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Will Trump Open A Pandora's Box Of Litigation Over Cuban Property?
If the president fails to continue the suspension of Title III, business
relations will be disrupted far more severely and irreparably than they
would be by any regulatory change.
07/10/2017 02:34 pm ET

Long before the Departments of State, Treasury, and Commerce finish
writing the new regulations that President Trump ordered to restrict
trade and travel to Cuba, the president will face another decision on
relations with Havana that could be far more consequential for U.S.
businesses. By July 16, he will have to decide whether to continue
suspending certain provisions of Title III of the Cuban Liberty and
Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 (also known as Helms-Burton, after its
sponsors).

If he allows Title III to go fully into effect, he will open the door to
as many as 200,0000 lawsuits by U.S. nationals whose property was taken
by the Cuban government after 1959.

U.S. courts would be swamped, the ability of U.S. companies to do
business on the island would be crippled, and allies abroad might
retaliate for U.S. suits brought against their companies in Cuba. The
tangle of resulting litigation would take years to unwind.

Title III allows U.S. nationals to file suit in U.S. courts against
anyone "trafficking" in their confiscated property in Cuba—that is,
anyone assuming an equity stake in it or profiting from it. The U.S.
Foreign Claims Settlement Commission has certified 5,913 claims of U.S.
nationals whose property was seized. These are the claims that Cuba and
the United States had begun to discuss during the Obama administration.

But Title III takes the unusual position of allowing naturalized Cuban
Americans who lost property to also file suit against alleged
traffickers. Normally, international law recognizes the sovereign right
of governments to dispose of the property of their own citizens.
According to the Department of State, by including Cuban Americans who
were not U.S. citizens when their property was taken, Title III creates
the potential for an estimated 75,000-200,000 claims worth "tens of
billions of dollars."

Back in 1996, angry opposition from U.S. allies Canada, Mexico, and
Western Europe, whose companies doing business in Cuba would be the
targets of Title III law suits, led President Bill Clinton to insist on
a presidential waiver provision in Title III when Congress was debating
the law. As a result, the president has the authority to suspend for six
months the right to file Title III law suits, and he can renew that
suspension indefinitely. Every six months since the Cuban Liberty and
Democratic Solidarity Act was passed, successive presidents, Democrat
and Republican alike, have continued the suspension of Title III.

If President Trump does not renew the suspension by July 16, however,
claimants will be free to file Title III law suits by the tens of
thousands. Once the suits have been filed, there will be no way to undo
the resulting legal chaos.

When the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act was passed, U.S.
allies in the Americas and Europe denounced its extraterritorial reach.
Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom passed laws prohibiting
compliance with it. The European Union filed a complaint with the World
Trade Organization, which it dropped after President Clinton suspended
Title III. In fact, the principal justification both President Clinton
and President George W. Bush offered for continuing the suspension was
the need to maintain cooperation with European allies.

If President Trump does not renew the suspension, all these old wounds
with allies will be reopened as U.S. claimants try to haul foreign
companies into U.S. courts for doing business in Cuba. We already have
enough tough issues on our agenda with Mexico, Canada, and Europe
without adding another one.

U.S. businesses would not be exempt from potential liability. A Cuban
American family in Miami claims to have owned the land on which José
Martí International Airport was built, so any U.S. carrier using the air
field could be sued under Title III. Another family that owned the Port
of Santiago could file suit against U.S. cruise ships docking there.

Moreover, it would be almost impossible for a U.S. company to know in
advance whether a proposed business opportunity in Cuba might become the
subject of Title III litigation. "This will effectively end for decades
any attempt to restore trade between the U.S. and Cuba," attorney Robert
Muse told the Tampa Bay Times.

Explaining the new trade and travel regulations that President Trump
announced on June 16, senior administration officials said they were
designed "to not disrupt existing business" that U.S. companies were
doing in Cuba. If the president fails to continue the suspension of
Title III, business relations will be disrupted far more severely and
irreparably than they would be by any regulatory change.

Source: Will Trump Open A Pandora's Box Of Litigation Over Cuban
Property? | HuffPost -
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/will-trump-open-a-pandoras-box-of-litigation-over_us_5963b584e4b09be68c005468 Continue reading
Cuba policy change: Poultry exports could be impacted
By Mary Sell Montgomery Bureau Jun 25, 2017

MONTGOMERY – Agriculture officials and industry leaders in Alabama for
years have lobbied for expanded exports to socialist Cuba, a country
where they see a promising market for the state's poultry products.

Now they're waiting to see what President Donald Trump's recent, more
restrictive policy change with Cuba will mean for the millions of tons
of poultry that leave Mobile for the island nation every month.

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan last week said exports to
Cuba could be impacted by that country's response to the president's
directive.

"Particularly, with Raul Castro stepping down in early '18," McMillan
said. "We're going to be anxious to see what the Cuban government's
policy is going to be.

"If something undesirable happens there, that would be on the Cuba
side," he said. "We hope that doesn't happen."

Earlier this month, Trump said the U.S. would impose new limits on U.S.
travelers to the island, and ban any payments to the military-linked
conglomerate that controls much of the island's tourism industry, the
Associated Press reported.

Trump also declared "the harboring of criminals and fugitives will end.
You have no choice. It will end."

He said the U.S. would consider lifting those and other restrictions
only after Cuba returned fugitives and made a series of other internal
changes, including freeing political prisoners, allowing freedom of
assembly, and holding free elections.

Cuba's foreign minister later rejected the policy change, saying, "We
will never negotiate under pressure or under threat." He also said Cuba
refuses to return U.S. fugitives who have received asylum in Cuba.

About 7 million tons of poultry are shipped from the Port of Mobile each
month to Cuba. But Cuba has other options for importing agriculture
products, McMillan said, including Mexico, South America and Canada.

"They have choices. Some of those choices may be more expensive, that
may be our advantage," said McMillan, who has taken multiple trips to
Cuba and advocated for expanded agriculture exports.

There are human rights violations in China, but no one is cutting off
trade there, McMillan said.

"The bottom line, I think, is that the best way to format change down
there is to continue trade with them," he said.

Armando de Quesada of Hartselle disagrees. He was 10 when he fled Cuba
in 1962. On this issue, he agrees with Trump.

"Any dollars that go to Cuba automatically go to the Castro regime,"
Quesada said. "It's not like here. Over there, the government owns
everything. There's no benefit to the Cuban people."

Growth of private industry is limited, and Quesada doesn't think opening
relations between the two countries will effect change.

"I don't think enriching them helps the cause of freedom," he said. "It
doesn't help the people."

Ag shipments to Cuba weren't part of former President Barack Obama's
policy with the socialist country. In 2000, Congress began allowing a
limited amount of agriculture exports to Cuba.

"We've been trading with them for some time," said Johnny Adams,
executive director of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association. While
Obama made it easier, it's still cumbersome, he said.

"We're not allowed to give them credit. They have to pay us up front
through a third party," Adams said. "Normalizing trade would make it a
lot easier."

Like McMillan, Adams has been to Cuba multiple times.

"We have the highest quality, most reasonably priced poultry in the
world and we're 90 miles away," Adams said.

"Hopefully, everyone can sit down and work things out between the two
countries," Adams said. "We've enjoyed our relationship with the Cuban
people, and would like to see it get better."

Source: Cuba policy change: Poultry exports could be impacted | State
Capital | timesdaily.com -
http://www.timesdaily.com/news/state-capital/cuba-policy-change-poultry-exports-could-be-impacted/article_b5b4e281-978f-5f8c-bf8d-79e2643e2440.html Continue reading
How to get off the eaten track in Santiago de Cuba
A trip to Santiago de Cuba should start with dinner at a paladar
(family-run restaurant) and end with drinks on the roof of the Hotel
Casa Granda.
By JENNIFER BAIN Travel Editor
Wed., June 21, 2017

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, CUBA-Ramon Guilarte welcomes us to his home and
restaurant with a cocktail full of vitamin R. Will it be a Cuba Libre,
rum and cola, or Estacazo, rum and lemonade? Rum is ridiculously cheap here.

Esta Caso seems more fun, thanks to our host's animated explanation
(some of it lost in translation) about how drinking this is like getting
whacked with a stick. As we dig into platters of mango, papaya and
pineapple, Guilarte opens a bottle of rum and pours a little on the
ground as an offering to the saints for good luck, and then asks us each
how big a "stick" we want in our drinks.

"Don't expect a common restaurant," he warns with a theatrical flourish.
"Everybody that comes to the restaurant is a friend. I think it's
important that you feel like home — and these are not empty words."

La Fondita de Compay Ramon is a paladar, a family-run restaurant that
boosts the economy and gives tourists and locals the chance to connect.
At this farm-themed paladar we sit in cowhide "taburete" chairs found in
typical farms and our host is dressed like a traditional farmer.

In between a stunning red kidney bean soup and unpretentious platters
full of rice, pork, cabbage, shrimp, chicken and plantains, we learn
that Guilarte is a painter and empty nester with two daughters and two
grandchildren.

"Painting, and the life of a painter, is very lonely. Painting is
totally opposite to this business." He opened Compay Ramon in 2012 in
the Ferrerido neighbourhood of Cuba's second largest city. His
neighbours don't mind the nightly commotion, maybe because they often
get to share the leftovers.

"Best food in Cuba," according to "the Intrepid Group" in one of the
many accolades scrawled artfully on the wall and dated Dec. 16, just
weeks after Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro died and weeks before my
first visit to Canada's favourite Caribbean island.

You'll find plenty of online accolades for our enthusiastic host. "Ramon
is a character," allows our Cubatur guide and translator Ricardo
Zaldivar Rodriguez, "but this is not a show."

I duck down the hall into the tiny kitchen to meet Guilarte's smiling
wife Mayra Gayoso Romaguera and her helper, who is washing dishes by
hand. I peek at a modest bedroom.

My first night in Cuba ends with a stewed green papaya dessert and
Guilarte showing how to roast coffee beans and brew coffee the
traditional way and then sharing a cigar.

Santiago de Cuba, with half a million people, is often described as "the
hottest city in Cuba" because of its temperature and charm.

We cram a lot into a whirlwind day — historic sites like the Santa
Ifgenia cemetery, where Castro's ashes are marked by a large rock from
the Sierra Maestra mountains, and where national hero/poet Jose Marti
has an elaborate mausoleum. People bring them red and white roses
respectively.

We hit Antonio Maceo Revolution Square, a former fort/prison called
Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, and a Catholic church with a sacred
Virgin of Charity statue called El Cobre near a copper mine. I buy a
bundle of copper-tinged rocks from a guy in the parking lot.

Cubans make the most of what they are given. There is virtually no waste
here — public garbage cans are nearly always empty.

I'm more curious about the present than the past and so relish the
chance to wander down Calle Enramada, a pedestrian street where I don't
have time to join the lineup for hot churros.

"If you don't mention this street name," says Rodriguez, "it might be
said that you have never been to Santiago de Cuba."

At La Barrita Ron Caney, a bar by a rum factory, I sample seven-year-old
rum, smelling it with closed eyes, tilting the glass to see the body and
holding a sip in my throat while the house band plays traditional Cuban
music.

There is music everywhere, in Plaza de Dolores, in Casa de la Trova Pepe
Sanchez, and at Tropicana, an outpost of Havana's famed cabaret.

"When we hear music, we start dancing," says Rodriguez, who sings and
dances throughout our week together.

At Restaurante Matamoros, the chef pops out of the kitchen to join the
band while we enjoy a soupy meat and vegetable stew called ajiaco. After
dinner we have coffee nearby at Café Constantin, where my Bembito Bomban
is a cheeky reference to Afro-Cuban women and combines coffee, cacao
liqueur and cinnamon.

Cuba is changing, so you will mix and match old and new.

Melia Santiago de Cuba is new, glitzy and a short drive from the
historic centre, with decent Wi-Fi (a very big deal), a pool, and a
breakfast buffet, where I wrapped thin slices of cheese around chunks of
guava paste.

In the heart of downtown, Hotel Casa Granda oozes colonial charm, with a
breezy rooftop restaurant and sweeping city views. For my last meal, I
had a Cuban sandwich (an American invention) and a local spin on
pepperoni pizza (forgive me).

It was no Fondita de Compay Ramon, but it was still equally, magically
Cuban.

Jennifer Bain was hosted by the Cuba Tourist Board, which didn't review
or approve this story.

When you go

Get there: I flew Cubana de Aviacion airlines (www.cubana.cu ) direct to
Santiago de Cuba and flew home with a stop in Camaguey. WestJet, Air
Canada, Air Transat and Sunwing all fly to various spots in Cuba.

Get around: It's easy to take taxis around Santiago de Cuba, but if you
have a driver and guide (like I did with Cubatur), you'll have the bonus
of a translator/fixer.

Stay: I stayed at the modern Melia Santiago de Cuba (melia.com).

Eat: Find La Fondita de Compay Ramon on Facebook.

Know: You can only buy Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) in Cuba and can't
exchange them at the end of your trip. Get them at the airport and
foreign exchange shops. Wi-Fi is limited to public squares and some
hotel lobbies. Buy a 60-minute Wi-Fi card for 2 CUC (about $2.75
Canadian) at the airport or your hotel. North American plugs don't work
so bring an adaptor for the European 220-volt system.

Source: How to get off the eaten track in Santiago de Cuba | Toronto
Star -
https://www.thestar.com/life/travel/2017/06/21/how-to-get-off-the-eaten-track-in-santiago-de-cuba.html Continue reading
Exiliados piden a Justin Trudeau que ayude a cubanos varados NORA GÁMEZ TORRES ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com Justin Trudeau, el primer ministro canadiense que ha conquistado la internet, podría quizás emerger como héroe en el drama de los migrantes cubanos que quedaron varados tras el fin de la política de “pies secos, pies mojados”. Al menos esa es […] Continue reading
Communist-ruled Cuba hosts first transgender Mass
By Sarah Marsh and Anett Rios | MATANZAS, CUBA

For decades belonging to a religion and being anything but heterosexual
was stigmatized in Communist-ruled, macho Cuba, making the Mass held by
three transgender pastors in the western Cuban city of Matanzas all the
more groundbreaking.

