The Art of Speaking Without Speaking

When you grow up decoding each line that appears in the newspapers, you manage to find, among the rhetoric, the nugget of information that motivates, the hidden shreds of the news. We Cubans have become detectives of the unexpressed, experts in discarding the chatter and discovering — deep down — what is really driving things. The Draft Guidelines for the Communist Party’s VI Congress is a good exercise to sharpen our senses, a model example to evaluate the practice of speaking without speaking, which is what state discourse is here.

Its more than thirty pages of text contain only economic proposals, more appropriate for the Ministry of Finance than for the compass of a political party. It’s true that it lacks the language of the barricade, resolving everything based on slogans, but it suffers from being a sugar-coated list of what could be done if the system really worked. For those who think my skepticism is exaggerated, take a look at the points from past congresses and check to see how many of them really came to pass.

Scrutinizing the verbiage, one positive is that the “state-budgeted sector” — this colossal blood-sucker that feeds on me, on you, on all of us — is going to shrink. Expanding the stage for self-employment is also comforting, but whenever I ask someone if they’re going to take out a license, they tell me they don’t think they’ll “take the bait” to start paying taxes. It’s hard to overcome the distrust, and a government that sinks the national economy with its voluntarism and its idiotic programs has little credibility when it announces a rescue plan.

It is disappointing that not a single line refers to the expansion of civil rights, including the restrictions suffered by Cubans in entering and leaving our own country. Nor is there a word about freedom of association or expression, without which the authorities will continue to behave more like factory foremen than as the representatives of their people.

The Party will meet in April, will approve some guidelines very similar to those in the pamphlet and, within a year or two, we will all be wondering what happened with so much ink on so much paper. What happened to that program where it said “perfect and improve” instead of “change or end”?

27 thoughts on “The Art of Speaking Without Speaking

  1. It is to my amazement how certain things are omitted. While I do not disagree in general with the author, I understand that many things are as per the eye of the beholder: others are not.

    I keep on hearing about lack of liberty and freedom of association and the restrictions on emigration and the splitting of families.

    Here the facts speak for themselves. It was the US, aided by the catholic church, that spread the falseness of the children rapture to the USSR. At the same time the US government was granting visa waivers to anyone under 16, but not to their parents. They purposely split families so that the parents could “rebel”. That was the Pedro Pan exodus that caused so many of us so much suffering.

    To this day travel restrictions are by the US. You cannot travel freely to Cuba because the US government, not the Cuban, impedes it. You can not leave Cuba to the US unless you win a Visa on the raffle that the US holds and limits to 30,000 per year.

    The hypocrisy is such that it borders on cynicism. The US will not grant Visas, but if you endanger your life and manage to reach land in the US you are automatically admitted as a legal alien. Isn’t that like encouraging a Russian roulette? Well it is just another propaganda ploy at the expense of the Cuban People.

    It is shameful that I can travel to Viet Nam freely, and even buy Nike shoes made in The People’s Republic of Viet Nam, but I can’t travel to Cuba without a special US permit. Insofar as freedom of association… Am I free to associate with my compatriots in Cuba or do I need US permission to do so?

    Many Cubans will dislike my comments, but nonetheless they are factual.

    I believe that the Cuban tragedy is our own fault, because we as a people cannot be objective. First Fidel was Christ reborn; after all he was 33 when he entered Habana. Now he is the devil to some and God to others who inversely in turn see the US as God or the Devil.

    Fidel and the US are the heroes of the Cuban people… After all the Cuban people is all of us, those that love and hate one or the other. Who allowed Fidel to seize government? Who allows the US to dictate terms to the Cuban people?

    When in 1898 the US raised the US flag in El Morro, without the Cuban flag or any of the patriots in attendance; who allowed it?

    When the US congress dictated our constitution and the Platt amendment and the right to intervene in our affairs, and adjudicated in perpetuity a piece of our land, or when they imposed Thomas Estrada Palma, a US citizen as our first “Cuban” president, who rose in anger?

    Fidel did not win the war against Batista, the Cuban people gave Fidel the power and they gave the US the power. Is it not about time that we stop hatting other for what only we are responsible for?

