Friday, June 30, 2017

Cuban General Who Oversaw the Downing of ‘Brothers To The Rescue’ Planes Dies

Cuban General Who Oversaw the Downing of 'Brothers To The Rescue' Planes

14ymedio, Havana, 29 June 2017 — On Wednesday, Brigadier General Eduardo
Delgado Rodriguez died in Havana. He had supervised the intelligence
operations that led to the downing of the Brothers to the Rescue planes
in 1996, and as director of the Miami espionage work of the Wasp
Network, he was in charge of infiltrating five Cuban spies into the
United States. A brief note in the official press reported his death
without specifying the cause.

The notice, which appeared in the Granma newspaper, briefly details his
biography since joining "fight against the Fulgencio Batista regime" up
to his presence as a military man in Nicaraguan territory during the
1980s. It also lists his many decorations.

However, the obituary published in the official organ of the Communist
Party does not mention that Delgado served as head of the General
Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) for
20 years, a post he ascended to after his performance during the trial
of "Cause No. 1" in 1989.

In that famous proceeding, Major General Arnaldo Ochoa Sánchez and three
other military officers were sentenced to death on charges of drug
trafficking and abuse of power. At that time Delgado had the rank of
colonel and presided over the investigations of the case.

In 1994 he was promoted to brigadier general and from his position as
head of MININT intelligence directed the actions of the Wasp Network.

Delgado was in charge of the operation that compiled the information to
bring down the planes of Brothers to the Rescue on 24 February of 1996.
In 2013 he was replaced as head of Director of Intelligence, and became
director of MINIT's Eliseo Reyes Rodriguez Superior Institute.

At the time of his death, Delgado was retired. His remains were buried
Wednesday afternoon in the Pantheon of the Firefighters of MININT, in
Havana's Colón Cemetery.

Source: Cuban General Who Oversaw the Downing of 'Brothers To The
Rescue' Planes Dies – Translating Cuba -

The Impossible Letter

The Impossible Letter

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 29 June 2017 — "Today we
are going to practice writing a letter," announced the fourth grade
teacher at a school in the Plaza of the Revolution district in
mid-June. Immediately, Lucia, age 9, thought about writing a letter to
her grandmother telling her about her latest acrobatics on skates, but
the recipient had already been decided. "You are going to write a letter
addressed to Fidel Castro thanking him for a free education," declared
the educator.

The girl froze. It never would have occurred to her to address a letter
to a dead person, nor to anyone who wasn't a friend or a member of her
family. She scribbled the date on the top of the page and then stopped,
with the pencil suspended in the air, not knowing what to do. "Lucia,
you have to thank him for building schools and teaching Cuban children
to read," ordered the teacher.

The student remained paralyzed. "Come on, it is very likely that on the
test they will ask you to write a letter to the Comandante and you have
to practice." The pencil didn't move a fraction of an inch. "Look, I'm
going to dictate some sentences to you and then you can continue on your
own," the teacher said, her tone increasingly irritable. "Fidel, without
you I would have no shoes and no books and I would be illiterate," she
dictated. But the girl didn't make a single mark.

When she got home the sheet of paper still had only the day and the
month in one corner. So it was her mother's turn to insist, "Think that
you are writing another person and then later put 'His' name on it," she
proposed as a trick to get around the problem. Lucia imagined she was
telling her grandmother about the games in the park, and thanking her
for her affections and then signed it, squeezing in her name next to a
drawing of a flower.

Last week the final exam included the request to write a letter. But
this time it was addressed to the teacher and had to respond to the
question, "What do you do to help your mom with the housework?" The girl
stopped for several minutes with the pencil suspended over the paper
without knowing what to do. No one came to dictate the sentences.

* This story is not literature, but absolute reality. The student's name
has been changed to avoid retaliation.

Source: The Impossible Letter – Translating Cuba -

Under Trump’s revised policy, black Cubans will get left behind, again

Under Trump's revised policy, black Cubans will get left behind, again

As President Trump announced the administration's new policies on Cuba,
I worried that Afro-Cubans would be the main losers. They have been
losing for some time. The timid economic reforms implemented by the
Cuban government in the past two decades have resulted in a growing gap
between those with access to capital and those without it.

This gap is not color blind. Because access to capital depends on
monetary flows from the overwhelmingly white Cuban-American community,
black Cubans lack the resources to participate on equal grounds in the
expanding private sector. As one of my collaborators on the island puts
it, in Cuba, "Dollars are white." In a country where, according to the
census, they represent more than one third of the population, very few
of the new private restaurants, rental houses, and shops are owned by

Still, the participation of black Cubans in tourist-related,
dollar-earning services probably has increased since March 2016, when
President Obama relaxed the regulations concerning American visitors to
Cuba. The new rules allowed individuals to travel on their own for
"people to people" educational contacts.

Precisely because Americans cannot travel legally as tourists, they stay
away from the tour packages typically preferred by European and Canadian
consumers, most of whom stay in state-owned, all-inclusive hotels.
American visitors stay in rental rooms around the city, including less
affluent areas, where Afro-Cubans are better represented. Their visits
have had a democratizing effect on the service sector, creating
opportunities for individuals, families, and neighborhoods that were
previously excluded from the tourist economy.

According to a statement issued on June 16 by the U.S. Department of the
Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), "The president
instructed Treasury to issue regulations that will end individual
people-to-people travel." The main targets of the new policies are
supposed to be the military, whose control over the Cuban economy is
well known. However, by limiting opportunities for individual travel
outside of state-controlled tourist facilities, the new measures are
likely to have a disproportionately negative effect on poorer Cubans,
including Afro-Cubans.

Neither these policies nor the much-needed economic reforms implemented
by the Cuban government are racist by design. Their implementation has
race-specific consequences because blackness continues to be laden with
all sorts of disadvantages in Cuban society, so seemingly neutral,
color-blind policies produce racially differentiated effects. The
policies are not racially defined. Their social effects are.

Afro-Cubans know that the only way to counteract these forces is through
social mobilization and conscious policymaking. Cuba is not a friendly
place for autonomous, non-state-controlled social mobilization, but a
growing Afrodescendant movement has emerged nonetheless. Born in the
midst of the economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet
Union in 1991, this movement is considerably larger and more complex
today than even a few years ago. It began as a cultural movement, led by
Hip-hop musicians, visual artists, writers, and filmmakers critical of
racial discrimination. It now includes community activists working in
some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country; organizations that
specialize in legal services; gender-based forms of activism; bloggers
and websites on Afro-Cuban themes; and organizations that frame their
demands in the language of citizenship and human rights.

These organizations have successfully promoted a debate on the
persistence of racism in Cuban society, but their ability to shape
policymaking remains limited, to say the least. Cuban authorities are
suspicious of any social movement outside their control and generally
are averse to engage in any serious debate with them.

That is, there is not much that the activists can do to counteract the
effects of the new policies of the Trump administration, or of the
economic reforms taking place in Cuba, for that matter. They lack
platforms to effect change or to respond to changes in policy such as
those just announced by the administration. The main target of the new
policies may be the military, but what is certain is that in this
process Afro-Cubans stand to lose, again.


Source: Under Trump's revised Cuba policy, Afro-Cubans will get left
behind, again | Miami Herald -

'Revolutionary' Unemployment: A Crime

'Revolutionary' Unemployment: A Crime
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 30 de Junio de 2017 - 10:04 CEST.

The Cuban Government always lies in its economic and social statistics,
and with total impunity, as no figures can actually be verified. It
began to lie at the beginning of 1960, when the president of the
National Bank of Cuba, Che Guevara, fumed upon finding out that the
growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1959 had not reached 1%,
so he forced his economists to look for other methods to calculate it in
order too boost it and burnish the Revolution's image.

Of all the statistical data offered today by the regime's National
Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), perhaps the most
outrageously false is the unemployment rate, which it claims was 2,4% in

However, when Cuba was selected as a member of the Governing Body of the
International Labour Organization (ILO) for the 2017-2020 period, the
ONEI was obliged to inform the ILO that of the seven million people of
working age in Cuba, 4,9 million have work, and the other 2,1 million
are jobless.

This gives us an actual unemployment rate of 30%, one of the highest in
the world, and the second highest in the Americas, behind only Haiti.
But the regime does not admit this to Cubans, lest it admit it to
itself. Castro's propaganda spreads the myth that there is no
unemployment in Cuba because it is a Marxist-Leninist country, and the
scourge of unemployment is a trait of the "decadent" capitalist system.

Of course, the numbers don't lie. There are more than two million people
of working age who are unemployed and must scramble just to survive. The
worst thing is that the vast majority of them are young people. They
comprise Castroism/Guevarism's "new man." There is no greater waste in
the Americas than the most valuable capital a nation possesses.

A squandering of its most valuable asset

It is a universally recognized axiom that the main economic and social
resource a country has is its human capital, the creative capacity of
its people. This has been the case since the emergence of homo sapiens –
except in the Communist regimes of the 20th century, and into the 21st,
under which private property to produce goods and services constitutes a
heresy punished by the law.

