Thursday Aug 27: US-Cuba talks plus the Trump-Ramos encounter…….click to listen..…….. http://t.co/0D4c88wU9a
— Silvio Canto, Jr. (@SCantojr) August 27, 2015
“Under the thuggish reign of US-backed Fulgencio Batista…the US mafia, having been dislodged from American cities by the crusading Kefauver committee, took over much of Havana, operating gambling rackets, drug rings, and prostitution.” (Boston Globe, May, 4, 2014.)
Actually: in 1955 Cuba contained a grand total of three gambling casinos, the biggest was at the Tropicana and featured ten gambling tables and thirty slot machines, the Hotel Nacional, featured seven roulette wheels and twenty-one slot machines. “By contrast, in 1955 the single Riviera Casino in Las Vegas featured twenty tables and one hundred and sixteen slot machines. This means that in 1955: one Las Vegas Casino had more gambling action than all of Cuba.
Cuba’s tourism industry as a whole generated $60 million in 1958. Havana by itself had 42 hotels. The Mob reputedly had financial in interest in 7 of these–and these didn’t include among them Cuba’s biggest hotel, the Habana Hilton. Instead the biggest hotel on the island was majority owned by the pension plan of the Cuban Federation of Gastronomic Food Workers. This fully-documented historical datum, needless to add, doesn’t mesh well with the fairy tale narrative about Cuba’s horribly exploited working class of the time, now does it?”
While the current occupant of the White House and the Vicar of Christ embrace the ruler of the Castro Kingdom and help him stay on his throne, that same monarch continues to bring misery not only to his own people, but also to his colonial subjects in Venezuela.
No doubt about it: the world is blind in one eye and Latrine America is blind in both eyes.
Take one look at what 56 years of Castroism has done to Cuba and you know where it leads. Take one look at Venezuela — an oil-rich nation that could look like Dubai — and there is no way anyone should miss the fact that it has been ruined by Castroism, Bolivarianism, and 21st-century socialism.
Yet far too many Latrine Americans hanker to follow in the footsteps of the Castro Kingdom and its colony of Caracastan. And far too many world leaders, including the pope, cheer them on.
Lord have mercy. The Castros, Maduros, Moraleses, Correas, Rouseffs, Kirchners, Ortegas, etc.. of Latrine America are quickly creating a Fourth World, even poorer and more miserable and repressive than the Third.
And yet, they are embraced by many of their own people and lauded by most foreigners.
This is nothing new, of course. Even 2,500 years ago, this kind of behavior was common.
In their blind conceit,
they cannot see how wicked they really are.
3 Everything they say is crooked and deceitful.
They refuse to act wisely or do good.
4 They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots.
Their actions are never good.
They make no attempt to turn from evil. (Psalm 36:2-4)
From The Wall Street Journal
Venezuela’s Food Shortages Trigger Long Lines, Hunger and Looting
Violent clashes flare in pockets of the country as citizens wait for hours for basics, such as milk and rice
Hours after they looted and set fire to a National Guard command post in this sun-baked corner of Venezuela earlier this month, a mob infuriated by worsening food shortages rammed trucks into the smoldering edifice, reducing it mostly to rubble.
The incident was just one of numerous violent clashes that have flared in pockets around the country in recent weeks as Venezuelans wait for hours in long supermarket lines for basics like milk and rice. Shortages have made hunger a palpable concern for many Wayuu Indians who live here at the northern tip of Venezuela’s 1,300-mile border with Colombia.
The soldiers had been deployed to stem rampant food smuggling and price speculation, which President Nicolás Maduro blames for triple-digit inflation and scarcity. But after they seize contraband goods, the troops themselves often become targets of increasingly desperate people.
“What’s certain is that we are going very hungry here and the children are suffering a lot,” said María Palma, a 55-year-old grandmother who on a recent blistering hot day had been standing in line at the grocery store since 3 a.m. before walking away empty-handed at midday.
In a national survey, the pollster Consultores 21 found 30% of Venezuelans eating two or fewer meals a day during the second quarter of this year, up from 20% in the first quarter. Around 70% of people in the study also said they had stopped buying some basic food item because it had become unavailable or too expensive.
Continue reading HERE
Dreaming in Color
On August 5, 1994, the Havana shoreline filled with a human tidal wave that took the capital by surprise and overflowed into international news. The national press, as always, had to wait for the approval of the censor before reporting on the event. Nothing like this had happened in thirty-five years of the Castro dictatorship: a tsunami of people overcame fear, and hundreds of them went to the seaside promenade, driven by rumors that boats from the United States were coming ashore to transport those who wanted to emigrate.
