Why you should care about human rights violations in Cuba

Silence is complicity.

Powerful advocacy from John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

More than 70 activists violently arrested in Cuba today and why you should care

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” – Elie Wiesel, Nobel Lecture 1986

Lady in White Ada María López Canino badly beaten today
Lady in White Ada María López Canino badly beaten today

More than 70 dissidents were violently arrested today in Cuba. Strangle holds were used against nonviolent activists. Lady in White Ada María López Canino was so badly beaten during her arrest by state security that they knocked out one of her teeth. She is a mother of three boys and two girls. The artist, Tania Bruguera, who was accompanying the Ladies in White on their Sunday march was also roughed up during her detention and the marks are visible in the photo below.

Tania Bruguera left bruised by state security
Tania Bruguera left bruised by state security

Yesterday, hundreds of Cuban exiles and friends of freedom came out to show their support for Cuba’s democratic resistance and opposition to Obama’s disastrous Cuba policy in a freedom caravan. Some may question the strategic effectiveness of protesting after 56 years, but they should ask themselves the question: “What is the alternative? Silence?”

Elie Wiesel in his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize Lecture made the case that one cannot remain silent before injustice, and that it is necessary to protest. The Nobel Laureate continued the logic of this line of reasoning:

We may be powerless to open all the jails and free all the prisoners, but by declaring our solidarity with one prisoner, we indict all jailers. None of us is in a position to eliminate war, but it is our obligation to denounce it and expose it in all its hideousness.

Fifty six years is a long time to protest, and that can be tiring and frustrating but the alternative which is to remain silent before injustice would be terrible. The words of a great Cuban writer and poet speaks to those who would remain silent from across the span of more than a century: “To see a crime calmly is to commit it.”

Congress puts the brakes on Obama’s Cuba policy

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

A Bad Week for Obama’s Cuba Policy

Since President Obama’s December 17th announcement to establish ties with the Castro regime, there has been nearly a 120% percent increase in the number of Cubans risking their lives to reach freedom in the United States; well over 3,000 political arrests; a dramatic increase in weekly violence against democracy activists, such as The Ladies in White; new long-term political prisoners, such as Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado “El Sexto”; the beatings and re-arrest of most of the 53 political prisoners who were released as part of the December 17th agreement; violence employed against Cuban democracy activists even outside the island, such as the nefarious attacks that took place at the Panama Summit; and Cuban activists who have been barred from leaving the island, like artist Tania Bruguera and democracy leader Antonio Rodiles.

We’ve also heard testimony from Cuban democracy leaders and political prisoners, who have told us how during the beatings and attacks against them now, they are mocked with comments like “this one is courtesy of Obama” and “the United States doesn’t care about you.”

Meanwhile, Cuban dictator Raul Castro has since been named for the first time as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. Popes, Presidents and Foreign Ministers visit and fawn over the Castros in Havana, but ignore Cuba’s dissident leaders.

Last week, Congress put its foot down in a major way.

First, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry making it clear that he will block the confirmation of any U.S. Ambassador to Cuba absent concrete results on political reforms and human rights; the repatriation of U.S. terrorists and fugitives being harbored in Cuba; uncompensated property claims; and the removal of restrictions on U.S. diplomats in Cuba.

Second, the House Appropriations Committee released its FY 2016 State Department, Foreign Operations bill with key provisions that prohibit funds for an embassy or other diplomatic facility in Cuba, beyond what was in existence prior to the President’s December announcement proposing changes to the U.S.-Cuba policy. It also restricts funds to facilitate the opening of a Cuban embassy in the U.S., increases democracy assistance and international broadcasting to Cuba, and provides direction to the Secretary of State on denying the issuance of visas to members of the Cuban military and the Communist party.

