Thursday, April 30, 2015

Organ Transplants Offered to Rich Tourists

Organ Transplants Offered to Rich Tourists / Dora Leonor Mesa
Posted on April 29, 2015

Extracts from the article "Organ Trafficking: A Dark and Atrocious Business"
By Mónica López Ferrado

Users of transplant tourism come from all over the world. "As long as
it's offered there will be demand," laments Luc Noel. From his office in
the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, he directs international
efforts to eradicate the commerce in organs. Many times a transplant is
the only alternative for someone. Furthermore, survival rates are 45
years for a kidney, 38 for a liver, and 29 for a heart. But this success
has created its own demons: the difference between theoretical
possibilities and the scarce availability of organs.

Ten percent of the world's transplants come from illegal commerce,
according to WHO's statistics. Countries like Pakistan, India,
Philippines, China, Egypt, Rumania, Moldavia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia
and Costa Rica facilitate organ transplants for the ill in rich countries.

Political prisoners, people who live in extreme poverty, or political
refugees are exploited as the best source of organs for
patient-tourists. Kidneys are sold the most. Also portions of the liver,
heart, and lungs in countries where commerce is done with cadavers, as
occurs in China.

"The market in organs benefits only rich people," says Luc Noel. On his
agenda there is one date in May: the General Assembly of WHO will vote
on a resolution to govern the global effort against transplant tourism.
"We need the collaboration of professionals, governments, and scientific

During the international summit on transplant tourism and organ
trafficking, convened in 2008 by the International Transplant Society
and the International Nephrology Society, 152 representatives of public
institutions and medical and scientific organizations from 48 countries
reached a consensus in the Declaration of Istanbul.

Among other things, it states that organ trafficking and transplant
tourism violate the principles of equality, justice, and respect for
human dignity and should be prohibited, and the declaration urges that
every government create a legal framework that includes penalties for
those who participate in these activities and which prohibits all type
of advertising and offers of organs.

This declaration also touches on the delicate question of compensation
for the living donors. Always based on the principle that an organ can't
have a price, it admits that donors can be compensated for the damage
that can be caused by their altruistic decisions.

There are supporters in the United States of the buying and selling of
organs with oversight, which would permit, according to them, an
increase in donations and a dismantling of the illegal business. "I
completely disagree; ethically, the human body can't be an object of
commercialization under any concept," concludes Matesanz from the ONT.

"Those who argue against this consider that in a modern society you
can't permit someone in a situation of poverty to have to sell an organ.
Those who argue in favor say that the State should regulate it. One of
every 3,500 donors can die; it's the same risk that we all take of dying
in a car accident," explains Guirado, a nephrologist with the Puigvert
Foundation in Barcelona.

Francis Delmonico, an assessor with the World Health Organization and
president of the Organ TransplantProcurement Network, has met with
governments like China or the Philippines with the goal of resolving the
legal vacuum that makes this commerce possible. And to help them to
establish their own donation programs.

"The commerce in organs threatens to destroy the noble legacy of the
transplant," says Delmonico. He explains that in China, for example, in
2006, they extracted organs from some 4,000 executed prisoners, which
made a total of 8,000 kidneys and 3,000 livers, principally for foreign

The Chinese government approved in March 2007 an order penalizing this
practice. They closed three hospitals, but they don't have control over
everything. And even less over the military health centers. Delmonico is
sure that patients continue to travel to China.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Organ Transplants Offered to Rich Tourists / Dora Leonor Mesa |
Translating Cuba -

The Magicians of Empty Text

The Magicians of Empty Text / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on April 29, 2015

Every 21st of the month, my family — in their visits to my penitentiary
— supply me with the national newspapers. Many times they accuse me of
masochism, but I find it necessary because it helps me understand where
the Government's nonsense is going.

Sometimes — after much practice — I can infer, almost guess, the
political, cultural and populist strategies that they outline. I invest
around twelve hours reading, and I can't hide the fact that, once I
complete the aberrant task, the journalists' cowardice stays with me,
their "robotic" writing that translates the boss's order of editing to
cover specified news, after those bosses have received it in a chain
that begins in the ideological office of the Central Committee of the
Communist Party.

As a Cuban, a writer, a citizen immersed in the daily social problems of
Cubans on the ground, I am ashamed of those who — unfortunately — have
access to those spaces, because they, unfortunately, stick to the
subject matter ordered by the Government.

In the last Congress of the Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC), there was
talk and boasting of an "opening" that would do away with "secretism."
That speech was a joke. They were talking about another country, another
system, with different leaders. Immediately there was an echo from some
"journalists," very good at repeating the government line, magicians of
the empty text. Now, one year later, probably no one remembers that
bland, misleading propaganda, which simply impressed a collective that
displays sheepishness like no other sector in the country.

I finish reading the pile of newspapers and am left with a sensation of
betrayal from the names I recognize. They are incapable, at the least,
of being honest with themselves, those who say that the projects in the
Cuban nation are in full swing, although it's not important to them
where the old Castros and their fawning followers are taking them.
Twenty-one days of articles and feature stories, which assure us that
Cuba is Paradise (although there are things that need to be changed),
and that outside its borders you live in Hell.

The press has no other intention than to deceive and terrorize people,
who should continue with their heads bowed, because a rebellious
attitude is too agonizing.

Someone once told me that as a psychological defense, in order to stay
sane, you laugh at the economic and other news, and about how much
deceit you're already saturated with. As much as I try, I can't even
crack a smile. What I feel is pain for those common intellectuals who –
after being kicked and humiliated in the decade of the '70s – today
pretend they have forgotten. They write for a press that is as worn-down
as they are, and are incapable of expressing their own opinion, one that
is different, authentic. They conform to being that way, filling a
harmless space without being straight, with the dictators' vision.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Border Control Prison. Havana. April 2015.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: The Magicians of Empty Text / Angel Santiesteban | Translating
Cuba -

Floods replace oppressive heat in Cuba

Floods replace oppressive heat in Cuba
After recording near record highs, torrential downpours hit Havana as
weather system rolls across the Gulf of Mexico.
30 Apr 2015 11:21 GMT | Weather

Western Cuba has gone from oppressive heat to floods in a matter of days.
After many days of temperatures running up to 10C above average, cooler,
wetter weather rolled across the Gulf of Mexico from the southern states
of the United States.
Casablanca, which is in the municipality of Regla, situated to the east
of the entrance to Havana Harbour has had a huge amount of rainfall. A
staggering 188mm of rain was recorded in the 24 hours leading up to
06:00 GMT on Thursday morning.
Havana usually records around 58mm of rain in the entire month of April.
Little wonder that there has been flooding across the city and
widespread power cuts, and rescue services have been fully stretched
over the last two days.
This marks a sudden change in conditions for northern and western parts
of the country as the arrival of the rain brought with it temperatures
close to the average of 29C. The weekend saw some of Cuba's hottest
weather on record.
Sunday afternoon was the second hottest day in the history of Cuba's
weather records. Holguin and Velasco had highs of 38.7C. According to
Jose Rubiera from the National Forecast Center of the Institute of
Meteorology of Cuba, that is just 0.1C shy of the all-time record set on
April 17, 1999.
Temperatures are expected to remain around the upper 20s over the next
few days and thankfully, the heaviest line of rain is already moving
south (across Cuba) and weakening as it does so. However, further
showers are expected over the next few days.

Source: Floods replace oppressive heat in Cuba - Al Jazeera English -

Nashville airport plans for flight to Cuba

Nashville airport plans for flight to Cuba
Jamie McGee, 9:37 a.m. CDT April 29, 2015

The Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, which announced a nonstop
flight to Seattle Tuesday, is planning a connecting flight to Cuba,
according to airport officials.

Choice Aire airline, launching in May, is seeking for permission from
Cuban authorities to chart a connecting flight from Nashville through
Miami. If approved, the airline could start flying Nashvillians with
appropriate permits to Cuba as early as June, said Trudy Carson,
director of air service development.

The flight development comes as President Obama has sought to normalize
relations with Cuba by lifting travel and commerce sanctions.

"We want to be positioned in front of other airports to have that
connection," Carson said.

Only a few airports have authority to fly under certain circumstances,
said Rob Wigington, MNAA CEO. "Cuba is just a really great opportunity,"
he said.

While permitted travelers can travel to Cuba through Miami currently,
the new airline will allow them to check bags for the entire trip.

In addition to Miami, Choice Aire will also be offering flights to
Atlantic City for Nashville travelers.

Beyond the Seattle trip, Nashville is looking to Portland for additional
flights, along with London and Tokyo internationally, Wigington said.

Source: Nashville airport plans for flight to Cuba -

Outspoken Cuban priest José Conrado Rodríguez shares his thoughts on Cuba

Outspoken Cuban priest José Conrado Rodríguez shares his thoughts on Cuba
By Nora Gamez Torres

It is difficult to find a person who speaks with as much passion and
authenticity as Cuban priest José Conrado Rodríguez. He promises to
speak "a calzon quitado" — without underwear, or with no holds barred —
a phrase he likes to use frequently. And he does it. It's not anything
new for a priest who had the courage to write a public letter to Fidel
Castro in the dark year of 1994 asking him to "rectify" the course of
the nation and agree to a national dialogue.

In another letter in 2009, he urged Raúl Castro to show "audacity" in
enacting the changes needed by the country and reminded him of the
"constant and unjustifiable violation of human rights" in Cuba.

His activism and critical statements have sparked conflicts within the
Catholic Church as well as the Cuban government. In a controversial
decision, he was transferred in 2013 from the Santa Teresita de Jesús
Church in Santiago de Cuba, where he had been the parish priest for many
years, to Trinidad, a "quieter" town in the center of the island.

Nevertheless, he remains willing to give his opinion on the most
sensitive aspects of Cuba's reality. He recently spoke with el Nuevo
Herald in Miami before returning to Cuba. Below is a synopsis of
questions and answers:

We recently learned that Pope Francis will visit Cuba. There's always
much hope among Cubans that a papal visit could bring changes to the
country. And there's even more hope now, because Pope Francis helped to
mediate the current warming in relations between Cuba and the United
States. What impact could a papal visit really have on Cuba?

At this moment, the Cuban people need empowerment. We have depended on a
totalitarian state for many years. I believe the Cuban government has
not given up its totalitarian ideas, although little by little it has
had to give way because of changing circumstances. I believe it
(Francis' visit) will help the Cuban people — as it happened with Pope
John Paul II and less so with Benedict XVI — to realize that they are
protagonists in their own stories. The Cuban people have become
accustomed to waiting for others to solve their problems.

For a time, many Cubans believed the United States was going to solve
our problems. Many other Cubans believed that Russia was going to solve
our problems. Then it was the Chinese, and then the Venezuelans. We
cannot wait for others to pull our chestnuts out of the fire. We have to
learn that we are the ones who must solve our problems. Logically, when
a people has become so defenseless during more than 50 years under a
government like the one we have had, it is difficult for people to have
the courage to declare, "I am responsible. I have to join others to
achieve what is good for all." That's difficult, but that's the future,
and that's what I expect the pope will achieve with his visit.

In an extraordinary gesture, you wrote several letters to the rulers of
Cuba. In the last one, addressed to Raúl Castro, you wrote that Cuba is
"at a dead-end street." Do you believe that Raúl Castro sees this
improvement in relations with the United States as his way out? And if
so, do you believe it is the right way out?

I believe this is a good way because everything that leads from war to
peace, from hatred to respect and love, everything that helps people to
respect others and make themselves be respected, all of that is
positive. I said in my letter to Fidel Castro (in 1994) that we chose
the way of violence, and that is the wrong way. We did a lot of damage,
but the worst damage was to ourselves. That's why I said in the letter
to Fidel that "we are all responsible, but no one is more responsible
than you, and no one has the possibilities of changing the rules of the
game that you have. If you do that, those who are against you will agree
with you because you will be doing what the entire world is asking you"
—– which is to create the space, the possibility that each Cuban can
think for himself, decide with his own heart and respect others in a
climate of liberty and justice. That's what we have to hope for.

In the letter to Raúl Castro in 2009, you also referred to the human
rights situation in Cuba. How is that now? Have you noticed any improvement?

No, at this moment I don't see that. I am not closed to saying so when
the changes that the Cuban people need begin to take place. I have
noticed that there has been a change in the language, and that is an
improvement. That climate of insults, against the Yanquis, against
whatever... The day there's real change, not only in the language but in
the attitudes and the rights that all mankind has to speak without
hypocrisy — that's the way that José Martí defined liberty — that day,
as I told Raúl Castro, I will certainly be the first one at his side to
help him.

Did the Church support you when you sent that letter? The Church has
been criticized for not giving enough support to people like you, who
are more critical or want to carry out civic or political work. Did you
feel that the Church supported you?

The Church shaped me. I am a man of the Church. I don't have any
political ambitions. I don't have any ambitions of any type. I am happy
being a priest, helping people. Precisely because I want to be a man of
God and a man of the people — because you can't be one without the other
— I cannot overlook the suffering of my people, the injustices that I
believe are avoidable. Dante said that the ninth circle of hell, the
worst of all the circles, is reserved for those who in times of crisis
crossed their arms and closed their mouths. And I don't want to go to
that part of Hell. I want to go to Heaven. I can't just walk by. That's
what it means to me to be a Christian, like a Good Samaritan. The Church
educated me. I carry in me the genes of (Santiago de Cuba archbishops)
Pedro Meurice, (Enrique) Perez Serantes. So, to say that the Church
abandoned me, no, the Church was with me. The Church was me. And the
Church shows its best when a Christian, a priest or a bishop can show
solidarity with the pain of a people and does not miss the opportunity
to defend the person who has fallen.

The Church has participated in mediations with the government and has
improved its relations with the state. Do you believe the Catholic
Church and its hierarchy must play a more active role in Cuban civil

Of course. That is the mission of the Church. The Church is not helping
angels. They are already in Heaven. We are on this earth, where people
struggle, suffer, sin and need the help of others. And the Church is on
this earth to help the people of flesh and blood. Pope Francis is very
clear on that, and has been very courageous in taking this step even
though some people can criticize him.

I agree that this is what has to be done. The Catholic Church has tried
to do this in many ways and continues to try to do it. Sometimes outside
of Cuba, like in the exiled Cuban community, which is not aware of
everything that the Church does, the Cuban Church has been judged
harshly, and unjustly. But I believe the Church needs to be more daring.
We cannot defend ourselves. God defends us. We cannot use up ourselves
promoting the institution, because the institution is part of the
Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of God is justice and the well-being of
mankind. If the Church loses this, it loses its essence. Sometimes, we
have been overcome by the fear that everyone has in Cuba. Me, too,
because we have to speak the truth.

What do you fear?

The fear generated by a totalitarian regime is not defined. It is a fear
that provokes a paralyzing anguish because one can't even define exactly
what it is that one fears. What can they do to us? Can they take our
lives? Can they take away our honor, by speaking badly about us, with
defamation campaigns? They do that all the time. At least they do it to
me, and my work is three time harder because they manage to sow discord
everywhere I go. I notice the fear, the lack of trust that people have
when I approach them. Well, yes, and so what? In the end, when people
look at you they discover that you don't have any ulterior motives, that
you don't lie. That's stronger than all of the lies they may tell about me …

Have you had the opportunity to explain your work, and your lack of
ulterior motives, to members of the government?

The last time I had that kind of conversation, "a calzon quitado," was
with an official in Santiago de Cuba and the first secretary of the
(Communist) party in Palma Soriano, when I was the parish priest there.

It was the most difficult part of the Special Period, when my
parishioners grew skinnier from Saturday to Saturday and many people
died, like Sondra Miranda, a seven-year-old girl who died because there
were no medicines for her diabetes. You cannot imagine the anguish we
felt. In the middle of that situation, I traveled outside Cuba and
explained the situation to a friend who brought together several top
businessmen who decided to donate $1 million to the archdioceses of
Santiago de Cuba. I went to speak with the Cardinal in New York for help
with the export of the medicines. He spoke with (George) Bush, the
father, and the president of the United States authorized the export of
the $1 million in assistance to Cuba through the Church.

I returned to Cuba with the good news for my bishop, and we presented
the information to the government. The government did not allow the
medicines to enter Cuba. They visited me at the parish in Palma Soriano
and I told them, "You have blocked the entry of medicines that could
save thousands of people. Even if they save one, it's $1 million!" The
woman from the provincial party in Santiago, who was in charge of Church
relations, said something like, "Well, it's because the Church wants to
score points with the people."

I told her, "You know well that that's what the government does. But you
know Pedro Meurice well. You know that you are lying shamefully when you
say that." She didn't say anything more. It was the last time they
visited me. 

Source: Outspoken Cuban priest José Conrado Rodríguez shares his
thoughts on Cuba | Miami Herald Miami Herald -

Florida's ban on educational travel to Cuba stays in place

Florida's ban on educational travel to Cuba stays in place
The Associated Press

The Florida Board of Governors says the state's ban on educational
travel to Cuba will stay in place until the U.S. and Cuba re-establish
full diplomatic relations.

The Miami Herald reports ( ) that the board
overseeing the State University System recently told Florida
International University that once diplomatic relations are restored,
requests "to conduct scholarly activities located in Cuba" will follow
the standard approval process.

The board cited a state law forbidding any institution receiving state
funds from traveling to "any country located in the Western Hemisphere
which lacks diplomatic relations with the United States."

FIU faculty unsuccessfully sued the state to overturn that ban. School
officials say they'll follow the current law, the only one of its kind

Private colleges and universities are not affected by the ban.

