Manual for Trading with Cuban Businesses / Juan Juan Almeida

1424725405_clasesJuan Juan Almeida, 23 February 2015 — Marijuana relaxes, cocaine excites, and the consumption of amphetamines allows concentration; but of all the drugs, wanting to trade with Cuba is an event that provokes alienation.

The effect was evident a few days ago, when a group of US businesses expressed a willingness to do business with Cuban civil society.

Undoubtedly, the Cuban phenomenon is a magnetic stimulation and shows that they, the businesses and their attorneys, although they call themselves specialists in Cuban issues, don’t know that in the greatest of Antilles a foreign business can only trade with State businesses which, by the way, are the only ones who have import licenses.

To do business in Cuba, first you have to be very clear that trading activity on the Island answers only to the political decisions of the Government, and to the State budget, in that order, the first deciding what company does business, and the second determines what the company is paid.

The Cuban commercial structure is hierarchical and, to a certain point, disciplines; but the system is corrupt. Therefore, there are entrepreneurs who earn more in Cuba than in any other place in the world. But they are not doing business, but buying paper.

Let me explain: The confirmed Letter of Credit is a bank tool that is governed according to international norms, where the payer buys the merchandise and indicates the bank, upon confirmation of the funds, which makes payment according to certain clauses; and the banking entity that guarantees assumes the obligations starting from receiving certain documentation such as the invoice, customs certificates.

After the freezing of financial assets which happened in 2009, none of the businesses located in the country accept payments in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). Since then, and by political resolution, payment is only in Letters of Credit confirmed by first line banks (Royal Bank, Republik Bank, etc.) to certain and determined foreign companies. The rest pay in unconfirmed Letters of Credit, paid in 120 to 260 days and backed by the Central Bank of Cuba, the Cuban International Financing Bank, or offshore banks located in tax havens.

Negotiating with Cuban banks as work that never ends. The negotiation of who decides is risky and to earn more than 50% is to buy this kind of stamped and supported paper debt, I repeat, by offshore banks located in tax havens.

No bank in the world pays more than a small percentage in interest. Buying Letters of Credit in Cuba is a lucrative business. The danger is that, as the document is “unconfirmed,” dealing with the time required (120 to 360 days) the Cuban bank doesn’t pay because either they haven’t received the government order or because the state budget lacks financial fluidity. In any case, the renegotiation of the document and everything is a question of waiting, or more to the point, of waiting to have a contact who is politically important and/or a bank official who, after receiving 5% of the transaction, as a bribe, will authorize final payment of the full amount owed.

Doing business in Cuba is a real achievement and a true adventure; and, if you’ll allow me, let me suggest that before you begin, educate yourself.

 

Exiled Cuban Businessmen Come to Havana for Its Horses / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 18 February 2015 — The horse — like the language and guitar — were brought to Cuba from Spain and are today a part of the national culture. It is impossible to forget the role the animal has played in Cuban literature, music and the economy. And history discussions would be incomplete without some mention of Mambisa horsemanship.

The Cuban Revolution, however, marked a turning point in the development of equine culture. Shortly after 1959 Isidious (Fidel Castro’s white horse), Azbache (the same owner’s black horse) and other thoroughbreds which were beautiful regardless of color were shipped to the Managua breeding facility located next to a tank base of the same name on the outskirts of Havana. The rationale was that on their backs the animals bore the symbolic sweat of their owners’ buttocks and, therefore, had to be protected with the same vigilance as any national treasure. Continue reading

Successful self-employed, a group to consider / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 10 February 2015 — Observing coldly and setting aside all partisanship is the best way to understand that the decision taken by the American president to reestablish relations with Cuba is entirely welcome news for a Cuban sector that, after suffering the wrath of what appeared to be an infinite confrontation, trusts in a step that, without a doubt, will have a positive impact on its current way of life.

Clearly the United States, in addition to executing a masterful geopolitical move — because with this approach it isolates Russia and China from Latin America using as leverage the indisputable influence of Cuba in the region — also aims to turn the island into a kind of stable neighbor capable of guaranteeing control over its illegal emigration and constraining the nest of terrorist and international crime groups in our island. We accept without naivety that this latter will only be achieved by working together with the Cuban military and/or government, dictatorial Continue reading

Cuban Irresponsibility Causes Shortage of Medications in Venezuela / Juan Juan Almeida

The medication crisis that was anticipated in Venezuela is a storm that scared people even before it began. Not only because the inventories of the Ministry of Peoples’ Power for the Health of Venezuela, a governmental organization of national jurisdiction, are practically exhausted, but also because some of the medications handled by the Cuban medical mission came into the country without the consistent rigor of matching them to a corresponding medical registry.

It’s repugnant to read how a country’s problems are met with messianic discourse and disgusting to hear how Continue reading

Reflections from Companero Juan Juan / Juan Juan Almeida

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As the debate continues, visitors come and go. It’s normal and forms part of the process of re-establishing relations between the United States and Cuba. Also in this exchange, in a not-too-distant future, the American government will return to its Cuban counterpart the territory occupied by the naval base at Guantanamo. And to reciprocate, the government of the island will accept that finally the imperial eagle will return to its original nest Continue reading

The Betrayal of Humboldt 7 or the Legal Art of Looting

Humboldt 7* in Havana, Cuba.

Christmas is a tradition which goes beyond the limits of the Catholic religion. Before the birth of Christ, the Incas used to celebrate the 25th December as their Cápac Raymi (a religious prehispanic celebration in honour of the sun); and also the ancient Romans, with their Natalia Solis Invicti or, “The birth of the unconquerable sun”.

There is agreement between various cultures; it is a celebration of family joining together and happiness. But, this Christmas not everybody received the gift of happiness. My friend, Osvaldo Fructuoso Rodríguez, (son of one of those young people who accompanied José Antonio Echevarría on March 13, 1957 in the attacks on Radio Reloj and the Presidential Palace) had his application to visit his sick mother in Havana turned down by the Cuban authorities.

What was the reason, or caprice, which justified some nobody in denying the legitimate right possessed by Cubans to travel to our country? Continue reading

The Most Rehearsed Funeral in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

So much passion and apathy for “Our Country or Death, We Shall Overcome” has ended up creating a certain inclination toward false patriotism and a funeral mentality. This was in evidence at the end of last week, when yet another widespread rumor of the ex-ruler’s death came to light.

With this new passing, the tagline “Fidel Castro Dies” stands out from other trending topics on social media, triggering a kind of hypnosis, a carousel of emotions. It is like a wistful zombie apocalypse in which fabrication becomes information.

It is not the first time nor will it be the last that rumors swirl around the former Cuban politician. This is why I find the widespread alarm so odd. I had the same exaggerated reaction when I turned twenty-five and had to face the loss of my childhood and my hair. It seems that, rather than wanting to forget, there is a need to preserve this ancient, ubiquitous presence who, because of age and illness, saw fit to withdraw from the scene.

One day he will die, like all human beings. But I doubt it will be on a day when Alejandro Castro Espín, one of his nephews and the most powerful man in Cuba, happens to be strolling through Greece, as was the case in this instance. In fact, the odds are better at winning the lottery. Continue reading

Why Does Cuba Choke Charter Agencies And Deliveries to The Island? / Juan Juan Almeida

(April 2104) In Cuba, smoke doesn’t always mean fire. Often it is a stragegy to confuse.

This time the smoke comes to us from the Republic’s Customs Office, when last week, on its official website, it published an “updated” list of the entities authorized to make shipments to Cuba. Continue reading

Raul Castro’s Few Options / Juan Juan Almeida

Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro shortened the 90 longest miles of all history, and it begins to melt the ice in the Cuba Libre [lit. “Free Cuba”] also the name of a drink served over ice]. It is a historical conversation that tries to put an end to years of confrontation and zoom in or zoom out, depending on the approach, to the day in which we Cubans can finally decide our destiny. Continue reading

The Cuban Wall and the Changes of 1989 / Juan Juan Almeida

Twenty-five years later some people are still trying to knock down a piece of the Berlin Wall.

On November 9 and 10, 1989 Germany experienced an event that quickly and with just enough lubrication sent the rusty wheel of history spinning. It was an event that marked the beginning of the end of European socialism: the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Such a seminal event did not come out of nowhere. It was not a coincidence nor did it happen spontaneously. There were events leading up to it.

Protests were growing in Leipzig, Dresden, East Berlin and other cities demanding democratic change. The government of the former German Democratic Republic was unable to cope with the ever growing number of its citizens fleeing to Federal Republic of Germany and West Berlin. Continue reading

Cuba: From Beacon to Firefly, But the Clock Is Ticking / Juan Juan Almeida

Back when I had hair and could comb it, someone from a certain group of commentators coined a popular phrase: If Moscow were Hollywood, the world would be communist and Cuba would be its Humphrey Bogart.

This did not make sense to me but years later I came to understand that the Cuban Revolution was not an isolated phenomenon that morphed into a “trending topic” by virtue its own talent. It was part of a process that arose in the midst of the Cold War.

Without trying to get into a detailed analysis of historical precedents because I don’t want to be tiresome and because I assume we are already familiar with them, let’s just say it evolved into an obedient patriotic-nationalistic movement. Continue reading

Cuba: Access to WiFi or When Ingenuity is Penalized / Juan Juan Almeida

It is a paradox that on Friday, November 7, the 151st anniversary of the death of a singer of innocence and virtue, the Matanzas poet Jose Jacinto Milanes, at the People’s Court of Cardenas in the same province of Matanzas on the same day two Cuban citizens are awaiting sentencing — Rolando Cruz (age 46) and Livan Hernandez (35) — charged with “illegal use of the airwaves” and “illicit economic activity.”

Of the five arrested only two were charged. Both Hernandez and Cruz, instead of punishment, deserve recognition for demonstrated skills and support for development looking to the future.

The frequency of this network, according to the propaganda in the Girón, managed to link computers, videogame consoles and smartphones, across more than 26 kilometers. It never interfered in the frequency of the Telecommunications Company of Cuba SA (ETECSA), which means it does not constitute an illegal to use of the Cuban airwaves.

The court, as usual, was forced and ignored that Law Number 62 of the Cuban Penal Code in force as of April 1988, in addition to being obsolete, has absolutely no concept of the use of WiFi connections and without a law that sanctions it, there can be no penalty. That is: Nulla crimen, nulla poena sine praevia lege. (There is no crime, no penalty without previous law.)

Rolando and Liván violated a resolution that had been signed by the Revolutionary Commander Ramiro Valdés when he was minister of information technology and communication. However, this being an administrative order by a particular agency, the men’s activities could only be deemed a misdemeanor and not a crime.

After five months in jail, under the terrorizing pressure of a process of “instruction,”the accused agreed that the users of that network could access the Internet. However, during the trial the magistrate called to the witness stand five residents of Cárdenas, who said that the connection was only good for gaming, watching movies, and chatting amongst themselves.

The invoices for the servers were produced, and these proved that the purchases were made in Canada and brought legally into Cuba. It was also demonstrated that the accused charged not a single penny and that the users had made only two monetary payments — one for 6 CUC and another for 10. These were for improvements to the network infrastructure, not usage fees.

The prosecutor — an awful neurotic and somewhat loudmouthed version of the famous Dr. House — took the wild recourse of accusing the defendants of “illicit economic activity.” She reminded the tribunal of the guidelines from the Attorney General’s office regarding the severe penalties that are to be imposed for such activities, because of the “ideological danger” that they pose for the Revolution.

The defense attorney, one Nestor González, performed spectacularly. The defense was courageous, convincing and articulate — but hardly effective. The accused had already been sentenced way before the first hearing. It was the usual: the idea is to make examples of the violators, produce a sort of electroshock as a reminder and to demonstrate that in this corporate military era the director general doesn’t want any flight of money, as well as to ratify that the Revolutionary government cedes no space.

Therefore, keeping in mind that in this case there is no crime but rather a country that lacks a legal structure capable of functioning independently from the mandates of the government, we await the sentence.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison and others.

12 November 2014