  2. Looks like Cuban entrepreneurial spirit is matched only by their economic illiteracy. They don’t want to setup private enterprises because they pay taxes… They pay taxes anyway, but not directly. But I’m pretty much sure that this is just an excuse for something else. The problem with the Cubans is that they don’t hate socialism but just Fidel. They want a “socialism with human face”. In other words they want a warm well paid job for life as state employees where they can steal a little bit mixed with some corruption and nepotisms and freedom of speech and travel. They have a paternalistic view about the state. After Fidel will fell you’ll a Cube led by all sort of populists demagogical politicians.

  3. I am from Bosnia and Herzegovina. FORMER Socialist republic of yugoslavia. Even we abandoned communism 20 years ago we are still facing the same problems like in this particular text. Just today I saw a speech of newly elected president in newspaper. IT IS AMAZING HOW MANY words and nothing to be said.

  4. SO THIS TERM “PAROLE” TO THE CASTROFACISTS MOST LIKELY WILL FALL UNDER THE UMBRELLA OF THE “DANGEROUNESS LAW” -“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.”

    BBC NEWS : Cuba frees political prisoner who refused exile deal-14 November 2010

    The Cuban government has freed one of 13 dissidents who have been refusing a government deal to go into exile in exchange for their freedom.

    The prisoner, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, will remain in the country on parole.

    In July Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to release 52 prisoners under a deal brokered by the Roman Catholic Church and the Spanish government.

    Thirty-nine of them were freed and sent into exile in Spain, but the remaining 13 have refused to leave the island.

    All 52 were were arrested in 2003 following a crackdown on non-violent opposition groups.

    Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, who is 68, is now back at his home in the capital, Havana.

    “He was freed and I feel very happy,” his wife Lidia Lima told AFP news agency.

    “We have decided to stay in the country and not to emigrate… At our advanced age, it is difficult to start a new life in a different country.”

    Meanwhile another of the 13 dissidents, Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia, is reported to have accepted the government deal and is expected to leave for Spain soon.

    According to the independent Cuban Commission of Human Rights, he decided to accept after reaching an agreement to give his home to family members remaining in Cuba.

    The government has refused to comment, but correspondents say the latest concessions may be a signal that it intends to release all of the remaining dissidents soon.

  5. REUTERS: Cuba to free political prisoner who refused exile-
    Sat Nov 13, 2010 5:26pm EST

    HAVANA- Cuba will soon release one of 13 political prisoners who have rejected a government deal to leave the country in exchange for freedom, a family member said on Saturday.

    Lidia Lima, wife of dissident Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, 68, told Reuters that Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega had called to give her the news and also informed her husband, who is in a Havana prison serving an 18-year sentence.

    She said he would be staying in Cuba, in a concession by the Cuban government that may signal it will soon release all of the men.

    “I’m very happy, I’m want him to be in his house,” she said in a telephone interview, her voice breaking. A church spokesman could not be reached for comment.

    The 13 men are those who remain in jail of 52 the government pledged to release in a deal with the Catholic Church announced on July 7. The church said the process would take three to four months, but did set a specific date.

    The other 39 were freed earlier after agreeing to go live in exile in Spain, which is taking in the former prisoners.

    All 52 were arrested in a 2003 crackdown on government opponents.

    Laura Pollan, leader of the opposition group Ladies in White, said on Friday she had been advised by the church and European diplomats that the Cuban government had not backed out on its release pledge and “to have confidence” that it will free the men.

    She said another prisoner, Diosdado Gonzalez, has been told he will be released within a month.

    Her group had accused the government of failing to meet what they said was a November 7 deadline to let the 52 men go.

    Cuba President Raul Castro promised to release the jailed dissidents in a move to defuse international criticism after the February death of imprisoned dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo following an 85-day hunger strike.

    Cuba views the dissidents as mercenaries for the United States, its longtime ideological foe, and therefore wanted them off the island.

    In the meantime, the government has freed or agreed to free another 14 prisoners not included in the original 52. All of them have accepted the offer to go to Spain.

