They have few reasons to envy of their capitalist counterparts. The differences between them are ones of rhetoric and philosophy. The anti-capitalist islanders having studied Marxist manuals and speak on behalf of the poor.
But many are living at full throttle. At the workplace they wear sweltering uniforms designed by some sadistic tailor from the former Soviet Union. Twenty-five years ago they used to get around in Russian-made Ladas with capitalist tires and stereo systems. They called attention to themselves.
The top officials were untouchable. Officers used to place their caps in the rear of their vehicles so that police would not stop them for traffic violations. Laws were for other people to obey.
The only ones who could dismiss them, punish them, jail them (or shoot them) were the Castros. They lived in the former residences of Havana’s upper and middle classes in the Siboney, Miramar, Nuevo Vedado, Fontanar or Casino Deportivo neighborhoods.
They had more than one car and houses with Ikea furniture, electric kitchens, “made in USA” refrigerators, Sony televisions, South Korean air conditioners and Philips audio equipment.
They enjoyed three succulent meals a day and once a week they read articles from the western press that had been condensed for the directors of the Department of Revolutionary Orientation or the Communist Party. For vacations they travelled to one of the USSR’s Baltic republics or strolled carefree through Prague’s Wenceslas Square. And they went to Varadero whenever they felt like it.
The drank Czech beer and Yankee whiskey. They smoked cigars for export and carried American dollars in their wallets back when doing so was forbidden. Ministers and military brass were fond of dressing up like Madrid’s posh elite or New York’s jet set, with Levi’s 501 jeans and polarized Ray-Ban sunglasses.
In the difficult years of the “Special Period,” while the masses whom they lauded suffered from hunger, became ill from malnutrition, put up with blackouts lasting twelve hours and got around on bicycles, the revolutionary upper class maintained its same lifestyle. They had electrical generators in their homes, celebrated with loud parties and never had to put up with the lousy food — ground beef from soy, meat paste and Cerelac — devised by Fidel Castro for the average Cuban.
In the 21st century they have become successful entrepreneurs. The various businesses established with capitalist partners as well as the “industry” which arose after the increase in remittances sent by Cubans living overseas nourish members of the armed forces and interior ministry.
An absurd captive market, which forces Cubans to pay for everything from a bottle of cooking oil to a ventilator in another currency, is managed by a holding company set up by the military.
Meanwhile, the number of maneuvers intended to counter a supposed Yankee invasion have diminished. Aging Russian armaments, built in the 1980s when the government was mobilizing the population for “imminent enemy aggression,” lie rusting in underground bunkers.
Today the new Creole upper class is betting on the world of business. It advises Venezuelan comrades and secures positions in European embassies. The old Russian Ladas are no longer fashionable. Now they show off with Audis and Hummers.
Cuban baseball bores them. They prefer to watch Big League games, championship football matches and NBA playoffs live on satellite. The like to play golf or go hunting in exclusive game reserves. They dine as though they lived in London or Paris. They have internet access at home and use Skype for video conferencing or for chatting with their children in Florida.
Offspring of the nouveau riche have studied or are studying at universities in the United States or Europe. Others, more in tune with the times than their fathers, prefer to live in exile.
At night this elite bourgeoisie dines at Havana’s finest restaurants and frequents its hottest nightclubs. They dress in designer clothes, perhaps made in dismal garment factories in Bangladesh. They sport French perfume and Swiss watches. By day they take part in revolutionary actions while wearing white guayaberas.
They demand productivity and sacrifice, speak of a prosperous and sustainable socialism, condemn Yankee imperialism and ask that the people work with them to end rampant corruption. This new Cuban upper class loves to foment revolution from the soap box.
Photo: Banquet and show from the XV Festival del Habano 2013, which took in more than a million dollars. These festivals has been taking place in the Cuban capital since 1994 and bring together hundreds of celebrities, specialists and cigar lovers from all over the world. Parents and children from communist military high society regularly attend these exclusive, opulent events. From Diario de Yucatán.
An unintended consequence of the push by Cuban dictatorship supporters in the U.S. to "normalize" relations with the Castro regime is the unavoidable recognition of the long ignored multi-billion dollar elephant in the room of unsettled legal money claims against the island's criminal government. Try as they might, the issue surrounding the billions of dollars stolen over the past half century by the Castro crime family led by mafia don Fidel will simply not go away.
Certified Claims Against Cuba Getting New Attention
As the Obama administration moves to improve agriculture shipments, telecom service and direct mail with Cuba, others are lobbying for an equal improvement and consideration of longtime claims against Cuba.
