Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Police In Havana Deploy In Response To Taxi Driver Strike

Police In Havana Deploy In Response To Taxi Driver Strike / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 27 February 2017 — Residents of Havana woke up on
Monday morning to a strong police deployment, motivated by the
announcement of a strike by private taxi drivers. In response to a
question from 14ymedio, a uniformed officer said that it was "an
operation due to the overcharging by the taxi drivers."

"As of Monday, 27 February, we drivers all over Cuba are going to
strike. We will simply stay home and not wok on those days," said a text
that circulated several days earlier on the alternative media. However,
many drivers were unaware of the initiative or declined to participate,"
according to what 14ymedio was able to confirm.

The drivers' discontent has been growing since the beginning of this
month when the authorities of the capital set fixed rates for the
portions of the routes of private taxi drivers. This decision has put an
end to the law of supply and demand that regulated the private
transportation of passengers for more than two decades.

"They are afraid that we will go to the Plaza of the Revolution like the
pedicab drivers did last year," a driver who preferred anonymity and
decided not to work on Monday told 14ymedio. "I'm going to stay home all
week, even if I lose money, it's my right," he said.

Faced with the pressures of the authorities many drivers have reacted by
no longer serving the intermediate stops or selecting only those
customers who make the complete route

Others have gone out to drive like any other day. "This 'ship' is the
food for my family, I can't give myself the luxury of not working,"
explains Reinier, a young driver who works in a car he rents from its
owner. For those who work in this way it is more difficult to join in
any initiative to stop work or protest.

The passengers are complaining abut the delays. "I spent an hour and
couldn't move from this corner," said a customer who was at the
intersection of Infanta and Neptune waiting for a taxi to go to to
Playa. "The transport situation was much worse today," he added.

Faced with the pressures of the authorities many drivers have reacted by
no longer serving the intermediate stops or selecting only those
customers who make the complete route. The response of the carriers has
been fewer taxis on the streets, a way to pressure the authorities to
take a step back.

The call for a strike this Monday circulated anonymously and several
drivers expressed to 14ymedio their doubts about the authenticity of the
call. Nevertheless, all those consulted were aware of the proposal that
was made known in blogs, news sites and television programs that are
seen through the illegal antennas.

"We are victims of a daily siege by police agents, state inspectors and
other entities," the text warned. Those calling for a strike are
demanding access to a wholesale market (for fuel and other needs), the
reduction of taxes, and the right to create an independent trade union.

According to the latest data from the Ministry of Labor and Social
Security, more than 535,000 people are self-employed, of whom 54,350 are
engaged in freight and passenger transport.

Source: Police In Havana Deploy In Response To Taxi Driver Strike /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -

Imported Clothing, An Illegal and Profitable Business

Imported Clothing, An Illegal and Profitable Business / 14ymedio,
Yosmany Mayeta Labrada

14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Havana, 27 February 2017 – Regla has
spent years working in a prohibited business. She used to do it in
doorways on Monte Street in Old Havana, but when the government changed
the law to block the trade in clothes and shoes, in December 2013, she
had to find an even more discrete method. Now she maintains a point of
sale in a state-owned place that rents spaces to private workers, but
her little countertop that displays manufactured parts, only serves as a
cover to attract customers who then trade in the merchandise that comes
from countries Cubans can visit without a visa.

In the past, Regla made the clothes with raw materials "subtracted" from
the state Wajay towel factory in Boyeros, and sold them through her
self-employment license as a dressmaker.

"With that trick Regla also avoids paying a good part of the payment of
taxes on her personal income. Of the 535,000 self-employed in the
county, right now 170,000 of them must present their their affidavit,
according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Labor and Social

Among her ample catalog, Lycra pants printed with an American flag are a
stand out.

"Everything I have is better quality than in the store," the saleswoman
explains with pride. This week she has again whispered to customers to
look at her merchandise in the doorways, because the building where she
has her stand is closed for repairs.

Among her ample catalog, Lycra pants printed with an American flag are a
stand out. The official media have railed against this garment on
repeated occasions, but its presence in the streets continues to grow.

The police control the areas where these sellers frequently offer their
merchandise. The penalty for illegal sales includes the confiscation of
all the products and a fine of 1,500 pesos. However, the informal
sellers continue to dominate a good part of the market for clothing and
shoes to the detriment of state owned "Hard Currency Collection" stores,
as the state stores are formally named.

Yulia offers her products on Infanta Street. Mot of them come from
Russia, Guyana and Haiti. "I started traveling to countries that did not
require a visa, but for months I also bought in Haiti." She thinks that
the Caribbean country is a good destination to be supplied from because
of the low prices of plane tickets.

This illegal market has also found its own ways of protecting itself

"I go to the home of relatives in Santiago de Cuba and I fly from
there," she explains. "I take clothes twice as big." This is because the
investment is lower than in the case of more distant trips, such as the
distant Moscow.

Obtaining a visa for Haiti is relatively easy for Cubans, and Yulia
recently also got the Haitian residency. Her new legal status will allow
her to expand her business. "Everyone wants pretty clothes from outside
the country," says the saleswoman who has been in the trade for seven years.

This illegal market has also found its own ways of protecting itself. To
the cry of "water!" the informal sellers of Monte Street hide their
goods or vanish on some stairs. It's the code to warn that the police
are coming. When the authorities withdraw, they all return to their
places. Until the next warning.

Source: Imported Clothing, An Illegal and Profitable Business /
14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada – Translating Cuba -

Why Foreign Investments Don’t Work in Today’s Cuba

Why Foreign Investments Don't Work in Today's Cuba / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellanos, 17 January 2017 — By 2007, after forty-eight years of
revolutionary rule, inefficiency and a lack of productivity had turned
state-run farmland into fields infested with marabú weed. Meanwhile,
food prices were increasing on the world market. In light of this
situation, General Raúl Castro proposed "changing everything that needs
to be changed."

Fast forward five years to May 2013 when the vice-president of the
Council of State, Marino Murillo Jorge, publicly acknowledged that the
methods used for decades to manage agricultural lands had not led to the
necessary increase in production.

The inefficiency was reflected in the gross domestic product (GDP),
which fell regularly for years until reaching 1% during the first
quarter of 2016 before falling to 0.9% at year's end. In other words,
Cuba entered into recession, a period of negative growth, in 2017. The
result made the need for foreign investment a priority, a need from
which no nation can escape, much less an underdeveloped country in a
state of crisis.

In 1982 Cuba passed Decree-Law No. 50, which legalized foreign
investment. At the time, the prevailing attitude towards investors in
those parts of the world which received Soviet subsidies was hostile.
But the dissolution of the Soviet Union made it imperative in 1995 for
the government to enact Law No. 77, a statute with many restrictions and
an absence of legal protections for investors, who suffered the negative

Of the roughly 400 joint venture firms that began operation in 2002,
half ended up leaving the country. In spite of the negative result, the
government did not repeal the statute until it became clear that
investors were showing little interest in the Mariel Special Development

Law No. 118 was passed in March 2014 but, though more flexible than its
predecessor, it too proved to be inadequate. According to Cuban
authorities themselves, the country needed sustained GDP growth of 5% to
7%. Achieving this would have required income and investment rates of at
least 25%, which would have meant annual investment figures of between
2.0 and 2.5 billion dollars.

Last year, foreign investment did not exceed 6.5% of these figures.
Under current conditions the only way of even getting close to this
target would be to implement a series of measures, including the following:

1. Allow Cubans — both those living on the island as well as those
living overseas — to directly invest in the economy.

2. Acknowledge the social purpose of property and private propeerty.
Abolish prohibitions against its concentration in the hands of
individuals or legal entities, the only purpose of which is to exclude
Cubans from economic enterprise.

3. Allow Cubans to engage in all manner of private sector manufacturing
and customer service, and grant them legal status.

4. Provide investors with legal guarantees that allow them to settle
disputes with their Cuban business partners before a judicial body that
is not subordinate to the party or the state, which otherwise would make
the government both judge and plaintiff.

5. Allow employers to freely hire their own employees.

6. Eliminate the dual currency system and its different exchange rates,
which would provide for the emergence of a domestic consumer market and
which would, in turn, encourage investment.

7. Recognize the right of workers to organize and form labor unions, a
principle enshrined in Convention 87 of the International Labor
Organization, to which Cuba is a signatory; in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights, of which Cuba was one of the promoters in 1948; and in
the UN's Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant of
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Cuba has also signed but has
not ratified.

These obstacles arise out of a history of antagonism towards investors
and a failure to pay creditors. Therein lies the main cause of the
country's poor foreign investment climate, not the US embargo, which was
relaxed under President Barack Obama. The level of Cuba's state
imvolvement in investment is uncommon for companies which operate in a
market economy. Until that changes, the results will remain the same.

In a meeting of the Cuban parliament on December 27, the head of the
Economic and Planning Ministry, Ricardo Cabrisas, observed, "Foreign
investment continues to be quite low. It is not yet playing a
significant role in economic development."

Meanwhile, the president of the Council of State, Raúl Castro, stated,
"Reinvigorating foreign investment in Cuba is of great importance… It is
necessary to overcome, once and for all, the outdated and pervasive
prejudice against foreign investment. We must divest ourselves of
unfounded fears of capital from overseas."

Therefore, if reviving a stagnant economy is impossible without a strong
injection of capital and if "changing everything that needs to be
changed" is more than mere rhetoric, then either a new investment law is
needed or the current one needs to be substantially overhauled. In
either case the word "foreign" should be dropped, making it simply the
Investment Law.

Cuba is the only country in the region whose residents lack a right as
basic as being able to participate fully in economic activity in spite
of ample business opportunities and the professional training to do so.
If this problem is not resolved, it will not only be a denial of our
economic history but also of our social struggles and José Martí's
republican principles, which envision equality before the law for all
those born in Cuba and for its many small property owners.

Besides being harmful to the nation, this prohibition violates the
current constitution, which in Article 14 states, "The economy is based
on socialist ownership by all the people of the fundamental means of
production." In other words the people, the supposed owner, has no right
to participate in the investment process, a status contrary to law,
western culture, of which we are a part, our economic history and human

A new investment law, one without qualifiers, would be an important,
necessary and long-awaited sign of change. Proof that, despite long
delay, the government is really willing to change everything that needs
to be changed.

Source: Why Foreign Investments Don't Work in Today's Cuba / Dimas
Castellano – Translating Cuba -

The First Tangible Labor Strike

The First Tangible Labor Strike / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 21 February 2017 — New bureaucratic regulations governing
the routes of shared fixed-route taxis have led to the first tangible
labor strike by drivers. Of course, strikes have gone on for many years
in our country due to the poverty-level wages paid to workers in the
bureaucratic and service sectors. As the old saying goes, "the
government pretends to pay us and we pretend to work."

The best known example of the current strike involves boteros
(literally "boatmen" — the taxi drivers of cars from the 1940s and
1950s). After bureaucrats set the prices for certain short trips at 5.00
Cuban pesos, the so-called national currency, drivers refused to pick up
short-haul passengers.

After paying a high fee to the government for a license to operate, it
is not profitable for a driver to charge 5.00 Cuban pesos when 0.25 CUC*
(roughly the same in the other currency) does not even cover the high
cost of fuel. Furthermore, anytime a car brakes, there is wear and tear
on the tires and battery. And whenever a car door opens to let a
customer get in or out, more fuel is consumed. Consider that a tire in
this country costs approximately 160.00 CUC, about the same the price as
a battery, not to mention that spark plugs go for almost 3.00 CUC apiece.

Boteros are helping to solve the serious problem of urban transport in
this country. These new regulations have led to an increase in the
number of bus riders, which has in turn led to a deterioration in public

Why do these same bureaucrats, who say they have adopted these
regulations to protect the pocketbooks of average citizens, not work to
reduce to extremely high cost of food priced in the national currency
and especially in the convertible currency? Obviously, the state
guarantees them an auto, gasoline and spare parts, so they are not
directly and personally affected by the needs and problems that the
Cuban population faces.

In short, the botero is not forcing you to be his customer. It is the
state which is forcing you by not attending to or solving, after so many
years, the big transportation problems in our country.

Translator's note: Cuban convertible peso, equivalent to about 6.63
Cuban pesos.

Source: The First Tangible Labor Strike / Rebeca Monzo – Translating
Cuba -

Cuban cigar sales rise, defying flat luxury goods market

Cuban cigar sales rise, defying flat luxury goods market
on February 26, 2015.

Sales of Cuba's legendary cigars rose 5 percent last year to $445
million, defying stagnation in the global luxury goods market,
manufacturer Habanos said on Monday at the opening of the Caribbean
island's annual cigar festival.

Habanos, which makes brands including Cohiba, Monte Cristo and Romeo y
Julieta, said it expects moderate sales growth this year as it continues
to tap the Middle East, Asia and other new markets.

"We are quite happy we were able to grow during a year that was in truth
quite challenging," Vice President of Development Javier TerrΘs told
Reuters after holding a news conference hazy with smoke as journalists
puffed on complimentary cigars.

Cuba's monopoly cigar company was kicking off the festival that attracts
wealthy tobacco aficionados and retailers from around the world for five
days of extravagant parties and tours of plantations and factories.

Habanos dominates the global market for hand-rolled, premium cigars
except in the United States due to Washington's half-century trade
embargo against Cuba. The United States is the world's biggest cigar market.

American enthusiasts have had slightly better access to Cuban cigars
since former President Barack Obama two years ago unveiled a Cuba policy
aiming to normalize relations.

Last October, the Obama administration removed limits on the amount of
cigars American travelers could bring home.

TerrΘs said this made little difference to overall sales but it would
help brand recognition in the United States.

Wholesale shipments there would require the U.S. Congress to lift the
embargo, a move that looks uncertain under President Donald Trump, who
has threatened to reverse the detente.

Still, better U.S.-Cuban relations have helped stoke a boom in tourism,
which in turn has lifted cigar sales in Cuba, according to Habanos. The
number of visitors to the island rose 13 percent last year.

"Our sales in Cuba are directly related to tourism, and in effect, sales
in Cuba have grown," TerrΘs said.

Habanos said its traditional European markets had remained stable last
year, while there was growth in emerging markets like the Middle East
and Pacific Asia.

Meanwhile, female smokers remain a largely untapped market for Habanos,
TerrΘs said. The company is working on it but has learned that producing
smaller, milder versions of its classic cigars is not the answer.

"Actually, women want to smoke big cigars and enjoy them like a man," he
said, adding it was important to draw in women with specific promotional

Source: Cuban cigar sales rise, defying flat luxury goods market -

Two Mass. Congressmen explore medical sector opportunities in Cuba

Two Mass. Congressmen explore medical sector opportunities in Cuba
FEBRUARY 27, 2017

Two members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation are back from
a trip to Cuba where they joined four U.S. senators and a host of other
Bay State officials to explore medical sector economic development
Congressmen James McGovern and Seth Moulton participated in the trip,
attending meetings with representatives from the Massachusetts
Biotechnology Council and the Washington Office on Latin America, who
jointly sponsored a delegation from Harvard Medical School, Worcester
Polytechnic University, UMass Memorial Hospital, Massachusetts College
of Pharmacy and Health Science, Chicago Foods International, and Takeda
Members of the Cuba Working Group are backing legislation that would
allow U.S. businesses to trade with Cuba without restrictions, allow
U.S. telecommunications and internet companies to provide services to
Cuba, and allow all U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. According to
McGovern's office, Senate committees have approved bills lifting travel
and trade restrictions while the U.S. House has been "more reticent to
move U.S. policy forward."
Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Michael
Bennet of Colorado, and Tom Udall of New Mexico were also on the trip.
In August 2015, McGovern joined former Secretary of State John Kerry in
Havana for the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba.

Source: Two Mass. Congressmen explore medical sector opportunities in
Cuba | WBJournal.com -

Cuba - No Country for Slow DSL Home Internet Plans

Cuba: No Country for Slow DSL Home Internet Plans
Written by Larry Press

Two years ago, leakers suggested that Cuba might build its home internet
plan on super-slow DSL connections. They were wrong, suggests Larry
Press. Analysis

aNewDomain –There will be no Cuban home Internet plan.

That's my conclusion after having followed Cuban Internet developments
for more than two years now. Back in 2015, leakers provided details
around the island nation's so-called home-connectivity plan, which
called for obsolete DSL technology.

Now that the Havana Internet trial is a wrap, though, it's clear that
won't happen. Here's why I say so.

Havana dreamin'
Back in 2015, Cuba's state-owned communications provider, ETESCA, denied
there was anything real about a slide deck that supposedly detailed an
upcoming home Internet plan.

That presentation included a definition of broadband as "at least 256
kb/s" and a stated goal to bring that "broadband"Internet connectivity
to half the homes on the island by 2020.

Slow DSL can hardly be called broadband, though. And in 2020 it will be
an even bigger joke.

The free home-connectivity trial that concluded recently in Havana used
the DSL technology as described in the leaked plan that ETESCA denied,
but I don't think that fact accounts for much at all.

According to a source close to the effort, 700 of the 2,000 Havana homes
that participated in the Old Havana trial agreed to pay to continue
service. A dozen homes have already been connected in Bayamo, Cuba, he
added. The expectation is that the same will happen in the Cuban cities
of Santa Clara and Las Tunas, too.

But think about it. If this home connectivity roll-out has been in the
works since 2015, as the leaked slides suggested, then why is it going
so slowly? Why aren't other parts of Havana open?

And why isn't Cuba doing large-scale trials in Bayamo, Santa Clara and
Las Tunas?

Clearly, something else is up.

What makes sense
The quality of a DSL connection is a function of the length and
condition of the telephone wire running between a home and the central
office serving it. If it had really planned to bring DSL to many Cuban
homes, ETESCA would have understood the necessity of investing heavily
in wiring as well as central office equipment.

My guess is that the Havana trial and the installations in Bayamo, Santa
Clara and Las Tunas are not part of a national home-connectivity plan,
but ends in themselves — interim measures aimed at bringing slow DSL
connectivity to small businesses and self-employed people in the most
affluent parts of selected cities.

That makes more sense to me than a plan to spend a lot of money
upgrading copper telephone wires and central office equipment in order
to be able to offer obsolete connectivity to 50 percent of Cuban homes
by 2020.

