Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fidel Castro’s Proclamation, A List Of Unmet Instructions

Fidel Castro's Proclamation, A List Of Unmet Instructions / 14ymedio,
Reinaldo Escobar

14ymedio, Havana, Reinaldo Escobar, 30 July 2016 — Ten years after the
Proclamation in which Fidel Castro announced his departure from power,
that document continues to reveal distinctive features of a personality
marked by the desire to control everything. More than an ideological
legacy, the text is a simple list of instructions and it is unlikely
that the official media—so addicted to the upcoming major anniversary of
Fidel Castro's 90th birthday—will offer an assessment of whether these
instructions have been followed.

On 31 July 2006, the primetime news broadcast brought an enormous
surprise. Around nine at night Carlos Valenciaga, a member of the
Council of State, appeared in front of the cameras to read the
Proclamation of the Commander in Chief to the People of Cuba, where he
announced that due to health problems he felt obliged "to rest for
several weeks, away from my responsibilities and tasks."

After giving his version of the complications that plagued him and the
causes that had caused them, Fidel Castro offered six basic points in
this document and additionally left instructions about holding the
Non-aligned Summit and about the postponement of the celebrations for
his 90th birthday.

The first three points of the proclamation are dedicated to the transfer
of powers to his brother Raul Castro as head of the Party, the
government and the armed forces. The order for these transfers were
completely unnecessary because it was already in his position to
undertake these functions given that he was then in second position in
both the hierarchical order of the Party and the government. It is
striking that in each case he reiterated the "temporary delegation" of
the transfer of responsibilities.

In the three remaining points he delegated (also on a temporary basis)
his functions "as principal promoter of the National and International
Public Health Program" to then Minister of Public health Jose Ramon
Balaguer; the "principal promoters of the National and International
Education Program" to Politburo members José Ramón Machado Ventura and
Esteban Lazo Hernández; and as "main promoter of the National Energy
Revolution in Cuba and collaborator with other countries in this area"
Carlos Lage Davila, who was then secretary to the Executive Committee of
the Council of Ministers.

In a separate paragraph he clarified that the funds for these three
programs should continue to be managed and prioritized "as I have
personally been doing" by Carlos Lage, Francisco Soberon, then
minister-president of the Central Bank of Cuba, and Felipe Perez Roque,
at that time minister of Foreign Relations.

Almost immediately after having read that proclamation there was an
enormous military mobilization in the entire country, called Operation
Caguairán. Shortly afterwards the former omnipresence of the Maximum
Leader was reduced to some sporadic Reflections of the Commander in
Chief published in all the newspapers and read on all the news shows.
Twenty months later the National Assembly formally elected Raul Castro
as the president of the Councils of State and of Ministers and later the
2011 Sixth Congress of the Communist Party elected him as First Secretary.

From his sickbed Fidel Castro affirmed on that 31st July that he did
not harbor "the slightest doubt that our people and our Revolution will
struggle until the last drop of blood to defend these and other ideas
and measures that are necessary to safeguard our historic process." In
the text itself he asked the Party Central Committee and the National
Assembly of Peoples Power "to strongly support this proclamation"
although in previous lines he had had already dictated that the party
"supported by the mass organizations and all the people, has the mission
of assuming the task set forward in this Proclamation."

A decade passed, the temporary absence of the "main driver" became
permanent and four of the seven men named no longer occupied their
positions. The reader of the proclamation was ousted. The programs
mentioned have become part of the normal functions of the ministries in
charge of these tasks and the "corresponding funds" (although no one has
proclaimed it officially) are no accounted for in the nation's budget.

While the 80th birthday wasn't able to be held with his presence, nor
the 2 December 2006 50th anniversary of the landing of the Granma, the
yacht that brought the Castros and other revolutionaries from Mexico, as
foreseen in his proclamation, now in 2016 all cultural events, sporting
events, productive activities, have been dedicated to his 90th birthday.

The ultimate significance of that proclamation lies not in the message
it contains, among other things because its author seemed to be
persuaded that this was not his political testament but a "bear with me,
I'll be back in a while."

The final results of this proclamation has been like a blinding
spotlight that goes out, a permanent noise that we have become
accustomed to and suddenly stops ringing, a will that ceases to give
orders, the termination of an omnipresence. The absence occasioned has
more connotations of relief than of a capsizing. There is nostalgia. The
anxiety about the final outcome has been diluted in a fastidious tedium,
like that of sitting in front of those films that stretch unnecessarily.

Source: Fidel Castro's Proclamation, A List Of Unmet Instructions /
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar – Translating Cuba -

Cuban Government Seeks Meat And Dairy In Paraguay

Cuban Government Seeks Meat And Dairy In Paraguay / 14ymedio, EFE

14ymedio/EFE, Paraguay, 29 July 2016 – Cuban technicians will travel to
Paraguay in August to study the possibilities of importing food products
to the island, especially meat, dairy and soy, according to the Ministry
of Industry and Commerce of Paraguay (MIC).

The delegation plans to visit two dairy plants and several refrigeration
companies, where they will verify the processing of beef, pork and
poultry meat.

The visit was announced by Cuba's ambassador in Paraguay, Sidenio
Acosta, who met Wednesday in Asuncion with Minister of Industry and
Trade, Gustavo Leite.

At the meeting it was explained that Cuba is interested in Paraguayan
cattle genetics and embryos and has already approved the authorization
for the importation of soybeans, corn, wheat, rice and oil, according to
a MIC.

The Cuban government also extended an invitation to Paraguayan companies
to participate in future editions of multisector fairs held on the island.

Leite met last year with Vice Minister of Commerce Oscar Stark to
initiate efforts to increase trade with Cuba.

According to official figures, Cuba imports products worth seven billion
a year, most of which is food.

Despite the relaxations carried out by Cuban President Raul Castro since
he took office in February 2008, livestock production continues to be
tightly centralized on the island. In 2011, in an interview with the
official weekly Workers, Omelio Borroto, director of the Institute of
Animal Science (ICA), said it was "fundamental to decentralize producers
and businesses" to achieve an increase in milk production.

However, four years later, at the end of 2015, the numbers pointed to a
decrease in the production of cow's milk. The numbers fell from 579 to
479.5 million liters of milk produced in the country and experts agree
that the current year will show still more alarming figures due to,
among other factors, the drought.

This April there was a reduction in the price of powdered milk in the
hard currency stores across the island. The price of a 500-gram bag went
from 2.90 to 2.80 CUC and for a one kilogram bag the price was lowered
from 5.75 CUC to 5.50 CUC. This benefit has been criticized by consumers
who don't consider it significant, and has also contributed to the
shortage of powdered milk on store shelves.

In the past, Cuba has imported milk from as far away as New Zealand.
This situation led to Uruguayan president Tabaré Vázquez and Cuban
president Raúl

Castro to commit in 2015 to studying the installation in Uruguay of a
production plant for milk powder whose output would be destined for the

Source: Cuban Government Seeks Meat And Dairy In Paraguay / 14ymedio,
EFE – Translating Cuba -

I Have Not Been Able to Overcome Laura’s Death

"I Have Not Been Able to Overcome Laura's Death"/ Cubanet, Hector Maseda, Julio Cesar Alvarez and Augusto Cesar San Martin, 29 July
2016, Havana – Hector Maseda dreamed of designing big ships and hanging
his naval engineering degree where everyone could see it, but "since
they only built boats here," he graduated with a degree in electrical

His excellent grades assured him a post in the National Center for
Scientific Research (CNIC) until 1980 when the Mariel Boatlift changed
his life, as it did for tens of thousands of Cubans who decided to
emigrate, but from a different angle.

Hector did not emigrate but lost his job at the CNIC for refusing to
repudiate his colleagues who chose to leave the Island. He stopped
enjoying the "political trustworthiness" indispensable for working at
the center, the "father of science in Cuba."

From a scientist with three post-graduate studies and author of
several scientific articles, he became a handicrafts vendor for more
than a year in order to be able to survive. After going through several
different jobs he began to work in the medical devices department in the
oldest functioning hospital in Cuba, the Commander Manuel Fajardo
Teaching Surgical Hospital.

It was there, on Christmas of 1991, that he began the courtship of Laura
Pollan, a teacher of Spanish and literature who would later become a
symbol of the peaceful struggle for human rights in Cuba.

The spring of 2003 was a "Black Spring" for Hector and 74 of his
colleagues (known as the Group of 75). Sentenced to 20 years in a
summary trial for a supposed crime against the independence and
territorial integrity of the State, he spent more than seven years in

From that Black Spring emerged the Ladies in White, a group of wives
and family members of the 75 dissidents. Laura Pollan, because of the
arrest of Hector Maseda, quit her job as a professor in the Ministry of
Education and became the founder and leader of the Ladies in White.

"From that moment, she gave up all her pleasures, all her intellectual
and social inclinations, etc., and became a leading defender of human
rights," says Maseda.

But Laura would not survive long after Hector's liberation. A strange
virus ended her life in 2011, although Hector Maseda is convinced that
the Cuban political police assassinated her.

