In an interview with Infobae, dissident, poet, independent journalist, and former political prisoner Jorge Olivera Castillo responds to the question of why the Cuban people do not rise up against the Castro dictatorship (my translation):
“The average person thinks in terms of costs-benefits the people believe there is too high a price to pay for something that is not for certain, such as taking down the one-party regime. Therefore, the people prefer to escape Cuba or insert themselves into the black market and avoid political problems. From there is where the paralysis and apathy of the people originates. It has been very difficult, especially with the decrease in international support. I like to approach politics with both feet on the ground, that is why I don’t see fundamental or profound changes in Cuban society until there is a generational replacement. Above all, the disappearance of the entire political spectrum of emblematic figures such as the commanders of the Revolution and in particular, Raul Castro.”
Ecuador will elect a new leader on April 2 to replace its left-wing, populist president Rafael Correa. Washington should pay close attention. Correa’s vice-president Lenin Moreno is a close second in the polls, but should he win, he will likely continue Correa’s economic populism and anti-Americanism, including, crucially, pursuing a strong relationship with Iran.
Correa came to power at the onset of Latin America’s “pink tide” – the rise of charismatic, left-wing leaders like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. Since then, their growing authoritarianism and failed economic policies have eroded their support, opening the way to more moderate, pro-Western leaders like Mauricio Macri in Argentina and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in Peru.
A Moreno victory, however, could mark the return of the pink tide. Correa has handpicked Moreno to run for the presidency, much as Chavez had tapped Nicolas Maduro to succeed him upon his death. Although Correa has not yet run his country aground as did Venezuela’s leaders, under his stewardship, Ecuador has become a “major drug transit country” with significant “vulnerability for money laundering,” according to the State Department.
Similarly, Ecuador, an OPEC member, has seen its GDP contract amid lower oil prices, albeit not as dramatically as in Venezuela. Additionally, Quito’s membership in the Venezuelan-led regional trade bloc ALBA pushes it further from the U.S. and towards the same Bolivarian socialism that has led to the near demise of Venezuela.
These parallels should not be lost on U.S. policymakers. Quito has long claimed to be an ideological ally of Caracas, and has been its staunch diplomatic partner regionally and internationally. Thus, as Venezuela continues to crumble under international economic sanctions, Iran might shift its center of gravity in Latin America to Ecuador.
In 2010 and 2011, Correa and Moreno travelled to Tehran to sign bilateral agreements, including building a power plant in Ecuador, providing industrial and technical knowledge, and banking partnerships. As vice president, Moreno also oversaw a $30-million deal to conduct joint mining projects as a basis for future extractive activities.
“And Then You Hear People Say That Racism Doesn’t Exist In Cuba”
I literally just saw a police officer ask a couple of kids for their identification and I’m pretty sure he did it because they were black. That’s just the life they were dealt. I have almost never seen the same happen to white kids. It’s as if whites are invisible to the police.
And then you hear people say that racism doesn’t exist in Cuba. And the funny thing is that it could’ve been those same whites that just finished robbing a house around here because whites also steal. I walk a lot around the neighborhood of Vedado, so I see many things.
Because of the color of my skin and my mean look, I get stopped all the time by the cops. I don’t want any problems. People look at me and think that I’m a tough guy but really, I don’t like fights or drama.
My thing is, I just like walking around town from time to time, finding small little jobs here and there to make money. Some days I sell fish and on other days I sell cans of paint.
I’m not really committed to anything right now but I have to find my way. I live alone but regardless I have to take care of myself. And on the weekends, I like to drink a little, like anybody would.
Definitely not beer though, because it’s more expensive. Besides, I’m more of a ‘rum’ type of guy, even though I advise people not to drink it. Rum is the reason why so many people are messed up in this country. I have a friend who went blind because he drank whatever he could get his hands on. I think he ended up drinking wood alcohol.
Translated by Oliver Inca, Patricio Pazmino, Marta Reyes
Over 200 Ghanaians transiting from Cuba to USA stranded
More than 200 Ghanaians and other African migrants transiting from Cuba to the USA are stranded at the Costa Rican-Nicaraguan border post of Penas Blancas, a statement from the Information Services Department (ISD) has said.
