He Did It


Aug. 26 in Miami: Juan Juan with his daughter, Indira, and wife, Consuelo

The day that Juan Juan Almeida announced the start of his hunger strike was like reliving the nightmare we’d experienced with the long fast of Guillermo Fariñas. “This is the worst of all decisions,” we, his friends who love him, told him, sure that he would not withstand the rigors of starvation, nor that the authorities would yield before his empty gut rebellion. Fortunately we were wrong. It turned out that the talkative JJ — as his close friends call him — was not only willing to take his chances arm wrestling with the government, but seemed willing to sacrifice himself for all of us, who have repeatedly been denied permission to travel outside this archipelago.

The jovial forty-three-year-old leaves us a painful but effective lesson, because although we have no elections to vote directly for those who govern us, nor courts to accept claims of police abuse,  much less means by which a citizen can denounce the immigration restrictions holding the national territory in their grip, we still have our bones, our skin, our stomach walls, to reclaim, by way of the fragile terrain of our bodies, the rights they have taken from us.

12 thoughts on “He Did It

  1. Julio what are you thanking Raul for?? What could you possibly be thanking a Castro for? What have you learned from the castros in the last 50 years that makes you think they are going to soften their stance now or ever? They repress and arrest people on a whim and then release them when convenient to make people like you think they have done a great thing … please. Your type of conciliation or reconciliation will get us nowhere. The answer is not with the castros. Where has well intentioned wishful thinking gotten anyone with the castro brothers? Pollyana is alive and well…

  2. “Cuban officials have tried before to balance their drive for an egalitarian society with an appeal to foreigners seeking to own a piece of paradise.” CAN YOU SPLAIN THAT TO ME? AGAIN! THIS STORY IS GETTING WEIRDER AND WEIRDER! SADDER AND SADDER! FOR THE CUBAN PEOPLE! CUBA, THE GIANT PROSTITUTE! AND I CRY WHEN I WRITE THIS!

    ASSOCIATED PRESS: Cuba embraces 2 surprising free-market reforms-By WILL WEISSERT
    HAVANA — Cuba has issued a pair of surprising free-market decrees, allowing foreign investors to lease government land for up to 99 years — potentially touching off a golf-course building boom — and loosening state controls on commerce to let islanders grow and sell their own fruit and vegetables.

    The moves, published into law in the Official Gazette on Thursday and Friday and effective immediately, are significant steps as President Raul Castro promises to scale back the communist state’s control of the economy while attempting to generate new revenue for a government short on cash.

    “These are part of the opening that the government wants to make given the country’s situation,” said Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a state-trained economist who is now an anti-communist dissident.

    Cuba said it was modifying its property laws “with the aim of amplifying and facilitating” foreign investment in tourism, and that doing so would provide “better security and guarantees to the foreign investor.”

    A small army of investors in Canada, Europe and Asia have been waiting to crack the market for long-term tourism in Cuba, built on drawing well-heeled visitors who could live part-time on the island instead of just hitting the beach for a few days.

    It may also help the country embrace golf tourism. Investment firms have for decades proposed building lavish 18-hole courses ringed by luxury housing under long-term government leases. Cuba currently has just two golf courses nationwide, but the Tourism Ministry has said it wants to build at least 10 more.

    Endorsing 99-year property agreements might be a first step toward making some golf developments a reality, but also makes it easy to imagine a Cuban coastline dotted with timeshares, luxury villas and other hideaways that could serve as second homes.

    “I think this is huge. This is probably one of the most significant moves in recent years relative to attracting foreign investment,” said Robin Conors, CEO of Vancouver-based Leisure Canada, which plans to begin construction next year on a luxury hotel in Havana and also wants to build hotels, villas and two championship golf courses on a stretch of beach in Jibacoa, 40 miles (60 kilometers) to the east.

    Cuba has allowed leases of state land for up to 50 years with the option to extend them for an additional 25, but foreign investors had long pressed tourism officials to endorse 99-year deals to provide additional peace of mind to investors. The longer leases also mean lower interest rates on international banking mortgages.

    John Kavulich, a senior policy adviser for the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council in New York, said Mexico has used similar leaseholds to encourage foreign investment despite restrictions on non-Mexicans owning coastal property — but that the similarities end there.

    “I don’t think it’s going to open a floodgate. I think it may turn on a tap so that people know there’s water,” he said. “Certainly it’s an improvement. However … making one change isn’t a panacea to solving the issues that companies have in evaluating their opportunities in Cuba.”

    But developers cheered the move, including Andrew Macdonald, CEO of Britain’s Esencia Hotels and Resorts, which is awaiting Cuban government approval to start construction on the Carbonera Country Club, a $300 million beach development outside the resort of Varadero.

    “It’s exceedingly good news,” Macdonald said. “It’s been a long road. But having said that, it’s very important for the country that they get each step right and this is a very big step for them.”

    After so many setbacks in green-lighting the project once and for all, Macdonald said he has stopped predicting when construction will begin, but “we hope the approval process will happen very quickly now.”

