Jimmy Carter visita Cuba en "misión privada"
Entre sus objetivos figura también informarse sobre la nueva política económica del país comunista. EL UNIVERSALsábado 26 de marzo de 2011 11:24 AM
Washington. – El ex presidente estadounidense Jimmy Carter viajará el lunes en una "misión privada" a Cuba para mejorar en la medida de lo posible las relaciones entre ambos países, informó hoy el Centro Carter en Atlanta.
El ex mandatario, de 83 años, planea reunirse entre otros con el líder cubano Raúl Castro. Durante esta visita privada de dos días por invitación del gobierno cubano Carter estará acompañado de su esposa Rosalynn, informó DPA.
Entre sus objetivos figura también informarse sobre la nueva política económica del país comunista. Carter fue presidente de Estados Unidos entre 1977 y 1981.
Liberado un pescador mexicano tras seis años de cárcel en la IslaDDCCancún 26-03-2011 – 11:50 am.
Había sido sentenciado a diez años de prisión por presunto tráfico de personas.
Luego de un largo proceso penal, el gobierno de Cuba liberó el viernes al pescador mexicano Carlos Joaquín Morales Tec, tras absolverlo del cargo de tráfico de personas por el cual había sido sentenciado a diez años de prisión, informó Diario de Yucatán.
El pescador yucateco abordó un vuelo con destino a Cancún, donde se encontró con sus familiares, que se trasladaron a ese polo turístico para recibirlo.
La Embajada de México en Cuba confirmó el martes a los familiares la liberación del preso mexicano, quien interpuso con éxito un recurso de apelación a la sentencia que se le impuso.
Carlos Morales, de 47 años, fue detenido en 2005 y acusado de presunto tráfico de personas.
Test de dictadurasmarzo 26, 2011Erasmo Calzadilla
Si usted quiere saber si un gobierno es dictatorial pregúntele a sus representantes si hay o no disidentes. Una respuesta negativa, y mientras más absoluta sería otro síntoma a favor de que la cosa pinta fea.
¿Cómo es posible entonces que a esta altura del partido estos tipos sigan repitiendo lo mismo? No les da pena, no se dan cuenta que así se están dichabando (echarse pa' alante a uno mismo).
Si lo más normal del mundo es tener disidentes. Es lo lógico, lo que debería suceder para que las cosas funcionaran, lo propio donde quiera que exista una sana diversidad de criterios y puntos de vista. El que no tenga disidentes es porque los está amordazando o asesinando en la misma medida en que van abriendo la boca, porque hasta las abejas y las hormigas deben tener disidentes.
Es más, todos deberíamos ser disidentes, tener una posición diferente en alguna u otra medida de la que rige en una sociedad; y todos deberíamos estar luchando por el reconocimiento de nuestro punto de vista diferente.
Hace rato los voceros del gobierno y otros que coinciden con sus puntos vienen acusando a Yoani de mercenaria del imperio, pagada a través de los muchos premios internacionales que recibe, incluso el muy reconocido Ortega y Gaset.
Desconozco si los reconocimientos son justos o no, pero para acusar a alguien así ante las cámaras de televisión deberían mínimo presentar unas pruebas. ¡óigame! Si usted no quiere que le digan dictador no haga ese tipo de cosas. O se volvieron totalmente locos o creen que el pueblo de Cuba es muy estúpido.
Conozco muy poco lo que hacen Yoani, Pardo y el resto de los blogueros pero creo que cualquier gobierno del mundo se preciaría de tener unos disidentes tan pacifistas y civiles, tan lo contrario de un terrorista.
Pero hay otro aspecto: cuando mencionan a Yoani por una parte, y a blogueros que apoyan al gobierno, por la otra, reducen toda la blogósfera a esta dicotomía, pero hay un mundo rico y muy diverso amén de ellos.