Such is the case in Cuba. The Castroist state was able to maintain more
or less acceptable levels of employment, as long as it had substantial
subsidies from Moscow. But it was all a deck of cards. Workplaces were
inevitably and dramatically overstaffed. There was always room for one
more worker, even if he was not necessary, if he was a friend of someone
employed there.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Venezuelan subsidies proved
insufficient to maintain these levels of unproductiveness, with more
than 1,5 million state employees doing little or no work at all. Thus,
the "Updating of the Socialist Economic Model" became necessary, which,
although it remains a thoroughly Statist and Stalinist plan, the whole
world calls "Raúl Castro's reforms."

As if he were on the Moon, and not with his feet on the ground, one of
the first measures announced by the dictator himself, as part of this
"updating" was the gradual laying off of those 1,5 million surplus
workers from state payrolls, but without freeing up the productive
forces of the nation so that a burgeoning private sector could absorb
that enormous number of unemployed Cubans.

In the Middle Ages

That is, the dictatorship behaved as if it were in the Middle Ages,
granting licenses, on a personal basis, to provide only precarious,
medieval-like services. It even excluded university professionals, who,
with their know-how, could have contributed much to the country on their
own. Logically, within a few months the announced mass dismissal was
reversed, as it promised to unleash chaos and, probably, destabilize the

Despite the fact that there was no private sector capable of
assimilating them, tens of thousands of state workers lost their jobs
anyway due to lack of raw materials in their factories, the closing of
some, and the reduction of industrial and commercial activity due to the
recession resulting from the crisis in Venezuela. Many others continue
to abandon their workplaces on an almost daily basis, because the
average salary of about 23 dollars is not enough for them to survive and
support their families, so they prefer to turn to the black market.

The results are starkly evident. Today the island's parks and streets
are teeming with men and women of working age. They talk, tell stories
or play with their dogs.

Only 155.605 young people are self-employed, which represents 31% of the
island's incipient private sector. A bit more than a million young
people work in the state sector, but not for the measly Cuban salary,
but because they can obtain from the State products that they later sell
on the black market to survive.

Oddly enough, stealing from the Cuban state is not a crime, but an act
of self-defense. Thanks to "missing" goods in state inventories, and the
"diversion of resources", there exists a genuine national market: the
underground one, which keeps Cuban families alive and kicking.

The current 30% unemployment on the island is a reflection of Cuba's
appallingly unique situation: it is the only country in the hemisphere
that is today less economically and socially advanced than it was in the
middle of the 20th century. Though Haiti has a higher unemploymen rate
than Cuba, its average salary of 59 dollars is double. The
"Revolutionary" island has not even reached square one when it comes to
socio-economic progress, and will need to take its first steps before it
can advance and build a new future.

Undoubtedly, the reconstruction of the devastated country will fall to
those young people who today have no jobs, and hang their university
degrees on the wall, and pedal bicycle taxis, or make a living as human
statues to get tips from tourists.

Cubans who are now barred from being successful private entrepreneurs,
technicians or well-paid employees will be the ones who, with financial
assistance from international and Cuban banks, and foreign and
Cuban-American investors, will rebuild the Cuban economy, which before
the Castroist nightmare was one of the most prosperous in the Americas.
They will construct the modern, democratic country for which we all yearn.

Source: 'Revolutionary' Unemployment: A Crime | Diario de Cuba -

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Death Throes of a Formerly Great Cuban Department Store

The Death Throes of a Formerly Great Cuban Department Store

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 28 June 2017 – The shit, not the
metaphorical kind but the kind that stinks, makes it nearly impossible
to read the name Fin de Siglo, End of Century, imbedded in the granite
floor. In five decades, one of the most emblematic Havana stores has
transitioned from glamor to abandonment, passing also through
experiments in socialist distribution and the self-employment sector.

Founded in the long ago 1897 and located on the central corner formed by
San Rafael Boulevard and Aguila Street, Fin de Siglo was among the most
important commercial establishments in Cuba, along with La Época and El
Encanto. In its place today, however, there remains only a building with
serious structural problems, vacant and stinky.

During what Fidel Castro labeled with euphemistically the Special Period
in Time of Peace – a time of great economic hardship after the collapse
of the Soviet Union and the end of its financial support for Cuba – Fin
de Siglo sold only to distinguished workers awarded "vanguard" status,
and to newly married couples. A nice 1992 documentary, made by the
Belgian Madelin Waterlet and the Pole Simon Saleski and named after the
store, relates the surrealist moment.

That form of the socialist marketing could not be sustained for long and
with the gentle winds of economic reforms the ground floor of the
building was set up for private sector retailers to sell sandals,
household utensils, objects for religious rituals and clothing.

Many tourists also came to acquire an ashtray with the face
of Che Guevara or canvases from which shone the skin of beautiful
mulatas. But a month ago the sellers were reassigned among the soulless
state stores.

The authorities justify the relocations with the deterioration of the
building. However, private individuals who paid rent for space in the
building insist that their contracts with the state Empresa de Comercio
stipulated that 30% of lease proceeds would go to repairs, which were
never made.

At the end of 2012, the sellers were informed that restoration work
would begin on the building, but after a few weeks and the placement of
wooden beams to prop up the top floor, the works did not continue.

In order not to lose their clientele, the vendors proposed that the
local government allow them to become a non-agricultural cooperative
(CNA), a form of economic management which, as of January this year, had
397 examples throughout the country dedicated to food, personal and
technical services.

However, the initiative did not prosper and for several weeks now the
retailers have been relocated in nearby stores such as Cancha, Florida
and Sublime, smaller and more poorly located.

"I have lost a lot of money in this move and also this place does not
have the minimum necessary conditions," says a clothing saleswoman with
a counter in the Cancha store who preferred anonymity. However, she
acknowledges that "Fin de Siglo also had problems because of the heat,
the lack of windows and the constant obstructions in the sewer pipes."

The merchant believes that if they had let the tenants invest the
conditions of the ground floor would have been improved, since each year
the premises collected about 3 million Cuban pesos (roughly $120k US) in
rent receipts. "Why didn't they use part of that for reconstruction?"
she protests.

Some vendors have placed handmade posters in the windows of Fin de Siglo
alerting customers to their new locations. There is no obvious
construction work taking place in the building but all the outlets and
the bulbs from the ceiling lights are missing.

Carlos Alberto, a young jeweler wants an explanation. "When someone
finds out what they are going to do there, let them come and tell
me." The artisan doubts the official version and maintains that the
building will be "remodeled to become a store selling in convertible
pesos" – that is to the well-to-do and tourists – a speculation which
the authorities of the municipality of Central Havana do not want to
comment on.

At the Sublime establishment, a CD vendor predicts a worse future for
the emblematic store. "It's going to be just like the Duplex cinema, a
block away, which one day was closed because it had a problem in the
bathroom and today is a ruin," he says.

Source: The Death Throes of a Formerly Great Cuban Department Store –
Translating Cuba -

Soy Yogurt Will “Gradually” Return to Havana

Soy Yogurt Will "Gradually" Return to Havana

14ymedio, Havana, 28 June 2017 — This week the official media have
fueled expectations among consumers in Havana with an announcement of
"the return of soy yogurt," a product of the rationed market that has
not been distributed in the capital for nearly a year.

After the announcement, hundreds of customers crowded around outside the
dairy outlets, but a national television report clarified that the
distribution will be "gradual" until it reaches the 85,000 children in
the city who are authorized to receive a share of this product.

During the last year, children between the ages of seven and fourteen
have been receiving a powdered mix to make a dairy substitute shake, but
it has been strongly criticized for its poor quality.

The interruption of the sale of soy yogurt was due to the technological
deterioration experienced by Havana's Milk Complex, especially the steam
boiler, which has been in operation for more than 40 years.

The malfunctions forced production to stop for eight months in order to
undertake a repair that included the importing of new boilers, and
maintenance work on the cold storage facilities and the production
rooms. In addition, the distribution service will now be made from a
renovated truck lot.

However, many parents are wary about whether the renovations will last,
and fear that the soy yogurt will disappear "gradually."

Source: Soy Yogurt Will "Gradually" Return to Havana – Translating Cuba

Cuba expects tourism growth despite Trump's crackdown on U.S travel

Cuba expects tourism growth despite Trump's crackdown on U.S travel
World16 hours ago (Jun 28, 2017 08:20PM ET)

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba earned more than $3 billion from tourism in 2016
and expects to better that this year despite President Donald Trump's
tightening of restrictions on U.S. travel to the Caribbean island, a
government official said on Wednesday.
"In 2016, revenue reached more than $3 billion in all activity linked to
tourism in the country," Jose Alonso, the Tourism Ministry's business
director, told state-run media.
"We think that, given the growth the country is seeing at the moment, we
will beat that figure this year," Alonso said.
Tourism revenue totaled $2.6 billion in 2015.
The number of foreign visitors to Cuba was up 22 percent in the first
half of 2017 compared with the same period last year, according to
Alonso, who said that put it on track to reach its target for a record
4.2 million visits this year.
Tourism has been one of the few bright spots recently in Cuba's economy,
as it struggles with a decline in exports and subsidized oil shipments
from its key ally Venezuela.
A surge in American visitors has helped boost the sector since the 2014
U.S.-Cuban detente under the Obama administration and its easing of U.S.
travel restrictions, even as a longtime ban on tourism remained in effect.
But Trump earlier this month ordered a renewed tightening of travel
restrictions, saying he was canceling former President Barack Obama's
"terrible and misguided deal" with Havana.
Many details of the policy change are still unknown. But independent
travel to Cuba from the United States, by solo travelers and families,
will likely be much more restricted.
Alonso said he was confident "an important number of Americans" would
still be able to visit the island. But an announcement by Southwest
Airlines Co (LUV.N) on Wednesday that it was reducing its number of
flights to Cuba cast shadow over his upbeat comments.
"There is not a clear path to sustainability serving these markets,
particularly with the continuing prohibition in U.S. law on tourism to
Cuba for American citizens," Southwest said in a statement.
Southwest joined other U.S. airlines that have cut flights to Cuba over
past months or pulled out of the market altogether.

