russia plans military bases outside its borders
February 27, 2014 - 10:51 AMT

PanARMENIAN.Net - Russia is planning to expand its permanent military
presence outside its borders by placing military bases in a number of
foreign countries, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday, Feb
26, according to RIA Novosti.
Shoigu said the list includes Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, the
Seychelles, Singapore and several other countries.
"The talks are under way, and we are close to signing the relevant
documents," Shoigu told reporters in Moscow.
The minister added that the negotiations cover not only military bases
but also visits to ports in such countries on favorable conditions as
well as the opening of refueling sites for Russian strategic bombers on
Moscow currently has only one naval base outside the former Soviet Union
– in Tartus, Syria, but the fate of this naval facility is uncertain
because of the ongoing civil war in that country.
Post-Soviet Russia closed a large naval base in Vietnam and a radar base
in Cuba in 2002 due to financial constraints.
However, Russia has started reviving its navy and strategic aviation
since mid-2000s, seeing them as a tool to project the Russian image
abroad and to protect its national interests around the globe.
Now, Moscow needs to place such military assets in strategically
important regions of the world to make them work effectively toward the
goal of expanding Russia's global influence.

Source: Russia plans military bases outside its borders -

Russian spy ship docked in Communist Cuba

Russian spy ship docked in Communist Cuba
By Douglas Ernst -The Washington Times Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Communist Cuba's state-run media predictably did not make an
announcement, but it's there — a Russian spy ship docked in Havana.

The Viktor Leonov CCB-175 intelligence ship docked in the Cuban port on
Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported.

The 300-foot-long ship, which reportedly is armed with 30mm guns and
anti-aircraft missiles, also houses a crew of roughly 200, AFP reported.
It has been in service since 1988.

The sighting of the spy ship comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin
ordered massive four-day military exercises near Russia's borders to
begin Friday. The maneuvers will involve 150,000 troops, 880 tanks, 90
aircraft and 80 navy ships drawn from Russia's Baltic and Northern
Fleets, the Associated Press reported.

Source: Russian spy ship docked in Communist Cuba - Washington Times -

Long Live USB Drives in Cuba

Long Live USB Drives in Cuba
February 26, 2014
Warhol P

HAVANA TIMES — We're off to get this week's TV show package! "Oh, the
joy," many of my neighbors exclaim. I include myself among them, to be
completely honest. USB drives have proven immensely useful from the time
we've been able to afford them, as a means of storing or exchanging
information, documents and videos of every sort.

Packages include new releases, soap operas (Mexican and Brazilian ones,
which are very popular), documentaries, TV series, recent music videos
produced in Cuba or abroad, software, anti-virus updates and fashion and
showbiz magazines.

Without the need of an Internet connection, one can access an up-to-date
list of classifieds published by Revolico, useful for anyone who wishes
to purchase something or simply see where the prices of different
appliances are at.

In today's Cuba, a person who doesn't own a DVD player and a USB drive
is lost – even though Cuban television has now more channels and has
begun tests to set digital television in motion, it is still a long way
from satisfying the population (which, by the looks of it, will never be
entirely pleased with the menu at home).

Our soap operas compete with one another in terms of badness. When one
ends, another one just as bad starts.

Many people prefer to choose what they watch at home, on a computer or
on television.

Package prices continue to be fairly reasonable: 50 Cuban Pesos (around
US $ 2) for 80 to 500 gigabytes of materials, 10 Cuban Pesos for 8 – 16
gigabytes (a USB drive's worth of materials).

Those in the business of selling these materials also offer a home
delivery service. Some consumers go to the home of the suppliers and put
together a package in accordance with their preferences; other suppliers
rent out hard drives for three to four days. This last service can cost
a little over 4.00 Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC).

For the time being, this is just perfect: I am happy to be able to go to
the home of a supplier near my home, and filling up my USB drive with
these materials fills me with joy.

