The Treatment Of ‘White Coats’

Cuban doctors participating in the program of the Brazilian government ‘More Doctors’

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 11 April 2017 – The treatment of blacks and the market in slaves brought from Africa developed by the European colonists has clearly been established as a crime against humanity before all contemporary civilized beings without the slightest doubt. It was a practice that “sold” human beings as if they were merchandise to serve as mere instruments of production, especially in the sugar, coffee and cotton plantations of the New World.

In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries human trafficking acquired other connotations that made the United Nations address the issue as an international crime because it has continued — albeit in ways different from that slavery, but essentially with the same connotation — to subject people to the exploitation of prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery and practices similar to slavery, servitude and the removal of organs. The victims have been mainly women and children. continue reading

The Cuban Government captures, transports, and transfers Cuban doctors and paramedics using the abuse of power it has over its citizens and especially the situation of economic vulnerability of those workers

Right now, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, United Nations Special Rapporteur on human trafficking is visiting Cuba. In order for the distinguished visitor to know an issue that she should investigate in Cuba, I present the case of the “white coats,” which in one way or another many in Cuba have denounced for years.

In this regard, it is necessary to refer to the UN definition of human trafficking.

The UN Protocol Against Human Trafficking refers to it as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

After reading this definition, does anyone have any doubts that the operations of the Cuban Government in sending Cuban doctors and paramedics to different countries of the world to “fulfill internationalist missions” constitutes real trafficking in persons for the purpose of exploitation?

The Cuban Government captures, transports, and transfers Cuban doctors and paramedics using the abuse of power it has over its citizens and especially the situation of economic vulnerability of those workers.

They are given certain small benefits, in a situation where the low level of wages established by the Government itself for its employees, allows it to obtain the consent of these employees to be exploited. At the same time, it appropriates between 70% and 90% of the wages paid by the governments of other countries, or by health institutions of the World Health Organization (WHO) itself, for the services of these professionals.

Medicine is one of the fields of those in which the Cuban state forbids self-employment, which is another factor in the pressure to force professionals to “accept” internationalist missions. If self-employment were allowed their incomes would increase and they would not have to be forced to “serve on a mission.”

These professionals are prevented from taking their families with them, but rather are forced to leave their children and spouses as hostages that force them to return to the country, for which they are also victims of extra-economic coercion

In addition, these professionals are prevented from taking their families with them, but rather are forced to leave their children and spouses as hostages that force them to return to the country, for which they are also victims of extra-economic coercion. The deception has also been used to obtain the recruitment of Cuban doctors for these purposes, since they have been offered perks that were never satisfied, such as the chance to buy a car.

To give an idea of ​​the magnitude of this program of the Cuban government, according to its own Minister of Public Health, Roberto Morales, Cuba has about 50,000 professionals working in more than 66 countries. According to Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, the government receives about eight billion dollars a year for this slave labor. It is the largest sum of foreign currency entering the country, only comparable to that which comes from Cuban-Americans abroad, who send remittances to their families on the island, along with food, medicines, clothes and appliances, along with travel expenses for themselves and their families.

These elements are sufficient to accuse the Cuban Government of operating a huge international system of trafficking in white coats on several continents that includes flagrant and massive violations of the human rights of these citizens: the reality of the Cuban economy forces them to serve as slaves to the Cuban state, and be subjected to the situation of leaving their relatives behind as hostages.

The most recent example that proves this is a major government business is the recent decision to prevent physicians from leaving the country freely like the rest of the citizens

The most recent example that proves this is a major government business is the recent decision to prevent physicians from leaving the country freely like the rest of the citizens, unless they do so through such “internationalist missions.”

If United Nations rapporteur wishes to have complete information on this matter, in addition to hearing what the Cuban Government has to say about this, she should meet with some of the hundreds of doctors who have decided to abandon their missions and reside in the US or other countries.

Cuban human rights organizations, opposition groups and dissidents will surely try to ensure that this issue is duly investigated by the honorable Special Rapporteur of the UN for trafficking in persons, on the occasion of her trip to Cuba.

Weakness, Fear And Inability Erode The Cuban Government / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The empty chair with the Oswaldo Payá prize “Freedom and Life” that the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro could not come to Cuba to receive. (Networks)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 23 February 2017 — The recent “diplomatic” action by the Cuban Government to try to prevent the presence of foreign personalities in a private event in Havana to receive a symbolic prize bearing the name of the late regime opponent Oswaldo Payá, denotes the weakness, fear and incapacity that characterize its actions since the visit of Barack Obama to Cuba and the subsequent death of Fidel Castro.

According to the declaration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) in the newspaper Granma, the plan was to mount an open and serious provocation against the Cuban government in Havana, generate internal instability, damage the international image of the country and, at the same time, affect the good progress of Cuba’s diplomatic relations with other states. continue reading

According to MINREX, Almagro himself and some other right-wing individuals had the connivance and support of other organizations with thick anti-Cuban credentials, such as the Democracy and Community Center, the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL), the Inter-American Institute for Democracy, and a person they call a CIA terrorist and agent, Carlos Alberto Montaner.

In addition, says MINREX, since 2015 there has been a link between these groups and the National Foundation for Democracy in the United States (NED), which receives funding from the US government to implement its subversive programs against Cuba.

The dictatorship of the proletariat, which prevailed in Cuba 57 years ago, has thus invented an “anti-Cuban” (against Cuba or against themselves?), “imperialist”, “counterrevolutionary” and “CIA” hoax behind what could have been a small and simple limited ceremony; in short, if they had been allowed to hold it without the presence of foreign guests it would have served the Government to improve its image with respect to the rights of Cubans as citizens and shown some tolerance.

If they were a little bit capable they could have “stolen the show,” but we already know that in Cuba ‘counterintelligence’ dominates in its broadest sense.

Their response to this assessment is given by the MINREX note: “Perhaps some misjudged and thought that Cuba would sacrifice its essence to appearances,” as if appearances are not an example of essence. It is the ignorance of the dialectic relationship between form and content.

But in short, not one step back. According to MINREX the military state is in danger from this provocation, without arms, without masses, without leaders who enjoy wide support among Cubans on the island. We cannot give ground to the “counterrevolution,” — they say — as if it were not precisely the defenders of the indefensible regime themselves who prevented the revolutionary changes that would lead us to prosperous, democratic Cuba, free of authoritarian hegemonies, with all and for the good of all.

It is weakness, fear and incapacity that led the government to put its repressive character on full display and to miss the opportunity to have been hospitable to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States and to have discussed with him the conditions for possible ties to that Inter-American body.

If they were a little bit capable they could have “stolen the show,” but we already know that in Cuba ‘counterintelligence’ dominates in its broadest sense.

The organizations and individuals who prepared the event have a vision different from the government’s on the ways in which politics and the economy should be conducted in Cuba and, of course, it was an opportune moment to promote the positions of change previously promoted by the Leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Payá, who died in circumstances demanding further explanation.