Source: Cuba expects tourism growth despite Trump's crackdown on U.S
travel By Reuters -

Southwest drops two routes to Cuba; Havana flights to stay

Southwest drops two routes to Cuba; Havana flights to stay
Ben Mutzabaugh , USA TODAY Published 8:46 a.m. ET June 29, 2017

Southwest Airlines will ax two of its three routes to Cuba, becoming the
latest U.S. carrier to trim flights to the nation amid disappointing

Southwest said flights to Varadero and Santa Clara will be discontinued
so that the airline can "concentrate its future service to Cuba in
Havana." Southwest will keep its existing service to Havana from both
Fort Lauderdale and Tampa.

Varadero and Santa Clara flights will end Sept. 4, with Southwest
pointing to lingering travel restrictions that affect Americans
traveling to Cuba.

"Our decision to discontinue the other Cuba flights comes after an
in-depth analysis of our performance over several months which confirmed
that there is not a clear path to sustainability serving these markets,
particularly with the continuing prohibition in U.S. law on tourism to
Cuba for American citizens," Steve Goldberg, Southwest's senior vice
president of ground operations, said in a statement.

With that, Southwest joins a growing list of U.S. airlines that have cut
back Cuba service since regular passenger flights to the country resumed
in November for the first time more than 50 years.

American and JetBlue each have reduced their capacity to Cuba. Neither
dropped any routes, but American is now flying fewer flights while
JetBlue has mixed in smaller planes to its schedules.

Two smaller airlines have pulled out of Cuba altogether. Frontier
dropped its Miami-Havana route in June, ending its only route to Cuba.
And small carrier Silver Airways, which once had plans for nine Cuba
routes, stopped flying to the country this spring.

When Cuba opened up to U.S. airlines last year, routes and capacity to
the island were capped and carriers had to apply for the rights to serve
the Cuba's international airports. Nearly all of the big U.S. airlines
rushed in with requests to fly to the island – especially on routes to

Against that enthusiasm, however, some industry executives openly
wondered whether demand would live up to the hype.

Without regular airline service to the island in five decades, there was
little data available to carriers in trying to assess potential demand
for flights to new destinations. And unlike other foreign markets, Cuba
remains a unique and highly regulated place for U.S. airlines to do

Indeed, some of the new routes haven't panned out as expected.

As for Southwest, it has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation for
the rights to add more flights to Havana on its existing route from Fort
Lauderdale. But it will face competition from rivals who also are
seeking to pick up Havana rights dropped by other airlines.

Southwest says it will offer refunds to customers with reservations for
flights to Varadero and Santa Clara beyond Sept. 4.

Source: Southwest drops two routes to Cuba; Havana flights to stay -

First Tampa to Cuba Carnival cruise leaves today

First Tampa to Cuba Carnival cruise leaves today
By Avery Cotton
Published: June 29, 2017, 6:26 am Updated: June 29, 2017, 8:05 am

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Carnival Paradise makes its inaugural 4-day
trip to Cuba out of Port Tampa Bay Thursday morning.

The ship sets sail Thursday and will dock in Havana.

This trip comes on the heels of President Donald Trump's newest travel
restrictions to Cuba. Many wondered how his new plan would affect their

While most changes appear to be minimal, the most notable is that after
this first cruise, passengers will no longer be able to take individual
certified tours. Instead they will have to take certified group tours.
This is to prevent Americans from straying away from educational
opportunities while they are in the country.

Although this is Carnival's first trip out of Tampa to Cuba, Royal
Caribbean began cruises back in April out of Port Tampa Bay.

Carnival is offering 4 and 5-day cruises. Passengers will need a
passport to travel. 4-day trips start at $449. 5-day trips start at $549.

Source: First Tampa to Cuba Carnival cruise leaves today | -

Annexationism among Cubans

Annexationism among Cubans
HILDEBRANDO CHAVIANO MONTES | La Habana | 29 de Junio de 2017 - 00:20 CEST.

A group of Cuban intellectuals gather at Cuban TV's Round Table (a
misnomer) to analyze (once again) Donald Trump's alteration of America's
policies towards the Cuban Government. They insist on accusing US
leadership of harboring annexationist intentions, albeit only cultural
—the preferred form today among many Cubans, although those in the
Government stress those of an economic nature.

However, annexationist sentiment is somewhat broader than that suggested
by the panelists. Actually, there have always been Cubans who have not
believed that we can govern ourselves, as they harbor ambivalent
feelings. On the one hand, the best is expected from the US. We are
almost as close to the country as Mexico, and many believe that Cuba has
more of a right, and is better prepared, to be the 51st state than
Puerto Rico.

On the other hand, the US is the menacing power that, it is said, wishes
to seize the Island towards some supposedly sinister ends.

However, the annexationist tendency is not entirely the people's fault,
or that of Cuba's neighbors to the North. A country whose rulers do not
permit dissension unleashes pent-up feelings that, as they cannot be
processed through democratic channels, give rise to extreme positions
that in no way benefit the nation.

The Cuban Government is responsible for young people seeing migration to
the United States as the only answer to their problems; among other
reasons, because once they finish school they face the prospect of
low-paid and unattractive jobs, and the future of their children is even
less promising.

More than annexationism, the phenomena that can be seen in the Cuban
people are frustration, skepticism, and a waning will to fight. The
dictatorship crushed the people's determination to rebel, but at the
same time annihilated its creative drive. The few who dare to fight
choose the path they find best. At times ways they are paths that may
seem wayward, but, in the current situation of uncertainty, who can say
what should be done?

The Government wields all its weapons against dissidents: scheming,
disqualifications, false accusations, threats, arrests, kidnapping,
confiscations of mobile phones and computers, eavesdropping on telephone
conversations, isolation campaigns between neighbors, prohibitions on
travel abroad or even to other provinces, and everything else that
occurs to them. Now they are trying to discredit those dissidents who
met with Trump, as if the rest mattered to them.

When annexationism peaked in the 19th century, Cuba was subject to a
colonial tyranny delegitimized by the winds of freedom blowing in
America. In the half century of the Republic after independence, we did
not develop enough, due to rulers who were still stuck in the past, two
of them devolving into dictators.

As a collateral consequence, Cubans have always looked expectantly at
their powerful neighbor. This Revolution, with its absurd Communist
leaders belonging to another era, has managed to push Cubans back to the
nineteenth century, and see American aid, or even annexation, as valid
solutions in response to the tyranny to which they are subjected, in no
way different from that perpetrated by the Spanish Crown.

The reaction to Trump's speech among us reflects the satisfaction of the
downtrodden, who are denied the chance to raise their voices against
their despots, after seeing a leader publicly denounced. We ought not
exaggerate. This is not annexationism, it is just reveling.

The more the Cuban Government refuses to change all that must be
changed, the more isolated it will be, and more and, as more and more
people see annexation as an actual possibility, the undeniable
disintegration Cuba is undergoing will be spotlighted.

It is not the unlikely prospect of annexationism that threatens the
country. Rather, it is real Communism, imposed without tolerating
dissension, which spawns unproductiveness, emigration, increased
prostitution, administrative corruption, common crime, apathy and
deception. Parodying the poet, "in short: evil." The destruction of the
country by blows from the hammer and sickle.

Source: Annexationism among Cubans | Diario de Cuba -

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cuban Authorities Block Seven Activists From Traveling to Mexico for Democracy Action Meeting

Cuban Authorities Block Seven Activists From Traveling to Mexico for
Democracy Action Meeting

14ymedio, Havana, 27 June 2017 – Cuban authorities blocked at least
seven activists from traveling to Cancun, Mexico this Monday, to
participate in the 4th Forum on Roads to a Democratic Cuba, a meeting of
the United Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD) organized by the Konrad
Adenauer Foundation (KAS), according to blogger Regina Coyula speaking
to 14ymedio.

"When I arrived at the immigration window in Terminal 3 of Jose Marti
International Airport, they told me to step back and wait a minute" said
the activist. Then she was approached by an immigration official who,
after asking for her documents, informed her that there was "a ban on
travel abroad" in effect against her.

Coyula demanded explanations for the reasons she was prevented from
leaving, but the agent would only say that she "had nothing to do with
this" and told her if she wanted more information to visit the Office of
Attention to the Population near the Plaza of the Revolution.

The other activists who were not allowed to board the plane are Rafael
León Rodríguez, general coordinator of the Cuban Democratic
Project; Hildebrando Chaviano, director of the Center for Analysis of
Public Policies of Freedom and Development; Wilfredo Vallín and Amado
Calixto Gammalame, members of the Legal Association of Cuba; Erick
Álvarez, promoter of the CubaDecide initiative; and Alexei Gámez,
activist of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement.

The practice of preventing dissidents from leaving the country has
become a repressive method of State Security in increasing use in recent

In early 2013 a Migration Reform measure came into effect which
eliminated the "exit permit" required for travel abroad. In the first
ten months after the approval of the new measures, Cubans made more than
250,000 trips abroad. The opposition also benefited from this relaxation
of controls.

However, any time it likes the Government may invoke certain subsections
of article 25 of the new immigration regulations that prohibit departure
"for reasons of public interest or national security."

Travel bans are put into practice in a number of ways, including
preventing opponents from leaving their home, intercepting the vehicles
taking them to the airport, or notifying them at the immigration window
at the airport that they are forbidden to leave, as happened on Monday.

Source: Cuban Authorities Block Seven Activists From Traveling to Mexico
for Democracy Action Meeting – Translating Cuba -

These Are Good Times For The ‘Weekly Packet’

These Are Good Times For The 'Weekly Packet'

14ymedio, generation, Yoani Sanchez, 27 June 2017 — Official propaganda
has been euphoric since Donald Trump spoke at the Manuel Artime Theater
in Miami. The government discourse rages with an intensity that hasn't
been seen since the campaign for 'The Cuban Five', the spies serving
sentences in the United States. Faced with this saturation of slogans,
many opt to take refuge in the 'Weekly Packet.'

The Cuban Government seems to be advised by its worst enemies in terms
of content dissemination, in view of the excess of ideology and
ephemeris of the national media. The result is the galloping loss of
viewers who opt for the informal networks of distribution of
audiovisuals, series and films.

Each line of the incendiary political tirades published in the written
press equals more than one los reader, tired of so much rhetoric. It is
easy to detect through the comments on the street how the 'rating' of
the media controlled by the Communist Party is collapsing these days,
especially among the youngest.

It is easy to detect through the comments on the street how the 'rating'
of the media controlled by the Communist Party is collapsing these days,
especially among the youngest

In the past, television viewers tired of so much empty talk had to watch
anyway, in the absence of other options, but now Cubans live in the age
of USB memory and external hard drives.

Now, while the national media rant against the United States president's
new policy toward Cuba, the informal market is awash in entertainment
material that has nothing to do with politics.

A bad quality copy of The Mummy starring Tom Cruise, or Wonder Woman
featuring Patty Jenkins, along with the eighth installment of Fast and
Furious, grab the attention of the fans of the Weekly Packet, and offer
nothing but a headache for the government propagandists who don't know
how to attract that lost audience.

It is significant that science fiction, fantasy and car racing triumph
where politics loses ground. Cubans escape reality through fiction, they
evade propaganda by choosing programming far removed from ideology.

Source: These Are Good Times For The 'Weekly Packet' – Translating Cuba

Planet Nothing

Planet Nothing

Rebeca Monzo, Havana, 16 June 2017 — Cuba is a distant planet. It has
nothing to do with the rest of the world, because nothing functions
there as in the majority of civilized countries. This "planet" is ruled
by the whims of its ancient rulers who have spent almost 59 years doing
whatever they please.

Now is when we were supposed to be doing better, thanks to the massive
arrival of a tourist trade that for decades overlooked Cuba as a
destination because of the innumerable restrictions imposed by the
regime–and which now has no choice but to "loosen its grip" in this
regard, because the country does not produce goods and is totally
bankrupt. Curiously, almost all the tourists I talk with remark that
they come to Cuba because they want to experience it before the great
changes that are coming. It must be that they want to "feel" firsthand,
rather than watch a movie about, a true Jurassic Park.

Nobody knows what is being done with the money collected via remittances
[from Cuban émigrés abroad to their relatives on the Island] and
tourism, being that the stores are practically empty, the public
transportation service is worse every day, the city grows ever dirtier,
and buildings continue to collapse–structures whose extreme
deterioration is due to the government never having taken care of them

Yesterday at the the Panamericana chain store location on 26th Avenue
between 17th and 15th Streets in Vedado, I was struck with consternation
to see the huge line of people waiting to enter. I asked an employee who
told me that they had only one cashier, because the other three had quit
their jobs, as had the workers in the personal and household cleaning
supplies department. Only one cash register, in the groceries
department, was open to the public.

We go on floating in a state of absolute stagnation, where "nothing from
nothing" is our daily reality.

Ed note: Rebeca has a room for rent on Airbnb if you are going to
Havana. (Additional note: this "advertisement" has NOT been posted at
her request or even with her knowledge.)

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Planet Nothing – Translating Cuba -

Southwest Becomes Latest Airline to Reduce Flights to Cuba

Southwest Becomes Latest Airline to Reduce Flights to Cuba
By Mary Schlangenstein
June 28, 2017, 5:53 PM GMT+2

U.S. restrictions on travel continue to weigh on demand
American trimmed service while Frontier, Spirit pulled out

Southwest Airlines Co. will join other U.S. carriers in reducing flights
to Cuba, saying laws that restrict Americans from traveling there for
tourism are constraining demand.

Southwest becomes the latest airline to accept that the industry, with
little way to judge demand beforehand, was too optimistic when U.S.
regulators allowed passenger routes to the island nation last year for
the first time in decades. President Donald Trump added to the woes
earlier this month by announcing restrictions that may stall U.S.
business on the island. The new limits don't affect airline operations
to Cuba but may affect demand.

American Airlines Group Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp. previously
trimmed their service to Cuba, while Spirit Airlines Inc., Frontier
Airlines Holdings Inc. and Silver Airways Corp. pulled out completely.

Southwest will drop service to Varadero and Santa Clara on Sept. 4, and
continue flying to Havana twice daily from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and
Tampa airports in Florida, the carrier said in a statement Wednesday.

"Our decision to discontinue the other Cuba flights comes after an
in-depth analysis of our performance over several months which confirmed
that there is not a clear path to sustainability serving these markets,
particularly with the continuing prohibition in U.S. law on tourism to
Cuba for American citizens," Steve Goldberg, senior vice president of
ground operations, said in the statement.

Southwest Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly previously had said he
would give the Cuba markets a year before deciding on continuing
service. The Dallas-based carrier began flights to Varadero in November
and to Santa Clara in December.

The airline is contacting customers holding travel reservations for
those cities on Sept. 5 and beyond to offer refunds.

Southwest is seeking U.S. approval for a third daily Havana-Fort
Lauderdale flight from among those given up by airlines that have left
the island. American, Delta Air Lines Inc., United Continental Holdings
Inc. and JetBlue also are trying to secure those routes.

Source: Southwest Becomes Latest Airline to Reduce Flights to Cuba -
Bloomberg -

Cuba policy change: Poultry exports could be impacted

Cuba policy change: Poultry exports could be impacted
By Mary Sell Montgomery Bureau Jun 25, 2017 Updated Jun 25, 2017

MONTGOMERY – Agriculture officials and industry leaders in Alabama for
years have lobbied for expanded exports to socialist Cuba, a country
where they see a promising market for the state's poultry products.

Now they're waiting to see what President Donald Trump's recent, more
restrictive policy change with Cuba will mean for the millions of tons
of poultry that leave Mobile for the island nation every month.

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan last week said exports to
Cuba could be impacted by that country's response to the president's

"Particularly, with Raul Castro stepping down in early '18," McMillan
said. "We're going to be anxious to see what the Cuban government's
policy is going to be.

"If something undesirable happens there, that would be on the Cuba
side," he said. "We hope that doesn't happen."

Earlier this month, Trump said the U.S. would impose new limits on U.S.
travelers to the island, and ban any payments to the military-linked
conglomerate that controls much of the island's tourism industry, the
Associated Press reported.

Trump also declared "the harboring of criminals and fugitives will end.
You have no choice. It will end."

He said the U.S. would consider lifting those and other restrictions
only after Cuba returned fugitives and made a series of other internal
changes, including freeing political prisoners, allowing freedom of
assembly, and holding free elections.

Cuba's foreign minister later rejected the policy change, saying, "We
will never negotiate under pressure or under threat." He also said Cuba
refuses to return U.S. fugitives who have received asylum in Cuba.

About 7 million tons of poultry are shipped from the Port of Mobile each
month to Cuba. But Cuba has other options for importing agriculture
products, McMillan said, including Mexico, South America and Canada.

"They have choices. Some of those choices may be more expensive, that
may be our advantage," said McMillan, who has taken multiple trips to
Cuba and advocated for expanded agriculture exports.

There are human rights violations in China, but no one is cutting off
trade there, McMillan said.

"The bottom line, I think, is that the best way to format change down
there is to continue trade with them," he said.

Armando de Quesada of Hartselle disagrees. He was 10 when he fled Cuba
in 1962. On this issue, he agrees with Trump.

"Any dollars that go to Cuba automatically go to the Castro regime,"
Quesada said. "It's not like here. Over there, the government owns
everything. There's no benefit to the Cuban people."

Growth of private industry is limited, and Quesada doesn't think opening
relations between the two countries will effect change.

