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Daily Archives: September 30, 2009

Seeds of change in Cuban farming

Seeds of change in Cuban farmingBy Michael VossBBC News, Camaguey

It could be a scene straight out of the Wild West: a homesteader struggling to tame a wilderness and turn it into productive farmland to provide a living for himself and his family.

But this struggle of man against the land is happening in the central province of Camaguey in Cuba.

Jorge Alcides has no electricity in the simple wooden home he built for his pregnant wife and two children.

He milks his three dairy cows by hand, sitting on a handmade stool. He and his son plough the fields using oxen. But he is not complaining.

" If you don't work the land you should lose it and let someone else take over "Jorge Alcides

"I'm really happy, it's different when you work for yourself rather than being paid a wage," he said.

Communist Cuba is undergoing one of the largest land redistributions since 's revolution in 1959; only this time it is leasing state-owned farmland to the private sector.

In a bid to boost production and reduce costly imports, Raul Castro is offering small plots of unproductive state land to family farmers and private co-operatives.

Around 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) are up for grabs. So far about 86,000 applications for land have been approved, with tens of thousands more Cubans hoping to participate.

Back-breaking work

Last year, Mr Alcides received an extra 13 hectares of land, with a promise of more if he makes it work.

The catch was that all of it was covered in a thick, impenetrable shrub called "marabu".

It is like a bramble on steroids – a nightmare to get rid of. The weed can grow up to 4m (13 feet), has deep roots and is so dense that once it takes hold nothing else can grow.

Mr Alcides is part of a private co-operative which gives him access to a 1960s Soviet-built tractor with a locally built rotary cutter attached.

It's still back-breaking work. After the shrub is cut, it must be burned and its roots dug out.

The fields had been part of a state-run collective farm which had been allowed to go to waste.

"If you don't work the land you should lose it and let someone else take over," Mr Alcides said.

He has managed to clear about three-quarters of the plot and so far this year he has produced some 10 tonnes of meat, fruit and vegetables.

Private markets

The Renato Guitart Co-operative is a collection of individual smallholders: 187 private farmers who have joined together for and to share equipment such as tractors.

It has grown by almost a third over the past year and now covers about 520 hectares (1,300 acres) in the green fertile plains of Camaguey.

Mostly this is country, dominated by large state-run farms. But the co-operative produces a wide range of fruit and vegetables, along with meat and dairy.

Agustin Perez, a member of the co-operative, is working hard to meet the demand for fresh lettuce.

His grandfather first worked this land, concentrating on salad crops such lettuce, cucumbers, radishes and onions.

In the past private farmers were tolerated; now Mr Perez believes they are being actively encouraged.

It is not just about extra land. Another key reform is that private farmers are now legally allowed to take on hired labour.

"There has been an enormous difference in the last two years. The authorities are paying a lot more attention to us. Now we earn more money because we are selling more ," he said.

Mr Perez is able to sell everything he grows to privately run farmers' markets.

Early every morning, stall holders arrive to collect whatever is freshly picked .Some come on horse and carts, others on converted bicycles with trailers.

Other members of the co-operative though, like pig farmer Jorge Viera, still have to sell to the state and rely on inefficient state .

Mr Viera recently cleared almost 30 hectares of marabu and has planted maize and root crops to use as animal feed. He hopes to boost meat production by 20% this year.

"We sell our basic quota to the state at a not very good price," he explained, "but for anything above the quota the state pays a much higher price."

Food imports

Agricultural reform was at the heart of the Cuban revolution. Shortly after taking power in 1959, Fidel Castro nationalised the large estates and sugar plantations, many of them US-owned.

Small-scale family farmers were allowed to keep their land but increasingly the island turned towards huge Soviet-style state-run collective farms.

It has not worked.

Last year, Cuba spent $2.4bn (£1.5bn) on food imports, much of which could have been produced on the island.

The large state farms have proved highly inefficient, and allowed as much as half of the land to become overrun with weeds like marabu.

Today, about a third of Cuba's farmland is in the hands of small-scale private farmers and co-operatives, yet they produce about two-thirds of the food.

Handing over unproductive land is only part of the equation. Farmers still need access to tools, seeds, fertilisers and other necessities.

It is starting to happen but is often bureaucratic and unwieldy.

In Camaguey, part of what the state pays private farmers for their produce is in the form of accumulated credits or bonus points. These can then be exchanged for goods at newly created special farm shops.

According to the local small farmers' association, average earnings have risen to around $200 a month, roughly 10 times the national average. Some are making significantly more.

Incentives, like the profit motive and productivity-related pay, are reappearing after half a century of an idealistic experiment in egalitarian socialism.

It is too early to tell whether these reforms will be far-reaching enough to make a dramatic impact on food shortages.

But if private farmers are seen to be successfully boosting production and earning a better living, then President is likely to face increasing pressure to push through similar free-market reforms to the rest of the as well.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/09/30 12:21:16 GMT

US diplomat met with Cuban dissidents in Havana

Posted on Wednesday, 09.30.09US diplomat met with Cuban dissidents in HavanaBy PAUL HAVENAssociated Press Writer

HAVANA — A senior U.S. diplomat who traveled to Havana for the highest-level talks with Cuban officials in decades also met with opposition activists to discuss their political views, three dissidents told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Bisa Williams, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, met with 15 prominent dissidents during a Sept. 21 lunch at the U.S. Interests Section, America's diplomatic mission in Cuba, according to Elizardo Sanchez, Martha and Vladimiro Roca. All have spent time in jail for their political views.

Williams asked the dissidents about U.S.-Cuba relations, and pressed for details of their lives in a country with one political party and a history of intolerance toward dissent, they said.

"She asked about popular support for the opposition," Roque said in a telephone interview. "I explained to her that such support was difficult because those who are part of the opposition are sent to jail."

Asked about the meeting, U.S. Interests Section spokesperson Gloria Berbena said only that Williams met with a "wide variety of representatives of Cuban civil society" during her trip.

Williams was in Havana for Sept. 17 talks on re-establishing direct mail service between the United States and Cuba, but stayed on for a total of six days for discussion with Cuban officials and others. The unannounced visit was first reported Tuesday by AP.

Washington cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba in January 1961, and Williams' trip marked the most direct contact the two sides have publicly acknowledged in at least a generation.

Periodic talks between the U.S. and Cuba were limited to migration issues from 1994 until they were canceled under former George W. Bush in 2003.

The last political discussions between the two countries were held in March 1982, when the Reagan administration sent former ambassador Vernon Walters to Havana for talks with that proved largely fruitless.

In 1975, Lawrence Eagleburger, then an aide to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, met with a top-ranking emissary of Fidel Castro at a coffee shop at New York's Laguardia . That led to a series of secret meetings that produced no breakthroughs.

State department officials said Williams met with Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez, visited a region of western Cuba affected by hurricanes, toured a Cuban facility and met with American medical students who are studying on the island.

In addition to Sanchez, Roque and Roca, dissidents at the meeting included Rene Gomez Manzano and Felix Bonne. Cuba's government tolerates no official opposition, and considers dissidents traitors who are working with Washington to undermine the communist system.

It is common for visiting European diplomats to meet with opposition leaders, but such discussions often anger the Cuban government. Williams' decision to take the meeting comes despite a growing level of confidence between Washington and Havana that has raised the prospect that relations could be on a track toward an eventual reconciliation.

"I believe that the meeting was consistent with Washington's policy of maintaining contact with the government, without cutting off civil society," Sanchez said.

Williams' trip apparently was not all work.

A Cuban official told AP on Wednesday that the U.S. diplomat also found time to join hundreds of thousands of Cubans at the Sept. 20 mega-concert by Colombian pop star Juanes in Havana's Revolution Plaza, and that she seemed to enjoy the show. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the visit publicly.

The concert was billed as nonpolitical and dedicated to peace, but was criticized by some in the Cuban-American exile community, who argued that the rocker was lending tacit support for the Cuban government simply by showing up.

U.S. officials had no comment.

US diplomat met with Cuban dissidents in Havana – World AP – (30 September 2009)

Condenado a dos años líder disidente en Santiago de Cuba

RepresiónCondenado a dos años líder en Santiago de Cuba

Agustín Cervantes, miembro del Movimiento Cristiano Liberación, fue sometido a juicio sumario por un supuesto delito de 'lesiones'

Redacción CE | 30/09/2009

El disidente Agustín Cervantes fue condenado a dos años de cárcel este martes, por un supuesto delito de "lesiones", en un juicio sumario "sin garantías ni posibilidad de preparación", denunció en un comunicado Oswaldo Payá, coordinador nacional del Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (MCL).

Cervantes, líder del MCL y gestor del Proyecto en Santiago de Cuba, había sido detenido el lunes.

"Hace unos días un provocador fue a su casa a insultarle y, cuando Agustín salio a la calle, este individuo le intento apuñalar con un cuchillo. Agustín y un vecino consiguieron evitar la agresión", relató Payá.

Recordó que Cervantes había sido "detenido y amenazado en varias ocasiones en días pasados".

En uno de esos arrestos, "un agente de la Seguridad del Estado le dijo: 'tú no vas a ver la próxima entrega de firmas del Proyecto Varela'", indicó el líder del MCL.

La organización consideró que el juicio sumario y la sentencia dictada contra Cervantes "no son más que un montaje en el que participan la policía cubana, la Seguridad del Estado y los tribunales, para aniquilar al Movimiento Cristiano Liberación y evitar a toda costa la difusión y recogida de firmas para el Proyecto Varela".


Condenado a dos años líder disidente en Santiago de Cuba – Noticias – Cuba – (30 September 2009)

Cuba y EE UU empiezan el ‘deshielo cultural’

Cuba y empiezan el 'deshielo cultural'El jefe de la Sección de Intereses de en La Habana ofreció una recepción a la que asistieron destacados miembros del mundo de la cultura

MAURICIO VICENT | La Habana 30/09/2009

¿Ha comenzado el deshielo entre Cuba y Estados Unidos? Al menos en lo que se refiere a la cultura, al parecer, sí. Es lo que se desprende de lo sucedido el pasado martes en la residencia de Jonathan Farrar, jefe de la Sección de Intereses de Estados Unidos en La Habana (), quien ofreció una recepción para presentar a dos nuevos funcionarios de la misión diplomática. Resulta que ni un fue invitado a la fiesta y en cambio acudieron destacados miembros del mundo de la cultura, desde músicos como el pianista Chucho Valdés, el salsero Juan Formell o la compositora Zenaida Romeu, a pintores de amplio reconocimiento como Roberto Fabelo, Choco o Mendive.

La mayoría de ellos no pisaban los jardines diplomáticos de Estados Unidos desde el año 2001, cuando el gobierno de George W. Bush incrementó su política de hostigamiento hacia la isla e interrumpió la mayoría de los intercambios culturales y educativos entre ambos países. Algunos de los artistas, como Formell, nunca antes habían estado en una fiesta en la embajada norteamericana. Otros, como Chucho Valdés, Romeu o Fabelo, llevaban años sin tomarse un mojito en esta casa.

En realidad, artistas e intelectuales siempre fueron invitados a la residencia del jefe de la SINA… Pero la mayoría no acudía pues el ambiente antes "no era propicio", admitieron varios. "Antes te llamaban del Ministerio de Cultura y te avisaban de que iban a ir disidentes, y tú te lo pensabas; ahora no ha habido mensajes", explicaba uno de los asistentes. Según el escultor y ceramista José Fuster, "por desgracia con la administración de Bush todo se politizó.

Ahora la política empieza a cambiar. Miembros de la SINA dijeron que a la recepción, organizada para presentar a las nuevas responsables de Prensa y Cultura de la oficina diplomática, no habían sido invitados los opositores. Y no es que la SINA vaya a dar de lado a la disidencia, pero ahora también se va a cuidar mucho la relación con la gente la cultura, y ello implica abrir de nuevo espacios que se habían cerrado a los artistas cubanos.

Chucho Valdés lleva desde 2004 sin tocar en Estados Unidos. Zenaida Romeu desde 2001. "Es ilógico: lo natural es que entre los dos países haya intercambios, como siempre ha ocurrido", afirma la compositora, a quién Washington acaba de dar el visado para actuar en Estados Unidos el mes próximo – también ha autorizado la actuación de Pablo Milanés -.

Este giro de las relaciones parece claro y levanta expectativas en la isla. "Ojala que este camino se consolide. Ya es hora. Sería fabuloso para los dos países", afirmaba Valdés.

En la residencia de Farrar otra información era noticia. La filtración -horas antes- en Washington de que la subsecretaria adjunta de Estados Unidos para América Latina, Bisa Williams, que recientemente visitó la isla para conversar sobre el posible restablecimiento del directo entre ambos países, alargó su estancia en Cuba y discutió otros temas con funcionarios del Gobierno cubano.

La noticia fue confirmada por diplomáticos de la SINA. Williams abordó con las autoridades cubanas temas referidos al funcionamiento de las oficinas diplomáticas que ambos países mantienen en La Habana y Washington, y también sobre asuntos migratorios. También es simbólico que las autoridades viabilizaran a la funcionaria del Departamento de Estado un viaje a Pinar del Río para visitar zonas afectadas por los huracanes el año pasado, algo fuera de lo común. Williams también tuvo tiempo para reunirse con opositores y hasta estuvo en el concierto de Juanes en la Plaza de la Revolución de la Habana. Otra cosita más antes de los conciertos que la Filarmonica de Nueva York dará en La Habana a finales de octubre con todas las bendiciones oficiales.

Cuba y EE UU empiezan el 'deshielo cultural' · ELPAÍ (30 September 2009)

Moratinos no recibirá a los disidentes en su visita a Cuba

Relaciones Cuba- España

Moratinos no recibirá a los disidentes en su visita a Cuba

Cubamatinal/ La noticia del viaje del Ministro de Exteriores español es abordada por la prensa española, según la cual no se producirán reuniones del representante español con la disidencia.

Madrid, 28 de septiembre/ LD-EFE/ Representantes de la disidencia cubana han denunciado la ausencia de contactos que tienen con el Gobierno español y han dado por hecho que el ministro de Asuntos Exteriores y de Cooperación, Miguel Angel Moratinos, no se entrevistará con ellos en la visita que prevé hacer a la isla en octubre.

El activista Oswaldo Payá, premio 'Andrei Sajarov' a los derechos humanos del Parlamento Europeo en 2002, declaró desde la isla que "no ha habido ningún contacto del Gobierno español ni de su Embajada con el Movimiento Cristiano de Liberación" -del que es fundador- con respecto a la próxima visita del ministro.

Payá añadió que no va a pedir ningún encuentro con el ministro ya que Moratinos "marcó su postura de no dialogar con la oposición" en la anterior visita que hizo a la isla, en abril de 2007, cuando su departamento ofreció a los disidentes un encuentro con el entonces director general para Iberoamérica, Javier Sandomingo, una vez que Moratinos hubiera abandonado la isla, a lo que la oposición se negó. "Si el Gobierno español ha cambiado esa postura, que sea él el que tome la iniciativa", señaló.

El ex político Elizardo Sánchez, de la Comisión Cubana de y Reconciliación Nacional, también lamentó el "nulo" contacto con la Embajada española en La Habana, por lo que no confió en ser recibido por el ministro Moratinos o alguno de sus subordinados.

Sánchez confió en la "buena fe" de la diplomacia española al apostar por un acercamiento con las autoridades cubanas pero consideró que el Ejecutivo de José Luis Rodríguez ha "apostado demasiado fuerte" por la relación con el régimen, que hace todo tipo de "promesas que luego no cumple".

