Thursday, December 31, 2015

Alaska, Another Route for Cubans

Alaska, Another Route for Cubans / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on December 30, 2015

Juan Juan Almeida, 1 December 2015 — As a part of the basket of measures
relating to the migration crisis concerning Cubans in Costa Rica, and
with the obvious intention of protecting human interests, starting from
1st December, Cubans wanting to travel to Ecuador will have to get a
visa to enter that country.

The regulation is an attempt to control the stampede; but already the
human traffickers, taking a bird's eye view and with financial
resources, are trying to find new routes to connect Havana with the
United States. Now it seems crossing the last frontier is the latest thing.

I would like to make it clear that not one single letter of what I am
writing here is any attempt to encourage illegal emigration; but, to
write about the matter with my eyes closed or making political points,
is to make myself a central part of the problem.

Crossing Central America, Cubans in the hands of traffickers have to
confront the dangers of the jungle, get around conflict zones ruled by
guerrillas and drug traffickers, and put up with the aggravation of
being constantly ripped off by corrupt locals. Things more improbable,
but just as dangerous as the Siberian steppes.

The latest madness also costs 10,000 – 12,000 CUC per person.

Cubans, conscious victims of people traffickers, fly Havana – Moscow by
Cubana de Aviación (CU0470) 1.156,00 €, or by Aeroflot Russian Airlines
(SU0151) 627,39 €.

Arriving, still a few at a time, at Sheremetyevo International Airport,
the Cubans are received by guides who put them up in previously-reserved
houses and hostels. I have been told that it is all quite a challenge,
they give them warm clothes, something to eat, and then, like polar bear
cubs, God knows in what conditions, they get onto a whaling ship and
cross the Bering Strait to arrive in Alaska, which is American territory.

We know the rest, the Cuban Adjustment Law.

The situation in Costa Rica, will eventually be sorted out. How? I
don't know. That is for governments and diplomats to work on. But let's
not kid ourselves. The problem exists and the exodus continues.

Already, Havana is whispering that Oceania is another way, heading
toward the Cook Islands, Niue, Tuvalu and Samoa, states which have
visa-free agreements with Cuba, nothing complicated, and from there
travel to American Samoa, which, as its name indicates, is also American

The person I was talking to told me something which shook me: "Water
should be free, drinking it is a vital part of a human being's
existence; but water gets bottled and sold. Don't you think that is
profiting from life? Getting people out of Cuba, people who are going to
flee anyway from that country, is less shameful than selling bottled water."

We did not dramatise the tragedy saying that in order to control the
migration the rules of a million dollar organisation are going to
change. It isn't like that, we know that the Cuban and United States
governments, and the whole region is working to trap the traffickers;
but this is tackling the effect without doing something about the cause.
The solution is to create a Cuba with rights, liberties and
opportunities. Then, no-one would want to escape.

As you know, when hope dies, so does love. That, for a disillusioned
people, the traffickers are seen as strange roses growing in the ashes
of a disaster; but, I think that the most dangerous thing is not the
traffic in Cubans, but that the island will be converted into the most
perfect location for the transit of people from many other countries,
who are seeking the same destiny; but with a different objective: Terrorism.

Translated by GH

Source: Alaska, Another Route for Cubans / Juan Juan Almeida |
Translating Cuba -

Cuba Also Needs Democratic Multiparty Elections

Cuba Also Needs Democratic Multiparty Elections / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos
Posted on December 31, 2015

14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 29 December 2015 — Cuba is the only
country in this hemisphere that does not conduct democratic multi-party
elections, which is what the Revolution of 1959 fought for and what
different wings of the democratic left and the opposition forces of all
stripes have been advocating for years.

Democratization of the political-economic process is an urgent need for
Cuban society. A historical debt to the people. The 1959 Revolution
attracted the support of everyone because it is proposed to restore the
democratic 1940 Constitution and the institutional system interrupted by
the 1953 coup. This has been postponed indefinitely.

It is no secret that the economic and politically centralized state
model imposed on Cuba in the name of socialism has failed all along the
line. Its inability to fulfill its own agreements from the Sixth
Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba is conclusive. The model isn't
even capable of implementing the modifications approved by its own party
and leaders.

President Raul Castro says he will retire from the leadership of the
government in 2018. With him, the fundamental base that has sustained
the regime in power for more than half a century will also go: the
glories of the attack on the Moncada Barracks, the yacht Granma bringing
the revolutionaries back from Mexico, and the fight in the Sierra
Maestra. And no matter how much those who come after want it, they will
no longer have those credentials. And they cannot, not even if they
carry its name, for the simple and sensible reason that they were not
there, the test of authenticity imposed by the Castro brothers
themselves. The Revolution was their source of power, but legitimacy is
another thing altogether.

If, before finally retiring from the government, Raul Castro is not
subject to a direct and secret popular vote, future generations will
always be left with the doubt about whether the work of the Castro
brothers was done with or without the support of the majority of the people.

If he were elected president, he could still retire and fulfill his
promise to leave power, but leaving a vice president no longer tied to
those glories but with legitimacy won at the ballot box. And if he
doesn't want to or can't face elections, let the Cuban Communist Party
candidate he supports and for whom he would openly campaign be submitted
to a popular vote. The success or failure of their candidate would be
that of the Castros.

But if their candidate is not submitted to such scrutiny, not only would
the doubt about the true popular support for the Castros continue, but
the legitimacy of the successor would always be in question, because he
or she would not even have these glories, nor would they have been
elected by popular vote.

As the leaders and the current high level bureaucracy of the Communist
Party is convinced that they can always count on the support of the
majority of Cubans, there should be no reason in the next elections not
to elect the president and vice president of the republic by popular
vote, along with the provincial governors and city mayors.

This would bring enormous benefits for the current government. In fact,
if they were to initiate and develop in 2016 a process of
democratization that implies a fundamental respect for Cubans' human
rights, such as freedom of expression, election and economic activity,
and that establishes a new constitution and a new electoral law that
enables truly democratic elections, what remains of the US
blockade-embargo would be completely undermined, forcing its immediate
repeal by the United States Congress.

This would be, in fact, a triumph of their government and would help
them in democratic elections and could also contribute, depending on who
wins the upcoming elections in the United States, to an expedited
normalization of relations with that country.

Moreover, within a couple of years economic and political liberalization
would generate rapid economic growth, slow the exodus of Cubans
overseas, and make all Cubans feel free to express themselves, organize
parties and associations, promote their political proposals, vote for
whomever gives them real economic gains thrugh deploying their abilities
of every kind, which would be visible at the time of the elections and
could widely favor popular support for the government candidate, if he
or she was in the vanguard of this democratization.

"You're dreaming, Pedro Campos," more than a few readers will comment.
No, my friends, this is no dream. Nor are they hopes, though woe to
anybody who does not have them! I am trying to bring some light to the
path for the good of everyone. Whether they see it or not, that's
another thing. Some think that if there is openness, the opposition will
erase the government. Not if the opening is truly democratic and authentic.

It is very clear that those who spearhead the process of
democratization, now or later, are going to lead the country in the
following years. The opposition did not bury Mikhail Gorbachev, it was
the military conservatives. Here, I do not think any members of the
military could do something similar. And the other thing that is clear
to all Cubans is that this model of state capitalism disguised as
socialism has no future. "This model doesn't even work for us any more,"
Fidel Castro himself said once, although later he "clarified" that he
had been misinterpreted.

I imagine that no one will go down in history as the gravedigger of the
Revolution, above all if it is the Revolution itself that makes possible
the opening to full democratization and development of the country.

Source: Cuba Also Needs Democratic Multiparty Elections / 14ymedio,
Pedro Campos | Translating Cuba -

Welcome, Even if Belated

Welcome, Even if Belated / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on December 30, 2015

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 30 December 2015 — Among the
surprises brought by the last session of the National Assembly of
People's Power, one could mention the announcement by the Minister of
Finance and Prices, Lina Pedraza, that as of 2016 there would be an
exemption from taxes on the profits of Basic Production Cooperative
Units (UBPC) – other than those involved in sugar production – as well
as on Credit and Service Cooperatives (CCS), as long as more than half
their revenues come from agricultural production. The announcement has
been well received, although there are many who believe that such a
measure should have been implemented long ago and not as a temporary

The more surprising surprise – forgiving the redundancy – was the
inclusion of owners and lessees of land in the non-sugar sector, who in
this case will be freed from annual taxes on personal income. To
free those who plant and harvest from all the accounting implied in
these statements, and to accept that the more they produce the more they
will earn, could be beneficial not only for those with their feet and
hands in the earth, but could reduce, over the long term, the prices of
agricultural products, a ubiquitous demand from all voters to their
delegates in the local "Assemblies of Accountability"

Finally, it was also announced that no taxes will be paid on the use of
workforce personnel directly contracted for production. This could
benefit both cooperatives, lessees and owners, as at peak times during
cultivation and harvest the use of casual labor is essential. The exodus
from agricultural areas – especially of young people – is due, among
other reasons, to the bureaucratic limitations that don't allow free
movement of the workforce and which give rise to the phenomenon of
"ghost agreements," where day laborers lack all rights and protection.

For a long time, even from positions held by the opposition, there have
been demands that those who produce food for the population should be
freed from tax burdens, which could help boost production and ensure
supply. If implemented as announced, agricultural food producers would
be freed from the fear that making money would lead to the imposition of
taxes that can suck the blood out of those who declare the highest profits.

