Cuba invites America’s entrepreneurs to do business together / 14ymedio

Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade, speaks at a Business Forum at the Americas Summit. (Twitter)
Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade, speaks at a Business Forum at the Americas Summit. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Panama, 10 April 2015 – This Thursday Cuba offered itself as a safe destination for foreign investment and invited the business leaders of America, meeting in Panama, to visit the island “to make progress toward establishing mutually beneficial businesses.”

Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment also said, in statements to reporters, that “the policy of the [US] blockade goes against not only Cuba and the Cuban people, but also the will of businesspeople in the United States.”

In a speech to businesspeople participating in the CEO Summit of the Americas, Malmierca spoke of “great expectations” produced by last December’s announcement, the beginning of a process of normalization of relations between Washington and Havana. continue reading

“The measures adopted [by the US] on Cuba in January, which modify certain aspects of the embargo, although limited, are a step in the right direction. But it must not be forgotten that (…) the blockade remains in force,” he said.

He stressed that “in recent months” Cuba has “received important delegations of [US] businesspeople and politicians, who have confirmed their interest in developing businesses with Cuban entities.”

“We are witnessing a new phase of the inclusion of Cuba on the international economic stage”

In Cuba “We do not limit nor discriminate against US companies, so that opportunities” for business and investment offered by the Island in sectors such as food, renewable energy, oil exploration, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology “are also open (to the USA),” he added.

“Today we can say that we are witnessing a new phase of the inclusion of Cuba on the international economic stage, which introduces opportunities for trade and investment,” Malmierca told the business leaders

The Cuban minister said that in this “new phase” the government of Raul Castro extended its “vision of the role of foreign investment, recognizing it as an active and essential element for the growth of certain sectors and economic activities.”

The Cuban government estimates that it needs about “2,500 billion annually in foreign investment to stimulate a growth that will lead to developing prosperity and sustainability” of the “socialist” project, he said.

Malmierca pointed out that Cuba, in addition to the “guarantees and incentives” established in a new law, “makes available” to foreign capital attractions such as scientific potential, the availability of a skilled workforce with expertise in high technology, and a privileged geographic location, among other assets.

The government needs “about 2.5 billion annually in investment to stimulate growth to sustain the socialist project”

“The Cuban market, although it is not a large economy, has an important weight in the Caribbean (…), which together with other aspects (…) translates into new opportunities to expand trade with Cuba and its role in intraregional trade,” he said.

He added that Cuba has outlined a program of long-term development that leads the country’s efforts for the building of a socialist society to bring further benefits to all Cubans.

“We are convinced that the countries of the region will accompany Cuba in these efforts,” he said.

The Second CEO Summit of the Americas is one of four official forums previous to the Seventh Summit of the Americas at which, on Friday and Saturday, the 35 countries of the continent will meet for the first time.

One of the most anticipated moments of the continental meeting is the greeting between the American president Barack Obama and the Cuban president Raul Castro.

The business event has generated a document with recommendations that will be presented to heads of state and government attendees of the hemispheric summit.

A North Korean ship coming from Cuba detained in Mexico / 14ymedio

The North Korean ship Mu Du Bong. (John Wrightson / Marinetraffic)
The North Korean ship Mu Du Bong. (John Wrightson / Marinetraffic)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 April 2015 — The North Korean ship Mu Du Bong and its crew are being detained in the port of Tuxpan, Mexico, as confirmed Wednesday by the Mexican Mission to the United Nations. The whip coming from Cuba ran aground on a reef, causing serious environmental damage to a protected natural area. According to the UN, the company owning the vessel is included on a list of sanctioned companies.

North Korea has accused Mexico of illegally retaining the vessel with 50 people on board and announced that it will take the necessary steps to release the vessel.

The ship was traveling with a crew of 33 North Korean nationals, according to data provided by the Mexican government. The workers are in good physical, moral and psychological condition, according to the Mexican embassy, with complete freedom of movement and will be repatriated in cooperation with the Embassy of North Korea. The vessel, however, will remain in Mexico while the investigation continues.

Panama’s president warns Cubans he will not tolerate further incidents / EFE via 14ymedio

The official delegation assaults opponents in Panama. (Garrincha)
The official delegation assaults opponents in Panama. (Garrincha)

(EFE) Panama, 9 April 2015 — The president of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, Thursday called for “respect” among opposition groups and Cuban officials who staged violent incidents yesterday that ended with the temporary detention of about twenty people.

“We are a country that welcomes everyone and we ask everyone to show respect. Last night those detained were released with a warning that, if the incidents are repeated, sanctions will be applied,” Varela told journalists before the inauguration of the Rectors of America Forum, parallel to the Seventh Summit of the Americas.

The president said that what happened outside the Cuban embassy in Panama, “Was very unfortunate and unacceptable,” and pointed out that also striking were “The sectors of Cuban [government] staff and their lack of tolerance and their provocation,” which ended with a confrontation of punches and kicks. continue reading

Although no individuals were identified, the violent encounter occurred between staff and people linked to the Cuban government, and exiled Cubans invited to the Civil Society Forum, which opened yesterday delayed by the incidents, another of which also took place at the meeting site in a hotel far from the Embassy.

Varela acknowledged that among Cubans, “There are deep wounds”

Varela acknowledged that among Cubans, “There are deep wounds” and stressed that the Panama forums are “an opportunity for approach” but that the incidents resulted in “security being strengthened in all forums,” as a result of which he directed, “a warning to everyone because the country will offer guarantees to all the leaders attending the summit.”

The Secretary of Communication for Panama, Manuel Dominguez, specified that “If a new incident occurs, the police will use force” to stop it and reiterated that they would only allow demonstrations within the framework of the law, which has provisions for expulsion or deportation from the country for the use of violence.

The Seventh Summit of the Americas will meet on Friday and Saturday, April 10-11, with all the countries of the Americas for the first time since 1956 — with the incorporation of Cuba — to discuss “Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas.”

“They Have Taken Everything from Me, Even My Family” / 14ymedio

Arian Gonzalez Perez (personal photo)
Arian Gonzalez Perez (personal photo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 8 April 2015 — “How is it possible that I cannot enter my country?” Arian Gonzalez Perez asks himself time and again. This 26-year old Cuban, originally from Santa Clara, has lived in Barcelona for five years, and for that reason he was recently denied permission to travel to the Island and visit his sick grandmother.

“I feel like an outcast, very depressed,” he explains in a telephone conversation from the Catalan city. In his native country, he devoted himself to chess, but, like all players who remain living outside of Cuba, he was expelled from the ELO list (a chess player’s ranking) two years ago. In order to obtain the title of master of this discipline he will have to search for another national federation to cover him. “They have taken everything from me, even my family. It is very frustrating not to have rights,” he says. continue reading

Gonzalez was 21 years old when he decided to leave his country in search of a better future. “Desperate to leave the country, I left only at the first opportunity I had, but not before the Cuban authorities had denied me three trips. I came directly to Spain and did not even intend to stay, but I had to because of the poverty on the Island. I borrowed money and came, but the tournaments went badly for me and I could not pay the debt, so I stayed,” he says.

This law student thought that, when he had residence in Spain, he would get permission to travel to Cuba, but that was not the case. “It is inconceivable. Cuba is my country, it is my right and my family. This situation violates human rights,” he insists.

Gonzalez visited the Cuban consulate in Barcelona a year ago where they assured him that within a month they would have answered his request to travel to the Island, but the answer never came. “When I found out that my 81-year-old grandmother had fallen and broken her hip, I panicked and returned to the consulate. They told me they had no answer, and the civil servant that assisted me told me that I had defected,” he says sorrowfully.

As a result of these events, he decided to approach the human rights defense organization Amnesty International. “I believe that I should tell the truth and not be afraid of the injustices that are committed in my country; we Cubans cannot continue to permit this outrage,” he stresses. “It is time to add my two cents worth and fight for change.”

Gonzalez left Cuba before the reforms promoted in recent years by President Raul Castro, which he branded as “lies.” With the changes in the migratory law, the time limit for a citizen abroad to be classified as a defector and prohibited for eight years from returning has been extended from 11 months to two years. The young man charges that the rule violates Article 13.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to which “all people have the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their country.”

Arian Gonzalez, also stripped of his livelihood, was involved in a controversy in 2013 while participating in competitions under the Cuban flag. The chess player was subject to disqualification by the Spanish Grand Master Victor Moskalenko, who accused him of attending a tournament in Mollet del Valles (Barcelona) while drunk and cheating. Moskalenko extended his accusations to another Cuban federated chess player in Spain, Orlevis Perez Mitjans and asserted: “When you play against Cuban players, the other fellow countrymen are behind your back, bothering you… You are confronted not only with a player but with a team of gangsters.”

Arian Gonzalez Perez plays against Yuniesky Quesada Perez (personal photo)
Arian Gonzalez Perez plays against Yuniesky Quesada Perez (personal photo)

Gonzalez, who defended himself then by writing a letter to the Competition Committee of the Catalan Chess Federation to seek measures against Moskalenko for libel and slander, denounces the governmental policy on chess. “Chess in Cuba is part of the Cuban government’s political monopoly. As in many other fields, this is a means for young people to be able to have the aspiration of leaving the Island and search for a better future. But many do not do it because chess at the world level is a poor sport while the Cuban government gives the Grand Masters a salary of 100 CUC which is high in comparison with the rest of the population.”

Arian Gonzalez now hopes that Amnesty International will press for authorization for his return to Cuba. The organization promised him an answer after Easter. “It would be an eternal frustration in my life if my grandmother were to die without me being able to see her 5 years after I said goodbye to her when I left Cuba.”

Translated by MLK

Pro-Castro Panamanian groups threaten Cuban activists / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 8 April 2105 — Several Panamanian leftist organizations have forwarded to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama, Isabel de Saint Malo, a letter of protest against the activities organized by the groups in opposition to the governments of Cuba and Venezuela in the forums being held before the Summit of the Americas. The letter was sent last Monday and has been published today in the official Cuban media.

The signers of the text consider that the dissidents, “Have as their aim to use our country as a platform to conspire and coordinate actions intended to interfere in the internal matters of these two nations.” Therefore, they ask, “Very respectfully that the national government, through the Foreign Ministry, take measures to prevent these activities.” The agenda of the forums whose suspension they are asking was presumably added to the letter, although it has not been disclosed in the official media. continue reading

The signatories specify that they do not oppose the participation of the opponents in the Summit’s forums, but rather, “The conspiratorial activities and the public demonstrations outside the Summit, that have a perverse intention, against the two sister nations.” However, they warn that if these measures they have requested are not taken they will see themselves “obliged” to respect their country, “and so avoid that it is used for interventionist conspiracies and demonstrations and the internal matters of other brother countries.”

The letter concludes by holding the Government of Panama responsible for what might happen if it does not take measures to avoid the forums. “If these activities and provocation and interference are not prevented, the national government will be responsible for whatever lamentable situation it might present.”

The organizations signing the letter are the Independent Movement of National Refoundation (MIREN), the Panama National Workers Center (CNTP), The Authentic Workers Federation (FAT), the CocaCola Workers Union, The National Brewery and Others (SITRAFCIREBGASCELIS), the Union Federation of the Workers of the Republic of Panama (FSTRP), the Wide Colon Front (FAC), the Veraguas Association of Educators (AEVE), the National Coordinator of Solidarity with Cuba, the Ecological Collective Voices (COVEXC), the Student Group of Transformative Thinking and Action (PAT), the Conscience Renewal Student Group (CORE), the Independent Association of Functionaries of the CSS (AIFCSS), the Panama Journalists Union (SPP), The Polo Citizenry, and the National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights (FRENADESO).

Young Latin Americans call to fight against political apathy / 14ymedio

Young Cubans at the 2nd Forum of Youth and Democracy in Panama. (14ymedio)
Young Cubans at the 2nd Forum of Youth and Democracy in Panama. Eliecer Avila with the microphone. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Panama, 8 April 2015 — Young Latin American leaders gathered Tuesday on the second day of the 2nd Youth and Democracy Regional Forum in Panama and addressed issues such as the rise of populist regimes in the region, and agreed on the need to organize civil society at the hemispheric level to fight against political apathy.

