The Water Seller of Seville: Diego Velázquez

The man in the threadbare suit, bowler hat and huge shoes carried pieces of glass on his back. His sidekick, a boy of about five, tossed stones through the windows of shops and houses so the glazier could sell his services to desperate clients. Together they formed a duo of survival, an “emergent” work team, that still yielded barely enough to keep the fire burning in their home. The story, described in the 1921 Charlie Chaplin film, The Kid, has returned to pass in front of my eyes as I read the list of self-employment activities published in the newspaper Granma. Like a repertoire of destitution and dependency, this enumeration of private work seems more in tune with a feudal village than a 21st century country.

Reading through it in one sitting — containing my disgust — it is obvious that there are hardly any occupations directly linked to production. Entrepreneurs would need to be able count on a wholesale supplier to provide raw materials, and the possibility of access to bank loans has barely been mentioned, and without any details about what interest rates would be. Nor is there any talk of the self-employed being able to import merchandise directly from outside our borders, as this continues to be an absolute monopoly of the State. Of the 178 eligible activities, many are already carried out without a license, so being included in this list changes only one thing, being required to pay taxes. Hence the skepticism that accompanies the announcement of these “flexibilities” to let private ingenuity contribute to solving the serious problems of our economy.

What will come as a consequence of this slowness in applying the necessary changes? Citizens will continue to swell the long lines in front of consulates so they can leave the country, or they will fully immerse themselves in illegality and the diversion of resources. If our authorities believe that this trickle of transformations will keep the system from falling apart in their hands while they try to update it, they are underestimating the sense of urgency that runs through the Island. Such a half-hearted approach to applying long-delayed openings weakens the social situation and no one can predict how the frustrated “kids” — those disadvantaged by the massive layoffs and lack of expectations — will react. Hopefully they won’t end up breaking out all the windows.


27 thoughts on “Chaplinesque

  1. I know what you mean, because I too was in a serious situation before, and I faced many challenges as an entrepreneur… and I live in Europe, where generally you could get away with murder, if it had to.

    I’ve written about this and other libertarian stuff on my new blog, at

    What we’re living is just a tip of the iceberg, of all the corruption, and all the stuff that wealthy people do, to get more and more wealthy, to leave its people miserable, and make them “modern” slaves.


  2. This “dangerousness” law is typical of what desperate dictators do. This isn’t even a law, as the word implies careful weighing, consideration and consensus by legal representatives of the population. So I’ll call these dictates, which is what they are. They impose these dictates or decrees with wording that if anyone so much as walks with a funny limp in front of the police, they might just throw him/her in jail for misbehaviour.

    The difference is that these decrees are normally imposed, even by rabid dictators, during times of wars or civil wars. In the case of the feudal brother lords of Cuba, they are needlessly doing it even though they already control every facet of people’s lives, without anyone so much as writting graffity on bathroom walls.

    They are so insecure in their position of power that they see it fit to further corral the population by passing and enforcing these extreme dictums. I hope intelligent people, particularly leaders in Latin America and Europe, take note and raise hell, like they do against right wing dictators who arise around the world from time to time.


    ASSOCIATED PRESS: Rights leader: More Cuban prisoners to go free-

    HAVANA — A Cuban human rights leader on Monday revealed the names of nine inmates apparently offered early release by the government in exchange for accepting exile, including some convicted of violent crimes such as hijacking, assault and piracy.

    During formal jailhouse interviews in recent days, the nine men were told to compile a list of no more than eight family members who could go with them into exile, said Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

    “This massive release is good news,” Sanchez said in a written statement.

    The communist government has not commented.

    Word of the expected releases — which first came out over the weekend — is the latest sign that Cuba’s surprise decision to empty its jail of many political prisoners will not be limited to the 52 “prisoners of conscience” whose release had already been promised.

    Those prisoners — jailed in a 2003 sweep — were all locked up for nonviolent activism and other opposition activities and are considered political prisoners by London-based Amnesty International.

    But the government is holding about 100 other people who are not on Amnesty’s list, many because they have been convicted of murder, hijacking and other violent crimes. Some human rights organizations believe the convictions and lengthy sentences were politically motivated.

    The list released by Sanchez on Monday includes three men — Leudis Arce Romero, Lazaro Avila Sierra and Francisco Reyes Rodriguez — serving life sentences for hijacking a plane from Cuba’s Isla de la Juventud in 2003 and demanding it be taken to the United States.

    Others on the list were convicted of violent crimes including piracy, assault and “terrorism,” and were serving sentences ranging from six to 15 years.

    The only prisoner on the list not convicted of a violent crime was Pavel Hernandez, who was sentenced to six years in jail for trying to leave Cuba illegally.

    The release of the first wave of 52 prisoners came as part of a landmark July deal between Cuba and the island’s Roman Catholic Church that was brokered by Spain’s government. So far, 39 former inmates from those jailed in the 2003 crackdown have been sent with their families into exile in Spain, with one of them then settling in Chile.