The actions of the Cuban government favored what the organizers of the event ultimately wanted to demonstrate: the absence of space in Cuba for different thinking

But if something like this can destabilize the regime, it should do the same!

The government’s actions provoked exactly what it was trying to avoid, creating more interest among Cubans and international opinion in the Varela Project and in how Oswaldo Paya died, a man who might not have been to the liking of the government and other cities, but who lived on the island, worked there and from from within promoted a peaceful and democratic change of the system, with all his rights as a Cuban citizen. Something to respect.

The Cuban government’s action, vitiated by extremism, Manichaeism, intolerance and repression, favored what the organizers of the event ultimately wanted to demonstrate: the absence of space in Cuba for different thinking, the existence of a tyrannical regime that impedes freedom of expression and association, and that it intends to continue to govern based on jails, police and repressive security agents.

The repression of the opposition, socialist dissent and different thinking, pressures against the self-employed, the stagnation of the reforms proposed by the Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba itself, the voluntary efforts to try to control the widespread corruption generated by statist wage system, in short, everything that is being done by the senior bureaucratic hierarchy is generating chaos that undermines and will burst the system from within from ignorance of the laws of economic-social development.

They don’t know where they stand! Don’t try to put the blame on others later.

This service against a “socialism” that has never existed will perhaps be the best historical legacy left to us by these 60 years of voluntarism, populism and authoritarianism of Fidel Castro communism, such that the most retrograde forces of international reaction will eternally thank the “Cuban leadership.”

The Crisis Of The ‘Boteros’: The First Bean To Burst Into The Pot / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Some young people work as ‘boteros’ to find money to leave the country. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 17 February 2017 – The ending of the United States’ Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy – that allowed Cubans who touched American soil to stay – crushed the hopes of many Cubans of being able to achieve the American dream, that is equality of opportunities and the freedom to allow all citizens to achieve their goals in life through their own effort and determination. More than something unique to the United States, it seems a dream for anyone.

When the policy was cancelled, many warned that closing one of the valves of pressure cooker that state-socialism has made of Cuban society, is a total contradiction. continue reading

Today with the crisis affecting Havana’s private taxi-drivers – known as “boteros” or “boatmen” – the first bean in the pot is about to burst, under the stimulus of a senseless and traditional state policy of resolving socio-economic problems with repression and extra-economic constraints, a la Robin Hood, taking from those who have to give to those who have less.

A couple of young drivers confessed to me that the cars they used were not theirs and that they were working to get the money needed to leave the country

All Cubans know that with the unreliable schedules of state transportation, some of us need to get places more quickly than we could by waiting for the bus, and we are forced at times to take an “almendron” – or an “almond”, named after the shape of the classic American cars often used in this shared fixed-route taxi service – where we talk about everything for 20 minutes, with the advantage that no one knows each other.

A couple of young drivers that I talked to before the ending of the Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy, confessed to me that the cars they drove were not theirs and that they were working as “boteros” to try to get the money needed to leave the country. One of them had already tried, by sea, with other friends, and after spending all they had to build a raft with an engine, they were caught by the US Coastguard and returned to Cuba. The next time would be by land and that is what he was working for.

I never learned if these young men were among those who managed to reach the US before the crisis caused by the closing of the Nicaragua border, which was resolved in favor of the Cuban emigrants crossing through the jungle.

It is likely that these boys, in their late thirties, were not the only ones who were driving for that reason.

The cancellation of the Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy may be one of the factors of the current crisis, in addition to the problem of the capped prices that the Government had already tried, as there is now one less incentive to encourage the drivers to comply with the absurd state regulations.

Such causality can also manifest itself among other self-employed workers who do not undertake a line of work as a way of life, but as a means to make enough money to leave the country.

Such causality can also manifest itself among other self-employed workers who do not undertake a line of work as a way of life, but as a means to make enough money to leave the country.

I imagine that there were also many of the young truckers, new retailers, who were making fast and abundant money due to the absurd state policies of imposing prices on farmers and truckers and preventing them from selling directly in the city.

When emigration is the reason a person is working, they may be willing to ensure fines, mistreatment and the stupid fees as long as it doesn’t endanger their final goal. As soon as they take off, all the reasons they had to put up with it end.

They say that “revolutionaries” who are trying to control the markets for transport, farm products and housing construction through price controls, are contributing greatly to the pressure in the pot. Mainly due to voluntarism and ignorance of the economy and the dialectic.

When emigration is the reason a person is working, they may be willing to ensure fines, mistreatment and the stupid fees as long as it doesn’t endanger their final goal

This is the natural result of the contradictions of the statist, directed and centralized economy and policies, imposed in Cuba in the name of socialism.

When Obama, a few days before the end of his term, decided to end the Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy, he left a poisoned gift to Raul Castro, who was not able to respond to everything the former US president did to improve relations with Cuba.

Apparently, the closing of that escape valve, along with the stupidities of the bureaucracy of the Cuban government, already caused the first bean to explode. The leaders of the island do not have the capacity to reverse the US presidential order, but they could stop further imposition of absurd regulations.

Will the Cuban repressive bureaucracy have the ability to lower the heat under the pot? Or will it continue to keep the gas on high? For me, in truth, I only see the right hand continuing to turn the gas all the way up.

Cuba Does Not Need US Investment To Develop Its Economy / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

No one explains why the abundant income from tourism, among other sectors, does not allow improvement in domestic investment. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 2 February 2017 – A previous article addressed the economic policy of the current Cuban government to hinder the private economy – forbidding investment from Cubans on the island and abroad – and favoring foreign investment, mainly from the United States, which could lead Cuba to a situation of virtual annexation to the United States. Meanwhile it appears that allowing free investment, and allowing employers to hire workers directly, versus requiring them to contract only through the state, is something that the state-socialist system is not willing to accept.

But, does it have to be like this to develop the country? Does Cuba have to depend on US and foreign investment in general?

My clear answer is no. Cuba does need investment and the international market for its development, but it does not have to rely on US investments or foreign capital to develop its economy. continue reading

An analysis of four basic elements suggests that Cuba could solve its investment needs without having to turn to US or foreign capital in general, as the government, official Cuban economists and others suggest, who do not imagine the island anything but subject to the US.

 1. Due to the lack of transparency in the government’s economic data it is unknown what is or could be invested, how much is squandered in the bureaucratic treasury at all levels, how much is wasted in the bad paternalistic-populist democracy, or where that money goes. There is such a lack of transparency about the investments and payments of the nation, no one explains what so much money from taxes of all kinds, remittances, the sale of medical and professional services abroad, or tourism, is spent on, and the national investment is so low.

A change from the current hyper-centralization to democratic control of revenues and budgets should shed light on the existence of the enormous amount of capital currently being wasted

A change from the current hyper-centralization to democratic control of revenues and budgets should shed light on the existence of the enormous amount of capital currently wasted that could increase the amount to be invested from the nation’s own resources. We are thinking about the necessary reduction in the Armed Forces, the apparatus of State Security, the enormous services abroad, the big bureaucracy lazing around in all the ministries and their provincial and municipal branches, the outreach and propaganda apparatus, and the costs of the system of organizations of the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” How much money could be freed up for investments through these reductions?

