Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Reporters Without Borders 100 Information Heroes - Angel and Yoani

Reporters Without Borders 100 Information Heroes: Angel and Yoani
Posted on April 29, 2014
Cuba / The Americas

His blog is called "Los hijos que nadie quiso" (The children no one
wanted). The writer and netizen Ángel Santiesteban-Prats has been held
for more than a year for openly criticizing the "dictator" Raúl Castro,
as he calls him. Convicted on trumped-up charges of "home violation" and
"injuries" in a summary trial on 8 December 2012, he was sentenced to
five years in prison. In April 2013, he was transferred to a prison in
the Havana suburb of San Miguel del Padrón where he has been subjected
to mistreatment and acts of torture. His novel "El verano en que Dios
dormía" (The summer God slept) received the 2013 Franz Kafka Drawer
Novel* Prize, awarded in Prague to unpublished Cuban novels.

Cuba / The Americas
A philologist by training, Yoani Sánchez is a celebrity in her own
country and internationally. Time Magazine ranked her as one of the
world's 100 most influential people in 2008. Her Generación Y blog,
launched in 2007 with the aim of "helping to build a plural Cuba,"
covers the economic and social problems that ordinary Cubans constantly
face. Like other bloggers, she has been subjected to varied insults
(such as "contemptible parasites"), intermittent blocking and judicial
harassment. In early 2014, she announced her intention to create an
independent collective media platform in Cuba. "The worst could happen
on the first day, but perhaps we will sow the first seeds of a free
press in Cuba," she said.

Download the entire list here.

*Translator's note: Many have asked about the meaning of "Drawer Novel";
it refers to novels sitting in a drawer because censorship prevents
their being published.

29 April 2014

Source: Reporters Without Borders 100 Information Heroes: Angel and
Yoani | Translating Cuba -

It’s “Free” . . . But Healthcare Costs Us

It's "Free" . . . But Healthcare Costs Us / Jeovany Jimenez Vega
Posted on April 29, 2014

"Your health service is free… but it costs"
By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

You've been able to see them for almost two years in every health care
unit of the Cuban Public Health System, from any primary care office or
clinic, passing through each second level hospital, even in tertiary
care centers in each Institute. They welcome us from the door of the
consultation room or from the trade union wall and assure us that our
omnipotent government has always been zealous to guarantee absolutely
fee medical care for our people.

Seen that way, without more, it would seem a simple matter. In this
world, where to the shame of the species, dozens of thousands of
children still die of curable illnesses because they do not have access
to a few tablets and a measly intravenous infusion, it would be the most
natural thing for Cubans to prostrate ourselves in gratitude before such
an excess of philanthropy. But if there is one thing we learned long
ago it is that here, when you look into the background of the matter, we
have all been charged.

It is true that the hospital does not charge us directly at the hospital
or at our children's school, but without doubt the cash register at the
"hard currency collection store" (TRD*) charges us, and in a currency
arbitrarily overvalued 25 times in relation to the other currency in
which we are paid an unreal salary of little use to us.

These words are not trying to be an inquisitorial onslaught against the
health care system to which I belong, whose essential function is
impeded by limitations that no sector in Cuba can escape.

Any gratuitous attack would leave on this page the odor of the knife in
the back, an aroma that this Cuban detests, but 40 years of hammering
did not end up convincing me that guaranteeing a right, or trying to,
grants in any way authority to my government to deprive us of other
rights as essential as that.

And it is here — more than at the door of the TRD and the hotels, or in
the immoral taxes of the General Customs Office, or in the extortionate
cost of each consular administration abroad, among other hundreds of
shameful examples — where we millions of Cubans have been charged the
true currency exchange: it has been through the humiliation of the
famous diplo-tiendas*, or in the door of the prohibited hotels, or
through the despotism of the migratory authorities or the mistreatment
by any other kind of official or through the systematic deprivation of
our civil and political rights.

And invariably in the background posters like the one illustrating this
post justifying as life-saving the entitlements that crush us at every step.

On the other hand these public governance schemes are not unique to Cuba
nor to socialism, as has historically been insinuated to us. There are
dozens of examples of countries — and not necessarily from the first
world — that sustain health and education systems as public and free as
ours, and all without demanding in exchange such high doses of
individual freedom.

Very true it is that sustaining the presumed public health costs each
state on a world level very dearly, and Cuba was not exactly going to be
the exception, but also I remember here that each Cuban worker has about
30% deducted from his monthly salary precisely to cover these public

I also remember that when our state undertakes to guarantee public
health and education services — the two prime examples — it does not
fulfill only a duty but its more conspicuous obligation, perhaps its
only authentic obligation.

In particular, I ask myself by what magic method the Cuban government
invested $4386.00 pesos in me alone, for the approximately 120
consultations that I did in my last 24-hour medical shift, in which I
used only — if we except the $24 pesos that they paid me for night hours
— my stethoscope, my blood pressure monitor, and some disposable depressors.

But as I am not an economist, I better leave the accounts to others and
dedicate myself, as a good cobbler, to my shoes. After all, it is true
that it costs us . . . and quite expensively, for sure.

*Translator's note: The government itself named the stores that sell
only in hard currency, "Hard Currency Collection Stores"–TRD is the
Spanish acronym–making explicit that their major purpose is to capture
for the government coffers (through extreme overpricing) a major share
of the remittances Cubans receive from their families abroad. Many items
are often, or only, available in these stores (or in the black market).
An early incarnation of these stores were known as "diplotiendas," that
is "diplomat stores" catering to foreigners residing in Cuba.

Translated by mlk.
28 April 2014

Source: It's "Free" . . . But Healthcare Costs Us / Jeovany Jimenez Vega
| Translating Cuba -

BNP Paribas Warns Sanctions-Busting Fines Likely To Top Amount It Set Aside

BNP Paribas Warns Sanctions-Busting Fines Likely To Top Amount It Set Aside
By Sneha Shankar
on April 30 2014 7:57 AM

French bank BNP Paribas SA (OTCMKTS:BNPQY) warned Wednesday that it may
have to pay much more to cover sanctions-busting fines in the U.S. than
the $1.1 billion it set aside last year to cover the matter.

BNP Paribas faces criminal charges from U.S. federal prosecutors for
allegedly doing business with countries subject to U.S. sanctions, such
as Iran, Sudan and Cuba, a person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The warning from Paribas comes as other global banks face mounting legal
woes from investigations into a string of alleged misdeeds, including
fixing benchmark interest rates and manipulating foreign-exchange
markets. JP Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) agreed to pay $13 billion in
2013 over mortgage-related charges, while HSBC Holdings Plc (NYSE:HSBC)
agreed to pay $1.9 billion to settle a multiyear U.S. criminal probe
into money-laundering lapses.

"There is uncertainty with respect to the amount and the nature of
penalties the U.S. will impose," Lars Machenil, chief financial officer
of Paribas, France's largest bank, told Reuters. "It's not impossible
that the fine is far in excess of the ($1.1 billion) provision."

Credit Suisse Group AG (NYSE:CS) also faces criminal charges. The
Switzerland bank has been the subject of a U.S. criminal probe since
2011 into whether it helped Americans evade taxes, Bloomberg reported,
citing sources.

Representatives for both BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse have declined to
comment on the probes, the reports said. BNP Paribas ADRs trade on the
over-the-counter market in the U.S.

The U.S. may also prohibit Paribas from conducting dollar clearing in
New York, a process which helps to settle and clear transactions
quickly. Individual employees also face penalties, Reuters reported.

"The risk is that some form of operational sanction may undermine the
bank's ability to meet these targets," Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analyst
Jean-Pierre Lambert said, according to Reuters. "There does not seem to
be a serious likelihood that BNP will lose its banking license outright,
but there may be consequences for its current activities if its ability
to clear U.S. dollar transactions is limited."

BNP Paribas said its net income rose 5.2 percent to 1.67 billion euros
($2.31 billion) in the first quarter.

Source: BNP Paribas Warns Sanctions-Busting Fines Likely To Top Amount
It Set Aside -

The Reasons Behind the “Changes” in Cuba

The Reasons Behind the "Changes" in Cuba
April 30, 2014
Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES — As of 1960, Cuba was taken under the wing of the former
Soviet Union and became one of its key bastions in the Cold War waged by
the world's two superpowers and their political and economic blocs. The
overseas Communist satellite was fashioned in the image of its mentors:
atheistic, totalitarian and other demons.

Hoping to export Marxist ideology to other parts of the hemisphere, the
island sent doctors and teachers to countries around the continent in
order to secure their sympathy and gratitude, while at the same time
sending troops and military advisors to different guerrilla movements.

The death of Che Guevara and the defeat of many of these guerrilla
movements, the coup d'états and military dictatorships installed across
Latin America, the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua
(Feb. 1990) and the peace accords of 1989, served to undermine Cuba's
efforts to propagate its political model.

