Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cuba's Odd 2-Currency System, As Explained By Ice Cream

Cuba's Odd 2-Currency System, As Explained By Ice Cream
Connor Hickox, Zach Toombs , Zach Toombs
9:48 AM, Mar 30, 2016

All these Cubans are waiting hours in line — for vanilla ice cream.

"There's only vanilla," one woman told us. "Only one flavor."

"50 years, for two hours once a week," another person waiting in line said.

Meanwhile, here's the line to get several flavors: vanilla, strawberry,
chocolate and chocolate swirl. There is no line. And they straight up
told us that ice cream was of a better quality. So, here's why nobody's
over there.

Cuba is a country with one political party and two currencies. These are
CUCs, or convertible pesos, mainly for tourists and the wealthy. And
these are Cuban pesos, which is what almost all Cubans are paid in — and
what they use daily.

This creates kind of a strange divide between a CUC economy and a pesos
economy. Technically, anyone can use both, but currency exchanges are
rare and expensive for most Cubans — which is a problem, since some
higher-end places only accept CUCs — and because they often buy you a
better quality product. At the same time, a lot of things are overpriced
when sold in CUCs, so buying in pesos is less expensive.

The separation between the two currencies is especially obvious at La
Coppelia, Havana's ice cream institution. Fidel Castro has a
well-documented obsession with ice cream. The CIA tried to poison his
milkshake in the '60s — a plan then-CIA Director Allen Dulles personally

And after Castro took power, he looked at Howard Johnson's — and decided
that if America could have 28 flavors, Cuba could have 29. So his
secretary made building La Coppelia a personal project. It takes up a
full city block in the middle of Havana.

"You wait in your queue for the Cuban pesos queue, and you come and have
your ice cream," Layla, our fixer, told us. "It's a tradition, I think."

But La Coppelia also has two separate lines and two separate offerings
entirely for the two currencies. You can see the line to buy in Cuban
pesos goes down the block in both directions.

"I've been here a while with my friends waiting," one woman told us.
"For at least an hour."

When we asked a young man why he was in the pesos line and not the CUC
line for more flavors, he asked, "Do you think parents have money to
give us with short notice?"

CUCs are pegged to the value of the U.S. dollar. That's because the CUC
was introduced in 1994 basically as Cuba's replacement for the dollar,
which used to be accepted at many tourist spots. In 2013, Cuba's
government said they'd phase the CUC out and merge it with the peso, but
that transition is coming slowly.

"I think everyone's eager just to have one currency," Layla said. "It's
confusing for most Cubans."

And as long as Cuba has two currencies, it'll be a nation with two lines
— one of them a lot longer.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

Source: Cuba's Odd 2-Currency System, As Explained By Ice Cream - ABC15
Arizona -

U.S. rapprochement with Cuba creating investment window for Canada: ambassador

U.S. rapprochement with Cuba creating investment window for Canada:
Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
March 31, 2016

MONTREAL - Cuba's rapprochement with the United States is creating a
window of opportunity for Canadian business to invest in the island
country, its ambassador said Wednesday.

Ambassador Julio Garmendia Pena said that despite decades of friendly
relations between Canada and Cuba, the lengthy U.S. "blockade" has made
many Canadian companies reluctant to invest so as not to risk American

But he said the more than 50-year-old relic of the Cold War will
eventually slide into "the dustbin of history."

"When that happens we'd like to see many Canadian investors," Pena said
during a speech to the Montreal Council of Foreign Relations.

He said Canada has underinvested in Cuba's tourism sector even though
more than 1.3 million Canadians vacation on the Caribbean's largest
island each year.

Currently, Canada is Cuba's fourth-largest trading partner. Among its
biggest investors is Sherritt International (TSX:S), which has extensive
oil and power operations there.

Pena said Canada has a "moral advantage" over other countries seeking to
do business because it has worked with Cuba in difficult times. But he
said there is no financial advantage when competing for business against
foreign rivals.

The communist government is looking to secure billions of dollars in
foreign investment in the coming years and hopes to tap into Canada's
expertise in clean energy, agriculture, mining and biotechnology.

In addition, the two countries are enhancing sports and cultural ties.
Cuba's national baseball team will visit this summer for about 20 games
to be played in Ottawa and several Quebec cities.

Pena said the recent state visit to Cuba by U.S. President Barack Obama
has fostered unprecedented interest from potential foreign investors.

Delegations from Europe and elsewhere have helped to fill Havana hotels
while a growing number of American congressmen and senators have visited
for a first-hand look.

"Cuba is in fashion," Pena said. "My suggestion is (investors) come
today or tomorrow and not to wait until the embargo is over."

Cuba has changed some laws to encourage investment. No taxes are paid on
profits earned in the first eight years and are set at 15 per cent in
subsequent years. There is also a free transfer of corporate dividends.

However, investors must have some level of ownership partnership with
Cuban companies, often 50 per cent. The government also vows to preserve
its socialist policies and defend its sovereignty and independence.

While relations have improved through Obama's executive actions,
normalization can only follow the ending of the embargo by the U.S.
Congress and the occupation of the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, said Pena.

He said such dramatic change is inevitable although he wouldn't say how
long he thinks it will take.

"The genie came out of the bottle and to put it back would be very
difficult for anyone in the United States," he said. "I even think the
visit of Obama helped a little bit to make this process irreversible."

The ambassador declined to weigh in on the impact of the U.S.
presidential election, saying Cuba hopes to work with whomever is
elected this fall.

Meanwhile, Cuba hopes to build upon its strong relationship with Canada
by enhancing ties with the new Liberal government and rekindling the
historic bond that existed between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's
father and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Pena said he hopes state visits will take place soon, although no dates
have been confirmed.

Source: U.S. rapprochement with Cuba creating investment window for
Canada: ambassador -

Rolling Stones Ink Business Partnership With Cuba’s Castro Family

Rolling Stones Ink Business Partnership With Cuba's Castro Family
12:44 PM 03/30/2016

What? You missed that news item? Well, you probably read about it, but
under a different headline last weekend. You probably read about a
"Historic!" — even an "Epochal!" — Rolling Stones concert in Havana
Friday night. The hyperventilating "reporters" probably followed up by
mentioning "historic changes!" and "reforms!" in Cuba, as proven by the
very concert.

In fact, the only "historic changes!" in Cuba — as recognized by the
tiny number of people who actually study this issue — involve the source
of the cash-flow into the Castro-Family-Crime-Syndicate (euphemized as
"Cuba" by the media and U.S. State Dept).

When that cash flowed from the Soviet Union rock music was a potentially
disruptive foreign influence that elicited no tolerance from the
Stalinist authorities. In fact, these authorities felt obliged to round
up and jail Cuban rock fans en-masse. Last week –– for the first time in
history — this fascinating datum was widely reported by the mainstream

Special: John Goodman Loses 100lbs - So Skinny He's Unrecognizable
Prior to last week, this tragic disconnect was not something Cuba's
Stalinist authorities were very keen to publicize. After all, it exposed
Che T-shirt wearers as useful idiots. For some reason, all the
"reporters" who (after thorough vetting by Castro's secret police) were
granted "journalist" visas by the Castro regime were likewise
unenthusiastic – and for several decades — about exposing this
fascinating datum.

Chances are that the Bernie Sanders supporter would suddenly find a way
to extol the virtues of his father and forget all the horrible things he
said about him while eagerly agreeing with his mother when he
encountered her while raiding the refrigerator or asking for her car
keys. Don't you think? Alas, the son's sloth and stupidity would
probably remain unchanged.

Well, think of the Castro regime as that Bernie Sanders supporter. Back
in the early 1990's his mother (Russia) finally tired of the arrangement
and booted him into the street, so to speak.

So now Cuba lives with his father (tourism), while retaining essentially
all of his disgusting habits. Living with this new provider requires
that Cuba slightly change his "tune" – and slightly modify his behavior
— but really nothing major, nothing of substance. "What's a little
lip-service," the Sanders supporter snickers, "in exchange for room,
board and my uninterrupted Wi-Fi?"

In brief, the Castro regime briefly "hooked-up" with the Rolling Stones
for the simple expedient of filling its coffers with millions more in
tourist money. In the meantime, Castro's subjects – while allowed to
boogie a bit — essentially remain the impoverished and oppressed
subjects of a totalitarian regime.

Indeed, repression against Cubans has actually cranked-up steadily in
direct proportion to the Stalinist regime's enrichment via tourism,
especially owing to president Obama's policies that have recently
swamped Cuba with over half a million visitors last year from the U.S.
and contributed an estimated $5.6 billion in remittances and travel
expenditures to the Castro regime's coffers. As a direct result,
desperate Cubans are risking their lives to flee Cuba at a rate unseen
in decades.

Almost exactly a year ago, your humble servant went on John Stossel's
show to debate two libertarians (with half my brain tied behind my back)
who giddily supported Obama's Cuba "opening." They giddily predicted
wonderful things for Cubans. I predicted this very outcome.

This very Easter weekend, for instance, while the mainstream media
dutifully promoted the Rolling Stones concert (i.e. Castro-regime/
Rolling Stones business partnership) Cuban dissidents suffered a wave of
arrests and beatings. Needless to add, this repression was dutifully
ignored by the mainstream media.

