The House Agriculture Committee just approved H.R. 4645, the bill that ends
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The House Agriculture Committee just approved H.R. 4645, the bill that ends
The thinking behind
It is now 2010 and
Moving from speculation to reporting, he writes: “Cuban citizens cannot enter the hotels, resorts, beaches, restaurants and stores where foreign tourists visit.” This is blatantly false. This so-called “tourism apartheid” ended in April 2008 and as travelers to
Rep. Rooney also contends: “The Castro-run tourism industry also openly promotes child prostitution, a horrible abuse heaped on
Then our friend Mauricio Claver-Carone stretches halfway around the world to urge us to use the relationship between the Koreas as a guide to our relationship with
Finally, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart wrote an article in El Nuevo Herald examining another model:
But on one point the Congressman deserves credit: he makes clear that for him, the purpose of the embargo is not to effect change now in Cuba, but rather to be used as a lever for change when Fidel Castro passes away, whenever that may be. That’s an argument that can justify maintaining the status quo for a long, long time.
- The Hill: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce indicates it may “score” the vote on ending
travel restrictions, i.e. include it in the list of votes used to calculate the percentage of each legislator’s voting record in support of free enterprise principles. Cuba
- Granma: Damar Maceo Cruz, 47, is the new minister of light industry, replacing José Hernández Bernárdez.
- Restrictions on Freedom of Expression in Cuba, a new report from Amnesty International.
- The Herald rounds up opinion on
’s church-state dialogue. Cuba ’s CTV reports on a 19-year-old from Canada who was behind the wheel of his family’s rented car in Ontario , was involved in an accident April 29, and remains stuck in Cuba awaiting trial. Cuba
- Notimex: Hunger striker Guillermo Farinas, said by his family to be in a “critical” state, receives a visit from the local bishop.
- EFE: A Cuban-Venezuelan joint venture has broken ground on a new nickel plant in
- The Herald’s Jordan Levin interviewed Silvio Rodriguez before his
’s reduction in international trade is reflected in shipping data for 2009. Cuba
Monday, June 28, 2010
- Cardinal George of
, head of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, made a short visit to eastern Chicago only, visiting Cuba and environs. CNS story here, a note at Palabra Nueva here. Santiago
continues its program of distribution of idle state lands to private farmers, with 110,000 individual recipients and 1,715 cooperatives receiving nearly 2.5 million acres. Cuba
- Diario de Cuba catches a Cuban television discussion that broaches the idea of lowering the convertible peso exchange rate in order to stimulate tourism. The idea is prompted by the dollar’s recent appreciation against the Euro, which makes
more expensive for Europeans since the CUC is pegged to the dollar. It doesn’t seem to have been prompted by the relatively high prices in Cuba ’s tourism sector, regardless of the stronger dollar. Cuba
- The Cuban Economy, a new blog by
professor Archibald Ritter. Carleton University
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
I’ll let things speak for themselves.
Darsi Ferrer, 40, a physician and human rights activist, was jailed last July and went to court yesterday. He faced charges related to purchase of building supplies on the black market, was convicted, received credit for time served and will end his sentence by serving three more months under house arrest. Reuters report here.
“I would like to think that [my release] is a result of the Catholic Church’s effort,” Ferrer told El Pais from his home. He continued: “What should be the solution in
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Usually, the rap against the Catholic Church in
Now, the Church is engaged in a dialogue with the government precisely about human rights issues. And the Cuban government has recognized in its own media that this dialogue, about those issues, is taking place.
Still, it’s not enough. The shots are coming from Oswaldo Paya in
The message is simple: Do it my way or don’t do it at all.
To be sure, the results of the dialogue so far are modest – one political prisoner freed, about a dozen moved to jails nearer their homes and families, and lots of talk of more moves ahead. (Yoani Sanchez is reporting that Darsi Ferrer, jailed last year and finally tried today, is home, and AP is reporting the same.)
If you want to read the darkest possible perspective on these talks, check this out from French author Bertrand de la Grange, who sees pure opportunism. He quotes Oswaldo Paya saying that the Church should not “accept the role of being sole interlocutors with the government.” Which means, in effect, that if the dissidents can’t be present, then the Church should not proceed to talk about prisoners of conscience. “Cubans should not be left as spectators” to these talks, Paya says, as if
I’m all for the Cuban government meeting with Cuban citizens of every stripe, dissidents included. But are Cubans who are not dissidents – clergy or any others – to hold back from talks on any topic if the dissidents aren’t included? Can Paya possibly mean that?