Also in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Two years later, the Soviet Union
collapsed. With the fall of State socialism and the rise of
neoliberalism, the moderation of the capitalist economy seemed the only
viable option.

That, however, presupposed hasty changes to the country's political
system and, as such, constituted a threat to the island's totalitarian
regime. Despite this, the Cuban government, faced with an economic
crisis, had no choice but to trace new strategies and introduced a
number of market-oriented reforms, such as the development of the
tourism industry, the legalization of the dollar, the authorization of
self-employment and foreign investment.

These measures were implemented on a small scale and resulted in a
degree of economic growth that was not enough to lift the ruined
national economy off the ground. They did, however, serve to keep the
system, which has always favored a centralized State economy, from

At the close of the last century, Left and Center-Left parties suddenly
became popular and came to power in some countries. Hugo Chavez, a
disciple of the Castro, became the president of Venezuela and a new
patron of the island's government (which it supplied with 100 thousand
barrels of oil a day).

The region, however, was still haunted by prejudices against the
communist specter, and people harbored many reservations vis-à-vis any
version of Cuba's absolutist political system.

The new Latin American Left claims to lay its bets on changes that
involve a reduction of poverty and the gradual elimination of social
inequality. There are even those who speak of a new, Christian socialism
that respects democracy, can co-exist with the opposition and supports
private enterprise.

Cuba had to get in step with the times and grow closer to its new
friends. Medical and other types of internationalist missions served to
strengthen diplomatic ties and consolidate financial and commercial
collaboration and exchange treaties between the island and nearly all
countries in the continent within the context of so-called "Latin
American integration."

To win over allies in the region and reduce existing ill-will, Cuba had
to change in the eyes of world public opinion – it had to show itself
more tolerant and inclusive. The Mariel Special Development Zone is an
example of how the island has managed to take in more dividends.

These are the reasons behind the wave of disconcerting "changes" in
Cuba, which are aimed at disguising the parasitic nature of the
country's economy as it adjusts itself to the new times, when, if you're
not open minded, you are simply left behind.

We are seeing a Cuba that has spread its legs to foreign investment, a
Cuba now announcing it will make Internet available to everyone, which
allows people to buy and sell houses and cars, go to hotels, travel
without a permit and own a cell phone, all the while capitalizing on the
enthusiasm over Latin American integration.

Source: The Reasons Behind the "Changes" in Cuba - Havana -

Cuba Is Open For Business That Might Land You in Jail

Peter KentPC MP, Thornhill

Cuba Is Open For Business That Might Land You in Jail
Posted: 04/29/2014 6:03 pm

If word out of Havana is to believed -- relayed aggressively in recent
weeks by Cuban diplomats and trade emissaries to major investors in
financial centers around the world -- a new day of investment
opportunities is dawning in the cash-strapped communist state.

The sales pitch is driven by a set of new laws passed last month by the
Cuban National Assembly.

The legislation provides for steep tax cuts and tax exemptions. There
are a range of new guarantees of investment security.

In short, Cuba is open for business and safe for foreign investors.

Reality is at stark odds with the platitudes of the Cuban trade
officials and diplomats. One example, of many:

Since September 10, 2011 a Canadian citizen, Cy Tokmakjian, President
and CEO of the Tokmakjian Group of Companies, has been detained by Cuban

He is one of dozens of Cuban and foreign business executives scooped by
anti-corruption investigators of the Cuban Ministry of the Interior (a
ministry modeled, in the early years of the Cuban Revolution, on the
Soviet KGB and East German Stasi).

The Interior Ministry investigations are a direct product of President
Raul Castro's selective anti-corruption crusade. It is worth noting,
that the only foreign "suspects" in the investigations are almost all
European or Canadian business executives; none have come from Cuba's
like-minded communist or authoritarian regimes.

Cy has been held for more than two-and-a-half years and is still
awaiting his day in court. He is 73 years old, in frail health and held
in La Condesa, a crudely austere, walled prison for hardened criminals
located in the middle of a sugar cane plantation.

His personal assets and those of the business (in excess of $90 million)
have been seized by Cuban authorities. It seems no coincidence that Cuba
ensured claims made against the Tokmakjian Group exceed the value of
seized assets. There have been suggestions to company representatives
that additional millions sent from Canada could result in a more
"lenient" outcome.

Cy is a popular and respected corporate citizen in Canada and, until his
incarceration in Cuba in 2011, had operated businesses there for more
than 20 years.

He was recognized by the Cuban Government -- indeed, by former President
Fidel Castro -- for his integrity and his contributions to Cuba's
economy through various joint ventures and closely-audited partnerships.

Throughout his detention, Cy has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.

At the same time, Cy has been pressured by the Cuban investigators to
sign a variety of "confessions." His own Interior Ministry-assigned
Cuban lawyers are also under great pressure to gain any possible
admission of guilt.

He has been told, many times, that, if he drops International claims
against Cuba or admits to minor "offenses," he would have a lenient
trial and be released immediately.

The Canadian government, since 2011, has regularly requested that the
Cuban government specify precise charges and allow Cy a fair trial, or,
that he be released and his seized assets restored.

In recent weeks, the Cuban prosecutors finally produced a list of formal
charges from original allegations that had been investigated, then
abandoned by investigators over the past 2.5 years. The formal charges
are considered by Cy's international legal team to be entirely without

His lawyers have proposed a witness list of highly credible individuals
and organizations to refute what can only be described as distortions
and misrepresentations of normal, foreign business practices in Cuba.
(for decades past and still today). It is not clear whether these
formidable witnesses will be allowed to testify.

The Cuban case includes:

- allegations of "bribery" that include basic staff productivity
incentives, performance bonuses, dinners and entertainment.
- Cuban allegations of "tax evasion" that ignore tax treaties
(Barbados/Cuba), ignore Cuba's own tax regulations, and ignore 3 expert
tax opinions (Deloitte Forensic, Deloitte Tax, and even a Cuban tax

I have known Cy for some years, both as his Member of Parliament for the
Toronto area riding of Thornhill and, as Canada's former Minister of
State for Foreign Affairs (Americas).

And, while Minister, I discussed a wide range of trade and foreign
policy issues with Cuban political leaders, diplomats and officials,
topics including the then praised partnerships with Tokmakjian Group

Although Canada and Cuba do not agree on all bilateral or international
issues of any day, our government has worked to address thorny matters
such as human rights, the rule of law, and democratic development in
Cuba even as we've encouraged Canadian business and industry to work
with Cuban partners to help develop the struggling national economy.

During my ministerial visit to Cuba in 2010, Cy was characterized as a
valued partner by Cuban interlocutors. His companies then represented
the second largest Canadian investment in Cuba after the Canadian
resource company, Sherritt International.

I recall, during Canada's most recent, unsuccessful, campaign for our
once-in-a-decade position on the Security Council, the Cuban Ambassador
to the UN making a point of advising Latin American and Caribbean
diplomats that, while Cuba does not agree with Canada on all issues,
Cuba respects the transparent and principled contribution that Canada
makes in international fora.

I also recall, on the day of the Security Council vote, the Cuban
Ambassador actively lobbying for votes on the floor of the General
Assembly with our Canadian delegation while some of our closest G7
partners sat on their hands.

Those days of honest brokering and principled dispute resolution now
seem long gone.

I visited Cy in September last year at Cuba's notorious La Condesa
Prison outside Havana.

His focus then as today: give me my day in court -- a fair and complete
examination of unfounded allegations as well as consideration of
detailed defense rebuttals and expert witnesses.

As Cy still awaits a trial date, the international financial community
should ponder long and hard the investment blandishments of Cuban
ministers, diplomats and trade officials.

They might also consider other foreign business executives who were
swept up earlier in the Interior Ministry's anti-corruption crusade.

Very little internet scouring is required to discover the very similar
cautionary tales of people such as Briton Stephen Purvis or French
national Jean Louis Autret. Both men are free to tell their respective
horror stories...without millions in assets that were seized by Cuba.

Their stories, like Cy's, have created a climate of uncertainly and
concern among foreign companies that remain invested in Cuba. There but
for blind luck, or an aggressive, anti-capitalist investigator from the
Interior Ministry, could go many more respectable foreign businessmen.

Despite the Cuban National Assembly's tempting new investment legislation.

Follow Peter Kent on Twitter:

Source: Cuba Is Open For Business That Might Land You in Jail | Peter
Kent -

EU, Cuba in talks years after human rights row

EU, Cuba in talks years after human rights row

HAVANA, Cuba – Cuba and the European Union sat down at the negotiating
table Tuesday aiming at deals on political dialogue and economic

The Americas' only one-party, communist-ruled state is the lone country
in Latin America that has no political dialogue with the EU. It was
suspended in 2003 after Havana rounded up and jailed 75 dissidents.