Menciono por ejemplo a los blogueros de izquierda como algunos de los que escriben en esta página web. Los blogueros de izquierda son más invisivilizados aún, porque es menos conveniente que el mundo sepa cuánto se ha traicionado al propio socialismo. Y además el activismo social al que invitan podría terminar expropiando a la élite gobernante de las prebendas que goza.
Erasmo Calzadilla: Cuento ya con 34 años sembrado en un barrio de retirados militares hacia el límite sur de la Ciudad de la Habana. Soy, no se por qué, un apasionado del pensamiento, la filosofía, el arte, la ciencia, la amistad, la música y en fin, de todo lo bueno que ha hecho ese arrebatado del hombre, la naturaleza, dios, o quien quiera que haya sido el autor. Realmente me gradué de Licenciado en Farmacia, pero trabajo como profesor de lo que pueda, allí donde me quieran y me crean. Es importante destacar que también estoy muy bien definido políticamente: soy un agrio opositor de los mandones, los abusadores, los impositivos, los que se creen con la verdad etc. pónganse estos el traje que se pongan. A ellos de vez en cuando dedico unas palabras airadas.
A Test for DictatorshipMarch 26, 2011Erasmo Calzadilla
This post is concerning a TV program whose theme was the media war against Cuba. In it, Yoani Sanchez and other bloggers were presented as mercenaries on the payroll of the empire.
If you want to know if a government is dictatorial, ask its representatives if there are or are not dissidents. If you get a negative answer, the more absolute it is the more it's a symptom that things are pretty ugly.
How is it possible then, at this stage of the game, that these types of functionaries continue repeating the same thing? Have they no shame? Don't they realize that by doing this they're putting nails in their own coffins?
The most normal thing in the world is to have dissidents. It's logical. It's what should happen so that things function. It's characteristic wherever one wants there to exist a healthy diversity of opinions and points of views.
Where there are no dissidents it's because they're murdered or gagged them whenever they open their mouths, because even bees and ants should have dissidents.
What's more, we should all be dissidents, each having a varying position on one or another measure that reigns in society. And we all should be struggling for the recognition of our differing point of view.
For some time, government spokespeople and others who agree with their positions came out accusing Yoani of being a mercenary of the empire, paid through the many international awards she receives, even the highly recognized Ortega and Gaset prize.
I don't know if the recognitions were fair or not, but to accuse someone in front of the TV cameras like that requires that they should at least present some proof.
Listen! If you don't want them to call you a dictator then don't do those types of things. It appears that either they've gone completely crazy or they believe that the people of Cuba are just plain stupid.
I know very little about what Yoani, Pardo and the rest of the bloggers do, but I think that any government in the world would be proud to have dissidents as peaceful and respectful as them – so different from what terrorists represent.
But there's another aspect: When they mention Yoani on the one hand, and the bloggers who support the government on the other, they reduce the whole blog sphere to this dichotomy, but there's actually a rich and diverse world thanks to bloggers.
I could cite, for example, leftwing bloggers like some of the ones who write for this web page. The left bloggers remain essentially invisible because to the authorities it's "not convenient" that the world know how much socialism itself has been betrayed. What's more, the social activism these bloggers invite could end up stripping the ruling elite of the privileges they enjoy.
Erasmo Calzadilla: My parents named me Erasmo 34 year ago, when I was planted in a neighborhood of retired military personnel situated toward the southern city limits of Havana. I don't know why, but I'm impassioned with thought, philosophy, art, science, friendship and music; in short, everything good that has stirred the passions of humans, nature, and God – or whoever was the creator. Actually I graduated in pharmacy, but I work as a professor at institutions that believe in me and are welcoming. It is important to highlight that I also hold a well-defined political position: I am a bitter opponent of those who are bossy, abusive, and imposing, those who believe they hold the truth, etc., independent of their attire. To them, I occasionally dedicate a few angry words.