    Cuba has told the church it wants to free all political prisoners, but there is disagreement on who qualifies.

    (Reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes; Editing by Jeff Franks and Anthony Boadle)

  6. YOUTUBE: Crowds push past the barricades as Aung San Suu Kyi is freed


    “An anonymous face, some hands quickly placing the book on our shelf, so that when we approached it we could feel and recognize our own pain.”

    Unexpected Find in a Havana Bookstore: Aung San Suu Kyi –
    by Yoani Sanchez

    “In one of life’s random events I came across Letters From Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi in a Havana bookstore. I didn’t find it in one of the individually managed stalls selling used books, but in a local State store that sells colorful editions in convertible currency. The small volume, with a photo of her on the cover, was mixed in among the self-help manuals and recipe books. I glanced to both sides of the shelves to see if someone had put the book there just for me, but the employees were sleeping in the midday heat, one of them brushing flies off her face without paying me any mind. I bought the valuable collection of texts written by this dissident between 1995 and 1996, still taken by the surprise of finding them in my country where we, like her, live under a military regime and strong censorship of the word.
    The pages with Aung San Suu Kyi’s chronicles — reflections on everyday life mixed with political discourse and questions — have barely touched the shelves of my home. Everyone wants to read her calm descriptions of Burma, marked by fear, but also steeped in a spirituality that makes her current situation more dramatic. In the few months since I found the Letters, the vivid and moving prose of this woman has influenced the way we look at our own national disaster. The thread of hope that she manages to weave into her words instills in them an optimistic prognosis for her nation and for the world. No one has been able to describe the horror from the sweetness as she has, without the cries overwhelming her style and the rancor being reflected in her eyes.

    I can’t stop wondering how the texts of this Burmese dissident made it into the bookstores of my country. Perhaps in a bulk purchase someone slipped in the innocent-looking cover, where an oriental woman tucks some flowers, as beautiful as her face, behind her ear. Who knows if they thought it might be from some writer of fiction or poetry, recreating the landscapes of her country motivated by aestheticism or nostalgia. Probably whoever placed it on the shelf didn’t know about her house arrest, or the richly-deserved Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991. I prefer to imagine that at least someone was aware that her voice had come to us. An anonymous face, some hands quickly placing the book on our shelf, so that when we approached it we could feel and recognize our own pain.


    YOUTUBE: Damas de Blanco, entrevista a Laura después de la cita con el Cardenal.wmv

  8. YOUTUBE: Cuba Archive’s Truth and Memory Project

    Cuba Archive’s Truth and Memory Project is documenting deaths and disappearances resulting from the Cuban revolution. This project seeks to:
    Compel people and nations to help Cubans peacefully attain their rightful freedoms;
    Further an understanding of the cost of political violence and foster a culture of respect for life and the rule of law;
    Honor the sacrifice of those who’ve paid the highest price.
    This work is a gift to present and future generations that deserve to live safely, peacefully, and in freedom.


  9. CANADIAN PRESS: The wife of a prominent Cuban political prisoner says husband told he will go free-By Anne-Marie Garcia
    HAVANA — The wife of one of 13 remaining Cuban dissidents jailed since 2003 says a state security official has indicated the men will be freed within a month, the first sign the government still plans to release them since letting a church-negotiated deadline pass.

    The official visited Diosdado Gonzalez at the Combinado del Sur jail in Matanzas on Tuesday and gave him the news, his wife Alejandrina Garcia told The Associated Press on Friday.

    “He told him that they would be freed, and that the government’s word had not been broken,” Garcia said. “He said that in 15 to 30 days they would release the 13.”

    Gonzalez, a 48-year-old electrician, is serving a 20-year sentence for treason and other charges. He was among the activists, social commentators and opposition figures rounded up in a 2003 crackdown against peaceful dissent.

    Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to release the men during a July 7 sit down with Havana’s Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega and then-Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos. The church said the deal called for all 52 of the remaining prisoners to be released within 4 months, a period that ended Sunday with no word on their fate.

    The government has had no comment on the passing of the deadline, or on whether it still plans to free the prisoners.

