Tuesday, March 31, 2015

You have to hear every silly thing in this country!

"You have to hear every silly thing in this country!" / Cubanet, Orlando
Freire Santana
Posted on March 30, 2015

A letter published in the official Granma by one its readers asks the
State to limit the prices charged by the self-employed in order to
protect "the working people from abusive prices"

Cubanet.org, Orlando Freire Santana, Havana, 27 March 2015 –
Notwithstanding the image that the Castro regime strives to present
about small, private enterprise, in the sense of having expanded this
activity as part of the economic transformations that are taking place
on the island, the truth is that the non-state sector of the economy
faces more than a few obstacles.

High taxes, lack of a wholesale market where supplies and raw materials
can be acquired, the lack of recognition by the authorities of the total
costs that private businesses incur, as well as the excess of audits of
Sworn Personal Income Statements, among others, are some of the daily
hurdles that stand in the way of the self-employed.

Last Friday, March 20, the newspaper Granma published two works that
contain "recommendations" that could obstruct or kill self-employment.
The first of these, "Money Well Paid?" is a report about the payments by
state entities to self-employed workers in the Holguin province.

The very title of the report – with that question mark included –
already allows a glimpse of the distrust of those kinds of transactions,
that in the past year reached 36 million pesos. The Holguin authorities
insist that state entities must exhaust all options that the providers
from the government sector offer when acquiring goods or services. And
only lastly to approach the self-employed workers.

The state payments to the self-employed in the referenced territory,
with a view to exhaustive control, must pass through a bureaucratic
structure that includes the Government Central Auditor Unit, the
Commission of Charges and Payments, and the Provincial Administration
Council. And by the way, what becomes of the highly vaunted
"entrepreneurial autonomy" if the entrepreneurs can barely decide from
whom to buy what they need?

The other material featured in Granma is the letter from a reader, "For
the excessive desire to obtain greater riches," in which he complains of
the prices charged by the self-employed who entertain children in the
Palmira township in Cienfuegos. In addition to that specific situation,
the writer of the missive extends his criticism to all the self-employed
and says in one paragraph: "I think that the Administration Councils,
municipal as well as provincial, must control the prices of the
offerings by the self-employed, protecting the working people from
abusive prices and giving those people a legal foundation on which to
demand their rights."

It should be emphasized that an opinion of this kind, appearing in an
official organ of the Communist Party, cannot be underestimated in any
way. So began the attacks against the self-employed who sold home
products, to those who were called "retailers." In the end, that
activity was prohibited, and many self-employed who used to hold those
licenses lost them and were left unemployed.

When I commented to a café owner in my neighborhood about the Granma
reader's letter, the man reacted indignantly: "Don't tell
me…self-employed prices are abusive…Listen to me, abusive is the tax
that I pay, which they have raised on me three times; abusive is that I
spend more than 50% of my revenues on buying everything that I need to
work, and the people from ONAT [the State tax collector] only recognize
25% as expense; and abusive was the fine that they imposed on me last
year, of several thousand pesos, when they deemed that I had
under-reported personal income. You have to hear every silly thing in
this country!"

About the Author

Orlando Freire. Matanzas, 1959. Graduate in Economics. He has published
the book of essays, The Evidence of Our Time, Vitral Prize 2005, and the
novel The Blood of Liberty, Franz Kafka Novels From the Drawer Prize,
2008. He also earned Essay and Story prizes from the magazine The
Universal Dissident, and the Essay Prize from the magazine New Word.

Source: "You have to hear every silly thing in this country!" / Cubanet,
Orlando Freire Santana | Translating Cuba -

Breaking the Bank - Fifteenth Birthday Parties in Cuba

Breaking the Bank: Fifteenth Birthday Parties in Cuba / Ivan Garcia
Posted on March 31, 2015

Ivan Garcia, 28 February 2015 — Fourteen-year-old Yanisbel has one hot
meal a day and the roof of her house leaks but her mother and
grandparents have been saving for a decade to stage a
traditional quinceañera, a celebration of her fifteenth birthday.

"All the women in my family celebrated their fifteenth birthdays," says
her mother. "My daughter should too. Maybe we won't be able to throw a
blow-out party. We don't have relatives in government or in Miami but at
least we'll have photos taken, buy her three new outfits and throw a
little party for her school friends."

Yanisbel's grandparents sell prepared lunches and milk caramels. They
keep some of their earnings in a ceramic jar. "Fifteenth birthday
parties get more expensive every day. An album of one photo session and
a video is going to cost us 200 CUC. Then there are the costs for the
dress, the buffet and beverages for the party. More than 600 chavitos
(convertible pesos) in total," her grandfather explains. "That's the
equivalent of five-years' worth of pension for a retired person."

South of the capital in the town of Casino Deportivo, Jennifer's family
will celebrate her birthday in high style. Accompanied by her parents,
Jennifer visits the studio of a well-known photographer. Seated on a
high bench, surrounded by strong lighting, a mirror and a white hat, she
poses as if she were a model.

After a light dinner and a bath, she waits with her parents and
boyfriend for a video to be shot. On the eve of the party she goes
shopping with her mother and two girlfriends at a boutique in Miramar.

The climax is a four-night stay at a five-star Cayo Coco hotel in Ciego
de Avila six hours by car from Havana. "The hotel and clothing expenses
are being paid for by relatives who live in Miami. They're flying to
Cuba on the day of the party," says Jennifer's father, a mid-level
bureaucrat at a state enterprise.

When asked about the costs, the father waves his hand and smiles. "What
can I say? It's a family secret. We have been putting away money since
she was born. I stopped counting after about two-thousand convertible

While Jennifer looks forward to the celebration, Octavio — an assistant
bricklayer whose daughter's fifteenth birthday is twenty days away —
does not have a bank account or a wad of cash stashed under the
mattress. "I will think of something. I plan on buying some new clothes
and taking some pictures. Maybe I'll pawn the TV or the fridge. I don't
know," says Octavio as he waits in line at a bakery.

A photo session with the subject dressed like an actress and a DVD with
photomontages ranges from 120 to 350 CUC. Poor girls like Ileana cannot
celebrate their fifteenth birthdays by going out on the town with their
friends. "But I do have a photo album and my parents gave me a pair of
high-heeled shoes," she notes.

Yamila, a sociologist, believes fifteenth birthday parties like this are
a long-standing tradition in Cuba. "I cannot pinpoint exactly when this
Latin American custom melded with the European tradition of ballroom
dances," she says. "In Spain, when a boy reached adolescence, they would
put a goat in a sack and throw it off the top of a bell tower. I don't
know if they still do that but every July 7 on the Feast of San Fermin
people in Pamplona run through the streets with bulls."

She explains that in the United States the president even spares the
life of turkey on Thanksgiving. "Every country has its customs and
traditions. Purists in Cuba look upon fifteenth birthday parties as
being tacky, extravagant wastes of money. But in the popular imagination
they remain cherished events," the sociologist points out.

A profitable private-sector industry has grown up on the island around
these celebrations. Pablo, a professional photographer, alternates his
time between working for a foreign press agency and shooting fifteenth
birthday parties. "If you are a high-caliber photographer, you can make
good money. Thanks to weddings and quinceañeras, I have been able to buy
a 1956 Cadillac in good condition and spend a few days in Varadero every
year. I find these parties cheesy but, as long as they pay well, long
live the fifteenths.

Cuba's fifteenth birthday celebrations have crossed the Florida Straits
and have taken root among the hundreds of thousands of compatriots
living there. Although many families have little to eat and live in
poverty, the arrival of girl's fifteenth birthday is an important event.
Some people like Jennifer's parents can afford to break the bank.

Source: Breaking the Bank: Fifteenth Birthday Parties in Cuba / Ivan
Garcia | Translating Cuba - http://translatingcuba.com/breaking-the-bank/

Neighborhood “CDR” Meetings in Cuba

Neighborhood "CDR" Meetings in Cuba
March 31, 2015
Jorge Milanes

HAVANA TIMES — "We'll be holding a meeting to nominate our candidates
next Wednesday, at the market corner," the chair of the Committee for
the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) tells me as she opens the gate of
her house. "Can I count on you to go?" she asks.

I looked her straight in the eye, thinking whether to answer her or not.
I finally decided to do so, saying:

"I've been participating at these meetings for a very long time. We
always discuss the same things and, even though this one has to do with
something else, we never arrive at any solutions. There are several
problems in the neighborhood. The most critical is the garbage problem –
we have garbage that piles up and it takes up to a month to collect it.
The place has become a breeding ground for infections and a perfect
habitat for flies and cockroaches. They come out of the sewer and head
for people's houses and the cafeteria on the corner, which has plenty of
customers. That corner is disgusting, to tell the truth."

She looks at me, lowering her head as though she were taking in my
words. Perhaps she's embarrassed by what I'm saying or secretly thinks
I'm right, because she lives in the same neighborhood.

"I'm certainly tired of all this," I go on. "There were never as many
flies in my house as there are since Nelsy, the CDR representative,
decided to put all of the dumpsites in one street corner. We can't even
sit out on the porch because of the stench and the flies. It's not only
my house, it's the entire neighborhood," I conclude.

"Neighborhood residents are also responsible for this problem, because
they throw the garbage outside the bin," she says to me.

"Just one moment," I interject. "We have three garbage bins for 6 city
blocks, and they collect the garbage once a month! I don't think we'll
be solving this old, major problem at the meeting. I don't think I'll be
able to attend, you know the situation I have at home and I can't walk
away from it."

"You're right, kid. We'll see each other later," the CDR chair replies
and walks away.

Source: Neighborhood "CDR" Meetings in Cuba - Havana Times.org -

The Final Hidden Face of High Prices in Cuba’s Markets

The Final Hidden Face of High Prices in Cuba's Markets
March 31, 2015
Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

HAVANA TIMES – Over the last couple weeks, there've been several
different takes on the topic of the high prices in the markets here
versus the scant buying power of most customers. In my view, we've yet
to recognize the final determining factor in this story.

