The Patient


The Conversation. Sculpture donated to Havana by Vittorio Perrotta.

I turn on the TV and see a woman giving birth in front of the camera at some hospital in the interior of the country. The voice of a spokeswoman explains the birth figures for 2012, while I wonder if they asked the woman’s permission to film her during childbirth. The most probably answer is no. Ten minutes later a friend comes by and gives me an article where Alan Gross’s attorney protests because the Cuban government has released the medical history of his client. The subject reminds me of that scene where a hidden camera in a hospital captured Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s mother talking with a doctor, not knowing she was being recorded. The footage was broadcast in prime time to millions of viewers to see, clearly without her authorization, the suffering of a woman who was about to lose her son.

But the saga doesn’t end there. Last September the director of a polyclinic explained the symptoms of a dissident who fell ill while on a hunger strike. All the details were relayed without the least shame about violating the privacy of a patient and also violating the Hippocratic oath when it says, “I will remain silent about everything that, in my profession or out of it, I hear or see in the lives of men.” I myself, resolved more than three years ago never to step foot in a doctor’s office again, after the frightened doctor who treated me was forced to testify in front of an official lens. I decided – fully considering the risk – to take charge of my health and safeguard, in this way, my privacy. Still today, every time I think about a hospital visit, it’s as if I see myself on a stage with lights, cameras… and a vast public looking at my insides, my guts.

Now, the same media officials who have used intrusion into medical records as an ideological tool, defend the secrecy over Hugo Chavez’s state of health. On TV where we have seen attacks on the privacy of so many patients, they now charge that those who demand information about the Venezuelan president are being morbid. They forget that they are the ones who have accustomed their audience to snooping in hospital records, as if it were ethically acceptable. And all these little people with their privacy violated by the national press? Don’t they also deserve respect? And all these physicians and medical institutions that failed to hold to their most sacred principles? Will they be penalized now that medical indiscretion is no longer politically correct?


84 thoughts on “The Patient

  1. And the team “yoani” still hiding in the darkness of their basement office in cia headquarters, refusing to answer my questions.

    Just remember: the silence is the sign of agreement.

    Right liars and terrorists?


  2. Useful “id***s”, as cia calls them officially, the delusional and brainwashed foot soldiers who understand nothing but are religiously repeating the mantras and ideological bullshift their white “gods” have imprinted into their empty skulls, keep talking nonsense.

    Not that that matters much. The “Cuban reality” that lives in their heads doesn’t really exist anyway. Waking up from these nightmares will be hard and painful. And rightly so.

    The funny thing to watch is the similarity between their delusional mantric rants and those of their idols the team “yoani”.

    Makes you laugh to see the level of nonsense the cia can come up with and post it as if it is some kind of “scary stuff from those bad communists in Cuba”!!!

    The reality is quite a different and sobering thing.

    This from the team “yoani” above:

    “…they are the ones who have accustomed their audience to snooping in hospital records, as if it were ethically acceptable. And all these little people with their privacy violated by the national press? Don’t they also deserve respect? And all these physicians and medical institutions that failed to hold to their most sacred principles? Will they be penalized now that medical indiscretion is no longer politically correct?”

    The terrorists seem to be oblivious to their own nazist/imperialist practices that make these above invisible in comparison!!!

    The wife of google founder sergei brin, russian JEW by the way, anne woycicki has this to say:

    “It’s the next step for us to work with the FDA and actually say, ‘this is clinically relevant information and consumers should work with their physicians on what to do with it,’ ” said CEO and co-founder Anne Wojcicki, who is married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Google and Brin have invested millions in the privately held company, which is based in Mountain View, Calif.

    The capitalist/imperialist intrusion in people’s health records continues unabated under the pretext of some “choice” the people supposedly have!!!

    Now, there are millions of stupid and naive people who will fall for this new trick of

    PERSONAL DATA GATHERING by the cia and the nazist gulag usa.

    Once you give them your DNA, your MOST PERSONAL INFORMATION will be forever stored in some nazist gulag’s database and you, and your childre, grandchildren and so on, will be forever identified and identifiable. The imperialist pharmaceutical monopolies will know exactly who and where you are and what are your health problems. You will be targeted with their “life-saving” propaganda campaigns and will be forced to buy whatever the poison they concoct to keep you alive but perpetually sick so that you MUST continue to buy their drugs.

    They will know everything about your past and future medical issues and are already creating the database that will be commercially sold to ANYONE who asks and puts the money forward:

    “I think we’ve now entered an era where these direct-to-consumer offerings are beginning to have real medical relevance, and therefore I am in favor of them being done within some regulatory context,” said Evans, a professor of genetics and medicine at UNC’s Medical School.

    The move may also give 23andMe a competitive edge over rivals like deCODE Genetics and Navigenics, which market similar tests. Those companies did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

    “We really want to take a leadership role in this industry,” said 23andMe’s chief legal officer, Ashley Gould. The company says more than 150,000 people worldwide have used its test, which sells for $299 online.”

    It’s already an industry, and google wants the slice of it.

    After all, they know well that personal information is the gold of imperialist capitalism of today.

    And then the same cia, nsa and nazist gulag usa – who are the real owners of google by the way – “complain htrough their useful id**t domestic traitor and all round deranged and delusional jinetera, about

    the “PRIVACY” of personal medical records of people in CUBA!!!!!!


    Get a grip nazist imperialists!!!!!

  3. I read the next item down on your page. You refer to a TV scene of a birth, something I’ve seen on TV in the US and Europe. You wonder off the top of your head if the woman involved gave her permission. You leap to the conclusion that she didn’t. Then you leap from one to another to another ill defined instances that outraged you for vague reasons. And on and on. The only clear outrage in this blog item is your tone of voice. You badly need a writing class. I’ll read the next item down and see if it says anything clear.


