Tania Bruguera is With Cubans in Costa Rica / 14ymedio

Tania Bruguera, in Costa Rica, with Cubans stranded at the border. (Youtube / screenshot)
Tania Bruguera, in Costa Rica, with Cubans stranded at the border. (Youtube / screenshot)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 November 2015 — The artist Tania Bruguera heeded the call of some of the more than 3,000 Cuban migrants who have been stuck for more than ten days ago in the north of Costa Rica after the Government of Nicaragua prevented their continuing their journey to United States.

A group of migrants created a Facebook page called “Let the Cubans Pass” so that “the world will know their names, experiences and professions in order to contradict those who brand Cubans trying to reach the United States as criminals.”

“I want to show my solidarity by being there with them. I have no plan, I am not anybody who is going change any situation. But well, at least to be with them,” said Bruguera in an interview published by the Costa Rican online journal Socialism Today. continue reading

“A mechanism needs to be created for the people to hold the government accountable in a peaceful and legal way, without it being seen as a counterrevolutionary attitude” she stresses.

“I think the government is dedicated to lowering people’s hopes and what we are seeing today is that a year after [the restoration of relations with the US] people do not see a solution to their problems and prefer to sell their homes and leave their families and go to another country to seek their fortune rather than stay in Cuba to see what happens,” she says. “In Cuba there is no economic migration that is not political.”

Bruguera has also been affected by government limitations on movement when, between late December of 2014 and August of this year she was prevented from leaving Cuba. After being held on the island for eight months for organizing a performance in Revolution Square in Havana, the authorities finally returned her passport and she was able to take up a fellowship at Yale University.

The artist has worked previously on the subject of migrants, in particular when she founded the Immigrant Movement International, an art project conceived in 2006 and presented by Creative Time and the Queens Museum of Art. With this initiative she proposed to initiate a socio-political movement, so she spent a year working in the multicultural neighborhood of Corona, Queens in New York City.

President Solis Assures Cubans Of Costa Rica’s Support To Reach US / EFE – 14ymedio

The president of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solis
The president of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solis

14ymedio biggerEFE (published in 14ymedio), San Jose, Costa Rica, 26 November 2015 — The president Luis Guillermo Solis of Costa Rica, on Wednesday, guaranteed the thousands of Cuban migrants who have been stranded in his country since 14 November that his government will make every effort to help them reach the United States, their final destination. “We will do whatever is necessary for you people to get to your destination and while you are here to live with dignity,” said the president at a press conference in San Jose.

Solis said that, following Nicaragua’s opposition to allowing the islanders to pass through that country, Costa Rica is making bilateral contacts with other countries involved in the migratory path of these people, to find a solution.

The solution is to “establish routes that allow them to continue their journey. The conditions, time and number are details that we are refining, but in this situation it is clear that we will not have the cooperation of Nicaragua and therefore we must take other measures under consideration.” continue reading

President Solis said that Costa Rica will not abandon the Cuban immigrants, but warned that their trip to the United States will be a process that will take time.

“In Costa Rica we will facilitate their travel and this entails a great effort not only to conclude the final negotiations with each country, many of whom will announce measures in the coming days, but also to guarantee, as long as they are in our territory, that they are living in adequate conditions,” he said.

Solis’s involvement in the case of Cuban migrants even led to an exchange views with the Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez through the artist’s blog. The Costa Rican president left a comment on a post in which the singer demanded solutions for the migrants and criticized Solis for advocating a humanitarian corridor to the United States only for the Cubans and not for other Latin American, knowing that “there is a special law that favors the arrival of our people with dry feet.”

Solis Rodriguez said that it is most urgent is to find solutions for those at the border who are not at fault. The president also added that Nicaragua and Costa Rica would be wrong to “insinuate the situation of the migrants into geopolitics.”

Costa Rican Minister of Communications Mauricio Herrera Ulloa also responded to the musician, saying that his government’s request is “more than politics, it is humanitarian.”

The troubadour thanked the minister for his comments and acknowledged having written his post without all the information and out of concern for his compatriots. But then, Rodriguez added: “In addition to the best intentions of the Government in which you are a minister, there is constant propaganda against my country.”

Meeting in El Salvador on Tuesday, the foreign ministers of the countries of Central America, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Colombia sought a solution to the current crisis and also a long-term solution to Cuban emigration.

However, Nicaragua was adamant in not allowing the entry of Cubans to its territory, and accused Costa Rica of causing a humanitarian crisis by “ignoring the responsibility of the United States in the issue of illegal migration” and demanded that the immigrants be withdrawn from the border area.

As of 14 November, Costa Rica has granted temporary transit visas to 3,600 Cubans who arrived at its border with Panama, and has set up 12 shelters to provide humanitarian aid in communities near the border with Nicaragua.

President Solis also said that resolving the crisis will require “slowing down” the flow of Cubans into Costa Rica from Panama.

On Tuesday the Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez accused Nicaragua of being “intransigent” and acting in “bad faith” in this matter and said the region intends to find a solution.

The immigrants left Cuba legally by air and flew to Ecuador, which does not require them to have a visa, and from there they traveled “irregularly” through Colombia and Panama to Costa Rica.

