Holguin: Cholera and Dengue Fever Patients Kept Out of Sight of Pope / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 31 August 2015 — For the Cuban Government, the level of job insecurity, the index of diseases (above all those provoked by the deterioration in the control of hygiene, epidemiology and health) is politically sensitive information that must be hidden or, at the very least, disguised.

For that reason, and because of the epidemiological situation that exists today on the island, all the institutions and organisms of the central administration of the State, the Party and the Government worked tirelessly to ensure that the visit of the Supreme Pontiff would be a success, and this included camouflaging that which couldn’t be exposed. Continue reading

What Does Raul Castro Have Planned for His Youngest Child? / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 12 October 2015 — Alejandro Castro’s role in the secret talks between Cuba and the United States was akin to that of Arnaldo Tamayo on the Soyuz 38 mission.

No crisis comes with prior warning. Just as the term “opposition leader” is used to describe people who are neither leaders nor have ever been in opposition, the government mythologizes events to find a place for slackers in the national consciousness. Following this useful tradition of political dishonesty, it seems the time has come to create a reformist profile for the most obtuse of the island’s traditionalists: Alejandro Castro Espin. Continue reading

Cuban Government Orders a Reduction in Purchases from the United States / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 7 September 2015 — The reduction in products imported from the United States could be explained as an unspoken attempt by the Cuban government to manipulate an important American commercial sector with the goal of derailing the embargo.

A government strategy? According to statistics published by the US-Cuban Economic and Commercial Council, commercial activity by state import conglomerate, ALIMPORT, has decreased. From 2009 until today, the Cuban government has significantly reduced its purchase of food, drugs and medical equipment from its neighbor to the north, which reached a high of 710,000 million dollars in 2008. Continue reading

The Fraud of Cuban Business Consultants / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 5 October 2015 — Why deceive US businessmen by assuring them they can come to Havana and, just like that, set up shop in Cuba?

The Cuban government is cautious and equates the word freedom with a certain brashness. For a foreign business to establish itself and do business in Cuba, it must fulfill requirements so complicated that most businessmen ultimately tire of the process or end up feeling cheated.

Any country that formally announces it is open to foreign investment knows it must face the challenge of improving its quality of education and legal infrastructure.

In contrast to what the revolutionary government proclaims, bureaucracy, corruption, poor teacher training, disorganization and certain practices such as fraud have become the norm and are reasons for the decline of the educational system. Continue reading

After the Presents… Then What? / Juan Juan Almeida

Raul Castro at the United Nations

Juan Juan Almeida, 28 September 2015 — Cynical, bitter and misanthropic, Raul is also a man who knows all too well how to sell himself.

The Cuban nation inhales the scent of a dangerous power vacuum and exhales a weird tension. More or less everyone on the island senses it: those on the top and those on the bottom. Some want it to happen sooner; some hope things stay as they are. Cuba, the state that until recently was the most authoritarian in the region, has begun emitting a disturbing sound, the result of a curious melding of dissident voices which had previously been silenced or sidelined. It represents the disenchantment of a country which now knows that its “brighter future” is not on the government’s agenda, that top leadership positions give birth to and nurture a desire for power within the rank and file, that an overwhelmingly elderly population — stifled by fear and apathy — is hampering productivity, that a constantly evasive youth — exhausted by lies and pressure — poses questions that have no answers. It was under these circumstances that Raul Castro arrived in New York. Continue reading

Cuban Homecomings: Raul Castro’s New Business / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida,14 September 2015 — Homecomings are a big business.

The same problems can often be seen in different cities, states and regions, but comparable solutions to those problems often yield very different results.

Convincing certain people to travel or return to Cuba — whether it be for family, vacation, work or out of sexual desire — is yet another obvious strategy by the government of Raul Castro. It amounts to a kind of de-marketing campaign intended, among other things, to capture people’s attention and enhance its image by using us to its advantage while downplaying the significance of exile. Continue reading

General Raul Castro’s Plastic Bag at the Papal Mass / Juan Juan Almeida

At the bottom right of the photo the general-president’s plastic bag can be seen.

Juan Juan Almeida, 22 September 015 — When, before a crowd gathered in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, Pope Francis celebrated the first of three Masses on his visit to Cuba, in the first row was the elegant Lorena Castillo de Varela, first lady of Panama, and next to her General Raul Castro, and on his other side the president of Argentina Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. And, in the row behind, between the legs of the famous bodyguard and grandson Raul Guillermo Rodriguez Castro, almost hidden in a corner, the inseparable representation of Cuban culture, la jaba — the plastic bag.

Perhaps no foreigner noticed this detail. Reasonable, for the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language defines la jaba as: a dark stain on the lumbar region with which some children are born; a box specially made for carrying bottles, china or other fragile objects; a kind of basket made of woven reeds or palm leaves; and/or a bag of cloth, plastic, etc. to be carried in the hand. Of course, the scholars cannot imagine that the word jaba, in Cuban, has a special dimension, almost solemn, representing much more than any of its forms. Continue reading

What Does Alejandro Castro Espin Do? / Juan Juan Almeida

1443639798_alejo

Juan Juan Almeida, 30 September 2015 — Alejandro Castro Espín’s intrusion into Cuba’s political scene has led to a whirlwind of Homeric fantasies in which his biography emerges as a genuine epic poem. This is quite normal; it is how myths are created. But be careful. To either demonize or idealize someone is to make the same mistake: It mythologizes a figure who will later end up embarrassing us.

Alejandro is not, nor will he be, the person who succeeds his father. There is a popular joke that goes like this: Eight out of ten Cubans complain about the government; the two who do not are Raul Castro’s grandson-bodyguard, Raul Guillermo, and his son-advisor, Alejandro.

Popular wisdom. Vilma and Raul’s son was born on July 29, 1965. I do not want to rehash the past — there has already been a ton written on the subject — but it is worth recalling that he began his university education at IPSJAE (José Antonio Echevarría Polytechnic University), only to abandon his studies in refrigeration engineering barely two years later to focus on a less demanding and more promising military career. Perhaps this earned more gold seals for his resume than the appellation on a bottle of cheap wine. Continue reading

A New Treaty Between Cuba and the U.S. for the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 3 August 2015 — In redundant speeches, more rhetorical than combative, the Cuban Government has requested — among other things — the return of the territory where the Guantánamo Naval Base is located.

But given present circumstances, since Washington and Havana have decided to stop being best enemies to become respectful neighbors, it’s worth asking if the U.S., by delivering that territory, would lose control of the zone and its regional influence.

History tells us the Naval Base was established in 1898, when the military occupation of the U.S. on the Island took place, after defeating Spain in what many of us know as the Hispano-Cuban-American War. Continue reading

Million-dollar Robbery at the Cienfuegos Refinery / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 24 August 2015 — More than 500 barrels of fuel disappear daily from the terminals or storage tanks of the Camilo Cienfuegos refinery, located in the province of Cienfuegos on the south-central part of the island.

The theft, in addition to being really ingenious, has an organization that shows even seasonal patterns, revealing that there are fewer robberies in summer than in winter.

The Cienfuegos industrial enclave, after being shut down in 1995 and later materializing in the ALBA accords, with a remodeling and modernization project that cost over $83 million, reopened its doors in October 2007, as part of a large, mixed binational business between Cuba and Venezuela. However, with a processing capacity of over 8,000 barrels a day, the thefts are crippling and, let’s say it, frightening. Continue reading

Raul Castro’s Grandson Expels a Spanish Businessman from Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Raul Castro with his grandson, Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro

Juan Juan Almeida, 18 August 2015 — Esteban Navarro Carvajal Hernández is a serious, respectable Spanish entrepreneur, who has done business in Cuba for twenty years. He has a trading firm, legally registered with the Chamber of Commerce, and a Cuban family. He lives on 30th Street, between 5th & 7th Avenues, in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana, next door to the Canadian Embassy.

