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Chavez

Eating Steak and Fries is a Luxury in Cuba / Iván García

Iván García, 2 May 2017 — On an afternoon like any other, an underground
seller of beef, living in the southeast of Havana, bought flank steaks
wholesale from a slaughterer, to then sell them to private restaurants
and neighbours who could afford them.

He filleted the chops and started to offer them for the equivalent of
three dollars a pound. "They flew off the shelf. By night time I didn't
have an ounce of it left. If any red meat comes my way, I can sell it
immediately. The thing is, Cubans like to eat a good piece of steak with
fries, washed down with a glass of orange juice. But, my friend, that
dish has become an extravagant luxury in Cuba," says the vendor, who
knows a thing or two about the ins and outs of the Havana black market.

Even though a pound of beef costs three days' of a professional's
salary, you don't always find it in the profitable black market.

In the island there is a network of butchers, slaughterers and sellers
which makes sufficient money selling beef. "Everything starts when
someone spots a bullock or a cow not properly protected in some odd
corner in the Cuban countryside. That's when they start to plan how get
it to end up as stew (kill it) and transport it to Havana, which is
where they can sell it for the best price. They can get between 1,300
and 1,600 chavitos (CUCs) for a 1,000 pound bull, and the slaughterer,
the transporter and the sellers get a few kilos of meat free", according
to a cattle slaughterer, a native of the central region of the country.

And he explains that they will just as happily kill a calf, a grown up
cow, or a horse, "whatever has four legs and moves, gets what's coming
to it. Of course, a slaughterer who knows what he's doing takes care not
to kill a cow which is sick or has brucellosis, because if the police
catch you, along with the twenty years the District Attorney goes for on
account of killing a cow, he adds another five or six on top for
endangering public health.

In 2013, the Granma newspaper reported that more than 18,400 cattle were
dying of hunger or disease in the province of Villa de Clara. In April
2014, the Communist party organ highlighted that something over 3,300
cows died in the first three months of that year in the province of
Holguin, and another 69,000 were found to be under-nourished. The
authorities blamed the drought and, according to Granma, 35 thousand
head of cattle were receiving water from water tank trucks in order to
alleviate the effects of the months without rain.

According to Damián, an ex-employee of a sugar mill, who now survives
selling home-made cheese on the Autopista Nacional, "what has happened
to the cattle here is irresponsible and those officials should be behind
bars. But they carry on like that, carrying their Party card and talking
annoying rubbish".

Mario, a private farmer, says, jokingly, that "Cuba is an unusual
mixture of Marxism and Hinduism. Seems like a religious prohibition on
eating beef, which is what Cubans like to eat. Although the leaders
carry on eating it — just look at their faces and stomachs; they look as
if they are going to explode. If you gave them a blood test, their
haemoglobin would be around a thousand".

During the time of the autocrat Fidel Castro, when people wore Jiqui
jeans, Yumuri check shirts and very poor quality shoes, all made
locally, the old ration book which, in March 2017, had been in use for
55 years, authorised half a pound of beef every nine days for people
born in the country.

"Then the cycle was lengthened to once a fortnight, then once a month,
until it was quietly disappearing from the Cuban menu. Along with many
other things like milk, fresh fish, prawns, oranges and mandarines",
recalls a butcher, who made plenty of money selling beef "on the side"
for four pesos a pound in the '80's. In the 21st century he survives
making money from selling soup thickened with soya.

In the last week of February, some "good news" was announced. Because of
poor agricultural output, the state started to sell potatoes through
ration books again.

"It's one step forward, one step back. Five years ago potatoes were
rationed. Until one fine day, the bright sparks in the government
decided that, along with beans, they should be sold by the pound. So
that, everyone was fucked, with potatoes becoming a sumptuary good. If
you wanted to eat potato puree or fries, you had to wait in a queue for
four hours and put up with fights and swearing just to buy a bag of ten
potatoes for 25 pesos. And now that it is rationed once more, the news
channel tells you that they will sell you 14 pounds a head, two in the
first month, and six after that. But in my farmers' market they don't
give you a pound any more. Five miserable spuds and you have to take it
or leave it", says Gisela, a housewife.

If you fancy a natural orange juice, get your wallet ready. "Green
oranges with hardly any juice cost three pesos, if you can actually find
any. A bag of oranges costs between 140 and 200 pesos, half the monthly
minimum wage. I keep asking myself why it is that in countries with a
Marxist government, or a socialist one, as invented by Chavez in
Venezuela, getting food has to be such torture", says Alberto, a
construction worker.

In Cuba, you can't eat what you want, only what turns up.

Before 1959, in many Cuban households, eating fried steak for lunch or
dinner, with white rice and fries was not a luxury. In the fast fried
food places anybody could buy a steak sandwich with onion rings and
Julienne potatoes. Taken by Casavana Cuban Cuisine.

Translated by GH

Source: Eating Steak and Fries is a Luxury in Cuba / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/eating-steak-and-fries-is-a-luxury-in-cuba-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Francia refuerza sus lazos comerciales con Cuba para reflotar su economía Además de incrementar las inversiones entre ambos países, Hollande hace un guiño a la izquierda francesa JUAN PEDRO QUIÑONEROCorresponsal En París – 08/02/2016 a las 07:29:29h. – Act. a las 08:45:56h. François Hollande comparte con Fidel y Raúl Castro una misma ilusión: sustituir la […] Continue reading
The 'Oil-Houses' Are Falling Apart / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on January 23, 2016

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 22 January 2016 – There are no
colors. Only gray and white, with some ocher tones provided by the dry
gardens, planted for opening day. In this hostile landscape in the
Havana municipality of Cotorro, 19 buildings were made up of petrocasas
("oil-houses'). A dream of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez that is now
falling to pieces far from the headlines and press photos.

Dozens of families who lost their homes due to building collapses, fires
and hurricanes were happy when they were granted an apartment in the El
Molino neighborhood, They were chosen to inhabit the "homes of the
future" and leave behind the homeless shelters in Central Havana and Old
Havana, where they'd been crammed in for 10 to 15 years. Their gratitude
was incredible, but so were their expectations.

