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Raul Castro

Cuban Government Extends Land Lease Period to 20 Years

14ymedio, Havana, 30 June 2017 — The latest Council of Ministers,
chaired by Raul Castro, has extended the term of the country's land
leases under the usufruct system to 20 years, but the leases can be
cancelled if the beneficiaries use illicit funds, according to an
announcement today in the official press.

The meeting analyzed the economic performance of the first half of 2017
and included the announcement of new measures "to improve
self-employment" and the decision to consolidate the experiment of
non-agricultural cooperatives.

According to Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, Minister of Economy and Planning,
the national economy behaved as planned. For the second semester, higher
levels of execution are expected with "the arrival of imported supplies
and the completion of contracts."

Marino Murillo Jorge, head of the Permanent Commission for
Implementation and Development, announced that it will no longer be for
10 years, but rather for 20, that a 'natural person' will be able to
enjoy the use of the land in usufruct, although he pointed out that
these lands remain "nontransferable property of the State and must be
kept in operation."

If the authorities detect that the person leasing the land has used
illicit financing, it may cancel the usufruct agreement, a move that
could be an answer to the recent announcements of Donald Trump's
administration to support local entrepreneurs to the detriment of state-
or military-owned and operated businesses.

During the Council of Ministers it was also announced that to receive
land, "natural persons have to work and manage it in a personal and
direct manner."

As of September 2016, 4.7 million acres of land had been delivered in
usufruct, representing 31% of the country's agricultural area. Starting
now, the taxes provided in the Tax Law concerning the use, possession
and idleness of the land, will gradually begin to be applied.

The lack of growth in the delivery of land is due, as Murillo explained,
to the fact that the number of requests have declined, since the
currently available land extensions "are less productive, with high
infestation from the invasive marabou weed, are far from the population
settlements and basic services, or have difficulty accessing water sources."

The measures to "improve self-employment," which were not explained to
the press, will be aimed at increasing control over entrepreneurs.

There was no report of any decisions made about the longed-for wholesale
market, the ability to import, or an increase in authorized occupations.

However, concerns were expressed about "the use of raw materials,
materials and equipment of illicit origin" in the private sector, in
addition to "breaches of tax obligations and underreporting of income,"
among other irregularities.

The authorities acknowledged that the presence of more than half a
million people in self-employment activities "confirms its validity as a
source of employment, while increasing the supply of goods and services,
with acceptable levels of quality."

The update of the policy of non-agricultural cooperatives was limited to
"concentrating efforts on consolidating the 429 already constituted."

The government reproaches these types of entities for "deviations from
the original idea for which they were created," their tendency to
increase prices, and the use of bank loans for "purposes other than the
concepts for which they were granted."

However, the Government recognized that this type of management
structure, authorized three years ago, "constitutes an alternative that
frees the State from the administration of economic activities,
production and services that are not considered primary," which will
continue to be treated as "an experiment" going forward.

Source: Cuban Government Extends Land Lease Period to 20 Years –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-government-extends-land-lease-period-to-20-years/ 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
Why Cuba's Brain Drain Looks Different
MAY 15, 2017 BY MONIKA DONIMIRSKA

COLLEGE PARK, Md., May 15, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Cuba is
experiencing a brain drain, though it's not the kind that forecasters
were predicting when the long-closed country began opening its borders.
It's internal brain drain, says Rebecca Bellinger, managing director of
the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business Office of
Global Initiatives and Center for International Business Education and
Research.

The small island nation's doctors and other highly skilled workers
aren't emigrating for more lucrative jobs in Miami and elsewhere. In
fact, they aren't emigrating at all. They're staying in Cuba, but moving
toward the burgeoning hospitality sector.

And it's posing a major new threat to Cuba, Bellinger says. „Cubans are
deciding that they'll have a higher quality of life if they enter the
travel and service industry."

To be sure, some highly skilled Cubans – doctors, lawyers, professors
and others – are leaving the country in search of opportunity. But many
more who are staying in Cuba are opting to leave their jobs because of
low state salaries or are taking on second jobs, becoming taxi drivers,
waiters and bellhops – jobs involving regular interaction with foreign
visitors and their hard currency. The government is experiencing a sort
of „drain" as well, as state workers flee their jobs for the more
lucrative private sector.

„These are people who are leaving the jobs for which they have been
trained," Bellinger says. „Last year, we met an English teacher who left
his rural school position to become a tour guide, both to use the
language he had learned and to gain access to hard currency."

Cuba's universities have long been regarded as the best in Latin
America, but in recent years, gross enrollment has been plummeting,
sparking additional worries.

The country maintains two forms of legal tender: the Cuban peso (CUP)
and the Cuban convertible peso (CUC). The CUC is pegged to the U.S.
dollar, and is many times more valuable than the CUP. Neither trades on
the global forex market. Most Cubans are paid in the weaker peso (CUP),
limiting their buying power. Visitors to the country use the CUC and
leave tips, and that's helping to fuel Cuba's internal brain drain.

Bellinger has been traveling to Cuba since 2010, studying what's
happening there as she forges experiential learning opportunities for
students and collaborative partnerships with the University of Havana
and its associated research centers. As part of her work with NAFSA, the
Association of International Educators, she has worked with the Office
of Foreign Assets Control, a Treasury Department unit that manages
sanctions, to educate the higher education community in the U.S. on
regulations that govern legal travel to Cuba. She also leads the CIBER
Faculty Development in International Business (FDIB) Program to Cuba for
faculty from across the U.S.

She has seen an uneven upturn in travel, steep in Havana, but shallow
everywhere else.

„Last year, we were told by a hotel manager that Havana has 100 percent
capacity in hotels all year long," she says. The capital city is so full
of foreign travelers today that it's scarcely recognizable from even a
year ago.

Travel to Cuba's secondary cities, meanwhile, has been generally missing
the boom. That's in large part because U.S. travelers have faced highly
restrictive travel conditions in the past and may not be aware of what
the island has to offer outside of Havana.

To be approved for travel to Cuba, Americans must have an itinerary that
aligns with one of 12 approved purposes, which include religious
activities, journalism, humanitarian projects and people-to-people
outreach. „And tourism is not one of them. This is not a destination
that U.S. citizens can just explore for sun and sand," Bellinger says.
That has kept most U.S. travelers in Havana for now, but gradually that
will change, Bellinger says, as U.S. relations with Cuba continue to evolve.

As Cuba looks to its future, Bellinger says, it must focus on these
eight things.

Support economic reforms: This has already begun, Bellinger notes, but
much work remains. The economic reforms announced in 2010 have
encouraged development and job creation in the non-state sector, which
has eased the financial burden on the state. Over 500,000 Cubans are now
self-employed in their own microenterprises and private cooperatives,
but the regulations that govern these businesses are still constraining.
For example, private restaurants are able to have only 50 seats, and
private companies are not permitted to import any goods or foodstuff to
support their business.

Address the dual currency issue: Rebuild the country around a single
currency, to level the playing field for Cubans and increase consumer
confidence.

Address salary issue: Traditionally esteemed, high-skilled work should
be appropriately compensated, to counter brain drain tendencies in the
country.

Invest in innovative capacity: „Because of Cuba's history," Bellinger
says, „it does not lack the ability to innovate. Just think about the
old jalopies." Closed off from much global trade, Cubans have long found
ways to maintain and retrofit 50-year-old automobiles. „That type of
innovation exists," she says, „but so do impressive global innovations
in health, biomedical and pharmaceutical fields.

Ease access to information: Access to the internet has increased in
Cuba, with about 2,000 homes in Havana authorized to receive the
internet directly and with the number of Wi-Fi hotspots growing
virtually every day. „It is fantastic," Bellinger says, „that the
government is no longer afraid of giving people access to information."
The country should encourage the democratization of the internet,
allowing greater accessibility at a fair and level price, she adds. In
most countries, internet prices are determined based on the amount of
data used. In Cuba, users are charged based on the types of websites
visited, with domestic websites costing less than foreign ones. Some
foreign websites are still blocked in Cuba.

Educate a generation of business leaders: For a half-century beginning
around 1960, the economy was generally controlled by the Cuban
government. Now, the country faces a crisis in business education: Who
will educate the next generation of business leaders, job creators and
entrepreneurs? The reforms that have allowed for the creation of private
business have not been supported with education, meaning that the
individuals starting and running small businesses do not have access to
the formal training they need to be successful. The Catholic Church has
begun a program that's similar to a masters of business program, and a
Miami-based nonprofit is doing some startup business training on what
Bellinger describes as „a very small scale." But education remains an
area where Cuba prohibits joint ventures with foreign entities, so
prospects for business education remain murky.

Improve transportation and infrastructure: Cuba has infrastructure
problems, „first and foremost," Bellinger says, making travel cumbersome
between Havana and the country's secondary cities. Addressing those
problem would spread economic development across the island.

Choose democracy: Elections are planned for 2018, when Cuban President
Raul Castro plans to step down. „But if there's going to be an election,
is it going to be fair? Who will be the key players? We don't know,"
Bellinger says. „It's as important as ever that Cuba listen to its
citizens."

Central to her suggestions is the notion of investing in human capital.
„At the end of the day," Bellinger says, „if you don't invest in human
capital – if you don't invest in your workforce – nothing is going to
change in Cuba."

Visit Smith Brain Trust for related content
at http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/faculty-research/smithbraintrust and
follow on Twitter @SmithBrainTrust.

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized
leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and
schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School
offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online
MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as
outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its
degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North
America and Asia.

Contact: Greg Muraski at 301-892-0973 or gmuraski@rhsmith.umd.edu

Source: Why Cuba's Brain Drain Looks Different | satPRnews -
http://www.satprnews.com/2017/05/15/why-cubas-brain-drain-looks-different/ Continue reading
LGBTQ Americans meet in Havana with fellow Cuban activists
BY STEVE ROTHAUS
srothaus@miamiherald.com

A delegation of American LGBTQ advocates met Saturday in Havana with
"leaders of Cuban civil society" who are demanding that the government
there recognize marriage for same-sex couples and create legal
protections for transgender Cubans.