    Sanchez did not say where any prisoner freed as part of a second group of releases could end up.

    In Madrid on Monday, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said it has no immediate plans to take in any freed Cuban prisoners outside of the 52 whose release was negotiated by the Catholic Church. The ministry said it was not aware of any of the nine on Sanchez’s list having asked to go to Spain, or of Spain having been contacted with regard to taking them.

    Óscar Elías Biscet González (born: July 20, 1961 in Havana, Cuba), is a Cuban medical professional and a noted advocate for human rights and democratic freedoms in Cuba. He is also the founder of the Lawton Foundation.

    Dr. Biscet is serving a 25-year prison sentence in Cuba for allegedly committing crimes against the sovereignty and the integrity of the Cuban territory.[1] Despite appeals from the United Nations, foreign governments, and international human rights organizations, Cuba has refused to release Dr. Biscet. In recognition of his advocacy efforts for human rights and democracy in Cuba, Dr. Biscet was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 by U.S. President George

  4. Under Cuba’s “dangerousness” law, authorities can imprison people who have not committed a crime on the suspicion that they might commit one in the future. “Dangerous” activities include handing out copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, writing articles critical of the government and trying to start an independent union.

    “Also unclear were what crimes the prisoners committed, though some Cubans have been jailed for years for disobedience, disrespecting authorities or making derogatory statements about former leader Fidel Castro.”

    Cuba may free more political prisoners into exile-By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ
    HAVANA — Cuba’s government has contacted about a dozen islanders jailed for crimes against the shadowy state-security apparatus and asked if they would be willing to accept freedom in return for leaving their homeland, a leading human rights activist said.

    If such a deal became a reality, it would mark the year’s second major release of Cuban political prisoners — once unthinkable in a single-party communist state.

    Why Cuban authorities have pushed to reduce the number of political prisoners is unclear, though some have speculated it may be part of an effort to promote reconciliation with the United States.

    Officials from the administration of President Barack Obama have long suggested it may be time for a new beginning with Cuba — but have also said they would like to see the island embrace small economic and social reforms before a true thaw can take place in 50 years of frigid relations.

    In addition to freeing political prisoners, Cuba’s government announced last month that it will lay off a half-million state employees and reduce restrictions on self-employment, small businesses and pockets of free enterprise as a way of modernizing and overhauling its state-dominated economy.

    Agents from the Ministry of the Interior — charged with running domestic spying and state security activities — have visited about 12 political prisoners in their cells in recent days and offered them the chance to go free as long as they accept exile, said Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

    Sanchez said late Saturday that he received the information from relatives of some of the prisoners who had been offered the deal.

    He added that he hoped to release a statement soon with the exact number of prisoners involved, as well as their names and the countries where they might end up, but that those details were not yet available.

    Also unclear were what crimes the prisoners committed, though some Cubans have been jailed for years for disobedience, disrespecting authorities or making derogatory statements about former leader Fidel Castro.

    In a landmark deal brokered by officials from the Cuban Roman Catholic Church and the Spanish government, Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in July to free 52 opposition activists, community organizers, dissidents and journalists who report on the island in defiance of state controls on all local news media.

    Under the deal, 39 prisoners have been released so far and sent with their families into exile in Spain, with one of them settling in Chile. If the remaining 13 are freed, it would empty Cuban prisons of all 75 top activists arrested in a sweeping crackdown on organized dissent in March 2003, an event human rights activists have labeled the “Black Spring.”

    Cuba maintains that it holds no political prisoners. It says the 75 had been convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges including treason and taking money from the U.S. government to destabilize the island’s political system.

    At least seven political prisoners due to be released under the July agreement do not want to leave Cuba, according to the island’s cardinal, Jaime Ortega. That could put future releases in jeopardy: While neither the Church nor the government has said leaving the country is a prerequisite to release, it has clearly smoothed the way.

    If all 52 are eventually freed, Cuba will hold just one person considered by Amnesty International to be a prisoner of conscience, a lawyer named Rolando Jimenez Pozada, who has been jailed since 2003 on charges of disobedience, disrespecting authorities and revealing state secrets. It was not known if Jimenez was among those most recently approached by Cuban authorities.

    The number of other political prisoners is a matter of dispute. A list maintained by Sanchez includes about 105 additional names, but some of those have been convicted of violent crimes, including murder and hijacking.

    Sanchez says about 40 of the people on his list would fit into the classic definition of nonviolent political prisoners, and that number would presumably get smaller if more inmates are freed under a second deal.

  5. ***
    What happened to Yoanni Sanchez’ site? Has Minint put her in jail? Have they prevented her from using the internet?
    Que pasa con el sitio de Yoanni Sanchez? Esta en la carcel de Minint? Han preventado que usa el internet?
    John Bibb


    “That includes Cuba. “During the (Cuban) repressions of the 1960s, between 7,000 and 10,000 people were killed and 30,000 people were imprisoned for political reasons,” wrote French journalist Pascal Fontaine. None of that takes away from the gravity of history’s other mass murdering ideologies, notably the Nazi Holocaust’s 6 million victims. But the Herald was correct in its assertion.”

    “What about Cuba’s oft-praised health care and education systems? In 2003, the American Journal of Public Health found that 33 per cent of all Cuban refugee children had intestinal parasites, 21 per cent had lead poisoning and all had higher than normal levels of disease. In 2006, Fidel Castro flew a doctor in from Spain to look at his insides.”
    CALGARY HERALD: Cuba is no island paradise for its citizens-Mark Milke, Calgary Herald- October 3, 2010

    For some unexplained reason, a coterie of Canadian apologists exist who are ever eager to defend Cuba’s 51-year old Marxist dictatorship. In recent weeks, one letter writer to the Herald argued Cuban children benefit from the island autocracy because education is free. She also trumpeted how some foreign kids receive free health care, a variation of the oft-heard notion that Cubans have a great medical system. Another writer disputed the Herald’s claim that communism was the 20th century’s most murderous ideology.

    Fact-check time. Eleven years ago, Harvard University published The Black Book of Communism, a series of essays, mostly from former French Marxists. They estimated those killed by the ideology amounted to about 100 million people in the last century.

    That includes Cuba. “During the (Cuban) repressions of the 1960s, between 7,000 and 10,000 people were killed and 30,000 people were imprisoned for political reasons,” wrote French journalist Pascal Fontaine. None of that takes away from the gravity of history’s other mass murdering ideologies, notably the Nazi Holocaust’s 6 million victims. But the Herald was correct in its assertion.

    What about Cuba’s oft-praised health care and education systems? In 2003, the American Journal of Public Health found that 33 per cent of all Cuban refugee children had intestinal parasites, 21 per cent had lead poisoning and all had higher than normal levels of disease. In 2006, Fidel Castro flew a doctor in from Spain to look at his insides.

    You’d expect refugees to have higher incidences of disease. However, given the Cubans were refugees but for a few days on their way to Florida from Cuba, the study was telling.

    None of this should surprise anyone with open eyes. I was in Cuba in 2008, the day Castro resigned. One guidebook estimated 45 per cent of Cubans live in substandard shelter. That was obvious in Havana where I spent five days walking around. There are some nicely restored buildings in Havana’s core but sub-standard, crowded tenements for ordinary Cubans are the norm.

    Then there is the food rationing. The Varadero resort where I spent two days (and which is not the real Cuba) had trays full of scrambled eggs. But in Havana, one store with eggs for sale noted a limit of just five per person. Also in Havana, I snapped photos of a rundown school, a public hospital in disrepair and half-empty pharmacy shelves.

    Even Castro no longer defends his record. In an interview last month with The Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, he made this admission: “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.” (His admission was borne out by recent Cuban government reforms, including laying off half a million people from inefficient state enterprises, and loosening up some restrictions on small entrepreneurs). Several days later, Castro tried to claim he meant the opposite. Too late. He inadvertently admitted what economic data have shown: Cuba’s 1959 detour into economic tyranny after its revolution produced 50 years of suffering for Cubans.

    In 1958, the year before Castro came to power, Cuba’s per capita GDP was $2,363, not far off the Latin American average of $3,047 (all figures inflation-adjusted 1990 dollars at purchasing power parity). Back then, Cuba’s per capita GDP was higher than some East Asian jurisdictions such as Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea and not far behind Japan and Hong Kong.

    By 2008, Cuba’s per capita GDP was $3,764. Meanwhile, the East Asian jurisdictions that were below or barely above Cuba’s economic status have long eclipsed it. In 2008, per capita income was $19,614 in South Korea, $20,926 in Taiwan, $28,107 in Singapore, and $31,704 in Hong Kong. In real terms, Hong Kong’s per capita GDP grew by a factor of 11, Singapore’s by 12, and South Korea and Taiwan by 16 — while Cuba’s equivalent didn’t even double from its pre-revolutionary state.

    Apologists point to the American economic embargo as a prime reason for Cuba’s poverty. It’s that and communism. However, the defenders never understand how their own argument supports free markets: free-flowing trade between countries lifts a country’s economic prospects, as free-flowing internal trade does. Canadian apologists may not get it, but if recent baby steps toward economic reform are any indication, the Castro brothers apparently, finally, do.

    Mark Milke is director of the Fraser Institute’s Alberta office and of the Alberta Prosperity Project.

  7. THE TRUTH FROM THE MOUTH OF A MECHANIC! (my father was one and so were all his brothers until the Catrofacist took all their businesses!!!)

    “Hector, a mechanic who has worked unlicensed for 15 years, says he has no intention of applying for a licence, let alone paying taxes. “It’s a trick,” he says of plans to get black marketeers to work legally.”

