Hope and Change in Obama’s Cuba: Two of the island’s top baseball players defect

Since Obama instituted his policy of Hope and Change towards Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship to “empower” the Cuban people, all they want to do is empower themselves the hell out of that Castro hellhole.

Via Fox Sports:

Two of Cuba’s top players reportedly defect to pursue MLB career

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Yulieski Gurriel playing with the Cuban national team.

Two of Cuba’s top baseball players are believed to have defected from Cuba to pursue a career in Major League Baseball.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr., 22, and Yulieski Gurriel, 31, who are brothers, defected from Cuba’s Ciego de Avila team following the Caribbean Series that concluded Sunday, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez — first reported by Miami’s El Nuevo Herald.

Lourdes is considered Cuba’s top prospect, while his brother Yulieski is considered the island nation’s top player. Both have repeatedly expressed a desire to legally leave the country with permission from the Cuban government with tensions easing between them and the United States.

Yulieski was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 1 player remaining in Cuba. As one of the nation’s most decorated players, he was an Olympian in 2004 and has represented Cuba in all three World Baseball Classic tournaments. He has been part of Cuban championship teams at the Pan American Games, Central American Games, World Baseball Championships, International Cup and Caribbean Series. He is considered major-league ready, and possibly could find a spot on a MLB roster this season. Playing mostly third base, he has been a career .333/.414/.577 hitter during his professional career.

Yulieski was recently allowed by the Cuban government to play in Nippon Professional Baseball batting .305/.349/.536 with 11 home runs in 62 games for the Yokohama Bay Stars.

Continue reading HERE.

Top 10 Croquetas in Miami

Some of these I may not agree with and others I have never heard of or tried, but BurgerBeast definitely, without a doubt, got #1 down correctly!

Top 10 Croquetas in Miami

I have eaten enough Croquetas in my lifetime to fill a Cruise ship. I’d say I love a good 99% of them, even the kind you find in Frozen Food Aisle at your local Supermarket. Picking 10 was difficult so I threw in an extra Croqueta that I recently have become enamored with. What’s your Top 10 Croqueta List? I’d love to hear them.

Top 10 Croquetas in South Florida:

11) Tasca de España (Westchester): Yes I know. This is supposed to be a Top 10 list but I couldn’t help myself, I needed to throw in an extra one. These Chorizo Croquetas from Tasca de España are just so creamy that I couldn’t resist.

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Tasca De España Croquetas

10) La Carreta (Westchester): Not all Croquetas from La Carreta are created equal, in this case, it’s a fact. La Carreta located at the Pots & Pan mecca of Westchester serves different Croquetas than at other locations, why? Beats me, all I know is the Croqueta at this particular location is way better than the one in Little Havana or elsewhere.

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La Carreta Croquetas

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: There isn’t enough beer for so many ‘Yumas’

By Zunilda Mata in Translating Cuba:

There Isn’t Enough Beer For So Many ‘Yumas’

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14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Viñales and Havana, 6 February 2016 – First they ran out of water bottles, then packaged juices became scarce, and now it is difficult to find fresh fruit. This is how a hostess of tourist rooms in Viñales describes the situation there with the significant increase of tourism in Cuba and the problems of supplies.

During 2015, 3,524,779 foreign visitors arrived on the island, according to the latest official figures, an increase of some 17.4% over the prior year. However, the number of hotel rooms and private homes offering accommodation has not grown just as quickly. Other services, such as airports, food services and transportation, have also appeared to be overwhelmed by the flood.

The beautiful valley of Viñales, with its attractive mogotes and range of nature tourism, has experienced months of great demand. “Now we have more tourists here than locals,” exaggerates Paco, an 81-year-old who owns a house near the well-known Indian Cave. From his doorway he can see the incessant caravan of buses that brings visitors to the beautiful underground attraction.

“Before I sat down here,” he notes from his wooden armchair, “I saw at least ten To one side of his house, a family that owns a private restaurant reinforces Paco’s view. “We are struggling to maintain our menu, because between the shortages and the number of tourists that are coming it’s getting very difficult,” says Zoila, the restaurant’s cook.