Desde España, el coordinador general de Cuba Democracia Ya!, Rigoberto Carceller, pidió al ministro que aclare si va a la isla a "tomar el pulso a toda la sociedad cubana" y si pretende "apuntalar la transición a la democracia" o por el contrario a la dictadura. Carceller reclamó además al ministro que se entreviste con representantes de la oposición en España antes de viajar a la isla, o que lo haga cuando llegue a La Habana.

El vicepresidente de la Unión Liberal Cubana, Antonio Guedes, también dio por hecho que el ministro no se reunirá con la disidencia y advirtió de que no sería aceptable que el Ministerio propusiera a la oposición un encuentro con un director general en lugar del ministro.Para Guedes, la visita de Moratinos a la isla sólo busca preparar la modificación de la posición común de la hacia Cuba – que avala la posibilidad de aplicar sanciones diplomáticas contra la isla- con el objetivo de que José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero pueda viajar a La Habana durante la presidencia española de la UE y se cuelgue "la medalla" de haber normalizado por completo las relaciones entre Cuba y los Veintisiete, lo que beneficiaría los intereses de España en la isla.

Guedes no descartó que el régimen realice algún "gesto" para convencer a la UE como el que realizó en febrero de 2008 -meses antes de que la UE eliminase definitivamente las sanciones a la isla- de liberar a cuatro presos políticos, a los que obligó a abandonar el país.

Un portavoz del departamento que dirige Moratinos confirmó que la agenda de tres días del ministro en la isla incluye hoy por hoy entrevistas con su colega, Bruno Rodríguez, y "autoridades cubanas". La misma fuente indicó que tampoco está previsto que representantes del Ministerio reciban a miembros de la oposición cubana exiliados en España antes de la visita de Moratinos, que según ha confirmado él hoy mismo, se producirá en torno al 18 de octubre.| | (30 September 2009)

Un 53 por ciento de los cubanos respaldó el concierto de Juanes en Cuba

Un 53 por ciento de los cubanos respaldó el concierto de Juanes en CubaPor Agencia EFE – Hace 1 minuto.

Miami (EE.UU.), 30 sep (EFE).- Un 53 de los cubanos residentes en EE.UU. respaldó el concierto que el cantante colombiano Juanes ofreció en Cuba, lo que supone un significativo cambio de opinión, incluso en el llamado exilio histórico, según una encuesta divulgada hoy en Miami.

El sondeo de opinión del Cuba Study Group (CSG) realizado por la empresa Bendixen & Associates determinó que antes del concierto el 27 por ciento estaba a favor, mientras que un 47 por ciento lo rechazaba.

Después de su celebración en La Habana, el rechazo bajó al 29 por ciento.

Los resultados demuestran un cambio importante en el apoyo al concierto "Paz sin fronteras" entre los cubanos de todas las edades, pero especialmente entre los cubanos de más de 65 años, ya que antes del evento un 17 por ciento lo respaldaba y después el 48 por ciento lo apoyó.

"Estos resultados reflejan los que venimos diciendo por años, que Miami está cambiando. Está claro que la experiencia de haber visto el concierto ha tenido un profundo impacto sobre los cubanos y los cubano-americanos de todas las edades", dijo Carlos Saladrigas, copresidente del CSG, en una conferencia de prensa.

La encuesta se realizó entre 400 cubanos de Florida, Nueva Jersey y Nueva York y tiene un margen de error del 5 por ciento.

Fernán Martínez, representante de Juanes, declaró que el artista colombiano "está muy entusiasmado" y que él ya "lo sentía" por el apoyo de las personas en las calles de Miami, incluso "fue a un supermercado y las personas lo aplaudieron cuando entró" y por los artículos favorables en diversos medios de comunicación.

"Es increíble y halagador cómo el concierto que nace del desinterés de Juanes y sus amigos pueda cambiar tan rápido el concepto sobre lo que piensa la gente sobre el problema entre y Cuba", manifestó en la misma rueda de prensa.

Martínez calificó de "impresionante" que un 53 por ciento ahora está a favor del concierto y "pocas veces sucede en una comunidad tan aferrada a sus ideas y a su problemática que es lamentable".

Juanes, junto a otros 14 artistas, celebró el pasado 20 de septiembre el concierto, tras causar una polémica en el influyente exilio cubano de Miami, que consideraba que el cantante colombiano debía abogar por las libertades de los cubanos, la excarcelación de los presos políticos y la democracia en la isla caribeña.

"Juanes está totalmente contento porque el mensaje era positivo, que el concierto cumplió con su cometido y que se están tendiendo puentes de paz y armonía entre las dos Cubas. Eso nos estimula a seguir trabajando", expresó el representante del artista.

El próximo proyecto del roquero colombiano es celebrar su tercer concierto de paz en la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos en 2010 y posiblemente el escenario sea construido en algún punto del llamado "muro fronterizo", según Martínez.

Entre quienes expresaron una opinión favorable del concierto, el 51 por ciento dijo que era porque el evento había "elevado el espíritu del pueblo cubano", mientras que un 20 por ciento indicó que "contribuyó a la situación política de Cuba" y 15 por ciento dijo que la razón era que el concierto "no ha sido político".

El 52 por ciento de los entrevistados apoya los intercambios culturales entre Estados Unidos y Cuba, en contraste con el 32 por ciento que se opone y el 16 por cierto que no está seguro.

La encuesta demostró que una "mayoría abrumadora" de los entrevistados (77 por ciento) percibió que la destrucción de discos de Juanes llevada a cabo por "grupos extremistas de la comunidad cubano-americana" tuvo un efecto negativo sobre la imagen de los exiliados.

"La audaz iniciativa de Juanes es un claro ejemplo del impacto y de la efectividad de los intercambios culturales. Es hora de ofrecer a la apertura, a la reconciliación y al diálogo la oportunidad que se merecen", resaltó Saladrigas.

Sugirió que los resultados deben alentar a los gobernantes a tomar los pasos necesarios para facilitar nuevos intercambios con el "fin de derribar las barreras que separan al pueblo cubano".

epa – european pressphoto agency: Un 53 por ciento de los cubanos respaldó el concierto de Juanes en Cuba (30 September 2009)

‘Palabra Nueva’: El exceso de dirigentes y de personal no productivo paraliza la economía

Sociedad'Palabra Nueva': El exceso de dirigentes y de personal no productivo paraliza la economía

Agencias | 30/09/2009

Una población laboral dedicada a actividades de dirigencia o servicios y un excesivo control estatal paralizan la productividad que el gobierno dice querer impulsar, opinó la principal revista católica de Cuba, reportó la AP.

"Es urgente destrozar viejos moldes que no funcionan", expresó la columna de opinión de la publicación mensual Palabra Nueva, órgano de difusión de la Arquidiócesis de La Habana.

La revista hizo un recuento de los discursos realizados por Raúl Castro y sus anuncios para incrementar la productividad del país, así como de las medidas que ha tomado el régimen en esta dirección.

"¿Cómo satisfacer las necesidades básicas, porque efectivamente 'las básicas' no han sido satisfechas, de la población? Creando mayor riqueza. ¿Y cómo generar mayor riqueza? Con más producción. ¿Y cómo producir más? Con más trabajo. ¿Y cómo trabajar más? Aquí está el dilema", expresó el texto.

La última de las disposiciones gubernamentales fue hace algunos meses la autorización del "pluriempleo", que permite a los cubanos a tomar más de un puesto de trabajo y a los estudiantes dedicarse a actividades lucrativas.

Sin , Palabra Nueva desestimó que la normativa fuera a lograr que la gente trabaje.

"Mayores ingresos tal vez compensen los gastos en alimentos… pero no necesariamente estimularían las fuerzas productivas", consideró la publicación. Más aún mientras "las otras ofertas (, , distracción) sigan siendo nulas", agregó.

