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Reports from Cuba: Ministerial Hustling

By Luzbely Escobar in Translating Cuba:

Ministerial Hustling

When I was younger and went out looking for something to do in Havana’s evenings or nights, one day I stumbled over Julio. I went out with a girlfriend from Berlin and he was looking to make a living scamming innocent foreigners. He approached us intending to invite us to a Rumba Festival, but was disappointed by our refusal. The trick was easy: lead the unwary to Hamel Alley where there was almost always the sound of drums and right now there was the Festival he mentioned.

I had warned my German friend about those characters who invent everything to attract the tourists, and the truth was that, in those days of September 1993, there wasn’t much to do. Every encounter ended in a park, along the Malecon, or the home of a friend. Julio didn’t give up and told my friend, Angelica, that he knew a place where there was salsa dancing. We turned our worst faces to the old rockers and took off before they came up with something else. I remember my friend at the end of this episode telling me, “That’s what I would call cultural hustling.”

I’m telling this story because right now there is a cultural event called Habanarte. I support the theory that this is more or less the same thing, but organized by the Ministry of Culture itself. With a program that includes everything but which, in reality, brings little new, one more festival where supposedly a program specially designed for the event is created, which comes to be a kind of umbrella that covers everything and anything that’s happening in Havana lately. Thus, this umbrella festival takes credit for everything and even includes visits to museums on its list of events.

Presentations by the National Ballet of Cuba, Haydée Milanés, Descemer Bueno,
among others, are part of the shows absorbed by Habanarte. Also, the Art in the Rampa show, and even the sixth Salon of Contemporary Art, have been put under the umbrella.

An odd, or revealing, piece of data is that the Paradiso agency confirmed the participation of 1,500 Venezuelans and announced that the event in question is being marketed to tourists passing through Havana and Varadero. The perfect mix to ideologize even more the cultural spaces that, gradually, we Havanans have conquered to relax the everyday political ballad.

At the press conference that took place a few days ago, we learned that the Festival Information Center will be located at the Casa del Alba, the most rancid epicenter of political propaganda masquerading as culture. All this made me remember Julio and his fake musical event, and my friend Angelica who realized the farce in time. However, unlike that lie to get some money from unsuspecting tourists, Habanarte is a huge ministerial balloon scamming thousands of people.

(The event takes place from 11 to 21 September, but the official opening is on September 12, at 11 pm, at El Sauce Cultural Center, of Artex, with a concert by El Chevere de la Salsa, Isaac Delgado.)

Reports from Cuba’s Venezuela: On the brink of Newsprint-geddon

By Gustavo Hernandez Acevedo in Caracas Chronicles:

On the brink of Newsprint-geddon

These newsprint reels sold to El Impulso by the government would give the paper a few more days.

Barquisimeto’s main newspaper El Impulso informed its readers via an editorial last week that they would be forced to stop publishing, because their reserves of newsprint were simply insufficient to keep working.

Earlier this year they faced the same situation, but got a brief lifeline through CADIVI. During this time, they held on thanks to a dramatic reduction in the number of pages and the solidarity of our Colombian neighbors.

But El Impulso isn’t alone: Guayana’s Correo del Caroni, San Cristobal’s La Nacion and Maracay’s El Siglo recently announced that they would reduce their page numbers in order to keep publishing. The crisis has been affecting most Venezuelan newspapers for more than a year now.

The lack of access to currency isn’t the only thing to blame here, as the government has assumed more direct control over the import and distribution of newsprint. The Alfredo Maneiro Editorial Corporation (which is in charge of publishing State-owned papers and publications) is now selling it directly to newspapers themselves. In the end, they gave El Impulso 24 reels, so they could remain active for the next two weeks.

But this temporary stopgap doesn’t change much. Newsprint-geddon is just around the corner, and the communicational hegemony is using it as a way to control the flow of information and opinion (with a little help of their HegemonCorp. friends). As many independent papers are felling the pinch, Nicolas Maduro gave the green light to two new papers, one of them for the State party the PSUV.

Surely they won’t have problems getting their newsprint.