Closer to home, our friend Mauricio derides what he calls the Church’s “exclusionary tactics” because it is meeting with authorities without dissidents present.
He argues that instead of facilitating a political dialogue between the Castro regime and the Cuban people, the Church has decided to “take the place of dissidents.”
“Frankly, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, for – repression aside – both the Castro regime and the Catholic Church are essentially non-democratic, non-representative entities,” he writes.
- Here are statements from the United States and Cuba on the migration talks held in
last week. Portia Siegelbaum of CBS adds background, including that the number of non-immigrant visas granted by the Washington consulate in U.S. more than doubled in 2009 to 20,000. Havana
has been elected vice president of the UN Human Rights Council. Cuba
- Oswaldo Paya writes that Cubans should unite in demanding an end to the travel restrictions the Cuban government imposes on them.
- CBS on the economic policy discussion at last week’s Catholic Church conference.
Francisco Chaviano is one of the 74 who signed the letter supporting an end to
Meanwhile, blogger Reinaldo Escobar looks at the issue a little more philosophically: “The sharpest internal contradictions come about when foreign interests appear.” Absolute unity among opponents of the Cuban government may be a bridge too far, he argues, and perhaps should be sacrificed in the interest of progress on the issues on which all agree.
And Carlos Saladrigas surveys the reaction to the letter in a Miami Herald op-ed and concludes, hopefully, that Cuban dissidents may get more respect now than before.
Monday, June 21, 2010
He played in
If you don’t know him, he’s a singer, songwriter, and guitarist comparable – very loosely – to Bob Dylan in that his poetry, not simply his music, draws you in. And if you were as clueless as I was, you would have learned Saturday night that the guy is a cultural icon in our hemisphere.
Rodriguez led a fine sextet that included a young, spectacular tres player who was given too few chances to shine, and who I’m sure would have sold the place out if it had been announced that he would headline a concert the next day.
In the event, Saturday’s crowd half-filled the hall, perhaps – with all due respect to the artists – because ticket prices were through the roof.
When it came to the crowd’s emotions, it was standing-room only. There were Cubans there, but also people from throughout
Others can sort how much of Rodriguez’ appeal has to do with politics. He did call on President Obama, short and sweet, to free the Cuban Five.
There were shouted requests from the audience for all kinds of songs, including about love and breakup and nostalgia. Rodriguez obliged generously. With many old chestnuts out of the way, he closed with a number from his latest recording, titled Demasiado.
I found the lyrics on-line, and here they are:
Con un breve sorbo
La única vez
A una sola forma
Y una sola voz
De un mal gigantesco
Y un ínfimo bien
Para que lo inmenso
Quepa en un destello
Solo de la luz
Para que la vida
No busque consuelo
En el más allá
Para tantas almas,
Para tantos sueños,
Update: A translation, with an assist from a reader:
Too much time,
Too much thirst
To satisfy ourselves
With a brief sip
Only one time
Too much shade,
Too much sun
To chain ourselves
To a single way
And a single voice
Too many mouths,
Too much skin
To fall in love
With a gigantic evil
And a tiny good.
Too much space,
Too much blue
To fit in one single flash
Too much dust,
Too much salt
Not to seek consolation
In the hereafter
Too much never,
Too much no
For so many souls,
For so many dreams,
For so much love
Friday, June 18, 2010
- Secretary of State Clinton met yesterday with the family of USAID contractor Alan Gross and issued a statement calling again for his release and pointing out that his “continued detention…is harming U.S.-Cuba relations.”
- Cuban media report that one of the “Cuban five,” Ramon Labanino whose sentence was recently reduced, has been transferred from a high-security prison to a medium-security prison.
- La Jornada interviews economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago, who is participating in the Catholic Church’s conference this week in
- Reuters: new Cuban data show “little Internet and telecom progress.”
’s mayor wants Tampa flights from Cuba ’s airport. Tampa
A group of 494 Cubans, including many in prison, has written a letter to the U.S. Congress that Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart describes as “asking them [Congress] to maintain current U.S. travel and trade restrictions.” Babalu has the Congressman’s press release along with the letter in English and Spanish.
Meanwhile, two signers of the first letter, bloggers Claudia Cadelo and Reinaldo Escobar, respond to critics and explain their reasons for supporting a change in
Mostly, the new letter says things with which nearly everyone agrees: the Cuban government should respect human rights,
The closest the letter gets to a direct Congressional request is this:
“We believe that initiatives such as the one this letter is responding to, even with the best of intentions, tend to deviate focus and attention from what is happening on the island. For that reason we suggest that you maintain a firm and coherent policy of pressure and condemnation toward the tyranny in
It’s beyond me why they would write elliptically instead of just saying, “please oppose the bill.” At any rate, if you believe that maintaining a “firm and coherent policy of pressure” necessarily means cutting off travel, then bingo. If you think of American policies toward the Soviet bloc, where there was trade and unrestricted citizen contact but plenty of pressure on human rights, then it’s less clear.
On a positive note, not a soul has questioned the authenticity of the second letter or the good faith of those whose names are on it.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Cleaning out some very old files, I came across this briefing paper from 2001, “Protecting U.S. National Interests in the Event of a Major Oil Spill in the
The paper, written for
The Administration is passing information to
The paper points out that a normal set of preparedness measures would include exchanges between officials about marine environment issues, designation of officials to be contacted in case of emergencies, plans for action and identification of resources to be employed in case of emergency, and simulation exercises where officials test plans and procedures against a fictional scenario.
These would be good issues to discuss tomorrow when
- The webpage of
archdiocese magazine Espacio Laical has the program (pdf) of the Church’s Semana Social conference (see column at right) and promises to publish the texts of presentations at the conference. Havana
- A reflection on the Church’s current activities by Tom Garofalo appears at the Havana Note. Which leads me to a correction: the conference is taking place not in the aula magna of the
, but at that of the University’s Colegio San Geronimo, just off the Plaza de Armas. Universityof Havana
- According to La Jornada, Archbishop Mamberti’s opening remarks at the conference were about the “laity of the state” and had a “doctrinaire tone, without allusions to the situation of the local Church.” [Note: A reader tells me the topic is better translated as "The Secularism of the State" and says the Archbishop was referring to Cuba's secular state "as distinct from the previous atheist state."]
- The State Department issued its annual human trafficking report, again placing
in its lowest category, Tier 3, along with the Cuba . Cuba’s reaction: “shameful defamation.” The report covers the Dominican Republic for the first time, ranking our country in Tier 1, but with problems – thousands in “sexual slavery.” United States
- The Ballet Nacional de Cuba performs May 31-
June 5, 2011at the Kennedy Center in , Washington June 14-19, 2011at the Orange County (California) Performing Arts Center, and in Los Angeles June 23-26, 2011.
- A Granma headline, for the guys at Babalu: “Wearing a Che T-shirt a Crime in
“The hatred felt by the State of Israel against the Palestinians is such that they would not hesitate to send the one and a half million men, women and children of that country to the crematorium where millions of Jews of all ages were exterminated by the Nazi.”
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
This is the week of the Semana Social. I’m told that this conference, involving clergy and laity, usually involves a discussion of the Church’s social and pastoral work.
This week, it is taking place as the
Unlike on past occasions, the conference agenda “includes issues that go beyond Church questions, such as the economy, migration and the relations between Cubans at home and abroad,” as IPS reports here. For the first time it is being opened to non-Catholics. Several professors from the
Aurelio Alonso, a Cuban participant, is interviewed here in La Jornada.
Arturo Lopez Levy, a Cuban who formerly belonged to and worked at the Jewish synagogue in Vedado and now studies and teaches in
It is being claimed that the bill pending in Congress to end
That is simply false. I have never even heard of an attempt to add such a provision to this bill.
What the bill actually does with regard to
First, it restores a pre-2004 definition of the “cash in advance” requirement, so that
Second, it allows
There is a practice of exclusion in Cuban political culture that is really remarkable.
When I see it, I recall the remark often attributed to President Reagan, that an 80 percent friend is not a 20 percent enemy. The practice of descalificación turns that idea on its head, where disagreement in one area can become the basis for never talking to, listening to, or dealing with a person ever again.
Certainly the Cuban government has long engaged in this form of symbolic banishment by claiming that its opponents represent a foreign agenda, a foreign enemy, and are barely Cuban.
Sometimes its opponents (both on and off the island) engage in a variation of the same thing. The political risk would seem to be higher for opponents who, after all, have not been in power for five decades and whose success must depend on processes of addition rather than subtraction and exclusion.
These thoughts came to mind last spring when I read perhaps the loopiest thing ever written about the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. In this column, political scientist Carlos Moore dumps on a number of Cuban Americans who lamented Zapata’s death. Using not one iota of evidence,
Read it for yourself. In the end the column isn’t very instructive, except perhaps to explain why a single party has been comfortably in power in
The same applies to much of the reaction to the very interesting letter that those 74 Cubans, including leading dissidents, bloggers, and civil society figures, wrote in support of an end to
You have seen the reaction from
In this radio interview, talk show host Ninoska Perez hammers Guillermo Farinas, a signer of the letter, about his support for a bill that would, in addition to permitting travel, extend loans to the Cuban government. She returns to this point time and again, and Farinas isn’t prepared for it, because it is a complete falsehood. (More on that here.)
Taken together, it’s a mix of repudiation and condescencion at Cubans who expressed an opinion contrary to what seems to be part of the civic religion of hard-line
Even though much of the dust has already settled, I’ll add a few things.
- If the point of U.S. policy is to help Cubans, what could possibly be wrong with learning what Cubans in
- In the past, the line has been that dissidents themselves can decide on the risks they take when it comes to political activity, accepting resources from the
, appearing on Radio Marti, etc. Now that they are speaking out in favor of freedom to travel, we are told that they should be shielded from discussions of American policy. Give me a break. United States
- If unrestricted travel is such a bad thing, why is there no effort – none whatsoever – by the Cuban American community or its representatives to stop their own people from traveling to
- Why should it be surprising that Cuban dissidents, who view freedom to travel as a universal right, would argue that no government – in
, or anywhere – has any business abridging that right? Havana, Washington
- And why should it be surprising that dissidents would argue that an end to
restrictions would destroy the “spurious justification” that Cuban officials use to support U.S. ’s restrictions? Cuba
- Politics aside, can anyone imagine any group of Cubans, open and friendly by nature, saying they want foreign visitors kept out of their country?
- Are we to expect that Cubans, alone in history among all peoples who have lived under communism, yearn for their country to be cut off from the outside world?
My guess is that part of the sting of this letter comes from the fact that hunger striker Guillermo Farinas is among the signatories. Farinas, who reportedly stopped eating in February and has been in and out of hospitals ever since, is pressing for release of political prisoners. Internationally, he has been a hero and the rallying point for that cause ever since the death of Zapata Tamayo. As soon as suggestions were being made that some of the signers didn’t know what they were signing, Farinas gave El Nuevo Herald a very clear explanation of his reasons. In the interview with Ninoska Perez cited above, he also stuck to his guns. One of his reasons was that if Americans are allowed to travel freely to
On top of that, there are the bloggers who have provided minute-by-minute information about Zapata and Farinas. They signed too.
So did many others whose bona fides as defenders of human rights is beyond question. Gisela Delgado comes to mind, a woman whose Vedado home housed an independent library; she was left alone in it one morning in the spring of 2003 when the library was ransacked and her husband Hector Palacios taken away to jail.
An important sector of Cuban Miami now seems to be telling people like these to take a hike.
The clash with el exilio has overshadowed the purpose of the letter, which was directed at American legislators, whose reaction remains to be seen.
Friday, June 4, 2010
To my knowledge, this article from Ciego de Avila is the first mention in Cuban media of the reform that is turning barbers and beauticians from employees to contractors who pay fixed monthly fees to the government and keep their profits for themselves.
The article explains how the system works; the monthly fees cover rent, taxes, and retirement contributions, and they vary by municipality. The barbers buy their own supplies and set their own prices. The article refers to “leasing” on an individual basis, not the creation of cooperatives. It’s not clear if these people will now be counted as trabajadores por cuenta propia (self-employed).
It says that 108 workers in 65 locations in the province are in this new system, which “for now” has been implemented only in shops with three or fewer seats.
Mainly, the article describes benefits of the new system: big savings for the government, better earnings for the barbers and beauticians, and better service for consumers. One barber complains that his contract is for one year only, not for a longer term.