 2. There are enormous fortunes within Cuba that do not display their possibilities due to the current limitations and their fears of being audited. If the inviolability of private capital and property were guaranteed by law and clear relations of free trade were established, this internal capital could be developed, private banks could be generated to facilitate loans to private entrepreneurs and associates, to import the means and resources necessary for internal development and economic movements and associations could strengthen their opportunities. There are imprecise calculations of the thousands of millions of dollars, Cuban convertible pesos, Cuban pesos, stored in banks and mattresses awaiting changes in Cuba.

3. According to different sources, Cuba is receiving between three and five billion dollars a year from remittances, sent back to the island by Cubans abroad. Much of that revenue is being invested in private businesses and another part in using the services they generate. So there is a positive predisposition in the diaspora to support micro-enterprises with micro-investments. If conditions were established in Cuba for the development of free enterprise, this small capital could grow enormously, multiply and expand in a few years.

 4. There is a great deal of capital in the hands of Cuban Americans in the United States, a part of which they would be willing to invest in Cuba if a new system of laws, in a State of law, guaranteed private property and free markets, independent of a future analysis of nationalization and compensation*. Because of their Cuban origin, and for some because of their historic ties with specific production sectors on the island, they would be in better conditions than any foreign capital to engage in the Cuban economy and push its development. They bring capital, techniques, knowledge, markets and transportation systems.

The interaction of these four factors would enable a self-sufficient economy, which should not be confused with the absurdity of an autarchic economy

Thus, by simply facilitating the internally accumulated Cuban capital, reorganizing that of the government, and favoring that of emigrants – large, medium and small – with full guarantees, Cuba could receive a large injection of capital of national origin, capable of changing the economic landscape in a few years.

It would not be necessary to have investment from the United States or from other foreign countries. There would be no dependence on American capital. It would not be necessary to be virtually annexed to the United States. Cuba would trade with the United States like the rest of the Caribbean, the American continent and the world.

The interaction of these four factors would enable a self-sufficient economy, capable of generating, itself, the means and resources to resolve the needs of the population with domestic products, exchanged or acquired in the international market. This should not be confused with the absurdity of an autarchic economy that tries to survive without an external market.

How to do this will be the subject of another article.

*Translator’s note: “Nationalization and compensation” refers to the nationalization of private businesses and property in the early days of the Revolution, and the demands on the part of some for compensation for what was taken from them.

Is Cuba Heading Towards Virtual Annexation to the US? / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

A man poses with his immigration documents in front of the Embassy of the United States in Havana, Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 28 January 2017 — Guided by the current political-military leadership, the Cuban economy could be heading “without pause, but without haste*” towards virtual annexation to the United States.

There would be no Platt Amendment, nor Marines landing on any Cuban beach, no any formal agreement or formal treaty that would make Cuba an associated state or one more star on the US flag, but everything suggests that, sooner rather than later, capital from the United States will disembark big time on the island and consume our trade. continue reading

The United States will be turned into our number one trading partner, the biggest source of tourism to Cuba, as well as the number one foreign investor, hotel towers will flourish on the beaches and keys of the Cuban paradise along with golf courses and low-wage factories making consumer goods, cars, buses and equipment for construction, agriculture and light industry.

No, it’s not a play on words. It’s a real possibility. The explanation is quite simple: the Cuban state economy is in crisis, the state owns the land and the beaches and has no interest in disposing of them for Cubans to exploit, be it private, cooperatives or emigrants, but they have all the delight of sharing them with foreign capital, especially American, consistent with a simple reading of the “menu of opportunities.”

Add to that the geographic and cultural proximity and the expressed desires of many American businesses: the president of the United States Chamber of Commerce just left the island.

Realizing an annexation would demand some arrangements between both governments: the Cuban government should improve its image with respect to human rights and allow free contracting with labor, although under the table it would be allowed “to guarantee its interests.”

The United States should move clearly to lift the embargo in a way that there are no obstacles for investment and businesses.

Foreign business interests would not fight the government for political power, they would only share economic power and Cuba would be widely penetrated by the great American capital. Possibly the dollar would circulate as the medium of exchange, remaining economically tied to the United States like never before, which would imply a kind of virtual annexation.

The road has been forged long ago, because the Cuban economy now depends in great measure on remittances from the United States, on the tourists from that country and on the trade in food.

The United States is one of the few countries in the world with the capital to undertake the investments Cuba needs in infrastructure, construction and services to bring the country up to the standards of modern economies and to create conditions for housing, mobility, Internet access and markets to ensure the prosperity of its business.

Until now, the full penetration of US capital has been impossible because the Cuban government has always conditioned it on the lifting of the embargo, which could not be fully lifted during the Obama administration because Republicans opposed giving the Democratic president the chance to crown his policy towards Cuba with that measure, with the real justification that Havana violates human rights.

Now there are the conditions for the rapprochement initiated by Obama to advance in the direction of the lifting of the embargo, because there is a Republican president characterized as a businessman who was already exploring the possibility of investing into hotels and golf courses in Cuba.

Trump is a friend and admirer of Putin, the one time friend of Raul Castro, and there is a congress dominated by Republicans and the Cuban government is “making noises” because of its recession and already destroyed economy and the effects caused by the situation in Venezuela and the reversal of the populist wave in Latin America.

Trump has just named Jason Greenblatt as special representative for international negotiations, and he is a supporter of the rapprochement with Cuba, ex-president of the Trump Consortium and its current legal director. According to specific information, he is the same person who visited Cuba to explore the possibilities of investing in hotels and golf courses.

The Mariel Special Development Zone is fully included in the interests of making the United States Cuba’s main trading partner, and it is no coincidence that with Trump as president a government delegation headed by Ana Teresa Igarza, the Zone’s director general, is visiting the US to explore the possibilities of entering into contracts with six US ports.

Raul Castro congratulated Trump on his electoral triumph. A Cuban delegation attended the inauguration. So far, the Cuban government has not made any negative statements to the new president (and there have been no lack of reasons to!) in the newspaper Granma or as gossip.

It’s a secret to no one that the Trump team was consulted by Obama on the rescinding of the wet foot/dry foot policy, demanded by the Cuban government, which could contribute to the effort to “normalize” relations.

If they continue along this path, virtual annexation could be realized soon. All this contrasts with the broad-based political and economic projects of the opposition, the socialist dissidence and the different thinking all of which prioritized the participation of Cubans in the control of the economy, but instead have been accused by government extremists of serving the imperialist enemy.

*Translator’s note: A phrase commonly used by Raul Castro and others in relation to the government’s implementation of planned changes.

Obama Leaves A Poisoned Gift To Trump And Castro / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

US President Barack Obama with President-elect Donald Trump at the end of their meeting in the oval office at the White House in Washington. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, 16 January 2017 — Raul Castro’s government, after reestablishing diplomatic relations with Washington and easing international pressures – which allowed it to renegotiate a large part of its foreign debt – did all it could to prevent the rapprochement from resulting in increased business with the United States and its internal influence in Cuba.

