Wednesday, August 31, 2016

General Francis is Out of the Game and Raul’s Grandson Ascends

General Francis is Out of the Game and Raul's Grandson Ascends / Juan
Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 29 August 2016 — The most powerful of all the Cuban
generals, Division General Humberto Omar Francis Pardo, was replaced in
his job as Head of the General Direction of Personal Security (DGSP).

The position is now filled by Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, who is
known by various nicknames, like "The Crab," "Grandson-in-Chief,"
Raulito" and even "The Arnol-mal," this last one from his frenetic
addiction to steroids and exercise.

Before creating the Commission of Defense and National Security, which
Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín directs today, the Direction of Personal
Security was the invisible apparatus with the most power on the island.
Under this nomenclature, like the current "Commission," ministries,
institutions and all the MININT (Ministry of the Interior) divisions
were subordinated.

"After a long period of stress, and multiple disagreements, Francis
suffered a cerebral stroke. He was admitted to the hospital but now is
at home," said a family member of the dismissed General.

The DGSP, intended to protect the force of the myth, the fiscal and
moral integrity of Fidel Castro and the rest of the so-called leaders of
the first level, has succeeded in amassing more cash than some armies.

The DGSP's empire

The DSP relies on a section of the transport police in order to review
the fastest road or route for moving the leader. It has a film group,
with experts in the art of photography, where they touch up the images
of the "untouchables." Another section is dedicated to documentation and
migration matters and also functions as a trip coordinator; an
anti-attack brigade consists of snipers and experts in every type of
explosive; and a medical department, in addition to having a clinic for
everything, has a fixed allocation of doctors, nurses, radiologists,
physical therapists, laboratory technicians and other health workers.

They have a division of technology and telephone, workshops, diving
masters, gymnasiums, coordinators; a very effective counterintelligence
service that, in coordination with other State agencies, looks for,
manages and controls all the information of that brotherhood, the family
circles and friendships; a department of international relations that
coordinates with other secret services the visits to Cuba of people of
interest and personalities (friends or not), whether they are
presidents, governors, heads of State, members of Congress, religious
leaders, etc.; a purchasing group in charge of pleasing even the most
bizarre tastes; a department that checks the news that should or should
not be released about the Cuban leaders; and a unit to contract service
staff (maids) who later work in the houses of those chosen.

With this new appointment, Raúl Castro, in addition to putting his
grandson in a key post, captures a vital space reserved uniquely to
Fidel, to control even the most insignificant thing, like the ruling
class's privacy in their homes. This method can have a possible
boomerang effect, because it also assures the rejection from a good part
of a strategic force that, older and in the military, were always
faithful to General Francis.

All the body guards of this prestigious group belong to the DSP. Their
work consists of taking care of them, protecting them and satisfying
them even in their most quirky desires, in addition to spying,
recruiting and blackmailing, in order to maintain, at any price, the
"moral purity" of the Cuban politicians. This convoy is in charge of
avoiding any type of problem of the leader and his closest family. And
when I say "any," it's any, from the most absurd up to the most complex,
whether it's financial, political or legal.

In Cuba, nobody can prosecute, criticize or punish a bigwig or family
member, without the authorization of the DSP.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: General Francis is Out of the Game and Raul's Grandson Ascends /
Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -

Voices In Cuba’s Official Press Question Dismissal Of Radio Holguin Journalist

Voices In Cuba's Official Press Question Dismissal Of Radio Holguin
Journalist / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 27 August 2016 — Jose Ramirez Pantoja,
the journalist recently fired from Holguin Radio, never imagined that
some colleagues from the official press would come to his support. This
unusual situation has arisen following the statements by the vice
president of the Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC), Aixa Hevia, who in an
article titled "If It Quacks Like a Duck," attacked the correspondent,
insinuating that he was trying to create a back story so that he could
"move to the Miami press."

Hevia did not leave it there, but also suggested expelling from
CubaUruguayan journalist Fernando Ravsberg for coming to the defense of
the ousted journalist from Holguin, which has provoked pandemonium in
the "Revolutionary blogosphere."

After two months of silence, since his internet account was suspended,
Ramirez published a new article on his blog Verdadecuba under the title
"Where is the ethics of Aixa Hevia?" In the article he not only
expresses his appreciation for the solidarity of his colleagues across
the island, but castigates the "ugly, low and irresponsible" attitude of
UPEC's vice president.

In early August, the ethics committee of the Association of Official
Journalists expelled Ramirez Pantoja from his job and deprived him of
the right to exercise his profession. His sin: having published the
words of the deputy director of the official Party newspaper Granma on
his personal blog.

" 'If it quacks like a duck…'* my grandmother used to say, when behind
certain events the real intentions were visible," Hevia wrote in
reference to Jose Ramirez, insinuating later that this was how a
journalist sought to "cross over" to the Miami media.

"The accusation launched against me in this venomous and repulsive
commentary by the first vice president of UPEC is ugly, low and
irresponsible," responded Ramirez, who in a conversation with 14ymedio
explained that he was unaware of the impact of that had been generated
by the measure taken against him. "Once I was expelled from the media
they cut off my internet access. Thanks to a friend I heard about what
was happening," he said.

According to Ramirez, many colleagues in the profession have openly
supported his cause. "The profession has shown a lot of solidarity,
especially in other parts of the country. In Holguin there are no
comments for or against it because the actions taken have made the
journalists afraid."

In this Friday's publication, Ramirez cited Arnaldo Mirabal Hernández,
from the newspaper Girón, in Matanzas, who said that the fact that
"perhaps tomorrow Pantojo will show up in some other media, whether in
Florida or on Cochinchina [Vietnam], does not mean that he was not
unjustly and arbitrarily expelled from the media, and that we of UPEC,
far from defending him, we injure him."

For the journalist from Holguin this experience has opened his eyes to
the need for another kind of journalism on the island, "more serious,
closer to the people, to people's needs, to the problems that affect

With regards to his case, Ramirez explains that he is confident that
justice will finally triumph and everyone's interests would become
clear. "If the court rules against me, I will look for another job. I
will work in something, even if it is not journalism, but I don't know
how I will make a living. If the court rules in my favor, even then I
don't know what I will do."

Ramirez says it is impossible to consider Hevia's declarations as
something separate from the journalists' organization. "When they
sanctioned me they told me that even though the blog where I published
Karina Marron's words was personal, I was still a Radio Holguin
journalist and so the same responsibility applies to Hevia," he added.

According to the journalist, Hevia's intentions are clear: to prejudge
the National Ethics Committee that is considering his case. "She is not
just any journalist, behind all of this that she wrote are very bad

Karina Marron, deputy director of the official newspaper Granma has not
commented on what happened with Ramirez Pantoja.

Fernando Ravsberg published an article entitled "Journalists, Bad News
And Expulsions," in which he claims that the campaign against his blog,
Cartas desde Cuba, "is going to extremes." Although he affirms that it
is not about a personal matter, he regrets that "the extremists spend
years trying to stop the development of the new journalism that is being
born, including within the official media."

*Translator's note: The original expression in Cuban Spanish is: If it
is green and spiky it's a soursop.

Source: Voices In Cuba's Official Press Question Dismissal Of Radio
Holguin Journalist / 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -

Cuba’s Education Minister: Teacher Shortage Is An Unsolved Problem

Cuba's Education Minister: Teacher Shortage Is An Unsolved Problem /

14ymedio, Havana, 29 August 2016 – The start of the 2016-17 school year
in Cuba will be marked by a shortage of teachers. Currently, 94.2% of
the teaching positions are filled, without taking into account the use
of substitutes, according to comments from Ministry of Education
(MINED) authorities at a Saturday meeting with the official press.

Across the country, some 10,600 schools will receive about 1.7 million
students with the start of the new school year on 5 September. However,
the sector is now "trawling" for teachers to fill vacant positions,
according to to the head of the sector, Ena Elsa Velázquez Cobiella.

Between 13 and 23 August, a MINED team, led by the minister, toured all
the provinces and the special municipality of the Isla de la Juventud to
review the situation of the schools in each territory.

During the tour a call was made to seek alternative solutions to
alleviate the shortage of teachers, for which MINED has mobilized 1,000
young university students hired throughout the country to teach several
subjects, especially in primary and junior high schools.

The reinstatement of retired teachers is also one recourse, in the
effort to reduce the number of teachers who are "overloaded," said the
minister. Authorities also expect to add more teaching assistants and
members of governing boards who will share responsibility in the classroom.

Velázquez Cobiella called for "paying more attention to teachers" to
stop the exodus of personnel to other sectors. Organizing industrial and
agricultural fairs at times accessible to educators, along with better
access to subsidies for home repairs, were some of the proposals to
support teachers, "not only in the moral sense but also in the material."

Without offering global figures that illustrate the shortage of teachers
nationwide, industry executives provided some data by territory on
Saturday and have called for continuing to improve the quality of education.