"I don't think enriching them helps the cause of freedom," he said. "It
doesn't help the people."

Ag shipments to Cuba weren't part of former President Barack Obama's
policy with the socialist country. In 2000, Congress began allowing a
limited amount of agriculture exports to Cuba.

"We've been trading with them for some time," said Johnny Adams,
executive director of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association. While
Obama made it easier, it's still cumbersome, he said.

"We're not allowed to give them credit. They have to pay us up front
through a third party," Adams said. "Normalizing trade would make it a
lot easier."

Like McMillan, Adams has been to Cuba multiple times.

"We have the highest quality, most reasonably priced poultry in the
world and we're 90 miles away," Adams said.

"Hopefully, everyone can sit down and work things out between the two
countries," Adams said. "We've enjoyed our relationship with the Cuban
people, and would like to see it get better."

Source: Cuba policy change: Poultry exports could be impacted | State
Capital | -

What Trump’s new Cuba policy means for travelers to the island

What Trump's new Cuba policy means for travelers to the island

Since President Donald Trump announced his new Cuba policy, Tom Popper's
phone has been ringing off the hook.

Callers have questions, lots of questions, about how they can travel to
Cuba as individuals, what people-to-people tours are and how they can
visit Cuba.

Others are more emphatic, said Popper, president of InsightCuba, which
takes groups to Cuba on tours that range from exploration of colonial
cities to itineraries centered on jazz in Havana.

"They say they have been interested in traveling to Cuba and they want
to book right now," he said.

Trump made a seemingly small change in who can travel to the island —
individuals may no longer plan their own people-to-people itineraries
and will have to make these educational trips as part of groups in the
future — but those in the Cuba travel business fear it could be a
precursor to a much more restrictive policy on U.S. travel to the island.

A new prohibition on doing business with Cuba's military, which controls
a broad swath of the economy, also could have a big impact on U.S.
travelers. Military holdings include Gaviota hotels and villas, tour
companies that offer everything from Jeep safaris to night tours of
Havana, rental car agencies, gas stations, marinas, convenience stores,
a tourist bus fleet, a small airline, attractions ranging from beer
gardens to discos, and just about every state hotel, restaurant and shop
in Old Havana through its Habaguanex brand.

The Trump administration says the State Department has been charged with
coming up with a list of prohibited entities "with which direct
transactions generally will not be permitted."

Tour operations
But until new regulations are written (a process that Trump has mandated
must begin by mid-July) and the list comes out, tour operators aren't
exactly sure how their operations night be affected in the future.

"What concerns me the most is there is so much we don't know," said Bob
Guild, vice president of Marazul Travel, which offers group tours to the

Marazul has requested hotel bookings through 2019 for its groups and
some of those blocks of rooms are at Gaviota hotels, Guild said.
Although New Jersey-based Marazul doesn't learn how much the hotel rooms
will cost until much closer to travel dates, Guild said Marazul does
have confirmations from Cuban tour companies that the blocks of rooms it
requested will be available.

Guidance put out by Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control would
seem to indicate that even the reservations at Gaviota hotels might be
permitted — at least for a time. Dealings with the Cuban military, it
said, are permitted as long as "those commercial engagements were in
place prior to the issuance of the forthcoming regulations."

"That could mean we're OK," Guild said. "We have already requested rooms
for dozens and dozens of groups through 2019."

By the same token, if individual travelers who planned to travel under
the people-to-people designation booked at least one travel-related
transaction — airline tickets or reserving an accommodation — prior to
Trump's June 16 announcement of his new Cuba policy, they may still
travel under that category even if their trip comes after the date when
the new regulations are issued.

Meanwhile, Obama-administration travel rules remain in effect until the
new regulations come out. That means individual travelers who plan to
visit Cuba under the people-to-people designation can still book a trip.
But unless they plan to travel in the very near future, it's a gamble.

If an individual traveler plans a people-to-people trip for late
September, for example, and the new regulations come out before then,
the traveler will be out of luck.

Individual travel
Individual trips to Cuba will still be allowed. But travelers must make
sure they fit into one of 11 other categories of permissible travel,
such as a visit to relatives or in support of the Cuban people, a
humanitarian trip or to take part in a sports competition or cultural event.

Some travel organizations say they plan to help individual travelers
find opportunities to travel under the 11 other categories.

ViaHero, which operates in Cuba, Iceland and Japan, is a travel planning
service. For a flat $25 a day, it connects U.S. travelers to local
travel partners in Cuba who help them plan their trips, make
reservations for them, and offer recommendations ranging from where to
find the best cup of coffee in Camagüey to locating vegetarian
restaurants in Havana.

Since the company was founded in 2015, it has helped small groups and
individuals plan trips that have mostly been in the people-to-people

"We'll have to pivot our business in Cuba a little bit and make sure we
fit one of the other 11 categories," said Greg Buzulencia, the chief
executive and co-founder of ViaHero. "But the new regulations will still
allow us to be successful and stay in business in Cuba. Whatever
travelers are interested in, we can find ways to connect them with Cubans."

"Most of our clients are staying at casas particulares [privately owned
lodging] and eating at private local restaurants," he said, "but we'll
need to be more careful to make sure we're avoiding military-owned

"I don't think the new policy will have much impact on group travel,"
said InsightCuba's Popper. Among the many hotels the company has used
for its groups are two Gaviota hotels — the Meliá Santiago de Cuba and
the Meliá Cayo Santa María.

InsightCuba will make adjustments if necessary under the new
regulations, said Popper. "A lot of the wholly owned Gaviota hotels are
in the keys and are resort hotels. Most tour operators don't stay there
because they haven't been destinations for people-to-people tours."

Tour operators can still select other Cuban hotel brands not affiliated
with the military — Cubanacan and GranCaribe, for example — and it's
possible Cuba could rebrand and assign some tourism-related companies
now under the umbrella of GAESA, the military's huge conglomerate, to
the Ministry of Tourism or other state entities.

A couple of years ago at Cuba's International Tourism Fair, known as FIT
Cuba, the government announced it was forming Viajes Cuba, an entity
that would bring together all the Cuban tour companies that work with
American visitors.

But at this point, the plan doesn't appear to have gone very far. "So
far we're still working with the same Cuban tour companies as always,"
Guild said.

Travel audits expected
Meanwhile, the memorandum to strengthen U.S. policy toward Cuba that
Trump recently signed in Miami says the Secretary of the Treasury will
regularly audit travel to Cuba to make sure travelers are complying with
regulations and aren't traveling to Cuba for tourism.

There's also another new twist: Treasury's inspector general is required
to provide a report to the president on how audit requirements are being
implemented within 180 days of the new regulations going into effect.
After that, an annual report is required.

Even under the Obama administration, travelers were required to maintain
records of their Cuban travel transactions for five years. The
requirement remains under Trump's policy but lawyers and those in the
travel industry say they expect much more scrutiny and most likely spot
checks at airports of returning Cuban travelers.

During the administration of President George W. Bush, travel to Cuba
was highly restricted and fines were assessed against travelers who
violated travel regulations. The usual drill was that passengers pulled
aside for additional questioning later received a letter from the Office
of Foreign Assets Control asking for full details of their Cuba trip,
including all receipts, said Robert Muse, a Washington lawyer who
specializes in U.S.-Cuba law.

But tour operators say they are prepared for additional scrutiny. "We
have a warehouse full of files," Guild said.

"As part of our service we keep all passengers records on file for five
years," Popper said. "We always have the paperwork ready to provide to
our guests, and we're prepared to provide them with an audit-ready
package if necessary."


Source: What travelers need to know about Trump's new Cuba policy |
Miami Herald -

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Dark Side Of Tourism in Cuba

The Dark Side Of Tourism in Cuba

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Viñales, 27 June 2018 — At the entrance to Calle
Obispo a guide explains to her customers the restoration works in the
historical center of Havana. A few yards away, the line to exchange
currency is full of foreigners and in the corner bar one hears English,
French and German. Tourism is shaping the face of several areas of Cuba
and becoming a problem for their residents.

"In this neighborhood you can't even walk," complains Idania Contreras,
a resident of Obrapía Street in Old Havana and a law graduate. "At first
people were happy because the area improved economically, but little by
little the tourists have been taking over all the spaces and this is
less and less like a neighborhood where people live."

As a consequence of the increase in tourism, prices have also
risen. "Now buying fruits in the markets is a headache because they are
hoarded by the people who rent to tourists," adds Contreras. "A
pineapple never costs less than 20 Cuban pesos because the private
restaurants in the area can pay that amount, because they sell the
tourists a piña colada for three times that price," she explains. In her
view, those mainly affected are the citizens themselves who can't afford
these prices.

Contreras, who worked for a few months in a real estate management
office, says housing prices are also up in the area. "The price per
square meter has exploded around the Plaza de la Catedral, the Plaza de
San Francisco and the streets where it is most profitable streets." She
also says that these areas are beginning to look like the center of
Barcelona or Venice, where fewer and fewer families are living.

However, she acknowledges that "the problem has not yet reached the
point of other cities in the world that receive many more tourists," but
she is concerned because there are no "public policies to alleviate the
problems we are already experiencing."

Contreras's biggest fear is that there is only talk of the positive side
of tourism, while some streets in the area are already showing symptoms
of congestion and tourism activity aggravates the problems of waste
treatment and water supply.

Several regions of the island face the challenge of absorbing an
increasing number of travelers despite the precariousness of their
infrastructure. Among the areas most affected by the avalanche of
visitors are the Viñales valley, the city of Trinidad, the Varadero
resort area and the Cuban capital.

"It is very difficult for a Cuban to rent a room because homeowners
prefer to rent only tourists," warns Gustavo, a handicraft seller near
the Casa de la Trova in the city of Trinidad, which was declared a World
Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988 and is now an obligatory stop on many of
the package tours.

"This whole area is focused on foreigners," he says. The salesman, born
on the outskirts of Trinidad, believes that there are many people who
benefit from tourism, but on the way he has lost the city he knew as a
child. "Now it has been commodified and everything has a price, even
people," he laments.

In all the tourist hubs, along with an increase in private businesses
there is also an increase in prostitution. "At night the discos are full
of yumas, foreigners, with young girls and it is a really pitiful show
for our children," notes Gustavo.

"[Tourism] is more positive than negative because 30 years ago this city
had old and beautiful houses, but nothing more," says the seller despite
his reservations about this economic sector.

Carlos and his two children live on the road to Viñales. Coming from a
family of farmers, they now sell fruit at a stand by the side of the
road. "Most of our customers are foreigners coming and going from the
Valley," says the farmer. He hasn't gone into town for two years
because, he says, "you can't take a step with so many tourists."

The winding road that leads to Viñales also suffers with the increase of
vehicles. "It's a rare week that there is not an accident in this
section," recounts Carlos while pointing to one of the curves near his
house. The number of travelers interested in the area seems to have
grown, but the seller points out that the streets and roads remain the
same and that no expansion has been undertaken.

Carlos's closest neighbors have a thriving business that offers
horseback rides to travelers. They gain much more from
these "ecotours" than they could sowing beans or tobacco, another change
that is due to the avalanche of visitors. "Before this was predominantly
a farming area with strong traditions, but now everything is being
lost," he says.

A few yard away, a tobacco drying shed stands with its gabled roof and
its walls made of logs. In the interior, a peasant shows a dozen
tourists how the leaves re dried. "This shed has been set up for groups
who want to see how the process is done, it's pure showcase," says
Carlos. "In this town everything is already like this."

Source: The Dark Side Of Tourism in Cuba – Translating Cuba -

Persecution Grows Against Independent Journalism In Cuba

Persecution Grows Against Independent Journalism In Cuba

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 26 June 2017 — Independent communicators
in Cuba are victims of an escalating repression, according to a
complaint filed Monday by the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH),
based in Madrid. The alarm sounded by the organization coincides with an
increase in complaints from journalists on the island as a result of the
government persecutions and obstacles they suffer when exercising their

"Last June 20 Henry Constantín and Sol Garcia, journalists for La Hora
de Cuba and contributors to 14ymedio, were not able to participate in an
event in Miami because each of them has been indicted for the alleged
crime of "'usurpation of legal capacity' [that is practicing a
profession without a license to do so] and so under Cuban law they are
not permitted to travel outside the country," OCDH reported.

According to the non-governmental organization, the Cuban government had
maintained a kind of "moratorium" with regards to repression against
independent journalists, but the strategy seems to have changed in
recent weeks with actions such as those carried out against Henry
Constantin, Sol Garcia Basulto and Manuel Alejandro Leon Velázquez.

Both Constantín and García Basulto have been expressly forbidden to
practice journalism on the island and the judicial process opened
against them has been criticized from various international forums,
including the Inter American Press Association (IAPA).

The OCDH also denounced the arrest of journalist Manuel Alejandro León
Velázquez, a contributor to Radio Martí and Diario de Cuba . Leon
returned from a trip to Spain and has been accused of "usurpation of
legal capacity, association to commit a crime and dissemination of false
news," according to the organization.

The accusations against the three communicators are based on Article 149
of the Cuban Penal Code, which punishes those who carry out "acts of a
profession for the exercise of which one is not properly qualified." If
they are tried for this offense they could face a sentence of up to one
year of deprivation of liberty.

In Cuba, all the media belong to the State, according to the
Constitution of 1976. However, the absence of a Media Law has allowed
the independent press to flourish with sites such as El Estornudo, El
Toque, Cubanet, CiberCuba, Diario de Cuba, Periodismo de Barrio, On
Cuba, among others.

Human rights lawyer and activist Laritza Diversent, who recently became
a refugee in the United States, explained to 14ymedio via telephone that
there are over 300 items within the Penal Code to crack down on dissent
and journalism on the island.

"State Security is looking for different strategies to prosecute all
types of dissidents or critics in Cuba," explained Diversent, president
of the legal group Cubalex, who went into exile after a police and State
Security operation against her.

"Both illegal economic activity and the usurpation of legal capacity are
nothing more than resources to punish any type of activism within the
Island. Legal insecurity is very high because both the criminal law and
the criminal procedure law have been designed as tools of repression,"
said Diversent.

Independent journalist Maykel Gonzalez Vivero, who was arrested last
October in Guantanamo and suffered the confiscation of his tools of the
trade while covering the recovery in Baracoa after the passage of
Hurricane Matthew, confirmed the difficulties of practicing the
profession on the island.

"We do not have a law that supports us and protects the exercise of
journalism, we are at the mercy of the arbitrariness of the
authorities," he said. On that occasion, a team of correspondents from
Periodismo de Barrio suffered the same fate as Gonzalez Vivero.

Other independent publications, such as Convivencia magazine, have been
harassed during the last year with the arrest of members of its
editorial team and threats by the authorities against its contributors.
Foreign correspondent Fernando Ravsberg has been threatened with
expulsion from the country and even with "having his teeth broken" for
the critical entries he publishes in his personal blog Cartas desde Cuba.

Last year the IAPA emphasized, however, the timid rebellion of some
official journalists against the information policy directed from the
Communist Party. Among the examples cited by the IAPA was a letter
signed by young journalists published by the Villa Clara newspaper
Vanguardia, in which they claimed their right to collaborate with other

The IAPA also recalled the case of a Radio Holguin journalist Jose
Ramirez Pantoja, expelled from the profession for five years for making
public the remarks delivered at a conference where Karina Marrón, deputy
editor of the official daily Granma, compared the country's situation to
that of the 1990s when massive protests occurred in Havana, which came
to be known as the Maleconazo.

Source: Persecution Grows Against Independent Journalism In Cuba –
Translating Cuba -

Cancer patients stand to lose if Trump blocks Roswell Park's work with Cuban institute

Editorial: Cancer patients stand to lose if Trump blocks Roswell Park's
work with Cuban institute
By News Editorial Board
Published Mon, Jun 26, 2017

President Trump's plan to revise his predecessor's overtures to Cuba
carries a significant risk for Buffalo. A promising partnership between
Roswell Park Cancer Institute and a Cuban research institution could be
endangered if Trump isn't careful.

The lifesaving prospect is for U.S. acceptance of a lung cancer vaccine
developed by Cuba's Center for Molecular Immunology. The partnership
with Roswell Park grew out of a 2015 visit to Cuba by prominent New
Yorkers, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Dr. Candace S. Johnson, CEO
of Roswell Park. Clinical trials here could open the door to U.S.
approval of the vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration.

First and foremost, that could save many, many lives. On its own that
fact should overcome any associated objections Trump has to former
President Barack Obama's move to end decades of estrangement from Cuba.
As local matters, successful trials will bolster Roswell Park's standing
in its field, a benefit that accrues not only to the hospital, but to
Buffalo, as well.

In announcing his plan to close the door on Obama's opening to Cuba,
Trump might not have understood the potential damage it could do to this
region and to the life prospects of millions of Americans. That's not an
excuse; he's the president and needs to act with the relevant
information in hand.

But, if he doesn't know now, Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, will surely
inform him. Collins is one of Trump's most devoted supporters in
Congress and, more important to Western New York, has pledged to support
the region's interests when Trump puts them at risk.

Trump promised during last year's presidential campaign to roll back the
opening to Cuba, mainly, one suspects, as a political maneuver to curry
favor with Florida's remaining anti-Castro voters.

One of Trump's professed concerns is Cuba's government, which, in fact,
remains oppressive despite some improvements. Yet the United States
maintains working relationships with other repressive nations, including
one of Trump's favorites, Russia.

The fact is that more than 50 years of isolating Cuba has not worked to
change its ways. It's a failed policy, pursued by both Republican and
Democratic administrations, and it was past time to end it.

Nevertheless, elections do have consequences and Trump has the authority
to make changes in this policy, however unwarranted or unwise. And, in
fact, Trump is only partially changing Obama's policy.

Diplomatic relations between the countries will remain open, for
example. No additional restrictions on the types of goods that Americans
can take out of Cuba are planned.

But the administration says it will strictly enforce the rules that
allow travel between Cuba and the United States, and will prohibit
commerce with Cuban businesses owned by the military and intelligence

Against that backdrop, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, has written a
letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary
Wilbur Ross to make them aware of the potential threat to the
partnership between Roswell Park and the Center for Molecular Immunology
in Cuba. Collins needs to inject himself into this matter, as well.

It's time to move forward in our relations with Cuba. That's the better
way of encouraging the country out of its repressive ways. But we
absolutely cannot go backward on developments in cancer treatment and
the possibility of giving years back to Americans suffering from lung

Source: Editorial: Cancer patients stand to lose if Trump blocks Roswell
Park's work with Cuban institute - The Buffalo News -

Can Trump Destroy Obama's Legacy?

Analysis: Can Trump Destroy Obama's Legacy?
The New York Times

WASHINGTON — When the judgment of history comes, former President Barack
Obama might have figured he would have plenty to talk about. Among other
things, he assumed he could point to his health care program, his
sweeping trade deal with Asia, his global climate change accord and his
diplomatic opening to Cuba.

That was then. Five months after leaving office, Mr. Obama watches
mostly in silence as his successor takes a political sledgehammer to his
legacy. Brick by brick, President Trump is trying to tear down what Mr.
Obama built. The trade deal? Canceled. The climate pact? Forget it.
Cuba? Partially reversed. Health care? Unresolved, but to be repealed if
he can navigate congressional crosscurrents.

Every new president changes course, particularly those succeeding
someone from the other party. But rarely has a new president appeared so
determined not just to steer the country in a different direction but to
actively dismantle what was established before his arrival. Whether out
of personal animus, political calculation, philosophical disagreement or
a conviction that the last president damaged the country, Mr. Trump has
made clear that if it has Mr. Obama's name on it, he would just as soon
erase it from the national hard drive.

"I've reflected back and simply cannot find another instance in recent
American history where a new administration was so wholly committed to
reversing the accomplishments of its predecessor," Russell Riley, a
presidential historian at the University of Virginia's Miller Center,
said. While other presidents focus on what they will build, "this one is
different, far more comfortable still in swinging the wrecking ball than
in developing models for what is to follow."

Shirley Anne Warshaw, director of the Fielding Center for Presidential
Leadership Study at Gettysburg College, said Mr. Trump is not unusual in
making a clean break from his predecessor. "Trump isn't doing anything
that Obama didn't do," she said. "He is simply reversing policies that
were largely put in place by a president of a different party."

The difference, she said, is that other presidents have proactive ideas
about what to erect in place of their predecessor's programs. "I have
not seen any constructive bills in this vein that Trump has put forth,"
she said. "As far as I can tell, he has no independent legislative
agenda other than tearing down. Perhaps tax reform."

With a flourish, Mr. Trump has staged signing ceremonies meant to show
him tearing down. Not only did he pull out of the Trans-Pacific
Partnership trade deal and the Paris climate accord, he approved the
Keystone XL pipeline Mr. Obama had rejected and began reversing his
fuel-efficiency standards and power plant emissions limits. Not only is
he trying to repeal Obamacare, he has pledged to revoke regulations on
Wall Street adopted after the financial crash of 2008.

Still, he has not gone as far as threatened. He has for now kept Mr.
Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran, however reluctantly, and while he
made a show of overturning Mr. Obama on Cuba, the fine print left much
of the policy intact. He did not rescind Mr. Obama's order sparing
younger illegal immigrants from deportation. Senate Republicans released
a new version of legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare in recent
days, but it may yet end in impasse, leaving the program in place.

Advisers insist Mr. Trump is not driven by a desire to unravel the Obama
presidency. But like the Manhattan real estate developer he is, they
said, he believes he must in some cases demolish the old to make way for
the new.

"He hasn't dismantled everything, and I don't know that that's exactly
what he's looking to do," said Hope Hicks, the White House director of
strategic communications. "That may be a side effect of what he's
building for his own legacy. I don't think anybody's coming into the
office every day saying, 'How can we undo Obama's legacy, and how can he
go back?' "

Yet Mr. Trump has depicted the Obama legacy as a disastrous one that
needs unraveling. "To be honest, I inherited a mess," he said at a news
conference soon after taking office. "It's a mess. At home and abroad,
a mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country. You see what's going on
with all of the companies leaving our country, going to Mexico and other
places, low pay, low wages, mass instability overseas no matter where
you look. The Middle East is a disaster. North Korea. We'll take care of
it, folks."

Critics say Mr. Obama brought this on himself. His biggest legislative
achievements were passed almost exclusively with Democratic votes,
meaning there was no bipartisan consensus that would outlast his
presidency. And when Republicans captured Congress, he turned to a
strategy he called the pen and the phone, signing executive orders that
could be easily erased by the next president.

"I've heard it joked about that the Obama library is being revised to
focus less on his legislative achievements as each week of the Trump
administration goes by," said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American
Conservative Union. "It's like living by the sword and dying by the
sword. When your presidency is based on a pen and a phone, all of that
can be undone, and I think we're seeing that happening rather

Mr. Obama would argue he had little choice because of Republican
obstructionism. Either way, he has largely remained quiet through the
current demolition project, reasoning that speaking out would only give
Mr. Trump the public enemy he seems to crave. He made an exception on
Thursday, taking to Facebook to assail the new Senate health care bill
as "a massive transfer of wealth from middle class and poor families to
the richest people in America." But Mr. Obama's team takes solace in the
belief that Mr. Trump is his own worst enemy, better at bluster than
actually following through.

"Obama's legacy would be under much greater threat by a more competent
president than Donald Trump," said Josh Earnest, who served as Mr.
Obama's White House press secretary. "His inexperience and lack of
discipline are an impediment to his success in implementing policies
that would reverse what Obama instituted."

Other Obama veterans said much of what Mr. Trump has done was either
less dramatic than it appeared or reversible. He did not actually break
relations with Cuba, for instance. It will take years to actually
withdraw from the Paris accord, and the next president could rejoin. The
real impact, they argued, was to America's international reputation.

"There's a lot of posturing and, in fact, not a huge amount of change,
and to the extent there has been change, it's been of the self-defeating
variety," said Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser.
"What's been happening is not that the administration is undoing
President Obama's legacy, it's undoing American leadership on the
international stage."

Mr. Trump, of course, is hardly the first president to scorn his
predecessor's tenure. George W. Bush was so intent on doing the opposite
of whatever Bill Clinton had done that his approach was called "ABC" —
Anything but Clinton. Mr. Obama spent years blaming his predecessor for
economic and national security setbacks — blame that supporters
considered justified and that Mr. Bush's team considered old-fashioned
buck passing.

For decades, presidents moving into the Oval Office have made a point on
their first day or two of signing orders overturning policies of the
last tenant, what Mr. Riley called "partisan kabuki" to signal that "a
new president is in town."

The most tangible example is an order signed by Ronald Reagan barring
taxpayer financing for international family planning organizations that
provide abortion counseling. Mr. Clinton rescinded it when he came into
office. Mr. Bush restored it, Mr. Obama overturned it again and Mr.
Trump restored it again.

Even so, neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Obama invested much effort in
deconstructing programs left behind. Mr. Bush kept Mr. Clinton's health
care program for lower-income children, his revamped welfare system and
his AmeriCorps service organization. Mr. Obama undid much of Mr. Bush's
No Child Left Behind education program, but kept his Medicare
prescription medicine program, his AIDS-fighting program and most of his
counterterrorism apparatus.

That was in keeping with a longer tradition. Dwight D. Eisenhower did
not unravel Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, nor did Richard M. Nixon
dismantle Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society. Mr. Reagan promised to
eliminate the departments of Education and Energy, created by Jimmy
Carter, but ultimately did not.

Mr. Obama understood that his legacy might be jeopardized by Mr. Trump.
During last year's campaign, he warned supporters that "all the progress
we've made over these last eight years goes out the window" if Mr. Trump
won. Only after the election did he assert the opposite. "Maybe 15
percent of that gets rolled back, 20 percent," he told The New Yorker's
David Remnick. "But there's still a lot of stuff that sticks."

Indeed, when it comes time to tally the record for the history books,
Mr. Trump can hardly reverse some of Mr. Obama's most important
achievements, like pulling the economy back from the abyss of a deep
recession, rescuing the auto industry and authorizing the commando raid
that killed Osama bin Laden. Nor can Mr. Trump take away what will
surely be the first line in Mr. Obama's obituary, his barrier-shattering
election as the first African-American president.

Conversely, Mr. Obama owns his failures regardless of Mr. Trump's
actions. History's judgment of his handling of the civil war in Syria or
the messy aftermath of the intervention in Libya or the economic
inequality he left behind will not depend on his successor. If anything,
America's decision to replace Mr. Obama with someone as radically
different as Mr. Trump may be taken as evidence of Mr. Obama's inability
to build sustained public support for his agenda or to mitigate the
polarization of the country.

But legacies are funny things. Presidents are sometimes defined because
their successors are so different. Mr. Obama today is more popular than
he was during most of his presidency, likely a result of the contrast
with Mr. Trump, who is the most unpopular president this early in his
tenure in the history of polling. By this argument, even if Mr. Trump
does disassemble the Obama legacy, it may redound to his predecessor's
historical benefit.

Richard Norton Smith, who has directed the libraries of four Republican
presidents, said presidents are often credited with paving the way
toward goals that may elude them during their tenure. Harry S. Truman is
called the father of Medicare even though it was not achieved until
Johnson's presidency. Mr. Bush is remembered for pushing for immigration
reform even though Congress rebuffed him.