The statement, signed by the acting director the ISD, Elizabeth Essel, said it follows the adaptation of new immigration reforms by Cuban immigration authorities aimed at affecting the entry of African migrants especially Ghanaians and Nigerians from using Cuba as an entry point into the USA, central America and other Caribbean countries.
The statement said the reforms are intended to curtail the surge of African migrants to maintain international and regional standards in human trafficking and migration flows.
“The Ghanaians, however, become stranded with no means of catering for themselves,” the statement said.
“These strict immigration reforms follow interrogations of mostly Ghanaian nationals and some Nigerians, who informed Cuban authorities that the country is being used as a conduit to the USA in particular.”
The ISD issued the statement on the back of security briefing it received from the Interior Ministry.
It said the Cuban immigration officials have unofficially begun refusing entry to and deporting African migrants immediately on arrival in the country in spite of their valid visas.
The statement also asked the public to be wary of a travel and tour company known as “Travel to the united states through Cuba” which operates in Accra and Kumasi where the syndicate advertise through the media, promising to transport people to America only to be stranded in Cuba with more immigration complications.
Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the despicable and morally bankrupt former Archbishop of Havana, has spilled the beans on the details regarding the secret talks between the Obama administration and the apartheid Castro dictatorship. It turns out the White House was negotiating the normalization of relations with Cuba’s regime with none other than Alejandro Castro Espin, the son of Cuban dictator Raul Castro. I guess this is what Obama meant when he said his new Cuba policy would “empower” the Cuban people. He just left out the tiny detail that it would empower only Cubans whose last name is Castro.
As expected, the more you find out about these “talks” and Obama’s Normalization Circus, the more disgusting the whole affair becomes.
Cuba’s secret negotiator with US was president’s son: cardinal
HAVANA (AFP) – Cuban President Raul Castro’s son, Alejandro, was the communist island’s envoy for secret negotiations with the United States that led to the countries’ historic rapprochement, a cardinal close to the talks said.
Speculation had long swirled that Alejandro Castro Espin, the president’s 51-year-old son, headed up the secret talks.
But the confirmation from Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the former archbishop of Havana, is the most official namedrop to date — and further boosts the profile of Castro Espin, who is touted as a possible future president of Cuba.
Castro Espin was “at the head of the Cuban delegation,” Ortega said in a speech to a conference in the United States that was published in the latest issue of Cuban Catholic magazine Secular Space (Espacio Laical).
Ortega, who recently stepped down as head of the Cuban Church, represented the Vatican at the talks, which Pope Francis played a key part in brokering.
The US delegation was led by Ricardo Zuniga, a top adviser to then US president Barack Obama.
The negotiations led to the announcement of a rapprochement in December 2014 after more than half a century of Cold War hostility.
Castro Espin, an army colonel, is an international relations expert.
The president’s only son, he kept a low profile for years. But he was present when his father and Obama held their first-ever talks in Panama in April 2015.
Many observers now tip him to be a major player in the power transition due next February, when Castro is due to step down.
Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 56, is seen as Castro’s heir apparent. But Castro Espin is increasingly viewed as a president-in-waiting.
Ortega also unveiled another mystery of the US-Cuba talks, saying the date of the rapprochement announcement — December 17 — was chosen because it is Pope Francis’s birthday.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie has asked the Trumpinator to insist on the return of Joanne Chesimard (a.k.a. Assata Shakur), who was granted asylum in Cuba 38 years ago after she escaped from a U.S. prison.
Shakur was convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper.
Fugitive Shakur could have easily been brought to justice as part of the Normalization Circus, but Mr. Oh-Baama refused to touch the issue due to his love for the Castro regime.
Will the new embattled U.S. president do anything about this? Don’t hold your breath, Governor Christie.
Northern New Jersey was once home to the second largest Cuban exile community in the U.S.
Christie renews call for cop killer’s return from Cuba
Now that a friend and fellow Republican is leading the country, Gov. Chris Christie is urging the White House to demand the return of a convicted cop-killer who fled to Cuba four decades ago.