  5. @79.. if that belief makes you a happy one… you are free to have it… ultimately I know what I do and don’t imply… and in this particular case it was that you should learn a bit more about the situation and social problem/patterns on both sides…

    Like with Cuba and as parallel you shout about freedom without to be willing to support any consequences but you like to pocket in the ‘the good’… you are exactly the type that says Cubans are not free and the next day they are granted freedom you would object to them coming to your country for work in the name that they may take your jobs.. none the less you would like to tell others you supported Cuban freedom…. This type of easy to teflon conscience grows well with your anonimous types.

    Try a bit of Gogol Bordello to find our how more larger ‘racism’ against gypsies cuts and to be ‘entertained’ as you must at the same time.. try Immigrada…

  6. Anonimo why don’t you give me your address so I can come and live there too on your street… after all that is what freedom is… not the ‘America ubber alles’ you sell!…

  7. Chimp… I would have never implied that and don’t put your bannans in my mouth… I advised you to read or watch at least a movie of the situation if you really are concerned with these… but your attention span is that of a … chimp at best probably the identity too

  8. Hank @73 — I can tell you how Humberto explains it… he dresses up in castro-fascist military gear and the ‘victim’ has to salute him and obey him and his boots plus…!… after all he trains here in castro-fascist tactics, he is bound to like not just absorb somewhere in the deep unconscious… Also gay guys have a thing for military pomp pump boots and honour thyAss ‘cos I say so’!

    … And after that the ‘victim’ has to read all the US media-tripe Humberto picks on rss and sells here ‘as valid’ Cuban – doing an honest day work and actually coming up with some worthy news is too hard for his boots!!

    In this respect we are all o bit of his silent victims here since Humberto and his boots cannot do with a link and a para… but he need pages after pages after pages exactly like the castro-fascists speeches he deplores … and almost the same lang!

    Humberto and clique are as self-indulgent as the ‘castro-fascists’ they seem to deplore… I guess it is love of a different kind ultimately with a bit of jealousy for good measure!

  9. And none of us Americans live in Guantanamo, chump. Actually, you previously implied that the Roma get what they deserve because they are badly behaved, so I can surmise what “side” you are on.

    So you “don’t live there anymore?” You certainly don’t mind using your “I lived under a communist regime” schtick on this website, now do you?

  10. @71 Anonimo.. In case you haven’t noticed I don’t live there… and you still haven’t established what side I am on… Roma or Romanian … potaito or potato… don’t let that stop you but come back to me when you know at least who you are!…

    @70 Griffin… you sound more and more like Peter Griffin.. oh the righteous one! do some comfort eating and get over it!…

  11. Help, Griffin, Humberto, Anonimo:

    The Cuba/Venezuela drama we are witnessing is extraordinary. I had dinner with a friend this evening who does not follow current events in Cuba or Venezuela. Conversation turned to Cuba, but I found it difficult to relay the whole narrative of what is happening because it is so nutty and beyond the pale of what is normal. It is abnormal. Telling this story to someone who hasn’t heard it before is hard because it is so crazy. I’m curious, how do you tell your uninitiated friends about this?


    MIAMI HERALD: Latin America’s new leader: Raúl Castro – By Andres Oppenheimer

    It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t: At the end of this month, the 33-country Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) — a two-year-old organization that lists promoting democracy among its top goals — will swear-in Cuban dictator Gen. Raúl Castro as its new chairman.
    What’s just as crazy, Gen. Castro will become Latin America and the Caribbean’s official spokesman in political and trade negotiations with the 27-country European Union and other world blocs during his 12-month tenure. Castro will take over CELAC’s leadership from Chilean President Sebastian Piñera at a CELAC-European Union summit in Chile on Jan. 28, and is to pass on the group’s leadership to the Costa Rican president in January 2014.
    European diplomats, who pride themselves on attaching “democracy clauses” demanding free elections to their countries’ trade agreements with developing nations, are already shaking their heads about the prospect of appearing in smiling pictures with Gen. Castro.
    Cuba has not allowed a single free election, or an independent newspaper, in more than five decades. As one European diplomat told me, no matter what redeeming circumstances his supporters may cite, Gen. Castro is a military dictator under any definition of any dictionary in the world.
    Granted, while CELAC’s creation was heralded by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in April 2011 as Latin America’s “most important political event in more than 100 years,” it’s seen by many as an empty shell. CELAC is largely a summit organizer: It has no headquarters nor a permanent staff, and it is run by a rotating, one-year chairmanship held by the country that is elected.
    The group was created to bring together Latin American and Caribbean countries without the presence of the United States and Canada, and Chávez said he hoped it will soon replace the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS), which he has described as a U.S. puppet.
    But, while CELAC is just the latest of many similar regional groups that were quickly forgotten after grandiose debuts, the fact is that its 33 member governments have assigned it event-organizing functions. That means that CELAC has the power to convene and set the agenda of some regional and bi-regional meetings, which — while all of the group’s decisions are taken by consensus under internal rules — is nothing to be sneered at.
    Ironically, CELAC’s founding document signed at the Feb. 23, 2010, Latin American and Caribbean Summit at Rivera Maya, Mexico, specifically states that the new group will promote democracy and human rights.
    Article No. 3 of the CELAC charter signed in Rivera Maya states that the group “reaffirms that the preservation of democracy and democratic values, the respect for institutions and the rule of law” and the “preservations of all human rights for all, are essential goals of our countries.”
    Isn’t it a joke that a regional organization committed to democracy elects as its new chairman none other than the region’s last military president, I asked OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza in a wide-ranging interview this week.
    Perhaps trying not to criticize a rival organization, Insulza responded: “The fact that the president of Chile, who is by no means precisely a leftist, hands over CELAC to Raúl Castro shows a new climate of tolerance and understanding in Latin America.”
    My opinion: Hmm. I respectfully disagree. This is not a matter of right and left, but of democracy and dictatorship.
    Unfortunately, Castro, Chávez, and others in recent years have succeeded in changing Latin America’s public discourse to resurrect outdated concepts of “right” and “left.” These labels make no sense in today’s world, where China — the world’s biggest Communist country — has become the Mecca of capitalist investments.
    As somebody who has always opposed both rightist and leftist dictatorships — and, for the record, immediately condemned both the 1992 coup attempt by Chávez and the 2002 coup attempt against Chávez — I don’t think that Gen. Castro’s appointment as new CELAC leader is a sign of any kind of “new tolerance” that should be praised.
    On the contrary, it is a betrayal of democratic and human-rights principles that many have fought hard to win.
    If Latin American leaders want to be taken seriously, they should either delete the promotion of democracy from CELAC’s founding principles, or keep from passing on the CELAC chairmanship to Gen. Castro. They can’t claim to defend democracy while they appoint the region’s worst dictator to lead their group.

