Reports from Cuba: GAESA traps the ‘Wonder City’ in its tentacles

By Pablo Pascual Mendez Piña in Diario de Cuba:

GAESA Traps the ‘Wonder City’ in its Tentacles

Construction of the Prado & Malecón Hotel.
Construction of the Prado & Malecón Hotel.

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.

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Black Cubans denounce the apartheid Castro regime’s institutional racism

One of those inconvenient facts about Cuba that the American left overlooks because in their view, these oppressed and enslaved Cuban blacks are lucky to have such a benevolent white slave master.

Frances Martel in Breitbart:

‘We Cannot Dissent’: Black Cubans Denounce Racism Under Communist Rule

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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.”

Continue reading HERE.

British teen idol spied on Cuba’s Castro for MI6, claims new book

I don’t know what it is about Cuba that makes it such fertile ground for the most bizarre tales.

Via The Sun:

THE SPY WHO SANG TO ME: Teen idol Adam Faith claimed to be ‘MI6 spy sent to Cuba’ in new book by close friend

Music producer David Courtney says the Sixties singer and actor was tapped up by British spooks because of his business connections on the Caribbean island

faith and castro

SIXTIES teen idol Adam Faith worked as an MI6 spy in Cuba, it has been claimed.

The multi-talented singer and actor, who died at the age of 62 in 2003, was said to have been tapped up by the British secret service because of his business connections on the Caribbean island.

The claims have been made in a new book published by close friend David Courtney, a music producer, who said he met Faith while the star was having a meeting with a spook at the Savoy hotel in London.

He told The Sunday Times: “[Faith] called me to one side and asked me to sit at a table across the way while he continued his meeting.

“I could see he had become more animated with his hands and nodding his head. After about 15 minutes he waved over to me to join them. The guy in question was a very pleasant unassuming chap. We talked for a while and he left.

“I said to Adam ‘What was that all about?’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I am going to tell you something but you must never repeat it.’ I agreed. ‘I have been filming a travelogue series for the BBC in Cuba, and that guy is from MI6.

“‘They approached me and said they knew I had built up connections in Havana and asked me to do some work for them there, basically spy for them in preparation for the post-Castro era.’”

The meeting was understood to have taken place ahead of a 1997 trip to the Communist island which was in the process of opening up following the fall of the Soviet Union six years earlier.

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: ‘We’ve been investigating Ivan Garcia for five years’

By Ivan Garcia in Translating Cuba:

“We’ve Been Investigating Ivan Garcia for Five Years”

Ivan Garcia (l.) and Raul Rivero (r.) in a Miami cafeteria on September 17, 2016
Ivan Garcia (l.) and Raul Rivero (r.) in a Miami cafeteria on September 17, 2016

When the summons arrived for an interview with a police official, the girl’s puzzled family thought it was a mistake.

Let’s call them Kenia, Pedro, and Camila. They are neighbors of mine and prefer to remain anonymous.

Kenia was summoned to a police station on Finlay street, in the Sevillano District, near the State Security barracks known as Villa Marista.

“When I arrived, the man started harassing and threatening me, saying that I hung around with foreigners. Then he wanted to get information about Ivan García, ’a known counterrevolutionary that we’ve been investigating for five years.’ He wanted to know details about his private life, about where he got the money to repair his house. He also asked my opinion about his work as an independent journalist. At one point he described him as a ’terrorist’ and said that both he and his mother were ’conspirators.’

“I was in a state of shock. I told him that he is a friend of mine and my family, and that if what he said is true, why didn’t he arrest him. The officer who interviewed me— young, hostile, and with a military haircut — replied that for now they had no evidence, but they were contacting people like me to collaborate with them and give them more information. I refused to be an informant,” says Kenya.

They were more direct with Pedro. “They accused me of giving confidential information to Ivan Garcia. I told them that I had been retired for four years. They threatened to open a file on me for collaborating on some of the news stories written by Ivan. At the end of the meeting, they warned me to be careful not to say anything to Ivan, because ’he might get off scot-free, but you, Pedro, old as you are, you could die in jail.’”

Without providing any evidence, they issued Camila a warning for harassing tourists and prostitution. “I didn’t sign it. But they told me that if I keep associating with Ivan I will be prosecuted for prostitution. I was accused of pimping and, together with Ivan, of controlling several prostitutes who, in return for money, offered information about their work. All that is a scandalous lie. Out of fear, I promised to delete Ivan’s phone from my contact list. ”

All three were warned that they would soon be summoned again. I told them that when they were, to let me know so I could go with them. If you want to know about me, cite me; it is despicable to intimidate innocent people.

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The Children of the Revolution: The dynastic succession of Cuba’s elite children has begun

The more things change in Cuba, the more they stay the same.

Juan Juan Almeida in Translating Cuba:

Cuba’s Children of Power Take Possession

Perla Rosa Rosales Aguirreurreta, newly appointed Havana Historian
Perla Rosa Rosales Aguirreurreta, newly appointed Havana Historian.