The Costa Rican government has attributed this migratory wave to the dismantling of a human trafficking network and the rumor on the island that the United States is going to repeal its immigration laws that favor Cubans.

Ecuador Will Require Visas From Cubans as of December 1st / 14ymedio

Cuban migrants at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua under the watchful eye of the Costa Rican police.(Natasha Cambronero / La Nación)
Cuban migrants at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua under the watchful eye of the Costa Rican police.(Natasha Cambronero / La Nación)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 November 2015 — Ecuador will require visas from Cuban citizens seeking to enter the country as of December 1, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Xavier Lasso speaking at a press conference.

This exception in the Ecuadorian immigration law is intended to discourage the Cuban migration, which has surged in recent months and has caused a crisis on the borders of Central America. “Our commitment is to human beings, to stop this migration trend is that puts men, women and children at risk,” said Lasso. “We are trying to control this type of migration, which is very risky.”

On the northern border of Costa Rica it is estimated that some 4,000 Cubans are stranded, waiting to cross the border. continue reading

The decision of Ecuador’s government comes less than a week after Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez visited Ecuador and Nicaragua to address precisely this issue.

As of November 14, Costa Rica has granted temporary transit visas to 3,600 Cubans who arrived at its border with Panama, and has set up 12 shelters to provide them with humanitarian aid.

Given the ease of emigrating to Ecuador, thousands of Cubans have traveled to that South American country in recent years. Most of them start from there on a long migratory journey of about 4,800 miles overland to reach the United States.

Ecuador’s deputy foreign minister said: “We are not closing the door to Cuba” but said his country “is committed,” along with the Latin American community, to avoiding this migratory flow.

A New Campaign For Marriage Equality Announced / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

LGBTI Pride march in the Paseo del Prado in Havana in 2011 (Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo)
LGBTI Pride march in the Paseo del Prado in Havana in 2011 (Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 25 November 2015 — After forty years together, Roberto’s partner died this year from a respiratory condition, but he will not collect a penny of the widow’s pension because in Cuba same-sex unions are not legally recognized or protected. Situations like this are in the sights of several independent organizations that demand rights for the LGBTI community, and that have just launched a campaign for marriage equality.

“We also love,” is the slogan under which different civil society groups will demand a legal framework that allows unions between people of the same sex, and equality of rights between homosexuals and heterosexuals. The initiative was presented to the press this Tuesday and will go public on the first of December. continue reading

Among the groups involved in the project is Corriente Martiana (Current [José] Martí), which is working on this project in coordination with the Cuban Foundation for LGBTI Rights, led by Nelson Gandulla in Cienfuegos province, and which shares the lead in the new campaign with the Integration Project of the Gay Community in Cuba led by Navit Fernandez in Havana.

Other entities not directly related to the LGTBI environment have begun to get involved in the project after being invited to show solidarity, such as the Candidates for Change project.

The organizers have developed several initiatives. including the presentation of a written request to the People’s Power delegates during weekly office hours they have with their constituents. Each of the activists should ask for a receipt that gives evidence of the request and that will accompany the collective petition that is finally delivered.

Moises Leonardo presents the campaign for marriage equality
Moises Leonardo presents the campaign for marriage equality in Cuba

The collective petition will be delivered to the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) and the Cuban Parliament, Moises Leonardo, spokesperson for the Corriente Martiana, explained to 14ymedio.

“First we will present it in municipal assemblies, then in the provinces and finally to the National Assembly of People’s Power. We will seek the support of artists and personalities of our culture, as well as a number of independent civil society organizations that want to join us. The campaign starts the first of December and will last six months, but even when that date has passed it will be ongoing.”

This campaign seeks to protect a couple’s rights, such as inheritance or insurance payments with respect to accidents at work, as well as obtaining legal protection for the distribution of property in the case of a separation.

“The intention is to climb one more step in the defense of human rights for a sector of the population. Practice tells us that the LGBTI community is very united in defense of their rights, and that encourages us a lot,” added Leonardo.

The Exodus Is Due To The Lack Of Freedom / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The Red Cross helps Cubans stuck at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border since last weekend. (La Nación)
The Red Cross helps Cubans stuck at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border since last weekend. (La Nación)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 25 November 2015 — The current immigration crisis created by the presence of thousands of Cubans in Central America in transit to the United States has put the issue of human rights in Cuba back in the international arena, in particular the civil, political, social and economic rights of Cubans.

The government of General Raul Castro and a part of the international press emphasize the idea that it is a legal issue, related to the Cuban Adjustment Act. The Cuban government also links it to the maintenance of the blockade-embargo, which analysts say is an attempt to pressure the US government to repeal both laws. continue reading

However, it is not possible to hide, behind the Cuban exodus, the fundamental problem in Cuba: the dissatisfaction of hundreds of thousands of Cubans with the economic and political situation in our country, which remains essentially unchanged thanks to decisions taken by the government — which has been in power for more than half a century – in the name of socialism, which has never existed.

No, we Cubans are not starving, because really there is no generalized crisis of that type in Cuba. Although for many nutrition is precarious, the fundamental appetite Cubans have is for rights and freedoms, for democracy, because the “dictatorship” – supposedly of the proletariat – established in Cuba and always led in the same direction by the Communist Party, continues to insist on its political and economic model of monopolistic State capitalism; by its nature anti-democratic, exclusive and retrograde.