  13. Here is a report from Human Rights Watch on Romania, “The Man Comes Around’s” home country. It’s not pretty, yet, he is so overly concerned with Guantanamo, LOL.

    “There were reports that police and gendarmes mistreated and harassed detainees and Roma. Prison conditions remained poor. The judiciary lacked impartiality and was sometimes subject to political influence. Property restitution remained extremely slow, and the government failed to take effective action to return Greek Catholic churches confiscated by the former Communist government in 1948. A restrictive religion law remained in effect. Government corruption remained a widespread problem. There were continued reports of violence and discrimination against women as well as child abuse. Occasional anti-Semitic incidents involving the desecration of religious property occurred, along with some lightly attended events hosted by extremist organizations. Persons were trafficked for labor, sexual exploitation, and forced begging. Government agencies provided inadequate assistance to persons with disabilities and neglected persons with disabilities who were institutionalized. Societal discrimination against Roma; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons; and persons with HIV/AIDS, particularly children, remained problems.”

  14. Check out the tweet scroll on the right side:

    yoanifromcuba #Cuba Take a peek on how the #Trolls who attack critic to the Government websites are created & how much is spent in the #CyberRepression

    Hey Cuba Liar, the Man CA, & Damir: she’s talking about you!

  15. THE HILL: Obama waives Helms-Burton sanctions against Cuba – By Julian Pecquet

    President Obama on Wednesday waived a portion of the 1996 Helms-Burton embargo law that would allow lawsuits against Cuban businesses, following in the footsteps of Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. The law allows U.S. courts to take up lawsuits against businesses that operate on property the communist government appropriated after coming to power in 1959. Like his predecessors, Obama waived that provision for another six months, citing “national interests.” “I hereby determine and report to the Congress that suspension, for 6 months beyond February 1, 2013, of the right to bring an action under title III of the Act is necessary to the national interests of the United States and will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba,” Obama wrote to lawmakers. Obama has been opening the door for better relations with Cuba, relaxing limits on travel and remittances in his first term.


    FOX NEWS LATINO: New Cholera Outbreak in Cuba Calls Countries to Restrict Travel

    As of Tuesday, the British Embassy in Havana had issued a travel advisory urging its citizens to take “sensible precautions” and seek immediate medical attention for diarrhea.

    Several other European diplomats told AP they are also considering issuing similar advisories, and have been concerned that the government is not sharing information with them in a timely manner. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

    As far as the U.S., American diplomats on the island issued a travel warning Monday urging American citizens to follow local health recommendations. About 400,000 Cuban-Americans visit the island every year, and about 100,000 others issued visas.



  18. @65 HuHuHumberto… I suppose Cuba was put there because of Guantanmo too… Freedomhouse party probably celebrated 11 yrs of Gitmo and released this half baked measuring Wester stick, I dont look at my own shoes …report!!!

  19. FREEDOM HOUSE: Freedom in the World 2013
    Worst of the Worst: Of the 47 countries designated as Not Free, nine have been given the survey’s lowest possible rating of 7 for both political rights and civil liberties: Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Two territories, Tibet and Western Sahara, were also ranked among the worst of the worst. An additional 5 countries and 1 territory received scores that were slightly above those of the worst-ranked countries, with ratings of 6,7 or 7,6 for political rights and civil liberties: Belarus, Chad, China, Cuba, Laos, and South Ossetia.


  20. Hank,

    There were a 23 cases of cholera in the US following the Haiti outbreak, but they were treated before it spread and became an “outbreak”.

    The hurricane caused a breakdown of the already crumbling water and sewage systems in Eastern Cuba, which kicked off the outbreak. The independent reporter Calixto Martinez reported on the outbreak last summer and was arrested in September. He’s still in jail and facing charges of “disrespecting the persons of Fidel and Raul Castro”.

  21. @62 Help, then maybe you should stay at home with your mamma.. Cuba is not for you… it’s a clear sign I’d say.

    Republicans and right wingers in your league always ‘get sick’ when visiting the ‘unwashed by Palmolive’ nations of this world… do you take hand wipes with you when you visit there too???… yes you do!

  22. Hank,

    You got the point: more US and Canadian visitors to Haiti than Cuban visitors, but the public health service is a shambles in Cuba. The Cuban water supply is in shambles and polluted.

    We’ve had a handful of cases of Cholera in the US, all patients successfully treated and released, and no epidemics.

    In Cuba, we don’t know how many cases and deaths there have been and never will.

    In Cuba, your doctor will be afraid to say it’s Cholera because it’s bad PR and because he doesn’t want to be hassled. So he’ll say you just have an upset stomach, so you go back home and die. Your death is listed as something else.

    Then before you know it, you have a small epidemic on your hands, they have to admit there’s a bit of Cholera going around, but they still won’t tell us how much.

    I know volunteers who got very sick in Haiti. They were correctly diagnosed and treated in Haiti.

    I know a visitor who got very sick in Cuba. No Cuban doctor could tell him what he had. They all said it was nothing serious.

    It took some doctors in the USA to successfully diagnose a tropical disease which they’ve never seen before. It took him over a year to recover.

    He’ll think twice before going back to Cuba.

  23. Griffin @ 45:

    Epidemiology is fascinating. The sequence of events you relate makes sense. Cholera bacterium traveling from Nepal to Haiti to Cuba. But why not to the U.S. or Canada? Probably because we here have an infrastructure that protects us from cholera. That’s not to be taken for granted.

    I think another piece of the puzzle has to do with the devastation wrought by hurricane Sandy just a few weeks ago. The eastern provinces of Cuba were hit hard by that storm. We are just now hearing reports of the infection moving westward to Havana, a few weeks later. I don’t think that is a coincidence.

    It is curious that the regime has decided to acknowledge the outbreak, but they attribute it to “a foodseller who caught cholera during a previous outbreak in eastern Cuba.” As though it were an isolated event caused by a single individual. That’s not how these things work. A vector as infectious as the causitive agent of cholera, without adequate intervention, spreads exponentially.


    CNN: Cholera cases reported in Cuba, health officials say – By Patrick Oppmann

    Havana, Cuba (CNN) — Cuban authorities said Tuesday the infectious and sometimes deadly disease cholera had struck in Havana, after declaring in August that an earlier cholera outbreak had been wiped out.

    A statement from the Cuban Health Ministry said so far there were 51 confirmed cases in the new outbreak. The statement did not say if anyone had died from the disease, a bacterial infection of the small intestine, which causes severe diarrhea and vomiting in infected people.

    The Health Ministry statement Tuesday said the latest outbreak appeared to be caused by a food vendor who had not followed proper sanitary procedures.

    Residents in some of the neighborhoods where the outbreak occurred told CNN that food stands had been closed down and stations set up at the entrances to buildings for people to disinfect their shoes.
    2012: Cuba deals with cholera

    The statement said that health workers were in the “extermination phase” of fighting the disease in the Cuban capital, which has a population of 2 million people.

    Cholera, according to the World Health Organization, still infects between 3 million and 5 million people each year, killing between 100,000 and 120,000.

    But until 2012, Cuba had not seen a cholera outbreak for more than 100 years. It is still not clear how the disease was reintroduced to the country.

  25. HUFFINGTON POST: Long Lines Formed Before Dawn on Monday at Cuba’s Passport Offices – by YOANI SANCHEZ

    Roberto Cortizas, who joined the DIE line in the Plaza of the Revolution municipality very early, confirmed his intention to maintain residence on the Island. “I want to go to Brazil, where I have a brother with a small business, and work there. So I can send money to my parents and come back to buy a nice house here.” Precisely that economic emigration seems to be one of the objectives of the Migratory Reform. Given what the country is going through right now, it is urgent to increase the flow of hard currency remittances coming in.

    Others, however, await the implementation of the new flexibilities to leave and not return. “Me, I’m here, and it’s not for visiting,” said a young man who requested anonymity as he waited outside the Identity Card Office in the Cerro municipality. Like him, many have begun a process of liquidating their property and settling their affairs in Cuba, pending the moment on Monday when the Island’s locks will be opened. This trend has brought an increase in the number of houses and cars for sale, and reservations for plane tickets have soared in recent weeks.

    With Decree-Law No. 302, the Cuban government has handed off onto foreign consulates the problem of emigration. Although in a few hours it will be easier to leave the country, no new flexibility has been seen in obtaining visas to the United States, Europe or the rest of Latin America. Still, Cubans have taken on the task of compiling the list of nations that do not require a visa from natives of the largest of the Antilles. But one cannot exclude the possibility that this Monday a “legal Mariel Boatlift” will begin, given the ingenuity shown by Cubans when it comes to leaving the the country.

    However, several requirements of the new law rise as obstacles to the possible flood of emigrants. One is the subsection F of Article 23, under which the passport will not be obtained without “the authorization established under rules designed to preserve the skilled workforce.” Marianela, a doctor in a provincial hospital, shared her misgivings. “They say they are going to let Public Health personnel travel, but no one has spoken to us about it clearly. So we have to find out on Monday.” According to this kidney specialist, “If they let me out I would go to Ecuador with a friend who opened a clinic, where they would surely will pay me better than here.”

    Similar distrust is shown by the Cuban opposition. Paragraph H of the same article leaves open the possibility of denial of a passport “for other reasons of public interest.” That brief line of text could include a political filter to prevent critics of the system from attending conferences and international events. A practice that has been followed for years and that makes the act of travel a perk obtained by those who are politically correct.

    Nowhere in Decree-Law No. 302 is the act of entering and leaving Cuba spoken of as an inherent right of every citizen born on the Island. The human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez predicts that “a discriminatory policy with people who are not in favor of the government” will be maintained.


  26. You mean just like you showed compassion for the Cuban dissident hunger striker Coco Farinas when you stated he should just “die already?”



    N.Y. TIMES: In First Day of New Rules, Cubans Make Travel Plans – By VICTORIA BURNETT

    The new rules reduce the expensive bureaucratic hurdles long faced by Cubans wishing to go overseas, many of whom know loved ones who lost everything when they emigrated or who left the island in the dead of night on rafts and powerboats.

    As of Monday, most Cubans can head for the airport with only a passport, a plane ticket and a visa, if required, from the country they intend to visit.

    “We have lived for decades in captivity,” said Marta Rodríguez, 65, a retired office manager who was waiting to pick up a tourist visa from the United States Interests Section in Havana. “It’s a positive move — one they should have taken 50 years ago.”

    The change is not expected to prompt a major exodus, because most countries use entrance visas to control the number of visiting Cubans, and international travel remains way beyond the means of most islanders, who earn state salaries of about $20 per month. There are, of course, Cubans who want to travel from the island and return.

    The government says it will continue to limit travel for tens of thousands of Cubans who work in strategic sectors, like military personnel and scientific workers, as well as those they deem a threat to national security (YOU CAN PUT THE FACE OF YOANI SANCHEZ AFTER THIS STATEMENT)!

    How tightly, and for how long, the government will continue to control those sectors’ movements will become apparent only over time, Cubans and outside analysts said. In a development that could signal new government flexibility, Yoani Sánchez, a prominent blogger and activist who says she has been denied an exit visa by the Cuban government at least 19 times in the past, said on Monday that she was one of the first in line at the immigration office and submitted paperwork for a new passport without any problems.

