Hidden Agenda Behind the Attack on Cuba’s Private Restaurants / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 24 October 2015 — Some news outlets echoed the words of the Vice President in charge of the Council of Provincial Administration for Havana, Isabel Hamze, when she exposed the Havana Government’s reasons for temporarily suspending the issue of new licenses for paladares — private restaurants — and revising those that already exist. Look, this campaign isn’t a matter — like so many have repeated — of a war against the self-employed, the Cuban private initiative, the restaurants or the late-night bars. It’s much more: a field battle, subtle and personal, against some private entrepreneurs who brushed up against power.

It’s true. The municipal governments of Havana affirmed that they had several meetings with 135 owners of Havana paladares and conversed with them, implying a threat, about particular negative tendencies that have appeared in some private restaurants. But yes, according to official figures, in Havana there are more than 500 paladares and 3,000 cafes. So why didn’t they all attend these meetings? continue reading

At the beginning of this month, Cuban authorities ordered some private nightclubs to close, citing allegations of violations of the closing hour (3:00 am), not having parking, hiring artists without going through agencies, permitting the consumption and trafficking of drugs, accepting the practices of prostitution and pimping in the establishments, not respecting Customs regulations in the importation of goods for commercial use, acquiring and smuggling goods, money laundering and investing capital of doubtful origin, not abiding by contractual relationships as established in Law 116 or the Work Code, violating city regulations and evading taxes.

Doing so would be understandable. But they didn’t close Bolahabana or the Ashé Bar, the Shangri Lá and others, where incidents had been reported with some members of the Castro elite. Thus, the measure is simply a demonstration of power.

You remember that in August of last year, Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, the bodyguard-in-chief (and Raul Castro’s grandson), now with a higher rank, because of a “skirt” problem, insisted on expelling from Cuba, with an indefinite sanction against entering the national territory, the Spanish businessman, Esteban Navarro Carvajal Hernández, owner of the Shangri Lá bar and the Up&Down bar-restaurant.

These particular restaurants are the most visible part of the economic reforms promoted by General Raúl Castro. No one in his right mind can believe that a “Vice President in accordance with a Council of Provincial Administration,” a Cuban official of the fourth category, sweaty, poorly coiffed and with an excellent aptitude for being a police officer, is the person in charge of informing the media that the Cuban Government is deciding to take a step backwards from such a trumpeted opening of the new economic model.

So, why did they do it this way?

The present socio-political situation and the historic advertising caused a considerable increase in the number of travelers that come to the island today. The images of the destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew, although at a too-high price, helped the government monopolize the friendly view of the international community.

The moment is favorable for General Raúl Castro, but politically it’s not sensible to go back to landlord methods.

The day after tomorrow, in the next session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the presentation of the Cuba Report entitled, “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba,” will resume the robbery of owners.

The Cuban government hopes that the majority of the countries’ representatives present will disagree with maintaining a law that they consider a violation of international rights. This is the same government that today hinders, harasses and blockades, without the least respect and in its own backyard, not useful enemies, but a group of entrepreneurs who have bet on private initiative and social improvement.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Furry’s Offspring Set Up Camp in the US / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 20 OCtober 2016 — Yet another son of Army Corps General and former Interior Minister Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, alias “Furry,” arrived in southern Florida and decided to say. Nothing unusual in that, if we think back.

Nineteen-year-old Antonio Colomé Hidalgo, son of Furry and Iraida, left Cuba on a flight from Santa Clara province and landed at Miami International Airport at about noon on Friday, October 14.

Antonio was not travelling alone. His final destination was Georgetown, a city in Scott County, Kentucky, where he planned to attend the annual Festival of the Horse, which was being held from October 21 to 23. But upon his arrival in Miami, the purpose of his visit took an unexpected turn: Tony decided to stay and then moved in with some relatives living in Naples, Florida. continue reading

The response from the family has been silence. But the “sudden” decision to settle in the United States does appear not to have been spontaneous. Quite the contrary. It was planned down to the smallest detail.

Citing health problems, General Colomé, resigned as member of the Council of Ministers and from his post as Minister of the Interior on October 21, 2015. His resignation was accepted and, “in recognition of his long revolutionary service, the Council of State agreed to bestow on him the Order for Service to the Fatherland in the First Degree.”

The impression left by an article on the website Cubadebate, the same publication known for ignoring and covering up, is that General Colomé was forced to resign because — along with his successor, Carlos Fernandez Gondín, and other high-ranking officials — he was deeply involved in systemic corruption, diversion of state resources, money laundering and leaking information. A widespread rumor is that, although efforts were made to conceal it, he quickly went from being the accuser to being the accused.