President of the National Commission of Masonic Teaching and
past-President of the Cuban Academy of High Masonic Studies, Hector has
traveled the whole road of Cuban Freemasonry.

From apprentice to Grade 33 of the Supreme Council for the Republic of
Cuba, he is one of the 25 Sovereign Grand Inspectors of the order which
is composed of about 29 thousand Masons spread through more than 300
lodges around the Island.

He has worked as an independent journalist for outlets like CubaNet,
Miscelaneas de Cuba and others. His book Buried Alive recounts the
conditions of the Cuban political prison system and the abuses of
jailers against political and common prisoners.

But he, who at age 15 was arrested and beaten by the Batista police
after being mistaken for a member of the July 26 terrorist group and at
age 60 psychologically tortured by Fidel Castro's political police by
being subjected to sleep deprivation in interrogations, still has not
overcome the death of his wife Laura Pollan.

"I have not been able to overcome that trauma," says Maseda.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Source: "I Have Not Been Able to Overcome Laura's Death"/ Cubanet,
Hector Maseda – Translating Cuba -

Pope Francis Asks Young Cubans “Don’t Be Afraid”

Pope Francis Asks Young Cubans "Don't Be Afraid" / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 29 July 2016 – A message from Pope
Francis aimed at young Cubans raised spirits Thursday in celebrations
that took place in Havana simultaneously with World Youth Day held in
Krakow, Poland. "Young Cubans: open yourselves to great things! Do not
be afraid!" the Bishop of Rome told them in a few words that were
projected on a large screen in front of more than a thousand Catholics
throughout the island.

Havana's Cathedral Square, from early Thursday morning, displayed a
panorama completely different from usual. Although there was no lack of
tourists, performers and, of course, the police, there were around 1,300
young Catholics from all provinces who met "in sync with Krakow,"
according to the organizers.

During the early afternoon, the delegations made their cultural and
pastoral presentations. The Santiago delegation accompanied the chorus
of the "first diocese in Havana bringing the message of Charity"with
percussion instruments. Those from Camagüey presented a choreographed
dance, while those from Bayamo, Pinar del Rio and participants from
every corner of the island made an effort to leave their mark on the

Among the more than 60 young people from Camagüey who attended the
meeting was Dariel Hernandez, coordinator of the youth ministry in that
diocese. "We come having prepared for this event for almost a year to be
in sync with what is happening right now in Poland with Pope Francis. We
have raised money to cover the cost of these activities," he explained
to 14ymedio.

Melisa Boga, is a second year student of Foreign Languages at the
University of Cienfuegos. "We are 84 from our province; I hope and
desire to know the reality of the other young people who have come
here," she said.

Around 9:00 PM, a message to young Cubans sent by Pope Francis
specifically for the occasion was broadcast, interrupted with cheers and
shouts of approval.

The pontiff recalled the legacy of Father Felix Varela when he said,
"You are the sweet hope of the nation." And declared, "To be carriers of
hope you need not to lose the ability to dream," and said that someone
who "doesn't have the capacity to dream is already retired."

"Young Cubans: open yourselves to great things! Do not be afraid!"
continued Francis, while the crowd cheered and applauded. " Dream that
with you, the world can be different! Dream that Cuba, with you, can be
different, and better every day. Do not give up!" he said.

"It is not necessary for us all to think in the same way. No, everyone
has to join in the 'social friendship,' even with those who think in a
different way. But we all have something in common: the wish to dream,
and this love for the homeland," said the Pope Francis. The Pope invited
young Catholics to "to build bridges, to work together with the word,
with the desire, with the heart."

Source: Pope Francis Asks Young Cubans "Don't Be Afraid" / 14ymedio,
Zunilda Mata – Translating Cuba -

Message from Pope Francis to Young Cubans

Message from Pope Francis to Young Cubans / 14ymedio

Note: The version below is the summary of the message released in
English by the Vatican.

With great hope I join with you in this moment, in which you are in
harmony with the universal Church whose young heart is in Krakow. I
trust that these days will be, for all, a special occasion to foster the
culture of encounter, the culture of respect, the culture of
understanding and of mutual forgiveness. This is about 'making a
ruckus', about dreaming. And young people are supposed to 'make a ruckus'!

I suggest that you live the experience of listening carefully to the
Gospel and then bringing it alive in your own lives, in the lives of
your family and friends. … When you pray the Via Crucis, remember that
we cannot love God if we do not love our brothers. When you pass through
the Holy Door, let yourself be infused with this love … and this way you
will learn always to look upon others with mercy, closeness and
tenderness, especially those who suffer and those who are in need of help."

Stand before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; because in Him, and only in
Him, will you find the strength to follow the most beautiful and
constructive plan of our lives; because love is constructive, love
destroys not even the enemy, love always builds up. And, when you are
sent by the bishops as Witnesses of Mercy, remember that the Master's
most beautiful wish is that you will be afraid of nothing.

Boys and girls, do not be afraid of anything, be free of the bonds of
this world and proclaim to all, to the elderly, the sorrowful, that the
Church weeps with them, and that Jesus is able to give them new life, to
revive them."

Young Cubans: open yourselves to great things! Do not be afraid! … Dream
that with you, the world can be different! Dream that Cuba, with you,
can be different, and better every day. Do not give up! In this endeavor
it is important that you open your heart and mind to the hope that Jesus
gives. … And never forget that this hope is suffered; hope knows how to
suffer to carry out a project, but likewise do not forget that it gives
life, it is fruitful. And with this, hope will not be fruitless; rather,
it will give life to others, it will create a homeland, a Church, it
will do great things. …

Hope is instrumental in building 'social friendship', even though people
may think differently. It is not necessary for us all to think in the
same way … we must all join together in 'social friendship', even with
those who think in a different way. But we all have something in common:
the wish to dream, and this love for the homeland.

The important thing, regardless of whether we are the same or different,
is to build this 'social friendship' with all; to build bridges, to work
together. Build bridges!

Source: Message from Pope Francis to Young Cubans / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba -

Neither Brave Nor Intelligent, Much Less Fair

Neither Brave Nor Intelligent, Much Less Fair / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 28 July 2016 — On numerous occasions I
have had to listen to the stories of friends and colleagues who have
been detained or have been interrogated by the State Security. "These
people are unreal, they know everything. The day I went to see
so-and-so, what I said to what's-his-face, what time, and even that we
had coffee and ate roast pork. They don't miss a thing!"

I imagine that these people feel very impressed, because it is as if
they were sitting with a fortuneteller who "divines" their past, present
and can even predict their future. The difference is that the
fortunetellers, or so they tell us, "have a gift," while State Security
has human and technical methods and a society completely organized to
facilitate their work, such that their gifts are simply their ears and a
crystal ball made of optical fiber.

How are they not going to know the exact locations of the moles on our
bodies, if they can openly and brazenly invade all our privacy?

They don't have to be super-gifted nor pass in some school to "discover"
who we spend time with, what our plans are, what our means are, because
in the vast majority of cases we don't even hide these things. The
reason? It is very simple, we are citizens who study in normal schools,
lead normal lives, we are not trained and don't even want to be in
intelligence or counterintelligence, we speak naturally and openly about
what we think and desire because we are not ashamed.

On the other side, we have something very different, military personnel,
indoctrinated, with studies of all kinds, with specialized equipment,
transportation, a made-to-measure judicial system, subordinated press
and fearful people who offer them what they ask for to avoid becoming
targets of their investigations.

Who could do a bad job with all this? The contrary would amaze me. That
there would be something they don't know.

However, to the extent that you interact with them, you realize that
they have many gaps. For example, there is an important difference
between what the bosses know and what they tell the field agents. There
is the need for State Security to constantly convert the ordinary into
the extraordinary. This is justified because each one of these agents
has to constantly think they are "saving the country" and that "the
people appreciate their heroism and bravery." In the majority of cases,
however, what they are doing is committing a common crime in the name of
authority against natural persons unhappy with a bad government.

In this sense they are very exquisite in their internal language. There
is nothing a seguroso – security agent – likes more than to be called a
"combatant," and it delights them even more when the designation
"anonymous" is added, because this gives them the sensation of being a
spy and makes them think they are smarter. Incidentally, before society
they think they "run great risks…" OK, this is true in part, because on
retirement the majority suffer back pain because they dedicated
themselves to dragging people into patrol cars. Upon reflection, they
should wear supportive belts to protect themselves in these dangerous

Surely, in times past and under other circumstances, there might have
been some who did more serious things against real threats, I don't deny
it. But today. 99% of what these "combatants" "confront" are the natural
rights of a people who want to peacefully change what does not work to
move the country forward and above all to not continue to shipwreck it
in every respect. "Confronting" this is neither brave, nor intelligent
and much less just or admirable.

The work of those who have to protect the state in societies based on
rights and fundamental freedoms is very different; in societies where
the threats are of an extreme magnitude and it is not enough to demand
an ID card so that people or companies "cooperate."

Men and women who risk their lives and dedicate themselves to protecting
their nations against the grave threats our civilization confronts will
always be heroes and heroines worthy of every kind of recognition and
the gratitude of their peoples. But if the terror they impose themselves
in the service of a dictatorship tramples the lives of protestors to
keep themselves in power at all costs, these combatants have made a
mistake in the ethical and moral sense of their careers and their lives.