Source: Florida's ban on educational travel to Cuba stays in place |
Miami Herald Miami Herald -

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Lowering the price of milk does not satisfy buyers

Lowering the price of milk does not satisfy buyers / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez
Posted on April 28, 2015

14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 28 April 2015 – In Cuba it is cheaper to
buy a liter of rum than a kilo of powdered milk. Ever since convertible
currency stores appeared in the nineties, people have been demanding
price reductions for basic products. In its Monday edition, the
Communist Party newspaper Granma announced a price reduction for
powdered milk, but the measure has not been met with the satisfaction
the authorities expected.

The new measure reduces the price of kilo of powdered milk by 15% in the
hard currency stores. Now a kilo (2.2 pounds) costs 5.50 or 5.75
convertible pesos (CUCs), and a half kilo cost 2.90 or 2.80, depending
on the quality of the container. The reduction, which went into effect
on April 24, ranges from 0.45 to 0.85 CUC per packet, and is derived
from "updating import costs," according to sources at the Ministry of
Finance and Prices.

The price adjustment benefits only the small sector of Cubans who can
afford to pay the equivalent of what the average worker earns in four
days for this product. Everyone else has to abstain from drinking milk
or resort to the black market, where it is sold for a little less than
half the official price.

In the store attached to a gas station located at the corner of Boyeros
and Ayestaran Streets, several customers browsed on the Monday of the
publicized price reduction, which so far has not set off any buying
frenzy. The parishioners were wary and disappointed by how small the
price reduction was for this basic food.

Caridad Rojas has twin three-year-olds and the milk quota assigned to
them in the ration market isn't enough. After reading the note in
Granma, she went to the closest store to buy milk at the new prices.
"The truth is, what they have done is return to almost the same price
from before last year's huge price increase."

The unpopularity of the measure adopted in 2014 could be one of the
reasons the authorities decided to lower the price of the product. "They
greatly reduced sales with the increase in prices, so in the end the
State ended up losing money," said an employee at the Carlos III
commercial center, one of the largest supermarkets in Havana.

Meanwhile, milk continues to be distributed in the usual way to children
under seven and to patients prescribed special diets at subsidized
prices in the ration market. The rest of the buyers will confront the
prices of the "hard currency" stores, where they can also pay in
national pesos at an exchange rate of 1 CUC to 25 CUP (Cuban pesos, or
"moneda nacional" – national money).

Source: Lowering the price of milk does not satisfy buyers / 14ymedio,
Rosa Lopez | Translating Cuba -

New Stoves and State Policies

New Stoves and State Policies / 14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez
Posted on April 28, 2015

14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez, Havana, 24 April 2015 – She didn't have
any luck. Like many, Estrella is one of those Cubans who faces the
difficult task of feeding her children today without being very sure of
what she will feed them tomorrow. Even still, hers is a family that is
not classified as being in need of social assistance; thus, they will
not receive any help from the State to buy the new induction stovetops
that will go on sale "in a few days."

This week it was announced that very soon everything will be ready to
start the sale of this new kitchen equipment along with other items – a
lidded pot, frying pan, pitcher and coffee pot – to the nearly 80,000
nuclear families who receive government assistance. The official media
assures that, "the conditions have already been created in the stores of
the special program network, belonging to the Ministry of Domestic Trade."

The conditions include 257 "adequately equipped" workshops to repair the
equipment, which carry a three-month commercial warranty. It has also
been made easier for the vendors to pass "a training course" to connect
the equipment and test it.

The plan has been designed to reduce energy consumption in the
residential sector; induction stoves are up to 75% more efficient than
resistance stoves, according to the concerned authorities, and, they
add, they are easy to use, provide comfort and are more durable.

Behind this decision is none other than the Council of Ministers, whose
policy has been responsible for other "bold moves" such as the
unrationed sale of liquefied gas in various parts of the country "as an
experiment." Also, since 2014, and thanks to the "Food Cooking Program,"
it is possible to buy home appliances through bank loans. In effect, the
question of cooking in Cuba is a matter of State.

Estrella was one of those who bought her rice cooker on credit. Of the
7,800 who applied since the beginning, 7,355 have been approved and
5,828 delivered – at a cost of 15 million pesos* – among which we find hers.

However, it wasn't totally easy. First, because this pharmacy employee
doesn't earn enough wages for the bank to have confidence she can make
on-time payments for her rice cooker. As in capitalism, lending to
individuals in Socialist Cuba involves a risk analysis that weighs an
individual's ability to repay the debt.

Secondly, because she wouldn't have been able to afford it without the
help of some family members. But Estrella needed the pot, even though
she would have to sell more medicines under the table than usual.

The issue of subsidies granted by Social Assistance is a delicate one.
The form of payment with respect to the appliances that will soon be
sold has not been completely defined, except that the acquisition of the
stoves could be fully or partially charged to the State.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MTSS) has declared the
Provincial Administration Council is "the collective body that approves
the sale of these stoves and decides which method of payment will be
applied" in each case. To accomplish this they will work on standards
for "socioeconomic assessment."

Yusimí Campos, an official with MTSS, informed the national media that,
among the families not benefitting there are also those "who cook their
food with other services such as manufactured gas, liquefied gas or (…)
those who live in remote areas and who have no electricity service."

Estrella, who has piped gas in her Central Havana apartment, will have
to wait a while to acquire a modern stove. Meanwhile, she has to finish
paying the bank for her Chinese made Haier refrigerator. The last thing
Estrella wants is another debt. And with regards to food, "something
will come up," she says, while showing a small reserve of eggs and rice
that keeps her calm, at least for now.

*Translator's note: Roughly running the math on these numbers gives the
price for a rice cooker as somewhere between $80 and $100+ dollars. This
is for an appliance that sells in the U.S. (looking at the one in the
photo) for plus-or-minus $20. In other words, the government "loans"
Cubans as much as six months wages, so that they can purchase one rice

Source: New Stoves and State Policies / 14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez
| Translating Cuba -

Linksys negotiates the sale of wireless routers in Cuba

Linksys negotiates the sale of wireless routers in Cuba / 14ymedio
Posted on April 28, 2015

14ymedio, 24 April 2015 – Linksys, the American company that makes
routers for home networks and small businesses, announced on Thursday
that it is negotiating with the United States Department of State and
other authorities to receive the necessary directions that would allow
it to distribute wireless routers in Cuba. Its intention, as affirmed by
the company through its vice president of product management, Mike Chen,
is to help overcome financial and technological obstacles that currently
prevent expanding Internet access in the country.

"Now that we are celebrating this milestone, we must also remember that
our work is not finished. Along with the launch of the #LinkYourWorld
company, we have set out the objective, together with our business
partners, to better connect the Cuban people to one another and with the
rest of the world," said Chet Pipkin, the CEO of the company. "This is
our opportunity to promote the development and growth of Cuba. We
believe that recent political changes make this effort more viable, and
we look forward to working with our partners in the industry and with
government officials to achieve this important goal."The company plans
to take the lead in connecting Cuba, taking the LinkYourWorld campaign
worldwide. The worldwide promotion will contribute to educating people
about the value and significance of internet access in daily life at
home, at work or on the go. Linksys plans to introduce programs and
interactive content on its website and its pages on social networks, as
well as in stores and value added resellers.

The announcement was made in a press conference celebrating the hundreds
of millions of routers sold around the world, a milestone achieved by
the California Company that took its first steps in 1999.

In Cuba the only way to get a wireless router is in the black market.
The price is around 100 CUC (convertible pesos, roughly US$110).

Translated by Alberto Uria

Source: Linksys negotiates the sale of wireless routers in Cuba /
14ymedio | Translating Cuba -

Racial Prejudice Begins in Childhood

Cuba: Racial Prejudice Begins in Childhood / Ivan Garcia
Posted on April 28, 2015

Iván García, 29 April 2015 — The first time that Yumilka, a teacher,
felt discriminated against because of the color of her skin she was only
four years old. "It was in the daycare center. I remember coming home
crying. A group of children called me 'negritilla' or lousy black girl.
They didn't want to share their toys with me. My parents talked to the
director and she told them that this was just kid stuff, which couldn't
be classified as racism."

Racial prejudice continued into her youth. When her boyfriend, a
caucasian, took her home to his parents, their silent treatment had an
overtly discriminatory overtone.

"After we broke up, I learned that his parents criticized him for not
finding a 'whiter' woman, since they were not in favor of 'combing
raisins.' His father told him that black women were for having sex with,
but not for marrying. These were members of the Communist Party, who
worked in foreign trade," recalls Yumilka.

Laritza Diversent, a dissident lawyer, also suffered racist humiliations
when she did her baccalaureate studies at the Lenin Vocational School,
an elite center founded by Fidel Castro on the outskirts of Havana.

"Besides being black, I was very poor. Everyone looked at me like a
freak when I arrived. The children of senior government officials
studied at Lenin. Almost all were white and many were not only racist,
but outspoken," recalls Laritza.

In a primary school in the Havana township of Diez de Octubre in
Mariana, a sixth-grade student says that humiliations based on skin
color happen almost every day.

"Most black students are the poorest—those without tablets, who wear
patched sneakers, and bring bread with salad oil for their snack. Not
just the white kids call them names, but the mixed-race ones also," he says.

Racism in Cuba is a phenomenon that the regime tries to hush up, or does
not give the full attention it deserves. After 25 years of perpetual
economic crisis, social differences have accentuated racial segregation.

During that time, worse than racial discrimination is the pervasive
social control by the state, the low participation of citizens in
shaping policy strategies, and the outright apartheid of the military
autocracy, which excludes Cubans under the new Investment Law or
prohibits them access to boats in tourist centers.

Fidel Castro did not bring racism to Cuba. More or less subtly, there
were always prejudices based on skin color, facial features, or "kinky"
hair. There were parks and clubs for whites only. Even the dictator
Fulgencio Batista, a mestizo, was denied entry to one of those clubs.

Although slavery was abolished in Cuba in 1886, blacks were left at a
clear disadvantage in the social order. They had neither property nor
wealth. Their educational level was low.

In 1912, the Independent Party of Color, led by Evaristo Estenoz and
Pedro Ivonet, took up arms and about 3000 blacks and mestizos were
massacred by the government of José Miguel Gómez.

At the head of the officers who executed the shooting was Colonel José
Martí, son of the illustrious Cuban hero and humanist. 103 years later,
the national historiography wants to soft pedal the criminal event.

There is no evidence that Fidel Castro is racist. But he had a
clumsy political strategy for handling the issue. Upon establishing a
system where supposedly no social classes existed, he assumed that
racial discrimination had disappeared with the triumph of his revolution.

Racism did not disappear, it merely mutated. It disguised itself in
various forms, and white supremacy in key state positions became
permanent. Fifty-six years after his rise to power, blacks are only a
majority in the crowded Cuban jails.

Finding statistics on inequality is cumbersome. The state archives
contain few figures. But according to Fidel Castro himself, in a speech
in January 2000, 80% of the prison population was black or mixed race.

As a rule, blacks on the island live in the worst housing, earn the
lowest wages, do not finish college, and in order to move up the social
ladder turn to sports, Santeria, music, or military life.

Currently, a large number of policemen are black or mixed race. So are
many of the henchmen who repress dissidents. That does not stop them
from having a racist modus operandi.

When conducting raids, they often detain black or mixed race youths.
"It's the operating profile. A black with a backpack is always a
suspicious guy," said a policeman.

According to the dissident Juan Antonio Madrazo, national coordinator of
a citizens committee for racial integration, "in Cuba there is an
ideology of whitening."

Among blacks and mestizos, pressure has been applied to marry or have
children with white people "to advance or improve the race."

According to a sociologist consulted, the number of marriages or
consensual unions between blacks and whites has skyrocketed in the last
15 years. "Racism in Cuba is most evident in the sectors of culture, the
media, and companies with foreign capital and foreign trade."

Nuria, a housewife, believes that racial taunts and humiliation during
childhood are of concern. "It's a problem of family education. It is in
the home where these children hear slurs against blacks."

The regime has created the Aponte Commission to draw up a more accurate
map of racism. Intellectuals like Roberto Zurbano, Sandra Alvarez, and
Victor Fowles recognize that the phenomenon is a veritable Pandora's box.

One hundred and twenty-nine years after slavery was abolished in Cuba,
blacks remain prisoners of their race. Yumilka, the teacher who suffered
humiliation at just four years of age, asks, "How much longer?"

Source: Cuba: Racial Prejudice Begins in Childhood / Ivan Garcia |
Translating Cuba -

Yoani Sanchez “I am not expecting that Obama is going to demand our rights”

Yoani Sanchez: "I am not expecting that Obama is going to demand our rights"
Santiago de Chile | Abril 22, 2015

(EFE) - Yoani Sanchez said on Wednesday that the normalization of
relations between Cuba and the United States gives new hope to the
inhabitants of the Island, but stressed that Cubans themselves must
exert pressure to demand their rights.

"I am not expecting [US president, Barack] Obama, from the White House,
is going to demand our rights, it is up to us," said the regime opponent
and journalist at a press conference in Santiago de Cuba, where she had
arrived for a three-day visit.

On the normalization of relations between the two countries, the blogger
felt that the United States has made several concessions so far, but the
Government of president Raul Castro has been hiding his cards.

"The issue of human rights and freedoms, such as of the press, has been
knocking on a closed door, but we don't know if the Cuban government is
going to cede anything," she said.

Beyond the scope of the negotiations, Sanchez said that it is a
beneficial process because it gives hope and externalizes the "conflict
between the Cuban people and the Cuban government," which, in her
opinion, is the real conflict on the island.

"I would like for this process of negotiation to also bring acceptance
on the part of the Cuban government of a multiparty system, of the legal
existence of independent media, and a commitment not to violate human
rights," the journalist said. She predicted, however, that the regime
will cling forcefully to the "absolute control" that it exercises.

On being asked for the reasons of the rapprochement between Cuba and the
United States, the regime opponent said that Venezuela's economic and
social crisis is a "determining" factor, due to the economic assistance
it provides to the Castro regime.

Sanchez also welcomed the announcement of the trip Pope Francis plans to
make to Cuba this coming September, before visiting the United States,
and expressed her desire for the Pope to promote "the end of political

Source: Yoani Sanchez: "I am not expecting that Obama is going to demand
our rights" -

El Banco Latinoamericano de Desarrollo se plantea asesorar en la unificación monetaria

El Banco Latinoamericano de Desarrollo se plantea asesorar en la
unificación monetaria
Cuba debe "abrir más" su economía para acceder al sistema financiero
global según expertos financieros
Miami | Abril 29, 2015

(EFE). -El acercamiento del Banco Latinoamericano de Desarrollo (CAF) a
Cuba es un indicador "positivo" del interés de las instituciones por la
Isla, pero La Habana debe "abrir más su economía" y "acelerar los
cambios", coincidieron este martes en Miami varios expertos financieros.

El principal detonante de este acercamiento ha sido, sin duda, el
proceso de deshielo en las relaciones entre EE UU y Cuba, que "ha
abierto espacios cerrados en la Isla, como "el acceso a financiación
externa", explicó a Efe Emilio Morales, presidente del influyente Havana
Consulting Group de Miami.

No obstante, Morales dejó claro que corresponde ahora al Gobierno cubano
"dar ciertos pasos" que faciliten este proceso, tales como "abrir más la
economía, liberar las fuerzas productivas y ser transparentes en el
manejo de las finanzas", si la Isla quiere acceder a líneas de crédito.

La previsible, aunque lenta, entrada de Cuba en el sistema financiero
mundial requerirá por parte de La Habana, además, la "adaptación" a una
serie de normativas y regulaciones que obligan al Gobierno de la Isla a
"desclasificar la información de sus reservas" y "abrir sus libros",
resaltó el experto.

En recientes declaraciones, Enrique García, presidente ejecutivo del
Banco de Desarrollo de América Latina (CAF), señaló el interés de esta
institución financiera que dirige en "explorar la posibilidad de que
Cuba se convierta en miembro de este banco", con sede en Caracas

La CAF está conformada por 19 países y 14 bancos privados de la región,
y cuenta con oficinas en Buenos Aires, La Paz, Brasilia, Bogotá, Quito,
Madrid, México D.F., Ciudad de Panamá, Asunción, Lima, Montevideo y
Puerto España.

Jaime Suchlicki, director del Instituto de Estudios Cubanos y
Cubanoamericanos (ICCAS), de la Universidad de Miami (UM), se mostró
escéptico sobre una posible apertura financiera de La Habana, y advirtió
que el problema medular es el "riesgo" que entraña conceder préstamos o
créditos a Cuba, pues esta nación "no tiene la capacidad de pagar".

Suchlicki opinó que la iniciativa del CAF es un intento más por "tratar
de promover y acelerar el cambio en Cuba" dentro del proceso de
normalización de las relaciones bilaterales de EE UU con la Isla, una
forma, puntualizó, de "ponerle presión" a La Habana.

Si bien resulta aún improbable que el CAF abra líneas de financiación
con préstamos al Gobierno cubano, lo que sí podría darse es la apertura
de una "oficina de asesoría técnica" en La Habana.

De hecho, uno de las opciones planteadas por el CAF es la posibilidad de
brindar algún tipo de asesoría financiera al Gobierno cubano mientras
abren el proceso de unificación monetaria y eliminación del sistema de
doble divisa vigente desde hace dos décadas.

El economista y abogado Francisco Cerezo valoró como algo importante la
iniciativa del CAF, cuya "misión -dijo a Efe- consiste en promover el
desarrollo económico en América Latina", por lo que su "extensión a Cuba
cae claramente dentro de sus objetivos".

Eso sí, convino con los anteriores analistas en que "todavía está por
verse la dimensión de la apertura cubana" y el franco deseo de las
autoridades gubernamentales de ofrecer espacios más amplios al sector

En ese contexto, Cerezo hizo hincapié en la importancia de que el
Gobierno cubano "abra la mano a la actividad privada económica" para que
todas estas iniciativas de apoyo financiero no se diluyan.

"Lo positivo de que entre una institución financiera como el CAF es que
sus criterios de crédito no se informan por una motivación especulativa
o de mera ganancia económica y de lucro", con lo que los términos pueden
ser mucho más favorables a la hora de asumir riesgos.

Luis Oganes, director del departamento de investigación de mercados
emergentes del banco estadounidense J.P. Morgan, recordó, sin embargo,
que las "sanciones financieras" contra Cuba "aún no han sido levantadas"
por Estados Unidos, por lo que, apuntó, instituciones financieras como
la suya "no tienen cobertura en Cuba".

Source: El Banco Latinoamericano de Desarrollo se plantea asesorar en la
unificación monetaria -

House GOP bill blocks new air flights, cruise ships to Cuba

House GOP bill blocks new air flights, cruise ships to Cuba

House Republicans unveiled legislation on Tuesday to sharply curb the
Obama administration's recent moves to ease restrictions on travel to Cuba.

The provision by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American from Florida,
would block new flights and cruise ship travel to Cuba. The provision
was attached to a must-pass transportation spending bill that the House
will consider next month.

Diaz-Balart's move comes in response to new rules issued by the
administration in January that would significantly ease travel
restrictions to Cuba and permit regularly scheduled flights for the
first time, the result of a rapprochement after a half century of Cold
War animosity.

Diaz-Balart said that the Obama administration is skirting U.S. law,
which bans tourist travel to Cuba.

"The expansion of regularly scheduled flights to Cuba is an obvious
attempt to circumvent the tourism ban," Diaz-Balart said in a statement.
"Similarly, allowing cruises to dock in Cuba would violate both the
spirit and the letter of U.S. law. Increased travel to Cuba directly
funds the individuals and institutions that oppress the Cuban people."

The GOP plan would thwart the new flights but leave in place new rules
permitting the import of limited amounts of goods like cigars and rum.

The provision is sure to spark controversy and a veto threat from the
White House. It also faces votes in the Appropriations Committee and in
the House, where there is significant sentiment, even among some GOP
conservatives, to ease the five-decade-plus Cuba trade embargo and
travel restrictions to the island.

The embargo and travel restrictions, however, have not moved the Castro
government toward democracy.

Agriculture organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other
business interests have expressed support for the administration's
outreach to Cuba.

The administration rules lifted a requirement that U.S. travelers obtain
a license from the Treasury Department before traveling to Cuba.
Instead, all that is required is for travelers to assert their trip
would serve educational, religious or other permitted purposes.

Cuban-American Republicans from the Miami area opposed to the Castro
regime have had an outsized influence on the government's Cuba policy
since the 1980 mass emigration.

Obama took steps earlier this month to remove Cuba from the list of
state sponsors of terrorism, another step toward normalizing relations.

"Congress cannot look away as the president implements policies that
channel dollars to an anti-American dictatorship," Diaz-Balart said.

Source: House GOP bill blocks new air flights, cruise ships to Cuba |
Miami Herald Miami Herald -

Pritzker on Cuba - ‘I will lead a delegation there’

Pritzker on Cuba: 'I will lead a delegation there'
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker plans a trip to Havana to help
promote trade. She also discussed the need for trade promotion authority
and making sure the United States remains competitive in a global economy.
04/28/2015 2:46 PM 04/28/2015 7:23 PM

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is laser-focused on expanding
U.S. exports and American competitiveness, but these days she's also
spending time on a market that purchased only $291.3 million worth of
U.S. exports and ranked 49th among American trading partners last year.

That's Cuba, where the White House is in the process of reestablishing
diplomatic ties after more than a half century of isolation. The
normalization process also includes a limited commercial opening toward
the island that has been largely off limits to American businesses
because of the U.S. trade embargo.

Pritzker was the keynote speaker in Tampa in late March at a forum
organized by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Tampa
International Airport to discuss how Tampa Bay businesses might benefit
from new opportunities in Cuba.

"What we've seen is enormous eagerness by the Cuban people as well as by
the American people and American businesses to see more. But this is
going to take time. This is not something we can get done overnight,"
she said.

The opening includes expanded American travel to Cuba, and new
regulations that would allow U.S. companies to participate in upgrading
Cuba telecom infrastructure and sell Internet services and consumer
communications devices. Commercial sales of construction materials and
farm equipment are also permitted as long as they go to private hands
and the sale of medicine and medical supplies was previously authorized.

Exports to support private business ventures on the island and limited
imports of goods produced by Cuban private entrepreneurs also are allowed.

Since the White House announced its Cuba opening in December, it's
become clear that it takes two to tango and many of the new commercial
initiatives will depend on the willingness and the capacity of the Cuban
government to accept them.

"We're hoping to see the responsiveness of the Cuban government be like
its people," Pritzker said.

She said she foresees the earliest opportunities in the sales of
medicine and medical supplies, agricultural equipment and in the telecom
and Internet sector.

"I think we have to remember that 5 percent of the Cuban population has
access to the Internet and 2 million of 11.5 million Cubans have mobile
phones," she said. "So what's the goal of the president's change in
policy? The goal has been the emergence of a democratic, prosperous and
stable Cuba that empowers the Cuban people and helps promote bringing
universal human rights and freedoms to the Cuban people. Along with that
comes economic opportunity."

Aside from gearing up for potential trade with Cuba, Pritzker has been
crossing the country — and the globe — trying to drum up sales of U.S.
exports, spreading the gospel of innovation and R&D, and promoting
workforce education and training and investment in clean energy.

"These are not short-term fixes, but long-term investments to help us
build an economic foundation that will keep our nation competitive in a
rapidly changing world," she told her Tampa audience.

After her speech, she sat down with the Miami Herald to discuss Cuba,
her agenda and efforts to gain support for trade promotion authority,
which would allow the administration to negotiate trade deals such as
the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the TransAtlantic Trade and
Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and then submit them to Congress for a
yes or no vote without reopening negotiations.

Q. How is the Commerce Department going to support the White House
opening toward more trade with Cuba? It's a little tricky in terms of
private entrepreneurs importing goods because this is something that has
been handled by the Cuban government.

A. I think first of all we've had a change of regulations that allows
telecommunications equipment and services and agricultural products and
medicines and medical equipment to be sold in Cuba. We've also seen the
allowance for remittances go up and there's to be correspondent banking.
But there are going to be more impediments to overcome to get
distribution and things like that. It's a process and that's where the
Commerce Department can play a very big role.

Our job is to facilitate trade. Our U.S. Export Assistance Centers will
work with companies that are appropriate, that are allowed under the
existing embargo and existing regulations. We will help them navigate.

I will go as soon as as we have normalized relations and have opened a
U.S. embassy. I will lead a delegation there. In fact, I already have
employees from the Commerce Department who have gone from some of our
bureaus in order to work with the government to move toward more
normalized relations.

Now, companies are already going. Google led a delegation. You're seeing
people going to visit. That's because, as I said, there's enormous
excitement — excitement from the entrepreneurial community in Cuba and
excitement here in the United States about that. I think they deserve
our support.

Q. Do you have any insight in terms of the interest of U.S. companies in
the telecom opening?

A. I've talked to a number of the major U.S. telecom providers and they
are monitoring the situation to see what the opportunity is. Companies
like Cisco and others were quite enthusiastic to move in. But I think
everyone is trying to figure out, how does this work? You have to
remember, the announcement only came just before Christmas. And we're
only a couple of months into the new year, but we're seeing a lot of

Q. In terms of a role for U.S. exporters to tap into these new Cuban
opportunities, how do you suggest they go about this?

A. At this conference today [March 30], we have Matt Borman [deputy
assistant secretary for export administration] with us. He is really the
person at Commerce who led the rewrite of the regulations. He is here
talking with businesses and illuminating them about the specifics of the
regulatory changes.

Our belief is the business side of the relationship can be a leader, an
area that helps bring about greater prosperity for the Cuban people.
It's exciting to see the interest by U.S. citizens and companies in
figuring out how to engage with Cuba and what's even more exciting is
the interest by Cuban entrepreneurs in working with us. That's where we
can really bring something to the table in terms of supporting
entrepreneurship in Cuba.

Q. How are the efforts to get trade promotion authority proceeding in

A. [A Trade Promotion Authority bill was introduced in Congress April
16.] The White House has played an absolutely critical leadership role —
the president himself, those of us in the administration — in terms of
working with Congress to explain why these trade agreements are so
important. The Trans Pacific Partnership is at a point where there has
been a lot of progress and we are very close to the end. But in order to
finalize these agreements, the 11 other countries are looking to see if
the United States will pass trade promotion legislation. The reason they
are doing that before they put some of their final offers on the table
is because they want to know that this deal is really going to happen.
Trade promotion legislation is the opportunity for our Congress to say
here are the standards these agreements must meet, here are terms we
want to see in these agreements before we give the trade agreements an
up or down vote.

It is absolutely critical that we do these trade agreements. Something
is happening in the world that hasn't been appreciated in my view. We've
all come to realize that 95 percent of our customers are outside the
United States. Today the middle class in the United States is about 140
million people; the middle class in Asia is 570 million people and it's
expected to go to 2.7 billion people in the next 15 years. If our
companies do not have fair access in terms of where our workers are on a
level playing field , where there is a minimum wage requirement, where
their environmental standards are not similar to ours, we'll be at a
competitive disadvantage to the companies that are selling into those
markets in Asia. We don't have big trade barriers in the United States
so it's essential that we get these agreements. The Fortune 50 can
negotiate their own terms but these trade agreements are really about
small and medium-sized businesses having reliable access to markets.

Q. When President Barack Obama took office, he announced a National
Export Initiative to double U.S. exports over five years. That did not
happen. Why not?

A. Remember we had record exports last year — $2.34 trillion and we've
had record exports five years in a row. Why did the president set that
objective? He set that objective because he realized that more and more
American businesses need to recognize what's going on and that they've
got to serve the 95 percent of consumers outside the United States.
Precisely how fast that market grows isn't really something the U.S.
controls. What the U.S. controls and what the president is trying to do
and what my department is responsible for is making sure more companies
are out exporting, not just to one or two markets but three or four
markets. More companies, more markets. That's what we're trying to do
with the U.S. Export Assistance Centers that help companies determine
where their products are competitive. We also have foreign commercial
service officers in over 70 countries whose job it is to help U.S.
businesses to sell their products into those countries. The world has
become globalized and interconnected and companies need to get into
those countries and that's why free trade agreements are so important.

Career: Sworn in as the 38th Secretary of Commerce on June 26, 2013. In
her first year, she traveled to 19 countries and led four trade
missions, including the first by a U.S. Secretary of Commerce to the
Middle East in 15 years. Last year, she launched NEI/Next, an updated
program that built on the president's National Export Initiative.

Spent 27 years in the private sector and ran five different businesses
in real estate, hospitality, senior living and financial services.
Founder and advisory board chairman of Skills for America's Future,
which works with employers to prepare workers for in-demand skills;
helped launch Skills for Chicagoland's Future. Past chair of the Chicago
Public Education Fund and former member of the Chicago Board of Education.

Memberships: Served on the boards of major corporations such as Hyatt
Hotels, La Salle Bank, and the William Wrigley Jr. Co. Executive
chairman of Trans Union.

Education: Bachelor's in economics from Harvard University and J.D. and
M.B.A. degrees from Stanford.

Personal: Born May 2, 1959 in Chicago. She and her husband Dr. Bryan
Traubert have two children. Member of the Pritzker family, an
influential Chicago business family. Her father was one of the
co-founders of Hyatt Hotels.

Sources: U.S. Department of Commerce and staff reports

Source: Pritzker on Cuba: 'I will lead a delegation there' | Miami
Herald Miami Herald -

Miami Republican proposes bill to curb Cuba travel

Miami Republican proposes bill to curb Cuba travel
04/28/2015 7:09 PM 04/28/2015 7:26 PM

Congressional Republicans, led by U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami,
filed legislation Tuesday that would limit new travel to Cuba, an
attempt to block part of President Barack Obama's more open policy
toward the island's Communist regime.

The proposed measure would ban new flights and cruises to Cuba. It was
tucked into a wide-ranging budget bill drafted by Diaz-Balart, who
chairs the House subcommittee on transportation, housing and urban
development appropriations.

Funding to facilitate travel to Cuba would be prohibited if the
airplanes or ships pass through any property confiscated by the Cuban
government, which effectively rules out landing or docking at any
airport or seaport.

In a statement, Diaz-Balart decried newly permissible trips to Cuba
"that include snorkeling, cigar factory tours, salsa dancing lessons,
and other obvious tourist activities."

"Under these circumstances, Congress cannot remain idle," said
Diaz-Balart, who is Cuban American. "The expansion of regularly
scheduled flights to Cuba is an obvious attempt to circumvent the
tourism ban. Similarly, allowing cruises to dock in Cuba would violate
both the spirit and the letter of U.S. law."

The massive $55 billion budget bill was announced Tuesday with a news
release that made no mention of the Cuba provision.

Another group of lawmakers has filed legislation to repeal all travel
restrictions to the island.

The provision is sure to spark controversy and a veto threat from the
White House. It also faces votes in the Appropriations Committee and in
the House, where there is significant sentiment, even among some GOP
conservatives, to ease the five-decade-plus Cuba trade embargo and
travel restrictions to the island.

The embargo and travel restrictions, however, have not moved the Castro
government toward democracy.

Agriculture organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other
business interests have expressed support for the administration's
outreach to Cuba.

The administration rules lifted a requirement that U.S. travelers obtain
a license from the Treasury Department before traveling to Cuba.
Instead, all that is required is for travelers to assert that their trip
would serve educational, religious or other permitted purposes.

Cuban-American Republicans from the Miami area opposed to the Castro
regime have had an outsized influence on the government's Cuba policy
since the 1980 mass emigration.

Obama took steps earlier this month to remove Cuba from the list of
state sponsors of terrorism, another step toward normalizing relations.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Source: Miami Republican proposes bill to curb Cuba travel | Miami
Herald Miami Herald -

Watchdog group issues dismal report on global press freedom

Watchdog group issues dismal report on global press freedom
04/29/2015 4:38 AM 04/29/2015 4:39 AM

Journalists in many parts of the world face deteriorating reporting
conditions, with a democracy watchdog group noting a sharp decline in
global press freedom in 2014.

In its annual report released Wednesday, the group Freedom House says
global press freedom declined last year to its lowest point in more than
10 years. Only one in seven people live in countries where coverage of
political news is strong, journalists' safety is guaranteed and state
meddling in media affairs is minor, Freedom House said.

The worst offenders on the Freedom House list were: Belarus, Crimea,
Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Turkmenistan
and Uzbekistan.

Ranked best: Norway, Sweden and Belgium. The United States was ranked
34th on the list of 199 countries and territories assessed.

Freedom House says one main factor driving the decline was newly passed
restrictive laws against the media. The report cited laws in Russia and
Mexico that place new controls on blogs. Physical violence and
intimidation of journalists continued to be a problem, especially in
places such as Syria and Nigeria.

"Governments used security or anti-terrorism laws as a pretext to
silence critical voices," said the report's project manager, Jennifer
Dunham. "Militant groups and criminal gangs used increasingly brazen
tactics to intimidate journalists, and media owners attempted to
manipulate news content to serve their political or business interests."

Freedom House ranks countries as free, partly free or not free. Of the
countries it looked at last year, it found 63, or 32 percent, as free;
71, or 36 percent, as partly free; and 65, or 32 percent, as not free.

Despite the recent diplomatic opening between the United States and
Cuba, and the release of dozens of political prisoners late last year —
the report notes that journalists remained behind bars in Cuba in 2014
and official censorship remained pervasive, leaving Cuba as one of the
10 worst offenders on the group's list.

Source: Watchdog group issues dismal report on global press freedom |
Miami Herald Miami Herald -

Republicanos presentan un proyecto de ley para limitar los viajes de EEUU a Cuba

Republicanos presentan un proyecto de ley para limitar los viajes de
EEUU a Cuba
AGENCIAS | Washington | 28 Abr 2015 - 7:23 pm.

El texto impediría el uso de fondos para facilitar el transporte aéreo,
si cualquiera de esos vuelos aterrizara o pasara a través de alguna
propiedad confiscada por La Habana.

Miembros de la Cámara de Representantes estadounidense lanzaron este
martes un proyecto para limitar los viajes de Estados Unidos a Cuba, uno
de las primeras iniciativas en el Congreso para frustrar los planes del
presidente Barack Obama destinados a normalizar las relaciones con La

El proyecto de ley, presentado por el congresista cubanoamericano Mario
Díaz-Balart, bloquea los nuevos vuelos y cruceros a Cuba. La cláusula
fue agregada a un proyecto de ley de gastos en transportes que la cámara
baja debatirá el mes próximo.

El texto impediría el uso de fondos para facilitar el transporte aéreo
desde Estados Unidos, si cualquiera de esos vuelos aterrizara o pasara a
través de alguna propiedad confiscada por el Gobierno cubano, informa

También incluye una cláusula impidiendo el uso de cualquier fondo
previsto en el proyecto para otorgar licencias o certificados de
operación a cualquier barco que haya atracado dentro de las siete millas
de un puerto en propiedades confiscadas por el La Habana, durante los
180 días previos.

La cláusula seguramente provocará polémicas y una amenaza de veto de la
Casa Blanca. También sebe ser sometida a votación en la Comisión de
Asignaciones y en el plenario de la cámara, donde incluso algunos
republicanos conservadores piensan que es hora de aliviar el embargo y
las restricciones de viajes a la Isla, informa AP.

Source: Republicanos presentan un proyecto de ley para limitar los
viajes de EEUU a Cuba | Diario de Cuba -

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Pitfalls of Extradition

Cuba: The Pitfalls of Extradition / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on April 27, 2015

Juan Juan Almeida, 23 April 2015 — Havana promised the Bush
administration that it would no longer accept fugitives from American
justice such as Joanne Chesimard.

Politics is the only one of the performing arts in which there are no
surprises. Despite the visible efforts made by Cuba and the United
States to normalize relations and the Cuban government's recent
agreement to cooperate in resolving cases of U.S. fugitives living on
the island, I question whether Joanne Chessimard (who was granted
political asylum in 1984) or William Guillermo Morales (who also has
asylum) will ever be extradited.

Their extradition would set a precedent that would put pressure on
authorities to hand over others, such Juan Lisímaco Gutiérrez Fischmann
(former husband of Mariela Castro), who have sought refuge in Havana by
claiming political persecution.

It is more likely that, in the interim, Cuba will return those suspected
of involvement of more ordinary crimes such as money laundering,
counterfeiting, and insurance, credit card and/or Medicare fraud.

Extradition is a judicial tool that can be described as being either
"active," such as when one country formally requests another country
hand over a certain individual, or "passive," as when a country makes
the request to a point of contact (i.e., a human being).

In other countries it is handled in different ways but in Cuba a
"passive" extradition request is made through diplomatic channels. After
being reviewed, it is passed on to the executive branch. Since there is
no separation of powers in Cuba, the judicial branch is then ordered to
process and resolve the case.

We saw the most recent example of an active deportation in 2004 when an
Argentine businessman with Mexican citizenship, Carlos Agustín Ahumada
Kurtz, was detained in a house in Nuevo Vedado and later deported from
Cuba after an extradition request was made by the Mexican Ministry of
Foreign Affairs.

A very different case was that of Robert Vesco. A Cuban judge ordered
his extradition but the executive branch, in the person of Fidel Castro,
refused to turn him over, citing risks to national security, although
there were some who argued the issue had more to do with "family assets."

Cuba does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. but that does not
mean a person cannot be extradited. Herein lies a useful tool which the
Cuban government uses. According to international law, in the absence of
a treaty, the laws of the country to which the claim is submitted
determine whether a person can be handed over or not.

William Guillermo Morales fell victim to his own bomb.* The other
subterfuges were hidden in the legal procedure itself. As mentioned
earlier, the process begins with a diplomatic memorandum requesting the
provisional detention of the person in question for the purpose of
extradition. But it has to meet certain requirements. The requesting
government has to provide data identifying the individual to be
detained. It must also show proof of an arrest warrant, commit to
formalize the extradition request by a specified date, agree to
reciprocity and acknowledge that the case is in fact an emergency situation.

I should point out that "an emergency situation" is taken to mean the
individual being sought poses a flight risk from the country being

Given their status as political refugees, might one think that Joanne
Chessimard and William Guillermo Morales would be strongly motivated to
flee the island? Perhaps, but where would they go? Venezuela is not an
option. President Maduro has as many chromosomes as a horse (Equus
asinus). The last thing he wants is a problem like this.

Those with political refugee status in Cuba know that some future
negotiated agreement might subject them to cross-border detention (or
adduction). More than a possibility, for them extradition is a distant,
dream-like vision of reality.

*Translator's note: A member of the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas Liberacion
Nacional), an organization advocating for Puerto Rican independence
through acts of violence. On July 12, 1978, Morales was working on a
bomb at a house in East Elmhurst, New York, when it exploded. Morales
was severely injured, taken to a hospital and was later transferred to
the Bellevue Hospital prison ward. Morales escaped from Bellevue and
fled to Mexico, where he was captured in May, 1983. He was eventually
handed over to Cuban authorities and is believed to still be in that

Source: Cuba: The Pitfalls of Extradition / Juan Juan Almeida |
Translating Cuba -

The Internet - A Space for Diversity and Freedom of Expression

The Internet: A Space for Diversity and Freedom of Expression / Cubanet,
Ernesto Perez Chang
Posted on April 27, 2015

Young people are indifferent to politics. Cell phones, video games and
television series are their priorities (photo by the author)

We have to wonder how much the Cuban government invests in restricting
this essential information tool in our time, blocking it and even
minimizing the "harmful effects" of its free and generalized use, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 24 April 2015 – Faced with the
problem of the limits on access to the internet in Cuba, one would have
to wonder not how much the Cuban government invests in expanding the
reach of this information tool, essential in our time, but how high the
costs will rise in order to restrict it, block it and even to minimize
the "harmful effects" of its free and generalized use.

It is known that every state enterprise, institute and agency has an
information department charged with not only managing the internet but
monitoring the navigation of every user, censoring it and reporting any
"suspicious maneuver." The specialists do not work of their own will
but must carry out to the letter the rigorous instructions provided by
the national Information Security team strongly tied to the Ministry of
the Interior.

A great portion of State resources are tied up in the strict control of
information and in filtering the communications of absolutely every
email account that is hosted on Cuban servers or that uses them,
according to a worker for the network Infomed, who prefers to remain
anonymous. According to this person, who makes a living from offering
email service on the black market, all messages that pass through the
server are rigorously investigated. Through specialized programs,
customers are studied, words and key names are marked, elements are
deleted as a routine practice.

A review of ads on the classified ads page reveals
immediately how exhaustively internet connections and email accounts are
monitored. Almost all who seek services from clandestine providers
advise that they will only employ them for "family" or "serious"
purposes. Although they sell on the black market, the vendors of hours
of connection forbid doing "problematic" searches or sending content
"contrary to the Revolution." Thus, any opponent in Cuba finds it very
difficult to make a deal for the purchase of an internet or email
account with an international outlet. The computer experts who take
risks with such clients are very few, and when they do it, they double
their prices due to the danger they may run.

Disguised censorship

On the threshold of a new millennium, the creation in Cuba of the
University of Computer Sciences (UCI) and the increase in software
development centers were not linked to a willingness to update our
knowledge in those new areas of the scientific universe but as a
defensive strategy in the face of the "penetration of information," the
most feared of all the ghosts in a totalitarian environment.

Nevertheless, all the projects of cyber defense have become a
double-edged sword due to the fact that a work of computer censorship so
huge and in a country sunk in misery must mobilize thousands of people
to whom access must be given to that which will have to be prohibited,
and these will use their "power" not to exercise it fully but in order
to find the cracks in the system that will permit them to personally profit.

Although the University of Computer Sciences is the study center most
monitored and controlled by the Cuban government, as much there as in
any of the country's other computer departments, there are many
students and specialists who live not on their stipends and salaries but
by clandestinely providing services related to the internet. Those who
review all the speeches by Fidel Castro where he addressed the topic of
the internet will be able to recognize his insistence, if not to say his
desperation, to create a cyber shield in order to hide the world and
continue his disinformation maneuvers.

Much software and many applications created in official Cuban
institutions are aimed at control of the web and its accessibility. The
so-called "initiatives" to carry information to all the people in Cuba
are intended not to share free connectivity with all citizens or to end
privileges but to create "monitored diversification" of the Cuban
internet and sites with the .cu domain that function as substitutes for
the true Worldwide Web, where the topic of "Cuba" is approached only
from the regime's perspective.

To diversify the Cuban platforms for blogs, continuing the history of
censorship from the first, loyalty to the system will continue to be
demanded along with abstention from free expression of opinion; it is
known that the sites classified as tied to the official press, more than
providing a service, are trying to displace the uncontrollable; the Cuban encyclopedias, out of date and ideological,
badly imitate Wikipedia. These are some of the "sterile" products that
the government intends to fight the "dangerous internet."

When I hear Cuban leaders put forth with such insistence the idea of
"responsible use of information and the internet," I feel that they are
putting a patch over the immense information abyss that censorship will
generate. Undoubtedly, not being able to dominate the monster, they
will continue generating laws much more absurd than the current ones in
order to punish freedoms, so it will be as if someone said to me: "They
will allow all Cubans to set in front of a computer, but they will be
prohibited from turning it on."

It is surprising the number of computer students, particularly at the
mid-levels, who do not know what it is to navigate the internet. Some
do not even have a computer at home. In Cuban universities it is a real
ordeal, both for students and professors, to get permission to freely
access the internet.

Youth pass by worn out speeches

It is no longer news to assert that the great majority of Cuban youth
shy away from political speeches, from commitments of loyalty to a
regime and to its social model. Television, radio, press, newsreels,
round tables and all those devices of manipulation of the masses that
between the 60's and the 90's were effective for the regime, now are
distant worlds for the new generations who have learned, due to the
bitter experiences of their parents, to nullify that which they find
"bothersome" and to search for alternatives of escape, as much physical
as spiritual.