Antonio’s arrival now brings to three the number of Furry’s children who have moved to the United States. I am also told that one of his daughters, Gabriela, is — as the song by Cuban singer and and musician Wilfredo “Willy” Chirino goes — on route and will be arriving soon. It’s only to be expected, given all that has happened.

Eusebio Leal Strikes Back Against the "Storm" / Juan Juan Almeida

City of Havana Historian Eusebio Leal Spengler

Juan Juan Almeida, 19 October 2016 — As in the Greek epic, Eusebio Leal, the Captain of a small stronghold of Cuban historians, confronted Brigade General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas and the Business Administration Group of the Armed Forces (FAR) with lively and poetic oratory. We know that FAR has taken possession of Habaguanex and several business institutions linked to the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana.

This past October 11, from the central patio of the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, during an exhibit that began at 8:30 in the morning and lasted a little more than one hour, Doctor Leal Spengler inspired confidence in his troops, using phrases like: “The Office of the Historian is today stronger than ever”; “We’re facing the storm without any type of fear”; and, “Be calm and serene, let nothing perturb you; I am here.” continue reading

Self-taught and with more awards (national and international) than any other Cuban, Eusebio Leal met with the technicians and directors of the different museums, because – according to his explanation – “Of all the groups with whom I work, the one that shares my goals the most is the one dedicated to museums, the collections, and to that exercise of searching which becomes a necessity for each one of us.”

With vague insinuations of mutiny and not calling for obedience, Leal, a member of the National Assembly’s Commission on International Relations, the Committee for the Eradication of Poverty of the United Nations, the National Geographic Society, the Madrid Royal Academy of History and the Latin American Council for Human Rights encouraged his troops publicly to not allow anyone to intervene and put their hands even on one piece of the museum without being properly prepared, and to not accept “improvised directors although they have a wonderful curriculum of having done other things in life.”

“The inventory” — he harangued them — “to mention only the subject of furniture, needs the knowledge of an antiquarian who has studied the different styles, epochs and models. It’s not just a matter of a table with four legs.” And thus, dressed in his usual grey safari outfit that he wears like a uniform, visibly recovered from the illness that afflicted him and vaunting his oral skills, he answered with irony-charged words the discredited oration, “During the process of transfer, the important thing is the inventory,” that the General-Intervenor Leonardo Ramón Andollo Valdés gives in every meeting with imperial enthusiasm.

“I’m an attorney, and I know what corresponds to me,” he said solemnly, remembering, in an emotional moment, the sentence that the illustrious Cuban patriot and composer of our national anthem, don Pedro Figueredo, pronounced on that fateful afternoon of August in 1870, facing the military tribunal that condemned him to death by firing squad.

“To those like me who admire Leal’s work and the Office of the Historian, we are sad knowing that the final chapter in the struggle to govern Old Havana looks like it won’t go any further,” said a known worker who, having been present at such a restricted meeting, requested anonymity.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Raul Castro in Santiago de Cuba Because of Matthew? / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 6 October 2016 — Santiago de Cuba is, as Cuba’s ruling class puts it, a big headache. Disasters and conflicts are music to the ears of politicians. And a very destructive Hurricane Matthew presented Raul Castro with an excellent opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: He could correct an old mistake while reducing the visibility of a man who has earned many people’s respect.

On the morning of October 25, 2012, Hurricane Sandy passed over the eastern edge of the island. In its wake, the Category 2 storm caused extensive property damage, injured more than a hundred people and resulted in eleven fatalities. People there were terrified but felt abandoned because the nation’s president did not bother to make an appearance in the region. And this oversight brought on a whirlwind of jokes and criticisms. continue reading

Though compelling, the stated reason for the General’s recent visit was less than convincing. No sooner had the hurricane alarm been sounded in the east than the ringleader-in-chief appeared alongside a presidential lackey, doing everything possible to attract attention, both before and during his tour of Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba provinces.

We all saw a Raul Castro concerned for people’s welfare and reviewing Civil Defense preparations. But then he disappeared. We do not know if he flew back to Havana or rode out the meteorological event in the underground shelter of his home at the end of the Manduley Avenue in Santiago’s Vista Alegre district.

But there is another equally plausible reason for the General’s visit to the region and his name is Lazaro Exposito. The first secretary of the Communist Party in Santiago de Cuba is a man of the people who uses his position to do good. Though still a communist and considered by some to be an opportunist who is not truly committed to reform, his leadership is widely considered to be a success among the locals.

