Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Arrests, fines and travel bans... 'Troubling' rise in targeting Christians

Cuba: Arrests, fines and travel bans... 'Troubling' rise in targeting

Churches in Cuba are increasingly being targeted by the government and
forced to pay huge sums of money, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)
has warned.

An annual report into religious freedom in Cuba released last month
branded a rise in violations of religious liberty in the country
"troubling". Every Sunday scores of men and women are violently arrested
and temporarily imprisoned to stop them attending Mass, and foreign
students involved in religious activities have been expelled and had
their visas taken away. Additionally, CSW has accused the Cuban
government of targeting church properties "to tighten its control over
the activities and membership of religious groups and thus eliminate the
potential for any social unrest."

Legislation that came into force in January of this year has been used
by the government to seize properties belonging to religious
organisations and force them into paying vast sums of money, CSW says.

A national leader of the Apostolic Movement in Cuba, Rev Yiorvis Bravo,
had his church confiscated in 2013. Housing Ministry Officials decreed
that he could only continue to use the building if he paid a fee of US
$300 a month – 15 times the average annual salary in Cuba. Bravo, who
maintains he is the legal owner of the property, has thus far refused to
pay the sum, and has now been banned from travelling outside of the country.

Religious freedom worsening in Cuba: 'There is a crackdown happening'
Cuba: how Pope Francis' diplomacy helped end a Cold War conflict
He was due to visit Peru for a Leadership course on June 29, but
received a letter the day beforehand stating that he now not allowed to
leave Cuba because of his 'debts'.

Chief executive of CSW Mervyn Thomas said Bravo's situation is a "clear
demonstration that the strategy behind these expropriations is to exert
more control over religious leaders and bodies of faith."

"We have repeatedly raised concerns about the growing number of
churches, registered and unregistered, which have been informed of the
arbitrary expropriations of their properties by the government in recent
months," Thomas said.

"We continue to condemn the illegal expropriations of church properties
and call on the Cuban government to rescind these orders of confiscation
immediately. Furthermore, we call on the Cuban authorities to lift any
restrictions on travel for Reverend Bravo without delay."

Source: Cuba: Arrests, fines and travel bans... 'Troubling' rise in
targeting Christians | Christian News on Christian Today -

Agricultural production in Cuba up by 10.3 % in 1st quarter

Agricultural production in Cuba up by 10.3 % in 1st quarter
Published June 29, 2015 EFE

Agricultural production in Cuba grew by 10.3 percent during this year's
first quarter compared with the same period in 2014, although it was not
enough to satisfy the food demands of the island's population, the
official Trabajadores weekly reported Monday.

The indicator includes an increase of 13.9 percent in non-sugar-cane
agricultural production and 5.7 percent growth in livestock raising,
according to recent figures compiled by the National Statistics and
Information Office, or Onei, cited by the publication.

In addition, the report notes that agricultural production had an impact
on the announced rise in the GDP of a little over 4 percent during the
first quarter.

Between January and March, food production grew by 68,700 tons, or 11.4
percent, led by potatoes, with 41,100 tons more production than in the
first quarter of 2014.

But according to the analysis, 11,700 tons less of sweet potatoes were
harvested, a 9.8 percent decline, and the production of taro or
"malanga" dropped by 5,600 tons, or 8 percent, while banana production
rose by 18,000 tons, an increase of 10.1 percent.

In the case of rice, production fell by 13.3 percent due to the ongoing
drought, the report said, while egg production was down by 2.7 percent
and milk production fell by 11.9 percent.

In addition, a 23.4 percent increase in vegetable production was
registered along with a 11.1 percent increase in the production of
beans, one of the traditional elements in the Cuban diet, although corn
production declined by 6.8 percent.

In livestock, the report noted a 12.5 percent increase in beef
production, while pork production rose by 7.8 percent.

The Cuban government says that increasing food production is a matter of
"national security," given that the island imports 80 percent of the
food its residents consume each year and half of those products are also
produced by local farmers.

The handing over of idle land to people who want to farm it was one of
the first economic reforms undertaken by the government of Raul Castro
to revive the agricultural sector in a country where the citizenry
spends $2 billion per year on food.

As a result of the measure, more than 1.7 million hectares (4.25 million
acres) of idle land has been distributed to some 200,000 people since
2008 in accord with the government's policy to increase food production,
although the land has been taken back from about 43,000 of those
prospective farmers because they did not know how to cultivate it. EFE

Source: Agricultural production in Cuba up by 10.3 % in 1st quarter |
Fox News Latino -


by FRANCES MARTEL29 Jun 20153

A Catholic church in the central Cuban city of Cienfuegos has banned
female relatives of political prisoners from attending mass unless they
no longer wear white, a color associated with political imprisonment in
the nation. The slight to families of the abused follows the bewildering
remark from Archbishop of Havana Jaime Ortega that Cuba no longer has
prisoners of conscience.

Eight members of the Ladies in White activist group have attended Sunday
Catholic Mass wearing white for years, sitting in the pews in silence
unless participating in the Mass. No reports have surfaced of the women
themselves–mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters of prisoners of
conscience–disturbing the Mass. Nonetheless, a priest in Cienfuegos
expelled them from his service, ordering them never to wear white again
in his church if they wish to attend services.

The priest, identified as "Father Tarciso," told Diario de Cuba that the
women were "disrespectful," stating, "I had told them that the way
things are could not continue to be. … I cannot allow our community to
be further fractured," he argued. He accused them of taking photographs
inside the church, which the ladies deny. Miladis Espino Díaz, a
representative of the Ladies in White, noted that they were expelled
from the church and, upon walking out, could hear the priest apologize
to those in attendance for not having done it sooner.

"We do not only go to church because we are Ladies in White," Espino
Díaz told the newspaper, "but because we believe in God. We sing, we
pray, we participate, we do nothing wrong."

Following their removal from the church, the women testified to being
the victim of a number of offensive acts, including a man "exposing
himself and urinating in front of them," "obscene gestures using
fingers," and "being called prostitutes."

Offenses to the Ladies in White are common as they attempt to attend
Mass; in a particularly gruesome instance last year, one woman was
tarred for wearing white to the service.

Two male supporters of the group, Emilio García Moreira and Alexander
Veliz García, began a hunger strike Thursday to support the return of
the women to Mass.

Catholic religion is heavily regulated in communist Cuba, where it is
technically a counterrevolutionary activity but has managed to persist,
particularly given overtures by Pope Francis towards the Castro
dictatorship. "If he keeps talking like this, I'll return to the
Church," Raúl Castro said of the Pope this year following his support of
major U.S. concessions to the Castro regime. Pope Francis was a direct
mediator between President Obama and Raúl Castro before the American
head of state chose to strip Cuba of its State Sponsor of Terrorism
status–despite no evidence in a change of support to either the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or Hezbollah–in exchange for
nothing from Cuba.

Meanwhile, Catholic Mass remains among the most popular locations for
mass political arrests. According to the watchdog Cuban Commission for
Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which keeps a monthly tally of
politically motivated arrests in Cuba, authorities made 641 political
arrests in May, the latest month for which statistics are available. Out
of the 641 arrests, 219 occurred either at a Mass or outside a church,
where Ladies in White were arrested before they could attend services.
Thirty instances of Mass-related arrests took place in May.

Despite overt targeting on the part of Cuban authorities, Catholic
officials have insisted on defending the Cuban government against their
congregants. In an interview on Spanish radio this month, Archbishop of
Havana Jaime Ortega made the perplexing claim that Cuba no longer houses
political prisoners. "When Pope Benedict came [to Cuba], there was a
pardon of the common prisoners, because there are no political prisoners
left in Cuba anymore," he alleged.

Multiple human rights groups have confirmed that there are at least 71
political prisoners in Cuba, with others arrested on vague charges of
disturbing public order and "counterrevolutionary activities" that may
also be politically motivated. Cuban activists have reacted with horror
to Ortega's remarks, particularly in light of a scheduled visit to the
island by Pope Francis himself in September. The visit, said 17-year
political prisoner Jorge Luis García Pérez, will be "a very dangerous
visit, because it will serve to legitimize the regime like never
before." Berta Soler, head of the Ladies in White group, responded with
similar outrage, given that Ortega's remarks render the families of the
women in her group nonexistent. "We find it deplorable that Cardinal
[Ortega] uses the same rhetoric as the Cuban government. The Catholic
Church should not be biased; it should protect and shelter every
suffering, defenseless person," she said in a statement.

Source: Cuba: Catholic Church Bans Relatives of Political Prisoners from
Mass - Breitbart -

Cuba begins Havana station reconstruction

Cuba begins Havana station reconstruction
Written by Erwin Reidinger

CUBAN Railways (UFC) closed its Havana Central station on June 24 for
the start of a three-year rebuilding and renovation project, which will
include the construction of additional platforms.

All passenger traffic has been moved to the adjacent Coubre yard, where
a former bus terminal has been converted into a temporary station.