Palabra Nueva analizó además las cifras poblacionales y de empleo ofrecidas recientemente por la Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas, según la cual el año pasado más de cuatro millones de cubanos estaban empleados.

"De ellos 381.000, el 7,6% ocupaban la categoría de 'dirigentes'", y un millón más de personas realizaban actividades no productivas como administrativas, docentes, artísticas o deportivas.

"Faltaría añadir las fuerzas policiales y otras del orden, que no dejan de crecer, algún que otro empleo de servicio no productivo, y quizás varios miles de estudiantes universitarios municipales que acuden a clases, si acuden, un día a la semana y pasan los otros seis sin hacer nada", lamentó.

A ello debe sumarse "el exceso de centralización económica y la estatización generalizada no sólo genera una burocracia aplastante y excesivo gasto público", manifestó Palabra Nueva.


'Palabra Nueva': El exceso de dirigentes y de personal no productivo paraliza la economía – Noticias – Cuba – (30 September 2009)



( La reunión de la subsecretaria de Estado adjunta para América Latina de , Bisa Williams, con los disidentes de los principales grupos de la oposición al régimen de Fidel Castro que luchan por abrirse paso en la maraña de la dictadura, es una magnífica noticia.

De momento, parece un cambio en la política de Estados Unidos hacia la Isla, y desde luego, una iniciativa que va a tener consecuencias muy importantes para el resto de diplomacias que tratan de tender puentes hacia la Isla.

Además, creo que a estas alturas, viene a sentar las bases de lo que, en principio, debería ser el modelo de actuación de la diplomacia española, cada vez que visita la Isla.

Aprovecho para recomendar al ministro Moratinos que ha informado de un inminente viaje a Cuba, para volver a entrevistarse con las autoridades, que una demostración evidente de apoyo a la sociedad civil y la defensa de la democracia y los , sería promover ese acercamiento con los disidentes.

La diplomacia española, de diseño socialista de Moratinos y ZP, se ha caracterizado por su desprecio a los disidentes, su negativa a darles el tratamiento que merecen como defensores de la libertad frente a un régimen que se descompone. Es como si, negando lo que fue en su momento la transición española a la democracia, pensaran en ensayar una alternativa, un nuevo modelo basado en la cooperación con los que mandan y que, obviamente, no tienen el más mínimo interés de hacer cambio alguno.

Al procurar que se establezcan lazos y relaciones de la Unión Europea con el régimen de , el gobierno de ZP no sólo se ha enfrentado a otros países europeos que mantienen una actitud digna y cívica con respecto a la dictadura castrista, como República Checa, Hungría o Suecia, sino que se ha empeñado en hacer que la nueva estrategia de diálogo a cambio de nada se imponga de forma natural en Bruselas.

Malos augurios para el primer semestre del próximo año en el que Moratinos y ZP van a liderar la política de la Unión Europea y para el que cabe esperar cualquier tipo de movimiento con respecto al régimen castrista que va a suponer un problema interno en la Unión.

ZP y Moratinos se empeñaron, desde 2004, en destruir la estrategia diseñada por el Aznar, la Posición Común, hacia el régimen de Fidel Castro. Esta acción coordinada de los países europeos se basaba, en esencia, en una relación de intercambio muy sencilla: a gestos de apertura y libertad por parte del régimen, mejor tratamiento por parte de la Unión Europea. Diálogo si, por supuesto, pero diálogo con todos, incluidos los disidentes. Las cárceles deberían estar vacías de presos políticos.

Esta estrategia funcionó, y puso a Fidel Castro contra las cuerdas, lo que le obligó a atacar de forma desmesurada a la Unión Europea, a denunciar sus programas de ayuda en la Isla y a concentrar todos sus esfuerzos de propaganda internacional en contra del presidente de gobierno español José María Aznar. El petróleo de , finalmente, se convirtió en la de salvación, y la actitud hacia la Unión Europea fue cada vez más hostil.

No se trata de seguir en esta pelea, que tanto gusta a las autoridades de La Habana. Precisamente cuando los países europeos son los principales socios comerciales de la Isla, y aportan cada año varios centenares de miles de turistas. Lo que se trata es utilizar ese potencial con inteligencia en un momento en que se están abriendo oportunidades para promover cambios sostenibles en un régimen que se niega a reconocer lo que es evidente: que su desaparición está anunciada.

El nuevo diseño de relaciones diplomáticas de EE.UU. con el régimen de Fidel Castro: hablar con todos, escuchar a todos, marca una nueva línea ya anunciada por Barack Obama que está moviendo fichas continuamente hacia Cuba en un intento de acumular el mayor número de anomalías en el funcionamiento de las estructuras arcaicas del castrismo. Los disidentes han mostrado su satisfacción por estos contactos con la diplomacia de EE.UU.; las autoridades de la Isla han enviado a funcionarios de más bajo nivel, pero hasta ahora, no ha habido reacción negativa alguna a los contactos.

Algo está cambiando en Cuba, sin duda. Este nuevo modelo de relaciones diplomáticas puede hacer mucho por consolidar la alternativa política. Hay que pensar y trabajar más en el. El gobierno español, con la presidencia de la Unión Europea en el primer semestre de 2010, tiene una gran oportunidad para hacerlo. Seguiremos sus pasos.



¿CUÁLES SON? ¿DÓNDE ESTÁN?2009-09-30.Dr. Sinue Escolarte, Periodista Independiente

( Habana, Cuba.- Mientras el menor de los Castro, semilíder del frustrado proyecto socialista cubano, lucha para seguir dando la impresión de que todo marcha viento en popa, que hay democracia, que no hace la nave, incitando al gentío a que hablen lo que deseen libremente y, se recojan las preocupaciones en acta, las mismas que multiplicadas desconocemos sus límites, demostrando, como se funden los problemas para entretener en el silencio, sin solución ni salidas,…

el mayor, máximo líder y Hombre Más Bueno Del Mundo, preocupado en extremo por la humanidad, se entretiene acusando a los países del G-20, de culpables de la contaminación ambiental que de ninguna manera detendrán para llevar al holocausto al planeta, desde el único país que no tiene dióxido de carbono ni carbón, para lanzar al aire, por que no posee industrias.

No aporta pero critica. Utiliza su tiempo, precioso por lo poco que le queda, en rebuscar brechas de posibles errores, deformando los conceptos y que sean interpretados por la multitud como el lo desea o le conviene, en su afán por expandir solapadamente el infructuoso intento socialista y junto a él, que su imagen trascienda. Nunca le han interesado las verdaderas soluciones, sino las incisivas discrepancias.

Debiera demostrar que está actualizado, revelando las diversas vías que se han descubierto con éxito para la obtención de energía renovable, con las cuales su aliado, Hugo Chávez, no podrá usar sus petrodólares apoyando infames proyectos socialistas ni guerrillas de asesinos y narcotraficantes.

Trata como siempre de desacreditar, distraer, atraer y culpar, métodos agotados para los que lo conocen, pero eficaces en la multitud latina. No tiene que buscar formulas para disminuir la emisión de gases hacia la troposfera. Imposible que hable de productividad y fabricas en Cuba porque la pregunta seria ?cuales son y donde están¿

En un extensísimo informe de actividades al consejo de dirección del Ministerio de Industrias que abarcaba enero-septiembre de 1963, encontrándose al frente Ernesto Guevara, se recoge.

Página 3, inciso 2:

-Las perspectivas de la ampliación de mercados principalmente externos, dependen directamente de la demanda de la dirección y del plan de construcciones industriales citados, en el mercado interno y externo. La empresa carece de elementos para analizar sus perspectivas, aunque parece ser dependiente de los cambios políticos que se produzcan en los demás países hermanos de América, capaces de determinar, amplias relaciones comerciales con nuestro país.

Dependencia salvadora desde el mismo inicio del protocolo. Nada de crear, comerciar libremente, o competir. Primero nos regalaba la URSS, luego, y .

Página 4, inciso 6:

.-Según ha expuesto, la empresa no tiene conexiones con otros sectores industriales para la entrega de la producción, ya sea de producción estatal o privada, nacional o de importación. En consecuencia, no se ofrece la escala optima de producción. [las redundancias pertenecen al documento].

Desconocimiento e irresponsabilidad, burocratismo al por mayor, inestabilidad en la planificación, desorden general.

Página 127:

Puede verse que el índice del cumplimiento del plan de 1963 en los primeros meses fue muy bajo por:

-Desajustes en la organización y marcha de la producción.-El 90% de materiales secundarios son de importación, lo que acarrea una serie de dificultades en el proceso de producción que se están tratando de solucionar, con recursos propios y la iniciativa de los obreros.

Parece como si fuera dicho hoy, como si acabáramos de escucharlo en la televisión en la voz de Ariel Terrero, comentarista económico que reconoce igual los errores. El mismo discurso, las mismas insuperables vicisitudes desde hace más de 45 años.

Desorganización, indolencia, ineficacia e improvisaciones remendonas. consecuencias todas, de la desaparición de la propiedad privada y el comercio libre, que mantienen hundida la economía cubana.

No podía faltar la corrupción y quedó plasmada en la página 134 al referirse al Partido Unido de la Revolución Socialista recién creado en esa época.

-No tienen prestigio ante la masa trabajadora que ha ido creciendo y desarrollándose y ha sido orientada políticamente únicamente, por la Dirección de la Empresa, El sindicato, La Unión de jóvenes comunistas y la Federación de Mujeres Cubanas [?]. Solo le faltó mencionar al comité de la cuadra. En la formación y el desarrollo del trabajo de la Empresa ha estado totalmente ausente, la labor o el interés de los miembros del Partido.

Fracaso y mentiras desde el mismo comienzo hasta hoy que han desaparecido la inmensa mayoría de las industrias construidas en tiempos del capitalismo incluidos los centrales azucareros, La de cuchillas de afeitar Rey Plata, La lechera, Guarina, Amadeo, Pilón y muchas otras a lo largo de toda la isla que harían interminable la lista.

Funcionan a medias unas pocas y otras en las que existen inversionistas, se van cerrando y retirando, ante las dificultades y obstáculos tanto para producir, como para recibir el pago. No hay dinero en este momento para pagar a los productores agrícolas por su trabajo, ascendiendo la a 2 millones de pesos.

Tampoco el que les pertenece a los inversionistas en dólares, todo debido a la crisis económica y el bloqueo, no a la improductividad y la debacle de la economía centralizada y planificada, ni a los absurdos e ineficaces subsidios que solo sirven para hacer depender.

El número de fábricas construidas por el régimen por provincias antes de la división político-administrativa es el siguiente:

Ciudad de la Habana: 27Habana: 13Matanzas: 4Villa Clara: 13Camaguey: 9Pinar del Río: 8Oriente: 18Isla de la juventud: 2

Más del 90 % no están produciendo o lo hacen a medias, por no ser sustentables en relación a los subsidios estatales y lo ineficaz del modelo. Por no tener materia prima ni divisas para importarla. Por negligencia, corrupción y haber envejecido técnicamente sin reposición sus maquinarias y equipos, o encontrarse su infraestructura en estado deplorable.

Es esta la verdadera imagen del proyecto socialista cubano que se retuerce en un callejón sin salidas de involución progresiva, a expensas de la represión y los que soportan. Debían interesarles a la dinastía de los Castro, que por el contrario, con profundo despotismo, demoran el inevitable cambio mirando con indiferencia lo que acontece para seguir manteniéndolos esperanzados, en el engaño, hasta su desaparición física.

¿CUÁLES SON? ¿DÓNDE ESTÁN? – Misceláneas de Cuba (30 September 2009)


PRESOS SE EXTRAEN LOS DIENTES CON ALAMBRES2009-09-30.Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, Centro de Información Hablemos Press, CIHPRESS

( Camagüey, Cuba, 27 de septiembre, Hablemos Press.- Reclusos acuden a la aberrante práctica de extraerse las muelas con alambres en la Prisión "Cerámica Roja", luego de varios meses sin atención estomatológica en esa cárcel del centro oriental del país, informó el Prisionero Político Jorge Alberto Liriano Linares en un contacto telefónico."Los dolores de muelas me traían loco, no pude soportar más y acudí a la extracción con alambres. Conozco que es riesgoso pero es la única solución en este valle de sombras de muertes que me ha tocado vivir", le manifestó, según narra Liriano, el prisionero común Alexis Estrada Torres, de 23 años de edad, quien recién se sometió a extraerse varias piezas dentales, rústicamente como en la edad de piedra.

Luego de varios meses sin atención médica, decenas de reos han acudido a método horribles así como ponerse algodón con yodo y ácido de batería en los dientes y muelas huecas para que se le caigan en pedazos, reveló Jorge Alberto.

El Prisionero Político que ha cumplido 10 años de cárcel, denuncia que en las prisiones de la isla por las que ha pasado, la barbarie ultrajante del sistema penitenciario cubano funciona como verdaderos campos de concentración donde se practica la tortura y los más horrendos tratos.

Explicó que el único derecho respetado por el sistema para las personas encarceladas, es el derecho a morirse por la falta de humanidad, personal médico y medicinas.

PRESOS SE EXTRAEN LOS DIENTES CON ALAMBRES – Misceláneas de Cuba (30 September 2009)

Foreign suppliers in Cuba fret over payments crisis

Foreign suppliers in Cuba fret over payments crisisTue Sep 29, 2009 12:20pm EDT

* Many foreign business accounts remain blocked in Cuba* Businessmen complain government offers no explanations* Cash squeeze after global downturn, hurricane cleanup

By Marc Frank

HAVANA, Sept 29 (Reuters) – Many foreign suppliers and investors in Cuba are still unable to repatriate hundreds of millions of dollars from local accounts almost a year after Cuban authorities blocked them because of the financial crisis, foreign diplomats and businessmen said.

The businessmen, who asked not to be identified, said they were increasingly frustrated because the Communist authorities refused to offer explanations or solutions for the situation, which stems from a cash crunch in the Cuban triggered by the global downturn and heavy hurricane damage last year.

“I have repeatedly e-mailed, visited the offices and sent my representative to the offices of a company I did business with for years and which owes me money, and they simply refuse to talk to me,” a Canadian businessman told Reuters.

Delegations from foreign banks and funds holding commercial paper from Cuban state banks have repeatedly traveled to Cuba this year seeking answers from the central bank or other authorities — without success — the sources said.

Representatives of some companies with investments or joint ventures on the island said they were bracing for the possibility of not being able to repatriate year-end dividends paid to their accounts in Cuba.

The sources said the lack of official information had resulted in many rumors, including one that the government may seek to close accounts at a discount or is preparing a three-year payment plan.

The Cuban government, after running up a huge trade deficit in 2008, has cut imports by at least 30 percent this year, but was still expected to purchase more than $10 billion in goods and services abroad. Most of the business is reportedly taking place offshore as Cuba’s partners seek to avoid local banks.

Some 90 percent of the country’s economic activity is in state hands. Cuba has a dual monetary system under which a foreign exchange equivalent called the convertible peso (CUC) circulates along with the domestic Cuban peso.

Foreign businesses must operate within the country using the CUC, pegged at 1.08 to the U.S. dollar and 24 times the domestic peso’s value, depositing them in state banks, where they are available as foreign exchange for transfer or withdrawal.

Since last year, the country has been faced with scarcer credit as the global crisis increasingly hit home and has been burdened with the cost of cleaning up after three hurricanes last year. As a result, the state banks began informing foreign businesses their funds were simply not available for the time being.


Foreign economic attaches and commercial representatives in Cuba said most of their nationals doing business with the Caribbean island still faced payment problems.