The market stalls show the effects of the increased demand. Every day 5,000 tourists visit Viñales, slightly more than one-sixth of the number of residents. They come looking for products like fresh fruit, lobster, shrimp, rum, beer and, of course, the local tobacco. “Sometimes we have to go to other towns to find papayas and oranges for breakfast,” says a woman who rents rooms to tourists.

She acknowledges, however, that she is “happy” with the surge of visitors. “Bring more, we’re profiting,” she repeats a very popular phrase exuding optimism, although she would like to improve the town’s infrastructure, “to solve these bottlenecks.”

There are 60 private sector restaurants in the Viñales valley with a high demand for vegetables, fruits and meats. A good share of them are supplied by the illegal market and buy directly from the farmers. “We only have imported beer,” says a sign outside one private restaurant. The local beers, Cristal and Bucanero “are not available because the ‘yumas’ [foreigners] arrive very thirsty,” a waiter comments jokingly.

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Time to put your foot down on Cuba’s dictatorship, Mr. Obama

The Editorial Board of The Miami Herald:

This time, put your foot down, Mr. Obama

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Well into the “Republicans be damned” phase of his second term, President Obama this week touched a third rail — and lived; he visited a mosque, a move that for years he had wanted to make, but never had, likely aware of the fallout.

With less than a year left in his administration, and with the spotlight falling on the candidates vying for his comfy chair in the Oval Office, he made the first-ever stop, in Baltimore, in support of beleaguered Muslim Americans. He hardly created a news splash, but made a powerful statement.

Now, Mr. Obama likely has another controversial visit on his presidential bucket list where he can make another statement of affirmation.

It’s a trip to Cuba, just 90 miles away from South Florida. There is not a whiff of White House confirmation, but rumblings continue that he’s toying with the idea of making a historic visit, possibly in March.

This much is true: He shouldn’t represent the United States on the island without gaining some real concessions from Raúl Castro’s regime. For real this time.

In anticipation of the possible visit, which will likely make headlines around the world, Cuban dissidents have asked the president to make his visit contingent on a list of conditions.

They request that he ask that there be an “immediate cessation of repression” for those who oppose the Cuban government; that amnesty be granted to political prisoners; that the U.S. president be allowed to meet with representatives of the opposition, according to a statement from dissidents obtained by El Nuevo Herald.

The Forum for Rights and Freedoms said in its online page that Mr. Obama’s visit should be a catalyst for improvement of human rights on the island. After all, wasn’t that the goal of reestablishing diplomatic ties?

Back in December 2014 when the president called for an end to a half-century of hostility, the justification was to “unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans.”

Today there’s little evidence that much has changed in Cuba, except for an influx of tourism dollars because travel restrictions have eased. In fact, detentions have spiked in recent months. The state continues to monopolize radio, television and newspapers, and Cubans continue to flee to the United States by the thousands, via Central America.

Continue reading HERE.

Cuba in waiting: Capitalism (and reforms) have not arrived

And while Obama continues to support and finance Cuba’s viciously repressive and corrupt Castro regime, the Cuban people will continue to wait.

Louis Nevaer in Highbrow Magazine:

Cuba in Waiting: Capitalism (and Reforms) Have Not Arrived

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Havana—Six months after the United States and Cuba resumed full diplomatic relations, the expectation that the resumption of ties would encourage changes in Cuban society has not been met.

On the contrary, the Raúl Castro’s regime has increased arbitrary arrests of dissidents and brutal attacks on the Ladies in White, a pacifist group of wives and mothers of the arrested who march through the streets dressed in white and in silence, dampening hopes of the exhausted Cuban nation that change would finally arrive.

The early entrepreneurs who set up business—taking advantage of the legalization of those who would work on their own, the cuentapropistas—are faltering.

While their numbers are on the rise, there is mounting frustration that reforms have not been implemented that would allow them to flourish.

“We have no access to loans of any kind,” said Jaime Martínez, an engineer by training who is a driver for hire today. “The most I can make is just me driving my car for one day.”

The list of complaints is long: no access to small business loans, the inability to hire workers, lack of access to information (Internet), and capricious tax rules (and payoffs to officials).

