Cuba: Changes Come, Although the General May Not Want Them To / Juan Juan Almeida

For more than half a century, the Cuban Revolution developed exclusively inspired by the powerful and omnipresent archetype Fidel Castro.  An image that no longer exists or is hidden is the dressing rooms of the current political-economic-social theater. That is why when someone asks me if there exist in Cuba objective and subjective conditions for forging change, I always begin by saying: It depends on what we understand and want to assume by “Change.”

It is clear that the so extended process called the Cuban Revolution did not lead to a more just or prosperous or inclusive society, but to a strange and irrational collapse that still endures. The seizure of all powers, judicial and executive, did away with the legal protection of the citizen, and imposed apathy and fear; like that singular combination that exists between a cup of coffee with milk and a piece of bread with butter.

The old Asian theory that speaks of two elements is the basis of the idea that all phenomena of the universe are the result of the movement and mutation of various categories.  The good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the yin and the yang.

The presence of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the chief of the political department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and the misguided intervention of the President of the Republic of Cuba in the closing event of the recently held Eighth Congress of UNEAC was a terrible implementation of this old theory, and a disastrous strategy for showing the authority of the Government and the State, and at the same time it tried to reconquer the intelligentsia that as we all now know appears because of obstinacy, compromise, inertia or boredom, but that for some time, due to these same reasons, distanced itself from the Revolution.

The island’s government, upon the prompt and unstoppable disappearance if its leader-guide-priest and example, manages to entertain by talking of transformation while it intimidates us, leaving very clear the place of each in its chain of command.Many times we have seen dissident voices that issue from within the island repressed using mental patients with disorders like bi-polar and schizophrenia that without adequate medication exhibit extremely violent behaviors.  Outrageous.

I ask myself what the representatives of international organizations do, or what  those sensitive and passionate people who decided to defend vehemently and peevishly the Hippocratic oath say, on learning that the mentally ill are used as deadly weapons.

On April 14, 1912, the Titanic, at that time the safest boat in the world, crashed into an iceberg, and while it was sinking, the orchestra played.  In all ways, whether the general wants it or not, change is coming, although I have to admit that since 2008, the man has exerted himself in confusing us with an imaginary and mythological climate of national improvements and radical reforms; on one hand he shows several political prisoners, and on the other he hides political prisoners from us (here the order of the factors does alter the product).

According to the Marxist bible, the Communist Manifesto, a transformation of the structure of the classes demands a change in the social order and a political revolution.

La Habana decided to wind up its old and rusted clock because it had turned into quite the brake.

Translated by mlk.

14 April 2014

UNEAC Complicit In Its Silence / Angel Santiesteban

Previously I have said that in the circus exercise called court, which I attended with the sentence already dictated by State Security, as I was made to know long before by one of their henchmen, a fact that I made known publicly — and which the judges in the First Chamber of Crimes Against State Security executed, in their special headquarters for notorious crimes on Carmen and Juan Delgado, when it was supposed that my crime was common — officials of the Cuban Artists and Writers Union (UNEAC) attended, sent by their president Miguel Barnet to watch the show, like poet Alex Pausides, accompanied by the legal official, who said that to his understanding what the prosecution could present against me was smoke, like the report of that handwriting expert who said that the height and slant of my handwriting made me guilty.

At the exit, the poet and Communist Party member Alex Pausides as well as the legal official, said that I would be absolved given that what was presented, and according to what was exposed in the oral ceremony, I could not be judged, especially when I presented five witnesses who demolished those accusations.

caption

Dear members of UNEAC (take note). Angel Santiesteban, Revolutionarily, Me

Then, when they found me guilty, my lawyer went to UNEAC and left all the documents that corroborated my innocence and that they requested for presentation to Miguel Barnet, but we never received an answer, they kept silent.

Of course, I am not naive, I never expected a reaction from UNEAC, I always knew what they would do, but above all, what they would not do, and they have fulfilled my predictions.  I understood that they would take that posture because I believe in history like a religion, and I knew that history would yield that despicable stance. Their silence is their shamelessness.  And that shamelessness is now written in our history.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement.  April 2014.

To sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience follow the link.

Translated by mlk.

“I Only Know That I Am Afraid” / Tania Diez Castro

HAVANA, Cuba — For almost the first three years of his regime, Fidel Castro was not interested in Cuban intellectuals. He did not forgive their passivity during the years of revolutionary insurrection. They had not put bombs in the street, nor did they engage in armed conflict with the previous dictator’s police. Even those who lived abroad did not do anything for the revolutionary triumph. He never forgave them. Neither he nor other political leaders considered them revolutionaries either before or after the Revolution.

Che Guevara had left it written forever in his little Marxist manual Socialism and Man in Cuba: “The guilt of many of our intellectuals and artists resides in their original sin: they are not authentically revolutionary. We can try to graft the elm tree so that it will produce pears, but at the same time we must plant pear trees.”

But the pears that Che mentioned had nothing to do with human beings because an intellectual, writer or artist is characterized by his sensitivity, his pride, his sincerity. In general, they are solitary and proud.

But also they are, and that is their misfortune, an easy nut to crack, above all for a dictator with good spurs.

During those almost first three years of the Revolution, the most convulsive of the Castro regime — the number of those shot increased and the few jails were stuffed with more than 10,000 political prisoners — surely writers did not fail to observe how Fidel Castro was cracking the free press when after December 27, 1959, he gave the order to introduce the first “post-scripts” at the bottom of articles adverse to his government, supposedly written by the graphics workers.

It was evident that Fidel Castro, who controlled the whole country, did not want to approach them to fill leadership positions of cultural institutions founded by the regime, like the Institute of Art and Cinematographic Industry, House of the Americas, the Latin News Press Agency and numerous newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations that were nationalized.

For minister of education he preferred Armando Hart. For the House of the Americas, a woman very far from being an intellectual, Haydee Santamaria.  For the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television, Papito Serguera, and for the Naitonal Council of Culture, Vicentina Antuna and Edith Garcia Buchaca, two women unknown in cultural domain.

The first approach that Fidel Castro had with writers, June 16, 1961, in the National Library of Havana, could not have been worse. It was there where he exclaimed his famous remark, “Within the Revolution, everything; outside the Revolution, nothing,” and where he made clear that those who were dedicated to Art had to submit themselves to the will of the Revolution, something that is still in force.

The maximum leader left that closed-door meeting more than pleased on seeing the expressions of surprise and fear of many of those present, and above all by the words of Virgilio Pinera, one of the most important intellectuals of the 20th century when he said: “I just know that I am scared, very scared.” That precisely was what the new Cuban leader most needed to hear from the intellectual throng: Fear, to be able to govern at his whim.

Two months later the Fist Congress of Cuban Writers and Artists was held, and UNEAC was founded.  The intellectuals had fallen into line.

If something was said about that palatial headquarters, property of a Cuban emigrant, it is that the Commandant was allergic to all who had their own judgment, and for that reason he would never visit it, as it happened.

It is remembered still today that in a public speech on March 13, 1966, he attacked the homosexuals of UNEAC, threatening to send them to work agriculture in the concentration camps of Camaguey province. The “Enlightened One,” as today the president of UNEAC Miguel Barnet calls the Cuban dictator, kept his word. Numerous writers and graphic artists found themselves punished with forced labor in the unforgettable Military Units to Assist Production — UMAP.

These Nazi-style units were created in 1964 and closed four years later after persistent international complaints. If anyone knew and knows still the most hidden thoughts of the intellectuals, besides their sexual intimacy, it is the Enlightened One, thanks to his army of spies, members of the political police who work in the shadows of the mansion of 17th and H, in the Havana’s Vedado where UNEAC put down roots.

In 1977, one cannot forget the most cruel and abominable blow that the Enlightened One directed against the writers of UNEAC when his army of political police extracted from the drawers of the headquarters the files of more than 100 members — among them was mine as founder — so that they were definitively and without any explanation separated from the Literature Section of that institution.

Cubanet, April 11, 2014

Translated by mlk.

The Revolution’s Pensioners / Reinaldo Emilio Cosan Alen

HAVANA, Cuba.  Jose Manuel Rosado, 74 years of age, from Havana del Este, stands in line at four in the morning to be among the first to “fill up his checkbook.”

The bank opens at 8:30 for multiple transactions.  Many other people like Jose Manuel will wait patiently, on foot, whether in intense sun or cold and rain if it is winter, in order to cash their retirement.  Jose, his two-hundred forty pesos (ten dollars average), which will vanish in the first food purchases and payments for services.