So they should not confuse their facile abuse with expertise or ability.
Because this latter is an attribute of those who survive and express
themselves, despite them.

Source: Neither Brave Nor Intelligent, Much Less Fair / 14ymedio,
Eliecer Avila – Translating Cuba -


No Americans should be dancing and dining their way through Cuba,
enjoying the beaches, while those struggling for freedom lie in prison.

The motto of the American Bar Association (ABA) is "Defending Liberty,
Pursuing Justice."

It should perhaps be revised to "Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice,
and Travel to Cuba." Right now the ABA is sponsoring at least two trips
to Cuba–but neither one has anything to do with liberty or justice.

One could dream of an ABA-sponsored trip that would try to visit
political prisoners, or meet with the "Women in White" and other
peaceful protesters for human rights. One could envision a confrontation
between ABA members and officials of the Cuban regime's "courts" or its
"Ministry of Justice."

But don't hold your breath. The two tours advertised in the ABA Journal
right now are "Cuba: People, Culture and Art" for next March and "Cuban
Discovery" for next February.

In the latter, one does not "discover" anything about Cuba's
dictatorship and its complete disrespect for law–theoretically of some
concern to the ABA. "People, Culture, and Art" has nothing to do with
those Cuban people who are trying desperately to gain a measure of
freedom and live under a system of law.

The brochure describes the latter trip this way:

A uniquely designed itinerary provides opportunities to experience the
Cuban culture, history and people in four destinations: Havana;
Cienfuegos; Trinidad; and Pinar del Río. Discover the arts during visits
to art, dance and music studios, and talk with artists, dancers and
musicians about their craft and their lives in Cuba.

Savor authentic flavors of Cuban cuisine at state restaurants and
paladars, privately owned and operated restaurants. Learn about
contemporary and historic Cuba during insightful discussions led by
local experts.

Want to bet how many of the "local experts" are dissidents or human
rights activists, fighting for a state of law?

The actual state of life in Cuba is described this week in The
Economist. Here is an excerpt:

Queues at petrol stations. Sweltering offices. Unlit streets. Conditions
in Cuba's capital remind its residents of the "special period" in the
1990s caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, the benefactor
in trouble is Venezuela. For the past 15 years Venezuela has been
shipping oil to Cuba, which in turn sends thousands of doctors and other
professionals to Venezuela.

The swap is lucrative for the communist-controlled island, which pays
doctors a paltry few hundred dollars a month. It gets more oil than it
needs, and sells the surplus. That makes Cuba perhaps the only importer
that prefers high oil prices. Venezuelan support is thought to be worth
12-20 percent of Cuba's GDP.

Recently, the arrangement has wobbled. Low prices have slashed Cuba's
profit from the resale of oil. Venezuela, whose oil-dependent economy is
shrinking, is sending less of the stuff. Figures from PDVSA, Venezuela's
state oil company, suggest that it shipped 40 percent less crude oil to
Cuba in the first quarter of 2016 than it did during the same period
last year. Austerity, though less savage than in the 1990s, is back.
Cuba's cautious economic liberalisation may suffer.

The regime ought to be worried indeed–but help is on the way, suggests
The Economist:

Tourism has surged since the United States loosened travel restrictions
in 2014, which will partially offset the loss of Venezuelan aid.

So that's where the ABA—remember, "Defending Liberty, Pursuing
Justice"—comes in. This vicious, repressive regime depended on the
Soviets, and then the Venezuelans, and may now depend on American tourists.

Will it be enough? One cannot know. One can only know that the American
Bar Association wants to lend a hand.

This is unconscionable, and in fact no American should be lending a hand
to oppression in Cuba. No Americans should be dancing and dining their
way through Cuba, enjoying the beaches and the architecture while those
struggling for freedom lie in prison.

That American lawyers are willing to do this, and that their main
professional association wants to promote it, is a sad reflection on the
profession. If the ABA said we want our members to visit if and only if
they can do something to promote liberty and law and human rights in
Cuba, such visits might be a genuine contribution.

Perhaps the ABA has secretly done this and actually all these trips do
include spending time with dissidents and pressing officials to respect
the rights of the Cuban people. I wouldn't place a lot of money on that
wager. If it has not, it is betraying the cause of justice and assisting
the most repressive regime in the Western Hemisphere.

That isn't "Defending Liberty" or "Pursuing Justice." It's shameful.

Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the
Council on Foreign Relations.

Source: Is It Right to Vacation in Cuba's Oppression? -

Some call for the end of a litigation ban concerning Cuba and seized assets

Some call for the end of a litigation ban concerning Cuba and seized assets
Paul Guzzo, Times Staff Writer
Saturday, July 30, 2016 9:40pm

TAMPA — In 1960, Antonio Azorín's family's sewer pipe plant and
brickmaking factory in Cuba were nationalized in the name of Fidel
Castro's revolution. The family received no compensation.

"They took it," said Azorín, 61, who now lives in Tampa. "If there was a
way to litigate, I would."

There is a way, but the U.S. government won't allow it.

Title III, a clause in the legislation that governs the decades-old
embargo against Cuba, allows Americans to sue those profiting from
property taken from them by the Cuban government. The civil litigation,
filed in U.S. courts, can be against a private company or the Cuban

But the U.S. government continuously suspends Title III for successive
six-month periods. State Department officials recently announced the
government would do so again when the current suspension ends July 31.

Some are calling for a lifting of the litigation ban, at least against
U.S. companies, now that Americans are once again investing in Cuba as
relations between the two countries normalize.

"The unintended consequences of this opening in Cuba are far-reaching,"
said Javier Garcia-Bengochea, a Jacksonville neurosurgeon who has
testified to Congress that Title III lawsuits involving U.S.
corporations should be allowed.

His family owned 18 acres of warehouses, three docks and a rail station
that he estimates would be worth nearly $180 million today.

It was all nationalized with no compensation and is now part of the Port
of Santiago.

"We cannot ignore the fact that U.S. companies could end up trafficking
in property that belongs to American citizens,'' he said. "That would be

The U.S. and Cuban governments are negotiating a settlement for 5,913
certified American claims against Cuba totaling $1.9 billion plus interest.

To have a loss certified, a claimant must have been a U.S. citizen at
the time of nationalization.

Azorín — then 5 — and his parents were Cuban citizens so they did not

But to file a Title III lawsuit against companies profiting from
nationalized land or businesses, the plaintiff need only be a U.S.
citizen now.

For Azorín — currently the second-generation president of Florida Brick
& Clay Co. in Plant City — and many Cuban Americans, Title III could be
the only way they can ever be reimbursed.

According to the Helms Burton Act that codified the Cuban Embargo and
was signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, Title III can be
suspended for successive half-year periods if doing so is necessary for
the national interest of the United States or will expedite the
transition to democracy in Cuba.

Every administration since then has done so but none has explained how
this helps the United States or brings more freedom to Cuba.

The assumption has been that it's suspended to prevent litigation from
being filed against companies based out of nations that are U.S. allies
or to prevent a legal logjam.

"It could become a judicial nightmare," said Antonio Martinez II, a New
York attorney specializing in matters pertaining to Cuba. "U.S. civil
courts would be flooded with cases."

But why not allow suits against American companies only, asks Jason
Poblete, a Virginia-based attorney specializing in U.S.-Cuba policy who
has been pressing the State Department to do so.

Such cases would be few and would force U.S. entrepreneurs to diligently
research the history of a Cuban property or business before investing.

"Title III wasn't a throwaway. It was put in there for a reason,"
Poblete said. "Let these people have their day in court."

Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, said
that Title III is a more important tool now than ever.

"No one had ever contemplated that a U.S. president would allow the
rights of one group of Americans — the victims of Castro's confiscations
— to be trampled over in order to promote the business interests of
another group of Americans. In so doing, he's denying the victims any
due process."

Azorín has been told that his family's company name — Union Alfarera
Azorín de Camaguey — still adorns the brick factory in Cuba, which
operates as a state-run facility.

Foreign governments are protected against lawsuits by sovereign
immunity. It would be up to the court to decide if sovereign immunity is
waived because the Cuban government makes money via a state-run business
in the same manner as a private company.

It angers Azorín that the Cuban government has profited off his family's
company, but he has learned to cope.

If he learned an American company invested in it, though, he admits his
anger may boil over.

It's speculated that many Title III cases could be dismissed because the
properties were taken after families moved from Cuba rather than living
under communism.

What else was the government to do with what was left behind?

That is not the case for Azorín, whose family was still in Cuba when the
business was taken.

"There was nothing voluntary," Azorín said.

Shortly after, his family moved to Tampa, never presuming they would be
reimbursed for the loss in Cuba.

"If I expect nothing, when I get nothing, I won't be hurt," Azorín said.

Still, he added, "Why have a law that is not enforced? It just doesn't
make sense."

Contact Paul Guzzo at or (813) 226-3394. Follow

Source: Some call for the end of a litigation ban concerning Cuba and
seized assets | Tampa Bay Times -

Why was the top U.S. sanctions cop in Cuba?

Why was the top U.S. sanctions cop in Cuba?

Critics of President Obama's diplomatic thaw with Cuba are questioning
why a top official with the U.S. government office charged with
maintaining the trade embargo and leveling sanctions against the Castro
government was in Havana earlier this month meeting with regime officials.

Acting Deputy Director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control
Andrea Gacki was one of several U.S. officials in Havana for meetings
that took place in mid-July, a senior administration official confirmed
to the Washington Examiner. The official did not respond to follow-up
questions about whom Gacki met with and what they discussed.

Since Obama announced his intention to start normalizing relations with
Cuba in late 2014, dozens of U.S. officials have participated in
negotiations about easing travel and other restrictions with the island
nation, both in Havana and Washington.

But Gacki's travel to Cuba this month has critics fuming because her
office is charged with doling out punishment for those who violate U.S.
law. Opponents of Obama's rapprochement with the Castro regime fear she
was there to help Cuba negotiate ways around U.S. sanctions.

Stay abreast of the latest developments from nation's capital and beyond
with curated News Alerts from the Washington Examiner news desk and
delivered to your inbox.

Only Congress can lift the embargo entirely, although Obama has used his
executive authority to allow greater travel from the U.S. to Cuba, and
U.S. banks are negotiating with Havana to allow them to operate on the

Marion Smith, the executive director of the Victims of Communism
Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit group founded to highlight the plight
of those who have suffered under communism, said he views Gacki's visit
to Cuba as the "latest blatant attempt" to show the regime how to get
around trade embargo against Cuba.

"While it's not surprising, it's hugely frustrating for us," he said.
"The oxygen the regime is getting in terms of access to capital is
something that we'll have to deal with from years to come," no matter
who is elected president of the United States in November.

Treasury officials have sometimes met with Iranian government officials
during international conferences focused on rolling back Tehran's
nuclear program, Smith acknowledged. But he said most of those meetings
occurred at international conferences where officials from both
countries just happen to be in the same place at the same time, instead
of a trip solely devoted to meeting with Cuban officials behind closed
doors with no transparency to the American public.

"If it was a technical-sharing of information about the existing
sanctions and why they remain, that would be one thing," Smith said.
"But if it's the sort of meeting that lets Cuba know what the
enforcement or non-enforcement intentions are of the Obama
administration with regard to the sanctions at this particular moment,
that is hugely problematic and possibly illegal."

Smith also hinted that Treasury officials who are dedicated to enforcing
sanctions instead of trying to ease them may also be upset with the top
Treasury official's recent travel to Havana.

"No career public servants are happy when they are put between U.S. law
and a very political agenda," he said.

Gacki was part of a U.S. delegation traveling to Cuba to participate in
the U.S.-Cuba Regulatory Dialogue in Havana June 12-13.

The State Department only confirmed that officials from the Departments
of Commerce, the Treasury and State participated, and that the purpose
was to describe regulatory changes announced in mid-March "related to
Cuba-related travel, commerce and financial transactions."

"The delegations addressed ways the two nations can work together within
existing U.S. laws and regulations," the release said.

The visit comes amid reports that Cuba's government-run bank and U.S.
financial institutions are trying to find ways to allow transactions
involving debit and credit cards from several U.S. banks, despite legal
hurdles posed by the trade embargo.

Right now, Stonegate Bank of Florida is the only bank authorized by both
the United States and Cuban governments to allow its customers to use
their debit and credit cards in Cuba. The bank opened an office in
Havana last year.

Shortly after the visit in mid-July, a senior State Department official
told reporters that the Obama administration is "close to approaching
the end of what can be done" through presidential executive authority to
expand commerce and normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.

"However, we're constantly looking at the regulations to see where we
still may make adjustments or modifications that will further ... our
people-to-people ties with Cuba," he said, during a call to mark the
one-year anniversary of the re-opening of embassies in both countries.

The official was responding to a question about whether to expect
further easing of U.S. restrictions short of lifting the embargo between
now and the end of the Obama's time in office.Meanwhile, longtime human
rights activists in Congress, including Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., argue
that abuses by the Castro regime are increasing in Cuba with the renewed
diplomatic ties to the United States, not improving as the Obama
administration had hoped.

Meanwhile, longtime human rights activists in Congress, including Rep.
Chris Smith, R-N.J., argue that abuses by the Castro regime are
increasing in Cuba with the renewed diplomatic ties to the United
States, not improving as the Obama administration had hoped.

Smith held a hearing earlier this month on the human rights situation in
Cuba, where he said the "disregard for civil rights and political rights
has gotten worse, not better, since the president's much-trumpeted visit
to the island six weeks ago."

"The regime continues to jail and beat political dissidents, with even
extrajudicial killings apparently sanctioned," he said. "The Obama
administration cannot allow concerns over its 'legacy' to muffle its
voice when it should be loudly insisting that the rights of the Cuban
people be respected."

The hearing featured testimony from Sirley Avila Leon, who was a former
Cuban government official before becoming a dissident who was nearly
murdered in a brutal machete attack — the work, she says of Castro
regime-directed "security thugs."

Cuban officials were in Washington, D.C., this week for discussions on
another topic: how to settle outstanding claims between the two nations.
But the two sides made little progress other than to formalize the price
tags of their claims, and agreed to continue meeting.

A senior State Department officials told reporters Friday that there's
no way to tell how the ongoing embargo would factor into Cuban claims
related to economic damage it has caused because the talks are still in
a preliminary phase.

U.S. nationals — including some Cuban-Americans exiled to the United
States after the Castro regime came to power in the 1950s — are
demanding a total of $1.9 billion, along with 6 percent interest, in
claims for private property they owned on the island that the Cuban
government seized. There are $2.2 billion in other outstanding U.S.
court judgments against the Cuban government.

The Castro regime, meanwhile, argues that the United States owes Cuba a
whopping $181 billion or more for "human damages" and $121 billion for
economic damages the trade embargo has caused.

Source: Why was the top U.S. sanctions cop in Cuba? | Washington
Examiner -

Cuban officials touring St. Petersburg this weekend as they eye consulate location

Cuban officials touring St. Petersburg this weekend as they eye
consulate location
Paul Guzzo, Times Staff Writer
Saturday, July 30, 2016 1:09pm

LOREN ELLIOTT | TimesThe Cuban consular general and his second in
command were in town Saturday to tour St. Petersburg, shown here from
just south of downtown with Fourth Street running north.
Tampa has the historic and cultural link to Cuba, but it might be St.
Petersburg that lands the first Cuban Consulate in the United States in
more than five decades.

Alejandro Padrón, Cuba's consular general from its embassy in
Washington, D.C., and his second in command, Armando Bencomo, were in
St. Petersburg on Saturday and took a tour of its real estate assets
that was led by Dave Goodwin, the city's director of planning and
economic development.

Such a tour did not take place in Tampa.

"They have some interest in our city and they want to get to know more
about it," said Joni James, CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown
Partnership, which along with the University of South Florida's Patel
College of Global Sustainability sponsored the delegation's trip.

"We are happy to help them learn what a great place it would be to have
a consulate."

Kanika Tomalin, the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, described the tour
as "pretty comprehensive" but did not provide specifics on where they

"They will understand what the city can offer their goals," she said.

There is competition between Tampa and St. Petersburg to host the Cuban

The Tampa City Council, Hills- borough County Commission and Greater
Tampa Chamber of Commerce have voted in favor of bringing the consulate
to their community.

The chamber also sent a delegation to Cuba in May 2015.

Each has heavily promoted that Tampa and Cuba share a connection dating
to the founding of Ybor City in the late 1800s by immigrants from the
island nation.

Later, Tampa was a staging ground for Cuba's War of Independence against
colonialist Spain. And with Cuban tobacco, Tampa would go on to become
Cigar City.

But the St. Petersburg City Council voted for a consulate to open in
that city as well.

The St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership also sent two delegations to
Cuba in the past year and welcomed one from the island nation to its
city in December.

Perhaps most importantly, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has
established a personal relationship with the Cuban government through
two trips to the island nation.

On one of those he met with Gustavo Machin, deputy director for American
affairs at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the agency that will
decide which U.S. city gets the first Cuban Consulate.

No Tampa elected officials have met with that agency.

"We are honored to welcome these dignitaries to St. Petersburg and
continue the conversation we started nearly one year ago," Kriseman said
via text message while on vacation.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was also on vacation and could not be reached
for comment.

Buckhorn previously has said that while he would not stop a Cuban
Consulate from opening in Tampa, he would not lend his support to such
an endeavor until the communist nation shows evidence of increased freedoms.

Tampa City Councilwoman Yvonne Capin believes Buckhorn's attitude is
hurting her city's chances to get the consulate.

"It is very sad that our mayor has been AWOL on this subject. Cuba is
part of this city's history. He doesn't seem to understand that," she said.

"I commend Mayor Kriseman for picking up the baton that Mayor Buckhorn
let go and working to keep the Cuban Consulate in our area."

