Cuba: A Bill to Penalize Acts of Repudiation / Juan Juan Almeida

•April 30, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Act of repudiation against and arrests of Ladies in White/

Act of repudiation against and arrests of Ladies in White/

To guarantee the prevalence of solidarity and respect, a bill is urgently needed that would penalize acts of repudiation, and hold their perpetrators and accomplices criminally responsible.

Help me to promote this bill.

Act of Repudiation

Act of Repudiation

A Bill to Penalize Acts of Repudiation in Cuba

By Juan Juan Almeida

To guarantee the prevalence of solidarity and respect, a bill is urgently needed that would penalize acts of repudiation, and demand their perpetrators and accomplices be held criminally responsible.

We Cubans are living through an unequivocal social collapse and loss of values that we should, for the benefit of all, reverse. The Government bears much blame for this phenomenon that underlies civic conduct. Perhaps it thought that it was doing enough by providing us the opportunity for suitable professional advancement, and upon decreeing that good manners were a petit bourgeois vestige, created the “anti-value.”

It is true, although somewhat belatedly, that the Catholic Church plays an important role in reversing the process of moral degradation, and as of a few months back, Cuban television has been insistently broadcasting messages related to social education. This is commendable, but not enough – and to carry out such a campaign seems cynical and ironic to when in fact stupidity and rudeness are promoted and rewarded.

It seems contradictory that in Cuba, where the levels of instruction are decidedly elevated, formal education should be absolutely fractured and undervalued by the authorities.

What type of good behavior can be imparted to a child who is party to the impunity of someone who, without any legitimate reason, inflicts violence on his equals, or attacks others’ dignity and physical integrity, causing injuries with anatomical, physical and/or mental consequences?

We are a passionate people. I understand the urge to earnestly defend certain convictions, and that, under current circumstances, the government needs to display its superiority and control. But the ignominious act of repudiation is a form a discrimination that seeks to persecute, harass and exert the domination of one social group over another. It is the vulgarization of discord and a daily erosion of social mechanisms.

How many times have we not seen how a group of persons – immune to the law, but operating outside the cases authorized by the law – by employing violence, force and even intimidation, enter others’ homes without spoken or unspoken permission of its residents? The Internet is full of examples.

At this point, it is impossible to achieve good forms of conduct, and incorporate social courtesy in the Cuban temperament, without first penalizing similar behaviors that endanger community stability and social relations.

Today, to guarantee the prevalence of solidarity and respect, a bill is urgently needed that would penalize acts of repudiation, holding their perpetrators and accomplices criminally responsible. Sanctions would extend from prohibiting the frequenting of certain locations; prohibiting the practice of a given profession, charge or office; warnings; fines; limitation of freedom; correctional work with or without internment; up to incarceration – depending on the level of social dangerousness of the committed act, its circumstances and consequences, as well as any prior criminal record, recidivism and/or multiple repeat acts of the “repudiators” implicated in such intolerable outbursts of rage and violence.

Society belongs to all of us, equally. To promote a bill of this nature is not to confront the State, it does not undermine any of its inefficient institutions, it does not inflame anybody. It is merely a civic and civilized way to encourage respectful coexistence among Cubans – because when social distress signals are so clearly seen, it is everyone’s responsibility to pay attention and act.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

 

Cuba: The Pitfalls of Extradition / Juan Juan Almeida

•April 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Joanne Chesimard

Joanne Chesimard

Juan Juan Almeida, 23 April 2015 — Havana promised the Bush administration that it would no longer accept fugitives from American justice such as Joanne Chesimard, shown here in footage shot on a Havana street.

Politics is the only one of the performing arts in which there are no surprises. Despite the visible efforts made by Cuba and the United States to normalize relations and the Cuban government’s recent agreement to cooperate in resolving cases of U.S. fugitives living on the island, I question whether Joanne Chessimard (who was granted political asylum in 1984) or William Guillermo Morales (who also has asylum) will ever be extradited.

Their extradition would set a precedent that would put pressure on authorities to hand over others, such Juan Lisímaco Gutiérrez Fischmann (former husband of Mariela Castro), who have sought refuge in Havana by claiming political persecution.

It is more likely that, in the interim, Cuba will return those suspected of involvement of more ordinary crimes such as money laundering, counterfeiting, and insurance, credit card and/or Medicare fraud.

