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  • asombra: Anybody who believes the average Cuban even thinks in terms of “sovereignty” doesn’t know SHIT–but...

  • asombra: Maybe next time “those people” warn Latrines against electing a Castro groupie, they’ll listen. Or not.

  • asombra: Like Mrs. Clinton says, “What difference does it make?”

  • asombra: Reminds me of a hardcore “miliciana” type who definitely did nocturnal CDR guard duty, among many other such things,...

  • asombra: There’s no outrage or call for action because it’s not “progressive” to give a shit.

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Today’s Must-Read: Letter from Cuba: To Embargo or Not

By Michael J. Totten in World Affairs Journal:

Letter from Cuba: To Embargo or Not

Aside from the Arab boycott against Israel, American sanctions against Cuba have lasted longer than any other embargo in the modern era.The sanctions were imposed in stages in the early 1960s after Fidel Castro began economic warfare against the United States by nationalizing private US property on the island. Cuban communism survived the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, so in 1993 the purpose of the embargo was modified by the Cuban Democracy Act, stating that it will not be lifted unless and until the government in Havana respects the “internationally accepted standards of human rights” and “democratic values.”

For years now, the embargo has appeared to me as outdated as it has been ineffective. The Chinese government, while less repressive nowadays than Cuba’s, likewise defies internationally accepted standards of human rights, yet it’s one of America’s biggest trading partners. And the embargo against Cuba gives the Castro regime the excuse it desperately needs for its citizens’ economic misery. As ever, it is all the fault of the Yanquis. Cuba’s people are poor not thanks to communism but because of America.

After spending a few weeks in Cuba in October and November, however, I came home feeling less certain that the embargo was an anachronism. The ailing Fidel Castro handed power to his less ideological brother Raúl a few years ago, and the regime finally realizes what has been obvious to everyone else for what seems like forever: communism is an epic failure. Change is at last on the horizon for the island, and there’s a chance that maybe—just maybe—the embargo might help it finally arrive.“I fully support the embargo and the travel ban,” Cuban exile Valentin Prieto says, “and am on record calling for it to be tightened and given some real teeth instead of allowing it to remain the paper tiger it is. The United States of America is the bastion of democracy and liberty in the world. Not only should we not have normal relations with repressive regimes, it is our moral obligation to ensure, by whatever means possible save for military action, that we in no way promote, fund, assist, ignore, or legitimize said repressive regimes.”

[...]

None of this economic impoverishment [in Cuba] is the result of American policy. The United States is hardly the world’s only soap manufacturer, for instance. Cuba can buy it from Mexico. Or Canada. Or the Dominican Republic. Cuba can make its own soap. It fact, it does make its own soap. The reason the country does not have enough is because the government historically hasn’t cared if the little people can’t wash. Soap is just one item among thousands that is strictly for the elite, for the “haves,” and for those lucky enough to find some in the shops before it runs out.

In a non-communist country where such a basic product is in short supply, somebody would mass-produce it and sell it. Soap-making doesn’t require nuclear physics. You can make it at home. Google “soap recipe” and you’ll see how easy it is. But Cuba is a communist country where private commerce is banned. If you make stuff and sell stuff, you might become “rich” and “bourgeois,” and the authorities will send you to prison.

That’s why Cuba is poor. Lifting the embargo would have little or no effect on such tyrannical imbecility.

Read the entire article HERE.

Kicking Cuba’s Pirates of the Caribbean out of Venezuela

By Rolando Pulido:

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Brookings Institution on Cuba: The Cuban people like to be slaves

It is without a doubt one of the most pernicious obstacles to communicating the reality of Cuba that human rights activists face: the devaluing of human life of those who live in Cuba. In my years of advocacy for freedom and liberty in Cuba, I have run across too many people whose view of that country is completely devoid of the human element. To them, Cuba is not an island of 11-million enslaved and oppressed fellow humans, but an island with beautiful beaches, great cigars, and natural beauty. Instead of seeing an island filled with people suffering and in misery, they see a deserted tropical isle populated only by a subhuman species, wild animals who are kept in check by a handful of zoo keepers, if you will.

It is that narrow-minded view that leads organizations such as the Brookings Institution to conclude that Cubans like to be second-class humans, they like to be slaves. After all, it is not like they are real humans.

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Brookings Claims Cubans Like Being Second-Class Citizens

We already know that for the Brookings Institution, human rights for the Cuban people are optional.

Now Brookings wants you to believe that Cubans are happy being second-class citizens.

No reasonable observer has been able to argue that Cuba's "new" foreign investment law is anything but a farce.

Other than a few menial tax breaks for foreign companies, the "new" foreign investment law contains the same provisions as the 1995 version, violates international labor law and reinforces the state's exclusive control over foreign trade and investment.

In other words, it continues to treat the Cuban people as second-class citizens, with absolutely no rights to own a business, receive foreign investment or even be directly hired by a non-state company. Meanwhile, those few Cubans "obedient" enough to be hired by the regime to work at a foreign company will continue to have the overwhelming majority of their salary kept by the state.

However, according to Brookings' Richard Feinberg, this is absolutely fine with Cubans. He writes:

"From my informal conversations in Havana, Cubans on the street seem to accept with enthusiasm the government’s dual message: that the new guidelines will not compromise Cuban sovereignty – a key gain of the 1959 revolution – but will encourage badly needed inflows of foreign capital and technology."

That's right -- Feinberg claims Cubans told him that they are perfectly fine with the Castro brothers continuing to enrich themselves at their cost.

It's interesting, for every other observer has written that Cubans were appalled by their continued relegation.

For example, CNN's Havana correspondent, Patrick Oppmann, tweeted:

"Hearing from Cubans who are indignant that new law allows exiles who left #Cuba right to invest but not those who stayed."

Of course, Brookings doesn't want you to hear that because they have been lobbying to allow its three Cuban-American patrons (Carlos Saladrigas, Paul Cejas and Alfie Fanjul) to invest in Castro's foreign trade monopolies and play the role of "barbarians at the gate."

That'll really win the Cuban people over.

Meanwhile, Cuban blogger Miriam Celaya wrote:

"An informal survey I conducted in recent days in Central Havana after the March 29th extraordinary session of parliament shows rejection of the new Law on Foreign Investment, almost as unanimous as the “approval” that occurred in the plenary: of a total of 50 individuals polled, 49 were critical of the law and only one was indifferent.

In fact, the issue has been present with relative frequency in many cliques not directly surveyed–uncommon in a population usually apathetic about laws -- in which the dominant tendency was to criticize various aspects of the law."

So who are the Cubans that Feinberg is talking to?

The answer is pretty clear.

How Venezuela became a colony of Cuba’s Castro dictatorship

Moises Naim in the Financial Times:

Cuba fed a president’s fears and took over Venezuela

Caracas is paying the price for Chávez’s misplaced trust, writes Moisés Naím

http://im.ft-static.com/content/images/21b92dd8-dce3-4821-ba81-d1146c556d59.imgThe enormous influence that Cuba has gained in Venezuela is one of the most underreported geopolitical developments of recent times. It is also one of the most improbable. Venezuela is nine times bigger than Cuba, three times more populous, and its economy four times larger. The country boasts the world’s largest oil reserves. Yet critical functions of the Venezuelan state are either overseen or directly controlled by Cuban officials.Venezuela receives Cuban health workers, sports trainers, bureaucrats, security personnel, militias and paramilitary groups. “We have over 30,000 members of Cuba’s Committees for the Defence of the Revolution in Venezuela,” boasted Juan José Rabilero, then head of the CDR, in 2007. The number is likely to have increased further since then.

A growing proportion of Venezuela’s imports are channelled through Cuban companies. Recently, Maria Corina Machado, an opposition leader, revealed the existence of a large warehouse of recently expired medicines imported through a Cuban intermediary – drugs allegedly purchased on the international market at a deep discount and resold at full price to the government.

The relationship goes beyond subsidies and advantageous business opportunities for Cuban agencies. Cuban officers control Venezuela’s public notaries and civil registries. Cubans oversee the computer systems of the presidency, ministries, social programmes, police and security services as well as the national oil company, according to Cristina Marcano, a journalist who has reported extensively on Cuba’s influence in Venezuela.

Then there is military co-operation. The minister of defence of a Latin American country told me: “During a meeting with high-ranking Venezuelan officers we reached several agreements on co-operation and other matters. Then three advisers with a distinctive Cuban accent joined the meeting and proceeded to change all we had agreed. The Venezuelan generals were clearly embarrassed but didn’t say a word... Clearly, the Cubans run the show.”
Continue reading How Venezuela became a colony of Cuba’s Castro dictatorship

Cuba’s Castro regime a primary spy threat to the U.S.

I didn't' say it, an American intelligence and counterintelligence expert said it.

Via Texas A&M's The Battalion:

Former intelligence agents talk spying

spyStudents and visitors caught a glimpse of the complex and deadly world of counterintelligence Monday evening at “Spy Games: The Art of Counterintelligence” as two espionage experts discussed security issues the U.S. faces at home and abroad.

James Olson, former chief of counterintelligence at the CIA and senior lecturer at Texas A&M’s Bush School, and Michael Waguespack, former senior counterintelligence executive with the FBI, described how the U.S. faces a threat rarely seen or heard of by the public — spying.

“There are friendly countries, but there are no friendly intelligence services,” Olson said.

Olson and Waguespack described a world hidden from the public, where countries use sophisticated spy networks to steal U.S. political and technological secrets and to compromise U.S. spy networks abroad.

Olson named China, Russia and Cuba as the primary threats in U.S. counterintelligence.

“Never in my memory has our country been more in peril at home and abroad than it is right now,” Olson said.

Olson said foreign intelligence agents use a wide variety of covers to seek U.S. intelligence, from business and diplomatic covers to student identities. Olson said the Chinese, for example, have gained access to U.S. nuclear weapons data and sophisticated technology that has allowed them to upgrade their combat aircraft and submarines to levels more advanced than their domestic technology would allow.

“Where is the outrage? Where is the demand for action?” Olson said. 

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: The Revolution’s Pensioners

By Reinaldo Emilio Cosan Alen in Translating Cuba:

The Revolution’s Pensioners

HAVANA, Cuba.  Jose Manuel Rosado, 74 years of age, from Havana del Este, stands in line at four in the morning to be among the first to “fill up his checkbook.”

The bank opens at 8:30 for multiple transactions.  Many other people like Jose Manuel will wait patiently, on foot, whether in intense sun or cold and rain if it is winter, in order to cash their retirement.  Jose, his two-hundred forty pesos (ten dollars average), which will vanish in the first food purchases and payments for services.

Maria Victoria, 81 years old, stands in line in front of Branch 286 of the People’s Savings Bank — a state bank — in the San Miguel del Padron township:

“I retired at 65.  I was a cook in a business the last thirty.  I worked another eight years.  The money goes to deficient nutrition. I “resolved” my food at my work, do you understand, for my home.  Now I almost cannot walk because of my ulcerous legs, I am diabetic. I rent a pedicab to go get my cash. A dollar going, another returning. Fifty pesos spent, but it is dangerous to walk through broken, dark streets, exposed to robberies to go to the bank.”

She pays another fifty pesos monthly on installment for a bank loan for the purchase of her Chinese refrigerator. She has paid off five years, five are still left.

Build up for whatever official or individual management: mail, Currency Exchange, tax payment, liquidation sale and transfer of property and vehicles, fines, repayments, deposits, bonds, required seals–foreign and national currency–monthly payments for dwelling, loans retirement and pension payments. Craziness!

Pensioner Eloy Marante, 76 years old, pays triple the tax for his courier license. Day by day, he loads, transports and distributes gas cylinders to homes with his tricycle, in order to obtain a supplement for his lean pension.

“We run errands in the warehouse, attentive to if they are selling the piece of chicken allowed to those on a special “health diet.” We pay electricity, telephone, gas. We take the little kids to school and pick them up; take the snacks to the kids in high school, also we do favors for neighbors for a small tip. Jobs that the family throws to the old people. The worst: standing in unending lines to exchange bills for coins because business clerks and bus drivers say they don’t have change!  An fraud*,because the government does not demand responsibility. . .” says Jose Manuel.

Milagros Penalver, director of Budget Control for the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, says there are 672,568 retirees and pensioners out of 2,041,392 people over 70 years of age, according to the Population and Household Census of 2012.

Significant is the prediction by the Center for Population Studies and development of the National Office of Statistics: 33.9 percent of the population will be over six decades old in 2035.  The birthrate continues in permanent decline because of factors so adverse to procreation.

*Translator’s note: The fraud is refusing to give the customer coins and so the business or bus driver “keeps the change.”

cosanoalen@yahoo.com

Cubanet, April 11, 2014, Reinaldo Emilio Cosan Alen

Translated by mlk

Reports from Cuba’s Venezuela: Munich vs. Londres

Via Venezuela News & Views:

Munich versus Londres

No, the spelling "mistake" in the title is intentional, I know how to spell London.  The point here is that catching up with my reading I came across a surrender article of Luis Vicente Leon on El Universal Sunday and a the account today of Maria Corina Machado exposing the Venezuelan situation at the European Parliament, that weeks before its election finds the time to receive her. The first is Munich, the surrender of democracy to a form of Realpolitik and the second is the courageous appeal to resist like de Gaulle in London in 1940 when all seemed lost.

I read twice the infamous article of Luis Vicente Leon and I really, really want to believe that it was ill edited and thus he did not mean what he meant.  In short, no need to elaborate, from reading the article you gather that not only resistance is futile, that the opposition is lost forever and that the best we can hope now for Venezuela is a corporatism state system, that is, a state that controls pretty much everything and considers interest groups and the private sector as mere contractors for its needs.

Luis Vicente Leon is the spokes person for Datanalisis, a pollster with a long tradition of occasional sulfur smell, and as such he is the frustrated wanna-be final guru of the opposition. In short, for years I have known that reading Leon, when you have the stomach for it, must be filtered by his desire to be considered the oracle of the opposition, the one through which we finally will get out from under Chavez shadow. Since he has failed I suppose that article is a his spiteful way to tell us: "I told you!"

Continue reading HERE.

Argentina yesterday and today

Lauzan in Yahoo Noticias:

Caricaturas

Yesterday: "Don't cry for me, Argentina!"

Today: "Don't stop crying for me, Argentina!"

New Boss Same As The Old Boss: Castroism’s International Projection 1959 – 2014

John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

New Boss Same As The Old Boss: Castroism's International Projection 1959 - 2014

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The dictatorship in Cuba has been in power for 55 years. Despite being an island just 90 miles south of the United States it has projected itself internationally to undermine democraticand international human rights standards over that time working through international institutions such as the UN Human Rights Council.

In the 1960s the Castro regime organized meetings in Havana, Cuba gathering guerillas and terrorists from around the world with a common aim to destabilize governments by means of armed struggle and terrorism was viewed as a legitimate tactic. They were called gatherings of the Tricontinental.

At the height of the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Fidel Castro personally recruited former Nazi SS Waffen members to train Cuban troops and he also reached out to Nazi operatives, Otto Ernst Remer and Ernst-Wilhelm Springer, in Germany's extreme right to purchase weapons.

Many focus on the Castro regime’s involvement in Angola in the 1970s backing a Marxist regime in battles against anti-communist guerillas and the South African regime but fail to mention another important incursion in Africa. In Ethiopia the Castro regime backed Mengistu Haile Mariam with advice, troops and high level visits by both Fidel and Raul Castro. War crimes such as a provoked famine and the targeting of ideologically suspect children for mass killings led to downplaying the role of the Castro regime in the whole affair.

In the 1970s in addition to supporting guerrillas and terrorists the Castro regime also began an unusual relationship with the military dictatorship in Argentina helping to block efforts to condemn it at the United Nations Human Rights Commission for thousands of leftists disappeared by the regime.

Continue reading HERE.

Photo of the Day – Cuba’s courageous opposition marches in support of liberty in Venezuela

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Ecuador’s dictator Rafael Correa looking to become ‘president for life’

Of course, Ecuador's constitution prohibits any president from running for reelection in perpetuity. But since when does the law ever stop a despotic and corrupt Correa from doing whatever he pleases? As a student and subaltern of the Castro dictatorship, Correa embraces the same criminal corruption, the same hunger for power, and the same disdain for the rule of law.

Via the Christian Science Monitor:

Does Ecuador's leader aspire to a perpetual presidency?

Ecuador's constitution bars Rafael Correa from running for the fourth term. But this won't stop him from seeking reelection if 'the people' want it, he hints.

Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, fresh into his third consecutive term in the presidency, appears to be coming down with a chronic case of “reelection fever” — something that affects a growing number of Latin American leaders.

Speaking to a group at the Harvard Kennedy School on Wednesday evening, the Ecuadorian leader said he’s mustering his strength to fight off the temptation of a never-ending presidency, but symptomatic sniffles suggest his defenses are weakening.

“In 2017, I want to retire from the presidency and from politics, but it’s not always possible to do what [you] want,” he said coyly. In Ecuador, Correa explained, “the people” are in power. And “the people” love him. With an 80 percent approval rating, the people might press Correa to run for a fourth term in office.

Ecuador’s constitution prevents Correa from seeking reelection in 2017, but rarely is the law a barrier to personal ambition in weak institutional democracies — especially in Latin America.

“Circumstances change,” Correa said with a winsome smile. “We are a sovereign nation, not a colony.”

Continue reading HERE.

Venezuela: 30 military officials arrested for conspiracy to topple Cuba-controlled dictatorship

Via Maduradas (my translation):

30 officials arrested for conspiracy to topple Maduro

MADURO-CON-MILITARES-FANB-GNB

According to reports to UN by high-level sources in Miraflores, thirty military officials of varying ranks have been arrested and are under investigation for suspicion of being involved in a conspiracy to topple president Nicolas Maduro.

Among those arrested are the brothers Riviera Lago, one a colonel and the other a lieutenant colonel. Also two members of the National Guard, two from the navy, and one from the army. These are added to the generals arrested three weeks earlier, Oswaldo Hernandez Sanchez, Jose Machillanda Diaz, and Carlos Millan Yaguaracuto. The generals are all from the air force, like the majority of those involved in the alleged conspiracy.

Intelligence agencies received reports by various officials in the military about "something strange" the military personnel were planning, leading to an operation of surveillance and the monitoring of their communications that began a while before the arrests.

Continue reading (in Spanish) HERE.

Cuba: After brutal beating, Amnesty Int’l designated Prisoner of Conscience starts hunger strike

More tangible results from the reforms of the kinder, gentler apartheid dictatorship of the Castros in Cuba.

Via Uncommon Sense:

Cuban prisoner of conscience Ivan Fernandez Depestre on hunger strike after beating

6a00d8341c54f053ef01901e9e7909970b-800wiIvan Fernandez Depestre

Cuban prisoner of conscience Ivan Fernandez Depestre on April 9 started a hunger strike after he was beaten by prison officials and thrown in a punishment cell, according to Cuban activist Jorge Luis Perez Garcia "Antunez."

Fernandez, who Amnesty International has recognized as a prisoner conscience, was protesting the beating of another prisoner when he was attacked by guards at the Guamajal prison in Villa Clara province.

Antunez called on the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International and others to speak out in support of Fernandez.

Antunez said the Castro dictatorship must be held responsible for what happens to Fernandez.

Fernandez last year was sentenced to three years in prison after he was arrested in July during a protest march in Placetas.

In September, Amnesty International determined Fernandez had been jailed "solely because of his political views," and named him as a prisoner of conscience.

"Mr. (Fernandez) was charged with 'dangerousness', a pre-emptive measure defined as the 'special proclivity of a person to commit crimes' after he was accused of 'meeting with antisocial persons,'" Anmnesty said. "He hand no access to a lawyer during his trial and was sentenced to three years in jail on 2 August."

April 15, 1959: “El mentiroso dice mentiras” in the US

On this day in 1959, Fidel Castro visited the US and spoke at "Meet the Press" a few days later:

"The trip got off to an inauspicious start when it became clear that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had no intention of meeting with Castro. Instead, Eisenhower went to the golf course to avoid any chance meeting with Castro.

Castro gave a talk to the Council on Foreign Affairs, a New York-based group of private citizens and former government officials interested in U.S. international relations.

Castro was confrontational during the session, indicating that Cuba would not beg the United States for economic assistance.

Angered by some of the questions from the audience, Castro abruptly left the meeting.

Finally, before departing for Cuba, Castro met with Vice President Richard Nixon. Privately, Nixon hoped that his talk would push Castro "in the right direction," and away from any radical policies, but he came away from his discussion full of doubt about the possibility of reorienting Castro's thinking.

Nixon concluded that Castro was "either incredibly naive about communism or under communist discipline-my guess is the former.""

Last, but not least, Doctor Castro said this on 'Meet the Press":

Reports from Cuba: Driving in reverse

By Miriam Celaya in Translating Cuba:

Driving in Reverse

(Originally published in Cubanet the April 11, 2014 , titled ” Raul Castro Goes in Reverse”)

Clearly, the new Foreign Investment Law “approved” by the usual parliamentary unanimity last March 29, 2014, has been the talk of the town on the topic of “Cuba”, for the Island’s official as well as for the independent and foreign press.

With the relaxation of the existing law–enacted in 1995–the new regulation is aiming to throw the ball to the opposite field: if Cuban residents of the US cannot invest in Cuba currently, it would no longer be because the regime bans it, but because of the shackles imposed by the embargo, a trick of the elderly olive green crocodile that continues with its wiles and snares despite the collapse of the system.

Amid the expectations of the government’s and of aspiring investors, there stretches a wide tuning fork of the ever-excluded: the common Cubans, or the “walking Cubans” as we say, whose opinions are not reflected in the media, magnifying their exclusion.

This time, however, the cancellation of the innate rights of Cubans is causing social unrest to multiply, in a scenario in which there are accelerated shortages in the commercial networks and persistent and increasing higher prices and a higher cost of living.

Rejection of the Investment Law

Shortages, as well as inflation, indexation and bans for certain items of the private trade, have caused many family businesses to close since January 2014 due to the uncertainty surrounding the heralded–and never properly explained–monetary unification.

In addition to the lack of positive expectations, these are the factors that thin out the social environment and lead to generally unfavorable reviews of the new law and its impact within Cuba.

An informal survey I conducted in recent days in Central Havana after the March 29th extraordinary session of parliament shows rejection of the new Law on Foreign Investment, almost as unanimous as the “approval” that occurred in the plenary: of a total of 50 individuals polled, 49 were critical of the law and only one was indifferent.

In fact, the issue has been present with relative frequency in many cliques not directly surveyed–uncommon in a population usually apathetic about laws–in which the dominant tendency was to criticize various aspects of the law.

The main reasons for the people’s discontent are summarized in several main points: the new law excludes, arbitrarily and despotically, Cuban nationals, which implies that the lack of opportunities for the Island’s Cubans is being maintained.

Continue reading Reports from Cuba: Driving in reverse