The group from the U.S., organized by Cuban-American civil-rights
attorney Tico Almeida, includes Brad Sears, executive director of the
Williams Institute think tank at UCLA Law School; trans activist Dana
Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland; and Nadine Smith,
CEO of Equality Florida.

"I began my activism helping to found the International Gay and Lesbian
Youth Organization in the '80s and I'm pleased to have an opportunity to
return to those roots by connecting with activists in Cuba," Smith told
the Miami Herald just before she traveled to Havana.

"Florida has a special connection to the people of Cuba. Our state has
been a destination of hope and a beacon of light in the midst of a
brutal regime," Smith said. "Now, as a new, more open day dawns we must
maintain that relationship as the LGBT community worldwide continues the
fight for basic equality, justice and dignity under the law."

A year ago, Almeida and Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson were in
Cuba for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia events. In
Havana, they met with Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National
Center for Sex Education and daughter of Cuban leader Raúl Castro.

Before this week's trip to Havana, Almeida said he wants to "create
stronger connections" between LGBTQ people in Cuba and the United
States, and also hopes that Congress lifts all travel restrictions to
the island.

"Business leaders at our top companies like American Airlines, Google,
and Facebook have helped build bridges between Americans and the Cuban
people, and it's also important for the LGBT movement in the United
States to create stronger connections with the brave gay and lesbian
Cubans who are petitioning their government for the freedom to marry the
person they love," Almeida told the Herald.

"While we wait for the United States Congress to repeal the absurd
travel ban that still restricts Americans' freedom to travel to Cuba, we
can participate in legal 'people to people' travel opportunities that
allow us to meet with leaders of Cuban civil society and exchange ideas
about promoting fairness and equality for LGBT people in both countries."

Some Cuban-American LGBTQ activists in Miami are skeptical about the visit.

"While it's important to engage the Cuban people, I would be extremely
concerned about creating optics that support the Cuban Regime — a regime
that continues to suppress its people and the people of Venezuela," SAVE
Executive Director Tony Lima posted Saturday on Facebook.

"It is telling that Cuba's leading LGBTQ rights activist is the straight
daughter [Mariela Castro] of Raul Castro. We must not forget ONE family
has controlled Cuba for nearly six decades with brutal implications for
LGBTQ people during the far majority of that time," Lima continued. "I
hope the current LGBTQ delegation in Cuba will reach out to those voices
outside the regime and will be sensitive to its complex and painful
implications in our South Florida community. Be it Cuba, Venezuela or
Syria, we must all be vigilant in promoting basic human rights."

Herb Sosa, president of Unity Coalition, Miami's Hispanic LGBTQ-rights
group, said his organization "supports any and all efforts to assist the
Cuban people on the island in their path to civil liberties & freedom."

But, he added:

"Unity Coalition has maintained communications with dozens of LGBT
activists on the island — most of whom are routinely arrested, beaten,
jailed and kept away from these sort of media circus opportunities
orchestrated by the Castros. The real activists fighting for change in
Cuba are not allowed to meet with these well-intentioned U.S. activists."

Source: LGBTQ Americans meet in Havana with fellow Cuban activists |
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article150356007.html Continue reading
Lack of cash clouds Cuba's green energy outlook
By Sarah Marsh | CIRO REDONDO, CUBA

Cuba, battling a chronic energy deficit, has all the sunshine, wind and
sugar to fuel what should be a booming renewables sector - if only it
could find the money.

The country's first utility-scale renewable energy project, a biomass
plant in Ciro Redondo, is finally under construction thanks to an
injection of funds from China, a socialist ally and in recent years, the
communist-led island's merchant bank of last resort.

Turning Cuba's renewables potential into reality has become a state
priority over the past year since crisis-stricken ally Venezuela slashed
subsidized oil shipments to Cuba that were supposed to help power its
traditional plants.

Some foreign players in green energy, such as Spain's Gamesa and
Germany's Siemens, have shown early interest in the country. But the
overall paucity of foreign financing means that this project, being
carried out by Cuban-British joint venture Biopower, is still the
exception rather than the rule.

The financing puzzle is a crucial one to solve if cash-strapped Cuba is
to hit its target of renewables filling 24 percent of its energy needs
by 2030, up from 4 percent today, a strategy that would require billions
of dollars in investment.

The government announced last July it was rationing energy, raising
fears of a return to the crippling blackouts of the "Special Period"
after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The energy shortage comes at a
time when growing tourism and private business creation are generating
greater demand.

"The most challenging thing we have had to deal with in the last six
years of developing this project has been the financing," said Biopower
President Andrew Macdonald, while touring the site of the Ciro Redondo
plant.

The Scotsman, who has been doing business with Cuba for more than a
decade, said the U.S. blockade had "strangled" funding from Europe "and
other obvious sources", with banks afraid of sanctions.

His start-up Havana Energy joined forces with a subsidiary of domestic
sugar monopoly Azcuba to create Biopower in 2012, with a contract to
build five plants attached to sugar mills.

The plants are projected to use sugar cane byproduct bagasse and
fast-growing woody weed marabu as biofuels, costing around $800 million
to add some 300 MW to the grid.

Biopower was finally able this year to start building the first one,
thanks to a decision by China's Shanghai Electric Group Ltd to buy an
equity stake in Havana Energy. The JV is now looking for external
financing for the next four plants.

"We have to check whether the funders are open for the Cuban market or
not," said Zhengyue Chen, former investment manager at Shanghai Electric
and current Biopower chief financial officer.

RISKY INVESTMENT

Some international companies have shown an interest in gaining a
foothold in the slowly opening Cuban market, encouraged by a three-year
old investment law that allows full foreign ownership of renewables
projects.

Cuba last year signed a deal with Spain's Gamesa for the construction of
seven wind-powered plants and with Siemens for the upgrade of the
creaking power grid.

These are just preliminary agreements, however, which may not become
concrete contracts, Western diplomats based in Havana say, given
difficulty agreeing on a financing framework and actually securing the
funds.

On top of the U.S. trade embargo, which frightens banks from offering
Cuba loans, Cuba's payment capacity is questionable. While it has
improved its debt servicing record under President Raul Castro, it is
falling behind on paying foreign providers.

And it has little to offer as payment guarantees in hard currency. Its
state electricity utility generates revenue in Cuban pesos, which are
not traded internationally, only into convertible Cuban pesos at a
state-fixed rate. The government has promised to unify those two
currencies, but it is unclear how.

"If no currency indexation is provided from the government, significant
devaluation poses a great threat to investors' revenue," said World Bank
renewable energy expert Yao Zhao.

Moreover Cuba does not belong to multilateral institutions like the
Inter-American Development Bank that could provide external guarantees.

CHINESE FUNDING

That is likely to force further reliance on China, already Cuba's top
creditor in recent years, having offered loans as a way to hike trade
with the island. Shanghai Electric is importing and building the Ciro
Redondo plant, as well as helping finance it.

Project Manager Li Hui, already directing excavators shifting earth on
site, said he will stay on after the factory is built as the head of the
company's first branch in Cuba.

"We will hand them over a fully-functioning power plant," he said,
adding that Shanghai Electric had to bring over new building equipment
because the Cuban ones were antiquated and lacked spare parts.

But even Chinese largesse may have its limits. Chen said Biopower was
now in discussions with overseas funders, mainly from Europe, and hoped
to secure commercial funds for the second plant by the end of this year.

Macdonald said he hoped his project would be part of the launch of many
foreign participations in the energy sector.

"But today, we are still pioneers," he said.

(Editing by Christian Plumb and Edward Tobin)

Source: Lack of cash clouds Cuba's green energy outlook | Reuters -
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-energy-idUSKBN1720EB Continue reading
Repression in Cuba Comes in Many Forms
March 7, 2017
By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

HAVANA TIMES — Every Sunday, there is the "Los Chinos" agro-market fair
in the city of Holguin in eastern Cuba. Trucks loaded with produce come
from all over the country, mainly from its central provinces. As there
is competition and since the sellers can bulk buy on the farms, there
are lower prices than normal, which doesn't exactly mean that it's cheap.

Of course, the trucks have been rented out, the real owners of this
produce are the merchants known as "intermediaries". These trade
operators play an essential role in the development of agriculture
because they stimulate production by creating confidence in
commercialization. They logically make nice profits, maybe more than
what would be fair; but the problem here doesn't lie in their existence
as such, but in the many knots in the Cuban system which make balanced
regulation almost impossible.

In the 1980s, the government experimented with the so-called Farmers'
Free Markets (MLC) and then it was shut down by Fidel himself, who
couldn't stand the idea that some Cubans were "getting rich". In order
to cure his headache, he destroyed the emerging semi-free market.

In the '90s, a Party leader from Pinar del Rio spoke about reviving the
MLC in a televised Congress session (perhaps the IV Plenary session of
the Cuban Communist Party in 1991), where the idea alone unleashed
Fidel's rage on the spot and on live TV (I watched this) and then rumors
went round from Pinar that the person who dared share his opinion had
been dismissed of his responsibilities.

When hunger took its hold of Cuba, he sent brother Raul Castro to
announce "the same dog but with a different collar": the Agro-Market. I
remember that this was announced in an interview granted to Luis Baez
and was published in Granma and then repeated across the media. The
government journalist began his article by saying that he had been
looking for that interview with Raul for some time and that Raul had
finally taken some time out for him: it was pure theater! Both of them
knew what the objective was. Fidel never spoke about the subject.

Today, criminalizing the private sector because of its high prices
continues to be a subject of debate in Parliament, especially against
the famous Intermediaries; who are restricted or prohibited at times and
have their merchandise seized resulting in great losses. However, the
truth is that they don't dare to ban them because without them
completely because there wouldn't be commerce or stable farming production.