The wisest thing Cuba could do, after all, is leapfrog today's
technology and center on some next generation tech instead.

The real connectivity plan for Cuba …
This is all speculation, but my hope is that Cuba regards efforts like
home DSL, WiFi hotspots, Street Nets and El Paquete as the temporary
stopgap measures they are.

I hope Cuba wants to start off things right and wait, if it must, for
next-generation tech. I believe it will, too.

And if this is the case, we are likely to see progress as soon as next
year, when Raúl Castro steps down.

Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, who is expected by many to succeed him as
Cuban president, has long acknowledged the inevitability of the Internet.

"Today, news from all sides, good and bad, manipulated and true, or
half-true, circulates on networks … reaches people … people hear it,"
Bermúdez said back in 2013, adding that "the worst thing, then, is silence."

He also has called the Internet a social and economic necessity, saying
it is government's responsibility to providie affordable connectivity to
citizens. The caveat: Government must be vigilant in assuring citizens
use the Internet legally.

In 1997, the Cuban government decided that the political risk posed by
the Internet outweighed its potential benefit and decided to suppress
it. At the same time, China opted for a ubiqutius, modern Internet —
understanding they could use it as a tool for propaganda and
surveillance. It sounds to me like Díaz-Canel has endorsed the Chinese
model and will push for next-generation technology with propaganda and

(Again, my Spanish is not so great and I may have mischaracterized
Díaz-Canel's statements. I would welcome other's reactions to the clip
shown above or other statements he has made).

If Cuba does decide to install next-generation technology, can they
afford it?

I can't be certain, but I doubt that they have the expertise or the
money to quickly deploy a next-generation Internet.

Cuba has many information technologists who have become proficient at
improvisation and working with outdated technology. I expect that they
can quickly learn to work with modern technology if it is available.

Funding is tougher.

Cuba is a green field. And a timely move to modern infrastructure will
require their being open to foreign investment and partnership, which
may be a hard sell for whoever replaces Castro.

The nation needs to adopt next-generation regulation and infrastructure
ownership policy if it is to obtain next-generation technology. That
will not be easy, but there are cultural and historical reasons to
believe that Cuba may be able to do so.

Potential Cuban partners
As a customer of an Internet service provider (ISP) that has a monopoly
in my neighborhood, I fully understand the pitfalls of the wrong partner
and would be cautious in dealing with large ISPs. I don't know who the
likely vendors will be, but Google has the inside track. (Huawei is well
established in Cuba, but is more narrowly focused than Google).

In 2015, Google chief Eric Schmidt traveled to Cuba with Brett
Perlmutter, who now is Google's Cuba Strategy tsar.

Aside from relationship building, progress seems slow. Google's most
technically significant achievement in Cuba so far, actually, was to
secure permission to install caching servers on the island.

However, Google's tribute to Cuban arts and culture, including the
following Google 360 VR video on Jose Marti, is a more important
political and cultural contribution. Watch it below.

Google has much to offer Cuba. It's got experience with fiber
infrastructure in developed and developing nations, content development
and future technologies.

More importantly, Google can profit by simply having more users in Cuba
without having to sell them service or equipment. It profits not by
competiting with ETESCA, but by collaborating with it.

Cuba should consider other partners, but Google is a particularly good
choice for Google's first and best one.

ETESCA's Perlmutter sounded enthusiastic about the idea. In a recent
interview about a potential Google partnership, he said: "We'd love to
do that. We've put everything on the table and I'm really optimistic
about this because everything is still on the table. We're holding talks
and discussing about all these matters.

"ETECSA has a plan and our goal is to work hand in hand with them and
assist them with the vast experience we have piled up around the globe
doing this same thing," Perlmutter added.

Now does that sound to you like Cuba is going to bring 256 kb/s DSL to
Cuban homes?

I didn't think so.

For aNewDomain, I'm Larry Press.

Source: Cuba: No Country for DSL-Based Home Internet Hookups -

Could Cuba become the next destination for software development?

Could Cuba become the next destination for software development?

In Havana's iconic Bacardí building, teams of computer programmers are
working for U.S. companies with the tacit permission of the Cuban

Could the island become the next international hotspot for software

That's not far-fetched, says John McIntire, chairman of the Cuba
Emprende Foundation, which has been working with the island's Catholic
Church to train entrepreneurs and private business owners on the island.

"It's already happening. I know of half a dozen companies, all based in
Miami, that already have software development teams in Cuba and there
are probably more that I don't know about," McIntire told el Nuevo Herald.

"I also know some big outsourcing companies, based in the United States,
that are looking to establish operations" in Cuba, he added. "Until now,
they have only been visiting Cuba, establishing relations and starting …
relations with programers."

Most of the U.S. companies hiring computer engineers and programmers in
Cuba put them to work programming or designing applications for cell
phones and internet sites, as well as more complex coding with open
source software, added McIntire, pointing out that Cuba has many highly
educated programmers who are currently "underemployed."

With salaries of approximately $5 per hour — a more "competitive" rate
than at other programming centers in the region — and in the same time
zone as the United States, contracting Cuban programmers "looks very
promising," McIntire told a recent conference organized by the Americas
Society/Council of the Americas and the Andean Development Corporation.

Formal office spaces like the Bacardí building are expensive, and
therefore many teams of programmers work from their homes, in rented
apartments or even from their office in government agencies and companies.

The people working in the Bacardí building probably also work for Cuban
state enterprises, McIntire told el Nuevo Herald. "The government knows
full well that those are independent programmers who work for foreign
companies. They are allowing it, but not promoting it ," he added.

The private production of software for export is a unique enterprise in
Cuba, where the government holds a monopoly on all imports and exports
and the vast majority of private businesses are limited to the tourism

The Obama administration, as part of its campaign to ease sanctions on
Cuba, allowed U.S. companies to hire Cuban programmers in 2015. But the
Cuban government has not said whether programmers can legally work for
foreign companies, leaving the issue unclear.

"You can get a personal license as an applications developer and pay
taxes … but you cannot operate as a business," said Víctor Manuel
Moratón Hernández, a computer engineer who with Fabián Ruiz Estévez
co-founded NinjaCuba, a web page for people offering or seeking
employment in technology.

"I developed software with U.S. and French companies. They usually go to
Cuba looking for programmers for mobile apps or web pages, but if you're
not part of the network of contacts, you don't have access" to those
jobs, Hernández said in an interview from Twitter headquarters in San

Hernández is among the winners of the "10x10KCuba" contest, who
participated in seminars at Stanford University and Miami Dade College
and visited the headquarters of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Airbnb.
The contest was sponsored by the Cuba Emprende Foundation, as well as
#CubaNow and other organizations, to promote exchanges between island
programmers and leading-edge U.S. companies.

Estévez said the exchanges have been "very important for relationships
and knowledge, to give some direction to what we are doing, and to learn
how to value what we're doing in Cuba."

Janse Lazo, a computer engineer and executive director of MiKma, a
mobile app to advertise houses for rent on the island in national
currency, said he hopes those types of exchanges continue.

"We want to start to transmit the know-how acquired here to the start
ups in Cuba," he said. "Sometimes there are good ideas, but you don't
know the business side. We want to boost the culture of entrepreneurship
on the island."

Despite the enthusiasm of Lazó and the other pioneers, one of the
principal obstacles to Cuba's rise in the world of offshore programming
is the island's limited access to the internet.

ETECSA, the government's telecommunications monopoly, has reported that
as of January, it had only 328 WiFi access points in parks, plazas and
other public places. The agency also has announced plans for an
experiment with home access to the internet — now unavailable to all but
a few Cubans.

"It's complicated, with the lack of access to the internet, because you
have to search for information and then integrate all that coding into a
remote depository," Hernández said.

He said he often uses the limited access offered by ETECSA through its
Nauta accounts on cell phones and WiFi hotspots. "It's expensive, it's
awkward, because you're connecting to the internet in a park, but for
the time being, that's all there is," he said.

"The only major problem — if we assume the Cuban government will
continue to allow it — is the infrastructure, the connectivity,"
McIntire said. "The government should allow either foreign investments
or offices" for teams doing that type of work.

"The talent is there," said Ric Herrero, director of Cuba Now, one of
the organizers of the 10x10KCuba contest. Several accelerator programs
that participated in the contest "highlighted the quality of the
entrepreneurs that we selected."

"The principal obstacle now is the current administration and mood in
the United States, which offer fewer incentives for taking risks,"
Herrero said.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: Cuba could become the next destination for software development
| Miami Herald -

PETA’s ‘lettuce diplomacy’ heads to Havana

PETA's 'lettuce diplomacy' heads to Havana

Practicing a bit of lettuce diplomacy, PETA plans to take its animal
rights and eat vegan campaign to Cuba Tuesday.

Two "lettuce ladies" clad in bikinis covered with lettuce leaves plan to
board a JetBlue Havana flight at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International
Airport and spend the next few day delivering $1,000 worth of veterinary
supplies, spreading the vegan message at private language schools and
giving out canine treats to Cuban street dogs.

The lettuce ladies "are a fun way to teach about going vegan," said
Ashley Byrne, a spokeswoman for PETA, an organization whose mantra is
"animals are not ours to eat or abuse in any other way."

In case there are objections to their travel attire, the ladies will be
carrying robes. "Dress codes are up to the discretion of the airline,
but we hope they appreciate our message," said Byrne, who is
accompanying the ladies to the island and has herself been a lettuce
lady on other occasions. "Obviously the most important thing is getting

It's PETA's first foray into Cuba, but lettuce ladies have spread their
vegan message far and wide, including an appearance in front of the
Rayburn House Office Building in Washington. Bryne said this is the
first time they will try to board a plane wearing strategically placed
lettuce leaves.

They chose Cuba for the campaign because the island is now more accessible.

"We started discussing this as soon as restrictions on travel to Cuba
were lifted," said Byrne. "We've taken this campaign around the world
and we absolutely wanted to take it to Cuba."

The PETA representatives will be traveling to Cuba under the
humanitarian support category — one of 12 permissible categories the
U.S. government allows for travel to the island by Americans.

"We have not discussed our plans with the Cuban government," said Byrne.
The Cuban Embassy in Washington didn't respond to a Miami Herald query
about PETA's plans.

The lettuce ladies plan to stay in Cuba until Saturday spreading the
message that going vegan keeps animals off the plate and delivering
supplies to organizations that work with street animals.

They also plan to distribute vegetable-shaped pens and stickers to
Cubans and tourists in Old Havana and Spanish-language vegan starter kits.

"The kits will have recipes and advice that make it simple for people to
start a vegan diet," said Bryne, "and the recipes are geared toward
foods that we know people like to eat there — beans, rice, plantains."


Source: PETA plans to take its eat vegan message to Cuba | Miami Herald

Monday, February 27, 2017

Weakness, Fear And Inability Erode The Cuban Government

Weakness, Fear And Inability Erode The Cuban Government / 14ymedio,
Pedro Campos

14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 23 February 2017 — The recent
"diplomatic" action by the Cuban Government to try to prevent the
presence of foreign personalities in a private event in Havana to
receive a symbolic prize bearing the name of the late regime opponent
Oswaldo Payá, denotes the weakness, fear and incapacity that
characterize its actions since the visit of Barack Obama to Cuba and the
subsequent death of Fidel Castro.

According to the declaration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX)
in the newspaper Granma, the plan was to mount an open and serious
provocation against the Cuban government in Havana, generate internal
instability, damage the international image of the country and, at the
same time, affect the good progress of Cuba's diplomatic relations with
other states.

According to MINREX, Almagro himself and some other right-wing
individuals had the connivance and support of other organizations with
thick anti-Cuban credentials, such as the Democracy and Community
Center, the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America
(CADAL), the Inter-American Institute for Democracy, and a person they
call a CIA terrorist and agent, Carlos Alberto Montaner.

In addition, says MINREX, since 2015 there has been a link between these
groups and the National Foundation for Democracy in the United States
(NED), which receives funding from the US government to implement its
subversive programs against Cuba.

The dictatorship of the proletariat, which prevailed in Cuba 57 years
ago, has thus invented an "anti-Cuban" (against Cuba or against
themselves?), "imperialist", "counterrevolutionary" and "CIA" hoax
behind what could have been a small and simple limited ceremony; in
short, if they had been allowed to hold it without the presence of
foreign guests it would have served the Government to improve its image
with respect to the rights of Cubans as citizens and shown some tolerance.

Their response to this assessment is given by the MINREX note: "Perhaps
some misjudged and thought that Cuba would sacrifice its essence to
appearances," as if appearances are not an example of essence. It is the
ignorance of the dialectic relationship between form and content.

But in short, not one step back. According to MINREX the military state
is in danger from this provocation, without arms, without masses,
without leaders who enjoy wide support among Cubans on the island. We
cannot give ground to the "counterrevolution," — they say — as if it
were not precisely the defenders of the indefensible regime themselves
who prevented the revolutionary changes that would lead us to
prosperous, democratic Cuba, free of authoritarian hegemonies, with all
and for the good of all.

It is weakness, fear and incapacity that led the government to put its
repressive character on full display and to miss the opportunity to have
been hospitable to the Secretary General of the Organization of American
States and to have discussed with him the conditions for possible ties
to that Inter-American body.

If they were a little bit capable they could have "stolen the show," but
we already know that in Cuba 'counterintelligence' dominates in its
broadest sense.

The organizations and individuals who prepared the event have a vision
different from the government's on the ways in which politics and the
economy should be conducted in Cuba and, of course, it was an opportune
moment to promote the positions of change previously promoted by the
Leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Payá, who died in
circumstances demanding further explanation.

But if something like this can destabilize the regime, it should do the

The government's actions provoked exactly what it was trying to avoid,
creating more interest among Cubans and international opinion in the
Varela Project and in how Oswaldo Paya died, a man who might not have
been to the liking of the government and other cities, but who lived on
the island, worked there and from from within promoted a peaceful and
democratic change of the system, with all his rights as a Cuban citizen.
Something to respect.

The Cuban government's action, vitiated by extremism, Manichaeism,
intolerance and repression, favored what the organizers of the event
ultimately wanted to demonstrate: the absence of space in Cuba for
different thinking, the existence of a tyrannical regime that impedes
freedom of expression and association, and that it intends to continue
to govern based on jails, police and repressive security agents.

The repression of the opposition, socialist dissent and different
thinking, pressures against the self-employed, the stagnation of the
reforms proposed by the Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba itself,
the voluntary efforts to try to control the widespread corruption
generated by statist wage system, in short, everything that is being
done by the senior bureaucratic hierarchy is generating chaos that
undermines and will burst the system from within from ignorance of the
laws of economic-social development.

They don't know where they stand! Don't try to put the blame on others

This service against a "socialism" that has never existed will perhaps
be the best historical legacy left to us by these 60 years of
voluntarism, populism and authoritarianism of Fidel Castro communism,
such that the most retrograde forces of international reaction will
eternally thank the "Cuban leadership."

Source: Weakness, Fear And Inability Erode The Cuban Government /
14ymedio, Pedro Campos – Translating Cuba -

Dismantling One of Fidel’s Houses and Saying Goodbye to His Bodyguards

Dismantling One of Fidel's Houses and Saying Goodbye to His Bodyguards /
Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 24 February 2017 — They are dismembering the security
apparatus at the bunker that for years served as a spiritual refuge for
Fidel Castro: an apartment located on the third floor of 1007 11th
Street in Havana's Vedado district.

Little by little they are removing pictures, gifts and belongings along
with some trash. The metal security chain, floodlights and even the
guard post that prevented citizens from moving freely along the length
of the block where the building is located have already been removed.

More than fifty bodyguards have been retired, leaving only a small
temporary garrison of five men and one police officer, Colonel Nivaldo
Pérez Guerra.

Strategically located in District 13, a downtown neighborhood near the
Plaza of the Revolution, the building in question was one of the former
Cuban leader's three official residences. Though he had not visited the
place for several decades, it remained his legal residence from 1976
until the day he died.

These actions are, it seems, an attempt to remove any evidence that
media outlets and Cubans themselves, who have an excessive propensity
for constructing legends and creating myths, might use to craft a heroic
saga out of the daily habits and lifestyle of the late commander-in-chief.

"Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. They are getting rid of anything with
even a whiff of age. In the case of #11 (as the building is known), the
country's leaders have sent us a message: 'The options are total
demolition or a complete remodeling of the place; if we leave it the way
it is, it could awaken the interest of an avid array of gossip mongers;
and, you guys, you are to be relocated,'" says one one disgruntled man,
who for years belonged to the tight inner circle of security personnel
guarding the late revolutionary leader.

"But they are not going to sack us," he adds. "What they are doing is
speeding up our retirement, which is not quite the same thing. At the
same time that they are removing Fidel's things from #11, they are
sending us to Personal Security, over there in Jaimanitas, where they
present retirement as compensation for a lifetime of loyal service. They
are giving us a Chinese car that looks a new Geely model CK but which is
actually a discontinued clunker, a used tourist rental car with a lot of
miles on it."

A disbanded and discontented elite military force can be a terribly bad
omen for a society on fire.

One need only go to the parking area of the Hotel Melia Cohiba or Hotel
Melia Havana and ask any of the former Cuban president's various
bodyguards where one might find a good botero (taxi driver).

They will tell you that a group of them, who are all now unemployed, are
planning to regroup and apply for licenses to operate a privately owned
cooperative offering security services to celebrities and fashionable
artists visiting the country.

A good business, I would think. No one can deny that, when it comes to
personal security, these men have plenty of experience.

Source: Dismantling One of Fidel's Houses and Saying Goodbye to His
Bodyguards / Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -

Area businesses could benefit greatly from potential opportunities in Cuba

Area businesses could benefit greatly from potential opportunities in Cuba
Special to the Herald

Commerce between Manatee County and Cuba played a significant role in
our local economy up until the 1960 Cuban embargo.

During the 19th century, local ranchers and farmers regularly shipped
cattle and agriculture products from the banks of the Manatee River to
Cuba. With our community's long history of commerce with this island
country located just 90 miles from the Florida coastline, the Manatee
Chamber of Commerce's goal is to inform and educate our business
community regarding potential opportunities that result from
governmental policy decisions.

In 2015, after the United States and Cuba began efforts to normalize
relations between the countries, the Chamber hosted Cuban Ambassador
Jose Ramon Cabanas at a VIP luncheon. This was followed by a "Doing
Business with Cuba" workshop featuring keynote speaker Jorge Ignacio
Fernandez, a Cuban-born American and CEO of Havana Ferry Partners.

As a result of these popular events, strong interest developed among the
business community to learn more. With the assistance of Fernandez, we
planned a trade mission to Cuba.

The Chamber led a diverse group of local business leaders on this trade
mission earlier this month, with the goal of educating and better
positioning local businesses for future opportunities. Included among
our delegates were representatives from agriculture, entertainment, real
estate, food service supplies, road paving, building/construction,
engineering, economic development, tires and ferry passenger service.

Our delegation was welcomed by the Chamber of Commerce of the Republic
of Cuba and the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, and we
received a comprehensive overview on how to do business with the country.

This was followed by face-to-face dialogue between Chamber delegates and
Cuban government representatives from various industry sectors aligned
with our individual delegates, including Alimport, the government agency
responsible for all imports and exports.

Also among our mission priorities was Feld Entertainment's examination
of some of Cuba's premier entertainment venues. We received a private
tour of the Estadio Latinoamericano baseball stadium and the Estadio
Panamericano soccer stadium, in addition to the elegant Gran Teatro de
La Habana, an historic performing arts theater.

The Cuban government was clear in recognizing the importance of U.S.
investment as they work toward creating the legal framework to invite
foreign business investment. Officials emphasized the important markets
of pharmaceuticals, agriculture, petroleum, tourism, food services and
construction, among others, and explained the process for obtaining a
license to do business in Cuba, which some U.S. companies already have

Although our delegation returned from Cuba with an understanding that
numerous obstacles remain until commerce between our two countries is
completely normalized, we believe our region and area businesses could
benefit greatly with our strategic location, history of trade with this
nation and convenient access to Port Manatee.

As communities around the country prepare to engage in business with
Cuba with an eye on how trade restrictions are addressed, we will
continue to keep our members updated on future possibilities.

I would not be too surprised if Cubans of all ages someday experience
the thrill of Monster Jam and discover the enchantment of Disney on Ice
or a stage performance of Sesame Street Live.

Robert P. Bartz, the president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can
be reached at BobB@ManateeChamber.com.

Source: Manatee County businesses could benefit greatly from potential
opportunities in Cuba | Bradenton Herald -

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Undercover American Tourists in Cuba

Undercover American Tourists in Cuba / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 23 January 2017 — Miami Airport is almost a city. And the
American Airlines' departures area is a labyrinth, with dozens of
corridors and passages. That's why Noahn, an American living in
Michigan, arrived five hours before his flight's scheduled departure
time to Varadero.

He was travelling with his wife, his eight-month-old son carried in an
arm-sling, and a dog with long floppy ears. In his luggage, professional
diving equipment and an electric skateboard. The couple speak in
carefully enunciated Spanish, with a hint of a Colombian accent. "It's
because I worked for an American company in Bogotá," explains Noahn.

To everyone who wants to listen to him, he describes his experiences as
a tourist in Cuba. He knows the Coco and Santa Maria Keys, located to
the north of Ciego de Avila and Villa Clara and Maria La Gorda, in the
western province of Pinar del Rio.

"But I was enchanted by Varadero. It's the third time in two years I've
been there since the reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the
United States. Neither Miami Beach nor Malibu can compare with Varadero,
with its fine white sandy beach. The water is warm and there are hardly
any waves. Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, Copacabana in Rio de
Janeiro and The Bahamas may have just as good or better natural
conditions," he adds, while his wife gives the child some milk in a bottle.

Despite the prohibitions on tourism in Cuba, Americans such as Noahn
travelled to the island by way of a third country. "Before December 17,
2014, I travelled to Cuba via Mexico. After that date it's been easier.
There are twelve quite flexible categories, which they call the twelve
lies. You declare whichever pretext, and travel in a group or
individually. "In theory you can't go as a tourist, but I bet that's
what half of the American travellers are doing."

Out of more than 200 passengers on the flight heading to Varadero, only
six were Cubans going back to their country permanently or to visit
relatives on the island.

Judith, a biologist living in Georgia, is going to Cuba for the second
time this year. Why? "Half for professional experience, half tourism."
I'm interested in gathering information on the varieties of Cuban
vegetation. Once I finish my research, I'm going to stay a week in a
hotel full-board in Camaguey or in Holguin."

Asked if she felt any harassment or if any federal institution has
opened a file on her for violating the country's regulations, she
replies: "Not at all. Seems to me the wisest thing to do would be to
openly permit tourism in Cuba, because that's what in reality people are

After the re-establishment of relations between two countries that were
living in a cold war climate, many more Americans are travelling to the
Greater Antilles. In January 11, 2016, Josefina Vidal, an official
working in the Cuban Foreign Ministry, and responsible for relations
with the United States, reported on Twitter that, in 2016, the island
received a total of 614,433 visitors from United States (Americans and
Cuban Americans), 34% more than in 2015.

Although on paper the Americans arriving are recorded as being part of a
religious or journalistic or a people-to-people exchange, it isn't
difficult to spot well-built blonds or redheads downing quantities of
mojitos in a bar in Old Havana or enjoying the warm autumn sun on a
Cuban beach.

When at 8:30 in the evening, the American Airlines plane landed at the
Juan Gualberto Gómez international airport in Varadero, after a quick
check, half a dozen air-conditioned buses were waiting for the
"undercover" tourists to take them to four and five star hotels along
the Hicacos Peninsula coast.

"Yes, the Americans are tourists." Many of them go to Havana, others
pass the time in Varadero. They prefer to stay in hotels. About 400 or
500 come every week. And many more are expected at New Year's," said an
official of the Gaviota chain, balancing on the stairway of a bus.

Private taxi drivers and those who lease vehicles from the state hang
around the terminal. "There are gringos who come as individual tourists.
I charge them the equivalent of $40 for the trip to Varadero, about 20
kilometers from the airport. Almost all give good tips. Unlike the
Spaniards and Mexicans, who are complete tightwads," says Joan, a
private taxi driver.

The majority of Cubans are convinced that Americans are rich. And have
more money than they know what to do with. They try to milk them as if
they were cows.

At the currency exchange outside the airport, they exchange dollars for
86 centavos, less than the official rate of 87. "The rate goes down at
weekends," he says.

An employee in the terminal, says "Here everyone is doing business. "The
lavatory cleaner charges, the café sells stuff on the side, and the
customs people get things off the passengers."

Tourism in Cuba is like a harvest. Everyone wants to squeeze the sugar
cane. And you can extract plenty of juice from the sneaky tourists

Translated by GH

Source: Undercover American Tourists in Cuba / Iván García – Translating
Cuba -

Cuban Activist Juan Goberna Arrested

Cuban Activist Juan Goberna Arrested / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 25 February 2017 — Human rights activist Juan Goberna
Hernández was arrested around 9 am this Saturday when he left home to
attend a meeting of the Inclusive Culture Network, a project to defend
the rights of people with disabilities.

On Friday night Goberna, who is blind, was visited by two State Security
agents to warn him that they would not allow him to attend the
meeting. Two other agents named Brayan and Nacho were posted in a car
from early Saturday to stop him if he persisted in his decision to go to
the meeting.

In Aguada de Pasajeros, Goberna was taken from a bus on which he panned
to travel to Havana to attend the meeting.

Minutes before his arrest Goberna told 14ymedio by phone that it was his
"duty" and his "right" to participate in the activity.

So far it has not been possible to determine where he was taken.

The Network of Inclusive Culture tries to promote a greater sensitivity
towards the treatment of people with disabilities, working to make
visible the difficulties that such individuals face on a daily basis.

In addition to conducting workshops and seminars, members of the Network
provide support and advice in cases of violations of rights to anyone in
situations of vulnerability.

Source: Cuban Activist Juan Goberna Arrested / 14ymedio – Translating
Cuba -

Brothers To The Rescue - A Crime That Hurts “Like The First Day”

Brothers To The Rescue: A Crime That Hurts "Like The First Day"/
14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 24 February 2017 – Members of the Cuban
exile remembered the anniversary of the death of four Cuban Americans
after the shooting down of two planes of the humanitarian NGO Brothers
to the Rescue by the Cuban Air Force in 1996.

The commemorative activities began with an act of homage to Manuel de la
Peña, Carlos Acosta, Armando Alejandre and Pablo Morales, at the
monument in Opa-locka that reminds them of the 21st anniversary of the

"Every year when we remember them, we feel immense pain," says Ana
Ciereszko, sister of Armando Alejandre, one of those murdered.

"When President Obama returned the spy responsible for the murder of our
relatives it was very hard because they gave their lives to save the
lives of others, Cuban rafters, many of whom have disappeared at sea,"
she added.

Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also recalled those
killed and lashed out at the Obama administration for the release of spy
Gerardo Hernandez, convicted of providing information to the Cuban
government that allowed the perpetration of the crime.

"Our nation must defend these murdered Americans and ensure that justice
prevails so that the families of these victims can have the final peace
they so deeply deserve," said the congresswoman.

Brothers to the Rescue emerged as an initiative of civilian aviators of
various nationalities and Cubans interested in assisting the rafters who
escaped from the island in fragile vessels during the migratory crisis
in the early 1990s. The collapse of the Soviet Union caused the greatest
economic crisis in the country's history and thousands of migrants threw
themselves into the sea in the hope of reaching the United States.

The two Cessna 337 Skymaster aircraft, from Miami, were shot down with
air-to-air missiles by a MiG-29UB 900 fighter and a MiG-23 fighter. A
third plane escaped and called for help from the US authorities, who
never gave it to them.

The Cuban government accused the organization of having "terrorist
purposes" and defended the demolition of light aircraft on the grounds
that they were over Cuban waters. Brothers to the Rescue, however, says
that the shooting down took place in international waters.

"There has been no justice because there was no clarification of the
truth. The facts were carefully hidden under the presidencies of Clinton
and Castro," says Jose Basulto, 76, president of Brothers to the Rescue
and one of the survivors of the tragedy.

"It was a joint action, complicit, because they wanted to resume
relations between both countries," he says. He adds that on the Island
there practice runs for shooting down the planes and that it was
suggested to American officials what was going to happen. "We were
exposed to the enemy fire and nobody helped us," he adds.

According to Basulto, the days before each commemoration of the
demolition are filled with memories and are "very sad."

"Brothers to the Rescue was an example of human solidarity with the
people of Cuba and to teach the world the harshness of the suffering of
the people, capable of committing suicide at sea in order to escape from
that dictatorship," he recalls.

At Florida International University (FIU) a commemorative event was held
with relatives of the victims and a broad representation of the
exile. The meeting has become a tradition to remember the four
Cuban-American youth and, as every year, silence was held between 3:21
pm and 3:28 pm, the time at which the planes were shot down.

"My brother was my first baby. He was just a boy when he was killed,"
says Mirtha Costa, sister of Carlos Alberto Costa.

"He loved being together with everyone in the family. He was also a very
cheerful person and always looked for how to make jokes to others," he

Both Costa and the other relatives are responsible for the CAMP
Foundation, named after the initials of each of the victims of the
shooting down.

The foundation supports diverse organizations that promote youth
education, such as Miami Dade College and the University of Miami.

The families of the victims will honor their memory with a Eucharist at
St. Agatha Church at 7:00 pm this Friday.


Source: Brothers To The Rescue: A Crime That Hurts "Like The First Day"/
14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -

Little Old Communists

'Little Old Communists' / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 25 February 2017 — Many of those who
experienced the first moments of the Revolution when they were between
the ages of 14 and 20, became literacy teachers, young rebels,
militiamen, cederistas (supporters of the Committees for the Defense of
the Revolution) and federadas ( 'federated', i.e. supporters and
activists of the Revolution). They overachieved every challenge and
climbing five peaks or walking 62 kilometers ended up being credentials
of high social value.

It was common to see them with a pistol at their belts bragging about
their exploits at the Bay of Pigs or cleaning up the Revolution's
opponents in the Escambray Mountains. It was the time of the Schools of
Revolutionary Instruction, of a Marxism manual tucked under one arm and
simplified atheism. In those prodigious years of the 1960s they embodied
the true fervor of youth and, consequently, an ideological prejudice
against the elderly took root.

A poet, then (and still) unknown, would write fiery verses under the
provocative title of If the old woman in front took power where he
described in the purest colloquial style the retrograde measures that
would be dictated by this hypothetical lady, probably bourgeois and
resentful, in a word: a gusana, a worm. In fact the term "old worm"
already seemed a redundancy in the mouth of those tropical Red Guards…
But time passed and many vultures flew over monument in the Plaza of the

A new generation, with very different goals, today launches its
prejudicial darts against anyone over 70. But they no longer use the
expletive "old worm," instead they choose its diametrical opposite:
"little old communist."

A diminutive, as any good linguist knows, can be loaded with tenderness
or contempt. It is not the same to say "granny" as it is to say "little
teacher." And this epithet of "little old man," or woman, wrapped in a
false commiseration falls with its full weight of impairment on the line
of retirees who get in line early in the morning to buy the
newspaper Granma, or on any gray-haired person always ready to utter
some admonition to the teenagers who saunter out of the high schools
with their shirts untucked.

Destiny has these intrinsic twists. For a boy who spends most of his day
thinking about how to leave the country, anyone who passed up a historic
opportunity to leave this shipwrecked island must be an accomplice, if
not the one personally responsibly for all his angst.

If there is a space for a smile after the macabre grimace of death,
those "old worms" must be amusing themselves in the face of the painful
spectacle offered by their former dentists, who no longer dread the
future, but rather ruminate on a defeat they do not want to recognize.

Source: 'Little Old Communists' / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar –
Translating Cuba -

Americans skipping out on Cuba

Americans skipping out on Cuba
By The Washington Post By Justin Bachman

America, did you miss the travel industry's memo declaring Cuba the
hottest new destination?

Apparently. Service to the long-time U.S. foe began in September, but
after just five months the largest carrier to the island, American
Airlines Group Inc., cut daily flights by 25 percent and switched to
smaller jets on some routes. Meanwhile, Silver Airways Corp. reduced
weekly flights to six Cuban cities and JetBlue Airways Corp. downsized
its planes so as to match lower-than-expected demand.

"It's going to take a really, really long time for (Cuba) to become a
Caribbean destination that's as popular as some of the other ones,"
Andrew Levy, the chief financial officer for United Continental Holdings
Inc., told Bloomberg News in November.

While the rest of the Caribbean is hopping with the U.S. winter break
crowd, Cuba has some unique problems. The big one is that airlines, with
no real idea about demand, were overly ambitious when they jousted for
the limited routes allowed by U.S. regulators. With a mandate for only
110 daily U.S. flights-20 into Havana, the most popular destination-the
carriers tumbled over each other last year to get a piece of the pie,
leaving the island oversubscribed.

The air rush into Cuba "wasn't based on demand but speculation. They had
no history to look at," said Karen Esposito, general manager of Cuba
Travel Network, which specializes in tours to the island. Now they do.

Silver Airways described additional obstacles, pointing to the
complications accompanying U.S. travel arrangements to Cuba, along with
too much capacity from larger carriers. Still, spokeswoman Misty Pinson
said, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based airline "is optimistic about the
future growth potential in Cuba."

Former President Barack Obama announced an opening of relations with
Cuba in December 2014, calling previous U.S. policy, which sought to
isolate the communist government, a failure.

Despite Obama's efforts to spur U.S. engagement with the country,
including a state visit in March, the 54-year-old U.S. embargo remains
in place. The law prohibits tourism to the island by Americans and makes
financial transactions burdensome.

Today, most people traveling to Cuba individually classify themselves as
participants in "people-to-people" exchanges, one of the dozen
categories authorizing travel under U.S. Treasury regulations.

The policy thaw led to an immediate surge by "early adopters" who wanted
to see the tropical island, said Tom Popper, president of Insight Cuba,
a tour operator in New Rochelle, N.Y. "The number of passengers we were
sending tripled in very short order, and it lasted all of 2015 and most
of 2016," he said. "And much of that was just the extraordinary level of
awareness" of the Cuba policy changes.

But with liberalization has come a painful lesson in capitalism-for
tourists, anyway. The new interest in Cuba led to rapid price inflation
(as much as 400 percent) for state-run hotels, taxis, and other traveler
services-before any U.S. commercial flights had begun. Some rooms now
cost as much as $650 per night, serving as a major deterrent to
Americans hunting for novel warm-weather destinations.

Even the costs of classic car rides and dinners at popular paladares,
private restaurants run by families, have in some cases tripled, Insight
Cuba says. Prices have begun to moderate this year for the first time
since 2014, the company said this week. But beyond the high prices lie
additional difficulties for U.S. tourists.

"The airlines are also competing with limited hotel availability,"
Popper said. And "you cannot pay for a room with a U.S. credit card, so
you have to actually bring the cash. You're going to be carrying around
$2,500 to $3,000 in cash just to pay for the hotel room. And then you
need to carry more cash to pay for other things you want to do."

Cuba-curious Americans must also compete for winter lodging with
sun-seekers from Canada and the U.K., who face no bureaucratic hurdles
in booking their holiday.

The average round-trip airfare from the U.S. to Cuba did drop from $399
in September 2016 to $310 last month, according to data from Airlines
Reporting Corp. That compares with an average of $486 for Cancun, the
top Caribbean destination for U.S. travelers. But still, there are few
Yankees heading to Havana.

Some may be worried that a trip would fall under a murky area of the
U.S. law, unsure how much latitude is afforded by "people-to-people
exchanges," or cowed by the well-publicized aggressiveness of U.S.
customs employees of late. No one wants to worry about that sort of
thing while sipping an umbrella-adorned cocktail.

Barring a radical policy change by the new administration, such concerns
are probably unwarranted, Cuba travel experts said, adding that the
traveler counts this year are likely to top 2016. Said Popper: "There's
nobody from the federal government standing on the beach in Cuba."

That may not be reassuring enough for the airlines, though. They're not
pushing Cuba as a leisure destination because of the legal
uncertainties, said Michael Zuccato, general manager of Cuba Travel
Services, a Los Angeles-area company that offers visa assistance and
other traveler aid for customers of four carriers that serve Cuba. While
airlines bear no liability if customers fib about the real reason
they're visiting Cuba, in-house lawyers may not want to push their luck.

"Because of the U.S. restrictions," Zuccato said, "you really don't see
any advertising from the airlines promoting Cuba."

Source: Americans skipping out on Cuba -

Family, Freedom and the Oswaldo Payá Prize

Family, Freedom and the Oswaldo Payá Prize
BORIS GONZÁLEZ ARENAS | La Habana | 26 de Febrero de 2017 - 12:04 CET.

The home of Oswaldo Payá, the Cuban political leader who was killed,
along with Harold Cepero, under murky circumstances in 2012, has a small
living room. It is a space consonant with a house of modest dimensions,
for a family whose social and political life, under normal conditions,
is lived through the appropriate institutions, with no other aspiration
than its domestic harmony and its children growing up healthy. It was
really not large enough to constitute an appropriate site for the
bestowal, on Wednesday 22 February, 2017, of the Oswaldo Payá Freedom
and Life Prize, awarded to Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS,
and Patricio Aylwin, the former Chilean president who was given it

Aylwin's honor was to be collected by his daughter Mariana. But the
Cuban government blocked both her and Almagro from entering the country,
in addition to Mexican president Felipe Calderón, who was nominated and
had accepted the invitation to attend the ceremony along with other
international guests.

The Government also foiled the arrival of an unverified number of people
from Cuba's civil society, either because they were stopped directly,
like Henry Constantín, or with the paramilitary cordon set up around the
house in the Havana municipality of Cerro, like Diario Las Americas
journalist Iván García.

The humble room still proved insufficient to accommodate the members of
civil society, diplomatic corps, and foreign media who were able to get
there. The chairs initially set up were stowed, and throughout the event
the attendees had to stand. It was a vivid example of how, thanks to
Castroism, private spaces have to assume the functions of public ones,
among other uses not corresponding to them.

The remarks by Rosa María Payá on the need for freedom for Cuba, a
reading by Saylí Navarro of a letter written for the occasion by Ofelia
Acevedo, Oswaldo's widow; the words of Ivan Hernández Carrillo, the only
nominee who made it to the event, and a taped speech sent by Felipe
Calderón to the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, dramatically
demonstrated the competence and political maturity of the organizers.

Rosa Maria's words, stating that the prizes would not be sent to their
recipients, but rather stored and given to them, in that same room, in a
free Cuba, expresses an aspiration instilling that small space with a
universal dimension.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro deserves praise for having accepted
the award and the invitation to travel to Cuba to receive it, in Cerro,
in a modest room, on an old and rickety chair.

The OAS was instrumental in distancing other Latin American governments
from Fidel Castro during the most lethal stage of his political
machinations, when he subjected the country to a succession of vicious
schemes. The estrangement occurred after the democratic government of
Rómulo Betancourt severed relations with Cuba and endorsed its
condemnation by the OAS due to the Communist nature of Fidel Castro's
government and its role in the subversion of the Venezuelan government.
It had taken a similar stance against Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, the
tyrant of the Dominican Republic, and shortly thereafter, the same
commitment to democratic standards led it to break off diplomatic
relations with the Haitian government, then headed by François Duvalier.

For Fidel Castro to be treated like just another Caribbean despot was an
affront that he was unwilling to tolerate, sparking hostility towards
the OAS that remains today.

The fact that the Payá family's home was the venue for an event of this
nature honors the Cuban family. If in recent years there has been a bit
of an economic upturn for families, it has been due to, precisely, the
conversion of domestic spaces into facilities for private business and
industry, though the Castro regime has offered nothing but obstacles and
impediments to this growth.

The success of the event organized by the Latin American Youth Network
for Democracy evidences that, together with its management capacities,
and economic initiative, it is in Cuban families that there endures,
with astonishing vitality, our people's yearning for and commitment to
its political freedom.

Source: Family, Freedom and the Oswaldo Payá Prize | Diario de Cuba -

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Countdown Begins For Raul Castro’s Departure From Power

The Countdown Begins For Raul Castro's Departure From Power / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 24 February 2017 — On February 24 of next year Raul
Castro must leave the presidency of Cuba if he is to fulfill the
promise he has made several times. His announced departure from power is
looked on with suspicion by some and seen as an inescapable fact by
others, but hardly anyone argues that his departure will put an end to
six decades of the so-called historical generation.

For the first time, the political process begun in January 1959 will
have a leader who did not participate in the struggle against the
dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Nevertheless, Raul Castro can
maintain the control of the Communist Party until 2021, a position with
powers higher than the executive's and enshrined in the Constitution of
the Republic.

In the 365 days that remain in his position as president of the Councils
of State and of Ministers, the 85-year-old ruler is expected to push
several measures forward. Among them is the Electoral Law, which he
announced two years ago and that will determine the political landscape
he leaves behind after his retirement.

In the coming months the relations between Havana and Washington will be
defined in the context of the new presidency of Donald Trump and, in
internal terms, by the economy. Low wages, the dual currency system,
housing shortages and shortages of products are some of the most
pressing problems for which Cubans expects solutions.

Raul Castro formally assumed the presidency in February of 2008,
although in mid-2006 he took over Fidel Castro's responsibilities on a
provisional basis due to a health crisis affecting his older brother
that forced him from public life. And now, given the proximity of the
date he set for himself to leave the presidency, the leader is obliged
to accelerate the progress of his decisions and define the succession.

In 2013 Castro was confirmed as president for a second term. At that
time he limited the political positions to a maximum of ten years and
emphasized the need to give space to younger figures. One of those faces
was Miguel Díaz-Canel, a 56-year-old politician who climbed through the
party structure and now holds the vice presidency.

In the second tier of power in the Party is Jose Ramon Machado Ventura,
an octogenarian with a reputation as an orthodox who in recent months
has featured prominently in the national media. A division of power
between Díaz-Canel and Machado Ventura (one as president of the Councils
of State and of Ministers and the other as secretary general of the
Party) would be an unprecedented situation for millions of Cubans who
only know the authority being concentrated in a single man.

However, many suspect that behind the faces that hold public office, the
family clan will continue to manipulate through pulling the strings
of Alejandro Castro Espín. But the president's son, promoted to national
security adviser, is not yet a member of the Party Central Committee,
the Council of State or even a Member of Parliament.

For Dagoberto Valdés, director of the Center for Coexistence Studies,
Raúl Castro leaves without doing his work. "There were many promises,
many pauses and little haste," he summarizes. He said that many hoped
that the "much-announced reforms would move from the superficial to the
depth of the model, the only way to update the Cuban economy, politics
and society."

Raul Castro should "at least, push until the National Assembly passes an
Electoral Law" that allows "plural participation of citizens," says
Valdés. He also believes that he should give "legal status to private
companies" and "also give legal status to other organizations of civil

The American academic Ted Henken does not believe that the current
president will leave his position at the head of the Party. For Henken,a
professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Baruch College in
New York, Castro's management has been successful in "maintaining the
power of historic [generation] of the Revolution under the authoritarian
and vertical model installed more than half a century ago" and "having
established a potentially more beneficial new relationship with the US
and embarking on some significant economic reforms. "

However, Henken sees as "a great irony that the government has been more
willing to sit down and talk with the supposed enemy than with its own
people" and points out "the lack of fundamental political rights and
basic civil liberties" as "a black stain on the legacy of the Castro

Blogger Regina Coyula, who worked from 1972 to 1989 for the
Counterintelligence Directorate of the Interior Ministry, predicts that
Raul Castro will be remembered as someone "who could and did not
dare." At first she saw him as "a man more sensible than the brother and
much more pragmatic" but over time "by not doing what he had to do,
nothing turned out as it should have turned out."

Perhaps "he came with certain ideas and when it came to reality he
realized that introducing certain changes would inevitably bring a
transformation of the country's political system," says Coyula. That is
something he "is not willing to assume. He does not want to be the one
who goes down in history with that note in his biography."

Independent journalist Miriam Celaya recalls that "the glass of milk he
promised is still pending" and also "all the impetus he wanted to give
to the self-employment sector." She says that in the last year there has
been "a step back, a retreat, an excess of control" for the private sector.

With the death of Fidel Castro, his brother "has his hands untied to be
to total reformist that some believed he was going to be," Celaya
reflects. "In this last year he should release a little what the
Marxists call the productive forces," although she is "convinced… he
won't do it."

As for a successor, Celaya believes that the Cuban system is "very
cryptic and everything arrives in a sign language, we must be focusing
on every important public act to see who is who and who is not."

"The worst thing in the whole panorama is the uncertainty, the worst
legacy that Raul Castro leaves us is the magnification of the
uncertainty," she points out. "There is no direction, there is no
horizon, there is nothing." He will be remembered as "the man who lost
the opportunity to amend the course of the Revolution."

"He will not be seen as the man who knew, in the midst of turbulence,
how to redirect the nation," laments Manuel Cuesta Morua. Cuesta Morua,
a regime opponent, who belongs to the Democratic Action Roundtable
(MUAD) and to the citizen platform #Otro18 (Another 2018), reproaches
Raúl Castro for not having made the "political reforms that the country
needs to advance economically: he neither opens or closes [the country]
to capital and is unable to articulate another response to the autonomy
of society other than flight or repression."

Iliana Hernández, director of the independent Cuban Lens,
acknowledges that in recent years Raúl Castro has returned to Cubans
"some rights" such as "buying and selling houses, cars, increasing
private business and the right to travel." The activist believes that
this year the president should "call a free election, legalize
[multiple] parties and stop repressing the population."

As for the opposition, Hernandez believes that he is "doing things that
were not done before and were unthinkable to do."

Dissident Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello is very critical of Raul Castro's
management and says she did not even fulfill his promise of ending the
dual currency system. "He spoke of a new Constitution, a new economic
system, which aren't even mentioned in the Party Guidelines," he says.

"To try to make up for the bad they've done, in the first place he
should release all those who are imprisoned simply for thinking
differently under different types of sanctions," reflects Roque
Cabello. She also suggests that he sit down and talk to the opposition
so that it can tell him "how to run the country's economy, which is

Although she sees differences between Fidel's and Raul Castro's styles
of government, "he is as dictator like his brother," she said. The
dissident, convicted during the Black Spring of 2003, does not consider
Diaz-Canel as the successor. "He is a person who has been used, I do not
think he's the relief," and points to Alejandro Castro Espín or Raul
Castro's former son-in-law, Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, as
possible substitutes.

This newspaper tried to contact people close to the ruling party to
obtain their opinion about Raúl Castro's legacy, his succession and the
challenges he faces for the future, but all refused to respond. Rafael
Hernández, director of the magazine Temas, told the Diario de las
Américas in an interview: "There must be a renewal that includes all
those who have spent time like that [10 years]." However, not all
members of the Council of State have been there 10 years, not even all
the ministers have been there 10 years."

This is the most that the supporters of the Government dare to say.

Source: The Countdown Begins For Raul Castro's Departure From Power /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -

Qatar Complains About Cuban Care Providers With HIV

Qatar Complains About Cuban Care Providers With HIV / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 22 February 2017 — Qatar authorities presented an
official complaint before Eumelio Caballero Rodríguez, Ambassador
Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Cuba, because
during the obligatory health exam of the Cuban health workers they
detected some cases of Cuban doctors infected with HIV.

This was expressed in an email from the Embassy of Cuba in the State of
Qatar, which landed like a tsunami in the office of the Minister of
Public Health of Cuba. Here are a few fragments:

"Beginning now, all [Cuban] care providers who leave for Qatar must
bring a certificate from the Provincial Center of Hygiene and
Epidemiology that shows the results of an HIV test."

"Urgent," says the message. "These 15 cases listed here arrived in Qatar
the past month of January without said document, and three of them
tested positive in the required check for entry to the country, and now
we are requesting an explanation for this."

"Gentlemen," continues the missive, "This must not happen again. It is
required that you take disciplinary measures against the provinces of
the implicated care providers."

It should be pointed out that Qatar is a State mediator and negotiator
in Middle Eastern conflicts, and its principal interest in Cuba is
concentrated in medical services, considered the backbone of relations
between both countries. This is why, in January of 2012, the Hospital of
Dukhan was created, which today has more than 400 Cuban professionals,
including doctors, nurses and technicians in the fields of
rehabilitation, odontology, medical laboratories, bio-medicine and

Furthermore, the incident puts at risk the confidence of the Arab
Emirates, which, with the third largest world reserve of natural gas and
the largest income per capita on the planet, has shown interest, in
addition to health, in exploring other spheres of business, for example:
financing the extraction and commercialization of Cuban marble, the
construction of five-star hotels on the island and the implementation of
an airlines operation between Qatar Airways and Cubana de Aviación.

Of course, I'm convinced that we won't read anything about this
disagreeable incident, absolutely nothing, in the official Cuban press.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Qatar Complains About Cuban Care Providers With HIV / Juan Juan
Almeida – Translating Cuba -

The Cuban Regime Has Redoubled Its Assault On The Private Sector

The Cuban Regime Has Redoubled Its Assault On The Private Sector / Iván

Ivan Garcia, 24 February 2017 — Marino Murillo, the presumptive tsar of
economic reforms in Cuba, a prime minister with broad powers, passed up
a seat in the first row next to the senior staff of a long-lived
revolution governed by an exclusive club of elders who, as a group, have
lived almost 500 years, to take a seat in the third row, far from the
spotlight and the cameras.

In closed societies, where rumors are more truthful than the information
offered by the State press, you have to learn to read between the lines.
Lacking a government office that offers public information to its
citizens, academics, journalists and political scientists, you must look
with a magnifying glass at the most insignificant signs.

That morning in December 2015, when the autocrat Raúl Castro feigned
indignation before the more than 600 deputies of the monotone national
parliament about the abusive prices of agricultural products, was the
beginning of the end for Marino Murillo.

Castro II requested that measures be applied. And not very consistently,
alleging the law of supply and demand that governs the produce markets,
Murillo mumbled that he would try to implement different regulations to
try to curb the increase in prices.

Apparently this wasn't sufficient. The previous super-minister fell into
disgrace, and now not even his photo appears in the official media,
although theoretically he continues at the front of the agenda, charged
with implementing the economic guidelines, a kind of commandment that
moves at a snail's pace and with serious delays: In six years, only a
little more than 20 percent of the guidelines have been implemented.

With the fading-out of fatso Murillo, the dynamic of timid economic
reforms — together with openings in the obsessive defense of Fidel
Castro, who transformed Cubans into third-class citizens — the game
began to be directed by the most rancid and conservative of the military

It was essential to open to the world and repeal the feudal exit permit
needed to travel outside the island, to permit Cubans to rent hotel
rooms and to buy or sell houses, among other normal regulations in any
country in the 21st century.

There is no doubt that this was a leap forward, with barriers, absurd
prices and spite for people who make money. Yes, in Cuba they sell cars,
but a Peugeot 508 is worth more than a Ferrari, and you must pay cash.

The Internet and cell phones are not exactly tools of science fiction,
but the price for service is insane for a country where the average
salary is 25 dollars a month.

The supposed reforms were always incomplete. They were left halfway.
Cubans cannot invest in large businesses; professionals don't have
authorization to work for themselves, and the State claims the right to
establish a ridiculous list of jobs that are or are not permitted.

Of the 201 authorized jobs, there are at least 10 or 15 enterprises
where, with creativity and effort, you can make large sums of money,
always taking into account the Cuban context, where anyone who earns
10,000 Cuban pesos a month (about $400) is considered "rich." This is a
country where for almost 60 years, the average citizen is sponsored by
the State.

Of course the regulations, excessive taxes, harassment by State
inspectors and a deadly clause in the Government's economic bible, which
prohibits persons or groups from accumulating large sums of capital,
hinder prosperity and the boom in private work.

In a nation where the Government has been in charge of clothing,
shoeing, rewarding or punishing its citizens, a margin of liberalism, as
small as it is, was an oasis for a half million entrepreneurs who now
live on the margins of the State.

The starting shot that would put the handbrake on the reforms began on
December 17, 2014, when President Barack Obama and General Raúl Castro,
of mutual accord, put an end to the incredible Cold War between Cuba and
the United States.

Once out of the trenches, Obama began to launch packets of measures with
the marked intention of favoring private workers. The Regime didn't like

They wanted to do business with the gringos but with their own State
enterprises, not to empower the private ones. Then, progressively, the
Castro autocracy started to slow down the dynamic sector, probably the
only one that was growing on the Island, that paid salaries from three
to five times more than the State, and which gave employment to some 20
percent of the work force.

In autumn of 2015, a negative dynamic began. Presently only 30 percent
of the supply-and-demand produce markets are functioning. The State
harasses and penalizes the cart vendors who sell meat, fruit and
vegetables, and they have declined by 50 percent. The State closed the
largest produce market in Trigal, south of Havana, and the Taliban
juggernaut expects to increase with regulations and taxes on all the
buoyant businesses in gastronomy, transport and hotel services.

What's this new "revolutionary offensive" about? I don't think it has
the reach of the confiscations of french fry stands and shoeshine stalls
of 1968, or the counter-reforms for certain openings in the 1980s and '90s.

But it's undeniable that the Regime doesn't want the train to derail.
Presently there's a small segment of Cubans, between 60,000 and 100,000
persons, who have amassed small fortunes thanks to their taste and
talent for business.

We're talking about 100,000 dollars going forward, an insignificant
figure in any First World country, but extraordinary in a country
impoverished by the poor management of the Castro brothers.

In addition to pleasure and social status, money engenders power. While
Castroism functions in Cuba, private businesses will not be able to
prosper. This is the reason for the brakes put on the private owners.

A word of advice to the olive green Regime: Be careful with excesses. In
December 2010, an abusive fine on the owner of a food stand, Mohammed
Buazisi, who out of contempt immolated himself, put a final end to the
Tunisian dictatorship of Ben Ali and unchained the Arab Spring.

In its present offensive against the private taxi drivers, the Cuban
authorities shouldn't forget what happened in Tunisia a little more than
six years ago. In societies of order and control, the devil is always in
the details.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: The Cuban Regime Has Redoubled Its Assault On The Private Sector
/ Iván García – Translating Cuba -