flee eastern Cuba, a town mourns those lost at sea
Sept. 17 - Eighteen-year-old
Miguel Lopez Maldonado boarded a homemade boat last month with 31
others, leaving behind this sleepy fishing town on Cuba's southeast
coast to seek a new life in the United States.
The motor broke down after a couple days, and the craft drifted for
three weeks. One by one, the passengers died of thirst, the survivors
left with no option but to throw the bodies overboard.
By the time the Mexican navy spotted them 150 miles off the Yucatan
peninsula, 15 had died, including Lopez Maldonado. Of the 17 rescued,
two died in a Mexican hospital.
Lopez Maldonado's parents say they don't understand why their son left.
But others here say many young Cubans see no future in a state-run
economy, under U.S. sanctions for 50 years, with few opportunities for
"Young people today do not think like my generation did. They are
looking for something more that they can’t find here," the dead teen's
father, Miguel Lopez Vega, said, sobbing, in the living room of the
family's home as neighbors stopped by to offer comfort.
"My son wanted to leave Cuba since he was 15. He didn’t want to live in
The tragedy, the worst Cuban migrant boat disaster in two decades, is
part of a growing illegal exodus from eastern Cuba - a region famous as
the launching pad of the 1959 revolution in the nearby Sierra Maestra
U.S. authorities say 14,000 Cubans arrived without visas at the border
with Mexico in the past 11 months, the highest number in a decade.
In Manzanillo, a run-down colonial city of 130,000 in eastern Granma
province, residents say as many as five boats, with up to 30 passengers,
depart in weeks with favorable weather.
Passengers in last month's voyage, who were aged 16 to 36, each paid the
equivalent of $400 to $600 for the 675-mile trip.
The situation threatens to further strain relations between Cuba and the
United States. Cuba argues that U.S. policy foments illegal and
dangerous departures by granting Cubans a special right of entry not
offered to other nationalities.
The wave of migration also exposes the fragility of President Raul
Castro's market-oriented reforms, in which independent farming and small
businesses have been legalized in an attempt rebuild a private sector
wiped out in 1959.
TEARS AND PRAYERS
Joaquín de La Paz, who works at a rice mill, lost a daughter, a son and
two grandsons in last month's tragedy. He said economic hardship and a
lack of jobs in Manzanillo, once a busy port handling sugar from nearby
cane fields, had made people desperate.
De La Paz, 62, said that even though his daughter was a teacher and his
son worked for the health ministry, neither earned enough to satisfy
"The kids see people leave Cuba who never even had a bicycle, and then
by the time they return within a year their family situation is
improved," he said.
"Look at me. After 43 years of work, I haven't been able to acquire
anything, except sadness and sorrow for my family."
One granddaughter decided at the last minute not to join her mother and
brother, but De la Paz frets that she will be next. The girl’s
16-year-old brother, Hector, was rescued, but he died on the way to a
De la Paz's wife, Xiomara Milan, sobbed alongside him as she recounted
how they raised pigs to feed the family. She said all she had left was
the hope her grandson would be returned for burial, adding the family
did not have the money to repatriate his body.
Family members and neighbors said the government and state-run media
have been silent about the tragedy. Only the Catholic Church has offered
solace, they said.
A Mass for the victims was held in the town's main Catholic church on
Friday, and prayers were offered "for those who feel the need to find
another country to live." One speaker urged people to think hard about
the decision and "look for safer paths."
There were also prayers that Cuban authorities "achieve the necessary
material and spiritual progress" of the country.
Relatives of the victims said their only information has come from
survivors detained by immigration authorities in Mexico, who have been
allowed to call home twice a week.
They are pleading with Mexican authorities not to deport the survivors
back to Cuba, and to allow them to continue their journey to the U.S.
Niurka Aguilar, the mother of one survivor, Maylin Perez, said it was
her daughter's fifth attempt to leave. Perez, 30, was hoping to join her
husband, who made the trip nine months ago and now lives in Texas.
"If they send her back, she will just try again," said Aguilar.
A 62 year
old Canadian man says he lost $90,000 when he 'married' a 25 year old
Sept. 16 - A Quebec man says
he's out $90,000 after falling in love with a Cuban woman, marrying her,
and moving her to Canada.
He also claims that when she arrived, she was pregnant with another
man's baby and left him after six days.
Michel Beaudry told QMI Agency that he wants to share his story to help
other Canadians avoid making the same mistake.
The 62-year-old met a 25-year-old woman while on an all-inclusive Cuban
vacation in March 2013.
"At first," said Beaudry, "I thought it was impossible that she would
want to be with me."
The relationship blossomed, bolstered by Beaudry making about 10 trips
to Cuba to visit. They married in September 2013.
In June 2014, his wife was given permission by the Canadian government
to move to Canada.
From the first day, she explained to Beaudry that she didn't want to
lead a normal married life with him.
"She said she loved me like a father figure. I slept on the sofa while
she slept in my room."
Beaudry says his wife also announced she was pregnant. He had a
vasectomy, and knew he could be responsible for a child that wasn't his.
Six days after her arrival, she asked for $50,000 to buy a home for her
relatives in Cuba. When Beaudry refused, she packed her bags and left.
"She lied all along," said Beaudry. "She only wanted money."