Maria Victoria, 81 years old, stands in line in front of Branch 286 of the People’s Savings Bank — a state bank — in the San Miguel del Padron township:

“I retired at 65.  I was a cook in a business the last thirty.  I worked another eight years.  The money goes to deficient nutrition. I “resolved” my food at my work, do you understand, for my home.  Now I almost cannot walk because of my ulcerous legs, I am diabetic. I rent a pedicab to go get my cash. A dollar going, another returning. Fifty pesos spent, but it is dangerous to walk through broken, dark streets, exposed to robberies to go to the bank.”

She pays another fifty pesos monthly on installment for a bank loan for the purchase of her Chinese refrigerator. She has paid off five years, five are still left.

Build up for whatever official or individual management: mail, Currency Exchange, tax payment, liquidation sale and transfer of property and vehicles, fines, repayments, deposits, bonds, required seals–foreign and national currency–monthly payments for dwelling, loans retirement and pension payments. Craziness!

Pensioner Eloy Marante, 76 years old, pays triple the tax for his courier license. Day by day, he loads, transports and distributes gas cylinders to homes with his tricycle, in order to obtain a supplement for his lean pension.

“We run errands in the warehouse, attentive to if they are selling the piece of chicken allowed to those on a special “health diet.” We pay electricity, telephone, gas. We take the little kids to school and pick them up; take the snacks to the kids in high school, also we do favors for neighbors for a small tip. Jobs that the family throws to the old people. The worst: standing in unending lines to exchange bills for coins because business clerks and bus drivers say they don’t have change!  An fraud*,because the government does not demand responsibility. . .” says Jose Manuel.

Milagros Penalver, director of Budget Control for the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, says there are 672,568 retirees and pensioners out of 2,041,392 people over 70 years of age, according to the Population and Household Census of 2012.

Significant is the prediction by the Center for Population Studies and development of the National Office of Statistics: 33.9 percent of the population will be over six decades old in 2035.  The birthrate continues in permanent decline because of factors so adverse to procreation.

*Translator’s note: The fraud is refusing to give the customer coins and so the business or bus driver “keeps the change.”

cosanoalen@yahoo.com

Cubanet, April 11, 2014, Reinaldo Emilio Cosan Alen

Translated by mlk

Havana: The Poverty Behind the Glamour / Ivan Garcia

El-Fanguito-uno-de-los-barrios-marginales-de-La-Habana-620x330

View of El Fanguito, one of Havana’s slums

Just across from Cordoba park, in the Havana neighborhood of La Vibora, is nestled a luxury cafe called Villa Hernandez.  It is a stunning mansion built in the early 20th century and renovated in detail by its owner.

At the entrance, a friendly doorman shows clients the menu on a black leather-covered card.  A pina colada costs almost five dollars.  And a meal for three people not less than 70 cuc, the equivalent of four months’ salary for Zaida, employed by a dining room situated two blocks from the glamour of Villa Hernandez which attracts retired people, the elderly, and the poor from the area.

“It is not a dining room, it is a state restaurant for people of limited means. They call it ’Route 15,’ and the usual menu is white rice, an infamous pea porridge, and croquettes,” says Zaida.

Like the majority of the area’s residents, she has never sat on a stool in the Villa Hernandez bar to drink a mojito or to “nibble” tapas of Serrano ham.

A block from the dining room, on the corner of Acosta and Gelabert, in a house with high ceilings in danger of collapse, live 17 families crowded together.  The people have scrounged in order to transform the old rooms into dwellings.

The method for gaining space is to create lofts with wooden or concrete platforms between the walls. Each, on his own or according to his economic possibilities, has built bathrooms and kitchens without the assistance of an engineer or architect.

Even the old basement, where there once existed an animal stable, has been converted into a place that only with much imagination might be called a home.

The neighbors of the place see the Villa Hernandez restaurant as a foreign territory. “They have told me that they eat very well. I am ashamed to enter and ask about the menu. What for, if I have no money? At the end of the year they put up pretty decorations and a giant Santa Claus. I have told my children that this kind of restaurant is not within the reach of our pockets,” says Remigio.

Like small islets, in Havana there have emerged houses for rent, gymnasiums, tapas bars, cafes and private restaurants much like those that a poor Cuban only sees in foreign films.

There exists a nocturnal Havana with many lights, elegant designs and excess air conditioning which is usually the letter of introduction for the apparent success of the controversial economic reforms promoted by Raul Castro.

It is good that little private businesses emerge. The majority of the population approves cutting out by the roots dependence on the State, the main agent of the socialized misery that is lived in Cuba.

But old people, the retired, professionals, and state workers ask themselves when fair salary reforms will happen that will permit a worker to acquire a household appliance or drink a beer in a private bar.

“That’s what it’s about. Almost all we Cubans approve of people opening businesses. After all, in economic matters, the government has shown a lethal inefficiency. But there are two discussions: one is sold to potential foreign investors and another internal that keeps crushing the commitment to Marxism and to governing in order to favor the poorest,” says Amado, an engineer.

In the business field, the government has opened the door, but not completely.  In the promulgated economic guidelines, it is recognized that the small businesses are designed such that people do not accumulate great capital.

A large segment of party officials and the official press believes it sees in each private entrepreneur a future criminal.

At the moment, self-employment is surrounded with high taxes, the expansion of the opening of a wholesale market, and a legion of state inspectors who demand a multitude of parameters, as if it were anchored in Manhattan or Zurich and not in a nation that has short supplies of things from toothpaste and deodorant to even salt and eggs.

The regime takes advantage of the poor to sell the Cuban brand. “Marketing has been created that shows an island interspersed with images of tenements, mulattas dancing to reggaeton, happy young people drinking rum, US cars from the ’50’s, the National Hotel and luxury restaurants,” says Carlos, a sociologist.

Successful managers, like Enrique Nunez, owner of La Guarida, situated in the mostly black neighborhood of San Leopoldo in downtown Havana, also benefit from the environment in order to grow their businesses.

La Guarida was one of the locations in the film Strawberry and Chocolate by the deceased director Tomas Gutierrez Alea. There, among many others, have dined Queen Sofia of Spain, Diego Armando Maradona and US congressmen.

The dilapidated multifamily building where it is located, with sheets put out to dry on interior balconies and unemployed mulattos and blacks playing dominoes at the foot of the stairway, has become the particular stamp of La Guarida.

“Yes, it’s embarrassing. But to carry on culinary or hospitality businesses in ruinous neighborhoods replete with hustlers and prostitutes, is an added value that works.  Maybe that happens because Havana is still not a violent or dangerous city like Caracas. And the naive Europeans like that touch of modernity surrounded by African misery,” points out the owner of a bar in the old part of the capital.

While the governmental propaganda exaggerates the economic opening, Zaida asks if someday her salary in the State dining room will permit her to have a daiquiri in Villa Hernandez. For her, for now, it would be easier for it to snow in Cuba.

Ivan Garcia

Photo:  El Fanguito, old neighborhood of indigents in El Vedado, Havana, arose in 1935, at the mouth of the river Almendares, in the now-disappeared fishing village of Bongo and Gavilan. With Fidel Castro’s arrival in power, this and other Havana slums not only did not disappear but were growing. At any time, El Fanguito, La Timba, Los Pocitos, La Jata, Romerillo, El Canal, La Cuevita, Indalla, and La Corea, among others, are included in sightseeing tours through the capital, in order to be in tune with the fashion of mixing glamour with poverty, as occurs in Rio de Janeiro with the slums. The photo was taken from Cubanet (TQ).

Translated by mlk.

10 April 2014

Something That Goes Beyond the Law / Josue Rojas Marin, Cuban Law Association

Atty. Josue Rojas Marin

Some landlords from Santa Lucia beach in the Camaguey province find themselves confused before a measure imposed by officials from Immigration and Aliens. Since last year, they have made them sign a document obliging them to be responsible for the cars rented by tourist staying in their homes, in spite of the fact that they sign a rental contract with the agency.  As is logical, there is nothing in the law that imposes a responsibility for property that forms no part of the accommodation.

They also have to keep the home’s door wide open, as we say in good Cuban, in order not to obstruct a surprise inspection, abrogating to the inspectors the right to write or cross things out in the rental registry book, in spite of the fact that it is not they but the Municipal Housing Department that is responsible for controlling this document, so it is required that a responsible person not leave the dwelling unattended, even when there are no guests.

The landlords often suffer unexpected visits by police agents who also write in the registry books, conduct illegal searches, take the registry book without any legal process and return it whenever they want.