"It's hard to imagine future historians condemning Barack Obama for
breaking with his country's past ostracism of Cuba or joining the
civilized world in combating climate change or pursuing a more humane
and accessible approach to health care," Mr. Smith said. "Indeed, we
build memorials to presidents who prod us toward fulfilling the
egalitarian vision of Jefferson's declaration."

But that may not be all that comforting to Mr. Obama. Presidents prefer
memorials to their lasting accomplishments, not their most fleeting.

Source: Analysis: Can Trump Destroy Obama's Legacy? -

US, Cuba still cooperating on stopping drug smugglers

US, Cuba still cooperating on stopping drug smugglers
By Andrea Rodriguez and Michael Weissenstein | AP June 22

HAVANA — The U.S. and Cuba are still cooperating to intercept drug
smugglers even through the Trump administration has halted high-level
meetings on stopping the flow of narcotics through the Caribbean, a top
Cuban anti-drug official said Thursday.

The amount of drugs seized by Cuban authorities has tripled this year
over the same period in 2016, to 1.8 tons of narcotics, said Antonio
Israel Ibarra, the head of Cuba's National Commission on Drugs.

That number is tiny compared to drug seizures in neighboring countries,
but it represents a surge due largely to U.S.-Cuban cooperation on
halting shipments of marijuana through or near Cuban territorial waters,
Ibarra said.

Cuba maintains a pervasive state-security apparatus that has managed to
keep levels of drug smuggling and serious crime to some of the lowest in
Latin American and the Caribbean. U.S. officials say day-to-day
cooperation on halting U.S.-bound human trafficking and narcotics has
improved significantly since the re-establishment of diplomatic
relations in 2015, with the two nations' coast guards talking directly
to each other and cooperating in real time on a regular basis.

High-level meetings on law-enforcement cooperation have halted, however,
since President Donald Trump took office this year. On June 16, Trump
announced a new U.S. policy on Cuba that would prohibit most new
Americans transactions with Cuban military-linked businesses and
restrict U.S. travel to Cuba.

Ibarra said Cuba is still willing to continue high-level cooperation.

"We hope that for the sake of both countries they're not going to give
back the effective cooperation that Cuba can provide them," he said.
"They're certainly the ones that benefit most."

Cuba and the U.S. signed an anti-drug cooperation agreement last July
and have held four meetings to strengthen cooperation since then, Ibarra
said. The meeting meant to happen in the first half of 2017 in
Washington was cancelled by the Trump administration, he said.


Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter:

Michael Weissenstein on Twitter:

Source: US, Cuba still cooperating on stopping drug smugglers - The
Washington Post -


Trip delayed 24 hours after Airbus A330 jet returned to Manchester with
oil pressure problem

Hundreds of Thomas Cook Airlines passengers have had their Cuban holiday
extended by more than 24 hours after an inflight mechanical incident
involving an Airbus A330. They will be paid £530 for the inconvenience

Flight MT2652 took off from Manchester with 332 passengers on board on
Monday afternoon, the destination Holguin in eastern Cuba. But as it was
flying over the Atlantic about 200 miles west of the Irish coast, the
pilots decided to return to the Thomas Cook base in Manchester because
of an oil pressure issue with the left-hand engine.

No emergency was declared, and the plane made a normal landing.

Unusually, the plane was missing a wingtip on the left-hand wing, which
caused some mistaken concern that part of the wing had fallen off. One
newspaper headline read: "Jet returns to UK for emergency landing with a
broken wing."

In fact, engineers had previously removed the wingtip - which is not an
essential component, but an aid to fuel efficiency - for repair.

Passengers were given overnight accommodation in the Manchester area,
and have continued their journey today on a different aircraft.

The 295 holidaymakers in Cuba who were expecting to fly back on Monday
were able to stay at their hotels, and will return just over 24 hours late.

Thomas Cook has confirmed that all the passengers at both ends of the
route will qualify for €600 (£530) in statutory EU compensation for the
delay. They should apply to contact customer relations to have their
claims processed. If they all claim, the compensation will total £335,000.

When the costs of hotel accommodation and the aborted flight are added,
the holiday firm's total bill for the episode will be around
half-a-million pounds.

Airbus A330 jets have encountered a series of problems in recent weeks,
with an AirAsia X plane returning to Perth after an engine issue which
left it "shaking like a washing machine", and a China Eastern aircraft
returning to Sydney after a large hole appeared in the engine housing.

The original Thomas Cook Airbus A330 has been repaired and inspected,
and is now back in service.

Source: Glitch on Thomas Cook flight to Cuba leaves airline with £500k
bill | The Independent -

Why liberals should support Trump — not Obama — on Cuba policy

Why liberals should support Trump — not Obama — on Cuba policy

Was President Obama's opening to the Castro government motivated by a
real belief that it would help Cubans, or was it a vanity project from
the start? We will never know for sure, but we do know it violated his
Inaugural promise that he would shake the hands of tyrants only if they
first unclenched their fists.

Raul Castro has never relaxed his grip on the island he and his brother
have ruled for nearly 60 years. In fact, after Obama announced the
re-establishment of relations with in December 2014, he tightened it.
Since then, Cuban dissidents have paid a heavy price in repression,
arrests and beatings.

According to the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and Reconciliation,
politically motivated arbitrary arrests rose rapidly after the opening,
culminating in 9,940 last year—a six-year high. In December alone, 14
dissidents were beaten by government officials, according to the
Havana-based Commission, whose numbers are reported by Amnesty

President Obama argued that, by "normalizing" relations with Cuba, the
regime would be inspired to grant fundamental freedoms to its people.
Yet Obama asked for, and of course received, nothing in return from the
Cuban authorities.

President Trump put some of that right yesterday when he announced that
he would reverse some of the Obama changes and reinstate some
prohibitions on trade with military-controlled entities and persons on
the communist-ruled island.

Trump's changes don't go far enough. Still, his critics should resist
the urge to lash out at him.

Once upon a time, American liberals knew that legitimizing dictators
never ended well for those who dared speak their minds. That insight led
them to denounce Washington's support for dictators and call out the
moral hollowness in FDR's fatuous line that Anastasio Somoza Sr. may
have been an S.O.B., "but he's our S.O.B."

They should not be surprised today that the Washington establishment's
rush to embrace the Castro regime in pursuit increased trade would only
further entrench the family's hold on power. The Obama changes, which
facilitated American trade and transfer of convertible currency to the
military and the Castro family, only made easier the prospect of their
continued rule.

In other words, if you denounced the Somozas, Augusto Pinochet and
Ferdinand Marcos, and you want to be considered consistent, you should
support the changes Trump announced in Miami.

Those changes are, in fact, narrowly tailored to restrict the
aggrandizement of the regime's military. And they didn't come easy.

Two factions waged a tremendous struggle to win President Trump's heart
and mind on the issue. On one side were a phalanx of congressional
offices that sought to curb the Cuban military's access to convertible
currency. Opposing them were career officials burrowed inside the
Treasury and the State Departments, who wanted President Obama's
legacy—the "historic opening" to the Castros—to be left untouched.

Nor was Cuba an idle bystander in the debate. According to Marc Caputo
at Politico, the regime launched a last-minute bid to stave off the
changes, enlisting Colombia's help in lobbying Trump. The government of
President Juan Manuel Santos reportedly threatened to pull out of a
U.S.-led summit on security in Latin America.

Sen. Marco Rubio, (R-Fla.), told the White House to tell Colombia that
if it withdrew from the summit, it could kiss the $450 million "Peace
Colombia" aid package goodbye. And that was that.

In the end, the Trump Cuba change closely mirrored the 2015 Cuban
Military Transparency Act introduced by Rubio in the Senate and by Devin
Nunes, (R– Calif.), in the House. The bill prohibits U.S. persons and
companies "from engaging in financial transactions with or transfers of
funds to" the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba, the
Ministry of the Interior, any of their subdivisions and companies and
other entities owned by them.

In other words, it aims directly at Cuba's largest company, the Grupo
Gaesa holding company (Grupo de Administracion Empresarial, Sociedad
Anonima). Founded by Raul Castro in the 1990s, Gaesa is run by the
military, more specifically, by Gen. Luis Alberto Rodriguez
Lopez-Callejas—who also happens to be Castro's son-in-law. It represents
an estimated 80 percent of the island nation's economy.

Its affiliate, Gaviota, SA., owns the tourism industry. If you eat ropa
vieja at a restaurant, sip a mojito in bar, play golf in a resort, or
sleep in a hotel—you are paying Gaviota. Same with renting a taxi or
renting a car. Thanks to Trump's changes, that cash flow will now be

Or Raul Castro can unclench his fist and allow real Cubans to own and
run these places, and we really have President Obama's dream, expressed
on a January 14, 2011 speech, of increasing "people-to-people contact;
support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to,
from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence
form the Cuban authorities."

Shouldn't liberals support this?

Mike Gonzalez (@Gundisalvus) is a senior fellow in the Kathryn and
Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy
Studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views
of The Hill.

Source: Why liberals should support Trump — not Obama — on Cuba policy |
TheHill -