Reynaldo Marquez, Beaudry's lawyer, told QMI that they are seeking an
annulment of the marriage. "I want her to leave the country," Beaudry
Officer Held At Detention Centre Classed As Refugee
Sept. 16 - En Español
The Cuban military officer
being held at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre has been classified
as a refugee by the United Nations, according to legal counsel for the
Lawyer David Alvarez confirmed to The Tribune that he is also in talks
with a US federal agency, which has requested the approval of the
Bahamas government to interview his client Mayor (Major) Ortelio
After more than five months at the detention centre, Mr Alvarez said his
client was optimistic for a possible resolution to the “political tug of
war” over his life.
“It has been very frustrating,” he said, “it seems like he’s in a
political tug-of-war, and he’s caught in the cross fire of what I’m
trying to do, which is save his life, and the Cuban officials. He has a
lot of information, sensitive information that may be of interest.” Mr
Alvarez said: “the Bahamian government is in the middle of this, I know
they have a relationship with both American and Cuban officials.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said yesterday that he had “no
comment on the matter.”
Mr Abrahantes is said to be an officer of Cuba’s Ministry of the
Interior, who has defected with sensitive information involving
operations conducted by the Cuban government.
According to reports, Mr Abrahantes was taken to the Bahamas on March 27
after a sail boat he was aboard was intercepted by the US Coast Guard.
Requests for assistance from the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR)
have been successful, according to Mr Alvarez, who said the agency has
submitted their recommendations to the Bahamas government.
“(UNHCR) said my client classifies as a refugee and should not be sent
back to Cuba for his own safety and in compliance with international
law. They are also going to start asylum proceedings.”
Calls placed to UNHCR representative for the Bahamas, Katie Tobin, were
not returned up to press time.
The claims were first reported on Miami-based news network Television
Marti (TV Marti) last month. It was suggested that if deported, Mr
Abrahantes will be court marshalled and could face execution by firing
squad or a long-term prison sentence.
Yesterday, Mr Alvarez said he met with representatives from a US federal
agency, the name of which he said he’d been asked not to disclose, last
Wednesday in Nassau.
He met with Mr Abrahantes at the detention centre on August 27.
Mr Alvarez said: “They (US) are looking at the case, they want to meet
with him but the hold up is that they keep postponing the meeting. I am
hoping to meet with my client and those representatives next week at
some point. As soon as the Bahamian government gives the go-ahead to
Mr Alvarez said that he believes that his client has been treated “okay”
at the facility because of the political pressure and media exposure.
“He’s doing well, he has his hopes up,” he said.
“I’ve been keeping him up to speed and he knows about this potential
meeting coming up. At the same time, he’s very concerned about his
safety and for his wife and his daughter who are still in Cuba.”
Targets American Universities
Sept. 9 - “My job was to bug
their rooms with both cameras and listening devices. Most people have no
idea they are being watched while they are in Cuba. But their personal
activities are filmed under orders from Fidel Castro himself. And
Castro’s undercover agents don’t wait around hoping the famous visitors
might randomly engage in these things. They tempt them, bait them with
offers.” – Cuban intelligence defector Delfin Fernandez.
As Mr. Fernandez correctly points out, Cuba’s General Directorate of
Intelligence (DGI) has no qualms about using unseemly measures to gain
cooperation from people who may be of service to the Cuban government.
Though Fernandez is specifically speaking about celebrities in this
instance, the tactics employed are not exclusive to a certain subset of
American culture, rather the DGI, like most intelligence services, use a
variety of methods to acquire information from people who may have
access, or even among those who will have access, to sensitive
While using recruits to gather information is a common method used by
nearly every intelligence agency, there are other reasons Havana seeks
out celebrities and academics alike – to influence U.S. public opinion
or policy towards the island nation. In other words, these recruits are
known as agents of influence. For decades, the Cuban government has
racked up a string of impressive successes in penetrating the U.S.
government and society. Turncoats such as Ana Montes and Walter Kendall
Myers are perhaps two of the better known moles operating on instruction
from Cuba, but Carlos Alvarez, a professor at Florida International
University, was working with the DGI to keep tabs on Cuban dissidents
and defectors living in Florida. Though no classified material was
accessed in the Alvarez case, it underscores the utility of having such
an unassuming person to conduct intelligence activities.
In a private sector advisory released September 2, the FBI stated that
Cuba remains interested in recruiting agents at U.S. colleges and
universities. This advisory follows the FBI warnings of the past few
years that openly stated the desire of foreign intelligence services (FIS)
to gain access to sensitive material, whether government classified or
company proprietary, through recruitment at institutions of higher
learning. In fact, former Cuban intelligence officer Jose Cohen stated
in a 2002 paper that Cuba considers recruiting at U.S. universities a
“top priority,” and actively seeks those candidates who are likely to
“occupy positions of importance in the private sector and in the
government.” Cohen defected to the U.S. in 1994, but his analysis has
proven accurate. It’s interesting to note that both Myers and Montes
were first approached by Cuba’s DGI while at college. According to open
sources, Montes may have been approached while attending Johns Hopkins
School of Advanced International Studies through a facilitator vetting
good recruits for Cuban intelligence collection. Without a formal
diplomatic presence in the U.S., Cuba relies on other avenues to move
intelligence officers into the U.S. One such avenue is the Cuban Mission
to the UN which is the third largest mission in New York and it is
estimated that nearly half of the employees at the mission are actually
DGI. Other avenues include cultural centers and an extensive ‘illegals’
Cuba is a small nation with limited resources and it cannot always rely
on cash to entice new recruits. Instead, Cuba plays on ideological
sympathies, blackmail, or even promises of favorable investments in the
Cuban economy once the U.S. embargo is lifted. Recruiting agents while
they are young and unaware of the consequences of their actions is a
tried and tested methodology that has paid dividends for Havana.
