American Agency Will Operate Direct Flights Between New York and Havana

JF Kennedy Airport in New York. (Facebook page: Cuba Travel Services)

JF Kennedy Airport in New York. (Facebook page: Cuba Travel Services)

Translating Cuba note: This translation got “lost” (due to the site manager’s Thanksgiving travel apparently), and is being belatedly posted now. Our apologies.

14YMEDIO, Havana, 21 November 2014 – The American agency Cuba Travel Services announced last Thursday that it will operate a direct flight between New York’s J.F. Kennedy Airport and Havana. It is envisioned that the trips will occur daily in the afternoon, although company workers have not been able to confirm either the departure days or the frequency of the flights.

Cuba Travel Services has not provided information about the date the service will begin, but it has announced that the price for a round trip ticket on the inaugural flight will start at 849 dollars.

The company organizes travel to popular destinations like Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Santa Clara, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba, with flights operated by Sun Country Airlines. Continue reading

Winning as a Political Obsession / Fernando Damaso

 File photo

The odd relationship between bread and circuses has been with us since the days of the Roman Empire. When the former is in short supply, the latter is in abundance. Cuban government officials have been putting it to use for years, with a strong emphasis on the latter. Sporting events, among other diversions, have always served as a convenient circus. The recently concluded Veracruz 2014, also known as the XXII Central American and Caribbean Games, have been no exception.

A delegation of top athletes was assembled — one capable of obtaining the most gold medals — with the goal of placing ahead of all the other participating countries. No thought was given to allowing younger athletes to compete with a view to future sporting events more important than Veracruz 2014 — something that other countries took into account, by not sending their principal figures, saving them for higher-level events. Continue reading

The First Intelligent Step / Rebeca Monzo

In these eight years that have passed since Raul Castro was designated by his brother as his successor, to take up the government of the country, this 17th of December, a date of only religious significance for the Cuban people until now, will go down in the history of our island as the most transcendent act of these last 50 years, by the announcement of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the US.

The previous steps taken by him as president, such as the liberalization of travel, selling and buying homes and automobiles, establishing small private businesses and others, are nothing more than the return of usurped rights to citizens, by the same regime that will soon reach fifty-six years in power. Continue reading

We Shall Fight to the End for the Liberty of Cuba / Cubanet, Ernesto Garcia Diaz

From left to right, Guillermo Fariñas, Antonio G. Rodiles, Félix Navarro and  Ángel Moya (Photo: Ernesto García Díaz)

From left to right, Guillermo Fariñas, Antonio G. Rodiles, Felix Navarro and Á”ngel Moya (photo by author)

  • Leaders of the opposition call Obama’s reconciliation with the Cuban government a “betrayal” during a press conference in Havana

Cubanet, Ernesto García Díaz, Havana, 18 December 2014 — From the headquarters of the Estado de SATS project in Miramar, on Wednesday afternoon (12/17/14), Cuban opposition leaders held a press conference for national and international media, to make known their positions regarding the new political stance of the United States towards Cuba.

Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for the Freedom of Thought and Coordinator General of the United Antitotalitarian Front (FANTU), referring to the steps taken by the governments of Cuba and the United States, stated the following:

“We can applaud the release of Alan Gross, who really was used by the Island’s government to blackmail the American administration. But Obama has been inconsiderate with the civil society that is challenging Cuba’s tyrannical government In Miami, back in November of 2013, Barack Obama promised Bertha Soler and me that any action he would take with respect to Cuba would be consulted with the civil society and nonviolent opposition. Obviously this did not occur. These actions are now accomplished facts, they are reality, and Cuban democrats were not taken into account. Continue reading

Conquering Democracy is our Task/ 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Obama during his speech

Obama during his speech

14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 18 December 2014 — As befits the ripples derived from the polarization and the long-held political conflicts, the surprising news about the release of Alan Gross by the Government of Cuba, and of the three confessed Cuban spies by the US government, coupled with the simultaneous announcement of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, has unleashed a wave of passion on both sides of the Florida Straits.

Some have catalogued it as a “victory for the dictatorship,” others as “the betrayal of the democratic aspirations of Cuba and of the US global leadership,” and there have been some who consider a “moral crime” what they term the exchange of people unjustly imprisoned in Cuba and three criminals who caused deaths and the mourning of Cuban families.

In all conflicts, each party is partially right, but when we talk about such significant historical events as the radical turnaround in the US-Cuba relations after the 50-year dispute, it is necessary to set aside the passions and calmly analyze the new scenario in order to extract the greatest possible benefits. Continue reading

An Intelligent Accord / Fernando Damaso

Finally, after more than fifty years of tensions, contradictions, offenses and mutual aggressions, the governments of Cuba and the United States have reached agreements that demonstrate intelligence and a sense of responsibility on both sides, the primary accord being the reestablishment of diplomatic relations.

This first step has required the efforts of various personalities and governments, strikingly among them the work of Pope Francis and the government of Canada, as well as others which have not been mentioned specifically.

The freeing of prisoners here and there, which was a minor obstacle (although for years it has been inflated and used for propaganda in the national circus) became a springboard for what was truly important. Now today, in spite of the outdated revolutionary rhetoric to which our authorities are addicted, they have faded to the background, outshone by the truly transcendent news. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we will be free of seeing them on our TV screens, like test patterns, for the next few days. This seems to be a necessary evil. Continue reading

Of Rafters and Slave Hunters / 14ymedio, Luzbely Escobar

Special border guard group.  (Luzbely Escobar)

Special border guard group. (Luzbely Escobar)

Gerardo and Agustin were stuck for two days with water up to their knees, among the trunks and roots on the coast. They had chosen a point west of Havana that they nicknamed the terminal for its frequent illegal exits, but the trip was thwarted. “They detected us, I don’t know how, because it was in the middle of the night and you couldn’t even see your hands,” they relate, still somewhere between surprised and upset. The capture of the two seems to be due to a new device, half truck, half scanner, that goes in search of rafters.