The appointment of architect Perla Rosa Rosales Aguirreurreta to succeed historian Eusebio Leal as head of Havana’s Office of the Historian is the most recent example of the Cuban regime’s making strategic decisions whose sole purpose is to implement a very well-organized dynastic succession plan.

In order to further strengthen their hold on every corner of the country, family members of high-ranking military officials and leaders of the Cuban Revolution are inheriting key posts and strategic positions in the political power structure controlled by the Castro family.

For example, Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, eldest child of the late Fidel Castro, is scientific advisor to his uncle, General Raúl Castro. The general’s daughter, Mariela Castro Espín, is president of the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) and a deputy in the National Assembly of People’s Power, the country’s unicameral parliament and supreme body of state power.

Alejandro Castro Espín, youngest child of Raúl Castro, is an advisor to the National Commission for Defense and National Security.

Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja — former son-in-law of Raúl Castro and father of two of the general’s grandchildren — is CEO of the Business Administration Group and head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces Department V.

Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz — the son of Isidoro Malmierca Peoli, who was Minister of Foreign Affairs — is the Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment in Cuba.

Ernesto Daniel Plasencia — son of Colonel Santiago Plasencia and close friend of Raúl Castro — is a diplomat who recently concluded a stint as the Cuban ambassador to Qatar.

Leopoldo Cintra González — son of Army General and Revolutionary Armed Forces Minister Leopoldo Cintras Frías — is the commercial vice-president of the Habanos Corporation.

Listing every member of this fraternity would be impossible. However, the case of Rosales Aguirreurreta — daughter of General Ulises Rosales del Toro, vice-president of the Council of Ministers, founder of the Communist Party of Cuba and member of the Politburo — stands out not only for being the most recent example but also for being among the most significant.

Continue reading HERE.

Castro regime issues death threats to family of Cuban dissident victim of machete attack

More than two years ago when President Obama announced the U.S. had surrendered to Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship, he promised his policies of appeasement and unilateral concessions would lead to a kinder and gentler totalitarian regime in Havana. This is what kinder and gentler looks like in Cuba.

John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Mother and son of 2015 machete attack victim receive death threat from Castro regime agent

“I am obliged to once again denounce the dictatorial regime of the Castros, this time as a mother and human rights defender.” – Sirley Avila Leon, March 20, 2017

Sirley Avila
Sirley Avila

Las Tunas, Cuba: Yoerlis Peña Ávila on March 15, 2017 received a death threat against him and his grandmother, Sirley Leon Aguilera, for being family (son and mother respectively) of Sirley Avila Leon, who was the victim of a May 24, 2015 machete attack carried out by a regime collaborator that left her permanently disabled. The threat is in response to her legal demand presented to recover 126,000 Cuban pesos ($4754) in damages resulting from the attack.

On March 15, 2017 he was able to send an e-mail to his mother that described what had happened that same day: “I was working and a man that I do not know told me that it was better that the legal demand not be continued because you did not know the risk in which you were exposing me and my grandmother that for you to suffer they could attack us.”

Four days earlier on March 11, 2017 Sirley Avila Leon had contacted her son, and again on March 13th on both occasions they discussed the legal action being pursued, but then found it increasingly difficult to communicate. It appears that the Castro regime does not want this legal action to be pursued and is using intimidation to try to shut it down.

There is good reason to be concerned with this pattern of threats and harassment. Over a three year period (2012 – 2015) regime agents made a series of threats and took actions that culminated in the attempted murder of Sirley Avila Leon on May 24, 2015. Another round of threats and harassment when she returned to Cuba on September 7, 2016 following medical treatment in Miami led to her decision to leave Cuba on October 28, 2016 and request asylum in the United States when death threats against her person escalated and her attacker, Osmany Carriòn, was free and bragging that he would finish the job he started.

Sirley Avila Leon is asking democratic representatives, human rights organizations, and members of international organizations and all people of goodwill to urge the Cuban government to investigate the threat made against her son and mother.

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: Government prohibits Berta Soler from leaving Cuba

14yMedio reports from Havana via Translating Cuba:

The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba

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This Tuesday, the Cuban government prevented Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White movement, from traveling outside the country because of an unpaid fine for for an alleged infraction “against public adornment.” Meanwhile, the authorities accuse her of having thrown “papers in the street,” which the regime opponent clarified to 14ymedio were “leaflets.”

Soler took advantage of the action to denounce the disappearance, this Tuesday, of her husband, the activist Angel Moya. “We consider that he is ‘disappeared’ because when he left the house he was being followed,” she detailed. “Today I am calling him and his phone is shut off or outside the coverage area.”

“This morning I was supposed to travel to the United States, first to Miami and then to California,” said Soler. However, after passing through the immigration booth and security controls at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, she was intercepted by an immigration official who asked her to accompany him to an office.

The official told Soler that they would not let her board the plane because she had not paid a fine for “throwing papers into the street.” According to Decree 272, whoever “throws into the public street waste such as papers, wrappings, food waste, packaging and the like,” will have a fine of 50 pesos and must “pick them up immediately.”

“Here, the person who owes the Cuban people freedom is Raul Castro,” Soler replied to the accusation. She claims that it was sheets with political slogans. “The fine is from last September, after that I went to Panama and the United States, so I don’t understand this now,” the dissident complains.

Last year, when the Aguilera Police Station informed Soler about the fine, she signed a document informing her of the contravention with an ironic “Down you-know-who,” and threw it in the agents’ faces, telling them: “I do not accept any inappropriate fines.”

Subsequently, Soler was informed that the unpaid fine could be doubled, and it was suggested that the police could exchange each Cuba peso (approximately 4 cents US) of the fine for one day in jail or instead not let her travel on Tuesday.

The activist was planning to meet in California with David Kaye, United Nations rapporteur for freedom of expression. Instead of Soler, Lady in White Leticia Ramos will attend the meeting.

“In the report we list all those fines that they assign to us inappropriately,” reflects Soler. “They are illegal and violate the Republic’s penal code,” a situation that is complemented by “the harassment, the threat and violence that is unleashed against our families, against our children and our husbands to try to get us to stop our activism.”

This month marks a year since the Lady in White was prevented from attending mass at Santa Rita parish, and also blocked from attending the Sunday marches on 5th Avenue, a traditional route that goes back to the origins of the movement after the repressive wave of 2003, known as the Black Spring.

Prominent Cuban dissident leader calls on Trump to treat Cuba’s government like a dictatorship

If it walks like a dictatorship and quacks like it’s a dictatorship… it’s a dictatorship.

Nora Gamez Torres in The Miami Herald:

Cuban dissident leader to Trump: ‘Treat Cuba like a dictatorship’

rodiles1 (2)

Frustrated by what they see as “indolence” from the previous administration, some Cuban government opponents are urging President Donald Trump to backtrack current Cuba policy and speak out about increased government repression on the island.

Antonio G. Rodiles and his partner Ailer González — both members of the Forum for Rights and Freedoms — are calling on the new administration to reset U.S.-Cuba relations and “recognize that they are dealing with a dictatorship.”

“The main thing would be for those of us who are legitimate actors on the Cuban scene — inside and outside the island — to be part of the policy design and part of that political process toward the island” unlike what former President Barack Obama did, Rodiles said during a recent meeting with el Nuevo Herald.

The couple also denounced an increase in repression since Obama announced his policy of engagement and the restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba in December 2014. The situation, they said, has become worse since the death of former leader Cuban Fidel Castro in November with a “millimetric monitoring” of opponents’ actions and harassment of their families.

“It is important for the new administration to start taking action on the issue and make some statement, because silence is being very well used by the regime to try to crush the opposition,” Rodiles said.

The Cuban government opponent criticized the “indolence” of the Obama administration toward the human rights situation on the island.

“We have direct experience, including talking to President Obama, and the direct experience was that there was a lot of indolence in what happened with Cuba … There was a moment when we understood that the administration was not an ally [in the struggle for] for democratic changes in Cuba, that they had a vision that Cuba was going to change in the long term and that we would have to accept neo-Castroism,” he said.

It is important for the new administration to start taking action on the issue and make some statement, because silence is being very well used by the regime to try to crush the opposition.

Continue reading HERE.

Cuba’s slave masters want their slaves to know how much they are spending on their healthcare

Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship wants its slaves to know that although their healthcare is “free,” there is a cost associated with it. The regime’s hospitals have begun to give their patients “symbolic” invoices to show them how much the government is spending on their healthcare. In other words, Havana’s slave masters wants its slaves to know how much of their slave labor profits is going to keeping the slaves healthy so they can continue producing revenue for the slave masters.

Karina Martin in PanAm Post:

Cuban Hospitals Begin Telling Patients There Is No Such Thing as Free Healthcare

Cuban-Hospitals

A report from Cuban television noted that Cuban medical institutions have begun to provide their patients with symbolic bills with the actual cost of services rendered.

Miosotis Moreno, director of Economics and Planning at the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) clarified that the health services will not start actually charging their patients, but the account is “symbolic”.

“It is not the intention that the services will be charged … It is only so that the people feel the commitment with the services that we are offering today, how we do it, what the cost is to the Ministry of Public Health and the country,” the official said.

According to the National Television News, the bill seeks to help the Cuban people know “that the services in our health system are free [for users], but cost [the system].”

“Most Cubans were born with the Revolution and we never worry about how much a surgical operation costs, or a clinical analysis, or an ultrasound, not to mention many of the other medical services that the population receives,” said the program’s director in the report.

“This way it is convenient, it is educational, it is a better way to give recognition to what we have done … It allows institutions also to really see what we are investing, it forces us to be more aware of the costs, which for a long time has been something that has not been given the right importance,” said a professional interviewed in the report.

The report was aired on Saturday, March 18, during the Noticiero del Mediodía.

Cuba, under the tenure of Raul Castro, has pledged to continue with its socialist economic policies, but has begun to allow limited free market reforms.

Cuba is living in an age of uncertainty, in the wake of Fidel Castro’s recent death, and Donald Trump‘s election as president of the United States. Trump has vowed to take a hard line on the island’s Communist regime.