Via Uncommon Sense:
Haydeé Gallardo Salazar
Cuban Lady In White Haydeé Gallardo Salazar and her husband Ángel Figueredo Castellón will stand trial Thursday on a charge of "disrespect," after they were arrested Easter Sunday on their way to Mass, according to Diario de Cuba.
They were released six hours after they were arrested. However, they were summoned back to a jail, where they have been held since.
Berta Soler, head of the Damas De Blanco, or "Ladies In White," said her membership will rally in support of the couple.
"They asked for milk for children, food for the people of Cuba and shouted, 'Down with Fidel.' We will go Thursday to the court to yell the same," Soler said.
Other activists recently jailed include Vicente Coll Campanioni, Julio González Díez and Lázaro Yosvani Montesinos Hernández, members of the Committee for Political Prisoners and Families (CAPPF), who were arrested April 18 after a protest in a Havana park.
Montesinos Hernández has started a hunger strike, according to the report.
Andrés Pérez Suárez, leader of CAPFF, said authorities told him the activists face prosecution on various charges.
Victor Triay, author and college professor, joins me for a chat about the Latin American left. We will also hear from Michael Prada.
We will look at the death of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, the well known author of the Spanish language, who died in Mexico City.
My concern is that Mr Garcia-Marquez is another one of those Latin American intellectuals who loved Fidel Castro more than the Cuban people. How else do you explain his fascination with Castro? Why the selective indignation?
Via Daniel in Venezuela News & Views:
Stand offing happily in Venezuela
Easter week came and went without anything being solved in Venezuela.
I have been very busy on my personal emergencies, and trying to rest in between. Little time for news, not that it matters. The stuff I know about, that I live first hand, is the ability to work and produce. And on this front there has been no improvement. Whether the regime has a stash of dollars somewhere it is is not making them available for production. Maybe they are going to Cuba, to China, to corruption, but true productive business are having all the trouble in the world to get dollars to remain open, let alone be productive.
The dialogue/debate/guarimbalogue is going nowhere fast. To begin with a very substantial portion of the opposition thinks that Aveledo and co. are not representing the true interests and needs of the people, and I am not speaking of opposition only (1). The point is that the guarimbalogue is discussing the sex of angels without addressing our disastrous economic policies, our dependency on Cuba, on the lack of attack on true corruption (has anyone read anything about an investigation on the 50 million "commission" to Diosdado in the Venezuelan press? In fact, read this apologist and cry).
Meanwhile protest continue though they are are in a shifting mode. But peace is nowhere around the corner and the economic crisis keeps rolling on. The black market rate is at 67 even though the alleged "free" bolivar of SICAD 2 is at 50, nobody knowing how that value is attributed besides the will of the regime holders. And the last paper that still had a complete edition, El Universal, has gone down to a reduced edition, even though it did not publish the list of Venezuelan officials that Marco Rubio want to be pressured by Obama. A paper saving measure by El Universal? Even at SICAD 2 there is no printing material as the regime keeps suffocating freedom of expression, guarimabalogue and all.
I think I am going to focus on survival because no one out there cares about my needs. If the opposition is not able to send a commission of representatives to take a stand at the OAS, there is nothing to keep waiting for. If Maria Corina Machado has been booted and tomorrow a session of the Nazional Assembly is called as if nothing, why should I take these people seriously?
Fuck Aveledo, Capriles, Borges, Allup and the MUD!
1- At least Aveledo had the wisdom to remind people that the student movement is autonomous from political parties.
By Alberto Mendez Castello in Translating Cuba:
Now People Don’t Want the “Chavitos” (CUCs)
Currency speculation has the island on the edge of mental collapse. Money with which to pay wages is scarce. Peso equivalents to the dollar aren’t sold. Informal money changes want real dollars.
Puerto Padre, Cuba — The State Currency Exchange (CADECA) resumed the sale of convertible pesos (CUC) today, after some interrupted for lack of non-convertible, i.e. Cuban pesos (CUP). “We are exchanging any quantify of convertible pesos for national money (CUP), without any problem,” an employee of CADECA said this morning, when asked by this correspondent. “For me, they changed 24 CUC at 24-to-one, and you see the 100 peso notes they gave me in exchange,” said a man after leaving CADECA.
Indeed, the curiosity of the young man was not unfounded: although the date on the notes was 2008, the paper and ink “smelled” as if it had just come off the presses. The private exchangers don’t accept CUCs now because, simply, people won’t by them.”
“I brought seven hundred CUC here and I haven’t sold one,” said the exchanger, about noon, regarding the convertible pesos popularly known as chavitos. “The people who don’t receive remittances don’t have money, and those who do receive them don’t need chavitos.”
In Puerto Padre, CUC used to be common in people’s pockets; a large community of immigrants, primarily based in the U.S., sent dollars relatives and friends which reached the recipients already changed into CUCs through Miami agencies engaged in this business.
The same applies to medical personnel or those of other institutions, who, in filling government posts in Latin America and Africa, are also holders of convertible pesos. Interestingly, these government collaborators are frequent customers of private moneychangers who operate illegally, buying U.S. dollars to carry on their missions abroad to buy appliances and other goods that it would otherwise be impossible to bring to Cuba with what are paid for their “internationalist” collaborations.
“I don’t buy chavitos now, only dollars in large bills, all they have,” whispers an underground exchanger on the corner. For every 100 dollar bill, today he pays 97 pesos.
Juan Tamayo in The Miami Herald:
A Wi-Fi network for Cuba? Maybe
A program financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development to develop the technology for a novel Wi-Fi network in Cuba has not been deployed on the island and is under review, a USAID spokesman said Monday.
USAID approved the grant to the Open Technology Institute (OTI) in Washington in 2012 as part of the agency’s efforts to promote Internet freedom, democracy and civil society in Cuba, said Matt Herrick, a spokesman for the agency.
The network, known as Commotion, “is not operational in Cuba” and no one has traveled to the country for the program, Herrick said. Cuban authorities have jailed USAID subcontractor Alan P. Gross since 2009 for a somewhat similar program.
OTI’s grant “is now under review. We are looking into it, to see if it’s consistent with the [OTI] proposal and achieves expected outcomes,” said the spokesman, declining to provide further details. The grant is set to expire Sept. 30, 2015.
The USAID grant to OTI was made public in 2012, but came under a new spotlight after The New York Times reported Sunday on a similar Commotion system in Tunisia, financed by the State Department, and mentioned the Cuba program.
USAID drew a lot of fire from critics of its Cuba programs after the Associated Press reported earlier this month that it financed a Twitter-like system for Cubans. The agency said the system was not secret but had to be “discreet” because of Cuba’s “non-permissive environment.”
In contrast to Cuba, which has branded the USAID programs as thinly veiled efforts at “regime change,” the Tunisia program was launched in December with the approval of authorities in the town of Sayada.
Gross is serving a 15-year prison sentence for delivering satellite phones to Cuban Jews so they could have uncensored access to the Internet. While Wi-Fi signals are easy to intercept and pinpoint, satellite phone signals are more difficult to locate.
OTI is required to develop the technology for a Cuba version of Commotion — basically a way of linking several Wi-Fi routers into a “mesh” that can bypass government snoops — but has not tried to deploy it on the island, according to knowledgeable sources.
The Wi-Fi program “is part of the U.S. government’s long-standing commitment to facilitate open communications among the Cuban people and with the outside world,” Herrick said.
The Times report said the Sayada network was started by Tunisian academics and computer geeks who took part in the 2011 uprising that overthrew President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. It described his government as “deeply invested in digital surveillance.”
Continue reading HERE.
By Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in El Nacional (translation by Translating Cuba):
Dialogue? For What?
In my country, for more than half a century, the government hasn’t dialogued with anyone. The Cuban Revolution doesn’t recognize any other interlocutor than itself, incarnated in the figure of the Maximum Leader, the now decrepit Fidel.
Executions, thirty-year sentences, perpetual exile. Whoever wanted to dialogue in Cuba ended up in one of these three categories of tropical totalitarianism.
Even today, in the 21st century, with a dissidence that has occupied certain alternative spaces of expression at the cost of much sacrifice, the Cuban gerontocracy has to die in power without having crossed words with anyone, except its own clan, the so-called “historic” generation.
Dialogue with the Communists, thus validating elections and other hypocrisies, is always a deception or a trick. The Communist have nothing to say, its not their international mission. They only follow the orders of a political party that incarnates their own dogma. They are soldiers dressed as civilians.
The idea is to take power at any cost and to never let it go in any peaceful way. There is a stage in which the Communists simply annihilate their adversaries. And there is another in which it is pertinent to sweet-talk the opponent with masquerade of a dialogue.
That is why Communist parties were illegal in so many countries for so long, a reasonable law by simple instinct of self-preservation. But today the democracies feel ashamed for being democracies–they carry a complex about being better in the face of the worst–such that no one is willing to defend the democratic establishment, either in the first world and in the developing nations.
So the Communists in Latin America, for example, although they are not all called that, now mine our social systems in blessed peace, and the entire continent tends as a bloc to violate citizens’ basic rights. Every caudillo legitimately holds his presidential seat for life, always with a red star in the logo of their respective parties.
Personally, I don’t believe that a party of violent inspiration and intolerant rhetoric should participate in the democratic game in any era. In Cuba, after fifty years of the Communist Party hijacking political life, it’s clear that there will be no democratic transition without the disintegration of the Party. And without making it illegal for a time perhaps similar to the despotic half-century of the Cuban Communists, whose contempt for dialogue soon became a contempt for decency.
In Cuba, a few days ago, TeleSur broadcast live and direct the dialogue between the opposition and Venezuela’s dictators. An opposition which unfortunately now has no other option than to sit at the dictatorial roundtable, provided it is authorized, and at the moment in which it best serves the powers-that-be to buy time to cauterize the popular protests, criminalize their leaders, and at the end of the day perpetuate themselves.
Venezuela’s rulers know well what they are doing. They are “dialoguing” for perhaps the last time. Soon they will not have to bother with these desperate deployments, where the entire planet is disturbed, but lazily so, by their hegemonic manias.
Soon the H in Havana will prove to be much more than a silent deadly letter. If there is no awakening among the international community, if the Venezuelan democrats who have given the best of themselves (their lives) are abandoned to their fate, as in their moment the world dismissed several generations of Cuban democrats, the made-in-Castro Communism will feel the impunity of falling, like a silent wasteland upon our future, always so futile in so many nations.
In the early morning hours of April 22, 2000, President Bill Clinton and his Justice Department sheepishly submitted to the demands of Cuba's Fidel Castro and violently seized a six-year-old boy from his uncle's home. This excessive and violent show of force was carried out with one single purpose: to forcibly return the little boy to his slave masters in Havana.
Today, Elian Gonzalez has become what we all feared and knew the Castro regime would make of him: a propaganda tool of the Cuban dictatorship.
And it all started fourteen years ago when an innocent six-year-old boy stared into the muzzle of an assault rifle aimed right at him and his only chance of growing up in freedom was stolen from him.
Cuba's booming 'real estate market' - Photo by Yusnaby Perez
Just like all of the other "reforms" of the Castro dictatorship, they look wonderful on paper -- and by paper we mean the pages of the foreign press who are all too willing to disseminate Castro propaganda. In practice, however, these so-called reforms do absolutely nothing to ease the misery and squalor of life as a Cuban slave on the Castro slave plantation.
Via ABC News:
Cuba Home Woes Endure Despite Real-Estate Reform
The residents of 308 Oquendo Street were jolted awake in the middle of the night by violent shaking and a noise that they likened to a freight train, or an exploding bomb.
Part of their building's seventh floor had collapsed into the interior patio, heavily damaging apartments on the floors below. No one died, but the 120 families living in the building were left homeless.
Despite reforms in recent years to address the island's housing problem, such building collapses remain common in Cuba, where decades of neglect and a dearth of new home construction have left untold thousands of islanders living in crowded structures at risk of suddenly falling down.
When President Raul Castro legalized a real estate market for the first time in five decades, it was supposed to stimulate both new construction and maintenance of existing homes. But 2½ years later, there has been only a minimal impact on easing one of Cuba's biggest challenges: a chronic lack of suitable housing.
"We are very worried. The housing situation is critical in Cuba," said Anaidis Ramirez, among those displaced by the Feb. 28 building collapse in the densely populated Central Havana neighborhood.
Ramirez and dozens of other neighbors camped out for weeks on sidewalks and in a nearby parking garage to press authorities to find them decent homes. Some went to stay with relatives, while others found housing in cramped government shelters where families can be trapped for years until a permanent home opens up.
Cuba, a country of about 11 million people, lacks around 500,000 housing units to adequately meet the needs of the island's citizens, according to the most recent government numbers from 2010. The housing deficit widens each year as more buildings fall further into disrepair, punished year-round by the tropical sun, sea and wind.
Sergio Diaz-Briquets, a U.S.-based demographer who has written about the island's housing deficit, estimated the figure is now somewhere between 600,000 and 1 million.
And, he said, adding in the existing units that are structurally unsound or otherwise unfit for occupancy, the true deficit "could be even greater."
Continue reading HERE.
H/T Regina A.
What do you get for peacefully practicing your faith on Easter Sunday in the reformed Cuba of the benevolent apartheid dictatorship of the Castro family? The same thing you got for the 40 Sundays before that: A brutal beat down and jail.
Via Capitol Hill Cubans:
41st Sunday in a Row: Ladies in White Beaten, Arrested
For the 41st Sunday in a row, dozens of the The Ladies in White were beaten and arrested throughout the island.
The Ladies in White is a pro-democracy group composed of the mothers, wives, sisters and other relatives of Cuban political prisoners,
At least 17 were arrested in Havana, 18 in Matanzas, 7 in Bayamo and 8 in Holguin.
Meanwhile, in the easternmost province of Santiago de Cuba, over 29 were arrested, including the regional leader of the group, Belkis Cantillo.
To add insult to injury, at a funeral yesterday for the father of Ibis Maria Rodriguez, a member of The Ladies in White, the political police physically assaulted Ibis and other dissidents. It also arrested her husband, Fermin Zamora Vazquez.
Pictured below: Police operation ready to confront The Ladies in White, as they peacefully walk together after Eastern Mass in Matanzas.
By Fernando Damaso in Translating Cuba:
A Law with Dark Corners
The Foreign Investment Law, debated and approved by the National Assembly in extraordinary session, has some worrisome aspects, both for foreign investors as well as for Cuban citizens.
It seems that Cubans living in other countries are not covered under the law since the definition of a domestic investor applies only to current legal residents of Cuba and to cooperatives. The latter are legally recognized non-state administrative entities which may participate as domestic investors in projects financed with foreign capital but which remain completely under state control to prevent the accumulation of excess wealth.
Elsewhere, investment priority is usually given to a country’s own residents, then to its overseas residents and lastly to foreigners. In Cuba it is the opposite: foreigners get top priority. Afterwards, we have to listen to authorities tirelessly proclaiming themselves to be the defenders of national dignity, independence and sovereignty.
The claim that investments “may not be expropriated except for reasons of public utility or social interest, as previously defined by the Council of Ministers” should give one pause. This is a well-established procedure in most countries. Before such actions can be taken, they must be discussed and approved by legislative bodies (a house of representatives, senate, parliament or national assembly).
It is a process in which those concerned — governmental authorities as well as those in the opposition who may hold with differing views — participate fully. Final implementation is subject to review by the judicial branch, which makes sure any such actions do not violate the constitution.
This is not the case in Cuba where the National Assembly is made up exclusively of deputies from one party. It is a legislative body without an opposition in which anything the government proposes is approved unanimously. The Cuban judiciary, which is nothing more than an appendix of the government, also has no independence.
In spite of anything that has been stipulated in writing, investors lack any real protection or legal recourse. They remain subject to decisions by a centralized authority in the person of the president, who for political, ideological or circumstantial reasons can act as he pleases without having to consult anyone, as has happened repeatedly over the last fifty-six years.
Regarding employment of Cuban citizens, the law stipulates that an investor must hire workers through an employment agency selected by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment and authorized by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. Payment to workers would be by mutual agreement between the investor and the employer. Neither exchange occurs between the investor and the worker directly but through a state intermediary.
Though the purported purpose is not to generate revenue, it stipulates that a portion of the wages paid by the investor will be retained to cover costs and expenses for services provided.
As one might expect, there is a big difference between what the investor pays and what the employee receives. The salary paid to the employee will correspond to a minimum wage set by the employment agency, which it claims will be higher than that for the country’s other workers. Also factored in will be a coefficient which will allow the agency to adjust salaries based on a worker’s performance.
The unfortunate history of low pay for doctors, teachers, athletes and other professionals working overseas to fulfill the Cuban government’s contracts with other countries speaks volumes.
It would perhaps have been advantageous to draft an investment law that also regulated state investments (considering the many examples of bad investments made over the years). It might also have covered private investment, differentiating between foreign and domestic investment.
In regards to domestic investment, it might have included both investment by Cubans living on the island as well as those living overseas, especially since the latter currently must also possess a Cuban passport to enter and exit the country, thus confirming their legal status as Cuban citizens.
This law is not free from the burden of obsolete concepts of failed socialism, with the objective in ensuring a leading role for the state. It lacks sufficient transparency to really stimulate foreign investment and includes some traps into which those who bet on it, without giving it enough thought, might fall.
By Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez in Caracas Chronicles:
… or a modest proposal for Venezuela
(A guest post by friend-of-the-blog Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez)
The Emperor Gaius Caligula Caesar enjoys a hallowed a place within popular imagination. With the possible exception of Nero, whose alleged stint at fighting fire with music has historically received mixed reviews, it is Caligula’s reign that is remembered as the very apex of Ancient Roman lunacy. On one occasion he is said to have “declared war” on the god Neptune, ordering his legions to march into the sea in fully armored formation, and triumphantly bringing cartloads of seashells and dead crabs to Rome as “plunder.”
I won’t even begin to get into his legendary reputation for sexual sadism.
Yet by far the most celebrated of Caligula’s ancient eccentricities, is the story of Incitatus: the Emperor’s favorite horse, whom he elevated to the Roman Senate, and eventually made Consul.
While modern experts are quick to dismiss the historicity of such outlandish tales - likening their author, Suetonius, to a modern yellow journalist - I believe that we should give it the report the benefit of the doubt. After all, we weren’t there, and should we choose to lend it credence, we may well glean some useful context, and mayhap even a potential solution, to the many problems facing our beloved Venezuela today.
Let us assume then that Suetonius was right about the facts, but he still may have erred a bit as to their interpretation. Perhaps the assisted rise of history’s first great equine politician –or “hippoconsul”– was not an irrational act by a schizophrenic Caesar but instead a highly symbolic, and politically calculated, illustration of the prevailing institutional power dynamic. Such a move would certainly make for a stark, and very public, illustration as to the importance of vestigial republican institutions in the era of empire.
“Gentlemen, I have decided to promote an animal from within my household to join you in your illustrious political body. Clearly, he can fulfill your vaunted responsibilities much the same as any of you can and the announcement will be made public tomorrow morning at daybreak. You can bitch and moan if you like, but my mind is made up. Rome has spoken.”
Even the horse’s name, Incitatus, is provocative, quite clearly derived from the Latin “incit?re”: root to the English word “incite” and one that carries an identical meaning. In inciting the Roman Senate into an understandable bout of righteous indignation at being disrespected, their inability to stop him would highlight just how helpless and irrelevant the institution had become. The humiliation would be absolute, and the message so powerful that, over twenty centuries later, we remember it.
Venezuela’s current government likewise shares a fondness for state actions aimed at symbolically degrading those they perceive as foes, and that will in turn illustrate the victim’s utter helplessness to do anything in response. Don’t believe me? Just ask Antonio Ledezma.
Continue reading HERE.
The following is a translation by Asombra of a text by the highly acclaimed Cuban author Reinaldo Arenas. It was initially written in 1981 in New York City and published in Mexico (Kosmos; 1986) and in Miami (Ediciones Universal; 2001) as part of the book Necesidad de libertad--Grito luego existo. A special thanks to our good friend Zoé Valdés for finding this gem.
Gabriel García Márquez: ¿Esbirro o es burro? (Tool or fool?)
That a writer or a simple human being in a totalitarian country should find it necessary to accept the horrific circumstances prevailing there, and pretend to conform and even cooperate with the system, is pathetic but understandable. Those of us who have lived under such dictatorships, which are perfect in their minutely calculated fear, know how far one must go in terms of simulation, denial and degradation in order to simply survive.
There can be no morality in the servant or in the master, because the servant is forced to be one, and the master must maintain the servitude.
Now then, that a writer like Mr. Gabriel García Márquez [GGM or GM henceforth], who has lived and written in the West, where his work has had tremendous impact and acceptance, which has guaranteed him a certain lifestyle and intellectual prestige, that a writer like him, benefiting from the freedom and possibilities such a world offers him, should use them to be an apologist for the communist totalitarianism that turns intellectuals into policemen and policemen into criminals, that is simply outrageous. And that is the attitude of GGM, who has apparently forgotten that the writing profession is a privilege of free men, and that by taking the side of dictatorships, whether Latin American or eastern ones, he's digging his own grave as a writer and playing along with the lackeys of official power, who climb with hope, but are later reduced to the sad state of a beleaguered rat forced to applaud incessantly its own prison and its supreme warden. On various occasions Mr. GM, golden boy of the western press, full beneficiary of the comfort and guarantees offered by the so-called capitalist world, has made statements condemning the millions of Vietnamese who, in a desperate and suicidal act, throw themselves into the sea fleeing communist terror. Now, to the great indignation of all freedom-loving Cubans, GM, as Fidel Castro's guest of honor at the recent May Day celebrations, has condemned with his attitude and words the ten thousand Cubans who have sought refuge in the Peruvian embassy, attributing this act and situation to the direction or instigation of so-called American imperialism. In fact, GM also condemns the million Cubans who, risking their lives, take to the sea like in Vietnam to perish or be free, even if that freedom consists of no more than being able to reach a strange country alive and half naked. Apparently, GM likes concentration camps, vast prisons and muzzled thinking. This star of communism is irritated by the flight of the prisoners, just as the great Cuban landowners of the 18th and 19th centuries were irritated by the flight of slaves from their plantations. Enriched by his material earnings in the capitalist world, it bothers GM that other men aspire to or dream of having the same rights he enjoys, the right to write and speak, the right to be, above all, a human being and not an anonymous slave, numbered and persecuted, condemned in the best of cases to retract himself incessantly, and also to inform on himself incessantly.
Mr. GM never ceases singing the praises of the Castro-Soviet dictatorship, to the extent that he recently declared to the [Paris] newspaper Le Monde: "The problem with visiting men like Fidel Castro is that one winds up loving them too much" (!) That love of GM for Fidel Castro and his personal estate (the island of Cuba) is nevertheless love at a distance. GM visits Cuba only as a tourist (where he is treated as such); resides in Mexico and naturally in Paris; and there, in the company of French citizen Julio Cortázar [very leftist writer of Argentine extraction], he serves as courtier and cultural adviser to the new president [the socialist Mitterrand].
I ask myself if it is not extremely cynical that GM, an incessant apologist for the "Cuban revolution" and its cultural and human achievements, nonetheless lives in Paris and Mexico, has a son studying at Harvard, and another one learning to play the violin in France. Doesn't this real-life behavior invalidate the pro-Castro rhetoric of the rich man who emits it? If GM agreed with the ideas he expresses, if he really believed them, his sons would now be picking grapefruit in one of the rural schools ["escuelas al campo"] scattered all over Cuba, and which consist of immense plantations where the student is obligated to do [such] work.
But the most abominable act committed so far by GM was his underhanded condemnation of Polish workers (the Polish people), who are bravely trying to create a truly socialist society, in other words, to achieve power and all the rights that all workers in a truly democratic world possess. Once more, GM has spoken against a popular movement, placing himself obediently on the side of totalitarianism.
Regarding the question of whether he's a tool or a fool, the answer lamentably appears to be the former. Or perhaps it's both.
Continue reading Reinaldo Arenas on Gabo: Gabriel García Márquez: ¿Esbirro o es burro? (Tool or fool?)