Many called President Obama’s policy toward the island a failure and systematically blamed the president for giving the Castro government everything in exchange for nothing.

Havana’s demands increased and hardened. The Cuban government continued to blame the “blockade” and the Cuban Adjustment Act for the country’s economic disaster and the stampede of Cuban citizens to the United States, while nothing or little was done to alleviate the internal situation, improve democratic prospects and take advantage of the possibilities offered by the Obama’s executive orders. continue reading

Few comment that the end of the “wet foot/dry foot” policy – a “gift” from Obama a few days before handing the government over to his successor – can put both Raul Castro and Donald Trump in check, because the closure of this escape valve could generate such an increase in the internal pressure within Cuba that it will destabilize the government and force it to undertake changes it has never wanted to, or confront a crisis of incalculable consequences.

The challenge would be not only for Raul Castro, but also for the new tenant in the White House, who until recently denied that Obama was born in the United States and announced an strong hand with Cuba. It will not be the outgoing president who now has to face the eventual complications generated by a pressure cooker on the verge of exploding on the southern border of the United States, who always tried to avoid the country’s intelligence with its impossible complications.

The closure of this escape valve could generate such an increase in the internal pressure within Cuba that it will destabilize the government

The person who will have to deal with this from the north – with the consequences of this decision and all its effects and who would have preferred not to have to mention it, for its undesired effects – is going to be Donald Trump and not Barack Obama.

Both the president-elect of the United States and Raul Castro are going to have to see what they can do to avoid unleashing the hitherto contained anger of the Cuban people, when hundreds of thousands of young people realize that they have no hope of improving their lives outside the system that blocks them.

Undoubtedly, the “horse’s head” would be for Trump, but the worst part could touch the government of Raul Castro in his final year, a man who did not know, did not want to, or could not, take advantage of the opportunities offered by Obama and instead offered an elegant farewell, in the mouth of his soldiers: a crown of lead for his head.

Now, the outgoing president, so attacked by Trump in his campaign and whose hand outstretched towards Raul was not equally returned, will be able to lounge comfortably in the front row to enjoy the spectacle that could be generated – and is already being generated (thousands of Cubans on the way, spread from Ecuador to Mexico, with an uncertain future) – by his final measure, which the Cuban people will end up suffering.

A Sanctuary For Cuban Migrants On Their Way To The United States / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

The director of Caritas Panama, Deacon Victor Berrío, speaks to Cubans. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 5 January 2017 — Dozens of Cubans take refuge every week in the shelter set up by the social ministry of Caritas in Panama to continue their journey to the United States. Although currently there are no bottlenecks in Central America and the flow of migrants remains constant and away from the cameras, the situation is far from solved and will probably get worse, explains Deacon Victor Luis Berrio, executive secretary for Caritas Panama.

“On the last night of the year we had about 140 migrants. Every day 20 or 30 arrive, but as they come they go,” explains Berrio. continue reading

According to statistics provided to 14ymedio by the National Immigration Service, in Panama, for all of 2016 more than 750 foreigners were returned to their countries of origin. Of these, only 5 were Cubans. The majority of those arriving in Panama do so from Colombia, which is used as a springboard by those who travel without a visa from Cuba to Guyana and the Lesser Antilles.

For all of 2016, more than 750 foreigners were returned to their countries of origin. Of these only 5 were Cuban

“The border crossing are going well,” explains Berrio, based on what migrants who are in communication with his institution have told him.

“Some spend months here. In gratitude, they then write to tell us how they are doing in the United States once they reach their destination,” he adds.

Yuniel Ramos is a 31-year-old Cuban from Alamar, in eastern Havana. He has been at the shelter for five days and, although he has tried twice to cross Costa Rica to continue his trip to the United States, he has been captured by law enforcement agents, who return him to the Panamanian border.

“Here they give us food, cleanliness and welcome us until we can continue the journey,” explains Ramos, who learned of the existence of the Caritas hostel through the messages of other migrants on Facebook.

“The truth is that we cannot complain because the police treated us very well in Panama and Costa Rica. They even offered us food when we crossed the jungle from Colombia. The indigenous communities helped us cross the Darien Gap, but we have to pay them,” explains the migrant.

“We arrive exhausted from crossing the jungle. This place is a great help. Many people have been waiting for a miracle from God to continue their journey, because they have no money,” he says.

Ramos hopes his relatives in the United States can send him money to continue his trip.

“They want to avoid people having to go with the coyotes, but they force them by keeping them from passing through. We just hope for a miracle that will allow us to continue on the way to the United States.”

The Caritas shelter arose as an initiative to alleviate the humanitarian crisis sparked by the presence of thousands of Cubans stranded in Panama after the closing of the border with Nicaragua at the end of 2015.

“We had to set up dormitories where we used to have offices before. The important thing is that people have a safe place to sleep and a plate of food to put in their mouths,” says Deacon Berrio.

“After the airlift Cubans have continued to arrive; since August we have hosted more than 1,500, which obviously requires considerable expenditure”

Two large groups of Cubans were transferred thanks to an airlift that the Government of Panama agreed to with Mexico. In total some 5,000 Cubans were evacuated. But the problem did not end.

“After the airlift Cubans have continued to arrive; since August we have hosted more than 1,500, which obviously requires considerable expenditure,” he explains.

Thanks to the solidarity of organizations in the United States, Panamanian institutions and Cubans resident in that country, they have managed to continue aid for the migrants, valued at more than 120,000 dollars.

The deacon says he has had no communication with the Cuban Church during the crisis.

“We have seen five Cuban-Panamanians born in this shelter. There is no other institution like this in Panama,” he says proudly.

Quick Read Of A Rushed Parade / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The absence of heavy armaments promoted an image of austerity, as did these troops dressed like soldiers from the last century. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 4 January 2017 – The March 2nd “military parade and combatants’ march,” dedicated to the late Fidel Castro and to Cuba’s youth, which lasted an hour and 40 minutes, offered four main messages: projecting an image of austerity; no aggressiveness towards the new American government of Donald Trump; demonstrating an image, unreal, of youthful engagement; and no internal changes. There may be others.

1-Projecting an image of austerity

The iconic yacht Granma, surrounded like sea waves with young “pioneers” and “mambisa” calvary, harking back to Cuba’s 19th century wars of independence, filled the parade, which was lacking in heavy armaments, cannons and tanks. Nor were there rockets or “strategic weapons.” Rather it was a review of the troops carrying their long rifles, state workers, many young people from military schools, and more than a few children organized to show broad respect for the newly deceased leader. continue reading

The absence of heavy and strategic long-range and mechanized armament promoted an image of austerity in the face of the serious economic situation that the Government has not hidden. Since the assumption of real power by Raul Castro, the traditional parades and speeches in the Plaza have been characterized by sobriety and speed.