These certified claims against Cuba have been languishing while other interactions and financial activity has moved forward. Estimates of money being transferred from those in the U.S. to those in Cuba are as high as $2 billion a year. Informal trade and shipments of products from the U.S. to Cuba may be even higher.
The law and public policy firm of Poblete Tamargo LLP has registered yesterday to lobby for Hon. John L. Loeb Jr.on the topic of claims against the government of Cuba. Loeb is a businessman, philanthropist and former U.S. ambassador to Denmark.
There are $1.7 billion in original certified claims against Cuba, and the amount jumps to $7 billion when interest is included. These certified claims are mostly from businesses but there are some from individuals. Even after a Bush administration transition study, there has been little action on the certified claims.
Jason Poblete (formerly with Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., and the House Administration Committee) and Mauricio Tamargo (formerly with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and also the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission) are the lobbyists working on educating legislators on the issue.
Despite complications, the International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association takes a step towards democratization.
For many years academic study of Latin America in the US has rested on a form of political leftism that brushes aside anyone who won’t comply with the Cuban revolution’s orders. As a result, many intellectuals on the Island have been excluded from Latin American professorships just for having lived in exile after suffering repression in our country.
The Congresses of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) have by no means been free of ideological apartheid. Not only does the Cuban delegation include only those names that have been authorized by the Cuban government, but their speeches, which are officially approved by a national board, never contradict the propagandist revolutionary rhetoric.
However, the XXXI International Congress of the LASA in Washington DC (May 29 – June 1, 2013) was an exception to these rules. Various Cuban human rights activists, now traveling the world following the scrapping of Exit Permits, registered for the conference online as a hash-tag spread through social networks: #OccupyLASA.
Perhaps in response, some pro-government professors from the University of Havana (Juan Triana, Jorge Mario Sánchez, and Carlos Alzugaray, together with North American colleagues such as John Kirk of Dalhousie University, plus Cuban diplomats and security personnel from the Consulate) engaged in an “act of protest” against researcher Ted Henken of Baruch College (New York), simply because Henken had asked about the economist Omar Everleny Pérez, who had been dismissed from his position in Cuba without explanation and prohibited from traveling despite being part of the LASA program.
MIAMI (AP) — One of several Cuban dissidents recently allowed to visit Europe and the U.S. after Cuba changed its travel laws said Tuesday she decided to seek refuge in Miami after facing continued repression on the island.
Rosa Maria Paya said she and her family have been the subject of threats, harassment and increased vigilance since her father's death last year and following her return to Cuba in April.
"We wanted to rest a bit from the persecution we faced in Cuba," Paya said, "and continue working on the opposition's proposals for change and transition to democracy."
Paya, 24, is the daughter of the late Oswaldo Paya, the lead organizer of the Varela Project, a signature-gathering drive regarded as the largest nonviolent campaign to change the system Fidel Castro established in 1959. The petition asked authorities for a referendum on guaranteeing rights such as freedom of speech and assembly in Cuba.
In July 2012, Paya and youth activist Harold Cepero died in a car crash in Bayamo, Cuba. The two men and another passenger were in a car driven by Spaniard Angel Carromero, who lost control and struck a tree, according to government authorities. Carromero was convicted of vehicular homicide and sent to Spain to serve a four-year sentence.
Paya's daughter, wife and others have insisted the crash was not an accident. They assert that witness accounts, text messages and statements made after the crash raise questions about the Cuban government's account. Rosa Maria Paya spoke with government officials in the U.S. and Europe to press for an international investigation.
Rosa Maria Paya was allowed to leave in April after Cuba eliminated the exit permit that had been required of islanders for five decades. She was one of several prominent Cuban dissidents to visit the U.S. and appears to be the first to have returned to Cuba and then sought status as a political refugee in the U.S.
She said that when she returned to Cuba, immigration officials at the airport told her, "Welcome."
But the threats, vigilance and oppression against her family and others involved in the movement her father started intensified, she said.
The decision of the Paya family — six members in all — to leave the island is likely to be seen as a black eye to the Cuban government, which has been trying to portray itself as a more open society since enacting a slate of social and economic reforms in recent years, said Jaime Suchlicki, a professor at the University of Miami.
"It makes it look like the Cuban government is oppressive, which it is," Suchlicki said. On the other hand, with one less dissident on the island, "I don't think the Cuban government is going to be too upset."
According to the usually on-the-ball and (genuine) Cuba-Expert Marzo Fernadez in a piece over at Nuevo Accion, Diosdado Cabello's recent Cuba visit was not unlike (Corleone consiglieri) Tom Hagen's (2nd) visit with Nevada Senator Pat Geary.
