The Claria, From the Rivers to the Sewers

Excerpt from documentary by Fabian Archondo and the Foundation for New Latin American Cinema.

My son is at that age where he could eat the columns of the house if we didn’t keep an eye on him. He opens and closes the refrigerator door, as if he believes that this appliance could produce — just for him — food. His appetite is so insatiable and so difficult to satisfy, in the midst of shortages and high prices, that we’ve nicknamed Teo after that voracious fish, “La Claria.” His ravenousness reminds us of this species which some bright person brought to our country to promote fish farming, and which is now a pest in our rivers and lakes.  Of course this is just a family joke, because even our fretful adolescent is incapable of wolfing down the things that enter the mouth of this walking fish.

Blue-gray, with a pronounced mustache and the ability to survive up to three days out of water, this African Catfish has already become a part of our country, both rural and urban. One of the few animals that can survive in the polluted Almendares river, it has managed to displace other, tastier, specimens in the fishmongers’ freezers. Not even its ability to adapt, nor its ugliness, however, have aroused as much alarm as its extreme predatory nature. Clarias eat everything from rodents and chickens, to puppies and every kind of fish, frog or bird.

As a solution to the food problems of the so-called Special Period, after the collapse of the Soviet  block, our authorities imported this foreign species and so precipitated colossal damage to the ecosystem. Similar irresponsibility had already occurred with the introduction of tilapia and tench fish, but the results were incalculably more dramatic with this dark and elusive creature which today reigns in our waters. Whether nestling in the mud, emerging from a manhole in the middle of the city, or crawling along the side of the road, its spread demonstrates the fragility of nature when faced with ministerial directives. I have no doubt that this fish will be with us for a long time to come, long after those who introduced it into the country are only a memory, as fleeting as crumb in the mouth of a claria.


35 thoughts on “The Claria, From the Rivers to the Sewers

  1. La Claria Fish – Revolución Azul

    This video produced my a Mexican film student In Cuba Diego Fabian Archondo documenting one of Cuba’s biological experiments to produce a fish for consumption. But as you will see what they have created by crossing the catfish Gunther with the African catfish is a hybrid species of monster fish akin to the Infamous Chinese snakehead.

    This is a fish that can walk on land for up to three days and eats everything in it’s path including rats, chickens, other fish such as tilapia, frogs and even cats. The video is shown in two parts and goes to the house of a Chinese Cuban member of the Interior residing in the old Hershy chocalate property where he supplies the locals with varios Cuban fauna for food including the “Claria”. The video takes an ironic and slightly humorous tone reminiscent of a grade b movie as it follows Macario and his family tending to the strange brood growing in his backyard pond tank.
    A Cuban chiller with a warning for those that mess with mother nature may come to regret Castro’s biological quackery.

    YOUTUBE: La Claria – Revolución Azul

    A group of Cubans are shown here with a couple of giant Cuban ‘Clarias’, a species of hybrid catfish crossed between the Cuban & the African catfish, recently …caught In Havana’s Almendares River.

    The Cuban regime produced these monsters In their laboratories with the original aim of providing a fast growing food source for everyday Cubans but what transpired has been another ecological disaster as the voracious & alien fish are arch predators feeding on anything that moves both In or out of the water.

  2. Shame on the AMERICAN ACTORS who petitioned President Obama to free the 5 CUBAN convicted spies. I will not ever pay to see their movies. I hope others feel the same. I have lots of respect for Yoani and her courage, I promise to support her and her blog with what ever means are needed. Free press is esential in an honest society. It breaks my heart to hear some have sewn their lips in protest. I will pray tonight that Saint Peter pulls Fidel and his brothers ticket soon. The Cuban people have sufferred enough because of the ruling class.

  3. MIAMI HERALD: The Cuban dissident who sewed his mouth shut to prove he was on a hunger strike fainted amid spasms, according to a report.-BY JUAN O. TAMAYO- Thursday, 09.23.10

    A Cuban dissident who sewed his lips shut after doctors made fun of his hunger strike was taken to a hospital Wednesday suffering from convulsions and blackouts, an independent journalist reported.
    Vladimir Alejo Miranda, 47, stopped eating 62 days ago, sewed his mouth Sept. 5 and stopped drinking water Tuesday, journalist Heriberto Liranza Romero told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana.

    Alejo’s wife, Rita Montes de Oca, joined his hunger strike and also sewed her lips Sept. 12 with regular sewing thread and a needle, the journalist said.

    Alejo was taken to a hospital in the Havana municipality of Guanabacoa on Wednesday after he blacked out and went into convulsions, Liranza added. No independent confirmation was immediately available.

    He was receiving intravenous fluids and could be sent home or transferred to a larger hospital depending on his condition, Liranza said. Alejo and his wife also suffer from infections around the lips.

    About 15 Cubans sewed their lips together in recent memory to protest against the communist government, said Ricardo Bofill, a founder of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights now living in Miami.

    “It’s a kind of extreme sacrifice, very rare although it has been done on a few occasions,” Bofill said.

    Próspero Gaínza Agüero, arrested in the 2003 crackdown on 75 dissidents known as Cuba’s Black Spring and sentenced to 25 years, sewed his lips for several days in 2004 to protest prison conditions.

    Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, arrested in the same roundup and sentenced to 20 years, did the same in 2008 to demand his transfer to a prison closer to his home in eastern Guantánamo province.

    Both were freed and sent to Spain in recent weeks as part of a Cuban government promise in July to release 52 political prisoners, the last of the 75 still jailed. About two dozen were freed for health reasons.

    Alejo, a former political prisoner, is president of the Human Rights Movement Miguel Valdés Tamayo, named after a dissident who was jailed in the 2003 crackdown, was released in 2004 because of ill health and died in 2007.

    Jobless because of his political activism, Alejo went on a hunger strike to demand the right to work, the right to receive assistance from abroad and live “like a human being, not an animal,” Liranza said.

    He’s been taken to hospitals several times since he stopped eating, the journalist added, and has received about 30 bags of intravenous liquids but never before suffered convulsions.

    Alejo sewed his lips together after doctors made fun of his hunger strike during one of the hospital visits, telling him that a good meal could fix whatever was ailing him, Liranza added.

    “I call on the international community to raise the alarm for the condition of Vladimir Alejo Miranda and his wife,” Liranza told the Miami-based Cuban Democratic Directorate, which supports dissidents on the island.