“Suppliers to the military and its companies, public and a few other areas are having the fewest problems being paid,” one Western diplomat said.

“Those involved with , foreign exchange stores and spare parts and machinery for industry are negotiating partial payments in exchange for more supplies, but the little guy, for example with supplies on consignment, has simply been abandoned,” he said.

In July, the central bank issued what it called instruction No. 3, which allowed the transfer or payment of foreign exchange from the frozen accounts with the approval of a government ministry, effectively removing the responsibility of the state banks.

While renewed access to accounts was welcomed by businessmen in Cuba, even if it was only partial, the sources said it was offered with the proviso that they continue to do business and with the payment due date for new goods and services provided extended from 360 days to up to 720 days.

They said the government and state-owned firms appeared to be reaching out because of mounting supply problems in the country as foreign traders and companies balked at doing new business unless accounts were unblocked.

“Despite our firm desire to honor every obligation, we have been forced to renegotiate debts, payments and other commitments with foreign entities, something quite common these days all over the world,” told the National Assembly last month.

“As a rule, we have found understanding and confidence in our partners, to whom we now reaffirm our recognition and the security that we will meet the agreements reached,” he said.

Raul Castro, who took over the Cuban presidency from his older brother last year on health grounds, has announced a series of austerity measures in recent months and said the country must learn to live within its means.

(Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Foreign suppliers in Cuba fret over payments crisis | Markets | Bonds News | Reuters (29 September 2009)

Cuba’s black market moves online with

Cuba’s black market moves online with Revolico.comBy Tim Elfrink

Mateo Velazquez might just be the best mecánico in Havana, Cuba.

The cars that roll into his little garage — tucked into a crumbling building on Calle Ocho amid Guanabacoa’s decrepit colonials — would make an American mechanic laugh like hell.

There are ’53 Chevys, lime green and the length of a . Nearby are rusty Russian-made 1972 Ladas and late-’50s Buicks with tail fins like surfboards.

Mateo keeps them all running — a jerry-rigged gas tank in the trunk here, a duct-taped exhaust pipe there.

He learned to do it while growing up in Cienfuegos and Havana, where the embargo has kept new American cars off the roads for almost a half-century. The 55-year-old with a scratchy voice was a boy the last time a fresh Caddy rolled into Cuba.

He is a damn good mechanic, but Mateo, like most of his homeland, is struggling today.

Three hurricanes tore through the island last summer, pummeling his ground-level shop with floodwater and cutting power to his second-floor apartment. Now the global financial meltdown has left the capital city short of bread, toilet paper, and cash to fix old cars.

But two months ago, Mateo got a glimpse of the future. One of his three kids, 23-year-old Manuel, wanted to join some friends on a trip to the north coast. For months, father and son tried to unload some expensive rims to raise money. Though Manuel thought they were worth 300 pesos — about $325 — no one was biting.

“Dad,” Manuel finally said, “have you heard about Revolico?”

Revolico? In Cuban slang, it means “a mess.” Mateo had no idea what his boy was talking about.

So Manuel took his father to the house of a friend, an engineer with spotty Internet access at home. They logged onto and discovered a capitalist Valhalla. There was everything for sale: cars, tires, motorcycles, diapers, cell phones, laptops, massages, Chinese lessons.

“This was my first time on the Internet,” Mateo says in Spanish, using the international term for the web. New Times agreed not to publish his real name because selling on the site is illegal on the island. “But I can see that it is great. Like all Cubans, I want to use it more.”

Revolico, in fact, is Craigslist for the world’s last Marxist-Leninist state. On an island where selling almost anything on the street, over the airwaves, or in the newspaper is forbidden by the socialist constitution, Revolico offers tens of thousands of items. Legions of Habaneros shop on the site every day, making it the most obvious crack yet in the foundation of ’s Cuba.

Scores of Revolico users interviewed over the past month include a wide swath of island dwellers — from first-time Internet users such as Mateo to web-savvy college kids. By bringing Cuba’s huge black market online, the site has changed the way residents think about buying and selling.

“Revolico absolutely blows my mind,” says Jose Gabilondo, a Florida International University law professor who has spent years studying Cuba’s economy. “It shows how Castro’s era will end with a whimper. His control is failing there one online deal at a time.”


The Founders

Jose Rodriguez was born in Havana a few years before his homeland’s messy divorce from the imploding Soviet Union. It wasn’t an easy time to be a kid in the capital city. When the Berlin Wall fell and Moscow shrugged off Communism, millions of Russian rubles stopped flowing into Castro’s coffers. American leaders tightened their embargo on the island — making life even more dire for ordinary Habaneros.

Buying and selling almost anything outside state-owned stores had been illegal ever since Castro grabbed control of nearly the entire economy in 1968. But even during those early years of socialism, people sold cigarettes, , and shoes in Havana’s alleys and backrooms.

During Jose’s childhood, that market exploded. From 1989 to 1993, the mercado negro grew sevenfold, from 2 billion pesos to 14.5 billion, according to a study by the semi-independent Cuban forum Editorial Ciencias Sociales.

Jose’s parents were both ordinary, state-employed professionals, so he grew up depending on the black market for food and clothes. He was always good at math and science. So was his best friend, another nerdy city kid, Juan Sanchez.

During the long, sweltering summer of 1997, a friend introduced the two 16-year-olds to a middleman with an original Pentium computer. They were fascinated. Personal computers were forbidden. Jose and Juan bought it for a few dollars.

“We were like many others in Cuba,” Jose says. “The computer interested us because it was foreign and modern.”

The two disassembled the hard drive and put it back together. A few weeks later, they bought a keyboard. Days after that, they purchased a grainy black-and-green pixel monitor. “We started with this outdated trash, and we taught ourselves how it all worked,” Jose says.

By the time the friends enrolled at the University of Havana (where Fidel once attended law school) in 2000, they understood computers better than many of their teachers. The embargo had kept high-tech American PCs off the island, and the recent influx of Chinese computers to Cuba hadn’t kept pace with technology. The two friends also knew pretty much every black-market computer geek in Havana.

Around 2003, Jose joined an email list that circulated among his hacker pals and back-alley electronics sellers around the capital. A few days later, he bought a hard drive someone advertised in one of the emails.javascript:void(0)But as the list’s users invited friends and family — and computer access slowly spread in Havana — the emails began selling more than just computer parts. Soon cars, services, food, and motorcycles were being hawked. The emails reached hundreds of people around Havana, well outside Jose’s group of friends.

“We knew this one black market, for computers and electronics, but we were surprised at how quickly all these other sellers came together,” he says.

Jose and Juan decided to organize the email lists by product. One list was for computers, another for cars. But there was just too much. The lists, Jose decided, had become a revolico — a big mess.

So in December 2007, the two friends — both done with college and working as programmers — built a website for all the ads. Jose modeled it on Craigslist, a site he’d studied at the university.

The project was a colossal risk. Jose and Juan were putting a black market on the web and offering Cubans an open forum on the Internet. The site is registered through, a company based in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Jose says the state didn’t approve the site, and he hosted it on servers outside Cuba to minimize the risk of authorities linking him to the site. If he censored political posts, he believed, they might not shut it down.

However, Jose declined to give New Times his real name or to identify his partner. His story is impossible to verify independently.

He clearly never intended the site as an act of defiance. He says he simply wanted to make things a little better in Havana. “Everyone in Cuba uses the black market because you have to. We wanted to make it a little easier,” he explains. “At least for those who have Internet.”


Young Cubans

Sasha Rodriguez squirmed in the thick, wet air of the Havana summer of 1999, her tanned face ghostly in the blue and white light glowing from an ancient monitor. “Isn’t it time yet?” she whispered to a friend. Four others who had crammed into the stifling, cluttered room nodded and grumbled.

“No,” her friend whispered back. “We have to wait till midnight or it won’t work.”