The Castros simply showed Cabello, who serves as the Pres. of the Vene. Parliament and is said to resent Maduro's Cuban handlers, what they had on him (Drug-trafficking, etc.-- juicy stuff for the DEA--indeed Manuel Noriega's undoing) and "suggested" he play nice with their butt-boy Maduro, or things could become complicated.
And Diosdado Cabello succumbed to the blackmail in a manner that makes Senator Geary look like Joan of Arc.
Bahamas claims that video of Cubans being kicked is fraudulent
A video purporting to show a Bahamian guard kicking Cuban migrants detained in Nassau has been branded a forgery by the Nassau government but sparked a call for a protest Wednesday at the Bahamas consulate in Miami.
The video was taken with a hidden cellular phone by one of the 30 Cubans held in the Nassau Detention Center, according to the Spanish-language television channel América TeVé in Miami, which first broadcast it on Friday.
The Miami-based Democracy Movement urged protesters to honk their car and truck horns as they drive past the Bahamian consulate in downtown Miami starting at noon on Wednesday.
Cuban migrants intercepted by Bahamian authorities on their way to U.S. shores and detained in Nassau have long complained of abuses, from beatings by guards to rats, lice and cockroaches in the detention center. Most are eventually deported to Cuba.
Fred Mitchell, Bahamas minister of foreign affairs and immigration, issued a statement dismissing the video as “a complete falsehood and an outrageous concoction” and “a manufactured attempt to create a damaging and defamatory impression of The Bahamas.”
He added that the video shows no faces, that the accent of the “guard” heard screaming at the Cubans is not Bahamian and that its setting does not appear to match the interior of the Nassau Detention Center.
As Harassment & Beatings Continue Against Cuban Detainees At Bahamian Detention Center, Cong. Ros-Lehtinen & Cong. Diaz-Balart Ask The UN To Investigate
The Congs Are Also Sending Ambassadors Of Respective Nations A Video That Depicts Despotic Taunting & Beating By Guard Against Detainees
Washington, DC - Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) have sent a letter to the United Nations (UN) asking for an investigation into the continued harassment and beatings of Cuban detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Center in Nassau, Bahamas. The South Florida Congressmen also sent letters to the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in the Bahamas and to the Bahamian Ambassador in the U.S. with a video provided by a local Miami TV station that depicts a Bahamian guard despotically taunting and kicking Cuban detainees. A recent article in The Miami Herald states that the Bahamian authorities are disputing the video but the Congressmen insist this has been going on for many years. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"It is disappointing that after all these years, this abuse against Cubans in detention continues unabated and in fact, seems to gradually be getting worse. These human rights violations cannot be ignored and these individuals deserve an opportunity to live in freedom. The latest abuse by a guard who is brutally taunting and kicking Cuban detainees has been caught on a video that was provided to my office by a local Miami TV station but we insist that similar abuses have been talked about for years."
“We request that the UN, the U.S. Chargé in the Bahamas, and the Bahamian Ambassador in the U.S. act immediately to stop this inhumane treatment. These Cuban migrants only want to reach shores of freedom and democracy and for this they are harassed, beaten, and incarcerated at Bahamian Detention Centers. This is unacceptable and must end now."
This Babalu correspondent has been in Rome for the past week, which is why he has not been posting too frequently.
Rome has a way of claiming all of your attention.
So does Mount Vesuvius, some miles to the south, which this correspondent climbed yesterday. And here is the proof:
The good news is this: Vesuvius is still dormant and showing no signs of blowing its stack again, any time soon. And the ruins of Pompeii are in much better shape , or at least much cleaner and better preserved than those of Havana.
More good news: Che seems to be moribund. To be more precise: Che's image is no longer as popular as it used to be.
Once upon a time, not too long ago (as recently as 2009), you could not avoid running into the Butcher's image everywhere in Italy.
This correspondent has scoured the kitsch stalls, the shops and shop windows for evidence of Che's presence, but has been delighted to find that Che has virtually vanished from the marketplace.
Yes, of course, there are still a few places where Che's monstrous image is for sale. But in all cases, the demonic icon is surrounded by merchandise that expose the sheer nonsense of Che merchandise.
Yes, it's painful to see Che for sale, no matter how ridiculous the setting. But it is heartening to see that here in Italy, the Che icon is waning. At least for now.
Here is the sum total of the Che merchandise I have encountered.
This one is an "original" painting up for sale at a tourist-trap stall manned by African migrants. All of the other paintings surrounding this Che icon are images of Rome landmarks. This Che is a very lonely guy, set to the RIGHT of abstractions that are hard to decipher.
I couldn't find any Che t-shirts in Rome, but did find some in Assisi -- of all places. I couldn't find any t-shirts of St. Francis, but Che was there, polluting the sacred space. But he was polluting it alongside t-shirts for "sexiness", Italy, laziness, and all other sorts of corrupt Western capitalist consumer values.
At the same tourist-trap shop (where all sorts of religious kitsch was also featured), Che t-shirts were also on display in another incongruous spot, side-by-side with t-shirts for Porsche, the ultimate anti-Che merchandise. Che was disrespectfully crumpled, much like his corpse when it was photographed on the day of his death. Even more bizarre was the juxtaposition of the skewed lettering on the Porsche t-shirt and the Che image, since it made so obvious the fact that "Porsche" ends in "CHE". Something to make the devils in Hell smile, for sure.
Tonight, after scouring all of Rome -- even the non-tourist neighborhoods-- all I could find were a couple of refrigerator magnets. One kitsch stall near the Trevi fountain surrounded Che with random images, including one of Michelangelo's Pieta, and several of Pope Francis. The total effect was nonsensical, made all the more absurd by the Pieta and the Argentine pope.. A perfect sort of demotion from divinity for the smelly murderous bastard from Argentina....
And, finally, you have to give some sort of prize to the kitsch merchant who set up the absolutely perfect juxtaposition of the Che refrigerator magnet. Whether this pairing was intentional or not, or some sort of Freudian slip doesn't matter much. Such absoute perfection is hard to find, anywhere.
In recent days many of us have been having friendly conversations and discussions about the famous embargo. Some are in favor of lifting it, others for keeping it in place.
What seems to have been forgotten by everyone, or almost everyone, is the actual reason for its existence. Faulty memories and the many decades of its enforcement have sometimes caused us to forget why it was originally imposed by the U.S. government.
Very often we cite the embargo as the reason for all our troubles. I do not see it this way. The real cause of our problems lies with ourselves. It is always easier to blame one thing or another, even though we have had five decades to create mechanisms to counteract its effects, yet have not done so.
What most people do not realize, because the media never mentions it, is that at the time this measure was imposed as a response by the U.S. government to the interference in and appropriation of American businesses and properties on the island by the “revolutionary government” without any sort of compensation, just as it had done with the assets of thousands of Cubans.
Over the years the embargo has clearly been loosened, or “softened” as they like to say. Because of a strong hurricane that caused much damage in all of Cuba’s provinces, several years ago the United States lifted the restrictions on the export of food and medicine with the goal of helping the island’s population. But everyone knows that most of this food ended up for sale in hard currency stores. The same thing happened with medicine, which can only be obtained in certain pharmacies for hard currency, and not the currency in which the Cubans’ salaries and pensions are paid. Similarly, cultural exchanges have been reinstated which previously had been suspended due to the summary execution of three adolescents who tried to commandeer a ferry boat in Havana’s harbor a decade ago. This exchange remains ongoing.
During all these years the island’s government has given no indication that it might demonstrate a sincere willingness to have the embargo lifted. As we all know quite well that, on those occasions when a possible lifting is discernible, the Cuban government has responded with extreme actions such as the shooting down of aircraft operated by Brothers to the Rescue. Such actions make it clear that the “blockade,” as it referred to in official circles, is no more than a fig leaf to cover up its inefficient economic policies.
I am of the opinion that, in order to arrive at fair agreement, both parties have to come to the table with two “suitcases” — one to give and one to receive. Until that happens, this matter will go on interminably, like the old “story that never ends.”
The sad and disturbing truth that liberal academia in America, so enamored by communist dictatorships, continues to be enslaved by despotic and repressive regimes. Despite their proclaimed love for freedom of expression, like loyal stooges and apparatchiks, they obey every command given to them by communist regimes.
Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng: NYU is forcing me out
(CNN) -- Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese activist whose dramatic escape from house arrest last year provoked a diplomatic firestorm between Washington and Beijing, said he is being forced to leave New York University over fears his presence there is affecting the university's relationship with China.
In a statement released Monday, Chen said that New York University had asked him and his family to leave before the end of June.
"In fact, as early as last August and September, the Chinese Communists had already begun to apply great, unrelenting pressure on New York University," Chen said. "So much so that after we had been in the United States just three to four months, NYU was already starting to discuss our departure with us."
Chen claimed in the statement that NYU was bowing to pressure from China. According to the New York Post, which first raised the allegations, NYU is currently working closely with China to establish a Shanghai campus.