    N.Y. TIMES: U.S. Walks Out as Iran Leader Speaks
    UNITED NATIONS — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran made a series of incendiary remarks in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, notably the claim that the United States orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks to rescue its declining economy, to reassert its weakening grip on the Middle East and to save Israel.

    Those comments prompted at least 33 delegations to walk out, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, all 27 members of the European Union and the union’s representative, diplomats said.


  5. REUTERS: House panel to move forward on easing Cuba policy- Thu Sep 23, 2010
    WASHINGTON- A House of Representatives panel will vote next week on a bill relaxing trade with and travel to Cuba, with Democratic supporters struggling to ease the restrictions before mid-term elections in which they risk losing their majority.

    The House Foreign Affairs Committee placed the legislation on its calendar for a vote next Wednesday. But even if the committee approves it, getting the measure through Congress this year will be difficult with so little time and so much other work left for lawmakers to do.

    If passed, the legislation would lift the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba and remove hurdles on food sales to the island.

    A broad coalition of farm, business and human rights groups support the legislation as an important step toward ending the almost five-decade-old embargo on communist-led Cuba and promoting positive change there.

    A Republican takeover of the House in November 2 elections, which many think is possible, would complicate chances for change next year because some senior Republicans oppose any loosening of the embargo.

    But there are also some opponents of lifting the travel ban among the Democrats now in the majority in both the House and Senate, and this has helped to delay action on it until now.

    The measure passed the House Agriculture Committee in June. If it passes the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, it would go to the House floor, but probably not until an expected “lame duck” session after the November elections.

    The bill would also have to pass the Senate. If it fails to clear any of these hurdles, lawmakers will have to start over from scratch in the new Congress.

    President Barack Obama has said he wants to “recast” ties with Cuba, and last year renewed outreach efforts to the island. He eased limits on travel by separated family members and cash remittances by Cuban-Americans to their relatives.

    U.S. advocates for better ties with Cuba hope he will go farther.

    (Reporting by Susan Cornwell; editing by Todd Eastham)


    “At least $1.2 billion in remittances are believed to have flowed into Cuba last year, with more than half the money coming from Cubans in the United States.”
    REUTERS: U.S. relatives could spur new Cuba businesses-By Esteban Israel-

    Thu Sep 23, 2010

    HAVANA- Rolando has very big plans for the little gym he runs informally out of a garage in Havana. First he wants to legalize it, then buy new equipment and – why not? – even build a sauna.
    But in order to become one of the 250,000 new business owners Cuba has said it will approve, he needs start-up capital and, in a communist-led country short on financial services, that usually means turning to relatives in the United States, home to 1.5 million Cuban emigres.

    “My cousin recently came from Miami and took pictures of the gym. He said I could count on him for whatever I needed. I think the time has come to call him and let him know it is time to expand the business,” he said.

    Rolando says he would need about $1,000 to revamp his gym, where for the equivalent of between $5 and $15 a month he makes his clients sweat on ingenious home-made machines such as a treadmill made of metal pipes.

    President Raul Castro’s recent decision to almost triple the size of Cuba’s legal private sector from the current number of 143,000 self-employed is expected to accelerate cash flows from Cubans living abroad, experts say.

    His plan to stimulate Cuba’s troubled economy calls for laying off 500,000 workers from state jobs and, among other things, creating small businesses to help take up the slack.

    Despite decades of enmity between Cuba’s communist leaders and U.S.-based exiles, cash remittances by Cuban Americans are already a major source of foreign income in the country. The government has for years allowed those remittances and in its current financial straits is likely to continue doing so.

    A foreign businessman with years of experience in Cuba, said the country has long seen the Cuban diaspora as a “strategic reserve” for times of crisis.

    At least $1.2 billion in remittances are believed to have flowed into Cuba last year, with more than half the money coming from Cubans in the United States.

    “Liberalizing the economy could lead to 10 percent of Cubans receiving remittances to invest in small businesses,” said Manuel Orozco, a remittances expert at the Washington-based think tank Inter-American Dialogue.

    He said 750,000 Cuban households currently receive money from abroad and, of those, 75,000 to 100,000 Cubans are likely to invest in small businesses, with an average investment of $2,500.


    Capital flows from immigrants were key for modernizing other socialist economies such as Vietnam’s in the 1980s, said a Cuban economist who asked not to be named.

    “We know that here it would be the same. How much money are we talking about? Well, that’s something not even a magician will be able to tell,” the economist told Reuters.

    Paolo Spadoni, an expert on Cuban economic issues at Augusta State University in Georgia, said remittances will rise as Cubans abroad see that new businesses are successful.

    “It is not a potential increase of remittances from the United States that will determine the success of the new Cuban model, but the other way around,” he said, adding that much will depend on how the small businesses are regulated.

    “The keys for the success of these reforms are the incentives, procedures and restrictions that will apply to the development of small business.”

    The small print of Raul Castro’s reforms is still largely unknown, but a leaked Communist Party document suggests the new business class will have access to credit, be allowed to rent commercial real estate and even hire workers for the first time since small businesses were nationalized in 1968.

    The document also says the new businesses will pay an average 35 percent tax on their gross income, which some experts consider a difficult burden for Cuba’s still flimsy private sector.

    During the financial crisis of the 1990s, Cuba enacted similar reforms, only to backtrack from them when the economy improved.

    That experience has made Rolando cautious about his big dreams.

    “I even have the sign for my gym ready, but I am going to wait and see if this is all for real,” he said. “Only then I will hang it on the front door.”

    (Editing by Jeff Franks and Kieran Murray)

  7. ASSOCIATED PRESS: Wife of detained US contractor visits him in Cuba-By WILL WEISSERT and PAUL HAVEN

    HAVANA — The wife of an American contractor detained in Cuba for nine months on suspicion of spying has been allowed to come to the island and visit him, two people familiar with the case said Thursday.

    Alan and Judy Gross met in mid-August, apparently at a beach home provided by the Cuban government, the person told The Associated Press. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, and the fact they were not authorized to speak to the media.

    Gross’s family had no comment, nor did the Cuban government. Gloria Berbena, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, which Washington maintains instead of an embassy, would say only that American consular officials meet with Gross monthly.

    Gross, 60, a native of Potomac, Maryland, was working for a firm contracted by the U.S. Agency for International Development when he was arrested Dec. 3 and sent to Havana’s high-security Villa Marista prison. He has not been charged, but Cuban officials including President Raul Castro have accused him of spying.