A flash of excitement shot up Sasha’s spine. The teenagers were breaking not only their parents’ rules, but also Cuban law. They’d used even older computers at school to type essays about the revolution, but Sasha’s friend, Enrique, a daring boy who was good with computers, had promised something special tonight.

Just past midnight, Enrique double-clicked an icon and held his hand over the modem. The teenagers held their breath as the dial-up tone beeped, clicked, and hissed. But Enrique’s parents, snoring in the next room, didn’t stir.

“Here we go,” he breathed, as the screen slowly loaded a teen chat room.

Sasha held her breath as her friend typed a message on the screen: ¡Hola! ¿Quién está en Miami?

A boy their age named Mike chatted back. He lived in Miami, he said. ¿Como está la Habana?

The friends gasped and laughed. They spent hours in that room, waiting as their tenuous dial-up died and reconnected. They asked their new friend about life in the Magic City. “For me, it was like, ‘Oh my God. Miami actually exists outside of my imagination. There are kids like me living there,” Sasha says. “It was life-changing.”

The chat nearly a decade ago now seems a lifetime away to the erudite 22-year-old Michigan State law student, who left Cuba for South Florida in 2005. (She asked that her first name be changed because she frequently returns to the island to see family.) But it’s exactly the kind of experience that has shaped a generation of young Cubans who are connected to the world outside their totalitarian island. It’s something their parents and older siblings never knew.

Only about 200,000 Cubans have regular access to the Internet, according to a 2007 study — the most recent available — by the International Telecommunications Union. That amounts to just 2 percent of the population — by far the lowest percentage in Latin America.

Most people log on at schools or businesses, where the web is tightly restricted by censors. But, as Sasha discovered, many young, savvy Cubans have found illegal hookups. Some hack into phone lines or buy legit Internet time from journalists or lawyers who receive state web access and earn a few bucks by selling off the bandwidth.

That’s only the latest development in the black market. Sasha recalls its long history in the area she grew up — Ernest Hemingway’s crumbling neighborhood, which is now called 10 de Octubre. Her father worked at a state-controlled bakery, and at home her mother made and sold illegal pastelitos, pan, and empanadas to neighbors.

These days, Sasha says, her friends and relatives living on the island have turned to the web for some of the transactions that used to happen on street corners and in living rooms. “My friends are all on Facebook, they’re emailing, and they’re talking online,” she says. “Cuba used to be a place where you connected to your neighbors, your classmates, but that was it. You were walled off. Not anymore.”

Of course, there’s a dark side to that growing access. Just ask Giselle Recarey Delgado. She grew up in one of the most dangerous places in Havana — a house with two parents. Her father, Hector Palacio, spoke out frequently about Fidel Castro’s abuses. Secret raided Giselle’s home more than five times and dragged her dad to jail. Once he stayed there for four years. Her mother, Gisela Delgado, still runs Cuba’s Independent Library Project, a group that hosts reading sessions of banned books at its members’ homes.

Throughout her childhood, Giselle felt the heat from her parents’ activism. At school, teachers segregated her from other students, and secret police followed her home. Despite her high marks, the University of Havana refused to admit her, until her father threatened to talk to foreign media.

At the university, where she enrolled in 2003, she studied computer science — and got a front-row seat to Cuba’s rapidly changing online culture. “It’s not a major where they can just ram party politics down your throat,” Giselle says, laughing. “So it’s a natural place for change.”

But in 2007, just before Giselle was due to graduate, the university expelled her. The stated reason: She refused to sign a form condemning her parents’ activism.

But she suspects it had as much to do with the government’s rising fears. Someone so untrustworthy couldn’t be allowed access to government-run computers and the Internet. “They understand what the web can do to them. You can’t control it,” says Giselle, who earned political asylum after her expulsion from school and now studies at the University of Miami.

“It scares them,” she says. “And it should.”


The Sellers

What follows are a few examples of the ads and sellers on Revolico. New Times has withheld some information about the sellers to protect them from possible prosecution by Cuban authorities. Ads and interviews, which were conducted by phone, have been translated.

Subject: I give Chinese classes

Date: August 21, 2009

I teach Chinese — phonetics, grammar, writing, and everything about the language. If you’re interested, call after 9 p.m.

Name: Mileidys and Ernesto

Twenty-eight-year-old Ernesto is overeducated and underpaid. The Havana native has degrees in psychology and sociology. His wife, Mileidys, has degrees in psychology and Chinese.

They’re more comfortable than most — Ernesto works at a cultural center and as a part-time professor at the University of Havana. Mileidys heads a human resources department for a telephone company. But in July, they decided they needed some extra cash.

So twice a week in the living room, after she returns home at 8 p.m., Mileidys coaches students in Mandarin grammar and spelling. As the Chinese invest millions in the production of nickel and the telecom industry in Cuba, interest in the language has spiked. She charges two dollars a meeting.

On a recent summer day, Ernesto answers the phone after the third ring. The line crackles over the Florida Straits.

“My wife has a class of about five pretty advanced students, which started about three months ago. It’s mostly grad students, but a few middle-age ladies are doing it too. There aren’t a huge number of people studying Chinese in Cuba, but I think the number is growing — people want to travel there and to work with Chinese business.

“You know, the black market has always been in Havana. Revolico, it’s the same market, just online. You’ll find more on the street corners, of course. People are scared, for good reason, to put too much stolen stuff out there on the web.

“Just remember: All the important business in Cuba is done by the state.

“Castro owns the bread. Revolico just moves the crumbs.”

Subject: Guitar lessons: all ages and skills welcome

Date: August 12, 2009

I give classes in acoustic, popular, and electric guitar. I have a music degree and can teach in your house. Call 05293**** or write to me at *** Thanks!

Name: Jorge

Jorge, a music teacher in central Havana, answers his cell phone on a busy street.

“I charge three dollars a lesson. You want to learn? I can teach anything: folk, classical, electric, concert. I studied guitar for years, my friend.

“I produce music also, so if you’re good, I can help you put a record together.

“Revolico? Yeah, I’ve been using it for a while now. I don’t know when I started. You know what? This isn’t the kind of conversation I can really have on my cell phone out in the open. Maybe email me later. Bye.”

Subject: Convertible Ford, 1956, luxury!

Date: August 26, 2009

This, friends, is the only place to find this car. Very hot, very exclusive, great engine, good upholstery and painting (white and green). All original, V8 motor. I’ll put photos on the web soon. Interested? Call 203****, ask for Enrique or Juan. We’ll show it to you whenever you want.

Name: Enrique and Juan

Juan is a government engineer with some cash to burn — and his ride shows it. Most Cubans make 20 bucks a month; Sanchez wants 13,000 pesos, or more than $14,000, for his ’56 Ford.

It’s worth it, he says, for a pristine classic in a country full of barely running Yank tanks.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of money. But I already had one guy call today wanting to see some photos. It’s a beautiful car — classic and in great condition.

* Interested in a cherry-red 1955 Plymouth? It’s listed for 5,000 pesos ($5,300). Interested in a cherry-red 1955 Plymouth? It’s listed for 5,000 pesos ($5,300). * This über-mod ’63 German scooter is a steal at 1,600 pesos, or $1,782. This über-mod ’63 German scooter is a steal at 1,600 pesos, or $1,782.

Subject(s), Cuba, Fidel Castro, Craigslist, Revolico

“I’ve never used Revolico before, but I’m impressed in what it can do. A car this expensive, you can’t easily sell it to people you’d meet in everyday life. I needed to reach more people.

“I’m selling it because I need the money. That’s all I really want to tell you.

“As far as I know, this is all legal. If someone finds me on this site, we’ll go through the legal process to transfer the car title. It’s not something bad; it’s positive. It’s just a tool to do transactions you’d do anyway, and it’s making life better.”

Subject: Rent a new car with a driver — trips to anywhere in Havana

Date: August 10, 2009

Want a friendly new car with excellent comfort so you can make a trip anywhere you want, 24 hours a day, in Havana? We have reasonable prices according to your destination. We’ve got an experienced girl who’s a great driver.

