CONTRA EL PINGALISMO CASTRISTA/ "Se que no existe el consuelo que no existe la anhelada tierrra de mis suenos ni la desgarrada vision de nuestros heroes. Pero te seguimos buscando, patria,..." - Reinaldo Arenas

Mostrando entradas con la etiqueta Cuba-Estados Unidos. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando entradas con la etiqueta Cuba-Estados Unidos. Mostrar todas las entradas

sábado, abril 19, 2014

Cuba, you owe us $7 billion

If symbols could gather rust, the American trade embargo against Cuba would be covered with it. Enacted in 1960, shortly after Fidel Castro came to power, and expanded in 1962, at the height of the Cold War, the embargo has frozen the United States and its tiny neighbor off the Florida coast in a standoff that seems as dated as the classic American cars on Havana streets.
Leaders from around the world have been calling on the United States to dismantle the embargo for more than 20 years, and recent polls show that a majority of Americans are in favor of lifting it. With the repressive Castro regime seemingly nearing its end, a “normalization” of relations between the countries seems increasingly within reach. That would appear to spell an end sometime soon for the embargo, which in the popular imagination stands as a sort of political weapon that was designed to cripple Castro and stem the tide of communism.
What’s oftenforgotten, though, is that the embargo was actually triggered by something concrete: an enormous pile of American assets that Castro seized in the process of nationalizing the Cuban economy. Some of these assets were the vacation homes and bank accounts of wealthy individuals. But the lion’s share of the confiscated property—originally valued at $1.8 billion, which at 6 percent simple interest translates to nearly $7 billion today—was sugar factories, mines, oil refineries, and other business operations belonging to American corporations, among them the Coca-Cola Co., Exxon, and the First National Bank of Boston. A 2009 article in the Inter-American Law Review described Castro’s nationalization of US assets as the “largest uncompensated taking of American property by a foreign government in history.” 
Today, the nearly 6,000 property claims filed in the wake of the Cuban revolution almost never come up as a significant sticking point in discussions of a prospective Cuban-American thaw. But they remain active—and more to the point, the federal law that lays out the conditions of a possible reconciliation with Cuba, the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, says they have to be resolved. According to that statute, said Michael Kelly, a professor of international law at Creighton University in Nebraska, settling the certified property claims “is one of the first dominos that has to fall in a whole series of dominos for the embargo to be lifted.”
While the other dominos are clearly much more daunting—the overall point of the Helms-Burton Act is that Cuba has to have a democratic, America-friendly government in place before there can be any talk of lifting the embargo—experts say the property claims will be an intensely difficult problem to settle when it comes time to do so. For one thing, Cuba is unlikely to ever have enough cash on hand to fully compensate the claimants, especially while the embargo is still in place; to make matters even more complicated, many of the individual claimants have died, and some of the companies no longer exist.
With Cuba inching toward reform on a number of fronts over the past several years, giving hope to those who believe our two countries might reconcile in the near future, a number of Cuba experts have begun to study the question of how to resolve the property claims in a way that is both realistic and fair. The proposals that have come out of their efforts provide a unique window onto the potential future of the American relationship with Cuba—and point to the level of imagination that can be required in the present to turn the page on what happened in the past.
The Cuba that Castro took over in 1959 was a nation overrun with American business. Tourists could stay in American-owned Hiltons, shop at Woolworth’s, and withdraw money at American-owned banks. American-owned petroleum refineries sat amid American cattle ranches, sugar factories, and nickel mines, and an American-owned telecommunications firm controlled the country’s phone lines. According to a 2008 report from the US Department of Agriculture, Americans controlled three-quarters of Cuba’s arable land.
Cuba’s revolutionary leader swiftly signed several laws nationalizing what was previously private property. Though the laws required the government to compensate the owners, the payment was to be made in Cuban bonds—an idea that was not taken seriously by the United States. In 1960, the administration of President Eisenhower punished Castro’s expropriation of American assets by sharply cutting the amount of sugar the United States was buying from Cuba. “We kind of went ballistic at the thought that anyone would take our property,” said John Hansen, a faculty associate at Harvard University’s Center for Latin American Studies. Tempers ran hot in both directions: in a speech, Castro vowed to separate Americans in Cuba from all of their possessions, “down to the nails in their shoes.” The standoff culminated in a near-total embargo on American exports to Cuba and a reduction of sugar imports to zero.
Other countries that had holdings in Cuba—including Switzerland, Canada, Spain, and France—were more amenable to Castro’s terms, apparently convinced that there was no chance they’d ever get a better deal. But the Americans who had lost property wanted cash, and submitted official descriptions of what had been taken from them to the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission at the Department of Justice. Meanwhile, US relations with Cuba deteriorated. Diplomatic ties were cut. An attempt by President Kennedy to overthrow Castro failed, and a standoff over Soviet missiles in 1962 brought the world as close to nuclear war as it has ever come. The invisible economic wall—which by then had been expanded to ban virtually all imports from Cuba—had become part of something much larger.
Half a century later, the cash claims that started it all still sit on the books. And while a full list of claimants is maintained by the US Department of Justice, they have largely receded from view—in part because most of the claimants have become quiet about their hopes for compensation. According to Mauricio Tamargo, a lawyer who served as chairman of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission for almost a decade before going into private practice and taking on a number of claimants as clients, complaining about monetary losses associated with the Cuban revolution has become increasingly risky from a public relations standpoint. The embargo has taken on more and more political meaning, and Cuba has become more destitute. “The corporations that have these claims are very sensitive to bad press,” Tamargo said, “so they decide to keep a low profile and work quietly behind the scenes where possible.” (Of several corporate claimholders contacted for this story, the only one that provided a statement by deadline was Chevron Corp., which now owns the claims originally filed by Texaco, and considers “the claim to be valid and enforceable if and when there is a change in the Cuban government.”)
But regardless of how morally or politically sensitive it might be for America’s corporations and the wealthy executives who run them to claim money from Cuba, their claims will still need to be untangled in order for the embargo to be lifted, experts say. “The US government is obligated by law to defend the claims of US citizens and enterprises whose properties were expropriated by the Cuban government,” wrote Harvard professor Jorge Dominguez, a top Cuba scholar, in an e-mail. As for how that might be done, he added, “one can imagine a range of possibilities.”
One possibility has been put forth by Tamargo, who advocates for an approach that would compensate claimants—his clients among them—by imposing a 10 percent user fee on all remittances sent to Cubans by their American relatives, as well as all other transactions that are allowed to take place under the current embargo rules. (While this proposal can be seen as a tax on US residents, it is designed to come only out of money that is entering the Cuban economy.) Another proposal was presented several years ago by Timothy Ashby, a Miami lawyer, who started a company designed to buy claims at a discount from their original owners and then use them to broker a private settlement with the Cuban government. Ashby’s plan was thwarted when the Bush administration declared it illegal, but the prospect of a negotiated group settlement remains on the table—as long as it’s carried out by the US government, in accordance with existing law.
Perhaps the most ambitious and pragmatic solution that’s been laid out so far appeared in a lengthy report published by scholars at Creighton University, who were given a grant in 2006 by the US Agency for International Development to investigate the claims issue. “There was a hope that, if through God’s grace things improved and we were able to enter into a mutually beneficial relationship with Cuba, we would be able to pull something off the shelf and say, ‘Here’s how we’re going to start dealing with it,’” said Patrick Borchers, the law professor who led the Creighton team.
Borchers and his colleagues found that untangling all the claims would be extremely complicated: “A lot of the original corporate claimants, through the process of 50 years worth of mergers and acquisitions, don’t even exist anymore,” said Creighton’s Michael Kelly, who also worked on the report. “But the claims don’t go away—they go with the mergers.” One of the largest claimants today, for example, is Starwood Resorts, a company that didn’t even exist in 1959, but received a claim on the ITT Telegraph Tower when it acquired another company. “Starwood Resorts doesn’t want an old radio tower,” Kelly said. “What they [might] want is beachfront property.”
This insight led to the proposal that the Creighton team ultimately submitted to the government. Under the team’s plan, some of those who had lost property during Castro’s nationalization campaign could be compensated in ways that didn’t involve the transfer of cash or bonds: Instead, they could be given tax-free zones, development rights, and other incentives to invest in the new Cuba. This, according to Borchers, would be a win for both sides, compensating the claimants while stimulating the Cuban economy.
No one is arguing that settling the property claims of Americans is anything like the first or most important step to normalizing the US relationship with Cuba: There are other, more formidable obstacles in the way, as well as significant wiggle room for increasing economic activity between the two countries without formally lifting the embargo.
“There’s a scenario that I see, which is bit by bit the fundamentals of the embargo are chiseled away by executive order, by the economic and family ties linking Cuba and the United States, and by non-enforcement,” said Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. In that scenario, the claims might someday be resolved, but wouldn’t hold the process of reintegrating the United States and Cuba hostage.
There’s another big complication, too: the thousands of Cuban families who fled to America after the revolution and had everything they owned confiscated by the Communist regime. These Cuban exiles and their descendants form the backbone of the most intransigent anti-Castro lobby in the United States. If and when Cuba does open up, they’re going to want their property back as well, which will likely result in extensive litigation in Cuba. (To address their interests, the Creighton report proposed setting up a special tribunal in Cuba that could try to compensate Cuban-Americans for their losses once the country had found its feet economically.)
What will end up happening—both for the American claimants and the Cubans who moved here after the revolution—will undoubtedly provoke debate about what is fair when it comes to setting right the wrongs of the past. How much debt is worth forgiving to help a country back on its feet? And how much should private citizens expect to give up to help a diplomatic resolution? But the provisional plans and proposals that have been made in the meantime—whether preferential development deals or a tax on cash flow between our two countries—reflect something else: visions of a new Cuba, in which American economic interests and Cuban ones are once again closely intertwined.

The top 50The largest American property claims against Cuba certified by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, according to a 2007 report by Creighton University scholars.
RankName of claimantAmount certifiedAssets include
1Cuban Electric Co.$267.57mCorporate assets
2Intl. Telephone & Telegraph Corp.$130.68mCorporate assets
3North American Sugar Industries Inc.$108.98mCorporate assets
4Moa Bay Mining Co.$88.35mRural mining property
5United Fruit Sugar Co.$85.10mImproved real property
6West Indies Sugar Corp.$84.88mRural farming land
7American Sugar Co.$81.01mUrban beachfronts
8Exxon Corp.$71.61mOil refinery
9Texaco Inc.$56.20mCorporate assets
10The Francisco Sugar Co.$53.39mCorporate assets
11Bangor Punta Corp.$53.38mSecurities
12Manati Sugar Co.$48.59mCorporate assets
13Nicaro Nickel Co.$33.01mCorporate assets
14The Coca-Cola Co.$27.53mUrban commercial buildings
15Lone Star Cement Corp.$24.88mn.a.
16The New Tuinucu Sugar Co.$23.34mSugar mills
17Colgate-Palmolive Co.$14.51mCorporate assets
18Sinclair Oil Corp.$13.20mCorporate assets
19Braga Brothers Inc$12.61mSecurities
20Boise Cascade Corp.$11.75mUrban commercial building
21Claflin, Helen A.$11.69mSecurities
22American Brands Inc.$11.68mDebts and mortgages
23Burrus Mills Inc.$9.85mExperimental farm
24Pan-American Life Insurance Co.$9.74mCorporate assets
25United States Rubber Co.$9.52mCorporate assets
26Powe, William$9.51mUrban residential property
27Estate of Sumner Pingree$9.37mRural farming land
28F.W. Woolworth Co.$9.19mContents of 11 retail stores office building
29Havana Docks Corp.$9.18mCommercial building, land
30Continental Can Co.$8.91mRural commercial building
31Loeb, John L.$8.57mSecurities
32International Harvester Co.$8.26mCorporate assets
33Owens-lllinois Inc.$8.04mSecurities
34Arango, Mercedes$7.92mRural farming land
35Order of Hermits of St. Augustin$7.89mUrban commercial building
36The Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A$7.71mCorporate assets
37Firestone Tire and Rubber Co.$7.65mCorporate assets
38Carl Marks & Co.$7.33mSecurities
39IBM World Trade Corp.$6.45mCorporate assets
40Swift and Co.$5.95mLand, buildings, machinery
41The First National Bank of Boston$5.90mCorporate assets
42General Electric Co.$5.87mCorporate assets
43Estate of Sumner Pingree$5.81mSecurities
44Libby, McNeil & Libby$5.71mSecurities
45The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.$5.12mDebts and mortgages
46Procter & Gamble Co.$5.00mDebts and mortgages
47First National City Bank$4.97mUrban commercial buildings
48Lengyel, Olga$4.87mApartments, art objects, cash
49Davis, Arthur V.$4.27mRural farming land
50GMAC, South America$3.88mCorporate assets


miércoles, abril 16, 2014

Former CIA Official: Cuba Remains Primary Threat for U.S. Counterintelligence

From Texas A&M's The Batallion:

James Olson, former chief of counterintelligence at the CIA and senior lecturer at Texas A&M’s Bush School, and Michael Waguespack, former senior counterintelligence executive with the FBI, described how the U.S. faces a threat rarely seen or heard of by the public — spying.

“There are friendly countries, but there are no friendly intelligence services,” Olson said.

Olson and Waguespack described a world hidden from the public, where countries use sophisticated spy networks to steal U.S. political and technological secrets and to compromise U.S. spy networks abroad.

Olson named China, Russia and Cuba as the primary threats in U.S. counterintelligence.

“Never in my memory has our country been more in peril at home and abroad than it is right now,” Olson said.

Olson said foreign intelligence agents use a wide variety of covers to seek U.S. intelligence, from business and diplomatic covers to student identities. Olson said the Chinese, for example, have gained access to U.S. nuclear weapons data and sophisticated technology that has allowed them to upgrade their combat aircraft and submarines to levels more advanced than their domestic technology would allow.


Balseros cubanos filman su propia travesía Cuba-EEUU [Video]



lunes, abril 14, 2014

Cuba “Expert” Phil Peter’s Again Cited for Ethics Lapse

Phil Peters
CONFLICT OF INTEREST: ‘Pro-market’ Lexington Institute arguing in favor of subsidies for donors
By Lachlan Markay, Washington Free Beacon
An ostensibly market-oriented nonprofit group defending a controversial federal program to finance the purchase of U.S. exports is financially supported by top defense contractors that benefit from the program.
The Lexington Institute’s website portrays the group as a free market think tank. It “actively opposes the unnecessary intrusion of the federal government into … commerce … and strives to find nongovernmental, market-based solutions to public-policy challenges,” the group’s website says.
The group is also a strong proponent of the Export-Import bank, a federal program to boost American exporters, and previously worked to ease the U.S. embargo against Cuba on behalf of a Canadian company with interests in the country.
The group’s critics say the interests of Lexington’s donors explain why a think tank that claims to be laissez faire in its attitudes would go to bat for companies operating in a repressive communist state and a federal program derided as “corporate welfare” by top U.S. politicians, including then-Senator Barack Obama.
Lexington has recently taken to hammering the Ex-Im bank’s critics.
Chief operating officer Loren Thompson went after conservative activist group Heritage Action for America on Thursday, saying its Ex-Im criticism “ignores facts that don’t fit its biases, … substitutes abstract ideas for common sense … [and] betrays the principles that made its existence possible.”
Thompson has also attacked Club for Growth for criticizing the bank.
“Naive proponents of pure capitalism … think Ex-Im Bank is a form of corporate welfare even though it doesn’t actually subsidize anyone,” Thompson wrote in a Forbes column that singled out Club for Growth.
“People with a more practical grasp of how economics operates in the real world will have to weigh in to assure U.S. exporters are not hobbled by ideology,” he wrote.
Thompson’s attacks on Heritage Action and the Club for Growth make more sense, Lexington’s critics say, in light of financial support for the group by major defense contractors that benefit from Ex-Im financing.
According to Thompson, Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin are Lexington donors. Lockheed is also a client of Thompson’s consulting firm, Source Associates.
Feature continues here:   CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Editor’s Note: Just so readers don’t think this ethical lapse by Phil Peters and the Lexington Institute is something new, check out these “money-for-stories” features from 2008: Analyst’s switch stirs tanker talk and “Sherritt, Cuba, and the Cubanologist.”


Zunzuneo e hipocresía - Montaner

El Blog de Montaner
La AP lo reveló hace unos días. Estados Unidos, por medio de USAID, creó una red para que los cubanos pudieran comunicarse por medio de Internet. (¡Bravo!) Esa red, llamada Zunzuneo, estuvo funcionando hasta hace un par de años y alcanzó cierto éxito. Unos 68 000 cubanos se vincularon a ella. La dictadura de los Castro protestó ofendida ante la noticia. Aparentemente, se había violado su soberanía.
Hay una gran hipocresía en todo esto. Es cierto que Estados Unidos ayuda a los demócratas de la oposición proporcionándoles algunos medios pacíficos para tratar de inducir cambios en ese régimen. ¿Qué menos puede hacer contra un tenaz enemigo situado a 90 millas de sus costas, que lleva 55 años perjudicando sus intereses, desacreditando su modelo de sociedad y asociándose con todos los elementos que pretenden destruir el tipo de Estado que libremente se ha dado la mayoría de los estadounidenses?

La dictadura cubana confiscó numerosas empresas norteamericanas sin compensar a sus propietarios. Envió guerrillas y terroristas a medio planeta, esfuerzos subversivos que comenzaron desde 1959 con la expedición a Panamá, antes de que Washington reaccionara auspiciando a los invasores de Bahía de Cochinos y luego algunos sabotajes y operaciones encubiertas.
El gobierno de los Castro conspiró con los “panteras negras”, con los “macheteros” de Puerto Rico y con los narcotraficantes que inundaban de droga el territorio americano. Convirtió a Cuba en un peligroso satélite soviético, y en 1962, durante la Crisis de los Misiles, Fidel le pidió al Premier soviético que enviara los misiles nucleares contra Estados Unidos.
Desde que se instaló la revolución, más de un 20% de la población cubana se ha trasladado a Estados Unidos. Durante el éxodo de Mariel, cuando escaparon de la Isla 125 000 personas, el gobierno comunista camufló entre ellas unos 20 000 delincuentes, psicópatas y criminales sacados de las cárceles, a sabiendas de que asesinarían a muchas personas inocentes.
Ante semejante vecino, ¿qué menos puede hacer Estados Unidos que tratar de inducir cambios para que en la Isla se instale un gobierno amistoso que deje de comportarse de la manera en que lo hace Cuba? Un gobierno sereno y razonable, como sucede con casi toda América Latina, con el cual se pueda tener una convivencia normal.
¿No se debe intentar erradicar a un régimen capaz de enviarle armas y municiones nada menos que a Corea del Norte, o que se asocia con Irán y Venezuela para revivir una nueva versión de la Guerra Fría y perjudicar a Estados Unidos? ¿O es que la no injerencia sólo es válida para paralizar a las democracias?
Se podrá esgrimir “el derecho a la libre determinación” de los países, o el de “no injerencia en los asuntos internos de las otras naciones”, pero la verdad es que el gobierno cubano ha proclamado su derecho a ejercer el “internacionalismo revolucionario”, de donde se desprende que debe existir el derecho al “internacionalismo democrático”.
Si el gobierno de La Habana se arroga el derecho a  instalar en el poder a radicales enemigos de Estados Unidos, ¿no tiene Washington la obligación moral de tratar de hacer lo mismo con sus tenaces adversarios? Cuba no puede operar con unas reglas y esperar que su adversario suscribe otras diferentes, mucho más benignas.
Además, ¿cómo puede condenarse el hecho de que Estados Unidos ayude a los cubanos a informar y a informarse, si se admite la existencia universal del derecho a la libertad de expresión? Lo que es realmente vergonzoso es que ningún país latinoamericano auxilie a los demócratas cubanos. Eso sí es triste.
No hay delito alguno en propiciar el zunzuneo de los cubanos. El delito, cometido por el gobierno de los Castro, está en negarles el acceso a Internet, en prohibirles que vean la televisión internacional –persiguen las antenas—o que escuchen la radio de onda corta. El delito está en la dictadura totalitaria. Y también, claro, en la hipocresía.


U.S. Chamber of Commerce, other groups prepare Cuba trips

By Vito Echevarria
CUBA STANDARD — As the government lets Cubans set up their own micro businesses, launches an export processing zone at Mariel, and passes a new foreign investment law, at least three U.S. trade groups and think tanks, including the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC), are planning trips to Havana this spring.
While U.S. business delegations have been traveling to Cuba for more than a decade, their number and high level is noteworthy.
Geoff Thale, program director of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a long-time advocacy group against the embargo, said that with evolving attitudes of the Cuban exile community toward Cuba, and interest among U.S. lawmakers to engage with Cuba, he’s not surprised to hear about these upcoming visits.
“I think all the travel we are seeing reflects growing recognition that change is going on in Cuba, and growing momentum for change in U.S. policy,” he said.
The Washington-based USCC, the influential group that bills itself as the voice in Washington of 3 million businesses, is being tight-lipped about their agenda and participants.
“I’m not able to elaborate at this time, said Tyler Hernández, USCC’s manager of media relations. He did confirm that his office is planning an educational trip to Havana this May, but didn’t want to go further. José Raúl Perales, who heads USCC’s Americas Department, was just as cryptic, noting that his office is still organizing the trip.
“There are many moving pieces here, so I don’t have anything about Cuba and the USCC at this time,” he said.
However, talk in Washington circles has it that USCC chief executive Thomas Donohue will be heading the group, which may also include Steve Van Andel, president of the USCC board and chairman of Amway Corp. “I would be hard-pressed to believe that the head of USCC is going to Cuba and will not be meeting with Raúl,” said one insider who declined to go on the record.
The New York-based Americas Society (AS/COA) is also press-shy about an educational trip that its Cuba Working Group is planning to Havana. While not denying that her office is putting together its own educational trip to Cuba, spokesperson Adriana La Rotta refrained from providing details of her office’s agenda, but sources close to the group said AS/COA will use its own license, and that the trip will focus on microcredit and microfinance.
Another group that will send a delegation is the Institute of the Americas. Located on the University of California’s San Diego campus and headed by Charles Shapiro, a former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela and a former coordinator of Cuban Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, the Institute of the Americas is organizing an educational one-week trip to Cuba this May under an OFAC license. Shapiro is leading that trip, which will let participants talk to high-ranking Cuban government officials, interact with members of the island’s emerging small business owners, meet artists and musicians, and debate with economists about the reforms.
It’s an educational trip to show people what’s happening on the ground in Cuba,” said Chandler Martin, Director of Cuba Programs at the Institute of the Americas. “Charles is going. I’m going, along with a group interested in Cuba policy.” Leaving out who was joining her trip, Martin would only say “the group includes individuals who are either retired or are simply interested in Cuba.”
Martin did say that many participants are interested in the Mariel port expansion and what it means for Cuba’s current investment promotion efforts, along with its export processing zone and who is likely to sign on to it, such as companies from Brazil and China. She also mentioned Cuba’s new foreign investment law as a draw for participants.
News of influential U.S. groups trekking to Havana is well-received by advocacy groups. “I think the visits – by the Chamber, the Americas Society, the Institute (of the Americas) in San Diego—reflect several related trends,” said WOLA’s Thale. “First, the process of economic reform in Cuba has sparked interest in the U.S. business community, (which is) reflected in (events) like the upcoming conference co-sponsored by the International Law Section of the Florida Bar on doing business in Cuba. The just-announced investment law, the emerging small business sector, the port at Mariel, all suggest possibilities for trade and investment, and the business community is interested in exploring now what those possibilities might be down the road.”
“Second, the reform process in general has piqued the interest of a variety of foreign policy analysts who are trying to get a sense of where the process of change in Cuba is headed,” Thale continued. “A couple of years ago, analysts who followed Cuba were debating whether the reform process was real. That debate is over. Serious analysts agree that the Cuban government is leading a real and serious process of economic reform. I think that has stimulated a lot of interest in questions like what model, if any, the Cuban government has in mind, how far the reforms will go, (and) what political implications they will have.”


viernes, abril 11, 2014

Alan Gross, an American imprisoned in Cuba ends hunger strike

WASHINGTON - (AP) -- An American imprisoned in Cuba for more than four years after illegally working to set up Internet access on the island suspended his hunger strike Friday after more than a week.
Alan Gross, 64, had eaten his last solid meal April 2 and said in a statement that he was fasting to protest his treatment by the U.S. and Cuban governments. In a statement released through his lawyer, Gross said he suspended his fast Friday because his 91-year-old mother asked him to stop. Gross, who lived in Maryland before his arrest, said he was suspending his "protest fast" but "there will be further protests to come."
"There will be no cause for further intense protest when both governments show more concern for human beings and less malice and derision toward each other," the statement said.
Gross was arrested in Cuba in 2009 while working in the Communist-run country to set up Internet access, which bypassed local restrictions and monitoring. At the time, Gross was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. government's U.S. Agency for International Development, which promotes democracy on the island. Cuba considers USAID's programs illegal attempts by the U.S. to undermine its government, and Gross was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Gross' hunger strike was in part prompted by an Associated Press story published last week that revealed that USAID secretly created a "Cuban Twitter" communications network to stir unrest on the island. The social media network, called ZunZuneo, was publicly launched shortly after Gross was arrested. It reached tens of thousands of subscribers before being shut down in 2012 when a government grant ended.
Gross' lawyer, Scott Gilbert, had said that learning about the ZunZuneo story was the "final straw" that prompted Gross' hunger strike.


Sen. Rubio: U.S. Should Do More To Promote Internet Freedom In Cuba



Ayúdenme a entender el zunzuneo

Hace varios días el tema del zunzuneo está en el centro de la información en el sur de La Florida, desplazando noticias sobre Venezuela y el avión de Malasia, y con tantas interpretaciones alrededor del “twitter” cubano se genera bastante confusión.
No pretendo detenerme ni en el manejo típico de aficionados con que la USAID “dirigió” el proyecto, ni en la peregrina suposición de que ese plan funcionaría en Cuba sin que el régimen activara sus alarmas y detectara componentes y ubicaciones, ni en considerar si lograr cuarenta mil suscriptores haya sido un éxito, ni si había derecho o no a hacer lo que se hizo, ni en lo útil que resulta ahora esa información para Caracas y La Habana, cuando las redes sociales de Venezuela denuncian al mundo la brutal represión en ese país, mientras Nicolás Maduro prohíbe difundir noticias a los medios de comunicación y acusa al “imperialismo”, los “fascistas” y los exiliados de fomentar la subversión desde el exterior.
Tampoco en las suspicacias sobre la forma en que todo el escándalo sobre el programa salió a la luz pública precisamente desde una agencia de prensa norteamericana. Allá quienes quieran pensar que son casualidades.
Me interesa destacar dos informaciones de Associated Press (AP), que la semana pasada desató el escándalo del zunzuneo. Ambas informaciones, fechadas en Washington el martes 8 de abril, aparecieron con 10 minutos de diferencia, lo que no es extraño si una agencia de prensa pretende corregir alguna inexactitud en la primera información, pero este no fue el caso.
Los títulos en Diario Las Américas eran muy sugerentes: “Mensajes de Zunzuneo tenían tinte político y despreciaban al régimen” y “AP: ‘Tuits’ de Zunzuneo tenían tinte político y despreciaban a los Castro”. Con tales titulares, me dispuse a leer esperando conocer de esos mensajes que tenían tinte político y despreciaban al régimen y sus personeros. Y aquí fue donde surgió mi confusión. Porque en ambas notas el “lead” o primer párrafo, donde se supone que aparece lo sustancial del tema que se abordará, era el mismo: “Los mensajes creados para la red de internet que USAID armó clandestinamente en Cuba tenían un tinte político y expresaban desprecio hacia la familia Castro”. Y se trataba de informaciones elaboradas por la AP, no de titulares del Diario Las Américas.
Leí ambas notas detenidamente, y tuve que volver a leerlas, esperando encontrar alguna prueba o evidencia, algún mensaje o “twitter” donde pudiera comprobarse el “tinte político” de algún texto, o constatarse el “desprecio” hacia el régimen o la familia Castro a que hacían referencia los despachos de AP. Sin embargo, debo ser demasiado torpe leyendo en español, porque lo que proclamaban los “leads” de las informaciones no aparecía por ninguna parte en las 1.433 palabras que componían ambos textos.
De manera que solicito la colaboración de los lectores para encontrar algún texto o mensaje en zunzuneo con “tinte político” o que muestre “desprecio” al régimen o los Castro, como dice AP. De lo contrario habría que suponer que con este tema Associated Press cayó en el amarillismo más burdo o que ahora en vez de periodistas profesionales utiliza “trabajadores ideológicos”, al mejor estilo de Granma o Corea del Norte.
Naturalmente, evidencias de lo que menciona la AP en informaciones serias y creíbles, no en “denuncias” que surjan desde La Habana sin la más elemental prueba, como de costumbre, y que algunos por estos foros reproducirán sin recato ni vergüenza.
Algunas deberían existir cuando Associated Press es capaz de utilizar el mismo “lead” acusador en dos informaciones diferentes en diez minutos. Quizás alguien pueda ayudar en este aspecto.
La única referencia concreta a mensajes con “tinte político” en zunzuneo que he visto aparece en el artículo “¿Zunzuneo, subversión o romper la censura?”, que desde Cuba publica el periodista independiente Odelín Alfonso Torna en Cubanet, donde señala claramente que “Ningún joven recibió en su móvil un texto subversivo”, aclarando que, por el contrario, se recibían “mensajes que exhortaban a liberar a los cinco espías”, y pone de ejemplo uno concreto: “Amar la justicia es defender a los cinco. ¡Fin a la injusticia! ¡Libertad ahora!” No creo que alguien considere que mensaje como ese haya sido enviado por “el imperio”.
Por eso parece elemental que se pueda mostrar alguna evidencia que silencie muchas bocas “anticubanas”, como dicen en La Habana. Un simple mensaje con “tinte político” o que muestre “desprecio” podría ser suficiente.
Declarar que lo subversivo vendría más adelante es lo mismo que acusar a una persona de “peligrosidad”, como se hace en Cuba: una inmoralidad.
Mientras no se muestren evidencias, hay derecho a pensar que Associated Press, igual hace La Habana, está mintiendo en ese aspecto.
Y entonces habría que preguntarse: ¿por qué?


miércoles, abril 09, 2014

Cuban Embassy to soon address PriceSmart ban

The Embassy of Cuba has indicated that it will be officially addressing the issue surrounding the suspension of PriceSmart Jamaica accounts belonging to staff and residents of the Cuban Embassy and consular offices in Jamaica.
In an emailed response to The Gleaner yesterday, Junior Rodriguez, consul and third secretary at the Embassy of Cuba in Jamaica, said: "I talked with the Cuban ambassador and he transmitted to me that the Embassy of Cuba is going to hold a press conference soon in order to make an official statement regarding this issue."
PriceSmart Jamaica's general manager, Tara Kisto, had written to Rodriguez indicating that they were forced to suspend the accounts as the United States of America government prohibits its parent company, PriceSmart Incorporated, from making sales and transacting business with Cubans who do not have permanent residency in Jamaica or any other country.
In its response to Gleaner queries yesterday, the United States Embassy in St Andrew gave a general response, stating: "US law and regulations generally prohibit all persons subject to US jurisdiction, which includes subsidiaries of US entities wherever located in the world, from engaging in transactions in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest."
The US Embassy said unless otherwise authorised by general or specific licence issued by the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, then transactions, including the trading of services, were forbidden between US entities and Cuban nationals or companies.


Cuba compró menos alimentos y más medicinas a EEUU en el 2013

Por Ivette Leyva Martínez
Las ventas de alimentos de Estados Unidos a Cuba continuaron en picada durante el 2013 y apenas alcanzaron los $348.7 millones de dólares, pero hubo un incremento notable en las exportaciones de medicinas y equipos médicos hacia la isla.
Según estadísticas divulgadas este martes por el Consejo Económico y Comercial EEUU-Cuba (USCTEC), las compras de la compañía estatal Alimport en el mercado estadounidense en el 2013 fueron las más bajas de los últimos siete años, con una disminución del 23 por ciento con relación al período precedente.
Desde que el Congreso autorizó las transacciones comerciales con Cuba en el 2000, solo en tres ocasiones se habían registrado cifras por debajo de los $350 millones anuales. El pico de las compras ocurrió en el 2008, con $710 millones.
Sin embargo, en el sector de la salud, las ventas llegaron a los $2.18 millones de dólares, una cifra discreta pero significativa teniendo en cuenta las limitaciones impuestas por el embargo.
Exportaciones sin precedentes
Es el mayor monto de exportaciones de equipos médicos y medicinas hacia Cuba en el último lustro, período en el que las transacciones más cuantiosas fueron de $234,718 millones, reportadas en el 2012.
Durante los 13 años de ventas de productos agrícolas a Cuba, el monto total de las operaciones asciende a $4,689 millones de dólares.
Las principales compras de Cuba al mercado estadounidense el pasado año fueron mayormente de pollo congelado ($144.3 millones, el 41% del total de las operaciones), compuesto de aceite de soya ($69.3 millones), maíz ($57.5 millones) y granos de soya ($39.4 millones).
El mapa estadístico elaborado por USCTEC -entidad independiente con sede en Nueva York- se basa en los reportes oficiales de los departamentos de Agricultura y Comercio, así como en los registros de compañías exportadoras, pero no incluye los costos añadidos de transportación, recargos bancarios y otros gastos derivados de los envíos de mercancías a la isla.
De acuerdo con John S. Kavulich, consejero principal de USCTEC, entre las causas principales de la disminución de las compras de Alimport a firmas estadounidenses figura la preferencia cubana de adquirir productos de entidades controladas por gobiernos que ofrecen condiciones de pago más favorables y menos publicidad cuando los honorarios no son cumplidos en tiempo, debido a las dificultades financieras por las que atraviesa la isla.
Menos transparencia
“Para el gobierno cubano, es más fácil lidiar con problemas de impagos scon compañías bajo control estatal, mayormente de Venezuela, China, Vietnam o Brasil”, dijo Kavulich a Café Fuerte. “La transparencia de las operaciones internacionales pone en entredicho la capacidad financiera de Cuba”.
La falta de liquidez está golpeando duramente a la economía cubana. El tema de la carencia de efectivos se discutió ampliamente, a puertas cerradas, durante las dos últimas sesión ordinarias de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, en agosto y diciembre de 2013.
El gobierno cubano se ve obligado a desembolsar anualmente más de $2,000 millones de dólares para adquirir alimentos en el exterior y poder compensar la escasa producción de productos agrícolas. Actualmente Venezuela y China aparecen como los mayores proveedores alimentarios de Cuba.
Kavulich negó que los cambios implementados a partir del 2005 por la Oficina de Control de Bienes Extranjeros (OFAC) del Departamento del Tesoro para fiscalizar las transacciones financieras con Cuba sean la causa de la disminución en las ventas estadounidenses.
“Los esfuerzos anteriormente exitosos de Cuba para motivar a compañías estadounidenses, organizaciones, representantes de gobiernos locales y miembros del Congreso en hacer más visibles sus esfuerzos de cabildeo en favor de un cambio de la política de Estados Unidos, se ha evaporado”, señaló el ejecutivo.
2001 -  $4,318,906
2002 -  $138,634,784
2003 -  $256,901,471
2004 -  $391,990,382
2005 -  $350,218,040
2006 -  $340,433,442
2007 -  $437,564,824
2008 -  $710,086,323
2009 -  $528,482,955
2010 -  $366,467,782
2011 -  $358,457,389
2012 -  $457,318,357
2013 -  $348,747,293
Total:   $4,689,621,948
Fuente: USTEC

martes, abril 08, 2014

Chairman Menendez Talks Cuba on Senate Floor



MUST-READ: Chairman Menendez Floor Speech on Cuba

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor today:

M. President, as the attention of the world has been focused on the pre-1991 Soviet behavior of President Putin in Crimea – I come to the floor to remind the American public and members of this body that there is also a full-fledged human rights crisis ongoing in our own hemisphere, just 90 miles from our shores in Cuba.

As Ukrainians courageously fight to protect the democracy they won when the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago this year, the Cuban people continue to suffer from the oppression of a Soviet-style dictatorship that denies them the most basic rights.

When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, millions of people – from Kiev to Budapest – Africa to Asia – were given their first chance in decades to build their own governments. A first chance to organize democratic elections. The chance to begin to determine their own futures.

Since the end of the Cold War, peace, prosperity and progress have largely been the order of the day for hundreds of millions of people, but not for the people of Cuba. Not one of these core principles of democracy can be found on the island.

Fidel and Raul Castro have been the only names on any ballot for over 50 years. Not one free election has been held. Not one Cuban has been allowed to own their own company. Not one legitimate trade union has been allowed to be organized. Not one peaceful protest has occurred without being brutally squashed by the regime.

No, this is the reality of Cuba today, it was the reality when the Berlin Wall fell -- and it’s been Cuba’s reality for almost 60 years since Fidel Castro began taking control of every aspect of Cuban life. This reality in Cuba, the decades-long brutal oppression of simple human and democratic rights, the total disdain for the aspirations of a people by the Castro regime, its military and communist lackey-thugs who penetrate and control people’s lives at all levels should not be overlooked, it should not be romanticized, and it should never be explained away.

But, unlike Ukraine where we have watched in horror as people have been ruthlessly beaten and killed for simply aspiring for democratic and transparent government, the Castro regime does not allow images of its oppression to be broadcast around the globe – let alone at home. But just because we do not see those images streaming across television sets and in the newspapers does not mean the world should not be watching. It does not mean we have turned the other way and it does not mean we have overlooked the brutal and often times lethal oppression of the regime in Cuba.

The number of people the regime has murdered or abducted is in the tens-of-thousands. Hundreds of thousands of children have been separated from their parents. Maybe hundreds of thousands of families have been torn apart. Millions of men, women and young people have been forced into the fields to cut sugar cane and perform other hard labor against their will. The average Cuban worker lives on an income of less than a dollar a day.

The Castro regime has been most adept not at spreading education and prosperity, but at instilling a penetrating fear and terror in the style of a Stalinist police state. This has been going on since 1959, but, unfortunately, it is not a thing of the past.

Let us not overlook the fact that arbitrary and politically motivated arrests in Cuba reportedly topped 1,000 for a third straight month  this February, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a group inside Cuba, founded by Elizardo Sanchez Santa-Cruz whose mission is to bring change and freedom to the island. The Commission reported that “arrests in the past three months have nearly doubled from the monthly averages of the previous two years.”

We must remind ourselves everyday of the continued oppression and human suffering that is happening – not only halfway around the world, but 90 miles from our own shores. The ongoing oppressive behavior of the Cuban regime we saw for the last half of the 20th century still haunts our hemisphere today.

While Putin has annexed Crimea, while one wonders what’s next, while Assad continues to kill his own people in Syria, while the world is watching the Taliban in Afghanistan, and violence continues in the Central African Republic taking countless lives, the oppression of the Castro regime keeps rolling along – unabated.

If there is a single symbol of that oppression, of the longing for freedom in Cuba, it is the Ladies in White – Damas de Blanco – and their leader, Berta Soler. The courage she has displayed to promote democracy and political freedom in Cuba has served as an extraordinary example for all of us and everyone around the world who longs to be free.

Every Sunday, they protest the jailing of their relatives by attending mass and quietly marching through the streets of Havana, praying for nothing more than the freedom of their relatives and respect for the human rights of all Cubans. Often arrested, roughed-up, detained, jailed, held for days -- maybe weeks -- released and jailed again, the Ladies in White are the symbol of freedom and women like Laura Pollan represents the story of thousands.

She was a school teacher living with her husband, Hector, the leader of the outlawed Cuban Liberal Party. They were living a normal life in a small house on Neptune Street in Havana. Early one morning there was a pounding at the front door. The police came in. Searched everything. There was a sham-trial held in Cuba. Hector was imprisoned. Sentenced to 20 years in jail and accused of acting against national security. His only crime was dreaming of a free Cuba, and putting that dream in writing.

Since I last came to the floor to speak about Cuba, I met Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of the long-time dissident and political activist, Oswaldo Paya. He was a Roman Catholic and the head of the Christian Liberation Movement who collected 25,000 signatures in the Varela Project – a peaceful effort to petition the regime for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly. For his peaceful efforts he was awarded the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament.

His peaceful efforts, were seen as a danger to the regime, a threat for which he was detained and arrested many times. Many times he suffered at the hands of the regime, and, last year, he died in Cuba – killed as Cuban state security rammed his car off the road. What we know is the car, driven by Spanish politician Angel Carromero, a citizen of Spain and Aron Modig, a party activist in Sweden, was involved in the fatal automobile accident that killed Paya and his Cuban colleague Harold Cepero.

The circumstances surrounding Paya’s death leave any reasonable person to conclude what really happened on that road in eastern Cuba that took the life of Oswaldo was an assassination. His daughter, Rosa Maria, immediately challenged the regime’s version of events stating that the family had received information from the survivors that their car was repeatedly rammed by another vehicle. “So we think it’s not an accident,” she said, “They wanted to do harm and then ended up killing my father.”

Ms. Paya was in Washington not long ago, accepting a posthumous award from the National Endowment for Democracy on behalf of another young Cuban activist who died alongside Oswaldo Paya. At the time, the new Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, had come before the Foreign Relations Committee during the nomination process, and assured me she would reach out to Ms. Paya when confirmed. Since then, she has not only met with Rosa Maria, but also directly challenged Cuba’s foreign minister to permit an independent international investigation into Mr. Paya’s death. I commend Ambassador Power for standing with those still suffering in Cuba and with Oswaldo Paya and his family who died for advocating peaceful democratic change and Christian values.

But Cuba’s reach doesn’t end with the detention or the death of dissidents like Oswaldo Paya. It doesn’t end at the water’s edge. It goes much further.

Cuba is at the head of a new and dire crisis in our hemisphere that we cannot ignore and now we see the same oppression of peaceful activists in Cuba on the streets of Caracas. Venezuela’s political crisis is growing: 40 dead; hundreds injured; the nation’s economy deteriorating; inflation at record levels; a scarcity of basic foods and goods. M. President, it sounds like Cuba to me!

Behind Venezuela’s economic crisis, we can see Cuba’s failed policies – expropriation and nationalization of various sectors of the economy, fixed prices in the consumer economy, criminalization of business leaders and their companies, currency manipulation and rationing of basic foodstuff.

Behind Venezuela’s political crisis, we can clearly see familiar Cuban tactics – the demonization of the dissent, intolerance and oppression of any form of opposition, politicizing of the military and judiciary, the silencing of independent television and radio stations, the shutting-down of newspapers, the arrest of political opponents doing nothing more than exercising basic rights to freedom of assembly.

We see Cuba’s destabilizing presence is deeply entwined in Venezuela’s crisis. It started with the discovery of 29 Cuban spies in Margarita Island in Venezuela in 1997. It grew steadily and insidiously through the Chavez years with the Cuban presence and key advisors from Havana in almost every institution of national government in Venezuela – from the military to intelligence agencies to the health sector to industrial policy. And the result? Democracy subverted and innocent people dying from bullets fired by the government and its thugs – just like in Cuba.

And yet, knowing the instability that the Cuban regime continues to spread, amazingly, Europe, nations in Latin America and the Caribbean, and some of my colleagues in this Chamber, are seeking new opportunities to engage the Cuban regime. Some want to ease sanctions at this critical moment and fundamentally redefine our relationship with Cuba. I could not disagree more.

We can never turn our back on what has happened and continues to happen in Cuba! We can never wink-and-nod, and say: It’s been 50 years, that’s long enough, things are changing for the better in Cuba, so we should ease sanctions.

I say – NO! – No, we should not ease sanctions. We should not let up. We should not reward the Castro regime for its human rights violations. For the suffering it continues to cause the people of Cuba.

We should not reward the regime for the long dark years they have brought to the island. We should not ease tourism restrictions simply because the clock is ticking.

Those who wish to pursue engagement with Cuba must not forget Cuba’s history and its present state of torture and oppression – its systematic curtailment of freedom.

Recent events tell a different story: The story of two terrorist states – Cuba and North Korea.

There is unshakeable, undeniable, incontrovertible proof of the Cuban government colluding with North Korea in violation of United Nations sanctions regime. In July of last year, a North Korean ship was docked in Cuba’s new Mariel Port facility.

The North Korean ship, suspicious to even the most untrained observer, left the dock and it wasn’t long afterward that it was seized by the Panamanian government when it attempted to enter the Panama Canal. Panamanian authorities boarded the ship, and what did they find? There, in the cargo bays, under some 200,000 bags of sugar, authorities discovered 240 tons of weapons bound for – where? – that’s right – for North Korea, another terrorist state.

And yet, apparently this evidence – to some of my colleagues – is not of concern.

But that’s not the end of the story, M. President. When authorities inventoried the 240 tons of weapons hidden beneath 200,000 bags of sugar they found on the North Korean ship – they found two MiG aircraft; several SA-2 and SA-3 surface-to-air missile systems; missile and radar components; and a cache of small arms and rocket propelled grenades.

I ask my colleagues, is this the kind of behavior of a tired old benign regime – one that deserves our sympathy? Is this a misunderstanding that does not check enough terrorist boxes? Is this something we should justifiably ignore, falling under the category of Castro-will-be-Castro? Or is this, at its core, the act of a dangerous player – listed as a terrorist state – that we would not tolerate from any other nation?

It seems to me that supplying a rogue nation like North Korea with a secret cache of weapons demands something more than the loosening of travel restrictions and the opening of trade. It demands exactly the opposite.

We should treat Cuba and the Castro regime as we would treat any other state sponsor of terrorism – which it is.

And yet, here I am, M. President, once again forced to come to the floor of the Senate. Once again – to point to these pictures of a North Korean ship in a Cuban port smuggling MiG aircraft and surface to air missiles and ask why should we turn a blind eye to what we clearly would not accept from Iran, Syria, or Sudan? And why, in God’s name, would we want to take this opportunity to reward the regime with cash-flows so they can continue to oppress their people and subvert neighboring countries?

Why should we accept the lame excuses given by the Cuban regime that – somehow – despite the fact that many of the arms were still in their original packaging, despite the fact that others had been recently calibrated, despite the fact that there was a fresh coat of paint over the insignia of the Cuban Air Force on the side of the MiGs to hide their origin, despite the fact that the entire shipment was covered with a-couple-of-hundred-thousand bags of sugar, Cuba claimed that this was a purely innocent business transaction and that the arms were being sent to North Korea for required maintenance and would have been returned to the island.

Does anyone actually believe such a ludicrous claim? But the broader question for my colleagues is: Can we and should we simply ignore it and move on? Even though United Nations weapons inspectors found that the shipment was a clear violation of UN sanctions – that Cuba was the first country in the Western hemisphere to violate international sanctions related to North Korea and that the shipment constituted the largest amount of arms shipped to or from North Korea since the adoption of Security Council Resolutions 1874 in 2009 and Resolution 2094 in 2013. I repeat: “the largest amount of arms shipped to or from North Korea.” If that is not food for thought when it comes to easing restrictions against the terrorist state to our south, I don’t know what it.

That said, in recent years, some would have us believe that reforms led by Raul Castro have placed Cuba on a path to economic progress, but, if we look at the new law on foreign investment that Cuba passed last week, we get a clearer picture of the truth behind Cuba’s economic model.

Let’s be clear about this new economic model. Under Cuba’s new foreign investment law, investment projects will be allowed to be fully funded by foreign capital. Business taxes on profits would be cut by 50 percent. Foreign companies would be exempt from paying taxes for the first 8 years of operations in Cuba and many foreigners living in Cuba would be let off the hook from paying income taxes at all.

But think about it. The question is: Who wins? Not the people of Cuba.

The most glaring omission in this new law is any benefit at all to the Cuban people. Instead of receiving new investment opportunities of benefitting from tax cuts and loop holes, they will continue to live under restrictive laws and regulations – unable to start a business, unable to follow a dream, build a better life.

They are left to live under the most restrictive laws preventing them from ever realizing their dreams for themselves and their families.

In fact, the Cuban regime has permitted people to work for themselves – to be entrepreneurs but only 200 types of jobs the government sanctions. They have a list of authorized jobs that includes sewing buttons, filling cigarette lighters, and street performing. Not exactly lucrative start-ups that can build an economy. These “authorized” jobs bear more resemblance to a feudal economy than anything we would recognize as economic opportunity.

At the same time, the government has moved aggressively to close in-home movie theaters, second hand clothing markets, and fledgling private restaurants that its considers too large or too successful. Why? Because anything that allows Cubans to meet legally, lawfully, and as a group – is a threat to the regime.

And while the Cuban government offers new incentives to foreign investors and continues to clamp down on self-employed workers, the real economic change in Cuba is the growing role of the Cuban armed forces in the country’s economy.

Under the watchful eye of Raul Castro’s son-in-law, a general in the Cuban Armed Forces, the military holding company, GAESA, has amassed control of more than 40 percent of Cuba’s economy. Through companies like GAESA, the government and the armed forces – those most loyal to the Castros – are laying a foundation for its future control of Cuba and the Cuban economy.

On the economic front, I think it's important to make the point that when people argue for trade and travel with Cuba, they are arguing to do so with Castro's monopolies. Let’s be clear, regular Cubans are prohibited from engaging in foreign trade and commerce. So we want to trade with Castro's monopolies? Do we? Do we want to reward the regime?

The U.S. government’s own report of agricultural sales to Cuba states how every single transaction with Cuba, by hundreds of American agricultural companies, have only had one counter-part: Castro's food monopoly, through a company named Alimport that hasn't helped the people one bit. So do we really want to unleash billions to Castro's monopolies?

Also, every single foreign "people-to-people" traveler currently stays at a hotel or resort owned by the Cuban military (GAESA). No exceptions!

So, M. President, how does that promote the "independence of the Cuban people from the regime?" as President Obama's policy statement upon releasing these regulations states?

At the very least, they should be compelled to stay at a "casa particular" – a private home – but staying at the military's facilities contravenes the President's own policy statement. This hardly constitutes an economic opening for the people of Cuba.

However, if there is one positive trend to be found in Cuba today, it is that after decades of fear and self-imposed silence, there is a growing number of Cuban citizens beginning to speak out critically, increasingly in public.

In June 2012, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known as Antunez, after testifying before the Foreign Relations Committee via Skype – as you can see in this photograph – was beaten and detained for his testimony on human rights abuses on the island. But that did not stop him and it did not stop the bloggers from the Cuban diaspora from getting the word out.

After decades of being manipulated by the Castros, the people of Cuba no longer identify with the government. And while the government still holds power, its legitimacy is plummeting in the opinions of its people. So after 55 years of dictatorship, it is our responsibility in the international community to encourage this independence and help the people of Cuba reclaim their rights: Rights to freedom of expression, rights to organize unions, rights to freedom of assembly, rights to freedom of the press, rights to freedom of religion, universal human rights, the rights and freedoms that will be the building blocks of the new and democratic Cuba of the future.

But let us not be misled. Though Berta Soler is now allowed by the regime to visit the United States and Europe, when she returns to Cuban soil there is no change in the status of the Damas en Blanco. Every move she and her courageous partners make is monitored by the Castro regime. They are still physically harassed, intimidated, and arrested. Why? For simply wanting what any mother in any country on the face of the earth wants – to learn of the fate of her husband, son or daughter who has been harassed, beaten, and jailed by an aging, illegitimate regime.

According to the Cuba Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, there were more than 15,000 cases of arbitrary, politically-motivated detentions since the start of 2012.

In January of this year, when 30 heads of state from Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the Secretary General of the UN and Secretary General of the OAS were at a summit in Havana, there were more than 1,050 detentions over the course of the month.

In one prominent case, a leading Afro-Cuban political activist, intellectual and known leftist Manuel Cuesta Morua was arrested after attempting to organize a parallel civil society summit during the visit by heads of state. This simple practice, a practice that is not uncommon and, in fact, is ubiquitous throughout Latin America and the world, is not tolerated by the Cuban regime.

Instead, Mr. Cuesta Morua faced five days of intensive interrogations and has been charged with “disseminating false news against international peace,” joining prominent activists Jorge Luis Garcia Perez and Guillermo Fariñas, who was awarded the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament for his dedication to peace.

He is shown here being taken away by the police. These activists have faced repeated, brutal acts at the hands of the Castro regime – no less violent than the regimes of any other terrorist state.

Finally, it is important to note that detentions, violence and harassment are not reserved for political activists alone, but also directed at labor rights activists as well.

In early March, AFL-CIO President Trumka called on the Cuban government to end its harassment of Mr. Cuesta Morua, and all independent union activists, advocating for labor rights to protect Cuban workers, like Morua and Maria Elena Mir and her colleagues.

American workers are not turning a blind eye to what the Cuban regime is doing to limit worker rights, and we should not turn a blind eye either. We cannot remain silent.

We must support those like Morua and Maria who are willing to step forward for Labor rights in the face of a repressive regime that will not stop at anything to silence them. As the people of Cuba look to cast off the shackles of five decades of dictatorial rule, we must stand-with and speak out in support-of all those who seek to reclaim their civil and political rights, and promote political pluralism and democratic values. We cannot turn our back on Cuba’s human right violations record for decades simply because “enough time has passed.”

If that’s the case, M. President, enough time has surely passed in Syria, and Sudan, and Iran, and North Korea.

To me and to the thousands who have suffered at the hands of these regimes, the clock has nothing to do with our policy options. Engagement and sanctions relief has to be earned – it can’t be timed-out! It must come through real change not Xs on a calendar or the ticking of a clock.

And the clock is ticking for Alan Gross. On December 4th, 2009, Alan Gross, a private sub-contractor for the U.S. government, working to bring information to the Cuban people, was arrested in Cuba. Mr. Gross is a 64-year old development professional who worked in dozens of countries around the world with programs to help people get access to basic information.

Since 2009, he has been detained in Villa Marista – a prison in Havana notorious for its treatment of political prisoners by the Cuban National Security Agency. This is not a minimum security prison where foreigners are routinely held. It is a harsh, repressive prison –reserved for Cuban dissidents.

He is still being held at Villa Marista, and so I come to the floor to urge my colleagues – indeed, to urge the Administration – to do all it can to free Mr. Gross, and keep pressure on the Castro regime.

After serving four years of a 15 year sentence, this 64 year old American’s mental health is reported to be deteriorating and his life may well be in danger.

The case of Alan Gross is only one example of why we cannot let up until the dead weight of this oppressive regime is lifted – once and for all -- from the backs of 11 million Cubans living on that island nation, isolated from the world.

M. President, we have supported democracy movements around the world. It is the idea upon which this nation was founded and it is who we are as a people and what we stand for in the eyes of the world.

We can no longer condone through inaction and outright support – even from some of my colleagues in this chamber – the actions of a repressive regime 90 miles from our shores simply because of the passage of time, or because of some romantic idea of what the Castro regime is all about.

To my colleagues let me say, I know I have come to this floor on many occasions demanding action. I have come to this floor demanding that we live up to our rhetoric and our values. I ask that we hold the Castro brothers accountable for the years of suffering – the years of brutality and repression that has deprived the Cuban people of the basic human rights we so proudly proclaim to support around the world.

And I will come to this floor again-and-again-and- again to ask for nothing less. To ask that we never allow the Castro regime to profit from increased trade that will benefit the regime, that will use these dollars for repression, but not put one ounce of food on the plates of Cuban families.

Let me end, M. President with this photograph of a man being arrested in Havana and flashing a sign recognized across Cuba and throughout the world.

Libertad! Libertad! Libertad! That’s all I ask for the people of Cuba. And I will not rest until Cuba is free.

Thank you, M. President, and with that I yield the floor.


Alan Gross, American prisoner in Cuba starts hunger strike

MIAMI — An American contractor who has been held in a Cuban prison for over four years started a hunger strike to protest what he described as the inaction of both the U.S. and Cuban governments to secure his release.
Alan Gross, who was arrested by Cuban authorities in 2009 for importing and distributing communications equipment for the Jewish community there, started the hunger strike on Thursday. His attorney said he decided to take the extreme measure after the Associated Press reported on a secret program run by the U.S. government to facilitate cellphone communication between Cubans on the island.
Gross was arrested while acting on a contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development to improve communication on the island, where Internet use is heavily restricted by the Cuban government. The program uncovered by the AP, dubbed the "Cuban Twitter" by officials who ran it from 2009 to 2012, was also run by USAID and initiated after Gross was imprisoned.
Gross, who estimates he has lost more than 110 pounds since he was imprisoned, said in a statement that he was frustrated by the continued lack of effort by the U.S. government to orchestrate his release.
"I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal," Gross said in a statement released by his attorney. "Once again, I am calling on President Obama to get personally involved in ending this stand-off so that I can return home to my wife and daughters."
Gross' attorney, Scott Gilbert, said he had not spoken directly with Gross since he started the hunger strike on Thursday but received a message at his office. Gilbert, who expects to speak with Gross this week, said he doesn't know whether the Cuban prison officials will force-feed him, a common practice when prisoners go on hunger strikes.
Gilbert said Gross has become increasingly frustrated that the U.S. government has not acted more aggressively to negotiate his release. He said USAID's decision to run the Cuban Twitter program imperiled Gross' safety and served as the last straw to start the hunger strike.
"He's extremely frustrated, more so at this point at the United States than at Cuba," said Gilbert, who speaks with Gross twice a week and has visited him in prison several times. "Hunger strikes don't end up anywhere pleasant, either through the effects of not eating or forced feedings."
Gross's case has become central to the political back-and-forth between the governments of Cuba and the U.S.
His relatives and friends have organized protests in Washington, D.C., to urge his release, and he has been visited by several members of Congress. At the same time, Cuban officials have accused the U.S. of wrongfully detaining five of their citizens, dubbed the Cuban Five. The men were convicted in federal court on espionage charges, and have become national heroes in Cuba, where their images are painted on billboards and walls throughout the island.
Cuban officials have said they would be willing to discuss Gross' release if the U.S. government considered releasing the Cuban Five. Two of the men have been released from prison and returned to Cuba.
Gilbert said that for the past year, Cuban officials have offered to negotiate Gross' case "without any preconditions."
On Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said President Obama remains committed to securing Gross' release.
"His detention remains an impediment to more constructive relations between the U.S. and Cuba," Carney said.

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"EN TIEMPOS DIFÍCILES" - Heberto Padilla

A aquel hombre le pidieron su tiempo

para que lo juntara al tiempo de la Historia.

Le pidieron las manos,

porque para una época difícil

nada hay mejor que un par de buenas manos.

Le pidieron los ojos

que alguna vez tuvieron lágrimas

para que contemplara el lado claro

(especialmente el lado claro de la vida)

porque para el horror basta un ojo de asombro.

Le pidieron sus labios

resecos y cuarteados para afirmar,

para erigir, con cada afirmación, un sueño


le pidieron las piernas

duras y nudosas

(sus viejas piernas andariegas),

porque en tiempos difíciles

¿algo hay mejor que un par de piernas

para la construcción o la trinchera?

Le pidieron el bosque que lo nutrió de niño,

con su árbol obediente.

Le pidieron el pecho, el corazón, los hombros.

Le dijeron

que eso era estrictamente necesario.

Le explicaron después

que toda esta donación resultaria inútil.

sin entregar la lengua,

porque en tiempos difíciles

nada es tan útil para atajar el odio o la mentira.

Y finalmente le rogaron

que, por favor, echase a andar,

porque en tiempos difíciles

esta es, sin duda, la prueba decisiva.

Los Aldeanos: "El Socialismo en Tiempos del Colera: Toda Una Nación"


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La columna de Cubanalisis

NEOCASTRISMO [Hacer click en la imagen]

NEOCASTRISMO [Hacer click en la imagen]
¨Saturno jugando con sus hijos¨/ Pedro Pablo Oliva


Carta desde la carcel de Fidel Castro Ruz

“…después de todo, para mí la cárcel es un buen descanso, que sólo tiene de malo el que es obligatorio. Leo mucho y estudio mucho. Parece increíble, las horas pasan como si fuesen minutos y yo, que soy de temperamento intranquilo, me paso el día leyendo, apenas sin moverme para nada. La correspondencia llega normalmente…”

“…Como soy cocinero, de vez en cuando me entretengo preparando algún pisto. Hace poco me mandó mi hermana desde Oriente un pequeño jamón y preparé un bisté con jalea de guayaba. También preparo spaghettis de vez en cuando, de distintas formas, inventadas todas por mí; o bien tortilla de queso. ¡Ah! ¡Qué bien me quedan! por supuesto, que el repertorio no se queda ahí. Cuelo también café que me queda muy sabroso”.
“…En cuanto a fumar, en estos días pasados he estado rico: una caja de tabacos H. Upman del doctor Miró Cardona, dos cajas muy buenas de mi hermano Ramón….”.
“Me voy a cenar: spaghettis con calamares, bombones italianos de postre, café acabadito de colar y después un H. Upman #4. ¿No me envidias?”.
“…Me cuidan, me cuidan un poquito entre todos. No le hacen caso a uno, siempre estoy peleando para que no me manden nada. Cuando cojo el sol por la mañana en shorts y siento el aire de mar, me parece que estoy en una playa… ¡Me van a hacer creer que estoy de vacaciones! ¿Qué diría Carlos Marx de semejantes revolucionarios?”.
¨La patria es dicha de todos, y dolor de todos, y cielo para todos, y no feudo ni capellaní­a de nadie¨ - Marti

"No temas ni a la prision, ni a la pobreza, ni a la muerte. Teme al miedo"
Giacomo Leopardi

¨Por eso es muy importante, Vicky, hijo mío, que recuerdes siempre para qué sirve la cabeza: para atravesar paredes¨Halvar de Flake [El vikingo]

"Como no me he preocupado de nacer, no me preocupo de morir" - Lorca

"Al final, no os preguntarán qué habéis sabido, sino qué habéis hecho" - Jean de Gerson

"Si queremos que todo siga como está, es necesario que todo cambie" - Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

"Todo hombre paga su grandeza con muchas pequeñeces, su victoria con muchas derrotas, su riqueza con múltiples quiebras" - Giovanni Papini

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans" - John Lennon

"Habla bajo, lleva siempre un gran palo y llegarás lejos" - Proverbio Africano

"No hay medicina para el miedo" - Proverbio escoces

"El supremo arte de la guerra es doblegar al enemigo sin luchar"
- Sun Tzu

"You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother" - Albert Einstein

"It is inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office" - H. L. Menken

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented" - Elie Wiesel

"Stay hungry, stay foolish" -
Steve Jobs

"If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert , in five years ther'ed be a shortage of sand" - Milton Friedman

"The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less" - Vaclav Havel

"No se puede controlar el resultado, pero si lo que uno haga para alcanzarlo" -
Vitor Belfort [MMA Fighter]


A la puerta de la gloria está San Pedro sentado y ve llegar a su lado a un hombre de cierta historia. No consigue hacer memoria y le pregunta con celo: ¿Quién eras allá en el suelo? Era Liborio mi nombre. Has sufrido mucho, hombre, entra, te has ganado el cielo.

Para Raul Castro

Cuba ocupa el penultimo lugar en el mundo en libertad economica solo superada por Corea del Norte.

Cuba ocupa el lugar 147 entre 153 paises evaluados en "Democracia, Mercado y Transparencia 2007"

Cuando vinieron

Cuando vinieron a buscar a los comunistas, Callé: yo no soy comunista.
Cuando vinieron a buscar a los sindicalistas, Callé: yo no soy sindicalista.
Cuando vinieron a buscar a los judíos, Callé: yo no soy judío. Cuando vinieron a buscar a los católicos, Callé: yo no soy “tan católico”.
Cuando vinieron a buscarme a mí, Callé: no había quien me escuchara.

Reverendo Martin Niemöller

Martha Colmenares

Martha Colmenares
Un sitio donde los hechos y sus huellas nos conmueven o cautivan


Donde esta el Mundo, donde los Democratas, donde los Liberales? El pueblo de Cuba llora y nadie escucha.
Donde estan los Green, los Socialdemocratas, los Ricos y los Pobres, los Con Voz y Sin Voz? Cuba llora y nadie escucha.
Donde estan el Jet Set, los Reyes y Principes, Patricios y Plebeyos? Cuba desesperada clama por solidaridad.
Donde Bob Dylan, donde Martin Luther King, donde Hollywood y sus estrellas? Donde la Middle Class democrata y conservadora, o acaso tambien liberal a ratos? Y Gandhi? Y el Dios de Todos?
Donde los Santos y Virgenes; los Dioses de Cristianos, Protestantes, Musulmanes, Budistas, Testigos de Jehova y Adventistas del Septimo Dia. Donde estan Ochun y todas las deidades del Panteon Yoruba que no acuden a nuestro llanto? Donde Juan Pablo II que no exige mas que Cuba se abra al Mundo y que el Mundo se abra a Cuba?
Que hacen ahora mismo Alberto de Monaco y el Principe Felipe que no los escuchamos? Donde Madonna, donde Angelina Jolie y sus adoptados around de world; o nos hara falta un Brando erguido en un Oscar por Cuba? Donde Sean Penn?
Donde esta la Aristocracia Obrera y los Obreros menos Aristocraticos, donde los Working Class que no estan junto a un pueblo que lanquidece, sufre y llora por la ignominia?
Que hacen ahora mismo Zapatero y Rajoy que no los escuchamos, y Harper y Dion, e Hillary y Obama; donde McCain que no los escuchamos? Y los muertos? Y los que estan muriendo? Y los que van a morir? Y los que se lanzan desesperados al mar?
Donde estan el minero cantabrico o el pescador de percebes gijonese? Los Canarios donde estan? A los africanos no los oimos, y a los australianos con su acento de hombres duros tampoco. Y aquellos chinos milenarios de Canton que fundaron raices eternas en la Isla? Y que de la Queen Elizabeth y los Lords y Gentlemen? Que hace ahora mismo el combativo Principe Harry que no lo escuchamos?
Donde los Rockefellers? Donde los Duponts? Donde Kate Moss? Donde el Presidente de la ONU? Y Solana donde esta? Y los Generales y Doctores? Y los Lam y los Fabelo, y los Sivio y los Fito Paez?
Y que de Canseco y Miñoso? Y de los veteranos de Bahia de Cochinos y de los balseros y de los recien llegados? Y Carlos Otero y Susana Perez? Y el Bola, y Pancho Cespedes? Y YO y TU?
Y todos nosotros que estamos aqui y alla rumiando frustaciones y resquemores, envidias y sinsabores; autoelogios y nostalgias, en tanto Louis Michel comulga con Perez Roque mientras Biscet y una NACION lanquidecen?
Donde Maceo, donde Marti; donde aquel Villena con su carga para matar bribones?
Cuba llora y clama y el Mundo NO ESCUCHA!!!

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