"We had nothing and this, at least, was a way to get out of that
rattrap," said Clare, one of those awarded an apartment in El Molina.
She arrived at the shelter recently married and her children were born
there. "It was very difficult to maintain a relationship as a couple in
rooms where the neighbors on the other side of the partition heard
everything," she says.

Clara and her family lived for over a decade in an old motel that had
been designed with rooms to be rented by the hour for lovemaking, and
converted into a shelter for the homeless. "There we had the kitchen,
the cradle for the children and our bed where up to six of us slept,"
explains the woman, already retired.

Then hope interrupted her life. "They told us we were going to get a
petrocasa and the truth is, to get out of there I would have gone to the
moon," she confesses. The day of the handover of the keys to the new
apartments, Clara felt like it was her quinceañera, "I couldn't stop
crying and laughing from all the excitement."

After the television cameras left and when the families were safely
under their new roofs, the first thing they discovered was that they
couldn't hang a picture on those walls. Then they became aware of the
vibrations caused by walking around upstairs, and in less than six
months leaks began to appear.

In 2008 the petrocasas project manager, Julian Alonso, told the official
press that "Cuba will produce more than 14,000 homes a year from
polyvinyl chloride (PVC), thanks to a bi-national project with
Venezuela." However the figure was never reached and in 2015 the total
number of homes planned for the whole country – of every kind
of structure or construction method – was cut to 30,000, at least 17,000
of these to be built by people's own efforts.

The panels to erect the petrocasas would be manufactured in a
petrochemical complex that the late Venezuelan president promised to
develop in the city of Cienfuegos. The work was not completed in its
entirety and many of PVC panels that were used in Clara's neighborhood
were imported from other destinations such as Spain.

Poor construction quality has marked the settlement from day one: the
windows began to fall out, the cement floors to crack, and there were
short circuits in the electrical systems and leaks in the water pipes,
several residents of the neighborhood told 14ymedio. On a bad day with
high winds Clara's top floor neighbor's roof was about to fly away.

Rosa Helena, the mother of two children, slept in the living room to
avoid the dampness in the bedroom. She complained that when the upstairs
neighbor mopped the floor, the water started to drip on her furniture
within a few minutes. "No one came to fix these problems, but we had
barely arrived when they formed the Committee for the Defense of the
Revolution," she claims.

These problems were compounded by the area's infrastructure. The woman
tells how when she went to register "the boys in the elementary school
they opened in the neighborhood, they told me it was full and we had to
get up at six in the morning to get to the school where they accepted
them." She said her mother was visiting her one week and the first thing
she said was, "Ah, sweetheart, you were better off in the shelter."

The place could not be more inhospitable. The streets are unpaved and
dampness gets into everything.

Carlos, considered a "social case" because of his serious health
problems, complains that the Ephraim Mayor Polyclinic is too far
away. Like the rest of the neighbors, he has to pay a monthly rent for
the apartment granted. They haven't even become owners of
their petrocasas, but maintain the status of renters.

"In any event, I don't even have a peso to eat, so I'm not going to pay
anything," he says. When asked if his house has the same defects as the
others, he smiles sarcastically and says, "They explained to us that
there was a one year warranty and that during that time the State would
be responsible for any repairs. After one year, anything that breaks is
charged to the tenant."

However, the old man said that after he was there nine months, there was
a short circuit that burned out the refrigerator. "Now I can only turn
on the lightbulb in the bathroom and no one has responded to my complaints."

Other neighbors who didn't want to be identified said that in many
houses from the very beginning there has been a lack of doorknob in the
rooms along with other construction elements. They said that after the
opening, buried near the houses were reserves of things that had been
stolen, boxes of tiles, bags of cement, containers with silicon and
bathroom fixtures.

The blame for these "diversions of resources" and the poor quality of
the finishing is the responsibility of the ECOI 53 Industrial Works
Construction Company, and the Julio Antonio Mella Brigade, that worked
on this neighborhood of petrocasas. Many of the employees didn't even
stay on to finish the work because they were fired for bad work or
stealing, as confirmed by a builder who was involved in the work.

Settlements of this type have also been raised in the San Agustin, San
Miguel del Padron, Guanabacoa and Alberro neighborhoods. The neighbors
have renamed the petrocasas "cardboard houses".

An elderly lady who listened to the complaints of Carlos and Clara, says
that she feels "happy" with her new home. "What happens is that there
are many ungrateful people who do not recognize the efforts the
Revolution has made to give us these houses." There is a long pause and
she concludes: "Perhaps we deserved something better than this?"

Source: The 'Oil-Houses' Are Falling Apart / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar
| Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-oil-houses-are-falling-apart-14ymedio-reinaldo-escobar/ Continue reading
Cuba: el “crecimiento económico invisible” La economía real en Cuba dejó de funcionar hace 54 años. Se vivió del cuento, de campañas y ráfagas que tenían más de ilusión óptica que de fundamento. La estatización y planificación absurda de la producción de fósforos, croquetas y cepillos de diente mató la creatividad EL REALISMO MÁGICO DE […] Continue reading
‘La represión en Cuba sigue igual’ PABLO PARDO Enviado especial Ciudad de Panamá Actualizado: 12/04/2015 05:00 horas José Miguel Vivanco es el director para América de Human Rights Watch (Observatorio de los Derechos Humanos), la ONG más influyente, junto con Amnistía Internacional, de defensa de las libertades en todo el mundo. Chileno de nacimiento, educado […] Continue reading
Rationing in Venezuela: A 'Déjà vu' for Cubans / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya
Posted on March 11, 2015

14ymedio, Havana, Miriam Celaya, 11 March 2015 — Commissar Nicolas
Maduro, president of Venezuela to the misfortune of its people and –
let's admit it – also for the prolongation of our own misfortune, has
just announced recently the installation of 20,000 digital fingerprint
readers in state food markets and in several private sector retail
chains that, according to him, adopted the initiative "voluntarily"
after meetings held with the government.

Let's draw a merciful veil over the aforementioned secret meetings and
imagine the atmosphere that must have reigned there in the midst of the
"permanent economic war" that Venezuela suffers, the successive "soft
coups" that have been provoked almost bi-weekly in that South American
nation – according to the president's denunciations – and the growing
repression of opposition factions and civil society that demonstrate
publicly and openly against the government. It is not very hard to guess
what caused the "voluntariness" of these businessmen, who are
definitively representatives of the "oligarchies" constantly defamed in
official speeches and press.

But returning to the topic of Comrade-President Maduro's above-mentioned
fingerprint readers, his lofty purpose is, while guaranteeing the
feeding of the people, to counter smuggling, or more exactly, "the
smugglers" since smuggling can exist without socialism but socialism has
never existed without smuggling.

This way, the fingerprint readers – which will limit the purchase of
foods and other products in high demand whose supply has been greatly
depressed causing lines, hoarding and disturbances in the stores – now
are added to the prior rationing through magnetic cards established in
2014. It is clear that the Bolshevik Nicolas has not the least ability
to overcome his country's economic crisis, but at least in contemporary
times the new technologies permit digital management of the misery. It
is without doubt a real contribution of Socialism in the 21st Century
which the late Hugo predicted in his glory days, before being planted in
the Mountain Barracks and turned into a tiny little bird dispensing bad
advice*.

Decades later, the Venezuelan government model – if it is possible to
call it that – is dragging the country in a sort of reverse race through
experiences similar to those that we Cubans have gone through under
Castro-ism.

Those of us born before or in the years immediately following the
catastrophic accident of January 1959 remember clearly some of the
bureaucratic variants created to manage poverty, an ill that the older
ones among us believed had been almost overcome with the economic boom
experienced in the 50's.

This administrative strategy, typical of war and famine economies, was
first established for food products, and a little later, with the
decline of Cuban industries due to the extreme nationalization of the
economy, it was rapidly extended to other consumer products, such as
clothing, footwear and other goods. Then came the industrial products
book, popularly known as the store booklet, which currently functions
only for the acquisition of school uniforms.

This version of control not only indicated the limits of access to the
said articles, but it also reached the point of establishing shopping
schedules for groups, with subsections inspired in the strongly sexist
standards of the Revolution, which assigned two days a week – Monday and
Thursday – on which only women workers could shop; an enviable privilege
in the widespread poverty that, moreover, took for granted in a
Revolutionary way that trifles like shopping were not worthy of men.

Decades of shortages, manipulated in detail by those in power, sowed in
ordinary Cubans an extreme dependence on the State – an always
insufficient provider but the only one possible – and a whole culture of
systematized poverty that includes a peculiar glossary with phrases that
we drag around even today in popular speech: "what they are offering" in
this or that establishment, "what's assigned to you," "what's expiring,"
"plan jaba**," "chicken diet***" and many similar ones that reflect the
national acceptance of misery as the common destiny, something that one
day – hopefully not too distant – should embarrass us.

Rationing in Cuba has been quite an institution that has played a role
in the socio-economic realm and also in the political, functioning more
as an instrument of subjection of the people by the Government than as a
true guarantor of a just distribution of consumer goods, established
with a vulgar egalitarianism that annulled individual initiative and
turned the citizen into dough.

The ration book has constituted a mechanism of social control, even to
the point that currently the Government has not been able to eliminate
it, on pain of absolutely abandoning the most disadvantaged social
sectors, especially the elderly without filial protection and the many
humble homes which receive no remittances from abroad nor have any other
hard currency income. In spite of that, the food products rationed and
subsidized through the book – that artifact that constitutes a complete
leftover of the Cold War – are today fewer than a dozen, and they barely
cover precariously some of the most pressing food needs while the rate
of inflation keeps increasing and wages hardly have even symbolic value.

That is why, when I now witness the Venezuelan rationing process, when I
hear the openness with which Comrade-President Nicolas Maduro disguises
in modernity the cataclysm of misery that looms for his people, I cannot
escape a kind of jolt, like déjà vu. We Cubans already traveled that
path, we walked half a century over its thorns and we are convinced that
it only leads to disaster. We have painfully and abundantly proven that
misery is the only thing that, divided among many, touches more.

Personally, I hope that the poor Venezuelans, who lately pursue their
food anxiously and stand in long lines at stores with empty shelves,
manage in time to avoid that serious confusion that sometimes leads
people to interpret as justice that which is the manipulation and burial
of freedoms.

Translator's notes:
* Nicolas Maduro says that Hugo Chavez appears to him as a tiny little
bird, and dispenses advice. In this video, otherwise in Spanish, he
imitates the sounds the bird makes flying around his head and then
imitates the bird whistling a message.
** "Plan jaba" is literally "sack plan" and can mean one of two things:
(A) you leave your bag and come back and pick it up at a convenient time
so you don't have to wait in line all day, which is allowed for some
working people; or (B) you get a "special bag of extras" because of age,
illness or pregnancy, and again, you just pick it up.
*** "Chicken diet" means that you get extra protein because of age,
illness or pregnancy.

Translated by MLK

Source: Rationing in Venezuela: A 'Déjà vu' for Cubans / 14ymedio,
Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/rationing-in-venezuela-miriam-celaya/ Continue reading
Detención masiva de opositores afiliados a UNPACU en Santiago de Cuba 69 opositores pacíficos de la Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU) y Ciudadanas por la Democracia (CxD), organización afiliada a la UNPACU, detenidos en Santiago de Cuba ayer domingo 15 de febrero, al acudir al Santuario Nacional de la Virgen de la Caridad de El […] Continue reading
Cuba says 9,000 cafes can be privately owned
Government has said it will get out of the restaurant business
Author: By Margot Haddad CNN
Published On: Sep 19 2014 08:21:11 PM CDT Updated On: Sep 19 2014
10:48:51 PM CDT

Thousands of state-run restaurants in Cuba will move into the private
sector and be run by citizen owners, the island nation's government
announced Friday.

The Cuban Domestic Trade department put the number eateries being
privatized at 9,000 -- compared with 1,261 private family-run
restaurants already operating. The state will still own the land the
restaurants sit on.

This is not the Cuban government's first step toward a more private
economy for Cuba.

Self-employment including the creation of privately owned "paladares"
was first authorized in 1993. Moreover, in May 2011, President Raul
Castro's government announced a new reform plan that shifted toward the
free market and announced that some state-owned businesses such as
barbershops or beauty shops would become private.

"In order to lift the economy, the Cuban government took the decision to
get out of businesses they have been running badly for the last 50
years," Philip Peters, president of the Cuban Research Center, a
Washington-based analysis organization told CNN Friday .

The privately owned restaurants already in business in Cuba "offer
interesting new dishes and they are doing very well," according to Tomas
Bilbao, executive director of the Cuba Study Group.

"Cuban entrepreneurs can now buy these (newly privatized) places from
the government and negotiate the price," he told CNN. "They will also
have to pay taxes and social security.

"The benefit of buying one of these state owned restaurant is the
location, the reputation and the utensils available that may be hard to
find in Cuba," Bilbao said.

The Cuban government had previously said that it would get out of the
restaurant business, and Friday's announcement is "part of the updating
of the economic social model," said Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade
Ada Chavez.

Cuba's Domestic Trade department said that the government was seeking to
expand "services with quality and safety that the Cuban people and
tourists visiting the island deserve."

According to the Cuban National Statistics office, Cuba hosted around
2.8 million tourists in 2012, and private restaurants are very important
to the development of the tourism industry.

"For many people who visit Cuba, these restaurants are part of the
attraction," said Peters. "It is a socialist economy, it's going to stay
a socialist economy but with a much bigger private sector in it."

Source: Cuba says 9,000 cafes can be privately owned | News - Home -
http://www.click2houston.com/news/cuba-says-9000-cafes-can-be-privately-owned/28160536 Continue reading
Los clanes Chávez y Castro hablan de igualdad, pero no viven conforme a ella Elena Santorromán lunes, 14/07/14 – 21:27 María Gabriela Chávez está implicada recientemente en un escándalo relacionado con el sobrecoste del precio del arroz. La fortuna de Fidel Castro se estima que llega a los más de 1.000 millones de dólares. La […] Continue reading
Does Anyone Care Anymore about Fidel?
June 9, 2014
Sergio Valdivieso (Café Fuerte)

HAVANA TIMES — Though he made no public appearance and no photos of the
living room of his home in a secure Havana location were televised,
Fidel Castro has made headlines in recent Cuban news.

In addition to recent events, it so happens that a selection of 38 of
Fidel Castro's now less-frequent "reflections" have been published in
Chinese. The book was launched in Beijing last weekend, thanks to the
joint efforts of the Cuban Embassy and the Chinese Association for Peace
and Disarmament.

Days before, in Havana, the elderly leader enjoyed singular
acknowledgment "for his dedication and commitment to the development of
Cuba's poultry industry."

During the main ceremony of the festivities celebrating the 50th
anniversary of Cuba's National Poultry Plant (CAN), Castro was awarded
the special, "50 Years of Service to the People" distinction by Emiliano
Diaz Lopez, the current CAN director.

Since his current health condition does not allow Castro to attend such
functions in person, as he used to, Diaz handed the trophy to Minister
of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez, so that he would have it reach the
Comandante (history has proven that he, not Hugo Chavez, is the true,
eternal comandante).

Cuba's Eggs

According to Cuba's official press, the award expresses the "gratitude,
pride and sincere feelings of all poultry farmers in the country."

During the ceremony, the Minister of Agriculture reminisced about
Castro's "advice for the poultry industry" and talk of reaching
production levels similar to those registered in 1991 (when the
production record of 2.7 billion eggs was reported) by 2020. Currently,
egg production indices barely exceed 2.65 billion and the promise made
by CAN's creator during a 1965 speech, when it was said Cuban chickens
had superseded all goals and the country would soon be exporting eggs,
has not yet been fulfilled.

These are two peculiarities of the personality cult that continues to
exist under Cuba's anachronistic totalitarian system. The most curious
note published during this time, however, was addressed to Granma
newspaper by the leader himself, who, this past Monday, complained about
not having been informed of the death of volleyball coach Eugenio George
by Cuba's National Sports Institute (INDER) in a timely fashion.

According to his brief missive to the newspaper, "several comrades
thought it curious that no floral wreaths from us were placed on his
coffin."

"I, a life-long admirer, was not informed of his death until several
hours after the burial," Castro added.

The Proclamation: Eight Years Later

The three incidents above – linked only by the name of Fidel Castro –
all point to one certain fact: the growing irrelevance that is beginning
to bury the figure of Cuba's formerly omnipresent leader in life. I am
not speaking of his declining influence over the nation's affairs or the
younger generations, but over the very members of the government.

It will soon be eight years since Castro proclaimed that he was stepping
down (on July 31, 2006), following a surgical procedure that would put a
definitive end to his leadership. Caught up in the maneuvers and
blunders of Raul Castro's administration, I believe we haven't yet
become aware of how much the figure of Fidel Castro has withdrawn at the
discursive and symbolic levels.

A quick glance at the last, massive projects he set in motion prior to
his illness make us aware of how insignificant those efforts are to
today's Cuba: the energy revolution of electronic contraptions,
intensively-trained teachers (who succumbed under the challenges of the
education system), social workers (who ended up as custodians at gas
stations), etc. The last strike was the promotion of moringa and morena
plants as dietary supplements, something the State media has long ceased
to do.

Between the Weekly Movie Package and Fidel's Reflections

Cuban society has changed a lot since. It's not that Raul Castro has
become a reformer or anything of the sort. He has merely been forced to
mold and make more flexible a number of rigid norms inherited from
Fidel's time in order to remain in power.

Let us be honest about it: what room could there be for Fidel Castro's
"reflections", news published by Granma and aired on the TV Round Table
program between the shy steps towards increasing Internet access, the
two million cell phones now in the hands of the population, illegal
cable television and the weekly "package" of foreign TV shows, soap
operas and informative materials?

Who cares, at this stage in the game, if the man has his reflections
published in Chinese, is named a hero of the national poultry industry
or complains about being kept in the dark about something?

I have the impression it is less and less important for the Party
leadership itself, regardless of how many vows and promises of future
abundance we hear about in the propaganda of the regime, caught between
a past that can offer us nothing and a present characterized by
unproductiveness, the hunt for foreign investment and the demands of an
incredulous and alert population.

I want to think that the greatest grief weighs on whatever is left of
Fidel Castro, on the eve of his 88th birthday

Source: Does Anyone Care Anymore about Fidel? - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=104159 Continue reading
Havana with the Collapsed Building as its Symbol
March 5, 2014
By Carlos Cabrera Perez (Cafe Fuerte)

HAVANA TIMES — The return of former Cuban government spy Fernando
Gonzalez Llort and the crisis in Venezuela and the Ukraine have eclipsed
the tragic news of the partial building collapse that took place at
Havana's central bus terminal, injuring two women (one of whom suffered
a cranial fracture and is currently in serious condition).

In September and November of last year, three people died in Havana as a
result of the collapse of their homes caused by intense rains. One of
the victims lived in the former premises of the Pedro Maria Rodriguez
primary school, located in the neighborhood of La Vibora, while the
other two lived in Centro Habana.

This past Monday, we heard news of the partial collapse of a building
located on 308 Oquendo Street, Centro Habana, an incident which left
more than 600 tenants homeless. The building had been declared in
dangerous condition in 1988.

The structural collapse which took place at the bus terminal confirms
the ruinous state of Havana's buildings, including those housing vital
public service providers. The city's main bus terminal, an example of
modernist architecture, was opened in 1951.

Signs of Modernity

The Cuban republic so derided by the Castro regime was capable of
building not only a central, nationwide highway in a mere four years at
the close of the 1920s but also the National Bus Terminal, which was
considered the second one of its type in the world, second only to the
one in Washington, DC.

Such facts confirm Cuba's former vocation for modernity and its
socio-cultural identification with the United States, no matter how much
it pains Cuban folk musician Silvio Rodriguez to accept this.

The deplorable condition of most of Havana's building today makes any
stroll around the city a chilling experience. There are ruins among old
as well as modern residences: the neighborhood of Alamar, to the east of
the city, today resembles the old town owing to leaks in most of its
buildings caused by structural defects. Around 97 thousand people live
in this neighborhood.

The lack of proper and regular maintenance, the modification of the
homes' internal structures (carried out to house additional tenants),
the transformation of the buildings' supportive structures and the
government's indifference towards the state of Havana's residences do
not paint a very promising picture of the city's future.

If the Cuban government had devoted 5 percent of what it invested
effectively in new constructions to maintain and conserve Havana's
buildings, the situation would not be as serious. This problem is no
longer limited to the capital – it is generalized and provincial
governments do not have the resources needed to undertake the repairs
demanded by the properties.

Backs Turned On Havana

If we go over the records, we'll see that Fidel Castro's first plans for
developing tourism excluded Havana and prioritized destinations at
beaches and keys, in search of superficial tourists who content
themselves with sunny beaches. This was also aimed at avoiding the
potential "ideological contamination" of Cubans, who were denied access
to the hotels and beaches of their own county until Raul Castro did away
with that absurd apartheid recently.

It was only when tourists began to show an interest in visiting Havana
and touring its once magical places, such as the Tropicana cabaret, the
Floridita, Bodeguita del Medio and Sloppy Joe bars and others, that
authorities reacted and wholeheartedly supported the restoration efforts
of city historian Eusebio Leal and his team – which were few and far
between until that point.

At that point, however, it was very difficult to find good masons,
welders, carpenters and other tradespeople skilled in the construction
and restoration of buildings (activities that thrive and enjoy much
social recognition around the world).

In fact, if any Cuban or visitor approaches the buildings in the
residential neighborhood of Miramar, today being sold by real estate
agencies to anyone who can afford their prices (prohibitive for Cuban
workers), they will see the repair work is shoddy and that much has to
be spent in maintaining and/or improving these properties.

Most of Havana's recently-built hotels, such as the 5th Avenue Hotel and
the Melia Cohiba, experience problems stemming from poor construction
work and the use of cheap insulation, doors and windows. In the case of
the first hotel, terraces and the underground parking lot floods every
time there are intense rains.

No Consultation

All of these poor investments have been possible thanks to the
sacrifices made by the Cuban people, without ever consulting citizens on
such questions as whether they agreed that the coast in Miramar, for
instance, should have been besmirched by that glass abomination known as
the Hotel Panorama, whose air-conditioning expenses are most likely secret.

Many things about pre-revolutionary Havana can be criticized, but its
architecture has been praised around the world by experts and impartial
visitors who, on discovering such sites as the pillar less roof of the
old Club Nautico, the Galician Cultural Center, the city Zoo and 5th
Avenue, commend the architects and politicians responsible for these
urban treasures.

What made Havana lose this impulse? The political imposition of a
strategy based on the distribution of poverty, disguised with a vacuous
and sterile spiel, which damaged the Cuban capital and its residents
beyond imagination.

Bringing young peasants to Havana so they could pursue studies there was
a just measure, but there was really no need to lodge them in homes in
Miramar, which were destroyed by this generous scholarship program.

Perversion and Madness

Taking in Chileans who were fleeing Pinochet's dictatorship was a just
decision, but they should not have been allowed to destroy part of the
FOCSA Hotel and the Sierra Maestra buildings in Miramar.

Bringing Venezuelans to Havana to perform operations on them for
cataracts and other conditions was a means of buying votes for Chavez'
movement, but these patients should not have been allowed to tear apart
the Las Praderas Hotel and other facilities.