  8. EDMONTON JOURNAL: Massive layoffs send shock waves through Cuba-By Andrew Hamilton, October 2, 2010

    Digna Martinez thought the one thing she could count on in Cuba was a job for life. “But now I don’t know if I’ll be working next week,” she said.

    The 51 year-old was speaking in a whisper in a dingy clothes shop in Havana, where for the past 20 years she has been employed, by the government, as a sales assistant.

    Like millions of her compatriots, she was, she said, astonished when Cuba’s communist authorities announced an unprecedented move to cut public spending. In proposals that would make even the world’s most conservative governments blush, 500,000 people — a tenth of the country’s workforce — are to be made redundant by next April. The eventual aim is take a million people off the state payroll.

    Perhaps even more surprisingly, those affected by the “personnel reductions” — Cuban state media studiously avoids the word “unemployment” — are being encouraged to seek alternative opportunities in the private sector.

    Martinez was born in 1959, the year that the revolutionary Fidel Castro took power. “I was proud to call myself a child of the revolution,” she said.

    “Now I feel like an abandoned orphan.”

    The shop where she works provides a glimpse of Cuba’s moribund economy. Inside, there are five sales assistants, but not a single customer. A few nylon dresses hang from 1960s mannequins. A cotton shirt is on sale for about $5 Cdn. That’s a fortune for most Cubans who, whether they are surgeons or street cleaners, earn about $26 a month on government salaries.

    To be self-employed in Cuba was once tantamount to being counterrevolutionary. But now communist newspapers promote the merits of private enterprise. The edition immediately after the redundancy announcement published a list of 178 areas of self-employment which are now legal.

    Even as the government prepares to cede some control of the economy, its obsession with the minutiae remains. For example, Cubans will be allowed to set up a business mending mattresses. But actually selling a mattress remains forbidden. The private sale of vinyl records will be deemed legal but CDs will still only be sold in state-run stores. Many Cubans have greeted the changes with disbelief. “For 50 supposedly glorious years of the revolution we have been repeatedly told that the state knows best,” said Eugenio, a plumber. “Now, in year 51, we are told that it doesn’t.”

    Private enterprise is hardly a novelty in Cuba: all the occupations to be legalized already exist — but within the island’s illegal but flourishing black market. The government admits that one reason for its dramatic rethink is a desire to bring those involved into the formal economy, and make them pay tax.

    Hector, a mechanic who has worked unlicensed for 15 years, says he has no intention of applying for a licence, let alone paying taxes. “It’s a trick,” he says of plans to get black marketeers to work legally.

  9. MIAMI HERALD: The rising cost of living in Cuba-Recent cuts in government subsidies are an implicit admission that the cradle-to-grave safety net is no longer viable. Result: life is more expensive.-BY JUAN O. TAMAYO

    Until Sept. 1, Lara, a retired Havana teacher, boosted her meager pension by reselling the four cigarette packs she bought each month with her government-subsidized ration card.
    Lara, 73 and a non-smoker, bought them for 11 pesos and sold them on the street for 31, a 20-peso bump to her 260-peso retirement income — roughly $10.83 a month.

    “It was a pittance, but critical to surviving,” she said. “But now they’ve removed the cigarettes from the ration card. What am I do? Go hungry! You can’t live in Cuba on 260 pesos.”

    As Cuban ruler Raúl Castro slashes state subsidies to overcome an abysmal economic crisis, he’s making daily life more expensive — and implicitly accepting that the country’s cradle-to-grave social safety net is no longer assured.

    Castro declared last year that the revolution’s promise of egalitarianism is no longer sustainable, conceding that Cuba will see growing differences between the haves and have-nots.

    “Raúl is dismantling parts of the social safety net, and the social stratification based on income and the expansion of inequality will grow,” said Mario Gonzalez-Corzo, an economist at Lehman College in New York City who studies Cuba.


    Cuba’s recent announcement that it will cut 500,000 public jobs — and hopes to shift them to the now tiny private sector — sparked fears that tens of thousands will wind up jobless.

    But cutbacks in state subsidies over the past year — especially in the rations cards that provide limited but deeply discounted supplies of food and a few other items to Cuba’s 11.2 million people — already have increased the cost of living.

    Hit especially hard have been retirees, the disabled, widows and others who live on fixed incomes, and the 40 percent of Cubans who don’t receive remittances from relatives abroad and must rely on salaries that officially average a mere $20 per month.

    “This is seriously complicating the survival of the Cuban family, which is already very difficult,” said Darsi Ferrer, a Havana dissident who has studied the impact of the vanishing state subsidies.

    Except for the health and education systems — still free yet increasingly tattered — Castro has cut subsidies steeply in many sectors to jumpstart an economy thrown into a tailspin by declining export and tourism income and a dearth of external finances.