Despite the public discourse of an “opening,” in reality economic activity outside the State is constantly limited by laws, regulations and provisions at all levels and by high direct and indirect taxes. Autonomous work, or self-employment, continues to be restricted to a group of activities and cannot be exercised by professionals in medicine or law, for example. To establish a cooperative requires permission from the Council of State.

But above all, State monopolies in domestic and foreign trade and the limited access to international communications networks, hinder non-State economic activity.

But what most oppresses Cubans, along with the daily problems of housing, transportation or poor-quality food, is the repressive philosophy of the State that impedes the freedom of expression, of association and elections, which obstructs any democratic alternation in power of forces and figures different from the governmental clan, forces and figures that could bring another focus to politics and get the country out of the stagnation in which it finds itself.

This is definitely a massive and flagrant violation of the civil, political, economic and social rights of the Cuban people, by a government that has spent more than half a century in power, with the methods and mechanisms to guarantee its indefinite existence. And this is the real cause of the exodus and of the current crisis.

It is true that the internal problems of Cubans must be resolved by Cubans ourselves, but when these problems affect other nations it is logical that they would take action in the matter and try to influence events through international means established by multilateral institutions recognized by the States.

The Central American community has met to discuss the crisis, but it should go beyond the legal and border problems involved and evaluate it in its entirety. The Inter-American system should also take action on the issue and the United Nations itself should involve itself, because as long as there is no resolution to the internal problems in Cuba, the system imposed by this “eternal Government” is going to continue to generate regional tensions related to immigration, be it in Central America, South America or the Straits of Florida.

Some believe that the current immigration crisis caused by the presence of thousands of Cubans in Central America is a land version of the Rafter Crisis of 1994. Any attempt to put a plug in the Cuban exodus across the continent could lead to a situation like that one, if democratic changes that loosen tensions do not come to pass in Cuba

‘La Joven Cuba’ Blog Questions Official Position on the Cuban Adjustment Act / 14ymedio

Cuban rafters
“Cubans who reach the United States without the Adjustment act will have to submit to the exploitation that other illegal immigrants are subjected to,” says the blog: La Joven Cuba

14ymedio, Havana, 25 November 2015 – In an unusual gesture of criticism toward an official position, the blog “La Joven Cuba” (Young Cuba) published a post on Tuesday that challenges the Cuban government’s approach to the Cuban Adjustment Act.

The site, run by graduates of the University of Matanzas, stresses “the need to of more than a few fellow countrymen to emigrate,” and defends the thesis that Cubans who want to reside in another country will do so regardless of whether conditions are better or worse. The article, signed by Roberto G. Peralo and titled “Eliminate the Cuban Adjustment Act and What,” uses an example close to him as an illustration. continue reading

“A woman friend who is a doctor was preparing to emigrate to Ecuador. She had a job lined up at a clinic. When she learned that the government of Ecuador wouldn’t recognize her license to practice her profession, she told me, ‘I’m going even if I have to clean the hospital floor for the rest of my life.’”

The author defends the Cuban government’s asking for the elimination of the law which also provides an advantage for Cubans over other immigrants and believes that the United States will end up repealing it. However, he believes that this will not improve things because Cubans will continue leaving and will do it in even worse circumstances.

“Cubans who reach the United States without the Adjustment Act will have to submit to the exploitation that other illegal immigrants are subjected to. They will not receive government benefits and will have to take the worst jobs at the most miserable wages. In the best of cases they will have to renounce returning to Cuba, even to visit, to be able to support the thesis that they are “politically persecuted,” so that they can receive government benefits.

The Joven Cuba website, which has also suffered censorship within the University of Matanzas, is a part of the sector relatively critical of the government, although from a “revolutionary” position that leads to censoring dissent and opposing a market economy.

In the official discourse the Cuban Adjustment Act is the target of the worse criticisms and is held responsible for the exodus of Cubans to the United States. On national television the presenters call it “The Assassin Law” and hold it entirely responsible for the current migratory crisis provoked by the arrival of more than 2,000 Cubans at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

This Wednesday, the newspaper Granma published a note on the meeting of the foreign ministers of the member countries of the Central American Integration System – Cuba, Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico – to seek a solution to the drama of the Cuban migrants. As the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party, Granma noted the unanimous rejection of “the Cuban Adjustment Act and other regulations related to the wet foot-dry foot policy and the Parole Program for Cuban Healthcare Professionals, which stimulates illegal immigration to the United States.”

Annoyances of the New Identity Card / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto

Identity card office in Camagüey. (14ymedio)
Identity card office in Camagüey. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto Camagüey, 25 November 2015 – One year since the start of the issuing new identity cars in Cuba, many recognize the advantages of the modern ID card, but criticize the complex process to get one. In Camagüey province the manufacture and distribution of the new identify card started last May, but delays in delivering them and long lines continue to characterize their arrival in this region.