Many thought it was another exodus approved by the authorities, like the Mariel boatlift. When they got there, the unraveling rumors gave way to frustration, and anti-government demonstrations broke out along the length of the Malecon and adjacent areas. Thus was born the event known as El Maleconazo.
The agitated human mass started breaking windows, trashing shops, and confronting the police. The riots lasted for several hours. Then the government sent in its specialized police force to do what it does best: suppress.
Society inevitably returned to its sheep-like obedience and today, twenty-one years later, the bleeding continues by “cutting the femoral” of the nation, which the authorities have always used—and even provoked—to their benefit, for permanently remaining in power.
After that event everything returned to the routine that characterizes life in Cuba: those who are able to emigrate do so, and many of those who do not continue to play the role of supporters of the regime, as the only way of sociopolitical survival.
After fifty-six years of the Castros’ totalitarianism and twenty-one years after that event, the Cuban people remain trapped, prevented from exercising their fundamental rights by the discriminatory designs of a dictatorial regime.
Many fellow citizens hold the goal of emigrating as the only way of achieving personal fulfillment (which is part of the pursuit of happiness) for themselves or their family members.
It is true that there have been some economic and social reforms in Cuba, but as long as the leaders in the forefront of these changes are those who committed so many injustices in the past, who imposed and repealed laws for their own convenience, many will distrust and will doubt whether they will stay.
Others will hesitate to come and invest their capital in a market run by a political class that is in power to serve the wealthy minority, not the excluded majority.
I hope this latest anniversary of El Maleconazo will cause everyone to reflect on how urgent it is for us to allow ourselves to dream of freedoms and rights, and social, political, and economic progress in our own country.
Translated by Tomás A.
Dissident artist Tania Bruguera talks leaving Cuba: ‘I would not let them make me a paranoiac’
For months, the case of Tania Bruguera has been a protracted drama that has played itself out on the international stage. The artist — a Cuban national — was detained in Cuba just prior to the New Year, for attempting to stage a performance about freedom of expression in Havana’s Revolution Square. And while she was soon released, Bruguera had her passport confiscated, and was later detained on various other occasions. All of this was happening during a historic political moment — when the U.S. and Cuba were coming to a rapprochement.
Bruguera, who works primarily in the U.S. and Europe, is now back in the U.S. She landed in New York last Friday, after getting on a flight without previously alerting friends or family. Her return puts an end (for now) to an eight-month-long political and artistic drama that, for a time, appeared as if it might go on indefinitely.
The artist is currently in New Haven, Conn., participating in the Yale World Fellows program, where she will be working on a new project (yet to be determined) and participating in various activities at the university.
She took time to chat via Skype on Wednesday to discuss her whole Cuba experience. (“I am still digesting everything,” she said.) In our conversation, which has been edited for flow, the artist said she would return to Cuba. But first, there are a number of projects that will keep her in the U.S. for the time being — including one that will bring her to L.A. and the California Institute of the Arts.
You left Cuba very quietly. In fact, I understand that you only let friends and family know you were leaving once you were in the air. Why the secrecy?
I have been surveilled for eight months. At one point, I thought, “No, I’m being paranoid. Of course they don’t care about me anymore.” But in the meanwhile I suspected that someone very close to me was one of the informers. So I didn’t tell anybody that I was leaving. I did tell that person the night before. And then in the morning I did normal stuff, like I’m not leaving. I go to the house. I go here. I go there. And immediately in the morning, I have five people — friend and friends of friends — calling me saying, “When are you leaving?”
And I arrive at the airport and [a pair of Cuban state security officials], Javier and Andrea, arrive — literally, 10 minutes after I get to the airport. They couldn’t do anything because I was leaving. But [one of the officials] asks me what happened with this conference in Puerto Rico. It was this conference of dissidents. He says, “What did you hear?” I said, I didn’t know because I didn’t go.
He said to me, “Can you give me your number in the United States?” I said, “Thanks to you I don’t have a phone anymore because I lost my line.” And he said, “Can I have your address?” And I said, “Well, I lost my apartment too” — my apartment in Corona, Queens [in New York]. He said, “I might be there in September.”
It’s like until the last minute they want to mess with your head. They want to make you paranoid. At one point he said, “Someone close to you works for us.” I said, “You’re not going to make me a paranoiac. I’ve been here for eight months and I am not a paranoiac.” I understood they were watching me. But I would not let them make me a paranoiac. That’s what they do, they make you paranoid, they isolate you.
Continue reading HERE.
Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the island means a lot to Cuba’s apartheid regime. As a broker of the one-sided deal between the Castro dictatorship and President Obama, the controversial pontiff was instrumental in practically saving the repressive totalitarian regime of the Castro brothers from economic collapse. Furthermore, the Pope’s diligent work on behalf of the violent and viciously repressive Castros is a huge step in guaranteeing their monarchical rule will continue on to the next generation of the self-appointed ruling family. Therefore, just as it happened during the previous pope’s visit, there is no reason to believe the jackbooted thugs of the Castro regime will not be out in full force cracking some dissidents skulls before, during, and long after the Vicar of Christ’s visit to the island.
Ahead of papal visit, Cuba’s Women in White fear government crackdown
.- The leader of a human rights group is concerned that the Cuban government will repeat its 2012 crackdown on opposition activists when Pope Francis visits the nation next month.
During Pope Benedict XVI’s visit three years ago, Cuban officials made arrests and took other actions to keep the dissidents from communicating with each other, said Berta Soler, leader of Women in White, a group of wives and other relatives of jailed Cuban dissidents.
“We’re really worried,” Soler told CNA last week. “When Pope Benedict XVI came to Cuba they shut down telephone lines in an area of some 15 to 25 miles. They did the same to the cell phones of human rights activists and their close relatives.”
She said the government put them under surveillance three days before Pope Benedict’s arrival.
“Cuban officials began arresting all the human rights activists so we couldn’t participate in the Masses the Pope celebrated in Santiago de Cuba and Havana.”
Pope Francis will visit Cuba Sept. 19-22.
“We’re waiting (to see what will happen), we’re thinking the same thing is going to happen when the Holy Father Pope Francis comes,” Soler said.
Nevertheless, she stated that Women in White as well as other human rights activists will try to go to the Masses because “we want to be close to the Holy Father.” She said they know that they’re going to be arrested.
Soler met with Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Square in May 2013 and sent a letter to the pontiff through the nunciature and through friends. She asked the Pope: “When you come to Cuba could you listen to us even for a few minutes?”
The dissident leader reported arrests of the Women in White and other opposition activists on recent Sundays.
“We’ve been going out now (to march) for 18 Sundays and we can take it for granted that the Castro regime is going to come after the Women in White and the human rights activists on Sunday, Aug. 23rd… because we’re deep into our #TodosMarchamos (We’re all marching) campaign to free the political prisoners.”
She said that the Castro government is assembling “paramilitary mobs organized and financed by (the regime) to physically and verbally attack us.” National police and state security agents are also involved.
Continue reading HERE.
From the offices of U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL):
Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart, and Curbelo Write Letter to USCIS Director on Behalf of Cuban Doctors in Colombia
Miami, FL – U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) sent a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Leon Rodriguez regarding the Cuban doctors eligible for the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program (CMPP) who are currently in Colombia, after fleeing Venezuela, and awaiting a response concerning their status. Additionally, Ros-Lehtinen’s office has begun to receive notices that some of the CMPP cases have been approved although many more are still pending resolution.
Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
“I’m gratified that applications of a few Cuban doctors have been approved under the CMPP but much more remains to be done. My colleagues and I are committed to ensuring the proper attention is paid to those who took a great risk by fleeing medical missions in order to escape the horrific forced labor environment orchestrated by the tyrannical Castro regime. I urge Director Rodriguez to assist the applicants in Colombia and our U.S. embassy to process these cases and find resolution for those Cuban medical professionals who are eligible to come to the United States.”
NOTE: To view the letter, please click here
It’s been about a month now since we did some major housekeeping around here and changed the look and feel of the blog. While there were some complaints about fonts while we tried different things out (everyone’s an art director), we’re very happy with the end result. One of the real benefits of this new layout is how mobile friendly it is. Our old look simply didn’t work well on smartphones. We hope this will lead to more readership as mobile is taking over the majority of web traffic.
One of the elements we lost when we switched layouts was a watermark with a quote from José Martí that had been part of the blog since the beginning in 2003. Alberto and I decided to go with an illustration of Martí in the sidebar. We thought about who might be willing to help us out with our budget of zero dollars.
The name that came to my head was Gyula Nemeth. Gyula is a graphic designer who reached out to us a few years back to offer an illustration of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet.
Im a graphic designer residing in Budapest, Hungary.
Ive been following the Cuban situation for years by
now (i have a thread about the subject on a Hungarian
I would really like to help the Babalu Blog -and the
cause- with a graphic design about Biscet if you are
willing to receive it.
