Reports from Cuba: Why Does Cuba Have a Journalism of the Barracade?

Luis Felipe Rojas in Translating Cuba:

Why Does Cuba Have a Journalism of the Barracade?

1478883801_periodismo

Luis Felipe Rojas, 11 November 2016 — The answer is simple. Because we are a country at war with the media for almost six decades.

To speak of the green shoots of happiness, in the midst of hardships and political harassment, is little more than to put our heads in the sand. The dictators don’t believe in these brushstrokes, which they use at their ease.

The official journalism that directs the eyes and ears of the people has had an alternative for some time. It is independent journalism, which calls itself free, but it has had to suffer harassment from the State, prison and exile.

In recent times “alternative” journalists have appeared who come from officialdom or perhaps perform a few pirouettes, and they have said loudly that they prefer to narrate, to describe the country, to do research, before joining the “barricade.”

Of course, now this barricade-designation is added to previous expletives: “mercenaries,” “at the service of a foreign power,” “traitor” and others.

As I write these notes the young human rights activist Alexander Verdecia has been condemned to two years in prison; he is a young man who lives seven hundred kilometers from Havana and has been accused to posting signs against Raul Castro in Rio Cauto.

In the old Miranda Center, a rickety sugar factory from the early 20th century, lives Ariadna Alvarez Rensoler. She protested a month ago in support of a woman in her family who, in turn, had engaged in a hunger strike. Two weeks later they summoned her to a local court in the “J.A. Mella” municipality of Santiago de Cuba and imposed 6 months of home confinement.

The scene is this: Ariadna is four months pregnant and the prosecutor — a woman like her — hurriedly reads the sentence written in an almost police language. “They didn’t let me have a lawyer,” she told me in a phone conversation.

In Palma Soriana, also in Santiago de Cuba, the police put the siblings Geordanis and Adael Muñoz Guerrero behind bars, accused of the same thing, but they were taken to prison, condemned to one year and six months, respectively. It was a summary trial. Their family was not notified. There was no due process.

The young Catholic Juannier Rodriguez was handcuffed behind his back, they raided his home and took him to four police stations in three days. Rodriguez distributed some baskets of humanitarian aid for the victims of Hurricane Matthew in his native Baracoa, helping the nuns of the Sisters of Charity order. They took him very far from Guantanamo. Then left him in the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba, at ten at night, to get home under his own power.

Dagoberto Valdés Hernández, a restless and outspoken layman, has been summoned twice to police stations in Pinar del Rio, in less than a month.

Valdez directs the Center for Coexistence Studies. A kind of home where one can learn to be free and sovereign, and doing this in Cuba is a serious crime. They gave him two police summons and twice the Catholic and human rights activist published them on his Facebook account.

The second time they threatened him directly. “Starting now your life is going to be more difficult,” said a political police official with the rank of first officer. Valdes was not allowed to defend himself and has nowhere to go where he can be assured of being defended and not threatened.

These actions were performed by some men in plain clothes, with official State Security IDs who on most occasions were accompanied by uniformed police.

People do not say anything, they shrug their shoulders as if the victim did something bad, for not sitting still, for not bowing his head, for not smiling when the stick rains down on the beaten.

Describing these horrors is called “journalism of the barricade” or “yellow journalist” and in most cases they are accused “of playing on the enemy’s side.”

Why doesn’t a journalist question the victimizer? The institutions have the gag of the fifty-seven years of the olive-green revolution and its leaders never show their faces if it’s not to deal with the violators.

Why not do journalism of the barricade?

Without boats, Cubans fish with condoms

El Resolver.

Via our good friend Gutset in The Real Cuba:

Too broke for boats, Cubans inflate condoms to find big fish

condomfishing

CBS News

Juan Luis Rosello sat for three hours on the Malecon as the wind blew in from the Florida Straits, pushing the waves hard against the seawall of Havana’s coastal boulevard.

As darkness settled and the wind switched direction, Rosello pulled four condoms from a satchel and began to blow them up. When the contraceptives were the size of balloons, the 47-year-old cafeteria worker tied them together by their ends, attached them to the end of a baited fishing line and set them floating on the tide until they reached the end of his 750-foot line.

After six decades under U.S. embargo and Soviet-inspired central planning, Cubans have become masters at finding ingenious solutions with extremely limited resources. Few are as creative as what Havana’s fishermen call “balloon fishing,” a technique employing a couple of cents worth of condoms to pull fish worth an average month’s salary from the ocean.

On any given night in Havana, dozens of men can be found “balloon fishing” along the Havana seawall, using their homemade floats to carry their lines as far as 900 feet into the coastal waters, where they also serve to keep the bait high in the water and to increase the line’s resistance against the pull of a bonito or red snapper.

“No one can cast the line that far by hand,” said Ivan Muno, 56, who was fishing alongside Rosello.

For four more hours, he sat silently as the dark sea pounded the rocks below the seawall, algae flashing green in the waves beneath an enormous creamy moon, the sounds of the city muffled by the wind and water. By midnight, he was heading home without a catch, but planning to return soon.

“This is the most effective way to fish,” Rosello said. “Someone got this great idea and I can be here all night with the balloons out.”

Racehorse breeding in Cuba earns millions for the commander

Last I checked, racehorse breeding was not on the ever shrinking list of “allowed” private businesses in Cuba, but then again, rules for the Cuban people have never applied to regime apparatchiks.

By Rogelio Fabio Hurtado in Diario De Cuba:

Commander Guillermo García Frías’s purebred racehorses

Four thoroughbreds
Four thoroughbreds

I was recently looking for information about the mistreatment of animals, when I found, in El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua), an excellent story by the journalist Francisco Menéndez about the breeding of thoroughbred horses.

According to the report, this is a thriving business overseen by the Commander of the Revolution Guillermo García Frías through “his companies ALCONA S.A. and

Guillermo García Frías with Raúl Castro
Guillermo García Frías with Raúl Castro
Flora y Fauna.” These companies are present throughout the country, with about 40 farms (none of them owned by García Frías in 1959 or earlier) dedicated to breeding racehorses. This is, of course, rearing for external commercial purposes, as in socialist Cuba horse racing has been banned since 1967.

The former Grand Oriental Park Racetrack in Marianaohas been buried under a thick layer of asphalt, converted in a vast truck parking lot.

The equine emporium of the former farmer from the Sierra Maestra boasts 17,000 horses of 17 breeds, the most important being Dutch jumping horses and English racehorses.

The business began to be promoted in 2005, when they bought 23 horses in Holland, including two mares that were already pregnant. This acquisition included counsel by Dutch experts. These were horses descending from champions.

When the Dutch found that the weather conditions were favorable, they began to export very young foals, just a year old. The training of thoroughbreds begins when they are three years old. The last acquisition that we know of was in 2013: a group of 53 animals, at a cost of around two million dollars, which produced revenues of four million. As you see, a far cry from the result of self employment in Cuba.

A farm of 27 stables, 12 of them dedicated to horses, with a workforce of over 100, is the flagship of the old commander’s empire: Rancho Azucarero, in Artemisa. Dedicated to this activity since 1944, then linked to the Oriental Park, and today specialized in Dutch jumping foals, this estate includes a riding school for children and an international cemetery for pure-bred animals, providing proper burials for these noble horses.

Since 2010 the Remate Élite horse auction has been held at the Lenin Park Equestrian Center during the first half of February. Customers from Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Angola and Spain stay at the Villa Charco Azul on the grounds of the Rancho Azucarero.

This annual auction of about 30 horses is the highlight of the event. Although much more modest than European functions of its kind, at which horses are sold for tens of millions, this auction gives the organizers a clean take of half a million euros. At the one held in 2014, the Edelman and Fumuto horses fetched prices of around 40,000 euros each. As usual in Cuba, these major capitalist businesses, handled by longstanding, trusted figures, are exempt from the public domain, accountable to no state body, as this impunity appears to be an inseparable part of what the official propaganda calls the “conquests of the Revolution.”

Thus, we ought to thank Nicaragua’s El Nuevo Diario for disclosing these details.

Reminder: OFAC Fines Oil Services Company for Cuba Sanctions Violations

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

OFAC Fines Oil Services Company for Cuba Sanctions Violations

Note the sanctions violations took place between 2007 and 2009.

In other words, companies that feel protected by the Obama Administration’s currently policy do so at their own future risk.

That will change in 65 days.

From U.S. Treasury Department:

National Oilwell Varco, Inc. Settles Potential Civil Liability for Apparent Violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, and the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations: National Oilwell Varco, Inc., a Delaware corporation, and its subsidiaries Dreco Energy Services, Ltd. (“Dreco”) and NOV Elmar (“Elmar”) (collectively referred to hereafter as “NOV” unless otherwise noted), have agreed to settle their potential civil liability for apparent violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 515 (CACR), the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560 (ITSR), and the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 538 (SSR), for $5,976,028.

NOV’s settlement with OFAC is concurrent with both a settlement agreement between NOV and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, and a Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA) executed by NOV with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.

OFAC determined that from on or about 2002 to on or about 2009, NOV engaged in certain conduct in apparent violation of the ITSR. Specifically: (1) between October 2002 and April 2005, National Oilwell Varco, Inc. approved at least four Dreco commission payments to a U.K.-based entity that related to the sale and exportation of goods, directly or indirectly, from Dreco to Iran, in apparent violation of §§ 560.206 and 560.208 of the ITSR (these four commission payments have a combined value of $2,630,091); (2) between September 2006 and January 2008, National Oilwell Varco, Inc. engaged in two transactions totaling $13,596,980 involving the direct or indirect sale and exportation of goods to Iran, and/or facilitated those transactions, in apparent violation of §§ 560.206 and 560.208 of the ITSR; (3) between at least 2003 and 2007, Dreco knowingly indirectly exported goods from the United States for the specific purpose of filling at least seven orders from Iranian customers, in apparent violation of § 560.204 of the ITSR (these seven transactions have a total value of $526,480); (4) between 2007 and 2009, Dreco engaged in 45 transactions totaling $1,707,964 involving the sale of goods to Cuba, in apparent violation of § 515.201 of the CACR; (5) between 2007 and 2008, Elmar engaged in two transactions totaling $103,119 involving the sale of goods or services to Cuba, in apparent violation of § 515.201 of the CACR; and (6) between 2005 and 2006, NOV engaged in one $20,928 transaction involving the direct or indirect exportation of goods from the United States to Sudan, in apparent violation of § 538.205 of the SSR (collectively referred to hereafter as the “Apparent Violations”).

Jorge Alberto Liriano Linares, former Cuban political prisoner dies

Via Marc Masferrer in Uncommon Sense:

Former Cuban political prisoner Jorge Alberto Liriano Linares dies

Former Cuban political prisoner Jorge Alberto Liriano Linares, who spent several years in the Castro gulag, has died, according to journalist Roberto de Jesus Guerra Perez, who reported the news on Facebook.

As I noted in a 2008 profile of Liriano, he distinguished himself as a journalist reporting on what he witnessed in the Castro gulag:

In prison, however, Liriano, a member of the Christian Democratic Party and Pedro Luis Boitel Political Prisoner organization, has distinguished himself as a journalist, or more precisely, a witness to the horrors of the Castro gulag. He doesn’t report on what is happening to him, only to what is happening to his fellow prisoners. Punch his name into Google and what you will find are numerous accounts of life and death in the Castro gulag, with Liriano as the primary source.

Most recently, Liriano reported on an upswing in violence by a “death squad” of guards towards inmates at the Kilo 7 prison in Camagüey. In March, “32 inmates were victims of savage beatings and terrifying torture, most with injuries to the head,” Liriano said.

Liriano also describes how some prisoners were stripped of their clothes and “crucified” by being handcuffed to the bars of their cells for three days without food or water.

“This is the cruel, unusual fate of prisoners confined in more than 200 prisons and forced labor camps sustained by the island’s regime, due to the hostile policy of the government, an authoritarian government that for half a century in power has recognized in theory the rights of the people, but does not guarantee the protection and implementation thereof. That is why in the Kilo 7 prison thousands of prisoners … areterrified and living with the permanent anguish of trying to survive without being beaten, tortured or killed unjustly ” Liriano said.

Liriano had recently fallen ill, after he was assaulted by Cuban police.

Once again, a brave Cuban dissident dies in a Castro regime hospital, fearful of his life, after suffering years of the regime’s brutality – harrassment, beatings, and imprisonment under the cruelest conditions.

Via the Facebook page of Maria Cama:

Este video no lo había publicado por modestia. Pero ahora que Jorge Alberto Liriano Linares falleció quiero hacerlo público porque aquí claramente nuestro querido Liriano responsabiliza al régimen castrocomunista de su muerte. (Translation: I had not published this video due to modesty. But now that Jorge Alberto Liriano has Linares died, I want to make it public here because clearly our beloved Liriano blamed the regime castrocomunista for his death.)

The dismal, predictable end to Obama’s Cuba legacy

By Jose R. Cardenas, Washington Examiner Opinion Page:

Dismal end to Obama’s Cuba legacy

The Castros’ ideological intolerance still reigns

Cuba Backfire on Obama Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times
Cuba Backfire on Obama Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As the Obama administration enters its waning days, the president’s “historic” decision to normalize relations with the Castro dictatorship in Cuba is ending not with a bang, but a whimper.

Days after Speaker Paul Ryan declared he had no intention of considering anti-embargo legislation before the U.S. House of Representatives, the administration petulantly ordered U.S. officials at the United Nations to “abstain” for the first time from the General Assembly’s annual embargo-bashing vote.

Think of it: a U.S. administration fails to defend its democratically elected Congress before a reflexively anti-American global body comprised largely of a gaggle of thugs, thieves and assorted other despots whose sole reason for existence is to undermine the United States of America and all it represents.

This is what Mr. Obama’s “historic” Cuba policy has come to.

By nearly every measure it set for itself, what the Obama administration intended to accomplish with its reversal of decades of U.S. policy toward Cuba has failed to occur. Supporting more private entrepreneurship? The Castro regime recently cracked down on “allowing” more Cubans to run their own businesses, a development Reuters called, “a new sign that Cuba’s Communist-run government is hesitant to further open up to private business in a country where it still controls most economic activity.”

More Cuban connectivity to the internet? Two years later, Cuba remains one of least connected countries in the world. According to Freedom House, “Cuba has long ranked as one of the world’s most repressive environments for information and communication technologies. High prices, exceptionally slow connectivity, and extensive government regulation have resulted in a pronounced lack of access to applications and services.”

As for the administration’s effort to build a U.S. business constituency to lobby for the end of all U.S. trade restrictions on Cuba, that too has proven futile. According to a recent report by The Associated Press, “Two years into President Barack Obama’s campaign to normalize relations with Cuba, his push to expand economic ties is showing few results.” In other words, U.S. companies came, they saw, they left.

And who can blame them? After getting one look at Cuba’s bankrupt economy lacking rule of law and any semblance of freedom or predictability (plus continuing potential liabilities from the in-place embargo), most said adios.

The only remaining measure the Obama administration can point to with any satisfaction is an increase in Americans visiting Cuba, which it made happen through presidential decree skirting the embargo’s ban on tourist travel. But these likely one-time curiosity-seekers stay and dine in facilities owned primarily by the Cuban military. How that will empower ordinary Cubans is something no one in the administration has ever bothered to explain.

Perhaps most damning, though, for President Obama’s supposed “legacy” Cuba project is a rising set of other numbers: Cubans fleeing the island and human rights violations.

According to a recent report on National Public Radio, over the past fiscal year, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted 5,396 Cubans attempting to reach U.S. shores — double the number from the previous year. The mainstream media want you to believe they are fleeing in record numbers because they fear Mr. Obama’s rapprochement will mean the end of immigration privileges to the United States. But that doesn’t answer the question: If Mr. Obama’s policy was targeted toward “improving the lives of ordinary Cubans” then why do people continue to flee?

The answer that Obama apologists want to avoid is that they are fleeing because they have no hope conditions will ever improve under the Castros and that Mr. Obama’s policy shift locks in the status quo.

Equally, human rights conditions have fared poorly since Mr. Obama’s “historic” normalization of relations. The Havana-based Cuban Commission for Human Rights has documented 620 political arrests by the Castro regime during the month of October alone. That means that, with two months still to go this year, the Castro regime has made a record-shattering 9,125 political arrests already this year.

Editorial boards across the country swooned over Mr. Obama’s decision to recognize the Castro dictatorship — local democracy and human activists likely not so much.

The most painful part of this outcome is that it was entirely predictable, as many skeptics pointed out from the very beginning. But the Obama administration thought it knew better. It believed a 50-year record of ideological intolerance and intransigence could be ameliorated by a more supine U.S. position. It is the same contempt for history that has manifested itself across the board in Mr. Obama’s approach to the world.

Obama apologists say that “more time is needed” for his Cuba policy to bear fruit. But anyone who believes that is smoking something — and it’s not Cuban cigars. President-Elect Trump would do well to put an end to Mr. Obama’s dismal experiment and develop a policy that restores a sense in the Cuban people that Castroism is not a permanent blot on their daily lives.

• Jose R. Cardenas is a former acting assistant administrator for Latin America at the U.S. Agency for International Development in the George W. Bush administration and is an associate with Vision Americas.

Reports from Cuba – End of the Obama Era: Valuable Time Lost

By Yoani Sanchez in Translating Cuba:

End of the Obama Era: Valuable Time Lost

Barack Obama in one of the last rallies of support for Hillary Clinton. (EFE / EPA / CRISTOBAL HERRERA)
Barack Obama in one of the last rallies of support for Hillary Clinton. (EFE / EPA / CRISTOBAL HERRERA)

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 November 2016 – On Tuesday a new era opens for the United States and for the rest of the nations on the planet, while for Cuba a period of great opportunities will end, one that the Plaza of the Revolution’s stubbornness did not use to its advantage.

The normalization of relations between Washington and Havana, announced on 17 December 2014, began a time of possibilities to improve the lives of the Cuban people, a time that the Cuban government received with excessive caution. Every step taken by Barack Obama was responded to with suspicion by Raul Castro, without any lessening of political repression and, in recent months, with a escalation in the tone of ideological rhetoric.

The general-president has wasted the enthusiasm of the thaw, squandering chances and delaying – with his stubbornness – the inevitable opening that the island will experience. He has chosen entrenchment rather than ease the iron controls that strangle the country’s economic, civic and cultural life.

When the opportunity opened for Cuban coffee growers to sell their product in the United States, our side responded with a tirade from the National Association of Small Farmers. Before proposals to strengthen ties between the young people of both nations, olive-green officialdom barricaded itself in a bitter campaign against scholarships offered by the World Learning organization.

Google’s offers to help connect the island to the internet ran up against the monopoly of the Cuban Telecommunications Company, which only at the end of this year will begin a “pilot project” to bring the great World Wide Web to 2,000 homes in Old Havana. Meanwhile, censorship is still in force against digital sites, and wifi zones maintain their high prices and poor service.

The Plaza of the Revolution has focused its discourse on the glass half empty. For long months it has blamed Obama for not managing to lift the embargo or to return the Guantanamo Naval Base, a propaganda strategy of strident demands to cover up the evidence that our neighbor to the north has shown itself in a better mood for reconciliation.

The photos of Castro and Obama shaking hands and smiling for the cameras matter little. The reality is far from deserving the headlines in the foreign press, which tell us that Cuba has changed because Madonna walked the streets of its capital, a United States soccer team shook the stands of a stadium on the island, or that both countries are collaborating on protecting the region’s sharks.

In recent weeks, the slowdown has been felt more strongly. Cuban authorities know that the new occupant of the White House will face many challenges ahead. Her or his first months’ agenda will focus on emergencies such as the war in Syria, the conflict with ISIS, and the country’s own internal problems, which are neither few nor small. Cuba will not be a priority on the agenda of the next president of the United States.

Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump wins today, it will be some time before the new president addresses the issue of the island and makes it their own, with an imprint that could mean “freezing the thaw,” or deepening the path initiated by Obama. But the reins that keep Cuba locked in the 20th century do not issue from the Oval Office, they are held in the hands of an octogenarian who fears this future that awaits us, one where he will not be.

Donald Trump has defeated Hillary Clinton in the state of Florida thanks to strong support from Cuban-Americans

Capitol Hill Cubans:

Obama’s Cuba Policy Lost Florida for Hillary

Yesterday, a column in The Wall Street Journal asked, “Will Obama’s Cuba Policy Lose Florida for Clinton?”

We now have the answer: Yes.

Donald Trump has defeated Hillary Clinton in the state of Florida thanks to strong support from Cuban-Americans.

We can’t stress this enough: No candidate has ever won statewide in Florida while running on an anti-embargo platform.

Moreover, Congress’ biggest opponents of Obama’s Cuba policy have all won handily.

Senator Marco Rubio easily defeated Patrick Murphy, who campaigned supporting Obama’s Cuba policy.

Moreover, Congressman Carlos Curbelo defeated a prominent Obama policy cheerleader, Joe Garcia, by an 11-point margin.

Rounding out the night, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart also won re-election.

The lessons?

First, candidates should stop taking advice from a handful of greedy businessmen who are clueless as regards the real pulse of the Cuban-American community.

Second, issue polls are meaningless.

But third, and most importantly, as concluded by yesterday’s The Wall Street Journal column:

“No matter who wins on Tuesday, the next president will have to clean up this Cuba mess. Decent Cuban-Americans on both sides of the aisle want answers.”

dt

A reminder from Cuba: Citizens of nations less free risk their lives for the American dream

By José Daniel Ferrer García, General Coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, UNPACU:

Whoever Wins, They Are and will Continue to be Free

logo-unpacu-jdf

In the next few hours millions of people around the world will be alert to the electoral process in the United States of America. The main media in the world are publishing about the elections in the first power of the world and on who will be the next White House tenant. We will have to wait at least 24 hours to know who the winner will be: Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. The US is not like Nicaragua, where we all knew that a full-fledged dictator would be reelected.
Much has been said about Clinton and Trump. Many think that they have been the worst candidates contending for the US presidency in many years. It may be true. But more true is that, bad as they are, they are better than most of the current leaders in our continent: Ortega, Maduro, Correa … And luckily Cristina and Dilma are no longer. I do not mention Raul Castro because he is comparable only to Kim Jong Un.

Much has been said about the US electoral system these days. The press of the longest tyranny in the history of our continent is spewing vitriol. Some say that the American model has many flaws; that it is very old and in need of reforms; that the president is not chosen by the popular vote; that Tuesday is not a good day to vote, etc. The system is not perfect; none is. Perhaps it can be improved, but so far it has guaranteed free and competitive elections uninterruptedly for more than two centuries. No dictatorship has tarnished its history.

Some think that Trump is a threat to American democracy and to safety and security in the world. There are those who believe that Hillary is weak and therefore the enemies of the US and of freedom would be more daring. Both may be right or at least to a point. But I think that whoever wins, Americans will continue to protect their democracy and their constitution, which guarantees such magnificent balance among the government powers and which has allowed them to be, for over two hundred years, a free, hard-working and prosperous people. How lucky for the world that a democracy is the most powerful nation on the planet!
Whoever wins the elections today, the Americans’ common sense will prevail and they will continue to enjoy the rights and freedoms, the opportunities and prosperity for which a number of us Cubans continue to struggle more than a hundred years after we became an independent nation. Another much larger number of Cubans will continue to think over how to come to the US to enjoy, under a Hillary or Trump government, what the Americans knew how to conquer and have been able to protect for many decades. Whoever wins, citizens of nations less free and with much worse politicians than the current candidates of the American Union, will risk their lives for the American dream.

Whoever wins the elections today in the United States, those of us who do not accept the oppression and misery in which our people live will continue to fight, under very difficult circumstances, for a system that allows us to freely choose our rulers and in which we can work and prosper like other peoples of the world. To whoever triumphs today in the United States, we only ask not to make things easier for the common enemy: the Castro dictatorship. We will not, however costly it will be for us.

José Daniel Ferrer García.
General Coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, UNPACU.

Versión en español AQUÍ.

Reports from Cuba: Don’t Worry About Trump

By Rebeca Monzo in Translating Cuba:

Don’t Worry About Trump

1478451827_image002

Rebeca Monzo, 6 November 2016 — Anxiety on “my planet” over elections in the United States is out of control.

Many people approach me — they know I use “the good internet” two times a week, something extraordinary here — to ask very anxiously about the presidential poll numbers on Clinton and Trump. They do this because no one with any common sense pays attention to the Cuban media, or to the Venezuelan TV network Telesur, which is more of the same.

I could be wrong but my response is always the same: Neither Trump nor Clinton will change anything in Cuba. Nor should there be any worry if Donald becomes president. No one who occupies that office can do or undo anything on a whim, as is the case here, where there is a “command and control” mindset and the legislative branch is simply a rubber stamp that approves anything the authorities propose. There is respect over there for the House and Senate, which acts as a check on those in power.

Change in Cuba will depend on actions by the Cuban government and its citizens. As long as the authorities here refuse to consider democracy as an option and continue to hide behind lies such as the economic blockade and demands for reparations or the return of the naval base at Guantanamo — aspects of a broader “fig leaf” they use to camouflage their failures — nothing will change. As long as citizens are not active participants in demands for change, nothing will happen.

Instead of spending so much time speculating about American elections, something that should only be of concern to American citizens, we should spend our time telling our friends and neighbors about facts we discovered on the internet, the better to remove the bandages that have been covering our eyes for fifty-eight years. As my grandmother Maria used to say, charity begins at home.

What we should be worrying about is how to hold our leaders accountable, not lower our heads and applaud them out of fear. Otherwise, we will go on dealing with and suffering through these all too familiar problems for which, in one way or another, all Cubans — both those here as well as those in the diaspora — are responsible.

Don’t worry about Donald Trump. Or Donald Duck. They’re the same.

The challenge of taming populism in America

Excellent article on the challenges our president elect will face in the Americas.

By Roger Noriega in InterAmerican Security Watch:

Taming Populism Will be a Test for the Next U.S. President

Photo: Mark Malela/Reuters
Photo: Mark Malela/Reuters

El Tiempo.com—The next President of the United States will confront significant challenges in the Americas. This region not only is our neighborhood, it is a natural market for goods, services, and capital that are critical to human prosperity. We count on these neighbors, with whom we share land and maritime borders, as a first line of defense in a post-9/11 world.

The first responsibility of the next U.S. president is restoring confidence in our own democratic institutions and energizing our economy. A brand of populism that has challenged the status quo in Latin America and the Caribbean for much of the last century has dominated the debate in this U.S. election. Working class and middle class citizens feel insecure in a global economy and neglected by our national politics. Substantial portions of the U.S. population no longer believe in the benefits of global trade or even U.S. engagement in the world.

Restoring economic dynamism and productivity and reducing the government’s role in our lives will go a long way in recovering U.S. optimism. It also will validate the importance of international partnerships to our prosperity and security. This latter point is evident in the challenges we confront in Latin America.

Our country has invested $10 billion in Colombia to support efforts to apply the rule of law against criminal organizations. We all stand to benefit from a firm and durable peace. As Colombia’s politicians and institutions seek to improve the terms of a peace accord, the United States can help by providing critical material and political support. And, we can use law enforcement tools to seek and seize the billions in assets that the guerrillas have acquired through the trafficking in illicit drugs.

Venezuela’s society and economy are collapsing after 18 years of corrupt mismanagement and autocratic rule. The United States should encourage other Latin American countries to take the lead in organizing a regional defense of democracy and the rule of law. The leadership of the Organization of American States could prove pivotal once key countries commit to defend democracy and the rule of law. U.S. investigators should be allowed to bring formal accusations against the criminals who are trying to block a peaceful, electoral solution—using this law enforcement leverage to create space for an orderly transition and economic recovery.

In Mexico, our third largest trade partners, policymakers are trying to lay the foundation of a more diverse and competitive economy. We must find ways to harmonize our two economies so that we can grow together. And neither country can neglect the essential duty of protecting our common security and wellbeing from violent criminals that threaten institutions and our people.

According to one recent poll, a majority of Brazilians have lost confidence in democracy in the wake of widespread corruption that cost Dilma Rousseff the presidency. The United States must work with others in the region to promote free market reforms, transparency, and strong democratic institutions. Of course, this vision cannot be imposed from outside; but we can play a role in restoring momentum behind an inter-American agenda that fortifies and shares political and economic freedom.

The Americas—north and south—are wealthy in natural resources and human ingenuity. However, progress has been hindered by dysfunctional political institutions and ineffective leaders who are preoccupied with protecting entrenched economic interests rather than promoting growth and opportunity. Radical populism will only make these problems worse. However, courageous and accountable democratic leadership, in each of our countries, can help us adapt to a changing global economy—meeting 21st-century challenges by applying the enduring formula of political and economic freedom to empower every citizen.

The 2016 U.S. campaign has dredged up the same sort of populism that has bedeviled many of our neighbors. By confronting that common problem by strengthening our shared values, the next U.S. president can unite the Americas like never before.

The author was U.S. Ambassador to the OAS and Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2001-05. He is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and his firm Visión Américas LLC represents U.S. and foreign clients.

The Ugly Truth: A Deeper Look Into Cuba’s Media

Cuba’s media is filled with criticism of the embargo, blaming the regimes failures on the “blockade”, including shamefully, the deaths of those lost at sea fleeing the Castros’ brutality, enforced poverty, and denial of all basic human rights, including freedom of information, a fundamental human right.

By Katarina Hall in The Victims of Communism Blog:

The Ugly Thruth: A Deeper Look Into Cuba’s Media

It is no surprise that Cuba is ranked as one of the most censored countries of the world. According to Freedom House, “Cuba has the most restrictive laws on freedom and expression in Latin America.” There is no such thing as private media outlets, private newspapers, private radio stations—unless they are illegal. On top of that, the few news sources that do exist are owned by the Communist Party of Cuba and are heavily censored: Cuba’s real problems never surface and the Castros are never criticized. The island is invariably portrayed as a dreamy paradise.

For many, this might not be news, but it still might be difficult to picture. So here is a deeper look into Cuba’s media.

Cuba has three national newspapers: two dailies, the Communist Party owned Granma and Juventud Rebelde, founded by Fidel himself and owned by the Young Communist League, as well as a weekly called Trabajadores that was founded by the Workers Central Union of Cuba. There are also 16 provincial newspapers. The national newspapers are everything you’d expect from communist party mouthpieces: they spread the ideals of the Revolution and attack imperialism—in other words, the United States. Most Cubans clearly see Granma for what it is, but think of Juventud Rebelde as a more trustworthy and accurate news source. While Juventud Rebelde has some articles involving more trendy topics such as music, both newspapers contain essentially the same stories. The only difference: the articles have different titles and are worded slightly differently. It doesn’t matter what day you open the paper, you will always find articles condemning the embargo, reporting on Cuba forming an alliance with another communist or socialist country, or covering anti-imperialist debates.

Cuban television is much the same. There are three national TV networks, Cuba Vision, Tele Rebelde, and Multivision, as well as two educational channels. The latter broadcast documentaries on topics ranging from the history of Cuba and the accomplishments of the Revolution to the lives of current Cuban political figures and artists. The three main networks host a variety of shows, from singing and dancing competitions to soap operas and soccer games. However, the most interesting program is Cuba Vision’s daily 8:00 p.m. news feature: it is a full on reportage of communist propaganda. Every day, the news consists of basically the same thing: Cuban awards given out, Cuba’s ties with Russia, Cuba’s ties with China, Cuba’s ties with North Korea, Cuba’s ties with Venezuela, and something bad that happened in the US.

In Cuba, Manuel, our trustworthy taxi driver, told me that journalists in Cuba only lie. “The worst thing about this country is that it is based on lies. It’s a country of lies. In other countries lying is shunned, but here, it is constantly used. That is the news in Cuba.” Manuel, of course, has inside information. He later told me that he knew this because his wife worked for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting.

The sad reality is that Cuba’s media never says a word about Cuba’s actual situation, Cuban dissidents, or even the real state of the world. The media in Cuba is just another tool the Communist Party uses to keep its citizens in a dreamlike state, making them believe that the real problems are not on the island but outside of it.

However, there is a bright side to this story: many Cubans are starting to see the state news for what it is. Nowadays most rooftops sport illegal TV antennas that pick up international news channels. Increasingly, people are getting the news through services like the monthly news and movie package El Paquete.

Manuel confessed to me that he had a satellite antenna. He explained how he gets DirectTV by sharing the service with a couple of neighbors from the block. “Of course, if we get caught we could face jail time,” he said. “We do this because this is happiness for Cubans.” He explained that watching illegal media is a way of taking back control: “They [the Party] can’t control me physically or mentally. They control the economy and the information, but I try to control these myself. That is why I have illegal TV channels.” For Manuel and many Cubans like him, breaking the communist regime’s information monopoly is a powerful form of dissent.

Cuba: Wifi is coming, Wifi is coming

etecsa-facturas

Recent news about lists of text message words censored in Cuba received widespread media attention. A quick google search ofCuba censors text message words, returns 159,000 links in .078 seconds.

Now, Voilà!, what timing! Cuba Announces Major WiFi Expansion on Iconic Malecon!!

Via ABC News:

The Cuban government says it will make five miles of Havana’s iconic seafront boulevard, the Malecon, into the largest WiFi hotspot in one of the world’s least-connected nations.

State media said Wednesday that WiFi will be installed along the most popular stretch of the Malecon by the end of the year. The seafront is a favored spot for Cubans to gather at night to talk, drink and listen to music.

Home internet remains illegal for most Cubans. Since last year, the government has installed dozens of WiFi spots in public areas, charging $2 an hour in a country where the average state salary remains about $25 a month.

Cuba said last year that it had 65 WiFi spots in service and expected 80 more to open in 2016.

Wonderful news, just imagine crowds of locals and tourists enjoying the latest from the net in paradise.

malecon

Nevermind the long history of the regime’s unfufilled promises, even if the Wifi hotspots are built, that doesn’t doesn’t mean an end to censorship, or the Harassment of alternative media.

Amnesty International report:

Internet access in Cuba is censored.

With access to internet so limited, online censorship is not that sophisticated in Cuba. Authorities frequently filter and intermittently block websites that are critical of the state. Limiting access to information in this way is a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart information.

Communicating with Cuban human rights activists from overseas is difficult.

Amnesty International, along with many other independent international human rights monitors, including UN Special Rapporteurs, are not allowed to access Cuba. The landline, mobile and internet connections of government critics, human rights activists and journalists are often monitored or disabled. In the lead-up to Pope Benedict’s three-day visit to Cuba in September 2012, a communications blockade prevented Amnesty International and other international organizations from gathering information on a wave of detentions that were taking place. Communicating with Cuban human rights activists remains challenging, particularly at times when the authorities are arresting people based on their political opinion.

Obama’s Cuba policy resurrects segregation

Obama’s legacy.

By John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Obama Cuba Policy Legacy: Resurrecting systemic legal segregation

“If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” – Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac

cuba_600

President met Castro in Panama as Cuban activists attacked by Castro’s diplomats

The Obama Administration beginning in 2009 pushed for a normalization of relations with an abnormal and totalitarian regime in Cuba that treats its own people as chattel. On December 17, 2014 the announcement was formally made and since then new relations established.

Throughout this process human rights have not only worsened in Cuba, but also in the United States with the approval of The White House until popular outrage has forced them to back track. Consider for a moment three episodes from 2016.

apartheidcruise

Protests against Carnival for discriminating against Cubans to appease Castro regime

First, Carnival Cruise Line signed an agreement with Castro regime officials on March 21, 2016 to sail to Cuba from the United States. In order to conduct their core mission Carnival had to agree to enforce the Castro dictatorship’s policy that bans all Cubans from traveling into the island by water. It did not matter if Cubans born on the island were now citizens of another country. Obama’s Treasury Department on July 7, 2015 signed off on the Carnival Cruise Line – Castro regime alliance ignoring that an entire class of Americans would be discriminated against based on their national origin. Mass protests, boycotts and lawsuits led the Castro regime to blink when it became apparent that popular outrage would lead the cruise ship company to cancel its cruises.

Second, the U.S. embassy in Cuba floated a trial balloon that announced that the United States government accepted that U.S. citizens of Cuban descent born in the United States are not recognized by the Castro regime as Americans but as Cuban nationals subject to the dictatorship’s laws and regulations. Even though one was born in the United States and has never applied for dual nationality in Cuba they are treated as a Cuban born by the Castro regime in terms of responsibilities but not rights and the government of the USA goes along with it in order to have “normal relations.” This also means that these U.S. citizens would be denied consular access in Cuba. The State Department once again had to back track in May of 2016 when this trial balloon sunk amidst negative press coverage and popular outrage.

american-airlines-cuba-septiembre-aa_cymima20160920_0004_13

Discriminating against Cuban born crew to placate Castro regime

Thirdly, American Airlines is pulling Cuban-American pilots and flight attendants off flights to Cuba in order to placate demands by the Castro regime. Fabiola Santiago, of The Miami Herald, obtained an American Airlines memo announcing the policy as follows: “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 crew members.” The Democracy Movement has announced that if American Airlines does not end this policy that they will take action.

President Obama’s Cuba policy legacy is to resurrect systemic legal segregation against American citizen’s based on their national origin in order to placate a foreign dictatorship. Benjamin Franklin was right: “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

Castro’s forced labor camps, a selective memory

By Ernesto Hernández Busto in Penúltimos Días:

umap-el-mundo_1966_brb2-1-450x300


UMAP: Selective Memory

It seems that in Cuba one can now talk about UMAP, the notorious Military Units to Aid Production (in Spanish: Unidades Militares de Ayuda a la Producción), internment and forced labor camps where the Cuban government imprisoned homosexuals, the religious, intellectuals, dissidents and any other “suspicious elements” between November 1965 and July 1968. Gradually, people have begun to speak about the camps, to admit things and individual cases, to collect testimonies, and to make visible this sad episode.

The psychologist Carolina de la Torre, a professor at the University of Havana, is about to publish the fictionalized story of her brother, Benjamin de la Torre, who committed suicide in 1967, just after leaving one of these camps. In a recent interview she recounted the difficulties in “finding out and writing about this episode in my own country.” In effect, for too long any investigation into this thorny episode in Cuba’s history has been avoided, while the importance of information and witness accounts that came to light off the island was called into question. The topic has always been “suspicious,” and this situation only began to change after official recognition from the victimizer: in an interview with the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, on 31 August 2010, after some hesitation and rhetorical circumlocutions, Fidel Castro declared publicly: “I am the one responsible for the persecution of homosexuals we had in Cuba… We did not know how to judge… Systematic sabotage, armed attacks, were happening all the time; we had so many and such terrible problems, problems of life and death, you know, so we didn’t pay enough attention.”

In fact, there was an excess of attention. For the young Cuban historian Abel Sierra Madero, UMAP cannot be understood as an isolated institution, but as a part of a project “oriented to social and political control. That is, as a technology that involved judicial, military, educational, medical and psychiatric mechanisms.” In recent research published in the magazine Letras Libres, and later, in an expanded version for Cuban Studies, Sierra Madero, using a relentless collection of testimonies, lucidly analyzes the Castro regime’s ideology that supported these supposed “academies to produce macho men.”

It was not just a question of a homophobic or exclusionary discourse that proposed, for example, to expel from higher schooling “counterrevolutionary and homosexual elements,” and to prevent their entry into the university. The process of “purification” was more complex and took place at all levels. Once the purges of the universities were finalized, young people who stood out for a wide range of reasons – which included everything from long hair to being Jehovah’s Witnesses, listening to “the enemy’s music” or not being “incorporated” (not having fixed work or belonging to mass organizations) – remained “exposed and at the mercy of the State.” The Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) were charged with conducting a census to identify the “disaffected”, informing on them was encouraged through a National Information Center, and all this data ended up being shared with the Ministry of the Interior and Revolutionary Armed Forces, which were charged with forced recruitment. Quite simply, there was no escape. Rather than a “lack of attention,” it was the most attentive Orwellian machinery that was set in motion to concern itself with those who did not fit into the mold of the “New Man.”

Sierra Madero’s research focuses on this concept, associated with “a broader ideological camp of social homogenization in which fashion, urban practices of sociability, religious creeds and an attitude toward work were key elements in harmonizing with a normative official vision.” The testimonies collected – including those of the various psychologists who consulted in the camps – trace a hellish scenario: from forced hormone therapy treatments to an enormous plan of “Revolutionary hygiene” that turned the internees into an almost slave labor force, or subjected to them to behavioral and reflexological experiments, in which they came to use electroshock treatments. Other witnesses speak of tortures using electrodes and treatments that involved insulin-induced comas.

Recently, the government magazine Temas (Themes) dedicated an article by its director, Rafael Hernández, to “the time of the UMAPs.” In it, he affirms that there were more than 25,000 internees “among the more than 70 camps, scattered across the plains of Camagüey.” The number is very conservative but there is no way to contrast it. In a last year’s interview in El País, famous Cuban singer Pablo Milanés talked about his own experience in UMAP and mentioned “40 thousand” interns. Two former Cuban intelligence agents quoted by the scholar Joseph Tahbaz (Dartmouth College) in the most comprehensive study about this subject, Demystifying las UMAP: The Politics of Sugar, Gender, and Religion in 1960s Cuba, have estimated that of approximately 35,000 UMAP internee.

Last November, the journalist José Jasán Nieves reported about a meeting between several former inmates of the camps, now associates of the Christian Reflection and Dialog Center, and their guards, who at the time were young Revolutionaries convinced they were carrying out an important “task of the Revolution.” One of the guards, a former sergeant, has been a pastor in the Brothers of Christ Church for more than 25 years. And he cries out, of course, for forgiveness.

It appears, however, that on this issue there are different ideas about memory and forgiveness. Last December, after seeing a documentary on Mariela Castro and “The Revolution of Homosexuals in Cuba,” the LGBT activist Jimmy Roque published in the on-line newspaper Havana Times, an article asking Raúl Castro to apologize and accept his responsibility for the internment of homosexuals in the UMAPs. “Now is the time to ask forgiveness for this act of penalization, exclusion and punishment to which thousands of homosexuals and Cubans with ‘improper conduct’ were subjected,” the activist wrote, quoting the title of Néstor Almendros and Orlando Jiménez Leal’s famous documentary about this subject –from 1983.

In his article, Roque also referred to a supposed investigation into the matter that CENESEX, directed by Raul’s daughter Mariela Castro, had been pushing since 2011: “Where is this investigation? How many people have been interviewed” Who is performing it? When and where will the partial results be presented (along with those from now until the end of the study)?”

Two months later, in February, another Cuban activist, Yasmín Portales Machado, dared to quote a fragment of Roque’s article in his blog Proyecto Arcoiris (“Rainbow Project”) which deals with sexual diversity and is hosted on the Cuban government’s platform Reflejos. The text was censored and the blog closed after a succinct explanation about how it had violated “the norms of participation on the site” with a text “defamatory to the Revolution.”

In closed forums, or in publications with no real or large impact within Cuba, people then began to talk about the issue, but always quietly. They recognize that something was wrong. But there is still censorship and zones of silence. There is no mention, yet, about the origin of UMAP – and of many other similar “experiments” that seem inseparable from the construction of “a new society”: the devastating power that has been exercised by the Cuban State against all forms of dissent. The way in which one life is suddenly reduced to nothing, no longer matters, is no longer accounted for, and all violence then becomes legitimate, “natural,” exempt from responsibility. Because if we go there, how can we ignore the current repression against the dissidents, and the monopoly of the political voice and the systematic violation of human rights on the island?

Behind the “UMAP phenomenon” there was not, as one analyst recently recovered from several decades of amnesia said, a “perfect storm” of circumstances specific to the ‘60s, but the idea that any behavior that did not fit into the mold of ideological unanimity was not only reprehensible but punishable: it deserved to be suppress, isolated, subjected to the worst humiliations we could imagine. Same way of thinking erupted again in 1980, with the events of the Mariel Boatlift, and survives today as the ideological basis of the repressive forces.

I hope we don’t have to wait another 50 years for the day when some digital publication, not greatly read in Cuba, comes to think that this beating of dissidents that goes on today wasn’t a good thing either.

Ernesto Hernández Busto
Barcelona