The Story That Wasn’t


Image taken from: www.penultimosdias.com

Today I was going to publish a text about Mother’s Day, a brief vignette where I would tell of my mother, her hands smelling of onions, garlic and cumin… from all the time she spends in the kitchen. I had the idea of telling you of the pleasure it gave me to see her come to the door of my high school in the countryside, bringing the food that had cost her an entire week–and great effort–to get. But just as I put the finishing touched on my little material chronicle, Juan Wilfredo Soto died in Santa Clara and it all became senseless.

The police batons are thirsty for backs in these parts. The growing violence of those in uniform is something that is whispered about and many describe it detail without daring to publicly denounce it. Those of us who have ever been in dungeon know well that the sweetened propaganda of “Police, police, you are my friend,” repeated on TV, is one thing, and the impunity enjoyed by these individuals with a badge is another thing entirely. If, on top of that, those arrested have ideas that differ from the prevailing ideology, then their treatment will be even harsher. Fists want to convince them where meager arguments can’t succeed.

I don’t know how the authorities of my country are going to explain it, but I doubt, this time, they will manage to persuade us it wasn’t the fault of the police. There is no way to understand how an unarmed man sitting in a downtown park could represent a major threat. What happens is that when intolerance is given free rein it feeds public disrespect and gives a green light to the police, and these tragedies occur. As of today, a mother in Santa Clara is not sitting at the table prepared by her children, but in a dark room at a funeral home, keeping vigil over the body of her son.

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136 thoughts on “The Story That Wasn’t

  1. @#135
    I am willing to bet the energy it takes u to come up w/what u think r “smart” answers is the most u have spend in ur life, heck I am willing to believe is the most of “honest” work u have done in ur life as well. So u know:, u r so easy to steer is begining to make me feel pity 4 u.

  2. Humberto Capiro (El Cibergues@)
    Mayo 25th, 2011 at 13:48

    “YOUTUBE: Cuban dissident Coco Farinas speaks at Juan Wilfredo Soto funeral demanding justice and Human Rights”.

    At last Cuban dissident was free to speak demanding freedom of speech.

  3. YOUTUBE: Cuban dissident Coco Farinas speaks at Juan Wilfredo Soto funeral demanding justice and Human Rights and down with the CASTROFASCISTS

  4. Yoani, I think that you should change title of this post to “Beating that wasn’t”. As a dedicated fighter for human rights, You might know, that in free and democratic society everybody has right to day in Court of Law. Even brutal murderer is not guilty until proven guilty in the Court of Law, and not in the video on You Tube. What you are doing on Your blog, we free people in America, call “lynching”. As I see it You, are the antisocial person. You admitted that at work You didn’t care about meeting quotas. That means You didn’t care about rest of the society but only about Yourself. In free countries people work for better future. What did You do for your country? Go to work and talk about food and eat cashews.

  5. @#131
    When I think u came up w/the best … u outdo urself Bro! thanks …

  6. “THEY KILLED HIM! THE BEATING CAUSED HIS DEATH, THE TWEET I MADE IS ONE OF THE PROOFS! AND THE CUBAN GOVERMENT HAS SEALED THEIR DEATHS!”- Pastor Mario Lleonart Barroso

    Declaración inédita del Pastor Bautista Mario Félix Lleonart Barroso al periodista independiente José Alberto Álvarez Bravo, el martes 10 de mayo del 2011, sobre la agresión policial que costó la vida al disidente Juan Wilfredo Soto García

    Unpublished declaration by Baptist Pastor Mario Felix Barroso Lleonart given to independent journalist José Alberto Álvarez Bravo, Tuesday May 10, 2011, about assault by police that killed the dissident Juan Soto Wilfredo Garcia.

    YOUTUBE: Cuba: Testimonio excepcional de Pastor Bautista Mario Félix Lleonart Barroso

  7. ACCORDING TO BLOGGER/JOURNALIST MIRIAM CELAYA, ONE OF THE POLICE INVOLVED IN THE MUREDER OF JUAN WILFREDO SOTO, COMMITTED SUICIDE. ANOTHER VICTIM OF THE “NEW MAN” MODEL!