The Cuban side, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno, was
meeting in Havana with Christian Leffler, the top EU diplomat for the

Reaching a deal that leads to Havana getting any EU financial help would
be rare good news for Cuba: Its Soviet-style, top-down government-run
economy is in constant crisis and does not have access to traditional
sources of funding.

Cuba's top economic partner is its political ally Venezuela, which
provides it billions of dollars every year, in great measure keeping the
regime afloat.

But Cuba remains cash-strapped and purchases much of what it needs in
hard currency on international markets. It has been unable to produce
food efficiently, for example, for its 11 million people.

Since the end of the Cold War, Cuba has faced one economic challenge
after another but has refused to open its markets to the world. It
considers western capitalism abusive and detrimental to socialist society.

Havana does allow limited foreign investment when the government remains
in control and Cuba can certify that its socialist policies and
centralized management are not undermined.

One key example — tourism, where some Spanish companies invest in hotels
and resorts in partnerships with state and military partners.

Cuba also has refused to allow a multi-party political system and all
media are government-run. President Raúl Castro's government is
routinely criticized by international rights groups for not allowing
free assembly, free expression and other basic human rights.

Source: EU, Cuba in talks years after human rights row — The Tico Times

Cuba accuses UK of being anti-capitalist over plain packaging plans

Cuba accuses UK of being anti-capitalist over plain packaging plans
Communist state Cuba has complained that Britain is threatening free
trade with plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes and cigars
By Keith Perry, and John Bingham7:48PM BST 29 Apr 2014

Cuba has accused Britain of being anti-capitalist and threatening free
trade with its plans introduce plain packaging on cigarettes and cigars.
The Communist country has complained to the World Trade Organisation
over the UK Government plans to ban branding on smoking products to try
and encourage people to give up the addictive habit.
This came as Tory MP Priti Patel wrote in the Asian Trader arguing that
uncertainty surrounding the regulations and timescale is "causing
considerable anxiety to newsagents and independent retailers".
Cuba said it recognized Britain's "sovereign right to apply measures
aimed at protecting the health of its people while recognising that
tobacco is a "harmful but lawful product in international trade".
But it said plain packaging would lead to an increase in counterfeit
cigarettes by preventing manufacturers displaying their products'
distinctive trademarks and would also increase health risks to people
smoking black market cigarettes containing unknown substances.
Cuba also said it would impose unnecessary restrictions on international
trade and undermined the provisions of international trademark legislation.
Cuba's letter to the WTO's Committee to Technical Barriers on Trade
concluded: "Cuba expresses great concern over the UK Parliament's
decision to move ahead with the process of implementation of plain
packaging of tobacco products, without waiting for a settlement of the
complaint against Australia before the WTO Dispute Settlement Body.
"We therefore respectfully ask that the British Government refrain from
adopting such packaging until there has been a definitive ruling in the
dispute currently before the DSB, so that this measure may be assessed
on the basis of those findings."
Cuba, Ukraine, Indonesia, Honduras and Dominican Republic have all
brought legal action against Australia, the first country to ban
colourful logos on cigarette packaging.
Since late 2012, tobacco products in Australia can only be sold in drab
olive-coloured packets that look more like military or prison issue,
with brands printed in small standardised fonts.
The five countries challenging it say the legislation is a barrier to
trade and restricts intellectual property.
In a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Ms Patel wrote: "Small
shops are at the forefront of efforts to reduce underage tobacco sales
and do a tremendous job challenging prospective purchasers to provide
proof of age.
"However, measures like standardised packaging which will lead to an
increase in the availability of tobacco from illicit sources, would only
serve to make it easier for children to purchase tobacco products.
She added: "The blunt tool of standardised packaging will have a
significant and disproportionate impact on independent retailers,
whereas other measures to control and reduce use, such as through
education, would make a more positive contribution towards the
Government's strategic objective to reduce tobacco use."
She claimed Sir Cyril Chantler's inquiry into tobacco plain packaging
had ignored the views of small traders.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity ASH, refuted the
claims that plain packaging would increase illicit trade or make it
easier for underage people to smoke.
"Despite assertions by the tobacco industry and its allies, there is no
evidence to support the argument that standardised packaging would
increase illicit trade or make it easier for young people to access
tobacco," she said.
"The impact of standardised packaging on sales is likely to be gradual
and there is no reason why independent retailers should be particularly

Source: Cuba accuses UK of being anti-capitalist over plain packaging
plans - Telegraph -

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Inverse Logic of Investments in Cuba

The Inverse Logic of Investments in Cuba / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Posted on April 29, 2014

Cuba's National Assembly of People's Power, breaking its usual habit of
holding only two meetings each year, met in March 2014 to unanimously
approve—as, suspiciously, has been the case for all the laws that have
been voted on by the Assembly for decades—a new investment law.

Is it worth-while to focus on the last images and letters coming from
the inside of the last living utopia on Earth? Is Cuba by now a
contemporary country or just another old-fashioned delusion in the
middle of Nowhere-America? A Cold-War Northtalgia maybe? Can we expect a
young within that Ancien Régime still known as The
Revolution? I would like to provoke more questions than answers.

Commentators will now discuss the legal intricacies and social
transformations that this law will bring for the Cuban people and the

But for us Cubans on the island or in exile—or rather, us Cubans on the
island and in exile, since the difference between the two is less
noticeable every day, especially among the younger generations—only two
aspects of this parliamentary gem of so-called "twenty-first-century
socialism" matter:

1) It is established that Cubans living abroad cannot invest in the
national economy that they have left behind.
2) It is established that Cubans living in Cuba cannot invest in the
national economy that has left them behind.

For the business people of the rest of the world, the democratic tycoons
looking to invest in totalitarianism, only these two aspects should
matter, and make a difference:

1) It is established that Cubans living abroad cannot invest in the
national economy that they have left behind.
2) It is established that Cubans living in Cuba cannot invest in the
national economy that has left them behind.

But there are things that never become true even when repeated a
thousand times. And it's very likely that investors would turn a deaf
ear to both points.

Nonetheless, please at least allow me the desperate privilege of
anti-journalistically having a third attempt:

1) It is established that Cubans living abroad cannot invest in the
national economy that they have left behind.
2) It is established that Cubans living in Cuba cannot invest in the
national economy that has left them behind.

Investors of the world unite!

From Sampsonia Way Magazine

14 April 2014

Source: The Inverse Logic of Investments in Cuba / Orlando Luis Pardo
Lazo | Translating Cuba -

More About Baseball

More About Baseball / Fernando Damaso
Posted on April 28, 2014

The 53rd National Series of Baseball has concluded and, once again,
demonstrated the nuisance of having 16 teams participate, and the
impossibility of outfitting them with enough top-quality players.

After the first forty-five games, eight teams remained. Although they
were reinforced with players from the other eight that did not qualify
for the second round, problems remained in defense, offense, and
pitching, where the performance of many of the starters and relievers
left much to be desired. In fact, only six of these teams were
competitive, but their indiscipline persisted, often turning stadiums
into boxing rings.

With the arrival of the playoffs, first with four teams and then with
the two finalists, the situation did not improve substantially: poor
defense continued with multiple errors, hitting was off, and the
pitching performance was disastrous, as demonstrated by the fact that in
the final game one of the teams ended up using twelve pitchers, breaking
the record for pitchers used in a single game by both teams.

It's no secret that Cuban baseball has been going badly for some time,
and that profound measures are urgently needed to bring it out of its
prolonged lethargy, which will not be easily or quickly achieved.

They range from the base, where the true mass character is formed, with
good coaches and trainers that develop the talents, to revamping the
current structure for reaching the National Series. They should also
include the participation of our players who make up part of foreign teams.

Today the best baseball is played in the leagues of other countries and
in the big leagues of the United States. We should learn from them and
put an end to the absurd lie that we are the best and we know everything.

21 April 2014

Source: More About Baseball / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba -

New group, #CubaNow, tells Obama it's time to change Cuba policy

New group, #CubaNow, tells Obama it's time to change Cuba policy
By David Adams
By David Adams

MIAMI (Reuters) - A new advocacy group calling for the United States to
change its policy toward Cuba launched an advertising campaign on Monday
with posters on the Washington D.C. metro system showing President
Barack Obama and urging him to "stop waiting."

The metro ads by the group #CubaNow are designed to highlight economic
changes happening in Cuba. The group believes the 52-year-old U.S.
embargo against the communist-ruled island has not worked.

"It's time to bring the conversation on U.S.-Cuba policy into the 21st
century," said #CubaNow director Ric Herrero.

The group said its mission, unlike other Cuba policy groups, was
specifically focused on changing U.S. thinking about Cuba policy.

While the group opposes the embargo, it recognized that overturning it
in Congress is an uphill battle and other ways can be found to change
policy, such as allowing all Americans to travel to Cuba.