However, these are the larger merchants, who, even though they pay for
the same license as smaller ones, have completely different functions.
Small traders who sell at a higher price are the ones who mainly
purchase their products from the larger Intermediaries. Here in the
Holguin province, hundreds of small traders (push cart or bike sellers)
travel on Sundays to the capital city and they buy their produce from
the trucks at the Los Chinos market.

Every one of them with two or three sacks also provide work for horse
drawn cart drivers and bici-taxis operators who transport them to bus
and train stations paying for every sack. A lot of people benefit from
this trade, especially the government which charges them for the
license, taking 10% of gross sales, social security payments and fines
for any silly mistakes. All of this translates into the product's final
price, which reaches customers in urban neighborhoods where it often
costs double or triple the initial price.

However, the private sector in Cuba isn't only sentenced to having these
restrictions on growth which our laws impose on them; they are also
treated like a necessary evil, harassed by whimsical regulations. They
don't have a transparent and secure supply chain, nor do they have the
legal freedom to seek it out. They do this but they take risks.

On Sunday February 5th, at the Los Chinos market, dozens of
self-employed resellers had their sacks filled with produce bought from
equally legal intermediaries. A group of inspectors approached them and
they wanted to confiscate their purchases for having violated the
"anti-hoarding law". It seems outrageous but it's true. A great
discussion broke out and the police in charge of keeping order at the
market, intervened. In the face of the resistance that had been created
by those accused and others who were doubtful in helping the inspectors,
the police called for the Head of the Unit, a Major, who turned up on
the scene.

There were several people from my town of Mayari among the traders who
had their purchases taken away. One of them, Jose Ramon, usually sells
on my street and he told me the whole story. Then I confirmed what he
told me with another seller, not without first asking several others,
among the many who pass by here every day offering their garlic,
peppers, onions or bijol under the scorching sun.

The story goes that the Major arrived arrogantly and ordered those who
wouldn't stop protesting to shut up. He was met with: "You like getting
your hands on ham a lot. Ham is what the inspectors get, who make a
living by fining us for no reason; we work really hard to earn our
pesos," one of the boldest protestors said.

After a lot of wasted time (held for over three hours under the risk of
having their things confiscated and bad times), the police finally
guided the inspectors in their conversation with them to release the
purchases. Common sense won out, but this was just one more example of
government resistance to how the private sector runs in Cuba, even at
these incipient times.

Tradesmen didn't have so few rights even in medieval hamlets!" They had
unions and brotherhoods which united and protected them, Cuban
self-employed merchants don't.

There are many forms of repression, not just political repression. This
budding private sector, which has appeared with the self-employed, is
the seed to opening up our economy more, which is fundamental so that we
can reach economic and social progress. Repressing them and prohibiting
their development with laws and individual actions is just another way
to delay this essential path: it's another form of repression in Cuba.

Source: Repression in Cuba Comes in Many Forms - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=124021 Continue reading
Potatoes Return to the Rationed Market / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 23 February 2017 – The unrationed
distribution of potatoes, a symbol of Raul Castro's government, has
suffered a big setback. During the quarter of February, March and April,
the distribution of potatoes was returned to the ration market
throughout the country, with a limit of 14 pounds per person and
requiring the presentation of a ration book, according to announcements
made by the authorities in local media.

The measure has been taken to "ensure the population greater access to
the purchase of potatoes," says the official statement.

The purchase will be "recorded in the ration book and maintains the
value of one peso"

The user will receive "14 pounds per capita (two in the first month and
six in each of the two remaining months) at ​​state agricultural markets
(MAE) and bodegas." The purchase will be "recorded in the ration book
and maintains the value of one peso."

The areas that do not receive potatoes this month will be able to
acquire the pounds corresponding to February along with the six pounds
for March.

The potato was distributed exclusively in the controlled way until 2009
at a price of 0.45 Cuban pesos per pound, less than 2 cents US. After
that, sales were uncontrolled at a price of 1 Cuban peso ($0.04 US), an
amount the state described as subsidized.

Between the years 2014 and 2015, the potato harvest experienced
important growth, going from a little more than 53,000 tonnes, to
123,000 tonnes. But domestic consumption also grew with the greater
number of tourists coming to the country and the expansion of the
private sector, especially those dedicated to food services.

The distribution of the nationally grown potato, with a lower yield than
the imported, started this year in the municipalities of Artemisa, San
Antonio, Guira de Melena and Alquizar, where the potatoes are grown. In
the coming days potatoes will also arrive in the capital, where
consumers are anxiously awaiting them.

"Something had to be done because when the potatoes came, the only ones
who could buy them were the resellers and the hoarders," complains
Samuel, a retired resident of nearby Estancia Street, outside the Youth
Labor Army on Tulipan Street.

For the man, "the measure favors the poorest people," although he still
thinks that "the price is very high" for those who are living on a
pension. "I only get 180 Cuba pesos a month (roughly $7.20 US) and it's
not enough," he says.

"That was a decision from above, and it surprised a lot of people here,"
an official told 14ymedio

However, María Victoria, a worker at a foreign exchange store, believes
that "this is a step back, because at this point the ration book doesn't
have them." The state employee is surprised by the return of the potato
to the ration market. "Instead of going forward, I think we're going
backwards," she said.

In the Ministry of Agriculture, all the workers who enter the imposing
building and the drivers who wait outside for some official are talking
about potatoes. "That was a decision from above, and it surprised a lot
of people here," one of them tells 14ymedio, preferring to remain anonymous.

Last April, the Communist Party Congress ratified the Guidelines for
Economic and Social Policy, among which it was agreed "to continue the
orderly and gradual elimination of products on the ration
book." However, the decision has not been implemented so far.

Source: Potatoes Return to the Rationed Market / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata
– Translating Cuba -
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Statistics Reflect The Serious Crisis Of The Cuban Education System /
14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 1 February 2017 – The rapid aging of the
population, joined with the reduction in available resources and the
decline in the quality of teaching, are three of the features with which
the economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago has characterized the situation of
Cuba's educational system.

"In 2007, the government of Raul Castro declared that he could not
sustain the expenses of the educational system inherited from the
previous administration, since then the investment in education and
social spending in general have been reduced," Mesa Lago explained on
Saturday at a conference sponsored by the Center for Coexistence Studies.

"It was supposed that Cuba was going to have the same indicators as
Uruguay by 2025, but today not only has it reached the level of that
country, it has surpassed it," said the researcher referring to the
aging of the population.

Cuba is now the oldest country on the continent and this has a direct
impact on the education system. The students enrolled in primary school
have been fewer year after year. As has the numbers in their productive
years, which in the opinion of the economist poses a serious danger,
because that segment of the population is responsible for financing
society's old and young.

Specifically, the education system has seen its budget shrink by 4
percentage points between 2008 and 2015.

Some of the measures that Raul Castro took when taking power were the
closure of "schools in the countryside," (boarding schools), as well as
the gradual elimination of more than 3,000 university seats opened by
his brother Fidel in the years of the Battle of Ideas. There has also
been a progressive readjustment in schools, closing those with less
enrollment, and moving the remaining students to other educational centers.

Castro also eliminated costly programs like social worker programs,
which graduated thousands of young people who ended up controlling fuel
consumption at gas stations or handing out refrigerators and light bulbs
in massive exchange programs. Programs for emerging teachers and art
instructors were also dismantled, while universities for older adults
and the use of technological devices in classrooms were reduced.

Between 1989 and 2007 there was an increase of the offerings of careers
in the area of ​​humanities and social sciences were greatly increased,
while university-related careers in the natural sciences were greatly
reduced.

With Raul Castro in command, the panorama changed radically with a
decrease of 83% in humanistic careers and a 13% increase in those
related to the natural sciences.

However, university enrollment declined by 30% in 2014, a trend shared
by other sectors, such as secondary education, where enrollment dropped
by 11%.

Mesa Lago recognizes that universal and free access to education is a
very important achievement that has had positive effects "in the lower
income sectors such as Afro-Cubans, women and peasants." However, the
researcher emphasized that the ideologization of education and absolute
control of the State on educational projects are its most important
shortcomings.

Another criticism, in the opinion of Mesa Lago, is teachers' salaries,
which are among the lowest in the continent. The average salary of the
educational sector is 537 Cuban pesos, which is equivalent to 21.40
dollars a month.

"Cuba has extraordinary human capital, but it is lost because it
emigrates to other economic endeavors that have higher remuneration," he
explained.

According to a study carried out by the academic, in 2015 real wages
adjusted for inflation only covered 28% of the purchasing power of
incomes in 1989.

In order to guarantee the presence of a teacher in front of the
classroom, the Government has had to transfer teachers from one region
to another, as has been the case in Matanzas and Havana, where there is
a significant presence of teachers from the eastern region of Cuba.

Although Cuba does not participate in the international examinations
that measure the quality of educational programs, the government itself
has offered a mea culpa for the deterioration of the system.

Mesa Lago proposes eleven points to take into account in the future of
the management of the educational system. According to the economist,
resources must focus on the population most in need in the poorest
provinces. The demand for work for training programs should also be
taken into account.

To achieve the sustainability of the system, the economist proposes to
collect tuition in higher education from those with a high income. The
education system must be open and oriented to the world market.

Another important aspect is to offer more university careers in those
specialties of greater demand. The fair payment to teachers and the
opening to private education, through the de-ideologization of the
educational system, would be indispensable for the future of the Island.

Finally, the academic proposes to restore the financial autonomy of the
research centers so that they can attract international investments and
allow self-employment in the educational area.

Source: Statistics Reflect The Serious Crisis Of The Cuban Education
System / 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/statistics-reflect-the-serious-crisis-of-the-cuban-education-system-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
The Castro Clan is Fighting over Point Zero, Fidel Castro's Home / Juan
Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 13 January 2017 — Point Zero has unleashed a conflict
between the Castro Soto del Valles and their cousins of the "emporium,"
the Castro Espins (Raul Castro's children), who are trying to expel
Dalia, Fidel Castro's widow, and her children from the strategic property.

It all seem carefully calculated, to maintain the appearance of a
well-groomed, well-brought-up happy family. Health, fame, money, power,
good moods and excellent humor; but less than three months since Fidel's
death, the fight between the members of the clan for the exercise of
power over the famous parcel that for years served as the refuge of the
former commander-in-chief, has become the beginning of a great soap
opera that promises to have many episodes.

Located to the west of Havana, in the municipality of Playa, in the
Jaimanitas neighborhood, exactly at 232 Street between 222nd and 238th,
is Point Zero, the apple of discord.

"They are pushing to get Dalia out of Point Zero," says one of the
bodyguards of the late Commander-in-Chief who, in addition, adds that he
feels hurt because none of the bodyguards were invited to the funeral.

"A lack of respect, a personal affront, and to justify the eviction they
come up with three cheap justifications," says the source.

1 – They are going to destroy everything so that nothing is left and no
one else can access the "last estate" of Fidel Castro.

2 – They are going to convert Point Zero into a museum with limited
access. Remodel it and include it as a part of an exclusive and
obligatory tour that will only be shown to important visitors.

3 – They are going to maintain the property as the temporary residence
for future Heads of State of the island.

I do not know what the outcome will be of this truculent story. But what
I do know, is that, by resolution, the properties used and enjoyed by
the maximum leaders do not appear on the Registry of Property because
they are a part of the "Associated Housing and Possessions Linked to the
Council of State" and cannot be inherited.

The provision is that the widows abandon the property where they lived
with the political leader. This was the case with the wives of José
Alberto "Pepín" Naranjo and Carlos Rafael Rodríguez, to cite
the examples of two deceased leaders.

But of course, there is always an exception. I know of one.
The "leadership of the country," understood to mean Raul Castro, for
personal interest and affection, is authorized under the
incontrovertible power of … "I feel like it," to transfer a property
from the regime's "Basic Possession" to "Personal Property."

"Dalia can be called the most varied epithets; but she was the wife of
Fidel and dedicated herself to that man. If they confront her, I assure
you that we are going to see the unleashing of the tongue of more than
one* Castro Soto del Valle" according to the firm statement of one of
the many former daughters-in-law of the dead commander.

*Translator's note: Fidel and Dalia had five sons and Fidel had another
son with his first wife and other acknowledged children.

Source: The Castro Clan is Fighting over Point Zero, Fidel Castro's Home
/ Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -
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Arkansas congressman to reintroduce legislation to ease trade
restrictions with Cuba
By Frank E. Lockwood
This article was published today at 5:45 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- A congressman from northeast Arkansas will reintroduce
legislation to ease trade restrictions with Cuba, and says he's hopeful
that barriers to agricultural sales will be addressed early in 2017.

But there's plenty of uncertainty after the Nov. 8 presidential election
and the Nov. 25 death of Fidel Castro, the 90-year-old former Cuban
president.

It's unclear whether President-elect Donald Trump would be willing to
support the bill, which is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, a
Republican from Jonesboro.

The federal government currently bars farmers from extending credit to
Cuban purchasers. As a result, Cubans must provide "cash in advance"
whenever they purchase U.S. agricultural products. Crawford's
legislation would allow credit to be extended, a change favored by many
of the state's farm groups.

NATIONAL
H.R. 3687, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act, also would have allowed
Americans to invest in Cuban agricultural businesses that are not
controlled by the government there.

Arkansas produces roughly half of the nation's rice. The state, along
with Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina, also is one of the largest
poultry producers.

Chicken and rice are dietary staples in Cuba, population 11.3 million,
and Natural State farmers are eager to do business there.

Crawford's bill had 48 co-sponsors, including U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman,
a Hot Springs Republican. But it encountered fierce opposition,
particularly from the Cuban-American community.

"There were a whole lot of folks that just wanted to make sure Fidel
Castro was dead before they considered anything," Crawford said.

Now that the Cuban revolutionary leader is gone, it may be easier for
the legislation to advance, he said.

"We're not trying to do anything that would empower the regime,"
Crawford said.

But America shouldn't surrender the Cuban market to communist
competitors from China and elsewhere, Crawford said.

"We can play a positive role there, fill that void, give them a cheaper,
safer more readily available food supply or we can continue to view this
through the lens of the Cold War and allow them to continue down that
communist road that doesn't work for anybody," he said.

Before the rise of Castro, the U.S. was a major supplier of rice to
Cuba. But the trade ended with the implementation of an economic embargo
by the United States in the early 1960s.

Restrictions on the sale of certain agricultural products were eased
during the Clinton administration and by 2004 U.S. rice sales reached
$64 million. The exports ended, however, after the U.S. government
barred farmers from extending credit to Cuban purchasers.

Over the past two years, President Barack Obama has taken steps to
normalize relations between the United States and its communist
neighbor, opening an embassy in Havana, adding daily flights, removing
barriers to travel and allowing increased imports of Cuban cigars and rum.

The prohibition on agriculture credit, however, remains.

Despite the thaw, critics say the Cuban regime has done little to
improve human rights or to allow political dissent.

Castro's demise hasn't altered conditions on the island, they say.

"Fidel Castro may be dead, but the regime is still well alive," said
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, a Republican from Rogers who has opposed the
farm credit legislation. "I've got some very serious concerns about what
we do that serves to funnel more money into the hands of what I believe
is a very corrupt ... and oppressive regime."

U.S. Rep. French Hill said there's no evidence that Cuba is embracing
free enterprise or freedom of speech, assembly and religion now that
Castro's brother, Raul Castro, is at the helm.

In fact, conditions may be worsening, he said.

"We clearly want our farm goods to get to Cuba. It's a small but close
market to us," the Little Rock Republican said. "But the conditions have
to be right for that to happen in Cuba."

Trump has also been critical of efforts to normalize relations with Cuba
and is threatening to reverse course once he takes office.

"If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the
Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate the
deal," Trump tweeted in late November.

Westerman isn't sure what to expect once the new administration arrives.

"I don't know how willing the Trump administration will be to deal with
Cuba on trade," he said. "The fact that Fidel Castro's dead now, I think
makes it a little more palatable, but I haven't seen them make any big
changes in the government down there yet. Maybe trade is a way to spur
those changes on."

Westerman said he continues to support efforts to facilitate the sale of
farm products.

"I hate to use food as a negotiating tool anywhere. I think that's been
a foreign policy mistake in the past. When we had the grain embargo with
Russia, the only people that were hurt out of that were American
farmers," he said.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, who has co-sponsored legislation to ease trade
restrictions with Cuba, said he remains hopeful that barriers to
agricultural sales can be removed in 2017.

"We've heard some rhetoric, but we don't really know how" the Trump
administration will react to Cuba, Boozman said.

The Rogers Republican said the U.S. should have consistent trade
policies, noting that the U.S. trades freely with most other
non-Democratic regimes.

"We trade with Saudi Arabia, we trade with Vietnam. We trade with
everybody, I think probably, except for the North Koreans, so there's no
reason that we shouldn't start moving in that direction," he said.

Improved trade relations with Cuba "would be good for America, good for
Arkansas," he added.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson favors allowing farmers to extend credit to Cuban
buyers, but says legislation allowing the change may be "on a slower
path over the next six months than the trajectory we were on before."

"The death of Fidel Castro significantly changed the environment. ...
The United States, in my judgment, is waiting for a signal of greater
openness and a willingness to change," he said.

If that message is transmitted, trade between the countries will likely
accelerate, he added.

Members of the Engage Cuba Coalition's Arkansas State Council, which
promotes U.S-Cuba trade, are hopeful closer ties will develop.

Ben Noble, executive director of the Arkansas Rice Federation, said
access to the Cuban market will be a priority in 2017.

"If ever there was a time for full engagement with Cuba, it is today,"
he said.

Another member, Newport farmer Derek Haigwood, agrees.

"I do grow rice, and, oh, it would just be a wonderful thing if we could
open up that market," he said.

If Arkansas farmers make inroads in Cuba, "it's just something that
would lift this economy up," he added.

Source: Arkansas congressman to reintroduce legislation to ease trade
restrictions with Cuba -
http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2017/jan/02/2nd-try-in-works-for-trade-in-cuba-2017/?f=news-arkansas Continue reading
Cuban President Raul Castro faces deep problems in 2017
Castro must manage economic and diplomatic challenges during a year of
transition
Published: 16:15 December 26, 2016
AP

Havana: Alex Romero was delighted when President Barack Obama came to
Havana in March bearing the promise of a bright new future.
Like so many other Cubans, the 42-year-old state photography shop
employee thrilled at the president's vision of restored ties between the
US and Cuba. Families would reunite. A flood of American business would
lift the stagnant centrally planned economy, fuelling its slow path
toward reform. Even as Obama spoke, an 80 per cent surge in US visitors
was drenching state-run and private businesses with hundreds of millions
of desperately needed dollars.
Nine months later, the world seen from Havana looks very different.
President Raul Castro faces what could be his toughest year since he
took power in 2006. 2017 brings a possible economic recession and a US
president-elect who has promised to undo Obama's normalisation unless
the Cuban government makes new concessions on civil rights. Resistance
to pressure from Washington is a founding principle for the Cuban
communist system, making domestic concessions in exchange for continued
détente a virtual impossibility.
"People expected that after Obama came there would be changes in the
relationship between the US and Cuba but that we could keep the best of
what we have, the benefits for the people," Romero said. "Trump's not
going to be able to get what he wants, another type of Cuba. If the
world's number one power takes us on, 2017 is going to be really bad for
us."

Castro must manage these twin economic and diplomatic challenges during
a year of transition. The 85-year-old general has promised to hand over
the office in early 2018 to a successor, widely expected to be Miguel
Diaz-Canel, a 56-year-old official with neither the Castro name nor
revolutionary credentials. The change will occur without Castro's older
brother Fidel, the revolutionary leader whose largely unseen presence
endowed the system he created with historical weight and credibility in
the eyes of many Cubans before he died last month at 90.
"Even if those two events hadn't taken place — Trump's victory and
Fidel's death — 2017 was going to be a very difficult year for Cuba,"
said Cuban economist Omar Everleny Perez, a visiting professor at Keio
University in Tokyo.
Cuba publishes few credible economic statistics, but experts expect the
country to end this year with gross domestic product growth of 1 per
cent or less. It maintained a rate close to 3 per cent from 2011-2015.
One bright spot is tourism, booming since Obama and Castro's December
17, 2014, détente announcement set off a surge in overall visitor
numbers, up more than 15 per cent in 2015 and again this year.
"I've never seen as many tourists as I have this year," said Magalys
Pupo, a street-corner pastry vendor in Old Havana. "They're everywhere
and they're the income that we need in this country."
The slowness of macroeconomic growth despite a surge of interest in
foreign investment and the greatest tourism boom in decades attests to
both long-term mismanagement of the Cuban economy and the depth of the
crisis in other sectors, particularly aid from Venezuelan in the form of
deeply subsidised oil.
Analysts believe that as Venezuela's Cuba-inspired socialist economy has
disintegrated, exports to Cuba has dropped from 115,000 barrels daily in
2008 to 90,000 in recent years to 40,000 a day over the last few months.
Venezuela was the prime destination alongside Brazil for Cuban doctors
and other professionals whose salaries go directly to the Cuban
government, providing another vital source of hard currency believed to
be slackening in recent years. Nickel, another of Cuba's main exports,
has seen a sharp price drop this year.
The revenue drop may be creating a vicious cycle for Cuba's state-run
industries. Experts say cutbacks in imported industrial inputs this year
will lead to lower productivity in Cuba's few domestic industries in
2017 and make zero growth or recession highly likely.
"Raul Castro's government has a year left and it should be planning what
needs to be done," said Pavel Vidal, a Cuban economist at the
Universidad Javeriana in Cali, Colombia. "Above all, it will be managing
a crisis."
The government cut back summer working hours and gas rations for
state-owned vehicles and has so far avoided any sustained power outages.
But a crackdown on black-market gasoline sales to taxi drivers led them
to increase prices, causing drivers to raise their prices, squeezing
many Cubans already struggling to get by on state salaries of about $30
(Dh110) a month. Many Cubans say, however, that worsening conditions
could drive them to rally around the government rather than against it.
"It's going to be a tough year," said Antenor Stevens, a 66-year-old
retired public water specialist. "We're a people who've suffered a lot.
We've felt a lot of need, but there's still a revolutionary consciousness."
One cushion will be remittances from Cuban expatriates in the United
States and other countries, estimated by some experts to be in excess of
$3 billion a year and rising as Cubans flood to the United States in
fear that they may soon lose special immigration privileges.
Another bright spot is Cuba's growing private sector, particularly
businesses boosted by increased demand from tourists.
While rising food prices are a constant problem for ordinary Cubans,
many of those investing in food production are finding success.
Fernando Funes, owner of a farm that supplies vegetables to about 30
private restaurants in Havana, most with tourist clienteles, has nearly
doubled his workforce from 12 to 20 in recent years, all earning about
$25 a week. Five have begun cultivating their own plots of land
alongside to produce food for sale to similar clients.
"We have a lot more opportunities to start projects these days," Funes
said. "Personally I'm optimistic about 2017."

Source: Cuban President Raul Castro faces deep problems in 2017 |
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Cuba's Ration Book Survives For Another Year / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 22 December 2016 — At the end of
this month the ration market quotas for January 2017 will go on sale.
Cubans who depend on products distributed at subsidized prices will
gather outside the bodegas, in long lines, for the 55th anniversary of
the ration book, whose elimination continues to be one of Raul Castro's
unmet projects.

In 2014, the average monthly salary on the island increased by 24%, to
584 Cuban pesos (some 24 dollars). Despite this increase, many families
still depend on the subsidized prices maintained by the ration card.
Their income does not allow them to pay the prices in the
supply-and-demand markets or in the retail network of stores in Cuban
Convertible pesos.

Different analysts and official functionaries have warned that the
elimination of the ration book could cause a fall in the standard of
living in the most vulnerable sectors of the population, among whom are
the retired and families who don't receive any additional income beyond
their state salaries.

Among the Guidelines approved by the Seventh Communist Party Congress,
last April, it was agreed "to continue the orderly and gradual
elimination of the ration book products." However, so far, the proposal
has not gone into effect, in part because of the poor economic
development experienced by the country in recent years.

Cuba's gross domestic product will grow only 0.4% this year, its lowest
level in the last two decades, as recently confirmed by the Economic
Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Faced with this
reality, the government has not been able to improve people's purchasing
power or dismantle the rationed market.

The Government is faced with the dilemma of maintaining the enormous
infrastructure and the hefty costs of prolonging the life of the ration
book or suppressing it, with the consequent deepening of poverty for
various social groups. Such a measure would have an undeniable political
impact on a process that has been defined as a revolution "by the humble
and for the humble."

Officialdom has repeated on several occasions that it is preferable to
"subsidize people rather than products," but the rationed quota is still
given to every citizen equally, even those who have reached an above
average level of income. The practice has focused on removing products
from the subsidized basic market basket.

Rice, grains, oil, sugar, salt, eggs, chicken and bread are some of the
foods that are still subsidized, while other goods have been removed
from the ration book altogether, including liquid detergent, bath and
washing soap, toothpaste, beef and cigarettes.

During the 1970s and '80s it was virtually impossible to live without
ration book products. This phenomenon resulted in, among many other
ills, low internal migration and a greater control of the State over the
citizens.

Currently, the mobility of the population to provincial capitals and
especially to Havana has increased as a result of the easing of the
policy on rental housing. The ability to purchase food and hygiene
products outside the rationing system has also contributed to the
phenomenon.

The emergence of a parallel market that includes state establishments
and private bakeries has also been hugely important to the process of
citizen independence. Ration book bread, a recurring theme in the
"accountability meetings" of the People's Power, a topic of critical
analysis in the official press and a target of mockery for the majority
of Cuban comedians, has lost its importance.

Families with better incomes have given up standing in the traditional
lines to get bread for 10 centavos in national currency (less than one
cent on the US dollar). They prefer to go to the private bakeries that
offer a wide variety of products at unregulated prices.

The bodegas with empty shelves and a blackboard listing the products of
the month have become, along with the old American cars that still
circulate on the streets of the island and the billboards with political
messages, among the photographic trophies taken by tourists as part of
the social landscape of Cuba.

The disappearance of the ration book will have to wait until the
completion of the gradual reforms announced by the authorities. There
will probably be more who mourn its end than those who will celebrate
it, but the day will come when some incredulous grandchild will listen
to his grandfather repeat stories of "that era when everyone ate the
same thing on the same day in the whole country."

Source: Cuba's Ration Book Survives For Another Year / 14ymedio, Marcelo
Hernandez – Translating Cuba -
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No Right to Breakfast / Cubanet, Tania Diaz Castro

Cubanet, Tania Diaz Castro, Havana, December 12, 2016 – When in 2006
Raul Castro took power, one of the first things he said was that he
would give a glass of milk a day to every Cuban. He knew very well the
importance that the people gave to the strong tradition of having
breakfast with coffee with milk and a piece of bread with butter. Even
during the years of the Republic years it was within reach of the
poorest in any cantina, inn, kiosk, or cafeteria.

Starting in 1991, with the collapse of Soviet communism, Cubans'
breakfast disappeared. In this way, Fidel's permanent teaching failed,
when he had said: "Yes we can."

It was simply not possible for dairy industry to supply enough milk,
although in a speech in December 1966 Fidel predicted that he would fill
Havana Bay with milk because "in 1970 the island will have 5,000 experts
in the livestock industry and around 8 million cows and calves, good
milk producers."

A little history

The Cuban dairy industry began its great development in 1927, under the
government of Gerardo Machado. A few years later, when our population
was 6 million, the island had one head of cattle per person and the
price of meat was one of the lowest in Latin America. Cuba's annual milk
production was 1,014 million quarts, equivalent to 157 quarts per person
per year.

According to economic data of those years, and as we Cubans of the third
age remember it, in Cuba an excellent butter was produced, as well as
good cheese, condensed, evaporated or powdered milk, and a quart of
fresh milk could be acquired daily And at modest prices, thanks to
private companies and modern factories, which disappeared practically at
the beginning of the Castro dictatorship, when in 1960 Che Guevara was
appointed Minister of Industry.

What the future says

Just a few hours ago, on the occasion of the visit of a senior Russian
leader, General Raúl Castro offered great news: The government of Russia
would participate in the island's economy! ¡Madre mía! I hope it's not
so that they will again send us Russian canned meats swimming in water
instead the meat of good native cattle.

The future of the domestic industry, especially of food products, is
uncertain. It is an industry that is unable to participate actively in
resolving the country's shortcomings. One of its problems, Commander
Ramiro Valdés said recently, is the exodus and the lack of discipline of
the workers and, above all, the bad technological and risky conditions
in plants and factories.

Just to give one example, in 2014, a factory, the only one of its kind
for dairy products, began operating in Ciego de Avila at a cost of 800
thousand pesos in hard currency. Its commercial director, Pérez de
Corcho, informed the newspaper Granma in February 2015 that: "The
factory does not work at full capacity because for months there has been
low milk production in the territory, even though what is produced was
destined for the tourist-focused cities of Jardines del Rey, Venezuela
and Ciego de Avila."

The current reality

Today, even with all the juggling they do, Cubans cannot have
breakfast. In order for a family consisting of couple and two children,
for example, to be able to afford their daily breakfast, they would have
to have about 50 Cuban Convertible pesos per month, equivalent to more
than one thousand Cuban pesos, in a country where the average wage of a
worker does not exceed four hundred pesos in national currency. (That
is, two-and-a-half monthly salaries, just for breakfast.)

This is because the imported products — milk, coffee and butter — come
from very distant countries, although they can also be seen in Latin
America, with the exception of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and
Nicaragua, from where we get no foods, neither expensive nor cheap.

The privilege of having breakfast is enjoyed only by Cubans who receive
family remittances, principally from the United States, so they can buy
things in Cuban Convertible pesos. The ordinary Cuban, which is almost
everyone, has irretrievably lost this right.

Our food industry, we are faced with an irrefutable truth, thanks to
Cuban communism has gone to hell in a handbasket.

Translated by Jim

Source: No Right to Breakfast / Cubanet, Tania Diaz Castro – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/no-right-to-breakfast-cubanet-tania-diaz-castro/ Continue reading
New Cuba reform allows farmers to hire workers directly
Economy 21 hours ago (Dec 16, 2016 04:05PM ET)

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban farmers may now hire laborers directly rather
than through cooperatives, the government said on Friday, marking a
modest advance to loosen controls in its Soviet-style economy.
Communist-led Cuba has introduced a series of reforms under President
Raul Castro but the pace of change has slowed in the past year, raising
questions about its commitment to reform.
"The new resolution aim fundamentally to stimulate the hiring of workers
related to agricultural labor in an agile, orderly and legal way," Cuban
state-run media wrote on Friday.
In other sectors of the economy, like restaurants, Cuba has already
allowed small business holders to directly hire staff.
The new regulations are positive in that they streamline labor
conditions, analysts said, but they were not enough.
"This is a step in the right direction but these remain isolated
measures allowing Cuba to advance at a snail's pace," said ex-Cuban
central bank official Pavel Vidal, who is now a professor at Universidad
Javeriana Cali in Colombia.
"The demand for food has risen together with the arrival of tourists to
the island, so it is crucial to do away with the hurdles to production,"
he said, citing as examples the dual currency and restrictions to trade.
Like many of its Caribbean neighbors, Cuba imports more than two-thirds
of its food, despite having rich farmland and demand is rising as
tourism increases.
Market reforms have aimed to boost production. One measure has been to
hand out land to new farmers.
Yet Cuba has backtracked on some reforms in the past year, for example
restoring some price controls in the face of rising food costs. Analysts
say this may ease the short-term pain for Cuban consumers but it is
counterproductive in the longer term.
Paolo Spadoni, the author of several books on the Cuban economy, said
Cuba should on the contrary liberalize distribution, reduce the state
quota for Cuban producers and give farmers freer rein to set their own
prices.
"(This reform) signals the urgency to tackle major problems in
agriculture," said Spadoni, associate professor of political science at
Augusta University in the United States. "But the resolution alone will
do little to boost production and efficiency unless it will be
accompanied by additional changes."

Source: New Cuba reform allows farmers to hire workers directly By
Reuters -
http://www.investing.com/news/economy-news/new-cuban-reform-allows-farmers-to-hire-workers-directly-448407 Continue reading
Mariela Castro's Disrespect in New York / Cubanet, Jorge Angel Perez

Cubanet, Jorge Ángel Pérez, Havana, 1 December 2016 — A cable from the
Cuban press agency Prensa Latina, written by Waldo Mendiluza, warned me
that the sexologist, parliamentarian, and daughter of Raul Castro, was
in New York.

According to the cable, the director of Cuba's National Center for
Sexual Education (CENESEX) spoke to the United nations about the social
justice that distinguished the Revolution that triumphed in 1959, and
also the way in which this "generous politician" was dealing with the
rights of Cuba's LGBTI community.

According to the cable, Mariela praised the transformations on the
island, at all levels, during the nearly six decades of the "Revolution"
in power, and added that these developments contributed to the Cuban
population being much more open to an understanding of social justice,
facilitating this kind of work against homophobia and other prejudices.

The assertion that "this scenario means that, even when there are
problems, they are not expressed through violence, with exceptions, as
happens in other countries with major advances in legislation in the
matter of the rights of the LGBTI community," is odd.

And the oddity is that again, this official discourse is more interested
in defending things, that is the "Revolution," rather than persons, when
it should be the exact opposition, and it seems disrespectful to me. No
object deserves more respect than a person.

As we have known for a long time, respect is one of man's greatest
virtues. No wonder Zeus sent his son Hermes to teach men respect and
justice, and this is what the homosexual community in Cuba most needs:
respect and justice.

It is thoughtless to say that violence against homosexuals is less in
Cuba than in the rest of the world. To forget that homosexuals have
suffered from violence is thoughtless. To forget that homosexuals have
been been victims of institutional homophobia is thoughtless. It is
impolitic not to recognize that the "Revolution" did not care for the
integrity and dignity of lesbians, gays and transexuals. We need to talk
about this every day and name those responsible.

It is insolent to once again try to care for institutions, things,
instead of protecting those men and women who prefer, each one of those
days, those like themselves. Nothing can advance if praising the
"goodness" of a "revolution" marginalizes homosexuals.

It is counterproductive to defend the politics of a revolution that
created concentration camps for homosexuals, that expelled them from the
universities, and called them "deviant." It is odd that the voice
singing of this "policy of vindication" is a heterosexual woman who
doesn't know the suffering of those she "represents" and "defends."

In Cuba there is violence against homosexuals and to deny it is
embarrassing. In this country they continue to be repressed, and hate
crimes are not solved. In Cuba, the moral judgment of its institutions
remains opposed to freedom. I, for one, have not seen the documentary
"Mariela Castro's March: Cuba LGBTI," which was presented at the United
Nations on 17 November in the presence of the director of CENESEX, and
broadcast on HBO on 28 November.

It would be fair to put it on Cuban television in primetime. It was
presented at the last Festival of New Latin American Cinema, albeit with
some discretion, and could not be expected to act otherwise if the
testimonies of some homosexuals who were offended by the homophobic
policies of the "Cuban revolution" appear on the tape.

That is not, apparently, the fate of "Santa and Andres," a film whose
main subject, according to its director, is "freedom, freedom,
freedom"; that's disrespectful, as is the fact that Mariela Castro will
use her visit to New York to do some shopping.

That day a friend wrote telling me he had seen her at The Home Depot
where apparently she was trying to buy lightbulbs, I guess to light her
home. And I wonder if she decided to buy the same energy saving bulbs I
am forced to buy.

Mariella Castro buys lightbulbs in Manhattan, despite the fact that in
an interview on Cuban television conducted by the journalist Cristina
Escobar, she assured the viewers that her salary doesn't last her to the
end of the month.

Source: Mariela Castro's Disrespect in New York / Cubanet, Jorge Angel
Perez – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/mariela-castros-disrespect-in-new-york-cubanet-jorge-angel-perez/ Continue reading
Cuba's Private Restaurant Owners are Worried / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana 20 October 2016 — Chinese, Italian or
international food fill the menus of Cuban paladares, but lately fear
has starred as the main dish on the menu of these private restaurants.
The jewel in the crown of entrepreneurship on the island is experiencing
moments of uncertainty after the government froze the issuing of
licenses for these businesses run by the self-employed.

In recent months food and beverage outlets have watched a parade of pop
stars, Hollywood actors, emblematic rock-and-rollers and even US
President Barack Obama through their establishments, but it is a
complicated time.

Even Camaguey province has been shocked, after the closure, at the
beginning of this month, of three of the most important
paladares operating in the city. Restaurant 1800 was searched by the
police, who confiscated some of the furniture and arrested the owner,
Edel Izquierdo. Two other paladares, Mi Hacienda and Papito Rizo's
Horseshoee, were also forced to close.

The suspension in the granting of new licenses for these premises has
stoked fears about a possible backward step in the reforms undertaken by
Raul Castro starting in 2008. Although officialdom has rushed to clarify
that this is a temporary measure, a sense of a country going backwards
to times of greater controls is felt on all sides.

The Acting Vice-President of the Provincial Administation in the
capital, Isabel Hamze, declared on national television this Wednesday
that "of the 135 license holders [of private restaurants] we met with
129 to alert them to a group of problems that cloud the services that
they offer and we explained them that, with these exchanges ended, it
was time to undertake an inspection."

The official noted that during several meetings with owners of the
private locales they discussed among other issues the consumption and
sale of drugs inside restaurants, along with evidence of prostitution
and pimping.

Hamze emphasized that those who acquired "money in Cuba or abroad
illegally" in order to "bring it to the island and launder it," need to
be on guard. "Nowhere in the world is it legal to launder money and it
is not permitted. We are not accusing anyone of doing it, we talked
about where their capital comes from," she said.

"The state can not compete with the privates, which in a short time have
managed to run more efficient and attractive places for foreign and
domestic customers," a waiter of the centrally located Doña Eutimia
Restaurant, nestled against the Havana Cathedral. The man believes that
the current "storm will pass, because otherwise it would go against the
times."

Most owners of these private premises prefer to keep silent. "He who
moved doesn't end up in the photo," joked a private restaurant owner on
23rd Street. "Everything is on hold, because no one dares to stand out
now," he added. "The repression of the paladares has come because some
have become nightclubs with musical programs that attract a lot of people."

According to updated data, more than 150,000 self-employed work in 201
occupations in Havana. There are more than 500 private restaurants
throughout the capital.

In some locations it has become common to alternate good food with shows
ranging from comedy, to magic, to fashion. Lately, the celebrated King
Bar has sent out invitations to spend October 30, Halloween night, with
costumes and frights.

The government undertakes inspections to guarantee strict compliance
with the rules that govern the operations of these establishments: no
more than 50 seats, limited hours, and the purchase of supplies
exclusively in state stores with receipts to prove it.

However, several entrepreneurs consulted by this newspaper agree that it
is difficult to manage a private restaurant following the letter of the
law. The shortages often experienced in the markets that sell in Cuban
convertible pesos, the lack of a wholesale market, and the prohibition
against commercial imports, hobble the sector and push owners to the
informal market.

In the Labor and Social Security Office on B Street between 21st and
23rd in Havana, this Tuesday, it was not possible to get a license to
open a paladar. "The licenses of those who already have them are not
suspended," but "the issuing of new licenses has been halted," declared
an official to the nervous entrepreneurs who came to the site for more
information.

The measure was preceded by meetings with the owners of paladares where
they were warned to comply with the law; officials from the National Tax
Administration Office (ONAT) and the police were at the meetings. The
answer has been felt immediately on the menus of the most emblematic
places, which have reduced their offerings to what can be purchased in
the state retail network.

Lobster and beef have been among the first items to disappear from the
menus, as most of these products are purchased on the black market from
suppliers who circumvent police roadblocks to bring them to the city.

The law criminalizes very severely the theft and illegal slaughter of
cattle – which is nearly all slaughter of cattle outside the state
system – in addition to the "illegal abetting" of such goods. Due to the
decrease in the number of cattle, to a little more than 4 million today,
the Government considers any irregularities in the slaughter and
marketing of these animals to be a serious violation of Penal Code.

However, of the 1,700 private restaurants that offer the country has
many typical dishes known as ropa vieja and vaca frita, among other
dishes made from beef. Given the current onslaught of the authorities, a
stealthy slogan is in play: survive and wait out the storm.

Source: Cuba's Private Restaurant Owners are Worried / 14ymedio, Luz
Escobar – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubas-private-restaurant-owners-are-worried-14ymedio-luz-escobar/ Continue reading
Cuba's Private Restaurants, Struggling Not to Die of Success /
EFE-14ymedio, Lorena Canto

EFE/via 14ymedio, Lorena Canto, Havana – Private restaurants, popularly
known as paladares (palates), are under the scrutiny of the Cuban
government, which has temporarily suspended the granting of licenses in
the sector due to alleged breaches of rules in a booming industry that
perfectly illustrates the new economy of the island.

"There has been very strong growth in a short time and it has gotten out
of hand," the self-employed owner of a very famous private restaurant in
Havana told EFE, as she prepared for inspections by the authorities in
the coming weeks.

In Cuba where, with the lack of official confirmations, the rumor mill
runs riot, a few days ago alarm spread among paladares on hearing that
the owners of the most prominent had been called to meetings – by
neighborhood – with government officials.

There they were told that there would be no new licenses for private
restaurants in the capital, and that there would be a round of strict
inspections to ensure that those now in operation were complying with
the law: no more than 50 seats, respect for the established hours, and
provisioning only with products purchased in state stores for which they
can show the receipts.

"The atmosphere is now very unclear," another owner of a pioneering
paladar, who also asked not to be named, told EFE.

So, the dining industry's private proprietors, awaiting the dreaded
inspections, fell into a paranoid spiral, which included hiding any
merchandise not obtained through official means and redoing the menus to
include only dishes and drinks made with ingredients for which they can
show the receipts.

Bottles of premium liquor that came to Cuba in a suitcase, exotic
ingredients or the celebrated lobsters, almost impossible to acquire by
legal means and bought directly from fishermen, remain under lock and
key these days, waiting for the dust to settle.

The problem is that the regulations governing self-employment, which are
part of the economic reforms introduced by Raul Castro in the last
decade, still have large gaps, like the lack of rules governing private
workers on the communist island, or a wholesale supply market.

"It's about sorting out a sector that started out as a part of the
family economy and has become an important part of the country's
economy," explained the same owner.

For some time now, the paladares have no longer been in the living rooms
of a private house where the lady of the house cooked for four tourists,
who in this way were given a peek into the daily life of a Cuban family.

There are 1,700 licensed paladares in Cuba, hundreds of them in Havana,
restaurants that rival international standards in quality, in original
décor and in service, and that from the beginning of the thaw with the
United States two years ago have received visitors such as Barack Obama,
Madonna and The Rolling Stones.

But in addition to competing with each other, they also compete with
ordinary Cubans at the supermarkets, because one of the great problems
of the industry is that it must be supplied at the same outlets as the
rest of the population, given the lack of any wholesale market, the
opening of which would be in the state's hands alone.

"The competition for products creates unrest among the population,
although it is not the direct fault of the self-employed," says the same
source.

In the state supermarkets – the only kind that exist in Cuba – EFE was
able to observe how national brands of beer barely last an hour on the
shelves, as the restaurants carry them out by the box full. The same
thing happens with soft drinks and products like chicken breasts and milk.

Hence, she adds, the private restaurants have long demanded a wholesale
market, which would also benefit the authorities "because it would allow
better fiscal control over the purchase invoices."

Another nuance of the situation, says one source, is the "special
sensitivity" of the government to issues such as prostitution and drug
trafficking, banned and severely punished on the Island, or access for
minors to places where alcohol is served.

The current legislation provides licenses only for restaurants and
cafes, so under these categories night bars have begun to proliferate,
some of which have been closed down in recent weeks, although this has
not been confirmed by any official source.

Source: Cuba's Private Restaurants, Struggling Not to Die of Success /
EFE-14ymedio, Lorena Canto – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubas-private-restaurants-struggling-not-to-die-of-success-efe-14ymedio-lorena-canto/ Continue reading
Owning a Restaurant Under the Cuban Embargo

In Cuba, the number of private restaurants, also known as paladares,
have soared. So, what is it like to own one of them?
Underground restaurants are revitalizing Cuba's dining scene, as well as
their economy.

For decades, all restaurants in Cuba were owned and run by the state.
Many of them thrived initially, but during the years before the collapse
of the Soviet Union, food became scarce. Most people were concerned with
simply getting enough to eat each day, so going to a restaurant was out
of the question.

Many of Cuba's restaurants subsequently failed and the country picked up
a nasty reputation for bad cuisine.

Then in 1993, Fidel Castro legalized several privately owned business
types, such as restaurants and salons, in hopes of boosting the
country's failing economy. This is when underground restaurants, known
as "paladares" first starting popping up everywhere. Initial regulations
stipulated that these private businesses must only employ family members
and typically restaurants could not have more than 20 seats.

In 2011 that number was increased to 50 under Raul Castro (Fidel's
brother) and Cuba again loosened restrictions on private businesses.
During the five years since then, the number of private restaurants in
Cuba went from 100 to 1,600.

Niuris Isabel Higueras Martínez has been cooking since she was nine
years old and owns one of the paladares in Havana. Her entire family
invested their own money in the restaurant, and her uncles gave the
tables and chairs from their own kitchens to use in the dining room.

With a change in Cuba's business laws came a welcome change in attitude
as well. "Before, business people were looked down upon," Martínez told
Seeker. "Now, we're seen as an important part of society. It's a special
moment to be an entrepreneur."

After restored relations with the U.S. last year, Cuba has opened up to
foreign investment again. But the U.S.-imposed economic embargo still
prevents them from trading with the U.S. This makes getting restaurant
supplies pretty difficult for paladares owners like Martínez.

"Every time I travel abroad, I bring back 10 or 20 pounds of spices.
There are spices that we use but we can't find them here," Martínez
says. "I've brought frying pans, cutlery, many things for the
restaurant, but in my personal luggage. When we can buy products from
the United States, which is so close...and which has such good equipment
and merchandise, it's going to be much better."

Martínez knows the future of her business will largely depend on the
ability to serve not only tourists, but local Cubans as well. She hopes
the country's economic conditions continue to improve, which will allow
more locals to eat at restaurants, but it must not come at the expense
of the low crime rate, public health care, and excellent education
system Cuba is so fortunate to have.

"My dream for the country is that the economic conditions improve," she
says. "But some things should stay the same, like the public safety we
have. I can walk down any street in my country and I'm not afraid. Few
countries in the world are as safe as Cuba."

Paladares have become an essential part of a Cuban vacation. U.S.
tourism has greatly increased since relations were restored, and in
addition to the comforting safety of walking down Cuba's streets,
visitors can now easily enjoy authentic meals prepared by very
experienced cooks like Martínez.

-- Molly Fosco

Source: Owning a Restaurant Under the Cuban Embargo - Video -
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RAÚL CASTRO, ¿REFORMADOR O IRREFORMABLE?: LO QUE MUESTRAN LAS PRUEBAS 30 de septiembre de 2016. Hoy, hasta las mayores democracias del mundo sostienen que “el intercambio” o la interacción normal con la dictadura militar “reformista” de Raúl Castro fomentará la reforma económica y política en Cuba. Así, le conceden al régimen cubano amplia impunidad, legitimidad […] Continue reading
Cuban youths, LGBT community enjoy nightlife, dream of better future
Some youths pick remaining on island over U.S. migration
By Hatzel Vela - Reporter
Posted: 6:33 PM, September 20, 2016

SANATA CLARA, Cuba - The night starts with a stop by the Camilo Theater,
inside the tallest building in Santa Clara, Cuba, in what's known as the
Santa Clara Libre Hotel.

Inside one of the rooms that used to be a movie theater, a popular cover
band plays the Beatles songs– in the early years of the Cuban
revolution, that such music was banned.

Outside the theater, in Parque Vidal, couples dance to the merengue and
salsa.

The main square is packed with hundreds of people, mostly teens.

When Local 10 News spoke with several of them, they were not afraid to
talk about being young in Cuba and their future on the communist
Caribbean island.

Leisi Ruiz, 15, wants to study medicine, but like many young people in
Cuba moving to the U.S. is part of the plan as well.

Leisi, who is in ninth grade, begins to share details about her life,
and how her father is in the U.S. But as she's opening up another teen
interrupts her and explains how there is money to be made in the U.S.

That teen's family, who also lives abroad, told him life is better in
America.

"Here you work a year, you work your whole life and you don't see the
fruits of your labor," Jorge Luis Quintero,16, said.

That's the reason Quintero wants to skip college and go straight to work.

But for Alain Cardet, 18, leaving the island through Latin America, or
by way of the Florida Straits, is too risky.

Diana Gattorno, 15, echoes that feeling.

"I can't see myself living there," she, said, added that she's happy
living on the island but would like to travel more.

Walk down Marta Abreu Street and three blocks down there's another busy
hang out. It's called El Menjunje, a state-run cultural center with a
gay theme on Saturday nights.