2-No aggressiveness toward the new Trump Government

The speech for the occasion, evidently prepared under the direction of the Party-Government, was handed over to the meteor of the FEU (University Students Federation), Jennifer Bello, who is also a newly appointed member of the Council of State. The speech was marked by the “reaffirmation” of the traditional “principles,” especially in relations with the United States: the lifting of the blockade/embargo, the elimination of interventionist programs and the return of the Guantanamo naval base.

However, the absence of offensive weaponry may also be a sign of the interest in not showing any aggressiveness to the outside, particularly towards our neighbor to the North, at a time when a new tenant arrives at the White House.

This fact, incidentally, could be influenced by Putin’s Russia, which has just intelligently responded to President Barack Obama’s recent moves to oust 35 Russian intelligence officers for their alleged interference in the recent presidential elections in the United States. Putin decided to assume that this is an irrelevant act, and to wait for the relations between the two powers to assume a new rhythm with the inauguration of Donald Trump.

In sum, the discourse of the designated youth “leader,” along with the highlighting of the traditional policies toward Washington and the absence of offensive weaponry, would be sending a two-way message to Trump: “We do not want problems with the US, but we are not going to change.”

3- Show an image, unreal, of youthful engagement

Another message is intended to show a greater role of youth in the current stage of the “Revolution,” touched up by the presence of women younger than the average age of the “historicos”: Raul Castro, Machado Ventura, Ramiro Valdes and Guillermo Garcia who were in the reviewing stand.

However, it was damaged by the same old speech from the young star and by the fact that these four figures were the center of the choreography presiding over the parade, relegating to a secondary position, away from the center, Miguel Diaz Canel, who could indeed represent that younger blood in his position as vice-president.

The excessive image of youth engagement does not reflect reality, since the young woman gave the same speech, old in both form and content, while it is evident that those who identify themselves as the “historic generation,” decorate their surroundings with young faces who will be present only as long as they remain loyal.

I do not pretend that the irrelevance granted to the vice president suggests that he himself is in disgrace, but it does show that the young faces are only adornments and can be moved like dominos, or disappear, as long as they do not affect the power of the historical ones, certainly now that they lack their natural glue: Fidel Castro.

4- No internal changes

Finally, as a whole, the speech, the parade itself and its images carry a message of immobility: no substantial changes, no democratization and the repression against dissent and different thinking will continue.

It’s Time For Politics To Stop Separating Families And Friends / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

People leaving Cuba during the Mariel Boatlift.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 29 December 2016 — The model imposed in Cuba in the name of a socialism that never existed had, among its worst results, the politicization of everything. Families fought over politics. Friends became enemies. This was one of the most disastrous consequences of the “revolutionary intransigence” in which several generations of Cubans were (badly) educated.

This intransigence, generated by the group in power, facilitated the development of others.

The phenomenon affected practically every family and friendship, which according to tradition had always remained very united. The divisions began in 1959, when the provisional government that was intended to give way to the restoration of institutionalized democracy, failed to do so and turned itself into a permanent revolutionary government that began to apply justice in its own way. continue reading

Immediately, more than a few began to see how to advance the centralized and anti-democratic policies, traditionally identified with communism, that had done so much damage in Europe and which, in the island’s past, had been linked to Batista, the tyrant who was expelled from power.

Disagreement in democracy is normal, but when there is none and dissent is considered treason and is not accepted, as in Cuba in the early days after the triumph of the Revolution, thinking differently is identified as “counterrevolutionary.”

With the first “counterrevolutionaries” began the first great exodus and many families stopped seeing each other or even communicating for many years. Then came other waves. In the early 80’s, some of those who had gone into exile began to return to visit and that began to break the ice.

It was not easy for families to welcome “worms” and “traitors” who now returned with gifts and greater incomes, from a country with another language, culture, climate and traditions. People were afraid that they could lose their membership in the Communist Party or a government job.

Some of those who remained in Cuba would not receive their relatives at that time. Or old friends would not visit with them.

With time and new waves of migration, many of those who had refused to receive their relatives or friends also went into exile. During the Mariel Boatlift, some had participated in the repudiation rallies and shouted, “Let the scum go.” They threw eggs. And later, more than a few them took the same path.

The intransigents insist on continuing to confront families and friends over politics, and they still reject friendships between people who think differently, but there are also people who feel individuals are separate from their ideas and they leave them alone, considering them friends. Pope Francis comes to mind when he talked about “social friendship.”

In Miami, on the other side, there are also intransigents. Both sides make it all the more difficult.

Now, in the aftermath of the former leader’s death, we hear again about “revolutionaries” who did not make friendships carry the weight of politics and did not accept judgments about the consequences of their imprint on democracy and socialism. Intolerance is necessary for nothing to change.

There are many people who do not lend themselves to politics destroying families and friendships. They are fundamental pillars of the future Cuba.

Today, because of the wide exchanges among all Cubans, despite the intolerance expressed from the rulers, there is more tolerance. This is part of the preparation necessary to live in a democracy, which will come sooner rather than later.

It is time for politics to stop separating families and friends. We are in a good moment for it. Cuba, to advance, needs to leave behind so much confrontation, so much stubbornness, so much stupidity. Perhaps all that, on both sides, reached the highest possible point in recent days, and now, like all that rises, it must descend.

It must be understood that, regardless of the political differences, we Cubans will one day have to talk to each other and sit together in a democratic parliament leaving behind grudges and the difficult and dramatic moments of our history, leading with the future and looking for a way to accept ourselves in our diversity.

There will have to be apologies and pardons, difficult encounters. If not men, history will punish crimes and abuses. There will have to be changes in political power, it will have to be peaceful and democratic, but blood must be avoided in order not to resume the cycle of violence, if we really want to see Cuba as a great nation with its international economic and political weight. Politics will have to give way to family and friendship. A divided country is easily made a victim of national and global hegemonies.

Placing The Remains Of Fidel Castro With Those Of Martí Divides Cubans / 14ymedio, Pedro Campo

The mausoleum that holds the remains of José Martí in Santa Ifigenia cemetery, Santiago de Cuba. (Marie, Flickr)
The mausoleum that holds the remains of José Martí in Santa Ifigenia cemetery, Santiago de Cuba. (Marie, Flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 3 December 2016 – Genius and figure to the grave, the boy born in Birán, who led an armed Revolution from the Sierra Maestra and governed Cuba for almost 60 years from Havana, wanted his ashes placed for eternity in Santiago de Cuba, near to the tomb of José Martí, in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery.

This could become one of the most controversial of all Fidel Castro’s decisions made throughout his life, for a simple reason: When we need equanimity and closeness between all Cubans, this could stimulate more divisions, given that the figure of Martí is ecumenical, while that of Fidel is divisive and, for many, a figure of conflict. continue reading

The location of the remains of the former president near to those of Martí is already being taken as a provocation by an important share of Cubans, and it is possible that some may not rest until they see them well away from those of Martí.

There are sad precedents in our history. Suffice it to recall the consequences of an alleged desecration of the tomb* of Don Gonzalo de Castañón in colonial times or disturbances during the armed and outrageous attack during the reception of the ashes of Mella in the Republic in 1933. Those events generated great confrontation among Cubans and left enduring marks.