    The U.S. says Gross committed no crime and his wife has said he brought communications equipment intended for island Jewish groups, not for political use.

    It was not clear if Judy Gross’ visit signaled that the case is any closer to resolution. Gross’ long detention has been held up as a key stumbling block to improved U.S.-Cuba relations.

    Visiting New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said during an Aug. 26 trip to Havana that he appealed to Cuban authorities to treat the detention as a “humanitarian case,” and that he thought he had made some inroads.

    Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations who met with Fidel Castro and other officials during a recent visit, also said she got the sense Cuba would like to see the case resolved.

    Judy Gross’s visit comes amid rumors that the Obama administration might loosen travel restrictions to allow more students, researchers and educators to come to the island.

    America has maintained a 48-year embargo that chokes off nearly all trade to Cuba, and prohibits American tourists from coming here. The project Gross worked with was part of a $40 million a year USAID program to promote democracy and political change on the island.

    U.S. officials defend it, saying they will never give up on pushing for democracy and openness in Cuba, but the program has been criticized by detractors as ineffective and counterproductive.

    Cuban officials have been clamoring for more family access to five Cuban agents serving long sentences in the United States for infiltrating anti-Castro groups. Cuba considers the men heroes.

  8. CUBA IS THE CASTRO’s OWN PARADISE. HE AND HIS FAMILY have it all. While the local population EATS CROW and CLARIA. This is shameful and the reason Cubans escape the ISLAND in search of freedom and food. The ruling government is abusive and should be held liable for the destuction caused on the island.


    PBS Program: Nature- Cuba: The Accidental Eden-Sunday, September 26, 2010
    Cuba’s wild splendor has been preserved by half a century of political isolation and economic stagnation. Now it faces the pressing challenge of protecting its precious natural assets while transitioning into the 21st Century. “Cuba: The Accidental Eden” premieres (check local listings).

  10. Concubino I saw a program last year on the Travel Channel, Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods where he travelled to Cuba and was a guest at a jutia feast while the guajiros who cooked the rat serenaded him with songs of praise and adulation for the odorous (and onerous)che. I guess only the party faithful get to eat jutia.

  11. FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: Cuba move is a victory for U.S. policy- By José R. Cárdenas -September 22, 2010

    The Castro regime’s stunning announcement that it is planning to lay off more than 500,000 state workers in the next six months, dropping fully one-tenth of the country’s labor force into a barely existent “private sector” has sparked a flurry of commentary on just what the move portends for the captive island’s future.

    Does it mean Cuba going capitalist? Are they importing the China model? Who’s really in charge, Fidel or brother Raul? And, of course, that hardy perennial, whatever the announcement means, the U.S. should immediately lift the embargo and restore full diplomatic relations with the Castro regime (see here, here, and here).

    On the latter, it is a measure of the investment so many have made into their opposition to U.S. policy that even as they cite the abysmal state of the Cuban economy as the central factor in forcing the regime’s decision, they cannot recognize the significant role played by U.S. economic pressure in bringing that situation about. The embargo has indeed been pocked with holes in recent years, but two critical escape hatches for the Cuban economy — U.S. tourist travel to Cuba and the extension of trade credits — remain beyond the regime’s grasp, and thankfully so.

    In short, the decision on layoffs was dictated by the bankruptcy of the Cuban economy and the lack of prospects it will improve anytime soon. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

    It thus defies logic to argue for any lessening of the pressure against a regime that has fought tooth and nail against any liberalizing reforms since the collapse of the USSR. Just as in the early 1990s, when the regime had its first go around with limited self-employment, as soon as the economy ticked up a few notches, the hammer came back down on those attempting to eke out an existence beyond state control.

    Easing pressure now will only serve to halt in their tracks whatever steps the Castro brothers conjure next to try and reverse their declining fortunes. Policymakers need to remember that what drives this regime is survival, not appeasing the United States in the hopes of some policy concessions or allowing, out of some sort of beneficence, more freedoms for the Cuban people to better their lots.

    So what do the layoffs mean, besides the fact that the regime is broke? The simple fact is we don’t know, because we don’t have any insight into the ruling clique’s thoughts. It’s probably safe to say they have no idea where they are going either.

    What we can say with some degree of assurance is that the regime is taking a huge gamble in putting up to an eventual one million Cubans on the street to fend for themselves — a gamble that could have serious repercussions for the regime’s continued grip on power. That’s because they are going to be extremely hard pressed to create any semblance of conditions where half a million or more Cuban workers are going to be able to find any employment on their own.

    We need to remember that this regime consists of a dwindling cohort of dogmatic revolutionaries whose only accomplishment in life was to shoot their way into power fifty years ago and stay there. They no more understand market economics than they do Einstein’s quantum theory of light.

    Also, an important clarification for much of recent news reporting — which has it that laid-off Cubans will be free to start “small businesses” — is necessary. More accurately, they are micro-enterprises, an important distinction in order of magnitude. And the relatively few micro-enterprises that do exist — a beautician here, a taxi driver there — struggle to operate under such a mountain of regulations as to who they can hire, what and where they can sell, on how much they can earn (no one is allowed to become “too rich”) as to make the whole effort practically fruitless. Many Cubans simply opt for the underground economy.

    Be that as it may, the regime is going to have to figure out how it is going to deal with the social impact of a large group of idle Cuban workers unable to make a living honestly or dishonestly. It is a volatile mix that could lead to an upsurge in crime or other social agitation that could challenge the regime’s internal security apparatus. Policy critics will likely argue just that point to justify a U.S. rapprochement with the Castros: that we need to help the regime achieve a “soft landing,” as opposed to a descent into instability on the island.

    But decisions on a soft versus hard landing in Cuba won’t be made in Washington; they will be made in Havana. Those concerned about the latter ought to focus their lobbying efforts on the ruling clique there, not on policymakers in Washington. What is the appropriate role for Washington is to continue to close off all economic escape hatches for this obsolete regime and let it continue to face the consequences of its own misrule.


    CNN: Obama invited to visit Cuba — and bring jailed Cubans with him-By Shasta Darlington-September 22, 2010

    Havana. Cuba (CNN) — U.S. President Barack Obama has been issued an unexpected invitation to visit Cuba — from the island’s 90-year-old prima ballerina, who implored him to bring along five Cuban agents imprisoned in the United States for more than a decade.

    “I want to invite the president of the United States to come to Cuba with his wife and lovely children,” Alicia Alonso said at an event to call for the release of the agents, who were convicted of spying on Cuban exile groups in a hotly debated trial.