But don't take all this stuff from me. After all, I don't live in Cuba.
Take it from 25 year-old Cuban dissident Rosa Maria Paya, whose father
was murdered by the Stalinist regime's KGB-trained secret police three
years ago: "They [the Rolling Stones] should be aware that their
performance is being used by a totalitarian regime as a symbol of an
opening that isn't really taking place."

You see, amigos: Cuba's entire economic infrastructure is owned almost
lock stock and barrel — not only by the Stalinist regime's military and
secret police sectors (the only people in Cuba with guns, in case you'd
forgotten) — but more specifically by the Castro family itself. In a
presentation a few years ago at a hearing by the House Foreign Affairs
Committee debating travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, Lieutenant Colonel
Christopher Simmons, a recently retired Defense Intelligence Agency Cuba
specialist, explained the issue in detail. He showed how through a
corporation named GAESA, Raul Castro's military owns virtually every
corporation involved in Cuba's tourism industry, among the Stalinist
regime's top money-makers lately.

And as GAESA's chief executive officer we find none other than Raul
Castro's very son in law Maj. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.

So when it comes to news from Cuba, amigos — please keep your eye on the
ball: income and power for the Castro family crime syndicate. Submit
everything you read and hear from the media about Cuba to that
test: will it further enrich and empower the Castro-Family-Crime
-Syndicate, while keeping the bulk of the Cuban people poor, stupid,
powerless and distracted? Do this and everything in Cuba will make
perfect sense.

Source: Rolling Stones Ink Business Partnership With Cuba's Castro
Family | The Daily Caller -

If engagement gives Fidel Castro a heart attack, it’s good enough for me

If engagement gives Fidel Castro a heart attack, it's good enough for me

Aging dictator's letter to "Brother Obama" has sardonic racist tinge
Some exiles not happy with Obama visit either
Castro, Obama detractors awkwardly on same side of history


Neither Fidel Castro nor the hard-liners in Cuban Miami liked President
Barack Obama's visit to Cuba and his extraordinary speech.

No surprise there.

The foes also didn't care for the Rolling Stones' blast of rock at the
historic concert. La Habana as venue for a Caribbean-styled Woodstock
with throngs parading wild-haired and covered in body art and piercings
wasn't exactly the counter-revolution early exiles dreamed of. Who could
have ever thought it would be Mick Jagger that would holler from a stage
in Havana to fanatical applause: "Times are changing!"

But now comes the after-party, and no, we didn't have to wait long to
hear from the two entrenched sides adept at operating only under the old
policy of isolation.

After saturating the media with anti-Obama discourse, Cuba unearthed its
ancient retired dictator, a well-worn bait for exiles: Obama's
pro-democracy speech almost gave him a heart attack, Castro said,
allegedly moving the 89-year-old to pen one of his infamous
"reflections," this one titled with a sardonic racist tinge, "Brother

Some exiles quickly responded, as if anybody expected different from a
dictatorship: See, I told you so!

Castro didn't disappoint them.

Rousing the old false pride of the comandante-in-chief, Castro boasted
that Cubans don't need the "empire" to give them anything.

He sure doesn't. Forbes Magazine estimated Castro's wealth years ago at
a mere $900 million. He doesn't pay for his medical care, so no chance
he's blown through all the dough. His family's wealth is also
well-documented. Remember the recent tell-all photos of Castro's playboy
son partying it up in luxury in the Turkish Riviera? The photos circled
the globe.

Cubans, on the other hand, earn an average salary of $20 a month, not
enough to properly feed their families. They sure do need all that the
new relationship with the United States offers, and more.

Clearly the Castro clan underestimated the powerful charm and eloquence
of Obama, whose speech at Havana's Gran Teatro was broadcast to the
Cuban people. Now they're horrified by the sense of empowerment and
possibility his words have unleashed in Cuba.

Evidence is in videos coming out of the island. In one, a group of
neighbors come to the rescue of a woman arrested for yelling "Down with
the Castros' dictatorship! Respect for human rights!" Men and women rush
to pluck her out of the police car and place her safely behind them. The
police are left empty-handed. In another, as a man is being arrested
also shouting anti-Castro slogans, the wife filming the scene invokes
Obama's name to intimidate police.

As expected, the dictatorship is responding by clamping down and
resurrecting old controls in the new relationship with the United
States. Some American tour operators, for instance, woke up Monday to
unexpected changes to itineraries. Cuban tourism authorities notified
them that they will restrict with whom they can engage to the
government's approved list — a clear sign that Cuban hardliners are
pushing back, post-Obama.

Likewise in exile circles wedded to partisan alliances, Obama's eloquent
case for democracy — leaving the future where it belongs, in the hands
of the Cuban people — wasn't the kind of American intervention
envisioned for decades.

And so, some find themselves awkwardly on the same side as their foes —
the wrong side of history.

If engagement gives Fidel Castro a heart attack, it's good enough for me.

Fabiola Santiago:, @fabiolasantiago

Source: If engagement gives Fidel Castro a heart attack, it's good
enough for me | Miami Herald -

Financial ties with U.S. still far from normal, Cuba says

Financial ties with U.S. still far from normal, Cuba says
Published March 30, 2016 EFE

Cuba and the United States still do not enjoy "normal" financial ties,
the island's foreign minister said in comments posted Wednesday on the
official Web site Cubadebate.

Bruno Rodriguez says that the executive actions approved recently by
President Barack Obama to ease the U.S. economic embargo on the island
have remained a "mere announcement."

The latest package of measures, announced a few days before Obama's
March 20-22 visit to the island, eliminated the prohibition on Cuba's
use of the dollar in its international transactions, one of the main
impediments for foreign companies who wanted to do business with Cuba.

"I can affirm that at this moment there are no normal financial
transactions," said Rodriguez, who emphasized that Cuban banks remain
unable to open accounts in the United States.

Despite the current process of normalization between the two countries,
who resumed diplomatic relations last July after a hiatus of more than
50 years, "the blockade (embargo) continues to be a suffocating
reality," said Rodriguez.

Cuba's top diplomat said that normal links will not be a reality as long
as the United States continues to occupy the territory of the Guantanamo
Naval Base or finances programs to try and "alter the prevailing
constitutional order" in the communist country.

In addition, he insisted that the United States maintains "intact its
strategic objectives to dominate Cuba economically and politically."

"The speeches can be pleasant, even sincere, but a friendly phrase, a
smile, and a sympathetic gesture cannot cause a long history to be
forgotten," said the foreign minister referring to the words that Obama
directed to the Cuban people on March 22.

In one of the key moments of his visit to the island, Obama asked Cubans
to forget old quarrels and look to the future, at the same time that he
emphasized that Cubans will decide the destiny of their country.

Rodriguez emphasized that his country is ready for dialogue and
cooperation with the United States, albeit without renouncing "by a
millimeter the principles of the Revolution, or its independence." EFE

Source: Financial ties with U.S. still far from normal, Cuba says | Fox
News Latino -

52 migrants repatriated to Cuba

52 migrants repatriated to Cuba

Twenty of the migrants were on a boat with six people who had serious
gunshot wounds and stayed in the country due to receiving medical attention

The Coast Guard on Wednesday repatriated 52 migrants to Bahia de
Cabañas, Cuba, including 20 people who were on a boat intercepted over
the weekend that had seven people suffering from gunshot wounds.

The group, which was on the Coast Guard Cutter Isaac Mayo, also included
migrants from two other interceptions over the weekend.

On Saturday, an aircrew of Air Station Clearwater HC-130, spotted a
makeshift raft south of Key West. Crews found 26 Cubans, seven of whom
were shot. The most critical six were to taken to a hospital on Stock

Then on Sunday, the Coast Guard Cutter Charles Sexton spotted a vessel
south of Key West, with seven people aboard. Later that day, aircrew saw
a 35-foot center console vessel south of Dry Tortugas with 25 Cuban
migrants aboard.

"Safety of life at sea continues to be the Coast Guard's primary
concern," said Capt. Mark Gordon, chief of enforcement for the Coast
Guard 7th District in a statement. "The dangerous waters of the Florida
Straits can be unforgiving for the unprepared on ill advised and illegal

Since Oct. 1, the Coast Guard 7th District estimates that 2,753 Cubans
have attempted to illegally migrate to the United States by sea.

Earlier this month, 58 Cuban migrants intercepted at sea on several
vessels were repatriated.

Carli Teproff: 305-376-3587, @CTeproff

Source: 52 migrants repatriated to Cuba | Miami Herald -

Who Is Gregory Elias? 6 Things To Know About Lawyer Who Paid Rolling Stones Cuba Concert

Who Is Gregory Elias? 6 Things To Know About Lawyer Who Paid Rolling
Stones Cuba Concert
Geplaatst op 31 maart 2016 door redactie curacao
By Natalie Rotterman

Last month, thousands of Cubans got the exciting news that a free
Rolling Stones concert had been confirmed, but not many people knew this
was thanks to Gregory Elias, a successful lawyer from Curacao.

On March 25, almost 700,000 people gathered at Havana's Ciudad
Deportiva, plus approximately 450,000 in its perimeters for a free
outdoor concert, that lasted more than two hours. The British band
opened with "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and ended with the smash hit
"Satisfaction," which had the crowd cheering and jumping for the
familiar song.