The choice of this place, in addition to being controversial, will demand an enormous security effort and a substantial cost in resources and measures to guarantee the protection of the ashes. Given the foreseeable threats, a broad deployment of surveillance may be necessary, with a great number of professionals and technically sophisticated measures, because the ways in which people will attempt to remove the remains from there could be wide-ranging.

The personal security of Fidel Castro does not rest with his death. To avoid future complications, it might be suggested to the government of his brother that his remains rest only a few days in Santa Ifigena and then be taken to a less controversial place, where they can be honored by his admirers without causing litigation as, for example, the Sierra Maestra, symbol of the struggle, perhaps on Pico Turquino itself, the highest peak in Cuba, where there is a bust of Martí placed by Celia Sanchez, the unforgettable combatant close to Fidel.

Something like the general president thought of for himself, on the 2nd Front.

That might be a wise decision by Raul Castro’s government and an important contribution to the future reunification and peace of the Cuban homeland, for which Martí will always be the Apostle, founder of the nation, and shelter of all its children, while Fidel Castro is considered only by his followers as the most distinguished of his successors.

*Translator’s note: In 1871 eight medical students were executed after having been purposely but falsely accused of desecrating the tomb of this Spanish journalist.

The Myth Died, Cuba Must Change / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

There are no copies of the official daily Granma at the newsstands. (14ymedio)
There are no copies of the official daily Granma at the newsstands. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 27 November 2016 — Fidel Castro has died. The mythic figure has died. The event will be discussed for a long time and from many points of view. Nine days of mourning has been decreed in Havana, the flag is at half mast; in Miami they are partying, the same Cuban flag held high.

The Fidelistas mourn, the anti-Fidelistas party. The vast majority of the island’s population, eager for changes, are waiting. It could not be any other way. Since the attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953, Fidel Castro’s imprint on Cuba shapes our days. The government is ready to maintain total control over the streets. Its mass organizations are mobilized to prevent and counteract any demonstrations against him.

But like the myth, his charisma and his influence are not inherited. We can affirm that a political cycle in Cuba has ended: the eclectic sum of conceptions that make up Fidelism, populism, authoritarianism, neo-Stalinism, statism and bureaucratism, just received a mortal blow. A stage of inevitable changes opens. continue reading

Raul Castro, since he assumed power in 2006, promised to undertake important reforms, replaced many officials, and began dictatorially implementing a set of measures that he consolidated and expanded in both Cuban Communist Party Congresses held since then, but without establishing a legal framework that guarantees them.

During these years, the bureaucracy, laws, regulations and customs of Fidelism, established over almost 60 years, have prevented such reforms from being fully deployed.

Raul Castro now has the opportunity to demonstrate whether his reformist proposals are real or were just a deliberate attempt to counter the resistance within the system and seek international recognition and funding.

Cuba’s economic situation requires that the changes set forth by Raul be deepened and expanded, that all state monopolistic barriers to domestic and foreign markets for capital investment, enterprise development and productive initiatives of all kinds be broken.

However, it does imply that the Fidelistas abandon their positions in the government and the Party and that many regulations and customs of traditional statism be removed. This will be very difficult if, in parallel, there is no democratization process that permits deep criticism of the Fidel regime, the adoption of new forms of organization in the economy and politics, and the emergence and development of new entrepreneurs and unprejudiced leaders at all levels the society.

Cuba is facing inevitable changes. The death of the mythic figure favors them. The Cuban people also demand them. Everyone, those inside and those outside, regardless of their political ideas, must have the right to participate in the reconstruction of the nation. Achieving it more or less peacefully will depend on those who still hold power in Cuba.

It is time to assume, with decency, José Martí’s homeland: With all and for the good of all.

The Blockade Again… Fidel’s War Against Windmills / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez defends the UN General Assembly resolution against the embargo to which, in 2016, no country voted no. (@Minrex)
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez defends the UN General Assembly resolution against the embargo to which, in 2016, no country voted no. (@Minrex)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 28 October 2016 – Launching an advertising campaign, deploying a costly diplomatic action charged to the Cuban people against a “blockade” that doesn’t have a single opponent in the United Nations, because even the United States government abstained, is at the very least to make yourself a laughingstock to the world.

This happens when politics is not structured based on rational thought, nor even on your own interests, but on the remains of pride, madness and fear.

We discover, one more time, that this campaign is directed against the Cuban people whom it tries to continue to disinform and shut up with nonsense seeking justifications for suicidally clinging to obsolete methods and ideas, superseded by history, even at the cost of international credibility. continue reading

The world doesn’t care about fidelismo, about the Castro regime. It is demonstrably tired of it. The regime’s goal is to maintain power within. An absolute power that makes room for any nonsense, so corrupt is it, so addicted and brutish.

The US government’s intelligent abstention in the periodic vote in the UN General Assembly on the American embargo on Cuba, left the Cuban government, as we say colloquially, with the rifle on its shoulder ready to swing at a ball that hasn’t been pitched, or falling under the cannon fire of a ghost ship on the high seas.

Now how are they going to keep blaming Obama and his government for the permanence of some strings of the blockade (as the Cuban government likes to calls it), or the embargo (as it is, in fact).

The overwhelming media and mobilizing campaign against the “blockade” reached its zenith on the eave of the UN vote on the repeated Castro regime proposal stating the “need to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”

Cuba’s press organs spent several days trying to demonstrate that the blockade-embargo is the cause of all our ills. For weeks, the repudiation rallies have been unending in work and study centers, led by the likes of television talking-head Randy Alonso, against a policy that never diminished one iota the well-being of the political elite and which, instead, has served to justify its disasters, repressions and phobias toward democracy.

People, meanwhile, play at the Soviet era game in Russia: “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.” Which translated in this context would mean something like “they try to deceive us and we let them think we believe them so they’ll leave us alone.”

If anything has demonstrated once again how useful fidelismo is in maintaining what is left of the embargo, it is precisely this beardless social mobilization to entertain people and the rigged domestic measures to counter the “imperialist penetration,” which at any particular moment they identify with the policies approved by the last congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) regarding self-employment, cooperatives and foreign investments.

The policy of rapprochement with the United States, developed in the last years of the Obama administration, which has been taking steps since the last Bush administration, has reached the reestablishment of relations, the signing of several presidential orders modifying nearly everything that is not codified by Congress, and even the visit of the US president to Cuba, whose people did not hide their joy at possibly the most momentous visit by a head of state in the last half century.

The US president has been very clear: he wants to live the blockade, but it doesn’t depend on him. He is doing everything he can to dismantle it from the office of the president. It’s clear that he would like a democratic government in Havana with whom the US would have better relations, but he does not intend to meddle in Cuban affairs. He said this in Cuba: this is a matter for Cubans.