The few elements of classic political economy that I'm familiar with
seem more than sufficient to explain the problem. The old boys – Marx,
Smith, Richard Wolff – explain perfectly well the uncomplicated Cuban
market, a market without the financial trading complexities that reign
in the modern world. Here we simply experience the market as a space for
the exchange of equivalent goods in a series of trades:

A super-starlet has been left out of this story: the Law of Value, which
determines the prices for specific goods. Goods can't be sold for less
than what it cost to produce them. The expenses of the primary producer
plus those of subsequent links determine the minimum price, to which a
certain profit margin must be added before you can reasonably
commercialize anything.

Many people within the socialist cosmos, among them Ernesto "Che"
Guevara, manifested little affection for this law in their day. The bad
reputation didn't in any way diminish the law's validity, however, just
as the effects of gravity aren't lessened because someone believes that
this is merely a social construct.

If we then go on to analyze Cuban farm products markets and their
prices, we must begin by looking at the primary cost of the products.
The first clue can be found in the value of the labor force that the
contemporary Cuban land owner contracts. The landless workers, those who
work on farms belonging to others, charge about 80 pesos for a day of
work. Some 22 workdays a month add up to a salary of 1,760 regular Cuban
pesos monthly (US $88).

I'm not going to get into a debate about whether this is a little or a
lot. The fact is that the market gives this value to that labor force.
Within the labor spectrum, one could imagine that this labor is one of
the cheapest values as a result of its unskilled nature and the
difficulty of establishing labor union alliances – among other problems
– thus making it easier for employers to increase their exploitation via
coercive mechanisms. Likewise, for less than that sum the
farmer-employers won't find people willing to bend their backs under the
sun in their orchards or with their herds.

The salaries are only one of the landowner's expenses. To those figures,
you have to add the investment in fuel, seeds, fertilizer, pesticide,
and equipment if he had to use tractors, irrigation systems and the
rest. After the farmer sells to the first buyer, there are more expenses
for packaging the product, transporting it, and marketing it to the
final consumer, etc. Today these inputs receive almost no State
subsidies, and as a result, their costs are comparable with those in
other international arenas.

Generally, those who work in that chain manage to generate an income
greater than that of the day-laborer, "the last card in the deck." We
are speaking here of five thousand or ten thousand pesos, who knows how
much more a month. Those involved consider these figures as their due
compensation. They believe that their efforts and investments make them
worthy of being able to purchase a car, a house, buy a lot of
knick-knacks, go on vacation at a hotel. With less income, they wouldn't
be able to realize these aspirations.

This sector enjoys an income that may appear scandalous. Nonetheless,
they are merely enjoying the powers that the famous marketplace and the
Law of Supply and Demand have allotted them. These people consider that
their efforts are not worth any less than that, and if we take a look,
this is the level of compensation that almost everyone aspires to. It's
also that which the entire mercantile offer – from the private sector as
well as from the State – urges us towards. And it's comparable to the
ambitions of their equivalents in other international scenes.

Comparing those sums with the average monthly salary that the National
Office of Statistics has declared, we see that those who work for the
State receive less than 500 pesos monthly. Simple farm arithmetic says
that inputs with prices comparable to other countries, plus people
involved with consumer desires comparable to those in other countries,
will yield prices comparable with those of other countries. Those of us
that are screwed, then, are the ones whose salaries are in no way
comparable to those of other countries, but instead a pittance to be
thrown away. Hence, the great majority of us remain sentenced to great
difficulties in trying to satisfy our basic needs.

These simple realities are impossible to refute, because of their
objective and material nature. Those who have no interest in developing
a general understanding of them can spin fairy tales and empty promises;
many people will believe them out of a need for hope and consolation. In
fact, assimilating the hard reality and proposing to transform it is a
difficult quest. The mix of bad intentions and naïveté has served to
prop up obsolete state policies, as well as to sell the tale of
capitalism as savior.

No real solutions exist within the framework of contracting and
exploitation of the labor force, be it by individual private capitalists
or via State capitalism. A raise in salaries would lead to nothing more
than the devaluation of the currency, given that this has no value in
itself but is only a reflection of the total wealth that is created. The
problem could get still worse, because for the moment the costs of
education and health are paid indirectly by the support of the entire
national labor force. If these latter were to be modified – if they were
charged directly – the cost of the labor force involved in agriculture,
from the peon right on up to the person who passes the sold merchandise
across the counter, would rise in response to their need to cover these
items; and the prices would continue their climb.

The State scheme took us to the edge of the abyss, according to the
confession of our current President, Raul Castro. It's possible that a
"normal" capitalist regime could set us right, but only after several
decades of increased exploitation, inequalities, social conflicts, etc.
In the end, a more wealthy society might emerge, but with very
differentiated classes: some with more, others, definitively impoverished.

The problem of fair prices and a genteel level of well-being for society
in general can only be solved within the framework of revolutionary
transformations for the entire nation. The key elements must include
working class ownership of the means of production, and the autonomy and
democracy that would allow them to generate and distribute the riches in

In this way, they would escape the alienating exploitive relationships,
both private and state. Many intermediate structures would be
rationalized, structures that currently serve only to multiply the
prices of products in order to generate the money that maintains the
parasitic classes. That's where we will finally find equilibrium between
income, market prices and the satisfaction of individual social and needs.

Source: The Final Hidden Face of High Prices in Cuba's Markets - Havana
Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=110331

Tampa could prosper from restoring cattle trade with Cuba

Tampa could prosper from restoring cattle trade with Cuba [Tampa
Tribune, Fla.]

March 29--TAMPA -- Before Tampa became "Cigar City," it was a cattle
city, sustained by the profits local businessmen earned selling to Cuba
when the island nation's herds fell into decline.

"The cattle industry was what bridged those early years with modern
times," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator at the Tampa Bay History
Center. "It provided Tampa with a source of income during very lean
years until the cigar industry arrived."

Now, with Cuba's cattle herds again in decline, some believe Tampa can
prosper from rebuilding it.

It's a topic ripe for discussion 6 p.m. Wednesday when the history
center hosts a panel discussion, "Florida Cattle Ranching: Past, Present
and Future."

Moderated by Kite-Powell, the panel will include Florida ranchers Jay
Starkey Jr. of Starkey Ranch, Willie Johns from the Seminole Tribe of
Florida, Cary Lightsey of Lightsey Cattle Co., Charles P. Lykes Jr. of
Lykes Bros Inc., and Robert Thomas of Two Rivers Ranch.

Reservations are required, at tampabayhistorycenter.org.

Florida has 1.7 million head of cattle, ranking it 16th in the nation,
the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

"When most people think of cattle they only think of the west," said
Dusty Holley, director of field services at Florida Cattlemen's
Association. "Florida usually ranks in the top nine to 11 in the
cow-calf industry."

This industry raises calves until they are 8 months old then sells them
out-of-state, to ranches or processors.

"We aren't just selling them locally and having the same money circle
around the state," Holley said. "Florida's cattle industry brings in new
money from out of state."

Eight of the largest cow-calf operations in the U.S. are in Florida,
compared to four in Texas, the top cattle state.

The total impact on the state's economy from Florida livestock and dairy
operations is $6.2 billion, according to the Florida Department of
Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The department did not have specific numbers for the cattle industry,
but Holley places the figure in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

None of Florida's cattle ranches are in the Tampa area, but Port Tampa
Bay is the closest deep water port to Havana, notes John Parke Wright,
who sells cattle semen to Cuba and is the grandson of H.T. Lykes, who
traded cattle to Cuba in the late 1870s.

Wright estimates Cuba, with a population of 11 million, has less than 2
million head of cattle -- far less than the 6 million there in 1959 when
Fidel Castro rose to power and the population was 7 million.

A shortage of proper feed and farming equipment, a lack of ranching
knowhow and natural causes are to blame for the decline, Wright said.

Cattle, feed and farming supplies are commodities the U.S. can sell to
Cuba, he said, and Florida -- whose calves are raised in a similar
climate -- is in a unique position to sell there.

"They should then be shipped out of Tampa," Wright said.

First, there are obstacles to overcome.

Port Tampa Bay has no regularly scheduled shipping to Cuba. And the
Cuban economy may not have the money to buy.

What;s more, Wright added, Cuba may not have the trained ranchers to
build up its herds again.

As is the case with all U.S. businesses, ranchers cannot set up
operations because federal government prohibitions remain in place.

Still, Wright is optimistic.

"I think in time Tampa and Florida will again become Cuba's best friend.
And when that happens cattle will be at the forefront of the business

If so, it would be a case of history repeating itself.

The North American cattle industry wasn't born out west.

It started on land that would become Florida, said Kite-Powell of the
history center, when Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon brought cattle here

By the 1700s, the Spaniards had established some 34 ranches throughout
the state with 20,000 head of cattle, most historians agree.

In the early 1800s, Spain ceded Florida to the U.S. and with it, the cattle.

There were some ranches in the Tampa area, Kite-Powell said, but the
biggest were in other parts of Florida.
Still, Tampa offered a close sail to Cuba.

"Some businessmen were savvy enough to see money in this," he said.

One was ship owner James McKay, "who made quite a fortune through the
cattle sales to Cuba," Kite-Powell said.

McKay's big break came in the 1870s when Cuba's Ten Years War with Spain
shrank the cattle herds there.

McKay bought cattle from ranchers throughout Florida and shipped them to

Spain, which still ruled Cuba, paid in gold doubloons, cattleman Wright
said, and was charged up to eight times more than what cattle were
selling for in Florida.

"There were a lot of happy cattle ranchers in Florida," Wright said.

In all, Cuba bought more than 100,000 head of cattle from Tampa businessmen.

Among them was the Lykes family, who owned a 500-acre cattle ranch in
Hernando County and later moved into the shipping business.

The Lykes family later bought a 15,000-acre cattle ranch in the eastern
Cuba province of Oriente, opened a slaughterhouse in Havana, and shipped
meat back to Tampa to be made into stew and sausage at a processing
plant on at 50th Street and Adamo Drive.

The port of Tampa was deepened to handle all the extra trade,
Kite-Powell said.

Soon, other commodities from throughout the state -- citrus, phosphate
and bananas among them -- were shipped from Tampa to Cuba and other
Caribbean destinations.

"Without the cattle, there is no way of knowing what Tampa's economy
would have been like as it waited for the cigar industry," said Kite-Powell

The first cigar factory was built in Tampa in 1886 by Vicente
Martinez-Ybor when he moved his operation from Key West to the area
later known as Ybor City.

At its peak, Tampa's cigar industry employed more than 10,000 people in
more than 200 factories. They produced up to half a billion hand-rolled
cigars a year, primarily with Cuban tobacco shipped to the city through
the port that had been built on the cattle industry.

Still, cattle didn't lead directly to cigars, Kite-Powell said.

"There were two different sets of individuals leading each," he said.
"There was not really any crossover."

Wright said that for Tampa, the cattle industry peaked in the 1920s and
1930s but remained prosperous through 1960, when President Dwight
Eisenhower banned exports to Cuba.

"Everything changed for Florida and Cuba on that day," Wright said. "But
I am confident everything will change again -- for the better."


Source: World Stock Markets & Stock Index Performance - Businessweek -

Source: World Stock Markets & Stock Index Performance - Businessweek -

2 Cuban nurses attacked in coastal Jamaica town

Official: 2 Cuban nurses attacked in coastal Jamaica town

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Jamaica's health ministry says two nurses from
Cuba have been "brutally attacked and injured" by a gunman who invaded
their residence in the small Jamaican town where they were providing
free medical care.

Health Minister Fenton Ferguson says Monday's attack on the women in the
town of Buff Bay was "unforgivable, especially since they have committed
themselves to service to the people of that community."

Ferguson says the nurses are hospitalized in stable condition. They have
been working at a hospital in the small coastal community in northeast

Area parliamentarian Daryl Vaz says a suspect has been detained by police.

For years, Cuba has sent numerous doctors and nurses to provide free
care in Jamaica and other countries across the region.

Source: Official: 2 Cuban nurses attacked in coastal Jamaica town -
Yahoo News -

Cuba wants more Internet access while keeping state control

Cuba wants more Internet access while keeping state control

Washington (AFP) - Cuba wants to boost public Internet access while
keeping the Communist government's control over it, a senior US official
close to talks with Havana on technology said Monday.

"They are looking for mechanisms by which, in the first instance, they
can expand connectivity while at the same time retaining their mechanism
for market management, which is obviously vastly different than ours,"
said the State Department source.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, questioned whether
Cuba can meet United Nations goals of having 60 percent of the
population of 11 million online, and having Internet service in 50
percent of homes by 2020 -- without allowing rival providers to enter
the small market.

Private Internet connections in Cuba are strictly regulated by the
Americas' lone one-party, Communist-ruled state. Only 3.4 percent of the
population can connect from home, according to UN data.

Cuba "would not be the only market in the world with a single provider,"
the source noted.

Last week, a US delegation traveled to Cuba to follow up on
re-establishing normal telecommunications links as part of the two
countries' bid to normalize relations.

The team was led by Daniel Sepulveda, deputy assistant secretary of
state and coordinator for international communications and information

A "preliminary" round of US-Cuban talks devoted to human rights will
help set a format for future discussions on the issue, the State
Department said.

The encounter, to be held in Washington on Tuesday, would be the latest
in a series aimed at normalizing ties between the two Cold War-era

The talks have slowly progressed since US President Barack Obama and
Cuba's President Raul Castro surprised the world by announcing on
December 17 they were working toward restoring relations severed for
more than 50 years.

Source: Cuba wants more Internet access while keeping state control -
Yahoo News -

Cuba isn’t “open” just because the US says it is

Cuba isn't "open" just because the US says it is
Ellery Roberts Biddle
Advocacy Director, Global Voices
March 30, 2015

American television handyman Bob Vila is now in Cuba, so the island
nation must be opening up, right? Since last December's historic
announcement that the US and Cuba would re-establish diplomatic
relations, there has been a flurry of public speculation among US media
on what the changes will mean for tourism, immigration, business, and
Much of this has been predicated on the idea that the country is
"opening up," or that the Obama administration has somehow pried open
the iron cabana under which many Americans see­m to believe that Cuba
exists. A quick Google search on "Cuba" and "open" reveals headlines
like these:
"Cuba opens up more to U.S. travelers, trade"—Associated Press

"How will Obama's decision to open Cuba affect travel?"—Fox News
"Why Republicans should thank Obama for opening up Cuba"—PBS.org
Shortly after the news broke, the Daily Beast's Michael Moynihan pointed
out widespread eagerness among journalists and other public figures in
the US to visit Cuba "before McDonald's moves in." Twitter saw plenty of
speculation about the possibility of Starbucks, Walmart, and other US
commercial corporations setting up shop in Cuba over the coming months.
Laying aside the fact that the new legal terms remain largely
unresolved, it is curious that so many people see this as an "opening."
As a person who has spent long periods of time studying culture and
technology in Cuba, I can't accept the idea that the country was ever
"closed" in the way that so many US media outlets seem to imagine.

Cuba has a local population of 11 million citizens, but an additional
two million Cuban-born citizens live abroad, mainly in the United
States, Spain, Mexico and Germany. Despite some bureaucratic hurdles to
obtaining a passport, Cubans with the means to do so may travel
Internet access is limited but plenty of media is in circulation there,
thanks to a robust local cultural sector, a steady flow of visitors from
outside the country, and the use of mobile phones and pen drives to
store and exchange music, videos, and other media. Tourists come from
around the world to walk the beaches, hear the music, and yes, to marvel
at the mix of people, color, tropical flora and architectural decay of
Havana's streets.
It's true that to date, only a tiny fraction of the estimated 2 to 3
million tourists who visit each year have come from the US. But this is
not Cuba's doing—US citizens are as welcome there as anyone else. Until
recently, unless they were visiting family members, US citizens were all
but forbidden from traveling to Cuba. (Exceptions being a select group
of journalists, academics, and religious and humanitarian aid
workers—I've been through this process a few times, and it isn't easy.)
So when it comes to US-Cuba freedom of movement, if any country is
"closed," it is the US.
At the same time, Cuban society is still significantly restricted in
terms of speech, association, privacy, and economic rights. All major
media in Cuba is produced by state-owned institutions. While there are
independent websites run by Cubans, the dearth of Internet access makes
these relatively oblique in the face of mass-produced state newspapers
and radio broadcasts.

Regulations and omnipresent surveillance make large public gatherings or
demonstrations a difficult (though not impossible) feat. And the vast
majority of organizations large and small—ranging from street shops to
farms to universities—are owned and run by the state.
So those prospective travelers already waxing nostalgic for a Cuba
unspoiled by contemporary globalization should calm their nerves.
Although we can expect some shifts in trade and commercial relations
between the two countries, it is clear that the US is moving slowly on
this front. There is also no clear sign of reform in Cuba's economic
regulatory environment for foreign enterprise. In fact, under Cuban law,
any foreign company that wishes to do business on the island must enter
a subsidiary agreement, under which the Cuban government owns a minimum
of 51% of that company's holdings in Cuba.
In short, it is impossible for foreign companies to actually own their
own businesses there. Spanish companies such as the Meliá hotel chain
have launched brick and mortar businesses on the island with some
success over the last ten years, but they are presumably doing this
under these terms. Anyone who fears that the country will fall prey to
US companies is overestimating the power of foreign industry.
Like any other country, Cuba is not a monolith—there is a diverse range
of interests and priorities among the government and the people, to
which the current political system does not offer due voice. This new
chapter in US-Cuba relations will generate greater economic
opportunities for Cubans, if not more Starbucks franchises, as visitors
from the US will unquestionably bring greater flows of capital into the
But there is no indication that this will open up new avenues for Cuban
citizens to participate in or have meaningful impact on their country's
political processes. Just like anywhere else, this kind of change is not
something that can be brought about by another government, or a company,
or a civil society group from abroad. It will have to be the work of
Cubans themselves.
Follow Ellery on Twitter at @ellerybiddle. We welcome your comments
at ideas@qz.com.

Source: Cuba isn't "open" just because the US says it is - Quartz -

From Havana to Tehran - The strange love affair between a theocracy and an atheistic dictatorship

From Havana to Tehran: The strange love affair between a theocracy and
an atheistic dictatorship
[31-03-2015 03:29:03]
Jaime Suchlicki
Director del Instituto de Estudios Cubanos y Cubano-Americanos de la
Universidad de Miami

(www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- [On Dec. 17, 2014, President Barack Obama
announced a dramatic change in the United States' policy toward Cuba,
heralding the end of a Cold War-era conflict that had begun to look
increasingly anachronistic. The benefits of the two longtime foes' new
and improved relationship remain to be seen — but the contradictions
involved are already obvious. Over half a century of pursuing an
aggressive anti-American foreign policy, Cuba has made plenty of friends
whom the United States considers enemies, and Havana is unlikely to
easily let go of its longtime allies. These include Russia, Venezuela,
and a variety of Arab dictators, Islamic fundamentalist movements, and
anti-Israeli terrorist organizations. The list of Cuba's unsavory
friends also includes Iran — a relationship of particular salience on
the world stage today.
Communist Cuba's alliance with the Iran of the Ayatollahs dates to 1979,
when Fidel Castro became one of the first heads of state to recognize
the Islamic Republic's radical clerics. Addressing then-Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Khomeini, Castro insisted that there was "no contradiction
between revolution and religion," an ecumenical principle that has
guided Cuba's relations with Iran and other Islamic regimes. Over the
next two decades, Castro fostered a unique relationship between secular
communist Cuba and theocratic Iran, united by a common hatred of the
United States and the liberal, democratic West — and by substantial
material interests. (In the photo, Iran's Vice President Mohammad Reza
Rahimi and Cuba's Vice Foreign Minister Marcos Rodriguez attend a
wreath-laying ceremony on Revolution Square in Havana on Sept. 7, 2011.)

In the early 1990s, Havana started to export biopharmaceutical products
for the Iranian health care system and trained Iranian scientists to use
them. By the end of the decade, it had moved beyond simple exports to
transferring medical biotechnology and, along with the technical
know-how, capabilities for developing and manufacturing industrial
quantities of biological weapons. In addition to training Iranian
scientists in Cuba and sending Cuban scientists and technicians to
Iran's research centers, the state-run Center for Biotechnology and
Genetic Engineering established a joint-venture biotechnology production
plant near Tehran at a cost of $60 million, with Cuba providing the
intellectual capital and technology, and Iran providing the financing.
This facility, now under Iranian control, is believed to be "the most
modern biotechnology and genetic engineering facility of its type in the
Middle East."

Iran has also benefited from its friendship with Havana in more
aggressive ways. Geographically, Cuba's strategic location enabled the
Islamic Republic, on at least one occasion, to clandestinely engage in
electronic attacks against U.S. telecommunications that posed a threat
to the Islamic regime's censorship apparatus. In the summer of 2003,
Tehran blocked signals from a U.S. satellite that was broadcasting
uncensored Farsi-language news into the country at a time of rising
unrest. Based on the satellite's location over the Atlantic, it would
have been impossible for Iranian-based transmissions to affect its
signals. Ultimately, the jamming was traced to a compound in the
outskirts of Havana that had been equipped with the advanced
telecommunications technology capable of disrupting the Los
Angeles-based broadcaster's programming across the Atlantic. It is well
known that Cuba has continuously upgraded its ability to block U.S.
broadcasts to the island, and hence, conceivably, to jam international
communications. Although the Cuban government would later claim that
Iranian diplomatic staff had operated out of the compound without its
consent, given that Cuba "[is] a fully police state," as Iran expert
Safa Haeri has noted, "it is difficult to believe the Iranians had
introduced the sophisticated jamming equipment into Cuba without the
knowledge of the Cuban authorities," much less utilized it against U.S.
targets without the knowledge of the Castro regime.

In return for its services, Iran has compensated the Cuban government
directly. During the presidency of Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), Tehran
offered Havana an initial 20 million euro annual credit line. Following
the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, Iran expanded this credit
line to 200 million euros for bilateral trade and investment projects.
At the same time, Havana was spearheading a campaign within the
Non-Aligned Movement to legitimize Iran's "peaceful" nuclear program as
an "inalienable right" of all developing nations. In June 2008
Ahmadinejad approved a record 500 million euro credit for the Castro
regime. From Iran's perspective, Cuba deserves to be rewarded for its
"similarity in outlooks on international issues."

In total, Cuba has received the equivalent of over one billion euros in
loans from Tehran since 2005. With this financing, Cuba has begun to
make critical investments in the rehabilitation of dilapidated
Soviet-era infrastructure. Iran is funding some 60 projects ranging from
the acquisition of 750 Iranian-made rail cars to the construction of
power plants, dams, and highways. This infusion of Islamic capital has
strengthened the Cuban regime's stability and reduced the risk of
economic collapse by adding a fourth financial pillar alongside oil from
Venezuela, bilateral trade credits from China and Russia, and corporate
capital from Canada, Latin America and the European Union.

The election of the apparently more moderate Hassan Rouhani, the
reduction in the price of oil, and Iran's involvement in the Middle East
have precluded additional credits to Cuba. Yet the relationship, as
evidenced by visits, cooperation in international organizations, and
joint support for Venezuela, has continued.

Tehran's and Havana's shared interest in Venezuela is another source of
potential concern to the West. Venezuela's strategic position and
considerable resources make it a potentially greater threat to U.S.
interests in the region than the one posed in the 1960s by the Castro
regime. Venezuela's alliances with Iran, Syria, and other anti-American
countries and its support for terrorist groups, while representing a
smaller threat, are as formidable a challenge as the Cuba-Soviet
alliance. And while Cuban support for the regime in Caracas is fairly
well known, Iran, too, has been offering Venezuela technical assistance
in the areas of defense, intelligence, energy, and security. Iranian as
well as Cuban personnel are advising, protecting, and training
Venezuela's security apparatus.

Of more strategic significance is the possibility that Iranian
scientists are enriching uranium in Venezuela for shipment to Iran.
Venezuelan sources have confirmed this possibility. Foreign intelligence
services consulted by the author acknowledged these rumors but are
unable to confirm them. If confirmed, these actions would violate U.N.
sanctions as well as U.S. security measures.

If the United States really intends to expand its relations with Cuba,
Washington needs to address Havana's troublesome alliances with rogue
regimes — above all, its friendship with Tehran. These alliances — as
well as the desire of the Cuban military to remain in power and transfer
control to younger, but still conservative, anti-American leaders — are
a troubling sign that internal liberalization will be slow and
difficult. No matter how much Washington may want to see a new and
friendlier Cuba, the island nation's choice of allies says more about
the future of this relationship than any number of well-meaning

Source: From Havana to Tehran: The strange love affair between a
theocracy and an atheistic dictatorship - Misceláneas de Cuba -

U.S. and Cuba to face off on human rights in Tuesday Washington meeting

U.S. and Cuba to face off on human rights in Tuesday Washington meeting
03/30/2015 3:55 PM 03/30/2015 7:54 PM
The latest round in the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement gets under way Tuesday
when the two countries meet in Washington to discuss the potentially
divisive issue of human rights.

A State Department spokesperson said the two sides will "discuss the
methodology and structure of future human rights talks," so no major
developments are expected. But even getting agreement on the substance
for future talks could prove difficult because the two countries have
strikingly different views on what constitutes respect for human rights.

Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Tom Malinowski will lead the U.S. delegation.

Cuba, which announced the meeting last Thursday — a day before the
United States — didn't specify who would be heading its delegation.

The United States has long been critical of Cuba's policy of jailing
dissidents and activists for exercising basic civil liberties, such as
freedom of speech and assembly, as well as its treatment of political

"This preliminary meeting reflects our continued focus on human rights
and democratic principles in Cuba," said the State Department
spokesperson. "Human rights are, and will continue to be, a priority."

Cuba, on the other hand, tends to view human rights more from a prism of
quality of life and has said its health activism around the world is an
example of its concern for human rights. The Cubans also want the
opportunity to discuss the United States' human rights record and to
bring up issues such as excessive use of force by American police
officers, poverty, and racism in applying the death penalty.

Cuba proposed the human rights dialogue, and when it repeated its call
for such a meeting in January, the United States quickly agreed. But
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson has said human rights
"is the area of the most profound disagreement" between the two countries.

"These talks are an indication of Cuba's willingness to address any
topic with the U.S., despite our differences, based on equality and
reciprocity," Pedro Luis Pedroso, Cuba's Foreign Ministry deputy
director for multilateral affairs and international law, told reporters
in Havana.

But at the same time, he said, Cuba is "conscious of our profound
differences with the government of the United States in terms of
political systems, democracy, human rights and international law."

The human rights dialogue is part of a process that began Dec. 17 when
Cuba and the United States announced they were working toward
reestablishing diplomatic relations and reopening embassies after a deep
freeze of more than 50 years in the countries' relationship.

There already have been dialogues between the two former adversaries on
civil aviation, human trafficking and a telecommunications opening
proposal by the United States to improve telecommunication and Internet
links between the two countries.

A U.S. delegation led by Daniel Sepulveda, the coordinator for
international communications and information policy, was in Havana for
48 hours last week.

A senior State Department official said in a briefing Monday that Cuba
said its goals were the same as those outlined by the United Nations: 50
percent household Internet penetration by 2020 and 60 percent mobile
penetration by 2020.

Cuba isn't starting from zero in terms of connectivity, but the Cubans
know they are behind, said the official. Lack of Internet access is
depriving the Cuban people of knowledge, the official added.

Financing telecom equipment from the United States could be an issue for
Cuba, the official said, who added there is "real potential" for U.S.
telecom and Internet companies in Cuba "as long as there is a will on
the Cuban side."

The next step in the process will be the exchange of papers on Cuban and
U.S. proposals.

So far, there have been three rounds of normalization talks. President
Barack Obama has said he hopes that negotiations progress to a point
where diplomatic relations can be renewed by the time of the Summit of
the Americas, which will be held in Panama on April 10-11.

During the last Summit of the Americas in Colombia in 2012, Cuba's
exclusion became a polarizing issue. Both Obama and Cuban leader Raúl
Castro will be in attendance at this year's meeting.

It's widely believed that the president needs to show concrete progress
toward repairing the relationship with Cuba by the summit in order to
mend fences with other regional allies.

One sticking point for Havana is Cuba's continued presence on the U.S.
list of state sponsors of terrorism, which results in financial and
regulatory sanctions against the island. On Dec. 17, Obama asked for a
State Department review of whether Cuba should remain on the list.

"I think they're very close," said Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat from
Tampa. "I do think the administration will act before the Summit."

After the third round of talks in Havana on March 16, neither side made
any announcements. But Castor said she took that as a positive sign
showing that "they're very seriously into the details."

Source: U.S. and Cuba to face off on human rights in Tuesday Washington
meeting | Miami Herald Miami Herald -

U.S. business can be at the forefront of change in Cuba - Pritzker

Pritzker: U.S. business can be at the forefront of change in Cuba
03/30/2015 4:28 PM 03/30/2015 4:29 PM

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said Monday that she is
planning a trip to Cuba as soon as diplomatic ties are renewed and that
trading with the island can involve the U.S. business community in
"positive change" in Cuba.

Pritzker gave the keynote address at a Cuba forum called "Tampa at the
Forefront of Historic Change" that was organized by the Greater Tampa
Chamber of Commerce and Tampa International Airport.

"Our economy is showing a remarkable comeback," she said. "Our
businesses are exporting more than ever before. But our work is not

Even though U.S. exports reached a record $2.34 trillion in 2014,
supporting 11.7 million American jobs, the United States needs to expand
exports even more — including exports to Cuba, she said.

In the process, she said, U.S. business can empower the Cuban people and
help forge a better economic future. President Barack Obama's new Cuba
policy, she said, "will allow the business community to be the face for
positive change in Cuba."