The result is a Cuba in waiting.

“It’s not possible to speak what we every Cuban thinks,” the owner of one of the most popular paladar, or private restaurant, said. “We are waiting for the day it is announced that Raúl and Fidel have died. Only then will Cuba start a new chapter.”

Continue reading HERE.

Cuba: Dozens of peaceful human rights activists arrested by U.S.-backed regime on 40th Sunday of repression

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Over 40 human rights and democracy activists were violently arrested yesterday in Cuba as they bravely carried out the 40th Sunday of peaceful protest marches on the island in a campaign they call “We All March.” Violent mobs organized by the Obama-backed apartheid Castro dictatorship descended upon the protesters, ripping their signs from their hands and physically attacking them.

This is the 40th example of Obama’s Hope and Change in Cuba and while the president’s policy of embracing and supporting Cuba’s brutally repressive apartheid regime remains in place, there are many more to come.

Diario de Cuba has the report (my translation):

Dozens of activists and Ladies in White beaten and arrested on the 40th Sunday of  #TodosMarchamos

According to reports from activists, this Sunday the regime arrested dozens of dissidents and Ladies in White in Havana and Oriente to prevent them from participating in the #TodosMarchamos (We all march) campaign. This was the 40th week the campaign takes to the streets demanding amnesty for political prisoners.

Information provided to DIARIO DE CUBA by Ladies in White Aliuska Gomez and Yamile Garro report 24 women and another 22 activists participating in the march were arrested.

– Read the entire report HERE

Uncommon Sense has more coverage HERE.

Cuba, Burma, and Obama

Antonio Rodiles in Diario de Cuba:

Cuba, Burma and Obama

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More than a year after the announcement of the restoration of relations between the US government and the regime in Havana, it remains to be seen what direction our island’s political and economic scenario will take.

The Administration of President Barack Obama has drawn up and is following through on a broad agenda full of concessions to the regime, without asking for or receiving anything in return, for the United States or the Cuban people.

It is important to note that the violation of the Cuban people’s political, civil, economic and social rights is covered by the existing judicial and legal system, which limits, by law, the implementation of any measure that might favor us.

The US government has validated the Castro regime as a political actor, even managing for internal and external sectors, ostensibly in the opposition, to accept this premise and generate strategies based on it.

The agenda features a certain logic and points coinciding with that adopted towards Burma, though the Cuban regime is unwilling to take even initial steps. It is important to point out that the influence and scopes of the two dictatorships, especially in the international arena, have been very different, as are the environments in which they developed.

One of the elements that makes the Cuban case peculiar is the existence of a community of exiles just 90 miles away, wielding considerable human, political and financial capital, which the regime observes with great trepidation. It is hardly surprising, then, that in recent times it has focused not only on trying to exploit, as a parasite, but to seek agents and areas of influence to control, or at least handcuff it. No political or social dynamic, in the present or the future of the island, can be effective if it ignores the role of Cuba’s exiles.

In line with the Burmese case, some propose an electoral process in Cuba as a possible road to democracy, even under an iron-fisted totalitarian regime. But pursuing an electoral process in this scenario would end up legitimizing those in power and their successors, at least in the medium term, and would also leave in their hands all the economic power and networks of influence for a new political era. Validating neo-Castroism is utterly at odds with fostering a society based on the rule of law.

The potential visit of President Obama to our island appears to be approached in terms similar to the first one he made to the Asian country. In that case the president met with the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who on many occasions has been criticized for being soft on human rights violations. He also met briefly with other representatives of civil society. The visit drew sharp criticism from dissenters, like former political prisoner Aung Din, who pointed to it as an act legitimizing the regime.

There is serious concern that a trip by the US president to Cuba would only give neo-Castroism a shot in the arm. While the president has publicly stated that he wants to meet with different sectors of Cuban society, we get the impression that the opposition, especially that which does not share the current Administration’s agenda, could be given the cold shoulder, as has happened on other occasions.

The inclusion within civil society of the self-employed, artists, intellectuals and others, who remain under the regime’s total control, is part of an attempt, in many cases successful, to dilute and muffle a clear and direct message denouncing the daily excesses and abuses committed on the island daily.

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: How a Havana couple lives on Cuban pesos

By Ivan Garcia:

How a Havana Couple Lives on Cuban Pesos

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In the large commercial centers of Havana, whether Carlos III, Galerias Paseo or the at Avenida Boyeros and Camagüey Street, you will not find families like Yesenia and Sergio.

In these ’shoppings’ or hard currency stores, a no-name plasma TV costs 399 CUC, or 10,000 Cuban pesos at the exchange rate of one Convertible peso (CUC) for twenty Cuban pesos (CUP). A juicer costs 219 CUC, or 5,475 Cuban pesos, and a food processor 118 CUC, which is 2,900 Cuban pesos in the devalued national currency.

Between them, Yesenia and Sergio earn 1,800 Cuban pesos a month, about 43 CUC. That amount of money does not allow them to buy modern appliances or a third generation computer. They can’t even sit in a state-run bar and have a beer together.

Six years ago they married, and in 2015 she gave birth to a boy, now about to celebrate his first birthday. This is not about two lazy people subsidized by the State, or people with no skills.

Sergio is a civil engineer and Yesenia graduated in art history. They live in a two-bedroom apartment in La Vibora neighborhood, in the southern part of Havana. At their respective jobs, neither has resorted to “inventing” (that is stealing State resources). Nor do they have family in Miami sending them 100 dollars every month.

How do they manage to make ends meet? Let’s look at this couple’s daily life.

Sergio gets paid on the 10th and Yesenia on the 22nd. Meanwhile, on the national television news the presenters describe in detail statistics and production figures for an economy that never stops growing, but the couple doesn’t even notice. They are two busy doing their accounts on a Chinese-made calculator.

“We have a budget of 250 Cuban pesos a week. And 80 pesos for incidentals. We pay 60-80 pesos a month for electricity. The home appliances we have are a Chinese-made Panda TV (ancient, with cathode tubes), two fans, a fridge, blender, rice cooker, iron and an old Russian washing machine,” says Sergio.

He explains that to save electricity, “we only use the rice cooker once a day — it uses a lot of electricity. I’m always at my wife not to leave the lights on. What we use the most is the TV, because there are not many opportunities for recreation, we are always glued to the TV.”

According to the National Bureau of Statistics and Information (ONEI), the average monthly salary in 2014 was 584 Cuban pesos, 197 pesos more than 2006, when it was 387. In 2015 it “grew” to 600 Cuban pesos.

But the nominal growth of government wages hasn’t kept up with the purchasing power of this income, because prices have risen over the same period. ONEI statistics include interesting data about the wage distribution in Cuba.

In 8 of the 16 provinces, the workers have an average salary below the national average: Isla de la Juventud (530), Santiago de Cuba (540), Guantánamo (548), Artemisa (551), Mayabeque (553), Granma (565), Camagüey (566) y Holguín (575).

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Video of the Day – What Cubans on the island think of Rubio, Cruz, and Trump

yusnaby republicans 2016

Some “revolutionary” Cubans on the island succinctly express the opinions of the Castro dictatorship regarding the Republican presidential primary field.

(Spoiler Alert: They [meaning the apartheid Castro regime] desperately want Hillary to be the next president).

Via Yusnaby Post:


Cuba Republicans Fusion HD by yusnaby

Cuba remains one of the worse places to be a reporter on planet Earth

John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Cuba remains one of the worse places to be a reporter on planet Earth

Cuba is ranked #169 out of 180 countries in the Reporter Without Borders 2015 World Press Freedom Index with a score of 70.21

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Reporters Without Borders offered the following analysis in their 2015 report

Freedom of information is extremely limited in Cuba, which is ranked lower in the index than any other country in the Americas. The government tolerates no independent press. Internet access is restricted and tightly controlled. The authorities continue to cite the US embargo as the reason for the low Internet penetration but the activation of Cuba’s ALBA-1 fibre-optic cable with Venezuela proves that it has more to do with a political desire to control the Internet. In addition to the lack of media pluralism, outspoken journalists and bloggers are still subjected to threats, smears, arrest and arbitrary detention. Does the announcement by Cuba and the United States of an historic agreement to restore diplomatic relations offer a ray of hope for Cuban journalists?”

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Cuba, through rose-colored lenses

By Yoani Sanchez in The Miami Herald:

Cuba, through rose-colored lenses

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Sometimes I wish I lived in the country they show on television. This hopeful nation of rose-colored dreams presented by the official press. A place of props and slogans, where factory production exceeds goals and employees are declared “workplace heroes.” In this Cuba, bouncing off the antennas to reach our small screens, there is no room for sickness, pain, frustration or impatience.

The official Cuban press has tried to approach the country’s reality in recent years. Several young faces appear on TV programs to report on administrative negligence, poor services or consumer complaints about bureaucratic paperwork. But even still, state journalism continues to be a long way from objectivity and respect for the truth.

Television, radio and newspapers are maintained under strict monopoly of the Communist Party, and not only because they are ideologically subordinated, but also because they are financed from the state coffers — money that belongs to all Cubans — money that they use to sustain a biased editorial line that does not reflect the national complexity.

The topics covered by the journalists of this partisan press represent the interests of an ideology and a group in power, not of the entire country. They never dare, for example, in their reporting, to question the authorities, nor the current political system, nor the organs of State Security nor the activities of the police, among other taboo subjects.

However, where the official press most betrays the precepts of balance and impartial information is in the testimonies they broadcast, in the voices they give space to and the opinions they express. By the grace of journalistic censorship, access to the microphone is granted only to those who agree with the government and applaud the actions of its leaders.

They never interview someone with a different opinion, or someone who believes the country should take other political or economic paths. Unanimity continues to fill the front pages and the news broadcasts, although for a long time now loud dissent has been heard on buses, in stores, in the hallways of institutions and even in classrooms.

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: The school for others

By Luz Escobar in Translating Cuba:

The School for Others

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14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 2 February 2016 — She is not wearing a uniform, she is not carrying a bag with snacks, nor does she have a kerchief tied around her neck. However, at nine years of age, Malena is on her way to school, a learning center for the children of diplomats where she has been able to register with her parents’ economic means and a Spanish passport – a legacy from her grandmother.

Cuban education is no longer the same for everyone. There are classrooms where students enjoy unlimited internet connection, air conditioning and new furniture. In the dining halls, the menu is varied, vegetables are plenty and it is common to hear a child talk about how he or she spent the weekend at the exclusive Cayo Coco resort or that his or her dad got a new truck.

Founded more than forty years ago, the Havana International School was originally designed for the children of ambassadors and consular personnel. In the 1990s, the children of foreigners working for joint venture firms arrived, but as of a few years back Cubans who can afford the high tuition fees and show a foreign passport have appeared.

As opposed to public schools where material resources are scarce and the deficit of teachers increases, the International School on 18th Street in Havana’s exclusive Miramar neighborhood, has a library, a multimedia center and a playground. The waiting list of those interested in working at this attractive place would be enough to fill all the empty positions in primary and secondary classrooms throughout the country.

To register a child in the International School or the Spanish Education Center of Havana, near the Aquarium in Miramar and founded in 1986, you must show documents that confirm you are a foreigner. A condition that up to a few years ago was exclusive to the children of diplomats, but that now is shared by the offspring of returned émigrés and those naturalized as Spaniards through the Spain’s Grandchildren Law, like Malena.

Registration requires showing the student’s previous test results and a willingness to pay the tuition. A year in the first few grades of elementary education can cost between $4,000 and $10,450, from kindergarten to fifth grade.

Despite the high fees, there are Cubans who can afford this amount to avoid sending their kids to public school. Among them are those who, after living long years abroad, refuse to accept the ideologized Cuban education. “Our girl was born in Madrid and is not used to any of those things you see in schools here,” the mother of a teenager who attends secondary school at the so-called “Spanish little school” told this newspaper. Married to a renowned artist, and after a more than a decade living in Salamanca, they now juggle to pay the school’s tuition.

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