Other major stations including Santa Clara and Camagüey are also being
rebuilt as part of a programme to improve and expand Cuba's railway

A new line to the port of Mariel opened last year and in March this year
UFC completed a new link between Guanajay on the Havana - Mariel line
and Artemisa, the capital of the province of the same name. A daily
Havana - Artemisa passenger service now operates via Guanajay, reducing
the journey time to 1h 30min, compared with a journey time of around
three-and-a-half hours for services on the existing line.

Further new lines are under construction include Toledo - Murgas and
Bauta - Murgas which will provide additional links from Rincon to the
Mariel line, while the construction of a second track on the Naranjito -
Almendares section means the entire Havana - Mariel line will soon be
double track.

At Angosta, a few kilometres from Mariel container terminal, a new
railway complex is under construction. This includes a freight yard, a
station, a fuelling facility and maintenance depot for locomotives and
wagons. It will also provide access to a nearby logistics centre.

Source: Cuba begins Havana station reconstruction | International
Railway Journal -

The Lowdown on Accommodations in Cuba

The Lowdown on Accommodations in Cuba
NICK AND DARIECE | JUNE 29, 2015 11:00 PM ET

As travel restrictions for Cuba loosen in America, more and more people
are looking to this island nation for their next holiday. But many
people still retreat to the "safety" of the resort town of Varadero.
While an all-inclusive holiday may be something you're more comfortable
with, there is little of Cuba's true culture, history, and cuisine in
When you're preparing for a trip to Cuba, consider spending a day, a
week, or your entire trip outside of the resort and experience a Cuba
that is as safe as it is unique. In this article, we'll fill you in on
what the different accommodations are like on this vibrant island nation.
Basically you have three main options for accommodation in Cuba. Family
owned "Casa Particulars" (home stays), state run hotels, or state-run

Casa Particulars

We highly recommend Casa Particulars for a more intimate Cuban
experience. You'll be able to stay in a private room with a private
bathroom in a local family home. You can enjoy meals with your Cuban
hosts and get a great insight into the country and its people.
We recommend booking through HostelsClub.com because they have hundreds
of great casas all around the country. Casa particulars are also a great
way to put money into local business owners' pockets, rather than into
the governments hotels and resort chains.
There are some fantastic resorts in Cuba, but for the most part you'll
find Soviet-style square facades that look like an eyesore on an
otherwise stunning stretch of beach. Resorts vary in price, charm and,
service, but you can generally expect that you won't get the quality
that you'll find in resorts in Mexico or some other Caribbean islands.
Also, many of the resorts are built in Varadero which has a lovely bit
of white sand and aquamarine waters, but aside from beaches, resorts,
tourist restaurants and bars, you really won't see much in the city. If
you want to experience any of Cuba's history, architecture, food or real
culture, it's best to venture away from the major resort towns.


Many of Cuba's hotels are set in beautifully restored Spanish colonial
mansions and they are truly an experience to be had. If you have it in
your budget, we recommend picking one of the nice hotels in a city like
Havana, Trinidad or Cienfuegos and enjoy a whole other side of Cuba.
These buildings are often an experience in themselves and are definitely
worth a visit, even if you don't plan to stay in one, you should stop in
a look around.
Are We Biased to a Particular Lodging?
This article may sound a little one-sided, tipped towards staying in
Casa Particulars, but to be honest, we feel like it is the best way to
see Cuba.
Staying with local families gives you an insight into the local culture
that you simply can't get easily from a hotel or resort. Aside from
that, you get your own private space and you'll make some great friends
along the way.
Cuba is safe, friendly and incredibly hospitable. No matter how you plan
to visit it, you're in for a great travel experience.
Which type of accommodation would you choose?

Source: The Lowdown on Accommodations in Cuba | TravelPulse -

Betting On Cuba's Economic Future As Havana Becomes Las Vegas Again

Betting On Cuba's Economic Future As Havana Becomes Las Vegas Again
Steven Dudash , Contributor

For most Americans, Cuba is an isolated third-world island country with
a backward economy and a regrettable political and human rights record.
After 56 years of the Castro regime, this reputation has been
well-earned, but there was a time when Cuba represented something quite
different. During pre-revolutionary days, it was a hotbed for American
tourism, a place where well-heeled East Coasters came to enjoy plentiful
sunshine, opulent beaches and a nightlife scene that bustled year round.
In many ways, parts of Cuba were Las Vegas before Las Vegas, right down
to the unmistakable presence of nefarious underworld characters, brought
to life most vividly by Godfather II, critical parts of which were set
in Havana.

With the United States and Cuba having taken small steps to normalize
relations in recent months, one of the questions that have been raised
is whether the island can once again become a prominent destination for
American tourists and, more broadly, a haven for outside business

To be sure, a number of hurdles stand in the way before this can become
a reality – not the least of which is that an American travel and trade
embargo remains in place. Only Congress can change that, and despite the
initial signs of a détente, opposition to Cuba's leaders on Capitol Hill
remains fierce, meaning the embargo being lifted is still anything but

Equally important is that Cuba's crumbling infrastructure is in no
position to support Western-style tourist activity. The country
generally lacks many of the amenities needed to attract an influx of
regular visitors, including a wide selection of luxury hotels, golf
courses and high-quality restaurants.

Clearly, new investment will come slowly, and economic progress – if it
comes – will be measured in years, not months, but just as Las Vegas
emerged from the shadow of the mob to become a hub of tourism and
legitimate business, so, too, can Cuba, even in the face of considerable
structural and political obstacles.

Here are some industries that could benefit should Congress lift the
current embargo and allow U.S. companies the freedom to pursue
opportunities on the island:

**Hotels and Lodging: Any potential resurgence in Cuba starts here.
Absent significant upgrades to current hotel and other lodging options,
very few American travelers will consider Cuba a realistic vacation or
business destination. Obviously, this would be an ambitious undertaking,
but as the U.S. economy has improved in recent years, the fortunes of
the world's largest hotel chains have also surged, with Marriott (MAR)
and Hilton (HLT) both up around 20 percent over the last year. By acting
decisively, these companies could gain a valuable first-mover advantage
over potential rivals and for years to come establish a dominant
position in this potentially lucrative market.

**Shipping and Cruises: The U.S. recently granted permission to four
small companies to operate limited ferry services to Cuba. And while
American travel is still tightly controlled and Havana must first
approve these companies' licenses, this move may encourage bigger
players such as Royal Caribbean (NYSE: RCL) to pursue Cuban routes.
Cruise liners would likely be among the first businesses to benefit from
the country potentially embracing more open economic policies, since the
industry would be less affected by its lack of hotel infrastructure.
Situated only 250 miles from Miami, Cuba would also attract attention
from cargo ship operators, who would likely want to participate in trade
activity were the embargo lifted.

**Housing and Real Estate: First, it's important to note that almost
without exception nonresidents are barred from owning real estate in
Cuba. But as the two sides slowly pursue more normalized relations,
there has been speculation that such restrictions could ease as part of
a more formal future agreement to re-start American trade and travel. If
so, it could somewhat ease the upcoming financial burden facing many
Baby Boomers, many of whom are hurdling toward retirement woefully
unprepared. Should Cuba open up, top retirement-community builders in
the U.S. like Lennar Corp. (LEN) and Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. (HOV)
could seize this opportunity to construct low-cost developments geared
to older Americans looking for a more affordable housing alternatives.

Gaming: Casino operators have hit a wall in Macau, where gaming revenues
have fallen 12 straight months amid a softening Asian economy and
corruption crackdown in China. Shares of Wynn Resorts (WYNN) are down
more than 30 percent since the beginning of the year, while Las Vegas
Sands Corp. (LVS) and MGM Resorts International (MGM) have shed over 10
percent over the same period. Obviously, these negative trends could
reverse in time and revenues may come roaring back. Still, the always
ambitious casino industry is unlikely to pass on the opportunity to
enter a new, potentially profitable market – especially one so close to
the East Coast now that Atlantic City, N.J., is a shell of its former self.

**Telecommunications: According to estimates, less than 20 percent of
Cuba's 11 million citizens have cell service. Even fewer have access to
the Internet. U.S. policy makers pursuing closer ties with Cuba have
prioritized further mobile phone penetration and getting more people
connected to the outside world, having recently placed
telecommunications equipment and services on a list of embargo
exemptions. Naturally, this is an opening for one of the two American
telecom giants, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) or AT&T (NYSE: T), to build more cell
towers and establish a greater level of connectivity – which could
ultimately lay the groundwork for better broadband access. Facebook
(NASDAQ: FB) would also probably consider making investments in Cuba.
Never shy about spending money on high-growth potential projects, the
company has said expanding Internet access in the Third World is one of
its key strategic goals moving forward.

Much of the above, of course, is pure speculation. There are no
guarantees U.S. lawmakers will lift the longstanding embargo or, for
that matter, that Havana will open itself up to outside business
investment if they did. And even if those two things happened, it would
take years for many of the these projects to come to fruition. Time will
tell. In the meantime, it doesn't hurt for investors to keep an eye on
Cuba for the future.

Steven Dudash is President of IHT Wealth Management, a Chicago-based
firm with approximately $650 million is assets under management.

Source: Betting On Cuba's Economic Future As Havana Becomes Las Vegas
Again -

The Musician Calling BS on the ‘Cuba Libre’ Lies

The Musician Calling BS on the 'Cuba Libre' Lies

Jorge Gomez has always fallen afoul of the Cuban authorities—and now
he's planning a musical about growing up under Castro's dictatorship.
Growing up in Cuba, Jorge Gomez would sneak up to his roof with a metal
coat hanger late at night and fashion it into a makeshift antenna,
desperate to pick up sound waves from Miami radio stations.

The fuzzy, clipped beats and melodies that crossed the ocean were unlike
anything he'd heard in the streets of Cuba—and forbidden in Castro's
police state.

They niggled him while he labored over Liszt, Beethoven, and Brahms in
Havana at La ENA, Cuba's only music conservatory. He never dreamed that
he would one day arrive on the shores of Florida and listen to this
music on his own static-free radio, with the volume dialed all the way up.

Having fled Castro's dictatorship 20 years ago, Gomez, 44, is a pianist,
songwriter, and the founding member of Tiempo Libre, which bills itself
as "the first authentic all-Cuban timba band in the United States."
(Their sixth album, Panamericano, comes out on Tuesday.)

Arriving in the U.S. in 2000, Gomez settled in Miami and reunited with
childhood friends whom he studied with at La ENA. Within a year, he
convinced six of them to start a timba band and bring Cuban dance music
to the States.

Music producers thought timba would never take off in the U.S.

"People would say I needed to play Mexican or country music to sell
albums," Gomez tells me in his heavy Spanish accent. "But I didn't come
to this country to sell albums. I came to play my music. I came to be
happy with what I do and who I am."

They were wrong about timba: U.S. audiences loved its unique sound of
Afro-Caribbean rhythms and jazz harmonies infused with funk and
contemporary R&B beats. And Gomez did sell albums, three of which have
been nominated for Grammy awards, including Bach in Havana (2009), which
earned Tiempo Libre respect from the classical community.

That same year, they collaborated with renowned violinist Joshua Bell on
his album, At Home With Friends, and performed with him on The Tonight
Show. Fusing Baroque and Afro-Cuban music was an innovative passion
project for Gomez and the other Tiempo Libre band members who were
forbidden to play anything but classical music at the conservatory.

Gomez's life in Cuba couldn't have been more different from the
affluence displayed in T magazine several weeks ago in a story a
provocatively titled "Cuba Libre."
It featured a recently restored, pre-revolution Havana mansion, where an
American woman, Pamela Ruiz, lives with her Cuban husband, the artist
Damian Aquiles.

Ruiz immigrated to Cuba in the mid-'90s after meeting Aquiles while
scouting locations there for an American ad campaign. (Critically, Ruiz
maintained her U.S. citizenship and, with it, her savings and income.)

Several years after arriving, Ruiz began a nine-year process of
acquiring a dilapidated,100-year-old estate from an old woman. Ruiz and
Aquiles have hosted a slew of rich and famous Americans since completing
renovations last year, including Will Smith, his wife Jada Pinkett
Smith, and fashion designer Proenza Schouler.

Six months after President Obama lifted the 50-year embargo against the
island, restoring diplomacy between the two countries, the magazine's
glossy feature of Ruiz and Aquiles's "cultural salon" offers a utopian
vision of a new Cuba: wealth in the form of art deco furniture instead
of capitalist monstrosities like McDonald's and Starbucks, and Cuba's
rich culture not just preserved but revitalized.

But outside the confines of Ruiz and Aquiles's Havana villa, there is no
"Cuba Libre."

"You support Communism, and then they put you in jail for fighting for
your life. You think, 'Wait a second, there's something really wrong here.'"
"It's very easy to talk about things you don't really know. You have to
live it," says Gomez, "Tourists go to Cuba and stay in hotels where they
have everything they need. If you're Cuban, you have nothing."

After Gomez graduated from the conservatory at age 18 in 1990, his
limited future was dictated by the Cuban government: He could either
continue studying classical music for another five years or spend two
years in the army.

"My heart was in Cuban dance music, not classical, so I joined the
army," Gomez tells me.

The Berlin Wall had fallen a year earlier, precipitating the 1991
collapse of the Soviet Union, which had been subsidizing Cuba since the

Gomez spent his first year in military service training for combat. His
musical talent allowed him to trade his gun for a piano during his
second year, when he traveled to military bases entertaining
disheartened Cuban soldiers.

He earned 7 pesos a month—roughly $1—during his two years of service.

He returned home in 1992 to find his house as decrepit as Castro's
Communism: crumbling walls, a busted plumbing system, a collapsing ceiling.

Gomez worked as many tourism jobs as he could during the next three
years, pocketing enough money in tips to incrementally rebuild his
family home. But the reparations did not go unnoticed by the government.

"They said to me, 'Where are you buying those materials? You know it's
illegal.' I said, 'Yes, I know, but if I don't fix my home I'm going to

They threatened to throw him in jail if he continued.

Cuba had also plunged into famine, so Gomez and his mother were
surviving on a diet of potatoes and white rice. He weighed only 90
pounds when he fled Cuba for Guatemala in 1995.

Gomez's service in the military would prove crucial to his escape: The
government gave him and his mother permission to visit family in
Guatemala for several weeks. He arrived at the airport in Havana with
one bag, knowing that anything more would betray his plan to leave Cuba
for good.

"I left my whole life in that house," he says. "Pictures, two pianos, my

Throughout Gomez's life, the Castro regime had drummed into his head
that Cuba was "the best country in the world," he tells me, wide-eyed.

"Guatemala was wracked by crime, but its people were free," he adds.
He recalls going to a Guatemalan street kiosk the first day he was there
and seeing "meat" all over the menu.

"In Cuba, I would have gone to jail for 30 years if I was caught eating
meat! I was afraid to eat it."

That same day, he put an ad in the newspaper offering piano lessons in
exchange for computer and web tutoring. Two days later, he landed a job
writing 30-second jingles for Coca-Cola.

Rubbing his hands, Gomez leans toward me as if to confess a secret or
recount a horrible memory.

"I made more money in eight hours living in Guatemala than I did my
whole life in Cuba!" he says with a smile.

Gomez has returned to Cuba twice since he fled 20 years ago, but his old
friends don't want to hear his stories of opportunity—of meat and money
and freedom.

It's not uncommon for people in Communist and ex-Communist societies to
be skeptical of entrepreneurial ambition.

They associate it with corrupt upward mobility and a willingness to work
for one's oppressors, unable to recognize their own oppression.

It's understandable then that Gomez's friends in Cuba—where there's been
a maximum wage for decades; where less than 5 percent of citizens have
heavily-monitored Internet access; where literacy rates are high but
they can only read propaganda; where health care is free but the country
lacks basic medical supplies—are skeptical of his fortunes and freedom.

So while Americans on the left, nostalgic for a dystopian fantasy of
authentic Cuba, whinge about the prospect of McDonald's and mini-malls
wiping out Cuban culture, Gomez (and many analysts) say they don't have
to worry about that.

"If they put a Starbucks in Cuba, no one will touch it," says Gomez.
"People in Cuba will still drink Cuban coffee."

Cubans may be desperate for free speech and an end to food rations, but
according to analysts, they're not exactly dreaming of McDonald's golden
arches. Even if there is political change within the country, the shift
will likely be toward socialism.

Never mind that after Raul Castro made a deal with President Obama, he
told his people that he would welcome U.S.-Cuban diplomacy "without
renouncing a single one of our principles."
Unless those principles are dramatically different from the totalitarian
ones that the Castro regime has forced on its people since 1959,
restless Cubans (and T magazine) can kiss their hopes of a "Cuba Libre"

Meanwhile, Gomez is gearing up for his own "Cuba Libre." That's the
title of a Broadway-bound musical Tiempo Libre will be performing on
stage in Portland, Oregon, come October. "It tells the collective
stories of Tiempo Libre's band members growing up in Cuba under Castro's

"A lot of musical theater only shows the good parts about Cuba," says
Gomez. "I know people prefer to see Spiderman than a musical about
Communism, but I want to tell the real story. And I don't want to tell
people they have to know and see this story. I want them to want to see
it, to be drawn in by the music."

Source: The Musician Calling BS on the 'Cuba Libre' Lies - The Daily
Beast -

It Is Not the Embargo

It Is Not the Embargo
[29-06-2015 22:33:26]
José Azel
Investigador, Universidad de Miami

(www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- The use of economic sanctions as a tool of
foreign policy is not new. In 431 B.C., Pericles' banned the Megarians
from the Athenian market and ports helping to incite the Peloponnesian
Wars. Today, economic sanctions are at the center of negotiations with
Iran and Cuba. And yet, many in the nations enacting sanctions, as well
as in the targeted nations misconstrue their use and impact. Let's take
the case of Cuba.
U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba were first enacted in 1961 when
President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order in response to the
Cuban government's expropriation without compensation of American
assets. Nearly six decades later, the issue remains unresolved and the
topic still dominates the rhetoric surrounding U.S.-Cuba relations. The
Cuban government, and its sympathizers use the fallacious term
"blockade" to confer a certain perversion to the policy and to blame it
for the economic failures of the regime.

Others argue, with validity, that the embargo has failed to change the
course or nature of the Cuban government. True, but it is also necessary
to point out that the alternative policy of engaging with the Cuban
government, pursued by the international community, has also failed to
change the nature of that regime.

Currently over 190 nations engage economically and politically with Cuba
while the United States remains alone in enforcing economic sanctions.
If the embargo is deemed a failure in changing the nature of the Cuban
government, there are 190 cases of failure on the alternative policy of
engagement. By a preponderance of evidence (190 to 1) it is clear that
engagement with that regime has also been a dismal failure.

In 1961, President Kennedy sent a reasonable message to the
international community that governments that choose to expropriate the
properties of U. S. citizens need to compensate them. Governments that
choose to simply steal the properties of U. S. citizens should expect
some form of retaliation from the U.S. government. That message remains
valid today as an expression of a government's duty to protect the
property rights of its citizenry in countries where the rule of law does
not prevail.

Following the advice of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels that: "If you
tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come
to believe it," the Cuban regime has incessantly promoted the falsehood
that the U.S. embargo is responsible for the dismal state of Cuba's
economy. But it is not the embargo that has pauperized the Cuban people.
The collapse of the Cuban economy can be clearly traced to its communal
ideology and actions when the Cuban Revolution abolished all private
property rights. That experiment resulted in an economically bankrupt
dystopian society featuring an enormously repressive system and a
government with unlimited power over its citizens.

What exactly is it about the embargo that keeps the Cuban government
from allowing economic and political freedoms in Cuba? Allowing economic
and political freedoms is entirely within the domain of Cuba's
government. It is not, in any way, impeded by U.S. policy. Cuba's
abysmal sociopolitical and economic conditions are the direct result of
the failed policies of the Cuban government, and not of the so called
failed policies of the U.S. government.

No diplomatic effort aimed at seeking concessions from an opponent can
succeed if one of the parties elects to give up all its bargaining chips
unconditionally as President Obama's administration is now doing.
Wholehearted abandonment of one's bargaining position is not a logical
basis for constructive engagement. Insisting on legitimate concessions,
such as respect for human rights, is not a moral or practical failure.

The flagship of U.S.-Cuba policy should be the honorable effort-
ineffectual as it may be- to promote civil liberties and political
rights in Cuba. We may not effectively influence that process, but that
does not mean we should unilaterally abandon positions designed to
induce democratic behavior. Diplomatic engagement with an adversary
rarely succeeds by merely appealing to the adversary's higher principles.

In negotiations, when an unconditional concession is given, the
receiving party pockets it and moves on to the next demand. That is
precisely what the Castro government has done, and the Obama
Administration seems to be complying. The United States now sits at the
negotiating table empty handed, and is sure to leave empty handed as well.

Source: It Is Not the Embargo - Misceláneas de Cuba -

Cuban Chrome - Discovery - Sneak Peak

Monday, June 29, 2015

Politicians by Decree and Illiterate by Submission

Politicians by Decree and Illiterate by Submission / Cubanet, Victor
Manuel Dominguez
Posted on June 28, 2015

Cubanet.org, Victor Manuel Dominguez, Havana, 24 June 2015 – Abel Prieto
rides again. Not as the author of two little novels whose names I cannot
remember. Nor as the ex-president of a union of writers and authors more
sold to the powers-that-be than self-help books at the Havana book fair,
or reproductions of "Still Life with the Leader" at an art exposition
committed to who knows what.

Never ever as that ex-minister of culture, with long hair and little
sense, who declared that poets like Raul Rivera could be jailed, but
they would not show up shot in the head at the edge of some ditch. Now,
such a sad political figure, he rides as the cultural adviser to the
Cuban president.

Other "Kultural Pajes"

As the Spanish writer Arturo Perez Reverte said in his article "Kultural
Pajes" from the book With Intent to Offend, "The more illiterate the
politicians are – in Spain those two words almost always are synonymous
– the more they like to appear in the cultural pages of the newspapers."

It happens here in Cuba, too. The difference is that here the lines
fuse, and writers and artists are declared politicians by decree and
illiterate by submission. Our politician-intellectuals also write or
"sing" to the authorities, who sign a document to send innocents to the
execution wall.

Therefore, Abel Prieto's words to the Spanish daily El Pais are not
strange although they are cynical: "The idea that we live in a regime
that controls everything that the citizen consumes is a lie, an
untenable caricature in this interconnected world."

Saying that in a nation where the citizens are only interconnected,
against their will, to registration offices, personnel files,
surveillance centers, State Security and Interior Ministry monitoring
and control departments or crime laboratories is a bluff.

The assertion that Cubans are at a high level of international
connectedness would be pathetic, if it were not insulting, when we have
not yet even overcome the barrier between the produce market and the
stove, and they censor films, prohibit books, and pursue and seize
antennas across the length and breadth of the country.

The Dark Object of Desire

According to Abel Prieto in El Pais, "We are not going to prohibit
things. Prohibition makes the forbidden fruit attractive, the dark
object of desire." We had and have enough experience. From the
prohibitions on listening to the Beatles or writing to a relative abroad
to access to the internet.

Apparently among the secret guidelines issued by the Communist Party to
its cadres in order to mend the nation is the obligatory reading of the
poem Man's Statutes by the Brazilian Thiago de Melo which in one of its
verses he says: "Prohibiting is prohibited." In Cuba only outwardly?

The reality is that Abel contradicts himself. While on one hand he
assures that we are not going to prohibit, on the other he says that "we
are never going to allow the market to dictate our cultural policy,"
when everything is sold, from Lennon's spectacles and Che's beret to the
sheet music of the National Anthem.

The strategic shield against cultural penetration designed by Abel
(under the guidance of Cain: the State) is that it works against
banality and frivolity so that people learn to differentiate,
apparently, among the "exquisite" passages by Baby Lores about Fidel and
the subversive themes of the Cuban rappers Los Aldeanos* (The Villagers).

Which is to say that, disguised as a demand for quality, absolute
control of what citizens consume continues. They will not prohibit them,
they will only give them the option, for the good of their cultural
appreciation level, of seeing or hearing what the Cuban Minister of
Culture, assisted by the Minister of the Interior, schedules.

Among Abel's proposals against banality and frivolity is a "weekly
packet" that includes films like The Maltese Falcon and Gandhi, the new
Latin-American cinema, Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, and a symphonic
cocktail by Silvio Rodriguez with the Small Daylight Serenade, that
delusional song about "I live in a free country/which can only be free…"

Also to be enjoyed are films by Woody Allen and other offerings that
combine "things with cultural density and entertainment material" far
from racism and violence, as if in the films about mambises – Cuba's
independence fighters of the wars of independence — the guerrillas and
international soldiers fight with cakes, and meringue is spilled instead
of blood.

The dark desire for total control by the State is intact. Beyond the
linguistic juggling that government spokesmen perform within and outside
of Cuba. And without denying a minimal (fortuitous) breach in what is
consumed, we still are very far from choosing freely what we desire.

When Abel wonders, in his interview with El Pais, "What are we going to
do with Don Quixote?" perhaps Marino Murillo and the company answer him:
Send him to run an agricultural cooperative, assisted by Sancho and
Rocinante. Or, even better, have him manage the little restaurant La
Dulcinea on Trinket Island.

About the Author

Victor Manuel Dominguez is an independent journalist. He lives in
Central Havana.

Source: Politicians by Decree and Illiterate by Submission / Cubanet,
Victor Manuel Dominguez | Translating Cuba -

Juan Abreu - “Executions in Cuba Are an Untold Story”

Juan Abreu: "Executions in Cuba Are an Untold Story" / 14ymedio, Yaiza
Posted on June 28, 2015

14ymedio, Yaiza Santos, Mexico, 27 June 2015 – Painter and writer Juan
Abreu (b. Havana, 1952) has taken on the inordinate task of painting,
one by one, all those executed by the Castro regime. The work in
progress is entitled 1959 but encompasses 2003, the year in which
Lorenzo Capello, Barbaro Sevilla and Jorge Martinez were sentenced to
death in a summary trial, accused of "acts of terrorism" after trying to
reroute a passenger ferry to escape to the United States.They were the
last executed by the Cuban government. "Let it be known," says Abreu.

The project emerged, he says, recently, by chance: "I was doing some
paintings that had to do with shootings in Cuba, because I was struck by
the character, the loner that they are going to kill. I had seen some
paintings by Marlene Dumas of Palestinians and then I approached the
subject. When I started researching, suddenly the faces of all these
people began to appear. I began to look at the faces and read, and
suddenly I realized that I was going to have to paint this. Not only as
a kind of pictorial adventure, which it is, because of the quantity of
portraits and the complexity of the genre, but also because it seems to
me that I have a certain moral responsibility."

Of the executions in Cuba, he continues, "It is an untold story. Not
only untold, but also they have tried to hide it, and when they have
spoken of it, the effort has always been to discredit the protagonists,
branded as outlaws or murderers. These accusations lack any kind of
historical evidence. They were people who rebelled, the same as Fidel
Castro against Batista, they against Fidel Castro."

The death penalty, explains Abreu, was not contemplated in the 1940
Constitution which the Revolution originally claimed it would restore:
"They [the Castro regime] imposed it. The trials completely lacked any
kind of safeguard. Sometimes even the lawyer spoke worse of the
condemned than the prosecutor did. They were Soviet-style trials: you
already knew you were guilty as soon as they caught you; you knew that
they were going to kill you or put you in jail for thirty years."

In order to gather as much information as possible, he contacted some of
the few people who have devoted themselves to the topic in the United
States, like Maria Werlau, from the Cuba Archive, or Luis Gonzales
Infante, a former political prisoner who sent Abreu his book
Rostros/Faces, where he compiles names and photos of those dead by
execution, from hunger strike or in combat during the El Escambray
uprising, those seven years that historians like Rafael Rojas consider a
civil war and that Fidel Castro called a "fight against bandits."

Other documents he has found easily on the Internet, like videos from
the period and photographs from the free press that still existed in
Cuba when the Revolution triumphed. Hence, the executions of Enrique
Despaigne, doubled over by two shots at the edge of a ditch, or Cornelio
Rojas, whose hat flew together with his brains against the execution
wall. Abreu confesses that what impacted him most was "the gruesomeness
and cruelty" of some of the cases.

Like that of Antonio Chao Flores, who at 16 years of age fought against
Batista – the magazine Bohemia had him on its cover as a hero of the
Revolution – and at 18 years of age he fought against Castro, and was
required to drag himself from his cell in the La Cabana fortress to the
execution wall without the leg he had lost in combat because the guard
took his crutches from him. "It is from the savagery of the system's
punishment mechanism that one feels fury that all this that has happened
has been forgotten. If I was Chilean or Argentinean, this would
immediately demand attention."

Abreu says that the project is becoming gigantic and that he cannot
stop. For now, he has painted some twenty of the 6,000 total that he
estimates were executed in Cuba in that almost half-century. Via a
Youtube video [see below] he seeks photographs from all who may be aware
of any victim.

No one has answered him from Cuba – "There, to have a relative who was a
prisoner or who had been shot, was anathema, because of the amount of
false propaganda against them" – but people have answered him from the
United States. For example, one sent him the photograph of her neighbor
in Cuba, whom she knew from childhood, who used to greet her kindly and
whom she eventually learned was made a prisoner and executed. It was
when media control was complete, and an absolute silence, when
propaganda was not served, covered these kinds of cases.

"The death penalty in Cuba has always been used as a means of social
threat. When they ask me, "But why has the regime lasted so long?" I
answer: It has lasted for many reasons, but among them because it is a
system that kills. You know that they will kill you. And there is no
safeguard: There is no judge or lawyer who can defend you, and if they
decide that you have to be killed, they will kill you. And if you do
anything against the system, they will kill you. Death is a very
effective deterrent."

Forged by the generation of his friends Reinaldo Arenas and Rene Ariza,
Abreu says that "kind of strange fury" that he feels about Cuba has not
abandoned him since he left the Island with the Mariel Boatlift, and
that after so many years, he has decided to stop fighting it. "Towards
Reinaldo (Arenas), for example, it seemed to me a great betrayal. In our
last conversation, two or three days before he killed himself, we were
talking about that precisely, and he told me, 'Up to the last minute.
Our war with those people is to the last breath of life.' It surprised
me a little why he was saying that to me, but of course, he already had
his plans. Maybe I like lost causes, but I will continue infuriated."

By way of poetic revenge, he hopes that his project 1959 – which he
calls "completely insane" – ends up one day in a museum. "Because a
hundred years from now, when no one remembers who Fidel Castro was,
these paintings will be here and people will say, 'And what about these,
so pretty?' And that, truthfully, is very comforting."

Translated by MLK

Source: Juan Abreu: "Executions in Cuba Are an Untold Story" / 14ymedio,
Yaiza Santos | Translating Cuba -

Casa de Cuba celebrates enduring resistance to Castro regime

Casa de Cuba celebrates enduring resistance to Castro regime
Tribune staff
Published: June 28, 2015

TAMPA — As Rosa Maria Paya was introduced at a function celebrating the
25th anniversary of Casa de Cuba on Sunday, a lone protester barked
objections from near the bar at the La Giraldilla restaurant.

Paya, an activist for the Cuba Decides organization, has urged the
international community to pressure the Cuban government for a
plebiscite — a direct vote of the populace on matters of national

The man was quickly asked to leave, which he did peacefully, said Ralph
Fernandez, a Tampa lawyer who represents Casa de Cuba.

"He was a Castro supporter," Fernandez said. "Instead of a reaction of
hostility, he was told he was in a free country, and he was free to leave."

Paya did not speak at Sunday's event, but addressed a crowd at Casa de
Cuba, 2506 W. Curtis St., on Saturday. She is the daughter of political
activist Oswaldo Paya, who was killed under controversial circumstances
in 2012.

The Cuban government said that a car in which Paya was riding lost
control and crashed, killing him. Others have said they believe Paya, a
leading dissident, was assassinated by the Cuban Communist Party.

Among those who believe Paya's death was no accident is retired U.S.
Army Col. Orlando Rodriguez Alvarez, of Tampa, who fled Cuba for America
in 1959. Alvarez lauded Paya's daughter for "continuing his legacy."

Alvarez was among the crowd of about 200 who celebrated Casa de Cuba's
anniversary at La Giraldilla. The event lasted several hours.

"The Casa de Cuba does not accept any initiative that is to help the
current regime" in Cuba, said Alvarez, a Vietnam veteran who earned two
Silver Stars, among a slew of other medals in a 28-year military career.

"We basically represent the political side of the community, those in
exile for political reasons and those for economic reasons," he said.

Fernandez was Sunday's featured speaker, and he addressed the crowd in
Spanish. He touted Casa de Cuba as "a pillar of resistance and provider
of assistance to similar-thinking and –acting groups."

"It's kind of been an umbrella for good work," Fernandez said, adding
that Casa de Cuba leaders are "open to ideologies of what's best to
replace the (current) regime in place" in Cuba.

"I came to the U.S. when I was 8, in 1962," Fernandez said. "My parents
came for political reasons. We were political exiles, part of the first
waves (of Cubans) that came" to the U.S.

"This is not a novelty in my life. We're dedicated to a common goal, to
bring freedom to Cuba and promote the safety of the United States.

"Iran and Cuba," he said, "are the greatest violators of human rights."

Sunday's celebration included lunch, a poetry reading and live music.

Rosa Maria Paya, 26, seemed upbeat Sunday afternoon, but her message was
firm: Cubans should have the right to vote in multi-party elections,
covered impartially by a free press.

"I want that to happen in the next two years," she said. "We want to
open Cuba to Cubans. Cubans who know history support a return to Democracy.

"There are those who stand in opposition, but this is a citizens'
initiative, a citizens' platform for change."

Meanwhile, Fernandez said, Casa de Cuba will continue to help "a blend
of political prisoners."

"It's always there for everyone who wishes to bring about change for the
people of Cuba," he said.


Source: Casa de Cuba celebrates enduring resistance to Castro regime |
TBO.com and The Tampa Tribune -

Atlanta business owners investigate opportunities in Cuba

Atlanta business owners investigate opportunities in Cuba
Channel 2 Action News Every Day 4:30-7AM

HAVANA, Cuba — A group of metro Atlanta business owners traveled to
Havana, Cuba to see what business opportunities America's new foreign
relations stance might provide.
May Allen sees the historic buildings of Havana as a way to grow her
business, Atlanta Rod and Manufacturing.
After President Barack Obama asked Congress to start the process of
lifting the economic embargo, Allen started asking around to find a way
to legally get her product to Cuba.
Allen found it when she contacted the World Affairs Council of Atlanta.
"Very exciting and my people were very excited. They said 'Oh, well, how
exciting if we could be one of the first American companies to go in
there with infrastructure product," Allen said.
Allen says she didn't know how "rundown" the buildings are in Cuba, and
hopes to meet people in the construction industry.
Charles Shapiro, president of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, says
Allen and other business owners are perfectly positioned should Congress
lift the embargo soon.
"Atlanta is a great place to fly to Cuba from. Fly to Atlanta, make a
connection with Delta and then fly directly here and I think that's
going to be great," Shapiro said.

Source: Atlanta business owners investigate opportunities in Cuba |
www.wsbtv.com -

Cuban police prevent activist from attending Pride march

Cuban police prevent activist from attending Pride march

An independent Cuban LGBT rights advocate on Sunday said security agents
prevented him from attending a Pride march in Havana that he organized.

Navid Fernández Cabrera, president of the Shui Tuix Foundation, in a
press release said two security agents were standing in an intersection
near his home in Havana's 10 de Octubre neighborhood around 8 a.m. when
he and his partner left their apartment building.
Fernández said he and his partner were trying to go to the Prado, a
boulevard that divides Old Havana from the rest of the Cuban capital on
which the march was scheduled to take place. The advocate maintains the
two security agents "would not allow us to leave the block."
"They told us that we could not go to the gathering," said Fernández.
Fernández said he was unable to use his telephone until 12:30 p.m.
because it had been disconnected.
A press release the Shui Tuix Foundation issued earlier this month said
the march was to have begun at the Cuban Capitol at 10 a.m. The event
was expected to continue to Havana's oceanfront promenade known as the
Malecón where participants were to have read a declaration of human
rights within the context of the normalization of relations between the
U.S. and Cuba that President Obama announced last December.
"The re-establishment of conversations between the governments of the
United States and Cuba motivates us, in order to achieve a better
democracy for our community and perhaps an improvement with respect to
our rights on the part of the government of the Castros," said the Shui
Tuix Foundation in its press release that announced the Pride march.
Fernández said around 50 people had gathered in front of the Capitol
before the march was scheduled to begin. The Washington Blade could not
immediately confirm whether it took place.

Advocate critical of Mariela Castro

Fernández, 50, is a vocal critic of Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of
Cuban President Raúl Castro who spearheads a number of LGBT-specific
campaigns through the National Center for Sexual Education that she directs.
The National Center for Sexual Education, known by the Spanish acronym
CENESEX, last month organized a series of events in Havana and the
provincial capital of Las Tunas that commemorated the International Day
Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington
is scheduled to perform with a local gay chorus next month in the Cuban
capital after Mariela Castro formally invited them to the Communist island.
Fernández last month during an interview with the Washington Blade at
his Havana home mockingly described CENESEX as a "scientific
institution" that conducts research.
"Their 'fabulous' idea initially has been the Day Against Homophobia and
they later added the last name Transphobia to it," he said. "It is 10
days of events, and what do they do in these 10 days? Scientific events?"
"The population does not receive this information," added Fernández.
"The population is not interested in these scientific events."
Neither the Cuban Interests Section in Washington nor CENESEX responded
to the Blade's request for comment. A spokesperson for the U.S.
Interests Section in Havana on Sunday declined to comment on Fernández's
"What happened in the morning did not surprise me," Fernández told the
Blade in a follow-up email. "This is something that occurs all the time
with members of civil society."

Source: Cuban police prevent activist from attending Pride march -

After trip to Cuba, Jorge Pérez talks art and business

After trip to Cuba, Jorge Pérez talks art and business
El Nuevo Herald

Miami developer and arts patron Jorge Pérez, chairman of The Related
Group, recently returned from the Havana Biennial art festival. It was
his second trip to the island.

"We've been trying to open the gates of communication between Havana and
Miami through art, which is apolitical most of the time: It doesn't have
anything to do with politics and is only an exchange of ideas," he said
in an interview with el Nuevo Herald.

Here is a translated excerpt from that interview.

Q. You're helping Cuban artists "break the ice" in regards to U.S.-Cuba

A. First, it's magnificent for Cuban artists to be recognized
internationally. Curators, museum heads, gallery owners from all over
the world, attended the Biennial. The Galeria Continuo, an Italian
gallery among the best in the world, is going to set up an office in
Havana. They represent great international artists, also Carlos
Garaicoa, who is one of the Cuban artists who has found the most success
outside of the island. For Cuban artists, it's very important. We bought
several pieces for the PAMM, nothing political, very abstract.

Q. Stephen Ross, who co-founded The Related Group with you, made
headlines upon his return to Cuba and his announcement that he didn't
see great investing opportunities there. Do you share this opinion?

A. Neither Steve Ross nor myself held any meetings with Cuban officials
to decide or learn if they're promoting real estate or not. Those were
just impressions from what he saw in Havana. What Steve said is, it will
be a long time before he invests in Cuba because the infrastructure is
in such bad condition.

Q. What would have to happen so that a group such as yours would decide
to invest in Cuba?

A. I have a somewhat different opinion from Steve Ross. I think that
countries and cities can change in a very rapid way. That's what's
happening in Eastern Europe. If they opened the Cuban market completely,
there could be changes quickly. As of now, even if I tell you that it's
good or bad to invest, it's impossible to invest because it's illegal.
If you're an American company, you can't invest because of the embargo
and because the Cuban government doesn't allow private investments in
that sector. If I wanted to sell condominiums in Cuba, which I don't, I
wouldn't be able to be the owner of the property, so I wouldn't be able
to sell them.

I can't even buy a house, so to talk about investing is something that
right now doesn't make sense because many things have to happen: first,
for relations to open completely — and they haven't even opened
embassies yet; after that, for laws to be created for American
investments to be able to become a reality. I wish that could be done
quickly, but the truth is that it's not something I see in the near future.

Personally, what I would like the most is to work on a project that
would aid the historic rehabilitation of Havana. It's a shame and it
gives me tremendous sadness to see the precious buildings, to see a
city, which could be the most beautiful in Latin America, falling apart
and with very little money for renovations. I'd like a nonprofit to do
something to help in that rehabilitation, which is so necessary.

Q. Do you have any plan designed for that rehabilitation?

A. No, we go to Cuba to see art, to immerse ourselves in art and in the
people. With all the difficulties that there are, the people have always
been kind to us. They treat you in a spectacular way; you feel at home.
You go to other places in South America and Asia — especially where
there's a lot of poverty — and you're looking at a house and they
immediately close the door. In Cuba, they tell you come inside and the
houses are in a state of disrepair and people give you a cup of coffee.
They're so amicable and it makes me feel so much pride to have Cuban

I would love to be able to help, once relations between the countries
open up, to be able to help in Cuba's development and do so without
making any money.

Q. Would the luxury hotel industry have potential in Cuba?

A. I think that if they allowed it, it would end tourism in the rest of
the Caribbean because it has beautiful beaches, a polite people, an
exceptional landscape, some of the most beautiful architecture in the
Americas. It has everything tourists want.

The embargo doesn't affect the United States, not even minimally; all of
Cuba's economy is smaller than that of Miami-Dade County, and the ones
who suffer the most are Cubans. If you talk to them in the street,
they're the ones most interested in the opening of a free market in
their country.

Q. Have you thought about how you can help re-urbanize Havana?

A. Yes, I've thought about it a lot. Like I told one of my friends, "I
wish they would let me be the developer for all of this. I think I could
change Havana in 10 or 20 years."

Q. Many people are concerned that populations will be displaced in the
process of urbanizing Havana.

A. Every time there are investments, there will be those who lose out.
But I'm a capitalist and I believe that free investments are the best
way to generate jobs and regenerate Havana. If the government didn't
want to lose the properties, they could do a long-term lease. Whether
they're going to change laws to allow this, that I don't know. I'm not
involved in politics but I would love for it to happen. I've opposed the
embargo for a long time. I think it doesn't help anyone except for the
Cuban government and certain political sectors in Miami. It damages the
Cuban people.

Q. This is the second time you've visited Cuba. What were the greatest
changes between your first trip in 2012 and your recent visit?

A. There's good and bad. The good: a lot of private industry, more
little places to eat, more little hotels. The bad: too much destruction.
Visiting is both happy and sad at the same time, but I love to go, I
love to go dancing there. We went to the House of Music, to a small but
very impressive jazz place. There are problems in those places because
there's a slew of women standing outside them who I imagine that for a
little amount of money … those are problems that happen in poverty.

Q. But with this level of poverty, luxury condominiums seem to be part
of a faraway future?

A. If they opened things up and I could build a luxury condominium in
Vedado, I would sell them in two hours here in Miami. Cubans in Miami
would be the first to buy. In Miami, 80 percent of the people we sell to
are foreigners. Havana is a city very similar to Miami. … There's good
music, good theater, good ballet.

Position: Founder, with Stephen M. Ross, of The Related Companies.

Age: 65

Personal: Married to Darlene Pérez; has four children.

Education: Bachelor of arts from Long Island University, C.W. Post
Campus; master's from University of Michigan.

Also: He is the author of "Powerhouse Principles: The Ultimate Blueprint
for Real Estate Success in an Ever-Changing Market," which came out in 2009

Source: After trip to Cuba, Jorge Pérez talks art and business | Miami
Herald Miami Herald -

Sunday, June 28, 2015

National Strategy For The Development Of The Infrastructure For Broadband Connectivity In Cuba

National Strategy For The Development Of The Infrastructure For
Broadband Connectivity In Cuba / Cuban Government
Posted on June 28, 2015

The document below was obtained and circulated by Carlos Alberto Perez,
a Cuban blogging from Cuba. Carlos Alberto also was the first to
expose last year's cheating scandal related to the university entrance
exams in Cuba, where poorly paid teachers supplemented their wages by
selling students copies of the tests. As of this evening/early morning,
his blog appears to have disappeared. It could be a technical problem,
or not.

Following are the first few paragraphs of the document, followed by a
downloadable PDF of the entire document.



JUNE 2015


The project of National Strategy for the Development of the
Infrastructure for Broadband Connectivity in Cuba "constitutes the
policy line to follow for the development of the infrastructure that
will serve as support for the implementation of an integral policy for
perfecting computer access in Cuban society."

The fundamental objective of the National Strategy is to organize,
regulate and trace the lines for the integral development of Broadband
in Cuba. Consequently, it will serve as a guide for national entities
and the population, in the development, exploration and utilization of
communication services. The range of the objectives, features and goals
of this strategy will be put into place in the period of 2015 to 2020,
in the framework of a projection up to the year 2030.

The vision of this work is to augment the impact of
telecommunications/information and communications technology (ICT) on
the transformation and modernization of the Cuban economy and society,
through the efficacious and intensive use of new technologies for the
population, the business sector and the institutions of the State and
the Government, within the scope of reasonable security.

The International Union of Telecommunications (IUT) has recommended the
promotion in countries of the development of Broadband as an element
conducive to economic prosperity and an increase in productivity,
proposing goals to be reached by the year 2020, in the framework of the
program "Connecting 2020." More than 160 countries have outlined their
plans or strategies for Broadband.

The Executive Summary that is presented here has been developed from the
original document of 83 pages that details with greater precision the
aspects addressed. The National Strategy has been outlined by a Working
Group chaired by Mincom with the participation of agencies of the
Central Administration of the State.

The final version was submitted for consultation to 48 national bodies,
agencies and entities, and they took into account the 46 criteria issued
during the process.

Definition of Broadband for Cuba.

Broadband is defined as the technology of transmission of data that
permits the download of content, data, voice and video, including
simultaneously, with a capacity of connection of at least 256 kb/s.

Broadband in Cuba should evolve in the period 2020-2030, foreseeing an
Advanced Broadband in 2025 (2048 kb/s of download) and Total Broadband
in 2030 (10 mb/s of download).

Guidelines 116, 118, 131, 223 and 226 for the economic and social policy
of the Party and the Revolution establish the development of the
necessary infrastructure for the sustainable development of the country,
the process of computerization of society and technological sovereignty.

Objective No. 52 of the First National Conference of the Communist Party
reaffirms the need for approval of the ICT, as a tool for the
development of knowledge, the economy and political and ideological

The entire document can be downloaded here.

Many thanks to Regina Anavy for her translation of it.

Source: National Strategy For The Development Of The Infrastructure For
Broadband Connectivity In Cuba / Cuban Government | Translating Cuba -

Human Development in a Country without Freedom?

Human Development in a Country without Freedom? / Cubanet, Jose Hugo
Posted on June 27, 2015

Cubanet.org, Jose Hugo Fernandez, Havana, 23 June 2015 – Recently,
during a conference at the University of Puerto Rico, I was astonished
to hear how a teacher cited Cuba as such an example of Human Development
for the Caribbean region and the whole continent. No political
deliberation was evident in her statements. She simply appealed to
statistics and reports by international institutions, apparently
trusting completely in the reputation of the issuer, and without
reference to other more vital sources for comparison. The thing is that
it made me feel ashamed somehow of representing my country under
circumstances in which perhaps I should have felt proud.

The cynical compromise, well structured and promptly placed in orbit,
can become a historical fact. Machiavelli had it right, more than five
centuries ago, so how much better will our chiefs, his gifted students,
have learned it, even if they act much more savagely.

After shredding almost all basis for Human Development on our little
island, this regime has dedicated itself, with cold and careful
patience, to sugarcoating the pill for prestigious organizations like
the UN, UNESCO and UNICEF (and, through them, the international academic
sphere, particularly that of the European Union), in order to round off
the massacre, making the civilized world believe that its dictatorship –
ingrown and even wild in more than one respect – represents a
revolutionary project of humanistic and emancipating character.

It will fall to historians and sociologists or anthropologists and maybe
to the psychiatrists of the future to explain how, by what devices of
insane policy or under what kind of deception, they managed to win the
upper hand. But what is certain is that last year Cuba occupied 44th
place among the world's countries with the best Human Development
indices, and it is among the best in the Caribbean. One does not know
whether to laugh or to cry in the face of that piece of information, but
so it appears in the most serious records, those which inevitably serve
as reference as much for the naïve and dandruff-covered "experts" as for
the clever accomplices.

Although it is more, it should be pointed out that, as conceived by the
UN itself, the Human Development of each nation is measured, above all,
by the chance the bulk of its inhabitants live a life that meets their
expectations and that permits them to develop all their potential as
human beings.

And so we have a country where the only dream of the young is to flee,
even risking life, in search of material and spiritual growth. Or where
old people constitute a burden that no one can tackle and that,
therefore, moves no one, including the State. Or where citizens are
excluded, harassed, jailed for their political ideas. Or where work has
lost its function as the sustenance for family existence and the essence
of national progress… That country now ranks as a paradigm of Human

A couple of years ago, the vice minister of foreign relations for Cuba,
Abelardo Moreno, blatantly lied in testimony before the Universal
Periodic Review (EPU) of the United Nations Human Rights Council that
his government has recognized in its laws the indivisibility and
interdependence of all human, political, social and economic rights.

He also said, just like that, that the decrepit dictatorship that he was
representing had submitted to the EPU "without discrimination, without
double standards and without selectivity."

The strange thing, I insist, is not that he would say it but that there
and everywhere he was believed without it occurring to anyone to
undertake onsite and in depth verification which, as we know, is
fundamental for the most basic scientific conclusions.

In the end, it is not my purpose to bore my dear readers with more small
talk about the same thing. So it is that I merely set forth some other
parameters that are used as a guide for measuring the Human Development
of a country:

Respect for human rights. A solid economy based on cutting edge
technology to make it work. Civil society and autonomous and empowered
democratic institutions. Equality between people, regardless of any
prejudice. End of discrimination on the basis of sex, race, ethnic,
class or religious origin. Freedom of thought and of expression.
Elimination of fear of threats to personal security, arbitrary detention
and other violent acts for political reasons. Elimination of misery.
Freedom to develop and fully achieve the potential of each individual.
Elimination of injustice and violations of the law by the state.
Opportunities and guarantees of decent work without exploitation.

Those who take the trouble of weighing these parameters, they will tell
me now if Cuba practices only one of them to sustain its Human
Development trick. As for the rest, as Jesus Christ would say, he who
wants to understand does understand.

About the Author

Jose Hugo Fernandez is the author of, among other works, the novels The
Clan of the Suicides, The Crimes of Aurika, The Butterflies Don't
Flutter on Saturdays and The Parabola of Belen with the Pastors, as well
as two books of stories, The Island of the Black Blackbirds and I Who
Was the Streetcar of Desire, and the book of articles Silhouette Against
the Wall. He lives in Havana where he has worked as an independent
journalist since 1993.

Source: Human Development in a Country without Freedom? / Cubanet, Jose
Hugo Fernandez | Translating Cuba -

Cuban artist pushes boundary between art and politics, and pays a price

Cuban artist pushes boundary between art and politics, and pays a price

HAVANA, Cuba – It was probably inevitable, given the trajectory of her
career, that Cuban artist Tania Bruguera's creative vision would collide
some day with her country's less-expansive political reality.

From a young age, Bruguera, 46, won international acclaim as an
irreverent, barrier-breaking performance artist. She smeared the floor
with pig's blood to make a point about sexual assault. She stripped
naked and ate dirt in tribute to Cuba's vanished indigenous tribes.
During one performance in Colombia, she circulated trays of cocaine —
real cocaine — among the audience, inviting viewers to try it. They did.

By comparison, what landed Bruguera in trouble with communist
authorities seems rather mild. Soon after the Dec. 17 announcement that
the United States and Cuba would restore diplomatic relations, Bruguera
flew to the island from Europe and tried to organize a free-speech
forum. The transgressive part was the location: Havana's Plaza of the

It was meant as a challenge, she said — a test to see how much Cuba was
willing to change as part of its new relationship with the United States.

The event never happened. Before she could reach the plaza, Bruguera was
arrested, along with more than two dozen supporters. Since then she has
been detained four more times and has been barred from leaving the
country while facing charges of disturbing the public order, resisting
arrest and inciting criminal behavior.

Cuban authorities "are trying to depict me as a rebel without a cause,"
Bruguera said in an interview, her arms still bruised after being hauled
off by police with members of the Ladies in White opposition group after
their weekly protest march.

"I am a rebel, but one with a cause, and it's one that they have given
me: the fight on behalf of freedom of expression and against political
hatred," she said.

Cuban authorities do not see Bruguera as a causeless rebel so much as a
calculated provocateur, backed by anti-Castro forces abroad, who is
swooping in for a political stunt. Soon after she arrived in late
December, Bruguera said, security officials took her aside to issue a
warning about her plans for the open-mike event.

"They told me: 'You think you're coming back here to create another
Maidan [the square in Kiev where Ukraine's 2013-2014 revolution began],
but we're not going to let you.' "

Bruguera's treatment also suggests that communist authorities intend to
send a signal to other Cubans who are thinking of returning home to take
advantage of new economic opportunities and easing tensions with the
United States. Cuba is willing to welcome them back as entrepreneurs,
sure, but not as dissident activists.

Bruguera, who has lived most of the past two decades in the United
States and Europe, says she never emigrated from Cuba. In recent years,
as she worked to organize an immigrant political party in Paris and
joined the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, her creative work
increasingly smudged the line between art and activism.

The former — in particular the kind that takes place in museums and
movie theaters — has considerable latitude in contemporary Cuba. The
latter, when it occurs in the street, does not.

In 1961, two months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, Fidel Castro issued
the famous dictum that would lay out his view of artistic freedom:
"Within the Revolution, anything goes; against the Revolution, nothing."
Cuban artists have been trying to figure out what that means pretty much
ever since.

The issue is not an academic one. Art is big business in Cuba, and one
of the careers that allows young people to earn income independently,
profiting from a global fascination with the island that is as strong as
ever, particularly among collectors in the United States.

Over the years, as censorship eased, art also became an outlet for
expression in a country that doesn't allow traditional activism. Young
Cubans who seethe at their government's political controls or Internet
restrictions can't protest in the street, but they can produce dark,
brooding works of art that dramatize or satirize Cuban reality. And
international collectors love the stuff.

Bruguera, who earned a master's degree at the School of the Art
Institute of Chicago and went on to teaching positions in the United
States and France, doesn't make objects that look nice on a coffee table
or complement the drapes. Her art, by nature, is intangible and somewhat

And because Bruguera wants to blur the line between art and political
activism, it can also make it difficult to discern where her
"performance" starts and ends.

Bruguera's legal ordeal over the past six months serves a broader
artistic goal, she says, in which the Cuban government has been an
all-too-willing participant in her attempt to probe the boundaries of
expression at what she sees as a pivotal moment in her country's history.

"All of this is a performance," she said. "It is unfolding as events occur."

The government prefers theater, she said. "It likes having a script that
can be acted out by a cast of characters it creates."

In contrast, she said, "performance is a space for spontaneity, where
human beings can be themselves, instead of acting out roles."

Like Cuban authorities, critics of the Obama administration do not view
Bruguera's case as an abstract exercise in aesthetics. Her arrest is
proof, they say, that Cuban President Raúl Castro isn't opening up at
all and that Obama's policies have emboldened him to be more repressive.

"We're not naive," read a statement by the president of Cuba's Fine Arts
Association on the day of her arrest. "The meaning of this performance
isn't going to be interpreted as a work of art. It is a political
provocation." Her goal, the statement said, was the same as that pursued
by Castro's opponents, who, it added, helped promote her appearance.

"The act has no other aim than to undermine the negotiations that have
given hope to many human beings, above all Cuba's 11 million people,"
the statement read.

Bruguera, who identifies herself as a leftist and calls Sen. Elizabeth
Warren, D-Mass., her "favorite politician," insists it is not her
intention to embarrass the Obama administration or give fodder to its
critics. She said her goals are wholly related to Cuba's uncertain
future. She wants a new law protecting freedom of speech and to open a
center for art and activism named for the late political theorist Hannah

Bruguera's most recent arrests occurred in the middle of Cuba's biggest
art festival — the Havana Biennial — with many of the world's leading
gallery owners and collectors in town. Some supporters urged a boycott
and gathered protest signatures on her behalf, but ripples from
Bruguera's case haven't reached very far beyond Cuba's arts scene.

Some artists and critics said they have been confused about her goals.
They don't want to see Bruguera treated as a criminal, but they said
they are puzzled as to what the avant-garde artist was trying to accomplish.

"I never saw Tania as a political activist," said Cristina Vives, an art
curator and historian who worked with Bruguera earlier in her career and
considers her "brilliant."

"She didn't need it to be effective as an artist," Vives saod. "And she
has always been one of the most effective artists I know of."

Asked if she viewed her work as "against the Revolution" and beyond the
boundaries vaguely established by Castro in 1961, Bruguera answered with
a question.

"What is the Revolution today?" she asked. "I think the negotiations
with the United States have created a crisis of identity and a need to
redefine what 'revolution' means."

Source: Cuban artist pushes boundary between art and politics, and pays
a price -The Tico Times -

Cuba’s status gives Global Links hope for new medical exchanges

Cuba's status gives Global Links hope for new medical exchanges
June 28, 2015 12:00 AM
By Elizabeth Miles / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Marisol Valentin still remembers the U.S. Customs officer who during one
of her trips to Cuba told her she shouldn't be working to send aid to
the island country under a long-time U.S. embargo.

On Thursday and Friday, Ms. Valentin, program officer for
Pittsburgh-based nonprofit Global Links, oversaw the organization's
124th and 125th shipments of surplus medical supplies to the island,
sending gurneys, stretchers, and wheelchairs as well as 345 boxes of
sutures, gauze and procedure-specific tools. It was $140,000 of
materials that might otherwise populate landfills.

"If it can improve one patient's care, why should it be discarded here?"
asks Angela Garcia, deputy director.

Throughout the last two decades of the embargo, Global Links has
established a conduit of supplies reclaimed from hospitals in
Pittsburgh, Maryland and Virginia.

Formed in 1989, Global Links was the first nonprofit to receive an
export license from the U.S. Commerce Department to provide large-scale
humanitarian medical aid to the state-owned hospitals in Cuba. Due to
the embargo, the hospitals cannot import American-made medical
technology or products that have a certain percentage of American parts,
either from abroad or directly from the United States.

In 2003, Dr. Julio Brossard, a Cuban pediatric neurosurgeon, came to
Harvard University for an educational exchange, and during a stop at the
Global Links warehouse found five packets of absorbable hemostat for
controlling bleeding. Ms. Garcia recalls his reaction: "This is so

He hand-carried them back, sending photos over the following years of
cases in which the material aided successful surgeries.

After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, it was donations from Global Links that
helped hospitals in Santiago de Cuba prepare for the possibility of cholera.

"It was really a great help," said Yoire Ferrer Savigne, who works for
the Ministry of Health in Santiago, distributing to the hospitals.
"Anytime we ask for something that's been of a great demand, we've
received a good response."

Though the embargo's future is unclear, the impending normalization of
relations between the United States and Cuba has already made Ms.
Valentin's work easier, eliminating her need for a special U.S. Treasury
Department license to travel.

She hopes that in the future the easing of barriers between the two
countries will extend to medical knowledge.

"There's so much ... that both the U.S. and Cuba have in healthcare to

In 2009, a Cuban transplant team came to Pittsburgh to observe
procedures at UPMC Children's Hospital, and doctors observed streamlined
emergency room procedures, which reduce wait times, at St. Clair
Hospital. This streamlining is a result of Toyota principles, which
focus on continual improvement in efficacy.

Knowledge can go both ways.

"We have a lot to learn from them," said Mimi Falbo, who served as
president and chief executive officer of UPMC Braddock and teaches at
Carnegie Mellon University. She cited indicators of good public health
outcomes in Cuba, including low infant mortality rates (4.7/1000 live
births, as of 2014), which she attributes to a focus on prevention.

While visiting a hospital in Havana, Dr. Falbo was struck by the
contents of the CEO's desk — data on mortality rates and common
illnesses in the area. "Their information was really based on, 'what are
the healthcare needs in my community, and how am I doing?'"

In October, professionals from Cuba will join Dr. Falbo here to learn
about quality standards in hospitals that use Toyota principles. After
President Barack Obama's promise of re-establishing relations with Cuba,
Mr. Savigne hopes this interchange will continue and expand. "Cubans to
the states, or the other way around… For us that would be really good."

Ms. Valentin hopes that normalization will ultimately allow the Cuban
healthcare system to get to the point where hospitals can freely
participate in the global market. Her ultimate vision? "For them not to
need us."

Elizabeth Miles: emiles@post-gazette.com

Source: Cuba's status gives Global Links hope for new medical exchanges
| Pittsburgh Post-Gazette -

U.S. senators visit Cuba, hope Congress will ease restrictions

U.S. senators visit Cuba, hope Congress will ease restrictions

Three visiting U.S. senators said on Saturday they hoped Congress would
support President Barack Obama's opening toward Cuba, including lifting
a ban on U.S. citizens traveling to the Communist-run island.

Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Ben Cardin of Maryland
joined Republican Dean Heller of Nevada on a trip to Cuba where they met
First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez
and ordinary Cubans.

A number of Cuba initiatives are pending in the Senate, including a bill
to remove the travel ban on Americans and a more ambitions bill to
rescind the decades-old U.S. economic embargo.

Obama, a Democrat, has called on Congress to act but the legislation is
opposed by the Republican leadership in control of the Senate and the
House of Representatives.

Earlier this month, the House rejected a measure that would have relaxed
travel restrictions. But the senators said there were better prospects
for progress on Cuba legislation in their chamber.

"We think that can be achieved this year and we can make additional
progress next year," Cardin told a news conference. "We're optimistic
this path that President Obama and President (Raul) Castro started will
be continued."

Heller, one of a few Republican senators to side with Obama on Cuba,
encouraged members of Congress to visit Cuba and engage with ordinary
Cubans. "I think the Senate can move the House, but the Senate's going
to have to act first," Heller told Reuters after the news conference.

Currently, some Americans may travel to Cuba with official permission
but general tourism is banned.

Breaking decades of Cold War-era hostility, Obama and Castro announced
plans last December to restore diplomatic ties that Washington severed
in 1961, and to work toward normalizing overall relations. An
announcement on reopening embassies in both capitals is expected soon.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: U.S. senators visit Cuba, hope Congress will ease restrictions |
Reuters -