Havana is in the worst position with regards to the lack of teachers and
during this school year some 2,800 teachers from other provinces need to
be moved to Havana to try to alleviate the problem. The teachers will be
housed in shelters set up for this purpose.

Despite these emergency solutions, Havana, Mayabeque and Artemisa suffer
a deficit of 585 teachers. The situation is particularly serious at the
preschool level, where there are a hundred unfilled positions in Havana
(77), Mayabeque (19) and Matanzas (4).

Matanzas province also presents a very unfavorable picture, particularly
in the main city of Cardenas, as well as in Cienaga de Zapata. There are
137 unfilled positions in this area, according to Raul Hernandez
Galarraga, provincial director of Education.

Matanzas schools need about 1,000 professionals to fill teaching
vacancies in junior high schools, many of which are occupied temporarily
by retired teachers and college students.

The numbers in Ciego de Avila total 663 open positions for education
professionals and in Villa Clara the deficit amounts to "more than 1,000
teachers," according to Director of Education, Esperanza González Barceló.

Source: Cuba's Education Minister: Teacher Shortage Is An Unsolved
Problem / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -

“Pajama Plan” at the National Library

"Pajama Plan" at the National Library / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 29 August 2016 — The biggest dream of
those ousted is to live to tell the tale. Each passing day since he was
removed from his post as Fidel Castro's personal secretary, Carlos
Valenciaga feels he is closer to outliving him. His fantasy in the midst
of the old books, the dusty manuscripts and the valuable incunabula, in
the dark department of the Jose Marti National Library in Havana, is
that they have forgotten about him.

Valenciaga's voice was the first to read the proclamation through which
Castro ceded his position in July of 2006. It was his face, beardless
and young, in charge of publicizing the news that many were expecting
and as many others were fearing. In that crucial moment, Valenciaga was
the chosen man, but that nomination would cost him on the way to the top.

During lunchtime, the basement of the National Library becomes a hive of
employees lined up, some of them with their own spoon, or a container
with some food they brought from home to add to the dwindling ration. A
man surrounded by women is a source of funny stories and dirty jokes.
Few now remember the power he once had.

Valenciagao was peering through State Security's peephole when, on 16
September 2006, a party was organized for his 34th birthday while the
president was in bed fighting for his life. A video, shown only to
Communist Party members and trusted officials, he appears during the
festivities with a bottle between his legs and a hilarious commander's
cap on his head.

The video includes scenes that Raul Castro would later call "indecent
conduct" in an atmosphere of "moral laxity." The General boasted of
having eliminated the "test-tube baby" leaders who had risen from youth
organizations to positions of greater confidence. He wanted to give the
impression of having supported the institutional structure to the
detriment of the caprice that prevailed in the decisions of his brother.

Although the images focused on the reasons for the dismissal of Carlos
Lage from his post as vice president and of Felipe Perez Roque as
foreign minister, they also led to the fall of other senior
leaders. Sent to the public pillory were Otto Rivero, vice president of
the Council of Ministers and one of the few names mentioned in the
Proclamation; Fernando Remirez de Estenoz from the International
Relations Department of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC); Martha Lomas,
minister of Foreign Investment and Economic Collaboration; and Raul de
la Nuez, Minister of Foreign Trade.

Accusations ranged from "addicted to the honey of power," to having been
disloyal, dishonest or havoing abused their power. The "pajama plan" –
as this kind of forced retirement is called in Cuba — hung over all of
them, without rights to appeal. Today, Carlos Lage languishes in the
campaign against the mosquito that carries dengue fever and the zika
virus, Feliz Perez Roque has had to overcome a nervous breakdown that
brought him to the brink of suicide, and Estenoz rents part of the
living room in his home for a restaurant with the name Complacer.

Valenciago, however, continues to attract powerful men. During the long
years of his dismissal he has meticulously reviewed the documents once
belonging to the aristocrat Julio Lobo Olavarria. The books making up
the library of this man — who came to own 16 sugar mills, a radio
communications agency, insurance, shipping and even an oil
business — are the focus of attention for a once favored youngest son.

Lobo, who was obsessed with Napoleon Bonaparte, treasured more than
200,000 documents related to the French military and government, among
them 6,000 letters and a repertoire of incunabula, unique and rare
volumes that make up a part of the National Library's archives, all of
which were confiscated from the businessman. Valenciaga has been
immersed in this treasure to draft a study on the paper money of the
French Revolution.

Little now remains of his former arrogance. A drab employee of a place
where they frequently send the defenestrated, he does everything
possible to not be seen as a man who was once a member of the Councils
of State and of Ministers. He struggles against two enemies: State
Security and the lung diseases caused by a closed environment, filled
with old books and poor air conditioning. Among the agents "of the
apparatus" and microorganisms he spends his life.

However, the former Secretary of the State Council has had a good start,
that is putting first in his bibliography consulted for his work on
paper money, the book One Hundred Hours with Fidel, Conversations with
Ignacio Ramonet. A volume that in its time generated a joke popular on
Cuba's streets, which asked, "Why are we going to read about 100 hours
with Him, if we've already spent our whole lives putting up with him?"

The man who once stood at the right hand of power now walks
gingerly. Department colleagues say he "doesn't talk about politics," he
prefers sexual insinuations about the most attractive employees, rather
than references to the Plaza of the Revolution and his former
responsibilities." He's like a kid who wants to go to parties and pinch
bottoms," one of his closest colleagues tells 14ymedio.

Valenciaga lived more than a hundred hours with Fidel Castro, but is
still cautiously awaiting the moment to tell the tale.

Source: "Pajama Plan" at the National Library / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata –
Translating Cuba -

If It’s Green and Thorny, It Must be a Cactus

If It's Green and Thorny, It Must be a Cactus / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana 29 August 2016 – The dismissal of the
journalist Jose Ramon Ramirez Pantoja from Radio Holguin for having
published in his blog a statement by Karina Marron, deputy director of
the newspaper Granma, has sparked an interesting controversy which, by
virtue of the secrecy that reigns in the Cuban press has not appeared on
the social networks or in digital spaces.

I am not trying to put myself in the skin of Ramirez Pantoja. It has
been 28 years since the same thing happened to me when I was fired from
the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth), accused of writing texts
with a double meaning, trying to confront the new generations with the
historic leadership of the Revolution. But, despite my justified
reputation for conceit, I didn't come here to talk about me, but about
what one feels in a similar situation.

The audacity of those who dare to criticize or share a criticism is
usually grounded in the infinite confidence that the sentiments
expressed are going to contribute to improving the situation. To warn at
the time that "this is not the way" is a serious responsibility, one
that is only assumed when we suppose that the guide who is leading us is
listening to us, because he believes in our good faith. To say
publically a necessary truth, disobeying the order of those who impose
silence, is not only a gesture of courage, but above all of honesty.

When the response to the criticism is punishment, when the high-minded
guide is disposed to expel the troops who question his decisions, when
the exposed truth forces an unmasking because its nudity offends those
who feel harmed, then the daring critic has only two choices: make a
retraction or slam the door.

Someone once said that the lost sheep that escapes can return to the
sheepfold, but can never return to the flock. The obedient flock can
only see in its rebellion bad intentions or sinister aims of betrayal.
With that grim admiration that underlies envy they will remain attentive
to the final decision of the pastor.

If the insubordinate sheep is sacrificed, they squeal with happiness
while applauding the verdict, if forgiveness comes, or even better the
recognition Jose Ramon was right, he did the right thing, they will
approach submissively patting him on the shoulder, while behind his back
they will comment that everything was preplanned, it was all a dark
operation of the upper echelons of power.

Really, who wouldn't want to be in the skin of this Holguin journalist.

Source: If It's Green and Thorny, It Must be a Cactus / 14ymedio,
Reinaldo Escobar – Translating Cuba -

For an Uncomfortable Journalism

For an Uncomfortable Journalism / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, 26 August 2016, Havana — It's been said that
radically opposite ends end up looking alike. That truism has become
irrefutable for those of us who are dedicated to independent journalism
in Cuba, especially those who practice the basic right of free
expression through opinion columns and end up subjected to relentless
crossfire, both from the dictatorial power with its powerful monopoly of
the press, and from the anti-Castro opposition, and even from
"colleagues" of the profession, who are supposedly champions of freedom
of expression.

Specifically the press, whose Cuban origins date back to 1790 with the
emergence of the newspaper Papel Periódico de la Habana, founded by La
Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País*, was one of the most solid
pillars of the 1902 Republic, where dozens of newspapers and magazines
circulated. In 1922 the first radio station emerged, and by 1930 the
number of stations had grown to 61. Television, meanwhile, arrived in
Cuba in 1950, and included new informational and news programs.

