The party is on in Cuba

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University of Miami’s Dr. Jaime Suchlicki in the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies’ Cuba Focus:

The Party is On

The Cuban Communist Party will be holding its VII Party Congress in April, 2016. This comes amidst one of the worst economic conditions in half a century. Cuban export prices of nickel and sugar are at depression levels. Venezuela is reducing its exports of petroleum to the island. Tobacco growing is going thru a major crisis. Brazil and Venezuela seem less and less capable of paying for Cuban doctors, the most important export item of the Cuban economy. Cuba’s crumbling infrastructure requires billions to maintain and repair years of neglect. While tourism and remittances have increased significantly, they are not enough to deal with Cuba’s mounting economic problems and the growing impoverishment of its population.

These daunting problems will challenge an intransigent leadership unwilling to open and modernize the country. The Party, the leading force in the country, is a rubber stamp group supporting and approving the rulings of its Politburo. The 14 members of the Politburo (8 military and 6 civilians) led by General Raul Castro, is where the real power resides in Cuba. They are adamant about not opening the political process and continue to cling to a centralized planned economy, a model that failed in Eastern Europe and has failed in Cuba.

What to expect?

1. No political changes with continued repression.

2. The redefinition of the economic model along centralized planning with decentralized implementation.

3. The reduction in state subsidies and payrolls; minor steps allowing limited, private enterprises and more measures to attract foreign investment.

4. The retirement of older and the promotion of younger leaders that would guarantee a smooth and orderly succession once the original leadership disappears.

5. Two leaders, in particular, will be highlighted as guarantors of the continuity of the regime. General Alberto López-Callejas, General Raul Castro’s son-in-law and head of GAESA, the largest conglomerate of state businesses in the island, and Alejandro Castro Espin, Gen. Raul Castro’s son and currently a colonel in charge of coordinating the military and intelligence services in the country.

6. Gen. Raul Castro, which has promised to step down from Cuba’s presidency in 2018, most likely will be reelected as Secretary General of the Party, thus assuring that he will remain at the helm of the Party and the military; thus guaranteeing the continuity of the system. The appointed next president Miguel Díaz-Canel will be confirmed as a ceremonial figure.

The Cubans will watch in bewilderment and disappointment understanding that the tough times are not about to go away anytime soon. Disillusionment will increase as more people migrate.

Reports from Cuba: Castro regime censors blog calling Raul Castro responsible for UMAP

Diario de Cuba via Translating Cuba:

Castro Regime Censors Blog Calling Raul Castro Responsible For UMAP*

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A blog on sexual diversity, Proyecto Arcoiris (Rainbow Project), housed in the government-run blogging platform Reflections, has been censored by the regime after addressing UMAP and publishing a text attributing the responsibility for it to Raul Castro, according to the Global Voices international network of bloggers.

Those responsible for censorship alleged that the blog broke the rules for participation on the site and that the text “defamed the Revolution,” explained blog author Yasmine Silvia Portales Machado to Global Voices .

The censored paragraph from the Rainbow Project blog that refers to the Military Units to Aid to the Population (UMAP) is hosted here; but currently readers get a message that says “This site has been archived or suspended.”

The fragment is part of the text “Cuba’s Mariela Castro and Historical Reparations,” published in December in Havana Times by activist and member of the Rainbow Arc Jimmy Roque Martinez.

Roque called on the General Raul Castro to apologize and accept responsibility for the internment of homosexuals in the UMAP camps.

From his point of view, not accepting responsibility and not apologizing for such acts “are proof of the homophobia” of the current leaders of the island and a sign that they are not repentant.

In the article, the activist says the General and others who are “still alive” as “those maximally” responsible for the camps where dissidents, religious and gay people were defined.

“It’s been 50 years since the creation of UMAP said Roque and not a single official has apologized to the people.”

He also said that “the minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) from that time is now the country’s president,” referring to Raul Castro.

“It is now time for them to apologize for that act of penalization, exclusion and punishment to which they subjected thousands of homosexuals and Cubans with ‘improper conduct’,” said the activist.

Roque demanded that “those responsible, every single one of them, must recognize their error, and ask for a real apology directly to the victims and their families, as the only way of historical reparation.”

The state platform Reflections groups blogs written from the island and is the only one from the island that provides this service. It is managed by the Youth Computer and Electronics Clubs (JCCE), under the Ministry of Communications.

Reflections is accessible from abroad, although it is not possible to create a blog from outside the island, nor to manage it from abroad even if it was created in Cuba. Operating a blog on Reflections requires that the blogger access the blog from a JCCE site.

Obama Cuba policy ’empowers’ Castro henchman in charge of apartheid regime’s human trafficking operation

President Obama’s Hope and Change Cuba policy continues to “empower” Cubans. The problem is that the only Cubans getting empowered are the Castros and the minions they entrust with running their murderous and repressive dictatorship.

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Obama “Empowers” Castro Henchman on Human Trafficking

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Colonel Mario Mendez Mayedo

Under a veil of secrecy, the Obama Administration acknowledged that it recently held “technical meetings” with the Cuban regime on human trafficking.

The meetings took place from February 1-4 in Miami, Florida.

Yet, the State Department didn’t acknowledge the meetings until February 5 — and perhaps wouldn’t have done so if The Miami Herald hadn’t been tipped off and revealed it.

Perhaps the secrecy was partly due to the unsavory characters being flown in for the meetings — let alone their content.

The Cuban regime was represented by a nefarious henchman from Castro’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT) — Colonel Mario Mendez Mayedo.

The MININT is the organ of Castro’s domestic state security and secret police apparatus. It’s responsible for vigilance, espionage and political repression. It’s akin to the Soviet KGB or East German Stasi.

Specifically, Col. Mendez Mayedo is the head of the MININT’s Identification, Immigration and Foreigners department.

In this role, he is responsible for the national identity-card that keeps track of all Cubans, their whereabouts, networks and activities. He is also responsible for tracking the movement of all foreigners who visit Cuba.

(Isn’t it curious how just two days before Obama’s announcement on December 17th, 2014, the MININT announced a new system for Cubans who run “casa particulares” that immediately reports and identifies foreigners staying in their homes?)

The MININT spares no expense for the latest technology to monitor all Cubans, particularly their political activities. They also keep a watchful tab on every foreigner who visits the island. (Yes, even those who ingenuously believe they are not being watched.)

Col. Mendez Mayedo is also frequent traveler to Venezuela, where he oversaw the implementation of the passport and national-identity card system of the Chavez-Maduro regime for its domestic intelligence service (SEBIN).

Adding irony to insult is the fact that the Obama Administration would welcome this henchman to discuss “cooperation” in human trafficking.

Not only is the Castro regime one of the world’s worst perpetrators of state-sponsored human trafficking, but the Obama Administration remains under Congressional scrutiny after a Reuters investigation last year revealed that human-rights experts at the State Department concluded that trafficking conditions had not improved and Cuba did not deserve to be upgraded from a bottom Tier 3 ranking to Tier 2.

Continue reading HERE.

The International Bill of Human Rights and Cuba’s failure to ratify

Human rights do not exist in Cuba, but that doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for many Americans, including the president.

John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

The International Bill of Human Rights and Cuba’s failure to ratify

Two important anniversaries

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2016 marks an important anniversary. Fifty years ago on December 16, 1966 two important human rights covenants were opened for signature: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that came into force on January 3, 1976 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that came into force on March 23, 1976. Together they are known as the International Bill of Human Rights. The Human Rights Action Center, founded by human rights pioneer Jack Healey in 2010 prepared the following video explaining the two covenants.

Eight years ago on February 28, 2008 the Cuban dictatorship signed both covenants. Less than a year later on January 28, 2009 representatives of the Cuban government extended an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture that was never allowed by the regime.

Continue reading HERE.

Geandy Pavon’s photo exhibit ‘Cuban Americans’ opens in New York City

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Via The New York Times:

Cuban-American Exile Up North

Despite Chris Matthews’s dismissive characterization of Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as “two Cuban guys,” the fact that they placed first and third in the Iowa caucuses is a milestone in Cuban-American history. In the more than half-century since Cubans went into exile and remade their lives in the United States, they have transformed cities like Miami and attained success in business and industry.

Geandy Pavón, an artist who left Havana for this country in 1996, understands that image and its impact. “It’s like, ‘Look at what Cuba lost,’?” he said. “That’s true, but what interests me is to photograph other parts of Cuban-American life. The ideas people have about Cuban-Americans are stereotyped. It’s complicated to just sell the idea of a happy exile.”

For most of 2015, Mr. Pavón dwelled on the hyphen between Cuban and American, looking at the lives of more-or-less ordinary people, many of them living just across the Hudson River from New York in New Jersey. From meals to parties, or scenes of daily life to urban missionaries, he explored a world that is off the radar for many mainstream audiences. His exhibit “The Cuban-Americans” — and, yes, that is a nod to Robert Frank — opens today at the Cervantes Institute in New York.

Continue reading and view slideshow of the exhibit HERE.

What would Beny More say about two Cubans running for president of the US?

It is a matter of incredible pride.   Two sons of Cuban immigrants are now very serious candidates for president of the US.   In fact, one of them won the Iowa caucus and the other leads in general election polls.

Politics aside, it reminds me of that Beny More song that we played on my parents’ turntable:   “No hay tierra como la mia”

Reports from Cuba: Four questions for you, President Obama

Yuslier Saavedra in Translating Cuba:

Four Questions For You, President Obama

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14ymedio, Yuslier L. Saavedra, La Salud (Mayabeque Province), 8 February 2016 — Mr. President, I am a young Cuban woman who lives in Cuba and I do not want to leave. Exile hurts and I lack the courage to miss my homeland. I want to stay in Cuba and the reality of my people leaves me with many questions. I think it is up to Cubans alone – all of us without exception – to resolve our problems; peaceful change toward democracy is ours and is in us. I dream of a sovereign people, with self-determination because we have a voice, rights and freedom. I dream of an independent, democratic and sovereign Cuba, where there is a genuine Rule of Law and Democracy, the indispensable foundations for Cubans to be able to achieve prosperity and well-being.

You have said you want to help Cubans to improve our quality of life, which leads me to ask you some questions:

  • What has improved in Cubans’ quality of life since 17 December 2014?
  • You have called Raul Castro ‘president’; does this mean you consider him your counterpart?
  • Can a dictatorship turn itself into a democracy?
  • Do you believe that the dignity of the human person, as well as his or her well-being and quality of life starts with rights?

Thank you for your time.

Some election day humor: Christie’s new full-time occupation

Great Satire from Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker

Christie Quits Race to Focus on Tormenting Rubio

NEW HAMPSHIRE (Satire from The Borowitz Report)—In a stunning announcement on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said that he was dropping out of the Presidential race to focus his energies on tormenting Florida Senator Marco Rubio full-time.

“At the end of the day, running for President was interfering with what I really love, which is making Marco Rubio’s life a living hell,” he said. “Now I can get up every morning and spend all day just doing that.”

Christie said that he had tired of fielding questions about ISIS, immigration, and the economy and having to find some contrived way of answering them with a scathing attack on Rubio. “Don’t get me wrong, I was great at it,” he said. “But it’ll be so much easier to just get out there and start tearing him apart with no pretext whatsoever.”

The New Jersey governor, who plans to bring his message of character assassination to all fifty states, did not indicate how he would finance this mission. “I’ll pay for it myself if I have to,” he said. “If, looking back on my life, I can say that I ground Marco Rubio into the dirt, I will die a happy man.”

Asked what his first stop would be after leaving the campaign trail, Christie said, “I want to reconnect with my family, hug my kids, and tell them what a douche Marco is.”

Beyonce’, The Black Panthers and Che Guevara

“Che Guevara is not dead! His ideas are with us! (Black Panther Party “Honorary Prime Minister” Stokely Carmichael, seen above-right lionizing Che Guevara in 1967.)

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“The Negro is indolent and spends his money on frivolities and drink, the European is forward-looking, organized and intelligent. (That’s NOT David Duke–it’s Black Panther hero and icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara.)

“The Negro has maintained his racial purity by his well known habit of avoiding baths.”  (That’s NOT David Duke–it’s Black Panther hero and icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara.)

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“A great service for the cause of decency and human freedom. Deservedly puts Che Guevara in the ash-heap of history. Every American should read this book.” (David Horowitz on Exposing the Real Che Guevara.)

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“Le RRRONCA!!!”

Cuba’s Black Spring dissidents to receive Czech human rights award

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Via the Prague Daily Monitor:

Cuban dissidents to receive human rights award

Prague, Feb 5 (CTK) – Eleven Cuban dissidents and former political prisoners will receive the Homo Homini award for human rights promotion from the Czech People in Need organisation at the beginning of the One World film festival on March 7, Adela Pospichalova, from People in Need, has told CTK.The One World International Human Rights Film Festival will be held in Prague on March 7-16.

The Cubans will be awarded for their courage and moral consistency with which they decided to resist the pressure of the Cuban authorities and not to leave the country and to keep fighting for freedom there.