Of course if you need an icon or a logo of any kind,
im gladly helping you out.
Im looking forward to your answer,
It turned out that we needed an illustration for a standup display for Cuba Nostalgia so we were quick to jump on his offer. This is what Gyula created for us. This illustration adorned the sidebar for years, until Biscet was released the Castro regime.
After that generous contribution I dubbed Gyula the Hungarian Honorary Cubiche. Later he did illustrations of Celia Cruz and then The Ladies in White.
And here’s another Cuban-themed illustration he did on his own.
So I asked him to do one for us of José Martí. We wanted something simple and clean. Modern yet evocative of Martí, who was such a man of his time. And this is what he came up with.
I really couldn’t be more thrilled with it. If you’re a fan of great illustration then you should like his Facebook page and check out his website. He’s done a ton of interesting work, including illustrations for the Panini collectibles company.
If somebody is the embodiment of a mensch, it’s Gyula Nemeth. Thank you so much!
I can’t think of any other narrow topic propaganda that has been recycled so much and for so long than what you hear and read about Cuba.
When Was This Cuba Story Written?, Pt. 2
The following article could have been written this week — and some variant of it probably was — by a journalist speculating about the “unprecedented” opportunities Obama has created for telecom in Cuba; how it will “promote freedom” in Cuba; and the “impediment” of the embargo.
Yet, none of the above is true.
So when was this story actually written?
From The Orlando Sentinel:
Let Cuba Hear The Voice Of Freedom – Pick Up The Phone And Call
One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingies . . .
”Hola, this is from Norte America, George Washington country, land of the free.”
”We’re having arroz con pollo today, fried plantains, salad with all the fixings and a beautiful flan eggcustard for dessert. You could have such a wonderful meal, too. But first, you must get rid of Fidel.”
* * *
One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingies . . .
”Hola, this is from Norte America, land of opportunity. Today we are honoring Cuban patriot Jose Marti by serving a roast pig, black beans and rice, and a special pineapple bread that’s out of this world. Plus, a mango shake. You should try it. We would love to share. But first, you must get rid of Fidel.”
* * *
One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingies . . .
”Viva Cuba Libre! This is los Estados Unidos. We are thinking of you as we sit down to a picadillo dinner. Nothing fancy – it’s a weekday. We’re using ground sirloin. It’s only about $3 a pound. What does it cost in Cuba? We heard ground beef goes for $25 in the black market – if you can find it. You don’t have to pay those prices, you know, chico. When are you going to get rid of Fidel?”
* * *
It has been three days since phone service between the United States and Cuba was made easier by direct-dialing capability offered by AT&T Corp. and rival MCI. Another four long-distance phone companies also have plans to make the direct-dial service available.
Continue reading and find out when HERE.
Demagoguery: A Cardinal Sign of the Cuban “Revolution”
A few weeks ago we were amusing ourselves with news reports about the vacation tour of Prince Tony Castro. Apparently, tired of playing golf in a country where 99.99% of the natives have never set foot on a golf course, the only Cuban participant in the latest Ernest Hemingway Fishing Tournament (and, coincidentally, its only winner) decided to hop over to the opulent hotels of Turkey. None of this would be especially notable if Tony were the heir to the throne of the Sultan of Brunei; but he is no more and no less the son of the most vertically anti-capitalist personage of the second half of the 20th century: the feudal lord Fidel Castro.
By now, however, nothing should surprise us, because demagoguery was always the most cardinal sign of Fidelism from its first moments of existence. This same dictator took it upon himself to practice it whenever he could, raising it to the level of an Olympic sport. Fidel’s ambivalent posture in those first days of the Revolution, making assurances that he was not a communist–only to later shed his skin when circumstances were propitious–is established historical fact. But besides this facet inherent to his high politics, in the personal sphere, also, Fidel always maintained a double life, until time and the public confessions of various high-ranking officials, disenchanted with the Bearded One’s lechery, revealed the truth.
Thus we learned that this gentleman always had multiple lovers. Then I remembered how an uncle of mine, a principled militant communist, and honest (whom I remember on more than one occasion asking my mother for some change so that he could buy cigarettes at the Artemisa Coppelia that he himself managed) was expelled from the Party for the unpardonable sin of having a lover.
A little more recently, following the death of Antonio Gades, we would find out that the Iberian artist was the baptismal godfather of the children of Raúl Castro himself. Then we would recall then how for decades, Party membership was denied to thousands of sympathizers of the regime precisely because of their religious beliefs–and even much worse, how thousands of workers were harassed, and how the future of tens of thousands of young people was truncated as they were expelled from their university studies for not having denied their faith.
Now we know that the feudal lord was a consummate connoisseur of wines and expensive cheeses, and we also learn about all those mini-palaces, yachts, foreign vacations, children sent to European boarding schools, and private hunting preserves for the exclusive use of the olive-green oligarchs–or rather, about a long saga of bourgeois privileges that for decades the big shots enjoyed on the backs of my people.
We should in no way be surprised now that the dandy Tony Castro should treat himself to a little getaway, renting a “humble” yacht worthy of Bill Gates, and pay thousands of dollars in luxury hotel stays for hismelf and his entourage. After all, the boy is only doing what he saw his elders do.
“Is El Sexto still in prison over the pig thing?”
“Yeah… They’re being real pigs about it.”
The DC Ivory Tower That Threw Cuba under the Bus
Cubanologist “Change” Is Unalterable Fraud
Everything had to be thought of for us poor, unfortunate, incompetent Cubans. US academia conceived our national destiny — up to the very last detail — beginning in the early 1990s, a quarter of a century ago. While this proposition should have been left in the past for archeologists to discover, it has now become a future fossil of our nation in disarray.
Indeed, “Cuba” as a topic is pondered upon with greater clarity from a distance, within Georgetown University, for example, rather than at the University of Havana. In 1993, a scholar from Georgetown, the intellectual heart of Washington, DC, drew the sketch of Cuba’s transition from Marxist totalitarianism to state capitalism. This was a direct flight from dictatorship to dictocracy, without a single layover in democracy. Poor unruly Cubans, we would not know what to do with freedom!
You can still see this for yourselves on Amazon; the title is Cuba in Transition, Options for U.S. Policy by Gillian Gunn, who was the director of the Caribbean Project at Georgetown University at the time. She was later accused by Chris Simmons of having been a spy for the Castro regime, which she denied, calling the idea “preposterous.”
In any case, Uncle Sam’s logic couldn’t be more discriminatory: why have yet another third-world subdemocracy in the US hyper-imperial democracy’s backyard? To find more corruption in Latin American administrations and even more violence among Continental Caribbeans? To add yet another failed constitutional state to the love-hate relationship? Weren’t Cubans already acquiescently accustomed to decades of tyrannical discipline?
Ever since the yankee military invasion in 1898, it is evident that we poor Cubans — with our pseudo-republics and local super-revolutions — don’t deserve much more from the United States. Yes, “todos somos Americanos” (we are all Americans), as Barack Obama stated in his elementary-level Spanish at the White House in December. However, “some of us are more American than others,” as George Orwell would have probably said if he had heard this statement himself.
The truth of the matter is that what would be found intolerable by any given US citizen all of a sudden should be tolerated by 12 million Cubans on the island and the other 3 million living in exile around the globe: Castroism must be the criterion for truth; the revolution is an infallible source of the right to perpetuity of power; our sovereignty does not depend on the participation by the people but rather the participation of a corporate-military elite.
And this is the extremely dangerous message being sent from Washington, DC, to the rest of the hemisphere: pecking order is pragmatically imposed above any historic injustice and immoral system. Rights are the private property of those who remain in power (this is why in the Cuban constitution the Communist Party’s monopoly in politics is still enshrined with impunity).
The migratory apartheid, imposed on one fourth of the Cuban people who cannot reside permanently in their own country, is a factor which ensures regional stability. And much worse: Cuban cadavers lack international prestige. Which is why the UN officials are unconcerned about the children assassinated in the Florida straits on order from Havana. It’s also why the mortal attempt on Oswaldo Payá‘s life in July of 2012 did not cause a break in the secret diplomatic pact among Cuba, the United States, and the European Union: because far beyond ideological labels, power always supports power.
And this is also an extremely dangerous message for Washington, DC, since it retains its antipodes as allies. The US democracy is guilt-ridden and cowers from promoting democratization. They are abandoning victims to fend for themselves, and instead hugging their aggressor.
Continue reading HERE.
Sen. Marco Rubio on the Pope, Cuba, and Obama’s one-sided deal with the apartheid Castro regime.
“The pope has a different job than I do. The pope’s job is to be the spiritual leader of the Catholic church, and to always call us to unity and brotherly love, and I understand that… But I’m a U.S. senator, and my job is to serve the national interests of the United States. I do not believe it is in the national interest of the United States to have a one-sided agreement with an anti-American, communist tyranny 90 miles from our shores.”