Somehow, over half a century a twisted and pernicious political system
has ended up undermining the social foundations so deeply that perhaps
the same amount of time will be needed — if not more — to recover, at
least partially, the weak republican civic fabric that was taken from us
since the "Revolutionary victory."

If we add to this the newsreels that existed previously, it can be
concluded that Cuba had a strong media tradition that promoted the
development of public opinion and political formation of a good part of
the population through a range of views of the most diverse trends in
different subjects of interest to national life.

With its lights and shadows, journalism during the republic enjoyed a
healthy development until Castro I took it over and "nationalized" it to
found his private press monopoly and place it at the service of the
government's power, its role today. Nevertheless, its counterpart —
independent journalism — emerged in the 90's, and in recent years,
driven by the use of new information technologies and communications,
has managed to gain space and even grow under truly precarious and
hostile conditions, against repression, harassment, and other adversities.

The history and ups and downs of Cuban independent journalism are too
extensive to address in this text, since we would stray from the
essential issue, which could be summed up in one cardinal question: are
parties and opposition leaders prepared to assimilate the democratic
paradigms which the Castro dictatorship is presumably facing? Or, more
directly, do they have a clear awareness that freedom of expression is a
basic, inescapable element of any society that aspires to be considered
as democratic?

Judging from my personal experience and the reactions I've received from
some leaders and their staunchest followers when I questioned their
proposals, attitudes and methods, I fear that not all "democratic
fighters" in Cuba and in exile are ready to take on the challenge of a
free press. In addition, I would argue that the dangerous virus of
"intransigence" has undermined the proto-democratic corpus of Cuba's
independent civil society and — together with the miasma of autocratic
government, authoritarianism, and its evil companions — is replicating
patterns of the system it iss trying to topple.

For certain "illuminati," criticism of the opposition it is not only
harmful, but practically an act of "treason" – a term very much in vogue
in the media — as it "panders to the dictatorship" or "discredits"
leaders "who are really doing something." As the General-President Raul
Castro always points out, some opponents consider that there is "a right
place and a right time" for criticism. That moment, in his view, has not
come, and since they feel personally attacked, they react with insults
and reproaches, not with arguments, in an unadulterated Castro style.

A frequent accusation launched against any question or opinion that
differs from one of these illustrious champions of democracy is that
criticism tends to "divide" the opposition, and unaware individuals
might think that it was once united. It is also the position of another
obstacle: the opportunists; who, in the absence of their own limelight
take the opportunity to pose as practical and as conciliators,
paternally scolding the transgressor journalist and brandishing one of
the most inaccurate phrases often repeated in the corridors: "at the end
of the day, we are all on the same page."

As if instead of politicians and journalists, positions commonly in tune
in fairly healthy Western societies, we were school children who bicker
for a treat at summer camp.

However, what is most alarming in this senseless contrapuntal — since a
truly democratic leader infused by a truly democratic sense should be
more interested in the well-argued criticisms he gets than in the
servile adulations always at hand — is that reality is being reflected
in the self-censorship on the part of some independent journalists, who
often, with greatest dishonesty and hypocrisy, silently approve the
criticisms that their boldest colleagues publish, so they utter low and
furtive congratulations and keep quiet their own disapproval, for fear
of being branded "politically incorrect" or "agents," this time from the
antipodes of the Castro regime.

There is also no shortage of neo-chiefs who get offended when some
irreverent journalist, like this writer, refuses to be of service or to
become a chronicler of his personal scrapbooks. They can't imagine how
anyone could be so "lacking in solidarity" that she decides to
prioritize other topics rather than their heroic campaigns and
unparalleled demonstrations of patriotism and bravery.

If, to be exact, the journalist of yore prefers to avoid in his writings
such bombastic phrases as "the hyena of Birán," "the blood-spattered
tyranny" or other similar theater affectation to qualify the autocrats
of the Palace of the Revolution, he becomes de facto a suspicious subject.

Is any similarity to the anointed of the olive-green dome pure coincidence?

It feels like something trivial, however, it is really worrisome for the
health of journalism that tomorrow's censorship is taking shape in
certain niches of the opposition today. If it continues, the end of the
Castro dictatorship would only mean a change in the color of the
political power's muzzle over the free expression of citizens, and the
beginning of an authoritarianism with a different emblem, but equally

Barring our having chosen the exercise of opinion in the press as a
profession, let's have enough sense of ethics and respect for ourselves
and for our readers to continue doing that uncomfortable journalism that
keeps politicians today and tomorrow under the rigor of public scrutiny,
just as they should be in a democratic society.

Personally, I reject sappy and complacent journalism, journalism's
subordination to any leadership, and, particularly I reject impunity.
That may not be what is expected of independent journalism by the very
controversial "servants of the people"; but it certainly is what good
Cubans expect.

*Translator's note: Sociedades Económicas were established in the
Spanish colonies (Havana's is the only one that still survives to date,
since 1793) whose mission was that of promoting local economic
development, Members were generally drawn from the local aristocracy,
scholars, professionals and skilled artisans. Some of the groups strayed
into activities that bordered on the political, and were punished by
having their legal licenses revoked.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: For an Uncomfortable Journalism / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya –
Translating Cuba -

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Nine Latin nations band together to plead with U.S. over Cuba

Nine Latin nations band together to plead with U.S. over Cuba

Eight Latin American governments on Monday joined Costa Rica in calling
on the United States to end its special treatment for Cuban migrants.

The Ecuadorean foreign minister delivered a letter to Secretary of State
John Kerry signed by the foreign ministers of the eight countries and
Costa Rica in expressing their "deep concern" that U.S. policy toward
Cuban migrants is creating a humanitarian crisis and encouraging "a
disorderly, irregular and unsafe flow of Cubans."

"Cuban citizens risk their lives, on a daily basis, seeking to reach the
United States," the letter says, according to excerpts forwarded by
Ecuador's embassy in the United States. "These people, often facing
situations of extreme vulnerability, fall victim to mafias dedicated to
people trafficking, sexual exploitation and collective assaults. This
situation has generated a migratory crisis that is affecting our countries."

The letter was signed by the foreign ministers of Colombia, Costa Rica,
Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru.

State Department officials did not immediately respond to a request for

The countries have been caught up in the drama of record-breaking Cuban
migration. More than 46,500 Cubans were admitted to the United States
without visas during the first 10 months of the 2016 fiscal year,
according to the Pew Research Center. That figure compares with more
than 43,000 in 2015 and just over 24,000 in 2014.

Several of the countries found themselves caring for thousands of
stranded Cubans who were stuck at their borders or in the interior after
running out of money to continue the journey.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González told McClatchy in an
interview last week that the issue has cost his country millions of
dollars it doesn't have and has raised complaints from Costa Ricans
about spending resources on stranded foreigners when they were needed by
the nation's own citizens.

"The difficulties between the U.S. and Cuba has a direct consequence on
other countries in our region that serve as transit," González said.
"And we are, in a way, paying the consequences of that bilateral

The nine signatories say the "main cause of the current situation" is
the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows Cubans who reach American soil to
remain in the United States, even if they arrived without legal
documentation. The signatories say revising the act would be the first
step toward addressing the worsening crisis.

They have called for Kerry to attend a "high-level meeting" to review
the issue.

"It is time for the United States to change its outdated policy for
Cuban migrants, which is undermining regular and safe migration in our
continent," said Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Guillaume Long.

The Obama administration has been encouraging the countries to enforce
their own immigration requirements and send undocumented Cubans back to
Cuba. But Cuban activists worry that that policy will only encourage
Cubans to instead flee the island on dangerous ocean voyages to reach

The number of Cubans making the sea trip has nearly doubled in the past
two years, Coast Guard statistics show.

Franco Ordoñez: 202-383-6155, @francoordonez

Source: 9 Latin nations ask U.S. to end Cuban Adjustment Act | In Cuba
Today -

Foundation seeks to revoke residency for Cubans who visit the island

Foundation seeks to revoke residency for Cubans who visit the island

When President Barack Obama announced that he would reestablish
diplomatic relations with Cuba, one part of the Cuban American community
— especially the so-called historical exile population — felt it had
been betrayed.

Now, 1 ½ years later, a Miami lawyer wants to unite those exiles to
fight against the new policy of warming relations with the island and to
regain the political space he believes that Cuban Americans have lost in
the Cuba policy-making arena.

Inspire America, a non-profit inaugurated in August with a tribute to
dissident Oscar Elías Biscet that drew more than 700 guests, was born
out of frustration with the Obama administration and the need to
"intensify efforts in the fight for democracy" in Cuba, said it is
president, Marcell Felipe.

Marcell Felipe, Inspire America

"It's important that the Cuban exile community wakes up and takes
control of the situation," Felipe said. "Even though the opposition
inside Cuba … is gaining ground every day, and although our Congress
members are doing a great job in Washington and the U.S.-Cuba Democracy
PAC is doing a great job in Congress, both Washington and the internal
opposition feed off the support of the exiles.

"A united Miami is needed," Felipe, who owns his law firm, told el Nuevo

The foundation has not revealed the names of the people on its boards of
directors or advisers. Miguel Cossio, operations chief at America TeVe,
which co-sponsored the foundation's inaugural event, said the station is
not part of the foundation. Felipe represented the channel's new owners
in a recent lawsuit over control of the station.

The organization's politics are clear.

"We are categorically opposed to negotiations. Cuba's freedom cannot be
negotiated with the Castros," said Felipe, who accused the
administration of "yielding to pressure from the Castro regime" and
"bailing out the regime from its economic collapse."

A secret poll of Cubans carried out in March and commissioned by
Univision and The Washington Post showed that 97 percent saw the
normalization of relations between the two countries as something
positive. Felipe, however, believes that "the immense majority of the
people who live in Cuba" as well as all exiles oppose any negotiations
with the Raúl Castro government.

"In a totalitarian dictatorship, it is impossible to carry out a poll
that would provide a true measure of what people think," he said.

The tribute to Biscet was not accidental.

"In that first event we succeeded in having a leader like (former
Colombian President) Álvaro Uribe give his support to the most exemplary
member of the Cuban opposition, and perhaps the most principled," he
said, "someone who wants no accommodations at all, who doesn't want a
seat in the (legislative) National Assembly of People's Power, who
doesn't just want to be given some space — who wants the complete
removal and replacement of the regime."

Felipe, who left Cuba in 1982 when he was 10 years old, was a member of
the Cuban American National Foundation and later the Cuban Liberty
Council. His vision for Inspire America is an organization that would
fill the vacuum left by the late CANF Chairman Jorge Mas Canosa.

Other Cuban American activists said they agree with some of Felipe's

"You can talk about the vacuum created by the absence of a leader like
Jorge Mas Canosa, but we can't talk about a vacuum in the exile
community when we're still electing the same political leaders who are
committed to maintaining sanctions on the Havana regime," said Miami
radio commentator and activist Ninoska Pérez Castellón.

"Everything changes in life. When the Cubans came here, the only way
they had to be heard was through street protests," she added. "Today,
the Cubans have achieved important positions and we have simply learned
how to play the game."

Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the US-Cuba Democracy Political
Action Committee (PAC), agreed there is a vacuum, at least in terms of
the political message.

His PAC is "focused on Washington. CANF changed course and now focuses
more on issues on the island and the opposition, through its Foundation
for Human Rights. That's why in Miami itself there's no cohesive message
from any entity," said Claver-Carone. He added that from Miami, Inspire
America can complement the work his PAC carries out in Washington.

The key legislative proposal backed by the new foundation is a change in
the Cuban Adjustment Act: to revoke the residency of any Cubans who
obtain it under the Act and then travel back to the island; and deny all
of the Act's benefits to Cubans who arrive with tourist visas.

Florida Republican Congress members Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Carlos
Curbelo, have both proposed eliminating some benefits provided by the
Act, but not residence.

Travel by Cuban Americans to the island continues to be controversial in
the exile community. News reports of abuses and frauds committed by
relatively new arrivals have stoked the fires of a debate that at times
shows some older exiles' disapproval for more recent migrants.

"Exiles are demoralized when a number of people arrive and stay under
the Cuban Adjustment Act, but then return because they're not really
political refugees. That's not the aim of the law. It not only
demoralizes the exile community but also discredits exiles in the eyes
of the rest of Americans," said Felipe. "Before they eliminate that law,
which has provided so many benefits for so many Cuban families who
really merit them, the right thing to do is to modify it to prevent abuses."

Felipe said too many islanders who arrive as tourists but overstay their
visas and become U.S. residents under the Cuban Adjustment Act are
"people who have no objection at all to the regime … they do nothing to
try to change the regime or change anything to make Cuba a democratic

His foundation's legislative proposal, he added, seeks to counter the
Cuban government's efforts to "demoralize the exile community by sending
people who wage economic war against the United States … using all sorts
of Medicare fraud and even drug trafficking."

Pérez Castellón said it's difficult to determine the political
inclinations of more recent Cuban arrivals.

"We're seeing that some people, when they arrive in the United States,
don't want to speak out, don't want so say anything that could get them
banned from returning to Cuba tomorrow," she said. "But until now we
have not seen the results of the voting by those people."

The radio commentator added that she's more bothered by Cubans who
return to the island but continue to illegally receive U.S. government
benefits available only to Cubans migrants.

While the organization begins to make a name for itself, there are
questions about transparency.

According to Inspire America's web page, the foundation "is organized as
what is sometimes called a 'Super PAC', an organization that can raise
an unlimited amount of money from individual donors and businesses and
spend these funds on political advertisements."

But Felipe told el Nuevo Herald that the foundation is registered under
the Internal Revenue Code as a 501(c)4, a non-profit, tax-exempt
organization operated to promote social welfare.

"We are what's known as a 501(c)4, which means that the political
advertisements we produce cannot specifically endorse a candidate. They
are political ads on issues, in this case democracy in Latin America and
in Cuba," he said.

Felipe nevertheless insisted on identifying the foundation as being
similar to a SuperPAC, writing in a text message that the definition of
a SuperPAC "is very fluid and can be used to cover the 501(c)4
organizations because SuperPAC is not a technical definition."

There are clear differences between the two types of organizations.

SuperPACs are classified as "independent expenditure-only committees"
supervised by the Federal Elections Commission, which can receive
unlimited donations from corporations, labor unions and individuals but
cannot contribute or coordinate directly with political parties or

The 501(c)4 non-profits can lobby on any issue, but politics cannot be
their principal activities and donations for political activities are
not tax-free.

A key difference between them has to do with identifying donors:
SuperPACs must reveal identities while 501(c)4s can keep them secret.

Claver-Carone said he would not equate both types of organizations.

"To be precise, there are some cross linkages between what one (501(c)4)
can do in terms of advertising, but SuperPACs do not lobby and they are
not regulated in the same way," he wrote in an email.

Why then would Felipe portray his 501(c)4 as a SuperPAC?

"The only thing that occurs to be is the attraction for raising funds,"
said Lloyd Mayer, an expert on the laws that govern non-profits and
professor at Notre Dame University. "People know what a SuperPAC is, and
that may be attractive to some people," he said.

But portraying the two as being the same "is misleading because you're
either a SuperPAC or a 501(c)4," Mayer said. "You can't be both."

Inspire America will have to do a lot of fundraising if it is to meet
its pledge of spending $1 million this year on ads promoting democracy
in Cuba and Latin America. Felipe said it already has received promises
of support from major donors, but declined to provide names.

"Our hopes rest on the nearly 1,000 people who attended our inauguration
… in donations of $5, $10 and $20 that we started to receive already,
without asking for them," Felipe said. "How are we going to reach the
economic goals that we have set? We're not worrying about that. We have
an exile community that will support us."

Part of the funds collected will be put into an independent fund and
used to support dissidents in Cuba, he said. All details of that fund
will be made public, the lawyer added, declining to offer any further

"All of the remainder of the money that we use for the different
operations will be kept under the utmost confidentiality because we are
fighting against a dictatorship," Felipe added. "We may not necessarily
always reveal the identities of our collaborators, because many will
have to be be extremely discrete in order to help the cause of Cuban

Source: Inspire America seeks to revoke residency for Cubans who visit
the island | In Cuba Today -

Monday, August 29, 2016

Asking Questions Is A Crime

Asking Questions Is A Crime / 14ymedio

14ymedio, 29 August 2016 — A few days ago I arrived in the town of
Cespedes, where my house is, and among the things that caught my
attention was a sign in one of the town's snack bars with the following
announcement: "All food will increase in price 0.10 centavos for special
account concept."

A logical question immediately came to mind: What is a special account
and what is it used for? Given my concern, and using my civil right, as
expressed in Article 63 of the Constitution of the Republic – "Every
citizen has the right to direct complaints and petitions to the
authorities and to receive the pertinent attention or answers in a
reasonable time, according to the law" – I began to investigate in the
appropriate places.

On 25 August, in the same snack bar I asked the clerk, Hortelio, who
told me the sign had been posted but he didn't know anything about it,
he didn't even know what a special account was. As I was on my way, I
went to the Municipal Commerce Enterprise, but there I only found Betsy,
in charge of the defense and command post. This official explained to me
that she wasn't sure, but the increase was because of the carnivals and
the special account was the Ministry of Culture. She recommended that I
come back another day and ask to speak to the director.

Continuing on my way, I came to another snack bar, where Ariel spoke
with me, and showed me a resolution from the Municipal Administrative
Council authorizing the 0.10 centavo charge as a tax on food products,
0.20 centavos on beer or rum, and that this would be during popular
fiestas. My original questions remained unanswered.

The next day, 26 August, I went to the Municipal Commerce Enterprise.
The entity's municipal director saw me, a man with the surname
Perez-Ibanez, and he explained to me that the special account was the
tax on products sold during popular fiestas (carnivals) and that it was
collected in order to pay the musical orchestras who were contracted by
the municipality for these festivities, as well as other expenses
related to the celebrations.

In Cespedes the carnivals began on 22 July [ed. note: "carnival" in Cuba
is a "flexible" holiday that occurs at different times in different
years in different places, seemingly according to the whims of the
higher ups], and it was already more than a month later and the tax was
still being applied. The municipal director's response to this complaint
was that during the three days of the carnival it was impossible to sell
everything that was in the plan. He added, that the Municipal
Administrative Council was considering the vacation period as popular
fiestas and for these reasons the charge continued.

I asked if the Council had not approved a budget for these popular
fiestas and he responded in the negative. I found it difficult to
understand that a great quantity of people had to pay for the musicians
they hadn't listened to. Not to mention that the quality of the
celebrations was terrible, according to the residents, who even said so
on Facebook.

Before I left, the director asked me if I had come in a personal
capacity or on behalf of some organization. I responded that I came as a
citizen and that I did indeed come on behalf of an organization: the
people. Despite feeling dissatisfied with the usefulness of the special
account, I went home and did nothing more about it.

On 27 August, at 1:45 pm, an official from State Security calling
himself Manuel arrived at my house and told me that at 2:00 pm I must
present myself at the police station. On going to the place indicated, I
was received, in an arrogant and overbearing tone, by the official René.
Also there was the director of the Commerce enterprise. It wasn't by
chance. They had cited me to deliver to me a warning letter for
counter-revolutionary public demonstrations in divulging state
information. According to what they told me, if I did this again I would
be accused of espionage.

In response to my claim that I was exercising my citizen's right in
asking a question in an official way for my own understanding, and in
addition that it was not about a state secret but about public
information, the official René told me that I was lying, because I had
published it on the networks. In addition, he explained that any citizen
could ask a question but that I could not, because I was a mercenary in
the service of imperialism and an opportunist.

They asked me to sign the warning letter which I refused to do, and in
addition they "warned" me to get out of Cespedes, that here I would not
"have a career." They also told me that if I stayed it was all the same
to them because they had won a lot of awards and would continue to win
awards if they managed to control me here.

Many questions could emerge from this, one more of the many meetings I
have had with State Security, but I wonder: By what law or what
authority, for the fact of being opponents or dissidents, can they limit
our civil rights? How can a simple question constitute a crime against
State Security? How much longer is the most basic freedom of expression
going to be a crime in Cuba? Apparently, in the municipality of
Cespedes, in Camagüey, which by all indications is governed by a special
law, asking questions is a crime.

Source: Asking Questions Is A Crime / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -

Journalism on Demand

Cuba: Journalism on Demand / Iván García

Iván García, 27 August 2016 — I still remember that two-day trip to
Pinar del Río. I stayed in a Communist Party hotel at the side of the
old central highway. I visited the province's outstanding factories,
cooperatives and work centers.

Then in Havana, I wrote three or four sugar-coated articles about the
excellent management of the Peoples' Power and the "enthusiasm" of the
workers' collective at the Conchita factory after winning a banner of
socialist excellence.

No one told me how to do journalism. I experienced it for four decades.
I was studying primary education and during school recesses, at the
request of my grandmother, my mother [Tania Quintero, now living in
Switzerland], a former official journalist, took me with her when she
had to do reports in the cities of the interior.

In that epoch – and now, according to what they tell me – journalists
covered the subjects indicated by the Department of Revolutionary
Orientation, which weekly dictated the guidelines to the communication

Most official journalists are scribes rather than reporters. They write
on demand.

With the arrival of new information technologies and the transition from
a personalistic and totalitarian society to an authoritarian country of
incipient military capitalism, dozens of State journalists now publish
with their names or pseudonyms in alternative digital media, generating
a reprimand from their bosses.

It's precisely in blogs and on independent sites that these
correspondents can express their talent, tell their stories and pour out
opinions that they never would publish in the dull, propagandistic
Government press.

The most notorious case is Periodismo de Barrio (Neighborhood
Journalism), spearheaded by Elaine Díaz, ex-professor of the University
of Havana Faculty of Communication and probably the best journalist in
Cuba. After dropping the official ballast, Díaz published excellent
research on communities and citizens that never appeared in the Party media.

Doing independent journalism in Cuba brings risks. You won't get a
pension when you retire; you will suffer harassment from State Security,
and the Taliban hard-liners will try to assassinate your reputation with
every type of crude accusation. But those who manage to do it are free

In my case, I choose the topics and how I'm going to present them. The
only censorship is that imposed by reason or by the sword of Damocles
represented by the Gag Law, which obliges you to revise the content with
a magnifying glass so you don't get tangled in a crime of defamation or
accused of denigrating the President of the Republic.

Certainly, the chief editors with whom I collaborate make
recommendations. Up to now, they haven't censored the content nor the
style of drafting. Only on two occasions did they not publish one of my
articles (a right that newspapers or websites have). Then I uploaded
them to my two blogs.

That an independent journalist doesn't write on demand means that inside
the Island several opposition organizations and dissident leaders try to
use you at their convenience.

It seems legitimate to me that a dissident project aspires to having the
best media impact possible. That's not what I'm referring to. It's the
deplorable obsession of certain dissidents who want to manage the work
of a journalist.

They use different strategies. One is to invite you to meetings where
they paint a superficial picture of their organization and their
chimeric plans. The story is like that of the Government, but in
reverse. They exaggerate the number of members and present a battery of
proposals that are forgotten after a few months.

If you ask uncomfortable questions, they simply take you off the list of
their meetings and press conferences. If you're too critical of the
dissidence, they prepare a reprimand.

They never tell you that they disagree with you. They start the
discussion by pointing out that you're wrong. If voices are raised,
accusations begin: that you're an undercover agent of State Security, a
traitor to the cause, or you're providing arguments to the "enemy" (the
Regime) that later will be used to discredit the opposition.

Another strategy, in mode among certain opposition groups, is that in
addition to "renting" a journalist, they enroll him in their cause. A
huge mistake. Keeping a distance is the first rule of journalism.

If you are for democracy, that doesn't mean you should march with the
Ladies in White through Miramar. When that happens, the journalist
misjudges the profession.

Sometimes the debates caused by a journalistic article are civilized.
Other times they set up a "repudiation meeting" for you.

The Sunday of March 20, hours before Obama landed in Havana, I was with
the Ladies in White in Gandhi Park, to write an article about the
aggressions against the group of women on the part of the repressive bodies.

There I had to put up with the insolence of Ailer González, a member of
Estado de Sats, asking me what I was doing there and refuting my
assessments. I answered her briefly and told her that she didn't have to
read me.

This type of journalism by genuflection, habitual in Cuba, sometimes
tries to pass itself off as freelance.

Everyone is free to have an opinion and reproduce it. Sometimes our
commentaries or stories provoke controversy and irritate the local or
exile dissidence. But at least I don't write to please anyone.

If a handful of ungagged journalists have been able to defy an
olive-green autocracy for 20 years, I don't believe that the pride and
intolerance of some dissidents should inhibit us.

Authentic journalism is always in search of the truth. Whatever it costs.

Photo: Elaine Díaz and Abraham Jiménez, directors of the digital media
Periodismo de Barrio (Neighborhood Journalism) and El Estornudo (The
Sneeze). Taken from Brotes de periodismo cubano (Outbreaks of Cuban
Journalism), an article by Pablo de Llano, El País (The Country, a daily
newspaper in Spain), March 22, 2016.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Cuba: Journalism on Demand / Iván García – Translating Cuba -

Yailin Orta Named Director Of Juventud Rebelde Newspaper

Yailin Orta Named Director Of Juventud Rebelde Newspaper / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 23 August 2016 – Journalist Yailin Orta Rivera, a
member of the National Committee of the Young Communists Union (UJC),
has been names as the new director of the newspaper Juventud Rebelde
(Rebel Youth) according to a note in that newspaper on Wednesday. The
young woman, who worked as deputy editor, replaces Marina Menendez
Quintero, who will undertake "other journalistic tasks on the same

A 2006 graduate, Orta Rivera said in an interview last October that
young people should have "a more systematic presence in decision-making
areas, not only because they bring their audacity, irreverence, and
their transgressive look to different news realities."

On that occasion, during the celebrations for the newspaper's half
century mark, the journalist noted that among the great challenges of
the publication is "doing a better job of satisfying the demands of its
reading public," and she said that they received demands from their
audience to stay "connected to the public agenda."

The designation of Orta Rivera as the new director of Juventud
Rebelde occurs at a time when calls are being made from the highest
echelons of the Party for a journalism more connected to reality and
with a critical focus. Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, Cuban First Vice
President has stated in public speeches the need for "a brave
responsible press."

In Tuesday's edition of Juventud Rebelde, Yailin Orta Rivera's name
already appears as director and her vacancy in the group of editors was
covered by Yoerky Sánchez Cuéllar.

Previously the "Newspaper of Cuban Youth" was directed by Terry Pelayo
Cuervo, who took over the leadership of the newspaper Granma in October

Source: Yailin Orta Named Director Of Juventud Rebelde Newspaper /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -

Police Arrest Several Activists From Candidates For Change

Police Arrest Several Activists From Candidates For Change / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 27 August 2016 – Regime opponent Julio Aleago reported
to this newspaper that the police detained several activists on Saturday
morning to keep them from attending a meeting of volunteer observers
associated with the Candidates for Change platform. The meeting was to
be held at the home of Juan Moreno in Havana's Vedado district, but the
host was taken to the Aguilera police station in the 10 de Octubre

The activist Ricardo Marlene was prevented from leaving his home in San
Miguel del Padron, where he now remains under house arrest. The
whereabouts of the other participants are unknown.

Julio Aleaga, executive secretary of the electoral platform Candidates
for Change, told this newspaper that the arrest of Moreno was made by a
State Security officer identified by the alias Diego. "We will not
allow" the meeting to take place, "Diego" had warned last Tuesday.

Among the tasks of the volunteer observers are to gather the concerns of
the population and present them in the district accountability
assemblies – meetings where elected officials report back to citizens on
the achievements of government programs and promises – and to make these
concerns available to the elected delegates through the offices
instituted for that purpose.

The initiative is an effort by Candidates for Change with the aim of
overseeing the government on behalf of the citizens and questioning
public policy at the district, people's council and municipality levels.

At present Candidates for Change is discussing the appointment of Party
Central Committee member and National Assembly Deputy Reinaldo Garcia
Zapata to the position of governor of Havana. He has been brought in
from the province of Santiago de Cuba to replace the recently removed
Marta Romero.

The appointment was a proposal presented last Saturday by Agustin de la
Pena, from the Candidacy Commission, with the concurrence of the Vice
President of the National Assembly, Ana Maria Mari Machado, and of
General Ulises Rosales del Toro.

Aleaga notes that there is no protocol in the law for citizens to reject
these appointments, which are not the result of an electoral process.
The objection lodged by Candidates for Change has received no
institutional response.

The volunteer observers have representatives in the provinces of
Santiago de Cuba, Sancti Spiritus, Granma, Cienfuegos and Havana. Its
members plan to work intensively on the electoral process that
will begin in late 2017. They will focus on the electoral registers, the
area assemblies where direct proposals from the population are put
forward, and on verifying election results at polling stations.

Aleaga believes that the intent to repress this meeting is "an attempt
to prevent the strengthening of the internal structures of this movement
whose objective is to use the government's electoral system to promote
the transition to democracy."

Source: Police Arrest Several Activists From Candidates For Change /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -

Doctors Give Medical Clearance To Guillermo Fariñas /

Doctors Give Medical Clearance To Guillermo Fariñas / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 28 August 2016 — Regime opponent Guillermo Fariñas
received medical clearance on Saturday, after staying for several hours
at the Arnaldo Milian Castro Hospital where he was taken because of his
delicate state of health after 39 days on a hunger and thirst
strike. The 2010 winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for
Freedom of Thought fainted at his home in the Chirusa neighborhood in
the city of Santa Clara, as was confirmed to this newspaper by his
mother, Alicia Hernandez.

On a phone call from 14ymedio's newsroom to the observation room in the
hospital, an employee confirmed that Fariñas "arrived unconscious at
about three in the afternoon," but an hour and a half later was "better
as he opened his eyes."

Alicia Hernandez said her son "recovered consciousness" and the decision
about whether he should remain in the hospital or be discharged would
depend on "how he reacts to treatment," a reference to the rehydration
sera administered during his stay in the observation room.

The dissident suffers severe dehydration and severe joint pain. This is
the fourth time he was transferred to the hospital after fainting.

Along with his mother, several activists from the Anti-totalitarian
Forum (FANTU) were also with Fariñas in the hospital.

Source: Doctors Give Medical Clearance To Guillermo Fariñas / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba -

Trial opens of 6 Cuban volleyball players charged with rape

Trial opens of 6 Cuban volleyball players charged with rape
The Associated Press•Aug 29, 2016, 11:39 AM

HELSINKI (AP) -- Six members of Cuba's volleyball team have appeared in
a Finnish regional court on charges of aggravated rape.

The trial, which began on Monday behind closed doors in the District
Court of Pirkanmaa, is expected to last three days.

The men, who have been held in police custody since they were arrested
last month, have denied the charges. If found guilty they face maximum
eight-year prison sentences.

Eight Cuban players were initially arrested in early July following
allegations that a woman was raped at a hotel where the team was staying
in Tampere, 170 kilometers (105 miles) north of the capital, Helsinki.
Two were later released.

The arrests were during the Volleyball World League in the southern
Finnish city.

Source: Trial opens of 6 Cuban volleyball players charged with rape -;_ylt=AwrC0CYJfMRXABcALDXQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByOHZyb21tBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--

Cashing in on Cuba: Why the U.S - tourism industry isn’t waiting for Congress to lift the embargo

Cashing in on Cuba: Why the U.S. tourism industry isn't waiting for
Congress to lift the embargo
Cuba Libre? It took capitalist motives to beat the embargo and make
travel to the communist country a reality

Tourists in Havana, Cuba, March 20, 2016. (Credit: AP/Ramon Espinosa)
When Juan Santamarina's two uncles from Cuba recently visited the U.S.
for the first time, the travel experience was exceptionally . .
. unexceptional.

"It was a pretty simple process to get their five-year visas, as if they
were flying to anywhere else, which is remarkable," Santamarina, chair
of the history department at the University of Dayton, told Salon.
"After so many years, we're finally beginning to see the U.S. having
more normal relations with Cuba — more like the relations with other

It was just 20 years ago that President Bill Clinton signed a law
strengthening the embargo imposed in 1960. But since President Barack
Obama lifted restriction on family travel and money transfers from the
U.S. to Cuba in 2009, the process of normalizing diplomatic and trade
relations between the two countries has picked up the pace. In the past
seven years, two-way travel restrictions have been lifted, diplomatic
ties have been restored, prisoners have been swapped and more U.S.
business delegations have been exploring the streets of Havana. And U.S.
companies eager to do business in and with this long
off-limits market have been leading calls to end the 56-year-old trade

Now after the Obama administration used its executive powers to lift
some trade restrictions in September and renewed calls to lift the
embargo, companies in the tourism sector have decided the time to try to
gain a foothold in Cuba is now. They're working around the embargo,
which Congress has failed to rescind. Among other things, the
legislation, a lingering vestige of the Cold War, requires Americans
traveling to Cuba sign an affidavit promising that they aren't going to
the island nation on vacation — Cuba is the only destination in the
world for which this is required. But that isn't stopping the airlines.

On Wednesday, JetBlue will become the first U.S. carrier since the 1950s
to offer commercial routes to Cuba. The inaugural flight will depart
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, filled with Cuban-born Americans heading to
the central Cuban city of Santa Clara. Other airlines will soon follow
and by the end of the year regular direct routes are likely from Miami,
Chicago, Minneapolis and Philadelphia to and from nine Cuban cities.

Although there are still only 12 approved reasons for U.S. citizens to
travel to Cuba, they can now be defined broadly enough to accommodate
almost any type of tourism, according Samuel Engel, vice president for
the Aviation group of ICF International, a global advisory firm. "You'd
have to be pretty uncreative not to find a way to put yourself into one
of the 12 categories in order to fly to Cuba from the U.S.," Engel told
Salon. What, for example, constitutes "educational activities," or
"support for the Cuban people," two of the authorized reasons to visit Cuba?

In other words, the gaps in the embargo's fine print are big enough to
sail a cruise ship through. Indeed, earlier this year, Carnival became
the first U.S. leisure travel company since the 1950s to offer cruise
packages to Cuba by carefully categorizing the tour as a cultural
exchange program.

"The Obama administration's steps to broaden and more generously
interpret the 12 authorized categories have punched a beneficial, big
hole in that barrier," Fulton Armstrong, a research fellow at the Center
for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University in
Washington, D.C., told Salon via email. "Commercial flights make that
travel more irreversible, and they lock in the interests of powerful
political voices — the airline industry and others — in favor of travel."

Earlier this year, Connecticut-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts signed
deals with three state-owned hotels in Cuba after the U.S. Treasury
Department gave it the go-ahead. And last week, AT&T became the first
U.S. telecom to sign a deal with Cuba's state-owned phone companies to
offer mobile roaming service to customers who travel to Cuba.

The doors the Obama administration has opened will be very difficult to
close, and they may even compel the reluctant Republican Congress to
lift the embargo. One stumbling block to that may soon be resolved
if negotiations to settle claims on properties appropriated by the Cuban
government are resolved. Human rights in Cuba still remains a big
sticking point, but advocates of normalizing relations can point to
America's engagement with other authoritarian states across the globe,
such as Egypt, China or Saudi Arabia, and question why a neighbor just
90 miles south of Miami is held to a different standard.

And so while the GOP-led Congress is unwilling to remove the embargo, a
majority of Americans favor ending it, according to a poll earlier this
year. It's telling that since 2012 the number of people taking charter
flights to Cuba has grown fivefold, to a half million travelers last
year, according to Engel: Americans are unlikely to dissuaded from
traveling to Cuba, embargo or no. The moves being made by JetBlue,
Starwood, Carnival and AT&T are sound business decisions: There's an
underserved demand and a new market: So no one should be surprised
that capitalism is bringing the de facto end to the embargo of communist

Source: Cashing in on Cuba: Why the U.S. tourism industry isn't waiting
for Congress to lift the embargo - -

New Cuba tourism seen slow to take off despite U.S. flights

New Cuba tourism seen slow to take off despite U.S. flights
By Marc Frank and Jeffrey Dastin | HAVANA/NEW YORK

An expected explosion in U.S. tourism to Cuba will likely take years to
materialize even after U.S. airlines resume commercial flights to the
Caribbean island this week for the first time since 1961, industry
officials said.

JetBlue Airways Corp (JBLU.O) will pilot its historic flight from
Florida to the Cuban city of Santa Clara on Wednesday, the latest step
in normalizing relations that earlier this year included a visit by U.S.
President Barack Obama and the first U.S. cruise to the island in decades.

The planes may some day be filled with U.S. beach-goers, looking for an
economical Caribbean break at resorts favored by Canadians and Europeans
on the sandy keys north of Santa Clara.

But for now, U.S. law and constraints on Cuba's tourism infrastructure
will act as brakes on increasing demand, experts said.

Congress has yet to lift a trade embargo that prohibits U.S. citizens
from visiting Cuba as tourists. The Obama administration has approved 12
categories of exceptions to the ban ranging from cultural, religious and
educational travel to business and visiting family.

That means JetBlue's initial flights will mainly carry Cuban-Americans
visiting relatives or other U.S. citizens interested in seeing the Che
Guevara Mausoleum and other cultural sites.

Eventually, up to 25 flights a day by various carriers will connect the
United States and the Cuban provinces, with another 20 to Havana, under
an agreement reached by the two Cold War foes as part of a gradual
détente begun in December 2014.

Services on Silver Airways and American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) from
the Miami area to other outlying provinces are the next to start, in

While the direct flights could carry more than a million U.S. residents
to Cuba annually, according to John Kavulich, head of the New York-based
U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council Inc, he and other experts believe
that mark will not be reached for several years.

In the beginning, the new routes are expected to absorb customers from
the average of 17 charter flights that Cuba's government says have
arrived from the United States daily for several years.

"The fares that have come out so far, announced by American and JetBlue,
have been super competitive," said Bob Guild, vice president at Marazul
Charters Inc. "I don't have any question that it's going to shrink," he
said of the charter services. Marazul, one of the largest charter
companies operating to Cuba, plans to scale back services to provinces
this fall but continue with its Havana flights while commercial airlines
await approval, Guild said.


There is already a boom in visits to Cuba from the United States. Some
300,000 Cubans living in the United States now travel home annually. In
2015, the Cuban government reported 161,233 Americans visited, compared
to 91,254 in 2014, and arrivals through June nearly doubled over the
same period last year, a trend that the dawn of commercial flights can
only further.

"The fact that travelers can book flights directly online not only
streamlines that process and makes it more affordable, it adds a feeling
of legality," said Collin Laverty of Cuban Educational Travel.

But another barrier to increased U.S. travel is that Cuba's hotels, bed
and breakfasts, transportation services and amenities are already
stretched to the limit, with a record 3.5 million foreign arrivals last
year. Higher hotel prices, pegged to the U.S. dollar, might push out
some travelers from Europe and Canada, creating more space for
Americans, said Emilio Morales, CEO of Miami-based Havana Consulting
Group. Private bed and breakfasts would absorb what they could of
increased demand, he said.

Over time, airlines are betting travel restrictions will be further
relaxed and want to get their foot in the door before Obama leaves
office next year.

"While all of the flights are unlikely to operate at capacity, the
airlines want to plant their respective flags," Kavulich said.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Source: New Cuba tourism seen slow to take off despite U.S. flights |
Reuters -

More bad news for new ideas in Cuba

More bad news for new ideas in Cuba

Very few without Castro in their name have survived in the leadership of
the Cuban Revolution as long as Eusebio Leal. And he didn't do it by the
conventional means of silence and obedience. He brought loyalty but also
ideas to the Castros. Now the military-run business empire has asserted
itself in Old Havana as elsewhere and Leal appears to have been

Uniquely among Cuban leaders Leal has cared about other things beyond
preserving the Castro Revolution. He has been as fascinated by Cuba's
past as its future. He has received numerous overseas cultural awards
but his stature in Cuba has been that he thought differently.

In 2002 the British embassy in Havana staged a two-month-long series of
events to commemorate 100 years of diplomatic relations between Cuba and
the United Kingdom. We were told it was the largest such festival by an
overseas country ever held in Cuba. Leal was our indispensable ally for
venues, organization, contacts and vision. At times the Revolution's
agenda surfaced and he negotiated hard. But his heart was in the history
of both our countries. Leal even created a garden in Old Havana in
memory of Princess Diana. And as a historian he loved the story of the
British invasion of Havana in 1762.

The military conglomerate GAESA will now assume business control over
Leal's beloved Old Havana project. This has been a labor of love and
ingenuity. But it has also depended on his versatile role at the heart
of revolutionary politics. He proved a man of taste, of determination
but also shone as a contemporary entrepreneur in a Cuba which despises

His versatility served him well. A teenager at the time of the
Revolution, he chose to prove that innovation and a love of past
cultures and elegance could coexist with the new era. He admired Fidel,
a fellow intellectual, and — not accidentally — he was chosen by the
official Cuban media to eulogize his old friend again on his 90th
birthday. Typically, the Revolution was extracting a declaration of
loyalty from a man who was feeling pretty disgruntled.

Times are changing in Cuba and the undermining of Leal's control has
wider implications. He may not be a household name outside Cuba and he
may be in failing health. But his project showed he knew the Castros
would never allow private sector growth to restore the largest area of
Spanish colonial architecture in the Western Hemisphere.

His only chance was to harness funds from tourist visitors and foreign
investors. There is still much to do but the current rush of tourists to
Cuba owes much to achievement.

Leal's fate is nothing new. Set in the 57-year context of the Cuban
Revolution, many able and loyal leaders have been discarded. Felipe
Pérez Roque, Carlos Lage and Roberto Robaina are recent examples. But
Leal had survived and appeared to be growing in stature with Raúl. His
walking tour of Old Havana with Obama received worldwide publicity.

Leal's bonding with the U.S. president may have irked the Castros. The
disintegration of Venezuela and loss of subsidies under Nicolás Maduro
gave the military companies the opening they needed to swoop for Old
Havana. Now, effectively Raúl Castro's son-in-law will rule the roost
and U.S.-operated cruise ships will soon be occupying many berths in the
Old Havana harbor.

But perhaps the saddest lesson from Leal's marginalization is the signal
it sends to Cuban innovators and foreign investors. The restoration of
the Revolution is still more important than the architectural jewels of
past eras. Almost at the same time as Leal's demise, a far less
visionary but unquestioning loyalist, Ricardo Cabrisas, was promoted.
These are indeed depressing times for Cubans hoping for some new ideas
and less of the same.


Source: More bad news for new ideas in Cuba | In Cuba Today -

Commercial flights from the U.S. to Cuba augurs the demise of the ‘mules’

Commercial flights from the U.S. to Cuba augurs the demise of the 'mules'
Agence France-Presse

The start this week of the first regularly scheduled commercial flights
from the United States augurs the likely demise of Cuba's "mules" —
suppliers of last resort for scarce consumer goods on the island.

For more than half a century, commercial air travel between Cuba and the
United States was all but non-existent, a victim of frosty Cold War-era

What little air transit there was between the two nations came in the
form of charter flights that made a profit not only selling plane seats
to approved groups of passengers, but marketing entire travel packages
including hotel, car rental and sightseeing tours.

Many travel agencies also squeeze out a profit by shipping light cargo —
clothes and consumer appliances — from Cubans in the United States to
their relatives on the island.

The packages and parcels — often containing consumer items that are all
but impossible to find for most Cubans — are flown to the island for $5
or $10 per pound via charter flight.

The practice is not illegal in Cuba, so long as the value of the wares
are within customs limits.

The items can include "televisions, microwave ovens, bicycles or an air
conditioner," a travel agency owner told AFP.

"In Cuba, we need everything." It's an arrangement that works out well
for everyone: Consumers in Cuba get access to sought-after goods and
travel agencies get to pad their profits.

Mules benefit as well, typically getting to travel to Cuba for a deeply
discounted price of around $100 — about one fourth the usual cost for a
seat on a charter flight.

Charter companies over the years have been more than happy to allow to
fly planes to the island groaning with heavy luggage and boxes.

"Have you seen those flights?" asked Frank Gonzalez, owner of Miami's
Mambi Tour.

"It was practically a cargo business," he said of the Florida-to-Cuba
charter flights.

In this new era of U.S.-Cuba normalization, all of that now appears
poised to change, as flight options multiply.

Washington and Havana agreed in February to restore direct commercial
flights, one of the watershed changes initiated in December 2014, when
US President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro
announced a thaw after more than 50 years of Cold War hostility.

Jet Blue flies the first commercial plane on Wednesday from Fort
Lauderdale to the central Cuban city of Santa Clara.

Other U.S. air carriers planning to start airline service to the island
include American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Silver Airways, Southwest
Airlines and Sun Country Airlines.

In another development expected to hasten the demise of the mule, FedEx
is due to arrive in Cuba beginning next year, giving those who hope to
send their loved ones food, medicine and clothing another way to do so.

One Florida-based charter operator said the opening up of commercial
flights has led his company to scale back its charter flights already.

"We will stop operating charter flights in September and October," said
Michael Zuccato, general manager at Cuba Travel Services.

"We may operate flights again in December... but we are changing the way
we are operating," Mr Zuccato said.

"Unless you can bundle the package together, the charter flight doesn't
make a lot of sense. And right now the majority of the passengers are
Cuban Americans going to visit family, so they don't require those kinds
of services."

Even though charter operators expect to be hurt by the change, travel
agents say they expect to sell more packages than ever, since Cuba
remains a somewhat unusual and complicated travel destination —
particularly for curious Americans eager to travel to the once-forbidden
communist island.

Source: Regularly scheduled flights to Cuba augurs the likely demise of
the "mules" | In Cuba Today -

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Moscow Does Not Fit In A Suitcase

Moscow Does Not Fit In A Suitcase / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 25 August 2016 – For decades visiting
Moscow was the golden dream, but only the most trusted could enjoy a
stay in the Soviet Union. From these trips to the "godmother nation"
they returned with suitcases filled with products unavailable in Cuba.
Today, some take the same route, but this time they shop in a Russia
with a market economy and well-stocked stores.

Most of them are "mules" who make the long journey to Pushkin's native
land to bring back shoes, clothing and Lada or Moskvitch car parts,
which they sell in the informal market. Those with more resources pay
for their own airline tickets, knowing that they can make back the
money; but others offer the room in their suitcases in search of an
investor to pay for the trip.

With the restrictions imposed late last year on the entry of Cubans to
Ecuador, one of the most important routes of imports for the black
market was closed. Russia, however, has continued its policy of not
requiring visas from residents of the island, so the "mules" have
reoriented their travel to Moscow, a route also widely used to emigrate.

The travel agency Ancon, located in a spacious property on Linea Street
in Havana's Vedado district, is taking advantage of the growth in
interest in Russia to offer "shopping trip" packages to Moscow. There is
no shortage of customers and the tour operator focuses on organizing
visits to markets, filling travelers' suitcases and facilitating getting
the merchandise back to the island.

Vladimir Putin's Russia has a commercial network unthinkable in Raul
Castro's Cuba. While the shelves of Havana stores display the same
products over and over again, or are empty, Moscow's markets are a
permanent temptation to the wallet.

"The travel agency is part of the Russian company Kompozit 21 and has
been operating in Cuba for three years," says Ada Soto, an employee of
Ancon. The CEO is Nikolay Popov, but in a spacious 16th floor apartment,
two Cubans manage reservations and sales.

Soto explained to 14ymedio that since early this year business has
significantly increased. Cubans who contract their services are received
by one of their compatriots based in Moscow who greets them at the
airport and will answer any questions in Spanish, while leading them to
their hotel arranged from the island.

The seven-day packages that costs not more than $500 for accommodation,
transfers and a guide, are the most sought after and the highlight is
the tour of the a visit to the Sadovod marlet, a shopping mall with
wholesale deals and more than 4,500 stores.

Most customers prefer to focus on shops and ignore Ancon's cultural
program with visits to museum. Cuban travelers seem more interested in
the goods on offer and the sales rather than taking a look at the Red

Vivian, 32, made the trip earlier this year. She says she spent it
"eating hamburgers and pizza," while acknowledging that "the Russian
language is a bit of a problem, but if you speak some English and with a
calculator in hand, no problem." Together with her husband they bouhgt
two passages and hired the services of Ancon. "It was a business trip,"
she says.

The couple spent a day in Moscow in the Saviolovskiyo electronics market
to stock up on photography and video equipment, mobile phones, tablets
and other electronic devices, merchandise that can be sold at three
times its value in the Cuban black market.

Vivian fed her nostalgia for the times when the Kremlin and Revolution
Square were close with some Russian souvenirs, like matryoshka nesting
dolls and decorated wooden crafts. She also fulfilled the request of her
father in the Puerto Sur car market, buying some spare parts for his Volga.

The young woman's husband was delighted with the Sokolniki shopping
center with accessories for Jawa, Voskhod, Minsk, Karpati and Riga
motorcycles, models that circulate widely on Cuba's streets. With a
couple of purchases made at the request of some friends he said he would
"recover nearly half the money spent on tickets."

The agency handled the transfer of goods to the hotel, gave them the use
of a cellphone, and helped them manage the payment for an extra
suitcase, in addition to the 33 kilograms they could bring home free,
between a large bag and a piece of hand luggage.

On Revolico, the classified site similar to a Cuban Craigslist, they
rented coats and boots because it was still "quite cold" when they
landed in Moscow. The couple hopes to repeat the trip in late September
and has already bought the tickets on Aeroflot for 630 convertible pesos

"I've realized a dream of my lifetime because when I was a chiquita my
father went to Moscow on a trip he earned as a bonus for being a
vanguard worker, but my trip was for shopping," enthused Vivian while
showing off some of her purchases. Unlike her father, she didn't have to
work overtime or demonstrate ideological fidelity to realize her dream.

Source: Moscow Does Not Fit In A Suitcase / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar –
Translating Cuba -

Costa Rica Returns 56 Cuban Migrants To Panama

Costa Rica Returns 56 Cuban Migrants To Panama / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 24 August 2016 — The Government of Costa Rica returned
a group of 56 Cuban migrants to Panama, according to a report in the
local press on Tuesday. The Cubans, including an eight-year-old boy and
a woman eight months pregnant were taken to the capital where the
Catholic charity Caritas will care for them until the government decides
their future.

Sietnel Candañedo, a member of Pastoral Caritas of Chiriqui, explained
to the newspaper La Prensa that the migrants have no money, nor any
place to stay and that they need "urgent" help with personal hygiene
items, canned food, water, drinks, disposable cutlery and milk for children.

The Cubans allegedly entered Panama through Colombian's Darien jungle.
In the the last three weeks several migrants have traveled from Panama
City to Chiriqui hoping to cross the border to continue their journey to
the United States.

Source: Costa Rica Returns 56 Cuban Migrants To Panama / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba -

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cuban Official Josefina Vidal Accuses US of Using the Internet “To Promote Subversion”

Cuban Official Josefina Vidal Accuses US of Using the Internet "To
Promote Subversion" / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 26 August 2016 – Josefina Vidal, Director of the
United States Division for Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said
Tuesday that the internet is being used from the United States as a way
to promote internal subversion on the island.

"The illegal use of radio and TV against Cuba isn't enough, they insist
on using the internet as a weapon of subversion," the diplomat
complained through her Twitter account.

Vidal criticized the first conference on the free use of the internet on
the island, organized by the Office of Cuban Broadcasting, which
operates Radio and TV Martí. The event, which will be held in Miami on
12-13 September, will bring independent Cuban journalists together with
digital innovators and individuals who are fighting for the island to
open up to the World Wide Web.

In an article published by Cubadebate and shared on social networks by
the diplomat, she says that the government of the United States, over
the last two decades, has spent 284 million dollars to promote programs
of regime change in Cuba.

Source: Cuban Official Josefina Vidal Accuses US of Using the Internet
"To Promote Subversion" / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -