Image of the Day – The photo Cuba’s Castros banned from the Havana Art Festival

This provocative picture by photographer Erick Coll is a perfect example of art imitating life. In this case, Coll’s art imitates life in Castro’s Cuba. Here, the Cuban people not only wipe themselves with the daily state-run newspapers in a figurative sense, the decades-long shortage of toilet paper in this Workers’ Paradise means they wipe themselves with it literally as well.

cuba-censura-fotografia

The image so well illustrates the misery of life in Castro’s Cuba that the aparthed dictatorship banned it from the Havana Art Festival.

Read more at PanAm Post.

Reports from Cuba: Books banned at Cuba’s Book Fair

(Note: This is the same “international book fair” in Cuba where as a guest of the totalitarian Castro regime, Margaret Atwood, author of the “The Handmaid’s Tale,” denounced Donald Trump as a harbinger of a dystopian America.)

By Roberto Quiñones in Translating Cuba:

Books Banned at Cuba’s Book Fair

como llego la noche matos
How Night Fell, Huber Matos – banned in Cuba

Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 10 February 2017 – The Havana International Book fair and its provincial offshoots would be more important events if there were debates where all Cuban intellectuals could participate without exclusions. But they are walled prosceniums where there is only room for writers who never raise their voices against any internal injustices. The discriminated and persecuted find solidarity in other parts of the world; here, no.

So it is not news – nor will be – that these uncomfortable writers are excluded from debates and even the Fair itself, if they do not fit the established molds for “docile wage earners of official thought,” a phrase from the Argentine guerrilla with a happy trigger finger and fierce hatreds.

Beyond the characteristics of the Fair, where there are more people eating and getting drunk than buying books and participating in cultural activities, I want to dwell on the intolerance of Cuban publishing policy.

“We do not tell the people to believe, we say read”

This phrase is from Fidel Castro and belongs to the earliest days of his totalitarian state. When the National Printing Company of Cuba issued a massive printing of “Don Quixote,” our country inaugurated a luminous time for culture by making available to readers, at very cheap prices, innumerable classics of universal literature. That effort, which is maintained, was and is praiseworthy, although it has also been marked by prohibitions and notorious absences.

Disciplines such as Philosophy, Sociology, Law, Politics and History did not receive the same attention as literature, and today, after 58 years of Castroism, authors and works of international prestige still have not yet been published because the censors are the ones who decide what we can read, and what is published must be consistent with the policy imposed by the regime. To this is added the justification that Cuba cannot pay copyright fees to the affected writers.

Among these, are the Chileans Roberto Bolaño and Isabel Allende, while Nobel laureates Octavio Paz and Mario Vargas Llosa, have been published very little, although perhaps the exclusion of the latter is due to his criticism of Castroism. Gabriele D’Annunzio, Aldous Huxley, Milan Kundera, Boris Pasternak and Alexander Solzhenitsin also appear in the waiting circle. William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” Robert Musil’s “The Man Without Attributes” and Vasili Grossman’s “Life and Destiny” have also not been published and still unknown in Cuban are Karl May, Enid Blyton, Albert Camus and Heinrich von Kleist while other authors are being re-published to exhaustion. And don’t even talk about contemporary European and American literature. I am writing from my declining memory, for if I consulted a book on the history of universal literature, the list would be immense.

Authors and texts with a strong democratic vocation remain unpublished here, although historical developments have proved them right. Within that extensive group are Simone Weil, Nikola Tesla and Wendell Berry. After little tirades made in 1960, not published again in Cuba are “The Great Scam” by Eudocio Ravines, “Anatomy of a Myth” by Arthur Koestler and “The New Class” by Milovan Djilas.

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Taxi drivers in Cuba go on strike in protest of price controls imposed by Castro regime

John Suarez reports in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Nonviolence: Taxi Drivers on strike in Cuba

Nonviolent protests against regime imposed price controls in Havana by cabbies

Taxi drivers on strike in Havana following imposition of price controls
Taxi drivers on strike in Havana following imposition of price controls

Taxi drivers in Havana, Cuba are protesting new onerous regulations by the Castro dictatorship that negatively impacts their livelihood by placing price controls against the cab drivers forcibly lowering their prices. It is a very old tactic by the regime to divide taxi drivers and their clients setting them against each other with regards to the costs of fares.

February 13th marked the fifth day of protests according to Cuban independent journalist Iván Hernández Carrillo over twitter. In a later tweet Carillo outlined the public threat made against taxi drivers by the Castro regime that threatened to cancel licenses, impose fines and confiscate means of transport if rules are violated.

International news coverage is reporting on this strike in Cuba that remains illegal but spontaneously emerges among Cuban workers who feel exploited.. Although a so-called “workers state” the communist dictatorship in on the island prohibits the freedom of workers to strike. Nevertheless there have been other nonviolent strikes in Cuba resisting oppressive edicts by the Castro dictatorship involving transportation in 2010 in Bayamo and 2012 in Banes.

Continue reading HERE.

‘Everything is going to be very different’: Shut out by Obama, Cuban American lawmakers regain access to White House

For the eight years of the Obama administration, Cuban American lawmakers who were against coddling Cuba’s murderously repressive Castro dictatorship were shut out of the White House. President Obama pushed through his agenda to abandon Cuba’s courageous dissidents and embrace the apartheid regime with zero input from the very people in congress who represent the majority of Cuban Americans. Under a Trump administration, however, that has all changed. Or as U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) says, “Everything is going to be very different.”

The Associated Press via The Miami Herald:

Anti-Castro Cuban-American lawmakers see a champion in Trump

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Cuban-American lawmakers from Florida helped shape U.S. relations with the island for years until they found themselves on the outside during a historic thaw in relations.

But they could be getting the upper hand on Cuba policy again under President Donald Trump with a possible return to an earlier, more hard-line U.S. stance toward relations with Cuba’s government.

“We have had more conversations with high-level Trump officials than we had in eight years of the Obama administration,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, one of a handful of Republican members of Congress from Florida who long had an outsized role on U.S. foreign policy related to Cuba.

What Diaz-Balart and other Cuban-American lawmakers hope is that their renewed access to the U.S. government under Trump’s leadership will help them reverse the steps taken by President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro to normalize relations between the two countries.

“Everything is going to be very different,” predicted Rep. Carlos Curbelo, another Miami-area Republican who said he felt shut out under Obama.

The congressional delegation from South Florida, home to the largest number of Cuban-Americans in the nation, was long able to help craft U.S. policy toward the island. They had hoped to continue isolating the Castro government and both Democrat and Republican politicians went along, at least in part.

Diaz-Balart recalled that under President George W. Bush he and other Cuban-Americans persuaded the administration to grant travel visas and asylum to Cuban doctors working overseas, helping drive a brain drain from the island.

“When something came up, we could call and they responded to us immediately,” he said.

But that changed under Obama, who Diaz-Balart said refused to meet with him as the administration used executive orders to lift some restrictions on travel, trade and investment and ended the so-called “wet-foot, dry foot” policy that allowed Cubans to stay and apply for legal residency if they reached U.S. soil.

Diaz-Balart and other Cuban-American lawmakers want U.S. policy to return to where things were before December 2014, citing what he says is the Castro government’s “brutal oppression.” Curbelo agrees about the return to earlier policies but does not oppose the easing of restrictions on travel that allow Cuban-Americans to more easily visit family back home.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, another Florida delegation member, declined to speak to The Associated Press but recently forwarded a letter to the Trump administration calling for a policy focused on “freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights” that enforces sanctions written into U.S. law. Sen. Marco Rubio, who also declined an interview request, has criticized what he calls Obama’s “failed Cuba policy,” and recently said he expected Trump would reverse the previous administration’s order halting the asylum program for doctors.

Continue reading HERE.

U.S. Treasury sanctions Venezuela’s drug-trafficking vice-president with terrorist ties

What a difference a presidential administration makes. While the Obama administration looked the other way at the chaos in Venezuela and the threats it imposed to regional stability and security, the Trump administration is wasting no time in addressing the situation. You can argue all day along if you want about whether or not Trump knows what he is doing. But no one can offer an honest argument that Obama’s hands-off, head in the sand approach to the threats Venezuela’s impending collapse posed to the U.S. and the Western Hemisphere was the right strategy.

Via U.S.A. Today:

U.S. sanctions Venezuelan vice president on drug trafficking

Tareck El Aissami
Tareck El Aissami

The Trump administration imposed sanctions Monday against Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, accusing him of playing a significant role in international drug trafficking.

The Treasury Department has been investigating El Aissami for years over his alleged relations with Venezuela’s largest convicted drug trafficker and a Middle Eastern militant group, resulting in the decision to designate him a narcotics trafficker under the federal “Kingpin Act.”

The department said he orchestrated drug shipments from a Venezuelan air base and multiple seaports, some weighing more than 2,200 pounds per shipment.

The department also sanctioned Samark Lopez Bello, a Venezeulan businessman accused of being El Aissami’s frontman. Lopez Bello helped launder money through a network of 13 companies in the U.S., Venezuela, Panama, the British Virgin Islands and the United Kingdom.

Treasury officials would not comment on whether the Justice Department will seek indictments against the two men. But the sanctions include freezing all their U.S.-based assets, which include a twin-engine Gulfstream jet, and blocking all their U.S.-based companies and properties. The pair controlled tens of millions of dollars in Miami real estate alone, a senior Treasury Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the case.

Under the sanctions, the two men are forbidden from traveling to the United States, and people in the U.S. are prohibited from conducting transactions with them or the companies they controlled.

The Treasury official said the operation was years in the planning but did not say whether President Trump signed off on the sanctions before they were implemented.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., called the sanctions “long overdue.”

“They signal a fundamental step in charting a positive role the United States can continue to play given the deteriorating crisis in Venezuela,” they said in a statement.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said similar sanctions should be enacted against other members of the government headed by President Nicolás Maduro.

“For years, I’ve talked about how Venezuelan regime officials are committing crimes in Venezuela, stealing from the Venezuelan people and then spending their riches in the lap of luxury in Miami,” Rubio said. “Today’s announcement further confirms how true this is.”

The Treasury Department said El Aissami had a long history of running drug networks and helping drug cartels operating in the country. Prior to being named executive vice president last month, El Aissami served as governor for Venezuela’s Aragua state and was the country’s minister of interior and justice.

In those roles, he helped convicted drug kingpin Walid Makled Garcia operate his international drug network, the Treasury Department said. El Aissami also helped coordinate drug shipments to cartels in Colombia and Mexico, the department said.

See video report HERE.

Reports from Cuba: Cubans wanting to emigrate see United States as first option

Ivan Garcia in Translating Cuba:

Cubans Wanting To Emigrate See The United States As First Option

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There are few things that spontaneously bring Cubans on the island together. For example, if the provincial team is crowned champion in the national baseball series, where, in between the infamous beer and a noisy reggaeton, in Communist Party-arranged pachangas, people celebrate at the tops of their voices.

It’s also a desire to live as well as possible in a country with the lowest salary in the third world and things for sale at the same price as in Qatar. And, God willing, to be able to travel abroad.

It’s all the same if it is for business, or a government mission, or an invitation from a relative, a friend, or a future fiancé or fiancée living in Europe. To emigrate for a fixed period of time or permanently, is an almost permanent plan on the part of many unmotivated young people or professionals who earn less than a hotel porter.

A wide cross-section of the Cuban population has it stuck in their imagination, like a postage stamp, that some foreign country ought to sort out their national disaster.

Instinctively and shamelessly, the government, Cubans in the street, trained intellectuals and dissidents, act the victim, and blame the mess on the trade embargo, the global crisis, tropical hurricanes, or the lack of help from the United States.

Any situation is held responsible for the economy not growing, not enough houses being built, the disaster area that is urban transport and waste collection and that the internet is not available everywhere.

With new measures adopted jointly by the White House and the Palace of the Revolution, abolishing the wet-foot/dry-foot policy, an inconsistent policy that Clinton enacted in 1994 which allowed Cubans who “touched dry ground” in the US to stay, the majority of Cubans have vented their anger at Barack Obama.

Let’s analyse it. Obama is a liar. He cannot publicly announce that certain migration laws exclusive to Cubans will not be changed, and then eight days before the end of his mandate, changed them.

And it isn’t that Barack is mistaken. No. He is right. Each sovereign nation designs its immigration regulations as it sees fit. The privileges for Cubans were at the very least counterproductive.

If being born in a country with a dictatorial communist government, where founding other political parties and the freedom of the press are prohibited, is a force majeure for the state which is the world’s greatest receiver of immigrants to offer an opportunity to Cubans, then it should not take any half-measures, and should defend its enacted legislation according to its ethical principles.

Democracy, opportunity and human rights are part of the pillars of American society. They should not find it difficult to safeguard them. Although, in the case of migration, it should be monitored.

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If you are not helping the victims of Castroism in Cuba, you are complicit in their oppression

Mario Penton in 14yMedio (translation by Translating Cuba):

“Those Who Do Not Help the Victims of Castro-ism Are Complicit in the Oppression,” says Rocio Monasterio

Rocio Monasterio, a Cuban living in Spain who became popular after starring in a televised debate at the end of November in which she confronted Castro supporters about the legacy of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, gave a talk Friday in Miami about her ideological platform and her aspirations for Cuba’s future.

This 43-year old Cuban with parents from Cienfuegos and a member of the (conservative) Vox Party in Spain defends the family and liberty as supreme values. She is a passionate speaker who strongly criticizes the Cuban government and condemns those politicians disposed to dialogue with Havana.

“Cuba raised a big wall in 1959. Since then night fell on the country, the search for liberty was interrupted. Unfortunately, 60 years later, Cubans are still in the shadows and we don’t see a light that illuminates our homeland. All those who live in Cuba are imprisoned,” she said before emphasizing, “When we see a brother imprisoned we have to do everything possible to help him.”

An architect by profession, Monasterio decided to go into politics as a result of the loss of values that, in her judgement, Spanish society has experienced. She joined Vox as a way of giving voice to hundreds of Spaniards who do not agree with the relaxation of policies by the Popular Party, currently in power, an organization to which she delivered her vote every year but about which she is singularly critical.

“It is extraordinary that a Hispanic Cuban can speak to Cuban Americans in Miami. We are united by the Hispanic phenomenon,” she said.

About those who opt for investment in Cuba in order to foster an emerging middle class that in the future will be able to demand political changes, Monasterio asserts that those politicians and businessmen are “soothing their conscience for collaborating with the regime.”

“It is being shown that investment in Cuba is nothing more than supporting Castro-ism,” she adds.

As an alternative to totalitarianism, Monasterio proposes Hispanic values.

“We have inherited from Spain the Christian values that are society’s foundation: equality, defense of freedom, right to life, belief in the individual and in his individual responsibility, also the family as a fundamental value of society. All this is this based in freedom,” she said.

One point that she emphasized was the relationship between the European Union, above all Spain, and the Cuban Government. For the Hispanic Cuban, the credibility of the institutions and the parties that negotiate with Raul Castro are in jeopardy.

“In the collective imagination of Spain, Cuba is the most beloved. The relationship of both countries is that of brotherhood,” said Monasterio. Nevertheless, she characterized as “a great betrayal” the normalization of relations without a single word about human rights violations on the Island.

“Those today who do not help the victims of Castro-ism are accomplices in the oppression and contribute to the perpetuation of night in Cuba, a night that has already lasted too many years,” she added.

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Cuba’s apartheid regime fears future slave shortage, tries to increase birthrate

The 11-million slaves in Cuba owned by the apartheid Castro dictatorship is the main source of revenue for the Castro family. However, living in squalor and misery as slaves of a brutally repressive regime offers little incentive for Cubans to bring a child into such a life. For decades, the birthrate in Cuba has been falling and this situation is exacerbated by the tens of thousands of slaves who manage to escape every year. With the prospect of a slave shortage looming on the horizon, Havana’s slave masters are doing everything they can to induce their slaves to have babies.

Via The Miami Herald:

Cuba wants more babies, so it’s giving parental leave to grandparents, too

pregnant cuban women

Cuba is giving parental leave to the grandparents of newborns, the country’s latest attempt to reverse its sagging birthrate and defuse a demographic time bomb.

The island already has one of the most generous parental leave policies in the Americas, allowing mothers and fathers to take more than a year off from work at partial pay. The new decree extends those benefits to maternal and paternal grandparents.

But so far, such attempts haven’t brought any sort of Cuban baby boom.

The island of 11 million has one of the lowest fertility rates in the Western Hemisphere, with 1.7 births per woman. There are several factors that explain this figure, but they mostly come down to a combination of effective socialist medical care and a dysfunctional state-run economy.

Cuba’s healthcare system makes contraceptives widely available, and abortions are available on demand. At the same time, Cuban women are a growing portion of the country’s professional workforce, and many choose to delay motherhood until their late 30s, often because they don’t have the financial means to care for children.

The island of 11 million has one of the lowest fertility rates in the Western Hemisphere.

It’s hardly the only demographic problem that Cuba faces: Some 60,000 to 80,000 Cubans emigrate each year, many of them young people looking for better opportunities in the United States, Europe, and Latin America.

Continue reading HERE.

Cuba’s Ladies in White beaten, 45 arrested in another Sunday of violent repression

State Security thugs set up over the weekend to beat and arrest Ladies in White on Sunday.
State Security thugs set up over the weekend to beat and arrest Ladies in White on Sunday. (Photo: Angel Moya)

After kicking off 2017 with hundreds of violent arrests in January, Cuba’s repressive apartheid dictatorship is well on its way to keep the same pace of brutality in February. In another Sunday of violent repression, 45 Ladies in White were arrested with some of them mercilessly beaten by Cuban State Security thugs.

These are the same dissidents President Obama abandoned when he chose to embrace and support the viciously brutal apartheid Castro regime. Obama’s unilateral concessions and appeasement of the Cuban dictatorship has served only to empower and embolden them to be more violent and oppressive. It is now up to his successor, President Trump, to deal with the mess he left behind in Cuba.

Via Diario de Cuba (my translation):

Some 45 Ladies in White arrested in Havana and Matanzas

According to sources from the dissident group, some 45 Ladies in White were arrested this Sunday by State Security forces that carried out operations at various locations in Havana and Matanzas.

In the capital, Ivon Lemus reported that some 25 women were apprehended upon leaving their homes or attempting to reach the group’s headquarters to participate in the #TodosMarchamos (We all march) campaign.

This afternoon, the leader of the women’s group Berta Soler and her husband, former prisoner of conscience from the Group of 75, Angel Moya, were both arrested when they stepped out of the headquarters to participate in the protest.

Soler had also been detained on Saturday when she tried to intervene in the arrest Hildaris Perez, another activist.

“Hildaris was trying to come into the headquarters but State Security agents – two women and one man from the police – were beating her. They grabbed her by the neck and slammed her up against a police car. Berta went outside and she too was beaten up and arrested,” said Lemus.

In Matanzas, Leticia Ramos Herreria reported the arrest of 18 women in Colon, Cardenas, Aguada de Pasajero, and Jovellanos. Approximately 14 of them were able to make it to church services.

Tania Echevarria Menendez de Colon “was threatened by an agent named Richard David who told her that if she continued to be a member of the Ladies in White, she was going to be arrested and sentenced to prison time,” said Ramos Herreria.

When she is arrested on Sundays, “Tania demands her right as a Catholic to attend mass. Their response is that her actions are disorderly conduct and contempt against the authorities,” she explained.

“They want to intimidate the women with violence so they will quit our movement,” said Ramos Herreria. She indicated that Maritza Acosta Perdomo, another Lady in White in Colon, was also threatened with imprisonment.

Continue reading (in Spanish) HERE.

Video: Funeral for refugee who committed suicide when he was deported back to Cuba turns into a protest

A funeral procession in Cuba for a Cuban refugee who committed suicide after being deported back to Cuba when he escaped on a raft turned into a protest against the Castro dictatorship. The family of the 19-year-old victim blames his death of the Cuban government.


H/T @PatriaOrgullosa

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Reports from Cuba: Informers approved by the Cuban government

By Ivan Garcia in Translating Cuba:

Informers Approved by the Cuban Government

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CDR Billboard: In Every Neighborhood, CDR 8th Congress. United, Vigilant and Fighting

Seven years ago, when the roar of the winds of a hurricane devastated Havana and the water filtered through the unglazed living room door of Lisvan, a private worker living in an apartment of blackened walls which urgently needed comprehensive repairs, his housing conditions did not interest the snitches on the block where he lives.

“When I began to be successful in my business and I could renovate the apartment, from doing the electrical system, plumbing, new flooring, painting the rooms to putting grills on the windows and the balcony, the complaints began. What is, in any other country, a source of pride that a citizen can leave his poverty behind and improve his quality of life, is, in Cuba, something that, for more than a few neighbours, arouses both resentment and envy so that it leads them to make anonymous denunciations”, says Lisvan.

So many years of social control by the regime has transformed some Cubans into hung-up people with double standards. “And shameless too,” adds Lisvan. And he tells me that “two years ago, when I was putting in a new floor, my wife brought me the ceramic tiles in a truck from her work, authorized by her boss. But a neighbor, now in a wheelchair and almost blind, called the DTI to denounce me, accusing me of trafficking in construction materials.”

Luckily, Lisvan had the documents for the tiles, bought in convertible pesos at a state “hard currency collection store” — as such establishments are formally called. But the complaint led to them taking away the car his wife was driving. In the last few days, while he was having railings put across his balcony, to guard against robberies, a neighbor called Servilio complained to the Housing Office that he was altering the façade of the building, and to the electric company for allegedly using the public electricity supply. Lisvan ended by telling me that “It all backfired on him, because everything was in order, and the inspectors involved gave me the phone number of the complainant, who, being a coward, had done it anonymously.”

According to Fernando, a police instructor, anonymous complaints are common in the investigation department where he works. “Thanks to these allegations we started to embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars in the United States.

“People report anything — a party that seems lavish, someone who bought beef on the black market or a person who drinks beer every day and doesn’t work. It’s crazy. Snitching in Cuba is sometimes taken to extremes.”

When you ask him what is behind the reports, he avoids the question.

“Because of envy or just a habit of denouncing. These people are almost always resentful and frustrated and tend to be hard up and short of lots of things. And not infrequently the complainant also commits illegal acts,” admits the police instructor.

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