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

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

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

Before creating the Commission of Defense and National Security, which Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín directs today, the Direction of Personal Security was the invisible apparatus with the most power on the island. Under this nomenclature, like the current “Commission,” ministries, institutions and all the MININT (Ministry of the Interior) divisions were subordinated. Continue reading “General Francis is Out of the Game and Raul’s Grandson Ascends / Juan Juan Almeida”

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

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

The DGSP’s empire 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by Regina Anavy

Cuba: Journalism on Demand / Iván García

Journalism on Demand
Journalism on Demand

Iván García, 27 August 2016 — I still remember that two-day trip to Pinar del Río. I stayed in a Communist Party hotel at the side of the old central highway. I visited the province’s outstanding factories, cooperatives and work centers.

Then in Havana, I wrote three or four sugar-coated articles about the excellent management of the Peoples’ Power and the “enthusiasm” of the workers’ collective at the Conchita factory after winning a banner of socialist excellence.

No one told me how to do journalism. I experienced it for four decades. I was studying primary education and during school recesses, at the request of my grandmother, my mother [Tania Quintero, now living in Switzerland], a former official journalist, took me with her when she had to do reports in the cities of the interior. Continue reading “Cuba: Journalism on Demand / Iván García”

In that epoch – and now, according to what they tell me – journalists covered the subjects indicated by the Department of Revolutionary Orientation, which weekly dictated the guidelines to the communication media.

Most official journalists are scribes rather than reporters. They write on demand.

With the arrival of new information technologies and the transition from a personalistic and totalitarian society to an authoritarian country of incipient military capitalism, dozens of State journalists now publish with their names or pseudonyms in alternative digital media, generating a reprimand from their bosses.

It’s precisely in blogs and on independent sites that these correspondents can express their talent, tell their stories and pour out opinions that they never would publish in the dull, propagandistic Government press.

The most notorious case is Periodismo de Barrio (Neighborhood Journalism), spearheaded by Elaine Díaz, ex-professor of the University of Havana Faculty of Communication and probably the best journalist in Cuba. After dropping the official ballast, Díaz published excellent research on communities and citizens that never appeared in the Party media.

Doing independent journalism in Cuba brings risks. You won’t get a pension when you retire; you will suffer harassment from State Security, and the Taliban hard-liners will try to assassinate your reputation with every type of crude accusation. But those who manage to do it are free persons.

In my case, I choose the topics and how I’m going to present them. The only censorship is that imposed by reason or by the sword of Damocles represented by the Gag Law, which obliges you to revise the content with a magnifying glass so you don’t get tangled in a crime of defamation or accused of denigrating the President of the Republic.

Certainly, the chief editors with whom I collaborate make recommendations. Up to now, they haven’t censored the content nor the style of drafting. Only on two occasions did they not publish one of my articles (a right that newspapers or websites have). Then I uploaded them to my two blogs.

That an independent journalist doesn’t write on demand means that inside the Island several opposition organizations and dissident leaders try to use you at their convenience.

It seems legitimate to me that a dissident project aspires to having the best media impact possible. That’s not what I’m referring to. It’s the deplorable obsession of certain dissidents who want to manage the work of a journalist.

They use different strategies. One is to invite you to meetings where they paint a superficial picture of their organization and their chimeric plans. The story is like that of the Government, but in reverse. They exaggerate the number of members and present a battery of proposals that are forgotten after a few months.

If you ask uncomfortable questions, they simply take you off the list of their meetings and press conferences. If you’re too critical of the dissidence, they prepare a reprimand.

They never tell you that they disagree with you. They start the discussion by pointing out that you’re wrong. If voices are raised, accusations begin: that you’re an undercover agent of State Security, a traitor to the cause, or you’re providing arguments to the “enemy” (the Regime) that later will be used to discredit the opposition.

Another strategy, in mode among certain opposition groups, is that in addition to “renting” a journalist, they enroll him in their cause. A huge mistake. Keeping a distance is the first rule of journalism.

If you are for democracy, that doesn’t mean you should march with the Ladies in White through Miramar. When that happens, the journalist misjudges the profession.

Sometimes the debates caused by a journalistic article are civilized. Other times they set up a “repudiation meeting” for you.

The Sunday of March 20, hours before Obama landed in Havana, I was with the Ladies in White in Gandhi Park, to write an article about the aggressions against the group of women on the part of the repressive bodies.

There I had to put up with the insolence of Ailer González, a member of Estado de Sats, asking me what I was doing there and refuting my assessments. I answered her briefly and told her that she didn’t have to read me.

This type of journalism by genuflection, habitual in Cuba, sometimes tries to pass itself off as freelance.

Everyone is free to have an opinion and reproduce it. Sometimes our commentaries or stories provoke controversy and irritate the local or exile dissidence. But at least I don’t write to please anyone.

If a handful of ungagged journalists have been able to defy an olive-green autocracy for 20 years, I don’t believe that the pride and intolerance of some dissidents should inhibit us.

Authentic journalism is always in search of the truth. Whatever it costs.

Photo: Elaine Díaz and Abraham Jiménez, directors of the digital media Periodismo de Barrio (Neighborhood Journalism) and El Estornudo (The Sneeze). Taken from Brotes de periodismo cubano (Outbreaks of Cuban Journalism), an article by Pablo de Llano, El País (The Country, a daily newspaper in Spain), March 22, 2016.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Fidel Castro Ruz

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

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

With such purpose and in order to satisfy the most demanding of tastes, as General Raúl Castro puts it, “without haste but without pause,” using polyurethane of great consistency for protection and beautification, in its usual berth, the tidal basin of Caleta del Rosario, the hull was cleaned up and repaired (Code P-6, according to the nomenclature of NATO), along with the four diesel engines, model M-50 F-2, of 1200 horsepower. The rest of the reconstruction was done, with rigor and commercial conscience, from July 9, 2014 up to April 1, 2016. Continue reading “Renting Fidel Castro’s Yacht for 5,000 Dollars a Day / Juan Juan Almeida”

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

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

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

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

Translated by Regina Anavy

Cayo Coco: An Emporium Of Cuban Military Capitalism / Iván García

View from the pool of the Memories Flamenco Beach Resort, one of the several hotels that the Grupo de Turismo Gaviota S.A. administers in Cayo Coco. Taken from the blog Travel the World with Shirley A. Roe.
View from the pool of the Memories Flamenco Beach Resort, one of the several hotels that the Grupo de Turismo Gaviota S.A. administers in Cayo Coco. Taken from the blog Travel the World with Shirley A. Roe.

Ivan Garcia, 22 August 2016 — The breeze coming from the coast is a blast of hot air that barely cools things off. The sun reverberates and the tourists take refuge from the insufferable irradiation in a swimming pool in the form of a huge shell, split in two by a cement walkway.

Others escape from the heat wave by tossing down beer like British hooligans or drinking insipid mojitos one after another. The Russian and Serbian tourists continue doing their thing: drinking vodka with ice as if it were mineral water, leaning on the bar rail of the Memories Flamenco Beach Resort hotel, nestled into Cayo Coco, in the archipelago of the Jardines del Rey, north of Ciego de Ávila, a province some 360 miles to the east of Havana.

In the tiny shop, Mexican tourists ask where they can buy El Cuervo tequila. Close by, a group of Spaniards follow on television the performance of their compatriot, Mireia Belmonte, in the Olympic swimming finals in Rio 2016. Continue reading “Cayo Coco: An Emporium Of Cuban Military Capitalism / Iván García”

There are very few Cuban tourists. Even fewer black people. Past 2:00 in the afternoon, the Memories Flamenco hotel seems to be a plenary session in miniature of the United Nations: East and West Europeans, Mexicans, Hindus, Asians and Americans, who try not to call attention to their clandestine tourism at Cayo Coco.

“Traveling to Cuba isn’t a problem. You can justify it with any of the 12 categories authorized and, although it’s not permitted legally, no institution in the United States asks if we’re doing tourism when we travel to the island,” comments a North American of Peruvian origin on vacation with his wife and two kids.

The five-star hotel is located on the highway that connects Cayo Coco with Cayo Guillermo. It has 624 rooms; 12 are suites and 4 are adapted for the handicapped. At this moment, half of the rooms are empty. “We’re in the low season. And even though the number of visitors to Cuba continued growing in 2016, hotel occupancy isn’t more than 50 percent,” says a receptionist.

Like 70 percent of Cuban tourist installations, the Memories Flamenco hotel is administered by the Gaviota S.A. military emporium, a business that appeared in 1989 under the auspices of Fidel Castro, on the pretext of testing the profitability of the incipient tourist business.

“When the tourist boom began, since so much in Cuba is stolen, it wasn’t known for sure whether a hotel would generate profits. Gaviota reduced expenditures and raised productivity on the basis of low salaries and internal controls,” says an employee.

Another employee, driving an electric cart that transports the recent arrivals to their rooms, says with total frankness that “most of us workers don’t agree with the deal they give us. Gaviota contracts only with foreign businesses to administer their hotels. The salary is shit; I earn 500 pesos (almost 20 dollars) a month, and since it’s a hotel with ’everything included,’ tipping is scarce. The luggage handlers and the maids are the ones who get extra money. But it’s always better to work in a hotel than to be a policeman.”

Every day a maid cleans and prepares 12 rooms. Her base salary is 465 pesos/month and about 18 dollars as a stimulus. “When it’s not Juana, it’s her sister. The truth is that we never receive a salary that matches the number of tourists staying in the hotel. I get by, more or less, thanks to the guests who give me two or three CUCs as a tip, and leave me clothing and useful stuff when they go, although getting it out of the hotel is a problem,” confesses a maid.

According to a gardener, most of the Cubans who work in management changed their military uniforms for white or blue guayaberas and black shoes. “They arrive from military life thinking that a hotel is operated the same as a barracks. In addition to being rude to us, they’re arrogant. I don’t leave, because for better or for worse, working in a hotel is better than cutting cane.”

Most of the employees of the Memories Flamenco live in Morón, a town 50 minutes from Cayo Coco. “The work routine is very demanding. I work seven days and get three days off. The management is treated differently. In spite of the hotel’s good results, Gaviota doesn’t let our families enjoy the facilities. Even the food they give us workers is different. In general it’s very little, and poorly prepared,” confesses a bar worker.

In addition to Memories Flamenco, there are on Cayo Coco, among others, the hotels Memories Caribe Beach Resort, Meliá Cayo Coco, Meliá Jardines del Rey, Pullman Cayo Coco, Pestana Cayo Coco All Inclusive Beach Resort, Tryp Cayo Coco, Colonial Cayo Coco, Sol Cayo Coco, Playa Coco, Playa Coco Star, Iberostar Mojito, Iberostar Cayo Coco and NH Krystal Laguna Villas & Resort, with more than 6,700 rooms total.

The zone is designed to be an example of true tourist apartheid. At the entrance to the isle, a police official, guarded by several soldiers with red berets, checks the people and vehicles that enter and leave the Ciego de Avila key.

Almost all the hotels located on Cayo Coco are administered by Gaviota, which has plans to continue growing in the coming years. Several brigades are building three new hotels, which will increase room capacity even more.

Many tourists aren’t pleased with the strategy of being confined in installations far from towns and cities. “It’s annoying; it prevents you from interacting with people. When they put you in hotels in Havana you can chat with Cubans on the street, but it’s impossible in the rest of the tourist zones,” says Eusebio, an Andalusian who lives in Seville.

The same thing has happened with the construction of the Hotel Kempinski, in the heart of the capital. Gaviota’s management prefers to hire foreign chefs and directors before Cubans.

“It’s absurd to bring bricklayers from India or cooks from Spain. They pay them fair salaries, but not us. It seems that whoever directs Gaviota hates Cubans,” complains a kitchen assistant.

The dream of one of the tourist promoters is to hook up with a foreign woman and leave the country. “My goal is to work in Miami Beach, Cancun or Punta Cana,” he says, and he runs for cover from a drizzle that barely alleviates the leaden heat.

When night falls, the lobby bar fills up, and in an adjoining theater, the guests take their chairs to see the performance of Divan Sotelo, one of the Reggae musicians in style at the moment, who was born in Havana in 1996.

At this hour, one of the maids is waiting for the worker transport that will take her home. Today was a decent day. Four convertible pesos in tips and two half-filled bottles of shampoo that a couple of Japanese tourists gave her.

Now she is looking for a way to take them out of the hotel without calling attention to herself. Tomorrow, perhaps, she will have better luck.

Martí Noticias, August 19, 2016

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

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

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

It’s a shame that the incapacity and non-existence of leadership among the ranks of the Government, the dissidence and the opposition make many insist on eternalizing the shadow of a ghost that now doesn’t exist even in the Cuban imagination. Continue reading “Fidel Castro: Ignoring Him is the Best Punishment / Juan Juan Almeida”

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

The journalistic indigestion was like this:

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

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

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

“Fidel inspires confidence.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

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

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

I wonder how you divide 200 Chinese vehicles among all the Cuban professionals if — according to official figures — there is one nurse in Cuba for every 126 inhabitants, a doctor for every 159 residents, a dentist for every 1,066 neighbors and a uterine endoscopist for every 200 inhabitants. Continue reading “It Shows a Lack of Respect to Distribute 200 Cars Among All Cuban Doctors / Juan Juan Almeida”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by Regina Anavy

Theft of €œElectronic Waste€ From Telephones Is a Business in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 25 April 2016 — In 2008, General Raúl  Castro, showing signs of an “extraordinary benevolence,” allowed Cubans to have access to cellular telephone service.

The number of these devices created an elevated and accelerated boom that was not foreseen even by the most seasoned economists. But, according to sources in the office of the General Prosecutor of the Republic, such a vertiginous increase runs parallel and proportional to an increase in certain types of crime. Continue reading “Theft of €œElectronic Waste€ From Telephones Is a Business in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida”

ETECSA (Cuba’s telecommunications company) began operating in 2003. At that time there were only some 43,300 cell phones on the island, distributed among diplomats, foreign businessmen and Cubans linked to foreign businesses. Today, a high percentage of the national population has cellular coverage, and with that comes the proliferation of pickpockets. They scour the provinces like birds of prey in search of these devices.

But this method of small-time thievery is the first link in a criminal chain that not only implicates known private workshops (cuentapropistas) [self-employed businessmen] or certain agencies of ETECSA where they buy, modify and sell this type of equipment. It also implicates State Security and other businesses of MININT [the Ministry of the Interior] that pursue, track and even buy these telephones.

For what reason? According to someone who’s a business owner, it’s for removing the most precious thing we keep in our phones: information.

The same thing happens everywhere, but each country has its own particularities. As a general rule, in Cuba, this type of device isn’t stolen in order to decode it and sell it in other countries, but rather to dismantle it and sell it for parts, on and off the island.

The General Prosecutor says that, although it’s working on several cases, it hasn’t managed to discover the matrix of such a complicated network. The National Revolutionary Police recognizes that there’s a black market where you can find the displays, speakers, headphones and batteries of stolen cell phones, but it hasn’t been able to find the authors of the crime.

Both entities appear to ignore, on purpose, that power, in addition to being an instrument, is a more underhanded and more dangerous vice than drugs. As happens with criminal gangs, when their members converge at some moment, the same happens with the rest of the pieces of the stolen cell phones and many of the phones confiscated in ports and airports by the General Customs of the Republic of Cuba.

A young businessman of Lebanese origin, who is known as “the king of modern mining,” buys them. With a French passport, the alleged endorsement of the Government and the friendship of the “Grandson in Chief,” Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, he exports the stolen material under the Customs category of “electronic waste.”

This businessman sends everything by air to modern metallurgic plants located off the island (according to the gossip, in Europe), where the technology exists to isolate and recuperate valuable components like copper, cobalt, antimony, gallium and coltan. These are not precious metals, but they are rarely found in the world and are in such great demand by the industry that they sell by the gram and cost more than gold.

I hope that this note helps the National Police.

There aren’t many businesses in the world that are capable of recuperating part of these materials among the electronic garbage. And I venture to say that in Cuba there are no more than four Frenchmen (of Lebanese origin) who are friends of Raúl Guillermo.

Translated by Regina Anavy

 

MININT Colonel In The Vortex of The Theft of Papers From MININT / Juan Juan Almeida

Ministry of the Interior Colonel Emilio Alejandro Monsanto

Juan Juan Almeida, 20 June 2016 — Carlos Emilio is a pseudonym. He has the rank of Colonel, and his real name is Emilio Alejandro Monsanto. He’s detained in Havana, in an elegant house converted into a military prison, accused of being the possible intellectual author of the theft and sale of information from the eighth floor of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), and of having organized a series of operations to launder more than 100 million dollars in Panama, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Mexico, Spain, the Dominican Republic and the United States that implicate General Abelardo Colomé Ibarra (“Furry”), Iraida Hidalgo (Furry’s wife), General Carlos Fernández Gondín; also, General Román, Commander Ramiro Valdés, various members of the Commission of Defense and National Security, families of the deceased General, Julio Casas Regueiro, a daughter of the present President of the Council of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, Raúl Castro, and other less important elements of the olive-green Cuban jet set.

But of course, as my grandmother, who was the queen of street smarts, said, “The wolf will always be the bad guy because it’s Little Red Riding Hood who tells the story.” Continue reading “MININT Colonel In The Vortex of The Theft of Papers From MININT / Juan Juan Almeida”

The information that arrives in drips and drabs from Havana about the hermetically sealed case ensures that, hidden under a tangle of joint stock companies, those who are implicated in the almost impenetrable investigative file expatriated Cuban capital through a series of operations of doubtful commercial coherence and ended up raiding the national budget.

Sources with supposed access to the case surmise that:

1. They laundered the money in financial entities, such as:

  • Financiera Ricamar S.A.: Calle 18 super 99, Monte Oscuro, Panama.
  • Financiera Eurolatina S.A.: Paitilla, Plaza Bal Halbour M-38, San Francisco, Panama City.
  • Financiera Bescanvi Occidental S.A.: Ave. Federico Boyd, Cond. Alfaro L-48, Bella Vista, Panama City.

2. With the alleged political influence of President Daniel Ortega, they invested in the construction of Galerías Santo Domingo, located on the Boulevar de Los Mártires. Today, it’s the most exclusive commercial center in Managua; rather, in all of Nicaragua.

3. With an injection of money that was suspicious due to the inability to demonstrate the origin of their funds, they created a corporation located on the Avenida Hispanoamericana de Santiago de los Caballeros, in the Dominican Republic, which now reports accountable losses.

4. With the mediation of straw men (their names are already being leaked, because all materials burn if you apply the adequate spark), they bought properties in Barcelona, Madrid, Marbella, Murcia, Galicia, Miami, Cape Coral, Fort Myers and New York.

I’m not saying more for the protection of my informants, because we live in a society where it’s easy to judge, and because it’s not fair to use or punish a scapegoat as an excuse for the accuser’s ends. It’s that, as usual, the truly guilty, those who lost their sense of time, space and decency, continue to be free and sovereign. It wouldn’t be the first time; we saw it in the judgment of Cases 1 and 2 in 1989*, which some water down, many restate and, in reality, few understand.

Being an accomplice or a collaborator of a group in power grants certain advantages; but it’s inconvenient for life and liberty.

*Translator’s note: A reference to the execution of General Ochoa and others, after being found guilty of drug smuggling and treason.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Without Eusebio Leal, Habaguanex is Controlled by the Military / Iván García

Eusebio Leal. Taken from Habana Nuestra [Our Havana].
Eusebio Leal. Taken from Habana Nuestra [Our Havana].
Iván García, 9 August 2016 — The sun illuminates the Plaza Vieja, and a humid heat transforms the place into an open-air sauna. When you set foot on the cobblestones, the sensation you have is one of walking on burning embers.

At the entrance of the planetarium, dozens of kids accompanied by their parents get in line to see this piece of Havana geography from a black-box camera.

The tourists, as always, relaxed and absent-minded, are drinking beer or taking photos of the Plaza Vieja, dressed in bermuda shorts and leather sandals, always accompanied by a bottle of mineral water. Continue reading “Without Eusebio Leal, Habaguanex is Controlled by the Military / Iván García”

In this tropical inferno, seated in an uncomfortable plastic chair, I chatted with José (name changed), the manager of the Habaguanex chain warehouse*. “Now everything is fucked up. They broke Habaguanex into pieces. Last weekend there was a meeting, and they removed Eusebio Leal as the head of the firm. You could see that coming. It was a methodical and studied escalation. At the end what they wanted was to control a business that earns hundreds of millions of dollars. Those soldiers are predators. They aren’t satisfied with what they have.”

Probably the best-informed person about the business of Eusebio Leal, the Historian of the City, who created an authentic empire with the intention of renovating buildings that are emblematic of Old Havana, is Juan Juan Almeida García, residing today in Miami.

This past June 13, he wrote a note on the website of Martí Noticias, “The Military Conquest of Eusebio Leal’s Empire,” where he detailed the strategies of the olive-green business group, GAESA, directed by Brigadier General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, the ex-son-in-law of President Raúl Castro. [See Also: The Military’s Coup d’état…]

Juan Juan pointed out: “Continuing a very well-plotted plan that includes taking advantage of Dr. Eusebio Leal’s illness to strengthen, even more, the dominion in the chain of commercial and business supremacy in every corner of the island, next October 30, Habaguanex, the tourist company that once belonged to the Historic Center of Old Havana, will be completely in the hands of the greatest of the Cuban predators, the Business Administrative Group of the Armed Forces.”

Much has been leaked about the audit done by the General Comptroller and the Council of State of the business that bears the name of the first Havana cacique**. Even today, missing millionaires and presumptive cases of corruption in the central warehouses are being revealed.

“It’s common practice among corrupt officials to revise, write-off and sell outside Cuba the new equipment recently installed in hotels, hostels, properties, shops, restaurants and cafeterias of the business; but to make Habaguanex dependent on Gaviota is one of the most audacious and malicious measures that this military corporation, directed by Rodríguez López-Callejas, has taken,” according to a source of Almeida’s close to the publicized inspection.

Idania, an architect on Eusebio Leal’s project, visibly disgusted, considers the administrative transfer to be an error. “They told me in the Saturday meeting that Military Counter-intelligence applied security measures so that nothing would be leaked. They prohibited mobile phones, and those who aren’t discreet, in addition to being separated definitively from their work posts, can receive penal sanction. The soldiers are like an elephant in a toy store. I can tell you that it’s not going to work. The armed forces control a sector of tourism and ETECSA [Cuba’s tele-communications company], and that hasn’t brought a better performance. On the contrary.”

Many workers think that their salaries will be affected. “We have a special salary regulation designed by Eusebio himself. We earn higher salaries in our jobs than in the rest of the country. If now the guards start applying Resolution 17 [which stipulates that company profits be linked to wages], our salaries can be reduced by half. I was earning a monthly salary of 2,000 Cuban pesos and almost 100 convertible pesos. If this is lowered with the new administration, hundreds of workers will lose their leave,” says Osvaldo, a mason who works on the restoration of the Capitolio Nacional.

The offensive of the military entrepreneurs isn’t new. In September of last year, a scrapping brigade, in a little more than two hours, dismantled the aluminum pipes and awnings of three open-air bars on the Avenida del Puerto, where hundreds of habaneros and tourists were drinking beer or eating fried chicken among ambling musicians and prostitutes on the hunt for clients. In one blow, it put a halt to two dozen workers, and others had to relocate, causing important salary losses.

But the real interests are elsewhere. Let’s call him “Mario,” a bureaucrat of the Habaguanex corporation. He tells us that “the businesses adjacent to the port are already controlled by military companies, from the rent and liens on the old warehouse of San José, now converted into a crafts market, up to hostels, cafés, restaurants and shops. There’s a master plan to convert the port into a tourist plaza that offers recreation and services for cruise excursions.”

Nicolás, an accountant at Habaguanex, recognizes that “as in all the sectors of the country, corruption in business was brutal. There were warehouses where the entrance and exit of commodities didn’t comply with the loading cards. But the work of restoration of Old Havana and other historic sites is, perhaps, the one thing that works well in Cuba. No other State institution has been able to save or maintain the old buildings in the city.”

In the last months, there’s been a withdrawal of the Government to avoid facing new economic reforms. The most conservative sector of the Party is at the front of the country’s direction. Among the recent changes in the “furniture” are the replacements of the Minister of Culture and the czar of reforms, Marino Murillo, who was at the front of the economic portfolio.

According to what can be known, General Leonardo Andollo Valdés, the father of the swimmer and diving instructor, Deborah Andollo, will be the head of Habaguanex.

It’s not known what new functions Eusebio Leal Spengler will perform. Will he act exclusively as the Historian of Havana or will he pass to the “pajama plan” [i.e. forced retirement]? In an autocracy of command and control, anything is possible.

Translator’s notes:

*The Habaguanex Tourist Company, a Cuban corporation, belongs to the Office of the Historian of Havana City, directed by Eusebio Leal. It owns hotels, shopping and cultural services. Its sustainable development generates income that is used to restore the Historic Center and to improve living conditions for the local population. 
**Habaguanex was the chieftain who ruled the area where Havana is located today, before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.

Translated by Regina Anavy

The Military’s Coup d’Etat Against Eusebio Leal’s Empire / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 1 August 2016 — The principal sources of income of the business, Habaguanex, and the Office of the Historian of Havana, are now officially part of the Group of Business Administration [GAE] of the Revolutionary Armed Forces; and the rest are removed or scrapped.

After a long process that ended in this expected adjudication, the intervention was announced this Saturday, July 30, early in the morning, in the elegant salon Del Monte, located on the first floor of the famous hotel, Ambos Mundos, in Havana.

The military interventionist, neither more nor less, was Division General Leonardo Ramón Andollo Valdés, who, among his distinctions (and he has more than the number of cheap wines), is the Second Head of State Major General of the FAR [Revolutionary Armed Forces], and the Second Head of the Permanent Commission for the Implementation and Development of Perfecting the Economic and Social Model of Cuban society. Continue reading “The Military’s Coup d’Etat Against Eusebio Leal’s Empire / Juan Juan Almeida”

“Can you imagine! According to what General Andollo said, the GAE has the control of accomplishing a more efficient function,” commented an ironic assistant in the mentioned meeting, who, upon kindly requesting he not be identified, added, “The soldiers do more harm to the country’s economy than Reggaeton does to Cuban music.”

At the pernicious conference, which, for almost obvious reasons, Dr. Eusebio Leal didn’t attend, GAE officials and officers of State Security and Military Counter Intelligence ordered that cell phones be removed from all the participants.

On the dispossessed side were the heads of the business section of the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana and its adjunct director, Perla Rosales Aguirreurreta, plus the present directors of the Tourist Company Habaguanex S.A. and all its managers of hotels, bars, cafeterias, shops, restaurants and hostels.

“This seems to be a coup d’état. An abuse of Leal’s efforts. Not to mention the hours of work that many of us have put in on the recovery of this part of the city that remained forgotten. Speaking in economic terms, Habaguanex has grown much more than Gaviota, TRD and all those military businesses together. No one can deny the efficiency of our work and our marketing strategy. Yesterday, this was a marginal, stinking zone on the edge of collapse; the reality is that today, there is no tourist, whether a head of State, diplomat or celebrity in any field who comes to this capital and doesn’t visit Old Havana,” argued one of the principal restorers of the so-called Historic Quarter, with feeling.

“Bit by bit we’re being dismantled – and I repeat: the park of the Maestrana, the museums and the shop of the Muñecos de Leyendas [mythical creatures], continue, for the moment, in the hands of the Office of the Historian, until, it’s also whispered, we pass under the direction of the Minister of Culture.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

Top Official Of The Ministry Of The Interior Implicated In Contraband Case: Crime Or Reckoning? / Juan Juan Almeida

José Martí International Airport

Juan Juan Almeida, August 8, 2016 — This past July 18, in the Cuban capital, Lieutenant Colonel Rafael Mujica, the head of the Capdevila Special Command of Firefighters, Boyeros municipality, and of the prevention unit of the José Martí Havana Airport, was detained.

He’s accused of being the brains behind a hypothetical illegal operation — in addition to being a millionaire — involving trafficking and contraband: exploiting an advantageous privilege, like having free access to restricted areas of the upper terminals of the Havana airport, in order to charge passengers for taking out and/or bringing into the country prohibited articles without passing through the correct customs and migration controls. They also impute to him the supposed use of firefighter unit inspections to put obstacles in the way of projects and foreign investments and then accepting the ubiquitous bribe to release the permits. Continue reading “Top Official Of The Ministry Of The Interior Implicated In Contraband Case: Crime Or Reckoning? / Juan Juan Almeida”

Sources who claim they’re close to the case, and who prefer to remain anonymous for their own protection, reveal that at the moment of the arrest, the authorities were alerted about another individual, nameless for the moment because it hasn’t been leaked, who managed to escape the country recently, with an unknown destination and false documents, and who could be the possible co-author of these continued crimes.

“What’s bad about that?” asks someone who then answered himself. “It’s one of the ways, secretly but with previous government authorization, that Cuban intelligence uses to bring in or take out of the country merchandise and people. They taught the formula; he learned it and used it.”

Part of the airport security is built over the firefighting unit, which Mujica directs, and is located at one side of the 4,000 meter runway of the Havana aerodome, between terminal 3 of the José Martí airport and terminal 5 of Guajay, where Aero Caribbean and other charter airlines operate commercially. It’s a special location, where, supposedly, packages stolen from the wagons that transport luggage could be taken out without touching the airport, and material and people could enter the airport without the least fear, violating all the legal regulations.

“I’m not saying that Rafael is a saint. The greed of Cuban officials is a notable phenomenon. They all feel the need to grab property in order to face a future that appears uncertain, that seems to offer no shelter. So it’s more than a case of corruption. It looks like a settling of accounts,” says someone here in Miami who identifies himself as a friend of the detained soldier.

“The Cuban military class to which he belongs has turned its back on him out of fear. But doesn’t it seem strange that Mujica, today presumed corrupt, hasn’t created bad memories among anyone who knows him or his subordinates? Doesn’t it seem equally strange that, having so much money as they supposedly say, he lives in a modest home wth the roof falling down, in the neighborhood of Lawton?”

Translated by Regina Anavy

Hookers Will Increase With The Tourist Boom And The Economic Austerity / Iván García

Photo taken from My Wall Paper Top.
Photo taken from My Wall Paper Top.

Iván García, 5 August 2016 — In the middle of the empty bottles of aged rum and the Presidente Dominican beer washed down on the patio, five people are drinking and talking about sports and business. From the back comes the sound of the Reggaeton, Hasta que se seque el Malecón, [“Until the Malecón dries up”] of Jacob Forever [a Reggaeton star].

Meanwhile, four girls are taking turns with a chipped soda can, inhaling a mix of cocaine and a bite of cigar, known in Cuba as cambolo. Continue reading “Hookers Will Increase With The Tourist Boom And The Economic Austerity / Iván García”

The party can very well cost the equivalent of 200 dollars. Eduardo, a mid-level official in Foreign Commerce, sums up the expenses: “Forty-eight convertible pesos [CUC] for two boxes of beer, 40 CUC for five bottles of aged rum, 25 for four kilos of chicken and two tins of tuna for snorting, and 100 CUC for the drugs and whores.”

And what are they celebrating? “Nothing special. In Cuba you celebrate anything. A success is the same as a failure. We’re not going to resolve the economic crisis by struggling. When you have a little bit of money, that’s synonymous with a party, sex and pachanga music. There doesn’t have to be anything more,” comments Armando, the owner of a private auto repair business.

Now it’s common, at least in Havana, for a group of friends to rent a swimming pool or a house and bring in food, Reggaeton music and prostitutes to have fun. In the summer, hookers like Elisa take advantage of the prosperity to fatten their wallets.

In private bars, discos and central areas, the hookers prowl around without much discretion. They stand out: very short, skin-tight skirts and strong perfume.

“The clients are drawn to us like moths to a flame. There are nights when you can make up to 250 CUC. In the morning, an Italian; in the afternoon, a Spaniard; and at night, an old Cuban,” says Elisa.

And the economic crisis? The new stage of austerity? “That’s for those who work for the State. Those who have private businesses, who work in tourism or make money under the table continue enjoying life in style. They break open a can and a heap of hookers appear. There are more of us every time,” says Elisa.

And the prognosis points to continued growth. At least that’s what Carlos, a sociologist who lives south of the capital, thinks. “In periods of economic hardship, people opt for the easiest way to make money. During the Special Period, only between 1993 and 2000, prostitution in Cuba took off and expanded. They weren’t only in the tourist sector. They began to operate among that portion of Cubans who have businesses, and now you can see them in poor neighborhoods where entertainment consists of drinking alcohol and flirting with cheap hookers.”

The number of prostitutes in Cuba is unknown. The sociologist beleives that the figure “is greater than 20,000 women on the whole island. If we add the men who prostitute themselves, the level could reach 30,000 people. To that you have to add those who live off the business, like the pimps, corrupt policeman, tourism employees, owners of rental houses, taxi drivers and photographers, among others. We’re talking about an enterprise.”

The tourist boom on the island is a very tempting treat for many young girls whose families are a living hell. “Although most of those who prostitute themselves belong to dysfunctional families, cases of young people from decent families without economic problems are growing. They are dazzled by the good life, easy money or the possibility of getting a visa,” clarifies Laura, an ex-social worker.

It’s probable that, in 2017, the number of foreign visitors will surpass four million. And if the U.S. Congress authorizes tourism, the figure could round off at five million.

American tourists are very much sought-after in Cuba. They are known for being generous with tips and for paying by the hour to go to bed with a woman or a man.

Yaité, an ex-hooker, now married to a German, considers that “prices could go up. In the ’80s it was 100 CUC. Then, because there were so many hookers and because the tourists who came to Cuba weren’t very rich, the cost went down to 30 to 40 CUCs for a night. Now it can go up. And an American could pay up to 200 CUC for a young, pretty prostitute with a good body.

Elisa, a hooker, prays to her saints that this prophecy comes true.

Hispanost, August 1, 2016.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Trading With the United States is a Task for the Cuban Military / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 11 July 2106 — On April 22, 2016, the U.S. State Department revised Section 515.582 of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, which now establishes that goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs on the island can be exported to the United States. The Government of Cuba has had for a while, as an experiment, a clever strategy that applies today and is baptized with the emphatic name of “Associative and Cooperative Operation of Productive Troops.” It’s not transparency; it’s a matter of publicity.

The American Government’s method is to offer new and better business opportunities to the Cuban private sector. The response of the island government is to distort the scheme and confound U.S. institutions. As already noted in the preceding paragraph, now they have to do the paperwork. The plan is simple: transform the military corps that is part of the productive ground troops of the Cuban Armed Forces into small, false groups of independent producers. Continue reading “Trading With the United States is a Task for the Cuban Military / Juan Juan Almeida”

One thing that stands out among the skilled actions that the Great State of the Armed Forces of Cuba is implementing to make political currency from its exports is the change in cooperation between the Army and “Plan Turquino.” This development program, founded in 1987 and alluding to the highest elevation in Cuba, gave priority to the economic, political and environmental development of Cuba’s mountainous zones. The emphasis was on the production of coffee, cocoa, sugarcane, various crops, cattle development, forestal activities and services. These have already been transferred to fictitious civilian entities, created under the profile of private cooperatives but clearly directed by sergeants and/or lieutenants from the different provinces.

Concrete examples of this shiny disguise are a coffee plantation of the El Salvador municipality, two of Yateras and one of Maisí, which, until yesterday, belonged to the Territorial Military Headquarters of Guantánamo Province, and presently appear registered as farming associations.

The same thing is happening in Santiago de Cuba. Two coffee farms of the III Frente municipality and two of the II Frente are in the phase of documental masking in order to demonstrate and convince the U.S. of their “entrepreneurial independence.”

In Granma province, various coffee farms are in a similar process of subverting the documentation: four in the Buey Arriba municipality, two in Guisa and one in Bartolomé Masó. And in Cienfuegos, the same thing is happening with two coffee fields in the Cumanayagua municipality that pretend to pass from the olive-green cap to the yarey sombrero.

It’s curious to hear, from morning to night, that these new entrepreneurial economic organizations, which supposedly function independently from the State, count among their assets such top technology equipment as coffee pulping machines (recently imported), bulldozers and trucks, in addition to the disinterested collaboration of the army camps that, “voluntarily,” are ready to replace the deficit of the coffee workforce on the island.

What they’re after with this idea is to camouflage squads of soldiers under a very-well-designed facade of worker associations with management autonomy to export the product to the United States, without any “ifs, ands or buts.”

For the time being, Cuban soldiers have placed special interest on the subject of coffee.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Cuba Continues Sending Doctors to Brazil and Venezuela / Juan Juan Almeida

Doctors in Brazil with (now ousted) President Dilma Rousseff

Juan Juan Almeida, 28 July 2016 — In spite of certain comments, important desertions, crises, adjustments and a new renegotiation, the Government of Cuba will continue sending doctors to health programs in Venezuela and Brazil.

Cuban health authorities scour the island, from end to end, affirming in every corner that they are prepared to interrupt or cancel these two medical missions. In this coming and going, they also announce a new strategy to redirect cooperation, increasing the health service on the island for tourism, and they emphasize that they’re not going to close the mission in Venezuela or any of its states. Continue reading “Cuba Continues Sending Doctors to Brazil and Venezuela / Juan Juan Almeida”

So yes, they’re going to reduce the work-force, because the agreements between the Cuban and Venezuelan governments were signed when a barrel of oil had an exuberant price, and today it has another.

According to official information, published in the digital portal of the Cuban News Agency, 98 Cuban doctors, recent graduates of the University of Medical Sciences of Havana, will leave soon for the Bolivarian Republic, but the notice doesn’t mention that they’ve reduced the number of collaborators who aren’t doctors.

The agreements are readjusted, and the number of workers not directly related to healthcare delivery is reduced. The same thing is happening in the Andean state of Táchira, where, owing to the renewed contract, every collaborator (non-medical professonal) has to travel in a minibus to distant and dangerous zones daily, to care for up to four of the 25 Centers of Integral Diagnostics that exist. A Cuban-style agreement: multiply the work and the responsibility, not the salary.

In Brazil something very different is happening. The mission enjoys better health and the impact of the “More Doctors” program is greater. There the coverage for primary health care is growing — this is already a reality — and it certainly grew more in the last two years than in the seven previous ones.

One significant detail is that during the journey of the Olympic torch through the Brazilian states, it was a Cuban doctor, Argelio Hernández Pupo, who carried the flame in the northeastern city of Lagoa Grande.

Brazil will receive athletes, tourists, celebrities and the press. So, because of the Olympic games, and the danger from the outbreak of Zika, the Cuban authorities have made provisions to curtail the vacations of the medical and non-medical missionaries for the months of July and August. They will begin returning to the island beginning September 15.

However, “Cuban health personnel will increase there. It’s programmed that this month some 250 doctors will go to Brazil with the mission of filling in the gaps,” said a terrified source who declined to be identified, although, worried, he added, “The truth is I don’t know what ’the gaps’ means.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

They’re building houses for Cubans deported from the U.S. / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 4 July 2016 — The Cuban authorities are preparing to receive, in a short period of time, a bonanza  of Cubans with deportation orders in the U.S. They’re constructing for them, in an undeveloped area, what many call a “polyfoam” neighborhood.

Judicial and police matters are subjects that both governments discuss with a view to normalizing and perfecting relations. In agreement with official data published in July 2015, they have mandated the deportation of 35,106 Cuban nationals in the U.S., of which, at this moment, 162 are detained and 34,944 are at liberty.

One of the lawyers for the Office of Housing said that this ward, located in the Havana municipality of Boyeros, very close to Avenida Vento, just on the border that separates Capdevila and Altahabana, which has been conceptualized as “Popular Council Capdevila 1,” was conceived to shelter and/or isolate the Cubans expelled from the North.

Continue reading “They’re building houses for Cubans deported from the U.S. / Juan Juan Almeida”

The deportees will come together, in this one-of-a-kind district, with a “thousand beings.” Some have spent years, by the grace of God, without housing, because their houses collapsed; some are ex-prisoners whose conduct is still marginal, and certain families are “special cases” whose homes were expropriated, by force and without claim, for different reasons.

How to bring snow to the desert 

With an acceptable and misleading image that falsifies its real and flimsy character, the area is composed of small, multi-family buildings constructed of polyurethane foam boards. For the time being, and it seems that even later, they won’t have numbers on the front doors. The streets still haven’t been paved and there is no adequate signage. But, as a Mexican move star said, “This doesn’t have the least importance or the greatest transcendence.”

Accommodating a new neighborhood with different concepts can be confusing. I’m speaking of hospitality, housing and prison.

I managed to talk with someone who works there constructing these buildings, a specialist in the material cited, and who identified himself as the architect for the community.

The professional explained that polyurethane foam offers total thermal and water-repellent insulation. It’s easy to handle, doesn’t contaminate the environment, contains no insects or rodents, doesn’t need any special care, doesn’t decay, doesn’t rust or become moldy; it’s light, flexible, elastic, waterproof; the chemicals are inert, and it serves as an excellent insulator from noise. But here’s the thing: It’s not designed for the load to which it’s being subjected. Then he stopped talking and in a subtle transition, mixing honesty, disillusion and imprudence, he concluded: “We’ll see how it holds up when the first hurricane starts blowing. I’ll let you know.”

 

Translated by Regina Anavy