There has been no Cuban Consulate in the United States since diplomatic
relations were severed in 1961. Now that they are re-established, the
island nation is seeking a city to again host a consulate.

Cuba's embassy in Washington, D.C., serves its nation's political
interests. Among the duties of a consulate would be issuing visas and
promoting and assisting with trade and other business ventures. Beyond
that, Capin said, it will bring international recognition to whatever
city lands the first.

"The world is closely watching improving relationship between the U.S.
and Cuba," she said.

Florida, with the highest Cuban American population in the United
States, will likely receive the first consulate in the nation.

Miami has the most Cuban American residents but its mayor, Tomás
Regalado, has said a consulate is not welcome in his city.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has traveled to Cuba and met with the
same officials as Kriseman did. But the Miami Beach Commission recently
voted 4-3 to oppose the idea of a consulate.

Bill Carlson, president of Tucker Hall, a public relations agency in
Tampa that has supported business and humanitarian missions in Cuba
since 1999, commends St. Petersburg's elected officials for pushing for
the consulate.

"Kriseman is emerging as the mayor of the Tampa Bay region," Carlson
said. "Connecting our region to Cuba is the first big step toward making
us a global destination."

Contact Paul Guzzo at or (813) 226-3394. Follow

Source: Cuban officials touring St. Petersburg this weekend as they eye
consulate location | Tampa Bay Times -

Saturday, July 30, 2016

France to fund development projects in Cuba

France to fund development projects in Cuba
Indo Asian News Service 30 July 2016

Havana, July 30 (IANS) France will finance various priority development
areas in Cuba through long-term preferential loans, sources said.

Cuban Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca and French
Ambassador Jean-Marie Bruno signed an agreement on Friday for the
opening of a French Development Agency in Cuba.

It will fund projects on renewable energy, tourism, transport,
agribusiness, sanitation and urban development, Xinhua news agency reported.

According to the Foreign Ministry, a part of the financing will come
from a fund of 231 million euros (about $258 million) created from the
renegotiation of Cuba's external debt with France and other members of
the Paris Club.

The committee administring the fund will be elected in the second half
of 2016 during an official visit to Cuba by Matthias Fekl, the French
Minister of State for Foreign Trade, said Malmierca.


Source: France to fund development projects in Cuba -

U.S. worried about hunger-striking Cuban dissidents - State Department

U.S. worried about hunger-striking Cuban dissidents: State Department
July 29, 2016

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is concerned about the physical
well-being of hunger-striking activists in Cuba and is closely watching
their situation, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

"We stand in solidarity with those who advocate for human rights and
fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and the right to
peaceful assembly," State Department spokesman John Kirby told a briefing.

"We have raised our concerns directly with the Cuban government, both in
Washington and Havana," he added.

Kirby said Washington was particularly concerned about the health of
dissidents Carlos Amel Oliva, who leads the youth wing of a Cuban
dissident group, and Guillermo Farinas.

Farinas began a hunger strike earlier this month calling, for Raul
Castro's government to end torture and human rights abuses. He was taken
to Arnaldo Milian Castro Hospital in the city of Santa Clara on Thursday
after becoming extremely weak and fainting eight days into the strike,
The Miami Herald reported.

Farinas and about 20 other rights activists are on hunger-strike in Cuba.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by
Sandra Maler)

Source: U.S. worried about hunger-striking Cuban dissidents: State
Department -

U.S. and Cuba Take Steps to Expedite Claims Process

U.S. and Cuba Take Steps to Expedite Claims Process
More talks are planned over hundreds of billions of dollars in claims
s made against each other over the past 60 years. PHOTO: REUTERS
July 29, 2016 1:51 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Cuba and the U.S. are accelerating discussions to try to
settle hundreds of billions of dollars in claims made against each other
over the past six decades, according to U.S. and Cuban officials.

A second official round of talks was concluded Thursday in Washington,
according to a senior State Department official. But more regularized
meetings are expected to occur in the coming months after the
normalization of relations between Washington and Havana earlier this year.

The Castro government is seeking hundreds of billions in claims for what
Cuban officials said were the economic and humanitarian costs of the
U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.

Nearly 6,000 certified U.S. claimants, meanwhile, are seeking
compensation for assets nationalized following the 1959 Cuban
revolution. This amount is estimated to be around $8 billion, according
to U.S. officials.

"The U.S. delegation expressed its desire to resolve the claims as
quickly as possible, and we indicated that we were willing to dedicate a
substantial amount of time and energy towards trying to get to
resolution," said a senior State Department official involved in the
negotiations this week.

Cuba's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it and the State
Department would continue sharing information "with the aim of preparing
the process of negotiation."

The U.S. official said the talks have been focused on trying to find a
more defined process for how to settle the claims. The diplomat said the
U.S. and Cuba could try to agree on a "lump sum" payment or define
specific categories for resolving the disputes.

"We all recognize that the complexity and the scope of the claims that
we bring to the table will have to allow us to draw on all those
examples, but that we'll probably have to figure out something that is
unique to this particular claims matter," said the U.S. official.

Cuban courts have defined two specific payments the U.S. should pay in
compensation for the trade embargo. This includes $121 billion for
economic costs and an additional $181 billion for humanitarian damages.

Many of the U.S. claims have been lodged by Fortune 500 companies,
including Coca-Cola Co., Exxon Mobil Corp., Starwood Hotels & Resorts
Worldwide Inc. and Colgate-Palmolive Co.

Office Depot Inc. holds the largest claim, which is now valued at more
than $1 billion. That claim, originally made by Cuban Electric Co., has
changed hands several times over the years through mergers and
acquisitions. Many of the companies nationalized by the Cuban government
no longer exist and claims have been passed down. Individuals also have
pressed claims.

There are also several judgments by U.S. state and federal courts valued
at about $2 billion. The U.S. government has claims valued in the
hundreds of millions of dollars tied to mining projects that were
nationalized by the Castro government.

In a study released last year year by the Brookings Institution, Richard
Feinberg, a former National Security Council and Treasury official,
suggested a two-tier approach to resolving the U.S. claims.

In one tier, about 5,000 individual claims out of the nearly 6,000 could
be cleared for about $230 million, excluding interest, the report
contends. The remaining corporate claims could be resolved through "a
menu of options," such as allowing companies to re-enter the Cuban market.

Write to Jay Solomon at

Source: U.S. and Cuba Take Steps to Expedite Claims Process - WSJ -

Washington discreetly supports deportations of Cuban migrants

Washington discreetly supports deportations of Cuban migrants

The recent increase in undocumented Cuban emigration — 44,353 reached
the United States in the past eight months alone — is complicating the
Obama Administration's drive to normalize relations with Havana and cut
the migrant flow through Central America.

Trying to halt the massive and almost permanent flow of Cubans treking
north toward the Mexico-U.S. border, Washington appears to be promoting
the same policy it follows at home — large-scale deportations of
undocumented migrants.

The Cuban migration crisis exploded late last year when Costa Rica
cracked down on a people smuggling network, unleashing a chain reaction
that saw Nicaragua and then Panama close their southern borders to
undocumented Cubans. From the start, the U.S. government has referred to
the Cubans as "undocumented immigrants" and urged governments in the
region to tighten their migration controls as part of the fight against
people smuggling.

A State Department spokesperson in November said that "all countries
have the duty to put in place documentation requirements and border
control mechanisms. This ensures that no travelers will arrive without
documents, as well as the return of undocumented immigrants to their
starting point, in accordance with the law and international practice."

And just this month, a senior State Department official said the issue
of emigration had been discussed with the governments of Cuba and
Central and Latin American countries affected by the exodus.

The governments of Cuba and several Central American countries have
blamed U.S. immigration policies for the increase in Cuban migration and
the humanitarian crises it has sparked. In the U.S. Congress, Republican
Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo have blamed the exodus on
President Barack Obama's decision to warm relations with Cuba and the
absence of positive changes on the island.

Behind the scenes, however, the U.S. government has been seeking ways to
contain the exodus without changing U.S. policy, documents and official
statements indicate.

Cubans without U.S. visas who reach the United States are allowed to
stay under the wet-foot/dry-foot policy, and the Cuban Adjustment Act
then allows them to obtain permanent residence after 366 days. Efforts
by Curbelo and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fl., to change the policy have failed.

In January 2015, when some 8,000 cubans were stranded in Costa Rica, the
U.S. government donated $1 million to the International Organization for
Migration to provide food, water and medicine for the Cuban migrants.
The donation did not become public until March. That crisis was resolved
when the migrants were airlifted to Mexico and then continued to the
U.S. border. Another airlift later carried nearly 3,000 Cubans stranded
in Panama to Mexico.

Thousands more remain stranded in Colombia and Ecuador, however.

In the Colombian town of Turbo, more than 1,000 stranded Cuban migrants
are seeing their dreams of reaching the United States fade after
President Juan Manuel Santos recently announced they would be expelled.

The airlifts to Mexico from other Latin American nations have been
costly, and the increase in Cuban migration has put pressure on the
infrastructure and public assistance agencies in towns not prepared to
deal with such large groups. In Turbo, the mayor recently declared a
"state of public calamity" because of the overcrowding and unsanitary
conditions faced by the Cubans, who want to cross into neighboring
Panama to the north.