Several young people confess to having absolutely no interest in
anything related to the revolution and its leaders. Many admit to never
having read the newspaper Granma or having seen the newscast or the
Round Table. There are even those who have never heard or read a speech
by Fidel Castro, much less by Raul, in spite of it being required study
in all Cuban schools.

A young neighbor, a high school student, has told me: "I'd like you to
see the people in my school when the principal gets into those political
talks. Everyone puts on headphones and it's over. The same with the
classroom. No one is interested in any of that. When they require work
about Fidel or any of that trash, I tell my dad to do it or I pay the
teacher but I am not wasting my time. To make us read Granma, sometimes
they ask us to talk about some news item but people invent anything
about the Pope or the doctors in Venezuela or some gossip that came out
on the dish and with that it's dead. In the end, on the television they
always say the same thing, and the teacher doesn't waste his time on
that either."

Nevertheless, with each passing year technology will be developing new
means for information to reach everyone, and at the same time, get away
from the domination of a few. In spite of knowing that they are fighting
a losing battle, the Cuban leaders keep investing resources just to make
the imminent collapse much slower. Mobile telephones, the internet, and
the so-called "packet of the week" (international television programming
and other content prohibited in Cuba that people transmit by digital
media) have achieved in a few years what the regime's opponents have not
been able to manage in more than half a century.

The internet is delivering the coup de grace to the dictatorship and the
most interesting thing about that is that it has not done it with
political speeches or programs of action but by providing a space for
diversity and freedom of expression, the most feared enemies.

About the author

Ernesto Perez Chang (El Cerro, Havana, 15 June 1971). Writer, graduate
in philology from the University of Havana. He studied Galician
Language and Culture in the University of Santiago de Compostela. He
has published the novels: Your Eyes Are in Front of Nothing (2006) and
Alicia Under Her Own Shadow (2012). At the end of 2014, the publisher
Silueta, in Miami, will publish his most recent novel: Food. He is
also the author of books of stories: Last Photos of Mama Nude (2000);
Sade's Ghosts (2002); Stories of Silk (2003); Variations for the
Preliterate (2007), The Art of Dying Alone (2011) and One Hundred Deadly
Stories (2014). His narrative work has been recognized with prizes:
David de Cuento of the Cuban Gazette twice, 1998 and 2008; Julio
Cortazar Latin American Story prize on its first call in 2002; National
Critics Prize in 2007; Alejo Carpentier Story Prize in 2011, among
others. He has worked as editor for numerous Cuban cultural
institutions like the House of the Americas (1997-2008), Art and
Literature Publisher, the Center for Research and Development of Cuban
Music. He was Chief Editor for the magazine Union (2008-11).

Translated by MLK

Source: The Internet: A Space for Diversity and Freedom of Expression /
Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang | Translating Cuba -

Severe Drought Plagues Cuba’s Westernmost Province

Severe Drought Plagues Cuba's Westernmost Province

HAVANA – A severe drought affecting Pinar del Rio, Cuba's westernmost
province, has left reservoirs at only 28 percent of capacity and forced
authorities to implement water-saving measures, official media reported

The situation is worsening across Pinar del Rio, where at least 23
sources of drinking water are "partially or totally paralyzed" due to
the depletion of aquifers, according to a report by Communist Party
daily Granma.

The newspaper said the drought affecting the province since late 2014
has forced authorities to enact a conservation plan to protect the
population and ease the impact on key activities such as agriculture.

"He has implemented a series of measures to save, manage and control the
water we have," the head of the Pinar del Rio administrative council,
Ernesto Barreto, told Trabajadores weekly.

Pinar del Rio produces 80 percent of the tobacco used to manufacture
Cuba's renowned cigars.

More than 60 percent of Cuba experienced a shortage of rainfall during
the first quarter, leading to "intense and prolonged" drought, according
to a recent report from the Climate Center at the Meteorology Institute.

Source: Latin American Herald Tribune - Severe Drought Plagues Cuba's
Westernmost Province -

Mexico - 92 kidnapped migrants rescued near Texas border

Mexico: 92 kidnapped migrants rescued near Texas border

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Federal police have rescued 92 kidnapped migrants
from a safe house in a city along the Texas border, authorities said Monday.

The governmental National Security Commission reported that the raid to
free the victims took place Friday in Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas.

Six children were among the migrants, who hailed from Brazil, Cuba,
Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. The victims were forced to call
relatives to ask for money under threat of violence.

Three suspects described as presumed members of a criminal organization
were detained. The commission's statement did not specify which gang,
but authorities have said in the past that the Gulf Cartel operates in
the region.

Human rights groups consider Tamaulipas state, which is home to Reynosa,
one of the most dangerous areas for migrants trying to reach the United

In recent years, drug gangs in the area have diversified into people
trafficking and migrant extortion.

Source: Mexico: 92 kidnapped migrants rescued near Texas border - Yahoo
News -;_ylt=AwrC1C7fWj9VNEIAPCHQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTBydDI5cXVuBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM2BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--

MCC founder to lead delegation to Cuba

April 26, 2015 | by Michael K. Lavers

MCC founder to lead delegation to Cuba

The founder of the Metropolitan Community Churches this week will lead a
delegation to Cuba that will meet with the island's LGBT rights
advocates and religious leaders.
Rev. Troy Perry and his husband, Phillip De Blieck, and other leading
MCC clergy are scheduled to arrive in Havana on April 28.
Perry told the Washington Blade last week during a telephone interview
from his Los Angeles home that he is scheduled to meet with Mariela
Castro Espín, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro who directs the
country's National Center for Sexual Education that spearheads
LGBT-specific causes.
Perry noted the 14-day trip coincides with the annual series of events
that CENESEX organizes across the Communist country to commemorate the
International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. He is scheduled to
take part in a roundtable with Mariela Castro's group and will bless
Cuban same-sex couples during a Pride march in Havana on May 9.
"I'm really thrilled to be able to be there to be part of the march,"
Perry told the Blade.
The Federation of Cuban Baptist Churches, which operates independently
of the government, but largely support the ideals of the 1959 Cuban
Revolution, has invited Rev. Mona West to speak about LGBT-specific
issues at a seminary in the city of Matanzas on April 29. Members of
Abriendo Brechas de Colores, a Cuban LGBT Baptist group, will also
attend the event.
Perry told the Blade that members of the delegation will discuss the
U.S. LGBT rights movement at the Havana's Martin Luther King Center,
which describes itself on its website as a "macro ecumenical
organization of Christian inspiration that the Cuban people and its
churches prophetically contribute to solidarity and popular, conscious,
organized and critical participation based on a Socialist model."
Members of his delegation are also scheduled to meet with what he
described as a "closed" group of Cuban Christians "who are afraid to
reveal their sexual orientation."

The trip coincides with the ongoing process to normalize relations
between the U.S. and Cuba that President Obama announced late last year.
It will also take place against the backdrop of the growing visibility
of LGBT rights advocates on the island — especially among those who are
affiliated with CENESEX and support the Cuban government.
Perry applauded Mariela Castro for her efforts to organize the events
around the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and
other initiatives that she and her supporters maintain have expanded
rights to LGBT Cubans. These include free sex reassignment surgery under
the country's health care system, although critics contend only a few
dozen people have been able to access the procedure since the policy
took effect in 2008.

Mariela Castro, who is a member of the Cuban Parliament, in late 2013
voted against a proposal to add sexual orientation to the country's
labor law because it did not include gender identity.
"She has done things that have amazed me," Perry told the Blade.

Perry acknowledges concerns over Cuba's human rights record
Critics of Mariela Castro and her group maintain that CENESEX is not
representative of what they insist is the country's actual LGBT rights
Perry told the Blade that members of his delegation plan to meet with
Mario José Delgado González of the Divine Hope LGBTI Christian Group,
which seeks to promote acceptance of LGBT Cubans within the country's
churches. Delgado said in February that he was unable to attend a
meeting with members of a Code Pink delegation in Havana because the
police prevented him from attending.
Delgado on Sunday did not immediately return the Blade's request for
"We will see once I get there what transpires and what happens," Perry
told the Blade. "I have never backed away from things."
"I do understand though and I know Mariela Castro is the key to a lot of
things there," he added. "I believe with all my heart that having
someone who's a member of the National Assembly taking our issues to the
Cuban government is very, very important. Throughout my life I've tried
to meet with people on both sides of the issue."
Perry added he plans to raise Cuba's human rights record with members of
the government with whom he may meet while on the island.
"[I will] make sure as I talk to the government officers there to say to
them that locking up people's not the issue," he said, noting three
presidents have invited him to the White House in spite of his arrest
outside the Executive Mansion in the 1980s during the Reagan
administration. "That doesn't help."
Perry and members of the MCC delegation will travel to Cuba roughly
three months before members of the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington will
perform at five concerts on the Communist island.

Source: MCC founder to lead delegation to Cuba -