The measure could be evaluated as a pragmatic step, but also as an
ideological concession to the obsession that farmers not get rich, a
typical ramification from the times of classic Fidelism.

Source: Welcome, Even if Belated / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar |
Translating Cuba -

Christmas in Cuba - Turkey or Hot Dogs?

Christmas in Cuba: Turkey or Hot Dogs? / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar
Posted on December 30, 2015

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 24 December 2015 — Cuban kitchens and
restaurants are preparing for Christmas Eve. The menu that is placed on
the tables will evidence the purchasing power of each family and deepen
social differences. While some make reservations in exclusive places
with gourmet food, others will be satisfied with products from the
ration market or with hot dogs: the cheapest 'protein' in the
convertible peso markets.

Christmas traditions are reemerging on the island little by little. The
first garlanded trees in public places, after decades of censorship,
date back to the nineties of the last century, with the dollarization of
the economy and the emergence of private businesses. But only at the end
of 1997 was the celebration again "sanctified" by officialdom, with the
decreeing of 25 December as a holiday.

Since then, Christmas Eve has become more sophisticated for those who
have access to hard currency. Twelve grapes at midnight and sangria are
served on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. A mix of traditions typical
of the Cuban melting pot. The government tries to emphasize the
importance of the December 31st festivities, the eve of the Triumph of
the Revolution, but it is ever more obvious that in the last month of
the year there is competition among dates.

Nougat, a Cuban tradition, turkey on sale for the equivalent of three
month's salary, and rum, lots of rum, combine in the menu that families
in the emerging middle class will share. Almost eight years after
allowing Cubans to stay in domestic hotels, these locales have launched
a race to capture a broad spectrum of customers for Christmas Eve.

The Hotel Copacabana in Havana's Playa district tries to compete with
the area's private restaurants. For 30 convertible pesos, the monthly
salary of a surgeon, each person can serve themselves from a buffet with
everything from the traditional turkey, to the most local, a shredded
beef stew Cubans call "old clothes," along with seafood, salmon, chops,
smoked or cured loin and international cheeses. All that with a welcome
cocktail, live music and Christmas cake.

Nearby, on Third Avenue, Gladys's family is preparing a very different
dinner. "I could only buy three pounds of pork because it is very
expensive," comments this retiree, whose daughter, who has emigrated,
brought her nougat from Madrid. "The problem is that now there are so
many expenses in December, with dinner on the 31st and the 24th,"
complains the woman who insists she prefers "how it was until a few
years ago, when this day was like any other."

For Gladys's family the expenses are not for food alone. "The littlest
grandson wanted his tree, with the creche and everything," says the
pensioner. However, she acknowledges, "They are very nice days spent
with family and it makes me remember when I was a child and my
grandmother would sing carols and my parents put the gifts under the
Christmas tree."

In Santiago de Cuba the hotel with the same name has also been prepared
for the occasion. The gourmet buffet, with prices that range from 45 to
50 convertible pesos per person, has options with Italian or Island
food, along with a glass of wine. Something that seems like a dream for
a province where poverty has spread in recent years.

The emerging middle class with fewer resources resort to deals that do
not exceed 20 convertible pesos, drinks included. This is the case with
the Havana Jazz Café, where for this price a person gets three glasses
of wine, a variety of international food and a Cuban dessert. Jazz plays
from the stage until after midnight.

State restaurants like The Bunny Rabbit serve "abundant local food with
roast pork and a typical side dish" in Cuban pesos. Taking home a
stuffed rabbit rises to 180 Cuban pesos, the monthly pension of a
retired teacher. "We help you not have to cook for a celebration like
this," an employee at the door advertises with a menu in hand and a bow
tie around his neck.

The ration system markets in Havana and other provinces have received an
unexpected quota of frozen chicken. "It is for the anniversary of the
Revolution" the butchers repeat, without much conviction. For many it
has not gone unnoticed that the supply arrived on the shelves before
Christmas dinner. "This is what you will eat tonight," says Yaquelín, a
impoverished resident of La Timba neighborhood, near the Plaza of the

Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino spoke about Christmas in a message
broadcast on state television saying that it "is not a year-end party,
is in itself a celebration of a great weight, historical, spiritual,
cultural." Although the prelate acknowledged that despite Cuban shops
being full of Christmas decorations "we still do not know" what this
celebration is about.

Others have their own delicacy reserved for the night, leaving aside
traditions and overspending. "I bought a pack of little dogs (hot dogs)
for today and I make them with with sauce, which my kids love," says a
polyclinic cleaning woman in the municipality of San Miguel del
Padron. "After all Jesus was born in a stable, surrounded by pigs and
cows, so you can not ask for more."

Source: Christmas in Cuba: Turkey or Hot Dogs? / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar |
Translating Cuba -

17 December - First Anniversary of a Sterile Marriage

17 December: First Anniversary of a Sterile Marriage / Miriam Celaya
Posted on December 29, 2015

Miriam Celaya, Havana, 17 December 2015 – At the end of the first year
of the restoration of relations between the governments of the United
States and Cuba, the expectations that the historical event awakened in
Cuba remain unfulfilled. With much pain and no glory, Cubans have
continued their struggle with a precarious and hopeless existence, that,
far from improving, has witnessed the permanent economic crisis
deteriorate further, with increases in the cost of living and
consolidation of chronic shortages.

At the same time, the general deterioration of the healthcare and
education systems continues – the last stronghold of the official
rhetoric – and a new and unstoppable process of emigration has been
spawned and become a stampede, amid fears that negotiations between the
two governments will eventually lead to the demise of the Cuban
Adjustment Act.

With the diplomatic bases settled, the respective embassies in
Washington and Havana reopened, and the agendas of a negotiating process
that continues running in secret established, the Cuban authorities have
set a policy to thwart, to the point of invalidation, the effects of the
measures dictated by the US president in favor of opening up Cuba to the
benefit of private, not governmental initiatives. The increase of
visitors from the neighboring nation and the broad flexibility that
renders ineffectual many of the limitations imposed by the embargo have
not significantly benefited the Cuban people, although they contribute
to foreign exchange earnings for the Cuban government and foreign
businesses established in Cuba, especially those related to tourism.

Despite all this, revenues are insufficient even for the ruling clique,
burdened by huge foreign debt, lack of access to credit from the
International Monetary Fund, the agonizing dependence on external
support – an issue which, paradoxically, is used as an element for
discrediting and delegitimizing internal dissent – the lack of reaction
by foreign capital to the "attractive" new Investment Law, and the
urgent need to buy time to ensure their perpetuation of power.

Finally, in the shadow of Uncle Sam, the revolution cycle has closed
with an end which, though long-awaited, is no less dramatic. Behold, the
agonizing "Marxist-anti-imperialist" gang is working the miracle of
recycling itself, metamorphosing from communist to bourgeois precisely
thanks to the imperial capital.

Judging from the evidence, and in the absence of authoritative and
verifiable information, the almost dizzying avalanche of unilateral
proposals from the White House that took place during the course of the
year have not gotten any proportional response from the Palace of the
Revolution. The Cuban President-General has not only turned out to be
incapable of matching in intensity and magnitude Washington's positive
steps towards an approach that would not be for the sole advantage of
the ruling elite, but for the direct benefit of Cuban society, but has,
instead, taken on the same pace ("no rush") of the so-called
"normalization," the same rhythm as the untimely Guidelines of the last
Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) that were never fulfilled.

From 17 December 2014, though not as a result of that event, the Cuban
crisis has grown more acute. With the economy in a tailspin, a large
part of the workforce in flight or with aspirations to escape, the aging
population, the depressed birth rate, the rampant corruption, the rising
inflation and countless other evils to solve, any other government would
have taken this moment of relaxation and approach as an opportunity to
open a path to prosperity and welfare for its people. Not so the Castro

In response, ordinary Cubans are more politically disbelievers, more
indifferent and more pro-American than ever before.

Opponents and dissidents: a growing sector

Contrary to the most widespread criterion, and despite being divided and
fragmented into multiple projects, the independent civil society, in
particular opposition groups and dissidents, has been gaining in
organization and growth. Unquestionable evidence of this is the
increased repression against them.

The increasing intensity of the repressive forces does not indicate – as
some might suggest, using simplistic logic – a "strengthening of the
dictatorship" from the of the process of talks with the US government,
but, on the contrary, a sign of weakness that indicates both fear of the
impact of US influence in Cuban society and the inability to contain the
growth of civic forces, which compels them to apply violence to possibly
avoid, or at least slow down, its spread and social contagion. A
counterproductive strategy that has achieved just the opposite effect:
increasing the dissidence faction and popular discontent.

After the breakthrough generated by the different positions assumed
before the process started on 17 December, a period of intense
opposition activism has ensued in which all tendencies have gained
visibility and spaces. Partnerships have begun to take shape between
organizations of the most varied viewpoints, from a common consensus:
the urgency to strengthen civic struggle to achieve democracy in Cuba.
In this vein, the general agreement is that all forms of peaceful
struggle are valid, since they put pressure on the cracks in the system
and contribute to its weakening.

In all fairness, we must recognize that the efforts of all opposition
groups – whatever their orientation and proposals – not only face the
challenge of repressive and violent action of the regime in power, but
the almost total indifference of the international community and, what
is worse, of insufficient solidarity and recognition by many democratic
governments of the world.