    Cuba has released 39 of the dissidents, sending them into exile in Spain along with their families. The remaining 13, including Gonzalez, have refused to leave the island, a direct challenge to a government that would prefer they take their views elsewhere.

    Some of the men have told their families they plan to resume their calls for democracy as soon as they are out of jail.

    Garcia said her husband was told he and the other men would be allowed to return to their homes in Cuba. She said her husband was given permission to call her with the news after his meeting with the security official, who identified himself only as “Irvin.”

    “He was very hopeful,” she said of her husband. “Now, if the government was lying and my husband is not out in 30 days, he will no longer believe in anyone.”

    Laura Pollan, a leader of the Ladies in White, or Damas de Blanco, which is made up of the wives and mothers of the jailed dissidents, told AP she had met in recent days with church officials and functionaries at the Spanish Embassy in Havana.

    She said they told her they had heard nothing more from the government on the men’s fate, but urged her to be patient.

    “They told us to wait a few days. They said the agreement has not been broken and the process of liberation will continue, even though the deadline has passed,” she said.

    Associated Press reporter Paul Haven contributed to this report.

  10. To my comment below, let me rephrase, we should join in trying to get the Castros PEACEFULLY out of power.

  11. Just to clarify, post no. 7 is mine. I just forgot to enter tne nick. We all know this list is closely watched by communist thugs, of the same pedigree as the ones who beat Yoani in the paddy wagon and who may pass themselves as anti-castro.

    We are all perfectly aware that they may not go directly at you as a devout communist, or Castro sympathizer who opposes your views. Rather, they may hide their agenda using tipical, worn out practices which include insults, discrediting, character assessination, etc. They also may work in tandem or pretend to do so by using multiple names. They’ll try or do anything to diminish, discredit, and to make interested people worldwide, tune out of this blog.

    Yes I am Cold, here in the midwest near the windy city, and am disturned by the immoral dynasty, and nothing that you say or do faces me unless you join in trying to get the Castros out of power.

  12. A game is just that, a game.
    Perhaps the creation of such a game just represents a better value as a caricature than a human.
    Perhaps it represent all the abuses, the lies & the promises of a romantic ideal made imposible by the nature of the protagonists.
    The “executions” at La Cabana, the repression, the killing of democracy, the pervesion & review of Cuban history, the perverted memory of heroes like Marti.
    Since nothing is “beyond” the hands of this criminals
    Why would a game be a threat to their rebolution?
    Crimes against humanity are alive & well in Cuba.
    All it took was for the constitution to be changed, legitimized by self serving changes in the constitution approves (so they say) by the people.
    Why would this be challanged by a game?
    For the betterment of the Cuban people & that of Cuba?
    1) dissention was eliminated by constitutional law
    2) emigration was regulated by the rule of the leaders
    3) surveilance & repression were instituted “for the protection of the rebolution”
    Perhaps a game, a simple game shows a truth jealously guarded thru the years.
    The myth of the Cuban rebolutions is just that, a myth like the one about “el chancho” made into the inspiration for children to be like him … stinky, cowardly, full of himself.
    A heroe? and ideal? or an outcast, looking for a place to land: a legend in his own lonely miserable mind.
    A game will be a threat to that to?
    Please, a game is just that … a game.
    The reality in Cuba is not a game, it shows everyday in the lines for food, in the lines for trying to emigrate, in the use of the black market, in the failed economic ventures, in the blame put on the shoulders of every Cuban by this rebolution for every failure.
    All the while, the leadership does not go for want of food, clothing health care … not everyone is equal eh?

  13. YOUTUBE: Cuba: Laura Pollan, the Ladies in White – Freedom, Not Exile – English / español – The Cuban Government has lied!

    Laura Pollan, spokeswoman of the Ladies in White, or “Las Damas de Blanco,” pledges that the Ladies will continue marching peacefully until the 12 political prisoners in Cuba who have refused exile are given a pardon and allowed to remain in their country.

    The Ladies in White is a civil society group inside Cuba that organizes peaceful Sunday marches for freedom and human rights. The world-renowned group is formed by the wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and supporters of political prisoners who were arrested during the “Black Spring” government crackdown on Cuban dissidents in 2003.

    In July 2010, the Roman Catholic Church of Havana announced that the Cuban government agreed to exile the 52 Black Spring prisoners who still remained in prison. The government committed to releasing all the prisoners within four months—by November 7. With the deadline for their release passed, 39 prisoners have been forced into exile in Spain. Twelve prisoners refused anything but an unconditional release. They remain in prison as of today.

    Laura Pollán, portavoz de las Damas de Blanco, afirma que el grupo continuarán marchando pacíficamente hasta lograr el indulto y la liberación de los doce prisioneros de consciencia que no quieren dejar Cuba.

    Las Damas de Blanco es un grupo de la sociedad civil cubana que todos los domingos organiza en La Habana marchas pacíficas por la libertad y los derechos humanos en Cuba. El grupo es reconocido internacionalmente y está formado por las esposas, madres, hermanas, hijas y otras mujeres que apoyan a los disidentes encarcelados durante la llamada “Primavera Negra” de marzo de 2003.

    Ante las gestiones del gobierno español y la mediación de la Iglesia, Cuba se comprometió entonces a poner en libertad a los 52 prisioneros restantes en los siguientes cuatro meses, fijando el 7 de noviembre como fecha límite. En los meses siguientes, treinta y nueve prisioneros fueron exiliados a España. Sin embargo, doce han rechazado el destierro y hoy permanecen en las cárceles cubanas en calidad de criminales convictos, a pesar de haberse cumplido el plazo para su liberación.

  14. Video: “Ladies in White” Continue Peaceful Protest as Cuban Government Breaks Promise to Release Prisoners-Contact: Thor Halvorssen, Human Rights Foundation, (212) 246.8486,

    NEW YORK (November 11, 2010) – The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) released an exclusive video interview with Laura Pollan, leader of the “Ladies in White,” a civil society group inside Cuba that organizes peaceful Sunday marches for freedom and human rights. The world-renowned group is formed by the families and supporters of political prisoners who were arrested during the “Black Spring” government crackdown on Cuban dissidents. In the video, Pollan asks for the international community to maintain pressure on the Cuban government after it failed to honor its commitment to release all the prisoners by November 7, including 12 who have refused exile into Spain.

    During a four-day period that occurred in March 2003, 75 independent journalists, librarians, and democracy and human rights advocates were arrested and ultimately convicted with sentences ranging from 6 to 28 years. One prisoner died in custody on hunger strike; 21 were eventually freed through an “extra-penitentiary license,” and one prisoner completed his term.

    In July 2010, the Roman Catholic Church of Havana announced that the Cuban government agreed to exile the 52 Black Spring prisoners who still remained in prison. The government committed to releasing all the prisoners within four months—by November 7. With the deadline for their release passed, 39 prisoners have been forced into exile in Spain. Twelve prisoners refused anything but an unconditional release. They remain in prison as of today.

    “The government simply wants to give the world the impression that things are changing. But in reality, while the laws that put dissidents in prison remain, we cannot talk about real changes,” said Pollan.

    The Ladies in White have pledged to continue their peaceful protest for freedom and democracy in Cuba. In the video, Pollan asks for the international community to support a pardon for the prisoners who have refused exile, and emphasizes that the release of the prisoners does not signal an improvement of the human rights situation in Cuba.

    “This is what the government is hoping to do, to clean the streets of those individuals who dare to confront them peacefully. That is why they are exiling the prisoners and their families, so that there won’t be people to oppose them, and the rest of the opposition would see that they could be expelled, too,” stated Pollan.

    To this date, Cuba’s criminal code—which allows the “pre-emptive” arrest of individuals for their “potential” to commit crime—is unchanged, as are laws allowing for the arrest of anyone writing anything critical of the Cuban government.

    “Even if the Cuban government fulfills its promise and releases or exiles the remaining prisoners, there is still a dire human rights situation in that country,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “Significant change in Cuba will not come without a full transition to democracy and respect for civil and political rights,” he stated.

    “The political prisoners who have refused exile should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to remain in Cuba or leave the country. Their sacrifice is a courageous act of peaceful resistance against a ruthless dictatorship, and the international community must support them in their protest,” Halvorssen continued.

    In September, HRF released a video of the Ladies in White that relates the history of how the group formed following the Black Spring and discusses events that have brought international attention to Cuba’s political prisoners.

    HRF is an international nonpartisan organization devoted to defending human rights in the Americas. It centers its work on the twin concepts of freedom of self-determination and freedom from tyranny. These ideals include the belief that all human beings have the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council includes former prisoners of conscience Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Václav Havel, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

    Contact: Thor Halvorssen, Human Rights Foundation, (212) 246.8486,

  15. So!CUMAN! you are some sort of Communist Pevert? We can put you in a program here in the USA! We know that the CASTROFACISTS have no money now!


    Associated Press: Cuba reports positive tourism figures despite global economic weakness

    HAVANA — Cuba says tourism on the island has inched up during the first nine months of 2010, with both revenue and the number of visitors climbing despite global economic weakness.
    Revenue through September was $1.3 billion, up 3.5 per cent from the $1.26 billion reported over the same period last year. The number of tourists also increased during the period, up about 50,000 to 1.89 million through September.

    Canada remains the country that sends most tourists to the island — with 733,000 in the first nine months of 2010 — followed by Great Britain, Italy, Spain and Germany. U.S. tourists are effectively barred from coming to Cuba, and Washington has maintained a 48-year trade embargo on the island.

    Tourism and nickel production are Cuba’s main sources of income. The country is in the midst of a deep economic downturn. Communist leaders are in the process of revamping the economy, injecting a measure of free market capitalism into the state-dominated system.


  18. #7 your SPOT ON. Thank uou for your insight and posting. Thank you all Veterans who rid the world of unjust tyrants. Cuban’s its time to STAND UP and be HEARD for your CIVIL RIGHTS. The worlds attention is NOW YOURS.

  19. The dynasty, as theatrical, vociferous and self preserving as they are, have to really chuckle, swallow hard and apply themselves in explaining certain changes in policy and its implementation to the population.

    They can’t exactly come out and declare that their deepest held belief systems and philosophy are demonstrably bankrupt, a complete failure, and therefore must be overturned. So their only recourse is a form of communist mumbling, probably meant to confuse the disinterested and keep the intellectuals guessing for more and/or reading between the lines. The very small dictator brother and his mostly elderly clique at the top are not explicit, lest they have to eat their words at a later date. They’ve already had to do plenty of that over the last few years. By now they have probably been alerted, coached on, and rehearsed on managing their dementia in public. Their new approach is to hedge their bets by being imprecise, equivocal and/or just simply stonewalling (or hide in their bunker) and not stick their heads out.

    The elderly mumbling mummy is a different story. A sort of loose cannon, who is too dementic to listen, or assimilate any coaching. This is probably causing his very small brother and surrogates cronic anxiety. With his penchant for adulation and showmanship, the coma-andante, a ghost of his former self, cannot get rid of his stinky uniform, and stay quietly in his country estate. Instead his remaining reptilian instints create a weak force which draws him, to TV cameras and public attention. The distant clapping still resonates in the his plaque filled brain.

  20. CAN YOU SPELL P.A.R.A.N.O.I.A! or P.R.O.P.A.G.A.N.D.A. ? “LA CHINA” and “THE MUMMY” know how to S.P.E.L.L.!!

    ASSOCIATED PRESS: Cuba denounces ‘virtual’ Castro plot in new game

    HAVANA (AP) — Cuba harshly criticized a new video game in which U.S. special operations soldiers try to kill a young Fidel Castro, saying Wednesday that the violent role-playing glorifies assassination and will turn American children into sociopaths.
    The island’s state-run media also took a dig at the CIA’s real-life efforts to do in the island’s revolutionary leader, who has survived dozens, perhaps hundreds of attempts on his life.
    “What the United States couldn’t accomplish in more than 50 years, they are now trying to do virtually,” said an article posted on Cubadebate, a state-run news website.
    The brouhaha surrounds one of the most highly anticipated shoot-em-up video games of the year, “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” which went on sale in the United States on Tuesday. The game, from California-based Activision Blizzard Inc., takes players on secret missions to American Cold War enemies such as the Soviet Union, Cuba, Vietnam and Laos.
    The Cuban operation is one of the first challenges players face in the ultra-realistic game. The mission takes place with John F. Kennedy in the White House in the months leading up to the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon.
    Players must shoot their way through the colonial streets of Havana on a mission to assassinate Castro, then a young revolutionary who had recently overthrown dictator Fulgencio Batista. In a twist, they end up killing a body-double and are sent to prison in Siberia.
    Cuba said the game attempts to legitimize murder and assassination in the name of entertainment
    “This new video game is doubly perverse,” the Cubadebate article said. “On the one hand, it glorifies the illegal assassination attempts the United States government planned against the Cuban leader … and on the other, it stimulates sociopathic attitudes in North American children and adolescents.”
    Messages left by The Associated Press with Activision were not immediately returned Wednesday.
    The article said psychological studies show that violent video games can produce anti-social behavior in the young because players must take an active part in the bloodletting in order to win. Watching violent movies, by contrast, is a more passive pursuit and thus less likely to produce copycat behavior.
    Christopher J. Ferguson, a psychology professor at Texas A&M International University who studies video-game violence, said such studies are off-base.
    “There is really a lot of, obviously, rhetoric and politics going on,” he told the AP. “At this point, there is no evidence that video games, violent or otherwise, cause harm to minors.”
    Ferguson said youth violence in the United States “is at its lowest level in 40 years,” yet studies show that as many as 95 percent of young men have played violent video games at some point in their lives.
    Video games are becoming increasingly big business, with development budgets rivaling those of big-screen movies. Players are also getting older. Game industry group Entertainment Software Association says the average game player in the U.S. is 34 years old.
    “Call of Duty: Black Ops” is only for sale to players 17 years old and older. It is not the first military-style shooter game to generate controversy this year.
    “Medal of Honor” from Electronic Arts Inc. was banned from U.S. military bases after it went on sale last month because it let players take on the role of Taliban fighters shooting U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Electronic Arts later removed the option.
    Cuba says Castro has survived more than 600 attempts on his life. Others count the number of serious plots in the dozens, including CIA attempts to poison his pen and his trademark cigars; as well as efforts to recruit a former young German lover and to hide a gun in a TV camera.
    American intelligence agents once allegedly hired a hotel worker to slip a fatal pill into Castro’s milkshake. Like all the others, the plot was unsuccessful.
    Castro is now 84 years old, having outlived the majority of the enemies of his generation, both inside Cuba and out. He turned over the presidency to his brother Raul — first temporarily, then permanently — in 2006, but remains leader of the Cuban Communist Party.
    “I think I hold the dubious record of having been the target of more assassination attempts than any politician, in any country, in any era,” Castro said in a July 1998 speech, drawing laughter from the crowd. “The day I die, nobody will believe it.”
    Despite the quip, the assassination attempts, as well as Washington’s 48-year trade and travel embargo, have helped fuel a siege mentality on the island even two decades after the Cold War ended.
    The location of the homes of both Fidel and Raul Castro remain state secrets, and state media rarely publish their schedules ahead of time.
    When Cuba held real-life war games last year, a senior general said the island still had to guard against an invasion from the north, a notion President Barack Obama later dismissed as preposterous.
    AP Technology Writer Barbara Ortutay in New York contributed to this report.

  21. ***
    —“preserving the gains of the Communist Revolution–!” Has Yoanni seen any gains yet? We did–Marco Rubio will take his place in the U.S. Senate soon. He speaks clearly of freedom.
    —“preservando las mejoranzas del Revolucion Communista–!” Ha visto Yoanni unas mejoranzas? Vimos una–Marco Rubio va tomar su lugar en el Senate de los Estados Unidos en poco tiempo. Habla claramente de la libertad.
    John Bibb

  22. MIAMI HERALD: Havana frees up markets — with a caveat-The Cuban Communist Party’s guidelines for its next congress say central planning, not market forces, will rule the economy.-BY JUAN O. TAMAYO

    Cuba’s food rationing card will be eliminated. Private economic activity and foreign investments will be allowed to expand, and the government will reduce controls of agriculture and state enterprises.

    But communist-styled centralized planning, and not capitalist market forces, will guide the future of Cuba where “only socialism is capable of . . . preserving the gains of the revolution.”

    That’s part of the take-away from a 32-page document published Tuesday as a guide for the grass-roots debate that will lead up to the first Congress since 1997 of the Communist Party of Cuba in April.

    Cuban ruler Raúl Castro already has launched many of the changes proposed in the document — warning that a withering economic crisis is pushing Cuba to the edge of a “precipice” — and the Congress is expected to give them its official seal of approval.

    The Congress in April “will be more about preserving the system and the party, not about announcing change,” said Irving Louis Horowitz, who has co-edited a dozen volumes of the academic journal Cuban Communism. “It’s important to the nation and the party only because there are no other parties.”

    But the gathering may well be the last for the generation that has held power since the Cuban revolution in 1959. Castro, 79, succeeded his ailing brother Fidel, 84, in 2008.

    The Communist Party is required to hold congresses every five years to set mayor policy directions, but it has not held one in 13 years as the island struggled through hard economic times and later the Castro leadership change.

    The guidance document, sold on street stands Tuesday for one peso (about three U.S. cents), makes it clear the party will not abandon the Marxist-Leninist ideology that Fidel Castro put in place.


    Cuba’s economic future “will be in accordance with the principle that only socialism can overcome difficulties and preserve the gains of the revolution, and that in the updating of the economic model, [central] planning will be paramount, not the market,” it declares.

    Titled Project for Guidance on the Economic and Social Policy, the document ticks off a long string of proposals for jump-starting an economy mired by low productivity, dismal wages centralized planning and the theft of state resources.

    Among the changes already started or proposed by Raúl Castro are an expansion of private economic activity, such as self-employment and cooperatives, and encouragement of foreign investments and tourism.

    The guide added that Cuba should assure “the strict fulfillment of contract commitments,” referring to the 2009 decision to freeze foreign assets in Cuban banks and halt payments on some foreign debts.

    The government also should move toward the unification of Cuba’s two currencies — pesos used to pay salaries and CUCs (worth about 28 pesos) that are needed to buy most imported goods. But such a move is complex and will need “rigorous preparation,” the document noted.

    The ration card, which provides 10 days’ worth of food per month at dirt-cheap prices, will be “eliminated in an orderly fashion” as part of the campaign to cut back massive government subsidies, the guide said.

    Castro said the guidelines were submitted before publication to Fidel, who is first secretary of the Communist Party, while he remains second secretary.

    The Communist Party, which has 820,000 by-invitation-only members in a country of 11.2 million people, is described in the constitution as “the superior directing force of society and the state.”

    During his announcement Monday that the Congress would be held in April, Castro said the party will hold seminars later this month to teach its officials how they can “guide the massive discussion.”

    The debates will take place from Dec. 1 until the end of February, he said, and the party will gather the opinions and present them to the Congress in the last half of April.

    Castro announced in early 2008 that the congress would be held in the last half of 2009.

    But in July of 2009 he postponed it indefinitely because of the economic crisis.

    The island imports an estimated 60 to 80 percent of all its food and the average monthly salary stands at $20, not enough to make ends meet despite free healthcare and education.


    The IV Communist Party Congress in 1991 began with similar calls for a grass-roots debate on Cuba’s future, but the debate was abruptly cut short amid an outburst of complaints against the system. The debate that preceded the V Congress in 1997 was much more controlled.

    In 2007, Castro urged Cubans to express themselves “with valor, with sincerity” after he delivered a brutally frank diagnosis of Cuba’s economic ailments during a speech that July.

    The speech was debated in neighborhoods, schools and work places throughout Cuba and more than one million comments were gathered, according to government announcements. It’s not clear clear what happened to them.

    Also for the first time, the guide broached the possibility of opening up the real estate market, which is now tightly controlled by the government. But it warned that “the concentration of properties” won’t be allowed.

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