Posted on Saturday, 03.26.11
Cuban doctors struggle to prove credentials in USBy LAURA WIDES-MUNOZAP Hispanic Affairs Writer
MIAMI — Roberto Carmona sneaked away from his superiors disguised as a South African cowboy. While working in Namibia, the doctor donned boots and a big hat so he could slip out to the American Embassy, where he asked about qualifying for a special program for Cuban physicians that he hoped would let him defect to the U.S.
Nearly a year later, he was accepted, just days before his overseas job ended. Carmona fled to Tampa, but escaping his homeland turned out to be the easy part.
Carmona and a number of other Cuban physicians who defected while on overseas assignments have confronted a frustrating contradiction in American medicine: They were allowed into the U.S. because they are doctors. But, once here, they cannot treat patients because Cuba has refused to release or certify their academic records.
Without transcripts, it's nearly impossible for the doctors to take the required medical board exams and to get approval from the U.S. group that accredits foreign physicians.
"To come to this country, we have to spend so much time demonstrating to U.S. immigration officials we are doctors and show them so many documents," Carmona said. "Then why is it once we are here, they don't believe us and make it so difficult for us to work in our profession?"
Cuba, which views the defectors as traitors, pays for its doctors' training and has for years sent them on goodwill missions abroad to provide free health care in poor countries.
In 2006, the U.S. created a special visa program specifically for Cubans on those missions, and more than 1,500 Cuban doctors, dentists and other medical professionals have used the visas to flee to the U.S., according to the State Department.
It's unclear how many doctors face the same problem as Carmona. The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, a private nonprofit that oversees the accrediting process, said at least 20 have asked for waivers because of problems getting documents. And the numbers are likely to grow.
Emilio Gonzalez, former head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services who helped create the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, said the problem was relatively new. He suggested allowing doctors to begin residency programs or other retraining as they await approval to take the boards.
"There is a credentialing problem," Gonzalez said. But, he added, "there are ways to be creative."
Even when paperwork is readily available, the American accreditation system for foreign doctors is difficult. They must pass three lengthy exams in English, which often cost thousands of dollars. But without academic transcripts, they cannot prove they studied medicine.
Carmona was among a half-dozen Cuban doctors interviewed by The Associated Press about their decision to defect while working abroad – a move that risks not seeing loved ones again for many years. The doctors are allowed to stay in the U.S. regardless of whether they practice medicine. The federal government's "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy says any Cuban who makes it to American shores can remain in the country.
Some became disillusioned with Cuba's communist system and left to escape economic and political repression. Others were frustrated by poor living and working conditions in their host country.
The defectors described taking extreme steps, like Carmona's cowboy getup, to avoid raising the suspicion of Cuban and local officials. Most spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retribution against family in Cuba or further problems in obtaining transcripts. Some have yet to apply for accreditation.
His application was denied to work in Venezuela, where the Cuban government has sent more than 30,000 health professionals in exchange for subsidized oil shipments. Then in 2007, he was offered a post in Namibia on the West African coast just north of South Africa.
At the time, his girlfriend was four months' pregnant and had already requested a U.S. visa through a separate process. It seemed his only chance to leave.
Since the Cuban medical parole program began, 444 graduates of Cuban medical schools have passed their board exams and been accredited, according to the Educational Commission. However, it's unclear how many of those came to the U.S. under the special program.
Educational Commission Vice President Bill Kelly said physicians can submit affidavits from other doctors who attended medical school with them or request a waiver from the commission's executive board.
"Anybody who indicates they don't have their transcripts, we point them in the right direction," Kelly said.
Carmona said he had tried to talk to someone at the commission about an alternative and enlisted help from state politicians, all to no avail.
Following an inquiry by the AP, he suggested Carmona contact him directly and then offered to allow Carmona to provide the affidavits.
Dr. Julio Cesar Alfonso, head of the South Florida group Solidarity Without Borders Inc., which helps Cuban medical professionals with the parole program, has been lobbying to change the accrediting procedure. He said he's talked with more than two dozen doctors in the same predicament as Carmona.