So while music is important, it's only secondary to drag queens performing.

Ramon Silverio has been running the place 33 years and said he never
imagined things would get to this point.

"It's been a struggle, a lot of years of work to change
things," Silverio said, adding that Santa Clara has been privileged in
the sense that local communist leaders have been allies of the lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Gay patrons said they have their own story to tell.

Lazaro, who would only give his first time, lives in the U.S., and
recalls a time when gay men in Cuba couldn't go out much, police would
ask for identification and sometimes would toss gay men in jail for no
particular reason other than being gay.

It was a bad nightmare Lazaro wants to put behind him.

Angel Fernandez Falcon, 52, also remembers being jailed for simply being
gay.

He now thanks El Menjunje, along with President Raul Castro's
daughter, Mariela Castro, for her work as an advocate of the LGBT
community in Cuba.

Castro is often criticized by independents activist who continue to
claim they're often harassed for being gay and publicly critical of the
Cuban government.

This story is part of a series on Local10.com, which seeks to document
the current state of economy in a small Cuban town. Santa Clara, which
is in the central part of the country, made history when the first
commercial flight from the U.S. landed on Aug. 31. With added commercial
flights and tourism, Local 10 News is exploring a growing private sector
and overall life in what likely will become a tourist destination for
Americans.

Source: Cuban youths, LGBT community enjoy nightlife, dream of better...
-
http://www.local10.com/news/cuba/cuban-youths-lgbt-community-enjoy-nightlife-dream-of-better-future- Continue reading
Foreign Construction Workers in Cuba
September 3, 2016
Why is the Cuban government importing skilled workers for jobs that
Cuban residents could do?
By Cubaencuentro

HAVANA TIMES — In an interview architect Alexander Machado Garcia,
director of Investments at the Cuban Ministry of Economy and Planning,
pointed out:

"Along with favoring the participation of independent workers and
non-agricultural cooperatives, which made up 6% of the builders on last
year's construction projects, today the figure has increased to 9%, with
the growth mainly in maintenance projects. Furthermore, foreign contract
workers are being introduced onto the scene in the current investment
project at Santiago de Cuba's Port."

Foreign contractors who work in Cuba made the news recently when their
pictures appeared in newspapers around the world, while they were
working at the Manzana de Gomez Hotel projet in the heart of Havana.

However, the presence of foreign builders in such projects isn't just a
simple anecdote or the headline of a newspaper.

"Currently, we have 352 [foreign workers] hired and working not only on
the Manzana Hotel project but on other construction sites here in the
capital and in Varadero too. (…) By the end of this year, this figure
should increase to about 1100, nearly 1300 in total, where there will
also be approximately 200 Chinese workers working on electrical and
swimming pool installations. (…) There are other foreign workers but in
the technical advice side of things, and theyre not treated the same as
the Indians and Chinese. (…) The minimum salary is $1,500 USD a month,
and the highest is $2,500 USD, plus work clothes, food, healthcare,
transfers and accommodations," an employee affirmed in line with the
findings of the article published.

The expansion project at Santiago de Cuba's port, which is estimated to
take three years with 100 million USD in investment, carried out by the
Cuban government and a Chinese company, aims to develop a 230 meter
loading dock, with the capacity for allowing boats carrying up to 55,000
tonnes to dock, as well as warehouses and support infrastructure. Once
this construction project is completed, Santiago de Cuba will have the
country's second deepwater port. Building this project has been possible
thanks to a loan from the Chinese company, according to an agreement
signed by Chinese president, Xi Jinping, in 2014.

Many factors have come into play and contributed to the fact that Cuba
is resorting to hiring foreign workers to carry out these different
projects. When they have to give explanations, they repeat that this
decision has been made by the foreign investors, which is now permitted
under the new investment law, which favors contracting foreign workers.
Since investment figures and contributions of the parties always remain
hazy in Cuba, any analysis is in fact speculation to a great extent,
however, by placing this decision in foreign hands, under the principle
that whoever is paying, gives the orders, and doesn't always match
what's going on in reality.

It's possible that in the case of the Santiago de Cuba project, the
Chinese company is following the common plan of action that they've
implemented in their investments found in other parts of the world,
including Chinese citizens in their construction projects. However, with
regard to the well-known Manzana de Gomez project, the Cuban military
consortium GAESA is responsible for financing this project, which has
entrusted this work to the construction companies Union de
Construcciones Militares (UCM) and the French company Bouygues Batiment
International (BBI).

It was the French company that brought in the Indian workers, which
appear to also be working in Varadero, and they're even planning on
increasing this figure, all of this in mutual agreement with the Cuban
government.

In the case of the Manzana de Gomez hotel, this decision has been taken
so as to resolve problems with delays, robberies and poor quality work
[from Cuban employees]. It must be seen as an example of the chaos and
inefficiency of today's Cuban economy, whose causes are both political
and ideological, but also includes others. What lies behind this
initiative to look abroad for what we should have in Cuba not only shows
great disdain for the Cuban people, but also the widespread inability to
find solutions to problems.

First of all, you have to define the context of this situation. Any of
these Indian workers is earning up to ten times more than what a Cuban
gets paid for doing the same job. However, that doesn't mean to say that
there aren't plumbers, carpenters and construction workers in Cuba who
earn more than the Indians. The only thing you need to do in order to do
this is work in the private sector.

This is nothing more than a policy of burying the state productive
sector's head in the sand, as there are no legal means to pay higher
salaries and the State – that is to say, the bureaucrats who
administrate it- are unable to go one step further and open their minds
to something that goes beyond the almost feudal mentality they have.

Meanwhile, this kind of primitive exploitation encourages the
development of not only bad working habits but criminal behavior at the
same time. And therefore, robbery, mistakes and a lack of productivity
are the by-products of the absence of motivation. It's impossible to
think that there aren't any good Cuban builders on the island when
Cubans make excellent builders across the entire world.

In allowing foreign construction workers in Cuba, who receive many times
better salaries than Cuban workers themselves do, the Cuban government
is reversing the age-old mechanism of exploitation, whereby a workforce
capable of doing the same work for less money is brought from, or simply
attracted, from overseas. Therefore, Cuba converts itself into a kind of
enigma – or a perfect hell – for somebody like Donald Trump.

We mustn't forget that, in the case of the Manzana de Gomez hotel, the
Cuban State is the investor. So, the Cuban government prefers to pay
foreigners better so they can carry on paying their citizens poorly.

However, all of this has a simple explanation and that's the fact that
our economy is constantly being subordinated to politics, which
continues to endure, despite Raul Castro's government's supposed airs of
change. And another unfortunate conclusion, for those who rule in
Havana, Cubans continue to be the last cards in the deck.

Source: Foreign Construction Workers in Cuba - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=120834 Continue reading
Cuban Government Seeks Meat And Dairy In Paraguay / 14ymedio, EFE

14ymedio/EFE, Paraguay, 29 July 2016 – Cuban technicians will travel to
Paraguay in August to study the possibilities of importing food products
to the island, especially meat, dairy and soy, according to the Ministry
of Industry and Commerce of Paraguay (MIC).

The delegation plans to visit two dairy plants and several refrigeration
companies, where they will verify the processing of beef, pork and
poultry meat.

The visit was announced by Cuba's ambassador in Paraguay, Sidenio
Acosta, who met Wednesday in Asuncion with Minister of Industry and
Trade, Gustavo Leite.

At the meeting it was explained that Cuba is interested in Paraguayan
cattle genetics and embryos and has already approved the authorization
for the importation of soybeans, corn, wheat, rice and oil, according to
a MIC.

The Cuban government also extended an invitation to Paraguayan companies
to participate in future editions of multisector fairs held on the island.

Leite met last year with Vice Minister of Commerce Oscar Stark to
initiate efforts to increase trade with Cuba.

According to official figures, Cuba imports products worth seven billion
a year, most of which is food.

Despite the relaxations carried out by Cuban President Raul Castro since
he took office in February 2008, livestock production continues to be
tightly centralized on the island. In 2011, in an interview with the
official weekly Workers, Omelio Borroto, director of the Institute of
Animal Science (ICA), said it was "fundamental to decentralize producers
and businesses" to achieve an increase in milk production.

However, four years later, at the end of 2015, the numbers pointed to a
decrease in the production of cow's milk. The numbers fell from 579 to
479.5 million liters of milk produced in the country and experts agree
that the current year will show still more alarming figures due to,
among other factors, the drought.

This April there was a reduction in the price of powdered milk in the
hard currency stores across the island. The price of a 500-gram bag went
from 2.90 to 2.80 CUC and for a one kilogram bag the price was lowered
from 5.75 CUC to 5.50 CUC. This benefit has been criticized by consumers
who don't consider it significant, and has also contributed to the
shortage of powdered milk on store shelves.

In the past, Cuba has imported milk from as far away as New Zealand.
This situation led to Uruguayan president Tabaré Vázquez and Cuban
president Raúl

Castro to commit in 2015 to studying the installation in Uruguay of a
production plant for milk powder whose output would be destined for the
island.

Source: Cuban Government Seeks Meat And Dairy In Paraguay / 14ymedio,
EFE – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-government-seeks-meat-and-dairy-in-paraguay-14ymedio-efe/ Continue reading
A night to forget: staying at the first U.S.-managed hotel in Cuba MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN Associated Press HAVANA Cuba is a land of architectural splendors, stunning scenery, warm, welcoming people and some of the world’s worst hotels. Communist states aren’t known for their hotel management, and I’ve heard and lived a string of hotel horror stories […] Continue reading
Piden a Clinton que detenga las golpizas a mujeres cubanas La candidata del Partido Demócrata visitará la FIU Sábado, julio 23, 2016 | Frank Calzon WASHINGTON.- Este sábado, 22 de julio, la ex Secretaria de Estado y virtual candidata del Partido Demócrata a la presidencia visitará la Universidad Internacional de la Florida (FIU). El Centro […] Continue reading