    The island’s ever-weak economy has been rocked by the global financial crisis and a sustained drop in prices of the country’s chief natural resources.

    Cuban officials have tried before to balance their drive for an egalitarian society with an appeal to foreigners seeking to own a piece of paradise. Scrambling for revenue in the late 1990s, the government authorized private foreign ownership of posh apartments in Havana and even signed a $250 million deal for beachfront apartments and timeshares with a Canadian company.

    Many of those projects stalled, however, failing to draw enough foreign investment. Meanwhile, some overseas businessmen bought Havana apartments but allowed Cubans to live in them — violating rules barring islanders from doing so. The government eventually bought out most of the residences it had hoped would be owned by foreigners.

    The decree allowing expanded sale of farm products, meanwhile, could have far greater impact on ordinary Cubans. It authorizes them to produce their own agricultural goods — from melons to milk — and sell them from home or in kiosks. They must pay taxes on any earnings.

    The decree is the first major expansion of self-employment rules since Castro said in an address before parliament Aug. 1 that the government would reduce state controls on small businesses — a big deal in a country where about 95 percent of people work for the state.

    Chepe, who was jailed for his political beliefs in 2003 but later paroled for health reasons, said the decree would stamp out inefficiencies that plague the state farming system, calling it an “intelligent move.”

    “In Cuba, the problem has not only been production, but also distribution,” he said.

    Cubans already sell fruits, pork, cheese and other items on the sides of highways, fleeing into the bushes when the police happen past. Friday’s measure would legalize such practices, while ensuring the state takes a cut of the profits.

    The new rules are consistent with other efforts by Castro’s government, which has allowed minor free-market openings while also seeking to eliminate black-market income.

    Authorities have approved more licenses for private taxis while getting tough on unauthorized gypsy cabs. They also made it easier to get permits for home improvements and increased access to building materials, while more strictly enforcing prohibitions against illegal building.



    BLOOMBERG/BUSINESS WEEK: Cuba embraces 2 surprising free-market reforms

    Cuba has issued two surprising free-market decrees, allowing foreign investors to lease government land for up to 99 years and loosening state controls on commerce so as to let islanders grow and sell their own fruit and vegetables.

    The moves were published into law in the Official Gazette on Thursday and Friday and take effect immediately.

    They are key first steps of President Raul Castro’s promise to reduce the communist state’s control of the economy while attempting to generate new revenues for a government short on cash.


  4. Thank you Raul for setting another wrong to be right.
    There is many more to go.

    One major one is Stating that Cubans are free to speak what they want even if it is
    “Abajo Raul” and that nothing will happen to them and dismantle the repressive machinery of the state.

    That will be a giant step but one that the whole Cuban nation is expecting from you.
    Do not be afraid. We want a Cuba for all Cubans. We know how to forgive and let us enter a new era of a free Cuba for all.

    I think we all can work on eliminating the confrontational approach we have all use and find common solutions. There are those on both sides that persist on taking us on the path of confrontation, they are a minority. We all know to where that takes us. More Cubans dying in prison or Cubans in exiled. All those Cubans that could be contributing so much to their homeland.
    Let us all come together.

  5. MIAMI HERALD: Raúl Castro urged to free 8 dissidents-BY JUAN O. TAMAYO-08.28.10

    The U.S. State Department and Amnesty International have urged Cuba to immediately release eight dissidents detained during peaceful protests and threatened with prosecutions.
    A State Department spokesperson also said that the Raúl Castro government should release all political prisoners and not just the 52 that it has promised to free by October.

    The lengthy detentions of the eight — arrested in two groups of five and three — have sparked concern that Castro is getting tougher with critics. In recent years, the government has detained dissidents for brief periods, to intimidate them and block their activities, rather than bring them to trial.

    Amnesty International urged Cuba to free the group of five jailed since Aug. 12 “immediately and unconditionally, unless they are to be charged with an internationally recognized criminal offence and tried according to international standards for fair trial.”

    Authorities also should “cease the harassment, intimidation and persecution of citizens who seek to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association,” the London-based group said late Wednesday.

    The five members of the Youths for Democracy movement — Enyor Díaz Allen, Francisco Manzanet Ortiz, Roberto González Pelegrín and brothers Néstor and Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina — were seized in eastern Baracoa after a peaceful protest against the arrests of two other members.

    They have not had access to a lawyer and have been told they will be charged with “public disorder,” according to Amnesty International.

    State Department spokesperson Virginia Staab meanwhile urged Cuba to free the other three dissidents jailed since they read an anti-government statement Aug. 16 at the University of Havana.

    “If Cuban government officials are serious in their public statements that there will be no more political prisoners in Cuba, we expect these activists to be release immediately,” she said.

    The three — Michel Irois Rodríguez, Luis Enrique Labrador Díaz and Eduardo Pérez Flores — are also refusing food to demand their freedom, said the Directorate.


  6. REUTERS: Dissident son of Cuban revolution hero arrives in U.S.-Fri Aug 27, 2010

    MIAMI- A Cuban Revolution leader’s dissident son has arrived in the United States after Cuban authorities granted him an exit permit following a seven-year ban on him traveling, Miami-based U.S. media said on Friday.
    Juan Juan Almeida, a 43-year-old lawyer and the son of Commander Juan Almeida Bosque who died in September 2009, was allowed to leave the communist-ruled island following the mediation of Cuban Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

    Almeida, who was briefly arrested for trying to leave Cuba illegally in 2009 and went on a hunger strike to demand an exit permit, was reunited with his wife and daughter at the Miami airport on Thursday. He arrived on a flight from Mexico after leaving Cuba this week.

    He told reporters his aim in leaving was to be with his family and receive medical treatment in the United States for the degenerative rheumatic illness that he suffers.

    But he criticized Cuban President Raul Castro, a close comrade of his late father in the 1959 Cuban revolution led by former President Fidel Castro, for not having allowed him to leave earlier.

    “Raul Castro is the main person responsible — but not the only one — for me not having been able to leave Cuba in the last seven years to receive the medical treatment that I need,” he said in comments cited by the Miami-based Cuban affairs website cafefuerte.com.

    Cubans need authorization to leave the island and individuals in sensitive, security-related or economically strategic jobs can be restricted from traveling, especially if there are suspicions about their loyalty to the country’s communist government.

    The Miami Herald reported Almeida thanked the Cuban Catholic Church for interceding on his behalf.

    Almeida had written a book, published in Spain, “Memories of an Unknown Cuban Guerrilla,” which took a wry look at his life as a member of Cuba’s political elite.

    His permission to leave comes at a time when Cuba’s government is in the process of releasing 52 political prisoners under an agreement reached with Cardinal Ortega and the Catholic Church.

    They are being released in batches on the condition they leave the island and travel to Spain.

    The international community has applauded the prisoner releases, which followed months of intense criticism of the Cuban government after the death of a dissident hunger striker and harassment by government supporters of prisoners’ female relatives who staged peaceful protest marches.


  7. THE HILL: Chamber’s Cuba policy amounts to 21st century mercantilism-By Mauricio Claver-Carone – 08/27/10

    Throughout the 111th Congress, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been obsessed with U.S. policy towards Cuba. Unfortunately, their obsession is not with the freedom of the Cuban people nor the heroic struggle and sacrifice of Cuba’s pro-democracy movement. Instead, it’s focused on conducting business with that island’s totalitarian, repressive regime.
    Such a policy amounts to nothing more than 21st century mercantilism.

    Modern capitalism is based on the notion of the free market: a free trade and flow in goods, services and ideas. In contrast, mercantilism was the economic system that dominated Western European economic thought and policies from the 16th to the late 18th centuries. It amounted to a state policy of mutual benefit between a merchant class and a government seeking to strengthen itself.

    This is exactly what the Chamber is proposing for Cuba.

    The Cuban regime explicitly prohibits the Cuban people from engaging in trade or other private commercial activity. This is exclusively reserved – under Article 10 of the Cuban regime’s 1976 Constitution – for its rulers. The fact remains that every dollar that has been transacted by over 157 U.S.-based companies since 2001 with Cuba, have only had one Cuban counterpart, Alimport, which is owned and operated by the Castro regime.

    Based on this approach, the Chamber has also become a leading advocate of “The Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act” (H.R. 4645), which looks to double the Castro regime’s income through tourism transactions. The Chamber’s calculation is that if the Castro regime has more income, it can purchase more goods. Maybe, but it would surely provide more resources to repress.

    The Chamber points to the Castro regime’s announced “release” of 52 political prisoners — of which 26 have been forced into exile in Spain and the other 26 still remain in prison — as evidence of that regime’s “goodwill.” Yet the Chamber conveniently fails to mention the five students arrested this month for protesting outside University of Havana and the five leaders of Cuba’s Youth for Democracy Movement imprisoned in the easternmost province of Oriente (the pregnant wife of one of these activists, Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, has been sexually assaulted twice by the Cuban authorities in order to further torment him). So much for “goodwill.”

    These Cuban pro-democracy activists don’t need American fanny-packers and spring breakers to teach them democratic ideals. As a matter of fact, they can probably teach the Chamber, and most of us, a thing or two about the importance of freedom and democracy — not to mention the high cost it entails.

    Current U.S. law conditions commercial engagement with the Castro regime to the fundamental recognition and respect for the human, political and economic rights of the Cuban people, including the release of all Cuban political prisoners. Only at such time can trade with Cuba be free and truly benefit the Cuban people.

    Mauricio Claver-Carone is a Director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC and Editor of CapitolHillCubans.com


  8. ***
    Amen. Freedom for a brave Cuban and his family. Welcome to the U.S.A.
    Amen. Libertad por un Cubano valiente y por su familia. Bienvenidos a los Estados Unidos.
    John Bibb

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