There's a big role for Commerce in the new policy too, she said in an
interview with the Miami Herald. "Our role is to facilitate trade," she
said. "Our belief is the economic side of the relationship can be a leader."

Pritzker said she plans to lead a delegation to Cuba soon after
diplomatic relations between the two countries have been renewed. There
have been three rounds of U.S.-Cuba normalization talks.

Despite the excitement by some U.S. companies that have already begun
exploring business opportunities in Cuba, Pritzker cautioned against
unrealistic expectations. "This is a long process," she said. "It's not
an overnight sensation."

The Tampa Bay area has been trying to burnish its image as a gateway to
new business and trade opportunities opened up by the historic
rapprochement between the United States and Cuba announced Dec. 17.

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa/St. Petersburg, helped bring the secretary as
well as other officials from Commerce, the State Department and the
Office of Foreign Assets Control to the Tampa forum.

The audience in a full ballroom at the Marriott Tampa Airport Hotel
peppered the officials about how the new commercial opening will work.
It allows U.S. exporters to send American products to Cuba to support
private businesses and farmers as well as the importation into the
United States of some items produced by private entrepreneurs.

Currently the Cuban government controls all imports destined for the
island and there isn't a mechanism for the export of privately produced

However, Matthew Borman, Commerce's deputy assistant secretary of the
Bureau of Industry and Security, said, "We recognize the current
structure is that of using government entities. If we took the position
that the Cuban government couldn't touch anything, then nothing would

He said under the new regulations, Alimport and other Cuban government
importing agencies may still facilitate imports from U.S. companies and
such products may go into government stores as long as the American
exporter does due diligence to see the products will be offered for sale
to the general public in Cuba.

The exporter must follow normal record-keeping requirements for any
export, he said.

If a U.S. exporter, for example, sends an auto repair kit to the island,
it will be necessary to show that ultimately it winds up in the hands of
a private individual, said Borman, one of the chief authors of the new

However, as long as the auto repairman is self-employed, he may also use
those imported tools to work on government vehicles or to fulfill a
contract with the government, he said.

"We're not looking to split hairs," said Borman. But if U.S. exports are
intended solely for "Cuban government use, the answer is no."

When it comes to exporting paint, cement and other building materials to
Cuba under the new rules, he said, such products may only go to a
private individual working on a private building. Even if a private
construction cooperative were contracted to work on a government
building, Borman said, the answer would be no.

Although there have been a number of business and legal panels and
seminars in Miami on new Cuba opportunities, South Florida politicians,
for the most part, oppose the opening or have tried to steer clear of
the topic.

In Tampa, which began offering its first direct charter flights to Cuba
in 2011, there's been more of an embrace of the new Cuba policy.

"It's not unanimous in the Cuban-American community, but I would say the
Tampa Bay community is overwhelmingly supportive of the new policy and
greater engagement," Castor said in an interview with the Herald.

Castor, who visited Cuba in April 2013, said she's currently trying to
arrange a congressional trip to the island. "I'm trying to recruit some
of my Republican colleagues," she said.

But while Castor said she thinks travel and cultural exchanges between
the Tampa Bay area and Cuba will continue to grow, she thinks new trade
and business ties will come more slowly — mostly because the Cubans
aren't yet prepared for the commercial opening outlined by the United
States in December.

"The capacity of the Cuban government to handle this all at one time is
an issue," she said.

Source: Pritzker: U.S. business can be at the forefront of change in
Cuba | Miami Herald Miami Herald -

Monday, March 30, 2015

No blogger, no Obama

No blogger, no Obama / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Posted on March 29, 2015

No blogger, no cry.
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

1 In the beginning was the Blog. 2 But blogs were formless and empty. 3
Repression was all over the blogosphere. 4 And the citizens saw the
blogs were good. 5 So that lacking other channels of expression, the
Cuban civil society occupied blogosphere as a tool for dissent. 6 Won't
you help to share these blogs of freedom? 7 Redemption blogs, redemption
blogs to emancipate ourselves from the State.

As early as in the summer of 2005, I opened a blog for publishing a
literary and opinion magazine that three Cuban writers decide to edit in
Havana: Cacharro(s) —in English, Junk(s).

Lizabel Monica, Jorge Alberto Aguiar and I were posting our texts in
cyberspace, hoping for a reader abroad to save us from the silence
within. We couldn't imagine that in a couple of years our initial
experiment was to be ignored in the history of Cuban blogosphere, when
our efforts to escape not only censorship, but also the mass media
mediocrity of the Revolution, were displaced by new voices with high
public impact both from the cultural and political fields.

This happened when the Consenso —Consensus— digital magazine became
Contodos —With All— and opened the website Desdecuba.com, directed by
Reinaldo Escobar, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Miriam Celaya, Dimas Castellanos,
among others, including a webmaster who, in April 2007, started a very
simple WordPress blog called Generation Y. The trademark Yoani Sánchez
was born, as well as the first virtual revolution in the time of Castro.

This was the genesis of an independent movement of citizen journalism
which challenged the lack of transparency of the public sphere in Cuba,
a country still without private Internet today.

Cuban top-level intelligence commanders like Ramiro Valdes have stated
that the Internet is a "wild horse" that "must be tamed" before offering
it to the people. After many promises and postpositions, including a
submarine fiber-optic cable that connects us with Venezuela since 2011,
Cubans are still waiting for a miracle.cu, although the vice-president
Miguel Diaz Canel has warned our press not to be objective but "loyal to
Fidel, Raul, and the Revolution", while Fidel himself determined that
the "internet is a revolutionary tool".

Elaine Diaz, blogger of La Polemica Digital —The Digital Polemics— known
as critical of certain official measures, but at the same time a
professor of journalism at Havana University and now a Nieman Fellow at
Harvard University, in her degree thesis about the Cuban blogosphere
"scientifically" established in terms of topics and chronology that none
of the renowned dissident bloggers were pioneers at all, thus diluting
this phenomenon in an ocean of other blogs practically discovered by
her, up to nearly 3,000 today, which outnumbers by far the dozens of
local independent bloggers.

Diaz quotes only those blogs that can be quoted in Cuba without risking
her research position, like Patria y Humanidad —Homeland and Mankind—
since 2006 administered by Luis Sexto, a winner of the National
Journalism Prize; and La Isla y la Espina —The Island and the Thorn—
since 2007 administered by Reinaldo Cedeño, both defined as open to
"foreign authors" and to "hot heated debates" but, of course, within the
temperature limits of political discipline on the Island.

Diaz recognizes that the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC) and no less
than the Ideological Department of the Central Committee of the Cuban
Communist Party, authorized more than 1,000 official journalists to open
blogs from their workplaces or privileged home connections, in order to
—as Milena Recio wrote in her article "Cuban blogs: an entrenched
identity"— reproduce in cyberspace the same battlefield logic of the
street propaganda, to "counteract the distorted and opposite speeches
from hegemonic mass media" against the Revolution.

The very Code of Ethics of UPEC rejects "hyper-criticism" in its article
7, while in articles 8 and 9 reminds their members to "maintain a social
and moral behavior in accordance with the principles and norms of our
society […] to promote the best of our national values and the constant
improvement of our socialist society". And after paternalism comes a
large list of punishments, which includes imprisonment, as happened to a
journalist from the Communist Party newspaper Granma, Jose Antonio
Torres, accused of espionage after one of his official reports.

Diaz also proposes the "emancipatory and anti-capitalist usefulness of
the new media and technology" in Cuba, and the need of "virtual symbols"
for a country where it is "possible" the "horizontal dialogue", beyond
power hierarchies and all kinds of social exclusion: by race, by gender,
by sexual preference, by economic status, etc. Although she omits to
mention the cause of all discriminations in Cuba: the political
intolerance and hate speech of the revolutionary government, summarized
by Fidel Castro in his speech to Cuban intellectuals in 1961: "Within
the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing."

Recently, this "dialogue" approach has been updated by the web Cuba
Posible of Lenier Gonzalez and Roberto Veiga, former editors of a
Catholic Church magazine that published some civil debates, where
certain civil society activists managed to participate. Cuba
Posible claims for the complicit concept of "loyal opposition" to the
regime, if critics are to be considered legitimate. Besides, Gonzalez
and Veiga urge the Cuban dissidence to commit suicide and stop all the
support they receive from foreign NGOs, despite the detail that they
both defended this viewpoint from Washington DC, invited in January 2015
by a compendium of US pro-Castro NGOs, like the Cuba Research Center of
Philip Peters.

During the last decade, the Cuban alternative blogosphere has expanded
and contracted like the cycles of a claustrophobic universe. Its main
communication strategies and activists have renovated only to remain

With my blog of fictionalized chronicles Lunes de Post-Revolution —Post
Revolution Mondays— and my photoblog Boring Home Utopics, I have
witnessed most of this Cuban digital e-volution, with its pro-human
rights achievements and, unfortunately, with today´s drawbacks in front
of a State involved in a self-transition to capitalism without
capitalists, but with accomplices of Castros' agenda.

Most of free-lance Cubans' blogs are linked in the websites
HavanaTimes.org and VocesCubanas.com, where can be found the
famous Generation Y of Yoani Sanchez, blogs from visual artists like the
graffiti performer Danilo Maldonado El Sexto (in jail since last
December) and the photographer Claudio Fuentes, blogs dedicated to new
media and technologies like the one by Walfrido Lopez, blogs from
independent lawyers to give legal advice like the unregistered Cuban
Juridical Association of Wilfredo Vallin, blogs from religious leaders
like the Baptist minister Mario Felix Lleonart, blogs of digital
publications like Plural Thinking Notebooks, Notebooks for the
Transition, and the magazine Voices edited by me, community
participation initiatives like Pais de Pixeles photo-contest, blogs of
filmed debate projects which then are uploaded to the web to impact on
public opinion, like Razones Ciudadanas/Citizens' Quests.

Thanks to the volunteer amateur projects TranslatingCuba.com and
HemosOido.com many of these blogs are distributed beyond geographical
isolation and the barriers of language.

Mainly in Havana, much closer to the www than Cuban pre-technological
countryside, events have been held to shift from the cyberspace to
citizen mobilization, like the Blogger Academy where we teach the
technical rudiments of self-publication, as well as the primitive option
of tweeting by an international SMS sent from the Island, as local
mobiles have no internet service in Cuba. Other events also held in
private houses, like the two annual editions of Click Festival 2012 and
2013, had the privilege to count on international experts on blogs, and
consequently they were stigmatized by the governmental blogosphere as
being part of a subversive conspiracy to disrupt social stability.

Indeed, cyber-bullying is the less brutal answer of Castro's political
police to Cubans exercising our right to freedom of expression.

Two inflexion points in this abusive battle of the government against
their own citizenry, occurred in 2011. First, the Cuban TV showed a
weekly series on Cyber-mercenaries where all independent activists were
severely threatened to be prosecuted (coincidentally, Elaine Diaz was
used an example of blogging correctly). Then a suspicious video leak
occurred from State Security, where an officer later identified by the
social media as Eduardo "Tato" Fontes Suarez, delivers a conference for
the Ministry of the Interior to teach them how to manipulate the
internet in the era of an American president "much worse the Bush",
implementing a clone blogosphere to reproduce Cuban official press and
saturate the web with convenient contents. This includes the logic of
creating authorized local versions of Wikipedia (like Ecured), Facebook
(like La Tendedera), Twitter (like El Pitazo), etc.

This should remind us of the theories of Evgeny Morozov on how
disappointing is the excess of web optimism, because repressors also
learn how to take advantage of the interconnected world to
channelize and control social discontent to their own convenience.

Unfortunately, after the 2013 migratory reform that for the first time
in decades allowed Cubans to travel abroad without the humiliating "exit
permit" or "definitive departure", international recognition of Cuban
civil society leadership has meant a national weakening of our networks
and the dispersion of our already limited impact on the Island.

All the peaceful movements and prominent personalities of Cuban civil
society, that in the good old days of 2008-2011 seemed about to
integrate in a unified opposition front with political implications, are
now splintered in their respective personal initiatives among
themselves. The more successful their international projections, the
more isolated among themselves are their national projects. We Cubans
are still lacking a culture of open polemics and understanding of
differences. After more than half a century, Castroism has castrified
even their opponents.

Here are some sad examples, as they all are my dear friends and have
been fighting quite a long time for a better future in Cuba:

The Ladies in White split one more time, in a fractal procedure that
keeps the movement stagnated in number of members, and with an
exponential increase of refugees fleeing to the US. Once in exile, most
Cuban dissidents quit social activism or, in the best cases, end up as
secretaries in Cuban American NGOs. The legacy of their founding leader
Laura Pollán is at risk for the benefit of the Ministry of the Interior,
now that their new leader Berta Soler carried out a shameful repudiation
against one of its former members, and then had to hold a referendum to
ratify her life-long leadership. But Soler was expelled anyway by the
daughter of Laura Pollán from her home headquarters in Neptuno Street in
Central Havana, where Laura Pollán junior expects to direct a new
foundation that will monopolize exclusive use of her mother's name.

The Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) is headless after the 2012
extrajudicial killing in Cuba of their leaders Oswaldo Payá and Harold
Cepero. Internal rearrangements have displaced from any position even
the daughter and the widow of Oswaldo Payá, in a dispute for the
redemptive legacy of the martyr, as well as the strategies that should
be implemented by this now virtually an exiled movement.

The Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) always has nearly half of their
activists in jail. On one hand, UNPACU fostered the creation of an
independent branch that broke out of the Ladies in White, the Lady
Citizens for Democracy. On the other hand, they are obsessed with
detecting and denouncing —and sometimes converting to the cause of
freedom— Castro's secret agents, like the infamous case of Ernesto Vera,
but they lack a citizen mobilization strategy beyond their
self-extinguishable street protests, partly because the Cuban people
are unfortunately unmovable.

The Somos Mas movement launched by Eliécer Avila relies only on his face
and voice as a charismatic character, once himself a digital soldier
that conducted the Operation Truth at the University of Information
Sciences (UCI), a platoon of trolls devoted to defaming activists
worldwide, distorting online forums and surveys dealing with Cuba, and
hacking websites that expose the violations and fallacies of continental

The bitter debate of mutual distrust and discredit between those close
to blogger Yoani Sanchez and her brand-new 14yMedio.com digital outlet
—prone to take advantage of the US-Cuba new engagement to push the
limits of censorship in Cuba—, and other previous digital citizen
journalists, like the staff of Primavera Digital (who in turn last year
publicly despised their Swedish funding partners), and also with the
well-known Antonio Rodiles from the very active audiovisual discussion
project Estado de Sats, who practically accused 14yMedio and colleagues
of collaborating with the regime's surviving agenda of allowing foreign
investments with no guarantee for human rights, in a Putin-like or
Chinese or Vietnamese or Burma post-totalitarian model.

On the official part, in the monolithic digital headquarter
of Cubadebate, general Raul Castro with his speech at the ALBA Summit in
Caracas this month, and many other op-eds published in tandem, has
warned that the "international ultraconservative right" is again
deploying its "mass media weapons" to use the "concept of civil society
in order to attack all the progressive governments from the hemispheric
left, with the purpose to deceive and manipulate all the peoples of the

Cubadebate has even announced the popular repudiation that Cuban
dissidents —namely, "mercenaries"— will receive in the Summit of the
Americas in Panama next week, because we all are "conceived, paid and
directed as drones from the US and the EU, through NGOs supposedly for
the promotion of human rights, but in fact having met with confessed
terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles in Miami, and besides being
directly financed by secret institutions of the American imperialism,
including the Pentagon and the CIA".

In March 2015 the Castro regime still proudly calls Cuban social
activist leaders "Washington's puppets, in the line of the dictators
Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, Carlos Andrés Pérez in Venezuela, and Augusto
Pinochet in Chile, whose mission if ever we attain power is to surrender
the wealth of our nation to the US monopolies", and a white elite that
cares not about the "black, aboriginal, farmer and workers minorities".

Although, paradoxically, it was Fidel Castro who dollarized the Cuban
economy for over 20 years now, while his brother Raul Castro is
demanding financial credit from American banks and corporations.
Furthermore, Afro Cubans suffer much more than other dissidents in Cuba
in the hands of the mostly white State Security top-officers, who assume
that blacks owe more gratitude to them the rest of the Cuban people.

These are only some tragic examples:

The death of the Afro Cuban opposition activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo in
a jail, after a long hunger strike in 2010 to stop torture against him.
The 33 months that the Afro Cuban member of the Ladies in White Sonia
Garro and her husband spent in prison without charges and with no trial.
The harassment and beatings against of Afro Cuban leader Jorge Luis
Garcia (Antunez), usually prevented from stepping out of his own house
in Placetas town. The arbitrary political police arrests, plus the
temporary or permanent invalidation of the passports of Cuban Afro Cuban
intellectuals and activists Manuel Cuesta Morúa and Ivan Hernandez
Carrillo. The fascist-like mobs conducted by the government against the
residences of Berta Soler and other Afro Cuban peaceful women of the
Ladies in White, including throwing tar —yes, tar— with impunity against
their bodies, like recently happened to Digna Rodríguez Ibañez. Or
staining them by force with red paint to resemble human blood, like they
did to Mercedes La Guardia Hernandez.

The White House and the remains of the US economic embargo should not
ignore that a market economy is not a tropical liberation formula, since
it has already been implemented by authoritarian systems as a tool for
despotic control. The secret negotiations to appease our tired tyranny
should remember that what has been good for free Americans since the
Eighteenth Century is also good for Cubans citizens today.

The rationale that, after waiting for so long, Cuban democracy can wait
a little longer is a discriminatory concept implicitly legitimized by
the US press and academics in their search of a lost Latin American Left.

Maybe the hope of the White House is that the New Man will stop being a
soldier and become the New Salesman, but bringing down the wall should
mean more than opening up the wallet. In the urgency of Google, Amazon,
Delta, Netflix, Coca-Cola, and even Bacardi to re-conquer their Pearl of
the Antilles, they shouldn't forget that we "Cubans have the right to
have rights," as preached by Oswaldo Payá before the gerontocracy and
their international accomplices took his life.

In any case, according to the migratory statistics, Cubans are certainly
making a lot of space for the Yankees to come home to our Island, as we
keep escaping by legal or lethal means, in a kind of pedestrians'
plebiscite, voting with our fleeing feet instead of with electoral ballots.

For the funerals of Fidel, the commander-in-chief will have achieved all
the glories of history —which is the mother of all horrors— but also the
frantic farewell of his own people —almost one-fourth of our population.
This migratory crisis is what the US is really trying to stop by
stabilizing the Communist dynastic succession to the Castros 2.0
generation: namely, Alejandro and Mariela Castro Espin, among other
relatives, whether dandies or despots, many of them holding high level
positions in the Cuban establishment while receiving privileged visitor
status in the US.

The hope would be in convoking a national referendum with international
observers so that the Cuban people can freely and safely express our
will for the first time since 1948. Otherwise, Cuba will become a
Castro-centralized capitalist condominium, economically annexed to the
US but with a hyper-nationalist speech to justify impunity on the Island.

Now President Barack Obama can choose to extend his helping hand to the
oldest Latin American dictatorship. Or he can consider if the Cuban
people deserves to endure our apartheid until the last of the Castros
manages to remain in power without consulting anyone (except maybe Obama

1 Fidelism 1959, the temperature at which fundamental freedoms burn. 2
As time blogs by. 3 As I lay blogging. 4 The blogger in the ryevolution.
5 From dictatorship to dictocracy. 5 Blogged the Raven: nevermore. 6
Castrobamacare as the measure of all things. 7Won't you help to share
these blogs of freedom? 8 Redemption blogs, redemption blogs to
emancipate ourselves from the States.

29 March 2015

Source: No blogger, no Obama / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo | Translating
Cuba -

Oscar Arias meets with young Cubans and Venezuelans

Oscar Arias meets with young Cubans and Venezuelans / 14ymedio, Eliecer
Posted on March 29, 2015

14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, San Juan, Costa Rica, 29 March 2015 — To Costa
Rica, that Latin American country recognized for its outstanding
economic push, its democratic stability, and its role in the defense of
human rights, a group of young Cubans and Venezuelans has come as guests
of the National Liberation Party.

Undoubtedly among the Costa Rican politicians most prominent in recent
years, Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez stands out. He held the presidency for
two terms, the first from 1986 to 1990, and the second started in 2006
and ended in 2010. Thus, a meeting with him was something not to be
missed on the visit's agenda.

The Arias administrations brought Costa Rica notable advances in
different sectors. So much so, that for the most part his compatriots
usually refer to him as the "best president" they ever had.

The successful mediation of several international conflicts, among them
that of Nicaragua in the 1980s, also turned him into a global paradigm
in defense of peace, for which he was honored with the prestigious Nobel
Peace Prize in 1987.

On Saturday, the long awaited meeting with Arias took place at his home
where he received a group of young Cubans and Venezuelans. The dialogue
lasted more than an hour, during which the former president listened
attentively to their plans later shared his vision of the political
landscape of the two nations. Also discussed was the current situation,
and the challenges facing those working for democracy in both countries.

Arias criticized governments for generally "remaining silent" about what
happens in Cuba and Venezuela "for fear of upsetting their respective

Addressing the Venezuelans, he asked them about the status of unity of
the democratic forces and the personalities engaged in the struggle.
José Javier Martínez, member of the Vente Venezuela movement, responded
that, "Although there are some differences between the main opposition
leaders, they disappear on the issue of respect for human rights."

"It is on this point, above all, and in its defense that we are firmly
united," Martinez reaffirmed. The young man also took advantage of the
occasion, to ask the former president for support for a motion that
several MPs from different parties are trying to push through the Costa
Rican legislature. The objective of the motion is to have the ambassador
of this nation propose to the Organization of American States (OAS) that
it discuss the situation of Venezuela in its main plenary session.

Arias also asked about the course of relations with the United States
and what might be expected in this respect. Kirenia Yalit, Coordinator
of the Roundtable of Cuban Youth, explained the different visions and
postures of Cuban civil society toward this process and pointed out
that, "We young people are not opposed to the opportunities that this
these changes could bring to the benefit the people, but we will
continue in our struggle to achieve the rights that we need to exercise,
whether or not there is trade with the United States."

Arias then speculated about the possibility of a Cuban Deng Xiaoping,
who would reform the Cuban system from within the Communist Party, as
happened in China.

To this Eliecer Avila, leader of Somos+ (We Are More) and a member of
the Roundtable, responded that, "There is always that possibility, but
we Cuban democrats do not see in China an applicable or desirable
framework for our country." The young man emphasized that, "We are able
to build a much better model, one that in addition to economic growth
also ensures the full exercise of civil and political freedoms, the only
guarantees for a national reconciliation and lasting stability."

The former President thanked the young people for the visit and
reiterated his commitment to the democratic cause of both
peoples. Which, he said, "Would always be addressed in my upcoming
conferences, because I say what I think and do not speak just to get
along with anyone."

Source: Oscar Arias meets with young Cubans and Venezuelans / 14ymedio,
Eliecer Avila | Translating Cuba -

An Afternoon for Danilo (El Sexto)

An Afternoon for Danilo (El Sexto) / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar
Posted on March 29, 2015

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 29 March 2015 – As part of the campaign to demand
freedom for the artist Danilo Maldonado, known as "El Sexto," several
artistic activities took place this Saturday at la Paja Recold, the
studio of the band Porno para Ricardo.

On the walls of the place were works by the graffiti artist who has been
incarcerated since last December 25. El Sexto was arrested shortly
before carrying out a performance that consisted of releasing in a
public square two pigs with the names of "Fidel and Raul." The crime
that has been charged against him is contempt.

Several friends from all over the world and human rights organizations
have demanded his immediate release. Yesterday's activities joined those
demands for his freedom. Among the most important moments of the
afternoon was the performance by Tania Bruguera of The Whisper of Tatlin
which opened the studio's microphones to the fifty attendees of the
encounter to ask for – in a minute each – Danilo Maldonado's liberty.

The host band Porno para Ricardo, played the lead musical part with
several songs from their repertoire. Subsequently rappers including El
Opuesto, Maikel Extremo, Rapper Isaac and Lazaro Farise Noise appeared
on stage. All demanded the release of the artist and demonstrated
solidarity with his cause. Also a book was opened in order to gather
signatures of support for the #FreeElSexto campaign. An option
paralleling that already implemented on the digital platform Change.org
and that is intended for those who do not have access to the Internet.

The artist Tania Bruguera told 14ymedio she had attended the event,
"Because I think this is a case of the violation of the artist's
rights." "It is not right that an artist who did not even carry out the
work should be made a prisoner," she stressed. Bruguera is precluded
from leaving Cuba and is in the midst of legal proceedings because of
events arising from her attempt to organize a performance last December
30 in the Plaza of the Revolution.

In spite of her delicate legal situation, the artist attended the event
in order to offer her support to El Sexto's cause. Because she says that
"An artist that is in jail just for imagining a work and trying to make
it, it is an injustice." About the performance that the graffiti artist
would have carried out, Bruguera points out that, "Public figures,
whether politicians or celebrities, are likely to be criticized (…) they
have to assume that people who do not have that power, they are able to
make them aware of their discontent through humor and satire."

Bruguera quipped that, "If they made prisoners of everyone who makes
jokes about Fidel and Raul Castro, half the people would be
incarcerated." And she concluded, "The artist's freedom lies in having
the right to say symbolically whatever he wants."

Gorki Aguila, meanwhile, explained that, "It is important that artists
join together among themselves (…) art has an incredible power to
summon." El Sexto's grandmother, attending the event, said that, "The
right of a man to live as he wants to live must be respected, Danilo
does not harm anyone, he respects everyone, but he also asks for respect
for himself, that they let him do what he wants."

With respect to the prison conditions in which this artist has lived,
the grandmother says that, "He was sleeping on the floor for two months
because for him, as for many other prisoners, there was no bed. They
don't let even an aspirin in. Danilo is chronically asthmatic, he had
pneumonia, and they denied him antibiotics."

The lady also told of the continuing threats by State Security to many
of the invitees so that they would not go this Saturday to the tribute
to El Sexto. The pressure included the visit of two officers to the home
of Gorki Aguila in order to deliver to him a police citation that
required him to appear at the police station that same afternoon. The
musician refused to go on grounds that a citizen must be given at least
24 hours notice of such an action.

Lia Villares said that during the next Havana Biennial, which will get
underway at the end of May, "We are going to do something." The blogger
anticipates that it will be, "A work by El Sexto that was not displayed
here today."

Translated by MLK

Source: An Afternoon for Danilo (El Sexto) / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar |
Translating Cuba -

Cuba’s Civil Society Forum is a Joke

Cuba's Civil Society Forum is a Joke
March 28, 2015
Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES — When they announced on TV that a Cuban Civil Society
Forum was being held in Havana and that panel discussions would take
place at Casa de las Americas and Casa del ALBA, I couldn't help but
laugh. I immediately thought about the fuzzy contours of the term "civil
society" and how it is subject to different approaches and conceptions.

Despite the abstract nature of the concept, from the beginning civil
society has been understood as a group of individuals, sectors or actors
united in their pursuit of certain ends. The civil society – State
dichotomy stems from this.

Italian communist theoretician and philosopher Antonio Gramsci described
civil society as the institutional complex where the ideological and
political confrontation between social classes takes place. He conceived
of the State or political society as a coercive instrument whose purpose
is to dominate and control, on the basis of legality and repressive
forces. The formula civil society versus the State is therefore
applicable to nearly all modern societies.

The socialist system, and Cuba's in particular, wants to sell us the
image of a harmonic relationship between the State and civil society, a
whole devoid of antagonism.

It does so on the eve of the 7th Summit of the Americas, to be held in
Panama from April 10 to 11, which will not only see the participation of
presidents and foreign ministers but also of civil society
representatives from attending countries, and where Cuba will be
present. The island's government is already rehearsing for the occasion,
such that those they choose to represent "Cuban civil society" know how
to act during the gathering.

According to the government, the nearly 300 people who took part in the
forum are the representatives of the more than 170 civil organizations
in Cuba. Several issues were addressed, and Abel Prieto, advisor to Raul
Castro, said:

"(…) the task of Cuban civil society at the upcoming Summit of the
Americas is to break the stereotype that many harbor about Cuba, seeing
it as a totalitarian State (…) Cuban representatives who attend the
summit must be very well prepared, for they are going to find a heated
atmosphere that is the result of years of slander, claims that the State
controls everything in our country, that there is no space for any kind
of civil society. The ridiculous idea of a monolithic, militarized,
totalitarian society, colored by the worst Cold War rhetoric – that,
without a doubt, is a caricature of our country. Social actors and the
representatives of our organizations must refute that stereotyped image
of Cuba (…)"

There is no need to mention who were excluded from the said gathering:
many of the real, civil social actors in today's Cuba, which the State
labels unpatriotic mercenaries and many other sad things, only because
they do not toe the official, ideological line.

At least in our country, the inherently subjective nature of the term
condemns an important part of civil society to a life in the shadows,
persecution, lawlessness and government-led reprisals.

This stems from the Cuban State's refusal to recognize any opposing
tendency and its control over all social, grassroots, scientific,
technical, cultural, artistic, sports, friendship, solidarity and any
other organizations or associations, even when these are euphemistically
referred to as non-governmental. The only exception are religious
institutions, which are nonetheless infiltrated by false church-goers
who are government agents.

Cuban societies and organizations operate under an Associations Law (Law
54) and are recognized by Article 7 of the constitution. We already know
how the National People's Power Assembly (Parliament), the one-chamber
legislature, actually operates.

It is clear that everything here is either more of the same or it gets
excluded. Where democracy continues to be a dream, the Civil Society
Forum in Cuba is a gathering that announces that we all think the same,
and it seems like a joke to me.

Source: Cuba's Civil Society Forum is a Joke - Havana Times.org -

Grandes Ligas ¿Cinco cubanos en la alineación de los Tigres de Detroit?

Grandes Ligas: ¿Cinco cubanos en la alineación de los Tigres de Detroit?
Posted on 30 marzo, 2015
Por Alberto Aguila

Si no ocurre un tropiezo de última hora, los peloteros cubanos se
aprestan s marcar un hecho histórico en la jornada inaugural de la
temporada de Grandes Ligas 2015, que ya está al doblar de la esquina.

El acontecimiento se dará el 6 de abril, día de apertura de la
temporada, con los Tigres de Detroit jugando en casa frente a los
Mellizos de Minnesota. En su primer juego del campeonato, los Tigres
presentarán una alineación con cinco peloteros recién llegados de Cuba o
descendientes de cubanos, algo que nunca se ha dado en 139 años de
historia del béisbol profesional en Estados Unidos.

Aclaro que se trata de una alineación de día inaugural, no de una nómina
poblada de jugadores cubanos, pues puede haber numerosos equívocos. Ha
habido antes cinco cubanos en un róster oficial para la jornada de
apertura, como sucedió con los Rojos de Cincinnati de 1960 (Orlando
Peña, Raúl Sánchez, Rogelio Alvarez, Leo Cárdenas y Tony González), pero
no formaron parte de la alineación seleccionada para el juego de apertura,

Alineación para la historia

Pensemos en que no habrá imponderables y que el lineup inaugural del
Detroit contra de Minnesotta será el siguiente: Iank Kinsler (2B), Rajai
Davis (CF), Miguel Cabrera (1B), Víctor Martínez (DH), J. D. Martínez
(RF), Yoenis Céspedes (LF), Nick Castellanos (3B), Alex Avila (C) y
José Iglesias (SS). Desde el box estará el derecho Justin Verlander o el
zurdo Davi Price.

Como se puede observar, en los últimos cinco turnos al bate hay una
mezcla de atletas nacidos en la isla y otros en el condado Miami-Dade.
En caso de que Miguel Cabrera, el astro venezolano no esté en óptimas
condiciones despues de una cirugía, la guantilla de primera base será
para Alex Avila, quien ha practicado bien en esa posición. La otra
preocupación y no solo para la fecha de apertura es que José Iglesias,
el paracorto de manos benditas y ya recuperado de sus problemas en las
piernas, está demasiado frío con el bate; hasta el sábado llevaba solo
tres hits en 35 turnos en los juegos preparatorios del entrenamiento

Pero esa parece ser la alineación prevista, lo que podría ser no solo
una curiosidad histórica, sino también el preludio de una temporada que
se perfila como consagratoria y de amplia publicidad para los peloteros
cubanos. Es evidente que a la afluencia y demostrada calidad de los
atletas de estirpe cubana -los recién emigrados o los formados en el
béisbol de Estados Unidos- se suma en este momento el interés de las
franquicias y directivos de Grandes Ligas por los peloteros de la isla,
con el empujón político de las negociaciones entre Washington y La
Habana de por medio.

Otros cubanos en la apertura

Los Tigres constituyen uno de los grandes equipos contemporáneos entre
los 30 competidores de ambas Ligas -Nacional y Americana. La
organización fue pionera en aceptar cubanos escapados (o exliados),
cuando hace 35 años sumaron a Bárbaro Garbey en el equipo que ganó la
Serie mundial de 1984. la En las campañas del 2013 y 2014 terminaron
primeros de la División Central del joven circuito y aparecen rankeados
entre los seis mejores equipos del béisbol estadounidense.

Los Medias Blancas de Chicago del mismo circuito. utilizarán un par de
cubanos en su lista de apertura: el primera base José Dariel Abreu,
Novato del Año 2014, y el shortstop Alexei Ramírez, quienes batearán de
tercero y sexto, respectivamente. También Kansas City tiene en su
proyecto a otra dupla formada por Kendry Morales, designado y quinto
bate, detrás del cubanomiamense Eric Hosmer, defensor del primer cojín
y con espectacular temporada el pasado año.

Leonys Martín actuará de primer hombre en los Rangers de Texas. El
villaclareño se reafirmó en el 2014 como un excelente fildeador en el
bosque del medio y robó una excelente cantidad de bases, además de
mostrar sus habilidades para ocupar ese turno.

Matt Domínguez, otro cubano de la cosecha de Miami, alternará en la
tercera base de los Astros de Houston con el venezolano Luis Valbuena.

La cresta dorada de Rusney

Rusney Castillo, el jugador de la isla con el mejor salario anual de un
contrato de $72.5 millones, no estará en el primer choque con los Medias
Rojas de Boston a causa de una inesperada lesión en la zona del costado
izquierdo. Un tirón de músculo ocurrió poco antes de comenzar la primera
práctica en el entrenamiento primaveral y le afectó su participación los
juegos de fogueo. Castillo terminó perdiendo dos valiosas semanas de
actiuvidad, aunque ya comenzó a hacerse sentir. el sábado conectó jonrón
salvador cuando salió de emergente con el juego abajo, y este domingo
fue clave en la victoria 3×2 del Boston sobre los Ray de Tampa, con una
atrapada en zona foul y un tiro a home de leyenda para enfiar a un
corredor, y luego bateando y explotando su velocidad para anotar la
carrera decisiva.

El avileño tiene pocas comparescencias y no lo van a a apurar, porque
los Medias Rojas tienen muy buen banco. Pero ojo con los "chances".
Resulta que al hombre que entró en el centerfield por Castillo, no hay
quien lo siente ahora mismo. Se trata de Mookie Bett, un prospecto
estadounidense que tenía unas 180 veces al bate en Grandes Ligas y ya
nadie le quitará el turno de hombre proa, pues se ha soltado a batear y,
como decían en Cuba, le está quitando el forro a la pelota. El muchacho
tiene un respetable promedio de 472 con 19 imparables de todos los
colores en 39 comparecencias, y Castillo no puede dormirse en los
laureles por muy asegurado que parezca su puesto en los jardines.

Según comenta Scott Lauber, columnista del Boston Herald, "el cubano
debe ir al Pawtucket, la principal sucursal bostoniana en Triple A, por
unos días, ya que un hombre que ganará más de $11 millones este año no
puede estar en ligas menores y menos en el dugout". A propósito de
Rusney, el Lauber, que asiste a todos los desafíos de esta etapa,
indica: "Con una cresta de pelo rubio que va de alante hasta atrás, así
anda el cubano, que tiene el auto deportivo mejor y más rápido entre
todos los jugadores del conjunto, y que ha estado varado por su lesión
que solo le dejaba ir de su casillero al dugout en espera de que se
aliviaran sus dolores".

De la Liga Nacional

Yasel Puig, el hombre show, cada vez más admirado por el publico norteño
y por la prensa de Grandes Ligas, será tercero en el róster de los
Dodgers de Los Angeles y el catcher cubanoamericano Yasmany Grandal debe
ser el séptimo u octavo en la tanda.

Jorge Soler, que en la lid anterior despuntó con un poderoso bateador,
será el cuarto bate de Cachorros de Chicago. Soler figura en la lista de
los 25 mejores prospectos de Grandes Ligas y su nombre habrá que
seguirlo muy de cerca en esta temporada. Por ahora lleva cinco
cuadrangulares en la preparatoria.

Yonder Alonso, un defensor del primer cojín, será cuarto o quinto con
los Padres de San Diego; Jon Jay tiene asegurado el center field de los
Cardenales de San Luis y bateará de primero; y Yasmany Tomás debutará en
la antesala de los Cascabeles de Arizona y tendrá que mostrar su
desempeño en la parte alta de la alineación, probablemente en el quinto

Yunel Escobar, ahora con los Nacionales de Washington, debutará este año
en la segunda almohada después de probarse como un excelente torpedero.
Será el octavo bate en un equipo quew en el papel despunta como el
conjunto a derrotar en la Liga Nacional, pero tendrá oponentes en su
posición y deberá afinarla para no perder el puesto por otras razones
ajenas a su rendimiento.

Adeiny Hechavarría está clavado con los Marlins de Miami y su ascenso ha
sido consistente desde que llegó a la franquicia. Con un equipo
fortalecido, el santiaguero debe ser el octavo bate, lo que le permitirá
jugar con menos presión y trabajar todo el talento que le queda por

Dos abridores asegurados

Con relación a los lanzadores, los únicos que tienen puesto fijo como
abridores son Gio González, de los Nacionales de Washington, y el recién
llegado Raicel Iglesias, el joven de Isla de la Juventud que será el
quinto en las rotación con los Rojos del Cincinnati, que volverán a
depender de Aroldis Chapman como cerrador. Los Rojos, que no tienen este
año a Jonathan Broxton como lanzador preparador del octavo inning, van a
reclamarle a Chapman que tire más de una entrada en esta temporada,
según confesó el mánager Bryan Price.

Odrisamer Despaigne debe ser también el quinto para las aperturas, pero
se valora tambi;en como relevista largo con los Padres de San Diego.
Miguel Alfredo González de los Phillies de Filadelfia, anda con los
mismos propósitos, pero su puesto no está amarrado; en nueve innings le
ha maltratado con 16 indiscutibles y nueve carreras limpias.

Y el zurdo guantanamero Roenis Elías, que parecía camino de empezar la
temporada como abridor de los Marineros de Seattle. fue enviado este
domingo a la sucursal de Triple A en Tacoma. Elías, que tuvo un año
sorprendente como novato en el 2014, estaba luchando por el puesto de
quinto abridor, pero no había lucido bien en dos salidas, con nueve hits
tolerados en 5.2 entradas.

Este es a grandes trazos el mapa cubano en vísperas de la temporada de
Grandes Ligas que se nos viene encima en una semana. Una temporada que
va a tener sabor cubano por los cuatro costados.

Source: Grandes Ligas: ¿Cinco cubanos en la alineación de los Tigres de
Detroit? | Café Fuerte -