Reports from Cuba: Farmers awaken to the reality of the system but cannot protest

Ricardo Fernandez in Translating Cuba:

“Farmers Have Awakened To The Reality Of The System, Although They Can Not Protest Openly”

campesino-cubano-tierra-bueyes-cc_cymima20160116_0003_13-1

Rolando Pupo Carralero is a self-declared lover of the countryside, despite having begun working the land by necessity, when he abandoned his studies in economics.

Currently a member of the national executive of the Cuban Independent and Democratic Party (CID) and coordinator in the western region of for political group, Pupo has worked for many years growing tobacco. From his experience in the fields, he believes it is very difficult for regime opponents to own land, and believes the farmers have become aware that the “Revolution” pays them one-forty-fifth of the value of what they produce.

Ricardo Fernandez.  How is it possible that within the opposition there are no independent farmer organizations?

Rolando Pupo Carralero. In Cuba, they don’t allow members of the opposition to have land. It is not a written law, but the land is in the hands of the state, and it is distributed to those who are “suitable” and opponents are rarely in that category.

People who inherit land can be part of the opposition, but even so, the government has ways to pressure them not to be. Among these, the strongest are the requirement to be associated with a cooperative with a “legal personality” because otherwise they cannot buy supplies and services or sell their crops.

There is still no private sector in Cuba capable of buying one farmer’s entire production, nor is there a legal market where you can buy fertilizer or supplies if you are not affiliated with the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP).

RF.  Does that mean that the peasantry is in agreement with the Cuban system?

RPC. The fact that they can not belong to the active opposition does not mean that they do not oppose the system, but the farmer does not have freedom or autonomy. Despite the mechanisms used by the government to indoctrinate and repress the peasantry (cooperatives, ANAP and other institutions of that type), farmers are not completely subjugated. You have to be at a meeting of the cooperative, which convenes monthly, to see the high level of dissatisfaction and the harshness in the well-founded opinions expressed by the members.

RF.  How have the farmers changed their position on the government?

RPC. Initially the peasantry supported the Revolution because it brought some benefits, but the accounts have been made clear over time. For example, in the case of tobacco, the state buys the first quintal (more than 70% quality) for 2,574 pesos, for which you need 1,300 cuttings, with a large expenditure of resources in planting, cultivation, harvesting and drying.

But that quintal of tobacco contains 12,800 leaves (80 cujes of 160 leaves each) and if we figure that for a first quality cigar you need only three leaves, the quintal is the equivalent of 4,266 cigars for export, and an amount equal or more in hard currency.

So they pay the farmer 102 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC, about $102 US), when the real value of the production is 45 times higher. These absurd inequalities mean that from their work they earn barely enough to live, which is why they have awakened to the reality of the system; although they can not protest openly.

Read more

WaPo Editorial Board: Apartheid Castro regime benefiting from Obama’s Cuba policy, not the Cuban people

The Washington Post Editorial Board:

Cubans don’t benefit from American business — Castro does

obama-raul-castro

AS YOU ponder the impact on political and economic freedom in Cuba of the Obama administration’s diplomatic opening to that Communist-ruled country, keep this figure in mind: $50. That’s how much every American visitor has to pay the Castro regime for a tourist visa each time he or she travels to the island, as the administration is aggressively enouraging people to do. Last year, 160,000 people visited Cuba from the United States, which translates into $8 million, not chump change for the financially troubled regime. Those numbers are on course to double in 2016.

We make this point to place the latest celebratory headlines about the renewal of scheduled air travel from the United States to Cuba in a broader perspective. If you think the president’s policy will “empower” the fledgling Cuban private sector, as opposed to the overbearing state, think again. Easy money from expensive visas is a relatively minor example of the regime’s so-far successful efforts to reap direct benefit from the new relationship with the United States. Even more important is the fact that the Cuban armed forces own the country’s dominant tourism companies, and those firms are expanding their role in anticipation of an American influx.

As the Associated Press recently reported, the Cuban military has taken over a previously autonomous office that controlled Old Havana, a major tourist attraction, as well as a bank responsible for most of Cuba’s international financial transactions. Gaviota, a military-owned tourism company, is in the midst of what the AP calls “a hotel building spree,” which Cuba needs because its existing hotels lack sufficient capacity, by far, to accomodate hundreds of thousands of additional visitors from the United States. To date, Cuban private operators had been filling the gap by renting rooms in their homes. The military’s activities show that the regime has no intention of sharing the market with these cuentapropistas, as Cuban small businesses are known in Spanish. The Obama administration claims that support for these entrepreneurs is a major aim of its policy; it sees them as a potential source of middle-class pressure in favor of democracy. Meanwhile, it authorizes Starwood Hotels, a giant U.S. firm, to join forces with the Cuban state in operating government-run hotels.

Stripped of the high-minded rhetoric, the fundamental tendency of the new dispensation in U.S.-Cuban relations is toward collaboration between U.S. corporations and military gatekeepers on the island, in which profits take priority over the basic human rights of the Cuban people. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s very much like the arrangement that once existed between Washington and the kleptocratic Batista regime Fidel Castro overthrew in 1959.

Welcome to the hottest, vacation island prison destination: Cuba’s Panopticon

No matter where Cubans (or anyone else vacationing in Obama’s Cuba) may find themselves on the island, the slave masters are always watching.

John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Camera and microphone erected by political police outside Cuban machete victim’s current residence

Welcome to the Panopticon

cuba-spy-camera

Received word today from Sirley Avila Leon, who was the victim of a crippling machete attack on May 24, 2015, that the Castro regime has taken a keen interest in her: “They put a camera with a microphone two meters from the front of my mother’s house on the telephone pole.”

Sirley Avila Leon returned home to Cuba a week ago on September 7, 2016 after six months receiving medical care and initially her phone was unable to reach contacts outside, but she was finally able to speak with folks the following day.

The news Sirley gave was and remains worrying. She returned home to find it occupied by strangers with the approval of the Cuban dictatorship. Sirley is staying at her mother’s house in Las Tunas.

Ominously, Osmany Carrión, the man who brutally attacked her in that appears to have been engineered by the political police has been bragging to neighbors and Sirley’s family that he will finish the job he started.

This latest episode only underscores the need for continued vigilance regarding the plight of Sirley Avila Leon. This woman, who was an elected delegate of the municipal peoples assembly in her community made the ‘mistake’ of fighting to keep a school open for young children that earned her the enmity of the dictatorship while at the same time endearing her with the voters.

This reality is what has led the dictatorship to carry out a systematic effort to destroy her.

A Chavista coup is brewing in Venezuela and Cuba’s Castro regime is in the thick of it

A full-blown totalitarian dictatorship under the control of Havana is the last step in Cuba’s plan for Venezuela and they are doing everything they can to achieve that goal.

Eugenio Yanez in Diario de Cuba:

A coup in Venezuela

nmaduro150916_0

It is true what they are saying: a coup is brewing in Venezuela. It started back on December 6, 2015, when the opposition overwhelmingly won the parliamentary elections and wrested the majority in parliament from the chavistas, who had controlled it for more than 15 years.

What is not true it is that it is the opposition that is planning the takeover, as it has no need to when it can get rid of Nicolás Maduro by democratic means, in a convoluted but feasible scenario.

The real overthrow – which they failed to carry out the same day they lost the Parliament, as Diosdado Cabello actually intended – is that being pursued by Nicolás Maduro and the Venezuelan chavista hierarchy, in not-so-slow motion, advised by Havana, out of their fear of losing power, which could entail many years behind bars for crimes like drug trafficking, extortion, embezzlement, torture, and extrajudicial executions, among others.

From their first maneuvers after the opposition’s victory, giving rise to “Community Assemblies,” whose purpose was unclear, (as they really serve none), to the hasty appointments of judges loyal to Chávez to fill vacant slots on the Supreme Court, to the hurried proclamation of laws granting the President powers belonging to the Parliament, to the ministers’ refusal to be held accountable to the Legislature … it has been clear that their aim has been to hinder most of the Assembly’s activity, undermine its efficacy and, ultimately, defy the will of the voters, who in the last elections gave it an unquestionable mandate and rebuffed the Executive, which has plunged the country into an almost irreversible spiral of economic, social, political, health and logistical chaos.

Obviously, the shadow of Havana lies over the chavistas and will continue to debilitate the mechanisms of democratic governance and civil society in Venezuela, seeking to gradually stymy efforts to prevent a dictatorship “of the humble, by the humble and for the humble,” until there is no chance at all. If there something that the Castro brothers have mastered it is these kinds of underhanded procedures, which they have mercilessly implemented in Cuba since 1959. Ever since then Cubans have suffered and continue to suffer countless difficulties, shortcomings and frustrations, besides a lack of freedom and future prospects. Now Venezuelans have begun to suffer the same kinds of problems, but what do their “enlightened” revolutionary leaders care?

The Supreme Court has declared all the legislative acts of the Venezuelan Parliament null and void in a last-ditch ploy to prevent the opposition from controlling the body and having a “qualified majority” with extensive legislative powers.

The “Poder Electoral,” meanwhile, is scrambling to delay the holding of a recall referendum, which Maduro is bound to lose, which would necessitate the holding of new presidential elections. However, if they can put it off until 10 January, 2017, the presidency would automatically pass to the vice-president if Maduro loses, in which case many Venezuelans have concluded that it wouldn’t even be worth holding it.

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: Fidel Castro’s Battle of Ideas… Political pantomime

Roberto Camba in Translating Cuba:

Fidel Castro’s Battle of Ideas… Political Pantomime

tribuna-antimperialista-de-la-habana-frente-a-la-oficina-de-intereses-de-estados-unidos
Anti-imperialist Tribune in Havana, in front of the then United States Interest Section (now the US Embassy)

They say it began with the fight to return the young rescued rafter Elian Gonzalez from the United States to Cuba. Really it was much earlier, since the strategy never changes: silence and ignore the adversary, incessantly repeat lies until it is almost impossible to distinguish the truth.

To define, to communicate that the assault on the Moncada Barracks was a revolt of sergeants, to publish in Bohemia magazine in January of 1959 that the Revolution was green like the palm trees and had nothing to do with the Soviet Union, or to when the United States invaded Granada in 1983, are examples. And yet, “Revolution… is never lying,” say the propaganda billboards.

By monopolizing all the media immediately after 1959 and creating their own education program, the arsenals of weapons were entirely under their power. The enemy could have ideas, but could never express them publicly.

With the Elian Gonzalez case they started the Open Forums and the Roundtable TV shows… all caps. I never understood that these manifestations of the Battle of Ideas transmitted to the Cuban people were just about ensuring their overwhelming support for the Revolution. Where was the battle? Who was the enemy? Why do you line up the “canons” facing your own soldiers?

The speakers at these “Masses” didn’t have to think, they just recited the Revolutionary “creed” from memory. On the Roundtable show the soldiers didn’t have to face the enemy, only their colleagues on the other side of the table.

1473685403_mesa-redonda-300x199The concept of “Round” itself symbolizes the endless and monotonous. Like in Mark Twain’s novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” the topics of each day of the week were identical: “The King walks through his circular courtyard.” There is nothing new in a vicious circle.

All Communist regimes have curtailed freedom of expression. The only explanation for this is that it is in the ideological arena where they are most vulnerable. Therefore, they continually reject dialogue with the opposition, they refuse to share “the same room” with its representatives during the Americas Summit in Panama, so they hid the people of the “Varela Project” and discussions with Edmundo Garcia were only broadcast in Miami. Ultimately, former vicepresident Ricardo Alarcon ends up looking ridiculous talking to Eliecer Avila, then a student, as do the Castros at press conferences. They find having interlocutors uncomfortable. They learned monologues, not dialogues.

They arm the “fighters” of the Rapid Response Brigades for an act of repudiation against the Ladies in White. They shout a lot so they don’t have to hear the voices of these brave women. If there are not enough people they bring an orchestra, they set up a “Street Fair” with screaming kids or hold a “Carnival.” If the Ladies in White continue to express their ideas they force them into a bus and take them away.

Read more

Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship prohibiting overnight stays for Cuban-American flight crews

Cuba’s apartheid Castro dictatorship is now dictating to American companies which employees they are allowed to use and which are prohibited. But when you resign yourself to kowtow to an apartheid regime, what else can you expect?

Just another nauseating dose of the Hope and Change Obama promised when he reversed U.S. policy towards Cuba and embraced the island’s viciously repressive apartheid dictatorship.

Fabiola Santiago in The Miami Herald:

Cuba won’t allow Cuban-Americans flight crews to stay overnight, so an airline grounded them

aa-in-cuba

When American Airlines launched the first of an unprecedented 12 daily commercial flights from Miami to six cities in Cuba, the company rolled out the Cuban-American brass to mark the milestone at Miami International Airport.

At a pre-flight ceremony, the executives evoked their emotional connection to the business at hand — winning the bid to fly the largest number of commercial flights to Cuba.

“Today is historic not only for American Airlines, but also for Miami, the heart and soul of the Cuban-American community in the United States,” said Ralph Lopez, American vice president of Miami hub operations, before the Sept. 7 departure to the city of Cienfuegos on the southern coast of the island.

Fernand Fernandez, American’s vice president of global marketing, spoke of the “pride and excitement” he felt.

“This flight is not only important to our airline, to our 12,000 employees here in Miami — many of them Cuban-American — but also… this is of huge importance for Miami-Dade County, home to so many Cuban Americans like my parents.”

Behind the scenes, however, another story was playing out.

When doing business with Cuba, all those American Airlines employees of Cuban origin Fernandez heralded in his speech don’t have the same rights as their U.S.-born counterparts, or their Latin-American counterparts, or their counterparts born anywhere else in the world for that matter.

The first “historic” flight to Varadero brought home the point.

A Cuban-born crew member arrived without a Cuban passport — required for anyone born there who left the country after 1970, even as babies — and a brouhaha ensued with Cuban authorities on the ground. The crew member was not allowed entry, much less the required overnight rest stop after a crew member flies 12 hours.

Questions were posed by AA to authorities: What happens in the future if there’s a flight with a mechanical delay and the crew that includes a Cuban American is grounded overnight? What will happen, routinely, with the two Varadero flights that require the overnight stay of the crew?

The answer: Only in the most “extenuating circumstances” would Cuba allow an exception to its separate set of archaic travel requirements for Cuban Americans. No overnights for Cuban-American crew members. Period.

Now the Dallas-based airline, which makes its schedules far from Cuban politics in Texas, had to identify Cuban-American employees and take them off Cuba flights that required an overnight stay.

“Please remember that those who are Cuban born should be removed with pay from Cuba flights until we can verify what requirements the Cuban government has for these crewmembers,” says an AA memo to managers that a source shared with me.

And I have to ask: Can you imagine in your company a staffing memo that says, “Please remember that those who are Israeli born should be removed?”

Or, please remember that those who are (fill in the blank any other place of origin) should be removed?

The Cuban government’s long arm is cherry-picking the assignments of employees of an American company. How is that for a historic development?

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: Free Press: Knockout

Victor Manuel Camposeco via Translating Cuba:

Free Press: Knockout

mock-funeral-for-diario-de-la-marina

In April of 1960, from the official newspapers Hoy (Today) and Revolución along with the leftist organization FIDEL, the demands to take by force the three independent print media still standing seemed unstoppable. For months, the newsrooms of those newspapers had also been infiltrated by State agents.

Diario de la Marina, the most influential conservative newspaper in Cuba, respected by publishers and the public, which at one time had supported Castro, had its own building in Havana, “a stately stone building,” at the corner of Paseo del Prado and Brasil Street. On May 11 it would publish a spread signed by more than 300 of its workers in support of defending the freedom of expression. Members of FIDEL, advised by the infiltrators, along with a huge crowd, took the building by assault the night before and its facilities were partly destroyed.

The police refused to intervene. The next day, at the University of Havana, the already tamed the University Students Federation, FEU, led a grotesque celebration: between slapstick and jokes they buried a copy of the last Diario de la Marina published.

Through the pages of Diario de la Marina had passed Pedro Henriquez Urena, Miguel Angel Asturias, Mariategui, Borges, Alejo Carpentier and Lezama Lima, among many others. Shortly afterwards the Rivero family, owners and managers of the newspaper, went into exile. The “stately stone building” was delivered with its workshops and offices to the Communist newspaper Hoy. The life of Diario de la Marina, then celebrating its 128th year, ended violently.

Humberto Medrano, deputy director of Prensa Libre, the largest newspaper in Cuba, published an article the next day:  “It is painful to witness the funeral of freedom of thought in a center dedicated to culture […] Because what was buried last night [at the University] was not a newspaper. Symbolically what was buried was freedom of thought and expression. The obligatory colophon of this act is the commentary in the periodical Revolución. The title of this commentary says it all: “Prensa Libre on the road to La Marina.” They didn’t have to say it, everyone knows.”

1473541404_censura-de-prensa-300x193

On July 4, at night, the FIDEL mob took by assault the Prensa Libre facilities. Medrano left the building, the street teemed with activists. One of them tried to stop him, shouting comments for the occasion, but others let him pass. Medrano got into his car and went to seek asylum at the nearest embassy, that of Panama. Perhaps during the drive he recalled the six times Batista’s police had stopped him, before the triumph of the Revolution, and interrogated him for publishing comments that displeased that other dictator.

Days later Humberto Medrano, escorted to the airport by Panama’s ambassador, left with his family on a commercial flight to Miami. That same week he got a job as a taxi driver. He soon began writing for a local newspaper and devoted himself since that time to the fight for respect for human rights in Cuba. He died in Florida in 2012, at the age of 96.

Read more

Today’s Must-Read: The reality of trade with Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship and Obama’s counterproductive policy

fidel-cuba-puppetmaster

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Testimony House Agriculture Committee: ‘American Agricultural Trade With Cuba’

The following is today’s testimony by Mauricio Claver-Carone during a hearing of the House Agriculture Committee on ‘American Agricultural Trade With Cuba‘:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member and Members of the Committee.

It’s truly a privilege to join you here today to discuss important and consequential issues surrounding U.S. agricultural trade with Cuba. I commend you for including a dissenting voice on this panel.

My name is Mauricio Claver-Carone and I’m the Executive Director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Cuba.

My testimony will be divided into two parts. First, I would like to present key facts regarding agricultural trade with Cuba and highlight the counter-productive trends we are seeing since President Obama announced a new policy of unconditional engagement with the Castro regime on December 17th, 2014. Second, I would like to focus on the issue of financing agricultural sales to Cuba, which I understand is a priority for my fellow panelists, with the good faith and disposition to find common ground.

The Reality of Trade With Cuba

As you are surely aware, pursuant to the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (‘TSREEA’), the sale of agricultural commodities, medicine and medical devices to the Castro regime in Cuba was authorized by Congress, with one important caveat – these sales must be for “cash-in-advance.” Prior to that, the export of food, medicine and medical devices to the Cuban people had already been authorized under the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 (‘CDA’).

This is an important distinction that needs to be made, for in order to have a productive discussion about agricultural trade with Cuba, one should understand how the island’s totalitarian regime conducts business.

In most of the world, trade means dealing with privately-owned or operated corporations. That’s not the case in Cuba. In Cuba, foreign trade and investment is the exclusive domain of the state, namely the Castro regime. There are no “exceptions.”

Here’s a noteworthy fact: In the last five decades, every single “foreign trade” transaction with Cuba has been with a state entity, or individual acting on behalf of the state. The state’s exclusivity regarding trade and investment remains enshrined in Article 18 of Castro’s 1976 Constitution.

Since the passage of TSREEA in 2000, over $5 billion in U.S. agricultural products have been sold to Cuba. It is an unpleasant fact, however, that all of those sales by more than 250 privately-owned U.S. companies were made to only one Cuban buyer – the Castro regime.

As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (‘USDA’) own report on Cuba notes, “The key difference in exporting to Cuba, compared to other countries in the region, is that all U.S. agricultural exports must be channeled through one Cuban government agency, ALIMPORT.”

ALIMPORT is an acronym for Empresa Cubana Importadora de Alimentos, S.A. It is a subsidiary of Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and serves as the sole procurement agency for U.S. agricultural products. Throughout the years, the Castro regime has ensured the Ministry of Foreign Trade is run by senior officials from Cuba’s intelligence services (known as Directorio General de Inteligencia, or ‘DGI’). The current Minister of Foreign Trade is a DGI official, Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, who is the son of Isidoro Malmierca Peoli, a historic Castro family confidant and founder of Cuba’s counter-intelligence and state-security services.

Hence another unpleasant fact: All business decisions in Cuba are based on the political and control-based calculations of the Castro regime — not on market forces. If the Cuban people enjoyed property rights to establish their businesses and were allowed to freely partake in foreign trade and investment – my testimony today would be very different.

ALIMPORT primarily supplies government institutions, and the Cuban military’s hard currency retail stores (known as Tiendas de Recuperacion de Divisas, ‘TRDs’), hotels and other facilities that cater to tourists and other foreigners.

So let’s immediately debunk a myth: Financing agricultural transactions with Cuba is not about assisting small and midsize farmers on the island, but about financing a monopoly of the Castro regime.

Continue reading HERE.