You might recall that in September 2008, when Hurricane Ike was lashing Granma province with winds approaching 100 miles an hour, Lazaro both guided and supported a population in panic. He catapulted to political stardom on national radio (TV had gone off the air) by contradicting then president Fidel Castro by saying, “Commandante, you are in Havana but I am in Bayamo and here the people are afraid.”

This small comment led to his being transferred to Santiago, a city that — due to its heroic, rebellious and hospitable nature — is practically ungovernable by anyone who is not a convivial, party-going native son. But Exposito was able to pull it off. And he would not allow a cyclone to be used to his advantage.

That is why Raul went to Santiago. Because, though he is very close to retirement, Matthew was going to be his hurricane. And to achieve this, he could not leave any loose ends untied.

Negligence and Violations Opened the Door to Zika in Holguin / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almedia, 8 September 2016 — A commission put together by senior management from the Ministries of the Interior and of Public Health in Cuba has released a report that enters into evidence the origin of the entrance of the Zika virus into Holguín Province.

“Soldiers and Doctors,” a paraphrase of the title of the book by Carlos Loveira, matches a chain of avoidable oversights and violations, committed in the service area of airport security.

“There are videos from the airport cameras showing the guys who, instead of paying attention to the temperature scanner, left to carry luggage in order to get tips from the passengers on international flights.” An officer tells me this unabashedly, and, on cue, he prefers to remain anonymous. continue reading

“By doing this,” he continues, “they neglected epidemiological vigilance and Zika came into the province of Holguín. But, apparently, they already took the measures required by the authorities of the Frank País International Airport, and they expelled those implicated, who are at the disposition of the competent body, because their failure to perform their duties facilitated the propagation of this illness in the province.”

My interlocutor says, “The miserable salary that the customs agents receive and the lack of incentives for those in charge of looking after border security was what really provoked the failure or negligence in airport protocol, permitting someone infected to come into the Holguín region, and the later development of new ’autonomous’ cases that, as you know, are residents in the city of Holguín who have never traveled abroad.”

A doctor in the province with authority on the subject added, “Now what is most worrisome is controlling the vector, meaning the mosquito, Aedes Aegypti. Although they are taking precautions to identify the possible existence of new cases and are studying the viability of taking samples from animals and/or humans in order to develop vaccines, in addition to coordinating health actions with various institutions and raising the consciousness of the population with vigilance and vector control, all these things seem to be insufficient, because we still have it here and we know that the mosquito is changing its usual behavior.”

This past February, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a world health emergency.

From La Voz del Morro, by Juan Juan Almeida.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

In the Midst of a Hurricane, Mariela Castro Remodels Her Mansion / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 3 October 2016 — At the same time that Hurricane Matthew is setting off alarms throughout the island, especially in the eastern part of the country, the wall of secrecy surrounding the Castro family is starting to crack, allowing us to see that the Cuban government is spending more money on remodeling Mariela Castro’s house than on relief aid to deal with the approaching storm.

The numbers speak for themselves. If nothing else, Hurricane Matthew has exposed the sins of Raúl Castro’s family. Satellite images, which do not lie, reveal that from 2013 to the present the government has invested more than double the money at triple the quality on remodelling Princess Mariela’s house — located at 1513 206th Street (between 15th and 17th) in Havana’s Atabey district — than on preparations for the area that, as of Saturday, remains under a hurricane warning. continue reading

On October 1 General Raúl Castro appeared in Santiago de Cuba flanked by the ministers of Transport, Energy and Mines, Construction, Communication, Agriculture and Domestic Commerce. The group also included the president of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources, the first deputy minister of Public Health and the deputy minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, General Ramón Espinosa Martín.

The presidential party arrived in eastern Cuba with a shipment of aid that included fiber cement construction panels, zinc, steel and wood panels, asphalt roofing materials, electrical generators, food and water.

The entourage also inspected the preparations by the General Staff for Civil Defense for food distribution, stockpiling of agricultural products and the evacuation of those living in low-lying areas to higher ground.

The resources are insufficient, I believe, because turning the official residence of General Castro’s daughter, who is also director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education, into a bunker required diverting resources and state assets to invest in construction materials for an expanded housing complex which now includes a perimeter stone wall, lined on its inside face with Jaimanita limestone, and a new security system.

The remodeling project involved replacing the property’s original pool, previously located behind the house, with a new rectangular imported one, now located along the side of the house. An “old shack” was demolished and replaced with a new structure which features precious woods from the Guanahacabibes peninsula, one of Cuba’s principle nature preserves. As though that were not enough, designers and construction workers were used to build and furnish an adjacent bungalow-style guest house. The entire project — including labor, transportation and refreshments for the construction crews — was coordinated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces.

The Hurricane Matthew alert confirms just how much disdain the classless ruling class has for the Cuban people. If General Raúl Castro really wants to stamp out corruption by the root, he should start by cleaning up his own house.

American Patients Could Receive Medical Treatment in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 23 September 2016 — With some urgency the Cuban government has decided to pretty up the most important medical facilities in Holguin province. According to sources — it’s no secret but it has not yet been reported by the official media — there will be a visit on Friday September 30 by a US official. The purpose of the trip is to inspect clinics and hospitals where presumably Americans will be allowed to seek medical treatment on the island.

A significant source of Cuba’s foreign exchange earnings comes from leasing its professionals to various healthcare programs overseas. Nevertheless, reaching an agreement with the Americans would go a long way to offsetting the reported economic losses from agreements with Venezuela and Brazil. continue reading

The idea is to redirect Cuban medical cooperation to other countries while increasing healthcare services to foreigners on the island. To achieve this, the minister of Finance and Pricing, Lina O. Pedraza Rodriguez, signed Resolution 145/2016 on April 5. It allows doctors to collect 5% of the fees charged by Servicios Médicos Cubanos S.A. (Cuban Medical Services, Inc.) to foreign tourists.

The facilities to be inspected are Villa Quinqué, Villa Cocal and the rooms reserved for foreigners at Vladimir Lenin University Hospital and Lucía Iñiquez Landín Surgical Clinic.

“The department heads of the various health care centers have been instructed to make sure nurses and auxiliary personnel remain vigilant during the visit, even about things like dust on the windows, in case the visitor swipes a finger to check the hygiene,” says one of cleaning staff at Lenin Hospital.

After the visit, the hope is — at least on the Cuban side — that a bilateral accord on medical collaboration between the two countries will be signed.

“We are hoping… the US consul will come here to this center and to Villa Cocal and will also visit the health tourism wards of Lenin and Lucial Iñiguez hospitals with an eye towards reaching an agreement to treat American patients at our facilities,” claims an employee at Villa Quinqué, a center that treats foreign patients with addictions.

For several years some Cuban patients have been sent by the Ministry of Public Health to hospitals in the United States as part of various “interconsultation” agreements. A few months ago I met one of them, a gentleman who travelled to Miami with his wife for eye surgery at the presitgious Bascom Palmer Eye Clinic.

More Cuban Doctors Going to Venezuela and They Are Eating Iguanas / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 19 September 2016 — Contrary to all expectations as well as to prior agreements, the Cuban government will temporarily double the number of its health personnel in Venezuela. The sudden decision, an emergency response, is an effort to halt widespread discontent among the Venezuelan people and to garner the gratitude of the rising number of impoverished sectors within the country by sending in an army of white lab coats to augment the social program Barrio Adentro (Into the Neighborhood), one of the Venezuelan ruling party’s flagship projects. continue reading

This very humanitarian social program, whose focus is helping those most in need, began as a wonderful local initiative with citizen involvement and grassroots leadership. It has importance today, having evolved into a political tool for rescuing the Venezuelan government.

A few days ago a meeting took place in Havana at the headquarters of Chief Medical Cooperation Unit (UCCM), the group which oversees compliance with the Cuban government’s international medical cooperation commitments. The goal was to plan and implement a government new strategy. It was one of a string of grueling meetings held behind closed doors and chaired by Roberto González (Marin), head of Cuba’s medical mission in Venezuela. Government representatives of both nations also attended.

According to the latest agreement, Cuban health care workers will fly to Venezuela in small groups from Monday, August 19 through August 30. After landing, their task will be to carry out a “strategic mission” in areas identified in the signed document and designated on a map as “high priority.” These areas are the states of Miranda, Yaracuy, Aragua, Capital District, Carabobo, Barinas and Apure.

“Fewer people are leaving for Venezuela every week. These days we are only sending replacement personnel. Caracas pays daily for this service and other Cuban exports at fixed price in hard currency based on the price of a barrel of oil at the time the agreement was signed. But now there is a big difference between that price and the current price of oil. In other words, the workforce has been reduced considerably. This big new group of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers is only temporary. It’s there to support Maduro. It’s not part of the agreement. It’s what we call solidarity aid. These people must return to Cuba as soon as the crisis ends,” explains a Havana official from the Ministry of Health.

“Look, this could just be a convenient political move during a time of confusion. But I doubt it will work. What’s the point of sending more colleagues from our CDIs (Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers) when the equipment there is dilapidated and there is a shortage of drugs?” asks a Cuban healthcare worker who has been on a medical mission to a rural area.

“What Venezuela needs right now,” he adds, “is food. My CDI colleagues have to hunt iguanas in order to survive. You only have to look at our Facebook profiles to see. And it is not because we are hunters. It’s because the grocery stores where Cubans shop only have rice, nothing else from the main course.

As the number of Cuban physicians in Venezuela increases, their diets are being supplemented with iguana meat, which they hunt.

Internet in Cuban Homes? More Heat Than Light / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 26 September 2016 — Although the Cuban press confirms and reiterates that the country will expand access to the internet as a public service, an untimely meeting — they call it a broad council — held on the 6th of this month, attended by the vice-ministers of the central organs of the state, put an unexpected brake on the process of computerizing Cuban society.

As a part of a strategy that pursues gimmicks rather than effectiveness, the Cuban government emphasizes that it is investing invaluable resources and unlimited efforts to bring the internet to more Cuban citizens. But an email sent by the engineer Jorge Luis Legrá, director of ETECSA (the state-run telecommunications company) Strategic Programs, addressed to Mr. Alfredo Rodriguez Diaz, a specialist in artificial intelligence and national director of Informatics and Communications of the Ministry of Public Health in Cuba, shows the opposite. continue reading

Official media say that in the project of computerizing society, the priority of the country is to extend connectivity to residential areas, and that the number of users in the Health and Education sectors with access to the internet in their homes will significantly expand.

The will may exist, although in reality I doubt it, because in this electronic missive that with ingenuity and great effort landed in my laptop, one can clearly read that at the important meeting held at the beginning of the month, where the majority of Cuban vice-ministers attended, Wilfredo Gonzalez Vidal, Vice-Minister of Communications of Cuba, reported that his entity will continue working on broadening access to the internet in navigation rooms, in the incorporation of new public sites for wifi service, in the joint development of a telecommunications law that suits the new technologies and puts an end to the current regulations and legal framework.

He also said that work was underway on internet access through cellphones and in the expansion of connectivity to national entities such as MINSAP, MININT, MINFAR, MINJUS, MES, MINED, MINCULT, MFP, MINTUR, MINAG, MITRANS, ICRT, MINREX, etc.  But he also made clear that as of this last July, an “all-powerful” decision red-lighted the much publicized plan to install ADSL to bring internet to Cuban homes, including those of health and education professionals for whom it has already been authorized.

Faced with such inexactitud, I can’t fail to mention my illustrious grandmother and her wise sayings… “lots of heat, little light,” or even better, “You can catch a lie faster than you can catch a cold.”

Boat Used by Antonio Castro in Hemingway Tournament for Sale Online / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 7 September 2016 — JQQXWC44 is the sale code you type in on the website porlalivre.com to see the boat, model Sea Ray, used on Saturday, June 14, 2014 by the most prominent of Fidel Castro’s offspring, who won the 64th Ernest Hemingway International Marlin Fishing Tournament.

An irresistible lady’s man, baseball and soccer player, fisherman, golf enthusiast and food connoisseur, Antonio Castro Soto del Valle is a physician specializing in orthopedics. But the family’s historical throwback is far removed from the more than two-thousand-year-old legacy left us by the humble carpenter from Galilee. continue reading

Castro takes part in a “clinic” (an intensive class) led by the Spanish golfer Miguel Angel Jimenez in Havana.

Not only does anything having to do with this attractive, eccentric fifty-something with the valuable last name trend on social media, it goes viral, leading to a “revolutionary business deal” that generates countless dividends.

The Hemingway tournament had lost its luster until, almost by magic, Tony Castro’s presence in 2014 brought it back into media prominence. Several media outlets publicized and promoted the event and now his name is increasing the boat’s sale price.

The same thing happened in 2013 when Antonio won golf’s Montecristo Cup, which took place in Varadero. Based on this pattern or business trend, it is therefore likely that we will soon see items from his collection on the market, such as the Titleist golf putters, wedges and/or irons used by this Cuban prince in his golfing victory.

Reprehensible for sure. The Castros have spent more than fifty years isolated and inaccessible, promoting a bogus image of sacrifice, talking about social equality, global justice and world peace, using phrases like “I choose to cast my lot with the earth’s poor.” After all the hypocrisy, Dr. Antonio Castro Soto del Valle has decided to discard the old blueprint and turn his life into a big supermarket, one at which many people want to shop.

“That boat is almost always tied up alongside the Santy sushi restaurant in the Jaimanitas River. It has been there for many years,” says a young recruit at the neighboring coast guard station. “Tony often takes some of this friends out on it. They usually head to Puerto Esperanza.”

He ends the interview after seeing the website’s ad, noting, “We know they are selling it. But I really have no idea if the boat belongs to Santy, to the family that owns the restaurant or to Antonio Castro.”

Zika Reveals the True Character of the Cuban Health Service / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 18 August 2016 — While wards 3-A (they have also prepared 3-B) and 4-A, on the third and fourth floors of the  “Lucía Iñiguez Landín” Clinical Surgery Hospital in Holguín, notable for their absence of basic health care requisites, welcome Cuban patients with confirmed and suspected cases of Zika, Dengue Fever and Chunkunguya, ward 5F of the same hospital accommodates foreigners with similar symptoms, in very different conditions.

“The photos I sent you reveal that this is a health service focussed on showing a face which is acceptable to international opinion, and that the enormous difference between the service received by sick foreigners and Cubans has nothing to do with the everlasting claims of lack of resources due to the blockade, but rather the indifference of the government, the state, and MINSAP (Public Health Ministry) toward the health of Cubans.” I have copied the exact words written to me by of one of the doctors working in that hospital.

“The laboratory tests, which are carried out on each patient who is admitted with suspected Zika, Dengue Fever or Chikunguya, are sent to the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK) in Havana, because,” he added, “it is the only place where there is the technology to confirm, or not, the existence of Zika. And this, along with the constant holdups in transport and institutional bureaucracy, means patients have to stay too long in hospital waiting for the results.”

“But the most bizarre part,” adds the doctor indignantly, “is that the unexpected increase in patient admissions, and the time they are there waiting for results, have generated a lot of extra work at Lucía Iñiguez in Holguín, especially cleaning, which is, inexplicably, being covered by female prisoners, who have, basically, been tried for prostitution, with the service contracted to the provincial office of the Ministry of the Interior Prison Directorate.”

Translated by GH

General Francis is Out of the Game and Raul’s Grandson Ascends / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 29 August 2016 — The most powerful of all the Cuban generals, Division General Humberto Omar Francis Pardo, was replaced in his job as Head of the General Direction of Personal Security (DGSP).

The position is now filled by Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, who is known by various nicknames, like “The Crab,” “Grandson-in-Chief,” Raulito” and even “The Arnol-mal,” this last one from his frenetic addiction to steroids and exercise.

Before creating the Commission of Defense and National Security, which Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín directs today, the Direction of Personal Security was the invisible apparatus with the most power on the island. Under this nomenclature, like the current “Commission,” ministries, institutions and all the MININT (Ministry of the Interior) divisions were subordinated. continue reading

“After a long period of stress, and multiple disagreements, Francis suffered a cerebral stroke. He was admitted to the hospital but now is at home,” said a family member of the dismissed General.

The DGSP, intended to protect the force of the myth, the fiscal and moral integrity of Fidel Castro and the rest of the so-called leaders of the first level, has succeeded in amassing more cash than some armies.

The DGSP’s empire 

The DSP relies on a section of the transport police in order to review the fastest road or route for moving the leader. It has a film group, with experts in the art of photography, where they touch up the images of the “untouchables.” Another section is dedicated to documentation and migration matters and also functions as a trip coordinator; an anti-attack brigade consists of snipers and experts in every type of explosive; and a medical department, in addition to having a clinic for everything, has a fixed allocation of doctors, nurses, radiologists, physical therapists, laboratory technicians and other health workers.

They have a division of technology and telephone, workshops, diving masters, gymnasiums, coordinators; a very effective counterintelligence service that, in coordination with other State agencies, looks for, manages and controls all the information of that brotherhood, the family circles and friendships; a department of international relations that coordinates with other secret services the visits to Cuba of people of interest and personalities (friends or not), whether they are presidents, governors, heads of State, members of Congress, religious leaders, etc.; a purchasing group in charge of pleasing even the most bizarre tastes; a department that checks the news that should or should not be released about the Cuban leaders; and a unit to contract service staff (maids) who later work in the houses of those chosen.

With this new appointment, Raúl Castro, in addition to putting his grandson in a key post, captures a vital space reserved uniquely to Fidel, to control even the most insignificant thing, like the ruling class’s privacy in their homes. This method can have a possible boomerang effect, because it also assures the rejection from a good part of a strategic force that, older and in the military, were always faithful to General Francis.

Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, taking care of his grandfather in Panama.

All the body guards of this prestigious group belong to the DSP. Their work consists of taking care of them, protecting them and satisfying them even in their most quirky desires, in addition to spying, recruiting and blackmailing, in order to maintain, at any price, the “moral purity” of the Cuban politicians. This convoy is in charge of avoiding any type of problem of the leader and his closest family. And when I say “any,” it’s any, from the most absurd up to the most complex, whether it’s financial, political or legal.

In Cuba, nobody can prosecute, criticize or punish a bigwig or family member, without the authorization of the DSP.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Renting Fidel Castro’s Yacht for 5,000 Dollars a Day / Juan Juan Almeida

Fidel Castro Ruz

Juan Juan Almeida, 24 August 2016 — Renting Fidel Castro’s yacht will be the new publicity backdrop that will be the next thing to enter the arena in order to convert the “Acuarama II,” as it is named, into an appetizing bait.

For some time, the auto rental business, Grancar, has been renting a couple of replicas of his legendary Russian limousine; unpublished photos of the ex-Comandante en Jefe are sold in various auctions as collection pieces, and now, exceeding all imagination and surpassing a whole flotilla of boats designed for the good life, the new boat bamboozle that the tourist group Gaviota will offer emerges: a sophisticated trip in the boat of the modest, humble and simple leader, Fidel.

With such purpose and in order to satisfy the most demanding of tastes, as General Raúl Castro puts it, “without haste but without pause,” using polyurethane of great consistency for protection and beautification, in its usual berth, the tidal basin of Caleta del Rosario, the hull was cleaned up and repaired (Code P-6, according to the nomenclature of NATO), along with the four diesel engines, model M-50 F-2, of 1200 horsepower. The rest of the reconstruction was done, with rigor and commercial conscience, from July 9, 2014 up to April 1, 2016. continue reading

Expert carpenters, specialists in boat furniture, worked without a break, while the ship was in drydock at a border guard unit of Barlovento Bay west of Havana. There, respecting the original design in its most minute detail, they changed the woodwork and applied an extra marine varnish of high strength to the new doors and the whole interior oak; they changed the nuts and bolts and the upholstery coverings. They also installed two new refrigerator housings and re-equipped the radio, navigation equipment and control room with the ultimate in advanced technology.

A new boat, a new life. At 89.63 feet (27.3 meters) in length, 4 heads, first-class cabins, air conditioning, televisions, a bar and satellite navigation, the rent comes to about $780/hour. However, a tiny discount will be given only to special clients. We are talking about up to $5,000 dollars for the first 8 hours. Whoever rents it can enjoy a romantic escapade, a family reunion, a party with friends, a dream of a fishing trip, a work reunion or a wedding celebration in a pretentious environment that for years was reserved exclusively for the ex-communist leader and his high-class guests.

As now few things amaze me, who knows if in the next few days the news surprises us that, as a new source of income, foreign tourists can visit Punto Cero and bring back as a souvenir a photo with the Comandante.

The truth is that, for now, while many people continue trapped in an absurd, aberrant and almost infinite cycle of anger, vengeance, violence and false patriotism, Fidel Castro continues to be the most profitable commercial trademark that the Cuban Revolution has.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Fidel Castro: Ignoring Him is the Best Punishment / Juan Juan Almeida

Venezuelan musicians dedicate the gala to Fidel Castro in Cuba for his 90th birthday.

Juan Juan Almeida, La Voz del Morro, August 15, 2006 — Humans eat meat; cattle feed on forage and in their own way find the nutrients in the soil populated by worms, which probably eat other bugs that I don’t know about; but I’m sure they occupy a major place on the food chain that today Fidel Castro signifies for the youth of the island.

It’s a shame that the incapacity and non-existence of leadership among the ranks of the Government, the dissidence and the opposition make many insist on eternalizing the shadow of a ghost that now doesn’t exist even in the Cuban imagination. continue reading

The national press gave him headlines that managed to surpass, amply, the sick local humor.

The journalistic indigestion was like this:

“Workers of the Coppelia ice-cream parlor congratulate Fidel.” An ice-cream parlor where they barely, without a fuss, offer only one flavor of ice cream, and the workers don’t earn much, even though they don’t work.

“Eternal santiaguero [originally from Santiago] born in Birán.”

A drooler with an absence of geography. Birán belongs to the province of Holguín.

“Fidel inspires confidence.”

Please, if anyone has been deceptive without being accountable for more than a half-century in Cuba, it’s Fidel.

“They recognize Fidel’s contributions to gender equality.”

Total disconnection. Fidel is the macho creator of the UMAP [forced labor camps for homosexuals], and he never in 50 years legislated anything on domestic abuse.

The opposition, for its part, also repeated itself with colossal nonsense, pounding on the social networks with the aged and incoherent slogan, “Down with the tyrant, Fidel,” and giving an injection of life to a dead subject.

It’s true that both proclamations, for and against, don’t let up, and with superfluous boldness, they delivered to the ex-comandante, by name, a flood of attention. The food of longevity.

There’s nothing better for Fidel than that, during his 90th birthday, ancient and out of power, and with his screws loose, his name would prevail among the first posts on the list of trending topics.

Shameful. None of his “enemies” manages to surpass the first of his challenges, to change their own way of thinking and stop competing with a fossil who, incredibly, at the age of 90, has exceeded everyone in his capacity of attraction, in the art of manipulation, political wisdom, egocentrism, strategy, charisma and absolute knowledge of his island’s geography.

I imagine that the detractors as well as the adulators don’t know that on the night of August 13, after having attended the gala offered in his honor at the Karl Marx theater, Fidel Castro returned home. They blew out the candles — he couldn’t blow them out for lack of lung capacity — and the invitees, sick of hearing the same stupidities about the Sierra Maestra, the coming end of the world and the plans of the past, left him alone, in his babble, on his only faithful companion, the beige armchair.

In his house, Fidel is less important than a filet mignon on the table of a vegan. Loneliness is his punishment. It would be better to not feed his ego so much, and to abandon the apparent incapacity some have to begin living without his presence.

Translated by Regina Anavy

It Shows a Lack of Respect to Distribute 200 Cars Among All Cuban Doctors / Juan Juan Almeida

The Vice Minister of Health, Marcía Cobas (on right), greets a group of Cuban doctors.

Juan Juan Almeida, February 1, 2016, Martí Noticias — The Ministry of Public Health claims it is giving an award but it is creating a total hornet’s nest. On tour throughout the country, Dr. Marcia Cobas, Vice Minister of Health and a member of the Central Committee of the Party, announces in every hospital she visits that she’s going to distribute computer laptops and 200 automobiles among the Cuban doctors.

I wonder how you divide 200 Chinese vehicles among all the Cuban professionals if — according to official figures — there is one nurse in Cuba for every 126 inhabitants, a doctor for every 159 residents, a dentist for every 1,066 neighbors and a uterine endoscopist for every 200 inhabitants. continue reading

The health authorities, inherent in a dictatorship with a sinister administration, aren’t recognizing the work of the doctors. They are awarding disloyalty and indifference to the common problems of a very sensitive profession.

A renowned professor, whose name I can’t mention except to say that he’s an active member of the Cuban Society of Psychiatry and a specialist in the study of human behavior, assures me that a governmental decision of this type is a dangerous exercise in control that causes spontaneous hatred and manifests in unusual racist insults, sexist judgments, classist complaints and accusations among the physicians who, in addition to being competitive, are totally abusive. The doctors are hopping mad, washing their dirty linen in public.

The measure, as is logical, far from lessening the discontent of the fraternity of doctors, increases the mistrust, intensifies the repressed hatred and generates a worrisome atmosphere of tension among the doctors who get ready to fight, wielding usury as a weapon, to be the winners of the prize.

“No one can conceive that using a stimulus of this type, it’s obvious, as an instrument of confrontation among colleagues, creates solidarity. We Cubans know very well, since we have suffered it for more than 56 years, that similar practices never gave positive results,” says the physician.

The plan includes, in addition, Cuba’s State phone company, ETECSA, giving landline telephones to all doctors and dentists. Now, across the length and breadth of the country, hospital directors began to complete the pertinent lists in order to execute the measure, but they are facing the growing discontent that is apparent among the rest of the health personnel: the technicians and nurses who have all been ignored and are in very bad moods.

“Although it seems exaggerated, we are up against a committed attack on the country’s economy which, in some way, also affects the national population in terms of health. Because, although we are making Cuban doctors compete, it also discourages creating a framework of negotiation that is very susceptible to blackmail,” concludes my friend. “You only have to read Pavlov and B.F. Skinner, well-known students of behavior, to understand that with this type of award there are negative effects that lower the moral positivity of the prize and the effect on work of not awarding a prize.”

Translated by Regina Anavy