They talk a lot; they say little / Juan Juan Almeida

•June 22, 2015 • Comments Off on They talk a lot; they say little / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 3 June 2015 — According to official figures, cancer, cerebrovascular illnesses, diabetes and chronic respiratory conditions represent 67.7 percent of the total deaths in 2014 in Cuba. But they leave out the exact number of accidents and suicides.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Who do you do business with in Cuba, the military or civilians? / Juan Juan Almeida

•June 22, 2015 • Comments Off on Who do you do business with in Cuba, the military or civilians? / Juan Juan Almeida

Raul Castro at the National Asssembly in Havana

Juan Juan Almeida,8 June 2015 — In an admirable surge of ratification in the most pure tradition of sovereignty, out of an infinite commitment of respect for human rights and in support of the Cuban people, this past June 3, on the birthday of Raúl Castro, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the prohibition of exports to the Cuban military.

I assume, without the least reluctance, that the General took it as an excellent gift. That measure won’t affect the ruling class at all; it will only shatter, even more, the agonizing economy of Cubans who don’t have sufficient resources to reach the end of the month. As my grandmother said, “What’s just is not only what suits the ones who dictate the sentence.”

Relying on memories etched by force and in the authority granted to me by the experience of having lived in the monster and knowing it, I can guarantee that in terms of effectiveness, this recently approved statute will not even begin to make a dent in the pentagram of Cuban authority.

To stop exporting American products to institutions directed by the Cuban military implies not selling anything to Cuba. And if the idea is to stop exporting in order to augment the discontent and provoke a hoped-for social conflict, we are more out of place than a piraña on the high seas.

The CIA, congressmen, think-tanks, analysts, scholars and advisors should come back to earth and understand for once that the civil-military parallelism with its commercial and banking tentacles in several places in the world, which for years sided with Fidel and Raúl, has ceased to exist.

Since 2009, when the GAE (Business Administration Group, S.A.) appropriated CIMEX (Cuba Import-Export, S.A.), they made Colonel Héctor Oroza Busutil president and arranged that the Center of Purchasing and National Imports would remain under the orders of Tecnoimport (which is not a fake business – its central offices are in the Marina Building, Ave. del Puerto, No. 102, between Justiz and Obrapía, Old Havana).

It seized, among other things, the last civilian redoubt divesting itself of the Panamerican Shops, the Servi-Cupet (service centers), the El Rápido cafeterias, the Video centers and the photo shops, Photoservice, the Commercal Centers, the shipping company, Zelcom (which includes the free zone, the industrial parks and the storage services in bond), the International Group of Tour Operators and the tour company Havanatur, the services of Rent a Car and taxis, Black Coral (jewelry), Contex (design and production of uniforms and fashion collections), Coinage of Money, the Customs agency, Images (publicity and production of videos), Ecuse (repair and maintenance of automotive equipment and construction of property), the Estate Agent, the Center of Credit Cards and financial services, the BFI (International Finance Bank), Cubapacks (messaging, parcels and catalog sales), Abdala (recording studios, record labels and music editing) and the division that manages all the trademarks and patents.

The same thing happened in Habaguanex, in the system of self-employment and in all the ministries and institutions, be they governmental or not. In all of them there are colonels and generals dressed like CEOs with clothing from Anderson & Sheppard.

You only have to look to see that the social, economic, financial, business and institutional structure today is under the control of the military and/or the families of the legendary leaders of the Cuban Revolution, who paradoxically fake their ideological positions but in reality are more committed to their generation and their own desires than to their loyalty to Raúl.

Without a doubt, with this measure they will entrench themselves, and it will help them reorganize the rank and file that is already divided and with serious internal conflicts. I am sure that other ways exist, including better ways of making this ruling class implode, from the inside, without having to affect the Cuban people.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

President of Cienfuegos Government Falls in Police Raid / Juan Juan Almeida

•June 10, 2015 • Comments Off on President of Cienfuegos Government Falls in Police Raid / Juan Juan Almeida

He confused having a political position with autonomy and freedom, used the Internet service to call his daughter who resides in Canada, was summoned for it, and had to pay the price for believing in the future.

Eduardo Walfrido Coll Rodríguez, known as Eddy Coll, President of the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power in Cienfuegos, is one of those rare men who, occupying a certain medium rank, and possessing leadership skills to spare, accepts the word “change,” listens to the voice of an exhausted nation and, from a government position, defends and identifies with the people’s priorities.

He is known for the effort he puts forth when an issue concerns helping others, and for his perseverance in battling against bureaucratic pettiness. Perhaps because of this, he was only summoned, and not expelled from his post. Let’s review step by step.

In Cuba, the government provides resident foreigners (via ENET and its various plans) an option that it does not offer its own citizens: to legally contract with an Internet service and associate it with the telephone numbers of their domiciles.

To ignore this difference is not a good sign; but this particular type of apartheid opened a commercial breach used by some Cubans to purchase Internet service from foreigners, and turn their own computers into telephone switchboards.

This appears to be a good business, and produces significant savings for customers. Tariffs imposed by the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) fluctuate between 1.00 and 1.20 CUCs per minute, depending on the geographic zone with which a connection is being made. The parallel network for international calling offers an identical service at .20 or .25 CUC cents per minute.

I should point out that, according to unofficial data, the volume of calls out of Cuba via the Internet does not impact ETECSA’s revenue–but does impact the interests of the Interior Ministry (MININT) which, because it cannot monitor those calls, has circulated a resolution that punishes this activity with a decommission of the telephone line, and places its proprietors at the disposition of the court.

To enforce this regulation, ETECSA is constantly monitoring ENET users’ connection times and–if it detects a notable increase in usage on one of its lines–ETECSA will presume the existence of a business arrangement, and will alert MININT, which organizes the shutdown.

So, as if the “new economic model” were to also involve being implacable towards family communication, Eddy Coll was caught in one of these roundups, reprimanded for using the resources of the State for personal benefit, for visiting the clandestine cyber-café, nicknamed “the telephone booth,” of his neighbor, Lisette, and calling his daughter in Canada.

Some individuals who have a knack for staging events showed their solidarity [with the government] when they learned of the reprimand, and supported it as a warning. At this point, what’s the use? But it’s not surprising. What kind of legacy can we expect from a country that we can only view through the lens of folly? From a small nation which (according to what I’ve heard) has an Islamist terrorist living a pleasant life in Havana–in Siboney, to be exact–and that soon will be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism? Inconceivable, yes; but that’s another story.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison and others

5 May 2015

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

•April 30, 2015 • Comments Off on Cuba: A Bill to Penalize Acts of Repudiation / Juan Juan Almeida
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 • Comments Off on Cuba: The Pitfalls of Extradition / Juan Juan Almeida
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.


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