Apparently, Western political and business leaders expect from the Cuban
opposition the cyclopean task of building a strong coalition or becoming
a political alternative to the absolute power of the Castro regime,
almost unaided, before recognizing the legitimate right of
representation, notwithstanding the colossal difference in resources and
opportunities among the dissidents. Compared to capitalist interests,
the democratic dreams of Cubans mean nothing.

2016, a pivotal year

Thus, 17 December is the paper wedding anniversary of the marriage of
convenience between the governments of the United States and Cuba, but
the union has, so far, been fruitless, at least for the Cubans, who we
were never invited to the wedding. The conspiratorial style of the
olive-green caste ruled the celebration. However, it would be unfair to
attribute Cuba's current ills to an alleged White House political error.
In any case, with this approach to the regime, Barack Obama is doing
what is expected of a ruler: looking after the interests of his country
and its constituents. Good for Obama, bad for Castro.

Truthfully, the Cuban general crisis existed long before the current US
president took office, so the frustrations that the more deluded are
experiencing are more a response to excessive and unjustified
expectations and an overestimation of the importance of Cuba, barely an
insignificant island with delusions of grandeur, governed by an outdated
and inefficient system, and lost in the huge regional geopolitical map.

It has been an intense year, but, in retrospect, ordinary Cubans and the
opposition at least should have assimilated a valuable experience: no
one will come to save us from the wreck.

A year ago, the unthinkable happened just when the most bitter enemies
of this hemisphere decided to sit at the negotiating table to settle
their differences. This incredible saga teaches us something important:
2016 could be a pivotal year if those who us who aspire to turn Cuba
into a country of law can demonstrate that we are capable of doing what
now seems an impossible task: creating a civic coalition in the face of
a dictatorship that assumes itself to be eternal. It doesn't seem that
we have any other options left.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: 17 December: First Anniversary of a Sterile Marriage / Miriam
Celaya | Translating Cuba -

Spanish Lessons for Cuba

Spanish Lessons for Cuba / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua
Posted on December 29, 2015

14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 28 December 2015 — The general
elections held in Spain this 20 December (20-D) contain a number of
important lessons for Cuba and for Cubans, as we look ahead to the
electoral process in 2018. Here is a reflection on these lessons, at a
distance of space and time.

I participated in 20-D as a kind of international observer in the role
of representative of the initiative #Otro18*. In the Principality of
Asturias, where I was invited – and which I would like to thank, not
only for the beauty in miniature of a city like Oveido, but also because
the workings of the political systems can be better observed far from
the major metropolitan cities – I observed on my arrival the calm bustle
in which all the competing political groups prepared, in various ways,
for the important exercise of choosing among the diversity of parties
and between the four major faces: Mariano Rajoy (Popular Party, PP, in
power since 2011), Pedro Sanchez (Spanish Socialist Workers Party,
PSOE), Pablo Iglesias (Podemos, (We Can)) and Albert Rivera (Ciudadanos,

Upon my arrival I was quickly driven to the House of the People in
Oviedo: an exquisite and well-preserved example of the architecture of
the 18th century which once served as a home for Catholic nuns and now
is home to the PSOE. Being held there, and this is the first lesson for
us, was the most fortunate of those typically boring meetings we humans
commonly hold. It was the usual meeting, prior to the election cycle, of
the different political groups among what they call auditors and
guardians: a troop of party members who, on election day, monitor the
transparency and fairness of the process.

The meeting included: a rereading the manual updated for the
elections; a recounting of the incidents and problems associated with
previous elections (the municipal elections held in May throughout
Spain); a reminder, in the case of old auditors and guardians, and
guidance in the case of new ones, of their duties and rights on the
election day; a discussion in detail of what constitutes, according to
the code, an electoral offense; and the locations of the local polling
stations, among the total of 23,000 to be opened in throughout
Spain. All of this was part of the necessarily boring night meeting in
one of the PSOE headquarters. I learned there that this also was taking
place among the other political parties.

This boredom of this process is a fortunate thing for a political
exercise as important and complicated as elections. We should grasp the
need for it because it is the only way to tackle one of the key axes of
democratic systems: the nervousness that spreads among the political
class faced with the uncertainties of citizens' votes.

The second lesson is that, when it comes to elections in pluralistic
system, we must be prepared for surprises. It is not always what you
expect, whether it is the trends that mark traditions, or the currents
expressed in opinion polls, that do or do not coincide with what happens
in reality. In the 20-D elections there were several surprises: a clear
end of bipartisanship — that is the dominance of two major parties; the
emergence of new parties in Congress (Podemos and Ciudadanos); the
dissolution of the arrogant majorities; and a return to the culture of
dialogue and agreement needed to advance public policies.

The third lesson is that democracies cannot be hegemonic and respect the
rights of minorities. One complaint I hear constantly is that
majoritarian systems unleash the temptation to ignore the needs and
interests of the minority, to manipulate the mass of voters and to turn
the opposition into a noisy species unable to reverse pernicious
decisions legitimated by the weight of the majority. Ultimately, and
this is a modern element relevant to at least all Western countries,
globalized societies are highly fragmented by a multitude of minorities
– religious, political, ideological, ethnic or cultural – so that
democracies should encourage coalitions that take into account the
interests of all. For Cuba this lesson is urgent.

However, the most important lesson for us Cubans is the tolerance and
respect for diversity displayed in a society like Spain's, despite the
bitter tone of political debate.

*Translator's note: #Otro18 refers to the citizen's initiative
"AlternativaCuba2018", which anticipates multiparty democratic elections
in Cuba in 2018, the year in which Raul Castro has announced he will
step down as president.

Source: Spanish Lessons for Cuba / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua |
Translating Cuba -

Russia pursuing aviation projects with Cuba

Russia pursuing aviation projects with Cuba
December 30, 2015 INTERFAX

Havana and Caracas are becoming reliable economic and
military-technological partners for Moscow, Russian Deputy Prime
Minister Dmitry Rogozin said.

"We are developing aviation projects with Cuba, and we have extended a
loan to them for creating their own power generation industry. We have
trusting relations in the military-technological field," Rogozin said in
an interview with the Rossiya-24 (VGTRK) news TV channel on Dec. 30 30.

Cuba is "a credible and pragmatic partner" for Russia, Rogozin said. "It
will be rising," he said.

"We have major contracts with Venezuela, despite the problems that the
country is experiencing as a major oil exporter," he said.

"The main goal [for Russia] was not to drop through this year, when we
have had these sanctions heaped on us, I mean the artificial, absolutely
brazen and unlawful restrictions of our abilities to buy what we need
for our development and sell what we have as a good product," Rogozin said.

"Despite these sanctions, we have maintained a high level of
military-technological cooperation and made good money for our budget,"
he said.

Source: Russia pursuing aviation projects with Cuba | Russia Beyond the
Headlines -

Traveling to Cuba is easier than ever. Will that change if a Republican becomes president?

Traveling to Cuba is easier than ever. Will that change if a Republican
becomes president?
Updated by Michelle Hackman on December 30, 2015, 9:00 a.m. ET @MHackman

Tourists take in the sites from a double-decker tour bus of Havana a day
after the second round of diplomatic talks between the United States and
Cuban officials took place in Washington, DC, on February 28, 2015, in
Havana, Cuba Joe Raedle/Getty Images
It's the holiday season, which means you've probably headed out of town.
Or perhaps you're prepping for an upcoming trip, or contemplating when
and where you might take your next one.

If so, Cuba might come to mind: One year after President Barack Obama
announced he had begun the process of normalizing relations after half a
century of official hostility, travel to the island nation has become
easier than ever.

Americans are still technically forbidden from traveling to Cuba as
tourists — it would take an act of Congress to formally lift the ban.
But since the start of 2015, the American government is allowing
individuals to travel there, so long as the purpose of their trip falls
loosely under one of 12 broad categories.

Since Obama's announcement, Americans in the tens of thousands have
flocked to the once off-limits island for a new glimpse into its culture
and — because this is America — its potential for business ventures.
(Vox just recently published a helpful travel guide to Cuba.)

So far, Americans wishing to vacation in the island nation must do so on
costly charter flights leaving primarily from Miami and New York. (The
average cost of a Miami-Havana charter flight is about $450, and flights
from New York go for about $800.)

But just this month, the US and Cuba reached a deal to allow commercial
flights to once more operate between the two countries, easing the
process and lowering cost of travel. Already, four major airlines –
American, JetBlue, United, and Southwest – announced plans to operate as
many as 20 daily flights between the two nations, from airports in New
York, Los Angeles, and across Florida.

Politicians and interest groups across the political spectrum have
voiced support for normalization, with groups as disparate as a
bipartisan group of House Representatives, the US Chamber of Commerce,
and even Cuban-American business leaders applauding increased ties.

But a prominent group of Republicans, including several presidential
candidates, are holding out. They strongly oppose any easing of official
hostility, viewing it as a concession to a dictatorial government with a
dismal record on human rights.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban American who's in the lead to capture the
Republican establishment in this year's primary, has said that rolling
back President Obama's détente with Cuba would be a top priority on day one.

"The statute passed by Congress specifically prohibits many of the
things he [Obama]'s now undertaking," Rubio told the Guardian's Sabrina
Siddiqui. "It says those things can only happen after certain conditions
have been met, none of which have been met. As president, I will follow
the law."

Such a reversal would once more severely curtail travel to Cuba for
everyday Americans, who are rapidly warming to the idea of making the
Caribbean nation their next vacation spot.

Strong rhetoric aside, it is an open question whether Rubio, if elected,
will have the political backing to reverse the course on Cuba and
rebottle the curiosity, from both citizens and businesses, that this
rapprochement has welcomed.

How did Americans go to Cuba before President Obama normalized relations?

Before Obama's announcement, legal pathways existed that American
citizens could take to reach Cuba — though they were limited in scope.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton — who had wanted to end the embargo
early in his presidency — opened several new avenues of travel to Cuba,
allowing citizens to apply for visas under one of several categories,
including humanitarian, religious, and educational missions, among
others. This is the program under which the Cuban national baseball team
played the Baltimore Orioles in an iconic 1999 exhibition game.

Under the program, citizens were asked to submit detailed itineraries
ahead of time to demonstrate that their time would be spent on purely
professional activities. Licenses were sufficiently difficult to obtain,
and the majority of Americans entering Cuba ended up doing so through
organized programs licensed through the US government.

When George W. Bush entered office, he put an end to this
"people-to-people" form of contact as part of a larger effort to choke
off any revenue stream to the Cuban government, in hopes that would
weaken its hold on power.

Obama once more renewed the program when he was first elected, but made
no major alterations to travel policy until 2014.

Of course, many Americans traveled to Cuba illegally, both before and
after President Clinton made travel a legal possibility. These Americans
would simply fly through a third country, typically Canada or Mexico,
and obtain a visa through one of those airports. Cuban officials knew
not to stamp the passports of American travelers.

Even so, this sort of travel required logistical hoops. American banks
were never permitted to do business with the Central Bank of Cuba, which
is operated by the government, preventing Americans from withdrawing any
money. That policy is changing under Obama's policy shift.

It's clear Cuba has become a partisan political issue. But how did it

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly when opinions on America's policy
toward Cuba grew polarized — or why, exactly, hard-line supporters of
the embargo tended to vote reliably for Republicans.

The embargo was first put in place by a Democrat, President John F.
Kennedy, during a period of heightened tensions with the newly communist
nation. It was originally put in place to starve the Cuban government of
cash and, with any luck, hasten its demise.

But even then, traces of partisanship can be found, according to
Christopher Sabatini, a scholar at Columbia University's School of
International and Public Affairs. In 1961, Kennedy authorized the Bay of
Pigs invasion — a CIA-led operation to topple communist leader Fidel
Castro that failed in a disastrously public way. Hard-line Cuban
Americans, who supported any attempt to topple Castro's government, grew
furious when the Kennedy administration — which had sent in the initial
fleet of 1,200 rebels to carry out the revolt — did not then send in air
support to bomb Castro's forces that surrounded them.

They believed the moment of military restraint had cost them the
opportunity to regain the island, and from that point, Cuban Americans
developed an affinity for the Republican Party.

By the late 1970s, however, it had become clear that tough American
policy had failed to oust Castro from power. During a period of détente
with the Soviet Union, President Jimmy Carter allowed parts of the
embargo, notably travel restrictions, to expire without renewal.

But in 1980, something happened that had a lasting influence on
presidential politics. In a move aimed at quieting dissent, Castro
allowed anyone wishing to leave the island to do so. Cuban Americans
orchestrated for refugees to come to the United States, and between
April and October 1980, about 125,000 Cubans landed in Florida.

Florida was then, as it is now, a swing state — and Ronald Reagan
pledged toughness on the Castro regime to win votes. When he entered
office several months later, he reinstated restrictions in full, as part
of an amped-up global effort to weaken the Soviet Union and its allies.

In an arguably more important move, Reagan also helped set up — along
with prominent, virulently anti-Castro members of the Cuban-American
community — a political action committee called the Cuban American
National Foundation. The forceful, politically savvy organization sought
to place a deep freeze on Cuban-American policy by corralling votes in
Congress. The organization, supported by a prospering Cuban community,
drafted anti-Cuba legislation and donated to candidates in return for
pledges to vote against any move toward normalization.

When Clinton came into office and signaled a desire to end the embargo,
CANF rallied members of Congress to oppose him, believing that after the
Soviet Union and other communists had fallen, Castro's government would
topple at any moment.

Several years later, in 1996, the Cuban government shot down two private
planes flown by members of a refugee organization that had reportedly
dropped fliers on the island. The shootdown killed four Cuban Americans
and outraged the nation, dampening any appetite for opening relations.

In response, CANF pushed through the Helms-Burton Act, which prohibited
the president from ending the embargo without congressional approval.
Clinton signed the bill into law. It was an election year, and he
couldn't afford to alienate the large Cuban-American community in the
politically crucial state of Florida.

These politics, taken together, cemented the notion that supporting any
loosening of the embargo amounted to political poison. "It was a third
rail of politics that no one wanted to touch, because they worried the
gains wouldn't be as big as the potential risks," said Alana Tummino,
head of the Cuba Working Group at the Americas Society.

The Helms-Burton Act determined Clinton's Cuba policy for the remainder
of his time in office, and President Bush was of course not eager to
shift the needle. But in the meantime, views within the Cuban-American
community were evolving.

Children of Cuban-American immigrants, perhaps removed from the Cold War
politics that shaped their parents' worldview, are increasingly breaking
with previous generations' staunch support of the embargo. And more
recent Cuban immigrants of the US, motivated to leave for economic
rather than political reasons, don't harbor the same zealous hatred of
the Castro regime.

What, exactly, did the president change?

President Obama's announcement, on December 17, 2014, marked the
furthest any president has gone in walking back the embargo and
restoring a relationship with Cuba.

By January, the Obama administration had lifted significant restrictions
on travel, dropping the requirement to apply for a license to travel in

Now Americans wishing to travel must check one of 12 boxes on a visa
indicating the nature of their trip, but beyond that, the American
government takes them at their word. Travelers are still technically
required to carry an itinerary, in case agents ask to check — but of
course no one does.

"[Obama administration officials] really want people to be engaging with
the people of Cuba — eating at private restaurants, meeting with
entrepreneurs," Tummino said.

Since then, the Obama administration has removed Cuba from the
government's state sponsors of terrorism list, and the two countries
reopened embassies in each other's capitals.

Perhaps more importantly, Obama has permitted American companies to
reenter Cuba, particularly to work with private enterprises on the
island. Airlines will once more resume flights, and Airbnb, the
room-sharing service, is now representing private lodgings across the

American internet providers have moved onto the island, and two
cellphone companies, Verizon and Sprint, have already signed roaming
agreements with Cuban cell carriers.

But the regulations that allow these companies to operate in Cuba, and
allow tourists to visit there, exist purely under executive action. That
means, legally speaking, without help from Congress, the next president
can simply choose to alter or drop them if he or she so chooses.

Will a Republican president reverse normalization?

That's exactly what several presidential candidates, Rubio chief among
them, are pledging to do.

To these Republicans, Obama's deal is taking a perilous gamble — that by
bringing economic liberalization to the country, a relaxation of
political authoritarianism will follow. They point out – and they are
correct – that nothing in the deal Obama struck with the Cubans actually
requires them to change their structure of government or curtail human
rights violations.

If a Republican with hard-line Cuba policy gets elected in 2016, it's
likely he will at least tinker with the Obama administration's
regulations, perhaps closing embassies or putting light restrictions on

But taking any further action might prove politically untenable. Not all
Republicans even agree anymore on the orthodoxy of the embargo; Rand
Paul, for example, opposes it on libertarian grounds, and Donald Trump
has declared it bad for business.

Overall, 59 percent of Republicans surveyed in a July Pew Research poll
favor ending the embargo altogether, which could put pressure on the
eventual Republican nominee.

Public opinion aside, pledges to roll back the steps the US has taken
toward normalization ignore the deep business interests that have sprung
up in the short time since Obama made his initial announcement. It's one
thing to stand in opposition to Democrats; it's another to alienate
America's business community.

"The toothpaste is out of the tube, and you cannot put it back in,"
Columbia's Sabatini said. "You can make some marginal changes, you can
make some noise – but there are too many interests who have a stake in
this to go back."

So if you're contemplating spending a future winter break in Cuba, it's
a good bet your plans are a go.

Source: Traveling to Cuba is easier than ever. Will that change if a
Republican becomes president? - Vox -

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cuba sees growth halving to 2 pct on lower export revenues

Cuba sees growth halving to 2 pct on lower export revenues
By Marc Frank

HAVANA, Dec 29 (Reuters) - Cuba is forecasting that economic growth will
halve in 2016 to 2 percent from this year, and Cuban President Raul
Castro on Tuesday blamed the decline on falling export revenues.

Echoing an earlier statement by Economy Minister Marino Murillo, Castro
confirmed the forecast for a slowdown in 2016 as he closed the
year-end-session of the National Assembly, from which foreign
journalists were barred. His comments were reported by official media.

Castro attributed the decline to "financial limitations associated with
the fall in earnings from traditional exports," the Cuban News Agency
(ACN )reported.

Prices for key exports such as sugar, nickel and refined oil products
have all fallen significantly this year.

Castro said lower oil prices had reduced the cost of a number of imports
such as food but also hurt "mutually advantageous cooperation relations
with various (oil-producing) countries, in particular the Bolivarian
Republic of Venezuela."

The collapse of oil prices punishes Cuba under the terms of its oil deal
with Venezuela. Cuba receives more than 100,000 barrels of oil per day
as part of an exchange that sends Cuban professionals to Venezuela. Some
30,000 doctors and nurses, plus another 10,000 professionals, are posted
in Venezuela.

Cuba also receives cash for the workers. Economists and oil market
experts believe the amount is tied to oil prices, meaning Venezuela
would pay less to Cuba when prices are down.

Cuba refines and resells some of the oil in a joint venture with its
socialist ally. Prices for refined products are down in tandem with crude.

The fall in oil prices has been a major driver of financial markets this
year. Oil prices rose about $1 a barrel on Tuesday, but slowing global
demand and abundant supplies from OPEC members kept energy markets
bearish. Venezuela is a member of the Organization of Petroleum
Exporting Countries.

Traders and analysts said the global oil glut would persist into 2016.

"Cuba's trade with Venezuela represents 15 percent of the gross domestic
product, half of what the Soviets' trade represented," said Cuban
economist Pavel Vidal, a professor at Colombia's Pontificia Universidad
Javeriana Cali.

Cuba continued to receive oil this year, but most likely not all the
cash it may have been owed, Vidal said.

Diplomats and foreign businessmen based in Cuba said state companies
were cutting imports and seeking longer payment terms from suppliers.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Cynthia Osterman)

Source: Cuba sees growth halving to 2 pct on lower export revenues -
Yahoo Finance -;_ylt=AwrC0CabxINW0w0A90PQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByOHZyb21tBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--

Amid Cuba opening, Havana quinceanera biz booms

Amid Cuba opening, Havana quinceanera biz booms

HAVANA (AP) — Up a winding flight of stairs at a beachside Havana home,
Camila Lopez Rivas lies on the tile floor, smiling mischievously into a
video camera circling overhead.

Tossed around her are layers of a blue and aqua taffeta dress, the first
of nine outfits the 14-year-old will pose in, from colonial ball gowns
to a neon green bikini.

Camila lives in Miami, the daughter of a truck driver who left Cuba when
she was a baby. She doesn't remember the island, but wanted to return
for the photographs and videos that Latin American girls typically take
for their 15th birthdays.

"I left very young," Camila said between a halt in the taping. "But I'm
from here."

Such voyages back to Cuba are becoming increasingly common for girls who
find that marking the milestone on the island is both appealing and
economical. Cuban reforms permitting small-scale, private businesses and
the re-establishment of U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations have encouraged
new photo and event planning businesses for events such as girls' 15th

The complicated networks connecting Cubans in Miami and Havana feed the
growth: Camila learned about Marbella Studio, the business she hired,
from another girl in Florida who had her photos taken there.

Marbella Studios in Guanabo, a 30-minute drive from Havana, is located
in an Art Deco-style home and employs 12 photographers, stylists and
videographers. There are more than 500 outfits to choose from in three
dressing rooms and a calendar full of appointments with clients. Owner
Sarah Medina Vigor said about 60 percent of the 500 or so girls her
studio photographs each year travel here from other countries, with July
and December being the peak months.

Celebrations known as "quinceaneras," marking a girl's 15th birthday and
recognizing her transition to womanhood, date back centuries in Latin
America. Some vestiges of the older celebrations remain, with Latin
American girls performing traditional waltzes. But in Cuba, photographs
are the main focus.

Signs for new photo businesses that document 15th birthdays line the
doorways of decrepit Havana buildings and advertisements abound on
websites such as, an underground Cuban Craigslist. Many
studios are run by former state sector professionals who purchased
cameras with the help of U.S. relatives and have found taking pictures
far more profitable than the average monthly government salary of $20.

Alberto Gonzalez, owner of Aladino photo studio, said he saw an equal
number of clients from Cuba and abroad over the summer. "This year, more
came than any other," he said of the visitors.

But the daughters of workers in Cuba's emerging private sector are also
helping fuel business. With the economic reforms, many families on the
island now have extra cash to spend for quniceanera celebrations.

They include 14-year-old Dachely Silva, who sat at Aladino one afternoon
before a gold-rimmed mirror as a makeup artist layered mascara onto her
eyelashes. Her mother, Mayelin Alfonso, recalled posing in just one
dress for her own 15th birthday.

Now, her husband has a business driving tourists around in a restored
classic American car. Without the business, "we would not be able to
afford this," Alfonso said.

Quinceanera packages at most studios start around $150 and include
professional hair and makeup artists, scenic Havana backdrops and
multiple wardrobe changes — a bargain compared to similar services in
the U.S. that typically start at about $1,000.

In the past, quinceanera photos typically featured girls in poufy
dresses and crowns. But at many Havana studios, there are now punk-rock
style sneakers and miniskirts among the rows of high heels and gowns.
The girls also pose in bikinis, feathered boas and little else for
photos that would raise eyebrows back in some parts of the U.S.

Some girls hold their quinceanera parties in Cuba as well. On one fall
evening, dozens of teens stood outside a new party hall in a restored
colonial building where a woman who lives in the U.S. was throwing her
sister a 15th birthday party.

A guest, 14-year-old Maria Fernandez of Havana, said it was "very
emotional" to see friends come back to the island for their 15th
birthday celebrations. "They have friends and an entire life here," she

Daniela Santos Torres, 14, left Cuba when she was 3, returning in
December for her quinceanera photos and party. She now lives in
Glendale, Arizona, where her father runs a home remodeling business. She
said returning to Cuba for her celebration was "a dream," allowing her
to include her extended family and friends on the island.

While many Cuban Americans who left the island shortly after the 1959
revolution remain reluctant to visit, those who left for primarily
economic reasons over the past decade rarely hesitate to return.

"Recent Cuban immigrants tend to support more engagement of all kinds
with Cuba, including restoring diplomatic ties, lifting the embargo,
allowing travel by all U.S. citizens, and investing in the fledgling
private sector of the island's economy," said Jorge Duany, director of
Florida International University's Cuba Research Institute.

Camila finished her eight-hour photo and video shoot with a session at
the beach. In February, she'll return for her party at the Melia Cohiba
Hotel near Havana's Malecon seaside promenade.

"Cuba is in style," said her father, Eliecer Lopez Rufin. "Everyone
wants to come do their party here."


Follow Christine Armario on Twitter:

Other recent stories by Christine Armario:

Source: Amid Cuba opening, Havana quinceanera biz booms - Yahoo News -;_ylt=AwrC0CabxINW0w0ADUTQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTBydWNmY2MwBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM0BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--

With ally Venezuela struggling, Raul Castro prepares Cuba for tough year despite US opening

With ally Venezuela struggling, Raul Castro prepares Cuba for tough year
despite US opening
Michael Weissenstein, The Associated Press
The Canadian Press
December 30, 2015

Cuba's President Raul Castro applauds as he sits next to Vice President
Miguel Diaz Canel during the island's twice-annual legislative session
at the National Assembly in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015. The
assembly will hear a detailed report on the progress of the gross
domestic product of the Caribbean nation, whose growth was estimated by
authorities at 4 percent. Plans for 2016 will also be announced. (Ismael
Francisco/Cubadebate via AP)
By Michael Weissenstein, The Associated Press

HAVANA - President Raul Castro warned Cubans on Tuesday to prepare for
tough economic conditions in 2016 despite warmer relations with the
United States. Castro said that while tourism is booming, low oil prices
have damaged the outlook of an economy that depends on billions of
dollars of subsidized oil and cash from Venezuela.

According to state-controlled media, Cuba's president told the National
Assembly to expect 2 per cent growth in gross domestic product next
year, half the rate his government reported in 2015. Foreign media are
barred from the twice-annual meetings of the National Assembly.

Despite the government's assertion that the GDP grew 4 per cent this
year, there is widespread dissatisfaction among Cubans over the widening
gap between low salaries and the high price of essential goods, most
particularly food.

Castro appeared to be preparing Cubans for harder times ahead, saying
that "we must cut any unnecessary spending and make use of the resources
that we have with more rationality and with the goal of developing the

He dedicated a lengthy section of his speech to Venezuela, where the
opposition to Cuba-backed socialist President Nicolas Maduro recently
took control of parliament amid widespread shortages and spiraling violence.

Cheap oil "has affected our relationship of mutual aid with various
countries, particularly the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the target
of an economic war aimed at undermining popular support for its
revolution," Castro said.

He urged Cubans to avoid what he labeled "defeatism" in the face of a
drop in Venezuelan aid, saying "the history of our revolution is full of
glorious pages despite difficulties, risks and threats."

More than 3 million tourists visited in 2015, an increase of nearly 20
per cent in the wake of President Barack Obama's declaration of detente
with Cuba. The surge in visitors pumped cash into the state-controlled
tourist economy and the growing sector of private bed-and-breakfasts and
restaurants, but it also drove up household inflation. In the absence of
a wholesale market for private businesses in Cuba's state-controlled
economy, entrepreneurs have been forced to compete with cash-strapped
consumers, driving up prices by driving off with cartloads of basic
foodstuffs like eggs and flour.

Salaries for state employees, who make up most of Cuba's workforce,
remain stuck at around $25 a month, leaving hundreds of thousands of
Cubans struggling to feed their families.

Falling oil prices have lowered the cost of the imported goods that Cuba
depends on but have hurt the island's economic relationship with
Venezuela in 2015, Castro said. Cuba has sent thousands of doctors to
Venezuela in recent years in exchange for oil and cash payments at
highly beneficial rates.