    Arturo López-Levy, a Cuban-born academic (HE HAS FAMILY MEMBERS HIGH UP IN THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT) who left the island 10 years ago and lectures at the University of Denver, said the migration reform was not simply a maneuver to defuse political pressure but a structural shift in the relationship between the island and the diaspora — a community that the government once rejected as traitorous “worms.”

    “This is a real change in the way in which the government perceives the relationship between the Cuban population and the outside world,” he said.

    The Obama administration was watching the developments with interest. “We will see if this is implemented in a very open way and if it means that all Cubans can travel,” said Roberta S. Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, according to The Associated Press.

    Despite multiple reports in recent weeks by official Cuban news media, many Cubans seemed unclear about how the new law would work: whether it applied to them, whether they needed a new passport or a special stamp (they do not), how it would work for minors.


  28. Excellent remarks by Mauricio Claver-Carone of Capitol Hill Cubans ( at the World Trade Center Orlando. Well worth the read.

    Remarks @World Trade Center Orlando

    at 5:19 PM Monday, January 14, 2013

    Remarks today by Mauricio Claver-Carone at World Trade Center Orlando:

    “Doing Business with Cuba, What’s Next?”

    Thank you so much for your kind invitation. I’m thrilled to be back in Orlando.

    As some of you know, I’m a former resident of Orlando. I’m a proud graduate of Bishop Moore High School and Rollins College. So I share a great deal with all of you.

    Obviously, Cuba and U.S. policy towards Cuba — including the issue of trade — are topics of great passion, and seemingly endless comment, reflection and debate — or at least for those of us that deal with it on a daily basis.

    Unfortunately, too many times at these events, speakers tend to hype and cherry-coat business opportunities in Cuba, disregarding some of the unpleasant economic and political realities involved.

    For example, in September 2011, our neighbors here in Tampa announced the launch of charter flights to Cuba with great fanfare.

    At the time, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) and other Tampa officials heralded the charters as a huge business coup.

    She’d even started a “Gateway to Cuba” initiative to market Tampa as the jump-off point for Cuba travel.

    “And this is just the beginning,” Castor said.

    Well, just this week, it was announced that these charter flights would be significantly scaled back.

    Similarly, Cuba charter service planned from Baltimore-Washington, Atlanta, New York and San Juan has also has been halted for financial reasons.

    Others will point to European and Canadian investors, and argue that they are getting a “head-start” on business opportunities in Cuba.

    How have these European and Canadian investors fared?

    You tell me.

    In the last few years, European investors have had over $1 billion arbitrarily frozen in Cuban banks by the government.

    As Reuters reported, “the Communist-run nation failed to make some debt payments on schedule beginning in 2008, then froze up to $1 billion in the accounts of 600 foreign suppliers by the start of 2009.”

    In the last few months, the CEOs of three companies with extensive business dealings with the Cuban government were arrested and are now sitting in jail — without charges.

    They are Cy Tokmakjian of the Tokmakjian Group and Sarkis Yacoubian of Tri-Star Caribbean, both from Canada, and Britain’s Amado Fahkre of Coral Capital.

    Let me stress that these were not casual investors. They these were three of Cuba’s biggest business partners, having invested hundreds of millions, with direct access to the highest officials.

    And in the last few weeks, Iberia, the national airline of Spain, which accounts for over 10% of all foreign commerce with Cuba, announced the elimination of its Havana routes — for they are no longer profitable.

    While my presentation may sound somber for the short-term — I promise it is optimistic in the long-term.

    I note your logo here at the World Trade Center Orlando is “prosperity through trade.”

    I completely agree.

    In full disclosure, I am a free-trader. I believe and advocate for the principles of free trade. However, I do so without the distortions that some would like for us to accept under the guise of trade.

    I believe in the principles of free trade as were envisioned by its original thinkers.

    In The Wealth of Nations, a book considered to be the foundation of free trade, Adam Smith held that trade, when freely initiated, benefits both parties.

    Smith did so in criticism of the mercantilist policies of the 17th and 18th centuries, whereby commerce was simply a tool to benefit and strengthen the authoritarian nation-states of the time.

    I believe — as did Smith — that free trade requires property rights and the rule of law as pre-conditions. If no such rights exist, then there is no real opportunity to trade, for the government could just take from you what they want, when they want, wherever they want — for their sole benefit.

    Do these pre-conditions exist in Cuba today?

    According to the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, an annual guide published by The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation, which was just released this week:

    Cuba ranks 176th out of 177 countries in the world in terms of economic freedom. The only country that ranks worse is North Korea.

    It is the least-free economy in the Western Hemisphere and internationally, it ranks worse than some pretty unattractive investment environments, including Iran and Zimbabwe.

    According to the report:

    “A one-party Communist state, Cuba depends on external assistance (chiefly oil provided by Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and remittances from Cuban émigrés) and a captive labor force to survive. Property rights are severely restricted. Fidel Castro’s 81-year-old younger brother Raul continues to guide both the government and the Cuban Communist Party. Cuba’s socialist command economy is in perennial crisis. The average worker earns less than $25 a month, agriculture is in shambles, mining is depressed, and tourism revenue has proven volatile. But economic policy is resolutely Communist, and the regime rejects any moves toward genuine political or economic freedom.”

    Regarding the rule of law, it states:

    “The constitution explicitly subordinates the courts to the National Assembly of People’s Power and the Council of State. Corruption remains pervasive, undermining equity and respect for the rule of law.”

    Within this framework, let me also address Cuba’s political system, as it has important implications for the subject of trade with Cuba.

    First of all, Cuba is not China and it is not Vietnam. It is not an authoritarian bureaucracy. Cuba is one of a handful of totalitarian states remaining in the world – alongside North Korea, as the 2013 Index for Economic Freedom correctly notes.

    I hate to sound patronizing, but it’s important to understand the dynamics of a totalitarian state in order to understand the Cuban reality.

    A totalitarian state strives to control every aspect of public and private life. Totalitarian regimes, such as Cuba’s, maintain themselves in power by means of an all-embracing cult of personality; propaganda disseminated through a state-controlled media; a single party that controls the state; absolute control over the economy; restrictions on discussion and criticism; the use of mass surveillance; and state terrorism to foment fear and submission.

    None of this has changed.

    Some of you are probably wondering:

    What about the “economic reforms” that have been so widely reported in the media?

    Let me address some of these:

    a. Agriculture: The most aggressive “reform” announced has been in agriculture, where the Cuban government enacted a law in 2008 seeking to distribute idle agricultural land to small farmers and cooperatives. These lands are granted in usufruct — with ten years leases for individuals and 25 years for cooperatives, both renewable. The government retains ownership.

    Yet, according to a report last month in The New York Times, “Because of waste, poor management, policy constraints, transportation limits, theft and other problems, overall efficiency has dropped: many Cubans are actually seeing less food at private markets.”

    Despite this failure, the government is now similarly experimenting with some non-farm cooperatives. There’s no reason to expect the results will be any different as the fundamental remain the same.

    b. Self-employment: After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Cuban government sought to ease economic pressure by temporarily allowing — through special licenses — limited self-employment. These licenses were streamlined starting in 1998, when the Cuban government secured massive oil subsidies from Venezuela.

    Faced with similar economic challenges today, Raul Castro has once again eased some restrictions on self-employment, which allow individuals to lease the practice of one of 181 pre-approved services, e.g. taxi drivers, artisans, in-home restaurants. However, all means of production are legally owned by the state.

    Overall, there’s nothing particularly new here. I’d also note that more than 25 percent of those self-employed have returned their licenses because of the government’s burdensome oversight and predatory taxation.

    c. Home Sales: The Cuban government has now allowed citizens to buy and sell the homes in which they reside. Cubans have supposedly owned the property where they reside since 1986, although they couldn’t be sold. Cubans dealt with the no-sell edict by “swapping” homes amongst each other and setting up a black market in housing. The government routinely confiscated homes of those who left the island and in 2000 the police began to crack down on the swaps and black market transfers.

    Nonetheless, the newly-authorized sales are subject to limitations — not least of which is a regular Cuban’s $25 per month income. Another notable restriction requires the transaction be made in hard currency and that it be deposited in Cuba’s Central Bank, pending the government’s approval of the sale and an investigation into the source of the funds. At the time of closing, the Central Bank will issue a check to the seller in non-convertible (worthless) Cuban pesos. It is not surprising that the number of formally recorded sales remains minimal.

    d. Migration Restrictions: Just today, the government is enacting a new law that eliminates the infamous “exit permit” required for Cubans to travel abroad. However, most of the restrictions and the high costs of the “exit permit” have been transferred to the passport process. Those who apply for travel abroad will still need a stamp of approval from the Ministry of the Interior. Dissidents, athletes and certain professionals will remain ineligible to travel abroad. The devil here is still in the details and its implementation.

    What role do foreign investors play in these “reforms”?

    None. Foreign investors in Cuba cannot do business with private citizens. They can only do business with the Cuban government through minority joint ventures. Moreover, the Cuban government’s constitution clearly states that all foreign commerce is strictly reserved for the state.

    Foreign investors cannot hire or pay workers directly. They must go through the Cuban government employment agency, which picks the workers. The investors then pay the Cuban government in hard currency for the workers, and the Cuban government pays the workers in worthless pesos.

    For example, some foreign companies pay the Cuban government $10,000 a year per Cuban worker, which is a bargain in itself. But it’s even more of a bargain for the Cuban government, which then gives the workers about $20 a month in pesos — and pockets the difference. This is a violation of international labor norms.

    Even the most unconditional advocate of business ties with the Cuban government would admit that Raul Castro has done little to attract foreign investment since taking the reign from his brother Fidel. To the contrary, as I mentioned earlier, he’s stifled it.

    The one exception has been off-shore oil exploration, which is directly tied to the Cuban government’s fear of the demise of Hugo Chavez and his generous subsidies of 100,000 free barrels of oil per day. These subsidies comprise nearly two-thirds of Cuba’s energy consumption.

    Despite much anticipation throughout 2012, these off-shore oil exploration efforts — in joint ventures with Spain’s Repsol, Malaysia’s Petronas and even Venezuela’s PDVSA — have been a bust.

    Frankly, this was predictable since Brazil’s Petrobras and Canada’s Sherritt stated in 2011 such ventures were not commercially-viable. Yet, like with all things Cuba, they begin with a big media flurry until reality strikes.

    Speaking of changes, I’d be remiss not to mention that one significant and tangible change that has taken place in Cuba under Raul Castro is a dramatic rise in repression.

    In 2012, documented political arrests of peaceful democracy activists reached the highest levels (6,602) in decades. These have been accompanied by the mysterious deaths of some of Cuba’s leading pro-democracy figures, including the founder of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollan, and the head of the Christina Liberation Movement and author of the Varela Project, Oswaldo Paya.

    Impunity still reigns in Cuba.

    If the Cuban people are prohibited from engaging in foreign commerce, then who is the Cuban counter-part for foreign investors?

    The armed forces’ holding company, called GAESA, is the dominant force in the Cuban economy. Founded by Raul Castro in the 1990s, GAESA controls a wide array of companies, ranging from the very profitable Gaviota S.A., which runs the island’s tourist hotels, restaurants, car rentals and nightclubs, to TRD Caribe S.A., which runs all retail operations. In plain words: GAESA controls virtually every economic transaction in Cuba, making it — by far — the most powerful company in Cuba’s totalitarian-command economy. It is run by Raul’s son-in-law, Colonel Luis Alberto Rodríguez Lopez- Callejas.

    (Reports from Cuba indicate that Raul’s daughter Deborah is divorcing Lopez-Callejas, who has a weakness for infidelity and domestic violence, so his days of glory may be counted.)

    As relates to the U.S., American companies are prohibited from investing in Cuba or conducting commercial, financial or tourism-related transactions. However, there is one exception: The sale of agricultural commodities, medicines and medical devices, which were legalized on a cash-payment basis by the 2000 Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSREEA).

    The counter-part in Cuba for these U.S. agricultural sales is a state company called Alimport. Therefore, to speak of “trade with Cuba” is in itself a misrepresentation. To “trade with Cuba” is not about trading with the people or non-state actors; for only one company is allowed to transact business with American exporters for these commodities — that company is called Alimport.

    I’m a regular Cuban citizen, I have a self-employment license, and I want to import rice from Louisiana. I’m not allowed to – even if I had the capital to do so. Only the head of the Cuban government’s Alimport, is authorized to import products to Cuba – to the entire island. That’s it.

    Thus, every dollar that the nearly 200 companies from 35 U.S. states have transacted in agricultural sales with Cuba since TSREEA has only had one Cuban counterpart.

    I always jest with my colleagues from the various farm bureaus and trade associations that we should be forthright and call it “trade with Alimport,” or “trade with the Cuban government” — or mercantilism, which Adam Smith rightly defined as antithetical to trade.

    What is the future of U.S. policy towards Cuba?

    The US has a dual track policy towards Cuba. It seeks to – first and foremost — provide support to the constantly besieged Cuban civil society (by civil society, I’m referring to opposition groups, religious organizations, independent journalists, and other marginalized, independent – and therefore illegal — trade groups); while -secondly — denying hard currency and resources to the Cuban dictatorship. In other words, U.S. policy seeks to weaken the Cuban government’s absolute monopoly over power and resources, in order to help the Cuban civil society create some sort of “playing field” for itself, despite the grossly disproportionate circumstances it faces.

    Within this context, U.S. policy sees sanctions as an important tool that not only denies resources to the regime, but also provides important moral and political support to the Cuban civil society. However, U.S. sanctions towards Cuba are not defined indefinitely, they are subject to conditions, and have been specifically codified into U.S. law as such. Since 1996 — with the codification of this policy — the power to ease or terminate sanctions shifted from the executive to the legislative branch of the U.S. government.

    According to law, the U.S. will only lift the remaining sanctions and normalize relations with the Cuba when three essential conditions are met: 1. the unconditional release of all political prisoners, 2. the recognition and respect of the fundamental human, political, and economic rights of the Cuban people, and 3. opposition parties are legalized leading to free and fair elections.

    Currently, there is strong bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress for this law. Thus, these conditions are unlikely to change in the new 113th Congress. I’m not going to blow smoke at you and tell you otherwise.

    Moreover, even some long-time Congressional advocates of unilaterally lifting these conditions – by changing the law – in order to further facilitate the terms and financing of agricultural sales have taken a hiatus from these efforts, as the Cuban government has imprisoned an American development worker, Alan Gross, who has been held hostage since December 2009. Mr. Gross had been helping the island’s small Jewish community with Internet connectivity when he was arrested.

    (Not only is Cuba one of the least-free economies in the world, it is also one of the most hostile to Internet connectivity.)

    Speaking of financing, Cuba also remains one of the world’s greatest credit risks. With a debt of $30.5 billion dollars, Cuba ranks second on the Paris Club’s list of debtor countries. Indonesia ranks first with a debt of $40.2 billion — despite a population 23 times the size of Cuba. Cuba’s unpaid debt represents nearly 10% of the Paris Club’s total outstanding claims.

    Today, the total of nearly $75 billion in foreign debts and claims against the Cuban government is nearly impossible to repay for a country with an economic output barely one-fifth the size of Greece’s (similar population to Cuba) own troubled economy.

    This is even more troubling considering that in 1959, when the current regime took power, Cuba had foreign exchange reserves totaling $387 million — worth more than $3.6 billion today adjusted for inflation. Cuba’s reserves were third in Latin America, behind only those of Venezuela and Brazil, despite having just a fraction of the population.

    The good news is that the U.S. currently has zero credit exposure to Cuba, as U.S. law prohibits the extension of credit to the Cuban government.

    However, the Cuban government still has not paid compensation for the approximately $8 billion worth of property that was confiscated from U.S. citizens. Let’s not forget that this remains the largest uncompensated taking of American property by any foreign government in the history the U.S. Outstanding claims range from companies like Coca-Cola, to Ford, to Texaco, to Chase Manhattan Bank.

    As previously stated, I have mostly focused on the U.S. Congress because the executive branch can only authorize the commercial and financial transactions with Cuba that have been previously mandated by Congress. President Obama has the authority to modify regulations related to purposeful travel, e.g. family, religious and academic travel, and remittances – and he has amply done so. Yet, even in this case, tourism-related transactions (“tourism travel”) were codified into law in 2000 – and only Congress can authorize them.

    What’s next?

    The current Cuban government, since its taking of power in 1959, has always survived off subsidies. With the exception of a brief period in the 1990’s, foreign subsidies have always been Cuba’s main source of income.

    First, the Soviet Union provided $6 billion dollars in yearly subsidies through 1991. Cuba received more money from the Soviets than all of Europe received from the U.S. Marshall Plan after World War II.

    Thereafter, Venezuela has provided $10 billion dollars in yearly subsidies since 1998.

    With the pending passing of Hugo Chavez, the Cuban government is looking for its third major subsidy — though I doubt there will be any takers — or as the drama in a Havana hospital unfolds; they are figuring out how to somehow keep Hugo Chavez and his cronies on ice.

    Moreover, with Fidel Castro at 86-years old and Raul Castro at 81-years old – and their appointed successor Jose Ramon Machado Ventura at 82-years old – it’s safe to say time is not on their side.

    Cubans are extremely smart people, they know that it is not the U.S. or sanctions that prohibit them from freely expressing themselves; that keeps them from entering and enjoying those beautiful resorts, with their restaurants and bars owned by the military; that keep them enjoying the fruits of their labor; or that keeps them from choosing their own destiny. It is the Cuban government that does so.

    Furthermore, Cubans on the island know what democratic ideals are. In many cases, they have given the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of those ideals. Let’s not forget, Cuba has the largest prison population – per capita – in the world. Ten percent of the Cuban population has died, either trying to cross the Florida Straits, executed or imprisoned. Add to that another ten percent that has been exiled. Those are Stalin-Mao proportions.

    So the questions remain:

    Do we make a short-term investment in Cuba’s current fledgling government that monopolizes the lives of Cubans, or do we make a long-term investment in its future leaders?

    Do you want to deal with a trading partner that is as poor as North Korea, or would you rather deal with a neighbor as rich as South Korea?

    Do we want to be in the position that European companies recently found themselves in post-Qaddafi Libya or two decades ago in post-apartheid South Africa — begging for forgiveness and scrambling for the opportunity to renegotiate deals with the former victims of those dictatorships?

    Or, do we want to be in a position of market preference — eventually gaining what I like to call a “freedom premium” — similar to that which Coca-Cola enjoyed in the former Soviet bloc pursuant to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    Hopefully, the answer will be the latter.

    In a bit of corporate history, Pepsi first entered the Soviet Union in 1972, pursuant to a barter agreement in exchange for Stolichnaya vodka. Pepsi was infamously perceived to have been deeply entrenched with the communist government. Meanwhile, Coca Cola didn’t make a move until the fall of the Iron Curtain.

    However,immediately upon the fall of the Berlin Wall, Coca-Cola’s former CEO Roberto Goizueta made sure that every automobile that crossed the border received free cases of Coke and those on foot got six-packs and single cans.

    Perhaps Goizueta, a Cuban-American, who experienced first-hand what it was like to be a victim of oppression, instinctively knew that those newly-free would reward them in some fashion — for they stood in solidarity with them during their darkest hour.

    Tom Standage, author of “A History of the World in 6 Glasses,” a book that divides world history into the beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola ages – notes that when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, East Germans began buying Coca-Cola by the crate-load:

    “Drinking Coca-Cola became a symbol of freedom.”

    In 1991 Pepsi was outselling Coca-Cola 10-to-1 in the former Soviet Union. By 1994, Coca-Cola gained the lead, and retains it to this day.

    Even more broadly, it is not a mere coincidence that the countries of Eastern Europe, who lived through similar ordeals, are the staunchest allies the U.S. has in the world today.

    So let’s focus on the big prize: a free and democratic Cuba that within a decade could –once again — become one of the richest countries in the Western Hemisphere. This will not be because of its beaches and natural resources — that only goes so far — but because of its people. Note I haven’t even mentioned Cuba’s emblematic sugar and tobacco industries, which are in shambles.

    An economy based on imagination, creativity, risk-taking and hard-work needs a rule of law and political freedoms. Cubans have proven this ability from the moment they set foot in exile, whether in the U.S. or in any other democratic country in the world.

    And in the meantime, let’s work on re-orienting some of those Canadian and European tourists visiting Cuba and bring them here to Disney World, Universal Studios and to enjoy all that Central Florida offers.

    Thank you so much. I look forward to your questions.


    REUTERS: Cuban hospital carefully guards Hugo Chavez’s privacy – By Marc Frank
    You would never guess that one of the world’s most famous heads of state, Venezuelan president and self-proclaimed revolutionary Hugo Chavez, is battling cancer at Havana’s Center for Medical-Surgical Research (CIMEQ).

    Hazy Venezuelan government communiques speak of unexpected bleeding during Chavez’s most recent surgery and a lung infection that has kept the 58-year-old Chavez in a “stable” but “delicate” state since mid-December.

    There has not been a word, nor even a tweet from the usually vociferous Chavez. His Twitter account, with almost 4 million followers, went silent after November 1.

    Meanwhile, Chavez’s family has been holding vigil in Havana, as other Venezuelan leaders and various Latin American heads of state come and go in a show of support. The presidents of Argentina and Peru visited over the weekend.

    What the operation involved, and even the type of cancer attacking Chavez and its exact location, are considered state secrets.

    “CIMEQ exists in the 21st century and is the equal to some of the best facilities in the world, while the rest of the country’s hospitals remain at 20th century levels,” said one local doctor who requested her name be withheld.

    “There are no shortages of supplies and medicines and the food is great,” she added.

    The hospital treats mainly interior ministry personnel, their families and area residents free of charge.

    In a land where complaints are common, it is hard to find anyone with a bad word to say about the place, except that it is reserved exclusively for the elite.

    CIMEQ also boasts a wing for foreigners willing to pay for their care, as well as special VIP facilities for Cuba’s top leaders and important figures from other lands.

    “Distinguished personalities from the arts, sciences and politics from all over the world have received attention in its modern and efficient installations,” the hospital’s Web Page


  30. The “jew” spy? Why am I not at all surprised that his religion, which is irrelevant, was mentioned?

  31. Just look at the size of that narisoid hypocrisy raging through the team “yoani”:

    “I wonder if they asked the woman’s permission to film her during childbirth. The most probably answer is no. ”

    And how would you know, losers?

    Did you ask the woman?

    Probably, no DEFINTELY you didn’t.

    So, to state “The most probably answer is no.” is to merely speculate. And one speculates when one is trying to twist the information in their favour when they have

    ZERO arguments to support it.

    In other words,


  32. Lemme give a hand here.

    from the hyppocrite team:

    “But the saga doesn’t end there. Last September the director of a polyclinic explained the symptoms of a dissident who fell ill while on a hunger strike. All the details were relayed without the least shame about violating the privacy of a patient and also violating the Hippocratic oath”

    And now go and read all those posts about the health info demands for alan gross, the jew spy and terrorist in Cuba, or when that criminal died in prison in the first half of the last year, Orlando Zapata, or how about demanding the full record from doctors about the death of the woman from Las mujeres en blanco?

    Then YOU yourselves DEMANDED the full medical history be revealed.

    Now it’s a crime?

    It’s unethical?


    It’s hypocrisy.

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