Cuba is still BYOTP (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper)

Dear Cuban zoo spectators (tourists), enjoy this perk while visiting the latest designated seven wonder cities of the world. Be thankful you won’t have to stand in lines, or live and suffer as everyday Cuban people do.

Via The Real Cuba:

Flights To Cuba Now Departing (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper)

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ValueWalk

Cuba Is Still BYOTP

Marketplace Radio takes a look at the challenge of filming movies and television shows in Cuba, focusing specifically on Showtime’s “House of Lies” starring Don Cheadle. The episode is titled “No es facil” – “It’s not easy.” The title appears to be a description of doing business in Cuba, and also of filming a show about doing business in Cuba. As Marketplace’s Adrienne Hill and show creator Matthew Carnahan explain:

Camera equipment was shipped from Germany because it couldn’t be sent directly from the U.S. Even basic supplies – “there’s not hammers and toilet paper, and things that people need.

Reports from Cuba: Bribes In Exchange For Electricity

The absurdity of wanting a socialist economy. Imagine this scenario as a model for every single aspect of your life, where everything breaks down from inefficiency, corruption and out-dated deteriorated infrastructure that never gets replaced or properly repaired. This is what happens when government, which never produces but only re-distributes runs everything.

Ricardo Fernandez in Translating Cuba:

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Bribes in Exchange For Electricity

14ymedio – Passing by my parents’ farm south of Camagüey, I have experienced the local storms that cause the heat of the day. Although these rains are beneficial to the crops, many times they are accompanied by thunderstorms that cause overloads in the miles of “clotheslines” (the illegal connections made with all kinds of wires) that bring the current – with deficient voltage and poor strength – to the farmers’ houses. Last Wednesday afternoon’s storm left us in the dark all night, but also permanently damaged the old transformer that powered thirty farms.

A couple of days later the electric company’s linemen came out because, as they said, “the line failed.” We neighbors helped them to navigate the swampy roads on horseback to find the problem. When we realized the transformer needed to be replaced our blood ran cold. The last time it happened it took a week to find a replacement, since the 4,000 volt line is obsolete and the transformers are no longer manufactured. We neighbors quickly agreed among ourselves and, with great tact, offered a juicy gift to “expedite” the work. The amount collected between us seemed small, faced with the prospect of having to milk the cows in the dark and withstand the intense heat of the nights.

After many efforts, the linemen found the parts in a warehouse in Camagüey and returned to make the repair. We all got together to help, eyes as bright as kids seeing so many tools for which our minds had already conceived alternate uses. When we took the transformer down, the equipment had a hole in the grounding terminal. With little shame, we asked them to let us take a little bit of the oil coming out of the hole, because it is most effective for waterproofing harnesses and saddles, as well as for making them shine.

After the excitement of the reestablishment of the flow of electricity it’s time to reflect, and some questions come to mind. Why isn’t the Electric Company responsible for expediting repairs in rural areas? Why isn’t safe and secure electricity provided to farmers to improve their living conditions and the performance of their land? Why aren’t farmworkers paid a salary commensurate with the risk and complexity of their work? How long will we have to offer bribes to receive what it ours by right?

Speaking with the linemen we know that in Latin American countries their work pays approximately 60 dollars an hour. If they earned a living wage here in Cuba there would be no need for bribes-gifts to expedite their efforts. If the government propaganda that says they want people to return to the countryside is true, they should, at least, electrify the farms to be able to use irrigation systems instead of primitive dry land planting, as well as to improve living conditions in the countryside. We know that this implies huge investments, but it would also produce huge gains for the electric company because the farmers pay for electricity at a rate of 5 pesos per kilowatt consumed over the first 5,000.

To put it more simply, a house with an electric stove, a refrigerator and a fan, can expect to pay 400 Cuban pesos a month; but a farmer who uses electricity to irrigate his land will pay 13,459 Cuban pesos for 5,000 kilowatts. These high rates would bring in millions of pesos, which nullifies any excuse with respect to the claim of lack of budget.

From the people’s Havana: There is no water

Ah the benefits of socialism. Prison, exile, death, family separation, food rationing, crumbling infrastructure, and no water. No problem for the elite and tourists though, somehow they have water. Vamos Bien!

Via Cubanet, Se vende agua potable a precio de oro / Water is selling at the price of gold
(loosely translated)

“Water every four days, during three months. But we are well, there are places where it is every thirty days”

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The sign reads: There Is No Water

Havana, Cuba-“water every four days, for three months. And if it is not raining at that time, it will be eight. But we are well, in the East there are places where it is every thirty days”, that is the announcement about the water supply to the population from the authorities of the Government, are sending to Havana neighborhoods through the Committee for the defense of the revolution (CDR).

Electrical distribution, in La Güinera, El Calvario, among other settlements of Arroyo Naranjo and other nearby municipalities, such as Cotorro and Boyeros, which are supplied by the southern basin, are currently affected by cuts in the distribution of drinking water due to the critical levels of the reserves of the West and by the drought affecting the country.

Despite the heavy rains of the past few days, the Institute of hydraulic resources has maintained the drought alert and continues reporting that its reservoirs and groundwater sources are below the historical average and that no recovery is expected immediately, so the supply situation could worsen in the coming months.

Areas of the municipalities most centrally located in the capital, as well as the Habana del Este, for months are also in a situation of emergency and even pumping has been suspended so that water distribution is currently done through trucks, in frequencies ranging between one and seven days, and often many more due to the lack of control of the supply, and the growth of what could be called a real “black water market”.

The value of the contents of a truck tanker which, prior to the current crisis, could oscillate between 20 and 30 dollars, currently exceeds in some parts of the capital, the price of 100 dollars, this in a country where the average monthly wage of a professional worker does not exceeds $25.

Similarly, the sale of plastic containers of different sizes, extracted illegally from State warehouses, has skyrocketed at same rate, which already reaches between 40 and 60 dollars for a second hand vessel with capacity for a scanty 55 gallons.

Meanwhile, the water supply to the hotel sector, as reported by officials and workers of the main facilities of Havana, has remained stable throughout this high season which, due to the current tourism boom of Cuba, will be extended beyond June 15 during the months of summer, even until December, when it is expected an intensification of the drought and a worsening in the supply of the liquid.

Continue reading in Spanish HERE.

As predicted, Obama’s Cuba Policy Has Gutted the Democratic Charter

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Obama’s Cuba Policy Has Gutted the Democratic Charter

We’ve seen numerous counter-productive consequences of Obama’s Cuba policy on the island: a dramatic rise in repression; a new refugee crisis; tenfold rise in religious persecution; plummeting U.S. agricultural sales; and the strengthening of Castro’s military monopolies.

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve also seen how Venezuela’s regime is making a mockery of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and — despite the best efforts of OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro — the region’s tragic ambivalence to defending democracy.

Yet another consequence of Obama’s short-sighted Cuba policy, which we predicted (below) from Day One.

By Mauricio Claver-Carone in The Huffington Post (on January 11th, 2015):

Obama Gives Cuba a Hemispheric Coup

The recent political witch-hunt against famed Venezuelan opposition legislator Maria Corina Machado reinforces growing concerns that democratic institutions are under concerted attack in the Western Hemisphere.

“Justice is on its knees in Venezuela with sentences being dictated from Miraflores or Havana,” Machado says, summing up the political alliance between Cuba and Venezuela’s governments that drive her country’s politics. She stands accused of conspiring to kill Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro. Another opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, has already been imprisoned.

Through its cohorts and directly, Cuba has been pounding democratic institutions not only in Venezuela, but also Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. Democracy’s advocates in the region are too shortsighted, beleaguered or intimidated to fight back aggressively. In fact, they invited Cuba to participate in the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama, despite the fact that Cuba’s Castro dictatorship openly scorns the “democracy clause” that reserves Summit membership and participation to the region’s democratic governments. Thirty-four of the 35 nations comprising the Western Hemisphere adopted that clause during the Quebec Summit. Cuba was then and still is the Hemisphere’s last remaining totalitarian state; it also has a long history of “exporting revolution” into democratic states.

The Obama Administration initially stated its opposition to Cuba being invited to the Summit. However, in a turn-around announcement on December 17, it chose to “lead from behind” and acquiesce to the whims of those hemispheric leaders all-too-eager and willing to suspend the “democracy clause.” Not only has President Obama now accepted Cuba’s participation, but he will also be there to personally welcome dictator Raul Castro.

However, those who lobbied Obama to attend the Summit regardless of the violation of the “democracy clause” weren’t to be satisfied with his attendance alone. They also wanted the President to arrive with a gift bag for Cuba that includes a further lifting of U.S. sanctions. That, they argued, will ensure a warm reception for Obama from “troubled” Latin American leaders. And naturally, Castro would be thrilled.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the exact same arguments were made in the months and weeks leading up to the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad. Just days before that summit, the Obama Administration did ease sanctions against Cuba. Despite this “gesture,” Obama was not received in Trinidad as a hero. He was treated as a pushover. Then Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez even engineered a photo-op with the President that featured copies of anti-American book, Open Veins of Latin America. Latin America’s “extreme Left” considers the book to be its bible. (The author, Eduardo Galeano, has recently disavowed his creation.) A few months after that summit, the Cuban government of Raul Castro seized an American hostage, Alan Gross, in a successful effort to coerce the United States into releasing a group of imprisoned Cuban spies.

For months, advocates for lifting sanctions used the Panama Summit as a prop in their campaign against what they call the United States’ “failed policy.” They would happily sacrifice our national interest in regional democracy to advance their narrow agenda. Not only is this dangerous and irresponsible, it also begs the serious question: What do they consider to be a “successful” policy alternative?

Is it the “China model,” whereby U.S. business helps to build the most lucrative dictatorship in human history?

A “Vietnam model” of state capitalism under an iron-fisted rule?

A “Burma model,” whereby reforms achieved through pressure are rolled back as soon as sanctions are lifted?

Raul Castro, Nicolas Maduro and their puppets revel in such models. But none should have a place — geographically or politically — in the Western Hemisphere. In this hemisphere, every nation (except Cuba) made a commitment to representative democracy in 2001. It was a historic commitment that, backed by the United States, has blocked the authoritarian ambitions of wannabe dictators in Latin America and generated continued support for democracy and civil society. It was a commitment that Obama’s December 17 announcement has now placed on the chopping block.

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Obama’s Neo-appeasement Foreign Policy

From our good friend, Dr. Jose Azel via The Azel Perspective:

Neville Chamberlain Lives on in Obama’s Foreign Policy

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain died in 1940, but his failed foreign policy of appeasing the enemies of democratic governance has been resurrected. The current incarnation of the appeasement approach to foreign policy — which I am labeling neo-appeasement — is best articulated by Professor Charles Kupchan of Georgetown University in his book, How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace.

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The exploration of unconventional ideas is a hallmark of academic work, and professor Kupchan’s scholarship may offer theoretical insights into the study of international relations. But international relations are not in the domain of the physical sciences where benign laboratory experimentation can take place without negatively impacting the lives of millions of individuals.

Social science experimentation, of the kind offered by Kupchan, is best kept in the Ivory Tower — preferably under lock and key — where we can argue its merits to the point of nausea without imperiling lives.

Unfortunately, Kupchan’s hypotheses have moved with him to the US National Security Council where he serves as senior director for European affairs and his neo-appeasement appears to be in full display in the formulation of US foreign policy. He asserts as much in the first chapter of his book noting that: “The Obama administration clearly believes that enemies can become friends.”

So what is the professor’s and the administration’s road map for turning enemies into friends?

The neo-appeasement prescription entails a sequential four-phased process. It must begin, according to Kupchan, by making concessions to our enemies in an act of “unilateral accommodation.” These concessions must be “unusual and costly” to signal benign intent. I imagine this is what Prime Minister Chamberlain had in mind when he conceded the German speaking Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler in the Munich Agreement of 1938.

The second phase entails the practice of “reciprocal restraint” where the adversary nations walk away from rivalry, peace breaks out, and geopolitical competition gives way to cooperation. This must have been Hitler’s mindset when Germany occupied the remainder of Czechoslovakia six months after the Munich Agreement, and followed with the invasion of Poland in 1939 unleashing World War II.

“Social integration” and “the generation of new narratives and identities” are the third and fourth phases of Kupchan’s sequence towards stable peace. He and President Obama believe that deepened transactions between adversaries somehow lead them to change their identities and the “distinctions between self and other erode, giving way to communal identities and a shared sense of solidarity.”

I cannot tell if this assertion is naive or just plain silly, but let’s hold on to it for a paragraph or two as we explore another troubling thesis of the professor’s work where he argues that democracy is not necessary for stable peace. In his view, the United States should assess whether countries are enemies or friends based on their diplomacy (that is, on what they say) and not on the nature of their domestic institutions — what they do.

I suppose this explains the administration’s diplomatic choices in marginalizing friendly democratic allies like Israel and appeasing hostile repressive regimes like Russia, Iran, and Cuba.

Democracies do not usually go to war with each other, and recognizing that democracies will have enemies is not synonymous with being bellicose. Polity matters and we should not seek, as neo-appeasement prescribes, a communal identity and a shared sense of solidarity, with the likes of supreme leaders Ali Khamenei, Kim Jung-un, Vladimir Putin, or Raul Castro.

Neo-appeasement seems to be the intellectual foundation of the administration’s foreign policy. Under its banner, we accommodated Putin’s occupation of Georgian territory, just as Chamberlain accommodated Hitler. We gave up our missile defense plans in Eastern Europe; we may have delayed, but ultimately accepted, Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, and the president is using his executive power to unconditionally normalize relations with the Cuban regime. Mind you, this is a regime that in 1962 urged the Soviet Union to launch a preemptive nuclear attack on the United States with missiles from Cuba.

When challenged on his foreign policy, the president is cavalier in dismissing historical experience by repeatedly noting that “he is not interested in having battles that started before he was born,” intimating that world peace hinges on a calculus of before and after Obama’s birth.

In resurrecting Chamberlains’ approach of appeasing the mortal enemies of democratic governance, the president would do well to humbly ponder Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana’s admonishment that: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The Castros can be pressured

Ah, but IMO, the problem is Obama’s ideological affiliation with the left’s icons in Havana. His intended legacy is to align with the regime, and continue America’s “hope and change” decline down the socialist ladder, not to bring freedom and human rights to Cuba.

Via Diario De Cuba:

Yes, the Castros can be pressured

ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES

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The Castro brothers’ caving in and allowing Cuban-Americans to travel to Cuba aboard Carnival cruise ships revealed that they are vulnerable. Despite their efforts to conceal it, it is clear that they can be successfully pressured.

Now it is time to demand an end to the outrageous requirement that Cubans have a visa to visit their own country, while those who have US citizenship can travel with their US passports, as the socialist constitution’s Article 32 actually prohibits dual citizenship.

The acquiescence to the Cuban exile community in the case of Carnival would have been unthinkable back in the days when Moscow was subsidizing Cuba with billions of dollars a year, or during the boom days of chavismoin Venezuela, when oil prices were sky high and the Castros were receiving some 36 million barrels of oil and billions of dollars in cashevery year.

But the Chaves-sponsored boon is over, and in Latin America changes are underway that have begun to erode that scenario of plenty and to aggravate the regime’s financial situation every day, already calamitous due to its unworkable socio-economic system.

It is true that the reason for the Castros’ consent had to do with the fact that Cuba does not have enough hotel capacity to accommodate the flood of tourists reaching the island every day, and the Government did not want to lose out on the money provide by a floating hotel in Havana Bay.

In addition, there is the devastating crisis in Venezuela, the increasingly likely fall of the professor of Marxism and former pro-Che activist Dilma Rousseff as the president of Brazil, and the rise to power in Argentina of Mauricio Macri, marking the end of the Kirchner era and a turning point, spelling the decline of leftist populism, dominant in Latin America since the beginning of the century, and a possible return to liberal democracy.

It should also be added that Evo Morales lost his referendum and may not be reelected in Bolivia, and Peru’s next president will not be a leftist, as neither of the two candidates on the ballot for the second round of elections there on 5 June are of this ideology.

The man from Havana, in danger

Nicolás Maduro actually lived in Cuba in the 80s and studied at the Communist Party’s Ñico López Advanced School in Havana. There he was recruited by the Castros’ intelligence division and began working for the Departamento América, headed up by Commander Manuel Pineiro (aka Barbarossa, or Red Beard), a coordinator of leftist terrorist groups in Latin America, many of them trained in Cuba. That is, Maduro had stronger personal ties to the Castroist cadre than Hugo Chávez. That’s why they requested that Maduro succeed him.

Well, apparently Maduro’s days at Miraflores are numbered. And, whoever replaces him, he won’t grovel to the Cuban dictatorship like Nicolás did – even if he is a Cháves disciple. Given the appalling crisis Venezuela is suffering, the subsidies for Cuba are bound to decrease, or even disappear, if the devotees of the late Chaves lose power. With these ominous signs on the horizon, and it being clear that neither Russia, China, Brazil or any other country is going to replace Caracas as a patron of the Castros, they need the United States.

If the Venezuelan and Brazilian subsidies (in Brazil there are thousands of Cuban doctors, the regime retaining 70% of their salaries) abate or disappear, the Island’s economy will depend on its northern neighbor; that is, on remittances and packages, and Cuban and American tourism, the only thing that can really grow, and quickly, if the embargo is ended, which would also allow Cuba to obtain international loans, and trade with the US.

But with all the bravado in the US Congress, it is unlikely that there will be enough votes to lift the embargo. And there’s the rub: the insolent rhetoric of Raúl and Fidel Castro, and the entire ruling elite at the recent VII Congress of the Communist Party lacks any economic or political foundation – much less a moral one.

Such posturing is really just for domestic consumption. The Castros should be pressured for them to tone it down. Sooner or later they will have to do, and at least to recognize the basic rights of their people, and lift existing prohibitions against self-employed and ordinary Cubans.

More vulnerable than ever

The Castros are losing, or about to lose, the political and economic protection provided them for decades by external subsidies and their collusion with populist Latin American governments. Never before they have they been so vulnerable.

This is something that the White House must now realize. With both commanders in power there will be no structural reforms in Cuba, but they are fragile. And Obama made all the unilateral concessions he could do as US president to placate Havana. Therefore, his administration should change course with its accommodating policies, based on turning the other cheek.

Castro’s return to his orthodox Stalinist rhetoric also shows something that the White House and the State Department have failed to realize: the tactic of embracing the Castros, to infect them with democracy, is not working.

It is true that Obama’s visit to the Island frightened the dictatorial leadership, as it showed Cubans how their dictatorship pales in comparison to a modern Western democracy. But we have already seen their reaction: an attempt to erase the “counterrevolutionary” effects of that visit, to the point of paralyzing the process for the normalization of bilateral relations.

This largely spoiled the legacy the American leader wished to leave, as a normalizer of relations with Cuba. It is one thing to have re-established diplomatic relations – like there were with the Soviet Union for almost 60 years – and quite another is a return to relations without political tension and pugnacious speeches against the United States. This has not been achieved.

“…or the game is over.”

The good intentions and optimism of Obama, the Democrats, and American businessmen, their desire to forget the past and focus on the future of bilateral relations, for the benefit of the Cuban people, clash with the retrograde nature of the Castroist hierarchy, only interested in staying in power. The welfare of Cubans has never been a priority for the Government.

But that same civil-military elite is obliged to reach agreements with Washington in order to continue governing. It’s a question of life or death. Of course, the regime still has enough strength left to control and repress the Cuban people. And that should also be the focus of both international and internal pressure.

The members of the Cuban diaspora, by demanding their right to travel to the island by sea, also demonstrated their strength, when properly channeled. This, and the increasing and admirable struggle of dissidents and political opponents, constitute a formidable weapon. The able coordination of joint efforts by these three factors could yield additional victories against Raúl Castro and his military junta. In the past this was not a possibility, but today it is.

And the White House should tell them, once and for all: “Move … or the game is over.”

Press freedom in Cuba is worse than in Iran and Syria

Never mind increased American tourism, the hype from media, and the usual “Cuba experts”, Obama’s new Cuba policy has not brought the Cuban people improvements in their standard of living, or respect for human rights. Cuba remains unfree.

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Cuba Ranks Among ‘Worst of the Worst’ in Press Freedom

In Freedom House’s 2016 new report on freedom of the press, Cuba ranks even worse than Iran and Syria.

Again, moving in the wrong direction.


Read the 2016 Freedom House Report HERE.

Cuban Political Prisoners of the week

Via Marc Masferrer’s tireless advocacy on their behalf in Uncommon Sense:

Cuban Political Prisoners of the Week, 5/1/16: Alexander Alan Rodriguez, Carlos Calderin, Jordys Dosil, Isain Lopez and Ernest Ortega

During President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba in March 2016, dictator Raul Castro said he would be willing to release all political prisoners; all he needed was a list of names.

Only the biggest fool would believe him, but several groups almost immediately released their lists. Of course, there was no mass release.

On April 25, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, one of the most credible sources in Cuba for information on political prisoners released its updated list of 93 political prisoners.

A major goal of this blog since its inception more than 10 years ago is to recognize those brave Cubans imprisoned because of their opposition to, and their actions in service of their beliefs, against the Castro dictatorship. It is one small step to ensure that they, and their oppressors, know that they are not forgotten.

In that spirit, Uncommon Sense has revived one of its most important features, the Cuban Political Prisoner of the Week.

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Alexander Alan Rodriguez, Carlos Amaury Calderin Roca, Jordys Manuel Dosil Fong, Isain Lopez Luna and Ernesto Ortega Sarduy, all activists with the Patriotic Union of Cuba, were among demonstrators arrested last summer while carrying out peaceful anti-Castro protests in the Parque Central in Havana.

According to the human rights commission, Alan, Calderin, Lopez and Ortega face charges of “disrespect,” while Dosil has been found to be a “pre-criminal social danger,” the Orwellian “crime” the Castro regime brands many of its political opponents, and sentenced to 3 years in prison. The others have not been sentenced.

Soon after they were arrested, Alan, Calderin, Lopez and Ortega were among several activists jailed at the Valle Grande prison who went on hunger strike to demand the end of political persecution and repression of opposition activists; elimination of the “pre-criminal social danger” law; and the release of all political prisoners.

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Alexander Alan Rodriguez

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Jordys Manuel Dosil Fong

Carlos Amaury Ortega Sarduy-800wi

Carlos Amaury Ortega Sarduy

Reforms in Cuba: Same old talking points, same old Castro response

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

As Predicted, Castro Keeps Reverting “Reforms”

Obama’s policy supporters long argued that normalizing relations and easing sanctions towards Cuba would encourage Raul’s “reforms.”

That misses the glaring fact that Castro’s regime only responds when it’s economically pressed. For example, “self-employment” — albeit a half-measure — was a temporary reaction to loss of Soviet subsidies. Years later, with the remnants of the Chavez-Maduro regime in Venezuela imploding, Cuba resorted to it again.

However, as we warned several months before the Obama-Castro deal (December 17th, 2014), once the Cuban economy stabilizes or begins to “bounce back,” the Castro government will reverse itself to freeze or revoke any “reforms.”

Lift U.S. sanctions and Cuba’s government will solely focus on strengthening its state conglomerates and the repression required to suppress change.

That’s exactly what has been happening.

Here’s the latest from Reuters:

Cuba backtracks on food reforms as conservatives resist change

Cuba decided at a secretive Communist Party congress last week to reverse market reforms in food distribution and pricing, according to reports in official media, reflecting tensions within the party about the pace of economic change.

President Raul Castro unveiled an ambitious market reform agenda in one of the world’s last Soviet-style command economies after he took office a decade ago, but the reforms moved slowly in the face of resistance from conservatives and bureaucrats.

At the April 16-19 congress, Castro railed against an “obsolete mentality” that was holding back modernization of Cuba’s socialist economy. But he also said the leadership needed to respond quickly to problems like inflation unleashed by greater demand as a result of reforms in other sectors.

In response, delegates voted to eliminate licenses for private wholesale food distribution, according to reports over the past week in the Communist Party daily, Granma, and state television.

Delegates said the state would contract, distribute and regulate prices for 80 to 90 percent of farm output this year, compared to 51 percent in 2014, according to debates broadcast days after the event.

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With No Embargo, What Would Castro Do?

A thoughtful analysis from Dr. Jose Azel via The Azel Perspective:

With No Embargo, What Would Castro Do?

Ironically, an end to the travel ban on the merits of US tourists as communicators of democratic values would enrich the Cuban military — who control the tourism industry.

The recent editorials arguing for or against the continuation of the US embargo and travel ban towards Cuba have one feature in common; unlike the evangelical self-inquiry of “What would Jesus do?” the writers fail to ask the WWCD question. That is, what would Raúl Castro do if the United States were to unilaterally and unconditionally end economic sanctions?

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This is a peculiar omission, since the formulation of US foreign policy is often compared to a chess game in which every prospective move is analyzed and weighted with an eye to what the adversary’s counter move would be. As with a conditional proposition in logic, a unilateral policy move by the United States implies reciprocity by Cuba in the “if … then…” array of possibilities.

And yet, advocates of a unilateral-unconditional ending of economic sanctions simplistically posit that the policy has failed and hence it must be changed, without advancing their vision of how the Castro government would respond to such a US initiative. This is an irresponsible approach to the formulation of US foreign policy.

Let me thus advance a WWCD scenario that, although necessarily speculative as these crystal ball exercises are, is perfectly consistent with the statements and actions of the Castro government.

First the obvious: Cuban officials would move to capitalize economically in every possible way, but most importantly by welcoming US tourists as the most immediate source of foreign exchange.

A corollary is that the Cuban government may also move to restrict travel by Cuban-Americans. The Castro logic is simple: US tourists do not speak Spanish, are not subversive, will have limited contacts with Cubans, and will stay in isolated resorts that are off limits to the average Cuban and controlled by Cuba’s security apparatus. Cuban-Americans, on the other hand, symbolize a more destabilizing and less profitable group, given their propensity to stay with family and friends and their ability to communicate in Spanish their experiences in a free land.

Ironically, an end to the travel ban on the merits of US tourists as communicators of democratic values would enrich the Cuban military — who control the tourism industry. Under this scenario, they would likely threaten travel by Cuban-Americans who offer more accessible evidence of the virtues of democracy and free markets.

My WWCD scenario foresees another Castro move that would be very awkward for the United States. For years, the Cuban government has carried out a very successful campaign in the United Nations and other international platforms to make a case for economic damages to Cuba caused by the US embargo.

In Cuba’s view, this policy by the United States has caused over US$116 billion in damages to the Cuban economy. The damages are detailed in yearly reports that Cuba submits to the United Nations. In the latest UN vote, 188 nations voted to end the embargo and only one nation voted with the United States.

Ending economic sanctions unconditionally would strengthen Cuba’s juridical case and would be exhibited by Cuba to the international community as an admission of culpability by the United States. Indeed, Cuba may seek reparations for damages in forums such as the International Court of Justice.

This “if … then…” scenario is not as far fetched as it may seem. The doctrine of state immunity, which protects a state from being sued, allows exceptions for disputes arising from commercial transactions. Moreover, scholars in this field have argued that states should not have immunity in cases relating to human-rights abuses.

Correspondingly, and astutely, the Cuban government has diligently built its case against the US embargo as a violation of human rights, contending it is a policy “deliberately designed to provoke hunger, illnesses and desperation in the Cuban population.” Opponents of the embargo naively reinforce Cuba’s case by always noting in their language that the embargo “only hurts the Cuban people.”

Some provisions of the embargo extend the territorial jurisdiction of the United States in a way shunned by most nations. The Cuban government will rejoice at the opportunity to place the United States “on trial” in international stages populated by anti-Americanism.

This is not to suggest that Cuba’s case would prevail and be awarded damages, but it is the sort of scenario that makes advocacy for a non-negotiated ending of economic sanctions such an irresponsible argument. Supporters of terminating the embargo unconditionally must be confused; the Castros are not the type to “turn the other cheek.”

Paquito D’Rivera pens letter to Obama after White House “veto” of performance (Updated)

Is this another example of Castro thuggery against U.S. citizens?

Via InCubaToday:

Cuban-born musician writes Obama after invite for White House performance is withdrawn

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BY NANCY SAN MARTIN

Multiple Grammy-Award winner Paquito D’Rivera has penned a letter to President Barack Obama questioning whether the decision to “veto” his participation in an upcoming performance at the White House is due to his stance against the Castro regime, now that relations between Cuba and the United States have been restored.

In the letter dated April 11, 2016, D’Rivera — who has previously played at the White House — says he fears that his exclusion is the result of his long-standing stance against oppression in his native Cuba, that he is concerned the decision was made without the Obama’s knowledge and as a form of manipulation by the Cuban government and that as a citizen of a free nation he feels a duty to bring the matter to the attention of the most powerful man on Earth.

Here is the full text of the letter.

Dear Mr. President:

A few months ago, the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute informed me that they had proposed that I participate in International Jazz Day, an event organized by UNESCO that will take place at the White House on April 30th, and will have you, Mr. President, and First Lady Michelle Obama, as hosts. This concert will feature many loved and admired colleagues of mine such as Chick Corea, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Heath, Dave Holland, Al Jarreau, Diana Krall, Christian McBride, John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Sting, and even my former Cuba-based colleague Chucho Valdés. I was delighted and put the rehearsal schedule and dates on my calendar.

I regarded this invitation as recognition of my contribution to American culture that, throughout the years, has earned me the appointment as NEA Jazz Master, honorary doctorates from Berklee School of Music and University of Pennsylvania, , Kennedy Center Living Jazz Legend, and the Presidential Medal of the Arts, among other awards. So imagine my surprise when, a couple of days ago, I received a phone call from the Monk Institute informing me, without any further details, that my participation did not pass the vetting process by the White House. That is all the information that was given.

I FEAR THAT THIS ‘NOT PASSING THE VETTING PROCESS’ MAY HAVE TO DO WITH MY DECADES-LONG VOCAL POSITION AGAINST THE DICTATORSHIP THAT OPPRESSES CUBA, MY COUNTRY OF BIRTH

If the matter at heart here were my cultural contribution to Jazz and American culture, I wouldn’t take the time to write you this letter, Mr. President. I have played the White House before. However, I fear that this “not passing the vetting process” may have to do with my decades-long vocal position against the dictatorship that oppresses Cuba, my country of birth, and my support of human rights and democratic values that you defended so well a few weeks ago in Havana. This wouldn’t be the first time that I have suffered discrimination instigated by the Cuban dictatorship, due to my democratic convictions, even in the United States. And still, this occasion strikes me as particularly troublesome, given that it is an event in which you, Mr. President, will be the host. You, who just a few days ago defended in my native-land the principle that “citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear, to organize and to criticize their government and to protest peacefully,” and praised the accomplishments of the Cuban exile, of which I am a proud member.

Mr. President, I write to you because it concerns me that your genuine goodwill gestures towards the Cuban people could be understood as a call to be complacent towards the demands of the dictatorship that oppresses it; that these gestures may be taken as a pretext to marginalize, even on American soil, Cuban exiles who defend the right of the Cuban people to express freely and to decide their destiny democratically. It is telling (and I pray that I’m wrong) that if the Cuban regime is willing to exert this level of spite and pressure against a public figure in another country — and not just any other country, but the United States — one can only imagine the level of impunity with which the Castro regime acts against Cuban private citizens at home.

IT CONCERNS ME, THAT IF THIS IS AN ACT OF POLITICAL DISCRIMINATION AGAINST ME, IT WILL TAKE PLACE IN YOUR HOUSE — WHICH IS THE HOUSE OF ALL AMERICANS

It concerns me, that if this is an act of political discrimination against me, it will take place in your house — which is the house of all Americans, given its symbolic weight. It concerns me because it is easier to bear individual discrimination against my person — no matter how painful and humiliating it may be — than the idea that in the name of coexistence with other governments, regardless of their repressive nature, there will be a violation of the basic principles of free speech that so many generations of Americans have fought for over centuries — principles that are a model and a beacon of hope for a considerable part of humankind.

I suppose that this decision to “veto” my presence was made without your knowledge, but my exclusion from the show will be made public. It is my civic duty as a citizen to warn you that even an event celebrating a musical genre that embodies the aspiration of freedom could be used precisely to do the opposite. Because of my respect towards you — which has only increased recently due to your performance in my native country — I believe it is my duty to inform you that your status as host is possibly being manipulated by the very people who deny the very principles that allowed you to become the President of this country, and which allow me to address the most powerful man on Earth with absolute freedom and without fearing repercussions.

Most respectfully,

Paquito D’Rivera

UPDATE: Several Babalu readers report that shortly after Mr. D’Rivera went public, he was quickly re-invited to the White House event. Read more in Spanish, at Diario De Cuba.

Thinking About America Amid the Red Rocks of Arizona

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, in Translating Cuba:

Thinking About America Amid the Red Rocks of Arizona

Panel-Forum-Sedona-Arizona-McCainInstitute_CYMIMA20160413_0003_13

14ymedio — On the 8th and 9th of April, along with some fifty other speakers, I was invited to the Sedona Forum which is organized every year by the McCain Institute in cooperation with Arizona State University. So I flew from the democratic volcanoes of Iceland to fall, almost by parachute, among the rusty canyons of Arizona, whose red stones immediately reminded me of Stalinist aesthetics.

