Get Me Off The List

I happened to overhear a scrap of conversation between two nurses at a clinic near my home. “This coming week they will publish the list…” said one, while the other looked at her with alarm and answered something I didn’t manage to catch. A few yards further on a taxi driver, talking into his cell phone, said, “I was saved, there are a ton of drivers on the list, but not me.” The issue began to puzzle me. Although on this Island there are no shortages of lists and inventories — in some we are forced to appear and others they won’t even let us peek at — one of them is especially upsetting for my compatriots. I knew they were talking about the lists of those who will be unemployed, pages full of names of those workers who exceed the needs in each workplace.

About 25% of the current workforce could end up on the street after the layoffs already under way. Some employees have been advised a week before their company runs out of money to pay them, and they have been without any unemployment compensation to support themselves until they can find another job. Faced with the dilemma of staying home or working in agriculture or construction, the majority choose to dive into domestic life in the hopes of new opportunities. They figure they can work offering illegal manicures, or preparing food to order, and it might pay better dividends than bending their backs over a furrow or raising brick walls.

Today, the issue of layoffs is a worry shared by all Cubans, because at least one member of each family will be affected by the cuts. However, the official press only talks about the layoffs in Greece and Spain, telling us about the call for a general strike in Madrid or the collapse of the economy in Athens. In the meantime, popular rumors feed off the personal stories of those who have already appeared on the frightful lists. In workplaces employees crowd around the wall, running their index fingers over the lists expecting to come across their own names. No one can take to the streets to protest what has happened, nor will they appear on the TV that only mentions unemployment when it happens thousands of miles away.


30 thoughts on “Get Me Off The List

  1. @#26 & #27
    what’s your argument is? or better yet … your point?
    On the other hand: your preocupation & perhaps obsession w/other people’s genitalia sound … amusing?
    I guess heroes like you sustain their superiority by comparing each others genitalia.

  2. One of the main factor creating unemployment in Cuba is the destruction of sugar industry. This industry was the main employment source in Cuba since spanish colonization. The main beneficiary of Cuban Sugar industry destruction has been Florida state that went from having 3 sugar mills and producing 175.000 tons of sugar in 1960 to produce 16 millions tons in 2000!!!!!…… This “coincidence” has creating thousands of employments in Florida.

  3. Post 24, well, immigrants, we Europeans travel freely and often to Cuba. In fact, I’ll be going this October.

    And I can tell you it is not as half as bad as you would want it to be over there.

    By the way, I do not see Obama removing the travel ban (what is the nazist government of the usa affraid that usanians will see there? nice people and the extent of their govt’s human rights violations, and crimes, of course) in the foreseeable future.

    Just the kind of government and the system team Yoani want for Cuba.

    Bunch of crimsons.

  4. Post 14, I must admit you are consistent too. You say so few words and still make no point, no impact on anyone.

    John Two, interesting link. I hope resident “smarties” like yumbo the micropeckered drug dealer from the slums of Miami (half of the city since the disintegration of capitalism) will try and read it. There are many hints about how to write to make a political point.

    A faint hope, I know… It wouldn’t hurt team Yoani either to give it a look or two.

  5. Has anyone noticed the picture …
    with the back against the ladder & towards a mural while looking to the left, with power cords criscrossing the ground …
    It conveys to me a sense of unknown future, of resignation, yet something to look forward without loosing hope …
    Just a thought …

  6. Rodolfo said,

    Julio 8th, 2010 at 04:15
    “Soon the ban will be lifted and I will be soaking it up on Varadero Beach at the beautiful Barcelo Solymar Hotel. Been there a few times already. Can’t wait. Hope to see you all there!”

    Rodolfito! Dont pack your sun tan lotion just yet! Portions of article on post #16

    A bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee last week would repeal a broad travel ban on Americans visiting the island — leaving the broader sanctions in place but taking a major step toward weakening them. It also would loosen rules that allow food sales to the country.

    Such efforts have come before, and there is no guarantee of success this time. The bill narrowly passed the Agriculture Committee, 25 to 20, and must clear the House Financial Services Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee before a floor vote is possible.

    Supporters of the bill acknowledge that the fight is likely to intensify in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a forum where Cuba’s restrictions on political rights and detention of political prisoners likely will get as much attention as its market for rice, soybeans and frozen chickens received in the agriculture committee.

  7. Soon the ban will be lifted and I will be soaking it up on Varadero Beach at the beautiful Barcelo Solymar Hotel. Been there a few times already. Can’t wait. Hope to see you all there! Oh wait, you guys will probably still be brooding over spoiled milk. Anyway, I’ll probably be in Oriente eating mamoncillos like last time, hanging out with family and friends at the carnival. Because believe it or not my friends, people in Cuba still know how to have a good time.

  8. Raúl Castro admitted that “The Cuban government and its enterprises might have more than one million excess workers on their payrolls.” To the total open unemployment of “more than one million,” it would be necessary to add the “hidden unemployment,” kind of underemployment, and the latent one in the enormous military and repressive apparatus, and the bloated government bureaucracy.

    An approximate calculus of the open, hidden and latent unemployment could surpass the number of 2.0 million people unemployed in today’s Cuba of the total of 4.9 million in the work force, of which 4.0 millions work for the government. This is equivalent to an astonishing 40% of the labor force.

  9. SOME PRAYERS HAVE BEEN ANSWERED. We need to keep fighting for the rights of the 12 million who live in Cuba.

  10. Forgot to put my info! The previous post in mine! This is great news but the problem is that all these dissident/political prisoners are beign forced to leave Cuba as part of their release, I’m sure against their will. But better than keeping them in those horrible jail conditions.

  11. MIAMI HERALD: 52 Cuban political prisoners are free to go-BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
    The Cuban government will free 52 political prisoners and allow them to leave the island, the country’s Catholic church announced Wednesday in what would amount to Havana’s largest release of jailed opponents in three decades.
    Cuban leader Raúl Castro gave Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega the news at a meeting Wednesday, their latest encounter in nearly two months of unprecedented negotiations between the communist government and church leaders over the island’s estimated 160 political prisoners.

    Castro told Ortega that five prisoners will be released Wednesday, with permission to leave for Spain, and another 47 will be freed in no more than four months, said a communiqué signed by the spokesman for the Havana archbishop’s office, Orlando Márquez.

    The 52 are all part of the 75 dissidents sentenced to prison terms of up to 28 years during a 2003 crackdown on opposition figures known as Cuba’s Black Spring, Márquez reported. The others were previously released because of health conditions.

    “Ortega was informed that in the next few hours another six prisoners will be transferred to [jails in] their home provinces and five more will be freed, and will be able to leave soon for Spain, accompanied by their families,” the communique said.

    “The Cuban authorities also informed that the 47 prisoners remaining of those who were detained in 2003 will be freed and will be able to leave the country,” the communique added. “This process will be concluded in three to four months from now.”

    The releases were likely to draw praise from the Obama Administration and the European Union, which have been urging Cuba to improve its human rights record if it wants to clear the way for improved diplomatic relations.

    Castro and Ortega have been negotiating the release of some political prisoners, and improved jail conditions for others, since May in the Havana government’s first-ever negotiations with an independent Cuban organization.

    Up untill Wednesday, the talks had led to the release of one wheel-chair bound political prisoner Ariel Sigler, and the transfer of another dozen to prisons closer to their homes.

    About 3,600 political prisoners were freed or were allowed to leave Cuba as a result of negotiations in 1978 between the government and a controversial group of Cuban exiles.

    The church communique said Castro informed Ortega of the upcoming releases at a meeting also joined by visiting Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. Ortega had met separately with Moratinos and Rodriguez hours before the session with Castro, it added.

  12. Generation Y readers might find a new blog on the Cuban economy informative. I certainly did. The blog is written by Arch Ritter, a recently retired Canadian economics professor with a long history of involvement with Cuba. Several of the blog topics provide additional perspective on Yoani’s post above.

    Recent blog postings by Arch Ritter include why freedom of expression is essential to sustaining an efficient economy, likely consequences of lifting the US travel ban, and why there is such a huge gap between real wages in Cuba and the country’s self-reported GDP per capita.

    Here’s the link:

  13. THE WASHINGTON POST: Congress reviewing Cuban sanctions, may lift travel ban- Howard Schneider-Washington Post Staff Writer -Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Mojitos at Varadero Beach . . . fishing in the waters Hemingway immortalized . . . dinner and a show at the Tropicana: A long list of currently forbidden pleasures will become legal for Americans under pending legislation that would lift central provisions of the United States’ half-century embargo of Cuba.

    The bill is being pushed by business and agriculture groups that have long argued that the Cold War-era sanctions against Cuba should be lifted, but it is opposed by an influential anti-communist lobby, which is against Cuba’s ruling Castro family.

    But at a time when the Obama administration is fighting to boost U.S. exports, supporters of the bill argue that they have their best chance yet to reopen a country famous for its white sand and hand-rolled cigars, featured in American pop culture from “I Love Lucy” to the “Godfather” films.

    The sanctions have been in place since 1959, when communist leader Fidel Castro took over the country and nationalized the holdings of U.S. investors, and they became entrenched in U.S. foreign policy three years later, when Castro tried to import Soviet nuclear weapons.

    A bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee last week would repeal a broad travel ban on Americans visiting the island — leaving the broader sanctions in place but taking a major step toward weakening them. It also would loosen rules that allow food sales to the country.

    Such efforts have come before, and there is no guarantee of success this time. The bill narrowly passed the Agriculture Committee, 25 to 20, and must clear the House Financial Services Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee before a floor vote is possible.

    The Obama administration in theory supports liberalizing relations with Cuba but has expressed disappointment at the pace of reform under current Cuban leader Raúl Castro, and did not testify at hearings on the pending legislation. Mike Hammer, spokesman for the National Security Council, was noncommittal on the substance of the legislation, saying the White House supported Congress’s “robust” discussion of Cuba policy as an example of the type of democratic freedom that it would like for the Cuban people.

    In addition, what had been a budding agricultural trade with Cuba has foundered. First authorized in 2000, U.S. farm sales to Cuba grew steadily through 2008, peaking at more than $700 million and accounting for nearly 40 percent of the country’s agricultural imports.

    But financing restrictions — the purchases must be handled through banks in a third country, and credit can’t be offered — and the economic downturn have undercut those sales as the country shifted to suppliers in Brazil, Canada and elsewhere, according to a study submitted to Congress by researchers at Texas A&M University.

    The bill tries to reverse that by removing the financing restrictions, and putting Cuban importers on a more even footing with other purchasers of U.S. farm products. The current rules “have hand-delivered an export market in our own back yard to the Brazilians, the Europeans and other competitors around the world,” said Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.), chairman of the Agriculture Committee, at a March hearing on the legislation.

    Lifting the travel rules, however, is potentially the more profound change. Americans are currently allowed to travel to Cuba under certain circumstances — if they have a special permit to promote agricultural sales, for example, or, as of last year, if they are going to visit members of their immediate family.

    Tourism is still prohibited, and business groups say they see the potential for hundreds of thousands of Americans to begin vacationing in Cuba if the rules are changed. That, they argue, might be a more effective tool for changing the country’s politics; it would also be a step toward business groups’ ultimate goal of lifting the embargo altogether.

    With little American presence there since the late 1950s, Cuba is considered a ripe market for U.S. hotel and service companies — a potentially profitable Caribbean playground.

    Supporters of the bill acknowledge that the fight is likely to intensify in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a forum where Cuba’s restrictions on political rights and detention of political prisoners likely will get as much attention as its market for rice, soybeans and frozen chickens received in the agriculture committee.

    Still, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups are planning a push, and have made the pending bill one of the priority items on which it is rating legislators.

    “Cuba has been frozen in time. Its leadership is a relic,” said Myron Brilliant, the Chamber’s senior vice president for international affairs. “If we want to improve the environment in Cuba, we have to find ways to do more trade and have more interaction.”

  14. The people of Cuba deserve better. The Government has been robbing them blind and destoyed the family concept. Today the worlds attention is on the lack of Human Rights that exist in Cuba. The propaganda machine in Cuba continues to “make spin”, only now to be better understood as LIES or mentiras as they are known in Cuba. Cuba has produced many AGENTS and also found here to twist the facts. In Miami there is a Doctor Guido Perez who is hired by fake clinic’s to steal money from the US government and the Auto Insurance Companies. Rat Finks like that need to be locked up and their RIGHTS taken away. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. I’m glad I’m on the RIGHT SIDE and can say FIDEL and his abusive Government, y lo que se prestan are PIGS. Moratinos from Spain should speak to the political prisoners(Coco Farinas) and not just the Puppets like Bruno(the other side).

  15. Rudolph, I must say, you are consistent. How does someone manage to write so many words and say nothing? You can’t be bothered but here you are again with another pointless post. Don’t flatter yourself Rudolph, no one is “looking” for you, you are a just an easy target from the “other side” with a very dull sword…

  16. Hey, Mr. Yuban, I see that you looked for me. That means you ache for my commentary, “vacuous” or not. You like being entertained as I do. You’re such a hypocrite. Without other points of view, you have nothing on this blog. It’s sad that you have to resort to your usual line of maniacal diatribe. That’s why I’m on the other side of sanity. You are an excellent mud-slinger. But I don’t see you take the time, like your other cohorts, and post articles or “essays” as you say. Not that it’s needed. Most people don’t read them. They just go off “knee jerk” reaction like most empty headed sheep. In any case, if it makes you feel good to see me back, so be it. I can’t help that you desire a rival. But it’s not me. You’re wasting your time. I am just playing around with your mind, my friend. I don’t desire to give dissertations about what I know, or what I think I know. I just say what I feel.

  17. A system that essentially has no production capability can’t possibly attain near full employment and a healthy growing economy as the Castro regime claims to have and not be bankrupt. There is obviously massive numbers of people who report to a job that is essentially non-productive and where they do nothing buy stand around till the managers tell them it’s time to go home.

    It is no wonder there is hardly any motivation to work hard at a job when you see others standing or sitting around and not doing much of anything while getting paid the same amount as those that would be industrious. There is no doubt that Fidel’s system is an economic failure as well as a dictatorial totalitarian state that no amount of tourism or subsidies by richer nations will improve until there is a clear change in its leadership and form of governing as well as its communist system.

  18. ASSOCIATED PRESS: Cuba Communists want member expelled for essay- By WILL WEISSERT

    HAVANA — Local leaders of Cuba’s Communist Party want to expel a prominent academic for an article decrying widespread corruption, but lower-ranking members have rejected the order pending an appeal, according to an associate of the writer.
    Esteban Morales, a historian who has long written on race and relations with the United States, was ordered removed by a party committee in Havana’s Playa district, said Pedro Campos, a former Cuban diplomat who once worked as a researcher under Morales at the University of Havana’s Center for the Study of the United States.

    But grass-roots party members in Playa said they considered the committee’s action too harsh and rejected it, and Morales said he would appeal the sanctions, according to Campos.

    Neither the party nor Morales have commented on the case, and it was unclear if Morales has been formally removed from the party yet.

    It was also not clear if the municipal committee was responding to complaints from higher levels or acting on its own. Municipal committees report to provincial committees, which are overseen by the powerful Central Committee that meets only behind closed-doors.

    Campos first posted word of action against Morales in an essay on, a left-leaning political website. In a subsequent phone interview with The Associated Press, Campos confirmed the facts published online, but refused further comment.

    He also described the effort to dismiss Morales from the Communist Party on the English-language Havana Times website. He said he had known Morales since 1991 and described him as a committed communist.

    At issue is an article Morales wrote in April that described corruption at the highest echelons of Cuba’s government — not the meddling of a few opposition activists — as the greatest threat to the country’s communist system.

    Nearly as unusual as his public complaint was the fact that his essay was posted on the state-run website of the National Artists and Writers Union of Cuba. The article was removed a day after foreign media in Havana reported on it.

    Morales’ essay crossed a number of red lines in tightly controlled Cuba, including openly discussing corruption rumors surrounding the recent dismissal of a top aviation official who had fought alongside Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Fidel and Raul Castro in the 1950s.

    “There must be some truth to these reports, because this is a small country where everyone knows each other,” Morales wrote.

    He also said some Cuban officials are preparing to divide the spoils if Cuba’s political system disintegrates, like the shadowy oligarchs who emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.

    “In reality, corruption is much more dangerous than so-called internal dissent,” he wrote. “The latter is isolated … but corruption is truly counterrevolutionary because it comes from within the government and the state apparatus.”

    Morales didn’t criticize the Castro brothers, but said cronyism is rampant.

    “It has become evident that there are people in government and state positions who are preparing a financial assault for when the revolution falls,” he wrote. “Others likely have everything ready to produce the transfer of state property into private hands, like what happened in the former Soviet Union.”

  19. “Suffice it to say here that, in 2002, the government counted as “employed” 764,000 people who (1) were paid to study, (2) were dismissed from their jobs and being retrained, (3) received unemployment compensation at home because of shut down enterprises, or (4) worked part time in backyards and urban gardens. All these people equaled 16 percent of the labor force, and, because they are counted as employed, the unemployment rate was artificially cut (Mesa-Lago 2005a).” – The Cuban economy today: Salvation or Damnation? By Carmelo Mesa-Lago.

    The regime claim of the virtual achievement of full employment with a 1.6 percent unemployment rate in 2008 is a statistical fabrication.

  20. AFP: Spain’s FM in Cuba as hunger-striker nears death- By Rigoberto Diaz
    HAVANA — Spain’s top diplomat rushed to Havana in a bid to save the life of a hunger-striker who is defying the communist government and demanding that sick political prisoners be freed.

    In Madrid, Spain’s leading daily El Pais said Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who arrived in Cuba late Monday, believes the communist government will gradually begin releasing all political prisoners, starting with 26 who are in poor health, as a result of his visit.

    Releasing the sick, jailed dissidents would meet the top demand of seriously ill hunger-striking Cuban activist Guillermo Farinas, a psychologist and online journalist who has put his life on the line in a high-stakes clash with the Americas’ only one-party Communist regime.

    In unprecedented coverage of a dissident’s protest, the Communist Party daily Granma reported Saturday Farinas could soon die — without mentioning his hunger strike seeking freedom for jailed dissidents has left him near death.

    Farinas, 48, hit back against Cuban government authoritarianism and repression in a statement released on an opposition blog Monday, complaining sarcastically: “they forgot to explain why it is I am on a hunger strike.”

    In any case, “the only people who will be responsible for my death are brothers (former president) Fidel and (President) Raul Castro,” Farinas said.

    “I want to die in my country right under the noses of the dictators who have the guns, rifles, cannons and bombs. I have the moral weight of the people from below, who have been deceived and repressed for 51 years by those who have the weapons, the violence and totalitarian laws they use to govern poorly from above,” Farinas added.

    Moratinos is to hold talks with his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez, and the archbishop of Havana, Jaime Ortega. But a meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro “is not yet confirmed,” the Spanish foreign ministry has said.

    The visit comes after Havana said at the weekend that dissident Farinas is close to death after 132 days on a hunger strike.

    While Moratinos is not scheduled to meet with Farinas, the Spanish diplomat told a news conference Monday that his delegation would be in touch with the dissident’s entourage “and will express our conviction that the best thing for everyone would be for him to end this hunger strike.

    “We think that (Farinas) should already feel satisfied with his aims and that he should work, as we are all doing, to improve human rights in Cuba,” he said.

    “I obviously have other objectives on this visit to Cuba which make it worthwhile and can lead to results and help all the citizens of Cuba,” he said.

    Farinas stopped taking food the day after leading dissident Orlando Zapata died on February 23 as the result of an 85-day hunger strike.

    The international outcry over both hunger strikes and pressures from the Catholic Church led the Castro regime last month to free a paraplegic dissident and transfer 12 other prisoners to jails closer to their homes.

    The Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission (CCDHRN) — an outlawed but tolerated group — estimates there are 167 political prisoners in the Caribbean nation of more than 11 million people.

    The group’s leader, Elizardo Sanchez, said “there is a high likelihood” Havana will set free 30-40 political prisoners in coming “days or weeks.”

    “There are a lot of signs inside the prisons, They are getting medical checkups and being asked in prison if they want to leave the country,” Sanchez said.

    Spanish media have reported France and Italy would take released prisoners, but officials believe most would depart for the United States. Chile also has said it would take in some of those freed.

    Cuban authorities consider the dissidents a threat to national security, and claim the prisoners are “mercenaries” on Washington’s pay, out to smear the Cuban government.

  21. THE CANANDA PRESS: Ontario teen must face Cuban trial for car accident-Tuesday Jul. 6, 2010

    TORONTO — An Ontario teen held in Cuba for nearly two months will wait at least one more to be tried for a traffic accident he was in while on a family vacation.
    Cody LeCompte, 19, has lived at a seaside resort since early May, when he was stopped at the airport and told he was not allowed to leave the country.

    Now his Cuban lawyer says it will take at least another month, possibly two, for Cody to face a trial that will determine whether or not the Simcoe, Ont., native faces any charges.

    If he is eventually convicted, however, Cody could face time in a Cuban prison.

    “I don’t know how to explain it,” said Cody, when reached by phone Monday at the Gran Club in Santa Lucia.

    “It’s just crazy,” he said. “I should have been home so long ago.”

    The ordeal has cost Cody’s mother, Danette LeCompte, more than $12,000 so far.

    “It’s overwhelming,” she says. “I just want to sit and cry.”

    When her husband, Rob, died of a heart attack three years ago, Danette was left to care for their only son alone.

    After three tough years, the trip to Cuba was a gift to Cody for being accepted into the aviation program at Sault College, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

    It was supposed to be “one last vacation with his mom,” she said.

    Three days into their vacation, Cody and Danette went for a day trip to a nearby village with her cousin and his Cuban fiancee.

    As they passed through an intersection, a white dump truck slammed into the passenger’s side of the car. The car spun around and was struck again on the driver’s side where Cody sat, Danette says.

    A large crowd gathered around the wreck as Cody slipped in and out of consciousness.

    “I thought I was going to lose him,” Danette says, recalling how she held her son while two women drove them to a nearby hospital.

    Police did not show up at the crash site, but came to the hospital to question them.

    Everyone in the car suffered internal bruising, but was eventually released from hospital. Cody’s hand was cut badly. The cousin’s fiancee was severely injured and needed an operation to remove part of her liver.

    The driver of the dump truck was not injured.

    Danette was later told that drivers must be 21 to rent a car, but the rental agency allowed Cody to drive even though his licence showed him to be 19.

    A few days later Danette and Cody tried to catch a flight home. She passed through security first, but Cody was told he couldn’t leave. Danette panicked as she tried to get back to her son, who sent her a text message: “Come back.”

    “I’m trying,” she typed frantically. It took more than 30 minutes for airport officials to allow her back.

    “I still have a big knot in my stomach,” she said from her home in Simcoe.

    Danette remained with her son for a couple of weeks before returning to Canada for work and to get legal counsel. It took at least three weeks for a Foreign Affairs official to respond to her request for help, she says.

    Dana Cryderman, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Affairs Department, was unable to comment on the case because she is restricted by the Privacy Act.

    “Canadian consular officials are following the case very closely with Cuban authorities,” she said.

    Cryderman noted the department’s travel advisory for Cuba warns against driving in the country.

    The advisory says accidents are a frequent cause of arrest and detention of Canadians in Cuba, and accidents resulting in death or injury are treated as crimes. The onus is on the driver to prove innocence.

    Danette’s cousin is staying at the resort with Cody and the fiancee, who has recovered from her surgery, often visits.

    Sunwing, the travel company the LeComptes booked their trip with, says it has stayed in contact with the family since the accident occurred.

    In a statement, the company maintained that Cuba is a safe destination for Canadians, and that traffic accidents involving tourists are rare.

    However, they noted that in Cuba it is “standard practice to complete a thorough investigation, as they’ve done in this case.”

    On top of legal fees, Danette has had to pay for the room at the resort where Cody has been staying. She plans to return to Cuba next week with some required documents for their Cuban lawyer.

    “My credit cards are maxed, my whole life’s been turned upside down,” she says. “But all I care about is getting my son home.”

  22. BBC NEWS: The Cuban dissidents kept out of public view- Tuesday, 6 July 2010

    Cubans themselves have a very limited idea of who the dissidents are.

    That is largely because the Cuban media – all controlled by the Communist government – ignore the dissidents’ activities.

    Cubans have virtually no access to foreign media.

    Similarly, it is very difficult to establish how many political prisoners there are in Cuba.

    The unofficial Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission says the number has recently fallen, from more than 200 to 167.

    Amnesty International lists 53 people it considers prisoners of conscience – political prisoners who neither use nor advocate violence.

    Amnesty does background checks with relatives and organisations before deciding whether to designate someone a prisoner of conscience.

    Starved to death

    Cuba denies there are any political prisoners on the island, calling them mercenaries paid by the US to undermine the system.

    “The laws are so vague that almost any act of dissent can be deemed criminal in some way, making it very difficult for activists to speak out against the government,” said Kerrie Howard, deputy Americas director at Amnesty International.

    In February, political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after a long hunger strike.

    It was the first time in nearly 40 years that a Cuban activist had starved himself to death to protest against government abuses.

    Another hunger striker, Guillermo Farinas, who is campaigning for the release of the most seriously ill prisoners, is currently in a critical condition in hospital.

    Here is a list of some of the other main figures in the Cuban dissident movement.

    Elizardo Sanchez
    One of the best known Cuban dissidents and one of the few with any kind of public profile inside Cuba.

    He was one of the 75 activists rounded up and arrested in 2003, during what became known as the Black Spring.

    He now runs the Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission, which is technically illegal but is tolerated by the Cuban government.

    Mr Sanchez says harassment and intimidation are now replacing long prison sentences.

    Mr Sanchez says harassment and intimidation are now replacing long prison sentences.

    However, he says there were 802 cases where people were briefly arrested and detained before being released.

    Ladies in White
    The Ladies in White are perhaps the most visible group of dissidents in Cuba. They are the wives and mothers of political prisoners.

    Each week after Mass on Sunday, they march through the centre of Havana, calling for their sons and husbands to be released.

    They started their protests in 2003 during the Black Spring.

    In 2005, they received the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought from the European Parliament.

    In late April, their protests were broken up by groups of pro-government supporters, who pushed the women off the street and shouted insults at them.

    In June, the government agreed to stop harassing the Ladies in White during their weekly march.

    Yoani Sanchez
    The blogger Yoani Sanchez, 34, is not a dissident in the traditional sense.

    Her blog, Generation Y, has become a trusted source for news on Cuba, with the site receiving 14 million hits a month.

    Last year, she received a journalism prize from Columbia University in New York but was barred from travelling to accept it.

    Liliet Heredero of BBC Mundo, who has met Ms Sanchez, says the blogger has been harassed by police.

    She was once jailed for organising a conference on blogging, our correspondent says, and police will not allow her to attend concerts by performers known to be critical of the government.
    Raul Rivero
    The man who became known as the poet of the dissident movement now lives in exile in Madrid.

    Raul Rivero was one of the 75 activists arrested in 2003. He was sentenced to 20 years in jail but was released in November 2004.

    While he was in prison, he was allowed to write only love poems.

    During that time, the UN cultural organisation Unesco awarded him its World Press Freedom prize.

    The Catholic Church
    Although not a traditional dissident voice, the Catholic church is becoming something of an alternative power structure, says Liliet Heredero of BBC Mundo, the BBC’s Spanish service for Latin America.

    Until the 1990s, it was illegal for members of the governing Communist Party to go to church.

    Once that restriction was lifted, Church leaders began to speak out. When Pope John Paul II visited Cuba in 1998, he said freedom of conscience was “the basis and foundation of all other human rights”.

    In April 2010, Cardinal Jaime Ortega urged the Cuban government to free all political prisoners.

    The 73-year-old prelate said that people were openly talking about the deficiencies in Cuba’s socialist system, calling it a Stalinist-style bureaucracy which produced apathetic workers and low productivity

  23. Rudolph, you’ve had a change of heart, and so soon. Are you back to offer us more empty words of wisdom from your ivory tower? If your side represents the other side of sanity then we must re-examine modern psychology or redefine sanity. You, the mongrel and multi-named dumbir/darko/juan and culerodefidel make a fine trio of absurdists who consistently have nothing to say, in essay form. You offer no solutions, no original ideas, no consistent thought process, only mindless accusations, inept personal attacks and bankrupt propaganda. Nevertheless, in the spirit of the 4th of the July and in celebration of the principles of the great American nation, please continue posting. We not only defend your right to express yourself but despite the rancid and vacuous nature of your commentary we look forward to seeing “your sides” posts. They serve “our sides” purposes very nicely.

  24. Happy Fourth to you too, Caperucita! From all of us on the other side of sanity.

  25. Sorry, last post was mine! Helloo to all the CulerodeFidel’s and Damierdas here!
    Happy 4th!

  26. BBC NEWS: Cuba curbs tobacco harvest as cigar sales fall-Cuba has been forced to cut its tobacco harvest in response to a fall in demand for its famous Cuban cigars.- Monday, 5 July 2010

    Cuba has been forced to cut its tobacco harvest in response to a fall in demand for its famous Cuban cigars.
    This year’s harvest of tobacco leaves is down 14% on last year, according to one of the country’s state-run newspapers, Guerrillero.

    “There was a reduction in planting due to limitations on resources caused by the economic crisis,” the report said.

    Sales of Cuban cigars fell by 8% last year, while production has fallen even further.

    Falling sales have pushed down production by even more. Last year, Cuba produced 73 million cigars for export.

    That compares with the 217 million made in 2006.

    But part of that reduction comes as Habanos, the company that produces and sells the cigars, runs down its stockpiles.

    The hand-rolled cigars are a major export for the Caribbean island, although they are limited by a long-running US trade embargo.

    Spain is the single biggest export market, where the recent introduction of a smoking ban has hit consumption.

    Falling airline passenger numbers has also hit duty-free sales.

  27. The unemployment rates, based in the figures provided by the Castro brothers’ regime, went down from 7.9 in 1989 to 1.6 in 2004. According to the regime statistics since 2004 the unemployment rate has been the lowest in the world.

    During the mid-90s equivalent unemployment fluctuated around 25-30%, according to calculations conducted by the Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL), based on the low productivity achieved in 1989.

    The official figures of those years are simply incredible. Such miraculous results of creating jobs without new investments, of which no evidence is found in any other country in the world, show the mendacity of the official statistic figures of the regime.

  28. Pingback: Tweets that mention Generation Y » Get Me Off The List --

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