Getting transcripts authenticated can be tough even when Cubans come to the U.S. with their government's permission.
Dentist Yenia Lopez left Cuba with that government's permission in 2008 after getting a U.S. visa, which is done through a lottery program because so many people apply. Milwaukee-based Educational Credential Evaluators, which accredits foreign dentists, rejected her application because it could not reconcile two versions of her transcripts.
Lopez said she initially sent an unofficial version and then provided her original copy, but there were discrepancies between the two. The company said it tried five times to verify the documents with Cuba, then closed her case in 2010, effectively ending her chances of working as a dentist in the U.S.
"I feel like they are in Wisconsin, and they just don't understand how things work in Cuba, and how complicated it is even to obtain the simplest documents," said Lopez, who has offered to pay the cost of additional verification attempts and now works as a dental assistant. "This is the rest of my life they are deciding."
As for Carmona, he is now a medical assistant and is saving money with his girlfriend, who came to the U.S. with their baby. He said he hoped his case would help other doctors like himself.
"I just want to do what I love," he said, "to be a doctor."
Publicado el sábado, 03.26.11
Médicos cubanos tienen dificultades para ejercer en EEUUPor LAURA WIDES-MUNOZThe Associated Press
MIAMI — Roberto Carmona escapó furtivamente de sus superiores disfrazado de vaquero sudafricano. Cuando trabajaba en Namibia, el médico se puso botas y un gran sombrero para poder ir a la embajada estadounidense, donde preguntó acerca de un programa de visas para médicos cubanos que, esperaba, le permitiría emigrar a Estados Unidos.
Casi un año después lo aceptaron en el programa, días antes del final de su misión en el extranjero. Carmona huyó a Tampa, Florida, pero eso resultó ser lo más fácil.
Carmona y otros médicos cubanos que desertaron de misiones en el exterior se han encontrado con una contradicción frustrante en la medicina estadounidense: se les permite entrar en el país porque son médicos, pero no se les permite ejercer porque Cuba se niega a enviar o certificar su desempeño académico.
Sin esos documentos, es casi imposible que las juntas médicas les tomen los exámenes de revalidación del título obligatorios para los médicos extranjeros.
"Para llegar a este país tuvimos que dedicar mucho tiempo a demostrar a los funcionarios de inmigración que somos médicos y mostrarles muchos documentos", dijo Carmona. "¿Por qué no nos creen y ponen tantas dificultades para que ejerzamos nuestra profesión?"
Cuba, que trata a los desertores como traidores, paga los estudios de sus médicos y los envía en misiones de buena voluntad a brindar atención médica gratuita en países pobres.
En el 2006, Estados Unidos creó un programa de visas dirigido específicamente a los cubanos que se encuentran en esas misiones. Más de 1.500 médicos, odontólogos y otros profesionales han aprovechado el programa para huir a Estados Unidos, según el Departamento de Estado.
No está claro cuántos son los que enfrentan el mismo problema que Carmona. La Comisión Educativa para Graduados Médicos Extranjeros, un grupo privado sin fines de lucro que supervisa el proceso de acreditación, dijo que al menos 20 han pedido exenciones debido a la imposibilidad de obtener documentos. Esas cifras probablemente crecerán.
Emilio González, ex titular de Servicios de Ciudadanía e Inmigración y uno de los creadores del programa para médicos cubanos, dijo que se trata de un problema relativamente nuevo. Su sugerencia es que les permitan a los médicos realizar residencias o tomar cursos mientras aguardan la autorización para rendir los exámenes.
"Existe un problema de credenciales", dijo González. Pero añadió que "se puede tener iniciativa".
Una vez conseguidos los papeles, el sistema de acreditación estadounidense para médicos extranjeros es muy arduo. Deben aprobar tres largos exámenes en inglés que cuestan miles de dólares. Pero sin los documentos universitarios, no pueden demostrar que estudiaron medicina.