Last Friday a rare entourage was exhibited a few meters from the central Havana corner of L and 23. Two military jeeps, an overhauled vehicle and a motorboat were shown to the stupefied students who formed a circle of interest just outside the Cuba Pavilion. The teens fluttered around the objects, and an officer explained the modern work tools for “protecting the Cuban coasts from illegal entry and exit.”

The purpose was to familiarize the students with every detail of the work in the Ministry of the Interior’s Border Guards in order to attract potential soldiers. The device that they described with greatest pride was a truck that once belonged to the Trasval chain messenger service and that they themselves have fitted with GPS and motion and heat sensing cameras. Its mission? Finding amid the underbrush, darkness and waves those who have decided to escape from the Cuban paradise. Continue reading

Being in “The Packet” / Wendy Guerra

A man with a pack over his shoulder walks down a Havana street.

A man with a pack over his shoulder walks along a Havana street. (EFE)

Wendy Guerra, Habáname, 15 December 2014 — About three years ago, a young man – tall, blond and ungainly – would haul an enormous sack full of DVDs of pirated movies, music videos, TV shows and series. Today, this same young man – now more poised and better dressed – walks the streets of Miramar with a small memory stick in his pocket, dispensing information to any of the households that can pay 15, 5 or, most commonly, 10 CUCs [Cuban convertible pesos] per week to download the latest broadcast content from international channels. For those who are unable to pay this fee, for those who lack the necessary resources, there are the memory devices that we record and distribute. This happens week after week in every Havana neighborhood.

“The Packet.” This is what we locals call the mountain of information that, on a weekly basis, the anticipated visitor sells and distributes to relieve the Cuban people’s dearth of options for visual references and news sources. Continue reading

The Challenges of Young People / Regina Coyula

When vast disagreements exist, dialogue and respectful discussion especially generate questions for the present and future. We were accustomed to the language of the barricade, where anything that didn’t align with the Holy Trinity (motherland, revolution and socialism) was as heretic as in the times of the Inquisition. There were enormous ideological fires that any newcomer or forgetful person should never doubt; he/she must only pay close attention to the embers and sparks that still rise.

The issue becomes complicated with the rise of a trendy lack of social discipline. The youth, whose responsibility to govern will come in a historically short period of time, is educated with videoclasses with no educational supervision and “emerging teachers” who barely have the advantage of three to four years more instruction than those they are teaching. With this deficiency in instruction, whatever one doesn’t learn at home, becomes increasingly difficult to learn at school. Continue reading

Everything is Sold-Out / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

 Collective Transportation. (14ymedio)

Collective Transportation. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, 16 December 2014 — The end-of-year all over the world presents a challenge for many enterprises and businesses, especially for those in the transportation sector. Nobody wants to miss the opportunity to considerably increase the profits to be made from an extraordinary rise in demand for services. To this end, strategies are plotted and necessary adjustments are made well in advance. It is also true that at this time there is a surge in ticket prices. What would be strange is if, assuming you have the resources to travel, you were unable to find any means to get to your destination by land, sea or air.

That is, unless you live in Cuba. This is an island whose land and total population are comparable to or exceeded by some large cities of the world.

Over here, starting in the first few days of December, you can already hear in any office that sells tickets to travelers the famous phrase, “No, Son, no, for those dates, everything is sold-out
It is also common to find someone who laughs and says, ironically, “But who in their right mind thinks they can wait till early December to start shopping for tickets? That’s something you start doing at least three months in advance!” Continue reading

Alan Gross, the hook that ended up being swallowed / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Demonstrations demanding the release of Alan Gross

Demonstrations demanding the release of Alan Gross

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 17 December 2014 – With the pessimism that has now become chronic in our society, many Cubans thought that Alan Gross would only leave Cuba, “in a box,” in an image allusive of a fatal outcome. The stubbornness shown by the Cuban government in its relations with the United States didn’t presage a short-term solution for the contractor. This Wednesday, however, he has been exchanged for three Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States, bringing to a close a long and complicated political chapter for both parties.

Gross was only useful alive and his health was rapidly deteriorating. And Raul Castro knew this very well. Hence, in recent months he raised the decibels around the proposed exchange for the agent Antonio Guerrero and the officials Ramón Labañino and Gerardo Hernández, all serving long sentences in the prisons of our neighbor to the north. To the extent that the 65-year-old contractor grew thin and lost his vision, official campaigns grew increasingly insistent about the exchange. When Gross threatened to kill himself, the alarms if the island’s government went off and the negotiating schedule accelerated. Continue reading

The Privilege of Living in Cuba / 14ymedio, Cederistin Dominguez

14ymedio, CEDERISTIN DOMINGUEZ, 10 December 2014 — The independent press that usually criticizes the Cuban government using human rights as a pretext should come out into the street today, December 10. Our children, especially those in primary school, will be playing, jumping and doing pirouettes in all Havana’s main plazas. Representatives from the United Nations, the foreign press and especially the national press will enjoy a great time there, watching the carnival of happiness and color that the children will give them spontaneously and voluntarily.

How do I know? Well, because I have lived in Cuba my whole life, and I know our children, and they are very prone to playing on the tenth of December… Why this day? Well, I don’t know, the truth is that now that you ask me it is a little strange. . . It’s cold, it rains and it is a school day.

What I do know is that it coincidentally matches the world day of human rights and at least our children will not be bored in cages learning mathematics, physics or Spanish. After all, we are barbarians in all that. Continue reading