The protagonists of the morning session were Micaela Hierro Dori, president of the Argentine civil association CICES, who acted as moderator; Ricardo Antonio Álvarez Arias, vice president of Honduras; Eduardo Stein, former vice president of Guatemala; Guillermo Cochez, former Ambassador of Panama to the Organization of American States (OAS); Martha Lucía Ramírez, former Minister of Defense of Colombia; Gustavo Amaya, executive director of the Center for Training and Promotion of Democracy (CECADE) in San Salvador; and Carolina Quinonez, a journalist from Guatamala’s Antigua Channel.

Political apathy, according to attendees at the meeting, threatens equally countries ruled by totalitarian regimes and those in which the society assumes that “all is well” or at least “better than in other countries,” because in the latter it can leave the door open to the possibility that populism and other deformations will silence thoughtful proposals to take advantage of what the traditional parties have not resolved. continue reading

Carlos Amel Oliva, of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), compared this phenomenon with the rise of fascism in Europe before World War II, ignored by governments until the outbreak of the war. “The democratic countries of the region need to not let the same thing happen with populism. It is not Cuba’s or Venezuela’s problem, it is a regional problem.”

Press freedom was another issue that focused attention during the morning panel. The representative from UNPACU denounced the “media laws that are driving some governments to control and limit freedom of expression under the pretext of preventing the spread of lies and distortions.”

Participants also discussed the problem of parasitism that grows in the region due to both the family remittances from emigrants as well as government “handouts,” especially under populist systems, factors that discourage the growth and development of national economies and create a vicious circle that encourages emigration and at the same time reinforces parasitism.

Participants’ skepticism of transnational organizations and meetings was reflected in the statements of Eduardo Stein, shared by several attendees, who questioned the existence of a regional organization like the OAS. For the former vice president of Guatemala, on the OAS Permanent Council, the alliance of a few countries prevents certain issues from being analyzed in the Summits. “There will be no will to confront the political problems of each country, appealing to the right of national sovereignty,” he added about the Summit of the Americas.

The afternoon of the day was dedicated to the initiatives of young Cubans with regards to democratic opening, with the participation of Kirenia Yalit Núñez, Yasser Rojas, Eliécer Ávila and Roberto Jiménez on behalf of the Roundtable, a proposal of democratic changes on the base of initiatives that seek to involve all Cubans in the solution of the problems that affect the whole population.

Also presented at the meeting was the new Cuba Decides initiative led by Rosa María Payá and Erick Álvarez, members of the Christian Liberation Movement; while Yusmila Reyna and Carlos Amel Oliva spoke of the objectives of UNPACU.

Finally, the Aulas Abiertas (Open Classrooms) project was presented, a project which promotes knowledge of the basic questions inherent in democratic societies, to prepare citizens before the eventual process of transition in which they will be capable of participating with a proactive role.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to expand the debate with questions from the audience due to the frequent and prolonged power outages in the room where the session was being held, which also affected some of the equipment for projecting materials, and which the Forum organizers attributed a deliberate attempt to sabotage the activity.

Young people call to fight against fear and self-censorship / 14ymedio

Several activists of Cuban civil society at the 2nd Youth and Democracy Regional Forum (14ymedio)
Several activists of Cuban civil society at the 2nd Youth and Democracy Regional Forum (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 April 2015 — The Second Regional Youth and Democracy Forum started Monday in Panama City with the challenge of becoming a “dialogue space for young leaders of student, social and political movements in the region.” The meeting, which runs until Tuesday and is organized by the Latin American Youth for Democracy Network (RLJD), is being held in the framework of the Summit of the Americas and aims to prepare future leaders for democratic governance and citizen participation, two of the priority themes of the Summit.

Most participants concluded, during the day yesterday, that the region is undermined by the cancer of populism, whose origins lie in Cuba. They also consider that democratic governments violate the fundamental principle of the Organization of American States (OAS) by sitting down with Cuba and Venezuela and not recognizing the legitimate voice of civil society in these countries. If the OAS and its organizations are not genetically reformulated, they warn, they will cease to have a reason for being and could lose any credibility as a regional body. continue reading

In the opening session,Guillermo Cochez, Panama’s former Ambassador to the OAS and member of the RLJD Advisory Council, urged the young people not to allow authoritarian governments to appropriate the discourse of social justice and of the continent. “I urge you to continue the fight against the enemies of democracy, who do not rest. You also must not rest in your struggle to defend democracy,” he urged.

Present at the conference were Eduardo Stein, former vice president of Guatemala, and Marta Lucía Ramírez, former Minister of Defense of Colombia, who participated with opinions and questions.

Yesenia Alvarez, director of the Institute for Political Freedom (IPL- Peru) and member of the Iberoamerican Youth Advisory Council, asked the young civil society leaders to look at the problems of each country across the region. “We join with Cuba, and we will continue together with the Cubans until they are free and can choose their destiny as a nation. We will work hard for it. The Latin American presidents will not speak about it, so I ask the civil society not to forget Cuba and Venezuela. Don’t be afraid. Dictatorships live in self-censorship that causes fear,” she added.

Meanwhile, Gina Romero of RedLad (Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy), called for developing an awareness of the kind of democracy that seeks and prioritizes the objective that all citizens have a decent life.

The first panel of the day, Youth Participation in Proposals for Strengthening Democracy and Governance, had as participants Pedro Cruz (Youth for Guatemala), Ricardo Sande (Student Federation of the Catholic University of Chile) and Rosa Maria Paya, who spoke of her project Cuba Decides. Also invited was, Rodrigo Diamanti, one of the directors of the video A World Without Gag Laws, who could not attend because the Venezuelan government prevented him from leaving the country. Sande demanded citizen involvement in politics to prevent the State from becoming the only provider of solutions. “There is no point having a democracy if we give the solution of the problems to power, (…) forgetting that citizens are responsible to each other, not to the states.”

Among those attending the second panel, on the Inter-American System of Human Rights and specific cases in the region, was Nizar El Fakih, a human rights lawyer from Venezuela who offered specific data on the situation in the country — including the unofficial count in 2013 showing 6% of the Venezuelan population in extreme poverty. Kirenia Nunez of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), warned of the known increase in short-term detentions on the island, while Ana Karina Garcia, from the Venezuelan Youth Popular Will, discussed the challenge to sensitize Venezuelan society to the fact that authoritarianism affects not only the opposition but the entire society. “The government is applying the same methods as the Cuban dictatorship, spreading terror to paralyze the population, alongside increasing deprivation and violence,” she said.

The Nicaraguan deputy Edipsia Dubon focused criticism of the government of her country on the Canal Law that will threaten and sweep away indigenous rights, given that 52% of the lands that will be confiscated by the State under the Law belong to those groups. For his part, Mauricio Alarcon, of Fundamedios (Ecuador), called attention to the violation of freedom of expression and press, as well as the attempts by some of the governments of the region to maintain themselves in power.

After a discussion between all the young participants and the social and political leaders from Latin America, the first day closed with a concert with Cuban hip hop artists Michel Matos (Matraka), Soandres del Rio, David D Omni and Aldo Roberto Rodriguez Baquero (of Los Aldeanos).

Adventures and misfortunes of a correspondent in Cuba / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Fernando Garcia poses with a copy of his book 'The Island of the Ingenuous”. (Photo: Esteban Cobo)
Fernando Garcia poses with a copy of his book ‘The Island of the Ingenuous”. (Photo: Esteban Cobo)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 6 April 2015 — Fernando Garcia del Rio was a correspondent in Cuba for the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia (Barcelona), from 2007 until his expulsion from Cuba in 2011. He has just published a book,“The Island of the Mills,” where he relates the “adventures and misfortunes of a correspondent in Havana in the final years of the Castro regime.” From Madrid, where he still works for La Vanguardia, the author has responded by email to questions from 14ymedio.

Question. Why did they expel you?

Response. It is obvious that my work did not please the authorities. They did not specify the reasons in detail. One day in March 2011, when I was about to complete four years as a correspondent, an official from the International Press Center (CPI) called me to a meeting the following Saturday morning. For more than a year that organization had let me waiting for the renewal of my accreditation, an essential document to be able to work on the island. I’d also spent some months without receiving any calls or communication from the CPI. And this, as a member of that body explained to me with obvious cynicism, meant that I was in a phase that implied, among other things, “the silence of the mails.” continue reading

The fact is, that at the final meeting at the Center’s site on the Rampa, the official in charge of communicating to me the outcome of the process sat across from me and limited himself to reading what he had brought written on a piece of paper. It was Article 46 of the CPI rules, according to which the entity can withdraw a correspondent’s accreditation when it considers that there has been a lack of ethics or objectivity, or actions “inappropriate” to the mission. I asked how and in what reports had I incurred these suspicions. The official, instead of answering me, unfolded the paper again and repeated to me the contents of the article in question. He did answer my question regarding if there was a timeframe for me to leave, “As soon as possible, as soon as you organize the move and sell your car,” he said.

“I’ve often wondered which article or articles could have bothered them so much. The one I devoted to the significant drop in the rates of Communist Party memberships?”

 In the book I tell the story in detail, but not without noting that the CPI expelled a ton of journalists in similar circumstances. So the event was nothing extraordinary, although telling the story is still illustrative. I’ve often wondered which article or articles could have bothered them so much. The one I devoted to the significant drop in the rates of Communist Party memberships, and how much this fall worried its leadership. Or maybe it was the report about the terribly poor sugar harvests of 2010 and 2011, titled, “Cuba’s bitter sugar”?

Question: It has been four years since your expulsion. Does Cuba remain in your dreams and nightmares?

Answer: Of course it continues in my thoughts and in my memory. Predominantly fond memories. Cuba is a unique and unforgettable country. For starters, coming from outside can feel like a time machine. Or like being in a period film – back to the fifties – where contemporary elements seem like mistakes in the props. That feeds the reverie. Beyond this imaginary sensation there is maybe something superficial, I see Cuba as a country with people hungry for the future who improvise the present minute-by-minute within a system anchored by the past. A broken country, in a material and figurative sense, as so many of its buildings and its streets are broken, but also its economy, communication with the exterior, and the families who remain separated by a stretch of ocean. But Cubans masterfully use an infallible weapon against the breakdown of hope, which is resourcefulness.

The [Spanish] Real Academia dictionary gives this term three principal meanings, as well as one relative to sugar factories. Ingenuity is the “ability of man to devise or invent quickly and easily”; it is also “industry, cunning and artifice of someone to get what they want,” and at the same time, “the spark or talent to rapidly see and display the funny side of things.” I believe that it is thanks to ingenuity, in its different forms, that most Cubans continue to get ahead. With ingenuity to fix the broken and fill the vacuum; to stop and confuse the adversary with humor and constructive spirit. Hence the title of the book, clearly.

Question: How difficult was it to practice journalism onThe Island of the Ingenuous?

Answer: What can I tell you about that?! Of course, the difficulties aren’t the same for a foreign correspondent in Havana – at the end of the day, a kind of passage through the country with someone having your back – than for a Cuban journalist who puts it all on the line. So, I send my respect and sincere admiration to my colleagues on the Island who, against all odds, try to do real journalism inside the country. That said, in my case as a correspondent, the main and most obvious difficulty was maintaining an acceptable balance between a commitment to the readers for the truth and the desire to keep one’s position; that is, to relate events without hiding the essential data but without getting the country’s authorities all stirred up.

“As a correspondent, the main and most obvious difficulty was maintaining an acceptable balance between a commitment to the readers for the truth and the desire to keep one’s position”

On the other hand, in Cuba informative material is peculiar. More than news, what you find are propaganda and rumors. But beyond what circulates in the media and is put at your disposal, the field is enormous. Regardless of the political decisions, the relevant announcements and the more or less substantial official discourse, Cuba seemed to me from the beginning a country that deserves to be told. Because, given that everyone has to invent a life for themselves every morning, things are constantly happening to all Cubans.

So the stories are endless, and almost always interesting because they speak of the daily bread. It’s not about “objective conditions,” figures on the “blockade” or other aspects of the everlasting conflict with the enemy; it’s about raw reality, which is what should come first to us journalists. Reality with a face and eyes, although at times you have to hide identities to avoid problems with the staff. And if, in addition to this reality, you tell it gracefully… Finally, sometimes the system serves you gems, involuntarily, real jewels for the daily chronicle. I’m referring to the reports that Granma or Juventud Rebelde publish from time to time, intending to counter something or meant as a warning, but that for the foreign media are like diamonds in the rough.

I remember discovering an “urbanization” of 350 houses made with railroad rails and sleepers in a coastal neighborhood called La Panchita. The residents, beset by the severe housing shortage suffered by the entire Island, pulled up 15 miles of railroad track to get the construction materials they needed to build their homes. The government published this finding with great scandal and indignation and with the announcement of disciplinary measures. They had to show that in Cuba people are made to pay for their crimes. Meanwhile, what this gave me was excellent raw material for an article on the housing shortage, and the theft of materials as a recourse to alleviate basic needs.

Question: Ingenuity, creativity, “resolve”, “under the table”, “invent” … many different ways of calling the juggling of survival we have to perform every day. Did some of them have a lasting impact on you?

Answer: In my book I dedicate a chapter to the “resurrection of scrap.” Here I report my discovery of what Cubans think is a total classic. I’m referring to the use of the Russian Aurika 70 washing machine for purposes that have nothing to do with the original. I discovered it in a casa particular [private B&B] in Viñales. The owner – his wife told us – couldn’t come out to greet us because he was enjoying a “hydromassage session.”

We went through to look at the courtyard of the house and the guy had his hand in the washing machine. He explained how this had been prescribed by his doctor: he should put his hand in there for 20 minutes a day, I think on the prewash setting, for his injured wrist. Then the man showed us the fan he’d hooked up with the motor from the drier. Later I learned that this was a more or less usual practice, with this and other appliances distributed by the State, and that, being so widespread, it had even set off a national debate about the supposed energy waste.

“The architects of Old Havana say the ruined or  semi-ruined buildings still standing in defiance of the laws of physics are ‘in miraculous static.’ The image is useful to describe the lives of most Cubans”

They told me that the Aurika was also a stupendous tomato crusher. I learned of the electric teakettle converted into a shower heater, the rikimbili (a bicycle converted into a motorcycle), and I don’t know how many more inventions. But it not only made me admire the ability of Cubans when it comes to making utensils from almost any object; as much or more I admired your infinite capacity to fabricate metaphors. It sticks with me, the expression created by the architects of Old Havana to classify ruined or semi-ruined buildings that are still standing, year after year, in apparent defiance of the laws of physics: they are building, they say, “in miraculous static.” In addition to being a poetic and humorous definition, the image is useful to describe the lives of most Cubans. In any event, it’s great.

Question: Last December 17th the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States was announced. Was this something predictable in the years you lived in Havana?

Answer: No, I didn’t imagine it. Some American officials and academics with good connections to the White House pointed out, then, that Obama could take important steps to approach Havana in his second term, that is, now. But neither I nor the European journalists and diplomats whom I know thought there would be such a warm agreement after 54 years of rupture. I suppose that the process towards full normalization will be slow and not free of surprises. Hopefully, those interested in stopping it will fail this time.

The Cuban regime classifies the opponents are “mercenaries” / 14ymedio

The Union of Journalists of Cuba accuses opposition leaders of orchestrating a provocation in Panama.
The Union of Journalists of Cuba accuses opposition leaders of orchestrating a provocation in Panama.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 April 2015 – The official Cuban civil society delegation that will participate throughout the week of parallel forums at the Summit of the Americas in Panama denounced, this Tuesday, the presence of “mercenaries in the service of a foreign power” in the meeting.

In a press conference, organized at the University of Panama shortly after the arrival from Havana and transmitted in full by the Island’s television monopoly, the members of the official Cuban delegation attacked the Cuban dissidents and independent activists who will also attend the meetings. In addition, the Union of Cuban Journalists distributed a pamphlet titled “Mercenaries,” in which they accuse the opposition leaders of a orchestrating a provocation on Panamanian soil. In the cover image, the deceased Huber Matos appears, along with others. In the press conference, only a few questions from the journalists present were allowed.

Liaena Hernández Martínez, a member of the National Committee of the Federation of Cuban Women, read a statement titled “It is inadmissible that mercenaries paid by enemies of the Island are in Panama,” where “the presence in these mercenary spaces [parallel forums] are paid for by the historical enemies of our nation. ”

A representative of the delegation said “there will definitely be no dialogue with those people,” accused of being part of a “meager ‘opposition’ fabricated from abroad, lacking any legitimacy and propriety.” The regime’s representatives didn’t even hesitate to link some members of civil society with “known terrorists that have caused infinite pain to the Cuban people.”

Rosa María Payá announces the creation of the initiative “Cuba Decides” / 14ymedio

The site of Youth Movements Forum, held Monday in Panama. (14ymedio)
The site of Youth Movements Forum, held Monday in Panama. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 6 2015 – Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late Cuban activist Oswaldo Payá, has announced this Monday the creation of the citizen initiative Cuba Decide, or “Cuba Decides.” The goal of the project, presented during the Forum of Youth Movements in Panama, is for Cubans to pronounce themselves through a plebiscite regarding the changes they would like to implement on the Island.

“We are conscious that only Cubans should define and decide on the changes that our society needs,” states the group’s website. “In order for citizens to be able to design, decide and construct their future, their rights should be guaranteed by the law and an atmosphere of trust and respect for all should also be achieved. That is what we proclaim and we work for a plebiscite that will consult the people in that matter. There will be no transition to democracy in Cuba if Cubans are excluded once again.” continue reading

The initiative advocates for the calling of “free, just, and plural” elections in an atmosphere in which the freedoms of expression, press, and assembly into political parties and plural social organizations are respected.

“No one should question that the changes desired by the Cuban people are those of freedom, reconciliation and full and guaranteed rights. Opposition within Cuba and abroad works and battles peacefully to achieve these goals. However, our greatest deficiency is that we have no voice, nor the democratic tools needed to express ourselves while the government and some others around the world pretend to speak on behalf of our people,” reads Cuba Decide’s website.

The project presented by Rosa María Payá accuses the Cuban government of being responsible for repression and violence against those with alternative opinions and initiatives and blames the absence of an environment that respects the law and self-determination for the “social and economic failures, as well as the constant and massive exodus of citizens” from the Island.

The proposal seeks to give continuity to the Varela Project, promoted in 1998 by Oswaldo Payá with the aim of enlarging individual liberties in Cuba. Payá achieved the collection of the more than 10,000 signatures required by the Cuban Constitution for the proposal of legislative amendments. The National Assemble, however, rejected the proposal as inconsistent with the law.

Translated by Fernando Fornaris

Dissident leaders carry a united message to the Americas Summit in Panama / 14ymedio, EFE

Manuel Cuesta Morua during the press conference this Friday (EFE / Alejandro Ernesto)
Manuel Cuesta Morua during the press conference this Friday (EFE / Alejandro Ernesto)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 3 April 2015 –Several leaders of the Cuban opposition and independent civil society made public Friday a document title “A United Message to the Seventh Summit of the Americas” under the slogan “Yo soy Cuba” (I am Cuba). In the text they point out that the “ the full insertion of the Cuban government in the inter-American system is incompatible with the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”

The document is signed by Felix Navarro, Pedro Luis Boitel Party for Democracy; Manuel Cuesta Morua, Progressive Arc; Guillermo Fariñas, United Antitotalitarian Front; Iván Hernández Carrillo, Trade Unionist; José Daniel Ferrer, the Patriotic Union of Cuba; Carmelo Bermúdez Rosabal, Progressive Arc; Juan Antonio Madrazo, Committee for Racial Integration, and groups such as Citizens for Democracy, Municipalities in Opposition, among others. continue reading

The signers enumerated at least seven points that demonstrate the undemocratic nature of the Cuban government. Among them are the repression, the existence and political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, the harassment of entrepreneurs, the unwillingness to ratify the United Nations Covenants on Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the existence of a single-party regime that does not allow the alternation of power, the inability of citizen to choose among different political alternatives, and the prohibition of multi-party representative democracy.

Their purpose is that the Summit of Americas, on April 10-11, is an “opportunity” to recognize “the legitimacy of the independent Cuban civil society within the island and in the diaspora as a valid interlocutor of the Cuban people,” opponent Manuel Cuesta Morúa, leader of the Cuban Progressive Arc Party said today.

Cuesta Morúa explained that the Ladies in White are not currently included because the project promoters have not been able to talk to the leader of the women’s group, Berta Soler, because she is outside the country, although they have not ruled out that she will join with them in Panama, during the summit.

In any case, there are more than dozen organizations behind this project representing what they call “independent civil society” within Cuba and in exile, groups that “cover the entire political spectrum,” said Cuesta Morúa.

He will be one of those charged with carrying this united proposal to the social forums of the Summit of the Americas, a meeting the Cuban government will attend for the first time and that will be the site of the expected meeting between the presidents of Cuba, Raul Castro, and of the United States, Barack Obama, the first after their diplomatic thaw.

Besides Cuesta Morua and Fariñas, other dissidents who will attend in Panama include Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White; Elizardo Sanchez of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN); and representatives of UNPACU, although not its leader José Daniel Ferrer.

Ferrer, who is not allowed to leave the island because he was one of the political prisoners of the “Group of 75” released on parole in 2010, is one of the charged with organizing a social forum parallel to the summit in Panama within the island.

On April 10 two civil society forums will be held in Cuba, one in Santiago de Cuba and another in Havana, to present the “united message” within the island as well, and to gather people’s proposals with regards to what to work on going forward.

“It will be about a coming together of those of us who feel ourselves to be members of the democratic open forum to share views about the need for changes in human rights, freedoms and the election system, given that Cuba is not the only country on the continent with a single party,” Ferrer explained to EFE.

In the joint statement, these groups demand that Cuba’s participation in the summit for the first time serve the ends of the final insertion of the island into the inter-American system following the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

In this sense, they denounce the repression of those exercising the rights of expression, assembly and association in Cuba; the existence of political prisoners; the prohibition of a representative and multiparty democracy; the refusal to consult the people about their future; and the unwillingness to ratify the UN Covenants on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

The social forums to be held in parallel with the summit in Panama, will also be attended by more than one hundred representatives of Cuban civil society and government organizations on the island.

The text prepared by these activists expresses different views and the “rich diversity, in the Agreement for Democracy, in the Points of Cuban Consensus, in the proposals of the Forum for Rights and Freedoms, and the Open Forum Four Points of Consensus.”

The document also reflects the willingness of “most of our alternatives” to “working together, in order to return Cuba as a free and sovereign nation to a hemispheric environment where democracy and institutional respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms prevail.”

35th Anniversary of the Mariel Boatlift: A Photo Essay / 14ymedio

On 1 April 1980, the driver a city bus on its regular route full of Cubans decided to crash the bus through the fence of the Peruvian embassy in Havana, looking for asylum to leave the country. The embassy refused to expel them from the diplomatic cite and on April 4, Fidel Castro's government deiced to withdraw military guards from the site.
On 1 April 1980, the driver a city bus, on its regular route and full of unsuspecting Cubans, decided to crash the bus through the fence of the Peruvian embassy in Havana, looking for asylum to leave the country. The embassy refused to expel the driver and passengers from the diplomatic site and on April 4, Fidel Castro’s government deiced to withdraw military guards from the site.
The Cuban government announced that those people could leave the country if they wanted,  if they got a visa from a country to take them. A few hours later, thousands of Cubans invaded the Peruvian embassy.
The Cuban government announced that those people could leave the country if they wanted, if they got a visa from a country that would take them. A few hours later, thousands of Cubans invaded the Peruvian embassy.
It is estimated that 10,800 Cubans managed to enter the embassy site in just three days, and Peru offered refuge to 850 of them. Banner: We don't want water or food, we want to leave.
It is estimated that 10,800 Cubans managed to enter the embassy site in just three days, and Peru offered refuge to 850 of them. Banner: “We don’t want water or food, we want to leave.”

continue reading

Overcrowding caused diarrhea, dehydration and gastroenteritis among the refugees
Overcrowding caused diarrhea, dehydration and gastroenteritis among the refugees
One of the protagonists of those events, wrote in 2004 in the Puerto Rican weekly "El Veraz":  "Making that decision wasn't easy if we consider that Fidel Castro's regime was experiencing its best economic and political time, and had the unconditional support of the Soviet Union. The repression of those times was very strong and even having long hair or listening to American music or gathering as a group on a corner could get you arrested."
One of the protagonists of those events, wrote in 2004 in the Puerto Rican weekly “El Veraz”: “Making that decision wasn’t easy if we consider that Fidel Castro’s regime was experiencing its best economic and political days, and had the unconditional support of the Soviet Union. The repression of those times was very strong and even having long hair or listening to American music or gathering as a group on a corner could get you arrested.”
In an editorial, the newspaper 'Granma' branded the refugees "criminals, lumpen, antisocial, bums and parasites" and said that none of them was a "political persecution nor I am in need of the sacrosanct right of asylum"
In an editorial, the newspaper ‘Granma’ branded the refugees “criminals, lumpen, antisocial, bums and parasites” and said that none of them was “politically persecuted nor in need of the sacrosanct right of asylum.”
According to the editorial in the government newspaper, in the Peruvian embassy gardens there were many homosexuals, gamblers and drug addicts.
According to the editorial in the government newspaper, in the Peruvian embassy gardens there were many homosexuals, gamblers and drug addicts.
Granma asserted that the Cuban people, "Unanimously think let the bums go, let the antisocials go, let the lumpen go, let the criminals go, let the scum go."
Granma asserted that the Cuban people, “Unanimously think: ‘Let the bums go, let the antisocials go, let the lumpen go, let the criminals go, let the scum go’.” Poster: “Carter, take your ‘Carteristas'”
Supporters of Fidel Castro's government marched with signs calling for the "scum" and "antisocials" to be thrown out of the Island.
Supporters of Fidel Castro’s government marched with signs calling for the “scum” and “antisocials” to be thrown out of the Island.
Demonstrations in Miami supported the Cuban refugees in the Peruvian embassy in Havana
Demonstrations in Miami supported the Cuban refugees in the Peruvian embassy in Havana
On April 8 the front page of the Spanish newspaper "El Pais" headlined the events in Havana
On April 8 the front page of the Spanish newspaper “El Pais” headlined the events in Havana: “Castro announces that anyone who wants to can leave Cuba.”

In the following weeks, as a result of the events in the Peruvian Embassy, more than 125,000 Cubans left through the Port of Mariel, a figure much greater than the Camariocas exodus in 1965, when more then 30,000 Cubans left the island.
In the following weeks, as a result of the events in the Peruvian Embassy, more than 125,000 Cubans left through the Port of Mariel, a figure much greater than the Camariocas exodus in 1965, when more then 30,000 Cubans left the island.

Airbnb offers over 1,000 private accommodations in Cuba / 14ymedio

The website Airbnb offers private accommodation all over the world.
The website Airbnb offers private accommodation all over the world.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 April 2015 – Starting this Thursday, foreign tourists will be able to rent private rooms in Cuba through the service Airbnb, which directly connects homeowners and travelers all over the world.

Airbnb’s site already offers more than 1,000 properties on the Island, mostly in Havana, although also in other localities such as Morón, Camagüey, Santa Clara and Cienfuegos.

More than half of the rooms are in the capital, especially in neighborhoods such as Vedado and the Malecon. The prices for a room in a private apartment in Havana start at 23 dollars a day and go as high as $370 for an entire apartment that sleeps nine. continue reading

Offerings in other cities are much more modest and the prices are below the average for Havana. In Pinar del Rio province, for example, it is possible to reserve a room in Viñales starting at $12 to a maximum of $52 for a more luxurious accommodation.

However, there are several users offering a large number of rooms in different parts of the country. An intermediary calling himself Michael, for example, publishes 232 lodging ads in Varadero, Pinar del Rio, Cienfuegos and Soroa, among other places.

Tourism, with revenues of some 2.5 billion dollars a year, is the third largest source of foreign exchange for Cuba, after the sale of medical services (Cuban doctors working abroad) and family remittances. As of the end of January the sector had grown by 16% this year compared to last, according to official data. In the first month of the year the Island received 371,160 foreign visitors, 51,097 more than last year.

After the White House eased the rules for travel to Cuba in January, the number of travelers from the United States is expected to increase significantly, although they are still not allowed to travel as tourists.

Staging Civil Society / 14ymedio, Manual Cuesta Morua

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 2 April 2015 — The Summit of the Americas is the best opportunity for Cuba. For the first time since 1959, our country has and will take advantage of the occasion provided by the international community to put itself in sync with the world.

Let’s review. In 1985 the Cuban government had an excellent moment to link the country to the height of what was coming. Instead it decided not to take advantage of perestroika and the opportunity it opened, at some point, to stop the country’s structural crisis, although to do so they would have had to recognize the structural crisis of the country’s model.

In all likelihood it would not have saved socialism if the government had used the occasion to transform itself, but if would have saved, for example, the sugar industry. By not making the necessary changes, we’re left today with neither socialism nor sugar. continue reading

This second opportunity is better and distinct. Distinct, because it continues the gradual process of returning to our natural geopolitical space. Better, because for the first time the entire country is invited to this process of integration.

None of the forums in this part of the world engage Cuba in its entirety. Neither the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), nor the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) think about Cuba when they use the mail to open their doors to the country. For them it is about “thinking of the heights,” which only recognizes our nation through the State. No more, no less.

With the VII Summit of the Americans, everything changes. The Americas, half reluctantly among its Latin part, accept that those who disagree with the regime and those who support it against all common sense are on an equal footing.

This is a formidable challenge. Fundamentally for the democratic civil society. There we can do what we have been taught from a young age at all possible levels of education and what is projected almost daily in the Island’s communication media and from the corners of official politics, in those most hidden places of the Island. We can scream, offend, exclude and continue to focus onmoral destruction of the adversary, rather than on rational discussion of the arguments. We can also say, as the political narrative in use accustoms us to do: them no, us yes. That is, we can project ourselves in a negative way, adding impropriety to the complaint. But this is not recommended.

Panama is giving us the opportunity to close the cycle of a long transition from uncivil language to civic language

The Seventh Summit of the Americas will surely be a space of wider exposure and a more intense light than we have had for years. Surely it can be considered the greatest visibility for Cuba at any time since 1962.

And we must take advantage of this in several ways: first, to vindicate an image. The Cuban government has effectively sold, especially in Latin America and more than a few U.S. circles, the idea of an incapable people, kind of rundown without purpose or goals, just asking for benefits, and doing it directly now that we can travel.

Second, to refine the language. The language learned for too many years in Cuba is not a civil language of the civilized. They raised us on insults, on low attacks, on the primary stories of tangled and foul politics that are the ultimate negation of the civic that can’t be understood without moderation, the choice of appropriate words, tolerance and respect for the differences that make the world and civil society. Civil society is basically this: the difference that coexists with independent judgment and from social autonomy. The only thing that makes depersonalization of the conflicts and the same differences possible. Panama is bringing us the opportunity to close the cycle of a long transition from uncivil language to civil language. It brings to the Cuban government the chance to start this same transition. The faster the better.

Third, to calmly assume the legitimacy of Cuban society itself. A misconception, based on the political distortion that many States, particularly Latin American ones, make of social life is that of introducing the concept of representation, which is typical of parties, corporations and assemblies, within the values or requirements of civil society. Civil society can be managed by its representatives, but it is not more or less legitimate because it represents sectors or grups. Its legitimacy comes from the expression of different projects within society. Thus, the nature of civil society is its diversity. The more diverse it is, the richer it is. Thus, quietly: a voice is civil society even though it does not have an army behind it.

We must leave behind the language of the complaint and pain, moving to one where ideas and proposals prevail

Fourth, to send the best message of a civilized civil society: that of inclusion. We have experienced firsthand a fifty-year exclusion, which we repay in kind. A coherent defense of civil society is only possible when we include others. This assumes the risk, like that assumed by Yoani Sanchez, of including the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), an organization formed to destroy the civil nature of coexistence from the most basic level, between neighbors and families, within the vast concept of civil society; which means for the CDRs the challenge of supporting citizens without spying on them.

Fifth, and finally, to leave behind the language of complaint and pain, moving to one where ideas and proposals prevail. Possibly the representatives of Revolutionary civil society, which answers to the regime’s discourse, be it in their critical or contemplative vision, will have an idea in one hand and stick in the other, aimed at our heads. But the best thing for us is to have two ideas, one in each hand, to share in a space where many, if not all, will be attentive to our staging. This must be worthy of the best theater.

Waiting for ‘Chromebit’ / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

In Cuba, housewives spend six hours a day watching television. (El Pais)
In Cuba, housewives spend six hours a day watching television. (El Pais)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 3 April 2015 — He is the king of the room. With his screen and speakers, no one looks away or ignores him. In front of our television sets, millions of Cubans have cried, laughed, and spent a good part of our lives. Now, thanks to new technologies, our relationship with this “idiot box” could begin to change. The devices that convert our little screens into computers are already here and are an option to computerize our families.

Google has launched the market for devices that convert TV sets into intelligent machines that help us to calculate, write, connect to the Internet and countless other functions. The device that achieves such a wonder resembles a USB flash drive, like the ones we’re used to passing from hand-to-hand to share information, audiovisuals, videoclips and programs. However, unlike these flash memories used to store data, the new creature conceived in Mountain View, California, holds within it the potential of a computer. continue reading

In the last census of population and housing, conducted in 2012, Cubans confessed to owning 759,164 black-and-white TVs, while 2,922,099 of their more sophisticated relations throughout the country had color TVs. It’s worth using the word “confess,” because it is still a very common practice to hide from the State’s prying eyes any technological infrastructure one relies on. “To the police, better to throw them off the scent,” we teach our kids at home, and all official surveys will be burdened by this component of popular suspicion.

It should be taken as certain, however, that in the majority of Cuban homes there is one of these “self-sufficient fatties” bellowing away all day long. Even in the poorest households, where there is no supply of drinking water and the sheets covering the bed are worn down to barely more than “onion skins” or lacking altogether, there is a television. Our whole culture is intrinsically linked to this box of miracles that dazzled our grandparents, indoctrinated our parents, and will help to free our children.

A device that manages to convert this screen that talks to us into a piece of equipment that we interact with, will be a necessary and massive change. And if the housewife who consumes a minimum of six hours a day of telenovelas and reality shows is able to conduct business, learn a profession, manage her finances or apply for a loan from the same TV that is already in the living room? Could it transform the passivity of a consumer in to the interactivity of a user?

In collaboration with the Taiwanese technology company Asus, Google has announced the new Chromebit device that connects to modern televisions and makes them function as computers. The apparatus will arrive in the market this summer and will be available for less than $100 (U.S.), according to the company’s statement. It will be able to connect to flat screen TVs with a USB or HDMI port.

The Chromebit continues the saga of previous inventions and will provide a complete version of Google’s operating system, Chrome OS. It will also be able to connect via Bluetooth and WiFi to other devices, as well include applications able to begin working without the need to connect to the great World Wide Web. That it, it will work very well with the Internet, but it will also work without it for the inhabitants of this “Island of the Disconnected.”

Although the statistics published to date don’t tell us how many TVs in Cuba have USB or HMDI ports, a few hours spent at customs at any airport makes it clear that these appliances are flowing into the country. A brief tour of on-line classified sites also give the impression that we are going to be drowning in smart TVs.


Very well, if Cuba meets two characteristics tied to the Chromebit – a need to computerize ourselves and television viewing embedded in our DNA – we shouldn’t have to wait too long to see our country benefit from devices of this type. Now that Google executives have visited our island twice, could Chromebit but a project to encourage here?

If humanitarian aid works based on the concept of “don’t give me fish, teach me how to fish,” the same should apply to these telecommunications companies, which don’t have to teach us to “be free” – we carry this in our genes – but they can offer us the infrastructure to cut the chains for ourselves.

“Hopefully it will rain Chromebits on the (Cuban) countryside,” we might say, to paraphrase a well-known song by Juan Luis Guerra.