Naufraga un buque panameño con tripulantes cubanos y hay tres desaparecidos
El buque Helga transportaba sal a granel y navegaba de México a Honduras
EFE, La Habana | 26/03/2011
El ministerio de Transporte de Cuba informó hoy del naufragio en el mar Caribe de un buque panameño que transportaba sal, con 11 tripulantes cubanos, ocho de los cuales fueron rescatados mientras tres permanecen desaparecidos.
El naufragio del buque Helga tuvo lugar el 19 de marzo frente a las costas de Belice, durante una travesía de México a Honduras con un cargamento de sal a granel, indicó la nota publicada este sábado en el diario oficial Granma.
Según el comunicado, desde que recibieron los primeros avisos del accidente las autoridades de Belice "realizaron una amplia búsqueda con medios navales y aéreos en la zona del naufragio y en otras áreas adyacentes".
Como resultado, fueron rescatados ocho de los once tripulantes, quienes se encuentran "en buen estado de salud" y regresaron a Cuba el pasado miércoles.
Aún quedan por ser encontrados el capitán del barco, Arturo Edreira, el jefe de máquina, Alexis González, y el timonel Nelson Pérez.
"Las autoridades cubanas mantienen estrechas coordinaciones con las autoridades de Belice para las operaciones de búsqueda y rescate, así como coordinan la investigación de este hecho con las autoridades marítimas de Panamá", añadió la nota."
Cuba economy minister replaced, to focus on reformBy Rosa Tania ValdesHAVANA | Fri Mar 25, 2011 10:54pm EDT
(Reuters) – Cuban Economy Minister Marino Murillo has been replaced by his top deputy so he can concentrate on overseeing economic reforms expected to be approved at an upcoming Communist Party conference, the Cuban government said on Friday.
Murillo will stay on as vice president in the Council of Ministers and as coordinator of the congress's Economic Policy Commission, where he will be in charge of "supervising the implementation of measures associated with the updating of the Cuban economic model," the statement said.
He "will have to concentrate his work after the approval of the economic and social policy guidelines of the party and the revolution," it said.
Murillo will "look after" the Economy Ministry and other "productive sectors," it said.
Murillo took center stage in December at a National Assembly meeting where he outlined proposed reforms to Cuba's Soviet-style economy and explained the inefficiencies and policy failures that made them necessary.
Afterwards, some had pegged him as future presidential material when Cuba's current, aging leadership moves on.
Whether Friday's change was a promotion or demotion was not clear, but there have been rumors of late that Murillo was on the hot seat for a slow start to reforms.
Castro wants to strengthen Cuba's troubled economy by expanding "non-state" retail and agriculture activities, making state-run companies more efficient and reducing government expenditures.
More than 170,000 self-employment licenses have been issued, but his plan to chop 500,000 workers from government payrolls by this month had to be put off indefinitely because of an assortment of problems, including worker resistance and a lack of alternative jobs.
The Communist Party congress, set for April 16-19, will be the first since 1997. Its primary task is to approve 32 pages of guidelines for Castro's reforms.
Castro, who officially succeeded older brother Fidel Castro as president three years ago, has said the reforms are needed to assure the survival of Cuban communism after current leaders are gone.
(Writing by Jeff Franks; Editing by Philip Barbara)
Posted on Saturday, 03.26.11
Haunting scene in CubaBY EDUARD FREISLER
We've all watched the TV images as dictators and autocrats in the Middle East and North Africa sent their thugs to the streets to attack pro-democratic protestors. These images have brought back to my memory a scene I witnessed almost five years ago in Cuba. It still haunts me.
They gathered in front of Yamila Llanes Labrada's house around noon. A vitriolic crowd dominated by the town's elders. It was Saturday in the small town of Las Tunas in 2006, and it was very hot, with humidity on the rise. The oppressive weather made the situation even tenser. I had an unclear vision of what was coming.
Yamila and her four kids were, at that time, waiting for her husband, José Luis García Paneque, to come home from prison where he was serving 24 years for dissent. Never giving up, she often looked out the window hoping for his return. José Luis was arrested on March 18, 2003 as part of Fidel Castro's crackdown on 75 members of the Cuban opposition.
I had talked with Yamila in her home the day before Castro's people came. Yamila, a member of the anti-government movement Women in White ( Damas de Blanco), told me about the mob actions. When I gave her a puzzled look, she said: "A small crowd of people come to my door to verbally harass me. They call me many names. Bitch, worm, garbage, just to name a few. Come and see it with your own eyes."
This was all too familiar to me. I came of age under communism in the former Czechoslovakia where the party leaders and their backers used to treat people who opposed the regime with hatred and disgust.
However, the mob scenes in Cuba were a new thing for me. I accepted Yamila's suggestion to see it for myself. To be sure I could really witness everything, I found a hiding place in the bushes close enough to see the crowd, hoping not to be spotted. If Castro's thugs were to see me inside the house, they would have "proof" that Yamila was "palling around with Western spies." So to protect her and her children, I hid as I watched.
Everything started on a calm note, as if the people coming to Yamila's house were getting together for a picnic. Two men were chatting while smoking cigarettes; an older woman was slowly waving a fan in front of her face. Then, a group of five came to join them. After a while, another six people showed up. Most of the people were well into their 70s. The oldest Cuban generation is the most loyal to Castro because his revolution is their whole life, and they are prepared to defend it.
I counted some 25 villagers gathered outside Yamila's home. They started to shout nasty slurs almost as one. They called Yamila a slut, a terrorist, dirt. After a while, hysteria took hold. People were urging Yamila to leave the country and threatening her with prison. Some were stomping the ground forcefully. Pretty quickly, the scene got a bit hazy because the stomping mob stirred up the dusty road. Even in the haze, the mood became more intimidating. "This street belongs to Fidel," a female voice suddenly cut the air sharply with this verbal assault. It was a high-pitched shriek that gave me a chill. I decided to retreat for my own security.
A few days later, I went to see Oswaldo Payá Sardinas, one of the leading figures of the Cuban opposition. With the scene outside Yamila's home still fresh in my mind, I had to ask him about it. "Castro borrowed these acts from Nazis pogroms against Jews and Mao's cultural revolution," Payá told me in his Havana home. "Castro's thugs harass and beat people because they have been promised a new telephone or have been paid couple of pesos. Some of his adherents throw rotten eggs, vegetables or even animal excrement at the houses of the anti-regime people," he added.
Castro's daughter, Alina Fernández Revuelta, who lives in exile in Miami, is also familiar with these brutal practices. "This is, by all means, one of the ugliest faces of the Castro regime," she told me when I spoke to her in 2006. Fernández also revealed that Castro's thugs had assaulted her a couple of times, even in Miami. "The scenario is always the same. They want you to get scared; they want you to break down."
Fortunately, the Castro regime did not break Yamila's spirit. She and her children got out of Cuba and settled in Texas in 2007. Only now am I writing about what I saw in 2006 because I feared that press exposure could bring them harm. But even though Yamila left, her husband remained imprisoned in Cuba. It was only last summer that he was freed by the Castro regime and sent to Spain.
There he told the press what his family had gone through and he described an incident involving even more ferocious psychological warfare than what I saw. Another time, around 50 of Castro's supporters, this time carrying clubs, started to hurl stones at Yamila's house and threatened to burn it down. Some shouted that they'd kill Yamila and her kids or in their words: "To burn the worms inside to death."
To this day, Damas de Blanco and other Cubans face this torment. Recently, the Cuban government might have started some significant economic reforms, but politically it is still a ruthless regime, ready to unleash its own thugs against pro-democracy people. This force of intimidation still works on most of the Cuban population except groups like Damas de Blanco. They march on…
Eduard Freisler is a Czech journalist who lives in New York.
Tag: Repression, Act of repudiation
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/03/26/v-fullstory/2134526/haunting-scene-in-cuba.html
26 March 2011 Last updated at 00:51 GMT
Cuba reforms: Small businesses spring up in HavanaBy Michael Voss BBC News, Havana
Something is happening on the streets of Havana that hasn't been seen for years.
Small businesses are starting to appear everywhere.
It is part of the first major shake-up of Cuba's struggling Soviet-style economic model since the 1960s, and private enterprise is no longer a dirty word.
In communist-run Cuba, 85% of the population is employed by the state.
But now the government is issuing 250,000 licences to would-be entrepreneurs and the interest is enormous.
Lazara Barreras used to work in the accounts department of a state enterprise. Now she has a small market stall selling bootleg DVDs and CDs.
"I'm never going to be a millionaire but it's enough to get by on," Ms Barreras says.
All the films and albums she is selling are pirated copies of the originals.
Boosting employment appears more important than copyright for the state, though the authorities would argue that it is all down to the US trade embargo since they are not allowed to import them anyway.Street of sellers
Ms Barreras is working out of the front porch of a house on 114th Street in the Havana district of Marianao.
Being allowed to rent space in your home to these small businesses is another new development.
Eddy Callejas proudly shows off his first ever rent book. He is one of three people on this block who are leasing their front porches or verandas to street sellers.
"It's just a start. Now you can rent space for people to sell their merchandise. Perhaps later I can offer a better set-up, creating new facilities to benefit both the landlord and the tenants," Mr Callejas says.
He has two tenants, Ms Barreras the DVD seller and Daely Asan whose stall offers everything from plastic hair bands to scouring pads and batteries as well as a range of cheap costume jewellery.
"It gives me a lot of options I never had before. You have your own work and keep your social security. It counts towards my pension. I think it's a very good option," says Mr Callejas.
Since the beginning of the year, 10 new private businesses have sprung up on this one block alone.
These include a watch repair man, a barber shop, a stall selling new and used plumbing supplies along with a second DVD/CD stand and another mixed plastic goods stall.
There are also two tiny cafes. One is a hole-in-the-wall snack bar selling sandwiches and soft drinks through a window that fronts onto the street. The other sells some cakes and pastries as well.
They are competing side by side with subsidised state shops. The biggest queue on the street is at a state-owned food outlet selling cheap, freshly made and very tasty-looking cheese pies.
Competition in this new mixed economy is likely to be fierce.Big shift
Taxes are high and there remains a lot of red tape. Under the new rules people can even hire a limited number of workers, though to do so they have to pay a hefty fee to the state.
So far, promised bank micro-credits and access to wholesale supplies have yet to emerge.
In developed market economies, roughly half of all new start-ups fail in the first year. The figure is likely to be higher here.
But it does signal a significant ideological shift from the past.
"The vast majority of Cubans have never met a Cuban capitalist or a small businessman because they were born under this system," says Rafael Hernandez, editor of Temas, an official magazine which covers issues relating to culture, ideology and society.
But Mr Hernandez believes that it is time "to re-think our socialism and give the non-state sector the importance they deserve. They are part of us."
Shortly after the revolution in 1959, Fidel Castro started expropriating all the major industries, banks and farms, many of them American-owned.
Ten years later he went further, nationalising almost all jobs from barbers to bricklayers and everyone from doctors to street cleaners were paid the same.
The aim was to create a new man, based on moral not monetary incentives. It has proved a costly experiment.
Without incentives, productivity is low and in these tough economic times the government can no longer afford such a generous welfare state.First shoots
Once before, after the collapse of their main benefactor, the Soviet Union, the Cuban authorities allowed a limited number people to open small family businesses, mainly restaurants and guest houses catering to tourists.
But they were treated as necessary evils and many were forced to close once the economy picked up.