"There's plenty the President can do within his existing authority,"
said #CubaNow founding member Andres Díaz, a Cuban-born former Obama
administration official at the Department of Commerce.

#CubaNow was founded by a group of mostly younger generation Cuban
Americans. Herrero declined to discuss its funding.

The group's launch coincides with the fifth anniversary of Obama's 2009
steps allowing Cuban-Americans to travel freely to visit relatives in
Cuba as well as send remittances.

That policy shift helped "usher in more change in that time than had
been seen in the previous 50 years," the group said in a press release.

Herrero said the group, based in Miami and Washington, wants the White
House to take "new steps" to encourage Cuba's burgeoning private sector
which has emerged under economic reforms being slowly introduced by the
Cuban government.

Cuba announced new reforms on Monday loosening regulation of its largest
state-run companies including minerals, tourism and telecommunications.

The group's founding is part of a new wave of efforts to prod Obama into
taking bolder steps to engage the Cuban government.

It follows a February poll by the Atlantic Council which found a
majority of Americans support normalizing relations with Cuba.

In November, Obama told a Miami area fundraiser that it may be time for
the United States to "update" its policies toward Cuba.

"Blue jeans and rock'n roll brought down the Berlin Wall, so we have to
recognize that there is a new wave of energy pushing a new approach
toward U.S.-Cuba policy," said Alex Castellanos, a Republican political
strategist who is Cuban American.

(Editing by David Gregorio)

Source: New group, #CubaNow, tells Obama it's time to change Cuba policy
- Yahoo News -;_ylt=AwrBJSAQiF9TtVkA_GbQtDMD

Cuba Moves Ahead With $2.7 Billion LNG, Ammonia Projects

Cuba Moves Ahead With $2.7 Billion LNG, Ammonia Projects
By Pietro D. Pitts Apr 28, 2014 9:13 PM GMT+0200

Cuba continues moving forward with development of a $1.4 billion natural
gas regasification project and a $1.2 billion urea and ammonia plant
under a Venezuelan initiative to provide cheap fuel to regional allies.

The regasification project will have the capacity to process 2.06
million metric tons per year and consist of building facilities to
receive and process liquefied natural gas, Petroleos de Venezuela SA
said in a December report released last week. The aim of the project is
to provide a clean and low-cost energy source to the population, the
company said without giving a completion date.

The urea and ammonia plant will have the capacity to process 400,000
metric tons per year of urea and 370,000 metric tons per year of
ammonia. The project seeks to benefit Cuba's industrial sector,
particularly plastics, industrial agriculture and chemical products,
PDVSA said.

Output from the urea and ammonia plant will be destined to meet demand
in Cuba while excess output will be exported by PDVSA's petrochemical
affiliate Pequiven to countries in Central America and the Caribbean.
The project conceptualization phase has been finalized though no
completion date was given.

Created by late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2005, the
Petrocaribe Initiative lets its 18 member countries buy oil from PDVSA
at market prices, paying 5 percent upfront and the remainder over 25
years at 1 percent interest.

PDVSA exported an average 103,400 barrels a day to Petrocaribe members
in 2013 compared to 102,000 barrels a day in 2012, the company said.
Cuba, under an accord with Venezuela, received 89,600 barrels per day in
2013 from PDVSA compared with 91,100 barrels per day in 2012.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pietro D. Pitts in Caracas at

Source: Cuba Moves Ahead With $2.7 Billion LNG, Ammonia Projects -
Bloomberg -

Cuba gives state-run companies more autonomy

Posted on Monday, 04.28.14

Cuba gives state-run companies more autonomy

HAVANA -- Cuba has approved several measures giving state-run businesses
more autonomy.

The changes include giving government-run enterprises more leeway to
conduct secondary commercial operations.

For example, a factory that specializes in canned vegetables could get
into a side business such as candy-making or recycling.

Previously, such entities were mostly barred from doing anything outside
of their primary activity.

They will also be allowed to sell any excess goods at market prices.

The measures published Monday in the government's Official Gazette say
state companies can keep up to 50 percent of their profits, 20 percent
more than before.

The changes are the latest in a package of reforms that seek to revive
Cuba's weak economy.

Source: HAVANA: Cuba gives state-run companies more autonomy - Business
Breaking News - -

American to plead guilty in '84 Cuba hijacking

Posted on Tuesday, 04.29.14

American to plead guilty in '84 Cuba hijacking

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- An American who returned from Cuba decades
after hijacking a jetliner to the communist island is scheduled to plead
guilty in South Florida federal court.

U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum set a plea change hearing Tuesday
afternoon for 57-year-old William Potts, who had previously pleaded not
guilty. Potts said he returned last year from Cuba to resolve the U.S. case.

Prosecutors have now charged Potts with kidnapping and dropped an air
piracy charge, which carried a mandatory sentence of at least 20 years.
Potts is seeking credit for 13 years he served in a Cuban prison.

The FBI says Potts claimed he had explosives when he hijacked a New
York-to-Miami flight to Havana in 1984. He described himself then as a
black militant calling himself "Lt. Spartacus."

Source: FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.: American to plead guilty in '84 Cuba
hijacking - Florida Wires - -

Monday, April 28, 2014

Just Another Miscalculation

Just Another Miscalculation / Miriam Celaya
Posted on April 28, 2014

According to a recent official statement by Empresa de
Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA) [Cuban Telephone Company], the
technical difficulties in messaging service and other cell phone
problems are due to errors in miscalculating demand.

It is the system's universal principle to come up with an inverse
explanation to every difficulty, which could be interpreted as follows:
it is not really the inability of the only telephone company in Cuba,
but that there are too many users. That is, we are more addicted to
communication than officials imagined.

Since this past March 3rd, when the new cell phone e-mail access system
( went into effect, considerable delays were experienced in SMS
access, as well as additional service outages. Now the Central Director
of Mobile Services, Hilda María Arias, stated that for over a year they
carried out research and completed investment processes required for
this service, however, they "did not calculate the fast pace for its
demand in this short period of time", and, due to transmitting of data,
"more network resources are being used", which has slowed e-mail, SMS
reception, and cell phone service

Of course, while this official explains that steps are being taken to
counteract the difficulties, the solution must come from an increase in
forecast investments.

ETECSA, as we know, is the name of the communications monopoly in Cuba,
controlled by military business leaders, who have now committed to
expand services through new base stations that expand possibilities for
Internet access, transfer the balance between cell phones and extend the
expiration date of cellular lines.

Indeed, if this promise is fulfilled, this would be good news for those
of us who are addicted to information and communication. In any case, to
justify the current service difficulties after one year of researching
the project, and knowing the huge demand for cellular service among
Cubans, despite its high cost, seems more than mere miscalculation.

Translated by Norma Whiting

25 April 2014

Source: Just Another Miscalculation / Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba -

Drought or irresponsibility?

Drought or irresponsibility? / Fernando Damaso
Posted on April 28, 2014

For several days now the national TV has been reporting on the effects
of the drought in the eastern provinces, noting the deaths of thousands
of cattle and the weakening of many thousands more. In the municipality
of Calixto García in Holguín Province alone, over three thousand cattle
have already died and thousands of others, according to the images
shown, were only skin and bones, due to their emaciated condition,
harbinger of the worst.

The drought is every year, from November to April. Maybe in the last
years, due to climate change, it has worsened. The farmer always used
forecasts to avoid or mitigate its effects.

Fifty years ago our ranchers also faced it and, given that they were
cattle owners, they took every possible measure to ensure they were fed,
with the silage in the silos saved from tender green grass cut in the
spring, to which they added molasses and water, or with other methods to
resolve the water problem, such as windmills used to extract ground water.

For them it was an economic and human problem, affecting both their
pocketbooks and prestige. As owners of their herds, they were primarily
responsible for them and felt and acted accordingly.

Today, the small livestock owners avoid killing their cattle despite the
drought. The problem with the cattle is that, in one way or another,
they belong to the State. As here ownership is generic and
irresponsibility is diluted between the manager, the Party organizations
and the Young Communist League (UJC), the union and so on up the ladder,
the Delegate of Agriculture and the whole administrative and political
structure that follows, the ones who pay for the inefficiency are the
poor cattle and the citizens who, for years, see no beef in their diet.
In a country where sacrificing a cow, even one you yourself own, is
considered a crime if it is not approved by the authorities, how can we
understand these mass deaths.

Is it so difficult to create reserves of food and drinking water for
when the drought comes? Why, if it is a regular annual phenomenon, which
complicates the last months of the dry season, aren't the cattle in
danger moved to unaffected territories?

It seems that fifty-six (56) years of tripping over the same stone have
been for nothing. And then, thundering, they would have us believe that
socialism can be prosperous and sustainable.