The new wave of refugees from Cuba

Santana in El Nuevo Herald:

First Amendment protection for Castro apparatchiks Buena Fe–but not for U.S. citizen Ted Nugent


Tonight some Castro-regime apparatchiks under the guise of musicians named Buena Fe perform in Miami-Dade County Auditorium.

Many historic exile groups (including groups representing the longest suffering political prisoners in the modern history of the human race) have protested the blatant provocation from the Stalinist terror-sponsoring regime that tortured them--but to no avail.

It seems that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the Stalinist provocateurs. To wit:

"The mayor said that although he doesn’t support or condone the “inflammatory statements” made by the duo, he’s following guidance from County Attorney Robert Cuevas. Miami-Dade can’t cancel the event due to a contract signed with its organizers as well as “the tenets of the First Amendment.”

"We live in a free country and we have to live democracy. Whoever wants to attend a performance originating from Cuba should go. Those who oppose it can stay away." (Gloria Estefan.

This is a free country, and even jerks are protected by the First Amendment. (Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald)

Recently several venues have abruptly cancelled Ted Nugent's fully-contracted planned performances. Some were Indian Tribe-owned Casinos but others were partly taxpayer-funded venues,(much like Buena Fe's who will perform in the taxpayer-funded Miami-Dade County Auditorium)

Nary a peep about Ted Nugent's "First Amendment rights" has been heard from the media, much less from any of Nugent's fellow musicians.

Of course it's entirely possible that Ted Nugent's lawyers are not as up to speed on the protection offered by the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution as are famed constitutional scholars Fabiola Santiago and Gloria Estefan.

Not that I have a dog in this fight or anything:


Picadillo: The ultimate comfort food for Cuba’s diaspora

Personally, I can say that picadillo is perhaps my very favorite dish from my childhood. Naturally, my mother made the very best picadillo in the world with my grandmother's coming in a close second. And as far as I am concerned, it is not picadillo if it does not have raisins. Furthermore, all those other fancy ingredients like capers and slivered almonds have no business in my picadillo.

With that said, a little history of picadillo via The New York Times:

The Ultimate Cuban Comfort Food: Picadillo

Here is one of the great dishes of the Cuban diaspora: picadillo, a soft, fragrant stew of ground beef and tomatoes, with raisins added for sweetness and olives for salt. Versions of it exist across the Caribbean and into Latin America. James Villas, the elegant hedonist who for many years was the food and wine editor of Town & Country magazine, championed one from St. Lucia, in the Lesser Antilles. But many Cubans claim the dish as their own, a taste of the pre-revolutionary island at its homey best. “Picadillo has a sentimental resonance,” said Betty Cortina, a Cuban-American food writer who is the editor of The Miami Herald’s lifestyle magazine, Indulge. She even took a recipe for picadillo with her to college at the University of Florida. “Everyone who is of Cuban descent has a recipe for it, and each one of those is the most authentic. It’s a comfort food, probably the most consummate example of one in Cuban cuisine.”

Many picadillo recipes derive from the one that Nitza Villapol put in her cookbook “Cocina Criolla,” published in 1954. Villapol, a writer and television host, was the closest thing Cuba has had to a Julia Child. Her shows were broadcast there for more than 40 years, and her cookbooks were a mainstay of Cuban home cooking from the revolution in 1953 until her death in 1998.

Cortina’s first picadillo was a Villapol recipe, she said. Her mother had packed her off to Gainesville with the cookbook. “It was probably just beef and raisins then,” she said of her early attempts at the dish. “The first time, I skipped the tomatoes entirely.”

Picadillo roughly translates from the Spanish as “mince.” The dish bears some resemblance to American sloppy joes, or to hash. Some cooks use tomato sauce in the base. (Cortina’s mother, for one.) Others insist on fresh tomatoes. Norman Van Aken, the influential Miami chef whose “New World Cuisine” serves as a kind of encyclopedia of cooking from the Caribbean basin, makes his picadillo with ground turkey, a nod to the Spanish skill at domesticating the wild birds.

Villapol’s recipe calls for a blend of beef and pork. Capers are added at the end. Maria Josefa Lluria de O’Higgins, whose 1994 cookbook and memoir, “A Taste of Old Cuba,” evokes the nation’s pre-revolutionary flavors, garnishes her picadillo with rounds of French bread fried in olive oil. Ernest Hemingway, for his part, used slivered almonds.

Continue reading HERE.

Occupy Wall Street movement devolves into grim parody of Orwell’s “Animal Farm”


Yes.  Those of us who lived through the so-called Cuban "Revolution" know how all Marxist-inspired movements end up.

We know that those who seek to undo the bourgeois capitalist "tyranny" can never, ever,  escape the gravitational pull of Darwinian dog-eat-dog principles.

We also know that the real goal of their leaders is always to do away with any competition for the position of top dog.

This news story about the Occupy Wall Street zealots is no surprise to most Cuban exiles.

But it is a great confirmation of our deepest suspicions and greatest fears, which tend to be dismissed by many as ludicrous or insane.

Go, Marx, go Engels, go!  Way to go!  Stick it to "the system," stick it to "the man."   And, when you're tired of sticking it to the bourgeoisie, stick it to each other and to those below you who are your potential slaves.

Above all, stick it to the lame-brained useful idiots who help you become the top dog.

And, to keep on with all this sticking-it-to-the-oppressors charade, go ahead and act just like those you revile.  Go ahead and avail yourself of the very system you seek to dismantle.

Sue one another for millions of filthy dollars, comrades.

After all, some comrades are more equal than others.


From Buzzfeed:

The People Who Organized Occupy Wall Street Are Now Suing Each Other
The movement descends into litigation. “We can either go and beat him up or we can go to court.”

WASHINGTON — Activists who organized the dormant Occupy Wall Street movement are suing another activist for control of the main Twitter account, and one of the plaintiffs says there was no other option but to turn to litigation to solve the dispute.

The conflict centers around @OccupyWallStNYC, one of the main Twitter feeds that distributed information during the movement’s heyday in 2011. The OWS Media Group filed a lawsuit against organizer Justin Wedes on Wednesday, which is also the third anniversary of the beginning of Occupy Wall Street. The group, led by activist Marisa Holmes, is seeking control of the Twitter account as well as $500,000 in damages.

The Twitter account, which used to be shared among several activists, is now under the control of Wedes, who explained his decision to take over the Twitter feed in a blog post in August:

A thread about “self-promotion” became just another shaming session. If we start from a place of assuming bad intentions – i.e. discouraging “self-promotion” over encouraging solid, relevant content – we will end up with rules that shame rather than empower. Group members took on the task of limiting others to “1 to 2 tweets per day” (or week) on a topic, a form of censorship that would never have been allowed in the earlier days of the boat. I had to say enough!

“We can either go and beat him up or we can go to court,” Holmes, a video editor who was part of the core organizing team of Occupy, told BuzzFeed News. “And quite frankly if we go and beat him up then we could end up with countersuits against us, and that puts us in a more damaging position and we don’t really want to do that anyway.”

For more on this delightful comedy of errors go HERE.


Yeah, man.... whatever....

Venezuela’s dictatorship threatening to strip Maria Conchita Alonso of her citizenship

Cuba's puppet dictatorship in Venezuela is threatening to revoke the citizenship of Maria Conchita Alsono, the outspoken Venezuelan actress who has never minced her words when exposing the tyranny and repression of the Cuban-controlled dictatorship in her country. The Cuban-born actress' family fled communist Cuba and the Castro dictatorship when she was five and settled in Venezuela.

Via the AP in the Houston Chronicle:

Venezuela threatens citizenship of actress Alonso

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's leftist government says it is moving to revoke the citizenship of actress Maria Conchita Alonso, a bitter critic of the government.

The country's foreign ministry announced in the official gazette that it would ask a judge to remove her Venezuelan nationality.

The actress was born in Cuba but her family brought her to Venezuela when she was 5 to avoid the Communist government there. She won beauty contests and starred in television series in Venezuela before emigrating to the United States and starring in Hollywood productions such as "Moscow on the Hudson" and "Predator 2."

Jay Carney and the latest spin about Iraq


A town in Cuba mourns those it has lost at sea in their attempt to escape the island prison

Via Reuters:

As migrants flee eastern Cuba, a town mourns those lost at sea

Eighteen-year-old Miguel Lopez Maldonado boarded a homemade boat last month with 31 others, leaving behind this sleepy fishing town on Cuba's southeast coast to seek a new life in the United States.

The motor broke down after a couple days, and the craft drifted for three weeks. One by one, the passengers died of thirst, the survivors left with no option but to throw the bodies overboard.

By the time the Mexican navy spotted them 150 miles off the Yucatan peninsula, 15 had died, including Lopez Maldonado. Of the 17 rescued, two died in a Mexican hospital.

Lopez Maldonado's parents say they don't understand why their son left. But others here say many young Cubans see no future in a state-run economy, under U.S. sanctions for 50 years, with few opportunities for private enterprise.

"Young people today do not think like my generation did. They are looking for something more that they can’t find here," the dead teen's father, Miguel Lopez Vega, said, sobbing, in the living room of the family's home as neighbors stopped by to offer comfort.

"My son wanted to leave Cuba since he was 15. He didn’t want to live in this country."

The tragedy, the worst Cuban migrant boat disaster in two decades, is part of a growing illegal exodus from eastern Cuba - a region famous as the launching pad of the 1959 revolution in the nearby Sierra Maestra mountains.

U.S. authorities say 14,000 Cubans arrived without visas at the border with Mexico in the past 11 months, the highest number in a decade.

In Manzanillo, a run-down colonial city of 130,000 in eastern Granma province, residents say as many as five boats, with up to 30 passengers, depart in weeks with favorable weather.

Passengers in last month's voyage, who were aged 16 to 36, each paid the equivalent of $400 to $600 for the 675-mile trip.

The situation threatens to further strain relations between Cuba and the United States. Cuba argues that U.S. policy foments illegal and dangerous departures by granting Cubans a special right of entry not offered to other nationalities.

The wave of migration also exposes the fragility of President Raul Castro's market-oriented reforms, in which independent farming and small businesses have been legalized in an attempt rebuild a private sector wiped out in 1959.

Continue reading HERE.

H/T Regina A.

Reports from Cuba: Of freebies and schools

By Yoani Sanchez:

Of Freebies and Schools

The school bell rings and the children enter the classroom followed by their parents. The first day of classes triggers joy, although a few tears are shed by some who miss their homes. That’s what happened to Carla, who just started kindergarten at a school in Cerro. The little girl is lucky because she got a teacher who has taught elementary school for several years and has mastered the content. “What luck!” some of the little one’s family members think, just before another mother warns them, “But beware of the teacher, she demands every student bring her a bit of a snack from home.”

On the afternoon of September 1, the first parent meeting took place. After the introductions and welcoming remarks, the teacher enumerated everything that the classroom was lacking. “We have to raise money for a fan,” she said, unsmiling. Carla had already suffered from the morning heat, so her mother gave the 3 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) that was her daughter’s share, so she would have a little breeze while studying. ”We also need to buy a broom and mop for cleaning, three fluorescent tubes for the lights, and a trash can,” said the teaching assistant.

A list of requests and needs added some disinfectant for the bathroom, “Because we don’t want the flu,” said the teacher herself. The total expenditures began to grow, and a lock was added, “So that no one steals things when there’s no one in the school.” A father offered some green paint to paint the blackboard, and another offered to fix the hinges on the door, which was lopsided. “I recommend that you buy the children’s notebooks on the street because the ones we received to hand out this year are as thin as onion skin and tear just by using an eraser,” the teacher added.

After the meeting Carla’s family calculated some 250 Cuban pesos in expenses to support the little girl’s education, half the monthly salary of her father, who is a chemical engineer. Then the school principal came to the meeting and rounded it off with, “If anyone knows a carpenter and wants to hire him to fix their child’s desk, feel free.”

Reports from Cuba’s Venezuela: S&P downgrade of Venezuela’s debt to add to the noise

Via The Devil's Excrement:

S&P Downgrade Of Venezuela’s Debt To Add To The Noise

As if there was not enough noise around Venezuela’s and PDVSA’s debt, credit agency S&P downgraded Venezuela to CCC+ this afternoon, citing concerns about the economy, inflation and increasing risk. This announcement will certainly add to the confusion of the last week or so, where the default opinion piece of Hausmann and Santos, has generated so much discussion and interpretations of what was said, creating such a stir that President Maduro ordered the Prosecutor to ¨take action¨ against Hausmann for seeking to destabilize the country.

One has to wonder what Maduro will say about S&P now.

But in reality, the announcement by S&P is not surprising, because the rating agency already had placed Venezuela on “negative watch“, suggesting that it was considering downgrading Venezuela’s sovereign debt. (So far, the downgrade only applies to the Republic’s debt, but a similar downgrade of PDVSA is likely to follow base on the criteria usually followed by credit rating agencies that no risk can be higher than the sovereign one)

According to the definition by S&P, this downgrade to CCC+ means that Venezuela is “vulnerable and dependent on favorable business, financial and economic conditions to meet financial commitments.” S&P is not suggesting that there will be a default anytime soon, but that things are getting complicated. But we are sure that the announcement will be misinterpreted.

And I say this, because during the last week, there have been many misinterpretations of statements made by a number of people (including me) and in both Twitter and blogs, terms have been confused.

As an example, I made statements in Twitter that I did not recommend investing in Venezuela and PDVSA bonds at this time, which was taken by some as an indication that I thought Venezuela would default. As I made clear in the previous post, I do not believe that Venezuela will default in October, or that Venezuela is likely to default in 2015 or even in 2016. What I am saying is that on a risk adjusted basis, the return on Venezuelan and PDVSA bonds are just not high enough for the  lack of transparency on the country’s numbers, the political uncertainty and the volatility that these bonds exhibit.

Take, for example, the PDVSA 2022 bond, one of the people’s favorites because of its high 12.75% coupon. Today that bond was yielding about 16.1% per year if you held it until 2022 and had a “current yield” of 14.66%. The latter means that if you buy the bond today at around 86% and in one year it is still at 86%, you will make 14.6% on your money. This is what that this bond has done since the beginning of the year:


As you can see, it started the year at about 92%, dropped in six weeks to 75%, bounced back to 104% only to drop to 80% once again with all the default talk and recovered some to close today at 86%. That is a19% drop, a 38.7% rise and a 23% drop in the space of less than nine months.

Continue reading HERE.

“People to People Travel?” or “American useful idiots, morons and scoundrels to KGB-trained indoctrinators travel?”


Cuba’s Intelligence services “will actively exploit visitors to the island” continues the report. “Intelligence officers will come into contact with the academic travelers (from the U.S.) They will stay in the same accommodations and participate in the activities arranged for the travelers. This clearly provides an opportunity to identify targets….Castro’s intelligence aggressively targets U.S. universities under the assumption that a percentage of students will eventually move on to positions within the U.S. government that can provide access to information of use to the [Cuban intelligence service,”] continues the FBI report.

A preferred target are ‘study abroad’ programs (in Cuba,)” adds America’s top Cuban spycatcher Chris Simmons, recently retired from the Defense Intelligence Agency, “as participating students (from the U.S.) are assessed as inherently sympathetic to the Cuban revolution.”

Our friends at Frontpage help disseminate items very little understood outside the miniscule Cuban-American informational ghetto.

Thanks to our friend Juan Cuellar I call your attention to just a teenzy, tiny sampling from the "itinerary" section of the Cuba section of the People to People website:

"Discover the ambience of the Casa de la Amistad during a country briefing provided by the non-governmental agency, the Cuban Institute for Friendship between Peoples (ICAP)."

(But in fact, according to Cuban Intelligence defector Jesus Perez Mendez: ICAP is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cuba's KGB-founded and trained intelligence service.)

"Enjoy dinner and the waterfront view this evening at La Divina Pastora Restaurant"

(But in fact, La Divina Pastora Restaurant is wholly-owned by the Stalinist regime's Gaviota agency. And according to America's top Cuban spycatcher Chris Simmons, Gaviota is itself a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cuba's military.

raul23Fidel laughing8

"Meet with the staff from the Literacy Museum, tracing Cuba's achievements in the Great Literacy Campaign. In 1961, the Cuban Literary Campaign was a year-long effort to abolish illiteracy in Cuba following the Cuban Revolution. It is known as the world's most ambitious literacy endeavor with statistics today indicating a Cuban literacy rate above 99 percent."

The above, (also from the People to People itinerary) speaks for itself, I trust.



Photo of the Day – Cuba’s Marxist revolution’s addiction and dependence on American dollars

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This photograph is worth a few thousand words.

And yet there are still those who claim that the only way to cure a heroin addict is to give him more heroin...

A Cuban refugee Cookbook

Maria R. Estorino Dooling at the University of Miami's Cuban Heritage Collection:

A Refugee Cookbook

Recipes such as this one for croquettes indicated with an (R) the products distributed by the Cuban Refugee Program.Click to enlarge.

The Cuban Refugee Program, established by the U.S. government in 1961 and operated from Miami’s Freedom Tower, trained and employed exiled Cubans as social workers to connect refugees to services such as job training, resettlement, and food distribution. One of those social workers was Evangelina Aristigueta Vidaña, who in Cuba had been a high school physics and chemistry teacher.

As a social worker, Mrs. Vidaña found that many Cuban women were having a hard time cooking with the non-perishable foods distributed by the Cuban Refugee Program, such as powdered eggs, canned meat, and peanut butter. She started compiling and transcribing recipes that her clients were creating using the food received from el refugio (the refuge), as the program became known. With more than thirty recipes, Mrs. Vidaña distributed her “refugee” cookbook to clients and, in so doing, helped hundreds of Cuban families ease into their new lives in the United States.

Mrs. Vidaña worked as a social worker with the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services for thirty years. Her daughter María Eugenia Vidaña Soler-Baillo donated to the Cuban Heritage Collection a copy of her “Recetas de cocina usando los productos alimenticios donados por el Centro de Distribuición de Víveres del Programa de Asistencia de los Refugiados Cubanos” (“Recipes using the food products donated by the Food Distribution Center of the Cuban Refugee Assistance Program”).

Pictured is an empty can of chopped meat distributed by el refugio. This item was donated by Carmen Vega. After the can was emptied of its contents, Ms. Vega used it as a hair roller. Click to enlarge.

The Cuban Heritage Collection houses the records of the Cuban Refugee Program. A small selection of materials from that collection are available online and were used in the digital exhibition, “In Search of Freedom: Cuban Exiles and the U.S. Cuban Refugee Program.”

Ecuador’s dictator Correa paying hefty price for celebrity propaganda endorsements of his Cuba-style corruption

Like his Cuban dictatorial mentors Fidel and Raul Castro, Ecuadorean dictator Rafael Correa loves to spend his country's money on celebrity propaganda endorsements of his Marxist corruption.

Lachlan Markay in The Washington Free Beacon:

For Ecuador’s PR Firm, Celebrity Backing Carries Hefty Price Tag
MCSquared paid more than $500,000 for Mia Farrow, Danny Glover junkets

A public relations firm’s legally suspect work on behalf of the Ecuadorian government included hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to talent agencies representing prominent celebrities who traveled to the country to bemoan environmental damage there.

The firm, MCSquared, organized junkets to Ecuador last year, where actors Danny Glover and Mia Farrow promoted an Ecuadorian lawsuit against oil company Chevron over alleged environmental contamination.

According to documents filed with the Justice Department last week, MCSquared paid more than half-a-million dollars to two prominent talent agencies to recruit celebrities for the events.

Those payments were part of a $6.4 million PR contract on behalf of the government of Ecuador. MCSquared undertook much of the work last year, but only notified the DOJ, as is required by federal law, in July after the Washington Free Beaconreported that it had failed to disclose its contract with that government.

Ecuador hired the firm specifically to go after Chevron, which has resisted paying a $9 billion judgment the company claims was obtained by fraud and corruption on the part of American plaintiffs’ attorneys.

MCSquared filed an amended Foreign Agent Registration Act disclosure on Wednesday detailing nearly $2 million in disbursements related to work attacking Chevron and promoting efforts to enforce the judgment in other countries where the company has assets.

Among MCSquared’s listed disbursements were payments of $188,391.12 to Greater Talent Network, which represents Mia Farrow, and $330,000 to the American Program Bureau, which represents Danny Glover.

MCSquared subsequently promoted the actors’ visits to Ecuador in a pair of press releases.

The firm’s payments to the two talent agencies represented more than a quarter of its total itemized disbursements associated with its contract with Ecuador.

Continue reading HERE.