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  • asombra: It was probably pointless to call for an investigation of the trip. It was a done deal from the start.

  • asombra: In willful blindness, the operative word is willful, not blindness. In bad faith, the operative word is bad, not faith.

  • asombra: The woman herself, who may not have anyone in the US to support her, is doing what she thinks will sell to a tourist audience,...

  • asombra: No sweat, Humberto. I’m sure your interviewer, who looks like a plastic game-show host gone “serious,”...

  • asombra: “Celebrities of science”? Celebrities? WTF is that? Sheesh.

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Reports from Cuba: Private cafes near the airport closed

From 14yMedio in Translating Cuba:

Private Cafes Near the Airport Closed

Private snack bar shut down (14ymedio)

Half a dozen privately-owned snack cars and restaurants across from Jose Marti International Airport Terminal 2 were ordered to cease operations despite meeting all the tax, commercial and health requirements imposed by law.

The measure affects the large number of people who come to this terminal to drop off or pick up their family members who travel between the United States and Cuba. In the airport there are two state-run snack bars which, in the opinion of the visitors, lack the variety and quality offered by private facilities.

According to statements to 14ymedio from several of the owners of the closed premises, officials showed up three months ago who imposed the closure measure without giving any explanation Some of the snack bars and restaurants had been open for more than three years and the owners had invested heavily, especially in furniture and kitchen facilities.
José G., one of the self-employed, said that after much paperwork and appeals it appears they will allows them to reopen, but in another place at the back of an alley with very little commercial visibility and difficult access, since the street is not paved.

“They say right here, between our doors and they street, they will erect a separating wall,” says José, who has also complained for years, that “they haven’t even wanted to build a sidewalk for pedestrians. I don’t know if it’s hatred or envy, but the truth is that they’re trying to strangle us.”

At the end of 2013, Cuba 444,109 people were registered as self-employed in Cuba, mostly in food services, passenger transport, renting rooms, and in the production and sale of household items.

The self-employed complain about high taxes, lack of a wholesale market, the inability to independently import and export, and the excessive controls and restrictions placed on them by the inspectors.

The extinction of mules in Cuba

Santana in El Nuevo Herald:

"The mules are becoming extinct."

"Of course: Cows, pigs, and chickens have already become extinct."

The shamefulness and folly of ‘engagement’ with corrupt and repressive totalitarian regimes

John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Historical Lessons from Engaging Totalitarians: Business and High Technology

A look back over a shameful and overlooked history

Over the past few months there has been a vigorous debate around continuing economic sanctions on the dictatorship in Cuba and a series of manufactured controversies surrounding democracy promotion programs directed at the island. However, a couple that have gone unaddressed are the conceits that American tourists, business, and high technology would somehow be game changers in Cuba and that "evolutionary change" would take place within Cuba.

Solidarity with dissidents in Eastern Europe from the West and a policy that took human rights into consideration did achieve great things there 25 years ago: the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of the Soviet Union two years later in 1991 with predominantly nonviolent movements.

The end result of ignoring the crimes of totalitarianism and engaging these regimes was one world war, and at least four genocides. Winston Churchill called the Second World War the "Unnecessary War" explaining in the preface to his book, The Gathering Storm: "How the English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness, and good nature allowed the wicked to rearm." Would sanctions have prevented the death of over 60 million people between 1939 and 1945? When one does not support the nonviolent option for real and profound change that challenges the fundamental injustices of a dictatorship only two options remain: war or collaboration with tyrants. Both are unacceptable.

What did engagement through tourism, business and the exchange of high technology achieve in the early twentieth century? This first entry will focus on the role of engaging totalitarians with business and high technology. In the Cuba debate there is a lot of talk about computers and the internet as the magic bullets that will end the Castro dictatorship but often times attention is not paid to who is empowered in the transfer of technology. History demonstrates that this can be a disaster.

Continue reading HERE.

Babalu called it from day one on Fox & Friends (Beyonce, Jay-Z trip to Cuba)


Wall Street Journal headline Aug. 21, 2014: "U.S. Treasury Clears Jay-Z and Beyoncé Trip to Cuba."

Fox & Friends interview with Humberto Fontova April, 9, 2013.

Brian Kilmeade: "Humberto. are you SHOCKED about this visit?"

Hideous Hard-Lining Babalusian Reactionary: "No. Not at all. These things have been going on for decades."

Gretchen Carlson: "Humberto, could it have been possible that they (Beyonce, Jay-Z) went on this trip without the proper visas, etc.?"

Hideous Hard-Lining Babalusian Reactionary: "It's certainly possible..but nowadays there are so many loopholes for traveling to Cuba...cultural exchanges, etc.--and I'm sure Beyonce and Jay-Z have pretty proficient lawyers."

Entire video of Fox & Friends interview here.

Google begins offering its Chrome internet browser in Cuba to surf nonexistent if not heavily censored web

Right on cue, the usual suspects (the Castro dictatorship's supporters, lobbyists, and useful idiots here in the U.S.) jumped up to applaud the news that Google was now offering its Chrome internet browser in Cuba. Although the internet is heavily censored on the island if you can manage to find any connectivity at all, they all assure us this good news was made possible by the magnanimous and beneficent reforms of Cuban dictator Raul Castro. Of course, these are the same usual suspects who applauded the Castro dictatorship's economic reforms that allowed the formation of private businesses that are not really businesses and that made the sale of new entry-level cars heavily marked up to over $200,000 available to  a general population that makes $20 a month.

Nevertheless, these Castro cheerleaders are not going to let the equivalent of giving reading glasses to a blindfolded man dampen their enthusiasm. Things are getting better in Cuba, regardless of the facts!

Report from Capitol Hill Cubans:

Google Finally Discovers Long-Standing General License for Chrome

Google announced today that its Chrome browser is now accessible in Cuba.

Of course, this will only have a positive impact for the few Cubans that the Castro regime grants the "luxury" of accessing the Internet -- and if it chooses to not block it.

However, the only reason Chrome was not currently accessible in Cuba was because of Google's own internal decision.

In 2010, the Treasury Department issued a general license authorizing the exportation to persons in Cuba of certain services incident to the exchange of personal communications over the Internet.

(Overall exemptions for telecom services were enshrined in the 1992 Cuba Democracy Act.)

It did so for Iran, Sudan and Cuba.

This includes certain services, including instant messaging, chat and email, social networking, sharing of photos and movies, web browsing (Chrome), and blogging.

The two caveats are: 1. that the services must be publicly available at no cost to the user. 2. a prohibition if there is knowledge or reason to know that such services are intended for a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party.

Why it took Google four years to discover this general license? God knows.

(A perfect example of Google's obliviousness was Executive Chairman Erick Schmidt's post pursuant to his recent trip to Cuba. Here was our response.)

Yet, that's not the spin we've heard from anti-sanctions lobbyists for the last four years. Instead, they opt for exaggeration and misinformation.

Even in today's announcement, Google tried to deflect responsibility by stating it's decision was due to "trade restrictions evolving."

The only thing that "evolved" was Google's ability to catch up with the law.

Now, if Google wants to really help the Cuban people -- here's what it can easily do.

Treasury Dept. investigation rules Beyoncé and Jay-Z vacation romp in apartheid Cuba was ‘legal’

A U.S. Treasury Department investigation into a vacation romp in communist apartheid Cuba by American music power couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z was perfectly legal. Although Cuba's notoriously racist and repressive Castro dictatorship completely controlled the vacation itinerary of the two African-American musicians and led them by the nose from one propaganda photo op to another, the Treasury Dept. claims they did not find a smidgeon of evidence their visit benefited the regime.

Via USA Today:

Beyonce and Jay Z trip to Cuba was legal, say feds

Good news for Beyoncé and Jay Z, in the midst of fending off toxic rumors: Their fifth wedding anniversary visit to Cuba last year was legal, despite questions raised by some Republicans in Congress.

According to widespread but unconfirmed reports, America's most powerful entertainment couple might not make it to their next wedding anniversary. But at least they're not in trouble with the feds.

The Treasury Department's Office of Inspector General issued a report today saying Bey and Jay did not violate longtime U.S. sanctions against Cuba, which forbid U.S. citizens from visiting the island and spending any money there as tourists except under special license.

The couple did have such a license to visit under the "people-to-people" educational exchange program, and they did not abuse it, the report concluded.

When Shawn Carter and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (their real names) were mobbed by fans during their four-day visit to Cuba in April 2013, two Miami-area Cuban-American lawmakers demanded an investigation. Most Americans aren't allowed to visit Cuba, not even superstars.

Jay Z even addressed the controversy by posting an Open Letter song to his blog.

The federal investigators reviewed media reports of what the couple did during their vacation: Dinners in private homes, a walking tour of Havana neighborhoods, a tour of Cuba's top art school, a visit to a children's theater group and stops at several dance clubs "where the couple heard live music and occasionally took to the dance floor," the report said.

None of this could be considered deliberate or inadvertent support for Cuba's Communist-run state, which is what the U.S. sanctions against Cuba are supposed to prevent.

"All of these activities serve the U.S. foreign policy goal of helping the Cuban people by facilitating exchanges with them and supporting the development of independent activity and civil society," the report said.

"No further investigation is necessary," the report concluded.

Dr Carlos J Finlay with Jorge Ponce and Fausta Rodriguez-Wertz on US-Latin America stories of the week

We spoke on Wednesday night with Jorge Ponce about the story of Dr. Carlos J. Finlay, the famous Cuban doctor.


Dr. Carlos J. (Juan) Finlay — Remembering Our History


With the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal celebrated on August 15, 2014, let’s not forget that a Cuban physician from Camaguey was partly responsible for the completion of this feat. During the construction of the canal, yellow fever/malaria was more lethal than the current Ebola virus in Africa. It is estimated that 20,000 died in Panama during this period due to yellow fever.

And, yet, the majority of Americans give credit to this discovery to Dr. Walter Reed – who, by the way, gave due credit to Dr. Finlay.

With seven Cuban-Americans serving in the U.S. Congress, I think that it would be appropriate for them to enact a law to recognize Dr. Finlay’s contributions to humanity. Similarly, I think that someone should nominate him for the Nobel Prize in Medicine posthumously.

To read an op-ed that I wrote on this matter, click on

Reports from Cuba’s Venezuela: Can’t stop the music

Raul Stolk in Caracas Chronicles:

Can’t Stop the Music Jorge Arreaza just announced that all the Ministers have offered their resignations to President Maduro in the midst of what the government has deemed The Shake: The Revolution within the Revolution (El Sacudón: La Revolución dentro de la Revolución.)

This, of course, is not a new funky (yeyé-gogó) dance step promoted by Maduro, nor is it different to when the government would play the Musical Chairs game once a year, and the same group of scumbags would trade places to keep on ruining the country (where you had an Education Minister now you would have that guy who was kicked out from the Sports Ministry for an alleged corruption scandal —and then sent to the doghouse at the Youth Ministry— and so on and so forth). The thing, this time around, is that this is (sort of) the third or fourth government restructuring in three months. Remember, when Maduro first spoke of El Sacudón, a while after Giordani was canned, there were strong rumors (hehe) that Arreaza was to leave his position as VP and Ramirez would step down from PDVSA and all his other positions as, well, All-Powerfull-Money-Minister, to once again assume his old job as VP. Of course, no one could touch all-powerful Ramírez, and Arreaza is probably still playing bowling at La Casona.

Right now things are different. To those who don’t have their heads up their butts (the opo v. opo conflict), you may have noticed there has been a lot of crap going on in the country these past days. Enough to trigger a deep Revolution within the Revolution, a profound change in the Government, the Second Coming of the Bolivar and the Eternal, or, most likely, none of the above.

Shake all you want, but when the music stops, the same guys will sit at different chairs.

Reports from Cuba: Temperamental old coots

Anddy Sierra Alvarez in Translating Cuba:

Temperamental Old Coots

The issue is not just about winning the argument with the United States. It’s also about a legacy created 55 years ago. Of what use to us are their perspectives, when ambitions fade with the passage of time”

The leaders of Cuba are well past working age. Small changes occur at the hands of his brother, Raúl Castro, another long-lived individual who has lived his life and realized the goals he set for himself. What are his ambitions today?

The Cuban desires progress and is at the mercy of old men. Are they perhaps different from others of their age group? As far as I know, an old man does not have the same drive as a young person who is just beginning to face the challenges of the future.

We are held captive by the arbitrariness of a bunch of geezers…grandfathers once restless in their youth, who now penalize behavior such as they once exhibited…backed up by a poorly-told history that makes heroes out of many, mercenaries out of others, and of those who were not part of their elite group, not even in the shadows are they mentioned. These were members of their beloved and novel revolution.

Their rhetoric is one of equality, yet those who surround them enjoy a level of prestige difficult to achieve. They play at showing solidarity with other peoples, while they trample on their own citizens…self-elected, with no regard for the wishes of their constituents…identified with power, owners of the Island, governing with an ideology that only they believe in…but supported by fellow-travellers, else they would not still be there.

Obsessed with the actions of successive presidents of the United States, to discredit them – and monitor their popularity – is part of their sense of aliveness.

Ready to cease existing when Nature decides, so go the whims of one-time youths who today are in their terminal phase. In the meantime, their legacy has elapsed – in caprice, and much political pride.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The profligate spending of Maduro and Chavez’s daughters

Garrincha in Yahoo Noticias:

Caricaturas Garrincha Venezuela

"Yesterday they wanted to rent my crown for a party at the presidential palace!"

“People to Sailfish” tours of Cuba, now apparently legal (Cuban-American proudly participates in Castro-regime’s Hemingway Billfish Tournament.)


Dr. Moisés Hernandez, (on far right, above) a Miami resident and the first Cuban-American to participate in a Hemingway tournament, fished aboard the boat that finished third in the Tag & Release category. At the awards ceremony, Dr. Hernandez thanked Commodore Escrich, noting that thanks to him he could now participate in the tournament. He added that, as the first to take part, he would join in the efforts of Commodore Escrich to make it possible for more Cubans living abroad to enjoy the great festival of sport fishing that will be the 65th tournament.

Again showing that restrictions on travel between the US and Cuba may be easing was the participation of a group of U.S. fishermen. They were there thanks to efforts by the Florida-Cuba Environmental Coalition, with which the Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba has entered into a partnership. The group received permission from the US Treasury Department to travel to Cuba and be present at the event.

This is first time the US government has granted a permit to US anglers to travel to Cuba, by air, for this event. The next step is to allow fishermen to sail aboard their yachts and participate in the 2015 tournament.

Four anglers from the Lighthouse Point Saltwater Sportsman Association carried a banner of partnership to Commodore Escrich. Accepting the banner, Commodore Escrich said he will work to bring more teams to the next tournament, from fishing clubs and associations worldwide.

This year’s event celebrated the life and work of the American writer Ernest Hemingway who, 60-years ago, received the Nobel Prize for Literature for his novel The Old Man and the Sea. The tournament also marked the 80th anniversary of Hemingway’s first crossing from Key West, Florida to Havana on his yacht Pilar.

Let's not judge him too harshly. Moises was probably making a last visit to his dying Abuelita, when at the last second he decided--oh what the heck!--I'm going fishing!


“Are all Cubans as strident as you are?” (Book TV to Babalusian at Miami Book Fair 2005)


Slow news day, gang. Alas, even after 8 years of "reforms" and "openings" and "rapproachement" blah...blah....I would not change a single word of my responses during this Book TV interview. Seen here:

Esquire names Miami the ‘true home’ of the Cuban sandwich, Tampa has a hissy fit

Good grief: From the same ridiculous folks who put salami in a Cuban sandwich, a lecture on the Cuban staple's origins. As far as I am concerned, the moment you violated a Cuban sandwich with a foreign meat product, you lost all authority to speak on the subject.

Michael Kruse in the Tampa Bay Times:

Esquire: The 'true home' of the Cuban sandwich is Miami

See the map?

I couldn't help but red-pen underline these words in the spread labeled "The United States of Sandwiches" in the September Esquire: Transported originally from Cuba to Tampa to feed cigar-factory workers, the Cubano found its true home in Miami, where the salty, sweet sandwich is an essential part of the late-night landscape.

The good, smart people who put together the top-tier men's mag do know they're wading straight into something of a perma-squabble, right?

In Miami, Arian Campo-Flores wrote earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal, debates over the sandwich can turn fiery — especially when it comes to the city's long-running rivalry with Tampa, which claims its version is the original. Cuban-cigar factory workers were eating it there at least as early as the 1920s, decades before the sandwich surfaced in Miami, said Andy Huse, a University of South Florida librarian who wrote a book on the subject. The main difference between the two: Tampa's has crustier bread and includes slices of salami.

NPR has called it the Cuban Sandwich Crisis.

Last time it flared up was a couple years back.

The city council in Tampa declared the "Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich" the municipality's signature sandwich. A resolution was pretty specific: three dill pickles, roasted marinated pork, real Cuban bread ... Genoa salami.

Miami scoffed.

"Salami is for pizza," the mayor said.

The Times' Sue Carlton's retort: Research indicates Tampa was making what we currently call the Cuban sandwich back in the cigarmaker days — before Miami was even Miami.

And that's true, according to Huse, a legitimate scholar of the sandwich. The Cuban sandwich, as Huse defines it, Jeff Klinkenberg wrote back in '06, based on his extensive research and interviews with sandwich-eating old-timers, was developed about a century ago, not in Havana, not in Key West, not in Miami, but in Ybor City.

"Miamians think they invented everything Cuban," Huse said then. "When Miami was hardly a gleam in an alligator's eye, we had a thriving community in Ybor."

The one thing everybody seems to agree on? Cuban sandwiches aren't as good as they used to be. Not enough pressing. Not the right kind of pressing. Lesser ham. No-good pork. Too many cooks fixin' what wasn't broke.

Esquire, by the way, in the current issue proposed a twist: "Our take uses mild Italian prosciutto cotto; a roasted pork butt rubbed with dried orange peel, which echoes the citrus juice in the original marinade; and slightly sweet potato rolls.

Yum? Or hmm?

Freedom in Cuba: Not AP, nor USAID, nor Investments, nor Cardinal, nor Reforms, nor Castro

Cuba's martyred opposition leader Oswaldo Paya speaks about what Cuba really needs: Freedom.

H/T Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo's Post Revolution Mondays: