Meurice’s Roar

Image taken from "La Voz católica"

In memoriam for Pedro Meurice Estiú
Archbishop Emeritus of Santiago de Cuba

They called Archbishop Pedro Meurice Estiu “the lion of the East” for his more-than-proven bravery in the face of the arbitrary and authoritarian. That January 24, 1998, in Antonia Maceo Plaza in Santiago de Cuba, his face is serious, deep in thought. Pope John Paul II has just finished his homily and the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba was to address his flock and the Shepherd who had come to visit it. Before taking the podium, Meurice spoke with the priest Jose Conrado Rodriguez Alegre and told him, “This lion is old with a shaggy mane, but it will roar.” He took the microphone and kept his word.

Facing the surprised Santiagans gathered there, and those who were watching the live on television, Meurice’s address seems to interpret our thoughts, to spring from our own mouths. “Holy Father… I present to you a growing number of Cubans who have confused the country with a party, the nation with a historical process we have lived through in recent decades, culture with an ideology.” And on this side of the screen, many of us did not stop applauding, crying, jumping, looking at the shocked and annoyed face of Raul Castro at the foot of the dais. No one had told the Minister of the Armed Forces–in public and before so many witnesses–truths of this nature. Some escaped in fear from that immense square, but others? The boldest? They were chanting the word, “Freedom.”

“This is a people that has the richness of joy, and a material poverty that saddens and overwhelms it, barely letting it see beyond immediate subsistence,” the lion continued to roar. And in our lethargic civic consciousness something began to stir. Meurice had returned to his years of greatest vitality and the swords that emerged from the ground of that Plaza flew in the face of a rebelliousness lost in some corner of history. For a few brief moments we were free. The homily ended, the severe gesture of our current president presaged scoldings for the old lion, but the crook of John Paul II would protect him.

Today, Pedro Meurice has left us, with his nobility of the feline guardian of the litter, leaving us with the responsibility to present ourselves to the world. How are we going to describe ourselves now? Who will be believe that 13 years later we haven’t been able to “demystify the false messiahs”? How will we explain the fear that has led to paralysis, to continuing to wait for others who will roar for us?


88 thoughts on “Meurice’s Roar

  1. Friendly translator/Moderator:
    #87 seems to qualify under the rules, perhaps if translated from spanish to english you will see what I mean.
    Thank you for all your consistent work & dedication!

  2. YOUTUBE: Misa en honor a Pedro Meurice Estiú (Funeral services in honor of Archbishop Pedro Meurice Estiú)

    Este 30 de julio comenzo la misa en honor a Pedro Meurice. Opositores de toda Cuba despiden a un hombre extraordinariamente valiente y humano.Entre los asisetntes estuvieron la Dra. Maybell Padilla, Eunice Madaula Ejecutiva del CEEDPA, directivos de la agencia aplopress y miembros de los MDO. Dios guarde a este arzobispo, el mayor critico de los hermanos Castro

    On July 30 a mass was held in honor of Archbishop Pedro Meurice Estiu. Opponents across Cuba said goodby to an extraordinarily brave human being. Among the attendees were, Dr. Maybell Padilla, Eunice Madaula the executive director of CEEDPA, member of the the dissident organization MDO. God bless archbishop Estiu, one of the most critical voices against the Castro brothers
    The “Lion of the East,” as he was called for his tough talk in response to the dictatorship’s machinations, was more like a gentle giant on a mission to set his people free from their fears. He had made headlines during Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba in 1998 when, during a huge outdoor mass at Antonio Maceo Plaza with Raúl Castro sitting front and center, the archbishop of Santiago, then 65, roared:

    “I offer [this Mass] to the growing number of Cubans who have confused fatherland with a [political] party, the nation with the historical process we have lived in recent decades, culture with an ideology. There are Cubans who, rejecting it all wholesale, feel uprooted, reject what is from here and overvalue all that is foreign. Some think this is one of the most profound causes of internal and external exile.”

    And then this: “There is another reality I must bring to your attention: The nation lives here and lives in the diaspora. The [average] Cuban suffers, lives and waits here, and also suffers, lives and waits out there. We are one people … looking for the unity that will never be the product of uniformity, but from a common soul that is shared and derives from our diversity.”

    From the crowd, Castro must have heard the cries, “We are not afraid, we are not afraid!”

    Pedro Claro Meurice Estiu (February 23, 1932 in San Luis, Santiago de Cuba – July 21, 2011 in Miami, Florida USA) was the Roman Catholic archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

    Ordained to the priesthood on June 26, 1955, and studied canonic law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. When he returned to Cuba in October 1958, he was named vice chancellor and secretary to the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Enrique Perez-Serantes. Meurice Estiu was appointed auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Cuba and Titular Bishop of Teglata in Numidia in 1967 by Pope Paul VI. On July 4, 1970, he was appointed archbishop and retired in 2007.[1]

    In 2011, he traveled to Miami for his diabetic condition, where he died on July 21 at Mercy Hospital.

  3. @#86
    I will (tx 4 ur wish) even thru the eyes of my grand children …

  4. Thank you Albert, and for all your posts too.

    I hope you get to see a Cuba free from Caudillo Castro.

  5. @#84
    Go right ahead but, please give me ur site so I can publish ur many contributions to the Yoany blogg; I am sure u will not mind sharing all the insults, verbal abuse & racism u use to prop up ur statements & since u r such a defender of truth & enemy of deception I am sure u will allow others to see u for what u are; keep in mind: ur many postings will be the source & I will (like u) “screen print” all my postings just to make u accountable to ur own statements … pal

    “…I took the screendump of the post, and will publish it soon on my own site, which will be dedicated to publishing all the lies and deception this site is throwing left and right. To remove the smoke screen of wrong-whinners’ propaganda and brainwash a little.
    For the sake of the “democracy” and “freedom”, the two favourite subjects of the team “yoani”.
    So, who was it, and what was done about it?…”

  6. Let us talk hypocrisy and hypocrites. To start with let us remind ourselves of the “policy” of the “friendly” translator/admin and his team “yoani” gang: the team “yoani” will NOT allow people posing and posting under the names of others. People caught doing so will be “blocked” and “banned” from the site.

    Several people have apparently been blocked and banned.

    Now, let us go to the post 67.

    It carries my name.

    I invite the “friendly” translator to inform us who was that person and has s/he been blocked and banned for using my name to post insulting and denigrating comments, as per the team “yoani’s” own rules.

    I took the screendump of the post, and will publish it soon on my own site, which will be dedicated to publishing all the lies and deception this site is throwing left and right. To remove the smoke screen of wrong-whinners’ propaganda and brainwash a little.

    For the sake of the “democracy” and “freedom”, the two favourite subjects of the team “yoani”.

    So, who was it, and what was done about it?

  7. @#78
    LC … I love ur comment about “being like che”
    The thing is: the “defenders of the rebolution cyber brigade” must be getting desperate since they resort to impersonating other commentators.
    Its speaks volumes about their tactics, since they use the same as the regime they so fervently defend. Most of this provocateurs follow similar scripts without realizing that rheir “tale’ gives them away; aside from everthing they show their arrogance & lack of respect for other people’s opinion. Their facility for insulting & denigrating as well as using abuse, twisting statements & quoting out of context is their pattern of “arguing” tought by the indoctrination that takes place in the “schools” among others w/the slogan of “being like che”. It is no wonder that being “tired” is the perfect choice of term to call how Cubans feel in Cuba.
    As for me, I (by now) know when the real Love Cuba talks, is a matter of fact & speaking for myself & being sure others here will agree w/me: KEEP ON KEEPING ON LOVE CUBA!
    Between you, Humberto, Sandokan, Julio & many others the information presented is provocative enough to inspire research & to bring the spot light onto what is happening in Cuba. The proof of the effectivness of Yoani’s blogg is in the presence of these provocateurs & the regular members of the “defenders of the rebolution cyber brigade, let us not forget that the rebolution’s “old man” did say the rebolution will/is fight the dissident bloggers in the web w/every tool at their disposal so” Take your best shot brigands … in the end freedom always prevails!
    Viva Cuba !!!

  8. Damir! So glad you like this blog SO MUCH! AND “TEAM YOANI” TOO! HURAY!! BIG GUSANO HUG RIGHT BACK AT YA!

  9. Post 76 is directed at posters who claim that hitler was an atheist.

    Funny thing they are all from the team “yoani” support brigade…

    All 1 and a half of them.


    Querido Humberto,

    The person who calls himself Komrade Komar was banned from commenting on Generation Y because he purposefully posted comments under the name of another regular commentator on the blog, seeking to discredit him and create controversy with his false comments. The person whose name he assumed complained in the comments section that comments were appearing under his name that he did not post. I investigated and discovered that, indeed, that is exactly what had happened and was able to see who had done it. I did not post a comment identifying or discrediting him, I simply re-posted the comment rules — which had been posted many times before — and banned him from the blog.

    The person he impersonated, however, accused him of being the one who did it, and he freely admitted that he had. Since then he has continually changed his ISP seeking to continue to post comments on the blog, and has claimed he “didn’t do anything” and that he is being censored. As you know, other people commonly post comments on the blog that are much more negative than his and they are not censored.

    Yoani’s rules are clear: Anyone who impersonates another commentator will be banned. Thus, he is banned.

  11. Since my last post didn’t show up yet, I suspect that our friend Komar or anonimo or whatever has been impersonating other readers beside myself. On his maximo’s secret service.

  12. pamela, I suspect Comrade Komar / Anonimo / and his other aliases and/or team mates, has been impersonating other posters beside myself. I’m sure he will continue to do so. So if you come across posts that are out of character for anybody, it’s probably an impersonator.

    I guess the best we can say about him is that he is “being like Che”

  13. Every detached historian who has studied Nazi Germany considers Hitler to have been an atheist with deep anti-Christian sentiments. The paragraph below sums up the consensus. Although like I said, I don’t care if someone is an atheist or christian or socialist or capitalist, what matters is that people can peacefully respect other’s political and religious beliefs. Only with tolerance does democracy have a chance in this world.

    In the political relations dealing with religion Hitler readily adopted a strategy “that suited his immediate political purposes”. Nonetheless, Hitler had a general plan, even before the rise of the Nazis to power, to destroy Christianity within the Reich. The leader of the Hitler Youth stated “the destruction of Christianity was explicitly recognized as a purpose of the National Socialist movement” from the start, but “considerations of expedience made it impossible” publicly to express this extreme position. His intention was to wait until the war was over to destroy the influence of Christianity. The plan was conceived by Hitler and an inner circle, including the propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, before the Nazis even came to power.

  14. @#67
    in ur reference to Hitler’s atheism …
    He stated in a speech in Stuttgart February 15, 1933:
    “Today they say that christianity is in danger, that the catholic faith is threatened. My reply to them is: for the time being, Christians and not international atheists are now standing at Germany’s fore. I am not merely talking about christianity; I confess that I will NEVER ally myself with the parties which aim to destroy Christianity.
    So, what’s what … what u know of history comes not from research but Wikipedia eh …pal?

  15. “Anomino”/Komar/Whatever your nick du jour is:

    People, especially you, have a certain writing style. You can change your aliases as many times as you like, but your posts are all the same. Your posts here, your review on Alexa, etc. You’re not fooling anyone. You’re beating a dead horse to death, posts are removed if they violate the rules of this blog. What don’t you understand about that? Really, nobody cares if you’ve saved 100 screen shots of your “removed” posts. Don’t you have anything better to do?



    N.Y. TIMES : Castro Offers a Wave at Cuban Fete, but, Again, No Speech -By DAMIEN CAVE

    CIEGO DE ÁVILA, Cuba — For the second year in a row, Raúl Castro left the rhetoric to his vice president.
    Mr. Castro waved to the crowd gathered here on Tuesday in the countryside for the annual rite of a revolutionary holiday. But as was the case last year, the actual message — calling on Cubans to work harder and accelerate economic reforms — came from a party stalwart who fought at his side during the rebellion.

    “We have to definitively break the mentality of inertia,” said Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura, standing before a sign praising “the victory of ideas.” Instead of emphasizing what they lack, he added, Cubans must “evaluate how much more can be done with what is available.”

    The event celebrating the attack on the Moncada barracks in 1953 — the public debut of a rebel movement that toppled President Fulgencio Batista six year later — offered yet another example of the revised socialism that has come to characterize Mr. Castro’s government. While his older brother Fidel used speeches to rally the country with an absolutist moral vision, casting Cuba as hero and the United States as a villain, Raúl Castro has spoken less often and emphasized current needs.

    Expert say this is partly a matter of urgency. The world economic crisis plunged Cuba into an abyss not seen here since the years after the Soviet Union collapsed. And even before that, this island of 11 million people had been suffering from decades of economic deterioration. Many Cubans, especially in Havana, say the reforms Raúl Castro has been rolling out since officially taking over in 2008 are at least 20 years overdue.

    Nonetheless, the changes in content and approach are significant. The most visible shift so far has been an effort to re-engineer employment. Cuba has opened up nearly 200 professions to limited private enterprise, and in the past year, the government says, the ranks of the self-employed have doubled to 325,000.

    The flood of interest is especially visible in Havana. Handwritten signs on creaking colonial doors now advertise items for sale, like baby shoes and pork chops. New private restaurants also seem to be opening almost every day — which, in a country still dominated by centralized control and limited resources, has led to other problems.

    Cubans now complain, for instance, that competition is increasing prices for basic items like food and construction materials, which are typically bought on the black market (after being stolen from state distributors).

    In his 25-minute speech, Mr. Machado acknowledged some of these obstacles. An octogenarian hunched slightly with age and wearing a white guayabera, he criticized pilfering and the misuse of resources. Addressing a crowd of a few thousand, he called on Cubans to live according to the values that now appear on new billboards featuring Raúl Castro: “Order, discipline and rigor.”

    But experts say the government is struggling with a more fundamental question: How much can be changed, and how quickly, to create economic growth without chaos?

    “The reform plan has lots of moving, interdependent parts and in many ways the key task is sequencing,” said Philip Peters, a Cuba expert at the Lexington Institute.

    Mr. Peters and other analysts said Mr. Castro’s government seemed to recognize that timing was as important as substance. In a surprise move to many Cuba watchers, Raúl, as he is called here, seems to have expanded the role of feedback and adjustments.

    “I wouldn’t say he is more of a democrat, but he has a management style that is much more pragmatic,” said Ted Henken, a professor of Latin American studies at Baruch College in New York. “He wants things to work.”

    In some cases, that has meant backtracking. “For example, last fall the government announced that by this past spring, the state sector would shed a half-million workers,” Mr. Peters said. Then came public resistance. Now, Mr. Peters said, “the layoffs are proceeding, but slower than that, much slower. This seems to reflect a decision that job creation comes first.”

    Mr. Castro’s government has also announced that there will soon be other changes. Political liberties are not included, beyond a promise to let Cubans travel abroad more easily. But Mr. Castro is expected to speak when Parliament opens in August, where he may more fully outline plans for a major change to private property laws, which would allow the purchase and sale of real estate and cars.

    Many Cubans seem uncertain about whether to trust that the government will be able to manage all the new laws and impacts. “It’s complicated” has become the common phrase ending discussions on what amounts to a new social contract in a country where very little is new. Others, however, insist that there is still too much talk and not enough action.

    “We’re still in crisis,” said Enrique Suarez, 50, as he prepared for the July 26 festivities.

    His friend, Belkis Fernandez, put it just as plainly: “It’s still bad.”

  18. Anonimo! NO! I am your Copy and Paste, GUSANO Postmaster General!

  19. Pamela! Damir is no 007! He is in the negative numbers!

  20. Gee, I wonder who posted this “review” about Yoani’s blog on Alexa.

    Comments: Nice blog, only the comments in Engish version are way of topic of the blog and are reprints of old news from another portals. Inconvinient comments are quickly removed by moderators and their authors banned from the blog. So much for freedom of speech here. No matter if author of this blog writes about, fruit, shoes, shotage of food or water in Cuba, comments are mostly about CASTROFASCISTS and some guys in prison, doing time for not agreeing with CASTROFASCISTS. It is a waste of time to dissagree with anyone on this blog, for disagreeable posts are quickly removed by moderator.

    So would you pleeeeeeeeease quit wasting your time? Pretty please?

  21. Cubans Still Suffer, But Media Looks Away-By Mike Gonzalez

    Last week, just outside Cuba’s holiest Catholic shrine, government thugs attacked in plain daylight a group of opposition women — beating them, stoning them and stripping them naked to the waist. The women, mostly black and middle-aged, suffered this public humiliation because they were trying to find a dignified way to bring attention to the plight of their husbands, who are in prison for freely speaking their minds.

    The archbishop of Santiago de Cuba has condemned the attack. You can find an eyewitness account in Spanish here:

    It should make for poignant watching today, the anniversary of the start of the Cuban Revolution.

    Unfortunately, there’s nothing unusual in this grotesque attack on the Damas de Blanco (or Ladies in White, the harassed association of wives of political prisoners) on the street outside the shrine of Our Lady of La Caridad del Cobre. It’s routine for Cubans to be publicly degraded, brutalized and imprisoned when they dare speak their minds. Their daily existence has been one of fear and wretched suffering for 50 years now.

    Yet the chances are that you probably haven’t heard about this story. A quick Google search of the attacks on the Damas de Blanco turned up only about five hits, none from a major publication. Why?

    Not because it’s a dog-bites-man story (literally, in this case), as some journalists might have you believe. No, it’s simply because the media don’t report the daily attacks on the Cuban dissidents.

    All the major international news wires, and at least two TV networks, have bureaus in Cuba. But they’re either so afraid of being expelled, or have so bought into the regime’s propaganda, that all they report is how Raul Castro is bringing economic reforms to Cuba.

    So little is the story of Cuba’s oppression known outside that island prison that, were the constant repression reported occasionally, it might actually cause a stir.

    Clearly, Raul—Fidel’s brother, who was handed the day-to-day reins of the island when his elder brother fell ill a couple of years back—has no intention of doing anything that will threaten communism’s firm grip on Cuba. Otherwise, his goons would feel no need to terrorize and drag a bunch of older women naked through the streets.

    What this dearth of news on the Gulag Next Door has produced is a strange double standard, where similar repression in far-away Burma, Zimbabwe or Libya — also by leftist regimes — gets far better coverage. Such is the ignorance of events in Cuba that MSNBC host Chris Matthews two years ago asked this question in an interview:

    “Congressman Burton, why do you think Cubans on the island still support the Castro brothers? What is it that allows that lock on those people to continue?”

    Well, Chris, here’s your answer to what happens to Cubans when they try to pick that lock. Leaving Cuba is illegal, so you either stay silent, brave shark-infested waters on inner tubes (it is illegal to own boats in Cuba, for reasons that should be apparent), or risk suffering the fate of the Damas de Blanco.

    Culturally as well, Castro gets a pass not just from committed Marxists like Michael Moore, from whom it is expected and therefore ignored, but from otherwise well meaning personalities like TV chef Anthony Bourdain.

    On the day the Anthony Bourdain Goes to Cuba episode aired to much fanfare on the Travel Channel, July 11, news also emerged from the center of the island that dissident Guillermo Fariñas had been beaten up and arrested by police.

    This poor timing was hardly Bourdain’s fault; again, Cubans get physically attacked and incarcerated for speaking their minds quite frequently. What is Bourdain’s fault, and the Travel Channel’s, is that they decided to give Fariñas’ tormentors such unfiltered propaganda.

    Our leaders are no better. Lawmakers such as Barbara Lee, Javier Serrano, Emanuel Cleaver, Bobby Rush, Rosa DeLauro, Kathy Castor, James McGovern, Charlie Rangel, Laura Richardson and Jim Moran are constantly carrying water for the Castros.

    It is well past time for people of conscience to continue supporting this abomination, here or elsewhere.

    The shrine of del Cobre commemorates the occasion in 1604 when the Virgin appeared to three fishermen, the mestizo Juan Moreno and two Indian brothers surnamed Joyo, and carried their boat to safety from a storm. Those of the Christian faith would take comfort from the fact that this attack on helpless women happened to close to a church dedicated to this Virgin and would pray that Cubans too will one day soon be delivered from their suffering.


    L.A. TIMES : Cuba draws on the past as it struggles with economic reform-Cubans hear a defense of their painful and uncertain march toward limited capitalism at a rally marking the 58th anniversary of the Moncada barracks assault that launched the communist revolution in Cuba. President Raul Castro attends but leaves the speechmaking to others- By Tracy WilkinsonReporting from Ciego de Avila, Cuba— Cuban authorities Tuesday used one of the most important dates in Cuba’s revolutionary calendar to rally their nation to its newest battle: painful but essential economic reform.

    President Raul Castro appeared at an early morning ceremony here in lush central Cuba but did not speak. Dressed in a white guayabera shirt and straw hat, he enjoyed chants to his name and greeted guests but otherwise left the speechmaking to others.

    The holiday marks the 58th anniversary of the unsuccessful military assault on the Moncada army barracks that launched the revolution that ultimately brought his older brother, Fidel Castro, to power on Jan. 1, 1959.

    This year’s celebration comes as Cuba marches along a steady but uncertain path of economic reform. Under Raul Castro’s direction, the communist government is experimenting with a limited form of capitalism that has seen more than 300,000 Cubans acquire licenses to open or work in new businesses, from the selling of trinkets on a corner to running restaurants and hair salons.

    Soon, they will also be allowed, for the first time under the regime, to legally sell and buy property.

    But change comes in fits and starts. Thousands of Cubans have lost their jobs as the state attempts to cut deadwood, become more efficient and push workers into a fledgling private sector. And many budding businessmen and women complain of high taxes and shortages of the supplies they need to work.

    “The battle we wage today is a daily struggle without quarter against our errors and deficiencies,” Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura said in the keynote address. “We must definitively break the mentality of inertia.”

    Machado delivered a vigorous defense of the reforms as “permanent solutions to old problems” and said they must proceed and deepen to rescue Cuba’s struggling economy and promote agricultural production. However, he offered few specifics or new insights into the government strategy.

    Thousands of Cubans and a smattering of foreign guests filed into a rain-soaked field just after dawn to attend the ceremony, which was also broadcast live on television and radio. Ciego de Avila, a region of sugar cane and pineapple, is about 250 miles east of Havana. Sitting in the first row, Castro, 80, was flanked by survivors of the 1953 battle or their relatives and also the families of five Cuban men imprisoned in the U.S. on terrorism-related charges, the fight for whose liberation is a cause célèbre in Cuba.

    The rally took place under a huge billboard repeating Castro’s motto in promoting the reforms: Order, discipline and demands.

    Ailyn Rodriguez, 19, was in the crowd with her “revolutionary youth” group. She acknowledged that economic change was a challenge but expressed confidence that she will be able to work in her chosen field of child psychology when she finishes her studies.

    “We want the world to know that we, the youth, will take the steps necessary to confront the economy,” Rodriguez, dressed in a red Che Guevara T-shirt and huge red hoop earrings.

    Some in attendance were disappointed that Castro did not speak, having hoped he might better outline government plans. He is likely to deliver important remarks at next week’s opening of the National Assembly.

    In another sign of changing times, Fidel Castro was barely mentioned and did not even appear on billboards. The ailing former president, who turns 85 next month, ceded power to his younger brother in 2006 and has gradually taken a back seat in most affairs of state. This anniversary five years ago marked his last public political speech.

    Organizers of the event also read out a message from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has come to Cuba twice in the last two months for cancer treatment. Chavez expressed his “gratitude and admiration” for Cuba

    “We will live and we will triumph,” Chavez’s message said.

    As in the attack at Moncada, he added, “we have learned to turn setbacks into victories.”

    The Venezuelan socialist said this week that he intends to run for reelection next year but questions swirl about the true state of his health. A malignant tumor was removed last month, and last week Chavez underwent a first round of chemotherapy. He has not revealed exactly what kind of cancer he has, although speculation focuses on colon cancer.

    His survival is an important question for Cuba, too, because Chavez gives the island hundreds of thousands of barrels of heavily subsidized oil as well as other benefits. Many see that continued backing as key to sustaining economic reform, measures of which were approved by the ruling Communist Party in an extraordinary congress in April, during which the steps were pronounced as necessary to “salvage socialism.”,0,7656307.story


    WASHINGTON POST : National Geographic’s map of Cuba is labor of love for Cuban American mapmaker-By David Montgomery

    Squint at this map just right, with a pair of wistful eyes — Juan Jose Valdes’s eyes — and it reveals more than shapes and symbols on a grid of latitude and longitude.
    There is the warmth of the setting sun splashing gold over the sugar cane fields. The smell of coffee and the sea. The sound of the wind in the palms. Somewhere, also, is a little boy who loved maps in Havana, plotting the location of revolutionary battles on his Esso gas station road guide — until one day, the boy was put on a plane, alone, bound for colder places he only knew from maps.

    “To a Cuban, there’s nothing more iconic than a map of the island,” Valdes says now, holding up his latest creation for inspection.

    It’s a brand new map of Cuba, the National Geographic Society’s first comprehensive rendering of the Caribbean nation since 1906. It’s a classic wall map, 3 feet by 2 feet, 24 miles to the inch. The island stretches like a bony finger across the azure sea.

    The map breaks cartographic news, which is not easy for a map to do anymore. Last year, Cuba created two new provinces on the western end of the island. Hello, Artemisa and Mayabeque.

    Valdes’s coordinates this minute locate him at a drawing table in the maps division on the seventh floor of National Geographic’s headquarters on17th Street NW. He is 57. It is almost exactly 50 years since his parents put him on a plane in August 1961, several months after the Bay of Pigs invasion.

    He grew up to be a cartographer and geographer — the Geographer, in fact, at National Geographic, charged with helping direct map policies and projects. Last year, during a brainstorming session, he said to his colleagues, How about a map of Cuba?

    It was his dream project, bringing his life full circle. He poured everything he had into it, as if the standard data on a conventional map could resonate with something more.

    “When I was mapping the beach areas, I would remember the wind hitting the palm trees,” he says. “Every day, I would feel, ‘I’ve been there. That looks like that. That smells like this. This tastes like that.’ ”

    His eyes moisten as he tells the story of the map.

    During the six months of production, on his way from the elevator to his office, he would pass a wall plaque with words he often quotes, attributed to Gilbert H. Grosvenor, the first editor of National Geographic Magazine:

    “A map is the greatest of all epic poems. Its lines and colors show the realization of great dreams.”

    Goodbye to Cuba

    The boy thought they were going to the airport to look at the planes, as he sometimes did for fun with his father or uncle. He would be quizzed on the origins of different national airlines. His first geography lessons.

    Instead, that day he had to say goodbye to his parents for nearly seven months. Goodbye to Cuba for much longer, maybe forever.

    Jose and Juliana Valdes worked for Cuban Electric Power and Light. The family was middle class, living comfortably in a suburb of Havana, with a car and a housekeeper.

    They were not politically active but were skeptical of the revolution, their only child recalls. “They just wanted to carry on with their lives.”

    Juan had tracked Fidel Castro’s march on his Esso map. The day after a freighter from Belgium with munitions for Castro’s army exploded in the harbor in 1960, a teacher in his Catholic school made a geography lesson out of the ship’s route to Cuba.

    After the Bay of Pigs invasion, Juan’s school was closed. His parents wanted no part of the new order, while other relatives supported the revolution.

    The parents could only get one plane ticket, according to their son. Friends in Miami met Juan, then 7, at the airport.

    “The plane was full of kids,” Valdes says. “It was just sad, very sad.”

    In early 1962, his parents made it to Miami. His father got a job unloading bananas from Central America. One day, he got lost coming home from the wharf, and he called his son. Juan ran to a nearby fire station, found a map and talked his father home.

    “That a map could do that,” says the Geographer, tearing up at the memory.



    ABC NEWS : Health Care, Medicare Fraud: Cuba Becomes Haven for White-Collar Criminals-By LINH TRAN

    There are some places even the FBI can’t go in the search for health care fraudsters accused of bilking the system and raking in millions of dollars.

    Cuba has become the destination of choice for some of the fugitives from South Florida, authorities say. The U.S. Department of Justice believes that dozens have fled to the island nation, according to an agency letter.

    Once fugitives are in Cuba, there’s no way for authorities to get them back because of the lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Health care fraud is a multimillion-dollar business in South Florida, with more than 150 fugitives who’ve allegedly fleeced Medicare out of more than $360 million this year, according to the FBI. The FBI says that the most common form of health care fraud in South Florida involves outpatient services where people allegedly bill Medicare for equipment or treatments that patients never received or did not need if they received them.

    Magda Luz Lavin is one example. She owned and operated clinics in Miami from 2000 to 2002 that purportedly treated HIV patients. She submitted fraudulent claims to Medicare and eventually made off with $5 million for those false claims. She fled near the end of her 2006 trial and was convicted in absentia on health care fraud charges, among others. She is listed as one of the FBI’s most wanted white-collar criminals.

    Both the FBI and the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services list the most wanted fugitives in connection with health care fraud. Three of the seven on the FBI list are of Cuban descent and were allegedly involved in similar multimillion-dollar scams before fleeing the country.

    The FBI says it works closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the DOJ and others to tackle the issue of health care fraud but that they are only part of the solution.

  25. MIAMI HERALD : Cuban court hears appeal of jailed U.S. subcontractor Gross-By Juan O. Tamayo
    Cuba’s highest court Friday heard the final leg of the appeal by Alan P. Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor whose 15-year prison sentence has stalled Obama administration efforts to improve ties with Havana.

    A Cuban government announcement said the Supreme Peoples’ Court, meeting in a Courtroom for Crimes against the Security of the State, would issue its ruling “in the next few days.”

    The 62-year-old Gross, from Potomac, Md., was convicted of providing Cuba’s tiny Jewish community with an illegal satellite telephone so it could bypass the communist government’s controls on access to the Internet.

    He was working for a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program that Washington says is assisting civil society on the island, and Cuban officials say is trying to subvert their government.

    The court can uphold Gross’s conviction and sentence; overturn it and set him free; or uphold it and reduce the sentence. Raúl Castro, president of the Council of State, can pardon Gross after the court rules.

    U.S. officials have been optimistic that Gross would be freed this year since January, when Havana authorities told a visiting U.S. State Department official that an early release was possible for humanitarian reasons.

    His daughter is battling breast cancer and his mother has been reported in ill health. His wife Judy did not attend Friday’s court session and was reported to be recovering from unspecified surgery.

    Obama administration officials have repeatedly demanded that Gross be freed and argued hat no significant improvement in US-Cuba relations is possible until he returns home.

    Attending Friday’s court session were Gross, his Cuban and U.S. lawyers — Nuris Piñero and Peter Kahn — and three U.S. representatives from the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana. The hearing was closed to journalists and the public.

  26. I agree Humberto. Few people in Cuba want to give the government a peso in any type of tax. They are already used to keeping all their money hidden under a mattress or in foreign bank accounts, so it will take a lot of time and economic change before the situation “normalizes”. Until then officials will keep making good money with bribes as transactions are under-reported or completely off the books.

    I would be curious to know how much undeclared money is delivered to Cuba each year and how much money changes hands in real estate transactions, but I doubt that any honest study of the matter has ever been done.


    ASSOCIATED PRESS : A Cuban housing market? Govt is lifting a taboo-By PETER ORSI
    HAVANA — Each morning before the sun rises too high, Cubans gather at a shaded corner in central Havana, mingling as though at a cocktail party. The icebreaker is always the same: “What are you offering?”

    This is Cuba’s informal real-estate bazaar, where a chronic housing shortage brings everyone from newlyweds to retirees together to strike deals that often involve thousands of dollars in under-the-table payments. They’re breaking not just the law but communist doctrine by trading and profiting in property, and now their government is about to get in on the action.

    President Raul Castro has pledged to legalize the purchase and sale of homes by the end of the year, bringing this informal market out of the shadows as part of an economic reform package under which Cuba is already letting islanders go into business for themselves in 178 designated activities, as restaurateurs, wedding planners, plumbers, carpenters.

    An aboveboard housing market promises multiple benefits for the cash-strapped island: It would help ease a housing crunch, stimulate construction employment and generate badly needed tax revenue. It would attack corruption by officials who accept bribes to sign off on illicit deals, and give people options to seek peaceful resolutions to black-market disputes that occasionally erupt into violence.

    It’s also likely to suck up more hard currency from Cubans abroad who can be counted on to send their families cash to buy, expand and remodel homes, especially since President Barack Obama relaxed the 50-year-old economic embargo to allow unlimited remittances by Cuban-Americans.

    “All these things are tied in,” said Sergio Diaz-Briquets, a U.S.-based demography expert. “They want expatriate Cubans to contribute money to the Cuban state, and this is one big incentive for people who want to help their families.”

    But few changes are likely to be as complex and hard to implement as real estate reform.”It is such a big problem, the housing situation,” said Diaz-Briquets, who estimated in a recent paper that the country of 11 million people was short 1.6 million units of “adequate housing” in 2010. “They have been trying for years to solve it, and it’s finally dawned on them that the state is never going to do it.”

    The Cuban government puts the shortfall at closer to 500,000 homes. Still, the result is legions of bickering divorcees trapped under the same roof; newlyweds forced to bunk up with siblings, cousins, uncles, and aunts; and elderly people unable to repair their crumbling homes.

    Juana Ines Delgado’s plight is typical. She shares her tiny studio in Old Havana with her grown son, married daughter and 4-year-old granddaughter, while her son-in-law spends nights at his aunt’s place down the street.


  28. Damir wrote:

    Offices or supermarkets did not exist in Pol Pot ’s and Mao’s time, nor they exist still today in Palestine or most of Lebanon, due to the continuous war guelled by the usa.

    Here’s a link to a supermarket chain in Lebanon.

    Hypermarket Bou Khalil
    First chain of supermarket in Lebanon, founded in 1935, quoted in stock exchange.

    One can find many office buildings in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories as well, but, most of us already knew that.

  29. Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso in Spanish) is a Maoist insurgent guerrilla organization in Peru. The group never refers to itself as “Shining Path”, and as several other Peruvian groups, prefers to be called the “Communist Party of Peru” or “PCP-SL” in short (see Communism in Peru). The Shining Path initiated the internal conflict in Peru in 1980, with the stated goal of replacing what it saw as bourgeois democracy with “New Democracy”. The Shining Path believed that by imposing a dictatorship of the proletariat, inducing cultural revolution, and eventually sparking world revolution, they could arrive at pure communism.

    Widely condemned for its brutality,[3][4] including violence deployed against peasants, trade union organizers, popularly elected officials and the general civilian population,[5] the Shining Path is described by the Peruvian government as a terrorist organization. The group is on the U.S. Department of State’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations,[6] and the European Union[7] and Canada[8] likewise describe it as a terrorist organization and prohibit providing funding or other financial support.

  30. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo), also known by the acronym of FARC or FARC-EP, is a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization based in Colombia, which is involved in the ongoing Colombian armed conflict.

    FARC has been accused of committing violations of human rights by numerous groups, including the Colombian government, U.S. government, European Union, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and United Nations.

    A February 2005 report from the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights mentioned that, during 2004, “FARC-EP continued to commit grave breaches [of human rights] such as murders of protected persons, torture and hostage-taking, which affected many civilians, including women, returnees, boys and girls, and ethnic groups.”

  31. By the way Damir, you stated the following: “Offices or supermarkets did not exist in Pol Pot ’s and Mao’s time, nor they exist still today in Palestine or most of Lebanon, due to the continuous war guelled by the usa.”

    I’m just wondering what century you think we’re in? Or rather, what planet?

  32. You haven’t answered the important question here, Damir: Which one are you?

    Are you a peaceful Marxist? Or do you justify the killing of “conservatives” with slogans such as “self-defense”, etc?

    You know that Fidel trained middle east and african terrorists, don’t you? People who went around slaughtering unarmed civilians, like children in schools.

    So would you set lepers and their families on fire if they were “conservatives”:

  33. The list of LEFTISTS committing random act of violence is empty. The list of SUGGESTED “leftists” below is a fantasy list.

    Stalin was reading Communist Manifest and still didn’t manage to become a communist. So did fail Mao.

    Declaring CM a favourite book doesn’t make one a LEFTIST. The usanian in question also liked Mein Kampf. And if he were a leftist, why did he shoot a democrat memebr of Congress?

    Your logic is usual failure of knowledge and its understanding.

    Just like the example of hitler being an “atheist” and supported by “socialists”.

    You know nothing about nothing and still patronisingly lecture those whose knowledge is many times larger.

    You need to learn more and write less, until you acquire necessary knowledge to be able to speak and be respected for what you say.

    No matter which political persuasion you choose. Your absolutely false and abhorrent claim that Marxists have been blowing up children in the Middle East cements your incapacity and lack of knowledge to ask questions or make your absurd statements.

    By the way, I have asked:

    “WHEN was the last time a radical leftist went on a rampage and killed ANYONE, let alone children in a school, on a bus or a street, in a supermarket or in the offices, in the last 20 years, or ever really, like this lunatic yesterday?”

    Offices or supermarkets did not exist in Pol Pot ‘s and Mao’s time, nor they exist still today in Palestine or most of Lebanon, due to the continuous war guelled by the usa.

    So your “response” as absurd as it was, not only doesn’t disprove my question’s suggestion, it shows how little you understand what you read. I was refering to the western world, where the wrong whinners are on a rampage every year or so. Just like the shooting in Texas today, with 6 people killed by the hand of another religious fanatic, a conservative fundamentalist and a deeply mentally disturbed person, as 99% of conservatives are.

    Get your facts straigth and understand the arguments of others BEFORE you write something again.

    And I cannot believe I even bothered wasting my time explaining the obvious, to paraphrase you…

  34. Damir: “WHEN was the last time a radical leftist went on a rampage and killed ANYONE, let alone children in school, ona bus or a street, in a supermarket or in the offices, in the last 20 years, or ever really, like this lunatic yesterday?”

    Where should I start?

    In Lebanon, Palestine, or some other country in the middle east? Not just Islamic terrorists there, they have competition among the Marxist terrorists who have been blowing up civilians, including children in schools, for decades.

    Or a more modern example perhaps are the Tamil Tigers, that group of Marxist suicide bombers, who also invaded villages and massacred women and children.

    Practically every sect of Maoist practiced the slaughter of civilians. Like Pol Pot. His fighters would go into a village and chop babies in pieces in front of their mothers. Then rape and torture the women before killing them.

    I’ll stop here, the list is too long, and I can’t believe I even bothered answering your question.

    The main point, to repeat myself, is not about “socialist” or “capitalist” or “conservative”. It’s about hatred, and both “conservatives” and “Marxists” and anybody else can be a terrorist. If you’re a peaceful Marxist who can respect others as equals, then more power to you. But if you’re a hater who wants to kill “conservatives”, then you’re a curse on this world. So which are you?

  35. Another Leftist who committed a random act of violence:

    Ex-Black Panther convicted of murder

    And let’s not forget Lee Harvey Oswald and Che Guevara, both violent leftist murderers.

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