Joanne Chesimard, a leader of the Black Liberation Army, was convicted on March 25, 1977, of eight counts of murder, robbery and assault in the killing of State Trooper Werner Foerster on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. Six years later, in 1979, Chesimard escaped and fled to Cuba, where she has lived in political asylum since. She now goes by the name Assata Shakur.
In 2015, when then-President Barack Obama reopened relations between the United States and Cuba, there was hope that Chesimard would be returned to finish her life sentence. But she remains free today, even though the Obama administration said her return would be part of diplomatic negotiations with the communist regime.
Appearing Friday night on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Christie said “it’s outrageous” that Chesimard lives in freedom, and he pressed the administration of President Donald Trump to fight for her extradition to the U.S.
“I hope that what the Trump Administration is going to do is, before we take any further steps with a relationship with Cuba.”
Congratulations To Bolivarian Socialism – Venezuela Declares Humanitarian Crisis
The economic horror in Venezuela continues to unfold–the Bolivarian socialists have achieved the entirely remarkable feat of making Cubans flee the country in search of a better life. Seriously, Cubans, from a poverty stricken socialist dictatorship are now leaving an oil rich nation in search of a better life. It takes a serious level of economic mismanagement to achieve that. That serious level being exactly the one thing that Venezuela has lots of, of course. So much so that Nicolas Maduro has just appealed to the United Nations to come and organise the supply of medicines for the country. This being something that normal places can manage on their own and usually rather well too.
The cause of all of this is that Maduro, and his predecessor Chavez, decided that the way to run an economy was to do everything that the textbooks say you shouldn’t do to an economy:
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has asked for help from the United Nations to boost supplies of medicine.
Mr Maduro said the UN had the expertise to normalise the supply and distribution of drugs in the country.
Venezuela’s Medical Federation said recently that hospitals had less than 5% of the medicines they needed.
The president blames the problems on an economic war against his government and the sharp fall in oil prices.
There is indeed an economic war going on here. And it’s one being waged by the Bolivarian socialists against the Venezuelan population. The tactic is simply to destroy the price system and thus the market. Given that non-market economies do not work this ensures the destruction of Venezuela’s economy.
Since Hugo Chavez first took over in 1999, Venezuela has mostly relied on workers from Cuba (which at some point numbered 100,000 in-country, including doctors and nurses) to manage its health-care system. However, that decades-long experiment has largely failed — so much so that the government needs to ask the U.N. for help. More than half of the Cuba-manned CDI first-response centers, located mostly in Venezuela’s worst “barrios” (slums) have been closed and the Cuban doctors fled Venezuela for better lives in other countries.
Yes, even the Cubans have left.
But just acknowledging that Venezuela needs outside help is a telling sign of how far the nation sitting atop the world’s largest petroleum reserves has fallen under Maduro.
To give an example of the economic lunacy under way:
A gasoline shortage in OPEC member Venezuela was exacerbated by an increase in fuel exports to foreign allies such as Cuba and Nicaragua and an exodus of crucial personnel from state-run energy company PDVSA, according to internal PDVSA documents and sources familiar with its operations.
You’ll not be surprised to hear that Cuba and Nicaragua do not pay market prices for that fuel. Even when there’s a domestic shortage and Venezuela is itself desperate for cash.
One of the largest sources of revenue for Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship is selling the slave labor of Cuban doctors to foreign nations. Not only does it produce hard currency for the corrupt dictatorship, but the media and others help the repressive Castro regime score public relations points with its so-called “doctor diplomacy.”
The truth about these doctors, however, is completely different. The Cuban dictatorship’s “medical missions” are in reality a giant scam where statistics and salaries are manufactured to cover up the enslavement of Cubans.
Cuban Doctors Sent to Venezuela Say They Were Deceived, Forced to Fabricate Statistics
Two Cuban doctors who abandoned their “foreign mission” in Venezuela said they were lied to about the conditions of the country, and forced to continue those lies in order to make it seem better than it is.