As a good businessman, clever and calculating, he seized the moment and the new opportunities presented. Convinced also that the revolutionary government needs infusions of capital from private enterprises, he expanded his business beyond his commercial ties to several enterprises on the island, and associated separately with three Cuban citizens to create the following companies:

1. Up & Down, the bar-restaurant at the corner of 5th Street and Avenue B, Vedado, Havana, open daily from 3:00 pm to 3:00 am

2. Shangri-La, the tapas bar, party room, and nightclub located on 21st between 40th and 42nd, Playa, Havana

3. El Shangri Lá, in the province of Las Tunas.

And so, like foam, the gentleman entrepreneur grew. During that boom, without realizing he was walking down a dark and slippery path, he met the grandson of Gen. Raul Castro, Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, who became a nightly regular at Shangri-La. Continue reading

Alarming And Strange Increase In Illness Among Cuban Colleagues In Venezuela / Juan Juan Almeida

“Outbreaks of illness increase and official silence persists.” (YA!@Ya_Venezuela)

Juan Juan Almeida, 11 August 2015 — The suspicious increase in certain inopportune illnesses is now the most sensitive factor for the normal development of the Cuban medical mission in Venezuela.

During the present year, and especially in these last weeks, an alarming and strange increase has been reported in the number of Cubans who get sick while fulfilling their “internationalist” service.

Undisclosed official data reveal that up to week 28 of 2015, there have been 514 cases of Cubans affected by respiratory infections, mainly caused by outbreaks of H3N2 influenza, Rinovirus, Parainfluenza and Metapneumovirus. The states with the highest rate of those affected are the Distrito Capital, Barinas, Monagas, Falcón, Sucre, Nueva Esparta, Mérida, Trujillo, Vargas, Carabobo, Bolívar, Yaracuy, Amazonas, Cojedes and Lara. Continue reading

Cuba’s Illegal Manipulation / Regina Anavy

Cuban Institute of Radio and Television

Juan Juan Almeida, 13 August 2015 — The Cuban media today will even use illegal techniques (indoctrination through subliminal means) in order to manipulate the population and oblige it to associate Fidel’s birthday with the opening of the U.S. Embassy.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Cuban Doctors are Sent to Brazil Without a Stopover in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 25 May 2015 — To ease the growing popular discontent, soften Petrobras’ recent and resounding scandal and regain credibility, President Dilma Rousseff, taking into account that “improving health” was the principal demand during the June 2013 demonstrations, wants to repeat history. She has asked the Cuban authorities to increase the number of physicians in order to help strengthen the “More Doctors” program and calm the majority who, as always, are the most needy.

According to official figures, up to April 2015, the health project “More Doctors” counted 18,247 professionals in more than 4,000 municipalities. And I celebrate this: healthcare should be the right of everyone without exclusion; it’s a pity that commercialization puts at risk the lives of those who can’t pay for lack of resources. It’s difficult not to consider the Brazilian request, which, although clearly without half-measures, conveys a clear Party intent, requiring the Cuban Government to send only experienced doctors. But the Cuban rulers, using and abusing an effective disloyalty, without consulting the Bolivians, respond without delay to the chords of this samba, even affecting the long-term commitments they have with the Venezuelan health programs. Continue reading

Cuba’s Automotive Heritage Has Been Virtually Plundered / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 11 May 2015 — With the relaxation of relations between the United States and Cuba, speculation has been unleashed and is causing mischief. Some experts guarantee that several U.S. companies are ready to buy the famous “almendrones”* on the island. It could be the arrangement is real; there is always some nostalgic person whose passion, need or disinformation makes him confuse reality with desire or imagination.

Absolutely out of focus, Cuba’s automotive heritage has been virtually plundered. Most of what remains – Cadillacs, Chevys, Studebakers, Pontiacs, Thunderbirds and Buicks – which still circulate on the island, had their engines replaced to be used as collective taxis (“boteros”), and upon losing originality, they also lost their exceptionalism. Continue reading