Cuba does not regularly release reliable economic statistics that
conform to international standard but its top earners of hard currency
in recent years have been tourism, nickel mining and the export of
government-employed professionals like the doctors sent to Venezuela and
other allied countries. Castro said lower nickel prices also hurt the
country's 2016 outlook.


Michael Weissenstein on Twitter:

Source: With ally Venezuela struggling, Raul Castro prepares Cuba for
tough year despite US opening -

Cuba’s CDR Committees - Bringing Back the Dead

Cuba's CDR Committees: Bringing Back the Dead
December 29, 2015
Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — There were no excuses: it wasn't raining, people had been
notified in advance, the meeting would be held before the sacred soap
opera came on and the "visitors" would arrive early. We had only to wait
until the clock showed 8 pm to start.

For two years now, none of the building's tenants have wanted to become
the chair of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). Put
that way, it would seem we are seeing a form of popular resistance, an
act of defiance against decadent organizations. Some might even think we
are approaching the date in which Cubans (or at least those living on my
block) decide to take the reins of their lives and send the
"revolutionary" abominations they suffer straight to hell.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves, tis best not to allow ourselves to
be deceived.

The blessed "visitors" were from the district Party office, that is to
say, members of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) who are retired and
continue to offer services in their place of residence.

The PCC secretary made it clear at the very beginning that she wasn't
there of her own free will, that it was a duty she had to fulfil. "What
we do is offer guidance and supervise, but, owing to the problem that a
CDR without a head represents…"

Yes, I asked myself the same question: what is the Party doing trying to
"solve" a problem faced by "genuine civil society"?*

The official continued in a very calm tone of voice: "If we don't elect
someone today, I'll have the difficult task of reporting this, and it'll
be a shame, because, in the past, this building held very nice
activities, had a pretty garden and people had enthusiasm."

No one said a word.

Then, she pulled the oldest trick in the book, appealing to veteran CDR
members: "Will no one step forward? If you elect a young person, so much
the better, but it can also be an elderly person who knows the neighbors
well, who knows each of their personalities. Will no one speak? Am I to
believe no one has an opinion on this? The district coordinator, who
lives in a different building, by the way, can't continue chairing this
CDR, that's not her job. There are valuable people here, why won't
anyone say anything?"

It was true: there was deathly silence.

In view of this situation, other officials – only women spoke – took the
floor to remind us that CDRs are "our way of life." In an effort to
offer something more substantial, they turned to the constitution:
"Chapter 4 speaks of the importance and duties of the family." Then,
they invoked illustrious figures: "It's no accident Jose de la Luz y
Caballero said that one's education begins at home, and home is where
the family is, and families are part of the CDR, as are all neighbors."

But people remained silent.

So, looking desperate, they took out the magic wand. While children are
frightened straight with the "boogey man," one word serves to horrify
adults: "counterrevolutionary."

Yes, this late in the game, people still jump up when they feel they are
being accused of being counterrevolutionaries. I know it's hard to
believe, but it's the truth.

The uncomfortable murmuring immediately began to be heard. An elderly
woman from the old, CDR guard took the position. There was no vote. It
didn't matter whether people agreed with this or not, the meeting was

There was applause. The word "dignity" caused a certain degree of
euphoria among those present. "We don't want anyone to come tell us what
to do, we know how to do things well, and we'll do them together. No
one's a counterrevolutionary here."

I should clarify that the uproar wasn't caused by any concrete fear. It
wasn't the fear of incurring the disfavor of others or receiving a poor
assessment**, it was more along the lines of having one's "honor

I love seeing the people I care for together, getting along without any
conflicts, overcoming differences, sharing things, etc. However, it is
pathetic that our union should be imposed on us by appealing to
something as confusing and absurd as the CDR, a dying organization that
fights tooth and nail to remain alive. No one believes the media when
they tout the vitality of the organization and very few see any reason
for it to exist at all, but there it is, still holding on to dear life
in our neighborhoods.


* During the Summit of the Americas, the Cuban government defended the
idea that the island's CDRs and other grassroot organizations are part
of a "genuine civil society." If that were so, it would have no need of
guidance or supervision from a Party.

** Some workplaces approach the CDR to confirm an applicant's
revolutionary credentials and social behavior. Many a time, getting the
job depends on this process.

Source: Cuba's CDR Committees: Bringing Back the Dead - Havana

Is Cuba the New El Dorado?

Is Cuba the New El Dorado?
News December 29, 2015
Exploring Cuba's economic opportunities
By Anne-Sophie Gidoin
Op-Ed Contributor

To catch 2 Billion USD in foreign investment per year, the Caribbean's
biggest island has equipped itself with an engaging legal framework.
The remedies available in case of disputes against local entities
reinforces the attractiveness of this 11 million individuals-market.

Cuba seeks foreign investment in the amount of $2 Billion USD per year
to increase its annual growth rate above 4%. Since November 2014, the
Cuban government has hence unveiled 326 strategic investment projects.

Despite extensive media coverage of the restoration of diplomatic
relations with the US during the summer of 2015, the island refuses to
depend again on a single market.

In addition to Venezuela, Cuba currently includes Spain, Brazil, Canada
and China as its preferred partners.

At first glance, resorting to internationalization to ensure growth and
development in a socialist economy might be surprising. Yet, the
leading measures undertaken by the Government confirm that the
"actualization of the Cuban economic model" is on.

The creation of ZED Mariel ("Zona Especial de Desarollo Mariel") in
September 2013 has been the first milestone towards the implementation
of an attractive framework for foreign investors. This 465 sq.m. area,
located 45 km away from Havana, is intended to become a maritime hub in
the region. But it is the entry into force of Law No. 118 – Cuba's
Foreign Investment Act – which seals the modernized legal framework.

The government targets specific sectors for investment such as
agriculture, renewable energy, the chemical and pharmaceutical
industries, infrastructure and tourism, as well as information and
communication technologies. In fact, strategic investment projects
cover a broad scope: health, education and the army being the only
fields reserved to domestic investors .

Foreigners investing in Cuba have two options. On the one hand, they
may create an international economic association with local investors.
This association either takes the form of a joint venture ("Empresa
mixta"), or of an international economic association agreement
("Contrato de asociacion economica internacional"). On the other hand,
an investor may register a totally foreign capital company (« Empresa de
capital totalmente extranjero »). In this case, the investor is able to
settle as a natural person, acting on his own behalf, or as a juridical
person setting up a subsidiary office or a branch of a foreign entity.

In practice, foreign investments shall be approved by the competent
administrative authority, depending on the form of investment. The
CEPEC ("Centro para la Promoción del Comercio Exterior y la Inversión
Extranjera") is the national agency supporting foreigners in their
strategic moves.

The tax regime applicable to joint ventures and international economic
association agreements is particularly attractive, the more so in ZED
Mariel. These companies are exempted from profit tax for 8-10 years.
They also benefit from exemptions related to social charges, territorial
contributions, customs and natural persons' income.

Last but not least, the State guarantees foreign investors free transfer
aboard, in freely convertible currency and freely of tax and fees, of
dividends and profits obtained as a result of the investment, as well as
amounts received in the aftermath of a dispute, liquidation or sale of
the company in which the investment was made. Foreign investors are
entitled to open bank accounts in the Cuban national banking system and,
upon the Central bank's approval, open and operate accounts in freely
convertible currencies in banks established abroad, and engage in
lending operations with foreign financial institutions.

Remedies available to foreign investors in case of a dispute with a
local entity complete the attractive regime set on the island.

Disputes between private parties may be decided by international
arbitration tribunals when contractually agreed. Decree Law No. 250 of
30 July 2007 updates the Cuban arbitration law. The Cuban court of
international commercial arbitration plays a key role in this
mechanism. Accordingly with the New York Convention on the recognition
and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards, which entered into force on
30 March 1975 in Cuba, foreign arbitral awards shall be enforced in Cuba
and Cuban awards shall be enforced in the 155 States members of this

Besides, foreign investors may directly assert their rights against the
Cuban State, pursuant to 40 Bilateral investment treaties between the
island and foreign countries. These treaties protect investors from
signatory States especially against expropriation, discriminatory
measures, breach of the fair and equitable treatment standard and other
breaches of international law.

Regardless of continuing uncertainties related to political tensions,
past failures and the State's grip on the economy, the island has
managed to set an engaging legal framework. Cuba is certainly a new
Eldorado, open to daring investors.

Anne-Sophie Gidoin is an Associate in Jones Day's Global Disputes Group,
LL.M.(MIDS, Geneva).

Note: the opinions expressed in Cuba Journal Op-Eds are those of the
author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Cuba Journal.

Source: Is Cuba the New El Dorado? | Cuba Journal -

Migrants, Crises and Transnationalism

Cuba: Migrants, Crises and Transnationalism
December 29, 2015
Haroldo Dilla Alfonso

HAVANA TIMES — As the days pass, the thousands of Cubans stranded in
Costa Rica as refugees and the hundreds who have gathered, destitute, in
small impoverished towns along Panama's pacific coast cease to make
headlines in Cuba.

The island's official press mentions the situation only in passing, as a
distant phenomenon, as, and I quote Cubadebate, "a complex migratory
situation that has arisen in that country [Costa Rica], brought about by
how alluring the riches of the north prove for the poor of the south and
by the specific provisions that benefit Cuban migrants in the United Sates."