But it doesn’t matter, the campaign against the blockade will continue. Fidelismo cannot live without enemies, and even though the adversary vows, promises and acts constructively, he must continue to be blamed for all wrongs and his “fifth column” must be repressed. If not, on whom is going to fall the historic blame for the disaster? Because history “must absolve” it*.

Fidel’s war against the windmills will continue.

*Translator’s note: A phrase taken from Fidel Castro’s defense in court (according to a version later published by he himself) for the 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks, which is considered the start of the Revolution that ultimately triumphed in 1959: “Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me.”

The ‘Communist’ Meeting In Peru Harks Back to the Olden Days / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

”International Meeting of Communist and Revolutionary Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean. For a real independence and socialism!”
”International Meeting of Communist and Revolutionary Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean. For a real independence and socialism!”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 30 August 2016 — Last weekend Latin America’s communist and leftist parties held a meeting in Peru. Its objective: To structure the “struggle against neoliberalism” in the region. Is this the purpose sought by socialism?

The first socialists (nothing to do with the statist, authoritarian, police and totalitarian versions) always understood the society they aspired to as being the reign of freedom for human beings and especially in ways of working, labor that would be undertaken for satisfaction, not out of obligation, and that would be the general basis on which the entire framework of the new society would rest. continue reading

The great development brought to the world by the productive forces of capitalism and its needs for the freeing of markets and the expansion of education and new methods of production, especially the unstoppable progress of the new technologies of information and communications, has created the basis for the deployment of every kind of possibility of free, private and interconnected work.

And this is what the “anti-capitalists” of this so-called Latin American left don’t understand, as they continue to cling to the old and absurd “communist” schemes of the 20th century. Determined to fight capitalism and neoliberalism and to impose state-centric economic and political models, like Fidelism in Cuba, or its Venezuelan or Nicaraguan variants, or Peronism in Argentina, they don’t understand, first and foremost, that Fidelism and, likewise, every totalitarian framework were complete failures.

Other caricatures of socialism in the region do not depart from the social-democratic concept of the protector-state, which through the collection and distribution of taxes puts an end to inequality, taking from those who have the most to give to those who have the least.

It is not about lowering the standard of living of those who have the most, but of elevating those on the bottom through their own efforts, although with the assistance of credits and financing to support their technical skills and to help them build their own private or collective microenterprises.

And it would be these policies, of “teaching the hungry how to fish, rather than giving them fish,” that would free human beings from exploitation and turn them into free producers and free thinkers.

The so-called socialist countries that emerged from the Stalinist processes that took place in Russia in the last century understood that new society as a work of the “proletarian State” which, through laws and violence, deprived the small, medium and the great bourgeoisie of their properties and administered them centrally and vertically, exploiting them without changing salaried work to the common benefit of society. It was an idealized vision of a primitive community. Great nonsense.

Logically, this vertical state-socialism from a “communist”-directed and regulated power could never overcome freely expanding capitalism, more horizontal, more democratic, precisely because of the degree of liberation of the productive forces, of the market, of human development and of the means of production.

The new post-capitalist society – more free, just, humane, democratic, protective of nature and the environment – will be achieved starting from the progress made possible by capitalism itself in its development and utilization of free workers and their own efforts, mechanisms and freedoms, achieved by capitalism and not by the suppression of capitalism through violence, the restrictions of liberties and the fratricidal class struggle.

Free workers, a class that is not in itself a capitalist mode of production (they are neither capitalists nor salaried workers), developed from the mechanisms of capitalism itself, is the new revolutionary class, not the “proletariat” that brings with it no new mode of production.

Therefore, it is not about fighting “against capitalism and its neoliberal variant, raising the proletariat” but about fighting for the development of free private or cooperative work.

The role of socialists would be better if they supported, promoted and took advantage of the mechanisms of capitalism that favor the progress of free private or cooperative work, particularly freedom in every sense, of the market, of technical and professional training for all, low interest lending policies and taxes that stimulate small and medium private or cooperative enterprises and that limit private or state monopolies and above all, fuller democracy that is ever more direct and transparently exercised and horizontal for citizens, with regards to taxes, budgets and spending at all levels.

The “communists and the leftists” who participated in the event do not understand this and continue their statist voluntarism, following the approaches of the olden days. If they do not change, the Peruvian forum will be condemned to repeating the failures of its predecessors.

‘Coffee, Three Cents’ / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

An independent seller of peanuts and sweets on the streets of Havana. (Luz Escobar)
An independent seller of peanuts and sweets on the streets of Havana. (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 23 August 2016 – Self-employed Cubans are tossed out of places where they’ve contracted with the State to work, without consideration of the consequences for them and violating what is established in their “contracts.” Recently this happened in Pinar del Rio, according to various reports, thanks to the redevelopment of the city boulevard. But this happens commonly all over Cuba.

An emblematic case happened in a Havana park when it was closed to the public for repairs and two dozen self-employed individuals, among them food vendors, sellers of toys, balloons and baby things, photographers, parking attendants and others, were left without work and without any ability to demand redress, although they had one year contracts and their licenses, payments and other documents were in order. continue reading

Months later, having finished some light painting and other things that could have been done between Monday and Friday without closing the park, which was mainly used on Saturdays and Sundays, this important recreation area was reopened, but under another administration.

The protests of the self-employed were ignored. The new administration had no “responsibility to the old contracts,” they told those who tried to reestablish themselves there. They needed new contracts for which they had to present all new documentation, photographs, self-employment licenses, tax payments, letters of good conduct from their local Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, and other things.

About twenty self-employed people were out of work for months, and had no recourse. The new administration set up new contracts with other self-employed people and some of the previous ones who had learned about it in time when they reopened the park. Others weren’t able to get new contracts. The opportunities were limited. And the previous contracts? Fine, and you?

In Cuba it is very normal that when the management of a company, a factory, a municipality or a province change, many other things also change.

It comes from the genesis of the top-down statist system introduced in Cuba by Fidel Castro, in the name of a socialism that has never existed other than in the dreams of many Cubans.

With the new administrations there are always changes among the most important positions, in the relationships between bosses and subordinates, in the old and new privileges granted by the boss, and in the way a business works in general.

And for this model – top-down, directed, bureaucratic, paternalist and populist – “the cadre is the backbone of the Revolution,” as Che Guevara said in one of his programmatic writings, not institutions nor their arrangements. According to this philosophy, present in Cuba at every step, when the cadre, that is the backbone, doesn’t exist, the whole body collapses.

This philosophy on leadership and management is very typical of Stalinist regimes, where the central figure, the leader, and his decisions are everything for his political subordinates. It happened in the USSR and other “socialist” countries: the bureaucracy, the so-called “unforeseen class,” according to some scholars, quickly adapted to the changes and went from socialist bureaucracy to capitalist bureaucracy, or from virtual owners in “socialism” to real owners in the new private capitalist model.

It is like one of those historical regularities of state-socialism, which invariably is found in the system at all levels and everywhere.

So it was not surprising that the fall of a leader changes many things, because these personality-focused governments are not capable of generating structures or institutions that serve the interests of the majority and the communist parties themselves, in reality, have been nothing more than political armies loyal to their founding bosses.

