Don’t Answer


My cellphone rings but I don’t answer. I wait for the ringing to stop and go to a nearby phone to call the number shown on the screen. I’ve warned my friends that I’ll let a call go and call them back later, but some insist, forgetting about the high cost of a minute of conversation on the cell network. I have a code with them: two rings if it’s urgent and three if it’s about something that can wait. When I’m in the street and the device I carry in my purse vibrates, I look for a public phone that takes coins and doesn’t have the handset ripped off.

Although the telecommunications company ETESCA reported that the number of cell phone users will soon surpass one million, we remain handicapped with regards to this technology. To receive a domestic call is madness, configuring the texting can take hours of fighting with the operators, and finding a place that sells recharge cards is like the movie Mission Impossible. Like a teenager whose growing feet no longer fit in his shoes, our cellphone system has increased the number of subscribers but without the corresponding improvement in infrastructure. Well, the growth doesn’t follow an integrated development of the system, but is led by the desire to collect — at all costs — those colored convertible notes that simulate the dollar.

Despite recent reductions in the high rates, even a doctor can’t afford cellphone service, but the political police enjoy subsidized rates which they can pay in national currency. Nor is it possible to open an account and pay at the end of the month, we have to pay in advance to be able to communicate. Many of us feel defrauded by ETESCA, but the State monopoly doesn’t allow other competitors to offer us better and cheaper service. Meanwhile a solution appears, thousands of users work out a strange Morse code with cellphones: One ring, two, three… Don’t answer on the other end! Just run to the nearest phone.

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29 thoughts on “Don’t Answer

  1. I just want to know why people who think Cuba is the shiznit… aka an amazing place to live or even an OK place to survive are posting here… or even read this blog. Yoani and fellow Cubans live day by day SURVIVING and trying to make light of a deplorable country/life. Get the fuck out of here if you are making her struggles seem petty. Like little miss BrickellPrincess driving home from her job. Boohoo. You work overtime. Cry me a river… you get a paycheck don’t you? And if you can’t afford ATT or Verizon Wireless, too effing bad. Don’t be complaining about it on here. Go on welfare like the rest of this fucking country and cry about how horrible it is. Right.

  2. Obama is largely powerless to stop it though; if he had said he opposed it, many in NYC, especially in Manhattan (the opposition is primarily in the outer boroughs) would have seen it as an unwanted intrusion into local issues.

  3. “You know nothing of how good you have it in Cuba!”

    That comment alone just had me spit out my drink.

    [Note — BrickellPrincess 1) drives, and therefore, has a car or at least access to one 2) has a cellphone and 3) makes cellphone calls while driving said car, 4) has a job that pays a salary that likely surpasses what anyone in Cuba makes, except the Castro brothers 5) as a commentator here, has freedom of Internet access]

    For those who hate their cellphone bills in the States, there is always VOIP, and yes, cellphones can now have VOIP. Use text messaging for everything else.

  4. Before I even comment on this topic, I would like to know where in USA BrickellPrincess lives at?!?!
    I mean, cell phone service IS NOT a luxury item in USA, almost anyone can get a cellphone, an without contract and the most basic services will cost you around $50 a month with unlimited minutes, text & web access… Sweetie, do your research before posting erroneous and lagging information about the wireless service in USA.
    I do pay $110 with taxes included, but I have the iPhone 4, unlimited text, minutes, and data. Hmmm, that’s where I’m reading & posting this, through my mobile phone.

    Now, to your topic… If doctors can not een afford a mobile phone in Cuba, how is that you have one & can actuallybpay for it when on previous blogs I read and read how you have no bread, butter oor juice to feed your son, or no eggs, or milk because supposedly all those it’s are “a luxury” and can only b bought with convertible pesos… I am confused.
    You state how you have no money for this or that, no waterr here and there, but you carry a mobile phone, you have wireless capabilities, you have net access which we all know that these things ate rare for cubanstallion to have, so help this jersenian understand your point when you contradict yourself too much.

    Si se le hace mas fácil en español, pues bienvenida sea su respuesta, yo soy puertorriqueño radicando en nueva jersey.

  5. My dear, you complain about everything and anything. Now Cuba’s nascent cell phone service has your nickers in a bun. Oh my! Then don’t use it. In the United States, cell phone service is still a luxury to many. So what makes you think that you are entitled to cell phone service?

    I live in the United States and I, like everyone else here, have to pre-pay for my cellular service. I get a measly 300 minutes of talk time each month for $49 and for an additional $20 I get to purchase unlimited texting. To those totals, you can include another $11 in taxes and surcharges that the United States government tags onto everyone’s cellular account.

    To top it all off, the service is deplorable. Driving home my calls keep disconnecting. At work, my employer has installed cellular dampening equipment effectively blocking all cellular signals.

    So what’s you point girl!?! You think you have it bad in Cuba? Please!

    Wake up like me at 6AM to start work at 8:30AM and have a 15 minute lunch at your desk and hope to leave for the day at 6:50PM and then get your American paycheck and realize that 32% of your wages have disappeared into taxes.

    Spare me! You know nothing of how good you have it in Cuba!

  6. Cuban bloggers don’t use the Internet access at foreign embassies in order not to be accused of being mercenaries serving a foreign power. They don’t have direct access to their websites. They have to send their posts to friends in foreign countries and they will post them. They use USB flash drives to copy their articles and then send it by way of email from a hotel. They too use it to passed information to other bloggers.

  7. @John Two – Thanks. Under the How to Help tab, however, it says this: “If you want to collaborate with Generation Y, for a major upgrade of its texts, you can donate here:” It does not state that donations support bloggers directly (i.e., a salary). Whatever the case actually is, I’d be happy to contribute. At the very least, perhaps a few Flips and Internet cards can be bought and a web designer can have his hourly fee paid.

    Freedom of choice is indeed sweet.

  8. LOOKS LIKE SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN SOON! SO DAMIERDA, CAN YOU GIVE US SOME INPUT ON THIS SUBJECT? TYPE “TOILET REDONDO” (reference to Mesa Redonda)

    AFP: Progress in case of US contractor held in Cuba: US governor

    HAVANA — New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said Thursday “some progress” has been made in the case of a US contractor held in Cuba since December, after he relayed Washington’s request to free him.
    “After my intervention, there is some progress in the case… (but) I don’t know how soon it’ll be resolved,” Richardson told a press conference after meeting with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

    Richardson was on a trade mission to Cuba when he brought up the detention of Alan Gross, 61, who was arrested on December 5 reportedly while distributing cell phones, laptops and other communications equipment in Cuba.

    “The Obama administration asked me to take up the Alan Gross case at the highest level” in Cuba, Richardson said in Spanish. “I’ve done so and I hope there’s some progress in the case.”

    US officials say that Gross worked for a non-government organization contracted by the State Department to supply computer and communications material to civil society groups in Cuba.

    Cuba believes Gross is a spy. Rodriguez in June said Gross was being held for “committing grave offenses in our country at the service of the subversive policy of the government of the United States against Cuba.”

    Richardson said Rodriguez described Gross as being “in a very delicate situation, from a legal and an investigative standpoint.”

    In a separate interview with CNN, Richardson said he believed Gross was “an innocent person who was here on a mission and my objective is to try to get him out.”

    He said he would meet again later with Cuban officials on the Gross case.

    “What I’m trying to do is to convince (Rodriguez) that this will be another good step forward. This is one individual who is very important to a lot of people in the United States.”

    Richardson said he was “sensing a better mood, a better atmosphere” between the United States and Cuba since Havana announced the release of some 52 dissidents from its prisons last month.

    He told CNN the administration of US President Barack Obama “is considering relaxing travel restrictions” to Cuba for education, cultural or sports purposes.

    The United States and Cuba have not had formal diplomatic ties since 1961, though Washington is represented by a US interest section in Havana.

    Since he took office in January 2009, Obama has eased travel and remittance restrictions on Cuba imposed by his predecessor George W. Bush, and resumed migration talks and direct postal service with the island.

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jDJc_4os_bPVV6b4v_1DHdSpPR5Q

  9. I hope you are wrong Humberto. The day a political hostage, Gross, gets swapped for a pack of criminals, the tried and convicted five, is the day I will lose whatever shred of respect I have left for our befuddled president.

  10. I hope you are wrong Humberto. The day a political hostage, Gross, gets swapped for a pack of criminals, the tried and convicted five, is the day I will lose whatever shred of respect I have left for our befuddled president.

  11. THE SWITCH IS COMING! ALAN GROSS FOR THE “FIVE CUBAN SPIES”! JUST YOU WAIT!

    TIME MAGAZINE: Richardson presses Cuba to free American contractor-By David Ariosto-August 26, 2010

    Havana, Cuba (CNN) — New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson wrapped up a week-long trade mission to Cuba Thursday, a trip in which he also pursued another goal — bringing about the release of a jailed U.S. contractor.

    “My objective is very clear: See if I can get [Alan] Gross out, or make it easier for somebody else to do it,” Richardson told CNN.

    Alan Gross, an American contractor, has been held in a Havana jail since December on suspicion of spying, although no charges have been formally brought against him.

    President Raul Castro said Gross was illegally distributing satellite communications equipment and has linked him to clandestine U.S. operations on the island nation.

    Richardson said his visit to Cuba is primarily a trade mission intended to bolster agricultural sales, but acknowledged that the White House has asked him to press the Gross case with Cuban officials.

    The New Mexico governor has often acted as an informal negotiator for U.S. administrations, engaging in high-level talks with North Korea, Sudan and Iraq.

    He speaks fluent Spanish and has previously met with former Cuban President Fidel Castro, negotiating the release of three political prisoners in 1996.

    Richardson would not confirm whether he planned to meet with the former Cuban leader during this visit.

    He is expected to leave Havana on Friday after a series of meetings with Cuban officials, including Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

    Richardson’s visit coincides with an announcement Monday by the island’s Roman Catholic Church that six more Cuban political prisoners would be freed soon.

    The group’s release would raise to 32 the number of prisoners set free since early July in a deal brokered with the church and Spain’s Foreign Ministry.

    The prisoners are a part of group of 75 dissidents imprisoned during a government crackdown on political opposition in March 2003.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/08/26/cuba.richardson.visit/#fbid=rqvjkwj_pWU&wom=false

  12. Yubano, is Dumbir Damierda’s twin brother? They sound a lot alike!Anyhow we welcome back the “REVOLUTIONARY RAT TWINS” Let the fireworks begin!

  13. FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: Obama’s ill-timed Cuba move- By José R. Cárdenas Thursday, August 26, 2010

    For weeks now, the Obama administration has been leaking to reporters its intention to modify U.S. travel regulations to Cuba. Reportedly, the administration will announce the policy change during the current congressional recess to avoid political blowback (so much for the courage of their convictions.)

    As a policy matter, the move simply returns U.S. travel policy to that which existed under the Clinton administration, fostering “people-to-people” contacts by liberalizing categories of citizens’ groups that can legally travel to Cuba. While religious, cultural, and artistic groups will now find it easier to visit Cuba, the changes most assuredly do not open Cuba up to unregulated tourist travel, which is the current Holy Grail of the noisy anti-embargo lobby.

    In short, the new policy won’t move the needle much on U.S.-Cuba relations or in Cuba itself. It won’t translate into an economic windfall the Castro regime desperately needs nor are visits to Cuba by the American Ballet Theater likely to embolden ordinary Cubans to pressure for internal change anytime soon.

    The biggest problem with the announcement is the timing is all wrong. Not only are any policy changes that could be construed as lessening the isolation of the Castro brothers’ barbaric and unrepentant regime counter-productive at this point, they muddy the real issues at hand.

    First, there is the unresolved fate of American Alan Gross, who has been jailed in Cuba without charges since last December. His “crime”? Delivering internet equipment to apolitical Jewish groups in Cuba. The administration has made numerous demands for his release, but undercuts its position by broadening U.S. travel to Cuba at a time when an innocent American remains jailed for reaching out to Cubans outside the control of the regime. The totality of our bilateral relationship should be put on ice until Mr. Gross is unconditionally released.

    A second factor contributing to the ill-timing of U.S. policy changes is that, over the past several months, the Castro regime has been under increasing international pressure for its ugly human rights record. Last February, political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo died as a result of 82-day hunger strike protesting his unjust incarceration. In addition, a group of Cuban women patriots — the “Ladies in White,” mothers and wives of current political prisoners — have gained international attention for their weekly marches in Havana in support of their loved ones, despite regular interruption by regime goon squads. It was to distract from these events and other signs of widening public discontent that the regime recently called in the Cuban Catholic Church to broker the release of 52 political prisoners to be exiled to Spain.

    Engaging in unilateral policy changes now serves only to assist the regime in changing this negative (and well-deserved) narrative and confuses what should be a stark, black-and-white issue: the regime’s unabated, systematic repression and abuse of its own people.

    Lastly, by expending political capital worrying about our relationship (or lack thereof) with an unreformed, undemocratic Stalinist regime, we pay short shrift to our real friends in the region, those with whom we do have common interests and who are looking for the benefits of a productive relationship with the United States.

    For example, today, there are two Free Trade Agreements pending in the region — with Colombia and Panama, signed in 2006 and 2007, respectively — on whose behalf the administration has exerted no political effort to securing approval in the U.S. Congress. These agreements are important to these countries to boost trade and foreign investment. And, just as important, they are demonstrations of U.S. support and commitment in a hemisphere facing Hugo Chavez’s unremitting, anti-American propaganda offensive.

    To make matters worse, last month, the administration sandbagged another friendly government, Guatemala, by formally charging it with failing to enforce its labor laws under the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (signed by the Bush Administration in 2005). In the first case of its kind brought by the U.S. against a free trade partner, Guatemala — one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere and under extreme pressure by narco-trafficking syndicates — must now endure a lengthy process in which it could end up losing benefits under the agreement and be fined up to $15 million. This is not how one treats friends, especially in an increasingly hostile neighborhood.

    Clearly, fussing about with Cuba policy at this point sends the wrong message to the regime, the Cuban people, and our true friends in the region. What changes are needed today are in the Castro regime’s relationship with the Cuban people. Let’s hope the congressional recess passes without any unnecessary U.S. policy moves that serve only to divert the focus to Washington, instead of Havana, where it belongs.

    http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/08/26/obamas_ill_timed_cuba_move

  14. Dumbir, you f**king jackass, where have you been? We’ve missed your odorous presence on the blog. How have you been you cretin? I see you are still singing the same moronic, hackneyed left-wing, anti-west horseshit like some apartichek from a bygone era. Some things never change… what a dimwit. Dumbir as much as you’d like to smear Mexico as an example of a failed “western” government, I’d like to point you in the direction of Venezuela. Yes Venezuela the land of your buddy Chavez, a man we all know you idolize. A man who is in the process of destroying Venezuela in order to make it another socialist paradise. In your little diatribe about Mexico you conveniently excluded the Venezuelan situation where the government is intimately involved in the drug business and where the murder rate dwarfs the numbers in Mexico. How does that square with your hairbrained ideas? You continue to amuse us with your pathetic musings. Your ravings are unoriginal, hackneyed and bankrupt but yet welcome. For you are the comic relief and foil for those of us who have a sense of humor. Welcome back from Miami you annoying little twerp.

  15. Hey DAMIR, WE DO LIVE IN PARADISE,,,,,,,, ANYONE who lives in a free country, even if they are not living in the mansion with ocean view, even if they are living under a bridge, are living in Paradise because they live in a FREE COUNTRY.

  16. usanians themselves are recognising the facts they are done and finished:

    http://www.financialsense.com/contributors/d-sherman-okst/why-we-are-totally-finished

    But do not epect local jobless losers from Miami slums to admit how really hard is the situation in the usa. After all, if Cubans on the island really knew the truth, what would become of the “pro-democracy struggle”? It would sink into the bin faster than they could cry “Viva Cuba Libre!”

  17. I see usual acteurs repeating ad nauseam same old nonsense, from the fake and irrelevant team Yoani, to jobless losers from the slums of Miami, pretending they live in a paradise.

    Attentive reader will remember my article about the Mexican and Colombian mafias eyeing Cuba after Castro. They need the island. They will fight for it, just as they are fighting in their own countries. Since inept and useless el presidente (not even Castros come colose to Calderon) military “invasion” on something, but certainly not the actual target, the druglords, 28 000 people had died senselessly in Mexico.