All that affects the rental activity and consequently their income.

Translated by mlk.
31 March 2014

Zunzuneo: Subversion or Breaking Censorship; / Odelin Alfonso Torna / HemosOido

HAVANA, Cuba — The Cuba-United States confrontation increased its pitch with the publication by the daily Granma of the article, Zunzuneo: The Noise of Subversion, commenting on a report by the AP news agency about ZunZuneo and Piramideo, two text message services (SMS) accused of having illegally complied a list of telephone numbers to which it sent unsolicited messages on innocent topics like sports and culture, but which later would become subversive messages to young people, considered “susceptible to political change.”

According to Granma, the cornerstone of the ZunZuneo plan — a network that emerged in February 2010 — was to access the “data and phone numbers of Cubacel users,” the branch with the most ETECSA users.  In the same paragraph, the Communist Party daily suggests: “It is not clear to the AP how the telephone numbers were obtained although it appears to indicate that it was done in an illicit manner.”

Maybe the AP does not know that the ETECSA database — guide of mobile and fixed (residential and commercial) telephone numbers — was leaked in early 2010 to laptop and desktop computers all over the Island.  And that, immediately, promotional texts began to appear issued by Cuban artistic groups or clubs and bulk messages — unsolicited — demanding freedom for the five Cuban spies.  I remember perfectly one that said:  “To love justice is to defend the five.  End injustice!  Freedom now!”

The official ETECSA database is updated every year. The latest version that circulates in the population accounts for 60 per cent of the mobile phones, some 200,000 users, not counting the residential sector. The weight of this application in megabytes is between 200 and 450 (by design) and can be copied in any digital format.

Is it possible that ZunZuneo got 25 thousand subscribers in less than six months without the need of a database as the AP well reflects?  Why not talk about the so popular data leakage by ETECSA and the proselytizing in its unsolicited text messages?

Thanks to a friend not tied to the internal oppositon or independent journalism, I subscribed to ZunZuneo in 2010.  It was all very simple, it just required sending an SMS to a phone number outside the border and you would receive news about sports, culture or science or technology.  Also, one could subscribe on the Internet, at a time when the number of connected Cubans was barely 2.9 percent of the population.

Often senior citizens receive in Cuba promotional messages about a reggaeton concert, also the “March of the Torches Parade in Havana — The Great Country” is convened through Cubacel, as happened January 27 this year.  Is this not, perhaps, the equivalent of infringing on “the laws of privacy” as Granma says of ZunZuneo?

Nothing is said about the database leak by Cubacel, software that has generated groups of clandestine users and even phantom prepaid top-ups within the informal Cuban market.

This Thursday, the US government responded to the AP’s accusations. White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that his government was involved in the program and that it even had been approved in Congress. But the spokesman for the State Department, Marie Harf, denied on Thursday that the social network was the product of a secret or undercover operation. “We were trying to expand the space for Cubans to express themselves,” said Harf.For his part, White House spokesman Jay Carney denied that ZunZuneo had an undercover nature although he clarified that the US president supports efforts to expand communications in Cuba.

AP and international media that have reproduced the “scandal” of ZunZuneo should know that the ZunZuneo application never was used for any “subversive” movement in Cuba. Instead, the Cuban government used the ETECSA database to send text messages advocating the liberation of the five spies or the attendance at pro-governmental political events.

About a year ago, the ZunZuneo messages stopped. Cubans still do not communicate freely.

Cubanet, April 8, 2014

Translated by mlk

Artists on the General’s Farm / Camilo Ernesto Olivera

HAVANA, CUBA.  Each day we awaken, and the dinosaur is still here.  The delegates of the National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC) will meet with the master generals of the island-farm on the 11th, 12th and 13th of this month.

In the tedious lines that the UNEAC members stand in for the Internet, in the navigation room “LaJungla.com,” the commentary is acid.  The lack of respect for them and the dismissal of their opinions on the part of the institution’s leadership is evident.  The creators are losing their fear of saying what they feel and think:

“I am shocked to hear (Miguel) Barnet speaking of UNEAC as the spiritual vanguard of the country,” a young playwright said to this reporter, “in reality this is no more than a playpen where an aging, conformist and reactionary intellectual majority is huddled.  They are more afraid of losing perks than contributing to the Battle of Ideas in the last decade.”

“After seeing the way that the pre-Congress meetings were held, what I hope for is another act of revolutionary reaffirmation,” added the playwright, “the only agreement that is going to be reached here is summed up in this sentence:  ’Tell Raul Castro what he wants to hear, and maybe he will listen.’  On the general’s farm, intellectuals are like toilet paper, always disposable although politically correct.”

The younger members are refusing to accept the closed atmosphere that is breathed.  The taking of certain positions of power within the institution on the part of people with a prefabricated curriculum is also a striking fact.  Their labor is focusing on dividing and disrupting thought that is critical of the system.  They are the cultural police watching the members and reporting to their superiors:

“They are infiltrating their acolytes into disaffected groups in order to learn what is said and rewarding them under the table for the confidential information,” said a poet who requested anonymity.  “It is a watered down version, subtle, of the atmosphere that was breathed here in the ’70’s, which does not stop being worrying.”  They are playing old and gray cards, applying the Zhadanoviano method of the so-called black lists.  Manipulating the membership with floodgate mechanisms for access to or refusal of the rewards, incentives or other perks.”

The calamitous state in which the majority of cultural institutions find themselves, a situation that is worse in towns in the interior of the island, is a fact:  Theaters and culture centers falling down.  Influence peddling, money embezzled by programmers hiring Reagetton artists who, in their turn, pay a percentage “under the table.”  Radio and television censorship.  Salaries that do not go far…

UNEAC-PEÑA-DE-POESIA-Copy1“You cannot promote culture on an empty stomach,” said a promoter from Bayamo.  “In my city they closed the visual arts school, and the art instructors’ buildings are full of leaks.”  I mentioned to her the promotional poster for the congress and the sentence by Fidel Castro that appears on it:  Culture is the first thing we must save, and she responded:  “The country’s culture is not saved with a putrid ideology, it is saved with a strong and well run economy.  And for there to be an economy, there must be free enterprise, opportunities to invest and prosper for those within and outside of the country.”

The future of UNEAC as a historic dam or fence to control the artistic herd is in doubt.  Another intellectuality is being born from the wreckage of fear, and it is approaching the vilified borders of political dissidence.  Although in this 8th Congress of UNEAC, the intellectuals are like toilet paper, always disposable.

Cubanet, April 3, 2014, Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro

Translated by mlk.

Our Potato Who Art in Heaven / Orlando Freire Santana

HAVANA, Cuba — Prices of agricultural products have increased between 15 and 25 percent in recent months. An unsustainable burden if we take into account the population’s salaries. The price increase coincides with new forms of marketing. It turns out that the mechanism for bringing producers and consumers closer and eliminating intermediaries set off prices.

It was obvious: An official research center decides to cast aside marketing analysis and concentrates on production.

Armando Nova Gonzalez, researcher for the Cuban Economic Studies Center, told the Tribuna de la Havana newspaper: The levels of production should have increased with the transfer of idle lands to lease-holders. But it has not been so because of how expensively the State sells tools and adequate inputs to the lease-holders in order to make the land produce, among other reasons. Continue reading

Cuba Seeks Investors with an Old Publicity Strategy / Juan Juan Almeida

In 1989, Cuba concentrated 85 per cent of its trade relations on the USSR and the rest of the socialist camp.  Thus it assured the supply of components, raw materials, technology and satisfactory loans in terms of due date and interest. With the collapse of European socialism and the disintegration of the USSR, Cuba in short order found itself with substantially diminished purchasing capacity and economic-financial reality.

Havana was going close-hauled in a scene as uncertain as that of a refugee on the high seas.  It was then that Fidel, expert in navigating crises and very irresponsible about costs, laid out his directives for confronting the debacle as if it were a slip up. Internally he kept the nation entertained with the sadly famous “Special Period and War of All the People;” not abroad where he launched messages that assured of control and security, effective hooks for finding new trading partners and markets.

So there appeared on the island a nephew of Saddam Hussein who built the first plant for the canned soft drink “Tropicola;” and a known arms trafficker (sought on a worldwide level) interested in financing the national production of cane sugar and citrus fruits.

After such illustrious personages disguised as entrepreneurs, there arrived other such relatives of famed dictators, market opportunists, refined bandits, vulgar robbers, men of decorum, and Cuban exiles with suitcases full of hope.

As was expected, many entrepreneurs, those who the government rejected for various reasons, were on a long road of unbearable defaults; but others received, besides their temporary residence, the right to possess a “foreign firm” that today they trade on the island at low cost and high value.

This quasi-dishonesty where the foreign and national converge, unleashed a kind of euphoria; on one hand, many Cuban citizens trying to escape from economic suffocation managed to work for foreign businesses; on the other, relatives of and individuals close to high Cuban leaders, because of feeling they were not employed, left Cuba and founded companies with which they then bought another and another until hiding the original identity in order to then enroll in the commercial registry of the Chamber of Commerce for the Republic of Cuba and make it function.

Of course, not all the children of the elite wanted to become prosperous businessmen; the exalted Alejandro Castro Espin decided to reach high and under the pseudonym of Ariel was named chief of the section of the 4th department of State Security in charge of investigating, approving, recruiting and bribing all the businessmen, investors, entrepreneurs, foreign company workers, and Cuban stockholders in foreign businesses. Come on, it’s the same as printing money.

In such circumstances, in 1995 he approved the first legislation (No. 77) that regulates foreign investment and continues in force today.  At the end of 2000 there were 392 economic partnerships with foreign capital located for the most part in mining, prospecting–extraction of petroleum, tourism, light industry, metallurgy and construction; several of them, property of a few Cubans (relatives and people close to the high Cuban leadership) resident on the island.

The newspaper Granma reports that as provided, the State Council for the Republic of Cuba calls a special session of the National Assembly of Popular Power for Saturday, March 29 this year for the purpose of analyzing the proposed Law of Foreign Investment.

I see the answer clearly, there are political realities that cannot wait.  Alliances like ALBA and CARICOM smell redirection; Venezuela, for now, I do not believe loses Maduro as President but his regional leadership.  Cuba returns to old ways, approaches Brazil and the European Economic Community reaching for its old but effective publicity strategy to attract investors.

I would like to know if this new legal proposal will open new liberties for those Cuban exiles that currently can only carry out — from across the border — buying and selling activities; and if finally they will decide to legislate in favor of or against those Cuban entrepreneurs resident on the island who for a long time have invested in Cuba in and need to enjoy a protective legal framework.

I believe that if I ask any Cuban official, he will invoke a 5th Amendment that does not exist in our constitution.  For all the rest, we’ll have to wait.

Translated by mlk.

24 March 2014

Desertion by Doctor Ramona Matos Opens a Breach / Osmar Laffita Rojas / HemosOido

Dr. Ramon Matos shows her documents

Dr. Ramon Matos shows her documents in Brazil on seeking political asylum. Photo from Internet.

HAVANA, Cuba. — The manipulation by the official press has no limits. The report published in the Granma daily on March 17 by journalist Diana Ferreiro carries a grandiose headline: “White Scrubs for a Better World.”

In said article, it went so far as to say that the seventh delegation of Cuban doctors that left this week for Brazil “will lend international help.”

The concealment of what is really behind the presence of Cuban doctors in Brazil is grotesque. These doctors do not go “to lend international help.” They are simply health professionals hired by the Brazilian government in the “More Doctors” program through the Panamerican Health Organization (PHO).

After prior negotiation by the PHO, the Marketer of Cuban Medical Services S.A. will receive 4,300* dollars monthly for each of the 11,430 doctors who will work for a period of two years in the South American giant.

Ferreiro lies when she claims that of the 1,684 physicians of the seventh delegation, “a great part of them had finished their work in Venezuela and responded to the the new call.” Really what determined that they “step up” is that they know that, after March, they are going to earn 1,245* dollars a month in Brazil, and not the 3,000 Bolivares (the equivalent of 35 dollars monthly) that the Cuban government pays them on the Venezuelan “mission.”

The Cuban government keeps a third of the 4,200* dollars a month that the doctors who work now in Brazil receive as salary.

The official press has not said that the remaining 1,245* dollars will accrue entirely to the doctors. This was possible because of the pressure by the Brazilian authorities on the Cuban government which sees itself forced to put an end to the abusive and exploitative system of 1,000-dollar payments from which the doctors received 400 dollars a month and the remaining 600 dollars was deposited in an account which they could only access on return to Cuba after finishing their work in Brazil.  The change became possible because of the notorious scandal caused by the desertion of Doctor Ramona Matos and other Cuban doctors; something that, of course, Diana Ferreiro does not mention in her article.

To that extent it can be said — although the Cuban people do not know it — that it was Brazil and not Cuba where for the first time a real increase was produced in the salaries of doctors who mostly earn 20 dollars a month on the island.

The Cuban government has seen a goldmine of hard currency income with the exportation of professional services.

The payment of the 11,430 physicians who will work in various Brazilian states, added to the 35 thousand that are in Venezuela, will mean an annual income of over 6 billion dollars.

With the 46,430 Cuban doctors in Venezuela and Brazil, the Cuban population will only have 32,192 professionals at their disposal located in 57 general hospitals, four maternal-infant hospitals, 468 poly-clinics and 11,486 Family Doctor clinics.

The Cuban health system, already plagued by deficiencies, with so few professionals that will remain in Cuba, without a doubt will worsen in the coming months.

Cubanet, March 20, 2014 / Osmar Laffita Rojas

ramsetgandhi@yahoo.com

*Translator’s note: The dollar amounts reported in this text do not perfectly track, but it has been translated faithfully from the original.

Translated by mlk.

Fernando’s Eggs / Gladys Linares

Monte and Aguila. Photo Gladys Linares

Monte and Aguila. Photo Gladys Linares

HAVANA, Cuba. – Some “fighters” have done as Fernando, who when he decided to retire, began to think about how to increase his pension without courting trouble, because he was tired of “resolving” to feed his family.  One day, on passing through the farmer’s market at Diez de Octubre and General Lee, he saw that they were selling newly hatched chicks, and he bought 20 in order to begin his brood. He had found his little business. He knew that the government sells the unrationed feed for three pesos a pound. Also, rearing poultry was nothing new for him because in his childhood in Palmira, Cienfuegos, his parents kept hens in the backyard, and he and his siblings would sell the eggs in the city.

Fernando thought that this way he would have guaranteed eggs for his own consumption and even would be able to sell some in the street. He was sure he would have no problems with the police because he had bought the animals as well as the food from the State.

But, the poor man, he forgot that he was in Cuba: A few days ago he was walking the streets selling eggs when a police officer intercepted him. As much as the poor gentleman tried to explain that he was not a reseller, the officer took him to the station where they confiscated the merchandise and imposed a fine. They told him that individuals are prohibited from selling eggs, that only the State can do it.

Fernando already has forty hens and a production of 30 eggs daily. And after that day, he only sells hidden in his home.

Eight eggs per month per person in 1965.  Now the quota fell to five.

On January 2, 1965, in one of his long speeches, Fidel Castro said: “The great battle of the eggs has been won. From now on the people will be able to count on 60 million eggs each month.” With this affirmation he demonstrated his scorn for Cubans because given the then-population, that quantity in reality represented around eight eggs a month per person.

That same year, he would create the Animal Science Institute (ICA) whose main objective must have been the search for better alternatives for feeding cattle and poultry, an objective that the Institute still has not achieved 49 years after its creation.

El Carrusel, Virgen del Camino, line for eggs – Photo Gladys Linares

In reality, in Cuba before 1959, more than 85% of the farms were dedicated to raising poultry and selling eggs. It was also a rare country family that did not have a small brood whose eggs constituted a product for quick sale. Also, in Havana, at Villas and Oriente, there were big poultry production centers so the sale of live animals and eggs was no problem for the population. It is after the arrival of the revolutionary government, with the intervention in farms dedicated to poultry, that the scarcity of this food begins.

Calle Monte market – Photo Gladys Linares

Also, with the objective of increasing the poultry production, the Institute of Poultry Investigations was created in 1976. By the way, according to reports it published, in Cuba there are 10 million egg layers, although we all ask ourselves where are the eggs. The government sells by ration book five eggs a month per person, so the five additional that cost 90 cents were excluded from regulated sale. After that point, eggs have practically disappeared, and when they are sold unrationed their price is 1.10 pesos national currency.

The scarcity of this protein causes long lines, in great demand among the population not only because of its nutritional value but because it is the cheapest sold in the country. And the old people are the most affected. In the opinion of many, it would be preferable to raise the price 20 cents instead of eliminating them from the ration book.

Cubanet, 24 March 2014, Gladys Linares

Translated by mlk