    “I would ask a favor also. Please, to make everyone happy and to feel happy with all around the world, bring those five Cubans,” Alonso said in English.

    White House officials contacted Wednesday morning said they were not aware that any such invitation had been received.

    The Cubans, known at home as “the five heroes,” were sent to Miami to infiltrate violent exile groups at a time when anti-Castro groups were bombing Cuban hotels. They were arrested in 1998.

    The invitation caps off a week-long international campaign with Hollywood stars such as Sean Penn and Danny Glover calling on Obama to step in and release the five.

    Last year, the defendants lost their last chance of an appeal when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their case.

    The defense argued it was impossible for the men to get a fair trial in a city dominated by anti-Castro politics.

    Three of the men were handed life sentences in 2001 for allegedly helping Cuba shoot down two unarmed airplanes that were dropping leaflets over the island, killing the Cuban-American pilots.

    After Cuba began its biggest release of political prisoners in a decade, pro-Cuba activists stepped up pressure on Obama to respond by releasing the five Cubans.

    On February 24, 1996, two Brothers to the Rescue aircraft were shot down by Cuban military jets in international airspace while flying away from Cuban airspace, killing the four US citizens aboard!/video/video.php?v=1115817074122&ref=mf

    The Cuban Five, also known as the Miami Five (Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González) are five Cuban intelligence officers convicted in Miami of espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, and other illegal activities in the United States. The Five were in the United States to observe and infiltrate the Cuban-American groups Alpha 66, the F4 Commandos, the Cuban American National Foundation, and Brothers to the Rescue.[1]

    At their trial, evidence was presented that the Five infiltrated the Miami-based exile group Brothers to the Rescue, obtained employment at the Key West Naval Air Station in order to send the Cuban government reports about the base, and had attempted to penetrate the Miami facility of US Southern Command.[2] On February 24, 1996, two Brothers to the Rescue aircraft were shot down by Cuban military jets in international airspace while flying away from Cuban airspace, killing the four US citizens aboard.[2] One of the Five, Gerardo Hernández, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder for supplying information to the Cuban government which according to the prosecution led to the shootdown. The Court of Appeals has, however, reversed the conviction on the conspiracy to commit murder, since there is no evidence that Hernández knew the shootdown would occur in international airspace.[2]

    For their part, Cuba acknowledges that the five men were intelligence agents, but says they were spying on Miami’s Cuban exile community, not the U.S. government.[3] Cuba contends that the men were sent to South Florida in the wake of several terrorist bombings in Havana allegedly masterminded by anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative.[3].

    The Five appealed their convictions and the alleged lack of fairness in their trial has received substantial international criticism.[4] A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned the spies’ convictions in 2005, citing the “prejudices” of Miami’s anti-Castro Cubans, but the full court later reversed the five’s bid for a new trial and reinstated the original convictions.[3] In June 2009 the US Supreme Court declined to review the case.[5] In Cuba, the Five are viewed as national heroes and portrayed as having sacrificed their liberty in the defense of their country.[6]


    TORONTO SUN: Reinventing Cuba: Worthington-Can a change in how the country works actually change anything?-By Peter Worthington-September 22, 2010

    The announcement that Cuba is laying off something like 500,000 state employees begs the question if the system is about to change?

    While it’s a revolutionary proposal — alien to the essence of authoritarian socialism — it’s too early to read much into the decision.

    And it hasn’t happened yet — more a declaration of intent than hard fact.

    With Fidel Castro’s younger brother Raul now president of Cuba, it means changes to its communist methodology may in the works but … then again … maybe not.

    Cuba has been an economic basket case ever since Castro’s 1959 revolution.

    Over the years, Cuban socialism has changed and modified, just as Castro’s patron, the now-defunct Soviet Union, changed.

    Over the last 30 or more years it has specialized in luring Westerners to its beach resorts, modestly priced by our standards and run by Cubans for foreigners, but barred to ordinary Cubans.

    Where rationing and shortages prevailed in Havana, beach resorts were resplendent with varieties of food for every taste. The contrasts bothered some tourists, but what the hell, it was a cheap holiday so enjoy .

    American money has long been accepted. Even taxis in Havana charge a higher rate at hotels for foreigners than on the street for citizens.

    Cuba remained in the economic doldrums, even though the U.S. embargo should have resulted in a bonanza for other countries to do business with Cuba.

    There was no competition from U.S. firms. Canadian cooperative ventures prospered.

    The 500,000 state employees laid off (supposedly about 10% of the state’s work force) — are said to be the least productive workers — the ones coasting on the job, secure in the knowledge that although poorly paid, they have job security in Workers’ Paradise. The core of socialism, Marxist-style.

    Here’s where the fun comes in.

    What are these 500,000 laid off workers supposed to do now?

    Well, according to the new “revolutionary” approach, they can go into private enterprise. That’s direct contradiction to the way most of us think a capitalistic, democratic free-enterprise society works.

    We tend to think go-getters and self-starters are the ones who benefit from the private sector — not those seeking the warmth of the collective with guaranteed pay and security with a minimum amount of work.

    The “new” Cuba will (it says) reward productivity.

    That, too, is a switch from the past. In the 1960s, the Soviet economist Evsei Liberman was lionized for inventing the “profit motive” for Soviet industry. He felt raises and bonuses should not be automatic, but linked to how well the product sold. The more sales, the greater the profit, the better the bonuses.

    This sounds pretty routine for a western democracy, but was radical thinking in the Soviet Union (and Cuba, China, Albania or any communist state) where bonuses were accorded on the volume produced, not on the amounts actually sold.

    The USSR tried with limited results to implement Liberman’s “discovery.” But the bureaucracy fought back. Factories continued to distribute bonuses to workers who churned out only right-handed gloves, or built apartments with balconies that had no entrances.

    Will Cuba’s attempt to modernize and streamline work?

    Maybe, but only when it ceases being a dictatorship and lets its people off the leash.

  15. Concubino, I think dumbir/juan with his rodent-like personality and in recognition of Humberto’s favorite nickname for him (revolutionary rat)is more reminiscent of a jutia.


    A group of Cubans are shown here with a couple of giant Cuban ‘Clarias’, a species of hybrid catfish crossed between the Cuban & the African catfish, recently …caught In Havana’s Almendares River.

    The Cuban regime produced these monsters In their laboratories with the original aim of providing a fast growing food source for everyday Cubans but what transpired has been another ecological disaster as the voracious & alien fish are arch predators feeding on anything that moves both In or out of the water.



    NEW YORK TIMES:Near Cuba, Wary Kin Wait for Proof of a New Path-By DAMIEN CAVE-September 21, 2010

    MIAMI — Fashion boutiques, restaurants, a bank — Jorge Gomez plans to help his relatives in Havana open whatever business they want. But when?

    Like many Cubans on and off the island, Mr. Gomez has been scrutinizing the Cuban labor federation’s announcement last week that 500,000 public sector workers would soon be laid off and expected to find jobs in small private enterprises, possibly reshaping Cuba’s state-dominated economy. That declaration, though, was not yet enough for Mr. Gomez; not enough to offset the memory of previous economic openings that Fidel and Raúl Castro later slammed shut.

    “You start something and they just tell you to stop,” said Mr. Gomez, 40, the owner of a money transfer business here, as he waited for his flight to Havana. “It’s a system designed not to function.”

    Cuba, it seems, is still being watched with wary eyes here — and the nation’s plan to step toward an unknown economic hybrid could hang in the balance.

    The expatriate community in South Florida, often so vehemently at odds with the Castro government, is a natural — and perhaps necessary — source of capital for the private sector Cuba says it must expand to resuscitate its economy.

    A growing number of Cuban-Americans are already reconnecting with the island, making use of the Obama administration’s decision last year to abandon restrictions on their ability to travel there and send money to relatives.

    What many people now ask is whether Cuba is being forced by economic hardship to respond with its own halting, vague form of welcome.

    Just over a month has passed since President Raúl Castro told the National Assembly that the state’s “inflated rosters” would be trimmed, opening the door to self-employment in jobs like carpentry or rabbit-raising, and for more workers to form cooperatives.

    Experts say that the changes proposed by Cuban officials are far greater in scope than previous ones; for instance, the government has said that for the first time in decades Cubans will be allowed to hire workers who are not relatives.

    But at this point, according to business owners and analysts, the government’s intentions do not appear to have led to any clear spike in money sent to the island by relatives, or of goods that might help entrepreneurs get started.

    The evolutionary plan, yet to be fully outlined, has instead raised as many questions as it answers. Where will businesses buy supplies? Will an influx of capital to some, but not others, foster new class and racial tensions, since Cuban-American wealth is largely concentrated among the white exiles here? What taxes will these new businesses pay, and how much profit will be allowed before the government steps in?

    “Things move very slowly in Cuba because they are very, very concerned about breaking the balance of power with economic reforms,” said Jorge Sanguinetty, president of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, a research group. “This is the reality. They don’t want to emulate Gorbachev when he started making reforms in Russia and the whole thing came down.”

    Mr. Sanguinetty, who served as a senior economic official with the Cuban government until he resigned in June 1966, said that Cuba might be just beginning the long, painstaking process of rebuilding the most basic economic relationships. He noted that Cuba even eliminated accounting schools in the first decade after the 1959 revolution because officials thought money would be unnecessary, and that many Cubans had no experience with credit cards, banks or checks. Now, he said, the government must move forward — with import-export licenses, with clearer communication about rules — if it hopes to make entrepreneurs a vital element of the economy.

    Mr. Gomez said he wanted some legal reassurance that investments would not be lost to a government crackdown.

    Serafin Blanco, owner of Ñooo! ¡Que Barato!, a huge discount store where recent arrivals stock up on $1.99 flip-flops and other items for relatives to resell in Cuba, said the American ban on tourist travel to the island would need to end before businesses could take off. “That is when there will be enough money circulating to support these small stores,” he said.

    Other Cubans have told their relatives that they need to see neighbors succeed under the new system before they dive in.

    Many people in Cuba are surviving already with their own underground capitalism, with government employees often working outside their actual jobs, as they try to supplement their state paychecks of about $20 a month.

    Maria Garcia, a bank teller in Miami, said she bought her grandmother a blender in April to help her sell fruit shakes from her patio in Cuba. Ms. Garcia, who also sends her grandmother packets of artificial sweetener for the drinks, along with toys so they can be resold, said her family was in no hurry to leave the black market. “We have to wait and see,” she said.

    She added that a friend of her mother’s in Havana offered just one example of the challenge Cuba faced in experimenting with another limited dose of capitalism. The woman, named Olga, sews bras and underwear out of fabric sent to her from relatives in New Jersey. She got a government license several years ago after Cuba began to allow for more cuenta propistas, as self-employed business owners are called, but her sales to neighbors did not always cover the monthly cost of the license she needed to operate legally.

    So Olga stopped getting the license — but not making the bras.

    All over Cuba, such experiences are common. At the peak of the licensing process in January 1996, there were about 209,000 licensed cuenta propistas, according to the World Bank. Now there are around 144,000 in a work force of 5.1 million.

    Some experts and business owners with ties to Cuba — like John Cabanas, owner of C & T Charters in Miami — predict that this time private enterprise will grow without as much government interference.

    Mr. Sanguinetty said Cubans should expect “rigid flexibility,” suggesting that the island would evolve even as internal elements resisted. He said that the construction industry would be one test of the government’s commitment because it was primed for significant growth — if leaders, bureaucrats and older Cubans all allowed for it.

    Yet even as he imagined Cuba with a small finance industry again, providing loans to small businesses and the impetus for shiny new office towers in crumbling Havana, the minds of many Cubans are still stopping short of that. For now, those who travel back regularly are still seeing the future through the lens of past disappointment.

    “It’s just something to show the world that they’re getting better,” said Ernis Rodriguez, 36, just before heading back for a visit to the country he left seven years ago. “But it’s not true.”

  19. MIAMI HERALD: New weapon against regime: Immediacy-BY YOANI SANCHEZ-Wednesday, 09.22.10

    Along line of people waits in the sun outside the telephone office on Obispo Street in Old Havana. Some passersby ask about the latest news for those hoping to open a cellphone contract.
    Many of them carry some old device with a monochrome screen, bought in the black market or sent by relatives abroad. But there are others with a sophisticated iPhone, Blackberry, or the latest model Motorola. Such modern phones and all their features can barely be used on the island, because of the technical limitations of the country’s only telecommunications company, ETECSA. But this doesn’t paralyze us, as we Cubans have a marked predilection for circuits and little flashing lights even if we can’t use their full capabilities.

    The appetite for electronic gadgets feeds off precisely material shortages and the control maintained by the State over their distribution. What’s remarkable is that even with rudimentary technology we have been able to do so much. Imagine what we could do if Cuba’s isolated citizens had access to the technology and innovation that spawned the Internet revolution across the Florida Straits.

    We have always been able to turn to illegal market networks, which offer everything from computers and all their accessories to electronic messaging. It is in this underground market — persecuted but essential — where every type and model of cellphone is offered today. Phones are the most common product on the censored webpage, a sort of Cuban Craigslist where the ads are free.

    Meanwhile, on the streets of Havana, it is rare to walk a hundred yards and not see someone texting. According to official statistics, by the end of the year the number of mobile phone users nationwide is expected to exceed a million. Considering the growth in cellphone use in other Latin American countries, it is a low figure, only about one Cuban in twelve. Nevertheless, one could say that no element of our economy has grown as fast, in recent months, as mobile phone use. Moreover, despite the technical limitations and the difficulties in purchasing modern and inexpensive phones, the symbol of modernity represented by this little gadget has begun to change our lives.

    When, Raúl Castro allowed us to contract for prepaid mobile phone service in 2008, no one would have imagined that two years later these devices would be used to broadcast news censored by the official press. Through text-only messages we inform ourselves and send news out to the world. Since August 2009, some in Cuba have begun to use Twitter for small alerts, or S.O.S. calls sent from cellphones.

    And independent journalism and the alternative blogosphere have realized an old dream, long deferred: immediacy. Once the Cuban networks were ready to transmit multimedia messages, the vast World Wide Web welcomed the first videos, audio and photos able to travel from the “Island of the Disconnected” to the world at large. This, despite the fact that none of the people sending these dispatches had a cellphone connected to the Internet, not to mention that the cost of sending a text message abroad exceeds the salary a professional earns for four days work.

    An added difficulty is that this explosion in cellphone use is not matched by a corresponding development in ETECSA’s infrastructure. The number of clients grows, but the number of antennas and the satellite capacity does not keep up. Thus, we get frequent messages telling us “there is congestion on the lines,” and on holidays it becomes impossible to send or receive messages. Trapped between excessive costs and poor services, users cannot choose to switch to a more efficient company, because the state monopoly does not allow other companies to compete.

    Thus, the request to President Obama from the firms Nokia, AT&T and Verizon, asking for an easing of the embargo and trade with Cuba, is a ray of hope for us.

    If we have managed to do so much with so little, what will happen when having a cellphone, sending a text, connecting to the Internet, all become as easy as talking, walking, shouting a slogan?

    Yoani Sánchez is a Cuban dissident blogger. The Cuban government recently once again denied her request for an exit permit to attend an event in New York City supporting the nomination of the Internet for the Nobel Peace Prize.

  20. N.Y. TIMES: Cuba Resets the Revolution–By MARC LACEY- September 18, 2010

    For first-time visitors, one of the most striking things about Cuba is the lack of advertising on the landscape. The Socialist government has billboards bearing Fidel Castro’s likeness and his most quotable quotations. But one does not see roadside signs pitching much else.

    That could change with the Cuban government’s eye-popping announcement last week that it will cut the government work force by 10 percent and expects the hundreds of thousands of laid-off workers to find places in a new system that has a resemblance to free enterprise.

    Could the Cuba of the not-too-distant future feature signs touting “Joel’s Moving Company,” “Dayana’s Furniture Repair,” “Julio’s Boutique”?

    Probably. And there will be other changes, bigger and more wrenching, if harder to see. On a scale not known for half a century, Cubans will be hiring other Cubans for small-scale enterprises, creating boss-employee relationships without the direct involvement of the Communist Party. The idea of receiving a paycheck whether one loafs, sleeps or shows up at all will be under a new challenge. And it is possible that creating a cadre of quasi-capitalists could unleash forces that the Castros or their successors will prove unable to control.

    But is Cuba approaching a transformation of the kind that swept Russia and China? It is tempting to imagine so, if only because the news about a move to private employment seems so startling.

    Nevertheless, experts on Cuba warn against reading any such far-reaching expectations into last week’s announcement, no matter how ambitious a task it seems to recondition Cubans for a system that will require some to sink or swim.

    Yes, the Castro government is acknowledging a deep problem. But it has also always linked its core ideology to its fear and disdain of the United States and the American economic system. So its ferocious pursuit of independence from American economic influence — even as it denounces Washington’s embargo on trade — would make a radical shift to joining the global free-trade system that the United States dominates particularly difficult to explain.

    A Cuban sociologist, Haroldo Dilla, predicts that in the end the new system will not enable Cubans to rise too far out of poverty, and that the government will resist a true economic opening with the world.

    Which is not to say that the leadership wants no change at all. Over the two decades since Communism collapsed in the Soviet Union, Cuban officials have visited Russia, Vietnam and China and undoubtedly have taken some lessons from each. President Raúl Castro has made it plain that he views Mikhail Gorbachev’s efforts to reinvigorate the Soviet political system, which led to Communism’s collapse, as a cautionary tale. The mix of consumerism and authoritarianism that one finds in Vietnam and China is presumably a more palatable model — privatization, but with the state in firm control.

    Still, the plan announced so far is much more modest than what the Asian countries have done. Instead, it seems designed simply to boost Cuba’s economic productivity in small-scale enterprises and thus loosen up a state-run economy and work force that have been sputtering for more than a decade. That goal is in line with what Raúl Castro himself said last month: “We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where one can live without working.”

    The announcement of layoffs also does not represent the first time that Cuba has experimented with privatization. A host of small-scale occupations is already allowed on the island, including pizza deliverymen and party clowns. And Cubans can, if they jump through enough bureaucratic hoops, open restaurants in their homes or house guests in spare bedrooms.

    It would be far more difficult for either Fidel or Raúl Castro to emulate their neighbors in the Caribbean, without challenging the basic precepts of the Cuban revolution. For decades now, many of those countries have been taking advantage of their ties to the West and the United States to diversify their economies. Cuba, instead, continued to rely on one export commodity — sugar — which the Soviet Union bought at subsidized prices. Only relatively recently has it invited some European partners for joint ventures; for example, in tourism.

    But a broad opening to new manufacturing, for example, would be different. That would presumably mean welcoming an influx of private capital from abroad to produce export goods on Cuban soil. It would also probably require normalizing trade and diplomatic relations with the world’s biggest consumer market, the United States. And it might even invite efforts to return to Cuba by exiles who still have claims on industrial enterprises they left — or were forced to leave — as enemies of the revolution.

    What’s more, in China and Vietnam the path toward a modern economy was carefully coordinated with a series of steps toward normalization of relations with the United States. Could Cuba’s new economic strategy be a signal of readiness for such a package? That would be difficult to say this early. Some Cuba-watchers suggest that a mass release of political prisoners from Cuban jails in recent months is such a signal. But the history of Cuban-American communication since 1958 is rife with the misreading of oblique signals, even if the prisoner release qualifies as one.

    Of course, Cuba and the United States are more linked than government officials in both capitals like to admit — through family bonds, for example.

    “If fully carried out, a major expansion of Cuba’s private sector will benefit many thousands of Cuban families and give Cuban-Americans opportunities through remittances to help relatives in Cuba who will be working on their own,” Philip Peters, who follows economic matters in Cuba for the security- and free-market-oriented Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va., wrote in a post on his blog, the Cuban Triangle, on Thursday.

    Ted Henken, a professor at Baruch College who studies private enterprise in Cuba, epitomizes the ambivalence with which prudent Cuba-watchers are assessing the latest news. He said he was thrilled by it, but was hedging his bets on how transformative the change would be.

    “This is the beginning of what we’ve all been waiting for,” he said. “It’s a major change in the way the Cuban economic system will work. It will be felt by every Cuban.” But, he added, “they still want to maintain state control. We’ll see how this plays out.”

    The real test of Cuba’s latest experiment will be in how it is implemented and whether work will have a correlation with wealth, Professor Henken and other experts said. Under previous privatization campaigns, he said, “people were so hobbled by regulations that self-employment was rife with illegality and corruption because that’s the only way people could make their businesses float.”

    They also had to keep wary, as all Cubans do, of the secret police, given the regime’s attitude toward private property and enterprise in general. Yoani Sánchez, a dissident Cuban blogger, cited this when she wrote the other day: “Under the strict canons of the socialist economy — planned, centralized and subsidized — self-employment has always been seen as an undesirable species of pest that periodically needs to be abated and occasionally even exterminated.”

    The result has been the development of a singularly Cuban style of being enterprising — somewhere between furtive and legitimate, with the real object being to simply get along. Ms. Sánchez described one man who runs a restaurant in his house and had outlawed items on his menu. He tried to persuade his daughter to marry a top chef, the blogger wrote, to get around a rule that employees must be family members.

    Earlier this month, when Jeffrey Goldberg interviewed Fidel Castro for The Atlantic magazine, one comment — hinting that the Cuban system wasn’t working for Cubans any more — drew the most attention. The former president later said that he had been misinterpreted, but within days came the announcement of the layoffs and the opening toward private employment.

    Still, none of the power brokers in Cuba were calling this capitalism, and most close observers don’t expect them to use that word, whatever other changes unfold. “Overhauling their model does not necessarily mean they are importing ours,” was the way Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations who was at the interview, interpreted Mr. Castro’s comments.

    Which brings us back to the matter of public relations, and those billboards: Even their presence could raise issues that Cuba’s economic planners probably have not fully thought through: Is a billboard company legal in the new Cuba? Would residents living along highways be able to rent out the land alongside their home for such advertising?

    And, above all, could a privately run restaurant advertise that its rice and beans were better than those offered down the street by the state-run competition?

  21. NPR: Reform On The Range: Cubans Heed The Call To Farm-by Nick Miroff-September 21, 2010

    Cuba has miles and miles of fertile, lush countryside where nothing is growing or grazing. After five decades of state-controlled agriculture, the country struggles to feed itself, forcing the government to import some 70 percent of the island’s food.

    Cuban President Raul Castro wants to change that and is asking enterprising Cubans to go back to the land.

    Aniley Pena was watching TV two years ago when she heard the offer. The government was giving out free 10-year leases on state-owned land to anyone willing to take a crack at farming.

    Today, she has 12 acres on the outskirts of Bejucal, a small town 20 miles south of Havana.

    Pena is 38, rugged enough to trudge around in rubber boots, but not too earthy to wear mascara in the fields. She shields herself from the withering sun with a parasol and a Nike cap, supervising a team of men as they mix organic fertilizer into beds of radishes, carrots, scallions and spinach.

    Pena’s tractor is a little red Ford from the Truman era she inherited from her late grandfather. She has called her farm “Las Estrellas” — The Stars. Stars are bright, and they bring clarity, she said, which is what this new vocation has given her.

    “Being out here relaxes me,” Pena says. “Plus I know I’m doing something good for society, and also for myself.”

    Independence, Sense Of Security

    Pena is the new face of Cuban socialism, a private entrepreneur with a sense of social responsibility. She was trained as a veterinarian, but like many in Cuba who aren’t inspired by $20-a-month government salaries, she dropped out of the workforce.

    Now, she’s working seven days a week and studying pest control methods at night. As part of her deal with the government, she will give one-third of her produce to the state and sell the rest for a profit.

    “Having this land, you realize how productive it can be,” Pena says. “When you’re growing your own food, you have independence, and that gives you a sense of security.”

    The Castro government has approved more than 100,000 applications for state land, but so far that hasn’t led to an increase in food production.

    As usual, bureaucratic absurdities are to blame. Farmers can’t buy tractors or trucks without government permission. Irrigation equipment and tools have to be assigned by the state.

    Police checkpoints surround Havana to make sure no one is illegally sneaking produce into the city for sale on the black market.

    The government’s new solution is fruit and vegetable stands where farmers can sell directly to customers. They are popping up all over the island, as some Cubans are even getting back land that belonged to their families before it was nationalized in the early 1960s.

    Oscar Espinosa Chepe is a dissident economist in Havana.

    “The reforms are a step forward, but they’re not going to fix the problem,” he says. “Cuba needs more radical changes, but the government is too scared to give up control.”

    Feed Mother Cuba, Save Mother Earth

    There’s an old joke in Cuba that if education, health care and athletics are the Cuban revolution’s greatest achievements, then its three biggest failings are breakfast, lunch and dinner. Government supermarkets — where many Cubans can’t even afford to shop — stock imported mango juice from Mexico, chicken from Brazil and butter from Denmark. All could be easily produced locally.

    Lorenzo Ramos is another farmer taking advantage of the government deal. On a recent day, he is making fertilizer from decomposing sugar cane stalks.

    His five-acre plot was choked with garbage and thorny weeds when he got it a year ago. But with his machete and his rusting Soviet tractor, he and his wife have turned a wasteland into a tidy orchard of fruit tree saplings.

    Some fruit varieties have grown so scarce in Cuba that Raul Castro complained about their disappearance in a speech last year.

    Ramos has responded by planting rows of mangos, guavas, peaches, lemons and prized delicacies like the guanabana, or custard apple.

    “Having a farm means coping with everything — ants, thunderstorms, scratches, hurricanes, waking up at dawn,” Ramos says. “It’s sacrifice and hard work, but somebody has to do it. We can’t all be intellectuals, because then there’d be nothing to eat.”

    Ramos has put up a sign along the highway next to his farm, inspired by something Bolivian President Evo Morales said on TV. “Save Mother Earth,” the sign reads, and Ramos is hoping to put his fruit stand right next to it.

  22. “Oscar’s Cuba” Screening in Congress
    at 12:45 AM Tuesday, September 21, 2010
    Cuba’s revolving door for political prisoners

    Setting the record straight through the story of one of Cuba’s most prominent political prisoners: Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet

    We invite you to join us on Wednesday, September 22nd from 12:00pm to 1:00pm in 2253 Rayburn as we host the 14th annual Cuba Day on the Hill. This year we will be accompanied by filmmaker Jordan Allott. Jordan directed the new documentary Oscar’s Cuba. It is an unflinching and honest look at Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet who has been imprisoned since 2003 for his beliefs. Jordan will also lead a discussion and answer any questions on Dr. Biscet and the larger context of all those imprisoned in Castro’s gulag. As we hear voices calling for a softer gentler relationship with Cuba, we must not be blind to the reality that Dr. Biscet and others face day-in and day-out. Cuba not only imprisons those who simply disagree with the regime, but they force into exile those they release in order manipulate public opinion.


    Hon. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
    Hon. Lincoln Diaz-Balart
    Hon. Mario Diaz-Balart
    Hon. Albio Sires
    Hon. Dan Burton
    Hon. Connie Mack
    Hon. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
    Hon. Mike Pence
    Hon. Eliot Engel
    Hon. Shelley Berkley
    Hon. Theodore E. Deutch
    Hon. Gus M. Bilirakis
    Hon. Steven R. Rothman
    Hon. Christopher H. Smith
    Hon. Edward R. Royce
    Hon. Joe Wilson
    Hon. Vern Buchanan
    Hon. Alcee L. Hastings
    Hon. Kendrick B. Meek
    Hon. Ron Klein

  23. In countries like China and Vietnam agricultural collectivization has been abandoned, because it does not work. Food shortages have disappeared, and poverty has diminished. If the regime doesn’t reform the actual agricultural sector, it will confront very serious situation due to general poverty, hunger and discontent.

  24. THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND! “Cuba is calling workers across the island to special meetings so labor leaders can brief them on half a million government layoffs coming in the next six months and suggest ways that those fired can make a living.” WHY WOULD YOU TRUST THE ADVICE OF THESE IDIOTS THAT GOT YOU INTO THIS MESS! THEY ARE EXPERTS AT EXPLOITATION NOT BUSINESS!

    ASSOCIATED PRESS: Cuba summons workers to explain coming layoffs-By WILL WEISSERT
    HAVANA — Cuba is calling workers across the island to special meetings so labor leaders can brief them on half a million government layoffs coming in the next six months and suggest ways that those fired can make a living.

    The “workers’ assemblies” that began on Sept. 15 include hundreds of meetings with state employees in union halls, government auditoriums and even basements or garages of state-run companies, according to reports Monday in the state-run labor union newspaper Trabajadores.

    The proceedings are closed and attendees so far have been tight-lipped about what is being discussed. But Salvador Valdes Mesa, head of the nearly 3 million-member Cuban Workers Confederation, said they are designed to tell workers about “the labor policies that will govern the country in order to achieve the structural changes the economy needs.”

    “We are confronting the need to make our economy more efficient, better organize production, increase worker productivity and identify the reserves we have,” Valdes Mesa was quoted as telling a weekend gathering of transportation and port employees.

    Two separate stories in Trabajadores, or Workers, quoted Mesa Valdes at a conference in Havana as well as addressing a similar group of state employees in the eastern province of Holguin, making it tough to tell where exactly his quotes were made.

    Cuba announced Sept. 13 that it would lay off 500,000 workers by March and loosen state controls on private enterprise so that many of those fired can find new jobs. It said it would also beef up the tax code and revamp state pay scales to better reward high job performance.

    President Raul Castro warned in April that as many as 1 million Cuban state employees — a fifth of a total island work force of 5.1 million — may be superfluous. In a subsequent speech in August, he warned job cuts were coming.

    Trabjadores quoted Valdes Mesa as saying that “a political process of reflection and analysis with the workers in the assemblies is already under way to study and debate” past Raul Castro speeches, including the one in August.

    During such meetings, Cuban workers generally are asked to endorse what reforms the government plans — sometimes there are votes by cheers and sometimes by a show of hands.

    For example, state employees gathered in special meetings in 2008 to discuss a parliamentary proposal to raise Cuba’s retirement age, and officially 99.1 percent of attendees supported the measure.

    In this case, employee layoffs will be supported by some of the very Cubans who may lose their jobs.

    The president has not commented publicly since the reforms were announced, though he has said authorities have no intention of abandoning the socialist state they spent decades building.

    Instead, preparing workers for what’s to come has fallen to Valdes Mesa’s union, which is allied with the Communist Party and the only one the government allows.

    Some of the meetings include just a few employees from a single office. Others involve hundreds from a whole city neighborhood.

    An internal Communist Party document detailing the unprecedented overhaul envisions a radically reshaped economy, freshly legalized private cooperatives and a state payroll trimmed of many idle or unproductive workers.

    The document says many laid-off workers will be urged to form private cooperatives. Others will go to work for foreign-run companies or set up their own small businesses in fields such as transportation, food and house rental.

    Already, 144,000 Cubans work for themselves and 823,000 overall are part of the private sector, though that includes vast farm cooperatives run in accord with state administrative decisions. The government still employs the other 84 percent of the official work force.

    Government workers take home an average of about $20 per month, though the state provides free education and health care and subsidizes housing, utilities, transportation and food. The layoffs will affect all corners of the government except those considered “indispensable.”

  25. ***
    Are the Clarias good to eat? Catfish is tasty when correctly prepared.
    Son las Claritas buenas para comer? Peces “gatos” son sabrosos cuando les preparan correctamente.
    John Bibb

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