This was frontman Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, drummer Charlie
Watts and guitarist Ronnie Wood's first-ever concert in the island since
the band formed in 1962.

But who exactly is this man Elias, who reportedly paid over $7MM (which
he didn't confirm) for the big event to happen? Here's what we know:

He is a corporate lawyer from Curacao, who decided to contact the
Rolling Stones manager, Jayne Smyth, last November 13 to suggest the
concert, for which he'd cover the costs.
He paid for the concert through his foundation, Bon Intenshon, which is
committed to social betterment in Curacao (and other countries) through
music, sports, and arts projects with a focus on youth.
Elias is a humble man, who simply could not believe that Smyth had
called him back in the next 24 hours of his call. "I mean, for God's
sake! I am no one!" he exclaimed. "I never thought she'd call me back."
He has a passion for rock, and rock festivals. Elias was already
searching for cultural exchanges to help the Island reopen to the world,
and that's when the idea of contacting the Stones came to mind.
He didn't really know what was getting into. "Smyth informed me that
when 'the boys' (as she referred to them) went on tour, 'they only want
the best, and it has to be better than everything else.'" "That meant
flying everything from equipment to bottles of water from abroad."
He doesn't like talking about money. When reporters asked about the
financial details that went into the big event, Elias responded, "Please
keep your indecent questions to yourselves," before he burst out
laughing. "Let's just say it was not cheap."

Source: LatinTimes | Who Is Gregory Elias? 6 Things To Know About Lawyer
Who Paid Rolling Stones Cuba Concert | Knipselkrant Curacao -

Who Is Gregory Elias? 6 Things To Know About Lawyer Who Paid Rolling Stones Cuba Concert

Who Is Gregory Elias? 6 Things To Know About Lawyer Who Paid Rolling
Stones Cuba Concert
Geplaatst op 31 maart 2016 door redactie curacao
By Natalie Rotterman

Fans wait for the free outdoor concert by the Rolling Stones at Ciudad
Deportiva de la Habana sports complex in Havana | REUTERS/Alexandre
Last month, thousands of Cubans got the exciting news that a free
Rolling Stones concert had been confirmed, but not many people knew this
was thanks to Gregory Elias, a successful lawyer from Curacao.

On March 25, almost 700,000 people gathered at Havana's Ciudad
Deportiva, plus approximately 450,000 in its perimeters for a free
outdoor concert, that lasted more than two hours. The British band
opened with "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and ended with the smash hit
"Satisfaction," which had the crowd cheering and jumping for the
familiar song.

This was frontman Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, drummer Charlie
Watts and guitarist Ronnie Wood's first-ever concert in the island since
the band formed in 1962.

But who exactly is this man Elias, who reportedly paid over $7MM (which
he didn't confirm) for the big event to happen? Here's what we know:

He is a corporate lawyer from Curacao, who decided to contact the
Rolling Stones manager, Jayne Smyth, last November 13 to suggest the
concert, for which he'd cover the costs.
He paid for the concert through his foundation, Bon Intenshon, which is
committed to social betterment in Curacao (and other countries) through
music, sports, and arts projects with a focus on youth.
Elias is a humble man, who simply could not believe that Smyth had
called him back in the next 24 hours of his call. "I mean, for God's
sake! I am no one!" he exclaimed. "I never thought she'd call me back."
He has a passion for rock, and rock festivals. Elias was already
searching for cultural exchanges to help the Island reopen to the world,
and that's when the idea of contacting the Stones came to mind.
He didn't really know what was getting into. "Smyth informed me that
when 'the boys' (as she referred to them) went on tour, 'they only want
the best, and it has to be better than everything else.'" "That meant
flying everything from equipment to bottles of water from abroad."
He doesn't like talking about money. When reporters asked about the
financial details that went into the big event, Elias responded, "Please
keep your indecent questions to yourselves," before he burst out
laughing. "Let's just say it was not cheap."

Source: LatinTimes | Who Is Gregory Elias? 6 Things To Know About Lawyer
Who Paid Rolling Stones Cuba Concert | Knipselkrant Curacao -

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Unusual dissent erupts inside Cuban Communist Party

Unusual dissent erupts inside Cuban Communist Party

ANA (AP) — Days after President Barack Obama's historic visit, the
leaders of Cuba's Communist Party are under highly unusual public
criticism from their own ranks for imposing new levels of secrecy on the
future of social and economic reforms.

After months of simmering discontent, complaints among party members
have become so heated that its official newspaper, Granma, addressed
them in a lengthy front-page article Monday. It said the public
dissatisfaction over the lack of open discussion before the upcoming
Communist Party congress next month is "a sign of the democracy and
public participation that are intrinsic characteristics of the socialism
that we're constructing."

The article did little to calm many party members, some of whom are
calling for the gathering to be postponed to allow public debate about
the government's plans to continue market-oriented reforms for Cuba's
centrally controlled economy.

"The base of the party is angry, and rightly so," party member and noted
intellectual Esteban Morales wrote in a blog post published before
Obama's visit. "We've gone backward in terms of democracy in the party,
because we've forgotten about the base, those who are fighting and
confronting our problems on a daily basis."

Across the country, Cuba's ruling party is facing stiff challenges as it
tries to govern an increasingly cynical and disenchanted population.

Struggling to feed their families with state salaries around $25 a
month, many ordinary Cubans see their government as infuriatingly
inefficient and unresponsive to the needs of average people. The open
anger among prominent party members in the middle of sweeping
socio-economic reforms and normalization with the United States hints at
a deeper crisis of credibility for the party that has controlled
virtually every aspect of public life in Cuba for more than a half century.

The article in Granma appeared less than a week after Obama won an
enthusiastic response from many ordinary Cubans by calling for both an
end to Cold War hostility and for more political and economic freedom on
the island. The unsigned article shared the front page with Fidel
Castro's sharply worded response to Obama, in which the 89-year-old
father of Cuba's socialist system said, "My modest suggestion is that he
reflect and doesn't try to develop theories about Cuban politics."

Many Cubans are skeptical of free-market capitalism, wary of American
power and cannot envision a society without the free health care and
education put in place by the 1959 revolution. Party member Francisco
Rodriguez, a gay activist and journalist for a state newspaper, said
Obama's nationally televised speech in Old Havana, his news conference
with 84-year-old President Raul Castro and a presidential forum with
Cuban entrepreneurs represented a sort of "capitalist evangelizing" that
many party members dislike.

Rodriguez told The Associated Press that Obama's well-received addresses
to the Cuban people had nonetheless increased pressure on the
700,000-member Communist Party to forge a more unified and credible
vision of the future.

"Obama's visit requires us, going forward, to work on debating and
defending our social consensus about the revolution," Rodriguez said.

While Cuba's non-elected leaders maintain tight control of the party and
the broader system, the last party congress in 2011 was preceded by
months of vigorous debate at party meetings about detailed documents
laying out reforms that have shrunk the state bureaucracy and allowed a
half million Cubans to start work in the private sector.

In the run-up to the party congress scheduled to begin April 16, no
documents have been made public, no debate has taken place and many of
the party's best-known members remain in the dark about the next phase
of Cuba's reforms.

Granma said 1,000 high-ranking party members have been reviewing key

"My dissatisfaction is rooted in the lack of discussion of the central
documents, secret to this day, as much among the organizations of the
party base as the rest of the population," Rodriguez wrote in an open
letter Sunday to Raul Castro, who is also the top Communist Party leader.

Under Castro's guidance, the 2011 party congress helped loosen state
control of Cubans' economic options and some personal freedoms, moving
the country toward more self-employment, greater freedom to travel and
greater ability to sell personal cars and real estate. The Granma
article argued that the months of debate before the approval of those
reforms made a new round of public discussion unnecessary. It also
acknowledged that only 21 percent of the reforms had been completed as

The April 16-19 party congress "will allow us to define with greater
precision the path that we must follow in order for our nation,
sovereign and truly independent since Jan. 1, 1959, to construct a
prosperous and sustainable socialism," the article said.

Rodriguez, who works closely with Castro's daughter Mariela, the
director of the national Center for Sexual Education, said the Granma
piece was unsatisfactory. He called for the Seventh Party Congress to be
delayed, saying many fellow party members share his point of view.

In the days after the Granma article appeared about two dozen people,
many identifying themselves as party members, posted lengthy comments on
the paper's government-moderated website that criticized the article and
the secrecy surrounding the upcoming party congress, which is widely
seen as helping mark the transition of power from the aging men who led
Cuba's revolution to a younger generation.

"It is one of the last congresses directed by the historic generation,"
wrote one poster identifying himself as Leandro. "This is, I think, a
bad precedent for future leaders, who will feel like they have the right
to have party congresses without popular participation."


Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter:

Michael Weissenstein on Twitter:

Source: Unusual dissent erupts inside Cuban Communist Party - Yahoo News

Russia Ready to Invest $1.35Bln in Cuba’s Thermal Power Plants

Russia Ready to Invest $1.35Bln in Cuba's Thermal Power Plants
Sputnik/ Taras Litvinenko
23:21 29.03.2016

Russian companies are ready to invest 1.2 billion euros ($1.35 billion)
in the construction of Cuban thermal power plants, Russian Deputy Energy
Minister Anton Inyutsin told Sputnik on Tuesday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russia and Cuba signed a contract for the
construction of the power units in Cuba last year. Under the deal,
Russia is expected to be involved in the construction of four
200-megawatt units at two power plants.