In the meantime, the international press seems to have grown tired of
what was once the attractive media spectacle of Cubans being clubbed by
the Nicaraguan police. What we are seeing today is a closed playing
field, in which each of the countries involved has taken a stance that
neutralizes the potential decisions others could make and forces Costa
Rica to digest a situation which stands as the most disastrous migratory
crisis of its history.

The complexity of the issue, however, isn't to be found in its
humanitarian dimension. Ultimately, I am certain that Cubans will find a
way to reach the United States or settle somewhere in Central America
where they can start a new life. It's possible, and desirable, that they
will come to the end of the journey before the year ends. They are
certainly entitled to it.

[Editors's Note: we also suggest "Possible Solution to Allow the 8,000
Cubans in Costa Rica to Reach the USA", published after this article by
Haroldo Dilla]

The complexity of the situation stems from the fact the issue isn't
being debated and, consequently, that it is left in the hands of the
government, which interprets and describes the matter as a "complex
migratory situation," when, in fact, what we are dealing with is a
structural crisis facing Cuban society and with morbid situations that
waste away this society and make it unviable as a nation.

It's true that no objective balance of Cuba's migratory situation can
place this situation outside the context of US-Cuba bilateral conflicts,
or neglect the responsibility of the US government in this situation.
But to leave matters there not only involves a politically skewed
analysis but also a gesture of intellectual dishonesty.

The Cuban state has used its migrants as an instrument of political
blackmail – at times restricting migration, at times authorizing it and
at times instigating it through mass exodus like the ones witnessed in
1980 and 1994. For all such ends, it has never been hesitant to stage
farcical encounters, such as the nation's meetings with representatives
of the émigré community, to sink tow-boats full of helpless individuals
(including children) or to charge the steepest consular fees in the world.

What took place on the Costa Rica – Nicaragua border is another example
of how this government uses its migrants: the Cuban government has
instigated a migratory crisis, coordinated with an allied government
(Nicaragua) and has consented to having its citizens mistreated in
unjustified acts of violence. Then, it has turned its back on the
situation in all senses, bombastically proclaiming that it would be
willing to allow those migrants who have a legal migratory status and
wish to return to the island to come back to Cuba. That is to say, no one.

On the other hand, Cuban emigration cannot be explained solely on the
basis of legal provisions such as the Cuban Adjustment Act, as no
opportunity, no matter how attractive, explains the frankly suicidal
nature of the itineraries in question, where more than one migrant has
lost their life. It is also untrue that the only reason to emigrate is
of an economic nature – no migratory phenomenon operates that way – and,
in Cuba, the economy and politics merge into one another in an
excessively affectionate embrace.

People in Cuba emigrate because they have no prospects in a country with
a devastated economy, an authoritarian system of government and highly
limited options in terms of personal realization. Cubans not only live
poorly, they can't complain about it and are unable to picture a
brighter future. They are also terribly bored.

One of the most dangerous aspects of the current situation is the scant
attention devoted the matter by those who – as academics or political
activists – should have learned the significance of the increasingly
evident transnational nature of our society. Next to no one has said
anything on the matter.

A case in point is the tardy and inadequate analysis carried out by the
critical intellectuals who are part of the Cuba Posible ("Possible
Cuba," CP) project. In this connection, CP issued one of its familiar
dossiers (, with a suggestive
introduction which read as follows: "We must urgently find an answer to
the dramatic crisis these people and their relatives are facing. In
addition, Cuba and the United States must urgently implement
multifaceted (and short-term) measures and design a (long-term) strategy
to lay the foundations of a new situation that will make scenarios such
as this one impossible." The dossier sought the opinion of several
individuals. I will refer to those of three renowned intellectuals:
Lenier Gonzalez, Roberto Veiga and Pavel Vidal.

With the exception of Lenier Gonazalez, CP vice-chair, who described the
crisis as a structural problem (with questionable arguments, perhaps,
but also with a laudable multifaceted approach that did not neglect the
issue of democracy), the rest of the people approached offered a frankly
precarious and unilateral analysis.

Economist Pavel Vidal, for instance, attributed emigration to the
economic crisis and suggested the solution was to be found in the
broadening of the private sector in Cuba. This way, he neglected the
fact that the bourgeoning of Cuban emigration to its current,
unsustainable levels has been co-extensive with the expansion of the
private sector. This is so, quite simply, because the expansion of the
private sector does not take place as a liberalizing addition to the
nation's economy but as a restructuring process that leaves people out,
precisely the losers who economists, dazzled by the market, consider
morally acceptable collateral damage.

Lastly, this neglects the fact that Cubans were emigrating long before
the crisis existed and even at times of economic growth and rising
consumption, as the Mariel exodus illustrated. To place migration and
the economy in a strictly linear relationship is a regrettable
vulgarization of the situation.

The most curious line of argument, however was probably that followed by
CP chair Roberto Veiga, who feels the problem would go away with the
elimination of the blockade/embargo and the establishment of a "quick
lane" that would grant Cuba's Council of Ministers discretional powers,
to make decisions without the consent of "parliament."

Veiga writes as though Cuba was not already a country governed through
decrees and as though that form of authoritarianism wasn't one of the
reasons behind the domestic crisis which hurls Cubans across the planet,
as though it were perfectly reasonable that an institution that speaks
of building a better Cuba should suggest giving an authoritarian
government greater authority.

When I see such texts, I grow increasingly convinced of the acquiescence
of the island's intellectuals (no matter how talented) in the face of
issues which, like this one, force us to direct our criticisms inward.
And it is doubly regrettable, because this debate involves that other
part of Cuban society that does not reside on the island and which CP
does not call upon. Suffice it to recall the volume published by FIU
University three years ago.

The one positive aspect of this regrettable crisis is that it forces us
to regard Cuban society from a transnational perspective, that is to
say, as a society that transcends the island's boundaries and is
developing intense economic, cultural and political ties in different
corners of the planet. If we refuse to regard Cuba this way, we will
fail to understand what is taking place and what will take place in a
future replete with challenges. One of these challenges is how to take
full advantage of the transnational nature of a country that ought to
belong to everyone.

Source: Cuba: Migrants, Crises and Transnationalism - Havana -

Raul Castro prepares Cuba for tough year despite US opening

Raul Castro prepares Cuba for tough year despite US opening
By Michael Weissenstein | AP December 29 at 8:11 PM

HAVANA — President Raul Castro warned Cubans on Tuesday to prepare for
tough economic conditions in 2016 despite warmer relations with the
United States. Castro said that while tourism is booming, low oil prices
have damaged the outlook of an economy that depends on billions of
dollars of subsidized oil and cash from Venezuela.

According to state-controlled media, Cuba's president told the National
Assembly to expect 2 percent growth in gross domestic product next year,
half the rate his government reported in 2015. Foreign media are barred
from the twice-annual meetings of the National Assembly.

Despite the government's assertion that the GDP grew 4 percent this
year, there is widespread dissatisfaction among Cubans over the widening
gap between low salaries and the high price of essential goods, most
particularly food.

Castro appeared to be preparing Cubans for harder times ahead, saying
that "we must cut any unnecessary spending and make use of the resources
that we have with more rationality and with the goal of developing the

He dedicated a lengthy section of his speech to Venezuela, where the
opposition to Cuba-backed socialist President Nicolas Maduro recently
took control of parliament amid widespread shortages and spiraling violence.

Cheap oil "has affected our relationship of mutual aid with various
countries, particularly the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the target
of an economic war aimed at undermining popular support for its
revolution," Castro said.

He urged Cubans to avoid what he labeled "defeatism" in the face of a
drop in Venezuelan aid, saying "the history of our revolution is full of
glorious pages despite difficulties, risks and threats."

More than 3 million tourists visited in 2015, an increase of nearly 20
percent in the wake of President Barack Obama's declaration of detente
with Cuba. The surge in visitors pumped cash into the state-controlled
tourist economy and the growing sector of private bed-and-breakfasts and
restaurants, but it also drove up household inflation. In the absence of
a wholesale market for private businesses in Cuba's state-controlled
economy, entrepreneurs have been forced to compete with cash-strapped
consumers, driving up prices by driving off with cartloads of basic
foodstuffs like eggs and flour.

Salaries for state employees, who make up most of Cuba's workforce,
remain stuck at around $25 a month, leaving hundreds of thousands of
Cubans struggling to feed their families.

Falling oil prices have lowered the cost of the imported goods that Cuba
depends on but have hurt the island's economic relationship with
Venezuela in 2015, Castro said. Cuba has sent thousands of doctors to
Venezuela in recent years in exchange for oil and cash payments at
highly beneficial rates.

Cuba does not regularly release reliable economic statistics that
conform to international standard but its top earners of hard currency
in recent years have been tourism, nickel mining and the export of
government-employed professionals like the doctors sent to Venezuela and
other allied countries. Castro said lower nickel prices also hurt the
country's 2016 outlook.


Michael Weissenstein on Twitter:

Source: Raul Castro prepares Cuba for tough year despite US opening -
The Washington Post -

A socialist vision fades in Cuba’s biggest housing project

A socialist vision fades in Cuba's biggest housing project
Inequality is growing in Cuba, threatening the legacy of Castro's revolution
Story by Nick Miroff
Published on December 29, 2015

HAVANA — In the Alamar neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana, the
streets don't have names. To find an address, you need to know the zone,
the block number and the apartment, because all the buildings look the
same. Long and rectangular, five stories tall, their facades have been
stripped by the ocean air and re-pigmented in curlicue patterns of mildew.