A senior State Department official has said that Washington views the
airlifts to Mexico "useful to alleviate temporary humanitarian issues at
the time, but we don't see that as a viable medium and long-term
approach. We may need to engage with both the Central Americans and the
Mexicans in terms of promoting the idea of safe, orderly, legal
migration and restricting or repatriating irregular migrants."

Ecuador's decision last year to start requiring entry visas for Cubans
appeared to be the result of negotiations between the different
governments affected by the crisis, judging from the official's comments.

"The impact of some of the discussions that have been held was [that]
many of the Cuban migrants were moving through Ecuador, where there is
not a visa requirement for Cubans. A visa requirement has been imposed
by the Ecuadoran Government, which has reduced the flow to some extent
there," said the State Department official. "In fact, the Ecuadoran
Government deported, I think, over 200 Cubans back to Cuba, who clearly
were migrants."

The Ecuadoran government drew harsh criticism from human rights
activists after it evicted hundreds of Cuban protesters from a Quito
park and then deported 122 to Cuba within one week.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a branch of the
Organization of American States, said it has received information that
the Cubans deported were not migrants but people who were "seeking
asylum and refuge."

Several countries in the region already are tightening their immigration

Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín announced in mid-July
that her country had deported 2,841 Cubans to Ecuador since Jan. 1.
Santos said Wednesday that Colombia must reform its laws "to more
effectively control this type of immigrants, who cause problems for the
mayors of the towns where they gather."

Colombian authorities have not clarified whether the Cubans stranded in
Turbo will be deported to the island or to the country from where they

The State Department did not respond directly when asked earlier this
week if it regards deportations as a long-term solution to the Cuban
exodus. Instead, a statement was issued stating that the U.S. is
"monitoring the situation involving irregular Cuban migrants in
Turbo"and remains "concerned for the safety of all migrants throughout
the region."

"Irregular migration often involves dangerous journeys that illustrate
the inherent risks and uncertainties of involvement with smugglers and
organized crime in attempts to reach the United States," the statement
said. "We continue to encourage all countries to respect the human
rights of migrants and asylum-seekers and to ensure they are treated

Source: Washington discreetly supports deportations of Cuban migrants |
In Cuba Today -

U.S. and Cuba agree to meet more to expedite claims process

U.S. and Cuba agree to meet more to expedite claims process

After a gap of nearly eight months, the United States and Cuba returned
to the negotiating table this week on claims that both sides have
against each other and entered a more "substantive" phase of
discussions, a senior State Department official said Friday.

Both sides presented more details of their claims — far higher on the
Cuban side than the American side — and discussed methods they had both
used in settling claims with other countries during a meeting Thursday
in Washington D.C.

The United States, said the official, expressed its desire to resolve
the claims issue "as quickly as possible."

The two sides had their first meeting on claims last December in Havana.
The official said both sides expressed interest in meeting more
frequently and in resolving their claims in a "mutually satisfactory


The United States is seeking a settlement on more than $1.9 billion, now
around $8 billion including interest, in certified claims for the seized
property of U.S. citizens and corporations. It also has put on the table
a much smaller amount of U.S. government claims and about $2.2 billion
in unsatisfied U.S. court judgments against the Cubans.

All told, there are 5,913 certified claims for sugar mills, cattle
ranches, utilities, corporate holdings, homes, and other items.

But Cuba claims the United States also owes it billions in reparations
for the economic damage caused by the embargo as well as damages
resulting from events such as the Bay of Pigs invasion (176 deaths and
more than 300 Cubans wounded), the 1976 bombing that killed all 73
passengers of Cubana de Aviacion flight 455, and deadly U.S.-sponsored
incursions on the island.

The U.S. official said the Cuban side outlined Cuban court judgments in
which the United States was found liable for human and economic damages.
Cuba is seeking human damages of $181 billion and $121 billion for
damages related to the embargo. But the official indicated both totals
could go higher.

The Cuban government also wants to negotiate on an unspecified amount of
blocked assets.

When the United States normalized relations with Vietnam, claims were
resolved in a bilateral agreement providing for a lump sum payment.

But at this stage in the negotiations with Cuba, there is no preference
for a lump sum, payments over time, or another solution. With the long
and complicated history between the United States and Cuba and with the
embargo still in effect, "it's not clear there's an absolutely
comparable situation," said the official.

Source: U.S. and Cuba agree to meet more to expedite claims process | In
Cuba Today -

Cuban tobacco - New interest in an old tradition

Cuban tobacco: New interest in an old tradition

With more visitors in Cuba, cigar sales on the island are brisk. One
Cuban family has been producing tobacco the same way for well over 150
years and there's a cigar, Vegas Robaina, named after them that honors
the tradition.

In Cuba, there's only one tobacco grower whose face has been deemed
worthy to grace a box of Cuban cigars. It's the late Alejandro Robaina,
and premium Vegas Robaina cigars have spread his fame to cigar
aficionados around the globe.

Now his descendants work the same tobacco lands in Cuba's famed Vuelta
Abajo, where the creme de la creme of Cuban tobacco and the finest capas
— wrappers — are produced using the same methods of Don Alejandro.
Before he died in 2010, the man who rose from humble roots on the leaves
of tobacco had traveled the world as an ambassador for Cuban cigars.

So popular were Vegas Robaina cigars during the XVIII Festival Habano,
which celebrated the Cuban cigar from Feb. 29 to March 4 this year, that
there was scarcely a box to be found in Havana weeks after the event ended.

The rapprochement between the United States and Cuba and the influx of
American visitors eager to sample one of Cuba's most famous products
also has spiked demand for Habanos.

"The demand for cigars by tourists is probably higher than it's ever
been. Many people think it's not a complete trip unless they buy and
smoke a Cuban cigar," said David Savona, executive editor of Cigar
Aficionado magazine. "But generally speaking, there are enough cigars."

Cuban cigars also have growing cachet in emerging markets like China and
Russia, Savona said, but other than some super premium brands, Cuban
cigars aren't currently in short supply because the weak global economy
is cutting into sales in some of Cuba's traditional European markets.
Prices have edged up slightly, he said, and Cuba is adding more premium,
high-priced cigars to its offerings.

Despite Cuban tobacco's fame, it isn't a big contributor to Cuba's
bottom line. Production is limited. It did pick up in 2015, however,
with 24,500 metric tons produced, compared to 19,800 metric tons the
previous year, according to Cuba's National Office of Statistics and
Information. Land planted in tobacco also was up significantly in 2015
compared to the previous four years.

"When the embargo is lifted, the Cubans will need to up production even
more," Savona said. "But production and sales aren't always at an equal
pace. Cigars do get better with age."

The weather wasn't cooperating in Cuba's Vuelta Abajo tobacco-growing
region during the 2015-16 tobacco season. Heavy rains this past winter
meant some farmers in western Pinar del Río province lost their crops in
soaked fields and had to hastily replant.

But because the Robaina plantation is on higher ground, it was largely
spared the effects of the soggy weather.

For the Robainas, tobacco is a way of life that began when their
maternal ancestors, the Peredas, came from the Canary Islands in 1845
and settled in the area of western Cuba known as Cuchillas de Barbacoa.
It turned out that Cuchillas de Barbacoa with its cool nights, fertile
soil and abundant water is the best place in all of Cuba — and perhaps
the world — to grow quality tobacco.

Alejandro Robaina, who was born in 1919, began working the family
tobacco lands when he was 10 — also the age when he sampled his first
cigar — and later took over from his father Maruto. Along the way, he
became a master tobacco grower and his wrapper tobacco became legendary.

When the Cuban government first wanted a poster boy for Cuban cigars, it
asked Macho Robaina, his brother. "He refused and said, 'Get my younger
brother Alejandro to represent the work of the family and the zone
here,'" said Frank Robaina, Alejandro's nephew and Macho's son.

So Alejandro became the face of Cuban cigars — a role he relished.

In 1997, Habanos S.A., the Cuban joint venture that markets the island's
tobacco products, named a new cigar line, Vegas Robaina, in his honor
and launched the new brand in Spain. Ever since, Alejandro, cigar in
hand, with tobacco fields and a drying barn in the distance, can be seen
on the top of Vegas Robaina boxes.

But not all the leaves used in a Vegas Robaina cigars necessarily come
from land farmed by Robainas, and the family also produces tobacco that
finds its way into Cohibas and other premium brands.

The Vegas Robaina "is a fine brand but it is not one of Cuba's big
global brands. It's a more boutiquey brand," Savona said.

Now the Robaina tobacco operation is largely run by Alejandro's grandson
Hiroshi and other family members. After Alejandro retired from his world
travels, tobacco connoisseurs still managed to find the farm, El Pinar
Alejandro Robaina, which sits about a mile down a red dirt track off the
main road. Hard-core cigar lovers still beat a path to El Pinar,
especially in December when the lush emerald-green tobacco leaves begin
poking through the soil.

"It's a great farm and a beautiful spot," said Savona, who has visited.
"The Robaina family has a wonderful reputation for growing beautiful
tobacco for many, many years, and Alejandro passed on the tricks and
techniques to his grandson."

Frank and Hiroshi Robaina farm adjacent parcels of land. Frank said the
family tobacco lands were cut up into 13 pieces by his father in 1960 to
avoid agrarian reform. Family members were allowed to keep their land
and now farm it as part of a cooperative that has a contract with the state.

Oxen that carefully pick their way among the rows of plants are still
used for plowing and various field tasks just as they were when
Alejandro worked the lands in Cuchillas de Barbacoa. The behemoths
fastidiously manage to avoid trampling the tender plants even though the
rows are only six inches apart, and workers are also scrupulous about
clearing the rows of grass and weeds so oxidation levels in the soil
aren't adversely affected.

"There are many elements in the cultivation of tobacco," Frank said. "A
lot of it is manual labor and every leaf of tobacco passes through many
hands. There isn't any bad soil here, but some lands are better than others.

"And in terms of the cigars made from our tobacco, no one can equal them
in aroma and flavor," he added.

Although Frank's son José Carlos studied computing for three years, he
ultimately decided that his heart was in tobacco and he is back working
the oxen on Robaina land.

Beyond selling cigars, Cuba also has turned its famed tobacco region in
Pinar del Río into a tourist attraction.

Infotur, the National Office of Tourist Information, for example, has
put out a map and guide called "The Tobacco Route" that includes Pinar
del Río tobacco farms that are open to the public, information on the
Francisco Donatién tobacco factory and other places to buy cigars, where
to stay and eat in the tobacco region and how to get there.

Visitors can learn about the curing process, which takes 45-50 days in
Vuelta Abajo; why some tobacco is shaded with gauzy cheese cloth, the
parts of the tobacco plant that yield the filler, the binder and the
wrapper (hint: the part of the plant lowest to the ground is used for
cigarettes and lower-quality cigars); and see rollers making Cohiba and
Trinidad cigars at the Donatién factory just off the Plaza de la
Independencia in the city of Pinar del Río.

Infotur calls the 62-mile tobacco trail "a world of sensations and
aromas within reach." Along the route, it promises visitors can explore
"the way of life and the secrets that families have passed from
generation to generation" as well as the process of selecting the best
leaves and curing them before they arrive in the hands of cigar rollers
"who make each puro Cubano (Cuban cigar) a work of art."

El Pinar Robaina is among the farms listed on the tobacco route, but
even some farms that aren't in the listing are happy to show visitors

In late March as tobacco was being harvested at the Finca Ramírez in
Puerta del Golpe, Caridad Piloto Morejon, 63, deftly and swiftly strung
the fan-like tobacco leaves on a thin wire and pulled a thread through
them to hang them for drying. If her movements seem practiced, it's
because she first began working in tobacco as a young girl.

After her retirement from a politechnical school nine years ago, she
returned to the tobacco barns. She makes two Cuban pesos per cuje, which
is about 150 leaves strung on a pole for drying. During the harvest,
Piloto works from 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. and by lunch time, she can fill
14 cujes, earning 28 pesos.

The tobacco route is a natural progression, Savona said. After visitors
check out a cigar factory in Havana, he said, "if they have time, they
want to get out to Pinar del Río and visit the fields and talk to farmers."

Source: An old Cuban tobacco tradition experiences renewed interest | In
Cuba Today -

Guy Harvey launching underwater expedition in Cuba

Guy Harvey launching underwater expedition in Cuba

The expedition to discover Cuba is going underwater.

Marine wildlife artist and conversationalist Guy Harvey's Fort
Lauderdale-based Outpost Resorts is launching a weeklong diving trip to
the Caribbean island in September — lionfish derby included.

The team-led guided fishing and diving trip will leave from Miami
International Airport on Sept. 14, then spend three days in Havana and
four days in Maria La Gorda, on the southwestern tip of the island. The
trip will focus on conservation, education and entertainment and be led
by Cuban native Yoel Gonzalez.

At Maria La Gorda, the group will take part in a lionfish derby to
remove the invasive species from Cuba's reefs, where it preys on the
native species that don't recognize it as a predator. Awards will be
given to the biggest and smallest lionfish caught, as well as the most
lionfish caught.

"We are incredibly excited to expand our Expedition Collection and offer
these extraordinary educational adventures, beginning with Cuba," said
Cliff Jensen, director of sport fishing & watersports for Guy Harvey
Outpost Collection.

Other conservation and expedition trips with Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts
go to destinations such as the Galápagos Islands, Panama, Isla Mujeres
and Little Cayman.

The Cuba trip includes lodging in both locations, tours in Havana and
four dives, including tanks and weights, for $2,400 per person.

Source: Guy Harvey launching underwater expedition in Cuba | In Cuba
Today -

Randy, the situation is worse than in the 90s

Randy, the situation is worse than in the 90s
DIMAS CASTELLANOS | La Habana | 29 de Julio de 2016 - 12:26 CEST.

The newspaper Granma recently published an article by Randy Alonso that
commenced by dismissing "media vultures" who "revel in painting a dark
picture, according to which Cuba will return to the direst days of the
Special Period."

It is telling that Randy Alonso and the daily Granma would devote time
and space to responding to these "vultures," extraordinary birds that,
by feeding on animals in a state of decay, play a vital role in the
health of their societies.

In the fulfillment of his mission, Randy quotes Cuban President Raúl
Castro on July 8: "speculation and predictions have begun suggesting the
imminent collapse of our economy and auguring a return to the acute
phase of the Special Period that we faced in the early 90s, and we were
able to overcome thanks to the resilience of the Cuban people and their
unlimited confidence in Fidel and the Party. We do not deny that
adversity may arise, even greater than that we are experiencing today,
but we are prepared and better positioned than then to deal with it."

Although Raúl Castro acknowledges that "adversity may arise, even
greater than that we are experiencing today," Randy focuses on
demonstrating that the Cuban economy today is in a better position to
weather it than in the early 90s. To do this he chooses ten issues,
which I shall summarize and address below (the remaining three: the
BioCubaFarma Group, petrol production, and self-employment are not
relevant to this analysis).

1- In 1990 more than 80% of Cuban foreign trade was with the USSR and
the countries of Eastern Europe. Today it is more diversified, by
country and region.

Diversification in and of itself does not constitute any advantage.
Trading with more and more countries does a nation no good if its
productive inefficiency prevents it from taking advantage of that trade,
and instead forces it to spend hundreds of millions of dollars abroad
each year to buy what could be produced in Cuba, like coffee, rice and
milk byproducts. The strongest evidence of this inefficiency is the drop
in GDP from 4% in 2015 to 1% in the first half of 2016.

2- In 1990 Cuba had no sources of credit. Today Cuba's debts have been
renegotiated with its creditors.

Randy Alonso fails to mention that Cuba ran out of sources of credit due
to the infeasibility of its economic model, which rendered it unable to
pay either "friends" or "enemies." It was renegotiated with Cuba
because, in view of the normalization of relations with the US,
creditors, aware that they would never collect, decided keep one foot in
Cuba. But renegotiation also means you have to pay. The Club de París
has forgiven 8.5 billion, and Russia, 31.7 billion. The former is now
owed 2.6, and the latter, 3.5, to be paid over the next few years,
precisely when GDP growth is close to 0%.

3- At that time (1990) foreign investment was almost nil, but during the
current stage we boast revised legislation and the promising Mariel
Special Development Area (ZEDM).

Cuba, according to its own authorities, requires sustained GDP growth of
5 to 7%, which means an annual flow of investment of between 2 and 2.5
billion dollars. That amount has not been achieved under the "revised
legislation" because, among other things, it bars Cubans from
participating as investors, and foreign companies from directly hiring
them. Meanwhile the ZEDM, which could help to lift Cuba out of this
stagnation and insert it into the global economy, is plagued by delays
in the dredging of the bay to make possible the entrance of mega-ships
with a capacity for approximately 13,600 containers. Hence, it has had
no significant impact. In his presentation the Minister of Foreign Trade
and Foreign Investment stated that the ZEDM "represented a profound
modernization of the transformative process that was undertaken at the
beginning of the Revolution to place the main means of production in the
hands of the Revolutionary State." In other words, the law intends to
preserve the very nationalization that is the root cause of Cuba's
economic inefficiency.

4- Tourism, which back then (90s) was only emerging as a promising
economic sphere, today is the second largest generator of foreign revenue.

Tourism is the country's third source of foreign revenue after family
remittances and the export of services. However, most of this revenue is
lost buying what Cuba's inefficient economy is not able to produce. In
order for tourism to constitute "a promising economic sphere," and for
the country to be able to take advantage of the increasing flow of
visitors, what is needed is greater and more active participation by the
private sector, and the development of a domestic industry to mitigate
the financial leaks caused by the model's inefficiency.

5- The export of Cuban services was only getting underway in the 90s.
Today it is the country's largest source of foreign revenue.

The training of people in order to rent out their services is
universally considered to constitute modern slavery. It is outrageous
that the State rakes in 8 billion dollars a year for these services,
over 75% of which it retains. The fact that some ideological allies, in
Brazil and Venezuela, for example, look the other way, does not
guarantee its permanence or infuse it with potential, much less
promising to sustain a country that is fast falling behind, and from
which many professionals are fleeing.

6 - Electricity generation was (in 1990) based entirely on imported
fuel. Today we have an electro-energetic system largely based on
domestic fuel. In addition, we are increasingly using renewable energy

It turns out that the Economy Minister actually asked the National
Assembly of the People's Power: "What are we missing?" And he answered
his own question: "....we lack fuel, because everything we had planned
on has not reached the country." He added: "What we are talking about
here is 7,862,000 tons of total fuel that the country
receives."Therefore, if we subscribe to Randy Alonso's own arguments,
the Economy Minister's analyses, and Raúl Castro's speech before the
National Assembly, make no sense. According to a Reuters cable on July
8, 2016, delivery of crude to the island fell from 100,000 to 53,000
barrels a day; this suggests that Cuba was exporting some of that oil,
which could explain its plummeting GDP.

7- If then (in 1990) numerous investments were partially or totally
paralyzed, without any possibility of their completion and
commissioning; now the country has the capacity to preserve the
financing of investments slated in sectors strategic to national

"The other measure that we have to take," said the Minister of Economy
and Planning, "is to carefully administrate the taking out of loans, to
make the country's future debt manageable". The aim is not, in the words
of Randy Alonso, "to preserve funding" but rather, in the words of the
minister, to "seek financing in the medium and long term and abandon the
principle of making short-term investments, because then the debt
payment is very fast, and the debt is not paid with the return on
investment." What both the minister and Randy overlook is an inefficient
economy that cannot pay its outstanding debts to creditors, such that
there will be no financing in the medium and long term.

In short, with an inefficient economy:

1- Trade diversification cannot be capitalized on.

2- Suppliers and creditors cannot be paid reliably, so obtaining new
loans is difficult.

3- The "revised legislation" has not achieved its objectives.

4- The private sector must be permitted a greater and more active role
in the Tourism industry, so as to develop a national sector, which is
impossible under the current model.

5- The export of services, in its variant of modern slavery, has no future.

6- The lack of available fuel,although its price has been reduced by the
market, will lead to serious problems in the country.

7- Obtaining financing in the medium and long term will be impossible if
current outstanding debts with creditors are not paid, unthinkable give
the sharp reduction in the GDP.

If, in addition to all this, we add Cubans' disbelief, despair and
disinterest, we must concur with the director of the Round Table and the
CubaDebate site that the situation today is, in fact, not like that in
the 90s ... it is simply and categorically worse.

Source: Randy, the situation is worse than in the 90s | Diario de Cuba -

Friday, July 29, 2016

Eduardo Mora, Another Mask Falls

Eduardo Mora, Another Mask Falls / 14ymedio, Claudia Collazo

14ymedio, Claudia Collazo, Havana, 28 July 2016 — Compelling, cheerful,
with an exuberant vocabulary and a good presence, Eduardo Mora was until
recently one of the main presenters on "Good Morning," Cuba's morning
news show. Even the most boring slogans gained grace from his personal

Just over a month ago, in the hallways of the Cuban Institute of Radio
and Television (ICRT) everyone said, each in his own way, that he had
defected, that he won't return, that he stayed abroad. In May, Mora
attended the Latin American Study Association (LASA) meeting in New York
as a speaker, and at the end of the sessions asked his bosses in
Information Systems to extend his absence for a few more weeks, but they
refused. The presenter intended to take advantage of the trip to visit
his brother in Miami and to give some talks so that he would be able to
buy a house in Havana with the money raised. When he did not appear in
Cuba by the required date, he was fired.

Now, his colleagues comment quietly that Mora "has passed to a better
life." This expression, recognized as a synonym for death, has now
become, ironically, a form of comparing the life of a Cuban who stays
with that of a Cuban who leaves.

Those who knew him at Cubavision International when he was chief of
information there, recall his scathing comments away from the cameras
and microphones. Nothing extraordinary. The same things that are said in
any bread line or on a bus crammed with people. For example: "Marino
Murillo and the other leaders know how to adjust the economy, but
without affecting themselves, nor the kings' children."

The real question is not why did Eduardo Mora stay in Miami, but why do
our talented young professionals decide to leave. It is not about
something as trite as a brain drain, because almost no one will offer
him millions. On the contrary, they assume they can have a better life
there, working as waiters, than they can exercising their profession in
Cuba. The explanation is found in the mere fact that their working
abroad, at anything, gives them at least the opportunity to pay for a
plate of food on the table and, in some cases, for the same for their
families on the island.

What concerns us is not that he stayed because with what he earned here
he could never buy a house in Havana, not even from the results of his
hard work, which, at times involves working more than two contracts
simultaneously. The alarming thing is the chaos unleashed when someone
like Eduardo Mora emigrates or decides to explore new work
opportunities, as if wanting a better life is a grave failing, an
unpardonable betrayal.

Cubavision International has not yet named a new chief of information;
right now it takes a great deal of effort for people – and for young
people it's even worse – to assume leadership positions. Meanwhile, the
hallway comments multiply. There is a joke that says if there were a
ramparts or a common border with any other country, there would be no
one left on this side. "Let he who does not cross cast the first stone!"
says a lady, passing on the joke.

The system is collapsing not because it is "a plaza under siege by a
genocidal blockade," but because a good part of its people have decided
to launch themselves on the path to emigration. Perhaps because, as José
Martí is claimed to have said, "when the people emigrate… leaders are
superfluous." Something everyone knows and mumbles behind the scenes.

Source: Eduardo Mora, Another Mask Falls / 14ymedio, Claudia Collazo –
Translating Cuba -

Cuban Civil Society, For The First Time Present In The Regional Internet Governance Forum

Cuban Civil Society, For The First Time Present In The Regional Internet
Governance Forum / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, Havana, 26 July 2016 — ¿Gover… what? That reaction has
become increasingly familiar in a conversation discussing internet
governance. Although many users who take advantage of it aren't aware,
governance is a fundamental issue for everyone when we venture out onto
the World Wide Web. That our family email travels equally with the
statistics of scientific research, with an online purchase, or with a
bank account statement, is thanks to governance.

Behind any familiar and easily remembered address is a long string of
numbers without which the internet couldn't function. Early developers
realized that the ordinary user would be unable to recall those long
strings of numbers and so created a protocol to tie them to a name. Name
and number indissoluble leading us unmistakably to the desired
destination. These technical protocols that make our lives easier, also
have to do with governance.

Governance, a term originally applied in the social sciences, has gained
strength within international organizations, and in the case of the
internet, seeks interactions and consensus among interested parties, or
an English word that is difficult to pronounce – multistakeholders –
(multiple interested parties, academia, businesspeople, leaders and
civil society).

The natural result of this interaction are world forums on governance,
very fruitful meetings where those who participate know each other
personally and engage in discussions at committee and plenary sessions.
Prior to these world forums which have been held since 2006 and which
this year will take place in Guadalajara, Mexico, in December,
preparatory meetings will be held by geographic region and, in some
case, even national groups. The meeting for Latin America and the
Caribbean will be held in San Jose, Costa Rica, between 27-29 July.

The sessions approved for the meeting include:
- Security and privacy – Concerns about cybersecurity and confidence in
the digital environment.
- The situation of human rights on-line in Latin American and the
Caribbean: advances, challenges and trends.
- Evolution, progress and challenges of the implementation of a
multi-sector approach to the work of public policy and Internet
governance at national and regional levels.
- Lessons on the development and implementation of strategies for
providing access and legal initiatives on network neutrality: What are
the next steps to ensure open and interoperable internet in the region?
- Expand understanding with regards to the responsibilities of internet
intermediaries: the scope and limits of their responsibilities in the
digital ecosystem.
- The balance between intellectual property and access to knowledge: the
scope and impact of interregional trade agreements in the regulatory
- Persistent and emerging challenges for Internet access: Connecting the
next billion.
- Integration of Internet governance with the 2030 Sustainable
Development Agenda: What are the priorities of the region for digital
- A multi-stakeholder perception of the digital economy.
- Future of Governance of the Internet Forum of Latin America and the
Caribbean (LACIGF).

Undoubtedly, the meeting will address the issue of the independence of
the US government's Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
(ICANN), which will go into effect in September, and how ICANN, as a
highly hierarchical international organization should guarantee the
technical standards of internet quality: interoperability, scalability,
and resistance to potential failures; but also the sovereignty of the
virtual space, the equality of all users, the privacy of data, freedom
of expression and the right to information, and also deal with
cybersecurity. All of this in the context of a lack of rules for its
proper use which diminish individual rights or national security, or
favor some to the detriment of others.

Cuban civil society will be present at this event with a small
representation, something that has no precedences but that could be very
healthy for a citizenry that is just beginning to open itself to an
internet that has restricted access and a censorship of opinions, and
that is disregards of the rights that come solely by connecting to the
world, human rights recognized as equals, in real space as in the virtual.

Source: Cuban Civil Society, For The First Time Present In The Regional
Internet Governance Forum / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula – Translating Cuba -