25 April 2014

Source: Drought or irresponsibility? / Fernando Damaso | Translating
Cuba -


Posted on April 27, 2014
Silvia and State Security

They arrested her twice, both times violently. All for walking at my
side in the streets of a Havana almost at the point of the
Cadaver-in-Chief of Fidel Castro. She's called Silvia. My Silvia.

They threw her out of her first job as a dentist, in the captive
consultation of a cigar factory, where the workers can't even lift their
necks from the odious sheets they have to roll for miserly wages. By the
way, she was expelled by a State Security agent who today serves–or
fakes serving–as a dissident lawyer, in an independent legal association
(the director of the association warned us, but we were like to
paranoiacs, Silvia and I).

They forced her to undress in the Regla Police Station, during the vile
visit of the former Pope Benedict XVI, who swept aside Cuban civil
society and kissed the right hand of the Maximum Excommunicated, while
silently agreeing to the attack on Oswaldo Payá, where the Cardinal of a
thousand and one sins flush with the pubis under his cassock barely
joined in one more mea culpa (afterward Jaime Ortega y Alamino himself
would wash his hands of the stoning of Payá in the burning chapel, as if
God himself had called him to His side and he wasn't dispatched by State

They infiltrated her family. They terrorized her mother, Silvia Corbelle
Batista's mamá. They made her believe she was being paid by the CIA.
Later they led her to understand that I was also working for them. That
I was unfaithful (I was). They said I was a faggot (it could be so:
what's more, I am) and that I have AIDS (it cold be so, but it's not
true right now, according to the serology).

The Castro regime only knows how to use reality and language as a source
of stigmatization, as a phobia not of the other but of itself.

They coerced mamá Lourdes and forced her to steal documents from her own
daughter, and also to reveal her movements to State Security agents. She
was already a bit of one, living in Cuba, but they made the mother of my
ex-girlfriend a human wreck. She, who prided herself on being
anti-Castro in private, ended up as a de facto Fidelista.

They drove her father crazy, Silvia Corbelle Batista's papá. They
humiliated him before his own daughter. They forced him to threaten me
with death (it's a crime, but I would never denounce anyone within Cuba)
in order to take from me not only my love, but love.

He was already a bit of one, living in Cuba, but the poor human wreck of
papá Ramón then hired the services of a Babalao to do "injury" to me.
And later sent an illiterate criminal to warn me, in the name of his
scabious spirits, that I must leave Silvia's side or an "evil" would
befall me that would put me in my grave within a week.

I have to say how I answered him. It pissed me off, like so many shot
without trials in Cuba, who died screaming Long Live Jesus Christ with
whatever strength they had left after their blood had been drained* from
them as a trophy of war. I told the witch doctor from G-2 (State
Security)–like the majority who practice this "religion"–"Asshole, tell
Fidel to come and tell me himself."

They infiltrated her colleagues at the Dentistry Faculty. They filmed
her in her relationships during and after me. The coerced our close
friends to spy on us. Some agree, others fled without confessing their
fear to us. They killed two cats in the cruelest manner, at the two
critical moments of our lives, as an almost Sicilian message of falling
heads very close to our bedroom.

The pressured the person who lent us a room to stay away from Cuba (the
person resisted, then they used a Housing Institute trap to take their
land). Even when they operated on me (for free) for nearsightedness, an
official appeared in the room at the Ramón Pando Ferrer Hospital, making
the doctor's laser scalpel tremble.

But Silvia wasn't alone. Silvia told me, "They do it so you'll shit from
fear Landy, because they know you are good and want to live. Don't give
them the satisfaction."

But I always did give it to them, I always felt my guts wrench. I'm no
better than the Cuban Cardinal, the complicity of this constitutional
cowardice is our intimate communion. But my pure hatred saved me; while
love has ruined Jaime Ortego y Alamino.

And it's this same contempt for the tyrants of the Cuban Ministry of the
Interior, it is that crazy diamond that always shines in the watery eyes
of a little free person named Silvia. The same one who last night called
me on the phone to help her cry. Just that. I'll be fine. Help me cry.

The two times I was imprisoned, in that terrible 2012, I remember Siliva
screaming and insulting the police and the agents. Making it obvious how
ignorant they are. How shameless and libidinous (the Castro regime, like
Castro himself, is a phenomenon more prudish than patriotic: evil
fidelity substituting for good fornication; verbal incontinence is a
sign of premature ejaculation: the more power it imposes in you, the
less the junk of the unpunished ​despot gets hard, the less tiny olive
green vagina gets lubricated; the uniform as the smudge of the body itself).

Today the game is over and the truth emerges.

The photographer and blogger Silvia Corbelle Batista has been summoned
by the sterile extremists of Cuban State Security, at two in the
totalitarian Cuban afternoon. They can take her prisoner without trial,
like the Lady in White Sonia Garro, who has spent more than two years
illegally imprisoned.

They can lay charges. Or lay them on her parents, to psychologically
upset the equation. They can threaten her with being raped tonight (as
Agent Ariel did to me at the Aquilera Police Station in Lawton, at the
end of March 2009: he said to me, "You're going to jail until the
Investigator comes, did you bring condoms?").

They can impose the Official Warning Act, as they do to thousands and
thousands. They can tell her that it was a mistake and to come back
another day (the horror is that, not knowing).

They can do whatever best pleases them. Silvia is wise. Silvia knows who
they are and what they have done to the memory not only of our love, but
of love. The rest doesn't matter. Let it go now in the death throes of
this heartless scenario called Cuba. They are just the symptoms of what
we Cubans will do to Cubans a minute after the singing of the national
anthem at the imminent funeral of Fidel.

Silvia, you'll be fine. But don't stop crying. Hardly anyone in Cuba
remembers how to.

*Translator's note: Literally. It's been reported that the regime takes
large blood bank "donations" from those about to be executed.

25 April 2014

Source: SILVIA CORBELLE BATISTA / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo | Translating
Cuba -

The Accused in the Dock

The Accused in the Dock / Fernando Damaso
Posted on April 27, 2014

Listening to the discussions in the Culture and Media Commission of the
recently ended 8th Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) Congress, I
was struck by the criticisms of the Cuban Institute of Radio and
Television (ICRTV) for their programming–which according to some
delegates demonstrate Yankeephilia–and their few national offerings.

I imagine that if it weren't for programs pirated from the United States
and other countries offered on Cuban TV, we'd be left with one channel,
so I don't understand the nationalist uproar. First, we should be clear
that the quality of the majority of national programs is quite low, from
the unbearable news, through the so-called comedians, dramas and
adventures, through the children's programs of participation and
musicals. If there is anything saving it, it's sports, and that by its
own powers.

One can argue that there is a lack of artistic talent in radio and
television, such that it's given over to mediocrity, which continues to
be true, but the question is: "Why is there a lack of talent? The answer
isn't hard: because talent is not paid what it should be for writing,
acting, directing or producing in radio and television.

The medium lacks attractive economics, something that it had before its
expropriation by the State, when those who worked in it enjoyed high
salaries, which allowed them to focus completely on artistic creation,
without having to think about how to resolve day-to-day living.

There is a historical example of the RHC Cadena Azul radio station owned
by Amado Trinidad: when he decided to make his station first among
listeners, he paid high salaries to get the top talent of the time, and
achieved his objectives. Starting with him, the formula became
widespread and was applied until the media passed from private hands to
the State.

Congress after congress they sing the same tune, and don't take the
economic measures needed to resolve these problems, so their lament is
silly. The calls to participate for the love of art, with the creation
of committees for quality, control and censorship, established for
hundreds of foreign and national programs broadcast, and a whole other
series of bureaucratic measures will resolve nothing.

Talent is not accepted as a method of payment in the stores in exchange
for products nor to pay for services received. Money is essential. The
problem, therefore, is one of economic stimulus in a society every day
more metallic, regardless of slogans and speeches.

What is the Mariel Special Development Zone, the Foreign Investment Law,
the Tax Regime, the high prices for articles of every type and the cost
of services? If we are going to give money its place, as we are doing,
we have to do it in everything: the charging and paying.

18 April 2014

Source: The Accused in the Dock / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba -

Australia's plain package tobacco law finally to be tested at WTO

Australia's plain package tobacco law finally to be tested at WTO
By By Tom Miles
By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) - An Australian law forcing cigarette companies to sell
their products in plain packets is about to be tested in court,
diplomats at the World Trade Organization said on Friday, ending more
than two years of procedural delay.

Cuba, Ukraine, Indonesia, Honduras and Dominican Republic have brought
the action against Australia, the first country to ban the colorful
logos used to sell tobacco brands around the world, a law aimed at
reducing addiction and disease.

Opponents of the law, who say it is heavy-handed and an invitation to
counterfeiters, had hoped other countries would hold off from following
Australia's example pending a WTO verdict, but Britain, Ireland and New
Zealand have already begun drafting similar legislation.

Since late 2012, tobacco products in Australia can only be sold in drab
olive-colored packets that look more like military or prison issue, with
brands printed in small standardized fonts.

The five countries challenging it say the legislation is a barrier to
trade and restricts intellectual property.

"My country fully shares Australia's health objectives. However, its
plain packaging measure is failing to have the desired health effects of
reducing smoking prevalence and remains detrimental to our premium
tobacco industry," Katrina Naut, the Dominican Republic's foreign trade
chief, said in a statement.

"By banning all design elements from tobacco packaging, plain packaging
precludes our producers from differentiating their premium products from
competitors in the marketplace."

After two years of slow-going procedure, Australia and its five
challengers have agreed the conditions that will allow the case to get
under way within weeks and for a ruling to be made potentially as soon
as November.

In the key step to get the process started, WTO chief Roberto Azevedo
will appoint three panelists by May 5 to judge the dispute, according to
transcripts of statements at the body's dispute settlement body on Friday.

As well as its huge importance for the global tobacco industry, the case
could have implications in other sectors, as some public health
advocates see potential for plain packaging laws to extend into areas
such as alcohol and unhealthy foods.

The appointment of WTO panelists will set the clock ticking on a
six-month deadline for them to rule on the dispute.

However, panels frequently ask for more time and the WTO's dispute
system is suffering from a bottleneck.

Any party to the dispute could also appeal, which will add months more,
and some disputes drag on for years due to disagreements over whether a
country ruled to be in the wrong has done enough to comply with the
terms of a judgment.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Source: Australia's plain package tobacco law finally to be tested at
WTO - Yahoo News -;_ylt=AwrBJR91Zl5T.yIAsmbQtDMD

Cuban investments still remain unsafe

Cuban investments still remain unsafe
Published on Sunday, 27 April 2014 23:33 - Written by

If you had to point to a single factor that has done the most good for
the poor of the world, it might be the recognition of property rights.
But the Cuban government's abysmal record on property rights is why that
country remains so poor that food is rationed — in a rich tropical land
capable of growing anything.

And that record on property rights is why Cuba's new "foreign investment
law" is doomed to fail.

"Cuba's parliament approved a new foreign-investment law that for the
first time allows Cubans living abroad to invest in some enterprises
(provided, according to Rodrigo Malmierca, the foreign-trade minister,
they are not part of the 'Miami terrorist mafia')," reports The
Economist magazine. "The law, which updates a faulty 1995 one, is still
patchy, says Pavel Vidal, a Cuban economist living in Colombia. It
offers generous tax breaks of eight years for new investments."

The problem with the plan is that foreign investors want to know their
investments are safe — at least, as safe as any other venture capital
investment. The Cuban government has a bad habit of nationalizing
successful businesses.

We saw this familiar pattern emerge when the Castro regime "allowed" the
purchase and sale of private residences, and private land development.
But that liberalization came with so many caveats that few investors

"Investing in Cuba is only for the most steely-nerved," the Financial
Times newspaper reported in 2013. "Not only is there the vexed question
of potential claims on properties from exiled Cubans, the Cuban
government has a long, ignominious history of first encouraging and then
choking off economic liberalization. It relaxed restrictions on home
sales 15 years ago, only to reverse the policy a few years later."

The Cuban government is its own worst enemy. Few Americans truly support
the 55-year-old embargo, and most economists and political observers
agree that the embargo has failed.

So while a concentrated effort in Congress could result in the embargo
being lifted, the Castro regime's bad faith would likely keep big
American companies out — even if they were allowed in.

In fact, the embargo has worked against its own stated purpose of
bringing down the communist government.

How? Political satirist P.J. O'Rourke contends that commerce won the
Cold War as assuredly as a military build-up did.

"In the end we beat them with Levi's 501 jeans," he wrote in "Give War A
Chance." "Seventy-two years of Communist indoctrination and propaganda
was drowned out by a three-ounce Sony Walkman. A huge totalitarian
system has been brought to its knees because nobody wants to wear
Bulgarian shoes. Now they're lunch, and we're No. 1 on the planet."

He meant, of course, that free trade — and the natural human desire for
better living conditions (which at the time included Sony Walkmans) —
played a major part in the collapse of communism.

Free trade and foreign investment in Cuba could surely accomplish the
same thing there.

But as long as the Cuban government remains likely to steal those
investments, that outcome is unlikely.

Source: Tyler Morning Telegraph - Cuban investments still remain unsafe

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Fake UNEAC Congress

The Fake UNEAC Congress / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on April 26, 2014

Once again, the official intellectuals are summoned to "participate" in
another Congress of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), to
be used as political reaffirmation for the Regime, since they won't do
anything else, the same as on previous occasions.

Some will bleed for their suffering, the officials will pretend to
listen, and it will even appear that something will be done in this
regard, when the reality is that they will forget the problems, and they
will remain only in the memory of those who are present.

The dictatorship, as it always does, will allow the media to publish or
televise some sentimental intervention, to make us believe that it has
been a space for free debate, and thus hide the hand of censorship that
they constantly apply to us.

Those elected know that they would never be able to say what they hide,
their true thinking with respect to the dictatorship, and as in a double
game, they will also pretend that the first task is to save the culture,
when in practice they only save their lifetime stay in power.

Those intellectuals — the majority — entered into the process when they
were very young; today they are a litter of oldsters brought to heel who
ooze from the wounds made by Fidel Castro and who have overcome profound
humiliations: they carried out cynical condemnations and then couldn't
appear physically in society.

I remember when in the "war of the emails" — as a result of some
negative characters returning to public view, repressors in the cultural
sector in the '70s — the majority of intellectuals attacked that
possibility, and when the government understood that the protest was
growing, they ordered the ringmaster, Abel Prieto, to block the bulls,
and that they be the ones who watch the affair.

There were hundreds of letters, first nationally and then from every
corner of the planet where there was a Cuban who had been harmed by
those people. No one ever said that the guiltiest of all was Fidel
Castro. They only permitted themselves to judge the people, pure fallen
trees that already weren't of interest to the State, like the comandante
Papito Serguera and Luis Pavón, among others.

I dared to say, in my only email that I dedicated to the matter, that we
do nothing by condemning the officials who were removed suddenly, when
the intellectual author, Fidel Castro, was still in power, that those
who they attacked now were no more than repressors, executioners who
executed under the orders of the Castro brothers.

Now they had to endure the pretense that they, omnipotent leaders,
didn't know about the purges in the cultural sector, the persecution of
homosexuals or artists who shaped some critical revelations in their
work. The intellectuals – even in their letters – were not capable of
questioning the centers of Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP).

They played their false roles of bulls seated on the steps while they
watched the master of the toreros in the ring and the firefighter in the
cultural sector, Abel Prieto, manipulate the affair behind closed doors
with some conferences, to drain once and for all the spiteful feelings
provoked by the constant reactions.

It will be another congress without solid contributions to the cultural
process that strengthens the cultural sector.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. April 2014.

Please follow the link and sign the petition so that Amnesty
International declare the dissident Cuban Angel Santiesteban a prisoner
of conscience.

Translated by Regina Anavy
14 April 2014

Source: The Fake UNEAC Congress / Angel Santiesteban | Translating Cuba

In booming marketplace for Cuban players, Puig's tale far from unique

In booming marketplace for Cuban players, Puig's tale far from unique
The smuggling of Cuban baseball players has been the subject of federal
investigations for years, resulting in a handful of prosecutions. Still,
the flood of risky defections has continued.
Kevin Baxter, Brian Bennett
April 26, 2014, 6:16 p.m.

Yasiel Puig's journey to Los Angeles — and riches with the Dodgers — is
a serpentine tale of drug cartels, nighttime escapes and international
human smuggling.

Yet in the booming marketplace for Cuban ballplayers, it is far from unique.

Since 2009, nearly three dozen have defected, with at least 25 of them
signing contracts worth more than a combined $315 million.

Many, like Puig, were spirited away on speedboats to Mexico, Haiti or
the Dominican Republic. Once there, they typically were held by
traffickers before being released to agents — for a price.

This article misspells the name of Puig's original agent, Jaime Torres,
as Jamie.

Puig's case drew widespread attention after Los Angeles magazine and
ESPN the Magazine published articles this month detailing the gifted
young outfielder's harrowing trek to the United States.

That spotlight aside, the smuggling of Cuban players has been the
subject of federal investigations for years, resulting in a handful of

Still, the flood of risky defections has continued.

Over the last six months, the Department of Homeland Security has been
working on at least two separate cases involving smuggling rings that
brought baseball players out of Cuba into the United States, said a
former federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the matter.

The pattern has been for smugglers to force players to sign agreements
stipulating they will turn over a percentage of any initial contract
signed with a big league club — often more than 20%.

The players are viewed as victims and were not under investigation
themselves, the former official said. Investigators said they had spoken
with Major League Baseball officials about the probes and presented them
with a list of players who were being extorted.