Third, President Obama nominated Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who is the key U.S. negotiator with the Castro regime, to be Ambassador to Mexico. Some Senators immediately raised questions about her credibility in light of deceptive statements regarding the Venezuelan opposition and the families of Americans murdered by the Castro regime. Undoubtedly, her negotiations with the Castro regime will play a central role in her confirmation process, particularly if she accepts restrictions on U.S. diplomats or on the operations of a potential U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Fourth, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a provision — by a vote of 273-153 — that would tighten sanctions against the Castro regime. The provision in the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice Appropriations (“CJS Appropriations”) bill, supported by more than 30 Democrats, would ensure that no exports to Cuba under President Obama’s new “Support for the Cuban People” category can go through entities owned or controlled by officers of Cuba’s military (“MINFAR”) and security services (“MININT”), or their immediate relatives.

Fifth, a group of Senators led by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Finance Committee Chairman Orin Hatch (R-UT), et al., introduced the “Cuban Military Transparency Act,” legislation (similar to the provision overwhelmingly approved by the House in CJS Appropriations) that would ensure any increase in resources to the island reach the Cuban people by prohibiting financial transactions with the Castro regime’s military and security services.

Sixth, the U.S. House of Representatives — by a vote of 247-176 — approved a provision that would prohibit the use of confiscated property by any new flights or vessels authorized for travel to Cuba. The provision in the Transportation Appropriations bill (“THUD Appropriations”), supported by more than 25 Democrats, ensures that no new flights or vessels approved for travel to Cuba under President Obama’s new policy can be facilitated through, or benefit from, confiscated property.

Kudos to Congress for its principled stand.

Another Sunday of violent repression in Cuba, Obama remains silent

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

9th Consecutive Sunday: Over 70 Cuban Dissidents Arrested, Silence From Obama
at 10:53 PM Sunday, June 7, 2015
For the ninth consecutive Sunday, over 70 Cuban dissidents have been violently arrested by the Castro regime.

Among those arrested were 40 members of the pro-democracy group, The Ladies in White. One of them, Ada Lopez Canino, lost some of her teeth during the beating she received.

Also arrested were dozens of other dissidents, including rocker Gorki Aguila, artist Tania Bruguera, photographer Claudio Fuentes, former political prisoner Angel Moya and democracy leader Antonio Rodiles.

Last month, over 641 dissidents were arrested — the highest number of political arrests in the last ten months.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration remains silent and unmoved — not to mention the U.S.’s regional allies, whom the President assured us would be more critical of rights abuses in Cuba thanks to his new policy.

As a result, the Castro regime is now completely emboldened and unaccountable in its repression.

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Obama’s Cuba’s policy: Seven final warnings from Carlos Alberto Montaner

By Carlos Alberto Montaner via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Seven final warnings about Obama’s new Cuba policy

The first warning is that the government of the Castro brothers maintains in 2015 exactly the same vision of the United States that it had when the guerrillas came to power in January 1959.

To them, the huge and powerful neighbor and its purported predatory practices in the economic field are at the root of mankind’s basic problems.

The second warning, a consequence of the first, is that that regime, wholly consistent with its beliefs, will continue to try to affect the United States negatively in all instances that present themselves.

Yesterday, it placed itself under the Soviet umbrella. In the post-Soviet era, it built the foundation for the São Paulo Forum and later for the circuit known as 21st-Century socialism, which extended to the countries of the so-called ALBA. Today, it allies itself firmly with Iran and is lining up with the Sino-Russian side in this new and dangerous Cold War being gestated. To the Castros, anti-Americanism is a moral crusade that they’ll never renounce.

The third one is that the Cuban dictatorship has not the slightest intention to begin a process of liberalization that might allow political pluralism or freedoms, as these are known among the world’s most developed nations.

Opposition democrats are tolerated so long as their movements and communications can be regulated and watched by the political police.

The regime perfectly dominates the techniques of social control. Aside from the conventional police to keep the opposition in check, it has at least 60,000 counterintelligence officers under the MININT [Interior Ministry] and tens of thousands of collaborators. To them, repression is not a dark and shameful behavior but a constant and patriotic task.

The fourth is that the economic system being erected by Raúl Castro has not been conceived to nurture a civil society, a society that someday will magically overthrow the dictatorship. Instead, it is a model of Military Capitalism of State (MCS), whose backbone consists of the Army and the Ministry of the Interior, institutions that control most of the country’s productive apparatus.

Within that scheme, as can be surmised from the words of official economist Juan Triana Cordoví, the State (in reality, the military sector) reserves for itself the management and exploitation of the country’s 2,500 medium and large businesses, leaving to the self-employed entrepreneurs a large number of small activities that it doesn’t care to sustain.

Contrary to the thinking in Washington and among the nongovernmental Cuban sectors that support those economic reforms, Raúl Castro and his advisers assume, correctly, that the self-employed entrepreneurs will be a source of stability for the Military Capitalism of State, not because of ideological affinity but because they don’t want to lose the small privileges and advantages they gain.

The fifth one is that the Castro brothers’ regime is not at all interested in propitiating the enrichment of foreign businessmen. They despise the capitalists’ zest for profiting, which they find repugnant, although they themselves practice it discreetly, somehow.

Investments from abroad will be welcome only and solely if they contribute to strengthen the Military Capitalism of State that they are forging. To the Cuban government, those investments are a necessary evil, like someone amputating his own arm to save his life.

If anybody thinks that that regime will permit the emergence and growth of an independent entrepreneurial fabric, it’s because he has not taken the trouble to study the writings and speeches of the officials of the regime or even to examine their behavior.

Real-estate investor and renowned millionaire Stephen Ross was absolutely right when, after returning from a trip to Cuba, he declared that he had not seen on the island the tiniest serious opportunity to do business. In reality, there is none, except in those activities that provide a clear profit for the government or those that are absolutely indispensable for the survival of the regime.

It is obvious that the Castros’ priority is to cling to power and not develop a vigorous entrepreneurial fabric that will bring Cubans out of misery. To explain their shortfalls, they have created the alibi of revolutionary austerity and criticism of consumerism (people’s attraction to “junk”) as a heroic and selfless form of confronting poverty.

The sixth warning is that, in the face of this depressing picture of abuse and insistence on the usual blunders, Washington’s rejection of containment and its substitution by engagement (plus cancelling the objective of trying to promote a regime change, as Obama announced in Panama) is a dangerous and irresponsible hastiness that will harm the United States, encourage its enemies, dishearten its allies and affect very negatively the Cuban people, who desire freedoms, real democracy and an end to their misery.

What’s the sense of the United States — and the Catholic Church — helping to strengthen a Military Capitalism of State, a foe of freedoms including economic freedom, a violator of Human Rights that perpetuates in power a collectivist dictatorship that has destroyed Cuba and today contributes to destroying Venezuela, because it cannot show anything other than what it has done for 56 years?

The seventh warning is that the democratic opposition has never been more fragile and less protected than today, despite the impressive number of dissidents and the heroism they display. It has never been more alone.

Why would anyone take that opposition into account when the United States has renounced regime change and is willing to accept the Cuban dictatorship without demanding anything in exchange?

The United States has renounced to indicating to Havana clearly that true change begins at the moment when the top level of the dictatorship accepts that the first step is to dialogue with the opposition and admit that societies are pluralistic and harbor differing points of view.

What argument can be wielded now by the silent and always cowed reformists in the regime to ask — sotto voce — for political and economic changes from the Castros’ government when nobody else demands them?

In sum, Obama has made a serious mistake by separating himself from the policy followed by the 10 presidents, Democratic and Republican, who preceded him to the White House.

Nobody can state by decree that his enemy has suddenly turned into his friend and has begun to think along one’s lines. That’s childish.

It is not a question of criticizing Obama for having essayed a new policy. The problem is that it is a bad policy.

You cannot ignore reality without paying a high price in the end. What’s sad is that we Cubans will pay that price.
—-
Excerpts from the lecture Relations Between the United States and Cuba at the New Stage of the Thaw: Common Sense or Irresponsible Hastiness? delivered by Carlos Alberto Montaner at the Interamerican Institute for Democracy in Miami on June 4, 2015.

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez: Access to Technology in Cuba

“I never imagined that a person sitting in front of a computer could have so much information.” ~ Jorge Luis Garcia Perez AntunezThe Bush Institute’s Freedom Collection on YouTube:

The Transcript:

In Tunisia, in Egypt, in all of the [Arab Spring] countries, they had access to the Internet and Facebook. I will tell you something that perhaps many do not know: In Cuba, that tiny Caribbean island that so often proclaims social justice and speaks of equality, access to the Internet is a chimera and is random. [Ordinary] Cubans do not have access to these so-called “spots” [Internet cafes] that have been located in municipalities. The cost is well above what citizens can afford.

[The Arab Spring refers to a series of uprisings across the Middle East that began in 2010 starting with Tunisia and spreading to countries such as Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and others.]

The regime knows the importance of information. For that reason it manipulates and distorts it. For example, I learned of Facebook here [in the United States], I have been here two months and I am 49 years old.

I was never able to open my Twitter account to check it. I simply would send tweets from my phone. By the way, it costs me a dollar, which is 25 Cuban pesos, the same as a child’s breakfast.

I accessed my Twitter account here in the United States a few days ago. I am getting to know Facebook. I never imagined that a person sitting in front of a computer could have so much information.

When I arrived in the United States on August 4, 2013, I remember that I arrived around 11 pm or 12 midnight. It surprised me that I was still sitting in front of the computer in the morning. I could not conceive that a person could have access to all this information and to communication. The regime knows it. That is why it manipulates, distorts, and spends millions to interfere with radio stations. That is why it will prevent access to the web by any means.

But even so, we Cubans, with our enterprising spirit, have managed to break much of the censorship. Many of us have Twitter, some have Facebook, but very few can open it, except those living in the capital. We have managed to break it. We send messages, which is very expensive at $2.35. We are talking about almost 40 pesos to send a photo by mobile phone in Cuba.

Despite facing inflated prices, Cubans continue fighting. We continue to do our part because we believe that what we are doing is right. But it is important to devise strategies, initiatives, and greater support for us to access the web.

It would be beneficial for us to receive, those of us who can access the web through embassies or other means, courses on how to navigate the web, how to send communications, and the rest. It would be extremely important. That should be part of the assistance offered to the Cuban resistance.

Look at all that we have done without knowledge of the web… Imagine how it could have played out if we had more skills. I think that the cases of Tunisia and Egypt are different from Cuba, but there is something similar. The same longing for freedom and justice that moves the Tunisians and the Egyptians, moves us too.

Imagine, yes imagine if the all the hypocrites out there promoting continued slavery for the Cuban people through deliberate ignorance or worse (sadly including Cubans who know better) … would get educated and realize the enormous consequences of those vacations to Cuba that only enrich the regime, and wake the F##$$%%@@##G UP!

Wi-Fi in Cuba: 21st Century Apartheid

In Cuba, Internet connections are banned for all but a handful of Cubans and tourists, and the government charges nearly a quarter of a month’s salary for an hour online in government-run hotels and Internet centers. According to Freedom House, Cuba’s Internet status remains unfree, and off-limits for the average Cuban.

However, if you’re a dollar carrying tourist, it’s a different story. Just as in Apartheid South Africa, tourists enjoy luxuries the non-elite citizens and tourist industry workers, with no labor rights by the way, can only imagine, including access to the Internet.

LA Times:

New luxury hotel in Cuba to offer Wi-Fi in every room

Cuba’s first hotel to offer Wi-Fi in every room won’t be in Havana but rather at a beach resort in Cayo Coco on the north side of the island nation.

French company Accor Hotels, which operates international brands Sofitel, Pullman and Novotel, last week made the Wi-Fi promise in announcing that it plans to open the luxury Pullman Cayo Coco Hotel in November.

The hotel is to have 518 rooms and face a long stretch of Los Colorados Beach.

Continue reading HERE.

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Quote of the day: “The Cuban regime is more like a national disease than a national government”

Excellent editorial by The Editorial Board of The Washington Examiner (emphasis mine):

In December, President Obama announced a historic thaw in U.S. relations with Cuba’s 56-year communist dictatorship. As part of this thaw, Cuba’s regime will be formally removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism this week.

At the time this move was first announced, we questioned just what it was that the Obama administration was receiving in exchange. There was and is still no evidence that Cuba has agreed to the extradition of the many murderers and terrorists who sought and received refuge in Cuba throughout the Cold War.

Without something to show for it, Obama seemed to be doing an awfully big favor for an unelected regime that has few if any redeeming qualities.

The Cuban regime is more like a national disease than a national government. Its hallmarks are the imprisonment of political dissenters and the suppression of economic and human rights, such as free expression and freedom of religion.

Cuba owes its dire poverty to its regime’s legendary economic mismanagement. As in every other place it has been tried, their socialist experiment has failed despite open trade with most of the world and decades of annual Soviet subsidies equal to $8 billion in today’s dollars.

In post-Soviet times, the Cuban regime has essentially blocked its 11 million citizens from any meaningful participation in the Internet age. Until recently, Cubans had to obtain permits just to own home computers. Today, they still need government permits to have Internet in their own homes, and as you can imagine, the government is careful about who gets a permit. At government-sponsored access points, most Cubans can only afford to visit a tightly controlled domestic version of the Internet, and at incredibly slow speeds.

This is not how benign governments behave. It is what petty tyrants do to control public opinion.

Just as the Cuban regime prepares to exploit and enjoy America’s indulgence, the regime has set off another one its periodic on-again-off-again persecutions of religious believers. World Magazine reports that earlier this month, the government announced it was seizing the property of the Maranatha First Baptist Church church in Holguin.

This growing congregation, which has operated in the same location since 1947, drew the Communist Party’s attention because it made the mistake of applying for building permits so that it could expand. The government not only denied the permit, but announced that the church will have to pay rent for a space it rightfully owns. Just this year, the regime has similarly threatened to confiscate as many as 100 Protestant church properties in eastern Cuba, World reports. That’s after Obama’s overtures.

Again, this does not look like the kind of action undertaken by a regime whose officials are genuinely interested in opening their country up to the world.

All of this should make Obama think for a moment about just whom he is courting and empowering with his “thaw.” The Cuban people deserve free and fair elections to choose a new government that is compatible with the modern world. As long as the dead weight of the Castro regime is hanging around their necks, there is no superficial U.S. gesture that can truly improve their lot.

Berta Soler: U.S. – Cuba talks not helping the Cuban people

The leader of Cuba’s Ladies in White at 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum denounces international silence on Cuba’s repression against the Cuban people:

Capitol Hill Cubans:

“We, Ladies in White, believe that these relations and conversations between the Cuban and U.S. governments will not be of any benefit to the Cuban people. And even less will it empower civil society, as President Barack Obama says. If no conditions are placed on the Cuban government, it will be more of the same or worse. We don’t see the U.S. government, the European Union, or Pope Francis, pronouncing themselves as regards the violations of human rights on the island, which is giving the Cuban government a green light to continue violating them.”

berta-soler

More in Spanish at Noticas de Cuba Hoy HERE.

And this:


Translation: EVERY 24 hours a woman is hit by the Security of the State. The difference: no one knows.

Cuba: Tourism up, human rights down

The number of Americans traveling to Cuba has increased since Obama’s December 17th announcement, and predictably so has the violent repression and arrests of Cuba’s peaceful dissidents. Especially since U.S. travelers now need only to “self-certify” the category of their trip.

Capitol Hill Cubans:

Mocking the Cuban People (and Breaking U.S. Law)

In a story encouraging Americans to break the law by engaging in tourism-related transactions with the Castro regime, the AP gives the following example:

“New Yorker Zach Chaltiel, 28, traveled to Havana from the U.S. with some buddies after graduating from law school. He researched the trip online, booked a villa through Airbnb, hired a driver, and filled out a form saying the purpose of his trip was ‘support for the Cuban people,’ one of the 12 authorized travel categories. ‘It’s so easy,’ said Chaltiel as he shared drinks with friends at the Hotel Nacional, overlooking the sea as a peacock strutted by. ‘I just wanted to go before it becomes all Americanized.'”

Chaltiel is a newly branded lawyer with no regards for the law and an aversion for “Americanized” vacation destinations — preferring totalitarian dictatorships instead.

But that’s not the most insulting part of his irreverence

The “support for the Cuban people” category was created to help the island’s courageous democracy movement.

According to the Treasury Department, this category was created to support “the activities of recognized human rights organizations; independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy; and individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.”

But Chaltiel (seen below with his buddies) thinks it’s cute to use it as a pretext to lie to the authorities and go party with his friends in Havana.

Of course, while they were enjoying drinks at the Castro regime’s Hotel Nacional, courageous Cuban democracy activists — for which the “support for the Cuban people category” was created — were being brutally beaten and arrested.

It’s a mockery to the Cuban people.

And it’s the Treasury Department’s Constitutionally-mandated obligation to enforce the law.

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Event honoring Cuba´s Damas de Blanco in Los Angeles

I am thrilled that Ann Lau of the Visual Artists Guild is supporting human rights in Cuba. She is bringing Berta Soler, the leader of Damas de Blanco to Los Angeles to focus attention on the lack of freedom, violent repression, and the gross human rights violations by the Castro dictatorship against the people of Cuba. This event is open to the public; please don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to show your support for the brave ladies of Damas de Blanco.

Visual Artists Guild Annual Award Dinner & Commemoration of the 26th Anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre

Keynote Speaker: Berta Soler. Leader of the Damas de Blanco

Honoring

Cuba’s Ladies in White

Participants of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement

Su Changlan
China’s imprisoned supporter of Umbrella Movement

Posthumous Honor
Amnesty International Group 22 Lucas Kemp


Date: Saturday, May 30, 2015
Time: 5:00 p.m. Reception and Registration
6:00 p.m. Dinner
Place: Golden Dragon Restaurant
960 North Broadway, Los Angeles, California 90012 Phone: 213-626-2039
Cost: $35 each for a 10 course Chinese Banquet dinner. Note: No tickets available at the door

You may purchase tickets online, or by check via the Guild’s website HERE.

For more information contact Fernando Marquet 310-918-4283.

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The voodoo of Cuba’s economic reforms

By Jose Azel in the PanAm Post:

Raul Castro and The Cargo Cult

Chieftain Castro Will Never Make Wealth Fall from the Sky

Melanesian cargo cults attempt to obtain material wealth through magic and religious ritual. (Vlad Sokhin)
Melanesian cargo cults attempt to obtain material wealth through magic and religious ritual. (Vlad Sokhin)

In March 2014, hoping to attract new investments, Cuba adopted a new foreign-investment law it described as “strategic and transcendental.” As of this writing — a year later — only one new investment has been reported as approved. The law, part of Chieftain Castro’s economic reforms, is based on the idea that one can influence something based on its resemblance to another thing — a delusion social scientists call a “cargo cult.”

A cargo cult involves the performance of various ritualistic acts that practitioners believe will lead to the appearance of an abundance of material wealth (cargo). Cargo cults often emerge and develop under conditions of social stress and usually involve leadership with a new myth-dream.

The cargo cult of Pacific Melanesia offer the most widely known real-life examples. During World War II, the Melanesian islanders — many of whom had never seen outsiders before — saw the prodigious amounts of war material, canned food, clothing, and other goods that were air-dropped and landed to supply US military bases.

The islanders were astounded by the wondrous possessions of the US visitors who, incredibly to the islanders, enjoyed these belongings without making them themselves. The goods simply arrived from airdrops and aircraft that descended from the sky. No US visitor was ever seen making them. This observation confirmed for the islanders the metaphysical nature of the goods. They learned that this abundance from the sky was known to the Americans as “cargo.”

When the war ended, the military bases were abandoned, thus ending the miraculous and seemingly effortless flow of goods from the sky. To summon the cargo back the islanders mimicked the rituals they had observed US servicemen use. They cleared their own landing strips, and erected control towers with rope and bamboo, carved headphones from wood, lit torches to light up the runways, and even waved the landing signals while standing on the runways.

Renowned physicist Richard Feynman popularized the metaphorical use of “cargo cult” to describe attempts to recreate successful outcomes by replicating circumstances associated with those outcomes when the circumstances are either unrelated or insufficient.

In the Caribbean island of Cuba, using effigies for correspondence — not unlike the sympathetic magic (sorcery) of the Melanesian islanders — Chieftain Raul Castro hopes to attract the material goods that flow from US investments with his version of metaphorically fabricated airstrips and control towers. The general, poorly mimicking a few random characteristics of a free market, seeks the landing of the US cargo. He will be as unsuccessful as the Melanesian islanders.

Investors will be intrigued by the Cuban fabrications, but after taking a closer look they will reject the chieftain’s simulated runways. On paper, the new Cuban investment law purports to allow 100 percent foreign ownership of a project. But this has never been permitted, and foreign investors have been reduced to being minority shareholders in partnership with the Cuban military as the controlling shareholder.

The law also stipulates that the foreign investors’ assets may be expropriated for reasons of public utility or social value. All this, in an environment of systemic corruption, where there is no independent judiciary to adjudicate any claims by a foreign investor.

The Cuban foreign investment law also imposes an Orwellian staffing process in violation of international labor protocols. Foreign companies are not allowed to hire their own employees. Instead, they must request whatever staff they require from a Cuban government agency.

The agency will provide the employees and will invoice the foreign company for the employees’ salary to be paid to the government agency in convertible currency. In this “worker’s paradise,” the government agency will then pay employees in Cuban pesos, retaining, for the state, approximately 92 percent of the employees’ salary.

This exploitative practice is “slavery by another name,” to borrow the title of Douglas Blackmon’s book, which explores the forced labor of imprisoned black men and women through the convict lease system used by state governments, white farmers, and corporations in the southern United States after the Civil War.

No responsible US company — particularly one publicly traded and subject to governmental oversight and investor scrutiny — is going to be enticed to invest under these conditions to serve a relatively small and impoverished market of 11 million with an average monthly income of US$20.

The Cuban chieftain may believe he has recreated, with his voodoo doll replica of economic reforms, the correspondent conditions to attract foreign investments. But, puncture, pinch, and squeeze as he might, the US cargo will not be forthcoming.

It seems Mr. Azel’s article poking fun at Raul Castro stirred things up, particulary offended was Ana Dopico, who has a blog with a similar name. Read about that in this follow up post.

Reports from Cuba: The Forbidden Fruit for Cubans

By Isis Marquez in Translating Cuba:

The Forbidden Fruit for Cubans

On the Calipso farm they cannot give interviews to uncertified journalists. Nor are photos permitted. (Photos Isis Marquez)
On the Calipso farm they cannot give interviews to uncertified journalists. Nor are photos permitted. (Photos Isis Marquez)

Any farmer caught selling to the general population the strawberries that he cultivates will be fined 1000 CUP* (national currency) and have his land confiscated

Cubanet.org, Isis Marquez, Havana, 17 April 2015 – The strawberry is the forbidden fruit for Cubans. Its limited national production is for tourists and for the olive green hierarchy. The State limits the production because it sells for 2.4 euros per kilogram on the international market. Some say that it was introduced onto the island in 1965. Fifty years have passed and still the Cuban people cannot consume this exquisite strawberry. Maybe the Cuban government pretends that its people do not eat these fruits, which are anti-oxidant and anti-carcinogen?
Caption:

Benefits of the strawberry

The strawberry is a short cycle fruit rich in vitamin C. Its compounds have a high anti-oxidant power, as well as increased anti-cancer activity, and it prevents aging of the brain.

In February Cubanet had the opportunity to speak with vendors Kolia Morejon and Jorge Aspen, who said: “We are here because our client left us loaded. We have to sell the product to passersby before they go bad. We sell the small tin for 1 CUC*, the big one for 3 CUC.

Cubanet decided to investigate where the strawberry is cultivated for the purpose of investigating how and why the people do not have access to buying the “forbidden fruit” for their tables.

The odyssey of the strawberry

First you arrive at “Las Canas” community located on the border between Alquizar and Artemisa. Then you have to travel along La Roncha highway. From there on is where the communities called Maravilla, Calipso, Neptuno and La Pluma begin. In these inaccessible places is where strawberries are cultivated. These particular farms belong to the “Rigoberto Corcho” Cooperative of Artemisa.

Kolia Morejón and Jorge Aspen
Kolia Morejón and Jorge Aspen

On the Calipso farm as soon as I spoke with the producer Nadir Jimenez, he said: “I am sorry, we cannot give interviews to foreign journalists who don’t come certified with a letter from the Municipal Delegation of the ANAP (National Association of Small Farmers) in Artemisa or with a letter from the Ministry of Agriculture. Nor is it permitted to take photos of the crops. I am very sorry, but I cannot help you.”

Later, on the La Pluma farm, I was able to speak with a vendor identified as Julio Cesar Frias: “The strawberry is an exclusive product for the tables and the pastry shops of the 5-star hotels, and for some special contracts established with private bars and restaurants.”

And he assured: “We cannot market the strawberry to the population. Inspectors impose a fine of 1000 pesos in national currency and confiscate the farms. To go out to Havana to sell one can (5 kg) means dodging the control points, the police, the inspectors and the devil himself.” Frias concludes: “When we manage to overcome the controls, in Havana, we sell the frozen pints for 1 CUC and the big ones for 3 CUC.”

On La Roncha highway I found a couple who preferred not to be identified, and they had recently acquired a 3 CUC pot. They said: “The strawberry that is produced is for the trusted people of the area. If you have friends, good contacts with the “bigwigs” of business and the municipal ANAP, you can have the luxury of coming and buying. We recommend that no outsider approach anything here if he does not come well ‘endorsed.’”

Later a passerby identified as Norberto Joel Batista added: “The strawberry is only for the rulers of this country, the tourists, the military and the new bourgeoisie. For us there is no opportunity to buy the strawberry. Strawberries definitely are the Cuban’s ‘forbidden fruit.’”

Strawberry buyers who were not identified
Strawberry buyers who were not identified

Fruit for the privileged

Later, back in the city, I entered the “Betty Boom” snack bar, with very American style and design, which is on 3rd Avenue and 60th Street. There I consumed a strawberry frappe that cost 2.8 CUC for the large cup. The customers obviously were foreigners and privileged Cubans.

Translator’s note: Cuba has two currencies, the “Cuban peso” or CUP, also known as “national money,” and the “Cuban Convertible Peso, or CUC.” The CUC is pegged to the US dollar but with exchange fees costs roughly $1.10. The Cuban peso is worth about 4¢ U.S. Most wages are paid in Cuban pesos, and the average wage is generally the equivalent of about $20 U.S. monthly. Pensions are much lower.

Translated by MLK

Cuba: Man murdered as Castro official opens fire on group attempting escape to freedom

Just days after Cuba is proclaimed a non-sponsor of terror, a Castro official opens fire on a group of friends planning to leave the island paradise.

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Young Cuban Murdered for Attempting to Flee the Island

President Obama says the Cold War is over, but the Castro regime hasn’t gotten the memo.

In a scene straight out of East Germany, a 28-year old Cuban, Yurinierki Martinez Reina, was shot in the back for attempting to flee the island for a life of freedom.

Martinez Reina, along with a group of friends, was caught building a small vessel to leave Cuba near Menendez Beach in Matanzas.

They began to run, as a Castro regime security official, identified as Miguel Angel Rio Seco Rodriguez, began shooting at them.

Two day later, the body of Martinez Reina was found shot in the back. The graphic image is below.

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