To learn about the details of the process, 14ymedio approached the ID card office this Tuesday, where people interested in applying for the new polycarbonate card had gathered since the early morning hours. The applicant must bring one or several stamp/seals with a total value of 25 Cuban pesos. Fingerprints are taken on the premises and the applicant is photographed. continue reading

Among those waiting to update their identity card was Gabriel Villafaña Bosa, whose previous document had deteriorated through use and the passing of years. This Camagüeyan believes that the new format is “stronger and more durable,” so that the number of times it needs to be replaced because of damage will be reduced. However, to get it he had to overcome a long wait.

Yosbani Martinez commented, “I still don’t have the new card because everyone in the world is here.” Living near the office, the young man says that he has passed by the place at four in the morning, “and the line goes to the corner.”

Trying to reduce the avalanche of requests, the authorities have warned that the document can only be replaced in case of loss, damage, change of address or reaching the age of majority. In statements in the official press, several officials have insisted that it is not obligatory to possess the new card, because the two prior formats continue to be valid.

The dissatisfaction with the long wait even made the pages of the local newspaper Adelante this last September whenthe journalist Yasselys Perez Chaos commented to a friend, “after waiting five days in nighttime lines I was allowed to enter the office, where a single unhappy looking official was able to issue only three to twelve cards a day.”

The delays mean serious problems for those who have lost their identification. “Imagine a police officer stops me and asks for the card. When I tell him I don’t have it they take me to the station for fun,” said Villa Faña Bosa. The lack of the document has even affected his collection of remittances. “What do I do if my dad sends me money? How can I collect it at Western Union without the card,” the young man asks, standing in the middle of a long line.

Others resist losing patience despite the obstacles. This is the case with Adalberto Perez Arteago, who says, “It’s the first card I have, because I spent 25 years in prison and didn’t participate in the prior change of format.” The man also feels that the design of the new document, “looks better.”

Among the changes in the document is that the identity number is embossed, there are security features, the content is printed in invisible ink, the bars are machine readable, and there is a ghost image on the back.

The most repeated complaints also address the continued interruptions in the service of delivering the new cards, for various reasons. This Tuesday the building was being fumigated, which paralyzed the process in the only office authorized to issue them in the Camagüey capital. A couple waiting for the process so they could get married decided to return another day, earlier. “It’s already five in the afternoon and look at the number of people who are here. We lost an entire day on this,” the woman pointed out.

As of last June, 380,645 new-format identify cards had been issued in the entire country; that covers 4% of the population over age 16. In Camagüey the numbers are more modest; with a population of 717,686 adults, only 5,746 had obtained the document by that date, some 0.8% of the local population.

Impromptu Meeting Between Raul Castro and International Red Cross / 14ymedio

The president of the International Committee of Red Cross, Peter Maurer, and Cuban President Raul Castro. (JPSchaererICRC)
The president of the International Committee of Red Cross, Peter Maurer, and Cuban President Raul Castro. (JPSchaererICRC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 November 2015 – An impromptu meeting this Wednesday between Cuban President Raul Castro and the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, suggests that the issue of the almost 3,000 Cuban migrants stuck in Costa Rica is one of the objectives of Maurer’s visit, the first at this level in more than 40 years.

Officially, Maurer has been in Cuba since Monday on a trip seeking to strengthen cooperation on humanitarian issues. In the statement pervious to his arrival, his program included only interviews with Health Minister Roberto Morales Ojeda, with the Chief of Staff of the Civil Defense, Major General Pardo Guerra, and with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. continue reading

According to the official report, Castro and Maurer “spoke about the good level of relations between Cuba and the [Red Cross], as well as other topics related to the humanitarian field.” The meeting was also attended by the head of the ICRC regional delegation for Central America and Cuba, Juan Pedro Schaerer, and on the Cuban side by the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) General Leopoldo Cintra Frias, and the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcelino Medina.

Last Week the Red Cross of Costa Rica issued a call for solidarity to collection donations for Cubans stranded in that country after the Nicaraguan government blocked their passage on their route to the United States, where they can enter without a visa thanks to the Cuban Adjustment Act. In a communication, the Red Cross Chief in Costa Rica, Idalberto Gonzales, said that, “the Red Cross opens its doors to Costa Ricans so that they can lend their support to the Cubans in our country.”

The humanitarian organization especially requested toothbrushes, combs, toothpaste, disposable razors, bath soap, toilet paper, sanitary towels, bath towels, disinfectants, plastic utensils, shampoo and sunscreens. It also opened the opportunity to make monetary donations to Red Cross bank accounts in Costa Rica.

At this time, Costa Rica has set up seven shelters near the Nicaraguan border, where some 1,300 Cubans are being housed. Others are still being housed in churches, community centers and gymnasiums. More than 400 have refused to go to the shelters and remain the Peñas Blancas border post.

The Nicaraguan Red Cross is also waiting for the Cubans to be able to cross the border, to assist them with accommodation and food.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, founded in 1863, is defined as an impartial, neutral and independent organization. Its humanitarian mission is focused on protecting the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflicts and armed violence, as well as offering them assistance. The ICRC delegation for Mexico, Central America and Cuba, based in Mexico City, also works to ensure that people with major risk factors and vulnerability, especially migrants, are protected and assisted, and that their fundamental rights and dignity are respected.

Havana Graffiti Criticizes State Phone Company / 14ymedio

Graffiti in Havana: “Super offer? If I buy one banana they give me two. But I have to eat them in 1 hour. Loosen up Cubacel!” (14ymedio)
Graffiti in Havana: “Super offer? If I buy one banana they give me two. But I have to eat them in 1 hour. Loosen up Cubacel!” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 25 November 2015 – Criticisms of the management of the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) have reached the walls of Havana. A nice graffiti criticizes the conditions attached to the latest international recharge promotions for cellphone customers. The drawing mocks the requirement that consumers use their balance in a short period of time.

“If I buy one banana they give me two. But I have to eat it in 1 hour,” muses a pensive chimpanzee painted on several walls in the capital. The complaint ends with a “Loosen up, Cubacel!” demanding that the cellphone network give better terms for its recharge offerings.

Between the 16th and 20th of November, the company launched an international promotion under the slogan: “A bonus on your recharge with 30 or 60.” Each prepaid customer whose phone was recharged from abroad (presumably on-line by family or friends) for 20 or 30 CUC during that period, received an additional bonus of 30 or 60 CUC respectively. However, the user had to use the balance before December 20th of this year.

Some customers of the prepaid service have considered the requirement an exorbitant condition and are demanding that the credits earned during a promotion should not expire over time.

About 300 Activists Arrested This Sunday / 14ymedio

CUiS1yQW4AAWcoj14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 November 2015 — During the day this Sunday nearly 300 activists were arrested across the country, according to what Cuban opposition sources told this newspaper. Most of those arrested belong to the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and the Ladies in White. UNPACU activist Zaqueo Báez and his wife, Lady in White Maria Acón, were released on Monday after spending more than 24 hours in custody at the Seventh Police Unit in Havana.

In Havana, over one hundred people were detained, while in the province of Santiago de Cuba the figure reached 98 activists, 51 in Camagüey, 12 in Holguin, Guantanamo 9 and 13 in Las Tunas, to which are added the arrests in other provinces, according to José Daniel Ferrer, leader of UNPACU.

In Camagüey, the police raided the home of Fernando Vázquez Guerra, coordinator of the organization in the province, and seized documents, discs and several Cuban flags belonging to UNPACU.

The opponents were detained for several hours and by Sunday night most of them had been released.

Macri And The End Of Populism In Argentina / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

The change in Argentina is expected to lead to a change in hemispheric relations. In the picture, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, Nestor Kirchner, Cristina Fernández, Lula Da Silva, Nicanor Duarte and Hugo Chavez signed the agreement for the foundation of Banco del Sur (The Bank of the South). (CC)
The change in Argentina is expected to lead to a change in hemispheric relations. In the picture, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, Nestor Kirchner, Cristina Fernández, Lula Da Silva, Nicanor Duarte and Hugo Chavez signed the agreement for the foundation of Banco del Sur (The Bank of the South). (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 23 November 2015 — The victory of Mauricio Macri in Argentina is the triumph of common sense over strained discourse and failed emotions. It is also the arrival of modernity and the burial of a populist stage that should have disappeared long ago.

There is a successful way of governing. It is the one used in the 25 leading nations of the planet, among which should be Argentina, as it had been in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Everyone hopes that Macri will lead the country in that direction.

Which are those nations? Those recorded in all rigorous manuals, from the Human Development Index published by the United Nations, to Doing Business from the World Bank, to Transparency International. Some twenty compilations agree, however they stack up: the same ones always appear at the top of the list. continue reading

There is a successful way of governing. It is the one used in the 25 leading nations of the planet, among which should be Argentina

Which ones? The usual suspects: Norway, England, Switzerland, Canada, Germany, United States, Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, and the usual etc. How do they do it? With a mixture of respect for law, clear rules, strong institutions, markets, open trade, reasonable administrative honesty, good education, innovation, competition, productivity and, above all, confidence.

Sometimes the governments are liberal, Christian democrat or social democrat. Sometimes they combine in coalitions. Despite disputes, they all form a part of the extended family of liberal democracies. What is usually discussed in elections is not the form in which society relates to the state, but the amount of the tax burden and the formula for distributing social spending. The economic model, on which productivity rests, is not in play in the voting booth, nor is the political model which organizes coexistence and guarantees freedoms. On this they agree.

They are nations, in short, that are calm, without upheavals, without saber rattling and rumors of chaos, wonderfully boring, where the voices against the system are too weak to be considered, and where you can make long term plans because it is very difficult for the currency to suddenly lose its value or for the government to hijack your savings in an infamous and illegal seizure.

That does not mean that there are no crises and speculative bubbles, or that some, like Greece, engage in underhanded practices and need to have their chestnuts pulled out of the fire. Of course this happens, but they overcome it, and the economy recovers without breaking the democratic game. There are inevitable cycles, which are produced in free markets, where every now and then greed distances buyers and sellers. The leading nations have learned how to overcome it and move forward.

Everyone hopes that Mauricio Macri will move in the same direction for the good of Argentinians, but given that it is the largest and best educated country in Latin America, one can venture that his victory will have notable consequences across the whole continent. For now, it is very important that Argentina has abandoned the drift towards Chavism introduced by Kirchnerism.

Macri’s victory will have repercussions in the Venezuelan elections, to which the democratic opposition will come with the certainty that it has a new and valuable friend who will refuse to validate the fraud being prepared by Maduro

Macri’s victory will have repercussions in the Venezuelan elections on 6 December, to which the democratic opposition will come with the certainty that it has a new and valuable friend who will refuse to validate the fraud being prepared by Maduro, much less the oppressive Civil-Military Junta he has threatened if the polls don’t go his way.

It will have effects on the Brazilian electoral landscape, strengthening the center right forces that oppose Lula; and on Chile, when Mrs. Bachelet, whose popularity is in the basement, calls new elections in which she cannot be a candidate.

Not only is Mauricio Macri, as rightly pointed out by Joaquín Martínez Solá in La Nación, the expression of the generational change this country needs—with men and women who didn’t suffer the trauma of the military dictatorship nor the guerrilla barbarity of the armed opposition—but he can be the one who will lead the fight in Latin American for democracy and freedoms. Someone who leads the country into the 21st century, which began almost 16 years ago, and gets it out of the old populist morass in which Peronism mired it for many decades.

Few rulers have begun their mandate with so many national and international dreams resting on their management. It is a great country that deserves a great president.

Overcoming Obstacles, More Cubans Arrive From Central America To Mexico Heading To The US / EFE (via 14ymedio)

Dozens of Cuban migrants cross the Suchiate River on Mexico's border with Guatemala on Friday. (EFE / Benjamin Alfaro)
Dozens of Cuban migrants cross the Suchiate River on Mexico’s border with Guatemala on Friday. (EFE / Benjamin Alfaro)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Tapachula, Mexico, 22 November 2015 — Despite increasing obstacles in their path, the number of Cubans crossing the Mexican border from Central America, in order to get a safe conduct pass that allows them to reach the United States, has increased in recent weeks.

Nor has the closure of the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, on November 15, stopped Cubans, who travel in large groups of up to 500 people and who, for a payment of five dollars, cross the international Suchiate River separating Mexico and Guatemala on rafts every day.

Nicaragua closed its border to the migrants after accusing Costa Rica of throwing them at its door. continue reading

“It’s a difficult process where they don’t know if they’ll be allowed to continue; they are waiting to see if the situation is resolved and they can get to Guatemala. We are the first group, they have given us the safe conduct passes and we made it this far,” EFE was told by Oricesar, a migrant who managed to cross Nicaragua and reach Mexican soil.

Traveling in his group of 50 Cubans were also Luis Enrique and his wife, who, helped by a “guide,” made it in six days to the Mexican state of Chiapas. They denounced that “more than two thousand Cubans are stranded in Costa Rica, and if they don’t open the border with Nicaragua the number will be more than 3,000 within a week.”

They avoided talking about internal Cuban politics, but agree that they left the Caribbean nation because of “the poverty and the mistreatment by the authorities,” without regard to their “suffering humiliation in the migration through the countries of Latin America” in order to get to the United States.

In Mexico, the National Migration Institute registered, as of 18 November, the entrance of 9,100 Cuban migrants, of whom 7,317 were housed in the 21st Century Station in Tapachula, Chiapas. These are figures well above the 1,817 who were received during all of 2014.

In the last week some one thousand Cubans entered Chiapas to voluntarily surrender themselves to the immigration authorities

In the last week some one thousand Cubans entered through Chiapas to voluntarily surrender themselves to the immigration authorities and request that the departure office allow them to travel, without restrictions, the last 3,000 miles of the route to US soil.

Efrain Hernandez, 22, a native of Havana, is one of them; he tells EFE that he traveled 3,000 miles to get to Mexico from Ecuador, through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

From that list of countries, men and women complain that they suffered the greatest corruption at the hands of the police in Colombia, because they were charged $100 each to pass through that South American nation.

To get to the southern border of Mexico, the Cubans invest between $5,000 and $6,000 to pay for transportation, lodging and food “in search of a better life for my family,” says Joan Peña, who after obtaining the safe conduct pass, in three days, is on the final leg of his journey, in a hotel in the center of Tapachula where he pays five dollars a night.

Those who are traveling have sold their houses and left their families and jobs, like Maybelli Fernandez, a native of Matanzas. After having surrendered to the authorities they are transferred to the migration offices to complete the paperwork in the departure office, which gives them 30 days to reach the northern border and their final destination.

The undersecretary of Migrant Assistance in the Ministry for the Development of the Southern Border of the Government of Chiapas, Victor Moguel, rejects the idea that the arrival of thousands of emigrants is creating a humanitarian crisis.

On the contrary, Cubans keep hotel occupancy figuresup and fill the daily flights and buses that travel to Mexico City and Tijuana.

For now, Mexico and Cuba do not have a treaty for the deportation of migrants from the island country; however, moved by the rumor that this could happen, Cubans arriving at the border are ever more fearful that, in 2016, the borders between Mexico and Central America might be closed.

Costa Rica Will Propose The Creation Of A Humanitarian Corridor For Cubans / 14ymedio

Nicaraguan police guarding the border with Costa Rica to prevent the passage of Cuban immigrants bound for the United States (Photo Alvaro Sanchez / EFE)
Nicaraguan police guarding the border with Costa Rica to prevent the passage of Cuban immigrants bound for the United States (Photo Alvaro Sanchez / EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 November 2015 – The United States and Cuba should work together to alleviate the Cuban migration crisis now facing Costa Rica and Nicaragua. So says Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis, who believes that the authorities of the country of origin like those of the country of destination must help find a final solution, as reported by the Costa Rican newspaper La Nación.

During the inauguration of the Torito hydroelectric plant in Jabillos de Turrialba, the president expressed his hope that the meeting of foreign ministers to be held next week could help to alleviate the problem, with the commitment of the foreign ministers of all the nations included in the “Cuban route.”

The arrival of more than 2,500 Cubans in Central America en route to US territory has become a regional dilemma because the flow of the Caribbeans continues. On Friday Solis insisted that in the next round the US and Cuban authorities should sit down with Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.

The Costa Rican government will bring a proposal to the meeting to create a humanitarian corridor free of rapes, robberies and other indignities that characterize the current route continue reading

The Costa Rican government will bring a proposal to the meeting to create a humanitarian corridor free of rapes, robberies and other indignities that characterize the current route, full of natural hazards and human traffickers.

“We must build a transit space for the flow of Cuban immigrants to travel safely, documented, under appropriate conditions, without resorting to organized crime,” said Solis. He stressed that “If there is the political we will have chance of success.”

In response to statements by the government of Daniel Ortega, according to which Costa Rica is trying to play the victim and proclaim itself a defender of human rights, the Costa Rican president asserts that the country is not a victim “nor will it change its policy about the granting of visas.” He added that there will be no change in the fight against the human trafficking networks.

Costa Rican authorities granted Cubans seven day transit visas to continue on their way to the United States, but on Sunday Nicaragua prevented them from crossing the border and accused Costa Rica of wanting to provoke a humanitarian crisis.

“This is a conflict of humanitarian order, not geopolitical. Our bilateral issues (in Nicaragua) are working out where it should, in international courts. The migrant population should not suffer from the problems between the two countries,” added Solis.

The statesman stressed that his country does not need excuses to draw the attention of the international community, “nor do we use the subterfuges of an immigration crisis that has no origin or Costa Rica or Nicaragua”.

At the meeting of foreign ministers, to be held next week in El Salvador, Rosario Murillo, Nicaragua’s first lady, may participate. The Government of Costa Rica hopes that Murillo will adopt a “position of solidarity” with migrants and that her country will allow them to pass through on the way to the United States.

The Sad Ballad of Cuban Emigration / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Cubans return to Costa Rican soil after Nicaraguan police and soldiers prevented them from continuing their journey to the US. (La Nación)
Cubans return to Costa Rican soil after Nicaraguan police and soldiers prevented them from continuing their journey to the US. (La Nación)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 21 November 2015 — Another stampede of Cubans. It happens from time to time. An editorial in Costa Rica’s La Nación offers a strong description of how the government of that country reacted: “First duty, to protect the victims.” The Costa Ricans gave them transit visas and, as they are stranded at the border, quickly built provisional shelters to feed and house them.

Bravo! This is what a civilized nation does. These are not animals. They are more than 1,700 people. They are not criminals, as a Nicaraguan Sandinista deputy unjustly labeled them. The criminals are the military and the police who are clubbing unarmed and peaceful immigrants. They are frightened individuals and families – children, pregnant women – almost all young, who are trying to reach the United States border by land, after traveling over a thousand miles from Ecuador. continue reading

Nor are they going to break the laws of the country they are heading to. In the United States a favorable law awaits them, enacted over 60 years ago in the midst of the Cold War. If they reach US territory they are granted a provisional parole and then allowed to regularize their status at the end of one year. They left Cuba legally and they will live legally in the United States. What sense does it make to stop them?

Not to mention that this measure that protects Cubans has a pedagogical utility. It serves to demonstrate that the best way to solve the problem of the undocumented is to arbitrate some formula that allows them to study, pay taxes, be productive and integrate themselves into the nation in which they are living. The notable success of Cubans in the United States is due, to a certain extent, to the fact that they can rebuild their lives quickly and fight to conquer the “American Dream.”

The same editorial, with anger and astonishment, reproaches the Cuban authorities who do not protect their own citizens. If 1,700 Costa Ricans, Uruguayans, Chileans, Spaniards, or people from any normal country in which the state is at the service of the people, found themselves in the situation these Cubans find themselves in, the government in question would have tried to protect them, the president would have publicly expressed his solidarity, and the foreign minister would have allocated resources to help them.

Cuba is different. The dictatorship has spent 56 years humiliating and mistreating every person inclined to emigrate. Anyone who leaves is an enemy. While civilized nations have institutions dedicated to supporting emigrants, without asking them their reasons for exercising their right to settle where they can and where they please, on this unhappy island the government plunders them, insults them and treats them as traitors.

So it has been since 1959, when at the airport adults were stripped of all the valuables they carried, including engagement rings, right up until today, when the Cuban government asks that of Nicaragua to use a heavy hand to stop the flow of Cubans. Nothing has changed.

