Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Odds and ends

  • Cuban artist Tania Bruguera’s idea for a Havana arts festival was an open mike, a red curtain backdrop, one minute per speaker, and two attendants dressed in fatigues behind the podium to place a white dove on speakers’ shoulders. This exercise in freedom of expression yielded calls for greater freedom of expression, from bloggers and others. Coverage (with video) at Penultimos Dias and Encuentro, and in English in today’s Herald.

  • More on Cuba policy from Vice President Biden, via AFP: “Over in the next decade and sooner there is likely to be – and needs to be – changes in the relationship between Cuba and the United States, and the United States and Cuba, as well as with the hemisphere…President Obama and I campaigned on a platform that said we are willing to reach out, and I think you will see us reach out.”

  • El Nuevo Herald reports on the House and Senate bills to end U.S. travel restrictions. The Senate bill will be presented in a press conference today; the House bill has 121 cosponsors.


Anonymous said...

RE, the travel bill, wake me up when Harry Reid does a press conference announcing he has 60 votes for it.

Frank Caner said...

lo invito a poner su blog en


leftside said...

I am confused by the "art piece." I put that in quotes because this was clearly intended as a political act, given the attendence of well known Government opponents like Yoani and the presence of foreigners and cameras. I am confused because I thought there was no freedom of expression in Cuba? I would particularly think this would hold true at a Government funded and run event? I thought those who dissented were sentenced to jail? I thought artists who had previously insulted the Government would not be allowed to show their work again. I thought that dissidents who leave for abroad could not come back?

Of course anyone who has followed the Cuban art scene knows all of the above are rubbish. But that does not stop ignorant Cuban-Americans from repeating these lies over and over again.

Anonymous said...

the litmus test re opposition is that if they have accepted aid from the US govt, cuba has passed specific laws against it. this group doesnt appear to be under that, but lets see if the govt reacts.

Anonymous said...

Lefty wrote: "I am confused..."

Actually, Leftoide, we've known that for a very long time.

"...by the 'art piece.' I put that in quotes because this was clearly intended as a political act..."

You don't know that art often has a political content, dude? That's funny, because art sponsored by the Cuban regime rarely deals with any other subject (and all representing one point of view.) Your ignorance, or more specifically your pretended ignorance, is a source of amusement to the people monitor this uncensored blog.

leftside said...

That's funny, because art sponsored by the Cuban regime rarely deals with any other subject (and all representing one point of view.)
Anon 7:09,

You are the one clearly showing ignorance of Cuban art. Most Cuban artists are not overtly political -or at least as didactic as Mrs. Bruguera. On the political side however, there are probably more (at least well known) artists making critical political-based art than those who's art openly supports the regime. The reasons for that probably has more to do with the international art market than Cuban artists themselves. Plus good art should always be critical. But to say art is Cuba rarely non-political and always supports the regime is just... unaware.

Anonymous said...

Let us free to travel....I can go to iran, syria, china, vietnam , but not cuba??


Anonymous said...

"Let us free to travel....I can go to iran, syria, china, vietnam , but not cuba??"

Hallelujah, hermano, and that goes for the Cuban people, too. Americans are restricted from traveling to a few nations such as Cuba and North Korea, while Cubans need permission (and a pile of cash extorted for a passport) to go to just about ANY country. Can you perceive the difference, amigo?

And let's not forget, not even for a moment, that Cubans need permission to travel even within their own country. (Years ago, Castro adopted the Soviet system of internal passports to keep the guajiros working on the state farms.)

Yes, let's be for freedom of travel, but freedom is the right of EVERYONE.

Anonymous said...

ANON: 11:54:

(1) Why do you hate America?

(2) you must also hate cubans. Most average, citizens of cuba, no matter what their politics, want end to usa embargo, particularly the travel embargo.

Anonymous said...


Are you joking?

Seriously man, get a clue.

And stop all this Cuban bashing nonsense. We get enough from the government - don't need it from you. It is so tiresome. We get it, you are a supporter of the regime. Understood. No need to beat it into people's heads. Apparently, the Cuban people don't have a clue as to what's going on in our own personal lives, in our own country. We need foreigners to help us interpret our own reality. Sorry to be blunt but, that is the dictionary definition of "arrogance."