"The Communist Party and Government need to facilitate their work rather than generate stigmas and prejudices against them, much less demonise them," President Castro said in a recent televised address to the National Assembly or parliament.
Encouraging self-employment is part of a broader reform package aimed at kick-starting the island's struggling state-run economy.
The first Communist Party Congress for 14 years is due to take place in April to ratify the changes, some of which will be painful, that Mr Castro is proposing.
Subsidies, including the ration card, are being phased out, and more than a million workers could lose their state jobs.
The lay-offs, however, have now been delayed. The government appears uneasy about potential social upheaval and does not have its alternatives in place.
The original aim was for many of those laid off to become self-employed.
So far, the majority of the people who have applied for licences are pensioners, housewives and those who were already working for themselves on the black market. They have now been legalised and made to pay tax.
The proposed changes are a long way short of China's free market reforms. Raul Castro has pledged that this is not a return to capitalism.
But as 114th Street shows, the first shoots of a market economy are starting to grow.
Cuba's conviction of U.S. citizen likely a ployThe Washington Times7:22 p.m., Friday, March 25, 2011
Earlier this month, U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor Alan Gross was sentenced by a Cuban court to 15 years in prison for "crimes against the state." Mr. Gross' attorney, Peter J. Kahn, concluded in February that his client was caught in the middle of a long-standing political dispute between Cuba and the United States. I agree.
The freeing of Oscar Elias Biscet from prison on March 11 is connected to the Gross case. Mr. Biscet is a leading political prisoner in Cuba who served more than 11 years in prison for his steadfast advocacy of peaceful opposition to the communist regime. It seems likely the Cuban authorities could be trying to link Gross' ultimate fate to the freeing of the five Cuban intelligence agents who were convicted of espionage in 2001 by U.S. courts. This would be pure blackmail, making Mr. Gross a hostage.
On the other hand, if Cuba releases Mr. Gross on humanitarian grounds, it likely will be in an effort to score brownie points with the U.S. government. It might argue that the freeing of Mr. Gross and Mr. Biscet should lead to the lifting of the U.S. trade embargo and travel restrictions against Cuba at a time when the Cuban economy is in shambles.
Cuban authorities are not known for making peaceful gestures without expecting something of value in return. Let's hope President Obama takes a page from their book with regard to the Gross situation.
JORGE E. PONCE
Cuba to carry out economic reforms while keeping socialismEnglish.news.cn 2011-03-26 10:58:28
HAVANA, March 25 (Xinhua) — The upcoming congress of the Cuban Communist Party in April will introduce several economic reforms while the country retains socialism, Cuban leader Raul Castro said Friday.
Castro said Cuba needs to "correct some mistakes committed in the past five decades of socialism." But he made it clear that Cuba "will not return to capitalism and neo-colonialism" and the updated model for Cuba will primarily be based on a planned economy rather than a market economy."
The new economic policy will conform to the principle that only socialism can overcome the difficulties and preserve the conquests of the Revolution," Castro said.
"The future of the nation is at stake," he said, adding that it is necessary to defend the "permanent discrepancy of the ideas because that's where the best solutions come from."
Meanwhile, Homero Acosta, secretary of the Cuban State Council, said the penal system also needs to be updated along with the economic model.
"The new economic changes will impact every aspect of social life, so it also requires us to modify the criminal law according to the new circumstances," said Acosta.
"It is possible that the typical imprisonment will be replaced by other sanctions like freedom limitation, or correctional labor without confinement, for penalties of up to five years in prison," he said.
Justice Minister Maria Esther Reus said the country needs an updated policy and a legislative development according to the new national reality.
The draft document to be discussed at the party congress in April includes a wide range of topics such as discharging half a million people from over-employed state companies, eliminating excessive social benefits, building a flexible housing market, opening private businesses and implementing a new tax system.
Earlier this week, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro talked about the party structure for the first time since handing over power to his brother Raul in 2006, saying the Cuba leader should at the same time be the first secretary of the party.