Art Is A Bridge That Unites Miami And Havana / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 1 June 2015 —  In 1984, at the suggestion of Armando Hart and Marcia Leiseca, Lilian Llanes, then the director of the Wilfredo Lam Center, the Biennial of Havana was created, and since then, the dialogue of the Revolution with Cuban culture has seen itself obligated to change, passing from an intense tone to a prudent one, and it’s truly regretful that our opposition hasn’t ever managed to capture the attention of this brotherhood.

The Government knows that no respectable social movement exists without artists in the vanguard, and it also knows that the Biennial is the place where artists get together to promote art.

What’s interesting is that this cultural rendezvous, the Twelfth Biennial, in addition to converting Havana into a world center for contemporary visual arts, and invading Havana with an artillery of paintings, regiments of video art, battalions of sculptures, squadrons of installations and platoons of performance art, is creating a new manner of communication and collaboration among artists residing on the Island and in Miami. Continue reading

Access to International Banks: Cuba’s True Objective in These Negotiations / Juan Juan Almeida

Josefina Vidal, Cuban negotiator

Josefina Vidal, Cuban negotiator

Juan Juan Almeida, 25 May 2015– For many, it was a surprise that the United States and Cuba should conclude its new round of negotiations without achieving the expected agreement, the reopening of new embassies–more so when both delegations described the recently concluded meeting as “respectful, professional, and highly productive.”

Thus does the Island’s government operate; it maneuvers with painstaking craftiness any process that entails sociopolitical transcendence for the country.

I hope (although at times I doubt it) that the US State Department and US authorities involved in these proceedings clearly understand that not Josefina Vidal–member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and director for the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations director for relations with the United States–nor José Ramón Cabañas, chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, nor any other member of the Cuban delegation, have decision-making authority. They are simply employees who have been given precise instructions: explore the actions and reactions of their counterparts, buy time, maximize media coverage (which they easily do because all media around the world are covering the big story), and show toughness. Continue reading

The Congress on Soil, where soil is not cultivated / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 3 June 2015 — The 2015 Congress on Soil begins today, June 3, in the Convention Palace in the capital. Experts from more than 20 countries will discuss the sustainable management of this vital resource for food security. But if more than 40 percent of the arable surface in Cuba remains idle, what can Cuba contribute to this meeting?

Translated by Regina Anavy

Who do you do business with in Cuba, the military or civilians? / Juan Juan Almeida

Raul Castro at the National Asssembly in Havana

Juan Juan Almeida,8 June 2015 — In an admirable surge of ratification in the most pure tradition of sovereignty, out of an infinite commitment of respect for human rights and in support of the Cuban people, this past June 3, on the birthday of Raúl Castro, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the prohibition of exports to the Cuban military.

I assume, without the least reluctance, that the General took it as an excellent gift. That measure won’t affect the ruling class at all; it will only shatter, even more, the agonizing economy of Cubans who don’t have sufficient resources to reach the end of the month. As my grandmother said, “What’s just is not only what suits the ones who dictate the sentence.”

Relying on memories etched by force and in the authority granted to me by the experience of having lived in the monster and knowing it, I can guarantee that in terms of effectiveness, this recently approved statute will not even begin to make a dent in the pentagram of Cuban authority.

To stop exporting American products to institutions directed by the Cuban military implies not selling anything to Cuba. And if the idea is to stop exporting in order to augment the discontent and provoke a hoped-for social conflict, we are more out of place than a piraña on the high seas.

The CIA, congressmen, think-tanks, analysts, scholars and advisors should come back to earth and understand for once that the civil-military parallelism with its commercial and banking tentacles in several places in the world, which for years sided with Fidel and Raúl, has ceased to exist.

Since 2009, when the GAE (Business Administration Group, S.A.) appropriated CIMEX (Cuba Import-Export, S.A.), they made Colonel Héctor Oroza Busutil president and arranged that the Center of Purchasing and National Imports would remain under the orders of Tecnoimport (which is not a fake business – its central offices are in the Marina Building, Ave. del Puerto, No. 102, between Justiz and Obrapía, Old Havana).

It seized, among other things, the last civilian redoubt divesting itself of the Panamerican Shops, the Servi-Cupet (service centers), the El Rápido cafeterias, the Video centers and the photo shops, Photoservice, the Commercal Centers, the shipping company, Zelcom (which includes the free zone, the industrial parks and the storage services in bond), the International Group of Tour Operators and the tour company Havanatur, the services of Rent a Car and taxis, Black Coral (jewelry), Contex (design and production of uniforms and fashion collections), Coinage of Money, the Customs agency, Images (publicity and production of videos), Ecuse (repair and maintenance of automotive equipment and construction of property), the Estate Agent, the Center of Credit Cards and financial services, the BFI (International Finance Bank), Cubapacks (messaging, parcels and catalog sales), Abdala (recording studios, record labels and music editing) and the division that manages all the trademarks and patents.

The same thing happened in Habaguanex, in the system of self-employment and in all the ministries and institutions, be they governmental or not. In all of them there are colonels and generals dressed like CEOs with clothing from Anderson & Sheppard.

You only have to look to see that the social, economic, financial, business and institutional structure today is under the control of the military and/or the families of the legendary leaders of the Cuban Revolution, who paradoxically fake their ideological positions but in reality are more committed to their generation and their own desires than to their loyalty to Raúl.

Without a doubt, with this measure they will entrench themselves, and it will help them reorganize the rank and file that is already divided and with serious internal conflicts. I am sure that other ways exist, including better ways of making this ruling class implode, from the inside, without having to affect the Cuban people.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

President of Cienfuegos Government Falls in Police Raid / Juan Juan Almeida

He confused having a political position with autonomy and freedom, used the Internet service to call his daughter who resides in Canada, was summoned for it, and had to pay the price for believing in the future.

Eduardo Walfrido Coll Rodríguez, known as Eddy Coll, President of the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power in Cienfuegos, is one of those rare men who, occupying a certain medium rank, and possessing leadership skills to spare, accepts the word “change,” listens to the voice of an exhausted nation and, from a government position, defends and identifies with the people’s priorities. Continue reading

Cuba: The Pitfalls of Extradition / Juan Juan Almeida

Joanne Chesimard

Juan Juan Almeida, 23 April 2015 — Havana promised the Bush administration that it would no longer accept fugitives from American justice such as Joanne Chesimard, shown here in footage shot on a Havana street.

Politics is the only one of the performing arts in which there are no surprises. Despite the visible efforts made by Cuba and the United States to normalize relations and the Cuban government’s recent agreement to cooperate in resolving cases of U.S. fugitives living on the island, I question whether Joanne Chessimard (who was granted political asylum in 1984) or William Guillermo Morales (who also has asylum) will ever be extradited.

Their extradition would set a precedent that would put pressure on authorities to hand over others, such Juan Lisímaco Gutiérrez Fischmann (former husband of Mariela Castro), who have sought refuge in Havana by claiming political persecution. Continue reading

Cuban Doctors Who Create an Army of the Grateful / Juan Juan Almeida

Cuban doctors arriving in Brazil

Juan Juan Almeida, 26 March 2015 — The online Brazilian portal Jornal Da Band denounced the social welfare program Más Médicos (More Doctors), which is aimed at the most needy sectors of the Brazilian population, and deploys Cuban doctors to places where the Brazilian physicians do not want to work, as having been conceived as a way to transfer resources to the Island’s regime, and as an economic boost.

Thought-provoking, but it seems to me simplistic to view in this type of humanitarian invasion just a simple economic undercurrent. It is necessary to know that Cuban involvement in healthcare started in the Algeria of 1963, when a health crisis and trachoma epidemic were ferociously taking over the Algerian territory. The Cuban ambassador at the time, Commander Jorge “Papito” Serguera, proposed to the Algerian health minister, a certain Mr. Bumasa, to confront the situation with aid of Cuban doctors. Continue reading

Cuba: Dreams and realities before and after the Summit of the Americas / Juan Juan Almeida

1427850192_cumbre-panama -- JJNow that the beginning of the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama is upon us I think I understand why there are so many expectations. I studied in the former USSR and I know that many optimists are living in a sort of suspense similar to that of Moscow in 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan were going to meet, for the first time, in Geneva.
Although many have forgotten due to the monumental act put up by the translator who hoarded the headlines, Barack Obama and Raúl Castro met for the first time during the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

Today, some think that we are making progress and others that we are on the verge of a “nervous breakdown”. The truth is that all Cubans will listen to the speeches of both leaders and will pay attention to the small details that we will only be able to see during their handshake. Continue reading

Betting Cuba’s Future on Alejandro or Mariela Castro / Juan Juan Almeida

Siblings: Alejandro and Mariela Castro Espin

Juan Juan Almeida, 27 March 2015 — With the approach of the next congress of the Cuban Communist Party, scheduled for 2016, some analysts are adhering to a prudent logic by predicting that Alejandro Castro Espin will be included on the list of possible successors to the Cuban throne.

They cling to this notion with amazing aplomb. But the prospect of Alejandro being included in any list of possible successors is likely to dissipate even before it can happen. Very intelligent people often make the mistake of advancing elaborate theories such as this by standing back and looking at the surface but mistaking the spots of a Dalmatian with those of a Holstein.

Clearly, Alejandro has managed to hone the proverbial skill of political oratory. He acts as a government spokesperson and, what he does not know, he makes up. His peculiar gift for being able to memorize and recite the complete works of Lenin can be astonishing. He is one of the most powerful people in Cuba today and has a hand in important national decision-making. But he is forever caught between the image of a hero and the verses of the Iliad, which ominously conflate modern-day Havana with an epic Greek saga. Continue reading

Separation of Powers, Parliamentary Debut and National Capitol in Cuba in 2018 / Juan Juan Almeida

1426035799_capitolio

As has already been announced, the VII Cuban Communist Party Congress will be held in April 2016. From the moment of the announcement until the first quarter of this year municipal and provincial assemblies have been held, charts have been prepared, members have been briefed and documents have been approved that have still not been released.

It has also been announced that a new election law, with some changes to current statutes that have been in effect since 1992, will leave the door half-open to future constitutional reform.

The Cuban government has demonstrated over and over that it does not act with transparency, much less with improvisation. On the contrary, it meticulously follows an elaborate script in which withholding information from its citizens is Continue reading

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 Continue reading