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the arrests won't be too bad in the wake of the show. My guess is it won't be, due to the presence of all the media there. Let's put our hopes and thoughts in the right place.

And to those brave men and women who spoke out at the event:

Bravo! You all possess more bravery and courage in your little fingers, than I do in all my body. I am completely humbled by what I have seen. Well done.

Anonymous said...

My question Leftside is: Why do you need to take such a positive, uplifting story of such hope, and turn into a negative diatribe against Cubans? Isn't it enough to simply say: bravo, well done, this is a positive development?

Anonymous said...

the art show was a positive experience, the govt has denounced them as dissidents, as expected, but lets see what happens next.
but get a grip; art in Cuba in majority NOT political. the music, ballet, artworks, anyone who has ever been to Cuba knows that. and how political was the Buena Vista Social Club? or Van Van?
re travel; it is the worst aspect of the govt, people shouldn't have to go through the effort needed to travel; however it's not as hard as you present. and travel was always seen by govt as available only to the rich. Now, while I don't agree, at least it's not illegal to travel outside of Cuba, once you get the docs etc. Compare that to US where it is ILLEGAL to travel to Cuba.

Anonymous said...

"however it's not as hard as you present. and travel was always seen by govt as available only to the rich. Now, while I don't agree, at least it's not illegal to travel outside of Cuba, once you get the docs etc. Compare that to US where it is ILLEGAL to travel to Cuba."

Again, this is another view of things that is very odd.

It is INCREDIBLY difficult for a Cuban to obtain the precious Tarjeta Blanca that allows us to travel outside the island. Forget the fact that it is ABSURD and BARBARIC for any national government to think it has the right to decide which of its citizens may or may not travel outside said nation -

The process can take years - as it has to get my aunt and uncle out to visit us in exile and they only obtained it once they were old enough - over 70 - to not by a defection risk.

I just don't understand where people get these ideas that this, that or the other thing isn't "that hard" in Cuba. Things like traveling outside of Cuba are nearly impossible for 95 percent of the population.

Incredible that these strange interpretations even exist.

Anonymous said...

anon 10:24 -- you are the perfect example of how anecdotal incidents are meaningless if intended to shape perceptions of reality.
Your story about your aunt and uncle may be true, or not, but there are plenty of examples in exact opposition to yours.
mine for example -- my in laws from Havana have visited us FIVE times in the past 10 years. first time both were in their early 60s, took two months to get the tarjeta blanca, they stayed almost one year each time, one time my mother in law got a visa to visit US and return to Cuba from Miami. They've never had a problem coming to visit us.
Last summer by brother in law, 45 years old, married with two children, also Habanero, got his tarjeta blanca in about three months, came to visit us for six months, and is planning to come up again next year. The only difficulty he had was with the Canadian embassy who put him through the ringer to make sure he wasn't going to stay. My closest friend in Havana will be coming up late summer for a visit, he's already got the tarjeta, took him about three months.
And I know dozens of Cubans who have had mothers, fathers, brothers sisters, their pets, all get the tarjeta blanca easily, have their relatives visit them, return to Cuba. No problem. They are not government officials, special citizens or anything. Just average Cubans.

But I agree with you, the system is stupid, unfair and needs to change, it's insulting to have to go through all the bureaucracy, the letters of invitation etc. But that's the law, hopefully it will change. However, don't make it sound like its that difficult, or throw out "facts" that are basically meaningless. The process to travel outside of Cuba for Cubans is time consuming and restrictive maybe, but it is an absolute myth that Cubans can't travel. Or that for 95 per cent its impossible, where'd you get that fact, from su culo?
I also fully agree with you that a national government deciding which of its citizens may or may not travel outside said nation is ABSURD and BARBARIC. It is exactly what the United States does when it allows Cuban-Americans to travel to Cuba, but makes it illegal for Americans. Gee, I'm surprised you agree with that side, and I'm sure you'll be supportive of the current attempts to end the travel restrictions. And the embargo.

Anonymous said...

anon 11;36 is right.

i have cuban family members visit me here too.

the tarjeta blanca should not exist, true, BUT its also true that many cubans can travel abroad if they have visa from the hosting country...paperwork, 2 months , 200 bucks and you can go (unless of course los medicos). >(

Anonymous said...

anon 156 -- exactly, i know so many cases of cubans travelling.
what drives me nuts is the anti govt Cubans spewing out their nonsense, and having the average American, or anyone else, believe it because there is an acceptance of expertise on their part. And you know why? Because there is an information embargo against Cuba as well, and if the travel restrictions end that will end -- as Americans can see Cuba for themselves, the good and bad, and make up their own mind. But the gusanos don't want that, they want to control the message, and the perception (which in their view is overwhelmingly negative) and then challenge anyone who disagrees. And then they go into their hysterics; no one knows Cuba but them, how stupid the other side is, how dare we say anything that challenges their expertise or opinion of how terrible Cuba is. OK the challenge has been given, now we await for anon 1024 to reply. Shall we hold our breath?

Anonymous said...

Below is analysis/text lifted from mambi watch blog, but I paste it here b/c its so insightful in terms of address why the anti-travel folks in Miami are actually going against pro-democracy activists in cuba.

"....The Miami Herald also quotes Sen. Martinez saying: "We should be siding with the oppressed, not with the oppressors."

Well, if Sen. Martinez is on the side of the oppressed pro-democracy activists in Cuba, then he should know that these activists are already opposed to travel restrictions to Cuba. I'm talking about well-known Cuban dissidents like Oswaldo Paya, Marta Beatriz Roque and Dr. Darsi Ferrer.

In fact, this should make people wonder about who's side Sen. Martinez is really on because, in the case of US travel to Cuba, Sen. Martinez is not on the side of the oppressed pro-democracy Cuban activists.

On the other hand, Sen. Dorgan does recognize that Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya is opposed to travel restrictions to Cuba, namely those that restrict Cuban-Americans to travel. Read the very wise words of Paya concerning this matter:

"All of us within the Christian Liberation Movement have defended, and will continue to defend, the right of all Cubans to travel to any country and to enter and exit Cuba freely. We are therefore against any restriction that prevents Cubans from coming to Cuba whenever they desire, without conditions.

"Respecting the right of Cubans who live outside of Cuba to come to Cuba should not be conditioned on change in Cuba; this would inflict double punishment on the same victim. But Cubans living outside of Cuba must act in solidarity with their brothers and demand all the rights of Cubans living in Cuba, for in doing so, they are demanding their own rights."

This principle of universality also suggests that in defending your own freedoms, you set the example for the defense of freedom for others. The right of freedom of movement is expressed in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Anonymous said...

My only assumption when thinking about those who say the don't believe Cubans have any problem getting off the island - is that you've either got friends in the government, a great deal of money with which to bribe government officials, or, you're simply making up stories.

I cannot understand the disconnect between the reality in which we live as Cubans, and the belief system by those who are not even Cuban.

No Cuban, I repeat - no Cuban - I know who has been lucky enough to obtain a tarjeta blanca, obtained it with ease. not a single one. And most of us who have tried, have failed.

I do not know from what parallel universe you're coming from, where Cubans are able to easily come and go as they please from the island. I would however, love to go there.

Is it a land of gumdrops, rainbows, lollipops and unicorns?

Anonymous said...

anon 328
i don't have friends in govt, there was no bribe offered at all, and i am not a liar. you obviously don't know what you are talking about, but that's always the problem of Cuba, so many experts, so little reality.
i have friends, strong anti-castro people who have worked actively against the govt, have had relatives and friends visit no problem, and returned to cuba no problem.
i have defectors who bring their parents up and relatives up no problem.
i have normal cuban friends who bring family and relatives up.

I didnt' say it wasnt a problem. it's not easy, it's a process and it's complicated. not everyone who applies gets the tarjeta, obviously.

but it's not as hard as you make it out to be. so obviously you are either not cuban, don't know what you're talking about, or exaggerating to make your point.

i'm sorry you don't know any cubans who have gotten the tarjeta, maybe you don't know any cubans.

Anonymous said...

here's the problem with anti-govt cuban americans -- when you challenge them on their opinions they get defensive, or angry, or petulant or sarcastic. what they don't do is make any attempt to see your point of view or even contemplate that the other side might be right.
but the best is they is accuse you of not being Cuban, whether you are or not, so how could you possibly understand anything about Cuba. it is the arrogance combined with the persecution complex that is the worst characteristic, and the ones that does them the most disservice, as people with as much, if not more, expertise see through their misinformation so easily.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Someday your grandson will ask you, what did you do in your life?