Extradition is a judicial tool that can be described as being either “active,” such as when one country formally requests another country hand over a certain individual, or “passive,” as when a country makes the request to a point of contact (i.e., a human being).

In other countries it is handled in different ways but in Cuba a “passive” extradition request is made through diplomatic channels. After being reviewed, it is passed on to the executive branch. Since there is no separation of powers in Cuba, the judicial branch is then ordered to process and resolve the case.

We saw the most recent example of an active deportation in 2004 when an Argentine businessman with Mexican citizenship, Carlos Agustín Ahumada Kurtz, was detained in a house in Nuevo Vedado and later deported from Cuba after an extradition request was made by the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A very different case was that of Robert Vesco. A Cuban judge ordered his extradition but the executive branch, in the person of Fidel Castro, refused to turn him over, citing risks to national security, although there were some who argued the issue had more to do with “family assets.”

Cuba does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. but that does not mean a person cannot be extradited. Herein lies a useful tool which the Cuban government uses. According to international law, in the absence of a treaty, the laws of the country to which the claim is submitted determine whether a person can be handed over or not.

William Guillermo Morales fell victim to his own bomb.* The other subterfuges were hidden in the legal procedure itself. As mentioned earlier, the process begins with a diplomatic memorandum requesting the provisional detention of the person in question for the purpose of extradition. But it has to meet certain requirements. The requesting government has to provide data identifying the individual to be detained. It must also show proof of an arrest warrant, commit to formalize the extradition request by a specificied date, agree to reciprocity and acknowledge that the case is in fact an emergency situation.

I should point out that “an emergency situation” is taken to mean the individual being sought poses a flight risk from the country being petitioned.

Given their status as political refugees, might one think that Joanne Chessimard and William Guillermo Morales would be strongly motivated to flee the island? Perhaps, but where would they go? Venezuela is not an option. President Maduro has as many chromosomes as a horse (Equus asinus). The last thing he wants is a problem like this.

Those with political refugee status in Cuba know that some future negotiated agreement might subject them to cross-border detention (or adduction). More than a possibility, for them extradition is a distant, dream-like vision of reality.

*Translator’s note: A member of the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas Liberacion Nacional), an organization advocating for Puerto Rican independence through acts of violence. On July 12, 1978, Morales was working on a bomb at a house in East Elmhurst, New York, when it exploded. Morales was severely injured, taken to a hospital and was later transferred to the Bellevue Hospital prison ward. Morales escaped from Bellevue and fled to Mexico, where he was captured in May, 1983. He was eventually handed over to Cuban authorities and is believed to still be in that country.

Cuban Doctors Who Create an Army of the Grateful / Juan Juan Almeida

•April 19, 2015 • Comments Off on Cuban Doctors Who Create an Army of the Grateful / Juan Juan Almeida
Cuban doctors arriving in Brazil

Cuban doctors arriving in Brazil

Juan Juan Almeida, 26 March 2015 — The online Brazilian portal Jornal Da Band denounced the social welfare program Más Médicos (More Doctors), which is aimed at the most needy sectors of the Brazilian population, and deploys Cuban doctors to places where the Brazilian physicians do not want to work, as having been conceived as a way to transfer resources to the Island’s regime, and as an economic boost.

Thought-provoking, but it seems to me simplistic to view in this type of humanitarian invasion just a simple economic undercurrent. It is necessary to know that Cuban involvement in healthcare started in the Algeria of 1963, when a health crisis and trachoma epidemic were ferociously taking over the Algerian territory. The Cuban ambassador at the time, Commander Jorge “Papito” Serguera, proposed to the Algerian health minister, a certain Mr. Bumasa, to confront the situation with aid of Cuban doctors.

The Algerians accepted this proposal, and Seguera took his idea to Havana and spoke with Manuel “Barbarroja” Piñeiro, who in turn presented it to Fidel Castro. The latter, with canine astuteness, smelled the opportunity to penetrate through other fronts into African territory.

Algerian public health was strengthened, the pandemic was eliminated, and the work of Cuban medical personnel spread rapidly through Africa to the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Central America, South America and the Caribbean–acting as a force to promote multi-million-dollar contracts and take control of strategic countries such as Qatar, China, South Africa, Venezuela and Brazil.

At this time, Cuban medical personnel are present in 66 countries of the world — 40 of which receive the service at no cost, and another 26 which pay for it and generate revenues above and beyond a staightforward social program. The most conservative figures reported by the official media show that the exportation of these volunteer workers — who include physicians, ophthalmologists, healthcare technicians and service personnel — brings in more than $5.5 billion annually, which makes it the principal line item in the Cuban economy.