Colleges and universities rely on openness and sharing of information to
facilitate learning, but this also represents a vulnerability that is
easily exploited by those with impure intentions. Though Americans often
consider Cuba to be a bygone threat of the Cold War era, the island
nation still resides a mere 90 miles off of Florida and Cuban
cooperation with Russia or China certainly help to raise the level of
concern. Furthermore, many leaders of the U.S. intelligence community
have repeatedly stated that the presence of foreign spies in the U.S. is
outpacing that of the Cold War. Indeed, espionage costs the U.S. economy
a substantial amount of money – nearly a trillion dollars annually
according to some estimates. Cuba may only represent a single threat
among the many challenges facing U.S. national security, however each
threat takes its toll and an educated public that is sensitive to the
threat is often the best defense.
In Homeland Security
Intelligence Aggressively Recruiting Leftist American Academics as Spies
Sept. 5 - Sexual entrapment a
Cuba’s communist-led intelligence services are aggressively recruiting
leftist American academics and university professors as spies and
influence agents, according to an internal FBI report published this
Cuban intelligence services “have perfected the work of placing agents,
that includes aggressively targeting U.S. universities under the
assumption that a percentage of students will eventually move on to
positions within the U.S. government that can provide access to
information of use to the [Cuban intelligence service],” the five-page
unclassified FBI report says. It notes that the Cubans “devote a
significant amount of resources to targeting and exploiting U.S.
“Academia has been and remains a key target of foreign intelligence
services, including the [Cuban intelligence service],” the report
One recruitment method used by the Cubans is to appeal to American
leftists’ ideology. “For instance, someone who is allied with communist
or leftist ideology may assist the [Cuban intelligence service] because
of his/her personal beliefs,” the FBI report, dated Sept. 2, said.
Others are offered lucrative business deals in Cuba in a future post-U.S.
embargo environment, and are treated to extravagant, all-expense paid
visits to the island.
Coercive tactics used by the Cubans include exploiting personal
weaknesses and sexual entrapment, usually during visits to Cuba.
The Cubans “will actively exploit visitors to the island” and U.S.
academics are targeted by a special department of the spy agency.
“This department is supported by all of the counterintelligence
resources the government of Cuba can marshal on the island,” the report
said. “Intelligence officers will come into contact with the academic
travelers. They will stay in the same accommodations and participate in
the activities arranged for the travelers. This clearly provides an
opportunity to identify targets.”
In addition to collecting information and secrets, Cuban spies employ
“influence operations,” the FBI said.
“The objective of these activities can range from portraying a specific
image, usually positive, to attempting to sway policymakers into
particular courses of action,” the report said.
Additionally, Cuban intelligence seeks to plant disinformation or
propaganda through its influence agents, and can task recruits to
actively disseminate the data. Once recruited, many of the agents are
directed to entering fields that will provide greater information access
in the future, mainly within the U.S. government and intelligence
The Cubans do not limit recruitments to “clandestine agents,” the report
said. Other people who do not have access to secrets are co-opted as
spies because of their political position or political views that can be
exploited for supporting Cuban goals, either as open supporters or
“Some of these individuals may not be told openly that they are working
for the [Cuban intelligence service], even though it may not be too hard
for them to figure out,” the report said. “The relationship may openly
appear to be a benign, mutually beneficial friendship.”
Chris Simmons, a retired spycatcher for the Defense Intelligence Agency,
said Cuban intelligence has long targeted U.S. academics. For example,
Havana assigned six intelligence officers to assist Council on Foreign
Relations Latin Affairs specialist Julia E. Sweig in writing a 2002 book
on the Cuban revolution, he said.
“College campuses are seen as fertile grounds for the recruitment of the
‘next generation’ of spies,” Simmons said. “Cuba heavily targets the
schools that train the best candidates for U.S. government jobs, like
Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, and George Washington
One goal of the Cubans is to recruit students prior to federal
employment, a method that allows Havana to direct a recruited agent into
targeted key spy targets, like Congress or the FBI, Simmons said.
“A preferred target are ‘study abroad’ programs in Cuba, as
participating students are assessed as inherently sympathetic to the
Cuban revolution,” Simmons said.
Cuban intelligence has recruited numerous spies in the past that became
long-term penetration agents inside the U.S. government. According to
the CI Centre, a think tank, there have been 25 Cuban spies uncovered in
the United States since the 1960s, including former CIA officer Philip
Agee to who defected and worked closely with both Cuban intelligence and
the Soviet KGB starting in 1973.
One of the most notorious Cuban spy cases involved Ana Montes, a senior
analyst who worked in the highest levels of the U.S. intelligence and
Montes, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, pleaded guilty in
2002 to spying for Cuba for 17 years. She is serving a 25-year prison
Montes was recruited by Cuban intelligence in 1984 while a student at
the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS),
where she was a graduate student and had voiced her hatred of the
then-Reagan administration policy of backing anti-communist rebels
fighting the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.
She was recruited at SAIS by another Cuban spy, Marta Rita Velazquez,
who worked for U.S. Agency for International Development and fled the
country after Montes was arrested in 2001.
Two other notable Cuban spies were Walter Kendall Myers, a State
Department Foreign Service contractor who worked for Cuban intelligence
from 1979 to 2007, and his wife Gwen Myers. They were recruited after
visiting Cuba. Walter Myers was a leftist who criticized “American
imperialism” in a diary entry after visiting Cuba. He held a top-secret
security clearance and in 2010 was sentenced to life in prison after a
conviction for spying.
Cuba’s spy agencies “actively target academia to recruit agents and to
support Cuban influence operations.”
“Unfortunately, part of what makes academic environments ideal for
enhancing and sharing knowledge also can assist the efforts of foreign
intelligence services to accomplish their objectives,” the report
concludes. “This situation is unlikely to change, but awareness of the
methods used to target academia can greatly assist in neutralizing the
efforts of these foreign intelligence services.”
The FBI report was based largely on testimony from José Cohen, a former
officer of the Cuban Intelligence Directorate, known by its Spanish
acronym as DGI, who defected in 1994.
The targeting of American spies takes place at schools, colleges,
universities, and research institutes. “Cuban intelligence services are
known to actively target the U.S. academic world for the purposes of
recruiting agents, in order to both obtain useful information and
conduct influence activities,” the FBI said.
The academic world, because of its openness and need for networking,
“offers a rich array of targets attractive to foreign intelligence
services,” the report said, noting that U.S. government institutions
draw on academia for personnel, both for entry level staffing and for
consultation from established experts.
Cuban intelligence seeks leftists and others sympathetic to Cuba’s
communist regime because it lacks funds needed to pay recruited agents,
the report said.
The process includes targeting American and Cuban-American academics,
recruiting them if possible and eventually converting them into Cuban
Cuban front groups also are used to recruit spies in the United States,
including a network of collaborators and agents in Cuba that make
contact with counterparts in the United States.
Specific universities in Washington and New York that were not specified
by the FBI are targets because they are close to Cuban intelligence
posts in those cities.
An example of the recruitment effort was provided to the FBI by a
“self-admitted Cuban intelligence” officer outlining how a spy is
recruited at a U.S. university.
“The Cuban intelligence officers located at the Cuban Mission to the
United Nations in New York, New York, or the Cuban Interests Section in
Washington, D.C., obtain a published work by a specific professor or
student … from a university the [Cubans] are monitoring,” the report
A Cuban control agent in Havana studies the work and works together with
a co-opted Cuban academic and together the pair analyzes published
material and forms a plan of action that may include a personal letter
to the targeted individual in the United States.
“The letter will suggest a ‘genuine’ interest in starting a friendship
or contact regarding the topic of the article,” the report said. “The
personal letter becomes a pretext for the Cuban intelligence officer
stationed in the United States to use for initial contact with the
A Cuba spy posing as a diplomat develops a relationship with the
academic that can last months or years of assessing motivations,
weaknesses, and current future and access to information.
In some cases, the Cubans use compromising video or audio and sexual
entrapment to develop U.S. spies.
“Ultimately, when the time is right, the plan will be executed and the
targeted individual will be approached and formally asked to help the
government of Cuba,” the report said.
The Washington Free Beacon
airplane with unresponsive pilot is about to run out of fuel over Cuba
Sept. 5 - 3:30 PM The FAA
reported that the plane crashed in Jamaica after it ran out of fuel
NORAD was tracking the small,
fixed wing, private airplane that flew over the Atlantic into Cuban
airspace. The pilot has been unresponsive to communication attempts.
Two F-15 jets were tracking the plane and report that two pilots
appeared slumped in their seats.
A Cuban jet is now tracking the plane. Previously, the two F-15's were
tracking the plane, but had to turn around once it entered Cuban
airspace. At one point, the Socata TBM 700 was flying at 25,000 feet,
which is high altitude for this type of aircraft. The U.S. Coast Guard
is communicating with Cuban authorities about the plane.
It's unclear how much fuel the plane has or how many passengers are on
the plane, but the plane does hold six or seven passengers.
The two F-15 that were previously tracking the aircraft have flown to
the southern side of Cuba in case plane is still in the air. NORAD has
bluntly told CNN that the plane will run out of fuel very soon.
How to handle the plane should it run out of fuel over Cuban land will
be up to the Cuban government.
The Federal Aviation Administration tells CNN that the pilot has not
communicated since around 10 a.m. ET.
The plane left Rochester, NY at 8 a.m. ET set for Naples, FL for a 2:05
Socata, now known as Daher-Socata, is a French aerospace company that
started in 1911. They produce general aircraft and aircraft structures.
The Castro brothers made $700 million in one year from their slave
doctors working in Brazil
Sept. 4 - Since August 2013,
Cuba has collected over US$700m from the Brazilian government in
exchange for the services of 11,456 Cuban medical professionals working
in over 2,700 towns and cities across the country. The Brazilian
government recently announced that the programme will continue next
year, with total payments amounting to US$511m.
The Cuban doctors participate in Brazil's Mais Médicos (More Doctors)
programme, which aims to bring medical services to remote or underserved
parts of the country by employing overseas doctors, mainly from Cuba. It
was created in response to the mass protests that rocked Brazil in June
2013 over the poor quality of public services, including healthcare. The
programme pays each participant a salary of around US$4,500 a month.
However, the participation of Cuban doctors is organised through the Pan
American Health Organization (PAHO). The Brazilian government disburses
the payments to the PAHO, which then transfers the monies to the Cuban
government after taking a 5% administrative commission. The Cuban
government pays the medical professionals working in Brazil a monthly
salary of US$1,245, and pockets the rest.
With 440,000 health professionals in a country of 11m people, Cuba has
one of the best doctor-to-patient ratios in the world. As the government
has sought to cut costs and "update" the economy since 2008 under
President Raúl Castro, it has cut the number of doctors operating on the
island and offered to sell their services abroad.
Currently, the sale of services abroad is Cuba's largest source of hard
currency: in 2014, the government estimates that it will collect
US$8.2bn from these deals. Around 50,000 Cuban health professionals work
in 66 countries worldwide, although around half of those work in
Venezuela, with an additional 11,456 in Brazil. The agreements with
other foreign countries are similar to the Brazilian setup, with Cuban
doctors paid less than the salary of local medical staff, and the
remainder of their pay being transferred to the Cuban government.
Impact on the forecast
The Economist Intelligence Unit is not changing its macroeconomic
forecasts in light of the renewal of the programme, but it will come as
a relief to the Cuban government and will help to mitigate the
scaling-back of the sale of professional services to Venezuela.
Noticias Martí (Español)
Cuba Strengthens Embargo: Limits Flow of Necessary Goods from US to
Sept. 3 - The Cuban
government has implemented new laws Monday that strengthen the embargo
between itself and the United States--not limiting tourism from the West
into the country, but limiting the transport of necessary goods like
underwear and soap from Cuban families in the United States to their
relatives on the island.
The new law, Fox News reports, significantly reduces the amount of goods
Cuban Americans can bring in their luggage and ship via boat from the
United States. It also affects Westerners in other countries with strong
Cuban populations, such as Spain, but experts believe it will not affect
tourists who have no family on the island; they will be able to continue
to pack their luggage freely.
While the United States bans tourism to the island, Cuban Americans with
relatives on the island are legally allowed to bypass the embargo and
visit the island, particularly because they are unlikely to spend money
on tourism and support the regime. They, instead, spend their money on
helping Cubans with no connections to the government who cannot leave
Fox News reports that nearly $2 billion a year is spent on goods in the
United States that Cuban Americans take home to their families. These
goods include anything from underwear and shampoo to car tires--items
necessary to live in Cuba that are very difficult to come by without
having connections in the Castro government. "All the clothes and shoes
that I have come from my granddaughters in Spain or my siblings in the
U.S," one 75-year-old Cuban woman tells the Associated Press. She is
worried she will run out of clothes due to Cuba's newly imposed embargo.
Opponents of the United States embargo on the Cuban communist regime,
which bans Americans from spending money on tourism that supports the
terrorist government, often claim that the United States does more harm
than good to impoverished Cubans in maintaining the policy. Rarely does
one hear the same critics raise their voices when the Castro government
imposes its own restrictions, which only limit the influx of goods that
keep many lives afloat on the island, rather than feeding directly into
the government's coffers.
In addition to limiting the amount of goods going to average Cubans, the
Associated Press notes that reducing the number of items allowed into
the country forces Cubans abroad to send money via wire transfers that
would have otherwise been spent directly on goods. While the Cuban
government can do little to steal a cut of the price of one pair of
underwear, it easily imposes high duties on money coming in from abroad,
funding the lavish lifestyles of the Castro elite.
Cuban Americans, according to a poll released in June by Florida
International University, strongly support ending the trade embargo on
Cuba, but not reducing pressure on the communist government to change.
Given the trade embargo's decades-long legacy of not toppling the Castro
regime, Cuban Americans surveyed appear to support diversifying attempts
to weaken and destroy the communist enterprise, including keeping Cuba
on the United States' list of state sponsors of terrorism. The last time
the question was asked in 2007, 71% of Cuban Americans supported "exile
military attacks" on Cuba.
Market-style reforms widen racial divide in Cuba
Sept. 3 - Cuba's experiment
with free-market reforms has unintentionally widened the communist-led
island's racial divide and allowed white Cubans to regain some of the
economic advantages built up over centuries.
Under President Raul Castro, who took over from his brother Fidel Castro
in 2008, Cuba has expanded its non-state workforce, loosened travel
restrictions and promoted private cooperatives and small businesses.
As the communist government relinquishes its once near-total control of
the economy, inequality has widened, undoing some of the progress seen
since the 1959 revolution.
Much of the funding for new businesses such as restaurants,
transportation services and bed-and-breakfast inns - targeted at
tourists, diplomats and dollar-earners - comes from family members who
emigrated to the United States over the last 50 years, especially Miami.
They sent almost $3 billion to relatives back in Cuba last year and, as
they are mainly white, their investments put black and mixed-race Cubans
at a disadvantage as they try to set up their own businesses.
Walter Echevarria, a 60-year-old black man, co-owns a humble cafeteria
run out of a ground-floor Havana apartment belonging to one of his
There is no seating, and the clients are mostly state workers who order
pork sandwiches and juice or a coffee for about 15 Cuban pesos, or
"It's usually the whites who have family abroad and send them money, and
they can set up bigger businesses," Echevarria said while customers
lined up at the take-out window during the busy lunch hour.
With the additional economic freedom under Raul Castro's reforms, there
is also greater discrimination.
Armed with a substantial resume, Miguel Azcuy quit his job at a
state-owned restaurant to go job-hunting in Cuba's incipient private
labor market two years ago, hoping to wait tables in the fast-growing
The job offers never came. Azcuy, 39, had a degree from gastronomy
school and 15 years of experience in state-owned restaurants.
He's also black, and says his race closed opportunities that would be
available to white Cubans. Researchers and analysts also say the
market-oriented economic reforms under way have put poorer Afro-Cubans
at a disadvantage
"I felt like the owners of many of these places looked at me with
disdain," said Azcuy, who has since managed to open a small cafeteria
selling coffee and juice from his home near a major hospital in Havana.
"They didn't trust me. They didn't give me a chance. They probably
figured that sooner or later the blacks will let you down. Here people
say they are not racist but at the moment of truth their prejudices come
Anecdotally, the divisions appear obvious in a society descended from
Spanish colonists and African slaves.
Tato Quiñones, a researcher who heads a private group called Brotherhood
of Blackness, says it is enough to observe the small number of
Afro-Cubans who have relatively lucrative sources of income such as
owning restaurants, driving taxis, or renting out rooms in their homes.
Shortly after Raul Castro took over as president in 2008, he allowed
Cubans to visit resort hotels, previously reserved only for foreigners.
Today, in the exclusive beach resort of Varadero, the Cuban clientele is
almost all white.
Black construction workers largely built the hotels but client-facing
staff are mostly white. Continue reading
Catholic archbishop in Cuba criticizes government
August 30 - In an unusual
gesture for a member high in the Catholic Church’s hierarchy in Cuba,
the Apostolic nuncio Bruno Musaro spoke openly about Cuba’s “extreme
poverty and human and civil degradation.”
Musaro made his controversial remarks while on vacation in Italy after
holding a Mass in the San Pio de Pietrelcina park, in the Italian
municipality of Vignacastrisi.
The Cuban people are “victims of a socialist dictatorship that has kept
them subjugated for the past 56 years,” Musaro said, according to the
Italian newspaper, Lecce News24.
“I’m thankful to the pope for inviting me to this island, and I hope to
leave once that the socialist regime has disappeared indefinitely,” said
Musaro, a Vatican ambassador living in Cuba since 2011. “Only liberty
can bring hope to the Cuban people,” he said.
The Italian newspaper said his remarks were “a cry for help, a call to
the weapons of conscience and common sense” made by the diplomatic envoy
from the Holy See, who also said regarding Cubans, “The only hope for a
better life is to escape the island.”
The monsignor compared the realities of his native Italy and Cuba and
warned Italians that they should make note of the fact that “in Cuba, a
doctor makes 25 euros a month, and to live with dignity, some
professionals go work as waiters during the night.”
“In Cuba, everything is controlled by the state, even milk and meat.
Eating lamb is a luxury, and whoever kills one to eat it is arrested and
taken to jail,” he said. “Half a century later, and people are still
talking about the revolution. It is praised. Meanwhile, people don’t
have work and don’t know what to do to feed their own kids,” the
Masuro was born in Andrani in the Lecce region, nearby to Vignacastrisi,
where he officiated the Mass. He was named a Vatican representative in
Cuba in 2001 after a long career within the Catholic Church.
He was ordained as a priest in 1971 and began his diplomatic service in
1977. He was previously designated apostolic nuncio in other Latin
American countries such as Panama (1994), Guatemala (2004) and Perú
According to a source of the Apostolic branch in Cuba, he is currently
“on vacation” in Italy and isn’t expected back until three weeks from
The source claimed to be unaware of the comments made by Masuro and
denied that his mission in Cuba had ended, although other media outlets
suggested it had.
The archbishop’s comments were given in Polish and on Vatican Radio on
its website. They were not given in Spanish or in English.
Masuro’s declarations could bring tension to an era in which the
Catholic Church has improved its relationship with Raúl Castro’s
Monsignor Felix Perez, adjunct secretary of the Conference of Catholic
Bishops, recently told the Italian news agency ANSA that Cuban
authorities have approved plans to build two new churches in Santiago de
Cuba and Pinar del Río.
The frank nature of Masuro’s criticism contrasts with the caution that
high members of the Catholic Church uphold when it comes to topics of
politics and social well-being on the island.
The Christian Liberation Movement quickly welcomed the archbishop’s
From Havana, activist Luis Alberto Marino said on Radio Martí that
Masuro’s words “give a lot of hope to those of us on the inside and
those on the outside who believe that another Cuba is possible.”
The Miami Herald
British tourist receives compensation for nightmare at a Cuban hotel
August 22 - A Redditch man
who suffered ‘horrendous’ illness that ruined his dream holiday has been
given £17,000 ($28,200) from tour operator Thomas Cook.
Paul Hughes says he has been left too worried to eat out in restaurants
after falling ill with severe sickness and diarrhoea at the four-star
Iberostar Daiquiri Hotel in Cuba, during a two-week trip with his wife
in January 2011.
After being appalled at the hygiene conditions he faced at the hotel,
which Iberostar describes as luxury, the 52-year-old instructed
specialist travel lawyers at Irwin Mitchell.
The tour operator admitted liability for Paul’s illness shortly after
the issuing of proceedings.
But Irwin Mitchell had to proceed to a trial on the level of
compensation to be paid after Thomas Cook refused to agree a settlement
which reflected the severity of Mr Hughes' condition.
This culminated in a trial in Birmingham in June where a judge agreed
that the tour operator must pay more than £17,000 compensation.
Mr Hughes said: “Upon falling ill I suffered severe sickness and
diarrhoea and extremely painful stomach cramps, it was horrendous.
“Three months after we came
home, my symptoms still hadn’t gone so I saw my GP who provided me with
advice as to how to deal with my symptoms.
"My bowel habits still haven’t returned to normal and it feels like I’ve
been left with a permanent reminder of the awful trip. It has been very
hard to get used to this.
“I used to eat out a lot with my family but tend not to anymore as I’m
too worried about suffering anything similar to what I had to go through
He added: “Nothing can turn back the clock but I am relieved the legal
battle is now over. I just hope that my case acts as a reminder to those
in the travel industry about the importance of following good hygiene
practices so no one else has to go through a similar ordeal.”
Clare Comiskey, from Irwin Mitchell, said: “It is disappointing that we
had to issue court proceedings and then take Paul’s case all the way to
trial in order to secure justice for him.
"This is particularly unfortunate given the ordeal he has already been
through, but we hope that the settlement draws a line under this chapter
of his life and allows him to begin to move forward.”
Redditch and Alcester Advertiser
Radio Marti (Spanish)
When Nature Calls: Cuba's Public Health Infrastructure Exposed
August 16 - A disaster will
not spontaneously trigger an outbreak of disease, unless, of course, a
highly infectious disease such as Ebola is the reason for the emergency
event. Countries are vulnerable to both newly emerging and remerging
communicable diseases when collapsing infrastructure and continuing
neglect threatens the health of residents and tourists visiting the
Cuba’s current challenges with cholera, dengue, and its viral relative,
chikungunya, are good examples. Cholera and dengue continue to spread
throughout the island, while the Cuban government claims that all the
reported cases of chikungunya have been imported to the island from
Haiti and the Dominican Republic. According to the Pan American Health
Organization’s (PAHO) Update on Chikungunya Fever in the Americas
(August 8, 2014), Cuba has officially reported 11 imported cases with no
suspect or confirmed locally acquired cases since the start of the
outbreak in the Americas. (1)
Chikungunya, a viral disease transmitted by an infected mosquito, has
reached this hemisphere for the first time in history in December 2013
when it arrived on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin and spread
throughout the region. Recent data shows local transmission of
chikungunya has been identified in 29 countries and territories in the
Caribbean, Central, South and North America, including the United States
with a cumulative total of 508,122 suspected and 5,271
laboratory-confirmed cases, as of August 1, 2014. (2) Cuba rebuffs what
independent journalists, rumors, and local health professionals describe
on the island.
Here we go again.
Most likely Cuba’s failure to report chikungunya is intentional and not
due to poor data gathering capabilities. Cuba has an advanced
epidemiologic surveillance system with highly skilled scientists and
dedicated health professionals. However, the government’s failure to
release timely outbreak data threatens health security today.
A brief discussion on the relationship of climate change, failing
infrastructure, and the frequency and intensity of natural disasters is
considered below to identify both the challenges and realities with such
diseases as cholera, dengue, and chikungunya in Cuba.
• Scientists project that climate change will impact both the frequency
and intensity of extreme weather patterns. The Caribbean region, and
islands like Cuba, could expect rise in sea levels, and this combined
with more intense weather events will make flooding more common.
• Cuba’s coastal regions will be impacted the most, however, Cuba could
experience protracted seasons of both droughts and flooding, and
reliable potable water could become scarce.
•According to José Rubiera, top Cuban Meteorologist, the “seawater
temperature is rising and the conditions in the upper atmosphere are
favorable to rapid intensification. These cases are now somewhat more
frequent; it means something is changing.”(3)
•The vibrio cholera bacteria has been known to survive in brackish
waters and estuarine environments, attaches to zooplankton and moves
along the ocean currents as it is carried into new areas,(4) continuing
the threat to Cuba and Hispanola.
• This danger is especially problematic in countries where fragile
water, sanitation, sewage, and housing systems are further threaten by
climate change and rising water temperatures where the multiplication of
the cholera bacteria has been documented.(5)
for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies University of Miami
protesting against the regime on March 28 in Havana's famous Galiano
that brainwashing doesn't work?
Dec. 7 - Elian González after
14 years of brainwashing: "Fidel Castro for me is like a father. I
don't profess to have any religion but if I did my god would be Fidel
Castro. He is like a ship that knew to take his crew on the right path"
Ladies in White protest in Havana and stopped from marching in Holguín
Dec. 3 - Video of a protest
by the Ladies in White on Sunday December 1 at Parque Gandhi in Havana
and an attempt to march in Holguin, but were stopped by Castro's police
is brutally attacked by Castro's police for expressing her opinions
Nov. 4 - Anonymous Venezuela
has a warning: This is the future of Venezuela unless they get rid of
Maduro and the other puppets under the control of the Castro brothers.
Sáncez's presentation at Google Ideas Summit
October 26 - Yoani Sánchez
explains how Internet without Internet is used by Cubans inside the
Learn how you can help
promote Internet without Internet in Cuba:
The Real Cuba
Also on Twitter:
@WebPaqsforCuba On Facebook:
Paquetes Web Para Cuba
Learn about a new
technology that allows Cubans in Cuba have access to websites banned by
the Castro regime and how you can help:
The Real Cuba
Also on Twitter:
@WebPaqsforCuba On Facebook:
Paquetes Web Para Cuba
another act of repudiation against members of UNPACU
Oct. 9 - This took place in
Cardenas on Sunday October 6, 2013
to see the video
Cuban authorities are worried about web paqs circulating inside Cuba
Sept. 13 - Tweet from Yoani
"Authorities worried because
of "packages" or "combos" with a collection of audiovisuals in the black
As I have said before,
projects like Web Paqs for Cuba are the best way to bypass the
blockade at the Internet, put in place by the Castro dictatorship to
prevent Cubans in the island from knowing what's happening inside Cuba
and in the rest of the world.
You can learn more about Web
Paqs for Cuba and how you can get involved in this project at
La Singularidad Cuba (Español)
The Real Cuba
(English) Twitter and
at the Hijas de Galicia Hospital, Luyanó, Havana, Cuba
July 8 - Video taken in April
of this year at the Hijas de Galicia Hospital, one of the hospitals for
Cubans who do not have hard currency to pay the Castro brothers.
Very different from the
hospital where they took Micahel Moore and the hospitals that are used
by foreigners who pay with dollars.
Click here to see the video
video shows Bahamian guards brutally abusing Cuban rafters
June 15 - June 15 - This
clandestine video taking inside a Bahamian jail, shows a guard kicking
and insulting Cuban rafters who were trying to reach the United States
and ended up in the Bahamas.
There should be a tourism boycott of the Bahamas, unless the Bahamian
government orders the arrest and prosecution of this brutal thug and
stops abusing Cuban rafters who are risking their lives in search for
Click here to see the video
Yoani Sánchez about the Web Paqs for Cuba project
about Paquetes Web Para Cuba
Visit our page about
Paquetes Web Para Cuba
You can also visit us on
Facebook to find all information about the Internet Web Paqs for Cuba, a
project to help the Cuban people have access to the websites that are
blocked by the Cuban regime.
Make sure to click on 'Like"
as a sign of support
Paquetes Web Para Cuba
daily ABC has an article about the false myth of Cuba's healthcare
Foto de la
versión impresa del reportaje en ABC
March 17 - On Thursday of
last week, Carmen Muñoz a columnist for Spanish daily ABC, called me to
ask for permission to use the photos at therealcuba.com for an article
about the false myth of Cuba's healthcare.
I was able to send her many
of the photos on high resolution to use on the print edition of the
The article was published on
Sunday on ABC and is also on their web page at
Cuban blogger Orlando Luis Pardo about Paquetes Web Para Cuba
Our new page:
Fidel Castro, the
World's oldest terrorist
My interview with
March 29 - I was interviewed by Ed Kasputis, of Baseball PhD, about
baseball in Cuba before Castro and about the two Cubas, the one for
foreigners and the one for regular Cubans.
Ed did a previous program with Mr. Sports Travel of San Diego, CA, about
the five top international baseball destinations and was surprised to
find out that the #1 destination was Cuba.
He received some nice pictures of Cuba and was ready to book a trip when
he saw therealcuba.com and changed his mind.
He interviewed me as part of a program about the new Marlins Stadium and
I was able to talk about baseball in Cuba before Castro and then we had
a long chat about what is the reality of life in Cuba under Castro.
The program lasts 53 minutes, if you are not a baseball fan and just
want to hear my interview about Cuba use your mouse to move the dial to
here to listen
Listen to Fidel Castro
For those who think that the Cuban people chose the system imposed by
the Castro brothers, here are some of the things that Fidel Castro said
and promised when he gained power
photos of Cuba's prisons, missile installations, military bases and
A look at
Havana before the Castro brothers destroyed it
We have new photos of
Havana taken in October of last year
Oct. 9 - A friend sent me around two dozen photos of Havana that he took
at the beginning of this month.
Some of them are very sad, because they show how Havana has been
completely destroyed by this gang of human termites.
Some others are hard to believe, including this one of goats having
"lunch" off the dumpsters on a Havana street.
to see them
Socio-Economic Conditions in Pre-Castro
Dec. 17 - Cuba Facts is an ongoing series of succinct
fact sheets on various topics, including, but not limited to, political
structure, health, economy, education, nutrition, labor, business,
foreign investment, and demographics, published and updated on a regular
basis by the Cuba Transition Project staff at the University of Miami.
Click here to learn the truth about Cuba's Health, Education,
Personal Consumption and much more in pre-Castro Cuba.
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