"The amount of investments that our companies, with the involvement
of credit resources, are ready to make is about 1.2 billion euros,"
Inyutsin said.

Fidel Castro on Obama's Visit: Cuba Can Do Without US 'Gifts'
Moscow expects details of the project to be determined "in the
near future," Inyutsin added.

Cuba and Russia have enjoyed warm relations dating back to Soviet times.
Moscow and Havana currently cooperate closely in energy and civil
aviation, and are working on a program to modernize Cuba's power plants.

Source: Russia Ready to Invest $1.35Bln in Cuba's Thermal Power Plants -

Vilsack allows agricultural checkoffs in Cuba

Vilsack allows agricultural checkoffs in Cuba
By Jane Fyksen

HAVANA, Cuba — As part of President Barrack Obama's trip to Cuba to
further normalization of relations, advance commercial and
people-to-people ties, and express U.S. support for human rights in
Cuba, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week announced several
measures to foster further collaboration between U.S. and Cuban
agriculture sectors. The two neighboring countries share common climate
and agriculture-related concerns.

While in Cuba, Vilsack said the U.S. Department of Agriculture will
allow the 22 industry-funded Research and Promotion Programs and 18
Marketing Order organizations to conduct authorized research and
information-exchange activities with Cuba. These groups, which are
responsible for creating bonds with consumers and businesses around the
world in support of U.S. agriculture, will be able to engage in
cooperative research and information exchanges with Cuba about
agricultural productivity, food security and sustainable
natural-resource management.

Vilsack and Cuban Minster of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero are
expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a framework
for sharing ideas and research between the two countries. Vilsack also
invited Rollero to join a trip to one of the agency's Climate Sub Hubs
in Puerto Rico in late May, where USDA researchers are studying the
effects of climate change in the subtropical region.

"U.S. producers are eager to help meet Cuba's need for healthy, safe,
nutritious food," Vilsack said. "Research and Promotion, and Marketing
Order programs have a long history of conducting important research that
supports producers by providing information about a commodity's
nutritional benefits and identifying new uses for various commodities.
The agreements ... will help U.S. agricultural interests better
understand the Cuban market, while also providing the Cuban people with
science-based information as they grow their own agriculture sector."

USDA will review all proposed Research and Promotion Board and Marketing
Order activities related to Cuba to ensure they are consistent with
existing laws. Examples of activities that may take place include:

Provide nutritional research and guidance, as well as participate with
the Cuban government and industry officials, at meetings regarding
nutrition and related Cuban rules and regulations.
Conduct plate-waste study research in schools to determine what kids eat
and what they discard, leading to improved nutritional information that
helps develop the guidance for school-meal requirements, ensuring kids
are receiving adequate nutrition to be successful in school.
Provide U.S.-based market, consumer, nutrition and
environmental-research findings to Cuban government and industry officials.
Research commodities' role in a nutritious diet that improves health or
lowers the risk of chronic diseases.
Study the efficacy of water disinfectants to eliminate/inactivate
bacteria on commodities
Test recipes and specific products among Cuban consumers of all ages,
with the goal of increasing product development and acceptance.
Conduct consumer-tracking studies to measure attitudes when it comes to
a specific commodity and consumption, and to identify consumer groups
based on behavior, attitudes and purchasing habits for a particular
While most U.S. commercial activities are prohibited, the Trade
Sanctions Reform Act of 2000 permits the export of U.S. agricultural
commodities. U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba are limited, though, by
U.S. restrictions on government export assistance, cash payments and
extending credit.

U.S. agricultural exports have grown significantly since trade was
authorized in 2000. In 2014, Cuba imported more than $2 billion in
agricultural products, including $300 million from the United States.
However from 2014 to 2015 U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba fell 48
percent, to $148.9 million, the lowest since 2002. That resulted in the
United States having just a 10 percent market share as Cuba's
fourth-largest agricultural supplier, behind the European Union, Brazil
and Argentina.

The current visit to Cuba is the first by a sitting U.S. president in
nearly 90 years. It was Vilsack's second visit. According to the
president, he is committed to charting a new course for U.S.-Cuban
relations through expanded travel, commerce and access to information.

Source: Vilsack allows agricultural checkoffs in Cuba -


30th March, 2016 by Rupert Millar

Torres' 'Milmanda' 2012 and Vega Sicilia Unico 2007 were among the wines
served to President Barack Obama on his trip to Cuba this month.

On 21 March Obama became the first US president to visit the Caribbean
island in nearly 90 years as diplomatic relations between the two
countries continue to ease.

At the official state dinner at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana,
Cuban President Raúl Castro served his guests a selection of Spanish wines.

Torres' Chardonnay from the Conca de Barberà DO was paired with the
first course, a cream soup seasoned with 'Caney' rum and garnished with
ham slivers.

Meanwhile, the 2007 Unico was served alongside an oven-roasted suckling
pig with tamales and plantain chips.

Miguel Torres Maczassek, general manager of Bodegas Torres, explained
that his great-great-grandfather, Jaime Torres, had spent most of his
youth on Cuba before returning to Spain to found the winery in 1870.

"We have felt an emotional connection to Cuba ever since and have
witnessed how wine culture has developed on the island."

Source: Torres served to Obama in Cuba -

Logistics Executives See Shipping Hub Potential in Cuba

Logistics Executives See Shipping Hub Potential in Cuba
U.S. businesses touring freight sites find modern facilities along with
decaying infrastructure and "endless" possibilities for American exports
March 29, 2016 2:51 p.m. ET

U.S. logistics executives who toured Cuba's shipping facilities say the
island nation has potential to be a key shipping hub for the region, but
that heavy bureaucracy and poor infrastructure pose significant hurdles.

Officials from 18 logistics companies completed a trip to Cuba last
Friday—coinciding with President Barack Obama's historic visit to the
island—in which they watched operations at the Port of Mariel and met
with prospective partners, including ProCuba, an organization promoting
foreign trade and investment in the country.

They said Cuba may be an ideal location for cross-docking, or re-sorting
and distributing, cargo from large "post-panamax" ships to smaller
vessels headed for U.S. ports. That could include ships from Asia with
cargo bound for East Coast ports that aren't equipped to handle the
bigger ships, which can carry 14,000 or more twenty-foot-equivalent
units, or TEUs, a standard measure for container cargo.

"Their location is absolutely perfect to be a hub…to push freight into
northern Mexico, or all along the southern coast, and even up to our
ports that don't have that deep draft on the eastern side," said Sue
Spero, president of transportation brokerage firm Carrier Services of
Tennessee Inc. Being able to get goods to market "a few days quicker is
huge for us," she said.

The logistics companies, in a trip organized by the Transportation
Intermediaries Association, or TIA, joined other U.S. businesses that
met with Cuban officials as the president visited the island nation.

The Obama administration viewed Mr. Obama's trip as a critical market in
its moves to normalize trade relations with Cuba after a 50-year trade
embargo. Although the White House and Havana have opened the door to
more travel, tourism and some business dealings, important limitations
on trade in goods and services remain in place and would have to be
removed by the U.S. Congress.

Members of the logistics delegation, organized by the Transportation
Intermediaries Association, or TIA, said agreements such as a
multimillion-dollar deal under way for Starwood Hotels and Resorts
Worldwide Inc. to manage hotels in Havana will start a flow of goods
across the Straits of Florida for the hospitality business.

American companies also are looking to export commodities, frozen foods
and consumer goods to Cuba, said Robert Kemp, chief executive of
Pennsylvania-based DRT Transportation LLC. "You're talking about
building a society for 12 million people that hasn't been touched for 40
years," he said. From construction materials to the consumer market, the
possibilities are "endless," Mr. Kemp said.

Mr. Kemp said it was clear from visits to cargo sites that Cuba needs
big improvement in its transportation infrastructure. Local operators
told the group that the easiest way to move freight 700 miles from one
end of the island to the other is by sea, not truck or rail, he said.
"The fact that it's easier to put it on a boat tells all about the
infrastructure that you need to know," he said.

There are bureaucratic hurdles as well. Logistics companies must strike
partnerships with local operators which are state-run, though a
free-trade zone at the port allows investors to operate warehousing with
100% ownership, executives said.

Meanwhile, officials told the group they are keen on "preventing their
cultural identity from being compromised," said Ms. Spero, of Carrier
Services. "They don't want to see Starbucks in the barrios of Havana."

Still, the group found the Mariel port to have modern facilities,
including the ability to handle refrigerated shipments and weigh truck
entering or leaving the container terminal.

The port, which is under development by Singapore-based terminal
operator PSA International, has attracted additional investment from
container ship operator CMA CGM SA, which said last year it would build
a logistics hub including warehousing.

Write to Loretta Chao at

Source: Logistics Executives See Shipping Hub Potential in Cuba - WSJ -

Flights to Cuba Are Getting Cheaper

Flights to Cuba Are Getting Cheaper
By Tom Burson | March 29, 2016 | 11:55am

Looks like the warming of relations between the U.S. and Cuba could spur
something beyond
cheap cigars and rum: flights to Cuba are about to get ridiculously cheap.

According to research by Hopper, flight prices from the U.S. to Cuba
could drop by 50 percent after alltravel restrictions are lifted.
Currently, travel between the two countries requires either a tertiary
country like Canada or Mexico or pretending you're a marine biologist
researching Cuban coral—or any of these 12 sanctioned criteria. Either
way, none of these flights come cheap. The cheapest current—albeit
illegal—route to the island will cost $576; however, legally, within one
of the sanctioned programs, the cheapest flights run for $717.

If Cuba's opened for free-range travel, Hopper predicts flight prices
will drop to $364, with nonstop flights from Miami to Cuba projected at

The current state of relations between the U.S. and Cuba has generated
unprecedented interest in traveling to Cuba. Search traffic for flights
is up 500 percent from last year. Airlines, notably American Airlines
and JetBlue, are pushing for more daily flights to the island, which
will almost assuredly result in lower and more competitive fares.

That said, swimming—totally, kind of possible—or simply sailing the 90
miles from Key West to Cuba would still be the cheapest route.

Source: Flights to Cuba Are Getting Cheaper :: Travel :: News :: Paste -

US-Cuba detente shows trade is blind

US-Cuba detente shows trade is blind
30 March 2016 at 07:30am
By: Keith Bryer

Among the many positive attributes of a free market economic system is
that it is blind. It does not care about politics. It cares less about
skin colour.

Despite Marxist arguments to the contrary, it cares nothing for class.
All it cares about is freedom to trade, to make a profit, to own
property, a stable society where the law of contract is upheld, and
there is a demand for goods to meet.

Read: Obama meets Castro in Cuba - pictures

Understanding this explains President Barack Obama's enthusiastic visit
to Cuba. After all, the US is above all capitalist, and Cuba is its
exact opposite. It is one of the last countries in the world to still
embrace the failed economic theories of Karl Marx and his followers.

Obama's gamble is that by opening a crack in the door of the
totalitarian Cuban state to let in a shaft of private enterprise, the
market will wreak its magic and human rights will follow. It is a long
shot, but such is the moribund state of Cuba's economy (where everyone
is equal, but the Castro brothers are more equal than everyone else)
that the gamble could work.

Ghost of human rights

Amid all the handshaking, photo opportunities with Che Guevara posters
in the background (oops) and at the official banquet, attended unseen
was the ghost of human rights, of which Cuba allows virtually none.

President Obama did try to extract promises to ease up on the regime's
vicelike grip on its citizens, though he must have done so through
clenched teeth, since US Democrats have long insisted that Cuba is a
socialist paradise. This has not gone unnoticed by many commentators and
it is worth wondering whether answers to some very serious questions
will emerge as a result of the US-Cuba détente.

There are six key questions hanging in the air waiting for answers, of
which the first is this: When will Cuba allow free and fair elections
(promised by brother Fidel when he was masquerading as a democrat back
in 1960)?

The second, a tough one, is: How many people have been executed without
trial since the Cuban revolution (one estimate is 15 000)? All under the
auspices, allegedly, of that hero of the left, Che Guevara.

Here is another curveball. Exactly how many political prisoners does
Cuba have in jail (200 000 by some estimates, most probably on the high

When will the Cuban state admit that Che Guevara was not the saint he is
made out to be, having been behind the first "corrective labour camp"?

Isn't it true that Cuba is no socialist paradise", but a communist
regime that has no press freedom or freedom of speech?

When will you allow a free market paying decent wages to ordinary
workers instead of $20 (about R300) a month?

One could go on, but that would be enough for starters. It will take a
world-class spin doctor to make the answers less than damning among
those who believe in democracy (as defined in our own constitution).

During a joint press conference with Obama, President Raul Castro
demanded to see evidence of political prisoners jailed by the regime.

So, here is a couple that might fit the bill: One is José Antonio Torres
Fernández, who got 14 years in prison for espionage (allegedly defined
as broadly as possible). Ironically, he was a member of the Communist
Party in Cuba and used to write for the regime newspaper Granma. The
other is Amado Verdecia Diaz. He got five years in prison for lending
his car to some members of the internal Cuban Opposition.

But enough of Cuba's undemocratic mode of government. Since the
revolution, an undoubted plus has been the medical system.

For a developing country it has been highly successful, punching far
above its weight, sending doctors to disasters all around the world, and
running a programme (for understandable propaganda reasons), that sends
doctors to similar underdeveloped countries, including our own.

There is just one catch to this Cuban philanthropy. Many of the doctors
sent overseas fail to come back. The lure of filthy western lucre is the
reason given by the regime, and in many cases it probably is because
Cuban doctors on a foreign posting get scarcely more than $100 a month.

Feeling ill done by

So, when they find out that the country they are sent to pays the Cuban
government $5 000 a month for each of them, they naturally feel ill done
by, and succumb to higher offers rather than going home to a salary of
$40 a month.

There are those damned market forces again.

So, it is no surprise that a couple of thousand Cuban doctors flee their
socialist paradise every year.

Let a Havana dentist exile have the last word: "The salary (in Cuba) is
so low that it doesn't allow you do all the things you want to do.

For example, if you want to eat, you can't think about buying clothes.
"It (the pay) allows you to survive, that's all."

Roll on an open Cuban economy.

At least then the country will keep all its doctors and real freedom for
the Cuban people will get closer.

Coca-Cola has been banned in Cuba by the government for more than 50
years, so maybe a "Coke adds Life" advertisements will soon appear on
billboards alongside Che. Maybe.

* Keith Bryer is a retired communications consultant.

** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of
Independent Media.

Source: US-Cuba detente shows trade is blind | IOL -

Progress in Cuba starts with people

Progress in Cuba starts with people
By Benjamin Naimark-Rowse
Wednesday, March 30, 2016 | 2 a.m.

When President Barack Obama touched down in Havana a week ago, he
tweeted, "¿Que bolá Cuba?" This colloquial Cuban greeting is their
equivalent of, "What's up?" While the question may be straightforward,
the answer is much more complicated.

Fifteen years ago I was a college sophomore halfway through a semester
abroad at the University of Havana. I traveled to Cuba because I knew
that many of the things I'd learned growing up in the United States
about Cuba's government and its people were at best incomplete and at
worst incorrect. I wanted to learn the "other side of the story."

My time in Cuba was full of contradictions. Of the more than 60
countries I've traveled to, Cuba is the only one whose cuisine was
undeniably better outside the country. Its not that Cubans on the island
were worse chefs. They simply had fewer resources.

While on the island I traveled from Santiago in the east to Pinar del
Rio in the west, and to Trinidad and the Bay of Pigs in the south. I met
Cubans who said they were on the next boat to Miami. I met Cubans who
said they were committed to defending the gains of the revolution. And I
met Cubans who fell somewhere in between. One such Cuban was a taxi
driver who cherished his nearly free medical education but hated the
fact that he could earn much more money driving a taxi than he could
practicing medicine. In the debate about what was best for Cuba he sided
with neither Miami nor Havana.

Since I left Havana, I've wanted to go back to see how Cuba has changed,
and how it hasn't. I've wanted to hear more Cuban hip-hop music and
attend more Cuban baseball games. And I've wondered how the opinions of
the Cubans I met so long ago have changed. But I haven't been back, and
so watching Obama in Havana last week left me with conflicting emotions.

Over the past 15 years, progress has been made on both sides of the
Straits of Florida. Obama's historic visit — the first by a sitting U.S.
president since 1928 — was a clear sign of that progress. But freedoms
of speech, movement, assembly and the press (among others) are still
abridged on the island. And an ineffective, immoral and debilitating
embargo (and related acts/laws) are still on the books in the United
States. We have so much work to do.

Progress requires goodwill and engagement between the United States and
Cuban governments. Such constructive engagement can continue not only
bilaterally, but multilaterally. Other governments in the region,
multilateral institutions and individuals such as the pope can play
productive roles.

Progress also requires open and honest discussions between government
officials and the Cuban people about what they want and don't want for
their future. It is the Cuban people who have borne the brunt of
retrograde politics in Washington and Havana. And it is the Cuban people
who should determine what "progress" means and how it will be felt on
the island.

To that end, Obama's trip, his desire to hear directly from the Cuban
people, and his meeting with critics of the Cuban government are steps
in the right direction.

The past few days have been symbolic, but they are about so much more
than symbolism. They have been about building trust and cooperation
between the U.S. and Cuban governments. And they have been about
reconnecting the long-broken link between both governments and the Cuban

Arriving in Cuba 15 years ago, one thing became immediately clear to me.
Most Cubans intuitively understood that governments don't always speak
for the populations they represent. For all of us who are excited,
concerned or otherwise fascinated by Obama's trip to Cuba, it is
important that we spend time learning about the hopes and dreams of
regular Cubans. That includes Cubans who came to the United States and,
crucially, those who live on the island.

The views of regular Cubans vary dramatically. And their views — not
those of pundits, government officials, or special and corporate
interests — are what matter most today and in the days to come. Their
views matter because they've been filtered, interpreted, misrepresented
and made largely unavailable to those of us in the United States for so
long. Their views also matter because regular people actively
participating in governance is a cornerstone of good governance. And so
the processes through which Cuba changes should first and foremost
reflect the goals and aspirations of the Cuban people.

Obama was right when he prodded the Cuban government to give greater
voice and freedoms to the Cuban people. He was also right when he
committed to pursue reforms in the United States — such as ending the
embargo — that demonstrate our respect for the self-determination of the
Cuban people.

And so the question Obama and all of us should be asking isn't "¿Que
bolá Cuba?" but rather "¿Que bolá Cubanos?" — What's up, Cubans?

Benjamin Naimark-Rowse is the Topol fellow in nonviolent resistance at
the Fletcher School and a fellow with the Truman National Security
Project. He wrote this for

Source: Progress in Cuba starts with people - Las Vegas Sun News -

Meet the lawyer who paid for the Rolling Stones concert in Havana

Meet the lawyer who paid for the Rolling Stones concert in Havana

Curaçao's Gregory Elias says the show was about having fun, not politics
By some accounts, it cost $7 million to bring the Stones to Cuba
And they STILL didn't play his favorite song


Gregory Elias finished his pitch, paused, and waited for the little
beep-beep-beep in his ear that would signal that the party on the other
end of the telephone —Jayne Smyth, the manager of the Rolling Stones
—had hung up after realizing that he was a madman. At best, he thought,
he might get a shouted answer that would reveal which part of his
proposal was loonier — that the Stones do a concert in Cuba (where not
so long ago, listening to rock and roll was a jailable offense) or that
they do it for free.

Instead, there was a long pause. "Well, that's certainly a unique
proposal," Smyth finally replied. "Let me get back to you."

That seemingly inauspicious and slightly weird conversation last Nov. 13
turned out to the beginning of a complicated trans-Atlantic negotiation
that would eventually bring the world's most venerable (and wealthiest)
rock band to communist-ruled Havana last week for a free concert that
drew, by some estimates, half a million fans.

Elias, a wealthy corporate lawyer in Curaçao who funded the concert
through his charitable trust, still can't quite believe his call to the
Stones worked. "I mean, who in heaven's name am I?" he said Tuesday,
recalling the conversation. "I didn't expect her to call back. But 24
hours later, she did. And it was a go." Attempts to reach Smyth for
comment were unsuccessful.

Because the concert took place the same week as President Obama's
historic visit to Cuba, the first by an American president since 1928,
it's been widely assumed that the timing and preparation were somehow
linked. But Elias says it was all a coincidence triggered when he read
the news that the Stones were launching a five-week tour of Latin
American in early February.

His Baby Boomer love for big rock festivals like Woodstock, and his
knowledge that Cuban officials were already searching for cultural
exchanges to open the island up, gave Elias the idea to reach out to the
Stones. And Elias had some connections through an annual Curaçao jazz
festival that his foundation funds that has included acts like Stevie
Wonder and Alicia Keys.

But until Smyth called back, 24 hours after his first contact, to say
the band wanted to do it, Elias had no idea just what a complex
undertaking he had launched. "When the boys — that's how Mrs. Smyth
calls them —when the boys go on tour, what they put together is
completely out of this world," he said. "It is the best and it has to be
better than anything else. The production team had to start thinking how
to make this possible."

Cuba's blighted economy barely can turn out basic necessities, much less
all the gadgetry and ephemera necessary to produce the technological
circus that is a modern rock concert. Practically everything, from light
towers to bottled water, had to be obtained elsewhere and flown in.

The Stones themselves agreed to do the show for free, but all those
suppliers had to be paid. Rolling Stone magazine reported the concert
cost $7 million to stage. Elias won't talk about the financial details —
"Please don't ask me indecent questions," he said in a stern voice
before breaking into giggles — but agrees it "wasn't cheap" for his
Fundashon Bon Intenshon to pick up the tab. (Some of the bills may be
paid from sales of a DVD recording of the concert, which will go on sale
later this year.)

Compared to the financial side of the concert, Elias said, the political
negotiations were simple, though time-consuming. Officials of the
Curaçao government helped him iron out details with the Cuban ministers
of culture, finance and economics. Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, a vice
president of the Cuban council of ministers, the country's cabinet, was
also involved in the negotiations — but Raúl Castro was not, so far as
Elias knows.

What problems came up, Elias said, were less ideological than
generational. "I remember one elderly gentleman —I'm not going to give
you his name —who, when we started the negotiations at the governmental
level, said, 'The rolling who?'" Elias said. "He had no idea what we
were talking about or who we were referring to."

It may not seem obvious why a Curaçao charitable foundation or its
attorney benefactor would spend all that time money on a free concert
for Cubans, but Elias says there were no hidden political or economic
motives to the concert. "I've never done any business there," he said.
"Never. I visited there during the 1990s, but that's all I did, visit."

The only agenda he had, Elias said, was to do something nice for the
Cuban people, who haven't had an easy time of it for the past few decades.

"If we consider it from a Western point of view, from the outside
looking in, the people of Cuba miss a lot," he observed. "I thought it
would be nice to approach them with music. Music doesn't create envy or
animosity, it just creates love and understanding."

Though Elias did feel one teeny, tiny spark of animosity himself during
the concert. The Stones didn't play his favorite of their songs, Far
Away Eyes. It seems that even when you're picking up the tab, you can't
always get what you want.

Source: Meet the lawyer who paid for the Rolling Stones concert in
Havana | Miami Herald -

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fidel Castro to Obama - “We do not need the empire to give us any gifts”

Fidel Castro to Obama: "We do not need the empire to give us any gifts"
/ 14ymedio
Posted on March 28, 2016

14ymedio, Havana, 28 March 2016 – A week after Barack Obama's arrival in
Cuba, the official press has published a "Reflection" by former Cuban
president Fidel Castro, titled "Obama's Brother," but which contains
strong criticisms of the US president. The text, often disjointed and
scattered, is intended as a response to Obama's speech in the Gran
Teatro de la Habana, and in particular to his declaration that he wanted
to leave behind, "the last vestiges of the Cold War in the Americas."

After an extensive introduction where Castro touches on topics such as
the Spanish conquest of the island, the finding of gold, and tourist
exploitation of natural landscapes, the Cuban leader lashes out against
Obama's words when he said that "Cuba, like the United States, was built
in part by slaves brought here from Africa. Like the United States, the
Cuban people can trace their heritage to both slaves and slave-owners."

Castro claims that "the native populations [of Cuba] don't exist at all
in Obama's mind," and declares that "racial discrimination was swept
away by the Revolution." He also addresses the issue of Cuban
participation in the war in Angola and holds against him what he calls
"the support racist South Africa received from Reagan and Israel" and
questions if Obama knows "about this history," although "it is very
doubtful that he knows absolutely nothing."

"I wouldn't even talk about this, unless I had the elemental duty to
respond to Obama's speech," continues Castro, who describes the words of
the United States president as "syrupy" when he suggested forgetting the
past in these terms: "It is time, now, for us to leave the past behind.
It is time for us to look forward to the future together — un futuro de
esperanza [a future of hope]."

"I assume that each of us ran the risk of a heart attack," sneers
Castro, and reminds the occupant of the White House that "the merciless
blockade has already lasted almost 60 years." The allusions to the past
that run throughout the Reflection, signed at "10:25 pm," this Sunday,
are summarized in the questions, "And what about those who have died in
mercenary attacks on Cuban ships and ports, an airplane full of
passengers blown up in mid-air, mercenary invasions, multiple acts of
violence and of force?"

Obama's historical speech, which was not published in full in the
printed Cuban press, has generated sympathies among the population of
the island. Minutes after Obama finished speaking, national television
broadcast a stream of opinions opposing the words of the foreign
president, from representatives of "civil society" even more official
than that which listened in the Gran Teatro.

Fidel Castro's article joins a string of articles in the official press
that has sharply criticized Obama's call to look to the future to
advance relations between the two countries. As a counterpart, the
former Cuban president suggests that he "reflect and not try, now, to
elaborate theories about Cuban politics." He confesses, however, that he
"wished Obama's conduct had been correct," suggesting in this way that
he was disappointed with the words of the island's visitor.

In recent days, Obama's speech has circulated extensively on alternative
distribution networks, especially via e-mail and the well-known "weekly
packet," where a high resolution video of the speech is being distributed.

In his conclusion, Castro warns that "no one should make an allusion to
the people of this noble and selfless country renouncing its glory and
its rights, the spiritual richness it has gained with the development of
education, science and culture." And he ends with this affirmation that
Cubans will appreciate: "We are capable of producing the food and
material wealth that we need."

It is worth remembering that, according to official figures, Cuba
imports more than 80% of the food destined for the population's "basic
basket," at a value of more than two billion dollars a year.

Source: Fidel Castro to Obama: "We do not need the empire to give us any
gifts" / 14ymedio | Translating Cuba -

Cuban Communist Party Guidelines Will Not Be Changed, Only Updated

Cuban Communist Party Guidelines Will Not Be Changed, Only Updated /
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on March 28, 2016

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 28 March 2016 – Just 18 days before
the start of the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), the
Party's newspaper Granma tries to explain in an editorial dated this
Monday the reasons why it is not envisioned, on this occasion, that
there will be "a process of popular discussion similar to that
undertaken five years ago on the Guidelines for the Economic and Social
Policy of the Party and the Revolution."

The editorial in the official organ of the PCC says that questioning the
absence of a debate, "is in no way not open to criticism… much less so
when it comes from people genuinely concerned about the work of the
Party and the destiny of the country." Then it immediately emphasizes
that over the last six decades almost all "the big decisions have
invariably been taken in consultation with the people."

The note coincides with the publication of an open letter to Raul Castro
written by the official journalist Francisco Rodriguez Cruz, in which he
communicates his concern and dissatisfaction with "the lack of
discussion" of the central documents of party meeting. The Party
militant says he has raised these questions on several occasions without
having received "any direct or convincing answer."

Rodriquez Cruz proposes postponing the event for "just three months" to
"dedicate the months of April and May to discussing the central
documents of the Congress with the entire Party membership, and also
with the rest of the Cuban population." This reporter for the weekly
magazine Workers apologizes if the missive published is "mistaken in
method" and could be considered "an unforgivable lack of discipline."

However, the party authorities brandish, as their principal argument for
not having opened a public discussion on the agenda of the conclave, the
fact that the work of the Congress, this time, is to "finish what was
begun, to continue the implementation of the popular will expressed five
years ago, and to continue the direction charted by the 6th Congress."

Near the end of the editorial the titles of six documents are revealed
that will be considered in the most important Party event. The first
three are the assessment of the performance of the economy in the
2011-2015 five-year period, the fulfillment of the Guidelines and the
updating of them for the 2016-2021 period.

The remaining three documents that Granma believes do not have to be
discussed with the population are the long awaited conceptualization of
the Cuban economic and social model of Socialist development, the
economic and social development program to 2030, and the evaluation of
the completion of the work objectives approved at the First National
Conference of the Party in January of 2012.

The 7th Congress is unequivocally presented as a continuation of what
the Communists agreed on five years ago, with the declared purpose of
"constructing a prosperous and sustainable socialism," as least as
indicated in the article published this Monday under the title "Less
Than a Month From the Party Congress."

Nothing is said about having to renew the Central Committee (chosen in
the 5th Congress almost 19 years ago), nor is there reference to the
consequences of reestablishing relations with the United States, nor is
there any forecast related to the eventual repeal of the embargo.

There is no mention of the Party's position on such important issues as
the announced new Electoral Law, or the need to introduce changes in the
Constitution of the Republic. As a warning, it has been made known from
the pages of Granma that the Guidelines will not be changed, only
updated, and outside of them nothing else is worth being discussed.

Source: Cuban Communist Party Guidelines Will Not Be Changed, Only
Updated / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar | Translating Cuba -

Obama in Cuban History

Obama in Cuban History / Cubanet, Miriam Leiva
Posted on March 28, 2016

Cubanet, Miriam Leiva, Havana, 28 March 2016 – Barack Obama's stay in
Havana between the 19th and 22nd of March was described as historic
before it even took place. In reality, it was the cusp of a new cycle in
the history of Cuba, begun in 2009, when the president of the United
States issued the first Executive Order in his proactive "people to
people" policy, allowing Cuban families to reconnect after several
decades of suffering, and improving the precarious living conditions of
the islanders by allowing family and friends abroad to send larger

Soon people from all walks of life were crossing the 'bridge' across the
Florida Straits, to sink into an embrace of Cuban and American
friendship. But the Obama tsunami became unstoppable on 17 December 2014
with the announcement of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and
the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington. The measures taken
fostered openness, not a neutron bomb, and disintegrated the pretexts
used by the Cuban leaders to justify the failures of their capricious
programs, and to justify the repression.

Barack Obama is making history in Cuba, far beyond the history of
relations between the United States and Cuba. He did not come to make
war, like in 1898, nor with the gunboats that escorted President
Coolidge in 1928, but with a wide smile, simple words, familiar but
forceful, and bringing the possibility of change with a country that is
politically, economically and socially devastated.

His speeches reached all Cuban through live television, and were
certainly recorded by many who circulate them and cite them to exemplify
every circumstance. He addressed the thorniest issues respectfully and
didactically, from the concepts of democracy and human rights to the
need for internal openness, and the benefits of relations to both
countries. For the first time a president publicly expressed his support
for the peaceful opposition and the persecuting government had to allow
the fruitful meeting the president held with 13 representatives from
Cuba's independent civil society at the United States Embassy.

Obama appeared on the most popular comedy show on TV in a country where
jokes about the leaders can lead to criminal charges of contempt; he
walked around Havana, whose residents were the beneficiaries of repairs
to the destruction accumulated over decades; he spread joy with true
spontaneity; and above all, he presented great challenges to the
national leaders, the only impediments to national progress.

The immense impact of the Rolling Stones' formidable concert did not
cloud people's thinking and diminish the Obama effect. The Communist
Party of Cuba will hold its Seventh Congress on April 16-18, in an
unprecedented national atmosphere, with a population fed up with
insecurity with regards to their daily needs, uncompleted promises,
delays and slogans, with demands for real changes – for now, still in a
low voice.

Barack Obama does not make changes in Cuba, but he is facilitating
Cubans realizing changes. The imprint of the president of the United
States will endure, contributing to making Cuban history, and he can be
expected, at the end of his term in January of 2017, to continue
interacting with Cubans for many years.

Translator's note: Miriam Leiva was among the 13 civil society activists
who met with President Obama in Cuba.


Miriam Leiva, born Villa Clara, Cuba, 1947. An independent journalist
since 1995. Vice President of the Manuel Marquez Sterling Society of
Journalists. Founding member of the Ladies in White in March 2003.
Diplomat and guest lecturer at the Higher Institute of International
Relations. Official of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from which
she was expelled in 1992. Currently maintains the blog Cuban
Reconciliacion and is a translator and
teacher of English.


Source: Obama in Cuban History / Cubanet, Miriam Leiva | Translating
Cuba -

My Brief Opinion On The Meeting With President Obama, 22 March 2016

My Brief Opinion On The Meeting With President Obama, 22 March 2016 /
Miriam Leiva
Posted on March 28, 2016

Miriam Leiva, Havana, 23 March 2016 – I had the honor of participating
in President Obama's meeting with representatives of Cuba's Independent
Civil Society. Oscar Espinoa Chepe* would have attended, as he advocated
for many years for the lifting of the embargo, as is well known, for the
approach, and the abandonment of confrontation for the benefit of the
Cuban people.

The meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere. Among the attendees
were some three people who did not agree with President Obama's policy.
All participants expressed our views, we were listened to with great
interest by the President and Secretary of State John Kerry. Obama spoke
of the objectives and expectations of his policy towards Cuba.

OPPOSITION, which no other leader visiting Cuba has dared to show. Obama
let the people of Cuba know about these considerations during his press
conference on 21 March and his speech on 22 March, where were broadcast
live on television.

*Translator's note: Oscar Espinosa Chepe was a former political
prisoner, Miriam Leiva's husband, and an acclaimed economist. He passed
away in 2013. This link includes articles by and about him.

Source: My Brief Opinion On The Meeting With President Obama, 22 March
2016 / Miriam Leiva | Translating Cuba -

Public Reaction Against Arbitrary Arrest in Cuba Goes Viral

Public Reaction Against Arbitrary Arrest in Cuba Goes Viral / 14ymedio
Posted on March 28, 2016

14ymedio, Havana, 27 March 2016 – The arrest of a Cuban woman who
demanded respect for human rights has gone viral on social networks.
Allegedly filmed in the Cerro district of Havana, the video, just over a
minute long, shows the moment when the woman is led to a patrol car and
the reaction of the neighbors when the police try to silence her
demands; she also shouts for "respect for the Ladies in White" and the
end of "the Castros' dictatorship."

Three uniformed officers from the People's Revolutionary Police (PNR)
and a woman in a suit from the Ministry of the Interior, lead the
detainee to the police car. At that moment she shouts "Down with the
dictatorship of the Castros!" The two officers try to force her into the
car, a practice that has become frequent in repressive actions.

At that moment we can see how popular anger explodes and several
neighbors come to the defense of the woman. With cries of "abusers," and
"no beatings" and "not this," the citizenry reacts against police
violence and causes confusion among the officers, who remained exposed
to the cries of the people as they are filmed by various electronic devices.

The increase in cameras and cell phones has allowed such documentation,
circulating clandestinely across the country and shared on the social
networks that collect evidence of the arbitrary arrests against
activists and defenders of human rights in Cuba. The video shown here
has already been viewed more than 230,000* times in just few hours.

According to the latest report of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights
and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), the only organization that keeps a
record of arrests and other acts of repression on the island, in the
first two months of the current year there were at least 2,555 arrests
for political reasons.

Translator's note: The posting of the video on Facebook, as of this
morning, has more than 600,000 views.


Source: Public Reaction Against Arbitrary Arrest in Cuba Goes Viral /
14ymedio | Translating Cuba -

25 Cuban migrants land in the Keys

25 Cuban migrants land in the Keys
The group of migrants was spotted by a boater off Big Pine Key

More than 20 migrants from Cuba came ashore in the Lower Keys Monday

The group of 24 men and one woman was spotted by a passing boater on
Cook Island, off Big Pine Key, around 6:30 a.m., said Deputy Becky
Herrin, spokeswoman for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

The sheriff's office helped ferry the migrants to the Dolphin Marina on
Little Torch Key, where they were turned over to U.S. Border Patrol
agents. They were in good condition, Herrin said.

On Saturday, 26 migrants, seven of them with gunshot wounds, were found
on a raft off Key West.

Also, in separate incidents last week, 58 Cuban migrants intercepted at
sea on several vessels were repatriated.

According to Coast Guard figures, so far this fiscal year, which began
Oct. 1, 2,562 Cubans have been intercepted, sighted or have landed in

In fiscal year 2015, about 4,476 Cuban migrants were intercepted,
spotted or arrived by sea, the largest number in more than seven years.

According to the Coast Guard, uncertainty about a possible change in
U.S. immigration policy with Cuba has led to a larger number of Cuban
immigrantssince President Barack Obama in December 2014 ordered the
restoration of relations with the island.

Source: 25 Cuban migrants land in the Keys | Miami Herald -

Fidel Castro blasts Obama's Cuba trip

Fidel Castro blasts Obama's Cuba trip

The retired revolutionary, who has reacted tepidly to Cuba's
rapprochement with the United States, scoffed at what he described as
Obama's call to forgive and forget more than half a century of Cold War

"Listening to the words of the US president could give anyone a heart
attack," Castro wrote in his first public reaction to the visit.

"My modest suggestion is that he think and not try to theorize about
Cuban politics," said the 89-year-old leader of the 1959 Cuban
Revolution, who handed power to his younger brother Raul in 2006.

He made the comments in a tortuous opinion piece headlined "Brother
Obama" and published in Granma, the official newspaper of Cuba's
communist party.

Obama, who met Raul but not Fidel Castro during his three-day visit last
week, defied the regime's warnings not to wade into Cuba's internal
affairs, meeting with anti-Castro dissidents and calling for democracy
and greater freedoms.

"Voters should be able to choose their governments in free and
democratic elections," he said in an unprecedented speech carried live
on Cuba's tightly controlled state television.

Castro lashed out at that speech, the symbolically charged centerpiece
of the first visit by a US president in 88 years.

"Obama gave a speech in which he used the most syrupy words," he wrote,
recounting the long history of acrimonious relations between Havana and
Washington as he defended the accomplishments of his 47-year rule.

"Nobody has any illusion that the people of this noble and selfless
country will surrender glory and rights and the spiritual wealth that
has come through the development of education, science and culture,"
Castro wrote.
"I would also warn that we are capable of producing the food and
material wealth we need with the labor and the intelligence of our
people. We don't need any gifts from the empire."

- PR problem -

Obama's visit posed an awkward public relations problem for the Castro
regime, juxtaposing a charismatic, 54-year-old leader known for the
political brand of "change" with the octogenarian brothers who have
ruled the island since 1959.

The fact that Obama is black and the Castros are white was not lost on
Cubans, many of whom also have African roots, and Castro appeared to
take particular umbrage both at the US president's relative youth and
his description of both countries as New World nations "built in part by

"He doesn't mention that racial discrimination was erased by the
Revolution, that retirement benefits and salaries for all Cubans were
decreed before Mr Barack Obama was 10 years old," he wrote.

Castro remained out of sight during Obama's visit, which aimed to cement
the thaw announced in December 2014 by the US president and Raul Castro,
who has proven more reform-minded than his older brother.

Fidel Castro waited a month and a half to publicly give his blessing to
the US-Cuban rapprochement, and then gave it only a lukewarm embrace.

Since announcing their landmark rapprochement, the United States and
Cuba have reopened embassies in each other's capitals and are slowly
normalizing ties.

But several thorny issues remain unsettled, including the fate of the US
naval base at Guantanamo Bay, which Cuba wants back, and Washington's
more than five-decade-old embargo on the island, which Obama again
called on Congress to lift.

Since stepping down, Fidel Castro has spent part of his time writing
reflections that occasionally appear in the communist party press.

His last public appearance was in July 2015.

Source: Fidel Castro blasts Obama's Cuba trip - Yahoo News -;_ylt=AwrC1DGxcfpWFh8AvTjQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByNXM5bzY5BGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMzBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--

Who shot 7 Cuban migrants? Wounded rafters say gunmen tried to steal boat

Who shot 7 Cuban migrants? Wounded rafters say gunmen tried to steal boat

Authorities are trying to unravel the mystery
Six of seven injured rafters were brought to a Keys hospital
Two of the six told the story of an attempted raft robbery


When a Coast Guard crew spotted a raft filled with Cuban migrants, seven
were found shot.

Who opened fire? Was there a fight on board? Did they harm themselves?
Were they attacked?

Two of the wounded migrants lifted a curtain on the mystery when they
told their stories after arriving in Miami-Dade on Sunday afternoon.

They said gunmen opened fire on the raft, wounding seven of the 26
aboard, including a pregnant woman. The migrants said the criminals
wanted the makeshift boat.

"We really don't know who shot us, but we think it was criminals who
wanted to steal the raft," said Yaser Cabrera Romero, one of the
migrants interviewed after arriving at the Doral office of Church World
Service, an agency that helps refugees and immigrants resettle in the
United States. "We were just arriving in a vehicle that took us to the
raft, and while we were still on shore, four people showed up and
yelled: 'Stay where you are. The boat is ours!' "

Rather than surrendering, the 26 migrants confronted the attackers, one
of whom then pulled out a gun. The gunmen fled after wounding seven rafters.

With some in the group wounded, the rafters decided to continue with
their plan. They say they boarded the raft in the area of ​​Matanzas,
east of Havana, and sailed at 3 a.m. Saturday. They traveled for nine
hours to the outskirts of Key West, where they were intercepted by the
U.S. Coast Guard.

"We sailed for nine hours, injured and bleeding," Cabrera Romero said.

The dramatic story, breaking the initial mystery surrounding the curious
case, was told by Cabrera Romero and another rafter, Jorge Luis
Escalona, ​​who were taken to Miami from Key West after being released
by the hospital.

Six of the rafters whose injuries were considered serious were taken to
a hospital near Key West. The wounded seventh rafter was transferred
with the other remaining 19 migrants to a Coast Guard cutter likely to
be returned to Cuba, unless one or more claim fear of persecution if
returned, in which case they would be taken to the naval base at
Guantánamo to be processed for resettlement in a third country.

Authorities did not reveal details behind the shooting.

When the Coast Guard finds sick or injured rafters, they are brought
ashore to receive medical care. This allows the migrants transported
ashore to stay in the U.S and apply for permanent residence after more
than a year under the Cuban Adjustment Act. Generally, Cuban migrants
who are intercepted at sea are returned to Cuba under the
wet-foot/dry-foot policy.

Cabrera Romero and Escalona said the incident was an attempted robbery,
nothing more.

"We confronted them and one drew a gun," Escalona said. "It was very
dark, and we think they were criminals who wanted to steal our raft."

Escalona, ​​a nephew of his who was not interviewed and Cabrera Romero
showed their wounds to journalists.

Escalona had a wound on his side, his nephew on the shoulder and Cabrera
Romero in the abdomen. The three said the pregnant woman had been shot
in the back and that the injured rafter who was not brought ashore had a
bullet in the foot. It is not known where the remaining two rafters were
injured. The woman and another rafter were still hospitalized, Cabrera
Romero and Escalona said.

Cabrera Romero said doctors told him that his wound was not
life-threatening but that the bullet was still inside his body.

"They gave me morphine, but I have still have the bullet inside and it
hurts a lot," Cabrera Romero said. "I've had that bullet in me for more
than 24 hours."

According to KeysInfoNet, the six wounded rafters brought ashore were
taken to the Lower Keys Medical Center on Stock Island. Coast Guard
spokesmen said the Border Patrol was in charge of the six Cubans who
were taken to the hospital.

Frank Miller, a Border Patrol spokesman, said four were released to the
agency that generally handles their paperwork. He had no information on
the other two.

Miller declined to provide more details because the case is part of an
"ongoing investigation."

The Coast Guard reported last week that nine Cubans had died at sea
during a voyage to South Florida, according to Cuban migrants who were
rescued by a cruise ship near Marco Island, off the west coast of
Florida. The 18 survivors, who were taken to Cozumel, Mexico, said they
had tossed the bodies into the sea, according to the Coast Guard.

Also, in separate incidents last week, 58 Cuban migrants intercepted at
sea on several vessels were repatriated.

According to Coast Guard figures, so far this fiscal year, which began
Oct. 1, 2,562 Cubans have been intercepted, sighted or have landed in

In fiscal year 2015, about 4,476 Cuban migrants were intercepted,
spotted or arrived by sea, the largest number in more than seven years.

According to the Coast Guard, uncertainty about a possible change in
U.S. immigration policy with Cuba has led to a larger number of Cuban
immigrants since President Barack Obama in December 2014 ordered the
restoration of relations with the island.

Follow on Twitter: @AlfonsoChardy

Source: Who shot 7 Cuban migrants? Wounded rafters say gunmen tried to
steal boat | Miami Herald -