    The government closed thousands of workplace canteens that provided free lunches to 250,000 employees, paying them an estra stipend instead. Its inspectors also cracked down on fraudulent claims for the extra benefits granted to some Cubans, such as those with ailments that require increased food rations.

    In the central city of Santa Clara, inspectors earlier this year shut off 4,700 of the 7,000 people who were receiving the special assistance, said Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a dissident Havana economist.


    The government also cut subsidies to its “popular camping” sites — where Cubans vacation at rock-bottom prices for tents or simple cabins, usually near beaches.

    But the biggest impact came from the shrinkage of the food and personal hygiene items provided through the ration card, a 50-year-old system that Fidel Castro repeatedly praised as the best way to equitably distribute the country’s resources. Raúl Castro officially succeeded his brother in 2008

    Government officials concede it covers only half of a person’s monthly food consumption, but most Cubans say it covers no more than one third. The rest must be bought, at much higher prices, at farmers’ markets or the illegal black market.

    In an island where the average monthly wage stands at 429 pesos and the average pension at 262 pesos — about $20 and $10.50, respectively — the rations’ cuts have been hard felt.

    “The ration card was barely enough to live on if I had a glass of sugared water for breakfast and a piece of bread for lunch … “If they keep cutting it, I’m going to starve to death,” Lara said by phone from Havana. She asked that she not be further identified to avert government retaliation.

    In the past year, potatoes and peas were taken off the card and their prices soared — potatoes from about 30 cents to about two pesos a pound, and peas from 10-20 cents to 3.50 pesos per pound. Cigarettes, allocated to all those 54 and older, were removed from the card on Sept. 1.


    Rationed coffee went from 10 cents per four-ounce packet to five pesos for an equal weight of allegedly more concentrated beans. The ration for beans was cut by one third, and for salt by nearly half. And last week the government hiked gasoline prices by between 10 and 18 percent.

    On the farmers’ markets, where prices are set by supply and demand, a pound of pork costs 25 pesos, one avocado 10 pesos, a mango 10 pesos, a pound of onions 20 pesos and a liter of cooking oil 35 pesos. Those five items alone would cost a week’s wage for the average worker.

    “Salaries are already low and prices are already high, so the cut in the ration cards is falling hardest on the sectors with the lowest income — pensioners, those without outside assistance, those with the lowest incomes,” said Espinosa Chepe.

    Havana residents said the capital is now awash in rumors that the government will cut coffee, eggs, pasta and personal hygiene items from the ration card next year, and that the three-ounce bread roll now sold daily on the ration card for five cents will rocket to 80 cents.

    A lengthy editorial in the Communist Party’s Granma newspaper last October called for abolishing the ration card for all but the neediest.

    Adding to the concerns was the announcement of the 500,000 layoffs — 10 percent of the government’s five million workers in a country with a mere 600,000 private sector jobs.


    Several Cubans who are still working despite reaching retirement age have been told they will likely be forced to take retirement, said a Havana retiree who requested anonymity to avert government reprisals.

    And the 10,000 retired teachers who returned to work two years ago, to take advantages of incentives offered by the government to ease a teacher shortage, now fear they also will be laid off, the retiree added.

    Some government academic centers are disappearing almost overnight, he added, and retirees who staff most of Havana’s news stands have been told they will have to leave to make way for younger workers reassigned from other government jobs.

    More than 150 of the 231 lowly paid chauffeurs assigned to the government-owned Gaviota hotel chain will be dismissed, independent journalist Carlos Rios Otero reported last week.

    Espinosa Chepe noted that the layoffs come at a time when some Cubans are making a relatively good living by stealing from the government or working for foreign companies or as middlemen in the farmers’ markets.

    “This is not an economy that is easy to explain,” he said. “People don’t even ask what’s the salary when they look for a job. What interests them is what’s there, what can be sold on the side.”

    “There are two Cubas now,” he added. “There are a lot people earning a lot of money and a lot of others sinking. We are seeing enormous social differences, and each day they will be worse.”

  10. As for coffee production, Castro promised in the 1960s that in few years Cuba would export hundreds of thousands of bags to everyone, but what took place was a steady decline of its production and for the last 40 years it has not been enough even to satisfy domestic consumption reason why the aromatic grain is mixed with kidney beans and other imported grains to supply it to the consumers, in small quantities established in a ration book dating from 1962, in order to control the supply of basic foodstuffs to the population.


    REUTERS AFRICA: US hails freedom of assembly vote at UN rights body-

    Thu Sep 30

    * Independent expert to monitor freedom of association

    * China, Russia, Cuba object but do not block resolution

    GENEVA, Sept 30 (Reuters) – The United Nations Human Rights Council voted on Thursday to appoint an expert to report on how countries are promoting freedom of association and assembly — a move hailed by the United States.

    The vote is a victory for President Barack Obama’s administration, which brought the United States back into the 47-member council with a promise to focus on traditional Western human rights concerns.

    The council has been criticised by some for an excessive focus on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians while overlooking abuses in other parts of the world.

    China, Russia, Cuba, Libya and Pakistan all expressed concern at the wording of the resolution, which was proposed by the United States and European, Latin American, African and other states.

    “That is exactly the type of issue that the United States had committed to bring to the top of the human rights council agenda,” U.S. Ambassador Eileen Donahoe told reporters after the resolution was approved.

    The countries voicing concern at the resolution all stressed their support for the basic principle of freedom of assembly and did not force a vote on the question.

    “We take that as a mark of great success for this body to have come to a consensus agreement on this matter,” she said.

    The resolution calls on governments to respect the right of individuals and non-governmental organisations to assemble peacefully and associate freely, for instance in elections and trade unions.

    Election protests in Iran, political demonstrations in Moscow, and marches by women dissidents in Cuba are the kind of topic the expert could be expected to report on, Donahoe said.

    The five countries that objected to the resolution said it risked duplicating the work of other independent experts set up by the council, or of the International Labour Organisation, the U.N. agency that monitors trade union rights.

    Russia and Cuba also said the freedom to associate was not absolute, as it could be abused to promote racism, running counter to other U.N. principles. (Reporting by Jonathan Lynn; Editing by Charles Dick)

  12. ASSOCIATED PRESS: Church: 7 jailed dissidents reject leaving Cuba
    HAVANA — At least seven dissidents due to be freed from Cuban jails under an agreement reached with the help of the Roman Catholic Church do not want to leave their homeland for exile in Spain, the island’s top cardinal said Friday.

    In July, Cuba’s government agreed that over a four-month period it would release 52 political prisoners jailed in a 2003 crackdown on dissent. Thirty-nine of them have been let out so far, and all have accepted asylum in Spain.

    While neither the church nor the government has said leaving Cuba is a prerequisite for release, it has clearly smoothed the way.

    Cardinal Jaime Ortega said Friday that “there could be seven or eight” prisoners who don’t want to go. But he indicated that Cuba would eventually let all 52 out of prison, even if it meant some would stay in the country.

    “Effectively, they will keep getting out … we still are waiting for all 52 to be freed,” Ortega said.

  13. The new opening by the feudal lords of Cuba is not dissimilar to colonial times when the island was exploited by Spain. During that period, no trade was allowed except with Spain itself, which meant that everything had to be purchased through Spanish suppliers. This situation had the effect that, not only was Cuba paying taxes to the Crown, but Spain also benefited directly by getting a significant slice of profits, as the only provider to the colony.

    It was not until the 19th century that Spain recognized the immorality of what it was doing, (with the not altogether altruistic help from the British and Americans) it was forced to allow Cuba to trade with other countries.

    As Yoani says, the government will be the supplier and taxing authority for the poor souls who attempt to start a business. Since I’m basically an atheist, I can only hope that there is a supreme energy in the Universe that strikes these brothers out of existence at its earliest possible convenience.

    Otherwise I’ll just wait and hope that viger, the hindu deity of time, takes care to bring their rapidly degenerating bodies and brains, to a prompt conclusion.

  14. Viva Orlando Zapata Tamayo



    VIVA GORKI , best Cuban PUNK ROCKER on the planet.

  15. Blue haron (paladar) also closed for being successful. Money brings power and power is reserved for Fidel and his gang Only. Today in Cuba a man named Jose Angel LUQUE ALVAREZ is on a HUNGER STRIKE to get attention to the punishment inflicted upon him in various Cuban jails. He has some bold acqusations against the prison staff including Guillermo Pablo Mora “BEMBA” for sexual abuse, for not supporting Castros Regiment. What happens in Cuba and the abuse of peoples civil liberties is sad. This man was beaten repeatedly for speaking up and and expressing himself out loud. The fear Cuban people live in needs to STOP and wee all need to help promote change and a better existance for the everyday Cuban. God Bless you Yoani and all the good you bring.

  16. Will there ever come a point where a majority of the Cuban people just can’t take it any longer? Is there no line in the sand somewhere?

  17. Yoani has hit the nail on the head. The rules on palladares have been loosened. But will owners still go to jail for serving beef or lobster ? The truth is that the system forces everyone to live in a state of illegality. La Guarida, by far the best restaurant in Havana before it was closed down, was clearly breaking the rules for years, but obviously someone in governmnent was protecting it for who knows what reason. The same is true of La Cocina de Lilian. I have a friend who started the first Italian restaurant in Havana Vieja. Because it was a joint venture, he knew there would no cash in it for him — he would be robbed blind. But he was also given the right to import whatever he wanted, and this would be invaluable. But this right was rescinded as a kind of collective punishment during the Elian affair, and so he just walked away. It is going to be the same with all these new golf courses. So long as Cuba is run by the Military-Castro comnplex, it is simply not going to work, even if a huge majority of the population has signed a book saying socialism is forever.

  18. The King Midas touch in reverse Sandokan, everything the castros have touched has turned to shit.

  19. Before 1959 Cuba used to produce some of the finest Arabic Coffee in the world. Nowadays Cubans are allocated through the ration book only 4 ounces of coffee a month per person, and the coffee is mixed with peas to increase the yield, which in turn reduce the quality of the coffee. What an inept regime, it destroys everything it touch’s. The brothers’ rule are the root of the problem, they should be removed from power.

  20. … sometimes I wonder …
    Why does a people “in power” always takes the people for granted?
    Why they think the people does not realize the truths of their reality.
    Perhaps their ego convinced them about how they are “above” the rest of the human race?
    Or perhaps their “generosity & love for the people is” so evident …
    Maybe it is the people they rule … not the people they serve mind you … that shows so little gratitude for their efforts, just a mass of ingrate traitors, _”after all we have done for THEM”-
    … sometimes I wonder …

  21. Another Castro brothers regime great success story. The import of coffee by the regime is equivalent to the import of sugar, an unthinkable thing to happen 51 years ago. The destruction of the island economy, is not cause by the embargo, is due to the Castro brothers dictatorship, corruption and mismanagement.

    On 1956 the island exported 20,000 MT of coffee valued at over $20 million. In 1957 it produced 43,600 MT of coffee beans and exported only 11,200 tons due to the guerrilla war in the main coffee growing area. In 2004 the coffee production was of 13,440 MT and in 2009 only 6,000 MT. Coffee per capita in 1958 with a population of 6.6 million was 14.5 lb, in 2009 with a population of 11.4 million only 1.2 lb.

  22. What a great analysis. Turning Cuba into a “feudal village” is an apt metaphor for the likely result of these limited reforms. There is every likelihood that they will make things worse not better.

    Cuba started reforming its farm sector a few years ago. As the article Humberto posted makes clear this has prevented further declines in production in key commodities like sugar and coffee.


    NEW YORK TIMES: As Cuba Prepares to Drill for Oil, Fears Surface-By CLIFFORD KRAUSS-September 29, 2010

    HOUSTON — Five months after the BP oil spill, a federal moratorium still prohibits new deepwater drilling in the American waters of the Gulf of Mexico. And under longstanding federal law, drilling is also banned near the coast of Florida.

    Yet next year, a Spanish company will begin drilling new wells 50 miles from the Florida Keys — in Cuba’s sovereign waters.

    Cuba currently produces little oil. But oil experts say the country might have reserves along its north coast as plentiful as that of the international oil middleweights, Ecuador and Colombia — enough to bolster its faltering economy and cut its dependence on Venezuela for its energy needs.

    The advent of drilling in Cuban waters poses risks both to the island nation and the United States.

    Ocean scientists warn that a well blowout similar to the BP disaster could send oil spewing onto Cuban beaches and then the Florida Keys in as little as three days. If the oil reached the Gulf Stream, a powerful ocean current that passes through the region, oil could flow up the coast to Miami and beyond.

    The Cubans are far less prepared to handle a major spill than the Americans were in the BP accident. Cuba has neither the submarine robots needed to fix deepwater rig equipment nor the platforms available to begin drilling relief wells on short notice.

    And marshaling help from American oil companies to fight a Cuban spill would be greatly complicated by the trade embargo on Cuba imposed by the United States government 48 years ago, according to industry officials. Under that embargo, American companies face severe restrictions on the business they can conduct with Cuba.

    The prospect of an accident is emboldening American drilling companies, backed by some critics of the embargo, to seek permission from the United States government to participate in Cuba’s nascent industry, even if only to protect against an accident.

    “This isn’t about ideology. It’s about oil spills,” said Lee Hunt, president of the International Association of Drilling Contractors, a trade group that is trying to broaden bilateral contacts to promote drilling safety. “Political attitudes have to change in order to protect the gulf.”

    Any opening could provide a convenient wedge for big American oil companies that have quietly lobbied Congress for years to allow them to bid for oil and natural gas deposits in waters off Cuba. Representatives of Exxon Mobil and Valero Energy attended an energy conference on Cuba in Mexico City in 2006, where they met Cuban oil officials.

    Right now, Cuba’s oil industry is served almost exclusively by non-American companies. Repsol, a Spanish oil company, has contracted with an Italian operator to build a rig in China that is scheduled to begin drilling several deepwater test wells next year. Other companies, from Norway, India, Malaysia, Venezuela, Vietnam and Brazil, have taken exploration leases.

    New Mexico’s governor, Bill Richardson, a Democrat who regularly visits Cuba, said Cuba’s offshore drilling plans are a “potential inroad” for loosening the embargo. During a recent humanitarian trip to Cuba, he said, he bumped into a number of American drilling contractors — “all Republicans who could eventually convince the Congress to make the embargo flexible in this area of oil spills.”

    “I think you will see the administration be more forward-moving after the election,” Mr. Richardson said.

    Despite several requests in the last week, Cuban officials declined to make anyone available for an interview.

    Currently, the United States, Mexico and Cuba are signatories to several international protocols in which they agreed to cooperate to contain any oil spill. In practice, there is little cooperation between Washington and Havana on oil matters, although American officials did hold low-level meetings with Cuban officials after the BP blowout.

    “What is needed is for international oil companies in Cuba to have full access to U.S. technology and personnel in order to prevent and/or manage a blowout,” said Jorge Piñón, a former executive of BP and Amoco. Mr. Piñón, who fled Cuba as a child and now briefs American companies on Cuban oil prospects, said the two governments must also create a plan for managing a spill.

    Several American oil and oil service companies are eager to do business in Cuba, Mr. Piñón said, but they are careful not to identify themselves publicly because they want to “protect their brand image in South Florida,” where Cuban-Americans who support the embargo could boycott their gasoline stations and other products.

    There are signs the Obama administration is aware of the safety issues. Shortly after the BP accident, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the agency that regulates the embargo, said it would make licenses available to American service companies to provide oil spill prevention and containment support.

    Charles Luoma-Overstreet, a State Department spokesman, said licenses would be granted on a “application-by-application basis,” but he would not comment on the criteria.

    Mr. Piñón said it appeared that an American company could apply for a license before an emergency but that a license would be issued only after an accident has occurred. “We’re jumping up and down for clarification,” he said.

    One organization — Clean Caribbean & Americas, a Fort Lauderdale cooperative of several oil companies — has received licenses to send technical advisers, dispersants, containment booms and skimmers to Cuba since 2003. But it can only serve member companies Repsol and Petrobras, not the Cuban government.

    Economic sanctions on Cuba have been in effect in one form or another since 1960, although the embargo has been loosened to allow the sale of agricultural goods and medicines and travel by Cuban-Americans to the island.

    Mr. Hunt of the drillers’ group said that the association had sent a delegation to Cuba in late August and has held talks with government officials and Cupet, the Cuban national oil company.

    He said that Cuban officials, including Tomás Benítez Hernández, the vice minister of basic industry, asked him to take a message back to the United States. “Senior officials told us they are going ahead with their deepwater drilling program, that they are utilizing every reliable non-U.S. source that they can for technology and information, but they would prefer to work directly with the United States in matters of safe drilling practices,” Mr. Hunt said.

    Mr. Benítez became the acting minister last week when the minister of basic industry, the agency that oversees the oil industry, was fired for reasons that remain unclear.

    Donald Van Nieuwenhuise, director of petroleum geoscience programs at the University of Houston, said that if an accident occurred in Cuban waters, Repsol or other companies could mobilize equipment from the North Sea, Brazil, Japan or China. But “a one-week delay could be disastrous,” he said, and it would be better for Havana, Washington and major oil companies to coordinate in advance.

    Opponents of the Cuban regime warn that assisting the Cubans with their oil industry could help prop up Communist rule. Instead of making the drilling safer, some want to stop it altogether.

    Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, is urging President Obama to recall a diplomatic note to Havana reinforcing a 1977 boundary agreement that gives Cuba jurisdiction up to 45 miles from Florida. “I am sure you agree that we cannot allow Cuba to put at risk Florida’s major business and irreplaceable environment,” he wrote in a letter to the president shortly after the BP accident.


    SCRIPPS NEWS: Editorial: Cuba facing record-breaking coffee shortage

    With suspicious haste, Cuba’s communist government abruptly announced it would let private farmers cultivate their crops on government land. Now we have an inkling why: The government wanted to get out while the getting was good.

    The Communist Party newspaper Granma is bracing the population for a severe coffee shortage. Cuba was once a major coffee exporter. At the time of the revolution it was producing 60,000 tons annually and, as recently as the ’70s, 28,000 to 30,000 tons a year.

    Last year’s coffee harvest was the worst in history and this fall the island will produce only 6,700 tons, according to an agriculture ministry official quoted by Granma. And the government says it can’t afford the $40 million-plus a year to make up the shortfall through imports.

    The Associated Press said the newspaper cited “inefficiency and negligence” for the poor production and that to improve output the government had stopped the Communist practice of using ill-trained students to harvest the crop.

    The AP notes that super-strong shots of espresso heavily laced with sugar are a way of life in Cuba. And there’s still more bad news on that front. This year’s harvest in a country that once led the world in sugar production was just 1.23 million tons, the worst since 1905.

    Fidel Castro recently told an American journalist, “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us any more.” Somehow this will come as no surprise to Cubans battling caffeine withdrawal.

    But help is on the way. Privately planted coffee trees will be producing beans in four to five years.

  25. Pingback: Tweets that mention Generation Y » Chaplinesque --

Comments are closed.