The people of Havana would have many reasons to feel moderately proud of
their city. The culture of poverty imposed by the Castro regime not only
deprived them of a better life; it also condemned them to live in a city
that has deteriorated in the course of years to such a degree that the
director of Conducta ("Conduct"), the latest Cuban film hit, did not
even have to worry about set design.

The state of Havana today is such that no adjectives could describe it.
One need only set up a camera at any street corner to capture the daily
horrors of a city that, instead of being young and full of energy (like
the women who suffered an accident at the bus terminal), is a picture of
the perversion and madness of the Cuban government, set on razing it to
the ground.

Source: Havana with the Collapsed Building as its Symbol - Havana
Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=102243 Continue reading
Between the "Collectives" and the "Rapid Response Brigades" / Antonio G.
Rodiles
Posted on February 22, 2014

State violence has been the Cuban regime's principle recourse for
maintaining power for over 55 years. Beginning with the insurrection
against Fulgencio Batista, executions, as a method of punishment, were
used relentlessly. Anyone who wanted to show their loyalty had to
deliver the coup de grace and take part in executions. A mix of the
Communist brutality of Mao's China and Stalin's Soviet Union, with doses
of the Mexican Revolution.

Watching the revolutionary courts, the shouts of "to the wall," the
ruthless political imprisonment, and the continued executions ratified
and defended by Ernesto Guevara on the dais of the United Nations
itself, instilled a feeling of helplessness within a great part of Cuban
society.

The so-called Cuban Revolution has a violent history that it will never
break free of because it is part of its nature. The infamous "acts of
repudiation" in the '80s led to the more frequent use of vigilante
groups, known as "rapid response brigades," who doled out beatings and
followed orders with the objective of instilling terror in citizens.

These rapid response brigades have been transformed in content and
action according to the circumstances and needs of the regime. In the
'80s they focused on those Cubans who wanted to leave the country;
starting in the '90s they used them against human rights defenders;
until finally coming to focus on any opponent or activist.

Today, these groups for the most part are made up by paid agents of the
Interior Ministry, working surgically to prevent the spread of outbreaks
of discontent or free thought within the Cuban population.

With the coming to power of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro's influence in
Venezuela became visible. After the failed coup d'etat against Chavez in
April 2002, the Havana regime increased its influence in issues of
security and its military presence became increasingly notable. Of
course the "rapid response brigades" were also exported from Cuba, now
called "Bolivarian militias" or "collectives." Since then, they have
concentrated on arming and preparing them to respond with violence and
terror in the face of possible democratic demands.

The reaction of these violent vigilante to the protests of recent days
has made clear that the "collectives," in coordination with the police
forces, have orders to stifle any protest through the excessive use of
violence. Terror must be part of the Venezuelan imagination for the full
functioning of the regime-under-construction.

The Chavista strategy has been to wrest away democratic spaces, fragment
them, and even to dismantle not only democratic institutions, but also
civil society organizations. Cuba's ruling elite knows that a change in
Venezuela implies enormous pressure on the island and the certain end of
the Castro regime. They know that ordering or driving indiscriminate
repression in Venezuela has no legal consequences for them, but rather
for the regime in Caracas. They would prefer a thousand times over to
cling to the oil no matter it costs, rather than coming to a massive
repressive crackdown on the island.

The Venezuelan military should know that Havana will lead them to the
brink without the slightest hesitation, but at the same time they should
understand that the Castro regime's codes are not those of the present
century — in this century they can often be counterproductive and
extremely dangerous.

What is happening in Venezuela should raise serious concerns on the
continent because it opens the door to a social dynamic with
unpredictable consequences. To create and institutionalize urban
vigilante groups, which, to sustain power enjoy perks and impunity,
creates an extremely complex scenario in a region where the Rule of Law
remains a dream yet to be achieved.

In a region where organized crime, marginalization and poverty are part
of the reality, the spread of Cuban methods of social control should set
off alarm bells. The violence and cynicism of the Castro regime can
still do a lot of damage in Latin America. The Cuban pattern is
disastrous. To spread it would undermine the still weak Latin American
democracies.

It is essential, therefore, to offer major support and solidarity to the
efforts of Venezuelans. Not only is the return of democracy and
fundamental rights being decided there, but also being decided is
putting the breaks on the introduction of state violence through the use
of criminal gangs and urban vigilantes as a norm in the region. Those of
us who defend democracy, have a commitment today to Venezuela.

Antonio Rodiles, Havana, 22 February 2014

Source: Between the "Collectives" and the "Rapid Response Brigades" /
Antonio G. Rodiles | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/between-the-collectives-and-the-rapid-response-brigades-antonio-g-rodiles/ Continue reading
Construyen edificios para médicos que atendieron a Hugo Chávez
MIÉRCOLES, 09 DE OCTUBRE DE 2013 00:04 ESCRITO POR DANIA VIRGEN GARCÍA

Cuba noticias, San Miguel del Padrón, La Habana, (PD) Según una fuente
de información que pidió a esta reportera que no mencionara su nombre,
en el exclusivo reparto Flores, del municipio capitalino Playa, se
construyen dos edificios que están asignados para los médicos y
paramédicos que atendieron en Cuba al fallecido presidente venezolano
Hugo Chávez.

Según la fuente, estos edificios tienen 12 apartamentos cada uno y se
entregarán amueblados. Cada apartamento tiene tres habitaciones de 4x4.

Los edificios son construidos por reclusos. Estos son dirigidos por
presos de los llamados cuellos blancos. La comida que les suministran a
estos cuellos blancos es distinta a la de los demás presos.