    What has not been reported by Granma is the death of one of the policemen involved in the beating (of Juan Wilfredo Soto), this occurred on the night of May 11 as a result of a gunshot to the head by his own hand in the same Sunday afternoon in August . According to testimony NOT published by Granma revealed to me by my colleague Valhuerdi via telephone, the policeman were named Alexéi Herrero, shot himself in the bathroom of his home, located a village in the outskirts of Santa Clara called, Callejón de San Antonio on Camajuaní Road, after his return from the second meeting he had been summoned by the police investigation the death of Soto. Alexei’s Herrero’s who had a propensity for violence, according to testimony, was held under heavy police security at the funeral of Santa Clara (former funeral Camacho), this security line extended into the deceased’s own home.

    Lo que no ha reportado Granma es la muerte de uno de los policías participantes en la golpiza, ocurrida en la noche del 11 de mayo, a consecuencia de un disparo a la cabeza que se realizara por su propia mano en la tarde del propio domingo 8. Según testimonios que no publica Granma y que me ha revelado el colega Valhuerdi, vía telefónica, el policía se llamaba Alexéi Herrero , y se disparó en el baño de su propia casa, ubicada en un lugar de las afueras de Santa Clara conocido como Callejón de San Antonio , en la carretera de Camajuaní, después de su regreso de la segunda reunión a la que había sido convocado por la Instrucción Policial a propósito de la muerte de Soto. El velorio de Alexéi ¬–un individuo con tendencia a la violencia, según testimonios–, se realizó bajo un fuerte operativo policial en la funeraria de Santa Clara (antigua funeraria Camacho), operativo que se extendió hasta la propia vivienda del fallecido.

    http://www.desdecuba.com/sin_evasion/?p=1313&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

  8. The article I posted below was dated 2009. From what I can gather on the web the government hasn’t threatened to fine anyone since about 2006. If someone has contrary information please post it here and I’ll point it out when people ask me if they can go to Cuba.

  9. I found the article I mentioned in a previous post. I am not a lawyer and can’t interpret the law, but the following corresponds to the experiences of travelers I know, except the ones I know don’t mention they’ve been in Cuba so never worry about the US government:

    LOS ANGELES – A U.S. citizen trying to challenge the ban on travel to Cuba on Friday bemoaned his inability to get arrested or cited — even after having his passport stamped in Havana and bringing back Cuban memorabilia.

    Mytchell Mora, a 39-year-old freelance entertainment news producer, said he told U.S. customs officials he broke the law after flying through Costa Rica home to Los Angeles early Friday.

    Officials punched some information about him into a computer and sent him home without punishment, Mora said. They didn’t even confiscate his Cuba T-shirt or postcards.

    “I am just so surprised nothing happened to me,” Mora, who lives in West Hollywood, said in a phone interview. “What can you really do when you’re saying, ‘take me to jail or give me a ticket,’ and they do nothing to you?”

    Jaime Ruiz, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said customs officers don’t issue citations for violations of the U.S. Cuba policy, but rather refer cases to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

    “We’ll never deny a U.S. citizen entry,” said Ruiz, who wouldn’t comment on the specifics of Mora’s case. “If he’s in violation of a U.S. law, we report them to another federal agency.”

    The Office of Foreign Assets Control did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment on Mora’s case.

    Most Americans who travel to Cuba do so on the sly, sneaking in and back without permission from U.S. authorities.

    But Mora is trying to make a point, hoping to get arrested or cited after his fourth trip to Cuba so he could challenge the country’s travel ban, which he says discriminates against anyone who isn’t Cuban-American and punishes Cuba’s people, not its government.

    He traveled to Cuba without permission in 1999 and 2000. About six months after the second visit, he got a letter from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control saying he had to explain why he went to Cuba, who he stayed with and how much money he spent — and could face fines or jail time if he failed to respond within 10 days.

    He wrote back asking to exercise his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and never heard back.

    Mora returned to Cuba in 2002 and told the Communist Party newspaper Granma which flight he would take to return to the United States. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, he was pulled out of line by U.S. authorities who said they were waiting for him.

    After answering questions about why he went to Cuba, Mora was released and his bags were not checked.

    On Friday morning, Mora said he immediately told U.S. authorities that he broke the law and should be subject to a secondary inspection and have his bags checked. Mora said a supervisor was called over and typed information into a computer, but let him keep his souvenirs and leave the airport.

    Mora said he hopes he may still be cited so he can challenge the policy in U.S. courts.

    During his eight-day trip to Cuba, Mora spent about $50 in government-controlled stores on a green and red Che Guevara beret, a Cuba T-shirt, Cuban flag refrigerator magnets, and postcards featuring a picture of Fidel Castro shaking hands with author Ernest Hemingway.

    “They say if you buy these clothes or anything else, it goes to Castro’s hands,” Mora said in Havana. “I don’t think $30 for a shirt is going to make or break this guy. The money I spend goes to the people and their homes, not the government.”

    – By AMY TAXIN and WILL WEISSERT | Associated Press

  10. @#124
    Democracy functions w/priviledges & responsibilities. the function: exercised w/the knowledge of one’s rights ends where the right of others begin. the responsibility: to respect religious beliefs ,political choices, race & sexual equalities.
    The same democracy that allows u the right (among others) to exercise ur freedom of speech which u use as an entitlement. U show ur ignorance of its value because is evident u never had to earn it in a field of battle or paid for it in any form yet.
    The right of free speech as well as others are inalienable rights.
    I suggest u start reading about such a thing & learn before u talk about things u know nothing about.

  11. Mandy, my previous questions have nothing to do with whether the ban is right or wrong, or whether it scares many Americans from visiting the island. I just want to know the reality of the current situation and whether I should point out information I missed for American friends who travel to Cuba. Especially the ones who bring back suitcases packed with Cuban cigars, rum, etc.

  12. Mandy, the last thing I want to do is give out false information, or get someone in trouble for going to Cuba. Anything I said that is incorrect is out of ignorance. I am unaware of anyone being punished for going to Cuba, so I’d appreciate any links or references supporting the opposite. I’m not talking about official regulations, but news stories or your own personal accounts, and also when the events happened.

    From the experience of friends and acquaintances, and the fact that I never read about anyone getting fined in recent times for going to Cuba (and when there were a few fines years ago I think they were minor), I just assume it is safer than playing poker online, which millions of Americans do, but which is a “gray” area of the law that can theoretically get you fined or imprisoned. I quickly browsed some travel sites which confirmed my perhaps mistaken impressions.

    I might have just missed reading about it in the news, so I really would appreciate more information. I’d also like to know what happened to friends of yours who went to Cuba.

  13. The biggest problem with democratic system, which says that You can be anything You want to be, is that You can be anything You want except being communist.

  14. Follow-up to my #122 – The safest thing for U.S. citizens who wish to travel to Cuba is to obtain license to travel to Cuba. The latest is here: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_tr_app.pdf

    Find an educational or artistic or familial reason to go, a reason that fits your purpose, and go with a license. The Office of Foreign Assets Control does still send letters to travelers, demanding payment of travel fines. Generally they range up to $7,500, and I do know of individuals who have negotiated payment of their fines, but on paper, U.S. citizens can go to jail up to 10 years.

    And – If you are against the U.S. travel/asset transaction ban to Cuba, write to your politicians to end this policy. :)

    @#120 – Cuba Libre – A socialist way of life? You seem to vacillate between love of Castro and el Che, who instituted COMMUNISM and tyranny in Cuba, and your love of socialism. Do not confuse Cuban COMMUNISM with Canadian or Danish or Western democratic socialism. Socialism and capitalism with democracy (in my view) are a balanced combination, but unfortunately, that combination does not exist in Cuba.

  15. @#108 – Love Cuba – For the sake of sensibility and sharing of accurate information, please forgive my saying so, but your comment was reckless. The ban went into effect on February 8, 1963 and while its current incarnation may not be as explicit as one would like, please review the latest Cuban dissident appeal to end the travel ban. As I stated earlier, that is why commercial flights from the U.S. are *not permitted* to Cuba. Travel to Cuba is considered prima facie proof of having spent money there, and the U.S. uses the transaction laws as a means to restrict travel. U.S. citizens do get fined, even today. So while you are right about the “grey” area as the the laws on paper, the U.S. government still fines and can pursue full legal remedies against any U.S. citizen traveling there.

    The analogy of mp3 downloads (which is a commercial law enforced by recording corporations and their artists, and yes, there are kids who have been fined as much as $675.000 USD, and as you may know, limewire was recently shut down) or jaywalking laws (which are meant as a safety precaution) are not analogous laws.

    The U.S. travel ban is a political ban on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba.

  16. “No one seems to see the crumbling of most capitalist countries”

    Good observation, it wasn’t the Soviet bloc and Communist China that had to adopt capitalism, and Cuba is not now crumbling and adopting capitalism. It is we who are crumbling as millions of wretched Americans get on their rafts and head for Cuba.

  17. Komar,
    I have read several of your posts, and I seem to agree with most if not all of them. None of the other people in here seem to see the advantages of a socialist way of life. And as soon as you try to defend it they will say you are a communist, a terrorist, or a tortinary. No one seems to see the crumbling of most capitalist countries. No one seems to see that the leading companies in the world are getting filthy rich with more money than they know what to do with. Take the oil companies who just in the first trimestre of 2011 claim between 7 and 10 billion dollar profits. Even BP after dishing out 2 billion dollars for the clean up in the Gulf of Mexico still declare 5 billion dollars in profits in the first 3 months of 2011. Now imagine just one second if the Cuban government had that kind of money and would share it with the Cuban people just like it shares the few things they have now. on`t think to many people would complain about socialism then would they.

  18. TIME MAGAZINE: Did Cuba Skew the Cause of a Dissident’s Death?- By: Marina Watson Peláez

    After a Cuban dissident, Juan Wilfredo Soto, 46, was arrested at a Santa Clara protest, he was allegedly beaten to death. Soto was among those who supported a 134-day hunger strike by fellow dissident Guillermo Farinas to press for the release of political prisoners.

    But a forensic doctor and Soto’s sister have denied the allegations and say he showed no signs of bruising, according to a statement in Granma, Cuba’s official communist party’s paper. Soto’s sister, Rosa Soto Garcia, was quoted as saying, “It’s a big lie that he was beaten. He did not have a single mark on him.”

    Soto is said to have died of “natural causes.” According to Granma, Soto had serious health problems; Nestor Vega Alonso attributes his death to generalized edema and high blood pressure, a dilated heart, gout and diabetes mellitus. Ricardo Rodríguez Jorge, a forensic doctor, said the autopsy revealed no signs of external or internal violence. “In the face of this irrefutable evidence” reads Granma’s statement, “one has to ask how it is possible to continue lying. Is not the experience of more than 50 years of a Revolution without a single case of torture, disappearance or murder sufficient?”

    Anyone in Cuba will tell you that you’re better off keeping your political views low-key, if they’re contra-revolutionary of course. Under Cuban law, you could be arrested, tried and jailed for speaking and writing against the government under charges. Famous Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, author of Generation Y blog, writes that “the police batons are thirsty for backs in these parts. The growing violence of those in uniform is something that is whispered about and many describe it detail without daring to publicly denounce it.”

    Since Cuba only has one paper, which is run by the government, it’s hard to know who we should trust. Cuba says it “despises lies” and blames the corporate media. But dissident Farinas told the AFP, “If we do not do something, so that the government changes its stand toward peaceful protesters, we are going to be reporting even more deaths.”

    Perhaps Soto did die of natural causes, but with Cuba’s media laws it’s hard to know the truth.

    http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/05/13/did-cuba-skew-the-cause-of-a-dissidents-death/

  19. @#114
    nappies is what u wear aroud ur head resident fool … by the way … u haven’t answered my questions yet so either u have no answer or u r affraid to answer. …

  20. Cowboy capitalist economy is in Cuba since Castro kicked thousands of government workers out of their jobs and asked them to find own jobs. Preferably in bustling private sector. As to welfare programs, Vietnam doesn’t need it. Welfare programs are only needed in countries with high unemployment rates.

  21. China and Vietnam have cowboy capitalist economies with less social welfare programs than the USA, and far less than Western Europe. The ramblings, deliberately confused or not, of the Castro trolls is what leaves us speechless.

  22. albert: I don’t know what to say. You left me speechless. I’m without speech. I’m talking about inferior communist Vietnamese economy and You, very eloquently. about nappies. Are the nappies communist or capitalist?

  23. @#112
    go change ur nappi boy & read ur sonet while doing it …

  24. Hi John. What are the last one communist states?. China and Vietnam?. Their economies are growing 8-10% a year. Sooner or later, they will choke on their own wealth. America and Western Europe have healthy 0.5% economy growth.

  25. ***
    HI PAMELA–#101–and LOVE CUBA–various comments. The U.S. Congressional Black Caucus went to Cuba and praised the Castro Government! One of the last violent communist states left in the world. Like the old East German police state. When Castro falls we will find the truth about how bad the crimes really were / are. Most Americans don’t have a clue!
    ***
    I hope the U.S. Government will allow people without Cuban family members to visit Cuba legally one day. I want to see this beautiful island and people when they are free. Life will improve a lot then.
    ***
    HOLA PAMELA–#101–y LOVE CUBA–varios commentos. El Grupo de miembros Congressionales Negros de Los Estados Unidos fueron a Cuba y elogiababa al Gobierno de Castro! Uno de los pocos violentos estados communistas que existan en el mundo. Como el viejo estado de policia de Alemania de Este. Cuando caera el gobierno de Castro vamos descubrir que malo fueran / estan los crimines. La mayoria de los Americanos no tienen un “clew”!
    ***
    Espero que el gobierno de Los Estados Unidos permiteran los quienes no tienen familia en Cuba visitar legalmente una dia. Quiero ver esta isla bonita y la gente cuando son libres. La vida va mejorar mucha cuando esta pasara.
    ***
    John Bibb
    ***

  26. Mandy Marcelo: I don’t want to dig in her blog any deeper. She is not free to travel, not free to speak. Good for her that Castro and his cronies can’t read. If they could they would lock her up in prison for speaking and writing. She doesn’t even know what is happening around the world. Capitalist Greece is falling to pieces, same in half of the Europe. USA is in debt up to neck and communist Vietnam’s economy is growing 10% a year. So is China. Poor Vietnamese people shut up and work. Someday they work themselves out of poverty, while Cuban dissidents talk themselves in it.

  27. In an attempt to answer my previous question, I searched some travel blogs, and apparently there is no US travel ban to Cuba (just a ban on spending money there on unapproved visits), so to be perfectly safe just don’t bring back Cuban cigars or Rum. That being said, US officials don’t ask if you’ve been to Cuba when you return from Mexico and over the last few years no American tourists have been sent letters threatening a fine even if their suitcases are full of Cuban cigars and Rum and Che t-shirts. I can’t recall where, but I remember reading about an American who keeps going to Cuba and then sends letters to the US government asking them to penalize him, but to no avail. Apparently he want to challenge the case in court, but the US government just doesn’t care.

    I have a feeling that most Castro groupies use the travel “ban” as an excuse not to go there, as they are probably afraid of bumping into the real Cuba.

  28. Komar, there is a big difference between people dying of cold while they are institutionalized in a state run hospitla and homeless people dying on a street.

    I am sorry that your low IQ level keeps you in the dark.

  29. Mandy, I’m just curious how many Americans have ever been punished for going to Cuba? I know in the 60s and 70s many Americans made it a point of going to Cuba and making public statements of solidarity with the Cuban regime while they were there, what ever happened to them? I mean, Americans even went to North Vietnam to support the Viet Cong without any consequences if I remember correctly, at least for most of them. There are laws and there are laws, and it’s all about enforcement anyways. Given the number of Americans I’ve seen in Cuba, I have a feeling that violating the travel ban is as dangerous as jaywalking, or at least not as risky as downloading mp3s. If I’m wrong, I stand corrected.

  30. @#98
    Hey … I thought u would be saving the lives of those 200 (more or less) homeless that die every year where u live according to ur statement?
    What is a real job & ur delicate sensibilities will be offended?
    To much reality for u to deal with? or perhaps u talk the talk but can’t walk the walk?

  31. Komar, please visit Yoani’s blog entries where she is repeatedly denied exit from Cuba. Cubans are required to seek permission to exit the country.

    Most Westerners, as far as I am aware, do not need permission to *leave* their countries for travel purposes.

    That said, and I do not wish to be a “Debbie Downer” here, I will remind that U.S. citizens are legally forbidden travel to Cuba, with some exceptions that can be found http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1097.html#entry_requirements

    …and U.S. carriers are currently forbidden scheduled direct commercial flights to Cuba (special licensed flights being the exception). U.S. citizens are further given travel advisories to Iran, N. Korea, etc., but those are “travel at your own risk” warnings. Cuba is currently the only country to which U.S. citizens are not legally permitted travel.

    So the notion that those in the U.S. are free to travel anywhere is not true, but hopefully will be true at some date in the near future.

  32. THIS IS HOW THE CASTRO NOSTRA WORKS! (The Mafia (also known as Cosa Nostra) is a criminal syndicate that emerged in the mid 19th century in Sicily.)

    MSNBC: Cubans dream of being tourists – abroad-By Mary Murray, NBC News Producer

    HAVANA, Cuba – Imagine having the right to get a passport, but not having the right to get it stamped.

    That’s been the de facto policy in Cuba for half a century where people are basically barred from packing their bags to take a trip abroad just for fun.

    Under the current policy, any Cuban wanting to travel abroad needs permission to leave the country, a process that many find not only demeaning, but expensive. Any request can be turned down, often without the applicant learning the reason why, but always after paying $150 to process the paperwork requesting the exit permit.

    Between the cost of the passport and other documents, Cuban travelers abroad pay close to $400 – not counting airfare. Those costs make travel out of reach for most Cubans who, on average, bring home about $20 a month. (Cubans get by on such paltry incomes thanks to subsidized rent and groceries, free education and health care, as well as remittances from relatives living abroad)

    But, like other restrictions that have defined Cuban society for far too long, this seems destined for the island’s dustbin as reform-minded President Raul Castro streamlines his government’s invasive bureaucracy. On Monday, Cuba’s congress agreed to “study a policy” that would ease the bureaucratic obstacles that keep Cubans from traveling. Castro’s aim is to limit government meddling, while cutting costs to salvage the bankrupt national treasury.

    Most people on the island seem to think along the same lines as 25-year-old Nuvia Centeno, who runs a telephone switchboard in the Cuban capital. She’s delighted by the proposed change, and doesn’t care much why the government is dumping the travel ban.

    The right to travel “seems like something basic, something people in other countries take for granted,” she said.

    Havana TV repairman Alejandro Blas, 58, agreed. “For 50 years, we’ve had this myth – the whole world can come here, but we can’t go there…What are we afraid of? What is the government afraid of? That people stay abroad and don’t come back? Who cares!”

    Rodney Martinez, 35, earns a good living driving tourists around Havana in a three-wheeled bright yellow taxi-scooter called a “Coco-Taxi” because it resembles a big coconut. “I see kids from all over the world coming here on vacation, so why shouldn’t I be able to go to wherever my money can take me? I’d love to visit Europe, Italy, Spain.”It’s not clear when the rules will be altered. A document on some 300 proposed reforms released this week by Cuba’s ruling Communist Party states: “Study a policy that allows Cubans living in the country to travel abroad as tourists.”

    That vague statement though was enough to get the TV repairman Blas envisioning what foreign destination he would fly to. “I’ve been to Africa twice as a soldier, but I never really wanted to go there. I want to go to Mexico to see the Aztec ruins and to the Sahara Desert and to the United States and to all the countries in Latin America. That’s to say, that’s where I’d go if I had the money.”

    While that remains the big “if” for most Cubans, long-time Cuba expert Phil Peters argues it’s important just to be able to dream.

    “Some can afford it, many cannot, and many would have airfare paid by relatives abroad. What would matter most is that the government would no longer be restricting the exercise of a basic human right,” said Peters from the Lexington Institute, a Virginia-based think-tank. “That would be a big step forward.”

    http://worldblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/05/13/6637533-cubans-dream-of-being-tourists-abroad-

  33. REUTERS: Obama wants “real change” in Cuba before normal ties

    (Reuters) – The United States needs to see “real change” in Cuba before there can be normal relations between the two neighbors, President Barack Obama said.
    In comments that appeared to dampen prospects for any quick improvement in U.S.-Cuban ties, Obama told the Miami-based Spanish-language station WLTV Univision 23 that despite “some talk” of reforms by Cuba’s communist rulers, he did not see “realistic” changes happening yet on the Caribbean island.

    “I would welcome real change from the Cuban government … For us to have the kind of normal relations we have with other countries, we’ve got to see significant changes from the Cuban government and we just have not seen that yet,” Obama said in an interview broadcast late on Thursday and on Friday.

    Cuban President Raul Castro, who says he is willing to discuss any issue with Washington after a half century of ideological hostility, has launched a range of economic reforms aimed at revitalizing Cuba’s centralized socialist economy.

    This has included more opening for private initiative, although Castro insists Cuba will not shift to capitalism.

    Havana, which demands an end to the long-running U.S. trade and financial embargo on Cuba, has released dozens of political prisoners into exile in an accord with the Catholic Church.

    But Obama said the government headed by Raul Castro, who succeeded his older brother and veteran Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 2008, had yet to deliver real change that his administration could respond to.

    “The bottom line is political prisoners are still there who should have been released a long time ago who never should have been arrested in the first place; political dissent is still not tolerated. The economic system there is still far too constrained,” said.

    He added: “If you think about it, Castro came into power before I was born – he’s still there and he basically has the same system when the rest of the world has recognized that the system doesn’t work.”

    “OPPRESSIVE ACTIONS”

    The U.S. president’s clear conditioning of any significant improvement in ties to actions expected from the Cuban side was likely to disappoint those seeking more unilateral moves by him to relax the U.S. sanctions against the island.

    Since taking office in January 2009, Obama has eased some aspects of the embargo, such as lifting restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba by Cuban-Americans, permitting some U.S. telecommunications business with the island, and boosting the categories of non-tourist travel to Cuba by Americans to try to promote “people-to-people” contacts.

    In the interview, Obama was asked about the death on Sunday of a Cuban dissident whom fellow opponents of the government said had been beaten by police. Cuba’s government has denied this, saying he died of natural causes.

    “He shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place,” Obama said, although he added more details needed to be known about this specific incident.

    “There have been thousands of people who have suffered as a consequence of oppressive actions by the Cuban regime,” Obama added, saying his administration would work to try to bring more prosperity and freedom to the Cuban people.

    (Reporting by Pascal Fletcher; editing by Anthony Boadle)

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/13/us-usa-cuba-obama-idUSTRE74C3P820110513

  34. Love Cuba: Thanks for the insight. I’m stunned at the amount of Castro admirers the world over that have little or no knowledge of the real Cuba, and who are too lazy or stupid to find out for themselves. It wouldn’t take much research. They admire the cult of Fidel or Che, the person, and totally ignore the millions who are forced daily to live under a brutal dictatorship. I can’t even imagine how dull and empty one’s life must be in order to troll sites like this one and post dumb comments just to provoke a response.

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