"The work of the Chinese Communists within academic circles in the United States is far greater than what people imagine, and some scholars have no option but to hold themselves back," Chen said in the statement. "Academic independence and academic freedom in the United States are being greatly threatened by a totalitarian regime."
As scheduled big international events approach in Brazil the country's poor economy and growing government failures and corruption have the Brazilian people quite a bit angered...
(Reuters) - As many as 200,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Brazil's biggest cities on Monday in a swelling wave of protest tapping into widespread anger at poor public services, police violence and government corruption.
The marches, organized mostly through snowballing social media campaigns, blocked streets and halted traffic in more than a half-dozen cities, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia, where demonstrators climbed onto the roof of Brazil's Congress building and then stormed it.
Monday's demonstrations were the latest in a flurry of protests in the past two weeks that have added to growing unease over Brazil's sluggish economy, high inflation and a spurt in violent crime.
While most of the protests unfolded as a festive display of dissent, some demonstrators in Rio threw rocks at police, set fire to a parked car and vandalized the state assembly building. Vandals also destroyed property in the southern city of Porto Alegre.
Around the country, protesters waved Brazilian flags, dancing and chanting slogans such as "The people have awakened" and "Pardon the inconvenience, Brazil is changing."
The epicenter of Monday's march shifted from Sao Paulo, where some 65,000 people took to the streets late in the afternoon, to Rio. There, as protesters gathered throughout the evening, crowds ballooned to 100,000 people, local police said. At least 20,000 more gathered in Belo Horizonte.
The demonstrations are the first time that Brazilians, since a recent decade of steady economic growth, are collectively questioning the status quo.
Excerpts from an article appearing in the summer edition of the German art journal KUR by our good friend Tania Mastrapa, Ph.D. For those interested in Cuba's looted art, Dr. Mastrapa will be holding a conference in Miami on July 20th addressing the thefts in Cuba as well as the USSR, Nazi Germany, and other communist countries:
1959 was the year that changed the lives of Cubans forever. Fidel Castro and his revolution successfully toppled the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship and promised a return to democracy with the restoration of the 1940 constitution and free elections. Cubans and the rest of the world are still waiting. After public denials of support for Communism, Castro later confirmed his inclinations and the ultimate goal of the revolution – a Communist state. Yet, already in 1959 the signs were visibly present as the regime first authorized the confiscation of alleged Batistiano property. The regime soon confiscated real property and its contents from other Cubans, foreigners, churches, private schools, class enemies, political prisoners, and refugees. All Communist regimes, starting with that of Soviet Russia, raised hard currency (read: Western money) by covertly and overtly selling the loot to foreigners. Communist Cuba has not strayed from the pattern set by its predecessors.
The revolutionary regime in Cuba immediately set out to punish all those allegedly and genuinely linked to the fallen dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. The creation of the Ministerio de la Recuperación de Bienes Malversados or Ministry for the Recovery of Misappropriated Assets (sometimes translated as Ministry for the Recovery Stolen Property) was authorized to confiscate any and all property of so-called Batista collaborators. The regime was rather fast and loose with this categorization to say the least. The first Ministry auction in 1960 “1a Subasta de Joyas y Antigüedades” offered for sale chandeliers, fur coats, jewelry, paintings, stamp collections and china sets among other personal assets. Although some items were clearly slated for transfer to Cuban cultural institutes it is unlikely that all were sold. The descriptions of some listings seem to match those of items sold at auction at later dates. For instance, another auction in Havana offered for sale pre-Revolution jewelry, silverware, and precious metal purses among other items that may have been part of the early loot.
1940-1950 sterling silver coffee pot, tea pot, sugar bowl and bell by Poole and tray by Gorham looted from Cuba.
There are a variety of undocumented cases of looted property based on exile anecdotes. Certainly some of the most painful tales recount the stripping of sentimental possessions such as signed baseballs, wedding rings, and engraved heirloom watches by airport authorities before departing the island forever. Shortly after the 1959 revolution, one family found the entire contents of their dining room in a Mexico City antiques store. Some have seen their jewelry worn by regime children at Communist “society” events in newspaper pictures. Family portraits have been spotted at antiques shows and, most egregiously, in the homes of other exiles.
Set of 21 rings and 2 pins from 1940-1950 looted from Cubans and made available for sale at a Havana auction.
On July 20, 2013 a one-day conference titled “The Art of Looting” featuring Christopher A. Marinello of The Art Loss Register, Willi Korte of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP) and others will cover Soviet, Nazi and Communist looting of artworks, antiques, jewelry and other valuables. Speakers will also discuss the sales and trafficking of these items from Cuba and the prospects for recovering them. For details visit: http://mastrapaconsultants.com/events