“Eleven former political prisoners, who despite the pressure the regime exerted on them to force them emigrate stayed on the island and continued in the fight for broader freedom for Cuban citizens. To us, these people symbolise all Cuban dissidents, political prisoners and activists who are striving for democratic reforms,” said People in Need director Simon Panek.

In 2003, the regime of Fidel Castro detained 75 most significant dissident and sent them to prisons for six to 28 years. Thanks to the international effort in their support, most of them were conditionally released in 2010. However, their sentences were only interrupted and they may return behind bars any time, the organisers said.

“In spite of threats, persecution and everyday maltreatment, the 11 people have to date stayed in Cuba where they keep struggling for human rights and freedoms,” Pospichalova said, adding that the Cuban government qualified the released dissidents as a security risk and limited their rights.

One of the awarded dissidents, writer and journalist Jorge Olivera, said he had never regretted and would never regret his decision to stay in Cuba.

“It was clear to me that I must stay in Cuba and continue in the fight for democracy. I knew that it would not be easy and that there would be no way back,” Olivera added.

People in Need has worked in Cuba since 1997 when it started supporting local dissidents and political prisoners.

Along with a changing situation in the country, it now more focuses on support for the activities of independent civic groups and journalists. It is also monitoring human rights observance and their possible violations and stands up for people prosecuted for political reasons.

People in Need has bestowed the annual award on the personalities who have greatly contributed to the promotion of human rights and democracy in the world since 1994.

Last year, the award went to Syrian teacher and activist Souad Nawfal who was actively protesting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime as well as Islamic State.

Other Homo Homini laureates are, for instance, Azeri lawyer Intigam Aliyev, Kyrgyz political prisoner Azimjan Askarov, sentenced to life, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who later won the Nobel Peace Prize, as well as Cuban Catholic dissident Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, who died in a road accident in 2012.

H/T Tania M.

In Castro’s apartheid Cuba, the ‘right of admission’ becomes a new instrument of discrimination

Ana Paula Diaz in Diario de Cuba:

The “right of admission,” a new instrument to discriminate between “classes”

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The KingBar Restaurant, a private establishment that suddenly closed on January 9 after a customer complained about allegedly discriminatory practices towards gays and blacks, has reopened its doors to the public.

The property, located on the Calle 23, No. 667, between D and E (interior), had been battling controversy for a year due to its “admission policy.” It received heavy criticism, especially on the social networks, which worsened as of June of 2015.

DIARIO DE CUBA visited the KingBar to hear its management’s account of events, but at first its workers refused to give any opinions and flatly rejected the accusations.

“The complaint had been in the offing. They had been having problems with customers for some time, if not with homosexuals, with blacks,” said a nearby resident, who asked not to be identified.

“On several occasions there were fights outside, especially on Fridays, when things get hopping. We have had to separate people that get bounced out of there, most times by the same people,” she said.

You could see it coming

On June 27, 2015 playwright Norge Espinosa was denied access to the bar. It was the second time.

“As was seen in the argument that occurred at the entrance to the KingBar, we apparently do not form part of that group of gays that must enter with the money for the ten-CUC minimum they said is required there and, of course, our informal attire does not fit the profile of the customer to which they aspire,” complained Espinosa at the time, via the Internet and to alternative media.

After finding out about what had happened, a group of activists staged a “public kiss-in” in front of the venue, in protest. There was also a call for a boycott of the place on the Internet, which many people supported.

Espinosa’s case is one of those which sparked the most attention. But there are many others that have not been covered, said Alberto, a gay transvestite.

“They threw Luisito, a young saxophonist, out because he kissed his friend,” Alberto told DDC. “They were dancing and they gave each other a kiss because one was going outside to smoke. At that point two Security guys grabbed him and said: “Look, that can’t be going on here.”

“He was offended. ‘What do you mean it can´t be going on? He’s my partner.’ After that reaction, which was a bit shrill, the owner came out and told him the same thing that he tells everyone: that he does not intend for the place to “become just a gay bar, and you have to mind your manners, for the other customers,'” he added.

“We reserve the right of admission.”

The KingBar is one of Cuba’s establishments that reserves the right of admission. In the absence of a law on the island protecting the consumer at all businesses and facilities, private or state, each arbitrarily sets its own rules.

“The right of admission is reserved so that the bar acquires a certain prestige and decent people frequent it. Important customers. An investment has been made for that, to create a sensation in the city. And if your customers include Mariela Castro, ambassadors, and people from important companies, you can’t risk a scandal,” argued Yanet, who has been to the place several times.

Continue reading HERE.