    Only four years, and 28 000 dead in capitalist neighbourhood. And that is only Mexico…

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/25/mexico-massacre-central-american-migrants

    Now, why is that relevant here, unlike posts below, like that of a character calling himself humberto, or the more colourful one thinking he is a Siegmund Freud, no less…?

    Because, as you will see in the article from the link, the most notorious gang in Mexico, the most brutal, is the one called Los Zetas. The last ones (zeta in spanish is he letter “z”, the last letter in the alphabeth).

    They are beter known as paramilitary units, under tough military discipline, and are extremely brutal, as 72 immigrants form other poor, and capitalist mind you, latin american countries have unfortunately found out just before their untimely deaths.

    The said Zetas are the (para)military force that is spreading fast through Cuba as well. The drugs sent to Cuba are coming from them. Now, contrary to what local jobless losers from the slums of Miamy are pretending to declare as the truth in this forum, inlcuding the team Yoani, the facts are that Mexicans are not in agreement with Castros. To the contrary of the popular preferred religion, they actually want the Castros out, so that their lower levels, already falling under the addictive smell of the money from the drugs, the small time cops and military officers, the same ones that are mostly turning into the “dissidents” and “democracy fighters”, then simply push the country into the chaos and allow them to take over.

    And they will, because they are hadened murderers, highly organised,disciplined and obedient to their bosses. Disunited, fragmented and split along dozens of different religous and political lines, Cubans will be a simple and easy prey to these criminals.

    And just so you know who are these humbertos, siegmunds, albertos and panchos of this pathetic forum, bear in mind that Los Zetas are the main source of the drugs in Miami, mostly through their secondary line, the unfortunate immigrants, like the group massacred as reported in the above article, who took the offer to be the hitmen for Los Zetas, but also through the cuban channel, who are financing their futile “pro-democracy” campaign with the proceedings of these drug-dealing criminal activities.

    That is, as you can verify by quick search on the net, the real picture here. No democracy, no such thing here. Drugs, and violence.

    Just watch the insults and attacks after this from these “pro-democracy” mokneys here, if you have any doubts.

    Havana, contrary to the pictures, the team Yoani; the bunch of those low level foot soldiers for Los Zetas and alikes; posts here is ecoming greener and cleaner than ever. Modern busses are nowadays driving the people, modern taxis, people are better dressed, and the night life is second to none in the world. Malecon has three or four bands having fiestas every night, along the length of the shore, hundreds of bars and discotecas are open and mtens of thousands of foreign tourists are invading the city splashing the money into the private pockets of people working in their own restaurants or shops, or casas particulares.

    If only these criminals would leave them alone to find their way out of the crisis and stay away from usanians, who are falling even further into their own self-made abyss, with the inevitable double-dip recession, coming back just as I have predicted way in April and May this year.

    Hasta luego para siempre yankis.

    P.sS.

    Can you take the losers from Miamiand their owners, Mexicanos with you too, please?

  18. ASSOCIATED PRESS: Church helps son of ex-Cuban leader leave for US-
    By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ (AP)

    HAVANA — The Roman Catholic Church said Wednesday it has intervened again on behalf of a political dissident, this time helping the ailing son of one of Cuba’s top revolutionary heroes go to the United States for medical treatment.

    Juan Almeida Garcia is the son of Juan Almeida Bosque, who fought alongside Fidel Castro in the guerrilla uprising that brought down dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

    The father was among Cuba’s ruling elite, sitting on the Communist Party’s Politburo and serving as a vice president on the Council of State, the island’s supreme governing body. When he died last September, at 82, he was given honors befitting his title as a “commander of the revolution.”

    But it has been a different story for the younger Almeida, a dissident who frequently criticizes the Castro government. In November he was detained by state security agents for three days after protesting not being allowed to leave the island for treatment. He was earlier arrested for attempting to leave Cuba illegally.

    Almeida, who worked for state security within the Interior Ministry in the 1990s, suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a painful, progressive form of spinal arthritis.

    He has received treatment in Belgium in the past after receiving permission to leave Cuba. But authorities did not look as kindly on his efforts to travel to Los Angeles to see a doctor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

    His family contacted Cardinal Jaime Ortega who “got involved in the matter” and personally informed Almeida earlier this week that Cuba’s government had agreed to let him go to the U.S., church official Orlando Marquez said in a phone interview.

    Almeida had already obtained U.S. permission, but when he would leave for the United States was not immediately clear, Marquez said.

    Cubans wishing to leave the island must first obtain permission from the country they are visiting, then an exit visa. Doctors, scientists and other key personnel, as well as the relatives of leaders in sensitive military or political positions, are often denied permission for fear they will not return.

    Ortega’s efforts in the case were the latest example of the Catholic Church stepping in on behalf of Cuban dissidents.

    Last week, church officials successfully spoke to the government about calling off pro-government mobs that had broken up a weekly Sunday march by Reina Luisa Tamayo, mother of a political prisoner who died in February after a lengthy hunger strike.

    Also, for weeks in April government supporters broke up the traditional Sunday march in Havana of the Ladies In White, a support group for political prisoners, until Ortega met with Raul Castro. Authorities agreed to allow the march to continue as long as it did not deviate from its traditional route.

    On July 7, the church and the government announced a landmark deal whereby Cuba agreed to free 52 political prisoners rounded up during a sweeping government crackdown on dissent in 2003. So far, 32 former prisoners have been released with their relatives into exile in Spain.

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5juoRZ3oG9e32RZnO6G5Dz_lrNfSwD9HQPVC80

  19. Mandy, you can send money to support the Cuban bloggers. Details (including what the money is used for) are available by clicking on the ‘How to Help’ button at the top of the page.

    I’ve donated on a couple of occasions and highly recommend it. Enjoying the freedoms and prosperity that comes with living in Canada, it’s one of the tangible ways I can support the Cuban blogosphere.

  20. HOW PATHETIC AND TELLLING THAT A COUNTRY THAT WAS A POWERHOUSE OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS SINKS THIS LOW!! GREAT LEADERSHIP!!

    CANADIAN PRESS: Cuba quitting state-sponsored smoking: Communist govt drops cigarettes from its ration books-By Will Weissert

    HAVANA — A program that provided state-subsidized smokes to Cuban seniors is headed for the ash heap.
    The communist government announced Wednesday it is cutting cigarettes from its monthly ration books effective Sept. 1, the latest in a series of small steps toward fully eliminating subsidies for food and other basic items that impoverished islanders depend on.

    Cubans 55 and older had been eligible to receive three packs of “strong” cigarettes and a pack of milds — 80 cigarettes altogether per month — for 6.50 pesos, or the equivalent of about 30 cents, using their ration books at state-run distribution centres.

    The island’s lowest-quality cigarettes, the only kinds subsidized, normally cost 7 pesos, or about 33 cents, per pack, while imported or topflight domestic brands can go for $3 or more apiece.

    Until the 1990s, all Cubans 18 and older received a monthly allotment of cigarettes, but the loss of billions of dollars in annual subsidies from the collapsed Soviet Union forced officials to scale back subsidized smoking. Now even older smokers are out of luck.

    “I’m insulted because it’s another thing they are taking away from us,” said Angela Jimenez, a 64-year-old retiree who lives on a monthly pension of 200 pesos, or about $10.40. Jimenez first took up smoking at 17 but says she will now have to quit because she won’t be able to afford them. “I don’t know how far they’re going to go with this,” she said of the subsidy cuts.

    The government’s announcement made no mention of the health benefits of quitting smoking, saying only that the move was “part of the steps gradually being applied to eliminate subsidies.”

    Cigarettes are just the latest item to be scrapped from the ration book: Peas and potatoes were dumped in November.

    In an additional cost-cutting measure this summer, the government shuttered scores of workplace cafeterias that had fed state employees for virtually nothing, instead giving qualifying Cubans stipends to buy their own food. So far, nearly 250,000 people have seen their government lunches disappear — and officials say further cuts are coming.

    Under the existing subsidy system, even nonsmokers accepted cigarette rations, which they then sold on the black market, charging at least 2½ times the subsidized price per pack. Others traded them for rationed items such as salt, sugar, beans, meat, rice, eggs or bread.

    Jesus Casanova, a 58-year-old security guard, described the quality of the rationed cigarettes as “awful” — but he collected them every month anyway to feed his elderly neighbour’s smoking habit.

    “He is a very poor man and he doesn’t have the money to smoke anything else,” Casanova said. “But now even that’s over. I don’t know what he’s going to do.”

    Casanova prefers cigars, generally finishing one slender stogie during his 12-hour shift. The island’s world-famous cigars were never provided as part of the ration program, however.

    Fidel Castro, once the most famous cigar smoker in Cuba — if not the world — famously gave them up under doctors’ orders in 1985, and has sporadically urged his fellow islanders to quit.

    President Raul Castro’s government is trying to cut the weight of subsidies for Cuba’s cash-poor economy, a plan that could eventually mean eliminating the entire ration book. A full-page editorial in the Communist Party’s Granma newspaper in October suggested the idea, which had long seemed unthinkable.

    Critics argue the moves break with what had been a sacred covenant of the Castro brothers’ 1959 revolution: that socialism would not make people rich, but would provide all Cubans with at least the basics.

    Authorities say their goal is to encourage more productivity and free the state from a crushing economic burden.

    Even with the changes, the state still pays for or heavily subsidizes nearly everything including education, health care, housing and transportation. Then again, in a country where almost everyone works for the state, the government only pays salaries of about $20 per month.

    The ration program began in 1962 as a temporary way to guarantee basic food for all Cubans in the face of Washington’s then-new embargo. It is designed to tide people over, providing a few weeks of food, as well as other occasional staples such as laundry soap and toothpaste.

    Eds: Associated Press Writer Anne-Marie Garcia contributed to this report.

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5jtPYar6HZ1zM_59cqoa9Xo9RebWw

  21. @Carly – the majority of us in the free world would consider China to be repressive, and yet, China affords more freedoms to its citizens (i.e., everyone can have Internet access albeit through restricted portals, entrepreneurship, the ability to buy a car, etc.). This includes all citizens – dissidents or not – who are not in prison. I also witnessed slums in Africa where people had cellphones years before Cuba allowed its citizens the same privilege.

    I am therefore assuming that you believe anyone who disagrees with their government should either be 1) in prison or 2) restricted from normal life comparable to a slum in Africa.

    As for sending Yoani money, as a reader of this blog, I am clueless as to what you are writing about. Please let us know how we can send Yoani funds besides what she already earns as a blogger (here in the free world, by the way, bloggers do work on salary).

    As for propaganda, you are confusing freedom of speech — journalism — with the billboards along the streets of Havana. They are false incentives, when the populace have none for themselves.

    Get a clue.

  22. Carly, many of the dissidents have cellphones for the same reasons you and I have – an ability to communicate in a society where many other means of communications (including email and the internet) are severely restricted. The difference is that my use of a cell phone costs me very little, whereas in Cuba the cost is prohibitive.

  23. So if the Cuban government is so repressive how come all these so called dissidents have access to cell phones?
    And you suckers fall for this propaganda and send her money!

  24. If ETECSA is keeping records of cellphone users, can they tell us how, economically, the cellphones are acquired by the average Cuban? Monthly prepaid usage rates aside, can they tell us if the average Cuban salary or stipend would correspondingly allow for the purchase of such a cellphone to begin with? Do Cubans acquire these off the black market? From relatives/associates who live abroad? From the “Cuban mafia” who support their many struggling relatives on the island, with their own monthly stipend to them? I am curious as to how ETECSA accounts for the upsurge in cellphone ownership. Or do they choose to look the other way and simply reap the profits of usage?

  25. Trapped, a voice screams, but only his jailer hears.
    “Oh you are referring to the blockade” mocks a fellow inmate. “Don’t you know that we blockade ourselves”.
    The jailer laughs. “Yes, you blockade yourself, that is your problem, let me show you what life is like for those that don’t blockade themselves”. In an instant the inmates are connected to a world of plenty. They can see but can’t touch. Trapped.

    And so the torture continues.

    The inmates cannot see beyond the jail except for the piped images of the world of plenty that the jailer provide.

    Recently they have received vistors from this world. A mixture of curiousity and perverse desires to enjoy themselves in the prison drive them.

    The crazy ones moan that they have created the bars of the blockade for themselves, they turn on those who still insist that they must find away to remove the bars.

    None of them suspect the truth that is even worse. Beyond the bars is the dungeon.

    The mathematics: The United States uses five times its fair share of the planets resources. Europe uses three times its fair share of the planets resources. How many planets would it take for everyone to live at the same standard of living as those in the United States? And how many planets for a global equivalent standard of living for Europe?

    “Five planets” says a child who can still count and “Three planets”.

    But there is only one.

    That is the dungeon. Beyond the bars. Beyond the blockade.

    Yes my friend. Change must come.

    About the author: I am wondering how to initiate discourse with the prisoners. Perhaps my story will not be liked? But how else to begin? How can one attract attention of those driven mad by their jailers. One year before September 11th I spent some time in a mental institution, raving that the U.S. was going to start a war in the middle east after bombs disguised as planes had entered U.S. soil. The disgnosis, paranoid schizophrenia. Ten years later I am still on medication, but calm. But I remember how no one could talk to me whilst I was psychotic. And still I struggle to separate truth from delusion, for whilst I was right about the war, so much else I believed at that time was pure fantasy. I remember how I insisted that I was not mad. It was not me, but society, and in truth I still believe that in part, but now with the wisdom of years gone past I begin to recognise my own failings. I am wondering how to initiate discourse with the prisoners. Perhaps my story will not be liked? But how else to begin?

  26. AP: Cuba to free 6 more political prisoners into exile

    HAVANA, Cuba — Cuba’s Roman Catholic Church on Tuesday revealed the names of six more political prisoners to be released into exile in Spain under an agreement with President Raul Castro’s government.

    The men are among 75 dissidents who were arrested in a March 2003 crackdown on organized political opposition and sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges that included treason. In a landmark deal, Cuba agreed on July 7 to release the remaining 52 prisoners still jailed from the crackdown.

    The new releases would bring to 32 the number freed under the agreement so far — and all have left Cuba for Spain, with one then settling in Chile.

    Church official Orlando Marquez said in a statement that the next six slated for release are Victor Arroyo Carmona, Alexis Rodriguez Fernandez, Leonel Grave de Peralta Almenares, Alfredo Dominguez Batista, Prospero Gainza Aguero and Claro Sanchez Altarriba.

    Both the Cuban government and the church say releasing all 52 will take months — but Tuesday’s announcement means that after barely six weeks, just 20 are still left behind bars.

    Some political prisoners in Cuba have been offered freedom but have declined to leave their homeland. It is not clear if those released subsequently will be exiled or if some will be allowed to stay in the country.

    On Monday, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington that some of the Cubans released to Spain “have inquired about coming to the United States and we will evaluate those cases on a case by case basis.”

    He said U.S. officials are working “to find the most expeditious manner to handle any requests that these individuals might make and details are still being worked out.”

    Crowley said that coming to the U.S. through a third country is a more complicated process than arriving directly from Cuba, “but it doesn’t by itself rule out anyone coming to the United States.”

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iUXtrV2QU_hugo-6AVuxgVM2n5JQD9HPTFMG1

  27. HI, I am wondering how do I text my step daughter in Cuba, I bought and activated a cell phone for her about a year ago and I can call her whenever I want and it doesn’t cost her anything but I don’t know how to text her, does anyone know? I call her by buy minutes at a local Cuban store here in Tampa.

  28. It is not that hard to find where to buy the cards. Although sometimes they are “out” which is certainly frustrating. The texting works automatically, so I don’t know what that is about. But oh my god ! Is she correct about the rates ! Domestic calls are outrageous, texting is better so most people text. Incoming international calls and texts are amazingly free (so many people with family abroad use cells to communicate with their loved ones). But forget about returning international calls because they charge .55 cuc/minute for a international call and 1cuc for a text. And only sell refill cards for 10 or 20 cuc increments. So a 20 minute conversation to your mom in EEUU could kill your cell phone pretty easily.

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