The use of terror against emigrants reached a paroxysm in 1980, with the so-called “Mariel Boatlift”

The use of terror against emigrants reached a paroxysm in 1980, with the so-called “Mariel Boatlift,” named after the port from which they embarked. The political police organized thousands of “acts of repudiation” to punish those who desired to leave. They shouted insults and beat them. In a couple of cases, it rose to killing them. An English teacher died this way. His students, spurred on by the adults of the Communist Party, murdered him by kicking him in the head.

At that time I lived in Spain and gave work to a Cuban cameraman, originally from the Canary Islands, who survived these outrages. He had arrived in Madrid emotionally devastated. When he said he was leaving the country, his fellow workers hung a sign around his neck that said “I am a traitor,” threw him to the floor and made him walk on his knees between two rows of people who jeered and spat on him.

The Mariel Boatlift exodus (afterwards there were others) resulted in 130,000 new exiles, among whom there was a remarkable group of homosexuals forced to emigrate, many valuable artists (like the excellent writer Reinaldo Arenas), mixed in with crazy people, criminals and murderers taken from prison to contaminate the group and “prove” that only undesirable people did not want to live in the communist paradise. For this homophobic government a murderer and a homosexual were the same thing.

Apart from the human tragedy in the journey of those emigrants now protected by the Costa Ricans, what is happening in Central America makes us understand why this dictatorship, despite its attempt to show a reformist face, continues to believe that Cubans are slaves without rights or dignity. Pure escoria – scum – as they often call those who, despite everything, are willing to make any sacrifice not to live in that outrageous madhouse. Nothing substantial has changed.

The Culprit Has The Solution / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Hundreds of Cubans are still stranded at the border of Costa Rica while Nicaragua denies them entry to move north. (EFE / Alvaro Sanchez)
Hundreds of Cubans are still stranded at the border of Costa Rica while Nicaragua denies them entry to move north. (EFE / Alvaro Sanchez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 21 November 2015 – “Anyone who has $15,000 to give a human trafficker is not fleeing poverty,” were the words of Oliver Zamaro, an official spokesperson on Cuban television who was commenting this Friday on the situation of the more than 2,000 Cubans stranded at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

After days of silence on the situation, the partisan media wants to use the drama of these compatriots as a weapon against the White House. An overused strategy that barely has any effect at this point. Now, they want to convince us that the massive exits are not the responsibility of the country being left behind, but rather of the other one those leaving are trying to reach. continue reading

Suffice it to mention the thousands of Cubans who escape to other nations where there is no “wet foot, dry foot” law, to realize that the responsibility for the exodus that we have been experiencing for more than half a century rests on a system that has not been able to offer its citizens material prosperity, personal fulfillment or freedom… Much less a future.

Why, if they can get $15,000, do they prefer to invest it in a dangerous escape with no certainty of getting to the other side, instead of creating a business or prospering in their own country? The answer is painful and compelling: because there are no guarantees, no hope

Mr. Zamora apparently ignores that the amount of money mentioned, equivalent to more than 60 years of the salary of a professional earning 500 Cuban pesos a month, comes from a desperate action, or from help sent from abroad. The majority of those who are currently in Central American shelters have sold all their belongings to undertake such a dangerous route, or depended on relatives who have emigrated to finance the payment to the human traffickers.

The question would be why, if they can get $15,000, do they prefer to invest it in a dangerous escape with no certainty of getting to the other side, instead of creating a business or prospering in their own country. The answer is painful and compelling: because there are no guarantees, no hope and because the timeframe of their lives cannot wait for the promises of improvements on the horizon: promises that every time we come close to touching them become more distant.

The problem unleashed is growing, because Nicaragua’s closing of the border to Cubans is not deterring those left on the island from trying to leave. The flights to Ecuador continue to carry Cubans who, instead of feeling discouraged by the increasing difficulties, believe that the visibility of their cause might protect them and create pressure for a corridor that guarantees passage to the north.

It seems to be a repeat of the effect that moved 10,000 people to occupy the Peruvian embassy in Havana in 1980, and shortly after led more than 100,000 to leave from the Port of Mariel, the same migratory fever that led 35,000 Cubans to figure in the Rafter Crisis in 1994. A nation in flight, one whose children cyclically find a route to leave behind the land where they were born.

It is noteworthy that this situation is happening when Raul Castro’s reforms seem to have peaked and proved their ineffectiveness in bringing about results that can be seen in daily life

It is noteworthy that this situation is happening when Raul Castro’s reforms seem to have peaked and proved their ineffectiveness in bringing about results that can be seen in daily life. Not even the reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the United States has managed to appease the widespread disappointment and despair among Cuba’s youngest.

The undeclared but latent threat, that the Cuban Adjustment Act will be repealed, has only hastened each individual’s decision to abandon their country, but this is neither the trigger nor the cause for deciding to risk one’s own life and those of small children on a journey filled with danger.

A brief statement by Raul Castro in front of the cameras on national television, where he would say what millions of Cubans have waited decades to hear, would be enough to stop the flow of migrants and even to start to reverse it. Not offering this final speech, of the autocracy that will give way to another government, makes him guilty of everything that is happening.