Para Cuba noticias: dania.zuzy@gmail.com

Source: "Construyen edificios para médicos que atendieron a Hugo Chávez
| Cuba noticias actualidad.Periodismo independiente." -
http://www.primaveradigital.org/primavera/cuba-noticias/sociedad/8817-construyen-edificios-para-medicos-que-atendieron-a-hugo-chavez.html Continue reading
¿Qué pasa con los ex presos políticos cubanos en Madrid? JUEVES, 04 DE JULIO DE 2013 13:44 ESCRITO POR AINÍ MARTIN VALERO Cuba noticias, Filadelfia, USA, (PD) La situación de desamparo en que viven los expresos políticos cubanos en Madrid, es penosa. En muchos sitios de internet en este mundo de libertad, se pueden leer [...] Continue reading
Publicado el domingo, 06.30.13 Grupo disidente cubano presenta plan de apertura JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ JCCHAVEZ@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM Uno de los grupos de la disidencia interna cubana más dinámicos y consistentes de la isla presentó un avance de los alcances y objetivos de un programa de apertura y democratización para mejorar las condiciones actuales de la nación y [...] Continue reading
Publicado el viernes, 06.28.13 Organizan encuentro de opositores en la casa de Yoani Sánchez JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ JCCHAVEZ@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM Un importante grupo de activistas y opositores, blogueros y periodistas independientes cubanos analizarán los recientes cambios en la política migratoria y sus alcances en las filas del movimiento disidente, entro otros aspectos. El encuentro se realizará en [...] Continue reading
Publicado el miércoles, 06.26.13 Autoridades cubanas anuncian cambios en el sistema penal JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ JCCHAVEZ@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM Las autoridades cubanas anunciaron una serie de cambios en el sistema penal con el propósito de “procurar” mayor efectividad y eficacia en la prevención y enfrentamiento al delito, según un comunicado publicado en La Gaceta Oficial. Los ajustes al [...] Continue reading
Why Cuba might not be safe for Snowden By Max Fisher, Published: June 25, 2013 at 4:19 pmE-mail the writer One of the countries discussed as a potential haven for Edward Snowden is Cuba, the tropical communist hold-over ruled by Fidel Castro’s younger brother Raul. Snowden was even expected to fly to Cuba on Monday, [...] Continue reading
Publicado el lunes, 06.24.13 Dagoberto Valdés: avanzamos hacia un proceso de cambio inevitable en Cuba JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ JCCHAVEZ@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM El director de la revista digital cubana Convivencia, Dagoberto Valdés, recomendó la formación de un grupo de trabajo dentro de la sociedad civil con el propósito de que evalúe el estado de los derechos humanos en [...] Continue reading
Publicado el viernes, 06.21.13

Reportan al menos 30 casos de malaria en Cuba
JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ
JCCHAVEZ@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

Un mes después de que la oposición interna denunciara un recrudecimiento
de infecciones gastrointestinales en Cuba, nuevos informes publicados
esta semana por una agencia independiente de noticias dieron cuenta
sobre la aparición de casos de malaria (paludismo), especialmente en la
provincia central de Sancti Spíritus.

"La epidemia actual transcurre bajo el usual secreto oficial,
excusándose verbalmente las autoridades con los familiares de los
pacientes", indicó Jaime Leygonie, de la agencia Hablemos Press, en La
Habana. "Les dicen que no pueden establecer aún si es paludismo o no
porque demora días el análisis en el Instituto Pedro Kourí, en La Habana".

Según Leygonie hay una alerta en el pueblo de Guayo, del municipio
Cabaiguán, debido a unos 30 casos. Los síntomas más comunes de la
malaria son fiebre alta y escalofríos, dolores musculares y de cabeza,
entre otros.

"No existía malaria en Cuba desde fines del siglo XIX, al igual que el
cólera", dijo Leygonie. "Ahora el Ministerio de Salud Publica cubano
debe lidiar con las dos peligrosas epidemias 'secretas' con doctores sin
experiencia en tales enfermedades y escasez de personal médico, por
alquilarlo al extranjero en grandes contingentes".

Estadísticas del gobierno cubano indican que aproximadamente 40,000
profesionales de la isla, fundamentalmente médicos, prestan servicios en
69 países. La exportación de servicios profesionales es considerada la
mayor fuente de divisas del país. Deja a Cuba unos $6,000 millones
anuales, sin embargo, las misiones internacionales dejan expuesta a una
población que reclama más atención y servicios, de acuerdo con fuentes
familiarizadas con el tema.

Leygonie dijo que hace unas semanas las autoridades de salud cubanas
detectaron la presencia del mosquito Anopheles, agente transmisor de la
enfermedad. El gobierno ordenó algunas tareas de fumigación y
tratamiento de aguas estancadas aunque la población está exigiendo más
compromiso de parte de las autoridades, agregó.

A mediados de mayo fuentes de la oposición interna en Cuba denunciaron
la aparición de nuevos casos de cólera y dengue en la isla. Los informes
independientes denunciaron decenas de enfermos, incluyendo menores de
edad, con cuadros intensos de diarrea, vómitos y náuseas, entre otros.

El deterioro de la situación sanitaria alcanzó niveles preocupantes el
año pasado cuando se reportaron oficialmente tres muertos y 417 casos de
personas infectadas debido al cólera en varios puntos de la isla.

La crisis se desató especialmente en la zona oriental. En ese momento
funcionarios del gobierno tardaron un mes para reconocer la aparición de
la enfermedad. Poco después anunciaron apresuradamente que la crisis
estaba controlada.

El cólera es una enfermedad que se presenta violentamente y provoca la
deshidratación de la persona en cuestión de unas horas. Puede causar la
muerte si el paciente no recibe atención y sueros hidratantes.

La propagación del cólera sacudió incluso a La Habana en el 2012. Fue el
primer brote localizado en 130 años que puso en aprietos a la capital.
La enfermedad comprometió a más de 51 personas y provocó al menos dos
muertes, según opositores y activistas de derechos humanos consultados
por El Nuevo Herald.

Source: "Reportan al menos 30 casos de malaria en Cuba - Cuba -
ElNuevoHerald.com" -
http://www.elnuevoherald.com/2013/06/21/1504763/reportan-al-menos-30-casos-de.html Continue reading
Publicado el miércoles, 06.19.13 Human Rigths Watch fustiga represión del gobierno cubano JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ JCCHAVEZ@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM José Miguel Vivanco, director para las Américas de la influyente organización Human Rigths Watch, en Washington D.C., dijo que el gran problema del gobierno cubano es la política represiva que ejerce contra el ejercicio de los derechos fundamentales y [...] Continue reading
Developments in Cuba Author: Julia E. Sweig, Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director for Latin America Studies June 19, 2013 Folha de Sao Paulo Originally published in Portuguese on Folha de Sao Paulo: In 2010 I participated in a conversation with Fidel Castro, when, in reply to a question [...] Continue reading
Publicado el martes, 06.18.13

Calixto Martínez, el periodista que destapó la epidemia de cólera en Cuba
JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ
JCCHAVEZ@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

El 16 de septiembre del 2012 Calixto Martínez se despertó con la
sensación de que sería un día particularmente intenso. Estaba decidido a
corroborar una información confidencial que había escuchado con
insistencia sobre el estado de un cargamento de medicinas y equipos
médicos que fueron donados al gobierno cubano.

Sus fuentes aseguraban que la ayuda humanitaria se había malogrado en
los almacenes del aeropuerto internacional José Martí. Esa mañana,
Martínez —corresponsal del grupo opositor Hablemos Press— estaba en los
alrededores del aeropuerto cuando un grupo de agentes de la policía
política lo arrestó violentamente. Fue el inicio de un encarcelamiento
que se prolongó más de seis meses.

"Quisieron tratarme como un reo común, pero les dije que no lo era
porque mi encierro fue una represalia", dijo Martínez, en una entrevista
telefónica con El Nuevo Herald, desde La Habana. "Tenían a un preso de
conciencia".

Martínez comenzó a escribir para Hablemos Press a inicios del 2009 y
rápidamente su nombre empezó a tomar fuerza. De hecho sus reportes
periodísticos motivaron que el gobierno cubano reforzara la vigilancia
sobre los integrantes de la organización, confiscara sus instrumentos de
trabajo y ordenara arrestos de horas o días.

Pero fue quizá el 28 de junio del 2012 cuando Martínez hizo su primer
destape noticioso del año para Hablemos Press. La noticia confirmó un
brote masivo de cólera en el municipio Manzanillo, de Granma. El brote
dejó varios muertos y cientos de personas hospitalizadas.

Cinco días después su informe obligó a las autoridades cubanas a romper
su clásico hermetismo, primero, reconociendo la aparición "de un brote
de infección gastrointestinal"; luego, admitiendo que se habían
diagnosticado "casos aislados" de cólera.

En agosto Martínez volvió a la carga. Esta vez con una cobertura sobre
el primer caso mortal por dengue en Camagüey.

"Sabía que mi trabajo estaba siendo vigilado. Por eso mi arresto lo
asumí con fortaleza y no callé a pesar de las condiciones de mi
encierro", sostuvo Martínez. "Me negaron agua, hice huelgas de hambre y
me llevaron a celdas de castigo. También pasé momentos muy duros como
cuando presencié a un preso cortarse las manos y la cabeza con una
cuchilla porque se negaba a ser trasladado. Fue muy difícil".

Martínez fue acusado de desacato a las figuras de Fidel y Raúl Castro.
La condena por desacato contra un opositor puede ser entre 1 a 3 años de
cárcel. Para un ciudadano común las autoridades pueden contemplar una
multa de 30 pesos hasta un año de privación de la libertad.

Inicialmente, Martínez, de 42 años, se encontraba preso en el llamado
Centro de Deportación y Retención de la Policía Nacional, conocido por
El Vivac, en La Habana. Luego fue trasladado a la cárcel Valle Grande,
en La Lisa, y más tarde al Combinado del Este.

Martínez se declaró en ayuno forzado el 11 de noviembre. Un mes después
abandonó la huelga respondiendo a innumerables llamados de familiares y
colegas que habían manifestado preocupación por su estado de salud. Sin
embargo en marzo de este año Martínez hizo una nueva huelga de 22 días.

"Por las huelgas de hambre me negaron el derecho a hacer llamadas
telefónicas. Estaba incomunicado", explicó Martínez. "Incluso uno de los
presos quiso enfrentarme porque decía que no lo dejaban usar el teléfono
debido a mi huelga. Otros presos le aclararon que el gobierno hacía eso
para manipularnos".

En La Habana, sus colegas y amigos no se quedaron callados e iniciaron
una cruzada de solidaridad. En octubre del 2012 un grupo de activistas y
opositores cubanos dentro y fuera de la isla lanzó una campaña en
Facebook para exigir la inmediata liberación del periodista. La campaña
en Facebook reunió más de 1,000 firmas.

Mientras, otros frentes sumaron fuerzas por Martínez. La Sociedad
Interamericana de Prensa (SIP) exigió su excarcelación inmediata y el
Grupo de Trabajo sobre la Detención Arbitraria (GTDA) de las Naciones
Unidas y la Oficina del Alto Comisionado para los Derechos Humanos
analizó su situación legal y las posibles salidas humanitarias para
resolver el caso. También se envió una carta abierta al Papa Francisco.

Finalmente Martínez fue liberado en las primeras horas de la noche del 9
de abril. Pesaba 150 kilos. Muchos pensaron entonces que el periodista
dejaría por un largo tiempo su trabajo pero, lejos de silenciarlo,
retomó su quehacer con más empeño.

"Me gusta escribir, es una pasión, pero es también la necesidad de hacer
periodismo independiente", dijo Martínez. "El gobierno (cubano) puede
decir que todo está bien, aunque en Cuba sabemos que no es así. Siempre
hay muchas cosas que informar".

Source: "Calixto Martínez, el periodista que destapó la epidemia de
cólera en Cuba - Cuba - ElNuevoHerald.com" -
http://www.elnuevoherald.com/2013/06/18/v-fullstory/1502233/calixto-martinez-el-periodista.html Continue reading
Publicado el viernes, 06.14.13 Disidentes piden apoyo internacional tras un incremento de la represión en Cuba Juan Carlos Chavez jcchavez@elnuevoherald.com Integrantes de la disidencia interna y el Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (MCL) intensificaron sus denuncias contra las autoridades de la isla al tiempo que hicieron un llamado a gobiernos democráticos y organizaciones de derechos humanos para [...] Continue reading