The kicker: The article calls the new system “an important step in the current economic adjustment that has as one of its main goals relieving [the state] of the heavy load brought about by the excessive paternalism in which it has engaged for more than half a century.”
Important, yes, in that it breaks new ground, and very important if it is applied far beyond barbershops and beauty parlors with three seats or less. In that regard, this passage from a Reuters report on Raul Castro’s birthday stands out:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Cuba’s closest ally, said on Venezuelan television last week that Castro confided to him – as a warning not to do the same thing – that Cuba had “committed many errors” in its development of communism. Chavez quoted Castro as saying: “Here we nationalized even the funeral home, the barber shop, the sale of ice cream. That doesn't have any reason to belong to the state.”
Thanks to the reader who passed the article on.
There have been several reports in recent weeks about
The report also says that Cuban television broached the idea for the first time; it quotes analyst Ariel Terrero saying during a broadcast that sugar revenues should be reinvested in the industry, and “the other factor that should not be forgotten is foreign investment, due precisely to the attractive figures of the industry.”
Raw sugar was selling for 7.33 cents per pound in May 2002, when the dramatic downsizing of
“To continue working in a sustained and irreversible manner to solve the complex economic problems that the nation faces.”
– The first in a list of five “vital issues” presented by Raul Castro to an “expanded meeting of the National Defense Council” on May 28; Granma reports that he reiterated his view that the “sustainability and preservation of our social system” depend on the “economic battle.”
Thursday, June 3, 2010
- EFE: The Posada Carriles trial will begin
January 11, 2011and the judge says it will not be postponed again. Tracey Eaton recently looked at issues related to evidence in the case here and here.
- The New York Times on Alicia Alonso, visiting
to receive an award tonight from the American Ballet Theater. New York
- Cuba: Waiting for a Revolution: This 22-minute video takes a look at contemporary
with good street interviews; from reporter Adrian Baschuk for Vanguard. Cuba
’s trade with Cuba fell by nearly one third in 2009. China
- Time to lecture the Cubans: Brian Petty of the International Association of Drilling Contractors tells National Journal, “The Cubans are going to develop their offshore oil…They’re going to be aggressively going after their offshore resources, and they need to be trained so they don’t mess it up.”
- The population chart shows very slight growth in 2009 (6,529 people) and projects slight negative growth through 2020. The chart’s data begins in 1774.
- There are 534 youth and retirees for every 1,000 Cubans in the labor force. This “dependency ratio” is projected to grow to 578 in 2020.
- Average salary is 429 pesos.
- There are 143,800 self-employed, up from 138,400 in 2007 but short of the 2006 total of 152,600.
La Jornada reports on the foreign trade statistics, where trade volume with
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
- AP: Seven political prisoners have been moved to prisons close to their homes and families. It remains to be seen whether this presages release of these or others, pursuant to the government’s discussions with the Catholic Church. The Archdiocese of Havana released a statement with prisoners’ names and destinations; Prensa Latina transmitted it, and Cuban Colada translates it here.
- An unfortunate loss: Diario de Cuba reports that the magazine Encuentro just published its last issue, Penultimos Dias comments and posts the editorial farewell note (pdf).
- La Razon publishes a short excerpt from a new biography of Raul Castro by journalist Vicente Botin.
- Kendry Morales, formerly of Sancti Spiritus and until last week the hottest hitter on the Angels, broke his leg Saturday while celebrating a walk-off grand slam honron.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
“I oppose those who defend…the production and organizational schemes that have exhausted their role in history. For example, those who believe that all [small shops] must be maintained at all costs because that’s socialism…Lies. Socialism is the [state] control over the means of production, but not all, only the main ones, those that really define the economy of a country…I disagree with those who believe socialism will collapse just because a group of bricklayers form a cooperative to build a house, or a plumber fixes a plugged drain or a mechanic fixes a car…I disagree with those who believe that…any change will result in [socialism’s] destruction…It’s the other way: The socialism that does not change, that does not adapt to new situations, is condemned to failure. Remember the socialism of [eastern]
– A. Ríos Hernández, in a letter to the editor of Granma, cited in this Herald story on the remarkable letters appearing in that paper. Other notes on these letters here, here, and here. Last Friday’s letters are worth checking out too, including the first, from R. González Arango, who says it’s high time that Cuban officials say where they stand on the issues under discussion in the letters column.