I only hope this business continues to boom and something similar to
what happened to 3D home theaters doesn't happen here. Those home
theaters had many of us hooked and, after they were shut down, we were
left like kids who go to a party and want to continue eating sweets

Source: Long Live USB Drives in Cuba - Havana -

Raul Castro Loud and Clear on Cuba’s Future

Raul Castro Loud and Clear on Cuba's Future
February 26, 2014
Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban President Raul Castro has just summarized the
outcome of the 20th Congress of the Cuban Workers Association (CTC). His
statements were very clear:

"We must never forget that the economic system that will prevail in
socialist, independent and sovereign Cuba will continue to base itself
in the people's ownership over the fundamental means of production and
that State companies will continue to be the main form of organization
of the domestic economy – and that the building of our socialist system
will depend on their performance."

Thus, Cuba's "prosperous and sustainable" socialism will continue to
depend on State companies, those that exploit the salaried labor of
Cubans with miserable wages and have demonstrated their utter
inefficiency in the course of over fifty years. Free labor associations,
cooperatives or free individual work – these, the forms of production
that Marxists believe should predominate under socialism, will not be
the basis of the system.

Raul Castro should be congratulated for being so clear and sincere. If
anyone had any doubts about the possibility of important changes under
his leadership, everything is now clear as day. Many of us were already
aware of the situation some time before, but some continued to wait for
true reforms.

I imagine fewer and fewer people continue to believe that Cuba's State
monopoly capitalism can mutate into a form of socialism.

After these pronouncements, does anyone still have any doubts that
democratization is a condition of socialism?

To say anything else would be to harp on the same old issues.
Pedro Campos:

Source: Raul Castro Loud and Clear on Cuba's Future - Havana -

Call Cuba to Account

FEBRUARY 27, 2014 4:00 AM

Call Cuba to Account
Obama should implement LIBERTAD as Congress intended.
By Jason Poblete & Yleem Poblete

This week marks the 18th anniversary of the downing of two U.S. civilian
planes by the Cuban military over international waters. On February 24,
1996, Cessnas flown by members of the organization Brothers to the
Rescue were patrolling north of Havana for Cuban refugees, who risked
life and limb at sea in makeshift craft in search of freedom. Cuban
fighter pilots in Russian MiGs encircled the planes and attacked. The
planes disintegrated. Killed were three Americans: Carlos Costa, Armando
Alejandre Jr., and Mario de la Peña, along with U.S. resident Pablo Morales.

The killing of Americans once again brought home the true nature of the
Cuban regime. The political repercussions were felt in Washington, D.C.
Until then, the Clinton administration had thought, as the Obama
administration thinks today, that the U.S. could negotiate with the
Cuban government. But facing the political embarrassment of the downed
aircraft, Clinton reversed course and signed the Cuban Liberty and
Democratic Solidarity Act (LIBERTAD), which had bipartisan support. It
was as far as the Clinton administration was willing to go in taking a
hard line on Cuba.
Implementation of LIBERTAD, also known as Helms-Burton, was haphazard at
best. The air attack was soon forgotten. A mere two years after it, many
had turned their focus to easing sanctions and expanding relations with
Havana. That effort continued despite the arrest of the Wasp network of
Cuban spies in 1998, the expulsions of Cuban "diplomats" for espionage,
and the arrests of Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ana Belén Montes
in 2001, and, more recently, of State Department officials Kendall and
Gwendolyn Myers for spying for Cuba. These are just the ones we know about.

The trend toward engagement and appeasement of the Cuban dictatorship
has worsened under President Obama. His national-security team has eased
economic sanctions in several key areas without demanding or securing
any concessions whatsoever from Havana. This is backwards. Like Iran and
North Korea, Cuba is a regime that calls for a firm hand, not a velvet

In his first inaugural address, President Obama said, "To those who
cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of
dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we
will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." The
rhetoric does not match up with the action. The Obama administration has
not only given an economic lifeline to this pariah state but also lent
it diplomatic legitimacy. The president chose a widely publicized event
to make his point and shook dictator Raúl Castro's hand. Meanwhile, back
in the island gulag, the crackdown against pro-democracy advocates has
intensified; American citizen Alan Gross was taken hostage in December
2009 and is still being held in a Cuban prison.

U.S. law and policy are supposed to isolate the Cuban government
economically while supporting the Cuban people. Cuba desperately needs
sanctions eased to secure more dollars and access to the global
financial system. The U.S. has an opportunity to leverage that need to
press for true democratic change and advance U.S. interests. The
Helms-Burton law provides a clear roadmap. Easy? No, but not impossible,
if the political will exists.

In LIBERTAD, Congress called on the president to fully enforce, through
the Departments of State and Justice, existing regulations and deny
visas to Cuban nationals who represent or are employees of the Cuban
government or of Cuba's Communist party. Unfortunately, such travel
continues essentially unfettered. The regime uses both diplomatic and
unofficial cover to spy on the United States and make business deals
that contravene U.S. law and policy.

Source: Call Cuba to Account | National Review Online -

Venezuela-Cuba alliance’s shaky future fuels debate

Venezuela-Cuba alliance's shaky future fuels debate
By Paul Guzzo | Tribune Staff
Published: February 27, 2014

TAMPA — Both sides of the Cuba debate are citing the latest crisis in
South America to make their case, saying the uprising in Venezuela
provides clear evidence that the U.S. should alternately continue or
halt its long-standing Cuban travel and trade embargo.

Cut off the crucial partnership between these two nations — tens of
thousands of skilled workers go to Venezuela in return for $3.5 billion
in oil for Cuba each year — then tighten the embargo even further and
watch the Castro regime collapse, one side argues.

Among those espousing this view are people who have taken to the streets
of Tampa and other Florida cities in support of anti-government
protesters in Venezuela who have risen up this month in sometimes fatal
opposition to the government of President Nicolàs Maduro.

Some on the other side of the debate shake their heads at this notion.
The current unrest in Venezuela, they say, and its potential fallout for
Cuba provides an opening to end the embargo once and for all. The U.S.,
they say, should help Cuba develop its own oil industry.

Either way, if the uprising ends or even strains the mutual dependency
between Cuba and Venezuela, it stands to fundamentally change relations
between the U.S. and this island nation just 90 miles off Florida's shores.

"It would be a failed state," said Jorge Piñon, interim director of the
University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and
Environmental Policy. "You have to consider, is it in the better
interest of the U.S. to have Cuba as a failed state or as a state you
can work with in transition into democracy?"

Cuba and Venezuela have been partners since the late Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez announced he was guiding his country toward full
socialism. Chavez struck the oil-for-professionals deal in 2000 with his
self-professed mentor, Fidel Castro.

Today, Cuba sends Venezuela 30,000 to 50,000 skilled workers such as
doctors, nurses and technicians.

❖ ❖ ❖

If the protests succeed, and a new Venezuelan government was to end the
barter, Cuba could not pay its petroleum-rich partner for the 150,000
barrels a day of oil it needs to fuel its economy.

The Cuban government has announced intentions to explore for oil in 2015
but oil experts say it would take five to seven years after a supply is
located to ramp up.

Cuba has been through such an economic crisis before. It was called "The
Special Period," the decade following the collapse of Cuba's previous
oil patron — the Soviet Union.

Infrastructure crumbled. Citizens went hungry.

Cuba survived the crisis, in part through the bailout by Venezuela with
its oil-for-professionals deal.

This time, Piñon said, things would be different.

Piñon was part of a team of scholars at the Brookings Institution who in
2009 released the report, "Cuba: A New policy of Critical and
Constructive Engagement," which urged the U.S. to normalize relations
with Cuba — going so far as to recommend helping Cuba with oil
exploration. This approach, the report said, is better for U.S.
interests than Cuba's continued reliance on Venezuela.

Pinon said he and a team of scholars spent 18 months running through
different scenarios of another oil-driven economic collapse for Cuba.

"There is no one who can help them now," Pinon said. "Cuba has spoken to
the Brazilians, the Angolans, Russia and Algeria — the four countries
politically aligned with Cuba with crude oil exports. None have the
capacity to give away that much oil."

Not even communist China seems willing to provide the oil or the capital
needed to purchase it, Pinon said.

What's more, facing this potential financial crisis, Cuba would do so
with a Castro regime that is much older.

❖ ❖ ❖

At 87, Fidel already has aged himself out of power. Raul is 82.

Who would succeed them raises concerns, Pinon said: "The vacuum that
would be created could be taken over by drug cartels."

Perhaps not directly, he said, by committing billions of dollars to buy
oil. Rather, through bribery of a politically weak post-Castro
government, with an eye toward transshipment points for smuggling to the

Piñon favors an immediate policy shift to constructive engagement with a
Cuban government the U.S. knows rather than risk dealing with strangers
and a nation in chaos.

On the other hand, Tampa attorney and longtime pro-embargo activist
Ralph Fernandez said the possibility of a failed state is exactly why
the U.S. should clamp down on economic sanctions against Cuba rather
than loosen them if Venezuela breaks the partnership.

He said that once the Castros are out of power and Communism is swept
from the island, Cuban Americans from throughout the United States would
flock there to help rebuild.

"There is a ton of political exile money in the United States,"
Fernandez said. "These are people who are staunchly opposed to investing
in Cuba now but would do so if Cuba was free of the Castros."

Maura Barrios of Tampa, a longtime activist for normalized relations
with Cuba who has visited the island a dozen times, scoffed at both
assessments of Cuba without Venezuela.

Neither the Cuban government nor its citizens would welcome U.S.
interests back unless the current government was recognized and the
embargo was lifted, Barrios said.

Before the Cuban revolution, U.S. companies controlled the island's
sugar, railway and petroleum industries and held majority interests in
the telephone and electrical services, and U.S. banks held one-quarter
of all Cuba deposits.

Cuban citizens are taught that the U.S. gained this control because
Cuban presidents agreed to serve as U.S. puppets in return for power and

"Fidel is smart," Barrios said. "He has never let the people forget why
the revolution took place. It was a reaction to 50 years of U.S.

"Cuba Si Yankee No," Barrios said, was the rallying cry of the Cuban

❖ ❖ ❖

Still, Barrios doesn't buy into the failed state scenario. New leaders
are poised to replace the Castros.

"That system is institutionalized from top to bottom," Barrios said.
"There are plenty of people who could fill that void."

During the post-Soviet Special Period, she said, Cuba handled its
transportation shortfall by purchasing 1 million bicycles from China.
And a strict food rationing program was put in place to make up for the
slowdown in fuel-starved agricultural production.

"Cubans like to call themselves the cockroaches of the Americas," she
quipped. "That means they always survive. The government will do what is

Another scenario comes from Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of
U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, a Washington D.C. lobbying group promoting
democracy in Cuba.

During the Special Period, Claver-Carone said, Cuba began making
economic reforms. For instance, farmers were allowed to sell surplus
production and some self-employment was permitted.

Fidel Castro made these exceptions, he said, to retain power. When the
people get antsy, the philosophy goes, promise them changes.

Recent reforms started when Venezuela's Chavez grew ill in 2011. Raul
Castro, Claver-Carone said, knew the partnership would be in jeopardy
once Chavez died.

All this argues for tightening the embargo, Claver-Carone said.

"It's hard to believe anyone would think a 55-year dictatorship would do
anything for reasons other than to stay in power," he said. "If they
believed in democracy and open markets, they wouldn't have headed a
totalitarian regime for 55 years."

Source: Venezuela-Cuba alliance's shaky future fuels debate -