Alamar is the largest public housing project in Cuba, if not one of the
largest in the world, with 100,000 residents. In a country sworn to
socialist equality, it is arguably Cuba's most equal place, because
everyone pretty much has an identical apartment.

Above: Horses feed near the Alamar coastline; the city's signature
buildings can be seen in the distance. (Photo by Lisette Poole for The
Washington Post)
"It was a model city," said Román Pérez, 76, a retired bus driver who
lives in Zone 8, block D52, apartment 21. He helped build D52 and two
others with his own hands, as a member of a communist worker
"micro-brigade." This was Fidel Castro's idea.

"We had everything then," Pérez said. "Everyone looked after each other."

That was 40 years ago. Today, with U.S.-Cuban relations on the mend,
this island has come to the edge of a new post-Castro era. The country's
ideological foundations are cracking, and new uncertainties are coming —
perhaps none larger than whether the egalitarian values of Castro's
revolution will be swept away by rising inequalities and the breakdown
of Cuba's socialist welfare state.

Communist Party elders want to keep a lid on market forces, but with
every incremental opening, yawning income gaps emerge. The owner of a
small private restaurant can earn hundreds of dollars a day, or more, in
a country where three-quarters of the labor force works for the state
and the average government salary is $20 a month. Tour guides and hotel
chambermaids make more than scientists and doctors.

Younger Cubans do not seem too troubled. But these disparities,
authorities fear, bear the seeds of social tensions, resentments and crime.

"Men Die, But the Party Is Immortal," says a billboard in Alamar, trying
to reassure residents who may wonder what will happen after Fidel, 89,
and current President Raúl Castro, 84, are no longer around.

Cuba remains a society of unusual social and economic parity in Latin
America, a region beset by deep class divisions and the world's worst
homicide rates. A fraying system of cradle-to-grave benefits keeps
Cubans living in a kind of state-administered, socialized poverty,
earning high scores on U.N. human development surveys but little for
Cuban wallets.

On the surface, Alamar looks like the kind of peripheral urban slum that
a visitor would not dare enter in Sao Paulo or Bogota or Mexico City.
Yet it is a place with no gangs, and essentially no guns or drugs, where
neighbors know each other and parents send children out to play in the
cracked stairwells and weedy lots. Social and economic equality — and
political conformity — have been reinforced by the monotony of the

Old-timers such as Román Pérez say they would not want to live
elsewhere. But most of the other members of Pérez's micro-brigade have
died or moved away. Their children are impatient to get out of Alamar,
to somewhere better.

They see Cuba's model city, and the country's revolution, as running on

'City of the future'

Before it was a neighborhood, Alamar was an argument.

In capitalist countries, governments built housing projects that gave
shelter to the poor but failed to fix the root causes of poverty and
marginalization. Fidel Castro's proletarian city would be different. It
would endow residents with a sense of ownership and belonging by
enlisting them in the construction of their own homes.

The idea came at a low point for Castro. In 1970, he had mobilized the
entire island in a drive to achieve a sugar harvest of 10 million tons.
Students, factory workers and nearly all other able-bodied males were
sent out into the sweltering cane fields with machetes.

The whole thing was a disaster. The sugar harvest fell short, shredding
Castro's veneer of invincibility.

The Cuban leader pivoted to a new fixation: Havana's housing shortage,
the product of a 1960s baby boom and the mass migration of Cubans from
poor rural areas to the capital.

There were few undeveloped spaces big enough for his ambitions. But the
completion of a road tunnel under the Bay of Havana in 1958 had opened
up the city's eastern coastline to developers. Their blueprints had
contemplated an American-style suburb. The rebels' takeover a year later
iced those plans.

"We were living in a one-room apartment," said Luis Castillo, who had
migrated to Havana from Santiago in eastern Cuba. He came to Alamar in
1979 on the promise that his family would receive an apartment in
exchange for his labor as a mason.

"We slept out in the open, in the foundation of the building," said
Castillo, 88, who still lives in the apartment he helped build. "We even
worked on Sundays."

Castro visited Alamar often in those years, dropping by to inspect
progress and show off the project to visiting foreign dignitaries. State
television reports hailed the rise of Cuba's "city of the future."

In an era of right-wing military rule in Latin America, at least one
apartment in every building was reserved for foreign revolutionaries and
activists who might need a refuge.

Alamar today is becoming a different sort of refuge, a destination for
rural migrants from Cuba's interior who can't afford to live anywhere
else in Havana. Four years after Raúl Castro allowed Cubans to begin
buying and selling property, Alamar apartments list for $5,000 to
$10,000, a tenth of what they would be worth in parts of the city that
attract tourists.

[$75,000 will get you a lot of house in Havana — if you're Cuban]

Like the great sugar harvest, Alamar's grand ambitions fell short.
Building materials and budgets were diverted to meet construction quotas
for residential units, leaving little or nothing for parks, recreation
areas and stores, let alone upkeep of the buildings.

The neighborhood's 25 "zones" are laid out in no particular order, and
the apartment blocks too were positioned in haphazard fashion. Open
areas between buildings have since been filled in by weeds and debris.
The disarray is compounded by the lack of a downtown or central plaza.
One part of Alamar is so remote it's known as "Siberia."

"Alamar became the reference point for what happens when you remove the
concept of architecture from the construction process," said Miguel
Coyula, a Havana architect who is an authority on the city's history.

Such criticisms sting for Humberto Ramírez, who was assigned to Alamar
in 1972 as a young architect. He eventually became the project's top
technical engineer. Despite the inexpert labor force, he said, most of
the buildings remain solid. The Alamar buildings did fail as an example
of urban planning, Ramírez acknowledges.

"But they achieved their goal," he said. "They provided housing. And
they created a place of equality for the socialist society we were

Hard times set in

When Olga Mederos moved to Alamar in 1986, there were strict rules. No
pets. No exterior alterations. No religious believers. She tried to put
some potted plants on her balcony and got a reprimand.

"Alamar wasn't so run-down then," said Mederos, 55, who lives in Zone 8,
D54, with her adult son. "People followed the rules. They took better
care of the common areas. On weekends, everyone would volunteer to pick
up trash and sweep the stairwells."

Alamar was then like a gated community, except that the homeowners
association was the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR),
the Communist Party watch group found in every neighborhood on the
island. It enforced the residential rules and the political ones, too.
It aimed to create a community of model workers, devoted revolutionaries
and altruistic neighbors.

It worked, in a sense, for a while.

Cuba was more prosperous then, floating on generous Soviet subsidies.
Bus service to the rest of Havana was plentiful. So were the food
rations at government bodegas.

When the Soviet Union folded, Cuba fell on hard times, but Alamar fell
harder. The power blackouts were constant. Gasoline shortages meant
six-hour lines at the bus stop. Mederos remembers taking her children to
the rocky shoreline to cool off and watching neighbors push off on
makeshift rafts bound for Florida.

The apartment blocks of Alamar still have CDR watch groups, but
neighbors rarely volunteer anymore to pick up trash or work on Sundays.
After 25 years of economic austerity, a collective exhaustion has set
in, the toll of steady emigration, corruption large and small, and the
knowledge, from the impossible-to-filter influences of globalization,
that Cubans live better in almost any other country than their own.

Mederos came from a family of committed revolutionaries and had moved
her parents into the building adjacent to hers. Her father, Aldo, 82,
was a photographer for the Communist Party newspaper, Granma, and what
was then the Ministry of Communications.

He was the first Cuban to print the grisly photos confirming the death
of revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Bolivia in 1967. "The
photos were still wet when they took them to Fidel," he said.

The egalitarian ideals of that era are lost today on Aldo's grandson,
Alejandro, 28. He has an American flag in his bedroom but little else.
Trained as a veterinary technician, he was laid off during Raúl Castro's
campaign to downsize the state bureaucracy. Sometimes he drives a taxi.
His mother says he is desperate to leave.

"He says to me, "I don't want to turn 50 in this country with no car and
no house of my own,' " Olga Mederos said.

Mederos's daughter, Wendy, 33, studied for a career as a social worker.
But she grew disillusioned a decade ago when Fidel Castro responded to
chronic pilfering at state gas stations by assigning young social
workers to operate them. She had not gone to university to pump diesel.
She works today in the sales department of the state telecommunications

As elsewhere in Cuba, many of those who sacrificed the most for the
Castros' revolution are today struggling to survive. Mederos's
80-year-old mother, Olga Chang, earns $2 a day selling pastry and candy
in the street. Nearly half of her $15 monthly government pension goes
back to the state for her small-business license.

Olga Chang's husband, Aldo, keeps thick manila envelopes of old photos
that tell the story of a life in the service of Cuba's socialist dream.
There is one of him and Olga on a motorcycle in the early 1960s, when
his little photography studio also afforded them a Chevrolet coupe. Aldo
has photos of a youthful Fidel Castro speaking in Moscow, Hungary,
Brazil, back when Aldo traveled the world to document El Comandante's

A few black-and-white prints show Aldo with a machete in the cane
fields. He volunteered for 12 sugar harvests.

"When I show these to my grandson, he says, 'What good did it do? Look
at you now. You've got nothing,' " Aldo said.

He shuffled the image to the bottom of the pile, looking away. "Maybe
it's true," he said. "Maybe he's right."

Source: A socialist vision fades in Cuba's biggest housing project | The
Washington Post -