And you'll be able to answer:

I hosted junkets in Cuba for businessmen and legislators. I helped a tyrant obtain financing for his tyrannical ways and I ignored the plight of those he repressed.

You're grandson will look up at you and say, "I'm so proud."

And you should be.

Anonymous said...

hey henry
boy that brought a tear to my eye, it was so powerful. so funny.
my grandson is cuban and he said, oye que clase de hombre sincero esa henry.

so i assume the embargo et al helps the cuban people. you're out of date fear mongering is soon to be a thing of the past. RIP, or not.

Anonymous said...

Do you know what the Cuban government thinks of the profession of a tourist who visits Cuba for a second time? ... A CIA agent.

I know that the US consular officials will miss the good old days when they did not have to bother with US nationals getting into trouble in Cuba. And I feel for the poor Cubans who will not find an American visa at the end of a romance with a Yanqui (Yankee will definitely go home alone!) the way some of them got Spanish, Canadian, Italian, and other visas.

Vecino de NF

Anonymous said...

Anon 426 is right,

To anyone dealing with real cubans over the past 15 years, you would know that while difficult and frustrating and relatively costly, many cubans get tarjetas blancas.
These include 1000s who visit their family in spain/usa, etc. it includes 1000s of cubans travelling abroad for work. They also include 1000s of men and women getting married in another country...ie, cuban leaving for canada to get married, has no problems leaving, .

Some groups do have much trouble, like very vocal dissidents with ties to miaim and medicos , some sports athletes.. this restriction is reprehinsible, but not applied to all.

I have good friend whose cuban mother comes here usa often to visit, but returns to cuba since there she gets medical care and here due to new immigration laws, should would not have medical insurance.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:25:

Sorry but I simply do not know what on Earth you are talking about. As a Cuban, a rather liberal one at that, I have NEVER found it easy to obtain a tarjeta blanca. NEVER.

I cannot explain your viewpoint or experiences however, I have a rather large family with a rather large network of extended family. Out of these dozens of people, many of tried to obtain the tarjeta. Only one couple has ever succeeded.

My family is apolitical and lives under the radar in Cuba. They don't cause "trouble." In short, none of them have ever done anything that warrants denial of a tarjeta blanca. Not a single one. And the couple that did receive them, only did so at an elderly age.

What on Earth would you expect a Cuban to think, given those circumstances?

It is true, I do not know if you are Cuban. I haven't the foggiest idea. That said, as usual, I feel that people chiming in that it's not so hard to obtain the visa, are seeing the situation through an anti-North American lens which clouds their judgement. That is the only logical conclusion I can come to. I may be wrong, I do not know you. You are a stranger, however, I think you need to step back and understand the frustration we feel when we as a people are denied an inherent right to travel outside our nation.

That's it.

Oh, and allow me to torpedo the assertions that have already begun:

I am a Cuban in my early 30s.
I am a democrat.
I even voted for Obama.
My family has nothing to do with Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar.
I support a re-thinking of the embargo in its current form.
I don't believe the U.S. government has a right to deny family visits to Cuban-Americans.

Shall I go on? My point is, put the stereotypes to bed already. It is rather tiresome.

Cuban exiles are a much more lively and varied group than simply the Diaz-Balart family.

Anonymous said...

the point is everyone's experiences are different, there are 11 million people in cuba, 11 million different realities. Your reality is your's, mine is mine.
the only stereotypes consistently come from the anti-govt types. it is they that say the tarjeta blanca is impossible, and here's proof. my point is that i have the exact opposite experience, and know many, many cubans who also have the same experiences as mine. I've acknowledged the tarjeta is hard to get, the travel restrictions are ridiculous.
the other side just keeps hammering their point without accepting that there is another perspective. I'm sorry you feel frustrated re not getting the tarjeta. but don't discount my truth that from MY experiences it ain't that hard.
what I expect a Cuban from outside the country to think is that there may be others who don't share your same experiences, or point of view. it's when you don't accept ANY others experience that's hard to take. youre suppose to be out from under the dictatorship that supposedly forced you to think only one way; seems youre doing the exact same thing from the other side.
it is you that needs to stop the stereotypes, to see things in grey rather than simply black and white.

leftside said...

Anon 9:24, perhaps you can tell us exactly why your family members were told they could not obtain a targeta blana? Even the US Embassy acknowledges that the "vast majority" of Cubans are able to travel abroad. Was the application just ignored, was it missing something, did it have to do with medical or national service? As someone trying to really understand the issue, more details would be very helpful.

Anonymous said...


That's a good question.

No reason is ever given. We are simply not permitted to travel. Exactly who at the U.S. interests section has ever even insinuated that most cubans are permitted to travel abroad?

leftside said...

So the bureaucracy just ignores the applications? And when your family follows up, what do they say? Total silence? I don't believe it. I know too many people who had an easy experience.

The US Interests Section, in a report to Congress a few years ago, slipped in that "the vast majority" of Cubans are permitted to travel, though noted a small number of professional dissidents are sometimes denied (in addition to those who have not completed national service or paid back their medical training).

Anonymous said...

I just obtained the white card a few months ago with a worker visa to Canada. My previous job was in a research institute belonging to the health care ministry -the worst to get the permit-, but not as a health professional.

In my personal experience, the worst part was to get the approval of the ministry (thats one of the requirements of the white card for professionals), since there is no law regulating that process and every ministry basically deals with the requests at their own pace.

It is true that the whole process was expensive (especially taking in account the difference between the CUP we get our wages and the CUC we need to pay the fees), but once received the ministry ok, it took only 10 days to complete.

The process was as follows:

-Apply for passport (1 week, payed 55 CUC)
-Received the invitation letter (payed 15 CUC)
-Get criminal record (needed for visa, 10 CUP)
-Apply for visa (3 weeks, payed 150 CAD for a worker visa, personal is cheaper)
-Get permit from the current employer (same day)
-Get permit from the ministry were you are working (only for professionals, it was 6 months for me, most people I know get the permit in 1-2 months)
-Apply for white card (10 days, 150 CUC)

And thats it. As you can see the real problem is for professionals to get the ok from the ministry, not the white card per se.

The costs related to the process totalled 220 CUC (plus 150 CAD for the visa), not exactly cheap but not that expensive either.

There are two real problems related to this process:
-It requires an invitation letter
-It requires a permit from the ministry of your current job (or previous if unemployed) for professionals

-For doctors, nurses and technicians related to the healthcare ministry there is a delay of 5 years before receiving the ok from the ministry.
-Some personal of the interior and defense ministries can't travel at all due to an oath they take when taking the jobs.
-Members of the communist party (PCC or UJC) need a permit before applying for travel or they get expelled from the party (I recall that currently the permit is granted only for humanitarian reasons, in any case you are not forced to be member of the party and lots of people aren't anyways AND it doesn't matter, you can travel anyways).

Anonymous said...

anon 621; good post
did you go to Canadian embassy first before the cuban side of things? all the cubans i know make sure they have a good idea they won't be denied from the host country side before they go through the time and expense of the tarjeta.
is the letter of invite a problem? i've always felt that was one of the easiest things to get.
again, i know so many people, directly and through friends, who bring Cuban family etc out of the country no problem.
but the gusanos keep hammering the travel point hard, it makes for good emotional reaction, regardless of the truth. funny how they've all gone silent on this threat now.
i know a woman who has multiple visa permission to come up to canada to learn english, she's been up five or six times in a two year period

Anonymous said...

You must have a valid passport before applying for the visa in the host country consulate, and for some countries you also need the invitation letter at that point.

Before applying for the exit permit, you need:
-The passport with the visa of the host country
-Permit from your current employer (if non-professional) or
-Permit from the ministry you belong (for professionals)

By "permit" I mean a letter signed by your boss or the ministry stating that he or she is not opposed to your travel. Technically thats not a permit, but it works as such in practice.

You can apply at any point for that permit, but in some ministries you need to attach a copy of the invitation letter to the form. That permit is valid for a year.

And as for the invitation letter... yes, it is really easy to obtain one, but my point is that noone should need an invitation letter to travel abroad. Thats a stupid requirement that shouldn't exist in the first place.