Rainbow flags decorated the chapel, while the pastors, who had flown in
from Brazil, Canada and the United States, wore stoles in the trans hues
of light blue, pink and white and the congregation swayed to Caribbean
beats.

Friday was the first time a trans pastor held a Holy Communion in Cuba,
highlighting how much the island nation has changed since both religious
believers and homosexuals went to "correctional" labor camps in the
early years after the 1959 revolution.

"Tonight has been a night of celebration of equality between all people,
marking a new era for Cuba," said Alexya Salvador, a Brazilian trans
pastor, born Alexander, wearing a black dress with a white clerical
collar and lacy sleeves she made herself.

"God's love is radically inclusive."

The Mass on Friday was the highlight of a three-day conference on
transsexuality and theology organized by the Matanzas-based Cuban branch
of the international Metropolitan Community Church.

"This is not only a first of its kind event for Cuba, but certainly one
of the very first ever to be held anywhere in the world," said Allyson
Robinson, a trans Baptist reverend from Washington.

The conference took place ahead of the 10th anniversary, next weekend,
of Cuba celebrating the global day against homophobia, and included a
raucous "transformist" party as well as a variety of panels on theology
and personal experiences.

In one, Salvador argued God was transgender, given the Holy Trinity was
made up of the Holy Spirit, which she views as feminine, the Father and
the Son.

Elaine Saralegui, a lesbian pastor who founded the Cuban branch of the
MCC nearly two years ago, said she hoped the conference would foster
greater inclusion of trans people and prove that being trans and
Christian were not incompatible.

"I leave with having learnt a lot of things I can share with other
trans," said one participant, a 26-year-old Cuban trans woman called
Malu Duardo, "in particular that there is a God for everyone."

Saralegui's congregation numbers around 35 but she said she also gets
asked to hold Mass at lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) activist
events around the rest of the island nation of 11 million inhabitants.

"Nearly always they ask me to hold a liturgy there, so we have to
improvise wine, bread and hold a (Lord's) supper anywhere," she said.

The trans pastors said they were impressed by Cuba's progressiveness in
some respects, for example providing state-financed sex reassignment.

The country was clearly lagging the rest of the Americas in other ways
though, they said. Same-sex couples may not marry or adopt children and
a promised update to Cuba's family code has been slow to materialize.

"Everyone should have the right to have a family," said Salvador, who
has adopted two children, including a trans girl. "I believe this touch
of God will also happen in the Cuban community."

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Source: Communist-ruled Cuba hosts first transgender Mass | Reuters -
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-lgbt-church-idUSKBN1830EZ?il=0 Continue reading
The Cuban hustle: Doctors drive cabs and work abroad to make up for
meager pay
By ROB WATERS
FEBRUARY 8, 2017

HAVANA — He knew as a child that he wanted to be a doctor, like his
father. He went to medical school, became a general surgeon and
ultimately a heart specialist. He practiced at Cuba's premier
cardiovascular hospital, performed heart transplants, and published
articles in medical journals.

For this, Roberto Mejides earned a typical doctor's salary: about $40 a
month.

It wasn't nearly enough, even with the free housing and health care
available to Cubans, to support his extended family. So in 2014, Mejides
left them behind, moving to Ecuador to earn up to $8,000 a month working
at two clinics and performing surgeries.

It's a common story here, where waiters, cabdrivers, and tour guides can
make 10 to 20 times the government wages of doctors and nurses — thanks
to tips from tourists.

"Doctors are like slaves for our society," said Sandra, an art student
and photographer's assistant who makes more than her mother, a
physician. "It's not fair to study for so many years and be so underpaid."

Cuba is proud of its government-run health care system and its skilled
doctors. But even with a raise two years ago, the highest paid doctors
make $67 a month, while nurses top out at $40. That leaves many feeling
demoralized — and searching for ways to improve their lives.

Some enter the private economy — by renting rooms to tourists, driving
cabs, or treating private patients, quasi-legally, on the side.
Thousands of others accept two-year government assignments to work as
doctors abroad, collecting higher salaries for themselves and earning
billions for the state, which helps keep the stagnant economy afloat. In
fact, health workers are Cuba's largest source of foreign exchange.

A few doctors, like Mejides, arrange foreign employment on their own,
putting at risk their future ability to return to a government job in
the health system back home.

"It's hard to migrate and be alone," Mejides said in Spanish, during a
video phone call from Ecuador to a reporter visiting Havana in October.
"It's stressful. I am in the wrong place. I should be with my family in
my country, working and being rewarded properly."

Still, with his Ecuador earnings, he was able to buy his wife, two
daughters, and two stepdaughters a $23,000 apartment in Havana, and he
sends them $300 to $500 a month.

Renting out rooms to make ends meet

While doctors back in Cuba grumble about their low pay, they usually
find ways to make do.

Sandra's mother, Nadia, a genetics researcher, earns about as much as
she pays a cleaning woman to maintain her three-bedroom Havana
apartment. Whenever she can, she rents one of those rooms to tourists
for $40 a night, making more in two nights than she does from her
monthly earnings as a doctor. She asked that her full name not be used
to avoid any problems with the government.

The rental income allows Nadia to have a modestly comfortable life and
to be able to buy fruits and vegetables at farmers markets. But a
restaurant meal is a rare treat, and traveling abroad is impossible.

Still, she loves her work and the intellectual challenge of her research
into genetic diseases. She said many Cuban doctors are committed and
provide excellent service, in part because of the ways they have learned
to overcome shortages of equipment and technology.

"We don't have all the electronic tools, so we have to learn to do
things other ways, to diagnose just by external examination," she said,
over a dinner of fish and rum at her apartment.

She'd like to earn more money, of course, and she understands why so
many doctors, including many she knows, have chosen to leave Cuba.

"I'm not ambitious for money," she said. "I get rent from visitors, and
I get to live in Cuba. I have a nice house, and I'm happy with what I
have. But I'm not a millionaire."

Cecilia, a 60-year-old former nurse who also asked that her full name
not be used, spent 25 years working in government hospitals and clinics.
To adapt to the shortages, she learned to make inventos medicos —
medical inventions — using a chair or bench to raise the back of a
patient's bed, for example, or cutting the tip off an intravenous line
to fashion an oxygen feed to a patient's nose.

But she became disillusioned by the chronic shortages and the stress she
saw in both her patients and colleagues.

"The material scarcity is so overwhelming that it keeps people from
dedicating all the passion, love, and brain power that they should to
their patients in need," she said, sitting in a rocking chair in her
third-floor Havana apartment. "I was the one who had to face the
patients and tell them we don't have the drug that you need. It was very
common. And I didn't want to do that any more."

Doctors and nurses "have the best intentions, but they face so many
obstacles, there are so many things on their mind," she added. "The
doctor might be treating a patient but they are actually thinking: 'When
I get home, at God knows what time, what am I going to feed my kid?'"

She quit nursing in the early 2000s and later began to pursue her
passion, doing hands-on alternative medicine that combines techniques of
massage, kinesiology, magnetic therapy, and so-called floral therapy,
which uses extracts of flowers and herbs as healing agents.

Her work with private clients, who come to her apartment, is permitted
under a license for massage, the only form of healing work included on a
list of government-approved private services and businesses. Working
three days a week, she earns almost $120 a month "if all my appointments
show up," she said. "I use to make that in six months working at the
hospital."

A surplus of doctors

In the years after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959, Cuba invested
heavily in education and science, training tens of thousands of doctors,
nurses, and scientists. As a result, Cuba, a country of 11.2 million
people, today has 90,000 doctors, the most per capita in the world.

About 25,000 of these doctors, along with 30,000 Cuban nurses and other
health professionals, are working in 67 countries around the world. They
earn about $8.2 billion in revenue for the government, according to a
recent article in Granma, the official paper of the Cuban Communist Party.

The bulk of the doctors, about 20,000, are in Brazil and Venezuela. Over
the last three years they provided treatment to 60 million Brazilians,
mostly the rural poor, said Cristián Morales Fuhrimann, the Pan American
Health Organization's representative in Havana.

Cuba receives about $5,000 a month per doctor from Brazil, pays each
doctor about $1,200, and banks the rest, said John Kirk, a professor of
Latin American studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, who
has researched Cuba's program of medical missions. Most of the doctors'
shares are deposited in their Cuban bank accounts, requiring them to
return home to collect it.

"Cuba has too many doctors, so their main source of hard currency is to
rent out medical services," Kirk said.

Once close allies of Havana, Brazil and Venezuela have been engulfed in
political and economic crises that will cause them to reduce their use
of Cuban doctors in the coming years.

That may lead Cuba to redeploy some doctors to other parts of the world,
including the Middle East. In Qatar, an oil-rich emirate about as far
from Cuba geographically and culturally as any place in the world, the
so-called Cuban Hospital is fully staffed by 400 Cuban doctors, nurses,
and technicians.

Cuba's dispatch of doctors not only generates revenue, it is also an
exercise in soft power that allows the country to spread its influence
around the globe.

"It's a major contribution to the health of the world," said Morales.
"They made a big difference in fighting Ebola in Africa, in the
aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti."

Some Cuban doctors working overseas have defected to the United States,
aided by a policy launched during the administration of George W. Bush
that permitted Cuban medical personnel to go to the US with their
spouses and children. In its last weeks in office, the Obama
administration announced it was ending the program.

Since the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program began in 2006, more
than 9,000 medical professionals and their family members were approved
for admission to the US. In the past four years, the number of entrants
spiked, reaching almost 2,000 for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

The Cuban government and the Pan American Health Organization protested
the policy as a form of poaching that undermined Cuba's health system
and impeded newfound cooperation between the US and Cuba. In a
statement, Obama acknowledged that the program "risks harming the Cuban
people."

Cuban doctors are in demand internationally because they come cheap, are
well-trained, and work in a public health system that is highly
organized and well-run. In Cuba, primary care clinics are available in
every neighborhood. Specialists in cancer, immunology, genetic medicine,
and cardiovascular disease staff the hospitals. Life expectancy rates,
which two generations ago were at Third World levels, are today roughly
equal to those in the United States.

But the absence of so many doctors also provokes complaints from
patients, who say it keeps them from getting the best care. They also
grouse that they have to bring their own food and bedsheets, wait for
appointments or medications — and provide gifts to doctors to ensure
good treatment.

When the 61-year-old father of Concepcion, a young Cuban professional,
was diagnosed with prostate cancer last summer, she used personal
connections to enable her father to see a specialist promptly.

Concepcion, who asked that her full name not be used to avoid reprisals
or damage to her professional standing, also provided daily gifts of
food, cosmetics, and sometimes cash to doctors, nurses, and technicians
while her father was hospitalized for a month in Holguin, a city in
eastern Cuba.

"Doctors are used to receiving gifts," she said. "You give the gift and
the attention starts getting better. If you stop and the attention goes
down, you go back to handing out gifts. You feel sorry for the doctors
because they work really hard under bad conditions and you always feel
like they're not being rewarded."

She estimated she spent about $500 on gifts and food, an amount she said
would have doubled had he been hospitalized in pricier Havana.

Jose dos Santos, a Cuban journalist who needs regular treatment for his
diabetes, said the care he receives is excellent. Bringing gifts to
doctors "has become a habit because we know that the job doctors do
needs to be better rewarded," he said. "We don't produce oil," he added,
"but we produce talent, and it makes sense that that talent is
acknowledged and rewarded."

In December, Roberto Mejides moved again, this time to Merida, Mexico,
where he plans to work for the next four years. His income will be
roughly the same as in Ecuador, but now he's just 90 minutes by air from
Havana. He hopes to bring his family to join him in the coming months,

"My hopes have always been the same, to work honestly and to provide my
family with an adequate life," he said. Someday, he added, he wants to
return to Cuba: "It's my country, my homeland."

Rob Waters can be reached at robwaters@pacbell.net
Follow Rob on Twitter @robwaters001

Source: Cuban doctors drive cabs and work abroad to compensate for
meager pay - https://www.statnews.com/2017/02/08/cuba-doctors-meager-pay/ Continue reading
Bill allowing private financing of food/agriculture exports to Cuba
introduced in Senate
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

Two farm state senators reintroduced a bill Thursday aimed at making
U.S. agricultural exports more competitive in the Cuban market by
allowing private financing of ag exports.

It was the first Cuba-related bill introduced since President Donald
Trump has been in the White House. Three Cuba-related bills were
reintroduced in the House in January before he took office.

North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and John Boozman, R-AZ, and
a bipartisan group of 12 senators reintroduced the Agricultural Export
Expansion Act, which would lift a ban on private banks and companies
offering credit for agricultural exports to Cuba.

Current law requires upfront cash payments for agricultural exports to
the island, which farm state legislators say puts them at a disadvantage
when competing against exports from other countries whose exporters sell
to Cuba on credit.

"This small step would help level the playing field for American farmers
and exporters while simultaneously exposing Cubans to American ideals,
values and products. This bill is a win-win for American farmers and the
Cuban people." said Boozman.

"Our farmers rely on exports, and exports help create more American
jobs," said Heitkamp. "Cuba is a natural market for North Dakota crops
like dry beans, peas, and lentils, and there's no good reason for us to
restrict farmers' export opportunities—which support good-paying
American jobs—by continuing this outdated policy."

Since 2001 when the first exports of agricultural and food products were
allowed under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act,
more than $5.3 billion worth of U.S. agriculture products have been sent
to the island, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

In recent years such exports have dropped off from a high of $710.1
million in 2008 to $202.1 million last year. The main U.S. products
exported in 2016 were frozen chicken, corn, and soybeans and soybean
products.

Cuba imports about $2 billion worth of food annually.

"Being able to sell our commodities to Cuba just as easily as we sell to
other markets like Mexico and Canada would be huge, especially for
U.S.-grown rice," said Jeff Rutledge, a Newport, Ark. rice farmer and
president of the Arkansas Rice Council.

Other factors that have impacted the level of U.S. food and agricultural
sales to Cuba have been Havana's lack of foreign exchange, shifting
commodity prices, restrictions based on an avian flu outbreak in the
United States that affected poultry exports in 2015, and a Cuban
government policy that at times has rewarded companies that lobby for
the lifting of the embargo.

Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Amy
Klobuchar (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Debbie
Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Warner
(D-VA), Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) joined in
cosponsoring the agricultural financing bill, which was first introduced
in 2015.

FOLLOW MIMI WHITEFIELD ON TWITTER: @HERALDMIMI

Source: Bill introduced to allow private financing of ag exports to Cuba
| Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article130376499.html Continue reading
Heitkamp, Boozman reintroduce bill to expand exports to Cuba
By Agweek Wire Report Today at 10:29 a.m.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and John
Boozman (R-Ark.) on Thursday reintroduced their bipartisan bill to help
American farmers and support good-paying jobs in North Dakota, Arkansas
and across the country by lifting restrictions on private financing for
U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba.

The biggest barrier for producers in North Dakota, Arkansas, and beyond
as they seek access to Cuba—a market with high demand for U.S. crops
like beans and rice—is a prohibition on providing private credit for
those exports. Heitkamp and Boozman first introduced their bipartisan
Agricultural Export Expansion Act in April 2015 to lift the ban on
private banks and companies offering credit for agricultural exports to
Cuba, and to help level the playing field for exporters across the
country and support American jobs.

"Our farmers rely on exports, and exports help create more American
jobs. Any North Dakota farmer or rancher could tell you
that," said Heitkamp. "Financing restrictions are the number one barrier
facing North Dakota farmers who want to sell their crops to Cuba, and
this bill would do away with that obstacle. Cuba is a natural market for
North Dakota crops like dry beans, peas, and lentils, and there's no
good reason for us to restrict farmers' export opportunities—which
support good-paying American jobs—by continuing this outdated policy."

"It's time for Washington to enact commonsense reforms so Arkansas
farmers and agriculture producers across the country can compete fairly
for the Cuban marketplace," said Boozman. "Current law prohibits
the financing of agricultural exports to Cuba and requires cash payment
up front, essentially preventing U.S. farmers from being able to export
their products to Cuba. Lifting the ban would allow private banks and
companies to offer credit for the sale of U.S. agricultural commodities
to Cuba. This small step would help level the playing field for American
farmers and exporters while simultaneously exposing Cubans to American
ideals, values and products. This bill is a win-win for American farmers
and the Cuban people."

"North Dakota farmers rely on exports to make ends meet. This bipartisan
bill would make it easier for us to sell our top-notch black beans and
pinto beans to Cuba—a market with high demand for North Dakota
crops," said Dan Fuglesten, of Central Valley Bean Cooperative in
Buxton, N.D. "Lifting these outdated and self-imposed restrictions will
open a critical market for American farmers and support good jobs right
here in North Dakota—and it's time Congress acted. With commodity prices
what they are, we appreciate Senator Heitkamp's work to expand market
access and help American farmers."

"Being able to sell our commodities to Cuba just as easily as we sell to
other markets like Mexico and Canada would be huge, especially for
U.S.-grown rice," said Jeff Rutledge, of Newport, Ark., a rice farmer
and president of the Arkansas Rice Council. "Senator Boozman's bill
would strip away the regulatory red tape and allow us to compete in the
Cuban market just like we do everywhere else."

U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin
(D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Angus King (I-Maine), Susan Collins
(R-Maine), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Ron Wyden
(D-Ore.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) joined in
cosponsoring the bill.

In January 2016, the previous administration loosened export
restrictions to allow companies to sell non-agricultural products to
Cuba on credit, but statutory restrictions on financing agricultural
products are still in place.

For years, Heitkamp and Boozman have pushed to improve agricultural
export opportunities to Cuba and make it easier for farmers to sell
their crops to this high-demand market. Currently, all U.S. exports to
Cuba require cash up front, while other nations around the world offer
credit to Cuban importers, in effect preventing farmers and ranchers
from being able to ship their products to Cuba. The change in U.S.-Cuba
policy would provide at least some relief from low American commodity
prices by opening new markets.

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill as an
amendment to a financial services spending bill last year, as well as in
July 2015.

Source: Heitkamp, Boozman reintroduce bill to expand exports to Cuba |
Agweek -
http://www.agweek.com/policy-and-politics/4210568-heitkamp-boozman-reintroduce-bill-expand-exports-cuba Continue reading
Dentistas de Canadá advierten sobre los riesgos de recurrir a la sanidad
cubana
DDC | Toronto | 30 de Septiembre de 2016 - 21:26 CEST.

Organizaciones de dentistas profesionales de Canadá advirtieron este
viernes sobre los posibles inconvenientes que pueden encontrar aquellos
turistas canadienses que, animados por los bajos precios, deciden hacer
turismo en Cuba por cuestiones de salud.

Barry Dolman, de la Orden de Dentistas de Quebec, señaló a Radio Canada
International que "es seguro que los servicios son más baratos debido a
que el costo de vida lo es también, y los alquileres son más baratos".

Sin embargo, apunta el doctor canadiense, "el paciente no tiene ninguna
garantía sobre la calidad de la formación del profesional que consulta.
Además, si la operación sale mal, el paciente puede tener que pagar aun
más en su país para corregir el problema".

El presidente de la Asociación de Dentistas de Quebec, Benoît Talbot,
declaró por su parte: "Lo que vemos con mayor frecuencia en la práctica
es que se trata de personas que se hicieron colocar implantes en otros
países y regresan con ellos colocados de cualquier manera. Después nos
pedirán corregir todo, pero a veces es imposible".

Radio Canada International aborda el auge de los viajes a Cuba
relacionados con servicios dentales. El medio explica el caso de un
hombre que pagó 325 pesos cubanos al dentista y que el viaje con su
esposa más los gastos dentales ascendió a 1.800 dólares canadienses.

En declaraciones a la radio, este turista afirmó que "el 75% de los
pacientes hablaba francés". "Vimos pasar un cubano de vez en cuando,
pero la mayoría eran quebequenses", agregó.

Source: Dentistas de Canadá advierten sobre los riesgos de recurrir a la
sanidad cubana | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1475263584_25693.html Continue reading
Autochthonous Chikungunya Fever in Traveler Returning to Japan from Cuba

To the Editor: Chikungunya fever is a febrile illness caused by
mosquito-transmitted chikungunya virus CHIKV: (genus Alphavirus, family
Togaviridae). Clinical signs and symptoms typically begin with
high-grade fever after an incubation period of 2–4 days (1). Other
common symptoms include polyarthralgia, which is usually symmetric and
involves multiple and distal joints, and skin involvement manifesting as
a macular or maculopapular rash (2). Peripheral lymphadenopathy (most
often cervical) and conjunctivitis might also occur (3).

Since late 2013, several outbreaks of illness caused by CHIKV have
occurred in the Americas, including South America, the Caribbean, and
the United States, which are outside this virus's former distribution
area (3). Although autochthonous transmission of chikungunya fever has
been reported in most Caribbean islands, only imported cases have been
previously reported in Cuba (4). As increased numbers of US tourists
visit Cuba after improved diplomatic relations in July 2015, reports of
chikungunya fever cases in Cuba are of interest for travelers and
healthcare providers. We describe a case of autochthonous chikungunya
fever in a man who had traveled from Japan to Cuba.

In late February 2016, a previously healthy 27-year-old man visited a
travel clinic in the National Center for Global Health and Medicine
(Tokyo, Japan) with fever and rash. In mid-February, he had traveled to
Havana and Santiago de Cuba in Cuba by way of Toronto, Ontario, Canada,
for 11 days of sightseeing. He used no insect repellent during the trip
and was unaware of any mosquito bites. When he sought care, he reported
a high-grade fever (39°C) for 24 hours and several symptoms since the
day of his return: retro-orbital pain, malaise, congested conjunctivas,
and a rash on his anterior chest. Over the previous few days, his knee
and ankle joints also had mild arthralgia.


Figure. Phylogenetic analysis of the chikungunya virus sequence obtained
from a patient returning to Japan (in bold) from Cuba in February 2016,
compared with reference sequences. Virus lineages are shown at right....

On physical examination, the patient's body temperature was 38.7°C, and
he had congested bulbar conjunctivas, cervical lymphadenopathy, and
maculopapular rashes on his face, trunk, and extremities (Technical
Appendix[PDF - 130 KB - 2 pages], Figure, panels A, B). Laboratory tests
revealed lymphopenia (701 cells/μL) and mild elevation of C-reactive
protein (0.87 mg/dL). Real-time reverse transcription PCR detected CHIKV
RNA in his serum sample. Phylogenetic analysis was performed on the
basis of nucleotide sequences of the E1 gene from the sample by using
the maximum likelihood method with 1,000 bootstrap replicates and MEGA
6.0 software (5). This sequence (GenBank accession no. LC146714) was
99.9% (1,319 of 1,320 sequences) was identical to that of a CHIKV strain
isolated from the Dominican Republic in 2014 (GenBank accession no.
KR559498) (Figure; Technical Appendix[PDF - 130 KB - 2 pages] Table).
The positive-to-negative ratio of CHIKV-specific IgM was negative in a
serum sample collected on day 4 after fever onset but was positive in a
sample taken 7 days later (positive-to-negative ratios 5.6 and 21.9,
respectively; ratios were considered positive if >11). Because the
patient's serum samples contained no dengue or Zika virus, infections
from these viruses were excluded, and chikungunya fever was diagnosed.

One day after the patient's first visit to the clinic, rashes on his
extremities became worse and slightly itchy. Pain also developed in his
wrists and metacarpophalangeal joints of his hand, followed by cervical
pain and slight rigidity on the hand's distal and proximal
interphalangeal joints. The patient was initially treated with
acetaminophen (600 mg 3×/d 2 d); after diagnosis of chikungunya fever,
he was treated with loxoprofen and rebamipide (60 mg and 100 mg,
respectively, 3×/d 7 d). The congested bulbar conjunctivas and rash on
his trunk improved; soon thereafter, all symptoms resolved.

CHIKV was first isolated in 1953 in Tanzania during an epidemic outbreak
in East Africa (6). Mosquitoes, predominantly Aedes aegypti and Ae.
albopictus, transmit the virus (2). Aedes spp. are also the common
vector of dengue and Zika viruses, and localized dengue outbreaks
occurred in Santiago de Cuba in 1997 and in Havana in 2000–2001 because
of the persistence of Aedes mosquito infestation in Cuba (7,8).
Furthermore, autochthonous Zika virus infection in Cuba was first
reported in March 2016 (9).

Differentiation between chikungunya fever, dengue fever, and Zika virus
infection is difficult because of similar signs and symptoms and common
endemic areas. We suspected chikungunya fever in this patient because of
high-grade fever and maculopapular rash, although he also had prominent
conjunctivitis, which is uncommon in CHIKV-infected patients but
frequent in persons infected with Zika virus (3,10). Phylogenetic
analysis of the virus isolated from this patient revealed a high
sequence homology with recent strains discovered in Caribbean and
Central American countries in 2014. Homology between the isolate from
this patient and a 2014 Asian lineage isolate from the Dominican
Republic was 99.92% at the nucleotide level.

This case highlights the potential threat of a chikungunya fever
outbreak in Cuba. Physicians should consider chikungunya fever in the
differential diagnosis for febrile travelers returning from Cuba with a
rash, similarly to patients returning from other countries in which
dengue fever, chikungunya fever, and Zika virus infection are endemic.
Preventive measures, including advice to travelers on proper use of
insect repellents, are critical for preventing CHIKV infection.

Motoyuki Tsuboi, Satoshi Kutsuna , Yasuyuki Kato, Eri Nakayama, Ken-ichi
Shibasaki, Shigeru Tajima, Tomohiko Takasaki, Yuichi Katanami, Kei
Yamamoto, Nozomi Takeshita, Kayoko Hayakawa, Shuzo Kanagawa, and Norio
Ohmagari
Author affiliations: National Center for Global Health and Medicine,
Tokyo, Japan (M. Tsuboi, S. Kutsuna, Y. Kato, Y. Katanami, K. Yamamoto,
N. Takeshita, K. Hayakawa, S. Kanagawa, N. Ohmagari); National Institute
of Infectious Diseases, Tokyo (E. Nakayama, K.-i. Shibasaki, S. Tajima,
T. Takasaki)
Acknowledgments
The authors thank the clinical staff at the Disease Control and
Prevention Center, Tokyo, Japan, for their help in completing this study.

A grant from the National Center for Global Health and Medicine
(27-6001) supported this work.

References
Burt FJ, Rolph MS, Rulli NE, Mahalingam S, Heise MT. Chikungunya: a
re-emerging virus. Lancet. 2012;379:662–71. DOIPubMed
Taubitz W, Cramer JP, Kapaun A, Pfeffer M, Drosten C, Dobler G,
Chikungunya fever in travelers: clinical presentation and course. Clin
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Weaver SC, Lecuit M. Chikungunya virus and the global spread of a
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autochthonous transmission or imported cases of Chikungunya in the
Americas, EW 49, 2013–EW 10, 2016 [cited 2016 Apr 7].
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evolutionary genetics analysis version 6.0. Mol Biol Evol.
2013;30:2725–9. DOIPubMed
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1956;54:177–91. DOIPubMed
Valdés L, Guzmán MG, Kourí G, Delgado J, Carbonell I, Cabrera MV,
Epidemiology of dengue and hemorrhagic dengue in Santiago, Cuba 1997 [in
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Peláez O, Guzmán MG, Kourí G, Pérez R, San Martín JL, Vázquez S, Dengue
3 epidemic, Havana, 2001. Emerg Infect Dis. 2004;10:719–22. DOIPubMed
Pan American Health Organization. Zika virus (ZIKV)—incidence and
trends. Regional Zika epidemiological update (Americas). 2016 Apr 8
[cited 2016 Apr 9].
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Duffy MR, Chen TH, Hancock WT, Powers AM, Kool JL, Lanciotti RS, Zika
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Med. 2009;360:2536–43. DOIPubMed

Source: Autochthonous Chikungunya Fever in Traveler Returning to Japan
from Cuba - Volume 22, Number 9—September 2016 - Emerging Infectious
Disease journal - CDC -
http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/22/9/16-0603_article Continue reading
Entre palacios, turistas y ruinas
FERNANDO DÁMASO | La Habana | 26 de Junio de 2016 - 11:11 am.

El municipio Habana Vieja, compuesto por los barrios de Paula, San Juan
de Dios, Santo Ángel, Santo Cristo, Santa Clara, San Felipe, San
Francisco, San Isidro, Santa Teresa, Templete, Atarés, Arsenal, Ceiba,
Colón, Chávez, Jesús María, La Punta, San Nicolás, Tacón y Vives,
atesora las calles, plazas, plazuelas y parques más antiguos de la
ciudad, así como la mayor cantidad de edificaciones de la época
colonial, tanto militares y religiosas como administrativas y civiles.

Su territorio se encuentra enclavado entre la Bahía de La Habana, La
Punta, Paseo del Prado, Agua Dulce y la Ensenada de Atarés. Algunas de
sus calles más importantes son Oficios, Mercaderes, Obispo, O´Reilly,
Muralla, Bernaza, Obrapía, San Isidro, Teniente Rey, Aguiar, Cuba,
Monserrate, Egido, Zulueta, la Avenida del Puerto, el Paseo del Prado y
las Calzadas de Monte y de Cristina.

Entre sus plazas, plazuelas y parques, cuenta con las plazas de Armas,
de la Catedral, de San Francisco, la Vieja, de las Ursulinas, de San
Juan de Dios y de Bayona; las plazuelas de Belén, Santa Clara, Santa
Catalina, Santo Domingo, Santo Cristo, Espíritu Santo, Puerta de Tierra,
Monserrate, Tallapiedra y Luz; y los parques de la Punta, Máximo Gómez,
Albear, Juan de Dios, Pepe Jérez (Supervielle), Central, de la
Fraternidad, Luz Caballero, Jesús María, Maestranza, América Arias y del
Anfiteatro.

Sus principales edificaciones militares son los castillos de la Real
Fuerza, San Salvador de la Punta y Santo Domingo de Atarés. Obviando las
primeras construcciones, la arquitectura colonial habanera incluye el
denominado "período formativo", correspondiente al siglo XVII, con
características árabe-andaluzas, que se manifestó principalmente en
templos y casas señoriales, siendo algunos de sus principales exponentes
las iglesias del Espíritu Santo, del Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje y la
de San Isidro Labrador, los conventos de Santa Clara, San Juan de Letrán
(Santo Domingo), San Agustín y Santa Catalina de Siena y las casas de
don Gaspar Riberos de Vasconcelos, Melchor de la Torre, Obrapías de
Peñalver y de Calvo de la Puerta, del Obispado y del marqués de Jústiz;
el "período barroco" en el siglo XVIII, que se compone del "barroco
herreriano", cuyos principales exponentes lo constituyen los conventos
de San Francisco de Asís y Santa Teresa, y las casas de los condes de
Jaruco y de Jibacoa, y el "barroco cubano", que se encuentra en el
palacio de los Capitanes Generales, en el del Segundo Cabo y en la Catedral.

Al "barroco" en general, corresponden también el oratorio, después
iglesia de San Felipe de Neri, el hospital de Nuestra Señora de Belén,
después iglesia y colegio de los jesuitas, el convento de Nuestra Señora
de la Merced, el hospital e iglesia de San Francisco de Paula, el teatro
El Coliseo (demolido), el colegio de San Ambrosio y la capilla de la
Orden Tercera, así como los palacios del marqués de Arcos, de Lombillo,
de los marqueses de Aguas Claras o condes de San Fernando, de los
marqueses de San Felipe y Santiago, de los condes de Casa Bayona,
Pedroso, la Reunión, Casa Barreto y Lagunillas y las casas de Félix de
Arrate, don Francisco Franchi Alfaro, Aguilera, las beatas Cárdenas,
obispo Espada, Gonzalo Chacón y la Cruz Verde.

Al "período neoclásico", que se desarrolló en el siglo XIX, corresponden
los ya inexistentes Mercados de Colón o del Polvorín y la Real Aduana.
Además, el convento e iglesia de las Ursulinas, la iglesia de Nuestra
Señora del Pilar, la Nueva Cárcel o Cárcel de Tacón, las Puertas de
Monserrate, el Palacio de los condes de Casa Moré (después de la
marquesa de Villalba), el edificio de la Pescadería, la Casa de Dementes
de San Dionisio, la Maestranza de Artillería, la Diputación Provincial,
El Templete, los palacios de los marqueses de Almendares, Larrinaga,
Esteban en Cuba, Arcos, Du-Quesne y Real Proclamación, de los condes de
Santovenia y Reunión de Cuba y del Obispado. También los teatros Tacón,
Villanueva, Albizu, Payret e Irijoa.

Muchas de estas edificaciones y otras se han perdido y ya no existen,
algunas han sido rescatadas y restauradas y, no pocas, han sido
dedicadas a otros usos (hoteles, hostales, salas de conciertos, museos,
galerías de arte, comercios, escuelas, hospicios, etcétera). También
resta un buen número en espera de alguna acción salvadora, como la
antigua Planta Eléctrica de Tallapiedra, clausurada y abandonada desde
hace más de 30 años.

Durante la etapa republicana se construyeron o reconstruyeron, sobre o
donde habían estado antiguas edificaciones, el Palacio Presidencial, el
Capitolio Nacional, el Palacio del Centro Asturiano, el de Balboa, la
Estación Central de Ferrocarriles, el Cuartel de Bomberos de Zulueta,
la Cruz Roja Nacional, la Cámara de Representantes, la Manzana de
Gómez, el Instituto de Segunda Enseñanza de La Habana, el edificio
Bacardí, los hoteles Plaza, Sevilla, Pasaje, Gran Hotel y Saratoga, los
teatros Payret, Fausto y Martí (anteriormente Irijoa), los cines
Universal, Actualidades, Negrete, Cervantes, Habana, Capitolio e Ideal,
la Lonja del Comercio, la Aduana, después Muelle de San Francisco, el
Palacio Cueto, la casa-palacio de Velasco, los edificios de los bancos
Nacional, de La Habana, Gelats, The Trust Company of Cuba, Royal Bank of
Canada, National City Bank of New York y Bank of Nova Scotia y de La
Metropolitana, todos en el denominado Distrito Bancario, así como se
levantaron otras edificaciones importantes como el Museo Nacional de
Bellas Artes.

Debe señalarse, por su importancia, la existencia del Túnel de la Bahía,
cuya entrada forma parte del mismo, aunque la salida corresponda al
municipio Habana del Este.

Todas estas obras se deben a los magníficos arquitectos, ingenieros y
maestros de obras que las proyectaron y edificaron, tanto en el período
colonial como en el republicano. En el primero deben señalarse, entre
muchos, a Francisco de Carvajal, Mateo Aceituno, Miguel de Espila,
Francisco de Calona, Juan Bautista Antonelli, Cristóbal de Roda, Juan de
Síscara, Augusto Crame, Antonio Fernández de Trevejos, Mariano Carrillo
de Albornoz, Francisco de Albear y Fernández de Lara y Calixto de Loira.

En el segundo, entre otros, a Pedro Tomé Verecruisse, Eugenio Rayneri
Piedra, Carlos Mauri, Kenneth H, Murchison, Evelio Govantes, Félix
Cabarrocas, José María Bens Arrarte, Tomás Mur, Sarturnino Parajón,
Cristóbal Martínez, José Toraya, Rafael Goyeneche, Rafael Fernández
Ruenes, Eugenio Rayneri Sorrentino, Leonardo y Luis Morales Pedroso,
José F. Mata, Ricardo Mira y Miguel Rosich.

También existen obras de arte de escultores y pintores como Antonio
Solá, Jerónimo Martín Pinzón, J. Cuchiari, Giuseppe Gaggini, Giuseppe
Neri, Nicoli Manfredi, Angelo Zanetti, Pietro Costa, Juan de Bolonia,
José Villalta Saavedra, Aldo Gamba, Ramón Mateu Montesinos, Teodoro
Blanco Ramos, Juan José Sicre, Giuseppe Perovani, Jean Baptiste Vermay,
José Nicolás de la Escalera, Esteban Chartrand, Mariano Miguel
González, Armando Menocal, Hipólito Hidalgo de Caviedes y Esteban
Valderrama.

En la ciudad colonial se mezclaron nobles con títulos traídos de la
metrópoli y otros conseguidos en la colonia, por servicios prestados a
la corona, con clérigos, militares, marinos, carpinteros, albañiles,
calafates, sastres, armeros, fundidores, pregoneros, esclavos
domésticos, tahúres, prostitutas, caleseros, aventureros, panaderos y
cuantos oficios y profesiones existían en aquellos tiempos. En esta
composición heterogénea se oraba a las vírgenes y santos y surgieron los
templos, las procesiones, las canciones, los bailes y los pregones de
los blancos y los negros, y la villa fue adquiriendo, poco a poco, su
personalidad propia, que la diferenciaría de las restantes creadas.

Durante años, la actividad económica principal del municipio era
generada por sus muelles, almacenes, fábricas y comercios, así como la
financiera, la cual, con el tiempo, fue perdiendo importancia, al
desaparecer sus principales gestores. Hoy los muelles y almacenes se
encuentran en proceso de traslado hacia otros puertos y sus
instalaciones se reconstruyen con fines turísticos, ya que este
constituye la actividad económica principal, en aras de la cual desde
hace años se vienen realizando numerosas obras de rescate de la ciudad
colonial y republicana.

Así, existen actualmente calles, plazas, plazuelas, parques y
edificaciones que han sido totalmente restauradas, otras que se
encuentran en proceso de ella y muchas en estado desastroso, con
edificaciones en ruinas o a punto de colapsar. Esta situación ha
establecido una abismal diferencia entre lo recuperado y reconstruido y
el resto del municipio, donde proliferan las calles y aceras rotas, el
hacinamiento poblacional en ciudadelas, edificaciones en ruinas, las
malas condiciones de vida y la falta de limpieza y de higiene ambiental.

En el municipio se ha desarrollado el trabajo por cuenta propia, pero
con características diferentes: los que lo hacen en las áreas
restauradas, principalmente artesanos de diferentes manifestaciones y
vendedores-compradores de libros viejos, más algunos dedicados al giro
gastronómico, que están directamente bajo el control de la Oficina del
Historiador de la Ciudad, quien determina los espacios, lugares y, en
los dos primeros casos, los días en que pueden trabajar, y los que lo
hacen fuera de estas áreas, mayoritariamente ofertando comestibles,
están bajo el control de las autoridades municipales. Esta situación
constituye una limitante para su desarrollo.

Source: Entre palacios, turistas y ruinas | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1466900066_23379.html Continue reading
For Cuban Home Cooks, Ingenuity and Luck Are Key Ingredients
By KIM SEVERSONMAY 17, 2016

HAVANA — One recent afternoon, Kanye West and three Kardashians
Instagrammed their way through the streets of old Havana in a 1950s-era
Chevy Bel Air. In a working-class neighborhood a 20-minute drive away,
Yolanda Horruitiner, who hasn't left Cuba since she was born here 70
years ago, shopped for dinner.

Even with a visitor willing to buy the groceries and the rules of
commerce looser than they have been since Fidel Castro declared this
nation a socialist state in 1961, it was going to be no small feat.

Despite a shift in the political and cultural landscape that has brought
a Rolling Stones concert and private restaurants so jammed with tourists
that reservations are a must, stocking a Cuban home kitchen remains one
of the biggest challenges of daily life.

Although there are pockets of wealth among Cuba's 11 million people, the
average government salary is around $22 a month. Almost everyone finds a
way to make extra income on the side. Still, all the money in the world
can't help if the markets are out of onions and your cooking-oil
connection has run dry.

So the Cuban home cook has to be agile, thrifty and lucky, making good
use of both the state-issued monthly ration book and a reliable roster
of black-market traders. Crucial, too, is an intimate understanding of
the byzantine system of government-run grocery stores, bakeries and
farmers' markets.

Increasingly, fruits and vegetables can be found at cooperatives or from
a vendor who may show up in the neighborhood with a small cart.

Then there are more subterranean options. An enterprising Cuban can buy
fresh white cheese along a country highway and resell it in the city. On
the steps of what passes for a supermarket, a woman may offer a deal on
a substantial sausage that shoppers speculate was stolen by a son who
works at a state meat factory.

Spices are a point of pride for cooks who have either snagged them on a
trip to another country or secured them through what is called the
Samsonite trade — the steady stream of food smuggled into the country.

"Every Cuban can give you a history about how they got the food they are
eating that day," said Javier Ortiz, 27, a journalist with a taste for
powdered milk because that's what was available when he was growing up.

He makes $40 to $50 a month at the government television station and,
with his brother, runs an Airbnb in the family's home. The state gives
them more rationed rice than they can eat, so when the price is right,
Mr. Ortiz sells it on a Cuban version of Craigslist called Revolico.com.

Ms. Horruitiner (oh-roo-EE-tee-nehr), who is fluent in Russian and
Spanish, spent most of her career as an announcer of news and
entertainment for state-run radio and television stations. Her pension
is about $8 a month. Her daughter Lisset Felipe Horruitiner, who lives
with her, has a government job that brings in about $20 a month. They
use all the rice rations they get.

We met one afternoon at a farmers' cooperative market nicknamed the
Boutique because the produce is expensive by island standards. Limes
cost 45 cents a pound. For expats and cooks with money, it's the only
reliable place to find cilantro and ginger.

We bought a mamey, a creamy, vanilla-scented tropical fruit that tastes
and looks something like a sweet potato. Ms. Horruitiner would blend it
with ice, water and sugar for a shake called a batido. She balked at the
price, about 84 cents, telling me in no uncertain terms that I had just
been taken for a ride.

She suggested, through an interpreter, that we head to a favorite
"agro," or agromercado, a market where the government caps the prices
for produce, which the farmers grow under government contract. We pulled
up only to find that it had just been closed for fumigation. Ms.
Horruitiner threw up her hands. "It's a novella!" she said.

Back in the sputtering Soviet-era Lada that served as our taxi, we
headed to another agromercado, where the tomatoes — more green than red
— were 15 cents a pound. Green peppers cost even less, and there was
only one small variety. They seemed puny compared with the watery giants
sold in American supermarkets, but they tasted much better.
NYT FoodCulinary TravelFollow On

Next up was a supermercado that sells its products in the currency
referred to as "kooks," after the CUC, the Cuban convertible peso.
Visitors mostly use the CUC, which was established in 2004. Cubans have
to toggle between CUCs and the traditional Cuban peso.

The store resembled a small, shabby Walmart stocked with random
leftovers from other countries, but no fresh meat or produce. There were
dented cups of soy yogurt, a few frozen chickens from Brazil, cans of
Spanish tomato paste and a barely cool refrigerator case piled with
chicken hot dogs from Canada. An entire aisle was filled with large
plastic bottles of Cuban-made soybean oil.

Ms. Horruitiner planned to make a homey Cuban supper: picadillo, the
reliable ground beef stew, and arroz congrí, a dish related to Moros y
Cristianos, the straightforward marriage of white rice and black beans
that sprang from the Spanish occupation of Cuba and refers to the
period, from the eighth through the 15th centuries, when Islamic Moors
occupied parts of the Christian Iberian Peninsula.

Finding beans and rice was easy. The beef took more work.

Before the revolution, Cuba had plenty of cattle. But their numbers fell
fast during what the Cubans refer to as "the special period," an
economic crisis that began in 1989 when the Soviet Union began to
collapse and soon cut off economic support for Cuba.

With the American embargo firmly in place, a drop in the price of sugar
and the loss of $5 billion a year in Soviet cash and goods, the country
plunged into extreme poverty. In an effort to rebuild the herd,
slaughtering a cow without a government contract was declared illegal in
2003.

A common piece of recent Cuban folklore has it that finding food during
the special period was so difficult that cats and zoo animals disappeared.

Over dinner, Ms. Horruitiner would recount how people sautéed grapefruit
peels in oil and pretended they were cutlets. Sugar water replaced coffee.

"Even if you had money, there was nothing to buy," Ms. Horruitiner said.

Now, steaks are imported for tourist hotels, and cuts of beef remain a
prize for home cooks with good black-market connections. Ropa vieja, a
classic Cuban shredded beef braise from the Sephardic cooks of Spain, is
more often made with pork or lamb.

Ground beef cut with soy protein is easier to come by. We left the store
with a plastic sleeve of frozen meat, which she complained was "B
grade." We also had a jar of pickled onions, gherkins and olives from
Spain. It cost nearly $5. The olives would go in the picadillo; the
pickles would garnish the sliced tomato salad.

Back home in her neighborhood, called La Ceiba, Ms. Horruitiner stepped
into a kitchen no bigger than a closet. It was well equipped with a
pressure cooker and a rice cooker.

"Welcome to my laboratory," she said.

She learned to cook from a grandmother and, like most Cubans of a
certain generation, from Nitza Villapol, the most famous cook in Cuba.
Ms. Villapol was cooking on television long before Julia Child. Her
career stretched from before the revolution through the special period.
She was a true daughter of the revolution, cheerfully teaching Cubans
how to cook well with not very much.

In the 1950s, she wrote two seminal cookbooks, "Cocina Criolla" and the
follow-up, "Cocina al Minuto." Ms. Horruitiner keeps her copy of "Cocina
al Minuto" carefully wrapped inside a large envelope, its pages stuffed
with handwritten family additions.

Her picadillo is a much less embellished version than Ms. Villapol's
prerevolutionary recipe. It starts with a small green pepper, seven or
eight little toes of garlic and a small chopped onion mixed into the
meat. She adds a slug of oil and applies heat, then stirs in two
spoonfuls of soy sauce — a Cuban pantry staple introduced by Chinese
immigrants.

Then comes a cup of tomato sauce. She wished she had some dry wine.
Instead she used juice from the jar of olives, and a shake of dried
dill. From pots outside the door, she grabbed a few leaves of fresh
basil and Cuban oregano.

It is the kind of make-do Cuban cooking that the chef José Andrés found
during a trip to Cuba in March with President Obama, when he went to a
friend's house to make dinner.

"In the home kitchen, you find what happens when people don't have a
lot," Mr. Andrés said in an interview. "The great thing is these people
appreciate any ingredient more than we do."

Ms. Horruitiner said it was a style of cooking unique to Cuba.
"Innovation," she said, "comes from the lap of desperation."

Source: For Cuban Home Cooks, Ingenuity and Luck Are Key Ingredients -
The New York Times -
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/18/dining/cuba-home-cooking.html?_r=0 Continue reading
9 things you'll want if Cuban embargo ends: rum, cigars and more
1:45 p.m. Monday, May 9, 2016

BUSINESS

If the Cuban embargo is lifted, here are nine items, including rum and
cigars, that you may want:

CUBAN RUM

In this Monday, March 21, 2016, photo, Cuban President Raul Castro,
right, lifts up the arm of President Barack Obama at the conclusion of
their joint news conference at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana,
Cuba. One of Cuba's most renowned advocates of economic reform has been
fired from his University of Havana think tank, on Wednesday, April 20,
for sharing information with Americans without authorization, among
other alleged violations.(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)
Currently, several spirit distributors are prepared for the embargo to
be lifted so that delicious Cuban rum can flow into the U.S. However,
the company that imports it must comply with Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and
Trade Bureau regulations, obtain the necessary permits and pay the
required taxes and tariffs.

Once that happens, it's possible that the price of rum might drop
somewhat as more of the liquor enters the marketplace. The increase in
supply, with a steady demand for rum, would tend to drive rum prices down.

For now, Americans who visit Cuba can bring home up to $100 worth of
tobacco and alcohol. A one-liter bottle of Havana Club rum purchased in
Cuba starts at $5, according to Esquire.com.

CUBAN CIGARS

Cuban cigars are considered to be among the best in the world.
Currently, Americans can bring $100 worth of tobacco products into the
U.S. A box of Cuban cigars purchased in Cuba can run between $150 and
$775 plus currency exchange fees, according to Fortune.com.

But if further Cuban cigar restrictions are lifted, and more of these
delectable treats for smoking aficionados come into the market, their
prices might fall. Yet, if greater availability causes the demand for
Cuban cigars to grow and outpace supply, prices might remain high. In
fact, some experts predict prices will go up, according to Fortune.com.
Only time will tell how the availability of Cuban cigars will impact the
price.

CUBAN COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS

Cuba has relaxed requirements on its service-oriented entrepreneurs.
This Cuban policy change, combined with the opening of trade with the
U.S., is opening the door for many Cuban services imports. Because
computer programmers often can work from anywhere, this could make Cuba
an option for U.S. companies who are hiring remote workers.

To figure out how additional computer programming work imported into the
U.S. might impact prices, take a look at the cost of living in Cuba.
Rent is 67 percent lower than in the U.S.; excluding rent, the cost of
living is 27 percent lower than in the U.S. The U.S. median computer
programmer is paid $38.24 hourly, according to the most recent pay scale
data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Additionally, the BLS predicts an 8 percent decline in demand for U.S.
computer programmers between 2014 and 2024, exactly because their work
can be easily performed by workers in lower cost-of-living countries
such as Cuba. Therefore, the entrance of Cuban programmers in the U.S.
market might further depress the price of computer programming services.

CUBAN BOOKKEEPING SERVICES

Similar to computer programmers, bookkeepers can work from anywhere.
Importing bookkeeping services - but not accounting services - from Cuba
can be beneficial as it brings more work to Cubans.

This could also have a ripple effect in the U.S. If bookkeeping service
pricing declines, the hiring firm can either lower prices on its
products or keep them the same, which would benefit U.S. consumers.

USED CARS

Cuba's roads are filled with what people in the U.S. consider "vintage
cars." This means that Cuban demand for newer vehicles might impact
prices on used cars in the southeast regions of the U.S.

Mike Arman previously exported U.S. cars to St. Maarten. Arman, who is
currently in another line of work, said that with the pent-up Cuban
demand for newer cars on the tiny island, it's likely that the prices on
later-model, good condition used cars in southern Florida and the
surrounding states will skyrocket. As the demand by Cubans for U.S. cars
grows, the existing prices of these vehicles, already on the upswing,
would trend upward unless more used cars come on the market.

CUBAN TRANSLATORS

At $38,000 per year, Spanish translator salaries are currently lower
than 34 percent of job postings nationwide, according to job search
website Indeed.com. If the U.S. relaxes its embargo on Cuba, those
salaries are likely to fall.

Cuban entrepreneurs are allowed to offer document translation services
by their government. Thus, with Cuba's lower cost of living and relaxed
trade barriers, companies can hire lower-priced Cuban-English speaking
translators to cut costs. Should this trend grow, it would place further
downward pressure on the already low-salaried translator jobs.

CUBAN TOURISM

Americans are already drifting into Cuba via Canada, Mexico, Europe and
other countries. If it were easier to visit Cuba from the U.S. via
cruise ships, airline flights and travel packages, this tourism
opportunity might afford adventurous U.S. citizens with greater low-cost
vacation options.

Cuba is only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, a short boat or plane
ride. With Cuba's low prices and beautiful scenery, U.S. tour companies
could profit handsomely by marketing visits to the island. Closer to the
U.S. than the expensive island of Hawaii, U.S. tourists stand to benefit
from lower-priced exotic vacation opportunities to visit Cuba.

VACATION HOMES

Anyone who's tuned in to watch HGTV network's "Caribbean Life" or
"Beachfront Bargain Hunts" understands there is demand for a vacation
home in an exotic location. If buyers who ordinarily would have sprung
for a lower-cost beachfront home on the Texas panhandle or Florida coast
choose a lower-priced option in Cuba, that could cost a sale on U.S.
beachfront property.

Although not technically an import, the additional supply of beachfront
homes in Cuba might put downward pressure on comparable U.S. beachfront
vacation homes.

CUBAN SUGAR

Today, raw sugar is one of Cuba's largest exports. However, if Cuban
sugar is imported by the U.S., consumers might not see much price benefit.

Sugar prices have been falling for years and are currently as low as
they were in the 1980s. As of January 2016, U.S. producers receive 25.76
cents per pound for unrefined sugar. From 2010 to 2013, U.S. raw sugar
prices fell 50 percent due to the influx of sugar imports from Mexico
flooding the marketplace. This led to a surplus ratio of 20 percent.

Should Cuban sugar enter the U.S. marketplace, this will hurt the U.S.
sugar producers who will be forced to compete with additional cheaper
sugar imports. Although U.S. sugar producers would experience declining
profits if the trend continues, U.S. consumers likely won't feel the
benefit of the lower sugar prices, as grocers and food manufacturers
rarely pass along their price savings.

Source: 9 things you'll want if Cuban embargo ends; rum, cigars and more
| www.palmbeachpost.com -
http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/business/9-things-youll-want-if-cuban-embargo-ends-rum-ciga/nrKLq/ Continue reading
The Cuba Thaw Will Be Big for America's Frozen Chickens
Poultry producers see a familiar, hungry, and very convenient
market—once trade restrictions are eased.
Justin Bachman
March 21, 2016 — 12:00 PM CET

Less than 100 miles off the U.S. coast sits an island nation that can't
feed itself. Cuba, which imports as much as 80 percent of its food, has
developed a huge appetite for American chicken, despite the decades-long
trade embargo. That's why few businesses are quite as excited about
normalized relations as poultry producers in Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas.
Chicken is one of Cuba's top imports, and an exemption to the embargo
for agricultural products has made the country the fifth-largest export
market for U.S. poultry producers. Over the past 15 years, more than $1
billion of U.S. poultry—nearly all of it frozen legs and thighs—has been
packed aboard cargo ships for the short journey to Cuba. Much of the
chicken departs from ports in Jacksonville, Fla., Mobile, Ala., New
Orleans, and Savannah, Ga.
"They can place an order on a Monday and probably have the product on a
Friday, if they need it," said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry
and Egg Export Council in suburban Atlanta. "If they buy it from Europe
or Brazil, it's going to be 20 to 30 days."
Congress authorized agricultural trade with Cuba in 2000, along with
pharmaceuticals and medical devices, but five years later whacked U.S.
exporters with a tough condition: Cuba's official import agency had to
pay cash before delivery, not when the goods arrive. Financing from U.S.
lenders was also prohibited.
That measure has hampered development the Cuban market for some U.S.
goods, including rice. Rep. Rick Crawford, an Arkansas Republican whose
district includes some of the largest U.S. rice producers, introduced a
bill last year to repeal the financing restrictions and to allow U.S.
investment in some Cuban agri-businesses. The House bill has attracted
30 co-sponsors, and similar legislation is pending in the Senate.
"When you have a market that's 90 miles off your coast, and you've got
these really outdated policies, we're the ones that lose," Crawford
said, arguing that America's Cold War stance toward Cuba has been more
detrimental to U.S. business than to the communist government. "We're
trying to look at this with a little more modern lens."
The export-finance rules have effectively ended U.S. exports of rice and
wheat to Cuba, and U.S. corn sales to the island have likewise plunged.
Cuba buys the bulk of its rice from Vietnam and Brazil, its wheat from
Europe and Canada, and corn from Argentina and Brazil, according to the
U.S. Department of Agriculture. "It takes 36 days to get their rice from
Vietnam," Crawford pointed out, "and they can get it from us in 36 hours."
Despite the strictures of U.S. law, chicken exports to Cuba have
remained strong. Cuba's import agency, Empresa Cubana Importadora de
Alimentos (Alimport), considers the quality of U.S. broilers superior to
those from Brazil and other Latin American sources, said Lee Ann Evans,
a senior policy advisor at Engage Cuba, a trade association of large
U.S. companies pressing for expanded commercial ties. Most of the U.S.
chicken quarters—the most affordable protein available to Cuban
consumers—end up in a variety of state-run and private food shops.
As U.S. policy adjusts and more Americans travel to Cuba, chicken
producers and exporters are stirred by the idea of expanding their Cuba
trade to new products. Among them: breast meat and the kinds of
boneless, skinless cuts that dominate U.S. supermarkets. The communist
nation can also expect to eventually discover the culinary joys of
highly processed—and higher margin—chicken products such as "nuggets"
and wings.
"The only limitations on the amount of product that goes there is limits
on Cuba's economy," Sumner said. "So as we see Cuba's economy improve
and prosper, we would see more product going down."

Source: The Cuba Thaw Will Be Big for America's Frozen Chickens -
Bloomberg Business -
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-03-21/the-cuba-thaw-will-be-big-for-america-s-frozen-chickens Continue reading
Texas ready to feed Cuba's tourists
Texas farmers see strong opportunities in Cuba if negotiations lead to
an easing of financing restrictions
By Lynn Brezosky, San Antonio Express-NewsMarch 11, 2016 Updated: March
11, 2016 10:33pm

Cuba's once illustrious riviera may be a bit dilapidated after more than
a half century of communist rule and the battering of U.S. trade sanctions.

But tourists from Canada and Europe are loving it, visiting in record
numbers before the island is overrun by Americans and its era of being
quaint and inexpensive ends.

Cuba wants to keep the tourists coming. That means the island nation
with its Soviet-era farm equipment needs to import more food.

Not far away are Texas farmers and ranchers happy to oblige. According
to Texas A&M University's Center for North American Studies, the Lone
Star State stands to export upwards of $18 million a year to Cuba in
beef, wheat, rice and other products.

Which is why the producers are keeping a close watch on trade talks that
could undo restrictions that threaten to close off access to the Cuban
market. They're looking for contacts, in the meantime, such as mills to
buy their wheat and conduits to the hotels and restaurants that want
their beef.

The Texas Department of Agriculture last month led the second trade
mission to Cuba over the last 10 months, taking a delegation of state
representatives, economists, and producers to meet with Cuban entities
like ALIMPORT, the government agency in charge of U.S. agricultural
exports, and the Cuban Cooperative Board of Directors representing
hundreds of Cuban farmers.

"The message taken away from the meetings is desire by the Cubans for
the U.S. to rescind the embargo and adopt 'normalization' for trade with
Cuba," Texas Wheat Producers Association President Ben Scholz said in an
email.

It's not just Texas farmers who have an interest in loosened trade
restrictions.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday announced he'd be
joining President Barack Obama this month when he becomes the first
sitting U.S. president to visit the island in nearly 90 years. Vilsack
also traveled there in November, meeting with Cuba's minister of
agriculture as well as farmers, producers and operators of agricultural
cooperatives and markets.

The U.S. began imposing sanctions on Cuba after Fidel Castro took power
in 1959 and nationalized more than $1 billion in U.S.-owned assets,
including cattle and land owned by South Texas' famed King Ranch. U.S.
agricultural and food exports have largely been exempted from the
embargo since 2001, when Hurricane Michelle devastated the island and
Castro refused U.S. relief offers but agreed to buy U.S. food.

U.S. agricultural exports peaked between 2005 and 2009, then declined
amid financing restrictions.

"What the United States did was redefine some of the shipping terms that
made our products more expensive for the Cubans," said Parr Rosson, head
of Texas A&M's agricultural economics department. "And that began to
start us on somewhat of a downturn."

One such change was the cash payment rule, which required cash in
advance of U.S. shipments, a tall order for a poor country.

Cubans began to diversify, taking a hard look at suppliers like Canada,
France, Brazil, Thailand and Vietnam that were able to sell to Cuba on
easy credit terms.

"It may take a little longer to get it there and the quality may not be
what they're looking for, but it is an available product and some of our
products have sort of fallen out of favor," Rosson said.

In December 2014, Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced they
would break the Cold War deadlock, which has already resulted in embassy
openings, loosened travel restrictions, pending commercial air traffic
and a liberalization that made it legal for U.S. banks to set up systems
to allow use of U.S.-issued credit cards there.

The resumption of diplomatic relations is considered a prelude to
lifting the embargo.

Rosson has estimated that with eased restrictions, U.S. agricultural
exports to Cuba could rebound from about $149 million last year to $450
million within a few years.

In October, U.S. Reps. Mike Conaway and Ted Poe of Texas and Rick
Crawford of Arkansas, all Republicans, introduced legislation that would
allow U.S. banks to offer credit to Cuba to buy U.S. agricultural
products and allow for U.S. investment in non-government affiliated
Cuban agribusiness.

Keith Gray, a Houston-based rice miller with Riviana Foods, parent
company of rice brands including Minute, Carolina and Mahatma, hopes the
measure will help reclaim what was once the top export market for
U.S.-grown rice. Riviana is a wholly owned subsidiary of Spain's Ebro Foods.

"We have been looking for opportunities to sell rice to Cuba for some
time, and it's always been held up because of the financing issue," Gray
said in a statement. "This bill would be a game changer, and I think
it's the best option put forward so far to open up the Cuban market for
our rice."

But elsewhere there's strong Republican opposition to the policy shift.
Cuban-American Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio of Florida
and Ted Cruz of Texas, representing the views of Cubans who fled the
country after the communist takeover and maintain hope of being
compensated for losses, both have spoken out against the softening.

Robert Silva, co-chairman of the Santa Gertrudis Breeders Association
and delegate on February's Texas Department of Agriculture trip, said
the embargo is only disrupting a trade that could be lucrative for both
parties.

In his case, he sees a market that favors the Santa Gertrudis breed,
both for the restaurant table and the sperm to help build out its herd.

"We would be the logical trade partner for everything they need, but the
embargo's got to go away," Silva said. "After 50 years I would think
that (former Cuban asset holders) should forget about it. ... A lot of
Cubans in the United States lost their country, lost their property,
still have family there. They'd like to retrieve their property, but I
really don't think that's feasible."

Doug Smith, assistant director of the International Trade Center at the
University of Texas-San Antonio, said the lobby for eased agricultural
trade has been strong, but so far not as strong as the lobby against it.

But he said it was likely just a matter of time before that changes.

"South Florida politics are changing," he said. "Quite frankly, I think
the most of the younger Cuban-American generation don't really care that
much."

Source: Texas ready to feed Cuba's tourists - Houston Chronicle -
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/article/Texas-ready-to-feed-Cuba-s-tourists-6885866.php Continue reading
"Esto se va a caer y habrá muchos muertos"
Vecinos de Villegas No. 5: "Por lo menos ustedes nos han dado la
oportunidad de expresarnos libremente"
viernes, enero 29, 2016 | Augusto César San Martín

LA HABANA, Cuba.- El peligro que entraña vivir en el antiguo hotel
¨Canada Dry¨, convertido por la revolución en viviendas para paliar el
déficit habitacional, no deja conciliar el sueño a sus ocupantes.
Sienten temor de amanecer enterrados por los escombros.
Así lo dejó saber el grupo de vecinos que se reunió con Cubanet.

El inmueble de cuatro pisos ubicado en la calle Villegas No. 5, esquina
Tejadillo, Habana Vieja, desde el 2008 está clasificado por las
autoridades de ¨estática milagrosa¨. Los inquilinos son más precisos, lo
catalogan como sepultura.

Según el dictamen técnico realizado para este reportaje por el
arquitecto Vladimir Calderón Frías, la edificación del 1913 posee una
inclinación en su fachada del 5% hacia la calle Tejadillo. El
diagnóstico del especialista sobre el estado de conservación expresa:

¨Edificio en mal estado, que presenta locaciones derruidas parcial y
totalmente, en algunos casos (último nivel azotea), en otros con peligro
inminente de derrumbe y riesgo para la vida de los ocupantes.
Asentamientos estructurales graves con fisuras diagonales pronunciadas y
pandeos de hasta aproximadamente 2.5% en elementos horizontales (losas
entrepisos y cubierta)."

El edificio fue declarado inhabitable y reparable en 1970. En 1985 fue
registrado de irreparable, y en 1990 el gobierno local oficializó los
expedientes para albergar a todos los núcleos familiares del edificio.

El registro de control poblacional de Comité de Defensa de la Revolución
(CDR) del edificio relaciona 47 habitaciones con un aproximado de 6
persona por cada familia. Según el control se registran 21 niños, 2
mujeres embarazadas y un impedido físico.

Silvia Pérez vive en uno de los cuartos. ¨Desde 1990 estoy albergada
aquí y nada¨, declara y añade que la única acción de las autoridades en
el edificio es el apuntalamiento con madera, "parche" que en la
actualidad no es efectivo.

¨Aquí hay muros que tienen orden de demolición desde hace tres años, y
ahí están, en cualquier momento nos caen encima¨, añadió.

Ofrecimiento oficial

Las autoridades de la Dirección Municipal de la Vivienda ofrecieron una
solución para los residentes en el área de mayor deterioro del inmueble,
la azotea: albergarlos en una escuela o un local de tránsito. Los
afectados se negaron.

Yusley Vicente, explicó la causa por la que rechazaron la oferta
gubernamental.

¨Hay viviendas, las están vendiendo… Usted camina para La Habana y están
haciendo casas, camina para La Lisa y están haciendo casas… ¿Dónde
están?… Nosotros no somos del Ministerio del Interior MININT porque no
tenemos acceso, porque si no también nos metemos ahí, nos dan casa y
después nos vamos¨.

Joan Manuel Licca, Maria Elena, Armando González Cancio, Yusley Vicente
y el resto de los vecinos que se reunieron con Cubanet, recuerdan que
fueron víctimas de la malversación de los dirigentes locales de turno.

Armando residente en el segundo piso afirmó que José Almenares, quien
fue presidente del Consejo de Administración Municipal (CAM), vendió
veintiún apartamentos asignados para evacuar parte del edificio.

Source: "Esto se va a caer y habrá muchos muertos" | Cubanet -
https://www.cubanet.org/destacados/esto-se-va-a-caer-y-habra-muchos-muertos/ Continue reading
La OMS alerta que en América sólo Canadá y Chile se librarán del virus zika
El mosquito Aedes Aegypti, que transmite el virus zika y causa también
dengue y chicunguña, ya está presente en todos los países del continente
salvo estos dos.
Agencias
enero 25, 2016

El virus zika, transmitido por mosquitos y sospechoso de causar
malformaciones fetales, se expandirá por todo el continente americano
excepto Canadá y Chile, advirtió la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS).

El virus ya está presente en 21 de los 55 países y territorios de las
Américas, indicó la OMS en un comunicado emitido el domingo.

Pero según dijo, el mosquito Aedes Aegypti, que transmite el virus zika
y causa también dengue y chicunguña, ya está presente en todos los
países del continente con la salvedad de Chile y Canadá.

Por eso, la agencia de la ONU pronostica que "el virus zika seguirá
extendiéndose y probablemente afectará a todos los países y territorios
de la región en los que haya mosquitos Aedes".

La OMS explicó que como la población de la región no se ha visto
expuesta al virus antes de que emergiera en Brasil el pasado mayo,
carece de inmunidad, lo que permite que la enfermedad se extienda con
mayor celeridad.

Al abrir la reunión del comité ejecutivo de la organización este lunes
en Ginebra, su directora, Margaret Chan, dijo que "la propagación
explosiva del virus zika a nuevas áreas geográficas con escasa inmunidad
entre la población es motivo de preocupación, sobre todo dado el posible
vínculo entre las infecciones durante el embarazo y los niños nacidos
con microcefalia".

Chan destacó que "el vínculo causal entre la infección por el virus zika
en el embarazo y la microcefalia no se ha comprobado", aunque los
indicios existentes "son sugerentes y sumamente preocupantes".

La agencia de la ONU señaló que si bien está claro que el mosquito Aedes
transmite el virus zika, las pruebas de una transmisión por otras vías
son de momento limitadas.

"Se ha descrito un posible caso de transmisión sexual entre dos
personas", señaló la OMS, destacando que se necesitan más pruebas para
demostrar esa hipótesis.

Source: La OMS alerta que en América sólo Canadá y Chile se librarán del
virus zika -
http://www.martinoticias.com/content/oms-alerta-america-canada-y-chilevirus-zika/113899.html Continue reading
Cuba Working Group goals and protecting farming operations
A chat with Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford
Jan 20, 2016 David Bennett | Delta Farm Press

In mid-December, a working group from the House announced it would begin
studying how best to deal with the emerging U.S./Cuba trade relationship.

In a letter sent to Speaker Paul Ryan, the 10 members of the Cuba
Working Group said, "Increasingly, the American people are indicating
their desire for a new, more pragmatic approach to Cuba. More people are
traveling from the U.S. to Cuba, more businesses are looking for
opportunity on the island, and more sectors are eager for trade. The
bi-partisan Cuba Working Group will promote a U.S.-Cuba policy that
reflects the interests of the American people in engagement with Cuba."

On January 6, Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford, a key member of the working
group, spoke with Delta Farm Press about his hopes for a new trading
partner and his frustration with fellow lawmakers over their approach to
agriculture and the farm bill. Among his comments:

"The idea is to put together a group of members who have an interest in
seeing a change take place while recognizing it will probably require
incremental steps. I don't think we're in a position to get the support
we need for a wholesale repeal of the Cuban embargo.

"I do think agriculture is a good starting point. The folks who've
signed on to work with us in the group see it in the same way. If
nothing else, food is a humanitarian concern and we can meet that need.

"The approach we're taking is pretty well received. We don't want to get
into a situation where we're enabling the current (Castro) regime to
utilize our commodities as political leverage or tools. Historically
that's happened to us with some regimes we've had problems with.

"Instead, we want to identify private sector entities that don't have
the relationship with (Cuban government) agencies like Alimport. Then,
we can go to those entities and do two things. One is to provide
important staple commodities that Cubans want to avail themselves of.
That includes rice and poultry, which bodes particularly well for Arkansas.

Second is the economic factor. Cuba isn't a huge market but is
significant – you're talking about close to a $1 billion-a-year market
for Arkansas -- and it's in such close proximity to the United States.
The Cuban market would certainly be a welcome addition to our portfolio.

"We want to lift the cash-and-carry restriction that's our current
policy. The Cubans like our rice and chicken, staple items in their diet."

"Right now, Cuba is basically a cash-and-carry market. That means if
they can pay cash, we'll sell them some commodities. But they aren't
really in a position to do that and we're prevented from engaging in any
financial transactions or underwriting any arrangements.

"We want that restriction lifted. As I said before, we're in the process
of identifying the third party non-governmental entities. We know those
exist. Most countries doing trade with Cuba now – Canada, Brazil,
European nations – are doing business with them. That would get around
state-owned entities like Alimport and wouldn't empower the regime to
utilize U.S. commodities as leverage over the people.


"We want to help the Cuban people. But we must understand they don't
have the cash in hand to meet our boats at the port offloading. We have
to deal with Cuba like we do other countries. We have to deal with them
in good faith and make financial arrangements to make transactions come
to fruition."

Regional viewpoints

You're the only Mid-Southerner in the Cuba Working Group. From the South
there is a representative from Florida and another from Texas. What
about regional differences between group members?

"I think we'll see more (lawmakers) become involved in this effort.
Right now, there is a geographic disparity to some degree.

"You mentioned Florida. I'm encouraged that a member from that state has
joined us. In south Florida there is a real sensitivity to this and you
can understand and respect that. The Cuban expat community there was
exiled or forced from their country and they have a lot of lingering
resentment towards (the Castro) regime. Anything that points to that and
they're typically a 'no.'

"That's beginning to soften and there are a couple of reasons to
attribute. One is our approach to go around the regime – and they see
that. The second thing is the reality that the regime may not stand for
much longer. So, we're in a waiting game and they're beginning to see
the opportunities (post-Castro). If we want begin to build incrementally
towards that future now, we'll be well positioned to help later.

"As for Texas, it's part of the Rice Belt. (Texas Rep. Ted Poe) being
from there helps us.

"A trade deal with Cuba would greatly benefit our rice industry – and I
basically represent half the U.S. crop.

"Arkansas is also third in poultry production. Poultry is a huge
industry across a large swath of the geographic U.S. That leads me to
believe that over time, particularly in rural areas with big poultry
production – North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Texas -- there will be a
greater uptake and enthusiasm for a deal.

"It'll just take a bit of time to make (lawmakers) aware of this. A
couple of things are already in the works. One is a Congressional
delegation and the other is a delegation of Arkansas ag industry folks
that are looking to travel to Cuba and get eyes on the situation.
Hopefully that will all happen in the next two or three months. So,
we're moving fairly quickly."

Farm bill, budget process

On the recent budget process and farm bill programs being up for
discussion among some lawmakers…

"I'm very frustrated with that. Under the Budget Control Act the
Agriculture Committee was the only authorizing committee in the House
that met our prescribed number. We've done our work and done it within
the act, we're compliant.

"However, time and again, the farm bill is attacked. It isn't a good
idea to keep opening up the farm bill. We have to fight for it every
year – and we will until we reauthorize the next one. All hands must be
on deck.

"We dodged a bullet with crop insurance. That was able to be resolved
within the highway bill. But when these kinds of things are done it
makes it much more difficult for us in the context of the next
reauthorization of the farm bill.

"Somehow, people have this idea that they're going after 'big ag.' What
they're really doing is creating 'big ag.' Track with me for a minute.
When they tinker with things like Adjusted Gross Income and managerial
requirements and the like, they're making it more and more difficult for
small operators to cash flow and be compliant. When that happens,
smaller operators fall by the wayside."

On the consequences of that happening…

"Over the Christmas break, I received messages from exactly those types
of operators in my district. If you take them out, if you exclude them
from receiving benefits or subsidies, you take them out of the actuary base.

"Well, consider crop insurance. A smaller actuary base – which is what
reinsurance rates are based on – means the cost will be run up so high
that the smaller operators can't afford it.

"So, you may think you're being punitive to the large operators while,
in fact, the net effect means the smaller operator is forced out. That,
in turn, leads to more consolidation and makes the big operators even
larger.

"This thing is 180 degrees out of place. We – and I'm not talking about
the House Agriculture Committee but the entire institution – must
rethink our approach. The House of Representatives has very little
understanding or regard for what it takes to feed and clothe 300 million
people at home and compete in the global market.

"We're all worried about 'too big to fail.' Well, I'm more concerned
with 'too small to succeed.' What we need to focus on are smaller
operators who are being squeezed to the point of being unable to cash-flow.

"This doesn't bode well for smaller and younger operators that aren't
well-capitalized. I think loan officers are going to be under pressure.
I don't want to be negative but we may be in the calm before the storm.
There's quite a bit of tension in the air."

Source: Cuba Working Group goals and protecting farming operations |
Rice content from Delta Farm Press -
http://deltafarmpress.com/rice/cuba-working-group-goals-and-protecting-farming-operations Continue reading
The Figures Say It All
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 4 Dic 2015 - 4:03 pm.

In Cuba, private farmers, whether individuals or organized into
cooperatives, only work 23.4% of the country's 6.3 million hectares of
arable land, while the State owns the other 76.6%, or 4.8 million
hectares, according to data from 2015 National Bureau of Statistics and
Information (ONEI).

Of that 76.6%, Stalinist-like state and quasi-state enterprises, dubbed
Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC), managed by the Government,
enjoy the best lands and financial resources, controlling 50% (3.2
million hectares), while the other 26% consists of land leased by the
regime to some 172,000 usufruct farmers.

According to the ONEI, in the first half of 2015 the country produced
5.7 million tons of meats, vegetables, rice, beans and fruit, but
state-owned enterprises and UBPCs were responsible for just 10% of that,
or 570,000 tons. The other 90% was produced by private farmers and
usufruct growers, with a total agricultural area of just 3.1 million
hectares.

Surprising? Not if you consider that about 2,360 years ago Aristotle,
refuting his teacher Plato, realized that private ownership was
preferable to collective because the "the diversity of humanity is more
productive" and "commonly-held goods receive less care than what is
privately owned." The dreamer Plato, meanwhile, proposed abolishing
private property to build a perfect society based on collective or
communal property.

In the 13th century, in the heart of the Middle Ages, the philosopher
and clergyman Thomas Aquinas argued that "individual owners are more
responsible and administrate better." Half a millennium later one of the
founders of the modern era, Scotland's Adam Smith, discovered the
"invisible hand" that no one had noticed before and that makes the world
go round. "In seeking his own interest," Smith wrote in The Wealth of
Nations (1776), "men often better serve society than when they actually
seek to."

That is, by natural instinct all human beings seek a clear personal
benefit and, as they do so, it is society that benefits. The material
wealth of a nation is nothing more than the sum of the wealth generated
by its individuals.

That was what the former Spanish President, Felipe González, conveyed to
Fidel Castro in Havana in the mid-80s: "Fidel, the lettuce I grow in my
back yard will always be better than what the State does." The dictator
replied that the State is more likely to use technology, money and other
resources to achieve greater productivity.

In the late 50s a Marxist economist leader, Oscar Pino Santos, leader of
the Popular Socialist Party (PSP) complained in an essay that Cuba was
importing no less than 29% of the food it consumed, a crime caused by
the domination of major landowners and "exploitation by US imperialism
and the national bourgeoisie."

Today, under socialism, the country now imports 80% of its food ($2
billion per year) and the sprawling swathes of State-owned land produce
even less than when the PSP descried the situation.

In Cuba, according to the ONEI, only 3.4 million hectares are actually
cultivated. That is, 54% of its land produces nothing. In 2014, of 1.8
million hectares of land owned by the large centralized state
enterprises, only 329,584 hectares were being cultivated. In other
words, 17.8% of the total.

"Oppressed" Cuba ate better

Back when Cuba was "plundered" by capitalist private property, it was
actually self-sufficient for beef (in 1940), milk, tropical fruits,
coffee and tobacco. And it was almost self-sufficient for fish and
seafood, pork, chicken, meats, vegetables, and eggs. It was the Latin
American country with the highest fish consumption, and third in calorie
consumption, with 2,682 daily. There was one cow per inhabitant. And the
country ranked 7th in the world in average agricultural wage, at $3 a
day, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Regarding private property in general, and not only in agriculture,
according to the UN Statistical Yearbook of 1958 Cuba ranked eighth in
the world in average industrial sector salary, at $6.00 a day, above
Great Britain ($5.75), West Germany ($4.13) and France ($3.26). That
list was headed up by the US ($16.80) and Canada ($11.73).

That same year, Cuba ranked second in Latin America in number of cars,
with 40 inhabitants per vehicle; boasted the most rail track in Latin
America, with one kilometer for every 8 square kilometers; and was a
leader in television ownership, with 28 inhabitants per unit (third in
the world).

The island "dominated by imperialism" had the lowest inflation rate in
Latin America, at 1.4%, and was the third most solvent economy in the
region, thanks to its gold reserves and the stability of its peso,
always on par with the dollar. It exported more goods than it imported,
and had a positive trade balance. It was the Latin American country with
the lowest infant mortality rate, and that which dedicated the highest
percentage of public funds to education: 23%. (Costa Rica, 20%;
Argentina, 19.6%, and México, 14.7%). In 1953, France, Britain, the
Netherlands and Finland had, proportionately, fewer doctors and dentists
than Cuba.

In 1958 Cuba was also the Latin American country with the most theaters
(in proportion to the population); was second in number of newspapers,
with 8 inhabitants per copy, after Uruguay (6); and second too in
telephones, with 28 inhabitants per device.

In short, that nation subjected to the "voracious" greed of capitalism
and private property was one of three wealthiest Latin American
countries, measured by per capita income, at $374; double that of Spain
($180) and almost equal to Italy.

But in 1959 the Castro brothers seized the power, implemented what Plato
had proposed, and the results are obvious. In a country that attracted
immigrants from around the world (1.3 million immigrants between 1902
and 1930), now almost everyone wants to emigrate, in any way possible,
because "the situation is getting worse."

Nearly 57 years of Marxist-Leninist dictatorship have rendered Cuba one
of the three poorest countries in the hemisphere, the most
technologically backward, and one lacking the most basic human freedoms.
Despite the dramatic evidence, the corrupt political/military leadership
is dedicated to "revising" socialism, and refuses to unleash Cubans'
creative potential.

Castroism acts to restrain the invisible hand that built the modern
world, instead insisting on a philosophy summed up by an old saying from
the Spanish countryside: "The master's eye fattens the horse."

Source: The Figures Say It All | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1449241410_18579.html Continue reading
Beef, what's that?
LOURDES GÓMEZ | Santiago de Cuba | 20 Oct 2015 - 4:31 pm.

The dearth of protein in Cuba is already endemic. There is almost
nothing available, even in hard-currency stores.

"Chicken for fish and fish for chicken," it says on a beat-up blackboard
at a butcher's in Veguita de Galo, a community in Santiago de Cuba. The
products are due to go bad soon, and on the same board one can read, in
large letters at the bottom: "Just 24 hours, NO REFRIGERATOR."

"What came in?" Orlando, a 79-year-old retiree, asks Raphael, 81:
"They've brought fish for chicken." Orlando stares with resignation at
the crowd gathered in front of the butcher's as he waits his turn.

After disappearing for months, fish has become part of the Cuban diet
once again, with mackerel in Santiago de Cuba, and sardines in
Guantánamo. The crowd anxiously awaits its 17 oz. They've gone a long
while without fried fish.

It's the ongoing challenge of protein, as one might call the ceaseless
struggle to integrate it into the average Cuban's daily diet. The
protein sector has been the hardest hit by the food shortages. Not even
hard-currency stores are safe from the scarcity; previously stocked with
chicken, turkey, offal and some sausages, now, to their customers' great
dismay, their refrigerators have been empty for weeks.

The unexpected shift from fish to chicken, though mollifying many, is
not expected to last. The government-regulated monthly dose of chicken
had become the Holy Grail when it came to proteins in Cuba. It is the
"preferred" meat of the younger generation - which knows nothing else.
The fact that it is imported from the United States or Canada makes it a
delicacy, as opposed to pork, more accessible and cheaper.

Never mind that this imported chicken is fattened like a pig, oozing
with fat. Most Cubans eat the skin, make cracklings from the big ones,
and use the fat to cook with. In fact, one of the most coveted varieties
at shopsis "chicken carapace," consisting of the bird's dorsal skeleton.
There's no fear of high cholesterol. Once a month doesn't hurt. The
poultry supply for the domestic market consists of hen, when it appears,
so these chickens have no competition.

According to many, the sea has dried up - a national joke alluding to
the absence of fish in shopping carts. The selection at state fish
stores is disappointing: crab claws, fish croquettes and sausage. The
little fish sold is left for the weekend, tench and catfish mainly,
invasive species that have exterminated the native tilapia.

We are vegetarians by necessity. Rice is the dietary mainstay,
accompanied by some other simple food, or eggs, when possible. Expensive
meats are also exclusively weekend fare. It is not surprising that young
people have poor eating habits. Their ignorance is such that many have
never eaten shrimp or rabbit, let alone much-prized beef.

It was hoped that Cuba's recent accords with its powerful neighbor would
improve this essential aspect of daily life, but so far things have been
getting worse, a fact documented by a Cuban national who resides in
Miami. Astonished by an empty refrigerator at a shop,all she could think
to do was get out her camera and "I must put this on Facebook."

Source: Beef, what's that? | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1445351466_17602.html Continue reading
Exiled Cuban Doctor: "I Couldn't Afford an Egg a Day"
US$18 Monthly Salary Left Juan Afonso No Choice but to Leave
BELÉN MARTY OCTOBER 15, 2015 AT 11:43 AM

Doctor Afonso says Cuba offers two types of health care: one for
ordinary citizens, and one for the ruling class. (Burbuja)
EspañolJuan Afonso is a Cuban-born physician. He lived, studied, and
worked in Cuba under the communist health-care system. But far from the
praise that uninformed observers heap on Cuba's medical care, Afonso
says the reality is much different. He fled Cuba for Chile in the 1990s,
and says he could hardly afford to feed himself on his monthly salary on
the island.

He speaks with a split accent, a perfect mix of Chilean Spanish and
Cuban slang, after living in the Andean country for over 20 years. Some
280 kilometers away from the Chilean capital of Santiago is Talca, where
Afonso currently lives and has established a private practice, on top of
his shifts at a primary-care emergency room.

Prior to arriving in Chile, Afonso took part in a state-sponsored
mission in Laos, and says he dreamed of the day the regime would allow
him to buy a car. He confesses that the thought of escaping on raft
heading toward Miami entered his mind more than once.

After reading a PanAm Post report on the Cuban health-care system,
published on October 6, Afonso decided to get in touch and share his
experiences as a doctor on the island.

How would you describe the Cuban health-care system?

The Cuban medical system is not healthy. I have family, people that I
love that still live in Cuba, and I would like to see the country
thrive. But nothing can be fixed without recognizing the essence of
what's going on here.

Many talented people have moved to the United States and elsewhere; good
people, experts, have been forced to leave. It's not that they don't
love their country and have abandoned their brothers, but you need to be
practical. If you are starving in your own country, and they [the
regime] are having a laugh at your expense — with low wages, no chance
for a raise, and unpaid shifts — what are you going to do?

I look at my university professors. If they would have left in 1959 to
the United State, they would be very wealthy by now … but they stayed.
They sacrificed themselves, and trained thousands of future doctors.

When I saw how those brave doctors were abused by a group of leeches and
bureaucrats, I told myself: "What am I doing in this country? I wasn't
born to be slave." And I don't regret it, despite the government not
allowing me to return to my country, and especially now that I'm
speaking out publicly. They would throw me in jail.

One has to be consistent. I'm only talking about things I've
experienced: my own experience. I hope one day Raúl [Castro] will show
some compassion and actually speak with the doctors in the country.
About 20 years ago, he asked the public for their opinion on the matter,
but I don't think he read a single reply. The government has been making
fun of us for a long time now.

How much does a doctor like you make in Cuba?

I will tell you something: I would have liked to stay in Cuba. I left
because I could barely afford to buy a single egg to eat a day.

I remember the Argentinean crisis of 2001, when the banks froze people's
accounts, and a man on TV held up a package of spaghetti and said, "Look
at all we have to eat!" When I saw that, I remembered what we
experienced in Cuba when the Russians left in the 1990s, and the
terrible famine we went through. With a pack of spaghetti, I would have
been the happiest man on Earth.

In 1993 and 1994, the hunger was terrible. At that time, I earned US$18
per month, in a country where prices are the same as everywhere else. I
have a Cuban friend living in Chile who is a dermatologist. He used to
tell the shoemaker, "Today, I'll buy only the left shoe." He was
kidding, but it had some degree of truth.

I used my bicycle to visit my patients' homes. It was my only means of
transportation, and changing a flat tire cost CUP$400, which was roughly
my monthly income.

Then I started listening to Radio Martí, and a friend of mine, who
happens to be a prosecutor, told me I should stop [criticizing the
regime], because they would put me in jail. There is no separation of
powers between the executive and the judiciary in Cuba.

Why is the communist propaganda about health care still effective?

They're good at it. They have been selling the idea of an ideal
health-care system that has never existed. The government has taken
advantage of the internet and mass media, and the openness present in
democratic countries.

But it's all lies. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, public health
care in Cuba languished. Terrible things were done. Hospitals are now
falling apart, and the government doesn't invest in them.

Doctors have been using the same medical equipment for the last 20, 30
years. The regime also uses doctors as propaganda tools to clean up its
image around the world, sending them off on humanitarian missions to
places like Bolivia or Venezuela, as if they were the saviors of the world.

What happens with the doctors that defect?

Many doctors drink what we call the "Coca-Cola of Forgetting." But the
Cuban government knows how to blackmail us. People who disobey the
government, and speak to the press about the country, are not allowed to
return. The regime owns your passport. They can prevent you from
reuniting with your family in a new country.

And the doctors that stay in Cuba say nothing about this?

Most of the tourists that visit Cuba turn a blind eye to what's
happening. The propaganda will stop only when doctors are able to speak
without fear of retaliation.

Tell us about your experience as doctor in Cuba.

Things here in Chile are not perfect, and yet doctors are paid well, so
just imagine how medicine works in a country where doctors have to bring
their own paraffin to turn on a burner. The needs of doctors in Cuba
conspire against the quality of health care.

I was told that during a meeting of the [Communist] Youth, an Olympic
athlete stood up and said he thought doctors should work extra shifts
for free. The whole world applauded, and the motion passed unanimously.
There is no union to defend doctors in Cuba.

Many of us would wake up around midnight from hunger pains, and no one
ever gave us anything; maybe a slice of bread, at the most.

I felt like going to those beach resorts in Varadero, where carrying
bags for tourists could earn you in two days what I made in one month.
Once you reach that point, and you have nothing to eat, you must be
practical.

What do you make of the claims in Michael Moore's Sicko?

That's easy to explain. There are two health-care systems in Cuba: one
for ordinary people, like my family, and another that is exclusive to
the Cuban ruling class, who live better than any capitalist.

Those foreigners in the film visited the latter system.

The high-end system sends its doctors to Canada and Europe, where they
are trained using the latest technology, and access to the internet.
These things are impossible to access for a physician at a regular
hospital. These luxurious medical centers are like five-star hotels.

On the other hand, hospitals for ordinary Cubans are falling apart, and
patients must bring their own bedding, buckets, and everything else.

Translated by Adam Dubove.


Source: Exiled Cuban Doctor: "I Couldn't Afford an Egg a Day" -
http://panampost.com/belen-marty/2015/10/15/exiled-cuban-doctor-i-couldnt-afford-an-egg-a-day/ Continue reading
Agriculture industry seeks Cuba openings
Trade embargo remains in place
BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Jim Byrum has been barnstorming Cuba in hopes that he can establish
relationships that will give Michigan's agricultural industry an early
foothold if and when the United States lifts a trade embargo with the
island nation.

Mr. Byrum, the president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association,
recently returned from his second trip to Cuba in the last six months.
Last week's four-day trip had him and 21 others meeting with high-level
government officials and university personnel.

"It's been a very wide-ranging discussion and we're very pleased," Mr.
Byrum said. "Our business there has been well received; lots of friendly
folks and friendly conversations. I think as we look to the future,
there's going to be some great opportunity."

As relations thaw between the United States and Cuba, industries of all
fashions are evaluating how they might benefit from access to a market
that's been shut off from the states for more than a half century.

In the case of agriculture, Mr. Byrum said there are some natural fits.
For example, Michigan is the top producer of black beans in the United
States. The state also has strong fruit, dairy, and pork production.

"All those things are important there and we have a history in Michigan
of that kind of production and that kind of experience," he said.

Currently, the 1962 trade embargo still prevents U.S. industries from
doing business in Cuba. Lifting that embargo would take an act of
Congress. Mr. Byrum said he and other U.S. agricultural industry
officials are trying to learn as much as they can.

Beyond exporting goods, U.S. farm businesses could potentially sell
equipment or help incorporate better seed and pest management methods.

Still, agricultural economists say it's important to keep things in
perspective. Cuba is a nation of about 11 million people.

That's about the same as Ohio, though Cuba's economy is significantly
smaller. Matt Roberts, an agricultural economist at Ohio State
University, said Cuba's economy would roughly equal that of metropolitan
Cleveland and metropolitan Columbus.

"That's the size of the economy we would be normalizing trade with," he
said. "The long and the short of it is it's not really that big of a deal."

Mr. Roberts said some particular segments of the industry will get a
nice boost, but opening Cuba isn't going to make much of a difference to
U.S. agriculture on the whole.

Still, that's not to say it doesn't matter. Cuba is one of the last
completely untapped foreign markets, and every little bit helps. While
there are a handful of countries that are major customers — think
Canada, China, Japan — U.S. agricultural goods tend to be exported more
piecemeal. A little here, a little there.

Lots of people are hoping.

Earlier this year, nearly 100 industry representatives from across the
United States traveled to Cuba as part of a trade mission organized by
the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, which is pushing to end the
trade embargo.

The Ohio Farm Bureau wasn't part of that trip, but officials at the
state's largest farm organization are watching Cuba closely.

"We pay attention to all trade matters, and of course the opportunity to
open up new markets in Cuba is pretty exciting," said Joe Cornely, a
spokesman for the group.

Mr. Cornely said poultry and pork farmers could be among the biggest
beneficiaries in Ohio.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com

Source: Agriculture industry seeks Cuba openings - Toledo Blade -
http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2015/10/06/Agriculture-industry-seeks-Cuba-openings.html Continue reading
Troubled sugar market seen facing threat of a revitalized rival: Cuba
By Reuters Media on Sep 12, 2015 at 5:45 p.m.

MIAMI, Sept 11 (Reuters) - As if bearish market conditions weren't bad
enough, sugar producers in top growers Brazil, Thailand and India may
soon have to face heftier competition in an already crowded field from
an old rival: Cuba.

Cuba's annual sugar exports could nearly double to almost 2.5 million
tonnes by 2020, said an agriculture analyst with Platts on Friday, as
the country rebuilds a struggling cane industry and moves to reclaim at
least a portion of its sugar legacy.

The country's output may swell to 3 million tonnes, said Maria Nunez, an
agriculture analyst with Platts at a sugar conference in Miami, marking
the return to of Cuba's presence as a significant world supplier.

Cuba was once the world's largest exporter. Production has tumbled from
a peak of over 8 million tonnes in 1990, to just about 1.9 million
tonnes in the 2014/15 crop year. In recent years, the country launched
an initiative to rebuild its cane industry.

Cuba's sugar footprint has been dwarfed by new entrants, most notably
top producer and exporter Brazil where production is over 30 million tonnes.

The country may face tough conditions. The world's sugar farmers and
millers are struggling with prices near seven-year lows as consumers
wade through excess supplies built up during five straight years of surplus.

Nearby United States, Canada, and Haiti would be the most likely
destinations for output that could swell to 3 million tonnes by 2020,
based on the current pace of growth, said Maria Nunez of Platts at a
sugar conference in Miami.

That would be just a sliver of Cuba's peak production of over 8 million
tonnes in 1990, but would be up from 2014/15's 11-year high of 1.9
million tonnes as the country rebuilds its cane sector.

Renewed trade ties would make the U.S. market a likely export outlet,
Nunez said.

The United States and Cuba restored diplomatic ties in July after a
54-year hiatus.

Still, Nunez cautioned that regaining an import quota could prove tricky
and slow, making Haiti and Venezuela more likely to be key growth
markets in the short-term.

Cuba shipped 1.3 million tonnes of exports to destinations including
China, Russia, Lebanon, the European Union, and Haiti in 2014/15, Nunez
said.

"They need to boost exports in the Americas," she said.

Source: Troubled sugar market seen facing threat of a revitalized rival:
Cuba | Grand Forks Herald -
http://www.grandforksherald.com/news/agriculture/3837885-troubled-sugar-market-seen-facing-threat-revitalized-rival-cuba Continue reading
Less Milk and Less Beef / 14ymedio, Jose Quintana de la Cruz
Posted on September 1, 2015

14ymedio, Jose Quintana de la Cruz, Pinar del Rio, 31 August 2015 –
Cattle ranching in Cuba touched bottom in 1999, but it had started its
decline in 1970. That year's effort to produce 10 million tons of sugar
was the focus of attention and resources for the entire nation. Such a
disproportion was detrimental to the the motto of centralized planning:
wielding economic harmony and proportionality.

The setback in the care and breeding of cattle came after a remarkable
success in the cattle industry until 1968. In the sixties, mass
vaccination increased the heads of cattle from just over 5 million on
the island in 1958 to 7.5 million. The increase was the result of
importing breeding stock from Canada, the massive use of artificial
insemination and good animal husbandry and veterinary management. This
improved the quantity and quality of the herds.

However, in 1968 a decline in the number of cattle began that is not yet
over. Alarms sounded in 1999 when Cuba had 3 million fewer head of
cattle than in 1968. Of the numbers lost, at least 1.9 million were
heifers, which considerably affected the base of reproduction, the
guarantee of future herds.

Many analysts attribute the livestock crash to the Special Period,
officially decreed in 1990, that came with the collapse of the European
socialist bloc. These analysts argue that the sectors loss of supplies
was the main reason for its collapse. Obviously this was an influence,
but the evils that became chronic in the nineties had originated almost
three decades earlier.

In 1985 the warning signs were already clear: the country had 2.2
million fewer heads of cattle than in 1968. At a time when the Soviet
supplies were still being received with both hands. What had happened
was that the resources needed for livestock were being reassigned to
other destinations by the Cuban government. Basically to the sugar
industry, which, in the end, also collapsed.

On the other hand, poor reproductive cycles have affected the
replacement of slaughtered animals. A cow should be ready to reproduce
at two years of age and give birth to a calf every 13 months until
she has achieved 4 or 5 births during her reproductive life. But in Cuba
many of these adult heifers only give birth to between 2 or 3 calves
during their lifetimes.

The difference compared to the sixty years ago is staggering. In 1954
Cuba had 0.9 heads of beef per capita, an indicator where it was only
surpassed in the region by Uruguay with 3.01, Brazil with 2.39, and
Argentina with 1.01. Today, however, the Pearl of the Antilles has only
0.4 starving heads per capita.

Milk production has also failed to take off despite the government call
to prioritize it. Between 2013 and 2014 it declined slightly this year
could decline still more. In the Camaguey region, known for its cattle
tradition, is trying right now to mitigate the effects of the severe
drought to ease the lack of milk production. Other provinces are worse.

Hunger, the deficient planting of pastures, disease, legal and
occasionally illegal slaughter caused by poor management, and the lack
of economic incentives, stand as the chronic internal causes of the
livestock disaster in Cuba. At the end of 2014, the number of cattle in
the entire country reached 4.1 million. This year the lack of rainfall
has forced massive slaughter of cattle that will surely adversely affect
that figure.

Cubans should prepare for even less milk and less beef on their tables.

Source: Less Milk and Less Beef / 14ymedio, Jose Quintana de la Cruz |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/less-milk-and-less-beef-14ymedio-jose-a-quintana-de-la-cruz/ Continue reading