Name: Enrique

The guy who placed the ad doesn’t answer the phone. But his driver, Fany, a young woman with a high-pitched, urgent voice, picks up.

“We’ve got a nice car, a white Lada. Yeah, I’ll drive for anyone. I don’t care if you’re not Cuban. We can pick you up at the when you get to town. Just give me two days’ notice, I’m there.”

Subject: Hello, I’m looking for the woman of my dreams, a girl both beautiful and mature

Date: August 26, 2009

I live in Havana. I’m a very romantic and tender boy. I like to enjoy life every moment and to dance. I’m well off financially, and I’m spontaneous and natural. I’m searching for a woman to share her life with me. I work in the Hotel Nacional. Chat with me on my MSN account, or call my cell phone.

Name: Michel

Revolico also includes boys looking for girls and vice versa, ladies looking for ladies, dudes looking for dudes, and even a whole section for relaciones ocasionales.

There are plenty of earnest young Cubans like this 23-year-old with an anthropology degree and a boring job manning the desk at one of Havana’s most exclusive hotels. The towering Art Deco jewel on the Malecón next to Havana Harbor caters to the wealthiest foreign tourists and dignitaries.

Michel, a sharp-featured man with square glasses and spiked black hair, proudly wears bulbous headphones and a grim in his profile photos. (New Times has changed Michel’s name and some personal details; otherwise his ad would be easy to identify.) He wants to find a wife.

“I posted on Revolico to get to know people. The site’s very popular right now. I posted only a few weeks ago, but one Cuban girl wrote to me. We’ve had trouble staying in touch, though, because she doesn’t have much Internet access. Most Cubans don’t. I’m lucky to work at a hotel with Internet for the guests.

“But as far as the tourists, I can’t talk to them. We’re forbidden from asking where they’re staying or what they’re doing in Cuba.”

Subject: Diapers and baby wipes

Date: August 13, 2009

We charge by weight. Huggies and Pampers.

Name: Leonela

A middle-age-sounding woman answers the phone in what sounds like a busy kitchen. It’s difficult to hear her over the banging pots and yelling. But it’s clear she has a serious black-market-diaper hookup. In fact, she might just be the hot-diaper queen of Havana.

“Send me an email and I’ll answer your questions. I’ve been able to exchange things on this site before. We’re cooking lunch right now, so I don’t want to talk.”

Subject: Single women and girls, check this out, babes: I’m looking for a hot Cuban

Date: August 31, 2009

Hello, I’m a young man with eyes the color of coffee. My name is Pablo. My telephone is 796***. Send me a message.

Name: Pablo

The tan, rangy 19-year-old with a long face wears a goofy, crooked smile in all of his online photos.

He lives with his parents in Guanabo, a small beach town an hour northwest of Havana, and works in a hospital, massaging the stiff joints and tight backs of his town’s elderly pensionistas.

It’s not easy to meet girls there, so his sister, who lives and works in , sent him a computer last month. He buys black-market Internet time, and posts almost every day in Revolico’s personal sections.

“I’m off today, but I work six days a week at a hospital as a massage therapist. I’ve been making new friends on Revolico. It’s a great site. I make decent money at my job, and we began renting out rooms in our house to tourists after my dad’s heart attack.

“I have a lot of friends who use Revolico. It brings you connections to people, but you have to be careful. One friend ordered some parts, and when they brought them over, they were all broken. Some people use the site just to take advantage, to defraud people.”

Subject: American car, ’55 PlymouthDate: August 23, 2009

American ’55 Plymouth in mint condition. The motor and upholstery are good. I’ve put photos here for you to check it out. My telephone is 05** for Julio, or 765*** for my neighbor Silvia, or 765*** for my other neighbor, Maria. I want 5,000 pesos [$5,300] for the car. But the price is negotiable.

Name: Julio

The seller has posted photos of a gleaming cherry-red Plymouth with red-and-black leather seats. Asked if he’d consider sending the car to Miami, he doesn’t react well.

“I’m selling it for 5,000 pesos. Miami? No! It’s impossible to sell it to you in Miami! I don’t know how to make that work. Call the authorities, idiot.” Click.


Cuba’s Wired Future

When Jose and Juan moved their messy email lists onto the web, they began with a few hundred posts. On an average day, one or two dozen new ads would appear.

A year and a half later, the site’s explosive growth has stunned its founders. Revolico nets more than 2 million page views a month, according to Jose — 90 percent from inside Cuba. More than 50,000 new ads appear each month, which means around 2,000 Cubans post every day.

“We can’t believe it,” Jose says. “It’s not something we could have imagined being possible.”

The site’s exponential growth mirrors the breakneck pace — at least by Cuban standards — of growing Internet access. Last year, after decades of living behind a virtual Iron Firewall, Cubans with enough money could legally buy personal computers thanks to Raúl Castro’s decree. Just this month, Raúl allowed post offices around the country to build Internet kiosks where ordinary people can check email and surf a handful of approved sites.

The government tightly regulates the IP addresses of sites allowed on state web access and has established hefty punishments for violators. Under Article 91 of the criminal code, Cubans can get slammed with 20 years in jail for posting “counter-revolutionary” works online, according to a report this year by Reporters Without Borders. Getting caught on a black-market Internet hookup can carry a five-year term, according to the study.

But still, as access spreads, a few free-speech pioneers have used the web to talk openly about their country. Young bloggers such as Yoanni Sanchez — who writes a blog called Generación Y, a play on the popularity of Cuban first names beginning with the penultimate letter of the alphabet — criticize the government and write freely about about problems in Havana.

“There is a window beginning to crack open,” says Andy Gomez, a senior fellow at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. “But you have to remember that Yoanni and others are blocked in Cuba. We’re reading what they’re writing, but most Cubans can’t.”

So, will Revolico cause real change?

Many doubt it. Several experts questioned the backstory the site’s founder gave New Times. Jose was contacted through an email sent to the site’s administrator.

Some say he’s working directly for the regime, testing a small free-market reform for the government. “The Cuban government has always been very good at alleviating some of the people’s needs without fundamentally changing the communist system,” says Antonio Jorge, a Cuban finance vice minister who broke with the Castros and now is a professor emeritus at Florida International University.

Others say Jose, even if he lacks official permission, is likely bribing government censors.

“Someone in the Cuban government must have OK’d this site, because there’s no way it’s flying under the radar,” says Sebastian Arcos, a former Cuban now in charge of community outreach in FIU’s Department of International Studies. “The question is: What are his connections exactly?”

Jose denies any government link. The regime, he says, has nothing to fear from a long-standing black market moving online. “There’s no way this would last if there was a political slant to it,” he says. “There’s nothing political about Revolico.”

The pair moved to Spain last year, just a few months after Revolico went live. Jose speaks to New Times from a cell phone with a Spanish area code.

They moved mostly for jobs, he says, declining to name what Spanish city he’s speaking from. Revolico brings in only a few hundred dollars a month with Google ads, he explains, so the founders have to keep working.

Jose says he has already received offers to buy the site, but most have come from Americans who want to use Revolico as a political tool against Castro.

That’s not Jose’s dream. His biggest hope is that when the United States and Cuba normalize relations, the site will become a sensation. In the free-for-all certain to come, the most-visited online trading site on the island could be worth some serious cash. In fact, the two partners say they’re working on a new site that will equally test their homeland’s boundaries. Jose won’t talk about the project except to promise it will “help Cuba emerge in the Internet age.”

“When I left, I heard so many people say that Castro has made Cubans lose their entrepreneurial spirit. But it’s not true,” he says. “We’re more entrepreneurial than anyone else on Earth because we must be to survive.”

Published on September 29, 2009 at 11:25amMiami News – Cuba’s black market moves online with – page 1 (30 September 2009)

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