“I was in the Cuban medical mission in Venezuela 14 months and we were deceived when we arrived to Venezuela,” Dr. Yanisley Felix said. “It was not what we expected. Working conditions, living conditions, lying about what the mission consisted of and our purpose there.”
“The conditions in Venezuela are precarious,” Roldán Machado, another a doctor who abandoned travel plans, said. “We all know the lies that we are told there. We are forced to lie about hospital admissions in order to lie about those statistics that they (the government) want so much.”
Both doctors crossed the border into Colombia last October, where they were welcomed through the US Embassy to the parole program for Cuban doctors that has since been suspended.
The program was created in 2006 by President George W. Bush’s administration, allowing thousands of medical professionals to escape from Cuban medical missions abroad, but it was suspended last January by the Obama administration.
Over 10 years, more than 8,000 Cuban professionals were able to benefit from the program, especially in countries like Venezuela and Brazil.
A very long list of Cuban artists, writers, and academics have signed an open letter of protest against the Havana Film Festival of New York, denouncing its collusion with the censorship of the Castro regime.
Click on the video clip above for a glimpse of the film.
And go HERE to Penultimos Dias, which has posted the letter with all the signatures.
Open Letter against censorship of anti-Castro Cuban film in New York
Last week, Cuban filmmaker Carlos Díaz Lechuga announced that his film Santa and Andrés had been excluded from the competition in the 18th Havana Film Festival of New York, which will take place in that city from March 30th to April 7th.
This is not the first time that Lechuga’s film has been censored. Last December, it was banned from the Havana Film Festival, in Havana, Cuba. This exclusion, though unjustified, followed its own logic: Santa and Andrés shows the repression and harassment against a homosexual Cuban intellectual a few decades ago. The censorship from the Cuban cultural institutions against Lechuga’s film was a confirmation of the very repressive nature of the system.
But if it is logical that in Cuba the regime rejects its own reflection, it is inconceivable that a cultural institution in New York would emulate a dictatorship.
We, filmmakers, artists and creators, strongly denounce the censorship of Cuban artists, not only in their country of origin, but also in the United States, a nation in which so many artists from around the world have sought refuge from the violation of their right to express themselves, and to create and disseminate their work.
If we are repulsed that these things occur in Cuba, it is more intolerable for us that such authoritarian practices take place in the United States. Particularly when this is done while invoking the need to create bridges between both countries, which is what Carole Rosenberg, Executive Director of the Havana Film Festival of New York, did to justify her collaboration with Cuban cultural authorities in the double censorship of Santa and Andrés.
Establishing links with institutions from a dictatorial regime, while at the same time closing the door to the freest and most critical voices of a repressive society does not promote bridges, it thwarts freedom of expression and democracy. Collaborating with the repressors is an attack on liberty in any place and time, all the more so in New York, a city in which José Martí, Félix Varela, Reinaldo Arenas and so many other intellectuals and artists lived and created in freedom.
We call on public and private institutions that sponsor the Havana Film Festival of New York to withdraw financial support to projects that go against the free and inclusive spirit of the city of New York and the Constitution of the United States.
Fidel Castro Reappears “in his Dead Body” in… Hong Kong
The image that Fidel Castro and his closest watchmen in the Cuban government wanted to avoid at his funeral, is now part of the artistic reality of a famous fair in Hong Kong.
A sculpture of Fidel Castro’s corpse (or sleeping body?), lying on a bed of white sheets in his olive-green uniform, is part of the Summit project by Chinese artist Shen Shaomin, who has recreated the images of other Communist leaders who are now history: Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il-Sung and Ho Chi Minh.
These leaders of yesteryear now lie in a Summit of Silence at the crowded Art Basel fair in Hong Kong.
An international wake
Or maybe it’s an opportunity to hold a wake “with the body present” which the Cuban people in Cuba didn’t see.
Shaomin, who lives in Australia, has formulated his project with questions looking to the future: “At a time when the entire world is drawn towards the vortex of economic crisis and doubts have arisen about the inherent values of capitalism, this work asks the following questions: are the ideas and ideals of these disappeared Socialist leaders still relevant? Will their ideas, concepts and theories reflect our sensibilities some day?”
The exhibition will remain open to the public on March 23-25th. On Monday and Tuesday, these works could only be visited by those with private invitations or special assignments.
It will be a virtual way of imagining what Fidel Castro’s funeral, which never took place, would have been like.
When the announcement of Fidel Castro’s death had been made on the night of November 25th, his brother and president of Cuba, Raul Castro, announced that he would be immediately cremated as it was his dying wish. The cremation took place immediately.
Cubans paid tribute to the former leader in front of a photo of Castro dressed as a guerrilla soldier with a rifle on his shoulder, while his ashes remained in an urn in a State Council room, which family members and selected people from the government elite had access to, until they traveled in a funeral car across the country.
Fidel Castro’s ashes were finally buried in the Santa Ifigenia cementery in Santiago de Cuba, next to the monument to national hero Jose Marti.
There aren’t any photographs or witness accounts saying they’ve seen Castro’s corpse, who apparently died at his home in Punto Cero, Havana.
Parodying Eusebio Leal Spengler’s TV show, I resolve to “walk Havana” to verify that at the intersection of the streets Zulueta and Teniente Rey workers of the Unión de Construcciones Militares (UCM) and the French construction company Bouygues began to erect the socio-administrative building and temporary facilities, thus initiating the reconstruction of the Gran Hotel. Also known as the “100-room hotel”, it is a mass of ruins that for decades has been held up by steel structures to prevent its collapse.
Eight blocks north is the Hotel Regis (Prado and Colón), a building combining eclectic styles from the 19th and 20th centuries. On the verge of collapse, it awaits builders. The building is surrounded by a fence and some panels announcing that the investor is the ALMEST real estate group; the operator, Gaviota; the supplier, TECNOTEX; the builders, UCM and Bouygues (BBI); while project plans are the work of the company Restaura, belonging to the city’s Office of the Historian.
Despite the delays, there have already been notable advances on the Packard Hotel (at Prado and Cárcel), which is about 60% done. According to the schedule, it should be completed this year.
In the vicinity, construction recently began on the Hotel Prado y Malecón (located at the corner of the same name), where one can hear the sound of the pile drivers excavating the foundations, a tough job being carried out by soldiers of the General Military Service (SMG), slave labor used by the UCM and BBI for construction tasks not calling for skilled workers.
In San Rafael, by the facade of the Manzana de Gómez Hotel, they are touching up the public lampposts and the marquee, as soon Kempinski will open its doors to offer 172 rooms and 74 suites; shops with 16 locales for the sale of well-known brands, a pool, restaurant, café, business lounges and a panoramic bar, plus beauty services, lockers and massage rooms. However, to build this “Taj Mahal” the builders hired 400 Indian laborers, “who were four times more productive than Cuban workers” according to the official press, which, at the same time, covered up the fact that the foreigners received salaries 20 times greater than those given Cubans.
With these investments, the powerful military consortium GAESA will augment the capacity of its subsidiary Gaviota in the center of the capital, one of the areas most popular among international tourists.
The worrisome thing is that the services offered by the State – in addition to being delivered by prestigious hotel chains – are being criticized by those making up the avalanche of tourists triggered by the political thaw Obama set in motion in 2014: abusive practices, a lack of hygiene, legions of cockroaches, the contraction of diarrheal diseases and high prices are some of the most frequent complaints. These hotel companies may also be hiring foreign personnel to render services, as regulations permit it.
(We’re spotting so many of these stories in the British and Canadian news media that we’ve had to shift them from our overburdened Schadenfreude Desk to a new department).
Once again, a pair of Brits looking for a “dream holiday” in Castrogonia have encountered bitter disappointment.
The honeymooners in question caught a ghastly intestinal virus at their apartheid resort and had to be rushed to a Castronoid hospital.
The bride and groom attribute their illness to the savagely filthy conditions they were forced to endure at their primitive honeymoon resort.
All that filth, despite a princely sum of $6,240 for a “dream holiday”! (A full seventeen years of income for a Cuban).