Even so, besides the clear economic and humanitarian factors, the Cuban health program has other objectives.

If it is true that Cuban doctors, as overseas volunteer workers, tend to a population of scarce resources, it is also true that they offer very diligent services to certain members of families that are not so disadvantaged.

Jornal Da Band will be surprised to know the extensive list of important political figures, influential personalities and world celebrities who have been patients in the Island. But, why mention them? I feel that, to quote Che’s sadly famous missive, “There is no point in scribbling pages.” And the crushing truth is that the Cuban volunteers, besides being professionals, also know how to be persons, how to develop friendships, and to break the almost inhuman distance that certain medical protocols create between doctor and patient.

It is not necessary to explain that healthcare requires commitment. I myself do not belong to that group that is willing to dedicate their lives to the noble cause of the homeland, but I would gladly give it for who would save my child, a friend, or an ill relative. Therefore, politically speaking, even more than ideology and making money, the Cuban medical missions have as their primary objective creating an army of the grateful spread throughout the world, who occupy an important place in the social sphere, who remain motivated and invisible, but ever at the ready to take action and speak favorably about Cuban medicine, the Cuban Revolution, and its hysterical leaders. Oops, the spell-checker played a trick on me! I meant to say, “historical.”

The Cuban medical programs have basic objectives: political, economic, humanitarian and caregiving.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Cuba: Dreams and realities before and after the Summit of the Americas / Juan Juan Almeida

•April 3, 2015 • Comments Off on Cuba: Dreams and realities before and after the Summit of the Americas / Juan Juan Almeida

1427850192_cumbre-panama -- JJNow that the beginning of the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama is upon us I think I understand why there are so many expectations. I studied in the former USSR and I know that many optimists are living in a sort of suspense similar to that of Moscow in 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan were going to meet, for the first time, in Geneva.
Although many have forgotten due to the monumental act put up by the translator who hoarded the headlines, Barack Obama and Raúl Castro met for the first time during the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

Today, some think that we are making progress and others that we are on the verge of a “nervous breakdown”. The truth is that all Cubans will listen to the speeches of both leaders and will pay attention to the small details that we will only be able to see during their handshake.

To Panama will go part of Cuba’s opposition and Cubans in exile. But I think the preferred topic to speak of will be the hundred, maybe more, of actors, students, intellectuals, artists, farmers, private vendors, members of cooperatives, businessmen and academics who, also as representatives of Cuba’s civil society, were zealously selected to travel to said Summit and to dramatize an entire spectacle with a gelatinous dynamic. In this spectacle we will see one or two desertions and special acts with tones that are sentimental, democratic, multiracial, polytheistic, progressive and pluralistic.

This is what the ex Minister of Culture and current presidential adviser Abel Prieto anticpated when he said on March 17 that “the Cubans who attend the Summit in Panama have to be prepared to confront the stereotypes created around the idea that Cuba has a monolithic society.”

The story will begin when upon the end of the Summit, Cubans return to the island to confront the real scenario with the new changes in everyday life. Venezuela cut by more than half the amount of oil it sends to Cuba and although it is logical to understand that Havana and Caracas, so long as they maintain inscrutability and motivate speculation are keeping quiet, one only has to turn the page to see that there is no objective possibility for Venezuela to continue to subsidize oil while facing its own extreme difficulties.

An even worse case is Brazil; the exploration of oilfields below the ocean would provide an income of millions of euros. Based on this there were agreements signed and commitments made, Brazilian oil will be the “goal of the future” but the fall in crude oil prices and the recent scandal related to Petrobas, sank the South American giant into the worst of its crises and into a political paralysis that will have its consequences in Cuba and on the Port of Mariel megaproject which is suddenly halted due to a lack of capital.

Cuba’s medical delegations abroad will continue because the government will use the military’s budget in order to not alter any precepts. But the return of electricity blackouts, in the present circumstances in the island, where everyone likes to play at leading and democracy, will force replacing the decadent debate of the “lefts and rights” for the need to choose between “politics and economics”.

Doubtlessly, that does erode the government’s strength and will force it to retreat to allow new alternatives for the development of the citizenry, which will resourcefully find the legal and/or natural mechanisms to improve the wellbeing of self, family and nation. In that order, because the reverse is called utopia.

Translated by: P.V.M.

Betting Cuba’s Future on Alejandro or Mariela Castro / Juan Juan Almeida

•April 1, 2015 • Comments Off on Betting Cuba’s Future on Alejandro or Mariela Castro / Juan Juan Almeida
Siblings: Alejandro and Mariela Castro Espin

Siblings: Alejandro and Mariela Castro Espin

Juan Juan Almeida, 27 March 2015 — With the approach of the next congress of the Cuban Communist Party, scheduled for 2016, some analysts are adhering to a prudent logic by predicting that Alejandro Castro Espin will be included on the list of possible successors to the Cuban throne.

They cling to this notion with amazing aplomb. But the prospect of Alejandro being included in any list of possible successors is likely to dissipate even before it can happen. Very intelligent people often make the mistake of advancing elaborate theories such as this by standing back and looking at the surface but mistaking the spots of a Dalmatian with those of a Holstein.

Clearly, Alejandro has managed to hone the proverbial skill of political oratory. He acts as a government spokesperson and, what he does not know, he makes up. His peculiar gift for being able to memorize and recite the complete works of Lenin can be astonishing. He is one of the most powerful people in Cuba today and has a hand in important national decision-making. But he is forever caught between the image of a hero and the verses of the Iliad, which ominously conflate modern-day Havana with an epic Greek saga.

Alejandro is not a member of the Secretariat nor the Politburo nor the Central Committee nor the National Assembly. Nor does he represent (or claim to represent) any major social group. This is why I believe his sister Mariela is better poised to compete for the same office.

Alejandro wrote a book, The United States: The Price of Power, translations of which we can find in several languages. But, although available, it remains practically invisible, having failed to garner the respect of artists and intellectuals who, among other things, know that the author of this indigestible work is really Juan Francisco Arias Fernandez, also known as Paquito, his faithful squire.

Yes, Alejandro is a military man. He is also cold, calculating and ambitious. But he lacks influence with the military’s commanders. Some of them, the oldest officers, formed their ties during the battles in the Sierra Maestra. Others, the mid-level officers, did so during Cuba’s wars in Nicaragua, Ethiopia and/or Angola. The rest, those comfortable in the wheeling and dealing of the marketplace of influence, belong to a group none of whose members would consider jeopardizing a profitable present by clinging to a past that has no future.

Vilma and Raul’s son does not fit into any of the Castro categories. Though he did pass through Angola, he did not take part in the war. After a shooting accident during training practice in Luanda, he returned to Havana and was decorated as though he had been wounded in battle, something that remains a source of jokes even today.

Of course, they can handpick him. They can make him president or field marshal. Even Raul knows that appointing Alejandro would establish a precedent that would withstand the culture of silence and the fear of the Cuban people. But it would amount to a slap in the face to the intelligentsia, and would turn a hierarchical structure like the military into a tinderbox and every general into a lighted match.

Bets are only made when the chips are on the table. To put it simply, Alejandro is someone who will remain relevant only as long as Raul Castro is alive.

Separation of Powers, Parliamentary Debut and National Capitol in Cuba in 2018 / Juan Juan Almeida

•March 14, 2015 • Comments Off on Separation of Powers, Parliamentary Debut and National Capitol in Cuba in 2018 / Juan Juan Almeida

1426035799_capitolio

As has already been announced, the VII Cuban Communist Party Congress will be held in April 2016. From the moment of the announcement until the first quarter of this year municipal and provincial assemblies have been held, charts have been prepared, members have been briefed and documents have been approved that have still not been released.

It has also been announced that a new election law, with some changes to current statutes that have been in effect since 1992, will leave the door half-open to future constitutional reform.

The Cuban government has demonstrated over and over that it does not act with transparency, much less with improvisation. On the contrary, it meticulously follows an elaborate script in which withholding information from its citizens is essential.

To avoid being surprised by the how, when and why, it is worth asking if the Cuban government is preparing the groundwork for an overhaul of its own political system.

Based on what has already been published, the new electoral law will govern the elections of 2017. Interestingly, it will not only be when the year the men and women who will govern the island after February 2018 will be elected but will also mark the end of the controversial ten-year term of General Raul Castro who — as he himself proposed — will give up the Cuban presidency.

On any streetcorner of the world one can proselytize, arouse awareness, seek financing, organize marches and so forth. But I am inclined to think that real political opposition only takes in parliament. That is why I am trying to catch the attention of those who can now demonstrate they are truly worthy of the title “leaders of the opposition” because — as I have often heard — this legislation will extend to the entire country an experiment that for some time now has been quietly carried out (with some success) in the western provinces Mayabeque and Artemesia. It represents a new model of governance which involves a separation between the leadership of the party and that of local governments.

The current electoral law lays out the procedure for the election of deputies and for the selection of members of the Council of State as well as for it president, who also serves as chief-of-state and head-of-government of the Republic of Cuba. Why diminish the powers of the next president? Because military leaders do not want happening in Havana what happened in Moscow under Mikhail Gorbachev.

Of course, multi-party democracy is not an option in Cuba but let’s acknowledge that this could be a step towards dismantling the monopoly on power that the Communist Party has exercised for more than half a century and could facilitate the election of citizens (not party members) to the ranks of deputies in Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power.

It should be noted that the Cuban parliament, with 612 members, is the largest legislative body in the hemisphere. It is ridiculous, even laughable, that a country with little more than 11 million people has a legislative body that exceeds the number of members in the U.S. House of Representatives. The new electoral law will reduce the number of parliamentarians both because it makes sense and because, as the song by Puerto Rico’s Gran Combo goes, “there’s too many people for this bed.” Today’s 612 deputies simply will not fit in the renovated semi-circular chamber in the national capitol that will house the next assembly.*

*Translator’s note: The Capitolio, or capitol building, was the seat of Cuba’s legislature until the Cuban Revolution. Until recently it housed the Cuban Academy of Sciences. It has been undergoing restoration and renovations in anticipation of serving as the seat of Cuba’s National Assembly.

Manual for Trading with Cuban Businesses / Juan Juan Almeida

•March 4, 2015 • Comments Off on Manual for Trading with Cuban Businesses / Juan Juan Almeida

1424725405_clasesJuan Juan Almeida, 23 February 2015 — Marijuana relaxes, cocaine excites, and the consumption of amphetamines allows concentration; but of all the drugs, wanting to trade with Cuba is an event that provokes alienation.

The effect was evident a few days ago, when a group of US businesses expressed a willingness to do business with Cuban civil society.

Undoubtedly, the Cuban phenomenon is a magnetic stimulation and shows that they, the businesses and their attorneys, although they call themselves specialists in Cuban issues, don’t know that in the greatest of Antilles a foreign business can only trade with State businesses which, by the way, are the only ones who have import licenses.

To do business in Cuba, first you have to be very clear that trading activity on the Island answers only to the political decisions of the Government, and to the State budget, in that order, the first deciding what company does business, and the second determines what the company is paid.

The Cuban commercial structure is hierarchical and, to a certain point, disciplines; but the system is corrupt. Therefore, there are entrepreneurs who earn more in Cuba than in any other place in the world. But they are not doing business, but buying paper.

Let me explain: The confirmed Letter of Credit is a bank tool that is governed according to international norms, where the payer buys the merchandise and indicates the bank, upon confirmation of the funds, which makes payment according to certain clauses; and the banking entity that guarantees assumes the obligations starting from receiving certain documentation such as the invoice, customs certificates.

After the freezing of financial assets which happened in 2009, none of the businesses located in the country accept payments in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). Since then, and by political resolution, payment is only in Letters of Credit confirmed by first line banks (Royal Bank, Republik Bank, etc.) to certain and determined foreign companies. The rest pay in unconfirmed Letters of Credit, paid in 120 to 260 days and backed by the Central Bank of Cuba, the Cuban International Financing Bank, or offshore banks located in tax havens.

Negotiating with Cuban banks as work that never ends. The negotiation of who decides is risky and to earn more than 50% is to buy this kind of stamped and supported paper debt, I repeat, by offshore banks located in tax havens.

No bank in the world pays more than a small percentage in interest. Buying Letters of Credit in Cuba is a lucrative business. The danger is that, as the document is “unconfirmed,” dealing with the time required (120 to 360 days) the Cuban bank doesn’t pay because either they haven’t received the government order or because the state budget lacks financial fluidity. In any case, the renegotiation of the document and everything is a question of waiting, or more to the point, of waiting to have a contact who is politically important and/or a bank official who, after receiving 5% of the transaction, as a bribe, will authorize final payment of the full amount owed.

Doing business in Cuba is a real achievement and a true adventure; and, if you’ll allow me, let me suggest that before you begin, educate yourself.

 

 
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