Some, authorities said, still are making payments to smugglers. And some
of their families in Cuba still are threatened with violence.

Nestor Yglesias, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement in Miami, would not comment on whether agents were looking
into the Puig smuggling case.

But a long-running investigation by Homeland Security Investigations and
the FBI resulted in the indictment late last year of a trio of Cuban
nationals for the alleged smuggling of as many as a dozen players,
including current Texas Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin.

Even as U.S. authorities are trying to stop the smuggling, the prospect
for multimillion-dollar major league contracts remains a powerful lure
for Cuban players — and those willing to bring them here.

"Ten years ago a player would leave Cuba, sign a nice contract, and
people in Cuba might kind of hear rumors about how well he's doing,"
said Joe Kehoskie, a former player agent.

Now, he said, pointing to Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman — who
defected in 2009 during a tournament in the Netherlands and signed a
six-year, $30.25-million contract —"Chapman's Lamborghini is on
Facebook. Chapman's mansion is on Facebook."

The trafficking is a result of the trade embargo with Cuba, which
prevents any economic assistance to people on the island, and Cuba's
unwillingness to allow its players to sign with major league teams.

Thus, prospects have to either defect on their own or enlist smugglers
to take them to the United States or another country.

Florida was originally the favored route, but increased monitoring by
the Coast Guard has made the voyage riskier. In addition, by
establishing residency in another country, Cuban players are not subject
to Major League Baseball's domestic draft, allowing them to sign as free

Puig was smuggled out of Cuba on a speedboat in June 2012 along with
three others, including a boxer and childhood friend named Yunior
Despaigne, according to records in a lawsuit filed against Puig. (He is
being sued for $12 million by a man in Cuba who claims Puig made false
allegations that landed him in prison.)

Despaigne said in the affidavit that the group was ferried to the tip of
Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, some 300 miles away. The smugglers were
associated with a Mexican drug cartel, which allowed them to bring their
human cargo ashore and helped with security and other details, according
to the magazine accounts.

Puig's escape was arranged and partly financed by a Miami man named Raul
Pacheco, according to an affidavit by Despaigne in the lawsuit. Once
Puig was in Mexico, the smugglers demanded more than the $250,000
Pacheco had agreed to pay for his release, according to Despaigne's
sworn statement.

When Pacheco balked, they threatened to harm Puig in a way that would
end his career, according to the Los Angeles magazine account.

After nearly a month, Pacheco and some Miami partners hired several men
to free Puig and the others from their hotel and get them to Mexico
City, the affidavit states.

Puig's agent at the time, Jamie Torres, negotiated a stunning
seven-year, $42-million contract with the Dodgers.

Cuban players began to appear in the U.S. in the early 1990s, slipping
away during national team visits for tournaments. Later, smugglers
routed players through Florida and Mexico, according to testimony in
2012 from Special Agent Thomas Roberts of ICE's Homeland Security

The agent said smugglers usually charged $10,000 to get someone out of
Cuba, but up to 25 times that for ballplayers — not including the
portion of future earnings many athletes must pay.

In recent years, many Cuban players' contracts have hit stratospheric

Yoenis Cespedes signed a four-year, $36-million deal with the Oakland
Athletics in 2012, just months before the Dodgers gave Puig his deal.
That record was broken five months later, when the Chicago White Sox
signed Jose Abreu for $68 million over six years.

Last week, legislation was introduced in Florida to pressure Major
League Baseball into changing its rules on Cuban players.

Florida Reps. Jose Felix Diaz and Matt Gaetz proposed a measure
requiring the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays to demand that baseball
treat Cuban players as it does other foreign players — as free agents,
so they wouldn't have to travel to Mexico or another country.

"Major League Baseball's rule punishes Cuban ballplayers by forcing them
into the arms of human traffickers," Gaetz said. "The taxpayers of
Florida should no longer subsidize human smuggling."

For more than a decade, some have called for an international draft that
would make every amateur player subject to the same negotiating rules as
American prospects. But baseball has been unable to reach such an
agreement with its players union.

"The current problem is partly of MLB's creating, but MLB faces a
Catch-22 in trying to address it," said Kehoskie, the former agent.
"Many of the things MLB could do to disincentivize the smuggling on the
front end, such as implementing a worldwide draft … would hurt Cuban
players on the back end by causing them to sign much smaller contracts."

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, asked Friday about the dangers
confronting Cuban ballplayers trying to defect, said, "Do I have
concerns? Yes, of course I have concerns. The more I read, the more I hear."

Rob Manfred, MLB's chief operating officer, said baseball officials are
discussing possible changes in international signing rules with the
players' association. "Over the long haul," he added, "what I'd say is
that it is a problem that is larger than baseball."

Major League Baseball's responsibility in stopping player smuggling is
complicated by the geopolitics of the Cuban situation.

At the least, baseball should try to determine if agents representing
Cuban players have been involved with smuggling operations or engaged in
extortion or other criminal activity, said Shawn Klein, a philosophy
professor at Rockford University in Illinois who writes the Sports
Ethicist blog.

Mike Gilleran, executive director of the Santa Clara University
Institute of Sports Law and Ethics, said Major League Baseball is "well
past the point of saying, 'Gosh, this is shocking,'" when stories such
as Puig's make headlines.

"It seems to me that there had to be so many sirens going off, so many
red flags jumping out," he said.

Still, he said, it's not clear what baseball can do: It can't dictate
immigration policy, and there would be no point in rejecting ballplayers
who have fled an oppressive regime for a better life.

Pretending the problem doesn't exist is not an option, he said.

"I think reasonable people would look at it and say … 'This is our labor
force. These are our ambassadors.' If we want baseball 100 years from
now to be held in esteem, let's do something."

Times staff writers Joe Mozingo and Kim Christensen in Los Angeles, Mike
James in New York and Richard Serrano in Washington contributed to this

Source: In booming marketplace for Cuban players, Puig's tale far from
unique - -,0,815221,full.story#axzz304YWzEQb

One of Cuba’s Ridiculous Laws

One of Cuba's Ridiculous Laws
April 25, 2014
Warhol P

HAVANA TIMES — On Wednesday, April 23, I was notified by phone that,
after many months' wait, I was finally going to be paid the royalties
for an illustration of mine that had been used as a book cover.

I was happy to get the news (one always needs money) and, the next day,
I headed over to the Letras Cubanas publishing house.

I got to the publishing house after a hellish trip that put me in a
lousy mood and made my walk unpleasant.

When I neared the receptionist, she looked at me as though eyeing an
insect. When I explained to her I was there to pick up a check, she
starting shaking her head no before I even finished talking.

For a moment, I thought she was exercising her neck, because she shook
her head without saying anything for at least a minute. Then, a little
annoyed, she told me I couldn't go up to the publishing house because I
was wearing a tank-top.

I still didn't understand, but I took a deep breath to keep my blood
pressure from rising. I explained to her I lived in Marianao, very far
from there, and that I didn't know there was a dress code. When I
received the call, no one had explained this time. Besides, the days
have been very hot and wearing light clothing is normal.

The receptionist, who was also wearing a rather colorful tank-top,
didn't budge. She said to me: "Look, I'm sorry, I didn't make the law.
You can't go up wearing a tank-top, the law forbids it. I could get
myself into trouble if I let you go in."

Holding back the impulse to strangle her, I took another deep breath,
pictured some tiny butterflies flying all around me and asked her if
there was any other alternative, like having the person responsible for
giving me the check come down, so that I could sign the check in the lobby.

She thought it over and made a phone call. The person responsible was in
a meeting, so the receptionist asked me to have a seat and wait. I
thanked her for her troubles and sat down in one of the chairs in the

To my surprise, I saw more than ten women wearing tank-tops go into and
out of the building in the half hour I spent waiting there.

I wonder what the difference between a man and a woman in tank-tops is.
The lack of equality is blatant: they can wear a tank-top wherever they
please and men can't. This struck me as absurd, particularly if we
recall just about everyone wears these shirts in Cuba because of the
intense heat.

Before I left, I had the impulse to ask the receptionist whether she
would have let me in if I had shown up there dressed as a woman and
wearing a tank-top. If she said no, she would have been discriminating
against me.

Instead, I decided to simply thank her and go, to act like a normal,
civilized person who is capable of getting past people's stupidity, the
kind that make our daily lives a tiny bit more miserable.

Source: One of Cuba's Ridiculous Laws - Havana -

Cuban Telecommunications and its Problems

Cuban Telecommunications and its Problems
April 24, 2014
Janis Hernandez

HAVANA TIMES — Communications have always been a problem in Cuba, and
telephone services have been the biggest of the lot. There aren't enough
land and cell phone lines and existing services are inadequate. I won't
go into the causes or name those responsible (we all know who is to blame).

ETECSA is the only telecommunications company on the island. According
to the government, it was created in response to the need to unify all
communications companies in the country.

Previously, there were 14 communications firms responsible for
telephone, radio, postal and press services, as well as other domestic
entities specializing in related services. The latter included the
Empresa de Proyectos, Construccion y Montaje ("Projects, Construction
and Assembly Company"), Cable Coaxial ("Coaxial Cable"), EMTELCUBA and
Larga Distancia ("Long Distance").

The organizational and financial problems that all economic sectors were
facing in the 1990s were also being felt in the telephone services
industry. The sector was one of the first to open up to foreign
investment, as part of the new market-oriented economic strategies
traced by the government in response to the Special Period crisis.

The decision was to create a company that would offer all of the
country's telecommunication services and reinvigorate the industry. The
establishment of ETECSA was approved in 1993 and, in 1994, the company
was officially authorized to offer and market public telecommunications

While it is true the company never managed to satisfy all of the needs
of the population, it is undeniable that this vital service saw much
improvement following this.

In December of 2003, on the basis of Agreement 4,996 of the Executive
Committee of Cuba's Council of Ministers and of Decree Law 275, ETECSA
was expanded as telecommunications operator through the merger of
Cubacel and C_COM. This was done with a view to bringing all landline,
mobile phone and other telecommunication services under the management
of a single joint venture company.

When they announced the introduction of mobile phones in Cuba, many
naive souls thought we were starting to walk in step with the world.

Nothing was further from the truth. For the longest time, the cost of
mobile services were prohibitive for the vast majority. Though rates
have gone down over the years and other services have improved, as the
saying goes, "when it's not one thing, it's the other."

On February 4, 2011, Cuba's Official Gazette announced the island had
secured 100 percent of the company's shares and had become ETECSA's sole
owner for the first time since 1993. Needless to say, nothing has
improved much since.

We don't know – and no one is explaining – what kind of problems cell
phone lines are experiencing here in Santiago de Cuba. The fact is that,
for more than a week now, it's been impossible to contact anyone over
one's cell phone. "We're sorry. The phone you are dialing is turned off
or outside the coverage area" – this is the recording we all hear when
we try to call our relatives, colleagues or friends.

To be sure, we've done some tests, calling people who are standing a few
steps away from us – and we always get the same recording.
I believe ETECSA must go back to being what it was: a company in the
hands of foreign capital or foreign capitalists. Or we must again have
more than one communications company, to see if things improve some.

Source: Cuban Telecommunications and its Problems - Havana -

Cubans “make do” with odd inventions

Posted on Saturday, 04.26.14

Cubans "make do" with odd inventions
• Shower head: a plastic bottle with holes
• Eye liner: shoeshine paste
• TV antenna: metal cafeteria trays
• Cooking griddle: Iron turned upside down

In a country where Fidel Castro once proposed breeding mini-cows for
pasturing in backyards, it should be no surprise that Cubans have become
masters of improvisations and inventions in the face of their myriad

They punch holes in the bottom of a water bottle and presto, it's a
shower head. If they can't find AA batteries for the TV remote control,
they use a rubber band to attach a C battery, solder in some wires and
surf away.

MacGyver himself would have approved of roasting hot dogs and hamburgers
on the seat of a metal chair, dropping a raw egg into a car radiator to
plug a leak and using a bar of soap to stop a drip from a vehicle's oil pan.

"The tendency is to think that Cubans are real smart. But the reality is
that there have been so many shortages, a super-precarious economic
situation," said Cuban-born Miami designer Ernesto Oroza, who has
collected the inventions since the mid-1990s.

Cubans have been "resolviendo" — loosely translated as "making do" —
since shortages of all types began hitting the island in the early
1960s, shortly after the U.S. government slapped the first trade
sanctions on the Castro government.

The state-controlled media regularly extol the virtues of Cuban
ingenuity, like the sugar mill workers who built replacements for
U.S.-made parts, or the peasant who built their own windmills and
electricity generator and parts for their tractors.

"The revolution injected Cubans with inventiveness to survive the
shortages created by the Americans, and now the Cubans use it to survive
the deficiencies of the revolution," Oroza said.

In one of his many and notoriously failed attempts at improvisation,
Castro proposed in 1987 breeding cows down to the size of dogs, so that
families could keep them in urban yards and resolve a shortage of milk.

But the shortages hit crisis levels in the early 1990s, after the former
Soviet Union halted its annual subsidies to the island of up to $6
billion, the Cuban economy shrank by 35 percent and imported items all
but disappeared from store shelves.

Some of the inventions are clearly more than risky.

With gasoline becoming scarce and expensive, some Cubans worked out ways
of converting their car and truck motors to natural gas, and put the
potentially explosive containers in the trunks of their vehicles.

Bare electrical wires connected to cans or short pieces of pipe were
used as water heaters for showers, and a rusted-out gasoline tank in an
old vehicle was replaced by a couple of plastic jugs set dangerously
close to the hot motor.

Other inventions were simply ingenious.

An iron turned upside down became a griddle, paper clips held up a
shower curtain, a 55-gallon drum turned into a pizza oven and a wick
pushed through a tube of toothpaste and set in a jar of kerosene
provided light when the electricity failed.

Part of a car's suspension became a bracket for mounting a TV on a wall,
and a couple of electrical bits and pieces became a device for
recharging batteries that are not supposed to be chargeable.

In the best-known inventions, metal food trays filched from state-run
cafeterias were turned into TV antennas, and small gasoline motors added
to bicycles became bare-bones motorcycles known as "Rikimbilis."

Women trying to dress up used colored classroom chalk for makeup,
shoeshine paste for their eyelashes, ground battery charcoal to darken
their hair and the antacid Alusil as a hair gel, Havana blogger Regina
Coyula wrote in October.

Oroza recalled that in the early years of the Castro revolution, there
was even a group designed to promote the improvisations and inventions,
the National Association of Innovators and Rationalizers.

Even in 1991, he added, the Cuban military and the Federation of Cuban
Women printed a book on "making do," with articles typical of Popular
Mechanics and instructions on how to make items such as slingshots.

A year later, the two entities published a second book with the ideas
for gadgets, work-arounds and herbal medicines that had been sent in by
readers, proudly titled "With our Own Efforts."

Source: Cubans "make do" with odd inventions - Breaking News - -

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Solitude of the Barracks Multiplies My Strengths

The Solitude of the Barracks Multiplies My Strengths / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on April 26, 2014

When the 20 convicts who accompany me go out on pass for family
reunions, I send them off with the joy that spreads to me from their
happy faces. They are barely gone when I plunge myself into literature.
Nothing will hurt my exorbitant creation, not even the knowledge that
they will deny me the passes I should get according to the Penal Code.
They return to violating my rights, now as a prisoner serving a wrongful

How could I be bored with the quantity of work that awaits me? I
remember that night of November 8, 2012, when we were arrested and taken
away by the Santiago de Vegas police, after being beaten in front of the
police station of Acosta, where we were demonstrating our disagreement
with the unjust detention of Antonio Rodiles.

Sharing a cell with the dissident Eugenio Leal, they released me at
midnight, but scarcely had I advanced 100 meters when in the darkness of
that road–and like a childish game–some seven guards who were waiting
for me surged from behind the bushes to announce that I had to return to
the cell. I did it happily, since my brothers in struggle remained
there, and I felt humiliated at having been the only one to be set free.

Now neither do they notice in me any anxiety, except that which provokes
me to want freedom for the prisoners of conscience that today they keep
in different prisons throughout the island, the dream of democracy with
the disappearance of the totalitarian regime, and free literary
creation. Outside of that, nothing drives away my peace.

I am happy in this life because I have learned that I want to struggle
even with my fingernails; it's the way to grapple with the need to
comply with our conscience, feelings, family education and patriotic

All that impels me to leave the path of masks with which an artist can
live in a dictatorship. I simply ripped up the immorality with which you
survive in the Regime, and I decided to renounce everything I had
obtained. I presumed a pure honest talent.

Beginning then, of course, I received the answer that totalitarian
regimes have for these cases: first the threats, later the direct
rebuff, beatings, fractures, censorship, the diabolic mechanism of the
"injustice" of the organs of State Security, hidden behind courts that
answer to their designs, and, finally, prison.

All that has only served more to multiply all my strengths, hopes,
dreams, and my creativity. Now I am more conscious of the need for my
country to attain the rights proclaimed by the United Nations in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose Pacts the Regime still
hasn't ratified in spite of having obtained a seat on the Human Rights
Council of the United Nations.

The solitude of the barracks is a great stimulus for dedicating myself
to writing, and the constant vigilance of the uniforms around me adds to
my verve. I know they are beaten because they search for a way to get
rid of my power without receiving punishment for their offenses.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. April 2014.

Source: The Solitude of the Barracks Multiplies My Strengths / Angel
Santiesteban | Translating Cuba -