What the article below doesn’t reveal is that these two slumming bigots will have paid another whopping sum for their apartheid medical care.
The doctor’s bills handed to tourists are never “symbolic” in Castrogonia.
In fact, they are so un-symbolic that no tourist is ever allowed to return home until the grossly inflated medical bill is paid in full.
This is how Castro, Inc. works.
And God help any tourist who dies in Castrogonia. Their family won’t be able to fly the corpse back home until they’ve paid a heavy ransom.
So it goes.
Yet, the slumming bigots and voyeurs keep pouring in, searching for “dream holidays,” filling all those “luxury” rooms in Castro, Inc.’s apartheid resorts.
Newlyweds forced into hospital on drips after falling ill three days into Cuban honeymoon ‘due to filthy conditions’
Newlyweds plan legal action after what they claim was “unhygienic” hotel conditions on their dream honeymoon to Cuba left them suffering in agony with the horrific stomach bug.
James and Kathryn Longhurst’s two-week £5,000 ($6,240 USD) holiday turned into a nightmare in November last year, as he ended up on an IV drip in hospital.
The couple, who married in July and live in Eastleigh, Hampshire, could not have expected such a disastrous stay at the five-star Paradisus Rio de Oro resort in Holguin, Guardalavaca.
But they claimed that the dining restaurants were poorly kept with food not “covered properly”, “insects and birds” flying around the buffet area, staff not wearing gloves while handling food and the same utensils used for different dishes.
Project manager James, 38, said: “Two days into the holiday, I started getting really bad diarrhoea, which I put down to the climate, but then I started vomiting and I was violently ill.
“I went to medical centre, and I was really dehydrated so they put me on drips and pumped me full of drugs.
“My tongue turned black from whatever happened to me.
“We couldn’t enjoy the holiday at all, we were devastated, and now I’m absolutely furious that Thomas Cook haven’t responded to our complaint.”
Kathryn, 43, a general restaurant manager herself, also said she suffered from gastric illness and was left “disgusted” at Thomas Cook.
“Within two days it hit us, and it didn’t really go away for the rest of the holiday – it was a bit of a shambles,” she said.
‘We Cannot Dissent’: Black Cubans Denounce Racism Under Communist Rule
A coalition of black civil society leaders listed the many challenges that black Cubans face as a product of the institutional racism of the Communist Party government on the island to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission this week.
The speakers, members of the Citizen’s Committee for Racial Integration (CIR) in Cuba, among other organizations, took turns detailing the struggles of black Cubans on the island.
“The Revolution thinks that we have to be appreciative to them for treating us as people,” CIR spokesman Juan Antonio Madrazo explained, noting that communist leaders deny the existence of racism entirely and appear to retaliate with especial cruelty towards black Cubans who object to the human rights violations they are subject to under the Castro regime.
Although Fidel Castro’s predecessor Fulgencio Batista was of mixed racial heritage, communist leaders claim that no racism exists in Marxist societies. As the highest authority in Cuba, the communist government also claims to be the source of all Cuban citizen’s self-worth.
CIR representatives added that black Cubans are more likely to suffer violations of their right to assembly and expression, although no Cubans enjoy full freedom of speech.
The communist government also does little to fight discriminatory policies in restaurants and the few private businesses allowed to operate, particularly in the luxury areas of Havana reserved for foreign tourists. All Cubans are barred from these areas – either officially or due to their lack of access to the Cuban “convertible” peso, a currency meant only for tourists – and their presence outside may also often be unwelcome.
On a technical front, the speakers decried the lack of institutional representation for black people in Cuba. The Cuban census does not count citizens of mixed racial descent as black, for example, which results in a skewed picture of the actual racial makeup of the Cuban population.
CIR member Marthadela Tamayo told the Spain-based Diario de Cuba following her testimony that the lack of initiative on the part of the government to improve the lives of black people – who remain disproportionately poor and underrepresented, despite the promises of economic equality in 1959 – is due to “the fear to hear discussion of racism in Cuba in public, discussion of repression of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and activists generally – but especially all Afro-Cubans.”