Today we see the Cuban Communist Party is incapable to presenting a program of consistent, comprehensive development for the Cuban nation and where, backwards and forwards, exclusions, designations, impositions, contradictions and failures are our daily bread.

Thus, those who think that the general rules that govern the country won’t change until there is a change in our administrator in chief are not mistaken, the same as always, and then, when other winds blow through Cuba, the loyal bureaucracy will act like the coffee seller who was walking along the wall of the Malecon in Havana in 1961, when the Bay of Pigs invasion happened. As he hawked his little cups of coffee he called out, “Cafeeé, … Cafeeé tres centavos, tres centavos” and when he heard that the American boats could already be seen approaching the coast, he quickly revised his come on: “Coffeee, three cents … Coffeee, three cents.”

Cuban Military Takes Over Businesses of Havana Historian’s Office / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Mario Penton

In its 23 years of work the City of Havana Office of the Historian has created more than 13,000 jobs directly and thousands indirectly. (14ymedio)
In its 23 years of work the City of Havana Office of the Historian has created more than 13,000 jobs directly and thousands indirectly. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar (Havana), Mario Penton (Miami), 16 August 2016 — “Do you see that building? Ten years ago it was full of stinking water, rats and trash. When people passed through the doorway a balcony could fall on their head. Today it is housing, thanks to the work of Eusebio,” Mirna says excitedly.

After expressing her gratitude to the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana (OHCH) for having provided her a home, this 68-year-old woman confesses her concern for the future of this institution, which has passed gradually into the hands of the military. continue reading

It is an open secret that the majority of the Historian’s companies have been transferred to an entity of the Armed Forces. It has not yet been published in any official decree nor has the national press spread the news, but the Historian of Havana, Eusebio Leal Spengler, has confirmed to 14ymedio that assets have been transferred to the Business Administration Group (GAE), a consortium managed by the Army. “It has not been transferred to the Armed Forces, but rather to GAE, a development company with investment capacity and prestige, which the Historian’s Office maintains the power to advise on the conservation of the work and also on new projects,” he explained via email.

Leal assures that the institution is calm because “the work of conservation now extends to the heritage cities of Cuba.” However, the historian expresses his sorrow at what this means for his efforts to protect the national patrimony. “It hurts us, that at the time when perhaps the greatest respect for the circumstances of life is required, the mediocre who lack any work are taking advantage, the poor in spirit, to hurt and damage many who have worked over the years to save the patrimony of a nation, whether in Cuba or anywhere else on earth.”

The Office of the Historian of Havana emerged in the ‘30s, in Republican Cuba. In 1967, after the death of the first title holder, Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, Eusebio Leal took the helm of an entity that gradually grew not only in size and income, but also autonomy.

Its uniqueness comes from the ‘90s, when the OHCH received by Decree-Law Number 143, the freedom of economic initiative. The Government, in an unusual gesture of decentralization, entrusted Leal with creating a corporate structure that would allow social reinvestment and restoration of buildings. The institution responsible for the conservation and rehabilitation of the historic center of Havana, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, would be answer directly to the Council of State, and would have a special legal jurisdiction, personality and permissions to import and export, among other prerogatives.

The bar of La Luz Restaurant. (14ymedio)
The bar of La Luz Restaurant. (14ymedio)

In addition, it gave the Office the ability to have entities not subordinate to it and encompassed within in the prioritized are contribute to the conservation of buildings with payment of 1% of their income from operations in national currency (Cuban pesos, of CUPs) and 5% from operations in hard currency (Cuban convertible pesos, or CUCs).

Within the broad and complex business fabric that OHCH has woven for more than two decades are the Habaguanex hotel chain; the San Cristobal travel agency; the Opus Habana cultural magazine; the Habana Radio station; the Bologna publishing house; and several websites for marketing its products. The company also controlled two real estate agencies, Aurea and Phoenix; more than fifty cafes and twenty restaurants; museums, concert halls and shops; an import company, a workshop school and three construction companies (later merged into one), among other assets.

In its 23 years of work, the Office has created more than 13,000 jobs directly and thousands indirectly. According to research published by the University of Havana, of the 500 million dollars generated during this time, 60% has been earmarked for social works. In addition, the company has received more than 30 million dollars in funding from international cooperation.

About 55% of tourists coming to Cuba visit Havana, and 90% of them tour the Historic Center. Tourism revenues are soaring, therefore, in this area, reaching 2,185 CUC per resident compared with 245 CUC for the whole city.

“The best part of the cake is Old Havana, everyone knows that, so they are taking all of Leal’s businesses,” said a worker in an old-age home funded by the Historian.

Leal confirmed that the Office retains some financial instruments, including the 5% tax on any public or private activity in the historical district and the shops considered heritage, linked to the system of museums. In addition, other State institutions continue to contribute to the operation of the entity.

The Historian’s Office was getting fat in the first decade of the century when it added to his portfolio the Traditional Malecon, in 2003, and Chinatown in 2005. Following the publication in the independent press of several corruption scandals related to its administration, some of the OHCH companies were taken over by other state agencies.

“The process of disengagement has been slow. They have been removing one company after another to save Leal. The comptroller has uncovered a very large embezzlement and the only way not to charge the Historian, who actually had nothing to do with these thefts, is to exempt him of responsibility for these companies,” said a Cuban economist who prefers to remain anonymous.

Leal flatly denies these allegations and explains that “wherever someone is willing to sell his soul to the devil there will be administrative or corruption scandals.” The historian also says that “it is simply about consolidating efforts for development that we can not handle within our own means.”

But there are other theories. Eugenio Yanez, a Cuban academic who belongs to the study center Cubanálisis, believes there are three problems the transfer is designed to solve: “First, Raul Castro has a more pragmatic view, so he may want there to be a specialized management company that is responsible for business in Havana. Then there is the issue of the Leal’s deteriorating health, and thirdly there is the problem of serious corruption in the Office of the Historian companies. The Comptroller has discovered shady businesses. The solution has been to the transfer them to the Army, which is trusted by Castro.”

Self-employed individuals in Old Havana say they feel protected by the OHCH. Some expressed to 14ymedio their misgivings about the transfer of the Office of the Historian’s business to GAE. “The state always promotes its own restaurants, hotels and businesses instead of private businesses, so we don’t know what will happen now,” said Reinaldo, who operates a fashion business.

Camilo Condis, self-employed, who works with Gilberto Valladares (Papito), the hairdresser who spoke with President Barack Obama during his visit to Cuba, says that small and medium sized businesses have worked in Havana as managers of local development. “Without the Historian’s Office the work we do would not have been possible,” he said at a meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE).

As of August 1, the institution that has saved at least one third of the historic center of Havana has seen its activities reduced to “museum management, promoting cultural activities and conservation of the heritage,” says a source at the Vitrina de Valonia cultural center.

No one knows how the restoration processes in the capital will proceed from now on, but many fear that the military will not know how to manage the legacy of the Historian and will seek a more immediate profitability, without taking residents into account.