This elite event takes place behind closed doors at the Enchantment Resort, a kind of luxury campsite under Sedona’s cliffs and pristine dawns, where the sky is preserved by lighting technicians to make visible 101% of its stars, constellations, comets and Milky Ways.

I sneaked in there, with no qualifications but Cuba in tow, like a conspirator sect, side by side with more than 200 personalities from the elite of American and global politics, including the National Intelligence Director, governors, ambassadors, ex-generals, university rectors, editors-in-chief, CEOs of NGOs, and a dozen senators and congressional representatives.

All were entertained on the family ranch of Republican Senator John McCain, a hero of the war against communism in Vietnam where, incidentally, he was tortured and left with lifetime scars by Cuban hitmen hired by the Ministry of Interior, who killed in cold blood several of his colleagues who were prisoners of war (all of which he told me with a hand on my shoulder and a resolute expression of resignation).

Until the sessions are made public on the website of this conclave, we were asked not to say anything of the men summoned there and their controversial statements. But I can reflect a little now on America as such. That word that, notwithstanding the academic left, remains synonymous with the only functioning and stable democracy in our hemisphere: “America” as an apocope of “United States.”

Without falling into apocalyptic aporiae, the American Union seems to stand, in the spring of 2016, just on the edge of one of those red abysses of the desert where the Sedona Forum took place. The United States desperately cries out for water, its eyes caked with the dry sand of freedom on probation. Between fundamentalism and schizophrenia, between fear and manipulation of the masses, between ethnic tolerance and immigration balkanization, between ghettos and wars, between nationalism and the NSA, between chauvinism and pornography, between correction and criminality, between idiocy and ideology, between capitalism and the lack of capitalists, between isolationism and abstention, between the State Department and its fourth floor despotic populism. Finally, between socialism and the wall.

The sessions included testimonies from Russian and Eastern European activists, for example, and they were chilling. For all of them, Putinism – that Mafioso model that Cuba is implementing today among the tycoons of Cuban exiles and the tyrant Raul Castro – mercilessly assassinated a colleague or loved one. Or both. Some of the panelists in my discussion, in fact, were survivors of violent attacks or the posthumous peace of free doses of radioactivity.

All these champions of human rights – including, by sheer luck, me – can or cannot return to our countries of origin some day, but all of us, within or outside of our Cubitas, face the most brutal impunity of regimes that kill professionally as a state policy. Be it in a “dictatorship” or a “democracy,” we all survive in an eternal state of quotation marks: precarious countries with a fancy for the gallows.

I understood then that the democracies of the world are a race in the phase of extinction and that we have been left very alone, like lost souls, despite the solidarity as symbolic as it is insolvent of the ever diminishing governments and institutions of the free world – where now no one declares themselves free – howling like fatally injured coyotes, or perhaps like characters from Roberto Bolaño: losers who are lost in the Sonora desert, just in sight of the Sedona Forum in new-century Arizona of the end of Europe and the United States.

I shared these 48 hours of voluntary seclusion like a half-silly monk amid futility and philanthropy. Still trying not to set off too many alarms in the debates all about this alarming situation. Still trying to seem like a person with perspectives, facing our fossil future or Fidelity ad infinitum. Still playing at being that Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo who, in the Isle of Infamies, at a party under surveillance even in our most intimate lives, was an incisive and intolerable writer for the system of the rude masses.

In my talk – and hoping not to violate the sub-rosa Sedona code in saying it – I first diplomatically applauded President Barack Obama’s approach to Cuba. It is not us, free Cubans, who rely on censorship and closure, but we are precisely the victims that have suffered it most. But. I immediately confirmed in public my faith in Castroism as a thing intrinsic to Cubans, as a congenital condemnation that defines us before and after Castro.

So. I told them in the English of my childhood – when the United States was, in Cuba, an illusion that everyone believed in, everyone hoped for, everyone supported – that the heart of Castroism is unwavering and that in consequence, it will end up (and this is already starting) criminalizing the Obama administration’s “opening” and its empowerment of our civil society, far beyond the vile greed of the Chamber of Commerce of an ever more un-united Union, and far beyond the terrible Cuban-American betrayal of a nation that was never born.

In other words. I told them, as a devotee of the barbaric nature of the Castros as an incarnation of Cuban complicity which, in whatever variant, America could emerge even more shutout with its “humanitarian” intervention of bombarding us with dollars and hams and computer clicks and cellphones. Although. I also asked them – among the cackle of American laughter and sophisticated sips of wine – for a civil re-colonization, a civilizing interference that finally makes us people and not subjects of a socialism with no way out, neither by ballots nor bullets. I asked them with full responsibility for a reverse invasion of human beings without anthropological damage, while our poor people escape in a suicide stampede. Curtain.

With or without embargo. With or without engagement. With or without internet. With or without repression. With or without political prisoners. With or without a market economy and the Sugar Kings who will come. With or without the rule of law. I told them that Cuba is and will be only a dynastic tyranny in self-transition, as long as a Castro or a Callejas or a Cardinal or a theatrical etcetera of these remains alive: a caste in the throes of perpetuating itself, not from Law to Law, but from Power to Power. And so. Cubans tremble, tremble like enslaved plebeians, tremble both from the opposition and from officialdom before the specific initiative of a plebiscite as a tool of liberation, as has been proposed by CubaDecide.org led by Rosa María Payá.

And I offered them this other little tidbit. Dear little friends, American daddies and grampas: the first Cuban opponent or dissident that is inserted into some little post within the institutional machinery of the regime, be it at the grassroots level in the People’s Power or in the National Assembly itself, before or after the post-totalitarian shebang of 2018, this will not be a Cuban opponent or dissident from any Cuba, but an agent planted not in secret but brazenly by the think tanks of the Ministry of the Interior and its intelligence thugs. Full stop.

Why. Without citizen mobilization and participation, the rights of Cubans – on the island as well as in exile – will remain hostages of our national sovereignty, in the hands of a clan that controls the agenda of the secret pacts where the latest guest of horror has been the White House. Please.

Forgive me, compatriots. I went to the Sedona Forum to talk about despair and left despairing. By the same grace, at a Miami foundation in the summer of 2013, a great magnate almost accused me of “doing the dirty work of the Havana Government.” And a radical counterrevolutionary said the same thing (listen to how good it sounds): “the Havana Government.”

My answer three years ago was the same with which I concluded my plea in Arizona on the afternoon of Friday, the 8th of April:

“Better despair than demagoguery.”

The future does not belong to socialism

Via Diario De Cuba:

The Castros’ Party-State

ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES

Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro at the Sixth Congress of the PCC, Havana, 2011. (ANALITICA.COM)
Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro at the Sixth Congress of the PCC, Havana, 2011. (ANALITICA.COM)

The phrase which best defines, in broad strokes, the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), which in the coming days will hold its VII Congress is the celebrated quote by King Louis XIV of France: “L’Etat, c’est moi” ( “I am the State.”)

Such is the PCC, a party/state. In Mesopotamia and classical Greece, millennia ago, there were city-states, such as Babylon and Athens. And today they exist in the Vatican, and Monaco, but what is new is that there are also party/states, so seldom studied that nobody talks about it anywhere.

“No communist party in power is really a political party, unless it is an opposition party in a country featuring a democratic system.” Only then does it take advantage of “idiotic parliamentarism,” as Karl Marx called it, and partisan pluralism, engages in politics, electoral work, and sends representatives to Parliament, in full compliance with the law.

But Communist parties do not play fair. If they rise to power – almost always by force, and not by universal suffrage – the first thing they do is to suppress all political parties, except the Communists’, and establish an autocracy similar to those of Europe’s absolutist monarchies before the French Revolution. They automatically cease to be a political party and supplant the state, assuming all its functions.

It was Niccolo Machiavelli, in his work The Prince (1513), who first used the word “state” in its modern sense. Its first theoretician, he called it stato, derived from the Latin term status. Today the most widely accepted concept of the state is a set of institutions that have the authority and power to establish rules governing a society.

And that is precisely what a communist party does. It proclaims itself the holder of absolute truth (which Marx claimed to be non-existent) and takes over all public powers, abolishes private property, seizes control of the entire national economy, the armed forces, the media, education, health, culture, and even citizens’ private lives.

Let’s take a look at the PCC. Created by Fidel Castro in 1965, in his image and likeness, it is a massive state-administrative-ideological paramilitary apparatus of a repressive nature, whose mission is to maintain the people’s “revolutionary loyalty” through iron-fisted social control and intimidation, whether veiled or explicit, a constant barrage of political-ideological propaganda, and the suppression of citizens’ basic rights.

Going further than fascism

By prohibiting private enterprise, Communist parties in power go even further than fascism. The regimes headed by Mussolini, Hitler, Franco and Oliveira Salazar placed the national economy at the service of the fascist party-state’s interests, but they di not abolish the private sector.

If something clearly reveals a communist party’s status as a state apparatus it is that its members do not gather at regional, provincial or national forums to discuss new ideas or reach agreements, like political parties do in the “normal” world, but rather at workplaces.

In Cuba members of the PCC meet in factories, companies, schools, shops, hospitals, military units, theaters, construction sites, media facilities, etc. There is a “Party core” at every workplace, where they receive instructions to bully people and control and manage everything.

It is as if there were committees of the Democratic Party (now controlling the US Executive) at every US factory, with orders from the White House to oversee every business executive and tell them how to do their jobs. Or as if the Popular Party in Spain did the same thing at every workplace in the country.

Moreover, the CCP even violates the Leninist principle of “democratic centralism,” according to which the minority must obey and comply with the decisions made by the majority of members. In Cuba, and in every communist country, it is precisely the other way around, as most have to obey, without question, what the dictator and a select group of illuminati decide. It suffices to note that, with the VII Congress of the CCP coming up, the Party’s leadership did not even deign to inform members of the points to be addressed and the documents to be examined at the event – and far less to solicit their views.

All Communist leaders in power are autocratic despots, many of them with as much personal power as that wielded by Caligula or Ivan the Terrible. Let us recall five of the most notorious: Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Kim Il Sung, Fidel Castro and Pol Pot, earthly “deities” that aggravated the systemic infeasibility of the communist model, spilling rivers of blood and inflicting tragically suffering on their peoples.

In the case of Cuba, Fidel Castro’s whims over his 52 years as head of the CCP and dictator constitute an internationally unprecedented litany of outrageous, idiotic, and reckless acts that sank Cubans further into poverty, in a country that had enjoyed a standard of living higher than that of some European countries before 1959. And to that we must add its crimes and human rights violations.

The paradox here is that while the Castro party’s ruling cadre is very powerful, its base of members is not. They have neither the capacity nor the instruments to question the mandates handed down from above by the authorities, who control and threaten them, forcing them to toe the line. The dictator and his team know that the average Joe in the party has lost faith and no longer believes in fairy tales, scoffing at the notion that “the future belongs to socialism.”

Continue reading HERE.

US – Cuba policy tweets of the day

Via the Twitter accounts of Capitol Hill Cubans, and Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: